30 July 2016
Cool Tools Show 059: Hugh Howey
Our guest this week is Hugh Howey. Hugh is the New York Times bestselling author of WOOL, SAND, BEACON 23, and over a dozen other novels. He lives on a catamaran he custom built in South Africa and is now sailing around the world.
Kindle Voyage E-reader ($199)
“It is the perfect reading device. … It weighs almost nothing, it’s comfortable in your hand, and I can fit an entire library. The only ding that people have said about the device is its price. I read a lot of classics. When I look at all the free books on gutenberg.org the device has paid for itself already several times over. … The Voyage uses the same screen as the Paperwhite. The body is just slimmer and there’s physical page turn buttons now and my favorite thing actually about the interface is that there’s a very wide side so that you can hold it with the kind of fat part of your thumb, the way you would hold a book without covering the screen or accidentally turning pages. …I have the same sort of emotional attachment to my e-readers as we’ve always had towards books because I think what I’ve found is that I imprinted on books by reading and enjoying them, and now I’m doing that with my e-reader device. The people who say, ‘Well I’ll never feel the same way about it,’ well that’s because you haven’t read enough books yet to have that imprinting take place, but once you do you’ll love the smell of plastic in your hand.”
Oceanic OCi Wrist Dive Computer ($1,175-$1,300)
“[My Oceanic OCI] is a magical piece of technology. The original dive watches used to be enormous. They’re about as big as the dive computers you carried on your scuba gear, but this … is a very normal size watch. You can wear it every day for telling time, but when you go out for a swim — I’m doing a lot of free diving now — it keeps track of how deep you go and how long each dive is. You get basically a log of your entire swim, like every single time you surface it resets and logs that as a separate dive, so I know if I’m staying down for a minute, if I went down to 60 feet, like all these nice metrics which motivate me to work on my freediving even more. … The great thing about this watch is it’s wireless and when I put on my scuba gear it communicates with my tank and it’ll tell me how much air I have left.”
Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill ($26)
“Something I love is my coffee mill. I could easily have a little plugin electric coffee mill but on my first sailboat I had very little power and I got as many hand powered things as I possibly could, including my drill was a hand-powered drill, which was a lot of fun, and this Hario ceramic coffee mill gives you a perfect grind. It’s less than $30 for this thing and one of the things I really like about it is it’s quite a bit of work. It might not seem like a selling point but … I get more of a boost to my morning to making my coffee than I get from the coffee itself, and there’s also a meditative quality about it. You really feel — between that and the French press and the whole coffee making process — it just fits with the boat lifestyle more than getting up to a coffee machine and pressing a button or getting in line at Starbucks.”
Magic Bullet Blender ($40)
“This something else that I use every single day and I see these everywhere now. They’ve become very popular. … If you have all the right ingredients it makes for a wonderful replacement meal, very healthy. I started using it on land and it became indispensable. I actually traveled with my Magic Bullet Blender and I do a smoothie every day for lunch now. It’s one and a half bananas, some peanut butter, yogurt, blueberry, strawberry, and protein mix, and then some camu camu and chia seeds. This all sounds like a lot of stuff but I have one little cabinet that has all my smoothie accoutrement in it. I pull it all out, that’s what I had for lunch, just a couple hours ago, and it’s so quick and easy and you’re not hungry until dinner time. This blender, it’s wonderful, it’s very small and compact but it’s powerful enough to crush ice. You drink right out of the thing that you blend in so you don’t have a lot of extra cleanup and the blade has held up to 6 months of abuse so far. It comes with all kinds of blades and containers. You don’t need a lot of it so you can really kind of figure out what you need and recycle the rest, but it’s a beautiful blender. I love it.”
