26 September 2023

Book Freak 139: How to Tame Your Monkey Mind

Four pieces of advice from Jennifer Shannon's "Don't Feed the Monkey Mind"

Get Don’t Feed the Monkey Mind

Don’t Feed the Monkey Mind: How to Stop the Cycle of Anxiety, Fear, and Worry by Jennifer Shannon, explains that anxiety is generated by the “monkey mind,” which perceives threats and sounds alarms to try to keep us safe. This can lead to an ongoing “anxiety cycle” where we feed the monkey mind by using avoidance and resistance strategies in response to anxiety, which confirms the perception of threat and maintains the anxiety.

The book identifies three common “monkey mindsets” that underlie anxiety:

  1. Intolerance of uncertainty: Believing we must be 100% certain of outcomes.
  2. Perfectionism: Believing we cannot make mistakes.
  3. Over-responsibility: Believing we are responsible for others’ feelings.

To break the anxiety cycle, Shannon recommends replacing avoidance/resistance strategies with strategies that create new experiences to support an expanded mindset. She also encourages welcoming anxiety sensations and emotions rather than resisting them.

Here are four tips from the book:

Thank the monkey

When you get caught up in anxious, worrying thoughts, don’t try to suppress or argue with them. Instead, just observe the thoughts and say “Thank you, monkey” to acknowledge them. This creates distance between you and the anxious thoughts.

Ask the monkey for more

When you feel anxious sensations or emotions, purposefully ask for more of them. Say things like, “Good, let me feel more numbness!” This shows your brain that you can handle the feelings.

Ignore the monkey

Practice making decisions according to your values rather than the monkey mind’s focus on safety. For example, choosing an adventurous restaurant over your usual safe choice.

Befriend the monkey

Treat the monkey mind like an overprotective friend trying to keep you safe, rather than an enemy. Have compassion for its limited perspective.


25 September 2023

Landscape Visualization

Tools for Possibilities: issue no. 53

Once a week we’ll send out a page from Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities. The tools might be outdated or obsolete, and the links to them may or may not work. We present these vintage recommendations as is because the possibilities they inspire are new. Sign up here to get Tools for Possibilities a week early in your inbox.

Understanding big buildings

David Macaulay’s Visualizations

Few have mastered the big picture better than artist David Macaulay. When a kid wants to know about pyramids or castles introduce him/her to Macaulay’s books. Macaulay dissects the parts in kid-obsessive detail while keeping his eye on the whole. And he shows how it all grows in time. His uncanny ability to x-ray complex places makes him the master guide to the built world. Of all his books, Underground is his most revelatory. Even adults will find themselves studying each page of “the city underneath the city” in aha enlightenment. Oh, so THAT’S how it works! Macaulay revisited three of his early books — Castle, Cathedral, and Mosque — creating new even more amazing visualizations, and combined the books into one new book called Built to Last. It’s a short course on civilization for kids. — KK


24 September 2023

Midjourney Architecture/Canning funnel/NSDR tracks

Recomendo - issue #376

Sign up here to get Recomendo a week early in your inbox.

Fantastic architecture

Generative AI art is particularly suited for architecture. My favorite AI Instagram follow right now is Midjourney Architecture. It features the best examples from diverse creative AI co-artists who generate ultra imaginative buildings and unexpected interiors. It doesn’t matter if these won’t ever be built. (There is a set of multiple images behind each image on the home page.) — KK

Canning funnel

Using wide-mouth mason jars is a great way to store leftover soups, stews, and curries that I prepare in a pressure cooker. However, transferring the liquid into the jars often creates a mess on the counter. That’s where a canning funnel comes in handy. I wish I had purchased one 20 years ago. The one I currently use is the Bilal stainless-steel model. — MF

Non-Sleep Deep Rest tracks 

Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR), also known as yoga nidra, induces a state of deep relaxation while maintaining consciousness. If you’re unable to take a 15-minute nap when you’re tired, I find that one of these free 9-minute NSDR tracks has a similar effect. The guided breathing techniques help to slow down my heart rate, and the body scans redirect my focus from external visual information to a sensation of pure rest. — CD

