The Perfect T-Shirt

I love tweaking as much as the next guy, but I also love arriving at a place of contentment, where I can set it and forget it.

Especially when it comes to clothes.

I have an extensive t-shirt collection, but even my favorite t-shirts seem to shrink or lose their luxuriousness over time.

I'm fairly tall and lean (and seemingly getting taller via all that yoga), so I have a hard time finding shirts that meet both my length and size requirements. Mediums tend to be too tight and/or too short, while Larges tend to be too baggy.

Fortunately, I've just settled on the perfect t-shirt:

The 50/50 Shirt by American Apparel

(Via Shawn Blanc)

These shirts are ringspun, 50% polyester, 50% cotton. They are high-quality, super comfy, and come in a variety of colors. The heather hues are particularly handsome. The Medium strikes the perfect balance of length and fit on my six-foot-two, 180-pound frame.

They're a bit expensive at $20 a pop on American Apparel's website, but you can buy a three-pack there for 20% off, and Amazon has some color/size combinations for a fraction of the price.

Arriving at a place where I no longer need to think about something is a great feeling. Whenever I need new t-shirts, I'll be going straight for the American Apparel 50/50. Get 'em.

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Ubiquitous Capture Roundup

Ideas can vanish as quickly as they take shape, so the ability to capture them right away is a critical part of both one's creative process and overall productivity.

I've tried many ubiquitous capture systems (a key component of David Allen's Getting Things Done), but I've yet to settle on just one. As such, I'd like to explore the pros and cons of several systems here.

Note: This article is about capturing ideas and thoughts. It is not about bookmarking things on the Internet or saving articles to read later. I have separate systems for those things. (See: Yojimbo and Instapaper, respectively.)

On My iPhone

Many capture tools are iPhone apps. My iPhone is always within arm's reach, so in many ways it's the ideal ubiquitous capture device. These are the capture-capable apps I currently use, with varying degrees of frequency.

  • OmniFocus: The powerhouse of to-do apps, OmniFocus features an omnipresent quick capture button. This feature allows you to add an item to the app's Inbox at any time, even when syncing data. As I mentioned in my home screen app roundup, I don't love OmniFocus. It's loaded with features, but its utilitarian design and lack of personality make it feel very cold. It's not fun to use, although I know many can't live without it. I suppose they would argue that a task manager isn't supposed to be fun, but regardless, I rarely feel compelled to open the app, even to capture an idea. I've thought about switching to Things, but its update cycle makes me hesitant, and I'm not sure I even need such heavyweight to-do apps at this point in my life. App Store: $19.99

  • Mail: I keep my inbox at zero, so if there's something in there, it means I have something I need to take care of. Sending myself an email is a decent way to make sure I don't forget about an idea because I look at my inbox throughout the day. But, emailing myself is a cumbersome process: tap Mail, tap Compose, type email address, type subject, type message, tap Send. Too clumsy for my taste.

  • Noted: This app solves the problem with using Mail for ubiquitous capture, which is a lack of speed. When you open Noted, you're presented with a blank text field. You type, hit Send, and the message automatically gets delivered to your email address. That's it. Noted does one thing very well. Currently, I keep Noted in a folder on my third screen, so it's not the easiest app to access. I could move it, but I question how necessary it is for my capture system to involve email. App Store: $1.99

  • Notesy: A beautiful and feature-rich notes app, Notesy replaced the default Notes app on my iPhone long ago. It syncs via Dropbox, and it's very reliable. I use it to keep running lists, or to take notes if I ever find myself in a meeting. Notesy opens in the same state you left it, so if that's somewhere you don't want to capture your idea, you'll have to back up a screen and select a different/new note. App Store: $4.99

  • Clear: A beautiful, musical, and innovate to-do list app, Clear is quite wonderful. It occupied a spot on my home screen for a while, but I've since moved it to screen two. List items in Clear can only be a handful of words long, so it's not great for capturing complex ideas, but adding things to lists is quick and easy via its gesture-based UI. I use this app for running lists as well, such as books to read and gift ideas. It's better suited for capturing brief to-do items than it is for remembering complicated thoughts. App Store: $1.99


In the last week or two, a few new capture apps have come onto the scene.

