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Recent Tech-Noir

Two of my favorite artists on Bandcamp are Makeup and Vanity Set and Pilotpriest. Both were recently involved with tech-noir films.

Pilotpriest scored, directed, and wrote Come True under the alias Anthony Scott Burns. This is the first feature length film of his that I’ve seen. His previous short works include a Tron sequel and, with Ash Thorp, Lost Boy. Both are excellent. Come True follows a teenage runaway who joins a sleep study at a local university in order to have a place to sleep, and proceeds to awaken some sort of demonic universal id. It is full of neon and moody lighting and retro tech and hex dumps and I loved it. I think of it as a sort of Strange Days by way of Stranger Things. There’s not much dialogue, but I thought the lead actress did a great job of selling the character’s path from confusion to discomfort to terror.

Makeup and Vanity Set, using the nom de guerre Matthew Putsi, scored the third season of The Girlfriend Experience. The show follows a neuroscientist hooker who uses her sex work experience to help build a manipulative artificial intelligence. It is quite weird, but I enjoyed the aesthetics of the show. Reviewers seem to criticize it for feeling very cold and sterile and antiseptic, but I think that fits with the theme of sex-divorced-from-emotion. I enjoy my tech-noir, and this is that. It felt somewhat Gibsonian. I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn at the end of the show that Huburtus Bigend was orchestrating things. The score, as expected, is excellent.

The only previous film score work I’ve seen from MAVS (excluding the three seconds he had in Godzilla vs Kong) is Hit TV, which also satisfies.

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The EDC Toiletry Kit

Over the years I’ve developed a small toiletry kit that satisfies the needs for my every day ablutions. I carry it in a small Mountain Laurel Designs Cuben Fiber Packing Cube (the same model pouch I use for my EDC tool kit). There’s some crossover between this kit and my first aid kit, but that is to be expected. Health and cleanliness are closely related.

If I know I’m going to be gone overnight, I’ll grab another MLD cube that I keep packed with a toothbrush, a small bottle of toothpowder, and floss. If I know I’m going to be gone multiple days, I’ll add a bar of soap and shaving supplies. The following is just what I find it worthwhile to carry in my backpack everyday.

EDC Toiletry Kit

Hand Sanitizer

I use hand sanitizer infrequently, always preferring soap and water, but it is still a critical tool to carry.

I carry hand sanitizer in a 15 mL Mini Dropper Bottle with a Streaming Dropper Tip. I don’t have a specific product recommendation here. My all time favorite hand sanitizer was the All Terrain Hand Sanz Gel. It was effective, did not dry out my hands, and did not stink. But I went through the last of my stash last year, and the product has been discontinued. Next I went with Elyptol, which has an EWG rating of 1, but the eucalyptus scent is too overpowering. If they made an unscented version I’d buy it. Currently I use Pipette, which has an EWG rating of 1. It leaves a bit of sticky residue behind, but otherwise seems fine.

Soap

These days it seems like everybody carries hand sanitizer, but few carry soap. I don’t get it. Soap is pretty useful stuff to have when out and about in the world. A good, versatile soap will clean tools, clothes, and body.

I carry Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Pure-Castile Liquid Soap, repackaged in a 10 mL Mini Dropper Bottle. It has an EWG rating of 1.

Sunblock

Protecting the meatsuit from ambient radiation is important. For much of the year my sunblock goes untouched, but if I take it out I’ll forget to put it back in when the seasons change. Or I’ll find myself on a snow field and think “Gee, it sure would be nice to have some sunblock right now.” It’s easier to just leave it in the kit year-round.

I use Thinksport SPF 50, repackaged in a 15 mL Mini Dropper Bottle with a Streaming Dropper Tip. I have also carried it in screw-top capsules, but I’ve found that the plastic containers can be cracked and the tin containers can be dented such that they become difficult to open. So I’m back to using dropper bottles, despite them being impossible to clean out. Thinksport has an EWG rating of 2.

Lip Balm

I rarely have a problem with chapped lips, and thus rarely use lip balm as a moisturizer. My only interest in lip balm is as sunblock.

I use All Terrain Lip Armor SPF 28. All Terrain has been steadily discontinuing all their best products, including this one. I recommend stocking up. This product used to have a high EWG rating, but it seems to no longer be listed.

Skin Balm

Before I started dosing myself with omega, a good skin balm was critical to keeping my hands operational in the dryer months. Now its criticality is diminished, but I think it is still important tool to address small cuts, scrapes, burns, and bites. Balm is best thought of as an artificial scab: it encourages healing, and provides a protective barrier. A good skin balm coupled with some soap, clean water, and bandaging material is going to take care of the vast majority of minor first aid issues. (Throw in a syringe and some steri-strips, benzoin tincture, and a semi-permeable dressing and the world is your oyster.)

climbOn is my favorite skin balm. I find it to be highly effective. It is available in two scents, both of which I find unoffensive. Most important for something that is to be used on the hands, it does not feel greasy. I hate applying a balm on a finger and then feeling like I’m leaving residue on everything I touch. climbOn does not have an EWG rating, but its ingredients are few, easy to understand, and food-grade.

