Tim Prebble – Sound Designer and Composer

Tim Prebble is a Field Recordist & Photographer, Sound Designer & Composer. His blogs at THE MUSIC OF SOUND and his project directory is here. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit.  I love getting lost and this book has been my constant travel companion throughout the Pacific and Southeast Asia. Wide ranging in ideas, this is a great book to dip into – equal parts anecdotal & philosophical. What does it mean to be lost? What does the colour blue mean? What does it mean to be fully present?

The Potential for Change. As someone who is devoted to time based arts, I have a deep appreciation for change and the potential for change. Every photo attempts to freeze time, every time-lapse attempts to manipulate time and reveal hidden patterns which are usually invisible to the naked eye. Every sound and piece of music alters the listener, often overtly but sometimes change occurs without conscious awareness. Learning to read the potential for change and to put yourself in the path of interesting experiences is a vital & lifelong skill to be developed.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. This is a witty, insightful and inspiring book which is grounded in sage advice for anyone who considers creativity a vital part of their life, irrespective of the medium or form it takes.

Good things to watch.

Andy Goldworthy’s Rivers and Tides, a documentary by Thomas Riedelsheimer.  To experience Goldworthy’s art in situ must be a magic experience, and this documentary is the next best thing. His work is exquisitely ephemeral, and could be considered as both an intervention and collaboration with nature. But unlike actually experiencing his land art or sculptures, this documentary allows us to witness Goldworthys work through its development and exploration, to failure and collapse. An invaluable and allegorical reminder of our impermanence.

Golden Hour. Watching the light drain from the sky as the sun sets is one of life’s quiet joys. The spectral shift, the dramatic transformation in light level and the unpredictable nature of such fleeting moments mean that both the sunset and the observer are never the same twice.
Catching the sunrise requires a different form of commitment, and is often easier when travelling and outside ones usual time and perceptual comfort zone. But the best start to any day is to quietly witness the beautiful transition from the stillness of night through the dawn chorus to the new day.
Make the effort to join all of bird life in its daily ritual of celebration for a brand new day.

Wings of Desire, a film by Wim Wenders. As a kid I was brought up on the usual diet of local & American film and TV, but skipping a boring lecture at University to sneak into a screening created a permanent transformation: this film sparked the beginning of a vital shift in my perception, a life long love of art films and to discover and pursue my vocation in film. A beautiful exploration of what it means to be human and to be alive.

Good things to use.

Barometer.  While we all depend on broadcast weather forecasts to plan our day and work, learning to interpret and predict your local weather is an invaluable skill and owning a barometer plays an important part. My Dad always used to tap his barometer as he headed out to work after lunch, and I never understood why until I owned a barometer myself – its about change. Also note: ancient science does not require batteries. Or software updates.

Portable sound recorder. As someone obsessed with sound, it is very rare I don’t have a recorder with me. And when I can’t have my full sound recording rig with me I do ALWAYS have a portable sound recorder with me.  While the obvious use is for collecting sounds, its primary purpose is actually to collect ideas: whether it’s narrating an idea after waking at 4am, capturing slices of personal & family life, documenting a verbal stream of consciousness during a road trip, or recording idiosyncratic sounds that no one else might even notice, let alone hear. Consider it the time based equivalent of a pencil & notebook. eg Sony M10 or Sony D100.

Time. We all live in our version of ‘real time’ but what exactly is time and is it real?  Delmore Schwartz says it more eloquently than I can: “Time is the school in which we learn, time is the fire in which we burn.”  Time is elastic, our perception of time can be manipulated and making sentient use of time is crucial. But so is the idea of idle time, having time to daydream, to let your mind freely wander. Giving our undivided attention to something or someone almost seems a rarity these days, as our ‘free time’ becomes progressively commodified. There are so many presumptions attached to modern digital life. A simple example: if you have a “to do” list, do you also have a “to don’t” list?  The world does not end if you turn off your un/smart phone.  Become 100% present, close your eyes and listen. That sound you hear is time flowing all around you.
Connect with Tim on Twitter, @TimPrebble, and see what else he reads to fuel his creative process.

