04 August 2020


Book Freak #47: Make Good Use of Your Emotions

Short pieces of advice from books

Book Freak is a weekly newsletter with short pieces of advice from books. Subscribe here.

Sponsor message: As a Kindle reader, I’m constantly highlighting interesting passages from books. A few years ago I discovered Readwise, a service that automatically collects my highlights and sends me a random selection in a daily custom email. Readwise has many other features, too. Readwise is offering readers of Book Freak 60 days for free. If you’re a book freak and read ebooks, I’m pretty sure you’ll be glad you tried it. – Mark

Daniel Goleman was a science reporter for The New York Times, was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and received the American Psychological Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his media writing. Here’s advice from his book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

Be aware of your emotions as they occur
“A belligerent samurai, an old Japanese tale goes, once challenged a Zen master to explain the concept of heaven and hell. The monk replied with scorn, ‘You’re nothing but a lout — I can’t waste my time with the likes of you!’

His very honor attacked, the samurai flew into a rage and, pulling his sword from its scabbard, yelled ‘I could kill you for your impertinence.’
‘That,’ the monk calmly replied, ‘is hell.’

Startled at seeing the truth in what the master pointed out about the fury that had him in its grip, the samurai calmed down, sheathed his sword, and bowed, thanking the monk for the insight.

‘And that,’ said the monk, ‘is heaven.’

The sudden awakening of the samurai to his own agitated state illustrates the crucial difference between being caught up in a feeling and becoming aware that you are being swept away by it. Socrates’s injunction ‘Know thyself’ speaks to the keystone of emotional intelligence: awareness of one’s own feelings as they occur.”

Lead by persuading people to work toward a common goal
“Leadership is not domination, but the art of persuading people to work toward a common goal.”

Understand the value of sadness
“[Sadness] enforces a kind of reflective retreat from life’s busy pursuits, and leaves us in a suspended state to mourn the loss, mull over its meaning, and, finally, make the psychological adjustments and new plans that will allow our lives to continue.”

Understand that worrying isn’t magic
“The worry habit is reinforcing in the same sense that superstitions are. Since people worry about many things that have a very low probability of actually occurring — a loved one dying in a plane crash, going bankrupt, and the like —there is, to the primitive limbic brain at least, something magical about it. Like an amulet that wards off some anticipated evil, the worry psychologically gets the credit for preventing the danger it obsesses about.“

Book Freak is one of our five newsletters from Cool Tools Lab (our other four are the Cool Tools Newsletter, Recomendo, Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Talesand What’s in my bag?).


04 August 2020


Kuhn Rikon Original Swiss Peeler

This peeler will save you a lot of time and skinned fingers

As a kid, it was my job to peel mountains of potatoes to feed our large family. I hated it. The potato peelers were all dull and some were rusty. They were wobbly and more likely to peel a finger than a potato.

These days I kind of enjoy peeling potatoes, thanks to my Kuhn Rikon Original Swiss Peeler. This peeler will save you a lot of time and skinned fingers.

The super-sharp carbon steel blade is capable of peeling pretty much any vegetable or fruit, even tough-skinned customers like butternut squash. It peels smoothly and evenly, taking off just the right amount of skin so you lose a minimal amount of the inner flesh of the vegetable or fruit. I’ve had the peeler for about nine months and it’s still as sharp as it was when I bought it.

As a left-handed person, I appreciate that this peeler can be used in either hand. It also has a convenient potato eye remover.

I love this potato peeler so much I bought a 3-pack for my mom for Christmas. Cheap gift? Maybe. But at least now I won’t have to use her rusty, dull peelers when I visit.

-- Abbie Stillie 08/4/20

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2016 — editors)

03 August 2020

02 August 2020


Google Fonts/GPT-2 wisdom/Link Drop

Recomendo: issue no. 211

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Classy free fonts
There are about 1,000 very classy fonts available for free on Google Fonts. These are fonts you would actually want to use in your book or on your website. Some are commissioned by Google and designed by world-class typographers, such as the font Roboto used in Google maps. Many of these fonts come as families with different weights, italic, bold, extra glyphs, etc. This set of open fonts is also offered by Adobe and Monotype; what Google Fonts offer is a very nifty web interface for navigating through the collection, including good search and filter. I particularly like their font “pairing” function, which suggests good combinations of fonts (like text and captions pairings). All the fonts are license-free. — KK

Craft in action
Everyone knows Anthony Bourdain’s various travel/food series, but in 2015 Bourdain did his hanging-out thing with master craftsman and craftswomen, going to their shops, watching them work with their tools, and at times trying his own hand at their craft. I can watch masters work all day. Their obsession with details is astounding, and their extreme excellence is captured in 14 episodes of Raw Craft. The art ranges from hand-tailored suits to a traditional letter-press printer, all sponsored by a whiskey company, and available on YouTube. — KK