I carry the 0.5 oz climbOn Lotion Bar. I generally find that my happiness is inversely proportional to the amount of cardboard in my life, but I make an exception here. The tube is a more convenient carry format than the old tins.

I have tried using (non-SPF) lip balm as skin balm, since the form-factor of lip balm tends to be great for EDC, but I’ve not found any lip balm that I like as much as the climbOn skin balm. (I have tried the climbOn lip balm and do not like it for this application.) The stuff made for lips tends to have a softer consistency and be too greasy for me to want to use on hands. A good skin balm, however, is perfectly serviceable as a lip balm if you’re not looking for sun protection.

Scissors

As previously discussed, I carry 2.5” Westcott Titanium Scissors.

Tweezers

I carry the titanium version of Uncle Bill’s Sliver Grippers. Tweezers are something I almost never use, but when I need them there is no substitute. The titanium offers no functional advantage over the stainless steel variant, but titanium is cool.

EDC Toiletry Kit

Velcro cable ties are useful.

But I’ve become quite smitten with Ringke Silicon Cable Ties. Unlike hook and loop, they don’t stick to things that you don’t want them to stick to. Most importantly, they are easy to open and close while wearing full-fingered gloves. This makes them great for cables you carry around while out and about in meatspace, such as earbuds and power cables. I’ve only been using them since July, so I can’t speak to durability, but I see no reason they should not satisfy in that department.

Ringke Silicon Cable Ties

For thicker cables that need to be restrained with a bit more vigor, I am fond of the new Voile Nano Straps.

Litespeed EDC

Redswitch

Redshift is a program that adjusts the color temperature of the screen based on time and location. It can automatically fetch one’s location via GeoClue. I’ve used it for years. It works most of the time. But, more often than I’d like, it fails to fetch my location from GeoClue. When this happens, I find GeoClue impossible to debug. Redshift does not cache location information, so when it fails to fetch my location the result is an eye-meltingly bright screen at night. To address this, I wrote a small shell script to avoid GeoClue entirely.

Redswitch fetches the current location via the Mozilla Location Service (using GeoClue’s API key, which may go away). The result is stored and compared against the previous location to determine if the device has moved. If a change in location is detected, Redshift is killed and relaunched with the new location (this will result in a noticeable flash, but there seems to be no alternative since Redshift cannot reload its settings while running). If Redshift is not running, it is launched. If no change in location is detected and Redshift is already running, nothing happens. Because the location information is stored, this can safely be used to launch Redshift when the machine is offline (or when the Mozilla Location Service API is down or rate-limited).

My laptop does not experience frequent, drastic changes in location. I find that having the script automatically execute once upon login is adequate for my needs. If you’re jetting around the world, you could periodically execute the script via cron or a systemd timer.

This solves all my problems with Redshift. I can go back to forgetting about its existence, which is my goal for software of this sort.

Browser Extensions

I try to keep the number of browser extensions I use to a minimum. The following are what I find necessary in Firefox.

ClearURLS

ClearURLs removes extra cruft from URLs. I don’t really a problem with things like UTM parameters. Such things seem reasonable to me. But, more broadly, digital advertising has proved itself hostile to my interests, so I choose to be hostile right back.

Cookie AutoDelete

Cookie AutoDelete deletes cookies after a tab is closed or the domain changes. I whitelist cookies for some of the services I run, like my RSS reader, but every other cookie gets deleted 10 seconds after I leave the site. The extension can also manage other data stores, like IndexedDB and Local Storage.

Feed Preview

Feed Preview adds an icon to the address bar when a page includes an RSS or Atom feed in its header. This used to be built in to Firefox, but for some inexplicable reason they removed it some years ago now. Removing the icon broke one of the core ways that I use a web browser. As the name suggests, the extension can also render a preview of the feed. I don’t use it for that. I just want my icon back.

Firefox Multi-Account Containers

Firefox Multi-Account Containers is a Mozilla provided extension to create different containers and assign domains to them. In modern web browser parlance, a container means isolated storage. So a cookie in container A is not visible within container B, and vice versa.

Temporary Containers

Temporary Containers is the real workhorse of my containment strategy. It generates a new, temporary container for every domain. It automatically deletes the containers it generates 5 minutes after the last tab in that container is closed. This effectively isolates all domains from one another.

History Cleaner

History Cleaner deletes browser history that is older than 200 days. History is useful, but if I haven’t visited a URL in more than 200 days, I probably no longer care about. Having all that cruft automatically cleaned out makes it easier to find what I’m looking for in the remaining history, and speeds up autocomplete in the address bar.

