Home-Made Natural Deodorant

cream in a jarBy Jeffrey the Barak

Deodorant of Death?

A couple of decades ago, my nephew’s wife mentioned that she was looking for deodorant that did not contain aluminum, because her late mother had died of cancer and she thought that aluminum in deodorant was at least partly to blame.

I made no move thereafter to stop using deodorant that contained aluminum, but I remembered the horrific claim. I am still not sure how much the various chemicals in the typical deodorant get through the skin and into the blood stream, or into the lymph glands that hover beneath the armpits. And I still like to optimistically believe that there are legal regulations in place that stop manufacturers from putting dangerous substances in deodorant.

Failure to Protect.

But deodorant is always somewhere in the back of my mind because I am really bothered by the smell of human body odor. I cannot stand it. For several years I have used a common deodorant that was so effective, I never gave it a thought. It was Mitchum. But suddenly this year, the product that worked was updated to become a product that failed to work. It is called 48 Hour, but body odor defeats it in 4.8 hours.

At first I assumed it wasn’t me. I was wondering why the bedroom smelled stuffy in the morning. I was washing sheets, the duvet, the mattress cover, and dusting and vacuuming and cleaning the floor more than ever. I even thought it might be breath-related and was stepping up the oral-hygiene like a mad man.

Finally the realization forced itself through, the deodorant had stopped working. The new Mitchum was making me smell terrible. Instead of combing the shelves in the drug store for an alternative, I first sat down and started Googling. Right away I found a lot of articles and posts about home-made natural deodorants and my interest was piqued.

What exactly are we smelling?

Armpits themselves do not have any odor. Neither does sweat. Even armpit sweat is odorless. The apocrine sweat glands in the armpit, crotch and navel areas of the body release fats (lipids) and steroids and transport them to the skin’s surface. Even these do not actually smell. It is what happens next.

Bacteria present on normal skin manufacture enzymes that break down the lipids into acids such as butyric acid, and it is the gas given off by these acids that we recognize as body odor. Another source of food for bacteria is propionic acid which is a breakdown of amino acids from the sebaceous glands by different bacteria.

Basically it is gas coming from acid that smells. And if the person does not wash off the bacteria it gets stronger and stronger very quickly.

Deodorant.

Mankind’s answer to this is deodorant. There are three kinds, deodorant, antiperspirant and antiperspirant deodorant. Most of these have a perfume to mask smell, but that is not how or why they work.

Basically, antiperspirant physically blocks the sweat from coming out through the skin, which keeps the area dry and takes the food-source away from the bacteria. Deodorant on the other hand, allows the sweat to flow, and cool the body, but it kills the bacteria so it cannot feed on and ferment the sweat, causing it to smell. And as you might have guessed, antiperspirant deodorant does a bit of each.

Natural deodorant.

But as you can tell by doing a quick Internet search, there may be a way to quickly whip up a batch of safe, indeed edible, deodorant in your kitchen for a few pennies per month. The question is, can these home made potions be relied upon to prevent body odor?

Well actually, yes they can!

The main ingredients for these recipes are coconut oil, arrowroot powder, diatomaceous earth (shell flour), baking soda (in very small amounts) and other optional additions such as essential oils.

The ingredient that does the job is the coconut oil, although some experimenters have substituted other natural oils with some success. Coconut oil, has among it’s many miraculous properties, an anti-bacterial effect and it is quite capable of killing off more stink than you can produce between showers. It smells good too!

Arrowroot powder is what makes the liquid coconut oil (yes it is liquid when you don’t live in a cold place) behave like a solid white mass (like deodorant). The optional diatomaceous earth also draws toxins out of the skin and somehow neutralizes them. Baking soda absorbs smell, but it also irritates skin so only very tiny amounts are added and it can be omitted if you have very sensitive skin.

Recipes.

There are many recipes that you can search for, and they vary somewhat, especially in their ingredient ratios, but here is one to get you started. By all means look for more online.

Coconut Oil 33%
Arrowroot Powder 55%
Diatomaceous Earth 11%
Baking Soda 1%
(percentages are approximate)

You can store the mixture in a jar and apply it with your fingers to your armpits. It is harmless after all!

Experiment and enjoy, and notice the lack of odor on your skin, clothing, bedding etc. This crazy, simple, natural, cheap, gunk works! It works better than the stuff in the drug store.

What is missing?

Look at the ingredients on your deodorant container. You will see a long list of chemicals, some for the task at hand and others to keep it together in a wide range of temperatures and humidities. We can assume these things are fairly safe, but if you ate your deodorant it would poison you and possibly immediately choke you to death from drying up your throat. Compare this to the natural recipe deodorants which are basically made of food.

And once again, the recipes do the job, better than most of the nasty smelling perfumed mixtures being sold at a few dollars per plastic-encased spoonful at every store. So head to the kitchen and whip up a batch of deodorant!

Author Jeffrey the Barak used to be a coconut, but he fell out of his tree.

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The Waterless Myth

waterless-toilet-3By Jeffrey the Barak

The Western United States is in a drought. The reservoirs are at their lowest levels, the forests are tinder dry and some wells have no water left in them at all. The snow packs on the mountain tops that eventually become drinking water are shrinking ever faster, and the strategy for recovery is simply to hope for rain.

Among the many ideas for water conservation are waterless urinals and waterless car wash.

Waterless Urinals

Male Californians who have been to the bathroom in public buildings have by now encountered waterless urinals and many will be wondering how they work. Since there is no water coming into the bowls, how do they not simply reek of urine?

Well in fact sometimes they do stink, very much so, and that provides a clue as to what is really going on. The waterless urinal simply utilizes a layer of floating oil that the urine sinks through, and that surface layer of oil prevents the odor of the urine from evaporating into the air in the restroom. The urine itself goes down the drain just as if it were a conventional toilet.

The caretaker in charge of the restroom replenishes the oil with a proprietary oil provided by the urinal manufacturer, usually Kohler or Steward. But of course this caretaker or janitor also has to clean the bathroom and part of the process is to pour buckets of water down the waterless urinals before replenishing the oil layer. So in fact they are not waterless in any way whatsoever.

The signs above these devices that proudly proclaim how many gallons of water are saved by the absence of flushing, do not take the maintenance procedure into consideration. So to put it politely, it is a myth.

Waterless Car Wash

Waterless car wash is sprayed onto a dirty car and gently wiped away with a soft microfiber towel. It is very effective and leaves the car clean and polished without scratching the paint, as long as you do it right. But anyone who has cleaned a few very dirty cars this way or continued the process to the brake dust coated wheel rims will tell you that you quickly soil a pile of microfiber towels with the used waxy solvent.

Now microfiber towels, which are polyester, are very affordable these days, but still, no-one uses them once and throws them in the trash. No, they go into a washing machine and get cleaned with a lot of water and detergent. So the water may not touch the car, but a lot of water goes through the towels.

And so, just like the mythical waterless urinals, waterless car wash actually uses a lot of water, just not at the time it is being used to “wash” the car.

The Real Villain

Flying over Southern California cities and towns, you see a lot of green grass. It is the lawns of golf courses, country clubs, sports fields, city parks and the front and back yards of private homes. But this is a part of the world that is supposed to be a semi-arid coastal plain. Practically a desert. Lawn is just not meant to be here, and the only reason it can be here is because we dump millions of gallons of drinking water on it to keep it alive.

This is also true in countless other parts of the world with large populations.

With the very real possibility of universal water rationing on the horizon, we need to keep more of our water for drinking and for growing food. We do not need grass. But knowing how people think we may one day be seeing poor people dying of thirst while others play golf on green golf courses and then go to the “waterless” urinal while the valet cleans their car with “waterless” car wash.

 

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Sebago and Sperry, Breaking-In, Boating and Loafing

8261-p-4xBy Jeffrey the Barak

An American classic, the boat shoe is a fashion staple around the world. It is a shoe that a man or woman can wear in hot climates and is an alternative to the flip fop, and yet it is still very functional in it’s intended use, which is walking sure-footedly around a wet and slippery boat deck, which might be polished wood, or textured fiberglass.

Origins

The first boat shoes were made by Sperry. Since 1935 they have been called Sperry Topsider Authentic-Originals, and they are now made in the far east, with the exception of the pricey “Made in Maine” variant. Sailors call them by the initials of Authentic Originals, “A-O’s” They come in different types of leather, with different sole materials and are easy to find. Sperry have boutique stores in major shopping malls, and of course they sell via their website, and then the online sellers Amazon and Zappos carry them, often at below retail prices.

Paul Sperry hand carved the rubber sole of his shoe with a penknife after realizing how slippery boat decks were after he slipped and fell in 1935. The process was called siping and was first developed in the 1920s by boater John Sipe. The US Navy issued various footwear styles to the enlisted and they had the trademark Sperry Topsider, from 1936 to the mid-Forties. The A-O has been available to sailors and everyone else since 1935.

Topsiders became part of a dubious image, “The Preppy Look” or “The Ivy Look” during the 1950’s but today people from all walks of life find a way to incorporate a boat shoe into their style.

A very similar shoe, in fact visually almost the same, is the Sebago Dockside. Docksides were at first a copy of Topsiders, not being available until 1970. But the proto-docksides date back to 1946. Like Sperrys, they are now made in the far east, but as of 2014, the side-by-side comparisons of the brands reveal that Sebago use a higher quality leather and seem to have more quality control and consistency than Sperry.

There are other boat shoes from several manufacturers that look like Topsiders and Docksides, most notably Timberland’s variant. Originally these featured the same quality leathers and were another faithful copy of the original. but now they are an inferior shoe and they certainly do not last as long.

No matter what the brand, one of the most important features of the boat shoe is that every part of the inside of the shoe is leather. No man-made material should touch the foot.  Discount brands that make cheap sneakers disguised as boat shoes, that have anything other than fine leather inside, are practically useless. This is important because, in case you did not know, boat shoes are to be worn without socks. If you wear socks with boat shoes you break the unwritten law of the universe.

Hygiene

Now some people, usually men, have stinky feet. Feet themselves do not actually smell, but bacteria does, and people who have astoundingly not yet as adults learned how to effectively wash bacteria from their feet, toes and nails have stinky feet. Placing your feet into socks or into shoes that have man-made material inside them will result in foot odor and shoe odor. But a person who knows how to properly wash their feet, wearing an all leather boat shoe without socks, will never experience foot odor or shoe odor under any circumstances. And even if bacteria manages to grow in a boat shoe, they are designed to be worn wet and so they can be washed inside.

And so the boat shoe, worn without socks is an alternative to flip flops that can be worn sockless on the hottest of days, can be worn in rivers and in the surf and are a good alternative for the many people who suffer lower back problems as a result of walking in flip flops.

Comfort

One issue that many people have with boat shoes is sole discomfort. This is because boat shoes were never designed for standing and walking all day. They are for wearing in the confines of a small slippery deck of a boat. But there is a secret that advanced boat shoe aficionados know that make boat shoes very comfortable.

This secret is the orthotic insole. Not just any insole, so don’t rush to grab your $40 Superfeet, or two cheap inserts made of foam rubber from the drug store. The insole you put into a boat shoe has to have a top footbed made of 100% leather, and it needs to be cattle leather, not deerskin, not pigskin and certainly not pleather. We will discuss the deerskin issue later.

Leather insoles are not that easy to find, but search online for Pedag, Ecco etc., and you will find your ticket to comfort. I recommend the Pedag Viva orthotic which comes in two different arch heights and features a metatarsal pad, with second best going to the more flat Ecco fashion insole. These are leather, and so just like the boat shoe, they do not promote the development of foot odor. Any other material, including the surface of Superfeet, will not protect you like real leather does.

Cleaning

Of course no matter how clean you keep your feet, shoes will get dirty, and shoes that you wear without socks get dirty both inside and out. Leather is skin, as is your face, and so it should come as no surprise that the insides and outsides of boat shoes can be washed, like your face. In fact the most effective cleaner I have found for this is Clearasil Daily Face Wash. There are similar face-safe detergents also. Do not use hot water that can strip essential oils from the leather, but cool or tepid water is good and you can dry your shoes on cedar shoe trees, or better yet, put them on and let your body dry them in about an hour.

Cleaning your shoes this way removes all the bacteria, all or most of the stains and is absolutely harmless to leather.

Choosing

Sperry Topsiders and Sebago Docksides have their fans and detractors. It is a bit like Ford versus Chevy. Since production moved to outside the US for reasons of economics, quality control has become an issue, particularly for Sperry.

Some Sperry buyers, myself included, received boat shoe’s with white soles that for some reason were deadly slippery on wet floors. This is of course the exact opposite of what anyone wants from a boat shoe, and we can only hope that all such inventory is long gone.

Different colors of boat shoe are made from different leathers. With regard to Sperry, you will find that the smooth leathers in traditional brown, navy etc have a medium-quality full grain leather. It lasts a fairly long while, does nicely when washed, except the color bleeds a little bit. The stitching is almost always good enough, and the soles are normally okay. Unless you somehow get the aforementioned slippery whites, you will be alright. Some styles have a very soft leather with a semi-suede buckskin texture and these need almost no breaking in period. They are usually comfortable as soon as you take them out of the box and put them on.

Sperrys with the brown (natural rubber) soles, as opposed to the white soles, have more impact absorption, because the white rubber is pretty hard.

The smooth leathers from Sperry have a reasonable amount of good new leather smell too that somehow returns with each wash.

But as mentioned before, Sebago quality is a bit higher. If you buy the “brown oiled waxy with smoke” Sebagos with the brown soles (B72743), you will see a leather that looks like “Horween Chromexcel” (but is not). It has a pull-up effect, turning light when you raise it with your thumb and then returning to dark as the leather contracts. The smell is like that of a new fine-leather wallet. The stitching is almost perfect except for the occasional sharp thread end which we will discuss under breaking-in. The sole padding is better than that of Sperrys.

Like Sperry, Sebago also uses different types of leather for different colors and some are easier to break in than others, The ones with the best leather are also the hardest to break-in. If you buy brand-new brown Sebagos in the right size and put them on and go for a walk the pain might be terrible and you might get blisters. In the long run, Sebago comfort is astounding, but it takes some work.

Whichever brand you get, and I recommend you try both over time, because you cannot judge them when they are new. You have to know two things, boat shoes benefit from insoles, and boat shoes need to be broken in.

Breaking In

As we have discussed, your boat shoes might be unwearable pain-inflicting devices when you take them out of the box. But boat shoes are unlike any other shoe. Not only are they supposed to be worn without socks, but they are designed to be worn wet. Even underwater!

So it comes as no surprise that breaking in your boat shoes involves getting them wet. Leather is a natural piece of hide, and while it may be treated, stained, dyed, tumbled and processed before it becomes a shoe, it is still made up of fibers. When the leather is wet, these fibers lose their lock on each other and the leather can stretch readily, and shrink too.

So the process of wetting the boat shoe is the last stage of getting them to fit and the first stage of smoothing down any rough spots, sharp edges and sharp ends of thread.

Before you start, take a warm shoe and knead it and flex it and massage the collar that goes around the ankle.  Twist it from side to side, put your hand inside and feel around for hard leather to soften up. Loosen the 360 degree lacing. Then you are ready to get wet.

If you live in a home that has a bathtub, fill it with a few inches of lukewarm water, no detergent of any kind, put on your new boat shoes and step in. Allow water to fill up inside the shoe around your foot and to slosh all over the outsides. Depending on your exact leather type and color, you may see no coloration in the water (for example with brown Sebagos) or a lot (for example with navy Sperrys). The leather will begin to saturate, either immediately or after some time, depending on the leather and then it will start to both shrink and stretch and conform to your foot as you step around the tub and flex your foot etc.

Many people will tell you that the way to go is with brine, (salt water). They advise placing your new shoes in brine and soaking them. This is to remove the new look and impart the salty stains of old sailing shoes, and is not perhaps what the city-dwelling boat shoe aficionado is looking for.

