Monday, July 10, 2006, 04:12 PM - My ToysAfter receiving my Crumpler Cashmere Blazer Laptop Bag last week (at a VERY good price from an online store in VT called Photoco), I had the chance today to use it to tote / lug my new MacBook Pro 17 into the office in Center City Philadelphia.
After doing quite a bit of research (mostly due to the fact that my MacBook was a month backordered), I decided upon Crumpler for a two reasons:
Size. The MacBook Pro 17", like its predecessor the Powerbook 17, is an aircraft carrier. I'd already found a very nice sleeve for the Mac via STM's Rebound, a memory foam based sleeve that provided good support and padding, but I also wanted some extra insurance when I took this litte, or rather BIG, toy of mine out of my home.
Only a few makers seemed to make bags that could accommodate the 17". As per my ramblings on June 17 about the MacBook Pro itself, I had narrowed my interest to Tom Bihn, Timbuk2, and Crumpler.
After further meditation, I decided upon Crumpler. The Tom Bihn bags looked cool but a bit too big and "frumpy," and the fit of the STM sleeve and any of the Timbuk2 contenders seemed too close for mail order comfort.
Style. The Crumpler Cashmere Blazer is just an XXL version of the same style of laptop bags Curmpler carries under different names. The crumpler messenger style laptop bags have a clean look that's modern yet not uber, "come beat me up I'm carrying a computer" techy.
While I think the Crumpler site is a bit too eccentric from a professional "ebiz" perspective (as a internet/web Creative Director, 10 years in the biz, I'm not too sure I agree with their interface choices), I do respect the uniqueness and the moxie. That in itself seemed to carry over into the design and quality of their products, which put them ahead of the pack.
Plus they also have beer/booze for bag sales. How can you not like a company that's that honest about their interests.
So I got it. And now that I have it, here are some thoughts:
One of the reasons I got this bag was for the size, but I wasn't prepared for how big it truly was. Sure enough, the Crumpler's computer sleeve section was able to handle my MacBook Pro AND sleeve, which is why I got it. It's a little snug, but I think that's better than having it slide about too much.
But the rest of the cargo space (and cargo is an approriate word) is cavernous.
I was able to pack lots of my normal junk (lunch, coffee thermos, phone, ipod, set of encyclopedias, etc.) and more if I desired. (Photo shown here is from Crumpler. My daily pack is only half the size so far.)
Little Big Man
Due to it's size, when I sling the bag over me shoulder messenger style, the bag covers practically the entirety of my back. I'm more a bag with a man then man with a bag with this model Crumpler.
The slick strap Crumpler provides with a quick release lock is quite handy but very long. I don't necessarily know how the "kids" are wearing them these days (either here or in Australia, where Crumpler is based), but for ergonomic back concerns, when I position this bag at my waist (I've been told that for ergonomics, you should let any bag's bottom ride close to your wrist level for optional hand support), there's still a good two feet of extra strap in reserve!
I didn't know what to do with this bounty of strap. I spent some time debating whether I should chop it or wrap it up somewhere. I tried to imagine people wearing their bag long, but if I used this much extra strap, the bag would hang under my knees.
Having once had disproportionate girth, I also tried to imagine how much "width" would be required to use up this much excess strap. Certainly a much much bigger man than I was, or had ever been.
Luckily the bag designer had come up with a solution, though I had to forage through their site photos to find it. (Alas the bag come with little or no documentation. Yes I know "it's a just bag" but there's something reassuring when anything you buy comes with some sort of "manual" no matter how stupid it may be, or how stupid YOU may be.) On the side of the bag, there are two loops that you could use for anything (water bottle, etc.). Looping the extra strap in these gets it out of the way and if done in a certain way, adds support to the bag.
(hey I had a Dustin Hoffman reference above, so why not again?)
While the bag seems very weather resistant (not water proof), my one concern involves the lack of any zipper or mechanism to hermetically seal the main cargo compartment. The relatively smaller front pocket has a zipper, and the entire bag is covered by its flap, but the bag's design relies heavily (pun? I dunno ) on it being filled close to capacity, and for gravity to fully pull closed the compartment under the flap.
