Co-founder of Quantified Self, Gary Wolf [Cool Tools Show #15]

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In this week’s episode of the Cool Tools Show, Gary Wolf, Co-founder of Quantified Self, shows us how his favorite Quantified Self inspired apps help him stay consistent, motivated and aware about his most important daily routines. If you’re struggling to keep your healthy habits in check, this week’s episode may help you diagnose where those dips in motivation are coming from.

Quantified Self

Gary’s Twitter

Show Notes:

Equanimity: Meditation Timer & Tracker by Robin Barooah $5

“It keeps a record of your meditation sessions, when you stop, when you start. It gives you a field to take notes and gives you the ability to reflect on the patterns in your practice, including CSV export of all your meditation data in a table. A few years into using it I ran a little analysis of what my practice really looked like and I learned so much from doing that. For instance, I learned that I had an average time without a break between days of about nine days.”

750 words by Buster Benson Free

“It’s premised on the theory that doing some free writing in the morning is very good for you, for your creativity. It can reduce stress by keeping you in touch with the random thoughts and random voices that are in your head and discharging some of the internal narrative and it’s also really relaxing. In a sense it resembles a meditation practice — it releases creativity and reduces stress.”

Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora $30

“It’s unlike any other guide I’ve ever encountered. On almost on every page it contains a story of a personal encounter with the mushroom in question, so it’s as close as you can get to walking through the woods with your own great expert.”

Ball Jars with Wide Funnel ~$20 (For 1 funnel & 1 case Ball Jars.)

“We went to the hardware store and got three cases of Ball jars and a nice big aluminum funnel and took every single item that was in a bag or an open box (including everything from tiny little pieces of pasta to crackers) and we put it in the appropriate size jar and my daughter made sticky labels and drawings for it and we filled up the pantry with this collection. It wasn’t very expensive. It didn’t take all that long. Now everything looks great and every time we open the closet we have a laugh.”

 



Bitybean Child Carrier

There are lots of infant and toddler carriers out there to suit personal preferences. What makes this carrier special — and a big reason why it’s become our everyday go-to carrier for our 22 pound six-month old — is its unbelievably compact size and simplicity.

Unlike other carriers like the Ergobaby and Babybjorn, when not in use our Bitybean carrier can be stuffed into a sack barely larger than a soft drink can. This means it can be easily slipped into a small diaper/travel bag, or even in our stroller’s cup holder. It’s there when we need it, out of the way when we don’t.

Its fast to put on (either front or back facing), very lightweight and stays cool in warm weather. While I was initially concerned about the relative lack of padding or support, our little one is quite content in it for short errands and trips to the grocery store.

We still occasionally use the Ergobaby carrier we got at our baby shower, but the Bitybean sees much more daily use.

-- Rayan Parikh  

Bitybean UltraCompact Baby Carrier
$60

Available from Amazon



Handy Paint Pail

I’m glad I don’t have to stain my cedar deck every summer but when I do I’m extra glad I found the Handy Paint Pail. It’s a quart-sized container that holds paint or stain while you do brush work. The wide, rubbery strap works two ways. Slip your hand through the adjustable strap. Your hand relaxes into a gentle curve: no cramps from hours of gripping a paint can. You can also use the handle in reverse: wear the can across the back of your hand. This leaves your hand free to grip ladders or hold things. The unique D-shaped cup is really useful. The curved part fits your hand while the flat side fits the brush.

The pail also has a very clever feature: a strong magnet molded into the inside the cup magically holds your bush up and out of the paint (and catches any drips). Clean up is a breeze — just toss away the used vacuum-formed liner (and slip in a fresh one for next time). As you can see from the photo we’ve used our HANDy Paint Pail for many years of staining and painting, inside and out.

pail-2

-- Bob Knetzger  

Handy Paint Pail
$10

Available from Amazon



Vix Bit

This might seem like a bit of a specialty tool, but for a homeowner or finish carpenter, it makes installing any kind of fixture a snap. “Vix” is a brand name for the S.E. Vick company, more generically it’s a “self-centering” drill bit, and they make a few different sizes, but I’ve only ever used the smaller one — need a bigger hole? Use it as a pilot bit. Hinges, cabinet pulls, shelf brackets, anything you need to fasten to a piece of wood, this bit prevents the tip from wandering so countersunk screws will seat perfectly. I first encountered these as a carpenter — attaching cabinet hardware is usually the last thing on the job, so you really don’t want to screw up at that stage. The vix bit makes it pretty much idiot-proof. I’ve had one for at least ten years, and it still worked great when I lost it a few weeks ago. It was sorely missed until I replaced it.

