13 June 2024

eSim Cards/Good Travel Pants/Airline Policy Changes

Nomadico issue #108

An eSim User Experience

Claudia from our sister newsletter Recomendo just got back from South America and sent this tip: I usually stay offline while traveling abroad and use my phone only when I’m connected to hotel WiFi. However, toward the end of my recent trip to Peru, I tested out the Airalo app and installed an eSIM on my phone. I bought the cheapest data package, which was $8 for 1GB or 7 days, whichever comes first, and it lasted me 4 days with no issues. I saved $40, which is what I would have paid Verizon for a daily travel pass. Airalo offers eSIMs for more than 200 countries and was surprisingly easy to install and delete.

Recommended Travel Pants

I’m always on the lookout for travel clothing that can also transition to attending meetings or going out to a restaurant without looking like I’m preparing for a safari or going fishing. On this recent trip, I wore items from Western Rise to a conference and out on excursions and they’re going onto my frequent packing list. I especially like the Diversion Pant slim version, which is stretchy and comfortable for a hike but looks good enough to be in front of a crowd or giving a presentation. They also make some nice merino wool shirts that are great for male travelers.

Good/Bad Airline Policy Changes

Frontier Airlines may be noticing its bottom-of-the-barrel reputation in surveys: it recently eliminated change fees for most classes, made its pricing much clearer, and extended its time to redeem credits. Details here. Reputational rival Spirit Air just raised its checked baggage maximum from 40 pounds to 50 and like Frontier, increased the voucher/credit use time limit from 90 days (really?) to a year. Usually beloved Southwest was the party pooper: it is raising its fees for early bird check-in and boarding.

30% Renewable Energy Worldwide

I’m always happy looking out a plane window when I see whole rooftops of warehouses or factories covered with solar panels. It turns out that a record-breaking 30% of the world’s electricity was produced by renewables last year as wind and solar power became more popular worldwide. We’re making progress…


12 June 2024

What’s in my NOW? — Grey Forge LeFey

issue #181

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Grey Forge LeFey is an author, dramatist, artist, and performer living their best life at the edge of the Mojave Desert in Southern California. Member of the hi desert sketch comedy troupe “The Laughing Bones” and resident artist at Shangri-LeFey Studios along with their huzzband, artist Khrysso Heart LeFey.


  • Wacom ONE digital pen display. I’ve been a graphic designer and digital artist for 34 years, since PageMaker was Aldus and Photoshop was version 2.0. In 2015 I retired from corporate design and started painting in oils again. I needed to get my hands dirty. I’ve done that for a while now, and I found my original love of making comics and cartooning has been reawakened. Working on a digital tablet is a terrific blend of having the media under my hands with all the tech bells and whistles available at my pen tip.
  • Instant Omni Plus 10-in-1 Toaster Oven. My huzzband and I don’t have our studio in our house; we live in our studio. A small, streamlined kitchen works well for the two of us, and we don’t have to sacrifice functionality with this incredibly versatile appliance. The convection oven bakes quickly and to perfection, and it toasts, air fries, dehydrates, plus more, and I haven’t even gotten to the rotisserie function yet! Its footprint on our countertop is so much smaller than the real estate occupied by our old range, and it eliminates the clutter of other single-use appliances, too.
  • White Portland Limestone cement. I sculpt outdoor decor like plant pots and statuary by combining cement and extraneous by-products like synthetic fabrics and polystyrene foam. The addition of limestone makes an environmentally friendlier cement than regular Portland, reducing the carbon of production by about 10% and my use of non-biodegradable materials for aggregate and armature reduces the amount of cement needed, resulting in lighter weight products that are still durable. I often also use left-over acrylic latex paint as a binder and for coloration. But it’s the cement that pulls it all together, and I’m conscious of my heritage in that, coming from a long line of masons.