Exiting the tub, soak up most of the water with a towel, remembering that some colors are not color-fast and will stain the towel, and then proceed to dry the shoes. The best way to dry the shoes is to wear them at home after your soak, and keep them on until they are dry or almost dry. But a wooden shoe tree is second best. No need to use hot air unless your house is very cold inside.

Besides the soak, you may have to manipulate the shoe and massage the hard spots, some more and re-adjust the 360 degree lacing . I also advise using your fingertips to search inside for any sharp thread-ends and either pluck these or snip them off to prevent a source of blistering from developing.

Earlier in this article I mentioned the unwritten law of the universe, never wear socks with boat shoes. But if your new Sebagos are still putting pressure on some spot after the wet breaking in process, make sure no-one sees you and put some socks on and work the shoes some more with this added layer of skin protection.

No two pairs will be the same but this wet soaking process will reduce your break-in period by many days. In fact you could be completely done in one hour.

Shopping

It is important to get the right size and the right width. A wide foot will never be comfortable in a regular width shoe, and going up a size is no way to get it right. If you can find a shoe store that has a Brannock Device, get your foot measured, either bare or in a thin dress sock, to find your ideal size and width. Again, a size 9.5 E foot should not be in a size 10 D shoe, for example.

Online stores such as Amazon and Zappos often sell Sebagos and Sperrys for a lower price than the Sebago and Sperry websites or Sperry stores. I just got some new Sebagos for $60 on Amazon that are listed at $105 on Sebago. Similar deals abound, but remember that good boat shoes last for a very long time so do not get the wrong size or your third favorite color to save a few dollars.

Other Boat Shoes

Sperry, Sebago and other makes also sell different types of shoes that are also called boat shoes. Some styles have soles like sneakers that promise comfort on a long walk or a stand-all-day situation. But not all of these shoes are designed for bare feet and oceans of water. Once you stray away from all leather insides, you enter some dubious territory, unless you plan on wearing socks and using them as sneakers, which is what many of them essentially are.

You will also see new variations on the original boat shoe typified by the Sperry Gold Cup range. These cost about $150 and have golden eyelets, but they took a wrong turn with the introduction of the deerskin covered memory foam insole. Firstly, deerskin on a bare sole becomes as sticky as Scotch Tape as soon as your foot gets warm and damp. It will drive you crazy and also feel red hot. Secondly, a foam insole should compress and rebound. Latex will do that, but memory foam will not. It is too slow and the opposite of what you want in an insole. Of course you could remove these and pop in your own Pedags, but you will then have paid an extra $50 to $90 for ugly golden eyelets.

Some variations of the boat shoe have a third eyelet and cover the instep all the way to the top of the foot near the shin. These do not have the classic cool look of a boat shoe by any means. You need to see some instep exposed for the traditional style. A boat shoe should not be a city blucher.

In Conclusion

If you want your shoes to be wearable from the second you put them on in the store, look into Sperry Topsiders in the less-smooth tan-colored finish, with the brown sole. These are made of the soft, almost Nubuck type leather and the brown sole has a bit more spring than the white. Sperry changes their colors and leathers from time to time so you need to see them in person.

If you want to work for an hour or so or even a day or so to get the best, that will last the longest, and feel like part of you, consider the Sebago in brown oiled waxy leather, get the Pedag leather insole and do the bathtub thing.

The Sebago Docksides last for a very long time so it is worth investing some time into breaking them in.

Jeffrey the Barak needs to wear flip flops but cannot stand walking in them and they make his back hurt,  especially when he is carrying an old French submarine and two goats. It has been years since he was anywhere near actual boats, but boat shoes get the job done anyway, as long as it is not snowing.

 

The Next Generation Of Scooters Is Moving To The Dirt

Photo: Andrew Walsh. Submitted by author.

Photo: Andrew Walsh. Submitted by author.

By David Jones

Scooters have been a fun and convenient way to commute around urban areas for years. The growing popularity of scooters led to the formation of freestyle scootering and other scooter-based sports. As these sports gain in popularity, scooter manufacturers create new models of scooters that enhance the ability and safety of the scooters for these sports, such as freestyle scooters. The latest generations of scooters are providing users the ability to scooter off-road and in the dirt.

Editor’s note: “Dirt” in American English means soil or an unpaved road etc.

Why Dirt Scooters?

Most scooters are built to ride on smooth terrain, such as at skate parks or on the street. The wheels, deck, handle bars and other elements of the scooter are made for the specific use of the scooter. Although freestyle scooters have a more solid and rigid deck, reinforced handlebars, and other special features to allow the tricks to be done and extend the life of the scooter, it still does not provide the durability of an off-road vehicle. As more and more scooter riders are moving to the dirt, manufacturers are creating scooters that will have the durability and ability for freestyle dirt scootering.

What can Dirt Scooters Do?

Dirt scooters, or those that can ride on all terrains, can take the enjoyment of scootering off the road and into dirt, trails and mountains. They are made of stronger materials and wheels to handle the harsher terrain. In addition to freestyle scootering, they can be used for cross-country riding either alone or with dogs (also known as mushing). Although each specific brand of dirt scooter has its own features, the biggest differentiator of dirt scooters form other types is that they have inflatable tires and intertubes, similar to the BMX bikes.

Razor’s Phase Two Dirt Scoot

There are several different types of dirt or all-terrain scooters already on the market, including that by one of the most recognized name of scooters, Razor. John Radke, the professional freestyle scooter rider who first recognized the potential of taking the sport to the dirt, designed the Razor Phase Two Dirt Scoot Pro. This scooter underwent two years of testing to ensure its high-quality and ability to take on this sport. It has high-pressure tires and tubes that have a custom design tread pattern that feature knobs for aggressive traction but a smooth center rib for rolling on pavement. It also has a two-piece, split core hub design that makes it easy to maintain the tires and tubes.

Other Brands of Dirt Scooters

Royal Scout also has manufactured some dirt scooter models that feature genuine MBS 200mm pneumatic wheels that can be used on dirt jumps, BMX tracks, rough alley rail jams, grass drops, or single track trails. They have a variety of models with features perfect for the entry-level rider to a professional.

Another type of dirt scooter is the Diggler Mountain Scooter, proclaimed as the original mountain scooter. It is a combination of mountain bike and scooter, and features larger wheels than some of the dirt scooters. They can handle the same terrain as a mountain bike, but they offer the turning abilities and fun of a skateboard. They can go downhill and around terrain, whether you just want to get around hiking trails a bit faster or want to take your scooter freestyle tricks off the ramp and into the woods.

For scooter enthusiasts who wish to take their sport off-road, they now have many options of dirt and mountain scooters that provide the durability to perform tricks or just go for a ride on any surface. With the new generation of dirt scooters, you can take your scooter anywhere.
David Jones is a Product Designer at Pulse Performance Products and a Major League Baseball fan.  He designs products with a specific goal of environmental sustainability in mind, and enjoys creating products that can help reduce our impact on immediate environmental surroundings.

 

side nimble

The Nimble Cargo Scooter

By Jeffrey the Barak

side nimbleThe Dwell On Design Show is not about scooters, but among the pre-fab homes, bathroom fixtures and forward-thinking designs for the homes of tomorrow, you do occasionally see certain bicycles, and in this case a variation of a warehouse cargo scooter called the Nimble.
The Nimble scooter is low to the ground, designed to be ridden on the vast smooth concrete expanse of a warehouse floor, but apparently fairly capable as a street scooter also. What sets it apart from a standard scooter is the large cargo bin forward of the rider and the handlebars.

Nimbles at DwellThe handlebars are racked to the front steering wheel, which is some distance ahead of the rider.

The hard tires have a flat profile, but Nimble partner John Kim assures me that the scooter can be banked into turns as far as the point where the cargo hopper touches the ground. This cargo hopper also functions as a side stand also so you can stop and park anywhere without unloading or having to do anything else.

The total weight is 34 lbs, which is heavy for a scooter, but when you take account of it’s main function, shuttling objects back and forth over polished concrete, this is acceptable. Of course on the street it will be much more unwieldy than a pure riding scooter, but again, this has the extra function of being a way to roll cargo along.

The full specifications and more information can be found at nimblescooters.com

tesla-model-x_100381830_l

Can I seriously consider an electric car yet?

By Brean Harbervaster.

Manufacturers would never make cars that no-one would buy so the very existence of electric cars mean that for some people they are already all you need.

If you live in a home that has a place to install the dedicated plug-in charging station that electric cars need while you are asleep at night, and if you do not plan on long-distance road trips, there is nothing an electric car cannot do for you right now.

In an effort to showcase the possibilities of all-electric vehicles, manufacturers have included racy sports cars and so-called “SUV”s in the line-up, but to be more sensible and practical, a smaller lightweight passenger car is perhaps the most efficient way to exploit the technology.

tesla-model-x_100381832_l

 

The range king right now is the 2015 Tesla Model X. It is called an SUV but it is really just a car. This car is advertised as having a range of up to 230 miles and it sells for about $80,000.

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Following way behind this leader with a range of about 100 miles are two cars, the carbon-fiber 2014 BMW i3 (pictured left) at $42,200 and the 2014 Mercedes B-Class E-Cell which is really a dressed up Tesla and is expected to sell for about the same as the BMW.

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Volkswagen’s E-Golf is of course the electric version of the world’s most highly acclaimed motor vehicle, the Golf. When comparing all types of cars from tiny roadsters to SUVs as big as ships, no other car has been voted the best more than the good old Golf. The 2015 E-Golf will however only provide a range of about 85 miles and cost a lot more than a Golf with an engine which can drive from anywhere to anywhere. The much smaller VW “e-Up!” will go 99 miles on a charge.

The Kia Soul EV is a nice little box that a driver dressed as a hamster can drive about 90 miles between charges.

One of the most common electric cars is the Nissan Leaf. This can drive about 73 miles on a full charge.  Almost one of every two electric cars on the road is a Leaf. They are extremely successful and currently the one to beat. The directly competing Ford Focus Electric has a range of 76 miles.

And then there are a few cars that can only go about 30 or 40 miles. Some of these have small gasoline engines to generate more electricity for a much greater range, but they do not get propelled by these engines so they are essentially electric cars with generators on board. These cars include the Chevy Volt and Cadillac ELR, GM’s electric cousins. Without their gasoline generators on board, these cars would not have a usable range. 30 miles capacity is just too risky. You would be stranded much of the time.

There are more than the above available for sale to most US residents right now, but those not mentioned are small run specialist cars that can either go very fast, or can only hold one or two people. The selection discussed here are United States models, but China is making strides in the electric car world with the BYD and there are a sprinkling of other models in other countries. All these cars excel at what they do and as ranges continue to improve due to better batteries etc., you can bet there will be many more.

But the time has come for local commuting motorists with a place to set up a charger at home. You can seriously consider an electric car, especially if you also have a long range conventional fuel car in the family.

 

 

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Thinnest Wallet Possible? Dynomighty Mighty Case Cards

P1030228By Jeffrey the Barak

I like nice wallets, and I like leather, but the problem with most wallets is they make a few credit cards and a few banknotes into a single object that is up to six times more bulky than the contents alone.

Looking for ever skinnier and tinier solutions, I stumbled across what is probably the smallest and thinnest variant of a wallet. This thing has less of a size profile than using a single rubber band around your stash.

Made from Tyvek, something you will be familiar with if you have seen a FedEx Pak or a Priority Mail envelope, Dynomighty’s three types of wallets offer good strength, reasonable durability for the price and a thinness that no piece of leather or plastic can offer.

Tyvek is a water resistant paper-like spun fabric, and it can be imprinted with ink, so Dynomighty took these elements and created a very artistic range of designs for their wallets.

  • The original Mighty Wallet is in the format of a traditional bi-fold cash and cards wallet
  • The Mini Mighty Wallet is like a vertical bi-fold, which has a smaller footprint, but allows folded bills to peek over the top
  • And the smallest variant, the Mighty Case Cards, (not Mighty Cards Case for some strange reason) is barely bigger than a credit card and a Dollar bill folded in half.

P1030230The Mighty Case Cards measures 2.5” X 3.75” X almost nothing and weighs about 0.2 oz. It manages to include two single card slots in the front, and has a main compartment that will take a few cards and some folded cash.

For anyone not in the three silly countries in the world that still use inches (The USA, Liberia and Burma), 2.5” is 63.5 mm and 3.75” is 95.25 mm. 0.2 oz is 5.7 grams.

I think I am putting in more stuff than the designers intended, about eight cards and eleven folded banknotes, but they are all in there and easy to get in and out, and nothing pokes over the open top. Even with all this inside, my calipers show a thickness of 9.5 mm.

Now I may be enjoying this tiny thing as a novelty, but I miss my leather, so I plan to switch back to a single compartment thin leather sleeve to use as daily wallet, but if you had one of these and a new backup just in case it wore out or came unglued, you would probably not have to worry about it failing for a long time. Tyvek is tough stuff. And you would avoid being beaten up by vegans.

I chose the diamond plate design, and from a few feet away it really does look like a piece of metal.

Browse to dynomighty.com to see the three sizes and all of their cool and fun designs. I paid $5 including postage, which cost them a couple of bucks to mail out. This is not like splurging on Louis Vuitton. I recommend trying one for size for a little while and enjoying something that is essentially no bigger than the cards and bills inside it.

Jeffrey the Barak does not have a bulge in his front pocket but nevertheless he is still pleased to see you.

dollar-sign

My Afternoon with Andy

385-8442-_Warhol-_Dollar_SignBy Sig Shonholtz

Andy Warhol once suggested that we all get 15 minutes of fame. What happens if you have your 15 minutes of fame with Andy Warhol himself? Well, that is exactly what happened to me in 1984. I was an advertiser in his “Interview” magazine. One day I received a call from Page Powell, Andy’s personal assistant. She said, “Hi Sig, its Page……Andy wants to meet you”. “Me” I said, “Why does Andy want to meet me”? “You are the only advertiser without an office in New York and he is surprised you are in the magazine”, she said. I thought, OK, why not? As it happened I was going to be in New York in a couple of weeks. I said, “Page, I will be there in two weeks and will stop by”.

When I arrived in New York I called Page and agreed to meet her and Andy at his “factory” warehouse on Broadway around 4:00. I had plenty to do that day so I preferred to meet later in the day. I was a vintage watch dealer and had several appointments. The day started auspiciously, because I like to have three things happen to me every day. Something funny should happen, I should have a small adventure and I should see a GODDESS. She is a woman that takes my breath away in an instant. In this case it was the GODDESS I saw first thing in the morning. I left my hotel in midtown with a very heavy bag over my shoulder, it probably weighed 60 pounds. I immediately saw a magnificent woman who walked past me so fast I did a double take. Now, I am a fast walker, perhaps I am (or at least was) the fastest walker you have ever seen. In those days friends had to jog next to me to keep up, while I simply walked. I decided that I had to meet her, she was stunning. I lit out after her and realized that she was the fastest walker I had ever encountered, now I really had to meet her. It took a few moments to build up my momentum and with my heavy bag I was catapulted forward. I finally caught up with her, she looked like she was going to a modeling job. I started a conversation about…..what else but…..walking fast….talk about pulling teeth. She clearly was not interested but I did not care. I do not mind rejection or failure, I mind my own inaction. I chatted away like an old grandmother on a bench. But keeping up with her with the 60  pound bag was not easy, if for no other reason than the heavy bag was throwing me off balance and I almost knocked her over at one point, that certainly did not help the dynamic. After a few blocks we finally parted ways….and she did not even say good bye to me.

