Sunday, 31 July 2011

S.o.t.D. - 13/10/99 – Lackluster

13/10/99 – Lackluster


No, not the tacky mens cologne.

Just stumbled across this terrific site. Essentially a compendium of mid 20th century graphic design, illustration and typography (with a few other miscellaneous things the brains behind the curtain, Amy Henderson, decides to showcase.) Only recently have I begun to appreciate how fantastic the stuff being done in the years before I was born, really is. I have only gone through a small fraction of the entries, and I suspect I will spend many enjoyable hours learning about brilliant artists too many of us likely forget about in the rush for the new, the exciting, the novel. Slow down, and realize great stuff was being done in the middle of the 20th century. It deserves recognition too. Simpler, less flashy, but often much more structurally sound.

Goodbye Kifaru Cap

I’ve had this Kifaru cap for, let’s see, about 4 years now. Got it when I ordered some packs from them. Wore it much longer than I do most ball caps. Being a guy who regards himself as concerned about the planet we live on, I feel bad about it, but to me ball caps are a disposable commodity. I wear most articles of clothing once or twice and then they go in the wash. Hats for some strange reason get worn many, many, many times in a row without benefit of a wash. Strange that. Anyway, they get to be, oh, a tad disgustipating. I can never seem to get them smelling fresh again. I wash them, usually by hand, not often enough, but they reach a point where the polite thing to do is to chuck them and get a new one.

This one, probably because it was my Kifaru cap, stayed around past its best before date. I threw a boonie cap in the washing machine yesterday, and I have done it with a ball cap once in a while before, so I chucked it in as well. Boonie hat came out fine, ball finally gave up the ghost.
4 years of frequent wear, sun beating down on it, sweat, dust, rain...being battered around in a washing machine was the last straw. 

I’m not about to wear it with the cloth on the bill all torn through. Just looks too cheap. So I guess that’s it for this cap.

I had plans to make an M-43 style cap, so I think I will recycle the plastic of the bill and use it in that project. So, not a total loss. 

Maybe one of these days when I order something from Kifaru again I’ll get another cap, but not really a priority right now.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

S.o.t.D. - Comrade Enver Hoxha – Test Dept.

A quieter moment amongst the ferocious pummeling that made up The Unacceptable Faces of Freedom. LOVE that album. Enver Hoxha was the communist dictator of Albania during the Cold War, and this track features recordings from “Radio Free Albania”.

Where I stand on the political spectrum

According to this Political Spectrum Quiz, I am a centrist moderate social libertarian. I’d say that’s about right. Or should I say “correct.”

N55 SpaceFrame Bikes

Nifty plans from Denmark for a DIY recumbent bike. As things continue to go downhill, the ability to manufacture vehicles not reliant on the grid, that can be made from relatively easily acquired parts and made with accessible hand tools will grow in importance.

Friday, 29 July 2011

S.o.t.D. - The Light (Bluetech Remix) – Ace Ventura & Lish

I think that if we send another probe off into the galaxy, some of Bluetech’s music should be included for other planets to enjoy and be impressed by our planet.

Recession Design

Recession Design is an Italian group that publishes DIY designs, geared towards household stuff. They have the common characteristic of being made from materials easily available in DIY shops and that can be assembled using every-day tools.

Click on the grassy picture that comes up, and it will disappear. 2009 and 2010 come up. Either one, clicking on the photos will scroll through them and you can click on the Download Instructions in each one which brings up a multipage PDF document. Mainly in Italian and in metric, but you can figure it out.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The Feather Atlas

I always get a thrill out of finding skulls and feathers and antlers and the like when I wander around in the woods. The problem I have with feathers is that very often I have no idea what bird it comes from, and trying to figure it out often proves difficult. I have a few bird guides, but I wished I could find one that identified just feathers. One on eggs would be neat too.

