Friday, July 29, 2005

What's in your bag?

What's in your bag today?

I got reminded of the Flickr What's in your bag? tag project-thing today while reading Zen Pockets on my lunch break. It inspired me to check my current loadout, and see where I could make improvements.

So here it is, albeit without the fancy box-highlighted images from Flickr, more or less Left-to-Right and Top-to-Bottom:

  1. The Bag: My ancient Jansport bar-top messenger that I've had since my 2nd year of college. This thing has hauled everything from school books to hammers and raw steel. In fact, it looks like its sort of on its last legs. Its back in service because my daily collection of stuff was becoming too much for "on my person" carry, especially in the warmer summer months (shorts), and especially when I'm switching cars all the time. (I drive the Miata a lot more in the summer).
  2. Business cards, or at least last month's iteration thereof. We did a reorg again this month, need to check if everything is still correct...
  3. Loose change, for the odd parking meter or vending machine.
  4. Leatherman Squirt S4, my current favorite micro-multitool. I've got a whole mess of these things with various tools, this seems to be the current best mix. I carry it just about everywhere (except airports) because it sees almost daily use. It has a plunger quick-disconnect to:
  5. Keys #1: House, mailbox, office, etc. type keys. These go almost everywhere too, mostly because I like to be able to get into my house and stuff... :) Not to be confused with:
  6. Key(s) #2: The key(s) and whatever transmitters might be needed for whatever car I'm driving that day. Today its the Miata. These go in the other pocket when I'm bagless...
  7. Writing instruments: Usually some mix of fine and ultra-fine uniballs in black and blue, a 0.7mm mechanical pencil, and a new addition: a fine "sharpie". Added recently for marking silver coins prior to annealing for my stone setting class.
  8. Altoid's Tin turned iPod case: I trimmed the vacuum-formed plastic insert from the original Shuffle packaging to fit into a tin. It holds the player and earbuds in geek-chic luxury while protecting everything and keeping it clean.
  9. A stack of UCSD Evening parking permits. It was a major revelation when I figured out I could buy these things in bulk. For some reason it never occurred to me and I was buying them one-at-a-time for years.
  10. Standard Black "Comp Book", grid ruled. Mostly used for sketching pieces and planning work for my metalsmithing, but occasionally I take notes in it too.
  11. Letter-size accordion file. This holds the comp book and all the loose papers I seem to collect, like a list of local suppliers for my metalsmithing classes or a list of instructions from the Judge at jury duty. It also serves to add a little rigidity to my aging nylon bag, so the heavy stuff at the bottom doesn't make it sag when I don't have a book or my laptop with me...
  12. One 12" cable tie. Who knows, I must have thought I needed it.
  13. Semi-hard case for my Sunglasses, clipped to the bag's shoulder strap. Picked up a set of Maui Jim glasses on Oahu last month, its the first set of "nice" sunglasses I've owned in quite a while. We'll see how long they last.
  14. Motorola V600 Cameraphone (not shown) - I used to think cameraphones were silly, at least until I got one. I use it all the time now. Mostly I use the camera instead of taking notes. I'll photograph a price tag or store display to get a crucial model number or the physical dimensions of a piece of furniture. Also comes in handy for remembering the vintage of that great bottle of wine we had at dinner... I've always used my cellphone as a PIM, and that functionality keeps getting better, to the point that I just can't justify carrying a PDA. I just wouldn't use it. I've seen a Blackberry or two I could probably trade for my phone, but not many. The phone usually lives in the bag now, but I used it to photograph this whole mess, hence the less-than-ideal image quality. I didn't say it was a great camera.
  15. My Wallet of Doom (not shown) - This is the one thing I really need to work on. I've gone on several pocket diets, but I just can't seem to keep the weight off. My keyrings are now wonderfully spartan, but I haven't managed to shed all the club cards, discount cards, etc. that make a wallet so fat. Maybe I'll find a way to take a page from the Zen Pockets article and move some of that stuff off to a sub-wallet I can throw in my bag...


So, what's in your bag today? Next trick is to tackle Kim's bag, maybe we can shave 3 or 4 pounds out of it... Read More...

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Why DO we work so hard?

