Best gifts of 2020

2020 sucked. So, in the middle of the worst year ever, there were a few things that made me happy- and might solve your last minute gift giving dilemmas (or not, since Republican scrooges in Congress might have you on the edge of getting evicted, personal bankruptcy and in a line at the foodbank). Of course, this won’t just be gifts that you can buy- that would be too boring. Also- some are sponsored links- so you may be helping keep food on my plate- to continue writing this blog.

Useful stuff

Most of us have had to stay at home a lot more- which has led to a huge amount of home improvement type projects. My big home improvement project came in August when my friend Pam, who had just signed a 1 year lease for my rental cottage told me she was up and leaving for Utah for work (or to become a Mormon). She gifted me a bunch of stuff I’d need to turn the place into an AirBnB- including furniture, dishes, kitchen tools etc. Until you’ve successfully run an AirBnB as a Superhost like me for a few years, you can’t quite fathom how much stuff it takes to make a rental home into an AirBnB. I was almost ready to rent it right after Thanksgiving- when I got a request from a neighborhood friend who needed a place for about 5 months for their construction project manager for the old Daybreak on Wayne. He had been staying in hotels. After his first few days in my place- he told me how much he appreciated all the small touches- and that he loved the skylights, the furniture and the feel of the place. You can do a virtual tour here:×1.72y-3.89z&rotation=-3.36×139.12y0.00z

What’s this got to do with presents? Funny you should ask. I’ve got a lot of tools- but, these two are some of the most useful, make me happy tools I’ve got. Who knew?

I admit it- I suck at caulking- until I got this- they Ryobi electric caulk gun. All of a sudden, smooth beads of caulk on the shower stall. Hint- get a caulking tool too– while you’re at it- I already had one, but, this style was really handy. I never buy DAP caulk either- even though it’s got some connection to Dayton. GE silicone is my go to- and with silicone caulk the advice is use isopropyl alcohol to help smooth out and clean up.

After you’re done chipping out all the caulk- or cleaning anything and everything- this little portable shop-vac is the bomb-diggity.

Yes- I have a shop vac- but, it’s big and bulky. This thing, is easy to tote around, keeps your workspace clean, and is relatively quiet. I found I was using this way more than my big R2D2 looking thing. It goes for a decent amount of time with the bigger batteries. I only bought this because of a deal Home Depot had on buying more tools for a discount- and it was basically free. If you don’t have a 18v set of cordless tools, I’d try to get this with a basic kit- and get started- neither has a battery or charger with it- but, if you already have Ryobi- you are good to go. Only one wish for the vac- that it had a pour spout for emptying.

Last home improvement I can recommend- is a standing seam metal roof. They are finishing up the first retrofit of my cottages with a standing seam roof today- and moving on to the other. These roofs have a 35 year warranty- which means they will last my lifetime- or more. Besides looking sexy- the sound during a rainstorm is amazing. And, even better- they are a huge environmental improvement over asphalt shingles. To top it off- they are fireproof. My house had one for almost 100 years – over the wooden shakes- and when I upgraded it about 20 years ago it made me happy too. Call Paul Moore- at (937) 694-5529 or you can tell him Esrati sent you. I’ll have some video of the re-roof shot with my new favorite present- which is up next:

Fun stuff

I’ve got a drone. I use it for work. I use it for fun. But, this one- is even more fun, esp since it weighs in at less than 250g which means you can fly it without the FAA getting involved. It’s got great range (although I’ve not tested that part yet) it’s got a 4k 3 axis gimbal that takes amazing images- and they reworked the controller to hold your phone in a way you won’t drop it (when I shot the semi-viral video about sending the DDn circulars back to sender- the holder dropped my iPhone and the screen cracked- which can’t happen with this one).
Yep- it’s a little pricey – but, if you have an awesome girlfriend like I do (now you know) this shows up for the holidays. It’s so compact it means it’s more likely to make it into the camera bag for trips too. Of course, DJI may be a Chinese company spying on us, but, who cares? Just remember, when the Russians shot down Gary Powers for spying with a U-2– his pictures weren’t GPS coordinated, full motion, color, high definition at ground level….

