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Claire Lower, Senior Food Editor at Lifehacker

https://www.instagram.com/clairelizlower/play episode download
18 September, by claudia[ —]

Our guest this week is Claire Lower, the senior food editor for Lifehacker.com. Claire lives in Portland OR, and has a BS in chemistry from the University of Florida, which she says she almost never uses. She was working as a lab technician at a big engineering firm when she started blogging for xoJane as a hobby. You can find her on Twitter @clairelizzie and Instagram @clairelizlower.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes:

Fish Spatula with Wooden Handle ($10, 2pk)
A fish spatula has a shorter handle than most spatulas. It’s very thin. It has really lovely slots, which just means when you’re picking something up out of the pan, if there’s any grease, it just falls away wonderfully. I almost feel like it should be called a fish and meat spatula because it’s very good for getting delicate fish out of a pan, but it’s also great if you have a steak or a burger or something that’s stuck, that really thin edge it separates everything like a dream without ruining the crust. Which is the whole point of searing something — you want to get that crust. And so if you have this large clunky spatula with a thick edge, you end up wrecking the crust. Getting a fish spatula for me, honestly, changed things in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I love it.

Weber iGrill Mini App-Connected Thermometer ($33)
The iGrill is supposed to be used on a grill. I’m in a 600-square-foot apartment, but it’s supposed to be used so you can monitor the temperature of your meat on a grill without having to open the grill, and it’s great. But I use it primarily for chicken and turkey because it sends the temperature directly to your phone, and it’ll even beep when you’re within 10 degrees of your final temperature. It’s amazing because you don’t have to deal with opening the oven, and trying to stick a probe into a hot chicken is not my favorite. The cable runs from inside the oven to outside where the little Bluetooth transmitter is, and the Bluetooth transmitter is magnetic, which is awesome because you can stick it right on the oven.

Léedge Full Body Exfoliator ($40)
This thing’s kind of gross, but I’m obsessed with it. It has a plastic handle, and it’s kind of curved. And then on the end it has a stainless steel blade. It’s not super sharp, but you scrape your face with it, and it pulls up all this disgusting gunk. The Romans used to scrape their bodies with pieces of broken pottery. They would rub oil on themselves to dissolve all the grime, and then they would just scrape it off with pottery. And it’s not exactly like that, but it’s similar. I’ve had this thing for like 10 years. And you can use it on your entire body. I found it to be most effective on the face.

Electric waffle iron and non-waffle recipes
I think I have a Cuisinart. It was like $20. It doesn’t have to be the brand that I use. It could be any sort of nonstick plug-in waffle iron. I just like it because it’s pretty easy to clean, it was cheap. It’s basically like a little George Foreman grill almost, except for it’s waffle shaped. Instead of grill lines, you get all these little pockets of crispness. I’ve used it to grill peaches. And I did radicchio recently. It heats up so quickly, and it’s easy to clean because it’s nonstick. You just wipe it off, or if something’s really gunky, you can wet a paper towel or get in there with Q-tips. I think I’ve made actual waffles on it once. It’s just kind of fun that something that is not a waffle is now taking on the characteristics of a waffle, and it’s good. Those little pockets are good for picking up sauce or syrup or whatever. It’s like a nice little cup to hold whatever liquid you’ve applied to your waffle or not waffle.

Kik-Step Rolling Stool

18 September, by mark[ —]

I have used a Kik-Step rolling stool for at least 15 years. Its design is simple and brilliant. Without any weight on it, you can roll it around easily. But with a bit of downward pressure, the round bottom rim hits the floor and it becomes a stable stepping stool. The slanting body design helps it avoid damaging walls and bookcases.

These were ubiquitous in libraries when I was growing up. In my office, it triples as an ottoman for stretching, a seat for when the couch overflows, and a short step for reaching high shelves.

They come in gobs of colors. And having been around for 50 years, there’s a robust aftermarket for parts.


