orange is the new black

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.

 

A.C. Wise – Author & Editor

Three Good Things by A.C. Wise

Good things to read.

Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi is a good thing to read for multiple reasons. First of all, it’s a well-told story, beautifully written, with interesting characters who have real human relationships. Which means things get messy sometimes; there are rough edges and people spark of each other, and because the characters are well-written, you can see where everyone is coming from and there isn’t always a clear right and wrong. Secondly, Ascension features diverse characters, an almost all female cast, and offers positive portrayals of queer and polyamorous relationships. If we want to see more fiction like this (and I do!) then we have to vote with our wallets, show publishers and editors and booksellers that there is indeed a market for diverse speculative fiction.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie is a good thing to read for its intriguing world, which causes readers to re-think the notion of self and identity in multiple ways. Several characters in the book have multiple bodies, bringing into question where the ‘self’ truly lies. Furthermore, the author flips the default gender pronoun to female, so even the male characters are referred to as she and her, which effectively erases gender as a factor in the story. Each character can be seen as equally male and female, negating the concept of gendered behavior as necessary – i.e. realistically written males must behave this way, realistically-written females must behave this way. On top of all that, the story itself is an intricate puzzle box, unfolding a piece at a time to build a satisfying whole.

Dead North edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a good thing to read if you’re a sucker for zombie stories, which I am. It’s an even better thing to read if you’re both a sucker for zombies and Canadian. Check and check. The stories go beyond the typical zombie tropes, many digging deep into mythology, particularly First Nations stories, to put a fresh spin on the zombie tale. All the stories being set in Canada allowed the authors to play in new territory and challenged them to think beyond the stereotypical zombie-infested shopping mall scenario. (Not that Canada doesn’t have shopping malls, but you know what I mean.) There were some truly gorgeous and poetic stories here too, making for one of the strongest anthologies I’ve read this year.

Good things to watch.

Orange is the New Black is a good thing to watch because there are very few female-centric casts on television, so kudos to Netflix for going where most network shows won’t. The characters in the show are wonderful, and the actors do a stellar job portraying them. The plot regularly twists away from easy and expected routes, creating subtler, more nuanced relationships and connections between the characters. As with Ascension, the world is grey, frequently with no easy right and wrong, and the carefully told back stories let you know where every character is coming from, making them at least understandable, if not sympathetic in any given situation.

Robot & Frank was easily one of my favorite movies of the year, and one that deserved far more attention than it got, making it a good thing to watch. Frank Langella turns in a marvelous performance as an aging cat burglar who can’t (or won’t) break his old habits even as he increasingly loses his ability to remain independent due to suffering from the early stages of dementia. His son purchases a robot caretaker for him, and the two forge a relationship that is by turns funny, contentious, sweet, and sad. The other actors are brilliant as well, playing characters faced with hard choices, and sometimes heart-breaking ones. The movie also presents a very plausible vision of the near-future, based on the way technology and the world in general seems to be going.

Gravity is a good thing to watch, particularly in 3D. The movie is flat out gorgeous, and far from being gimmicky, the way so many 3D movies can be, here it gives a sense of scope and vastness and lets you share the characters’ tension in a very visceral way. It’s also a good thing to watch, because we need more action movies with female leads, so back to voting with our wallets. The story is relatively simple and the science iffy, but Sandra Bullock’s performance and the visuals of the movie more than make up for it.

Good things to use.

The Neato Pet and Allergy Robotic vacuum is very similar to a Roomba, but this model is specifically designed for homes with pets. It does as great job on fur, which makes it a particularly good thing to use for pet owners. As an extra bonus, it’s generally fun to watch the producer of said pet hair square off against the robot.

The Mukka Express cappuccino maker is a good thing to use if you don’t have the space or budget for a full-on espresso machine. It’s about the size of a small tea kettle, it’s easy to use, and it makes a damned good cappuccino.

The Guidebook app is a good thing to use for conventions, and I would urge any and all con organizers to look into it. It’s a handy way to get program and participant information, and create a custom schedule with reminders. It’s more user friendly than some of the other options I’ve seen, and depending on the level of information provided by the organizers and venue, it even lets attendees look up nearby restaurants, stores, and transportation options, making it overall a very handy resource.

Connect with A.C. on Twitter, @AC_Wise.

Maurice Broaddus – Author

Maurice Broaddus is a professional liar, pursuer of truth, and writer of stories – I Can Transform You is his newest.  These are his good things.

Good things to read.

