Cool Tools

Force Conversion Calculators

Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales is published by Cool Tools Lab. To receive the newsletter a week early, sign up here.

I want to grow my subscriber base. To aid in this, I’m announcing a Holiday Giveaway Challenge. I’ll be giving away a bundle of inscribed copies of both of my tips books (Vol. 1Vol. 2) and three of my favorite everyday tools: The Williams ratcheting screwdriver, the Canary cardboard cutter, and a plastic razor blade. To be eligible for the drawing, you need to convince three people to sign up for my newsletter (and then email me their names). If you sign up 5 (or more), you get two entries in the drawing. Contest ends Midnight, Dec. 11. Sorry, but this contest is US-only!

Force Conversion Calculators

On Digi-Key’s website, they have a set of calculators for converting between various units of physical force (newtons, gram-force, metric ton-force, and others). So, the next time you need to covert between Sthène and Poundal

Torture-Testing Bench Vises

Bench vises are one of those common tools where people rave about the cheap ones available at Harbor Freight. I’ve always wondered how true this was. So, seeing this Project Farm video, I was anxious to know how the Freight would fare. Todd tested the following brands: Heuer, Ridgid, Yost, Wilton, Baileigh, Irwin, Forward, Central Forge, Olympia, Myoyay. Vises were tested for clamp load, durability from impact, anvil durability, and clamp load failure point. This is one of the few Project Farm videos I’ve seen where Todd pushed the tool to complete failure.

Sure enough, the $69 (at time of testing) Harbor Freight vise (Central Forge) performed amazingly well. Not surprisingly, the $500 (at time of testing) Heuer was best overall. Now that I see this testing, I’m definitely going to grab a Harbor Freight vise. When we moved to California last year, I left my two vises on the east coast and I’ve been missing having one (beyond my Dremel hobby vise).

The Basics of Photochemical Machining for Precise Parts

In this Applied Science videoBen provides a nice and thorough introduction to photoetching small, precise metal parts, aka photochemical machining. The process is involved, not really for beginners, and this is a work-in-progress video. But, because there aren’t any vendors out there (that I’m aware of) providing this service for small-batch photochemical machining, this video is a way in if you need to consider creating such small, precision metal parts on your own.

Bringing a Rusted Cast Iron Skillet Back from the Dead

Over on Boing BoingMark Frauenfelder shared this video on one of the many processes (basically they’re all the same with some variation) for reviving a completely rusty cast iron skillet. Years ago, I decided to revive the 3 very rusty skillets I had in the bottom of my pots and pans cabinet. I watched several videos and followed a similar process. It was so satisfying to bring these decades-old kitchen tools back to life.

The Existential Pleasures of Restoration and Repair

Good as new!Good as new!

Speaking of kitchen tools, my wife’s handheld mixer died recently. I heard it seize up as she was making something downstairs. We could’ve just bought a new one (this thing is ancient), but I really wanted to fix it, especially as she told me of its lineage. This is the first and only mixer she’s ever had. Every holiday feast was made with this mixer. She raised her kids on this mixer. Her sister gave it to her. As I like to say, tools always come with stories, and this one has great stories. I took it to my workbench, took it apart, and had a look. I quickly discover that the wormgear that transfers the motor’s spin to the beater gears was frozen. Some WD-40 and and few gentle twists with the needle nose and it was working again. Easy! The beater ejector had long ago broken, so I fixed that, too. The mixer was filled with decades of dust, batter gunk, and thickened oil. I took everything apart, cleaned it, inside and out, and put it all back together. This process was an act of love, for my wife, and also for the stories this mixer tells. And now, will continue to tell.

Noteable Quotables

“I always work at the edge of what I understand.” -Musician, artist, Brian Eno

“There is nothing worse than a brilliant beginning.” -Pablo Picasso

Shop Talk

Paul Cryan writes:

Watching the Stumpy Nubs vid on oscillating tools, I thought about getting mine out and seeing if it could solve some of my “learning issues” with 3D printing. Not only did my Dremel Multi-Max MM40 fit with a Diablo HCS flexible adhesive scraping blade do beautiful work cutting away support material from PLA prints, but I’m pretty sure it will work to get those stubborn PETG prints to release from the PEI print surfaces I’ve got on all my printers. To my surprise, at a shallow angle of attack (e.g., < ~30 degrees) the oscillating adhesive blade doesn’t seem harmful to the print surface, despite its keen front edge, and it wiggles under really stuck PETG. As pointed out in the Stumpy Nubs video, the oscillating blade can be grabbed without danger. I think it might become my new favorite way of releasing sticky 3D prints so that I don’t damage the surfaces of my printers.


Reader Kristian Reinhart (who was the winner of last year’s holiday tips challenge) sent a batch of new tips. Here are a few:

* The quickest non-chemical way I’ve found to clean up the surface of 3D prints (especially flats or edges on FDM prints) is using a snap-off blade and scraping over the surface. Much less hassle than sandpaper. Card scrapers, especially small ones, also work great, and depending on their shape and the shape of the print, shape do so far better than the snap-off blades, but they’re not as ubiquitously available and require maintenance.

* When lending tools or other things, I take a picture and edit it to write down the name of the recipient, then I store those pictures in a separate folder on my phone. That way, I always know exactly what I lent out to whom, and from the date of the picture, when.

Cool Tools

Velcro & Cords

Once a week we’ll send out a page from Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities. The tools might be outdated or obsolete, but the possibilities they inspire are new. Sign up here to get Tools for Possibilities a week early in your inbox.

Velcro double-sided wide ties

Velcro One-Wrap, $6

I carry a roll of the Velcro Plant Ties (see right) in my tool bag, but also keep One-Wrap Velcro strips in the shop. While they’re much more expensive, I’ve found the larger kind to be substantially bulkier and stronger. Here in Toronto, we have alternating weekly garbage, recycling, and green waste pickup. We also have rapacious raccoons. I found if I add a simple loop of One-Wrap, screw it into the side of the green bin and loop it over the locking bail of the bin, the raccoons cannot open it. I first tried Plant Ties. They just wouldn’t hold. For my purposes, a One-Wrap is good for about a year, after which it is easily replaced. It’s available in various colors and sizes. The lower-end of the One-Wrap line is a similar size to the Plant Ties, which are 13 mm wide; however, the One-Wrap also come as large as 22mm. It has deeper loop Velcro (thicker and fuzzier), and as the width of the tape increases, the size of the loops and their grip strength increases. Plant Ties really are great for handling all kinds of tasks, but One-Wrap is strong enough to bundle thicker rope, heavier hoses, and most importantly for me, they keep raccoons out of the recycling. – David Keldsen

