Joel Carranza – Software Developer

Joel Carranza is a software developer living in New Orleans. His projects include Pinswift, a pinboard app for iOS, and NOLA Transit, a transit app for the city of New Orleans. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

River of Shadows by Rebecca Solnit.  This fascinating biography of Edward Muybridge interweaves the history of photography, motion pictures, and the development of the American West into one amazing story.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin. A beautifully written crime novel set in my home state of Mississippi.

The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. A fantastic fantasy series which I started reading while waiting for the next Game of Thrones book. There are actually 6 books, but each book stands up on it’s own, and you don’t even need to read them in sequence. Abercrombie’s gritty writing focuses on the brutality of war from the soldier’s perspective rather than the politics of kings, and is, at times, funny and incredibly violent.

Good things to watch.

True Detective. This is probably my favorite TV series since The Wire. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are detectives trying to hunt down an occult serial killer while dealing with their damaged personal lives. The dialogue and acting are great and the cinematography wonderfully captures the beauty and natural creepiness of southern Louisiana.

Take Shelter. A working-class father starts having visions about the apocalypse and decides to build a bomb shelter in his backyard. Directed and written by Jeff Nichols whose latest movie “Mud” (also starring Matthew McConaughey) is also excellent.

Deskbound by Kelly Starrett. I, like so many people in my profession, suffer from pain related to prolonged work on the computer. This talk, given by physical therapist Kelly Starrett, totally changed my understanding of the problem and helped me start getting serious about taking care of my body.

Good things to use.

Paper. For years I’ve tried to manage all aspects of my life using software, but lately I’ve returned to pen and paper for planning, organizing, and task management. Ultimately, most of my work does get stored digitally, but I find by working on paper first the end result is more coherent. I don’t use anything fancy here, but when I want to nerd out on analog tools I read The Cramped or browse on

Belroy Card Sleeve Wallet. Last year, I radically downsized my wallet to just a few credits cards and a driver’s license, and I am never going back. This “card sleeve” is stylish, well-made, and doesn’t even give you the option of stuffing it full of unnecessary junk.

Zojirushi Travel Thermos. I love this coffee thermos. Everything about it feels perfectly designed and engineered. It holds two cups of coffee and has a lid which pops open with a button. In addition, it has a locking switch which prevents the top from opening accidentally. I sometimes bike with my coffee and this is the only liquid container I trust to go in my bag with the rest of my gear. It has never leaked a single drop.

Connect with Joel on Twitter, @_thedudeabides_

Dustan Kasten – Web Developer

Dustan Kasten is a web developer and blogger at iamdustan. His full 2013 reading list is there, these are his good things.

Good things to read.

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

Envisioning Information by Edward R. Tufte.

The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom.

The Optimism Bias by Tali Sharot

Good things to watch.

The Walking Dead on AMC.

Objectified. A documentary on our relationships with manufactured objects.

Good things to use.

These are all web development related.

React.js by Facebook and Instagram.

Firefox Dev Tools have come along way over the past 2 years.

Cloud 9 IDE.  Coding in the cloud has never been so good.

Connect with Dustan on Twitter, @iamdustan.

Greg Pierce – Developer

Greg Pierce is the developer for Agile Tortoise, the shop behind the apps Drafts, Terminology, and Tally. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

Most of my reading time for the last few years has been dedicated to reading to my three children. I have tended to read them young reader fiction that is above their level by a few years. Some that might be of interest for those who have young readers or future readers about the house include: Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s Peter & the Starcatchers series and Trenton Lee Stewart’s Mysterious Benedict Society books.

The former is just plain fun adventure re-imagining Peter Pan’s early year. The later follow a quirky bunch of gifted kids recruited to help save the world. Fun for kids, entertaining enough for the adult reader as well.

One last suggestion, Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc. is a great read about Ed’s time leading Pixar and re-thinking many business practices.

Good things to watch.

