16 August 2019


Lillian Karabaic, Host of Oh My Dollar!

Cool Tools Show 188: Lillian Karabaic

Our guest this week is Lillian Karabaic. Lillian is the host of Oh My Dollar!, a weekly syndicated financial advice radio show and podcast for covering the kinds of modern money issues that aren’t represented in the mainstream media. Her book, A Cat’s Guide to Money, just went into its second printing. She eats 3 tacos for breakfast every morning.

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Show notes:

Kokuyo Jibun Techo 3-in-1 Planner
I’m one of those people that, even though I use a lot of digital tools, I still really need a paper planner. And the reason I need a paper planner is that there’s infinite space on my digital to-do lists and I will overextend myself. So I have to have a paper planner so that I can actually see if I’m over committing myself to a number of tasks in a day or a week. I absolutely love this planner. It’s a paper planner, I picked it up in Japan. I get really excited every time I pull it out. I track a ton of data about myself and I use a lot of apps to do that. But if you want to do all of that in a planner, you can do it with this. It’s extremely Japanese in how both efficient it is at like cramming a bunch of stuff into one space, but also how extra it is in what it thinks is a necessary thing to have in a planner. Like it has little icons everyday where you color in what the weather is and write down what you ate for each meal and who you ate with and how your mood was and a little tiny bit of journaling. But what I also love about it is the 24-hour timeline. My ritual with my planner is that I don’t put my appointments out months in advance on my planner. I use it as my Sunday ritual where I take everything from my massive to-do lists and my Google calendar, and then I transfer it all to my week view. And that is kind of my way of assessing, “Oh, you said that you were going to do these seven things this week.” But realistically once you start putting it down on paper you realize you can’t.

Beeminder is kind of amazing. I charge myself money for things that I am supposed to do. The tagline is it’s “reminders with a sting,” but essentially you can set it up to track anything you want and they have literally hundreds of integrations, but you can also use it for manual things. Say you want to average seven hours of sleep a night. If you have something like a Fitbit, you can just hook up that data source and as long as you’re averaging seven hours of sleep a night, you will never pay anything. But if you start to go off track, you will pay them money. A lot of people use it for writing. A lot of people have used it to finish their PhDs or for working out. I have to run a certain amount of miles per week. And It’s great because I’ll wake up and I’ll check Beeminder, and Beeminder’s says, “You’re going to get charged $5 if you don’t run half a mile today.” Well, half a mile is not that much, but I know that if I run two miles, that means I don’t have to run it all for four days. Obviously I’m trained as an economist, so I love the behavioral economics behind it because I hate paying anyone money.

So You Need a Budget or YNAB, as most of the super fans call it, is the budgeting software I’ve used for six years now and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I think it’s probably one of the most hands on budgeting apps, but I think it’s one of the best ones for actually making you engage with your money. YNAB completely changed my life and I was already pretty good with money. What I love about it is that I am able to enter transactions on the go. It automatically remembers where I’m at with geolocation and assigns the categories. It even remembers the payment method. It is the only thing I have found that makes me track cash. It was instrumental in me saving half of my income on a nonprofit salary, and being able to save up and start my own business.

Spot Trace GPS
Spot Trace GPS is a GPS beacon, so it isn’t a thing that you use to navigate. It’s just a thing that shows your location. And it’s about the size of a small iPhone. If it can see the sky, it reports every four minutes where your location is. It’s really, really helpful because you can just broadcast that. You can give people access to a link where they can see you. I have used this as a beacon to update my website with my location while on a 13-country train/ferry trip from Ireland to Shanghai, China. It’s phenomenal. The reason I use this one is it’s one of the smallest and it has the longest battery life, and it runs on regular batteries. No matter where I’m in the world, I want to be able to buy the batteries. I don’t want it to have a proprietary battery. And so this one is great because it runs on four AAA batteries, and I just get the long lasting ones. It lasts for two or three weeks. And it is continuously broadcasting.