Heavy duty velcro

Dual Lock Fastener Tape, $18

To me, as a commuter, one of the most impressive parts of the EZ Pass toll-paying system is the hardcore industrial “velcro” tape they give you to attach your transponder to your windshield. It’s not really velcro, though – instead of hooks and loops, both surfaces have these tiny hard plastic mushroom-shaped things that grab each other by the hundreds and don’t let go. Both sides are the same, so there is only one tape (called selfmating). And unlike the loosy-fabricky velcro connection, the Dual Lock surfaces don’t join until you’ve positioned them exactly, and then pressed them together with a satisfying “chunk.” They’re primarily used in industrial applications as a replacement for mechanical fasteners, but I use mine to attach my iPod to my dashboard, and tools to the wall in my workshop. – S.S. Flanders

Versatile fastener

Parachute Cord, $8

Parachute cord isn’t only light and strong (550lb. rating) for its size (5/32” diameter), it’s also more versatile than other types of rope because it can be dissected and parted out, cut and used for its braided nylon sleeve and/or seven separate core strands.

You can get an enhanced grip and a little added padding by using paracord to wrap tool handles. It’s also used for making lanyards. I recently inserted a length of ball chain into a parachute cord sleeve to make a hands-free flashlight for late-night dog walks. The nylon is a lot more comfortable around my neck than a ball chain, and the fit is perfect. – Spencer Starr

Cool Tools

Happiness and Wealth Guide/Best Peppermint Tea

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Claudia's "I wish" list
This year on my holiday wishlist are 6 objects to improve my work-life balance, which includes a new machine-washable rug for my home office and desk chair, some tools to alleviate stress and glow-in-the-dark temporary tattoos — just for fun. Check it out here. — CD

Favorite peppermint tea
I recently ordered a cup of peppermint tea at a restaurant, and it made all the other mint teas I’ve had in the past taste like lawn clippings. I ordered a box on Amazon. It’s called Smith Teamaker’s Peppermint Leaves No. 45. – MF

Mini Wikipedia
Wikipedia is so valuable to me that I have a mini version of it on my phone so I have access to it anywhere in the world anytime. I use Kiwix, a free app for iOS and Android, that parks a 13GB file with 6.6 million Wikipedia articles – without images. (The version with images is  ). With Kiwix I can get Wikipedia on a boat, in the wilderness, or anywhere beyond cell service. You’ll want to download via wifi it cause it takes a long while. – KK

Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories
For the last several years, the cartoonist Seth has been designing and illustrating an annual series of beautiful little books, called Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories. This year’s series includes A Visit by Shirley Jackson, The Corner Shop by Lady Asquith, and The Dead and the Countess by Gertrude Atherton. – MF

Collaborate with scientists
NASA has a page dedicated to their Citizen Science Projects where you can volunteer to help make scientific discoveries, like mapping bird diversity, cloud gazing, tracing patches of kelp, or identifying celestial objects in search of Planet Nine. Currently, there are 30 projects open to anyone in the world, and most can be done with just a cellphone or laptop. — CD

Happiness and wealth guide
One of the better books of I’ve read that is crammed with very good and actionable advice for gaining happiness, success, and wealth is The Alamanack of Naval Ravikant, which is generously (a key skill!) available as a free PDF. I found myself agreeing with most of the advice. Kindle and printed book versions are sold on Amazon. – KK

— Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson

Cool Tools

2022 “I wish” List – Kevin’s picks

This year we are doing something different for our holiday gift lists. Instead of carefully selecting some of the best tools and gifts that we own and can personally recommend, this time we are carefully listing things we don’t have but would like to get. This is a wish list. We’ve searched for uncommon gifts that seem wonderful, although contrary to the usual policy of this site, we don’t actually have any personal experience with the items on this list. If you do, leave some comments. — Editors

Here’s what Kevin Kelly would like for Christmas.

Leatherman multi-tool
Leathermans are swiss army knives with pliers – incredibly useful multi-tools. The Leatherman Free P4 has 21 bladed tools folded into it, including the pliers. It is relatively compact, but still too big to really stay in your pocket. It will be most useful on outings, field trips, and camping. It replaces a small tool chest.

Kindle Paperwhite Kids
This 11th generation Kindle seems to be the ebook reader to get. The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Kids edition has all the latest Kindle features including 10-week battery life, front illumination, and Bluetooth to listen to audible books. This Kid’s version also has a waterproof case, access to public library books, and no ads. Time for me to upgrade.

Audubon bird call
This little classic hand-powered wooden thingy, the Audubon Bird Call, will squeak when you twist it making bird-like chirps, which I am told attract birds when you are bird watching.

Blank flip books
Here’s a dozen blank flip books ready to turn your doodles into animations. Release your inner 10-year old. Each book has 60 sheets.

4K Trail Camera
Years ago I had film-based trail cams to try and catch a photo of the mountain lion in our neighborhood, so I need to move to digital. This Vikeri 4K trail cam has infrared night vision, as well as daylight motion sensing. Also does video, and has a screen for review – very handy.

Smartphone printer
Send photos from your phone on the Fujifilm Instax Mini Printer and it will instantly print them out. The pictures are small-ish ( ), but good enough for parties, weddings, gatherings, or gifts to strangers. The print is about the size of a phone itself.

Cordless electric chain saw
All my workshop and household tools are going cordless. One significant tool remains: the chainsaw. A cordless chainsaw now makes great sense. I have the Dewalt system, so I covet the Dewalt Max XR 20v Chainsaw. It is long enough for my occasional use, which is why electric is so good. No trouble starting even with long periods dormant. Most major brands now offer cordless chainsaws.

Rechargeable camping lantern
This LE 1000 lumen camping lantern is rechargeable, and also serves as a power bank to recharge your other devices. It’s waterproof, and will also serve as an emergency light at home.

Cool Tools

Will Smith, Co-host of Brad & Will Made a Tech Pod

Will Smith is co-host of Brad & Will Made a Tech Pod and a Twitch Streamer, and previously an Editor at and Maximum PC. You can find him on Twitter @willsmith.

0:00 - Intro
1:11 - Glowforge 3D laser printer
9:31 - Home Assistant
15:52 - Sin Shine Compressed Air Electric Duster
20:05 - Baking Steel Skinny Griddle
24:04 - Brad & Will Made a Tech Pod and Brad & Will present a FOSS Pod

Cool Tools

Checked Bag Economics/Multi-charger/Airline Fines

A weekly newsletter with four quick bites, edited by Tim Leffel, author of A Better Life for Half the Price and The World’s Cheapest Destinations. See past editions here, where your friends can subscribe and join you.