While searching for such a thing, I came across this very helpful online guide – The Feather Atlas: Flight Feathers of North American Birds, from the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

If you have a fairly good idea of what it is already, it can be searched by browsing the scans of feathers organized by Order, you can search by name, either the Order, the Family, the Common Name or the Scientific Name, or you can search by looking at feathers, and there are helpful tools to help you narrow down the search from there.

Kudos to the US Fish & Wildlife Service for a very helpful resource. It might almost obviate my desire and need for a book. Oh who am I kidding?

Life and Death Made Visible

Something that occurs on a daily basis the world over, but winter makes the process of life and death very visible. An owl versus a rabbit.
Photo by Susan Barstow, taken in Bethel, Alaska.

S.o.t.D. - Open Page – Lenzman (ft. Riya)

My pal Violet brought this to my attention. Like the tune and always nice to see a label do a proper video.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Aurora, The Mountain, The Arctic Light

All three of these videos are stunning.
The Aurora from TSO Photography on Vimeo.

Abandoned Tunnels & Vast Underground Spaces

Having explored a few abandoned buildings and tunnels and the like in my time, I always find stuff like this really interesting.

S.o.t.D. - Sinking – The Cure

There was a time when I really liked the Cure a lot, like the first two or three records. Then my interest waned. But when I recently heard this song, I remembered why I had liked them so much.

Albion Falls

I have a tendency to be über–prepared when I go on hikes. Which I guess is the responsible thing to do. But schlepping a load every time is a drag. Especially in the heat wave we’ve been having.

I went out for a wander on Sunday morning, mainly to go and get something for breakfast. No real plans beyond that. All I had on me was a Kifaru E&E, a waterbottle, a couple of maps, a small first aid kit, a NyFFyrLyt on my belt, a wallet and cell phone and keys and a few other odds and ends in pockets, and a hat and sunglasses on my head, and perhaps most uselessly, a book in my pack. (Although I am really enjoying it.) Decided to throw caution to the wind, grabbed some snacks and a bottle of juice, used up a bus ticket that is getting old in my wallet, jumped on the HSR #21 Upper Kenilworth and went out to Albion Falls and to hike back along the Bruce Trail. If it proved way too hot, I could always jump back on a bus or grab a cab home. Nice to be out with barely any weight dragging me down.

Now I am rather ashamed to say that I have never been out to Albion Falls in all the time I have lived in Hamilton. No good reason why.  The whole eastern section of town is a bit of terra incognito for me. My aim this year is to remedy that, and explore that end of the city more.
The falls from one of the viewing platforms.
Albion Falls is categorized as “Complex Classic Cascade” waterfall and is 19 metres (62') in height. Like so many of the waterfalls in this area, it was exploited by early European settlers. A settlement rose up around the grist mill, which ran until 1907, when Robert Grassie, the owner fell into the wheel pit and was killed.
(And my apologies to all the tourists in silly footwear who thought they were going to make an appearance in my blog. Poof! – I make you disappear. And to the muslim girl in a buttoned and belted rain coat – it’s 35º out. I guess if you’re from Saudi Arabia that’s chilly, but come on...loosen up just a smidge okay?)
I always find clambering all over rocks and jumping from one to the other hugely fun.
Looking down the Red Hill Valley.
I’ve hiked along the Mountain Brow and along the rail trail, but opted for the Bruce Trail this time. Since it was both in the shade and a more challenging walk than the level and paved rail trail offers. 
Wandered around in the Valley for a while, then crossed the Kings Valley Golf Course and made my way to the Bruce Trail. Counting the two guys I saw paragliding, I only saw 7 people on the trail after leaving Albion Falls. Gorgeous day, beautiful trail, and barely a soul out. I admit I like having the place pretty much to myself, but it always amazes me that more people don’t enjoy the things this place has to offer.
Looking across the Red Hill Valley, towards Felker’s Falls Conservation Area and Devil’s Punch Bowl Conservation Area.
Two guys para-gliding at the long out of service and over growing King’s Forest ski hill. The updrafts associated with the Escarpment make it popular with both human and non human gliders.
Following the deep philosophy of Mr. Yogi Berra, when I came to a fork in the trail I took it. Unfortunately, the trail I took petered out and I had to do some up hill bushwhacking to find the other trail I should have taken. While moving through the forest, I found this turkey feather. As long as my pack. Nice to know they are spreading throughout the province again after being gone for a long time. 
The bottom of Uli’s Stairs.
I know I’m not in “wilderness”. I can hear the sounds of the city that surrounds me. But even a few hours wandering around in a woodland, the sun dappled through the foliage overhead, does me a world of good.
Where the BT crosses the Kenilworth Stairs, and the view from the break in the canopy.
Built like a brick brickworks.

