If you use Tinactin as a preventative, per the label directions, spray it into the ends of your toes as part of your normal daily application.  If the front corners of your toes are sometimes tender, this will help.  Even though the directions state that the product is not effective on nails, that refers to back under the nails.  It is effective at the edges.

It is best to use the plain Powder Spray (with the grey background) as it is less messy than the Liquid Spray  (with the blue background).  Avoid the Deodorant Powder Spray (with the green background) as the regular Powder Spray works just as well as a deodorant and unlike the regular Powder Spray, the Deodorant Powder spray contains corn starch which is sticky and leaves white marks on clothes, carpets, and shoes.  Speaking of shoes,  Tinactin regular Powder Spray can be sprayed directly into athletic or other shoes before putting them away.  This works to kill shoe odors better than anything else I’ve tried.  Apparently Tinactin also kills the fungi responsible for shoe odor.  Trying this with Deodorant Powder Spray doesn’t work any better and leaves a persistent white residue.

Automated attacks produce automated defenses:  Please leave comments using the post in my comments category.

Spilled Tea

I like Japanese food.  When you ask for hot tea at most of the Japanese restaurants I go to they bring you a cup and a small cast iron teapot with a flat top on the spout.

For a long time, no matter how careful I was, after pouring the first cup there was always a puddle of tea on the table.   Being still more careful made it worse.  I couldn’t even tell where the tea was coming from.  I’ve never been particularly graceful but how hard can it be?  Tip the pot and the tea pours into the cup.

I eventually figured out what was going on.  As the cup filled up I was tilting the pot back gradually, reducing the flow in anticipation of a full cup.  At some point the velocity and inertia of the flowing tea was too small to overcome molecular attraction for the spout and since bottom of the spout ran downhill, the tea ran along the underside of the spout and ran off at the bottom of the pot.  My view was blocked by the teapot so I couldn’t see it happen.

To an engineer this was obviously a design flaw.  The fix was to shape the end of the spout so that tea will always pour out away from the pot and not down the outside of the spout.

Yet many teapot spouts, western and eastern, behave like the first illustration.   Since the time of the Greeks and Romans better spout designs  have appeared on pitchers, beakers,  amphoras and ewers.  Note that on the following pitcher, while the spout does not turn down at rest, it will point down whenever liquid is being poured.

While the flat top teapot spout is bad engineering,  people are good at compensating.  I never noticed until later watching British TV shows on Amazon.  A tea service seems to appear in at least one scene of every British mystery  or police procedural.  British actresses, who have been pouring tea very precisely since they were little girls, automatically snap their wrist back slightly to abruptly cut off the flow as the cup fills, avoiding a spill.

In summary, either (1) this is a major world-wide design flaw requiring mass recalls and government action at the highest levels or (2) since there already is a perfectly good work-around, if you’re not a klutz, it may fall squarely in the Irrelevant Tech category.

Automated attacks produce automated defenses:  Please leave comments using the post in my comments category.

Draining Garden Hoses

If you drain garden hoses in the fall or between jobs and have a portable air compressor you may find this adapter a big time saver.  It is assembled out of a few dollars worth of parts from the hardware store:  a ball type hose valve, an air hose adapter, an appropriate thread adapter, and thread tape.

With the valve off, attach the adapter to your air compressor.   Run the compressor to shut-off, unplug it, and carry it to your hose.  Remove the hose nozzle and secure the hose end as it may thrash around.  Disconnect the hose from the water source and attach it to the adapter.  Crack the valve open slightly to start the water flowing.  Moderate the valve to get a typical flow.  When the hose starts to sputter, briefly open the valve fully to blow the last of the water out.

This will empty reeled hose as well as coiled or loose.  A 3 gallon tank will clear a 50 foot hose in one shot.  A 6 gallon tank is sufficient for a 100 foot hose or a couple of 50 foot hoses.

Pruning Loppers

This post addresses pruning loppers that are two or three feet long but also applies somewhat to one hand pruners and pole pruners.

The basic rule for using a lopper is: NEVER twist the lopper.  If the lopper does not cleanly cut all the way through a branch and sticks, rotate it back and forth around the branch in the plane of the cut to get it unstuck.  It is tempting to give it a little twist to snap off the branch or pry it out — resist that temptation.  If not you will often chip the cutting blade and ruin it.  The cutting blade of a lopper is very narrow and very hard in order to make it cut easily.  It is immensely strong in the direction of the cut but quite brittle against side loads, which is what makes twisting or prying so risky.

There are three basic types of loppers.  The first is the anvil style that pinches the branch with a sharp cutter against an anvil jaw with a brass or polymer insert to keep from dulling the cutter.  The cutter and anvil are usually straight.  The main problem is that if you try to cut a green branch of even moderate size it tends to squirt out of the jaws.  These also often take a greater amount of effort than other designs.

