The Technium

Some Contemporary Heresies

I define a heresy as: something you believe that the people you most admire and respect don’t believe and reject out of hand.
With that criterion in mind, here are 47 Contemporary Heresies I’ve collected. These are not necessarily my heresies, although some are; many are “plausible — not insane” heresies that others around me believe.

1. Aliens are already here.
2. Robot/AI soldiers are preferable to human soldiers.
3. Polygamy and polyandry should be legal.
4. The amount of taxes each person pays should be public.
5. War is not inevitable; it can be eliminated.
6. Cannibalism is okay.
7. Euthanasia should be encouraged.
8. The US Civil War was a mistake. The Confederate South should have been allowed to secede, and the rest of the Union would be better off today.
9. Flossing doesn’t matter.
10. DNA sequences of each individual should be public information, just like faces, birth dates, etc.
11. The nuclear bombs dropped on Japan were unneeded, wrong.
12. The microbiome in your guts influences your IQ.
13. Universal basic income generates wealth.
14. Pre-crime tracking and deterrence is feasible.
15. There should be a Super Olympics that allows all enhancements and no gender distinctions.
16. It is impossible for humans to eradicate all human life on this planet.
17. Vitamin pills are quackery.
18. Oil is not a fossil life fuel but a geological product.
19. Death is a disease that can be cured.
20. Eating animals should be outlawed and illegal.
21. Government funding of science and tech pays off.
22. Global government is good.
23. Psychedelics should be paid for by insurance.
24. Your weight is a public health concern.
25. BBQ is carcinogenic.
26. Altruism is natural and the default of humankind.
27. No one born on Mars will live to reproduce on Mars.
28. All plastics should be banned from being manufactured.
29. There should be a Human Right of Migration on this planet; you may live where ever you want if you follow local laws.
30. GMO food is better for you.
31. Neanderthals were smarter than humans.
32. Nuclear waste is manageable.
33. California or Texas should secede from the US.
34. We should have a single global currency, maybe on blockchain.
35. There was a civilization on Earth hundreds of millions of years ago, but geological forces have eliminated all evidence of it.
36. ESP and telepathy are real.
37. There is no great extinction event happening on Earth right now.
38. Human clones are natural and fine — just serial twins.
39. Obesity is contagious.
40. Animals like being in modern zoos.
41. Billionaire wealth should not be permitted.
42. Social media reduces extremism.
43. Religious belief is on its way out. Believers of major religions will become a small minority.
44. All cryptocurrencies should be state-run.
45. National service (including peace and non-military) should be mandatory for all citizens without exceptions, including the handicapped.
46. There will be a global population implosion soon.
47. Evolution has a direction.

Cool Tools

Cat donuts/Luciteria/OneTab

Cat donut cushion
Our cats spend a lot of time nestled in their Love’s Cabin Donut Cushions. We have one for each of them, but they often snuggle together in one. It makes me happy to see them sleeping in them. — MF

Source of fundamental elements
The best source I’ve found for small samples of very pure elements – such as scandium, dysprosium, holmium, terbium, yttrium, uranium – including, yes, cubes of pure tungsten ($14), is Luciteria. Very reliable, thorough, and extensive catalog of all available common and exotic elements. I’ve been amassing a full collection of these universal atoms. — KK

Reduce and organize tab clutter
I use OneTab to close and save all the open tabs that I have an emotional attachment to, but that eat up memory. OneTab is a free chrome extension that converts all my open tabs into a list of links that I can later restore individually or as a group. I love that I can drag and group links and then name them, as well as share them as a webpage like this. The only inconvenience is that my OneTab doesn’t sync across devices, but after a day of working on one device, I just email myself the webpage of closed tabs and that works well enough for me. — CD

Mailing list email filter
Would you like to keep your regular email separated from your mailing list email? Here’s the easiest way: set a filter to route any email that contains the word “unsubscribe” to a separate email folder. — MF

Best free video editing software
Editing video is the new self-publishing. I’m trying to learn it. The two classic standard programs for video editing are very expensive. However, there are a bunch of really good programs for free. CreativeBloq ran a comparative review of the best free video editing software, which is likely to cover 99% of most uses. I have no excuses now.  — KK

How to create your personal feed
This instagram post by artist/writer Morgan Harper Nichols outlines how she uses her Notes App on iPhone to cut her daily screen time in half. She says::

1 - Using the Notes App on my iPhone, I made some graphics that would encourage me to click on them.
2 - I made 9 lists that I knew would encourage me or remind me to do or focus on something. I put the graphics at the top. I spent days working on these lists and I’m still adding and making changes to them.
3 - When I pinned these graphics to the top of my notes app, the image shows up in the previews of the note
When I was done making this list, I told myself this: “whenever I go to my phone now and I’m getting ready to mindlessly scroll, I’m going to go to my Personal Feed instead.”

