Umm... Not Quite Sure Archives

September 11, 2005


I see guys like Josh getting all the goodies like the Jasjar phone thingy or the iPOD Nano and I think to myself, why don't I have a gadget blog? I mean, I have more than a dozen hammers of all types and descriptions so I know something about shiny (and not so shiny) metal stuff so here goes. My first Gadget Post.

The item for discussion today is known as the sPOD Mano. The stainless steel case/processor - YES IT DOES BOTH! - is in the shape of a truncated tetrahedron which is both functional and stylish. Each side offers a different face and function to the user. But the clean design of the device is nothing compared to the results that you can achieve with it. The fine gauge of steel used in this device is far superior to the heavier grades used in similar products available from more fashionable and expensive purveyors. Take a look at the picture and note that the potato threads have a delicate crenulation and a transparency only available from the matrix of slots which are formed at the precise pitch. I've tried other devices but none come close.


The sPOD can be used in any orientation, even in zero g environments, but for best results with something like, say a large russet, I use it upside-down allowing it to do most of the work on the powerful push stroke. It may seem counter-intuitive at first, but the ultralight design is most effective when it is in motion and your vegetable is held stationary.

For those just entering the world of vegetable transformation here is a starter recipe:

sPOD Hash Browns

  • Start with one large or two smaller russet potatoes
  • Scrub under cold running water until the dirt is removed
  • Remove any discolored or bruised spots with a paring knife
  • Using a large bowl to collate the output, feverishly rub the potato in long unbroken strokes along the selected surface of the sPOD
  • Gather the collated output and squeeze firmly to remove as much excess liquid as possible (note: this liquid can be gathered and the starch will settle out. After pouring out the excess water you can microwave the result and it will become a form of rudimentry plastic)
  • In a non-stick frying pan over medium/low heat scatter the potato threads in a warm pool of extra-virgin olive oil.
  • Cover for several minutes until any opacity is gone
  • Continue cooking until the bottom is golden brown and crispy.
  • Salt and flip
  • Serve and eat

The key to this recipe is the texture provided by the finely shredded potatoes and the step where the starchy liquid is removed. Skimping on either of these results in hash browns like those you can find frozen in a box. It is just not possible to do better without the sPOD mano. I've tried hacking more expensive versions, using a file to sharpen the edges or flattening the profile, but the results were not what I wanted.

Originally posted at

June 1, 2006

Chinese Fire Escape Mask


I found this fire escape mask in the wardrobe in my hotel room in Shenzhen. I think it is actually a pretty good idea. Many people who die in fires are victims of smoke inhalation so a mask like this would seem to be a valuable addition to life safety. Looks like it is manufactured by "Guangdong Coal Mine Safety Apparatus Factory". I'm surprised I haven't seen anything like this in US hotels. At the very least it would help keep your eyebrows from getting burned off.

July 4, 2006

Barbeque Tools


The Fourth of July usually includes some sort of barbequing so here are a couple of tools which can help out with the job. The first is a propane torch which can help get charcoal started. Put a bit of newspaper or kindling under the charcoal and hit it with the flame from the torch and it will get started pretty quickly without the need for pouring charcoal lighter fluid all over everything. The torch can also put a quick glaze on a Crème Brûlée.

The second is a blower on the end of a compressed air hose. A shot of air here and there beats blowing or fanning stubborn coals and cleans off the ashes quite well. How you deal with all the ash that flies through the air is your problem to figure out so be careful and don't get too close and keep everyone back.

August 11, 2006

The Pencil is Dead - Long live the .9mm


I'm not sure who uses pencils any more. I see architects sketching in pen and drafting with computers. But there are some who still use pencils once in a while. I'm one of them. My personal favorite is the blue one in the photo above. The Kohi-i-noor .9mm pencil is built to last a lifetime, but I've used and lost more than one.

There are a couple of obvious advantages to 0.9mm lead over 0.5mm lead. The first is that it is less likely to break. The first mechanical pencils used 0.9mm lead for this reason. Now that there are "polymer" based leads (instead of clay) this is not quite as big a problem as it used to be, but it is still important.

The second advantage is that 0.9mm allows a greater range of line widths. Most people who use pencils are probably unaware that a pencil can be turned as you use it to give different results. For example If you are trying to draw a straight constant width line you rotate it at a constant rate while you are moving the pencil parallel to the length of the pencil. By changing the angle of the pencil and how much of it you wear off in one spot you can draw anything from the lightest thinnest line to one very thick and bold or even create a line which starts thick and finishes thin The koh-i-noor is a great pencil in this regard as the thick, knurled cylindrical barrel gives more control than most other mechanical pencils.

There are cheaper pencils and more expensive pencils, but the money spent on this one is well spent.

November 29, 2006

Need Aerogel? Eight Ounces of Pure Caffeine?

A ball of beryllium? Or even a bit of heavy water?

If the answer is yes, then United Nuclear is the place to go. They specialize in the things which make interesting science demonstrations or brightly colored fireworks. Plus magnets, meteorites and lab equipment.

I'm not a customer -yet- but certainly will be.

About Umm... Not Quite Sure

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Stuff in the Umm... Not Quite Sure category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Travel is the previous category.

Watches is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Powered by
Movable Type 3.34