An aquatic ecosystem in a sealed glass bubble

We had one of these in the MAKE magazine office for years. I think the shrimp's name was Fred. Amazon has the small one on sale for $44, which is an all-time low price.

EcoSphere is a completely closed, balanced, glass ecosystem. Inside each EcoSphere are shrimp, algae, and microorganisms in salt water. Because the EcoSphere contains everything it needs to thrive, you never have to feed the life within, or change the water. All that is needed is a comfortable room temperature (between 65 and 80 F) and a source of light.

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Interview about my Recomendo newsletter

I was recently interviewed about the weekly Recomendo newsletter I write with my Cool Tools colleagues, Kevin Kelly and Claudia Dawson. Here's an excerpt:

What is the goal of your newsletter?

To give our readers a weekly list of 6 things we love — travel tips, books, TV shows, clothes, tools, websites, podcasts, and so on. We want people to be able to read the entire newsletter in 90 seconds or less, with no fluff or wheel spinning.

How do you create your newsletter?

We have a shared Google Doc where the three of us write brief reviews of things we like. Once a week, Claudia goes in and selects six items from the doc (two from each of us) and puts them into the weekly newsletter, which gets sent out on Sunday morning.

Speaking of the creation process, Recomendo always has super cool and useful recommendations. How do you go about selecting what goes into the newsletter?

Speaking for myself (this is Mark), whenever I become aware that I am really appreciative of something (like a phone service, a useful app, a good snack to travel with) I add it to a running list I maintain on workflowy.com. Once a week or so, I will go through that list and write brief recommendations of a few of the items on the list.

How many subscribers do you have?

As of 29 June 2017, we have published 49 weekly issues and have 11,528 subscribers. Once a month or so, we mention the newsletter on our personal social media accounts, on Cool Tools, and on Boing Boing. Read the rest

Maker Update #46: Make an Rapa Nui 3D printed bobblehead

Paige Russell used the free, easy-to-use 3D modeling program Tinkercad to make a 3D printed bobblehead based on a Rapa Nui moai. That's just one of the tools and projects that Donald Bell presented this week in Maker Update. Show notes here.

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Interview with Adam Rubin, director of puzzles and games for The Art of Play

Our guest on the Cool Tools Show podcast this week is Adam Rubin. Adam is the New York Times best-selling author of Dragons Love Tacos, Robo-Sauce, and half a dozen other critically-acclaimed picture books. He is also a world-renowned inventor of illusions and was recently named Director of Puzzles and Games for ArtofPlay.com.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes:

Frixion Erasable Blue Gel Ink Pen ($13, 3 Pack) "So, this pen is not actually marketed as a disappearing ink pen. It’s marketed as a Frixion Pen, and its intention is to be an erasable pen — it’s a normal-looking pen and on the back of the pen is this sort of rubber or plastic nib. And if you write with the pen and you rub the nib over the ink, the ink goes away. But, the true nature of the pen is that it's heat activated. So, if you heat up the ink, it disappears. That could be with the nib that's on the back of the pen or that could be with the flame from a lighter or that could be in a microwave. So, basically, what you have, is you have a pen that writes with ink that you can make disappear with fire. And that is a pretty cool tool to me. … One of the cool things about it is that you can use it sort of as a fun science thing to do with kids because, you don’t necessarily need to use fire. Read the rest

Good showerhead for low-water pressure

In 2015 I installed this Delta Water-Amplifying showerhead ($18) in a shower that has low pressure. It really does deliver a nice spray with large droplets. It's got a little knob that lets you switch between 2.5 and 1.85 GPM, but I had a hard time telling the difference. Installation is simple. Here's a good video that shows how to change a showerhead:

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Cool things worth checking out: Kooba/Menu reader/Workshop tip

Once a week, Kevin Kelly, Claudia Dawson, and I send out a weekly newsletter that gives you 6 brief personal recommendations of cool stuff. We have 11,821 subscribers. Here's issue #54. Get the Recomendo weekly newsletter a week early by email.

Getting good stuff on craigslist: This brief, succinct blog post has great advice on how to find what you want (at least with used furniture) on Craigslist. For instance, don’t forget to search for common misspellings of your target. These tips match my experience in buying used tools on Craigslist. —  KK

Better book finder: Kooba is a fun option for finding the next book on your reading list. Just type in a title you like and you’ll get an interactive graph of suggestions. You can keep adding book, remove any you don’t want or start clicking to create a deeper web of recommendations. — CD

Menu reader: This $8 magnifier is the size of a credit card, and as thick as a stack of six quarters. The lens is 1.75" square and there’s a smaller round lens in the corner. A button on the side turns on a bright LED. I’ve taken to carrying it in my pocket. It comes in especially handy for reading menus in dark restaurants. — MF

Workshop tip: When mixing epoxies, resins, goops, paints, glues, I always need to dispose of the gunked up mixing container afterwards. I try to hoard used take-out containers and paper cups yet run out. By far the best solution is to use flexible silicone mixing bowls. Read the rest

