Capital One Venture CardPhoto: The Points Guy
Capital One’s Venture card has always been a bit of a hybrid between cash back and travel rewards cards. While you could earn a lot of points through Hotels.com, and erase travel purchases from your credit card statement by redeeming them, you couldn’t transfer them to any airline programs like you could points from Chase and Amex. That’s changing next month.
At some as-yet-undetermined date in December, Capital One will be opening up the option to transfer your points to these partners at a 2:1.5 ratio, meaning two Capital One miles become 1.5 miles at the partner airline:AeromexicoAir Canada AeroplanAir France/KLMAlitaliaAviancaCathay PacificEtihadEVA Finnair Hainan Qantas Qatar
Obviously, none of those are the U.S.-based airlines, and there are no hotel chains included, but these partners could come in handy for international trips, and some even offer potential savings on domestic flights. For example, Air France’s Flying Blue program often has better points rates on U.S. Delta flights than Delta itself. Ditto Air Canada Aeroplan miles and United flights.
The 2:1.5 transfer ratio isn’t as generous as the 1:1 ratios you’ll find on some other programs, but since you’re earning two points per dollar with the Venture card, it’s basically like earning 1.5 airline miles per dollar, which is pretty solid.
If you don’t want to transfer your points, nothing else is changing, and you can still use the Venture Card’s Purchase Eraser feature to cover any travel expense you want at a rate of $.01 per point. Capital One is also bumping the welcome offer up to 75,000 points after you spend $5,000 in your first three months, for a limited time. That’s up from the typical 50,000 points after spending $3,000. Since a lot of these partners overlap with other credit card ecosystems, this could be a flexible addition to your wallet, even if you’re already all-in on Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards.
Gizmodo Media Commerce has partnered with The Points Guy Affiliate Network for our coverage of credit products. Gizmodo Media Group and The Points Guy may receive a commission from card issuers.
As fun as it is doing these driving road adventures in Japan in fancy sports cars, I realize not everyone who’ll be visiting Japan will be able to drive an Aston Martin or a McLaren on the best roads this country has to offer. In fact, most of the roads I’ve been on don’t need a million horsepower or doors that go up to enjoy them.
What you really need is a performance car of some sort, ideally a Japanese one so you can really get into the whole thing. The average rental cars you get in Japan from the usual places are all well and nice. They’re modern, have all the safety and driver aids you’d need, plus they come with English navigation systems—all handy for tourists wanting to explore Japan.
But I know most of you aren’t going to be content with driving around in a Toyota Prius during your time in one of the world’s hot spots for car culture.
That’s where Omoshiro Rentacar, or Omoren for short, comes in. They’ve got what’s possibly one of the best range of rental cars to choose from. You won’t find mundane options here. It’s all cars that’ll make any petrolhead excited. I keep harping on about living your Gran Turismo fantasies in real life and these guys will literally rent you the cars for that.
Amazingly, I first found out about these guys when I was driving the new Honda Civic Type R on Mount Akagi and came across a bunch of guys driving pretty briskly up the road in front of me. I caught up with them at a parking area and found out they were from Hong Kong and had rented out a Subaru WRX STI, Mazda RX-7, and Civic Type R from Omoren for a week to drive on the roads made famous by Initial D.
A few months later the guys at Omoren kindly offered me a car to use for a couple days days so I too could experience their service for myself. Seeing as it all started with a Civic Type R, it was only fitting I got another one. This time it was the FD2 generation—the only sedan-shaped Civic Type R, the last to be made in Japan and the last to not use turbos.
For everyone else, booking a car from them is pretty simple. They have an English website and you simply choose your preferred car or preferred pick up location. They have a few spread throughout Japan. Their main location is in Noda, Chiba, but they also have a few cars located next to Narita Airport, which is perfect if you want to get off the plane and straight into a JDM hero.
Takafumi Saito, who founded Omoren, said they started out with the aim of offering fun and interesting cars since 2011. The name “Omoshiro Rentacar” literally translates to fun/interesting rental car. Takafumi started out dealing with used cars, he reckons in the 15 years in that business he must’ve traded around 5,000 cars. Not a bad track record.
He started Omoren because he noticed most people in Japan only have one car, usually a van-type thing suited for Japan’s narrow roads and carrying families. Takafumi found a niche where he could rent out sporty cars to these people who still love sports cars but aren’t able to own them for various reasons. His next goal is to buy a circuit and allow customers to drive freely there.
