14 August 2022

Uber pro tip/Paint With Music/DIY Book Nook Kit

Recomendo: issue no. 318

Uber pro tip
I often fly in and out of LAX. Uber, Lyft and taxi riders are required to walk or take a shuttle to a lot near the airport to hail a ride. It’s very crowded in the lot and the last time I was there I had to wait over 30 minutes for a Lyft. But I learned in this article that you can take a free hotel or metro shuttle from the airport and hail a ride after you get to the station or hotel. Not only will you save money (no airport surcharge) you probably won’t have to wait as long for a ride. This tip might work at other airports, too. If it does, let us know. — MF

Paint with music
I’m playing around with an AI-powered app that enables me to paint music. Appropriately named Paint With Music, this free web-based app from Google transforms my doodles into music based on its visual form. It’s playful, just a toy and perfect fun for kids. — KK

DIY Book Nook Kit
I had been coveting ready-made book nooks on Etsy for a while now, but I am so happy I waited and bought my I had been coveting ready-made book nooks on Etsy for a while now, but I am so happy I waited and bought my own build kit from CuteBee. I bought the Pray in the Church kit, but there are other whimsical options. The instructions were easy to understand and it took me a couple hours to assemble, but it was meditative and fun to see it come together. It came with everything I needed, except for two AAA batteries, wood glue, scotch tape and scissors. — CD

Amazon Japan store
Amazon has a sub-site dedicated to products from Japan. You can buy cookware, toys, gadgets, candy, stationery, clothing, beauty supplies, and more. Many products are Prime eligible, like this tasty miso paste I bought. — MF

Birthplaces of the most “notable people”
If you spin this globe and zoom in you can learn the birthplaces of the most notable people in culture, science, sports, or leadership (from 3500BC-2018AD). Clicking on their names will take you to their Wikidata page where you can learn more about them. I learned about an indigenous princess who was born near my parents hometown in Mexico. — CD

Food science guru
By far the nerdiest food YouTube channel out there is Adam Ragusea with 2 million followers. He dives deep into the chemical nature of foods, such as what happens with smoking meat at the molecular level, why fennel and liquorice taste the same, or what is the chemical that makes the smell of rain. But also definitively answers many useful questions like “do the eggs of happy chickens taste better?” He references obscure scientific journals, does his own experiments, and mixes in delicious recipes you can follow yourself. He is one of the best science communicators working today. I recommend Ragusea’s food science playlist for the full course. — KK

— Kevin KellyMark FrauenfelderClaudia Dawson


12 August 2022

Larry Keely, Innovation Scientist

Show and Tell #326: Larry Keely

Larry Keeley has worked for over four decades as an innovation scientist. He helped pioneer the specialized field of innovation effectiveness and has taught thousands of Masters and PhD innovators both at Kellogg’s MMM Program and at Chicago’s highly regarded Institute of Design. He is now an independent innovation researcher, working on pioneering new tradecraft.

03:30 – Oxo Slicer
11:04 – Pacojet
22:40 – Procreate
31:04 – Platform Construction Toolkit
54:54 – Just Serve


11 August 2022

A Master Class in Prototype Making

Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales - Issue #128

* Talk to me. Tell me a story. Share me a tip. A tool.
* Support my work by buying my tips books (Vol. 1Vol. 2).
* Take out an Unclassified in this newsletter to reach fellow makers.
A Master Class in Prototype Making
In response to John Baglio’s search for a series of prototyping videos he’d run across, Talon Chandler immediately responded with:

“He’s probably talking about Dan Gelbart. Dan is a local legend among engineers in Vancouver, BC. He founded Creo, a printing technology company that sold to Kodak circa 2005, and several other companies including Kardium, a growing healthcare company. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Dan once (I interned at Kardium close to 10 years ago), although I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting his extraordinary shop.”