Brandon Epstein – Founder of Entrepreneur Fitness

Brandon Epstein is the founder of Entrepreneur Fitness  host of The Entrepreneur Fitness Podcast, where he coaches people on creating abundant energy, peak mental states, and optimal emotional health. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

The Alchemist. A powerful story about the power of intention and thoughts.

Think and Grow Rich. The bible for self help.

The Biology of Belief. Scientifically explains how our thoughts and emotions effect our cells and genes.

Good things to watch.

Tony Robbins TED Talk. The longest TED talk of all time. Captivating and powerful.

Any Oprah graduation speech.Great advice for anyone in a place of transition.

Will Smith Inspiration compilation. Incredibly inspiring.

Good things to use.

Basecamp.com. Best way to manage projects.

BetterYou. Best app for guided meditation.

VisionBox. Best app for designing lockscreens to attract your dream life.

Ask Brandon your question on Twitter, @Brandon_Epstein.

John Klima – Editor and Writer

John Klima is the Assistant Director at the Waukesha Public Library and editor of the SFWA Bulletin. John was a past editor of the Hugo-Award winning Electric Velocipede among other ventures and is currently working on series of short stories. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

Night Shift by Stephen King. This is potentially my favorite book of all time. This story collection brings together some of King’s early short fiction that he published between 1968 and 1978. This book showcases what King can do with the short form. While I feel that many of his novels go on too long, King’s short fiction really shines. He’s able to pack a lot of ideas into a small space. There are seeds for his novel work in this collection, too with “Jerusalem’s Lot” (Salem’s Lot) and “Night Surf” (The Stand) alongside a number of stories that were adapted (often unsuccessfully) into feature films including “Children of the Corn,” “The Mangler,” and “Graveyard Shift.” We’ll ignore the film versions of “The Lawnmower Man” and “Trucks” (made into Maximum Overdrive). There are taught thriller stories like “The Ledge,” “Quitters Inc.,” “Strawberry Spring,” and “The Man Who Loved Flowers.” There are also stories that border on science/speculative fiction like “I Am the Doorway,” “Trucks,” Battleground,” or “Night Surf.” And then there’s the meat of King’s oeuvre, horror with excellent stories like “Jerusalem’s Lot,” “The Boogeyman,” “Gray Matter,” and “Children of the Corn.” But it’s “Sometimes They Come Back” that’s the highlight of the book. It hits all the notes you find in later work like “The Body” or It but in a tight compact story that incorporates nostalgia, family, revenge, and the supernatural. I know this is mostly a list of story titles, but that’s the great thing about this book; there’s so many good stories you won’t go wrong with any of them.