They’re constantly updating their inventory, their latest addition is the latest Suzuki Jimny. Takafumi says their goal is to have the most unusual cars in their lineup. The next car that’ll join the Omoren roster is a Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4. Quite a big jump from their other cars but it’ll certainly prove popular with their customer base.
Funnily enough, even though the business started out to cater to locals who couldn’t have a sports car, around 70 percent of their customers are from overseas. Takafumi said they’re recently gained popularity in the Asian region through social media.
It’s pretty easy to rent a car from Omoren. Drivers have to be 23 years or above and must have an international driving permit. Once you have those you can pretty much drive anything they have on offer. Their lineup includes a R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R, Mazda RX-7, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, and a Mk4 Toyota Supra. Prices range from 9,770 yen a day (about $86) for an NC Miata to 29,900 yen a day (about $260) for the more expensive cars like the Skylines.
I’ll be the first to admit it would’ve been awesome to have experienced one of those ’90s JDM legends, but maybe that’ll be for another time. In the meantime, I was blown away by the FD2. I picked it up from their Narita location and within two minutes I was in love with it. I had a feeling I’d at least find it fun and interesting, but I wasn’t expecting to come out of it desperately needing one in my life.
I enjoyed the new FK8 Type R a lot and that’s why I was excited to try out an older “proper” Type R, with old-school high-revving VTEC goodness. Last time I did that, I was in my friend’s S2000 in New Zealand.
This had the trusty K20A 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine with 222 horsepower and 159 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual. Everything about this car was in the pursuit of the purest driving experience—it doesn’t even have traction control. There’s Brembo brakes, a chassis that’s 50 percent more rigid than the DC5 Integra Type R and independent rear suspension. All in a package weighing just 2,755 pounds.
But the numbers only tell one side of the story. This car gave me one of the best driving experiences I’ve had. Forget all the modern supercars and sports cars—try an old-school Type R at least once in your life. For the first 10 minutes I kept changing gears at around 6000 RPM, forgetting there was still another 2400 RPM to go before the actual redline.
Get things thing above 6000 RPM and it sings. Then VTEC kicks in, yo. You sort of hold on for dear life because it’s such an exhilarating experience. It feels both out of control and totally in control at the same time. Stretch it out until its redline or even past it to 9000 RPM, change gears and start the whole process again. It’s scarily addictive.
Changing gears is a pleasure on its own. The clutch is light and the changes make this satisfying mechanical click. Also it has an aluminum shift knob, and who doesn’t like an aluminum knob?
I could’ve taken this car to a new road but instead I decided to take it to somewhere that was familiar; the Hakone Turnpike. It’s very cliche, I know, but I knew I could have fun stretching this car out to its limits on the uphill sections. I wasn’t wrong, this car was an absolute joy to drive on this famous bit of road. It’s probably as fast as you’d want on a road like this. Supercars are fun to drive but on a road like the Hakone Turnpike you don’t need all that horsepower. A balanced car is more enjoyable, and the Civic Type R is about as perfect as it gets.
It gives you a sort of visceral and proper mechanical engagement that’s impossible to get in cars today. Yes, the new Civic Type R is a brilliant bit of kit, but this is a completely different animal. It actually felt like I was doing some proper driving. No driver aids, no fancy electronics—just me and the car on an epic road.
It even did all the normal stuff well. Okay, it’s not as practical as the normal Civic, since it only has four seats and the ride was a bit bouncy due to that super stiff chassis. I wouldn’t call it uncomfortable but on longer trips it could get tiresome.
But I get it. I totally get why Takafumi saw an opening in the market to rent out these incredible cars to people. It’s a great way to experience these legends without having to own one. Except now I’m seriously considering buying a FD2 because I need that driving experience more in my life.
As fun as it is to drive these cars up and down a mountain road, there are other things you can do with an Omoren rental too. But that’s for next time. Right now I need to go and find some FD2s for sale.
Photo: Claire Lower
There is a certain (I think) overly romantic expectation that a good turkey gravy must be made from pan drippings, and whisked together just moments before the Big Meal is put on the table. To this I say, “No thank you,” particularly when a very good gravy can be made hours, days, or even weeks ahead of time.