Why I like my Martian Fink ring

A few months ago my friend Joshua Glenn asked me to contribute a short piece to a series of true stories "about objects that are lucky, magical, kept on your person or close by at all times." The series is called Talismanic Objects. You can read all the stories at Hilobrow. Here's mine:

As a little kid in the 1960s with limited access to television, my role models were my friends’ big brothers. My friends certainly weren’t role models — they were dweebs like me. And grown ups — they might as well have been a different species, with a way of thinking that made them impossible to relate to. Big brothers were still kids, but infinitely more sophisticated and wiser than 6-years-olds like me (who big brothers regarded with indifference at best and as sticky-fingered pests at all other times).

It was a thrill to walk past a big brother’s open bedroom door and sneak a glimpse in their rooms to find Aurora Monster Models, Mars Attacks trading cards, black light fluorescent posters, MAD magazines, Green Hornet’s Black Beauty model car, Cowsills LPs, Lost In Space View-Master reels, Super Balls, Sixfingers, and Ka-Bala game boards. To me, these treasures will forever be imbued with big brother mojo.

I have a talisman that I can use to summon big brother mojo. It’s a Martian Fink ring — a little armless vinyl creature with pointed ears, antennae, square feet, and a long tongue curling from its leering mouth. It’s attached to a plastic ring so I can wear it on my finger (I don’t).

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Beautiful coin spins for 7-9 minutes

J.L. Lawson & Co makes tops, spinner coins, and other hand-machined products.

Their latest thing is the Tempus Spin Coin, and has been successfully funded on Kickstarter. It's still available in .999 silver, bronze, and copper.

For those of you that are interested in spin times, my average time ranges from 7-9 minutes. Considering the art isn't balanced, the spin is fairly balanced but, keep in mind, this coin wasn't intended for perfect spinning. It's more to help keep you entertained at the local bar.

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A residential contractor shares what's in his tool belt

Paul Abueva is a residential contractor. He shared the contents of his tool belt at Cool Tools (a web site I run with Kevin Kelly and Claudia Dawson).

I am a residential contractor who does remodeling and repair work, so I carry tools that that are useful to a variety of trades work. Over the years I’ve put together what I believe to be a perfect compromise between weight and function. Read the rest

Alan Henry, editor in chief of Lifehacker, shares his favorite tools

In the latest episode of the Cool Tools podcast, Kevin Kelly and I interviewed Alan Henry, editor in chief of LifeHacker. He's also a recovering physicist, music lover, and self-proclaimed lover of dorky and niche hobbies. Alan told us about his favorite headphones, a cold brew coffee maker, a mechanical keyboard, and a web-based smart to-do list app.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes:

AKG Q701 Quincy Jones Signature Premium Headphones ($250)

"I'm a bit of a headphone fiend and have far too many pairs, but these are my daily drivers."

Takeya Cold Brew Iced Coffee Maker ($20)

"I love my Bonavita for my morning hot cup, but this takes the cake in hot weather!"

Das Keyboard 4 Professional Mechanical Keyboard ($162)

"I 'love' keyboards, and own way too many, but this is the perfect blend of mechanical feel and not-too-noisy for writing and work that won't drive officemates batty."

Todoist

"A no-frills, cross-platform, web-based smart to-do list app that has the bells and whistles in the right places, like reminders and apps/integration for just about every other tool you might use." Read the rest

The Art of Play for the Holidays

Let's take the path less traveled for some holiday gift giving. Two brothers well known in the world of magic and cardistry , Dan and Dave Buck, have a number of enterprises going, including a website called Art of Play . While its nucleus is the sale of unique decks of playing cards, the site has expanded greatly under the guidance of Adam Rubin, the "Director of Puzzles and Games."

We travel the world in search of objects designed to dazzle the eyes and fascinate the mind. From luxurious playing cards to ingenious puzzles and stimulating amusements—each beautiful item in our collection holds a whisper of mystery, brimming with potential for surprise and delight.

25 Days of Christmas Extravaganza! Whatever you celebrate this December, we're honoring you and the ones you love with our 25 Days of Christmas extravaganza. Every day through December 25th we will offer either a free gift or an exclusive item, such as a rare deck of playing cards. Offers are limited to one day only. To take part, just be sure you're subscribed to our newsletter.

I'm personally not much interested in fancy decks of cards—I do my card tricks the old-fashioned way, using Bicycle Rider back cards from the U.S. Playing Card Company. But if, for example, you're a fan of Neil Patrick Harris (who also does magic in addition to being able to sing, dance, act, emcee, etc. and so on) then you might find this special deck interesting.

NPH Playing Cards ($10.00)

Neil Patrick Harris Playing Cards are elegant, intricate, and visually stunning.

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'Arrangements,' Emily Blincoe: assorted objects neatly arranged

Why do these little tableaus of neatness delight us so?