Some of her list titles are: “List of goals,” “Remember when….” “Affirmations” and “Books to return to.” I’ve already started working on my own, so far I have “Genius Ideas,” of which there is only one at the moment, and “Subtle Images” which is just a growing list of images from daydreams. — CD

The Technium

Weekly Links, 01/14/2022

Cool Tools

Hanging Devices That Have Keyhole Mounts

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a safe, fun, and restorative holiday. And I hope you’re ready for another year of trading tips, tools, and tales from the workshop. As always, please share your thoughts, ideas, and recommendations with me.


We have a winner in the holiday drawing for Vols 1 and 2 of my Tips and Tales from the WorkshopDavid Brigden, please send me your mailing address. And thanks to everyone who sent me stories and pics of their most beloved tool of 2021.

Hanging Devices That Have Keyhole Mounts
Here’s a quick video on using painter’s tape to correctly position the keyhole mounts on a power strip (or anything else that use such mounting). Mark Frauenfelder of Cool Tools recommends this power strip. I just bought one myself and will be installing it using the above method.

Harbor Freight Airbrush and Compressor
You may have seen the inexpensive airbrushes and compressors at Harbor Freight and wondered if they’re worth it. In this video, YouTuber Barbatos Rex puts the Freight’s $119 compressor and dual-action airbrush kit to the test. How does it fare? In the words of Larry David: “Pretty, pretty good.”

Solder Seal Wire Connectors
In this quick tip video, Adam Savage demos the use of a product that I’d never even heard of: Solder Seal Wire Connectors. These connectors allow you to make waterproof wire joins without having to twist and solder wires. You simply slot the wires into the clear plastic connector tube and hit it with a heat gun. The tube has solder inside for the electrical connection and it clamps and shrink-seals the wires at the same time. Adam also extols the virtues of numbered wire marking tape. These are little labels, numbered 0-9, that you can use to mark and ID corresponding connections.

Bringing Your Tools in from the Cold
Thirteen year old woodworker, Evan, shared this tip on Instagram:

“I’m bringing my hand planes inside from the shop for the winter. If your shop is not heated or insulated as is the case with mine, there’s a risk that your tools can rust because of moisture in the air. For my power tools, I wax and cover them because they’re too big to bring inside. Also, my parents would not be too happy with me if my jointer and band saw were in the dining room.”

Cheap Foam Core Sheets
Kevin Kelly wrote in the latest Recomendo:

“Foam core is super versatile making stuff. Together with hot glue you can make almost anything – doll houses, organizers, quick prototypes, kid’s constructions, models, displays, etc. The boards can be expensive at stationary stores. The cheapest source of foam board I know about are 20 x 30 x 3/16 inch sheets from the Dollar Tree store, at $1.25 per board. They are thin but sufficient and cheap.”

Dollar Tree foam board sheets are especially coveted by tabletop gamers, dungeon crafters, diorama builders, “foamies” (foam plane builders), and other hobby crafters because the paper is so easily peeled away from the foam. All you have to do is spritz with water/alcohol and the paper peels right off, leaving you with a 3/16" sheet of foam to work with.

Maker Slang for 2021

[caption id="attachment_39662" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Transporter accident – A 3D print that has failed, creating a tangled mess of plastic where your object was supposed to be. Transporter accident – A 3D print that has failed, creating a tangled mess of plastic where your object was supposed to be.[/caption]

This past year, I started a semi-regular column here of jargon, slang, and technical terms that I thought would be informative and/or entertaining to newsletter readers. I gathered up all of the entries I published in 2021 and did a post on Boing Boing. You can see the entire list here.

Shop Talk

Reader John Morse writes:

“I don’t know if this is a tip or a vise story, but…

"I have a mostly manual machine shop that I have worked at since 1984 and bought in 1999. I sometimes think about how I would start from scratch. First thing is a sturdy bench with a good vise attached to it. Amazing things can be done from here. The first machine I would buy is a drill press; again, amazing things. From here it becomes a matter of what you’re trying to do. I’ve seen some maker videos where my first thought was "Somebody please buy them a bandsaw!” As I get older, I start to think about downsizing and what piece of equipment I could part with. Yes, I have three Bridgeports, but this is a working shop so they are often all in use. Having them has become so ingrained into my thingmaking skills that I have a hard time thinking about doing without. Really, the main thing is to think about what kind of making you’re trying to do and add to your tool kit as you needed.“

Cool Tools

What’s in my drawer? — Nicole Harkin

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Nicole Harkin is a writer and a photographer living in Washington, DC. Her first book, Tilting, A Memoir, was about her childhood growing up in Montana with a pilot and a flight attendant for parents. Her new book-in-progress is a true-life novel about her grandmother’s life as a WW2 widow and then as the wife of a man who embezzled millions of dollars from the State of Illinois. Gram also made a great gin-and-tonic.


