22 August 2019


Pocket Kart

Lets one person carry a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood

As a single mom and homeowner, I often find myself needing to move some large/awkward/heavy item (such as a sheet of plywood), which is difficult to manage on my own. I cobbled together some interesting — but still awkward — ways of doing this….and then I found the Pocket Kart ($11). It’s quite simple: a comfortable swivel handle attached to an L-shaped hook, with a little serif on the end to keep the items you’re carrying from sliding off. You just lift the panel onto the hook (it stands up by itself so that isn’t difficult), grab the handle, steady the top of the panel with your other hand, lift…and you can easily transport the panel where it needs to go, without stress, sweat, or splinters—and without needing to find a neighbor to help you.

The hook is about 2 inches wide, so you can carry multiple sheets at once if you’ve the strength and inclination. It’s useful for all sorts of hard-to-carry items: rolls of wire fencing, hay bales, drywall, doors, corrugated panels; it also works well for paint cans and buckets, keeping those wire handles from digging into your hand, and can hold multiple filled plastic grocery bags at once. The handle swivels, so you can use it right- or left-handed, at whatever angle works best.

It folds up to fit in a pocket, purse, or toolbag (making an irregular triangle that’s 5.25″ at its widest points, and about 1″ thick), or it can be hung on a nail or a pegboard. Don’t forget to take it with you to the lumberyard — it’ll make getting the sheets into your vehicle much simpler. I’ve had mine about 10 years, use it several times a month, and see no signs of wear; it’s made of a tough nylon resin that will likely outlast the trump of doom. Next time you need to carry plywood by yourself, you’ll wish you had one!

-- Barbara Dace 08/22/19

21 August 2019


What’s in my bag? — J Young

What's in my bag? issue #11

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J Young is a Property Claims Adjuster for Country Financial Insurance. He spends a lot of time on the road inspecting homes and writing repair estimates for insured clients all over Washington State.

BAGSMART Electronics Organizer ($18)
This is the first aid kit of a modern man. Charging cables, battery banks, flash drives, and adapters of every kind stay neatly organized in this bag that zips flat to fit in my messenger bag. A must for anyone living the #donglelife.

Bosch Compact Lazer Measure
There’s nothing more embarrassing than hearing the audible gasp from a client as the metal end of a tape measure skims millimeters above their wood floors at mach 2. This tool is not only safer and massively faster, it is also incredibly handy to use as a laser pointer during onsite estimates when talking to homeowners about a specific area on a ceiling or floor.

Mini Snap Blade Knife ($1)
I have experimented with many different knives for everyday use ranging from expensive tactical folding knives to a standard box cutter style utility blade. I have settled on these small and cheap utility blades as the most efficient and effective knife for general purpose use. The most important part of the form factor to me is that the blade extends out of the front of the handle for fast one-handed operation and is also lockable to keep it from shredding things (like my hands) as it is clipped to the inner pocket of my messenger bag.

Post-it Notes ($10/12pk)
In a sea of digital reminder apps and to-do list tools, I still prefer the humble sticky note to capture anything that pops into my head that I need to remember. They are a staple of my own personal GTD system of “capturing” anything while on-the-move to process later when I’m back in front of my laptop. On days when I have long drives from claim to claim all over the state, it’s not uncommon for me to have a dashboard full of them with ideas, memos, and reminders which I can easily re-stick into a neat stack to process later.

About the bag
My go-to bag for the last 9 or so years has been this old Ogio “Hip Hop” Messenger bag. I have tried laptop backpacks, convertible duffel bags, and everything in between but I keep coming back to this one. I would recommend a link to where you can buy one but they have been discontinued for quite some time.

-- J Young 08/21/19

21 August 2019


Beeswax Crayons

Heirloom crayons

Are crayons really a cool tool? Yes, if you buy the right crayons. We bought these Stockman Beeswax block crayons when my first daughter was one. All four of my children used them and we (amazingly) still have all eight of them. The block shape is perfect for toddler, child and adult-sized hands. There are no labels to peel off, no points to have to sharpen, and they are almost impossible to break under normal circumstances. They can be used to draw hard lines or do shading. They last an incredibly long time, since they are harder than standard crayons. They come in a nice tin that snaps and stays closed (and it continues to work after 20 years!) The only thing these crayons don’t do is fine-point coloring, but isn’t that what colored pencils are for? If you have kids or plan to have kids, make a lifetime investment and buy a set of these block crayons. In 20 years, you’ll thank me!

-- Martin Lange 08/21/19

18 August 2019


Bahubali/Standard Ebooks/STORi drawer organizers

Recomendo: issue no. 160

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Epic Bollywood spectacle
If you have never seen a Bollywood movie, the action epic Bahubali is a great one to start. The plot revolves around a mythical demigod, Bahubali, who must reclaim his throne. This 2-movie 5-hour extravaganza is part Lord of the Rings saga, part kung-fu spectacle, part crazy soap opera, part Saturday morning cartoon, part LSD trip, and unlike anything you’ve seen. It is ridiculously corny, absurdly fictional, un-ironically campy, and immensely cinematic. It’s a lot of fun, all 5 hours of it. It streams on Netflix in 4 different languages. (The films are technically Tollywood, filmed in Telugu language, not Hindi.) The first movie, Bahubali: The Beginning has an English dub audio version, while the second movie, Bahubali: The Conclusion, has an English subtitle version. These films are the highest grossing films in India. Once seen, they cannot be unseen. — KK

Lovingly produced ebooks
Standard Ebooks is a labor of love. They take public domain texts (from Robert E. Howard to Bertrand Russell), scour them for typographical errors, add great cover art, and format them for Kindle and other ereaders. The online catalog is a pleasure to browse, with a synopsis for each book. Join the mailing list or subscribe to the RSS feed for updates on new books added to the catalog. — MF

Organize your deep drawers
I bought multiple sets of these STORi Clear Plastic Drawer Organizers to organize my makeup drawer. They come in different sizes and and can be arranged in multiple configurations to fit any drawer. They are completely transparent so even though they are stacked on top of each other, I know where everything is. There is no wasted space. — CD

Favorite water bottle
I bought the 32-ounce Takeya stainless steel water bottle last month to bring on hot summer day hiking, and it’s now my favorite. The vacuum insulation keeps the water cool for hours. It has a comfortable carrying handle, a drinking spout, and a wide-mouth lid for cleaning/drying. — MF

Listen to intimate couple’s therapy sessions
My favorite podcast is “Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel.” I always find myself choked up with emotion while listening to these anonymous couples therapy sessions. Esther Perel is so professional and progressive and such a master at guiding couples toward the light. It’s both voyeuristic and enlightening. Season 1 and 2 are free to listen to in your podcast app, but Season 3 “The Arc of Love” was just released as an Audible exclusive. — CD

Good veggie burger
The plant-based vegetarian Impossible Whopper at Burger King is pretty good for fast-food. It tastes comparable to a beef Whopper, according to my memory. (I last ate mammals 15 years ago.) Now available in most BK outlets in the US, Impossible burgers can also be found at other burger joints like White Castle. — KK


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.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

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



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Garlic Twist

Grinds more than garlic

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Tick Key

Always handy tick remover

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What’s in my bag? — Dennis Nishi

What’s in my bag? issue #10

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Book Freak #22

Optimize Your Flow

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Gardena Mechanical Water Timer

Analog timer for watering chores

See all the reviews


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How To Cook Everything

Essential iPhone cook book

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Total Immersion Swimming

How to swim like a fish

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The Wirecutter

Meta-review site for gadgets

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Omega Juicer

Quiet, versatile juice extractor

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

21 August 2019


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.

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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.

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.