Plastic Dice in Bulk

I carry 3 red dice in my back pocket so that I can play a game called Cee-lo with people that I meet. Like most betting games, Cee-lo has a rough reputation. But played among friends, not betting for money, it can be rather wholesome.

I really like being able to play a simple dice game with people for a few reasons:

- it’s a really fun game!
- I’ve successfully played it with kindergartners and every age group above,
- I’ve gotten mixed age groups to have a GREAT time playing,
- It never runs out of batteries or needs to be upgraded,
- it’s very portable,
- it gets people to talk in real time,
- I don’t have to hand an expensive device to other people or count on them having one, or having one compatible to mine.

I’ve also found that the game itself is pretty simple, but with the betting aspect things get really interesting. And the world is full of trinkets to bet with. Collect a bunch of stones, or sugar packets, or tear up a piece of paper into bits that are all roughly the same size, or anything you can get a reasonable number of and you’re in business.

That said, my personal favorite thing to bet with is the little scraps that people have in their pockets: twist ties, tooth picks, vitamin pills, movie stubs. It is amazing to see how people will value these little bits of nothing while they are playing, but once the game is over, it all goes back to being little bits of trash. (I also like to see what people do to get that one important item back, that they really shouldn’t have played in the game…)

One thing about dice games: everyone plays them different. To paraphrase the Cee-lo advice U-God of Wu Tang in this NSFW (language) video: state the rules and save some fools. Better to spend a bit of time outlining the rules at the beginning then to get into any sort of fight later. (And not a bad rule in life in general.)

So, here is how I play Cee-lo:

Cee-lo – 2 or more players – 3 dice

Determine who is going to be playing and who is going to be the first player.

If betting, all players put in their bet.

The first player rolls all three dice until they get a recognized combination, or are otherwise disqualified

The combinations are, ranked from best to worst:

4-5-6
The highest possible roll. Instant win of the round for the player who rolled it. They take the entire pot, and the next round begins. This skips the turns of anyone who has not gone.

“Trips”
Rolling three of the same number is known as “trips”. Higher trips beat lower trips, so 4-4-4 is better than 3-3-3.

“Spare and a Pair”
Rolling a pair, and another number, establishes the singleton as a “point.” A higher point beats a lower point, so 1-1-3 is better than 6-6-2.

1-2-3
Automatic loss. Play forfeits turn, but the game continues.

Any other roll is a meaningless combination and must be rerolled until one of the above combinations occurs. It is also an automatic loss if a player rolls the dice 5 times without getting a meaningful combination.

If either of the dice roll off the playing surface, it is also an automatic loss for the player.

Play then proceeds around to other players, going clockwise.

The player who rolls the best combination wins. In cases of a tie for the best combination, there is a a shoot-out: the players who tied will play another round of the game until there is a single winner.

The winner gets to stat the next round.

And that is all there is to it! I also like it the way the game is explained in this video.

There are PLENTY of other games you can play with dice. But, Cee-lo one my favorite!

I usually buy dice by the 100, so after I teach people, I can give them their own set.

100 Red Dice
$13

Available from Amazon



Grill Daddy Pro Grill Brush

I’ve been using this all summer to clean my outdoor grill. It is by far the best tool I’ve discovered for cleaning the actual grill surface—the steel bristles do an excellent job scraping the grill, the double-handed body makes it easy to apply some extra muscle to the process—and the use of the heat from the grill and the steam created by the water that is released through the brush itself both cleans and seems to sterilize the surface.

The best part is that you can clean the grill surface immediately after you are done using the grill—no waiting for it to cool down, forcing you to come back to it later. Using the grill is so much more convenient because you heat it, use it, clean it, and close it up until the next time. Efficient and effective.
I wish the reservoir held a bit more water, but other than that, no complaints or suggestions for improvement.

-- Ray Tetz  

Grill Daddy Pro Grill Brush
$20

Available from Amazon



Dark Sky

As a co-worker and I were leaving a cafe, we looked and saw it was threatening to rain. “Should we walk?” I asked. He smiled and showed me this app: Dark Sky.

Dark Sky is a weather app that focuses on letting you know how long until it starts raining or snowing where you are, based on your exact GPS coordinates. Or, if it is already raining, it tells you how long it will rain and how hard. Very handy if you are about to run out, but could also give it a few more minutes to let the weather move past.

Of course, it gives you all of the other relevant weather info as well in a very understandable way: current temperature, the hourly forecast for the day, and the weekly forecast.

What makes this my go to weather app is that it anticipates my needs: the first screen tells me what is the weather near me right now and gives me all the details I need to react right away, the next screen is what the rest of the day will be like, and the next screen is what the rest of the week is like. All done in a clean and easy to understand way.

You could say what I like about this is what it doesn’t include:

- You don’t enter in location, because by default it tells me the weather where I am. (You can search for other locations or indulge your sense of schadenfreude and be shown info for interesting storms!)

- The interface is mostly grey scale and simple icons, so it is easy to read.

- Also, the app isn’t free, so that means there aren’t ads.

It’s a small thing, but as I travel, I’ve also liked how it tells me the address it thinks I am near. Convenient when you call for a cab.

These are the same people who do forcast.io – while you get most of the same information with the same simple design, you don’t get the precipitation information. If you use an iPhone, they made their site into a web app: visit the site on your phone, and follow the instructions on the bottom banner. It’s sort of like getting a “lite” version of Dark Sky.

