The chronicles of LASIK

The ramblings on this site never seem to have any consistency. Actually, that’s a bit of the point. And to that point, I am going to journal and present something that I have wanted to do for as long as it has been doable. LASIK. Laser eye correction, to be more specific. I’ve wanted to not wear glasses or contacts since the day I got them in the 9th grade.
From back in the days of PRK to the original LASIK and now the iLASIK, I’ve always wanted to do it and either not had the means or the guts to make it happen. So, at age 40, and after several folks I trust had it done, I finally decided to take the plunge. Since my nature is to research stuff as much as I can, this was no different. However, I never really found a fully detailed account of the process that I could absorb, so, since I have this space I decided to create one for anyone else like me that wants to see the down and dirty details of the process. Hopefully this will help someone make a more informed decision.
The decision
After many half-hearted attempts, I finally made the appointment. I would be going to a well respected eye surgeon about an hour away. His credentials are quite impressive and his referrals are very respectable. The total cost was just under $2000 per eye, $3870 less a 5% discount from my eye insurance and a $140 fee for the evaluation exam. Most places take a wide variety of payment options, credit card, cash and even no interest for X months care credit. Total out of pocket for me was $3795.25.
The screening
The screening to assess if I was a good candidate or not was lengthy. They did dilated computer mappings of my eyes, eye tests and then more vision tests. Light sensitivity was at an all time high, but still not terrible. I probably could have driven home with sunglasses but they never would have let me. I had a responsible driver there to take me home. I ended up mowing the yard about an hour after I got back with minimal problem. Results vary. My friend thought that the dilation was worse than the procedure.
Procedure details
I had a driver take me to the clinic.  Once there I had a bunch of paperwork to do, sign releases, pay for the service talk through the instructions and how the procedure would go down. Once that was done, they gave me a Xanax which I was completely uninterested in taking. I was pretty nervous but it was primarily because I don’t like taking prescription meds, especially things like that. I asked if I could just drink three beers before but they said no. 🙂
Once all of that was complete I went back to the room. It was a standard looking surgical room. Clean and neat. One seat in the middle of two machines. There were four people in there. The tech that did my eval, the doctor and two other people that ran different aspects of the procedure.
Their bedside manner was fantastic. The doctor explained every step as we went. The first thing they did was offer me a heated blanket, which at first I declined and then took them up on the offer. Take the blanket if they offer it. They then put numbing drops in my eyes. They verified my name, adds, DOB and that I was having eyes corrected. The put a patch over the eye not being corrected I presume to protect it.
Once that was done the doctor put a clip in my right eye that holds it open, kinda like clockwork orange but not as unpleasant looking. They then added more drops, I suspect for re-wetting but I don’t know for sure. Once that was done one of the other people in the room put a suction attachment onto my right eye. It felt like pressure and my vision started to fade. They then “applied suction”, which was slightly uncomfortable but not painful in the least. My vision went totally away in my right eye at that point.

