Archive for the ‘Product Reviews’ Category


Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion

I just read this book in one sitting.  It took about three hours, and now I’m going to…

CRUSH IT!!!!111

Single most inspirational book in terms of having a successful online presence.  Ever.  This book applies to everyone as we work our way into the 21st century.  It applies to all of us, as we continue to discover how the Internet continues to change the world.  It’s particularly pertinent if you have any interest in maintaining an online presence, or are actively involved in running your own business.  This book can guide your way to reaching not only more people – but more people that actually care about you and your product, and that’s great ROI.

After reading this book I literally revamped my entire blog, and took a completely new approach to finding readers.  It actually came down to one basic concept – be true to yourself.  Write about what you’re passionate about.  Care about your readers and the community.  Flex social networking as an advertising tool.  Don’t be fake, and don’t BS.

I’m also actively working through applying concepts in The 4-Hour Workweek (Expanded and Updated) which in a way provides a polar opposite view.  Crush It tells you to work longer and harder than ever before, but it tells you to work on what you love.  The 4-Hour Workweek tells you to work less, but work on something you don’t love – for the purpose of freeing up your time to do that which you love.  Crush It tells you to be extremely in-tune with social networks, and that every single person is important and should be treated as such.  The 4-Hour Workweek tells you to disconnect from the network, drop social networks in general, and cater yourself only to the customers that result in the highest return, for the minimum effort.

Sounds like quite the conflict, no?  In truth, I think the books compliment each other magnificently.  The underlying message of using your internal drive to follow your dreams and accomplish great things is the foundation for both books.  The 4-Hour Workweek can tell you how to start a business to support you, and give you the time to follow your dreams, and Crush It will show you how to make money by following your dreams.  Dreams that you now can follow because you took to heart the things in The 4-Hour Workweek.  Awesome!

It’s like – could two things go hand-in-hand better?  Peas and Carrots?  Horses and Carriages?




In-Ear Monitor: Etymotic ER6i

If you’re looking for earphones to use while motorcycling – or almost anything – you will not find better bang for your buck than these.  Go buy them and be happy – or at least protect your hearing while also listening to what you fancy.

-Awesome sound quality
-Blocks obscene amounts of ambient noise (~32dB) effectively muting the world around you, including your nagging wife.
-Actually stays in your ear

-About twice as expensive as the crappy ones you were going to buy.
-Effectively mutes the world around you, including the car that’s about to hit you.

Ok, first of all these are officially called “in-ear monitors” (IEM) and not “earphones” or “headphones”.  Feel smug.  The difference between a monitor and a hi-fi speaker is in the audio production.  Studio monitors are typically designed to be close-range loudspeakers that have a very flat frequency response curve so the sound engineers can hear the music accurately for proper mixing, while a hi-fi speaker is designed to fill the entire room with the music and can employ different frequency response curves to achieve different “color” in the audio.  What this mean for you in selecting earphones is IEMs will represent the music accurately and clearly.  If you want some bumpin’ bass – make sure you have an equalizer.  The Etymotic ER6i is a consumer-level in-ear monitor.  You will get the benefit from professional audio development, without breaking the bank.

The first thing you’ll notice about an IEM is how tricky they are to put in.  It might take a few days or even weeks to figure out – they go in deep, real deep.  You know the Ceti Eel from Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan, aka: the-worm-the-bad-guy-put-in-the-good-guy’s-ear?  Description from Wikipedia: “The slime-covered larva will seek out a larger animal, enter its skull through the ear and wrap itself around the cerebral cortex. This causes the subject intense pain and makes them very susceptible to suggestion. As the larva grows, the host suffers from insanity and eventually, death.”  Putting in-ear monitors in is not too dissimilar to that, but the result is simply auditory input of your fancy.  The intense pain, susceptibility to suggestion, insanity and/or death is completely up to what you listen to.  Regardless of how your audio makes you feel, you can rest assured these will play it clearly and accurately.

The second thing you’ll notice – after you get them in properly – is how quiet the world around you becomes.  With ~32dB of noise reduction, you get certifiable levels of hearing protection.  Do you actually get certified hearing protection?  Of course not; you could crank these babies up and blow your ears out as fast as any sweaty night club blasting overplayed shitty pop music.  I was surprised by how easily music drowns out ambient noise, and it’s easy to understand why they come with a warning about operating machinery, or bicycles, or simply jogging on the sidewalk.  If you frequently find yourself having intense emotional reactions due to the noise around you, whether it be office banter, a nagging wife, or some punk playing crappy music, then find solace with these as they transport you into your own personal auditory world.  Sometimes movies will have this sort of effect where the radio in the background is playing music and it’s just part of the ambient sound in the movie, then the main character turns the volume up and the music becomes louder and clearer while everything else is muted.  That’s what these are like in real life.  Mute the world around you and be submersed completely into the music you have playing.