My kitchen drawer is a place of minor organization of a largely unorganized life.


1. Bonnie Maman mini-jar
I love anything that is mini and/or that you can put things inside of. This little jar does both. I pop my rings into it with a drop of dish soap and hot water. Close it up and shake, and then I have sparkling clean rings. Next time you have room service, save one of these little glass jars.

2. Yamazaki Bolo 5 Piece Ice Cream Set
I’ve had lots and lots of ice cream scoopers but this one is the best. It is sturdy and shaped almost like a flat spatula. The thumb divot is great, you can really get some leverage on your frozen treats. The set comes with more spoons and these are nice too. Long handles make them perfect for ice cream sodas. Yamazaki seems to be a generic Japanese goods company. I like how almost all of their products look.

3. Corn Holders
These corn holders are great for people who don’t like to get their fingers greasy. My youngest is in that group. He won’t touch the corn without these. Is it a bit precious: yes. Do I care? No. Dishwasher safe and kid approved.

4. Vintage spoon from London
I found this spoon in my childhood items. My mom was a flight attendant and she had brought this spoon home for me from London. I was looking at it in its box and realized my kids would love eating with it. I urge you to break out your heirloom spoons and eat from them too. It’s fun.

5. Citrus Peeler
My mother had these from Williams Sonoma when I was a child. Of course fingernails do the trick, but I never liked how that feels as you push your finger into the orange. This little plastic piece cuts the peel and the other end lets you lift up the peel as you go. For a $1 a piece, you can’t go wrong.

6. Mini screw driver
This is a Cool Tool, and what a great tool it is. I keep it in the drawer so I know where a screwdriver is at all times. And the kids know where it is too. I love that all of the tips are in the handle. I don’t think the brand really matters and for $8 it’s a good deal.

Random Other Items/Notes
Dansk Odin Flatware — People make a lot of fun of my flatware’s knives. Yes, the shape is odd, but I love them. And apparently they are now going up in value because Dansk no longer is producing them.

I buy a ton of random novelty items from stores like TJMaxx and Marshall’s. The small silicone spatulas are from TJ Maxx and are great for cleaning out the last bit of peanut butter or mango chutney from jars. I have four of them myself and give them as gifts when I find them on sale.

Cool Tools

Humankind/Samplerman/Old Book Illustrations

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The inherent goodness of humans
This is the most important book I have read in a long while. Humankind: A Hopeful History  overturns a belief I held most of my life: that society was a thin veneer that kept bad behavior at bay and had to work hard to elevate good behavior. Humankind brings abundant evidence to show the opposite is true. When left to themselves, in their most elemental state such as in catastrophes and emergencies, humans inherently will do good, and only with effort can be led to the bad. It’s very contrarian, but persuasive, and should be the basis for how we run things. — KK

Comics reimagined
I’m following Samplerman, a French artist on Instagram and Tumblr, who samples old comic books and recombines the visual parts into cool, inventive images. I love the retro colors and analog textures, and the abundant style. Check out his alternative comicland. — KK

Image collection of old book illustrations
Old Book Illustrations is a collection of French Romanticism and Victorian era illustrations searchable by subject, artist or title. All of the illustrations are in the public domain and free to use. Most of the images have captions or descriptions and internet archive links to the entire book. I discovered this site through Jane Friedman’s newsletter Electric Speed which always has interesting links and resources for writers. —CD

Letter writing tips
I love slow correspondence and any excuse to connect with a friend through a letter or card. These tips from Hallmark Card writer Courtney Faye Taylor on letter writing reminded me of all the things to keep in mind when penning a message, like leading with vulnerability and curiosity. She suggests not just sharing facts about your life, but the feelings behind them, because when you give someone a window into your personal experience you’re also creating a space for them to do the same. — CD

Safety vest for running
After many years of not running, I started again. I live in a hilly part of Los Angeles without sidewalks, so to maximize my visibility I bought this inexpensive Freemove reflective vest. It weighs almost nothing and has a pocket to hold my phone. It also comes with a pouch so I can pack it for traveling. — MF

Digital art tutorials
I’m a big fan of Retrosupply, which sells digital brushes, fonts, and textures for Photoshop, Illustrator, and Procreate. They also have an excellent tutorial section with free videos and instructions for creating retro-style art. It’s a good way to learn how to use digital drawing tools, especially Procreate. (Here’s a sketch I drew using Retrosupply textures and brushes.) — MF

The Technium

Weekly Links, 01/07/2022

Cool Tools

What's in my art studio? — Ed Epping

Ed Epping‘s current body of work, CORRECTIONS (2015-present), uses drawings, sculptural forms, collages, books, and public projects to explore the social injustices of over-criminalization and mass incarceration policies within the United States. Focusing on the individuals targeted by judicial systems and social strategies, the work aims to build public knowledge by reimagining mass incarceration in the United States.