Successfulness tips

If you define success in the conventional ways – wealth, fame, accomplishments — then Sam Altman has a great list of tips on How to Be Successful that are very helpful in nudging you in that direction. Altman is the co-founder of OpenAI and ChatGPT, but he published this essay five years ago before he was “successful.” — KK

Clean 15 fruits and vegetables

When it comes to buying produce, I opt for organic whenever possible. However, there are certain non-organic fruits and vegetables that contain negligible traces of pesticides. These are known as the “Clean Fifteen” and are typically cheaper than their organic counterparts. The list includes avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, onions, papaya, frozen sweet peas, asparagus, honeydew melon, kiwi, cabbage, mushrooms, mangoes, watermelon, and carrots. On the other hand, the “Dirty Dozen” refers to produce that, when non-organic, tends to have high levels of pesticides. This list includes strawberries, peaches, spinach, cherries, kale, pears, nectarines, tomatoes, apples, celery, grapes, and potatoes. Choosing organic versions of these can help avoid pesticide exposure. — MF

Curated links to the very best documentaries

Rocumentaries.com is a growing collection of over 200 documentaries handpicked by the website’s creator for their quality and interesting subject matter. You can filter the selection by Genres and Channels, and each listing includes links that direct you to their streaming platforms. I always enjoy documentaries but don’t have the time to search for new ones, so I appreciate that these films have been vetted and vouched for, and I’ve added several to my watchlist. — CD 


22 September 2023

Joseph Wright, fullstack software engineer

Show and Tell #384: Joseph Wright

Joseph Wright is a fullstack software engineer and data sensemaker in Pittsburgh. You can find Joseph on Twitter @joegle. His website is joegle.com.

0:00 – Intro
0:44 – Benchmade Mini Bugout 533 Folding Knife
5:42 – County Comm Glow-in-the-dark parts tray
10:31 – Snow Peak double walled mugs (for seasoning with coffee)
16:24 – Analog chess clock (my fav is Seiko BZ361L)

To sign up to be a guest on the show, please fill out this form.


21 September 2023

Airport Belts/Solar-powered Watches/Cubicle Rebellions

Nomadico issue #70

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 like-minded friends can subscribe and join you.

No-metal Belt for Airports

Co-founder Kevin Kelly and I both swear by no-metal belts for airport days and we also like the fact that these military-style webbed ones don’t have holes either, so they fit precisely no matter what’s going on with your waistline. I’ve been using the same one for five years and it looks like new. There’s a stream of very similar ones on Amazon with Chinese names, but this brand has the highest ratings and you get two (of different colors) for under $20, with Prime shipping.

Tough Solar-powered Watch

Speaking of travel gear that holds up well, I’ve passed the 12-year mark on the watch I wear the most when traveling: My Casio solar-powered one with an altimeter. I’ve never replaced the battery because it recharges from sunlight. Even when it sits in a drawer for months though, it doesn’t wear down because the display turns off to save power. Prices range from $35 to $350 and that vast range stems from how deep they can go in the water and what features they have, so if you don’t care about underwater strength, the altimeter, or other features, then you can go with the low end at this page. Some have analog dials too.

The Return To Office Tug-of-war

Corporate efforts to get people to commute to cubicles again are not going well. Widespread employee satisfaction drops in surveys seem to be correlating closely with back-to-office demands. When dating app Grindr demanded that its workers return to the office, almost half of them said, “No thanks” and quit. At Amazon, efforts to drive workers back to the office have become a PR nightmare for the company and led to very public departures and protests. Meanwhile, remote companies are finding higher worker satisfaction, less turnover, and more diversity in their workforce. Remote work is a godsend for those who are trying to balance work demands with taking care of the kids, so why are “pro-family” leaders so hung up on butts in office seats? I believe the most obvious explanation is the most plausible: roughly half of commercial office space is sitting empty and a lot of powerful people own those buildings—or collect taxes from them.

