Cool and not

I’ve been an RSS subscriber to Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools site for ages. It’s like Shawn Blanc and Stephen Hackett’s Tools and Toys (and was probably the inspiration for it), but with articles submitted by readers and a list of tools covering a much broader scope. So broad, in fact, that I doubt I read beyond the first sentence or two of most of the articles. Still, I maintain my subscription because I find something interesting there a few times a year.

The reason it’s worth keeping a feed with dozens of useless (to me) articles is that the useful ones are very useful. Kelly’s idea was for the items listed on the site, whether mainstream or offbeat, to be the best at their job. “Best,” of course, has a flexible definition, incorporating price, performance, easy of use, and longevity, but however it’s defined, the submitter is expected to have real experience with the product. This sets Cool Tools apart from the great multitude of reviews on sites like Amazon, where far too many are of the “just bought this and it’s GREAT” variety.

Sometimes the articles are fun to read, not because of any interest I have in the tool being presented, but because of the quirky lifestyle the tool reveals. This past week Kelly himself wrote an article about geodesic domes that could only have been written by a Whole Earth Catalog/Burning Man veteran. And I will always remember fondly this article about hair brushes, written by a man whose 10-year-old daughter’s hair had never been cut and was down to her knees. That girls is 15 now—I wonder if she’s rebelled and shaved her head.

I was really disappointed in another recent article about a lifestyle tool: this portable vaporizer. I don’t care about the nature of the product—if you want a more efficient way to deliver nicotine or, more likely, THC to your bloodstream, that’s your business. But this line seemed completely wrong:

I have had my Pax for about two weeks now and it’s amazing.

Two weeks? You can’t decide something is the best in two weeks, no matter how much experience you have with similar products (unless every other product of its type is abysmal). I assume this article got through because the recommender is one of Boing Boing crowd, but I expect better of Cool Tools.

This morning, though, Cool Tools redeemed itself with what may be the single best recommendation it’s ever made: Sharpie metallic markers.

Sharpie metallic markers

My wife discovered these 8-10 years ago and they’ve been an indispensable part of our household ever since. They write on everything, and their markings are visible and long-lasting. She bought them as a defense against our sons’ continual loss of baseball hats, sweatshirts, and sports equipment. Writing names on bats, sticks, balls, water bottles, and the inside of clothing didn’t stop our boys from leaving them at their friends’ houses, but it gave the other moms a chance to get that crap out of their houses and back where it belonged. In addition to labeling wall warts, as the article suggests, I began using them at work to label the many similar black plastic cases that hold our instruments and tools. The stickers I’d used before seldom lasted more than a few months; the metallic silver markings are still going strong after several years.


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