Get reminded of links at your convenience
I’ve been using my Pocket extension less and this Link Drop Chrome extension more. If there is an article or webpage that I want to check out, this bookmark tool helps to ensure I get to it before the end of the day. Every link I save gets emailed back to me at 3PM that same day as a reminder. You can change the “drop time” to whatever works for you. — CD

Words of wisdom from GPT-2
GPT-2 is an application that produces novel text based on a text prompt (Here’s how to install it). Most of what it generates hovers on the border of sense and nonsense. Here are four pieces of advice it has given to me.  — MF

  • “If we cannot make sense of the present, we cannot plan for the future.”
  • “The more we change to meet the challenges in our lives, not to stay where we are, the more successful we will be.”
  • “If it is an animal you have seen, do you think it will be like you, too? This is the first statement of my doctrine, that all things are one thing. Do you want me to prove it, or to let it pass?” —Philosopher Epicurus (384-399 A.D.)
  • “Your gut tells you it’s not right to continue investing in some idea–it’s too risky, because its consequences are hard to understand. Your gut is right about one thing, though: there is no way of knowing it’s not wrong to spend your energy making the best decision for yourself and your goals.”

Fun and powerful photo editing app
It’s incredibly fun to use the Luminar photo editing application to bring my photos to life. (Here are some of my before-and-after photos.) It has tons of adjustable preset filters and a lot of specialized tools such as portrait enhancement, where you can make the subject’s eyes larger and face thinner. You can also easily add in new skies and even a sun with rays. I typically use the “AI” set of adjustment tools to change the brightness and contrast because it does a great job without a lot of fussing on my part. The developer also has lots of excellent videos that show you how to use all the features in Luminar. Here’s a 30-second video overview. — MF

Drying rack replacement
We replaced our old, space-consuming dish rack for this $7 Norpro Microfiber Drying Mat. It’s extremely absorbent and dries super fast. When I’m done with it, I just fold it up and put it in a drawer. It’s also machine washable. I love it. — CD

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 08/2/20

31 July 2020


Stephen Dubner, Freakonomics

Cool Tools Show 237: Steven Dubner

Our guest this week is Stephen Dubner. Stephen’s an award-winning author, journalist, and TV and radio personality. He’s co-author of the Freakonomics books, which have sold millions of copies in 40 languages, and he’s host of Freakonomics Radio, which gets 8 million global monthly downloads and is heard by millions more on N.P.R. stations and other radio outlets around the world. You can follow him on Twitter @Freakonomics.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes:

Onitsuka Tigers (Mexico 66) Sneakers ($85)
My first one are the shoes I wear probably about 363 and a half days of the year, which are Onitsuka Tigers, Mexico 66. These sneakers have kind of an interesting history among the earliest dedicated athletic shoes designed and made in Japan. I was a cross country runner in high school, and we had these shoes that were lightweight and made just for running. You didn’t really wear them around. And there was something about them being purpose built, made for running. I also played sports, baseball and basketball, and there were shoes for those things, but these running shoes felt a little more exotic, maybe because running wasn’t that big of a deal. And so I wore them very excitedly back then, even though I hated running and still hate running. Then over the years, as I got older, I came across this literature on barefoot exercise and that led down a rabbit hole and another rabbit hole. And I realized I wasn’t going to go around barefoot because the world is too built up to really be barefoot. But I did want to go to some form of minimalism. And then I found out that these Onitsuka Tigers had been resurrected, I think in the early 2000s. And now they’re kind of a style sneaker. I love them because they’re essentially, a ballet flat that you can wear every day. They’re incredibly lightweight and I’d come to believe, through an episode we did a Freakonomics Radio called, something like These Shoes are Killing Me, where we looked into the physiology of feet and how humans are meant to walk and run, that we aren’t meant to wear these big, built up shoes with all this cushioning. And in fact, there’s a good reason to think that where the more protection you wear, the more your body kind of atrophies and responds in the wrong ways. And so these are sneakers comfortable enough to barely know you’re wearing a shoe. They’re supportive enough to walk on anything, rocks, whatever. You can run and play golf and do anything in them. And they also come in enough styles and colors and so on that if you care about such things, which I tend to mostly not, you can have a beautiful pair that you can wear as the equivalent of a dress or work shoe. And so I think they are a really cool tool.

Anchovy paste ($8)
My second cool tool is, oh anchovy paste. This is not exotic or unknown, unless it is. I’m guessing that most people who cook know about anchovy paste, but everybody’s at different stages of learning. And when I learned to use anchovy paste in my cooking, I felt like it was the first cool tool of cooking I learned years ago. And now we keep it stocked in abundance. And basically if you don’t know anchovy paste, it is the paste of anchovies in a kind of toothpaste type tube. Anchovy paste is the nitro version of the umami that you need in whatever you need. For instance, if you want to make the best Brussels sprouts ever, you would chop your Brussels sprouts relatively small, and then you sauté maybe some shallots and or garlic, in your butter and or oil before the Brussels sprouts hit the pan. But it’s the anchovy paste that you put in while you’re sautéing there that will just bring it to the next level. Also works for all kinds of sauces and is just a really good thing to have around. Especially if you have someone in your family that does not eat fish and is scared of all things from the sea, but also likes flavorful things. You just have to hide it. And occasionally I’ll make a label for something else and call it like clown juice and put it on the anchovy paste canister, so that we fool everybody. There’s a brand called Amore, which happens to be Italian. I’m not sure their anchovies are any tastier than the others, but it’s really useful.