  • Substack. As I’ve entered into my 6th decade, I’m re-evaluating my place in the arts world. Maintaining a balance between performing, writing, and making while sustaining an online presence with the wide range of social media platforms is exhausting. Substack consolidates blogging, a podcast, video, and manages my newsletter mailings all in one dashboard. It grounds me to have a central nerve center and to organize my other social postings from there.
  • My Kindle app. Although I’m not a huge fan of the Kindle reader itself, I love the Kindle service and have it loaded on all my devices. The ability to access books from my online public libraries, pdfs, scripts, ebooks from so many sources, and Kindle Unlimited, and to have the same content available regardless of where I am or what device is at hand is nothing short of phenomenal. And even better, the opportunity to discover authors and works that have transformed me in ways I’d never have experienced without digital media. Who can be an author without being a reader?


When I was in art school one of my profs told me, “If you want to be any kind of artist, then try not to be one. If you can live happily without pursuing that muse, then have a happy life. But if you can’t keep from creating, if you’re miserable without exercising those muscles, then chase that dream with all you’ve got.”

I took that advice and did try to turn my back on the arts, and I was lost. Being an artist has at times been frustrating, lonely, and heartbreaking, but never unfulfilling. I’ve never been sorry I chased it.

What’s in your NOW?

We want to know what’s in your now — a list of 6 things that are significant to you now — 3 physical, 2 digital and 1 invisible. 

If you’re interested in contributing an issue, use this form to submit: https://forms.gle/Pf9BMuombeg1gCid9

If we run your submission in our newsletter and blog, we’ll paypal you $25.


11 June 2024

50 Museums to Blow Your Mind / The Godfather Notebook

Books That Belong On Paper Issue No. 18

Books That Belong On Paper first appeared on the web as Wink Books and was edited by Carla Sinclair. Sign up here to get the issues a week early in your inbox.


50 Museums to Blow Your Mind
by Ben Handicott and Kalya Ryan
Lonely Planet
2016, 128 pages, 7.0 x 0.5 x 4.7 inches, Paperback

Buy on Amazon

I like museums. I like having my mind blown. I am clearly part of the target audience for this book.

Other things I appreciate about this book: It’s a manageable size, slightly larger than a postcard. It features a diverse range of museums, both major institutions and lesser-known, more eccentric collections. Its tone and faux Q&A format are breezy; the authors are like interesting friends who always have the best vacation stories. And like so many Lonely Planet books, it’s eminently flip-through-able.

My favorite section is on quirky museums: those passion projects of eccentric individuals that produce, say, a Turkish collection of women’s hair, or the Japanese museum of instant ramen. I’d love to see this section expanded, at the expense of the more standard museum picks. Yes, the British Museum and the Acropolis are amazing destinations, but they’re also very widely known already. The Watermelon Museum? Less so.

Another suggestion for the next edition, due out in 2020, is greater geographical reach. For one thing, the book includes only one museum in Africa. By 2020, I hope, I’ll have made it to all of the museums in this edition that I’ve bookmarked (or, more accurately, sticky note-d).

Quick quiz for fellow museum geeks. Which of the photos above belong to the following museums? A) Gopher Hole Museum. B) Big Hole & Open Mine Museum. C) Watermelon Museum. D) Sulabh International Museum of Toilets. E) Museum of Alchemists & Magicians of Old Prague

– Christine Ro


The Godfather Notebook
by Francis Ford Coppola
Regan Arts
2016, 784 pages, 8.5 x 1.5 x 11 inches, Paperback

Buy on Amazon

The Godfather is my favorite Christmas movie of all time. It’s a Christmas movie right? Well, it’s my favorite movie, and I watch it every year at Christmas. To me, it’s as close to a perfect film as I think you can get. I’ve read Mario Puzo’s novel. I’ve watched every special feature. So, when I heard that this book even existed, I got excited. This is a reproduction of the notebook that director, Francis Ford Coppola, used to bring this wonderful movie to life. It not only lifts the curtain showing how The Godfather came to be, but it reveals Coppola’s invaluable techniques for crafting a story.