29 July 2016
If you’re an ebook junkie like me, you know that the cost of them is normally way, way, WAY too high. I’m not sure where I first found these guys, but they send out an email every weekday with a handful of interesting ebooks, covering many genres, for not a lot of money. Usually 1.99 if you buy that day only. They aren’t current best sellers, but they’re not total junk either. I’ve been subscribing for a couple of months, and I’ve managed to score a couple deals in that time. Each email also includes one free ebook, always public domain, usually more than 120 years old, but still. And the links to buy the books are non-denominational — they offer each one from multiple vendors (Amazon, Apple, B&N, etc.). It’s a great way to build up your e-library.07/29/16
29 July 2016
A world-traveling DJ shares his work and travel essentials
When you are constantly on the road, your personal/carry-on bag can be your best friend or your worst nightmare. When I returned from my summer tour of three months of DJ gigs around Europe in 2012, I was in serious need of two things: a chiropractor and a new bag. My classic style DJ bag with a single shoulder strap had begun to do some serious damage on me, pinching nerves in my neck and causing me chronic pain. The search was on for a replacement and, in the Topo Design Klettersack ($169), I can can absolutely say I have found my new best friend.
The shoulder straps, reinforced with the same material seat belts are made from, seem to be able to carry an inordinate amount of weight without the slightest bother. I have hiked miles to gigs with this bag through the mud of Glastonbury, waded out with it into the sea to catch ferry boats to remote islands, set it down on beer-soaked nightclub floors, slept with it as a pillow in countless airports and generally abused the hell out of it. But, like a true best friend, it has never let me down, fiercely protecting my gear and literally having my back.
The bag features a built in padded laptop slot that is essential for any modern nomad and a top pocket with the most heavyweight zipper I have ever encountered that provides quick access to my passport, notebook, pen drives and other essential items. Both the main compartment and top pocket hold far more than you would think on first glance.
I also picked up a set of matching accessory bags ($13) in three different sizes that are brilliant for organizing and keeping separated all of my cables, power plugs, adapters, headphones and other odds and ends.
On top of all of this, the bag is hand made utilizing green manufacturing practices in Colorado by people who spend more time scaling mountains than sitting behind desks. In other words, they know how to make a proper bag and do it in a fashion that is friendly to the planet.
Like any best friend though, nobody is perfect. I wish the laptop pocket included a pull strap to make removing my MacBook a bit easier when the bag is full and I could do with a bit more padding underneath the bag. Having said that though, I have never had a piece of gear get damaged while in this pack.
What I keep in my bag isn’t really as noteworthy as the bag itself, but here’s the rundown:
Vestax VCI-300 DJ Controller ($700) — This compact piece of gear has been with me over thousands and thousands of miles and countless gigs and has never let me down. It runs industry standard Serato software, so I don’t need to worry about creating separate libraries with separate software just for this controller. You get pro quality with an almost entry level price point with this controller. There are newer versions available but I’ve had mine for over four years and have not had a reason to replace it. It fits neatly in my backpack and I protect the knobs and faders using a custom fit Decksaver cover.
Korg Volca Beats ($159) and Volca Bass ($158), Akai MPK Mini ($99) and soundcard — A compact analog drum machine, analog mono synth, midi controller and midi/audio interface so compact, I can now work on tracks anywhere, including at 30,000 feet.
Coach Passport Cover ($125) — My one “luxury” item. I probably would never have bought this for myself but it was a gift and I do love it. It’s leather and canvas construction and black-on-black design is elegant without being ostentatious. It does a wonderful job of not just protecting my passport, but organizing frequent flyer cards, tickets and my Brazilian resident card.
Lumix DMC-LX5 ($289) with MegaGear leather case ($29) — I tend to use my mobile for quick snapshots but, as an amateur photography enthusiast, I love having a quality camera with me when the mood strikes. It was recommended to me by a couple friends that are professional photographers because of it’s Leica lens and full-size sensor. It’s small enough to travel easily but powerful enough to yield great results that look great when enlarged and printed. The leather case (that I believe I first saw on Cool Tools!) never fails to turn heads and garner compliments for its vintage styling.
Sony MDR-7506 Studio Monitor Headphones ($79) — Virtually identical to the first professional pair of cans I bought back in the early 90’s. I’ve experimented with others over the years but I always come back to the these for their robust construction, comfort, clean low-end response and fold up design that makes them perfect for travel.
Éccolo World Traveller Notebook — Basically just a cheaper Moleskine knockoff. Having a place to note flight information, contact numbers, schedules and other logistics info in a location that doesn’t require a battery or to be power up is invaluable when on the road. I also take full advantage of the little pocket in the back to store business cards and other scraps until I have a chance to file them digitally when I get home. Puffy pterodactyl sticker courtesy of my lovely little niece, Bonita.
