14 October 2019



Head support for back sleepers

I purchased this pillow ($70) because I wanted a solution to the creases under my eyes. I didn’t understand why they were forming until I noticed that they happened because I slept on my side, which squashed my face against the pillow overnight. However, I don’t like sleeping on my back because my head moves around while I sleep and I wake up with a headache and sore neck. I looked around for a pillow that would prevent that from happening and came across the YourFacePillow. I could tell right away that it was a unique looking pillow. If you look at the pictures you can see how it works. It cushions your head with the U-shaped slot. There’s more than enough room to comfortably move your head to avoid stiffness problems. The softer sides of the slot prevent you from rolling your head over on your side.

I’ve been surprised – and impressed – by how well the pillow works. I’ve been using it for just a few weeks and have noticed a massive difference in the appearance of my eyes. There are no longer any deep creases. I also no longer get the typical neck kinks that I would before.

It offers just the right amount of firmness and I love how the the two side bolsters cradle my head. I also noticed that there’s no chemical memory foam smell at all, which is always nice. The gentle pressure-relieving memory foam is super comfortable. It’s neither too soft or too firm. I get just enough support from it. I no longer wake up with a stiff or sore neck.

The memory foam breathes pretty well too and I didn’t feel hot while sleeping. I replaced the included pillowcase with my personal silk pillowcase and and it fit well. However, you can purchase a separate silk cover in addition to the pillow from Amazon.

I’d have to recommend that people who have neck pain go with the large pillow instead of the standard size one. They have similar overall dimensions, but the main difference between the two is that the larger pillow is thicker compared to the small one, giving you improved neck support. I definitely recommend this pillow to anyone who needs better support while sleeping and wants to get rid of wrinkles and sleep lines.

-- Hannah Edmonds 10/14/19

13 October 2019


SFO Museum/Science of Persuasion/Taste guides

Recomendo: issue no. 168

SFO Museum
For years the San Francisco airport has been accumulating and displaying stellar modern art throughout its four terminals. They now call this ongoing collection the SFO Museum. Though thinly dispersed, IMHO it’s one of the better modern art museums today,. It is well worth going to their website to discover where the works are and what is showing. Most are in post-security areas, so it’s convenient if you have extra time once checked in, or are in transit. I’ve been seeking them out with great pleasure. — KK

How to persuade, distilled
A whole book (“Influence” by Robert Cialdini) on the key scientific principles of how to persuade people — get them to change their mind or behavior — has been expertly compressed into a 12 minute doodle video. It’s so compressed you might need to review The Science of Persuasion more than once. The principles work! — KK

Find your taste charts
Two images I find myself pulling up from time to time are 1) this chart of apple varieties lined up from most tart to most sweet, and 2) a visual guide to major types of wine grouped by flavor characteristics. I may never be able to articulate tasting aromas or textures, but at least I’ll be able to pick a delicious wine I’ll enjoy. — CD

Find the perfect pet bird
I’ve owned birds in the past, and I’m not in the market for one now, but my daughter showed me this fun quiz that matches you up with the perfect type of pet bird and points you to rescue centers near you so you can adopt one. The quiz result said my kind of bird is the lineolated parakeet, and I agree. — MF

Remember what you read
If you read books on Kindle or iBooks you should be using Readwise. I got turned on to Readwise by Recomendo readers Chris Galtenberg and Len Edgerly almost two years ago, and it’s become an integral part of how I read and retain the words and ideas that grab me. Every passage I highlight in my Kindle is auto-imported and sent back to me in a thrice-weekly email (you can choose the frequency and number of highlights you receive). This service is free for a trial period. I pay $4.99/per month for the upgraded version that allows you to import highlights from other sources, like Medium and Twitter. And I also have it synced to my Evernote account, so that anytime new highlights are imported, my Evernote is updated immediately. Using Readwise makes me want to read more and highlight more, I’ve even started inputing the highlighted passages from my favorite paper books. You can read a random selection of my highlights at: https://readwise.io/@claudia. — CD

My favorite mayonnaise
I’ve been spoiled by Kewpie mayonnaise, made in Japan. No other mayo comes close. The secret is extra egg yolk and MSG. My kids and I squeeze it on everything (especially sweet potato chunks roasted in coconut oil). Kewpie also has a U.S. made version, but Amazon sells the real Japanese version. — MF

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 10/13/19

11 October 2019


Kevin and Mark’s Four Favorite Tools

Cool Tools Show 195: Kevin and Mark of Cool Tools

Our guests this week are Kevin and Mark. They share some of the tools they’ve been using and liking lately.

