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Terminal Calculations

Qalculate! is a well known GTK-based GUI calculator. For years I ignored it because I failed to realize that it included a terminal interface, qalc. Since learning about qalc last year it has become my go-to calculator. It supports all the same features as the GUI, including RPN and unit conversions. I primarily use GNU Units for unit wrangling, but being able to perform unit conversions within my calculator is sometimes useful.

$ qalc
> 1EUR to USD
It has been 20 day(s) since the exchange rates last were updated
Do you wish to update the exchange rates now? y

  1 * euro = approx. $1.1137000

> 32oC to oF

  32 * celsius = 89.6 oF

The RPN mode is not quite as intuitive as a purpose built RPN calculator like Orpie, but it is adequate for my uses. My most frequent use of RPN mode is totaling a long list of numbers without bothering with all those tedious + symbols.

> rpn on
> stack
The RPN stack is empty
> 85

  85 = 85

> 42

  42 = 42

> 198

  198 = 198

> 5

  5 = 5

> 659

  659 = 659

> stack

  1:    659
  2:    5
  3:    198
  4:    42
  5:    85

> total

  total([659, 5, 198, 42, 85]) = 989

> stack

  1:    989

Also provided are some basic statistics functions that can help save time.

> mean(2,12,5,3,1)
  mean([2, 12, 5, 3, 1]) = 4.6

And of course there are the varaibles and constants you would expect

> 12+3*8)/2
  (12 + (3 * 8)) / 2 = 18
> ans*pi
  ans * pi = 56.548668

I reach for qalc more frequently than alternative calculators like bc, insect, or the Python shell.

I use my pressure cooker to sterilize equipment.

Sport bottles lids often have small nooks and crannies that are excellent for growing bacteria and difficult to clean by hand. I occasionally throw these lids into my pressure cooker with a steaming basket or trivet to sterilize them. Multiple studies show that a standard pressure cooker can be an effective alternative to an autoclave in austere environments. The general rule of thumb seems to be about 15 psi for 15 minutes, though 30 minutes may be a safer bet for medical instruments.

Poor Man Autoclave

Titanium Teaware

I keep a Snow Peak H450 Mug at work. This is double-walled titanium and as such is expensive and entirely unnecessary. But it is a luxury I enjoy, and I expect that (like most Snow Peak titanium products) it will last approximately until the heat death of the universe. As the name implies, it has a capacity of 450mL. It has an outer diameter of 86mm and a height of 97mm. This is the mug I use for my daily oatmeal and miso.

Tea is brewed in the mug using a FORLIFE Brew-in-Mug Tea Infuser, which fits perfectly in the H450. It is easy to clean, allows the tea to breathe, and lives up to its name as being something that ought to last for life.

Snow Peak H450 and FORLIFE Infuser

The Snow Peak MGC-053 Lid fits on the H450 mug and provides a cafe style lid. A better option is the old, discontinued Klean Kanteen Pint Lid. Klean Kanteen made this for their pint cup, but it fits perfectly on the H450. It gives you a cafe style lid, and has a rubber piece that rotates into place to cover the hole that you sip out of. There’s also a sealed hole for a straw, though I’ve never used this (maybe you could use it for your bombilla if you were into such things). I would prefer the lid to be deeper, like the MGC-053, so that liquid that does splash up out of the hole has a better chance of being contained within the dish of the lid and then running back into the mug. However, the rotating cover of the old Klean Kanteen lid reduces the chance of liquid escaping in the first place. Neither lid is leak proof, and I rarely use either because I’m generally not moving around while drinking tea, but the Klean Kanteen Pint Lid lives in the small pouch of tea supplies that I keep at my desk. It will get slapped on if I’m walking someplace.

Snow Peak H450 Lids

At home I keep a Keith Titanium Ti3521. Keith is a Chinese brand that previously was only available direct from the People’s Republic on AliExpress. In the past couple of years I’ve seen them start to be distributed directly stateside. The Ti3521 has a capacity of 450mL, an outer diameter of 78mm and a height of 125mm. Compared to the Snow Peak mug, it’s a little skinnier and a little taller. What makes this product unique are the lids. It has a silicone cafe style lid with a sippy hole that fits tightly over the rim of the mug. As with the lid options for the Snow Peak H450, this lid is adequate to protect from spills while walking with the mug. The Ti3521 also has a titanium lid. This can be placed directly on the mug, but it isn’t a tight fit and is mostly useless here. It is intended to be placed over the silicone lid, covering the hole you drink out of and providing further protection. The titanium lid has a small pin hole in it to allow heat to escape, so the setup isn’t waterproof – you certainly wouldn’t want to put it in a pack when it had liquid in it – but it will probably keep you from scalding yourself on a bumpy car ride.