Balmain Paris pen — I somehow ended up with this after a gig for Coca Cola during the World Cup. It costs more than I would pay for a pen but I didn’t pay for it and it writes like a dream. Thank you, Coke.
Inflatable Travel Neck Pillow, Earplugs, Eye Sleep Mask ($15) — I refuse to walk through an airport with a stuffed pillow wrapped around my neck but they do come in handy. This little kit gives me all I need to block out the world around me when I just need to knock out in public, without taking up virtually any space in my bag.
Clipper Lighters ($7) — I’m not really big on souvenirs but I do try to pick up a Clipper wherever I go. They’re refillable and that little pokey bit that holds the flint comes in handy when skinning up.
Niche For Men deodorizing wipes ($9,10pc) — I raise a glass to whoever invented these! And when I do, my sweat stained pits are less likely to offend, thanks to the odor neutralizing ingredients contained in the moist towelette in each little pouch. I used to dread making short connections, as I would inevitably arrive at the gate sweaty and gross from hurrying through the airport while lugging heavy gear. Now I just take a moment to pop into the men’s room and towel off just before boarding.
Sony Xperia phone – Android based, unlocked for global use and waterproof…. sold!
Gilson Martin flat wallet and business card holder — Martin is a Carioca designer whose pieces adorned with iconic imagery from the “cidade maravilhosa” have been featured from Rio and Milan to Paris. Funny thing is though that neither of these items I own are being used for their intended purpose. I believe my flat wallet that I carry in my front pocket was originally designed as an ipod case. It even had a handy thin rope and tiny carabiner I that could clip to my belt loop, until I tore it off accidentally. Great for countries known for their talented pick pockets.
EAR Inc custom fit earplugs for musicians — I don’t use these as much as I should, but for some big festival gigs, where the DJ monitors are bigger than the speakers in most clubs I’m used to playing, they are life savers. They were custom made for me by a small company in Colorado from latex impressions of my inner ears. They filter out the damaging high frequencies while still allowing me to hear accurately. They are made with imbedded glow in the dark material, at my request, so they can be easily spotted if I drop them in a dark DJ booth. Result!
Vintage Pen with Five Colored Dice – I picked up this stylee piece at the antiques fair at Praça XV in Rio for about 5 bucks US. It doesn’t function as a pen any more but the dice it contains come in handy for passing time and making new friends over games of Cee-lo in airport bars during long layovers. It’s paid for itself several times over in free drinks.
Outdoor Products waterproof bags ($10) — These things are so cheap and so handy. I use them to protect my mobile and camera when it’s raining or I’m on the water somewhere. I also use them to store damp and dirty clothes when coming off a festival site until I can get them laundered.
Business Class Dock Kit – It’s rare I get the upgrade, but when I do, I always make sure to grab the travel kits they hand out in first class and business. I keep them refilled with hotel soaps, shampoos, toothpaste and other items for a perfectly compact dock kit that doesn’t cost me a thing.
LED Mini Torch – This indispensable item is cheap, ubiquitous, and perfect for flipping through records or plugging in cables in the dark.
Apolis Global Citizen travel candle ($22) — It may seem a bit much traveling with your own candle but this “cypress fig” scented beauty helps to add a bit of zen to even the most nondescript chain hotel rooms.
(Cool Tools Readers! We will pay you $50 if we run your "What's in My Bag" story. Send photos of the things in your bag (and of the bag itself, if you love it), along with a description of the items and why they are useful. Make sure the photos are large (1200 pixels wide, at least) and clear. Use a free file sharing service to upload the photos, and email the text to email@example.com. — editors)
28 July 2016
Lubricates light bulb screws to protect against corrosion, moisture and broken light bulbs
Nowhere on Earth is the concept of entropy more apparent than aboard an oceangoing ship, which is where I first discovered Electralube. As a Third Assistant Engineer, one of my unglamorous regular (and never-ending) duties was “re-lamping” – replacing burned out light bulbs in all the ship’s machinery spaces. The combination of 24/7 use, moist salt air and vibration caused the flimsy metal threads of the bulb bases (don’t even get me started on the idiotic design that is the Edison screw!) to rust or arc weld themselves into their sockets, which meant a broken bulb and additional sweaty minutes atop a ladder on a pitching ship with a pair of needle-nose pliers and a headlamp, trying to pry the stuck metal bits out.
