New Year 2022

This is a test shot with the new (to me) Sony A7S. I used a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 at f/4 and an ISO of 25k. The test subject was Sera in my backyard, playing in the snow.

In the evening of Christmas Day, Sera needed to go out before we hit the rack. I bought a Sony A7S (first generation) a month or so ago for use as a low-light camera. This Sony model (the A7S and its progenitors) is considered the queen of the low-light cameras. The 12.1MP sensor resolution is fine for most of what I do, plus does not take up so much disk space on the computer and its backup drives.

Work kept me from doing much with the camera and will for awhile yet. But I wanted to do some test shots. So I took it into the backyard with us, with a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 mounted to the camera. (Yes, that is a legacy manual focus lens.) I set the ISO to 25k and made a few captures of Sera playing in the snow.

I like this one the best of the lot. There’s a lot of detail in the image. I am impressed.

This week I continued working on my review of 2021. What I came away with is that of the things I should do, my self-care suffered in favor of the work. The work is good too, but I really need to spend some time every day working on myself, including the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects.

Work continues to keep me busy. In fact, I intended to publish this on Christmas, but here we are more than a week later.

Sera and I are walking and enjoying each other quite a lot. She loves our daily walks and the time to work off-lead. I require her to check in every minute or two and do not like her to be out of sight for long. There are coyotes in the field and she would think they were like domestic canines. That could be bad.

Happy New Year, all.

Tin Audio T2PRO

A few days ago I received an offer from Drop (used to be Massdrop) for a set of Tin Audio T3 in-ear headphones. I checked them out on the Drop website and did a little extra reading and decided that they might not be for me.

Then, yesterday Steve Gutenburg (the Audiophiliac on YouTube) reviewed the Tin Audio T2Pro headphones. He did not quite rave about them, but he indicated that they are much better than their price point. The sound was slightly treble emphasized, but not piercingly bright.

Well, this old man has some hearing loss in the higher frequencies (no surprise there). So I thought they might be a good match for me. In addition, they are smaller than my KZ in-ear ‘phones and might be more comfortable when I listen to music/nap in the afternoon.

So, I ordered a pair from Amazon yesterday. They arrived in the mail today.

The build quality appears to be very good. The cables are high quality. The shells appear to be machined aluminum. The buds seem OK from my initial wearing of them.

The sound is very good, better than my KZ ‘phones. There is plenty of bass on most of my recordings. There is a lot of detail that I can hear. They are not overly bright, but about right for my taste and hearing.

I think they are keepers and at about $60 are a bargain.

I listened to a variety of tracks this afternoon while resting. One of my favorite recordings is Andy Timmons’ Ear X-tacy. This recording has been in my library for more than 20 years. It comes up regularly when I am listening to music. There is a newly mastered release from Timmons. I ordered a copy this afternoon and should have it next week.

It will be interesting to listen to the remaster and hear if anything changed (that I can perceive).

Closing Out 2018

One of the tools I added to my kit this year is this beautiful Council Tool axe. It will serve me well and will be the last axe of this size that I need in my kit.

It is nearly the end of 2018. In fact, tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. The revelers will be out partying. Many of them only need an excuse to get out and party.

I will be home with The Girl. We are unlikely to party, although I might raise a glass towards central Missouri and toast Wife, who is missed. (In fact, any time I get a glass from the stock, I raise it to Wife, remembering her life, remembering that she was and is loved, remembering that she is missed, and celebrating her life.)

The Girl is improving. She still seems off, and her right side does not seem as strong or as coordinated as her left. Her right eye seems a little askew to me as well. That is, when she looks at me, in addition to the head tilt to the left her right eye seems to be looking a little to her right of me. I have also noticed that she can no longer catch tossed treats and has problems locating them on the floor, until she uses her doggie-sense to search them out.

But we are walking our normal routes again. We walked more than 3.5 miles this morning and will have walked another half-mile circuit by the time this posts. We also had a nice play this afternoon and a nap. We both like playtime and nap time and it makes life really, really good. I am so blessed to have this beautiful creature be part of my life and am deeply grateful for her companionship and unconditional love.

