I’m a fan of tools that help me rearrange my battered body after hard training — especially jiu jitsu.  My back, ribs and neck often get completely torqued after a hard rolling session.  While my various stretching tools (like the inversion table,) foam roller and other trigger point therapy tools work great, I was really hooking for something that could give me the leverage and pinpoint force-application I was looking for, especially around my scapula and lower back.

This tool simply does not disappoint.  There are dozens of trigger points and positions that this device lets you access and modulate pressure to your un/comfort.

It’s fantastic on the feet, lower back, getting under those ridge muscles around your traps and given the different shapes and angles of the knobs, you get really pinpoint pressure.

For about $30, it’s a fantastic addition to my toolchest.

HIGHLY recommended.  Available here or from Amazon.com

You can find the “manual” here.



Purchase & Review: iGrill

Posted: 8th September 2011 by beakerbuys-admin in iPhone Applications, Kitchen Appliances/Equipment

My wife got me the iGrill for my birthday.

I BBQ and grill quite a lot, so having a remote thermometer that reports/interfaces remotely via Bluetooth to my iPhone/iPad sounded like a geek’s dream.

Ultimately, it’s useful, fun and and easy to use.  The downside is that it’s constantly off by 10-12 degrees when measured against my infrared and calibrated direct-probe thermometers.

This has led to undercooked and overcooked meat — not fun on either end of the spectrum.

Overall, with this in mind, I set my temperature thresholds with this buffer in mind for grilling.

For BBQ, it’s far more useful because I can use one of the probes for the meat temp and the other for the internal BBQ temp…and watch for variability.  THIS is what I find it very useful for, even with the inaccuracy.

All told, I find it a useful — if not inaccurate — tool.


Better bouquet, better, enhanced flavors, smoother finish…

That’s what the Vinturi Red Wine Aerator promises.

I could prattle on incessantly using pompous words describing the delicate and subtle nuances of shoe leather and armadillo spleen I was able to detect when using this device, but I won’t.

I could explain the empirical logic behind the aeration process attributed to a dead scientist:

…but Bernoulli like chardonnay…and besides, the concept is simple…It let’s the wine “breathe” by artificially injecting “air” into the wine as you pour it through a venturi sleeve from the bottle into a glass or decanter.  It makes a cool gugrling sound while it does its magic, too.

What I will tell you is that I very much could detect differences in bouquet, flavor and finish when I used the device versus when I didn’t.  I did back-to-back, blind taste tests including testing wine straight out of the bottle (literally,) poured into a glass and swirled and then using the vinturi.

It works. I enjoy my wines more when I use the device.  It opens up the wine, it’s smoother and makes cheap and expensive wine taste better.

I don’t know what else to say. I bought mine in Brookstone.  About $25 online.

Go on and git yourself one, ya’hear?


It’s summertime.  What’s better than enjoying a popsicle on hot day after playing outside?  Enjoying a popsicle that you just make in seven minutes, made of fruit that doesn’t contain 47 chemicals or high fructose corn syrup, that’s what.

We purchased the Zoku on a whim at Brookstone.  It lets you make three popsicles in 7-9 minutes.  A kid of seven (Olivia was the test pilot) can easily use the device.  It’s pretty simple as there are basically no moving parts:

  1. Put the freezer block in the freezer overnight
  2. Add your ingredients
  3. Wait 7-9 minutes
  4. Extract and eat

You can make approximately 9 pops on a single freeze.  Cleanup is a simple rinse.  Works like a champ.*

From their website:

The patented Zoku Quick Pop™ Maker freezes ice pops in as little as seven minutes right on your countertop without electricity. Quickly make striped pops, yogurt pops or (for the first time ever at home) flavored core pops. To enjoy Quick Pops at a moment’s notice, simply store the compact base in your freezer. The kit includes six durable, reusable plastic pop sticks that have unique ridged designs that allow pops to adhere securely, with special drip guards for tidy eating. A specially designed Super Tool helps to quickly release the frozen treats from their molds. The unit can make up to 9 pops before refreezing the unit again. Includes 1 Quick Pop Maker, 6 sticks, 6 drip guards, and 1 Super Tool.

Dimensions: 8″ x 4.25″ x 4.5″

BPA and phthalate free.

We used 100% pure mango puree from Trader Joes (already in frozen packets,) warmed it until pliable, poured it into the mold and…nom.

Highly recommended.  The kids loved it and they’re able to eat a treat that isn’t junk.

Next up, passionfruit/raspberry pops.


* I forgot to mention you can do all sorts of cool things like sliced fruit insertions, “coated” or flavored core pops, striped zebra pops…cool.

