14 December 2018


Maggie Tokuda-Hall, Children and YA Author

Cool Tools Show 153: Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Our guest this week is Maggie Tokuda-Hall. Maggie is the author of the Parent’s Choice Gold Medal winning picture book, Also an Octopus. Her debut young adult novel, The Mermaid, The Witch, and The Sea is due out in Fall 2019. She is the host of the Drunk Safari podcast.

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Show notes:

ARB Awning
“[This is] ARB’s two-meter-by-two-meter awning. It clips onto the sides of cars for camping and for travel. M husband and I spent about a year driving down the west coast of South America and living in our Toyota 4Runner. So, I chose the two best pieces of equipment, from that time, to talk about ’cause I think they were such a great thing. The awning is just what it sounds like, but its attached to the car permanently. When you’re in a bunch of different environments over the course of a couple of months, it’s the best for providing shelter from the rain and from sun, which was a much bigger deal than I’d anticipated. I don’t know what we would’ve done if we hadn’t had that. It’s also really easy to pack up and to put back out.”

Autohome Columbus Rooftop Tent
“The next one is the AutoHome Columbus Rooftop Tent, which was our bedroom for a year. [For this], we did have to do a special, additional rack added and drilled into our car to have that mounted correctly. That was expensive, and the product itself is pretty expensive. The reason I’m such an [advocate] for it is because it is shockingly comfortable. The actual mattress inside of the tent is really comfortable. It’s about the size of a slightly large full bed, but for camping in North America, it’s awesome because it can go pretty cold. You zip close all the windows and it can retain a certain amount of heat pretty well. You still need a good sleeping bag with it. When it gets really, really hot, you can open up all the windows and there’s screens so that you can have fresh air all night.”

“I recently turned in the edited draft of my young adult novel that’ll come out next year. Scrivener has a bunch of different tools within it that make it really easy to do revision and track changes and things like that. It also does things at the beginning of a project for you, like give you prompts for characters and settings and different kinds of things you might want to think about with your book so that you can spend a little bit of time walking around your story before you get going on it. It’s very handy to have that all in one place, so you can refer back to it as you’re writing. You can also write scripts in it. So I just wrote a graphic novel script using it, and I couldn’t believe how much easier it made that, as well. Right at the beginning, you can select script as your format. Then it helps you format it for the rest of the time. So, that was just so exciting ’cause that was my first graphic novel script.”

“I’ve written children’s books for my entire career. On the editorial side, reading for agents, now writing but also having done marketing and a lot of book-selling. Literaticast is hosted by Jennifer Laughran, who’s an agent at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. She’s also my agent which is why I started listening to it, in the first place. She’s also a career children’s book professional, and she has different people from different parts of the industry on every episode. Her most recent episode had an editor on talking about revision. She’s had publicists on talking about what tools an author should be able to provide their publicist. I’ve just been really pleased by how much I’ve learned from listening to it, even though my entire career has been in children’s books. I just feel like anyone who’s ever thought, even casually, about writing a children’s book should listen to a couple episodes of this ’cause she gets amazing guests, and every episode, I learn something new about the industry or some sort of better practice that I’m really grateful for.”

Also mentioned:

Drunk Safari podcast

iOverlander — mapping project to find your next camping location

We have hired professional editors to help create our weekly podcasts and video reviews. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $377 a month. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have great rewards for people who contribute! If you would like to make a one-time donation, you can do so using this link: https://paypal.me/cooltools.– MF


14 December 2018


Favorite 2018 Tool Finds Under $10

Great stocking stuffers for tool users

Today I’m talking about my favorite inexpensive tool upgrades and accessories of 2018. For me, there’s nothing better than finding a great, cheap tool.

I’m going to start off with my cardboard cutting knife — but not the one you think. You guys have probably heard me wax poetic about this yellow handled Canary brand cardboard knife. These are great and cheap make carving through cardboard a breeze. But for just a few extra bucks you can step up to a retractable version.

Not only does this design make it easier to safely carry around, but it also allows you to replace the blades when they wear out. And that’s the real catch with the yellow cardboard cutters is that the do get dull after a while. With this, you get a sturdier, safer design with a better grip and replaceable blades. All for around $9.

Next up for $5, this Makita magnetic bit holder. You pop this in your drill or impact driver, load in the bit, and the magnetic collar around the tip holds screws tight. This way you can keep one hand on your drill and one hand on what you’re driving into. No need to guide the screw with your hand. For $5, this is a dramatic upgrade for your drill or impact driver.

Next up, for $6, a box of disposable flexitips you can use with superglue. You get 24 in a box, and the allow you to put down a very fine, precise amount of glue. CA glue is magical when it comes to creating quick strong bonds. But it’s nearly impossible to clean up when you overdo it or drip some on your project. With these, you can get surgically precise and minimize spills.

