Cloning Your Own Mineral Water

You can start with a carbonation water machine, like a SodaStream, Soda-Club, or the previously reviewed home system, and then you can add minerals to make your own artisan mineral waters. There are several ways to calculate how much mineral you need to add. In general you start with an analysis of your tap water (often provided by your water company), then you get a list of branded mineral waters to imitate, and then use a spreadsheet to figure out how much mineral to add. Of course you can also refine your own personal mix that suits your taste, too. Finding a source for the minerals is a little bit trickier, but I suspect selling such salts will soon become a small cottage business for someone (if you know of a source let me know in the comments.) Right now check out this tutorial which tells you how:

How to Clone Mineral Water, Edible Geography

Mineral water salt 460

A spoon full of mineral salts is required for the preparation of 1 liter of San Pellegrino mineral water. Image from Khymos, Mineral waters a la carte

One of the commentors on the Khymos blog noticed that Burton salts, used in beer brewing, and available from supplier like AHS, is very close to the mix of the salts in San Pelligrino mineral water. A quick experiment awaits…

(Has anyone tried more than one off-the-shelf home carbonation machine and would like to recommend the best one?)

— KK


Katadyn Pocket Microfilter


While bottled water is available in most large towns throughout the world, in many remote locations the water quality is questionable. Even where bottled water is available it seems extremely wasteful to throw away a dozen plastic bottles every day. We used the Katadyn Pocket Microfilter to fill up our own canteens. On a bike trip through SouthEast Asia we were able to avoid purchasing about 20 of those liter bottles of water every day by having the pump. And of course in places without bottled water, this was a life-saver.

The Katadyn Pocket is different from everything else on the market. The first difference is the price. It costs is two-to-three times the price of it’s competition! Also, it is not lightweight. And really it’s not all that easy to use.

So what’s so great about it? Katadyn has been making this filter for decades. It has been used by the Navy Seals and other special forces for years. The aluminum construction makes it very durable.The filter is fully field-cleanable. That means there is no expensive filter cartridge to replace after a month of use. The ceramic cartridge in the Katadyn Pocket has a life of 13,000 gallons or 50,000 liters. So this filter will last for a lifetime of any adventure.

There are a few things that need to be done regularly to keep the filter in good working condition. The pores of the ceramic filter element absorb the contamination and must be scrubbed clean periodically. Generally I give it a light scrubbing after pumping about ten liters of sink water. If the water source is slightly salty or dirty then the element must be scrubbed more frequently. I can tell it needs a cleaning when the filter becomes difficult to pump. When I first began using the filter I would scrub it too often and too hard, removing more of the ceramic coating than necessary. The first filter wore our faster than the 50,000 liter limit and I learned my lesson. Now I am careful to scrub it lightly and evenly so the wear occurs at the outer edges of the filter at the same rate as the center.  Katadyn provides an organic lubricant that is applied to the pump handle at the bottom and the point where the rod enters the pump. While the lubricant is a tiny little tube it seems to last a long time.

Katadyn Pocket Water Microfilter

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Katadyn

Sample Excerpts:

Filling the water bag in a hotel bathroom in Thailand



Screen Shot 2012 02 16 at 11 47 27 AM

Thingiverse is a swap meet for exchanging digital files for 3D printing of tiny objects, like the stuff for doll houses. You download a file and print out the object using a the previously reviewed Makerbot or 3D printing service. Eventually, the objects will be larger, and the selection larger, and you’ll be able to print out complex things. For now, 3D printing is a thrilling hobby, and this exchange site is a real tool for model makers.

-- KK  

Gerber Hinderer Rescue Knife

gerber hinderer.jpeg

This knife is designed by firefighter Rick Hinderer for the working Firefighter, EMT or Medic. It has a serrated stainless steel blade, a window punch and a foldaway seatbelt cutter. But what tempted me, and what gets used the most, is the built in oxygen tank wrench. It is a deceptively simple slot in the handle, but it has time and again come in handy switching out portable oxygen tanks while on scene. No more sending someone running back to the rig because someone on C-shift forgot to replace the oxygen wrench back in the bag! The over-sized thumb studs make it workable even with bunker gloves on and it comes with a 9-piece kit of screw bits.