Fast forward to later in the day. It was 4:00 PM and I had been Up Town to Down Town and gone from the East Side to the West Side. I had been on the move since 9:00 am. I got out of my cab and slammed the door and turned around……there she was….the FAST WALKER. She was right in front of me, she turned around as soon as I slammed the door. “Hi, it’s me”, I said, almost breathless because of the coincidence. “it’s our destiny to meet…….we belong together”, I declared. I told her that I was just going across the street to visit with Andy Warhol and did she want to join me? Here she was, one of the fastest walking woman on the planet (I am certain of that). She looked at me with a blank stare and just said “no thanks”, that was it, not even a smile or a curious look. Oh well, I thought she must think I am stalking her but she has no sense of humor and certainly no sense of adventure. Now, you do not know this, but I am a  “Non Spiritual Coincidentalist” and I keep track of my coincidences, and this was certainly unusual. I used to be simply a Coincidentalist but I found it created to much controversy. Some people argued with me that “There are no coincidences.” meaning that everything is predestined. While others insisted that “It is just a statistical possibility.” I looked for the center between the Spiritual Coincidentalist or the BELIEVERS as I called them and the Anti Spiritual Coincidentalist, or the STATISTICIANS. I became simply “Non Spiritual”, I am a gigantic “WONDERER”. I wrote this coincidence down in my coincidental story files under the category of “statistically possible events”, but it seemed like an odd one.

By the way Fast Walker if you are reading this, how have you been? I miss you. Now that would really be an amazing coincidence.

the magI arrived at Andy’s “office” and “met” him in the alcove of a stairwell, I found it a bit odd, but went along.  Our conversation was convoluted, sentences were not linked together, they had nothing to do with each other. I kept telling myself, “Siggy, don’t confuse the artist with the man”. I wondered if he was nervous meeting me but I thought I am the one that should be nervous. We finally went into his office and sat down for a few minutes. The conversation started to make a little more sense. After a short while Andy said he had to leave and would be back later. Page came and took me into the “factory” part of the warehouse and I soon learned what the word factory actually meant. Page said, “Sig, I have to leave, but I will be back later, you can stay here if you want to”. Then she asked me if I wanted to “buy some original Andy art” and left.

I realized I was completely alone in the “art studio”. There was a row of canvases lined up on the floor of a very large and long room. They were about 10 inches square and there were perhaps 25 or 30 of them. I was there alone for about 15 minutes when two men marched into the room dressed as “Flaming Queens”. They were exquisite, flamboyant, theatrical and colorful. They brought out several trays of acrylic enamel paint, blue, red, orange, green, yellow, purple and laid them out on the floor at intervals near the canvases. They had some wood cuts with them, about 4 or 5 inches long. I realized they were $ signs. That’s right dollar signs. Andy Warhol was the Houdini of the art world and he was determined to mock that world. What better way to mock it then with “factory made art” of dollar signs.

They dipped the wood cuts into the paint trays and proceeded to “stamp” them onto the canvases. But I quickly realized these were not your average queen assistants. These were The Kings of Queens,  they were
Thoroughbred……Parade Horse….Prancing Queens. They had style and proceeded to dance around the canvases as if they were choreographed by Balanchine. They did pirouettes as they stamped, every now and then they threw in a backhanded Toreador movement and sometimes they let loose like Flamenco dancers and stomped their feet. Each, one at a time, they took turns stamping and dancing. I imagined Baryshnikov on a stage making art for Andy Warhol. It was an entire ballet, I was spellbound, I had never seen anything like it. I was watching Swan Lake in Andy’s factory. I could not believe my eyes and realized I was in a rare moment. They paid no attention to me but I decided to move to a more discreet corner because I did not want to distract them. I can tell you for a fact; time stood still. I do not remember how long I was there because so much seemed to happen. After awhile, perhaps 20 or 30 minutes another queen came in, he was just as enthusiastic but he went into what we used call an “absolute….hissy…fit”. He literally screamed out “What…..have…..you…..done, Andy wants more Red?”…..They shouted back, “no,,…he….doesn’t,…..he….just…told…us….. he……wants…..more…..blue”. Now, me, I was there the entire time and I did not see Andy say anything to them, so they must have made that part up. But I kept silent because it was not really my problem and I did not want to disturb the beauty of the moment.

After some time they realized it did not matter at all and one of them threw up his hands and said “oh, who really cares anyway” and all three of them removed the paint trays and left. I stood there alone for a while in silence, still in my corner just thinking about the scene. Finally, Andy came back in and did not even give the “paintings” a glance for even a second (obviously he did not care either), he seemed not to notice me. He unceremoniously, with a pen started to sign them. He started at the beginning and worked his way down the entire row of Dollar Signs. Andy Warhol…..Andy Warhol….Andy Warhol….Andy Warhol he wrote, and then left the room. Once again I was alone. I sat down in a chair not knowing what would happen next and started to think about the entire day.

Page finally came back. “Hi Sig”, she said and asked me, “So, did you decide if you want to buy some original Andy art”? Well, the first thing that came to mind were the dollar signs. “Page, how much are those”, I said, pointing to the row on the floor? She said, “They retail for $10,000, but you can buy one wholesale for $5,000″? I thought about it for a moment and asked myself if I could really justify spending $5000 for “one of those” after watching it being produced, it seemed ridiculous to me. I thanked Page and said good bye to her and Andy and left….deeply wondering about the “Art World”.

A couple of months ago I was visiting with a friend who is an art appraiser. I shared the story with her and suggested that I thought they might be worth $75,000 or perhaps $100,000 now. She looked at me strangely and said, “I don’t think so”. A quick search of her extensive database revealed that they are selling for upwards of $600,000. I was speechless and realized that for as long as I have worked in my field as professional, I could have bought 4 or 5 of those and just put them in a box and would have something great to add to my retirement fund.

The moral of the story is “don’t always stick to what you know” or “do not confuse quality with value”.

Sig Shonholtz is a Non-Spiritual Coincidentalist, and also a master watchmaker and a philosopher, and is from Los Angeles.

Ancient-book-Desktop-Wallpaper

Gmail Contacts To The Rescue For A Neat Freak.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.19.20 AMBy Jeffrey the Barak

I am an Apple Head and a Google Head. I love my Apple computer and I also love my Google services. I use Gmail to manage all of my email across several accounts and for many years now Gmail has been perfect.

But managing contacts is an important aspect of using computers. It was the first thing I did on my first Windows computer about a quarter century ago. And I have used all kinds of programs to do it, including Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Palm Desktop, and lately, Gmail Contacts and Apple Address Book, with and without iCloud.

If you use a Mac, then Apple Address Book might initially seem like the obvious choice, especially if you have an iPhone, or an iPod Touch or an iPad. Using iCloud and any two of these devices, Apple makes it all work and everything is backed up and synchronized.

But if you enjoy Apple hardware but also love Google’s Gmail, and if you perhaps add an Android phone to the mix, then it makes more sense to use Gmail Contacts to manage your contacts.

Now as you may know, you can have both. Gmail Contacts and Apple Address Book can be synchronized and an update to an entry in either should theoretically propagate across the air to every device.

But it is not very good. I have a Mac (more than one actually) and I use Gmail, all day and every day. Looking at Apple Address Book in a window alongside my Chrome browser was okay except it was also a bit of a mess. Sometimes there would be multiple cards for one contact and they were not always exactly the same. Sometimes the notes of one card would appear three times, once for “On This Mac”, once for “iCloud” and then again for “myname@Gmail.com”. And these three notes might reveal differences.

For someone who likes things neat and accurate, this cross-platform synchronization was quite annoying. On more than one occasion, while out and about with my Android phone, there would be a missing contact that for some reason only lived on my Mac.

My solution to this untidy mess was to go through my huge 25 year vintage address book with all of its categories and entries and check everything for accuracy, and I did this in Gmail Contacts. After adding any card that somehow only existed in the Apple application, I deleted all my contacts in Apple Address Book and on iCloud. All gone.

Now the trouble with Gmail contacts is you need Internet to see them. When you are offline, you cannot look up an address. But having an Android phone, which now reflects all Gmail Contacts accurately and in the right sub-group, there is always a way to view them, even in airplane mode. Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.19.47 AM

And as far as having all my eggs in one Google basket is concerned, I frequently export each address group separately to VCF files that I store on my Mac. This is manual backing up, not automatic synchronization, but it is also error and duplicate-free, which is more important to me than the convenience of background sync. It just takes one minute.

I re-synced my empty Apple Address Book to my “myname@gmail.com” account, just in case I ever want to see it in a separate window instead of in a separate browser tab, but I will not use that to update, add or delete anything, and I will probably never look at it again.

Switching to Gmail Contacts exclusively is for me the best solution to a messy problem. But now that I use Android rather than iPhone, (and  I should add that I much prefer Android KitKat to iOS!), this is what I should be doing. If you are all Apple except for Gmail, then maybe the Apple system is more for you, especially if a little discrepancy, redundant duplicate, or missing item is not something that drives you nuts.

Jeffrey the Barak may hardly ever look at his big silly address book, but he just has to know it is perfect or he cannot sleep. And he talks to lamp posts.

SONY DSC

Mobile Telephones are no longer Shaving Razors

imagesBy Jeffrey the Barak

When you buy a certain make and model of razor, say for example the Gillette Fusion, you get the handle part at a very low price in relation to the manufacturer cost. But it only takes one type of cartridge, and over the years, the profit from selling you these cartridges enables Gillette to recover the research and development costs from the handle, and make a good profit.

This is the “razor-blade economics” model that was essentially introduced to the world by King Gillette when he introduced their safety razor in 1903.

Mobile phone service providers, or as they are known in the United States, Cellphone service providers, have used the razor-blade model since the 1980s, offering free basic phones, or very expensive phones for just $199 with a two year contract. Customers have spent something like a hundred dollars a month paying for service, and so within a few months, the carrier makes up the difference between their wholesale cost of the phone and your $199 special price. And because of your two-year contract, you promise to provide them with a profit.

But that is changing. While these deals still dominate the market, more people are finding that it is better to pay the real retail price for their phones, and then just pay month to month for service, without a long-term contract.

Making it easy in the United States is the law. Under the Federal Communications Commission’s “local number portability” rules, so long as you remain in the same geographic area, you can switch telephone service providers, including interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers, and keep your existing phone number.

In practice, it can be a difficult and trying process to port your phone number from one carrier to another, when you give your billing and contact information via voice call to a support technician who is not too wonderful at being accurate, but with patience the porting can always be made to happen. Sometimes it takes a week and hours of patient support calls, but often it is a ten minute process.

So instead of buying the cheap razor and expensive blades, we can now find cheaper blades for our full-price phones, and after a few months we are ahead financially.

If we choose Android over iOS, then we also see that the current top ten lists of devices feature some phones that are very affordable, and rated as highly as the most popular phones. There are some very good ones for a couple of hundred dollars, almost the same price as a subsidized Samsung Galaxy or iPhone, which are the world’s two hot desirables at time of writing.

Coupled with very low-priced data plan offerings such as those on T-Mobile’s 2014 menu, it really does become possible to save many hundreds of dollars over two years as compared to deals during the contract era preceding 2014.

The same trend is happening in Europe, but they have been into unsubsidized phones for a lot longer. Sometimes spending up front can cost you less over time, whether it is your smartphone, or your higher quality shoes. It is something we should consider when making purchase in several areas of todays complicated marketplace.

 

standingseats

Standing Airliner Seats

standingseatsBy Jeffrey the Barak.

Last week I flew to Las Vegas and back from Los Angeles. This is a short flight, less than an hour, and also a silly flight because by the time you add taxis at either end and two hours for security and check in, driving to Las Vegas is almost as fast and a fraction of the cost, especially if there is more than one of you.

But this is about the flight. I chose an airline I had not tried before, Spirit Airlines. The online reviews of Spirit were absolutely terrible, but I noticed that almost every bad review was centered around the aircraft seats. The seats in the reviews did not recline, and the pitch, or distance from one seat to the next, was small. People were complaining that their seats did not recline and that there was no legroom.

I therefore immediately dismissed the complaints. I have experience of such seats from short flights within Europe and I knew that all you have to do is move your butt to the back of the cushion, close the gap between your lumbar region and the seat back, sit upright, and then there is plenty of legroom and your back feels great!

Of course, in the absence of such instructions, the average American traveller slides their butt forward, knees up against the seat in front, no lumbar support, in an effort to get a more reclined angle of seating, then they complain about the seat causing them discomfort.

On the flight home the Spirit jet had standard reclining seats and I can tell you it was much worse than the fixed rake seats on the way out.

But the subject here is aircraft seating. No-one loves it, many hate it and yet we need low fares and so the airline has to find a way to accommodate a full plane with as many fares as possible.

There are new ideas, but the average flyer is not going to like them, despite never having tried them.

Introducing the Standing Seat. Obviously we take up less horizontal space when our legs are straight beneath us (standing) than when we are sitting down with our knees in front. So what if we were to assume a more-or less standing position, with just enough of a seat ledge to take the weight off our feet? Would it be more comfortable, and could we get more seats aboard?

Skyrider-Seat-3--3--600x400

Skyrider Airplane Seat

Well for a short flight, it is more comfortable to adopt a restrained lean. No clambering over seats to assume your position, no tired butt and stiffening limbs, and no problems walking out to the restroom from a window seat, that is unless the airline reduces the pitch and sandwiches in too many extra rows as in the photo to the left.

But how would it be to stand and lean on a twelve hour long-haul flight? More tiring than a seat, or less tiring? The consensus is, people want to sit down on longer flights, but tests show that it is less fatiguing to stand and lean for half a day than to sit in a soft chair, and sleep is easy in this upright non-bent position. You don’t fall down when you have your shoulder seat belt fastened and fall asleep. Testers do comment that it reminds them of being strapped into a ride at an amusement park, but they cannot objectively state that the new seats are uncomfortable, and comfort is the most important factor.

And you never have the situation with standing seats where you want to sit up, and the passenger in front reclines his seat back into your face. Basically now, if a front row passenger reclines, then everyone behind has to do the same to maintain some nose room.

Articles in the world’s press have taken a mocking, negative tone on the standing seat question. Something about the concept makes people decide they hate the idea without ever trying it or learning the facts. The FAA has not so far hinted that they would ever approve the concept, despite field testers liking them.

One issue is a regulation that requires a seat to be able to withstand a 16G downward force without breaking and failing, not that such an unimaginable force has ever been experienced in any flight since the first! A passenger’s own legs cannot do this, and it would be left mostly up to the seat belt system to support a standing flyer in such an impossibly extreme ascending situation.

The focus so far has been on designing a stand-up seat with less pitch so that more economy passengers can be squeezed in for short flights. However a slight redesign could introduce an even more radical system, like a leaning bed that would allow for a much more comfortable long flight than the traditional seat. But are we ready to accept the concept at all?

One company, Skyrider, has demonstrated a seating system that is mostly standing, but it is only halfway there, and the legs are still bent, and it is not a committed approach to the full lean, which may be a better goal.

Jean Harlow leaning board

Jean Harlow on a leaning board

The full lean is something we rarely see. In old Hollywood, stars with big gowns were given leaning boards with angled foot platforms so they could rest between takes without bending their clothes too much. This is a concept that could replace seating in aircraft and other vehicles too.

As long as we need to fly in long skinny tubes, there will be a need for a comfort revolution. It will be interesting to see how seating develops.

 

 

Jeffrey the Barak often flies, and always uses an airliner to assist him in such situations.

IMG_1438

Man Bags

Burberry tote
Burberry tote

By Jeffrey the Barak

Most men need a man bag despite some negative reactions from others. Until recently, it was difficult for men to be able to comfortably walk around in public with a nice bag for all of their stuff.

But just like women, who need purses and handbags of various sizes to bring along all they need to look fabulous and stay fresh, today’s man also has a few things that he really should bring along everywhere.

I remember in decades past, the only way you could really get away with it without being heckled at by drunken homophobic bullies was to use a gym bag or some form of tool bag, or a manly briefcase, or of course the eternal student backpack. Anything that looked like it could have been designed for a woman was dangerous territory.

