Once a week we’ll send out a page from Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities. The tools might be outdated or obsolete, but the possibilities they inspire are new. Sign up here to get Tools for Possibilities a week early in your inbox.
I carry a roll of the Velcro Plant Ties (see right) in my tool bag, but also keep One-Wrap Velcro strips in the shop. While they’re much more expensive, I’ve found the larger kind to be substantially bulkier and stronger. Here in Toronto, we have alternating weekly garbage, recycling, and green waste pickup. We also have rapacious raccoons. I found if I add a simple loop of One-Wrap, screw it into the side of the green bin and loop it over the locking bail of the bin, the raccoons cannot open it. I first tried Plant Ties. They just wouldn’t hold. For my purposes, a One-Wrap is good for about a year, after which it is easily replaced. It’s available in various colors and sizes. The lower-end of the One-Wrap line is a similar size to the Plant Ties, which are 13 mm wide; however, the One-Wrap also come as large as 22mm. It has deeper loop Velcro (thicker and fuzzier), and as the width of the tape increases, the size of the loops and their grip strength increases. Plant Ties really are great for handling all kinds of tasks, but One-Wrap is strong enough to bundle thicker rope, heavier hoses, and most importantly for me, they keep raccoons out of the recycling. – David Keldsen
To me, as a commuter, one of the most impressive parts of the EZ Pass toll-paying system is the hardcore industrial “velcro” tape they give you to attach your transponder to your windshield. It’s not really velcro, though – instead of hooks and loops, both surfaces have these tiny hard plastic mushroom-shaped things that grab each other by the hundreds and don’t let go. Both sides are the same, so there is only one tape (called selfmating). And unlike the loosy-fabricky velcro connection, the Dual Lock surfaces don’t join until you’ve positioned them exactly, and then pressed them together with a satisfying “chunk.” They’re primarily used in industrial applications as a replacement for mechanical fasteners, but I use mine to attach my iPod to my dashboard, and tools to the wall in my workshop. – S.S. Flanders
Parachute cord isn’t only light and strong (550lb. rating) for its size (5/32” diameter), it’s also more versatile than other types of rope because it can be dissected and parted out, cut and used for its braided nylon sleeve and/or seven separate core strands.
You can get an enhanced grip and a little added padding by using paracord to wrap tool handles. It’s also used for making lanyards. I recently inserted a length of ball chain into a parachute cord sleeve to make a hands-free flashlight for late-night dog walks. The nylon is a lot more comfortable around my neck than a ball chain, and the fit is perfect. – Spencer Starr
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.
“How to choose the streaming services that are right for you” is an incredibly helpful breakdown of the major streaming services and their costs. The guide suggests keeping a TV diary for a week to write down what you watch as you watch it to reveal where you direct most of your attention as a viewer. I’ve been slowly getting kicked off of shared streaming services and was surprised to find that I don’t miss Netflix at all. The shows I most enjoy are on Max and Hulu. — CD
Classical antiquity is not as far away from us as it might first appear. I’m in love with a newish book about the first millennia called, “In the Shadow of the Sword,” Inside this elegantly written, sweeping history about the birth of Islam, is hidden a more profound book about the birth of religions in general. Just as the bishops created Christianity from the slim, scarce, and obscure oral teachings of a holy man, so Islam was created from the slim, obscure oral traditions of another holy man. This is one of the densest books I’ve ever read, with more insights per page than I could count. The two greatest forces shaping our lives today are technology and orthodox, dogmatic religion, and this is the biography of the second. — KK
Borrow Kindle books for free
The Library Extension has changed how I find and borrow ebooks. While browsing Amazon or Goodreads, this browser add-on indicates whether a book is available at my local library. With a simple click on the "borrow" button, the book is sent directly to my Kindle. It requires only a library account to use. (Screenshot) — MF
One Minute Focus
The purpose of this website is to increase your mental focus by looking at the dot for 1 minute while breathing. It’s inspired by Dr. Andrew Huberman’s claim that “staring at something for a short time has been proven to improve and boost mental focus on subsequent tasks.” I feel like it “pumps” me up to focus, so I guess it works for me. Along with this recommendation, I also want to share a reminder to practice good eye hygiene when working at your desk. I frequently look out the window, widen my gaze, unfocus my eyes, and close them for short periods of time. Here’s more info on digital eye strain. — CD
Best music visualization
There have been many many attempts to visualize music over the centuries, but the animations of music done by Stephen Malinowski are the ones that sing to me. Despite the name of Music Animation Machine, this is not AI. This is obsessive craftsmanship of the highest order. As a sample start with this piece of music, the original 1924 recording of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. — KK