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Civilization and Its Discontents – Maya Jasanoff – Think Again – a Big Think Podcast #126

Civilization and Its Discontents – Maya Jasanoff – Think Again – a Big Think Podcast #126

Terrorism. Technological disruption. Globalization. Life in the 1870’s was wild. Harvard historian Maya Jasanoff on Joseph Conrad, his times, and ours. 


Read More Civilization and Its Discontents – Maya Jasanoff – Think Again – a Big Think Podcast #126


Gaffer Tape

This week for my 1-minute tool review brought to you by Cool Tools, I’ve got gaffer tape from Gaffer Power. I’ve got two flavors here, they’re both available on Amazon Prime, and by picking them up using the link in the description you help to support these videos and the Cool Tools blog.

Gaffer tape is a cloth-backed tape, similar to duct tape, but more expensive and harder to find. It gets its name from movie set lighting electricians known as gaffers. These people spend their days on location taping down cables to prevent them from getting tugged or tripped on. But the next day, equally important, they need to be able to peel away the tape without leaving behind a sticky mess on the set, or on their cables.

The magic thing about gaffer tape is that it comes away clean. So it’s almost like painters tape, but with the strength of duct tape. And if you’ve ever peeled up old duct tape, you know what a gross mess it leaves behind.

What I also love about this tape is that you can easily tear it by hand, and the cloth backing keeps your tears square. You also get straight tears lengthwise, which can be useful for making small labels.

And that’s the other great thing about gaffer tape — the matte cloth backing is easy to write on and non-reflective. So if you pick up a bright color like white, yellow, or pink, labels really stand out.

Now, per yard, this tape is about 4x as expensive as duct tape. This 30-yard, 2-inch wide roll sells for $17. This 3-inch roll sells for around $23. The wider roll is better at tapeing down bundles of cables, but is also great for tearing 3-inch vertical strips that are often just enough for what you need.

For what it’s worth. I ordered the 2-inch roll first and it came with a 25% coupon from Gaffer Power I could redeem on Amazon for the 3-inch roll. So, I basically got these for the same price.

You too can cultivate your fine taste for gaffer tape by using the link in the video description here, and by doing so you help to support this show and the Cool Tools blog and podcast. And remember, you can see our other 1-minute video reviews here.

— Donald Bell

Gaffer Power Gaffer Tape 2 Inch X 30 Yards ($17)

Gaffer Power Gaffer Tape 3 Inch X 30 Yards – Black ($17)



Forking Paths

British maze designer Randoll Coate produced this tribute to Jorge Luis Borges — a labyrinth of hedges shaped like an open book and spelling out the author’s name. In Braille the hedges incorporate Borges’ quotation that a book and a labyrinth are “one and the same.” (The original maze is in the writer’s native Argentina; Coate donated the copy above to Borges’ foundation in Venice.)

“Five years before Borges died, I had a dream in which I heard that Borges had just died,” the designer recalled. “And I thought to myself, I must make sure that Borges is not memorialized with one of those terrible statues — a depiction of angels or something. He has to be honored with something truly Borgesian, in other words, a labyrinth. That’s when I began to design it and think about it and dream up a shape for it — an extraordinary labyrinth for a man with an extraordinary mind.”

(From Francesca Tatarella, Labyrinths & Mazes, 2016.)

from Futility Closet


Music Animation Machine, colorful visualizations of classical music

Performed by Stephen Malinowski and accompanied by his Music Animation Machine classical music visualizations, enjoy Frédéric Chopin‘s Etude, opus 25 #4 in A minor.

Malinowski’s music animations have taken on a variety of visual forms over the years as he explores shapes, colors, connections, and movements that help to illuminate the compositions. In the fugue in C major from the first book of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, performed by Kimiko Ishizaka, it can be easier to identify the different layers of music.

Ishizaka performs the prelude in B major from the first book of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier to these pulsing holiday light-style notes, as well.

