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If you have a Snow Peak Trek Titanium Bowl, consider augmenting it with a lid from Four Dog Stove.

The lid costs about as much as the bowl – maybe more if you acquired the bowl on sale – but it is a well made tool that turns my favorite bowl into an eminently practical pot that is equally useful at home or in the backcountry. Throw in a pot lifter, a cozy and there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.

Snow Peak Bowl and Lid

The bowl has a capacity of about 600 milliliters. My bowl and lid weigh in at a combined 82 grams (2.9 oz).

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

Experience at the Bitcoin ATM

Recently I had need of Bitcoin. For a thing.

I decided to use this need as an excuse to try a Bitcoin ATM. I’d noticed them appearing throughout town over the past few years but never had a reason to use one.

The liquor store that I chose had a General Bytes BATMTwo. It was simple to use, but slow. After selecting the button to begin, it sat at a loading screen for a good minute. After loading, it showed me the current exchange rate for BTC (there was no option for a different currency) and asked if I wanted to deposit more or less than $1000 USD. I selected less. It then asked me to input a phone number where it could send an SMS. After giving it my number I waited around for about another minute until it sent me a message with a 5 digit number. I entered that number into the ATM, after which it allowed me to proceed.

It next prompted me to scan a QR code for an existing destination wallet, or to hit another button if I did not yet have a wallet created. I didn’t see any option to manually enter an address. I assumed it would want a QR code, so before I embarked on this journey of discovery I had generated a new wallet on my computer, saved its address as both a QR code and as plain text, and copied those files to my phone. Getting it scan the QR code from my phone screen took a few seconds of finagling, but this is typical of reading any barcode from a phone in my experience. After it read the code it took me to the next screen and prompted me to insert bills. This screen also showed the destination address, how much fiat currency I had deposited, and what the amount of Bitcoin received would be. I opened the text file on my phone where I had saved the wallet address and verified that this matched what it had decoded from the QR code.

I wanted to deposit multiple bills, but it did not indicate if I should feed all of them in at once or one at time. I decided to insert them one at a time. As I did this it correctly displayed the amount of money I had deposited. It read all the bills successfully. However, the BTC amount stayed at 0, and it displayed a loading message in one corner of the screen. This began another wait, again of about 60 seconds, until it calculated the amount of BTC I would receive. I suppose it was fetching the current exchange rate, though if it gets an updated rate at this stage I’m not sure why it wasted time fetching the exchange rate back in the initial step.

Once it had showed me the amount of BTC I would receive I hit the button indicating I was done inserting bills. It immediately displayed a confirmation screen that said the transaction was complete, with a confirmation of the USD deposited, the BTC received, and a transaction ID. At this point it asked me if I was done or if I wanted a receipt. I selected the receipt option to see what it would look like. It asked if I would like a receipt via SMS or email. Since it already had my phone number, I selected SMS. It immediately said that the receipt was sent, and then a few seconds later when back to its idling screen for the next customer. About a minute later the SMS receipt arrived. The message included the transaction ID, localized timestamp, USD deposited, BTC purchased, and destination wallet address.

I didn’t get back to my computer until about 45 minutes later. When I checked the funds were in my wallet, but I’m not sure how immediately they appeared.

The ATM claimed to impose no fees, but the exchange rate it offered is substandard. At the time I completed the transaction I believe the price on Coinbase was about $10,123.47. Given the amount of BTC that ended up in my wallet, the price the machine offered me was about $12,208.17.

Still, the process was simple, and the results quick. This is the first time I purchased Bitcoin with cash since circa 2012, when there was a service that would allow you to make a cash deposit into a random Wells Fargo account in exchange for Bitcoin. I used this service half a dozen times or so and never had a bad experience, but the whole transaction took a few hours to complete – and I remember hearing that the person who ran it was later arrested for something or other. The ATM experience certainly felt less shady.