  • Drafts:. Like Noted, Drafts always opens to a blank note, which lets you start typing right away. Several smart folks (including Dave Caolo, Stephen Hackett, Ben Brooks, and Federico Viticci) have all had positive things to say about Drafts. After watching the video on their website, I have to say Drafts looks mighty useful, particularly due to the array of actions you can take once you've captured your idea. You can tweet, email, and copy text easily, and it supports Markdown syntax, previewing, and exporting to email. I don't love the icon, but I must admit Drafts seems like a great app, and one that was specifically designed for ubiquitous capture. It doesn't have sync yet, and there's no iPad app, but I might be willing to overlook those shortcomings. App Store: $0.99

  • Pop: The first offering from Patrick Rhone's brand new development team, Minimal Tools, Pop is like Drafts, but without all the features. That's not a bad thing, as the Minimal Tools philosophy is: "Feature number one should always be as few features as needed to perform the primary purpose." I dig that mindset. Write, Read, and Copy All are the only features you'll find in Pop. It truly is a digital piece of paper. Plus, it's got a ballsy icon. App Store: $0.99

  • Dropkick: A simple and elegant to-do list app, the full Dropkick suite for Mac, iPhone, and iPad will only cost you twelve bucks. It syncs over the Internet and looks like a great, few-features to-do system. Again, it seems better suited to capturing tasks than ideas, but it could be a great option for those who just want lists of tasks with checkboxes. App Store: Free, with an in-app purchase for full functionality.

Old School

Sometimes, it feels good to write with a pen and paper. Despite my atrocious (and worsening with age?!) handwriting, I keep a pen and scratch pad on my desk so I can scrawl ideas, thoughts, and to-dos immediately while I'm at my computer. This works very well, because when I get an idea, I don't have to wonder about which app I want to use to capture it. I just jot it down and go back to what I was doing. I highly recommend keeping a blank notepad next to your computer for this reason.

I've also just recently started carrying a small notebook with me at all times, for when I feel like writing something down by hand.

There are two components to capturing ideas longhand:

The Pen

At my desk, I prefer writing with the Pilot G2 0.38mm in black ink. (I don't acknowledge blue pens.) I used to use the 0.7mm, but my handwriting is too messy for such a thick line. The difference between the two is drastic. Obviously, the 0.38mm has a much thinner line, but it also has a scratchier feel, which I wasn't sure of at first, but I've grown to love it. However, my yoga studio uses the 0.5mm, and I always love writing with it, so I might try a happy medium in the future.

The problem with pens is carrying them in your pocket. While I often have a backpack with me, I don't always, and so into the pocket the everyday-carry pen must go.

I'm wary of putting anything extraneous in my pockets. I throw out most receipts immediately, and spare change always goes into my piggy bank or my car's center console. If I'm going to disrupt my pocket-carry system (iPhone front-left, wallet back-right, keys front-right), it better be because of something awesome.

The Fisher Space Bullet Pen is pretty awesome. Designed by Paul C. Fisher, it promises to write anywhere and everywhere, even in zero-gravity, underwater, or in extreme temperatures. When closed, it measures just 3.75 inches — perfect for a pocket. When open, it's a standard 5.25 inches. Despite its size, it has an impressive weight to it. That's what she said. The Fisher Space Pen writes very smoothly, although not like the Pilot G2. It feels more like a (shudder) Bic pen to me, but I might not be used to it given the scratchiness of the 0.38mm G2. The Fisher Space Pen is refillable, and people claim to go a full year on a single ink cartridge. I think the pen comes with the medium point by default, so I'm going to try the fine point for my first refill to see if it makes a difference. Special thanks to Patrick Rhone for introducing me to the Fisher Space Pen via this post on his daily pens.

The Paper

Obviously, you can't carry a full-sized notepad in your pocket, and I'm reluctant to put a napkin in my pocket (gross) regardless of how brilliant an idea it may contain.

When it comes to pocket-sized notebooks, the two frontrunners are Moleskine and Field Notes. I have limited experience with Moleskines, and while they look very nice, they seem too thick and heavy, and too fancy to get beat up and sat on all day in a back pocket.

Field Notes, on the other hand, are made to be used and abused. You can get a three-pack for $9.95 (less than the price of one Moleskine), and they come in blank, lined, and graph paper varieties, as well as special edition colors and more. Field Notes are thin; they have just forty-eight pages, which is plenty for jotting things down. Field Notes are also made in the USA, which feels good.

