Winterbells

PSB M4U 1 model headphones

As an owner of Beats headphones, I’m irritated when people tell me there are better headphones available at a lower price. Even if true, that’s a matter to be sorted out between me, my ears, and my bank account. But with my Beats on their last leg, I figured I’d research premium headphones and try something else. I stumbled on PSB’s M4U 1 model and decided to give them a try. While I still want snobby audiophiles to stop minding my wallet, I at least understand their arguments now. As a bass fanatic, there’s usually no such thing as too much low end for me, but the PSB’s highs are so crisp and clear, I don’t mind trading some of the lows. I’m listening to my favorite songs and hearing instruments I had no idea were there. The PSB unit is taking some getting used to, especially on tracks where I want the bass to overpower everything else, but I’m loving it overall. The only drawback is the bulky, inelegant styling, one area in which a pair of Beats wins hands down. I want to listen to music like a geek, not walk around looking like one. [Joshua Alston]

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Chemex coffeemaker

Long before I introduced alcohol to my diet, my greatest indulgence was coffee. It’s a vice so consuming I have a coffee cup tattooed below my right elbow, a bond shared with three friends who also permanently placed mugs on their forearms alongside me. This devotion to caffeine is something I’m reminded of, and happily revel in, every time I use a Chemex. Originally designed in 1941, the Chemex’s hourglass design is eye-grabbing, made of heat-resistant glass and fashioned either with a handle for pouring or a wood collar and leather tie, making it as aesthetically pleasing as it is functional. What separates the Chemex from other brewing methods is how active the process is. Unlike waiting around and plunging a French press, or simply pressing a button on a coffee machine, each step in a pour-over is involved. There’s a silent joy in blooming the coffee grounds, watching as they bubble up and steam slowly rises off of them. As the coffee hypnotically drips from the filter, it allows for a private moment to be spent observing the act instead of impatiently waiting for it to finish. The result is a clean cup of coffee made by hand, imbuing the beverage with the kind of personal touch that’s often removed when it’s consumed hurriedly before a morning commute or rushed out the door in a coffee shop’s paper cup. [David Anthony]

Winterbells

It’s not often that a game played for points is exceptionally soothing. I first played Winterbells at least eight years ago on my mom’s clunky desktop computer, spending hours improving my high score in between letting my brother and sister have their turns. Most games more than a few years old look it, but this one is as pleasant as it was in 2007. It’s a very simple game: A white bunny jumps into the night sky, in which white bells hang among the stars. Using a mouse or keypad, you move the bunny to the bells, and on contact the critter leaps up again, allowing you to get him to another bell, and so on. Each bell is worth 10 more points than the one before it, and the higher you get, the smaller the bells become. An occasional dove flutters across the screen, doubling your points if you land and jump from it. Everything about this game is tranquil: the snow softly falling behind the bells; the way the bunny hops from bell to bell, seeming to float across the screen; the gentle “ting” noise as bells are reached; the placid variation of “Canon In D.” It all works together to create a mesmerizing experience, and when I miss a bell and the game ends I emerge from a meditative-like state of calm. Even losing the game is peaceful, with the bunny falling, falling, falling all the way it’s come and landing softly on the ground, totally okay, popping up ready for another go. After forgetting about this game for a few years I was happy to discover it has its own app, and it’s quite a bit easier to control the bunny using my finger directly on the screen than on the keypad on my computer. There’s also new theme music for the home page, which is just as tranquil as the rest of the game. Winterbells is a smartphone-accessible way to feel at peace in turbulent train ride home. Pop in some headphones, breath deeply, and float up with your bunny to a night sky of calm. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]

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