06 October 2022

Georgia Influx/Waiting on Bali/Electric Travel Toothbrush

Nomadico issue #20

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.

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Huge Influx Into Georgia
You might want to put off that move to Tbilisi for a while. Rents in the country of Georgia started going up as soon as Russia invaded Ukraine and those with the means to leave Russia did so in droves. Last week it got worse when Putin announced a military draft. “The Interior Ministry of Georgia said over 53,000 Russians have entered the country since last week,” according to the AP.

The Bali Digital Nomad Saga
For a reminder on how an announcement is not the same as implementation when it comes to digital nomad visas, compare the clickbait news stories from the major media that have been out there about living in Bali to this detailed timeline on what has really gone in motion (not much) for the Indonesian island. For now, don’t hold your meditative breath.

Remote Work With Wheels
The mobile app YNAB (You Need a Budget) surveyed five of their remote workers about life on the road in terms of possessions, money management, and what they’ve learned. Four of the five are in some kind of RV/trailer set-up, so the article provides a different perspective than that of the globetrotters leaving home with just checked luggage or a backpack. See Budgeting as a Digital Nomad– via Mark F.

Small Electric Travel Toothbrush
After spending way too much time going down the Amazon rabbit hole of product reviews to find a small and lightweight electric travel toothbrush I can recharge by USB, I took my new $23 Pop Sonic one out on a 3-week run this month. The verdict is that it’s not as powerful as the big one at home, but good enough (and convenient enough) to use on relatively short trips instead of a manual one.


04 October 2022

Comparing Circular Saw Blades

Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales - Issue #134

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Comparing Circular Saw Blades
In this Project Farm videoTodd tests 15 different circular saw blades to find out which ones are the best. He tested blades for performance in ripping 2×4 lumber (before and after striking nails) and compared for performance while cutting through oak and ripping an 8’ pressure-treated 4×4. Bottom line? The Makita blade ($10) was best overall. The Spyder also performed surprisingly well for its $5 price tag (at time of testing), although that price is currently over $12 each, so look for it on sale. Doing a web search, I see it’s available at some e-tailers for under $7.
Cutlist Optimizer
Speaking of cutting things. If you have a woodworking project that involves a fairly complicated cut list, there is a free app called Cutlist Optimizer. It allows you to both organize your cut list to better keep track of all of your pieces and allows you to optimize the parts you can get from your sheet goods.
How to Calculate 555 Timer Frequency and Duration
Ah, the venerable 555 chip. One of the most useful and popular ICs in electronics history. Invented in 1971, released in 72, it remains a go-to solution for a myriad of timer, delay, pulse, and oscillation applications. In this Digi-Key video, they cover the steps for calculating the necessary resistor and capacitor values needed to achieve the frequency and signal duration that you’re after in your project.
The Power of Great Reference Books and Knowing the Names of Things
As both a maker and a word nerd (I edited Wired’s “Jargon Watch” column for 13 years), I’ve always tried to impress upon people the power in knowing what something is called. Knowing the proper name for something allows you to look it up, learn about it, track it down (if it’s a tangible object). In this Adam Savage video, he harps on the same thing. He does so while extolling the virtues of a book he recently discovered and loves, the Backstage Handbook. This visual technical reference is for stagecraft, but most of its contents–divided into tools, hardware, materials, shop math, electrics, and architecture–can be applied to all manner of making. You you get to learn the proper names for all of the tools, hardware, and materials it covers. Magic!
TOYS! StylusReach Flexible Flashlight
Cool Tools has launched a new newsletter called Tools for Possibilities. Every week, subscribers get sent a page from the CT book: Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities. I was tickled to see that the first page I was sent had a review that I wrote on the StylusReach flashlight. The Cool Tools catalog was released in 2013. Nine years later and I still have, use, and love this flashlight. Good tools do that.
Maker’s Muse
Shop Talk
Newsletter reader Paco Hidalgo sent this in response to the piece in the last issue on water and baking soda as a CA glue accelerator.

“I first tried the Zip Kicker CA accelerator and found its smell very disagreeable, nauseating, and the spray bottle made it very difficult to apply just a small drop. I later leaned that cyanoacrylate glues “set” (polymerize) by the mere presence of trace amounts of water vapor in the atmosphere. This infographic explains.

“So, I concluded that if that is the case, then liquid water would certainly accelerate the polymerization. I found that just a drop of water from a toothpick or needle onto a blob of the glue does indeed accelerate the setting process. I never heard of using baking soda but that would add a foreign material to the bond. Why do that? [See comment below] There would be no reason to mix baking soda with water since water alone does a good job.

