Here are some gadgets I've come to love and/or depend upon...
I carry a Voice Recorder around with me everywhere I go, so that I can record quick reminders and notes. Now it is a must-have all of the time.
My latest interest is the Stirling Engine. These are external combustion engines ("heat engines") which can run off the heat of your hand, or off of the heat of the sun shining through a window. Kits available.
Kinetic wood sculptures from Wood That Works. Not inexpensive, but quite amazing to watch. The web site includes some nice animations, but the video tape is the way to really appreciate what they can look like.
I went to the Hood Museum at Dartmouth and saw an exhibit by Arthur Ganson. His machines must be seen to be believed. Astonishing fun. Written up in The Atlantic, Hands On Toys, Delightful Machines, and the Smithsonian.
After my back surgery, I thought I would never be able to really exercise again, but I purchased a BikeE Recumbent Bicycle and I sweated like a pig, and loved it, all summer long.
I built two Visible V-8 Engine kits as a kid, and just built my third, with my friend, Stacey. Still an educational project for anyone who wants to understand how a car engine works. Too bad the most recent kits are not as complete as the ones I built as a kid. The older kits had little lights which functioned as spark plugs, but today, when LEDs are a dime a dozen (almost literally), no working spark plugs. Go figure.
I heat my home with a Hearthstone "Phoenix" Wood Stove, which is both functional and attractive. The glass door makes a huge difference.
I have two EcoFans on top of my wood stove. They use the heat of the stove to generate enough electricity to make the fans go. A wonderful, if silly, use of "waste" energy. I may get a Stirling Engine, too.
If you're near Norwich, Vermont (near White River Junction) check out the Montshire Museum. This fascinating science museum includes things for both kids and adults to enjoy. Their ant farm is huge and includes a microscope, so you can watch the ants at work. Their salt water aquarium is pretty dissapointing, but some of their physics displays are spectacular.;
My favorite pointing device is my Wacom graphics tablet. Unlike mice, trackballs, touchpads, and the AccuPoint (the little eraser head in the middle of the keyboard), positioning on a graphics tablet is absolute: put the pen on the upper left corner of the pad, and the cursor is on the upper left corner of the screen. The best way to micro-manipulate screen items, especially when designing software.
My second favorite pointing device is the touchpad. Modern touchpad drivers offer a plethora of extra features, such as hot-spots, panning, and dragging, all from the touch pad. And now, you can get a keyboard with a touchpad built in, right under the space key. This allows you to "mouse around" without taking your keys far from the keyboard, and it also allows you to use the same pointing paradigm when using either your laptop or your desktop. PC Concepts' E-Z Keyboard (#62970) costs only $40!
I recently saw some video tapes of Shania Twain live in concert. She is a Country and Western singer (from Canada!) who crosses over into Rock. Very pretty, energetic, enthusiastic, with a great smile and a great attitude. Worth checking out at your local video rental store.
While listening to the Shania Twain concerts, I was struck by how muddy the sound was. I put headphones on, and the sound was perfect! I purchased an FM radio transmitter kit, and now can walk around the room listening to high quality stereo audio from any source: video, tv, radio, or CD. You can get information about this kit at
My insurance company (GEICO) suggested a new way to set up my car's side view mirrors a few years ago, and I've been using it ever since. The idea is to reduce the "blind spots" just behind and to the side of your car. Most people adjust the side view mirrors so that they can see what's next to and behind them, while keeping the side of their car visible in the mirror, for perspective. Try adjusting the mirrors so that you just barely can not see the sides of your car. This will reduce the blind spots until they are almost (but not quite) gone. The chance that you will change lanes without seeing a car is thus minimized. It takes a little while to get used to, but it is an improvement.
LED flashlights and headlamps are becoming very light, power efficient, bright, and inexpensive. Check out Petzl headsets at your local outdoor equipment store and check out the flashlight at http://www.lightechnology.com/products.htm You can also checkout the Petzl Tika at http://www.petzl.com/FRENG/frheadlamps/headlampframe.html
If you like to paddle, scull, or sail, check out the super-light boats at http://www.geodesicairoliteboats.com/. You can build your own 12’ canoe which weighs 12 lb. Wonderful mix of old techniques combined with modern materials.
Stuff for Old Folks