Apropos of nothing, this is a bit of a non sequitur. A home repair tale, one that I find most notable on a personal level, but it might eventually be of value to others down the line, should the same situation occur. And so I offer it up.
The situation was that my key was beginning to stick in my front door lock. It not only kept getting more difficult to get the key all the way in, but once it I had a challenge getting it out, and the problem was getting worse. I knew something had to be done and soon, because I didn’t want to find one day that I had to leave but couldn’t lock my front door – or if I could, that I had to leave my key in the door.
I knew that one option was calling a locksmith, but that was a last resort thing. Instead, I looked online and did a lot of research. Without going into all the minutiae of details, what I basically determined was that –
WD-40 (which I had at home) would likely work, but it was a bad choice for this, because if you use it too often it will gunk up the lock. Carbon dust-like products work, but are very messy, and also risk clogging a keyhole over time.
There are a bunch of good products, but the ones that most lock professionals (who I gave most weight to) and consumers recommend were synthetic products that used either Teflon or the generic equivalent of Teflon, known as polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE. It’s least-likely to gunk up a lock.
And of those products, two stood out from the rest. The most-recommended is called Tri-Flow. The other (widely and highly recommended, just not as much) is Lock Saver.
Though Tri-Flow stood out from the others, I went with Lock Saver. It was for two very small reasons. The first is that as “ungunky” as Tri-Flow was, Lock Saver was apparently even less-likely to gunk up. And the other was that there were a lot of user comments on Amazon that said their can of Tri-Flow did not come with one of those thin straws to connect to the nozzle. (And the photo on Amazon didn’t show one.) That wasn’t a huge problem, since I had a straw I could use with my WD-40, or you could buy a pack online. But since it was almost a toss of the coin which to use, as long as the Lock Save did always have a straw, and it was even less-gunkable, that tipped the scales
So, okay, I ordered Lock Saver, it arrived, and I checked out videos online to make sure I did it right. And it seemed easy enough – you point the nozzle upward in the keyhole, spritz the spray briefly and wait a couple seconds to let it drip down in the lock. Then, you slowly wedge the key in and then out to spread the liquid through the lock, and wedge it in again, and a few times until things are finally loosened.
So, I did that and hoped for the best. I sprayed it up for a half-second. Waited a couple seconds and then held my breath as I went to wedge the key in…
…and it instantly slid in like butter. Actually, even better, like a knife cutting through water. Its impact was immediate and profound. So much so that I love locking my door these days, it’s such fun to see my great handiwork.
The only downside is that, given it used a half-second spritz, I now have about a 3,000 year supply of Lock Saver. I know it can be used on other products if needed, but I’ve never really needed it before for anything. And even if I did, then I’d probably have a 2,000 year supply. Happily, the can only cost $13, so it was well-worth it. Because, man, did this ever work.
If you ever have a stuck key, or stuck anything, I’m sure that you can get Lock Saver (or Tri-Flow) at any lock shop, but you can also get it online here.
(By the way, the reason I've been using weird phrases like "lock shop" and "lock professional" rather than the more common term (it rhymes with "rocks myth") is because I last time I wrote an article about a lock tale, I used that common name...and was inundated by spam here on the subject. And still get it, a couple years later. Now, it's possible that just the word "lock" will bring all the spam again, but I'm hoping and expecting that because "lock" alone is a very common word with many different uses, I'll be safe. We'll see.)
And that's today's latest Key Tale. I almost want to say that I hope one of your door locks gets a little stuck, just so that you can use this product and be as awed as I was by something so simple. I don't hope that, of course, may all your locks be fine. But man, this was a joy when a home repair goes this remarkably well this remarkably easily.
Lest anyone thing that the only reason I wrote about the Kickstarter project for Sofft was because a friend of mine developed it, nay not so! In fact, here is an actual news story about the product, from (of all things) Digital Trends. The reporter came across the project all on his own, and has written a very positive story on the product and the technology behind it. (As he notes, the technology has been around a few years, and used in the mainstream, but no one has been able to get it to work on clothing like this. Previously, it's been used as a coating on static items.)
The technology he's referring to is the product's ability as a stain repellent, though Sofft also works as a fabric softener.
You can read what he has to say here, which is particularly interesting when he discusses the background of "hydrophobic" material.
And yes, of course, the first reason I considered writing about the Kickstarter project is because Greg Van Buskirk is a longtime friend. (A situation he came perilously close to losing years back when he and his wife Sharon, also a PhD, invited me to their home in Northern California for Thanksgiving, and they dragged me to a Dungeon & Dragons weekend...)
