Stuff & Things

Collectors + Investors

I woke up this morning to messages from several friends directing me to this tweet, asking my thoughts. Unsurprising, as anyone who knows me probably knows I’d have more than a few thoughts on something like this. I started thinking of snarky replies or gotchas that I could cleverly post and trust me dear reader, there were many that came to mind. But the more I thought about it, and read the replies from artists who seem to be bending over backwards to agree in hopes that the tweets author might check out and buy their work, I thought it would be better served with a more thoughtful response to illustrate why this is so problematic. Also, I would like credit for my display of maturity and restraint in not just posting a snarky reply. Sean from 20 years ago is wondering who the hell has hijacked his blog right now.

As an art dealer, I would refuse to sell art to someone who came in to my gallery and made a statement like this. I don’t say that hyperbolically – when I had a gallery this was a topic that came up from time to time and we were unapologetic about refusing to sell work to anyone who asked questions like “how soon will I be able to sell this and double my money?” or “do you have anything that will match my couch?” Additionally I’d actively and vocally advise artists to avoid selling work to someone with this approach because while a sale might be nice today, in the long run buyers like this will most likely make decisions later that will negatively impact the artist. And if you think of art as a long term thing, as I do, selling to a buyer like this is basically failing the marshmallow test. This is investing in the art and not in the artist. To me, the artist is always more important than the art. As an art dealer, I wanted to develop long term relationships with artists and watch them grow, and help out where I could. I wanted to look back on my life and the careers of artists I worked with and be proud of what we did together. This artist-first approach wasn’t always the best decision for the profit margin of the business but it allowed me to sleep well at night, and that 15 years after the gallery closed I still count many of the artists I worked with as close friends tells me I made the right decisions. As a dealer, I worked for the artists not the collectors. I wanted the value of the art to go up just as much as anyone else (and it has) but I deeply believe that this happens much more reliably by making decisions that are in the best interest of the artist, and selling to someone who only sees art as an investment simply isn’t.

As an artist, I would be disappointed to know that someone bought my work and didn’t want to be thanked for it. I would be sad to learn that they didn’t have any interest in supporting me or my efforts. This statement is both hurtful and dehumanizing. It says that this person sees artists as nothing but a factory to crank out things which will make them money. Amusingly this is one of the reasons I eventually got out of the technology start up world, which I wrote more about in The Interest Driven Life, but I couldn’t stomach having meetings with venture capitalists who didn’t give a shit about me or my dreams or my goals and only wanted to know how much money I was going to make them, and how fast. Now, I’m not knocking this kind of investing approach – I just think there are ways to do it which don’t hurt people. Invest in shitcoins or flip some Bored Apes. That doesn’t hurt anyones feelings, or make anyone second guess their life choices. I guarantee you no one at LavaLabs is going to be suicidal because someone is rage tweeting that their Meebit hasn’t doubled in value yet. Pure investors don’t understand (or care about) the difference between artwork and a collectable, between individual artist and for profit company.

For most artists I know, just admitting you are an artist is unspeakably hard. It’s a position filled with self doubt, insecurity and questioning choices, but deep down we do believe in our work and our vision and have to trust that somewhere out in the world someone recognizes and connects with that. I make art to tell stories, and find connections, and find communities, and build relationships. Not to make some investor money. I do recognize that I’m in a position of privilege to be able to turn down sales that I don’t think are a good fit, to people who I don’t like. Not everyone can do that, but that’s also why I try to forge the path so that it’s easier for the next group of artists. And I’m pretty sure I can confidently say that standing here at 46 years old, everyone who has bought my work in the last 20 years has done so because they either wanted to support me personally or because my work meant something to them personally – and I’m deeply thankful for that. I would sell my work to someone who loved it and planned to keep it forever over someone who was hoping to sell it at a profit any day.

