31 August 2016


Infinity Glass Jars

Heavy-duty black glass containers

I’ve been using Infinity Jars’ collection of glass jars and containers for over 2 years now. I am an acupuncturist that makes herbal remedies for my patients. I initially bought a set of Infinity Jars screw top jars to keep Chinese herbs fresh. After using it for a few months, I bought 10-packs of a few of their styles and now use them for teas, lotions, household cleaners, and more. The reasons Infinity Jars are so great is that they are airtight (literally watertight! I’ve dunked them in water and none seeps in) and lightproof.

They are made from thick, heavy-duty ultraviolet glass that I read was designed by scientists to filter out visible light rays that damage organic goods. They keep whatever I put inside super fresh (some rarely used dried herbs are still in like-new condition after putting them in the jars 2 years ago) and don’t seep smells, which is key for an herbalist with some pretty pungent medicines. The only thing I don’t like is that the lids are plastic, but at least they are BPA-free. Their more expensive apothecary line is really cool and also features glass lids, so no plastic. I’ve splurged and purchased a few of those over time. I used to buy the jars from their website InfinityJars.com, but lately I’ve been stocking up at Amazon since they are available through Prime.

08/31/16 -- Tram Pham

30 August 2016


Jerry Michalski, Founder of REX

Cool Tools Show 061: Jerry Michalski

Our guest this week is Jerry Michalski, who spent a dozen years as a tech-industry analyst during the dot-com era, then founded a think tank called REX in 2010 after figuring out that consumer capitalism is giving way to something more trustworthy and connected. Something he calls the “Relationship Economy.”

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Show notes:

TheBrain, mind-mapping tool
“You can add things to your Brain by dragging and dropping from your browser. … One of the things that distinguishes it from all the other mind mapping, memory mapping, concept mapping, visual, sort of search tools, is that you can only connect things through these 3 little circles on every node, and every node is called a, “Thought,” and the circles are called, “Gates.” They go up, down and left, which means when you add something, you have to decide “Is this a parent, a child or some kind of either a sibling or an opposite of the current thought I’m connecting it to.” That little exercise turns out to be a phenomenal organizing feature of this tool that nobody else has done because all the other tools either put things in a big circle around whatever you’re looking at or they have this rubber band effect, or kind of a hyperlink effect where you’re scrolling through a giant ball of twine, none of which, to my mind are easy for the human eye and brain to peruse and make sense of, and yet in TheBrain that seems to give it enough structure that I have no trouble, even when the screen is really, really full.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 12.45.20 PM
Jerry’s Brain
“The file we’ll talk about a bit today, is the file that I started 18 years and 6 months ago. I’ve been filling one mind map for that long. … For anybody who’s gone to jerrysbrain.com and is looking around … [the] map of the tech industry seems like the most natural place to start because when this company came by me, I was a tech industry analyst, and the thing I needed to do was track all these startups, and who had funded whom, and what, and where.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 12.45.50 PM
Belief Snapshot
“I wish everybody published some version of their beliefs. I call it a ‘Belief snapshot.’ This happens to be my version of a belief snapshot, because I happen to use TheBrain, and I don’t think everybody on earth should be using TheBrain, but I wish people expressed why they think what they think … I think people are born good, and we underestimate that. I connect that to all sorts of other things, and there’s dozens of things under my beliefs …. if we all did that … we could then sit down and have a reasonable conversation about any topic you want, and we could trace it back to some of our beliefs, and argue about them as good civilized humans, and I might shift my beliefs.”

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Lessons from My Brain
“I’ve learned that we’re an amnesiac civilization. I’ve learned that because we don’t have tools like this that help us create shared meaning, shared context, we’re really easy to manipulate and spin. We don’t have a shared memory that the closest thing we have to it is Wikipedia. There aren’t that many people contributing to Wikipedia. It’s clearly a crowd sourced phenomenon, and I love it, and I use it 10 times, 20 times a day, but it’s not a distributed, shared memory, and nor is my Brain, obviously, because it’s missing the collaborative aspect to it, but our civilization is worse off, because we can’t do what I’ve had the pleasure and luck of doing for 18 years, we can’t do that together, as a society.”

08/30/16 --

30 August 2016


The Beny Hands Free Level

Keep your hands free while leveling building materials

I have used The Beny for well over a year. The Beny’s ability to attach to several different building materials and give me a level and plumb reading while keeping my hands free has been invaluable. Over last year I have personally used this newly invented tool to rebuild the deck on our home, the stairs to that deck, and the rebuilding of our three season room. The Beny was used on the stringers of the stairs, clapping on and allowing me to adjust and fasten the stringer with both hands free from holding a level. In addition, while building our three season room, The Beny was extremely helpful while replacing the corner posts and reframing the 3 of the 4 walls.

08/30/16 -- Mark Ruggiero

29 August 2016


Adhesive Vinyl Pockets

Handy adhesive pockets

Adhesive vinyl pockets can be attached inside one or both book covers to hold book reviews, or inside a loose-leaf notebook to hold sales slips, photos, etc. (In paperbacks it’s best to attach it to the first page, the otherwise-useless “false title page,” rather than the cover, which flexes too much.) I prefer the 4″ x 6″ size at 25¢ apiece. It can fit, in portrait orientation, into small books and brochures, yet hold a full sheet of paper (folded once).

I mount the pocket in “portrait” mode even when the book is wide enough (over 6.5″) for a landscape orientation, because doing so makes the open end face the spine, ensuring that things can’t fall out. Here are other uses, mostly gleaned from Amazon reviews: Pockets can be mounted (to hold photos, index cards, etc.) on the sides of file cabinets, refrigerators, walls, magazine files, storage totes, and inside drawers. Or: on a car’s visor. On the case of a CD or DVD. To label shelves. As label-holders inside a Divide-It-Up folder. To hold “floppy” disks. Mounted inside kitchen cabinets, they can hold recipe cards. (Or even—albeit unsightly—mounted on their outside, to hold the in-use recipe card.) In a store, they can be a low-cost signage-holder, where the signs can be mere print-outs from a computer. Ones with flaps can be attached to parcels to hold sales receipts, customs forms, etc. More: As a holder for fliers or business cards, thumb-tacked to a bulletin board (with permission). (The peel-off back would not be removed.) As a holder of small tools or parts in a workshop. Maybe mounted on the back of a tablet or laptop. . . . They come in several sizes and cost between 13¢ and 50¢ apiece, depending on the size and the quantity ordered.

08/29/16 -- Roger Knights

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

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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 --


img 08/26/16

Best Comment of the Week – Contigo Water Bottles

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

img 08/26/16

Indexing Flat Pry Bar

Head indexes over 180 Degrees and locks in 16 positions

img 08/25/16

Ikea Utility Cart

Portable Tool Cart

img 08/24/16

ThinOptics Reading Glasses

Very thin and lightweight reading glasses

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

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Cool Tools Show 061: Jerry Michalski

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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.