25 September 2022

Rock Identifier/Sideways Awards/History of Rock

Recomendo: issue no. 324

Identify rocks instantly
This stone ID app called Rock Identifier (Google PlayiOS) works fast in scanning and identifying rocks, minerals, and crystals. It’s got an extensive database so you can compare your stones to other images, as well as learn its chemical and physical properties, locality, uses, etc. I use it as an encyclopedia to learn more about how to identify minerals and how to tell real from fake crystals or gemstones. There’s a 7-day free trial, but for me it’s worth the $29.99 yearly subscription. — CD

Alternative worlds
I have a thing for alternative history or counterfactual stories. You know, what if X did not happen when it did, what would the world be like? These narratives require the longest possible view because the author must be in command of both the past and the future to pull it off. They require uncommon sideways, or lateral thinking.  A “Sideways Award” is awarded every year for the best counterfactual book or short story. This Wikipedia list of Sideways Awards is a great way to explore these alternative timelines. — KK

Musical history of rock
This fantastic podcast, A History of Rock in 500 Songs, does what it says: it traces the history of rock music in 500 songs. Start with the first episode, which looks at 1939’s “Flying Home” by the Benny Goodman Sextet. The most recent episode, numbered 152, is about 1967’s “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield. New episodes come out about once every two weeks. – MF

How to handle chronic over-talkers
Writer and podcast producer Rose Eveleth has been interviewed on radio countless times, and she’s had to put up with interviewers who love to hear themselves talk and won’t let her speak. This article in Last Word on Nothing describes how she learned how to deal with chronic over-talkers. Her most important rule: “Start your sentence just before your partner has ended theirs. Do not wait for them to actually end their sentence. Do not let them pause and think ‘am I truly done?’ Because the answer is always no.” — MF

Popular products on Reddit
Looria.com took all the most talked about “brand mentions” on Reddit — in posts and comments — and ran it through “sentiment analysis” to identify the emotional tone behind the mentions and determine what are the most popular products and then listed them by subreddit here. — CD

Large apple slicer
We eat apples often enough that an apple slicer wins a spot in our kitchen. A good one will core and carve an apple into 8 to 12 slices in one swift motion. There are lots of brands, like OXO’s, that are good enough, but they can’t deal with the largest apples. The apple piecer you want is a Newness stainless steel one with a 4-inch diameter that is heavy duty enough to slice all apples (and pears and onions) forever. — KK

— Kevin KellyMark FrauenfelderClaudia Dawson


23 September 2022

Mark Pauline, Survival Research Laboratories

Show and Tell #332: Mark Pauline

Survival Research Laboratories was founded by Mark Pauline in November 1978 in San Francisco. Since its inception, SRL is made up of creative technicians dedicated to re-directing the tools of industry, science, and the military. Each performance is a unique interaction between machines and special effects in socio-political satire. Humans are present only as audience or operators.

Website: srl.org
Instagram: @markpauline5
YouTube: @survivalresearchlabs
Facebook: @survivalresearchlabs


0:00 – Intro
1:06 – DMU 50 5 Axis Milling machine
5:15 – Ikegai A-20 Precision Lathe, a vintage Japanese-made lathe
9:24 – EMI EZ Path SD lathe
18:04 – Deckel Maho DMC 103V vertical Machining Center
26:46 – Survival Research Labs


22 September 2022

No Love for Offices/Packable Backpacks/Nomad Conferences

Nomadico issue #18

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.

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

Almost Nobody Misses Office Cubicles
The majority of people can put up with a hybrid work situation, but almost nobody wants to work full-time in an office they drive to it seems, according to a new Gallup poll. “A mere 6% want to work entirely on-site going forward. Doesn’t it seem that traditional management and workplace practices are broken if more than 90% of 70 million employees say they don’t want to come back to the office full time?”

Packable Backpacks in Stuff Sacks
One item that I almost never leave home without when traveling is a small backpack that squeezes down into a little pouch. These items take up very little room and are lightweight, but they expand on the other end to be a great daypack or eco-friendly shopping bag. There are options from Eagle Creek, Sea to Summit, Matador, ChicoBag, and others. The ideal versions have at least one water bottle pocket, making them useful on a hike. See some options and video demos here.

Pack-flat Toiletry Bottles
Travel-sized toiletry bottles are a necessity for traveling with a carry-on, but that’s a lot of throw-away plastic going (usually) into a landfill. If you use normal refillable ones, they keep taking up space when they’re empty. Mark found these collapsible FlatPak ones from Matador that lie flat when empty and are easy to clean and reuse.

Digital Nomad Conferences
Working at home, wherever that may be, can get a bit lonely sometimes. It can be stimulating to learn from and meet up with others leading a location-independent lifestyle. Nora Dunn, The Professional Hobo, has a great rundown here of digital nomad conferences around the world.


