General Purpose Tools

2021 Holiday Gift Guide: Kevin’s picks

Golden oldies

Instead of suggesting the best products that I encountered this year, I want to suggest the best products I know about and still use today. Think of these as golden oldies, that are still golden.

This $10 painting app is the best $10 I have ever spent. It enables my iPad to become an art studio. I paint with Procreate every evening to make my daily piece of art. The app includes different “brushes” which turn the stylus into different kinds of media — say a pencil, or an ink pen, or an oil paint brush, or a calligraphy brush — so I get a whole studio of different art supplies. I can paint with textures, mask edges, replicate and manipulate basic digital functions like copy and paste. And there is a large Procreate community offering custom brushes, and tutorials. Powerful tool, and cheap.

I use this free app on my phone to identify plants and flowers. Aim the phone camera at the unknown botanical and it will quickly offer an identification of the species, or second best, the genus. It gives an answer about 95% of the time, including domestic and wild plants. Once you get an ID, you can look up more info about it on the web.

This app will identify a bird from its song or chirp. Even if the bird is hidden, or not close, this app will usually identify the species. In the app you can play a pre-recorded bird song of that species to confirm it is correct. Merlin can also ID two bird sounds at once in the same place. It’s free for iOS and Android.

Pilot G2 Mini Pen
My go-to pen is the Pilot G2 gel. It lays down a very smooth, very dark line. This popular pen also comes in a mini-version which is shorter than the regular ones, which makes it perfect for carrying in my pocket. I have a Pilot G2 mini in every pants and jacket I own.

Chevy Bolt
I love our electric car. We bought a Chevy Bolt because it was way cheaper than any Tesla at the time. It is the best performing car I’ve ever owned. It’s powerful, agile, and quiet. We are very happy with it. The joy of never visiting a gas station can’t be measured. There are more EV options now, so we might not get a Bolt if we had to buy one now, but there is no way I’d go back to a gas car.

Cordless Glue Gun
Workshops have gone cordless. Every power tool made is now available in a cordless version, which makes it faster to get, and easier to handle. One of the last tools to go cordless is a glue gun. Like other cordless tools, being cordless makes it easier to work with, particularly if you are sharing it, or working on something large. It is really liberating to have no cord while gluing. This one needs Ryobi tool batteries, or an adapter for other brands (I use it with Dewalt batteries).

Airpods Pro
These earbuds work perfectly with an iPhone. The audio is sterling, and the built-in microphone works amazingly well. I use them to listen to podcasts while walking and to have distant conversations while walking. They are pricey, but hassle free, so worth it to me.


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