Engstler 42810 QMT Cuckoo Clock

In a world gone wrong, a cuckoo clock couldn’t be more appropriate

One of the most memorable scenes in the Disney canon is in Pinocchio, when the wood-carver Geppetto is first seen in his workshop full of cuckoo clocks, all chiming chaotically out of sync. Even young children seem to be familiar with it, despite the film’s being almost 85 years old.

Charmingly bonkers as a large number of competing cuckoo clocks may be, it’s not something you are ever likely to encounter in real life, even if you live in southern Germany’s Black Forest, where almost all cuckoo clocks are made.

But a store just north of New York City, in bijou Nyack, artfully keeps its stock of 50-plus Black Forest cuckoo clocks set to warble not quite simultaneously every hour on the hour. “It increases the madness,” says co-owner Loreen Costa, whose parents opened Hickory Dickory Dock in a former funeral parlor in 1988.

Feathered cuckoos in the Northern Hemisphere normally start calling in April, when they return from southerly climes. But Costa reports that there’s always a rush of customers thinking early spring-like thoughts and migrating to Nyack—or at least to the store’s Web site—to buy. Clocks cost anywhere from $179 for a simple in-and-out mechanical-cuckoo model to $679 for one with a plethora of 3D-animated action. (There isn’t a Web-connected, app-controlled cuckoo clock being produced in the Black Forest yet, and long may that remain the case.)

Your columnist can confirm that the cuckoo-chaos sales tactic works. Even for the kitsch-resistant, it takes some self-control not to smile and lunge for your credit card when the hour strikes in the back room at Hickory Dickory Dock. There are fully mechanical, windup models in which the cuckoo call is made by a system of bellows and pipes, and electronic (but still resolutely wooden and carved) versions with all manner of additional features, from twirling dancers in dirndls to oompah musicians.

Our pick of the lot was from maker Engstler, based just north of the Swiss border, whose electronic 42810 QMT is priced at $439 and depicts a rustic chalet with a water-mill wheel and a musical train.

In addition to the extensive stock Hickory Dickory Dock carries, there are literally hundreds of models Engstler and other featured clockmakers produce, which Costa can have shipped from Germany within a month.

A generic handgrip-strength-trainer dynamometer

A Generic Handgrip-Strength-Trainer Dynamometer, $20.51.

As it turns out, a firm handshake can be more than symbolic …

There’s almost constant speculation right now over whether the two likely presidential candidates have lost their grip mentally. But it was news to this columnist that actual handgrip strength is a reliable and medically respectable measure of an older adult’s health, some research suggests.

How, though, is one to get a sense of how strong his grip is? Well, this is where a hand dynamometer is required. It is a gadget genre dominated almost entirely by Chinese non-branded brands, and the one I ordered from Amazon, the Hichor EH108, is one of dozens on offer from makes you’ve never heard of.

It’s a well-made little instrument that appears to do its job while selling for a laughably low $21. It measures my right hand at a maximum grip of 103 pounds, which counts as “strong,” and my left at 85 pounds, which is apparently “normal.” Age is a variable, so a “strong” 25-to-29-year-old man, by contrast, would be able to hit 127 pounds on each hand, according to the manual.

Before demanding that the presidential candidates submit to a grip-strength test, it’s worth mentioning that balance is another under-the-radar health indicator for those of advanced age. That can be measured without even a cheap Chinese gadget. According to one study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, middle-aged and older people who cannot stand on one leg for 10 seconds are almost twice as likely to die within 10 years compared with those who can.

For those with a decent grip and the ability to stay upright on one leg, eternal life must surely beckon.

The OneAdaptr OneGO Charging Station

The OneAdaptr OneGo Charging Station, $79.

Charge your iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods on the go or at home, all with one accessory

Even given the high bar Hong Kong’s OneAdaptr sets for charging accessories, their latest travel gadget hits a new level of ingenuity.

The OneGo is a convenient and ergonomically perfect wireless charging station for an iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods. All cling magnetically to the plug-in stand and charge at a relatively high speed. The whole kit also folds flat for travel.

But there’s more. Imagine you’re in a hotel with the OneGo plugged in by your bed and you’re going out for a day of meetings, for which you need to ensure your phone and watch remain powered and perky.

No problem, because the oblong part of the OneGo, which charges the phone, can slide out to become a separate mobile charger with considerable onboard power for replenishing both your phone and watch. This satellite unit even has a foldout stand of its own, so you can prop it up or lay it flat.

It’s a portable travel charger with a built-in, even more portable charger. Perfectly designed and indispensable.

The Cooked A.I. Recipe Simplifier

The Cooked A.I. Recipe Simplifier, free.

Boil down verbose recipes to the bare essentials with a few keystrokes

Without sounding too much like Jerry Seinfeld, what is the deal with online recipes? Too often, they are garnished with excessive verbiage, so it’s almost impossible to pin down exactly how to cook whatever is promised.

All we want to know is what to buy and what to do. The author’s personal history with the dish—how their mother taught them to make it and how they felt as a child eating it—is just not what you need to know in the heat of the kitchen with guests due in an hour.

Eduardo Gonçalves, a 29-year-old software engineer and computer-science teacher in Lisbon, felt the same way. But instead of grumbling about it, he built an A.I.-powered tool to strip away the blather and reveal the bare kitchen necessities.

There are two ways to use his Web site, Cooked. The easiest one is to paste the link to the recipe into a box on the site. In a matter of seconds, it will produce a boiled-down, bare-bones version—just what ingredients you need and what to do. Another method, which is more fussy but yields the same result, is to type in “cooked.wiki/” in front of the Web-site U.R.L. on your device.

We tested it on the U.R.L. for a rambling, 700-word recipe for leeks vinaigrette, which began: “A much younger and more iconoclastic me first prepared leeks vinaigrette … ” By the end of that sentence, most readers will have nodded off.

But when we added the magical digital ingredient, Cooked reduced the blurb to 66 words, plus an ingredients list. You can even get your device to read it aloud, or scale up the amounts for, say, three people instead of two.

“The current A.I. trend is very focused on generating text and making conversational interfaces,” Gonçalves tells AIR MAIL, “but I find this inverse approach of using A.I. to extract ‘facts from text’ much more interesting, and [to have] much greater potential.”

Cooked is, superbly, free. There’s a paid version with a load of interesting features coming, but it’s still in the pot.

Based in London and New York, AIR MAIL’s tech columnist, Jonathan Margolis, spent more than two decades as a technology writer for the Financial Times. He is also the author of A Brief History of Tomorrow, a book on the history of futurology