The second type is a “Bird’s Head” bypass lopper.  In these, the curved cutting blade “bypasses” the fixed blade like a pair of scissors.  This usually results in lower cutting effort for a given design.  But, the curve of the cutting blade matches the curve of the fixed blade. As a result green branches tend to squirt out of this style too.

The third type is a bypass lopper with a cutting blade shape that is more squared off than that of the fixed blade.  This captures the branch to be cut, eliminating any possibility of it squirting out.  As a bypass lopper it cuts easily and the captured branch is held in an optimum position for the cut.  Several manufacturers make these.  The Fiskars PowerGear® and Power-Lever® families are good examples of the type.

A major consideration is replacement parts.  The part that generally wears out, even with the best of care, is the cutting blade and a worn or chipped cutter is an exercise in frustration.  If your lopper has replacements available they will be much cheaper than buying a new lopper.  Some manufacturers sell repair parts on their web sites.  As an example, a search for “lopper parts” on the Fiskars web site returns various cutter blades for current and past loppers.  (It also lists a number of lower cost loppers that are still in production.)  Drilling down into likely pictures and descriptions yields model numbers and reference dimensions so you can be sure you are ordering the right part.  A replacement cutter is $8 for a $46 lopper and $4 for a $25 lopper, much better than a whole new lopper from the hardware store.  Buy a couple while you’re at it.

Old-school combs

A long time ago, when consumer products were made in America, the original ACE combs were ubiquitous.  Men and boys carried them.  Every barber shop had an ACE comb sales display.  James Dean famously used one to comb his hair in Rebel Without a Cause.  President John F. Kennedy owned at least one.  ACE combs were successful because they were quality products, typical for that age.  They were made from a tough, strong, flexible hard rubber with thick end guard tines to protect the teeth.  The rough mold parting line around the back and edges was carefully ground off smooth to eliminate the sharp edge.  Even the tips of the teeth were smoothed off so as to not damage hair. They could be dropped without damage and tended to last for years.  As cheaper imitators appeared, ACE started stamping their products as “Genuine ACE Hard Rubber”.

During the adverse conditions of the 1980’s, one of their competitors bought ACE and that was the end of the original ACE comb.  Since the competitor now owned the ACE trademarks, they had legal right to stamp “Genuine ACE Hard Rubber” on their existing combs made out of a more brittle material with thinner guards and an exposed sharp mold line including along the tips of the teeth.  These combs broke if you dropped them on their ends but that just meant the customer would buy another.

Many people didn’t notice, but if you cared, it was annoying.   If you do care, here are a couple of sources for hand-made, high quality combs, with saw cut teeth to eliminate mold edges between teeth, and polished all over so they have no sharp edges anywhere.  They are tough and long lasting.

Speert imports a wide range of private label high quality hand-made Swiss combs for men and women, in pocket, purse, and styling versions.  The Speert site also offers a very wide selection of different styles, sizes, and diopters of inexpensive reading glasses.


For seriously old-school, Kent has been making the “world’s finest brushes” and combs for over 240 years … since 1777.  They produce a range of men’s and women’s hand-made, saw cut, polished combs.  You can hear the difference as their combs glide through your hair.  The given link is for Great Britain and while they have importers, the home web site is worth visiting.  It has a web store and PayPal does the pound/dollar conversion seamlessly.


These are elegant combs for a very reasonable price.

Garden hose

Don’t buy garden hoses with aluminum fittings — generally silver colored instead of brass.  These fittings will corrode and seize to your hose nozzles, sprinklers, and faucets.  They then have to be cut off and generally ruin the mating part.  Existing hoses can be salvaged by cutting off the aluminum fittings and installing brass fittings available from any hardware store.

Also, try to avoid aluminum in electrical fittings and switches.  The aluminum eventually forms a surface oxide layer that causes open and/or intermittent circuits and, in some cases, fires.  Years ago there was a brief effort to use aluminum wire in residential wiring before the fire hazard was recognized.  It is hard to avoid aluminum in cheap lamp sockets but the effort will be worth it.  As a couple of personal examples: our son kept fighting an intermittent ceiling light — replacing bulbs, switch, and breaker — until I swapped out the old aluminum lamp socket.  At another time, my garage door manual button stopped working — the remotes worked fine.  This was eventually traced to the use by the manufacturer of an aluminum washer under a terminal riveted to a circuit board.  There was no visible corrosion, just an invisible oxide layer that formed under the rivet head.  A bit of solder bridging over the washer from the terminal to the board cured the problem.

Aluminum is great for cookware and airplanes.  Not so much for water fittings or electrical connections.

Fungus and mildew and mold, oh my!

