Wednesday, 31 October 2012

BBQ Smoker Follow Up

Been meaning to do this for a while, but the BBQ Smoker has been working great. Here's some pics of the final, painted and placed table. I have plans for automating the moisture and smoke in the chamber, but that will have to be on a followup post.

Here's the primed table. A final coat that matched the deck followed.
 Next my wife decreed that the terracotta pots had to be painted to look at little less DIY.
I used high temperature BBQ paint.
Turned out pretty well ... I kept the patterns in the pot, but my wife preferred I painted them over too.
Fits perfect.
Our nice little cooking corner is ready.
 And the first brisket goes in!

Monday, 22 October 2012

My Travel Kit

I don't nearly travel as much as I used to, but many years of being Super Elite teaches you a few tricks. I'm constantly refining my travel kit for durability, size, weight and function. I thought I'd do a post to share my latest ensemble.

Rule One of travel: Don't Check Bags ... everything here is with that rule front and center.

The Suitcase

The cornerstone of every good travel kit is the suitcase. I've settled on the Zuca Pro, which is a beautiful carry-on bag (watch the video ... you'll be sold). It has organizer bags and a metal frame that has a built in seat. Since I'm a programmer, I'm always on the lookout for electrical outlets in airports. There are always outlets in the hallways, but never any chairs next to them. With the Zuca Pro, I've always got a seat. Don't confuse this with the Zuca Sport, favored by figure skaters. Note: the Zuca is 10" width vs. the regulation 9" width, but I've never been called on it.

The benefit of being a geek is jeans, tshirts and a nice shirt or two are usually all I need. I can get a week of travel in this bag and not have to do laundry.

Also, being a Zuca Pro owner is like being a Harley owner. Whenever you see someone else with one, you're obligated to go over and talk with them and congratulate them on their great taste. Yeah, sad but true.

Pro Tip #1: Don't get the colored versions. I've seen a few in the wild and they appear to chip quite easily.

Pro Tip #2: Don't carry the cover unless you think you're going to be checking the bag. The only valid reason to check the bag is if you're bringing home booze. The cover is nice and protects the zipper pulls, but takes a lot of room.

The Carry-On Bag

I've always been a Targus Backpack man. They make great bags that are incredibly durable. But recently I was given an Ogio Hip Hop Messenger Bag (thank OpenStack) ... and I'm kind of digging it. I much prefer two shoulder straps, but this one has a suitcase slip for going over the carrying handle of the Zuca, which is quite nice.

Suitcase + Carry-On Bag

These two things have to fit together well. They're going to be spending a lot of time together. As I mentioned, the Ogio slips over the carrying handle of the Zuca which is great, but it's top heavy. It can get tiring when you are lugging the two bags for a long trek. I much prefer the front hook on the suitcase where the carry-on rider in front. This keeps the center of gravity low and the two bags nearly balance themselves. Sadly, the Zuca has no provisions for a front hook and most laptop bags are too deep to permit this any more.

Don't do this when you're travelling. It's sad.

Inside The Carry-On Bag

Here's the magic really starts. Only bring what you need, and make sure you bring everything you'll likely need. A tremendous balancing act.

The contents:

  1. Audio stuff ... see below
  2. Travel papers wallet
    I've had this wallet for a long time. It holds my passport, Nexus card and hotel/car membership cards as well as a stock of customs declaration cards, etc. I'm sure I can get rid of much of this stuff, but I love having it all in one place.
  3. Nexus 7 tablet
    Now I can save my laptop battery for programming. Movies and reading is all done on this. The 7" screen is the perfect form factor. Note: I don't use phone/tablet cases, the only thing I carry is #8, the plexiglass stand (see below)
  4. Business cards, in a nice professional carrying case (thanks again OpenStack)
  5. Small power brick for laptop. One nice thing about ultrabooks, even the power supplies are smaller.
  6. Samsung Series 9 ultrabook. Best bang-for-the-buck currently. The matte screen is beautiful even if the clickpad and keyboard take a little getting used to. Looking forward to Ubuntu 12.10 to make full use of all the features like the backlit keyboard.
  7. the Ogio bag
  8. Targus tablet/phone stand. This thing is great. Nice solid feel. No need for cases and it sits on your leg nicely. 
  9. 2 amp USB chargers. 2 amp chargers aren't just for tablets, they also charge your phone faster. It's the way to go. 
  10. USB to USB mini cables. Everything I have is USB/USB mini ... nothing proprietary.
  11. Belkin power bar. This thing will make you friends anywhere. It has 2 USB chargers and 3 power sockets. If you're in a coffee shop or airport it's easy to jump in on any available plug. Even better, it has a rotating plug, so it can fit in anywhere (like that crappy outlet under your desk in the hotel room). Magic. It has a surge protector, but I don't care about that. 
  12. Lens/screen cleaners. I wear glasses, this is better than carrying a large bottle of liquid that can spill. Individually wrapped. 
  13. SIM cards. No more roaming charges. When I'm in the US or Europe, just slip in a different SIM card to get unlimited data and voice. Simple Mobile offers $40 unlimited for 30 days. Perfect. Of course, you'll need to unlock your phone for this (or buy a Google Nexus ... all Google phones are unlocked by default).
  14. Gum. 
  15. 10BaseT adapter. The ultrabook saves space by using this dongle.
  16. Bluetooth mouse. I prefer a full sized mouse. Bluetooth is great.
  17. Neck brace. FORGET THE HORSESHOE NECK PILLOWS! This $14 5" medical neck brace will keep you head from falling all over the place or your mouth gaping open like John Cusack acting. It's soft enough to compress small too. Best $14 ever invested. Sleep like a baby.
  18. Wallet. Custom made by some guy in Turkey so it would fit my Nexus phone and hold a few cards. Yes, it's larger, but it's my protection on my phone. I've gone the "minimalist wallet" approach before, but the sum total is about the same this way, and it protects my phone.
  19. mini HDMI to VGA adapter. If you're presenting, you need to support VGA ... most AV infrastructure still runs on it. 
  20. Cat5 crossover cable adapter. If I need to connect to another laptop/pc without a switch, this crossover adapter makes it easy. No need to carry two cables.
  21. RSA key for VPN
  22. Notebook and Stylus pen. I need paper for brain storming. The pen is a Targus 3-in-1 stylus/laser pointer for presentations.

Some other pictures of the items above:


I'm sure this will cause the most contention of anything written so far. Audio buffs are a funny lot.

I love music and need to have it around me nearly all the time. I've spent a lot of time refining my music bag-of-tricks.

  1. The carry bag. This stuff needs to be all in one place.
  2. Sub-mini to Sub-mini cable. For cars, boomboxes, whatever. If it doesn't have bluetooth, it should have this.
  3. Sony Ericsson MW600 Hi-Fi Bluetooth Stereo Headset with FM Radio. Wires are the enemy. This allows me to use whatever headphones I like with my laptop, tablet or phone. 
  4. For years I've gone with the large noise-cancelling headphones, but recently turned them in for something smaller. On those noisy flights, I find the in-ear headphones are just as good. However, for activity I've settled on the Sennheiser Adidas PMX 680 back-of-the-neck headphones. Love 'em. They stay in place when I'm scrambling to get off the plane (aisle seats ftw!)
  5. Griffin headphone adapter. Most headphones don't have a mike or click-to-talk buttons. This little adapter provides that functionality. Now I can get the best headphone for me and use it with any smart device (when I'm not using #3)
  6. Splitters and airplane adapters. For sharing and older planes. 
That's it ... I'm ready for action. I'll try to edit this post as things change.

Please share your travel tips!