But just being a friend doesn't cut it. I have really good friends with lots of really bad ideas. (Not limited to spending the Thanksgiving weekend playing Dungeons & Dragons...) And I never mention them here and impose them on such fine readers. Only the prime choice makes the grade. And Sofft is just that. I'm utterly fascinated by what it does.
And for those keeping score, its Kickstarter project is now half-funded after just three days. So, it appears that others agree as well.
I don't tend to do much with Kickstarter. I like the service and find it valuable. But when companies pitch me their products to review, I tend to ask them to wait until it's on the market so that readers can actually buy it if they're interested. I think I made one exception, but the company had difficulty getting me a unit to review, so I ended up not doing a review.
I don't think I've even mentioned Kickstarter protects here much. Maybe once before. So when I do, it's only because I find the product pretty compelling. And...well, okay, admittedly here it's because I'm friends with the person putting forth the product. But even that wouldn't be enough on its own merits. This product really is compelling. And it's seriously substantive.
My friend Greg Van Buskirk has a PhD in Chemistry and fixing motorbikes, though I think his degree is just for the first one. He worked at Clorox for a long time and also oversaw a range of product development, many of which you likely know and may even use, like FreshCare Fabric Refresher, Clorox Bleach-Pen, Act, Clorox 2 products and more. He became a product manager and eventually a Clorox Research Fellow. (He's also received 38 patents for his work at Clorox. Like I said, he's the real deal.)
Over the years, he's occasionally given me samples of his products in development, and they've all been wonderful. Some made it to market, some didn't. My favorite was pre-packaged envelopes of laundry detergent that were incredibly convenient, but for whatever reason Clorox didn't go ahead with it. But I also much liked his environmental line, Clorox GreenWorks,.which are now in stores across the country.
His favorite product he developed at Clorox though never got funded enough by the company and was dropped. (Actually, that's the low-key version. He calls it "the single greatest technology I worked on in all my years at Clorox. That's saying a lot.) In large part, the reason the product got stalled at Clorox might have been because if the thing did ever go on sale, it would likely cut the use of detergent sales. That's great for consumers, but not so much for companies that sell detergent. They did, however, allow Greg -- also known as Dr. Buzz -- to retain the rights to his product. And now that after several decades at Clorox he's retired from there, he's free to develop it on his own. Which he's done with his partner, Vinod Nair, who has a PhD in Chemistry, too, as well as worked at Intel for 10 years developing semiconductor technology, and three years at Cessna working on corrosion protection. (I mention the latter because, as it happens, it's in some ways related to this cleaning product.)
The product is called Sofft (tm). The very short version is that it's a fabric softener that also repels stains. And because it requires 50-75% less detergent and also works with cold water, you save on money and energy when using it.. And not only is all that environmentally-friendly, but because the product's ingredients are themselves bio-inert, it won't harm the environment. And can double the life-span of your clothes.
I believe it can also cure many diseases, serves as a breath freshener, and can be used as a base for making many soups. Though I'm not sure, so don't quote me on that.
Enough of that, this is their video, so you can see it in action, as stains literally roll off the soft clothing. It's pretty fascinating, seeing liquids that would otherwise stain fabric instead bead up on the surface to be simply wiped away. But better still, you get to see Dr. Buzz himself, far more low-key than he'd be if he was in your living room, yet still his whimsical self. (Yes, a whimsical PhD chemist.)
(By the way, keep in mind that this is a fabric softener, so unlike most stain repellents that stiffen up clothes a bit, this does the very opposite.)
Anyway, while they would certainly like people to invest in their Kickstarter offering, this isn't a hard sell at all. In fact, they get a Kickstarter benefit if people simply visit the website which gives their page hits. And it's worth doing that because the page is filled with far more intriguing information on what Sofft (tm) actually does, far beyond what I've said here, and how it works. You can do that by clicking here. But mainly, I mention this all simply because think it's just remarkable to watch the video on that level alone, and to keep it in mind if the product ever hits the market.
And you get to see Greg in his unnatural habitat. With adorable laundry-cleaning music in the background. And as a bonus, you also get to see his PhD wife Sharon at the very end. In her natural habitat.
The Super Bowl (sorry, I think I'm allowed to use those trademarked words...) is coming this Sunday, so that means it's time again for "the best commercials of the year" interspersed with the game. (It should be a very good game this year. Here's hoping. Why they're playing it outdoors in New York in January is another question entirely...)
