Mike Evans, Musician and Blogger [Cool Tools Show Episode #23]

Children at heart rejoice! Mike Evans has a list for you (and your kids) that will have you playing and learning with a selection of entertaining guides and tools. Mike’s picks reduce the initial learning curve of trying to get into a new activity so you and your kids can jump right in and start having fun! To see more of Mike’s toys, tools and projects, be sure to head over to his blog, Secret Dad Society.

Show Notes:

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Comic Life $15

“I’ve been using this for the last seven years. It’s a fantastic app that’s really easy to use. I can’t stress enough that kids can get a lot out of it. You basically have templates. You pull from your iPhoto or whatever your photo items you have, and you just import your photos right into the panels. There’s panels that are templates that are pre-made, but you can also customize it. The photos automatically size to the frame, and you just drag and drop word balloons.”

Headblade Sport Ultimate Head Shave $6.20

“I feel like it’s my obligation to get this information out there. I’ve been using this for 10 years straight daily. It’s so easy to use. It’s not for everyone, obviously, but anyone that does shave their head, I have to tell them about it.”


The Mad Art of Caricature!: A Serious Guide to Drawing Funny Faces, by Tom Richmond $20.60

“I love how, first of all, it empowers you to just start doing it. I think that’s a cool virtue of a cool tool. It makes you want to use it. When you look at the book and then you go out in public, you can’t help but look at people differently. You’ll see somebody and you just look at their brow line or their nose anatomy and you’re thinking, “… I would love to draw that person.”

MMX Plus Juggling Balls $10

“…[W]henever I walk by these, I can’t help but pick them up and use them for a few minutes. I think that’s why they’re so cool. I immediately got better when I started using these balls. I definitely would say these are worth it.”

Kite Tool Ballbearing Blue Plastic Reel Line Winder $7.10

“It’s basically like a fishing rod without the rod. It’s a reel. It’s got ball bearings in it…There’s a few other varieties out there.. You can get your kit out up really fast and you can bring it in really, really quickly…”



Laura Welcher, Director of Operations: Long Now Foundation [Cool Tools Show Episode #22]

This week Laura Welcher joins us. Laura is a Linguist, Director of Operations for the Long Now Foundation and volunteer at the Global Lives Project.

Show Notes:

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Yaesu VX-8DR $370

“A lot of people think that ham radios are really big. The one that I’ve had for several years, is called a Yaesu VX-8DR. It’s quite small. I’m a small person, I have a small hand and it fits really well in my hand and you don’t need this crazy long antenna if you’re doing local communications.”

The Family Piano Doctor $0.80

“I learned how to tune a piano using that book and as far as I know you can’t even get it in digital. The book isn’t available as a Kindle book or anything. It’s still paper, which seems very appropriate for it.”

Guerilla Painter French Resistance Pochade $175.10

“This art case for the plein air painter traveling light, ready to paint at a moment’s notice and under-the-radar painter. You’re like a stealth, ready to jump into action, painters would carry one of these.”


Sennelier Oil Pastels $43

“I have a variety of different types…but the soft, super buttery ones are Sennelier. They are a French pastel… They’re nice for those finishing effects because you can either do an underpainting or you can lay down the harder pastel. If you scrape one of the softer pastels over it, it just looks like shimmering light.”

Notary Public Seal (Not for Purchase)

“What it is I think at its core, as a notary public you’re a public servant… Your role is to, in part, be an impartial witness to a proceeding so that you don’t have any interest in the document that you are notarizing or what it’s being notarized for. You’re there to be a witness and to identify the person who is signing this document. It’s an in-person, face-to-face authentication system and it’s intended to deter a fraud.”




Erik Knuzten, Author and Podcaster [Cool Tools Show Episode #21]

This week Erik Knuzten, co-author of Urban Homestead:Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City and Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World joins us with a list of must have tools for self-sufficient, DIY home living. Check out Erik’s Root Simple website and podcast (which he runs with his partner, Kelly Coyne) for more on how to build yourself a sustainable DIY lifestyle.

Show Notes:

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KoMo FlicFloc $170

“What it allows you to do is you throw basically raw oat seeds into it, you turn a handle – it’s manual -, and you get flaked oats which then I’ve been using mostly for muesli, and it’s totally changed my breakfast life. It’s easy to use and delicious and very, very nutritious.”


