Technical Difficulties from on Top of the Mountain
  More cool things you can do with a Treo
This might apply to any cell phone with a camera, but my wife's cell phone pictures were so bad, they weren't really usable (even outdoors). Anyways, the Treo 650 has a much improved camera (vs the 600, though there's a rumor is just a software upgrade). Besides taking pictures of the kids, and random travelogs; I have one folder organized on my 1GB flash card for stuff. I'm always seeing stuff at stores and thinking to myself that I'd like to check that movie out at the library, or maybe put a particular item on my Christmas wish list, so instead of trying to remember (never works), or writing it down (forget the paper idea, but I guess I could record it in notepad), I just take a picture of it. And with the decent screen on the Treo, I can actually get an approximate idea of how good the picture came out.

So I was at Ace ordering a window for my garage because while it was going to be a standard size (6'0 by 2'0), I ended up messing up the framing and only left a 5'6" opening. Can't get a window that size, but you can get one five foot wide, so I ordered it and it should be in in three weeks. Anyways, I remembered that I also needed wheels for Max's bike (which is another story), and while I was in that row, I turned around and saw this this cool tool:

Now, some of you may be wondering what this is, and others might be wondering why I want to spend $40 on a maul, and a few might be wondering what's so special about an Estwing, well, let me tell you a story.

camping woods tent

A long time ago, when we first moved to Flagstaff we still lived in the city proper (about 0.75 miles from where we live now), in a tiny little apartment surrounded by hundreds of other apartments and apartment dwellers. So when our friends (who also moved out to Flagstaff from California with us) called up and wanted to go spend the weekend in the woods, we said, "Sure, why not." We'd grab out tent, sleeping bag, cooler and other various camping-like stuff; and head about twenty miles south into the woods where we'd setup the tents, gather some wood, start a fire, and sit around playing musical chairs as the wind blew in different directions and smoked us out.

It was in preparation for one such outing that I decided it would be cool to be able to chop the wood we found so that it would actually fit in the firepit, instead of hanging out on the side. (We were usually too lazy to walk far enough to find properly sized wood.) While I could snap the smaller pieces, any limb of decent size was usually ten feet long or more. So while shopping for other junk imported from China at WalMart, I picked up an ax.

Now I don't know how you usually use an ax, but it took me all of four swings to break that ax. Ok, so once I missed and hit the ax on the handle, but still, that's pretty lame. The next morning when the ladies decided to head back to the house for their morning shower (ok, we're not very serious campers), Pierce and I decided to go back into town and get another ax. We went back to WalMart to exchange it. Mission accomplished, we were back to the woods to try again.

   Swing   CHOP
   Swing   BREAK
So now this was getting annoying. Obviously this was another example of the fine merchandise offered by America's biggest retail store and I didn't have any expectations that another exchange would bring about any improvement. So it was time to try some other sources. There was a small mom & pop general store a couple miles away from our campsite, so we popped over there to see what they had, and picked up another ax. Well it lasted longer than the one from China, but not much longer. I was kind of down on wooden handles at that point.

After checking the usual suspects around town, I finally found this one in a small Ace Hardware tucked in a strip mall over on the other side of town. Like the hammers Estwing makes, this 2.5' ax is forged as a single piece of steel with a rubber grip molded around the handle. Its very impressive. The price is pretty impressive too, but just lasting an entire camping weekend should easily be worth saving several drives into town and actually having some wood the proper length for the fire. So I got it. And it worked.

It worked great in fact. It lasted that entire camping season, and the next, and in fact I still have it today and use it on occasion when I want to make a bloody mess out of the end of a log. Its still pretty sharp, except where I've nicked the blade here and there on a rock (or when my wife starts using it to attack weeds growing in the gravel pile), and it takes all the abuse I've given it, though it doesn't make that great a pry bar just because the handle is somewhat flattened and doesn't have much torsional strength sideways. I even got its little brother the hatchet, which is great for removing limbs from logs before I cut them up for firewood.

bow saw

But I don't go camping any more, and most of the time I'm cutting logs with a bow saw, and then splitting them. Which is why I have my eye on this new estwing splitting tool. While the marketing material seems to indicate that its a great tool to use indoors, I think its going to get most of its use outside — softening up recalcitrant logs and making a good starting point for a wedge on the larger pieces. (Besides my wife would probably kill me if I tried to split wood in the house, its bad enough when I leave a trail of bark and wood chips from the back door to the wood stove.)

Maybe I won't get it yet. After all $40 is a little steep, though they have it here for only $30 (plus another $6 shipping). Maybe I'll take a look at the end of summer when the wood will need my attention. Until then, I'll have a reminder tucked away on my phone, where I won't forget it.

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Paul Graham's Essays
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How to save the world
Dave Pollard working on changing the world .. one partially baked idea at a time.
Eric Snowdeal IV - born 15 weeks too soon, now living a normal baby life.
Land and Hold Short
The life of a pilot.

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Jan '04
The second best villain of all times.

Feb '04
Oops I dropped by satellite.
New Jets create excitement in the air.
The audience is not listening.

Mar '04
Neat chemicals you don't want to mess with.
The Lack of Practise Effect

Apr '04
Scramjets take to the air
Doing dangerous things in the fire.
The Real Way to get a job

May '04
Checking out cool tools (with the kids)
A master geek (Ink Tank flashback)
How to play with your kids

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