March 2019 EDC Update

Apparently, it’s all about the EDC (everyday carry) these days, and people are getting out of control. According to the internets, some folks are carrying bags of ready-mix concrete in case they have to build an emergency birdbath, and everybody (everybody!) carries multi-tools, knives (all kinds of knives!) and bottle openers (why?) — such as one might use to open a bottle of whatever beverage one might enjoy with a bacon and lettuce and tomato sandwich.

I carry stuff, too. And I carry too much.

That realization led to an amazing series of actions:

  • I got two chairs
  • I put my 900-pound backpack in one chair, and a small briefcase in the other
  • Out of the backpack, I pulled only those things which I actually use (no “just in case” stuff), and put them on a table
  • Then I attempted to fit those items into the small briefcase… and succeeded

Because this genius technique is so incredibly ingenious, I have decided not to patent it, but instead am “open sourcing” it to the world in the hope that we all can get along and lead better, more productive and — above all — happier lives.

You’re welcome.


Tom Bihn Cadet 13.5-liter briefcase, with optional neoprene laptop CacheAbsolute Shoulder Strap, three Halcyon Organizer Pouches (one small and two minis) and a Key Strap, which I think came with the Cadet. The briefcase ships with a standard shoulder strap, but you’ll want to upgrade to the “Absolute” model for an additional $20.

I don’t remember how I learned about Tom Bihn, but I’m a convert. In addition to the Cadet, I own two of their backpacks and the insanely great Aeronaut 45 carry-on bag. Tom Bihn products are thoughtfully designed, handmade in Seattle, tough as nails and guaranteed for life. I’ve owned Hartmann (when it was good), Tumi (when it was good) and Briggs & Riley — which still is good, but not always as thoughtfully designed as Tom Bihn.

Believe me now and thank me later.

Here’s what I have in my Cadet main compartment:

Second compartment:

Tiny “cellphone” compartment:

  • hand sanitizer
  • key to my office filing cabinet

Backpack items not included in the Cadet:

  • a two-inch thick Redweld folder of printouts of online articles about….
  • two empty file folders waiting to be filled up
  • a heavy-duty (and heavy), bomb-proof laptop case
  • a foam insert organizer sheet thing full of things that had to be organized
  • two different types of 3×5 index cards (100 count)
  • a marine whistle, in case I found myself adrift at sea
  • two velcro reflective tags to attach to the backpack for when walking home from the train station at night; I drive home from the train station
  • a Tom Bihn Snake Charmer organizer pouch in which I had my MacBook charger and Focal earphones, but also a miniature tripod and iPhone clamp for taking still photos or videos with the iPhone, and… a Lightning-port powered auxiliary speakerphone for those times when… jeezuz
  • several additional pens and mechanical pencils; I don’t use pencils
  • a small, climbing-grade carabiner for my keys and other “clip” items
  • a heavy-duty, steel luggage tag, attached (inside) with a steel cord
  • two round aluminum caribiners — one in each shoulder-strap thumb loop — to ease tightening the straps after heaving the backpack on
  • noise-canceling headphones in a hardshell case; no longer needed, as I’ve moved to a quieter work environment
  • the occasional “research” book; I read e-books

Hope this helps!

Subwoofers and Whatnot

I can’t take it anymore, so I’m writing about stereo equipment.

Yesterday, I had plenty to do (clean bathroom, clean kitchen, laundry, vacuum), but I didn’t want to do it, so I threw together a Special Ops Reconnaissance Mission (no credit cards) to Best Buy to check out subwoofers, after which I planned to walk over to Patel Brothers Market to pick up a couple of packages of those Turkish black olives like I like, and then visit my favorite Mexican place.

No clue.
No clue.

I’ve owned three subwoofers over the course of my audio fixation (whole life), and each has been unsatisfying in its own special way. The Sequerra Pyramid (remember them?) needed way too much power. The JBL was hard to adjust and wouldn’t turn itself on until things got too loud for polite listening. And the B&W (Bowers & Wilkins) was massive, expensive and slow.

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My Barber Was On Vacation

When it’s time to adjust my HRS (hair replacement system), Monday night is barber night at the mall. It’s perfect for me because nobody’s there, so the shop offers a 20 percent discount (although I still tip based on the full price). But when I arrived this evening, I was informed that my regular barber (Claude) had gone on vacation and wouldn’t be back until tomorrow. To paraphrase Salvatore Tessio, this “spoiled all my arrangements.”

Tessio realizes he's about to take his last ride.
Tessio realizes he’s about to take his last ride.

