Thursday, February 27, 2014

It's tax time! Simpletax.ca

This is just a quick post to say that, if you're Canadian and looking for new way to prepare your taxes and file them easily, then check out Simpletax.ca. Did I mention they are free, no strings attached?

Simpletax is a cloud-based Canadian software company authorized to NETFILE with the CRA. So what this means is that I can log in from anywhere and prepare my taxes - from home, from work, on the bus, upside down in the amazon rain forest... I can even do it from overseas.

I love the simple and intuitive user interface, the question marks are helpful, and the links go to CRA website for more FAQ. I also like the number crunching for optimizing coupled tax returns.

In the past I've used installed software like simply accounting and quicktax and turbotax. These are just bloated applications that I use once a year. So why have it installed? Why not just go to a simple login screen, type my credentials in, then BING BANG BOOM. I can switch between profiles and prepare BAM's as well. It's pretty darn slick.

For me, I don't need tax advice from software, I don't need to know how much more I will save if I take out a loan for my RRSP's, etc. I just need an app that will enable me to fill in the boxes, validate against some business rules, do some optimization and boom done. I'll save the advice for when I meet my financial planner.

The dev team is relatively small, but they are subject matter experts consisting of a tax lawyer, designer, and developer. what more do you need for rapid prototyping other than user feedback?

So, I say, give them a try, and if you like it, send a lil' somethin somethin there way to keep the project going.



Saturday, January 25, 2014

BAM Gear: BOB Revolution SE Jogging Stroller B.O.B.

These days, the BOB Revolution Jogging Stroller is as ubiquitous in the city as it is in the woods. And damned rights it should be. This piece of kit is by-far the best $500 investment we have made. From its high strength aluminum alloy construction to it's big 12" wheels, the BOB is part of our everyday lives. Even with two kids we have managed to use the BOB unintentionally as a two kid transporter (especially useful when on vacation where lots of walking would be involved).

Now when we were considering buying a jogging stroller, I totally balked at the price point of some of these higher-end strollers. Considering now, that it has been in use for over 5 years, through two kids, on a daily basis, I think it's well worth it. You buy cheap you buy twice. Buy Once cry once. And certainly from my cohorts discussions, I do believe that spending the extra money to buy something of higher quality will in the long run serve you better.  We also had to consider, what we wanted our jogging stroller to do. In short we were looking for an active-lifestyle stroller that could also take a beating - in fact I've use the stroller to carry my shooting equipment and steel reactive targets out to the 500m line. But amongst that we were looking specifically for:

  • Big inflatable wheels for trails
  • Adjustable Shock absorption for trails
  • Single front swivel wheel for turn on a dime maneuverability, plus a locking mode for straight jogging.
  • Sunshade
  • Reclining
  • Some sort of storage area
  • Well built and easy serviceability through a local bike store
  • Infant carrier adapter
  • Snack tray
  • Can accommodate even 5-6 year olds
  • Easy to push and manipulate one handed
  • Ease of deployment and tear-down
  • Small footprint and deployed and tore-down
  • Removable wheels
  • Easy to lock brakes
  • Lower center of balance as well as front to back balance
  • Lots of surface area for the hands to grip
  • The ability to accommodate two kids in a pinch
  • Weather shield protection
  • Under $500
We looked and we looked, and 5 years ago, there wasn't that much on the market that fit exactly those needs. There were a few contenders, but we ended up going with the BOB Revolution as it was being sold through our local bike store, and an excellent compromise between true hardcore pavement running stroller, and trail applications.

Those who know me realize that I'm not the gentlest with my kit. Where people will spit-shine their Glocks and their M4's I just throw hose them down with some CLP love and throw them into the safe without nary a worry. The same goes for kid equipment. That's not to say we don't perform proper care and maintenance, but if it's meant to be outside in the dirt, it's going to be outside - in the dirt. 

