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10 of Our Favorite Prime Day Deals for PC Enthusiasts

10 of Our Favorite Prime Day Deals for PC Enthusiasts

Samsung 860 Pro SSD

If you haven’t moved on from SATA-based SSDs yet, Samsung’s 860-series offer great performance for a reasonable price. It’s an older drive (launched in January of 2018), but it’ll be fast enough for everything you do on your non-enthusiast desktop. You’ll save money buying a similarly sized NVMe SSD—especially if you’re looking for 1TB+ capacities—but if you have no idea what that means, and simply want something speedy to replace slower HDDs in your PCs or gaming consoles, Samsung’s 860 Pro line is a good compromise of price and performance.

If you only care about price and need that upgrade for an older system, look elsewhere; Amazon’s deals for the Samsung, roughly 33-percent off, are pretty good, but you can still do a lot better if you care more about getting “any ol’ SSD” than “one of the faster SSDs.”

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How to Soundproof Noisy Windows

How to Soundproof Noisy Windows

Illustration for article titled How to Soundproof Noisy Windows

Photo: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Image (Getty Images)

I recently moved to a new apartment on a street that serves as an artery for commercial trucking in my area of Brooklyn. I’m particularly sensitive to noise pollution, and this permanent cacophony isn’t just caused by the rumble of big rigs, either: every facet of urban life seems to seep its way into my bedroom. It’s as if my neighbors, the garbage trucks, the man blasting techno from his Hyundai, and the construction crews are all conspiring to sap the tranquility out of my daily life.

Luckily, my landlord has promised new, soundproof windows to allay the constant din. But if you don’t have that kind of one-shot solution at your disposal, there are ways to soundproof your windows to absorb some of the excess street noise. Here’s some things to know about making that happen.

Not all windows are created equal

Those familiar with home improvement already know this, but here’s a pearl of wisdom for DIY-neophytes: If it’s particularly loud in your home, your windows might be trash. Cheaper windows with just one pane of glass are less likely to block as much noise as double pane windows. Plus, double pane windows are typically insulated further with argon gas injected between each pane. The chemical is used for thermal insulation, allowing the temperature of the glass to be more on par with the temperature of a room. This dual temperature regulation and noise cancellation is undeniably what you want in a window.

There’s a similar difference between laminated glass and tempered glass, as the soundproofing gurus at Soundproof Cow explain:

Manufacturers engineer laminated glass especially with soundproofing qualities in mind. If you find your home or business suffering from unwanted vibrations and sounds that enter through your windows, laminated glass will provide you with the sound deadening properties you need. This is because laminated glass consists of an extra protective layer of plastic that provides an additional barrier between the two external glass sheets.

Tempered glass, on the other hand, does not offer quite as much soundproofing control. This form of glass is crafted with durability in mind, as the strong and sturdy external layers provide a resilient glass that can withstand use and force with robust strength. However, tempered glass does not offer superior sound reduction performance.

Soundproof windows are great, but expensive

If you’re looking for the closest thing to a silver bullet, soundproof windows are the ticket. Most soundproof windows claim to cancel between 90-95% of street noise, which is ostensibly enough to satisfy even the most irritable among us.

There’s an economic hurdle, though, as most soundproof windows are going to crest upwards of $1,000 and above to purchase and install. Any window installation is going to vary according to the size and particulars of your living space, but this guide from HouseLogic can help you glean a sense of whether a full-on soundproof window will work for you.

There are noise-reducing curtains

Perhaps the next best item that you can purchase without much legwork are noise-reducing curtains. You don’t need an advanced understanding of physics to know that the greater density of a material probably means that it’s better at absorbing sound.

Unlike soundproof windows, noise-reducing curtains aren’t going to cost you a four-figure outlay. There’s tons of options on the market, too, so it won’t be hard to find a set that you think might work.

You can add window insets

Another option is placing a window inset in front of your more porous windows. These are custom-made glass panels that simply slot right over your existing window frame, used to control temperature and regulate noise. They’re proven to work, though not quite effectively as an outright noise-cancelling window, and there are companies catering to the cause. 

Find and plug any gaps

It’s possible that your windows aren’t completely flush with the window frame, allowing gaps between pieces of glass to let in excess noise. My current windows aren’t properly caulked, for example. Short of actually using caulk—the adhesive material used to seal gaps in a structure—to plug the gaps, you can try stuffing pieces of foam in any of the crevasses you suspect of leaking noise.

