Tips from a fellow who has been social distancing for 50 years

For 50 years, Billy Barr has been the only resident of Gothic, Colorado, an abandoned silver mining town. He's not a hermit though. According to NPR, Barr says he "occasionally interacts with skiers who pass through, he talks to his sister on the phone, and he works for the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory nearby, which gets flooded with scientists in the summer." Below are a few of Bill Barr's tips on social distancing. You should read the rest though because Barr is very funny. From NPR:

1. Keep track of something.

Each day, Barr tracks the weather for a number of groups including the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. He started measuring snow levels in the 1970s, mostly because he was bored [...]

2. Keep a routine.

Barr starts early. He wakes up around 3:30 a.m. or 4 a.m., and stays in bed until about 5 a.m.

"Up until a week or two ago, I would listen to the news every morning so that I could start every day either totally depressed or furious. That's always a good way to start the day," he said [...]

4. Embrace the grumpiness.

Sometimes, Barr said, it's kind of satisfying to be grumpy about something.

"Tips From Someone With Nearly 50 Years Of Social Distancing Experience" by Rae Ellen Bichell (NPR)

image: courtesy of Billy Barr Read the rest

Good tip for drawstring sweatpants

This looks like a good way to keep drawstrings from disappearing, as is their wont. Read the rest

NPR's no-nonsense guide to preparing your home for Covid-19

It's seems likely that Covid-19 will be a pandemic, maybe on the order of the 1918 Spanish Flu (listen to this podcast episode of The New York Times' The Daily for a persuasive argument as to why). It might be a good time to prepare your home for an outbreak. This NPR article, "A Guide: How To Prepare Your Home For Coronavirus," has good advice.

Here's a summary:

Make sure you have a supply of daily prescription medication on hand, as well as over-the-counter fever reducers. Have sufficient nonperishable foods to last your family for two weeks. Have soup, crackers, and Gatorade or Pedialyte on hand should anyone in the house get sick. Clean surfaces frequently with soap and water. Wear a mask if you get sick. Telecommute instead of going to an office, if possible. Have a plan in place for kids and older family members. Wash hands as soon as you enter your home. Cough into your elbow.

Image by tatianawillmann from Pixabay Read the rest

Here are a couple of ways of starting a fire in the wilderness using found materials

Washington College professor of archeology and anthropology Bill Schindler demonstrates some nifty fire-starting-from-scratch techniques. "Even though you may never find yourself in a survival situation," he tells Wired, "I firmly believe that learning and practicing these primitive skills are an essential part of connecting to your past, your environment, and everything it means to be human."

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Help your future self by imagining an invitation to a far-off event is tomorrow

I write a weekly newsletter with Claudia Dawson and Kevin Kelly, called Recomendo. In each issue we briefly recommend 6 things. Here's a great tip in the Jan 26, 2020 issue, which Kevin shared with me a few years back and has proven to be very useful in helping me make decisions about whether or not to accept invitations to events weeks or months away:

Immediacy filter One of the most useful bits of advice I ever got, came from the writer Anne Herbert who said that whenever she got an invitation to do something months away or even a week away, she asked herself whether she would accept the gig/meeting/task if it was tomorrow. The answer was often no. I use that immediacy trick all the time, and it has served me very well. — KK

By the way, Claudia, Kevin, and I recently published a book of the best of Recomendo, with 500 brief reviews of cool stuff.

 

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Seven top tips from makers so far this year

Here are seven of my favorite DIY/maker tips published this year in my weekly newsletter, Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales.

Etching Metal with a 9v Battery Etching is easier than you think. Leah of See Jane Drill demonstrates how easy it is to etch a metal surface using little more than a 9v battery and wires, vinegar, salt, and Q-tips.

Finding the Thickness of a Wire Emory Kimbrough was one of the winners of my Tips book drawing in December. I asked contestants for one great tip. Emory sent me ten. And then, a few days later, he sent me another five – all publication-worthy. I’m excited to share them. Look for more Emory tips in the coming months. Here’s the first one:

If you need to find the thickness of a wire but don’t have a micrometer or calipers, wrap the wire around a dowel many times in a tight helix leaving no gaps between the coils. Now, just measure the width of, say, thirty coils with an ordinary ruler and divide by thirty. The more coils you wind, the more accurate your measurement. And even if you do use top-quality digital calipers, it’s even more accurate if you use this wind-and-divide method than if you measure a single thickness.

Organize Cables in Dollar Store Pencil Cases The column I’m currently working on for HackSpace magazine will cover workshop storage and organizing. As part of my research, I asked for relevant storage ideas on my Facebook page. My friend Jake Hildebrandt shared this idea. Read the rest

This deck of cards will help you to get to know yourself better

Know Yourself is a set of 60 cards to prompt you to examine your beliefs. Example card: “List five things that are important to you in your life. How much of your time do you give to each of these?” The back of each card offers advice to make sure you answer the questions in a useful way. You can use their cards on your own or with another person you feel close to. Be prepared to surprise yourself. These could be good prompts for people interested in keeping a journal or writing a memoir. Read the rest

An intriguing list of "little-known but obvious facts"

u/TikiTC asked on r/askreddit: "What’s a little-known but obvious fact that will immediately make all of us feel stupid?" Many of the 20,000+ replies are funny, useful, and fascinating. Here are a few:

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Photo by Andre Mouton on Unsplash Read the rest

Re-key every lock in your home

Matt Haughey moved into a new home with a lot of deadbolts. Rather than carry around a jangling morning star of keys, he decided to re-key everything. It took less than a day.

I researched getting a locksmith to come out, but it would run hundreds of dollars in their time plus you can only re-key locks to a key made by the same manufacturer, and by my count we had at least three different brands of locks spread among all the doors. I could save money by bringing the locks to a locksmith’s store, replacing off brands with a single brand and re-installing myself, or I could teach myself how to rekey locks using a ~$100 set from amazon that takes a few hours of practice to master.

