Totobobo Mask


This is a new design of respirator which has advantages for mass distribution, emergency preparedness, and multi-ethnic populations. I’ve been using/testing it for 5 or 6 years in the Unorganized Borough in Alaska.

The respirator can be cut with scissors to fit faces properly. Because they are clear, fit is easily ascertained. A clear respirator may mean they are more acceptable culturally (the face is not hidden).

The filters are replaceable. They allow a lot of air to pass through so can be useful in bike riding and outdoor work. They also allow moisture to pass through; I haven’t found the exhaled moisture to be a problem except in subzero temperatures (quite a bit of condensation then).

Instead of storing respirators of every size, only one size needs to be stored for emergency use. One doesn’t need to check sizes before distributing the respirators. Respirators can be cleaned and re-used by the individual (replace filters). I have seen them be used for pandemics, volcanoes, dust, woodworking, and cycling, and I am hoping to continue testing them in Alaska where we have faces from many different populations.

– Pamela Bumsted

These filters show the build up of particulate in the mask’s filters after a bike ride through the various cities. — OH


Totobobo Respirator

Available from Totobobo

Medicine for the Outdoors


There is nothing in this book that you don’t need to know. You don’t have to commit the book to memory but I would encourage you to know what’s in it and how to find it quickly. My first duty as a Scout leader is the safety and well-being of our Scouts at an age when they are poor judges of risk and have a propensity to overestimate their capacities. I need to know how to keep them safe and how to respond if they are injured or ill.

Medicine for the Outdoors is the work of Dr. Paul Auerbach, wilderness medicine pioneer and arguably the world’s foremost expert on the subject. He explains the how and why of responding to nearly every possible illness or injury one is likely to encounter in a concise, step by step manner that is intended to be used on the spot – but don’t wait for something to happen before you read the book.

Safety is not owning the right gear or having the right book. It is not having a well-appointed first aid kit. Safety is knowing how to prevent injury and illness and how to respond if it occurs. Get the book, read through it, make notes and practice the skills before you need them. I have a Kindle copy that I can carry on a smartphone, iPod or similar device. I also have a copy of the book that lives in our troop first aid kit.

-- Clarke Green  

Medicine for the Outdoors
Paul S. Auerbach
2009, 535 pages

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

The outdoor environment is beautiful, but it is ever changing and can become hostile in a moment. Good fortune favors the well prepared, and there are no more important considerations for a successful outdoor experience than safety and first aid. Severe weather, wild animals, rugged terrain, and equipment failure all conspire to create or complicate medical hardships that must he diagnosed swiftly and remedied with certainty. The therapies can he integral to survival. Medical education is thus as compelling as any other form of learning.

How to use this book

In order to use this book to best advantage, read the appropriate sections before you embark on a trip. In this way, you’ll remember where to find information in case of an emergency. Use the index to locate specific topics, such as bee stings, frostbite, or choking. When reading about different problems, you may be referred to general instructions for medical aid, which are presented in Parts I and 2. All readers are encouraged to participate in organized first-aid and outdoor safety program.

All New Square Foot Gardening


I decided to try my hand at gardening again after last having a vegetable garden in college 35 years ago (which I remembered involving a lot of work). After doing some research online I found Mel Bartholomew’s squarefoot garden method appealed to my inner geekdom. Bartholomew’s method relies on building and gardening in four-foot by four-foot plots/boxes. He then provides details on how to plan the optimal mixture of soil, fertilizer, and supplements to match whatever you want to grow in them. After using the method for three years I am a sold.

The method assumes you know nothing, does not require you to be very handy, is inexpensive, takes up a minimal amount of space and water, is very practical and detailed, can easily be entirely organic, requires minimal weeding, and, best of all, yields lots of fresh veggies. What more could you ask for? The other books I looked at required tilling, fertilizing and weeding rows or did not focus on the basics.