Here are the features of the BOB from the BOB website:
  • Swiveling front wheel allows for superior maneuverability.  Locks forward for increased stability when jogging or if the terrain turns tough.
  • Easy, two-step folding, lightweight frame for convenient transport and storage.
  • State-of-the-art, adjustable suspension system provides an exceptionally smooth ride.
  • Accessory Adapter allows for quick and easy attachment of BOB Infant Car Seat Adapter or Snack Tray.
  • Ultra-padded, adjustable reclining seat for enhanced seating comfort. Five-point padded harness helps keep your child comfortably secure.
  • Multi-position canopy adjusts for protection against the elements. Large viewing window lets you keep an eye on your baby.
  • High-impact polymer composite wheels with pneumatic tires and tubes take on tough terrain.
  • Low Boy Cargo Basket provides plenty of undercarriage storage. Additional space in large seatback pocket. Internal seat pockets provide a great place for snacks and toys.
  • A simple twist of the front wheel tracking adjustment knob keeps you rolling straight.
  • When engaged, the parking brake helps secure a stopped position.
  • Padded handlebar for comfort; wrist strap helps you secure stroller when strolling and provides handy fold lock when folded.
Now, there have been some enhancements done between the time we bought ours and the current model year, for example, the accessories are now all QD (quick detach), versus when I had to unscrew and screw on shit. However, all the mechanisms and material are still the same.

What I truly love about this BOB, is that even though it comes in at 11kg, it still pushes light. And I attribute that its sealed cartridge bearings as part of the wheel component. I love the shock absorption- mainly because the kids don't complain when we're on the trails.

Ok, so besides jogging with the stroller, we do also take it with us on family outings including when travelling to places where we know there will be lots of walking and complaining and carrying of shit. Some situations where we do use the stroller including lots of uphill/downhill trails to the beach along the West Coast, Camping, and of course family vacations. You will be pleased to know, that when fully compressed with the wheels off, the stroller fits inside most major airport X-ray machines, although you may find it just as easy to empty out all the shit and roll it through. Either way, there's options now for flying - plus all the airlines I've flown with have OK'd it for skychecking (checking the stroller at the gate) which means you now have, essentially, free storage space!

So, when going on family outings we try to keep it minimally loaded, but inevitably, it will end up being the family caravan at the end of the day. Buy a MOMMY HOOK! On one trip where we were out for the entire day, by the end of it, we were hanging two little life backpacks, some activity sachets, jackets and fleeces, diaper bag. One time I even bought flat of water and just rested it on top of the canopy. It was downright epic.

Now, if you have a little one and then a kindergartner, you may of considered buying a Duallie, or a Chariot double stroller. Go ahead, if you intend to jog with both of them. We found that the Duallie double stroller had a very limited window of opportunity to use. I don't really like pushing two kids while I'm jogging. I'd rather tow them on a bike. In anycase, if you are going on a trip and do want to have the ability to transport two kids - easily done. The bigger on just sits in the foot well. It's not beautiful and probably not all that safe, but strolling through a theme-park, you can get your kid to stick her feet out and start knocking down ankles - the equivalent to ice hockey and "elbows out."
There is one thing that I don't really like and its how they want you to keep the stroller folded down. They want you to use a strap with velcro and loop it around itself. I found it a bit hokey, and opted to use one of my leg straps from the Safariland 6004 SLS tactical thigh rig (elastic 1.5" webbing with high grade plastic hardware buckles). I just loop it through the brakes bar and click it together and I don't have to worry about velcro becoming undone. That's a minor issue which I believe this new generation has addressed.

This stroller is truly an all-season stroller, all weather stroller, all-terrain (well - mostly just up to hardpack or loose gravel). I'd recommend this to all my Bad Ass Dads and Moms who are looking for a stroller to do active shit with. Or, if you just want to stroll in the park in the middle of winter you can do that too. Remember, proper care and maintenance will ensure you will get years and years of "adventure" out if it. Then you can resell it and get some good coin back. It has a very high resale value too.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

BAK Gear: Littlelife Adventurer Daysack for kids

This pack is the next size evolution for the Runabout (see review here). It in fact doubles the usable volume from 3L to 6L with only a 50g increase in weight. In terms of sizing it is approximately 31x20x13 cm's.