Electralube put an end to all that. It’s a light, conductive grease that comes in a little jar with a sponge in it. The sponge holds the lube. You just dip the bulb base in the sponge, give it a spin to coat the threads and then screw the bulb into the socket. I use it for every bulb change, and it’s essential for fixtures in damp locations, and for that corroded, janky old socket you’ve been meaning to replace in that beloved antique lamp. The next person to change that bulb will thank you.07/28/16
27 July 2016
Adjustable, reusable hook & loop ties
I have been using Velcro One-Wrap Thin Ties for about a year now and I can tell you, there is not a better product for wrapping up your headphone cords, computer cables, and anything else you can think of. I have tried several different products similar to this and these are by far the best.
I bought 100 of them for $5 on Amazon, and at first I thought 100 was a little excessive, but I am so glad I can use these anywhere I can think. The ties are so thin yet strong and the velcro holds very well. I have had other non-velcro brand ties and the velcro holds, but the “fuzzy” part is way too fuzzy. These are so thin and not fuzzy. The velcro holds strong. I also like that they have round edges. If you want to use these for small wires, just cut the tie since you won’t need the full 8 inches. 4 inches is more than enough to tie up a pair of standard headphones.07/27/16
26 July 2016
Double draw-string designed hanging sack protects vegetables from light and delays the sprouting process
Being an avid home cook in New York City, having space to work is more important than any tool (except maybe a good chef’s knife). Finding these hanging vegetable keep sacks from design-savvy cookware company Mastrad was a revelation and meant I had at least one drawer freed up.
I’ve had mine hanging under the cabinet for two years, and they keep potatoes, onions, and other root vegetables dry, dark, and out of the way. The design is simple: a canvas tube, lined with cotton, with a filling drawstring at the top and a dispensing drawstring at the bottom, slightly angled to keep the tubers from dumping all over the floor.
I belong to a CSA, so for a few weeks in the fall, I am absolutely swimming in potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, and shallots. If I had the space I’d create a root cellar, but one (or a few) of these sacks keeps my roots from sprouting or getting moldy for weeks. The internet is swarming with cutesy containers to keep potatoes, but loose baskets, modular plastic, and bulky burlap don’t keep potatoes in the darkness they need. There are bins you can build into the sides of cabinets, but as a renter, it’s key that I can screw in an anchor, hang the colorful bag for all to see, then easily take it down to refill it or when I move.
They’re cheap, washable, and come in three sizes (with illustrations of potatoes, onions, and garlic, respectively, but free to be you and me) As a cook in a small kitchen, I lust after big mixers and expensive gadgets, but I am grateful for my potato sacks.07/26/16
Seed germinator provides continuous ventilation, humidification and warmth
ASK COOL TOOLS
|Recent Questions||Answers Given||Answers Favorited|
Problems with editor
Problems with the editor for this section: • Single quotes are displaying as backslash-single quotes: \’ (this was typed as …
open/close tabs for cardboard boxes?
We use small cardboard boxes to store stuff in our closets and the system is working well for us. I’m …
HEPA filter for HVAC sytem
I am about to install a new air conditioning system in my home, and in the process, I am going …
COOL TOOLS SHOW PODCAST
What's in My Bag? 29 July 2016
A world-traveling DJ shares his work and travel essentials
A couple of years ago, hundreds of thousands of our readers read Cool Tools using Google Reader, an RSS aggregator. But when Google pulled the plug on Reader, tens of thousands of our readers didn’t bother to resubscribe by using a different RSS reader.
Kevin and I are both RSS junkies. It’s the way we read all our blogs. And the reader we use is Feedly. It’s evolved over the years and now it is better than Google Reader ever was. The free version is excellent (I have no reason to pay $5 a month for the premium version).
I recommend reading Cool Tools via Feedly. We offer the full text of every post, not just an excerpt. Give it a try and I think you’ll understand why 61 thousand people read Cool Tools readers through Feedly.
About Cool Tools
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.
When Amazon.com is listed as a source (which it often is because of its prices and convenience) Cool Tools receives a fractional fee from Amazon if items are purchased at Amazon on that visit. Cool Tools also earns revenue from Google ads, although we have no foreknowledge nor much control of which ads will appear.
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.