Purchase & Review: The Rat Zapper

Posted: 15th December 2010 by beakerbuys-admin in Pest Control

I live in New England in the middle of the woods.  It’s a fact of life that little (and quite large) creatures tend to try and enjoy the comforts of one’s home as much as the owner of said property does.

This generally leads to shrieks during the night when one encounters unexpected guests, disappointment to discover your pantry has been raided or worse — the wee hour gnawing sounds that come from mice making a nice pile of sawdusts out of our centerbeams in your ceiling or support structures in your walls.

I’ve tried every conceivable remedy — focusing on non-lethal solutions.  They’ve worked to a point, but that point hits the one that everyone knows (you know, the diminishing one) and the volume of influx outpaces the ability to trap and release.

We went with traditional snap traps but those were still expensive and were often bypassed. Sneaky buggers.

Now I have 6 of these amazing little boxes sprinkled strategically around Casa Hoff.  The Rat Zapper.

It’s a AA battery-powered electric chair for vermin. It works.  Flawlessly.

No evasion. No mess. Relatively (if I do say so myself) humane. Easy to reload/use again.

You put some nuts down one end, flip a switch and come back to empty when the LED blinks.

That is all.

I no longer have a vermin problem…except for the flying squirrels.  I have a tactical nuke planned for those little bastards.

Each Rat Zapper runs about $40 at a hardware store or here (Google) but SO worth it.


After the magic that is the TriggerPoint Systems The Grid foam roller (profiled here) I was thrilled to test the other products they offer, specifically the Ultimate 6 Kit which includes the Footballer, Massage Ball & Block, the Quadballer and the book/DVD instruction set.

For me these products complement The Grid (which I primarily use for my upper/lower back) and focuses on the following:

  • The TP Quadballer allows you to roll completely through the quads, IT band, lower back, hamstrings and neck
  • The TP Massage Ball/Footballer/Block are great for the neck, shoulders, back, chest, piriformis, calves

Further, these products easily fit in my suitcase for travel where The Grid does not.  The book and videos do a great job of explaining how to use the products and while geared primarily for runners, I found them very helpful.  I also got TPT’s new Upper Body guide which illustrates pressure points and therapy techniques targeted for specific problem areas.

So far I’ve used the U6 Kit to work out kinks in my calves and neck and really love the massage ball’s effect on my chest/shoulder.

This is truly one of those product sets where the saying “no pain, no gain” isn’t a cliche…breaking down scar tissue takes patience, breath, and persistence, but used in conjunction with other rehab techniques and tools, it’s awesome.

The U6 kit is $140 and available here.

Well worth it.


Purchase & Review: Parrot Wi-Fi Quadricopter AR.Drone

Posted: 30th October 2010 by beakerbuys-admin in Hardware

It’s pretty obvious that the AR.Drone brings out the kid in everyone that sees this little badass “toy.”  Everyone wants a go, and who wouldn’t — it’s the closest I’m going to get to a flying car anytime soon.

For the first 5 minutes of piloting the unit after strapping the battery in place, snapping on the body, installing the iPhone/iPad application to pilot the craft, and reading the brief “how-to” manual, it’s awesome amounts of fun.

Crashing the AR.Drone for the first 50 times is also fun after trying to figure out how to relate the iPhone’s accelerometer and trim settings to ensure you don’t decapitate the family pet.  The fact that it still works after smashing it into the ceiling, angering it into the ground or catapulting it into the couch is a testament to good design (and rotor guards.)

You might be expecting a really detailed review of the dual camera views, the augmented reality controller via the iPhone/iPhad, the self-leveling take-off and hover and the fact that for $300 or so, this is one amazing piece of technology.  Although all of these elements are true, this review’s brevity is a by-product of the fact that all this awesomesauce comes with one huge and unacceptable downside…the battery lasts about 8 minutes and takes hours to recharge.

That just sucks — and sucks the life out of enjoying the product, so much so that after the first initial flights and the demos at HacKid, nobody’s even asked to play with it since.  That’s a bummer.

It’s like buying a Ferrari and only being able to drive it 20 feet.  You may call me a cynic but that’s just not going to fly…

You can get an AR.Drone on Amazon or from Brookstone.  It’s $299.  I haven’t seen a need for extra parts, but you might want to get 2-3 more batteries 😉


I was a little worried about posting the purchase and review of this amazing coffee for three reasons:

  1. I didn’t actually purchase this particular coffee initially; my friend works at George Howell Terroir coffee and let me try a sample he made so I can tell what I like.  I like this a lot. I ended up buying this and a few others from a local store when he turned me on to it.
  2. I’m a huge coffee consumer (see the Hoffacino) but I’m not qualified to review a coffee the likes of which a somelier might review wine
  3. Coffee often incites religious wars with brand loyalty.

