Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Tool Bag

I wanted to take a moment to talk about something that has become very dear to my heart over the past year or so, especially the past several months: my tool bag.

Last summer, I became inspired at work to assemble a new tool set replete with a domination tool bag to handle all my service calls. My buddy John, who helps with our HVAC contract, always has the latest gadgets in tools, and it is he who first introduced me to this bad-ass electrician's bag.

John D. has since replaced his (two) bag(s) with a backpack to make it easier to climb on top of buildings, but this bag, in my opinion, is still where it's at. I love it so much, I bought one for myself for home-use and began stocking it each paycheck with the best tools money can buy. That way, whenever I need something, it's not a deal. I don't worry about finding a such-and-such tool. I just go get my bag and handle the problem.

So what's in this organized bag of tricks? Glad you asked. For starters, American-made quality steel to begin tackling any challenge. Here's a breakdown of what I consider essential tools, with commentary on the best brands:

1.) 16 oz. Estwing Hammer. Estwings are the best, hands down. Made in the USA, they take the punishment and dish it out. It's worth the 20-25 bucks to have this in your sack. Their patented hand grip reduces shock, which keeps hammering relatively easy on your body, especially if you are pounding away all day. There is no mistaking the quality of this hammer. After you've used it for awhile, nothing else compares.

2.) Klein Pliers. The electrician's choice. Made in the USA. Anything and everything by Klein is Grade A select. I've had a pair of Klein side-cutting pliers for 17 years, and the domination has not stopped. I recommend all their products. In my bag at home, I keep a pair of their diagonal-cutting and needle-nose pliers as well as their wire-strippers.

3.) Screw Drivers. If you go into any home center, you will inevitably see a display with interchangeable, multiple-head screw drivers. These are ok, but I don't like that the heads sometimes come out of the sockets. It's frustration you just don't need. So I recommend getting normal, solid one piece 6 inch philips and regular screwdrivers, and keeping them very handy and visible. My personal favorite is to go with Kleins. Their rubber grip is comfortable and easy to recognize. Like most good tools, you can feel the quality of their craftsmanship each time you use them, and they will last you for years--that is, provided you don't drop them down an elevator shaft.

4.) ChannelLocks, AKA adjustable wrench. Made in the USA. Like many of my other tools, my dad always had a pair in his garage. These things are ready to rock and quality you can trust. Because there are so many situations where no other tool really works, they are a must have. ChannelLock also makes other products, including pliers, and I have a pair of their side-cutters in my bag. Their hallmark light-blue handles make them easy to find in your bag or tool box, a reminder that what you're picking up is a ChannelLock, a name closely associated with quality.

5.) Flashlight. How many times do you find yourself wondering what the last flashlight you owned looks like and where it's at? You can never seem to find it when you need it. Unless, of course, you make it a part of your tool bag. I prefer a small Maglite. It's made in the USA, can take a beating, and work reliably for years. I keep a full-size in my Jeep for emergencies.

Ok, so those are some of the essentials. Putting together an awesome tool-set is a lot of fun, for some of us anyway, and I will be back with more on what you should keep in your bag, if you can't tell already by looking at the picture.

Until then, over and out.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Habits of Late

Hey everyone. Sorry for being such a complete slacker on the Update. I have a myriad of excuses, of course, but you know they're no good when even I'm like, "WTF, I have to update my blog, pics or no."

Yes, I have taken some pics to upload for interesting subjects of discussion, but getting them up here from home is practically a Herculean effort. A couple of would-be posts were doomed from the start when I began uploading pics and the connection died, leaving me repeatedly throwing my hands up in frustration, putting the computer down, and cursing under my breath. Well, under my breath most of the time.

Progress on the bathroom has been intermittent. Some days the commute and work saps my extra energy and I just need to chill. It's partially the fact that I so love just chilling out here at the house. I can relax here, and that feels palatial, even with the un-finished bathroom.

I also think that my inertia has to do with not training aikido regularly, which for me helps me chill out bigtime. This Weds. I made it down to class, feeling like a lethargic tub, but by the end of class, as predicted to myself, I was just juiced and ready to go.

As many of you are aware, my favorite direction for an update topic is aikido and application in everyday life. So in that wise, I would like to say that when you feel like you have no energy, but you're getting sleep, eating well, but working a lot, chances are you may not be having much, if any, physical fun.

Even if it's tossing the old pig skin with some friends, it's important to get out and play. Play is an oft overlooked good. So many people want to be good professionals, for example, that they stay late at the office and put in extra time, but it often becomes for naught when the good of play is overlooked and the person begins to feel like life is closing in on them.

But when you can just get outside, roll around in the dirt, smash people, or whatever it is you like to do, and play physically--in such a way that you are no longer worried about people at work, or that thing you gotta get done--the effect is postively transforming. Instead of worrying about work, or family or whatever, you zone in on catching that ball or swinging that bat that you've totally forgotten about everything else but that moment and can simply enjoy yourself and what it is you are doing.

In terms of aikido, Saito sensei said you should do jo or bokken suburi every day. It's easy to see why, particularly for a modern aikido-ka (or practitioner of aikido) who easily finds himself caught up in the things of everyday life. When you are focusing on completing you cuts properly, not wasting movement, the right method of extension and so forth, everything else fades into the distance and you just find yourself standing in the here and now. Chill.

And that's generally the way it should be.

Over and out, homies.