I can only speak for myself, but once the turkey is out of the oven, my brain and body partially shut down, and I am loathe to cook another thing, particularly something like gravy, which requires an amount of babying I am no longer equipped to provide. Plus, pan drippings are kind of unpredictable. Depending on your brining situation, you could end up with a whole bunch of juicy, fatty pan goodness, or—if you dry brine your turkey—you could end up with very little. Besides, you don’t even need them—all you need is a flavorful stock, flour, and butter.Yet another case for spatchcocking
I know I’ve beaten you over the head with my preference for a spatchcocked turkey, but this is yet another case where it really helps you out. Removing the backbone means you can use it (along with the neck and giblets) to make a deeply flavored stock, which you can then use to make the deeply flavored gravy.You can also wing it
If you don’t wish to remove the big bird’s spinal column, that’s okay. You still have the neck, and you can supplement with a few big turkey wings, which are cheap and contain lots of rich collagen, which will make your stock—and thus your gravy—super silky.You have time to tweak
I love not being rushed, particularly when I’m making something as important as the gravy. Making it well ahead of time means I can taste and tweak as I (calmly) make the gravy, instead of frantically whisking while everyone hungrily mills around the kitchen, waiting for the turkey to finish its post-oven respite.But first, make stock
If you can stir, you can make good gravy, but before we get to that, you have to make the stock. Exactly what you put in your stock is up to you, but err on the side of “is this too much stuff?” If you have no idea what to add, you can use this as a template:A big stock pot or tabletop pressure cooker, such as the Instant PotThe neck, giblets, and backbone from your turkey (or, a couple of wings if you wish to keep your turkey intact2 tablespoons of olive oil (plus more if needed)1 onion, quartered2 celery ribs, roughly chopped2 carrots, roughly chopped1/4 cup of red wineThe contents of your freezer scrap bag1 Parmesan rind2 sprigs each of thyme, rosemary, and marjoram, plus 2 sage leaves1 bay leaf1 teaspoon peppercornsSalt
Heat your oil over medium-high heat in your stock pot or the insert of your pressure cooker. Salt your turkey parts, then sear them until they are a deep golden brown on all sides (the giblets will brown more quickly than the neck, back bone, or wings, so keep an eye on them). Remove the turkey parts and set them aside, and add more oil to the pot if it looks dry. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and cook until everyone is a nice golden brown. Add the wine, then scrape up any stuck browned bits with a wooden spoon.
Return the turkey parts to the pot, along with everything else, season with at least a couple of teaspoons of salt, and add enough water to cover the contents of your stock pot or pressure cooker insert. If you are using a pressure cooker, close it up and cook under high pressure for an hour. If you are cooking your stock on the stove, bring everything to a boil, then reduce and let it simmer for at least four hours, skimming off any unappetizing looking scum as needed. Once it’s done cooking, strain it through a fine mesh sieve (or a colander lined with cheese cloth). You are now ready to turn your stock into gravy.Now make gravy
First, you will need to make a roux, which is just fancy French for “flour cooked in an equal amount of butter.” I like to use at least one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of flour for every cup of stock, with maybe an extra tablespoon of each for good measure. (So, if you want to make gravy from a quart of stock, use a little over a quarter cup of each.)
Melt your butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat until it’s fully melted, then sprinkle in the flour, stirring to make sure there are no lumps. Cook the roux, stirring pretty much continuously, until it is a dark tan color and smells nice and toasty. Slowly pour in your stock, half a cup at a time, whisking continuously, until you have a beautiful, luscious gravy. It’s much easier to thin out a gravy than it is to thicken it back up, so don’t pour all your liquid in at once. If, however, you do over-thin, don’t panic. You can add a beurre manie—a paste made of equal parts butter and flour—to help thicken it back up. (Also, keep in mind that the gravy will thicken as it cools.)
If you want to make things a little more exciting, you can whisk in some other flavorful friends like miso, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or even some citrus zest or a wine reduction. You have the time, so taste, tweak, and taste again until it’s perfect.Chill out (and reheat later)
If you made your gravy a day or two ahead of time, it can hang out in the fridge until the big day, but if it’s going to be any longer than that, you should go ahead and freeze it. To prevent it from separating too much while cooling, pour it into a shallow container, and set it in an ice bath to rapidly cool it down. Then transfer to a freezer bag and lay it down flat in the freezer until it’s solid (unless you’re just refrigerating it, in which case just pop it in the fridge in a covered container).