-- Bruce Oberg

Kik-Step rolling stool

Available from Amazon

Chain-Stitching Extension Cords

17 September, by claudia[ —]

Chain-Stitching Extension Cords

Chain 'em. Toss 'em. Unfurl 'em without a problem.

Chain ‘em. Toss ‘em. Unfurl ‘em without a problem.

In my book, Tips and Tales from the Workshop, I showed this method of chaining chords. This video, by the always thoughtful and clear Scott from The Essential Craftsman, is the best tutorial on chain-stitching cords I’ve seen to date. In the video, Scott also recommends that you invest in lighted extension chords. I’ve never used these, but think I’ll pony up for one.[H/t Kevin Kelly]

Searching for Through-Hole Resistors

Workhorse of the resistance, the lowly 10KΩ.

Workhorse of the resistance, the lowly 10KΩ.

In a recent Maker UpdateDonald Bell reminded us of this excellent little video that the great Ladyada did for DigiKey on how to search for through-hole resistors. These essential components are cheap and commonplace, but there’s a dizzying array of types and variants. Ladyada shows you how to drill down to the exact component you need.

Turning a Camera Tripod into Helping Hands

An octopus tripod makes an excellent set of helping hands.

An octopus tripod makes an excellent set of helping hands.

Make:’s former Art Director, Jason Babler, forwarded this post to me from Camkierhi Creations on Facebook: “Been asked about these. They are a cheap camera grippy tripod thing and I have inserted a crocodile clip in the end of each foot and fixed the head of the tripod on a board. One of these has 2 tripods stuck on one board and gives me plenty of grip for parts. Not mega strong, but plenty for our purposes. If the part is really small, I glue it to sprue and grip the sprue. After I’ve painted the part, just cut the sprue away.”

Sinking Screws with a Nail Gun?

What the heck is a scrail?

What the heck is a scrail?

I never knew this was a thing until seeing this Izzy Swan video. You can get clips of screws that slot into a framing nailer that allow you to sink screws just as you would nails. The screws are pitched a little differently than normal screws and are a little narrower. Once sunk, they can be unscrewed/re-screwed just like normal. As Izzy points out, these “scrails” work best on soft woods, like pine and cedar, and are good for applications like fencing, cheap furniture-making, and decking. In the video, Izzy even experiments with driving them into hardwoods (and even aluminum!) and discovers that they can handle these, too – to a degree.

3D Printed Mirror for Showing Print Documents on a Laptop

“Down periscope.”

Just in time for remote back-to-school comes this simple 3D printed mirror adapter that clips onto your laptop and feeds the image of a document placed beneath it into your camera. The Thingiverse file can be found here.

Life Hack: Celebrating the Living
I had a friend pass away a week ago. As he was transitioning, his friends did a very wonderful thing. They created a private Facebook group where friends and family could share stories and pictures. These were read to him at his hospice bedside. An internet-connected picture frame was also set up by his bed so that folks could send images to him. What a lovely way for family and friends to celebrate someone while they’re alive and to share that celebration directly with them. This seems especially perfect during this pandemic period when many wakes and funerals are being held online. This is also a good reminder to us all to tell those we love and care about what we think about them NOW. Never forget to celebrate the living!

Shop Talk
Our resident locksmith reader, David Leeds, shared this in response to our combo lock discussion: “Regarding combination locks. I would recommend to customers that they buy locks that have rolling number wheels that can be reset to any four numbers they wish. Easier to remember, quicker to open.”

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

OXO Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener

17 September, by mark[ —]

Our family has been looking for a decent can opener for years. Typical top opening can openers generally are made poorly and they all work the same regardless of price. Invariably a new opener would stop working well after a few weeks of use (if it worked well at all) and we would have to get a new one.

My wife decided to buy me a can opener for Christmas. Cruising through the local grocery store before Christmas she spotted the OXO Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener and she snapped it up.

I am so happy that she did! I’ve been using it almost daily since Christmas with no problems. The beauty of this type of opener is that it doesn’t cut the top of the can open, instead it does something much cooler. OXO’s description on their site says that the opener cuts on the side of the can, right below the top, but that’s not actually true. What it really does is “de-seam” the can, separating the top from the rest of the can. There is no jagged opening that one could cut themselves on, the opening is smooth with no sharp edges, making it kid and pet safe (ever had a toddler or a pet get into the recycle bin?).