This is the point of no return

From here the machine uses a laser to perforate the surface of the eye to make the flap. It takes about 15 seconds and once that is complete they moved me out from the machine and remove suction. The doctor then removes the clip and adds drops. From there he adds a new clip and uses some kind of a tool to open the flap. You can kinda see the tool but things are blurry. He had me focus on a blinking red light. You can feel the flap open, a bit like pressure but no pain. Again, no pain whatsoever, just an odd feeling. When the flap is opened the red light goes totally blurry. At this point there is a black and white ring with a hazy red light in the middle.
This is the burning laser.
They spend a few seconds calibrating the laser and then you hear what sounds like shocks. I smelled what seemed like burning hair. The correction part was very quick at well. They tell you to look straight ahead just like with the laser to create the flap, but I don’t know if I could have moved my eye if I wanted to, the ring seems to hold it pretty still. Once the correction is done the doctor moves you back out of from under the machine. He then folds the flap back over using what I can only describe as a tiny wallpaper smoother. I couldn’t really see it but that was what it seemed like. A few drops are then applied after the flap is put back and the clip is removed.
That’s it. That eye is complete.
The process begins with my left eye, same as the right. I did notice that the left eye felt a lot different. I felt more pressure and it was actually noticeably less comfortable when the vacuum was applied. I mentioned this and they said that every eye is different and that there was nothing to worry about. It wasn’t painful, just different, so I took them at their their word.
1 hour after procedure
1hour
First night
 I took it pretty easy, wearing the glasses they gave me to protect my eyes. I could not focus on anything close at all. Anything I tried to read was blurry and unreadable. I didn’t try much, instead opting to rest my eyes as much as possible. I slept with the glasses on so as not to accidentally rub my eyes.
Next day
nextday
Feels like I have really dirty, old contacts in. Everything bright has a halo. Everything. Slight double vision / ghosting in my left eye. Re-check went great, I drove myself to it no problem. So far 20/15 in my right and 20/25 in my left. They said it’d chance a lot over the next week but that I was doing fantastic. I did some network maintained in the late afternoon and e screen was a tad fuzzy. I kept it pretty simple after that and wore sunglasses pretty much until I went to bed. I watched one TV show with the sunglasses on without issue.
I wore the crazy big glasses to bed so that I didn’t rub my eyes accidentally but took them off around 4am.
Showering was an adventure. I just avoided washing my hair or face with soap. I kept my eyes shut and very gently patted them dry when done.
Two days
day2
Still feels like I have old, dirty contacts in. I still have some dryness, worse after the steroid drops, which is not unexpected. Re-wetting drops are a must.  I have two kinds and one is far better than the other. The refresh optive is the superior product for me, I can only describe the feeling as “luxurious”.
 drops
The systane balance drops are good too but not as refreshing and don’t have the lasting power of the others. Had a lot of halo around lights but they went away toward e end of the night. First day I worked most of the day on the computer, my eyes were very tired and later in the day the text was a tad fuzzy.
Day three
day3
Eyes a little dry in the morning, not much blur but not perfect. Slight halo. Left eye feels like it has something like dust or an eyelash in it unless I keep drops in it. It’s not painful at all, more like a mild periodic irritation. Not intolerable by any stretch of the imagination.
Day four
No real discomfort at all in the morning. Mid-day my left eye felt like I had a dirty contact in it. Vision constantly improving. No halos in the morning, they came and went throughout the day. Did normal stuff, mowed the yard and did errands. Wore good sunglasses. By the end of the day they were feeling dry and I had a lot of halos. Blood rings were significantly less.
Day five
Continued improvement. Every day is clearly different and the eyes adjust and change more than I expected.
Day six
 More of the same.
Day seven
 day7
Much better during the day. This evening I had a weird pain in my left eye, like I had something in it. Still a lot of halos in the evening but far fewer during the day.
Days 8 – 15
 More of the same. Continual improvement and shifting of how my vision works. Some days the left eye is better, some days it’s the right. Haziness at night in some cases and varying levels of halos. The really bright white headlights are pretty severely bright. I still use drops at night at least once and thought the day, especially when working at the computer.
I traveled for 4 days during this period and needed a lot of drops on the airplane rides, no other issues traveling other than that.
Day 16
 Today was the first day I did not need drops on a semi-regular basis. I used drops first thing in the morning out of habit and a few times during the day but had no real discomfort without them. Vision is much more normal, with little haziness and halos only at night or around very, very bright LED lights.
Red rings around where the laser cut the flap are nearly gone.
Day 21
day21
Significant improvement. No discomfort and very little dryness. Halos around LEDs and at night when my eyes are tired.
Day 30
I can FINALLY rub my eyes. I still have a little bit of halo around bright LED or bright white lights. Very little blood red at the site of the laser flap. Almost no dryness at all, but I still use drops at morning and night, occasionally if I stare at a screen too long. I have one more check-up at the 3 month mark but my overall feeling is that this was a fantastic endeavor. I should have done it 10 years ago.
A few pointers that worked for me:
  • Get some decent sunglasses that you like. Your eyes will be very photosensitive. Then buy two pairs. Keep one with you at ll times, even at night for the first few weeks.
  • Keep eyedrops in with you at all times, at least at the beginning.
  • Sleep with the protective glasses on for the first few nights.
  • Do not freak out. My eyes changed dramatically from day to day. One day the left eye would be perfect and the right hazy, the next day it was the opposite. It levels out.
  • Ask a lot of questions of the doctor. Don’t be afraid to speak up.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens……and it’s associated parodies