To reheat from freezing on the stove, pop the gravy bag in the microwave for about 10 seconds, then break the semi-frozen gravy sheet into pieces and place them in a sauce pan. Heat the gravy over medium heat, stirring frequently until it reaches a simmer. (If you refrigerated your gravy, this is all you need to do.) If you have an immersion circulator, you can simply place the whole frozen (or refrigerated) bag in a 140-degree water bath, agitating it every 10 minutes or so, and keep it in there until you’re ready to serve it.
LG C8 2018 OLED 55" TV | $1,697 | Walmart Graphic: Shep McAllister
LG’s OLED TVs have achieved something of a cult status thanks to their ridiculously dark black levels and vibrant colors. If you were waiting for Black Friday to snag yours, the discounted price on the 55" C8 model is already live.
The picture quality got an upgrade over last year’s model thanks to a new processor that improves color accuracy, reduces artifacts, and supports HFR (high frame rate video) up to 120 FPS. HFR content doesn’t really exist yet, but a few movies are expected to come to streaming services starting later this year, so if you’re planning on using the TV for several years, it might be worth it for future-proofing purposes.
We’ve seen cheaper deals on the lower-end B8 model, but that one uses last year’s processor, meaning it can do HFR or HDR, but not both at the same time like the C8.
A house in South Carolina after Hurricane Florence.Photo: Sean Rayford (Getty Images)
Climate change used to seem like something that would confront our grandchildren—a distant concern. Now, though, it’s staring us right in the face when we get up in the morning.
People wade through seawater on sunlit Miami streets; the Florida Panhandle, which rarely sees hurricanes, was recently flattened by a megastorm; and every year bigger and more frequent wildfires burn through Australia and California. As our planet warms up, the climate-related changes across the U.S. are well underway. Even if you haven’t had to cope with climate related problems yet, it may not be long before you have to protect your home from extreme weather, fire, flooding, or even sea level rise.
To find out how climate change may affect your area, check out climate risks by region using the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit. A short video introduces the different parts of the website. You might want to go to the Steps to Resilience section that offers way to assess and reduce your risk.The areas in dark brown will have 15 more dry days per year in 2090. This map shows the “higher emissions” scenario, where we don’t act fast to reduce emissions.Screenshot: Climate Resilience Toolkit
For example, your flood risk depends not just on your own home and where it sits, but also on things like how the city has channeled nearby creeks and what size culverts your local department of public works has installed beneath your street or road. When it rains harder than ever before, undersized culverts may be overwhelmed and creeks can back up and jump their banks, flooding homes and roads.
In Santa Cruz, California, the city’s climate action manager Tiffany Wise-West, PhD, has posted a detailed action plan, including a Practical Adaptation Actions for Residents. We’re not covering every little thing, she says, but the City’s simple web page is a place for ordinary people to start.
Santa Cruz County is one of the rare places that already has a detailed plan for the future. Ask your city and county government if they have a Local Hazard Mitigation Plan like this one. But even if your area doesn’t, you can rough out a way to address the specific risks your home could face. In general, climate change experts talk about two ways of addressing climate change, preventing it and dealing with the consequences. Here we are focused on dealing with the consequences of climate change, sometimes called climate adaptation.Sea Level Rise
Is your seaside condo at risk of looking like the castle in the bottom of a goldfish bowl? To find out, look up your area on Climate Central’s “Surging Seas Risk Zone Map.” Older climate models predict 1 to 4 feet of sea level rise by 2100. But depending on how quickly major ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica collapse, the sea could rise a dozen meters or more. For now, we don’t know for sure when that might happen.
For example, East Antarctic’s largest ice sheet is threatened by warm sea water slipping underneath it. That could set the front of it afloat and allow the massive landbound part to slide into the sea—enough to raise global sea levels by nearly four meters (12 feet).
Wise-West says the Santa Cruz plan is about the same whether the sea rises a meter in 80 years or sooner. It’s just a matter of moving up the schedule, she says, looking serious.
If you look at Port Arthur, Texas, on the Surging Seas website and set sea level to one meter (3 feet), you can glimpse the future. Here is Port Arthur today:Port Arthur, Texas, todayScreenshot: Surging Seas
Port Arthur is home to 50,000 people and the largest oil refinery in the United States. Here’s what it could look like with one meter of sea level rise:Port Arthur, Texas, with a meter of sea level riseScreenshot: Surging Seas
That means that if you lived in Port Arthur, you’d have to think about not only how sea level rise would affect your own backyard, but also how it would affect the oil refinery and how that would affect you.