-- Chris Landers  

Set of 3 Vix Bits
$23

Available from Amazon



 

Lloyd Kahn, Editor-in-Chief of Shelter Publications [Cool Tools Show 007]

On the latest episode of the Ask Cool Tools Show, Kevin Kelly and I interviewed Lloyd Kahn, editor-in-chief of Shelter Publications. He shared with us many useful tips, ranging from how to get the most out of your camera lenses, to alternative activities for the senior surfer. Lloyd has spent much of his life researching the best possible tools and products for any purpose and doesn’t disappoint with this lineup of excellent picks.

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Show Notes :

Shelter Publications Website

Surfmatters Website

Some of Lloyd’s books:

The Septic System Owner’s Manual

Shelter

Tiny Homes on the Move

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

Olympus OMD EM-1 Mirrorless Camera $1299

“It got me to put away my Canon cameras which weighed five pounds. This one is just so much smaller and it’s one of the mirror-less cameras…The mirrorless part is what, I think, saves on the weight…When you look at it, if you’re a Canon or a Nikon guy, it’s going to look just like a miniature of one of those cameras.”

 

Fourth Gear Flyer Surf Mat: $139-$199

“It’s inflatable. So instead of lugging this surfboard around and worrying about getting it smashed up on the airplane or paying a hundred bucks to have it shipped, you just fold up this surf mat in your backpack…and when you get there blow up your surf mat and go surfing.”

DaFINS $62-$66

“I have fins called DaFINS…that are made in Hawaii. They’re smaller than the normal fins you see and more flexible and they’re touted as being preferred by world class body surfers.”


10mm Twin-Wall Poly-carbonate 4′ x 12′ sheet $140

“It’s expensive, but it’s double walled so you get some insulation and it’s clear like glass. It has a ten year guarantee and I bought four by twelve sheets…we tore off the fiberglass and put that on the greenhouse so everything in the greenhouse is much happier now. I’ve washed it once since we installed it. I just take a soft brush and a hose and wash the dust off the roof.”

Makita 18 volt Lithium-Ion Cordless Variable Speed Impact Wrench $206

“It weighs less than the typical drill that you see. There are really no controls on it other than a trigger, like you can’t set it for different speeds or different torque. What it does is it backs up a little bit. Each time it goes forward it goes back a little bit, so it kind of chatters. It’s just really great for grabbers and screws.”

 



Ubiquiti NanoStation and Picostation

I wanted to add Internet to the building my kids’ ski race team operates out of, but the nearest point to the building we could get service was a good 400 yards away. It was not feasible to use cable.

We tried using consumer-grade product to set up a wireless bridge, with very poor results. Someone gave us a pair of Ubiquity M5 Nanos, and I can’t believe how good they performan. Once I found the tutorials, they took less than 10 minutes to set up, and about a half hour to mount (most of that time setting up my ladder). They use Power Over Ethernet (POE), so the only cable running to the device is the ethernet cable. The best part is that they are very inexpensive – $60 each from Amazon. We are only bridging 400 yards, but these devices are reported to work very well up to several kilometers, as long as you have line of sight. Speed tests showed absolutely no noticeable degradation in speed.

Since we were so happy with the first setup, I also used a PicoStation access point to broadcast wifi at the building. The range is easily 3-4 times what you will get out of a consumer grade wifi router. It takes a few minutes to set up, but the performance is so worth it.

Since then we have added bridges to two other buildings 600 meters away, and set up several outside access points to provide wifi on our training venue and to provide live timing of races.

The best part – they just work.

nano

-- David Thickens  

Available from Amazon



Boarding Area

There’s a small cottage industry of avid travelers exploiting loyalty and frequent flier programs to earn maximum free “miles.” The best moderated forum I’ve found for their tricks, tips, and hacks on how best to fly free, or almost free, is a group of bloggers called Boarding Area. They all share great stuff but I am particularly fond of Gary Leff’s blog, View from the Wing. He specializes in maximizing miles for free trips.

-- KK  

Sample Excerpts:

Here’s what I believe to be the current 10 best credit card signup bonuses on offer: 1 Chase Sapphire Preferred offers no fee the first year, 40,000 points after $3000 in spend within 3 months, no foreign currency conversion fees, double points on travel and dining, points transfers to United, Hyatt, Southwest, Amtrak, British Airways, Korean Airlines, Marriott Priority Club, and Ritz-Carlton. Probably the best all-around credit card, and with a great signup bonus. There was for a few days a similar offer with just $2000 rather than $3000 as the required spending, but that was pulled rather quickly.