Checking or Not Checking, a More Fluid Question
This week I flew from Mexico City to Bangkok on Air Emirates (excellent) and a few days later, from Bangkok to Phuket on Air Asia (not too bad). These very different airlines had one thing in common: a 7kg limit for carry-on cabin baggage. For the first one, I checked 23kg for free, on the second, the fee for checking a bag was about the same as adding more weight to a carry-on…but came in a bundle with a seat selection and a meal. The yes/no to bag checking answer is getting more complicated.

Multi-Charger for Your Gadgets
One advantage of checking a bag is that you have more room for tech gadgets, like maybe a portable keyboard, a laptop stand, and a multi-charger cord. On my current trip I brought my travel extension cord/charger with multiple outlets and remembered how handy it was, especially in a country where the outlets require an adaptor. Plug one of these in with one adapter and then all your other cords and gadgets recharge at the same base. The ones without surge protection are less than $20. Spend a bit more for safety in blackout areas.

Malaysia’s Possible Digital Nomad Draw
Many digital nomad programs announced so far are either gleams in a politician’s eye or something rushed out without having clear guidelines in place. The latter seems to be the case in Malaysia, where some writers were invited in to see how tech-advanced and digital-nomad-friendly the nation is, but they left with as many questions as answers.

U.S. Airlines Get Fined for Bad Behavior
The U.S. airlines got a free ride under the past administration, when many rules holding them accountable got ignored or flaunted. That ended this week when the Department of Transportation handed out $7.25 million in fines on top of demands to pay back passengers whose flights got cancelled or significantly delayed. The worst offenders? Frontier, Air India, TAP Portugal, Aeromexico, El Al and Avianca.

Cool Tools

What's in my NOW? — Roy Christopher

Bienfang Notesketch

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Roy Christopher marshals the middle between Mathers and McLuhan. He's an aging BMX and skateboarding zine kid. That’s where he learned to turn events and interviews into pages with staples. He has since written about music, media, and culture for everything from books and blogs to national magazines and academic journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Communication Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. As a child, he solved the Rubik’s Cube competitively.


Bienfang Notesketch notebooks — I work on paper as much as I do on screens. I even make my own notebooks. If given the choice, Bienfang Notesketch paper is what I would use for every one. It’s half-ruled—sometimes half the page vertically, sometimes half of it horizontally—and it’s perfect for hashing out ideas of all kinds.

Sputnik Coffee — I’ve been drinking coffee since kindergarten, and my favorite kind is Chicago’s Sputnik Coffee. You can subscribe to their beans right on their website.

iPod Nano — I am happily stuck in the MP3 era, and I don’t go anywhere without this little guy. I have larger and small capacity iPods, but the 3rd-generation 8-gig Nano is the perfect size for me.


Zoho Notebook — In the rare instance that I don’t have an actual paper notebook handy, I use Zoho’s Notebook app. I’m sure there are plenty that do this now, but the ability to sync notes across devices is crazy useful. The notes themselves are also different colors, which not only makes them look like Post-its, but it also makes it easier to remember where you jotted down what.

Call Out Culture podcast — My dudes Alaska, Zilla Rocca, and Curly Castro talk shop and talk shit about Hip-hop and pop culture. I don’t listen to podcasts habitually, but these guys always make me want to join in. I even did once!


There are no deadlines, but there’s no time to waste.

Cool Tools

Cat Care

Once a week we’ll send out a page from Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities. The tools might be outdated or obsolete, but the possibilities they inspire are new. Sign up here to get Tools for Possibilities a week early in your inbox.

Cat hair remover

Love Glove, $6

With three cats in the house, fur gets all over our furniture and clothes. I bought a Love Glove to attack the problem at its source – on the cats.

The Love Glove looks like an oven mitt. The palm side is covered with rubber nubs. To use it, you simply pet your cat. The loose fur comes off and sticks to the glove. It’s easy to peel off. My cats go into throes of ecstasy when I use the Love Glove on them. They even get excited just seeing me approach them with the glove on my hand. – Mark Frauenfelder

Intense feline grooming

FURminator De-Shedding Tool, $17

The FURminator is the only really functional cat-grooming tool I’ve ever found. The stiff steel rake grabs the undercoat while leaving the topcoat intact. It does a tremendous job of removing loose fur. Be prepared, especially the first time you brush your cat. For my cats, the big difference between the FURminator and regular brushes is that the softer bristles of standard brushes just get hair from the surface – the topcoat, and a bit of undercoat– whereas the stiffer teeth of the FURminator primarily snag the undercoat (and lots of it!) as well as loose hairs of the topcoat. The best part is that all that fur goes in the trash, and not on your sofa, bed, or carpet. The environment of my apartment has been improved dramatically, and I no longer need to spend a lot of time vacuuming up cat hair. While the FURminator is expensive for a grooming tool, it’s solidly constructed and ergonomically designed, and best of all, it really works. My vet used it on my cats while they were in for a visit. I was shocked at how much hair came off in just a few strokes, so I bought one to take home and have been using it for several months. I then threw out the other standard, cat/slicker brushes I had acquired over the years, and bought two more FURminators to give to cat-owning friends. The one I use is 1.75" and is intended for cats, so although the FURinator comes in larger sizes for dogs, I can really only speak to its utility when it comes to cats. – Debbie Chachra

Cheapest little robot

Omega Paw Self-Cleaning Litter Box$35

Ever since I’ve had my cat, I have found the litter task quite unbearable. I’ve read a lot of reviews for various automatic litter box cleaners and most of them are too expensive, too error prone, and usually a combination of both.

Eventually I found the Omega litter box and I’ve never been happier. It is similar to the previously reviewed The Litter Robot, but it is cheaper and is NOT automatic which means a reduced likelihood of it breaking.

I’ve been using this litter box for almost 2 years now and the process is imple as ever: roll the litter box to the right, then roll it back. Get the shelf with the litter out and throw it in the garbage. DONE. No mechanical issues, no special sand, no electricity usage and NO SCOOPING. I love it. – Vitaly Belman

Feline meds delivery

Pill Pockets, $6

If you’ve ever tried to give a pill to a cat, you know it’s not only not fun, it can be downright dangerous. Dogs will eat anything. Cats, not so much.