As an art collector, I despised buyers with this kind of an attitude. Selfishly, because they usually had more money than me and would buy things I loved and it pained me knowing they didn’t actually care about them. I much prefer the Vincent Price / Dennis Hopper approach which comes from recognizing the value that the artists bring to the world, to culture, to society and trying to support that. I forget where but I saw Hopper speaking once and he said something like “If you do it right, being an art collector means you are just a care taker” going on to say that he saw his job as protecting the art he bought until the “real art” world recognized it and made space in museums for it. He says something similar at the end of this short video. He viewed collecting art as documenting a culture and a community. I visited his house in Venice Beach once and and stepped over carefully rolled up Basquiats in order to get a better look at framed photographs by artists I’d never heard of hanging on the walls. His love for the art and for his friends was unquestionable, and it made me feel so much better about my own collection which is almost entirely work by friends. Some of whom I knew before I bought the work, some of whom I became friends with after buying the work. To me, those relationships are so much more valuable than any individual piece of art, but often the art is a physical representation of that relationship. The context is different but I’m reminded of the lyrics to Softcore by Jawbreaker which accuses “They just want the wrapping, They throw away the prize.” As a collector who values and appreciates the culture and the community, it pains me to know that work is sold to people who don’t care about any of that. I understand why it happens, but I don’t have to like it.

To be clear, I don’t think this is a zero sum topic. You don’t have to care about the artist, or your investment. Someone can care about both the value of their investment and in the artist that created the art, and I’d wager to say most people buying art fit into that category. But a comment like the one above represents a hard far end of a spectrum which I can only sum up as “bad.”

When we’re talking about NFTs, which we often are these days, there is a tendency for investors to lump everything together. They see no difference between something created by hand or something created by an algorithm. This illustrates their deep misunderstanding of both art and NFTs. I think this is actually a dangerous mindset which can actually harm artists and communities, and would recommend steering clear of buyers with this approach. This is a brand new world and the collectors who love the art and want to build the community are still showing up every day. Let’s embrace the people who want to build something together with us. We don’t need to make sacrifices to make people who don’t care about us rich.

Monthly Mystery Subscription

It’s been about 10 years now since I started dabbling with photography, getting pretty serious about in a year or two in. In that time I’ve had exhibitions in galleries and published a photobook which continues to sell to this day. I’ve also sold prints to a number of people whose support has meant the world to me. Anyone who has been following me for a while knows I’ve also experimented with several different physical “subscriptions” where I pick things (be they stuff or coffee or music) and mail them out on some regular basis to people who have the blind faith to give me money without having a completely concrete idea of what they are getting in return. There’s a bit of mystery and excitement there which I like, creating that anticipation and surprise.

I spent some time towards the end of 2020 revamping my photography website and and while I was doing that I thought it might be fun to play around again. I quietly announced a Monthly Mystery Subscription at the beginning of December and a few people signed up right away. The idea being, for a relatively small fee I’ll send each subscriber a photo (or 3, depending on subscription level) in the mail. These will be miniprints on instant film and part of a very small limited edition, signed and numbered. I’m sending out the first batch of prints this week and wanted to share a little more about it because it was a lot of fun to put together.

This is a little bit of a give away because the point is that people don’t know what they are getting until they open the package, but I’d leaked images of the prints before anyway so I don’t think it’s too much of a surprise blown. Going forward, the secret will be kept much better. Right now I’m doing editions of 10 photos only, that doesn’t mean that only 10 people can subscribe, it means that if 20 people subscribe half of them get one photo and half get another. This keeps the edition low and the value high, I hope. Speaking of that, I’m leaving the introductory pricing live for a few more days as there are a few spots left to fill out that initial 10 people. For the moment 1 print a month costs $10 and 3 prints a month is $25. Free shipping in Canada, $10 extra for anywhere else in the world. This is basically a brake even price because I think this is a fun thing to do, but realistically I’ll need to up those prices pretty soon, probably double. If you want to get in before I do that the discounted price will maintain as long as you keep subscribing. If the surprise isn’t your thing but you like the idea of the prints, I am making a few available individually in my shop.

As always, thanks for the support!

Step On It – Books About Pedals

Over the years I’ve written about stuff, actual physical stuff that you can hold in your hand and appreciate. I’m guilty of fetishizing all manor of objects. So it should be no surprise that objects that fetishize other objects scratch a very special itch for me which is why my bookshelves are exploding with what I just refer to as art books though I accept that many people wouldn’t consider the subject of many of them to be art at all. An example of that would be guitar pedals. Most people wouldn’t consider them art, even though some people obsessively collect them like art. Musicians are artists, and music is art, so it’s really not much of a stretch to think of the tools artists use in an artistic fashion. I was recently gifted a beautiful book on the subject which made me realize that I now have several books on the subject and though maybe some others might be interested in hearing a little about them.