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Six tips for folks just getting started with miles and points. The basics are:

  • Start with a goal, that motivates you and also helps your choice of program. Nothing worse than finding out you want to go to French Polynesia, but United miles only let you get there flying to New Zealand first.
  • Never pass up miles, always sign up for frequent flyer programs even when it’s not your primary program. The miles add up eventually. Lots of programs become easily manageable at a site likeAwardWallet.com.



Panda Ultra Wifi 150Mbps Wireless N 2.4Ghz Adapter

Why would you need a WiFi adapter for your laptop, when one is built in? Well, the built in one might be broken, or only support an older standard.

But this tool is really cool when not used as an adapter — but when used as an access-point.

Hotels (and the more expensive ones do this more frequently than inexpensive hotels) nickel-and-dime you on Wifi connectivity. One of the ways they do this is by selling you connectivity to ONE device.

ONE?! I’d bet most hotel guests have at least a smart-phone, in addition to their laptop, and possibly tablets, e-readers, wifi-equipped cameras, etc.

Enter this little tool.

You install it in your laptop (I use it in a Windows 7/64 bit laptop, but other Windows versions, as well as Mac and many Linux versions are supported) and it takes the incoming wifi from the hotel and re-transmits it as an access point, to which you (and your family or buddies) can connect.

It is small enough to simply throw in your kit and carry all the time (though so small you may easily lose it in your gear pack) and cheap enough to be a no-brainer purchase for any frequent traveler.

-- Michael Orr  

Available from Amazon



Kuhn Rikon Auto Safety Master Opener

kuhn rikon.jpg

I’ve used this tool for the last few months, and it far surpasses any other standard can opener I’ve tried. This style of opener, where the lid is removed from the side of the can rather than from the top, was first evangelized via fast-talking TV ads (“but wait, there’s more”), but is now commonly available.

The benefits to this particular model make it best-of-breed compared to its lookalikes. In their attempt to make the device the Swiss Army Knife of openers, they’ve incorporated a beer bottle opener and a few pry-levers into the casing. More importantly, the side of the opener has a tiny set of pliers. These solve the problem that most people have with these style of can-openers. While the lid is separated from the can, it is not totally severed. Manually removing the lid could make a mess, since squeezing the can creates ooze. The pliers make it really easy to pry the lid off without spilling a drop of the can’s contents. The opener doesn’t even get dirty, since it never contacts the contents of the can.

After working through a number of traditional openers, this is the one that I’m going to have forever. Where the legacy technology wears as it rusts and dulls, I’m confident that the Kuhn Rikon will never wear down.

-- James Roche  

[Note: This is an updated review of the previously reviewed Kuhn Rikon can opener. -- Oliver]

Kuhn Rikon Auto Safety Master Opener
$16

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Kuhn Rikon



The Handmade Marketplace

handmade marketplace.jpeg

The giant crafts website Etsy makes it easy list homemade stuff to a potential audience of millions. But the hard part is getting anyone to pay attention and it actually buy it. That requires some basic business and online marketing skills, which are reviewed here, with the home crafter in mind.

-- KK  

The Handmade Marketplace
Kari Chapin
2010, 224 pages
$11

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

What best advice would you offer a crafter who is looking to gain national attention for their work?

Invest in great product photography. Great work sells itself, so you need to do everything possible to make sure the beauty of your work comes through in a way that’s apparent to people reading about you online or in print because most people won’t see your work in person.

*

Unsatisfied Customers

In a perfect world, everyone would be happy with you and your products all the time. You would always be paid promptly and always get rave reviews. Sometimes, though, things just don’t work out. In this case you should:

Try to remain upbeat. Use positive-sounding words when communicating with customers.

Say, “What can I do to resolve this for you?” rather than “What do you want from me?”

Try to find value in what your unhappy customer is saying to you. It could be that their complaint has some truth to it, which you may find helpful in the long run.

*

Are you getting some really great feedback about something in particular that you’ve made? Consider posting these compliments in the description of your item.

*

Keep these customer service practices in mind at all times:

  • The customers may not always be right, but they do deserve your full attention and respect regarding the matter at hand.
  • Apologize first. What if you didn’t do anything wrong? you may ask. Well, while that may be the case, that’s not really the point. You can, in fact, regret that your customer is upset in any regard. Simply recognizing that your buyer has a problem and has had to take the time out of a busy day to alert you to it is reason enough to apologize.
  • Ask what will make the situation right. If what the customer wants is reasonable and you can do it, you should consider it.
  • Taking a hit on a sale is a small price to pay when it comes to your overall reputation and the trust you are trying to build with your market.