I had a cat that was on medication for years, and every day it was the same struggle to get a pill down her throat. Now, I have a semi-feral, and very strong, older cat who needs thyroid medication every day. I would probably have lost a finger or two if I hadn’t found these things. You just fold the pill up into the little pocket, drop it in front of the cat, and it’s gone, like magic. Everyone’s happy, especially the cat. And you don’t need the asbestos gloves anymore. – Charles Richardson

Cool Tools

Robert Stephens, Founder of ChainList (Part 2)

Robert Stephens is mostly know as the Founder of The Geek Squad and recently he founded his newest company, ChainList — a sort of github for checklists. You can find him on Twitter @rstephens.

0:00 - Intro
0:44 - A celebration of the five-gallon bucket!
5:19 - Bucket topper storage lid
9:02 - Bucket Boss organizer
11:45 - Bucket Boss Tool Organizer
14:17 - Screw top bucket lids
17:28 - Ranking hotel stationary

Cool Tools

What's in my NOW? — Mekkel Richards

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My name is Mekkel Richards. I am 30 and own a home in Detroit, MI. I work in the field of IT services. Really interested in New Deal politics, music, history, and the outdoors.


Dell Latitude laptop

Since 2014, when I started in the IT field, I have only purchased Dell Latitude laptops for both work & personal use. They are extremely durable, repairable, and cost-effective. Right now, I am using a model 7390 that was purchased new in early 2018. It’s been dropped on concrete a few times (and does have some chips), sandwiched in very tight bags, and overall not well taken care of, and yet, it continues to serve me daily without a single hardware issue. The Latitude line is a business-class line of laptop, and since businesses often upgrade their fleets of computers pretty often (between 2-5 years), there are tons available used on eBay at a very high discount. I never recommend a friend/family member that they purchase a new consumer-grade laptop when these are an option.

Harbor Freight 3/8 in., ¼ in. Drive SAE & Metric Socket Set, 40 Piece ($7)

For only $7, you can’t beat this ratchet/socket 40 piece set. I have bought 4 of these. One to leave in my car, one for my shed, one for my basement, and one spare. Many times I have been somewhere and needed to work on my car (replace air filter, tighten battery terminals, etc.) or was helping out a friend with yard equipment and just having this set in my car was a massive help. The quality is not the greatest, but for the price and convenience, there is no match.

CraftKitchen Stainless Steel Sporks ($15)

Having one tool that can accomplish the tasks of many is often beneficial. I am a guy who prefers to use a spoon over any other utensil. You can eat soup or cereal with it, cut tender meat, or scoop up vegetables with one. BUT, there comes a time when having a fork is almost necessary. The spork tackles both duties pretty well. I used a few different brands of spork until I settled on this brand because they are a good size, not too big, not too small, and they are also magnetic steel.


InoReader RSS Reader

There are two important eras of humanity. The time when Google Reader was around and the time after. InoReader is an RSS Reader that allows you to add a website’s feed (or subreddit, twitter feed, Facebook page, Google News page, newsletter, Telegram channel, etc) to your feed list. As the website publishes new posts, they appear in your list. This makes for very efficient news consumption. It’s a lifesaver during my breaks at work. You can add up to 150 feeds with the free ad-supported version and up to 500 feeds if you cough up $1.67 per month. The ads are mostly non-intrusive and the paid option is very fair if needed. I have tested out every RSS reader out there, and InoReader seems to be the closest to what Google Reader was.


Not a day goes by where I don’t use Greenshot for taking screenshots on my PC. The app makes it very easy and satisfying to select a portion of your screen using a keyboard shortcut, and a menu instantly appears once selected that allows you to: copy the image to clipboard, open with an image editor, or instantly upload to Imgur (and auto-copy the Imgur URL!). These features are invaluable for someone like me in the IT field. I can see this being useful for most office jobs.


Do the easy stuff now, and do 80% the rest as soon as you can.

Let’s say you have a to-do list of 10 things. Knock out the 5 easy tasks that will take you less than 1hour immediately, immediately. Now you have 5 hard tasks, which is still a daunting number. I have found that if I work on a few of the tasks now and take them to 80% completion pretty quickly. The last 20% takes a long time, but have the first 80% done will make the tasks seem like much less work. This has helped me a lot as a homeowner.

Cool Tools

Food Science

Once a week we’ll send out a page from Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities. The tools might be outdated or obsolete, but the possibilities they inspire are new. Sign up here to get Tools for Possibilities a week early in your inbox.

Basic principles

The Science of Good Cooking, $18

I’ve learned more about cooking from this hefty volume than from reading or watching anything else.

There are other fine books about the science of cooking, including Harold McGee’s classic On Food and Cooking, but this big book is by far the most practical and helpful. While McGee’s is authoritative and complete, this one is better organized for your average cook. The science is condensed into 50 principles, and each easy-to-remember principle is illustrated by half a dozen tested recipes. If you can master these 50 you’ll have the equivalent of a culinary degree.

An example of a principle would be: Salting vegetables removes liquid. You’ll hear the evidence why this is true, what difference it makes in dishes, and how to apply it to any recipe in the future. Every claim is tested by experiments run by the nerd chefs at Cook’s Illustrated, so that you have full command of the idea and its exceptions. Although this book is jam packed with “best recipes” this is not a traditional cookbook: it is more of a cooking course. The teaching is a model of clarity and insight. – KK

  • The way you cut an onion affects its flavor. To prove the point, we took eight onions and cut each two different ways: pole to pole (with the grain) and parallel to the equator (against the grain). We then smelled and tasted pieces from each onion cut each way. The onions sliced pole to pole were clearly less pungent in taste and odor than those cut along the equator.Perhaps just as important as cookware material is the pan shape and size. Crowd four chicken breasts into a 10-inch pan and they will steam; space them out in a 12-inch pan and they will brown.
  • Salty Marinades Work Best. Marinating is often regarded as a cure-all for bland, chewy meat. Years of testing have taught us that while many marinades can bump up flavor, most will never turn a rough cut tender. Well, not without the right ingredient. What’s the secret to a marinade that can add complexity to steak, chicken and pork and enhance juiciness? You guessed it: salt.
  • Gentle Folding Stops Tough Quick Breads. As we learned in concept 39, yeast breads depend on a well-developed gluten structure to rise properly. Gluten also gives bread its resilient, chewy texture. In contrast, quick breads (such as banana bread), as well as muffins and pancakes, can be ruined by excess development of gluten. That’s because tenderness–not chewiness–is the goal.
  • Two Leaveners Are Often Better than One. The advent of chemical leaveners, such as baking soda and baking powder, in the 19th century made it easier for cooks to bake at home. No need to rely on fickle yeast in order to make a cake. Chemical leaveners are quick and reliable. But they are also confusing. Some recipes rely on baking powder, some on baking soda, and many on both. Why do you need two leaveners in something as simple as a cookie that doesn’t even rise all that much?

