Credit card strategies

Wow it is incredible what Chase is doing with rewards cards. Hey Paul if you are listening here is the ideal portfolio. It does seem like the devaluations of airlines has meant cards are where the action is : 
1. Chase Sapphire Reserve. Effectively $150 per year ($450 plus $300 for any travel expense). 100K signup bonus. 3x points for any restaurant or travel including Airbnb. That’s effectively a 6.3% discount. Plus you get Priority Select for access to 900 lounges around the world. And if you redeem for flight using the Chase portal you get a 1.5x multiplier plus you earn miles on the airlines. (So potentially that’s 6% x 1.5 = 9% discount plus probably another 1.5% from the miles flown!). It also has primary insurance for rental cars so if you have an accident it doesn’t affect your car insurance.
Chase Ink Cash. This is a free card. But gives you a 5x multiplier for any telecom or office supply purchases. And you can transfer these points for free to the reserve and use them. So that’s 11% plus if you use the travel rewards center you could get 1.5x on top of that
Chase Freedom. This is a free card with rotating category bonuses of 5x. Right now that applies to warehouse stores. So your Costco purchases can also redeem at 11-16%.
Chase Ink Reserve. A new card. U get for your business. But it also offers 3x on telecom and if you use for your wireless bills then you get theft and damage insurance for all those phones with a $100 deductible. Nice now that iPhones really do cost $850. It does costs $99 but has a 80k signup bonus. Also you get 3x on all shipping charges and search engine advertising.
Discover. Another free card. They also have 5x category bonuses that are worth 5% in hard cash.
Amazon Store Card. I don’t know why this isn’t advertised more but this gives you a straight 5% rebate on Amazon purchases. A good deal when Freedom is not running a amazon promotion.
As an aside if you have some older cards like chase Sapphire preferred or chase ink bold with fees, convert them at no charge to the no fee Freedom or Freedom unlimited and ink cash respectively. Then they will improve your credit rating as closing cards is not a good thing.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Activating Benefits

This is an awesome card, but you have to dig down deep to activate benefits. It is buried deep in Redeem Points on the portal. Go to and do:

  1. First if you have other Chase cards, transfer all those points to the Sapphire Reserve so you can use them with the Chase Travel portal and get the 1.5x multiplier even for cards that do not directly offer them (like Chase Freedom)
  2. Then go to Use Points/Card Benefits and you will see the entries for the Priority Pass Select lounge access, getting TSA reimbursement and for the car rental memberships.

As an aside, this all part of a new program called Visa Infinite. Man, do these folks know how to generate lots of terms!

UHDTV now gets HDR

Well, now that 4K ultra high definition televisions costs as much as a bag of chips. (OK maybe not that little, but they are really inexpensive), the next jump in state of the art of high definition. That means a much higher color range than before so models like the new Samsung UN65KS9800 provide the latest bells and whistles.

It’s confusing, but there are two standards for compression colors. HDR10 and Dolby has their own. You want a display with both. These cost $5000 or so for a 65″ monitor compared with $1K for the “standard” UHDTV, so again, if you really covet this, you might want to wait a bit.

The only way to get content is with a new Blu-ray player and HDR blu ray disks and some streaming services are sending out compressed HDR.

Finally there is the issue of curved screen or not. A curved screen looks great if you are in the middle and close, but otherwise, it distorts the edges from farther away.

The final technical detail is the use of quantum dots and OLED. Quantum dots provide the red and green colors and are supposed to be truer. While OLED is even more expensive and some the same.

Sous Vide Geek

OK, I finally had a sous vide meal with my buddy Paul, I can see why geeks all over the world buy these things, some notes:

  • Buy a sous vide controller. The Anova immersion controller is less than $200, but the big boys get either a $1,000 Fusion Pro immersion controller or a dedicated water bath machine. Both (a branch of the franchise), America’s Test Kitchen (they do Cook’s illustrated) and Amazon reviews agree.
  • Get at least a 5cm thick steak (2 inches)
  • Cook at 132 degrees for 120 minutes
  • Use ping pong balls over the top to control temperature loss
  • Use a ice cooler for the water as it retains the water temperature way better than a pot
  • Vacuum Sealer. Invest in a fancy chamber vacuum sealer to you don’t lose juices but the thing is absolutely huge. Like many things, the better sealer matters. The VP-112S seems like a good choice. If you have trouble rationalizing this gigantic machine, use it to vacuum seal leftovers or your clothes for those camping trips or business trips 🙂 although Both Serious Eats and point out that you can also use the air displacement method and a simple ziplock bag. You basically put the item into water and the water pressure forces the air out of the top of the ziplock.  Cook’s illustrated liked the Weston Professional Advantage but this if you want a simpler heat sealer but this isn’t reviewed on
  • Sear the meat for two minutes flipping every 15 seconds. You an also use a micro flamer as well.
  • Or you should get a Komado grill and heat it to 600 degrees F to get a quick sear. Something like the Big Red is about 50% cheaper than the Big Green Egg and works just as well.

