HACK / MAKE

Favorite New Things From 2011 And Why

I like taking time over the Christmas holidays to review and evaluate how the past year was. This year I’ve made a few additions to my life and found, learned about, or started new things that have quickly become favorites. Here’s what they are in no particular order, why I like them, and a links to where you can find it or buy it if you’d like.

Field Notes (plus a little golf pencil)

I’ve been carrying a Field Notes pocket notebook for about 6 months now. It goes in my back left pocket along with a standard golf pencil. These things are durable and versatile, since you can literally write anything in them. I’ll write notes as I read a book or article, drafts and sketches of things I want to write about, addresses and directions, and in the odd chance it happens, a girls phone number. For a long time I resisted carrying a notebook because I thought it was something I could just do on my iPhone in a simple text editor or Evernote but in reality I just wouldn’t. Thoughts and other things I wouldn’t write down just floated away or become an open loop I would remember later, if I was lucky. I’ve never found an app that’s so simple and versatile for quick jots as a simple notebook. I also include a few standard index cards tucked into the back cover since there’s the odd time you want to write something down and give to somebody. This is much easier than tearing out a page. The golf pencil works well for me because it’s small and fits easily in the back or change pocket of my jeans, won’t explode or leak if I accidentally put it through the wash, and is easily sharpened if you carry a pocket knife. Having a Field Notes book on me is just as important as carrying my phone or wallet. Buy Field Notes on Amazon

Raw Denim Jeans

I’ve always hesitated buying really high quality clothes. I wouldn’t buy junk but I couldn’t understand how anyone could pay more than $50 for a pair of jeans. Then I did. I bought a pair of APC New Standards this summer and I can’t imagine having ever made a better clothing purchase. Raw or selvedge denim are jeans that aren’t washed in the factory after soaking in the indigo dye. Most jeans you buy at a place like American Eagle have gone through a process in the factory to get the fade or ‘wash’ that give them a certain look. Raw denim will get this with time but will fade more beautifully and more accurate to how they fit on you. This pair of jeans have become a reliable piece of my wardrobe that I wear several times a week. We all know that feeling we have for our favorite pair of jeans. The more you love them the stronger this feeling. I really like my APCs and a lot of first time buyers get these. Put This On recommends 3sixteens. If you want something that will fit and fade well but aren’t ready to spend the cash, get a pair of Levi’s 501 Shrink-to-Fit. It’s worth spending good money on a great pair of jeans.

5by5

It was the fall of 2010 when I first started listening to 5by5 podcasts but in 2011 Dan Benjamin really turned 5by5 up to a new level with a list a great shows, talented hosts and a growing community around them. The shows are constantly getting better and better and the only downside is that there are so many great ones out that I’ve had to choose to follow only a few. If you don’t listen to 5by5, you should. Here’s a synopsis of some of the most popular shows but you’ll only really find it funny if you regularly listen to them. Which, again, you should because they are smart, funny, geeky, and way higher quality entertainment than watching TV. Find them on iTunes or 5by5.tv.

Traditional Wet Shaving

Years ago for Christmas I got a pretty decent electric shaver for Christmas and this year it finally died. After a bit of considering and researching online while reluctantly using an old Mach 3, I finally set myself up with a double-edge wet shaving kit. Wet shaving is the traditional style shaving that your grandpa used and how your dad learned how to shave. I threw out my aerosol can of menthol foaming shaving cream crap and cartridge razor for a double-edge razor, badger brush, and a puck of shaving soap (who’s recipe hasn’t changed since the early 1930’s). I use a Merkur 38C razor, a badger brush made by the local New York Shaving Company, and a puck or Mitchel’s Wool Fat shaving soap. Wet shaving has become one of the favorite new things because the shaving stuff you get now-a-days is expensive and plain crap. I’ve replaced it with tools and a method that is worth enjoying. I get a great shave, and the slightly longer it takes every day helps me pace my morning better. I have clearer skin by ditching crappy shaving cream and it’s eliminated ingrown hairs. For something guys do every day, they put up with shaving when it can be a much better experience. If you’ve been considering it, stop hesitating and do it right now. For a great starting kit, I suggest the Merkur HD razor, Tweezerman badger brush, and Mitchel’s Wool Fat soap.

Merlin Mann

I came across Merlin Mann when he started his podcast “Back To Work” with Dan Benjamin of 5by5 only quickly to find out that he had this other thing called 43Folders, had done a pretty damn funny podcast called You Look Nice Today, and ‘toots’ as @hotdogladies. Over the year I read a lot of his old work, listened to B2W religiously, and preached the gospel of his rules of the grocery store. Merlin’s frank discussion about the faults of fetishizing productivity porn and minimalism inspired in-part this blog as well as much of how I get things done recently. Dan and Merlin are hilarious together and often cause me to be that weird guy (but not weirdest guy) on the subway when I can’t help but break a smirk or some suppressed chuckle at his “I think you’re thinking of’s”, Doctor Philism’s, or blurting out words like “Bulk Bag” erratically. He’s funny but will also push you to get things done.

GORUCK GR1

The GORUCK GR1 deserves an entire review which will come shortly. For now, I’ll mention briefly why a simple backpack can be such an important tool. When you live in a city like New York (well, really, in any city) but walk, take public transit, or bike like I do, what’s in your bag can somewhat define who you are. My previous bag which I also really loved and had for years was a Crumpler Heegoer messenger bag. I decided to replace it with the GR1 because my messenger couldn’t fit everything I needed and I was limited by what I could do in a day based on what was in it. Now I’ll carry tons of things like a water bottle, bike lock, pair of shoes (since I wear cycling shoes), rain coat, sweater, bouldering gear, computer gear, other EDC gear, and can still strap on some groceries. You can see how by being able to carry more I am actually free to do more within a day. Before I had to strictly plan to go to the rock climbing gym at the start of the day and make room for my gear or maybe make a special trip for groceries if I already had too much stuff hanging off of me on my bike ride home. That’s not a problem now and I’ll write more about it soon in a full review.


One thing I’ve learned in this past year is that being picky and deliberate about the things I purchase, use, and bring into my life means that I’m more likely to really love and make what I do have a favorite.

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