Coppola went through Mario Puzo’s novel page by page, developing a synopsis that would shape the script and the direction of the film. Each scene is detailed with tone, setting, and pitfalls. Exposition is trimmed, and some characters are cut completely in order to create a story that would work cinematically.

The book’s pretty hefty, since there’s a whole other book within it. It also includes a wonderful introduction by Coppola, and behind the scenes photos of the young cast. If you’re a big fan of The Godfather or if you’re interested in how film adaptations are made, definitely pick this up.

– JP LeRoux


10 June 2024

Personal Genetics

Tools for Possibilities: issue no. 90

Once a week we’ll send out a page from Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities. The tools might be outdated or obsolete, and the links to them may or may not work. We present these vintage recommendations as is because the possibilities they inspire are new. Sign up here to get Tools for Possibilities a week early in your inbox.

Personal genetic literacy

Trace Your Roots with DNA + The Genographic Project

Yep, we are headed into the bio century. In this brave new world a basic level of genetic literacy will be essential. That was a problem for me because I couldn’t tell one gene from another. But recently I discovered that the quickest route from the theory of genetics to the practice of it is to inspect my own genes. And the best motivator and context for that is that old fussy hobby of genealogy.

You plumb your own genes for clues about your ancestry and in the process all genes become less strange.

About half a dozen companies offer a paid service to test your genes, taken from cells in the cheek, and provide a rough analysis of where you fall in the 100,000-year migration of humans across the globe. These outfits only sequence a very few points in your DNA, called markers. In general the more markers they check, the better. If you are willing, you can then submit your genetic marker results to the rapidly growing database of other folks who have tested their DNA. A good place to start is 23andMe (see review below)>

It is also pretty geeky. Whereas traditional genealogy is nearly literary, steeped in anecdotes, names, and human drama; this new craft of genetic genealogy or “genetealogy” is primarily numerical: it is a flood of statistics, databases, algorithms, and the stuff of computer science. For better or worse it is also a ferociously technical, heavily quantifiable, gnarly hobby, and the early adopters are sprinting ahead rapidly. In fact so much is happening so fast in personal genetealogy that it is quite easy for almost anyone to become the world’s expert in a particular domain.

So how do you get started?

The easiest way to launch into the world of ancestral DNA is a fantastic National Geographic documentary (The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey) on our deep genetic roots and early human migration on this planet. This informative film, full of surprising news, is based on the work of Spencer Wells, who is both innovative scientist and enthusiastic host. He and crew scour the world for indigenous people with deep roots in one place, asking for samples of DNA to test, in order to piece together our “big family” genetic tree. The best parts are when they return with results and we see the diverse ways in which people and tribes react to the news of what science says about their arrival and relations.

But as helpful as the Genographic supporting material is, you’ll need a master guide to help you decipher the meaning of genes. By far the best orientation to this exploding universe is the new book Trace Your Roots with DNA. Written for avid family-tree fans, this is a great layperson’s introduction to personal DNA testing. It illuminates the complexities of such concepts as haplogroups, snips, alleles, mtDNA, and diminishing genetic relationships — all crucial genetic knowledge even if you are not into genealogy. If you ARE into family roots, this book is will provide you with tons of concrete advice on how to persuade relatives to get tested, where to post your results, and how to correlate genes with traditional genealogical research.