Boyhood. I’ve been a fan of Richard Linklater’s movies for years. His writing and directorial style squeeze great depth and subtlety out of superficially simple scenes. This film was made over the course of 12 years so it could follow the growth of a boy without the need for makeup or other tricks. Technical achievement aside, it was simple a great movie that captures the disoriented feelings of youth like few others.

The Apple TV PBS and Smithsonian channels are also amazing rat holes. Great on-demand selection of high quality documentaries and informational shows. I am particularly fond of the historical ones.

Good things to use.

Keen Clearwater CNX Sandals. The most comfortable, lightweight, multi-purpose shoe I’ve owned.

Pentel Twist-Erase III Mechanical Pencil. I am not a pen person, I prefer pencils and this one is the best. I recommend a 0.7 lead as the best balance between lead strength and clarity on paper. It’s got a truly useful eraser, dependable mechanism and comfortable grip.

Connect with Greg on Twitter, @AgileTortoise.

Sara Letourneau – Writer

Sara Letourneau is a writer who lives in Massachusetts. She’s a published poet and is currently working on the first draft of a fantasy novel. She also writes tea reviews for A Bibliophile’s Reverie and articles on the craft of writing at Grub Street’s blog. These are her good things.

Good things to read.

Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea books. It always surprises me how many fantasy readers haven’t heard of this series. And though it’s not as well-known as the worlds of Middle-Earth, Narnia, and Hogwarts, it deserves a place on the shelf with them. LeGuin’s Earthsea series combines magic, conflict, and (in some stories) the presence of dragons with the rustic, simplistic lifestyles of its native peoples and a pursuit of harmonic balance comparable to Taoism. In other words, it contains elements that will feel familiar to fantasy readers while offering something unique to the genre. I love that aspect of the series as well as LeGuin’s writing style, which is concise, lyrical, and powerfully evocative.


Allan G. Hunter’s The Path Of Synchronicity. I read this book about 2 years ago when I was going through a period of situational depression. Not only did it introduce me to the concept of synchronicity (the coincidental occurrence of seemingly unrelated events), but it inspired me to make positive changes in my life so I could lift myself to a better, happier place. Hunter also handles the discussion of synchronicity with great care. He writes with the understanding that some readers may be learning about the topic for the first time, and presents examples from literature and real life to support his ideas. If you’re interested in self-help / spirituality books, I highly recommend this as well as Hunter’s most recent work, Gratitude and Beyond: Five Insights for a Fulfilled Life.


Susan G. Wooldridge’s Poemcrazy and Judy Reeves’ A Writer’s Book Of Days. These are my two favorite writing prompt books of all time, and for different reasons. In Poemcrazy, poet and writing instructor Wooldridge offers prompts, strategies, meditations, and stories from her workshops and personal life. It’s also beautiful to read; the fluid, engaging prose allows the reader to feel Wooldridge’s unbridled joy for poetry. A Writer’s Book Of Days is a treasure chest of inspiration. Prompts for every day of the year, a wide variety of exercises to flex the writing muscles, quotes from and amusing facts about famous authors – Reeves packs so much into this book that it’s hard not to learn or be spurred by something new every time you open it.

Good things to watch.

I rarely watch TV, but I discovered Orphan Black earlier this year. Wow!! Science fiction, drama, comedy, and horror mashed together to tell the story of a group of female clones who come together to fend off a biogenetics corporation clamoring for the secrets of their creation – secrets that the clones themselves are trying to figure out. How’s that for a cool and original premise? The acting on Orphan Black is incredible, too. Tatiana Maslany plays all five clones – yes, five different characters, each with their own personality and voice / accent. Her talent knows no bounds, and I hope Orphan Black can be a launching pad for an increasingly exciting career for her.