BAM bought this on sale at MEC for $25. I would of paid full price for it anyway.

We recently tested it out on a week-long trip to Disneyland where the pack was on for approximately 8-10 hours a day. It endured flights, motorcoaches, splash mountain, roller coasters, restaurants, being runover by the BOB stroller, etc.

It's a great piece of kit because,like its smaller sibling, it is ergonomically constructed for little kids. This pack has pockets to keep items organized and strap adjustments to get the fit just right. In terms of sizing, it is meant for children aged 4 and older, and it features the following:

  • Reflective piping for increases visibility.
  • Zippered top access to main compartment.
  • Adjustable shoulder straps with chest strap.
  • Mesh bottle pocket on one side, pencil/pen sleeve on other.
It's the perfect little daypack for our BAK to carry her shit in. She was able to carry her own windbreaker, sunglasses, sunhat, electronic texter toy, small notepad with felt markers, ident photocopies, snacks, an extra pair of thin pants and socks (for the wet rides), and of course her waterbottle. Note that you should test the bag with certain larger water bottles - the Klean Kanteens don't fit well, where as some of the plastics ones do.

When not in use, we can just use the grab handle and hook it to the BOB via the Mommy Hook (which by the way is one of the better inventions out there). At night time the reflective piping is easy to spot, and in the daytime the floral pattern is quite visible as well. 

The funniest thing I've seen when going to theme parks or travelling through airports are parents who don't follow the "One Man, One Kit" rule. They end up carrying all their kids shit and that just f'n sucks balls. Kids need to carry their own, so they know the value of thoughtful packing and packing light.

The Runabout has been offloaded to the younger sibling and as you can see it is still in great shape after 4 years. And remember that little Detachable parent's safety strap on the Runabout? You can use that here as there is a D-Ring on the bag as well. 

I also need to point out that there is no extraneous webbing or sharp corners. The bag is contoured and smoothed out, with very little extra webbing. This is very good because sometimes, bags - especially larger ones with lots of webbing because of downsizing, can get caught on shit. The smoothed contours of this bag means it will run up against stuff and not get caught. Also, because this bag is almost rectangular, it can stand up by itself without falling over.  

This bag ain't at all tactical - my kid won't be running through a warzone faceshooting bad kids. So for what it's meant for, a day use pack, I'd recommend it.


Monday, November 4, 2013

BAD Gear: Blue Force Gear BFG PLATEminus

 If you don't have body armour, your job is not bad ass enough. For over 10 years, I've worn a few different kinds of body armour, and with that - armour carriers. The one I am use to the most, has been the Eagle Industries CIRAS. While it has been the workhorse for a long time (due to its incredible strength and durability), it is meant for a more aggressive role over a longer period of time. I picked up the PLATEminus from Darren at OneShotTactical.com for $179.00 Canadian. That's a great price considering basic plate carriers with MOLLE start at 170 for the Shellback Banshee to the SKD PIG at $329.

Fast foward to 2013 and there are myriad types of armour carriers out there, each professing to perform better than its competitors. In fact, with each generation of carrier, what we learn from fighting bad guys is indeed incorporated into subsequent iterations. As armour itself becomes more durable, flexible, lighter, we also see the complimentary changes within the carrier themselves. Also, a big part of how carriers are evolving relates to the shift from traditional dismounted infantry roles to mounted lite fighting. Armour is being worn, not just by traditional soldier-types, but also PSD, medics, NGOs, uniformed police, plainclothes police, security officers, special operations, amongst others.


Even in my career, I've transitioned from soldier to contracting, and even then I carry phones and comms more than I carry an AK. Even so, armour is a requirement for PPE. I was considering the SKD PIG, the Mayflower APC and the BFG LMAC, but I opted for this one. The main reason is that I can easily utilized my Chest Rig on top of it. Now, with the other ones you can, but there's extra bulk. With the PLATEminus its very thin and minimalist so my Tactical Tailor MAV just sits on top.  In comes the BFG PLATEminus. First thing I'm going to say is that, IT'S NOT FOR ALL ROLES!