I love taking photos. In fact, if you asked the 12 year old me what my plans were when I grew up- at one point, it was to buy a Chevy Blazer and a Hasselblad- and try to retrace Walker Evan’s WPA days and reshoot what he shot. I’ve owned a lot of DSLR’s but, until this one, nothing had it all- and it’s technically not a DSLR but a mirrorless. I’m not totally partial to Canon, I have Sony and Olympus cameras as well, but this camera does everything I want- and need without limitations.
Yep- it’s expensive, but, so were Hassleblad medium format cameras back in 1974. Absolutely dumbstruck by it’s feature set and low light capability. Auto-focus even works on dogs.

Of course, my new 5G iphone 12 Pro also has an amazing camera, and it goes everywhere with me. As to a carrier- I prefer T-Mobile for all kinds of reasons, but the best one is their veterans discount is amazing. They also throw in a cheap version of Netflix with the account.

If you are thinking of a computer- I’ve got a new Mac Mini with the M1 chip on order, but, any of the new M1 chip driven mac’s are awesome. You won’t regret it. They combined everything onto a single chip- and sped up the swaps of memory and CPU functions in a way that makes them superfast. Mac’s also tend to hold their value better and are well constructed. I still don’t believe in their preferences for lightweight for a dependence on dongles- but, I must be in the minority.
The Mini is a desktop model– which has all the ports- and ethernet connectivity- which is why I ordered it for my video editor- but, the upgraded 16 GB of RAM is on backorder. Note, I expect this machine to be faster than my 2013 MacPro with 128GB of RAM the top of the line processor and dual GPU’s.

If you are military, or a veteran, best bet is to order from Apple direct and get their military discount of 10%. It’s a bit of a pain to verify- but once you do- you save $.

This last fun one is from a local business who happens to be a client. If you want a wonderful pair of binoculars for seeing birds, wildlife or strange alignments of planets tonight- get yourself over to Oberwerk for the best calumniated binocular you can buy. For birds or sports- this is what I have and love- the sport ED model. If you want to see the stars and have some money- get an XL model with a tripod. I may be a know-it-all, but, you can see it all with these. Forget telescopes- unless you are a one eyed pirate, see the stars with both eyes wide open – and you’ll understand why you have 2 eyes.

Fitness Stuff

Since we can’t play hockey or go to the gym- the dogs are getting a lot more walks in. But, on days when it’s nasty out- I have a new rowing machine. I like rowing for a full body workout- and this machine is awesome. Unfortunately- Amazon doens’t always have the best price- I paid about $970 delivered from Amazon, and Concept 2 says that’s about right- but, they are out of stock. You can find used ones for less.

My AirBnB had a scale. So when my last tenant left a new one, I thought mine was broken- but it wasn’t. It was just an antique, it only told me my weight. He left a Renpho smart scale that hooks up to an App and feeds data into your health app on your phone. Body weight, BMI, Body Fat, fat free body weight, Subcutaneous fat, visceral fat, Body Water, Skeletal muscle, Muscle Mass, bone mass, protein BMR, Metabolic age…. I don’t know how it figures all this out- but, while we’re stuck at home and eating healthier- we may as well try to re calibrate.

No guarantee’s that this will save you from Covid- but, we got this air purifier for the office and it seems well liked. When I was shopping for one, I looked at several reputable ratings sites and this one, for the money was the best fit.

And, while this one isn’t something you can get at Amazon, I’d highly recommend a dog, or two, for mental and physical health. Here’s mine and the bonus dog which came with the awesome girlfriend.

George and Piper

My dog George on the left, Piper on the right.

Best gift ever, we can’t open until Jan 20, 2021

The end of the crazy Trump regime, assuming he doesn’t find a way to the football and use the launch codes. All this talk of a rigged election, fake news and Antifa can go back into pandora’s bottle- where our dipshit in chief released it from. I’m hoping for a kinder, happier, cleaner, more relaxed world once the great disrupter is limited to twitter only and no more trappings of legitimacy granted by being president. Hopefully, he’s in prison by Christmas next year, when I get to do this list again.

I also have to thank the first donor to Reconstructing Dayton over this weekend. We’re hoping to get this 501c4, plus our  501c3 The Modern Policy Institute fully operational and making changes so that voters never go to the polls again like mushrooms- buried in shit and in the dark- about who they are really voting for. Feel free to send a check to either non-profit, at 100 Bonner Street Dayton Ohio 45410, or donate to Reconstructing Dayton online (coming soon for the MPI).

And if all else fails, please, go buy gift cards, gift certificates from local restaurants, or buy from locally owned independent shops.

Happy holidays, and may the vaccine come sooner than later.



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