I am and always have been a huge Star Wars fan. I am old enough to remember ESB and lucky enough to have seen ROTJ in the theater. However, I, like many die hard fans, was completely turned off by EP 1, 2 and 3. So much so that I have erased them from my memory and consider them to never have existed. That is why I wasn’t terribly excited when I heard that there was a new one being released (and being directed by J.J. Abrams).jar-jar-binks

 

And then I saw the trailer.

Wow. Fantastic. I was excited again. I want to see this one. Now, that’s not why I’ve made this post. The reason for this post is because not only is there A NEW STAR WARS MOVIE COMING OUT, it appears to not suck. And there are a TON of great parodies of the trailer. Hysterical trailers. I’ve compiled a few of them here.

Official Trailer:

SNL Parody:

Guardians of the Galaxy trailer; you knew this would come and it is worth the watch:

Lego version; also pretty funny:

“George Lucas special Edition” parody; had to be done, he deserves it for making me wait in line for a day to have my experienced ruined by Jar-Jar Binks:

Even a spaceballs version:

Enjoy, Star Wars Fans, it looks like Boba Fett may have dragged this franchise out of the saarlacc pit.

Repairing things: the lost art in a throw away society

Perhaps I’ll be coming off as a “walked to school uphill both ways in 10 feet of snow” old guy, but when I was growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s it seems like we fixed more “things”. If your refrigerator had a problem, you called a repair guy. If your TV went on the fritz, you called a repair guy.  If your clothes dryer broke, you had someone come to fix it.  I once disassembled a 1973 Honda with nothing more than a Chilton book from the public library with moderate success; it’s not that hard to try and you’ll always learn something in the process.
Having this history, it made me a bit disheartened when some lightning damaged a substantial set of electronics that a relative of mine had and the insurance adjuster just called it all bad and they paid for new. Now, I get it, newer electronics are more complicated and more susceptible to EMI. However, TVs in particular are really just big PCs nowadays. A power board, a motherboard and a giant LCD. That’s it. Oh, and a case and stand, neither of which is critical to the operation of the device. Knowing that, I took both broken TVs, a 55″ LG, passive 3D smart TV and a 32″ samsung and took them home along with the LG blu-ray player. My logic was that, at the very least, I could have fun showing the kids how to take them apart and we could go over the insides. IMG_4440

Little did I know that for the small sum of ~$140 I could repair not one but both of these devices. Disassembly was a snap, the hardest part was finding a surface area large enough to set the 55″ face down on.  Once open it was pretty clear that this would be pretty simple if I could get the parts.  To the right is the inside of the 55″, it was a tad more complicated but as you can see it is really a quite simple device.  The board on the right is the logic board, essentially a purpose built embedded PC.  The board on the left is the power board.  The power board  on both devices was intact, but the 32″ would not power on.  The 55″ powered on and went into a boot loop.  I suspected damaged flash so I found a used one on ebay for $114.  It was removed from a cracked screen item of the same model.  Incidentally, the LCD is pretty much the only thing that should keep you from repairing a device like this.  It’s not often cost efficient to replace the screen since it is the bulk of the device cost.

I did the 32″ samsung as a test case since parts for it were $12 each for the board and power supply.  Although I didn’t see any bulged caps on the power supply capacitors, it would not power on and smelled burned so I replaced it.

 

 

10 minutes later and I had a functional 32″ display that is now in my office, powered by a raspberry pi and displaying network statistics for my job among a few other windows related to my work.  With that working I decided to go ahead and repair the 55″.

 

IMG_4469

Low and behold, it was simple and quick.  Now I have a 55″ smart TV for $114, complete with plex support, netflix streaming and a bunch of other apps that I’ll never use.

IMG_4495

 

The take away here is that stuff isn’t that hard to fix given the willingness to try.  With the internet the take apart guides are even easier to get and the chances of success are dramatically increased.

