From: Boing Boing - Favorite tools of Danielle Applestone, CEO of Other Machine Co.

Our guest this week on the Cool Tools Show is Danielle Applestone. Danielle is a material scientist, co-founder and CEO of Other Machine Co., the leading manufacturer of high-precision desktop CNC milling machines. Formerly, Danielle ran a DARPA project to develop digital design software and manufacturing tools for the classroom. Danielle’s team took that technology and launched Other Machine Co. in 2013.

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Show notes:

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Monarch Instrument Examiner 1000 ($1,200)

“I came across this electronic stethoscope as part of our manufacturing process. We would get motors from a manufacturer that looked balanced and met a spec, but once we put the whole machine together, sometimes a machine would have a lot of vibration and we didn’t know how to quantify that vibration or to know what was good or what was bad. … There’s a lot of intuition when you’re putting something complicated together like “Well, it feels right,” or “It doesn’t feel right.” That’s really hard to do so we found this amazing thing, which cut a ton of time out of our manufacturing process and now we have beautiful graphs of everything. We know exactly what things vibrate and which ones don’t. You can use it on musical instruments. It’s an amazing tool. Once you have one you realize how much you needed one in your life.”

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Bicycle inner tubes with holes in them

“I came across bicycle inner tubes with holes in them through a friend who had made a sail boat that was attached only with these bicycle inner tubes —it was a catamaran. The reason why they’re so important is they are waterproof, they stretch, and you don’t have to tie them in knots, so you can latch things together really quickly and then undo them, and make a new configuration. … They’re used a little bit like a bungee cord, but bungee cords are really expensive and you have to make do with the hooks whereas if you take a long inner tube that has a hole in it — you’re not going to use it anyway — slice it up into strips. It’s like a variable length bungee cord, but it also doesn’t have the hooks so you can just wrap it around itself and tuck it under and it’ll stay put.”

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The Encyclopedia of Country Living ($20)

“This is a great tool. This is so comprehensive for every little thing. I moved out into Kentucky and lived on 1200 acres for a while and didn’t have much. It was the go-to for, “Okay, we need to build a shanty for chickens. We need to learn how to clean a chicken.” It has everything, like “How to bury your own dead.” … The thing that’s magic about this book is it has the right level of detail, just enough to get yourself in trouble. … It’s just enough to get you going and then you can kind of DIY the rest. I still use it. The pages are all rained on, and moldy, and whatever, but it’s well loved.”

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X-ray Photoelectron Spectrometer

“Yeah, well we just went from just about the lowest tech to the highest tech thing I’ve ever laid my hands on. … What’s great about this tool is it’s super useful for telling what’s on the surface of materials. I used to be a material scientist and I worked on lithium ion batteries. The surface is where all the action is. There’s not a lot of techniques out there that are nondestructive. Usually, if you invent a material, you have a sample, you have to crush it up or put it on a slide, you have to do something to it that mixes the surface in with the bulk. Sometimes, you don’t want that. … The X-ray Photoelectron Spectrometer is amazing because you can just put a sample in and it’s nondestructive …. How it works is you take a beam of x-ray, so you shoot photons at the surface of your material and those photons have enough energy to pick off electrons. A photon goes in, ejects an electron, and then there’s a collector that collects that electron and measures the kinetic energy, measures how fast it was moving. Then, if you know the energy of your x-ray going in, and the energy of that electron that you caught, you can just subtract and figure out how tightly bound was that electron to my surface. What’s cool about that is if you know how tightly a molecule was hanging onto it’s electron, you can tell what that molecule was. Whether it was a sulfur dioxide, or sulfur monoxide, the electrons that are swimming around those molecules will be held differently depending on what those molecules are. … The place that I used one was at the University of Texas at Austin. They’re quite common, but they’re usually at universities, or national labs … They’re millions of dollars.”

From: BGR - This is the secret to unclogging sinks and drains anywhere in your house

Okay, first things first: there is no miracle product that instantly clears any and every clogged drain. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Do you really think you pour some liquid down the drain in your sink and miraculously clear a fist-sized ball of hair in a matter of minutes? Newsflash… there’s not. If you have a very bad clog, you need to snake your drain. It’s the only way to handle it. To clear normal clogs and gross odors that happen during the course of normal wear and tear though, these is a secret to unclogging drains and keeping things smelling fresh: Sani Sticks.