Epping’s work has consistently united the properties oftrace, delay, and proximity. Various mnemonic operations regularly incorporate homographic words that, like memory, depend upon contextual constructs to determine their multiple meanings. Homographs are defined as two or more words spelled the same, pronounced differently and mean differently; e.g., secreted, hinder, evening, unionized, number.

Granary Books has published four of Epping’s earlier projects. His work has been collected by Museum of Modern Art-Artists Books Collection, Yale, Harvard, the Center for Creative Photography, The Art Institute of Chicago, University of Chicago and the Getty Center, among others. Epping received an M.F.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition to teaching at Williams College (1977-2017), he has taught at the University of Illinois-Chicago and Central Michigan University. He was the AD Falck Professor of Studio Art at Williams College from 2001-2017.

Epping currently lives in Galisteo, NM.

You can find his work on


A basic premise of all the work I am most intrigued by: the work examines that quality or condition which has been overlooked by most. I attempt to use that as a guide for choosing what I focus on in my imagery. So, I use words and images as partners where the word does not caption the image and the image does not illustrate the words. I privilege idea over medium because not all ideas work successfully in every medium. That often requires me to learn a brand new tool that best accommodates the image that I wish to produce, and hence I have many tools in my studio. This has permitted me to bring together processes that are not typically partnered and in that relationship build richer surfaces. The debossing and embossing of text and image into paper, like the pyrotechnic drawing, embeds the word and object into the ground…becoming part of that plane that then supports other marks. It is not surprising to find manual/electric type on inkjet printed images that have been debossed and burned…perhaps even machine embroidered. Each tool, each process brings with it a set of conventions that are enhanced by these pairings.


Bottle Jack Press
This is the second version that I made. In lieu of a bigger press, this 18 x 24” press bed with a 6-ton jack does just fine for debossing into paper. I found the plans online (now there are many DIY versions) and made the second to improve on the first. I was and remain attracted to its simplicity and low cost construction.


Takach Etching Press 30 x 48”
After a few years of using the smaller press, I decided I wanted to have a larger press bed for bigger sheets of paper. This is one of the finest etching presses made in USA and became available from a neighbor. Capable of more evenly distributing pressure than the smaller press, it permits debossing/embossing, chin collé and, of course, etching.


Wood Burning Sets
These two wood burning sets have different styluses with different degrees of fine detail. The older set, Detail Master VI/Sabre is no longer widely available and when I needed finer stylus work in my pyrotechnic drawings, I found the Razertip SK online. The lines it burns into the paper I use creates a beautifully rich sepia tone. I am attracted to the fact that the scorched mark is in the paper and not on the paper.


Perkins Braille Typewriter
I use language in much of my work and various electric and manual typewriters to reflect the different voices/time eras present in the text. I also wanted a tactile language and located this Perkins Braille typewriter on eBay several years ago. That there is language within some works only available to a few readers builds a kind of privacy into the language and its meaning.

The Technium

Ideas Want to be Shared


I have contrarian ideas on intellectual property. I've come to think that the natural home of ideas is in the commons, that they should not be "owned" for very long. My perspective is neither widespread, nor part of current law, nor have I seen it articulated elsewhere, but I think it might be a better alternative, so I am presenting it here.

The default metaphor for intellectual property in modern times is "ownership." In this model of ownership, all ideas, stories, inventions, characters, product names, techniques are understood to be inherently born as the property of their creator. These thoughts-made-real are seen to be owned by the mind that births them. You think them, you own them. With this status of ownership, intangible creations such as a novel, a musical melody, a plot, a phrase, formula, etc — all things created by a mind — are given a monopoly of rights in order to encourage further creations by the same creator. And to spur others to create.  This lawful monopoly — such as copyright, patents, trademarks — protects the creation from being used by others for gain. By current law, this inherent monopolistic ownership is held strongly for long periods of time, ranging from decades to a century, depending on the conceptual type (patents may be 17 years while copyright may exceed lifetimes). This awarded monopoly has a few exceptions for very limited special cases, such as "fair use" and public domain. In these modes anyone can fairly use the invention for their own purposes. Certain restrictions may apply, like if the use might need to be for education, or for parody, or so used in a transformative way, or bettered by the use. These exceptions were to be kept to an absolute minimum in order to maximize the monopoly of the hard working creator. This framing plays into both the modern idea of ownership as the sacred foundation of wealth and prosperity, but it also plays into the idea of creator as a hero, or at least as the bedrock of progress.

I believe this arrangement is misguided. The whole framework should be inverted. Public domain and fair use should be the default, and an IP monopoly should be the exception.