The Ti3521 includes its own titanium infuser. The infuser inserts into the silicone lid and hangs down into the mug. The infuser is small, with a diameter of 42mm and a height of 78mm. Some teas, I find, need a bit more room to breathe. For those teas, the FORLIFE Brew-in-Mug Tea Infuser does fit in the Ti3521. But the Keith infuser works well enough for many teas. It has a larger volume than your typical tea ball or stick infuser, so if you are happy with those you’d probably be happy with this.

Keith Ti3521 Infuser

When new, the silicone lid did impart a strong silicone taste. Since I purchased the product direct from China, I have no way of knowing if the silicone is what the USA FDA would consider “food grade”. When I first received the Ti3521, I made a number of different attempts to reduce the silicone taste from the lid – boiling water, baking soda and vinegar, lemon juice, etc. Nothing really helped, but after just using it for a few months the taste finally went away.

I use the silicone lid to hang the infuser basket, and I use the titanium lid as a dish to place the infuser on when I’m done with it. I rarely drink through the silicone lid.

In addition to its use at home, the Ti3521 is the mug I’ll usually grab when travelling. I find that its skinnier-but-taller form factor tends to be slightly easier to slide into a pack than the Snow Peak mug, and I like that all of the components are more tightly integrated than the H450 and FORLIFE infuser.

I own a few other Keith Titanium products in addition to the Ti3521. My experience with them is that they are of a perfectly acceptable quality, though not quite as nice as Snow Peak. The Ti3521 is exemplary of this. When boiling water is poured into the Snow Peak H450, the outer wall is warm but comfortable to hold. When the same water is poured into the Keith Ti3521, the outer wall is hot. Not too hot to hold, but certainly hotter than the Snow Peak mug. I don’t know if this is because the Keith titanium is thinner, or because the walls are closer together, or because the vacuum between them is imperfect.

The Snow Peak H450 is part of a three piece set of nesting mugs. The H200 is the smallest of the set. I’ll sometimes use it if I have brewed tea in a pot and I want a cup that just holds a small amount, but otherwise it is not very useful. The middle-sized H300 is more interesting. It holds a full cup of tea and is a nice size to drink out of. It also just so happens that the 23.7 oz Smartwater bottle that I like to use as part of my backcountry hydration setup with the Sawyer Squeeze fits perfectly inside the H300 mug. By perfectly I mean that if the mug were a millimeter narrower the bottle would not fit. So if I want the luxury of backcountry tea brewed in something other than my cook pot, my setup is the Smartwater bottle, inside the H300 mug, inside the Hill People Gear 3” Bottle Holster.

For brewing, the lower portion of the FORLIFE Brew-in-Mug Tea Infuser does fit in the H300. But this is far too bulky for me to ever want to pack into the backcountry. A tea ball works, but those are always cheaply made with soft walls that flatten and small hinges that break. They don’t survive long in a pack. A stick infuser is too tall. I’ve successfully used a Tuffy Steeper with the H300 (an idea from Backpacking Light). When collapsed this is small and easily packable. When fully expanded it is roughly the size of the FORLIFE Brew-in-Mug Tea Infuser, though it tapers toward the bottom. However, it can be used when only partially expanded, which allows it to fit better into the H300. As with the silicone lid on the Keith Ti3521, the Tuffy Steeper imparted a strong silicone taste when I first bought it. Over time this has diminished, but I still sometimes notice it. Another option is the House Again Tea Ball Infuser. This is a bit larger than the typical tea ball, and much more robust. It fits in the H300 and packs well separately. Usually this is the option I’ll choose.

If I want to brew a pot of tea, I use the Fire Maple Titanium 1L Kettle – another AliExpress purchase. There is absolutely nothing special about this pot, except that it is titanium, and thus cool. It is single-walled, so it can be used on a stove or over a fire. I bought it after breaking a glass teapot and vowing Never Again. It also features some neat knot work on the handle, which I assume was tied by the deft hands of small children who sleep on the cold concrete underneath their workstations, piss in buckets, etc.