That’s a lesson to cast your net wide when thinking about how climate change might affect you through indirect effects. Go to your own address on the Surging Seas website and see what one meter of sea level rise looks like. Maybe your home is fine but the nearest fire station, the grocery store, and a power plant 30 miles down the coast will all be underwater. Think about the infrastructure you count on. Will it be okay?
If the front steps of your condo are underwater, check your insurance policy to see, first, if you have purchased flood insurance and, second, if storm surges and sea level rise are covered. Have an emergency kit and an emergency plan for evacuating in case of a storm surge. But think longer term, too. You could put stilts under your house. FEMA provides tips on how individuals and communities can build or rebuild smarter, safer, and stronger and a Mitigation Best Practices Portfolio.Extreme Rain
In 2017, Hurricane Harvey slammed Houston with 40 inches of rain in four days, flooding 400 square miles. How can you deal with such Biblical flooding? In the short term, evacuate if local authorities say to. Longer term, have an escape plan. But bottom line? Don’t live in a floodplain.
Flooding from rain and overflowing rivers might seem similar to flooding from sea level rise and in some ways a basement full of water is the same whether it’s freshwater or seawater. But there is a difference. Floods eventually recede. Even with climate change, it might be 10 or 50 years before another flood occurs in that location. Sea level rise not only doesn’t recede, it will keep rising for the foreseeable future. If the sea is lapping at your driveway at high tide, it will be at your doorstep in time.
If you are in doubt about whether your home could be affected by sea level rise, it’s not too soon to start thinking about moving inland, whether that’s a just mile to higher ground or to another state. Boise, Idaho, is lovely and livable.Hotter SummersFuture Climate
Until you move to (really lovely) Boise, here are a few things that will help protect your house from extreme heat:Paint your house white, and use the palest roofing you can find. Plant trees around your house to provide shade. Seal every crack in your attic. Insulate the attic and walls. Don’t run an attic fan—it may cool off the attic, but it will suck cool air right out of your house. Seal all gaps around electrical outlets or pipes coming through the wall. Weather strip your doors and replace leaky windows. Use fans to pull in cooler air in at night. Extreme Wind
Hurricanes are becoming more powerful and more common. This is because warmer ocean water adds energy to tropical storms as they form. Meanwhile, tornados are occurring farther east than they used to and even showing up in unlikely places, such as California. Both kinds of extreme wind destroy buildings by ripping off roofs and hurling heavy objects through the air.
Most building codes were written for relatively mild winds. You can build a house like this one that will withstand a category 5 hurricane. But if that’s not in your budget, make your own house a bit sturdier with wind-resistant roofing, garage doors, and storm shutters. As always, be prepared to evacuate to a safer place when hurricanes are headed for your house.
GIF GIF: Andrew Liszewski (Gizmodo)
Despite their growing popularity in cities like San Francisco as another alternative to cars, electric scooters have always seemed like nothing more than a pricier version of a toy I enjoyed as a kid. But the Unagi, an e-scooter that looks like it was actually designed for grown-ups, gave me a new appreciation for how practical they can potentially be.Unagi Electric ScooterUnagi Electric ScooterUnagi Electric ScooterWHAT IS IT?
An electric scooter that doesn't look or run like a kid's toy.PRICE
$890 - $1,090LIKE
With an impressive range, and a top speed of 15.5 MPH, it's fun to ride.DISLIKE
Braking can be finicky and abrupt, and you'll feel every bump on the road.
Is an e-scooter for everyone? No, but the Unagi could potentially reduce the number of times you’ll need to hop in the car to complete a quick errand. A recent move to suburbia has meant that walking to a nearby restaurant for a quick lunch is no longer an option for me, and taking the car just to grab a quick burrito makes me feel too guilty.
The Unagi is a happy medium between the two. I still prefer to walk when I can, but the e-scooter has greatly expanded the range of where I can go when time is limited, without having to reach for my car keys.
Available in two versions, the E250 and E450, I tested the pricier and more powerful Unagi E450 which features a 200-watt electric motor built into the front wheel, and a 250-watt motor in the rear wheel, allowing it to tackle hills without a significant drop in speed. Both models can hit a top speed of 15.5 MPH (which feels a lot faster than it sounds) and have a range of about 15.5 miles thanks to a series of 25 (24 in the E250) 3,200 mAh lithium batteries hidden in the base of the scooter.