The Lord Of The Rings film trilogy and the Harry Potter film series. Can you tell I’m a fan of fantasy? (laughs) I don’t know how to concisely describe how much I love both series other than by saying they’re the only films that I a) revisit on a consistent basis, and b) immerse myself in completely each time I watch then, no matter how many times I’ve watched them before. Great acting, stunning visual effects, and – above all – wonderful storytelling.

Househunters on HGTV. I’d religiously watch this show with my mom when I still lived with my parents after graduating from college. I loved guessing which property the prospective buyer(s) would pick in the end (and seeing if I was correct!). Once I started condo-shopping, I realized the show’s educational value. It taught me to use a realistic approach that balanced budget with my wants and needs – and to pay attention to that “falling in love with the right place” feeling when it hits!

Good things to use.

Teavana’s Copper Tea Tumbler. If you drink loose-leaf tea and want to take it on the go, this product’s for you. It’s easy to use, functional, and sleekly design. The stainless steel interior keeps your tea hot (or cold, depending on how you prepare it) for several hours, but the heat / coldness never transfers to the exterior. I take this tumbler – with tea inside, of course – with me on long car rides or driving vacations.

Pilot® G-2 Retractable Gel Ink pens. Not the prettiest pens on the market, but they write so smoothly and fit so comfortably in your hand. They come in different point sizes, too; I love the ultra-fine point (0.38 mm). This is the only brand of pens I use for journaling or writing by hand when my laptop’s not handy. Nothing else feels right.

A sense of gratitude. Remembering one thing you’re grateful for each day works wonders for your outlook. I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal for the past couple years. The results have been nothing short of amazing. I view myself and my life in a more positive light, and I have more hope and confidence about the future now than I’d had at any other time in my life.

Connect with Sara at her websiteFacebook, or Twitter, (@SaraL_Writer).

Claire Diaz-Ortiz – Writer

Claire Diaz-Ortiz is a public speaker and author of Twitter for Good. These are her good things.

Good things to read.

Rework. An amazing book on rethinking how we think work. Think short, sweet, smart.

Fascinate. Do you want to fascinate others? You should. Otherwise you’re, well, boring. This book tells you how to be the awesomesauce you want to be.

Thrive. It’s not just about thriving in business, it’s about thriving in life. Arianna Huffington shows you how.

Good things to watch.

The Killing! Tv at its most golden (and dark… and rainy…).

Fargo. Once you get past the fact that this tv series is still not set in North Dakota, of course.

House Hunters International. Because every real estate maven (that’s me!) needs a good 12-hour HGTV marathon.

Good things to use.

The Oral-B Professional Care 1000: The best electric toothbrush. Hands down. And if you don’t yet use an electric toothbrush, we need to have a sit down.

Baby Connect. The best app for new mamas (and papas). ignore the others. Get this and track away.

A pencil. For filling out the NY Times crossword puzzle, that is. (except Sundays, because those are only for crazy people).

Connect with Claire on Twitter, @Claire.

Lauren Bowling – Financial Blogger

Lauren Bowling is the financial blogger at L Bee and The Money Tree where she lifts the curtain of taboo about personal finances. These are her good things.

Good things to read.

Relic. The first of the Agent Pendergast novels by famed authors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, I’ve been a fan of their books for many years. Since Relic is the first it’s a great place to start if you’re looking for a series of “grown up” novels to get into. The subject matter is pithy and often science based, so in addition to being entertained, you’ll learn a lot as well.

Gone Girl. This book was a bestseller since it came out in 2012, but with the movie (starring Ben Affleck) coming out in theaters in October, I thought I’d see what all the fuss is about. I literally couldn’t put it down, and I never say that about a book. In addition to being a “thriller” it also highlights a lot of things about long term relationships that I thought were interesting.

Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time. Dang. This book is cool. Relying heavily upon research the author, Brigid Schulte, examines why the American culture is so obsessed with “doing it all.” Definitely recommend this read for people who feel guilty about having “me” time or are looking for ways to scale back.

Good things to watch.