KoMo Fidibus Classic $621

“This one is a dove-tailed solid wood on the outside. It has two stone mills inside of it and a very powerful electric motor. I’m a real avid whole-grain baker. Again, it’s just like rolling your own oats, is you can keep the grains on hand and mill them as you need them to make bread. Now, what this does is it opens up a whole world of grain…When you have your own mill, you can choose the grain, the variety of wheat that you want to mill, and what I think a lot of people don’t realize is that there’s a huge biodiversity in wheat and rye and other grains and when you have your own mill you can select different grains to work with.”


Whirley-Pop popcorn popper (for roasting coffee) $20

“With the Whirley-pop all you do is put it on the stove top and one of the tricks is getting the heat right. That’s some amount of trial and error in that. Throw a half pound of green coffee beans in there, turn it, and in about nine, ten minutes, you’ve got roasted. It’s just that simple.”


Sweet Maria’s coffee roasting instructions Free

“Even with the mail order charges from Sweet Maria’s, I’m basically getting $20 a pound coffee for $10 a pound. Again, being able to select the green beans that I want to use has just totally changed my life actually. It made breakfast exciting every morning.”


Xtracycle Electric version $3500

“Sometimes called a long-tail bike. It’s like having pannier sacks on steroids or kind of like having a bike for two that instead of the second person it’s all cargo. Unlike a lot of cargo bikes, the European style that are kind of big and broad, this one’s narrow so you can squeeze through traffic in L.A. on it, gracefully. I can easily put four bags of groceries on that thing.”



Matt Cutts, Head of Web Spam Team at Google [Cool Tools Show Episode #20]

Our guest this week, Matt Cutts, is a well-known blogger and the head of the Web Spam team at Google.  For more recommendations from Matt be sure to check out his personal blog.

Show Notes:

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“…[I]magine somebody posted a great link. Maybe three of your friends posted a great link on Twitter, but you happened to not be looking at Twitter at that moment. Nuzzle let’s you see that and get a recap of what you might’ve missed, and it also bubbles things up based on how many people have been Tweeting about this. It’s a really good way to just dip your hand into the stream and see what’s going on without watching every single Tweet go by.”

Uses This

“…[T]he person who runs it basically goes out and asks four simple questions to a bunch of different people. He gets an incredible amount of different people to participate. They’ll talk about all kinds of different things that they do, or that they use. You can find out the hardware and the software that they use…and also their dream set up. People answer those questions in very different, very creative ways… It’s almost like if you could be invited into somebody’s house and look at their book shelf…You get a good feel for the things that they enjoy, and that can often help you find out and discover new things.”

Logitech Wireless Presenter R400 ($38)

“[I]f you give a lot of talks or presentations, you’re always tied to the computer, you’re pressing the up down button or left right. This let’s you walk around an auditorium. It’s got a laser pointer built in. You can forwards or backwards. I used it on my Chromebook recently to give a talk at North Carolina in Chapel Hill. It works with Mac, and Windows, and even Chromebooks. It works very well.”

The First 20 Minutes, by Gretchen Reynolds ($12)

“This book, The First 20 Minutes, is sort of a summary of all the different things that she’s learned over the years from reading through the research and talking to experts in the field…some of them are almost like tricks or gimmicks. Like, stand on one foot while you’re brushing your teeth and you can work on improving your balance for free. Or, pickle juice might help with cramps. A lot of it is just ‘Hey, here’s what the current science says about the best ways…to work out without having it be a total bad experience.’”


“This project is compatible with all the major garage door openers…suppose you’re going biking and you want to open the garage door…and you don’t want to take your keys with you. You can just open up this app on your phone, press one button, and the garage door opens up. It’s just like magic.”



Tech Journalist and Podcaster, Tom Merritt [Cool Tools Show # 18]

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Our guest this week is technology journalist Tom Merritt. Tom is the host of the Daily Tech News Show, which features tech news, commentary and analysis with reporters and experts from around the world. He’s also the co-host of the Sword and Laser podcast and book club with Veronica Belmont. Tom’s tool selections emphasize streamlining complex or time consuming tasks for maximum efficiency. If you are interested in tools that will shave precious minutes off your schedule, Tom’s suggestions are worth the time it takes to listen to this episode of the Cool Tools Show.

