My Winix Air Purifier Experience

The air quality in my part of the world gets pretty bad during wildfire season, so I decided to pickup a Winix C545 air purifier, mostly based on the Wirecutter review. Here’s what I found:


  • It’s really quiet on low and medium, and only starts getting noticeable on high. I’m sensitive to noise, and it works for me. At low speed, it’s usable in the same room as you video conference in without anyone else noticing. It’s also suitable for sleeping – for kids and adults. Definitely quieter than air conditioners and dehumidifiers.
  • Design-wise, it blends into the room. Our kids ignored it from the start and have never pushed the buttons.
  • Price is reasonable – you can get one for $129-$200, with the average price being around $178. A good chunk of that price goes toward the included HEPA filters.
  • It has a bright blue light when the air quality is good, but that light (thankfully) automatically switches off when the lights are out.
  • You can instantly tell when air is good, slightly off, or bad, via the LED indicator light on top which glows blue, yellow, or red.
  • Air purification works quickly for cooking smells, wildfire smoke, and flatulence.


  • The WiFi feature is mostly a gimmick. You can check filter status via your phone, and turn on/off the purifier, but I find it easier just to open it up and look at the filter every month. You can vacuum out the filter screen easily. I disabled the WiFi shortly after I got it. If it had HomeKit support, I might have left WiFi on, but it doesn’t.
  • We liked the C545 so much, we got second one – a refurbished one for $89 – for our downstairs bedroom. I found that it’s almost the same as new, with the exception of one problem: Once every couple of months, it refuses to notice when the room light has been turned off. You have to unplug the purifier and plug it back in for it to automatically shut the blue light off again.

Overall, recommended if you have air pollution or a wildfire season in your area. You can occasionally find them at Costco, Amazon, and Winix direct (for refurbished models). Warning: they sell out fast during wildfire season, so get one off season.

Eve Room – HomeKit Air Quality / Temperature / Humidity Monitor Experience

I recently received an Eve Room HomeKit Air Quality monitor.  But when I plugged it in, nothing happened.  I let it charge overnight, and it remained stuck on the charging screen. I reset it with a paperclip multiple times.  Tried multiple chargers.  Tried a different micro-USB cable.  All to no effect.  The battery either seemed completely discharged upon arrival, or something was broken inside the unit.

That’s when I emailed Eve Support.  They suggested resetting it again and waiting a few hours.  I did, to no avail.  After I sent them a photo of the non-working unit, they agreed to a quick, free replacement.

And the replacement worked great!

Eve Room (2nd Gen) vs. AcuRite monitor
Eve Room vs. AcuRite monitor (humidity 3% difference, temperature 1 degree difference)

My experience with Volker and Sarah at Eve Support couldn’t have been better.  Polite, prompt, professional, and a free replacement.  I liked their service so much that I went out and bought a second Eve Room for the lower level of my house.  I’m also planning to get one as a gift for a family member.

What does the $85 Eve Room (2nd Gen) get you over a $15 AcuRite?

  • Air quality monitoring via Sensiron metal-oxide based VOC sensor
  • History graphs of your data (see below) – including exporting history to spreadsheets
  • HomeKit support – You can ask Siri to tell you the temperature/humidity/air quality in any given room
  • Automation – In the Home app, you can have an air purifier come on automatically when air quality drops  
  • More automation – In the Eve app, you can add additional automations based on temperature and humidity.  For example, when temp/humidity get above 80F (26.6C), turn on air conditioner.

What are some downsides?

  • Bluetooth-based, which means it takes slightly longer (~1 second) than WiFi-based HomeKit products to display status in the Home app.
  • If you want to access Eve from outside your house, you need a HomeKit hub, such as an Apple TV, HomePod, or iPad.  (In my experience, the Apple TV is the most reliable of the three.)
  • Expensive – $70 more than the bigger AcuRite monitor (though it’s tough to find an air quality monitor with a display for less than $70).
  • Not magnetized like the AcuRite – so you can’t stick it to your refrigerator without adding a magnet.

Charging is easy.  It takes less than 2 hours and only needs to be done once every couple months.  You can also use it with the charger plugged in, though it’s possible this will reduce the battery lifespan a bit.  With the AcuRite, you need to replace the 2x AAA batteries every other year.  (Though my first AcuRite started reporting obviously incorrect temperatures after a few years – I just bought another one since it was so cheap.)

Eve Room Air Quality graphs
Eve Room Air Quality/Temperature graphs in the Eve iPhone app

Are the air quality measurements any good?  The only thing I have to compare it to are the measurements from my Withings scale downstairs.  The Withings reacts pretty fast to cooking in the kitchen.  The Eve Room seems to be a bit more … optimistic on air quality, even when the air seems a bit stale.  (a quick blast of the air conditioner clears this up though)  It doesn’t care much about soiled diapers, but it does react when people are in the room breathing out carbon dioxide for half an hour or so.

Overall, fun little gadget, and I’m looking forward to setting up automations with it!

New Office Chair – the Steelcase Amia

During the pandemic, many of us are forced to work from home – myself included.  Time to put away the dining room seat and get a real office chair.