 

Hey Joe brewing coffee mug

I’m a bit of a coffee nut. I love good, high quality coffee. I’ve written about it many, many, many, many times.   In fact, I have a hard time getting going before coffee in the mornings, having been a coffee drinker since I was ~17 (I have no clue how my teeth aren’t stained; it baffles the dentist).  I don’t drink soda, just coffee, water and beer.  So, when a kickstarter for the Hey Joe brewing coffee mug was brought to my attention, I thought “wow, why has no one done this before?”.  What is it, you ask? It’s a battery powered, heating, coffee brewing mug.  That’s right.

b4d953c3acb64df68c5d551c8088024e_large

My initial reaction to this was “ok, I need that.  Now”.

Anyone that travels and appreciates good coffee could really benefit from this mug.  I like an afternoon coffee, and when I’m traveling I have to find a decent place to get it and that is generally not an easy task because I like good coffee, and not over heated, burned coffee served too hot.  I’ll often end up with what I call “gas station swill” which is a poor substitute for decent coffee.  I partake in coffee when I’m traveling especially, and hotel coffee is…less than stellar.

Starbucks is….consistent.  And over-roasted.  And served too hot.  And too expensive.  I will always seek out a decent mom-and-pop shop but those are hit and miss.

I could see myself traveling with this thing.  Lets hope it meets the kickstarter request, because, frankly, I want one.  Check out the video if you don’t believe me.

 

Cool, right?  Business Insider even thinks so.  I hope it gets funded, it really is a neat idea (and I want one, damnit!).  I can name the number of things I’ve donated to on kickstarter on one hand.  This is one of them.  

Found Item: Fisher Price Adventure People Opticon

I’m a sucker for my old toys. I never throw anything away and I still have a huge amount of my toys from the late 70’s through the 80’s. That is what makes this find so interesting.  I had a few of these “Adventure People” manufactured by Fisher Price, and I played with them a lot, but I had all but forgotten about them until I pulled this one, the “opticon”, out of a box my oldest son and I were looking through.  I had no memory of this whatsoever because it was so obscure, until I saw it.  Memories came rushing back, I clearly remembered getting it in Bloomington, IL at what I believe was Montgomery Wards.  There is surprisingly little on these toys on the ‘net, but they are readily available on ebay and there are collectors out there still able to find carded figures(!!)  The Opticon was pretty cool because of the large crystal in its back and the fact that it folded over into what I always called a “sleep” mode.  IMG_4040

This find drove me to spend far too much time researching these toys, which triggered a few more memories.  I realized that I had possessed a few more toys from this series.  Most notably, I had the space alpha interceptor and the pilot and the opticon (shown above).  I played with that interceptor quite a bit.  It had a really cool design that came apart into a smaller ship or spun around in the middle of the larger chassis and the guy, even though he didn’t move much, was very neat with his enclosed head and weird eye goggles.  interceptorMy belief is that the interceptor is in a box in my parents basement but the guy is probably long gone.  I’ll blame my brothers for that (sorry Mike and Chris, blame rolls down hill).  I plan to dig around next time I’m down in 61727 and see if I can find it.  until then, I’ve handed over the Opticon to my boys to add to the arsenal of other vintage stuff for hours of adventure.

*interceptor image courtesy of a random ebay listing

Scanning a Plex library manually

I recently had a weird problem with my plex media server in that it would crash upon trying to scan my library.  After a great deal of debugging, I finally found what the problem was (a file that was named in such a way that it caused the scanner to crash).  prom-scanIn order to debug this problem, though, I came across some great under-the-hood tools within plex (which is all python, very cool).  After reading this link, I moved all of my Movies out of the main folder.  At that point I moved the files back in, one letter at a time. My Plex server is a CentOS 6.5 VM that mounts a ZFS NAS.
I moved the files one starting letter at at time

mv -v /path/to/src/A* /path/to/dest/

Once that had finished moving I ran the scanner manually using the following command:

sudo su - plex -c "export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/usr/lib/plexmediaserver; \\
/usr/lib/plexmediaserver/Plex\ Media\ Scanner -h"

Thankfully, the plex platform is really well documented and has a great community around it, so searching for the errors I was seeing led me down the right path to solving the issue.  I’m still not sure what caused the file names to become corrupt or unhappy, but I suspect that it had to do with the disk failure I had in my ZFS raid.