Each time you take a shower or a hot bath, the air in your bathroom warms up several degrees and its humidity approaches 100% — excellent conditions for growing things.  You can see the effect of  humidity in the fogged mirrors and the damp feel in the room.   To help with this, run your bathroom vent fan for 30 to 45 minutes after bathing with the bathroom door pulled almost closed to keep the damp air in the bathroom until it is exhausted by the vent fan but not completely shut to provide a path for cool dry air drawn from the rest of the house.  This will help clear the mirror too.  You can get an inexpensive humidity gauge from the hardware store to track the change from high back to normal humidity to know how long to run your fan.  If you have screw base vanity lights, going back to incandescents in the bathroom will help too — leave them on with the fan.  If you’ve been fighting mold in the bathroom, this will improve the situation.

Blind Spots

The blind spot mirrors on cars are becoming irrelevant tech.  Many people now believe the side mirrors are rear view mirrors and mistakenly adjust them to look at the car directly behind, giving three views of the same vehicle.  If you pull up behind such a car, you will see the driver’s face in the side mirrors.

Automobile side mirrors are not rear view mirrors.  The rear view mirror is the one in the center of the windshield.  The side mirrors are safety additions to cover “blind spots”.  These are the areas behind and to each side where a car in the next lane is invisible when it pulls forward out of the rear view mirror’s field and isn’t yet far enough forward to see with peripheral vision or a glance to the side.  Properly adjusted side mirrors allow you to see a car in the blind spots and avoid a potentially disastrous lane change or turn resulting in a collision that will be your fault.

The blind spot mirrors can be roughly adjusted while parked.  Put the driver’s seat in its normal position and adjust the mirrors up or down until the horizon is in the middle of the mirror.  Lean to the left until your head touches the window and adjust the left mirror until you can just see the side of your car at the right edge of the mirror.  Lean the same distance to the right and adjust the right mirror until you can just see the side of your car at the left edge of the mirror.  This procedure produces a good approximation and will cover most blind spots.  The adjustment can be fine tuned in traffic as you observe whether you pick up passing cars in the next lane in the side mirrors before they leave the rear view field and whether you can see them with peripheral vision before they leave the side mirror fields.  Even with properly adjusted mirrors there are still blind spots for cars two lanes away and also for cars on a highway when you are merging at an angle.  But properly adjusted side mirrors will allow you to scan for converging traffic in these cases by moving your head and avoid an accident.

The really bad effect of this is that some current car engineers either do not know what the side mirrors are for, or kowtow to their marketing wonks who decided that customers do not know and shouldn’t be informed.  As a result, the blind spot mirrors on some new cars cannot be adjusted to cover the blind spots and can only be used to give a duplicate rear view.  Check this when you shop for a new car by trying the above procedure.  If the mirrors can’t be correctly adjusted, register your dissatisfaction, go somewhere else, and save yourself from a potential accident.

The Great Banana Conspiracy

The Great Banana Conspiracy was triggered by a technological advance.  Around 1880 the commercial production of residential kitchen iceboxes began, bringing the promise of preserving perishable foods.  The governing board of the world banana cartel immediately recognized the threat to their bottom line.  The cartel decided upon a disinformation campaign based on a kernel of truth: in a sealed container the natural plant hormones released by bananas accelerate ripening.  This effect was already used commercially to ripen bananas for market.

The word went out: “Do not put bananas in the refrigerator.  They will turn brown and go bad.”   It was passed to the grapevine, fed into the rumor mill, gossiped over back yard fences, and inserted into the interminable Senate filibusters of the time.  It was picked up by our great-grandmothers, passed to our grandmothers, who taught it to our mothers, and now we indoctrinate our own children and grandchildren.  It has resulted in 130 years of soft, sticky, and blah bananas resting in cute little mesh slings or dangling from crescent-shaped hangers on kitchen counters.

In point of fact, when fresh bananas are put into the refrigerator, they do develop a superficial light brown dusting on the surface of their skins after a few days.  Yet when you take one out, you find that the peel underneath is still crisp and the fruit inside is fresh, firm, and sweet.  (Keep green bananas at room temperature until the bodies just turn yellow and then put them in the refrigerator.)

We were also told to not put bread in the refrigerator, effectively the same misdirection.  As a practical matter, the early iceboxes were small, and what little space they had was needed for eggs, meat, and milk.  Bread was baked at home and generally eaten on the same day.  So the habit of no refrigeration became the rule.  Modern refrigerators have eliminated the space problem and store-bought bread has replaced daily baking – however, the rule has remained while modern smaller families are taking longer to finish a loaf.

The fact is that bread keeps just fine for several days in its plastic wrap in the refrigerator.  It doesn’t get moldy, it doesn’t get soggy, it doesn’t dry out, and it doesn’t become stale.  It toasts the same way, makes perfectly good sandwiches, and stays generally indistinguishable from non-refrigerated bread.  If you need a room temperature slice or two, a mere 8 or 10 seconds in the microwave takes care of that.  And since in the refrigerator the bread does not get moldy, you won’t find yourself trying to remember how many days ago you bought it.  There may be an exotic crusty French boule that’s edible only while still warm from the oven, but if your bread came from the grocery store, throw it in the fridge.