I continue to encourage her to do things. She is reluctant to jump to the bed now, but learned that she can jump up on the workout bench at the foot of the bed, then jump to the top. We play tug and chase and she is again teasing me with a toy. Her coordination seems to be improving when we play. I am hopeful that there is more recovery to come. At least I am encouraged and thankful that her attitude has not changed and that she is engaged and active.

Among a few other tools, I bought a very nice Council Tool Wood-Craft Pack Axe for my kit. I have an old red-handle Ace Hardware hand axe that I bought about 40-years ago. But it needs a new handle and is nowhere near the quality of this Council Tool axe. This one will go to my kids and maybe their kids after I am gone.

It will be part of my bushcraft kit and will go into the rig when I am out as part of my get-home or emergency kit. I have a small pack shovel that stays in the rig along with some emergency supplies as well.

I put a coat of boiled linseed oil on the handle this afternoon. It will be absorbed by tomorrow and I will add another coat to the handle then. After that I will decide if another coat is needed or not. The handle should be in excellent condition for this dry climate after that.

I also treated the sheath and handle guard with neatsfoot oil this afternoon. The guard seemed a little dry to me. I suspect both of those pieces will need another coat of neatsfoot oil tomorrow.

As an interesting aside, the neatsfoot oil had solidified in the garage with the cold weather. I was a little surprised by that. But a short soak in a sink full of hot water liquified it and a good shake mixed everything back up.

It is time to put away the Christmas music for another year. I added a few new recordings to my collection and culled a few that no longer please me.

But now I need a quick shower and then to get The Girl out for our evening outing. She will then want to be fed (of course) and will then starting pestering for doggie crack until I give in and get her a treat. She no longer wants to wait until sometime between supper and bedtime for her treat; she wants it NOW! Heh…

Bestech Warwolf

This is my Bestech Warwolf fresh from the hone and strop. It’s a good blade at the price point.

I recently purchased a Bestech Warwolf from an offering on Massdrop. Yes, Massdrop feeds my accumulation disposition. But I generally buy only items that I’m really interested in and are at a favorable price. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I was tempted by a couple of the Bestech knives over the last six months.

My first Bestech is the Swordfish. I’ll have to make a couple of photographs of it and post them, along with some comments, later. It’s on my list of things to do…

The Swordfish is about a half-inch longer than the Warwolf. I’d call the Warwolf a 3-1/2-inch blade. This is a very comfortable length for me to pocket carry and the Warwolf carries a bit better than the Swordfish. So the Warwolf is often carried.

The blade is D2 tool steel. This is a good steel for knives, not the best, but far from the worst. It’s strong and tough and holds an edge reasonable well. It’s also a carbon steel and requires some care (a little oil regularly).

The Bestech Warwolf has an interesting blade shape. The cutting edge is fairly standard, but the spine of the blade has an interesting shape that I really like.
The scales are G10. I love G10 for scales. It is warm, reasonably grippy, tough, and looks good. The frame is also steel and is chamfered so there are no sharp edges. The scales are fit well to the frame. The lockup is solid and relatively easy to release one-handed. The blade deploys via a flipper. The blade is fitted on a bearing that is very smooth and the blade is smooth in the frame but there is not detectable play. A really nice feature is a detent when the blade is closed that prevents it from falling open when handled.

These knives are part of Bestech’s value line. The MSRP is in the $65 range, but they can be bought for about $40. That is an excellent value. As much as I love my Kershaw Blurs, I think this blade is a step up from them. It has much of the character of a more expensive blade but at an excellent price point.

They are Chinese made. When I learned this, I was surprised. It made me recall the stigma of Japanese-produced goods when I was a child. The reputation is that Chinese-made goods are of inferior quality. That is not my experience with Bestech knives.

My only issue with my instance was a small error in the factory grind. I found a small area just toward the tip of the blade that was not as sharp as the remainder of the edge. The fix was relatively easy — I put the blade in my KME sharpener and rebeveled the forward portion of the edge. (I also sharpened the remaining edge to be consistent with my fix.) I’m not completely satisfied with my result and will probably adjust the bevel on my next honing session for this blade. But I now have a very sharp Warwolf with nearly a mirror edge.

I would recommend a Bestech knife without reservation. They are a very good blade at the price point. I expect there will be another Bestech knife in my collection before too many months pass.

Key Smart

This Key Smart is part of my EDC.