“BTW: A ‘secret’ that I learned from the guy at the counter of a mall hobby shop, is that CA glues will keep indefinitely in the freezer. I think the dry environment prevents the glue from polymerizing. The manufacturers don’t want you to know that so they tell you not to freeze their glues. I keep partial bottles of different types of CA glue, including LOCTITE, sealed inside a ziploc bag in the freezer that are at least 10 years old. I can take a bottle and use it immediately without waiting for it to come to room temp. It is liquid and works just as fast. I wipe the tip with acetone after each use and keep a common pin in the narrow opening so it doesn’t clog. 

“I keep all my solvent glues, including Lexel, E6000, and Goop in the freezer too, with the same result. I think the cold environment keeps the solvent from evaporating and escaping from the imperfect seal that normally shortens the shelf life. I keep epoxy glues in the refrigerator. This is enough to prevent them from self-polymerizing.”

[Just to clarify: Baking soda is commonly used by itself as an accelerator, especially in the hobby/modeling communities. Besides being an accelerator, it adds more structure to the join. Large amounts of baking soda can be added to CA glue to create a very hard material. This soda and CA combo as a structural material is common among luthiers repairing bridges and fret boards. It can be sanded, drilled, etc.]

02 October 2022

Portable Clothesline/Black glues/Salary Transparent Street

Recomendo: issue no. 325

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Travel clothesline
I’ve used this Retractable Portable Clothesline in 4 different hotels and I highly recommend it. You never lose the clothespins since they are attached to an elastic cord. Positioning beads on the cord prevents clothing items from sliding along it. There are hooks on the ends of the cord instead of suction cups, so you’ll need to be creative to set it up, but I find a way every time. — MF

Black glues
Clear caulking and clear hot glue are the norms. But caulking and glue also come in colors, like black. For instance black caulking and black hot glue are perfect for projects involving light seals, or when working with dark materials. Curiously, a black patch or seam will often disappear more than a clear one. — KK

Transparent salaries across the U.S.
Salary Transparent Street shares videos of people on the street being asked “what do you do?” and “how much do you make?” It’s humbling and (mind-boggling!) imagining how I would survive in the Bay Area on certain salaries across the U.S. The channel’s goal is to promote pay transparency across the United States, close the gender pay gap, increase diversity and equal opportunities. You can follow it on InstagramYouTube or TikTok. — CD

What you can control and what you can’t
I like this visual reminder I came across on Reddit of “What I can control and what I can’t.” It reminds me to celebrate the wins — I no longer reactively say, “You make me feel this.” I used to have to correct myself to say, “When you do this, it makes me feel this.” But after years of practicing, it’s now become second nature to take responsibility for how I feel. — CD

Quick-dry travel pants
I own three pairs of Roark Explorer Adventure pants. They dry quickly in my hotel room after being washed. They feature a side zipper pocket for cell phones and passports, as well as a hidden back zipper pocket for wallets. I was in Carcassonne last week and warned that pickpockets were active there, so I was glad to have my belongings secured. — MF

Tools for possibilities
We think you’ll like our newest newsletter, Tools for Possibilities. Every Monday we’ll send you a one-pager with the best parts of my Cool Tools book, which is now out of print. This oversized book rounded up the best tools we knew about in 2013 and presented them by category. I called it a Catalog of Possibilities. Our succinct newsletter takes each category and selects the reviews for 2 to 4 tools in that category. It is basically a way to distill and re-distribute the deep, deep archive of the Cool Tools website, which has been reviewing tools daily since 2003. The information about the tools, whether they are still available or even still the very best, has NOT been updated. (They are just a search away.) We present this stream of tools – defined in its broadest sense as anything handy for an individual or small group  – as an easy way to see what possibilities there exist if you want to make things happen. It’s brief and free. Sign up for Tools for Possibilities here. — KK

Kevin KellyMark FrauenfelderClaudia Dawson


30 September 2022

Nathan Myhrvold, Inventor

Show and Tell #333: Nathan Myhrvold

Nathan Myhrvold is a scientist, inventor, nature and food photographer, and author of the award-winning Modernist Cuisine cookbooks. After completing a postdoc with Stephen Hawking and serving as Microsoft’s first Chief Technology Officer, he founded Intellectual Ventures, which has spun out more than 15 tech startups. Myhrvold is inventor or coinventor of 899 patented inventions to date. His book and other projects are at his website: NathanMyhrvold.com

0:00 – Intro
0:48 – Wiha screwdriver set
6:55 – Kuhn Rikon avocado knife
10:36 – Omax CNC controlled waterjet
24:32 – Profoto Pro-10 camera flash


29 September 2022

World’s coolest streets/theft-proof bags/5 hours by train

Nomadico issue #19

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.