From a privacy standpoint, the only personal information required by the ATM was a phone number that was able to receive a SMS. I’m not sure what General Bytes feels they are accomplishing by going through the steps for the SMS token, but it is a requirement that is easy enough to satisfy.

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Mobile Miso Capsules

Instant miso is appropriate for wilderness travel, where weight is a primary concern and there is a multi-day absence of refrigeration. Outside of activities with those restrictions, I prefer to avoid it. One of the key advantages to miso is that it is a probiotic, containing living cultures. With dry, instant miso that advantage is lost.

When I want miso on the go, I’ll prepare a serving using the same ingredients I’d use to make miso at home. This seems like an obvious solution, but it hadn’t occurred to me until I saw it on Just One Cookbook. The author of that recipe stores the mixture in the container that she plans to eat the soup out of. I didn’t want to carry around a container that large, and I already keep a mug at work for my daily Standard Issue Oatmeal and kukicha. Instead, I store the ingredients in a Sistema Klip It 1520 – the same container I use for my oatmeal capsules.

Mobile Miso Capsule

My Mobile Miso Capsule contains:

  • 1 tablespoon of miso paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dashi powder
  • 6 to 12 pieces of wakame
  • Around 1/4 teaspoon of umeboshi furikake
  • Half a scallion, chopped

I keep things interesting by pedaling over to Nijiya in Japantown and purchasing random tubs of miso paste with labels that I usually cannot read, so I have no particular recommendation there.

The measurements are rough. As a general rule of thumb, a single serving of miso is considered to be 200 milliliters of water and 1 tablespoon of miso paste, but I use a little more water and the amount of miso paste needs to be adjusted based on your tastes and the strength of the particular tub of paste you’re using.

When refrigerated, this preparation will last for a week. It can keep at room temperature for a day. I can make 5 capsules over the weekend, and each weekday morning grab one out of the fridge to throw in my pack before heading out. I do this most weekdays, and end up fueling with the miso mid-afternoon, at around 15:00. None of these ingredients need to be cooked, so the final preparation is simple. It requires only hot water:

  1. Open the capsule and dump the contents into a mug.
  2. Pour about 300 milliliters of hot-but-not-boiling water over the top.
  3. Stir the contents for about 30 seconds.
  4. Let sit for a couple minutes.
  5. Consume.

The end result is predominantly drunk. A utensil (spork, spoon, chopsticks) is useful for transferring the ingredients to the mug, stirring, and for getting the last bits of wakame and scallion into your mouth.

As with my Standard Issue Oatmeal, this recipe makes a good base to which other items can be added. Sliced mushrooms – dried or fresh – are a good addition. The original recipe from Just One Cookbook included aburaage. Thinly sliced and diced carrots are another idea. Between these types of additions and the variety of miso pastes available, it is easy to keep this soup interesting, which is a characteristic I value in a daily fuel.

Dashi

The instant dashi powder used in this recipe is my deference to the mobile nature of the meal. Miso without dashi is blasphemous. I don’t want to carry around a liquid, so fresh dashi is out. Apparently miso paste with premixed dashi is a thing, but I’ve never tried it. I have experimented with a handful of different dashi powders.

Ajinomoto Hondashi is the first powdered dashi I tried. It comes in a jar and is simple to use. It does contain monosodium glutamate (which should go without saying as Ajinomoto is the company Dr. Ikeda created to market his discovery of MSG). This partially explains its deliciousness, but of course the only reason to include monosodium glutamate is because they aren’t using actual kombu and so need to get their glutamate from some other source. The ingredients are: salt, monosodium glutamate, lactose, sugar, dried bonito tuna powder, disodium inosinate, bonito extract, yeast extract, and disodium succinate.

