28 November 2022

Velcro & Cords

Tools for Possibilities: issue no. 10

Once a week we’ll send out a page from Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities. The tools might be outdated or obsolete, but the possibilities they inspire are new. Sign up here to get Tools for Possibilities a week early in your inbox.

Velcro double-sided wide ties
Velcro One-Wrap, $6

I carry a roll of the Velcro Plant Ties (see right) in my tool bag, but also keep One-Wrap Velcro strips in the shop. While they’re much more expensive, I’ve found the larger kind to be substantially bulkier and stronger. Here in Toronto, we have alternating weekly garbage, recycling, and green waste pickup. We also have rapacious raccoons. I found if I add a simple loop of One-Wrap, screw it into the side of the green bin and loop it over the locking bail of the bin, the raccoons cannot open it. I first tried Plant Ties. They just wouldn’t hold. For my purposes, a One-Wrap is good for about a year, after which it is easily replaced. It’s available in various colors and sizes. The lower-end of the One-Wrap line is a similar size to the Plant Ties, which are 13 mm wide; however, the One-Wrap also come as large as 22mm. It has deeper loop Velcro (thicker and fuzzier), and as the width of the tape increases, the size of the loops and their grip strength increases. Plant Ties really are great for handling all kinds of tasks, but One-Wrap is strong enough to bundle thicker rope, heavier hoses, and most importantly for me, they keep raccoons out of the recycling. – David Keldsen
Heavy duty velcro
Dual Lock Fastener Tape, $18

To me, as a commuter, one of the most impressive parts of the EZ Pass toll-paying system is the hardcore industrial “velcro” tape they give you to attach your transponder to your windshield. It’s not really velcro, though – instead of hooks and loops, both surfaces have these tiny hard plastic mushroom-shaped things that grab each other by the hundreds and don’t let go. Both sides are the same, so there is only one tape (called selfmating). And unlike the loosy-fabricky velcro connection, the Dual Lock surfaces don’t join until you’ve positioned them exactly, and then pressed them together with a satisfying “chunk.” They’re primarily used in industrial applications as a replacement for mechanical fasteners, but I use mine to attach my iPod to my dashboard, and tools to the wall in my workshop. – S.S. Flanders
Versatile fastener
Parachute Cord, $8

Parachute cord isn’t only light and strong (550lb. rating) for its size (5/32” diameter), it’s also more versatile than other types of rope because it can be dissected and parted out, cut and used for its braided nylon sleeve and/or seven separate core strands.

You can get an enhanced grip and a little added padding by using paracord to wrap tool handles. It’s also used for making lanyards. I recently inserted a length of ball chain into a parachute cord sleeve to make a hands-free flashlight for late-night dog walks. The nylon is a lot more comfortable around my neck than a ball chain, and the fit is perfect. – Spencer Starr


27 November 2022

Happiness and Wealth Guide/Best Peppermint Tea

Recomendo: issue no. 333

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Claudia’s “I wish” list
This year on my holiday wishlist are 6 objects to improve my work-life balance, which includes a new machine-washable rug for my home office and desk chair, some tools to alleviate stress and glow-in-the-dark temporary tattoos — just for fun. Check it out here. — CD

Favorite peppermint tea
I recently ordered a cup of peppermint tea at a restaurant, and it made all the other mint teas I’ve had in the past taste like lawn clippings. I ordered a box on Amazon. It’s called Smith Teamaker’s Peppermint Leaves No. 45. – MF

Mini Wikipedia
Wikipedia is so valuable to me that I have a mini version of it on my phone so I have access to it anywhere in the world anytime. I use Kiwix, a free app for iOS and Android, that parks a 13GB file with 6.6 million Wikipedia articles – without images. (The version with images is  ). With Kiwix I can get Wikipedia on a boat, in the wilderness, or anywhere beyond cell service. You’ll want to download via wifi it cause it takes a long while. – KK

Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories
For the last several years, the cartoonist Seth has been designing and illustrating an annual series of beautiful little books, called Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories. This year’s series includes A Visit by Shirley Jackson, The Corner Shop by Lady Asquith, and The Dead and the Countess by Gertrude Atherton. – MF

