Five Things I'm Diggin' – 12/31/15

This Five Things post should be called "Five Gifts I'm Diggin'" because all of these were Christmas or birthday gifts (except the Animal)...

  1. Mefoto GlobeTrotter – For the past few years, I've wanted a travel tripod. Something that would be easier to carry than my Manfrotto 055XPROB, a tripod which I love but is very heavy and bulky. So the GlobeTrotter was on my Amazon wish list and my wife got it for me for my birthday. When I opened the gift, it was so big and stout-looking that I wondered if I should have gone with Mefoto's next model down, the RoadTrip. But compared side-by-side with the 055XPROB and its ball head, the GlobeTrotter is in fact almost half the size (collapsed) and weight. So it's definitely easier to lug around and will easily fit into a backpack, carry-on luggage, or strapped to the outside of my camera pack. Despite the size, it looks and feels every bit as solid and rugged as the Manfrotto, and it extends to 64.2" so I'm not giving up too much height. Operationally, it's got the right features and everything moves with reassuring smoothness and no play. Conveniently, one of the legs unscrews and attaches to the center column to create a monopod. Bottom line: it's a high quality piece of gear for a very affordable price. I have a business trip to Seattle coming up which will be its maiden voyage.
  1. ThruNite Ti3 – I got hipped to this light from It's about the size of a AA battery and it puts out an incredible amount of light. Seriously, it's a pinky-sized torch. It's made pretty well from aircraft grade aluminum and has 4 different lighting modes, all of which are actually useful. I like that it uses a AAA battery which can be bought anywhere. It's perfect as a keychain light, but I like to keep my keychain uncluttered so the Ti3 lives in my backpack.
  1. Leatherman Skeletool CX – My 10-year old son had been asking for a knife to put his Whittling Chip to use so I gave him my Gerber Crucial. For a replacement I asked Santa Claus for the Skeletool CX and the old man came through for me. The Skeletool is similar in its minimalist design aesthetic to the Crucial, but it uses higher grade materials including a 154CM steel blade. It's a little longer and thinner than the Crucial, with all the same tools (knife, pliers, wire cutters, bottle opener, phillips and flathead screwdrivers). Everything works as expected, the knife can be opened with one hand, and it's pretty cool looking. A worthy upgrade to the Crucial, which was already a pretty good multitool.
  1. Franklin Barbecue: A Meat Smoking Manifesto – I've gotten into smoking meats lately. It's the sort of hobby that I'm drawn to - easy to start but a lifetime of things to learn; it exercises craftsmanship; it rewards thought and planning; and the output is best shared with family and friends. Aaron Franklin is the current king of Central Texas style barbecue, which is what I think of when I think of barbecue. His book is awesome. It's not a cook book, although there are some recipes. It's more of a treatise on the art and science of smoking meat, written in an informal style like you're throwing back Shiner Bocks with Aaron in his backyard, smelling the savory aroma of smoke wafting from the pit. It's also inspirational since here's a guy who managed to go from smoking his very first brisket to being one of the country's most celebrated pitmasters in about 10 years – amazing.
  1. J. Rockett Animal – I've been pretty happy with my Fulltone OCD, but I've always felt that it was a little congested sounding in the mids. That one sonic flaw kind of betrays its otherwise amp-like qualities. I started watching a lot of "Marshall in a box" pedal demos on YouTube and the pedal that kept impressing me most was the Animal. It seemed very open and a little bit (but not overly) raw sounding, which is more like a vintage amp in my opinion. Well, I bought a used one off and it is spectacular. It has replaced the OCD on my pedalboard. I may post a detailed review later, but for now, let me just say that it is the most amp-like pedal I've tried. [Added 1/26/2016 – OK, here's that review...]