Food answers

On Food and Cooking, $27

This is the smartest book in my kitchen. It’s where I go whenever I have a question about what I am eating, or the science behind its preparation. Simply the best source for understanding food and how it works. Now in its updated second edition. Covers ingredients from all over the world and time. Awesome, encyclopedic. – KK

Aromas from Altered Carotenoid Pigments.
Both drying and cooking break some of the pigment molecules in carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables into small, volatile fragments that contribute to their characteristic aromas. These fragments provide notes reminiscent of black tea, hay, honey, and violets.

Green Chlorophyll.
One change in the color of green vegetables as they are cooked has nothing to do with the pigment itself. That wonderfully intense, bright green that develops within a few seconds of throwing vegetables into boiling water is a result of the sudden expansion and escape of gases trapped in the spaces between cells. Ordinarily, these microscopic air pockets cloud the color of the chloroplasts. When they collapse, we can see the pigments much more directly.

Soba: Japanese Buckwheat Noodles.
Buckwheat noodles were made in northern China in the 14th century, and had become a popular food in Japan by around 1600. It’s difficult to make noodles exclusively with buckwheat flour because the buckwheat proteins do not form a cohesive gluten. Japanese soba noodles may be from 10%- 90% buckwheat, the remainder wheat. They’re traditionally made from freshly milled flour, which is mixed very quickly with the water and worked until the water is evenly absorbed and the dough firm and smooth. Salt is omitted because it interferes with the proteins and mucilage that help bind the dough (p. 483). The dough is rested, then rolled out to about 3 mm thick and rested again, then cut into fine noodles. The noodles are cooked fresh, and when done, are washed and firmed in a container of ice water, drained, and served either in a hot broth or cold, accompanied by a dipping sauce.

Maple Sugaring Without Metal or Fire.
In 1755, a young colonist was captured and “adopted” by a small group of natives in the region that is now Ohio. In 1799 he published his story in An Account of the Remarkable Occurrences in the Life and Travels of Col. James Smith, which includes several descriptions of how the Indians made maple sugar. Here’s the most ingenious method. “We had no large kettles with us this year, and the squaws made the frost, in some measure, supply the place of fire, in making sugar. Their large bark vessels, for holding the stock-water, they made broad and shallow; and as the weather is very cold here, it frequently freezes at night in sugar time; and the ice they break and cast out of the vessels. I asked them if they were not throwing away the sugar? they said no; it was water they were casting away, sugar did not freeze and there was scarcely any in that ice…I observed that after several times freezing, the water that remained in the vessel, changed its color and became brown and very sweet.”

Global spice source

Penzeys SpicesPrices vary

The spices of life. All of them, in subtle variations, from around the world. By mail order. – KK

Saffron is the stigma of the fall flowering crocus. Peek inside most any flower and you will see three threadlike filaments. These are stigma–but only in the saffron crocus are these stigma worth thousands of dollars per pound. Saffron is so valuable because it is a very labor intensive crop; only 5-7 pounds of saffron can be produced from each acre of land. This makes saffron the most expensive spice by weight–it has always been–but by use saffron isn’t that expensive, because a little goes a long way. A single gram of saffron easily translates into golden color and fragrant flavor.

Saffron contains 450-500 saffron stigmas to the gram. The stigma are also called threads, strings, pieces or strands. 1 gram equals 2 tsp. whole, 1 teaspoon crumbled or ½ teaspoon powdered. Don’t buy prepowdered saffron because it loses flavor quickly and is usually cut with turmeric or something else.

Mace, the lace-like, dried covering of the nutmeg, is a sweet and flavorful spice well worth using. Mace has a softer flavor than nutmeg, and for a nice change of pace it can be used in place of nutmeg in any recipe. Blade Mace can also be added to clear soups and sauces where nutmeg powder might spoil the appearance. Mace is a traditional flavoring for doughnuts and hotdogs.

Ajwain Seed
Ajwain (or Ajowan) is a traditional addition to many Indian and Pakistani dishes. It’s especially useful in vegetarian lentil and bean dishes, as a flavoring, and to temper the effects of a legume-based diet. From Pakistan.

Cool Tools

Robert Stephens, Founder of ChainList

Robert Stephens is mostly know as the Founder of The Geek Squad and recently he founded his newest company, ChainList — a sort of github for checklists. You can find him on Twitter @rstephens.

0:00 - Intro
0:38 - Paper towel dispenser
4:16 - Pampered Chef garlic peeler & slicer set
7:27 - Easy Kabob
10:41 - Normann Copenhagen beater whisk
13:49 - Tasting spoon from the Iron Artisan’s Daughter
17:45 - ChainList

Cool Tools


Once a week we’ll send out a page from Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities. The tools might be outdated or obsolete, but the possibilities they inspire are new. Sign up here to get Tools for Possibilities a week early in your inbox.

Amphibious shoes

Keen Sandals, $70+

Keen sandals have a solid shoe-like toe covering that I’ve never seen in Tevas-like amphibious sandals. This covering keeps the sand out and eliminates stubbed toes. They’re warmer than Tevas and almost not sandals at all. I think of them as very sturdy water shoes. They have arch support and sturdy, gripping soles. They lace with an elastic gizmo that fastens easily and securely. Best of all, water runs right out of them and they dry very quickly. No more dreading the wet footwear as I head off on my daily trek on the beach. I’ve put about 300 miles on the current pair and they show little sign of wear. My beach has some steep vertical climbs that I traverse without fear of slipping. They seem to carry me easily between the water and the land. It took a little while to adjust to the idea that I could wear socks with them. – John Sumser

Open-toed hikers

Chaco Sandals, Price varies

When weather permits, I live in sandals. Over the years I’ve tried all the major brands. A few years ago a friend suggested that I try a brand, Chaco, that I had never heard of. Initially I balked at the price, but when I found a pair that was closeout priced I decided to give them a try. I’ve never looked back.

While I own a variety of Chaco sandals, I primarily wear the general purpose Z/1. The primary advantage of these sandals is their unique means of attachment to your foot; a single slide buckle. The strap for the front of the sandal is one continuous length that is threaded through slots in the sole. You initially adjust the sandal to your feet by pulling until you’ve got the fit you want. You then take the sandal off and on by using the slide buckle. To put the sandal on you slip in your foot and pull down on the buckle strap. To loosen the strap to remove the sandal you pull up on the buckle bottom. This is so easy and natural to do that with reasonable balance you can take them on and off while standing on one foot, then the other. This design provides a superbly comfortable fit, primarily through the elimination of the typical stiff Velcro closures.

