Michael Cummings – Writer (of many things)

By day, Michael Cummings manages IT Operations for monkey-powered geek e-retailer ThinkGeek.com. By night, his other hats include father of three, failed novelist, and sometimes book reviewer. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

Science In Your Own Backyard by Elizabeth K. Cooper. Incredibly dated now, but when I was kid I lived in a world that was filled with dated books, so I took what I could get. This book wasa constant companion in fourth and fifth grade. I don’t think I ever did any of the actual experiments in the book – mine were always based on but widely different, probably on account of reading it 25 or more years after it was published. But I think everyone should have a book like this, a book that serves to fuel our curiosity and imagination. Science books from the 50′s were always so optimistic that with just a little bit of  time and tinkering, you could build anything in your backyard.

The Martian by Andy Weir. A very recent read, and a book that’s getting some geek touting because of the science, which isn’t bad, but for me it was more because it was just a lot of fun. When we finally concede to growing up and becoming professionals, we spend a lot of time reading things we don’t want to. The Martian? Pure fun, and easy to overlook its faults for the sheer excitement. MacGyver on Mars, which sounds like Robinson Crusoe on Mars, but there were no space monkeys to be seen.

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. It’s no secret I spend my free time stringing words together in the hopes that some day they  will make enough sense to share with other folks. Bradbury’s anecdotal guide to writing isn’t a technical manual on the craft, but a great way to feel inspired about the act of writing. Highly recommended for anyone who understands the mechanics well enough but needs that extra shove out the door.

Good things to watch.

Connections [1,2,3]. I watched this on tv back in the 90′s, mind blown. Each episode James Burke would take a piece of modern life and show you the twisted, warped road of connections that linked that thing to something crazily obscure. The synchronicity in life can be strange and fantastic and its fun to be reminded of that.

Q.I. My wife and I have quickly become addicted to this show. Plus, we are accidentally learning strange and trivial things. Most of its knowledge that would only be good for a pub quiz, and sometimes the show veers far, far off topic, but its tends to be, well, Quite
Interesting.

The Princess Bride. Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…what’s not to love?!? One thing about this movie still bothers me, though. Princess Buttercup isn’t eaten by the giant eels “at this time.” Those three words have haunted me my entire life, because the implications are right there. Not now, not tomorrow, but someday, she’s going to be out on those waters and bam, that’s it for Buttercup. Gripping.

Good things to use.

Lastpass, because as I’m fond of pointing out, I’m a browser whore. Today I’m using chrome, but then I’ll randomly decide I want to exploit the integration of safari for a while, or need to use a clean browser and pull up vanilla Firefox. Lastpass lets me do that by keeping all of my account info in one place and letting me be browser agnostic, making it trivial to switch without having to drag baggage with me.

The iPad. I know my iPad2 isn’t quite up to the retina standard of the newer models, but that’s fine by me. This one device lets me read anything in my digital libraries (kindle and ibooks), casually browse the web, do some light writing or editing, and still has the capacity for entertainment. We dreamed of having something this portable computing powerhouse when we were kids, and now I have one in my house. I am living la vita futura,

A library card. I don’t use mine nearly as much as I should, partly because I’ve been spoiled with the immediate gratification of ebooks, but too many people forget the power of a library card. I’ve always been fortunate enough to live in places where cards were free for residents, but even if I had to pay out of pocket, I would. A library card is that magical key that unlocks an entire universe or resources.

Connect with Michael on Twitter, @KoderMike.

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