Operationally it works similarly to a regular can opener. You clamp it to the top of the can by squeezing the handles together with one hand and turning a knob with the other to open the can. Unlike regular openers, there is one more step – removing the lid once you’ve cut around it. The OXO can opener has a small set of grips, looking much like a very tiny parrot’s beak You use that tiny beak to grip the edge of the can’s lid and pull with, separating the top from the rest of the can. The first time it was a little strange, but now it’s second nature. The strength required to work the knob is also much less than the “old” style requires. It turns smoothly and doesn’t “pop” off the can (another failing of other openers).

I think it is an exceptional cool tool. It’s reasonably priced, works better than the alternatives, and is safer to boot (no jagged can edges)!

-- Michael Walters

[This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2015]

Available from Amazon

What’s in my bag? — Jayme Boucher

16 September, by claudia[ —]

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Jayme Boucher is the Director of Games at Mondo, an expanding enterprise with a passionate love of film, art, music and pop culture. Her small but mighty team of play enthusiasts has launched a robust line of tabletop games and art-forward jigsaw puzzles that can be found here. When not working, Jayme enjoys birdwatching from her porch, reading, and teaching herself to cook. She can be found on LinkedIn.

About the bag

People love to poke fun at me for prioritizing function over fashion, but in rare cases (cough cough: Crocs) something I swear by becomes popular, giving me a wicked sense of personal triumph over naysayers. Enter: the Fanny Pack — a staple of my wardrobe that is finally considered cool.

I have this particular bag in several colors (seriously, they cost less than $10). They’ve been a staple of my wardrobe for as long as I can remember, especially during convention season when it’s not always realistic to lug a backpack or purse through airports or crowded convention centers. They’re durable, have an impressive ability to collapse and expand, and offer my ideal breakout of compartments for storing important things like my wallet, quick grab evergreen items, and larger swappables that vary depending on my need.

What’s inside the bag

Dr. PAWPAW Balm ($9)
I have a deep fondness for multi-use beauty products that don’t cost an arm and a leg. This vegan/cruelty-free balm is great for: lips, cheekbones, taming brows or flyaways, and re-hydrating dry cuticles (which is a must when you’re demoing board games). I’ve even used it as spot-treatment on small cuts/burns/blemishes. The original clear variation is my go-to, but when I’m feeling spicy, I’ll use the peach to give my lips and cheeks a splash of color.

Heads Will Roll by Lay Waste Games
There’s nothing better than a game you can carry on you at all times, especially one that serves as a social lubricant. I’ve broken this simple dexterity game out at many an after-hours mixer; it provides an opportunity to converse casually while focusing attention and eye contact on the game, which puts most people at ease. Bonus: there are few better measures of a person’s temperament than observing their level of competitiveness and/or sportsmanship when they win or lose a game.

All this one requires to play is a flat surface (table, floor, etc) and at least one other willing participant, but I’ve played in groups as large as ten in the past.

Although it’s temporarily out of stock between print runs, you can sign up for the creator’s newsletter to be notified when it becomes available again this fall.

Sea Bands ($9)
These weird little bracelets changed my life when I discovered they curbed anxiety-induced nausea. Whether you’re feeling queasy due to travel, illness, or nerves, they’re a nice alternative to medicines that typically cause other undesirable side-effects, and have been a great option to have on me when I need them. They also come in a carrying case so they won’t get lost or dirty.

Diva Cup ($28)
There are a ton of menstrual cups on the market; but thanks to the social stigma surrounding the dreaded uterus, a lot of folks have no idea they’re an option. This brand is BPA/Latex free (made from medical-grade silicone) and allows for 12 hours of use at a time, providing unparalleled levels of freedom, especially when traveling. No single-use plastics = better for the environment than traditional tampons/pads, and by my calculations, I’ve saved roughly twelve hundred dollars in the decade I’ve been using one.