The World’s Coolest Streets?
TimeOut surveyed 20,000 city dwellers to find the coolest streets in the world. I had just spent the day walking along one of them (in Medellin) when I saw this, but it turns out I’ve only explored a fraction of the rest in my travels.

Theft-proof Travel Bags
My wife has walked the streets and ridden public transportation in dozens of countries over the course of decades without ever being robbed. This is the result of one part luck, one part street smarts, and one part gear smarts. On that last point, her “purse” of choice is a small bag from Pacsafe that is very hard to get into and has a slash-proof shoulder strap. The company also makes backpacks and luggage with loads of security features and most are available on Amazon.

Getting Your Finances in Order
This article from Schwab is a good basic summary of what you need to be thinking about financially before moving abroad if you’re American. The tax section is especially worth heeding to avoid paying the governments in two places. (Also, as mentioned in an earlier edition, if you have an account with Schwab you can get a fee-free ATM debit card that even rebates the local charges. I have a similar one from Fidelity.)

5 Hours by Train
This strangely specific map website will show you what’s within a 5-hour train ride from different cities in Europe. You can go quite far from Paris or Milan, but the best traveler choice might be Vienna: from there you can reach Budapest, Prague, Bratislava, Munich, and bits of Poland and Slovenia. See Chronotrains.com.


28 September 2022

What’s in my NOW? — Spencer E.

Issue #143

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I’m a lawyer, dog-dad, step-dad, runner, reader, music-lover, whiskey enthusiast, and aspiring traveler. Also, I’m a Diet Coke guy. I should probably sleep more.


ChuckIt! Ball Launcher — I have a two year old border collie named Marley. He is the most active, energetic, and loyal creature I’ve ever met. The only thing he loves more than following me around is playing fetch…and he could go for HOURS. To prevent my shoulder and elbow from giving out early, I bought one of these and it has provided Marley and me countless hours of fun, play, and bonding time. Gamechanger.

A friendly doormat — I bought this after it was recommended in another newsletter I follow. At first I thought it was cheesy, then I realized that it actually is quite amazing … the subtle boost of confident you can provide your guests just by having them look at something when they come knock on your door. Try it sometime.

noCow Protein Bars — these plant-based, vegan protein bars are 1) delicious, 2) filling, and 3) always in my bag. I love them.

Concert Tickets — Music is huge for me and this summer I’ve gone to at least one outdoor concert a week. Yes, the digital concert ticket marketplaces SUCK (I’m looking at you TicketMaster!) and the fees are insane; but by the time I am in the middle of a crowd of people vibing to the music in the warm summer night air, I don’t care. At least four times this summer I’ve attended a concert for a band I’ve known only one or two songs, and now these bands are some of my favorites. Go to a concert. Support local artists. Live mas. This concert slapped.

The Always Sunny Podcast — a recap podcast from the creators of my favorite TV show, except they spend each podcast barely talking about the episode of the TV show they are supposed to be recapping and instead ramble about people cutting in line at drive-thrus, whiskey, pooping habits, and football. It’s fantastic and always makes me smile.

No is a complete sentence.” — I have made it a personal goal for myself this year to be more authentic and to be more of “myself”. As part of that, I have found that I’ve needed to set more intentional boundaries with myself and others. In doing so, I have discovered the power of saying “no” and refusing to give excuses if they are not needed (and usually they aren’t!). I’m very busy and work can quickly get in the way of life…so telling people “No” to going out so I can stay home and recharge by myself is very essential to me. Initially, I got pushback, or friends complaining to me and trying to convince me otherwise…but I stood my ground and now people in my life know that I will be in a much better mood if I do what I want, when I want. Try it sometime 🙂



Adobe Lightroom

Photo organizing, manipulating



A knife that will get through security


Auto Center Punch

Precise start on metal



Still the best thermometer

img 10/3/12

Murphy Bed

Next generation of hideaway beds

See all the favorites



Show and Tell #333: Nathan Myhrvold

Picks and shownotes

Show and Tell #332: Mark Pauline

Picks and shownotes

Show and Tell #331: Tim O’Reilly

Picks and shownotes

28 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.

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