23 May 2024

Argentina Cash/Weak Currencies/Cameras in Airbnbs

Nomadico issue #105

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.

A Smaller Currency Spread in Argentina

Back when Nomadico was getting started two years ago, I noted from a recent trip that Argentina’s market “blue rate” for cash on the street was 204 to $1 and the official rate was just a tad more than half that. Now your premium for bringing hard currency cash is not so large. The blue rate is around 1,070 and the bank rate (which now floats freely) is a realistic 882. You won’t get penalized so much for using a credit card.

Countries With Weak Currencies in 2024

Speaking of currency fluctuations, where are the great bargains this summer if you’re traveling with dollars or euros? At the high end on the expense scale, Japan and Sweden are looking more attractive than usual. The countries that were already a deal and have gotten even cheaper include Egypt, South Africa, Turkey, Malaysia, and Laos. See the full rundown here.

No More Indoor Cameras at Airbnbs

I don’t think this was a widespread problem, but Airbnb removed any doubt by prohibiting any indoor security cameras in listed units as of April 30, regardless of their location, purpose, or prior disclosure. A host who violates the new policy could face consequences including listing or account removal on the platform.

Check for Foreign Transaction Fees

Wallethub put out survey results recently with some surprising results. Apparently 82% of Americans don’t know that using a credit card gets them the best exchange rate when traveling abroad and nearly 1 in 3 didn’t know whether their card charges a foreign transaction fee or not. Before you head abroad, check on this for every card because 63% charge one and it’s not always obvious. I’ve gotten burned not realizing an airline or hotel card levied a foreign transaction fee—which seems ridiculous for international companies—so now I never use those outside the USA. See the results here.

05/23/24

22 May 2024

What’s in my NOW? — Isaac Stephenson

issue #180

Sign up here to get What’s in my NOW? a week early in your inbox.

WFH public health professional, passionate Detroit Tigers Fan. — Isaac Stephenson


PHYSICAL

  • 8 X 11 Whiteboard — My note taking apparatus. Erase when done to save paper.
  • Win Schuler’s Cheese — Great tasting snack. Eat it with sausage or pretzels. Low fiber key for my diet.
  • Bottle Bottle — Great bottle with straw option. Also has storage for snacks or pills on the bottom.

DIGITAL

  • MeteoBlue — Weather app that not only gives your current weather and forecast but shows predictions of various weather models.
  • Ten Percent Happier — Keystone to my meditation practice. Access to great teachers. Listen to the podcast as free .

INVISIBLE

“Optimism is true moral courage.” — Ernest Shackleton

One of the great leaders and adventurers. Has kept me moving forward positively for years.


What’s in your NOW?

We want to know what’s in your now — a list of 6 things that are significant to you now — 3 physical, 2 digital and 1 invisible. 

If you’re interested in contributing an issue, use this form to submit: https://forms.gle/Pf9BMuombeg1gCid9

If we run your submission in our newsletter and blog, we’ll paypal you $25.

05/22/24

21 May 2024

Frontiers of Space / Garbage Night

Books That Belong On Paper Issue No. 15

Books That Belong On Paper first appeared on the web as Wink Books and was edited by Carla Sinclair. Sign up here to get the issues a week early in your inbox.


PROFESSOR ASTRO CAT TAKES YOUR CHILDREN ON A JOURNEY TO THE VERY FRONTIERS OF SPACE

Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space
by Dominic Walliman, Ben Newman (Illustrator)
Flying Eye Books
2013, 64 pages, 11.5 x 0.6 x 11.5 inches, Hardcover

Buy on Amazon

Cats are innately curious creatures, innate scientists and explorers constantly exploring their environments. Perhaps that’s in part what prompted physicist and YouTube personality Dominic Walliman and illustrator Ben Newman to decide on a feline protagonist for their book, Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space. Newman formerly worked at a bookshop and wasn’t impressed with the children’s non-fiction section, so he asked Walliman to write a children’s book on space for him. “My inspiration was all of the books that I used to read as a kid,” says Walliman. “I used to love getting lost in books about space and nature and dinosaurs, and I wanted to have characters to make the books more Ben came up with Professor Astro Cat and it all fell into place.”

Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space charms the reader immediately. Newman’s clean, modernist illustrations have a strong retro-futuristic bent that suggest the golden age of science fiction pulp magazines ,while Walliman provides lucid prose to help Professor Astro Cat explain topics such as the birth of stars, the speed of light, the solar system and the history of space exploration. A rapt audience of dapper birds, cats, insects and bears are enraptured by all of the professor’s lectures, acting as stand-ins for the readers who share their curiosity.

The book is a delight of design in its own right. It’s an expansive hardcover volume with vibrant pages and even a bookplate on the inner cover that makes it strongly reminiscent of the classic children’s books which Walliman remembers so fondly. Children will want to make many return voyages with Professor Astro Cat, but so will the generations before them who still fondly look to the stars for inspiration.