Thirtysomething.  This show dates back to the late 80’s/early 90’s and chronicles the tales of a group of friends in their –you guessed it!- early thirties. While I’m not quite into my thirties yet a lot of the issues around friendship, work, family and life in general are still relevant today. I was surprised by how timeless the themes in this show are. Available on DVD or Amazon Instant.

Moonrise Kingdom. My boyfriend is a big Wes Anderson fan, and he’s been getting me into the films. So far, Moonrise Kingdom is my favorite. Although it has all of Anderson’s favorite actors making cameos (Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, etc.) the movie surrounds a pair of star-crossed pre-teens and their search for love and acceptance.

Orange is the New Black. Netflix is killing it with the dramas they offer to viewers. OITNB seems like everyone’s new favorite obsession, and it is the writing and acting that make it so superb. If you haven’t watched it yet, you are missing out!

Good things to use.

A List of Things You’re Thankful For. I’ve been having a rough time of it lately between the death of my dog and a falling out with a family member. When I’ve felt sad or overwhelmed, I embarked on a gratitude project, where I list three things I’m thankful for each day. It keeps things in perspective and instantly lightens my mood. It really works!

A Net Worth Tracker. I still have a budget and track my expenses monthly, like every good financial steward should do :)  BUT I set a large “net worth” goal for the year, and track my debts and assets quarterly to ensure that even if I miss the smaller targets, I’m still hitting my bigger goals in the long run. This is a great way to stay focused, and get motivated by the progress. I offer the one I made in excel to my email subscribers, and CNN has a great net worth calculator as well.

TheSkimm. It is a completely free newsletter sent your inbox every morning that breaks down all of the highlights from the last 24 hours of news so you can be abreast of everything that is happening in the world. I love this because it enables me to speak comfortably and confidently about current events, even though I only read the “highlights” from the newsletter. It makes my day easier, better, and makes me sound like a “grown up.”

Connect with Lauren on Twitter, @LBeeMoneyTree.


Gabe Weatherhead – Writer, Podcaster

Gabe Weatherhead writes about Mac and iOS at and co-hosts the Technical Difficulties podcast. These are his good things

Good things to read.

I’ve been on a classic sci-fi tear lately. I wasted my youth on reading technical books when I could have wasted it on reading science fiction so I’m making up for lost time.

As with any prolific writer, the works of Asimov and Philip K. Dick are variable in quality and theme. As stand-alone works I’d recommend Asimov’s The End of Eternity and Dick’s Ubik. In a way, they both deal with the facets of reality we take for granted and do it in interesting ways.

I find it fascinating to read these old novels in the context of our modern lives. The contrasts between the culture of the 50’s and 60’s versus our own lives in 2014 are sometimes striking. Often it’s the banal differences like those between gender and racial norms that are the most disturbing.

I also enjoy modern science fiction and Influx by Daniel Suarez is an excellent contrast to Asimov’s vision of the future. Suarez constructs his world based on modern events like the Snowden revelations but forecasts a not-so-distant future that is both believable and surprising.

Good things to watch.

The Avatar animated series is my top pick for television. The story telling is an incredible mix of humor and humanity. I’ve watched this entire sequence several times with my daughter and the characters hold a special place for us. It’s wonderful story telling.

I’m a big Miyazaki nerd and there’s no way I can pick a favorite movie. I love everything he’s made but Castle in The Sky is a bit less well known but also fun story with plenty of interesting plot changes. The characters are endearing and varied but also suitable to watch with a young child.

Porco Rosso is another less-known Miyazaki film. It’s worth the running time just to hear the English dub with Michael Keaton as a pig-man. This is a bit of a weird one and will test your ability to suspend reality. You’ll also need to be OK with not getting a complete resolution to all of the major plot points. Kind of like real life.

Good things to use.

I purchased the Field Notes Wallet when it first came out. It was an experiment of moving away from an everyday carry kind of wallet to a purposeful notebook that also carries my ID and credit card. The experiment was a terrific success and I love the wallet. It conveniently holds a Field Notes pad and a small pen but also has enough pockets to carry some money and a couple of key plastic cards.

