I’ve spent a lot of time reading about, testing, and evaluating different bags and backpacks in the last 5 years, because I spend all day with one as my primary mode of organization. I have ADD, and I use a bag as my base of operations: If I need to take my wallet out of my pants, it goes in my bag. If I need to put my sunglasses away, they go in my bag: everything in its right place. I know where everything is, and if it’s not there, something is wrong. It’s a system I’ve developed over the last 20 years to avoid losing things, so the design and functionality of a bag is very important to me. This is even more important when evaluating a camera bag, when the amount of gear and accessories is multiplied times 10.
When I came to WRI I inherited a ThinkTank Airport 2.0 suitcase my predecessor used to carry gear overseas, and it worked really well for the first two trips I took. Designed within standard airline carry-on baggage measurements, it fits in an overhead bin and holds a huge assortment of gear securely and gently. This worked well until I realized I didn’t need to bring everything with me, and started to pare down my traveling kit for the sake of weight and simplicity. One drawback to its design is that it doesn’t hold a laptop, so once I was on the ground I had to either lug the whole suitcase with me or split gear out into a separate backpack I’d also inherited, which did some things well but came with its own limitations.
ThinkTank Airport 2.0
This was a LowePro Fastpack 250 AW, and while it held a camera body, two to three lenses, and my sound gear with a laptop, I found that when it was fully loaded it was extremely uncomfortable for long-term usage. For short distances it did the trick but most of my shoots are all-day events and by the end I’d be aching from the straps or the distribution of the load. As a light-duty, incognito backpack it’s aces but it’s not an all-day rig.
So I hunted around for a new pack to meet in the middle. What I settled on was a LowePro ProTactic 450, which itself fits inside carry-on measurements but adds space and is designed for longer-term use. It’s roomier than the first pack and will hold about 80% the gear the ThinkTank will, plus a laptop. It has two zippered doors on either side for easy access to primary or secondary cameras, plus a door on top for a third. The outside is covered with MOLLE-like webbing for addition of pouches or straps, which came in handy for strapping a mini-tripod to the bag in Colombia. There’s a waist belt which doubles as a removable fanny pack, and a built in rain cover in the bottom.
LowePro ProTactic 450
On this trip I pared my kit way back: I took a Canon 5D body, a 24-105 f/4L, 70-200mm f/2.8L zoom, a set of Sennheiser wireless lav mics, a Zoom H4 audio recorder, a Zacuto eyepiece, a GoPro Session 5, a DJI Osmo, and a mountain of batteries for each camera system. On the outside I strapped a Zomei q666 tripod. My laptop traveled through security in a messenger bag (easier and faster for airport security), along with a Kindle HD and my Fuji X-T10. I found it relatively easy to work with but found a few flaws in practice.
The bag held the kit above with ease. I stuck the 5D/24-105 in the right-side compartment, attached the tripod to the left side with one of the provided MOLLE pouches, and put the Osmo in the top compartment for most of the trip. Getting into and out of the main bag opening was easy as long as the waist straps were pulled out of the way. Jumping into cabs was much easier with a backpack, and I felt more secure on the street wearing it than I would have pulling a suitcase around behind me.
The provided dividers were plentiful but for some areas of the bag wound up being 1/2″ too short to allow the velcro to reach both sides of the chamber, so I didn’t feel like things were as secure as they should have been. The waist belt was good to use with a full load, but the front half is nothing but a thin nylon strap, which cut into my stomach after a while. The fact that it can be separated from the pack is interesting, but I’d prefer it to be permanently attached and fully padded to offset the weight of several big lenses. The shoulder straps themselves are comfortable but could stand to be reinforced and widened by another 1/2″ or so; after a week of constant usage I noticed the threads connecting the straps to the bag were visible and beginning to pull apart. This is the problem with making a pack built to carry lots of heavy equipment: it needs to be made heavier-duty to stand up to all that weight. This pack is underbuilt for a full real-world load, and that shows.
I like the laptop sleeve, and there are three flat zippered pouches on the outside for things like papers, small straps, and other flat objects. Anything larger needs to go in the main compartment because it closes up snugly to the dividers inside. The included MOLLE attachments work very well, although they aren’t standard military dimensions. I did buy a set of 10 elastic strap fasteners from Amazon which came in super handy for tying my jacket to the outside of the pack.
Overall, I’m mostly happy with this pack. I think they’d be able to make it better by addressing those few gripes, building it stronger for a full kit, and removing a few of the whiz-bang features with better-engineered, simplified elements.
Here’s an excellent take on the current round of tech layoffs which categorizes the psychological toll in two groups: Corporate and Worker. Corporate minimizes layoffs, usually because the people in that strata can land a similar job relatively easily through their networks.
Then there’s Corporate Layoff Brain. This Layoff Brain mistakes their own experience of layoffs (good! generative!) as everyone else’s, regardless of their field or position. It casualizes layoffs, categorizes it as a “management tool,” and underlines employees’ status as disposable, disempowered widgets — instead of humans with rights and responsibilities to others outside of the work environment.
While Worker is a whole different way of thinking: it’s a culture of intimidation designed to keep those of us with jobs cowed and productive:
This is the second iteration of Layoff Brain. The first is the Layoff Brain I have, the one I share with millions of other millennials and Gen-Xers. It’s a defensive crouch masquerading as “smart saving habits.” It’s a thrum of fear and student debt default and medical bankruptcy rebranded as “hustle culture.”
Technically I’m management, but having been laid off twice, I will always think and plan and worry like a worker.