We have tons of evidence today that independent simultaneous invention is the norm for ideas in science and technology and even to a surprising extent in literature and art. Most technical things, often even artistic things, are invented by more than one person, at the same time, independently. In other words if X did not create it, Y will soon afterwards, if he/she has not already invented it before. Further, we now know almost all "new" things are recombinations of old things (a new book is a recombination of pre-existing dictionary words), and even the most inventive creative work is still mostly older ideas, concepts, patterns borrowed from others. Breakthrough ideas are usually made with the addition of one small idea to a mountain of other, older ideas. In that way ideas are really ecosystems. Ideas can not stand alone; they depend on other ideas for their force. Of course there can be a gem of a really original idea in a work but it is deeply entangled in a deep web of old patterns. More importantly, we have a mistakenly romantic notion of how those crucial key ideas arrive. The popular notion is the hero creates the key idea with immense struggle alone, and if it were not for them, this greatness  would otherwise never appear. We tend to believe that Einstein's, or Picasso's, or Tolkien's ideas or patterns would have only come to them, but that is incorrect. The evidence shows otherwise (read a good biography), which is why today every single creation (either artistic, technical, or scientific) that becomes super successful will be sued by others who claim to have invented, discovered, or created something similar at the same time or before. The more our modern world gets connected in real time, the more visible this multiple creation becomes. People have the same great idea at the same time.  And increasingly more people are having the same idea at the same time. That is because the ideas arise from our common wealth.

It is in the commons that ideas blossom. When scientific discoveries are shared, they can be accelerated. When the blueprints of inventions are shared (and not hidden) new inventions spring up faster. Walt Disney made his fortune by reworking public domain fairy tales. Because the stories were already in the commons, he was able to re-interpret them into modern forms. As many others also did. In recent years, Disney has begun to create new fairy tales, but they are not shared in the commons. Even after the death of Disney, when he can no longer be incentivized, his stories are given a monopoly. The maximum gain to society would come if those stories, too, were returned into the public domain commons. But ironically Disney has been the chief force in preventing copyrights in the US to return to the commons.

Rather than concede there are multiple origins, our current system rewards the first person who claims to be the first. But the ownership we bestow on the first to claim originality it is rather arbitrary, although it does indeed spur more effort.  A better way of accounting is to admit that all ideas and intellectual goodness is actually born from the commons and into the commons, from the pool of all that is known. That is, ideas arise from the commonwealth of all knowledge and current ideas. Without this commonwealth of knowledge, there would be no new ideas. However, if no one is rewarded for working on bringing new ideas to life, then far few would try. So even though the reward for originality is arbitrary, it is still useful. My proposal then is that we continue to award monopolies briefly on those who claim first rights (while acknowledging it is basically arbitrary). So for a brief period of time we remove this idea from the commons and bestow a monopoly upon it. The "owner" has exclusive rights for that monopoly period. But as soon as possible it is returned to the commons where great things can happen. A novel thing is born from the commons, and it is returned to the commons as soon as possible. In the meantime to encourage future creation we give it a temporarily limited monopoly. In my model, the natural home of intangibles is in the commons, as a default.

For best results for society, this monopoly should be as minimal as possible in its duration and privileges. "Soon as possible" is the key phrase. No IP should last a century, no matter what. In our fast-moving world, 20 years of protection is more than enough for most ideas. Another step is to emphasize the rights of monopolies should have corresponding duties. Those duties might include publication, dissemination, education, APIs, platform tools, or many other tools that would facilitate its use when it returns to the commons.

The books I have written are created from words invented by others, filled with ideas created by others. Even the few new ideas that are new depend on older ideas to work. What I had to say would probably be said by someone else not long after me. (More probably there have already been said by someone I was not aware of.) I may be the lucky person to claim those rare new ideas, but the worth of my art primarily resides in the great accumulation of the ideas and works of thousands of writers and thinkers before me — what I call the commons. My work was born in the commons, it gets its value by being deeply connected to the commons, and after my brief stewardship of those tiny new bits, it should return to the commons as fast as possible, in as many ways as possible.

That may strike others as romantic as the heroic stance. What happens in the details? We can imagine a very short half life of protection for ideas in patents and science, but it is harder to imagine for characters and stories in literature. They seem more like children than inventions. Would we want Harry Potter to be returned to the commons before JK Rowling died? Is that just cruel? So we already have a different time scale for copyrights vs patents (but of course I think the current Lifetime Plus scale for US copyright is ludicrous and bonkers). But if we were guided by this inverted perspective we would be doing as many things as possible to widen the common use, to make fair use the default stance, to assume that intangibles should start in the commonwealth and return to it as soon as possible. Use of snippets, copies in transit, sampling, remixing, gray areas, would all be seen as natural, and the default. Creators would borrow easily, make generously, and we would minimize the benefits of illusionary sole proprietorship.

