Bruce Sterling is at his best when speaking.

I’ve always found his novels to be underwhelming, but I’ll listen to anything he has to say. When speaking, the lens of his cultural critique is combined with dry wit, a rambling Texan drawl, and a faint sense of bemusement at the weirdness of the world and his place in it. The Long Now Foundation recently released a recording of his talk at The Interval, How to Be Futuristic, which should probably be retitled How to Be Bruce Sterling.

One of my favorite talks by Sterling is The Body in the Virtual World. Recorded in 1994, he was fresh off The Hacker Crackdown, completing Heavy Weather, and at peak cyber-punk.

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I seek out houseware recommendations from people who live on boats.

The size and weight constraints of the lifestyle means that they tend towards gear that is compact and multifunctional, the corrosion inherent in the environment and the time they spend away from easy resupply points encourages them to favor durability and repairability, and the fact that their entire living accommodations can be violently moved prompts them to spend time considering how to optimize storage and organization.

One of the blogs in this world that I occasionally follow is The Boat Galley. I’ve been happy with the handful of (mostly kitchen related) purchases I’ve made based off of Carolyn’s recommendation (including the aforementioned toaster). Another mainstay is, of course, Nomadic Research Labs by Steve Roberts who, in my opinion, can do no wrong.

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As a result of my campaign against single-use kitchen appliances, I have never owned a toaster.

They take up too much space for the limited function they provide. But a few years ago I was convinced to purchase a GSI Glacier Stainless Toaster. It works great to toast a piece of bread, and collapses flat for storage. I appreciate that it works just as well over a fire or camp stove as it does on my kitchen stove top. I’ve never actually taken it outside of the kitchen, and would never consider packing it on a backpacking trip, but for something more luxurious, like car-camping or horse-packing, it seems like a perfectly viable option.

How to Make Toast

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ABUS Ugh Bracket

For the majority of my time on a bike I’ve carried a U-lock in my bag. I’d rather have the weight on the bike than on my back, but I’d never found a way to accomplish this without unacceptable compromise. Mounting the lock inside the triangle interferes with throwing the bike on my shoulder when going up or down stairs. Bungee cords on a rear rack can hold the lock securely, but don’t prevent it from rattling around, and I place a very high value on the ability to move silently.

A little over a year ago I solved this problem by purchasing the ABUS Ugh Bracket. The Ugh is a three-piece bracket that mounts to the arms of any rear rack. Each component has a groove which holds the U-Lock arm and a small elastic band with a toggle which locks the arm in place. The bracket is clearly meant for large sized U-Locks, but I was able to make it work with my compact ABUS GRANIT Plus 640 and Tubus Vega rack by mounting at the bottom of the rack where the arms are closest together.

ABUS Ugh Bracket

The Ugh holds the lock securely and silently. It gets the weight off of my back and ensures that the lock is always on my bike. It makes accessing the lock quick and easy. I would like to see the elastic strap replaced with some material with a longer life, but other than that I have been very happy with the bracket. I think it’s one of the better options out there for carrying a U-Lock.

When the bracket is installed, a pannier cannot be mounted to the same side of the rack. I use panniers when touring, but I don’t tour with a U-Lock, so this isn’t something I care about most days. It only takes a couple minutes to uninstall, but it is annoying to do and another barrier to heading out on a multi-day trip.

When I purchased the Ugh I couldn’t find anybody selling it in the US. I had to pay for it in Euros and ship it from Germany, which made it an expensive experiment. It is now carried by Lockitt, though at $32.00 it remains a pricey item. I’ve been happy enough with mine that I’d buy it again, but it is definitely pricier than throwing a couple Twofish Blocks on your bike.

This past summer a 13-year-old girl shattered my optimism for the future.

In June, The Atlantic published an article discussing the use of Instagram as a source of life advice by (pre-)teens. I do not understand insta-face-tweeting, but what struck me most was 13-year-old Sophie’s justification of her behaviour:

Teens say they’d basically do anything to avoid searching for answers to their problems outside of Instagram. Unlike threads, web pages don’t follow any standardized format, and teens say that navigating the open web, especially sites with ads and pop-ups, was a frustrating waste of time.

“The format is just a lot easier to read than stuff like Google,” says Sophie. “You can read longer things in little chunks. It’s not like reading this giant paragraph at once. No one wants to do that.”

Teens say that another benefit of threads is that you don’t have to waste time searching around – the information is delivered to you based on your interests and whom you follow – and that threads feel more trustworthy than search engines.

I’m not sure what sort of dystopic future we’re in for if we manage to raise a generation of people who are intimidated by a paragraph, but I suppose we’ll find out.

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Sometimes you need a tub of grease.

But more frequently you just need a little. A few months ago I bought myself a Dualco 700231 Grease Gun and a Dualco 10547 4.5” nozzle. I filled the gun from a tub of Phil Wood Waterproof Grease that I’ve been working through for a handful of years. This made servicing my pedals much easier and less messy than previous jobs. Purchases like this make me feel more like an adult.


Pressurized Eggs

As with rice, “hard boiled” eggs are one of my go-to pressure cooker dishes when I don’t have the time or inclination to cook a full meal. I only began using the pressure cooker for this in the past couple years, but it has proven to be faster and to produce consistently better results than actually boiling the eggs.

To cook the eggs, I put one cup of water in the pressure cooker, drop in a steaming tray, and place the eggs on the tray. I then use the 5-5-5 method, which means:

  1. 5 minutes to reach high pressure
  2. 5 minutes at high pressure
  3. 5 minutes of natural pressure release, followed by quick release of any remaining pressure

After the pressure has been released, the eggs are placed in cold water to cool.

Pressurized Eggs

I use a stainless steel steamer basket for this, rather than the Instant Pot Silicone Steam Rack that I use to make rice. The basket makes it easier to remove the eggs and steamer from the pot while they are still hot.

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Sending Documents Like It's 1988

Once every year or two I need to send a fax. Never receive, just send. Usually for something involving the finance industry. Twilio makes this about as painless as it can be in the 21st century.

Unfortunately the Twilio Fax API doesn’t allow you to post the document to it directly, so the first step is to get the PDF online somewhere. After that, it can be faxed via curl.

$ curl https://fax.twilio.com/v1/Faxes \
    -X POST \
    -d 'To=%2B15408684391'  \
    -d 'From=%2B14158675309'  \
    -d 'MediaUrl=https://example.com/document.pdf' \

This queues up the document to be sent, which usually takes a couple minutes. Somewhere in the response will be a URL that looks like https://fax.twilio.com/v1/Faxes/$GIBBERISH. After a few minutes, this URL can be used to check the status.

$ curl https://fax.twilio.com/v1/Faxes/$GIBBERISH \
    -X GET \
    -u $TWILIO_ACCOUNT_ID:$TWILIO_AUTH_TOKEN | python -m json.tool

If the status is queued, processing or sending, check back in a few minutes. If it is delivered, you’re all done and can delete the uploaded PDF. If the status is something else, you probably need to try again. Perhaps ask the recipient to sign out of AOL and hang-up their modem so that their fax machine can accept your call.

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