A cool tool can be any book, gadget, software, video, map, hardware, material, or website that is tried and true. All reviews on this site are written by readers who have actually used the tool and others like it. Items can be either old or new as long as they are wonderful. We post things we like and ignore the rest. Suggestions for tools much better than what is recommended here are always wanted.
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Library of Congress, the largest library in the world offers free research assistance by experts. I finally had an excuse to use their service and was blown away by how helpful they were. I had been reading History of the Conquest of Mexico written in 1890, and could not find any information for one of the cited sources which was written 300 years prior, so I submitted a request and — in less than 24 hours — I received a response from the Hispanic Division Reference Librarian who linked me to a digitized copy of the manuscript, and 5 other links to codices of Pre-Hispanic History that I would have never discovered otherwise. It’s such an invaluable resource. — CD
A Reddit list of “useful unknown websites”
This nearly endless Reddit list of useful websites you probably don’t know about is full of gems. Here are a few I discovered:
RSOE-EDIS is a live world map of emergencies. Icons represent fires, tornadoes, earthquakes, plane crashes, biological endemics, public safety incidents, animal attacks, and more.
Flick Metrix is a list of the “top rated movies on Netflix, created by combing ratings from across the web.”
myNoise has links to a wide variety of tunable white noise generators, ambient sounds, tinnitus reducers, and other interesting audio effects. As I’m writing this, I’m listening to a soothing soundscape called Anamnesis.
Just the Recipe strips out everything from an online recipe besides the ingredients and instructions.
Claudia (CD here) is too modest to recommend this herself, but she puts out a small poetry zine printed on paper that I enjoy. Phantom Kangaroo is 26 pages of illustrated “esoteric” poetry — celebrating the mystical, paranormal, and the ecstatic — contributed by a network of poets she has cultivated the past decade. Current issue (#25) is $13. — KK
Crypto is weird, perplexing, silly, revolutionary, overhyped, underhyped, a mania, thrilling, accelerating, and awash in huge oceans of money that make it very difficult to discern what is real and sustainable. I am reading The Generalist, a free website of long “briefs” written by one analyst, to parse what is happening, I still have a zillion questions about crypto, but I have gotten more clarity from here than anywhere else on this confounding subject. — KK
I have a smooth-edge can opener and I like it much more than an old-fashioned can opener. My wife complains when she uses it to open a can of tuna, though, because the diameter of the cut lid is too large to squeeze the water out of the can. So I bought this simple tuna strainer. It’s a metal cup with holes in it. Press down on the handles and you can squeeze as much liquid as you want from the can. — MF
Declaration of Enchantment
When I feel uninspired, I like to re-read this Declaration of Enchantment, written by Depth Psychologist Craig Chalquist. There are 15 articles — all outlining the importance of nurturing our imagination. Reading this invigorates my curiosity and infuses me with awe. Below is an excerpt from the Preamble. — CD
We can live a few weeks without food, a few days without water, and a few hours without shelter in an inhospitable clime, but we cannot live for even a moment without some movement of imagination in mind and body. To restrict its enlivening flow is to cripple the wellsprings of health, vitality, and sanity. Enchantment is a self-evident basic right. An assault on enchantment is an assault on the human spirit.