Can you do me a huge favor? If you’ve read the second volume of my tips book (and liked it :), could you take a few minutes to write a review on Amazon? It really does help.***Unclassifieds: Promote your tool, newsletter, book, blog, video channel, app, etc. via the Unclassifieds at the end of this newsletter! Share your work with fellow readers and help support this publication in the process. Click here for the skinny.
Lineage and the Nobility of a Trade
My dad passed away on June 14th at the age of 90. He was a civil engineer and a building contractor. He was an engineer in the Air Force during the Korean War, building runways. His father, my granddad, was a talented jack-of-all-trades and a clever, whimsical inventor (he made himself a pair of convertible pants and a shirt several decades before the concept was patented). They both instilled in me, from the earliest age, the do-it-yourself ethos. When I was 5, I almost electrocuted myself when I tried to take the kitchen toaster apart with my Handy Andy tool set to find out how it worked – while it was still plugged in!
Here’s something I wrote in my first Tips book (which was dedicated to dad and granddad) about watching my dad seemingly effortlessly build things when I was a kid:
One of my early memories was being with my dad while he worked. I remember riding in a Gradall Excavator with him when I was a wee one. I thought my dad was basically the coolest guy on Earth because he could confidently pilot such an impressive, intimidating machine. As a pre-teen, I remember watching him swing a hammer while he was adding some rooms to the basement of our home (which he’d also built) and realizing how regular and perfect he was with his swing. It usually took him the same number of strikes each time to drive and countersink a nail – one swing to set the nail, one to drive it most of the way in, and a final whack to counter-sink it. I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but it was probably the first time that I instinctively understood the nobility (and the efficiency) of perfecting a trade. If you do something enough, you get impressively good at it.
Tools are an extension of our bodies, our intentions. Like specialized “end effectors” on a robot, they instantly give us special abilities; superpowers. Combine the right tools, the right materials, and the proper know-how, and human beings create worlds. Tools are the physical interface between our dreams, our imagination, and their real-world realization. But our tools are not only powerful extensions of ourselves, they also contain stories (see above).
My dad (and my granddad) taught me about both the power of tools and the power of storytelling. Little did they, or I, know when I was growing up that my job would end up combining these two powers.
Knurled Knob Generator
Who doesn’t love a handsome and grippy knurled knob? This OpenSCAD script on Thingiverse allows you to generate knurled knobs of various sizes that slide over bolt heads. The script requires the OpenSCAD compiler to generate the 3D models.
Using Syringes to Clean Out 3DP Resin Vats
Back in January, I wrote about Daniel Herrero‘s “hack” of using a peristaltic pump to clean out his resin vat for his 3D printer. And then, based on comments to his post, he got a better idea: using large syringes to suck out the remaining resin. He experimented and determined that a 150ml syringe works best. Once again, YouTube comments to the rescue. He complains in the video about the hard plastic syringe head scratching his FEP film at the bottom of his vat. Commenters suggested adding a short bit of rubber tubing to the tip of the syringe. He also mentions the resin scraper that comes with printers scratching his FEP and viewers remind him that a silicone plastic spatula (I got mine from the dollar store) won’t scratch the film.
Do Different Formulations of Motor Oil from the Same Brand Really Behave Differently?
Todd at Project Farmwanted to know if different formulations of oil from the same brand (Penzoil) perform differently, and is the high-end oil all that different from the cheapest one? The formulations tested were Pennzoil Synthetic Blend, Full Synthetic, Platinum, and Ultra Platinum. He sent the oils out to a lab for analysis and also tested them for evaporative loss, lubricity or film strength, and cold oil flow both new oil and after exposure to heat. Additionally, in a final test, Pennzoil Ultra Platinum was exposed to 10% gasoline and another sample to antifreeze to test the impact it had on lubricity and oil performance. Bottom line? This looks like a “you get what you pay for” result. The most expensive of the lot, Ultra Platinum ($28 on Amazon at time of test, $14.22 currently), definitely performed the best. That’s actually lower in price than the cheapest one at time of testing (Synthetic Blend, at $17). And, if you buy 6 quarts on Amazon, the Ultra Platinum blend is only $8.60/qt.