The Empire of Ice Cream. A Short Story Collection by Jeffrey Ford. I take it back, this is my favorite book of all time. I debated recommending Ford’s first story collection, The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant: And Other Stories, but this collection is stronger. If you like this one, go and find the other, you won’t be disappointed. From the Nebula-Award winning title story “The Empire of Ice Cream” where the protagonist whose synthesis starts to affect the reality around him to being able to calculate an actual weight to the printed word and thereby being able to impart subliminal messages in text in “The Weight of Words” there isn’t a bad story in this book. It’s hard to summarize Ford’s writing as he excels at taking the mundane and turning it inside out and on its head. To call this collection brilliant hardly does service to it. Perhaps my favorite parts are the afterwords that Ford wrote for each story which give you a different side to Ford’s unique voice. This collection really showcases the breadth of Ford’s abilities and is something any reader or aspiring author should have on their shelf.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. No, I was wrong twice. This is my favorite book of all time. It can be a little difficult to get into, it was published in 1818, but once you get going you’ll never look back. Considered by many, including me, to be the first science fiction story, we all know the story of Frankenstein, right? Frankenstein, the monster, Igor, lightning, groaning, pitchforks . . . not really. More recent movie adaptations have been more faithful to the original text, but none of them carry the weight of Shelley’s words. Do you know its backstory? Shelley started working on the book in 1816 when she was 18 during the “Year without a Summer” when it was too cold for outdoor activities during the summer. She and her then lover (later husband) Percy Bysshe Shelley, their friend Lord Byron, and Byron’s personal physician John Polidori were stuck trying to come up with ideas to entertain themselves (as the Internet in the early 19th century was quite poor). Byron suggested they all try writing a ghost story after an evening of reading ghost stories from a French translation of a book of German ghost stories. Shelley (Percy) and Byron never completed their stories, but Polidori eventually composed and published The Vampyre in 1819 while Shelley (Mary) composed Frankenstein which was published anonymously in 1818 and then under her name in 1823. It’s the themes covered in the book that make it so amazing: creation, scientific exploration, religion, parenthood, child-rearing, mortality, feminism, and more. Forget everything you think you know about the story. Focus on the idea of a man creating life and dealing with the aftermath. A reluctant father who not only lacks the ability to nurture or care for his child but is actually disgusted and horrified at what he created. All the child, Frankenstein’s monster, wants is to be loved, for someone to validate its existence. And when the ‘child’ finally matures and rebels, the results are disastrous. I’m amazed that a book with this depth and maturity was written by a teenager. It shows how good a writer Mary Shelley is. If you’ve never read the book or you’ve tried and not finished, you owe it to yourself to give it another try.

Good things to watch.

In the Mood for Love. A film from Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai from 2000. This is my favorite movie of all time. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Every shot is a beautifully crafted picture. It doesn’t hurt that the leads are Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung. The movie is set in 1962 Hong Kong and Leung and Cheung play married neighbors. The two often find themselves alone together and a friendship between the two grows. In 1962 Hong Kong a friendship between a married man and a married woman would have been under intense scrutiny so the two are careful in how they see each other. I won’t say more because I want you to see the film and enjoy it. It has a very slow and deliberate pace, so be prepared!

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. My second-favorite movie of all time. It’s about a group of students in Texas who travel during their summer break to where their grandfather is buried because of reports of grave vandalism. The local gas station’s pumps are empty (a chilling reminder of the oil crisis from the previous year) so the kids drive to their grandparent’s house with the intention of getting gas the next day. One couple heads to a local swimming hole but find it dry. They hear a generator in the distance and decide to see if the generator’s owner would have some gas to spare. Hey, it was a different time. People were kinder (they picked up a hitchhiker!) so it’s not as dumb an idea as it seems. Things don’t go well. One of the other friends goes to find them and things don’t go well for him either. We’re left with the brother (in wheelchair) and sister who try to figure out what’s going on. The kids aren’t particularly bright but they’re not as dumb as later slasher film victims would be (this film being the start of the slasher film genre that dominated the 1980s). When they see scary stuff/dead people, they try to leave. They don’t keep looking. Even if you’ve seen this, you should probably see it again. There’s no supernatural killers, no extreme violence, just scary stuff. In my opinion, this movie does one of the best jobs of showing how frightening this encounter would be. It’s truly terrifying because the movie uses your imagination more than it shows you things. You only think you see stuff.

Saturday Night Fever. My third-favorite movie of all time (yes, I have odd tastes). You think you know this movie, but you don’t. You think it’s a happy-go-lucky piece of fluff about a white suit and disco dancing. It’s not. This is a movie about growing up without a plan. About getting older and seeing life pass you by. This is about leaving the safety of your parents’ home and trying to make a go of it on your own. The movie is about uncertainty and fear. It’s about anxiety and failure. It’s blunt, it’s brutal. You will cry. You watch this young man try to figure out what to do with his life and no one has prepared him with the tools to do so. Yes, there’s dancing, there’s disco music, so be prepared for that. But the movie is about so much more. This is one of the few movies I own and I watch it as often as I can. Here’s something else you might not know: the movie is based on Nik Cohn’s article for New York magazine (“Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night” which you can read online). The article was completely fabricated as the author had just moved to Brooklyn from London and didn’t know the local scene.

Good things to use.