I say this because if you think its a replacement for a full-on military patrol rig, you're wrong. Many of the features that make the CIRAS great for that kind of work is absent from this piece. Out of the box it does not have side protectors, nor does it have inner cumberbund - most importantly it does not accommodate soft armour (just backers). Note that it also does not have a grab-handle. Nor would I trust the ITW buckles to keep me harnessed in on an aerial platform (thats what riggers belts are for). This is an extremely minimalist LOW-PROFILE plate carrier. This is a very specific piece of kit designed for standalone (E)SAPI plates (III or IV) with backers in medium or large.

Here are the marketing specs:
MOLLEminus™ Technology - which really is the inverse of the traditional MOLLE system
Contructed from ULTRAcomp™ - as far as I can tell is very similar to Cam Nets. Its half the thickness of a dime and 4x abrasion resistant as 1000d CORDURA®. Apprently it can also be cut and is ripstop.
ITW GhillieTEX™ Low IR attachments cinches the 1" webbing elastic side straps for movement and breathability
Aerospacer Mesh

PLATEminus’ plate pockets are constructed from color matched CORDURA® for maximum signature reduction - eliminating black plates showing through the MOLLEminus front or the need for separate plate socks or painting.  The back of the plate pockets are Tweave to allow some “give” for various plate sizes or shapes.

PLATEminus’ shoulder straps are fully adjustable for length with hook and
loop closures that can accept the LMAC Enhanced Shoulder Pads. The straps feature sewn in One-Wrap for cable and hydration routing. The shoulder straps are edge stable and can be cut to length by the end user in order to trim additional grams and bulk. I love this for mounted roles, where getting in and out of civilian up-armoured vehicles (as well as APC's) present a mobility issue. There's lots of range-of-motion with this carrier, and my shoulders have full movement.

I've been using it for a while now as a replacement package to my CIRAS. With recently issued standalone IV plates, I retired the CIRAS in favour of the PLATEminus. The low-profile signature (both in footprint and in colour) enables me to wear it either on top of underneath a jacket. I don't have a Grey (Arc'teryx "Wolf") colour jacket, but its ok with black and grey. I'm not trying to win any colour contest, but I think that grey is the best option for low pro.

In these pictures, its worn over my LEAF Alpha jacket, but I can also wear it under the jacket, on top of my tactical Ralph Lauren Polo Merino Wool Sweater. This is the perfect piece of kit for those of you working in the tropics where traditional CORDURA® will get soaking wet and heavy. Also, if you're like me and work with clients who'd rather not be walking around with a seemingly Blackwater/XE contractor types, this be the one for you. Also, if you're like me and you tend to futz in the office, until somebody yells, "LET'S GO FOR LUNCH AT THE PRESIDENTIAL!!!!!" then you just slip it over top, snap the sides in place, put on your jacket, and go for some great Lebanese (those guys, they're taking over Africa catering by the way).

As I said this plate carrier isn't for all roles. In fact, I'd personally limit it to those who need to smuggle it inside your packed shoes through contractorus non grata zones, and of course those roles I mentioned above. Because it does not offer side plate protection, I wouldn't bring this into an active GWOT zone;  active shooter critical incident - fo' sho. Also, if you have really old-school steel shitty plates, then you may want to rethink this piece of kit. Limited shoulder padding, as well as non-adjustability of the plates internally, as well as no cumberbund renders this kit to specialized role where lightfighting is key and you don't mind bouncy plates for a short time frame. Now, having said that, I have a large carrier, and large plates, and I notice extremely little movement of the plates. If you have non-standard sized plates, then you will have to test for yourself.

Oh yeah, this thing has a lifetime warranty and is Made in the USA.

