Cool Tools

Julie Sokolow, Film Director

Our guest this week is Julie Sokolow. Julie is the director of the new documentary Barefoot: The Mark Baumer Story. The film profiles an activist who walked barefoot across America to protest climate change. She’s also the director of the feature documentaries Woman on Fire and Aspie Seeks Love. You can find her on Twitter @juliesokolow and Facebook and Instagram @julie.sokolow.

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Show notes:

Transcendental Meditation + Catching the Big Fish + Transcendence
I’m a big fan of David Lynch and always sought to learn more about his creative process. I was so intrigued when he started to write about Transcendental Meditation. I read his book Catching the Big Fish, and followed it up with Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal’s book Transcendence. Both claimed that by meditating for 20 minutes twice a day, one could significantly improve one’s mental health and increase creativity. I learned TM about seven years ago and it’s helped me overcome anxieties that were holding me back. I love the sense of calm, confidence, and connectedness it gives me. I can’t think of a cooler tool than a mantra!

3’ by 2’ Cork Board ($25)
The first time I edited a feature-length documentary, I had no clue what I was doing. I felt completely overwhelmed by mountains of footage and no sense of how to organize it all. The end result was alright, but I needed a better system. For my second documentary, my producer got me a giant cork board and advised me to map out the story structure. Wow, what a help! I loved writing brief scene descriptions on notecards and rearranging the scenes on the cork board. It gave me a sense of control and a much-needed bird’s-eye view of the story I was trying to tell. I would recommend a massive cork board to anyone working on a big project. You have to break things down into manageable chunks (chapters, scenes, whatever). Also, standing at the cork board gets me away from the computer, even if it’s just for five minutes.

Timbuk2 Backpacks (varies)
I’m a city dweller and I tend to carry a backpack with me wherever I go. Back in the day, I used to buy flimsy bags that would fall apart in a year. Then, I discovered Timbuk2 backpacks, which are insanely durable. I’ve had the Spire for four years and it still looks brand new. It’s comfortable, waterproof, and has tons of pockets. I use it for lugging around anything from a 15 inch laptop to a bunch of groceries. Last year, I bought the lightweight and attractive Tuck Pack, which is perfect for the gym. The main compartment is spacious and easily houses sneakers plus a change of clothes. The water bottle pocket is perfect for a 20oz HydroFlask. I’m not using these bags as much during the pandemic, but I still like to preach the gospel of Timbuk2.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl ($9, paperback)
As many of us helplessly wait out the pandemic, it would be wise to read this inspiring book by Viktor E. Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor. He managed to derive meaning from the most intense and harrowing experience as a prisoner in Auschwitz. He attributed his survival to his ability to find meaning and purpose, in spite of suffering. Frankl writes, “When we are no longer able to change a situation…we are challenged to change ourselves.” Frankl used his experience to found logotherapy, a school of psychotherapy focused on helping people find meaning in their lives.

About Barefoot: The Mark Baumer Story:
My latest film is about a writer and activist who decided to walk barefoot across the country in order to protest climate change. He managed to walk over 700 miles completely barefoot. He was filming himself the whole time, posting videos on YouTube. He's a very funny and very inspiring kind of person who the New Yorker called a compulsive social media diarist, and likened him to Andy Kaufman. So he's just a really wonderful character. And sadly, people might remember the news coverage when he died on this walk. So the film is also about that. There's interviews with his friends and family to give a portrait of his life and the walk and also make meaning out of that situation. The film is out now on Amazon and iTunes.


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:– MF

Cool Tools

Calm zooming/ bowls

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Calm zooming
Unexpectedly, you can decrease the fatigue of zooming all day if you don’t see your own image on the screen all day. The easiest way to hide your self picture in Zoom is to hover over or right-click your image until a blue square appears in the upper right corner. Click on the 3 white dots, and in the dropdown menu, click on “Hide Self View”. Once it was gone I noticed the absence of an irritant I had not been aware of before. Zooming is calmer. — KK

Visual search engine for kids is an illustrated, large-font search engine designed specifically for kids . It’s powered by Google Safe Search so only family-friendly results are returned. If any “bad” words are entered you get an “Oops, try again!” I tried to break it by searching for whatever “adult” words I could think of. “Death” told me to try again, “Dying” directed me to a Death facts for kids page, which is interesting. I don’t have a kid, but if I did this would be their homepage. — CD