I bought Level & Attack – The Untold Story of The Tone Bender Fuzz in early 2018 admittedly without knowing much of what it was about. Some friends were very excited about it and I saw a few photos from it and was curious enough to jump through the needed hoops to get one shipped to me in Japan. I was not disappointed. Substantial barely begins to describe this massive book which is too big to fit vertically on my bookshelf. Authors Anthony and Steve Macari dive deep into the history of a single pedal (the Tone Bender) with almost pornographic close up photos of hand wired circuit boards and the most painstaking documentation of variations from one model to the next. This is supplemented by anecdotes by massive name musicians gushing about how much they love it. As an effect, “fuzz” wasn’t something I really paid much attention to before getting this book but there’s no way to take in the passion and love poured into this book and not get infected by curiosity at the very least. I can’t imagine how expensive this book was to make, and they only made 500 copies which sold out right away so getting one these days is no easy task, but if you have the chance to pick one up and flip though it I assure you it will be worth your time. I say that assuming that, like me, you enjoy seeing the most knowledgable people on a super niche subject just spill all of the goods in unrestrained detail.

You can almost smell the solder in Level & Attack

With that groundwork laid and the interest itch piqued, adding 2019’s Pedal Crush to the collection was an absolute no brainer. If you don’t know anything about guitar pedals and want to understand what they are, what they do, how they ended up doing that and who is doing what with them today then Kim Bjørn and Scott Harper (aka Knobs) have published the perfect book to answer all of your questions. While Level & Attack was hyper focused, Pedal Crush zooms out to cover the entire landscape. The history of various effects, what they sound like and how those eventually got squeezed into pedal format, the manufacturers who drove and continue to drive that innovation and generally how one thing led to another, and the who’s who of all corners of the boutique pedal industry.

Tremawhat? Pedal Crush explains it all

Between these two you might think the story has been told, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But any good story has multiple layers and Eilon Paz’s Stompbox really puts the personal stories front and center. That’s not to say the previous books don’t talk about people (they do) or that Stompbox doesn’t cover history (it does) but much more than the others, rather than being about pedals this book is about the people. The subtitle 100 Pedals of the World’s Greatest Guitarists buries the lede because the “greatest guitarists” part is really what makes this book so special. The absolute bulk of this already bulky book is personal stories from musicians you love talking about something that in many cases defines their sound. This is artists talking about the favorite paint on their palette, the brush that they couldn’t have painted a masterpiece without.

J and his Big Muff in Stompbox
Albini on his legendary Percolator

100 musicians, 100 pedals, lifetimes of stories. This isn’t a book you read cover to cover and then put on your shelf to forget, it’s one you can (and will) open to any page at any time and find something wonderful and inspirational. This book is brand new and I haven’t fully read it yet, but that is only due to its size and my need to eat and sleep. However there hasn’t been a page I’ve read in it yet which hasn’t left me wanting to read the next one as well, and I may savor that feeling by limiting myself to reading just one a day. That, as well as a way of self regulating and to prevent myself from blowing a bitcoin on Reverb. Which brings me to a stern word of warning–do not even open these books if you are subject to GAS. They will wreck you and full you with lust. Glorious, beautiful lust.

Death By Audio pedals being spray painted by hand

(Did you enjoy this post? Let me know and stay tuned as I’m considering doing a series or even an ongoing video thing where I explore some of my art books and what I love about them.)

In the streets, in the sheets

It’s been almost 3 years since my photobook “Don’t Go Outside” was released. The book was inspired by my ongoing visits to Japan for business and pleasure. A little over 2 years ago the whole family and I moved from Los Angeles to Tokyo and things that seemed exciting previously became normal. It’s an interesting shift that happens when you go from visitor to resident, and vice versa. Visiting Los Angeles now lets me see the city in ways I never did living there – but that’s a different story for another thing. I’m talking about Tokyo right now.

Not long after moving, Tara and I started talking about an idea, loosely based on our new surroundings and how they were making us feel. I made some new photos to try and convey how that felt. We liked them. We thought we’d like to have the photos on some things around our house, and thought maybe others would as well. We mapped out the idea, bought the URL, spent a few hours on it and then put it on the back burner. More than a year later we kicked each others asses and decided to finish it. So we did. Today we launched Street Sheets.tokyo.

