PID-Controlled Slow Cooker

This week, my Cuisinart CSC-650 Slow Cooker trashed another batch of food. The temperature was too hot, and stayed too hot, and burned the heck out of my sweet potatoes. When I made stock this week, it also cooked too hot, and spit and made a mess of the countertop. The Amazon reviews suggest that many other people have the same problems that I did.
The Cuisinart has ruined food before, but enough was enough. This time, I gave up on the cooker, and got permission from my lovely wife to disassemble it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have a real thermostat, so it wasn’t something I could adjust. I ended up trashing the device, which was somewhat cathartic (not as cathartic as fixing it would have been). Oh well, I wasn’t going to be using it again anyway.
Wikipedia says that , for “safety” reasons. A couple of people have also looked into hacking slow cookers, but nobody seems to have done much work to solve the problem.
I’ve considered just buying another slow cooker after reading some reviews and meta-reviews, but I feel sure that whatever I get will just cook at too high a temperature.
What I really want is a tweaked-out slow cooker with a PID controller that’s content to let me cook at “unsafe” temperatures. It looks like this Hamilton Beach model actually uses a temperature probe to control cooking, and at $50 I might give it a try, but the absence of a high-end gadget model with more precise controls is disappointing at best.

Urban Soft-Shell Outerwear

Soft-shell outerwear has lots of advantages: it’s lightweight, water-resistant, breathable, and warm. But all of it is styled for hikers, or people who want to look outdoorsy.

I don’t. I want to look slick, urban, professional. (Those of you who know me can stop laughing now.) I want soft-shell outerwear that looks right with what I wear. A blazer, maybe. Or a trenchcoat.

Simple Vending Machine Fix

Maybe I’m just whining, but I’d really like it if they’d put a piece of foam at the bottom of the vending machine, where the product drops down. Every time I buy a pack of M&Ms, I cringe as the package hits the bottom of the machine. I can hear that hard candy shell crack open like an egg…

Starbucks Vending Machines

I recently saw the live lobster vending machine, and I love it.

But here’s a problem closer to my heart: I rarely carry cash anymore, and only obtain it in quantity before going to the Farmer’s Market on Sundays. This causes problems at work, when I want a quick snack from the vending machine.

We should be able to use our RFID badges, which we can use in the cafeteria with money values kept on the network, in vending machines on campus. But we can’t.

Starbucks, with whom my place of work has a long-term relationship, has stored-value cards. Those should work in vending machines. Those should work in the vending machines here.

Guess I’ll keep waiting.

Cell Phone answer + hold button

I’d love my next cell phone to have a button that, when pressed, would not only answer the phone, but give a prerecorded message explaining that I’m leaving the inappropriate-to-talk location I’m currently in, that I’m going somewhere I’ll be able to talk, and to please hold. So much better than whispering, or pressing the ‘answer’ key and not speaking until you’ve left the room…

Color-Changing Cell Phones

What if you had a cell phone whose body changed color based on distance from a location known as “home”? It shouldn’t be that hard to make, technically: you’ve already got enough GPS-like information, and you could achieve the visual effect with translucent plastic and colored LEDs.

Would it be useful? I’m not sure: there are times when it would be helpful to know how far you were from home, or from some preselected destination. It sure would look neat. Maybe sometimes that’s enough…

Tinfoil-lined Wallets

Now that we’re going to be getting RFID everything for identification purposses — everything from our SpeedPass to our driver’s licenses — the time has come for a wallet that is still fashionable but will also keep the contents of our wallet from broadcasting their identities to all and sundry.

Mesh toiletries bag

The problem with standard toiletries bags is that something invevitably spills in them: benadryl, conditioner, mouthwash, hand lotion, whatever. And it’s always impossible to clean up.

My dad really wants a mesh toiletries bag, like the kind of stuff dive bags are made from. Of course, that would get whatever nasty spill happens in your toiletry all over your other stuff. So it would need to snap out or otherwise live in a nice rubberized zip-up bag.

I feel like this should already exist, but I’ve never been able to find one like this.

Flavored Pens

In Hillside Elementary School, we all loved the scented markers: lime, mango, lemon, chocolate.

But what about totally non-toxic flavored markers? You could write on rice paper, make tasty treats, and eat them!

Go ahead, draw yourself a snack.

(This idea comes from Lisa — thanks, Chirp!)