I ordered a three-pack of lined Field Notes a while ago, and I still haven't filled them up yet. I think my next pack will be graph paper, as it allows you to write both horizontally and vertically. Not that my handwriting adheres to lines of any sort, but you know.

A Perfect Ubiquitous Capture System?

Together, the Fisher Space Bullet Pen and Field Notes make a great on-the-go capture system. I've only been carrying them for a few days (pen front-right, paper back-right, for now), so I'm going to stick with it and see how it goes.

At the end of the day, I still haven't decided which ubiquitous capture system I'm going to use longterm. But, it's great to have options, and hopefully this has elucidated some of them for you. If and when I settle on one, I'll be sure to update you.

The ability to capture ideas quickly and without friction is very important. If you've never thought about developing your own ubiquitous capture system, I highly suggest you try it. Your brain is full of stuff; don't trust it to remember all of its brilliant ideas.

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How to Upgrade Your Shaving Game

We’re already one week into April, and what a glorious, life-changing week it has been… But, more on that Monday.

I want to wrap up this week with a post about shaving. Not your typical Schick Quattro Titanium Alloy Terminator shave — I’m talking about real shaving:

Wet shaving.

I first learned about the art of wet shaving via this excellent article on The Art of Manliness. I’d like to offer my own experience and demonstrate how — much like running — sometimes, the old way is the better way.

Why Wet Shave?

  1. Cost. The most practical reason to start wet shaving is that it’s far less costly than modern shaving methods. Cartridge razors are stupid expensive, and you constantly need to purchase refill packs. A wet shaving kit, on the other hand, is a great investment. Safety razor blades are only a fraction of the cost, and while shaving soaps might be more expensive upfront, they last longer and give you a better shave than the cheap gels at CVS. Likewise, a quality safety razor and brush will cost more in the short term, but they’ll probably last for the rest of your life.

  2. Higher quality shaves. Dragging four blades across your face is not good for your skin, and razor burn is painful and unsightly. Safety razors use a single blade that shaves smoothly and efficiently, and the proper technique goes a long way.

  3. It’s fun and bad ass. Like a cold shower. The manliest of men have been wet shaving for hundreds of years, so you’ll be in classy company.

What You’ll Need

  • A safety razor. I own the Merkur Model 178 Classic. Remember, this is a one-time purchase. Pay for quality, and you won’t have to replace it every six months. Also see the Model 180 Long Handled version if you have particularly big hands.

  • Blades. Cheap and available at drugstores. 100 blades for $24 on Amazon.

  • Shaving cream/soap. Natural ingredients, smells great, and lathers up splendidly. I use Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood Shaving Cream.

  • A brush. The better the brush, the better the lather. There are boar bristles and badger bristles. Badger brushes are a bit more expensive, but they’re higher quality. I have this one by Omega.

  • A mug. Any will do. I bought this one.

See The Art of Manliness for other recommendations.

The Shave

Warm water is best, as it softens your facial hair, although some prefer cold water. Lather up with your soap, mug, and brush.

The shaving technique itself is the trickiest part. I’m going to quote AoM here:

The four keys to a successful shave with a safety razor are 1) use as little pressure as possible; 2) angle the blade as far away from your face as possible; 3) shave with the grain; and 4) go for beard reduction, not beard removal.

A couple of tips:

You do not need to press down as you would with a modern cartridge razor. The weight of the razor will shave your hair just fine.

Shaving with the grain is crucial to avoid razor burn and ingrown hairs. For a while I just assumed that “with the grain” meant “down”, which is not true. The hair under my chin and on my neck especially seems to grow to the right, which is weird, but it’s important to be aware so you avoid irritation. A cool rinse will close up your pores and leave you feeling fresh.

Once you get the hang of it, I think you’ll find the wet shaving experience to be a highly enjoyable one. It turns shaving into a mindful, pleasant act, unlike hacking up your face on your way out the door. The safety razor is a beautiful piece of machinery, and it feels good to put time and care into your shaving routine. A wet shaving kit also makes a fantastic gift. They’re available on Amazon.

Like cold showers and going barefoot, sometimes modern “conveniences” aren’t actually what’s best for us. The wet shave is a timeless ritual, and one I think you’ll really enjoy.

