20 September 2019


Tim Ferriss, Author of “The 4-Hour-Week”

Cool Tools Show 058: Tim Ferriss

Note to Cool Tools Show listeners: We are taking a break from podcasting this week, so we don’t have a new episode. Instead, we invite you to listen to our July 6, 2016 episode with author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss. Thanks and we’ll be back next week. — MF

Our guest this week is Tim Ferriss. He’s an entrepreneur, angel investor, and public speaker, and the author of several best-selling books, including “The 4-Hour Workweek,” “The 4-Hour Body,” and “The 4-Hour Chef.”

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Show notes:

Yellowtec iXm Mic ($760)
“I use [this mic] for a lot of podcasting on the go, recording intros. I’ve used it in airplane bathrooms, in parks. I’ve used it while walking. That, in a lot of respects, explains why it is so useful. … It is a completely self-contained mic and recording system. In other words, you don’t have all these separate components. It looks like a thick hand microphone. It’s from Germany. … It’s just incredibly pristine audio that I use for just about everything. … I don’t know technically why it produces such good audio. In fact, I’ve had audio engineers look at the specs, and they will also ask me, in some cases, if they’re editing my stuff, “Which studio did you record this in?” I’ll say, “I was actually walking down the sidewalk, like a sandwich in 1 hand, recording this on the way to the park.” It just blows their mind.”

“[StillTasty.com] will help you determine if something’s still safe to eat or not. … There’s a search box, and you just type in whatever comes to mind. … It was recommended to me by a number of food scientists and chefs. It doesn’t mean that it’s based on good data, but I’ll put it this way. I’ve given myself food poisoning more than a few times. I have not suffered a bout of food poisoning since using this website. Perhaps it’s just a level of artificial comfort that I seek that I now have with it.”

VooDoo Floss
Voodoo Floss ($9-$30)
“It’s called Voodoo Floss because it is used to help fix or minimize pain symptoms related to soft tissue and soft-tissue injuries. In my case, I have tendonitis in both elbows, because I’m trying to learn gymnastics with a very intense coach. … This is where we get to the name. There is compression. There’s an aspect of potentially myofascial release … there are so many factors at play that they just say, “It’s voodoo.” … What I like about it is that it literally fits in the palm of my hand when it’s rolled up, so this, along with the mic, I can throw into a backpack.”

Mushroom Coffee ($12, 10 count)
“Mushroom coffee is effectively exactly what it sounds like. It is coffee with mushrooms in it. In this case, it has coffee, so instant coffee, about 40 milligrams of caffeine in a full packet, which is very low. Generally speaking, a cup of espresso might have 80 milligrams. A really strong cup of coffee might have 150 milligrams. This is 40, but it’s combined with different types of mushrooms and substances….It has, in my case, a very profound cognitive effect. This has been something that I am using as a cognitive tool and just experimental food right now, which I’m fond of.”


19 September 2019


Natrapel Insect Repellent Wipes

Picaridin formula repels mosquitos, biting insects, and ticks.

I was looking for insect repellent that wouldn’t count against the airline allowance for liquids in carry on luggage. There are several repellent wipes containing “natural” ingredients, DEET, or Picaridin. Controlled tests demonstrate that only DEET and Picaridin at certain minimum concentrations are effective, and have been in use long enough to have proven their safety (except for infants). Picaridin has the advantage over DEET of not melting synthetic fabrics. Of the Picaridin wipes I found online only Natrapel’s wipes (12 wipes for $6) came in the recommended minimum concentration of 20% — other brands had much lower levels. I bought a 12-pack of individually wrapped wipes from Amazon.com. The pouches are easy to tear open, the wipes are easy to unfold, and I find one wipe sufficient for my feet, legs, arms, neck and face while dressed in sandals (no socks), shorts and short-sleeved shirt, and the effect lasts for 2+ hours.

-- Michael Khaw 09/19/19

18 September 2019


What’s in my bag? — Brad Templeton

What's in my bag? issue #15

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Brad Templeton is the Founder of ClariNet (the first ever dot.com), Chairman Emeritus of EFF, and Founding Faculty of Singularity University. Today, he is writing, speaking and consulting on Robocars. You can find him on Twitter at @bradtem.

Retractable HDMI cable and dongle ($13)
As a person who does lots of presentations, this is very handy to have. It also means you can be in hotel rooms and connect your laptop to the HDTV. Most of those TVs are not in a place where it’s easy to put your computer near them.

Logitech R800 Wireless Presenter Remote ($50)
Most people you give a talk to have a remote and many have a timer. But not all, so I am prepared with this remote which also includes a timer. Sadly, you sometimes leave these behind, so you’ll buy more than one!

FINsix Dart Lightweight PC Charger ($80)
This charger is super small and light, comes with different tips to power various devices, and includes a fast USB charger. My model is no longer available but there are other chargers like it — you don’t need to carry a giant brick.

Crystal Light “On the Go” Lemonade ($9/20pk)
I like diet drinks but not diet coke, which is about all you can get in most places. (If they have two choices, the other is Coke Zero!) These packets turn any water bottle into a nice drink.