Another feature of all Chaco sandals is their unique contoured footbed. First, it has an aggressive arch support (that the manufacturer claims counters pronation). Second, it has a deep heel cup that helps your foot stay centered. For my foot, they are more comfortable than any other shoe I have ever worn. This is, of course, a very personal observation, and you should probably try a pair on before buying. Also, the company has recently switched to a newer footbed material that I haven’t yet tried.

While they aren’t marketed as such, I consider them a hiking sandal. They have a stiff Vibram sole with a very aggressive tread, just like what you’d find on a hiking boot. The slightly oversize footbed protects toes from being stubbed. I wear them for everything: strolling around town, driving, canoeing, biking and hiking. In all these roles they are every bit as comfortable as well-fitting shoes, while also providing the glorious open-air experience. As added bonuses, they float, and can be re-webbed or re-soled.

In competitor Keens, your feet are quite confined. I don’t really think of the Keens as sandals; they are really quick-dry athletic shoes with cut-outs. The Keen’s soles are similar to those of an athletic shoe, while the Chaco’s are more similar to the soles on hiking boots.

Keens definitely offer better toe protection. Still, I’ve put many hundreds of hiking and biking miles on my Chacos and have never once stubbed my toe. I think that the thick, oversize soles are what provide the protection. If you don’t seek the open-air feeling of true sandals such as the Chacos, the Keens would be a fine choice for everyday use. However, for serious hiking and river travel, Chacos are the answer.

As far as cost, the sandals list for $95, but annual design updates result in numerous Internet closeout opportunities in the early spring, and I’ve never paid more than $65 for a pair. – Dave King

Heavy duty flip-flops

Reef Sandals$24+

I’ve worn several pairs of Reef sandals for more than 10 years now, and they are simply the most solid “flip-flops” I’ve owned. I’ve tried other brands, but they fall apart in stressful conditions or delaminate after a few months of wear. Reef consistently holds up, and I usually wear mine until the rubber is paper thin on the bottom. Right now I’m wearing the “Leather Smoothy” in black – the leather top seems to hold less odor. They have many different styles and colors to choose from for guys, girls, and kids. – Camron Assadi

Kevlar-soled moccasins

VIVObarefoot Shoes, $100

I’m fascinated by feet, their function and potential, particularly. For the past year and a half, I’ve been exploring the “barefoot running” scene, and found a wealth of information regarding footcare and advice for those who wished to traipse ’round unshod. Unfortunately, without the proper sensitivity and calluses, it’s near impossible to walk/run in urban areas unafraid.

Thus, I went looking for a shoe that would emulate the foot as closely as possible. I tried the famed “ninja” tabi-boots as well as Nike’s much hyped “Air Rift” running shoe, without satisfaction. I wondered, what would be the most effective material to construct a sole that would make for a thin, yet durable shoe…and hit upon the jackpot: kevlar. I googled “kevlar sole”, and came across a mention of the company “VIVO barefoot” in a podiatry forum by the CEO and creator.

Vivos are without a doubt the most lightest and most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. Their lack of “arch support” and elevated heel is actually a boon, as it allows you to walk/run normally and regain natural posture. They also have a wide toe-box, to accommodate your feet without crunching, even have a zippered sole so that you can just replace them when they wear out, instead of buying a new pair! While the zipper tab does have a tendency to snap off, (a design flaw I hope will be remedied in future runs) I’ve never felt any discomfort from wearing them, and surprisingly enough, they even kept my feet darn warm in the most recent Maine winter time with their removable “insulated sole insert”. They also come in a variety of designs from slip on loafers to casual tennis shoes and look like totally normal shoes. While they generally run on the more expensive side, I managed to find a pair on eBay for forty-five bucks. – Josh Samuels

Cool Tools

What’s That Charge/Namelix/Hacker Stations

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Mysterious credit card charges
There was a charge on my credit card that I didn’t recall making. The statement said, “EB 801-413-7200.” I looked up the number on a website called What’s That Charge and discovered it was for Eventbrite. Then I remembered that I had bought tickets for a play using Eventbrite. Next time you see an unfamiliar charge on your statement, try it. — MF

Instant business names
You can enter a few keywords into Namelix and get dozens of business name ideas and logo ideas. It’s fun to see what it comes up with, even if you don’t plan on starting a business. — MF

Workspace setups from all over the world
If you’re in need of inspiration for how to set up your desk check out It’s a collection of workspace setups by tech professionals. Each image links to an interview detailing the hardware and software used. I discovered a desk chair I’m putting on my Xmas list in Holly Cummins setup. The website was recently launched, but will be posting new setups every Friday. — CD

Free translator
The free Google Translate app for phones is still the best bargain in the world. It keeps getting better and better. It will translate between 60 languages, in either text, voice, or most importantly, from images from your camera, so it can translate menus, signs, and instructions just by pointing your phone at them. Really good for foreign scripts. — KK

Visualize location of emotions in the body
This visual on “Where Emotions Are Felt in the Body” reminds me to tune in to my own physicality. I recently did a guided meditation on “grief” for the purpose of inducing tears and was surprised to find that I had a painful pressure in my head more-so than my heart that needed to be unblocked. The visual is part of a longer article on ways to release “trapped” emotions, which is worth the read. — CD

Ultra lightweight backpack
The goal of ultralight backpacking is to reduce the weight of your basic persistent stuff to under 10 pounds (4.5 kg). For hiking, the lighter your load, the more enjoyment. A key component to bringing the weight down is a super lightweight backpack. One of the lightest functional packs is the Zpack Nero 38 Liter, the one I use, which weighs 10.5 ounces (under 300 g). It’s a dry bag so no rain shell is needed. Empty, it will fold into a gallon Ziplock bag. — KK

— Kevin KellyMark FrauenfelderClaudia Dawson

Cool Tools

Rolf Potts, Travel Author

Rolf Potts is the author of five books, including Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel (Random House, 2003), and The Vagabond's Way: 366 Meditations on Wanderlust, Discovery, and the Art of Travel (Ballantine, 2022). You can Rolf on Instagram and Twitter @rolfpotts.

0:00 - Intro
0:53 - Air Treks
8:41 - Tortuga backpack
12:09 - Merino wool clothing
15:15 - Kernza, an intermediate wheatgrass from the Land Institute
18:28 - The Vagabond’s Way by Rolf Potts

Cool Tools

Tips Busters: Amazingly Stupid Tape Tricks

Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales is published by Cool Tools Lab. To receive the newsletter a week early, sign up here.