Adesso MKB-125 keyboard review

Are you old enough to remember the amazing IBM model M keyboards?  I am.  And I loved mine.  I had  several of them as did my roommate from that time.

800px-ModelMI remember in the mid 1990s working for a consulting firm in central IL, and during that employment one of the tasks put to us was to install a network with new PCs.  Since this was a large company we were doing this for, they wanted to write off all of their items being replaced (or so I was told), so we threw the old stuff into a gigantic dumpster.  During that install, we trashed likely more than 100 IBM Mechanical “clicky” keyboards.  A few of us were devious enough to stow a few away. Several of us them for close to a decade after.

Now get in your DeLorean and head to 2013.  I’ve started a new job and I hear that unmistakable sound of a clicky-clack keyboard from some folks I work with.  It’s oh-so-familiar and I’m whisked away to a carefree time of gaming, learning Linux and BSD and drinking crummy beer around a table of nerds with computers.

Then there was an email thread about the keyboards.

I got interested again.

After a bit of googling around I found that there is a very, very large following for the clickey model M-style keyboards. And there is a lot of detail and difference between key styles.  Not surprising, they’re great devices and apparent;y far more diverse than I ever knew. So, I set out to find a reasonably priced, modern interface (read:USB) mechanical keyboard.  After much deliberation, I settled on the  Adesso MKB-125 keyboard.  It seems like a good compromise between function, form and cost and is available for about $60 from Amazon.

Now, I’ve been using an Apple “chicklet” keyboard for years.  Since they came out, actually, and I can say with confidence that I like it.  The tactile response is nowhere near as good, but after 6+ years, it’s muscle memory, and I knew the MKB-125 would be different in many ways.

That being said, this review isn’t really a “review” per se, it’s a detailing of the things that someone that has been using a very different keyboard would experience when switching to this device.  It should be said that I love this keyboard.  I’m going to buy another one for home to replace my apple keyboard there.  However, it is requiring a re-training of my habits.  Some of the things I experienced that I did not expect (but perhaps should have) are detailed below.

Lack of special apple keys.  I did not realize just how much I used the keyboard volume keys as well as the mission control stuff.  There are ways to re-map some of it (although I’ve not found a way to do the volume yet), mission control stuff is all available via hotkeys.  I’m still working through this.

Tiny space bar.  I didn’t catch this one.  It’s still annoying, but I purposely got a compact keyboard.  I should have seen it coming but didn’t.  My hands are slowly learning that the alt key isn’t the spacebar.

IMG_3895

Misplaced ESC key. This is irritating.  Again, I know I got the compact keyboard, but I never realized just how much muscle memory was there for that esc. key.  IMG_3894

No support for num-lock on mac? Have not figured this one out yet.  It doesn’t claim mac support, so who knows.  I have done zero investigation but I have lamented it a fair amount.

Lack of USB hub. Again, this could have been solved by getting the MKB-135B for roughly $15 more.  Perhaps I’ll get that one for home.

Noise.  These things are loud.  If you forget to mute on a conference call or video conference and start typing, everyone will know.  If you have little kids and want to work while they sleep in the next room, that’s a crap shoot.  They’re that loud.

All that being said, I love this keyboard.  The mechanical keys are audibly reinforcing and I very much like the tactile response.  It’s both nostalgic and useful.  It reminds me of being in high school around 1991 and learning BASIC on an IBM PS/2.

I would highly recommend anyone who spends serious amount of time writing code, prose or any other typing-intensive tasks to seriously consider a mechanical keyboard.  There are many guides out there to help you decide what is right for you and you’ll be surprised at how much you like it.

