August 2009

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2009.

I have never been a good budgeter. While my income is staying (just barely) ahead of my spending, I’ve lately had a few suspicions about where that spending is actually going. To find out just how much, I dropped my bank statements from the last two months into a spreadsheet and crunched the numbers a bit. The results? Oh. Ah. Ooh. Uhg. Er…
First the good stuff: I’ve been strict with myself regarding “pocket money”; I try to make every purchase a deliberate action. As such, this (typically cash ATM withdrawals) only accounts for 2.3% of my spending during the last two months. A good thing, as I honestly have no idea what I spent that on…
Then there’s the usual crap of everyday living: books, movies, media, clothing, housewares, etc. total 11.9%, even with those silly unnecessarily-expensive kitchen knives I bought (5.4% right there). I can excuse myself an occasional excess like those knives when I see that my transportation expenses over the last two months only account for 2.7% of the total. That’s including bus and train tickets, gasoline, and even bicycle maintenance! My dreaded dental-work only ended up being 4.2%.
Now for the surprises: Rent seems reasonable (22.1%), as does my Grocery spending (11.7%), but WTF! “Dining Out” comes to 22.8% of all my spending! I was sure this one would be big, but holy crapping crap.
As it turns out, the category I was sure would be at the top (after rent) was “Tools”, which only comes out to 17%.
The tools have been paying for themselves, and will continue to do so. If anything, I now feel justified spending a little more there. But first, I have to stop with the dinners out, the fancy coffee, the cocktails at Castle Hill!

Awhile back, I wrote a bit about incoming gadgets, etc. “…A new deba, crankset, pedals, bottom bracket, sprockets, a bluetooth card…” Since all this shit has arrived and been in use for awhile, I thought I’d jot down a quickie review, if for no other reason than I’ve had spotty luck finding good consumer product criticism online (at least re: these things).

First up: The Kershaw Knives Shun Pro II 105mm Deba. This knife has been my introduction to quality Japanese kitchen cutlery. Right out of the box, into my greedy clutches, this knife is immediately and obviously the two things everybody else has already mentioned, ie., sexy beautiful and sharp as fuck. Being my first single-bevel working knife (having previously used steep double-bevel German-style knives), I was taken for a ride as soon as I sliced up my fist veggie with it. The combination of the deep hollow grind on one side of the blade and the shallow single bevel on the other works to pull the blade deeper into the cut as you go; you can start a slice as this as you please, and this blade will not skip out the end of the veg and turn your paper-this sliver into a wedgey chunk. In fact, it took me awhile to stop angling my cuts to compensate as I would with a double-bevel blade and just let the sharp as fuck edge do it’s thang. First dish prepared? Paper-thin beet carpaccio with tiny slivers of Rainier cheery.
An aside: my girlfriend was first attracted to me by seeing my way with a sharp knife and a board full of veggie prep. Honest! To this day, we both get a wee bit mushy when I cut the cucumber…
Anyway, I’m pretty happy with the knife. Not sure why they call it a Deba; too hollow and too thin in the body. I guess it’s because the belly of the edge curves too much to be a mini-santoku. I liked it enough to go ahead and pull the trigger on a Pro II 165mm Nakiri (also a misnomer; the single edge properly makes this a usuba-bocho). (Whatever, ya knife-nerd.)

Next on the list: Bike parts. After literally months of agonizing, I whacked the gadget-tree with my cheap-hammer and let the cheapest crankset and BB fall out to the ground. I ended up with an Origin 8 170mm crankset and BB. Installed with the accompanying 46T ring, 18T freewheel cog, and Origin 8 track pedals, I was off to the races. Something stank down there from the very start… I pulled, inspected, and reinstalled the cranks… upped the torque on the crankbolts a wee bit… and still something weird. Finally figured it out a week later: the crankarms aren’t 180 degrees apart. Close, but not quite. Hard to say if it’s the tapers on the BB or the machining on the arms, but it’s gotta be out no few degrees. Unridable, no. Disconcerting, yes. Well I got what I paid for: $80 for cranks, ring, and BB clearly doesn’t buy perfection. We’ll get it “right” later, folks; for now, fuck it let’s ride!

Oh yeah, the BT card for “Lappy No. Dos”: Plug’n’played, recognised a-okay in Ubuntu 9.04, syncing phone and Palm files minutes later. Didn’t even have to rebootload the works a la Windoze.

