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I subscribe loosely to the idea of a daily uniform.

Loosely because I own more than one style of shirt, jacket, and pants. But I do try to keep things paired down, and standardizing on the color black means everything goes together and is largely fashion-agnostic. The approach reduces mental taxation.

I am more firm in the area of socks. Darn Tough makes the best socks, and the Tab No Show Light Cushion is the best Darn Tough sock. I bought my first pair in 2009. Over the subsequent years I have added a few additional pairs to my collection, but those original socks continue to be in regular rotation. I maintain a small number of other socks in my arsenal for specialty purposes – a couple pair of boot socks for those rare occasions when I wear tall boots, a couple pair of toe socks for augmenting huarache style sandals, and a pair of waterproof socks I bought to experiment with – but for almost all of my sock-wearing days each year I have the Tab No Show Light Cushion socks on my feet.

Omega

I have always had a problem with dry and cracked skin on my hands in the winter months. I do not consider this a cosmetic issue. Dry hands create an additional vector for disease and diminish the fidelity of haptic interactions with the world.

Starting two months prior to my PRK surgery last year, and continuing throughout the recovery period, my surgeon assigned me to take omega-3 supplements – specifically, he was pushing Nordic Naturals ProOmega 2000. This is a standard procedure that the office assigns to all patients in order to increase moisture in the eye. I started on the supplements at the beginning of October 2017 and, coincidentally, that was the first winter I had no problems with dry skin. I stopped taking the omegas last summer, around the time of my six month post-op checkup. This year, as November rolled around, my skin began to dry and crack on my hands, right on schedule. I resumed the omega supplements, and in about a week my hands were back to normal.

I’ve never regularly taken supplements before, preferring to modify my diet to remove its deficiencies rather than masking them by popping pills. The omega supplements have been more effective than any dietary modifications I’ve tried (I like fish, and enjoy eating it frequently), and are preventative instead of the more reactionary balms or salves (ClimbOn is the best I’ve found, being effective, minimally greasy and not stinky). There seems to be no shortage of claims associated with omega supplements, most of which appear to be noise, but I’ll continue to pop them during the winter to promote skin health.

This post was published on . It was tagged with prk, health.

The Laundry Alternative

The Laundry Alternative Wonder Wash is a portable, hand-crank washing machine. It is basically a bucket with a sealed lid, mounted on a base via an axle with a handle that allows the bucket to be spun. The bucket is filled with warm water. When the lid is sealed and the machine is spun, the pressure increases, which causes the soapy water to be pushed through the fibers of the fabric being washed. As such, the Wonder Wash results in cleaner garments, and accomplishes this in a shorter period of time, than a traditional electric washing machine that relies on simply agitating the material. It achieves this in a package that is compact, portable, and off-grid compatible.

I purchased a Wonder Wash nine years ago. It has been my primary washing machine for the past five years. It’s a great solution for things like gym clothes that you want to wash frequently and not leave sitting around, getting funky, until you build up a large enough load to justify the use of a typically sized electric washing machine. The small size of the machine makes it easy to store when not in use, which is important for apartment dwelling, as well as the RV market that The Laundry Alternative seems to target. While I doubt the volume of the machine is practical for the laundry generated by a family of four, I find it works great for me. It encourages me to do laundry more frequently than I otherwise would – I typically do 2-3 loads per week – which in turn allows me to own less clothing (and towels, and bedding, etc). I don’t have to consider the it-will-be-AWOL-in-a-laundry-pile-on-the-floor-for-2-weeks factor when determining how many pairs of underwear I need in my life. The gentleness of the Wonder Wash allows me to keep what clothing (and towels, and bedding, etc) I do choose to own in service for longer than I otherwise would if I were regularly treating them to the abuse of a traditional washer and dryer.

I also find the smaller capacity of the Wonder Wash to be useful when washing waterproof garments with a technical wash like Nikwax Tech Wash. I usually only have one or two waterproof garments to wash at a time. With a traditional electric washing machine, I need to use more water and thus more of the expensive soap than is really warranted. With the Wonder Wash I can easily scale down the water and soap to what is appropriate for the load.

My apartment has an electric washer and dryer in the building, but not in my unit. I use it maybe once every 3 months, when I’ve neglected laundry and have enough dirty things that I would need 3+ loads of the Wonder Wash to clean it. If I had an electric washer and dryer in the unit I think I would still favor the Wonder Wash.