Why plex is everything iTunes should be and how to Install it on CentOS 6.5

If you’re not familiar with Plex, you should be. It’s one of the most flexible, well supported, useful pieces of entertainment software ever written. Oh, and it’s open source. That’s right, it’s free. And it’s cross platform. And it will run on just about any device. It’s quite amazing, actually. Plex also supports a myriad of plugins  and features such as Channels, DLNA and cloud sync as well as the notion of clipping existing videos such as youtube content for display on your television or other devices. This alone makes the package worth setting up. However, it also does some really amazing indexing of your media if it is named correctly.  As an example, I love horror movies, so naturally I have quite a few of them on DVD. Some of them are obscure. With Plex, this is not an issue as long as the movie exists in IMDB (or a few other sources for more obscure or foreign films).  If it does it will pull down all of the metadata on it and display it. Very, very slick:

Plex Cemetery Man Image

Obviously plex is a very versatile application. It has two parts, the client and the server. Personally I have not used the client since the inception of myplex, I pretty much just use a web interface, with the exception of my ipad and iphone, which have a dedicated client. You can also share your plex using myplex, and if you have a plexpass, watched status can be localized to each user. For example, if you share your library with a family member that may no longer be living in your household (say, a college student) when they watch a film it will not show as watched under your particular plex instance unless you have watched it* but will for theirs. This is a nice feature if you’re watching TV series or other multi-part shows.  It also allows for media sync when you cannot stream your media.

Plex is all of the things that iTunes should be.

As a breif bit of history, a few years ago I decided that it would be a good idea to digitize my fairly good sized DVD collection like I had done with CDs, records and cassettes for music years before. I had enough disk to hold it and wanted to clear space on some bookshelves.  I bought some rubbermaid tubs and after a long process and some intimate time with Handbrake, I put all of my DVDs in my storage closet in my basement.  Once that digital library was all set up, and since most Blu-Ray combo packs come with a digital copy, I can unquestionably say that this was a good idea.  It’s funny, too, since I get a Blu-Ray combo pack, sock away the media and jam a digital copy on my NAS with the other media .

Now, on with the install. I went with CentOS because it’s easy to administrate for me.  I don’t really know windows well enough to comfortably admin a box anymore and I don’t want to spend the extra money on a mac just to run plex. I like to run things on minimalist systems if I can, and Linux is easy enough to tune down to a very small footprint. My plex media server actually runs really well as a VM. Lets assume that you have an already built CentOS 6.5 box. I chose minimalist install but this will work for any install option.

yum -y install wget
wget http://downloads.plexapp.com/plex-media-server/0.9.8.18.290-11b7fdd \ 
/plexmediaserver-0.9.8.18.290-11b7fdd.x86_64.rpm
rpm -ivh plexmediaserver-0.9.8.18.290-11b7fdd.x86_64.rpm 
yum -y update

You should see something like this:

[[email protected] buraglio]# yum update
Loaded plugins: fastestmirror
Loading mirror speeds from cached hostfile
 * base: centos.sonn.com
 * epel: fedora-epel.mirror.iweb.com
 * extras: centos.sonn.com
 * rpmforge: apt.sw.be
 * updates: centos.sonn.com
PlexRepo                                                 |  951 B     00:00
PlexRepo/primary                                         | 5.4 kB     00:00
PlexRepo                                                              12/12
Setting up Update Process
No Packages marked for Update

Now start Plex Media Server and tell it to start at boot:

service plexmediaserver start
chkconfig plexmediaserver on

Since mine runs internally, I disable iptables all together:

service iptables stop
service ip6tables stop
chkconfig iptables off
chkconfig ip6tables off

You can probably also add a rule to allow access [untested by me]

Add IPTables rules:

sudo iptables -I INPUT -p tcp -m state --state NEW -m tcp --dport 32400 -j ACCEPT
sudo ip6tables -I INPUT -p tcp -m state --state NEW -m tcp --dport 32400 -j ACCEPT  
service iptables save
service ip6tables save

Although plex does not listen on IPv6, I have it enabled on my network so I’m going to add a rule for it for future use.

Install and enable Avahi for local discovery

yum -y install avahi
service avahi-daemon start
chkconfig  avahi-daemon on

Now you just need to add your media via the web interface. Point your browser at the plex box: http://plex:32400/web/index.html

Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 10.32.12 AM

After a bit plex will scrape all of the metadata from it’s sources and you should see a nice display of media detail. This works for Music, TV shows and Movies. It will also happily display photos and home movies. I have mine pointed at my iTunes library and my iPhoto library as well as having 2 dedicated containers for videos I’ve purchased like grappling, cycling and skate videos.

