Fogless Shower Mirror

Shaving in the shower this morning I was trying to think of a tool that is really useful as I’ve appreciated all the tips others have provided.

Then I looked at the fogless mirror I’ve been using for nearly two years now. (Never ran across the smaller Shave Well shaving mirror recommended here back in August. Shave Well is 6×4″ as opposed to 7×5″ for this product.)

This fogless mirror, with the unfortunate company name of Toilet Tree, is the best we’ve found for this task.

Nothing fancy, just a mirror filled with hot water in a container. But it works. Even the silicone glue has been working great in adhering to the shower tile.

Simple and utilitarian, it the “#1 Selling and Ranked” product in its category by customers on Amazon.

-- Ira Altschiller  

Fogless Shower Mirror with Squeegee
$30

Available from Amazon



Mind Metrics

One of the self-tracking projects that I always wanted to do was to determine the impact of sleep, diet and exercise regimen on my mental and cognitive abilities. I needed an app to measure my cognitive or mental skills/abilities — rather than training or improving them. I also wanted measurement methods to be as close to scientific as possible. And of course the tests should take as little time as possible (preferably under 5 min), and run off portable devices. I settled on Mind Metrics — it’s an awesome phone app that lets me measure alertness, higher cognitive abilities such as attention and memory, and their combination.

For instance, in the alertness test you are asked to tap the sun as soon as it appears in the same part of the screen randomly every few seconds. You can control the number of trials and timing for both tests. After completing a preset number of trials, you get both average reaction time and average attention/memory score. You can see all your current and previous scores on the screen, and also e-mail them to yourself in comma separated format.

I’ve been using Mind Metrics to measure mental alertness in a couple of experiments, including finding the optimal time to go to bed (my finding was that going to bed between 11 and 11:15 leads to higher alertness next morning and better sleep), and validating orthostatic heart rate test (difference between standing and resting heart rate right after waking up reasonably well predicts mental and physical performance later in the day). I am currently using Mind Metrics to track my cognitive well-being on a daily basis.



Rubber Finger Tip

I have been using a rubber finger tip for about 4 months, 5 times a week, 2-3 times/day for approximately 5 minutes a session. It enables me to flip through a large stack of pages quickly.

If you want to flip through a large stack of matte paper, your finger just won’t do. The oils on your finger are not enough to grip letter paper and licking your finger to improve grip gets tiring, is messy, and leaves you… parched. This tool leaves no mess, is cheap, and highly consistent in its usefulness. Different sizes available.

-- Josh Miller  

Rubber Finger Tips
$2/Doz.

Available from Amazon



 

Bestselling Author and Journalist, AJ Jacobs [Cool Tools Show #009]

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Podcast on iTunes | RSS | Transcript |Download MP3

This week AJ Jacobs, bestselling author and journalist, shows us how he rids himself of life’s common nuisances and hazards like an untied shoe, a noisy environment, or a half hour wasted in traffic so he can focus on larger pursuits, like bringing the world together in one great big family reunion. AJ reminds us that we are all cousins and encourages all of us to explore just how we are related by hitting up some of his favorite genealogy resources. Oh, and we’re all officially invited to The Global Family Reunion on June 6th, 2015. Don’t forget the potato salad!

Show Notes:

AJ’s Website

The Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs

Drop Dead Healthy by AJ Jacobs

AJ’s recent project, The Global Family Reunion

Here are AJ’s tool picks, with quotes from the show:

Lock Laces $8

“…they are as tight as your regular shoe laces and they cost about ten bucks. I haven’t tied my shoelaces in about a year…”

Surefire EP4 Sonic Defender Ear Protection $9-$46

“They’re great because they reduce noise a lot and they are molded to your ear so they kind of look like a seashell and they stick into the folds of your ear so it’s hard to lose them, which I found was a problem with a lot of earplugs.”

Geni Free or $100/yr subscription

“It’s a lot easier to search how people are related. So if I put in the name Albert Einstein and it’ll search and tell me ‘Albert Einstein is my fourth cousin’s aunt’s uncle’s brother’s sister’s fourth niece.’ It’ll show you the exact track of how you’re related to everyone in the world.”