About two years ago (maybe a bit more) I tired of the jangle of keys in my pocket, their weight, and from being poked when I sat or moved such that they snagged me through my pocket. After reading about a number of alternative modes for carrying keys (which we all must carry), I purchased an original Key Smart from Amazon.

The Key Smart is not the most expensive tool for carrying keys. It is adjustable and can carry more keys than I do (about a half-dozen). Care is required to get the tension right on the screws or you might strip the female end or leave them unsecured, which means you might have a “key explosion.” I read a few reviews that included horror stories of lost keys, which were accompanied by negative reviews and “star” ratings. I believe these are undeserved as they represent user error (or SUE, AKA “Stupid User Error”) and a lack of care and attention to one’s carry kit. I have had no problem with the carrier after making some adjustments to the tension on the retaining screws.

After two years of EDC, the anodizing is holding up well. There is a bit of brassing at high-contact points, though.
I noticed a few follow-up questions on Amazon a few weeks ago. There was some concern that the “paint” might wear off. As far as I can tell, my Key Smart is anodized aluminum and has held up quite well. There is some brassing along the edges, which is to be expected for an EDC piece of kit. I don’t think this detracts from the appearance; I think it shows that an item is used and loved.

To carry my Key Smart, I purchased an S-Biner (Nitecore, I believe and actually I purchased a multi-unit kit). I hung the unit from a belt loop for awhile, but decided I didn’t like that. It didn’t feel secure. It was “floppy” and banged around a bit when I was active or in a confined space. Therefore, I fashioned a loop from some Coyote Brown paracord, with the loop about eight- or ten-inches in length. I use a larks head knot over my belt and clip the Key Smart’s S-Biner to the loop, which then hangs in my pocket without touching the bottom of my pocket.

The weight is carried on my belt (which is beginning to look like a Bat Belt), there is no wear-and-tear on my pocket, and my keys don’t touch the bottom of my pocket or any of the contents of my pocket.

This works for me. I carry all my regular-use keys in the Key Smart with the exception of my 4Runner key. That lives in my second-level EDC kit.

I’ll make a photograph of a pocket dump one of these days and post the contents. I might do the second-level EDC kit then, as well as the third-level and my pack kit at some time.

A Lanyard for my Victorinox

A Victorinox EVOgrip 518 and Lanyard
A Victorinox EVOgrip 518 and Lanyard

I had a hank for this really crappy pseudo-550 paracord loose in my kit. Why might I call it crappy? Well, there’s something not right with the core, it seems too fuzzy, for lack of a better term. I’m used to stranded core. In addition, the sheath and core don’t fuse well when scorched.

So, I had this hank of crappy paracord in my kit.

I’ve been carrying this Victorinox EVOgrip 518 multitool in my pocket for awhile. It’s a great piece of kit and very handy to have around. The scissors and bottle opener get a lot of use. The blade is also wicked sharp for a factory grind.

The tool also has a lanyard loop. So, I decided to tie up a lanyard for the Victorinox with that hank of crappy paracord.

The first attempt used a single overhand stopper knot with the loop just through the lanyard ring. It came untied several times and the knot would move around as the loop moved through the ring.

That was unacceptable.

So, I thought there might be enough cord (of the crappy variety) to make a double stopper knot and perhaps a cow hitch in the lanyard ring.

In the process of fiddling with the hank, the sheath and core came un-singed. So, I resigned the offending end, trimming a bit of core off (with the Victorinox, of course). I then tied the cow hitch onto the lanyard ring and used a double overhand stopper knot, which I cinched together fairly tightly.

So far, the lanyard is holding well. It makes an easy grab in the pocket of my cargos. Lanyards are useful, as I’ve come to learn. They’re also fun and simple to make.

Resurfacing, with Winder$

While hiking out at Hidden Valley Regional Park, the Girl and I came across this old wheel. I wonder who cast it aside?
While hiking out at Hidden Valley Regional Park, the Girl and I came across this old wheel. I wonder who cast it aside?

I slipped into the rabbit hole the middle of last week. One of my goals for this trip is to get a working Winder$ install on my MacBook Pro to eliminate the need for a dedicated Winder$ box. I need access to Microsoft Windows because certain of my professional tools are only available under that platform.

