Everybody wants to save the earth, nobody wants to help mom do the dishes.  --P.J. O'Rourke

Saturday, August 15, 2009

FIJI Water

Interesting article about FIJI water over @ Mother Jones
Fiji Water: Spin the Bottle

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hive - The Game

I first read about Hive in wired and I finally got around to ordering it last month. Hive is a turn based strategy game played on any flat surface by two players using chunky six sided Bakelite pieces emblazoned with insects. Each of the insects have a different pattern of movements and only one may be moved during a turn. The object is to surround the other players "queen bee" piece on all sides with a combination of your pieces and the other players pieces. I played it with my 3rd grade daughter and she was able to understand it pretty easily and in fact beat me. Definitely a good game to take on family trips for rainy days and buggy evenings.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Circular Saws Righty or Lefty ?

Growing up a right hander on the East Coast, I only knew one type of circular saw (as I recall they were all called "Skil Saws" no matter who made the actual saw). Needless to say, I grew up using "sidewinder" saws, ( that is to say, saws where the motor was perpendicular to the blade as in the top most picture). I never really noticed it before, but the blades were always on the right. I have no idea what the intention was behind the right side placement of the blade, but I can only assume that it was to keep your left hand (holding the stock) out of the path of the blade. This is all well and good, but the problem is (of course) the blade guide is out of your line of site (being on the opposite side of the saw). Not that this ever troubled me, it just seemed like the way it was, and I was used to it. A few months ago, I was talking to a colleague who was also a carpenter type and he was bemoaning the lack of saws for Leftys. Since I had spent some time on the West Coast I was familiar with worm drive saws (e.g. the saw in the lower photo), which in the traditional configuration are more or less ambidextrous and I thought they might be the answer to his prayers. Which they probably would be excepting that the blade is on the left, which puts the guide out of sight of someone holding the saw with their left hand. A further search found a somewhat newer class of sidewinder saws with the blade on the left. So what is the story? Is it better to have the blade on the stock side (which you are likely holding with you left hand) or on the opposite side with an obstructed view of the blade guide. Personally I prefer sidewinder saws, they are lighter and are more easily one handed, which honestly makes them more versatile for re-modeling, worm drives may be better for from scratch framing, but that's not what I do. I would like to hear from some Lefty's, would you rather have a better line of sight or your hand out of the way? FWIW Bosch makes an intriguing worm drive saw that has the handle on the top for one handed operation (as opposed to the traditional rear handle pictured above)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sous Vide - Fancy School Cafeteria Food?

Though not exactly new (it dates from at least the 1970's) cooking Sous Vide (which is French for "under vacuum") is gaining considerable popularity. Essentially, the food is vacuum packed and cooked for a relatively long time in a hot water bath at low temperature (typically below boiling). The resulting food can then be frozen or stored cold until it is ready to be served. When ready to be served, it is heated in a hot water bath and served as is or flash browned. The water bath is typically temperature controlled by a Laboratory Immersion Heater which can maintain temperature to within a few degree's F or less. Precise temperature control is essential as the temperatures can be a few degrees over the level where bacteria can thrive. The low temperature allows the meat to be cooked at a temp low enough that the proteins cannot form tough chains (At least that's how I understand it) The beauty of this method is that you can prepare a ton of food that requires little skilled preparation on site. This method was used to prepare 5 star food for hundreds of Katrina victims in D.C. Oddly enough Wired ran a short piece about Nathan Myrhvold (MS Chief Tech Guy) being an early proponent of the method. Also apparently French Laundry cooks their short ribs for 36hrs Sous Vide.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Automatic Power Tool Vacuum Switch

One of the biggest PITA of home improvement projects is cleanup, ( well, that and previous owners). Dust intensive power tools like sanders and routers can really make an awful mess and I often hook them up to a shop vac to keep the dust down. Hi end wet dry vacs are often equipped with a special switch which turns the vacuum on whenever you turn on an attached power tool for just this reason. The problem is that you have to buy a $300-$400 vacuum to get this capability. Lee Valley tools (whom I have had good luck with in the past) sells a stand alone switch for $40 which can turn on any vacuum into a tool vac. What is different about this one is it's ability to drive a 30 amp load by plugging each of the two cords into a different outlet on a different circuit. More...There are a lot of uses for this thing other than it's intended use though, you could hook it up to your TV and plug a power strip into the vacuum outlet and plug the VCR, cable box, DVD player and whatnot into the strip so that when you turned on the TV everything else would go on. Other than making life easier for the audio/visual technophobe, it has the added benefit of making sure all the "Vampire" appliances were deprived of power. A few caveats are in order though, the attached electronics would probably loose their setting (like time/date), and I am not sure if the TV current draw in a standby mode would inadvertently turn on all the switched components. Might be worth playing around with though.