If your media exists on mounted drives like mine does, I would also suggest disabling the “Empty Trash” option in case the drives do not mount or become unavailable (suggestion via IcePick, who also is the one who introduced me to Plex).

Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 10.14.53 AM

 

Now you can get the mobile plex for your iPhone, iPad, chromecast, Android device or any number of other devices.  Personally we use a Roku with the plex channel but when I’m traveling I will often use my iPad as a media player from my hotel room and play my own content directly from my house, sometimes even over a cellular connection if there is spotty wifi.  It’s like having netflix with my own content.  Win-Win.

* I have not tested this personally, yet, however, I would encourage anyone to pay for the lifetime plexpass. I plan to do so as soon.

** You may need to disable selinux.  I do it by default so I can’t say if it works with it on or not.

Greatest coffee mug I’ve ever owned. (16oz Contigo Autoseal Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Tumbler)

One of the gifts I received from my wife this year for the holidays was a Contigo Autoseal Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Tumbler, 16 Oz. she knows just how much coffee I consume and shares my love of good, artesian and small roaster coffees.  I was excited when I popped this out of the stocking, but I honestly wasn’t prepared for just how awesome this mug really is.  I generally don’t like to use plastic for travel mugs so I have an assortment of stainless steel and ceramic travel mugs.

This one, however, is totally different.

Actually, the “mug” isn’t different at all, it’s just a contoured stainless steel glass.     Contigo_Mug1

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s the marvel that is the lid that really sets this travel companion apart.  As you can see, it has a red “button” on the side.  That is what causes the magic.  Contigo_Mug3

Contigo_Mug4

This is what allows the valve to open and allow the coffee out. And it works.  I mean itContigo_Mug2 really works. I did some experimentation like holding the mug upside down, closing the valve while drinking, knocking it over, etc. and it does exactly what its supposed to.  It closes the opening and nothing gets out. no more spills, no more coffee on shirts, pants, in the car or on electronics.

Oh, and it keeps coffee hot for hours.  I’m not one to generally have coffee sitting around and not be drinking it, but sometimes you just get busy and don’t get a chance.  Interrupt driven occupations like IT tend to have this issue.  I like my coffee to be the optimal temperature pretty much all the time, this, so far, is doing a better job at that than any portable (or otherwise) coffee mug ever has.

I’m so confident that this mug won’t leak or spill, I carried it (and plan to continue to carry it) in the water bottle holder of my Timbuk2 messenger bag, something I’ve never been comfortable doing before.Contigo_Mug6

Pros:

Keeps coffee hot for very long periods of time.

Virtually spill proof

Lid is dishwasher safe.

Stainless steel is durable and doesn’t have the weird chemicals that can be present in plastic and cause odd flavors (and arguably other problems)

Reasonable cost (~$20 at amazon, probably available cheaper elsewhere).

Readily available, not a specialty item.

Cons:

Can’t use the Aeropress directly.  The lip is fairly thin and the mouth of the cup too small to fit the aeropress filter.  It’s not really a big deal since I don;t use it with any other travel mug anyway, but it would be nice to not have to dirty another mug.

That’s pretty much it.  This thing is amazing.

— EDIT —

It was brought to my attention on Google Plus by another coffee enthusiast that the funnel included with the Aeropress will allow this to work with the mug.  There is no downside to this drinking vessel!

–EDIT–

Messenger bag – revisited – Timbuk2 Command Laptop TSA-Friendly Messenger Bag

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I’ve written in the past about my love/hate relationship with messenger bags.  Well, I decided to revisit….and I must say, I’ve changed my tune.  I believe that the problem I had was the fact that I wasn’t getting the right messenger bags.  I did a little reading and found that there are messenger bags and there are professional class courier bags.

