Does anyone really need a $400.00 toaster? I’m not sure. I mean I make my toast in the oven using the broiler because I don’t want a toaster sitting on my counters and my cabinets are filled with other stuff. Even if they weren’t I’m not sure I’d buy a $400.00 toaster. Never the less, if I were in the market for a toaster and money was no object, this is the toaster I would probably pick.
This is the BALMUDA toaster from Japan. Why is it worth $400.00? Let’s take a look and see. This toaster until recently was a Japan-only product designed to create the best toast in the world by adding water into the toasting process. That’s right water, and if you think it will make your toast soggy, you’d be quite wrong.
The water serves a special purpose, it uses steam technology and precise temperature control to bring out the best in every kind of bread. By pouring a small bit of water into the toaster at the beginning you allow the air to heat more rapidly while creating a layer of steam that envelops the bread as it toasts the surface. This traps inner moister in the bread and keeps the flavor from escaping. The end result is the best toast in the world according to BALMUDA. At 400 bucks it better take Wonder Bread and make it taste like something crafted by Italian bakers with centuries of history behind them.
The BALMUDA gives you four choices for toasting, one for each one hundred dollars you spend on the toaster. Sandwich Bread, Artisan Bread, Pizza, and Pastry modes. There is also an oven feature for cooking things like au gratin potatoes. Oven mode doesn’t use steam.
From a design perspective, the BALMUDA toaster looks great. A clean minimal design with easy to read controls. A small footprint of 8 by 14 inches. 3 color choices, black, dark gray, and white. There is a set of instructions across the top at the back of the toaster and that’s about it.
From a toast perspective I’m going to have to take BALMUDA’s word for it because I don’t own this toaster, won’t be buying this toaster, and haven’t had any toast made with this toaster.
There is a guy on YouTube that swears this is the greatest invention of all time. He has one, and he makes some serious toast with some serious Japanese bread in his video. I have to admit, the toasted bread looks pretty amazing, and I’m sure it smells great too. I’m still not convinced anyone needs a $400.00 toaster, although during the stay at home order during the Covid 19 pandemic, it might actually make life feel better.
Up until about a month ago I spent the last 4 and a half years working remotely for a company based out of the Chicago area. For me telecommuting from home is nothing new. For many people right now, it’s a brand new experience that can be a little hard to get used to.
Getting a routine down, knowing how to connect with coworkers, understanding online meeting etiquette, accessing files can all be a challenge. Navigating all of these things can seem a bit daunting but it can actually be quite efficient and rewarding.
Here are some of the things I learned over the last four years. A set of tips for those of you that aren’t used to or have never worked remote before. A lot of this is common sense, but also easy to forget or ignore.
You need to treat the home office just like going into the main office.
Get a routine.
I am at my desk at a set time every morning.
I launch Skype and Zoom to let everyone know that I’m available as soon as I get in. These apps stay on all day so that I can be reached as needed. Think of it as having the virtual ability to have a hallway meeting or bump into a coworker somewhere in your virtual space.
Check your email on a regular basis.
There are some people that use it as their primary form of communication. Set email up with notifications on so you get a friendly reminder when someone pings you. You don’t have to check every email that comes in when it comes in, but checking regularly helps keep you in the loop.
I’m the worst about this. I’ll start working and never leave my workstation if I don’t get prompted to. I have set up my phone to tell me to take a break 3 times a day. 2 for 15 minutes, and an hour for lunch. If you can, get out of your house and stretch your legs. Usually I a few times a week I try to meet someone for lunch. Socializing helps things feel normal. I know it’s not much of an option with the Covid-19 Pandemic in full swing, but if you find yourself working from home in the future…
You will probably need to share files with your team. Both my current and previous employer use Office 365 so my team has access to OneDrive, but there are a ton of options available. Designate someone to set up a shared cloud drive with an organized folder and file structure in it. And believe me, organization is key. It’s hard enough locating files on a server in the office, but at least you can pop over and ask someone where they saved a file. Working remote not so much. Everyone on the team needs to be able to locate files quickly to keep things moving along.
If you have roommates, family, or anyone else that is home with you, you’ll want to be able to separate from them for meetings and needed quiet time. The other thing is, if you have a separate office or a designated space you can leave it behind at the end of the workday.
Speaking of that. Know when to leave work. Just like getting into the office, I have a set time I try to leave the office every night. It helps keep work and personal life separated.
Tools of the trade.
My team uses Adobe Creative Cloud. The full suite of applications. Trello, Slack, Zoho, Paylocity, Office 365, Dropbox, Zoom, and Skype. There are hundreds of tools for working in a remote situation. Decide on what your team is going to use, and have everyone use the same set of tools for consistency.
How You Communicate.
Not all in-office habits and systems are going to translate directly to a remote equivalent. A video chat may not always be convenient, so ask yourself, “Can this meeting be a document/email/Slack message?” Learn to move more of your communication to asynchronous channels.
Put on your pants.