The authors are smart. They realize that news in this area will appear first online and only slowly migrate to paper books or magazines. They wisely direct you to preferred websites throughout their chapters. But their book offers a comprehensive overview of a frontier that no website currently offers. It is a wonderful portal to this coming century. — KK

  • But for now, you have all you will need to know if you grasp one fact: Y chromosome tests cannot prove that you share a particular common ancestor with another person, only that you share a common ancestor at some point.
  • There are move than 1,000 genes on the X chromosome, while the count of the Y chromosome in the year 2003 stands at just a fraction of that: 27. The genes on the X chromosome have little or nothing to do with sexual characteristics. They cover a broad range of structure and function, much like any of the autosomes.
    The Y chromosome acts like a switch — if it is present, the baby will be a male. Genes restricted to the Y chromosome could hardly be essential for life and health, else the female of the species would disappear. Classical genetics has never identified any traits or diseases linked to the Y chromosome, so there is no need to fear that sharing DNA results will impact the ability to obtain health insurance.?
  • Haplotype Diversity
    How often will two random Smiths match each other just by accident?
    Just as surnames can be very common or very rare, haplotypes are found in different frequencies. In the database at www.yhrd.org, which has more than 24,000 records tested at nine markers, the single most frequent haplotype occurs in less than 3 percent of the population, so even that could not be called common in the absolute sense. Many haplotypes occur just once — more than 40 percent of the records, in fact. Every time a new set of data is added to the database, novel haplotypes are discovered.
    Haplotype diversity can be quantified. The chance that two men chosen at random will match each other on all nine markers is less than two in a thousand. You can rule out a lot of false trails that way, and if two Smiths match, it’s probably not just a coincidence.
    Adding more markers increases the diversity: Some of the men who match on nine markers will differ on a 10th marker.
  • We’re not going to sugarcoat it. Talking strangers into handing over their DNA — and hopefully, some money — is not the easiest of tasks. Presumably, it will become easier over time as genetic genealogy becomes as widely known as traditional research. At least then, those you contact will know that this is a normal activity that everyday human beings do with some regularity, and there will no longer be a need to educate people about the very existence of this kind of testing. But it’s best to prepare as if the person you’re about to call, write, or e-mail has never heard of genetealogy.
  • You can recruit people in two ways — by finding them or by making it easier for them to find you. We refer to the detective work associated with seeking out appropriate candidates as “reverse genealogy” since it usually involves tracing lines from the past to the present. Traditionally, we’re trained to start with ourselves and work back through the generations, but conducting a DNA project often requires the reverse. You may, for instance, be trying to find possible descendants of a German immigrant who came to Pennsylvania in the 1700s.
  • Please don’t make the mistake of testing in the hope of stumbling onto something interesting! In the future, when large numbers of people have been tested and accessible DNA databases are exploding with samples, the odds will improve that a random person could get tested and discover something interesting, such as a surprise match with a stranger. But we’re not quite there yet.

Deep ancestry


Getting your genes sequenced won’t revolutionize your health right now. It’s still too early in the science. However, knowing your genes is a great way to explore your ancestral genealogy. 23andMe began selling inexpensive gene sequencing kits for health perspectives but customers showed greater interest in using genes to delve into their ancestry. For $99 you can learn a lot — and maybe gain some personal health insights too. There’s now 200,000 members of 23andMe, plus tens of thousands others around the world, making links to genetic relatives likely. Once you surrender some spit into the kit and get your gene sequences, you can map, share and research your genes’ path through time. More than just recent generations, your gene haplotypes will inform you about deeper connections in the human family tree. I learned from 23andMe tests that my maternal haplogroup is related to Otzi the Ice Man from the Alps, and Druze and Kurds in the mid-East. And my paternal haplogroup is related to an Irish King of the 4th and 5th centuries. More research keeps turning up more interesting connections. If I want, I can connect to other testers on the site sharing the same haplogroups. I’m now encouraging my larger family to participate in this adventure. — KK