Some sort of Room Entry thing
video

More Room Entry thing
video

The PLATEminus on my body in action
video

Oh No's PLATEminus on the ground and dirty
video

Damn, my ass, it looks good. Definately Bad Ass
video

Monday, October 7, 2013

BAD Gear: Otterbox Defender for iPhone 5 and iPad 2

I recently acquired two iPhone 5 and desperately needed to wrap them with some sort of protection. I asked the right people, I've consulted the web forums, and ultimately I chose to go with the Otterbox Defender. I've previously had Otterbox for my Blackberries as well as for my iPad 2.


 It was only recently that I made aware that Otterbox now offers lifetime warranty (contrary to what their website states). I took them up on their offer, as my iPad's case was getting beat up, and the stand no longer stood. A few quick emails, and photo submissions of the cover, and voila - a week later new case for the iPad. The previous case, was from December 2011, and I took it with me since then to work all throughout Europe, Africa, and travelling through Mexico and the United States (the desert parts). 


So I purchased two iPhone Defender boxes. They came out to about $67 cdn each. The pricing might be steep, but as with all things great - it comes with lifetime warranty and a good reputation for building quality cases. It also comes with belt clip holster, which also conveniently fits into a MOLLE space on the battle belt. Good to know.

The Defender features the following:
  • Triple Layering (Silicone Outer Layer, Polycarb Inner Layer, and Built in Screen Protector)
  • Its guaranteed to protect against Dust, Drop, Scratch and Shock. It does not provide water ingress protection. (I don't plan on swimming with it - If you need Crush and Waterproof go to the Otterbox Armor case)
  • Port covers to protect against Dust ingress protection
I quite like the material used. The closest comparison I can make of the silicon layer is that of the Magpuls. Its grippy yet strong and flexible. The inner case is molded and contoured perfectly for the iPhone and the cutouts for the ports are accessible. The inner polycarb, I liken to the Magpul Magazines.
To access the ports, you lift up the silicone tabs to reveal them. The Silicone is also cut to expose the divots located on the polycarb liner that the holster uses to latch and clip. The silicone outer shell is like a jacket or sleeve that you need to stretch and slip over the inner polycarb case. This is different than the other Otterbox offerings where the polycarb is the outer shell with the silicone as the inner liner. Personally I like the silicone grip on the outside as its non slip. 

Upon taking the case apart, you can see the built-in screen protector. This is different that the other cases that require a film to be stuck on. I find that it is still very usable and sensitive to notive motions. 

Now, the question Bad Ass Dad will ask, "Is it kid-proof." I will say with a resounding yes. If you liken your kids to being in a war environment, then hells yeah. My iPad and Blackberry's have been dropped, thrown, spat on, spilt on - and as long as the mess is wiped up quickly, the water ingress will be nil. I've had sticky fingers, sticky substances, and sticky something else all over my stuff, and shit still works.

For those of you who need true waterproof capabilities, don't forkout for the Armour series, instead, get Freezer Ziplocks. Plus they will float.

Overall, I am very satisfied with this purchase. I recommend this to anybody who is looking for a case that provides excellent protection from everyday life. I've used Otterboxes throughout my work and they've taken beatings, literally. So I trust that this will be no different for the iPhones boxes. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

BAK gear: MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op) Muddy Buddy suit

