24 November 2017


A.J. Jacobs, NYT Bestselling Author

Cool Tools Show 099: A.J. Jacobs

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Our guest this week is A.J. Jacobs. A.J. is the author of four New York Times best sellers including The Year Of Living Biblically, and The Know-It-All. CBS will be airing a sitcom based on The Year Of Living Biblically this winter. He is a contributor to Esquire and NPR.

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Show notes:

Ice Bandana ($18)
“Basically, you wrap it around your neck, and it’s a little scarf that has ice in it. Re-freezable ice. I wear it all summer long because we all know … Lots of people wear scarfs in the winter and no one thinks twice. But very few seem to wear these cooling scarfs in the summer. They are just as comfortable and just as helpful. What I do is just put it in the freezer overnight, and then it’s just this little black band. I tie it around my neck during the day, and it lasts a good four or five hours. You can switch them out. It’s like a little air conditioner for my neck. It just cools my whole body down.”

Walker’s Game Ear Low Profile Folding Muff ($13)
“I think last time I was on I talked about these great ear plugs that are like sonic defenders that are designed for the military. This is in the same area. They came about because when I was doing my book, I’m Trying To Be The Healthiest Person Alive, I read all of these studies about how noise is actually a health hazard. It’s an under reported, under valued health hazard and that it can raise your stress level. So I’ve become more aware trying to cut down noise in my life. They look like Beats By Dre. Not quite as cool, but they don’t have any music capabilities. They’re just like the earmuffs that they wear on the tarmacs of airports, but they’re smaller and slicker looking, and I love them. I wear them all the time. I’m wearing them right now. I wear them while I work. I wear them around the house, and they turn the volume down from 10 to five. It’s 31 decibels of noise reduction. My kids sometimes are embarrassed, but they are much better than those huge massive tarmac deals, and also, I used to wear the bose noise canceling headphones, which are great but they cost 300 dollars and I kept losing them.”

Easy Adjustable Reading Portable Desk ($54, 5ct)
“I do like working with my laptop on my bed. Even though I’m not sure it’s the most efficient because you tend to fall asleep. But it is enjoyable, but I do suffer from overheated crotch syndrome when I do that. So, there are several of these brands. I have one, but I’m sure the others are good too. These adjustable laptop trays that have these legs. They look like the AT-AP from Star Wars attached to a tray, so you can adjust the legs and they even have fans, which I don’t bother with. But they’ve got little built in fans to keep it cooler. I found out that does increase by productivity when I’m working on my bed because I’m not quite as distracted.”

Watching movies on double speed on YouTube Red ($10/month)
“This is one of my cool tools that might be a little controversial, and might be a blast from me, for some film lovers and film makers. So please forgive me. But, to save time, I like to watch movies on double speed. If you go on YouTube Red, for like ten dollars a month, you can download movies and then go to the little gear icon in the corner and put it at double speed. You can understand everything. It doesn’t go to chipmunk voice. It just, they speak very quickly. I watched Manchester By The Sea on double speed the other night and it was slow on double speed. So I don’t know how I would have sat in the theater and watched it real life. In addition to the Red, you still have to rent to download a movie. You don’t have to rent regular videos, but you do have to rent. I do pay that extra three dollars so I can watch it in double speed.”


24 November 2017


Rapid Duax Heavy Duty Stapler

Stapler adjusts to accommodate to 170 sheets of paper

I commonly need to staple printed articles and reports of medical journal articles and reviews, as well as other non-medical articles from Browser, etc. They vary in length from a few pages to a hundred or more. The staplers I used to use for heavy-duty stapling came w/ staples of varying lengths/capacities, so I had to first determine the number of pages being stapled; and then find the appropriate size staple for that thickness of papers. Sometimes I misjudged; and sometimes I ran out of the correct-sized staples.

The Rapid Duax Heavy Duty Stapler has eased that task considerably, and has done so with a very elegant engineering solution. It uses a single-size staple of considerable length that can handle up to 170 sheets of paper at one strike. If I staple anything smaller than that (which is usually the case — mostly I’m stapling articles of 15-50 pages) the stapler cuts-off the excess staple end, before crimping the staple tightly. This all happens automatically upon firmly depressing the arm of the stapler. It’s a very neat engineering trick that solved the need to keep several different sized staples on hand. The cut-off bits of staple-ends drop into a little container under the bed of the stapler, which I empty-out every once in awhile.

So now I just stock this single large sized staple, and the Rapid Duax handles all the rest; I no longer need to waste time bothering about different capacity staples. The stapler is not cheap, but it’s robust and solid, though I did break one when it fell off my desk. I’ve used my current one for the past five or six years without any trouble. It’s a worthwhile investment for someone, such as myself, who frequently has to staple large numbers of pages. I use it several times a day.

-- Richard Spitzer 11/24/17

24 November 2017


Cool Tools 2017 Holiday Gift Guide: Claudia’s Picks

Favorite gift ideas from Claudia Dawson

The editors of Cool Tools have curated a number of gift suggestions selected from the pages of Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities (which itself makes a great gift), and from the website. This week: Claudia’s picks.

“The Amazon reviews for these Zojirushi thermoses ($26) read like sycophantic hyperbole and almost turned me off, but my curiosity got the better of me. Turns out none of it is hyperbole.” — Phill

Because of the Tangle Teezer ($11), I actually like brushing my hair after I shower. Just a few, quick strokes and my hair is super smooth and detangled. I’ve used the Tangle Teezer on my 10-year-old niece, who has 26-inch long hair and hates getting it brushed, and there was not one complaint. A tip for brushing long hair painlessly: gather all hair in a fist and brush in sections from the bottom up.

