18 January 2019


Daniel Pink, NYT Bestselling Author

Cool Tools Show 158: Daniel Pink

Our guest this week is Daniel Pink. Daniel is the author of four New York Times bestsellers on work, business, and psychology. His books have won multiple awards and have been translated into 39 languages. Dan was also host and co-executive producer of “Crowd Control,” a National Geographic TV series about human behavior. His latest book is When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes:

3M E-A-Rsoft Yellow Ear Plugs
“I’m a big fan of ear plugs because I find that I work a lot better if I just block out sound. And a lot of times, what’ll happen if you have expensive noise canceling headphones, the battery will run out, or you’ll forget them, or I will actually always worry about losing them. And so, I buy this box of ear plugs. They come in these small, individually wrapped pairs, and I use them for everything. There’s something, to me, that when you put in ear plugs, it just blocks out the rest of the world and signals that you’re in it. … I basically keep a fist full of them in my back pack. They’re very good in hotels, too. Because a lot of times in hotels, it’s like, ‘Oh, I have the room next to the clanging ice machine. Oh, I have the room next to the elevator and there are 3000 Kiwanis from Buffalo, drinking all night and coming in late at night.’ And so, anyway. All of which is to say that I don’t have many friends, but I have a lot of ear plugs.”

Faber Castell Jumbo Grip Pencils
“Over time, I’m not sure how it happened, I really like using pencils. As a writer, as a note taker, I still find, maybe it’s delusional, but I find that I think better if there’s some tactile element to what I’m doing. I almost never take notes by computer on my laptop. I prefer to take notes by hand. And there’s actually some evidence that that aids in retention. I just did it because I liked the tactileness of it, and I love pencils. I love the sound of pencil on a paper, the scraping that it makes. I like the way that it looks. I tend to doodle and sketch a fair bit, and so it’s much better than pens for that, because pens often have that little dollop of ink sometimes that will gum on there. And as I’ve experimented with pencils … the ones that I settled on were these things called Jumbo Grip Faber-Castell pencils. And what they are is that the barrel is thicker than a typical kind of number two pencil. That’s one thing about it. The other thing about it is that the barrel isn’t really a barrel. It’s not in the shape of a cylinder, as most pencils are. It’s actually in the shape of sort of a rounded triangle. And it also has these things, and I don’t know what to call them. … There’s like a line of small raised plastic dots that are akin to braille in their texture, and what they do is they allow actually a firmer grip. And it turns out, that they’re often used in elementary schools, for like first graders, second grades, especially boys, who struggle a little bit with fine motor skills, because it gives them a little bit more grip. I ordered these pencils by the case, and I sharpen them, and I grind them. I’m literally holding one right now. So, I love these pencils. And they’re totally cheap.”

“Masterclass is a set of classes conducted by like the best people in the world at what they do. So, if you look at basketball skills, they have Steph Curry. If you look at screenwriting, they have Aaron Sorkin. You look at acting they have Helen Mirren. They have a lot of writers, comedy they have Steve Martin. … it’s very, very well produced. And so, what they are, is it’s a series of classes, but the classes are more like interviews. They’re not as purely didactic as somebody standing in front of a class and telling you precisely how to do something. At least, the ones that I’ve watched and enjoyed. But you get to see people who are really, really great at something explain how they do it. And as I said, it’s very well produced, and they’re divided into videos … They vary in length, but the videos can be anywhere from three minutes to sometimes 20 minutes, and they’re divided into certain sections based on what the person is trying to teach. Helen Mirren has a very short video about how to walk onto a stage. Something that you wouldn’t think about, but that you’re like, ‘Whoa, that’s actually a big thing. Like how do you walk onto a stage if you’re an actor?’ … Margaret Atwood has one about novel writing that was fantastic. … But what I think is interesting, like in the class on wine with James Suckling is things like how do you hold a glass to examine the color of a wine. And it turns out, anytime I did do it, I was doing it completely wrong. …. So, I think it’s a great investment. I think it’d make a super cool gift, too.”