Trello. I work on a lot of projects. To keep myself organized, I use Trello. It’s sort of a project management software suite, but sort of not. You create boards (e.g., Short Fiction, Novels, Library, etc.) and then in each board you can add lists. Each list then is populated with cards. Cards can have notes, labels (color-coded), checklists, due dates, attachments, etc. For example, my Short Fiction board has five lists: Ideas, Draft, Revise, Alpha/Beta Readers, and Submit. Then each idea or story has its own card that I move from one list to the next depending on where it is in development. I use the labels to indicate story length and genre so I can instantly see some information about the story without opening it up and reading the notes. And you can use it to collaborate, too. All the different pieces of Trello can be shared with individuals. So you could have three boards (e.g., Movie, Game, and Album). Each board could have unique members or shared members. Then within the boards, you can set who has access to which lists and even down to the card level. That’s where the project management angle comes in. It’s web-based and has a nice app (both Android and iOS) so you can update stuff on the go. This has been great as I’ve stopped losing story ideas since I can quickly create new cards in Trello on my phone.

Magic Spreadsheet. It’s been the one thing to motivate my writing where everything else has failed. The Magic Spreadsheet gamifies writing. If you hit your daily word count (250 words) you get a point (there’s a scale for when you write more than that, but let’s start simple). Then you get a point for every day of the chain you’re in up to 30 points. That means on day one you’d get two points for hitting your goal and starting a chain. Day two, you’d get one point for your writing but two for your chain. That means after two days you’ve got three points. If you keep an unbroken chain, you’ll max out at 30 (so you’d get 31 each day for your word count and chain length) but if you miss a day, you start over at one again for your chain points. I first heard of this via Mur Lafferty’s I Should be Writing podcast. You can find a Google Plus community dedicated to it and then ask to be a part of a future spreadsheet.

Function keys, keyboard shortcuts, and find and replace codes. When I worked as a programmer we tried to use the mouse as little as possible; it just slowed you down. The more you could do functions from your keyboard, the better. This might just be a Windows thing, but I use function keys as often as I can. Refresh a page on the Internet? F5. Need to rename a file quickly? F2. Need a search window? F3 (ESC to close it). Select the address bar in your browser (to enter a new URL)? F6. Use F7 to spell check in Word (SHIFT + F7 to open the thesaurus), F9 to send and receive email in Outlook and to zoom in and out in Publisher, and F11 switches your browser to full-screen mode. But my favorite function key? In most Microsoft products the F12 works as a Save As. When would you use that? When I’m working on monthly reports I open last month’s, hit F12 and save it as this month’s, and then I start working. That way I never over-write the old file. I also use a ton of keyboard shortcuts. I assume everyone knows the CTRL + C to copy and CTRL + V to paste. But did you know that CTRL + TAB moves you from one tab to the next (left to right) in most browsers and CTRL + SHIFT + TAB moves you the other (right to left) direction? In excel CTRL + PAGE UP/PAGE DOWN moves you from one worksheet to another in a work book. CTRL + W closes the open window in many applications. ALT + TAB switches from one open application to another, repeat to scroll through a list. CTRL + ARROW KEYS moves your cursor one full word at a time in the direction you’re pointing (left and right) or an entire paragraph at a time (up and down). Holding down the SHIFT key at the same time and you highlight that word/words/paragraph for copying/cutting. There are a ton out there and nearly every program has its own special set of combos. Finally, I used to do a lot of layout of documents from a variety of sources. I got to know Word’s find-and-replace function pretty well. You can do find and replace with special characters using the caret character (I did this in InDesign, too) which can be really useful. Ones I used most often were ^p ^t and ^m (paragraph, tab, and page break respectively). You can do a lot of powerful stuff in the find-and-replace dialog box. You can replace a double dash with an em dash (find — replace ^+) or a manual line break with a paragraph break (find ^l replace ^p) and more. Search online and you can find tons of examples.

Connect with John on Twitter, @JohnKlima.