Kayanoya Original Dashi Stock Powder comes in packets that are intended to be placed into 400 milliliters of water, boiled for a couple of minutes, and then discarded. I like the flavor of these packets, but the preparation method isn’t compatible with my capsules: I want to mix all the ingredients beforehand, I’m pouring less-than-boiling water over everything, and I’m only making a single serving with about 300 milliliters of water. I’ve tried opening the packet and adding half of the powder to one of my capsules. The resulting flavor is smooth, but very weak, and the powder does not disolve completely. I think this dashi powder really does need to be boiled briefly to extract its flavor. The ingredients are: raw flavor materials (dried bonito flakes, dried sardine extract powder, roasted flying fish, dried round herring flakes, kelp), starch hydrolysate, yeast extract, salt, soy sauce powder, and fermented seasoning (soy, wheat, vegetable starch, brewer’s yeast).

Nijiya Wafu Dashi is one of the good ones. Like the Kayanoya, it comes in individual packets, but the packets are not intended to be steeped. You rip open the packet and dump out the contents. One packet holds about one teaspoon, which to me is appropriate for two miso servings. I split the packet between two capsules. The ingredients are: sugar, salt, glucose, dried bonito powder, yeast extract powder, bonito extract powder (bonito extract, tuna extract), shiitake mushroom extract powder, and kelp powder.

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Destruction and Creation

After John Boyd revolutionized aerial combat and aeronautical engineering with his Energy-Manuverability Theory he embarked on a study of the nature of creativity. Boyd’s goal was to understand why he, a curious fighter pilot, was the first to discover E-M Theory. The result was Destruction and Creation. As one of the only pieces of writing Boyd ever published, it provides insight into his mind and offers hints of Boyd’s later work – both his best known (the OODA Loop) and his most important (Patterns of Conflict).

Destruction and Creation is freely available as a PDF, which is useful for printing but not for reading or manipulating. It is included as an appendix in Robert Coram’s Boyd biography, which is available in digital format, but is poorly formatted. I converted the article into Markdown-flavored plain text, with a BibTeX bibliography, suitable for processing via Pandoc. It is available on GitHub.

This post was published on . It was tagged with books, conflict.

Go Juice

I like food. I don’t do diets. I cast a wary eye upon fasting. I don’t subscribe to the idea of “cleansing” the body of “toxins”. Despite all of this, the drink that is central to the Master Cleanse fast is part of my fueling strategy. I learned of the Master Cleanse while attending The Sean Kennedy School of Patrolling and I now use it as an electrolyte drink when my body tells me I am running low.

Go Juice

The components of a single serving of Go Juice are:

  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 oz maple syrup previously-known-as-grade-B1
  • 14 oz water
  • A dash of cayenne powder

I juice the lemon into a wide mouth pint sized mason jar using a Jarware Stainless Steel Juicer Lid. If I have a small lemon I’ll juice the whole thing. If I have a medium sized lemon I’ll juice half. Either way, the amount of juice is confirmed via the gradations on the side of the mason jar. Next, using the gradations, I pour in an equal amount of maple syrup. The rest of the jar is then filled with water. I add a very small amount of capsicum – enough to get a small kick, not enough so I really taste it. Finally I toss on a leak-proof lid and shake it around for a few seconds.

The result is delicious and the effect immediate. I cannot imagine that anything good would come of trying to fuel the body on maple syrup and lemon juice alone, but as an occasional, supplementary kick it is a tool worth considering.

Notes

  1. A few years ago the cabal of maple syrup producers decided that assigning letter grades to the different types of maple syrup made it too simple to buy what you wanted. Instead they decided to confuse people by moving to wordy, subjective labels. The maple syrup I buy is now labelled "very dark, strong taste". But of course it still has a secondary sticker on it that loudly proclaims "Previously Grade B", because that's how people shop.

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Bicycle Chain Cleaning

I clean my bike chain with odorless mineral spirits.

Drivetrain Cleaning Tools

I’ve been doing this for about eight years now, after a handful of years of using water and dish soap. The disadvantage of a water-based solvent is that you have to be careful to dry the chain thoroughly, including the area between the links. After cleaning a chain with mineral spirits, the chain can be wiped mostly dry. What’s left after that will mostly evaporate. What’s left after that can just be ignored. Mineral spirits are often used as one of the ingredients in home made chain lubricants; the small amount of residue left over after cleaning isn’t going to hurt anything.