“I’m a chronic insomniac, and often listen to music or podcasts in the late watches of the night. SleepPhones headphones ($40) have been a godsend. Basically they’re soft, low profile headphones in a fleece headband. My husband gave me the wired version a couple of years ago, and they were an immediate hit. I have fallen asleep wearing them fairly often.” — Amy Thompson

“David Bowie was asked what his most prized possession was and it was a chrysanthemum he pressed from his wedding in 1980. I think there’s something to be said for sampling the physical world and taking a piece of it with you. My flower press ($24) is two small pieces of plywood a quarter-inch thick with some pieces of cardboard and parchment paper.” — Robert Stephens

I’ve been using the Clarisonic Mia2 ($169) for a couple of months now and I’ve seen a definite improvement in the appearance of my pores and brightness of my skin. It does a really great job at removing my makeup and exfoliating. I can’t imagine living without it now.

Want more? Check out our other 2017 gift guide picks, as well as our 2016 Gift Guide, 2015 Gift Guide, 2014 Gift Guide and our 2103 Gift Guide


23 November 2017


Ikea Clothes Hangers

Smooth, sturdy hangers

I am a guy, and I much prefer hanging ALL of my tops (t-shirts, sweatshirts, button-ups…) in the closet. I have the space, and it keeps them both crease- and wrinkle-free. But I needed the right kind of hanger to do this. So many hangers have very sharp curves at the end which leave bumps in the shoulders. Others have notches, hooks or anti-slip materials making it difficult to get clothes on and off the hanger. The Ikea Bagis has none of these problems. It has a very gentle curve at each end to prevent bumps. The hangers are smooth plastic, and there are no hooks or notches on the top of the hanger that can catch. (Yes, there are notches in the bottom crossbar, but these are not a hindrance.) They are also sturdy, although they are on the thicker side (~1.5cm). And some people online have complained about them not fitting well on rods with low clearance.

They are also amazingly inexpensive: $0.39 for a pack of 4, or less than 10¢ each. However Ikea doesn’t list them on their website anymore (they did as of Aug 29 according to archive.org). You can still get them off of Amazon and eBay via third-party sellers, but you will pay an arbitrage markup.

-- Dave Cortright 11/23/17

22 November 2017


Project Power [Maker Update #61]

The best maker tips, tools, projects, and events this week

This week, a solar-powered plant monitor, Dale and Naomi make up, a macro for your GoPro, and Make’s desktop fabrication guide. The Cool Tool this week is the DLI IoT Relay. Shownotes.

-- Donald Bell 11/22/17

22 November 2017


Weighted blanket

For sleep and stress

I toss and turn trying to fall asleep. Heard about this “weighted blanket” and gave it a try. WOW! Immediate improvement as the weight settles me down to a calm, relaxed state. And during the night if I get up, puts me right back into deep relaxation. Comes in lots of different weights, colors, and sizes.

-- Ron Kaufman 11/22/17


img 11/21/17

LED Rechargeable Solar Task Light

Bright, durable solar rechargeable LED camping and task light

img 11/21/17

AA to D Battery Converter

Converts 3 AA battery to a D battery

img 11/18/17

Rust Buster

Superior loosener

img 11/18/17

Magnetic wristband

Keeps nails and screws handy

See all the reviews


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Cool Tools Show 099: A.J. Jacobs

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 098: Matt Velderman

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 097: Jim Beloff

Picks and shownotes

23 February 2017



We Refreshed Our Website

If you read Cool Tools via RSS (which is the way Kevin and I read blogs) then you probably don’t realize we updated our website design today. We took your feedback seriously and tried our best to simplify the design and make it more legible.

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Thanks for reading Cool Tools and being part of the community.

If I’ve still got your attention, I’d like to remind you that Cool Tools runs reviews written by our readers. Please recommend a tool you love.


Cool Tools is a web site which recommends the best/cheapest tools available. Tools are defined broadly as anything that can be useful. This includes hand tools, machines, books, software, gadgets, websites, maps, and even ideas. All reviews are positive raves written by real users. We don’t bother with negative reviews because our intent is to only offer the best.

One new tool is posted each weekday. Cool Tools does NOT sell anything. The site provides prices and convenient sources for readers to purchase items.

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We recently posted a short history of Cool Tools which included current stats as of April 2008. This explains both the genesis of this site, and the tools we use to operate it.

13632766_602152159944472_101382480_oKevin Kelly started Cool Tools in 2000 as an email list, then as a blog since 2003. He edited all reviews through 2006. He writes the occasional review, oversees the design and editorial direction of this site, and made a book version of Cool Tools. If you have a question about the website in general his email is kk {at} kk.org.

13918651_603790483113973_1799207977_oMark Frauenfelder edits Cool Tools and develops editorial projects for Cool Tools Lab, LLC. If you’d like to submit a review, email him at editor {at} cool-tools.org (or use the Submit a Tool form).

13898183_602421513250870_1391167760_oClaudia Dawson runs the Cool Tool website, posting items daily, maintaining software, measuring analytics, managing ads, and in general keeping the site alive. If you have a concern about the operation or status of this site contact her email is cl {at} kk.org.