Michael Raphael – Sound Effects Recordist

Michael Raphael is sound effects recordist. He blogs here, and sells sound effects libraries here. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth. Philip Roth is a rather polarizing figure, and this is one of his stranger novels. Pathetic and depraved does not even begin to describe the depths of the book’s main character, Mickey Sabbath. Roth had a bit of renaissance in the late nineties with books like American Pastoral, I Married a Communist, and The Human Stain, but I think Sabbath’s Theater is the real gem.

Too Loud A Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal. The book’s main character, Hanta is a guy who saves rare and banned books while working as a waste paper recycler. All sorts of literary gems pass through his press, and he can’t bear to crush them. The books become his education and his world.

Alan Mendelsohn, The Boy From Mars by Daniel Pinkwater. I remember first reading this book in elementary school. It was so surreal. The main character, Leonard Neeble, is completely bored by Junior High, and his failing grades land him into therapy. His therapist allows him to smoke cigars while chewing bubble gum. The real psychedelia ensues when Leonard meets his buddy Alan. I still can’t believe I checked this thing out of the school library.

Good things to watch.

Message to Love – The Isle of Wight Festival. It is amazing that so much of this footage sat unedited for decades. Murray Lerner shot it in 1970, but the majority of the material didn’t see the light of day until 1995. The entire collection is worth watching, but the Miles Davis performance is a real highlight for me. The band at that show was insane: Mile Davis,Jack Dejohnette, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Dave Holland, Gary Bartz, and Airto Morea. All those dudes were in the same band.

Anything the Coen brothers are up to. I thought Inside Llewyn Davis wasn’t really given its due, and No Country for Old Men is a real favorite. I love the use of silence in No Country for Old Men.

The Colors Trilogy by Krzysztof Kieślowski. All three films in this trilogy are stunning and will completely crush your soul.

Good things to use.

A Cooper CS-104 mixer. This piece of equipment is only going to be useful if you are recording audio out in the field and you want it to sound more awesome than the next guy. Cooper Sound is no longer in business, but their products are still widely used because of their superior design and sound. There are tons of portable mic pres and mixers with more bells and whistles, but to my ears this unit is the best.

Rhodia Pads. When I need a pen and paper for note-taking, my preferred notepads are their graph ruled, staple bound orange pads.

Garmin Edge 500. I’m a cyclist and my Garmin helps me obsessively track all my rides and their associated data. I won’t be getting paid to ride my bike anytime soon, but I love data. If you upload your data to services like [trava, you can also find new rides based on other riders’ routes.

Connect with Michael on Twitter, @Sepulchra.

The Glad Stork – Comic Creator

By day, The Glad Stork works at a soul-crushing corporate job and is an Adjunct IT Professor; by night, he makes comics about parenting, life, and cubicles at TheGladStork.com. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

This Is Water. Sometimes life is tough and it seems like everyone is in your way. This is actually your “default” way of thinking–that the world revolves around you. Get out of your default setting. “This Is Water” is a commencement address given by the late great David Foster Wallace at Kenyon College in 2005. I make a point to reread this at least once a year.

Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed.David Cain writes Raptitude, one of my favorite sources for insight on mindfulness, happiness, and living a good life. This is one of my favorite Raptitude articles. It is a refreshing take on the close knit relationship between the indentured servitude of the 9-5 and our consumerist culture.

Your Money Or Your Life. A dollar spent is a portion of your life spent earning that dollar that you’ll never get back. Spend wisely on the things that matter most to you. Stop thinking of money as something that is used to buy stuff, and instead think of it as something that is used to buy your own time. Your Money Or Your Life should be required reading for all high school kids.

Good things to watch.

23 ½ Hours. Laughter is the best medicine? Wrong. It’s actually a walk. Stay active. Stay healthy. Stay happy.

Everything is amazing and nobody’s happy or Hilarious” on Netflix (28 minutes in). Louis CK says, “We live in an amazing world and it’s wasted on the crappiest generation of spoiled idiots.” Watch him discuss the insane contradiction between our bad attitudes and the amazingness of everything around us.