-- John Cowling  

All New Squarefoot Gardening
Mel Bartholomew
2006, 272 pages

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:



IDEO Method Cards


The IDEO method cards are a great resource for people interested in finding new ways of thinking and brainstorming solutions. By picking a random card and following the prompts I have been amazed at the trail of thoughts that it helps to produce. As you work your way through more cards the ideas can become refined, and I have been impressed with the quality of practical ideas one can come up with (just don’t forget to capture them somehow). The cards have four different categories including learn, look, ask, and try.

You can use the cards by yourself or in small groups. I have found that even shy people are empowered (and inspired enough) to contribute ideas. You definitely don’t have to be an architect or a design expert to use them. This is definitely the best brainstorming tool I have seen. As a freelance Tamil journalist I use it to come with good story ideas. I can imagine small companies who can’t afford costly consultants might be able to use the simple prompts to solve some of their problems. They definitely make innovation and brainstorming, whether radical or incremental, into a low hanging fruit. Just jump and give them a try!

-- Sadashiva M  

[Note: IDEO recently released the cards as a free iOS App that comes with a few sample cards, and costs $5 to purchase all 51. -- OH]

IDEO Method Cards: 51 Ways to Inspire Design

Available from William Stout Architectural Books

IDEO Method Cards iOS Application
Available from iTunes Store

Produced by IDEO

Sample Excerpts:




Predict Next Year’s Headlines

How: clients project their company into the future, identifying how they develop/sustain customer relationship

Why: helps clients to define which design issues to pursue in product development



Hakko 936 Soldering Station


For someone looking for a high quality soldering station at a reasonable price the Hakko 936 is hard to beat. I’ve had mine for a few years and use it mostly for electronics and instrument cable work. I think I paid around $80 new for it, and the price included a separate cast metal pencil rest with an integral sponge tip wiping pad.

The power supply is a transformer type, controlled by a rheostat mounted on the front panel graduated in both Celsius and Fahrenheit. The only other control is the on-off switch mounted on the right side. There is a red LED pilot lamp on the front which illuminates only when regulated power is actually being applied to the pencil. The pencil’s cable plugs in to a 5-conductor receptacle and locks in via a threaded collar. The extra wires going to the tip are for a thermocouple near the tip for precise and stable temperature regulation.

The pencil itself is very lightweight and is attached to a lightweight, flexible silicone rubber-insulated cable.

The tip heats up very rapidly upon turning the unit on and setting the temperature on the dial. The user is informed when the desired temp has been reached when the LED goes out. During a soldering session, the LED will be observed turning on and off as the selected temperature is being accurately maintained.

There is nothing fancy about it such as a digital temp readout; just a solid, no nonsense, precise and stable soldering tool. Before acquiring this unit, I thought of soldering as something of a chore. With the Hakko I can do precise, quality soldering with minimal effort. The manufacturer has recently discontinued the 936 but they still seem to be widely available on eBay.

-- David Zarn  

[The Hakko 936 has been replaced by the newer FX-888, but can still be found new and used online.-- OH]

Hakko FX-888 Solder Station

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Hakko USA

Carson Lighted Magnigrip Tweezers

Carson Optical Magnigrip with 4X Magnifier.jpeg

I received these lighted magnified tweezers as a stocking stuffer a few years back, and although I am fortunate enough to have great eyesight these tweezers are absolutely amazing for inspecting and removing any splinters that might find their way under your skin.

They use a single LED light that is perfectly pointed at the tips of the tweezers and a large 4x magnifying lens that helps to see those skin-colored cactus spines or tiny pieces of glass. The tweezers themselves are extremely sharp and are made for getting in there, more so than any other purpose.

The only drawback is that the tweezer tip protector is easily misplaced and without it the tweezer tips can pierce toiletry bags and get bent.

Overall, these are fantastic tweezers for finding your way around minuscule splinters or other small jobs in need of magnification and illumination.