Also mentioned:

cats guide
A Cat’s Guide to Money: Everything You Need to Know to Get Control of your Purrsonal Finances
We did the first edition on Kickstarter and then we ended up selling out of copies in less than a year. So I went back to Kickstarter this June and asked for help to do the second print run and we raised $20,000 to do the second print run. And this book is just cats explaining personal finance. So there’s lots of puns and there is illustrated cats to explain everything from investing to budgeting. My cat uses her toys to explain investing allocations in her basket. So it’s meant to be something that makes the terrifying part of personal finance really approachable with adorable fuzzy kittens. But it doesn’t dumb it down. It just makes it something that is less terrifying. All the cats in the book were illustrated by Fiona Wu, who only illustrates cats. And all the cats in the book belong to people who backed the book’s first Kickstarter. There’s even an index of the cats in the back. So if you want to go look up the cats and their favorite activities, you can find out what page they’re on.


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


16 August 2019


Garlic Twist

Grinds more than garlic

We’ve always used a standard, run-of-the-mill garlic press, probably just because it was what was in the drawer. It only used half the clove. It was a pain to clean. And stinky hands were hard to avoid. It’s a device whose engineering is outdated.

We were downtown recently, just having finished brunch, and decided to walk around the square. Just a couple of doors down we have a cute little kitchen store. It’s always a fun place to cruise, and as I’m checking out, with a brand-spanking new garlic press in my hand, there at the register is a box labeled Garlic Twist ($16). It was the same price as the garlic press so I swapped.

This thing is awesome. Give the cloves a whack with the bottom of the press (it’s nice, sturdy acrylic). Remove the outer layer and toss them in the garlic twist. Slip the lid on and twist the top and bottom in opposite directions. Stop twisting when the garlic is the desired consistency. It works equally well with a single clove or a handful.

The package says you can also do ginger or olives or cherries. I haven’t tried that, but it should work just as well.

-- Melissa 08/16/19

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

16 August 2019


Tick Key

Always handy tick remover

Though I wish  my dog’s tick prevention worked 100% of the time, it just doesn’t. The Tick Key ($7) makes the unpleasant task of removing ticks much easier. I purchased the key shaped tool a year ago after noticing it by the cash register at my local outdoor store. All I do is align the larger end of the key’s opening over the tick, draw the tool toward the narrow part of the opening, and the little sucker just pops right out. My favorite canine, who always dreaded our approach with tweezers and made tick extraction an exercise in fortitude and contortionism, is not bothered by this method at all.

-- Amy Reavey 08/16/19

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

14 August 2019


What’s in my bag? — Dennis Nishi

What's in my bag? issue #10

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Dennis Nishi is an Emmy-winning multimedia producer that currently works for public television and radio. He’s also a contributing writer to the Wall Street Journal and an editorial illustrator that has been published in The New Republic, the Washington Post and various other newspapers and magazines. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @dennisnishi.


Home Depot Husky Small Parts Organizer
Hiding a lav mic underneath clothing can be tricky because clothing rubbing on the mic or cable can create noise. And different fabrics create more noise than others as does static and chest hair. I put all of my tools into a generic Home Depot parts box. It’s their in-house Husky brand with customizable compartments. The box works great for storing many different kinds of stickies used to adhere mics. I also keep fur to reduce wind noise, toupee tape and hypoallergenic medical tape if I need to attach the mic to skin. The “bullet” in the middle is to weight the cable when the lav is put down the front of shirts.

Fiskars Travel Folding Scissors ($6)
The foldable Fiskars kept in the parts box are used to cut customizable moleskin strips to create “rigs” that are used to conceal mics.

Set Shop Joe’s Sticky Stuff ($20)
The metal tin contains Joe’s Sticky Stuff which is field recording voodoo. This double-sided adhesive is a cross between tape and a glue that never hardens. It’s extremely sticky but doesn’t leave residue. And it’s very malleable so can be formed into whatever shape you need. It really does arrest the movement of clothing layers around a mic head and dampens rubbing noise. You can even wrap it around a lav mic head to create a simple under clothing rig.

