28 August 2016


Global Entry/Amador County/Library of America

Recomendo: issue no. 5

Travel Tip:
A Global Entry pass is a true bargain if you do any international travel. You don’t need to wait in line for immigration at reentry to the US. But it also serves as validation for the TSA Pre-check short-cut for security screening at most major US airports. Much shorter lines. To get in the program requires an appointment to get fingerprinted and $100 every five years. Well worth it. — KK

Before I take a flight, I toss a few Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt Kind bars into my travel bag. The crunchy bars are gluten free and have just 5g of sugar. The perfect snack for plane or hotel room. — MF

If you’re in Northern California and have yet to visit Amador County, I could not recommend it more. The county is steeped in Gold Rush history and offers 40+ wineries, romantic B&Bs and historical small towns, all within a short drive of one another. Side note: I was once the Lifestyles Editor for the county newspaper, which might make me a bit biased, but I also have enjoyed enough time there to know it makes for a magical getaway. — CL

The Library of America publishes high-quality hardbound books with multiple novels per volume. I’m reading Ross Macdonald: Three Novels of the Early 1960s, which contains three excellent novels about fictional Los Angeles detective Lew Archer. These tightly-written page-turners have kept me up way past my bedtime. — MF

I’m more audio book than podcast listener, but On Being with Krista Tippett is one of my favorite things ever. Her guests vary from artists, scientists and activists, and the conversation is always centered around the intangible aspects of life. It’s philosophical without being pushy, and I’m quickly working my way through the archives. — CL

The best photographer blog and/or photo magazine for both pros and newbies, and for all photographers in between, is on the web as PetaPixel. Sure, they have the latest nerdy camera gossip, but they also have plenty of features about the million different ways people actually capture and use images. Every day I am amazed and informed. Add it to your RSS feed. — KK

Want to get our next Recomendo a week early in your inbox? Sign up for next Sunday newsletter here.

08/28/16 -- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Lamar

27 August 2016


Ask Cool Tools Featured Questions

Share your knowledge with your fellow Cool Tools readers

Buzz would like to know the best way to seal a brick house against flood water.

Redicliff would like suggestions for apps that improves on the iMessages group text feature.

08/27/16 --

26 August 2016


Best Comment of the Week – Contigo Water Bottles

Stainless steel water bottle keeps drinks cold for up to 18 hours

Reader comments are useful for us and, we hope, for you. We learn good information from comments – Is there a better tool than the one reviewed? Is there a different use for the tool? Is there a story to tell about the tool? The feedback helps us make Cool Tools better.

As a way to encourage you to write comments and to thank you for writing good comments, we award a copy of Kevin’s book, Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities to the reader who wrote the best comment of the week. This week’s winner is Sandra Darst. She wrote:

“I drink a lot of water too, and used to have problems with it spilling all the time too. Then I found the Contigo water bottles and mugs. They don’t ever leak, even if tipped upside down or knocked completely off the table. Contigo’s Autoseal technology means that you just press to sip, and when you put it back down, it automatically seals. The button is intuitive, because it’s right where your hand is when you pick the bottle up to drink anyway. I’ve been a Contigo fan for years!”

08/26/16 -- Mark Frauenfelder

26 August 2016


Indexing Flat Pry bar

Head indexes over 180 Degrees and locks in 16 positions

I have worked as a carpenter off and on for years and have used all kinds of pry bars from old crow bars, the Wonder Bar in the ’80s and various Stanley pry bars since.

I happened upon this Crescent pry bar while browsing through the hand tool department at my local Home Depot, an activity I indulge in when my wife is not with me. I played around with the indexing feature and realized that this bar could be used in very cramped quarters because the handle can be positioned in 16 different positions.

I bought the bar and immediately found several jobs for it. I had some spikes that I needed to remove from the side of a floor joist. They were large and rusty and in a position where I couldn’t use a conventional pry bar. I grabbed the Crescent bar, set the handle angle so it would fit between the joists and quickly removed the spikes.

Even though the handle angle changes, you still have the long handle that provides a lot of force at the claw. The indexing mechanism snaps positively into position and is well constructed. I wish I had owned this tool decades ago. It’s become an indispensable part of my tool collection. They also make a 30 in. model.

08/26/16 -- Bob Switzer

25 August 2016


Ikea Utility Cart

Portable Tool Cart

I work at home at my dining room table. I am also a stationery nerd. But as I don’t have a desk, I searched for way to store the items I need during my work sessions. I saw the Ikea Raskog utility cart at a pen shop about two years ago and drove to the nearest Ikea to purchase it immediately.

It’s the same height as my dining room table at about 31″. It has three shelves which I’ve stocked with my favorite tools, with the top most shelf stocked with the most used tools. It’s fairly compact, and has wheels. When a colleague or study buddy sits at the table with me, we move the cart between us to share the tools. It is more expensive in Canada than in the USA, and I still find it great value. It comes in two colors in Canada, and three in the USA.