Most companies hold their Big Ads to be revealed during the game itself, but a few release them early for the attention build-up. One of those latter is Budweiser which is following up on it's friendship ad last year between a dog and Clydesdale which was voted the #1 fan favorite in USA Today's Ad Meter. An article on the Huffington Post found this new ad to be beyond endearing, one of the most emotional beer commercials ever, so let's take a look at "Puppy Love" --
While a bit forced, it's a very nicely done, charming ad. After all, it's hard not to love a puppy spinning around and hopping, most especially an absolutely adorably cute puppy. I suspect it will be a viewer favorite, as well.
But when it comes to the Super Bowl (again, I hope I can use that term without paying for the rights...) and beer commercials, this new one below is going to be hard to top as my own favorite.
To be fair, this won't run during the game, so it's not exactly an official Super Bowl (yes, I know, fill in disclaimer...) ad, which is its point. I believe that Budweiser bought the rights to all beer commercials during the Super Bo..., so no other beers can be advertised during the broadcast. So, as I said, this won't be on then. In fact, I think right now it's only intended for the Internet, though I suspect it will be trimmed down for TV later.
This is the actresses Anna Kendrick as herself on behalf of Newcastle Brown Ale, and it's the behind-the-scenes of the ad you won't get to see during the Sup...B...
(She was on the Conan show this week, and had a brief clip of the ad, which is what got me to track down the full thing. The sense I got from what was said is that this is part of a larger campaign, so there might be more to come, though I can't swear to that.)
I'm a big fan of Anna Kendrick having zero to do with her acting, which I think is terrific. My admiration comes from her talk show appearances and Tweets, I find her utterly self-effacing and hilarious. This beer commercial only adds to that.
Now, that's a beer commercial ad!! And I just love a company that's able (and clearly willing) to be so self-effacing about itself, as well.
By the way, what's hilarious (or pathetically sad) is that among all the comments on YouTube from people who love this ad are far too many people (and one is too many) who not only miss the joke, but actually think this is real. As one , happily sentient commenter noted --
"There's a distressing number of YouTube comments calling her foulmouthed and rude. People, this isn't Anna really talking to herself. It's...a commercial. It's...fake. And really funny.
"Why does YouTube attract so many dimwitted people?"
If putting up with this reality means we get such ads as this...so be it.
As I noted in my CES overview the other week, the Smart (or connected) Home has been around for a few years, where you can control devices in house with an app on your Smartphone. The technology is growing, and this all took a more attention-getting turn last week when Google purchased the company Nest for over $3 billion.
As it happened, shortly after writing that -- last Thursday, in fact, I was having lunch with a friend who recently had his home outfitted with one of those Smart Home devices Nest. In his case, it was for thermostat control, which is important where he lives. And he was ecstatic about it, not the least important because he's a technical Luddite. (That's not an exaggeration. Years ago, he asked me a question about using a stapler. Honest.)
As coincidences piled themselves on one another, the next day CNET had a detailed article about Google's purchase of...Nest. If you have the product, or are thinking about it, or intrigued by the concept, the article worth taking a look at.
The core of the article is the future -- Google's plans and the top mistakes they could make. This center on pricing of devices, whether they keep it proprietary to Android only, and perhaps most notably privacy. There is a great deal of data collected by the technology -- when you sleep, when you go out and lock up your home -- and selling data is the lifeblood of its existence. Not to mention protecting it.
If you're interested, click here for the whole article.
A week ago, I wrote an article here about a bathroom heater I was thinking of buying, and how on the product's Amazon page they hilariously note for this bathroom heater a warning that "This heater is not intended for use in bathrooms." (It is intended for bathroom use, they just left that legal disclaimer in by mistake.)
I just wanted to update you on the tale. I ended up buying the Holmes Bathroom Heater, and it showed up two days later. Not shabby during the holiday season when you've chosen the Free Shipping option, rather than pay for the expedited two-day shipping...
The heater is great. Not because it's especially grand as a heater (it's fine), but because it has something rare, if not unique for a heater. I assume some other models in the world have this, but I haven't come across them. Not that I scour the earth for heaters, mind you. What it has is a built-in timer. So, in the morning now, when I used trudge through my home and end up on the cold bathroom floor in bare feet in the cold bathroom, I now set the timer for about 10 minutes before my bedroom clock-radio alarm goes off. The bathroom heater goes on, and by the time I make my way there, the bathroom is now toasty warm. O joy! Hubba.