So, I don't necessarily agree with everything Mark Morford has to say in his article Why Do you Work So Hard?, but it certainly mirrors some of the same thoughts I've been having lately (on and off for the past year or so).

Mainly, its the usual sort of post-adolescent "Is my life fulfilling?" kind of crap that I'm sure everyone goes through, but its hard to ignore. The temptations of caching out my artificially-inflated Southern California Real Estate Equity and carving out a low-impact, high-quality existance keep manifesting in my daydreams. Though I'd hardly consider myself an "artist", the idea of being able to spend some quality time doing something physically creative is really appealing right now. To build a home, to manufacture a lifestyle, instead of purchasing one, strikes a chord with me. How much more would my home mean to me if I had crafted it myself, rather than simply signed a promise to hand over the better portion of half the take from thirty year's labor in a cubicle?

The other advantage to this daydreamed lifestyle is the absence of people in it. Don't get me wrong, I'm as social as most folks, but at the same time, I don't love having neighbors, or commuting in traffic, or fighting crowds. I guess this would bother me less if I had quieter neighbors. Maybe I don't really need to trade in suburbia for absolute isolation, just someplace a little farther away from booming stereos and squealing tires at 2am...

I fantasize about living off the grid, or nearly so, in an Earthship somewhere. Not because I need to "buck the system" or stick it to "the man", but because living low-impact seems like the right thing to do. Don't get me wrong, I'm no hippie, nor a luddite, but it occurs to me that I should be able to build my own home on a quiet 10 acre plot, have highspeed internet, satellite TV, and a cold beer and still not have to suffer the hoards of my fellow man for the privelidge.

I supposed the real problem with Morford's article is that it leaves out a proper comparison of the alternatives. As romantic as a wholesale change in favor of an "alternate path" might be, it might be a bit extreme. Perhaps the best baby steps are the ones I've already taken: Try to find creative outlets I can exercise an hour at a time. Step away from my job as often as my responsibilities allow.

The other question is the real cost of such a change. While I might be willing to give up many conveniences and accomidations in exchange for a simpler, quieter life, I don't know if my wife would be willing to do the same. What I do know is that she is the one thing that I certainly wouldn't give up for anything. So unless she wants to go with me, I guess I'm staying put.

And I guess that's the answer. We work so hard because, in the balance, it means keeping the things we really can't give up. Not the paid healthcare, not the 3bed-2bath in suburbia, and not the BMW, but a Life with the ones we love. Read More...

Hack of the Day: 2 Hour "Custom" Wine Rack

After years of searching, Kimberley and I finally found DVD storage units we were excited about: a pair of Card-catalog-look DVD racks that fit nicely under the breakfast bar in our downstairs area.

They fill two of the three "areas" under the bar. That was several months ago. Since then, we've been looking for a way to fill in the center area in a way that meets our storage needs and Kimberley's interior design requirements. We considered a custom bookshelf to hold our mountain of cookbooks, an ornamental wine rack to hold the "drinking" portion of our ever-growing wine collection, and just about any other cabinet, shelf, table, or whatever we came across in any home or furniture store that looked like it might fit the space.

In the end, we didn't really find anything that knocked us out. It was especially difficult because we kept going back and forth between Wine Rack and Bookshelf for the space, we needed both. After a while, you start looking for "creative" solutions, and having metalworking skills in your bag of tricks gives you a lot of ways to solve problems.

On a night when we were killing time before a movie, not even looking for furniture (which is almost always when we find it), we stumbled across a Pier1 piece that was a combo "Wine Rack/Baker's Rack, ornamental-ironwork shelf thing". Kimberley liked the piece and wondered aloud if there was anything I could do to make it fit our space. With the eyes of a hacker and a blacksmith, I sized it up as about 10 minutes of cutting... Oh yeah, I can make that fit.

Here's what we eventually came up with: "The 2 Hour "Custom Winerack"


As I figured, it was about 10 minutes of cutting, including the time to change my grinder over to a cutting wheel. The rest of the time was spent cleaning up the posts with the grinding wheel and repainting the piece. All told I really only spent about an hour and a half, so the "2 Hour" title is rounding-up!

We're very happy with the look of the piece, as it fits the rest of the funky sort of warm eclectic thing we've got going on, and matches a couple other items of ironwork in the room. Read More...