WikiTree Free

“It’s very much the Wikipedia model, so you can get someone who says Jimi Hendrix is Paul Revere’s son, but the idea is that the community will then correct it. Instead of having one set of eyes on it you’ve got thousands of sets of eyes trying to correct these things and add documentation and I do think it’s getting more and more accurate. There are some branches that require serious leaps of faith and are not documented, but I do think it’s getting better.”

FamilySearch Free

“I always thought genealogy was this staid and dusty pursuit but now it’s gone through this fascinating revolution and actually we are going to have a family tree of the entire world, all seven billion people probably in like five years, maybe ten.”

Waze Free

“I did an experiment a couple of weeks ago where I was in a car with Waze and my friend was in another car and this friend had Waze but refused to believe that Waze had the best directions, so she ignored them and she paid the price! She was about fifteen minutes behind us.”

 



Car2Go

Our small family has gotten by for years with only one car. We are fortunate that I enjoy bicycling, and that we live in a city with enough density, and with a good enough public transportation system, to make this possible. It’s been a challenge, but it got a whole lot easier this year when we joined car2go. This is a car-sharing service that rents Smart cars by the minute. You pick up a car where ever a previous user left it, drive it to your destination, park it on the street and you’re done. You use a smart phone app to find a car, and you can reserve one 30 minutes in advance. Reserving a car costs nothing, and there’s no penalty for canceling a reservation (or for just letting the time rut out on a reservation). Driving the car costs about 40 cents per minute, but you never have to pay for parking. This can often make it cheaper than driving your own car. It can also be more convenient; even in crowded downtown streets there are always little parking spaces that only a Smart car could fit into.

The service has some drawbacks. There are times when you want a car and none is available nearby. Smart cars’ limit of two people, and their limited cargo space, may make some trips impossible. While parking is usually easy, there are some restrictions. You have to park in a space that allows at least 2-hour parking, and it can’t be one that will become a no-parking zone within 24 hours. (Please note that these parking rules may vary by city.) Lastly, though you can drive the car anywhere, you can only leave it within the local car2go service area. If you run an errand in a neighborhood on the edge of city, you may have to continue to pay for the rental while the car is parked, until you can drive it back into the service area.

As I mentioned above, the per-minute cost is about 40 cents. They limit the per-hour cost to $15, and the per-day cost to $85. Drive it over 150 miles in one trip and they tack on 45 cents per additional mile.

The alternative car-sharing service, ZipCar, is cheaper and provides larger cars. However, it doesn’t have the flexibility of car2go. Each ZipCar has its own parking spot to which it must be returned, so you can’t make one-way trips. Also, you may have to reserve, and pay for, more time in a ZipCar than you really need, just to make sure you don’t return it late.

I’ve found that a small folding bike (with 20-inch wheels), car2go, and the local bus system are the perfect combination. I use the bike as my primary vehicle, extend its range with the bus, and combine both with car2go to make trips that require more flexibility. The bike also greatly increases the radius in which I can find an available car.

-- Tom Sackett  



Trenching tool

We use these for trenching in dripline in difficult conditions, and for other trenching work. The wood handles last a long time, unless you are careless with them. Lee Valley sells spare handles and I keep a couple on hand. I have not replaced any for several years now. They work best if sharp, of course. Sharpen them with a large chainsaw (round) file on the inner curve of the tool and clean up the outer edge a bit with a flat file if
needed.

Trenching depth: typically about 6″ to 8″, any deeper than 12″ and it is a bit awkward.

I also find them handy for general excavation (e.g. digging out a bit of extra soil for
a valve box) and one of the people who works for me uses one in his garden a fair bit.

-- Ian Ralston  

Trench Digger
$45



Hugo’s Amazing Tape

I was introduced to Hugo’s Amazing tape several years ago by a colleague. He uses the tape to keep board game boxes closed for storage, and it has quite a following in the board game and collectible card game community. The tape is flexible, reusable, and has the fantastic quality of only sticking to itself. These qualities make it ideal for securing something that you need to wrap and unwrap repeatedly. Hugo’s Amazing Tape is available in rolls of various lengths & widths, allowing the user to cut a length to fit their needs.

