Archive for the 'gizmos' category

I Beg To Differ: My Avocado Slicer

Jan 04 2016 Published by under Gadgets, gizmos

Just before Christmas gift exchange, I heard Alton Brown discouraging the use and gifting of single-use kitchen tools. I also used to pooh-pooh such things, and some of the items discussed in his interview his interview truly perplex me (a square hard-boiled egg?). However, one such tool has a permanent place in my gadget drawer:

The main blade is all plastic. While it easily slices the skin and flesh of the fruit, you would be hard pressed to scratch yourself with it. The only metal pieces are within a cupped area. They are not sharp enough to cut skin, yet they grip the pit and easily twist it out. Finally, the plastic blades in the slicer easily cut through ripe fruit, but I cannot imagine anyone hurting themselves with it.

I used to dismiss these things as nonsense; I could use a chef's knife! Then, I cut myself pitting an avocado and ended up in the emergency room. My payment for that visit (not to mention the subsequent infection) would buy more than 45 of these tools. One of my nurses suffered a very similar injury this fall, also while pitting the fearsome green fruit. I gave her one of these devices.

We are worth it.

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Progress Report: 10,000 steps at a time

Oct 29 2014 Published by under General Health, gizmos

A while back I blogged about the addition of a stair stepper to my standing desk set up. I have gotten much better at typing (keyboarding for you whippersnappers) and doing other work while stepping. Working with our electronic record systems and sending email barely slows me down.

Phone calls still require standing still or sitting; the stepper, unlike a treadmill, requires some oomph from me to move. That gets transmitted in my voice, and I don't want to have to explain why I sound weird.

To give you an example of how this changes my activity level, here is today so far:

8:30 - 10:00:  Made rounds with residents. Saw consult patients. Just over 2,000 steps by Fitbit

10:00 -  Noon:  Office work, including charting, reading manuscripts, email and other correspondence. Current steps at 9,264

Thinking it's time you added a stepper? Some things to keep in mind:

  • Keep padded shoes available; if you have been standing at your desk, you probably have something comfortable stashed under your desk anyway. Unlike standing, my ballet flats and loafers do not suffice when I'm stepping.
  • Some steppers squeak. Mine started out quiet, and then became annoying when I put my right foot down. This noise stopped a couple of days ago for no good reason that I can identify. It's best to close your door while you do this anyway, both because of noise and the weirdness factor.
  • If you are prone to feel warm in your workplace, you may want a fan. You really can get warm with this level of activity, even at an incredibly leisurely pace such as I have.

By the way, in the 8 minutes it took me to write that bullet list, another 400 steps have been added to the total.


4 responses so far

Give a Bit of Yourself

Feb 14 2014 Published by under Gadgets, gizmos


The best Valentines are personal, especially if you are a Special Snowflake whose descendants will honor you in perpetuity. To this end, you can leave offspring born and unborn your DNA, preserved at room temperature for all time in the DNA Time Capsule:

This is the patented, triple-sealed time capsule that securely stores your genetic fingerprint for use by future generations. Preserving one's DNA in the present enables future scientific advances to reveal any predispositions to disease—currently undetectable by today's methods—a family's genetic makeup may bear. Dispensing with the need for long-term refrigerated storage in a lab, a chemical matrix of dissolvable compounds stabilizes DNA within a blood sample at room temperature (blood provides a higher quality and quantity of DNA than samples taken from cheek swabs), preserving the sample for over 100 years. A blood sample can be taken at your preferred medical facility or using the included kit. Once a sample is secured within the capsule, it can be stored within a home or bank lock box for decades until one's progeny submits it for genetic analysis.

Yup, for just under $300 you can leave your genetic code behind for at least a century! Now I am unclear on why your descendants would want to test your DNA rather than just doing their own ("Look Grandpa could have developed dementia if he hadn't been hit by that train!"). Maybe researchers might want to pinpoint when a mutation occurred in a kindred, but that would be for research not any practical benefit (that I can see) to your future relatives.

Maybe I am missing something that the good folks at Hammacher Schlemmer thought about, but I seriously doubt it. They just have a gizmo to sell, and they hope someone with $300 to spare will buy it.

Personally, I would rather have a giftcard for shoes.

Happy Valentines Day anyway!


One response so far

Home Filing

Feb 10 2014 Published by under Gadgets, gizmos

I confess; I have high clutter tolerance. As long as scattered objects are not growing mold, and the health department is not breaking down our door, I am fine with some stuff lying about. That does not mean I am immune to the seduction of an organizational system; no, given my love of gadgets and gizmos, devices that promise a neater existence usually find their way into my home.

For example, my husband and I both have stacks of t-shirts. We may come home from work and use one to work-out or do chores. After cleaning up, we may pop on another to relax around Maison Lane. For these uses, a tee can have a few gentle wrinkles, so drawer storage works fine. Unfortunately, we often want a particular shirt to show our support of a sports team or something. These drawers of shirts can become wadded piles of knit fabric after a bit of digging through their contents.

The folding board, my first find, can be seen on television:

My family has already compared me to Sheldon based on ownership of this apparatus; no more snark will be needed, thank you very much. The FlipFold neatly provides t-shirts in a uniform rectangle that easily stacks on a shelf or in a drawer. Many retail stores use it for their display stacks. Even if you do not have the obsessive tendencies to use it regularly, it makes packing for a trip much easier. Tees, polos, and dress shirts can all be managed with this tool.