The MEC Muddy Buddy is a suit designed to keep the mud, rain, puddle, snow from ingress. Worn as an outer shell, the suit will keep your kid from getting wet, provided, they don't pour water down their neck. It's a nylon material with a DWR coating. It also includes taped seams, and has dual zippers running down the front to easily evacuate the suit. This suit has been superseded by what MEC is calling the NEWT. I'm assuming its better technology in some cases. However there are stories that the Newt is not as durable especially at the taped seams. If you live close to a MEC not a problem with their warranty program.
The muddy buddy is not a CBRN suit, so don't throw biologicals or chem like gasoline onto the kid. It will ruin the fabric. I probably would also refrain from subjecting your kid to nuclear or radioactive material. Trace amounts of tritium OK though. It's more akin to being part of an ECWCS, granted its not Goretex - your kid, they don't need it. (for the record I DO NOT CONDONE subjecting Bad Ass Kids to any NBCD, although they think bathing in J&J all-in-one is death)
This suit has elastic cuffs for the legs and arms. Ideally, you would have rainboots and gloves for the kid (might I recommend Kamik) that you would slip over top the boots. Because it is not insulated, be sure to dress your kid accordingly. Underneath the suit you see the MEC fleece for kids (think layering ala ECWCS). You might be gawking at the price for a muddy buddy / fleece combo, but I have found that the MEC fleece is a performance fleece and does hold insulation well when compared to fashion-grade fleece. As you can see from this picture, the hoody is also elasticized, but nowhere do you see drawstrings or cords, probably because they are strangulation hazards.
There really isn't much else to say about this item. It works as intended, its worth the money for it especially because its backed by MEC. It comes in HiViz colours. If your Bad Ass Kid prefers the outdoors then this is the shizzle. If you can still find one on ebay or craigslist pick it up now. The Newt is relatively new, so I'm not going to buy one just yet, but by all accounts the muddy buddy work as intended.

BAD Gear: Allen Gun Works (AGW) Linear Muzzle Brake


I have a NEA PDW (North Eastern Arms Personal Defense Weapon) with a heavy 7.5" barrel. Very very short. I have my own reasons for running such a small barreled gun. Concealment, movement with vehicles, movement in buildings, etc. This rifle isn't being used to
engage targets more than 100m, this is for bad breath distances and Holy Shit Contact distances. I find that the A2 Birdcage it came with tended to dissipate the gas and the noise back into my face. The use of eye and ear pro mitigated most of that. But, my shooting partners, or the folks on my team, they no likey being too close. So I looked into finding something that would lessen the effects of gas and noise on the shooter and those beside.

I landed upon the AGW Linear Muzzle Brake. Note that this is not designed to be a Flash Suppressor or Hider like the A2 cage is. So you will get fire breathing. That's cool though, cause if the guy in front of me is going to get a bullet hole, he might as well catch on fire too. I bought the brake from Darren at OneShotTactical.com whom I believe have an arrangement with Allen of AGW to stock these at a very good price of 50 bucks. Now, there are linear brakes out there that also combine some aspect of flash hiding: ATRS Eliminator,  Battlecomp Comps, or even the Levang Linear brake.  However, for the cheapness and no hassle and simple design of the AGW LMB, I'd give it a try (also a bonus is that its made in Canada).

My impressions after 6 months of use is that it is durable (thus far). It is a fire breath SOB. It does do what it asserts to do, that is: Reduces felt recoil, Straightens the escaping gas from the muzzle (the muzzle climb is directed rearwards instead of up or down), Forces muzzle blast down range instead of sideways, and it is Low profile and fits into most rail systems. It is made with 4140 HTSR and finished in a Salt Bath Nitride. The outer dimensions are L2" x W1" with a 1/2-28" threading. The interior diameter is bored out for firing .223/5.56 projectiles. There is also .308/7.62 version available.

The design features include a notched barrel end for wrenching. The muzzle end is crowned and bevelled inwards, with 6 gas ports surrounding the muzzle in cocentric circle.

It does extend the barrel length by 2 inches, but on a PDW like mine, it's well worth the extra length. Apparently, through testing, AGW claims it "dramatically improved cycling. You could empty a mag as fast as you could pull the trigger with no issues. This is a result of the increased back pressure..."

So far, I am quite happy with the results I am getting with it. I've had zero cycling issues typical of a PDW-sized weapon. I'm hoping in future releases some measure of flash hiding and shortening of length (towards an A2 size) would be available and at the similar pricing.  I'd recommend this as a solution for those running PDW's.

Disclaimer

Full Disclosure: Unless noted, Bad Ass Dad has not been compensated in any means to review this gear. It is all his own, procured through pro-channels, retail, or issuance.