Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Techie toys’ Category

I’d love to have had a bike like this

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A bicycle with fat tires and a dark frame. No front sprocket, but a gearbox; no chain, but a toothed belt; no derailleur; disk brakes at the hub of each wheel.
The Priority 600

I just recently saw a post on Mastodon in which a guy was praising his bike for making hills easy — “13% grade at 50 miles.” I was curious, and ask I delved into the bike, a Priority 600, I became more and more impressed. I would love to have a copy of this bike.

I tend to like bikes that are unusual in a good way. I had a Moulton bicycle that I liked a lot. (I would get the Marathon today.) I came across it in the 1980s, when almost no bicycles had shock absorbers. Alexx Moulton was the guy who designed the suspension system for the Morris Minor, and when he set about to design a bicycle, he just assumed it should have a suspension system. He used a rubber system in the bike, as he had in the Morris Minor. 

He saw no need for large wheels, so the wheels are smaller than those for conventional bicycles, but with the gearing, there’s no drawback (and the smaller wheels are lighter). 

He also noted that energy is lost when the frame flexes, so he made the frame perfectly rigid, using struts. All the energy goes to the wheels, none to flexing the frame. And the frame’s rigidity makes the suspension especially important — without a suspension, any shock the frame encounters will be delivered directly to the saddle.

And he made it easy to take apart into two pieces so it can be readily transported. (It doesn’t fold, but it comes easily apart into two halves.)

That’s the spirit that makes me wish I had a Priority 600. 

Side view of a white Moulton bicycle: low frame, small wheels, a rack above the rear wheel with a pack on it. The bicycle is white.
The Moulton bike I once owned.

Written by Leisureguy

5 June 2023 at 5:22 pm

Making a billion-year Lego clock

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1 June 2023 at 11:49 am

How those metal blocks get such precision fits

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This is a very interesting video, and the end segment on Henson Shaving’s razors is also good.

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16 May 2023 at 10:06 am

Making a terrific little Stirling engine

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28 April 2023 at 8:05 pm

A sea of seven-segment displays

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Technical details in this post.

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7 March 2023 at 10:12 am

Help young people limit screen time — and feel better about how they look

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Allison Aubrey’s article for NPR is very much related to the previous post:

U.S. teens spend more than eight hours a day on screens, and there’s growing concern over how social media may affect their mental health.

Now, a new study, published Thursday by the American Psychological Association, validates what some parents have experienced when their teenagers cut back: They seem to feel better about themselves. I’ve seen this in my own kids when they return from summer camp, where phones are not allowed. They seem more at ease and less moody.

Social media can feel like a comparison trap, says study author Helen Thai, a doctoral student in psychology at McGill University. Her research found that limiting screen time to about one hour a day helped anxious teens and young adults feel better about their body image and their appearance.

Her research arose from her own personal experiences.

“What I noticed when I was engaging in social media was that I couldn’t help but compare myself,” Thai says. Scrolling through posts from celebrities and influencers, as well as peers and people in her own social network, led to feelings of inferiority.

“They looked prettier, healthier, more fit,” Thai says. She was well aware that social media posts often feature polished, airbrushed or filtered images that can alter appearances in an unrealistic way, but it still affected her negatively.

So, Thai and a team of researchers decided to test whether slashing time on social media platforms including Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat would improve body image. They recruited a few hundred volunteers, aged 17-25, all of whom had experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression — which could make them vulnerable to the effects of social media.

Half of the participants were asked to reduce their social media to 60 minutes a day for three weeks, Thai says. The other half continued to use social media with no restrictions, which averaged about three hours per day.

The researchers gave the participants surveys at the beginning and end of the study, that included statements such as “I’m pretty happy about the way I look,” and “I am satisfied with my weight.” Among the group that cut social media use, the overall score on appearance improved from 2.95 to 3.15 on a 5-point scale. This may seem like a small change, but any shift in such a short period of time is striking, the authors say.

“This randomized controlled trial showed . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 February 2023 at 11:23 am

How Technology Hijacks Your Mind — from a Magician and Google Design Ethicist

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Tristan Harris has an interesting article on Medium:

Hijack #1: If You Control the Menu, You Control the Choices

  • “what’s not on the menu?”
  • “why am I being given these options and not others?”
  • “do I know the menu provider’s goals?”
  • “is this menu empowering for my original need, or are the choices actually a distraction?” (e.g. an overwhelmingly array of toothpastes)
  • “Who’s free tonight to hang out?” becomes a menu of most recent people who texted us (who we could ping).
  • “What’s happening in the world?” becomes a menu of news feed stories.
  • “Who’s single to go on a date?” becomes a menu of faces to swipe on Tinder (instead of local events with friends, or urban adventures nearby).
  • “I have to respond to this email.” becomes a menu of keys to type a response (instead of empowering ways to communicate with a person).