– Lee Hollman


GARBAGE NIGHT EXPLORES HOW ANIMALS MAY INTERNALIZE THEIR CHANGING ENVIRONMENT AND EXPRESS THEIR FEARS AND HOPES

Garbage Night
by Jen Lee
Nobrow Press
2017, 72 pages, 9.8 x 0.6 x 7.2 inches, Hardcover

Buy on Amazon

Garbage Night may be the most beautifully colored graphic novel I’ve seen. These colors are somehow moody yet vibrant. The characters and the story, meanwhile, are somehow whimsical but also somber…clearly this is a book that’s comfortable playing with surprising combinations.

The story centers on three friends who are scrounging and scavenging for survival. With their hoodies and beanies, they look like a lot of teens who spend most of their time on the streets. But this is a trio of abandoned or semi-wild animals – a dog, a deer, and a raccoon – searching for a better life.

The plot is a simple one, about tested loyalty. But the impressive artwork, like the moods it conjures up, is richly layered.

– Christine Ro

05/21/24

20 May 2024

Screwdrivers

Tools for Possibilities: issue no. 87

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.


Best multiple-bit screwdriver

Picquic Sixpac

The Picquic Sixpac may be the last multi-bit screwdriver I’ll ever need to buy, but it wasn’t the first. I’ve gone through a dozen less successful attempts at this kind of tool, always losing at least half the bits in the first month or so of use. When I try to use the few bits I haven’t lost, they invariably fall out of the bitholder, which weakens over time.

The Picquic Sixpac fixes both problems. Each bit is stored in a separate compartment in the screwdriver handle. You remove the bit you need by pushing it out of the handle with the bit you are finished with. Since there’s no other easy way to get at the bit you need, you always put bits away as you finish with them. I’ve had mine for three years and it still has all its bits!

Additional features include a solid, spring-lock bitholder that holds as tightly now as it did the day I bought it, and a stainless steel shank that has stood up to everything I’ve thrown at it. It comes with six bits: two flathead, three Phillips head, and one Torx T15. Other bits are available in Bitpacs from Picquic. — James Home


4:1 Hyperdriver

Klenk Ratcheting Screwdriver

I found this Klenk 4:1 Multi-ratio driver. It is a basic ratcheting screwdriver with two big advantages over the Sears model.

First, it has a black knob on the shaft that when held, allows the bit to turn four times for every one handle turn. It’s phenomenally fast and rivals drill drivers on small to medium jobs, where you don’t want to drag out the heavy equipment. It’s best suited for long screws, where the 4:1 gearing can really speed them in or out. However, since it is essentially high gear, you can’t put a lot of torque on it.

The second improvement is the bit storage and retrieval. The Sears version has these clips to stick the single-sided bits in. Getting them in or out isn’t smooth. The Klenk has a system with a hole in the top and you sort of lift to disengage the lock and dial the hole to the bit you want, which you can see through the side of the handle. The bits are also double-ended. It holds 8 double-ended bits for a total of 16 heads.

One improvement I’d like to see on this tool is for the ratchet mechanism to be tighter, since in narrow spaces where you can’t turn your hand much, the play in the ratchet can result in not getting much of a turn. Also, the 4:1 knob prevents it from reaching in narrow places to begin with. Overall, though, the 4:1 gearing is worth the $20 even if you already have a Snap-on or Sears model. — Mike Numamoto


Easier hex key

Ball End Hex Wrenches

When you buy a hex key (Allen wrench) set, get them with ball ends. The advantage is that their ball end make it easier to slide the wrench into the receiving slot. You can reach in at an angle and feel your way to the needed drop-in position faster. Good for blind or inaccessible places. It’s a small thing, not worth replacing other hex wrenches for, but if you need to buy some hex wrenches, these ball ends are better. Different brands make them in many varieties, format, and handles. — KK


Pocket-size driver

Teeny Turner

The small size and stubby shape of this cheap driver allows me to reach tight spaces and still apply considerable torque. I’ve used it to adjust tension on folding knives and my SOG PowerLock multi-tool, and to open cases on remote controls, my PDA and cell phones. I have a set of jeweler’s screwdrivers, Wiha Precision Tech screwdrivers and a Craftsman All-in-One screwdriver (overall length: 8.75 inches) with captive bits that store in the handle. The 2.5-inch Teeny Turner fits easily in a pocket; it’s made of aircraft alloy shank, has a magnetic bit holder and the included bits (Phillips 00, Phillips 0, Torx 5,6 & 8, Flat 2mm and 3mm) are generally smaller and much easier to change out than my Craftsman. One small negative is the Teeny Turner has one more bit than storage positions, so you have to choose the least pointy bit to keep in the drive shaft if you carry it in your pocket. That said, the portability really is key. Plus, I do like the name. — Chris Jacobs


Cadillac of screwdrivers

Ratcheting Screwdriver

Although it will never replace a cordless drill in terms of speed of driving/removing screws, my trusty Snap-On ratcheting screwdriver requires no batteries and is far less cumbersome in both weight and size. And for a 1- or 2-screw job is actually faster.