Emulation doesn’t cut it for me. It would work fine for a couple of the simple tools, but for some of the heavier work it would be much too slow. (Think processing spatial datasets using a geographical information system.)

A few months ago I tracked down several websites that contained instructions for installing Winder$ on an external drive (with or without Apple Bootcamp). So, last week I bought an external drive enclosure, and nice SSD drive, and retrieved my Winder$ install disk from my gear.

And then I promptly fell into a rather large rabbit hole. Nothing I tried worked. I could get partway to the goal, only to be dead-ended by one problem or another.

Those who know me will say that I don’t give up easily. Whether it is a positive character attribute or just plain old stubbornness I can’t say… or I won’t say. But after investing a ton of time and energy into the project (and I really didn’t want to), I woke Thursday morning to a dead MacBook Pro. I had noticed earlier in the week that it had rebooted at least once during the night and was acting a little off. But Thursday morning, it was dead.

When attempting to start the machine, it entered an endless boot cycle. It would power up, self test, and begin to boot process. About halfway through the initializing sequence it would reboot. A hard powerdown was required to stop the cycle.

So I made an appointment with a Genius at the Reno Apple Store. Those technicians have access to diagnostic equipment and software that can get the process moving fairly rapidly. I have not had an issue with an Apple technician or a factory repair.

I was there a bit early for my appointment. Kevin connected my machine to the magic cables that emanate from behind the Genius Bar. Within a few minutes he confirmed that the internals appeared to be functioning correctly. I identified those components I had replaced as part of my last upgrade (battery, drive, swapped out optical drive for hard drive).

But, when he attempted to boot the machine, no joy. None of the disk images from the server would boot either. He made a lot of notes, put my machine into a protective sleeve, and told me they’d run some bench diagnostics and call me.

When I didn’t receive a call Friday morning I expected the worst. I must have a working notebook computer to run my businesses. I do everything with my MBP. To be without a machine, or worse to have a machine that is unreliable, is unacceptable. I had walked the Apple Store line and knew they had no high-end machines in stock. (My suspicion is that they do not sell a lot of their top-tier systems in the store. They special order and ship them.)

So, after leaving the Apple Store I drove to the local Best Buy to check their inventory. There I met Ryan, an Apple employee who has oversight over a district of Best Buy stores that includes the Reno store. We chatted for a few minutes about what was available. He told me that Best Buy was just taking shipment of the 2.9GHz i7-based MBPs with a 1TB SSD. The higher speed doesn’t interest me as much as the terabyte of storage. I have a lot of stuff on my drive and 512GB won’t work anymore.

He thought they had one in stock. But, no joy. So, he texted a couple of his reports in other stores and located one in Fresno. However, when the Best Buy inventory person checked with the Fresno store, he learned that they were under corporate orders to not transfer any of their inventory.

So, I went back to Ryan to visit a bit. Perplexed, he said “Let me see what I can do.” After about five minutes, he located a unit in Roseville and the Reno GM said they’d pay to ship it. However, Roseville is only about 100 miles from Reno. I said “I’ll just go get it.” I knew that I’d have my migration completed by the time they could ship the machine.

So, I met Younger Son to help with retrieve his vehicle and then headed over the hill to Roseville. There was a little rain on the way, but no snow. The machine was waiting for me. The Girl and I picked it up, mounted up, grabbed a bite, and headed home.

Then came the fun of migrating everything to the new computer. I had backups of everything (I got the Backup Religion several years ago). The configuration of the old computer caused a couple of hiccups, but nothing that wasn’t easily surmounted.

While on the way to celebrate Younger Son’s birthday, the Apple Genius called to tell me it appears that the logicboard has a bad drive connection. Somehow, it is still under warranty and so they ordered a replacement and will install it to check. I should know something in a few days. That means I could return the new machine, but I think I’m unlikely to do that now.

By the end of Saturday I had an operating system with most of my configurations set (or close enough) and I could work again.

Saturday night I started on the Winder$ problem again. After a number of false starts, I finally got the install to boot from a thumbdrive. With a bit of partition magic, I was able to get Winder$ to install on an external Thunderbolt drive. That process was completed Sunday. (Yes, it took much longer to do it than the previous few sentences might indicate. The cost was not only in hours, but in stress and energy.)

