18 August 2022

Celiac Cards/Nomadlist/Creative Middle Class

Nomadico issue #13

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.

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The Tipping Point for Remote Work
Malcolm Gladwell didn’t exactly come off like a future-looking thought leader last week when he lumped all remote workers together as isolated loners sitting behind a desk in their pajamas. Sounding like a cranky old boss who is pining for the “good ole days,” Gladwell has apparently not noticed co-working spaces, international remote-only companies, digital nomads, remote expats, quarterly company retreats, or even conferences. A sign that we’ve passed the tipping point?

Gluten-free Language Cards
Former lawyer and digital nomad Jodi Ettenberg is celiac, which made it hard to eat safely while traveling the world. So she built detailed translation cards that use local ingredient names and mention cross-contamination. They come in 13 different languages for now, along with long, free gluten-free country guides that accompany most of them.

Where Nomads Congregate
One Nomadico reader asked if there’s some kind of list of where nomads are working “or a cities guide maybe?” While it’s far from perfect, there’s been one out since long before the explosion in remote workers: Nomadlist. The data often doesn’t jibe with what you’ll find outside the expat bubble and the ranking algorithm of often subjective criteria seems to be as nutty as TripAdvisor’s. (Warsaw is the #1 city?!) But it’ll help you compare cities in terms of costs, average Wi-Fi speed, weather, and more. You can sort by a variety of categories, including “lack of racism.” 

The Creative Middle Class
My Nomadico co-founder Kevin Kelly probably has some bones to pick with Cal Newport’s New Yorker article quoting his “1,000 True Fans” theory. But after a lot of meandering it comes around to the conclusion that remote work has enabled the creative middle class to flourish in a way that few could have imagined back in the early ‘00s.


17 August 2022

Let’s Talk About Clamps

Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales - Issue #129

Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales is published by Cool Tools Lab. To receive the newsletter a week early, sign up here.
Every time a newsletter goes out, I get wonderful emails from readers telling me how much they enjoy it. At the same time, I get a spate of unsubscribes. Often, the subs go up by the same number they go down. It’s frustrating. Because of the positive emails, I know there’s an audience for what I’m doing here. Can you help me reach more of it? Can you post a link to this newsletter in your social media? Share with other maker enthusiasts? Thanks so much for your help.
Let’s Talk About Clamps
In this “Ask Adam Savage” segment on TestedAdam is asked about shop clamps. This leads to a typically-Adam thoughtful and wise deep dive into the many uses and types of clamps: c-clampsbar clampsvice gripsquick-grip clamps, welding clamps, jeweler’s clamp, bench vises, lever clamps, kant twist clamps, and last but not least, spring clamps. One great tip takeaway: Don’t ever buy one clamp. Buy at least two, and if you can afford it, but 4 or more.
Packing with Expanding Foam
Here’s a great idea from the engineering.equip Instagram channel. Using expanding spray foam to create secure, form-fitting packaging for equipment.
Making Lego Handles for Your Shop
Ruth Amos (of Kids Invent Stuffcreated these handles for her new backyard workshop out of Lego bricks.
Scribbing/Cutting Circles in Styrene
I subscribe to FineScale Modeler magazine, even though I’m not really a scale modeler. I was as a teen and still like looking at what people are up to in that hobby. Mainly, I look for modeling tips that I can apply to my hobby of miniature painting and tabletop game modeling. Here’s a great case in point. You can use a scribbing compass to cut circles in styrene. You just have to be patient, make multiple passes, and finish up with a hobby knife if the piece is thick or stubborn.
A Collection of Razor Rules of Thumb
A “razor” is a rule of thumb that simplifies decision making. Here’s a collection of the sharpest razors gathered by Sahil Bloom and posted on Twitter.

The Feynman Razor
Complexity and jargon are used to mask a lack of deep understanding. If you can’t explain it to a 5-year-old, you don’t really understand it. If someone uses a lot of complexity and jargon to explain something, they probably don’t understand it.