Here’s some of the things we made:

There’s more now, and we’ll keep adding more as we go. I’m pretty happy with how these turned out, and am excited to hear what others think, and see the products out in the wild. Here’s a little more that I wrote about the idea behind the work:

After moving to Tokyo in 2017 we began to realize how the lines on the streets offered more than just direction. The bold, iconic lines served their purpose of helping millions of people to navigate the public space, but they seemed to help navigate interpersonal distance and interactions as well. The orderly placement and repeated patterns were soothing and almost comforting. At the same time, the cracks and decay as the paint aged told the story of how things might look beautiful and perfect at a distance, but upon closer inspection the flaws are revealed. This applies literally to the physical paint, but is also indicative of society as a whole. With this insight the stark black and white imagery becomes suggestive of the duality of humanity at scale – functional but inescapably flawed.

These products can be seen as a followup to the book “Don’t Go Outside” – a collection of street photography by Sean Bonner, a voyeuristic exploration of the public human interaction in Tokyo. This stylistic reinterpretation both forcibly minimizes the imagery by removing the people, the individuals, as well as putting full focus on the intention of the population at large. Stripped of the human subjects, all that’s left is their impact. The intention of bringing this imagery literally from the public streets inside to the intimacy of our own homes, living rooms and bedrooms further plays on this duality of intention.

Snuggle up with the struggle.

There was a time in my life when I was just cranking things out left and right. I’ve been feeling pretty stagnant for the last few years, and moving this from idea to shipped felt really good. I give all credit to Tara for putting her foot down and insisting we finish it and get it out the door. It’s exciting to see it materialize, and a testament to committing to just getting it done. I hope you like it.

Experiments in Notebooking

In efforts to deal with old age forgetfulness and a lingering case of screen aversion I’ve been trying to get in the habit of using my physical notebook. I wrote about this a bit before on my mailing list, moving from a small pocket sized moleskine to a larger journal type thing and using a modified bullet journal method for daily planning and notes and general keeping on top of things. I also like that, even though it’s purely functional for me, I feel like I’m making something.

While I’ve been enjoying the pen and paper aspect of using a pen and paper I’ve also found myself wanting a little more of a creative visual experience but I’m not fetishistic enough about this journal thing to spend endless hours doodling and and drawing on the pages like a damn pinterest board. A little while ago Warren (I think) mentioned getting one of these little pocket printers that allowed him to quickly snap a photo of something interesting and print it out and then slap it in his notebook for future reference. This notion has kind of stuck with me and last week I decided to pull the trigger. Twice actually.

I ordered and received two different mini printers, that function a bit differently with different desired outcomes. This is what I got:

Paperang
This is a super tiny thermal printer (which means it never needs ink), b&w only with questionable archival qualities (the basic paper is guaranteed to keep an image for a full year) but it’s fast and cheap and fun. While I got in with the intent to print little photos, the Paperang app also has a number of text and todo list templates and options that I can see myself playing with sometime in the not terribly distant future. I’ve been scotch taping a few quick prints with the default paper in to the notebook here and there and it’s added a very cool new layer to the look and feel of it. I also ordered some upgraded paper spools of sticker backed paper that is supposed to hold an image for 10 years so I won’t have to tape the prints in each time. Knowing that the image will eventually fade is interesting too because it keeps me from thinking anything is too precious, and also forces me to write a little something next to it explaining what it is.

Instax print from the SHARE, photo taken on a Leica M10D

Instax SHARE
It’s no secret I like instant photos and that I have a softspot for Instax. I’ve got a few Instax cameras in various formats (I especially like the Instax WIDE monochrome film, though the camera for it is huge) but this requires planning ahead and carrying the camera around, and the film is kind of expensive for quick memory jogging notes to self. That said, being able to take any photo that I have on my phone and make a Polaroid style print anytime I want is kind of appealing. Between my regular carry around every day camera (currently a Leica M10D) and my iPhone (currently an XSMax) I have some pretty nice digital photos. So I picked up the new SP-3 which uses the Instax SQUARE film as I like that format (though I wish they offered a monochrome version) and have used to make a few prints of things I shot with these other devices. This is nice if I want to give a photo to someone, or include something I know will more long lasting (and thus, more thoughtful and artistic I guess). This also allows me to play more with this format, I really liked the Instax MINI print series Clayton did a few years ago and being able to physically riff on ideas is kind of fun.