-- Anton Benson  

[Note: Carson also makes a model without an LED, and another with increased magnification. -- OH]

Carson Optical Magnigrip with 4x Magnifier

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Carson Optical

Best Flour Duster

Best Manufacturers Flour Duster.jpeg

This flour duster allows for remarkably light and even dusting of dough or a work surface. You simply squeeze the wire handle, which expands the spring bulb so that the wires have space between them. Stick it in a bag of flour, stop squeezing and the spring bulb closes around a golf-ball-sized wad of flour. Then, shake it over a work surface squeezing gently — I tap it over my free hand ala David Byrne’s “Once in a Lifetime” — and voilà: A very even dusting is achieved. I’ve used this flour duster for five years, and have found nothing else that can compete.

-- Robert Narracci  

Best Flour Duster

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Best Manufacturers

Pocket Geiger Counter


I’ve had this pocket geiger counter for a while, and I have not used it much. I took it out recently to check its battery just in case. The unit is made to check for radioactivity in industrial or geological uses, like testing scrap metal from unknown sources, old Uranium glazes on pottery, or possibly contaminated waste sites. The device clicks satisfyingly clearly when it detects three types of radiation. It’s bigger than a pocket, but much smaller than the old fashioned vacuum tube variety. It runs off an 9-volt battery.

This device is not sensitive enough to detect natural background radiation, or radiation drift in the atmosphere, or mild exposure on clothing, say. The device has to be very close to the radioactive source. It would have had trouble detecting the radiation during the accident at Chernobyl 500 meters outside of the plant itself. To measure the radiation in uranium ore, for instance, the device has to be just about touching the rock. Stuff has to be significantly “hot” to register, but this is the stuff worth worrying about.

As you might expect, you can’t buy one anywhere at the moment (immediately after the Fukushima incidents). But they will be back.

UPDATE: This device is a little bit more sensitive than your classic hand-held geiger counter, and cheaper, and also smaller. It’s a good bargain. But geiger counters in general as not extremely sensitive. They can be made more sensitive by wiring them up to count “hits” over hours, days, and weeks instead of per second. See, for example, the Sparkfun geiger kit.

-- KK  

UNDX-1 Pocket Geiger Counter

Available (eventually) from: United Nuclear
Or Professional Equipment

Sample Excerpts:


Operating Range:
0 to 10 mR/hr range on analog meter.
Beeping at 20 mR/hr Continuous Tone at 200 mR/hr.

Detects Beta at 35 keV with 90% efficiency
or at 1,000 keV with 100% efficiency
Detects Gamma down to 6 keV at 25% efficiency
or to 35 keV at 90% efficiency
or to 100 keV at 100% efficiency

Delivery Status


Delivery Status is a gorgeous OSX-only Dashboard widget and iOS app that allows you to easily track packages from a huge list of carriers (international and domestic) and companies like Amazon and Google Checkout. On the Mac, you can be notified of status changes via Growl, and on iOS it uses push notifications. If you use both, as I do, packages are seamlessly synced.


Data entry is flexible, with perhaps the easiest being a bookmarklet that automatically parses the order status page of most shippers (and many retailers). I frequently shop online, and I send a lot of packages, so I use it to track those that are incoming as well as outgoing. As a city dweller, knowing that a package has been delivered is essential, so that I can pick it up from the lobby of my building before it “walks away.”

-- Gordon Meyer  

Delivery Status
Free for desktop widget
$5 for iOS app

Available from iTunes Produced by June Cloud

Sample Excerpts:


Volcano Collapsible Stove II


I have had this Volcano stove for 6 months, and I am amazed with what it can do. It allows you to cook most meals (and lots of meat) outdoors without having to purchase a huge grill. Outside of being a grill, the stove is designed to accommodate a dutch oven, large skillet and wok.

One of the stove’s best features is that it can use three types of fuel: wood, charcoal or propane. It can also be used as a smoker to boot. Outside of cooking, the stove collapses to 1/3rd its size, has a small footprint and feels really well built. The company, Volcano Cook Stoves, has excellent customer service, and fast delivery. For my money this is the best hybrid blend of high-end grill and hibachi.

-- Lane Yarborough  

Volcano Collapsible Stove

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Volcano Cook Stoves