But that is changing. Most designers of bags now have a mens collection, and while some of these items look like they might have been designed for the ladies and moved into the mens collection, it is getting easier to get away with having a nice bag and remaining unthreatened on the streets.

Certain Asian nations such as Singapore are way ahead, with the majority of younger men carrying some form of small luggage, varying from a ladylike purse to a big travel bag. And Singaporeans are just like everyone else in the world when it comes to the percentage of gay people in the population, meaning the majority of these guys are as straight as your plumber. They just have less hang-ups about the stereotype of bag carrying and obviously they are more comfortable with their gender image than say, the men of Houston, Denver or Charlotte.

Now that men have needs beyond a bunch of keys and a bankroll, and now that we live in a world where the average guy carries a smartphone, a tablet, a laptops, credit card bundles, eyeglasses, and a small array of personal healthcare items and grooming products, there is simply too much stuff to shove down the front pockets of your 501s.

So whether you walk around in shorts, jeans or a suit, there are many choices of appropriate hand or shoulder luggage to help to have what you need right at your side, instead of back at home. Some solutions cost thousands, and others cost ten bucks.

But what about this guy?

Lets start with the most problematic case, the insecure macho homophobe with too much stuff to fit in the pockets of his cargo shorts. This guy is not going to want a red crocodile hide designer tote, however, a canvas tool bag, a stonemasons bag or a medium to large cross-body nylon messenger bag should not raise the eyebrows of his bar-fighting buddies too much.

A duffle bag with some kind of boxing equipment logo or a soccer team crest would also pass muster among the insecure and self-conscious men of the world. And of course there is always a college backpack, even if you never actually wear it on your back with both straps.

And if his friends are even more dangerous, he can always turn to a cement-stained bucket with a lid.

Everyone else

Now that we have the problem bag carriers out of the way, what about the modern men, straight or gay, who don’t care if some caveman thinks any bag they carry is akin to a pink fluffy clutch, and just want something that looks and feels and smells and performs in such a way that gives them objective pleasure as well as carrying function.

Today’s choices are vast and varied. Sizes and styles are expanding, and some categories of day luggage that were previously exclusively in the women’s domain are very much at home in the mens collections.

Lets get Listy

General categories, although there is some crossover, include:

  • Totes
  • Travel Bags, including Duffles, Carry-Alls, Cabin Bags
  • Briefcases
  • Cross-Body Messengers
  • Shoulder Bags
  • Backpacks
  • Satchels
  • Utility Bags
  • Map Bags and Field Bags
  • Hand Bags (not handbags)
  • Belt Bags
  • Slings
  • Pull-Alongs

 

Totes

Coach Bleecker Legacy Business Tote
Coach Bleecker Legacy Business Tote

 

The predominant new trend in menswear accessories is the tote bag. All the main designers feature new mens totes.

A tote is usually a large and tall bag, either soft or stiffly structured, and usually made from canvas or leather. Some are open at the top, and some have zippers for security. There is no top flap, but the top of the tote may sometimes fold over when closed. There are usually pockets inside and out, as well as one large central space for many small, or one or two large items. Some have cross-body shoulder straps, and others require you to hold the bag in one hand, counterbalancing your walk with a sway, and lifting the arm when on stairs. Most totes have handles with a longer drop that can be placed over the shoulder so the bag tacks against the ribs, but this method of carrying can look a bit un-masculine. A separate shoulder strap is the important addition that makes an otherwise unwieldy tote a pleasure to carry.

For a dollar or two, you can carry your gear in a grocery checkout tote, and for twenty grand you can caress half an alligator, but a medium-weight soft leather is probably the nicest material for this large yet practical every-day bag. Even when mostly empty, they can be efficient if you organize your small objects into smaller containers, pouches, sleeves etc. A great advantage to a tote is if you start the day wearing a jacket, but then it gets hot later on, there is usually room for that jacket inside the tote.

The key to avoiding a womanly tote is to look for straight vertical sides and thicker handles. Very thin handles with a long drop are dainty and also do not spread the weight comfortably. This is just as important for the shoulder strap, if included. Even if a strap features a shoulder pad, the strap itself needs to be either thick or flat and wide.

Travel Bags, including Duffels, Carry-Alls, Cabin Bags

Filson Denim Medium Duffle
Filson Denim Medium Duffle

 

Even larger than a tote is a full on overhead-bin sized duffle. Bags in this category are wider and so when hand carrying one you will find it grazes the leg. They tend to be very heavy when loaded so they are no fun to carry in one hand or on the same shoulder as the side your bag is on, and a cross-body shoulder strap can be a life saver.  If you find you always have a very heavy, full travel bag, then perhaps an international-flight-sized (45 linear inches), wheeled suitcase carry on would make more sense, assuming you don’t cross plowed fields etc.

Briefcases

Jack Spade Davis Briefcase
Jack Spade Davis Briefcase

 

Men have always been able to use a briefcase as a man bag. Most are rigid, as they are designed to protect papers in unfolded condition, and most are lacking in front-to-back depth. Many deeper briefcases have two or three gussets and internal dividers so they are not practical for single large objects. You need to organize your stuff flatly to take advantage of the interior shape. A briefcase is not meant to be wrapped around your side and so will always be a rigid rectangle, even if you wear it cross-body.

In the summer, when you are near the beach, a formal briefcase looks a bit strange, but in the city, with clothes, it is always a good look for a man bag.

Cross Body Messengers

Patagonia Half Mass
Patagonia Half Mass

 

Originally a military design, these bags are used by bicycle couriers and are possibly the most popular man bag after the backpack. No surprise there because a messenger is extremely versatile in any situation, and is a good format for a laptop.

Depending on size, the messenger has different functions. A larger one will fit some clothing or shoes along with your daily essentials, while a smaller one can be a neat way to carry your essentials hands-free and in balance. Most have a long front flap that covers the front of the bag. If it is a leather messenger, this flap really adds weight, and since you probably don’t have it on your back while riding a bike in the rain, it is functionally superfluous.

Many messengers lack a top handle, which means you cannot easily carry them in your hand. And if they do have the handy handle, it requires you to clip, button or stick the flap closed in order suspend the bag in balance.

Shoulder bags

Piel shoulder bag
Piel shoulder bag

 

Usually smaller than messengers, shoulder bags are difficult for a man to wear well these days. A shoulder bag, as listed here, is usually a rounded square or rectangle with lots of zippers and compartments. European man bags or “murses” from the Eighties dominate the category, and most designs are dated to the point that they more often than not have spaces designed for the candy-bar non-smart phones of yesteryear. When a comedy movie or TV series wants to get a laugh out of man bags, this is to go-to design for the jibe to be effective.

Larger shoulder bags, such as the iconic vinyl PanAm airplane bag from the Sixties are also lacking in the comfortable cool factor despite their attempted revival by Superdry. But there are some handsome variations, often named commuter bags.

Backpacks

Skullcandy backpack
Skullcandy backpack

 

We have already noted that backpacks incite little trouble for the male wearer, but they can be inconvenient because you have to take them off your back to access anything. Also people can come from behind and quietly steal from the bag. Museums and pottery stores usually ask you to take them off and carry them in hand so you don’t turn and bump it into valuable objects. If you ever step backwards with a backpack on, or turn suddenly, you will sooner or later impact upon another individual or object.

The backpack is in a class of its own, but it should also be included in any discussion of man bags. If going for a leather backpack, avoid thin straps at any cost. If your backpack has spaghetti straps, not only will it hurt, but it is probably not designed to be a man bag.

Satchels

Saddleback satchel
Saddleback satchel

 

Satchels are usually a boxy shape with ridged corners. Most are made of a stiffer more rigid material like a briefcase, but they can also be soft and floppy.  Larger laptops are usually too big for a satchel. A traditional satchel is stiff leather with a top flap and one or two buckles for closure. They can often be worn like a backpack, or as a shoulder or cross-body bag. Women’s satchels (another definition of the same name) are often very soft and unstructured, whereas unisex or mens satchels are always stiffer.

Of course some people use the terms satchel and shoulder bag interchangeably and envision different visions of what each should look like.

 

Utility Bags

Coach Bleecker Utility Tote
Coach Bleecker Utility Tote

Picture a bag with a strong bottom and many open-topped pockets inside and also perhaps outside the main compartment. A belting-leather tool bag, a canvas tool bag and also a fine leather man bag can be in this category.  If the bag tips, items can fall out but they are usually bottom heavy, and are great for top-loading and organizing individual objects for a quick withdrawal.

 

Map Bags and Field Bags

Map Bag
Map Bag

 

If your map bag is in military olive drab canvas, then you can disguise the fact that it looks like a ladies purse. Once the material changes, a small map bag or field bag looks like a ladies bag even if it is in the mens department. These little bags are quite a handy size for use as a day bag, being just the right size to take what might have been in your pockets, but they are such a challenge, unless you really don’t care if they look  like a man bag or not.

Yes they are employed by the hunting and fishing community and used for fishing lures and shotgun shells, but they are essentially the right size to be mistaken for a ladies bag.

Hand Bags

Gucci Guccisima mens clutch
Gucci Guccisima mens clutch

Let’s mention a language problem here. In Europe, all ladies purses are called handbags (one word) and a purse in Europe is what Americans call a wallet. Such are the variances in the English language. In this discussion, a hand bag (two words) is a strapless bag that we would hold in one hand, with or without a retaining wrist strap. In the ladies world, this could be called a clutch.

Men use hand bags for quick access to items such as keys, passports, tickets, phone, money etc. and often they are placed inside another larger bag, such as a tote as an organizational tool.

Here again, it is a challenge to make a hand bag look manly, but they are very handy (pun intended) and they serve well to keep lumpy and sharp things out of your pants pockets. Clearly if it is pink patent leather with a giant gold buckle, it is probably intended to be a ladies hand bag for lipstick etc., but in black leather and without embellishment it looks okay in a man’s hand.

 Belt Bags

Viper Patrol Belt System
Viper Patrol Belt System

Guys with jeans and belts often attach various pouches to those belts, You see them custom designed for what they carry, just like the items police have on their duty belts. Pouches for phones, sunglasses, Swiss Army knives etc. are common, especially among motorcyclists who don’t have that awkward conflict between belt bags and car seats. Larger belt bags can be multi-use, with a fairly large compartment. Worn at the back they are often called fanny packs in the Americas, but not in England of course where the word fanny does not mean your butt. (In British English, fanny is a word for vagina).

If you select any kind of belt bag, you are not much further forward from having things in your pockets, unless your name is Batman, but a belt bag is definitely one form of man bag, albeit useless when you put on your overcoat.

Slings

Coach Bleecker Convertable Sling
Coach Bleecker Convertable Sling

Worn cross body, with the actual bag on the chest, a sling is a handy way for the man to carry a few essentials hands-free and with empty pockets. Due to the sling’s position on the body, you cannot easily look into the bag while you are wearing it, and they don’t exactly compliment a suit and tie very well, but a sling is a handy man bag for some occasions and situations, and no-one can sneak a hand in without you seeing it.

 Pull alongs

Samsonite Spinner
Samsonite Spinner

 

In today’s big cities, men and women with a lot to carry from public transport to office etc., are turning to luggage as an alternative to a large bag that needs to be worn or carried. The international carryon standard of 45 linear inches is a popular choice, and it may have two skate wheels at the back like a TravelPro, or four casters like a Samsonite Spinner.

In American English, any container of possessions is called a bag, even if it is made of metal and has wheels, so it has to be mentioned in our list of man bags, just because so many city dwellers are now using them to keep the weight off their shoulders.

How You Wear It

Almost any bag can look like a man bag if you hold yourself with pride, take charge of the bag and walk like you know where you are going. But if you wear your bag on the crook of your elbow or below the armpit, and mince along from shoe store window to shoe store window with a miniature poodle on a leash, even a dusty tool tote with a hammer-drill sticking out the top will take on the appearance of a purse.

So it is as much about attitude as it is about size, shape and materials. Wear your bag like a man, look like a man.

Sexuality

Personally I could not care less if people think I am gay. Gay people are very cool. I happen to have been born as a male with the straight inclination, but if I saw a 100% woman’s bag that I really liked I would just use it and not care. Many of my past bags have been at the very least unisex, and probably mostly purchased by females. But I understand that man bags are still a new thing for many, and some men worry about how much less masculine they might appear if they could only get the junk out of their pockets.

 

Bagilogue

Currently I employ a black Coach Bleecker Legacy Business Tote. It is in their mens line, but I think a lot of women also buy them, just because they are so cool. In the past I have bought and re-sold (or donated) many a man-bag, including Saddleback Leather items that were super cool, but a bit too heavy, and many a polyester or nylon messenger. I must have been through dozens of bags, but I alway regret going out without one and I try to never put anything in my pockets.

As more and more men take a bag out with them every day, the stigma should diminish, and men will be more comfortable using some of the very practical new categories of man bag out there. I mean, once you’ve toted a tote, you will really miss having a tote to tote.

 

Jeffrey the Barak is the bag consultant for Lumpy the Sardine, who rules the undersea kingdom South of Hawai’i.

 

Yes, cats do smell terrible.

spraycatBy Jeffrey the Barak

Despite what you think, your cat stinks and so does your home. Any cat owner reading this will immediately dive into a state of denial. They will say, cats do not smell, they are very clean animals. but they are basing such assumptions on their own senses, and these are not the senses of the majority.

In truth, not opinion, cats really do emit odors of various sorts, and like most animals, including humans, their urine and feces are very smelly. In a cat home, not only is there a cat, and a litter box, but there is also cat food, which in itself produces a house-filling stench that cat owners seem oblivious to.

When a non-cat owner visits the home of a cat owner the smells that are there to greet him or her include cat glandular spray, cat urine, cat feces, cat dander, canned cat food and also gases produced by bacteria that thrive in and on all of the above.

But the cat owner will think, Fluffy is so clean, and the litter box is so effective, and that bowl of gelatinous meat by-product on the kitchen floor smells like a rose. They are simply unable to smell what is really there.

And then beyond this nightmare of airborne bacteria, the cat people are also oblivious to the daily killing spree that their little fluffy unleashes on the wildlife of their neighborhood. Even when told that researchers have attached cameras to house cats and documented the massive daily carnage, they cannot process this fact, and continue to believe their little stinky monster just sits around purring at everything.

Of course it is easy to understand why. The reason is love. When you love your pet, you cannot imagine it as a stink-spraying ruthless killer. Even in the face of evidence, you are simply unable to believe it. That is the power of love.

But the non-cat lover will know that you have a cat, even if they never see it. They might be able to smell the cat on you when you are ten miles from home. They will almost certainly smell it in your car, even if you never put your cat in the car. Every piece of fabric or leather that you wear, contains the odor, as does your hair, as do your forearms and ankles. You are covered in it. And your friends with a good nose can smell the cat substances before all else. You smell of cat, and cats do stink.

The little fluff ball that you think is neatly licking itself clean in the corner of your living room is spraying glandular stink bombs out of its butt area when you are not looking. It is doing what is only natural in the wild, and marking its territory. We may have bred cats into house cats, but they are still cats, just like every lap dog is still a little bit of a wolf.

There is a stereotype of an older unmarried single lady, who has no romantic partner, living all alone with her pet cats. This stereotype exists not so much because these people need the company and love of the cats, as it is because the disgusting stench prevents non-cat people from wanting to be near them. Of course all the so-called crazy cat ladies reading this will again go into denial, but it can be scientifically proven that there is a terrible smell, and that it is not attractive. There, point proven.

The cat owner will find that dinner invitations are declined, human visitors have one eye on the exit door, and that the people most eager to come and hang out are not people at all, they are the cockroaches, who besides cats, raccoons and opossums are the only things that find cat food in open bowls on the floor of a warm house to have an appetizing odor.

Now clearly pet dogs and pet goldfishes etc. each have their associated undesirable odors that really don’t belong in a clean home, and indeed some humans are unable to clean away their own terrible smells, and therefore homes without any pets at all can still stink, but the cat is a very common cause of a smelly home, and in almost every case, the cat’s human companion cannot even tell the smell is there.