When I first started working in a remote environment people would joke with me about working in my pajamas or sweats. Taking the time to get dressed and perform your usual self-care routine can prove a big psychological booster. Plus you never know when your boss is going to request a video conference call with you. Don’t get caught with your pants down. Treat it like you are going into the physical office space.
It’s easy to fall into short term thinking, but just like you would at your physical office you’ll want to plot out your next week, month, and possibly quarter. Nobody knows just how long this COVID-19 situation will last, doing as much long-term planning as you can only benefit you.
I’m talking about the internet. Do you have enough bandwidth to video conference? Upload and download large files in a timely manner? Run software upgrades without taking up hours of time? Nothing is more frustrating than trying to work and being hampered by a slow or glitchy internet connection. If you can plug into your router. If you are on WiFi make sure you have a solid connection. I’m fortunate, Google Fiber is blazing fast and always on. Another thing to think about is kids. You might need to set up ground rules for internet use during the day if your kids are home. Why? Because games and streaming videos eat bandwidth for lunch. If you are all on at the same time, your network could slow to a crawl.
If you aren’t used to working from home you will need some ramp up time. Talk to your supervisor about what the priorities are, and discuss how tasks will get done. How is the team going to track projects we’re working on? How will we meet to discuss this? Will you all be connecting on Zoom or email? Will there be standing meetings at a certain time to get everyone coordinated? (I used to have a standing check-in meeting 3 times a week. 15 to 20 minutes to discuss work being done, what’s coming, up and who needs help with projects)
This should be an ongoing conversation. Remember, going fully remote is a new experience for many companies and their workers. Be honest about what isn’t working or can’t get done in these circumstances. More overall communication is going to be necessary.
The Webcam is Your Friend
You might not think so but it is. I know a ton of people that hate to video chat but it helps. When you are on a Zoom call and no one has their camera on, people get accidentally interrupted, you sometimes can’t tell who’s speaking, and it helps combat that feeling of isolation working from home alone can bring. Make sure you have good lighting and if you can position your camera so other viewers aren’t looking up the inside of your nose.
Speaking of webcams, the team should decide what the protocol is going to be. If the majority says no we don’t want to video chat, then no one should video chat. If there are 15 people on a call and only one or two have their camera on, its annoying and distracting.
I hope some of these help. Remember to take in stride. You aren’t defusing a nuclear bomb or curing cancer. You’re simply trying to work from home and do the best job possible. Go with the flow, be open to suggestions and recommendations and things will work out. By the end of April you’ll be a telecommuting pro.
A little over a year ago I began looking for a new car. The lease on my GTI was coming to an end in August of 2019 and I was thinking about going electric. Since the VW electric models wouldn’t be available in America for another 12 to 18 months, I began researching the usual suspects, Tesla, Nissan, BMW, Chevy, etc. What I discovered was there are quite a few models available. All of them have pros and cons, and the prices ranged from reasonable to astronomical. What I didn’t expect was to find was what you could get if you looked at certified pre-owned models of specific brands.
After almost a year of looking, reading, watching YouTube, test driving, pricing, and pondering, I decided to purchase a certified pre-owned BMW i3. Why? Because I found out I could get into a 2-year-old car with about 20,000 miles on it for less than half the sticker price of the new car. And since it is a CPO BMW it comes with an additional warranty.
I chose this vehicle for several reasons. Proven Brand, Styling, Technology, Fun Factor, and Size. There is also that I never have to buy gas thing too.
The styling can be quite polarizing. In most cases, people either love it or hate it. I love it. I feel like I’m driving a little space pod most of the time. It’s short, squat and tall. It doesn’t look like any other car on the road on both the exterior an on the interior.
With wheel s pushed close to the corners, it accentuates the stubby look of the i3. Its window line expands at the small rear doors, dips into the body line, then pinches together at the rear. Visually this creates a flow down the body line that I like quite a bit. One disadvantage to this is that the rear windows don’t lower. Technically it’s a 4 door car, but the rear coach (suicide doors) are more like funky half-size extensions of the front doors. The car sits on 19-inch wheels that seem impossibly thin, designed to reduce friction with the road and improve range. At times they almost look like mountain bike tires though. One nice thing that BMW did was to leave the iconic kidney grills on the front. Technically they don’t do anything, but without them, I’m not sure the i3 would read as a BMW since it’s such a styling departure from every other car they make.
The interior is a mash-up of environmentally friendly materials produced from sustainable and recycled sources. The i3 I purchased doesn’t have leather seats, by choice. I actually prefer the look of the cloth seats over the leather or leather and cloth combo. If you did opt for the leather seats though, the tanning process is done with olive-leaf extract rather than chemicals to keep it greener. It’s hard to describe the materials used. You need to see them in person, and while at first, it might seem like a bit too much they work well together combining into a series of well-matched textures.
Another thing I love about this car is how big it feels on the inside. With no transmission hump, the floor is flat adding to the feeling of space. The interior roof gives plenty of headroom. At 6 foot 4, this is a big deal for me. I will say this, the back seat is cramped for someone my size. It’s probably cramped for anyone over 6 feet, to be honest. This is, after all, a car designed for city driving and to only seat 4 people. Cargo space is ample, and with the back seats folded down, it’s pretty amazing how much stuff you can get in this car.