Collaborate with scientists
NASA has a page dedicated to their Citizen Science Projects where you can volunteer to help make scientific discoveries, like mapping bird diversity, cloud gazing, tracing patches of kelp, or identifying celestial objects in search of Planet Nine. Currently, there are 30 projects open to anyone in the world, and most can be done with just a cellphone or laptop. — CD

Happiness and wealth guide
One of the better books of I’ve read that is crammed with very good and actionable advice for gaining happiness, success, and wealth is The Alamanack of Naval Ravikant, which is generously (a key skill!) available as a free PDF. I found myself agreeing with most of the advice. Kindle and printed book versions are sold on Amazon. – KK

— Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson


26 November 2022

2022 “I wish” List – Kevin’s picks

8 things on my holiday wishlist

This year we are doing something different for our holiday gift lists. Instead of carefully selecting some of the best tools and gifts that we own and can personally recommend, this time we are carefully listing things we don’t have but would like to get. This is a wish list. We’ve searched for uncommon gifts that seem wonderful, although contrary to the usual policy of this site, we don’t actually have any personal experience with the items on this list. If you do, leave some comments. — Editors

Here’s what Kevin Kelly would like for Christmas.

Leatherman multi-tool
Leathermans are swiss army knives with pliers – incredibly useful multi-tools. The Leatherman Free P4 has 21 bladed tools folded into it, including the pliers. It is relatively compact, but still too big to really stay in your pocket. It will be most useful on outings, field trips, and camping. It replaces a small tool chest.

Kindle Paperwhite Kids
This 11th generation Kindle seems to be the ebook reader to get. The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Kids edition has all the latest Kindle features including 10-week battery life, front illumination, and Bluetooth to listen to audible books. This Kid’s version also has a waterproof case, access to public library books, and no ads. Time for me to upgrade.

Audubon bird call
This little classic hand-powered wooden thingy, the Audubon Bird Call, will squeak when you twist it making bird-like chirps, which I am told attract birds when you are bird watching.

Blank flip books
Here’s a dozen blank flip books ready to turn your doodles into animations. Release your inner 10-year old. Each book has 60 sheets.

4K Trail Camera
Years ago I had film-based trail cams to try and catch a photo of the mountain lion in our neighborhood, so I need to move to digital. This Vikeri 4K trail cam has infrared night vision, as well as daylight motion sensing. Also does video, and has a screen for review – very handy.

Smartphone printer
Send photos from your phone on the Fujifilm Instax Mini Printer and it will instantly print them out. The pictures are small-ish ( ), but good enough for parties, weddings, gatherings, or gifts to strangers. The print is about the size of a phone itself.

Cordless electric chain saw
All my workshop and household tools are going cordless. One significant tool remains: the chainsaw. A cordless chainsaw now makes great sense. I have the Dewalt system, so I covet the Dewalt Max XR 20v Chainsaw. It is long enough for my occasional use, which is why electric is so good. No trouble starting even with long periods dormant. Most major brands now offer cordless chainsaws.

Rechargeable camping lantern
This LE 1000 lumen camping lantern is rechargeable, and also serves as a power bank to recharge your other devices. It’s waterproof, and will also serve as an emergency light at home.


25 November 2022

Will Smith, Co-host of Brad & Will Made a Tech Pod

Show and Tell #341: Will Smith

Will Smith is co-host of Brad & Will Made a Tech Pod and a Twitch Streamer, and previously an Editor at Tested.com and Maximum PC. You can find him on Twitter @willsmith.

0:00 – Intro
1:11 – Glowforge 3D laser printer
9:31 – Home Assistant
15:52 – Sin Shine Compressed Air Electric Duster
20:05 – Baking Steel Skinny Griddle
24:04 – Brad & Will Made a Tech Pod and Brad & Will present a FOSS Pod


24 November 2022

Checked Bag Economics/Multi-charger/Airline Fines

Nomadico issue #27

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. See past editions here, where your friends can subscribe and join you.