This illusion, BTW, reigns not just in the arts, but throughout American culture, especially in the business world, where narrative of the lone American genius battling the entrenched biases of the establishment and breaking through with his personal heroic "aha" moment is the set storyline. If you add a layer of politics, then the lone hero is battling the socialistic tendencies weighing down the masses with victimhood, and then we have the story of this decade. I am under no illusion myself that my communitarian perspective of ideas as being born from the commons, not from heroic individuals, and returning to the commons widely as fast as possible, will be adopted voluntarily. But like the initial resistance to accepting that copies want to flow freely (another communistic tendency), these resistances in the end are overwhelmed by the inherent biases in technology. See the music industry, which fought against streaming for decades before succumbing to the inevitable.

Ideas want to be shared. Sharing is baked into their nature. They don't want to be owned, since ownership diminishes their usefulness. In the end, ideas will move in the direction of maximum sharing regardless of what the law says. And over time the law will codify what technology wants.

Cool Tools

Shape Catcher/Deep hyperlinks/Wandermap

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Unicode character recognition
If ever there is a time that you need to identify or find a symbol, shape or character, this Shapecatcher tool will help you do that. Just sketch it into the drawbox using your mouse and click “Recognize” to get a list of possibilities that you can copy and paste, along with their names and unicode codes. — CD

Deep hyperlinks
The latest version of the Chrome browser enables you to link to a specific word/phrase/sentence within a web page, rather than just linking the entire page. You can focus attention on just the right text. Right click on the desired text section while in Chrome and select “Copy Link to Highlight.  More details here.  You need Chrome to create a deep link or to view one. — KK

Plan your hikes
Wandermap is a website with thousands of user-submitted hikes (and bike routes) all over the world. My favorite feature lets me draw a route on the map to see how far it is and the change in elevation along the route. The desktop website generates a QR code of my route so I can easily transfer it to my phone.  — MF

Electrify your life
Half of our climate goals can be achieved by electrifying everything. This free book, Electrifying Everything in Your Home (PDF download), gives very explicit and useful instructions on how you can electrify your own home and life, even if you are a renter. Covers heat pumps, solar panels, electric vehicles, electric appliances, and more. It’s thorough. I found the section on electric heat pumps (which replace furnaces and air conditioners) particularly helpful because I could not find this kind of reliable actionable info anywhere else. — KK

Timeline of the Human Condition
Here is a long scroll through milestones in human evolution, sourced from Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, and BBC, and put together by a Professor in Ecology. At the end of the page there is a note of Ages: that rescales the timeline to a calendar year which is really interesting. The Big Bang begins on January 1, the Sun forming on September 1, earliest signs of life appear on September 13, and just 2 hours before the year’s end appears us — humans. — CD

VR workout
My 18-year-old daughter bought an Oculus Quest 2 VR system but didn’t like it. It sat in the box for a few months before I gave it a try. I got a trial subscription to a boxing fitness program called Supernatural. I’m hooked. It’s so much fun that I don’t notice that my heart is beating fast and I’m panting as I’m dodging, ducking, and jabbing. With over 500 workouts, I look forward to the beautiful settings and enthusiastic coaches every time I work out. — MF

The Technium

Weekly Links, 12/31/2021

Cool Tools

Fiskars PowerGear Bypass Pruner

This hand clipper is a really cool ergonomic innovation. It uses an ingenious gear design to easily slice off sticks that are 3/4 inch in diameter. As you squeeze, the bottom handle rolls slightly and this motion leverages the power in the scissor cut. I find I can now tackle stuff that ordinarily I would have had to run back to get the larger pruners for. Your Felco pruning clippers will last you a lifetime, but as my grip wanes, I find I this lightweight Fiskars pruner is the clipper I grab first.

Cool Tools

Tree of Life/You Don’t Know Africa/Tip of my Tongue

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Explore the Tree of Life
OneZoom is an interactive tree of life that allows you to zoom in and out and explore the connections between 2.2 million living species. It’s a lot to visualize and process, but fun to explore. I felt really small and grateful realizing what a tiny little branch of life we are as humans. — CD

Test yourself on African countries
Africa has over 50 countries. Test your geography knowledge with a quiz, You Don’t Know Africa, that presents you with a blank map of Africa. It then displays a country name, and you have to click on the right country to increase your score by one. You can also test your knowledge of the flags of Africa. — MF

The remembering place
There is a movie you saw, a song you remember, a book you once read but now you can’t recall the title. You can hold it in your mind’s eye, but it’s name escapes you. A long online search turns up nothing. For an answer turn to the crowd-sourced answer machine that is Reddit. On the subreddit r/Tip of my Tongue over 1.8 million redditors might be able to identify your target from your written description. They succeed about 1 out of four times. — KK