Earth-friendly Toiletries in Europe

We tend to be North America-centric in this newsletter since that’s where we and the biggest chunk of our readers are from, but here’s one for the Europeans. Reader Mira replied to my earlier post about planet-friendly toiletry packaging with a recommendation for a Dutch company called Lekker. They make organic, sustainably packaged items like deodorant, lip balm, sunscreen, and soap. They ship all over Europe and in the Netherlands shipping is free with a minimum 35-euro spend.


20 September 2023

Book Freak 137: Finding Relief from Anxiety’s Grip

Four pieces of advice from Dr. Russell Kennedy's "Anxiety Rx"

Get Anxiety Rx

In his book Anxiety Rx: A New Prescription for Anxiety Relief from the Doctor Who Created It, Russell Kennedy shares his personal journey to heal from chronic anxiety and offers a new perspective on understanding and treating this common condition. Drawing on his medical training coupled with Eastern practices like meditation, Kennedy provides a holistic framework to help readers find relief from anxiety’s grip.

Here are four tips from the book:

Separate the mental and physical components of anxiety

Viewing anxious thoughts and bodily alarm as interconnected makes anxiety very difficult to unravel. By distinguishing worried thinking from alarmed bodily sensations, you can target each component with specific interventions. For the mental aspect of anxiety, practices like meditation, mindfulness, and cognitive behavioral therapy can help you observe anxious thoughts from a distance without engaging or believing them. This diffuses their power over you. For the physical bodily sensations, relaxation techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, and mindfulness of body sensations can activate the parasympathetic nervous system and calm feelings of alarm.

Bring awareness to anxious thoughts without getting caught up in them

Notice worried thoughts arising without following or arguing with them. This helps diffuse their power. Starve anxious thoughts of the credibility, belief, and attention they need to persist. Use mindfulness to observe thoughts non-judgmentally without believing or engaging with them. This prevents you from getting sucked into the storyline of the anxious thinking. Practice attention redirection by intentionally focusing on something else when you notice anxious thoughts arising. Shift your concentration to physical sensations, breathing, or external sights/sounds. Reframe worrying as wasted energy and make an empowered choice to focus your mental energy on the present moment. Repeatedly bring your concentration back to the body and out of the head which houses anxious thoughts.

Use mindfulness and breathing to calm the body

Slow, deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, lowering feelings of alarm. Keeping attention on the physical sensations of inhaling and exhaling helps ground you in the present moment.

Don’t try to forcibly resist anxiety

Trying to suppress anxiety often backfires and strengthens its grip. Instead, adopt an allowing, non-judgmental attitude toward your anxious experiences. Remind yourself that anxiety is temporary and cannot truly harm you. Avoid value judgements about whether it is good or bad – simply let it be. This helps discharge the fight-or-flight pressure behind anxiety. Resisting it often paradoxically reinforces it, while allowing space for it to unfold results in it gradually dissipating on its own.



img 09/18/23


Tools for Possibilities: issue no. 52

img 09/15/23

Ethan Stone, Business Lawyer

Show and Tell #383: Ethan Stone

img 09/13/23

How to Tie a Fishing Knot

Gar’s Tips & Tools – Issue #164

img 09/12/23

Book Freak 136: How to Live Boldly

Four pieces of advice from Luvvie Ajayi Jones’ “Professional Troublemaker”

See all the reviews


img 07/4/12

Nest Learning Thermostat

Hot and cool energy tool

img 09/7/21

Pumps-A-Lot Water Pump

Simple emergency sump pump

img 03/8/10


Guided construction set

img 06/28/06

Nolo Self-help Law Books

Do-it-yourself legal aid

img 04/6/10


Self-publishing via Amazon

img 12/8/06

Blurb * Lulu

Personal bookprinting

See all the favorites



Show and Tell #384: Joseph Wright

Picks and shownotes

Show and Tell #383: Ethan Stone

Picks and shownotes

Show and Tell #382: Jason Swihart

Picks and shownotes

09 August 2023


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.

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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).

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