-- Jayme Boucher

Bulls-Eye Power Nozzle

16 September, by mark[ —]

I bought this nozzle a couple of years ago and I still love it. Yeah, I love a nozzle. But it’s small, simple, well made and works really well. I love that it can go from a pretty powerful flow to a tiny, hair-thin stream with just a twist.

It’s great for anything you’d want to use a nozzle for. In fact, I’ve looked for other things just so I can use it more.

The only downside I’ve found is it’s so small it may be easy to lose. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened.

-- Steve McAllister

Available from Amazon

Prodyne CK-300 Cheese Fruit and Veggie Knife

15 September, by mark[ —]

The Prodyne CK-300 Cheese Fruit and Veggie Knife is nicely made but doesn’t cost a lot. It gets used for nearly every meal and snack in our house; we have lots of really good, expensive knives. This one is always in the dishwasher! Does a great job on ripe tomatoes, oozy brie, fresh mozzarella, bread, thin slices of cured sausages, zucchini (that even stick to the sides of a santoku knife). So cheap, not worth sharpening, just save for the cheeseboard. Good picnic knife.

-- J. Hampton

[This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2015]

Prodyne CK-300 Multi-Use Cheese Fruit and Veggie Knife

Available from Amazon

Save the Food/Marginal Revolutions/Perfect Blue

13 September, by claudia[ —]

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Learn how to reduce food waste
There’s really no excuse for food waste. On Save the Food you can find recipes to cook with your leftover scraps and food that’s “past its prime”. You can build a meal prep plan and create a shopping list based on the people in your household and how many days you are cooking for. They even have a storage guide with all the tips and tricks you need to keep your food fresh. — CD

Following the unexpected
I like to follow people who consistently surprise me. Tyler Cowen’s blog Marginal Revolutions is a prime source of the unexpected. He collects surprisingly interesting papers and posts he unearths from different corners, plus trivial oddities, and profoundly insightful essays, and all of it thought provoking. He posts at least a handful of items per day. (I follow his blog via my RSS reader.) — KK

Perfect Blue
My family watches an awful lot of anime. We also like horror and thriller movies, so we enjoyed Perfect Blue, a violent, disturbing, R-rated psychological thriller from 1997 about a former pop idol who loses her ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality. If you like the films of Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan) you’ll like Perfect Blue, because Aronofsky is a fan of the anime and even recreated a scene from it in Requiem for a Dream. — MF

Interactive soundscapes
Here is another free ambient sound website to add to our ever-growing list of musical streams we enjoy — myNoise.net. There are hundreds of different noise generators available for free listening that you can adjust to your sound comfort level. What I really like about myNoise is that once I calibrate the soundscape to my liking I can create a custom URL that I can save and go back to, like this “Chapel Voices” mix. — CD

How to roast any vegetable
Almost any vegetable you can think of tastes better roasted, and this article by Emma Christensen, shows you how to do it. The key is cutting the vegetable into bite-size pieces to increase the surface-area-to-volume ratio, using enough oil, and spacing out the pieces in the roasting pan. — MF

The value of goofing off
The premise of this book, Time Off, is that you can’t maintain a great work ethic without having a great “rest ethic”. You have to take time off, vacation, go on sabbatical, pause, rest, sleep, slack, play, and goof off in order to be and do your best. I’ve long been a champion of slack time and mandatory time off, and I am delighted all the arguments and evidence for this take are presented in this hefty book. Includes examples of very productive people, and the latest scientific evidence. Time off is not only essential to a good life, it is something you can get better at. — KK

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson

Sonal Chokshi, a16z Editor in Chief

https://www.trouva.com/products/bosign-mini-walnut-wood-antislip-lap-tray-with-salt-pepper-cushion?currency=usd&gclid=CjwKCAjw97P5BRBQEiwAGflV6TNuGjZNWU57qtygSl-GU9LlWvjm8sdaCI_gwNeMFnp6zmUpPmQSMhoCos0QAvD_BwEplay episode download
11 September, by claudia[ —]