18 September 2022

A Good Movie to Watch/Best Scrounging/Map of upcycle stores

Recomendo: issue no. 323

TV and movie picker
With so many streaming channels out there, it’s hard to keep up with what’s worth watching. A Good Movie to Watch is a freemium service that rates and recommends movies and shows. A premium subscription opens extra features, such as sort-by-rating. — MF

Best scrounging
A world-class scrounger I know ranked the best places to find bargains for used and old stuff. He said “There are no good bargains on Ebay because sellers know the true value, and price accordingly. Facebook Marketplace has good stuff at ok prices. But if it is advertised on Craigslist, they just want to get rid of it. If you are patient you can offer 10% of asking and sometimes get it.” — KK

Find creative reuse stores near you
Creative reuse stores are secondhand stores for all kinds of craft supplies. I still have drawers of specialty papers, posters, paints, and fabric from when I used to live in Oakland and frequent the East Bay Depot. I would pay $20 for everything I could fill up in a grocery paper bag. Swoodsonsays.com keeps on top of updating a map of upcycle stores near you (in the U.S. and some outside). You can search the Google map here. Thanks to Margaret Cherry for sharing this with me! — CD

Music for programming
I’I’m not a coder, but I still like listening to the electronic instrumental songs from Music for Programming. The curators say they’ve spent years finding the right kind of “compelling music for sustained concentration” and I think they’ve found it. You can listen at the website or by subscribing to the podcast. — MF

How to identify a gut instinct
The best advice I ever got on how to trust my gut and intuition was given to me by a psychotherapist years ago. She suggested whenever I have a gut instinct — good or bad — I should first rate the intensity of my emotions from 1 to 10. If they are on the lower end of the spectrum, I’m more inclined to trust my gut. Emotions — like anger, fear or insecurity — are different from Feelings, because they are usually in reaction to something external and feel like a laser that you want to point at people or things. Feelings — like profound sadness and love — are more of a state of being, and Intuition is an inner knowing. So whenever I have to distinguish one from the other, I first start by rating my emotions. — CD

Strange images
The instagram account Welcome.jpeg calls itself a digital museum. It’s kinda art, kinda meme, kinda kitsch, kinda weirdo. It collects oddball, strange, unorthodox, found images and delivers these misfits as little visual collections. It’s my guilty pleasure. — KK

Kevin KellyMark FrauenfelderClaudia Dawson


16 September 2022

Tim O’Reilly, O’Reilly Media

Show and Tell #331: Tim O'Reilly

Tim O’Reilly is the founder, CEO, and Chairman of O’Reilly Media, and a partner at early stage venture firm O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures (OATV). He is also on the boards of Code for America, PeerJ, Civis Analytics, and PopVox. His book, WTF: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us, explores what technology advances teach us about the future economy and government as its “platform.” He is a Visiting Professor of Practice at University College London’s Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, where he is researching a new approach to regulating big technology platforms by limiting their ability to extract economic rents.


0:00 – Intro
4:00 – Greenworks electric chainsaws
6:29 – Fiskars PowerGear2 Lopper
13:14 – Aquasphere Vista Pro Swim Mask
19:09 – Starlink broadband service


15 September 2022

Toiletry Kits/European Train Journeys/WeNomad

Nomadico issue #17

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.

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

Hanging Toiletry Kits in Two Sizes
One thing I always pack in my actual suitcase/backpack (and not my laptop bag) is a hanging toiletry kit that doesn’t depend on having ample counter space. I have two different sizes: a small Sea to Summit one for carry-ons and a larger Eagle Creek one for when I’ve got space in a checked bag. Even the cheapest hotels have a place to hang something in the bathroom and these keep everything organized with slots and pockets.

Notable European Train Trips
With budget airline flights within Europe being so cheap, it’s easy to forget all the reasons why a train trip is much more pleasant — and better for the planet. This article from The Points Guy highlights four train journeys where getting there is a joy instead of a pain. This one starting September 1 is especially intriguing: Stockholm, Sweden to Hamburg, Germany (or vice versa) in an overnight sleeper.

Online City Guides for Nomads
Earlier we highlighted a cities round-up site called NomadList and this alternative follows a similar template: WeNomad. There’s plenty to quibble with in the cost-of-living estimates in their crowdsourced city guides, but one great feature is a list of Facebook groups and message boards for cities so you can hit the ground running. – via Claudia Dawson

Gadgets That Make Life Easier
This Guardian UK article listing 31 inexpensive purchases that can make life better features a number of items that are travel-related. It includes a headlamp (get a rechargeable one), a portable Bluetooth speaker (ditto), a small digital luggage scale, binoculars (powerful ones are available in small sizes these days), and an eye mask. That last one is an inexpensive upgrade for a long flight.




Pogo Connect

Best iPad stylus

img 03/8/10


Guided construction set

img 09/19/05

Total Immersion Swimming

How to swim like a fish

img 11/27/08

Omega Juicer

Quiet, versatile juice extractor

See all the favorites



Show and Tell #331: Tim O’Reilly

Picks and shownotes

Show and Tell #330: Ryan Phelan

Picks and shownotes

Show and Tell #329: Howard Rheingold

Picks and shownotes

07 September 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.

© 2022