puzzleYOU — jigsaw puzzle made from your own photo
We don’t do jigsaw puzzles as a family the way we did when they were younger, but my wife still likes a jigsaw puzzle now and again, but she’d really put it aside for years and years, but during the pandemic, like a lot of people, she was looking for activities to do. I take that back. She started on this before COVID, for some reason. She just felt like doing some jigsaw puzzles. And so she had a few. And in fact, the reason I remember it was before is because my wife got very sick with COVID and so we quarantined her at home and it was tough. One of the first things she was able to do when she was starting to recover was to get down on the floor to do the jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle kind of became the symbol of her quarantine and to this day now, a few months later, she’s still doing jigsaw puzzles and we all pitch in now and again, but for Mother’s Day, my daughter, teenage daughter found a really nice gift idea, which was a custom made jigsaw puzzle made of a photo that you send in. It doesn’t shock me that it exists, but I was thrilled that it does exist. We selected a photo that we thought she would like a lot. It was a photo of my son and I playing this board game, an election board game. And our little dog had its paws up on the table over the game as if it was playing the board game. It’s one of those kind of vaguely comical anthropomorphizing dog photos. But it happened that this photo happened to have a lot of things in the background that really read like our family. There’s a portrait on the wall behind the scene that showed the four of us. And there was an old photograph of my wife’s dad in the army on on the sidewall. It was his photo that was composed of all these things that represented our family. And we turned that into a jigsaw puzzle and gave it to my wife, Ellen, for Mother’s Day. And when the box comes from this company, they have a message. We put something like, “Happy Mother’s Day, love you.” And it was one of the best gifts that’s ever happened.

Microsoft Word
You will mark me as a combination Luddite and well, that’s not the opposite of a Luddite, but something else really bad. My fourth cool tool and my most important by far is Microsoft Word. It is a computer program made by a company called Microsoft. And it is for making words, things like writing. Look, I recognize that I love Microsoft Word in part because I’ve been using it for a long time. I’m a writer. It’s what I do. I’ve written a lot of books. I’ve used Word on all of them, although I should also say I started writing before Microsoft Word existed. The first computer I wrote on was something called the IBM Display Writer which had a huge floppy disk drive. And there was one disc for composing and another disc for editing and another disc for spell checking and so on. It’s not like I’m wed to it because it was the only program I ever used. I used WordPerfect and I wrote on Commodores and I wrote on early Mac and so on, but I think Word is an amazing program because it does everything I would ever want it to do for any kind of writing. And I only use probably about a half a percent of it. And I got to know Nathan Myhrvold, a little bit, one of the former CTOs of Microsoft, who I believe was involved along with a lot of other people in creating this and had some conversations just about it. And I’m just constantly amazed at how well thought through it is. And I know some people get intimidated by it. I know some people think it’s overkill. I know some people think it’s not modern and beautiful enough, but I think it’s a tool that helps me do my best work writing. And I’m really, truly grateful for it.


30 July 2020

A Leatherman You Can Open Single-Handed

Magnetic Latch Leatherman

Leatherman Free P4

Guest: Matt Stultz, Head of Community, Prusa Research

So I’ve had Leathermans for many, many years. The Wave, the Wingman, the Sidekick, but recently I picked up my favorite of them and so far, the Leatherman Free P4. The great thing about this is it’s the first Leatherman that has entirely one-handed tool opening for all the tools. So, quick out and I’ve got my pliers. So if I’m working on something I don’t have to worry about letting go of it and opening up my my pliers. I can also pretty easily one-hand close. All of the tools are accessible like that too. So if I need a screwdriver, I can get to my screwdrivers, all with one hand.

-- Matt Stultz 07/30/20


Mixing up the right amount of resin is a trial no more. 07/30/20

Calculating How Much Epoxy You Need

Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales – Issue #55

img 07/28/20

Vaughan Pull Stroke Handsaw

Made to cut on the pull stroke rather than on the push stroke

img 07/24/20

Cooper Bates, Co-founder Hint Mint

Cool Tools Show 236: Cooper Bates

img 07/24/20

FreshForce Citrus Juicer

Squeeze a lot of juice with ease

See all the reviews


img 08/20/06

Adventure Medical Kits

Full medical station in a pouch

img 03/8/10


Guided construction set

img 10/12/18

Knipex Pliers Wrench

Rapid, safe, strong pliers wrench

img 03/1/18

LockJaw Self-Adjusting Pliers

Self-adjusting Vise Grips

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 237: Steven Dubner

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 236: Cooper Bates

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 235: Matt Mullenweg

Picks and shownotes

29 July 2020


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.

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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.

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