26 May 2019
Recomendo: issue no. 148
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I’m frequently on the lookout for new newsletters and I found Letterlist to be a great website to discover interesting new content. You can browse their curated collection of newsletters for free, but if you sign up (also free) you can subscribe to the ones you want with their 1-click button instead of having to type out your email address over and over again. — CD
Mobile sound recording
The way professionals record sound in a documentary, theatrical show, mobile podcast, vlogging channel, and even a wedding video, is to wire up the “talent” with a hidden lightweight recorder in a pocket or belt that is connected to an itsybitsy microphone discreetly clasped on a coat, shirt, dress, under a hat or in hair. The least expensive ($200) industry standard for this job is the Tascam DR-10L. It runs on a AAA battery for 10 hours. The sound is sterling, studio-quality, dependable. (Audio is recorded separately from video and easily synced later.) I’ve been relying on this small device for interviews and podcasts in the field. — KK
My favorite $1.71 paperback novel
Flatland is a novel by Edwin Abbott Abbott, published in 1884. It’s written as a biography by “A. Square,” a two-dimensional creature who is literally a living square, thinner than a sheet of paper. He lives with other two-dimensional creatures on a surface called Flatland. In the book, Mr. Square tells of his adventures in worlds of different dimensions: Pointland (zero dimensions), Lineland (one dimension), and Spaceland (three dimensions) all inhabited with creatures suited for their respective worlds. Abbott does a wonderful job of world building, explaining how the society (a satire of the Victorian society) and infrastructure of Flatland works. Even though the book was written 135 years ago, I found it very easy to read. Amazon is selling the Dover edition of Flatland for less than the price of a cup of coffee. I just bought it for my daughter. — MF
An app to teach you about the fourth dimension
This iPhone/iPad app does just one thing — it gives you a feel for the fourth dimension by moving from 0 dimensions to 4. I’ve had this jewel of an app on my phone for years and still open it from time to time. It’s a great companion to Flatland. — MF
Street food stories
I really love street food, and I’m enjoying Street Food, a series streaming on Netflix. It plays out in the same format as the Chef’s Table series: food and culture are focused into mini-biographies of the cooks themselves. So we see the ordinarily unseen lives of street food vendors in Asia (in Season 1). It’s about the people, not the food; brilliant and delicious. — KK
Shoe cleaning kit
My favorite sneakers are both Vans and have white soles that get really dirty. I want them to last a long time, so once a month I clean them using this ShoeAnew Shoe Cleaner Kit ($17). It’s comes with a brush and a microfiber cloth and it only takes a few minutes to spray and scrub all the dirt off. — CD
24 May 2019
Cool Tools Show 176: Ziya Tong
Our guest this week is Ziya Tong. Ziya is an award-winning science broadcaster, best known for her work with Discovery’s flagship show, Daily Planet, as well as NOVA ScienceNow and Wired Science on PBS. She is the author of the forthcoming book The Reality Bubble, the Vice Chair of the World Wildlife Fund Canada, and a supporter of the Extinction Rebellion.
Case of Bass
There’s this guy named Ezra who works out of Portland and several years ago, I ended up getting a speaker system through him and it is just an absolute work of art. Basically, it looks like one of those 1980s boomboxes that he has photographed and placed inside of a sort of ornate frame. But inside and behind this frame is an actual boombox. So, it’s a little bit meta in the sense that you’ve got an image of a boombox that is sort of outfitted with a boombox behind it. But what’s really cool is he’s developed painting skins of these boomboxes. So you can change your art so you’ll have different boomboxes or different images and you’ll still have the physical boombox right there. Another thing that he has been doing lately is he’s been going to vintage stores and picking up old suitcases and old luggage. And the reason why is because he really likes repurposing things that people have kind of given up on and giving them a purpose again.