Redirector

Redirector lets you create pattern-based URL redirects. I use it to redirect Reddit URLs to Teddit, Twitter URLs to Nitter, and Wikipedia mobile URLs to the normal Wikipedia site.

Stylus

Stylus allows custom CSS to be applied to websites. I use it to make websites less eye-burningly-bright. Dark Reader is another solution to this problem, but I found it to be somewhat resource intensive. Stylus lets me darken websites with no performance penalty.

Tree Style Tab

Tree Style Tab moves tabs from the default horizontal bar across the top of the browser chrome to a vertical sidebar, and allows the tabs to be placed into a nested tree-like hierarchy. In a recent-ish version of Firefox, Mozilla uglified the default horizontal tab bar. This was what finally pushed me into adopting tree style tabs. It took me a couple weeks to get used to it, but now I’m a convert. I wouldn’t want to use a browser without it. Unfortunately, the extension does seem to have a performance penalty. Not so much during normal use, but it definitely increases the time required to launch the browser. To me, it is worth it.

uBlock Origin

uBlock Origin blocks advertisements, malware, and other waste. This extension should need no introduction. The modern web is unusable without it. Until recently I used this in combination with uMatrix. I removed uMatrix when it was abandoned by the author, but was pleasantly surprised to find that current versions of uBlock by itself satisfies my needs in this department.

User-Agent Switcher

User-Agent Switcher allows the user-agent string to be changed. It seems odd that the user would need an extension to change the user-agent string in their user agent, but here we are. I mostly use this for testing things.

Vim Vixen

Vim Vixen allows the browser to be controlled using vim-like keys. Back in those halcyon days before Mozilla broke their extension system, I switched between two extensions called Vimperator and Pentadactyl to accomplish this. Those were both complete extensions that were able to improve every interaction point with the browser. Vim Vixen is an inferior experience, but seems to be the best current solution. It’s mostly alright.

Wallabagger

Wallabagger lets me save articles to my Wallabag instance with a single click.

Web Archives

Web Archives allows web pages to be looked up in various archives. I just use it for quick access to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

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Haight Street Preacher

Neither Jesus nor his lamps find welcome among the junkies on Haight.

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In 2018 I upgraded my razor to a Feather AS-D2.

I mentioned back then that I liked the Feather blades in the AS-D2, but that they provided fewer shaves than the blades I used in my old Merkur razor. This raises the cost-per-shave. I just today threw away the last Feather blade from the box of 100 that I purchased with the AS-D2. That box cost me $26 and lasted me roughly 1300 days. Call it maybe $7.75 per year. I shave with the same soap I use for washing hands and body, so the blades are my only recurring expense specific to shaving.

Feather Manscaping

I remain pleased with this setup.

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Titanium Fuel Transport

Last January I bought a pack of generic stretch silicone lids. My hope was that one of the sizes in the pack would fit my 16 year old Snow Peak Trek 700. One did. This turns the mug into an excellent fuel transport container. It’s kind of a poor man’s Vargo BOT 700.

Rando Supplies

  • Snow Peak Trek 700 with Silicone Stretch Lid
  • Snow Peak Trek 700 with Silicone Stretch Lid

I have filled the mug with water, installed the silicone lid, flipped it upside down, and left it standing overnight. In the morning there were no leaks. I’m still hesitant to actually transport liquids using the lid. Mostly because the silicone is extremely thin, and I’m sure it is going to tear eventually. But if you’re into cold soaking food on the trail, and don’t want to carry a dedicated jar, I think this could be an attractive option. For leftovers, it’s perfect.

The lids I bought are no longer available, but there is certainly no shortage of equivalents floating around on Amazon-AliExpress-eBay. Based on the number search results, my impression is that China is drowning in silicone stretch lids.

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Natural-Born Cyborgs

For what is special about human brains, and what best explains the distinctive features of human intelligence, is precisely their ability to enter into deep and complex relationships with nonbiological constructs, props, and aids. This ability, however, does not depend on physical wire-and-implant mergers, so much as on our openness to information-processing mergers. Such mergers may be consummated without the intrusion of silicon and wire into flesh and blood, as anyone who has felt himself thinking via the act of writing already knows. The familiar theme of “man the toolmaker” is thus taken one crucial step farther. Many of our tools are not just external props and aids, but they are deep and integral parts of the problem-solving systems we now identify as human intelligence. Such tools are best conceived as proper parts of the computational apparatus that constitutes our minds.

It just doesn’t matter whether the data are stored somewhere inside the biological organism or stored in the external world. What matters is how information is poised for retrieval and for immediate use as and when required. Often, of course, information stored outside the skull is not so efficiently poised for access and use as information stored in the head. And often, the biological brain is insufficiently aware of exactly what information is stored outside to make maximum use of it; old fashioned encyclopedias suffer from all these defects and several more besides. But the more these drawbacks are overcome, the less it seems to matter (scientifically or philosophically) exactly where various processes and data stores are physically located, and whether they are neurally or technologically realized. The opportunistic biological brain doesn’t care. Nor – for many purposes – should we.