Cain’s Blood/Project Cain. Geoffrey Girard’s adult and YA novels are terrific and terrifying reads.  It’s like the reverse of the teen fantasy that you’re secretly the son of a prince or a lost wizard:  instead you’re the clone of a serial killer.  And you have to help track down some of your brethren on a rampage.  The books have everything you could want in a serial killer romp:  cloned serial killers, conspiracy theories, terrifying science, chemical weapons, teenage killers, and a really cool black guy.

The Lives of Tao.  Wesley Chu has a powerful debut out from Angry Robot books.  An out of shape IT guy suddenly realizes that the voice in his head is actually an ancient alien life form.  Not only that, but he has to get in shape in order to save the human race.  It’s both laugh out loud and smart.  Hurry up and read it as The Deaths of Tao is about to drop in November.

Crimes in Southern Indiana/Donnybrook.  I first heard of Frank Bill when he came into my hometown to do a reading from his collection Crimes in Southern Indiana.  From page one of his twisted crime stories with characters that read like Elmore Leonard characters on crank, I was hooked.  Donnybrook is his first novel, the Donnybrook in question being a three day bare knuckle tournament in the back hills of southern Indiana.  So a cast of characters in search of their reward:  drugs, sex, violence, whatever, make their way to the tournament.  Sort of a follow the meth filled road  romp where no one wants to meet the wizard for real.

Good things to watch.

Thanks to Hulu and Netflix, I consume A LOT of television.  My television hours frankly are frightening to the point where I should be embarrassed.  I go through a season of television in a couple days and not counting my recent discovery of Aqua Teen Hunger Force (how have I been so late to this party?!?) here are a few things which have caught my attention.

Orange is the New Black. If I were to pitch you a show that was Weeds meets Oz you’d have Orange is the New Black.  Essentially it’s a fish out of water series, the fish being a suburban woman dropped into prison.  Highly addictive.

Justified.  You had me at “there’s a show based on an Elmore Leonard novel.”  (Technically I watched this on Amazon streaming)

Copper.  It’s a steampunk police procedural without the steam.  Or the punk.  Which basically makes it a historical police procedural.  Kevin Corcoran is an Irish immigrant police detective in the Five Points neighborhood in 1860s New York City.  He’s haunted by the disappearance of his wife and death of his daughter.  The show has Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana as its executive producers, the team behind Homicide:  Life on the Streets.

Good things to use.

Dropbox.  As a writer, this has proved to be essential.  It stores my stories in the cloud or whatever you call it (since I’m convinced the internet/cyberspace works by magic), syncs to my devices and my favorite feature is that it saves every draft of everything I write.  Because, 1) it only takes losing a story/chapter/article once due to a crash to convince you to have constant back up; and 2) sometimes I’ve been guilty of saving one file with the name of the other.

Decked Builder.  As a gamer geek, there’s nothing like having an encyclopedia of Magic: the Gathering cards at your finger tips PLUS the ability to see the cards in sample decks and then purchase the cards from the sites of your choice.

Samsung Tab 2 7.0.  As a borderline Luddite (did I mention that the internet works by magic?), even I have to admit that this tablet was the best couple hundred bucks I’ve spent.  Constant access to my stories (via Dropbox), constant access to researching my latest Magic deck (via Decked Builder), plus it uses Google, since I am a slave to the beast and need my gmail, calendar, and hangouts at the push of a button.

Connect with Maurice on Twitter, @MauriceBroaddus.

Andrew Romine – Ink Gorilla

Andrew Penn Romine is a writer and animator living in Los Angeles. He blogs at Inkpunks and on his own blog, InkGorilla; these are his good things.

Good things to read.

Sandman. I’ve only missed the boat on this series by a few decades, but a friend recently lent me the first three collected volumes. I’m hooked on Gaiman’s ethereal romp through the multiverse and pleasantly surprised by all the DC Comics cameos so far. At first it was jarring, but it’s also kind of cool to see old favorites like Batman, Scarecrow, and Wesley Dodds in these weird asides.

Death from the Skies. From Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait, this is a fun romp through all the ways the Universe can kill us: coronal mass ejections, Supernovae, Gamma Ray Bursts, Aliens, Asteroids, and Black Holes. The Death of the Universe. Very tongue in cheek, but hugely informative about this weird, weird universe we live in.

October Country. Ray Bradbury is a hero of mine, and this collection of dark, moody stories is one of my all-time favorites. Some of the tales are a little dated, but Bradbury’s rich prose and shivery explorations of the human heart make them all timeless classics. Read them aloud at a campfire by a lake in the autumn…

Good things to watch.

Orange is the New Black. Netflix’s latest original series is full of wit and heart. I’ve only just started to watch it, but it’s easy to see why it’s a big hit. The characters are well-written, smartly acted, and full of messy contradictions. Their world is as alien (to me) as any I’ve read in speculative fiction, and possibly even more fascinating. Looking forward to seeing more.