Colorful bowls
I’m a fan of colorful plates, cups, and bowls, so when I saw this set of six porcelain bowls last month on Amazon I bought them without first checking the size. (A rookie mistake!) Fortunately, they aren’t the size of thimbles. In fact, they’re bigger than I expected, which is a bonus, as I’m a hearty eater. — MF

Font identifier
Every now and then I come across some text whose style I find attractive and I wonder what font they are using. I grab a shot of it and slip it into the “What the Font” website which usually can (90% of the time) identify the font. I don’t know if there is a better identifier but this free one works for me.  — KK

DIY Spice Chart
I came across this cool visual guide to making your own spice blends on Reddit. It made me realize I should be utilizing my coriander more often. — CD

How to remove stuck cups
In a recent issue of my Magnet newsletter, I asked readers to help me separate two coffee cups that somehow got stuck together. (It’s the second-to-last item in the newsletter.)  Almost all of the hundreds of suggestions I received involved cooling the small cup and heating the big one to allow thermal expansion to do its work, but that didn’t help. Can Recomendo readers come up with a solution? Send email to: — MF

The Technium

The Essential Workshop Tool Kit

My young adult son needs a tool kit. He needs a small set of versatile tools to make and repair things. Projects could be making simple furniture, doing home repairs, creating his art projects, building sets for his photography, making gifts, crafting Halloween costumes, inventing equipment for his adventures, etc. I have assembled what I consider to be an essential set of modern tools that would enable him, or anyone, to make 90% of whatever they imagined. For the most part, I tend toward cheap tools, because I believe in starting cheap and earning better tools through experience, so you know what you want. The core of a modern tool kit is a set of cordless power tools. With basic cordless power tools you can go quite far. I went with a combo set, because it is hard to beat the price, especially when they are on sale. (Check The total cost of all these is $1200. This may seem to be a lot, but considering that you get a full workshop of tools and some of them will last a lifetime, it is quite a bargain. Anyone who knows tools will look at my list and see an essential tool that is missing. That's the nature of a list like this. I'll leave the joy of adding to the collection to my son.

The tools in this list link to Amazon, where you can see more details about the tools. (The affiliate link is my son’s. As an Amazon Affiliate he earns from qualifying purchases.)

The tools:

Cutting mat — Perfect surface for cutting with blades, also soft mat for working on delicate projects, also protects bench surface. 24" x 36".

Long metal straight edge — used for drawing lines and cutting materials.

Retractable utility blade — Big exacto knife. Main thing is replaceable break-off blade. Olfa retractable.

Staple gun — Basic for stapling fabric, mesh, sheets.

Spring clamps x 4 — Used for holding wood, paper, dowels, pipes, anything thinner than an inch.

Bar clamps x 2 — Used for wider pieces. 12 inches.

16 foot tape measure — Big enough for rooms, small enough for projects. Komelon Gripper.

Small level — All that is needed.

Step drill set x 3 — For drilling thin materials like plastic or sheet metal.

Vise grips x 3 — Small and large and long.

Speed square — For right angles.

CA glue + Accelerator — Accelerator turns super glue instant.

5 minute Epoxy — Two part bottles will last a long time.

Wire stripper — Makes electronics so much easier. Irwin vise grip stripper.

Solder gun — Basic kit with solder and solder remover.

Electrical twist connections — Assortment for connecting wires.

Silicone Wire rolls — 22 gauge for easier electronic projects.

Multimeter — For electronic projects and troubleshooting.

Masking tape — Used for masking and more. 2 inch wide.

White out — For labeling everything.

Digital calipers — For measuring small things.

Center punch x 2 — For making starter holes.

Set of drill bits — Basic, titanium, Dewalt.

Japanese hand saw — Basic saw.

Pliers x 5 — Assorted set of channel locks, needlenose, nippers.

Basic hammer — Standard 16 ounce.

Snips — Straight cut for cutting metal.

Pipe wrench — For plumbing.

Pipe cutter — For cutting copper pipe, conduit, and other lightweight pipes

PVC pipe cutter — For cutting plastic pipe

Vise — Basic workshop vise.

Cordless tool combo set — Makita 7-piece cordless tools: drill, impact driver, circular saw, recipo saw, grinder, blower.

Cordless jig saw — Makita jig saw.