The third thing you’ll notice is the sound quality, especially if you’re not much of an audiophile to begin with.  The simple fact is that these can be had for a fraction of what a comparable hi-fi home stereo would cost.  Not only does the ER6i do a great job at reducing ambient noise, but the sound quality is so good that the details musicians put in to a song will pop out like never before, as will the ambient noise in the recording studio (it’s more frequent than you might think!). Even how much white noise your mp3 player has when the music is paused will become apparent.

The fourth thing you’ll notice, especially if you’ve had less adequate earphones in the past, is that they actually stay in your ear! That’s right folks, no more battling with earphones constantly falling out.  Back before my enlightenment with these in-ear monitors, I used to wear a thin balaclava under my motorcycle helmet to keep earphones in.  I also had to keep the wires in a proper location so that they wouldn’t tug the earphones out of my ear.  With the Etymotic ER6i properly inserted in the ear canal, they form a seal and sort of “lock” into place and I don’t need the balaclava anymore, and the wires don’t pull them out.  After holding some pressure on the ER6i for a couple seconds while putting them in, they require a surprising amount of force to take out, and should be removed slowly to avoid an extreme pressure change on the eardrum.

Final considerations:

  1. They have a 5-foot chord.  I think it’s perfect.  I’m 6’2″ and have had earphones with a too-short chord that would hang my mp3 player from my ear canal – not fun and easily avoided with a long chord.  5′ is not so long that it gets in the way, but the chord does tangle a little easier – a moot point, in my humble opinion.
  2. They do take some practice to put in correctly.  You might give yourself a wet willy first to lube up your ear canal to make the job easier.  I’m serious.  My preferred technique is to pull back on my earlobe with my opposite hand to open up the ear canal, push them in until I feel them “click” into place, then release my earlobe and keep pressure on them for a couple seconds while they form a seal with my ear canal.  A light tug on the chord will let me know if they’re sealed in place or not.
  3. I focus on using them while motorcycling, but they were originally developed for on-stage musicians as an alternative to traditional foldback stage monitors (the speakers that point at the musicians to help them play in-time and in-tune).  I frequently use the ER6is at my desk to block out office banter.
  4. If you have problems with your current earphones falling out, then give these a shot.  It’s worth noting that it may take a few weeks to figure out how to put them in properly.  Also they come with a variety of tips, so you’ll have to experiment to find out which ones work best for you.
  5. You may immediately discover that your mp3 collection is not a high enough bit-rate, or other problems with your audio equipment.  High fidelity isn’t about having one or two nice components, it’s about having an entire system.
  6. The ambient noise reduction is so great, that I can feel loud, particularly bass ambient sounds more than I can hear them.  A couple examples:  I have to be touching my bike to tell if it’s idling or not (or look at the tachometer) since I definitely can’t hear it.  I will feel loud cars and motorcycles before hearing them.
  7. Their small body size causes virtually no discomfort while wearing my helmet compared to the earphones I’ve used, which can be intensely painful after only a half-hour of riding, let alone an entire day.
  8. There are several advantages over Active Noise Canceling headphones:  Cheaper, lighter, higher fidelity, and in some cases better noise reduction.
  9. As a final note, this is more of a review of in-ear monitors vs. traditional style earphones since these are the only in-ear monitors I have experience with.  Notwithstanding, in-ear monitors are vastly superior to traditional earphones, even the silicone tipped variety and I have been extremely happy with the ER6i.   I’m happy to hear reader’s opinions on different models/brands of IEMs.  As far a I’m concerned – I’m never going back to a “normal” earphone.

Simply put:  These do exactly what earphones should do:  Provide excellent audio fidelity while staying in your ear and reducing ambient noise.

Etymotic has a number of different in-ear models to choose from.  The ER6i is specifically intended for the portable music player market.  It also appears to have the smallest body size, and thus is probably the best at fitting in a helmet.  There are a few other options at different price points, noise reduction, and fidelity.


