Kitchen Gadgets as Art neat kitchen gadgets that happen to be beautiful sculptures

kitchen tool sculptures

Neat kitchen gadgets spend most of their time in a drawer.  Here is a collection of high-end cooking gadgets beautiful enough for an art museum.

This kitchen gadget, the Alessi apostrophe  avoids citrus catastrophe. Clawing your way into oranges is so last century. If you enjoy peeling oranges and getting all the citrusy goodness up under your thumbnail, this beautiful gadget may not be your thing.

Alessi Apostrophe Orange Peeler

Sculpture orange peeler Only 2.2 inches tall, one inch wide, and 10 ounces of matte finish stainless steel.             Honey, this is for you. Simple and timeless, this Alessi honey jar and serving wand please the eye the way honey pleases the palatte. Simply pass the wand over biscuits, fruit or tea to taste the magic. photo of Alessi juicer

A truly space age kitchen gadget, the Alessi citrus juicer comes in two sizes, and comes with a citrus bonus (hint: it’s a punctuation mark).  

Alessi my squeeze citrus juicer Main Squeeze? When it comes to citrus juicing, the Alessi My Squeeze is beautiful enough to be your new main squeeze.  Five inches by two and a quarter inches and made of sculpted stainless steel, the My Squeeze should last for centuries under ordinary conditions.

  • Dimensions: 5″L x 2.25″W
  • Mirro polich stainless steel
  • For all citrus fruits

Let’s recap these gorgeous kitchen gadgets, experience a little sticker shock, keeping in mind that Italian works of art aren’t cheap.

List Price: $30.00
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List Price: $130.00
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List Price: $75.00
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Bonus Kitchen Gadget: Microwave Egg Cooker

List Price: $16.00
Current Price: $9.99
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Soft, medium or, if you like your eggs like your detective novels, hardboiled. This device cooks them fast and rarely blows up. Nordic Ware also makes a microwave popcorn popper that uses no oil and regular popping corn. Plus it’s not very expensive.

Looking for a low-end, thrifty, non-artsy version of the Alessi Apostrophe kitchen gadget? (So cheap it’s probably not gift appropriate)  Fox Run Orange Peeler, Set Of 2

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Best Aircraft Cable Key Ring and Why Not to Get the Wrong Kind

Aircraft cable twist lock key ring 2013The best and strongest aircraft cable key ring is a simple loop of aircraft cable

Aircraft cable is a flexible plastic-coated stainless steel wire rope developed to manipulate control surfaces — flaps, ailerons, and tail rudders — on airplanes. Aircraft cable now finds uses in bike locks, exercise machines and sailboat rigging.

Why aircraft cable for a key ring?

With a tensile strength of 890 pounds, a 1/16 inch aircraft cable may seem over-engineered for holding keys.  The aircraft cable key ring was introduced in the 1970s.  Some key rings manufactured back then are still in service.

Aircraft cable twist lock keyring 1976

This aircraft cable key ring has been in constant use since 1976. Despite fading, cracks in the plastic coating, and some play in the clasp, this key ring still works perfectly.

Get the right kind of air craft cable key ring, the twisty kind

There are three kinds of key ring cable clasps:

  • threaded carabiner-style — problem: fussy screw connector; can snag
  • ball in socket — problem: streamlined but disconnects too easily
  • twisty lock — fast, smooth, secure but you need to know how to use it

See this brief video on  How to use the twisty aircraft cable keyring

My personal recommendation comes after trying all three kinds of aircraft cable key rings.

Yes, the ball in socket type does disconnect when the ring is squeezed, if you are lucky, when the keyring is in your pocket.  The threaded variety also unscrew and are fussy. I have used a twisty lock aircraft cable key ring since about 1975.  In 1976 while visiting a fair booth in San Diego, I talked with the company rep about these amazingly strong and wear-resistant key rings.

When I showed the company rep my purple aircraft cable key ring, he offered to trade me a brand new red one

I was hesitant to part with my reliable key ring.  When he told me his company did research on wear and tear in used key rings, I agreed to the trade. That red aircraft cable key ring has been in my pocket every day since 1976.  Perhaps the company will offer to trade me a new one?  I suspect the cable was made by the Loos Company.

Will your aircraft cable key ring last for 37 years?  Get one now and start testing!

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Or perhaps you need more aircraft cable, also known as wire rope?

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Ancient Life

Ediacaran ancient life form Dickinsonia CostataThe history of ancient life on Earth is written in its oldest rocks.  Paleontologists, detectives who track the ancient denizens of that early world, continue to gather fossil evidence of the earliest multicellular life, the Ediacara.

These mysterious creatures preceded the famous Cambrian explosion that began 541 million years ago.

The Cambrian, abundant with the fossils from the ancient ocean sediments, including the Burgess Shale in Canada, justifiably captures the popular spotlight.

Trilobite from the Devonian

This little devil, a Devonian trilobite, was armed with an as-yet unexplained trident. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Almost everyone has seen a trilobite, an animal that appeared in the Cambrian and roamed the ancient seas for 270 million years, right up to the Permian-Triassic extinction, the so-called “Great Dying” 252 million years ago.

Of course, even kids know the names of dinosaurs, which came to rule the Earth after the Great Dying until only 66 million years ago.

Ediacaran life has attracted much less celebrity

Beginning in the 1950s, a few fossils began to tell of complex animals that were not even supposed to exist prior to the Cambrian.

This pre-Cambrian time, the Ediacaran period, between 575 and 542 million years ago, followed the Marinoan glaciation or “Snowball Earth,” a period when the entire surface of our planet was frozen solid.

Not that long ago, the Cambrian was considered the boundary before which no multicellular life existed.  That’s all changed.

