49er Pride: The Forty F*****G Niners T-Shirt

The San Francisco 49ers, how you gave me such enjoyment in my youth, and how you give me such anguish now.  I can’t complain, I was born into rooting for the dynasty of the 80’s.  It could have been much worse, I could have been born in to a Browns family; running around the recess yard pretending to be Bernie Kosar.  The problem is that after so many years of being the best, the losing is so much more painful (although honestly I bet Browns fans would beg to disagree).  So when I ran across this picture of perhaps the most awesome grandma in the world, it spoke to me on so many levels.  It is the perfect 49ers shirt, just change your emphasis and you can wear it the Super Bowl, or through the entire Singletary era.  I knew from the moment I saw that shirt it had to be mine.  I dug into online research… and found absolutely nothing.  I was going to have to take this into my own hands.

If I was going to recreate the shirt I was going to be able to improve it, but first things first, I would have to figure out how to print it.  I looked a little into learning how to screen print myself.  Looks like an awesome project, I’ll definitely get back to it, but not something I was going to attempt right then.  Next up the was screen printers.  Online I found some close by in Brooklyn, but their prices seemed steep.  To clarify, they didn’t seem steep to me, but my girlfriend, who used to run a T-shirt company, said they were.  She gave me the contact to an old standby her company used, and I reached out.  They seemed like good people and process didn’t seem too difficult, so now I could move on to the design.

Mock Up #1

First, and most importantly was the shirt.  I liked the red, but I knew I was going to have to go with a cotton/poly blend, if anybody has an old athletic shirt you’ll know how comfy these things are.  Plus they bring back memories of gym class and sports, so it is only fitting for a football shirt.  I pulled a screen grab from American Apparel to mock up. Next, the font had to go.  I found the closest font to the Niners script I could, Quentin Caps, fired up Gimp, a great open source photo shop editor, and went to it.  I didn’t know what I was doing with photo editing, so I left the helmet off.

Mock Up #1 wasn’t bad, but I felt something was missing.  I think I wanted that helmet after all.  I did a quick Google search for “49ers helmet”, set the settings for only large photos, and found a desktop wallpaper that had the resolution that I needed.

Mock Up #2

I took that image into Gimp, and after hours of messing with it, I was able to create a solid outline that could be turned into 49ers red.  Again I struggled, this time to find the official hex value of 49er red, I guess the Niners fear counterfeiting.  After another hellish search I ended up just checking the CSS code of the 49ers’ website.  If its close enough for the web, it’ll be close enough for my T-shirt.  After all that work, I had an outline and eventually Mock Up #2.

Proof Shot

It was still missing something.  I decided to dig back into Gimp and get some gold in the shirt.  After a few more revisions, and hours in Gimp, I got to where I was happy. Nervously I sent my designs and my cash to the screen printer. I couple days later I received an email with a proof for approval; I was so close.

I was happy with how it looked in the photo and gave them the go ahead.  Two Sundays later I was sitting at the bar, wearing my shirt, watching my Niners beat the Raiders.

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Making an Audio Helmet: Giro G9 & Sennheiser HD-201

I bought a used snowboarding setup off of Craigslist at the end of last year, which I will write about soon, but for now I’ll just say that it’s probably my favorite purchase of the last couple years. I think it’s the reason I am actually not minding this winter the Northeast is having. In fact I’ve already been out on slopes the last three weekends. Each time I go out I get more and more comfortable and better and better. I’m flying down the mounting, hitting jibs, and grabbing some jumps. As I was getting better and being a bit more daring I realized I needed a helmet, no fun in the snow is worth a head injury. Since there isn’t a REI in New York City I went over to the local EMS, where they were having a 20% off sale on snow helmets, and grabbed a Giro G9. The helmet works great, I mean it fits well and can easily be adjusted for the temperature. (I will review its head protecting ability when that opportunity arises, not going to go out of my way though.) I did notice one issue though, music. I like to ride with earphones so I was immediately jealous of the riders with built in earphones in their helmets. When I got home home I started researching where I could purchase some. I was in luck, Skullcandy and Giro collaborated to make a pair of earphones that slide into the G9 ear pads. Awesome, right? Yes, until I read the reviews, way too many bad reviews questioning durability. Also I started wondering how much earphone I would be getting for what would be 30 bucks. I couldn’t find any specs easily online so I’m really figuring that these are basically going to be low end Skullcandy earphones up-charged as they are made to fit something specific. I figure I can do this whole thing better myself.

I got onto Amazon and found some low end Sennheiser earphones, the HD201, not an amazing earphone, but great reviews and at under $20 I’m not going to be pissed if this project fails. When they arrive at my apartment they sound great, I’m pretty stoked.

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I immediately rip into the box. A couple of screws later and we’re looking at the driver nestled in its plastic housing. The housing creates a little box around the driver, the white part there is a cloth like material, my guess is this creates a speaker box, helping the sound and adding some bass. No matter what it does, Sennheiser specifically made it that way so I want to keep it. Pretty easily I’m able to cut these boxes out of the rest of the plastic housing, turning them into the perfect inserts for the ear pads of the G9. With a little adjusting of the padding they nestle in nicely. The ear pads snap back into the helmet, I string the cord through the adjustable support in the back of the helmet and down the outside of the ear pad through a chin strap loop, leading directly into chest pocket where I keep my iPod.

So I used my new audio equipped helmet at Mount Snow in Vermont on Saturday and it work perfectly. Sound is amazing, loud enough and with plenty of base. The cord is long enough that I can remove my helmet for any gear adjustments without a problem, and if I need to remove my helmet for an extended period of time I just remove the cord from my pocket and stuff it in the helmet. You can tell my overall enjoyment.