It’s not exactly an aesthetic asset, but there’s a reason foam is one of the most commonly used tools in soundproofing recording studios: it’s very absorbent.

Furniture works, too

Windows don’t have to be the sole focus of your quest to deaden the noise. Bookshelves, couches, carpets and kitchen tables all do their part in limiting a deafening racket from pinging across your living room.

Godspeed, and perhaps invest in earplugs or a white noise machine for when you sleep. If needed, look to our other coverage on transforming your bedroom into a perfectly quiet sleep chamber.

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Send Your Holiday Packages Early This Year

Send Your Holiday Packages Early This Year

Illustration for article titled Send Your Holiday Packages Early This Year

Photo: George Sheldon (Shutterstock)

Every year, the United States Postal Services (USPS) asks us to send our packages and greeting cards as early as possible in the holiday season. But this year, they’re really serious about it. This is always a very busy time of the year for mail carriers, but throw a pandemic and an already difficult year and it’s a recipe for delays. Here’s what to know about mailing holiday packages in 2020.

Get an early start

Even with the addition of seasonal workers, the USPS is requesting that we mail our packages as soon as possible. Per a statement from the USPS:

During this unprecedented time, it is expected that more holiday gifts and greetings will be sent through the mail, as families and friends will hold virtual celebrations instead of opening gifts in person. The Postal Service always encourages customers to send their holiday gifts and cards early. This year is no different.

Important mailing dates of the 2020 holiday season

It may seem as though we have a lot of time before Christmas, but when you take into consideration the busiest periods for the USPS, we really don’t:

The busiest time of the season peaks two weeks before Christmas, when much of the last-minute shopping starts. Customer traffic is expected to increase beginning Dec. 7, with the week of Dec. 14-21 predicted to be the busiest mailing, shipping and delivery week.

If you’re aiming for packages to arrive by December 25th, the USPS recommends getting them in the mail by these dates at the absolute latest:

  • Dec. 15 — USPS Retail Ground service
  • Dec. 18 — USPS Priority Mail Express service
  • Dec. 18 — First-Class Mail service (including greeting cards)
  • Dec. 18 — First-class packages (up to 15.99 ounces)
  • Dec. 19 — Priority Mail service
  • Dec. 23 — Priority Mail Express service

The money-back guarantee on Priority Mail Express shipments mailed Dec. 22 through Dec. 25 applies only if the package was not delivered, or delivery was not attempted, within two business days. Other than that, there are no guarantees—these dates are just estimates.

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How to Effectively Summarize Important Information for Your Boss

How to Effectively Summarize Important Information for Your Boss

Illustration for article titled How to Effectively Summarize Important Information for Your Boss

Photo: Mangostar (Shutterstock)

Whether you’re asked to brief your boss on important issues or data, or if you simply need to communicate a complex idea to them in a way that’s respectful of their (and your) time, it can feel as though you’re put on the spot. The concise bullet points you organized in your head are nowhere in sight, but time is ticking, and as result you might end up spewing an assortment of sentences that may or may not be close to relevant.

If this is an area of your professional life that you’d like to improve, Grant T. Harris, who has briefed everyone from presidents to corporate leaders, provides us with some tips in an article in the Harvard Business Review. Here’s what to know.

Look for the ‘crucial nodder’

Is there a person your boss is always glancing at when they hear new information? As if they’re looking for someone else to process or approve it? According to Harris, that’s their “crucial nodder”:

At a critical moment in the briefing, the president will turn to a trusted advisor and look for a facial expression to affirm what you’re saying. You need that person to nod “yes.” It’s a quiet gesture that gives the boss comfort; it shows that your idea is sound and all of the right people have been consulted. Anything short of a supportive nod will invite follow-up questions and sow doubt in the room. Even worse, a look askance or a non-endorsement from a chief advisor can spell the quick death of your pitch.

Harris advises identifying that person, and even before your presentation starts, ask them for input on how to approach the subject with your boss. (Also, to clarify, “room” in this case is probably Zoom, so ideally it’ll be a situation where you can see your boss and colleagues, and their facial expressions.)