Andy Clark, Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence

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On Hojicha

I pedaled over to Japantown a couple months ago to restock rice and umeboshi. While there I visited ChaTo, a tea shop I had heard about but never been to. I had a craving for genmaicha, which I was sure they could satisfy (they did). But the real victory of the day was leaving with a bag of their Sumibi Houjicha. This is my new favorite tea.

I’ve previously mentioned my fondness for kukicha. Kuki means stem or twig, cha means tea, hoji means roasted, sumibi means charcoal fire. So kukicha is tea made of stems instead of leaves. It can be roasted or not. I like it roasted, which seems to be more common on this side of the Pacific Rim. Sumibi hojicha, then, is a charcoal roasted tea. It consists of 60% stems and 40% leaves, so it isn’t a pure kukicha. Instead it is a blend of kukicha and sencha. Most hojicha, I’m told, is made using bancha, which is harvested later in the season and considered a lower-grade leaf. Sencha is the premium early harvest stuff. The sumibi hojicha has a great smell and an amazing taste. The roasting gets rid of most of the caffeine. If you like kukicha, I bet you’ll like this stuff.

ChaTo also sent me away with a sample of their Houjicha Shizuoka, which is lighter in taste (but darker in color) and very sweet. I like it as a cold tea, but the sweetness of the tea tastes wrong to me when brewed hot. I recommend sticking to the sumibi.

Sumibi Hojicha, Hojicha Shizuoka, Eden Kukicha

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Link Log 2021-09-03

The Street Does Not Really Exist: Fashion & the Metaverse

If you can accept that we’re already steeped in the metaverse, that our bodies remain in the physical world while our brains are increasingly minding a digital life… then it only follows that there needs to be some type of protocol to establish ownership, goods, and property in cyberspace. The apt currency to trade in this galaxy of virtual worlds are crypto[currency] coins like Bitcoin, Cardano, and Doge… Planet Earth has been slow and cautious in accepting Jedi cash, so in the metaverse, NFTs are commodities and utilities to spend cryptocurrency and accrue value with digital investments. Even my grade-school sons appreciate how a fist full of Robux (Roblox) or V-Bucks (Fortnite) enhances their life over a $20 USD bill at Target.

Worn Out: Tech elites’ supposed indifference to fashion is a contempt for the commons

Like its disdain for fashion, tech’s myopically optimistic take on the metaverse exposes its contempt for public space. What companies have touted so far is an effort at, in Merchant’s words, “creating and uniting more immersive digital environments in which entertainment might be consumed and work carried out – and advertising displayed, workers surveilled, and branded NFTs and loot boxes sold.” That is, the “metaverse” serves as would-be branding for this more robust facsimile of public space where a broader range of social expression can be more readily captured and monetized. Instead of a departure from atomized, feed-based social media, this version of the metaverse aspires to be its apotheosis, an environment where “presence” itself is proprietary.

What Was California?

The state is on fire, and the CEOs are pushing mindfulness on their employees while presumably both buying their own bullshit and also preserving enough old-fashioned practical rationality to keep their “minds on their money” as well, and on the escape pods they’ve constructed to evacuate them to New Zealand, should that become necessary… What is interesting about Facebook mindfulness, or Berkeley Bayesianism, or Stanford Girardianism, is not the content of the claims, but the illustration these provide of the longue durée dynamics of California history: a history of vapid curiosity, always skimming just over the surface of a process of immeasurable destruction.

Mercury isn’t named Mercury because it’s fast

Ancient astronomers had no way of measuring Mercury’s real orbital speed. They could only observe its apparent motion. And while Mercury bounces from one side of the sun to the other more frequently than Venus, their apparent speed isn’t much different.

Chinese Mercenaries in Africa

China wishes to maintain a discreet military presence in Africa and avoid at all costs being seen as a new colonial power. The [Private Security Companies] may be the tool it needs to prevent the defense of its citizens and assets from forcing it into military interventions that, for the time being, remain out of its reach. But it is to be feared that the increase in military aid and private security may lead Beijing to move away from its principle of non-interference.

Underground Military Production In Gaza: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

While using existing old weapons and ammunition in the 1990s [Hamas] also had an urgent need to obtain weapons to arm their partisans, whose numbers began to increase daily. [The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades] found they had nothing to arm their men with except for a few old weapons – the most famous of which was the “M/45 Carl Gustaf” 9×19mm submachine gun (from which they later copied the operating mechanism from to produce their improvised Carlo SMG, this also indicates where the Carlo took its nickname from). From these humble beginnings, the Qassam brigades quickly began to think about manufacturing their weapons.

SF Bay Transport

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Optical Support Kit

I use an Ultralite Sacks Trail Wallet to carry a few items that support my Rudy Project Rydon eyewear. I have six or eight of these simple cuben fiber zippered pouches floating around for different uses, either from Ultralite Sacks or Zpacks.