To change in the future: After a few more runs, to ensure durability, I would like to: 1) Cut the cord at the base of the helmet and add an extension adaptor so I can easily remove the helmet without removing the whole cord from my pocket. 2) Create a waterproof mute button. Right now I just pause my iPod, but it would be nice if I had a button that could easily be utilized, even with gloves on.

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Pierogis: Buffalo Chicken & Blue Cheese

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After spending Saturday snowboarding in Vermont I needed to enjoy NFL Championship Sunday frugally. That meant no Red Star or Mulholland’s or meeting friends at some sports bar in the city. What it did mean was staying at home to watch the games. I don’t really mind this option as my couch is comfortable and I have forgone a TV for a projector, which means giant football. What I was going to miss was the bar food. To me nothing goes with football like buffalo wings, and even then for a bar to make them correctly is not an easy task. So I was going to have to find a substitute. Enter the Buffalo Chicken & Blue Cheese Pierogi.

My girlfriend has wanted to give her grandmother’s pierogi recipe a try for some time now, so we finally decided to give it a go. We would make some standard pierogies with mashed potato, sauerkraut, onion, mushroom and kielbasa, but I would also try my hand at making a buffalo chicken filling.

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To make the buffalo chicken I adjusted a shredded chicken recipe I use for tacos. I’ve made this shredded chicken multiple times and it always turns out excellent, so I figured it would handle my adjustment to buffalo sauce just was well. Here’s what I did: 2 lbs Chicken Breast was cut into chucks and thrown into a pot with a little oil. The chicken was browned on all sides and then a Carrot and a Celery Stalk, both thinly sliced (I actually just used my peeler to shave off slices) were added. Once the carrots and celery cooked for a bit 1 Whole Bottle of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce was dumped on top, with a little Chicken Stock added until the chicken was completely submerged. Oh, and for that little extra buffalo wing goodness 2 good sized chucks of Butter were dropped in as well. Once the sauce was boiling the heat was reduced and the pot was left to simmer for an hour.

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After an hour a fork and tongs were used to start shredding the chicken. Leaving the lid off, the pot simmered for another 30 min or so, stirred occasionally to continue to shred the chicken. When it was done the sauce was reduced and the chicken was all shredded and delicious.

As the chicken was cooking the pierogi dough was mde. I won’t get into how we did that here, because honestly we were struggling. It turned out fine, but I will definitely be trying it again and working through some issues. Basically it’s just eggs, milk, and flour, kneaded into dough, rolled out, and cut into circles.

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With the dough cut out into circles, a bit of the shredded buffalo chicken and crumbled Blue Cheese were added, the dough was folded over, and the edges sealed with a fork. When 5 or 6 were made they were all dropped into boiling water. They immediately sank to the bottom of the pot. When the pierogies rose to the top and floated they were done. After pulling them out of the boiling water they were allowed to dry for a bit and then moved to a hot, buttered to frying pan, to sear and crisp up each side.

The result was an amazing pierogi and a great homemade substitute for the buffalo wing. The chicken was tender and had plenty of Frank’s Red Hot, the blue cheese had melted all over the inside, and the crispiness of the perogie added some great texture.

The rest of the pierogies turned out excellent as well. And the best part may be that I have a giant mixed bag of pierogies in my freezer. Can’t wait to cook those up and play pierogi roulette.

What I would do differently: 1) Next time I will mess with the carrot and celery, either by adding more to the shredded chicken, or perhaps adding it later, maybe separately with the chicken and cheese as the pierogi is put together. 2) I need to work on the pierogi dough. I trust the recipe that I was using so maybe I just need some practice. I’ll definitely be doing a little research into that. 3) I will allow the pierogies to dry longer between boiling and frying.

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Where: Brooklyn by way of California

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The places I’ve lived have certainly helped mold me into the man I am. So for a little background: I’m currently living in Brooklyn, New York (4 years+). I grew up mostly in Northern California. My parents are still there, but all my sisters now live around Los Angeles. I have also spent portions of my life in Tennessee (a little less than 2 years), Texas (a little more than 2 years) and Manhattan, New York (6 years). It is my hope that the years I have spent in various parts of this country have helped me better understand the world around me, I definitely wouldn’t have traded the experiences.

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What: Self-Reliance

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This isn’t about lifehacking, or hardcore DIY, or any type of master plan. This is about taking back aspects of life that seem to have been lost or forgotten. Aspects that may lead to a more fulfilling and engaging existence. A life where we stop racing toward the finish line and start enjoying the race. I want to be an active participant in life. I want to never stop learning. I don’t want to just eat the steak, I want to know how to cook it perfectly, three different ways. I want to know what each of those 20 beers on tap tastes like so when I pick one there’s no question of what I’m missing. I don’t want to order a vacation online, I want to jump out of a plane and let adventure point my way. I don’t want to download the hottest new app, I want to build it. I want to explore life. I want to build things. I want to share my experiences and open up a dialogue with others who are interested in the same.

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Who: Ryan Armbrust

Ryan Armbrust, age 28. 

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That’s me on a recent snowboarding trip.  I grew up around the country, including Tennessee and Texas, but I call Northern California home.  I moved to New York City in 2000 to go to college; a little over four years ago I migrated (or immigrated according to at least one person) to Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  I still work in Manhattan sitting (and sometimes standing) behind a desk.  As you will come to see I like to explore life.  Food, art, technology, culture, I always try to be digging into something.  I like to stay active and healthy, it feels good and allows me time to be inactive and unhealthy.  I’m always up to grab a game of anything, although my favorite is football.  In the fall you’ll find me rooting for the 49ers, but other than that I’d rather be outside playing than inside watching.  I’m quasi tech geek, well really just a quasi geek.  Hopefully you’ll learn more about me as this thing gets going.

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