The drawback to mineral spirits is that it is usually considered a hazardous material. Disposal must be completed at special facilities, not your kitchen sink. Fortunately, it can be reused for a long time. When I’m done cleaning my chain, I dump the used mineral spirits into a mason jar for storage. The debris settles to the bottom of the jar. The next time I need it, I can easily pour off the clean mineral spirits without disturbing the debris at the bottom. This same cycle can be repeated for years.

I use mineral spirits in a few different ways depending on how dirty the chain is:

  • Sometimes I’ll break the chain at its reusable link, place the chain in a Nalgene jar, and cover it with mineral spirits to soak. The dimensions of the Nalgene jar are superior to those of the Gatorade bottle mentioned in the previous dish soap post. I can cover the chain using less solvent, and it’s easier to fish the chain out.
  • Sometimes I’ll use a chain tool to clean the chain on the bike. These work just as well with mineral spirits as they do with specialized solvents. The Finish Line Pro Chain Cleaner is the only one of these tools that I don’t hate. I think it is a better design than the Park CM-5.2 Cyclone and Pedro’s Chain Pig.
  • Sometimes I’ll soak the bristles of a brush in mineral spirits and scrub with that. The Finish Line Grunge Brush is the best chain cleaning brush I’ve used. (The Park GSC-1 GearClean is great for the cassette and crank.)

During the less rainy part of the year, I often don’t need to use mineral spirits at all. I just wipe the chain clean with a dry rag.

After cleaning, I’ll lubricate the chain and wipe off any excess (unless I only wiped the chain clean without using any solvent, in which case applying more lube is likely not necessary), and pedal off into the sunset with a buttery smooth and silent drivetrain. This system helps keep vehicular maintenance costs very low.

This post was published on . It was tagged with bicycle, ablution.

Elzetta Thoughts

I purchased an Elzetta ZFL-M60-CS2D flashlight in 2013. Elzetta updated their product line later that year, replacing the Malkoff M60 LED unit with their new AVS heads and creating a new naming convention for their products. In this new line, I believe my ZFL-M60-CS2D is equivalent to the Bravo B313 model.

In 2014 Elzetta released the single cell Alpha model, which offered the same build quality as the larger 2-cell in a more pocket friendly size. I was quick to purchase the Alpha A323, and for the past 5 years it has remained a fairly constant part of my EDC.

  • Elzetta Lights
  • Elzetta Lights

There’s plenty of reviews out there focusing on the technical aspects of Elzetta lights – runtime, candela, lumens, etc. I’m not qualified to discuss those aspects, nor do I find them terribly interesting. I’ll just say that I’m happy with the operation of both my lights.

The modularity of the lights requires the user to make some decisions prior to purchasing. I’ve remained happy with the choices I made when ordering the Alpha.

Bezel

I bought the Alpha with the crenellated bezel ring. Elzetta’s crenellations aren’t sharp and pointy, but they do have deep grooves. They’re intended to be used in a twisting motion, thus tearing flesh rather than just puncturing it. I’ve never been convinced one way or the other as to the efficacy of bezel crenellations on flashlights, but I lean in their favor simply because the downside of having them seems limited.

The primary downside the crenellated bezel does have is that it makes some people nervous. I’ve flown domestically with the Alpha in my carry-on baggage plenty of times over the years and it has never been given any attention. But I know that there is the potential for the bezel to make some poor TSA agent nervous, and that possibility in turn makes me nervous. I haven’t traveled internationally with the Elzetta due to this concern.

The modular nature of Elzetta lights solves this problem. Recently I purchased the standard bezel ring. When I fly I now install the harmless looking standard bezel and keep the crenellated bezel separate in my bag. After going through security the bezels can be quickly swapped and I’m back to normal. If the crenellated bezel ring by itself scares someone and is stolen, I’m only out $15.