Our guest this week is Sonal Chokshi. Sonal is editor in chief at Andreessen Horowitz, where she built the popular a16z Podcast among other things; she’s a former senior editor at Wired, and she directed content and community at Xerox PARC before that. She also did PhD work  ethnographic research in developmental/cognitive psychology on how teachers teach and students learn. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes:

Indian food in an Instant Pot
For anyone who’s listening who’s made Indian food, it sounds really complex. You have to have all these spices and all these ingredients. But the reality is it’s actually one of the easiest, most healthy cuisines you can eat. For those of you that don’t know the history of Indian cooking or how mothers teach daughters, which is not to be gender specific here by any means, but that is sort of traditionally what happens in India, there’s a lot of contortions around the steps and combos and proportions. My mom and I used to fight all the time growing up because she’d be like, “There’s no recipe. Just eyeball it!” I would be like, “Give me a fricking measurement!” So what’s really cool about it is that instant pot actually democratized cooking for us, and in a way that it didn’t feel like you had to be this inheritor of this long thousand year tradition to make Indian food. If you know about analog pressure cookers in India, and even in America, they’re really scary. They’re not safe. I would hear these horrifying whistles when they were ready to have the dal ready, and rice, and my mom would freak me out like, “Stay away, your face could blow off if you’re too close to this!” With the Instant Pot you can actually do things faster, better, and we can get over our preciousness of all the different steps and combos and just really enjoy the food instead of making a production out of making it. You would think that’s only true for single item foods like biryanis and Khichdis and dals, which are sort of rice and lentil based. Like it’s basically the equivalent of a paella in a pot. But you can actually make a full on meal, with multiple different ingredients in it like chana masala with like garbanzo beans, and combine different things. You’ll need a spice kit, which has five essential ingredients. Which would be red masala, so like pepper, yellow masala, which is like turmeric powder, brown masala, which is basically cumin and cilantro powder, either one of those works, and then kind of a dark brown powder, which is garam marsala. Then of course, you need the two seeds, which are either mustard seeds, which you need in almost every Indian food, and cumin seeds, which are kind of the essential ingredients. Every cook has a tray of those five. I’m very agnostic about my brands. To me, they’re all the same as long as they’re fresh and the dates are fresh. That’s what I look for. So I would recommend you can go anywhere online, any local ethnic grocery store.

Hoi Bo Contoured Linen Face Mask
This is a Hoi Bo face mask. It’s a Canada-based brand. Very local makers. Everything’s handcrafted inside their Toronto studio. I have no stakes or interest, I’m a pure fan in appreciation of what they do. They describe this as focusing on a balance of beauty, design, craft, and functionality, which just sounds like a bunch of buzzy words. But what’s really interesting to me is that their work is inspired by the structure and strength of work wear, but it’s incredibly light and elegant and beautiful. They have very clearly defined shapes, sometimes even origami-like. I think if we’re really going to make masks more widespread, they should not be just a utility, just like we don’t wear our clothes like a utility. We don’t even wear our devices as a utility, right? So I really strongly believe masks need to be just like fashion where you wear shirts, jeans, hats, everything. These are fashionable, but more importantly, they’re so comfortable because they’re lightweight. They’re pure linen, so you can breathe through them, which is what I love about them. It’s the most expensive mask that I own. The reason I went ahead and coughed up for that is because it’s washable. The problem is, I think we treat masks as a bit too disposable, and they need to be more fundamental. So it’s almost like a pair of jeans for your face. That’s how I justified it.