Cool Tools

What's in my bag? — Nabhan Islam, MD

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Nabhan Islam is a Medical Science Liaison (MSL). A MSL is non-promotional role that serves as a bridge between the pharmaceutical industry and clinical practice [of Medicine]. The majority of his time is spent meeting with specialists and attending medical conferences within his territory to keep both parties apprised of the latest developments within his therapeutic area. After previously working in Respiratory Medicine, he’s hoping to switch to Vaccines & Infectious Disease to help advance a COVID-19 vaccine candidate.


About the bag
Waterfield Bolt Briefcase ($269-$299): After owning a half-dozen bags over the last two decades, I knew exactly what I wanted in my perfect laptop bag. This briefcase is available in 3 sizes so you can choose the correct dimensions for your laptop without any extraneous weight or bulk. There are two separate padded compartments for my laptop and tablet. Lastly, the carry-on passthrough sleeve doesn’t impinge on the rear drop pocket — a very handy (and very rare) arrangement.

What's inside the bag
Jabra Speakerphone ($130): A must-have for frequent virtual meetings. Vastly improves the audio quality of conversations and lets you speak and listen naturally without fumbling with headphones. Doubles as a speaker for presentations with sound, and playing music back at the hotel (versatility is key when traveling). There are wireless models available, but USB is foolproof with zero chance of a dropped signal or dead battery.

Snow Peak Titanium Cutlery Set ($26): Life on the road means a lot of take-out and delivery, and I’ve found myself with a meal and no utensils on more than one occasion. I’m also trying to reduce my use of single-use plastic. It’s hard to articulate but the tines and bowl are shaped just right, and perfectly nest together in a neat storage bag. Titanium is also extremely lightweight and hypoallergenic (no nickle = no metallic aftertaste).

iOttie Magnetic Air Vent Mount ($17): This is the easiest, most compact, and reliable way of mounting my smartphone to a litany of different rental cars. The mount easily attaches to a vent fin with press-fit prongs and a locking ring, which then holds my phone via a small magnetic plate attached to the case. The magnet is rock-solid; my phone doesn’t move an iota once placed. Due to the tapered design, the mount also functions as a stand for watching movies — clever!

Muji Sewing Kit ($5): This tiny kit features a few needles, needle threader (where have you been all my life), thread in neutral colors, safety pins, and a pair of mini scissors. The scissors easily get the most use trimming the loose thread I inevitably find 5 minutes before my presentations. The kit is TSA/CATSA (Canada) compliant so it’s safe in your carry-on, and there’s some space to add your own buttons too.

Cool Tools

Easy world clock/Skinskool/Vote early

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Easy world clock
The Loclock webpage offers a dead-simple way to see what time it is anywhere in the world. Click the little menu icon in the upper left corner to choose which cities to include on a 24-hour circle. — MF

Skincare dupe finder
Skinskool is a “dupe finder” that compares the active ingredients in your favorite skincare products and matches them to other products on the market. This is such a useful tool if your favorite serum or cream has been discontinued or you just want to find a less expensive alternative. — CD

Vote early
In the US, 41 states enable early voting. Early Voting is the national clearing house linking the procedures for early voting for each state. Vote early to be sure. — KK

Superior color printing
In my experience laser printers are superior to inkjet printers for precision, speed, and reliability. If you are an occasional printer, laser is the way to go because they don’t clog up. Until recently, however, color laser printers have been out of reach in price. But now a new crop of inexpensive color laser printers are available. I am really happy with my HP Laser Jet Pro M255dw, which does 2-sided color printing for $300. Cost of replacement toner, per page, is similar to ink. — KK

Notebook hack
I’ve been upgrading my daily to-do notebooks with these self-adhesive library card pockets. It’s just an easy way to keep receipts, post-its and other notes together until I integrate them into my digital filing system or task list. These manila pockets along with my better pen holder help to keep my love alive for my analog to-do list. — CD

Surprising dice
In a recent issue of my newsletter, The Magnet, I wrote about a fascinating curiosity called nontransitive dice. It’s a set of three nonstandard dice with confounding rock-paper-scissors behavior. No matter which of the three dice your opponent chooses, you can always pick one of the other two dice to beat it. I made my own nontransitive dice on a 3D printer, but they are also available on Amazon if you want a set. — MF

Cool Tools

Hootsuite/Permute/Ask Nature

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Social publishing center
I publish the same material on different social media platforms from my computer using a web-based app called Hootsuite.  With Hootsuite I can pre-schedule material ahead of time. I can post images from my camera on Instagram, which otherwise is hard to do. I get analytics, respond, and manage Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc, all from one dashboard. There is a limited free version but I pay for the basic $30/month small business version. — KK