Hijack #2: Put a Slot Machine In a Billion Pockets

Continue reading. There’s much more, plus illustrations of examples, which I omitted.

Written by Leisureguy

27 February 2023 at 10:25 am

3D printed basketball — no inflating required

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Seems there’s a trend to make inflated things — tires, soccer balls, and now basketballs — not require inflating.

Jesus Diaz reports in Fast Company — and also:

Written by Leisureguy

24 February 2023 at 12:15 pm

20 Mechanical Principles combined in a Useless Lego Machine

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24 February 2023 at 11:52 am

Another David Roy kinetic sculpture

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23 February 2023 at 11:36 am

8-Bit Martial Arts Choreography

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In the dance, players of video games from back in the day will recognize riffs on several games.

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2023 at 2:36 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life, Techie toys, Technology, Video

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RazoRock Superslant razors back in stock (for now — limited quantities)

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Just to be clear: I get no kickback from Italian Barber, and this is not an affiliate link. But as a service to my readers, I wanted to let you know that the Superslant — one of the best slants I’ve used, both extremely comfortable and extremely efficient — is back in stock for now. I got the L1++, and my review is here.

Written by Leisureguy

27 January 2023 at 2:55 pm

New domestic tools/toys provide pleasure: Shark vacuum cleaner edition

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For quite a while I’ve used a Fuller carpet sweeper to clean the apartment’s carpeted floor, and it doesn’t suck — a problem. I wanted a carpet cleaner that sucks, and that led me to Wirecutter and this review. Their pick — the Shark Navigator Lift-Away NV352 — a) sounded good and b) priced reasonably. So I ordered it.

Wow. I had no idea… Here are two videos that give some insight into my experience. The first video celebrates the 10-year anniversary of the NV352:

The second video is interesting because it compares the NV352 to two of its siblings: a kid brother (the NV360 Deluxe, which costs less) and an older brother — the NV356e Professional — which costs more.

I used the new vacuum cleaner this morning and I’m astonished at the amount of dirt it picked up. I’m very happy with my modest purchase.

Update. I was just reading the comments on the two videos above. Remarkable. Worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 January 2023 at 10:43 am

I fell into Mastodon for a while there

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Just signed up (on and did various posts and replies. My understanding is (gradually) growing, and I think I’ll like it. Worth checking out, but be ready for some initial confusion. View that as promising.

Written by Leisureguy

10 November 2022 at 10:53 am

Using AI to generate Thanksgiving recipes

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I do think the AI recipes could be useful in suggesting combinations one might not think of, with a human cook “tuning” the recipe by removing rough edges, as it were. For example, the roast turkey sounded good, but a cook with any experience would know that cooking it in the oven to 180ºF is going to produce a dry bird. That’s much too high a temperature, especially since the turkey will continue to cook for a while once removed from the oven. 

With a cook cutting the cooking time and removing the turkey at a lower temperature, that recipe would probably work.

Also, if you tell the AI that you don’t like sweet dishes and then complain that the recipes you get are not sweet — that seems perverse. If you say you don’t want sweet dishes, you should not expect sweet dishes. She makes the point that in recipes it’s important to be precise. It is also important to be precise in asking for recipes.

Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2022 at 4:45 pm

An automatic soymilk machine

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If only I had the counter space (along with a larger kitchen)… It is, however, $400, which right now seems a lot.

It was Zoey Gong’s article in Eater that made me want one. She writes:

I have an intense nostalgia for fresh, homemade soy milk. Growing up in Shanghai, I always woke up to a cup of warm, slightly sweetened soy milk made by my grandma. There was nothing else like it. It was nutty, smooth, and filling, with a taste and smell that you simply cannot get from the soy milks sold in cartons at the big grocery stores in the United States.

Remembering how much I loved it when I was little, as soon as I had my own kitchen, I attempted to make soy milk from scratch. I was successful, but it was such a laborious process that I, a New Yorker now with way too many jobs, simply could not keep up. From soaking the beans, to boiling, to straining, it took an entire day. Thankfully, after I posted about my soy milk endeavor on Facebook, my Chinese relatives living in the states introduced me to Joyoung, a soy milk machine company that is as ubiquitous in China as the KitchenAid is in American kitchens. I could not have put in the order online faster.

When the package arrived three days later, it transformed my mornings. The Joyoung soy milk maker is elegantly designed to fit any modern kitchen counter with two color options: white or brown. It works by blending soybeans with water, then boiling the “soy juice” to cook it through, and lastly straining the pulp to make silky smooth, fresh soy milk. The machine processes either dry or soaked soybeans, which means that you can even skip the traditional soaking process to save some time and effort. Along with regular soy milk, it allows you to make an extra-creamy version that can be used in decadent smoothies and lattes.