Lens

I bought the Alpha with the flood lens. The standard lens is more appropriate for long distance, or concentrating a beam of photons in the optical nerve of a ne’er-do-well. But the flood lens is a better solution for my typical flashlight use. I most often use my everyday carry light indoors – lighting up dark rooms, or dark nooks and crannies. Both applications are best solved by the wide, even dispersion of light provided by the flood lens. At these closer ranges – say within 20 feet – the flood lens is definitely bright enough to get a reaction out of anybody it is aimed at. I’m comfortable using it defensively.

I included the standard lens in my recent purchase of the standard bezel ring and forced myself to use it for a while. It confirmed my suspicions about the best lens for me, and I was quick to move back to the flood lens. The modular design once again proves its worth by allowing me to easily switch between the two lenses.

Elzetta Lenses

Tailcap

I bought the Alpha with the high-low tailcap. This is the same interface as on my original ZFL-M60, and I wish it was available on all flashlights. I place a high value on the ability to rapidly turn a light on and off, without that action causing the light to cycle through modes. The high-low tailcap allows me to press the button as much as I want at whatever speed I want. There is no click when pressing the tailcap for momentary on. Applying more pressure results in a near silent click and constant on. The difference between the pressure required for momentary and constant on is great enough that I’ve never accidentally turned the light to constant on when trying for momentary on. A slight counter-clockwise twist in the tailcap switches the light from 415 lumens to 15 lumens. This low output mode is great for close and detailed work in a dark environment (especially with the flood lens) where high output causes too much splash to be comfortable.

Clip

There are a number of pocket clips compatible with Elzetta lights. Elzetta offers their own Speed Clip, which features the typical hallmarks of Elzetta design: simple, eminently functional, and butt-ugly. I keep the Speed Clip on my ZFL-M60, but I think there are better options for carrying the Alpha.

For the first two years I carried the Alpha on my belt with the Prometheus Lights Titanium Pocket Clip. This clip is cool because it is titanium, and everything titanium is cool. Functionally, it works fine, but there’s nothing special about it beyond the material.

Cash Drawer Opened with EDC Tools

Back in 2016 I switched to the Raven Concealment Systems Pocket Clip. This has remained my preferred solution. The clip itself works great. I’ve used it to carry the Alpha on my belt and in my pocket without any problem. The finger O-ring allows the light to be retained while using both hands for a different task – an ability which is particularly practical and should not be limited to the tactical light market. When not in use the finger O-ring lays flat and can be ignored. I’ve never had it snag or get in the way of anything.

Elzetta Alpha w/ RCS Pocket Clip

The Thyrm SwitchBack and Thyrm SwitchBack 2.0 both fit on Elzetta lights, but neither are compatible with the high-low tailcap. They prevent the tailcap from being screwed down all the way, which limits the light to only working in low output mode. I suspect both would work fine with the click tailcap, though possible only in momentary mode.

Durability

One of the factors that initially contributed to my purchasing the ZFL-M60 was Colion Noir’s review. In it he likened the light to a cockroach, joking that after a nuclear blast the only things left would be cockroaches and Elzetta lights. It doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch.

The durability of Elzetta lights has been established. The electronics are fully potted, making them waterproof. The body is made from 6061-T6 aluminum. The lens is solid acrylic.

People have abused Elzetta lights by throwing them out of helicopters, shooting them with buckshot, and using them to assault a defenseless coconut. My lack of a southern accent disqualifies me from attempting this type of abuse, but I have used mine as a hammer.

The downside of this durability is that the body design of these lights isn’t exactly svelte. The Alpha is on the fatter side of what I’m willing to keep in a pocket, but it is within the acceptable range. In it’s normal configuration, including battery and Raven pocket clip, my Alpha tips the scale at 110 grams (3.9 ounces).

Both of my Elzetta lights have scratches and small chips (from altercations with concrete), but both still function like new. I’m confident both will outlast me.

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