Of course, when you want a specific shirt out of the drawer, you still have to dig. No matter how neatly folded they were at the start, the shirts end up jumbled after a few weeks. Enter the Pliio(R) filing system:


Filed and ready for duty

Filed and ready for duty

Meet my t-shirt drawer. I would not dare post a before shot (even with my clutter tolerance, it was THAT BAD), but now you can clearly see which shirt is which. I pull one out and tuck its Pliio back into the spot. Once laundry day rolls around, I collect my filers and refold the shirts to go back into the drawer.

Neckwear ready for duty

Lined up neatly in a row

I have also used this system with my scarf collection. Even with these thin silky fabrics, the "fold" created by the Pliio is soft and leaves little in the way of a crease; pull the scarf off, and it is ready to wear. These scarves in a basket are far less tempting to my cat than hanging from the usual scarf racks.

My light-weight knit yoga pants can be folded easily around these filers. They will not accommodate heavier items like sweaters or sweats.

Pliio folders can be purchased at Bed Bath and Beyond and at Amazon. A ten-pack costs about $20. That seems a small price to pay for this much neatness.

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Upright Update

Jan 24 2014 Published by under General Health, gizmos

After one week, I am pleased to report that I still love my VariDesk. I am still standing for 20 minutes and sitting for 10 when in the office, although occasionally I extend the standing period to 40 minutes. If I am eating lunch at my desk, I may give myself a 20 minute sit until I finish.

I can feel my new posture in the muscles in my back and flanks. Clearly standing engages them much more than sitting. I hope my plank time starts improving.

The other big change is that I have more trouble sitting still. In clinic today, while waiting for a student to finish interviewing a patient, I found myself standing and pacing while I read an article on my iPad. Sitting in that situation just feels wrong somehow.

I will update again after a month or so, but so far, so good. I would definitely buy my VariDesk again!

5 responses so far

A Standing Resolution

Jan 16 2014 Published by under General Health, gizmos

Like many of my readers, I once again resolved to improve my fitness in 2014. I actually did lose a few pounds in late 2013, and the scales remained stable over the holiday. Today I installed my latest device to assist the endeavor: a VariDesk.

Standing position (Click to Enlarge)

Standing position (Click to Enlarge)

This ingenious device provides a stable adjustable surface for your computer monitor and keyboard. When you need or want to sit (like when speaking with others seated in your office) the surface drops to 6 inches above your desktop. The keyboard can sit at a comfortable height just below the work surface on a keyboard area that pulls forward as needed.

When those pesky visitors depart, the return to standing work could not be easier. Two levers just under the work surface allow you to pull the desk up to the appropriate height and lock it in place.

My VariDesk, shown above, is the single monitor configuration. It weighs 41 pounds, and it can hold up to 35 pounds. The device also comes in a larger size for dual monitors that weighs 48 pounds. The single costs $275; the Pro configuration for two monitors runs $300. Both stands come fully assembled. Removing the packing material and setting up the VariDesk takes about 5 minutes.

In addition to the hardware, the company offers an app that lets you set the time you want to sit and stand. It then reminds you to change your position at the appropriate time. You can also enter your weight to estimate the calories you burn while standing.

Click to Enlarge

Not an eyesore (Click to Enlarge)

A whole parade of folks have toured my office this afternoon to see the VariDesk. I may have started a trend. In this case, that would be a very good thing.

2 responses so far

Safe Paddling

Jul 09 2013 Published by under Gadgets, gizmos

I finally got to take my Christmas-gift, a cherry-red kayak, out for a spin last week. Paddling down the lake into the river relaxed me, especially viewing all the birds and even a beaver up close.

Unfortunately, I am now covering the inpatient service for the rest of July. I cannot separate from my mobile phone for two hours of R&R. How can I carry my phone yet keep it safe from the water?

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The BubbleShield by The Joy Factory provides that layer of protection for most smartphones. As you can see in the photo, this device is a high-tech zip-lock baggie for your phone. The back-side is completely clear so it will not interfere with camera use. The front-side provides touch transfer so you can use your phone almost like it's naked. Sounds transmits beautifully in both directions through the plastic.

The bag just holds my iPhone 4 with its Mophie battery pack. Up above the double zippers is a reinforced hole that I will use to attach my phone to a lanyard around my neck or a clip to my flotation vest.

These can be purchased from The Joy Factory site in packs of 5 for $19.95. Now I feel safer taking call from my kayak.


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Jun 27 2013 Published by under etc, Gadgets, gizmos

My name is Pascale, and I am a geek.

I love electronic gizmos and gadgets, so I am always on the look-out for that app that will transform my life in some way. A few weeks ago, I downloaded Tempo AI to try on my iPhone. I am officially in love.

The AI stands for artificial intelligence, and this app tries to be your omniscient personal assistant. When you make an appointment, it scans your email and attachments for appropriate documents related to the meeting. Running late? If you have entered your next appointment's attendees, you can send them messages via the app. If your flights are on your calendar, it will track them and update.

Today I used its conference call feature for the first time. I opened my call appointment, and my iPhone dialed the main number. It then listed my passcode in a button on my phone screen: no awkward skipping through the phone for the passcode, and no scribbling it on a sticky note.

Here's their overview video:

Tempo is free right now. It is a pretty amazing app from the same folks who brought us Siri, far more useful than Apple's native calendar app. I use mine with my Outlook Calendar and Email plus two other email accounts (3 is the current limit). It also connects with Facebook, so you can post birthday greetings directly from your calendar. LinkedIn connections provide rich information about contacts and meeting attendees.

I was hoping, given the relationship between Apple and these developers, that Tempo would be the default calendar app for iOS 7. Since it is not, download it and give it a try. I think you will love your new assistant, even without voice recognition.

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