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Style Guide

Soviet Wristwatch

Christopher Locke

There's a new battle happening somewhere between your wallet, your brain, and your wrist.  Watches have been around for 600 years or so, but their popularity has started to drop off, since everybody carries a cell phone, and the cell phone has a clock on it.

Recently, I had breakfast with a friend, and we were both wearing watches.  His was a funky old piece with neon orange hands and a band with chunks of wood in it.  He noted that my watch was the new Apple Watch (R) (TM) (BBQ).  I said "Yeah, my watch checks the weather, moon phases, text messages, email, heart rate, and stock report.  It makes phone calls, plays games, gives directions, remotely controls my camera, stereo, and television, and charges by magnetic induction technology.  And it was only $400."

He said "mine was free, and it doesn't even tell time."

Of course, I immediately demanded to know why he would wear a watch that doesn't tell time.  It turns out, it quit working, but he liked it, so he just set it to permanently display the time he gets off work.  Every time he looks at his wrist, it's quitting time.

So-called "smart" watches don't have that kind of brilliant soulful functionality.  But they can help you do all kinds of awesome things, like drain your bank account, distract you when you should be talking to someone important, or give you something to look at if you ever find yourself alone with your thoughts.  A smart watch will make you more aware of your surroundings, because you'll suddenly worry about bumping your wrist on something and cracking the screen, or snagging the band and dropping the phone into a pit of lava, or accidentally coming in contact with water, which may or may not void the warranty.  You can also look like a total dweeb everywhere you go.  You may even make a new friend, like the dork who holds his wrist near your wrist and says "watch buddies!!!!!!!!!"

By now, you're probably wondering how quickly you can get your hands on the biggest nerd trophy since the pocket protector.  But I may have a better suggestion.

For $20 on eBay, you can get a vintage Soviet wristwatch.  Most of the old watches from the USSR (or CCCP) wind up, so there's no magnetic charger or wires or batteries or plugs.  You set the time manually, so if you're chronically late (because you don't respect other people), you can set the time for 10 minutes ago.  That's a function your phone doesn't have.  Your daily watch-winding ritual can be paired with other things, like taking your meds, feeding your goldfish, or brushing your teeth.  That way, you won't forget to do those things.  If you do forget, your watch will run down, and that's a really convenient reminder.

These old Communist Block watches come in lots of styles, colors, shapes, and conditions.  So you can find one to suit any need, as long as the need is to tell time in a really classy way.  And for only $20, you can buy about 50 of them for the cost of a mid-grade smart watch.  Then when you get mugged, you'll laugh all the way home knowing there are 49 more watches waiting for you.

So before you spend your entire inheritance on a watch that will be obsolete by the time you figure out how to use it, try surfing some online auctions for a stylish piece of cold-war history.

Emergency sharp thing

Christopher Locke

I carry a knife with me everywhere I go, unless I expect to go through a metal detector.  What if I can't carry my knife, but I don't want to be completely helpless?  The Gerber GDC Hook Knife has saved me in several awkward situations.  It features a non-threatening design (no stabby bits, no risk of hacking or slashing) but keeps a tiny sharp edge inside its hook.  I've used it to cut through twine, string, card stock, cardboard, and perhaps most importantly, packing tape.  This little thing opens boxes like a pro.  It will even get you into those awful plastic clamshell packages, without the danger of stabbing yourself in the privates with a big knife.

Far too many times, I have seen someone ruin a ball-point pen trying to open a package. even worse, they use their keys like a knife to cut the tape, which can coat the key in adhesive residue.  That's not the kind of thing that belongs inside a lock.  Worse still, I've seen people open up a pair of scissors and hold them awkwardly, using one blade as a knife, while trying not to use the other blade as a handle.  It's madness!  This Gerber Hook Knife makes it easy to open packages, using a tool for its intended purpose.

I've kept this Gerber for longer than I can remember, and it's never let me down.  But I'm considering a switch to the GDC Zip Blade.  I'll let you know how it goes.