Bosign Mini Walnut Wood Antislip Lap Tray
The reason I put a lap desk on this is because I know people talk about different types of lap desks. You have Wirecutter reviews and you guys do all these wonderful cool tools recommendations. My issue is that, particularly in this time of the pandemic, many people have had to go remote very suddenly, and many people, including me, are stuck in small apartments without a dedicated home office set up so you have to double up your space. I am in a one bedroom apartment, so I do not have a dedicated office space. It’s basically the size of like a very overlarge place mat, maybe, is how I describe it. It’s made of different woods. The one I have is walnut. What I love about that is that the grain, it adds a natural friction so things don’t slip off of it like they do from these uber, overly plastic lap desks. Many lap desks out there feel like they’re just this utilitarian gross plastic things. This is so enjoyable because there’s a soft pillow underneath that has a canvas kind of pillowcase that you can unzip and wash. Here’s the thing, when you put a laptop on your desk, it feels like a foreign thing sitting on your desk. It doesn’t feel like an extension of you. This lap desk, to me, feels like an extension that’s naturally sitting there. It also has a slight indent in the upper right corner. So unlike these overly dedicated plastic lap desks where you have a proper cup holder, this has like a slightly indented square in it where you can put paperclips or your phone or a cup of coffee if you want, and it does the job.

Substack is a tool which makes it easier for writers of all kinds to start a newsletter, including manage your subscriptions, payments, and more. So before, if you were a journalist and you wanted to start your own newsletter or own your own audience of it, first of all, you don’t really own your own audience because you’re going to buy books and indirect channels, media journal articles, whatever. Then secondly, if you wanted to set something up, you have to do all the plumbing yourselves, like set up a payment infrastructure, the list management infrastructure. People take a huge cut of all that and it’s not very optimized. Honestly, not to be stereotypical, but some of the more creative people I know are not necessarily the ones who want to also do all that. The other thing that’s great about it is it expands the definition of a writer. Because I think for a lot of people, we have this traditional notion that it has to be like someone who went to journalism school. But there are a lot of academic experts, there’s other people who are just learning as they do things, who don’t have an outlet or even credentials necessarily, but they do have a lot to say and they build a following. So Substack is amazing because it’s basically enabling all these amazing writers to create full time and, honestly, very successfully, way more than even their media jobs and other careers. The other thing that I think is really kind of neat about it too, this general trend, is that we’re seeing a time where media, it’s no longer just traditional big media outlets. Individuals can become media outlets. Companies are media outlets. So I think it’s very exciting to me when something democratizes something for everybody else.

DuWop Reverse Eye/Lip Liners
This is a cool tool, a very cool tool, I would say, that creates a barrier on your face so makeup won’t travel down or around. It stays put where it is. When I put eyeliner on, usually you just put like eyeliner or eyeshadow and you just put this thing directly with an application wand. If you put lipstick on, you just put it directly on your lip. Sometimes people put a thing called lip liner to give it a bit of definition and extra layer of color. What the DuWop Reverse Liners do is you can create a little bit of a boundary barrier around your lips and under your eyes. Because when you put makeup on, sometimes if you have a loosey fine eye shadow powder, much like an Indian spice that’s finely milled, it falls into like the cracks of your crow’s feet or your under eye lines and it smudges and looks messy. It basically acts as a barrier. It seems like it’s kind of waxy, but it’s made out of kombucha or macadamia oil or some kind of weird combo of ingredients and it’s applied through a pencil. The other cool thing about it is because it’s in that shape, is it also acts as an eraser. So if you make a mistake, you can clean it up. I think of makeup as like the same thing as like pencils, Blackwing pencils or school supplies. It’s very exciting because it’s the same kind of tool in a different category.

About Sonal’s newsletters:

I have two newsletters. One called Art Dev, which is basically a play on the word dev as in developer, dev as in Devdas, or Devi, like God in India, developing in real life. The idea is because I hate how people make art so inaccessible to everyone, like it has to be intermediated by galleries and curators. The language people use about art is so highfalutin and postmodern weird crap. It’s just weird. So I’m trying to write about art in a way that’s accessible and that lets you feel it viscerally, not just intellectually. That’s what Art Dev is. Then my other newsletter, which is new, is called World Building, and that’s fully devoted to everything that’s related to world-building for creators of all kinds. So not only in the narrow sense of traditional science fiction and fantasy games, VR, but world-building even app buttons or movies and how people do lighting.

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