The intrinsically awkward shape of a DSLR camera and associated lenses means that one is always on the lookout for the perfect bag to hold it all. ThinkTank Photo has carved out quite a niche for itself among the enthusiasts with their low-key no-nonsense designs that efficiently hold plenty of gear without screaming to the world that expensive optical gear is contained within. It's good stuff at a good price, i.e. a bit beyond my bag budget for now, but I was still drawn to check out the website when I heard that they're rolling out new products just in time for the holidays.
The new Urban Disguise 35 seems like a perfect mid-point in the established line of shoulder bags. With a 13" laptop pocket, it holds about as much gear as can be comfortably carried on one shoulder for a day out. The updated Airport 2.0 series of roller cases is way overkill for me but should be good for the hard-core pro trying to carry-on as much gear as possible. There's also plenty of doodads like lens cases, rain covers, and other sundries for the photographic nomad.
But after taking a few trips with a shoulder-carry camera bag and coming home with a torqued spine from the uneven weight distribution, I was more interested in a backpack-type solution. The Airport series are big and designed for transport and not as much daily carry. The Rotation 360 is a bit too funky in design, not to mention crazy $$$. However, ThinkTank was ready to blow the doors off with their latest series of photo-backpacks. The description certainly sounded right on the money.
Designed for use in urban and crowded environments, this slim, lightweight backpack backpack is sized as an international travel carry-on. It will hold up to a Pro-size DSLR with a 400 2.8 attached.
So what do they call this marvelous new backpack? How does the Streetwalker Pro sound?
Huh? This ain't no Oriental company flogging badly translated Chinglish. The TTP folks based in Santa Rosa have a boatload of journalists on their advisory board, any of whom presumably could have told them the primary meaning of the word "streetwalker."
Now there's the kind of rock-solid, high-end brand-image that you want for your professional product. Explaining the purchase to the wife might be a bit tricky.
"Oh honey, I spend that money picking up the new Streetwalker."
Probably wouldn't go over well, even if I did clarify that it's a camera bag, considering what I've spent on photo gear already. Actually, for 150 bucks is just about the market rate for a good time at a China KTV bar, and the camera can go in any old bag instead. So you can decide how to best spend the sum, depending on how you get your kicks.
Now, I like to have my creature comforts when I travel. I never got into the whole hostel-and-backpack style of on-the-road living. Soft bed, clean pillows, and Internet access, please. Small room we can live with, for now.
Used to be that I could skimp a bit on the luggage and carry-on everything. But now with wife and a kid on the way, I've resigned myself to at least one checked suitcase to go with the carry-on rollers in the future. On the other hand, it's kinda nice to be able to check the chargers and wires instead of lugging the secondary accessories with me onto the plane. Ever since I picked up the DSLR camera, though, even the basics make for quite a load, since there's no way I'd subject camera and lenses to airport baggage handling. Very happy with Lowepro's Fastpack 250, far as that goes.
Nevertheless, no matter how much I love my toys on the road, there's no way I'd come close to what this gentleman is packing for his travels.
More impressive than the sheer volume is the redundant redundancy of it all. Three different cell phones (Gigabyte MS-800, Nokia N70, Sharp W-Zero3) running three different smartphone operating systems, covering GSM, WCDMA, and HSPDA duties. PSP+GPS for gaming/navigation double-duty, but then also carry a Sony UX UMPC paired with a bluetooth GPS track-recorder. In case the PDA functions in his smartphones are insufficient, there's a Sony Clie to keep the schedule (syncing amongst them must be a nightmare?!). A DSLR plus a pocket-cam is practically de rigueur for the M01 crowd, but the man adds on the HD camcorder on top to really fill out that backpack. I can't even begin to count how many pieces of gear is capable of playing an MP3. Obviously not enough since he has a Sony Walkman dedicated to that duty, too. And because that's still not enough toys, there's the Nintendo DS for the purely frivolous entertainment.