Feedly (Free)
The best RSS reader

“I settled on Feedly mostly because they reacted really well to the needs of people like me who wanted an interface where you could scan through a lot of different headlines, mark things to be able to look at later…I use it all the time. I’m in it constantly. It’s a permanent tab on every browser I own.”


Blue Icicle ($31)
XLR to USB Mic Converter and preamp

“[I]t’s just easy to throw in a bag and when I’m doing any kind of recording out on the road I can use a better mic than I might get if I had to buy an all in one mic and USB solution and I can adapt to other mics, so it’s usually my recommendation to folks.”



Duolingo (Free)
Playful way to learn a new language

“The interesting thing about them is they fund themselves by providing translation services. So when you complete a lesson it will tell you, “You can now read and translate 60% of all Spanish articles. Would you like to try?” Then you go in and you translate part of an actual page in whatever language you’re learning, they use that as sort of a crowd sourced way of providing automatic translation services. ”



Kuhn Rikon Garlic Press ($36)
Easy to clean and powerful enough to press ginger

This one has a swivel mechanism. It’s a little hard to wrap your head around the first time you see it, but essentially it pops the grill out on it’s own pivot arm so you can wash water right over it and it cleans it up really easily and it pops back into it’s setting where you can push the flat piece against it when you need to actually push some garlic.



Yubikey ($25)
USB authentication device changes passwords every time you use it

“This is a USB key, you put it on your key chain and surf any site…that supports it. Instead of having a code set to your text message or having to run an app where you put in a number to do second factor authentication for login, you just put the Yubikey in. It’s a lot faster and a lot quicker. “



Ryan Block, Cofounder of Engadget [Cool Tools Show #17]

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Our guest this week is Ryan Block. He’s the co-founder of gdgt, and the co-founder and former editor of Engadget. These days he is VP of Product at Aol, and is co-host of MVP, a show about technology products. Quality and staying power are the primary criteria in Ryan’s list of essential day-to-day tools. His impeccable taste for the tried-and-true tools is revealed in the invaluable picks and advice offers in this episode.

Amazon Prime ($99/year)

“You have the infinite store shelf of Amazon and it shows up in two days. Access to all of the best products in just about anything you can imagine is insanely powerful if you’re a believer in the Cool Tools philosophy and that’s why, to me, Amazon Prime is the uber-tool on top of everything. It allows you to acquire the best of anything at any time.”

Bruer ($79)

“…Bruer is a home cold brewer that is extremely easy to manage, clean to operate…they did a really nice job with it. It’s got really nice high quality glass. It’s not Pyrex so it will definitely shatter if you drop it. It’s got these pretty good silicon seals on it and it’s just ridiculously easy to operate. It makes about 24 to 25 ounces of cold brew at a time and it’s now my primary means of drinking coffee…”

KitchenAid Stand Mixer ($262)

“When you’ve got a stand mixer you find things to do with it that you might not think of normally doing with it. That’s one of the things that makes a great Cool Tool, when you buy it thinking you’ll use it for one thing and you wind up using it for so many other things.”

Tydlig ($2.99)

“In some ways it’s almost like highly interactive spreadsheet in calculator, but it does do a lot of other advanced graphing functions. All the things you would expect a good calculator app would do, it does.”



Brett Doar, Multidisciplinary Artist [Cool Tools Show #16]

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Brett Doar, an artist/maker renowned for his Rube Goldberg machines, shows us some little tools that can make a big impact. He cites both a penny and the humble paperclip as his two most valuable tools. He also recommends an inexpensive 3D printer for making custom components.

Brett’s Website

Links to Brett’s work:

Baby Mobile of Death

Mobile de Piccinati

rotating thing toy

Survey of Work up to 2006


DaVinci 3D printer $500

“…that the filament comes in cartridges instead of just a spool…the cartridges are 28$ for a 600 grams of filament where if you’re doing something like Makerbot or something it’s 50$ for a pound…It’s got a heated bed. It’s all enclosed. It’s a crazy value.”



