Written by

Chris Gonzales

Welcome to the fifth edition of our Friday Quality Linkage column. As always, we are merely your humble internet servants, bringing you a collection of links we found interesting or enlightening this week. So brew a fresh cup of coffee, find a comfortable place, and enjoy.

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Polar Bear and Cub. Photo by Michael Henry.

Polar Bear and Cub. Photo by Michael Henry.

National Geographic Photo Contest Submissions »

Though the winner of the National Geographic 2014 photo contest won’t be selected until later this month, you can browse the editors picks from the 9-week submission window.

The Boston Globe’s Big Picture blog also has a brief collection of some of their favorite images from the contest submissions, including the hero image of Japanese hand-tube fireworks at the top of this post. (Photo credit: Hidenobu Suzuki.)


Monument Valley ‘Forgotten Shores’ Expansion »

If you haven’t heard by now, you should know that one of our absolute favorite games for iOS, Monument Valley, recently updated with a whole new pack of mind-bending puzzles to purchase. This eight-level pack, dubbed Forgotten Shores, isn’t a sequel per se — rather, it takes place near the end of the original game’s storyline, yet still manages to twist your brain around in new and wonderful ways.

Hard to believe Forgotten Shores costs only $2 on top of the game’s already-low $4 price. A steal, if you ask us.

Interview with Jeff Sheldon, Founder of Ugmonk »

Ugmonk is one of our favorite brands here at Tools & Toys, and we’ve been longtime friends with its founder Jeff Sheldon. The folks at Creative Market interviewed Jeff to ask him about being creative and building a brand:

“The fun part about running a brand is that I’m constantly learning new things. I don’t have a background in business or entrepreneurship so everything has just been learning as I go. Every new product presents new challenges, but that’s all part of the fun. The web and technology are constantly changing and since were are solely an online business we have to change and adapt quickly.”

How Leather is Tanned [Video] »

Dave Munson of Saddleback Leather Co. takes us on a video tour of the tannery where he sources his leathers. It’s gross, entertaining, and educational. You’ll come away with a better appreciation of how much time and effort goes into producing high-quality leather, and why it matters. I never knew so many machines were involved in the process before watching this.

Also be sure to watch Dave’s entertaining video on how to knock off a Saddleback bag.

“If you could dedicate yourself to mastering one thing for 13 years, what would it be?” »

Serena Ngai ponders our tech-obsessed society’s inability to master any one craft for fear of becoming obsolete:

“I glance down at the knife I had made in Japan with Nobuya. The cold metal resting in my palms reminded me of that afternoon in the dimly lit workshop. Nobuya had mastered his craft, and his passion for his life’s work was admirable. Could this be translated to this bubble of technology we live in? Technology is ever changing and it’s easy to get caught up in new trends and tools. But is it realistic for us to keep up with them?”

Master Blacksmith Forges a Beautiful Knife [Video] »

I loved this video when it first debuted on Christmas 2012. Then Jason Kottke went and linked to it a couple days ago, and it was like falling in love all over again. There’s just something awesome and relaxing about watching a master craftsman at work, totally in their element. I happily get lost in these sorts of videos.


The Secret Life of Passwords »

Ian Urbina, writing for The New York Times, somehow took a boring idea like “passwords” and turned it into something heartbreaking, unexpected, and beautiful:

“Several years ago I began asking my friends and family to tell me their passwords. I had come to believe that these tiny personalized codes get a bum rap. Yes, I understand why passwords are universally despised: the strains they put on our memory, the endless demand to update them, their sheer number. I hate them, too. But there is more to passwords than their annoyance. In our authorship of them, in the fact that we construct them so that we (and only we) will remember them, they take on secret lives. Many of our passwords are suffused with pathos, mischief, sometimes even poetry. Often they have rich back stories. A motivational mantra, a swipe at the boss, a hidden shrine to a lost love, an inside joke with ourselves, a defining emotional scar — these keepsake passwords, as I came to call them, are like tchotchkes of our inner lives. They derive from anything: Scripture, horoscopes, nicknames, lyrics, book passages. Like a tattoo on a private part of the body, they tend to be intimate, compact and expressive.


These special passwords are a bit like origami…small and often impromptu acts of creativity, sometimes found in the most banal of places.”

These days, all my complex passwords are created and managed by 1Password. I honestly don’t know what any of them are anymore. I hadn’t thought about it until reading this piece, but it could be said my passwords lost their humanity the day I signed up for that service. (Probably a good thing for the sake of security, but still…)

Stop Packing So Much: The Minimalist Packing List »

Former British Army soldier James Turner constantly travels around the world, so you’d think he carries a ton of stuff everywhere he goes. That is not the case (at least, not anymore).

“Fast forward to the tail end of 2014, I’m at Hong Kong’s ridiculously large airport heading over to Thailand for 3 months. I’ve got a tiny 26 litre backpack casually thrown across a shoulder which tops out at 12kg. The tiny bag, coupled with some impressive Hong Kong’ian logistical efficiency means I’m off the train and into the departure lounge in a speedy, fuss free 20 minutes.”

I also enjoyed his take on the Tom Bihn Smart Alec backpack:

“When you touch it, it’s like closing the door on a VW Golf. You immediately trust the engineer behind the design.


There are plenty of bags which you can pack small with, but not many which will leave you with a smile.”

If you’re interested in travel or want to nerd out about packing organization (and who doesn’t?) you should read his article. Lots of great tips and gear recommendations throughout.

But really, it’s about much more than travel gear — there’s something amazing about the idea of carrying everything you need in one little bag, no matter how big the adventure.

‘Story’ Doesn’t Exist »

Our friend Chase Reeves picked out this thought-provoking quote by Scottish director Bill Forsyth, which appears in the epic 15-part documentary The Story of Film: An Odyssey.

“I think a lot of filmmakers think of story as the purpose of the film. And that the characters really have just got to service the story and take it to where it’s going. And that seems to me to be the complete opposite of what should be happening because there should be no story. I mean, we spend our lives inventing stories, but ‘story’ actually doesn’t exist. We exist and our apprehension of a story is how we explain the kind of meanderings that we take. So there’s no such thing as the empirical story. It’s just what happens to people.”

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If you’ve got any suggestions for articles, videos, stories, photographs, and any other links you think we should be posting in our weekly Quality Linkage, please send an email to Shawn Blanc.