Ape Case Large Trifold Wallet ($9)
The lav mic case is actually an Ape Case brand camera filter wallet. The yellow interior makes it easy to find what mic I need for whatever situation and the case is well padded for protection.

About the bag
I carry all of these items in a Think Tank small camera bag ($50). This is a company founded by editorial photographers so everything is designed for field use by professional photographers. It has a lot of compartments that make it easy to store and organize everything and it has belt loops so it can be worn like a fanny pack.

-- Dennis Nishi 08/14/19

14 August 2019


Book Freak #22

Optimize Your Flow

Book Freak is a weekly newsletter with cognitive tools you can use to improve the quality of your life. In this issue we present advice from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s classic book about motivation, drive, and determination, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

To become interested in an activity, track your progress
“Most enjoyable activities are not natural; they demand an effort that initially one is reluctant to make. But once the interaction starts to provide feedback to the person’s skills, it usually begins to be intrinsically rewarding.”

Seize opportunities to challenge yourself
‘The best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen.“

Don’t pursue success or happiness
“Success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.”

Book Freak is one of four newsletters from Cool Tools Lab (our other three are the Cool Tools Newsletter, Recomendo, and What’s in my bag?).


14 August 2019


Tovolo King Cube Ice Tray

Really big ice cubes

I don’t own a fridge with an ice maker, and so for the past few years have been relying on the cheap white ice trays that seem to inhabit everybody’s freezer. They’ve done their job, but never very well. Recently, however, I picked up the Tovolo King Cube Ice Tray. ($9), and have been blown away with the oversized ice cubes it produces.

The silicone ice tray produces the largest cubes of ice (they’re 2″ x 2″) of any tray I’ve seen. Outside of being a gigantic novelty, the increased size is a boon as it reduces the surface area to volume ratio. This means the ice melts slower in your drink keeping it cold longer while minimizing how much it waters down your drink. I hadn’t expected it to make that much of a difference, but it’s really astonishing how much longer the ice remains in the drink. I’ve found these large cubes are downright perfect for cocktails like a gin and tonic, and while I’m no whiskey connoisseur I imagine they’d be even more at home in a scotch on the rocks. Simply put there’s something special about having an oversized piece of ice clinking in your glass.

Another design plus is that the silicone tray holds a greater volume of water than other ice cube trays I’ve tried (which all seem to hold a pitiful amount of water), while taking up less valuable freezer real estate (the tray is significantly taller, and not as long as my old trays). Popping the ice cubes out takes a bit of wrangling, but no more so than cracking traditional ice trays, and because silicone is a good insulator you’re not left with ice cold hands in the process.

The only downsides I’ve found so far are that the flexible silicone tray can twist and bend and slosh while finagling it into the freezer, and the fact that it only makes six cubes at a time. This hasn’t been a problem for me as it takes fewer cubes (read: one) to cool down most drinks.

Overall, these big ice cubes are just plain cool, and for $9 it’s a cheap and functional upgrade to any freezer.

-- Oliver Hulland 08/14/19

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


img 08/13/19

Gardena Mechanical Water Timer

Analog timer for watering chores

img 08/12/19

Book Freak #21

Mister Rogers’ Advice for Living

img 08/12/19

Coghlan’s 12-in-1 Scissors

Do-it-all tool around camp

img 08/9/19

Jeremy Kirshbaum, Research Affiliate at IFTF

Cool Tools Show 187: Jeremy Kirshbaum

See all the reviews


img 10/12/18

Knipex Pliers Wrench

Rapid, safe, strong pliers wrench

img 03/8/10


Guided construction set

img 08/28/17

Pumps-A-Lot Water Pump

Simple emergency sump pump

img 10/11/12


Better Bandage

img 09/5/05

Inflatable Life Jacket

Comfortable water safety

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 188: Lillian Karabaic

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 187: Jeremy Kirshbaum

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 186: Michelle Hlubinka

Picks and shownotes

14 August 2019


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