The pricing reflects that power and speed, however, and the cheapest version of the Unagi goes for $890, while the model we tested is $1,090. You can get a well-equipped road bike for that much scratch, and if that’s the experience you’re after, it might be the better route. But if you’re looking for the ease of a car—minus the gas and insurance costs—the Unagi makes a strong case for its sticker shock.There are only two short wires visible outside of the Unagi scooter’s clean frame.Photo: Andrew Liszewski (Gizmodo)
The design of the Unagi is definitely one of its more appealing features. Made from a combination of machined aluminum, carbon fiber, and a lightweight magnesium alloy for the handlebar assembly, the scooter looks like a team of designers spend some time to make it look like more than a toy, which should help adults feel a little less self-conscious about scooting around town. (Raises hand.)The hinge’s locking mechanism securely holds the handlebars in place.Photo: Andrew Liszewski (Gizmodo)
Weighing in at a little over 24 pounds, the Unagi is by no means lightweight, but it isn’t impossibly heavy to move around, either. To make it easier to store, or bring it up the elevator to your office after your morning commute, the scooter features a handlebar that folds down using a unique hinge mechanism that securely holds it in either position.GIF The hinge mechanism used for the Unagi’s folding handlebars is incredibly sturdy, but the release lever can be a bit tricky to slide.Photo: Andrew Liszewski (Gizmodo)
It works well; the handlebars don’t feel loose when upright, and when folded down they can be used as a carrying handle. However, the sliding lever that’s used to release the locking hinge mechanism can be a little difficult to move when the handlebars are in their upright position. You need to wiggle the handlebars a bit to get it to slide and unlock, and I still haven’t quite gotten the hang of it.Airless tires means you’ll never have to deal with a flat or puncture.Photo: Andrew Liszewski (Gizmodo)
One of the most unique features of the Unagi are its airless tires that surround each wheel’s electric motor hub with a series of rubber spokes. Companies like Bridgestone have been touting the advantages of these tires for years: they never deflate or go flat, and they provide additional shock absorption.GIF As you get closer to the e-scooter’s top speed, you’re going to feel every little bump on the road. Its airless tires are no match for a car’s suspension system.GIF: Andrew Liszewski (Gizmodo)
The former might be true for the Unagi; you’re never going to be stranded by a flat tire. But with wheels measuring just 7.5-inches in diameter, you still end up feeling every bump and crack in the road. At slower speeds the airless tires do a better job at absorbing uneven terrain, but as you get closer to 15 MPH I found myself constantly scanning the road ahead for the smoothest patches of asphalt I could find.Instead of a brake and gas pedal, the Unagi is controlled using two levers you press with your thumbs.Photo: Andrew Liszewski (Gizmodo)
Controlling the Unagi scooter is all done through a collection of buttons and levers surrounding a high-contrast display that provides details on your current speed, distance traveled, remaining battery life, and which riding mode you’re in. Mode 1 limits the scooter’s top speed to 9.3 MPH, while mode 3 lets you get it up to 15.5 MPH, and they can be toggled on the fly by double-tapping one of the buttons.The battery icon doesn’t give the best idea of how much longer or farther the e-scooter will run.Photo: Andrew Liszewski (Gizmodo)
The graphical battery meter is the only feedback you have for how much longer the Unagi scooter will run, but I found it a little vague. It also tended to show more of an estimation of how much battery life was left given the current terrain you were on. So when riding up a steep hill it would drop to a single red bar, but once you hit the top and were back on level ground, it would immediately climb back up to three full bars again. An estimation of miles or minutes you had, based on the battery level, would be a nice addition here.
