27 January 2023

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Portable Travel Bidet

Better than wiping

Maybe not the tool that you want to talk about, but like a lot of tools when you need it, you really need it. I had surgery on my “wiping hand,” and my off hand was wrecked years ago from a sports injury.

Knowing that I would be out of commission for at least a month, I found that the portable bidet was a pretty good solution. Easy to use lefty, able to use with warm water, and it did the job. Inexpensive and didn’t need to change any plumbing. Useful for other problems as they might occur “down there.” As they like to say discrete and easy to pack.

Uses common AA batteries that seem to have a long life. 

-- Lee J Ellman 01/27/23

27 January 2023

Kern Kelly, STEAM Teacher

Show and Tell #350: Kern Kelly

Starting his teaching career in New Zealand, Kern Kelley is the STEAM Teacher at RSU 19 in central Maine. He has provided support to educators for over two decades and has conducted professional development events across the globe. He advises a student produced technology support show for the Maine Dept. of Education found at SLAMShow.org. He has brought his student presenters, the MLTI Student Leadership Ambassadors of Maine to numerous conferences around and authored the Google Apps Guidebook.

TOOLS:
0:00 – Intro
1:56 – Nomatic traveler backpack
5:32 – Budi USB adapter
8:35 – Root iRobot coding tool
13:20 – Flashforge Finder 3 3D printer
22:04 – Student Leadership Ambassadors of Maine

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

01/27/23

26 January 2023

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Adjustable Book Stand 

Elevates books and tablets

Why would you need a bookstand? Maybe you’ve got a lot to read, study, or reference from, reading a text or tablet, and you’re starting to suffer from neck and back aches due to poor posture; you want to increase your reading speed*; you want something to hold your cookbook off the counter and open while you work on a new recipe; you want to hold a reference open while you refer to it or make notes, without the book occupying your workspace.

Bookstands can come in very handy, but many have drawbacks: it’s hard to turn the pages quickly, it’s fussy to adjust, it doesn’t lift the book off the workspace, etc.

This one is the closest I’ve found to perfect. It holds the book securely, makes it easy to adjust the angle and height, and you can either turn pages rapidly by tucking them under the “arch” of the page clip, or securely by placing the clip firmly on the page.

It works well for speed-reading and studying, note-taking and reference, holds the cookbook off your counter while cooking, can hold musical scores on a tabletop while you practice an instrument, or can be used to display an art book. There are friction pads on the bottom, so you can use it on a lap desk or other not-entirely-level surface without having it slide around.

It also holds lightweight tablets or laptops…but don’t exceed the recommended 4.4 pound weight maximum, or it may become unstable: I can put my iPad Pro on it no problem, but trying to put my 16″ MacBook Pro on it would be a bad idea.

The stand has a clean, modern design; it’s lightweight but very sturdy, with aluminum base and arms and an acrylic support plate (which also has a little gray friction pad to keep electronic tablets from scooting around when you use them). When folded, it’s a little over 2 inches thick. A wrench to adjust the arm tension (which you might need to do if you put relatively heavy objects on it), is included in the box. Test the tension and make sure the unit is stable when you’re using it with heavy or expensive objects.

I’ve added one of those inexpensive clip-on USB rechargeable dual-head reading lights to mine; that way any lack of ambient light doesn’t impede my reading. I’m finding it a lot handier than I anticipated; you might, too!

*P.S: for those interested, I can recommend a classic book, Breakthrough Rapid Reading by Peter Kump, as a very effective and inexpensive self-guided course in speed reading. I’m reading 5 times faster so far, and haven’t made it through the whole course yet… 

-- Barbara Dace 01/26/23

26 January 2023

Highest Inflation/Lowest Tipping %/Cheapest Apartments

Nomadico issue #36

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.

Countries With the Highest Inflation

We’re seeing inflation steadily tick down in many countries as supply chain issues ease, but there are plenty of variations due to local financial policies and how much importing a country does. This report with a world map is from December, but the places you might not want to hold onto the local currency for very long include Zimbabwe, Lebanon, Venezuela, and Syria, all above 100%. For more popular destinations, the highest were Argentina (88%), Turkey (85.5%), and Sri Lanka (66%). Reporting inflation below 5% were Ecuador, Bolivia, China, and Japan.

Tipping Percentages Around the World

“How much should we leave as a tip?” It’s a common question for international travelers and nomads. The best advice is to ask the locals, but this tipping map of the world is a good start for restaurants, hotels, and taxis. Just remember that there are variations within a country (NYC and Los Cabos servers expect more than Wichita and Zacatecas ones do) and the norm in Michelin-star restaurants is not the same as the norm in simple places where regular workers eat. In some countries it’s zero, but “in nearly one-third of the world, a 10 percent restaurant staff tip is considered adequate.” – via Mark Frauenfelder

The World’s Best Apartment Rental Value?