The Luck Razor
When choosing between two paths, choose the path that has a larger luck surface area. Your actions put you in a position where luck is more likely to strike. It’s hard to get lucky watching TV at home—it’s easy to get lucky when you’re engaging and learning.
New Column: Ask Gar
If you have questions about tools, things you might have read here in the past, resources you’re in search of, email me.
Reader Rick Griggs asks:
“I need to buy headmounted lighted magnifying glasses. I don’t know what to look for, and thought you’d reviewed (or linked to a review) of these in a distant past newsletter that I could read/watch to learn more, but I can’t find anything. If you have done this, please point me to which one.”

Hey Rick,

I’m not sure it was in the newsletter. I know I talked about these in my old tips column on Make:. The one I have is shown above. It costs under $10 on Amazon! For my purposes (miniature painting), it’s great. It has two lenses that offer 1.5X magnification each and a third monocle lens at 7X magnification, providing intensities at multiples of 1.5, 3, 8.5, and 10. The light angle is adjustable in two directions and the light pack can even be removed from the headband for use elsewhere. A lot of features for under ten bones!


My old pal, Steven Roberts, asks about racks to hold Stanley organizing cases:

“Do you know of any quick-turn kits/products to handles stacks of Stanleys? Of course the solution is obvious, but I have so many projects that I don’t want to do it. If someone has made one, or published a good repurposing of something like a bakers rack or other off-the-shelf (heh, so to speak) tool, I’m all ears!

If you have responses to questioned asked by readers here, let me know.
Shop Talk
In response to the “Maker Slang” column last week, John Seiffer writes:

Regarding the term Minimal Viable Product (MVP). It was coined by Eric Ries in his book The Lean Startup as a way of learning what potential customers found valuable before spending a lot of time and money building something that people didn’t want to buy. Unfortunately, I think Reis did not do a very good job of naming this because it really doesn’t mean a stripped down product. In his world, it refers to anything that you can quickly learn from. Some examples could be a fake landing page which actually does nothing but gather insight about whether customers click on the link or not. I know of a company that used wire frames drawn on paper as an MVP to learn what people would pay for. Yes, it can be a stripped down version of an actual product, but in most cases, if you’re doing that before you’ve learned what people want to pay for, it’s overkill.

14 August 2022

Uber pro tip/Paint With Music/DIY Book Nook Kit

Recomendo: issue no. 318

Uber pro tip
I often fly in and out of LAX. Uber, Lyft and taxi riders are required to walk or take a shuttle to a lot near the airport to hail a ride. It’s very crowded in the lot and the last time I was there I had to wait over 30 minutes for a Lyft. But I learned in this article that you can take a free hotel or metro shuttle from the airport and hail a ride after you get to the station or hotel. Not only will you save money (no airport surcharge) you probably won’t have to wait as long for a ride. This tip might work at other airports, too. If it does, let us know. — MF

Paint with music
I’m playing around with an AI-powered app that enables me to paint music. Appropriately named Paint With Music, this free web-based app from Google transforms my doodles into music based on its visual form. It’s playful, just a toy and perfect fun for kids. — KK

DIY Book Nook Kit
I had been coveting ready-made book nooks on Etsy for a while now, but I am so happy I waited and bought my I had been coveting ready-made book nooks on Etsy for a while now, but I am so happy I waited and bought my own build kit from CuteBee. I bought the Pray in the Church kit, but there are other whimsical options. The instructions were easy to understand and it took me a couple hours to assemble, but it was meditative and fun to see it come together. It came with everything I needed, except for two AAA batteries, wood glue, scotch tape and scissors. — CD

Amazon Japan store
Amazon has a sub-site dedicated to products from Japan. You can buy cookware, toys, gadgets, candy, stationery, clothing, beauty supplies, and more. Many products are Prime eligible, like this tasty miso paste I bought. — MF

Birthplaces of the most “notable people”
If you spin this globe and zoom in you can learn the birthplaces of the most notable people in culture, science, sports, or leadership (from 3500BC-2018AD). Clicking on their names will take you to their Wikidata page where you can learn more about them. I learned about an indigenous princess who was born near my parents hometown in Mexico. — CD