Easy file format conversion
Permute is a Macintosh desktop app that converts video, audio, and image files from one format to another. It’s versatile and has not failed me yet. I was able to use it to convert a video that was terribly jittery that no other application could fix, but Permute converted it to an mp4 and it came out perfect. It costs $15 from the developer and it also comes with Setapp’s large library of applications available by subscription for $10 a month, which is how I found it. You can try Setapp for 7 days for free. — MF

Learn from Nature is a free online tool where you can search thousands of nature’s solutions to various challenges. Like how a decentralized society helps ants to recover from a food shortage or how maple tree seeds twirl in a tornado-like vortex to increase the reach of where their seeds are planted. You can also discover nature-inspired ideas like this design for a thermos inspired by polar bear fur. Just ten minutes a day exploring this website will get you thinking differently. — CD

Fire TV Stick 4K
I bought the original Fire TV stick when it first came out a few years ago. When the HD version with a voice-activated remote control came out a couple of years later, I bought that and I appreciated the extra speak and talk-to-search feature. Amazon recently released the Fire TV Stick 4K. The remote comes with volume controls and an on-off button for the TV so I don’t need to use the TV remote anymore. It’s also much faster than the previous versions of the Fire TV stick. It’s a worthy upgrade. — MF

Funny watchable
Ronnie Chieng makes me laugh. Might be because most of my relatives are Asian American, but I think his humor is much broader than that. You can catch him on Netflix’s stand-up special Ronnie Chieng: Asian Comedian Destroys America. — KK

.new shortcuts
Google’s .new domains are exclusively reserved for action-based shortcuts, like for creating a new Google Doc. And now there’s a growing list of companies who have created easy-to-remember shortcuts for things you might already do. Like “” to create a new post on Medium or “” to create a new listing on eBay. For the up-to-date list check out this page. — CD

Cool Tools

Bob Potts, Industrial Designer

Our guest this week is Bob Potts. Bob holds a MFA in Industrial Design and was Design Director for a series of corporate groups responsible for design development of diagnostic medical products including Corning Medical and Bayer Healthcare. He holds sixteen patents and has been a frequent presenter at international industry conferences, design seminars, and design programs and business schools. His design groups have won sixty international awards for design excellence and have been featured in ID, Print, Communication Arts, Axis, NIKKEI DESIGN, Business Week, and Fortune. You can follow him on Instagram @bobatharbor.

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Show notes:

Jorgensen E-Z Hold Craft Clamp
I love these hobby-sized clamps because they are small, have a pistol grip handle and a quick release trigger so they are really easy to use. They come in 4” and 8” lengths with 50lb clamping pressure. You can easily convert the clamp to a spreader by turning one of the ends around. They come in packs of two.

EGO Lithium Cordless Variable Speed Blower
This is the tool I use the most around the house. Because it’s electric, it’s quiet, there are no fumes, and the ergonomic design just feels good. There are two settings, regular and turbo, and the turbo setting may use up battery power fast, but it can even move piles of wet leaves. I made a shoulder strap for mine, but they also make one. The EGO batteries come in various sizes but they work for all tools, so you don’t have to buy a battery for each new product.

Stanley Wonder Bar 15.5” Pry Bar
It may be bright yellow and funny looking, but it’s a fantastic tool with five-star ratings just about everywhere. It’s beautifully conceived and simply works. The flat end fits under cedar shake siding and can pop out the nails without any damage to the shingle. The bends in the tools create really handy pivot points so you can lift things by yourself, like cabinetry or wall panels.

Al’s Fishing Hook Protective Bonnets
This company is in Eliot, Maine, and was founded in 1952 by Al. I love these hook covers because they keep lures that have treble or single hooks on them from catching in your skin, your clothes, your upholstery, your fishing kit, your wayward children, and on other lures. These bonnets allow you to carry treble hook lures loose, in your pocket. These are perfect for lure collectors, too, because without covers, your lures stick into one big gob and you will never get them apart. These bonnets are perfect because they are so simple. It’s one piece of plastic that solves a massive worldwide problem. Okay, not a massive problem, but fishing is one of the most popular outdoor recreational activities in the world. There are three color-coded sizes, they float, and they allow the water to drain off the hooks. The link above is for Al’s Goldfish website but you can email and they will create custom amounts/pricing, for you.