Improved Bluetooth trackers
Tile’s new line of Bluetooth trackers includes the Pro, which has a 400-foot range and a replaceable battery. Tiles are currently on my car key fob, wallet, and AirPod case, and I just bought a couple more to put on my water bottle and Nintendo Switch case, which I misplace all the time. Tiles now work with Alexa and Hey Google, too. — MF

Cheap foam core boards
Foam core is super versatile making stuff. Together with hot glue you can make almost anything – doll houses, organizers, quick prototypes, kid’s constructions, models, displays, etc. The boards can be expensive at stationary stores. The cheapest source of foam board I know about are 20 x 30 x 3/16 inch sheets from the Dollar Tree store, at $1.25 per board. They are thin but sufficient and cheap. — KK

AI art machine
Dream by WOMBO is an AI art machine that is fun to play with. All you have to do is enter a text prompt and pick an art style to create something weird. This is great for bringing to life imagery from dreams and or designing your own oracle deck. Here are a few I made: Dimension of PlayGuardian Tree Spirits and Frog Shaman. — CD

The Technium

Weekly Links, 12/24/2021

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What’s in my photo bag? — Lawrence Lazare

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After a 25-year career as an eCommerce product leader, I recently retired after the loss of my central vision caused by Stargardt Disease, a genetic eye disease that affects the retina. In my newfound retirement, I am concentrating on my photography practice, as well as documenting my vision-loss journey at Becoming legally blind has caused a great deal of change in my 40 year-long photography practice, and certainly, the contents of my camera bag have changed to accommodate my vision challenges. I currently live in Pensacola, FL with my wife, sculptor Carrie Fonder, and with our two English Bulldogs. You can follow me on Instagram at @llazare


Like most photographers, I am on a never-ending search for the perfect camera bag. My current bag is the Lowepro Photo Hatchback BP 250 AW II. I like the fact that the cube that holds my gear cab be removed so that I can use it as a non-photo bag. It also has a built-in rain cover as well as being a very sturdy bag. That said, I just ordered a new bag just this week that I am anxious to try out.


I usually carry two cameras along with a number of lenses:

Infrared photography is my main photo focus, and I shoot with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II that has been converted to Infrared. My camera was converted by a fantastic company in NJ called Kolari Vision. My OM-D EM5 has a full-spectrum conversion which allows me to use filters to shoot different light spectrums. The Kolari site has a wealth of information about Infrared photography in general. If you’re interested in learning more, here’s a good video that provides an intro to Infrared Photography. You can see some of my infrared photos here.

I keep a non-converted camera in my bag, an Olympus E-M1 MARK III. Olympus is known for its image stabilization, and the EM1 has features like star auto-focus. That makes it possible for me to do astrophotography despite my vision challenges.


I hardly ever wore sunglasses before my vision loss, but I am now extremely light-sensitive, so I almost always wear sunglasses when I am outdoors, and sometimes even when I am indoors in brightly lit spaces. I wear a pair from Two Blind Brothers, a company run by two brothers who are afflicted with Stargardt Disease, the same disease I have. The glasses are designed to meet the need of the visually impaired, but they are great choice for anyone looking for high-quality sunglasses.


My light sensitivity also necessitates that I also wear a hat whenever I am in the sun. I recently ditched my trusty NY Mets baseball cap for this embarrassingly named Fisherman’s Chillba Hat from Kavu. Although it’s certainly not runway-ready, it’s a fantastic hat. It has a metal band in the brim that allows you to fold it into a tiny disk, making it perfect for tossing in your bag. It’s water-resistant and fully reversible.


My European friends have long sung the praises of hiking poles, but I have only recently become a convert. What I love most about these Trekology Trek-Z Trekking Hiking Poles is that they fold down to a size where I can put them in the side pocket of my pack.


Lastly, I always keep a 30000mAh Solar Charger in my bag — I like the fact that in addition to plugging it into the wall, I can charge it by setting in the sun. There are many different solar chargers out there, but I like the fact that my current unit can be charged using a lightning cable ( as well as with a micro-USB cable) which allows me to use the same cable to charge the unit as well as my iPhone. When I get my next charger, I will get one that includes a flashlight as well as a USB-C port.

The Technium

The Photonic Age

We are moving into a photonic world. Photonics may become more important that electronics.

Photons, like electrons, can carry both energy and information. We have heavy wires for electrons carrying big energy, enough to shock or kill you, and we have tiny wires, smaller than a hair for electrons to carry information — in electronics and chips —- whose energy you can't feel in any way.

We have photons from the sun. Outside of the shields of atmosphere and magnetic fields, these photons — especially the UV variety — could kill you. Within the shields of Earth these photons warm us and power all plants and indirectly all life on this planet. We have lasers that shoot photons with enough power to cut through steel and kill us. We also have weaker streams of photons that carry information — glass fibers and screens — whose energy we can't feel in any way.