After reading and reading and reading and reading, I finally had it narrowed down to two bags.  The patagonia half mass and the medium sized timbuk2 Commute Laptop TSA-Friendly Messenger Bag.  Now, I’m a huge fan of patagonia stuff.  I have some of their jackets, down “sweaters” and shirts.  They’re a cool company that makes durable stuff, but timbuk2 is on another level when it comes to bags.  I picked mine up from Amazon so I could get the prime shipping, but they’re available directly via timbuk2 for $104.25.  I chose classic black since it looks more professional in my opinion and despite my disinclination, I need to look like a grown up sometimes.

I wanted both so that I could to a compare/contrast, but due to budget I only got a standard, off the shelf, right handed medium sized timbuk2 Commute Laptop TSA-Friendly Messenger Bag.  Now, I tend to be ambidextrous, but I certainly favor my left.  I thought this may be a challenge, but I wasn’t willing to pay extra for a custom made left handed bag. I’m fundamentally against paying more because I’m a lefty….I get the reason…I’m just lucky enough that I can deal with it.

Once I got used to the right handed nature of it, I was totally sold.  Construction of it is solid, it’s made from waterproof material and the flap has a velcro option to keep it even tighter.  The zippers are sturdy and look like they’ll keep most rain and moisture out.  This may be the best bag I have owned and let me tell you why:

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 Quick release strap.  This is amazing.  It basically allows for the bag to be worn in a reasonable way across the shoulder and still easily come off and go on.  This alone makes this bag better than any messenger bag I’ve ever used or owned.  I can pack it full and wear it tight to my back and still be able to get it on and off easily, over a thick winter jacket or just a t shirt.  It’s also comfortable.  Even packed full.  That’s not something I can say about any other messenger bag I’ve used.

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Unique, solid, metal  quick release clips for the main flap.  They’re easy to open one handed and hold tight.  I’m still getting used to clipping them closed one handed but I suspect it’s just a matter of time.

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Lots of pockets and space.  I got the medium size and I can still get an extra shirt, a quick bite to eat, all of the cables and adapters I need, an evernote  moleskine notebook, my 15″ retina powerbook, my iPad, power bricks for both and an aluminum water bottle. And I have room to spare.  The side, under flap compartment that is accessible without opening the flaps is perfect for things like a phone or keys, too.  I use that particular pocket extensively, multiple times a day.  I don’t have to take the bag off but can still get to objects easily and know they’re stored securely.  IMG_3689

If I could get a set of workout clothes in it, I’d be set.  If I had it to do over again I’d probably have gotten the large, but this one is working out well.

IMG_3690The soft lined laptop and separate tablet compartment are perfectly placed.  The really nice value-add is that the both the laptop and  tablet compartment are accessible from “outside” the bag, without messing with the flap.  Very nice design.

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Since I’ll be traveling with this bag, the “TSA Friendly” zipper will likely come in handy, but that’s not what sold me on it.  The real issue I always had traveling with a messenger bag was that it wasn’t conducive to moving quickly through the airport.  This solves that issue in two ways.

First, as mentioned above, the strap is actually comfortable and able to be tightened reasonably, keeping it from flapping and moving around much when it becomes necessary to move quickly to make a flight or if running behind.

Second, the bag has a luggage passthrough that allows for attachment to a rolling piece of luggage.  This is an ingenious addition, especially for someone like me that rarely checks bags but has a wheelie bag as a carry-on.

In addition, since this bag is really made in the tradition of a true messenger bag, it will be perfect once the weather allows me to get my bike back out. It has reflective strips and a nice place to clip safety lights, a true professional grade courier style bag.

Now let me talk about the things I don’t like.

As mentioned, I’m fairly ambidextrous but I favor my left hand.  I prefer to wear a messenger bag on the other side.  I’ve made an adjustment for this bag because, just like in far too many cases, left handed stuff is either custom, more expensive, or both.  Timbuk2 offers a lefty version but it both costs more and is custom.  I understand why, but I refuse to pay for it since I can [reluctantly] adjust.   I wish I would have gotten (or been able to try out) a medium or large lefty bag.  I’d be happy to review one if timbuk2 wanted to send it =).

Overall I love this bag even with the minor gripes above in consideration I’d give this bag a solid A.

I’d love to review the patagonia half mass 15 L bag if given the opportunity….