23 October 2020


Ramona Pringle, Creator and Journalist

Cool Tools Show 249: Ramona Pringle

Our guest this week is Ramona Pringle. Ramona is a creator, journalist, and researcher whose work focuses on the interactions between humans, technology and the world around us. She’s a contributor to numerous media outlets, including tech columnist with the CBC (Canadian broadcasting corp), and Director of the Creative Innovation Studio at Ryerson University, in Toronto. You can find her on Twitter @ramonapringle.

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Show notes:

Diva Ring Light ($250)
A ring light is sort of what it sounds like. It’s a donut-shaped light, LED, that you use when you’re recording videos. My office where I work it is so bright in the morning and it’s dark in the evening. And even if I’m not broadcasting, you want to have a good, clean image to project. My background is in production and I will say 10 years ago, I was so excited because I invested for my production company in these LED lights. They were amazing because they at the time seemed very small. I remember flying out to do an interview and lugging this box which was very, very heavy, I’m going to guess over 60 pounds, and dropping it on my foot at the airport before we were taking off for the interview, I’m pretty sure I broke my toe and had to get through this entire flight, interview, return trip with just this excruciating pain because they were so heavy. And so one of the incredible things about the ring light is you’re just dealing with this one light. I love the fact that it’s easy. It’s so simple. It’s so user-friendly and it’s lightweight. You don’t need to worry about knowing how to set up three point lighting and worrying about bad shadows or bad angles. It’s not super heavy. And it feels like for the way that we’re all working right now, a great tool to have on hand.

Phone case with chain ($22)
This is exactly what it sounds like, and for someone who hasn’t become reliant on this it is, as nerdy as it sounds, but it has become essential to me. I did a lot of remote work even before the pandemic, which means, always having a device on me (but always feeling conflicted about that). One afternoon, when my daughter was 18 months old, I couldn’t find my phone, but thought “that’s ok I don’t need it, I can be in the moment screen free.” Then I found it in the toilet, 3 hours later. A nanny who was working with us had the phone case with a chain. If you have little kids, it is a life saver because a) your phone is less likely to end up in the toilet/dishwasher/sandbox, but b) it is hands free for people who never have free hands.

The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters ($19)
This book to me feels so timely and so relevant to the moment. It’s not explicitly about technology. It’s not explicitly about design, but I would say that it should be read by technologists and designers thinking about the ways that we engage and why we engage and some of what’s broken and the ways that we engage with each other that may not be fulfilling our needs ultimately. One of the chapters that jumps out is she talks about creating a temporary alternate world. And I spent a lot of time in video games and alternate worlds online and studying them and making content about the medium, documentaries. And she talks to just that concept, even if it’s not in a virtual sense, of an alternate world as a shared experience is really incredible. She talks about designing an event as a world that will only exist once. And isn’t that just a lovely way of thinking about how people engage — even right now, we’re having this shared experience that will only exist once, at least in real time as it’s unfolding. It was really inspiring to read it.

Press Here (Interactive Book for Kids) ($8)
We were given this book by three different people, which speaks to how much creative people and I think designers like it, and this is a book that children love. My daughter loves it. Maybe this is mommy-brain of me, but I would go so far as saying I think that this book could even sit on adults’ coffee tables. Press Here is a children’s book. It’s very cleanly designed. It’s basically just white with primary colors or black and white with primary colors and you open up the first page and there’s a yellow dot that looks like it’s just kind of scribbled on with crayon and it says, “Press here” and you touch it. There’s nothing to it. It’s a paper page. There’s no batteries. There’s no sounds. When you press it, you flip to the next page and all of a sudden there’s two of them. You progress through that book that way. It asks you to turn the book upside down and all of a sudden, all these little dots, when you flip to the next page, have fallen to the bottom of the book. So then it asks you to turn it around and it’s as if you’re manipulating the images on the page, as you move through it. At a certain point, it asks you to clap and the circles get bigger or blow on them and they move to the other side of the page. Those interactions, those magic moments or animations, if you would call it, that happen when you flip the page, certainly for a little kid, it’s very magical. But again, even in terms of thinking about interaction and thinking about design, it’s really, really clever the way that it’s been designed.