This unit has a smooth-action, incredibly durable RATCHET action that will send the shaft merrily cranking in whichever direction you desire with a flick of the easily rotated ring. It can also be set in the fixed, non-ratcheting position. I have tried another ratchet screwdriver and found the action laughably rough with plenty of slop. The stainless shaft on the Snap-On is magnetized and bored out in the end to accept the standard hex-shaped bit tips. A durable plastic cap screws into the butt of the hollowed-out handle and has a gasket to keep the interchangeable bit tips that rest inside moisture- (and therefore rust-) free. — Carolyn Branson

05/20/24

19 May 2024

Collage/Silence/Thickest Sharpie

Recomendo - issue #410

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

Explore the world of contemporary collage

Collé is a weekly email that explores the world of contemporary collage. Each issue highlights a new artist, showcasing their work and creative process. I’ve always viewed collage as the most accessible art medium, yet I am consistently astounded, inspired, and humbled by the creations featured in this newsletter. Check out their archive of past issues. — CD 

Moses in full

Moses stars in all three monotheistic faiths believed by “people of the book”: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Netflix special, Testament: The Story of Moses, is a surprisingly good retelling of his story in full. Half Hollywood biopic, half documentary commentary, it enlivens this mythical character with more depth. Everyone has heard part of his life, but the full story is far more interesting. Setting aside the immense degree that the character of Moses has shaped western civilization, this is a dramatic story well told. – KK

Practice the art of contemplation

I’ve been using the Triple Flame app (free, available on Android)for reminders to take a pause. Every three hours, I receive a reminder to pause whatever I’m doing for at least three minutes. You can choose between a silent pause or a guided one, accompanied by music or reflections. I appreciate being able to see how many other people are pausing at the same time. The contemplative quotes that pop up also encourage me to look inward. — CD 

Search engine for podcasts and videos

Dexa is a new AI-powered search engine that indexes content from prominent podcasts and videos, making it easy to find the information you need. When you search on Dexa, it provides a text summary of the relevant information and allows you to listen to or watch the specific portions of the media containing the information you’re looking for, saving you time and effort. – MF

Feel good family rock

When I watch this home video of a Filipino family jamming a rock song together, it makes me feel that humanity is okay and everything will turn out fine. The family band calls themselves Missioned Souls and play rock covers like Hysteria by Muse. There is hope. Humans are great. – KK

Thickest Sharpie

When I needed to label some cardboard boxes and my regular Sharpie ran out of ink, I discovered a Magnum Sharpie in my daughter’s art supplies. This oversized marker features a 5/8″ wide chisel tip, perfect for writing large, bold letters. Plus, its larger barrel holds twice as much ink as a standard Sharpie. – MF

05/19/24

16 May 2024

Travel Keyboard/Baja Ferry/Best U.S. Airlines

Nomadico issue #104 (Two-year birthday!)

Bluetooth Keyboard for Better Posture

Most of us with a home office or regular co-working space have a better ergonomic set-up there than when we take our laptop on the road. It’s easy to get slumped and hunched in a bad posture situation. You can set your laptop on two stacks of books or food storage containers to get the screen level with your eyes, but then how do you type? The solution is a portable Bluetooth keyboard that folds up small for travel. I use this one that’s currently 30 bucks and it goes for days between charges.

Taking the Ferry to/from Baja

Three days a week you can fly direct from mainland Mexico to the Baja Peninsula, but there’s another option where you can go on an overnight ferry ride instead. I took it between Mazatlan and La Paz a few weeks ago. It’s a vehicle ferry, which could save you more than 3,000 kilometers of driving. Here’s a detailed post I wrote about it if you’re interested, with a video tour to show what the experience was like. (Or go to YouTube here for the video only.)

A $35 Billion New Airport in Dubai

Dubai’s airport is reportedly the world’s busiest in terms of passengers, with 87 million coming and going last year. The ruling family thinks that’s too small, so they’re going to spend $35 billion (if they keep to the budget) to build a brand new airport with 5 parallel runways, 400 gates, and a capacity of 250 million annual passengers. It is scheduled to take a decade. “As we build an entire city around the airport in Dubai South, demand for housing for a million people will follow,” Dubai’s ruler said. “It will host the world’s leading companies in the logistics and air transport sectors.”

The Best of the Worst: U.S. Airlines Survey

Apparently the way to please customers is… be nice to them. And take care of your employees. Southwest Airlines came out on top a third year in a row in the latest J.D. Power and Associates customer satisfaction survey on 9 U.S. and 2 Canadian airlines, despite some rough patches they had last year with canceled flights. That was for economy class, where Delta came in second and the other legacy airlines were beat out by budget carrier Allegiant. Delta topped the business class category and JetBlue was second. Air Canada was last in two of three categories: business and premium economy. Frontier was last in economy (472 out of 1,000), where even Spirit topped them.

05/16/24

EDITOR'S FAVORITES

COOL TOOLS SHOW PODCAST

03/15/24

Show and Tell #404: Adam Hill

Picks and shownotes
03/8/24

Show and Tell #403: Mia Coots

Picks and shownotes
03/1/24

Show and Tell #402: Josué Moreno

Picks and shownotes

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.

© 2022