Given the three items above, I’ll just say that every single George Howell coffee I have tasted (both hot or cold) has been an eye-opener, both literally and figuratively. George and his coffees are legendary.  I’m lucky because Terroir Coffee is based in the town next door to mine, so I can get it easily…though so can you through his website.

Terroir coffees are definitely the best I’ve ever had and at this point the Ademe Bedane from Ethiopia is my favorite.

From George’s site, you can find out more, but here’s the skinny:

Creamy delicately perfumed candy-lemon and mellow apricot enfolded within a rich milk-chocolate base. This coffee comes from the Sidamo region adjacent to Yirgacheffe and it rivals the finest coffees from that more famous region. At least this one does – easily.

$15 for 12 ounces. Worth it.


Purchase and Review: Tycoon Percussion Roundback Cajon

Posted: 27th September 2010 by beakerbuys-admin in Musical Instruments

I have played many instruments, wind and string, but have always loved percussion.  I’m not coordinated to play a typical drum set but I could always bang out reasonably good rhythms on djembes, congos, bongos and the like.

When I was in Vegas at Black Hat/Defcon, I attended a party at the Hard Rock that included two guitarists and a guy sitting on what looked like a rectangular box.  He was leaning backwards and hitting the front of it, like one might play a hand drum.  It had quite an amazing dynamic range for a box with a hole in it and looked like a lot of fun to play.

When the “band” took a break and others jumped in to sub, so did I.

Turns out this instrument was called a Cajon.  I didn’t know anything about them until that point in time but rapidly fell in love with the tonality and simplicity of the instrument.  I played for about 3 hours on that little box that night and although I managed to turn my fingers into swollen sausages, it was an awesome experience.

A couple of days ago I went to my local percussion store and they had several Cajons to choose from.

I picked up a Tycoon Percussion Roundback Model 29 Cajon.  The one I have has a gorgeously deep black front panel.  It’s rounded back (as opposed to squared-off) adds to the low end bass response.  It’s quite a bit deeper than the ones I tried without it.  It has guitar strings threaded/strung internally that are tuneable — these allow for a tympanic or snare sound to be tuned in/out.  Further, one can even add bells to it.

This is an all wood version.  They make versions with metal fronts, also.

It’s a great instrument.  I’m having a lot of fun with it and look forward to playing with the tuning.

I’m looking forward to jamming on it for a while and then seeing about some other styles/sounds with other versions.


Purchase & Review: Vibram Fivefingers “Anti-Shoes”

Posted: 26th September 2010 by beakerbuys-admin in Apparel, Shoes

So simple, yet so awesome. Vibram Fivefingers. About as close to barefoot as you can get.

A couple of months agos after my continued quest for shoes that fit and the orthotic inserts that would make them fit better, I ran into my friend Dan at Black Hat. He was wearing his Vibram Fivefingers.  They looked a little dorky but he swore they were comfortable and really changed the way he walked — and by doing so eased many of the same symptoms I complained about.

So a month ago I went into City Sports in Cambridge and bought two pairs — the KSO’s and the new Bikilas.

The short of it is this:

  1. The first couple of times you try to put them on, you’ll do it wrong.
  2. The next couple of times, you try to put them on, you’ll do it better, but it’ll still take 10 minutes.
  3. These things take some getting used to. They shorten your stride and make you walk/run differently.
  4. You’ll use muscles you haven’t in a long time
  5. You’ll experience walking/running in ways you haven’t since you were about 4
  6. You’ll enjoy walking/running again
  7. People will stare
  8. People will constantly ask you questions, most noticeably “are those comfortable?”
  9. You’ll likely struggle with wearing normal shoes again
  10. You’ll buy more of them and different styles
  11. You’ll invest in Injinji socks

I don’t wear normal shoes unless I have to, which is rare.  I’ve worn them exclusively for a month and walked around in urban environments, rural environments and tradeshows.  My feet, back, knees and calves no longer hurt.  I love these things.

I workout/train in them. I wear them everywhere. I have no idea what I will do in the cold other than purchase heavier socks and/or different styles.

It seems I’ve inspired many people to try them.  Not one of them has complained once they’ve fallen in love with them.

You probably will too.

My Biklias, by the way, which are meant for “running,” suffered a defect.  They started delaminating. I took ’em back and exchanged them for another pair of KSO’s.  I’ve ordered a pair of the KSO Treks already.

See what you think.