Trey Ratcliff, Photographer


Cool Tools Show 149: Trey Ratcliff

Our guest this week is Trey Ratcliff. Trey is a photographer, artist, writer and adventurer. Each day, Trey posts a new photo to his website, StuckInCustoms.com, the #1 Travel Photography blog. His images and stories capture the beauty of exotic travel destinations as well as the humor of bizarre situations he often finds himself in. There is always something new, unexpected and beautiful to see.

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Show notes:

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself ($15, paperback)
“I think tool aficionados will especially enjoy this because humans, we use our prefrontal cortex to envision what a project will be like when you’re working on it and what a project will be like when it’s done. Well, this allows you to use your brain as a tool. And each chapter is a different thought experiment. And you can envision your brain doing different things. It’s really a book about Zen and letting go of the ego and creating things for the pure joy of creativity. Not necessarily so worried about the end result, but sometimes if you start with these right premises, the end result will come about on its own. And this book is not of course just great for the idea of building things, but it’s great for your whole life. It’s brought a lot of meaning and solitude and serenity to my life.”

Google Tasks & Keep
“I’ve gone back to the old Gmail, which has been upgraded. The two cool upgrades I like with it are Google Tasks, which is a very simple to-do list, and Google Keep, which is a very simple note taking tool. And both of these are now integrated into Gmail … And they extend along apps, so whenever I want to update my to-do lists on my phone, it automatically goes into my Gmail. And it’s all nicely integrated. And inside my to-do lists, for example, I have a few to-do lists. I like to keep it simple. I know a lot of these to-do lists are hierarchical and like you have a major task and sub-tasks under that. I’m not all into that. I think that’s too deep. So I have a list called To-Do Soon, and I kind of put the most important things toward the top. And then I have another list called like Books to Read, Movies to Watch, these sorts of things. And it’s just right there in Gmail watching me all the time. And then Google Keep is nice for keeping very simple notes. It’s very elegant. There’s not much you can do inside of there. And I switched to that ’cause I was getting sick of Evernote. Like, Evernote was giving me all these pop-ups all the time, always trying to charge me more money. And I had a subscription, but I don’t know what was going on. It was like kind of giving me this threatening message that I was going to lose access to my notes. And that upset me. I felt like, ‘That’s a little too sales-y, Evernote. I don’t like where you’re going with that.’ And I just trust Google more. And my notes are not that complex. It’s a few words there, it’s a URL there. And that’s really like 99% of all I need. So I’m kind of … I’m going all-in on Google.”

“It’s only for the Mac and it’s nice ’cause as soon as you launch it, it goes full screen. You can’t say any of your other apps to distract you. And you just start writing …. And there’s like 10 different backgrounds. … On the bottom there’s like white snow with some barren trees. Other ones have a yellow background with a stucco wall. And you can turn on kind of like this weird ambient music and there’s different typing sounds. Or you can turn both of those off. And you just start typing. It’s just a stream of consciousness. And this is a very small thing that I like about it, is that it doesn’t give you any red squigglies. So when you misspell stuff, which I misspell all the time, it doesn’t tell you. You’ll find out later when you copy and paste it into something else. When you put it in Google Docs, it’ll tell ya. You can fix it. But like when I’m in a stream of consciousness … Like, of course, I think when you’re writing, you’re full of self-doubt. I don’t know if this makes sense. Are people gonna understand what I’m saying? Should I rephrase this? And all of a sudden you get a red squiggly and it’s like a little punishment, like a teacher. Like a nun hitting you with a ruler. Okay, maybe I don’t know how to spell that word and I mess it up every time. And it just starts to fill all that self-doubt that you try to ignore.”

Insta360 ONE X 360 Camera ($400)
“It is very small camera. … Like a big lipstick … And it shoots 360, 4K, it auto-stabilizes. There’s a firmware update, so make sure you get the firmware update. It’s so smooth … You can attach it to a dog and a dog will run and the final video looks like a drone flying one foot off the ground. So it’s amazing. And so you can attach it to a Selfie Stick and you can kind of stick it out right in front of you, like a few feet away. And one of the coolest things about it is that when it stitches together the video, it will erase the Selfie Stick. So it’s almost like this little orb is just floating there in the air before you. And the reason I like this is many reasons. One, I think it’s fun to give users some element of control. And they can move the camera around and they can look at you talking if they want to or they can look around. ….Currently, no one is making any interesting 360 videos … I think most of the day is totally banal and boring and full of chaos. But whenever you have some kind of moment of order or something interesting … It’s almost like a blog entry. You can record it and this is some amazing information. It’s not just the audio of what you’re saying but it’s the entire sensorium of everything around you. And I think that’s pretty cool.”

JBL Pulse 3 Wireless Bluetooth ($170)
“This is the one that barely qualifies as a tool. If anything, I would call it a social lubrication tool. That seems like a weird way to use the word “lubrication”, but here I’m gonna turn it on. So what this is, this is the JBL Pulse 3 Speaker. It is a Bluetooth speaker. It’s waterproof. … You can use it outside. You can throw it in the hot tub. And I personally love music. And I am often in situations where I am outside with a group of friends and we’re talking or having some drinks around a campfire. And I like to have music around me all the time. And so this speaker allows anyone to connect to it with Bluetooth and it has the most incredible sound. And I think just like when you’re outside with friends and you kind of pass it around. … You start playing a song and someone else says, “Oh, I love that song. Can I play a song?” And then they jump on YouTube and they Bluetooth connect it and they play their song. …. And it’s just kind of a really fun thing. It glows in like millions of different colors. It has all these different colors that light up as LEDs on the outside. So it’s kind of just fun to like sit in the middle of the group. And everyone just kind of stares at it, especially at night. … You know, I think people like campfires. We’re not that far away from our ancestors where we would all sit around campfires. But very rarely do we have fires around us anymore. So this is kind of like a little digital fire. And it also plays music and it’s just kind of a fun thing and kind of brings joy to people’s lives.”

Also mentioned:

The Name of the Wind ($8, paperback)
“If you’re creative and you like building things and you’re coming to know your creative self, I think that this beautiful fictional story is apocryphal. It’s almost like The Alchemist or these things that inspire you.”


Aurora HDR