Portable Storage

Christopher Locke

You might already know that I'm an artist, and I've self-published a couple of books.  So I need to make backup copies of my most important files.  I have an external hard drive, but sometimes that's just too inconvenient to get out and set up just to back up one file.  It's also not easy to take with me, in case I need to show something to other people.

So I got this 32GB PNY Micro Metal Attache.  It's so tiny!  I attached it to my keyring that day, and it's been there ever since.  Most of the time, I completely forget I even have it, which is good for an every-day-carry item.  It's remarkable how much data can be stored in such a tiny package, and even more amazing when I think about the fact that 90% of this item's size is just the parts that make it fit the computer.  Look at it.  It's almost all made out of the USB plug!

Get one of these, load all of your important stuff onto it, and rest easy, knowing that when your computer is lost or destroyed, you won't lose everything.

Light up your life

Christopher Locke

Every semi-sophisticated man should have a flashlight.  Yeah, I know your phone has a light.  Good for you.  Try holding your phone in your mouth to light things up while you use both hands. Not so easy, huh?  A flashlight doesn't take up much space in the pocket, but will come in handy more often than you might realize.  If you are like me, your eyes get a little worse every day, and eventually you will end up using the flashlight just to find your shoes.

This is my favorite flashlight.  The Nitecore Sens AA.  It works on a single AA battery, which is important to me because I don't want to have to look for special batteries when the time comes.  It's a twist-activated "on" switch, so it doesn't accidentally turn on in your pocket.

Here's the best part... If you turn the flashlight on while it's pointing down, it assumes you're reading a map, and provides a light dim enough to not wreck your eyes.  If you turn the light on while it points out at 45 degrees, you get a medium light that will show you if you are about to step on a LEGO block.  If you point the flashlight straight out and turn it on, as if to light up something far away,  the beam is extra bright.  It's magnificent in its ease of use.

You could try dressing it up with some glitter and ribbons, or paint some cute dots on it with pink nail polish!  Mine's been finely detailed through countless hours of artisinal rubbing with a finely-curated set of metallic instruments, which also serve to unlock my house and truck.

"Move to Portland" T-shirt

Christopher Locke

Check out this fantastic t-shirt that will make you the envy of all the horn-rimmed hipsters on your block.  It's made with high-quality thick cotton, and screenprinted right here in Austin!  While all the weirdos complain about the Texas summers, you can stay cool.


Christopher Locke

The pocket multi-tool: Pretty much every semi-sophisticated man has an opinion.  This is the only one that counts.  I carry a Kershaw knife everywhere I go, unless there's a metal detector.  Do you need a screwdriver?  Use a screwdriver.  Pliers? Be a man and use proper tools.  The only thing you really need to carry is a knife.

Of these three, I usually prefer the top one.  It's a Kershaw Chive.  It's small and feisty, so I put a strip of stair grip tape on the side for added friction.  I did the same for the Kershaw Ember, but did not feel the need to do it to my Kershaw Leek.  (That one was confiscated by the TSA, then sold to me, which is why it's named "Larry.")

Permanent Marker

Christopher Locke

Do you need a cute way to leave your mark on every surface?  Try this out!  Sanford Sharpies are assembled in the USA, so you know they're expensive!  They permanently mark wood, metals, plastics, toddlers, and even fabric!  If you ever get any where it doesn't belong, you can sometimes dissolve the ink with denatured alcohol.  Stock up today!

Pencils? Try a Lead Holder.

Christopher Locke

From top to bottom:

  • Koh-I-Noor Technigraph 5611

  • Rotring 800 Black

  • Rotring 800 Silver

  • Rotring 600 Black

  • Koh-I-Noor 5616 with salvaged Pentech pocket clip.

My pencils are tools by which I earn a living, so I want the best.  While some people might be scared off by the heft of a high-end Rotring lead holder, I am comforted by it.  If you use a lead holder as an occupational tool, treat yourself to a new one every year or so.  You're worth it!