I’ve maintained a belief for some time now that one of the two best reasons for drawing a pay-cheque is for the purpose of acquiring tools. While I tend to get a bit weird about spending money in any case (spender’s remorse), I try my best to avoid feeling any buyer’s remorse; buying more/new tools is usually proof against the latter, if still subject to the former.
I’ve been lusting after a few tools for awhile now; some to replace tools lost on the boat, others necessary for my job, and some ’cause they’re just so cool. This week I went ahead and took care of a couple of these, ummm, urges.
I’ve been without a complete ratchet and socket set since the boat. Granted, I haven’t done so much mechanical work lately as to really require them, but it’s always such a pain in the ass to not have ’em when you do. I’ve been using a smaller set of these Home Depot house-brand Husky “black chrome” sockets at work, and figured they were decent enough for the price, so I picked up this larger set for my myself.
Another purchasing motivator is any situation where I feel, for even a brief time, dependant on borrowing somebody else’s tools. With this in mind, I’d been looking for a simple RO palm sander. Home Depot was out of the one I wanted; no luck at the local Ace or True Value either, so online I went… (Bless you! Curse you! PayPal!)
I ended up ordering a DeWalt sander, the Variable-Speed one nobody around here seems to stock. While some people decry DeWalt as being “just the expensive Black & Decker”, I’ve had good luck with my yellow tools. And, um, while I was at it, I went in for a couple more DeWalts “just in case”:
The next purchase was a trim router. I’ve had a few recent instances where a trim router would have saved a little time/aggravation, probably enough so to have paid me back for the purchase price. I’ve got my Dad’s old burly Freud FT2000E (not unlike the ol’ man himself, an indestructible if crusty workhorse), but so much of the routing I find myself needing to do is generally… smaller.
I’ve worked in a few shops where the go-to tool was the Porter Cable 7301. Great tool, punching well above it’s weight class, and as far as I know, pretty much the tool that defined the category. I’m trying a near-copy, the DeWalt version. Time will tell as to whether this was a wise choice, but being $100 less than the Porter Cable, the DeWalt will have to really suck to not be worth it.
The last tool I sprung for is a bit of a stretch, I admit. A DeWalt cordless jigsaw. I’ve wanted a new jigsaw for quite awhile now, and normally a cordless version would not be my first choice. However, my experience with a few other cordless tools has changed my thinking… and I already have 6 18V XRP batteries and 5 chargers (well, 3 singles and a double). I now have more than 2/3 of the cordless tools DeWalt makes.
The performance of the cordless cut-off tool, reciprocating saw, and circular saw have proven to me that these are fair-excellent replacements for their corded brethren. I’m expecting similar greatness from the cordless jigsaw. Of course, most of the work I do is wooden-boat refit work, or small-scale building reno & maintenance; in both cases, I’m often crawling into tight quarters with poor access to AC power, in order to make many small cuts. If I found myself making many long repeated cuts in heavier stock, I’d certainly go for the corded versions.

I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve spent more on tools this month than on my rent! Along with these “big ticket” power-tool purchases, I’ve been steadily increasing my stock of woodworking-, electrical-, and bicycle-specific hand-tools. In today’s economy, my most obviously-marketable skill is my ability to fix and build. It’s been a little over a year since I lost everything; I’m already feeling as secure as I ever have, and I can’t but feel that I’ve seen a great return on my tool investments.

The new (crappy cheap) WiFi router in the building refuses to play nice with the TCP window scaling/Linux OS on my “real” laptop, so I’ve been forced this week to resurrect my Windows rig to get reliably online.
This has given me a chance to revisit the inevitable comparisons with the two computers side-by-side. First, a hardware disclosure: The Ubuntu rig is a vanilla 1.73Ghz Core Duo with 2Gb RAM, running Ubuntu 9.04. The Windows rig is a 2.4Ghz Celeron with 1Gb RAM, running Windows XP SP3. This is just what’s current; I’ve run the same version of both OS versions on both machines.
I run Ubuntu with basic Compiz settings enabled; I run Windows with absolutely everything stripped down (all desktop effects disabled, everything biased towards performance/away from appearance).
Some observations, in no particular order: Windows is obviously and eternally manhandling the machine. It updates in the background, hogging resources, requiring reboots, etc. Ubuntu only does this stuff when/where I request it, obviously, visibly, without seeming to slow things down much.
Adding software to Ubuntu is ridiculously straightforward. Windows… um… is annoying and expensive.
There is endless helpful advice/tutorials online for Linux (although granted, you often need it); Windows is Microsoft or Microsoft.

On the other hand: Ubuntu wireless still hiccups; not so much that Ubuntu doesn’t play nice, but more that hardware vendors make little/no effort to support consumer-grade Linux.
OpenOffice files require tweaking/conversion to work with Windows (a problem with sharing documents with my Windows-using friends).
It took some digging to get all the right codecs and packages set up in Mozilla to get a proper multimedia internet experience.

I’m obviously a raving Ubuntu convert. Before that, I was a merely tolerant Windows sufferer. Yes, Linux takes a little more effort to get running the way you need, but once you get there, it’s addictivly awesome. Unless you NEED some Windows-specific software, Ubuntu looks and feels every bit better.

« Older entries