Socks for people who don't like socks

I almost always wear Native Jefferson shoes, which don't require socks. On those rare occasions when socks are called for, I wear these no-show socks. They sit well below the top of most shoes, and they have some little silicone rubber stripes above the heel that keep them from slipping. Read the rest

Best jar scraper

This jar scraper is molded from one piece of silicone rubber. It has a stainless steel skeleton for rigidity. The overall length is 13.5 inches, which means you can scoop out the last bit of peanut butter, jam, or fudge topping from tall jars. I also use it to stir food while it cooks (the silicone is resistant to temperatures up to 600 F). Read the rest

Get AC power from your car with this power inverter

Earlier this year a tree fell on a power line in our neighborhood and we lost power. Fortunately I had one of these 12V to 110V AC Car Inverters to power our computers and charge our phones. It has two USB ports and two standard AC outlets. We have a plug-in hybrid so we didn't have to keep the car's gas engine running all the time, but even if you do have a gas-powered car, you can use this inverter for a short while to power appliances on an as-needed basis. It's on sale right now on Amazon. Read the rest

Photos and videos of bugs and stuff with my USB microscope

I bought a USB microscope a few years ago because I wanted to examine kitchen knife edges after I sharpen them using different sharpeners. I'm still having fun with it. The tiny millipede in the video above is in a cup the size of a penny. Here are some images I've captured so far:

Groovy Squirmy millipede.

A Trader Joe's roasted and salted peanut. (See image full size)

A playing card.

My arm hair.

A leaf, with what looks to be some kind of parasite.

Smaller than a prescription pill bottle, the microscope has a USB cord that can be plugged into any computer. Download the software here and start looking up close at money, leaves, circuit boards, bugs, skin, hair, and anything else.

The scope has a built-in, adjustable-brightness LED for illumination. The brightest setting is not always the best --- try different levels of illumination and let the software auto-adjust the contrast. I also learned that in order to see things at the maximum 250X magnification you need to follow the instructions in the FAQ.

It comes with a suction-cup gooseneck mount that is very stable, and a plastic board with a grid pattern, which helps you align and locate the thing you are looking at. You can also simply hold the scope against things. The software takes still photos and videos, and hasn't crashed on me yet (the earlier version was buggy).

For the price, the microscope is an amazingly entertaining device and I find myself grabbing it to check out all sorts of things, including splinters, skin cuts, bugs, and playing card designs. Read the rest

Chinese Sci-Fi/Writing advice/DIY aromatic shower in the new Recomendo

Recomendo is weekly newsletter that gives you 6 brief personal recommendations of cool stuff. I write it with Kevin Kelly and Claudia Dawson (my colleagues at Cool Tools Lab). You can subscribe to it here. We also published a book with our favorite Recomendo tips. To give you an idea of what Recomendo is like, here's the latest issue of the newsletter:

More Chinese science fiction A red-hot area in science fiction these days is China. Like many fans who enjoyed The Three Body Problem, I wanted more. So the translator of that mega hit, Ted Liu, has translated two volumes of Chinese short stories with a sci-fi/fantasy focus. The first anthology, Invisible Planets, is a sampler offering lots of magical realism, fantasy and a few hard-science pieces. The second, Broken Stars, has more speculative fiction, and feels more Chinese. As in any anthology, the quality is uneven, but a few stories are standouts and I got a solid feel for this embryonic movement. — KK

Cut out everything that’s not surprising Derek Sivers was the founder of CD Baby and maintains an interesting essay blog. One of his recent posts offered good advice for writers and speakers: “People only really learn when they’re surprised. If they’re not surprised, then what you told them just fits in with what they already know. No minds were changed. No new perspective. Just more information. So my main advice to anyone preparing to give a talk on stage is to cut out everything from your talk that’s not surprising.” — MF

Shower with fresh Eucalyptus I’ve been hanging fresh Eucalyptus in our shower because it’s said to reduce sinus inflammation, which I struggle with, but mostly because it makes showering feel like a spa experience with it’s soothing scent and how it looks so pretty. Read the rest

Good deal on Amazon Echo Dot plus Amazon Music Unlimited subscription

I have two Echo Dots, and I talk to them many times a day - to play news, podcasts, and audiobooks, get weather reports, control our security system and wifi power switches, set timers and alarms, and learn if old celebrities are still alive. If you're concerned about your privacy, don't get one of these and keep your phone in the refrigerator when you aren't using it. If you are as reckless as I am, now's your chance to get an Echo Dot for just . This includes a one-month auto-renew subscription to Amazon Music Unlimited (which you can cancel before it auto-renews). Read the rest

This is the best kind of Apple Watch band

I got one of these bands for my Apple Watch a couple of years ago. It replaced the stock rubber band that's like a little belt with holes and a buckle. This one automatically adjusts to any size wrist and stays in place with a magnet. It's so much better than any other kind of band I can think of. It's usually on Amazon but if you use code SSBZ7IR8 it's about half that price. Read the rest

This rubber bristles brush is like a cat hair magnet

This rubber bristled brush does a great job of removing our three cats' fur from carpets, bedspreads, and furniture. We had it for years and it has held up well. It's only on Amazon. Read the rest

Look what I made for lovers of Kewpie mayonnaise

Kewpie Mayonnaise, made in Japan, has extra egg yolk and MSG in it, making it far superior to any other commercially-made mayonnaise. My family loves the Kewpie. To make it easier to squeeze out of the bottle, I 3D printed a thing you can attach to the cap so you can invert the bottle and let the mayo settle near the spout. Now we don't have to shake the bottle to get the mayo out.

