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Originally I was only going to review the Synapse 25, but then we thought it would be cool to do a comparison review of the 25 and the 19. Make sure you watch the video below to see the comparison and enter for your chance to win the Synapse 25 for FREE!

Getting my Tom Bihn Synapse 25 backpack and accessories was an adventure in and of itself.

I was notified that the shipping process had started on July 2nd, which seemed like plenty of time to receive it before I left for Portland, OR on July 9th. But darn it all if that pesky July 4th holiday got in the way. I waited and waited until I finally got the update saying it would be delivered by the end of the day…on July 9th. NOOOOOOOO! My brain went into overdrive since I was leaving at 145pm on the 9th. That morning I got an update saying it was “out for delivery.” Maybe I could catch the driver somewhere! I then realized that I work less than five minutes from the distribution center it was likely being delivered from. I tried to find their local number but kept landing on the 800 number, which was of no use. Finally, I found the good ol’ 608 number! I dialed and the lady on the other end said she’d see if she could find it. Yes, I prayed she would return with good news. “I found it. We’ll just hold it for you at the front counter,” she told me. I thanked her profusely and then went to pick it up shortly thereafter. I felt like Indiana Jones as I walked out of that FedEx distribution center.

Then the real fun began. I unboxed the bag.

I’ll jump into the present tense now to describe the bag. It’s beautiful. The material is sturdy, built to last. One of my main concerns with a backpack is that the zippers are easy to use with one hand. The Synapse 25 has six, seven if you count both for the main compartment. I’m happy to report that they are secure, yet simple to zip and unzip with one hand. The handle at the top of the bag is a perfect size for my little arm to fit through, giving me some leverage for using the bag with my right hand.

The compartments in this bag are…cavernous. I honestly kind of wish I had gone with the Synapse 19 because I overestimated how much space I actually need. Here’s a shot of all the stuff I was lugging around with me in Portland.

Tom Bihn Synapse 25

Yeah, so, I probably didn’t need to carry all of that stuff around with me the whole time. I had plenty of room for more, though!

The temperature was in the 90s when I was there, so my back did get pretty hot, but I don’t blame the bag for that. I blame all the stuff I was carrying around. Even so, I was never uncomfortable, though I did wish at times there was a bit more padding on the shoulder straps. I can imagine filling this backpack to the brim for a camping weekend and having more than plenty to survive for quite some time.

The accessories are fantastic, too. The sleeve for my 11″ MacBook Air is REALLY nice, though it was a bit difficult to get my laptop in and out of with one hand at first. It’s loosened up a bit, but can still be somewhat of a one-handed challenge. The 3D Mesh Organizer Cube was perfect for my phone charger and other cords. The 3D Clear Organizer Cube kept my toiletries together and visible for security. The Mesh Ballistic Organizer Pouch worked great for my computer cord. And the 16-inch Key Strap kept my keys safe and secure until I got home. Again, all of the zippers were of high quality and easy to use with one hand.

Ultimately, the Synapse 25 is an incredible backpack. The materials and craftsmanship are second to none. The design is well thought out, with each pocket and zipper in its rightful place. I’m proud and excited to carry around my Tom Bihn backpack and plan to do so for years and years to come.

Checkout the comparison review video below and enter to win your FREE Synapse 25 below that! You’ll get the Olive Green Synapse 25 in the video – a $200 value!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank to Darcy and the amazing folks at for providing the bags and accessories to review!

My wife thinks I’m crazy for liking records.

She’s not alone.

And honestly, I totally get it. Most of us have that image in our head of the pretentious audiophile who praises the richness and warmth that emanates from the grooves, maaan. They tout the superior sound that comes from a needle and a record and denounce CDs and MP3s as cold, lifeless data conveyors.

Oh, yeah...and beards.

Oh, yeah…and beards.

Beyond that stereotype, though, there’s also the impractical nature of the LP. They’re big, they’re bulky, most of them are old and smell musty, they snap-crackle-and-pop, the sound is often warped and they’re not very portable. Sometimes they skip and you can’t easily play only one track. I’m fully aware that there are a plethora of reasons for MP3s being the dominant format for music these days.

There are reasons that records are still around, though, too.

So, why do I dig records?