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Show notes:

Kevin’s pick: Drone
DJI Spark Mini Drone ($399)
I’ve been a very, very slow adopter of some of the newest photography technology in the form of drones. I have not owned a drone, and I’ve been kind of slow to get one, in part because there’s a learning curve and part because my photography generally doesn’t kind of lend that style. But I have a particular need for somewhere that I’m going to where I wanted to get high up, I wanted to have some elevated views, and I decided to get a drone. So, as usual, I kind of started low. I wanted basically an entry-level, lowest cost, easiest to learn mode, and so I got a DJI, which is the Chinese manufacturer of most drones. I got their Spark version, which I would say is the size of kind of like a cordless phone. The blades fold up, but the arms actually don’t fold up. It’s a little bit bigger than the palm, but it’s not that much bigger. It will shoot very high res still images, which is what I’m using it for. And the other thing about it is that it doesn’t have a controller. It’s actually controlled through an app that you load on your phone. So it has a limited range of about 100 meters from your phone, because it’s kind of using wifi of some sort. Those were actually not bugs to me. Those were actually benefits, f because I was going to be hauling this around in my backpack, and I didn’t want to have a lot of weight, and I didn’t need it to do fancy things. So this has, so far, proven to be exactly what I wanted it for, which is I can send it up and take mostly still images high up that are very high res, and I can throw it into a little day pack, and it hardly takes up any room at all. – KK

Mark’s pick: Deebot
I never got a Roomba. They’ve been out for a really long time, but I just thought that they were gimmicks. But I got this DEEBOT vacuum. They sent it to me to review, and I said, “Okay, if I don’t have to pay for it, I’m willing to just try it and see what I think.” And so I set it up. I put the little dock on the ground and let it go. And it’s iPhone-controlled and I could see as it was walking around the room it was drawing a little map of our floor plan, and it took a couple of hours to find its way and feel its way all around. At first I wasn’t able to see if it was cleaning or not yet, but I was really impressed by the way it could get itself out of any tricky spot, and it just, it really felt like it was a living animal navigating around. So it spent like two hours going over everything. And then when I looked, I pulled out the little tray, it was stuffed to the brim with junk, tons of cat fur. It was so gross. I could not believe how much was in there. It was heavy with stuff. So I just dumped all the stuff out, and then I had it do it again after I let it charge, and it picked up more stuff again. I mean, our floor is noticeably much cleaner, and we’ve hooked it up to Alexa, so all we have to do is say, “Alexa, tell DEEBOT to start cleaning,” and it will do its job. And then when the batteries are low, it goes back to its charging station by itself and starts charging, or you can tell it, “Alexa, tell DEEBOT to return to the charging station,” and it will do it. love it, and I’m just sorry that we didn’t get this thing sooner. — MF

Kevin’s pick: RODE
Rode Wireless Go Microphones ($199)
Another tool that I’ve been using a lot and have been very, very happy with and kind of thrilled it works so well is something which I use in making video recordings of myself when I’ve been teaching sessions for China. The visual recording is very professional. The lighting’s professional. And what we know from video is that people often judge the quality of the video on the audio. You can have kind of crappy visuals, but if you have really good audio, people don’t notice, and vice versa. So in my effort to kind of up the quality of my audio for these recordings, the tool that works the best, is a pair of wireless microphones and their tether. And the one that I’m most excited by is called the Rode Wireless GO. They’re about the size of a match cover. They’re about two-inch squares or maybe less, and one you put on your camera, and the other one you can put on a person anywhere within 100 meters of the tether. And it’s a microphone that is wireless. And what’s beautiful about these is that it’s kind of total plug-and-play. Right of the box, there’s no going into the menus, there’s just nothing. You just hit a button, they’re on. They’re linked up together. You can use a built-in microphone in the one that you wear, or you can add a little lavalier onto a shirt. It also gives me flexibility, if I’m making something and recording stuff, there’s no wires to to be involved in. So that’s really, really great. The whole set is $200, which, in the realm of high-end audio equipment, is very, very reasonable. It’s a bargain for a wireless microphone. It’s just fantastic.

Mark’s pick: Tamplifier
Nobsound G3 ($47)
This is called a Class-T amplifier, and it’s for listening to music. So typically, I think, a lot of people now don’t have home stereo systems anymore, because they’re using these wireless Bluetooth speakers that they just connect to their phones and they can play their music library. And about a couple of months ago, my wife Carla was saying she wished that we had a nice stereo system in the house with big speakers so that we could hear the music in a fuller, richer way. And I had speakers, but I didn’t have an amplifier anymore. So I started looking around, and I remember a post that Corey made like back in 2013 on Boing Boing about a, at the time, kind of relatively new type of amplifier called a Class-T amplifier. And they’re a much lower a power than typical larger amplifiers, but the sound is still really full and strong and distortion-free. And the price has just been dropping ever since they were introduced. And so I got one on Amazon. It comes with the power adapter, so you plug it into the wall, and it’s got Bluetooth in it. Then it has speaker output, so you just wire large speakers to it. And this little device itself is so small you could hide it behind a speaker. I actually have it up in the attic above the living room, so it’s just hidden there, and then the wires are going to speakers that are actually in the ceiling. Now we just bring a phone into the room, connect it to the Bluetooth, and you’re playing the songs on your phone, and it just sounds great. There’s no distortion. They can get really, really loud. And we’re just using it like crazy. I mean, compared to a nice Bluetooth speaker that costs over $100, this thing blows it out of the water.