Fire Maple Kettle

The Fire Maple kettle does have an extremely coarse strainer in the spout. If you’re brewing some sort of blossoming tea, it may work, but it isn’t great for the teas I typically enjoy. Instead I use the FORLIFE Capsule Infuser, which is a great big infuser that is meant to be used in a large pitcher. It is a good size for a 1L pot, and the lid will still fit on the teapot while the strainer is inside.

This post was published on . It was tagged with gear, review, tea.

Sonic Defenders

I carry earplugs everyday. Other people have written about the regular carry of earplugs – usually to aid sleep in foreign environments – but I tend to disagree with the products they choose. Craig Mod recommends the Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone Earplugs. Tynan recommends the Howard Leight Laser Lite Foam Earplugs. I recommend the SureFire EP3 Sonic Defenders. Each of these are exemplary of a different style of earplug with different intended applications.

The Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone Earplugs are different from many other earplugs. Rather than being inserted into the ear canal, they seal the conchal bowl. This makes them very comfortable, as there is no internal pressure in the ear, but also makes them less effective at blocking noise. They have a claimed noise reduction rating of 22 decibels. (When dealing with moldable plugs I assume this number applies when you install them perfectly, and that in common usage they’re probably slightly less effective.) I find this style of plug somewhat finicky to install and retain. If you find you cannot stand the feeling of having something in your ear canal, they are probably a good option. For everyone else, you can do better. I will sometimes use these plugs in the axolotl tanks (because water with such a high concentration of salt can be uncomfortable in the ear). In that scenario, I just want to seal my ears from water, but I don’t really care about the noise reduction. These earplugs work well there. If I regularly patronized a public pool I would use them there (because public pool water scares me). The earplugs are intended to be single use. You can reuse them, but the tackiness of the material means it picks up more dirt and is more difficult to clean than other single use earplugs. I haven’t bothered to reuse them.

The Howard Leight Laser Lite Foam Earplugs are a good option for side sleeping. They have a claimed noise reduction rating of 32 decibels. As with the silicone plugs, I assume they probably perform slightly worse than this in common practice due to imperfect installation. When properly installed these earplugs do block a surprising amount of noise, and they remain comfortable. They stick out of my ears somewhat, but because they’re just foam, any extra pressure placed on the outer end doesn’t translate to uncomfortable pressure in my ear canal. While intended to be single use, you can get a few nights of use out of a single pair. Sometimes I’ve woken up to find that one has fallen out, but I figure they’ve still done they’re job as long as I’m waking up naturally and not because of a disruptive noise.

For music events I have the Etymotic ER20XS Earplugs. They have a claimed noise reduction rating of only 20 decibels, but I feel that they do a good job of reducing sounds to safe levels without distorting the quality of the music. They are not appropriate for times when I want to eliminate as much outside noise as possible, which means they are not useful enough to carry everyday. I’ll often forget to grab them when heading out the door to a show. Or I’ll go to an unplanned show straight from some other location and not have the opportunity to pick up the Etymotics from home. (Prior to these I used EarDial Earplugs in this application. I find them both to perform pretty much the same.)

The SureFire EP3 Sonic Defenders have a claimed noise reduction rating of 24 decibels. I do not question this rating. Unlike with the moldable foam or silicone plugs, there’s really no way to improperly install the EP3.

SureFire EP3 Sonic Defenders

I first got the idea of carrying the EP3 earplugs everyday a few years ago from a local FBI agent. He keeps them in his bag for unplanned gunfights. The unplanned discharging of firearms is pretty low on my priority list, and if I’m planning on discharging firearms or being in an environment where others are discharging firearms around me, my first choice for ear protection will be my Howard Leight Impact Sport Earmuffs with Noiseighter pads. But it got me thinking: if I was already considering carrying a general purpose, disposable earplug like the Howard Leight Laser Lites (which I had previously kept in my EDC first aid kit), why not just pack the EP3s that would otherwise continue to sit in my box of miscellaneous gun stuff at home?

I don’t think they have quite the fidelity of the Etymotics for music, but they certainly reduce the noise to a safe level, while still allowing me to enjoy the music. And with the filters open I can easily tune in to conversations around me, which I think is critical in environments like nightclubs (for both enjoyment and safety).