Foam core
The one tool that I think has revolutionized the making of models is foam core, which I think everyone's familiar with — the white board with the foam in between it. Foam core models tend to be more preliminary models. You can make them very, very fast using anX-Acto knife and glue, and then the second thing that happened pretty much in the same time frame was the use of molded foam in blocks that you could machine. They came in all different grain sizes, they came in different colors, you can paint them and so on, and you could make parts that look like machine parts, and it was a very inexpensive and lightweight material to use to make models. They pretty much replaced the use of wood, which was the standard for years and years and years.


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:– MF

Cool Tools

What's in my bag? — Jane Friedman

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Jane Friedman is a publishing consultant and writer who (during non-pandemic times) regularly speaks at conferences around the world. Her goal is to help writers better understand the business of publishing and how to succeed in the industry on their own terms. As a writer and editor who works with all of her clients virtually, it’s hard to find her far from her work bag and laptop. You can learn more at


About the bag

TUMI Arrivé Hannover Laptop Slim Brief Briefcase: I bought this at the TUMI store while waiting for a connecting flight at the Charlotte airport. It was something of an impulse buy—I was so tired of the ill-shaped and uncomfortable bag I had at the time. This one is much smaller, minimalist in fact, and it’s comfortable to carry for long periods of time. Its small size prevents me from loading it up with more than I need or can reasonably haul around a conference. It fits my Macbook Air perfectly and has a scuff-resistant finish that keeps it looking sharp after years of wear. It’s absurdly expensive, but I’ve never loved a bag more.

What's inside the bag

Dongles for every occasion: Because I speak and present so often from my own laptop, I have to be prepared for any situation. So I carry three dongles: one for HDMI and two for VGA, just in case one fails. They’re secured together with a Gear Tie rubber twist.

Moleskine’s Volant journal, XS: This is the smallest you can buy. I don’t use paper and pen that often, but this specific journal is useful for jotting down resources for people who ask me questions in conference hallways. Then I rip out the page and hand it over. Cheap and easy.

Chinese silk pouch: Others commonly use these pouches for jewelry, and while they’re great for that purpose, I love having them to store things like a Square credit card reader, or even cleaning cloths for my glasses. I prefer pouches with the zipper and snap closure. You can easily find them online in a variety of colors and styles.

Levenger business card holder: I’ve had this holder for 15 years now; it’s one of my favorite personal possessions. It’s monogrammed and the leather has become soft, pliable and loved. Levenger doesn’t offer this model any longer, but you can find similar options on Etsy.

Cool Tools

What's in my bag? — John Bobo

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John BoboI’m a motor sports executive, but I have a secret life as a writer. OK, it’s not secret — it’s inconspicuous. My novel “Three Degrees From Justice” was a Kindle #1 in Noir Crime (probably for a full 10 minutes), and my book for new prosecutors “The Best Story Wins” from Tower Publishing is used in many law schools and DA’s offices.

About the bag

TomToc Travel Messenger Bag: Lightweight but a lot of padding for the laptop and protection against elements. Some bags create compartment fatigue. You feel like you spent the entire day zipping and unzipping. Not this one. The folks at TomToc Goldilocked-it in. The amount of zipping/unzipping is “just right.”

What's inside the bag

Bloc Rhodia No. 8 pad: Lined or graphed. I’ve always liked Rhodia pads/paper because they work so well with ink from fountain pens. When I saw this 3" x 8 ¾’’ list, I gave it a try, and now it’s become a must carry for my daily To-Do list. Really helps me knock out the day.

Adjustable Tablet Stand: A super inexpensive and lightweight Amazon Basic. I first saw one in a Microsoft Store holding up Surface Tablets when they first came out. At about $8, you’re OK if you lose it on the road. This is my third. Also good for holding larger tablets and iPads.

Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard: My on-the-go writing rig is using the Bear App on my iphone, while it’s perched sideways on the stand and using this Bluetooth keyboard. Really works well on airplanes when you don’t have enough room to get out a laptop. Also good to have with you when you don’t want to carry a laptop. I’ve carried this for years because it has a crazy rechargeable battery life.

Lamy Scribble 0.7 mm mechanical pencil: The perfect pencil for drawing/sketching during conference calls (I’m a chronic doodler). It’s got a width and weight to it that’s incredibly comfortable in the hand. You go, “Oh, that’s German Design. Awesome!” I obsess over pens and pencils, but I find this one never leaves the bag because I can use it anywhere.