About The Recovery Cohort:
I am the director of The Creative Innovation Studio at Ryerson University which is a network of incubators for innovation within the creative industries, including media, fashion, music and design fabrication (interior design, robotics, maker-y stuff), that bridges academia and industry. This fall, in response to pandemic, and the 3 intersecting emergencies we’re living in the midst of (health, social and environmental), we’re running a special program focused on rebuilding and reimagining the creative industries.


We have hired professional editors to help create our weekly podcasts and video reviews. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $390 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


23 October 2020


Silicone Baking Mat

Reusable non-grease baking sheet

For years professionals have baked their goods on inert silicone-impregnated mats. These simple, inexpensive, oven-proof, non-stick sheets slide into baking trays and are now quite common in households like ours. Instead of consuming rolls of aluminum foil or parchment paper, you just lay everything out on these reusable durable mats, and bake. The nicely-browned goods slide off with no effort and no added grease. There’s less burn on the bottom, too. Multiple mats can feed one expensive baking tray for serious cookie production. Clean-up is a simple rinse. As an added bonus, they make great kneading boards. The mats also roll up for easy storage. We’ve used several of the five brands available. So far, they all seem similar.

-- KK 10/23/20

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2003 — editors)

22 October 2020

Marking Your Drivers

Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales - Issue #66

Marking Your Drivers

1/8" slotted and PH1.

1/8″ slotted and PH1.

I don’t know why more tool manufactures don’t mark the butt-ends of their drivers with the size and type of the tool. I got a large set of drivers last year and the benchtop holder for them obscures the labels on the handle so that you have to lift each one to see what it it is. Dumb! To fix this, using my FastCap marker, I’ve labeled each driver with size and type (in the above case, a line for slotted, cross-hairs for Phillips). Robertson/square drivers get a square symbol, and for Torx, I just use “T” before the size.

Annealing 3D Prints in Salt

Salt parts to taste.

Salt parts to taste.

In response to the item in issue 64 about annealing 3D prints in plaster to increase their strength, reader TokyoSpark pointed me to this video on treating printed parts with powdered, baked table salt(!) It not only increases part strength, but it makes them water- and gas-tight.

Kitchen Shelf Liner as Bench Pad
Here’s a great idea from Family Handyman magazine (sent in to them by a reader). Use grippy kitchen shelf liner material on your bench when you want to hold items in place and not have them slip (especially when clamping is not ideal). The material is slightly sticky and the the mesh design allows sanding dust, etc. to fall through as you work.

Erasable Marker Pen

Erase your mistakes with thermo-reactive ink.

Erase your mistakes with thermo-reactive ink.

In this Cool Tools Recomendo Shorts video, Mark Frauenfelder recommends the FriXion Clicker erasable pen. This is a thermo-reactive gel pen with a hard plastic eraser. Rubbing over a pen mark generates heat which melts and lifts the ink. A commenter in the video points out that you can also use a heat gun to remove an entire image – and even freeze to restore it.

Making Jack o’ Lantern Teeth and Exposed BRAAAAINS

Pumpkin' brains made from cauliflower. From Allrecipes.com. Photo by Glenn Bryant.

Pumpkin’ brains made from cauliflower. From Allrecipes.com. Photo by Glenn Bryant.

Dungeon crafts maven Vanessa Mus’e, aka The Crafting Muse, offers this tip on how to create jack-o’-lantern teeth on her Instagram feed:

“…for those wondering how people are adding teeth to jack-o’-lanterns. It’s blanched almonds more often than not.

Boil some water, drop in the almonds for a couple minutes. Chill quickly and the skins should pull away leaving exposed nut flesh. Whittle to desired shapes.”

Also, in this piece on AllRecipes.com, they share a fun and easy idea for giving your pumpkin exposed brains with a carved and painted head of cauliflower.

This reminds me of the time I made exposed brains for Halloween. This is easily done with a latex skull cap, caulk, and some paint.

I feel a strange breeze

I feel a strange breeze

Shop Talk

Acid brushes. Versatile and cheap.

Acid brushes. Versatile and cheap.

In response to our brush talk several issues ago, reader Cymerian Designs responded: “One thing I do with acid brushes is to cut the bristles short so they become very stiff. That makes them usable as mini scrub brushes for getting into small crevices or for lightly abrading small surfaces to clean them.”