Even if soybeans aren’t your thing, the machine comes in handy. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2022 at 12:55 pm

Why I reactivated the function on my smartwatch that tells me that I’ve been sitting too long and it’s time to move around a bit

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I’m gradually working my way through the book Undo It!, by Dean Ornish MD and Anne Ornish. Ornish, like Greger, endorses lifestyle medicine to prevent and treat chronic diseases since research has shown that this approach is in general more effective and less costly than attempting to treat the diseases with medications.

For one thing, changes in lifestyle have only benign side effects, whereas some of the side effects of medications can be harmful or at least bothersome. Moreover, when someone takes medication to treat a chronic disease (such as hypertension, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and others), they generally must continue the medication indefinitely — and some medications are expensive.

Ornish, like Greger, recommends a whole-food plant-based diet (since a ton of research has shown that the diet is optimal in terms of health) and also a regular program of exercise such as walking, running, bicycling, and so on. Ornish, however, adds two more recommendations:

  1. Stress management — learning how to reduce stress by avoiding occasions of stress when possible and also by using techniques such as meditation and yoga. The book explains why: stress is destructive to health, causing a cascade of ill effects in one’s body (and mind).
  2. Love, intimacy, and social connection —  LISC, as Ornish calls it, more or less acts as the opposite of stress, increasing one’s resilience, promoting a healthy response in the body, and minimizing the risk of loneliness and depression, both of which cause damaging physical changes in the body.

Both my Amazfit devices have a feature that I believe is fairly common among smartwatches. I can turn on a “move reminder.” After I’ve been sitting an hour, the reminder will vibrate to tell me it’s time to move. I have set that to run from 8:00am to 9:00pm, and when I get the signal, I do get up and move around, generally to do some household tasks. (I also do Nordic walking each day.)

I had turned this off because if I’m reading or writing, I don’t like to interrupt it, but I turned it back on after reading this passage in Chapter 2 of Undo It!

Undo It! (Ornish, Dean)

– Your Highlight on page 45 | Location 1042-1082 | Added on Saturday, October 15, 2022 9:38:06 PM

Being sedentary enhances stasis and illness. One of the reasons exercise is beneficial in so many ways is that it literally and figuratively keeps everything moving. Your heart pumps blood with sufficient force to circulate your blood throughout your arteries, but the pressure in your veins is substantially lower. 

When you exercise—walking, for example—the muscles in your arms and legs help to squeeze blood through your veins. It’s one reason the Queen’s Guards outside of Buckingham Palace in London are taught to bounce up and down on their toes when standing in one place for prolonged periods of time—otherwise, the blood would pool in their legs and they would pass out. In 2017, five guards actually did faint from standing around too long. 

Spending a lot of time sitting increases your risk of a stroke due to blood clot formation. According to some studies, it increases your risk of premature death from all causes as much as smoking does! 

Sitting for more than eight hours a day is associated with a 90 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Those who sit the most have a 147 percent increased relative risk of cardiovascular events compared to those who sit the least. 

Women who sit more than six hours a day are 37 percent more likely to die prematurely than those who sit less than three hours a day, even if they exercise regularly. The time spent sitting was independently associated with total mortality, regardless of physical activity level. 

The combination of both sitting more than six hours a day and being less physically active was associated with a 94 percent increase in all-cause premature death rates in women and a 48 percent increase in men compared with those who reported sitting less than three hours a day and being most active. 

Why? Because even if you exercise at the gym after work, your blood has not been flowing very well earlier in the day while you’ve been sitting, which increases the likelihood of a blood clot forming during that time. Also, blood sugar, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and other biomarkers are higher in people who are sedentary. 

Researchers recently found that sitting for several hours at a desk significantly reduced blood flow to the brain. However, getting up and taking just a two-minute walk every half hour actually increased the brain’s blood flow. 

We’ve evolved to move and forage much of the time (e.g., walking) and also to have bursts of intense exercise. Our muscles have both fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers. So work out regularly and avoid prolonged sitting. Studies show that both are important. 

One study found that the more breaks you take during the day after sitting for twenty minutes—even just getting up, walking around a minute or two, and sitting down again—the better your health. On average, each additional ten breaks per day were associated with 0.8 cm lower waist circumference, 0.3 mm lower systolic blood pressure, 3.7 percent lower triglycerides, 0.6 percent lower glucose, and 4.2 percent lower insulin. 

Talk on a portable phone so you can walk around your office while having conversations—and your energy level will likely be higher as well. Take a break from sitting every twenty or thirty minutes. If you work at a desk, try a standing desk, or improvise with a high table or counter. Walk with your colleagues for meetings rather than sitting in a conference room. I invested in a treadmill desk so I can walk while doing my email or talking on the phone. 