Marc Maron’s Interview with Robin Williams. This interview is audio only, so I’m cheating the system here. I’m not normally affected by celebrity deaths, but this one got to me. I’ve been watching a lot of Robin Williams interviews, as if to tell myself to face the emotions and let them wash over me and use it to understand the hard times others are going through and to get through my own hard times. I’d recommend the full interview, or skip to 55:34 when Robin discusses the gratitude-driven thought process that got him through the first time he considered suicide.

Good things to use.

Affirmations. If you use computers, you have to change your password frequently. If you’re a functioning adult, you desire positive change in your life. Combine these two seemingly unrelated life aspects to naturally begin using affirmations. Affirmations are the closest thing to real magic I’ve ever seen.

The Circle of Control. I was at a Fourth of July parade with my older brother when we passed a ‘roided out guy in a cutoff t-shirt that said “USA… Back-to-Back World War Champs”. My brother was filled with rage. “What an asshole. Treating death and destruction like a sporting event.” I agree; that guy’s an asshole. But letting an asshole ruin your day is a waste of a day. Instead fill your Circle of Concern with your Circle of Control–devoting time, energy, and thoughts only to the things that you can affect.

Stoicism. Many of the above Good Things are ways of thinking that fall in line with a Stoicism “Life Philosophy”. There was a time when philosophy focused less on answering the unanswerable and more on how to live a purposeful and good life. This book is a very accessible introduction to “The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy”.

Connect with the The Glad Stork on Twitter, @TheGladStork or Facebook.

Jason Lewis – Author

Jason K. Lewis is the author of ‘Empire Under Siege’ and ‘Phoenix Rising’, as well as the short stories ‘Paradise’ and ‘The Bloody King’, which is free until the end of the month everywhere except Amazon. These are his good good things.

Good things to read.

Empire magazine. Great for keeping up to date on what’s new in the world of cinema- and that’s important for me as a cinephile.
The chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen Donaldson. In my view one of the only series of fantasy books to come anywhere close to the complexity or scope of Lord of the Rings. The author has been writing them on and off for over thirty years and the cycle is now complete with ten books. Quite an achievement!

The Adarna chronicles. A shameless plug here! My meager attempt to come up with a fantasy series. No where near as good as Lord of the Rings or even the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, but hey, everyone has to start somewhere!

Good things to watch.

The Almighty Johnsons. This is, quite simply, the best show to come out of New Zealand. Ever. It may actually be the only show to come out of New Zealand. I cannot praise it enough for its quirky, loony brilliance. There are three seasons on Netflix and (very sadly) it looks like no more will be made (although they should be!). Unlike many series, it does have a satisfying ending though. Would highly recommend it.
Game of Thrones- Say no more… This is good as a show. Is it better than the books? Probably not, but just as Peter Jackson managed what everyone thought was impossible with the Lord of the Rings movies, the guys over at HBO have done a brilliant job of translating George R.R. Martin’s epic to the small screen. Now, if only G.R.R.M. would finish A Song of Ice and Fire.
All those old shows that you loved as a child that are now available on Netflix. Currently watching The A-team! I love it when a plan comes together.

Good things to use.

ScrivenerThis little piece of software, which is available on PC and Mac is quite simply the best tool in the world for creating complex documents. Less a word processor and more a publishing house on your own computer, it can basically do nearly everything you need to do in order to self-publish a book (apart from write it for you, of course!)
iMac. I spent a long time deriding Macs as being ridiculous and expensive toys for those who insist on being non-conformist but actually conform to another ‘norm’ (if you know what I mean). Then I got one. It’s eight years old and it does everything I want it to do (including running ‘Scrivener’ as the version on the Mac is much better than the PC version). It also starts up in next to no time and is as stable as mount Everest. What more could you ask for.
Createspace- This is a self publishing platform that allows you to create, publish and to a certain degree market your own paperback books. It is a brilliant platform for those of us who do not have traditional publishing deals or do not want to seek them.
Connect with Jason on Twitter, @JasonKLewisWrit

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 jetpens.com

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).