Now what? I’d already spent a dollar for two hours of parking (at the mall where I get my hair cut, $1 buys you either one or two hours of parking; I always opt for the “two” because, why not?; and if there’s any time left over on my receipt (which there always is), I wedge the receipt behind the space-number sign in case an eagle-eyed cheapskate such as myself wants to use my remaining time because, Fight The Power!).

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Complaints and Irritations, Part Infinity + 1

On this day in history: three fails.

Times 3
Times 3

Fail No. 1: The “Rent” Thing
My apartment building has a new owner, and I signed up for automatic rent payments through the new “resident portal.” I’ve paid my rent this way for about six years. Yesterday, despite the fact that I live. in. the. building., I received a paper bill via U.S. Mail from some entity in Utah (even though the rental office is in. the. building.) for my rent. I’m happy to pay my rent once, but I have numerous objections to paying my rent twice. So, I called the toll-free number (even though the rental office is in. the. building.), and spoke to somebody who sounded like she was 12 (okay, maybe 13) and somewhat confused by the process of talking into — and then hearing a voice come out of — the telephone. I needed her to access my account in the payment system and initiate the draw. She told me she would have to make a note of the situation and have somebody who actually works there (or something) “investigate” and get back to me. This phone call took place early in the bid’ness day, but I never heard back. Do I have even one second to deal with this tomorrow? Nope.
01/05/17 UPDATE: Upon my third attempt, I was able to speak to the person in the rental office. She was just back from a “management training session” run by the new owners, and it showed. I stated my issue, and after about three paragraphs’ worth of admin speak, I was able to decipher that the new automatic debit system kicks in with February’s rent. At that point, I pulled out my phone and made a one-time rental payment via the building app. Lordy.

Fail No. 2: The “Canceled Coat Order” Thing
After the “Fake Canada Goose” fiasco, I ordered a parka in the Eastern Mountain Sports store here in town, but then canceled the order by phone when I found another parka at Outdoor Sports Center (oh, man, what a great store!) that I preferred, and that was on after-Christmas sale for not much more than the lesser-quality Eastern Mountain Sports parka. I have a “parka problem,” but I’m dealing with it. The first step is acknowledgement.

Anywho, the local EMS store said I had to call national customer service to cancel the order, which I did. But since I haven’t received the credit on my AMEX, I called national customer service again this morning to investigate. They referred me back to the local store to pursue the matter. So, I called the local store (again) and this time got a very nice clerk who didn’t sound high at all. She investigated and called me back with the news that the system has been “slow” in refunding credit card charges, and that she expects to hear back from the relevant “order cancellation review” parties “in the next couple of days.” It has already been more than a week.
01/06/17 UPDATE: I called EMS corporate customer service again today and finally got somebody who acted like she has a job. She checked on my transaction and reported that the refund has been processed and should appear in a couple of days — only 12 days or so after I canceled my original order.

Fail No. 3: More of the “Fake Canada Goose” Thing
Finally this morning, I called my VISA Card issuer to follow up on my Counterfeit Canada Goose disputed charge fraud investigation, for which I have submitted both the .pdf of the screen capture of my “order” and documentation from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (they’re in Canada) that “LucyInTheSky” from Shanghai is a recognized fraudulent website. The guy on the phone noted that nobody had canceled my VISA and re-issued another one to prevent further fraudulent charges, so we did that. The old card is now dead, and there is a 10 business-day wait for the new one in the mail. Also, the guy on the phone is initiating the refund process for the fraudulent charge. So much for handling this through the internet, where I filed the initial report and submitted the documentation two weeks ago.
01/06/17 UPDATE: My VISA card holder has reversed the fraudulent “fake Canada Goose” charge and restored the funds to my account. On my way out tomorrow, I will put the trash bag with the noxious chemical smell coat down the chute. Then I will go to Burlington Coat Factory (which offers a new-purchase discount to customers who donate coats) to see if I can buy some children’s coats to put directly into donation. Because it’s cold out.

Some skunks
Some skunks

I have no idea how it might help, but I’m getting a dog and moving deep into the woods. Until this world becomes a safe space for the easily irritated, we may have no choice but to relocate to a clean and quiet place where we can complain about noisy birds, the skunks under the back porch, and those goddam squirrels.

Counterfeit Canada Goose

12/28/16 Update!
I received my fake Canada Goose parka today (photos below). The return address on the manifest reads “Shanghai, China.” Phone number (required for shipping): “Shanghai, China.” Shipper: “ShanghaiChinaShanghaiChinaShanghaiChina.” I’m guessing they don’t “do” returns.