Looking down at the bag as it hangs off your shoulder, you can see into the main compartment via "holes" on either side of the flap. Depending on how much you are carrying (weight and volume) these openings diminish or grow.
If I were ever caught in a major rain, as has been happening here in this area of Pennsylvania of late, I would want to cover up these "corner pockets," especially because this is where the major electronic jazz goes, including the Velcro closed laptop compartment.
Handle With Care
(Sorry - went Traveling Wilburys with this one)
One thing I miss on this bag (and I like this bag) is an alternate handle. The bag is great when hung off the shoulders, but when you have to manuever in a space where the bag's gotta come off, you're left fumbling for something to control and reign in this doggie, er, leviathan.
For example, when I am walking from the train to my car with this bag over my haead and shoulder, it's very comfortable and managable. I can easily navigate my way through the mass of commuters scrambling about me.
When I get to my car however, and have to put the bag inside sans strap, I either have to clutch the bag to my bosom (heaving the bag, not my bosom) or hold the bag high by its' 50 foot strap (or bandage looped several times around your hand) and swing it into position in my car.
This is not the most delicate of maneuvers when you are carrying a computer. It also makes you look like a monstrous school girl twirling a deadly bag / barrel on your wrists.
Perhaps the good engineers at Crumpler can find some sort of secondary add-on to help. They already designed a great stabilizer strap that hooks onto the main strap (it wraps around your back and buckles to the rear of the bag for when you want to lock down your load when you're wearing the Crumpler messenger style). Perhaps a detatchable handle strap to help you maneuver in those tight, off the shoulder situations (like putting your bag in your car, or by your side on a train bench)?
SPECS (from Crumpler)
Water resistant 1000D Nylon shell & 420D Ripstop Nylon lining
Fully padded main & laptop compartments
1x external gusseted zip pocket w/ 6 pocket organizer
3x internal front pockets
Adjustable main strap with Quick Flick (TM) buckle
Removable shoulder pad with "Third Leg" stability strap
Clip & Velcro release flap
vol 20 litres
Most 17' laptops & accessories, A4/Letter-size documents & magazines as well as daily essentials.
Works with 17" PowerBook & MacBook Pro
Use the main or side strap to attach an optional extra Thirsty Al mobile phone holder.
As I mentioned, I like this bag. It's of good build and breed and I'm happy with how it allows me to carry securely my aircraft carrier laptop. It's stylin' and doesn't scream "I'm a laptop bag." It also allows me to tow the rest of miserbale life in the same bag without requiring a second bag, which for me, in the commuter world, is very very sad thing to see.
It's awful to see the poor man or woman on the train schlepping two, or sometimes three bags of their lives about. Granted the Crumpler Cashmere Blazer is one BIG bag to carry, but at least it's only one bag, instead of an entire luggage collection.
Could use a manual for least some edification of the expense, but also for suggestions in dealing with the 50 mile shoulder strap. No way to weather seal and close off the main compartment except by covering it with the main flap, which opens towards the top sides. No handle for an extra grip when maneuvering in tight situations where you can't wear the bag on your shoulder.
Friday, June 30, 2006, 02:29 AM - Music on My MindThis week, "Abandoned Love" has been getting an unusual amount of play when my ipod shuffles during my daily commute.
It's a great song I didn't know was only available on bootleg until the Biograph Album came out.
It's one of the many reasons I enjoy my ipod. I've had my focus if not bias about which Dylan albums I listen - I personally have a leaning towards the just pre electric and electric albums of the 60's with a jump to the mid 1970's "Blood on the Tracks."
That said, I never popped on the Biograph album as much.
That's why I intentionally put it into the mix on my ipod months ago (it's how I finally discovered John Lennon's "Out the Blue" ). Like many other non-Dylanologists, I am now experiencing the "previously unreleased." I'm also breaking up the rut a bit.