Mistakes Were Made
Reader TokyoSpark thought I was wrong in identifying the chain links on Laura Kampf’s folding bike project (issue 64). “I believe the chain Laura used on her bike was conveyor or motorcycle chain, the links are pretty hefty.” They are probably right.


(Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales is published by Cool Tools Lab. To receive the newsletter a week early, sign up here. — editors)

22 October 2020


Bodum Shin Cha Tea Press

34-ounce glass tea press for loose teas and tea bags

After 5 years of pretty much exclusively using my Bodum teapot, I have gotten so used to it I only notice the process when I’m not at home and have to use a different teapot.

I like having a big pot of tea sitting on my desk while I work on the computer but with most teapots, the tea continues to gain in strength the longer it stays in the pot; unless you want to outright remove the tea which is nothing but a hot mess. This is the best teapot in my experience for being able to brew tea that can stay in the pot but not continue steeping and increasing in strength.

The system is very simple, the strainer inside the teapot has no holes in its bottom section so when the plunger is fully depressed the tea cannot continue to soak in the water as it has been cut off and sealed in the bottom of the strainer.

I use it whenever I’m at home and can have 1 liter of tea that is of a consistent strength sitting on my desk, making the only other issue I have to deal with the fact that eventually, it will go cold which is an issue I have not found a solution to other than drinking the tea.

I was not able to find the exact porcelain model I have online anymore, it seems like Bodum may have discontinued it but they make the same size and shape pot out of borosilicate glass (the stuff pyrex is made from) so if anything it’s now stronger and more shatter-resistant if dropped plus since its now clear you can see exactly how much tea is left in the pot.

-- Thomas Webster 10/22/20

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2016 — editors)

21 October 2020


Zip-It Drain Cleaner

Hooks out gunk

This flexible 24″ plastic probe will remove an alarming amount of hair and gunk clogging your sink or shower drain. It descends easy. You can snake it down without taking off the usual drain plug. The many little reverse (and very sharp!) spines hook hairballs and other unmentionable crap as you carefully back it out. It removes grunge that liquidators won’t budge. Sold as disposable, a cautious wipe will keep it going forever. We have a very hairy household; I can’t keep the plumbing going without it.

-- KK 10/21/20

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2004 — editors)

21 October 2020

Look Better on Zoom With This Portable Light

Compact LED Camera Light

Aputure AL-M9 Amaran LED Mini Light

GuestTyler Winegarner

So there’s a couple of things that make this really cool, aside from the fact that it’s really tiny — it’s about the size of a credit card, though it’s a good bit thicker than one. I would say it’s about 10-12 millimeters thick. It has this magnetic cover, and under there it’s got a grid of nine LEDs, and these magnets in the four corners. That’s what holds this diffusion plastic in place. On the side you have the on/off switch, a dimmer control, and the micro USB charging port. It’s got an internal battery that lasts for about 80 or 90 minutes at full power. It’s quite bright

-- Tyler Winegarner 10/21/20


img 10/21/20

What’s in my bag? — Jeff Carroll

What’s in my bag? issue #72

img 10/20/20

Cuisinart 12-Piece Cookware Set

Well designed basic cookware set

img 10/19/20

Felo Phillips #2 8-inch screwdriver

Smooth seamless handle for maximum comfort

img 10/16/20

Brian Fisher, Curator of Entomology

Cool Tools Show 248: Brian Fisher

img 10/16/20


Self-adhesive rubber bumpers to use as feet, stops, and spacers

See all the reviews


img 03/8/13

Pogo Connect

Best iPad stylus

img 06/30/03

Griphoist (Tirfor) Hand Winch

Better than a come-along or winch

img 11/6/18

Forschner Victorinox Chef’s Knife

Inexpensive great chef knife

img 04/3/20

Bissell Natural Sweep

Fastest carpet cleaner

img 12/8/06

Blurb * Lulu

Personal bookprinting

img 11/6/19

iFixit Magnetic Project Mat

Magnetic DIY repair station

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 249: Ramona Pringle

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 248: Brian Fisher

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 247: Vanessa Mason

Picks and shownotes

21 October 2020


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