If you want to print one of your own, here's the STL file. If you don't have a printer but love Kewpie and need one of these, email me ( and I'll print one out and send it to you for the price of the postage.

Read the rest

Four years later, and I am still using my magnetic tool holder every day

I bought this wall-mounted magnetic strip in 2015 to have easy access to tools I need for simple household tasks: opening packages, hanging pictures, assembling furniture, tightening loose nuts, installing door locks, measuring things, simple plumbing repairs, etc. It's much better than keeping the tools in a kitchen drawer, because I can instantly find the tool(s) I need. The magnet is very strong, so I don't have to worry about a tool falling off. The strips come in various lengths. The one I bought is 24 inches long. The shortest I've seen on Amazon is seven inches. Read the rest

Use this promo code to get this electric lighter for cheap

I bought this USB rechargeable lighter in May and will never go back to using matches or a butane lighter. I've used it to light many charcoal barbecues, candles, and stove burners and have not had to recharge it yet (the manufacturer says it works 1,000 times before it needs recharging). It usually costs on Amazon but if you use promo code BFM3MDJY you can get it for about half that price. Read the rest

Kevin Kelly and I talk about some of our favorite tools

Kevin Kelly and I were the hosts and the guests on the latest episode of the Cool Tools podcast. We shared some of the tools we've been using and liking lately.

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:

Kevin's pick: DJI Spark Mini Drone ($399) I've been a very, very slow adopter of some of the newest photography technology in the form of drones. I have not owned a drone, and I've been kind of slow to get one, in part because there's a learning curve and part because my photography generally doesn't kind of lend that style. But I have a particular need for somewhere that I'm going to where I wanted to get high up, I wanted to have some elevated views, and I decided to get a drone. So, as usual, I kind of started low. I wanted basically an entry-level, lowest cost, easiest to learn mode, and so I got a DJI, which is the Chinese manufacturer of most drones. I got their Spark version, which I would say is the size of kind of like a cordless phone. The blades fold up, but the arms actually don't fold up. It's a little bit bigger than the palm, but it's not that much bigger. It will shoot very high res still images, which is what I'm using it for. And the other thing about it is that it doesn't have a controller. Read the rest

I prefer Gum Soft-Picks to flossing

Gum Soft-Picks do a better job than toothpicks or floss for cleaning food and plaque from between my teeth. The rubbery green brush pushes out all the gunk without hurting.  A pack of 100 will set you back on Amazon. Read the rest

Good deal on Tile tracker and Echo Dot

Yesterday I wrote about how having a Tile Bluetooth tracker helped me find my wallet when I lost it at the theater last week. I just found out that Tile has refreshed its product lineup and one of the new devices is called the Tile Sticker. It has an adhesive so you can stick it to items that you want to keep track of. A Tile Sticker 2-pack costs , but right now Amazon has a deal where you can get 4 Tile Stickers and an Echo Dot for . Read the rest

A Bluetooth tracker helped me find my wallet

About three years ago I was at Maker Faire with my family. We stopped at a booth run by Tile, a company that makes small Bluetooth trackers to attach to things you don't want to lose. The person in the booth let us spin a wheel of fortune to try to win a Tile. Carla spun it and won the best prize on the wheel - a Tile 4-pack with two Tile Mates and two Tile Slims. We ended up putting them in a drawer and forgetting about them. But about a month ago, Carla complained that she was frustrated with looking for her phone after misplacing it too many times around the house. I remembered the Tile devices and set one up so that she could press the button on the Tile and it would make her phone play a tone. It worked, which is surprising because the battery had been running for years. Now she keeps the Tile in a drawer and presses it when she can't find her phone.

I decided to put one of the Tile slims in my wallet. It's as thick as two credit cards, so it didn't make the wallet bulge. On Friday Carla and I went to a movie theater to see Monos (thumbs up) and when we got into our car after the movie, I felt for my wallet in my pants pocket and discovered it wasn't there. I quickly walked back to the theater to look for it. I didn't care as much about the contents of the wallet as the wallet itself -- it was a red zipper wallet I bought in Japan and I love it. Read the rest

Writer David Moldawer's favorite tools

My guest this week on the Cool Tools show is David Moldawer. David is a Brooklyn-based writer and book collaborator who spent more than a decade as an acquiring editor in New York City publishing. He was an editor on a number of books I've written. He also writes a weekly newsletter for nonfiction authors and experts who aspire to be authors called The Maven Game.

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

Raw transcript excerpts:

Focusmate Focusmate has been transformative for me over the last few months. It’s very simple. It pairs you with a random person via webcam and you work together for 50 minutes at a time. So it’s like having a virtual coworking partner. So what happens is you have a calendar and you pick a slot. Let’s say I want to work at 9:00 AM — it’ll say “You’re working with John or Bill or Melinda at 9:00 AM,” and at that time I click start and it brings up a typical webcam, video-chat-kind-of window, and the other person’s there sitting at a desk and I’ll say “Hi, what are you working on?” They’ll say, “Oh I’m grading something because I’m a teacher.” And I’ll say, “Okay great. I’m doing some editing because I’m a book collaborator,” and that’s it. And then we’ll just sit there and work with the webcam going. Nobody really watches each other. Read the rest

If you have an older MacBook, here's a very inexpensive charger

This L-type magsafe charger for pre-2013 MacBooks is already cheap at but if you use promo code NX72DAJR, you can get it for half that price. Read the rest

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