Some serious reasons why loving a pet cat is not a good idea.

  • Urine is deposited to mark territory. A strong smell that the owner gets used to and is unaware of, but others can smell on the property and in the clothes and hair of the owner even when they are off premises.When described, the owner is usually in denial.
  • Glandular spray is deposited to mark territory. A strong smell that the owner gets used to and is unaware of, but others can smell on the property and in the clothes and hair of the owner even when they are off premises. When described, the owner is usually in denial.
  • Cats kill other animals on a daily basis. Sometimes they keep it a secret, and sometimes they bring them home.
  • Cats vomit either dry fur balls or fur balls plus stomach acid inside the house as well as around the premises.
  • Cats damage furniture and fabrics with biting, scratching and erosion from bodily fluids.
  • Cats fight one another.
  • Cats scratch and bite people, including those who feed them and take care of them, but mainly third parties. The owners often try to overlook it as endearing play, but many people are rightly afraid of the injuries.
  • Cats are regarded as being clean by their loving owners, but this does not account for cat excrement around the building, or inside it, or the urine, or the glandular spray, or the hair that has been down into the stomach and back out, or the vomit, or the small creatures living in the skin and fur, or the dander, or the shed hair, or the bacteria deposited on all hard and soft objects that cats comes into proximity with. These substances are not only smelly, they can cause allergies and transmit disease. Evan swabs taken from the ceiling of cat’s homes test positive for this bacteria.
  • Cats can transfer disease to humans. Diseases include Lyme disease, Bartonella Henselae (Cat Scratch Fever), Bubonic plague, Rabies, Campylobacteriosis, Leptospirosis, Pasteurella Multocida, Salmonellosis, Toxoplasmosis, Ringworm, Roundworm, Tapeworm, Hookworm.
  • Cat litter does not work. The litter box smells, very strongly. It is somewhat better than having cat urine and feces directly on the floor but it mainly serves as an illustrator to the level of denial that the loving cat owner has. They view the tray of piss, poo and granules as a normal thing to be inside their home, and often it is located in close proximity to their human food preparation area. Salad anyone?

 

Jeffrey the Barak is not a cat lover, and is prepared for the illogical hate mail that this article may generate. He forgives you in advance because he knows it is driven by love.

Abundant fresh water for the future

water-chipBy Jeffrey the Barak

On and below the surface of our planet is a finite quantity of water.

Some of it is drinkable, and some of it is not, either because it is polluted, or because it is salty. Most water is in the oceans and it is salty water.

The reason it is salty is because it contains dissolved minerals. Rain falls on rock and minerals are washed down rivers into the sea, and then water evaporates again to form more rain, but the sea just gets saltier. Over billions of years, the ocean has developed into the salty brine that we see today, and we cannot drink it.

With population increasing, and traditional water sources disappearing due to melting ice and polluted aquifers, it is clear that in the near future, many people in the world will be killed, by thirst.

So the obvious solution is to remove salt from seawater and make it drinkable. Previously, desalination plants have needed to consume huge amounts of energy, making the production of drinking water from seawater, inefficient, expensive and polluting in itself.

But there is hope in the form of a new technology called Massively Paralleled Desalination. One company, Okeanos Technologies has invented the Okeanos WaterChip™, a solid-state, Massively Paralleled Desalination (MPD) platform.

This chip desalinates water in tiny quantities, millionths of a liter at a time, in a very efficient way that consumes hardly any energy. Using the power of the electron, small installations of the system can produce fresh water out of seawater, without filtration, chemicals, treatment ponds etc.

In theory, individual homes, larger buildings and entire municipalities could utilize these systems to generate enough fresh water for everyone in the world.

So while we may recently have been pondering a future of water wars, death en-masse, and widespread famine in our increasingly warm, dry and dirty world, there is at last hope for a different future altogether.

Jeffrey the Barak is sometimes thirsty and writes from inside a large potato.

Are we building the wrong way?

wood-frameBy Jeffrey the Barak

Most Westerners live in one of two types of house. Either it is masonry, solid, strong, but not much good in an earthquake, or they are in a wood-frame cage with the gaps filled in with drywall and stucco.

High rise dwellers may instead be in a steel cage with concrete floors and glass walls, and only a sprinkling of drywall to divide spaces.

But why do we build this way, year after year, decade after decade? Surely in this age of technology there should be materials that don’t crumble, rot, fall apart, get ruined by a water leak or get eaten by bugs. Is the nail gun, some bolts, some pine planks and some plaster sandwiched between two sheets of gray paper all we can find to make a home out of?

It often seems that all new home-building products are just variations of wood, paper, and powdered earth. Why is that? Is it the drive to have recyclable debris when the building is eventually demolished in the future, or is it more a case of buying wood because wood is for sale, and building with carpentry because most home builders are carpenters?

New materials and products are finding their way into home construction. Structural Insulated Panels, or SIPs can replace timber frame, insulation and drywall. They are light, energy efficient and are a self-contained alternative to that wall behind you. They are made of fiberglass surrounding foam.

Modular construction, which is a nice way to say pre-fab, is a different way to build, but usually these systems are made of the same old wooden planks, drywall etc. Just waiting to be ruined by floods and bugs etc.

Steel-framed houses use steel to replace the planks, but they fall back on drywall and other traditional wall materials to finish.

Concrete blocks can be used like bricks, but they may not be able to withstand an earthquake because there is no flexibility.

Engineered wood is strong and flexible but it can be ruined if it gets soaking wet.

All of the above alternative materials don’t really take us to a new way of building.

A glimpse of potential can be seen in houses that repurpose shipping containers into structural components. These houses are interesting and they work, so we can consider new ideas for construction that use fresh components rather than shipping containers.

Some green-minded builders are looking at ancient materials such as straw bales, cob (mud and straw), and rammed earth. These things are obviously sustainable and recyclable and have little or no environmental impact, but you would not want such a house to go through a flood. And there may be many little things that would like to feed upon them.

The steel frame and the SIP are steps in the right direction, as long as we continue to feel at home in true rectangular spaces but with all the advancements in engineering and science, there must be something that we are neglecting to think about. Different materials, different methods, completely different things for us to enjoy living in.

Please use the feedback feature to chime in with truly alternative ideas.

 

Operating Systems for Humans

OS for a  steam trainBy Jeffrey the Barak

Even people who shun computers, smartphones, remote controls and anything with a recognizable interface cannot avoid operating systems.

If they adjust their home’s heating and cooling, or cook in a microwave, or operate a modern motor vehicle they are in a small way using an operating system. The bridge of a steamship is an operating system. The reigns and stirrups of a horse’s livery are an operating system.

But an operating system is usually thought of as an interface between a user and a computer, whether that be a desktop computer, a mobile telephone, or something in between.

What was once abstract and hard to connect with human thought, (think punched cards), is now intuitive, involving keyboards, touch screens etc, that seem natural to use.

While it was, and still is, programming language that makes these basically binary things work, it is the operating system that the user interfaces with.

In the 1980s BASIC and DOS were commonly used front ends for the job of running a program on a computer with a keyboard and display screen for people who did not work as programmers. And then one day there was the Apple Macintosh, and Microsoft Windows 3.0, and all of a sudden, everyone and his auntie could use a personal computer for all sorts of useful things, and the world changed. Sure there were other choices in home computing before these two dominant systems, but they did not take us to where Windows PCs and Macs have taken us.

While Sinclair, Acorn, Apricot and Commodore have headed to the museum, Microsoft and Apple have kept us working and playing ever since the eighties. Look at the Wikipedia page for “Timeline of Operating Systems” to be reminded of all the dead ends and foundations for later systems that you may have forgotten about.

Today, mobile operating systems are more widespread than computer operating systems. In computers, Windows PCs and Macs take up most of the room, with Linux filling most of the remaining slither. But Smartphones and Tablets that have evolved from iconic tools such as the Palm Pilot, the Psion Organizer and the Newton, seem to be in everyone’s pocket or purse.

And so today we are looking at Android, the oh-so-easy iOS, and Windows 8 as the operating systems that most humans interface with. Blackberry has risen and fallen into a small niche group, and Symbian is on the way to the museum after a very rapid decline, and in the face of dominance by Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS, it is unlikely that a new player will be breaking in anytime soon. Even today’s vastly improved Microsoft Windows, which is now a million times better to use than how millions remember it, is in a very distant third place in most people’s awareness.

Say “operating system” today, and the majority people in the world will see Android in their mind’s eye. And Android is frankly a bit of a mess and not that easy to use for many. But that is where we are, and I doubt that anyone would sacrifice their new Android smartphone for anything running AmigaOS, PalmOS, Solaris, MorphOS, or even the other current systems such as Blackberry10 or Windows.

And if it is an Apple user, then anything else is unlikely to tempt them away.

But it would be naive to think that we are definitely on the right path. It will only take one clever breakthrough to make us think, “How did we ever put up with Android and iOS and OSX and Windows? Why didn’t we have this (system to be determined) before?”

Jeffrey the Barak has played in various OS but only likes OSX.

 

Scoot USC

USCBikePathsBy Jeffrey the Barak

Los Angeles is a better place to be than many cities when it comes to finding a nice place to scoot. But sooner or later the 26 mile beach bike path becomes so familiar that the urge to explore further kicks in.

Google Maps has a bicycle overlay with puts bright green lines on the map showing places that are either dedicated bike paths, or bike lanes sharing the street with traffic. Applying this overlay to Los Angeles brings out two prominent green patches of fun. These are the university campuses of UCLA in Westwood and USC in South L.A.

I have been into these enclaves many times over the years, especially UCLA where non-student Angelinos go to get medical treatment and dump their hazardous waste while taking in a concert or ballet. I have been to UCLA enough times to realize that it is on the side of a giant steep hill. And so USC which is on a broad alluvial plain between the L.A. River and Ballona Creek is the flatter choice.

Before the ride

For me, UCLA is closer but it is hard to park near there, and less than two miles from home is the Metro Expo line, so I planned to take my scooter onto the train, and head downtown to scoot USC. If I were more of an athlete I could watch the train from outside, because a nice, quiet, new, mostly-deserted, bike route shadows it all the way from Culver City to USC, about ten miles, but I wanted to save my energy for the campus itself.

TRackUSC’s bike paths are represented on the map as public bike paths, but technically this is private property. Bicycle users are required to register their bikes with campus police, mostly to combat theft, but I have read that many students use longboards on campus and so since a scooter has more in common with a board than a bicycle machine, I decide I should be okay and hope to slip under the radar as a nutty old professor of dynamic physics on a scooter.

The ride around USC

After riding a mostly empty Saturday morning train from Culver City Station to Jefferson/USC station, I found that the campus was also mostly empty. This was the day after commencement so workers were loading many thousands of chairs and tables onto trucks and disassembling stages, gantries and banquet tents. A few students had their caps and gowns back on and were posing for family photos beside statues, fountains and building signs. The bookstore seemed very busy, but it was the weekend between semesters.

reflectorThe riding surfaces were extremely wide and consisted mainly of smooth concrete with a few brick paved sections. The brick paving was also remarkably smooth under the 12.5″ inflatable tires of my Mibo Gepard scooter but I am sure they would give more of a bone rattle to those on smaller polyurethane wheeled scooters. Despite there being quite a few large trees between all the statues and fountains, I noticed no pavement lifting with the associated tricky cracks that often defeat the scooterer.

It was a remarkably smooth and fast level ride all over the campus, so much so that I kept surprising myself by reaching the perimeter after what seemed to be a short run in any direction. Some parts of the pathways were marked as bike lanes but I felt okay flying around anywhere. At Cromwell Field, the red-rubber oval running track, I was so tempted to do some laps on the scooter, but out of respect for any rules that may have prohibited it, I refrained from doing so.

North of Jefferson, University Village is marked on the map as bike lane, but here I began to realize that someone has been over-generous with the green lines on this map overlay. University Village is really just a small mall, and the surface is pebble cobbles, not a problem on the Mibo, but probably unridable on a Xootr or Razor.

coliseum endeavor

South of Exposition, which is really more Exposition Park than USC, I enjoyed scooting a lap of the Coliseum, home to two Olympic Games, but this lap was further out on the roadway because the green oval shown on the map is inside the fence. There were more people down here on the Exposition Park side because there are busy museums here and people flock to see the space shuttle, dinosaur fossils, butterflies and more. I concluded my ride with a cooling mist from the large fountain in the Jared Park Rose Garden and then scooted back to the train.

I will guess there are about ten or twelve miles of bike path in the USC area, and most are flat, smooth, fairly empty, shaded, and interesting. I found this ride to be very enjoyable. While most people hardly gave a second look to lunatic speeding around on a scooter, there were also a few who stopped to turn and stare as if I were riding a space chicken and dressed as a potato. So a normal range of reactions there.

blackbird

fountain

So all in all, highly recommended for scooting, and a nice change from the beach.

Jeffrey the Barak did not go to school at USC, but he did once learn how to eat bananas and play the xylophone underwater.

P1020331edited

The Mibo Gepard Kick Scooter Review

P1020333By Jeffrey the Barak

I have been waffling on in recent articles about kick-scooters about how much I miss pneumatic tires. Yes, the small solid tired folding scooters are convenient and portable, and in the cases of the Know-Ped and the KickPed are also reasonably comfortable at slower speeds on slightly rougher surfaces, but it takes air tires to properly isolate the rider from the tiring vibrations of the road.

I was not perfectly happy racing around hunched over my large wheeled Kickbike during the mid to late Naughties, but have fond memories of standing up straighter and cruising around on an old 12.5 inch scooter back in the late Eighties. It is not completely impossible to buy such a scooter in the USA but a really efficient ride with a low to the ground deck, which is of vital importance, currently requires an importation.

Buying

I Imported my Mibo Gepard from a Czech store that accepted PayPal. This was easier than messing around with a bank wire transfer. The store was Hopsej.cz. A rider in Canada had bought the same scooter from the same store and he pointed the way for me. Thanks Samokat! From purchase to receiving was nineteen days and my total cost was $426 USD. Assembly was easy, taking just five minutes or so using a 15 mm wrench to put the front wheel on, a 6 mm Allen wrench for the handlebar stem adjustment and a 5 mm Allen wrench for the V-brake cable adjustment and the rotation of the brake handles and bar ends.

P1020331editedRiding

My first five mile test drive was a delight. I did not intend it to be a sprint but in my excitement I averaged 10 MPH without it feeling like an exhausting ride. To a cyclist, that may sound slow but it is quite fast for a scooter. It was comfortable and fun and engaged my whole body without undue impact.

Not since my BMX style scooter in the Eighties and my briefly owned Sidewalker City in the Naughties, have I had a kick-scooter that so easily retained stability when riding one handed. This is due to the combination of a wide air tire and wide handlebars. I have no reason to ride one handed but it is nice to know I can wave at someone or signal a turn without falling over.

The Mibo Gepard is reasonably lightweight and easy to pick up and carry. It officially weighs eighteen pounds, although mine seems to tip the scale at nineteen pounds, which is about as much as one and a half Know-Peds, but somehow it feels much lighter than that, and it does not drag you back on a moderate incline. The handlebars adjust up to a yard high if you rotate the bars back to straight up rather than raking them forward of the wheel, and this allows a five foot eight inch rider like myself to cruise upright without having to crouch in a racing position. Taller owners can always buy higher handlebars and longer brake cables from a local bike shop so that they can stand straight also.

I cannot criticize the comfort of the ride in any way, however the Mibo deck’s narrow width means you do initially have to careful switching feet until you get used to it. My running shoe is wider than the deck. It is probably better to wear a more minimal shoe than an inhumanly large, bloated modern running shoe, as long as there is some forefoot protection and grip for the pushing foot. People upgrading from Razors will not find this deck narrow, and scooter riders who stand diagonally across their decks like they do on skateboards will still be comfortable and stable as long as they focus their weight on the forefoot.