By far the most comfortable chair at any of the various employers I’ve had has been made by Steelcase – the Steelcase Leap and Amia seats specifically.  But these cost around $700 new.  (Though as of this writing, the Amia is $399 renewed on Amazon)

Steelcase Amia, in red

So I setup a saved search alert on Craigslist to let me know when any Steelcase Amias come along below $350.  Steelcase chairs pop up every month in my city, but often at a high price.  I was patient, and six months later, I’m sitting on an almost new Steelcase Amia for $200.  I can sit in this thing for hours and not get tired or have a sore back.  Love it!

What I like about the Steelcase Amia:

  • Hyper adjustable armrests (extending all the way forward (and even inward/outward), to support your elbows when typing/mousing
  • Seat slides forward to support long thighs
  • Tall enough to support long backs
  • Solidly built all around – not flimsy or wobbly like those no-name chairs you see at Staples or Costco
  • Traditional styling

There’s really nothing I dislike about it, and I’m kind of picky.  Colleagues at work have also gotten Steelcases, but also recommended the X-Chairs, the IKEA Markus ($199), and the Herman Miller Aeron.  The only one of those I’ve tried is the Aeron.  I thought the Aeron was surprisingly uncomfortable for such an expensive chair, and it looks weird.  Many people disagree, so be sure to try before you buy, if you can.

Graco’s $70 Foam Crib Mattress vs. DaVinci’s $50 Hypoallergenic Crib Mattress

I needed a couple of mattresses for my kids and decided to try two different ones: The Graco Premium Foam Crib and Toddler Mattress in a Box, and the DaVinci Twilight Hypoallergenic Ultra Firm Crib Mattress.

DaVinci strengths:

  • Waterproof
  • Lightweight
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Inexpensive at $50

DaVinci weaknesses:

  • Noisy (every movement makes a squeaky sound)
  • Not as firm as advertised


Graco strengths:

  • Firm and well made
  • Really comfortable (baby sleeps like a rock on it)
  • No noise

Graco weaknesses:

  • Price ($20 extra compared to the DaVinci)
  • Takes a day or so to expand to full size

Neither of these mattresses had any chemical smells.

Overall, if we had to do it again, we’d pick the Graco – for both kids.  Our youngest sleeps really well on it (every night for a week now).  Our oldest tosses and turns on the DaVinci.  DaVinci makes a good crib but they don’t make a great mattress.

Hearing Protection

I’ve used earplugs to sleep for years.  But in some environments, you need something a little more heavy duty.  So back in 2017, I scoured Amazon for a decent pair of ear muffs. I came up with these from ClearArmor.

They served me well for over 2 years, providing outstanding protection – a 31 decibel noise reduction rating.  They’re great for all sorts of noisy environments, but I like them best when I need to concentrate on something without distraction.  I’m wearing them now to write this, while my young daughter (who should be going to sleep by now) is howling about going to bed when she wants to stay up all night.  I barely hear a thing.  And they’re comfortable enough to wear for hours.

A couple of downsides: To provide the high noise reduction rating, they fit rather snugly – some would even say too tightly.  You can stretch them out a bit to reduce the snug fit, and more recent versions have more comfortable padding around the ears.  (The problem is all but gone in the 2019 version of the ear muffs.)  Second, they can get hot after a couple of hours.

They also broke after 2 years of almost daily use (I dropped them by accident a few too many times on hard surfaces.). Here’s what they looked like when broken:

2017 ClearArmor Ear Muffs- broken after 2 years.jpg
2017 ClearArmor ear muffs after 2 years of use – broken after dropping too many times

The amazing thing is, I emailed the owner of the company with a photo of the damage and he promptly replaced them with the latest version, completely free, and also included an extra pair!  Now my wife has a pair to use.  That’s outstanding, above & beyond service.  And that’s why I’m writing this review.  Big thanks to Gary at ClearArmor.

2019 ClearArmor ear muffs - free replacement.jpg
2019 ClearArmor ear muffs – replacement pair – brand new and even more comfortable

Philips Sonicare 2 Series Rechargeable Toothbrush – After 5 months

I was surprised to see this Sonicare toothbrush under $40 at Amazon a few months ago, and went ahead and bought it.

Sonicare 2 Series


  • Seems to clean pretty well.  Leaves teeth feeling shiny.  Nice to have that fresh from the dentist feeling every morning.
  • My brother has what appears to be pretty much the same model for several years and it’s still going, so durability is good.
  • My dental hygienist recommended it.
  • The included brush head is durable and lasts longer than 3 months, at least for me.
  • Comes with a coupon for $4 off replacement brush heads.


