Kenu Airframe Phone Mount

I have been on a quest to find an in-car cell phone mount for some time now. I have tried various suction cup, non-slip, lighter socket plugs, cup holder and air vent versions including various hacks using paper clips, rubber bands and coffee cups only to be left wanting. Recently I came across the Kenu Airframe mount, and it’s just what the doctor ordered. This little mount has four fingers on the back of the phone clip that clamp to both thick and thin air vent fins. The fingers can be rotated to accommodate either thick or thin fins in any orientation (vertical, horizontal, diagonal). I have used this tool for approximately one month now and it is exactly what I imagined should exist; it is a simply elegant solution.

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-- Steven Smith  

[I have one of these, too, and I like it. One thing to keep in mind is the possibility of overheating your phone if you've got hot air coming out of the vent that the phone is attached to. This is rarely an issue here in Los Angeles, but if you live in Minneapolis, I'd think twice before buying one. -- Mark Frauenfelder]

Kenu Airframe – Portable Smartphone Car Mount
$20

Available from Amazon



Emergensee Variable Focus Eyeglasses

Emergensee Variable Focus Eyeglasses adjust between -6 and +3 diopters, and come in a pretty sturdy case. They don’t correct for astigmatism.

These were apparently distributed to victims of the tsunami in Japan a few years back. I’ve kept a pair in my first aid kit, and on they have been used by a friend who lost his glasses over the side of the boat. He was amazed that we could fit him out with an adequate substitute.

The insert is clearly marked to be used for temporary use only, and are not scratch resistant. On their website, they now have notices posted referencing several states whose optical industries have felt it necessary to inform consumers that these are not a substitute for getting your eyes checked.

I heard about these on a radio program in 2012, and immediately contacted the company, which is in the U.K. They were not selling in the US yet, but made it possible for me to buy a pair.

 

[Take a look at the Amazon reviews before ordering these. Many people say they are shoddy. However, they sound like they might be useful in an emergency. In the meantime, I'm waiting for Eyejusters to launch. - Mark Frauenfelder]

Emergensee Variable Focus Eyeglasses
$23

Available from Amazon



Bison Designs Last Chance Belt

Once you start gaining weight, certain forces of physics start to come into play. Your belly tends to push down on your pants and regular belts become ineffective. This is because it is hard to tell where your waist is and you end up tying the belt beneath the waist at your hips. The solution to this problem is a belt that does not have holes but can be tied off anywhere. There are those leather belts that have holes all along them but they are not exactly business wear.

Enter the Last Chance belt. I like the one in gunmetal. Although originally designed for outdoor types this belt is simple and elegant. It also lets you tie off your lower half like a tourniquet so some judgment is required. I’ve used it for two years now and am very satisfied.

-- Edward G Iglesias  

Bison Men’s Last Chance Heavy Duty Gunmetal Buckle 38mm Belt
$24

Available from Amazon



Cuisinart Egg Cooker

I can’t cook. I also can’t dunk in the NBA – different reasons, but both truths are immutable. I do, however, like to eat. Eggs are a particular favorite; unfortunately my culinary ineptitude makes me the proverbial guy who can’t boil an egg without screwing it up. Enter Cuisinart with this small egg-shaped appliance. I decide how many eggs I want and how I want them cooked. The chart tells me how much water to put in the bottom (with a neat measuring beaker to get it right – the beaker also has a pin to pierce each egg). Close the device, press the button, and perfect eggs are done in several minutes when the timer goes off. It’s a single use device that would drive Alton Brown nuts, but screw Alton – he can cook, I can’t. This egg cooker means I don’t have to eat out every morning.

-- Dave Eastman  

Cuisinart CEC-10 Egg Central Egg Cooker
$40

Available from Amazon



GoStak Twist n’ Lock Storage Jars

Trying to live a healthy lifestyle in the modern world is hard enough. Exercising regularly, getting your diet in order, and getting adequate rest is a respectable task in and of itself (and far more important than supplementation) – but for those of us who want to go above and beyond with supplementation, it becomes even more complicated. Depending on your needs and your goals, you may want to take a “pre-workout” powder before you lift weights, and a protein shake immediately afterwards. On top of that, maybe you’re taking a twice daily dose of fish oil or some other supplement. It’s hard to keep track of everything.