Without sounding too hippie about it…there’s a magic to them. Ok, that’s pretty hippie. Listening to a record is an experience, though. I love rifling through my collection and then pulling the right record, carefully removing the disc from its sleeve and examining it’s surface to make sure it’s clean, admiring the grooves. There’s something about physically holding a record. There’s a weight to it that you don’t get from the thousands of songs on your iPod. I gently place the record on the turntable (which is quite the task when you only have one hand)and then lightly set the needle on the edge, watching it catch that first groove and start moving its way to the middle. Then the music starts. Whether it’s Count Basie or Miles Davis or Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin or Tower of Power or The Beatles or The Who…

Ok, so, it’s not quite that dramatic, but you get the point. (And if you haven’t seen Almost Famous yet…sorry)

For me, the perceived weaknesses of a record are actually quite character-building. Our expectations are sky high these days. Everything needs to be perfect and convenient and we need it NOW! Records slow us down. They are an exercise in patience and understanding. When I play a record, I understand I’m going to listen to Side A and then Side B and I’m going to do so in the order the artist presented them to me. Records harken back to a time when musicians crafted an album, not just random, hit songs. Not that there aren’t musicians who do this now, but in the LP’s heyday they really had to think about it. I can’t skip a track. I can’t put it on repeat. I allow the record to play and enjoy the experience. The crackles and pops and occasional moment out of tune reminds me that imperfection can be endearing. Fifteen years later and I can tell you at exactly which moment my Wish You Were Here record skipped and played the same saxophone part over and over until I moved the needle. Like life, it’s usually the imperfections we remember.

Now, I’m no snob. I’d say at least 95% of my music listening happens on my phone or computer. Spotify, Pandora, iTunes…love ‘em. I’m not saying that listening to records is somehow better, but I am saying it’s different. And there are certainly times in my life when it’s better. Those times where I’m running ragged and I’m trying to do a thousand things at once. Or when I’m feeling nostalgic. Or, you know…Stairway To Heaven. There are times when putting on a record and having a cold drink just seem right.

And that’s why I like…no, love records.

UPDATE: The project is LIVE! Go here:

So, I got this news today:

Screen shot 2014-04-29 at 6.37.26 PM


It’s official. The Different Is Awesome! Kickstarter project is ready to Screen shot 2014-04-29 at 6.38.28 PM!

I’ve prepared for this like crazy and I’m beyond excited to press that green button.

And I will…on May 1st. Thursday morning.


Here’s the deal, though…I need your help. I know we can do this, but it’ll only work if we all pull together to make it a reality. Are you with me?! Here’s how you can help:

1. Share, share, share! Once I officially launch the project on Thursday morning, I’ll be sharing it with my sphere of influence and I hope that you will, too! Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, email, tell your family and co-workers, smoke signals, sky-writing…I’ll say it right here: The person who shares the project in the most creative way will win a FREE autographed copy of the book!

2. Pledge early! One of the most consistent indicators of a successful Kickstarter project is a strong start. People who are browsing the projects see one with a strong start and are inclined to jump in, too, because it must be awesome! So, my big ask here is that if you’re planning on pledging, it would be incredibly awesome if you did so one DAY 1 or shortly thereafter. Take a look at the pledge levels and the corresponding rewards and reserve yours!

3. Ask questions. Seriously. I want to make this fun and as easy as possible. If there are things you don’t understand or are having difficulty with, let me know and I’ll do my best to help.

So, we’re really doing this, y’all. You only live once, right? Oh, snap…I think I just accidentally wrote YOLO.

Here’s to dreams becoming reality! Here’s to success! Here’s to the most awesome community ever!

Love you all and appreciate you more than words can say.

Hugs to all!


This is the conclusion of my four-part recap of the Helping Hands Foundation’s 2014 Winter Outing.  Read about Friday here, Saturday here and Sunday here.

While my travel to the outing was uneventful, my trip home was…kind of a disaster.

Tony, Nikki and I left the hotel a little after 10am and my flight to Philadelphia departed as planned around 130pm.  I arrived in Philly, took the shuttle to Terminal F, and waited for my 522pm flight to Milwaukee.  We were all sitting there, waiting and watching for our plane to arrive at the gate.  5pm, still no plane.  515pm, no plane.  Finally we were told the plane would arrive at 6pm and we’d leave at 645pm.  The plane finally arrived at 630pm and we waited for an update.  The woman at the gate said something about the pilot needing 15 more minutes to talk to the people in Milwaukee “to make sure it’s safe.”  That was the first indication we had that we might not be going home that night.

