My everyday carry and future plans

Surprisingly, my one previous everyday carry related post on this blog draws quite a bit of traffic. The whole concept of EDC as recently manifested in ultra expensive handmade tools is pretty interesting to me in a business sense. There are a lot of forums and websites devoted to this topic, and a lot of boutique crafters successfully charging a whole lot of money for their items, but it looks like established companies in this product area really haven’t caught on. I can’t help but wonder if they think its a fad, or if their product design life cycle is just so slow that nothing has hit the market yet.

Anyway, I figured the topic was worth revisiting. I’ve been ruminating over what I carry, and what might be more practical in the future. I also feel like the vast majority of EDC related sites only show ultra high end, “rich guy” pocket dumps. I can’t help but question the apparent number of people who carry only a gun, a $2000 pocket knife and a car key. I don’t know what kind of lifestyle they have, but it’s pretty far from my own. As such, I wanted to show my everyday stuff, which I feel is pretty average.

My "everyday carry"

My “everyday carry”

iPhone 4S. (not pictured) Currently enjoying it sans case after my Speck CandyShell case broke.

Black paw bag. I got this in Chinatown in NYC. The design is great, but the material kind of sucks. I was carrying a laptop in it for a while, but it was so heavy that it started tearing the material below the strap.

Notebook.

Moleskines. One is my sketch book, and the other is for miscellaneous writing.

Kindle 3 & Acase.

Keys. On my main key ring, I keep my car’s key fob, a house key and a key to my bike rack. On days that I take my bike, truck or motorcycle to work, this keyring is swapped with another that has a truck key, a house key and a garage key.

Chums chumois lens cloth. My glasses are all crapped up a lot of the time. I used to carry a microfiber cloth to clean them but it was hard to keep it clean enough to work well. I’ve been using this solution from chums for a while, and I really like it.

Second set of keys. This key ring holds 3 keys for my office, a key to my work locker and a key to my Mom’s house. Right now it’s attached to the lens cloth, but sometimes I keep this key ring on a carabiner.

Burt’s Bee’s lip balm. I got in the habit of peeling the label off these so I could Identify my own since the brand is so common.

Motorola S305 bluetooth headphoneI wanted the Moto S9 headphones for a long time, but the bad reviews of sweat damage turned me away. The 305 was a lot lower in price and has been great. They certainly aren’t audiophile, but they are good enough for using at work or during workouts.

Prisma marker. black

Micron pens. .03, .05, .08

bic atlantis pen. not fancy, but it is smooth. good for sketching and note taking.

Jimi wallet. I’ve been using these for several years. I first got one through a chase bank facebook promotion. It’s very practical for me. I prefer to keep it in my front pocket, while I keep my phone in a back pocket. The only weakness of these is that it features several “living hinges”, which eventually (like 2 years +) break.

San Disk Cruzer 32G flash drive.

iPhone headphones. 

Short iPhone sync/charge cable.

Usb mini/micro cable.

Umbrella. (not shown) this fits into one of the size zippered pockets of my bag.

Leatherman Micra. (not shown) This is sometimes handy to have, but I feel like many of the tools are extraneous or too small to be useful. When my motorcycle died recently, I tried to use the philips screwdriver on the micra to open the fuse box.. it wouldn’t and the tool actually bent. Pretty disappointing. I’m looking to replace this somehow.

Glasses. (not shown) I really hate wearing contacts. I got into the habit of using glassescrafter.com several years ago. super prices and they cut lenses better than most of the places I’ve used locally.

 

 

 

Future Plans:
My current bag based setup seems to be a pretty good basis to build around, but I’ve been considering other things. One idea I had was to focus on items shaped like pens, and use something like a Niji roll to carry them. The rolled up form would be a lot smaller than my current bag. Unfortunately I wouldn’t have room for rectangular things like my notebooks or kindle.

Niji Roll

Niji Roll

I’ve also flirted with the idea of going with one of the Maxpedition storage solutions. The “Neat freak” seems cool, but has bad reviews. The “Fatty” seems to be particularly popular amongst EDC enthusiasts. I think it might be overkill for me though, unless I was planning on some extended outdoors time or making a zombie survival kit. Check out this video to see how much junk you can cram in one of these packs.


Another idea I’ve been experimenting with is using a pocket protector as a sub-carry device. I can put my pens, flash drives and other stuff in it, and then put it in my regular bag. if I don’t need my notebooks, etc, I can just pull the pocket protector out and take it with me. I found one at good will that’s got provisions for connecting a lanyard to it, which seems kind of practical. I could see such a set up being really useful for collaborative projects like 48.2.