If, like me, you’ve gotten sick of having a handful of separate sandwich baggies to serve a bunch of different purposes, consider the BlenderBottle GoStak. This modular canister system takes up little space in a bag or backpack, and even fits inside of an empty shaker bottle. Because it is smaller than the lip of most shaker bottles, powders pour easily into them without getting all over the place. Smaller canisters can carry a handful of supplements.

The GoStak is also great for an overnight bag, so you can be sure you’ll have the supplementation you need for the next day.

-- Randy P.  

GoStak Twist n’ Lock Storage Jars, 4-Piece Starter Pak
$11

Available from Amazon



Zander Rose – Executive Director, The Long Now Foundation

Alexander “Zander” Rose is the executive director of The Long Now Foundation, which was founded in 1996 to become the seed of a very long-term cultural institution that fosters very-long-term planning. He was hired to build their clock that lasts 10,000 years. He’s also the founder of the Robot Fighting League, and a contestant on the ABC series Battlebots (airing Sunday nights)

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Show Notes:

Knipex Parallel Plier Wrenches $162 “You can adjust them, but then when you actuate them, they have flat jaws that stay totally parallel. They’re way more powerful than a crescent wrench even though they look like a set of pliers. They don’t damage the flat surfaces that you’re working against.”

Gear Drive Case Ball End Hex Keys $55 YouTube Video “There’s these little gears in the actual plastic case that gear them all together, so when you grab one wrench and turn it, they all turn out together, and so you can pull one wrench out and then relock them all back in. People who’ve used the most common brand, Bondhus, will know that you spend a lot of time wrestling with two hands trying to get hex keys in and out of the case.”

Bafang Mid Drive eBike $850 “Most e-bikes use a powered wheel and the bummer about that is that you have this extremely heavy wheel. If you want to use it in pedal only mode, you’re trying to turn a 40-pound wheel. This kit made by Bafang, a Chinese company, uses what is called mid-drive. This means that the power comes in at the cranks. That means your wheels are standard. Your transmission is standard. You can use normal gear sets and things like that in conjunction with your electric bike kit.”

Yuba Boda Boda Family Cargo Bike $1000 “There’s a lot of cargo bikes out there that are extremely long, by both Yuba and Xtracycle. The problem with those is that they don’t fit on bike racks. The Boda Boda by Yuba has a little bit longer wheelbase than a normal bike but still fits on normal bike racks.”

Chinese High Power Bike Lights $65 “Those early Lupine lights were $600 to $700 each and now, there’s just a plethora of Chinese versions. They’re down $50, so it’s affordable to have one on your helmet and one on your bars and have a total of something like 2,400 lumens, which is just pretty insane. You look like an F16 landing on an aircraft carrier when you have this setup.”

Water Activated Resin Cast Material $42 “This is a small tiny roll of what looks like gauze but it’s actually a resin-activated cast material. You can custom make it to any shape. If a bone is sticking out, you can work around that. If you have climbing tape with you, which generally we do, you can just make a splint up one side of their leg and then wrap around that or at their arm and wrap around that with the climbing tape and then it doesn’t have to be cut off.”

Skin Stapler $13 “Normal people are not good at suturing but if you want to close a wound and get somebody back to pavement and it’s going to take several hours or a day, then a person with very little experience can actually close that wound back up with the skin stapler.”

 



Pendleton Board Shirt

I have been wearing a black Pendleton Board Shirt almost every day for the last two years. I can’t get over how perfect this 100% wool shirt is.

It’s truly a four season item. In the summer it works as a top layer for cool nights. In the winter, it’s a perfect extra layer for indoors, letting you lower the thermostat a few degrees.

What really sells me on this shirt is the button front. Pull-over sweaters are all or nothing – you are either hot or cold. And taking them on and off over your head is a hassle. Zip-ups are nice, but after a couple of washes the sweater inevitably shrinks a bit and the zipper gets all puckered, pulling the sweater out of shape.

I tried wearing cardigans, but they are a little too Mr. Rogers (sorry, Fred). And sweatshirts and chamois shirts don’t fly in settings where smart casual dress is required. The Board Shirt has a great look with a nice, roomy cut and a pajama collar. It can fit in at my office, at the gig or on the trail.

Even though it’s wool, I toss it in the wash with everything else. It shrinks a bit for the first dozen washes or so. You might want to buy once size big to allow full flexibility with layering. The felt is very soft and easy to wear on the skin.

