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

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 “” 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

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.


-- Marcel Dufresne  

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

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

Available from Amazon

Honeywell 7-Day Programmable Switch

I learned about this switch in the comments section of Cool Tools for a different, timed switch.

Our home has a bunch of outdoor lights on two separate switches. I had swapped out the incandescents for LEDs (CFLs don’t work outside here in the winter outside and will wreck themselves), but we still wanted to automate all of them. Installing light sensors & timers was not the solution I wanted, but, until I saw the comment for these, I didn’t know what we needed.

These switches are ideal: Find the lat/long degrees (easy on the Internet) and date/time of your location, and the internal astronomic table “knows” when dusk & dawn are in your area, year round. We wanted ours to come on at dusk, go off at midnight, so a simple extra program step, and we’re done. It’s coming up on two years since I installed them and, even with a few power interruptions later, we’ve still yet to touch them again.

These switches coupled with LED “bulbs” give us good, reliable, inexpensive outdoor light that we don’t even have to think about. Wonderful.

-- Wayne Ruffner  

Honeywell Econoswitch 7-Day Solar Time Table Programmable Switch for Lights and Motors

Available from Amazon

Improvised Medicine

Improvised Medicine is essential reading for any medical professional, from EMT to surgeon, who may ever run out of medical supplies. Whether the cause is poverty or isolation, disaster or war, this book provides improvisations and work-arounds.

In thirty-seven chapters, Iserson covers all fields of medicine, including dentistry and psychological care. Topics range from triage to sanitation, from infectious diseases to documenting deaths. Each chapter has several pages of references, citing sources from medical journals to POW memoirs. These could be very useful in persuading medical colleagues to take the procedures and substitutions seriously. The book is also well-indexed.

Among topics covered:

  • Reusing disposable medical supplies
  • Using expired medications or street drugs
  • Rehydration formulas
  • Improvising lab tests
  • Making IV equipment
  • Direct blood transfusion from person-to-person
  • Making a blood warmer
  • Using a razor blade as a scalpel
  • Preparing a helicopter landing zone
  • Preparing your patients for evacuation on aircraft or pack animals
  • Adapting adult-size medical supplies to care for children or infants
  • Making hospital beds and rehab equipment from normal household items
  • Adapting a ventilator to work for multiple patients at the same time
  • Why you may not want to bury the dead immediately.

This book will not teach you how to do surgery. If you know how, it will show you how to work without the equipment, drugs, lab support or electricity you would normally expect to have. While not intended for non-professionals, if you have Where There is No Doctor on your bookshelf, you might want this book next to it.

For a trade paperback, this book is expensive ($57). A Kindle edition is available for $45. However, if you are out of IV tubing, you may not have any way to recharge the battery.

-- Walter Noiseux  

Improvised Medicine: Providing Care in Extreme Environments
Kenneth V. Iserson
2011, 578 pages

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:





Petzl e+LITE Ultra-Compact Emergency Headlamp

I’ve been using headlamps for various purposes for a couple of years now: For yard-work in dimming light, for riding my bike to and from work in the autumn, when I have to be on the road before the sun rises or after it has gone down, camping, etc. Different lamps work for different purposes.

This tiny lamp is the smallest one that Petzl offers, and fits easily into a pocket. It’s not terribly strong, so it’s unsuited to lighting your way if you need a lot of light. But there are times when you want very little light – just a night-light attached to your forehead, so to speak. I use it when I’m reading bedtime stories to our ten-year-old. It’s just bright enough to light up the page, but not enough to keep him (or me) from drifting off to sleep.

There are five settings: Dim white light, brighter white light, red light, and strobe functions for both the red and white settings. I never use the strobe settings – though the red strobe would make this a good tail-light for a bicycle. But the red light is very useful. A red bulb produces a light that feels much less harsh than white light. So when I wake up at midnight and need to get a glass of water, I grab this light, turn on the red bulb, and go about my business, without waking myself up more than is absolutely necessary.

Petzl claims that the battery will last for ten years. I’ve only been using my e+LITE for two years, so I can’t confirm how accurate this is. But after many night-time uses, it’s still working well.



-- Scott Reid  

Petzl E+LITE Ultra-compact emergency headlamp

Available from Amazon

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Image: Shutterstock

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

Argo 8×8 Frontier ATV

We had to move stuff through woods and areas where there were no roads. We had tried 4-wheeler ATVs, but they were really only good for moving one person at a time, and not at all good for added stuff. Too high, not designed for carrying much of anything. Too fast, easy to crash in the woods.

We had no desire to try using horses, but I’m sure they would’ve worked really well with some sort of trailer.

These Argo 8x8s though, worked wonderfully. Low to the ground, no risk of ever tipping one of these, and with a pretty large bin it was easy to carry equipment. With eight wide tires, they never sunk into mud too deeply. These float too! So we could even cross small streams & marshy areas without much concern. Worked pretty good in snow too, but we never added tracks nor fought really deep snow.

They skid steer, and are very easy to drive. We never felt they were likely to tip, and they aren’t super speedy, so the only pain we ever felt was twig-whipping on our faces. We found them to be mechanically reliable too. Never broke down, never left us stranded. Easy to move them around on a simple flatbed trailer.

If this looks like something you could use, then I assure you it’ll do the job.

-- Wayne Ruffner  

2015 Argo Frontier 8×8 650
Approx. $15,000

Manufactured by Argo