Valet.: Three Common Bag Mistakes to Avoid.

I have the Handmadecraft briefcase. I carry my 15" Macbook in it, along with: a) a plastic lazy susan, for meeting with people at conference tables; b) optional Magic Mouse if the trackpad gets up my nose; c) recharger cable curled in a bag; d) Rhodia Dotpad No. 19, Rhodia graph paper 8x8" notebook (labelled for the particular client), various fountain/ballpoint pens and 0.9mm mechanical pencil (that size never breaks); e) a selection of protein bars; f) optional long USB cable for tethering to my camera(s).

My quick review: It's OK. The leather's thin, but I've abused mine for about a year now and it still looks roughly like it did when I bought it. The snaps are difficult to snap with gear inside. The outside pockets are all but useless; Ostensibly one is supposed to fit a cellphone, but if you're not carrying a small 2000-era flip phone, don't even try.

It carries what I need, for the car-to-coffee-shop walks, and looks appropriately weathered. The strap is long enough for across-the-body use, but not very comfy. If you're going to walk any distance, get a better pad for the top of your shoulder.

Conclusion: More 'hip' than the nylon competition.

"Really Complex."

Bought a copy of "Real Simple" mag yesterday. Cracked it open, saw "The Only Cleaners You Need". Began to read, expecting clever riffs off eco-friendly vinegar and baking soda. Vinegar's there, but I was gobsmacked when they proceeded to list TWENTY SEVEN different branded products. Formula 409? Liquid Gold?

Simple has a new meaning, methinks. You need a PhD to even clean your bog; I didn't get the memo. Save the Earth from all these chemicals! I now desire a composting toilet.

Recode: The online mattress industry promised a more honest shopping experience. We may have gotten the opposite instead.

I've been sort of wondering why the cheap-to-manufacture foam mattress market seems to have exploded. I suppose it's another cycle of Napster-ization; mattresses are now disposables.

For your health's sake, beware plastic extruded foam. As those things offgas, it's pretty horrible; anyone who is chemically sensitive will have issues. Especially small children. If you don't have rodents in your area (or even if you do), stick it out on your roof for a day or three.

The Cut: Isabella Rossellini Will Reappear in Lancôme Ads This Year.

And here I was just talking with a friend, about how youth-oriented most of the online world is. I was mentioning how many conceptual women photographers have disappeared, because age has robbed them of their vital traffic-attractant. But this! I applaud this. In fact, I will stand up right now and applaud. There's noone here to hear it, but I still think it matters. You still look great, Ms Rossellini.

[Note, these images are taken by my current obsession, Peter Lindbergh, who actually prefers to capture women without makeup. Usually in B/W. Seeing his work makes me want to either 1) shoot until I equal his prowess or 2) crawl under a rock and give up. Depending on the day. I just need more willing models who won't get bored while I noodle with lighting, poses and setting.]

WSJ: How Your Returns Are Used Against You at Best Buy, Other Retailers.

Are you used to ordering two or three of something, in order to guarantee you receive the correct size/shape/color/construction? Well, there's an outfit companies are using called Retail Equation to score you for your returns. Seriously. You may not be able to read this (WSJ paywall), so here's International Business Times as well.

Return a couple of things, you may find yourself locked out of making returns at all. You should be able to find this status out before you purchase, but there's a secret database involved. I've talked before about buying lenses, and needing to make a return if you get a bad copy. The above service could make this an untenable strategy for lens purchasing. I'll be asking retailers if they use that, or any similar service, before ordering. You should, too.

All in all, I find this pretty outrageous. I'm ready to pack up and live in the wilderness somewhere.

I expect the next thing will be sensors in appliances. If it registers a clunk, you get scored for 'appliance abuse' ...

Bloomberg: VW Just Gave Tesla a $25 Billion Battery Shock.

(Autoplay video warning.) Read this, and then check Tesla stock (already trending down). Tesla has to perform to high levels between now and the end of summer for much of their financing - or else find new funding sources. Harder with this move from VW. Expect more sensationalism from Musk over the next month or three.

Cool Tools: Husky 4.5Lb Splitting Maul.

I have a similar one. Make sure if there's anyone around, they're behind you - you'll shoot wood all over the place. Don't do with within feet of your precious vehicles or house, either.

No matter who I order wood from, they never split it small enough to allow for un-smoky fires. Lowes or HD had one of these, so it was a no-brainer (though I really wanted, in my heart of hearts, a double-bladed axe). My recommendation with this - a sizable hunk of wood to rest your intended target upon. Mine's only about 12" across. I'd like to have double that. The present is just too wobbly.

Oh, and run a few turns of duct tape or similar around where the handle meets the head. You will eventually impact that spot, esp. when starting out, and it'll save the handle from deterioration. When your aim gets better with this tool, you can peel it all off.

Photoshelter Blog: It's a Wrap! Comparing the Domke and Tenba Camera Wraps.

Lately, camera bag manufacturers have been on an insane spree of redesigning, raising prices. Yet few actually seem to use these things in real-world situations (except on buff young immortals who seem to employ them within spitting distance of stylish SUVs). I want a substantial waist belt! I loved the Kata Revolver8, which was incredibly brilliant ... a rotating device within that allowed quick access to every lens in your arsenal from one small flap on the side ... except for thin, barely-padded shoulder straps and a joke of a belt. After eight hours of shooting Concorso, I felt an Inquisitioner would have adored that pack. The tops of my collarbones, the tops of my hips were abraded raw. If I could have bought one, ripped out and resewn the offending straps and belt before Manfrotto bought the brand and subsumed the model, I would have.

Lately I've been stuffing my lenses in thick socks and shoving them in a well-belted, properly shoulder-strapped Osprey pack ... socks aren't perfect, but they work in a pinch. Osprey has the best suspensions of anyone out there. IMHO.

TL;DR ... I'll pick up a few of these.