It was stylish enough for Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and warm enough for Grandpa Max who sold newspapers on Boston sidewalks all winter. What more could you want?

-- Jeremy Fink  

Pendleton Men’s Classic Board Shirt
$120

Available from Amazon



ClipMate Clipboard Extender

I have been using ClipMate for several years (at least since 2007) on various versions of Windows. It is the first program I install when setting up a new machine. It saves everything that is copied to the clipboard and allows you to organize them into folders and subfolders. So, I keep copies of the e-mail addresses that I use with sites that insist the format is “name@domain.com” without the quotes of human names that are stored in my Contact list. I keep track of boilerplate kinds of text that I need to use repeatedly. The clips can be formatted text (you can force it to plain text) or graphics.

Powerpaste is a very useful feature that allows you to paste a set of clips, automatically advancing to the next one in the set each time you paste. There are many other features, including many that I have never even learned how to use; but the ones that I do use make it an incredible tool. It can hold thousands of clips and you can search them easily. Frankly, I don’t understand why everybody doesn’t use a tool like this.

-- Sherman Gavette  

ClipMate Clipboard Clipboard Extender
$35

Available from Thornsoft



Prop ‘n Go Lite Bed Holder & Lap Stand for Tablets and Laptops

I have been using the Prop ’n Go for over three years and I keep finding new ways to use it. It is first of all an adjustable bed holder and lap stand for iPad, iPad Air, iPad mini, tablets, laptops, and e-readers with multi angle control. The Prop ‘n Go resembles a plushy cushion with a flat plastic square on top. When sitting, the cushion raises the iPad up a good few inches so that it is well within typing reach. The top plastic piece has a hinged centre piece that permits you to change the angle of the iPad to 12 different positions or you can simply leave it flat. The rest position itself is on a slight angle to start with. There are two rubberized strips running along the sides of the hinge on the plastic top that help grip the iPad. The iPad remains secured by these strips if you move your legs or adjust the Prop ‘n Go. This item thus allows you to easily type with two hands and not have to worry about the iPad moving as you type.

It is very common to use the iPad either sitting down or lying down. The various iPad covers often have a few angles that let you adjust the viewing. I find these barely adequate and, unless I am holding on to the iPad with a free hand, they do fall over and have to be readjusted. The Prop ‘n Go allows you to use the iPad as a hands-free device. I can prop the iPad up to whatever angle I want and not have to keep my knees bent at the same angle which I would do without a Prop ‘n Go. It just allows me complete freedom of movement as I watch TV and use my iPad. Since it leaves your hands free, there is no continuous holding of the device. My old wrists and thumbs thank me for the rest.

One might wonder about the portability of the Prop ‘n Go. It is not easily carried from place to place. It is too bulky for that. However, it is meant to be a secure storage space for the iPad. The plushy cushion does have a zipper in it that allows the iPad to be placed inside. The amount of padding would certainly protect the iPad from any but the most vicious attempts to injure it. I can see myself putting the iPad and the Prop ‘n Go inside a backpack or even better, a suitcase. This is the function of the puffy sleeves that one can purchase for protecting the iPad in transit.

I could stop the review now and I would have explained all that the makers of the Prop ‘n Go had in mind when they first designed it. However, I have found it to be much more versatile than I first thought. I keep coming up with different uses for it. It worked well supporting my e-book reader. Again, these are very light weight to start with and are not supposed to require much effort to hold. I just found that it is very nice to use the e-reader as a hands-free device. Plus I could prop it at whatever angle I wanted and quickly change it if I wanted to. It was simply more convenient.

The Prop ‘n Go also works for heavy books. It held any book I positioned on it in place while I was reading lying down. I had to use one hand to keep the page from turning but this took a lot less effort than supporting the book with both hands.

Next, since the iPad has recipes in it, the Prop ‘n Go makes reading these recipes a snap from a distance. You don’t have to lie the iPad down, but rather prop it up and make sure the font size is readable from a distance. No more returning to the spot where you put the iPad down. You can read the recipes from where ever you are in the kitchen.

I found that using the Prop ‘n Go with my 1.5 year old grandchild was advantageous. The cushion kept him from moving around a lot and I was able to prop the iPad to a convenient angle for both of us to use. Plus, I was able to secure the iPad more easily when he started to move the iPad around. Because it has so many different viewing angles, it is so much more convenient for watching video. I can adjust to screen to the best viewing angle whether I am sitting down or lying in bed.