Braking and accelerating are handled by a pair of large thumb levers which offer a good deal of precision, once you get used to how much force you need to use. As an added safety feature, the accelerator lever (on the right) won’t function until the scooter is already moving, requiring you to manually kick off first. It’s a feature that has probably saved me from a fall more than once while I’ve been standing with one foot on the scooter, getting ready to ride.Red LED taillights improve your visibility at night, and flash whenever you apply the brakes.Photo: Andrew Liszewski (Gizmodo)
In comparison, I think the sensitivity of the braking lever (on the left) could use a bit of a tweak. It works, but even the slightest press will activate the scooter’s braking system with enough force to make you feel a little anxious about going over the handlebars—although that has yet to actually happen to me. The brakes work quite well, and can bring the scooter to a full stop from top speed in about 12 to 13-feet. But you really need to learn to have a gentle touch with it, which isn’t always easy when you’re bouncing around at 15+ MPH.It looks small, but that headlight puts out a lot of light.Photo: Andrew Liszewski (Gizmodo)
As safety features go, the Unagi scooter’s got the basics covered with side reflectors, a series of bright red LEDs on the back that start flashing when the braked are applied, and a high-pitched electronic horn that’s one of the most unpleasant sounds I’ve ever heard. It will, without a doubt, get someone’s attention. And while they’ll probably be mad at you for blaring it, at least they’ll see you coming.GIF Even on a poorly lit street, the Unagi’s headlight does a good job at illuminating your path.GIF: Andrew Liszewski (Gizmodo)
I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting much from the Unagi’s headlight, but the cluster of LEDs it uses does a decent job at throwing enough light on the road ahead to see where you’re going at night. Odds are you’ll be using the e-scooter in urban settings most of the time when street lights already provide a good amount of illumination, but even without them, the Unagi’s headlight still made it easy to spot obstacles.You better believe it includes a kickstand, which works quite well at keeping the scooter from toppling while you’re not on it. It’s small, however, and you’ll often forget it’s extended when you start riding.The scooter’s floor has enough room to squeeze a couple of size 13 shoes on it, but it’s grooved for added traction, which does collect a lot of dirt.A proprietary charging port and adapter means you’ll need to buy a backup to charge your Unagi at work if you use it for commuting, or carry it with you wherever you go. 1 / 3
If you’re looking for something to ride up and down the street, and nothing more than a quick thrill, companies like Razor sell adult-friendly e-scooters for less than $300. But if you’re looking for an alternative to a car, or public transit, or just don’t want to work up a sweat biking to work every morning, the Unagi feels like an e-scooter that wants to be more than just a toy. It’s certainly not cheap, but it’s much cheaper than paying for parking and gas to get around a crowded urban center.
But even for someone like myself living in suburbia and working from home, in a little over a week’s time the Unagi has managed to work its way into my daily routine. It’s made the boring walk to the community mailbox something I look forward to every evening, and it’s greatly expanded my range of lunch options. Now if only I could put snow tires on it.
The Unagi Scooter is being launched today through a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, and the single motor E250 model will be available for as little as $623 for the first backers, while the more powerful E450 option, which is what we tested, can be had for $763. Delivery is expected to start in January of next year for the first backers, with the final units shipping out in March. As with any crowdfunded product, there’s always a level of risk involved, even when production-ready products can be demonstrated, as is the case here. If you’d prefer to wait and see, the Unagi will eventually be available through the company’s website, but without the discounts.
Image: Element5 Digital on Unsplash
With a few clicks of your keyboard, you can find hundreds of opinions hashing out the best ways to live and be and do. Travel, spend money, invest, be productive, structure your day, listen to music, brine a turkey—there’s a right and a wrong way for everything, and god forbid you use the wrong credit card or incorrectly word an email given the breadth of resources at your disposal. With so much information out there on how to optimize, well, everything, there’s just no excuse to do something in a way an expert deems substandard. What if you take a route not recommended by Google Maps and end up at your destination four minutes later than you would have if you followed the AI’s instructions? Quelle horreur.
And we’re certainly guilty of it—after all, what is life hacking if not trying to figure out the best tips and tricks to get you through your day? But while much of this advice can be instructive—you really should learn more about investing for retirement and how to schedule an email, for example—some of it is unnecessary.
Not every facet of life needs to be “optimized,” whatever that means. Firstly, and it’s something I think about often while writing about money, because the “best” version of something is different for everyone. In other words, it doesn’t really exist. And secondly, because sometimes optimization just isn’t the goal.
I’ll give you one example. In the Lifehacker chat, we were discussing the best time to buy a (live) Christmas tree. Should you wait until after Thanksgiving? Buy one when it’s “cheapest,” which happens to be Christmas Eve? Or calculate when it’s most likely to look and smell the best on Christmas? And on and on. There are a million questions you could ask about this (and I’m almost certain someone will be tackling some of them in a future post) one small, borderline insignificant life event. At some point you just have to ask yourself: When do you want the damn tree up?