Others also messaged me and told stories about the impact of Dan’s videos on them. They are amazing. I haven’t found a treasure trove like this since discovering TubalCain/MrPete222 some 15 years ago. Anyone interested in precision machining, prototyping, water jet cutting, and a wealth of general machine shop wisdom should check out this channel.
Expanding the Usefulness of 1-2-3 Blocks with a Hardware Kit
I’ve long been a fan of 1-2-3 blocks and always have them handy when doing a host of different projects. They’re great for quick measuring, aligning, holding parts together for gluing/ fastening, as shop weights, and countless other applications. One of the features that few people outside of machining use are the holes drilled into the blocks. These are not just there to keep the overall weight down. They are threaded and non-threaded holes designed for attaching the blocks in various configurations (such as for making right-angle or T-shaped jigs).

In this Stumpy Nubs videoJames introduces a clever little hardware kit for easily attaching blocks – and attaching them with nothing proud of the surfaces. As he points out, you can source these screws and through-hole fasteners yourself, but why not support the guy who came up with the idea for this kit? That guy, Mike Taylor, sells a kit of 6 hex-head screws, sized for 1″, 2″, and 3″ attachment, 4 threaded through-hole dowels, a hex key, and a slotted driver head – all housed in a handy little plastic box. I immediately bought a kit (only $10) and I love it. Mike also makes really high-quality blocks at an affordable price ($20/pair). I snagged a pair of those, too. It always feels good to support a maker small business.
Using Finger Pressure to Match Hex Head to Wrench
On the Twitter account of software engineer Roach, he posted this clever way of matching a hex head to a hex wrench. Pressing your finger into the head will leave a dimple that you can use to size the appropriate wrench.
A Prompt Book for Better AI Art Generation
If you’ve spent any time on social media lately, you’ve likely seen some of your acquaintances go down the rabbit hole of artificial intelligence image generators like Midjourney, DALL-E, and Google’s Imagen. These programs take descriptions that you feed them and return AI- generated art interpretations of that input. It’s very addictive and fun and has huge disruptive potential. My wife Angela and I were joking a few weeks ago that in the future, art will be nothing more than the ability to input the most fulsome description of what you want. And then, just a few days later, Recomendo shared a link to The Prompt Book, a free PDF of instructions, examples, and tips for refining your input commands. It’s directed at the DALL-E program, but its ideas can be applied to any of these art generators. In the future, art will be incantation.
Making a Shop Paper Roll Dispenser
Poking around on the ‘Tubes, I came across a series of DIY videos, called Try, that Kevin Kelly did on Cool Tools in 2020-21. How did I miss these? Here’s one on building a kraft paper roll cutter for your shop and a really charming one about the sign that he made for the Kelly compound in Pacifica, CA. I hope he gets inspired to do more of these.
Maker Slang
Jargon, slang, and tech terms from the many realms of making.
FEP – (Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene) A tough, no-stick plastic material commonly found in the bottoms of resin vat 3D printers. Its translucence allows the light source beneath it to shine through the vat, curing the resin onto the build plate.

Holidays – A term used by professional painters and gilders/gold leafers to refer to gaps in coverage. It derives from the joke that a painter must have taken some time off, a little holiday, by not covering an area they should have. [Hat tip to gilder Michael Kramer]

Minimal viable product – A phrase used by Italian maker and product developer, Giaco Whatever. In creating a product, you want to pare your idea down to its minimum possible components. See also: KISS (keep it simple, stupid)

Real job – A project that’s a series of tasks and challenges that imply significant time and effort – as opposed to a task which can be quickly accomplished. “That’s a real job. I need to set aside an afternoon for that.”

Resilient idiot – A self-deprecating admission that sometimes knowledge and skills seemingly won’t stick, not matter how hard you try and learn them. Coined by Donald Bell. Not to be confused with Andy Birkey’s similar: actual moron.
Shop Talk
In response to my piece on inflatable pry bars, reader Adam replied:

“This is a very common tool for locksmiths when dealing with vehicle lockouts. The inflatable pry bar can generally create enough space for the locksmith to drop a loop down to grab the lock pin from the interior of the door frame and gain entry without having to damage or possibly ruin the actual lockset on the car door. But don’t underestimate their power. I used one on an old car when I locked my keys in and it bent the door to the point that it never fully aligned to the door frame gasket again.”