And for the true nerds a meat injector and poly science smoking gun are wonderful too.

Best apertures and isos

Ok shooting a bunch of candids and here are some quick reminders for best settings:

Canon 5D Mark II. I know it’s old but trusty. Base ISO is 100 and you want to start below ISO 800 before dynamic ranges disappears

For lenses

Canon 70-200/f2.8 L. This is not the mark II but still a decent lense. And it’s peak sharpness varies by focal length

70mm. Peak resolution is f/5.6 so the traditional 2 stops about for best resolution. 1987 center lw/ph and 1936 cornet. 

135mm. F/4 for landscapes at  1995/1982 but f/5.6 had better center sharpness for portraits with 2000/1950

200mm. F/4 for both. 1987 center, 1895 corner. 

Canon 50mm f/1.4. Like many lenses it depends on how you use it as portraits need good center sharpness whereas landscapes need overall

Center. F/2.8 with sharp falloff at corners

Landscape. f/5.6 for even balance although center is much less than f/2.8

For an Sony a7. The base ISO is 200

Ziess batís 85mm f/1.8. The peak center for portraits is f/2.8 and for landscapes the best resolution across the whole frame is f/5.6 

Sony zeiss 35mm f/1.8  F/4 is sharpest for both. 

Android Marshmellow Nexus 5X photos to a MacOS Sierra

This is one of the more tricky things to find, but if you are running Marshmellow, here are the instructions that seem to work. With Android, you do not get a hard drive that appears on your screen, nor does Photos work with Android, so try this instead:

  1. Plug in your Nexus 5X into your Mac
  2. Swipe down so you can see the type of USB transfer, unlike an iPhone, there are a bunch of options. If you want to transfer photos, then you need to select transfer photos and that start the Mac Application Image Capture which despite it’s name is actually going to copy off all the photos and videos. Hat tip to OS X Daily
  3. If there are other actual files that you want, you need to download from the Google website the applications Android File Transfer and then make sure to select transfer file (because of course a photo is not a file?!!!). Then you will see the file system of phone and you can drag and drop into the Finder. I have had quite a few errors with this and the normal error is really confusing, it complains about the screen being locked. The most likely problem is actually that you didn’t select the proper “mode” for USB connections.

Getting from NJ to JFK

This is actually harder than you think. Make sure to leave more than plenty of time as you have to get your way across the city. 

  1. Uber. I tried twice but uber drivers in NJ will refuse to take you to JFK. They mumble something about licensing. Probably more likely they don’t want to be stuck there. 

  2. NJ transit to LIRR to airtrain. This takes two hours but is cheap. The main problem is that the trains can face huge delays. So not super reliable. 

  3. Car service. Yes it will set you back $200 plus but at least you know you will get there. 

  4. Rent a car. Super expensive because you have to pay the dropoff charges. 

Getting back from seatac

Ok the many mysteries of travel. Here’s a big one. What’s the best way back from the airport assuming ur tired don’t want to spend too much but want to get of the airport as fast as possible. From best to worst

  1. Driving there and back. Ok still the most reliable for dropoff and assuming ur coming in non rush hour for pickup too. Use a discount coupon at Masterpark. The main drag is that the shuttles take time. This works for short trips where the cost of parking is less than $90. 

  2. Towncar service. The most expensive at $50-60 each way but if you can find a good provider the most reliable. They will wait for your flight. Eastside Towncar (shout out to Eric) has been great for us. 

  3. Wingz. This is a flat rate service. Decent for dropoff to airport but for arrivals they have a fixed 45 minutes delay after you land so you get to wait. And since they only have a 30 minute late window pretty inconvenient. 

  4. Reachnow and car2go. This is another reliable option if they have cars. Basically you can take them to the airport and leave them. They are $.30-.40 cents a minute so for the 40 minute ride probably $20. A decent option if there isn’t traffic. 

  5. Light rail. Link plus Lyft. This isn’t such a bad combination take a short Lyft from a light rail station. Certainly economic but you do have to wait. 

  6. Traditional car service.