Optical Support Kit

I’ve previously mentioned my infatuation with the ImpactX2 Photochromic Laser Red lenses. These remain my lense of choice 99% of the time. But sometimes I want a polarized lens (such as when on water), or one with lower light transmission (such as when the sun is low during the equinox), or one with higher contrast (such as when on snow), or one that is not photochromic (such as when in an enclosed vehicle for an extended period of time). All of these conditions are satisfied by the Polar3FX brown lenses. I carry these in the wallet inside of the small microfiber lens pouch that Rudy provides.

A microfiber bag is useful when I want to put the Rydons inside my pack. The bag doesn’t provide any crush protection, but prevents the lenses from getting scratched. I use the bag that came with my old Revision Sawfly optics.

I also carry a full-size microfiber cloth. This is the same large model I use to protect my laptop screen. It is slightly redundant with the microfiber bag – both can be used to clean the lenses – but I find the larger size of the dedicated cloth useful.

There’s enough room in the wallet to store my Cablz retention strap. I have kept this attached to the Rydons most of the time since purchasing the strap last year, but if I remove it, it goes in the wallet.

The wallet can fit a 5ml spray bottle filled with ROR. That’s not something I carry around on a daily basis, but I’d consider tossing it in for an extended trip.

As you may have gathered, one of my pet peeves is dirty optics. I want to protect my corneas from UV radiation and impact, but I also want vision that is high definition and high fidelity. The Rydons, coupled with this small and lightweight kit, support that objective.

Optical Support Kit

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An N95 respirator with an exhalation valve still provides better source control than a surgical mask.

That from NIOSH. When pandemic masking started last year, I thought it was idiotic that I was asked not to wear my normal valved N95s, but was told that a single layer Buff gaiter was totally kosher. The CDC has justified my feelings:

As source control, findings from NIOSH research suggest that, even without covering the valve, N95 respirators with exhalation valves provide the same or better source control than surgical masks, procedure masks, cloth masks, or fabric coverings. In general, individuals wearing NIOSH-approved N95s with an exhalation valve should not be asked to use one without an exhalation valve or to cover it with a face covering or mask.

In 2021, equipping anything other than an N95/KF94/KN95, or other equivalent, in an attempt to protect oneself or others is just ritual.

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Every Day Pliers

I carry Fix It Sticks for screwing and small Westcott scissors for snipping. Since learning about them last year on Jerking the Trigger, I’ve carried Knipex 87-00-100 Cobra Pliers for gripping. There are times when a classic multitool, like a Leatherman, is preferable, but I find this selection is more functional for most of my mobile tool needs.

Knipex 87-00-100 Cobra Pliers

I measure the baby Knipex pliers at an overall length of 103 millimeters and a mass of 60 grams. They are an excellent purchase.

Link Log 2021-08-08

Sustainable Infrastructure

Like the stone lined canals in Kyoto, the terraced rice fields of Java allowing for millennia of continuous rice growing, the sandstone aqueducts of Italy still able to transport water after two millennia, the ancient Greek amphitheater still in use for plays and concerts, the cobblestone streets of Copenhagen that haven’t been resurfaced in five hundred years, we need to go back to thinking about our infrastructure not in terms of five year plans and technical efficiency, but in long term sustainability. If a bridge cannot be built that will last a thousand years, why build it? Why not build one that will last, even if it will be a less efficient or more expensive in the short run?

Prepper dreams of edgeland wine

As a lifelong consumer of end of the world fantasies, I can appreciate the allure of the narrative this slick zine is selling. As a teen dungeon master, I had tremendous fun mapping out the post-apocalyptic ruins of my otherwise boring Midwestern hometown on huge sheets of hex paper. I couldn’t find many who wanted to visit them with me. Which makes sense, because these narratives are really the ultimate expressions of our alienation from each other, fantasies of solitary dominion and personal rewilding that reveal far more about the social structure of life under contemporary capitalism than they do about what its collapse would really be like.

The Rebirth of Industrial Mastery

A society’s progress depends on whether significant numbers of people are working toward goals that have never been achieved before and on whether they are able to mobilize resources toward them. People need to be able to act as founders, not just as members of existing institutions. The first step is to embrace modes of life that are conducive to vision and mastery. This cannot, for the most part, come from within existing institutions. They have neither the incentive nor the ability to create them.

In Afghanistan, Follow the White High-Tops and You’ll Find the Taliban

The popularity of the high-tops – which come in instantly recognizable white-and-blue boxes – is something rarely acknowledged aloud. But they are often inconspicuously displayed among the pairs of walking and running shoes, boots and sandals, a single sneaker sitting at the front of many vendor tables that line the bazaar’s dimly lit alleyways.