Checking or Not Checking, a More Fluid Question
This week I flew from Mexico City to Bangkok on Air Emirates (excellent) and a few days later, from Bangkok to Phuket on Air Asia (not too bad). These very different airlines had one thing in common: a 7kg limit for carry-on cabin baggage. For the first one, I checked 23kg for free, on the second, the fee for checking a bag was about the same as adding more weight to a carry-on…but came in a bundle with a seat selection and a meal. The yes/no to bag checking answer is getting more complicated.

Multi-Charger for Your Gadgets
One advantage of checking a bag is that you have more room for tech gadgets, like maybe a portable keyboard, a laptop stand, and a multi-charger cord. On my current trip I brought my travel extension cord/charger with multiple outlets and remembered how handy it was, especially in a country where the outlets require an adaptor. Plug one of these in with one adapter and then all your other cords and gadgets recharge at the same base. The ones without surge protection are less than $20. Spend a bit more for safety in blackout areas.

Malaysia’s Possible Digital Nomad Draw
Many digital nomad programs announced so far are either gleams in a politician’s eye or something rushed out without having clear guidelines in place. The latter seems to be the case in Malaysia, where some writers were invited in to see how tech-advanced and digital-nomad-friendly the nation is, but they left with as many questions as answers.

U.S. Airlines Get Fined for Bad Behavior
The U.S. airlines got a free ride under the past administration, when many rules holding them accountable got ignored or flaunted. That ended this week when the Department of Transportation handed out $7.25 million in fines on top of demands to pay back passengers whose flights got cancelled or significantly delayed. The worst offenders? Frontier, Air India, TAP Portugal, Aeromexico, El Al and Avianca.


23 November 2022

What’s in my NOW? — Roy Christopher

Issue #147

Bienfang Notesketch

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Roy Christopher marshals the middle between Mathers and McLuhan. He’s an aging BMX and skateboarding zine kid. That’s where he learned to turn events and interviews into pages with staples. He has since written about music, media, and culture for everything from books and blogs to national magazines and academic journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Communication Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. As a child, he solved the Rubik’s Cube competitively.


Bienfang Notesketch notebooks — I work on paper as much as I do on screens. I even make my own notebooks. If given the choice, Bienfang Notesketch paper is what I would use for every one. It’s half-ruled—sometimes half the page vertically, sometimes half of it horizontally—and it’s perfect for hashing out ideas of all kinds.

Sputnik Coffee — I’ve been drinking coffee since kindergarten, and my favorite kind is Chicago’s Sputnik Coffee. You can subscribe to their beans right on their website.

iPod Nano — I am happily stuck in the MP3 era, and I don’t go anywhere without this little guy. I have larger and small capacity iPods, but the 3rd-generation 8-gig Nano is the perfect size for me.


Zoho Notebook — In the rare instance that I don’t have an actual paper notebook handy, I use Zoho’s Notebook app. I’m sure there are plenty that do this now, but the ability to sync notes across devices is crazy useful. The notes themselves are also different colors, which not only makes them look like Post-its, but it also makes it easier to remember where you jotted down what.

Call Out Culture podcast — My dudes Alaska, Zilla Rocca, and Curly Castro talk shop and talk shit about Hip-hop and pop culture. I don’t listen to podcasts habitually, but these guys always make me want to join in. I even did once!


There are no deadlines, but there’s no time to waste.



img 06/7/11

Photon Microlight II

Ultralight and bright

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Butane Burner

Compact portable hot plate

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Nest Learning Thermostat

Hot and cool energy tool

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Snorkel Hot Tub

Wood powered hot tub

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Gingher Sewing Shears

Best sewing scissors

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Forschner Victorinox Chef’s Knife

Inexpensive great chef knife

See all the favorites



Show and Tell #341: Will Smith

Picks and shownotes

Show and Tell #340: Robert Stephens (Part 2)

Picks and shownotes

Show and Tell #339: Robert Stephens (Part 1)

Picks and shownotes

23 November 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.

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