Both of these printers are small enough to carry around in a hip/shoulder bag without much trouble and then always be available, though the SHARE is a bit bigger and heavier than the Paperang so in actual practice I don’t know how often I’ll really carry both around. Likely one or the other. Guess we’ll see. In the meantime I’m happy with the ability to hold in my hands something that was only in my head previously.

Personal Uniform Update 2019

I’ve been writing about personal uniforms for a long time now [2015, 2010] and adhering to them for even longer.  While the major themes have remained the same over the years some of the specifics have gotten more specific and as I’m often asked for recommendations I find it useful to take stock once and a while so I have something for people to reference. The last time I did this I was living in Los Angeles, and traveling 100k+ miles a year, today I’m living in Tokyo and still traveling 100k+ miles a year. Tokyo gets colder than Los Angeles and has snow, but it also gets more humid. I previously tried to have things that worked in all weather, but I’m now more a fan of fabrics and cuts that are optimized for seasons.

Generally I still stick to all black or dark grey and avoid anything with logos or visible branding of any kind.

The specifics:

T-Shirt

  • Basic. 100% Cotton. I’m still a fan of American Apparel’s Fine Jersey which I find to be the perfect cut, thickness and softness. These were the only things I wore for years and I’d buy them a dozen at a time every 12-18 months though honestly they hold up much longer than that and at less than $10 on Amazon it’s effortless. This is my goto shirt for training at the dojo because I know it’s strong enough to hold up under abuse and I’m not worried about ruining them. Cotton rules for structure, but it’s less optimal for most other things.
  • Hot weather: 100% Bamboo. The best ones I’ve found are made by Onno and are almost 3x the cost of the AA Cotton shirts at about $30. Bamboo is the perfect material for t-shirts, it wicks moisture away from you and is soft and anti-bacterial.
  • Humid: 100% Ramie. A recent find for me, Ramie is a really interesting natural fiber and in Tokyo’s super humid summers this has become my goto option. Outlier’s Ramielust shirt is the best shirt for hot and humid weather. It’s $125, but it takes one day if walking around in 90% humidity to understand why. I found some cheaper Ramie blend shirts on amazon but they don’t feel the same. As a fabric it’s a bit stiffer than Cotton or Bamboo, but it’s also light and airy like nothing else.
  • Cool: 100% Wool. This is going to be my most controversial recommendation ever but Outlier’s Gostwyck Single Origin Wool is really interesting. Wool is an amazing fabric, but it’s almost always ethically bad news, so a company working with a single farm with the specific intention of creating ethically produced wool is something I thought was worth supporting and looking further into. I know some people love wool and if they are going to buy it I’d prefer they put the money towards a more sustainable and ethical option like this. These shirts are also $125, but they might be the nicest shirts you’ve ever touched. A secret some people don’t know is that Wool shirts can be worn for several days in a row before they need washing, so you need fewer of them  for a wardrobe and end up doing wash less often, so they have other environmental benefits to weigh out.

Pants

  • Slacks. I find the materials that Outlier are using for their Slim Dungarees and Futureworks pants to be fantastic, versatile, lightweight and durable. I was initially hesitant to buy $200 pants, but I now have 3 pairs and easily wear them 300 days out of the year. Their shorts are equally fantastic.
  • Jeans. I have an ongoing love/hate with denim that I continue to be unable to resolve. There was a point in the late 2000’s when I realized that not only did I not own a pair of jeans, I hadn’t owned a pair in over a decade, as I’d been wearing almost exclusively Dickies for most of that time. At the same time I had friends working with and lusting over “high end” denim and I wanted to understand it. I’ve since owned and worn many varieties of denim and from high end Japanese brands like Iron Heart & Sugar Cane. They’ve been great in some ways, and horrible in other ways and spending hundreds of dollars on pants that you know the crotch and pockets are going to blow out in, and require additional cost to keep repairing just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me these days. And while there are some minor details here and there, I don’t find them to justify the 5x or 10x cost over something like Shrink To Fit Levi’s 501s or something similar. In the end, I’m going to skip a recommendation on this one and just say individual preference is going to win out.