Understand your boss’s nonverbal cues

After you’ve worked with someone for a while, you can get pretty skilled at knowing whether an intense almost-squinty stare from them means they’re deeply interested, or that they can’t believe you’re wasting their time. Pay attention and learn their body language to figure out what they do when they want someone to wrap something up or go further into detail, Harris advises. Then, as you’re presenting, keep an eye out for these clues and read the room accordingly.

Figure out how your boss works through information

Is your boss the type that will read every line of something and have some sort of comment? Or do they glance over something and only address something if it’s wrong? Determining how your boss processes material can mean the difference between being anxious the whole time (assuming that they hate you or your work) and being able to present your information in a meaningful dialogue.

Stay on track

There’s a time and a place for tangents and fun anecdotes, but briefing your boss on important information usually isn’t that time. But also remember that you may not be the one deviating from the subject, Harris explains:

If the conversation gets off track, a question causes the meeting to digress, or someone starts to rant about a pet topic, pre-plan several ways to redirect the conversation and get what you need. It’s a rare talent to be dogged but deft at the same time, and of course, you don’t want to look like a stiff or a robot.

Only add to the discussion if necessary

Once you’ve finished your presentation and some sort of conversation begins among others, Harris recommends letting them hash it out, without feeling compelled to add your two cents or show them that you know are familiar with the topic. He explains:

The discussion has taken off and now you need to be exceedingly strategic about whether and when to chime in. The executive is engaging others in the room or thinking aloud. By speaking at the wrong moment, you risk derailing the line of thought or annoying your boss.

Of course, it goes without saying that you should know what you’re talking about and do your research ahead of time, but once you’re in the room with your boss, so much of your ability to effectively communicate comes down to reading and responding to nonverbal cues, staying on course, and knowing when to stop talking and focus on listening.

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Stop Trying to Exercise Your Indulgences Away

Stop Trying to Exercise Your Indulgences Away


Photo: Soho A Studio (Shutterstock)

Whether it’s Halloween candy, election week stress eating, or that upcoming Thanksgiving dinner, we need to talk about how to react when we suddenly eat more food than normal. You don’t need to immediately burn off those calories with exercise, or somehow prove to yourself that you’ve “earned” them. Just enjoy the food and move on.

Before we talk about how to handle these occasional indulgences, though, I’d like to take a moment to point out that binge eating disorder is a condition in which overeating leads to guilt, and then dieting or restrictive behavior. It’s cyclical, so the dieting tends to lead to more bingeing. If you experience this often—like weekly—seek professional help. Treatment may include talk therapy, nutritional counseling, and sometimes medication. If you don’t know where to start, chat, text or call the National Eating Disorders Association hotline here.

What about the rest of us? Well, the fact that binge eating disorder exists should perhaps clue us in to the fact that restricting food or increasing exercise is not a remedy to overindulging, but rather a way to further harm our health.

Calorie counts shouldn’t rule your life

You should eat well because eating well supports your health. You should exercise because exercise supports your health. These two things are not opposed. Eating is not a problem that exercise solves.

But I totally understand why you might be tempted to think that way. For example, it is true that weight-loss diets work by altering the mathematical equation between “calories in” and “calories out.”

We also can’t forget that the makers of high-calorie foods promote the idea of burning off indulgences, because that shifts the blame to you, the consumer, without denting their sales at all. I’ve written before about how the snack food manufacturers who repeat platitudes about “balance” are the same ones who give each other tips on how to increase impulse purchases of candy.

This is the context for those horrible charts that tell you how to burn off a given morsel of food. One Reese’s cup requires 15 minutes of swimming, we’re told. Even if that’s true, is it helpful advice? Heck no—these charts exist as a tool that we pass around to scare and guilt each other. Nobody pulls up these charts to plan their workouts for the week; we just use them to masochistically destroy our ability to enjoy a treat.

What really happens in your body?

So, here’s the thing. Yes, a candy bar has calories. But you know what else has calories? Broccoli. Chicken breasts. Rice. Pasta. Burgers. Coffee. Everything. The average American needs about 2,500 calories a day. If you eat five Reese’s cups at 105 calories each, that’s just 525 calories. The other 2,000 or so can come from other sources, and you’ll still break even.

Similarly: it’s not just swimming or running or cycling that burn calories. Your body is constantly using energy just to exist. According to this calculator, a 150-pound person expends 119 calories in 15 minutes of swimming, but you also burn 102 calories in an hour of just sitting around talking.