The digital realm runs on electrons. Electrons underpin the entire realm of computing and today's communication. Almost all bits are electronic bits. We use packets of electrons to make binary codes of off/on. We make logic circuits out of packets of electronics flowing around circuits. Electrons are close to our idea of particles flowing like bits of matter.

Photons on the other hand are waves, or wavicles. Light and all electromagnetic spectrum like radio travel as wave-particles. They are not really discrete particles. They are continuous, analog waves. They are almost the opposite of binary. To one approximation, the photonic world is closer to analog than is the electronic world.

We have interfaces for moving between electronics and photonics.  That's how you get Instagram pics on your phone, and Netflix over fiber optic cables. Electronic binary packets rush into screens which emit photons. As we enhance our virtual worlds we will do ever more with photons. Augmented reality, mixed reality, or what I call Mirrorworlds, are spatially rendered spaces with full volumetric depth and minute visual detail that will mimic the photons of the real world.  To render full volumetric spatial scenes with the resolution needed, and to light it convincingly, in a shared world with many participants will require astronomical amounts of computation. Since the results we want are in photons, it may turn out that we do as much of the computation in photonics, rather than going from photons to electrons and then back to photons. Instead of electronic chips we'll have photonic chips. Photons race around and are gated and shunted to compute results and then the results are display directly as photons. We see them on the screens in our smart glasses. Using cameras in our smart glasses we detect the photons generated by another person in the Mirrorworld, and those photons are processed in a photonic chip, and rendered into a new scene, displayed as photons on someone else's screen.  Even without a fully 100% photonic chip, the Mirrorworld requires immense amounts of rendering photons to correctly light and visualize the virtual layers. The Mirrorworld and even the metaverse will be primarily photonic realm, with zillions of photons zipping around, being sensed, and then re-created. It will be the Photonic Age.

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The Rescue/Knife sharpener/The Wisdom Index

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Incredible feel-good documentary
You may remember the story of the Thai boys stranded in a deep cave years ago. There was an international effort to get them out that lasted weeks. But the story of how they actually rescued the kids is so unbelievable, so amazing, so insane, and so crazy that it is definitely worth watching The Rescue, the thrilling National Geographic documentary about this unlikely feat. The heroes of The Rescue are unexpected and unlikely themselves. I call this the best documentary of the year. (Streaming on Disney+) — KK

Easiest knife sharpener
I’ve never had much success with sharpening kitchen knives to a razor’s edge by hand using traditional sharpening stones. But I now get razor sharp knives very fast using a small motorized sharpening belt made for the purpose. The Work Sharp MK2 requires little skill, it’s small, and relatively inexpensive ($80) for a sharpening system. Sharpening takes maybe 5 minutes per knife even when very dull, and is pretty foolproof. It also sharpens scissors, axes, and other tools. I now sharpen our knives much more frequently. — KK

The Wisdom Index
Researchers at UC San Diego created a 7-question survey that can determine your level of wisdom called the Jeste-Thomas Wisdom Index. You can take the 5-minute test here. The questions relate to 7 components of wisdom: Acceptance of Divergent Perspectives, Decisiveness, Emotional Regulation, Pro-Social Behaviors, Self-Reflection, Social Advising and Spirituality. Wisdom scores range from 1-5 with a score of 3 being considered neutral. My highest score was a 5 in Spirituality and my lowest score was 3.75 in Social Advising, which is kind of ironic because this is a recommendation. I posted my scores here. — CD

Super strong mounting tape
I used small squares of Gorilla Heavy Duty Double Sided Mounting Tape to attach panels of plywood together as part of an art project. To test the strength of the adhesive, I pried the panels apart with a screwdriver. The wood broke before the tape did. — MF

AI-created weirdness
The Internet Dungeon of Unexplained Phenomena is a website of AI-generated images and text depicting paranormal occurrences — like Dimensional rift at Scholastic Book Fair and The spooky locked door in the public library. It reminds me of a visual “Welcome to Night Vale”. It’s creepy and poetic and just scrolling through the blog excites my imagination. — CD

Short bits of useful advice from books
You might not know that we publish a few other newsletters besides Recomendo. One of them is Book Freak. Each issue offers four short pieces of advice found in useful books. Here are two quotes BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits, which is the subject of issue 61. — MF

Before making a decision, ask yourself these two questions
“Will it help you do what you already want to do? Will it help you feel successful? The answers to those questions is freeing because if the change program doesn’t satisfy these two requirements, it’s not worth your time. ”

Form habits through emotion, not repetition
“In my own research, I found that habits can form very quickly, often in just a few days, as long as people have a strong positive emotion connected to the behavior… When I teach people about human behavior, I boil it down to three words to make the point crystal clear: emotions create habits. Not repetition. Not frequency. Not fairy dust. Emotions.”


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