Socks

  • Darn Tough. Seriously, regardless of what style you like Darn Tough socks will be the best you can get. In addition to being super comfortable and rock solid, they have a life time guarantee so if you somehow find a way to wear a hole in them they will replace them free of charge. Forever. I don’t know how they do it, but they do and do it well.

Underwear

  • Update: I used to religiously recommend ExOfficio Boxer Briefs for many reasons but no longer do, a few years ago the company changed manufacturing practices and both their fabric and build quality went downhill significantly, when I first found them they were upwards of $30 each but now seem to be sub $20 and I’m quite sure they are making more money on each one due to the corners they cut. Avoid.
  • Warmer weather: Bamboo. $30 for a 4 pack of David Archy bamboo boxer briefs seemed too good to be true, but turns out it to be legit. Endorsed.
  • Cooler weather: Wool. Specifically Smartwool who are also publicly committed to ethical and sustainable wool production. They also have a lifetime guarantee which given their $45 price tag, being able to return them once they get worn out for new ones is a bonus.

Shoes and Jackets are much more personal and I can’t imagine recommendations here being worth anything. So look for the styles and cuts that you like and run with them I guess. Though I will say a good hoodie and a good windbreaker are an awesome combo.

What’s Your Bag

I really hate carrying anything so if I have to carry things, which I often do, I want to carry them in the most efficient and minimal way I can, and do that with some style. I used to always be hunting for “the perfect bag” thinking I could find something that would work for all occasions but I now know that simply doesn’t exist, and different problems require different solutions. Because of that, I obsess a bit about bags which is annoying for me, but perhaps beneficial for you.

2019 Bags
[L to R: Integer, Spar, Shank]

Beyond size the major issues I consider are:

  • Build quality – Is it going to fall apart after using it every day for 6 months?
  • Weather resistance – Is my stuff going to get ruined if it starts raining while I’m out?
  • Usability – Do I need to think about how to get to my stuff, or is it intuitive?
  • Lifetime guarantee  – If there is a problem, will the company stand behind their product?

So, this is what I’m using to carry things around these days, sorted from small to large:

Chrome Industries Cardiel Shank – If I need more than I can carry in my pockets, this is my go to. In the 80’s this would have been called a hipsack, a fannypack or any number of other pejoratives. While the style was questionable then the logic was sound, and in the decades sense the style has course corrected. I tend to wear this across one shoulder so I can swing it on to the front for easy access or to the back to disappear. It’s subtle, but large enough to hold my iPad Mini, field notes and/or a moleskine notebook, a Leica M body or other compact camera, a bag of coffee, some extra film or even a compressed micro-puff jacket, should I anticipate needing such a thing. This is too small for a laptop, but that’s exactly why I like it. A Chrome Industries messenger bag was my daily carry for much of the early 2000’s and their products have always been bombproof.

Mission Workshop Spar – If I need to a laptop but not much else, I reach for the Spar. This is basically a laptop sleeve with a tiny extra pocket for cables, and several ways to get into the main compartment. This is so thin it will fit unnoticed under a jacket if that is required, and the sling strap adjusts incredibly well. I moved away mostly from one-shoulder kind of bags because I find they hurt my back after carrying them all day, so I bought the add on backpack harness, but I actually find the one shoulder strap to be more comfortable.

(A brief note about Mission Workshop, the company was founded by the ex-Chrome team when they sold the company and they put everything they learned then into practice here. When I switched from messenger to backpack style bags, I bought their  Fraction rucksack and over the following decade if became the best bag I’d ever had in my life, hands down. When it eventually wore out, MW took it back and offered to replace it 1:1 with  new one, or give me that amount as credit towards something else. Very solid policy.)

Mission Workshop Integer – I actually bought the previous version of this called the Rhake the moment it was released and loved it in every possible way. My only complaint was that if I put my camera into it, I didn’t tend to take it out because there was just too many steps involved. That only matters because of the kind of photography I do, where I need my camera quickly and also want it out of the way just as quick. When they announced the Integer, which seemed like the Rhake with an additional side opening to quickly grab a camera I was all over it.

