January 25, 2014
A 2013 Gift Guide, in 2014

Many post gift guides before Christmas, but I found myself unable to do so. I did think about it and write a few notes down. So, exactly one month after Christmas, I present the official Cruftbox Gift Guide!

Liberty Puzzles

Liberty Puzzles take the hobby to the next level, providing heirloom quality puzzles that look and feel like artwork. The term 'jigsaw' puzzle comes from the fact that early puzzles were cut from wood sheets by a jigsaw tool according to a pattern drawn on them. Liberty continued that tradition but uses a laser cutter to get the precision needed to cut what they call 'whimsy' pieces. Whismy pieces are puzzle pieces that are cut into a shape that is in line with the picture on the puzzle. Holiday images are made of holiday shapes. Japanese woodblock prints are made of Japanese icons and shapes. Liberty puts a huge amount of effort into creating a cohesive puzzle that doesn't use repeating standard shapes, instead using a unique set of shapes literally designed to accompany the puzzle image.

If you know someone that likes puzzles, they will love getting a Liberty Puzzle. They aren't cheap, but they are most definitely worth it.

Tonx Coffee

Tonx is a subscription mail order coffee company. Met the founders, Tony & Nik in of all places, a coffee shop, when they were just getting started. They find and roast great coffees from all over the world and ship them directly to their subscribers. Personally, I love the lighter roasts with more flavor and notes than the heavy dark roasts you find at most chain coffee shops and beans you get at the super market. Tonx provides just this kind of coffee.

I love the delivery aspect of the business and the serendipity of not knowing exactly what you are going to get. In a world where people spend endless hours analyzing before purchases, it's fun to simply put yourself in the hands of an expert and try new thigns.

It's more spendy than the average bag of coffee, but I think it's worth it to get the quality. Just like wine or spirits, spending a little more for quality can be worth it and much more enjoyable.

You can give a gift subscription or subscribe for yourself. You can use my referral link if you want to try it for free.

Victorinox Swiss Army Knife - Rambler

Everyone should have a small pocketknife with them at all times. Be Prepared is not just the Boy Scout Motto, it's a good way to look at life.

I recommend the Victorinox Rambler. This knife doesn't have a single 'wasted' slot, filled with tools you'll use on a daily basis. Just a bit over two inches long, it has a perfect assortment of bits. The small blade and scissors are probably most useful. The bottle opener and file aren't used as much, but when they are needed, nothing else will suffice. They are nicely topped with small flathead and Phillips screwdriver heads. Rounded out with the traditional tweezers and toothpick, the Rambler is all function, no fluff. It's great on a key chain or in a purse to solve life's minor inconveniences.

See's Candy

See's Candy is a Los Angeles institution. The familiar black and white shops are scattered across the Southland and are a welcome sight to any Angeleno. Everyone has a favorite candy (mine is the Scotchmallow) and for most brings back memories of the free samples in the store. While See's has maintained a very traditional brand with uniforms, limited hours, and an emphasis on customer service, they have a great online store where you can get anything packaged and shipped. Besides ordering the standard boxes, you can also make a custom mix of just the chocolates that you think would be best.

Pretty much everyone loves a box of chocolate, and See's is the perfect mix of tradition, personalization, and wonderful tasting candy.

Cool Tools by Kevin Kelly

Kevin Kelly is an amazing polymath, having been involved in the Whole Earth Catalog, Wired Magazine, and writing one of my favorite books, What Technology Wants. In Cool Tools, he's taken the reviews he's gather in the last decade on his Cool Tools site, and actually printed them out into a gigantic catalog of, well, cool tools. Prefect for a coffee table or a bathroom read, the book is something that engages your mind in the possibilities of making new things and new ways of doing familiar things.

Posted by michael at 09:33 AM
January 21, 2014
On 14 Years of Blogging

Today marks the anniversary of starting my weblog, Cruftbox. I've been blogging for 14 years now. Posting stories about my life actually started a little earlier, with this one about The Most Expensive Cup of Coffee back in 1997, but it wasn't until January 2000 that I got rolling with a real fervor and software to help.

Things have changed a wee bit since those heady days, just past the Y2K scare, when mobile phones were used for talking, the wail of a modem connecting was common, and Napster was a new idea.

I'll come right out and say it, personal weblogs, for the most part, are dead. [queue the furious responses] I can almost hear the keyboards typing in fury in response.

But it's true. Social software has replaced the role of weblogs in documenting and sharing an individual's life.

Yes, there are still people with personal weblogs out there, but for the most part they focus on a specific topic or issue the person is interested. A person's interest in a sport or fitness program, or their food adventures in eating out or cooking, or even facing illness or other tough circumstances are the kinds of things that is what makes up the fewer and fewer number of personal weblogs out there.

That said, it's not a bad thing. Change is inevitable and generally we forward in a better direction. Twitter, Facebook, and other modern sharing systems are fun.

I do worry that the ephemeral nature of social networks does lead to a tremendous amount for information being lost and unretrievable. Weblogs at least have a chance of staying up long enough to get indexed and maybe even backed up on archive.org.

Many weblogs exist today as adjunct to the main focus, which is social media and getting posts to go viral. They are not about having a conversation anymore. Here, I actually turned off comments because no one used them except spam robots. No one said a word when I did.

I spoke to my daughters about my weblog. They are 15 & 18, growing up immersed in the internet and connected as long as they can remember. I asked what they thought of Cruftbox. They said that it was neat, but that no one does this anymore. I asked what they considered their 'home' on the internet, where people coudl best get a view of who they are. One said her Tumblr site, another said Facebook. This it the foreseeable future. You can rage against if you want, but the coming of age generation sees personal weblogs as an anachronism.

Now we shouldn't take that to mean that people should stop blogging, simply as a sign that change is happening. Just as at one time, your .plan file and your usenet signature were important identifiers in a way that many can't comprehend today, weblogs are heading down the same path. New things continue to appear and allow your voice to be heard, weblogs are clearly not the only way.

So face up to the reality that most personal weblogs are run by tech saavy middle aged folks, slowly watching an era end. This is not something to be sad about, for new amazing things are coming. Think of it like the leaves of fall on the ground being the fertilizer for the flowers of spring.

Posted by michael at 05:30 AM
January 15, 2014
Catching Up

Here are a few things from last year that probably should have made it to here.

I wrote a few things on Medium:

I took a photo of myself everyday in 2013 using the Everyday app and it converted them into this movie.

Everyday of 2013 from Michael Pusateri on Vimeo.

This is what a Thursday Group Ride looks like:

Thursday Group Ride from Michael Pusateri on Vimeo.

Posted by michael at 09:22 AM