Terrific afternoon.

Monday, 25 July 2011


I have no problem coming up with ideas for products. That’s the easy part. Designing and making prototypes is also a comparatively simple process.

The hard part comes when trying to turn it into an actual product. Mainly the financial aspect of course.

I’ve shown some products on various outdoor and tactical gear forums and the response has been really favourable. A whole bunch of people asking me for one, asking when I’m going to produce them commercially.

Now for me to go into manufacturing them my self is likely not so feasible. I haven’t the right machinery, and to set up a proper facility would not be a cheap endeavour. To purchase the materials in a quantity that would make it economical would likely take a sizable outlay of capital. I also haven’t the space to set up a facility, so another expense. And making stuff here in Canada would put me at a disadvantage to companies that send all of their manufacturing to Asia.

Another thing that gives me pause for thought is knowing several guys similar to me – they had a few great ideas, an obvious design sense and ability to see their idea through into a physical manifestation, so they start selling stuff. Their thought was that their little enterprise would slowly start to build. Within a very short time, most of them were totally snowed under because of positive word of mouth. And all that positive word of mouth will sour just as quickly, when you’re totally incapable of keeping up with orders. I know one guy who went from enjoying tinkering in his basement and making some gear for his buddies, to hiring 14 people and moving three times to ever larger facilities, all within one year! Worse problems to have, but certainly something to be aware of – that a small business might just burgeon well beyond your wildest expectations and abilities. 

I’ve given some thought to having some of the other gear makers I know do piece work for me – get them to make a small quantity and sell them. Take that money and have some more made, and so on. But, the initial outlay of funds, plus the cost of having to advertise, etc. It always keeps coming down to money.

A product designer friend apprised me of Great way to get some initial funding for your good idea. The only drawback to Kickstarter is that it is only for people in the USA. Damn.

The same friend just informed me of Appears to be Toronto based, and while a little more household goods oriented, it seems like an interesting premise that bears some further investigation.

The founder, Joshua Brassé, seemed to face the same issues trying to bring his ideas to fruition – funding, sourcing, protection, legal and safety considerations, plus a number of other hurdles. What he devised was a community-based venue that determines demand before supply. It brings together creators, buyers, and service-providers.

S.o.t.D. - Back to Black – Amy Winehouse

She was a hot steaming mess, but I dug her voice.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

S.o.t.D. - Repeatedly – Ametsub

More new discoveries - this one from Japan. Finger tapping, glitchy goodness. The “official” video is fun too. Little shorter, but better visuals than just the record cover.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

S.o.t.D. - Lights Blinking – Vetrix

A fella from Lisbon, Portugal. Great track, and a fun video to accompany it. Love the distortion that appears in the visuals every time there is a glitchy sound in the track.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Bibliophilia: The 47th Samurai, Night of Thunder, I, Sniper, Dead Zero – Stephen Hunter

Dead Zero – Stephen Hunter
I, Sniper – Stephen Hunter
Night of Thunder – Stephen Hunter
The 47th Samurai – Stephen Hunter

Bob Lee Swagger is essentially a mythical super-hero for the modern age. I like the character. And I also admit to liking these sorts of thrillers. Lowbrow, but cracking good fun. I can’t help it.

