my favorite tools: 2020 edition

Being an INTJ, the only things I truly love in this world are my tools. These are the 20 things that make me the happiest at the start of 2020, in no particular order.

1. Garmin watches

Garmin makes the best running watches on the planet. The metrics, data, and battery life are second to none – especially for long ultra marathons where an Apple Watch would just die halfway through.

2. Altra shoes

No running shoes are perfect, but I only wear Altras. They best align with my minimalist running philosophy. Zero drop, wide toe box, and they just work perfectly for my feet and running form. I currently rotate between the Escalantes, the Ones, the Lone Peaks, and the Paradigms.

3. Chia seeds

I eat them every day. Chia pudding is my go-to breakfast, and they have crazy magical hydrating performance-boosting properties if you let them gel in a glass of water and drink before a long run.

4. Golden heavy body acrylics

There’s really nothing like Golden paints. Everything about their quality, lightfastness, and consistency makes them a pleasure to use. I would never use anything else – except maybe Golden’s Open line for longer working times.

5. Princeton Velvetouch brushes

These are the best synthetic acrylic brushes I’ve found yet – especially for doing realism and thin glazes. The Princeton Catalysts are equally as good, but so much stiffer and better suited to thicker applications.

6. Macbook Pro

I’ve been buying Mac laptops since 2004. My latest 2017 15″ with TouchBar has had a LOT of problems, but I still can’t imagine ever having another computer. This year I’d like to upgrade to the new 16″ model.

7. WordPress

These days, WordPress is kind of like air. I never stop to notice it, but neither this website nor my food blog could survive without it. I sometimes forget to appreciate that it’s free, open source, stable, and incredibly modular.

8. Mailchimp & Email Octopus

In order to send out newsletters, I use Mailchimp for this business and I love the power and flexibility it has. I also use Email Octopus for my food business because it’s considerably cheaper with large lists (like $35/month vs $135/month) and it uses AWS on the back end to make things very simple and bare bones. Octopus is great if you know a bit about tech, Mailchimp is great if you want to get up and running quickly (or have access to more powerful tools).

9. Bear notes

One of only two software subscriptions I pay for, I absolutely love Bear notes. It is the perfect minimalist note taking app, that syncs from Mac to iOS seamlessly and has all the features you need, without any extra bloat or distractions. I use it for *everything* from shopping lists to drafting new notebook posts to brainstorming new ideas.

10. Affinity Photo & Designer

Affinity… I love them. They basically took Photoshop and made it better than Photoshop and also made it a one-time purchase instead of a monthly subscription. Their Photo and Designer software are my favorite graphic tools. They aren’t just clones of Photoshop and Illustrator; they have their own vibe that just works for me. Oh, and both apps have iOS versions with amazing tools that sync seamlessly.

11. Sony A7 series cameras

I bought the very first Sony A7 and have been using and loving it ever since – especially with the Zeiss 55 1.8 lens. All my food photos since 2015 were shot on them. These full-frame mirrorless cameras were (and are) a revolution. I’d love to upgrade to the A7iii someday soon.

12. Logic Pro X and plugins

I love producing music in Logic. If I had to use Ableton or (God forbid) FL studio or Cubase, I wouldn’t enjoy music-making nearly as much. It’s so intuitive and well-designed. I also love my software synths and plugins like Serum, NI Komplete, Addictive Keys, FabFilter, Ozone, Valhalla reverbs, and whatever else I’m forgetting.

13. Sennheiser HD600

These open-back headphones are incredibly expensive but incredibly good for producing music. I don’t think you’ll find anything with more clarity or accuracy. Each sound in a mix is separated with such crispness. A lot of people prefer the HD650s because they have a stronger bass response and those might be better for just listening to music, but I almost prefer lower and more accurate bass when mixing.

14. Logic remote

No one talks about Logic Remote, but it’s just incredible. It uses your iPhone or iPad as a midi controller for Logic with very low latency, and because it’s a digital screen, you can do tons of things, like play chords, drum pads, even mix with the faders or adjust the plugin settings (!) from this second screen. It’s the only midi controller I use.

15. Arcade

Arcade is the only software subscription that I have (other than Bear). Made by Output, it’s a music plugin that has a nearly infinite bank of sounds and samples (with new ones added every day) in a gorgeous interface. I wish it was a one-time purchase, but especially  for beat-making and getting creative inspiration, it’s a secret weapon.

16. 1Password

Another one of those tools that has become kind of like air, I can’t imagine living without 1Password. It’s so easy to create secure passwords for the hundreds of different logins I use, and recall them with just my face or thumbprint. Thankfully, I purchased it long enough ago that I don’t need to buy a subscription. I would prefer if someone made a great password manager that was a one-time purchase… if no one else will, maybe I should…

17. Bose QC35

Yes, more headphones. These QC35s might be the #1 thing that I can’t live without because they give me something I desperately need throughout the day: quiet. The noise cancelling is some kind of voodoo magic. I tend to get really scattered when I’m around noise that I can’t control, and these just erase all of it. Whether it’s falling asleep at night or painting or just taking a break to listen to music, I love my Bose headphones. Plus, they sync / switch so seamlessly with multiple devices.

18. Udemy

I  learn so much on Udemy. Not only do I have my own course on Food Photography that just passively makes me thousands of dollars per year, I take at least one course a month on computer science, graphic design, business, social skills, drawing, music, and so much more. I love that this tool exists where I can get 40+ hours of top-tier education on any subject I want to learn for $9.99.

19. Spotify

Apple Music and Spotify both have pretty much every song ever recorded and that’s pretty nuts, but I love how Spotify knows me so well. As a music producer, I’m always looking for fresh sounds and Spotify doesn’t just give me more of what I like, it helps extend my awareness into new things I never would have found otherwise.

20. iPhone

I mean, how can any list be complete without an iPhone? I have the XS max currently, and I really hope the 12 is a big refresh worth the upgrade (the 11 wasn’t for me). It’s almost absurd to even list out all the value that an iPhone has in my life. All the world’s knowledge, every photo and note I’ve ever taken, access to virtually every other human on the planet, every song ever recorded, every book ever written — in my pocket. It’s kind of mind-blowing…

Other things…

  • Google Analytics. It’s an amazing tool that I use every week, but not exciting enough to make the list.
  • Dev Software. It would be impossible to code without the “IDEs” (Integrated Developer Environments) and I love using Unity, Xcode for iOS, Android Studio for Flutter, and Atom for general programming, but none of these actually make me happy. They all have their complexities and frustrations, and none deserve a spot on the list.
  • Stack Overflow. It’s pretty much impossible to be a programmer without Stack Overflow…
  • Day One. I have 5,000 journal entries in Day One and use its every day, so it should be #1, but they have destroyed the desktop app over the last few years. Each update adds bugs they never fix and makes things worse. I’m disappointed in them.
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