Small desk/Counterfactual NASA/Unsolved Case Files


Recomendo: issue no. 239

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Recomendo is published by Cool Tools Lab, a small company of three people. We run the Cool Tools website, a podcast, a tool review YouTube channel, and a couple other newsletters, including Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales, What’s in my bag? and Book Freak. We hope you’ll check them out.


Small desk for the bed
I bought a small desk (made by Saiji) so I can work in bed and on the couch. I can adjust the height and angle, and it has rubber stops along the bottom edge to keep my computer from sliding off. My wife and I also use it to watch movies in bed. Interestingly, my typing accuracy is better with this desk than it is when I’m at my regular desk. — MF

Counterfactual NASA
A counterfactual is a useful “what if” history. What if America lost WWII? That counterfactual was explored by the Philip K. Dick novel The Man in the High Castle, which also became a 4 season sci-fi drama streaming on Amazon Prime. I really enjoyed all 4 seasons. Another great counterfactual, now streaming on Apple +, is For All Mankind. What if the Russians had beat the Americans to be first on the moon? For All Mankind explores an even more innovative and intense alternative NASA/Apollo program because there was ongoing competition; the space race never ended. In the first 10 episodes I got a big dose of NASA engineering geek vibe, plus a very interesting alternative path with women astronauts. Highly recommended. (Season 2 begins February 19.) — KK

Play a cold case detective
Unsolved Case Files is my new favorite game to play with my husband and 14-year-old stepson. Each case file comes with evidence photos, suspect interviews, coroners report, witness statements, newspaper clippings and more. The objective is to work collaboratively and solve three mysteries before you can “crack the case.” So far I’ve solved the Harmony Ashcroft and Max Cahill case and each one took a couple hours. They can be challenging, but it is so satisfying when you’ve completed one. The quality of the documents and materials are so good, that these made-up characters actually come to life and it’s hard not to let it all get to my head when I’ve solved one of the mysteries. It makes me feel like a real detective! I just ordered my third case on Amazon because they are often out of stock, so now I’m just gonna grab one when I can. I also signed up on their website to be notified about new cases that will be released later this Spring, and I discovered if you sign up for their email list, they will email you a free mini-case that you can download and print out. — CD

How to draw a donut
I don’t have an Apple Pencil because I don’t have an iPad that will work with one. But I enjoy watching videos of people who use the Procreate app on their iPads to draw pictures. I especially like Art with Flo’s tutorial videos. She’s got a gentle, optimistic Bob Ross vibe. Her “how to draw a donut” video is a good introduction. — MF

Quick hose connectors
Inevitably our garden hoses start to leak at their ends, where their couplings are dinged, or bent from overtightening. Worse, it’s a hassle to have to unscrew overtightened nozzles or hoses when they need to be moved. The solution are quick connectors, which are common on high pressure pneumatic lines. Quick connectors for garden hoses come in plastic or brass. I put them on all our spigots, hoses, and nozzles and now changing things is a literal snap, and there is zero leakage. There are plenty of generic brass fittings, all interchangeable. The ones I use are Shownew solid brass connectors which cost about $4 per pair. — KK

Empathy explainer video
Here is a cutely animated video that shows you the difference between empathy and sympathy and is narrated by Brené Brown. The four qualities of empathy are: 1) Perspective taking. 2) Staying out of judgement. 3). Recognizing emotion in another person. 4) And then communicating that you recognize their emotion. She says, rarely does an empathic response begin with the word “At least.” — CD

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 02/14/21

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