As far as items that I’d like to add to my carry, here are a few things I’ve been looking at”

NY-LA wallet. As fond as I am of my Jimi wallet, I’d really like to minimize more. The NY-LA from CountyComm seems to fit the bill.

Streamlight 65018. I already have this piece, given to me by my ex-father in-law, I just haven’t used it in a long time. AAAA batteries are kind of hard to find locally. The pen form factor makes this easy to fit in any of the storage solutions I mentioned above.

T Driver. As frequently as I use a phillips screwdriver, I figure I should have something of the sort in my carry that’s not as weak as the phillips head in my Leatherman Micra. Survival Resources has this T Driver that fits the pen form factor, but folds for more leverage.

Pocket square. This is something in many of the “rich guy” carries I’ve seen that I could actually use. My recollections of handkerchiefs are usually gross, rough fabric with dried boogers stuck to them. Lately though there seem to be a lot of pocket squares made of soft, quality fabrics that would be great for mopping the sweat off my brow.

Leatherman wave. I like the small size of the Micra, but it sure doesn’t offer much leverage. I also wouldn’t mind having a set of pliers handy.

Contact stuff. I have yet to find a conveniently shaped container of contact solution. Squat cylindrical bottles waste space and are lumpy in my bag. Why aren’t these pen shaped? Same for lubricant eye drops.

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Motorcycle customization with found parts.

I like to keep an eye on the CX500 forum‘s “customizations” section to see interesting approaches to modifying these little bikes. I saw one yesterday that I thought was creative enough from a design standpoint to share.

Many motorcycles have a grab bar around the back seat. It’s purpose is for a passenger to hold on to, hence the name. One of the most popular modifications to CX500’s (and other bikes) is to put a smaller seat on. As such, the grab bar gets modified to match the new seat. In this case, the poster uses a set of BMX handlebars as source material for his new grab bar. This is a great idea, because he gets the curves he needs without having to do any bending. (tube bending requires expensive mandrel benders to do properly)

A handlebar becomes a grab bar

A handlebar becomes a grab bar

Of course this got me thinking about sources for inexpensive BMX handlebars to chop up. My go to for such things is Sidewall Distribution, and they didn’t disappoint this time. They always seem to have some closeout and promo deals. They’ve got a couple of options on $10 chromoly handlebars, so I may grab a set or two in case I decide to go this way on my motorcycle.

Comcast and XBOX.. what a pain.

I currently use my XBOX360 as my home entertainment center. I mostly use it for Netflix and downloaded movies/TV, but also occasionally use it to play music, watch youtube and even play games. It’s a pretty good solution for me. (with a few small caveats)

Before I went XBOX, I had been using a Windows Media Center PC to run my entertainment center. It worked ok, and with a tuner card I could even watch/DVR shows from cable. (one thing the XBOX _can’t do_) Ultimately, the never ending stream of Microsoft updates and random reboots made the MCE PC too much of a hassle..

Where am I going with this?

Comcast now (since earlier this year) has an “Xfinity” XBOX app for watching TV “on demand” from the XBOX. Sounds great, right? Well.. it would be if it worked. At every attempt to use it I get one of a list of error codes, mostly 999. For a long time these codes were a mystery. The Comcast support forums had many posts about them, but no answers. When I talked to a CSR on the phone, they told me I needed a digital TV package (I currently just have internet) as well as a cable box hooked up to a TV. As I have no desire to put a cable box on a tv, I didn’t want to pay for one, and the CSRs couldn’t tell me _why_ one was actually needed. I gave up on the idea…

Recently I saw an update for this issue on the support forums. It basically says you need everything on this check list to watch TV on your XBOX:

-XFINTIY TV (Digital Starter w/ a On Demand STB connected to at least one TV in the house.)

-XFINITY Residential Internet Service (Business Class not eligible)

-An Xbox 360 console and Xbox LIVE Gold subscription

-A D2 or D3 modem (see http://mydeviceinfo.comcast.net/ for a list of supported modems)

-XFINITY TV App installed (the XFINITY TV App is available from the Xbox Marketplace)

-The primary account holder’s Comcast ID or Comcast.net address and password (make sure entire e-mail address is entered)

Bummer.. I still don’t want to pay for a cable box. Shortly after seeing this info, I happened across a link in my bookmarks from the lame-o Xfinity installer. From this Xfinity TV page you can watch a bunch of shows. ..without logging in. ..even when not on a Comcast connection. Granted, some of the content is protected, such as HBO or TBS, for which you have to buy a subscription, but there is still a lot of programming there. I can watch Conan now!