If you look closely, you can see the LED clock display above the red-ringed dial. And that button on the far right is where you set the alarm -- one of the few times I take great pleasure writing something about the far right.
Mind you, for the past several days Los Angeles has had a bit of a heat wave, so there's been no point in using a heater at all, anytime, let alone just in the morning. But I have confidence that the temperature will drop again. Unless, of course, the whole Climate Change thing keeps kicking in.
For thems what might be interested in such things, you can find the heater here).
I had totally forgotten about these. I came across the first one a few years ago and then tracked down the others. I archived them, but forgot about the archive. I was searching through my files this morning and came across them again.
These are basically a series of commercials that run in British movie theaters -- they're for a mobile telephone company, Orange. The premise is that they have this division (fictional), the Orange Film Board, that finances movies, and well-known movie stars are continually pitching them ideas for films -- or one of their movies is being made, and their executives interrupt it for... (well, let's call it) creative input. The recurring characters are the Orange executives, Mr.Dresden and Mr. Elliot.
One of the funniest is with Mena Suvari, from American Beauty and the American Pie series. (I'll also add that she's in my pal Rob Hedden's comedy film, You May Not Kiss the Bride, and is a hilarious scene-chewing hoot.) I first saw her ad on one of those TV specials, The World's Funniest Commercials, but didn't have a clue what it was for. So, I tracked it down, and found out what in the world it was all about. That's when I went about tracking down as many of the theater commercials as I could. And was just blown away about how fun, inventive, and off-beat they were.
I'll post them from time to time -- thus far, I've found 20 of them. Some of the people involved are Dennis Hopper, John Cleese, Darth Vader, Sean Astin...(yes, you read that right, Darth Vader)...and Macaulay Caulkin. I'll stop there, I don't want to give them all away.
But to begin with, here's the one with Mena Suvari.
Never wear a Hawaiian shirt when you go shopping at Trader Joe's.
I came up with this rule several years ago, after one too many experiences of costumers coming up to me and asking where to find the freeze-dried apples. The problem isn't so much that it's awkward for me, but I feel bad for the others who always seem so embarrassed when they're told, "Sorry, I don't work here. But I do think the Spicy Indonesian Chips are in that aisle over there."
As friends will attest, I don't wear Hawaiian shirts terribly often, let alone short-sleeve shirts in general, so I have to keep reminding myself of the rule, and sometimes it slips through the cracks. Like today, when there's been a hot spell in Los Angeles. I had another errand to run nearby the Trader Joe's, so I figured I'm put both together. Fortunately, as I approached the grocery store, reality kicked in, so I was able to avert disaster.
Fortunately, people who shop at Trader Joe's tend to be quite nice, so it's not too bad. But honestly, it really is a jumble, so I do try to avoid it.
I'll get my Dr. Prager's California Veggie Burger some other day.
With summer coming, BobVila.com has a short slideshow piece on 11 cooling fans. Most seem to be there because of their design, though in many ways design is the only thing that differentiates a lot of fans. Several of those listed, though, do focus on the cooling technology.
All of this brought to mind my own favorite (and most disappointing) fan that I've come across. It's something I discovered when attending last year's IFA Berlin tech trade show. The GreenFan 2, is from a Japanese company, Balumuda. What was so wonderful about the fan is how remarkable it was at cooling. What was freaking disappointing is that it's not available in the U.S., at least at the moment.
I was so enamored with the GreenFan 2 that I stood in front of it, luxuriating in its breeze and reading the documentation on its display for (without exaggerating) about 15-20. I stood in front of it so long that I think other show visitors thought I was part of the exhibit. The vendors found me quite amusing, though appreciative, and when I wrote the company a couple months later, they remembered "the guy who was standing in front of your fan for so long."
Despite spending so much time reading about their "natural breeze" technology and asking questions, I still can't tell you precisely how it works, but it has something to do with dual layer blades and air diffusion over a flat surface... However, it delivered the coolest and quietest air I've ever come across.
I know that it's borderline pointless to write about a product you can't readily buy. But excellence should always be lauded. Besides, if anyone reading this is going to Japan -- or Korea, where's it's also sold -- it's good to know about and look into. For all I know, they'll ship one if you contact them online. Their website has a lot of information on it (in English, despite the graphic above), so that will tell you more -- for those interested in knowing more about a fan that they may not be able to get. Yet. Ah, but one day hopefully...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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