Last week, I forgot to include a link to the oscillating multi-tool tips video I included. Thanks to those of you who kindly pointed out the omission. In the future, if this happens, you can always go to the channel I mention, search on the subject, and find the video. My apologies for the hiccup.

Tips Busters: Amazingly Stupid Tape Tricks

Months back, I proposed the idea of doing a “Tips Busters” section where I deputize readers to try out a tip, any tip they see that appears too good to be true, to determine whether it works, doesn’t work, sorta works. I’m still hoping to put such a series together. If you want to bust a tip or have a tip to bust, message me. In the meantime, I’m going to start running pieces from others who are testing and evaluating tips. On this episode of Stumpy NubsJames looks at a number of dubious (at best) painter’s tape “hacks” as found on YouTube. There are many such tips. As James points out, lots of them are just plain silly.

Understanding Tolerances for 3D Design and Printing

Via Maker Update comes this gem of a video on Practical Alchemy about understanding parts tolerances when designing in Fusion 360 (and other CAD programs) and how to ensure that your 3D designed parts will properly fit when sent to a 3D printer. They also show you how to create a 3D printed “Fit Guide” to better understand and accommodate tolerances for your particular printer.

A User's Guide to H-Bridge Motor Drivers

Anyone with even a casual familiarity with hobby electronics is likely familiar with H-bridge motor drivers. So named for the H-like configuration of the circuit schematic, with its 4 switching elements, these drivers allow you to control DC motors for speed and moving forwards, backwards, left, and right. In this DroneBot Workshop, they look at a number of popular H-bridge drivers (e.g. L298NDRV8871, and the MX1508) and the types of DC motors they can control. At over 1-hour, this is a useful crash course in understanding and using this common drive train controller.

Animations of 75 Different Knots

Via the Tools for Possibilities newsletter comes this amazingly useful resource. Knot-tying is a fundamental maker skill. But learning to tie them from a text, or looking at still images, can make them seem unnecessarily confusing and complicated. I don’t know about you, but seeing these knot animations immediately makes me want to grab a rope and go to lashing school.

Maker Slang

Slang, jargon, and technical terms for the many realms of making things.

Surface profile – The 3-dimensional tolerance zone around the surface of an object, often one that’s a complex curve or shape. This profile requires that every point along the surface lies within a specified tolerance range.

Slush casting – A form of casting where material is “slushed around” inside of a mold, creating a thin layer on the outer walls of the casting. This technique is most often used to create a lightweight, hollow castings. It can also be done as the first pour in a highly-detailed mold, with a second pour finishing a solid cast.

The Rule of Cool – In making anything from realms of the imagination (e.g. sci-fi, fantasy, other fiction), the overriding of realism, the laws of physics, and practicality in the service of sheer cool factor.

Shop Talk

In response to my piece on toilet floats and valve reseating tools, I got an interesting message from a reader. He was taken aback by the fact that doing this sort of basic household plumbing was even a question for me. He assumed that any maker/handyperson would do this type of maintenance/repair work without even thinking about it. This led him to ask: “Is there anything you look at and think: ‘I cannot fix THAT!’ I’ve never once thought that. Am I in the majority or minority?”

My situation might be somewhat unique in this regard. I have severe spinal arthritis. So, many maintenance, repair, and DIY projects are outside my reach. Even to replace the float tank, I couldn’t reach down and shut off the very frozen water intake valve on the toilet. I had to get a friend to come over and do that for me.

But even for the more physically able, I’m sure there are preferences. I know plenty of people who loathe house painting, and others who would never think about doing electrical work. And I know plenty of electronics nerds who build robots, microcontroller projects, and all sorts of other high-tech makery who wouldn’t think about doing traditional shopcraft (woodworking, metalwork, etc). And vice versa.

Different strokes for different folks. And so on and so on and scooby dooby dooby.

Cool Tools DVD drive

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Online hearing test
I get my eyes checked every year, but haven’t had my hearing tested since I was in high school. has a free 5-minute hearing test that was designed by audiologists and sound engineers. It’s for educational purposes only, but a good place to start nonetheless. I took the test and it reported back I have mild hearing loss which is not at all surprising or alarming. It just motivates me to mention this at my next physical. — CD

What font is that?
When I need to know the name of a font (say so I can seek it out and use it myself), I snap a screen shot of it and place it in this free website, WhatTheFont, which usually identifies it. — KK

External DVD drive
I recently bought a 3-disc CD set and needed to rip it to iTunes but my laptop doesn’t have a CD/DVD drive. I bought this tiny USB-powered CD/DVD reader-writer for under $20. I plugged it in my laptop and inserted a CD. iTunes opened automatically, I clicked a button and the songs downloaded to my computer without a hitch. I’m sure it will come in handy for watching my old DVDs, too. — MF

Best travel guidebooks
Wherever I am headed to, I always buy the latest edition of a good guidebook. It’s a cheap bargain compared to the cost of the trip. I use all the brands, RoughGuides, Moon, Brandt, Fodors, and many independents, but by far the consistently best guides are Lonely Planet. Crammed with info, maps, prices, all dutifully updated frequently. I think they do the best job or orientation, organizing, and serving angles of interests, If you go to the Lonely Planet website and look up your destination, they’ll tell you when the next edition is due so you can judge whether you want to wait. — KK

Real forest sounds plays the sounds of forests, recorded by people who’ve visited them. The website also displays a beautiful full screen photo for each forest soundtrack you play. — MF

Twitter thread of self-fulfillment questions
Greg Isenberg says he asked 1 billionaire, 1 PHD math professor and 1 99-year-old man what self-Greg Isenberg says he asked 1 billionaire, 1 PHD math professor and 1 99-year-old man what self-reflection questions they asked themselves and then he shared them in a Twitter thread, as a list of questions to make you feel more fulfilled in life, love & career. The ones I’m pondering are:

  • What is it that I can think of, read, watch, listen and talk about for hours on end without tiring of it?
  • What would this look like if it was fun?
  • How do I want my life to be different in one year?

— CD

Kevin KellyMark FrauenfelderClaudia Dawson

Cool Tools

Brady Forrest, MobileCoin

Brady Forrest is the Head of Business Development at MobileCoin, a privacy-protecting payment coin that is available worldwide in Signal Messenger. Working with his wife, he runs Ignite Talks, a global talk series which has been held thousands of times around the world including at SXSW, Google, the Gates Foundation and the White House. Brady is on the Board of CAST, a non-profit that buys and manages buildings for arts organizations in SF and Oakland. He's also on the Board of Ideas Beyond Borders, an organization devoted to translating and promoting ideas that foster critical thinking, science and civil rights in the Middle East. Most years you can find him at Burning Man. Previously he was in media at O’Reilly Media and was an investor at PCH/Highway1 and Khosla Ventures. You can find him on Twitter @brady.