AFP FactCheck Twitter Feed
This Twitter feed is by AFP, the news organization, and it comes in French, in Spanish, and in Portuguese. What I love about it is, we live in the era of fake news of course as we all know. But not all of us have time when we come across something to immediately go to Snopes, unless we’re super keener nerds which some of us are, but at the same time, it’s nice to have this through your feed. In this instance, you have AFP using reverse Google Image search to look at a lot of the postings that are going through and going viral on all these Facebook news sites that are patently false. So there’s an image that I saw the other day and it was of a pig that is in Hungary. It says, “Here’s how Hungarian border police keep Muslims from crossing their borders.” And they have a giant pig there and a cop holding the pig and a whole bunch of refugees fleeing the border. And it’s just bullshit. And so, right next to it, they’ve got the image and it’s actually a doctored image from the Philippines of just somebody who’s with their pig and some piglets and a sow with some piglets and some people playing in the background.
The Extinction Logo
I think, we’ve all said for a long time that the revolution will not be televised. But I think the revolution is certainly happening for us right now on the internet. We’re in the middle of the sixth mass extinction right now. We’re seeing loss of animals and vertebrate species around the world. At the same time, we’re battling a real planetary emergency. A lot of people are starting to protest in the streets. It’s a real form of joyful resistance and joyful rebellion. And a lot of this sort of emerged around a symbol and this was an extinction symbol that was developed a little while ago. It’s very simple. It’s being called the new peace symbol of our era. The circle represents the planet. In the inside, it looks like two triangles that kind of kiss and that’s the hourglass signifying that we are running out of time. And there are rebellions that are planned and taking place all around the world. People can go to the xrebellion.org website and sign up and find out what’s happening locally or start their own local chapter. And they can go to extinctionsymbol.info and that’s where you can actually download the graphic. And you can make anything you want out of it so long as it’s not for commercial purposes. People are making flags out of the symbol. I have a old sweatshirt that I put the extinction logo graphic on. It’s a lot like the peace symbol of yore but with a modern twist to it.
Signal is a wonderful messaging app that has end-to-end encryption on it. It’s just a really great tool if you’re talking to other activists because it gives you an opportunity to feel safe and free, and a free space with which to speak. So, a long time ago, think it was Hakim Bey who came up with the term TAZ or Temporary Autonomous Zones, and this notion of free space. And we live in a time now where there’s very, very little free space in the world. We’re not very aware of how little space there really is for us to freely communicate. In places around the world, of course, censorship is increasing, places like America, places like Asia. And so being able to communicate around the world with a tool like this is really wonderful.
The Reality Bubble: Blind Spots, Hidden Truths, and the Dangerous Illusions that Shape Our World ($14, Kindle)
It’s kind of been described as a cross between Cosmos and The Matrix in the sense that I’ve been a science journalist and broadcaster for 15 years. So it’s been really wonderful getting to work with scientists and seeing so many different sort of realities that they’re able to see with the scientific lens. Like most recently, we realized that we can see black holes. Now we can see atoms. We can see all sorts of different things from telescopes to microscopes … So, I started to get really fascinated by the fact that what my naked eyes could see and what my common sense perceived was just a real tiny sliver of reality. And we created all these different lenses, especially with science to be able to see a world that I wasn’t able to see with the naked eye. But at the same time, what I kind of started realizing was in the 21st century, we have cameras everywhere, everywhere except where our food comes from, where our energy comes from, and where our waste goes. It’s really strange that fundamentally our society is completely blind when it comes to how it survives. So, I really wanted to get to the bottom of how we became the most powerful species on earth when we don’t know how we survive. That was the initial sort of thing that got me on this journey, and it’s trippy and I hope illuminating. And I’m just very, very excited for people to read it. It’s my very first book, and that’s sort of the entry into that space.
24 May 2019
Belt with infinitely adjustable friction lock
I bought belt ($35+) because I wanted a belt that would be exactly the right size. I’d been planning to buy one of the ratcheting belts but I found this doing some last-minute comparisons. It’s super simple; a thick, tough strap and a buckle with two slots. One side of the strap is thickened using a technology they developed themselves called Fuselock—I don’t know how it works but it’s solid as a rock and smooth. You can resize it (which is really just cutting off the excess) with a pair of scissors and a lighter and there is a video on their site to show you how and it includes a way to choose the end style you want. You probably know that your body can change size throughout the day and being able to loosen the belt is a big plus. It’s also easy to make sure it’s tight enough when I need it to hold up tools or other heavy things. It packs down to a tiny roll, especially if you take the buckle off. After 16 months there are no signs of fraying or loose ends. I’ve put it through the washing machine twice (minus the buckle) and I have no doubt it will last for years to come. I got the plain grey buckle and strap and it works with anything that isn’t too dressy.05/24/19
23 May 2019
Introduction to edibles
Can you tell the difference between a head of cabbage and a head of lettuce? Then you can safely pick and eat some wild mushrooms. The key is to learn to identify a few easily identifiable delicious species, and then stick with these easy ones for a while. This book does a fantastic job of holding your hand every step of the way. It gives you reliable rules for learning 10 or so yummy and safe mushrooms. I wish I had this book when I was first starting out. It is a great substitute for going out with an expert.05/23/19
Rule number 1: never, never take a mushroom with gills!!! This is our life insurance.
