Am I an Apple guy anymore?

Recently, I’ve been starting to question how much of an Apple guy I am. Those who know me, know that I’ve been an Apple fan boy since the late 1990s when I was running OS 7.x on a clone Power Computing machine. The evolution of Macs to OS X was a tremendously welcome change for me, especially since I am an old Unix geek at heart. The ability to have a full CLI shell for power work, and still have a nice GUI for daily putzing was a dream come true. I even converted my friend Wes from Linux to Apple over a decade ago.

When the iPhone came out I waited for a while, mainly because it wasn’t on a carrier I wanted to work with. Eventually though I joined the ranks of happy iPhone 4 users on Verizon and have been an iPhone user ever since. Before this I had spent a bit of time on Android and webOS (Palm), and although they were good platforms, iOS had them beat hands down. Perhaps the biggest advantage that Apple had was it’s ecosystem. At the time, iTunes and the Apple store were fresh and innovative, and no one had anything that came close. The Google Play store was mediocre, and even Google Docs was still mostly rudimentary.

Fast forward to 2017 and when I look at the tools I use, everything is Google. Ever since Google Play Music came out with an unlimited family subscription plan, I haven’t loaded up iTunes. I use Google Docs for just about everything productivity wise, and on my iPhone my primary clients are Gmail and Chrome. So, am I really even using the Apple ecosystem anymore at all?

I know a part of this has to do with the fact that I live in a mixed household where some people use Android and others have iPhones. This means that collaboration moves over to the most supported tools on both platforms, which means Google. But when I really look at the ecosystems, I have to admit that Google really has Apple beat when it comes to many of the things I use it for. The email client is smoother, the productivity apps are fully web enabled and robust, and the media ecosystem is at least on par with what others offer.

When you toss in the fact that for many years my laptop was a simple Chromebook, which I still use regularly, and I have to wonder if I really have anything keeping me with Apple. Most likely my desktop will always be Apple, since I can’t get the photo tools that I need elsewhere (and no, I’m not going Windows), but perhaps it’s time to delve into the Pixel realm for my phone, and look at upgrading my Chromebook to something a bit newer and more powerful. Maybe it’s time to just admit that I really don’t use Apple for all the things that I used to. Maybe it’s time to make the leap…

First solo flat tire

On my bike adventure on Sunday I encountered the first flat tire I’ve gotten when biking alone. The only other time I’ve gotten a flat was with my Beer and Bikes group, and with a half dozen bikers surrounding you, everyone pitched in and the tire was changed super fast. On Sunday I was on my own when I came up to the 42nd Ave bridge and realized something was up.

I grabbed a seat on a nearby bus bench and started the process of changing the flat. First though, I made sure I found the culprit. Turns out I ran over a small piece of twisted metal, and it had securely embedded itself into my front tire. It’s comforting to know that you’ve found the cause, as it makes it less likely to puncture the new tube.

I got the new tube in, remembering a few tips my friend Abe shared with me, such as blowing up the tube just a little bit before putting it in place. It helps ensure you don’t kink the tube, causing a whole new set of problems. I got the tire back around and started to pump it up with my hand pump. I realized that this was going to take forever, until I spotted a gas station about a block away. I went over and happily paid the $0.75 to get the tire inflated super fast. In the future I think I’m going to carry some CO2 canisters as they can inflate a tire fast when you’re nowhere near compressed air.

I guess I count myself lucky that I get so few flats. Many in our group have had multiple ones, even on the same ride. At least now I know that I have zero issues with getting it changed on my own. Not quite the additional adventure I wanted to have, but not the worst that could have happened.

Birch’s on the Lake

On Saturday, I spent the morning running and volunteering at a local half-marathon with good friend Mike B. The race was held at Gear West in Long Lake which is right near a brewpub that I had never been to, Birch’s on the Lake. Despite not running a half marathon, we were both ready for a big meal. We ran almost 7 miles at the crack of dawn, and then volunteered for over three hours on our feet. It was time to replenish.

Birch’s had 8 beers on tap and was serving their weekend brunch menu. We ordered up a flight of all 8 beers and shared them so we could each taste them all. I was happy to see a few sours on the menu and had high hopes for them. The standout one for me was the Blood Orange berliner, which was super tart, but easy drinking. I was a bit disappointed by the Boysenberry Gose, as it was incredibly sweet, and almost syrup like.

The red rye and blonde ale were both very nice and easy drinking. They were the kind of beer I could see enjoying on a patio out on a lake. I had high expectations for their Chipotle Stout, and unfortunately it didn’t match up to what I had at Big Axe in Nisswa. The one beer that really stood out for us was their coffee ale. This was a straw colored beer infused with coffee and it had amazing flavor. The coffee flavor was rich and fresh, and the malt body of the underlying beer was very smooth. I recently had another pale coffee ale, and this beer knocked that one’s socks off. A truly amazing brew.