Laundry Alternative Wonder Wash

Use

The process of using the Wonder Wash is pretty simple.

  1. Add warm water, soap and clothing to the machine.
  2. Seal the bucket and spin, about one rotation per second, for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Dump the soapy water and fill with cold water to rinse.
  4. Seal the bucket and spin, about one rotation per second, for about 1 minute.
  5. Dump the water and remove clothing to dry.

The washing and rinsing part of the process take at most 4 minutes. The most time consuming part is filling the machine with water.

Laundry Alternative Wonder Wash

Soap

When I first began using the Wonder Wash I tried it with Seventh Generation Free & Clear Liquid Detergent. This is the soap I have always used in electric washing machines. This detergent is very sudsy, and I found it challenging to use enough soap to clean, but little enough to not require multiple rinse cycles. I quickly gave up on this and moved to Eucalan. I keep this around for occasionally lanolizing wool. Eucalan is a no-rinse soap, which works well in the Wonder Wash. I still performed a single, quick rinse cycle, but if I accidentally used too much soap I didn’t have to worry about ending with excessive suds that would require multiple rinses. Unfortunately Eucalan isn’t the cheapest soap out there.

I used Eucalan in the Wonder Wash for a couple years before realizing that I could probably just use the same soap I used for everything else in my life: Dr. Bronner’s. I shower, shave, wash hands, wash fruit, and clean surfaces with Bronner’s products. It is always effective, tends to be readily available and affordable, and is most likely not giving me cancer. So why not laundry? As it turns out, it works great with the Wonder Wash. I use one tablespoon of the Baby Unscented Castile Liquid Soap for a full load. It’s especially nice for attacking dust mites in bedding.

For the rinse cycle I’ll add about two tablespoons of distilled white vinegar, which helps to remove residue left over from the soap as well as soften the load. This softening is important for heavy cotton things, like towels, which otherwise become quite stiff when air dried.

Drying

Without an additional tool, any time saved by using the Wonder Wash instead of an electric washing machine will be lost after all the wringing required. Laundry removed from the Wonder Wash and placed directly on a drying rack will take days to dry. If electricity is available, the best solution to this is an electric spin dryer. Mine is a discontinued model made by the Laundry Alternative, but they have other models available. These dryers are simply steel drums that spin the clothes really fast to remove the water. It’s similar to the final cycle of an electric washing machine, except they spin much faster (around 1800 RPM). No heat is involved, so they do not shorten the service life of your clothing like a normal heat dryer.

Laundry Alternative Electric Spin Dryer

I run the spin dryer until water stops coming out the drain spout, which tends to be around 90-120 seconds. After this cycle, clothing is still damp, but it is impossible to wring any moisture out of it. Something light and quick drying like a Merino wool t-shirt could be worn immediately and dried out with body heat in maybe half an hour, but I move everything from the spin dryer to a drying rack. Anything I wash will dry on the rack within a couple hours. I usually end up doing laundry at night and leaving it on the rack overnight.

Durability

The Wonder Wash is all plastic, except for the axle the machine spins on. I’d like to see a version with more durable metal components, but given the low price of the current design and the availability of replacement parts, this is barely worth mentioning.

Over the nine years I had the original Wonder Wash I cracked the base and snapped off the end of the handle. The machine was still functional with this damage. More recently, the lid began to leak when I spun the machine, which I assume was caused by the degradation of the rubber seal over time. This was enough for me to finally want to replace all three parts. The handle and base were readily available, but The Laundry Alternative released a new version of the Wonder Wash a few years ago, with the primary change being a snap attachment for the lid instead of a nob. I contacted them and they confirmed that they had no more stock of the old lid and that the new lid would not fit on the old bucket. So instead of purchasing replacement parts, I bought the new version of the machine. Given the price of the machine, I’m fine replacing it once every decade or so.

The new snap lid works just as good as the old knob lid worked when it was new. I don’t think there is a practical difference between the two. If for some reason you really want the old lid, the Avalon Bay EcoWash appears to be a direct knock-off of the original Wonder Wash.

The spin dryer is still going strong, in about the same condition it was in when I bought it nine years ago.