In practice the Integer is actually a bit larger than the Rhake. While the Rhake has a very slim profile, the Integer sticks out from your back a bit more which can be an issue in crowds or when trying to jam it under a plane seat, but pulling out the built in foam padding that makes up the camera compartment helps with that a bit but I do find myself wishing it was a bit flatter.

Original Rimowa Cabin – The above covers 90% of my “carrying stuff” needs, but I’d be remiss not to discuss travel as I’ve done in the past. The Integer is actually large enough to hold what I need for several days, but if I have extra gear or am going around the world for more than 5 or 6 days then I’m bringing a suitcase and there is nothing better than Rimowa. I’ve discussed this before but I used to go through $150-200 bags every year, they’d drop a wheel, have a zipper failure, or something else which added unexpected and sometimes nightmarish issues to my trip. I kept hearing about Rimowa and eventually caved in and threw down the big bucks for one and it’s the best suitcase I’ve ever had. More than a decade later it still looks and works like brand new, and I never worry about it breaking mid trip. I few years back I was gifted the aluminum version of the composite model that I had, and immediately passed the composite one down to my son who I’m certain could use it for the rest of his life without ever needing to replace it. The pricetag seems high, but with a literal lifetime lifespan, it very quickly becomes cheaper than buying a new bag every few years. For anyone with a regular travel schedule, you’d be crazy not get one. Inside I use a set of Eagle Creek packing bags to compress and keep laundry and toiletries separate, and those work just as well in any of the other bags if I use them instead.

That’s what I’m carrying when I want to carry stuff. Hope this was helpful and useful, let me know if further travel/carry/gear kind of posts are interesting for you and I’ll see what I can whip together.

Travel Kit

Professor Ellis requested an update to my current travel kit and I happen to have it all laying around since I just got back to town so that seemed like a worthwhile endeavor. It should be unsurprising to anyone reading this who didn’t get here by accident that I try really hard to maximize usage and minimalize parts so that I have a simple set up that works no matter what or where I’m going – though admittedly I’m always fine tuning it. Let’s start with bags.

I have 3 bags – I never take more than 2 of them.

  1. A no-brand thick canvas shoulder bag that is purposely too small to fit my laptop.
  2. A Mission Workshop Sanction backpack
  3. A Rimowa Cabin Tolley rollerboard suitcase.

If I’m going somewhere for under 48 hours then I take the backpack only, more than that I go with the shoulder bag and suitcase. In some situations I’ll shake that up – for instance if I know it’s raining where I’m heading or if I expect that I’ll be walking a lot and needing to bring stuff with me on those walk then the backpack comes and the shoulder bag might even be shoved inside it. The driving bit behind this is that I want the very least amount of stuff with me as possible in the seat on the plane, so the small shoulder bag is typically what I shove under the seat in front of me and everything else goes in the over head. Which might as well lead us to what I keep in that shoulder bag:

And that’s pretty much it. Again, in a specific situation I might add or swap something in there but that’s typically what I default to.

I have a few other things I keep in the suitcase and then pull out once I arrive places for on the go working and using. Almost all of these things are contained in one of these small zipper pouches and held together with these gear ties.

Various short cords – Nothing longer than 6 inches, preferably under 2 inches. There are several brands that make cords like this in all the usuals: USB, Lightning, Mini and Nano USB etc. I have several brands all mixed together and I’m fairly impartial to which. In some cases I couldn’t find a short cord so I busted out scissors and a soldering iron and cut a cord down to size and then put it back together. At home, at a desk, a cord with some length can be helpful – on the road it just gets in the way. I’m never connecting something that isn’t right next to it, so no need for any extra cabling.

My main computer is the newest 11″ MacBook Air. I have one of the cheaper chromebooks at home but everytime I attempt to use it I get frustrated and then it sits unused for a few months. In rare occasions I’ll take the laptop into a plane seat with me, but generally I leave it in my suitcase and rely on the iPad for in flight. Especially after leaving my laptop in the seatback pocket on a flight to Hawaii last year.

For travel coffee I still rely on my trusty Porlex JP-30 Stainless Steel Coffee Grinder. If you subscribe to my Quarterly box I just sent you one of these. Pair that with a plastic Hario 02 Coffee Dripper (I keep the ceramic version at home) and you have an awesome set up for in hotel room coffee.