I find them comfortable enough to sleep in. They sit fairly flush with my ears, and so while they may not be quite as forgiving as Howard Leight foam plugs for side sleeping, I’ve never woken up after rolling onto my side while wearing them.

On their packaging, SureFire does list swimming as one of the activities for which the EP3 may be used. However, I think that earplugs like the Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone Earplugs that seal the entire ear, rather than just plugging the canal, make more sense if keeping out water is your primary goal. I’ve never found myself unexpectedly underwater, so I’m comfortable not planning my EDC around this eventuality.

The EP3 earplugs have retention rings, which are sized to fit your conchal bowl. (I wear a size medium, which is what SureFire recommends for most adults.) This makes it very unlikely that the EP3 plugs will fall out, which is as useful for sleeping as much as it is for more exciting activities.

SureFire claims a service life for the EP3 of “6+ months”. My last pair lasted 42 months before I replaced them. Granted, I use them infrequently, but it’s safe to say that this style of ear protection lasts significantly longer than disposable-but-reusable earplugs like the Howard Leight Laser Lite and Mack’s Pillow Soft. I store them in the protective case they come in, and wash them with warm soapy water after use.

SureFire also offers the EP4. These are identical to the EP3 except that they have a triple flange instead of a double. I’ve never used them. I think the only reason to opt for the triple flange is if you have a long ear canal. With the filter closed, the noise reduction rating is the same on both models. With the filters open, the EP3 provide a noise reduction rating of 11 decibels while the EP4 bumps it up to 12. The EP7 has foam tips for a different feel and a higher noise reduction rating.

Earplugs are one of the least frequently used items in what I consider to be my level 2 EDC. If I was seeking to reduce the number of items in my pack, they would be a candidate for elimination. But the reality is that their small size and low weight make them easy to carry in a bag, and when I do need them I am very grateful to have them – whether that is because I’m sleeping elsewhere, enjoying live music, or things are going bang. The SureFire EP3 Sonic Defenders aren’t necessarily the most appropriate ear protection for every environment, but I think they work well in a wide range of applications. Their versatility, coupled with their longevity, is why I choose them over other earplugs.

This post was published on . It was tagged with gear, review, edc.

Around the turn of the century there was an ambient music transmission called Blue Mars.

It and Rant Radio Industrial were important sources of music in the early days of streaming. Blue Mars described itself as Music for the Space Traveller:

Long ago, when the waters of Mars were still under the ground and above the sky, our ancestors came to this place and called it “Home”. And from the high Plains of Tharsis to the Elysium Ocean, from as high as Mount Olympus to as deep as the floor of the Hellas sea, one can still hear the song of our brothers and sisters chanting to us throughout the ages.

This melody is one that is made of hopes… It is sang with the voice of nostalgia, and looks ahead with pride. Listen…

Blue Mars: Signal Lost

The transmission ceased some years ago. For a time, recordings of the stream were rebroadcast at a site called Echoes of Blue Mars, but that too seems to have come to an end. Recently I stumbled across someone who had created YouTube playlists of much of the original music.

There are also playlists for Blue Mars’ two alternative stations. Cryosleep, which was described:

Most people who underwent cryosleep have reported that the mind seems to naturally retreat into a place of infinite tranquility, where the experience of Time itself is distorted in a subtle way.

Although there is no trace of conscious activity in the brain of sleepers, it appears that Experience itself never ceases, creating atemporals bubbles of memories of transcendental calm when the subject awakes.

It may be possible that chemicals used in the cryosleep process alter the outer cortex in a way that is not yet understood, however we believe cryosleep is a perfectly safe means of interstellar travel.

And Voices from Within, explained:

In these days of stellar explorations, encountering alien lifeforms is the dream of many space-travellers, but Language will always hinder the realization of the full potential of such an event.

Thus, Voices from Within tries to prepare cosmonauts for the experience by focusing on the abandonment of Words in favor of Vibrations, which, being uniquely suited to channel your Emotions, will usher Comprehension into the Mind of your new alien friends.

  • Blue Mars: Cryosleep
  • Blue Mars: Voices from Within

This post was published on . It was tagged with micro, audio.