  • Haplogroup K1
    Ötzi the Ice Man was discovered in 1991, protruding from a snow-bank high in the Alps near the Austrian- Italian border. His 5,300-year-old remains turned out to be so well preserved that researchers were able to construct a detailed account of his life and death. They have also determined that his maternal line was derived from haplogroup K, which remains common in Alpine populations today….A few branches of haplogroup K, such as K1a9, K2a2a, and K1a1b1a,are specific to Jewish populations and especially to Ashkenazi Jews, whose roots lie in central and eastern Europe. These branches of haplogroup K are found at levels of 30% among Ashkenazi. But they are also found at lower levels in Jewish populations from the Near East and Africa, and among Sephardic Jews who trace their roots to medieval Spain. That indicates an origin of those K haplogroup branches in the Near East before 70 AD, when the Roman destruction of Jerusalem scattered the Jewish people around the Mediterranean and beyond.
  • Haplogroup R1b1b2a1a2f2
    R1b1b2a1a2f2 reaches its peak in Ireland, where the vast majority of men carry Y-chromosomes belonging to the haplogroup. Researchers have recently discovered that a large subset of men assigned to the haplogroup may be direct male descendants of an Irish king who ruled during the 4th and early 5th centuries. According to Irish history, a king named Niall of the Nine Hostages established the Ui Neill dynasty that ruled the island country for the next millennium. Northwestern Ireland is said to have been the core of Niall’s kingdom; and that is exactly where men bearing the genetic signature associated with him are most common. About 17% of men in northwestern Ireland have Y-chromosomes that are exact matches to the signature, and another few percent vary from it only slightly. In New York City, a magnet for Irish immigrants during the 19th and early 20th century, 2% of men have Y-chromosomes matching the Ui Neill signature. Genetic analysis suggests that all these men share a common ancestor who lived about 1,700 years ago. Among men living in northwestern Ireland todaythat date is closer to 1,000 years ago. Those dates neatly bracket the era when Niall is supposed to have reigned.

09 June 2024

Walk and Talk/Close.city/The Pearl Dive

Recomendo - issue #413

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How to do a walk-and-talk

I am about to leave on a walk-and-talk, which is a week-long moving salon. A group of 10 people walk 100km in a week, while in conversation, including a 3-hour conversation each evening dedicated to one topic, suggested by the participants. Craig Mod and I have been running these in many countries to great success and we wrote up all we know in 21 pages so you could host one yourself, with your own group of friends. Free PDF, at How to Walk and Talk. — KK

Walkable neighborhoods finder

Close.city is an interactive map designed to help you find neighborhoods in the United States that are within a short walking distance of amenities like supermarkets, public transportation, cafes, co-working spaces, bookstores, and other facilities. It’s useful when searching for a hotel, Airbnb, or apartment that’s near the kinds of places that are important to you — MF

Dive into your subconscious

Something that helps me dispel confusion or feelings of resistance in my body is listening to “The Pearl Dive,” a 30-minute guided imagery journey created by Dr. Rosalind Watts. This meditation prompts me to dive deep into my body and away from my thoughts, uncovering buried emotions and desires that I have yet to shine light on. It amazes me that I always discover something new and how uncomfortable feelings can transform into treasures if I just spend a little time exploring my inner landscape. You can learn more and listen to “The Pearl Dive” here, as well as the follow-up meditation “Planting the Pearl as a Seed,” which focuses on integrating the insights gained from the dive. If you’re interested in participating in a communal listening of the meditations, check out ACER’s upcoming events flyer posted to Instagram. — CD 

Memorize language vocabulary with the Goldlist method

The Goldlist method is a language learning technique that involves writing down lists of phrases you would like to learn in a notebook. Each page of the notebook is divided into four sections (1, 2, 3, 4). Every day, you write a list of 8-10 new words or phrases in section 1. After a week, you test yourself on the list, copying incorrect answers to section 2. This process is repeated, moving forgotten phrases to subsequent sections every 7 days. This video explains the process in more detail. — MF

One minute park scenes

If you’re seeking a bit of serenity during your workday, check out this web project that features one-minute videos of parks from around the world. The creator’s goal is to fill every minute of the day with park scenes and is currently accepting contributions. Thanks to Johnny Webber for introducing me to this website in his most recent Link Dump. — CD

Artists to follow

Tastes in music and art vary tremendously person to person. I have no idea whether you’ll enjoy these artists as much as I do, but here is a short list of the artists I follow on Instagram. I tend to follow those who keep surprising me.