The front and rear Shimano V-brakes, designed to stop an adult on a fast-moving heavy bicycle are strong enough for any scooter situation on any gradient.

The only accessory is the bell, quite handy for politely signaling wandering pedestrians (without earbuds) of your imminent arrival from behind.  No kick-stand, but typical spring loaded kick stands are usually more of a nuisance during riding than a convenience when stopped, and contribute to weight and rattling.

Rather than get too far into statistics and comparisons, I will simply say that this scooter is light, stable, fast, efficient, safe and portable and is therefore better for most situations than a large-wheeled foot bike, or a hard-wheeled folder. I am personally a passionate fanatic of two 12.5 inch wheels, perhaps mainly due to nostalgia, but the best selling Mibo, the Mibo Mastr, is probably the better choice for most Americans as it folds, (an important feature for sedan owners or bus riders), has an extra four inches of bar height, and has a sixteen inch front wheel.

Deck Height, or lack thereof

The feature that contributes the most to the Mibo’s ride is the low deck. As a deck gets higher, the ride gets more tiring. I cannot overstate how important a low deck is to the efficiency of a scooter, and am constantly surprised by the number of overly high decks that come out on scooters from Belize, Sidewalker, Swifty and others. The designers of such high-decked scooters obviously never ride scooters very far themselves or they would immediately realize their mistake on their first long ride.

Scooting Czechs

The Czech Republic is clearly the scooter capital of the world. Finland, The Netherlands, Germany and other countries contribute some, but there are many excellent brands in the Czech Republic, besides Mibo. One Czech brand, Yedoo, is launching in the USA this year, meaning that no personal import will be needed, but Yedoo does not bring their decks down as low as Mibo and the others. In fact the Yedoo Ox and the Yedoo Three are very much like my fondly remembered 12.5 inch Eighties scooter, but it is worth the trouble to try to obtain a Mibo, Kostka, Kolobrndy, K-Bike or similar Czech scooter if you can. Dipping down to scoot from upstairs will wear you out after a mile or so.

Other scooters

My older article on the-vu, Kick Scooter Classifications, will explain the available choices if you are reading this review first. For me, I am happiest in the small pneumatic tire class. It seems to have all the advantages of compact folders and larger foot bikes. I am very pleased with my new Mibo Gepard.

Criticisms

Hardly anything at all. Except that when it is time to change tires, I will go for a less knobby model than the Kenda tires that come as standard. They are smooth enough going straight but get knobby when you lean and turn. Perhaps the Schwalbe City Jet or a V-Groove or even a slick. And bent-valve inner tubes would make it easier to attach a tire pump also.

Mibo’s English page: http://www.mibo.cz/en/
Hopsej store: http://hopsej.cz

Jeffrey the Barak has been riding scooters since the cretaceous era, but sometimes he likes to have a bunch of grapes while admiring trombones.

 

Admitting to the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters

reproductionTools_03By Karen Little
April 2013

Have you ever wondered whether the Old Masters, whose drawings, painting, prints, and statues fill space in world-class museums, had drawing skills that far exceed those of today’s artists? Or do you suspect that those Old Masters might have used technology to improve their techniques, the result of which increased their productivity, popularity, and profit?

We admire (and some “worship”) many Old Masters for their realistic images. With that in mind, did the modern art movement during the late 1800s and early 1900s reject what seems to us today to be the super-human drafting skills of their peers, or did they simply reject the use of tools (optics and mechanical devices) related to pictorial development in favor of freehand drawing?

reproductionTools_02To help answer these questions, read Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the lost techniques of the old masters, a truly eye opening and entertaining book by David Hockney, a highly regarded English artist.

In 1999, Hockney set out to determine whether the Old Masters were truly masters at freehand drawing, or used technology to help create realistic images. If technology was used, what was it and how was it deployed?

To accomplish his research, Hockney pinned large prints of masterpieces side-by-side on a giant wall, in date order. These prints were based on paintings from around the year 1300, ending in the early 1900s. By observing the paintings side-by-side, he determined that the realistic quality of paintings changed radically in the early 1400s, spreading quickly from then on. He believed that this sudden change was related to the emerging use of technology (optics and lenses) that allowed artists to better see subject details and to mark keylines (traces) of what they saw on paper and/or canvas.

reproductionTools_05The resulting 12″ x 9.5″ book lets you compare these great works of art with Hockney’s observations, an enlightening process! By doing this, you’ll better understand the nature of image production, although a few of you might be disappointed that the Old Masters didn’t possess super-human talents.

To learn more about the historical use of tools used for image creation and reproduction, read Hockney’s book while simultaneously browsing the online research masterpiece, The History of the Discovery of Cinematography by Paul Burns. Burns covers 2,500 years of the subject, complete with illustrations. His clearly assembled information is freely available online at www.precinemahistory.net

Optical technology, such as the Camera Lucida discussed by Hockney, was not the only technology used image production. Historically, other devices were available to help sharpen viewing, interpreting, and measuring, such as shown by the prints in this article.

reproductionTools_04

 

 

reproductionTools_06

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image copying (in some cases called “forgery”) is not confined to crooks! Pantographs (see below) were and still are widely used to copy images from one surface to another. How did artists expand small drawings? One point on the Pantograph traces the keylines on the original image, and another, which is a significant distance away from the first, replicates those keylines on a different surface.

reproductionTools_01

Pantograph

 

The mystery of today’s art appreciation is why mysteries related to image creation techniques persist. One possible answer is that mystery is known to kick up the price of objets d’art, which, of course, is what drives the art market.

LINKS:

Rediscovering the lost techniques of the old masters, by David Hockney.

First published in 2001 and revised in 2006, new books are available at www.BN.com and www.Amazon.com for between $26 and $30. Before you buy, however, do a thorough search because sometimes those sites show exceptionally high-priced used editions first.

For more immediate information, perform web, video, and image searches on “David Hockney” “David Hockney’s wall” and “David Hockney secret knowledge.”

The History of the Discovery of Cinematography, by Paul Burns. This amazing (and free) online book covers the subject of image capture for over 2,500 years. Easy to skim as well as use for scholarly research, access it on line at www.precinemahistory.net

Early Visual Media, by Thomas Weynants. This online article complements Hockney’s and Burns books. Here you’ll learn how artists quickly and easily created realistic drawings and etchings with and without optical equipment. This information is guaranteed to blow you away. Access it on line at users.telenet.be/thomasweynants/precursors.html

ABOUT KAREN LITTLE

Karen Little is a writer, programmer, and illustrator, specializing in technical material and travel articles. She is also the current queen of adult kick scooting (crowned by herself).

Karen publishes www.LetsKickScoot.com and the moribund www.Littleviews.com. In one of her many past lives, she founded and ran Office Technology Academy (Milwaukee, WI), which helped highly-intelligent-but-low-income people obtain computer skills and jobs. She also founded Clear Concepts, a technical documentation company, and published a number of books and manuals. She’s now actively doing other things.

 

Dancing on the Beach

By Karen Little

I’m a very private person, especially when it comes to doing something in public that is seemingly foolish. And what I regard as foolish is showing off my body in any way, dress, or motion in which it isn’t reasonable to be shown.

I will not, for example, trot down my neighborhood in my bathing suit unless I was covered by multiple layers, and the same goes for the beach! That I ever get a tan is a marvel, although my nose regularly gets burnt.

I will also not participate publicly in gymnastics, one of which includes picking up a quarter near a bus stop, which is not graceful for a periodically stiff, 69 year old woman. And I continuously die of embarrassment when contorting in and out of our two-seat, Ford truck, with its mid-hip height floorboard. Boarding New Jersey Transit Buses, with their platform-high first step, provide similar experiences.

Privately, however, I exercise. Not yoga. Not Pilates. Not exer-cycling or treadmilling. What I do is dance, with me as my own choreographer.

Now then, I gather from pictures in the NY Time’s Arts Section, Entertainment magazine, and The Inquirer, when a woman shows off her dancing body in public, that body should wear size 0, almost-not-there clothing. This seeming convention violates two of my principle behaviors; the love of eating more than I can burn off, and my insane desire to cover up.

Home, however, relaxes my inhibitions.

In my sixth floor Weehawken, New Jersey, apartment, surrounded by picture-window views of Midtown New York, I dance as though I regularly fly across Broadway stages. I become a star at twilight, when Manhattan’s sky turns bright navy blue and the day-glow light from the Empire State Building’s crown transforms the sky. If I didn’t wear headphones while I danced across my living room carpet, I am sure that I would be able to hear the applause from everyone living across the Hudson River who bothered to train their binoculars on my windows.

And then, completely by accident, I heard the music entitled “Ghost Dance” by Cusco. Suddenly, I developed the urge to dance outside in public. Luckily, this urge occurred just prior to a two week, early-March stay at Treasure Island, Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico. Our hotel fronted one of the deepest stretches of beaches on the Pinellas County Barrier Islands (west of St. Petersburg), which, because of location and season was relatively unpopulated.

Karen_dancing_on_the_beachAnd dance I did. My costume for this bit of pleasure? My standard black, loose-fitting Tee and jeans. No glitz. No scarves. No jewelry. And no skin. My “peer,” Joan Rivers would not have approved, but everything else about the experience was transformative.

 

In the middle of the sand, I leaped, twirled, invented fancy footsteps, did the moon-walk, and executed fluid arm movements. For 15 to 20 minutes a day, I performed a performance that only I could understand. Yes, others saw me shift around, but without music to match motion with emotion, I assume that to them, I simply looked odd.

My soundless dancing did, however, attract Herons and miscellaneous seabirds who positioned themselves in a circle around me. As long as I did not look these birds in their eyes, they watched me, stepping closer and closer until they stepped too close for comfort. And the sun watched me, too. The sun, in fact, was one of my biggest fans and rewarded me by burning my nose.

Karen_dancing_along_hudsonRiverNow that I have the courage to dance in public, my next outdoor performances will begin in early summer at a location across the river from Midtown New York at Port Imperial Linear Park, Weehawken, NJ. Whether NY City residents will applaud is yet to be heard. I’m sure Weehawken residents will stare.

(Google Map of park: http://bit.ly/13PH5g0)

LINKS

If you want to know what I’m about as a person, listen to Ghost Dance, followed by Montezuma, Inca Dance, and Waters of Cesme, all by Cusco. This music is available on Amazon.com, YouTube, and sources identified by Googling. Strangely, Cusco is not available on iTunes.

For more information about Cusco, a German cross-cultural band named after the Peruvian city of Cusco, check Wikipedia – http://bit.ly/32r5VY. Since I first was exposed to this band in early 2013, their official website has disappeared, but their music lives on in a lot of places.

ABOUT KAREN LITTLE

Karen Little is a writer, programmer, and illustrator, specializing in technical material and travel articles. She is also the current queen of adult kick scooting (crowned by herself).

Karen publishes www.LetsKickScoot.com and the moribund www.Littleviews.com. In one of her many past lives, she founded and ran Office Technology Academy (Milwaukee, WI), which helped highly-intelligent-but-low-income people obtain computer skills and jobs. She also founded Clear Concepts, a technical documentation company, and published a number of books and manuals. She’s now actively doing other things. Note that as one of the first women “online,” Karen has been involved in bulletin board services and Internet forums since the means to host them was invented. She types faster than she talks.

Washing the insides of leather shoes

urlBy Sunny Trailbringer

Men and women with a foot odor problem may find that one day their leather shoes have become smelly. Well shoes themselves don’t smell, but the bacteria in the shoes does. It is the bacteria from your body, reproducing and dying in the millions that produce the gas we may call stink foot.

Shoes can be washed, with or without water and I will mention some ideas and substances here.

Soap and water

It may be a surprise to learn that most leather shoes can be washed with soap and water and that it does them no harm if they are washed and dried in a certain way. Certain detergents, however should not be used, even if they seem like the obvious choice. Laundry detergent is not good for leather as it removes oils from the leather that need to be replenished and it can also ruin the color of some leathers. Generally mild facial or hand soaps will be better for leather. After all you would never wash your face with Tide.

Also, a clothes washing machine or laundry machine is not recommended because it puts the shoes into a car crash boxing match with each other and the machine itself. Heels are for the floor, not the lovely finish of the other shoe. Instead, wash shoes by hand in a bucket to prevent scuffs, glue separation and to agitate spot stains into a lather.

Do not be tempted to use hot water because while it certainly removes the dirt and bacteria quicker, it can also compromise the adhesives in the shoes and cause an over-drying of the leather and excessive pigment loss, as well as shrinkage.

Some stronger soaps will also over-dry the leather and remove the color of the leather. Mild soap such as castile (olive or laurel oil) soap, some saddle soaps or facial cleansers will wash the leather more gently. If you would not use a certain soap on your face or your hair, then don’t use it on your leather either. Saltwater is good for washing boat shoes, which are designed to be soaked by seawater, but can salt stain dress shoes as it dries.

An acne wash will remove the oil from the leather that got there from your sweat glands and is harboring the bacteria that are causing that foot smell. A product such as Clearasil Daily Face Wash is the best way to make the leather inside your shoe bacteria-free, as clean as when new, and it will not damage the leather. Of all the products tried, Clearasil Daily Face Wash is the most effective way to wash leather without harming it. This applies to any type of leather, hard or soft, full-grain or split, and even suede and top-grain Nubuck. Purses, bags, boots, sandals, jackets, dress oxford linings, any fine leather will be cleaned, restored and rendered odor free with this amazing cosmetic toiletry.

For stubborn marks on the rubber soles or on parts of the leather, use a brown or blue Scotch-Brite™ scrubber, but never use the green one because it is too abrasive and will scratch away at the leather finish. A Mr Clean Magic Eraser™ is great for white rubber parts.

Drying the shoes

Dry at room temperature, or outdoors in the shade. Do not use a hair dryer or fan heater, but using a room fan is harmless and will speed up the drying a great deal. For example, with boat-shoes, which are always worn without socks, and are designed to get wet, you can wash them frequently, spin them dry in a top loader or towel dry them, and then point a room fan at them and have them back on your feet, spotlessly clean and dry within a couple of hours. The only remaining smell will be that of new leather. To help the shoes keep their shape, you can stuff them with newspaper when they pass from the wet to the still-damp stage, but most shoes washed in cold water never need this.

You can moisturize the leather after washing it, either with a leather conditioning cream or with a facial or hand moisturizer. For some leathers a leather oil such as mink oil may restore the original waxy look. Never use a vegetable oil such as olive oil or coconut oil as it can turn rancid over time and also be a food source and safe harbor for the bacteria that is causing all this trouble in the first place.

Fighting bacteria between washes

Between washes, a spray on disinfectant such as Marvicide or Lysol will kill most bacteria and fungus, and remove all foot odor at the same time, but may also leave a medicated, non-leathery smell that you do not enjoy. Isopropyl alcohol may release the adhesive that keeps the permanent insoles or parts of the lining in so while it cleans away bacteria, it should not be used to clean inside the shoe. Vinegar works, and kills fungus, but vinegar is also an unpleasant smell to most people, so leave the vinegar in the pantry and use an alternate method to stay fresh. Baking soda absorbs most odor but may not kill the bacteria which can resume emitting odor later. If you have black dress shoes and black socks, any white powders will be a mess anyway. Hand sanitizer will kill odor causing bacteria and you can wipe the insides of your shoes with it, but do not use too much because the main ingredient, ethyl alcohol, may cause insoles to become unglued, assuming that you have glued in insoles.

No excuse

So next time you sense that your shoes smell like more than just leather, do not put up with it. Wash them!

Sunny Trailbringer is an anti-bacterial minister from the temple of No Pong and when she is not washing shoes she is hand-crafting leather accessories in Arizona.