For more on the art of wet shaving, check the following, in addition to the Art of Manliness article above:

  1. The Zen of Shaving | Zen Habits
  3. Badger & Blade forum

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The QLE Barefoot Primer

Barefoot running is all the rage these days, and since I’m a fan and April is health-nut month, I thought I’d write up some of my knowledge and experiences with the barefoot scene.

Why Barefoot?

Barefooting is popular among the paleo/primal crowd because it’s based on evolution. I’m not a podiatrist, so I won’t get into too much detail, but the short, in-favor argument is that human feet are not meant to be encased in rubber and other synthetic materials. Our ancestors evolved and survived without footwear, and they still managed to hunt down wild beasts and drag the carcasses back to camp.

To me, this perspective makes sense. Our barefoot gait is unnatural when we walk or run with conventional footwear. Specifically, when we run with shoes on, we tend to reach with our foot, landing on the heel before transferring our weight forward onto the ball. This is called heel striking, and it explains why runners often experience knee problems and shin splints.

See this post on MDA for a comparison video of barefoot and shod gaits.

Our body’s natural shock absorbers are not in the heel. Try this: stand up, and lift your toes off the ground, so that you’re balancing on your heels. Now, bounce up and down without letting your toes touch the ground. Super awkward and uncomfortable, right?

Now, lift your heels off the ground instead, and bounce on the balls of your feet. See? Much better.

When you heel strike, the impact of your foot hitting the ground travels up the leg and into the knee. That hurts. When you land on your forefoot first, the impact is absorbed much more efficiently.

See this video from the Natural Running Center for more about the principles and physiology of barefoot running.

Now, yes, you could probably learn to forefoot strike while wearing your latest pair of stylish and expensive Nikes. But, why fight evolution? If the theory of barefoot running makes sense to you, why wear a product that inhibits the habits you want to develop?

Modern footwear works against the natural design of the foot, which makes for less efficient movement.

Bare-footwear: Working Out

Of course, your feet might not be ready for total barefooting. Fortunately, a variety of companies have put out shoes to help simulate a barefoot experience. These shoes usually have a larger-than-normal toe box or individual toe slots, which allow your toes to spread out as nature intended, rather than being cramped together inside a Reebok. They also feature “zero-drop”, which means virtually no arch support. This is also good for your feet, as you rely on your arches for support, rather than allowing your foot muscles to atrophy via the artificial arches provided by modern shoes.

The preeminent brand of barefoot shoes is the Vibram Fivefinger, and they’re what I recommend for barefoot exercise. Vibram is known for their well-made soles, which will protect your feet from rocks, glass, etc. while still allowing you to run barefoot-style. They have a ton of different models, styles, and colors, so you’ll have no trouble finding a pair that suits your particular workout and fashion sense.

If I were to recommend one model of Fivefingers, it would be the KSO. “KSO” stands for “Keep Stuff Out” — hence the closed mesh upper and strap. These are Vibram’s most popular model, and they’re incredibly versatile. You can use them for running, yoga, water sports, and pretty much everything in between. Other Vibram models are designed for more specific activities.

Sizing a pair of Fivefingers can be slightly tricky, as you’ll be measuring your feet in inches rather than relying on a standard sizing system. See Vibram’s website for sizing tips. It’s best to try a pair on in person. I’ve found particular success at REI, although Fivefingers seem to be in the window of all major outdoorsy stores now.

I never liked to run until I bought my KSOs, and now I love it. Running barefoot is very freeing, and it makes the experience much more fun, especially if you can find some good trails. Sprinting is also a great workout.

If you’re self-conscious about wearing “those weird toe shoes”, there are other, subtler options. See Justin Ownings’s great site, Birthday Shoes, for a wide selection of brands, styles, and reviews.

Bare-footwear: Casual Wear

Running around and working out in a pair of Fivefingers is great, but you’re probably not enough of a badass to wear them in public or to the office. Understandable. Fortunately, several companies have put out barefoot shoes that work well for casual use.

I’d been looking for a good pair of casual barefoot shoes for a while, and I finally purchased a pair last month: the Tough Glove by Merrell.

I love these shoes. I’ve owned many different Merrells, but these are my favorite by far. They’re subtle, good-looking, and ultra comfortable. They have a Vibram sole. I can wear them with jeans or dress pants, and they let me avoid weird looks from non-barefooters while still giving my feet all of the barefoot benefits. I ordered mine from Zappos in my regular 10.5, which felt great, but seemed a little long in the toe. I exchanged them for a size 10, and they’re a perfect fit. I never want to take them off.