The scary thing is that the guy's actually happily married. But it make sense as he must need an assistant to carry all the other non-electronic necessities of travel like... clothes, for example. I'm just surprised the toothbrush ain't electric, too. Although one might just detect a hint of marital restraint in the picture, in that his gear all carry a fine pedigree, but much of it is a generation or two behind the bleeding edge. On the other hand, it would be a budget-buster and a full-time job in and of itself to constantly upgrade all that gear, as if carrying it weren't enough already.
This season of The Amazing Race had managed to keep my interest a bit longer than the previous versions. The production was tight, the characters were interesting without being too annoying, and the travel scenes are always fun. I had been watching recorded episodes and was almost caught up to the broadcast episodes as the season finale approached. The Amazing Race has grown into a stable rating-winner over the years, but it's certainly no American Idol. So I figured I could safely keep up with the news headlines without worrying about seeing the winner posted as front-page news before I watched the finale.
And there I was, browsing through the RSS headline feeds on NetNewsWire when I see:
Look away if you don't want to know...
Try to remember the kind of December when you were watching the finale of the CBS reality series “The Amazing Race,” and thought one of its champions looked familiar: sure enough, Nick Spangler, who was a winner of the show’s $1 million prize on Sunday night, is a star of the current Off-Broadway production of “The Fantasticks,” in which he plays Matt.
The winner, spoiled by the New York Times ArtBeat blog, of all things. So much for watching that last episode. The other main revelation in the article and interview was that Mr. Spangler has a serious girlfriend. Not that I've got much of a gay-dar, but a guy with blinding white teeth, loves musicals, and is all touch-feeley with his sister... what was I suppose to think?
Taiwan politics is a cesspool of festering corruption at the best of times, no matter which side you're on. But then politicians everywhere are pretty much the same way, so the most one might hope for is at least the pretension of moral fortitude. Perhaps the new KMT administration couldn't do much about the global financial crisis and the world-wide economic slow-down (even though they said they could). But it would be nice if they wouldn't be such a bunch of pussies.
Taiwan's president on Wednesday ruled out a visit to his island by the Dalai Lama, a gesture likely to please rival China, and give new impetus to rapidly improving relations across the volatile Taiwan Strait.
The comments by Ma Ying-jeou followed reports earlier this week that the Tibetan spiritual leader wants to come to Taiwan in 2009, in what would be his third trip to the island in the past 11 years.
One off-hand comment by the Dalai Lama to a Taiwanese reporter about visiting Taiwan, and the nominal President immediately calls a press conference with all the foreign correspondents telling the world that Taiwan wants nothing to do with a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. "President" Ma's China-appeasement policies makes Neville Chamberlain seem like a mighty statesman in comparison. I guess the Dalai Lama is only one man, and an ascetic man at that. So he can't possibly bring the same economic benefits as all the mainland Chinese tourists who aren't flocking to Taiwan.
The rich uncles have all their financial advisers and investment accounts to handle the money rolling in. Mom's in more of a retirement-mode, but she has enough to piggy-back on their uber-VIP status and go along for the ride. Come holiday time or special occasions, the various insurance, banking, and brokerage managers always make sure to send along a little something to their favorite customers. One day uncle gave me a stack of something, a present from the insurance company for mom's business. Well, it must've been a heck of a policy because the insurance company gave Mom 36,000NTD's worth of 7-11 gift certificates as a new-account present.
On the one hand, the gift certificates, in 100NTD denominations, sure made for a phat 紅包. On the other hand, all that money, just to spend in convenience stores? Mom wasn't going to get much use out of them, and I was picturing a Supersize Me kind of future, except I'd be killing myself with microwave bentos and tea eggs instead of Mickie-D fast food. Thankfully we read the fine print on the back more carefully and it turned out that the GCs were good across the Uni-President Group's mighty franchising empire in Taiwan, from Starbucks and Mister Donut, all the way up to Muji and Hankyu department stores. So that actually makes the certificates quite a viable spending option, although it does make you realize how much you're under the thumb of the mighty corporation as an ordinary consumer. For now, let's charge those Starbucks and 7-11 iCash pre-paid cards and go to town.