Hell’s Handle Fish Spatula
“I’m not much of a cooker. But if it involves cooking outside, that’s my domain. And so, we’ve ended grilling a lot of fish, because we have three people in my house who don’t eat meat. And fish is actually really hard to grill, because it’s very different in consistency from a beef steak … And a lot of times the fish, particularly when you cook it on the skin side, it sticks. And I was always frustrated, and some how, I think it was my wife found this spatula that is the greatest spatula I’ve ever seen. And I’m not exaggerating. I mean, it is so great. And so, all the sudden, I’m able to up my grill game significantly because of this spatula … It sort of has this beveled edge to it, and it has this handle, and it’s like exactly the right level of flexibility. And so, you can get underneath the fish in a way you can’t with a regular spatula, and it has some give, so you can actually, with fair amount of confidence, say take a hamburger or something like that, and literally like flip it in the air. This is the first time in my life I’ve been excited by a kitchen tool. So, if you grill fish at all, this is perfect. I mean, it’s just a great, great product. And the brand name is kind of cool, too. It’s called Hell’s Handle by Mercer.”

Also mentioned:

WHEN: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

We have hired professional editors to help create our weekly podcasts and video reviews. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $400 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


18 January 2019


L-288AMBT Portable Radio

Feature packed inexpensive radio

I’m a radio fan: I don’t have a TV and I enjoy the public radio news reports, more factual and less tainted, and I discover new music through the local radio stations, we even have some pirate stations sometimes. It’s simple, autonomous and doesn’t rely on an internet connection or precious smartphone battery.

Having heard my stepmother wasn’t listening to the radio anymore, I wanted to offer one to her. Her daughter told me not to give her anything too important as she feared it would be soon taking the dust, so I bought a cheap one for 10€ on Amazon, with honorable reviews. It turns out it’s a gem, with some limitations, but really neat nonetheless.

Build to cost as little as possible, it’s not obviously pretty, but it’s still good and small enough to not notice. The great things are the packed features: it’s rechargeable with a standard USB outlet, so doesn’t need disposable batteries, separate rechargeable cells or a specific charger, it’s also an MP3 player for USB drives or MicroSD cards, a Bluetooth speaker and even has a microphone to work like a cellular speakerphone. Sound is perfectly decent and when at maximum could be heard in the next room, with no distortions.

The antenna is a real antenna, no a flimsy wire. For the radio stations memories, it scans all the spectrum and saves each after the previous one, so you can’t choose memories but it’s also easy to set up. The only bothersome thing is it wakes up not in the last used mode but in Bluetooth mode, and it says “the Bluetooth device is ready to pair” – it can be abbreviated by pushing the mode button immediately at wake-up.

I honestly hope my current radio dies so I can get one for me. It’s available with multiple designations, often with “L-288AMBT” printed on the front, from multiple outlets like Amazon, eBay (starts at $15), banggood, dealextreme, aliexpress and so on.

-- Marc Lacoste 01/18/19

17 January 2019


Titanium Coated Utility Shear

Makes easy work of sheet metal

This Titanium Coated Utility Shear gives both power and precision when cutting sheet metal. This past summer it was a huge help for fine cuts on complex corners and angles as we wrapped building soffits and fascia in aluminum panels. It also saw use on some HVAC sheet metal projects. The blade size, handle shape and spring contribute to give me excellent cutting control and doesn’t overly distort the cut metal. This tool makes the traditional tin snips seem like a clumsy meat cleaver.

-- Chad Cooper 01/17/19

16 January 2019


Screw and Nut Grabber

Spring-loaded jaws grasp tiny screws

I came across this Screw and Nut Grabber ($8) in the impulse buy section during a Christmas shopping trip to a Lee Valley retail store. When I saw it sitting in the jar on the counter I hoped it was the solution to the headaches caused by my sausage fingers. At $8 it was worth the gamble. It has found itself and permanent home in my tool kit, unlike other items found in the spaces usually reserved for mints and chocolate parts.

I repair medical equipment on site for a living. While many screws are magnetic and will hold to a bit for installing upside down, I have found some manufacturers use small stainless screws to install circuit boards in devices where there is any risk of moisture ingress. This has led to me dropping many screws, accompanied by some colorful language and a scavenger hunt.

