Tips

A collection of tips that I’ve been known to discuss at cocktail parties.

DSLR Camera and Lens

A DSLR camera is not right for everyone, but if I were getting started and had some money to spend, I would recommend starting with a full-frame camera body and a prime lens:

Skip the body-and-lens kit. For about $1,600, you get an excellent full-frame camera that gets excellent reviews and I use as my DSLR. Since you’re getting a full-frame camera, you can get a 50mm lens that will resemble your own field of vision. You could buy the $100 50mm f/1.8 lens, known as the “Thrifty Fifty,” but if you can swing $200 more, get the f/1.4 that is better in terms of image sharpness, build quality, auto focus speed, and mechanical noise.

With this combination, you’ll get some great shots, learn to compose an image without worrying about zooming (use your feet to zoom in or out), and because the camera goes up to ISO 12,800 and the lens goes all the way down to f/1.4, you can shoot in very low light without a flash.

Once you master shooting with a prime, you can buy more lenses and become a bona fide photo geek.

Coffee Maker

Skip any all-in-one coffee maker. You’ll need three things to brew coffee. Get the most expensive burr grinder you can afford (or a manual one), whole coffee beans roasted less than a month ago, and one of the following coffee makers.

Method One Cup at a Time More than One Cup
Filter Hario V60 Chemex
Immersion Aeropress French Press

You may also want to get a nice kettle with good pour control, such as one from Bonavita. There’s an electric one with variable temperature control, another electric one that goes to a full boil, and you can use on the stove.

If you want to splurge and are very careful with glass, get a vacuum pot.

City Bike

Buy the most expensive bike you can afford to have stolen, but never get one from a department store. Department store bikes are known to break. Even the most slovenly bike shop will have a better bike, by orders of magnitude, than what you can get a department store.

Once you buy one, you’ll need to spend more money on accessories.

As an alternative, you can just sign up for your local bike share.

AMEX Membership Rewards Points

My favorite way to spend AMEX Membership Rewards points is to use them at Amazon. You can spend it on anything sold through Amazon, even used or Marketplace items, and spend as many or as few points as you wish. I’ve used points in the past to reduce the purchase price and paid the balance with my card, netting me more reward points.

It’s a much better deal than shopping through the catalog.

Long Island City Apartment

The best real estate brokerage in the neighborhood is Crest Haven Realty. Ask for John Casella. He’s helped four of my friends find homes, and he charges a fee of only one-month’s rent, which is half of what most brokers in the city charge.

John Casella
Crest Haven Realty
4 Court Square
Long Island City, NY 11101
Tel: 718-433-3777
http://www.cresthaven1st.com/

Tell him I sent you, and I’ll get a gift certificate to a local restaurant for my referral.

However, if you want be dazzled by Queens chic and charged accordingly, there’s a brokerage on Vernon Boulevard that will accommodate you.

My “Bittman” Breakfast

My usual breakfast is a variation of Mark Bittman’s oatmeal-and-peanut butter recipe. It’s cheap, it’s fast, it’s filling, and it’s reasonably nutritious.

  • 4 oz. quick rolled oats, preferably from the bulk food section of your grocery
  • 8 oz. hot water
  • 2 oz. frozen blueberries
  • 1 tbsp. peanut butter

Combine hot water and oats in a cup. Stir and wait three minutes. Stir in blueberries and allow them to thaw, about two minutes. Stir in a tablespoon of peanut butter. Enjoy.

The oatmeal habit is great provided you don’t go to McDonald’s.