I’m not sure I can even list all of the reasons I love my Synology NAS. But the simple fact that I can use it as my own private photo service is pretty awesome. This NAS continues to provide new value every month I’ve owned it and It’s one of the few pieces of hardware that I’ve never regretted a single dollar I spent on it.

If you need to collaborate with anyone, I don’t think there is a better platform than Slack. I’ve written an ode to Slack and it continues to delight me everyday. I collaborate with seven different groups of people and share code, images and files through the various platforms they support.

Connect with Gabe on Twitter, @Macdrifter.

Patrick Welker – Engineer/Writer

Patrick Welker was an audio-engineer, is now a student, and writes about technology at RocketInk.  These are his good things.

Good things to read.

My first pick is Rumo: And His Miraculous Adventures by Walter Moers. Moers is a the German fantasy author who build his own micro-cosmos – a world called Zamonia which is the place of action in all of his books. He’s also one of the authors who likes his anonymity – I never have seen a picture of him, only the illustrations he draws himself and which are part of all his books. Moers is great at inventing odd characters and creatures. Although all his work is outstanding I choose Rumo because the story has some morbid scenes (which his other books don’t have). It was also my first Moers book. So I have kind of an emotional connection with it. If I’d have to name one thing that I took from it, I’d say it is to “stay hungry”. If I don’t consume too much of the worlds excess supply of anything, I’m in alert mode and can focus on being more productive.

The second book I will add this my little list here is again from a German author: Herrmann Hesse’s Steppenwolf. It appeals to me when the hero of a novel is a loner and all washed-up. The first time I read this book was in my “Sturm und Drang” period. Gladly it aged well and still is a great read. Parental advisory: this book contains social criticism and personality analysis.

Door number three: The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann. I can’t read this book without feeling lost… which is no wonder since one of the main themes of it is escapism. But it’s not the only theme; there are a variety of themes Mann was able to integrate into his novel. It’s like he put all the new inventions and discoveries the early 20th century brought and wrote a ship in a bottle containing all the essentials of that time.

Good things to watch.

Despite having a solid line-up of German authors, I don’t enjoy the German movie landscape that much. In short, I’ll spare you. No German movie recommendations from me.

A movie I can watch over and over is The Big Lebowski by the Coen brothers.

I also watch a lot of anime and cartoons. A TV series I did not expect to be good at all turned out to impress me in the most positive way: Avatar: The Last Airbender. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole ride.

My last pick for the realm of moving pictures is Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Not a movie for everybody. I had to stop the movie in the middle when watching it with my dad who questioned me all the time if there will happen anything at all in this flick. Whatever. If you’re okay with an semi-artificial world filtered through the lens of Mr. Anderson you might enjoy it, too. I love Bill Murray in this movie, the soundtrack is brilliant and the colorful kind of bizarre the director captured on celluloid.

Good things to use.

In the year 2010 I already was a non-smoker for 5 years (after 11 years of smoking). Anyway, I missed several things: rituals and blowing clouds. I took another couple of years before I arrived at the perfect vaping device: Reo’s Mods. The simplicity of the mod reminds me of Apple devices and the flavor you get out of this bottom-feeder is outstanding. If you’re a vaper and haven’t tried a Reo, you’re missing out on something. … and if you don’t mix your own eJuices I can recommend Mad Murdock’s liquids.

Another discovery which brought me much joy came to me in the shape of a shoe: the Nike Free 3.0. Currently it’s not available anymore and has been replaced by the Flyknit version. It’s the lightest shoe that I own and it is super comfortable. I even wear them at home and probably could even wear them while sleeping, too.