Drop one of these sticks down your drain to take care of average clogs and embarrassing odors in a matter of hours. Then, drop a new stick down each drain once every month to prevent clogs and odors in the future. Each stick includes enzymes and other ingredients found in a septic tank to break down waste and keep things clear. $17 gets you a pack of 48 Sani Sticks, and it’ll be the best $17 you’ve ever spent.

Some highlights from the product page:

  • Sani Sticks drain sticks eliminate embarrassing odors from drains and prevent clogged sinks
  • Save money on plumbers and drain snakes as powerful enzymes break down oil and grease to keep drains free and clear
  • Sani Sticks drain deodorizer and cleaners are thin, round and only 6.3 inches long and 100 percent safe for plumbing and septic tanks with no toxic chemicals
  • Avoid embarrassing smells and nasty water buildup in sinks and showers with just one Sani Stick per month
  • Keep your drains clean and odor-free, all year long with Sani Sticks as part of your cleaning supplies

From: Boing Boing - Tokyo travel tips, day 1: Airbnb in Shinjuku and an adorable curry restaurant

Carla and I just returned from a one-week trip to Tokyo. It was my sixth visit to Japan’s capital, and it was my favorite. For the next few days, I’ll be writing about recommended things to do there. See them all here.

We arrived at Narita airport about 1:30pm Tokyo time. At the airport, I noticed a lot of vending machines selling SIM cards with high-speed data. You can get a week’s worth of unlimited data for less than $10 a day. If your phone is locked, you can rent a wi-fi hot spot for about the same amount. I used a wi-fi hotspot to consult Google Maps many times every day to navigate around the city. Google Maps will also tell you which trains to use to get from one place to another. We also used Yelp to find restaurants and learn when they open and close.

There are several ways to get from Narita to Tokyo (about 50 miles). A taxi or Uber costs almost $300 and you will have to deal with traffic. There are also luxury buses, which can take you right to your hotel (provided you are staying in one of the major ones.) My favorite way to get to Tokyo from the airport is by train. Both the Narita Express ($28) and the Skyliner ($22) have terminals inside the airport. They are convenient and fast. The Skyliner is faster and cheaper, but stops only at the Ueno and Nippori stations. The Narita Express stops at more places, including Shibuya and Shinjuku. We took the Narita Express because we were staying near the Shinjuku Station.

At Shinjuku station we took a taxi to our Airbnb. I’ve taken a lot of taxi rides in Japan, and in 100% of the cases the following five things were true:

1. The driver didn’t understand a word of English. (Hand your phone to him with the address displayed on the screen. He’ll enter the address in his navigation system.)

2. The car was immaculate inside and out.

3. Th driver was a man.

4. The driver got confused if I tried to tip him.

5. The driver automatically opened and closed my door for me. Do not try to open and close the yourself because it will strain the mechanism and annoy the heck out of the driver.

Cars drive on the left side of the road in Japan, by the way.

We took a very short ride to our Airbnb (right next to Yoyogi Park, home to the famous Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine) and took the elevator to the 9th floor. Here’s what the place looked like, along with views from the balcony:

At $225 a night, (here’s a referral code you can use to get a $40 Airbnb credit. I’ll get $20 in credit if you use it) it’s much cheaper than many hotels in the area. It has a kitchen, a loft with two futons, a bedroom with two large beds, a dining area, a Japanese style tub, and a washer/dryer. It also includes a wi-fi hotspot that you can take with you as you travel around Tokyo.

By the time we got settled in and took a shower after 16 hours of travel, we were hungry and sleepy. I looked on Yelp and found a place called Vegetable Curry Camp just a few minutes walk from our place. It was a cute tiny restaurant in the basement. They had boxes of fresh vegetables next to the front door, and the decor was “1960 American campground.” We got sizzling skillets of fresh vegetable curry and plates of rice. The bill for both of us was less than $20. (In fact, many of the restaurants we went to were a lot cheaper than places in Los Angeles).

On the way back, we stopped at one of the ubiquitous konbini (コンビニ, short for convenience store) to buy eggs and onigiri (rice filled with fish or other fillings) for breakfast the next morning. We slept like logs.

Stayed tuned for day 2, to find out about Meiji Jingu and the interesting little stores in Harajuku.