John Edgar Park – Producer at Disney Research

This week we invited our friend John Edgar Park to discuss the tools and apps that simplify and enhance his daily life. John is a Producer at Disney Research and a writer for such outlets as Make, Boing Boing, and Adafruit Learning. John also has a knack for building, making and tinkering and uses his perspective as a creator to apply these tools to life’s everyday challenges. We hope you enjoy this latest episode of the Cool Tools Show.

Show Notes:

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behmor
Behmor 1600 Coffee Roaster $370

“What this thing offers is fairly brainless operation. It looks like a toaster oven and has a rotisserie drum inside. There’s a motor turning the drum slowly to keep the beans agitated. It has little paddles inside the cage to keep the beans from falling in a pattern. It has two big halogen heating lamps in the back of the unit.  ”

QuickRes $5

“This is a little dock icon that lets you pick the resolution on the Macbook screen. You can pick any of a dozen resolutions that are good for the retina display, or you can set it up so that at  the press of a button it will flip between two or three different presets that you’ve chosen.”

Wooden Gymnastics Rings $33

“I’ve started using gym rings instead of a pull up bar or almost any other equipment to do things like dips. I also drop them way down to the ground and do push-ups on them. You’ll wobble like crazy, and that forces you to engage all types of stabilizing muscles.”

6” Digital Calipers $13

“I don’t know why I went so long without having these, but I got a few years ago. It’s a really cheap set of digital calipers that can measure up to 6 inches of inside diameter, or outside diameter, or the depth of something. It has a depth gage tail that swings out as you roll the head of the thing along the shaft. It has a digital read out. You can switch between inches and millimeters.”

 



Artist and Author Douglas Coupland

Our guest this week is Douglas Coupland. Since 1991, Douglas has written thirteen novels published in most languages. He has written and performed for England’s Royal Shakespeare Company and is a regular columnist with the Financial Times. He began a visual art practice in 2000, and his first museum retrospective opened in summer 2014 at the Vancouver Art Gallery and travels to Munich this summer. In this week’s episode of the Cool Tools Show, Douglas introduces us to some new tools as well as new ways to think about old ones.

Show Notes:

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The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present By Douglas Coupland, Hans Ulbricht, and Shumon Basar

Japanese brush pens $5

“I discovered them first in Japan, where they’re more or less perfected. I guess you would call them the Japanese Sharpie. You open them up. They come in a variety of colors…They’ve got these long pointy nibs which are super flexible. They’re very good mimics for hair or whatever material you might use for a brush. They have a line quality that is…so unlike say, a Bic pen or a Sharpie…with these pens it’s a genuine calligraphical experience, and wonderful.”

Little spiral notebooks $1.40

“I think back when I was at Wired in ’93, I don’t know if you remember [Douglas spent a few weeks with us at the Wired offices in San Francisco when Kevin and I were editors there. – Mark], I used to have these little spiral ones in my pocket. Every time I saw something new or…had an idea, I’d just jot it down. Then the people in my life started mutinying around 1997, saying, ‘You just can’t bring that thing out anymore. Douglas, you’re spooking us. Every time we say something you pull it out.’ Then five years later comes the smartphone revolution and now everyone’s doing the exact same thing, albeit electronically. I just like having the paper.”

Fingernails

“I think fingernails are really important and they never get talked about…There’s nothing like them. They’re the most underrated tool.”

Drawers from Ikea $120

“…[T]here’s this wonderful set of drawers that IKEA makes that really is a storage dream, actually. They’re not like Billy bookcases, they’re just these white drawers you pull out.”

 



Freelance Writer, Bob Parks

Freelance writer Bob Parks delivers a handy inventory of tools for home improvement and renovation projects in this week’s episode of the Cool Tools Show. Be sure to check out Bob’s website to see some of his most recent articles for magazines like Popular Science and Bloomberg Business Week.

Show Notes:

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SawStop 10-inch Jobsite Table Saw $1500
“SawStop has lowered the price of their table saws. These are the saws that have an electrical system that automatically stops the blade once your finger touches it. It stops in 5 milliseconds, so that you only get a little nick on your finger.”


Ellipse Half Mask Respirator $32
“Super low profile on the face, you can put your glasses or your hood over it. It doesn’t feel like anything. And I also hate when I’m using a good respirator, the feeling of the straps pushing into my safety glasses, and this one seems to have solved that ergonomic challenge. I love the feel of it on my face.”


Fernco Wax-Free Toilet Seal $4
“Typically, it’s very awkward when I’ve got the wax seal on the floor, I’m grabbing this incredibly heavy toilet, my knees aren’t that great, so I’m swinging this thing over the hole, trying to land it in the middle of the wax ring…the first time I usually miss and crush the side of the wax ring, and have to start again. This is a different process. You turn the toilet over and you press this wax-free ring, the adhesive, into the toilet drain. And now you’ve got this long, 4-5 inch plastic throat and this adhesive piece stuck to the toilet. So it’s completely stuck, you can basically lift the whole toilet with the plastic throat. And so it’s really in there good.”


Sawyer Mini Water Filter $17
“This is an example of where technology and design completely recreates the market. Water filtration while camping used to be a huge pain in the butt and the devices cost from $100 to $400. And now this little device, that is now 1.9 oz, fits right in the palm of your hand, and can filter 100,000 gallons of water.”

 



 

Creative Instigator, Mark Krawczuk [Cool Tools Show Episode # 25]

Mark Krawczuk is a self-professed Creative Instigator with many interesting and exciting projects in various stages of development, like the Lost Horizon Night Market and Mason Project. Be sure to check out some of Mark’s posts here on the Cool Tools website, like this one, which was referenced in today’s episode of the Cool Tools Show.

Links to some of Mark’s projects:

Everyhere Logistics

Lost Horizon Night Market

Mason Project

Show Notes:

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 Slack $0-$99/mo & Threadable $3/mo

“Whenever you’re trying to organize a big group of people, there’s always conversations happening. But just using an email list there winds up being a lot of chatter, and so I found the combination of Slack and Threadable really, really great.”

 

inRoute $4

“The thing that I really liked about inRoute, is that it gives you a number of different options to tell you things like elevation, and curviness, and it also gives you the temperature, and the windiness across your entire route…So if you are doing any road trips, it’s really nice to get that extra level of information.”

Minimal Folio $3

“Minimal Folio is a portfolio app. It lets you put a bunch of images together, but not necessarily navigate it in a linear way. It’s set up in terms of columns, so you can drag images into different columns, and then you can navigate either down a column or across columns. If I want to quickly jump from one element to another, I don’t have to go through all of my visuals. I just slide across the different columns.”

REI 

“I bought a pair of shoes, and they were great, but the heels wore out a lot sooner than I expected them to. I wasn’t 100% satisfied, so I walked into REI, showed them the shoes, and told them my story. They were like, ‘Well if you’re not 100% satisfied, we should do something about that. Do you want your money back or do you want a new pair of shoes?’

 



 

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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nuzzel

“…[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.'”

GarageMate

“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.”