Luer Lock Lubing

Earlier this year I purchased the Occam Lube DIY Kit from Occam Defense. This is a simple but ingenious solution for carrying and applying oil and grease by utilizing the Luer lock system from the medical industry. I shoot tupperware that runs dirty, and I have not travelled enough with firearms to need to think about lubricating them away from home, but I have needed to pack chain lube for my bike on longer tours. In the past I’ve been disappointed by the bottles of both bicycle and firearm lubricant, which may either leak or make it difficult to apply the contents precisely. There’s nothing in the Occam kit that you couldn’t put together yourself, but it is very reasonably priced and I credit it with being my introduction to the idea of using Luer components for lubrication. As soon as I stumbled upon the kit I purchased it.

The Occam kit includes one 30ml Luer syringe, three 3ml Luer syringes, three 22 gauge Luer dispensing tips, three 14 gauge Luer dispensing tips, four Luer caps, and a Luer gender adapter. Oil is drawn up into the large syringe, which is then attached to one of the smaller syringes via the gender adapter. If using grease, the grease is simply packed into the large syringe after removing the plunger, and then pushed into one of the smaller syringes. About 1.5ml of oil (or grease) may be pushed into the small syringe from the large syringe. The remaining 1.5ml of space inside the small syringe is needed to store one of the dispensing tips and the plunger cap. The intent is for the filled, smaller syringes to be placed in various kits and be taken on the road, giving you the ability to store the oil in a leak-proof manner and dispense of small amounts of it in precise areas. For applications where you need very little lubrication, like firearms, this works great.

Luer Lock Lubing

I had never given much attention to what volume of oil I use when lubricating a bike chain, so I wasn’t sure if the smaller syringes would really be useful for this application. I’ve always been a one-drop-per-roller kind of guy, which I think results in the best lubrication with the least amount of waste. With my current oil of choice, I find that I use a bit over 3ml of oil when servicing my chain. When one of the dispensing tips is stored in the small syringe, the remaining 1.5ml capacity won’t work for me. But I can store the dispending tip separately, fill up the entire 3ml with oil, and still have a very compact, lightweight, and leak-proof option for lubricating on the go.

As happy as this makes me, I admit that carrying lube on a bike isn’t the most pressing concern. Good oil lasts, so unless you’re putting on a lot of miles in challenging conditions, you probably won’t find yourself needing to drop oil away from home. However, I have found that the Luer system is useful even at home, with a few additional purchases to supplement the contents of the Occam kit.

Chain-L for Chains

I purchased Luer lock bottle caps for 15-415 threading, 24-410 threading, and 20-410 threading. Between these three sets of caps I can convert most existing lube bottles to the Luer system. If I come across an oil in a bottle with some other type of threading (as is the case with Boeshield T-9), I transfer it into an appropriately sized bottle with standard threading.

I also purchased a few additional dispensing tips (the angled ones are nice), and a package of syringe tip caps to make the lids leak-proof when no dispensing tip is attached.

Tri-Flow for Derailleur Pivots

I can now be sure that none of my oils will leak, which is important to me whether the bottle is in a bag or a toolbox. Using a Luer gender adapter, I can easily transfer oil to a smaller travel sized container, be it one of the Occam syringes or simply a 0.5 oz bottle, or any other Luer-compatible container. Using a dispensing tip, I can accurately deposit precise amounts of lubricant, eliminating waste.

All of this is entirely unnecessary, but I find that small improvements in efficiency like this do translate to a higher quality of life. If you ever find yourself dispensing small amounts of a liquid, and you have a personality that values accuracy and precision (and tidiness), I’d definitely recommend picking up an assortment of Luer components. The Occam Lube DIY Kit is a great place to start.

Travel Tri-Flow

I use Blokada to reduce the amount of advertisements on my telephone.

Blokada registers itself as a VPN service on the phone so that it can intercept all network traffic. It then downloads filter lists to route the domains of known advertisers, trackers, etc to a black hole, exactly like what I do on my real computer with hostsctl. For me it has had no noticeable impact on battery life. I have found it especially useful when travelling internationally and purchasing cellular plans with small data caps. The only disadvantage I have found is that Blokada must be disabled when I want to connect to a real VPN via WireGuard or OpenVPN.

Blokada must be installed via F-Droid (or directly through the APK) because Google frowns upon blocking advertisements (but at least Google allows you to install software on your telephone outside of their walled garden, unlike their competitor).