Getting Started with Going Barefoot

If you’ve been wearing modern footwear all your life (as most of us have), you’re going to need to give your body time to transition to the barefoot way. Runners, you will need to learn how to run barefoot. Specifically, be conscious of your gait. Watch the natural running video to get an idea of what to look for. To some degree, wearing barefoot shoes will naturally change your gait, but you still need to be mindful of it when first starting out until you develop good habits and form.

Speaking of just starting out, take it slow and easy at first. You’re going to be using muscles your legs have probably forgotten about, and you’re going to feel it. Don’t try to do your entire five-mile routine on day one, and don’t be afraid to let your feet rest. Take it slow, learn good form, and build up to longer distances. Once you get into it, you’ll probably never go back.

Barefoot Resources

If you’re interested in barefooting, the above links are great resources. In addition, check out the following:

  1. How to Make the Barefoot Transition | Mark’s Daily Apple
  2. Daniel Lieberman’s Harvard Study on Foot Strike Patterns
  3. Birthday Shoes
  4. Barefoot Ted’s Adventures
  5. Newton Running

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Your Life Needs More Bass

Note: This is a review of the BassJump subwoofer for MacBook by TwelveSouth.

As a bass player, I understand the importance of low frequencies vibrations. Bass is what unites the rhythm of the drums and the melodies of the guitar and piano. It’s the cornerstone of the groove, and groove is what makes you move, whether it’s tapping a foot, bobbing your head, or rocking out on the dance floor.

And yet, bass is the humblest of instruments. It’s a supportive role, designed to give the soloist and the rest of the band a strong foundation to build upon. You can lean on a good rhythm section. In fact, all the other instruments can drop out, but as long as the drums and bass are still grooving, the song doesn’t stop, and people don’t stop dancing.

You don’t realize the importance of bass until it’s not there anymore. If you’ve ever been in a club with loud music, you’ve seen how they kick people out when it’s closing time: they cut off the speakers and the subwoofers. If there aren’t any vibrations moving you, you can’t dance.

Which brings me to the awesomeness of the TwelveSouth BassJump 2 Subwoofer. I absolutely love this product.

The BassJump is a small USB-powered subwoofer designed to give your MacBook a much-needed boost in the bottom end. It’s beautifully designed, and it looks great next to your Mac.

Laptop speakers aren’t great. Everyone’s been in a situation where they want to crank up the music, only to be forced to endure the thin sound of a laptop at full volume. The BassJump solves this problem by acting as a subwoofer for your computer, so the laptop speakers themselves can function as tweeters. This setup essentially creates a 2.1 stereo system.

The BassJump comes with its own software, so you can tweak the volume and crossover frequency. Installation is a snap, and since it’s USB-powered, you only need one cable. No batteries required. Plug in and rock out, as it were.

The difference in sound is phenomenal. You don’t just get an increase in volume, you get a dramatic increase in quality. It’s a much fuller, richer sound overall. The BassJump is capable of shaking my entire desk. It lets me feel my music while I’m at my computer. Turn it off, and you immediately notice that missing low end. Everyone I’ve shown the BassJump to can’t believe how much better music sounds with it.

At $69.99, you can’t buy a better upgrade for your MacBook. If you love to listen to music on your computer, and especially if you like to turn it up loud, you won’t be disappointed with the BassJump. You’ll wonder how you ever listened without it.

You can buy the BassJump 2 Subwoofer at TwelveSouth.

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A Bag of Holding

Michael Lopp has a big post about his new backpack:

My bag needs to walk a delicate line between form and function. I need it to elegantly contain my various nerd crap, but I don’t need to broadcast to the world that, yes, not only am I sporting my nerd gear, I also have a back-up of the aforementioned gear because I’ve built in redundancy. That’s how I roll. I’m a nerd.

He’s using a Tom Bihn Smart Alec, which looks very nice. I’ve always used backpacks, having never been able to bring myself to go the way of the manpurse. I have a couple backpacks in rotation now, but I don’t really love any of them. I’ve been thinking about investing in a Goruck, but after reading Rands’ post, I’ll be giving the Smart Alec some thought as well.