About the bag
It’s an eBags Pro Slim Laptop Backpack ($140). I like the wide variety of organizing pockets, the trolley sleeve, the laptop padding and the non-backpack look. On the other hand, it’s much too heavy and it doesn’t expand at all, which has caused problems.


16 September 2019


Stainless-Steel Stove-Top Popcorn Popper and Coffee Roaster

Winning re-review

Roasting coffee at home is one of the best kept secrets. You get far superior coffee at a much lower cost — and I live in Seattle so I’m comparing the Cook N Home Stainless Steel Stovetop Popcorn Popper ($38) with the best roasters around. It’s easy to do, takes about 20 minutes (basic instructions and links below) and produces about a pound at a time. I’ve been roasting 1-2 times a week for over 2 years.

This popcorn popper is much like the previously reviewed Whirley-Pop Theater Stovetop Popcorn Popper but it is significantly more durable in material (stainless steel vs aluminum), gauge (much thicker) and gears (metal vs plastic). This is important when roasting coffee (vs. popcorn) because it is much heavier and puts significantly more strain on the parts. Also, heavier pots distribute heat better.

Why Roast at Home? Because you have a far bigger selection of beans to choose from so you can cater to your personal taste (chocolate, lemon hints, molasses, florals, etc.). Green beans are much cheaper than roasted. Freshness is probably the biggest factor in coffee taste and unless you are picking your coffee up from a roaster the chances are you’ve never had really fresh coffee.

Why Stovetop? Many home roasters use old air poppers as roasters. These can work fine but you need to get the correct air popper (new ones usually don’t work). They are much harder to control and they make a serious mess (when fresh beans are roasted the outer skin cooks off as a light chaff which air poppers blow all over the place). Home roasters (previously reviewed here) give you far less control and typically involve somewhat laborious cleaning of parts. Also the inexpensive ones don’t handle the chaff problem. Air poppers and home roasters also provide almost no way to control the considerable smokiness of the process which is why most people use them outdoors.

Stovetop Method: Sweet Maria’s has a whole section on this as well as adaptations made to this popper (have it do the work for you by adding a drill to do the stirring!) and the many cool devices people have hacked together for home roasting using everything from old BBQs to hot air guns which is one of the reasons they are the best home coffee site around.

Stovetop Popper Options: This popper varies in price so you might want to start with the previously reviewed whirley pop. It costs $21 and I used at the beginning. I switched once I knew I would be doing this a lot and for a long time to come. I’ve been using this popper for almost 2 years and it’s never been cleaned and it works like a charm – well worth it. Replacement gears are available for a few bucks online and they will eventually wear out (especially if you use a drill for stirring instead of your hands).

Jump In!: Reading about coffee roasting is worthwhile and Sweet Marias has everything you need to know. The only problem is that it will make you think it is far more complicated than it really is. The bottom line is that it takes a little practice and once you have done it you realize you just have to get the temperature right and watch/listen/smell for the obvious signs of it being ready. Don’t be put off just jump in and try it. I’ve tried many DIY things from the Arduino to making jam and I can assure you that this is the easiest and most rewarding of all them.

-- Charles Borwick 09/16/19

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2012 — editors)

16 September 2019


Panavise Cast Weighted Base

An alternative to bolting down a vise

Like probably everyone who comes to Cool Tools, I’d love to have a big shop, lots of room, big heavy work benches, gigantic vise, all that. But I don’t. In my efforts to get stuff done anyway, I’ve got a Panavise, the typical version in a typical mount. It’s a very handy thing; most of you already know about them. There are an assortment of bases: Table-edge clamp, round simple base, vacuum-base, and a weighted base. I find the round base too light and scoots around when I try to use a Panavise. The vacuum base might work well on a suitable surface, but they’re sorta costly and limited to those ideal surfaces. The clamp is probably okay but not always suitable (and having that clamp bit under the table edge can be a hazard to happiness). Mine has the five-pound cast iron base ($30) under it, with some robust rubber feet. It certainly stays where I put it, goes anywhere, doesn’t mar whatever it’s set on, and does the job very well. I haven’t tried to put a mower blade in it – I think that’s asking for disappointment – but for everything else so far, it’s been great and really adds to the concept of working with a Panavise. I see that there are some units that shipped without holes! Mine came with all its holes & parts (screws & rubber feet), and went together without issue – though a single burr I knocked down with a coupla swipes with a file. I understand some may think the whole stack of three pieces (base, mount and vise) may be costly, but it’s way cheaper than moving to somewhere with a proper shop. If I ever get into a shop, this will be at home there too.


-- Wayne Ruffner 09/16/19


img 09/13/19

Rob Walker, The Art of Noticing

Cool Tools Show 192: Rob Walker

img 09/13/19

NoPhoneSpam App for Android

Block calls from annoying or private numbers on your Android device

img 09/11/19

What’s in my bag? — Andrea James

What’s in my bag? issue #14

See all the reviews


img 12/15/04

Kapla Blocks

Precision building blocks

img 12/20/10

Park Team Race Stand

Essential bike maintenance tool

img 10/8/10


Burly folding backwoods saw

img 01/8/07

Engel Hot Knife

Superior textile cutter

img 01/10/07

Get Human

Access to human help

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 058: Tim Ferriss

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 192: Rob Walker

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 191: Susie Bright

Picks and shownotes

18 September 2019


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