Defy Bags “Vicious” Review

13 02 2015

I’m taking a break from the regular programming of “funny kid stories” to geek out about something most readers won’t care about: Bicycle commuting bags. If this isn’t your thing, come back later.

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Stuff I Like: Newspapers on the Kindle

21 03 2009

I’m a news junkie. Judging by the fate of newspaper companies across the nation, I’m one of a dying breed: People who subscribe to a daily paper. In high school & college, that paper was The Washington Post. When I first moved to Seattle, I subscribed to The Seattle Times and enjoyed the novelty of getting an evening newspaper. In 1998, I switched from the Seattle Times to The New York Times to get back to the level of national & international coverage I’d been used to with The Washington Post. For over a decade, I’ve gotten The New York Times every day and I’ve managed to at least skim it on most days.

For me, the big news-junkie story of the past week is not the demise of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Instead, it’s that I’ve finally changed my print New York Times subscription to Sunday only. The rest of the time, I get the newspaper wirelessly delivered to my Kindle.

The Kindle New York Times

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I was wrong: I now have and love the Kindle

16 07 2008

A while back, I decided I wasn’t going to buy the Amazon Kindle. I wrote about it here: Why I’m Not Buying a Kindle (Yet)

Well, the following things changed my mind.

  • Simple logistics. Amazon dropped the price $50 and actually has the devices in stock (they’d been sold out for months)
  • With Molly on maternity leave, I knew I’d be spending a lot of time commuting by bus or vanpool instead of carpool. I wanted to use that time for reading, and I thought the Kindle would be great for commuting.
  • I wrote that I’d be willing to pay lots for an e-library instead of an e-book. One day, it dawned on me: With Kindle’s built-in wireless connection to Amazon, I have purchased an e-library. Essentially, Amazon’s entire stock of Kindle books is my e-library, where I only have to pay for the books I wind up reading.

That last point has the potential to really change my book buying habits. Today, I have a pretty large collection of books that I’ve purchased because I wanted to read them someday, and I haven’t gotten around to it. I buy these books because I want them available to me when I’m ready to read them.

With the Kindle, I don’t have to buy the books well in advance. Instead, I can buy it one minute before I actually sit down to read it. Even better, most Kindle books have free “samples” (the first chapter or so). That’s lead to a new pattern for me, which goes something like this:

  • I peruse the New York Times book review, or hear about some book on NPR that sounds interesting.
  • If the book has a Kindle edition (and most new books do), I send a free sample of the book to my Kindle as soon as possible. This way, I build up a list of books I’d like to read someday on my Kindle, without spending any extra money.
  • When I’m ready to start a new book, I peruse the samples on my Kindle. I start reading whatever matches my mood of the moment. If I like the sample, I buy the entire book.

So far, this system works great.

I have to say the experience of reading the Kindle is in many ways more convenient than reading a paper book, at least for my current lifestyle. It’s all because the Kindle is easy to read with just one hand holding the Kindle, and it requires very little movement to turn the page. This makes it easy to read the Kindle while standing on a crowded 545 bus. Or something I never expected: It’s easy to read the Kindle while holding a 4-week-old baby in one arm and with the pinkie of one hand in that baby’s mouth. Ain’t no way I could read a paper book that way.

And finally, if you’re reading this, Jeff Bezos, you should put me on your payroll. I get the same question 1-2 times per day on my commute: “How do you like that thing?” Subsidizing the Kindles of commuters in major cities is probably the best way you can get the word out.

Amazon Kindle

Stuff I Like: Olympus E-410

15 07 2008

I’ve been using my Canon 5D for a little over a year now. (I bought it for myself as a father’s day present last year.) Since I’ve owned it, I’ve been continually impressed with how great a photographic tool it is. Without a doubt, any deficiencies in the pictures I take come from me and not from my camera or my lenses. In particular, I love how the camera performs at high ISO and I love the final quality of the pictures.

There’s just one drawback: The size and weight. My typical “walkaround” configuration for the 5D is the Canon 24-105 F/4L lens. It’s a versatile combination, but it’s heavy and bulky. Given that most of the time I get to take pictures I also have to be ready to chase after a child at a moment’s notice, size matters. A zoo trip with Alex means bringing the 70-200 F/4L as well; while that’s a compact and light lens for what it does, just try running with it slung over your shoulder!

So for the past 9 months or so, I’ve been searching for my ideal second camera. This is one that’s all about being light and compact, but I also don’t want to sacrifice image quality or responsiveness (critical when there are kids involved!). I tried a couple of point-and-shoot cameras, but they’re just too slow and the image quality is poor once you stray from the most well-lit circumstances.

Then, for my birthday, I splurged on a used Leica M6. This was almost my ideal second camera. Compact. Responsiveness suffers from no auto-focus or auto-exposure, but it’s balanced by no shutter lag. And the image quality was just superb. There was so much to love about this camera — but in the end, film doesn’t really match my lifestyle right now. I need something digital. I sold the M6.

Oops, he left the lens cap on.

I think I may have found the perfect second camera this past week: The Olympus E-410. It’s supposedly the world’s smallest digital SLR. It’s about the same size as the M6, but lighter (and substantially cheaper, in both price and, admittedly, construction quality). The two-lens kit gives you the flexibility to go from 28-300mm (35mm equivalent) in far less weight and size than the 5D with one lens. No contest, the E-410 and its two kit lenses are what I’ll grab the next time I follow Alex and Patrick to the zoo.

In spite of its diminutive size, it’s still an SLR. It’s vastly more responsive, and with better image quality, than any point-and-shoot I’ve used. And the image quality is great. When I zoom in to 100%, there’s a lot more noise than what I see from my 5D images. But when I look at the whole image instead of individual pixels, everything just “pops.”

As a testimonial, this past Sunday I went out to take pictures at sunrise, sans kids. I brought both the 5D and the E-410. I took pictures of sunrise on Puget Sound as seen from Alki beach for an hour or so using both cameras, and a couple of lenses on each camera. Then, as usual, I picked my favorite pictures from the set to post to Flickr. Without realizing it, all but one of the photos I posted I captured with the E-410. I think it says a lot that the photos from this entry-level camera hold their own with the 5D.

Here’s the full set:

Here’s the single 5D photo I posted from the set:


Here’s a representative photo from the E-410.

The Morning Ferry

Finally, here’s a snapshot of the 5D and the E-410 side-by-side. It gives you an idea of the difference in size.


All in all, because of its size and its image quality, the Olympus is the most “fun” camera I own. In contrast, the 5D is my “serious” camera. I’ve been so impressed with the E-410 that I can’t help but ogle the other camera bodies and lenses that make up the Olympus Four-Thirds camera system. I’d definately recommend it to anyone getting started with SLRs, or anyone looking for a lightweight kit to supplement their existing cameras.