Etymotic Research ER6i Isolator In-Ear Earphones (Black)
Etymotic Research ER6i Isolator In-Ear Earphones (White)

Etymotic Research website

Other Etymotic in-ear products:

If you’re the sort of person to only go for the absolute best:
Etymotic ER-4P Portable In-Ear Earphones
Etymotic ER-4S MicroPro Reference Earphones

These might be the best for air travel, with greater noise reduction and better fidelity, however I’m suspect of their ability to fit in a helmet:
Etymotic Research HF5 Portable In-Ear Earphones (Black)
Etymotic Research HF5 Portable In-Ear Earphones (Cobalt)

Similar to the HF5, but at a lower price point:
Etymotic Research MC5 Noise Isolating In-Ear Earphones (Blue)
Etymotic Research MC5 Noise Isolating In-Ear Earphones (Red)
Etymotic Research MC5 Noise Isolating In-Ear Earphones (Green)
Etymotic Research MC5 Noise Isolating In-Ear Earphones (Black)

10 Useful Gadgets to Have on Your Motorcycle Trip

I had some trouble with the title for this post.  The fact is that there are hundreds of things you need for a successful motorcycle trip, ranging from the motorcycle itself all the way to having a good attitude. I hope to eventually cover them all, but for starters I’m going to highlight the top 10 gadgets that I don’t leave home without.  This list specifically is relating to more touring oriented motorcycle travel, but is still very applicable to a long day trip.

  1. A Multi-tool

    I rarely go anywhere without this.  I’ve had a few in my day, and my favorite so far has been the Leatherman Skeletool CX.  Leatherman has a wide variety of different products so you can get the one that’s right for you, the most popular is the Wave, but my choice is the Skeletool.  I’ll admit that part of the reason is likely due to the fact that it’s absolutely gorgeous, but it’s also about as minimalist as a multitool can get and thus has pretty much everything you could need and nothing you don’t.  The Skeletool (and Skeletool CX) have a knife blade, pliers, wire cutters, a screwdriver with phillips and flat-head bits, and perhaps most importantly for some of you:  A bottle opener.  Simply put, Leatherman makes a high quality, useful product that can really get you out of a bind if you happen to find yourself in one. The one complaint I have about this tool (and I’ve had it for almost a year now) is that since it’s so light it doesn’t love twisting action. I haven’t had any issues with it, but it does flex quite a bit when twisting with the pliers, or putting a lot of torque through the screw driver. ‘m guessing the beefier Leatherman models are better in this regard.

  2. Ear Plugs
    I’ve had people ask me why I wear ear plugs when riding and the simple answer is:  It’s loud.  At the end of a long ride, even WITH ear plugs my ears have been ringing.  Hearing should not be overrated and I have a hard enough time hearing people’s mumbling now, let alone if I had profound hearing loss.  I’ve had good experience with hearos in the past, but I think most soft foam ear plugs will do the trick.
  3. Bungee Cargo Net
    I was a little skeptical when I first got this.  It made me uncomfortable because I didn’t trust the size of the netting to hold everything, and I didn’t trust the hooks to stay hooked.  Over time though I’ve come to trust it and it’s never let me down.  My personal preference is to combine it with a dry bag (the next item on the list) but I have friends that use their cargo nets for carrying an extra jacket, shoes, or whatever.  There are different sizes available, and you’ll have to decide for yourself what works best for you, but I went with a larger size because I have enough other cargo capacity with my tank bag (item six on this list) and saddle bags that I only really need the cargo net for longer trips or bigger items. I bought mine at a local dealership.
  4. Dry Bag
    When I do long touring trips, this is an absolute must-have.  For shorter day trips, I don’t usually bother unless I know I might run into rainy or wet conditions, or if I am carrying my laptop.  I actually have two different dry bags, a small one and a large one.  the small one I use for carrying my laptop or a sleeping bag, particularly if I’m not carrying the large dry bag.  The large dry bag I strap to the back of my bike with the previously mentioned cargo net, and it’s where I put anything and everything that I don’t want to get wet.  A lot of the time, rain gear and rain covers for yourself and your saddlebags or tank bag will be sufficient to keep you and your stuff mostly dry, but sometimes you’re just going to get wet.  One ride in particular I had was in a downpour on the highway at 70mph in somewhat heavy traffic.  You can’t avoid getting wet in that scenario.  Luckily, a good dry bag will keep your valuables (including a change of clothes, sleeping bag, or sensitive electronics) nice and dry.  These bags are designed to be able to be submerged in water and still keep things dry, and they do a damn good job. My small bag is by Outdoor Research and my large bag is by Cascade Designs and I’ve been very happy with both of them from a quality standpoint. You can find these bags at camping stores, and don’t forget: ziploc bags work really great for smaller items, too!
  5. Heated Hand Grips
    Anyone who’s ridden into the nighttime in the spring or fall knows that as soon as the sun goes down, temperatures can drop rapidly.  If you have experience with longer rides you will also know that the temperature fluctuation over a 100 mile ride can be pretty big, let alone a 3,000 mile cross-country touring trip.  Heated grips can be had for pretty cheap, there are many options out there, but I got the Symtec Motorcycle Grip Heater Kit w/round rocker switch and have been very happy with them. I think I spent about 6 hours installing them.  The instructions say you can install them in an hour or two, which is true, but I prefer to take a meticulous approach to make it seem as close to a factory install as possible.  I think for the money heated grips will probably get the most use out of everything on this list.
  6. Tank Bag
    This is another item on the list that if you’re anything like me, you will use almost every single time you go riding.  I prefer the magnetic type of bag because you just put it on the tank and go.  I prefer a somewhat larger bag, too, but I’m also a pretty tall guy with long arms.  I’ve had a lot of people ask me about it being intrusive and in the way and preventing me from being able to move around and ride well, and all I can say is that it is the least obtrusive piece of luggage I have.  It’s out of my field of view and unless I’m trying to tuck down and race it’s never been in the way.  Actually for riding in cold weather it’s nice because it breaks a lot of the wind from hitting my body.  Having said all that, the features I look for in a tank bag are a map pocket on the top, quick access side pockets, and one of my favorite features:  A small, quick access change pocket which is very useful for toll booths and such.  My tank bag also has some shoulder straps so it can be setup as a backpack in a pinch, which works really great for short day trips which involve both riding and some short amount of hiking.  Like the Leatherman, this is another product I could write an individual review for.
  7. Cinch Straps