Unmasking China’s Maritime Militia

In a proposal published in 2014, Sansha City’s delegation to the Hainan Province People’s Congress admitted that the city was training fishermen to guard the islands and reefs within the city’s jurisdiction. The proposal further explained that “regardless of whether they are fishermen operating in distant seas or fishermen engaged in aquaculture or other activities, they can all become well-trained militiamen and receive corresponding subsidies.”

Buena Vista

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A Better Kanteen Lid

My favorite lid for standard mouth Klean Kanteen bottles is the Topoko Straw Lid B. It’s a simple flip-top straw lid. The only thing that makes it special is that the mouthpiece is covered when closed. It seems like a common sense concept, but so many sport lids have no provision for some sort of mud guard.

Topoko Straw Lid

Other than that, there’s not much to say about the lid. It is completely leak-proof when closed. It is easy to operate one handed. It comes with two straws that can be cut to length. One is stiff and the other is bendy. I’ve found no functional difference between the two.

I have these lids installed on both the bottles I use on a daily basis – the 27 oz that I carry on my bike, and the 40 oz I use at home.

I did break one of the lids by accidentally dropping the bottle from about 4 feet onto concrete. It broke where the carry loop connects to the base. The lid still sealed and functioned properly. I only use the loop for pulling the bottle out of a cage or pouch, but I still purchased a replacement (and another spare) immediately.

The new lids I received were slightly different from the old ones. The bit that covers the mouthpiece is clear instead of black, and the edge of it is flush with the edge of the lid. On the old model, the black cover was a couple millimeters proud of the edge of the lid, which provided more purchase when grabbing the piece to flip it open. The older design seems superior, but I haven’t actually noticed a practical disadvantage with the new one. I can still easily and reliably flip the lid open, even with a gloved finger. (That is, however, with light gloves – the older design may have more of an advantage with heavy winter gloves.)

Topoko Straw Lid: Old and New

I’ve only used the lids on Klean Kanteen bottles. I use these bottles for water. I don’t know if there are any special considerations that would make the lids less than ideal for hot beverages.

I’ve used every iteration of Klean Kanteen’s Sport Cap since I bought my first bottle from them in 2005. They’ve all left something to be desired. The Topoko lid is a superior solution.

Rema Rotation

I previously outlined my patch kit, which is based around Rema patches and vulcanizing cement. Ensuring the health of the vulcanizing cement is key to the functionality of the kit. As with any liquid adhesive, it can dry out in an open tube. Or the tube may sprout a leak, causing the liquid to leak out and vanish. I have taskwarrior tell me to replace the cement in my patch kit every 3 months:

$ task add due:2020-01-01 wait:due-3weeks tag:bike recur:quarterly replace rema vulcanizing cement

The task is really just a queue for me to evaluate the condition of the kit. Because I do not get flats often, there’s a good chance that the cement tube in my kit will be unopened when I perform this evaluation. If the tube is sealed and appears in good condition, I’ll leave it in without replacing it. If it is open, I remove it from the kit and replace it with a new tube. The old cement goes into my toolbox at home. When I apply a patch at home, I’ll first try one these old, retired cement tubes.

Rema Vulcanizing Cement: Old vs New

Before marking the task as complete, I’ll also evaluate the patches in the kit, replenishing or replacing from my bulk supplies as necessary.

This process gives me extreme confidence that my patch kit will be functional when I need it.

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X260 LCD Panel Replacement

I replaced the LCD panel in my Thinkpad X260 last month. The original panel had developed some scuffs from its years of service. They were never noticeable inside, but became mildly annoying when using the machine outdoors in direct sunlight. Since I’ve been working outdoors more often over the past year, I decided a replacement would be a worthwhile idea. The internet makes it look easy, as long as one purchases the right panel.

I was told that the X260 originally shipped with three different LCD panels, so my first stop was Lenovo’s parts lookup tool where I input my serial number and received in exchange a complete parts list. This told me that my original panel was an AUO B125HAN02.2 (FRU 00HN883).

A seller on eBay claimed to sell this exact model for $80. I placed an order, waited a couple weeks for shipping from Shenzhen, and opened the package to discover an IVO M125NWF4 R0. This wasn’t a complete surprise. I had heard that sellers often ship compatible products, rather than the exact product they sold. The panel looked almost identical, so I decided to try it.

Thinkpad X260 LCD Panel Replacement

Replacing the panel took about five minutes. The new panel does appear to function identically to the original – resolution, brightness, and colors all look the same to me. The only difference I can discern is that the new IVO panel looks a little less matte than the original AUO panel. (In the photo, the new panel is the one sitting to the side of the laptop. It still has the protective covering on it – evidenced by the red pull tab – which makes it look like it has Apple-level glossiness. I can happily report that the actual panel surface looks nothing like that.) If I shine a direct light on both panels, the edge of the light is a bit more diffuse on the AUO panel. I’ve noticed no practical difference due to this indoors. I’ve worked with the new panel outside a couple times now, and so far it seems to work great in that environment as well. And since it has no marks, it is definitely a net improvement over the current state of the original panel when outdoors.

