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March 11, 2009

Gear List redux: Desert Island Wish List


R: I shared a list of gear for continued creative production in a earlier post. This is, in effect, a desert island design studio gear list. It went without saying - in that earlier post - that we would have access to "always on" internet and electricity. That hasn't been the case. The infrastructure in the northern pacific coast of Costa Rica is more fragile than we had imagined. High winds cross the plains from east to west and from north to south for the first four months of the year. These winds play havoc with phone, electrical and cable lines strung along low-tension poles. We have experienced days long outages. That said, we have been much more fortunate than other areas of the country that also experienced earthquake, flooding and disease.

The area of Costa Rica where we are spending sabbatical is still listed as "out of the way" by real estate speculators. This code language is to be taken seriously. There are five small supermarkets within easy - fixed gear - bicycle distance. These are like a highway side truck stop convenience store, overstuffed into a footprint the size of a standard Kwik-E-Mart. They are reasonably well stocked with food-stuffs and dry goods, of both international brands and of the local variety. It's surprising to me what I find myself wishing I had brought along and can't find. The romantic, exotic, farmer's market doesn't exist here. These tiny "super's" are where the local residents shop for their needs. There is a large, high-ceilinged, well-lit, north-american style Auto Mercado a thirty minute drive away in Tamarindo. It caters to the international tourist trade there.

I imagined that I wouldn't need for tools, given that we were going to be here for only six months. I did bring my swiss army knife, but that's it. I gazed longingly at multi-tools as we were planning the trip, but didn't give in to what I thought was gear lust. Now that we are the owners of two - used and rusting - fixed gear bicycles I wish I had brought not one, but two multi-tools with a wrench component. The wheels are bolted on, and a flat would make it difficult for us to fend for ourselves. We have modest mobility needs. We bought a tire patch kit, a spare inner-tube, and an inexpensive hand-pump. We also bought a wrench guaged to the size of the wheel bolts. This gave us an increased sense of security. A week later I bought a vise-grip. It's possible to perform wheel maintenance with a single wrench, but I think it's better to tighten the wheel with two, counter-rotating wrenches. The nuts have some rust on them, and so I got some 3-in-1 oil, and may have use for the vise-grip. I haven't lived with a multitool yet, so I can't make a firm choice for my "go bag" but the Crunch and the Skeletool from Leatherman are both attractive, as is the Gerber Diesel.

If we should get a flat, I think I can get the tire off the rim with my flat-head screwdriver on my swiss army knife, but, again, it would be much better to have two, and better still to have a set of tire tools. I've also found need for some allen wrenches around the house. A Hexus 16 from Topeak would be wonderful.

Riding the bicycles on the beach and the gravel roads demand footware with the attribute of well ventilated rugged washability. I brought leather sandals instead. I've already worn through two pairs of thong-type rubber flip flops that have enjoyed a resurgence of popularity this past year. The part the goes between my toes has pulled clean through the sole, and left a tear that was unfixable. I left behind in the US a pair of Nike ACG sandals. I can't for the life of me remember why I didn't pack them. My sandals are an older version of the one currently available. Teva also makes sandals of this sort.

The closest art-supply store is an hour-and-a-half drive away in Liberia, at the small enclosed mall just off a cross-road to the Pan American Highway. They don't carry my favorite brush-pens, the Faber-Castell PITT, but they do carry Crayola Paint Brush Pens which I hadn't seen before. We've been running through the PITT pens much faster than I imagined. I bought some traditional watercolor tubes and two brushes. Old tech may be best to keep the visual explorations going.

As part of the critical toys explorations I've been looking at "urban paper", an old technique applied to contemporary symbologies. Paper craft occupies an intersection of interests: DIY, low res, FLOSS, the next evolutionary stage of paper, creative production, popular or low culture. I don't have access to a printer to prototype the digital files, so I'm making unique, one-of-a-kind, hand measured prototypes. I'd like to be able to print out models made by others to study their methods and outcomes. We've also had some need for the kids' school work as well. Space and weight were factors that made this prohibitive. Import taxes make it an impossible expense while we're here.

I'd also like one USB game controller so I can test some of the Processing experiments for feel. Processing can only handle one key at a time. I will likely need to learn how to write a keyboard buffer, one that doesn't cause performance to degrade.

These wishes will have to remain wishes. Anything shipped in from abroad will be held at customs. One will have to go to the airport in person to retrieve a package and to pay an import tax. My wife had to pay a tax on some textbooks that a client sent her as reference material for her work. Globalization still has some limitations. I won't be ordering anything from Amazon.com just yet.

Posted by SWEAT at March 11, 2009 01:00 PM