Malaysia is far from poor, a poster child for development success in the past half-century, but the country is a terrific value when it comes to apartment rentals. Because of speculation and over-building, prices are a bargain even compared to other capitals in Southeast Asia. An amount that wouldn’t get you a closet in the world’s expensive cities will get you a modern, multi-bedroom apartment with a view, in a complex with a swimming pool, elevators, a gym, and 24/7 security. When I searched Mudah.my for apartments of 1,500 square feet or more for $900 or less per month in the capital of Kuala Lumpur, I got 548 results, many of them furnished. And hey, the food is really good too…

Two Rugged but Lightweight Carry-on Bags

Experienced travelers know that if you’re trying to travel light, wheels and a handle are going to add 4 to 5 pounds before you even start packing. Two rugged bags I’ve used a lot when ditching the wheels and going carry-on only are the Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45 and the 45-liter Tortuga backpack that is built for light-packing long-term travelers. List prices can top $300 but both are independent companies with a lifetime guarantee on what they sell. I’ve had my Tom Bihn one for 12 years and it still looks great.

01/26/23

25 January 2023

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Fossil 5e Smartwatch

Ultimate Smartwatch for Fitness and Functionality

I bought this Fossil 5e Smartwatch about 6 months ago to replace my Fossil Sport. (Both watches are suitable for swimming.) The watch displays the time on a bright and detailed screen and also tracks my heart rate, heart points, steps, and calories and stores them all in Google Fit.

I receive notifications for upcoming events, messages, Skype and WhatsApp chats, Amazon deliveries, and email, as well as any other notifications from my phone. The watch also functions as a barometer and altimeter, showing both current and historical data. It even serves as a compass and displays my agenda.

I can set an alarm, create appointments, and even make store payments. There is a built-in timer and stopwatch, and I can ask Google Assistant any questions and receive both visual and audio responses. The watch allows me to play music, audiobooks, and podcasts through its small speaker or Bluetooth headphone. I can also make and receive phone calls. The watch includes a calculator.

The watch also includes a map and can read directions for me. It can tell me my location and current speed. It can even tell me the distance from my golf ball to the hole. I can check the weather and view radar maps to track rain progress. I also receive flight arrival and departure updates. I can control smart home devices such as thermostats and lights. I can even watch videos and buy bus tickets and see when the next bus is coming.

-- Tom Trottier 01/25/23

24 January 2023

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Biolite 330 Headlamp

330 Lumen No-Bounce Rechargeable Head Light

I’ve owned my Biolite 330 headlamp for two years. I bought it for trail running and general pre-dawn road running. I have found it to be well suited for running because the built-in USB rechargeable battery rests on the back of my head, opposite the slim but powerful light positioned on my forehead. It’s a bounce-less design and super comfortable, and I don’t have to worry about the light sliding down, so I don’t have to over-tighten it to keep it in place. It’s so comfortable that I often forget I’m wearing a headlamp at all.

What I’ve discovered is that it’s not just great for running, but also an excellent work headlamp. In fact, I reach for it more often to do a project or chore than I do for running. The slim flush-front lamp has an extremely low-profile, which gives me confidence when I am working in tight spaces, like the attic crawlspace or the basement. I can work hands-free and easily search the rafters and dark corners, making tasks like checking the sump pump or getting my hands on the right equipment or materials less challenging.

The lamp is easy to adjust, both in positioning and lumens, so I can customize the lighting for any task. Recently I was disassembling and reassembling the extruder on our 3D printer, which sits in the corner of a poorly lit room. I adjusted the angle of the lamp and the lumens to provide just the right lighting in the work area. Not too bright so as to avoid glare from stainless screw heads, and I aimed it at just the right angle so that I didn’t misplace any screws or fumble with the hex key too badly.

Additionally, I live in a snowy part of the country, and my snow thrower doesn’t have a built-in light like some of the more expensive snow throwers. Wearing this headlamp fixes that and enables me to get up and out early to deal with snowfall on dark winter mornings. I’ve owned headlamps that combine both the lamp and battery pack on the front, but they were not as comfortable to wear or as functional as the Biolite 330. I like the USB rechargeable battery pack too. Too many of my AA- and AAA-battery-powered gadgets have suffered corrosion from leaky/old batteries. This headlamp holds a charge for 3.5 hours on the highest setting and 40 hours on the lowest setting. It sometimes is out of stock on the Biolite website, but they make a range of lights, so you can find a similar headlamp with many of the same features.

-- Dan Lamb 01/24/23

ALL REVIEWS

img 01/23/23

Everything

A better file search tool

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Backyard Birds

Tools for Possibilities: issue no. 18

01/22/23

Fantastic Round-Up of Hobby Tips for 2022

Gar’s Tips & Tools – Issue #144

img 01/20/23

Chopula

Super Flexible Chopping Sit Up Spatula

See all the reviews

EDITOR'S FAVORITES

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Backyard Sugarin’

DIY sweets from trees

img 03/3/08

Aladdin Lamps

Bright, oil/kerosene-powered lighting

img 09/13/06

Butane Burner

Compact portable hot plate

img 10/16/19

Tegaderm

Better bandage

See all the favorites

COOL TOOLS SHOW PODCAST

01/27/23

Show and Tell #350: Kern Kelly

Picks and shownotes
01/20/23

Show and Tell #349: Stephen Kennedy

Picks and shownotes
01/13/23

Show and Tell #348: Joshua Schachter

Picks and shownotes

WHAT'S IN MY BAG?
11 January 2023

ABOUT COOL TOOLS

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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