08/25/16 -- Helen Hegedus

24 August 2016


ThinOptics Reading Glasses

Very thin and lightweight reading glasses

I was looking for reading glasses and wanted neither the usual ones with their lumpy cases that are too thick to carry in my pants pocket, nor the folding ones where I’d inevitably get my smeary fingerprints all over the lenses.

Searching online I noticed there were “pince nez” style ones, which have a springy nose bridge and no temples. ThinOptics reading glasses are this style and extremely compact. They take advantage of the springy nose bridge as also a means to fit into one of 2 cases: (a) a smartphone case with a slot in the back for the glasses, or (b) a slim case with double-stick tape to stick on a billfold or similar item or just slip into a pocket.

I’ve had mine for about 6 months. The spring nose bridge works well for most non-athletic uses and are quite comfortable. I wouldn’t try jumping around or shaking my head vigorously with them on. They come in several frame colors and 2 case colors, in +1.50, +2.00 or +2.50 power, at prices comparable to standard reading glasses.

08/24/16 -- Michael Khaw


img 08/23/16

Anaconda Slide-Hammer Manual Log Splitter

Slide-hammer pounding action splits logs in seconds

img 08/22/16

Nitecore Tube Keychain LED Flashlight

Built-in rechargeable Li-ion battery provides a runtime of up to 48 hours

img 08/18/16

Mighty Mug Travel Thermos Mug

Resists accidental knocks to help avoid spills

img 08/17/16

Rii Mini Wireless Keyboard with Mouse

Small keyboard and touchpad for Windows and Mac

See all the reviews


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Cool Tools Show 060: Star Simpson

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 059: Hugh Howey

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 058: Tim Ferriss

Picks and shownotes

What's in My Bag? 10 August 2016


What’s in My Bag — Wayne Ruffner

Outdoorsman shares his ultimate bug repellent kit

Announcements: 08/10/16

Reader Survey Results

A month ago we offered you a survey to give us all a glimpse of who is reading this blog. About 1,400 people replied to the 30 or so questions. The big idea was that we editors would get a better image of who you are, and you, the readers, would also gain some insight into what your co-readers think, once we shared the data. We had no specific plans for doing anything with the results – we just thought it would be useful as we continue to make Cool Tools a better experience for you.

After looking at the results, we offer a few observations about this audience. Most of you read this blog via RSS, at least once a week. Almost half look at it daily. More of you prefer to read books (except for the Cool Tools book!) than to spend time in the workshop. But you are at ease with video. More likely urban or suburban, than rural. Surprising to us, a large portion of you are newish readers. Glad to say, far more of this community is optimistic rather than pessimistic … and so on.

A PDF of the results of the quantitative questions are here. (We are still going through the write-in answers and will post those results later.) We’d love to hear your comments about what you all find in these results; please post in the comments section of this entry. In addition, if you are so inclined, you can mess with the raw data which is in a spreadsheet here. We hope you do. If you discover anything interesting about the Cool Tools community, please share it with us, and we can consider posting it as well. We’re also interested in learning how you think we can use these survey results to improve Cool Tools.

— KK

About Cool Tools

Cool Tools is a web site which recommends the best/cheapest tools available. Tools are defined broadly as anything that can be useful. This includes hand tools, machines, books, software, gadgets, websites, maps, and even ideas. All reviews are positive raves written by real users. We don’t bother with negative reviews because our intent is to only offer the best.

One new tool is posted each weekday. Cool Tools does NOT sell anything. The site provides prices and convenient sources for readers to purchase items.

When Amazon.com is listed as a source (which it often is because of its prices and convenience) Cool Tools receives a fractional fee from Amazon if items are purchased at Amazon on that visit. Cool Tools also earns revenue from Google ads, although we have no foreknowledge nor much control of which ads will appear.

We recently posted a short history of Cool Tools which included current stats as of April 2008. This explains both the genesis of this site, and the tools we use to operate it.


Kevin Kelly started Cool Tools in 2000 as an email list, then as a blog since 2003. He edited all reviews through 2006. He writes the occasional review, oversees the design and editorial direction of this site, and made a book version of Cool Tools. If you have a question about the website in general his email is kk {at} kk.org.


Mark Frauenfelder edits Cool Tools and develops editorial projects for Cool Tools Lab, LLC. If you’d like to submit a review, email him at editor {at} cool-tools.org (or use the Submit a Tool form).


Claudia Lamar runs the Cool Tool website, posting items daily, maintaining software, measuring analytics, managing ads, and in general keeping the site alive. If you have a concern about the operation or status of this site contact her email is cl {at} kk.org.