He replaced three of the locks so all could use the Kwikset Smart Key [Amazon] system, the hero of the piece -- about $100 all in. Read the rest

Getting rid of silverfish with lavender oil

For years we’ve had silverfish darting around our guest bathroom floor. I bought some silverfish traps (little cardboard boxes with sticky goo to ensnare them) and they helped, but didn’t stop them. In 2017 I read that lavender oil is a good silverfish repellent. It’s only for a small bottle on Amazon, so I decided to give it a try. I wetted the end of a Q-Tip with the oil and ran it around the perimeter of the bathroom floor, adding a little extra to a seam between the floor and the wall. It smelled nice and did not see a single silverfish for two weeks. I finally saw one, reapplied lavender oil on the perimeter of the floor, and it keep the little bastards aways for an even longer time. Now I hardly ever see them, and treat the floor every few months.

Image of silverfish by Christian Fischer, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link Read the rest

Here's how to save your friend if they catch on fire

Hopefully you won't find yourself in a situation where you'll have to see if the "wipe away the flame" technique demonstrated here really works.

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What does "incognito mode" really do?

Chrome's incognito mode is useful if you don't want your browsing history saved to your account, don't want websites to access your cookies, or if you want to troubleshoot your browser. But it doesn't do much to protect your privacy. Your ISP can see what websites you visit, and services like Twitter can figure out who you are even without cookies.

From Tech Talks:

The easiest way for web applications to track users is to use cookies. But it is not the only way they can track you. Other bits of information can point to your device. For instance, I’ve seen some users use the Incognito window to browse Twitter, thinking that it will preserve their privacy and hide their identity. The premise is, since Incognito doesn’t carry over their browser cookies, Twitter won’t be able to associate their activity to their account.

But Twitter also keeps track of IP address, device type, device ID and browser type and version. Technically, it will be able to use all those factors to link your activity to your account. Facebook goes further and even tracks your activity across other websites when you’re not logged in to your account.

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Two ways to argue more effectively with a political opponent

It's very difficult to change someone's mind on a political issue. Facts rarely work, because the person you are arguing with has likely already been told the facts and has already formed reasons to dismiss the facts. But there are two science-back ways to argue, according to this Vox article by Brian Resnick, that will give you a better change of nudging someone, ever-so-slightly, in the direction you wish them to go.

Strategy 1: "If the argument you find convincing doesn’t resonate with someone else, find out what does."

Here’s an example. If you’re trying to convince a conservative of the merits of kneeling for the national anthem in protest, emphasize the traditional values around political and religious freedom. Willer suggests, “arguing that the founding fathers were deeply concerned with protecting our rights to social protest.”

Strategy 2: "Listen. Your ideological opponents want to feel like they’ve been heard."

In 2016, the journal Science published a remarkable bit of insight: It's possible to reduce prejudice, and sway opinions on anti-transgender legislation, with one 10-minute conversation. What's more, the researchers found that the change of heart can last at least three months and is resistant to anti-transgender attack ads.

It worked because the canvassers in the study did a simple thing: they listened... In talking about their own lives, the voters engage in what psychologists call "active processing." The idea is that people learn lessons more durably when they come to the conclusion themselves, not when someone "bitch-slaps you with a statistic," says Fleischer.

Read the rest

What to do if a bug gets stuck in your ear

Hint: Don't dig around in there with a cotton swab. Read the rest

How to survive solitary confinement

I highly recommend McKinley Valentine's email newsletter, The Whippet. In each issue she presents interesting ideas, art, videos, and articles.

Here's an item from the latest issue (#85):

How to survive solitary confinement

I like to read things like this, keep it in my pocket, so I worry less about what if it happens.

The recommendation is more or less -- you'll go crazy anyway, so go crazy with intention, to protect your brain.

The human brain does very badly in social isolation - we're not built for it, and people start hallucinating and dissociating very quickly when it's complete. It's actual torture, but people don't expect it to be because it sounds so low-key.

So the people in this article - both people who've survived solitary, and psychologists - suggest using a lot of visualisation. Imagine yourself in a much bigger space than you are, get to know it. Have a "workspace" where you train, maybe practice a sport in your mind. Every day, regularly, like you were outside and had a proper life. Imagine meeting a friend and having conversations with them.

Part of what makes you go crazy in isolation is the lack of external cues and structures, so it has to be structured visualisations, not just panicked uncontrolled daydreaming.

From someone who survived 7 years in almost total solitary confinement (again, this is torture, it is amazing he came out of it relatively okay):

"He he used to kill time for hours working out detailed visualizations of himself in a vivid alternate reality, where he could inhabit open spaces and converse with people.

Read the rest

Watch this lock picker remove an inventory control tag in one second

It's frustrating to buy an article of clothing from a store, then get home and discover that the ink-filled inventory control tag is still attached. This happened to the Lock Picking Lawyer, but instead of wasting a lot of time returning to the store, he was able to safely remove the tag at home in a fraction of a second by holding a neodymium magnet against it.

Image: YouTube Read the rest

It's "Evil Week" at Lifehacker. Check out their sneaky tips

Lifehacker's "Evil Week" tips aren't necessarily evil, or even unethical. They are all a bit sneaky, though, but could come in handy under the right circumstances. For example, if you have to make a phone call and don't want to get stuck talking to the person tell them your phone's battery is almost exhausted. Instead of buying new plants, snip cuttings from plants belonging to others. If you want to get a better deal on your credit card (like getting points or skipping the annual fee) call and say you want to cancel your card. The credit card company will usually give you a retention offer so you change your mind.

Photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash Read the rest

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