From a technology perspective, the i3 doesn’t disappoint. Actually, for my model year, it does in aspect, (I’ll get to that in a minute). The i3 dash consists of 2 floating screens. There is the unit directly in front of the driver that contains the speedometer, battery usage, and the gauge showing energy use and regeneration. This screen can be configured to display any number of items from the iDrive system in the car.
The second screen is equally configurable and primarily houses the infotainment system which includes navigation, phone systems, messaging, radio and media displays and more. Below it is 6 buttons that can be programmed to do everything from radio presets to function as shortcut keys for any additional functionality.
All of this is connected to the center console dial of the iDrive system located in front of the center armrest. I’m not going to go into detail with all of the functionality here. Let’s just say that the system is deep and has a bit of a learning curve. Coming from 8 years of VW’s it was quite a bit different.
In addition to the built-in systems, there is also an iOS and Android app available that can be used to control the car remotely. It allows you to climatize the car, lock and unlock doors, set charge times, send destinations to the car, and more.
Other tech tidbits include the ability to lock the doors by touching a small patch of raised ribs on the door handle. Unlock the doors by simply sliding your hand inside the door handles. Unlock and lower the windows by holding the unlock button on the key fob. One foot driving using the regenerative braking system. Self-parking (yes it can park itself, but every driver should know how to parallel park or forfeit their driver’s license). Adaptive cruise control and more.
I didn’t get the REX (range extender) version. I don’t need the range extender. I never drive more than 120 miles in a day so the BEV (battery electric vehicle) i3 was perfect for my needs. After 90 days of ownership, I can honestly say I have never had any range anxiety at all. Frankly, I don’t think most drivers would. The navigation system can be configured to show you every charging station close by as you drive around town so you will always know where you can charge up if you need to.
One thing I wish this car had was Apple CarPlay. It doesn’t and I miss it. You can, however, upgrade the main head unit of the car with this upgrade from Bimmertech. I watched the install video and it looks like something anyone with a bit of technical know-how and set of tools could do themselves in a few hours. I have a feeling this voids the warranty on the car so I’ll be waiting a couple of years before I do this.
Speaking of upgrades, the battery is upgradable as well and Lion Smart announced an upgrade option a couple of months ago that would extend the range of BEV i3 to about 400 miles. No word on when this will arrive, or what it’ll cost but if you own an i3 and plan on keeping it for an extended period of time this is something you might want to look into.
One great thing about living in Kansas City is the fact that KCPL has partnered with ChargePoint and many local businesses to install level 2 charging stations all over the city. Each grocery store run, trip to the library, visit the Kaufman performing arts center, Nelson Atkins Musem, Restaurants in the Cross Roads or dozens of other places guarantee that I can plug the i3 in and charge it up.
As for fun factor, the i3 is a hoot to drive. It really is a blast. The electric motor delivers instant torque with a distinct “push you back in your seat” feeling. Acceleration is quick delivering a 0 to 60 time in about 7 seconds. It handles like a BMW with responsive steering. You have to drive the car to understand how the i3 performs.
The car is absolutely silent aside from a bit of road noise from the tires, and an almost imperceivable whine from the electric motor. It’s one of those things you notice at first and then become so used to it you don’t realize how loud the interior of other cars are until you ride in one with an internal combustion engine.
So, is a certified pre-owned BMW i3 worth it? Yes. Think about this, you can get a low mileage, highly optioned i3 for about half the price of new. If you get a CPO i3 you get 2 years of warranty on a car that require little to no maintenance. In my case, I got a $60,000 car for a little over $20,000. It had just over 20,000 miles on it, was a one-owner vehicle, and was purchased from a reputable BMW dealer here in the Kansas City area.
If you use a site like Car Gurus you can find plenty of examples just like this all of the United States, and depending on where you live have the car delivered to you for less than a grand. Sites like Carvana, and Carmax also have i3 inventories available for delivery. The only downside is the car won’t be BMW certified, and the warranty options might not be as good.
If you are in the market or are thinking about going electric, I highly recommend going with a CPO i3. Save your money and skip the Tesla. Skip the Bolt, Volt, Leaf, or any other traditional-looking EV sedan and get something a bit more unique looking.
Oh, and while you could buy new and get a $7500.00 federal tax credit, chances are it still won’t be as affordable as going with preowned. If you are curious about why EV’s depreciate so much, Doug Demuro has a great article here that answers, or attempts to answer that very question.
I spend a lot of time looking at other people design work. It’s the nature of my job and something that helps to keep me current with design trends that are emerging. Over the last few months, something I’ve noticed with more frequency is the emergence of minimalist 3D animation paired with pastels that leans almost to abstraction. I have a feeling this is going to become a hot look over the next 18 months and will run the risk like so many other trends of jumping the shark as it gets picked up by every agency and marketing firm in the world. It looks cool now, and I’m really liking it, but that feeling may change if it becomes oversaturated the way the sketchbook look, the retro 80’s look, the ugly design look, the you name it you’ve seen to much of it looks did.