The Collections. A set of things I thought were interesting enough to comment on, share or otherwise make note of – And why.

The best way to keep up to date is to use your favourite RSS reader and get each post lovingly delivered to you by soulless automation.


The Buff – Not new, but still exceptional.

There is a thing as a stocking knitting machine. It knits in a spiral, continuously. You merely sew one end closed, measure as much fabric tube as you want, and cut and hem the open end. Voila, a stocking of the old style, or as we would call it, a sock.

A tube of fairly elastic material is useful.You can put it on your foot, roll it up your leg as an ankle warmer, pull it over your head as a hat and look like a 17th century sailor, keep your hair out of the way during  surgery and so on, and in fact that’s mainly what lengths of stocking knit fabric have been used for throughout history, until the whole thing became unfashionable.

However, there's still a few companies making items this way – Or rather one very successful company and a score of people doing fairly inferior cheap knockoffs.

That company is Buff ( ).

I would like to concentrate on one particular Buff product which I regard as superior to the other, well made and useful varieties, and that is the Wool Buff.

Made from Merino wool, it’s soft, non scratchy, roughly a yard long, and is a lot wider than the normal run of Buffs, making it a lot more comfortable for people who’s collar size is a little higher than say, 16”.

Due to it’s length and width it also folds and hangs around the neck in quite a fetching way, though mostly I recommend it as a way to stop the warm air in your clothes from escaping through your collar, without the need to constantly re-wrap a scarf. It also makes a fairly dandy helmet liner or just a way to tuck all your hair back and keep it out of the way.


Get a brand new bag

I have this problem with buying bags – They’re often really badly designed.

I admit it, I’m picky about my luggage. If I’m paying money for a bag, I want it to be worth it. Often – Or more accurately, almost all the time, what’s on offer doesn’t measure up. That said, seems to share my sensibilities and that’s why they’re my pick this time, specifically the TRP 209, in black (But only because the super-popular brown is sold out).

Short version:

It’s built like a tank and it’s waterproof on the inside, looks good and is built for decent sized human beings.

Long version:

I buy my shoulder bags based on the following criteria:

  • It has to hold an envelope of a4 paper without needing the envelope to be folded over. If I need to cart some documents around, then I want a bag big enough to handle that. A surprising number of ‘messenger’ bags are too small to do this.
    • It has to be large enough to hold a magazine without needing to fold it too. Sometimes you just need to grab a couple of magazines and camp out
  • It’s got to be deep enough to hold a drinks bottle or soda cans. What use is a bag if you can’t put your drink in it?
    • Also a lunch box.
  • It’s got to have some sort of compartments or pockets so all the small stuff that I might want to take with me – Pencils, pens torch, mini prybar, mini first aid kit, etc. doesn’t end up as loose handbag trash rattling around some place under my magazine, documents, lunchbox, soda cans and bottle and sketchbook.
  • Zips. If you have a bag, it needs some sort of zip so when you inevitably put it down and it tips over, all your stuff doesn’t slide out and vanish.
  • A cover flap. This keeps the rain and wandering hands out. This is a good thing.
    • Also a flap that needs you to screw around for a few minutes trying to fasten down isn’t worth your time. Ideally it should have magnetic snap closures, or spring clips. Velcro will just fill up with fluff and also I just hate having to  rip it open – it’s too loud to be polite.
  • Canvas. Or equivalent – It’s stylish, it’s nicer than nylon, cheaper than leather.
  • Size. A large bag lets all your stuff slide around, gets in the way and is wasteful of space.. I’m looking for something small and nimble that’s not going to need constant handling to stop it flopping and swinging around, and folding in the middle.
    • Also a shoulder strap made for someone who’s over 4 ft tall would be great. Too many bags assume that six inches of slack in the shoulder strap is perfect for every use case. The Troop bag at full extension hangs down around my thigh, even when worn shoulder to hip, but the strap can be shortened.

Troop managed to ship the bag to me within 24 hours, and I can’t find fault with it apart form the nylon waterproof lining is a little stiff – But since I managed to spill a drink inside the bag, I think that’d be complaining about the wrong thing entirely (The bag was undamaged and did not leak).

It is indeed big enough to take a magazine, bottle, change of clothes, and some small odds and ends, while being small enough to be comfortable.

If you’re looking for any sort of bag, Troop’s worth using as a base to go from.


Sparrow for iPhone

Sparrow for Mac and iPhone

Short version: for iPhone and iPod touch sucks. Sparrow is a flawed gem, but still much better. Worth using.

