24 September 2018


Run to Cadence Recordings

Double-time motivator

Amazon sells the whole “Run to Cadence” series put out by Documentary Recordings. These are recordings of 40 minute call-and-response chants by drill instructors and the grunts as they run in formation at 115 beats a minute.

I like to use my Airborne Rangers recording as a procrastination-buster when I have to tackle a disagreeable task around the house. I did not serve in the military, but when this tape plays in the background, I “fall in,” get pumped, and get the job done. The momentum stays a while.

-- David Stubbs 09/24/18

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2003 — editors)

23 September 2018


Escape room tips/MagPi/Puddle & Pile

Recomendo: issue no. 113

Escape room tips
Escape rooms are a blast and are now found in most cities. For maximum fun, a small group of people try to solve a roomful of puzzles in order to escape. Here is a quick solid tutorial on the best tips for successfully solving any escape room. — KK

Free magazine for Raspberry Pi projects
The Raspberry Pi is a $35 Linux computer the size of a credit card. Add a keyboard, mouse, microSD card, and a TV or computer display and you have a perfectly usable computer. You can learn about hundreds, if not thousands, of cool projects you can build with a Pi by downloading free PDF copies of MagPi magazine. — MF

Potty training app for puppies
I was immediately overwhelmed when we brought our new puppy home two weeks ago. Puddle & Pile was a mind saver. I log when my pup eats, drinks, pees and poops and the app will predict when he’ll need to potty next and alert me. The more I log the more it learns about his habits and becomes more accurate. It’s not perfect, but it’s prevented a lot of accidents and I can’t find a better app for the job. Suggestions welcome! — CD

Cutting stone
I needed to find a cheap and easy way to cut some fossils out of some rocks. Turns out you can buy a cheap $10 diamond cutting blade for a generic $22 electric angle grinder. It eats stone and spits out dust, so wear a mask, but otherwise it works. — KK

Precision shots
This little stainless steel jigger from OXO ($7) is angled and has markings that make it easy to pour a precise amount of liquor or other liquid. The markings go from a quarter ounce up to two ounces.  — MFF

Reusable hot and cold gel wrap
I don’t get aches and pains often, but I’m very grateful to have this hot and cold compress on hand for when my muscles are sore ($18/2pk). We used to use clay ice packs but they all cracked open in the microwave and these gel packs are better at holding heat longer. — CD


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21 September 2018


Steven Levy, Editor at Large at WIRED

Cool Tools Show 141: Steven Levy

Our guest this week is Steven Levy. Steven writes about technology. He’s editor at large at Wired and his books include Hackers, Crypto, Artificial Life and In the Plex.

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:

Big Green Egg and
Weber iGrill Thermometer
“The grill that I find that is the best is a thing called The Big Green Egg. It’s the variety of grill that’s called the Kamado grill. It’s a ceramic thing. It’s unlike the Weber things, which are made of metal and basically just cook things over the coals. It has the convection angle as well. When you close the big ceramic thing, the temperature as well as the charcoal and the grill cooks it up there. So you can kind of control the temperature within the egg. The thing’s shaped like a big green egg, as the name implies. There’s a cult of The Big Green Egg. There are Big Green Egg nerds that, you know, share secrets and endless accessories you can buy. And so I find that The Big Green Egg is best used when you have a way not only to monitor the temperature inside the egg, which it comes with a thermometer that enables you to do that, but to monitor the internal temperature of whatever you’re cooking. ..I use this thing called iGrill. It’s made by Weber. And basically it’s a device that sits outside the grill with a bunch of probes that would go on the meat. You close the cover over it and you can monitor up to four different pieces of meat or fish or whatever you’re measuring there. … it’s USB, so it goes to your phone or even to your watch, so you’re walking around and your watch might buzz and tell you it’s got five minutes to go.
You can monitor there. It’s foul proof, especially with something like fish were you don’t want to overcook. It’s really great to monitor it. So I’ve never really screwed anything up with this combination.”

“This is an app that I’ve been using the past few months. I think that e-books cost too much. The value proposition isn’t any where near what you can get for a hardback book that you keep for life and you can read it without a light source, and there’s the physical pleasure of it. Though e-books certainly have their virtues, it’s great to have and I love traveling with my Kindle or my iPad, I use both, full of books. So I’m never worried about not having something to read. A BookBub sort of plugs into that idea, maybe a model where books are so cheap, you’ll buy one on impulse and just have it around whether you read it or not, turns out to everyone’s benefit there. As it turns out, every so often, even the books you want to read, get on sale at Amazon and other e-book purveyors, and I’m talking about costing $2 instead of $12 or $10. So BookBub keeps track of all this stuff and first, you fill out some forms or say what kind of books you like, and it figures out the kinds of books you might be interested in and it reports to you when books are on sale. So everyday you get an email with about five books that you may want to read that cost between one and three dollars. And I find maybe once a week, I’ll buy a book. I’ll say ‘Oh, that’s cheap. I’ve always wanted to read that.’ Or here’s a great version of Don Quixote or here’s a thriller by an author I really like or here’s Joan Didion’s ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem.’ Wow, I have that on my book shelf, but I’d love to carry it around with me in case I want to read her essay about Jim Morrison on a plane ride. So I use this and I have probably 50 books now, some of which I’ll probably read, some of which I won’t read, but I’m happy just to have them. So I think that it’s a great model. Some of my books have been on sale for a couple of bucks, and I’ve bought them on there too.”

AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker
“I actually met the inventor and his name’s Alan Adler, and he’s a guy up in years. …He got interested in coffee and tried to figure out what the best way to do a cup of coffee is, and he invented this thing, this vacuum tube. It looks like something you might give an enema with really, and you put some ground coffee into one end and it comes with this little round filter, you get like a thousand for $7, and you heat it up. Adler is very specific in saying, don’t do it to boiling, 175 is the perfect temperature. But I find, you don’t have to be that precise. You pour in the water, you give it a little stir, and then just push the tube down there, push the plunger in, and it gives you an amazing cup of coffee. And as it turns out, the Coffee Geeks have rated this on a level with $4,000 espresso machines, and some boutique coffee shops actually have rows of AeroPresses. That’s the way they make your coffee. They have annual AeroPress contests. For me, it’s just a great cup of coffee and it’s super portable. I have AeroPresses in three different locations … My personal advice is three full scoops, don’t skimp on the coffee. And it’s fantastic. …The other great thing about the AeroPress is it’s self-cleaning. When you push the plunger down, it cleans itself. All you have to do is give it a quick one-second rinse, and pow, there it is. You don’t have to worry about scrubbing it out.”

“I had a period where my transcriber was gone, I needed to get transcription. … Temi is done by AI and it’s 10 cents a minute and it turns it around within a minute … they give you the transcript, and then you edit the transcript, you’re encouraged to edit the transcript to fix it online and they’re watching what you do. So they’re getting better and better and better. So over the past few months, the thing has gone to virtually unusable to pretty good, like about 70 percent, I’d say, of normal transcribers. More than enough to figure out what in the interview you want to use, and then you can click on that part of it online, and play it back right there and just get that one part of it perfect there. So I’m finding it better and better and better, and it is so incredibly cheap and fast that I’m pretty much taping now, just to get a raw transcript … Like an hour interview is 60 cents.”

We have hired professional editors to help create our weekly podcasts and video reviews. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $381 a month. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have great rewards for people who contribute! – MF


21 September 2018


Rösle Garlic Press

World's best garlic press

Out of the dozen or more different garlic presses I’ve used, the Rösle is the absolute best ($39). The Germanic precision of manufacture is very high. It has a built-in mechanical lever that presses the garlic significantly harder than you press the handle. Hence, it takes less physical strength and strain, which is especially helpful when you’re pressing a lot of garlic. The press is also much easier to clean because the screen where the clove is pressed can be removed. No more digging down into the “pit” to scrape out the fiber remains with your finger or a separate cleaning bristle. When I mentioned “the world’s best garlic press” in the office, two folks immediately knew I was talking about the Rösle.

-- Kurt Bollacker 09/21/18

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2003 — editors)

20 September 2018


Fiskars Rotary Cutter

Better than razor blades

Rotary cutters aren’t new tools. It’s just taken me awhile to appreciate how great they are. The Fiskars Rotary Cutter ($10) replaces X-Actos for most heavy-duty cutting jobs in our household. It’s faster, surer, easier and therefore safer to use than razor blades. It will slice through paper, vinyl, cardboard, fabric, and foam board with ease and accuracy. I can only manage perfectly straight long cuts with a rotary cutter and straight edge. Cutting curves is buttery. Seamstresses can add pinking blades. The replaceable blade retracts when not in use; it can be side-switched for left-handers. When I think “cut” I reach for this tool.

-- KK 09/20/18

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2003 — editors)

19 September 2018



Multi-use warmer for heads, hands, neck

Recently Paul Saffo and Stewart Brand were raving about the Buff, the all-in-one garment. I am picky and a minimalist when it comes to clothing, but the Buff, in addition to being a shape-shifter, also weighs almost nothing, so I thought I should try it. It’s pretty neat, now part of my pack. — KK

Here is what Paul Saffo wrote:

Y’all probably have known about Buff forever, but in case not, this thing is way cool. Described as “the original multi-functional Seamless Wear”, it is a stretchy microfiber tube that can be a neckerchief/neck-scarf, headband, wristband, foulard, bandit-mask, hand-warmer, balaclava and more. I mostly use it as a neck-scarf when biking, and on hikes when it turns cool. Because it is microfiber, it has great thermal and wicking properties — and it is a great glasses-cleaner.

Stewart Brand adds:

Do see their online movies of the ways to rig a Buff.


(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2003 — editors)


img 08/19/13

Weber Rapidfire Chimney Charcoal Starter

The best way to start a charcoal barbecue

img 09/14/17


Never-fail sharp tweezers

img 04/17/03


A knife that will get through security

img 06/7/11

Photon Microlight II

Ultralight and bright

img 03/3/08

Aladdin Lamps

Bright, oil/kerosene-powered lighting

img 12/15/04

Kapla Blocks

Precision building blocks

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 141: Steven Levy

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 140: Bran Ferren

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 139: Adam Fisher

Picks and shownotes

23 February 2017


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