Simple one-celled life appeared on Earth about a billion years after the planet formed 4.5 billion years ago, a time punctuated by massive meteor bombardments, including a whopping collision with a Mars-sized planet that sent molten rock into space to form our Moon.

Ancient life may have originated at hot geothermal vents

White smokers at the Champagne vent, Northwest Eifuku volcano, Marianas Trench Marine National Monument Photo Credit: NOAA

Life Begins

Within less than a billion years life appeared. Life on Earth may have gotten its start near deep-sea geothermal vents, still the home of extremeophile bacteria and the animals that feed on them.

Whatever process led to the emergence of life, soon single-celled plants began converting the Earth’s carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbohydrates, the stuff you sprinkle on your cereal.

The first oxygen was consumed by iron dissolved in the oceans which became iron oxide or rust, laid down as rich ore deposits later used to make your car.

ancient iron deposits

Dissolved iron in the oceans, which “rusted” when oxygen became plentiful, was deposited as banded ironstones.

The conversion of a carbon-dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere into oxygen may seem like a good thing to mammals like us.  But carbon dioxide traps heat much better than does oxygen.  Simple plants made too much of a good thing!  Oxygen cooled the Earth.

Our planet froze into a Snowball Earth.  Several times.

Why did ancient single-celled life dominate Earth for so long?

Appearing “only” a billion years after the Earth formed, single celled life took more than three billion years to begin forming more complex multicullular life forms during the Ediacaran Period about 600 million years ago.  See time line below.

Notice how quickly simple life appears 4 billion years ago, at the end of meteor bombardment of Earth. Yet, it takes a full 3 billion years and longer for animals to finally appear.  Then, in less than a billion years, animals conquer the Earth, with vertebrate animals only making land in about the last third of a billion, and mammals like humans showing up very, very late to the party.

Geologic Clock of Earth Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Ancient life took its sweet time to go from single cells, around 4 billion years ago, to more complex multicellular plants and animals, during the Ediacaran period, about 45 million years before the Cambrian. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Some scientists think that low oxygen levels in the oceans 1.8 to .8 billion years ago kept life simple. Others believe that Snowball Earths caused, ironically, by plentiful oxygen in the atmosphere, delayed the appearance of complex life. However, some paleontologists continue to push back the time of the first animals. perhaps even before the last “Snowball Earth.”  In any case, the Cambrian is no longer the first word in multicellular animal life.

Ediacaran Ancient Life Finally Gets Some Respect

These ancient critters now have their own explosion, the Avalon Explosion, a rapid increase in the diversity of Ediacara body forms that preceded the Cambrian Explosion by 33 million years.  If 33 million years doesn’t sound like much, it’s a quarter the length of the dinosaurs’ reign and half as long as the Cenozoic, the Age of Mammals.

A Sample Collection of Ediacaran Life Forms

Unless noted all photo credits:  Wikipedia

Dickinsonia

Ediacaran ancient life form Dickinsonia Costata

Dickinsonia grew as big as bath mats and apparently lay flat on the sea bottom, possibly grazing on microbial mats.  The segments of the soft-bodied Dickinsonia have been described as liquid-filled chambers, something like an air mattress. First discovered by Reg Sprigg in 1946 in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia, apparently while eating his lunch, Ediacaran fossils were described in a paper submitted to, and rejected by, the journal Nature.

Charnia

Charnia an ediacara

Charnia was first discovered in 1957 in rocks in Charnwood Forest in central England by Tina Negus, a 15-year-old schoolgirl, but her geography schoolteacher ruled out the possibility of Precambrian fossils.

Later, a schoolboy Roger Mason, who later became a geologist, brought the fossils to the attention of scientists.  Charnia lived attached to the sea bottom, too deep for sunlight to allow photosynthesis, suggesting that they absorbed nutrients directly from the seawater.

 CharniodiscusCharniodiscus arboreus

Also first discovered in Charnwood Forest, Charniodiscus was first discovered as only the circular base or holdfast that anchored the stalk and frond to the sandy sea floor. Similar to Charnia, the frond structure is different, although the source of nutrition for this an Ediacaran fossil was presumably similar. Two Charniodiscus forms have been found, one with a short stalk and fat frond, the other with a long stalk that held the frond 20 inches above the sea bottom.

Eoandromeda 

Eoandromeda and Ediacaron fossil

Eoandromeda has eight radial spiral arms, spiraling either clockwise or counterclockwise.  A few dozen fossils are known, ranging from 1 to 4 cm in diameter.  This specimen from Australia has longer, more tightly coiled arms compared to Chinese Eoandrommeda. Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/groups/complex_life/

 

Spriggina_flounensi_C

Spriggina

Named for Ron Sprigg, this segmented Edicaran organism reached about 3-5 cm in length and may have been a predator. Two rows of tough interlocking plates cover the bottom, while one row covers its top.  Its front segments are fused to form a head, which may have borne eyes and antennae.

These are but a sample of a growing collection of Ediacaran organisms.  Below is an artist’s conception of an Ediacaran garden

Ediacarans National Museum of History, Smithsonian Institution

The Ediacara appear to have become extinct before the celebrated hustle and bustle of the Cambrian.  Some suggest they are a “failed experiment” that left no descendents.  As objects of scientific study the Ediacara are an active field with a growing list of Ediacaran genera.

Here’s how the Earth’s continents changed from Ediacaran times.

Scientific Picture Book of the Ediacarans

Highly rated, with foreword by Arthur C. Clarke, The Rise of Animals by five respected authors is considered the best account of Ediacaran life.  Organized by fossil location, the book includes an Atlas of Ediacaran paleontology.

Take a Peek

Even if you are just curious, the “Look Inside” button at Amazon offers a generous sampling of the Ediacaran “zoo,” with fossil photos and interpretations of how these strange organisms lived.

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