0:00 - Intro
1:17 - Tonal smart gym
9:58 - Z Biotics
14:04 - Shiftpod tents
20:33 - Peter Attia online doctor
23:58 - MobileCoin

Cool Tools

Portugal's Nomad Visa/Epicka adapter/Upcoming Conferences

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A weekly newsletter with four quick bites, edited by Tim Leffel, author of A Better Life for Half the Price and The World’s Cheapest Destinations

Portugal’s Nomad Visa Coming October 30
Two notable nomad visas go live in the next two weeks: one from Colombia that has a very low income requirement and one from Portugal that requires earnings of a minimum 2,750 euros per month. The latter gives you access to the whole Shengen Zone past the 90-day mark though, which is quite valuable to non-Europeans. See the details here.

How Long Should Your Article Be?
These days, even if you’re not a blogger, your business probably publishes articles on a regular basis that are meant to bring in search traffic to support the business. How long should those articles be? The short answer is, “As long as they need to be,” but here’s a breakdown based on SEMRush data to give you a framework tied to search intent. 

Which Electrical Socket Type?
Today I’m flying to Peru, which uses one type of electrical outlet, then will be in Chile, which uses a different one. Neither uses what is required in Brazil. This map gives a quick overview of what to expect. If you travel internationally a lot, it can make sense to buy a multi-outlet adapter that will cover you in multiple spots since that map looks like a quilt on some continents. This Epicka adapter topped Wirecutter’s recommendations because it’s small and lightweight but has four USB chargers too.

Upcoming Conferences for Working Travelers
Location-independent workers and businesses have plenty of in-person conferences to choose from these days. Here are a few that are coming up for the rest of the year: Dynamite Circle Bangkok (members only) - Bangkok, Thailand Oct. 20 to 23; Nomadbase Live Africa - Cape Town, South Africa Nov. 7 - 13; Travel Bloggers Exchange Asia - Phuket, Thailand Nov. 15 - 18; Level Up Club Business Retreat - Madeira, Portugal Nov. 24 - 30; Nomad Island Fest - Madeira Island, Portugal Dec. 1 - 7

Cool Tools

What's in my NOW? — Gearóid "Ged" Carroll

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Irish brand planner in London, formerly of Hong Kong. Working in an advertising agency. In former roles I worked in in an oil refinery, manufactured optical fiber, DJed and worked on the line in a meat packing plant. I blog, read, listen to music and take pictures.

A move back to normality has meant that I am now using my trusty backpack again. I use the same pack that I have had for much of the last two decades. It is a Mystery Ranch 3 Day Assault pack made in Bozeman, Montana. Mystery Ranch was founded by a couple of outdoor industry veterans Dana Gleason and Renée Sippel-Baker who were making packs before the outdoor industry became globalised. Mine is in black, which ironically makes it look less ‘tactical’, they now only make them in special forces ready coyote brown and Crye multi-cam. Mine doesn’t have the BVS bolsters as it doesn’t need to be held securely over body armour. Instead it holds my Nalgene bottle, assorted cables, Muji gel pens, Rhoda notebooks, instant ramen, a banana, granola bars and my trusty MacBook Pro. Occasionally, I bring a long my old but trusty Canon EOS 6D camera and a couple of lens. The pack has been a constant companion to me and its Futura yoke makes it so comfortable to carry stuff around in. It fits in most airlines cabin luggage specifications.

As London moves out of summer, a jacket with pockets but without a lining is ideal for showers, drafts and everything else that the city can throw at it. My two go to jackets are vintage Made in America with union labour duck canvas Carhartt chore style coats. One is Carhartt brown, very similar to the one in the line. The other is in a mossy oak camouflage print that ‘pops’ rather than conceals on the London underground. Six years ago these were easy to find on eBay and thrift stores, now its much harder to find an example in good condition.

My vices are Swiss watches, vinyl records, hi-fi, coffee and processed sugars and carbohydrates. I got a pre-owned Tudor Pelagos watch during lockdown. Its a very nice dive watch in titanium. It had a sophisticated metal strap and clasp with all kinds of adjustment. And a rubber strap. However I found that the edges of metal strap would sometimes dig into my wrist and the rubber strap lacked a micro texture backing that meant it became slippery and sweaty. It annoyed the heck out of me. I wanted a strap that was as well sorted in manufacture, materials and design as the Pelagos watch is in general. In the end I found Prometheus Design Werx NATO straps, that had titanium fittings and a tightly woven nylon strap that was more comfortable and could be put in the wash. So I keep one strap on the watch. One in the laundry and one in my sock drawer ready to go on my wrist.

One of the great things about the web a decade ago was the miracle of RSS, great content would come to you, rather than being fed content morsels by an algorithm. RSS disappeared for most people with the demise of Google Reader in 2013. Of course, the tragedy of Google Reader was that it wiped out an ecosystem of rival RSS readers that I enjoyed using like Bloglines and Fastladder before itself was shut down. However, there still exists an RSS user community of sorts. My favourite RSS reader is Newsblur, which you can train to prioritise the content you like. You have the option to see all of the stuff on the sites that you follow, or prioritise only the content you are most interested in, which makes it handy for professional and personal wider reading. The greatest feature of Newsblur as a digital tool is its longevity and stability as a digital tool.

I love watching horror films during the summer time. This summer I revisited the 1979 version of Salem’s Lot. This was originally released in 1979 as a TV mini series in the US. But in Europe and elsewhere it was shown as a film. It is based on a Stephen King book of the same name and was directed by horror royalty, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist director Tobe Hooper. So you got something far superior to the usual TV mini-series wallpaper for the mind. But since it was a mini-series originally, Hooper had to be more creative in creating menace. If you haven’t watched it yet, you will have seen its influence in films like The Lost Boys. Story-wise its an interesting mix of haunted house and gothic vampire genres. Reggie Nalder plays the vampire which like Klaus Kinski’s character in Nosferatu the Vampyre released the same year owes a lot to F. W. Murnau’s silent film Nosferatu. Nalder is joined by an ensemble cast including David Soul (who was at the height of his fame as a prime time TV actor (Starsky & Hutch) and singer) alongside veteran English actor James Mason.

The idea of quality. As a child my Dad who is a mechanical fitter by trade instilled into me a deep sense of quality in things, in ideas and in people. At the root of what I do in work, even though I moved from manufacturing things to manufacturing ideas, that sense has driven me. It continues to do so.


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