It’s been a minute since I posted; it’s been a busy couple of weeks. We’ve been organizing for and shooting the prerecorded section of WRI’s annual Stories To Watch, which is always a huge undertaking. Every year we up our game and this year was no exception. For 2023 we found a studio facility in Chantilly to shoot at with a 40’ wide, 14’ high LED background that we had to fill with content. My video team rose to the challenge and built a looping background from an Illustrator file I made, and we produced an 80 slide, five chapter presentation from a rough deck in four days. Our CEO walked in on the first day and was amazed at the LED wall lit up and running the animations; the whole team knocked it out of the park. We booked the studio for two days, so I stayed overnight in a hotel down the street because the commute home is at least two hours—and we used every hour of those two days.
While that was happening, there have been some changes going on behind the scenes in my department. One of my oldest colleagues and current boss is moving on from the organization, and I volunteered to fill in temporarily with another colleague until they find our next VP of Communications. I’m excited to help keep things moving and slightly terrified of all of the things I don’t know, but a new challenge will be good to tackle. So for now, I’m co-Acting Head of Communications. Wish me luck.
While I’ve been scrambling at work there hasn’t been much progress on the bathroom beyond what I did last weekend. All I’ve got to do is sand the drywall and hit it with a cat of paint and then I can screw the fixtures in for good and take a picture for Cousin Margaret.
On Sunday I’m headed up to PA to look at another Scout 800 tucked in a barn; I’ll detail the details on the Scout site later. Monday I’m going to start work on the built in bookcase in the living room for a change of pace.
The Verge did a really solid interview with Matt Mullenweg, who founded WordPress, open-sourced it and its ancillary companies, and later bought Tumblr from Verizon. The interview is framed by the parallels to Musk buying Twitter, and it’s a refreshing look at a founder/leader who isn’t a douchey techbro and who still believes in an open, safe, and inclusive web. (WordPress is the engine that runs this and over 40% of the websites on the internet.) In the article he talks about how hard it is to do content moderation well—his experience to that point had mostly been building the software, not policing the content:
I will say that it was probably the most humbling thing in my business career… Tumblr is a large-scale social network that is only a fraction of the size of Facebook, but we started encountering issues that were beyond my previous understanding of content moderation and free speech.
I think the biggest difference here, and one that most people are only beginning to realize, is that Musk bought Twitter to control what people are saying about him, not to preserve or protect its users. He’s now in a race to monetize this millstone as fast as he can before it flames out due to his terrible leadership; as he kicks journalists off the platform (one of its key audiences) I wonder if it will die back to Truth Social or Parler size.
To Mullenweg’s credit, he’s spent several years trying to sort Tumblr out, losing money the whole time, but he’s committed to rebuilding it in some shadow of its former self.
Twitter became a lot more about arguing, Instagram became about showing off, and Facebook became about weird people you went to school with saying weird things. Tumblr always had this frisson, this magic.
I think most people agree that Tumblr was mostly for porn, but there were a lot of communities and sub-groups active on there that left when it was bought by Verizon. It was a handy platform to stand up a blog and share things quickly, and the repost function became its superpower. We’ll see how it shakes out with a new focus and some careful management. And based on this interview, I’m optimistic for them.
I brought this up in 2005 and I think it bears repeating, especially as I hear it more and more from insanely intelligent people I work with on a daily basis: Please quit using the phrase “your guys’s” in any context or situation possible. e.g., “I want to send your guys’s information via email.” FUCK YOU. I’m currently sitting in an Asana training course and the woman leading the session has used it twice in five minutes. I might have to murder someone; it’s like someone is shoving a chainsaw in my ear.
Thanksgiving morning is here, and this is the first year in a long time that we’re not with family. Finn started with a cold early last week and coughed on Jen several times; this developed into COVID, which was helpfully confirmed by a note from the school two days after we quarantined Finn. Thanks for that speedy notification, guys. They’ve both been squirreled away in separate bedrooms since last Thursday, depending on Captain Chaos here to keep them fed. Overall it’s been OK; Finn seems to be on the mend but Jen lost her sense of taste and smell several days ago and keeps spiking a fever, so there’s no end in sight for her. I’ve been running up and down the stairs and washing my hands constantly trying to avoid the ‘Rona again—we’ve all been boosted, but ‘Rona don’t care—hopefully at least Finn can join me today for a Thanksgiving feast downstairs.
I’ve cooked many a turkey dinner myself over the years, starting in 1996 when I’d bought my house in Canton, but I had no desire to do it this year. Wisely I punted and ordered a dinner for 4 from the restaurant down the street where we get coffee and breakfast. It’s all packed neatly in the IH fridge in the garage waiting to be heated and served. Running errands yesterday, I stumbled upon two 12-packs of Founder’s All-Day Hazy IPA, something I’ve only seen once before. I drink their regular All-Day, well, regularly, but this is only made in small batches so it’s wise to jump on when you see it. I hemmed and hawed and then bought the only two cases they had, feeling smug with myself.
With the spare time I had at the end of the day Tuesday, I finally got off my ass and did something with some designs I’d built last year: I put up ten Scout shirt designs on Threadless, announced it through Instagram, and pointed it back to the Old Line State Binders site I’ve had live for a year but never done anything with. The legalities of using the IH logo are tricky, and I don’t want to make anyone mad, so I’m not using it or the logo script anywhere. I’ve been nervous about sharing these but I figure what the hell; I’m not doing anything else with them and it’s about time they made me a little money. I’ve made a couple of orders already; we’ll see if anything happens. Now that I’ve begun, I’ve got some ideas for other shirts in the works.
Update 5PM: Finn is officially clear, but Jen is still positive. We busted into our premade holiday meal and everyone demolished their plates; the only thing that went untouched was something called “sauerkraut with apples”, which smelled about as bad as you might imagine from that description.