11 August 2022

Nomad Reality/Laptop Sun Shade/24-Hour Bus Rides

Issue #12

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Digital Nomad Reality
We like to see a dose of reality now and then to offset the hype over location-independent work and travel. This Micropreneur article on The Digital Nomad Scam is a good splash of cold water, stating, “Being a digital nomad is not a job. You don’t ‘become a digital nomad’ to escape your work, or to gain financial independence. Being a digital nomad is a lifestyle. And in order to maintain this lifestyle, you need a source of income.”

A Sun Shade for Your Laptop

We all make fun of those “laptop on the beach” photos loved by course creators and Instagram fakers because laptops and bright sunshine don’t really go together well. If you do want to work in direct sunlight then a portable laptop sun shade packs up like a reflection disc that photographers use. If you’re in the UK, this one from Nextstand is 60 pounds sterling. There are a few very similar options available on USA’s Amazon site from US$50 to $80. – via Mark F.

Who’s Up for a 24-hour Bus Ride?
Speaking of travel not always being glamorous, in the long and skinny countries of Chile and Argentina, some routes take an around 24 hours, but at half the price of a flight. Santiago to Calama, near the Atacama Desert, can be as low as $44 for 22.5 hours. Buenos Aires to Salta is $60 for 22 hours, and Buenos Aires to Bariloche starts at around $70 for 23 hours. You usually get 160-degree reclining seats, with only 3 rows across. Splurge a little more and you might get dinner with wine included, then pastries and coffee in the morning. Start the search at Omio or Rome2Rio.

Expat “Invasion” in Mexico City
We mentioned in an earlier edition that there’s been a bit of an expat backlash in Lisbon as free-spending foreigners gladly pay inflated rents higher than most locals can afford. A news item this week pointed to “a foreign invasion” in the nicest central neighborhoods of Mexico City: Roma, Condesa, and Juarez. 

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.

05 August 2022

Paul Saffo, Technology Forecaster

Show and Tell #325: Paul Saffo

Paul Saffo is a technology forecaster based in Silicon Valley. An Adjunct Professor in the School of Engineering at Stanford University, Saffo teaches courses on the future of engineering and the impact of technological change on the future.

01:17 – Boker DW-1 knife
07:46 – Gfeller Moleskine Cover
18:06 – Climbers chalk bag
21:52 – Travel first aid kit


03 August 2022

Remote Jobs/Intl. Real Estate/Shorter Zoom Calls

Issue #11

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Remote Job Boards
If you’re not running your own business, we mentioned DynamiteJobs.com in an earlier newsletter as a place to look for remote-only positions. If you’re not finding a good match yet there for your skill set, this article lists other places to find a remote job with an established company. 

A Lopsided Real Estate Market
The median price of existing homes in the USA and Canada keeps hitting new highs. At $416,000 in June (and US$566K in urban Canada), that level is far beyond the means of many. Internationally though it’s a different story. The European average is $218,000. Where I was in Bulgaria in June, you could buy a two-bedroom condo in a ski town or Plovdiv for under $60K or a house in the countryside for about the same. The median is under $100K in Mexico, Colombia, and Ecuador.

A Better Online Translator?
Mark F. and I have both gotten good results from Deepl.com for translation, especially Portuguese and Spanish respectively for where we’re living part of the time. While Google Translate is great for pointing at signs and menus to get a general idea, Deepl seems to provide translations that are closer to what you would get from a native speaker. The free version will do for most, but a paid subscription offers more languages and features.

Time for Shorter Video Calls?

Zoom video calls became so popular during the pandemic that the company quickly joined the list of brands like Kleenex, Jacuzzi, or Chapstick that are synonymous with the whole product category. The free tier limit for a call dropped to 40 minutes at the end of June though, so you’ll need to wrap up before then or find an alternative to continue the face-to-face without fees.




img 12/9/11

The Wondermill

Countertop flour mill

img 05/25/09

SunRun PPA

Zero Down Solar Panels

img 04/6/10


Self-publishing via Amazon

See all the favorites



Show and Tell #326: Larry Keely

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Show and Tell #325: Paul Saffo

Picks and shownotes

Show and Tell #324: A.J. Jacobs

Picks and shownotes

19 January 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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