At $9, the Komelon Speed Mark 25 ft Gripper tape measure. I went looking for a measuring tape upgrade this year and I have a whole separate video on that. The short version is that I fell in love with this great, cheap tape measure. The markings on this are big and easy to read, with the fractions labeled. I have tape measures everywhere now, but I always look for this one first.

Next up, the 3M Virtua CCS safety goggles and earplugs. It’s $5 for the goggles and $5 for a box of earplugs. Put them together and you have one of the lightest, most comfortable safety goggles out there, plus a strap hold them so they don’t get scratched, and ear plugs that stay with you. There’s even a removable gasket on here that keeps dust out of your eyes, but still breathes enough so they don’t fog up too easily.

You can also get these with a smoked lens, but both versions are UV coated to protect your eyes outside. I’m sure next year I’ll find an option I like even better, but for now, these are my favorite at any price.

Now, I’ve given you 5 recommendations here for under $10. I’ll give you one more tool upgrade I’m really glad I got this year, but it’s over budget. At just under $30, the Engineer SS-02 solder sucker has changed my relationship with electronics. It hasn’t made me any better at making and soldering circuits, but its made it much less painful to fix my mistakes. With this, I can put the sucker right on my soldering iron tip and pull off any solder I don’t want on my project. It is a dramatic step up from any other tool for this job, and worth every penny.

So there you go, some of my favorite tool upgrades and accessories I purchased this year. You can find links to all of the them in the description along with a link to my 2017 roundup of tools under $10, which are all different and still great.

-- Donald Bell 12/14/18

14 December 2018


The 100 Best Business Books of All Time

Best biz advice source

There are ten thousand business books published each year and way over a hundred thousand in print. Most business books are worthless drivel, some are a good article fluffed out into a thin book, and maybe 100 out of those hundred thousand are worth reading. Out of those 100 best, only 10 might have something to say to you.

But how to find those few? Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten, two guys who sell biz books, seem to have read all of the ones in print, and they have done the world a favor by selecting the 100 best business books ever, and then packing summaries of them all into one meta-book. If all you want is their list, you can go to their website and check it out.

But their book is much better than a simple list, and their list is better than most. The two have reviewed, abstracted, and compared all the best 100 in the context of thousands of similar books, unlike say your average Amazon reviewer who may have only read one other business book in his or her life. You get context instead of content. Reading Covert and Sattersten’s summaries of these classics is often better than reading the book itself, and the review is always useful in pointing you to the few books or authors you might actually want to read in full.

In addition to including the expected gems like Good to Great, The Effective Executive, and Purple Cow, the 100 Best list also includes many lesser-known titles, some of them oldies-but-goodies, like Up the Organization, The Innovator’s Dilemma, and Flow. Not everything is new in business; the wisdom of the past is often surprisingly relevant.

Finally, this book itself is one of the best business books, and can be read alone as a pretty good education in business in its broadest sense, even if you don’t read any of the references.

A couple of caveats. One, the authors has included one of my books (Out of Control) in their list, which tickles me greatly but might have warped my perspective. Two, they sell business books (at 800CeoRead) and so their book can be seen as a sales tool. On the other hand, the authors have great incentive to sell and include only the best, and so their list is pretty persuasive. Three, in a slip of bad design each of the 100 books featured on their website does not appear with the review as found in their book, but is featured with the standard publisher verbiage; the author’s fantastic summaries and analysis are only found in their printed book. (They sell books, see?)

All in all, this is a great business resource at a modest price. If you took their list and read all 100 books you’d get a better MBA than any university would give you, at a fraction of the cost.

-- KK 12/14/18


New ideas and opportunities, evaluated on the ability to serve existing customers and earn the necessary margins to support the company, are called sustaining innovations and are always successful ventures for existing (and dominant) firms.

But sometimes, innovation creates a new technology or reveals a new way to organize a firm's resources. This disruptive innovation does not offer the performance needed in the existing market, and entrant companies are forced to find a new set of customers who value innovation on a different set of metrics than those of the traditional market. Existing companies disregard the disruptive innovation because of its lower margins, and the newcomers find a small beachhead outside the existing market, using that market space to develop further. As the performance of disruptive innovations outpaces the sustaining innovations, entrants move into established markets and their lower cost structure forces incumbents further up-market, forfeiting existing profitable markets.

-from the summary of Clayton M. Christensen's The Innovator's Dilemma


Researchers at Marquette University studied over two thousand companies and found that 94 percent of "hyper-growth" companies were started by two or more people. Individual owners made up only 6 percent of the hypergrowth segment and almost one-half of the slow-growth companies.

Despite the evidence that a partnership can lead to success, the thought of taking on a partner makes most budding entrepreneurs cringe.