Food science guru
By far the nerdiest food YouTube channel out there is Adam Ragusea with 2 million followers. He dives deep into the chemical nature of foods, such as what happens with smoking meat at the molecular level, why fennel and liquorice taste the same, or what is the chemical that makes the smell of rain. But also definitively answers many useful questions like “do the eggs of happy chickens taste better?” He references obscure scientific journals, does his own experiments, and mixes in delicious recipes you can follow yourself. He is one of the best science communicators working today. I recommend Ragusea’s food science playlist for the full course. — KK

— Kevin KellyMark FrauenfelderClaudia Dawson


12 August 2022

Larry Keely, Innovation Scientist

Show and Tell #326: Larry Keely

Larry Keeley has worked for over four decades as an innovation scientist. He helped pioneer the specialized field of innovation effectiveness and has taught thousands of Masters and PhD innovators both at Kellogg’s MMM Program and at Chicago’s highly regarded Institute of Design. He is now an independent innovation researcher, working on pioneering new tradecraft.

03:30 – Oxo Slicer
11:04 – Pacojet
22:40 – Procreate
31:04 – Platform Construction Toolkit
54:54 – Just Serve


11 August 2022

A Master Class in Prototype Making

Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales - Issue #128

* Talk to me. Tell me a story. Share me a tip. A tool.
* Support my work by buying my tips books (Vol. 1Vol. 2).
* Take out an Unclassified in this newsletter to reach fellow makers.
A Master Class in Prototype Making
In response to John Baglio’s search for a series of prototyping videos he’d run across, Talon Chandler immediately responded with:

“He’s probably talking about Dan Gelbart. Dan is a local legend among engineers in Vancouver, BC. He founded Creo, a printing technology company that sold to Kodak circa 2005, and several other companies including Kardium, a growing healthcare company. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Dan once (I interned at Kardium close to 10 years ago), although I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting his extraordinary shop.”

Others also messaged me and told stories about the impact of Dan’s videos on them. They are amazing. I haven’t found a treasure trove like this since discovering TubalCain/MrPete222 some 15 years ago. Anyone interested in precision machining, prototyping, water jet cutting, and a wealth of general machine shop wisdom should check out this channel.
Expanding the Usefulness of 1-2-3 Blocks with a Hardware Kit
I’ve long been a fan of 1-2-3 blocks and always have them handy when doing a host of different projects. They’re great for quick measuring, aligning, holding parts together for gluing/ fastening, as shop weights, and countless other applications. One of the features that few people outside of machining use are the holes drilled into the blocks. These are not just there to keep the overall weight down. They are threaded and non-threaded holes designed for attaching the blocks in various configurations (such as for making right-angle or T-shaped jigs).

In this Stumpy Nubs videoJames introduces a clever little hardware kit for easily attaching blocks – and attaching them with nothing proud of the surfaces. As he points out, you can source these screws and through-hole fasteners yourself, but why not support the guy who came up with the idea for this kit? That guy, Mike Taylor, sells a kit of 6 hex-head screws, sized for 1″, 2″, and 3″ attachment, 4 threaded through-hole dowels, a hex key, and a slotted driver head – all housed in a handy little plastic box. I immediately bought a kit (only $10) and I love it. Mike also makes really high-quality blocks at an affordable price ($20/pair). I snagged a pair of those, too. It always feels good to support a maker small business.
Using Finger Pressure to Match Hex Head to Wrench
On the Twitter account of software engineer Roach, he posted this clever way of matching a hex head to a hex wrench. Pressing your finger into the head will leave a dimple that you can use to size the appropriate wrench.
A Prompt Book for Better AI Art Generation
If you’ve spent any time on social media lately, you’ve likely seen some of your acquaintances go down the rabbit hole of artificial intelligence image generators like Midjourney, DALL-E, and Google’s Imagen. These programs take descriptions that you feed them and return AI- generated art interpretations of that input. It’s very addictive and fun and has huge disruptive potential. My wife Angela and I were joking a few weeks ago that in the future, art will be nothing more than the ability to input the most fulsome description of what you want. And then, just a few days later, Recomendo shared a link to The Prompt Book, a free PDF of instructions, examples, and tips for refining your input commands. It’s directed at the DALL-E program, but its ideas can be applied to any of these art generators. In the future, art will be incantation.
Making a Shop Paper Roll Dispenser
Poking around on the ‘Tubes, I came across a series of DIY videos, called Try, that Kevin Kelly did on Cool Tools in 2020-21. How did I miss these? Here’s one on building a kraft paper roll cutter for your shop and a really charming one about the sign that he made for the Kelly compound in Pacifica, CA. I hope he gets inspired to do more of these.
Maker Slang
Jargon, slang, and tech terms from the many realms of making.
FEP – (Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene) A tough, no-stick plastic material commonly found in the bottoms of resin vat 3D printers. Its translucence allows the light source beneath it to shine through the vat, curing the resin onto the build plate.