So this is my rant: If I can watch this content without being a Comcast customer or on a Comcast connection, why the hell can’t I watch it on my XBOX?! 

I want a pump track in my back yard.

For a while now, I’ve wanted a pump track in my backyard. This video of Tammy Donahugh that was posted on bikerumor yesterday with her bike check got me thinking about it again.

[EDIT – After posting this I found out that wordpress.com only allows embedding videos from select sites. To view the first two videos in this post, you’ll have to click the link. sorry. :/ ]

Tammy Donahugh – backyard pump track

If you aren’t familiar with pump tracks, here’s a definition from www.mountainbiketales.com:

Pump track: (n) (pumb-p tra-k) is a short, off road course of smooth rollers (humps) and bermed corners; where the movement of the rider propels the bike rather than conventional pedalling.

And here’s a video that does a good job of breaking down the physics of pumping and explains why it’s a good skill to work on:

There are a lot of places where you can go to ride pump tracks. Both Ray’s indoor mountain bike park locations have them, and if you have any BMX oriented trails in your area, they usually have a nice pump section. Unfortunately for me, I live in an area that’s far from Ray’s, and has no suitable BMX trails. I’m always keeping an eye out for a good spot to build a little pump track, but nothing good has appeared. (If you know of, or have some land suitable for a pump track around Lafayette, Indiana let me know!)

I started thinking about how much of a track I could cram in my back yard. Not much, but certainly something. I started googling the idea, and it seems like a lot of people have had success with it.

Here’s a particularly small one. It doesn’t look like you can get up much speed, but you can still get your skills up on it.

Backyard Pumptrack from Shawn Murray on Vimeo.

Homebrew diaries – robust porter experiment

If you dig back deep enough into the archives on my blog, you’ll see that I’ve done some brewing in the past, but I haven’t done an actual beer. For some reason I got all motivated to do an all grain brew, so I stopped by Great Fermentations in Indy to get some stuff. I wanted to make something I would like to drink, but I also wanted to find something that could be developed into a platform for experimentation. I’m a fan of big porters, and I’d also been kicking around the idea of doing a persimmon porter, so it was kind of a no-brainer. The guy at Great Fermentations pointed me to one of the kits they had for a recipe called “Porter, Call me a Taxi”. It looked good, so I had him get me the stuff for an all grain version of the kit. It was about 10lbs of 2 row malt, and then another two pounds that was a combination of chocolate, caramel and black malt.

The Recipe:

"Porter, Call me a Taxi" all grain recipe

“Porter, Call me a Taxi” all grain recipe

The Gear:

Unfortunately, I wasn’t as prepared as I’d thought for this brew. My plan was to batch sparge, and I picked up a couple of water coolers with the intention of using one as a lauter tun. I expected to make my own false bottom for the tun, but it didn’t turn out to be as simple as I’d hoped. After getting nervous about my grain sitting around for a few weeks, I decided to grab a mesh bag from Northern Brewer and try my luck using it as a filtering medium.

My modest brewing setup
My modest brewing setup

I’d also gotten ansy about the size of my brew kettle. I’d been using a 4 gallon kettle that came from harbor freight, but I got the idea in my head that I should really get the whole boil (7.5 gallons) in one vessel. I ordered this one from amazon under the logic that 30Qt = 7.5G = enough. Unfortunately, this is bad logic. Yes, 30Qt is 7.5 gallons… right up to the top. This means that there is no room to have a boil, let alone a vigorous boil. To add to frustrations, this kettle doesn’t actually hold 30Qt. It’s more like 24Qt. I don’t know what the deal with this is, but I decided to just work around it. It’s a nice kettle otherwise, and worth the modest price.

Alpha 30 QT Heavy Gage Stainless Steel Stock Pot with Glass Lid

Alpha 30 QT Heavy Gage Stainless Steel Stock Pot with Glass Lid

The Science:

I’ve read a reasonable amount about the all grain brewing process, and could probably go through the motions, but I wanted to actually figure out what I was doing. I started by reading some first person tutorials including this one where I saw some of the mashing process. The point of the mash process is to generate fermentable sugars. The author of the site started off with a two part rest. (this means bringing the grain and water to a certain heat and leaving it there for a certain amount of time) The first part is the sachrification rest whose goal is to get the starches out of the grain. Next is the protein rest, whose goal is to convert the starches into sugar. Apparently for the homebrewer, any more than just the protein rest isn’t necessary, but I figured that since this is the source of the fuel for fermentation, I ought to spend a little time with it.