This morning I finished all the upgrades for Winder$ 8.1. My numerical models will be simple to install. I still need to install the GIS software, but think I’ll wait until I have a project where I need it.

I can run Winder$ natively from an external Thunderbolt drive. When I can get a Thunderbolt case, I can install an SSD in it and that will improve the reliability of the system and the speed. So now I no longer need a Winder$ desktop (or notebook). I can everything from my MacBook Pro. It is possible to have my cake and to eat it too.

Now, if I can work out how to run an emulator that boots from the native install on the external drive so I can run a quick HMS or RAS model without having to reboot to Winder$ I will feel like I have cheated the Devil himself.

I emerged from the rabbit hole this morning. It feels good to have this done. I’ll figure out what to do with the other MBP, if and when it is repaired.

Now I wonder if I can get an emulator running the Winder$ install on the external drive, too? Maybe, maybe…

Porlex Coffee Grinder

Coffee GrinderAnother of my favorite simple tools is the Porlex Mini Stainless Steel Coffee Grinder. I bought it a year ago to go with the Bodum Personal French Press that I reviewed a few days ago. I’ve used it enough now to have figured out how to use the tool.

The design is clean and simple. It’s a bean bowl (top) below which is housed the grinder (ceramic burrs) and a catch bucket at the bottom. The catch slides off the body of the grinder so you can dump freshly ground coffee into the brewer. (I use a French press for now.) A stainless steel handle connects to the mechanism via a pentalobed nut. Once beans are loaded into the hopper, the “wrench” is slipped over the nut and then grind away. It takes me a couple of minutes to grind a serving of coffee while the pot is on to boil. The handle is long enough to provide sufficient leverage for easy grinding.

Setting the grind is a bit “fiddly.” (I love that British colloquialism!) Once set, the grind has been consistent for me (so far). I have no idea how long the unit might last in daily use, but I’m going to find out.

There is a strong “rubber band” with a slot to hold the handle when not in use. The unit fits easily into my travel kit. I much prefer to buy beans and grind my coffee on demand. The burr-type grinders produce a better grind than the “chopping” machines. (I had one of those and gave it away.) Ceramic burrs last longer than steel (so I’m told).

I like this unit. The design is simple, clean, and there aren’t many moving parts. It’s small, compact with the removable handle, and there is enough leverage to easily grind coffee. As I said, I like this unit.

Tools I Use

Bodum Personal French PressAn idea occurred to me a few days ago. I should write about the tools I’m using now that I no longer have a house. Living small requires rethinking almost everything one does. I still cook for myself, whether I’m on the road or staying someplace. That means there are certain tools that are required. I’m learning as I go.

A couple of years ago I bought this small Bodum personal French press. I also have a small hand grinder (that I’ll write about later). I bought the press so that I could make a single cup of coffee in the afternoon if I wanted coffee but didn’t want to make a full pot. It got some use when I had the house, but not as much as I expected.

So, I started carrying it when I travel. However, using it requires heat to boil water. (There is another topic for writing. Don’t worry, I have a story there as well.) After this last trip, I realized I really like making my own coffee. McDonald’s coffee is much improved over the last couple of years with their new approach. (Kudos to McDonald’s for making that improvement! It’s one of the things I really like about the store.) But I really prefer my own choice of beans (or grounds) and my own method of preparation. I’m not really a snob, but I know what I like.

The body of the Bodum is glass, so care is required. But, it’s relatively easy to clean and is heat resistant. Just be careful with the body to mitigate the potential for breakage. The screen is fairly coarse so a coarse grind is required. Use is simple — grind coffee, add grounds to press, boil water (I suggest boiling water while grinding coffee), add water, steep, stir before pressing (I don’t do this step), and then press slowly.

If you are not picky about sediment in the bottom of your cup, the grind is less relevant. I don’t mind a little sediment, but think I’ll work on my grind to see if I can get it a bit more coarse than I currently have. Once you decant the coffee, set the press aside to cool while you enjoy your coffee. Then dump out the grounds and rinse the press. If oils accumulate, I suggest wiping them out with a paper (or cloth) towel. I will not use detergent on my press.

It’s simple, reliable, produces consistent coffee, and is easy to keep clean. With care, this press will last me the remainder of my life. I like it and would recommend it.