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

Reading Books

While I do not subscribe to Umberto Eco’s idea of the antilibrary – having too great a collection of unread books is a mental weight that I find uncomfortable – I do have a constant collection of books that I have acquired but have yet to consume.

As previously mentioned, I manage my e-book library with Calibre. Calibre allows the user to create custom metadata properties, which I’ve taken advantage of to add a simple boolean property called read. This allows me to track which books I have read, filter the library for those books that are unread, and easily queue up the next thing whenever I finish reading a book. It also allows me to know that my Calibre library averages around 20% unread.

I enjoy seeing lists of books that other people have read or are reading. In case anyone else feels that way, I’ve published a list of read books from my Calibre library. Generating this list is fairly simple.

First I ask Calibre to dump a CSV of my library, including the fields that are most useful, and filtering only for those books that I have marked as read.

$ calibredb catalog content/media/library/books.csv --fields=id,author_sort,title,isbn,identifiers,series,series_index,uuid --search="#read:yes"

The first character in this file is some sort of Unicode weirdness. I make sure this character and anything like it is stripped from the header row with sed.

$ LANG=C sed -i '1 s/[\d128-\d255]//g' content/media/library/books.csv

I want to display this list in a web page using DataTables, allowing users to perform simple sorting and searching. DataTables can read from a JSON source, so the easiest solution was to use csvkit to convert the output.

$ ~/.virtualenvs/csvkit/bin/csvjson -i 4 content/media/library/books.csv > content/media/library/books.json

The resulting output is processed by DataTables for display.

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

Alaska repaired damaged highways within days of the recent earthquake in Anchorage.

I find stories about resilient infrastructure projects like Alaska’s highway recovery, the underground cathedral protecting Tokyo from floods and Switzerland’s Porcupine Principle to be inspirational (though I’ve heard Switzerland has moved away from this strategy in recent years, choosing to rely instead on hopes and dreams). These sorts of projects are what government defense budgets should be spent on.

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

In an interview with the Economist, Adam Curtis describes what he sees as our static, machine haunted world.

You know Adam Curtis from The Power of Nightmares, HyperNormalisation, etc. He tells the Economist:

This is the genius of what happened with computer networks. Using feedback loops, pattern matching and pattern recognition, those systems can understand us quite simply. That we are far more similar to each other than we might think, that my desire for an iPhone as a way of expressing my identity is mirrored by millions of other people who feel exactly the same. We’re not actually that individualistic. We’re very similar to each other and computers know that dirty secret. But because we feel like we’re in control when we hold the magic screen, it allows us to feel like we’re still individuals. And that’s a wonderful way of managing the world.

Its downside is that it’s a static world. It doesn’t have any vision of the future because the way it works is by constantly monitoring what you did yesterday and the day before, and the day before that. And monitoring what I did yesterday and the day before and the day before that and doing the same to billions of other people. And then looking at patterns and then saying: “If you liked that, you’ll like this”.

They’re constantly playing back to you the ghosts of your own behaviour. We live in a modern ghost story. We are haunted by our past behaviour played back to us through the machines in its comparison to millions of other people’s behaviour. We are guided and nudged and shaped by that. It’s benign in a way and it’s an alternative to the old kind of politics. But it locks us into a static world because it’s always looking to the past. It can never imagine something new. It can’t imagine a future that hasn’t already existed. And it’s led to a sense of atrophy and repetition. It’s “Groundhog Day”. And because it doesn’t allow mass politics to challenge power, it has allowed corruption to carry on without it really being challenged properly.

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

James Stejskal's article from American Rifleman provides an overview of the arms used by T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt.

The article is an extract from the author’s military history of Lawrence and his legacy, which I’ve added to my reading list. I was unaware that they made use of technicals, predating Bagnold and his self-described “piracy on the high desert”.

Lawrence had a talent for employing the Great War’s new technologies: semi-automatic pistols, airplanes, electric detonators, machine guns and motorcars. The equipment used by T.E. Lawrence and his colleagues against the Turks was innovative, as was his untraditional approach to the employment of intelligence, aerial reconnaissance and mobile gun platforms. His methodologies were game-changers and would heavily influence what would later be known as special operations in the British military, not to mention guerrilla leaders such as Mao Zedong and Võ Nguyên Giáp.

via Active Response Training