Clamp-tite clamp maker

“It’s a wonderful thing to use… Anything that you need to stick together, you can make a little clamp for this. All you need is some semi-flexible wire.”


Penny on a String ~$.01

“…because I was making this stuff out of wire…I would mangle my fingers…but if you’re using a penny or something you can use it almost like a thimble. A penny is just about the right size for my finger. It basically fits right at the end of my finger and you just put the string around your neck and you’ve got this tool around your neck.”

Paper Clips $7.50

“One of the reasons that paperclips appealed to me at first was because they were all a set length and so you can use them as a form of measurement. You can unfold it and you basically know that you can connect them end to end and make a wheel and then everything is based on the same sort of unit of measurement…I’ve built things that are three feet wide and a couple of feet tall that are made almost entirely out of paperclips.”



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.”



Sword and Laser Host, Veronica Belmont [Cool Tools Show #14]

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mg_72298This week Veronica Belmont stops by to share some of the tools that make her life as a professional podcaster for the show Sword & Laser a little easier. Veronica’s creative, beautifully made picks are highly recommended for anyone looking to break into the audio/visual or social media arenas.

Veronica’s Podcast, Sword & Laser

Veronica’s Twitter

Veronica’s Ello 


Show Notes:


“It’s a crowd-funding service not too much unlike Kickstarter, except on Patreon people pay per episode or per week or per month and they can chip in as little or as much as they want. So, you can chip in a dollar per episode or per month and you can also put a cap on the amount that you chip in each month.”


Every time zone

“I do a lot of meetings with people across the country, a lot of phone calls, a lot of planning for shoots and podcasts and things like that, and I can never keep timezones straight. This site makes it really easy. It has a physical slider at the top that you can drag back and forth and it’ll give you automatically a list of all the times and all the different time zones in order.”



“Levelator is probably the single most important little app for anyone who does podcasting or any kind of audio editing, really. They’re on their second iteration now. It’s a free tool for Windows, OS X, and Linux and it just works amazingly well. All you have to do is drag in your WAV file or AIFF file and it  basically evens all the audio out.”


“You can do trimmings from succulents or other plants and then you stick them into the Root Cup and fill the cup with water and then it grows roots! It’s that simple, but I just love the design and I love how easy it is… They come in a few different sizes and colors and I just think they’re cute and creative and they look good as potters as well, just having as planters around the house.”


“It’s pretty neat. It’s a social network that was created by designers and you can kind of see that in the design. It’s really clean and nicely done. They had a pretty big ground swell of people signing up all at once when it hit the Twitters people started sharing it and sending out invites. It’s always hard because new social networks pop up all the time and I always try to figure out what their use case is for me. You want to be able to put the right content in the right places and reach certain audiences in a certain way. I haven’t quite figured out what I want Ello to be for me yet.”



Bestselling Author and Entrepreneur, Seth Godin [Cool Tools Show #13]

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Seth Godin enlightens us this week with an unexpected assortment of tools that will have you exploring the deepest recesses of your subconscious while, at the same time, enriching your hobbies and lifestyle.

Show Notes:

Strikingly Free or Subscription

“I started using this tool and it turns out it’s a simple bounded web development tool that is all plug and play. It only lets you build a one page website, but it’s hard for me to imagine a website being ten times more beautiful than what you can build with Strikingly…”


Wired Magazine Entire Collection

“…every once in a while I’ll take down an issue. This is the behemoth issue from December 1999. It is more than four hundred and fifteen pages long and what’s fascinating about it is the combination of breathless enthusiasm combined with sometimes not particularly long-lasting technology and what I find useful about that is it helps to not take myself so damn seriously…”


One Lucky Duck

“Sometimes I would drive twenty miles out of my way to get a single brownie and then drive home and I’m sure there’s no biochemical reason why it makes me feel taller, better, faster and able to jump and run higher, but it does and it’s been interesting to sort of hack my own mental physical barrier…”

Penguin Magic

“I think it’s a great site to go to because the way the site works is every single trick is demonstrated in a high production value video so it’s basically a magic show you can watch whenever you want to and the only way to find out how it’s done is to buy it.”