Cool Tools

What's in my bag? — Mike Streetz

Mike Streetz is a new dad, home automation aficionado, electronics tinkerer/maker, and IT Consultant by day. He hails from Sydney, Australia, and is currently based in Los Angeles with his wife and son. You can find him on Flicker and Twitter @O_P.


About the bag

Tactical Molle EDC Pouch ($11)
I like this because it’s big enough to fit my wallet, phone, keys, pen and notebook. I got the one that comes with straps because with that much stuff in it pulls down my pants. The cell phone pouches in the front and back are padded to protect the screen and it fits up to an iPhone XS Max. The placement of the straps isn’t the best and the one I got frequently flips upside down if it’s not weighted right, so be mindful of that and don’t leave the zips open.

What's inside the bag

Sofirn SP31 v2.0 Tactical Flashlight ($37)
This thing is BRIGHT. It uses a standard 18650 battery and comes with a charger. It has multiple brightness settings, the low setting is really useful for not blinding yourself in the dark. It remembers the last setting it was on. I use it all the time for finding stuff I’ve dropped in the car, behind the couch or under a table. It’s so bright you can use it for finding a tiny screw you’ve dropped in a shag pile carpet by looking for the reflection.

Nite Ize INKA Key Chain Pen ($12)
Nite Ize bought Inka and these pens were really hard to find for a while but I’m glad they are back on Amazon because I’ve subsequently lost a Fisher Space bullet pen in the meantime. These use the space pen refills but due to the screw on cap, this pen is less likely to fall out of your bag. Also has a resistive touch screen pen cap on the other side, which are making a comeback in the days of COVID and nobody wanting to touch the ones on credit card machines. People are saying in the reviews they are not as good as the originals made by Inka, I haven’t had the new one long enough to say, but so far it seems good for the price, which is about half what the originals were.

Big Skinny Leather Hipster Wallet ($48)
This is the only wallet I’ve found which will hold all my cards, cash, and a tile slim without the massive bulge of most wallets. It looks huge but it fits in most pockets, and so far it’s lasted me over 5 years. The card slots can get loose after a few years, but just jam some business cards in there. They have an RFID blocking version now too.

RFID blocking car key case
These are the cheapest ones I could find on Amazon and they absolutely work. If your car is parked close enough to your house that you can unlock it from inside then you need these to protect from thieves that use range extenders to pretend to be your key. They can open the door to your car, steal everything in it, and in some cases even start the car and drive off. We put our keys in these as soon as we get out of the car now.

Other items in photos:

Cool Tools

Calculating How Much Epoxy You Need

Calculating How Much Epoxy You Need

[caption id="attachment_36728" align="alignnone" width="600"]Mixing up the right amount of resin is a trial no more. Mixing up the right amount of resin is a trial no more.[/caption]

John of Graz Makes posted a link to this Igram video on the TotalBoat account on how to calculate the amount of resin you need for a given pour. The post includes a link to a handy epoxy resin calculator on the TotalBoat website.

Reinforcing Wires Attached to Tiny Connectors

[caption id="attachment_36727" align="alignnone" width="600"]Using glue to reinfiorce wire connections. Using glue to reinfiorce wire connections.[/caption]

I sometimes have a devil of a time unplugging the 2- and 3-pin JST connectors on small, heavily-populated printed circuit boards. It’s hard not to pull on the wires as you try and claw the connector out. Years ago, I asked my friend John Park if he had any suggestions and he offered: “Hit the wire/connector intersection with hot glue to help provide a stronger connection.” Great idea! If you do this, make sure to go easy on the hot-melt. Since things are so tight, you don’t want to add to the bulk of the connector which might make it harder to get your fingernails or pliers in there for a decent tug. Trivia bonus: Do you know what “JST” stands for? Japan Solderless Terminals.


[caption id="attachment_36726" align="alignnone" width="600"]Add a pedal to your power tools. Add a pedal to your power tools.[/caption]

Via this “weird tools” video on Izzy Swan’s channel comes a recommendation for inexpensive foot switches you can add to your powered tools. I got a jeweler’s rotary tool a few years ago that has a foot switch and I love it. I wasn’t aware that you can get foot switches to plug other shop/power tools into and they’re under $20.