S.o.t.D. - Dangerous Days – Seba

Oooh this is like Vangelis getting a D&B workover. It’s got the whooshy synths (I’m all about the whooshy synths) and the ominous bass (I’m all about the ominous bass).

Monday, 18 July 2011

One job I never want.

I helped a friend strip the roof off his garage this weekend.

Whatever roofers get paid, it can’t possibly be enough.

What a shitty, miserable job. 

The fact that it was brutally hot, only added to the misery. I started as early as possible, but there wasn’t much getting around the fact that it was an absolute scorcher out there. The second (11 hours of work) day I counted 19 1 liter bottles of water, 2 1 liter bottles of Gatorade, innumerable freezies, a few beers afterwards. I also made sure to wear this cooling band, since I knew from using it before, it makes a noticeable difference.

I’m not afraid of heights, but I’m not so keen on being up on a ladder or a roof. I built roofs when I worked as a framer, and can’t say I really dug it all that much. Never stripped a roof before, and haven’t ever shingled a roof before, and I guess it’s good to be able to say I’ve done it, but once is plenty for me.

I’m really fit for my age, but two days of forcing up and manhandling tons of roofing shingles and tar paper under the sweltering sun, takes a toll. I can really feel my hamstrings, my shoulders ache, my knees are sore. There are two nasty wounds on the tops of my thumbs where blisters broke open. My toes feel like someone beat them with a hammer, from sitting on my haunches and having them pushed right into the tips of my boots. My feet feel like they sat on a hot plate set to simmer. I wore climbing shoes for the grip on the first day, and while they worked well in that regard, the heat went right through the bottoms. My butt cheeks feel like I backed into a circular sander, from sitting on hot roofing shingles. I wore some crappy old clothes and the shirt I wore was in the reject bin largely because the sleeves didn’t fit my gibbon like arms. So now I have a sunburn around my wrist, between the bottom of the sleeves and the tops of my gloves. Forgot to put sunscreen on the first day. I did the second day, but the damage was done.

I’ve seen old insurance maps of the city that were done in 1921 (being a total map geek, they’re super cool) and they show the garage already being there. So at least 90 years old. Two layers of more modern roofing shingles, but done at different times, two layers or shingling material that came in rolls, also done at different times (one came up in fairly large chunks, the older one below broke into little chunks) that were nailed down along the edges an inch apart, and then coated in tar, and two layers of tar paper beneath that. The roof wasn’t leaky, but at the urging of the insurance company, they decided to tear off the old, lay on plywood, all of which we achieved this weekend, now comes the new tar paper, and new shingles.
The first side I tackled was a little easier. A fence I could brace myself on, and I could dump all the debris down the side, onto a tarp to be disposed of later. 
The second side on the second day was a lot trickier. With a vegetable garden right underneath, we wanted to avoid just letting it all slip off the edge. We built a slide of sorts out of a tarp and some aluminum slats so that anything that did fall over (inevitable), it would be easier to collect and avoid damage as much as possible. Still, I was fighting against gravity by trying to throw as much over the other side, so only about ¾ of it was completed. I got there at 06:00 this morning to finish it, as the newscast called for possible thunderstorms. As I was up there it started to rain, but fortunately it lasted only a few minutes. Got it all off, got all the plywood on, as well as the ridge cap we saved from the original. Then we called it a day.
Now comes the fun task. Getting 13, 85lb. (I swear they’re more) bundles of shingles up to the roof. When I hear that roofers have to carry two of those monsters at a time up a ladder, and do it all day – all I can say is, my version of hell, would be roofing for an eternity.

The whole time I was doing it I was telling my friends kid that he had best do well in school, otherwise he could look forward to doing dangerous, backbreaking labour like roofing in scorching or freezing temperatures as a career. I was more than happy to help a friend, but the prospect of doing that all the time, inspires a shudder. Not a chance I will ever do that again.