Lastly, for now, I used the Prop ‘n Go to hold the iPad in place when I was driving in my van. I could prop the iPad up so that both the front and back seat passengers could see the screen. The Prop ‘n Go kept the iPad from sliding around when I turned the corners. I had no fear that quick braking might be a problem because the iPad was facing the back, propped in place.

I am sure that I will find other uses for the Prop ‘n Go now that I have it. It was not at the top of my list of iPad accessories but as you can see from these comments, it has a lot more going for it than simply a cushion.

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-- Marcel Dufresne  

Prop ‘n Go Slim – Adjustable Bed Holder & Lap Stand
$36

Available from Amazon



Lux Digital Count Up/Down Timer

I’m a teacher in a school that uses a lot of timers. And it’s not just for exams – a well-paced lesson sometimes depends on hitting certain timestamps, and nothing can keep you accountable in quite the same way as the humble timer. The simple act of counting down is a surprisingly versatile arrow in the quiver of teaching practices.

At school, we need our timers to do just a few things but to do them well. The LUX CU100 scores high marks in all the necessary categories and gets extra credit for its ability to take abuse.

First, the digital display is large and extremely easy to see. Not only is this essential for quick glances from across the room, but it is easily read by students when I pop the device under a document camera set up to a projector. For timed writing and drills, the clear display helps kids self-evaluate their pacing and keeps them accountable. Being able to set the timer in second intervals – which are also given equal prominence in the display – is likewise a must in the classroom.

The ease of use is fantastic. Simple, chunky buttons – look at it once and you know how to use it. The timer has a good hand-feel, too, and the buttons chirp pleasantly and reassuringly when pressed. I seem to be allergic to correctly operating the stopwatch and timer function on most wristwatches – give me yours and I can accidentally find out how many laps it will store but for the life of me won’t be able to reset the damn thing back to that comforting row of zeroes – so it comes as a pleasant surprise in the middle of class to reach for the Lux CU100 and have it do exactly what I want, every time. Hit the start/stop button and it begins counting up; hit the button again and it stops. To count down, click the minute or second buttons until the desired time appears in the display and click start to begin the countdown. Hold the minute and second buttons together to reset to zero. That’s it. Even very small children have no trouble operating it without instruction – useful when a child needs a five minute break to cool down in the hallway and you can send them with a timer so they know when to come back in.

There are a few other things that commend its use for teachers. The thing is a workhorse: a single AAA battery powers the timer and I haven’t needed to replace mine in three years of daily use. And it just shrugs off abuse. I’ve literally kicked it across the room, stepped on it, and, on a weekly basis, dropped it half a dozen times from standing height. Aside from the battery cover popping off occasionally (without a loss of function and easily snapped back into place), the timer appears like new.

It also comes with a clip, magnet, and easel on the back. I don’t use any of these except the magnet, which exerts a significant amount of force. (In fact, I sometimes have a second or two of unexpected trouble pulling it off of the projector stand when it is laid flat on top.)

The alarm is loud enough to be heard over a room of chattering students, which, really, is all that I ask from my timers as a teacher.

A few caveats. I’ve noticed the display is sensitive to direct exposure to heat, darkening into unreadability if placed beneath a heat source for extended periods. (This crops up when I allow the timer to be blasted by the heat exhaust from my projector.) While it’s a minor concern for the teacher, it may be something to consider if you are using this in your kitchen.

Of bigger issue is that every button beeps when pressed. I personally don’t find this annoying but I can see why someone would. Need 60 minutes? Be prepared to hear 60 beeps.

If something is going to break on the timer, it will probably be the little metal bar that flips down to form the easel. I’ve noticed the tendency for this piece to snap out of its holder at times, usually because students fiddled with it too much. As I almost never use the easel, this has never been an issue.

Having used a variety of timers, both in the classroom and in the kitchen, I have to say the little bit of extra cash for the Lux CU100 is worth it. It’s not the cheapest but it is the most reliable, most durable, and easiest to use of the bunch. Teachers who know know: if the Lux CU100 were a student, she’d be the top of her class.

-- Joshua John Mackin  

Lux Digital Count Up/Down Timer
$10

Available from Amazon