I have looked at similar devices that hold a screw onto a screwdriver but they are designed to be used for one type of screwdriver bit and I would have to carry multiple specialty drivers. This is not ideal for keeping my tool kit lightweight and portable. But this tool is small enough to fit into hard to reach areas. While not designed to allow you to apply torque it allows me to start a machine screw with little risk of cross threading then follow with a normal driver to tighten.

For starting a screw it is limited to small (~1/4″) heads or the holding prongs will slip. I have also used it for its intended purpose to the pick up dropped fuses, screws, nuts, etc.

I have used this tool for almost 2 years 3-10 times per week and it has held up very well. It is small enough to fit into any tool kit. This tool has saved me many hours of searching for dropped screws and nuts and maintain a professional demeanor at the same time.

[Amazon sells a similar tool for $7 — MF]

-- Arthur Heffernan 01/16/19

16 January 2019


Software-Defined Radio

Receiving radio signals using a tuner dongle

While doodling around in YouTube, some videos bubbled up about SDR – Software Defined Radio. It’s an amazing topic. If I don’t screw up the explanation: Rather than a whole lot of radio receiver hardware that lets you pick up a transmission-at-a-time in a particular band that the radio’s designed to handle, an SDR receiver ($30) (in this case, a USB dongle) does some of the RF stuff, and the software (& hardware) in the computer does what the usual radio hardware does. And it adds a whole lot of flexibility. Here’s a pretty good introduction:

This kit is $28 and includes a few antenna combinations. I’ve put SDR# on my not-really-elaborate laptop (gotta follow the installation directions on this one, it’s not hard or complicated, but not being aware of some details will frustrate), and boom, it comes right up. There’s some exploration necessary to figure out what’s what, but the payoff comes quickly: Being able to see (spectrally) & hear all sorts of stuff in a wide band of freqs. For almost no money, really. And the spectrum available to even this cheapie dongle is far beyond what normal hardware-specific radios are capable of handling. Of course, you can always work on improving your antenna setup, and there are more elaborate (& expensive) radios, so there’s room to grow new capacities. For Hams, there are SDR transceivers, too. There are ways these things can provide broadcast TV reception, too. Even grabbing satellite weather images is possible if you want to chase that. It’s amazing, and cool too.

-- Wayne Ruffner 01/16/19

15 January 2019


Micro USB Adapter Connector

Adapter connector for cell phones and tablets

One of these ($4 for 5) came bundled with a USB Flash drive I purchased. Insert one end into the male USB plug of the Flash drive, and the other end is micro USB compatible, so it can plug into your phone or other devices. For years, I just used it to transfer files to and from flash drives into my phone, but then I learned a really neat thing: It will also work with the transmitter dongle for my wireless keyboard and mouse! On those occasions when I wish to use my tablet (a Kindle Fire 7) more like a computer, I can connect my full-size keyboard and mouse to the tablet with this adapter. The peripherals work just as expected, letting me type at normal speeds, and have the precise cursor control that I expect from a mouse. It has been really convenient. I have this wireless mini-keyboard/trackpad device which also can use in this way. So when I don’t want to carry a notebook computer, but still need to do some typing, this adapter is just the thing. The one I am linking to is very small and inexpensive. It is thin enough that I can store it, in a paper envelope, inside my wallet without trouble.

-- Daniel Kim 01/15/19


img 01/14/19

Mpow M5 Bluetooth Headset

Wireless over head earpiece with noise reduction

img 01/13/19

Digital Recomendo

Downloadable, searchable PDF

img 01/11/19

Jen Schachter, Multimedia Maker

Cool Tools Show 157: Jen Schachter

img 01/11/19

Bose Color Bluetooth Speaker

Loudest, clearest Bluetooth speaker

See all the reviews


img 09/12/03

Snorkel Hot Tub

Wood powered hot tub

img 03/8/13

Pogo Connect

Best iPad stylus

img 10/9/07


Cheapest hi-quality photo scans

img 01/1/09


Personal outsourcing

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 158: Daniel Pink

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 157: Jen Schachter

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 156: Michael Kupperman

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.

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 cl {at} kk.org.