Our food arrived, and we enjoyed a nice time relaxing and talking about running and hiking. Birch’s was a great way to finish off a great morning, and I can see going back there if I’m ever in that neck of the woods again.

Gear review: Osprey Nebula

Continuing the theme of gear, I recently contemplated the idea of switching from a messenger style bag to a backpack. In the end I decided to go with a backpack. Then began the arduous task of selecting a backpack that I liked. I first hit up an office supply store, but didn’t find anything that really fit well.

Eventually, I made my way to REI and after a couple of visits to try on various models, I decided on the Osprey Nebula, a 34 liter commuting pack. I was looking for something that wasn’t too large, as most of the time I travel very light for work (laptop, headphones, mouse, etc). However, I wanted the ability to also stuff in a bag of workout clothes for those times I want to run at work. This lead me to the Nebula, as it has an expandable middle pouch that compresses down when not in use, but can expand to hold a complete set of clothes as well as shoes.

IMG_1687.jpgThe laptop compartment is pretty simple, just a padded pouch for your device, as well as a zipper’d mesh pouch for a tablet. Since all the laptops I use are rather small, this compartment doesn’t take up much space. It does was it needs to, and the real work is done by the third compartment. This third space is fulled with pockets and compartments of all shapes and sizes. It has more than enough space and spots for all of my miscellaneous junk, like phone charging cables, tablet pen, etc.

IMG_1686.jpgThe middle section is the really great section for optional workout clothing use. This section pulls flat (there are even buckles to really compress it), but when you pull it open completely it shows why this is a 34L backpack. The other day I managed to fit a pair of shoes, and a drawstring bag with a complete change of clothes in this compartment. This is alongside all of the standard gear that I carry for work.

IMG_1688.jpgAdditionally, there are other small pockets and pouches, including a waterproof brain pouch, and some mesh pockets on the side and back. In particular the side pockets are the perfect size for my coffee mug, with a strap to keep it tight. I actually brought this bag over to the Hydro Flask display at REI and made sure my mug fit before purchasing! The large mesh pocket on the back can hold a full bottle of wine or 750ml bottle of beer. I’ve tested it…

As for fit and feel, this bag rides great. It’s nothing less than I would expect from Osprey. The shoulder straps are nicely padded, and there is a sternum strap that really helps to keep everything tight and comfortable. There is also a waist strap, however, I’m not sure how much it helps distribute the weight, since there is no fabric that wraps around the sides. It still is a nice feature to have though if you’re needing to walk a long way with a full bag. The mesh along your back is soft and slightly vented with a honeycomb structure to it. Overall, everything fits really well.

I’ve been using this bag for a few weeks now, and I’m so happy that I moved over to a backpack. It’s more comfortable for my walk to the car, and everything fits really well. The pockets and features of the Osprey Nebula work great for what I need, and I’m incredibly happy with this model. As with most Osprey items, they aren’t bargain priced, but I feel like the construction of this bag will last me for a VERY long time, meaning this is money well spent.

If you need a good commuter bag, give the Osprey Nebula a look. It might be the perfect bag for you.

Camping gear investigation

The wife and I have a small camping trailer for our excursions that we love. It’s comfortable and keeps us dry, and it’s easier to set up than a tent. We’ve managed a half dozen trips this summer, and love spending time outdoors. However, the downside is that it’s a trailer, and you can’t really take it into the backcountry.

Recently, I’ve been starting to think about doing some hiking/fastpacking that involves staying at campsites along trails. This means traveling light and carrying only what you need to survive. It’s a totally different experience than what you get with a camper, or even car-camping with a tent. In many ways it emphasizes the survival aspect more than just going out to relax. You have to think about how to live when you don’t have the creature comforts of a car.

I’ve only been on one backcountry camping trip, and I had zero gear. We weren’t hiking far to the campsite, so it wasn’t the end of the world, and my friend had enough gear to get us by. Knowing what I know now, I probably looked like an idiot carrying a duffle bag down the Superior Hiking Trail.

That brings me to the point of this blog. I’m thinking of doing a camping trip that involves hiking or running in, and testing myself if I can survive for a couple of days with just my gear and my wits. However, I have very little idea where to start when it comes to gear. Browsing through the REI website is all well and good, but what I really want is to hear from folks about what has worked personally for them.

The parameters are:

  • 2 night self-supported outing with hiking each day
  • Not looking at winter camping yet, just warm weather seasons
  • Might be solo, might be with the wife, so 1-2 people.

What gear have you found to be the best either in quality or value?

What are the essentials that I need to think about getting, that might get overlooked in a google search?

Where have you found you can skimp to lighten the load?

What other questions should I be asking?

Ok Internet, do your thing and educate me!