I have found many household uses for Hugo’s Amazing Tape. I have used the tape as a sort of clamp, to secure oddly shaped objects together while glue dries. I have used it to secure small parts within an assembly to prevent them from falling out of place during storage. It is also perfect for securing rolls of gift wrapping paper, and for securing spools of thread, twine, or rope. I’ve also used it on all of my board game and puzzle boxes. Hugo’s Amazing Tape won’t leave sticky residue, and it doesn’t bind, crush, or decay like a rubber band. It is an indispensable addition to my household tool box.

-- Ryan Gwaltney  

Hugo’s 2-Inch by 50-feet Amazing Tape
$12

Available from Amazon



Sport Rocketry * Rocketry

The next step up from boy scout model rockets is high power rocketry. This is real fun for adults. These things will go miles high. It’s a strictly build-your-own endeavor, requiring permits. The National Association of Rocketry publishes a bi-monthly magazine for sport rocketeers called appropriately enough, Sport Rocketry. But my friends who are avid amateur rocketeers scoff at Sport Rocketry as kid stuff. They want to make their own real rockets reaching the stratosphere. From their garages come complex computer-guided peaceful missiles. They struct their stuff in Rockets, the magazine of the Tripoli Rocketry Association.

bigrocket

BigRockMan

Screen Shot 2013-07-02 at 12.11.58 PM

Screen Shot 2013-07-02 at 12.12.48 PM

Screen Shot 2013-07-02 at 12.22.36 PM

Screen Shot 2013-07-02 at 12.24.38 PM

Screen Shot 2013-07-02 at 12.25.05 PM

-- KK  

Sport Rocketry
$62 (includes membership)

Rocketry
$42

Sample Excerpts:

High Power Rocketry, also known as HPR, is similar to model rocketry with differences that include the propulsion power and weight increase of the model. They use motors in ranges over “G” power and/or weigh more than laws and regulations allow for unrestricted model rockets. Like model rockets, High Power rockets are typically made of safer, non-metallic materials such as cardboard, plastic, and wood, however, construction and recovery techniques usually differ somewhat, due to the requirements imposed by the use of HPR motors. This means that these models must be constructed in such a way that they have the ability to safely fly under these higher stress conditions.

High Power rocket motors cannot be purchased over the counter by the general consumer and typically are not carried by your average hobby store. They can be mail-ordered or purchased at some launch sites by adult modelers who are High Power certified, which is a requirement to purchase and use them. The NAR offers a three level certification program for modelers who want to fly high power rockets. Also, High Power rockets must be flown in compliance with their own separate High Power Rocket Safety Code.

Launching High Power rockets requires more preparation than launching model rockets. Not only is a larger field needed, but FAA clearance must be arranged, well in advance of the launch date. There may also be local or state regulatory issues to be addressed before you can fly your first high power rocket. This is another good reason for joining a NAR Section – many organized clubs already have the personnel and experience in making these tedious arrangements, freeing you to concentrate on the actual flying.




Cuissential SlickFroth

I often mix stuff into my coffee: cream, coconut oil, medium chain triglycerides, taurine, even some resistant starches like inulin as part of my low carb life. Previoius to getting the slickfroth, I had to choose between a small hand blender or a spoon. I did not expect much (you know, a battery powered small toy) but I have found that this device works much better than I expected as a mini-handblender for liquids and powders. While it will not chop up the contents of thick smoothies, it will mix liquids together or powders into liquids very well. It offers a very useful tool in-between a hand blender (over-kill for many situations) and just mixing with a spoon (often not adequate).

-- Dale Simpson  

Kuissential SlickFroth 2.0
$18

Available from Amazon



SOG Multitool

I’ve had my SOG multitool (with power-assist, in black) for probably 10 years. It’s geared, so the pliers and wire cutter add nearly double the gripping power. I’ve used the saw for cutting drywall, the knife for anything needing a sharp sturdy knife, and every other tool at one time or another. It is truly durable, comes in an industrial leather belt pouch and if I had to pick just one thing to take with me into any situation, it’d be this.

-- Rob Campbell  

SOG PowerAssist Multi-Tool
$68

Available from Amazon