15 December 2017
Cool Tools Show 102: Carol Tilley
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Our guest this week is Carol Tilley. Disguised as a mild-mannered Midwestern library and information science professor, Carol Tilley is actually the Comics Crusader, whose 2013 research debunked evidence used by 1950s anti-comics advocate Fredric Wertham. A 2016 Eisner Award judge, Carol is also president-elect of the Comics Studies Society and an in-demand speaker on comics history.
Instant Pot Duo 8-quart ($129)
“I’m not a big kitchen gadget person. I sort of operate under the idea that if you have a good pan, and a good knife, that’s more or less all you need. I fell under the sway of the Instant Pot marketing about a year ago, and some friends of mine convinced me that it was a miracle. I was a little bit hesitant but I thought for 100 bucks I would give it a try. It really is something very cool. I sometimes joke that it’s the one pot, sort of like the one ring except in a good way. We make yogurt, rice, dry beans, everything that we’ve tried so far has been pretty magical in terms of cutting down the time and cutting down the mess of making set up.”
Antsy Labs Fidget Cube ($10)
“I was one of the Kickstarter backers for the original Fidget Cubes from Antsy Labs. I am so happy and so impressed. I’ve always been one of those folks who even as a kid, I twiddled my thumbs, which was kind of a joke at times. I cannot sit still. I’ve never been able to sit still. The Fidget Cube, even though it doesn’t keep me from tapping my legs, or crossing or uncrossing my legs, the Fidget Cube does keep my hands occupied. I really love that there are six different things that I can do with this. I think probably the glide side is my favorite but also the spinner side, and the side that looks like the five on a die where you can punch the little buttons in and out. It’s just very satisfying.”
Pilot Varsity Disposable Fountain Pens ($14)
“Like a lot of people, I love to sort of glam on to pens, but I also lose them frequently. I like to be able to write with something that feels good when the tip touches the paper. With the Varsity, I found that the nib is really nice and smooth. I think the ink flow is good. I feel like I can write elegantly with it. If I lose it, it’s not the end of the world. I haven’t spent $500 or $1,000 on a month-long and then feel guilty when it disappears out of my bag. I keep a box of the black ones and a box of the purple ink handy, pretty much all the time.”
“I’m a librarian by training. I teach people who are going to be librarians. I have been a library user since age three. A library card for me, I’m lucky to live in a community that has two extraordinarily good public library systems; Champaign Public and Urbana Free Library. Our university library system here at University of Illinois is one of the best in the world. I can’t imagine being without that access. I think that whether you are a kid, or a senior, or a college student, or a parent, an entrepreneur, I think there’s something at your local library that can really make a difference in your life.”
14 December 2017
Best gift books for 2017
We love books and buy lots of them. Here are our favorite gift books from our book review site, Wink
The Superhero Comic Kit ($16) “This is a great gift for any creative kid who likes to draw and make up stories.” – Carla Sinclair
The Little Prince Deluxe Pop-Up Book ($19) “If you enjoyed this classic as a child, you’ll adore this deluxe pop-up version and appreciate the way the imaginative art of paper creation brings the muted tones of this book to magical, poignant life.” – Kaz Weida
You Are Stardust ($16) “A fascinating gem that reminds us all of the ways in which earth’s vibrant textured surface gives our existence shape and meaning.” – Kaz Weida
Art Forms in Nature ($15) “Haeckel’s lifeforms radiate vitality from the page and the peculiar way they are drawn seems to stimulate the same part of the brain that’s affected by psychedelic drugs.” — Mark Frauenfelder
Things Organized Neatly: The Art of Arranging the Everyday ($17) “Seemingly meaningless collections gain intelligence and order which focuses attention on the parts. The book ranges wide and far in the type of things that are inspected. You will soon knoll your own.” – Kevin Kelly
Outside the Box ($14) “Loaded with sketches and finished work from the portfolios of the best hand letterers working today. It inspired me to pull out my sketchbook and do some hand-lettering like I used to do in the late ‘80s when Boing Boing was a print zine. – Mark Frauenfelder
Zakka Embroidery ($14) “A collection of beautiful embroidery motifs (shot clearly and up close so that you can practically feel the stitches on the muslin) with corresponding projects. All the motifs are garden/nature inspired and only use one or two colors of thread.” – Marykate Smith Despres
Tools: How They Work and How to Use Them ($18) “By the end, you’ll have been introduced to dozens of tools, materials, and techniques and have gained a solid grounding in how to use them in the real world. – Gareth Branwyn”
The Longest Day of the Future ($25) “I read this twice, savoring every beautiful panel, filled with insanely weird and wonderful robots, buildings, vehicles, and creatures.” – Mark Frauenfelder
13 December 2017
We had a Black & Decker electric leaf blower. It also had attachments to turn it into a leaf sucker/grinder. That thing was the loudest sumbitch ever, we really needed to use ear protection when that thing was out, but, y’know. But it blew okay, using a cord was a PITA, and anything in the leaves besides leaves would seriously ding up the plastic blower blade if you were sucking up leaves – we didn’t use that much as it seemed to just be asking for catastrophic system failure. Overall, it got the job done but really was a showcase in what a non-Cool Tool could be.
