Matt's Picks

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and now historic, statewide fires here in California we are more focused than ever on our air quality.

Turns out, keeping track of two relatively simple measurements of the air we breathe (AQI and CO2) will go a long way toward ensuring you are safe.

AQI is a measure of "bad things" aka pollutants in the air. Of course, it's common sense we don't want to breathe air that's polluted (e.g. by smoke from a good chunk of your state being on fire).

Monitoring CO2 levels tells you if you are getting enough fresh air in your room, and there is considerable scientific consensus that fresh air keeps us safe from airborne transmitted pathogens.

To keep the AQI inside our home healthy, we did a bunch of research to find the "just right" air filter. We settled on the Coway Airmega AP-1512HH (currently out of stock on Amazon but it keeps coming in and out of stock, so it may be worth waiting a little). We went with aftermarket replacement filters as they seem to be just as effective and significantly cheaper. We put one of these in each bedroom figuring that's where we spend the most time. They really helped us get through allergy season too. We monitor the outdoor AQI in our area using the maps at and or by asking Alexa or Google "what's the current air quality".

We monitor our CO2 levels and AQI with the Kaiterra Laser Egg + CO2 device. Super easy to set up and you may use your phone etc. to monitor remotely and review historic trends.

We'll update this post as we find out more. Good luck, and good health!

As the weeks under COVID-19 "stay at home" order continue to add up, our pup Bear was starting to get a little shaggy and a trip to his regular groomer remains out of the question. We finally decided to take things into our own hands and take a chance at grooming Bear ourselves.

I watched several YouTube videos related to grooming Shih Tzus (Bear is a Yorkie Shih Tzu combo). Then I ordered a few pairs of specialized scissors and clippers (listed below) and worked up the courage and jumped in. Pretty happy with the results! But I (and I'm sure Bear too) can't wait until he can once again keep his regular groomer appointments.

Here are some of the tools I used:

This was probably my biggest find: the Scardey Cut Scissors. Basically, these are a pair of scissors that do what an electric clipper would do. If your pet is not a fan of the buzzing of electric clippers, check these out.

Irene found this cool multi-tool: a cordless clipper, paw pad clipper, nail grinder. I used this to round off Bear's nails after I clipped them and to trim the difficult to get to hair (he actually has hair not fur) between the pads on his paws.


I rounded out my toolbox with these (just click on the various images for links):


(updated 3 April 2020)

Like many of you, COVID-19 is on our minds. We'll use this blog post to share our thoughts and links as we all go through this together.


(10 March 2020) Takeaway: hydroxychloroquine (brand name Plaquenil) may help prevent a fatal outcome if you become infected with COVID-19. Anecdotal only for now. 

(25 March 2020 update) Several small scientific trials now underway. I will update as I hear more.

(3 April 2020 update) As we await results from scientific trials, International poll of 6,000 doctors indicates hydroxychloroquine is "the most effective coronavirus treatment currently available."

(15 September 2020 update) scientific consensus concerning hydroxychloroquine has shifted *against* using this drug in treating COVID-19 patients.

In consultation with my Harvard-trained MD friends, I've learned that if you are in the highest-risk cohorts (e.g. age 70-80 and especially 80+) it may be advisable for you to discuss the idea of having a prescription of hydroxychloroquine on-hand for you to take once you become infected and have symptoms for 24-48 hours (e.g. malaise, low-grade fever temperature, myalgia i.e. sore muscles, dry cough). The hope (anecdotal results only thus far. Please refer to NIH paper below) is that this medicine may help reduce your chance of mortality by reducing your chances some of the worst possible symptoms of the infection, e.g. your own immune system overreacting so extremely that it could lead to fatality.

NIH scientific paper describing the potential benefits of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 patients.

(24 March 2020 update) hydroxychloroquine update: French researchers suggest that the use of azithromycin (Z-Pak) in conjunction with hydroxychloroquine may shorten the duration of COVID-19 infection.

(10 March 2020) Takeaway: zinc supplementation may help prevent you from catching COVID-19 and if you do catch it, help reduce the duration and severity of symptoms.