Pandemic Office

According to Lenovo’s parts lookup tool, my backup X270 uses the exact same AUO panel as what was originally in the X260. So I now have 2 new LCD panels that are swappable between the two computers. This sort of redundancy makes me feel warm and fuzzy. I’ve also placed the old panel into storage as another backup. It remains perfectly usable outside of direct sunlight.

I first noticed the marks appearing on the old panel a couple years into its service life. It was clear these were caused by the LCD contacting the keyboard when the laptop was closed – more specifically, I assume that the problem is whatever grease or oil gets transferred to the keyboard from my fingers. To solve this I started covering the keyboard with a microfiber cloth before closing the laptop. Since I started doing this a few years ago, I have noticed no new marks appear on the panel. Now that I have a new panel, my expectation is that this technique will keep it in good condition for years to come.

There seems to be no shortage of sellers offering microfiber “keyboard covers”. I assume they’re mostly all interchangeable. The one I went with was Clean Screen Wizard for 12” Laptops. The actual dimensions of these cloths are about 10.5” by 6.75”. This is not large enough to cover the entire base of the laptop, but it is large enough to cover just the keyboard, which is all I wanted to accomplish. I was worried that if I bought a cloth large enough to cover the whole base (as they show the cloths doing in their product photos), I’d have to worry about lining the edges up just so before closing the laptop. The cloth intended for 12” laptops gives me enough wiggle room that I can just throw it on blindly.

I’ve since bought half a dozen of these same cloths and use them everywhere one uses microfiber cloths. The larger size, compared to typical eyeglass microfiber cloths, is convenient for cleaning optical and camera lenses.

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Shoe Stats

Purchasing shoes online can be a bit of a shit show. Sizing varies widely across – and even within – brands. I tend to wear a 9.5 US or 42 EU in most footwear, but, without trying the shoe on in meatspace, an online purchase is always a gamble.

Some years ago, shortly after I first braved the world of footwear e-commerce, I started logging which size I wore in every shoe I purchased. This helped immensely because it allowed me to compare sizing when reading reviews. When researching a new shoe model, I look for reviews that compare it against some other model that I may have a log entry for. If I can’t find that, but I find a comparison to some other model, I may try to find reviews of that model which compare it to something I know. It is like playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, but with shoes. (The more you play the game the more you win.) Eventually I try to form a statement like “if you wear a 9.5 US in Shoe X, you should buy a 10 US in Shoe Y”.

I do not log widths because I always wear whatever a brand’s “standard” width is. If I ever purchased something the brand considered to be “wide” or “narrow”, I would note that.

A couple years ago I began tracking weight in the same file as the sizes. Many older shoes have no weight logged, but I find it useful for entries where I do have the data. The weights are all “as worn” – meaning they are what I measured after replacing shoe laces (probably with Lawson Toughlaces) or insoles. So my weights might be a couple ounces different from how the shoes ship from the factory.

I recently reformatted my log into a nice TSV file so that I could look at it with VisiData. I’ve thrown the file into a git repository and published it on GitHub. If you wear the sort of shoes I wear, perhaps it will be helpful to you.

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I published my database of pressure cooking times.

A couple years ago I scraped all of the pressure cooking time tables from Hip Pressure Cooking into CSV files for storage in my exocortex. For things I cook regularly, I keep my own notes on preferred times, water ratios, etc. But when cooking something new, I find that having an easily greppable, offline database of guidelines is invaluable. Today I moved the CSV files out of my private notes annex and published them as their own git repository.

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Cablz Eyewear Retention

I’ve previously mentioned my fondness for Rudy Rydon eyewear (particularly with the photochromic laser red lenses). One of the benefits of the Rydons is the adjustability of the temples and the nose pad, which allow for a secure, custom fit. This makes added retention via a strap unnecessary for securing the Rydons on the face, yet I’ve come to appreciate having a retainer attached simply because it allows me to drop the eyewear around my neck when I don’t need it. This offers more security than pushing them up onto the crown of my head or hanging them over the edge of my shirt or pocket, without requiring the hassle of putting them away in a pack.

For this application I’ve come to like the Cablz Zipz Adjustable Eyewear Retainer. I use the 12 inch version. These are made of a coated, stainless steel wire. When you’re wearing the eyewear, the wire sits up off the neck so you don’t feel the retainer at all. When you’re hanging it around your neck, it is thin and light enough that you soon forget it is there (this is also a result of the lightness of the Rydons, of course). The zip allows the length of the retainer to adjust from about 6 inches to 12 inches. At the smallest setting this keeps the Rydons tight on my face, but since that is not what I’m looking for I keep it adjusted about half way. At roughly 9 inches in length, I find that I can easily don and doff the eyewear, and that they sit at a comfortable position on my chest when I’m hanging them around my neck. The “universal” silicon ends of the retainer grab securely on the Rydon temples.