These two facts combine for a shocking conclusion: it’s 100% possible to have a high-calorie indulgence, then just eat normally and go about your normal business for the rest of the day, and be totally fine. No extra exercise needed. In many cases, you’ll either break even when it comes to calories, or come close.

The worst case scenario

Okay, but what if you had a lot of candy (or beer, or pie, or whatever), and you know for sure that you ate far more than you burned? What if you know that you ate 3,000 calories and only burned 2,000?

Don’t underestimate your body’s ability to adapt: chances are, if you ate a ton last night, you may be a bit less hungry today. This may sound weird if you’re used to tracking every last bite, but people who don’t deliberately diet can still maintain their weight over time. Our bodies kind of figure things out.

And because it’s only one day, things tend to even out. Let’s say you ate that extra 1,000 calories, and your body didn’t adjust anything else; you continued with your life, eating 2,000 and burning 2,000 every day. Your average calorie intake for the month will work out to just 2,033 calories per day, only a smidge above your usual.

Don’t panic

So if you ate more than you intended on some particular day, don’t panic. You don’t need to feel guilty about it and you don’t need to immediately burn it off.

Instead: just do your normal healthy shit. Eat to nourish yourself. Exercise because our bodies work better when we move them around on a regular basis. Our minds work better when we exercise, too. Have a little self compassion because your mental health will be better if you aren’t constantly thinking of your body as your enemy.

If these indulgences are enough of a problem that you think you really are gaining weight because of them, make a plan. Not “I’m going to spend an hour on the elliptical tomorrow because I hate myself,” but rather setting up a consistent, sustainable, non-miserable plan to eat healthy and get a reasonable amount of exercise each week. That way, you’ll be taking good care of yourself whether you end up eating a few candy bars or not.

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Can You Deduct Gambling Losses From Your Taxes?

Can You Deduct Gambling Losses From Your Taxes?

Illustration for article titled Can You Deduct Gambling Losses From Your Taxes?

Photo: Sasha Cornish / EyeEm (Getty Images)

The IRS views winnings from gambling as taxable income, but did you know that you’re allowed to deduct gambling losses, too? While losing money at a casino or the racetrack does not by itself relieve your tax burden, it can reduce taxes owed for your other winnings, ultimately saving you money.

How to know if you can deduct your gambling losses

Gambling loss deductions save you money by reducing your taxable income. But there’s a trick to this—you can’t claim gambling losses that exceed your winnings, as losses are inextricably linked to your winnings for tax purposes. If you have no winnings to claim, you can’t deduct your losses.

As an example, let’s say that in a given year you went gambling twice, winning $6,000 in one instance, but losing $8,000 in another. In this case, you can only deduct $6,000 from that $8,000 loss. The remaining $2,000 in losses can’t be carried forward or written off. Conversely, if you won more than you lost, you’d owe taxes on the difference between your winnings and losses as “other income”—but at least those taxes would be reduced.

(If you’re a full-time, professional gambler the requirements are different: you will report your earnings like they have resulted from a business, as self-employed income).

How to claim gambling losses 

Deductible gambling losses can result from online casinos, poker games, sports betting, lotteries, prize draws, horse and dog racing, and even your office fantasy sports pool. To report any of these gambling losses, you’ll be required to itemize your deductions. This makes sense if the total of all your itemized deductions exceeds the standard deduction ($12,400 for taxpayers who are single or are filing separately from their spouse). If you claim the standard deduction, you don’t get the opportunity to reduce taxes for winnings owed by deducting gambling losses.

Keep in mind that you must be able to substantiate any losses you’re claiming, which means you’ll need to keep records of your gambling.

Track your winnings and losses

You can’t just say “I lost a bunch of money gambling” to the IRS. They require you to provide records of your winnings and losses to back your claim. Therefore, you should keep track of:

  • the date and time of your gambling session
  • the type of gambling
  • the name and location of the gambling venue
  • the people you gambled with
  • how much you bet, won and lost

You should also keep credit cards statements, payout slips, receipts, tickets, bank withdrawal records, and statements of actual winnings. Other documentation can include:

  • Form W-2G (typically given or mailed to you by casinos after a big payout)
  • Form 5754 (a form for when you’re part of a group that earns money through gambling; you might see one of these if you and your co-workers are cashing in a winning lottery ticket)

Do you or someone you know need help with a gambling problem? Call the National Problem Gambling Helpline Network (1-800-522-4700).

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