Next I checked out the all grain section on www.howtobrew.com and found another rest schedule. This one used 3 rests at 104 – 140 – 158°F, as specified in the hombrewing book by George Fix. In this case, the low temperature rest is to help liquefy the malt to help release the starches. Some slight detail is also given on how modifications to the rest times can affect dextrosity, alcohol content and malty-ness in the end product. These temperatures are what I went with for 30 minutes each rest.

mash
mash

I also looked into water quality.. I was lucky enough to find a recent water report for my city from a user on the homebrewersassociation.com message board.

Lafayette, Indiana municipal water.

pH              7.3
Alkalinity      225 mg/L (as CaCO3)
Fluoride        1.1 mg/L
Orthophosphate  0.6 mg/L
Total phosphate 1.5 mg/L
Chloramines     1.1 mg/L
Lead            undetectable
Copper          undetectable
Iron            0.189 mg/L
Manganese       0.210 mg/L
Chlorides       39 mg/L
Sulfates        61 mg/L
Conductivity    670 µm HOS/cm
Total bacteria  0 (per what???)
Total hardness  350 mg/L as CaCO3
Grains hardness 21 grains/gal

The city uses chloramine to treat the water, so I’m a bit hesitant to use it at all, though I do now have a faucet filter.  Brewing suggestions for this water?  (And yes, I agree that my city certainly didn’t give me much to go on here.)

As the OP stated, it’s not a lot to go on, but I guess it’s nice to have a record. The chloramine freaked me out a little, and I didn’t have any campden tables to add. I just boiled all the water in advance, and hopefully it neutralized most of the crap.

My final bit of research was In regards to hop schedule. Let it be known that I really don’t like the flavor or aroma of hops. My recipe only called for 1oz of hops, but I decided to half it anyway. I read a bit about the hop infusion process on this page , which I think also drew from the George Fix book, and ended up adding them for the last 30 minutes of my 60 minute boil.

The actual brew:

You can see my complete procedure notes below for intimate details, but all things considered the brew went ok, and mostly to plan.. One deviation from plan was that I did a second small batch with the later runnings that I wanted to use as an experiment with persimmons.

Brew Notes

Brew Notes

The biggest problem I had over all was temperature regulation. It took a long time to get my initial boils going, then it took a long time to cool down to my target temperature. I didn’t have a whole lot of ice on hand, so I tried putting an ice pack in a ziplock bag and submerging it. It had practically no effect, and the zip lock ended up leaking. I had the same issues in post striking processes. Even with the wort chiller, I was only able to get the wort down to 90 degrees. I suspect the high ambient temperature in the kitchen (~80) had something to do with this. This gave me some interesting design ideas, but I think in the immediate, I’m going to have to bolster my chilling system.

Ice pack - not worth the effort
Ice pack – not worth the effort

Another problem I had was consistently stuck sparges. I suspect the mesh bag was getting bunched up in the cooler’s drain hole. Using my long spoon, I was usually able to move the bag away from the drain and get most of the wort through. I’m sure this effected my efficiency quite a bit. I wasn’t getting the full batch out of each sparge, so I think I ended up doing around 4 batches. The last one was for my secondary small batch.  I just picked up the bag, and squeezed, getting most of the wort out. I think I got about 2 or 3 gallons.

Lauren helping me with the sparging process
Lauren helping me with the sparging process

From this point out, everything went pretty much according to plan. For my small batch, I added 1 cup of strained persimmons that my Grandmother gave me last year, in the last 5 minutes of the boil. As I understand it, adding a fruit adjunct during the boil will provide more aroma than taste. Thus, I plan to add another 2 cups of persimmon during secondary fermentation which should work more to the flavor.  I used a different yeast for the small batch than what was called for in the recipe. I had some saferment ale yeast in the fridge, so I went with that.

Persimmon slurry from Grandma
Persimmon slurry from Grandma

Having never done an actual beer, I wasn’t sure what to expect in regards to primary fermentation activity. What I witnessed was fairly tame, peaking at the first and second days of fermentation. Now, two weeks later, there is no visible activity. This seems like a pretty short time, but I suppose only a gravity measurement will tell. FWIW, my post boil gravity showed an ~80% brew house efficiency. I don’t know if I believe that calculation. Also notable, the coarse mesh bag didn’t do as good a job filtering as I’d hoped. There was quite a bit of traub, and even after careful racking, there’s a lot of sediment in the bottom of the fermenters. I’m going to have to add some kind of filtering step, but I’m not sure how short of buying a pump and force filtering, which is kind of out of the budget.

I’ll probably rack the main batch to a keg this weekend for a long secondary fermentation, and add the remaining persimmon to the small batch and let it go for a while before kegging. Watch for a result update in the future.