According to this NIH (NCBI) paper, a meta-analysis shows that zinc supplementation can reduce the duration and severity of a cold and perhaps more interestingly may prevent colds (~36%!) in the first place. We are not doctors, so please do your own research, but we have started a prophylactic course of zinc sulfate (20mg daily for the adults and 10mg daily for the kids) The type of zinc is, evidently, important (so you can't just take a zinc lozenge or some other form of zinc). It's zinc sulfate. We went with this one we found on Amazon. $17.77 (update 13 March: our other link is currently out of stock. Here is another option $18.99; and another here $19.95). We just mix it into our morning smoothies.

(10 March 2020) Takeaway: proper air circulation/ventilation helps prevent you from catching COVID-19

This NIH (NCBI) paper goes into the details, but the bottom line is if you are smart about your air circulation you can go a long way toward preventing transmission of COVID-19. So, open the window! If you don't like open windows, take a look at fans and filters. We invested in a couple of different air purifiers. For our master bedroom and for each of the kids' rooms we bought Coway purifiers. For the office, we invested in an Austin Air unit. Bonus: when we started running these air purifiers it really helped with our seasonal allergies.


(3 April 2020) Takeaway: Consider an inexpensive Pulse Oximeter to monitor your blood oxygen saturation levels if you are infected

What is Pulse Oximetry? Here is an explanation from Johns Hopkins. 

The idea is that until you reach dangerous levels of oxygen desaturation in your bloodstream your doctor will likely advise you treat your COVID-19 infection at home. Having one of these devices at home allows you to monitor your oxygen blood saturation levels.

There are a variety of pulse oximeters normally offered for around $50 (like this one) from Amazon although they appear to be coming in and out of stock at this time. On the high end, check out the Masimo MightySat if you are looking for a pulse oximeter for the longterm use (i.e. for workout optimization).

Takeaway: useful resources (e.g. videos, articles, blogs etc.) we are referring to as we keep current with all things COVID-19

(10 March 2020) Dr. Seheult (of has been posting his excellent COVID-19 Updates: youtube videos, sometimes quite technical but always informative.

(10 March 2020) Tomas Pueyo's Medium pieces on COVID-19. Especially Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now and now (19 March 2020) Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance.

(24 March 2020) Jonathan Smith's Hold the line Medium piece makes the compelling case for us to remain vigilant in our social distancing efforts (even as we now begin to tire of these efforts) from the perspective of an infectious disease epidemiologist.

The power just came back on the fourth day, our second multi-day outage in two weeks and it's likely the power will go out again soon.

Each time we go through one of these power outs we come through with a renewed sense of gratitude for the everyday conveniences we so often take for granted.

We also learn something new. This time we learned how better to keep the hot water flowing, the radio on, and the lights on...

A biggie for us was the hot water. We're in earthquake country so tankless water heaters are the safer option. Even though these heaters use gas to heat the water, they still use some electricity so no power = no hot water!!! In a pinch, you might be able to use the backup battery you may have for your computer (that's what got us through these last few days). Just unplug your tankless heater from the wall and plug it into your battery backup when you need to take that hot shower. Since it looks like these power outs are going to be our "new normal" we were looking for a more permanent fix. Thanks to our neighbors' advice via, we found the HUGO Battery Backup for Tankless Water Heaters. Depending on your specific situation, you can expect up to 7 days of normal hot water with the power out. We bought ours through Amazon with free shipping.

When the power goes out, we lose our TV and our cell service (especially data) is unreliable too. We found it a great help and comfort to have good old AM radio at hand. We used a couple model radios, one designed for emergency situations and one designed for travel.

t was also a challenge to keep the lights on. This time we had great luck with the Milwaukee M18 RADIUS Compact Site Light. As with all Milwaukee tools, this light is an investment piece, but the quality is definitely top-shelf. This is definitely a case of you get what you pay for. With 4,400 lumens of light, this unit really lit up the living room well allowing us all to see and read comfortably.


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