It's funny, but despite the constant exposure, I never got into Dylan when I was growing up. My pal Nevin was the resident "Dylanologist" during the teens in boarding school. Through him I heard many Dylan bootlegs, including the funny A.J. Weberman interview (and a weird song someone wrote knocking Weberman for being a "Dylanologist." ) At the time I was a Beatles / Lennon "specialist." For whatever reason I only started really listening to Dylan for myself until the summer I graduated High School.
I was trapped in the Philippines with only L.A. exported Dance Pop on the radio. I somehow managaged to find a few CD's to tide me over during my stay. One of these was a Japanese import "Best Collection." It saved my sanity that summer.
Anyway, for some reason the ipod fairies have decided to hammer this track into my brain this week. Life of late and its hammering has rendered me the ability to hear it and appreciate it.
Here are the lyrics courtesy of the Bob Dylan web site. You can, as with all of the music in this category of my blog, listen to it via the "Music on My Mind" radio control on the right.
by Bob Dylan
I can hear the turning of the key
I've been deceived by the clown inside of me.
I thought that he was righteous but he's vain
Oh, something's a-telling me I wear the ball and chain.
My patron saint is a-fighting with a ghost
He's always off somewhere when I need him most.
The Spanish moon is rising on the hill
But my heart is a-tellin' me I love ya still.
I come back to the town from the flaming moon
I see you in the streets, I begin to swoon.
I love to see you dress before the mirror
Won't you let me in your room one time 'fore I finally disappear?
Everybody's wearing a disguise
To hide what they've got left behind their eyes.
But me, I can't cover what I am
Wherever the children go I'll follow them.
I march in the parade of liberty
But as long as I love you I'm not free.
How long must I suffer such abuse
Won't you let me see you smile one time before I turn you loose?
I've given up the game, I've got to leave,
The pot of gold is only make-believe.
The treasure can't be found by men who search
Whose gods are dead and whose queens are in the church.
We sat in an empty theater and we kissed,
I asked ya please to cross me off-a your list.
My head tells me it's time to make a change
But my heart is telling me I love ya but you're strange.
One more time at midnight, near the wall
Take off your heavy make-up and your shawl.
Won't you descend from the throne, from where you sit?
Let me feel your love one more time before I abandon it.
Copyright © 1975 Ram's Horn Music
Monday, June 26, 2006, 01:47 PM - Music on My MindIn February I finally got to see "Good Night and Good Luck" at The Ritz at the Bourse in Philadelphia with my amigo from work Sagi.
(I'd been meaning to see it for months, but my attentions and interests were being "diverted" at the time.)
Film and story aside, one of the many things I enjoyed about this film was the soundtrack performed by Diane Reeves, which I immediately purchased the weekend following. In the weeks and months since those dark days of the new year, this soundtrack has been one of the highlights in my ipod roster.
The song, "Pick Yourself Up" in particular has been, as intended, a pick-me-up.
In my younger days, I always used to chuckle at latin arranged standards, as some are undebatably awful and cheesey (like the wah wah pedal effect of the 70's, latin arrangements were more often than not abused).
But as my ears have aged (for better or worse), I have a higher threshold for such treatments and can now appreciate the cream and forego the crap. (Not a great analogy I know, but my regular muse is on holiday.)
I can save the baby while foregoing the bath water. (Not much better I know.)
I still chuckle, yes, but in a less cynical way. The latin treatment was something used to great effect in jazz and pop in its heyday (50-60's - listen to Sonny Rollins, Horace Silver, Mel Torme, etc.) and this soundtrack, though recorded in the new millenium, does well to evoke that period and it's styles, campy or no.
As was the entire project's purpose - the filmakers successfully recreated the 1950's, the era of McCarthy and Edward R. Murrow.
This song just makes me smile, so much so I've been seeking it out quite a bit these last few weeks during my commute (selecting it rather than letting my ipod shuffle and stumble through my bizzare collections of songs). You can enjoy it for yourself via the "Music on My Mind" control on the right.