Repurposing Old Molded Tool Cases

[caption id="attachment_36725" align="alignnone" width="600"]Many of these cases are sturdy and well built. Give them a second life. Many of these cases are sturdy and well built. Give them a second life.[/caption]

What do you do with the many molded cases that drills, rotary tools, sanders, and other power tools come in when you’re no longer using them to store the tool? In this video on Doublewide6 Repairs, Bob shows how easy it is to cut out the inner molded insert. You can also add polyethylene/polyurethane/convoluted foam (aka gun foam) to create proper custom inserts if you wish.

Paper Cups in the Shop

[caption id="attachment_36724" align="alignnone" width="600"]Disposable parts and material holders for the shop. Disposable parts and material holders for the shop.[/caption]

It was great to hear former Make: contributor, Japanese-style woodworker, Len Cullum, on the Cool Tools podcast. In the interview, Len recommends these disposable paper “art cups” for around the shop, to organize small parts, hold glues, etc. I’m a huge fan of using plastic milk bottle caps as disposable cups for really small amounts of material and tiny parts, but I might get some of these for bigger jobs.

How to Tie Your Shoe Laces

[caption id="attachment_36723" align="alignnone" width="600"]Left over right instead of right over left. Left over right instead of right over left.[/caption]

Dirt Farmer Jay offers this tip on tying your shoes to help prevent the bow knot from “spilling.” The idea is simple: Place the left lace over the right (instead of right over left, as is most common). There are some useful thoughts and additional suggestions in the Comments section of the video, including a link to this video on double-looping the bow knot for extra security.

Maker's Muse

[caption id="attachment_36722" align="alignnone" width="600"]Thinking INSIDE the box. Spotted on the Homestead/Survivalism FB Group. Thinking INSIDE the box. Spotted on the Homestead/Survivalism FB Group.[/caption]

Shop Talk
After VM&P Naphtha was mentioned in the last issue, reader Mike Stern wrote in: “A little paint industry trivia for you: The VM&P stands for ‘Varnish Makers & Painter’s’ naphtha. It’s from the early days of the paint industry. Keep up the great work, it’s truly appreciated. ”
In response to the idea of using lithium grease on door hinges, reader Dave Leeds writes: “I’ve had to deal with hinges quite a bit as a locksmith. As long as they aren’t in a dusty area, spray synthetic is my choice of lubricant. It’s good over a wider temp range than lithium grease.

Cool Tools

What's in my bag? — Kevin Kelly

Kevin Kelly is Senior Maverick at Wired magazine. He co-founded Wired in 1993, and served as its Executive Editor for its first 7 years. His most recent book is The Inevitable, which is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller. His other books include the best-selling New Rules for the New Economy, the classic Out of Control, and his summary theory of technology in What Technology Wants. From 1984-1990 Kelly was publisher and editor of the Whole Earth Catalogs. He co-founded the Hackers’ Conference, and was involved with the launch of the WELL, a pioneering online service started in 1985. He also founded the popular Cool Tools website in 2003.


About the bag

This is my day hiking bag. An ancient 20-year old JanSport bag with essentially 3 big pockets. I use it for day hikes. In addition to the items shown here, I’ll also carry some snacks and water. This is the closest current model JanSport bag.

What's inside the bag

Homemade, super light-weight plant press for preserving plants and flowers from my hikes. Made from scrap pieces of foam core boards. I glued two layers for each side with strips of wood to corner the velcro straps. Inside are sheets of “couch” blotter paper to dry the plants.

A single AA battery LED light hangs inside the JanSport bag. Very light weight, but extremely bright and long lasting. To be used when darkness comes or to inspect underbrush. The one shown is no longer made. This one is near equivalent.

Tiny binoculars. I only use these occasionally, so I don’t want to carry the full weight of real birding binocs. At 8 x 21 magnification they are low powered, and sometimes called opera glasses. These inexpensive ones are helpful for short glimpses. Since they are very compact and very cheap, I don’t mind packing them. The ones I have are no longer made so this is an equivalent.

The lightest, smallest portable camp chair I could find. This fits in my daypack and unpacks into a tripod stool which lets me sit almost anywhere. While it is very compact, the TriLite Stool is not super comfortable, and not made for relaxing. It’s also tipsy, and easy to tip over in. But I use it only for short rests and for picnicking.