Finally, the woman came back and I’ll never forget the look of fear on her face.  She didn’t even use the PA system, she just blurted out, “It’s cancelled.”  Of course a ton of irate people ran at her, like SHE made the decision to cancel it.  What did they want her to do? “Oh, I can see you’re all very upset, so, never mind!  Let’s board and head to Milwaukee! Hope you don’t die!”  Just dumb.  So, we all had to stand in line and try to reschedule our flights.  Rumors were swirling about why the flight was cancelled and when we’d be able to get out of Philly.  I met a few people who I got to help make laugh, so that was nice.  I finally got to the counter and was super jokey with the lady, which she seemed to appreciate.  The first flight she found me had me getting into Milwaukee at 230am on Tuesday.  Yeah…no.  I had her look again and she found the LAST flight to Charlotte, NC at 5, connecting me to Milwaukee around 1030.  “Sweet, I’ve never been to North Carolina!” I said.  She laughed.  She printed my tickets and off I went.

Continue Reading…

This is my recap of the Helping Hands Foundation’s 2014 Winter Outing.  Read about Friday here and Saturday here.

Did you know that the Australian Open (tennis) was on LIVE at 4am Sunday morning?

I didn’t, but found it after getting back to my room around then.

That’s what happens when you’re making friends.

After a few hours of sleep (which would become incredibly unfortunate later), I packed-up and headed downstairs for breakfast.  Another buffet, featuring bacon and various other breakfast foods.  Eventually I made my rounds, giving hugs and goodbyes to friends, old and new.  We also had our annual HHF Winter Outing picture with the incomparable Dayna and Vennessa!

Dayna, Tony, Nikki, Moi, Beka, Nick and Vennessa

Dayna, Tony, Nikki, Moi, Beka, Nick and Vennessa

Last year I really had no idea what to expect when I attended for the first time.  And it changed my life.  It really did.  That’s why I was so excited to come back this year!  It’s amazing to hear attendee after attendee talking about how they’ve been coming for ten, fifteen, twenty, even thirty years!  And yet, I feel like a part of the family.  That’s what I appreciate most about Helping Hands.  The acceptance, the love, the laughter, the support…it’s all there in spades.  That’s why I can’t see ever not attending.  Maybe that’ll change some day, but I can’t imagine how.

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This is my recap of the Helping Hands Foundation’s Winter Outing.  Read about Friday here.

Saturday arrived a bit early for my taste, but I got downstairs in time for breakfast and a couple of great speakers.

Nicole Kelly, Miss Iowa 2013, was first to take the stage and she owned it.  It was so cool to finally meet Nikki (I had interviewed her last year) and see her in action.  She was positive and encouraging and challenging, all at the same time.  It was fun to see all the kids lined-up to get pictures with her and to see her interacting with them all.  Nikki gives speeches all the time, but this was different than usual.  You could see her eyes twinkling as each little girl and boy came to her and showed her what made them different.  She made them each feel special.

Me and Nicole

Me and Nicole

Continue Reading…

This is my recap of the Helping Hands Foundation’s 2014 Winter Outing. Read about Saturday here and Sunday here.

If there’s one thing I’ll remember about this year’s Helping Hands Foundation winter outing, it’s this:

Thank goodness nobody was recording me during my talent show performance.

For real, though, this year’s event was awesome; just like I expected it to be.  Those of us who attended were happy benefactors, basking in the leadership of amazing folks like Patti, Vennessa and Dayna.  Ok, enough wordplay.  The leadership of the HHF is incredible and they do such a fantastic job with the event.  Bravo to all who helped!

I’m going to write three posts, broken down as such: Friday, Saturday and Sunday/Travel Misadventures.

So…here’s Friday.

My experience this year started WAY better than last: I didn’t miss the bus!  I left my house at 345am, took a bus to Milwaukee at 430am, left for Boston (with a pit-stop in Cleveland) at 8am and arrived a bit after 1pm.  Long, but uneventful.  The plan was to meet-up with my good friend, Tony Memmel, and new friend, Nicole Kelly, at Logan Airport and head to the hotel together.  After wandering around for a while, I finally found Nicole and then Tony found us.  Our friend Annie picked us up and off we went! Continue Reading…

Earlier today I was on a nationally syndicated sports radio show.

All because I have one hand.

See, I was listening to Jay Mohr Sports and they were talking about a story wherein a zoo is no longer feeding bananas to monkeys because they say the bananas have too much sugar and calories.  Sports!  Jay was saying how he’s never gone to a zoo and seen fat monkeys just laying around holding their bellies, so, I sent this tweet:


Apparently, after I left my car to return to work, Jay read my tweet.  Brad tweeted at me that Jay wanted to know if I really had one hand and that I should call in.  I had a little time left on my lunch, so I did.  And this happened:


So, 4 million listeners heard that.  AND I’m getting a gift card!  Sweet.  A couple things stuck out to me after having listened to this.  First, even don’t know what I meant when I said, “You know how that goes.”  It was the most mundane accident ever.  The part I loved, though, was when Jay tried to ask me about my arm.  The dude is a comedian…I don’t think I’ve ever heard him be so careful about his word choice before in my life.  I was happy to jump in and help diffuse the situation.