— Jesse Hinds

I’ve used this knife for two years, and found that it has served me well in all my field work. For me the knife is exceptional because of its appropriate sizing and ergonomic hold. It’s easy to use with gloves on. The strap cutter on the back side is excellent and I end up using it a lot. The rubber strip with different tools have been useful for hard to access spaces. It does not replace a multi-tool, but is a great compliment to it.

— Jason DeJong


Gerber Hinderer Rescue Knife

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Gerber

PacSafe RFID-tec Wallet


Traveling back from Europe last year, I almost missed my plane because I was shopping for a wallet that had a fully closing change-purse (necessary for one and two Euro coins). I bought a very stylish, leather one at the airport for $100, which did not have a bill pocket, only a clip (which itself soon broke).

I replaced it with a more utilitarian PacSafe wallet, and I love it. It has two bill pockets, one that zips closed, as well as a large coin-purse. It has three larger than card-sized pockets as well as three card-slots and a transparent pocket for an ID card.

The material is super-strong nylon and has something sewn-in that blocks RFID signals. It successfully prevents the SF Bay Area touchless transit card Clipper from working while the wallet is closed. I am even more impressed with the construction and the little details like small elastic pockets to hold the zipper-pulls to keep them from jingling and catching on things.
In short, it does what it is supposed to do and does it well.

-- Richard Haven  

[Blocking RFID signals is increasingly relevant given the number of credit cards and passports that currently use the technology. Faraday cages and other signal blocking materials can prevent RFID sniffers from accessing sensitive information used in identity theft. --OH]

Pacsafe RFID-Tec 100 RFID-Blocking Bifold Wallet

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Pacsafe

OPI Matte Nail Strengthener


My husband has dry fingernails that are very thin and are prone to breaking. Once we get into the dry season, they start to peel, and he’s always biting them off as soon as they start to snag.

There’s all sorts of things you can brush onto your nails, but one that I like is from a nail polish company called OPI (that’s Oh-Pee-Eye, not “ohpee”). They have a line of nail care products called Nail Envy. They all look like white or beige nail polish (in nail polish bottles), and most of them are designed to be worn underneath or on top of nail color.

There IS one version of Nail Envy, however, that’s designed for men. It’s called Matte Nail Envy, and as the name implies, it’s a nail polish that dries into a matte, non-shiny coating. Now, my husband swears up and down it’s shiny–it DOES give your nails a sheen, but I wouldn’t call it a shine at all. OPI is sold in most hair and nail salons as well as higher-end stores that sell cosmetics. If you have a store like Sally Beauty Products or ULTA in your neighborhood, they will have it in stock.

If you’re embarrassed to walk into a beauty store, you can always write down the product name on a piece of paper, and go to the cashier right away and ask them to get it for you. The nail polish aisle will likely look pretty overwhelming for you. Another option is to simply buy them online.

If you try it, and you agree with my husband that the sheen is too much for you, my suggestion is that you use an extra fine nail sander to buff off the surface a bit.
Another thing you can do is keep some moisturizer on hand, especially when the weather is cold and dry. Just dab a little bit on your fingernail, then pat your finger down at each of your nail beds, and then just lightly rub back and forth. It will keep your nail area moist and less likely to chip and crack.

-- Lani Teshima  

OPI Matte Nail Envy Nail Strengthener

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by OPI

Image credit: Montpelier Beauty

Valentine One Radar Detector


I carry a Valentine One radar detector in my day bag. I drive multiple cars, so I can I transfer it from one car to the other, and I use it for rental cars as well. A radar detector may seem a wholly unnecessary item for a law-abiding citizen, but as police departments see their budgets threatened, they have become more active in pulling people over for small infractions such as failure to come to a complete stop at a stop sign, or even driving just a few miles in excess of the limit. Modern police radar is designed to be kept in standby mode, activated only when the officer points-and-shoots, but in my experience, many police are lazy and leave their radar guns active all the time.

Since I like to know where they are, the Valentine One is the only detector that shows me the direction of a radar source (whether ahead, behind, or either side). It’s very expensive at $495, but can easily pay for itself, depending on your driving habits. The after-sale service is remarkable; when my detector’s frequency setting drifted after about 8 years, I sent it in and they fixed it and sent it back without charge. They will also upgrade older models for a small fee.