Cablz Eyewear Retention

Cablz isn’t the only company to offer this style of retainer.

The Croakies ARC Endless is the same basic idea. I bought one to try out, but found it to be inferior. The silicon ends are significantly thicker and less comfortable behind the ear. I could bend the Rydon temples to account for this extra thickness, but I appreciate that the Cablz retainer requires no adjustment of the eyewear. With the Croakies, the pieces you grab to tighten the retainer are quite small. You’re adjusting the retainer blind by reaching behind your head, so the haptics are important. I found the Croakies difficult to use when wearing gloves. The Cablz adjustment pieces are large enough to be easy to use whether gloved or gloveless.

The equivalent from Chums is the Adjustable Orbiter. It only adjusts from 10 inches to 15.5 inches, which is too large for my needs, so I didn’t buy one to try.

I recommend the retainer from Cablz. It provides a simple but helpful augmentation to my eyeball protection system.

Peak Laptop

My ThinkPad X260 is entering its sixth year of service. Last year I preemptively replaced the SSD. A few months later I replaced the keyboard after noticing that the space bar would sometimes fail to register. I’ve had no other problems with the machine.

Last month I bought a used-but-basically new ThinkPad X270 for a ridiculously low price on eBay. The X270 was released in 2017, a year after the X260. Both models are basically identical but for the addition of a USB-C port on the X270. The presence or absence of USB-C has no practical impact on my life today, but it seems like a thing that I may grow to appreciate in the future.1

My plan for the X270 is to put it in storage with my old ThinkPad T430s. I’m excited to have a backup machine that is almost identical to my daily driver. If the X260 ever develops a problem, I can pop the SSD out of it, move it to the X270, and continue on with my life. While the T430s is still a great machine that is perfectly capable of doing everything I need a computer to do, switching back to it would be much more disruptive due to its different form factor and power setup. The T430s is now a backup to my backup.

The X260 and X270 both represent Peak Laptop to me. Not because I can’t imagine ways to make them better, but because, since their release, no laptop manufacturer (including Lenovo) seems to have been able to release anything as good, much less better. These machines are everything I need a laptop to be, and I’ve yet to feel limited by their performance. While the X260 shows no signs of its age, I’m happy to have the X270 staged for transition if it ever becomes necessary. Perhaps in another five or ten years the industry will have figured out how to improve on these machines and I’ll feel a desire to upgrade. Until then I’m done buying new laptops.

Peak Laptop

The X270 came with two 6-cell batteries. Combined with my existing batteries, I believe my collection is now complete. The original battery from 2016 is still healthy, which I think can be largely attributed to TLP’s battery charge thresholds.

Notes

  1. A couple years ago I purchased a USB-C to Slim Power Tip adapter on eBay, thinking it might be nice to charge the X260 via USB-C. I've yet to do anything with it. The ThinkPad Power Bridge battery setup is great, and none of the new USB-C wall wart chargers seem to be better than my old FINsix Dart charger.

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Zensah Leg Compression

I purchased a pair of Zensah Compression Leg Sleeves in 2008 after reading about them at MilitaryMorons. This was when minimalist running was beginning to take off – Born to Run was published the following year – and I found that the sleeves ended up being a valuable part of my transition to less supportive footwear.

The story I was sold in various wilderness medicine courses was that compression aided recovery because it constricted the blood vessels, raising the percentage of oxygen delivered to the area, which in turn speeds muscle regrowth. I understand there is some debate about whether this explanation is accurate but, whatever the reason for it, there seems to be no debate that compression aids recovery and performance.

I still use my 12 year old pair of Zensah sleeves. They’re not a piece of equipment I reach for frequently, but they’re invaluable when I do use them. If I’ve been pushing myself on runs – or, in the Before Times, if I had a hard training session at the boxing gym – there’s nothing better than the immediate comfort I get when sliding them on. Because I don’t use them often, sometimes I’ll forgot that they’re buried in the bottom of my sock drawer and I’ll go a couple days with discomfort in my calves that I can’t get out with a roller or massage ball.

Prior to buying the Zensah sleeves, I would occasionally accomplish the same thing with 3M Vetrap. It works, and is worth having around for splinting (the self-adhesive property makes it superior to the classic ACE elastic bandage), but wrapping and getting the tension just-so is more of a hassle than just sliding on the sleeves. Vetrap is also not as comfortable as Zensah’s material, which is both breathable and moisture wicking.

Giri/Haji is a stylish, slow burning neor-noir crime drama set in Tokyo and London.

The story concerns a police detective, his yakuza brother, and their series of poor life choices. Everything about it is very well done. The show is described as “cancelled”, but the first season is a complete story and, as excellent as it is, I think continuing with the characters in a second season would only lessen the experience of the first.

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