I was going to write “an iPhone” because it’s the pocket computer which can do everything and is always with me…. But, I’m going with a Synology NAS for my last pick. The OS it ships with is easy to navigate, I own the DS412+ which comes with 4-bays for enough storage to keep your digital life organized at available everywhere. If you’re the geeky type of fellow you can run all your bash scripts on it, too.

Connect with Patrick on Twitter @_PatrickWelker.

Joanna Castle Miller – Writer and Producer

Joanna Castle Miller is a DC-based playwright and producer whose work has appeared on NBC, VH1, Food Network, and E! Entertainment. She is the founder of Wait Don’t Leave Productions and is currently writing a collection of monologues for women. These are her good things.

Good things to read.

Modern plays are a very quick read for the amount of storytelling you get. You can easily finish a whole play in a night, or over the course of a few rides on the train to work. Some of my favorites are laugh-out-loud funny. Try starting out with one of these: Theresa Rebeck’s Complete Plays (vol. 1 onward), Christopher Durang Explains It All for You, or David Ives’ All in the Timing.

I love returning to Pulitzer Prize Feature Writing winners. About once a year, I re-read “Fatal Distraction,” Gene Weingarten’s winning piece from 2010, as a powerful reminder that nothing is ever what it seems and that empathy matters.

Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (10th Anniversary Edition). I saw another writer on this site recently recommended this book. Great minds read alike? It’s an inspiring and down-to-earth memoir about writing, overcoming obstacles, and finding peace in your creative pursuits.

Good things to watch.

Live theater is the perfect conversation starter and makes for a killer date night or even family night out. It is unpredictable, exciting, and never exactly the same experience. Many theaters offer discounts for seniors, students, and 20-somethings. You can also look for pay-what-you-can (PWYC) performances, preview shows, and discounts online through sites like Goldstar. If you have kids, check out your area’s community theaters and children’s theaters for age-appropriate programming.

Ken Burns’ New York. This documentary covers the scope of American history through the microcosm of New York. I come back to it regularly because of its insight on immigration, urbanization, and political power. The story of the Big Apple is ever-relevant to America at large, and serves to prove history does in fact repeat itself.

Russell Foster – Why Do We Sleep? If you’re like me, you probably forget all the time how much sleep matters. I often don’t realize that whatever I’m going through is directly related to how much sleep I got the night before. Russell Foster realizes it, though, and his Ted Talk just might convince you to change your bedtime.

Good things to use.

A sunlamp. I suffer from acute seasonal affective disorder, and every winter I depend on sunlamps at home and work to help me get through the dark days. If you get the winter blues, light therapy may be able to help you as well. Use it properly, though, or you could get headaches and insomnia. Dr. Norman Rosenthal has a lot of great info on this subject.

Dyson Vacuum Cleaner. Investing in a Dyson was one of the best decisions of my life, after choosing to marry my husband and maybe deciding to grow my own basil. If you have a pet, get a Dyson. If you are hairy, get a Dyson. If both are true for you, get the equivalent of what we have: the DC65 Animal.

Vitamix. Another hefty investment, the Vitamix is a blender for the ages. It puts the pro in food processor. Ours was handed down to us, because they last forever. We use it to make healthy green shakes in the morning, hummus in the afternoon, pesto in the evening, and frosties for dessert.

Connect with Joanna on Twitter @jocastlemiller.

Jeet Banerjee – Entrepreneur

Jeet Banerjee is a serial entrepreneur, having started StatFuse and Visionary Media Group. He’s also given a TEDx Talk. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

The Millionaire Fastlane, MJ DeMarco.

Rich Dad Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki. every morning.

Good things to watch.

Shark Tank.

The Wolf of Wall Street.


Good things to use. Simplifies my social media life by making it easy for me to manage the multiple accounts I have.

Wunderlist. Reminder style app that allows you to create lists, organize priorities and get stuff done efficiently.

My Fitness Pal. Keeps me healthy and in-shape by giving me in-depth analysis on the food I eat.

Connect with Jeet on Twitter, @TheJeetBanerjee.