Rules number 2: Only take mushrooms with tubes, spines and ridges and the mavericks portrayed in this book. This means thoroughly understanding the information on pages 18-27 of this book.
Rule number 3: Only eat mushrooms which you have clearly identified with ALL of the positive ID marks. The mushrooms you take must be a certain size in order to show all the identification marks. In their baby stage, so to speak, some deadly and poisonous mushrooms are almost indistinguishable from harmless species.
These are summer ceps. However all ceps, summer or autumn, show a fine white network on the top of the stem right underneath the tubes.
(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2011 — editors)
22 May 2019
Tough adhesive bandages
I cook all the meals in my household and have worked in a bunch of manual jobs, from welding to construction, so I have a lot of experience with cuts, abrasions, and burns. After much experience and unwilling experiment, I highly recommend Band-Aid Tough Strips without exception or qualification.
Every other variety I have tried, including the plastic “waterproof” Tough Strips and the regular plastic and fabric Band-Aids, have, in a word, stunk. Why the fabric Tough Strips stay on through sweat and multiple soapings, I don’t know. The adhesive does seem to be of a different sort. But the fact is they do stay on through everyday and not-so-everyday abuse, and no other bandage I’ve tried comes close. Also they’re a little bigger than regular bandages, and the extra bit often makes the difference between not-quite and fully covering a wound. Be sure to apply them to dry skin while trying to avoid getting any antibiotic ointment on the sticky part as that stuff is like adhesive kryptonite.05/22/19
(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2011 — editors)
21 May 2019
Mythbusters' star golden rules of creativity
I enjoyed Every Tool’s a Hammer ($13) for two reasons. First, it provides a fascinating insight into the mind of an accomplished maker. Adam shares, in often very personal ways, his journey through life so far — both the overall direction of a person compelled to make and obsess in an eclectic number of areas, and the happy circumstances, hard lessons, and unpredictable paths on the way. If you enjoyed the infectious enthusiasm you’ve seen on screen (e.g., MythBusters), you’ll very much enjoy this aspect of the book. But the main point of the book seems to be much more about encouraging the reader to act on their own interests and to create — to make — in whatever field they find a deep connection with. As he puts it, it’s permission to follow those interests down whatever rabbit holes they lead, that this is a positive thing we can do in our lives and not something to hide away.
As well, it’s about the tools and techniques that he’s found useful in his making–from simple lists to custom-built toolboxes. (Well, toolboxes that are to regular toolboxes what a motorcycle is to a tricycle.) A few of these are one-of-a-kind-Adam — and those are fun in exactly the way you can imagine — and in other cases, he’s describing his own take on some proven industrial practices (e.g., the 5S methodology of optimizing a workspace). There’s even a section on what kind of glue to use for various materials, and why not to use glue in the first place.
Adam was interviewed on Cool Tools in 2016, and at least one favorite Cool Tool I use frequently was one he contributed — Knipex cutters. (They rule.) You do not need to be someone who thinks of themselves as a “maker” to enjoy this book. But it seems like Adam’s goal would be to give you a push towards following that geeky interest in the back of your mind, to find that family of like-minded people, and to help up the people who follow behind you. An excellent message, especially to young people.05/21/19
Water resistant adhesive anchors mounting pad to any clean surface
Cool Tools Show 175: Sean Michael Ragan
COOL TOOLS SHOW PODCAST
WHAT'S IN MY BAG?
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An avid cyclist shares his road gear
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