Cool Tools

Newsletter Stack/Personal Vision Tracker/Beyond Burgers

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Discover newsletters by subject

Newsletter Stack is a directory of newsletters grouped by learning topics like COVID-19, Philosophy, Design, Wellness, etc. The website seems to be updated frequently. I signed up for all the Creativity topic newsletters, my favorite one is The Creative Independent, which explores the emotional facets of “creating” with a different working artist each weekday. — CD

Home vision test
About six months ago I bought an EyeQue Personal Vision Tracker for $25. It looks a bit like a microscope and attaches to a smartphone. After installing the app I was able to check my vision with it. The app gave me the same information as an optometrist’s prescription, which I used to buy inexpensive prescription eyeglasses online. I still plan to get eye health exams from  an ophthalmologist from time to time, but this is a cheap and convenient way to find out what kind of lenses you need, especially in the middle of a pandemic when going into an optometrist’s office poses an infection risk. — MF

Plant-based burgers
I don’t eat beef, pork or lamb, but I still miss a good burger. I’m a big fan of veggie Impossible Burgers, but I like Beyond Meat’s burgers, cooked at home, even more. They are really delicious in flavor and texture. You can get patties of Beyond Burgers at Target, Walmart, and Costco, among other retailers. The rest of my family, who do eat beef, love these plant-based burgers too. — KK

Working from home tips
This may be a new thing for you. Working from Home Temporarily is a free 72-page ebook that offers extremely practical advice on how to set up this new lifestyle. Some of the stuff is obvious, but there’s a lot of great tips such as how to upgrade to good connectivity, how set office hours, how to share your home with others who are also working, etc. Available in 3 ebook formats, all free. — KK

Revisiting Standard Ebooks
A year or two ago I recommended Standard Ebooks as a resource for free reading. They have since updated their catalog with a lot of new titles, so I thought it was time to re-recommend them. They take public domain texts (by authors such as Robert E. Howard, Edith Wharton, Sarah Orne Jewett, Bertrand Russell), scour them for typographical errors, add excellent cover art, and format them for Kindle and other e-readers. The online catalog is a pleasure to browse, and includes a synopsis for each book. The latest entries include The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, Pellucidar by Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Time Traders by Andre Norton, A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, A Tangled Tale by Lewis Carroll, The Marvelous Land of Oz by L Frank Baum, and Villette by Charlotte Brontë. Join the mailing list or subscribe to the RSS feed for updates on new books added to the catalog. — MF

Another musical time machine
Last week I recommended The Nostalgia Machine, and some readers reported that it was glitchy and did not work on their browser. Reader Micael suggested if you have Spotify, try searching for “year:1992” to get song and artist results from that year, and @JMWander recommended which lets you customize a music stream based on decade, country, and slow, fast or weird music. Thanks! — CD

Cool Tools

What's in my bag? — Kid Outing Essentials

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Camille Hartsell has honed her question-answering, book-making, and odd-jobbing skills over many years of working as research librarian to Kevin Kelly. Since the arrival of her kids (now 3.5 and 6.5), and especially COVID-19, she is mostly a stay-at-home-parent, which makes her substitute teacher, camp counselor, art facilitator, life-guard, and mediator of many feelings and disputes.


About the bag

Kane Kids by State
Both kids are now big enough to carry their own backpacks, a major milestone. My daughter uses this great backpack from State, which has a strong charitable giving program. So far, it has survived kindergarten, my crappy patch-sewing, several washes, and now many trips to the park and beach. The side pockets fit full-sized water bottles, and the interior pockets are nice to have if underused by my 6.5yo, who has more of a cram-everything-into-the-biggest section approach to organization.

What's inside the bag

Snack Box
My kids have happily inherited my obsession with cute bento boxes, and this one features styling from one of our favorite movies, Kiki’s Delivery Service. The latches are easy to operate and it has two removable compartments inside. It’s made of lightweight plastic and although it’s not leakproof, it does just fine with apple, crackers, nuts, etc. Does great in the dishwasher, although I don’t think you’re supposed to.

Audubon Bird Call ($14)
It’s small, easy to wear like a necklace, and delightful to use. You press and turn the metal bit, which causes friction and then emits high-pitched chirps. Changing the pressure and speed affects the sound. My 3.5yo can operate it as well as my 6.5yo. Sometimes, we even get birds chirping in response!

Empty pill organizers ($3)
The kids use these to collect and sort all manner of treasures and debris. I like these 7-day, stick-style cases because they’re easy to open but also stay latched when tossed into backpacks. Also good for mixing paint.

Matador Pocket Blanket ($30)
This ultralight groundcloth is not cushy or warm, but it can be useful to establish a home base when we’re at the park. This one packs down to nothing, and also functions well as a cape or makeshift carrying sack.


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