I am sure I have only touched the surface of all artists posting. — KK


06 June 2024

Search Engine Blues/Small Boat Trips/Travel Underwear

Nomadico issue #107

A weekly newsletter with four quick bites, edited by Tim Leffel, author of A Better Life for Half the Price and The World’s Cheapest Destinations. See past editions here, where your like-minded friends can subscribe and join you.

Please Switch Your Search Engine

The latest company to get fat and bloated, the innovator turned evil empire, seems to be Google. In case you haven’t noticed already, their search results have gotten abysmal lately as they try to keep you on their site instead of clicking out. So the “habit product” you relied on for more than a decade is now the one that has stopped caring about the user experience. Here’s a long version and a shorter version of what has happened at the top. What to do? I have used Duck Duck Go for 99% of my searches the past two years and have saved hours weekly from less scrolling and more relevant sources (they also don’t track you). But Bing will also save you loads of time with less bloat and unlike Google, they allow you to turn off the AI results.

Cruises That Don’t Suck

At our partner site, Recomendo, Kevin Kelly recently highlighted the joys of going on a small ship cruise instead of a giant monster with thousands of people on it. You can see his full post here and I’ll chime in that I’ve done some great ones with UncruiseSun Fun You, Scenic, and two Galapagos companies that I’ll remember for a lifetime. These were amazing travel experiences that got us into areas where no giant ship that needs a big port can ever dock in, with the ability to jump off the boat or take a zodiac, a paddleboard, or a kayak to go exploring.

Pack a Toothbrush

Here’s a simple tip to make your life more pleasant if you’re checking a bag: carry on what you really need to get through 24 hours in case your bag gets delayed. For just the second time in 10 years, my checked bag was lost for a day this week due to weather delays. While I got rerouted to another flight, my bag was on another. (Don’t tell me I should have carried it on—I never would have made the new connection after sprinting across JFK and barely getting through the gate in time if I had been carrying a bag.) I got it back eventually, but in the meantime, I had the essentials, including a toothbrush and travel-sized toothpaste. After all, you may be able to get by for a day with no deodorant, but you’re going to want to brush your teeth.

Quick-dry Underwear

Sometimes I’ve packed an extra pair of underwear in the bag I carry on too when I check one, but this time I didn’t. Fortunately I had some quick-dry synthetic underwear I could sink-wash and put on dry in the morning while I waited for my bag to arrive. This pair was from Saxx, but I’ve also got ones packed from ExOfficio and no-name brands that I picked up at TJ Maxx and the like. The key is, they shouldn’t be cotton if you want them to dry overnight. See options here.



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Comfort Eating with Nick Cave / All About Eggs

Books That Belong On Paper Issue No. 17

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Tools for Possibilities: issue no. 89

img 05/29/24

Gar’s Tips & Tools – Issue #178

Weekly-ish-ish access to tools, techniques, and shop tales from the worlds of DIY

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I am Jim Henson / The Playful Eye

Books That Belong On Paper Issue No. 16

See all the reviews


img 10/12/18

Knipex Pliers Wrench

Rapid, safe, strong pliers wrench

img 07/22/04

McMaster-Carr Online Catalog

The ultimate hardware store

img 07/22/03


Better than clay

img 05/7/10

How To Cook Everything

Essential iPhone cook book

img 05/19/04

Correlated History of Earth

Understanding geological and biological time

img 10/23/06

Animated Knots

Best knot teacher

See all the favorites



Show and Tell #404: Adam Hill

Picks and shownotes

Show and Tell #403: Mia Coots

Picks and shownotes

Show and Tell #402: Josué Moreno

Picks and shownotes


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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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.

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