-- Charles Platt  

Valentine One Radar Detector

Available from Amazon

Also available from Valentine One

QuickFix Mudguard

full windsor mud guard.jpg

This mudguard solves the problem of wanting to keep the clean aesthetic of my bike while staying free of mud during rides. In the past I haven’t liked to clutter up my bike with permanent mudguards, etc. With the Quickfix Mudguard I can snap it on and off whenever I need it without the use of tools.

When I’m not using it, it folds away into my bag where it takes up no space, and it’s really light. It’s also easy to wash and simply requires that I take it off and run it under the tap. It’s made of polypropolene so it’s very hard-wearing while also being strong but flexible at the same time.

-- Helen Wilson  

Quickfix Mudguard

Available from Wiggle
Manufactured by Full Windsor

Sample Excerpts:

The Full Windsor Quickfix Mudguard clips onto the bike frame


The Scale of the Universe 2


This is a cool tool for comprehending, appreciating, and demonstrating the scale of our universe. I used to recommend Charles and Ray Eames‘ classic film, Powers of Ten, as the best way to get a sense of our cosmos. It’s still effective, but two bothers have made an on-line portal that blows Powers of Ten away.

Check out The Scale of the Universe 2. It takes a minute to load. Once ready, be prepared to have your horizons stretched. I like the way they pile in the expected and unexpected size examples, which anchor the scale in a refreshing way. The continuous zoom is what makes this device work, rather than the quantum powers of ten of the film. (In fact you can read off the powers of ten in this model as well.) And the fact that you drive the slider. And like anytime you drive, you get a better sense of the place than you do as a mere passenger.

For the first time, I really got a visceral sense of our place in the universe. As many have noted before (but none have explained) we — our visible bodies — are located approximately in the middle of the universe’s size range. The largest things we know and the smallest things we know are roughly the same magnitude away from us.

And BTW, this app is what electronic “publishing” is really about.

— KK



Chased By the Light

61QYW8GGG1L SL500 AA300

Chased by the Light

This project is a zen masterpiece. It is also a behavior-modifiying challenge for all digital photographers: Look instead of click.

In the 1990s veteran magazine photographer Jim Brandenbrug gave himself an impossible assignment: “For 90 days between the autumn equinox and winter solstice I would make only one photograph a day. There would be no second exposure, no second chance.” A single exposure, a single click per day! He was using film, and he was photographing wildlife, including elusive animals in the north woods in upper Minnesota. Film is unforgiving. For amateur and professional alike getting even an acceptable photo in these conditions with one shot requires relying on the Force. Yet Brandenburg found, or made, one beauty after another. Most mortals would need a hundred shots to get one like these. The 90 images stand strong each on their own, but the complete symphony is one of the most impressive acts of mindfulness I’ve seen.

(The full set of images were also published in a smaller format in the November 1997 issue of National Geographic.)

Besides the book, there is now an iPad app.

— KK

Chased by the Light
Jim Brandenburg
1998, 104 pages

Available from Amazon

Screen Shot 2012 02 09 at 4 14 13 PM

App $10


Sample Excerpts:

Wolf chasing ravens by jimbrandenburg

I sensed there would be lessons learned. There were, but not always those I had imagined. Some were merely lessons remembered, recapturing things I had forgotten, such as remaining open to chance, and that, in nature, not all beauty is giant in scale. One such lesson occurred on October 15th, the twenty-third day. It was late and I despaired of capturing anything of value. The day was dark and gloomy; my mood reflected the weather. I wandered through the dripping forest all day long. Tired, hungry , and wet, I was near tears. I was mentally beating myself for having passed up several deer portraits and the chance to photograph a playful otter. None of those scenes spoke to me at the time.

But perhaps because I was patient, and perhaps because, as natives do on a vision quest, I had reached my physical limits, I became open to the possibility revealed by a single red maple leaf floating on a dark-water pond. My spirits rose the instant I saw it, and although the day was very late and what little light there had been was fleeing rapidly, I studied the scene from every angle. Finally, unsure of my choice, I made the shot anyway, thankful at least that the long day had ended. Once more I was surprised by the result. The image seems to have a lyrical quality, with a rhythm in the long grass.