Primitive Technology: Forge Blower

I invented the Bow Blower, a combination of the bow drill and forge blower to make a device that can force air into a fire while being easy to construct from commonly occurring natural materials using only primitive technology. I began by fanning a fire with a piece of bark to increase its temperature. It is this basic principle I improved on throughout the project.

Johnnyswim

Once you’re able to see this three-song set by the band Johnnyswim, NPR Music will have published exactly 350 Tiny Desk Concerts — so we’ve developed a pretty good sense of when a set will stick in our memories for a while. We intuited, for example, that Adele was about to become a dominant force shortly after she breezed into our offices. (Okay, that didn’t exactly require psychic powers, but still.) In the case of Johnnyswim, the prevailing sense boiled down to, “Boy, we haven’t heard the last of them.”

Impossibly telegenic and charming, husband and wife Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano — who formed their band in Nashville before relocating to L.A. — have the booming voices of great street buskers, but also the polished sparkle of natural-born stage performers. Sudano is the daughter of the late Donna Summer, with whom she used to sing backup, but Johnnyswim’s story isn’t one of nepotism or overnight success; the two have been at this together for nearly a decade, and they’ve got the grandiose impeccability to prove it.

In this set, the lovely ballad “Falling for Me” is bookended by songs that could be airdropped onto half the shows on television; if you’re hearing them here for the first time, don’t be surprised if it’s your first exposure of many. Johnnyswim opens this session with “Home” — a sweet rouser that could easily follow in the footsteps of other recent hits with that title — and closes it with a full-band reading of what promises to be its signature song, the title track from the new Diamonds. As Sudano notes here, the song has morphed into “an anthem to ourselves to keep ourselves encouraged.” For Johnnyswim, such pep talks won’t likely be necessary for long. –STEPHEN THOMPSON

Usman Riaz

This is simply astonishing. Watch twenty seconds and you’ll be sucked into the world of Usman Riaz, an immensely talented 23-year-old Pakistani musician who will change your perception of how a guitar can sound and be played. What’s more remarkable is that this Berklee College of Music whiz kid learned much of his dazzling guitar technique by watching YouTube videos at 16. He also learned what he calls “parlor tricks,” like body percussion and harmonica. But the classically trained pianist also used the Internet to learn how to write and conduct orchestra pieces and make films. If you’re a skeptic, fine, just watch this youngest of TED senior fellows and be dazzled. –BOB BOILEN

Learn more at http://www.usmanriaz.me/

Pammel Park Backbone Trail, Madison County, IA

Pammel Park is roughly five miles SW of Winterset in Madison County, Iowa. I’ve been intending to walk some of the county’s trails (learn more about what the county has to offer at http://www.madisoncountyparks.org) for a few years now and, with a few days away from the office decided to give it a start. A map of the trail is available at http://www.madisoncountyparks.org/images/stories/TrailMaps/PPark.jpg.

Arguably there’s not a lot of action here, but that’s kind of the point—the trail was quiet save a few birds, squirrels, and deer I happened upon. It was great to get out from behind the desk and out in to the natural world.

The path isn’t very kid-friendly (part of my park/trail exploration is to find fun places around the county to take my three boys) with a few steep ascents and drop offs. Not a problem for an aware adult, but I don’t know that I’d trust my toddlers to safely traverse!