Back to the disputed islands

Screen Shot 2013-02-15 at 5.45.59 PMRecently the-vu received a message from Emily Stewart of OnlineMBA. Emily had noticed the short commentary on the disputed islands off the coast of Taiwan that is on the-vu.com (at this link) and she introduced us to a short five-and-a-half minute film about how possible outcomes of the dispute between China and Japan might affect the United States.

The film features the speeded up whiteboardings of a good cartoonist and for anyone who is following the situation in the South China Sea, the film can be found online here.

It can also be seen on YouTube, (at this link)

A Night in Tunisia

A Night in TunisiaBy Jeffrey the Barak

February 8th 2013. As chaos ensues in Tunisia, a small North African country wedged between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert, and conflicts arise between the Islamist government and a mass of citizens who would have preferred that the Islamist party had not won the democratic election, it is worth stepping back to look at this corner of the world apart from the current issues.

While the country is stuffed between Algeria to the West and South and Libya to the East and South, it should be noted that it is only a matter of a short one hundred mile sail across the sea to Sicily. There is not much that is particularly African about Tunisia, except it is perched at the top of the massive continent.

But this article is not about unrest, or politics, or culture, or Islamists or the desert, or the German tourists who used to crowd here each summer.

No, nothing as serious as that. It is time to think about a Dizzy Gillespie tune, A Night in Tunisia. One of the best tunes ever written in any genre of music, this example of American genius is the epitome of classic jazz perfection.

So while I worry for the safety of Tunisian citizens as thousands shout, chant, fight and start fires, if I have to be honest, I cannot hear the name Tunisia without that tune filling my head.

And so as I write this I have typed A Night in Tunisia into the search box on Spotify and am playing one version after the other, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Art Blakey, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Arturo Sandoval, Lee Morgan, Ella Fitzgerald, Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner, and more, and more.

Everyone has taken a stab at it. The solos are different, the tempos are different, the orchestration changes, but that tune is always there, and it is one of those melodies that works like the human brain, and that is why everyone can hear it and feel moved by that exciting sequence of notes.

From Gillespie’s brain to our brains, it just fits the patterns that underly our thought processes. How does the brain work? A Night in Tunisia, that’s how. That’s all you need to know about the brain.

Sometimes I take a duck call and play this tune on it, and the ducks come in the dozens and just stand there and look at me. Even ducks’ brains work like A Night in Tunisia. Even goldfishes stop what they are doing when this tune comes on. It speaks to their brains too, and they are not as simple as everyone has been taught.

Will your baby not stop crying? A Night in Tunisia. Is your horse sick? A Night in Tunisia. This tune takes care of a million problems.

And so, I will leave you with a recommendation. Listen to A Night in Tunisia, as many versions as you can cram in.

Jeffrey the Barak never eats cheese on the roof on Fridays.

Don’t buy jeans online, try on many pairs instead

501

Levis 501 (c) Levis

By Jeffrey the Barak

Online shopping is amazing. It is so convenient and usually a great bargain too as sellers don’t have the enormous cost of providing a glass and granite palace to show you their goods.

But some things do not fit in with the online shopping model. The most striking example is denim jeans. Jeans that fit well look great on anyone, but jeans that are the wrong size or shape look awful. Besides there being so many choices of fashion, shape, narrowness and fabric in today’s jeans, the size labeling is only loosely based on reality.

Let’s take mens Levis jeans as an example. In the world of mens jeans, there are Levis, and then there is everything else. If your jeans are not Levis, then it could be said that they are homages to Levis. Levis are the standard in mens jeans and every other brand, be it $12 in Ross or $500 on Rodeo Drive are just variations of proper Levis.

Now the average guy does not get into shopping as much as the average lady. Mister Average wants to know what waist size to ask for, throw the first pair into a basket and check out. But the odds of that working are pretty slim when it comes to jeans shopping.

Levis 511 (c) Levis

Levis 511 (c) Levis

In the case of Levis, there are different cuts or styles made from different patterns, ranging from super skinny to baggy. And if you decide on just one design, for example, the current best selling 514 Straight fit, which used to be called 514 Slim Straight and may be getting replaced by 513 Slim Straight, and then you pick up, for example size 34 waist and 30 leg, and take one in each fabric choice to the fitting room, you will find that each color is a very different size, and some are made in China, some in Mexico, some in Egypt etc.

Some of the fabrics are heavy and do not have any stretch, and they might impart a big indigo stain onto any damp fabric that touches them. Others are medium-weight with the ability to stretch, or not, and others are light, and not necessarily stretchable. There are dozens of different types of denim in jeans that have Levis labels on them.

Say you want skinny jeans, how do you know if your legs and butt will look better in 511 Slim which used to be called 511 Skinny or 510 Skinny which used to be called 510 Super Skinny? How will you know if they hug your hips and stay up, or if they will be sliding down and giving you a baggy crotch and short-looking legs, and how do you know if the iconic Levis back pockets will be sewn on high to align with and flatter your buttocks, or be half way down to your thighs making you look long-torsoed and short-legged?

And if you buy button-fly 501s, like you did in the fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties and naughties, will they be the same as before, or do the pockets move up and down and grow and shrink in size, and does the waistband rise and fall over the years, and do the thighs get tighter and looser? In other words does the pattern change despite the pants having the 501 label since your grandfather wore them? Well yes, 501s across the years are very different from each other, and Levis make no announcements when they introduce the newest major change in the design of 501s.

Levis 513 (c) Levis

Levis 513 (c) Levis

So we cannot rely on a certain style, such as 501, 505 or 514 being the same from pair to pair, and we cannot rely on a certain size being consistent over two different colors in the same style number, and we cannot rely on the fabric’s weight and stretchability being consistent from color to color. How then can we buy online and expect to be able to get jeans that fit?

Well we cannot. The world’s most fantastic store, Amazon, may also be the worst place to buy jeans. You really have to physically visit a place that has a large inventory, such as JC Penney, Sears, Macy’s or The Levis Store, and then you have to take your time, trying on various style numbers, in various fabrics and various waist and leg measurements.

You may find a good pair in a few minutes, or you may have to work at it, changing pants many times and allowing the hour hand to swing around the clock. And it will be worth it, because the difference between well fitting, figure flattering jeans and jeans that you can just get on is a huge difference.

Depending on the shape of your body, you will see that your legs have to be a certain width, your back pockets have to be a certain height, size and distance apart, and your fabric has to be a certain wash to make you look your best. It is more complicated than choosing a new car or a new smartphone. And if you look good you feel good. If you don’t like how your jeans make you look, it will affect how you feel and behave. That is how important this is. When your butt looks sexy you just feel better.

Levis 514 (c) Levis

Levis 514 (c) Levis

But even this level of caution may not be enough, because each type of fabric behaves differently when it is first washed. So you may find the right inseam length, but depending on which denim it is, it might stay the same length, or it may shrink a bit. This aspect may be out of your control so try to buy jeans at a place that accepts returns, then wash them, in cold water with mild soap or no soap, all by themselves with nothing else in the machine, and hang to dry. If they do shrink, take them back with your labels and receipt and exchange them for some in the identical fabric with a longer inseam. And then do the same test wash on those.

And if you find after all this that you have a perfect pair, then you can risk buying a second pair online, the same style, the identical fabric and color, and the same waist and leg size. It may end up being the same, or it may be from an entirely different pattern and made in another country, and you may have to kick yourself for not just going back to the same store and trying them on.

So why then, if there is such terrible inconsistency, do people still overwhelmingly choose Levis? Well lets put it this way, some designer jeans look positively silly, embarrassingly so, and we want to look cool, not silly. And even though the guys with the beer bellies, digging the ditch outside the store also have Levis on and they don’t fit very well, we still look our best when we find that perfect pair. That red tag, that leather patch, those rivets, that pocket stitching. These details represent iconic classic American style that you just don’t get with those New Hampshire Sunsiders, or those Western Grease Limiteds, or those Carlo Pininfarinas.

 

Writer Jeffrey the Barak hides black jeans inside old oil cans and then fires them at squirrels using a giant catapult, every Wednesday at 3 AM

Mibo-Express-20_20_02

Kick Scooter Classifications

mibo courage scooter

A Mibo Courage street scooter from the Czech Republic (c) Mibo

By Jeffrey the Barak.

As you may have gathered from visiting the-vu.com, I am very enthusiastic about the simple and wonderful human-powered vehicle that we call a scooter, and far less enamored with the machines we call bicycles.

But despite appearances to residents of the United States, where scooters are so rare you almost never see any, there are many types of scooter out there in the world. This article is intended to be an introduction to the world of scooters and to help you make that decision to start using one or more on a regular basis.

There are no official classifications for scooters, and some may fit into more than one category, but this is just my own personal impression of what is available. I have come up with seven classes.

  1. Scooters with inline skate wheels
  2. Scooters with small wheels and solid tires
  3. Scooters with small wheels and pneumatic tires
  4. Scooters with medium sized wheels, for cruising or racing
  5. Scooters with at least one large wheel for racing and high-speed cruising
  6. Scooters that are hard to push, but great for downhill runs
  7. Scooters that are intended to be pulled along by your pet dogs

Scooter Links:

I do not own many scooters and I also do not own many photographs of scooters, but image searches can help you visualize most of the catalogues of most of the manufacturers. I will throw a few pictures into this article though!

Scooters with inline skate wheels

The original Razor scooter

The original Razor model A from 2000. (c) Razor

The brand name Razor typifies this type of scooter and due to a worldwide craze at the turn of the century, they are ubiquitous. Grown adults hunch over these small wonders to do acrobatic tricks in skate parks and they even feature in professional sports. Like skateboards, they are just as likely to be used for tricks, as for transportation from point A to point B. For very small children, they are a good first vehicle and can be easier to master than a bike, or even a trike. Aftermarket parts make them extra strong for the tricks and the skate wheels have grown in size from the first models, making them more forgiving on uneven pavement.

These scooters are not very practical for long rides, or rides on broken asphalt or uneven concrete or damp pavement, or for very tall riders. Most types can fold up to a small size that is easily carried around or placed into a locker. With good wheel bearings and a very smooth riding surface, they can go alarmingly quickly.

Scooters with small wheels and solid tires

Know-ped

A Know-Ped folding scooter (c) Go-Ped

These scooters are very handy because they allow you to take longer and more comfortable rides than inline scooters, but usually fold up into a portable and lightweight object that is easy to carry and store. In the United States, the Xootr and the Know-Ped and the customized Know-Ped called the KickPed take the top spots for general ride-ability. The Micro Black and White and the Razor A5 also fit into this class.

Hard tires have a lower rolling resistance than pneumatic tires, but as the name suggests, give a harder ride also. In general rubber tires give a ride somewhere in-between air tires and urethane. Rubber tires like those on the Know-Ped and KickPed are more forgiving and more grippy than hard urethane tires, which can throw you off just for spite, but they are not as soft as pneumatic tires.

The main advantage of this class of scooter is you are much more likely to use it. You can take one that has not been ridden for ages and use it right away, with no tires to inflate. And you can keep one in the trunk of any small car so that you can always ride it when you find yourself in a good spot. Also, if your ride includes a combination of public transportation and scooting, these are easy to fold and take with you to your seat on that bus or train. And there is no need to lock it and park outside of a business establishment. You just take it inside with you.

For these reasons, a good folding hard tired scooter is something that can be recommend for everyone, even if you also have larger scooters in your stable.

Scooters with small wheels and pneumatic tires

Mibo Basic

A Mibo brand Basic scooter from the Czech Republic (c) Mibo

This may be my favorite type of scooter, but they are hard to find in the United States and those that you can find, often suffer from their footboards being too high off the ground, and from excessive weight. There is a sweet spot for deck height. Too low and you can bottom out and scrape to a halt, causing a spill, but too high and your standing leg quickly becomes tired from too much dipping and squatting.

 

1980s scooter

A 1980s style BMX scooter

For a brief period in the Nineteen-Eighties, these scooters where everywhere and today we call those 80s classics BMX scooters, even if they had the smooth road tires. (Knobbly dirt tires are not much use on a scooter, which has no chain powered drive-wheels, but they can increase safety if you descend muddy trails. Of course not many scooter riders ever do that so the low-friction more-efficient smooth tires are best).

Yedoo (Czech Republic) still sell the 1980s type of scooter today and they are still great to ride. But they and several others, notably Mibo, also bring newer designs into the small pneumatic tires class.

If the scooter is not unnecessarily heavy, and if you do not have a great distance to travel or a need for high speed, this type of scooter with a 12.5″ (approx) tire provides a stable and easy ride with hardly any vibration, and will not stumble on almost any sidewalk hazard. They are great fun for a casual ride out and about, and can still fly down a gradient like a larger Footbike. This is an overlooked category, perhaps because it evokes a period when scooters were losing money for their manufacturers, and manufacturers that do cover it often give us too much weight and a deck that is too far above the road, making a potentially efficient vehicle a pain in the leg.

Perhaps the biggest blow to this class of scooter was ironically the success of inline scooters in 2000. But I think this class will have a resurgence.

At the time of writing, I am looking for a scooter in this class that will meet that sweet spot of weight, height and portability. If I find it, I’ll be writing! Those with a 14″ or larger front tire may fit better into the next category.

Scooters with medium sized wheels, for cruising or racing

current coaster

A 2013 Current Coaster (c) Ridecurrent

Once the wheel diameter goes over 12.5″ we have a heavier class of scooter that is great for long smooth rides, despite the inevitable rise in weight. Some of these resemble our traditional 12″ scooter and others look like bicycles that are missing their upper frames, seats and drivetrains. With the extra weight we really benefit from anything that helps us save energy, so a low to the ground footboard makes any scooter of a given weight, far less tiring to ride. Some manufacturers set their board height at over five inches, and then go on to proclaim it is better due to the ground clearance, but in my opinion they are completely wrong because of the wasted energy that the rider expends by flexing the standing leg to a larger extent.

A K-Bike K7

A model K7 K-Bike from the Czech Republic (c) Kolobezka

In this large and varied class we see sporty racers that can almost keep up with the footbikes, and cruising scooters such as those sold by the Amish in the United States, which look like something from decades ago, but have spectacularly low decks. My personal experience of this class was with my briefly owned Sidewalker City. The deck was too high, but it was so wonderful for low-speed cruising. The gyroscopic effect of the larger wheels just made it so stable that virtually no input was required for balance correction, which actually saved a lot of energy and represented a hidden efficiency advantage. But as my 2003 article in the-vu showed, when directly compared to a Kickbike racer, it was inefficient to the point of being exhausting.

Medium scooters can be found from Toucan (Canada), Mission (UK), Sidewalker (Austria), Worker (Czech Republic), Current Coasters (USA), K-Bike (Czech Republic), and many more manufacturers.

Personally I think that besides the gyroscopic balancing advantage of a larger rear wheel, it is not needed for a smooth ride and a smaller back wheel would save weight, so the big-and-little design shown in the beautiful K7 above may make more sense.

Scooters with at least one large wheel for racing and high-speed cruising

KickBike Racemax 20

A Kickbike Racemax 20 from Finland (c) Kickbike

Footbike racing is a considerably large sport in Europe and it is growing. Even some Americans are finally catching on and there is a global association called the IKSA that organizes races. These scooters are similar to kicksleds, a form of snow scooter, except they of course have wheels. I owned a Kickbike brand footbike for many years and it was very fast and very efficient. In the USA you can easily buy one from Kickbike USA or Footbike USA (with a capital F). In Europe there are at least eleven brands that I know of and they originate in the Czech Republic, Finland, Holland, France, Germany, and Austria. Yes a lot of Europeans ride and race these elegant extensions to the human body. As far as any non mechanical conveyance is concerned, the racing footbike is probably the fastest way a person can travel on level ground.

Some footbikes (with a small f) are less racy and have higher bars for less of a forward bending stance and mudguards, shopping baskets, bells etc. Most have a reasonably low deck to make the ride less tiring and most have high-end bicycle components to make the glide as effortless as possible.