Holidays – A term used by professional painters and gilders/gold leafers to refer to gaps in coverage. It derives from the joke that a painter must have taken some time off, a little holiday, by not covering an area they should have. [Hat tip to gilder Michael Kramer]

Minimal viable product – A phrase used by Italian maker and product developer, Giaco Whatever. In creating a product, you want to pare your idea down to its minimum possible components. See also: KISS (keep it simple, stupid)

Real job – A project that’s a series of tasks and challenges that imply significant time and effort – as opposed to a task which can be quickly accomplished. “That’s a real job. I need to set aside an afternoon for that.”

Resilient idiot – A self-deprecating admission that sometimes knowledge and skills seemingly won’t stick, not matter how hard you try and learn them. Coined by Donald Bell. Not to be confused with Andy Birkey’s similar: actual moron.
Shop Talk
In response to my piece on inflatable pry bars, reader Adam replied:

“This is a very common tool for locksmiths when dealing with vehicle lockouts. The inflatable pry bar can generally create enough space for the locksmith to drop a loop down to grab the lock pin from the interior of the door frame and gain entry without having to damage or possibly ruin the actual lockset on the car door. But don’t underestimate their power. I used one on an old car when I locked my keys in and it bent the door to the point that it never fully aligned to the door frame gasket again.”

11 August 2022

Nomad Reality/Laptop Sun Shade/24-Hour Bus Rides

Issue #12

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Digital Nomad Reality
We like to see a dose of reality now and then to offset the hype over location-independent work and travel. This Micropreneur article on The Digital Nomad Scam is a good splash of cold water, stating, “Being a digital nomad is not a job. You don’t ‘become a digital nomad’ to escape your work, or to gain financial independence. Being a digital nomad is a lifestyle. And in order to maintain this lifestyle, you need a source of income.”

A Sun Shade for Your Laptop

We all make fun of those “laptop on the beach” photos loved by course creators and Instagram fakers because laptops and bright sunshine don’t really go together well. If you do want to work in direct sunlight then a portable laptop sun shade packs up like a reflection disc that photographers use. If you’re in the UK, this one from Nextstand is 60 pounds sterling. There are a few very similar options available on USA’s Amazon site from US$50 to $80. – via Mark F.

Who’s Up for a 24-hour Bus Ride?
Speaking of travel not always being glamorous, in the long and skinny countries of Chile and Argentina, some routes take an around 24 hours, but at half the price of a flight. Santiago to Calama, near the Atacama Desert, can be as low as $44 for 22.5 hours. Buenos Aires to Salta is $60 for 22 hours, and Buenos Aires to Bariloche starts at around $70 for 23 hours. You usually get 160-degree reclining seats, with only 3 rows across. Splurge a little more and you might get dinner with wine included, then pastries and coffee in the morning. Start the search at Omio or Rome2Rio.

Expat “Invasion” in Mexico City
We mentioned in an earlier edition that there’s been a bit of an expat backlash in Lisbon as free-spending foreigners gladly pay inflated rents higher than most locals can afford. A news item this week pointed to “a foreign invasion” in the nicest central neighborhoods of Mexico City: Roma, Condesa, and Juarez. 

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.



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19 January 2022


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.

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 claudia {at} cool-tools.org.

© 2022