The coat had an unusual chemical smell when I opened it (although no rats ran out), so I stuffed it back in its bag. I may throw it out even though I’ve been instructed to keep it until I get my refund. Needless to say, it’s the kind of “original” that one used to be able to pick up on 14th Street in New York back in the days of “squeegee men,” fake Rolexes, 6th Avenue Electronics, and apartments that cost less than $1 million per bedroom. A little bit of nostalgia, I guess.

Luxury Packaging.
Luxury Packaging.
I think those little tridents are supposed to be maple leaves.
I think those little tridents are supposed to be maple leaves.
Some sort of "pull strap" on the back. A feature you don't get with the original!
Some sort of “pull strap” on the back. A feature you don’t get with the original!

Ten years ago, I bought a spectacular Canada Goose bomber jacket for about $360. It’s hot as a blast furnace (actually too hot, except on the absolute worst days), and durable as iron. In fact, it’s still in excellent shape. Unfortunately, I have…as we say…grown out of it. So a coupla weeks ago, with the holiday sales coming up, I figured why not git me a new jacket? I deserve it. Plus, the old one’s too small, and it’s cold out.

A non-counterfeit Canada Goose patch
A non-counterfeit Canada Goose patch

This time, I figured, I’d get a longer coat — a “parka,” if you will. I priced them from Canada Goose, and they started at $900. So much for Canada Goose.

But wait! Right below the official Canada Goose link in my Google results page was a site called “Officially Canada Goose.” [That link is not the counterfeit site. I wouldn’t do that to you. It’s the real Canada Goose page that details how to verify a retailer and what to do if you get scammed.] It was identical to the CG site — perfect. And in the “about” tab, it esplaned that it was the Canada-based “official Canada Goose” outlet, selling (presumably) last year’s styles and colors. “Well, heck!,” I thought to my own self, “Last year’s gray, navy or black down parka is pretty much like this year’s gray, navy or down parka, plus I keeps ’em for 10 years anyway, so even the latest one would be nine years out of date eventually, and the one I want is $750, but these boys are blowin’ ’em out for $255 with free shipping.”

I think you know where this is headed.

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12/03/16: Saturday Fun Day in NYC

As part of my Dumping Facebook “Friends” for Real Friends initiative, I organized a lunch for half a dozen college friends at the Grand Central Oyster Bar, which was convenient and tasty, though a bit more expensive than we had planned. All agreed that someplace cheap will serve as the next venue. Baby steps….

After lunch, a few of us stopped by the New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex to check out the holiday electric train display. There used to be a more elaborate holiday electric train display at the Citicorp Building, but it ended in 2008. Below is a shot from Saturday’s display at Grand Central.

After looking at the trains, we walked off our lunch with a stroll to the Seiko Boutique on Madison Avenue. I’m a freak for the incredible engineering and craftsmanship of Seiko watches, and treated myself to a new diver’s watch from the boutique last spring. Saturday’s focus was on the exquisite Grand Seiko dress watch pictured below and reviewed here. I love the vintage/mid-century modern look of the ivory/parchment colored face, and probably would have bought the piece if I hadn’t left my $4,900 in my other pants.

Grand Seiko SBGR061. $4900
Grand Seiko SBGR061. $4900
A block north and across the street, I was able to check out the elusive JBL KL2 S9900 loudspeakers at the Harmon Flagship Store. Sadly, as driven by Mark Levinson electronics and connected with AudioQuest AG-4 speaker cables, the big JBLs sounded so harsh that they actually gave me a headache. I blame those amps from the Mark Levinson brand, which has long since severed ties with legendary audio designer Mark Levinson (the man). Levinson (the man) founded his eponymous company in New Haven in 1972, and essentially reinvented high-end audio as we know it today. He’s since gone on to found several other highly regarded audio companies, and currently runs Daniel Hertz audio (which he founded) in Switzerland. I could go on about how I would have amplified and cabled the JBL system, but I won’t. As shown, the speakers were about $44,000/pair. But as I noted, they gave me a headache. Plus, I’d left my backpack with $45,000 in it at home.

JBL KL2 S9900. $44,000/pair base price (upcharges for custom finishes)
JBL KL2 S9900. $44,000/pair base price (upcharges for custom finishes)
The great thing about “shopping” for ridiculous things is that there’s no way to buy impulsively. I still believe that Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills is the best place to do this (plus, you might see somebody famous), but mid-town Manhattan clocks in at a close second.

Looking forward to the next group lunch and outing, with cheap eats followed by other types of low-to-zero expenditure activity.