Long version:

The bad:

Sparrow only works with iMap, doesn't use Push notification (Apparently Apple declined to allow it), doesn't have a native iPad version and suffers from the normal iOS foibles like not being able to access any files except the Camera Roll, and can't be set as the default mail client.

The Good:

That said it's really lovely to use, works with any IMAP based mail service, integrates tightly with Google and does almost everything that should do, including letting you swipe mail to reveal common tasks (Like reply, or send to a folder), an easy way to flip between inbox, unread, and Gmail's 'Priority' inbox if you enabled it, user avatars to show you who's sent you mail, a unified inbox, and a rather stylish way of marking your Gmail based emails with colours that match the 'label' (AKA folder) that they've been assigned to.

It also handles threaded conversations and simple batch operations like  "mark all as read" or "Move" and so on.

At there moment the lack of Push seems a major obstacle, but it's set up to let handle all the push notifications and Notification Center things, and then you can just open Sparrow to actually deal with your mail

The killer App

Sparrow allows you to add Aliases to your accounts so you can send your e-mail form a different address to the one you receive it at, or if you need to, switch to sending from any other accounts you added to Sparrow.

It's tight integration with Gmail means that you get all the benefits of your Gmail account - storage, address list, user icons, folders, colour tagging, threaded conversations and snappy IMAP integration.

You can also configure your accounts to only sync specific folders, define Signatures and tweak Sparrow to get a nice experience.

The user experience is what makes Sparrow worth using, despite it's flaws. It's flaws do not in any way outweigh it's good features, and over time it will improve.



I like podcasts. They're free, and I get through a lot of background media while I'm otherwise engaged in walking or drawing, or waiting for things to happen. I chew through a lot of tech news this way, absorbing it by osmosis...

This Week in Technology (TWiT), both as a producer and a show, are one of the best, supplying good quality professional audio or video, as well as professional pundits, including John C. Dvorak, Jeff Jarvis and Paul Thurrot (Who wrote the book on Windows). TWiT is hosted by the genial, velvet voiced, Léo Laporte on most of the large number of programmes, though not all. TWiT also produces themed episodes covering most topics.

For people who say "Fuck!" and talk about their dicks, Smodcast is worth a listen. Run by Kevin Smith, writer, director and fat guy (Also known as Silent Bob, the best misnomer in show biz, because this fucker will not shut up), Smodcasts offerings run the geek gamut of Hollywood gossip, movie making (Kevin acted in, wrote and directed a lot of films), comics (Kevin owns a comic book store, the staff of which had their own TV show), and Jason Mewes.

Jason, actor, ex junkie, fucked by life before birth, possible village idiot, deserves a category all of his own, because he's such a strange affable guy, and so much fun to hear bantering with Kevin on their shared podcast, "Jay and Silent Bob get old" - A comedy that's recorded on stage and popular enough to be on tour.

Finally, in my picks, Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap - An amateur podcast by fandom darling Ursula Vernon and Man Friday, Kevin. Every week they taste test and rate cheap food so you can listen to them suffer and get drunk while MST3King the food.

All KUEC episodes are recorded in front of a live beagle to ensure quality.


French Onion Soup

Personally I hate the stuff, but that's merely a shrieking terror of food that has onions in. I was attacked by an onion as a youngster of a mere 29 years old and it's scarred me for life, metaphorically.

Anyway - There's several (hundred (thousand)) recipes you can get by googling but since the topic came up, here's a couple that caught my eye.


  1. The Food Network (UK) 
    First - The food network lets you easily print the recipe in a printer friendly format, including index cards.
    Second - Their mobile apps let you one-click add the ingredients to a shopping list
    Third - Feedback - You can check to see what other people say about these recipes.
    A rather plainer site but this one offeres a gluten free version because not everyone can, or wants to eat bread. The advantage being that you can use both recipes and just substitute the gluten/gluten free parts as you will.

After mentioning French Onion Soup, there were a couple of comments made - Derecho, a frequent commenter and regular on this column since the very first post, says:

"I love French onion soup, though I'm of the opinion that a sheet of a cheese that doesn't get stringy when melted should be laid across the top."

The classic recipe calls for Gruyere, but if that's not available you could try Emmenthal or even Edam (which does get string). That said, if you're willing to use Edam there's nothing stopping you using Babybel cheese – Or even mixing your own blend of grated or sliced cheese. Stilton and Brie anyone?