I also thought his reaction to my story was interesting.  Like, I only have one arm and I broke the small one…what a disaster!  When, in fact, it would have been worse if I had broken the other one!  He essentially played the Hand Card for me, too!  Classic.

In retrospect, I wish I had said something more profound, but it was spur of the moment and I just went with the flow.  It was cool to be a part of the show and to expose Jay’s audience to Living One-Handed.  I’ve already had several people read one of my most challenging posts and respond positively, which is awesome.

In the big scheme of things, the experience today wasn’t life-altering or anything, but it was a lot of fun.

And next time I’ll talk about something more inspiring.

Like the Packers.

Last January I had the opportunity to attend the Helping Hands Foundation‘s Winter Event and, honestly, it affected me deeply. I smiled and laughed more times than I could count. I cried in front of a room full of strangers. I got to hear so many amazing stories and meet so many incredible people. And here’s the thing…I want to go back. I want to see my friends again. I want to meet Nicole Kelly and Rebekah Marine! And I want to bring my wife. I want her to experience this supportive and inspiring community for herself.

I stink at taking panoramic shots, but this gives you an idea of the awesome group of people at the event earlier this year.

I stink at taking panoramic shots, but this gives you an idea of the awesome group of people at the event earlier this year.

The Rovedos! Cam was SO into this. And Cam has a little brother now! :)

The Rovedos! Cam was SO into this. And Cam has a little brother now! 🙂

That said, we need your help to get out there this coming January. So, what I’d like to do is a joint fundraiser.

I’m going to set the target at $1000. I’m not going to cap it there, but that’s the minimum I’d like to hit. The way it will work is, anything we raise above and beyond our costs will go directly to the Helping Hands Foundation. I LOVE them and believe in what they do.


Here’s how it’ll work:

For every $10 you give, your name will be entered into a drawing for one of these items:

Autographed Judith Caseley Book
Signed Nick Newell Picture
Signed Nikki Kelly Picture
Jim Abbott Autographed Baseball card

Also, for each of these levels you’ll get:

$10-$50 A personalized LOH postcard from me

$51-$100 A personalized LOH postcard and LOH sticker

$101+ A personalized LOH postcard, LOH sticker and LOH stress relief cube

Also, and this is the big one…if we raise $1000, I will write and perform an original song, while playing the piano, at the HHF talent show! Prepare to be amazed. Or something.

And listen, if you give $1000 yourself, I will write a song about whatever you want. Within reason. You have a cat you want a song written about? Done. A favorite pair of slacks? Done. Anyway…

Here are the logistics: Click on the Donate button below to donate. That’s it. And hey, if you want to donate but don’t want to be entered to win something, that’s totally great. Just let me know. I’ll keep the page updated to let you know where we are.

UPDATE: Currently at $725! (12/18/13)

Ok, so there it is. I only do this because you guys are so awesome and supportive. And because I believe so much in what Helping Hands does and has done for years and years. Thank you and let the fundraising begin!

That seems about right.

That seems about right.

Story Chicago 2013

October 15, 2013 — Leave a comment

“Dreams don’t fade away as we get older; we exchange them for standards of living.” Ben Arment

Ben’s words on the first full day of Story Chicago rang true with me.  We all have dreams and we need to see them through.  We just do.  The Story Conference reminded me of that fact and helped reset my course to do so.

The conference started with an amazing art display.  “Make sure you’re in before 7 because they’re closing the doors and you don’t want to miss it!” I was told.  And they were right.  The creative team presented a visual and aural masterpiece.  Essentially, it was a thunderstorm inside.  And as I type that, I am fully aware I cannot do it justice with words.  The cool thing, though, was that there was an actual storm raging outside, too!  It really was an event that had to be experienced to be appreciated.

Then we got to view Blood Brother, a fantastic documentary about a guy who ends-up finding his place at an AIDS orphanage in India.  At turns funny, then poignant, then heartbreaking…Blood Brother will change you.

I’m not sure I knew who any of the speakers were this year before they spoke, but they added their own flavor.  It’s just so cool to hear other peoples’ creative process!  From the Global Director of Creative Outreach and Senior Writer for Nike, to the founder of Charity:Water, to the Director of Arts programs at Kickstarter, to the Chief Product Officer at, to a “mouth artist,” to the creative director at Cirque du Soleil Media, to the Creative Director at Google Labs…seriously, we as an audience might not have known who they were, but they are all amazing people doing incredible things who we have a lot to learn from.

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