My very individual, very unscientific answer is: now. I want the tree up now. I don’t want to wait until Christmas Eve—I want to buy one this weekend, if I’m able, decorate it, and enjoy it for weeks to come. You might want to wait until your kids come home from college so they can help you decorate, or until after Thanksgiving because you can’t stand when the Christmas season starts too early. And you know what? That’s all fine. That’s your optimization, and you should go with it.
This is one example, but it applies to virtually everything. Yes, I could wait another year to buy a phone and hope that the new version has a slightly better camera. I could look up a million recipes and then a million restaurants on Yelp to find the perfect meal for a perfect first date. I could wake up at 4 a.m. and meditate and journal for an hour and get to inbox zero and work out for three hours and write 3,000 words of my new novel and go to bed at 8 p.m.
Or I could just buy the phone I want now, pick the restaurant around the corner I’ve gone to once a week for the past three months, and sleep in. I could give myself a break and stop thinking about how to use every second of my life in the most “productive” way possible.
I could pick a suitable credit card that gets me points back on the things I buy and stop worrying if there was a card that was very slightly different and would have netted me 200 more points this year. I could take a job that pays well and lets me do what I want to do without worrying if it’s the absolute best fit on every conceivable measurement. I could book a plane ticket with Delta and not worry about if I would have saved $15 with Spirit.
In other words, I could stop trying to maximize my life and instead just live it. Yes, I want to make smart, informed decisions. I want to save money and travel smartly and learn a thing or two about the gadgets that power my life. But I also want to buy a Christmas tree now, today, and enjoy it for the next month and a half. Sure, some of the needles might brown and fall off, and maybe it’s going to cost a bit more this week than it will in a week or two weeks or three weeks. But that’s just fine with me if I get to enjoy it in my apartment for the next six. It might not be optimized by your standards, but it’s going to maximize my happiness. And sometimes that’s the most important metric.
Screenshot: Mike Epstein
Dealing with compressed Zip files on a smartphone can be a hassle. There are apps that get the job done, but the process is never quite as seamless as it should be. On a laptop or desktop, unpacking a file is second nature—a click or two, tops.
That’s why we love Dr. Drang’s latest iOS shortcut. Drang, the author of the Mac blog “And now it’s all this,” has devised a way to unzip a file and stash its contents on your iPhone (or in a cloud service such as iCloud or Dropbox.) His “Unzip to iCloud” is simple: When you’re confronted with a Zip file, pull up the iOS Share Sheet and select the Shortcuts action, and then select Unzip to iCloud.
Once the shortcut unzips an archive, it defaults to sending the files to your iCloud account, but you can change the destination whenever you run the shortcut:Photo: Dr. Drang
As Drang describes, the shortcut can be a little fussy, so keep trying if it doesn’t work at first: “It crashed the first time I tried to run it. I don’t know if that was because of low memory or some other odd reason, but it led me down a path of unnecessary debugging. When I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it, I ran the shortcut again and it worked perfectly. 🤷🏼♂️”
If there’s one cloud service you know you’ll always use with the shortcut, you can edit it to pick a new default service (and remove the “Ask where to save” option).
“Alexa, where’s the cat litter?”Photo: Fabian Hurnaus
The Houseguest Guide on Alexa Skill Blueprints lets you program your Alexa to answer questions for housesitters, babysitters, and other guests. You can explain the TV remotes, the garbage routine, and the trick to make the shower work, and Alexa will wrap it all inside a Houseguest Guide skill.
The Amazon Echo is banned in my house for privacy reasons, so we’ll just have to use the old-fashioned method of emailing our guests a house guide, then texting them about all the stuff we left out. Works for us. But if you’ve gotten used to relying on Alexa for all kinds of household questions, this is a convenient way to build a comprehensive guide without handing your guest a giant document that feels like homework.
Fill your guide with the recommended items from our post “How to Be the Perfect Host in the 21st Century,” and our guest information packet, a PDF on Wayback. To use your guide, visitors just ask Alexa to “open the home guide.”
Bissell Multi-Purpose Portable Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner | $69 | AmazonGraphic: Elizabeth Zimmerman
Look, no one is judging you for being an adult and still managing to spill stuff all over your carpet and sofa. We’re human. It happens. But people will judge you if you don’t even try to get the stains out, because gross. To that end, may we suggest the Bissell Multi-Purpose Portable Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner?
It’s less cumbersome than a full-size carpet cleaner, more effective than the old spray-and-rag technique, and much easier than always moving your furniture to cover spots on the floor. It even has a drying function to save you from the horrors of wet socks. What will they think of next?