-- Mark Krawczuk  



Gripster Nut Starter

If you’ve ever tried to apply rotational force to a small part held with tweezers, then you’ve probably also spent time on the floor looking for that part. Get off the floor and buy the Gripster Nut Starter. It does a fine job of holding small nuts so they can be threaded on to parts and into hard-to-reach spots. Pushing a plunger on the back end causes four spring steel fingers at the front end to extend and spread. When pressure on the plunger is released, an internal spring causes the fingers to pull in and close, allowing you to hold small objects. I’ve found it’s also great for starting wood and machines screws, as well as for threading tiny washers. It’s particularly useful for fishing through containers of small assorted parts and grabbing just the right one. Congratulations, your fingers just got smaller.

-- Dug North  

Available from Micro-Mark



Wink’s remarkable book picks of the week

Wink is Cool Tools’ website that reviews one remarkable paper book every weekday. We take photos of the covers and the interior pages of the books to show you why we love them.

This week we reviewed books about Rocketeer creator Dave Stevens’ beautiful comic book art, unusual maps of an ordinary neighborhood, the history of economics told through comics, visual representations of history, a visual guide to psychology, and hundreds of excellent optical illusions.

Take a look at these books and many others at Wink. And sign up for our Wink newsletter to get all the reviews and photos delivered once a week.

-- Mark Frauenfelder  



Adventure Cycle Maps

For over two months my teenage son and I rode our bikes down the Pacific coast from Canada to Mexico. We followed a route mapped out by Adventure Cycling. The 2,000-mile route is broken into about 80 sections, each annotated with the kind of info you’d like to know on a bike: where the next camp sites are, grocery options, bike shop locations, mileage counts, and most important — elevation contours for the upcoming hills! These maps are printed with full clarity on waterproof paper. The set is extremely well designed, sized at the right scale, and kept current with frequent updates. It was the best bargain of our trip.

While this Pacific route is very popular, Adventure Cycling offers about 20 other long-distance bicycle routes in the US as well. If you are making a long-distance bike ride in America, chances are Adventure Cycling will have a set of maps for you. These maps are miles better than any automobile road map, and in most ways better than Google maps. Ordinarily, I’d shy away from a well-travelled trail, but in this case, the availability of set of Adventure Cycling maps would entice me to follow it.

Their web-based video gives a great overview of the maps’ benefits, and also serve as a manual for using them.

Bikemap

-- KK  



Power Cord Winder

I use several corded power tools around the yard and garden such as a chain saw, leaf vacuum, hedge trimmer, etc. Many’s the time I would put off a chore using them because I would have to uncoil the 100′ of power cord and probably have to untangle/unkink it before using it. After the job was done, it would take another few minutes to coil up the power cord and try not to tangle it in the process.

A couple of types of cord reels I tried didn’t work particularly well. So I bought this weird looking cord winder a few years ago. After installing the wall mount near the power outlet in my garage and winding my cord into the basket, I was quite surprised to discover I could pull out the 100′ of power cord, tangle/kink free in about a minute to the end of my driveway. I would do my chore (usually the leaf vacuum for lawn clippings and leaves) and, in another minute or two I could wind up the cord, detach the cord winder from the wall mount and put it on the shelf. Those chores now get done when needed instead of being put off since the cord unwinding/re-winding takes so little time.

-- Jim Service  

Wonder Winder Hand Crank Extension Cord Winder
$21

Available from Amazon



Long Handle Shoe Horn

You can get a long bamboo shoe horn at any Asian market for $3, or the previously reviewed one from IKEA, but I have one I really like that is sturdy and long-lasting and expensive. But it is SO worth it. Because of the spring at the bottom it is more maneuverable than regular long shoe horns, ending a lot of frustration. Over the lifetime of the shoe horn, the price is justified in my book.

-- Olivia M. Brown  

21″ Shoe Horn
$22

Available from Amazon



Schlage Keypad Deadbolt

I have had this lock on my front door for three years. The advantages are numerous: one less key on the key ring, illuminated keypad, never lock myself out, easy to give the code to relatives, friends, dog walkers or anyone needing access to your house without you present. But, most importantly, when my wife has to run back in the house to get one last thing, I don’t have to turn the car off so she can use my key.

When the 9-volt battery start to go the keypad blinks, so you don’t end up getting locked out with a dead battery. (It will also accept a key).

-- Steve Haslet  

Schlage Camelot Keypad Deadbolt
$103

Available from Amazon



Eco Brick

I love heating my house with my fireplace and wood stove. Its carbon neutral, it targets the heat where I want it, and somehow it just feels warmer then forced air heat.

I don’t love dealing with firewood. I don’t like storing it, trying to keep it dry, and I especially don’t like going outside when it is freezing cold to bring an armful inside.

That’s where Eco Bricks come in. They are compressed hardwood sawdust bricks that you burn in a fireplace just like logs. They are kiln dried and bug free, so they can be stored inside. Since they are kiln dried, they always light easily.

BTU wise, the company says that a pallet of Eco Bricks are equivalent to a full cord of hardwood firewood. Where I am, a pallet runs $235, which is roughly the same as a cord of firewood.

Since these things are so dense and dry, some care must be taken not to over-fire your fireplace or stove. I’ve been using them for three winters, and haven’t had any problems yet.

I’ve got about a half pallet in my basement queued up. I’m looking forward to my first fire of the season.

-- Clark Case  

Eco-Brick pressed sawdust fireplace fuel
Find a local retailer here

Sample Excerpts:

[Enjoy this video of a one-hour Eco Brick burn. - Mark]