We have hired professional editors to help create our weekly podcasts and video reviews. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $390 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


10 October 2019


Scaled Digital Map Measurer

Quickly and easily measure maps at any scale.

I was listening to a recent guest on your Cool Tools podcast [It was Nik Schulz – MF] that was an “overland” enthusiast and one of his recommendations was a map measuring tools called an opisometer. While my day job as a design engineer exposes me to some Cool Tools, I’ve been a car rally navigator / co-driver for decades. While there are few time-speed-distance map rallies anymore, a common feature is the need to measure distances on a map quickly, while preparing your map at the beginning of the event. While a classic mechanical opisometer is a precise tool for distance measurement on a map, it is slow and needs to be scaled much in the same way a slide-rule is a precise calculator, but its day has passed.

For messing distances on a map or other curvy 2-D path, I’d suggest a digital map scale like the Scalex map wheel ($49). You calibrate the tool by rolling it over the scale of distance on a map or entering the scale factor directly, and then roll the wheel along the path you want to measure and it reads out digitally.

The precision is adequate for resolving distances to corners on a night rally in a February snowstorm. It’s one of the tools that I keep in my navigator’s bag for map rallies. If this interests you and you want to know how to read the rest of the map while bouncing around in the car at night, we’ll, there’s a cool tool for that also.

-- Marc Goldfarb 10/10/19

09 October 2019


What’s in my bag? — Charles Platt

What's in my bag? issue #18

Sign up here to get What’s in my bag? a week early in your inbox.

Charles Platt is a former science-fiction writer and senior writer at Wired magazine, and now the author of Make: Electronics, a hands-on instructional book. He is also building prototype rapid cooling devices for a California laboratory.

Carson Miniature Folding Tripod
This miniature tripod folds to 6″ x 2″ x ¾” approx. Useful when I am doing an interview or taking a public speaking class and I want to set-and-forget my pocket camera in video mode.

Concave (magnifying) mirror ($15)
In case I get a small foreign object in my eye. This happens rarely, but when it does happen, I like to be able to deal with it on my own regardless of where I am.

Little Bag o’ Pills ($5/100 bags)
Pill bottles take too much space. I remove each bottle label with a heat gun and reapply it to a 3″ x 4″ plastic bag. I can fit ten bags of pills into a little plastic box measuring 3.5″ x 6″ x 1.25″ (from Michael’s craft store). Is it legal to transfer the label? I have no idea.

3M Ear Plugs ($28/200pk)
When a friend says, “Hey I’ve got a great idea, let’s go to that bar where they have live bongo music played by teenage crack heads!” Sounds good to me. So long as I have my earplugs, I’ll go anywhere.

About the bag
I’ve had this bag for 20 years. It is a generic computer bag, 12″ x 15″ (smallest I could find), but able to hold numerous little boxes of useful stuff in addition to a notebook computer, which is necessary as I prefer not to use handheld devices.

-- Charles Platt 10/9/19

08 October 2019


O2 Hooded Rain Jacket

Lightest rain gear

There are more durable and more comfortable rain wear, but none as light. The O2 jacket with hood ($26+) weighs only 6 oz (175 g)! Pants are about the same. Its featherweight can slip in anywhere without notice. This makes it perfect for backpacking or bicycling where ounces and bulk count. Rather than using the usual Goretex-like breathable fabrics this uses a 3M Microporous Film fabric which is thinner, lighter, and cheaper. The fabric does not feel plasticy, like most lightweight ponchos; instead it feels almost like a soft paper towel. It is perfectly waterproof, even in severe downpours (I even tested it in the shower once; my clothes dry underneath). And fairly breathable. I will wear it as a windbreaker on hikes even in sunny weather, and not sweat.

The garment is minimal and packs small; simple zipper, no pockets (on the basic model). Being so lightweight it is not as robust as more expensive gear — but perfectly adequate for unexpected rains. If you plan to wear it over heavy outerwear, order a size larger.

-- KK 10/8/19

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2012 — editors)



img 09/9/08

Raven Maps

Best US state wall maps

img 05/30/11

Snark SN-2

Best Clip-On Instrument Tuner

img 04/6/10


Self-publishing via Amazon

img 11/15/04


Kindling splitter

img 12/9/11

The Wondermill

Countertop flour mill

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 195: Kevin and Mark of Cool Tools

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 194: David Moldawer

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 193: Carla Sinclair

Picks and shownotes

09 October 2019


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 claudia {at} cool-tools.org.