Some of the reasons not moving your body increases the risk of so many different illnesses are the effects of being sedentary on your lymphatic system—the garbage sewers of your body. It helps rid your body of toxins, waste, and other unwanted materials. Besides the lymphatic vessels, your lymphatic system includes your tonsils, appendix, thymus, and spleen. These are important parts of your immune system. 

The primary function of your lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body. When cells in your immune system have gone to battle, the dead cells are removed via your lymphatics. 

Lymph is then transported through larger lymphatic vessels to lymph nodes, where it is cleaned by white blood cells called lymphocytes. After that, lymph continues down your lymphatic system before emptying ultimately into the right or the left subclavian vein on either side of your neck. 

Pressure in your lymphatic system is even lower than in your veins [and the lymphatic system does not have the benefit of a heart muscle – LG] and relies on the contraction of your skeletal muscles—as happens in walking, for example—to squeeze the lymphatic fluid along. Also, when you take a deep breath, your diaphragm and lungs act as a bellows mechanism that changes pressure at the thoracic duct to pump the lymphatic system. 

When people are sedentary, and when they breathe in a shallow way (which is common when they feel chronically stressed), their muscles aren’t contracting enough to keep their lymph flowing. Because of this, the lymph can leak into their tissues and cause swelling, or edema, which predisposes them to illness. Also, when lymph is not flowing, it can leak back into the blood, causing inflammation and other problems.

Written by Leisureguy

15 October 2022 at 10:05 pm

Walk check-in

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I’m still walking — quite regularly since 1 September. Here’s today’s walk, which was done at a cadence of 111 steps/min with 16 PAI earned. My rolling 7-day total PAI has been 100 or better since 21 September. (I got my new Amazfit GTS 4 Mini on 20 September. Prior to that I was using my Amazfit Band 5, which was not correctly detecting heart rate, so I was not getting PAI results that corresponded to effort expended. The problem may have been that I was wearing the Band 5 too close to my wrist, but in any event I’ve had to problem with the GTS 4 Mini.)

My average stride was 33″ — that’s the Nordic walking poles at work. My usual stride is 30″ — 6 steps to 5 yards, from marching band days — but the push of the pole stretches the stride (and also dials up the cadence).

The chart shows how my speed varies by mile. I assume the story is:

  • Mile 1 – getting warmed up – heart rate 118 bpm
  • Mile 2 – hitting my stride – heart rate 124 bpm
  • Mile 3 – getting tired – heart rate 115 bpm

It’s also worth nothing that mile 1 has a lot of uphill, more than miles 2 and 3, though mile 3 has some as well.

Written by Leisureguy

7 October 2022 at 2:51 pm

Good walk

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Now that I am walking longer and faster, the training effect has really taken hold. Today:

3.07 miles
52 minutes 10 seconds
3.54 mph
110 steps/minute
33″ stride (average)
5765 steps

My daily goal is 6000 steps, and 6000 steps in the walk alone would be nice, so I might after a while extend the length of the walk another quarter-mile or so. Or maybe extend the time, so that I do a 1-hour walk. It’s gotten pleasant now: good weather for walking, and I am fit enough now so that the walk is not a strain.

I do use Nordic walking poles, of course, which makes the walk more enjoyable and also a better exercise (since it becomes a full-body exercise, with the arms, shoulders, and upper back involved — plus using the poles improves my walking posture. The map and tracking info is from my Amazfit GTS 4 Mini.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2022 at 3:01 pm

My take on the Amazfit GTS 4 Mini

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I finally decided to replace my Amazfit Band 5 because it was unreliable in measuring heart rate, which it used to compute the PAI score for a workout. So I ordered what I believe is the most recent model, the Amazfit 4. It comes as either GTS 4 or GTR 4 and I pored over the specs to find the difference — until I finally realized “S” = square and “R” = round. Since I like a digital readout, the GTS 4 seemed the better choice (see photo, which illustrates the particular watch face I use). The GTS 4 comes in regular or “Mini,” and I went with Mini: cheaper and a little lighter and does all I could want. 

I love it. The readout is much more legible to my (somewhat poor) eyes, and because it is bigger, the battery also can be bigger, so much better battery life. And the heart-rate readout so far seems totally reasonable and reliable — as in fact the Band 5 readout become once I moved the band a little up my arm: two finger-widths above the wrist instead of one. But by the time I discovered that, I had already ordered the replacement, and I like the GTS 4 Mini a lot better.

I did try a Huawei Watch Fit 2, but I did not like that and returned it. I really like the Zepp app on my iPhone that connects with the Amazfit products.

I’ve done my walk for today, and getting good PAI results is motivating. I’ll stick with 2.0 miles for another week, and then I’m going to bump it up to 2.5 miles to get my step goal (6000 steps).

Written by Leisureguy

22 September 2022 at 12:52 pm

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