  • Replacement brush heads, even with the coupon, cost a lot.  My brother got one of the cheaper knockoff replacement brush heads and I can see little strands of bristles hanging out.  (not frayed, but almost falling out)  So I’m going to wait for a deal on the genuine ones.
  • The included brush head is pretty small in comparison to your average manual toothbrush, perhaps 60% of the size.  You can buy bigger (and softer) ones.
  • The instructions say to brush for 2 minutes on the fronts and backs of your teeth, but neglect to mention the chewing surfaces – probably the most important part of your teeth to brush!
  • After a few uses, it changes from a “gentle” introductory mode to a more “powerful” mode.  It is quite a bit more powerful, and I wish I could change it back.  Even the gentle mode is too much for my girlfriend, who promptly said she’s never going to use it, and will stick with her manual Colgate 360 brush.


  • You don’t (and probably shouldn’t) press down when brushing with this brush – it might harm your enamel.  (and will wear out the head faster)
  • All Sonicares are basically the same unit, with fancier and possibly unnecessary features at the high end.  The higher end ones are thinner and lighter though.

Overall, recommended at this price.  There’s currently a $10-off coupon at Amazon, so you can get it for $29.95 now.

Cacala’s Peshtemal Bath Towels

Bought these super thin but soft $20 Peshtemal bath towels because the Charisma towels I bought at Costco, while still absorbent, began to develop a musty smell after 1-2 years of use.  The smell wouldn’t wash out, even after soaking multiple times.  The root of the problem was that they took 8+ hours to dry, even with the windows open in the bathroom.

Cacala Peshtemal Bath Towel


  • Long, almost too long (70 inches)
  • Dries faster than any other towel I’ve used (about 4 hours)
  • Gets softer after 3-4 washings
  • Easy and light to take on trips / camping / backpacking
  • Just as absorbent as normal towels


  • A bit like drying yourself with a sheet at first, but gets softer, as mentioned above.

Overall, would buy again.  Any questions?  Let me know in the comments.

Closys Mouthwash Cured My Mild Gingivitis

After getting a new cavity at every annual dental visit and trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, I ran across the now private blog of Dr. Ellie, a minimally invasive dentist who recommends a particular dental hygiene routine that includes Closys mouthwash.  Here’s what I found after using Closys for 6 years now:

Closys Mouthwash
Closys Mouthwash
  • Usually around $10-$11 a bottle.  Lasts about 8 months.  I think this is a fair price.
  • Dental hygienist said my gums look much better within 1 year of using it (along with the rest of the routine).  Previously had mild gingivitis.  Closys completely reversed it.
  • Only 1 cavity in the 6 years I’ve included Closys in my daily routine, as opposed to one every checkup, and this one cavity was within the first year of use.
  • Occasionally, I get a slight metallic taste instead of the usual watery taste.
  • Does not freshen breath, at least for me.  You need to floss, brush, and use a rinse such as ACT for better breath.
  • You don’t need to use very much – only a sip from a capful is enough to swish around in your mouth for 30 seconds.
Recommended for improving gum health.  Keep in mind this was only my experience – your mileage may vary.  Questions?  Post a comment below and I’ll get back to you.


(Almost) 4 Years of Wearing Minimalist Soft Star Moccasins

Almost 4 years ago, I was trying to find a shoe that was:

  • Made in the USA
  • Comfortable, light, breathable
  • Less than $100

I happened across Soft Star Shoes’ website and found these minimalist moccasins.  They’re like ninja shoes!  Handmade from US sourced materials in Oregon.  Customer service was prompt and patient.    So I bought a pair.  Here’s what they look like, when new:

Soft Star DASH RunAmoc Shoes, with Vibram Street Soles

Comfortable as a slipper.  Lightweight.  But the first two weeks I wore them, it was like learning to walk again.  I tripped over sidewalk cracks and steps, repeatedly stubbing my toe.  The tough Vibram street sole is crazy thin, but provides protection from rain and broken glass.  You do feel every rock and pebble though.

After a couple weeks, I got used to them and rarely tripped over anything.  I actually like feeling the texture of different types of grass, ground, and pavement.  It’s like walking around in thin gloves for your feet.

The feeling of almost going barefoot outweighed the fact that if you peer at them closely, they look a bit like bowling or floppy clown shoes.  The black color helped them blend in, and I was able to wear them to work without attracting much attention.

I wanted to keep my foot hygiene up and rotate shoes so I was only wearing the same pair every other day.  A month later, I bought pair #2:

Second pair, bought way back in 2011, when they only cost $97.

3 years and 7 months later, after roughly 85% walking on pavement, 10% walking on trails/gravel, and 5% street running, here’s what they look like:

Toebox scuffs
Stitching on Heel Busted (Both Pairs)

I have a bad habit of kicking my left shoe off with my right foot, and this almost certainly led to the stitching coming apart on the heel.  Still, I wish the stitching were stronger.  Or perhaps Soft Star could put a protective covering around the heel, as they seem to have done on their stock photo on the top of this page.

Really impressed with the Vibram street sole.  It has held up great, and is still as grippy on pavement as it ever was.  Not a bit of the sole has worn off.  You can still read the word Vibram in multiple places all over the sole.

Now debating: Should I buy a replacement pair of Soft Star mocs for $115 plus shipping?  Should I send these old ones in for repair?  Or should I buy a different type of made in USA moccasin or chukka boot for twice the price?  What do you think?