    I first discovered the usefulness of these through my hiking experience.  The simple fact is that even if you’re an expert at knots, cinch straps are light, strong, quick, easy, and can probably be tied just as tight if not tighter than most people can do with knots.  I use them for all sorts of things, especially when there is camping involved.  I regularly use them to help strap down my dry bag, since when I use just the cargo net the dry bag can shift around a bit more than I like (mostly it just shifts forward and ends up resting on my back – I don’t like that). There are a couple different styles, and I prefer the ones with steel head pieces that lock a little bit more securely. There are some slightly larger straps with the steel head type here: Master Lock 3060DAT 12-Foot-by-1-Inch Lashing Strap, 2-Pack

  8. Credit Cards
    I know not everyone is going to agree with me on this one, but credit cards are great – when used responsibly.  With the widespread use of credit cards these days, carrying a credit card with a $2,000 limit is almost as good as carrying around $2,000 cash, but with the added bonus of having a large company keeping track of every transaction, and being very interested in keeping every transaction legitimate.  If you lose it, you can cancel it.  If it gets stolen, you can report it and in some cases get a refund.  With cash you’re pretty much out of luck if it gets stolen or lost.  I still think it’s a good idea to carry some cash, but I feel much better having a credit card than carrying a few thousand in greenbacks.  Additionally there’s a lot of credit cards out there which have rewards programs which actually allow you to get some percentage off of every purchase you make.  The drawback, of course, is if you start carrying a balance the interest will in many cases far-exceed the rewards.  Many people also find that they are not responsible enough to keep their debt under control.  Ultimately, when used responsibly credit cards have many positive aspects, including but not limited to being able to bail you out if you get in trouble.  In my experience the rule of responsible credit card use is to be able to pay the card off completely every month.  If you can do that, then they’re a far better option than carrying lots of cash.
  9. My Buff
    These things are great;  I have two: the Cyclone Buff and the Original Buff, and I’ve been extremely happy with both of them.  The Original is great for riding in any weather, I like to use it to keep the wind, bugs, dirt, sand, and chaffing from my jacket off my neck.  It’s very soft and I wouldn’t go on a long ride without it, except possibly in the hottest weather.  The Cyclone Buff is made specifically for cold weather activities, and I actually use it mostly for skiing.   Having said that, I never go on a long ride, especially in colder months without taking my Cyclone Buff with me, it is one of the few pieces of gear that I use more than I thought I would.
  10. Tire Plugger

    I’ll admit:  At this point I actually don’t have one of these, and I’m kicking myself for it.  These are not the typical type of plugs, but rather a mushroom shaped plug that requires a specialized gun to install on the tire.  I’ve used – and had poor luck with – the standard tire plugs in the past.  Some motorcycle tires don’t have enough meat to them to really hold onto the plugs well.  On these mushroom shaped plugs the “cap” of the plug goes into the tube and creates a one-way barb type effect which hooks the plug in place against the pressure of the air inside the tire.  While I have not personally used this, I know people who have and have nothing but good things to say about them. I recommend carrying a small bicycle hand pump too, but you can also get a kit with CO2 cartridges for filling up the tire. The kit that includes the CO2 is here: STOP & GO POCKET TIRE PLUGGER W/CO2 1001

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