Marco's Portable, Closed Headphones Mega-Review

This is a really great overview of 17 different over-ear closed back headphones. I own the AKG-K551’s and completely agree with his findings. They are well worth the price in my opinion.

One of my favorite quotes from the article:

Beats did to headphones what Starbucks did to coffee: while they’re not the best, they’re a huge upgrade from what most people were using before, and they’ve dramatically increased the market and mainstream acceptability of spending $200–400 on full-sized headphones and wearing them in public.

Beats made it so I can sit here in a coffee shop with my giant headphones on and people at least would not stare at me all the time. That’s something to be thankful for.

If you are in the market for some quality headphones I highly recommend you checkout Marco’s review.

Using Your Gravatar In Jekyll

I recently added a profile picture to the “about” page on this site. As part of this effort I opted to use Gravatar for this image. Why? For the same reason it is a useful to use Gravatar elsewhere. It means I have one less location I have to update a profile pic. This site is built with Jekyll, so the process was fairly straight forward.

Create a file called Gravatar.rb inside the _plugins directory for your Jekyll site. If you don’t have one already, this directory just goes in the root of your Jekyll project. Inside this file add the following:


require 'digest/md5'

module Jekyll
  module GravatarFilter

    # Add our new liquid filter.
    def get_gravatar(input)
      "//www.gravatar.com/avatar/#{hash(input)}"
    end

    private :hash

    # Clean up the email address and return hashed version.
    def hash(email)
      email_address = email ? email.downcase.strip : ''
      Digest::MD5.hexdigest(email_address)
    end
  end
end

Liquid::Template.register_filter(Jekyll::GravatarFilter)

After you create this file, your Gravatar can be inserted wherever you want the with the example code shown below. The ?s=600 represents the image size. If you omit this number then the default Gravatar image size will be served.

<img src="{{ 'your.gravatar.email@someplace.com' | get_gravatar }}?s=600" />

You can use this snippet inside a Jekyll post, template, or wherever else liquid tags are rendered. Now go enjoy not having to manage the profile pic on your Jekyll site.

My Favorite AeroPress Recipe

I really enjoy a cup of AeroPress‘d coffee. In fact, it might be the best brewing method I’ve ever tasted. The AeroPress became the focal point of my coffee routine a little over a year ago. Through this time I have used a variety of brewing methods, recipes, and blends. In the last several months I believe I have settled one that I really like. This recipe results in what some would probably consider an “Americano” style brew. It is quite bold - but not to strong.

The recipe consists of the following:

  • Begin with 2 scoops of finely ground coffee(aprox. 28 grams)
    • I currently am using a darker Ethiopian blend I purchased from a local roaster. But I will leave this up to the brewers discretion.
  • Then proceed with 2 shots of water measured in the plunger prior to pouring.
    • I currently heat my water to 205ºF. But in practice I don’t know that it matters a lot.
  • Pour the water in and let it steep for 2 minutes while stirring.
  • Plunge.
  • Then dilute with 2 shots of water, or to taste. You may also add creamer if you like.
  • Enjoy your cup of well crafted coffee.

If you are interested in additional recipes, I recommend you checkout the AeroPress timer app. It is a beautiful iOS app that contains a number of different recipes for the AeroPress and some additional tips.

Buying A Home Without A Credit Score

At the beginning of my wife and I’s marriage we made a strong decision that we were not going to live in consumer debt. This means that car loans and credit cards are not part of our vocabulary. As a result - we do not have a credit score. I don’t want to get into all the reasons behind why we made this decision in this post. Or debate whether this practice is or isn’t necessary. I’m just here to share our story in hopes that it can encourage others and maybe even debunk some myths. Note: this post is not covering the overall process around getting a mortgage, just focusing on the parts that are different with a zero credit.

The process of buying a home without a credit score is a little different. Though, it started out very simple: we contacted a mortgage broker. We shared with him the various information needed and explained that we were looking for a zero credit loan. He was able to find a lender that offered zero credit FHA loans. I don’t know much about the availability or qualifications of FHA loans, so this isn’t an endorsement for that loan type. But it is a some-what common loan. So any search you do should render useful information

Proving our stature

One of the big things that a zero credit loan requires is proving 4 “alternative credit trade-lines”. These can include rent, electric bill, cell phone bill, car insurance, etc. You must be able to prove that these accounts have been active and were always paid on time for at least 12 months.

For us, we used the follow as our trade lines:

  • Rent
  • Car insurance
  • Electric bill
  • Internet

With most of these service providers it was easy to get a proof of our payment history. The only exception to this is 11 months before our loan application we switched ISP’s. This meant that I had to get proof of my billing history from our current ISP and Time Warner Cable to fill in the remaining months. If you’ve ever dealt TWC’s customer support - you know it isn’t always easy. But after a few customer support calls I was able to get the info needed. I probably spent around 6 hours total on customer support calls with TWC. Lots of waiting. But, we were finally able to get the information needed.

Money management

In addition to proof of trade lines two other unique actions were required:

  • With our loan application we had to submit our households written budget.

  • Write a letter explaining why we chose not to pursue a credit score.

Both of these were fairly easy for us. Since my wife and I practice zero based budgeting I just exported our budget from the budget app we use. In regards to the letter, we made calculated decision regarding not to “seek” a credit score (take on debt) so it was easy to write up.

That is it, these items mentioned are the main points requested of us because we didn’t have a credit score.

Some additional resources on living without credit

Additional Thoughts on iWatch and Android Wear

Ben Thompson makes some excellent points in this article about wearables. Consider this:

The potential problem with Android Wear I see is its focus on being a conduit for your phone – a more efficient distraction from the real world, as it were. I suspect the iWatch will go in the opposite direction: it will be a means of pulling the real world into your phone (think sensors) as well as a means of projecting your phone out (think payments, proximity, etc.)

My thoughts on wearables and the alleged iWatch are fairly in-line with this. Last night, I had a long conversation with someone wearing a Samusung watch-thingy. All through our discussion the device was flashing a sending notifications. This isn’t entirely the devices fault, as those can be changed I assume, but beyond this purpose I don’t see that Android Wear has great potential. And the same goes for Apple if they make a wearable that takes the same direction.