-sfrom the summary of David Gage's The Partnership Charter


In the past, access to water or other natural resources determined the economic potential of a region. But Florida believes that the Creative Class is the new resource for economic growth. When choosing where to live, the Creative Class looks for "thick labor markets" that allow for easy horizontal moves from one company to another. Some choose cities with easy access to outdoor recreation, allowing daily engagement to match unpredictable work schedules. As a result of Florida's conclusions and with the publication of The Rise of the Creative Class, regional economic development has been turned on its ear. Spending by state and city governments to attract corporations or finance professional sports arenas was proved useless by Florida's research. Instead, his 3T's--technology, talent, and tolerance--are the new blueprint many areas are using to grow creative capital.

-from the summary of Richard Florida's The Rise of the Creative Class


Titles Are Handy Tools: There is a trade-off here. In one way, titles are a form of psychic compensation, and if too many titles are distributed, the currency is depreciated. But a title is also a tool. If our salesman is a vice president and yours is a sales rep, and both are in a waiting room, guess who goes in first and gets the most attention…If you find you can't get applicants for menial jobs, maybe your titles are obsolete. A restaurant cured a chronic busboy shortage by changing the title to 'logistics engineer.'

-from Robert Townsend's Up the Organization

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2010 — editors)

13 December 2018


RSVP Potato Ricer

The potato masher's creed

This is my potato ricer ($16). There are many potato ricers, but this one is mine (there are really quite a few to choose from, but this one is both inexpensive and works well).

It is my life. Without me my potato ricer is useless. Without my potato ricer, I cannot make super fluffy, delicious mashed potatoes. I must not fill my potato ricer too full, lest potato squish out the sides. I must wait until the potato has cooled so it does not burn my fingers. I will.

My potato ricer and I know that what counts in making mashed potatoes is to not overwork the potatoes so they become a gluey mass, to not expend too much effort squishing them with a traditional potato masher so that one’s energy is completely spent. We know that it’s the gentle squeezing of the potato through the potato ricer that makes the best mashed potatoes. We will squeeze.

My potato ricer is human, even as I am human, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a cool tool. I have learned its weaknesses (squishing out potatoes on the sides if it is filled too full; hard to squeeze if the potatoes are underdone), its strengths (easily and quickly making silky, smooth, fluffy mashed potatoes; useful for squeezing liquid out of spinach, zucchini, and grated potatoes), its parts (it’s basically a giant plastic garlic press), and its accessories (two metal plates with different hole sizes).

I will keep my potato ricer clean and ready (it’s dishwasher safe) even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. My potato ricer and I are the defenders of decent mashed potatoes. We are the masters of the kitchen. We are the saviors of dinner. So be it, until mashed potatoes are all eaten and there is no more gravy.

-- Abbie Stillie 12/13/18

12 December 2018


Ionix Cherry Pitter

Removes cherry stones quickly with little to no hand fatigue

I thought my cherry pitter was an antique I got it in a thrift shop about 15 years ago but was surprised to see it is still for sale on Amazon and still made in Italy. $10. Not only does it pit cherries it will also pit olives. It’s spring loaded so it is easy to get the next olive/cherries in one-handed. If you have a recipe that calls for either this will do the job lick-it-t-split.

-- Steve Golden 12/12/18

11 December 2018


Nitecore Keychain Lights

USB rechargeable mini flashlights

Nitecore makes a range of USB rechargeable keychain lights. I keep their 45 lumen (max) model on my keychain and use it at least a couple of times a week. Under $10.


I use their 85 lumen model (above), with a built-in clip, attached to a hat, for hands-free light for evening outside or out-building tasks, e.g., splitting firewood. About $20.


I had one of the TIP 2017 Upgrade model (above), but gave it to a friend, who raves about how bright a light it puts out (360 lumens) for such a small light. About $30.

-- Sigurd Andersen 12/11/18


img 12/10/18

Evo Ergonomic Pen

Eliminate hand pain and cramping when writing

img 12/7/18

Gever Tulley, Founder of Tinkering School

Cool Tools Show 152: Gever Tulley

img 12/7/18

Cool Tools 2018 Holiday Gift Guide: Best Kits

Gift suggestions from Cool Tools’ founder

img 12/6/18

2-in-1 Interchangeable Rapi-Driv Screwdriver

Crank action handle spins screws fast with one hand

img 12/6/18

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img 10/21/11

The Wirecutter

Meta-review site for gadgets

img 06/23/03

Diagrammatic Chart of World History

5,000 years of history in one square meter

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Fantastic Ice Scraper

Cheap brass ice scraper

img 09/12/03

Snorkel Hot Tub

Wood powered hot tub

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 153: Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 152: Gever Tulley

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 151: Anne Briggs

Picks and shownotes

23 February 2017


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.

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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.

13632766_602152159944472_101382480_oKevin 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.

13918651_603790483113973_1799207977_oMark 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).

13898183_602421513250870_1391167760_oClaudia Dawson 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.