Thanks to The Wirecutter’s roundup, last year I bought an Ego blower. It’s battery powered – no cord. It’s well designed – not sucking up shirt or jacket ends, and, when you’re not using it, it sits down politely, ready to go back to work. It’s light-weight & well-balanced – forearms function nominally after a long session with it. It’s quiet; I mean, it makes noise, but not enough to wake babies or make anybody close their windows and has no weird frequency issues. The battery is capacious and its charger is fast; one full 2.5Ah battery can usually get as many leaves moved and piled as we care to deal with, and if we have lots of leaves, we can’t use “stupid slow charger” as an excuse to stop. It’s speed-adjustable, so you can be smart (less mindless?) when using it. It’s got an appropriately named Turbo button that easily un-jams soggy leaf piles behind & under shrubbery & such – it’s not a gimmick, it really works well. Besides being good at wrangling leaves, it’s also a quickie way to uncover back-yard-dog-poop before things get worse.12/13/17
13 December 2017
I find myself reaching for this titanium nitride shop snip a couple of times per week. It is like nice sharp pair of scissors with (almost) the power of tinsnips. It is VERY sharp and will cut through tough materials like vinyl cove base, nylon pallet strapping, or rope quite easily. I recently had to cut some vinyl trim that was too thick for scissors, but got mangled up with tinsnips. This tool cut the material perfectly. Fiskars says this about the Titanium Nitride coating: “EXTREMELY DURABLE Titanium Nitride coating resists wear, nicks and scratches as well as corrosive chemicals and sticky substances while reducing friction for easier cuts.” I found the rubber grip is comfortable and the tool is very easy to control. It seems very well made. It has nice little touches such as: the tab that keeps the blades locked closed is powdercoated.12/13/17
(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2005 — editors)
12 December 2017
Reusable connectors for cardboard creations
The cardboard boxes that come as packaging for my family’s numerous online purchases were formerly an annoying nuisance, piling up until we could cut them apart and add them to the recycle bin. But for the kids at my wife’s school, cardboard is a wonderful construction material. Thanks to Makedo’s plastic screws, this cardboard can be magically transformed into the raw material for forts, castles, suits of armour, etc. A Makedo building kit comes with a serrated plastic knife (non-pointy for extra safety), for cutting up the cardboard, thirty plastic screws that can be used to hold layers of cardboard together, and a special screwdriver that works on these plastic screws. Nothing is sharp enough to hurt the kids. Even sitting on the pointy end of a screw would merely be uncomfortable. Equipped with these simple tools, it’s amazing to see what the kids can do with cardboard. Eventually, the cardboard constructs get left out in the rain, lose their structural integrity, and must be tossed away. When this happens, the bright blue screws are easy to spot and and remove from the junk cardboard, keeping lost screws to a minimum. We buy ours from Lee Valley Tools, but I think Makedo’s construction tools are widely available from other suppliers too. A full set is under $20.12/12/17
11 December 2017
Geometric diamond pattern buffs away hard corns and calluses.
I cover 12-15 kilometers per day while hiking and traveling, which is understandably hard on my feet. For multiday trips, good foot hygiene becomes indispensable for preventing blisters, ingrown toenails, and the dreaded “trench foot.”
I used a generic foot file from my local big box retailer. They seem to work well when brand new, but quickly become gunked up or lose their grit over time. Not to mention most of them are heavy, bulky, and break when dropped. When one file reached the end of its life, I’d buy another and thought that’s just the way it was.
My sister introduced me to the Diamancel #20 about three years ago. Unlike a typical file, which is essentially glorified sandpaper, the Diamancel is made with spiculated diamond-impregnated circles that absolutely decimate rough skin. After just a few uses you will revel at much smoother and softer your soles are on a day-to-day basis. The gaps between the circles collect and channel dead skin away so the file virtually never clogs.
It’s eminently portable, unbreakable, and can be cleaned by simply rinsing under the tap. Although the #20 is labelled for “foot calluses”, most users consider it perfect for everyday use. The vast majority of reviews on Sephora are quite effusive but I will pass along a few tips: Your skin should be bone dry (use before a shower, not after) and don’t press too hard i.e. let the diamonds do the work. And for Pete’s sake use it over the bathtub — you’re going to be astonished at what comes flying off. It’s expensive, sure, so I asked my sister for my own as a birthday present.12/11/17
Recomendo: issue no. 72
Best inexpensive gift tools
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