And finally, enjoy Puzzle Canon a6 (at the fourth), version 4 by Timothy Dwight Edwards, performed by the Double Entendre Chamber Ensemble. Led by oboes, bassons, and english horns, the colorful disks lock into place.

A variety of music visualization videos on this site include Malinowski’s Bach, Prelude in C-sharp major, WTC I, BWV 848, as well as Andy Fillebrown’s Audiosculptures, Classical Music Mashup: 57 classical tunes from 33 composers, and a neon light-illuminated visualization of Bach’s The Well Tempered Clavier.

Bonus: John Coltrane’s Giant Steps animated and Unendurable line from Japan’s Design Ah!.

from The Kid Should See This


A.J. Jacobs, NYT Bestselling Author

We have hired professional editors to help create our weekly podcasts and video reviews. It costs us $1,0000 a month. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $321 a month. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have great rewards for people who contribute! – MF

Our guest this week is A.J. Jacobs. A.J. is the author of four New York Times best sellers including The Year Of Living Biblically, and The Know-It-All. CBS will be airing a sitcom based on The Year Of Living Biblically this winter. He is a contributor to Esquire and NPR.

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Show notes:

Ice Bandana ($18)
“Basically, you wrap it around your neck, and it’s a little scarf that has ice in it. Re-freezable ice. I wear it all summer long because we all know … Lots of people wear scarfs in the winter and no one thinks twice. But very few seem to wear these cooling scarfs in the summer. They are just as comfortable and just as helpful. What I do is just put it in the freezer overnight, and then it’s just this little black band. I tie it around my neck during the day, and it lasts a good four or five hours. You can switch them out. It’s like a little air conditioner for my neck. It just cools my whole body down.”

Walker’s Game Ear Low Profile Folding Muff ($13)
“I think last time I was on I talked about these great ear plugs that are like sonic defenders that are designed for the military. This is in the same area. They came about because when I was doing my book, I’m Trying To Be The Healthiest Person Alive, I read all of these studies about how noise is actually a health hazard. It’s an under reported, under valued health hazard and that it can raise your stress level. So I’ve become more aware trying to cut down noise in my life. They look like Beats By Dre. Not quite as cool, but they don’t have any music capabilities. They’re just like the earmuffs that they wear on the tarmacs of airports, but they’re smaller and slicker looking, and I love them. I wear them all the time. I’m wearing them right now. I wear them while I work. I wear them around the house, and they turn the volume down from 10 to five. It’s 31 decibels of noise reduction. My kids sometimes are embarrassed, but they are much better than those huge massive tarmac deals, and also, I used to wear the bose noise canceling headphones, which are great but they cost 300 dollars and I kept losing them.”

Easy Adjustable Reading Portable Desk ($54, 5ct)
“I do like working with my laptop on my bed. Even though I’m not sure it’s the most efficient because you tend to fall asleep. But it is enjoyable, but I do suffer from overheated crotch syndrome when I do that. So, there are several of these brands. I have one, but I’m sure the others are good too. These adjustable laptop trays that have these legs. They look like the AT-AP from Star Wars attached to a tray, so you can adjust the legs and they even have fans, which I don’t bother with. But they’ve got little built in fans to keep it cooler. I found out that does increase by productivity when I’m working on my bed because I’m not quite as distracted.”

Watching movies on double speed on YouTube Red ($10/month)
“This is one of my cool tools that might be a little controversial, and might be a blast from me, for some film lovers and film makers. So please forgive me. But, to save time, I like to watch movies on double speed. If you go on YouTube Red, for like ten dollars a month, you can download movies and then go to the little gear icon in the corner and put it at double speed. You can understand everything. It doesn’t go to chipmunk voice. It just, they speak very quickly. I watched Manchester By The Sea on double speed the other night and it was slow on double speed. So I don’t know how I would have sat in the theater and watched it real life. In addition to the Red, you still have to rent to download a movie. You don’t have to rent regular videos, but you do have to rent. I do pay that extra three dollars so I can watch it in double speed.”