Scooters that are hard to push, but great for downhill runs

Diggler Alpha Disk

A Diggler Alpha Disk scooter from Canada (c) Diggler

Mountain scooters and gravity scooters. Scooters in this class will wear you out pretty quickly if you use them for street riding. The decks are high, the frames are very strong (meaning extra weight) and some even have a front or front and rear suspension system and disk brakes. They are designed for bombing downhill. Now you may be wondering, how do you get up the hill? Normally riders are driven up to the start, or they ride ski-lifts in the summer and ride down the dry mountain trails with gravity at their backs. We can see lots of videos of riders enjoying a nice off-road downhill drop, but they never show anyone pushing the scooter up a hill!

The Candiian Diggler brand specializes in downhill scooters and they are joined by Belize (Canada), Footbike (France), Kickbike (Finland), Kostka (Czech Republic), Mibo (Czech Republic), Sidewalker (Austria), XH (Germany), and perhaps several more that I have yet to find online!

This is the class of scooters that can benefit from mud tires, which are an energy liability on street scooters.

 

Scooters that are intended to be pulled along by your pet dogs

Pawtrekker Full Suspension Dog Scooter

A Pawtrekker Full Suspension Dog Scooter from the UK (c) Pawtrekker

Scooter mushing clearly evolved from dog-sledding, but you can do it on a hot night in suburbia if you want. Lets get one thing straight. There is no evidence that this is cruel to dogs. All indications are, dogs in this business absolutely love to pull a person along on a scooter. It rewards their inner instinct that is in their DNA. It is running with the pack, even when it is just one dog and one rider.

Besides specialty vehicles that place the dog in a harness to the side of the scooter, sidecar-style, as covered in the-vu and on most other scooter-friendly websites in 2003 or since, most dog scooters look pretty much the same as downhill scooters. Some have special tie-up points along the front fender or riser, but any scooter can be used for this. All you need is the right dog or dogs. Some dogs will never be into it no matter what you do. And some riders prefer to harness themselves to their dog and not tie up to the actual scooter at all.

In Europe, dog-scooter races follow forest trails for miles and it too is a growing sport. All of the aforementioned mountain or downhill scooters are great for this but a few are actually specialized dog scooters complete with the harness points. Pawtrekker (UK) specialize in dog scooters.

So these are my own scooter classifications. Different types for different functions. Its a scooter world after all.

Author Jeffrey the Barak is the publisher of the-vu and he may actually be turning into a scooter. And he likes talking to water.

 

 

 

A bright outlook for car design

Smart with Wings

By Jeffrey the Barak

For a decade or so, the-vu has been covering the L.A. Auto Show in one form or another, sometimes obsessing over electric and hybrid cars, until the rest of the world began to share interest in them, and sometimes wondering why so many idiots were designing cars.

But a strange thing is happening. Almost all of the cars being shown this year have very good design. Gone are the days when General Motors could not even align a steering wheel with the center of a driver’s seat, or BMW’s paint had more orange peel than an orange. Everything looks and feel like it should these days.

And as for electricity, instead of some weird fiberglass wonder in a dark corner of the Kentia Hall, we have a dozen production electric cars available right now for your driveway or garage. I would get one, but I park in a place that cannot support a charging system.

Beyond the cars, the exhibits themselves almost outshine the vehicles. Exquisite flooring and modular construction, entire two-storey buildings inside the exhibition center, and on press day, plenty of espresso, fruit, snacks, meals and drinks for the media folks.

As usual, I will leave detailed reviews of new models and engine specs to the automotive press, but also as usual, the favorite aspect of the show came from an unexpected source. It was this year a large Mercedes Sprinter van, high enough to walk into and stand up in, and outfitted with enough interior luxury to put any private jet to shame, including possibly the most comfortable seats I have ever found, a record previously held by a Maybach.

Cars as different as the Bentley Mulsanne and the Smart EV, (not the whimsical Smart in the photo), all showed great design traits. And while the new Jaguar F-Type looked more like a Lexus than a Jag, it really does not matter, as long as interiors and exteriors continue to improve as they have this year.

The 2012 show is the first that shows very little direct evolution from the generally terrible visual designs of the late 20th Century, except where traditional design is the whole idea, as with many sports cars or retro-styles designs like the Mini. The normal sedans and coupes for 2013 have really moved into the Teens and left the Nineties and Naughties largely in the design scrapyard.

KickPed and Know-Ped Family Reunion

By Jeffrey the Barak

A search for the word scooter on the-vu.com will reveal my passion and obsession for this type of vehicle. I much prefer scooters to bicycles, even though I have to admit I won’t be tackling a hundred mile charity ride on one.

I have this year reviewed the KickPed, an amazing kick scooter. I mentioned in that article that I once owned its ancestor, the Know-Ped, briefly in the early 00s, but it was lost to a burglar before I had a chance to put many miles on it. This week I reacquired a Know-Ped, in the same color, blue, and have had a chance to compare it side-by-side with my KickPed.

Both are made by Patmont Motor Werks, but the KickPed is sold exclusively by New York City’s jewel of a bike shop, NYCeWheels. They took the standard Know-Ped and had some made just for them, with subtle changes.

The differences are:

  • The KickPed has a deck that has been shaved to an arguably more efficient narrow shape, so that by sacrificing the ability to stand with your feet side by side, you have a closer arc available for your propelling foot, and free space instead of wood, where your passing ankle needs to be. It is also upgraded to marine plywood so it can take a few rain soakings without delaminating.
  • The KickPed frame is finished in clear lacquer, showing the patina of the welded steel, whereas the Know-Ped comes in an assortment of powder-coated colors.
  • The KickPed does away with the arguably unnecessary front caliper brake, which likely leaves you with nothing to adjust or maintain for the life of the scooter.
  • The KickPed is available in tall (42″) or regular (38″), the latter of which has the same handlebar height as the original Know-Ped.

Height

In the photos here you see my tall KickPed (42″ high with a 39″ bar height measured from the deck) beside a blue Know-Ped. I am five feet seven inches tall, and I bought the tall KickPed, however the short KickPed and the original Know-Ped (38″ high with a 35″ bar height measured from the deck) are actually about the right height for me. I would say that if you are five feet ten or taller, then the tall KickPed is better, as the seller clearly suggests, but it is not a huge height difference. Stand on the floor and while holding a tape measure in your hands about 12″ ahead, observe where 39″ and 35″ are and that will show you which bar is more suitable for you. Your hands should be lower than your elbows. If you ride with small children, look at the smaller Grow-Ped for them.

Width

The Know-Ped first appeared as a human powered version of Patmont’s combustion-engined Go-Ped. The Go-Ped Sport was this very same vehicle with an engine propelling the back wheel. You did not have to kick a scooter with an engine, so it was nice to place your feet side-by-side and face forward into the wind for an hour or so.

This wider deck is not a disaster on the Know-Ped, and it can be fun at lower speeds to change foot positions easily, and to cruise downhill with feet together, but NYCeWheels point out that the deck’s width can be a hinderance to efficient scooting, and you can possibly knock your ankle on the deck as you scoot.

Brake

The front caliper brake on the Know-Ped is another throwback to its roots as a motor vehicle. The rear spoon brake is usually all you ever need for the human powered Know-Ped, even on a high-speed steep downhill scary run, and that is why the KickPed simply left it off. The front brake is also an item that may occasionally require adjustment, so the KickPed becomes truly maintenance-free. The front brake can actually be a little bit too aggressive and I recommend that Know-Ped riders use it with caution, shifting their weight accordingly.

Options

The blue Know-Ped that I acquired this week is almost exactly the same as the one I briefly enjoyed owning a decade ago. The hook that used to secure the folded bars to the spoon brake for carrying has been replaced by the same strap that I have on my KickPed, but that is the only difference/improvement I can spot. They have always been available in blue and red, but at times there have been yellow, pink, black and bright-green limited editions, and they now have a new color, flat-black. All look great, as does the Kick-Ped’s clear lacquer.

Only the KickPed has the bar height options, and only the Know-Ped has the frame color options.

Price

The Know-Ped has been around since 1997 so you may find a used one on eBay or Craigslist. They are so tough that it is likely to be in great condition. As for new scooters, (at time of writing), NYCeWheels.com charges $239 plus shipping for either size KickPed. You may find much lower prices on new Know-Peds, as low as $154 (at time of writing).

Customization

If you are a handyman or a woodworker, then you could always find a lower priced Know-Ped, and shave the sides of the deck down, and remove the front brake. But if your time is worth money, (about $100), and you prefer the thinking behind the KickPed, just get a KickPed and be done with it. It is still good value compared to many much worse designs out there. Whichever you get, you just pull it out of its shipping box, raise the handlebar, letting the spring push the sleeve over the hinge, then step on and ride. There is nothing to adjust and nothing to inflate. Repeat daily and you’ll be happy.

Update, a month later.

Since the bars on my KickPed seen in this article were for a person taller than myself, I sold it and acquired a second Know-Ped. Having had an opportunity to deliberately switch back and forth from one to the other many times over, I just felt happier with two feet on the Know-Ped. Now I have two the same, (one for my wife), and I continue to love the scooter.

Jeffrey the Barak has a scooter where his brain should be, and he likes espresso and to laugh at nothing in particular.

 

 

The Freedom to be Disrespectful

Aretha Franklin singing “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”

By Jeffrey the Barak

Disrespectful is a severely overused word.

There is a very significant distinction to be made when it comes to respect for the opinions or beliefs of others. There is an obligation to respect another person’s right and freedom to believe what they believe. However there is no obligation to respect their beliefs, if they are not aligned with one’s own beliefs.

By disagreeing with another person’s belief or opinion, we exercise our freedom, our right to have another opinion, and in return, in a free society, we expect the other person to respectfully acknowledge that we differ.

So for example, I can say to a friend, “You believe in God, and you will not drive a car or flip a switch on a Saturday, and I respect your right to believe what you believe, but I do not respect that which you believe, because according to my beliefs, it is nonsense”. And in return, it is reasonable to expect at the very least, that they should not find my expression of my true opinion offensive.

I should be able to say to a Christian, or a Moslem, or a Hindu, “I think that is all a load of imaginary nonsense”, and in return I should be able to expect no anger, no death threat but just an acknowledgement that we believe different things.

Unfortunately, in the real world, belief systems have their rules and laws, and there is a perceived crime by the name of blasphemy. So if you dare to express any negative opinion about certain people’s beliefs, they may want to kill you, and they may even see nothing at all wrong with that.

The Spanish Inquisition, and the death-threat unleashed on author Salman Rushdie are two examples of this hazard. So while we are technically free to say what we honestly believe, it may not be safe to do so, if the other party’s belief is a dangerous one.

With regard to respect, we are obliged in a civilized and educated society, to accept that our neighbors and countrymen might be Catholics, Buddhists, Jews and Sikhs, and we must respect their freedom of religion, and defend their right to believe. This is the essence of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, and is why you cannot get thrown in jail for believing or worshipping what you want.

But we have no obligation to respect the actual beliefs themselves. If, for example we believe that God is imaginary, we do not have to pretend otherwise in order to be respectful to a devout Moslem or Christian living next door. Being honest about it, should in theory be a more respectful thing to do.

So that is the distinction, between respecting a person’s right and freedom or choice to believe something, and respecting the specific things that they believe.

But that is religion. Do the same rules of behavior exist for politics? Absolutely yes. A Republican and a Democrat are never really of completely opposite opinion, because overall, these two schools of thought have more in common than they might like to think. They are both fairly moderate mainstream American philosophies. But they seem quite opposite during an election season.

It is healthy to consider, debate and discuss every proposition, and every detail of each party’s manifesto and it is very good to disagree and pitch our differences of opinion against each other. But in order to be free to be, for example, a Democrat, you have to have the freedom to also be a Republican. You have to be free to criticize both and agree with either. You can tell someone you think they are completely wrong, but you cannot use force to make them change their mind, or punish them for their point of view.

When applying the “disrespect test” to religion and politics, one difference is, it is illegal to act out hate on the basis of religion, and quite rightly so. We saw what happened when the Nazis hated the Jews, so we must always remember that before reacting to something with hatred. For example, a small number of Moslems did terrible things on 9-11, but we cannot reasonably say we hate Moslems, because most Moslems are just as nice as Christians or anyone else.

But if we say, for example, that we hate Republicans, or hate Democrats, it is not illegal, but it it is also not reasonable. We can disagree and criticize and point out that which we may feel is cruel, or unfair or unjust, but hatred, while not illegal, is never reasonable.

“Disrespectful” is a word that we hear a lot these days. It is overused in fact, because people can confuse a difference of opinion with a withdrawal of respect for another person. And people can also react to a display of another value structure as if it was disrespectful of their own values. An example of this is when someone “immodestly dressed” inadvertently walks through a neighborhood of very religious people during a religious occasion. To the walker, nothing seems wrong, they are just going from A to B wearing shorts and a tank top, but to the religious, it is perceived as an insult. But to be expected to believe what a majority believes is just as disrespectful to the non-believer. We have to accept that not everyone is going to be agreeable.

So again, it is reasonable to apparently disrespect a person’s belief if you feel it is wrong and not deserving of your respect, but unreasonable to disrespect their freedom and their right to believe it. If their belief is potentially harmful to others, then there is the law for our protection,

We cannot stop them believing, for example, that anyone who wears yellow pants on a Tuesday should be electrocuted, but we can make that a crime if it is unreasonable.

I used to be Hawai’i

By Jeffrey the Barak

__

I used to be Hawai’i

I am the Detroit Tablemount.
I am two and a half thousand meters under the sea.
To my East is the West,
Attu Island, the edge of the USA.
To my North is the East.
Ostrov Mednyy, the edge of Russia
I used to be Hawai’i

I was over the hot spot, but I moved North.
Once I had great volcanoes,
like Kilauea,
like Mauna Loa,
and before that I rose out of the sea as Loihi will one day.

Then I moved away and the rains came
bringing both life and erosion
And I became a shrinking island with steep cliffs
and deep valleys,
like Maui, then like O’ahu, then like Kaua’i.

Then as I kept moving and wearing away, I was an atoll, a reef, a bank, a seamount.
But I used to be Hawai’i

Deeper and deeper beneath the waves I sank,
and I kept on moving with the Pacific plate,
swinging to the North and continuing to where I now live.

I was not the oldest, and I was not the first.
My ancestors have passed,
subducting beneath the North American Plate
upon which Siberia rides.

Sometimes their voices and memories briefly reappear
as volcanoes in the Alutians
as volcanoes in Petropavlovsk-Kamchtsky
as volcanoes in Japan

But mostly they return to the mantle
As will I
Having enjoyed a great ride over the crust.
But really the world is just like one big volcano
And I used to be Hawai’i

 

 

the-vu does not usually accept poetry, but who can resist a talking seamount?

 

“Oftentimes” is not a real word

By Jeffrey the Barak

I watch TV and listen to the radio. In recent years I have noticed a word being heavily used by many people, from the uneducated to intellectuals. The first time I heard it my reaction was, “hey, that’s not a real word”, but after hearing it hundreds of times I have to concede it has to exist, simply because everyone is saying it.

The word is “oftentimes”, and I strongly dislike this word.

As far as the rules of grammar are concerned, “oftentimes” should not be a word, because often is an adverb and times is a noun, and you are not supposed to modify a noun with an adverb.

An example of a more correct word would be sometimes. Some is an adjective, and it is okay to modify a noun with an adjective.

So I continue to declare “hey, that’s not a real word”  at my TV each time someone says “oftentimes” but part of me knows it is a losing battle. The English language is not a fixed unchanging language, and whenever a word becomes commonly used, then it simply slips into existence.

I still strongly dislike it though. I wish people would instead say “quite often”.

Jeffrey the Barak has forgotten much of what he learned, but not everything, hence his dislike of this so-called word.

An Original Internet Magazine – since before the blog was invented.