Fantastic Free Class for Learning Arduino
Via the always-informative Maker Update comes word of this really wonderful series of beginner educational videos on the hardware, development environment, and code used for the ubiquitous Arduino microcontroller. If you’re interested in getting into Arduino, there is no better gateway.
TOYS! Liquid Chrome Markers
I recently saw Adam Savage use these chrome markers in a video where he was weathering a prop that he’d built (the motion tracker from Aliens). I immediately bought a set and man do I love them. If you have a need to faux chrome anything…
FrogPod is Now on Kickstarter
I’ve been a big fan of Thomas Baisch‘s Instagram page, InfiniteCraftsman, for a while now. He posts one innovative shop solution after another, most of them 3D printed. One of his most brilliant creations is the FrogPod, a flexible, magnetized three-legged camera mount that you can slap onto metal surfaces. He recently launched a Kickstarter to raise an army of FrogPod users.
Figurengruppe Theater Schwäbisch-Hall, Germany, Karl Henning-Seemann. H/t Vickie Jo Sowell.
A cool tool can be any book, gadget, software, video, map, hardware, material, or website that is tried and true. All reviews on this site are written by readers who have actually used the tool and others like it. Items can be either old or new as long as they are wonderful. We post things we like and ignore the rest. Suggestions for tools much better than what is recommended here are always wanted.
Imagine your brain as a master illusionist, constantly weaving the fabric of your reality from the threads of expectation and sensation — this is the premise of The Experience Machine by Andy Clark.He explains how our minds shape our perception of reality based on predictions and expectations, and examines various phenomena and theories in cognitive science, psychology, and neuroscience to argue that human experience is built from a combination of our own expectations and actual sensory input. Clark, a professor of cognitive philosophy, demonstrates through various examples how our brains constantly predict and process information, affecting our understanding and interaction with the world around us.
Three quotes from his book:
Transformative Potential of Psychedelics
"Psychedelics... may help relax the grip of our existing model of who we are, what we will do, and what is most meaningful in our life. We can then experience the world, ourselves, and others in new and liberating ways... Much of the distinctive experiential feel (the 'phenomenology') of psychedelics may be explained in this broad fashion."
Your Body Keeps a Budget
Just as a financial budget tracks income and expenditure, a body budget tracks and anticipates the use and replenishment of key resources for maintaining bodily life and functioning. These resources include water, salt, and glucose. To renew them, we engage in familiar activities such as finding and consuming food and sleeping. Allostatic mechanisms are vital to this process.
If we feel thirsty, Barrett notes, we may take a drink of water. We immediately feel less thirsty, even though it will actually take the water around twenty minutes to reach the bloodstream and deliver the required effects. Yet the brain delivers the sensation of a “quenched thirst” right away. You (your body) can afford the wait since the sensation of thirst was activated in advance too. In other words, both the feeling of thirst and the feeling of having quenched your thirst each reflect anticipatory processing.
The Power of Honest Placebos
A fascinating range of cases involves the use of “honest placebos.” In these cases, potent predictions of relief can still be activated despite the person knowing perfectly well that there is no standard or clinically active ingredient present.Honest (or “open-label”) placebos have proven effective in cases ranging from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to cancer-related fatigue. In one 2010 study, Harvard Professor of Medicine Ted Kaptchuk gave an honest placebo to eighty patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome and found clinically significant improvements in 59 percent (against 35 percent in a control group), commenting in a later interview that “Not only did we make it absolutely clear that these pills had no active ingredient and were made from inert substances, but we actually had ‘placebo’ printed on the bottle.... We told the patients that they didn’t have to even believe in the placebo effect. Just take the pills.”