Sherlock. I’m sure this has been on a lot of folks’ lists, but I’ve recently been rewatching the first two seasons in anticipation of the upcoming third. Admittedly, some of the mysteries are a little muddled and don’t quite make sense sometimes, but the show is really about the bromance of Sherlock and Watson, and in that it succeeds wildly. Cumberbatch and Freeman seem born to play the roles, and their portrayals almost make you forget that the pair originated in Victorian times not in modern day.

Star Trek DS9. An older show but one that bears rewatching. Star Trek is a venerable franchise, and it can often seem there’s nothing new to be done in its name. Thanks to the benefit of Netflix and binge watching, I’ve been revisiting this series, confirming my opinion it’s the most mature of any of the Trek series so far. It manages to take the noble optimism of Star Trek, muddle it with real messy human drama, and still leave you hopeful on the other side. It’s no wonder Ronald Moore went on to reinvent Battlestar Galactica. I’m hoping he comes back to Star Trek someday.

Good things to use.

Star Walk. My favorite apps right now are heavily influenced by my week at the Launch Pad astronomy workshop–I’ve got space on my brain! Skywalk is a nifty app for the iPad that’s like an interactive heads-up-display for the night sky! Not only does it show you all the stars, nebulae, and constellations, but you can also display the sky in other wavelength’s of the electro-magnetic spectrum (infrared, UV, Gamma Rays!). There’s a clock feature too, so you can fast forward (or rewind) the sky to a given time of day. There’s a feature to overlay the HUD on the actual night sky through your iPad camera, but I live in Los Angeles, and the stars are never bright enough for this to work.

Exoplanet. Another iPad/iPhone app for Space Science geeks, this one focused on cataloging all the extrasolar planets we’ve discovered so far. The app is very interactive, with great animation and graphics to help you visualize the alien star systems. With its zoomable map of the Milky Way, you really feel like you’re living in Star Trek. The app updates with new planets as they are discovered.

Chef’s Knife. I’m doing more cooking these days, and as I’ve learned from my chef-trained wife, there’s nothing as universally handy in the kitchen as a good chef’s knife. With a little practice, there’s nothing you can’t slice or dice — and the flat of the blade (carefully!) makes a great tool for smashing and scooping.

Connect with Andrew on Twitter, @inkgorilla.

Tobias Buckell – Author, Futurist

Tobias Buckell is the author of Arctic Rising, an eco-thriller, and other novels.  He blogs at Tobiasbuckell.com and these are his good things.

Good things to read.

Charles Stross.  Whether it’s his thoughtful blog, or his near future all-too-realistic science fiction, you’ll get an injection of extra brain matter right into the cortex. And if you’re a bit overwhelmed by all the extrapolation, then go for his Merchant series or Laundry series of books. He has something for everyone, they’re all great reads.

Ron Hogan’s Tao. A modern translation of the Tao. Funny, irreverent, and something I keep enjoying reading over the years.

Alastair Reynolds. Amazing science fiction, start with Chasm City.

Good things to watch.

On Netflix, free to watch, is Orange is the New Black. I didn’t enjoy the main character’s yuppie outlook on life, but I found the cast of characters she interacts with to be some of the better acting and interaction in a series. Worth the price of admission to see Kate Mulgrew as an aging Russian matriarch serving a long prison sentence, a stand out performance.

Orphan Black is a joint Canadian/US TV series that just got picked up for a second season. Actress Tatiana Maslany impresses with handling multiple roles, and fully inhabiting each of them. Some quibbles on a some of the accents, but the acting is top notch. The writing is also, so far, a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to the second season.

People. Find a spot, park, and just listen and watch the world going past you. Other drama, other business meetings. I find it all fascinating, and at times, humbling to see what issues others are struggling to get through. Puts my own life in perspective often, and reminds me the other people are not just faces passing by or in my way in the line to get my food.

Good things to use.

I just picked up a propane powered blowtorch to kill weeds with. No chemicals, and it gives you the satisfaction of watching the little suckers shrivel away. Who knew weeding could be fun?

Speck wallet iPhone case. It keeps three cards on the back of my iPhone and simplifies the whole ‘wallet and phone’ issue. I can only keep track of one item.

Betterment.  I have found Betterment to be the best savings online bank financial service thingey yet. Use a slider to indicate your risk level comfort, set it, and forget it.

Connect with Tobias on Twitter, @TobiasBuckell.

Kelly Whalen – The Centsible Life

Kelly Whalen is the author of The Centsible Life, a blog designed to help you live the life of your dreams on a budget. She started her blog 4 years ago, and has since become both a well-known mom blogger and a respected voice in the personal finance realm.

Kelly and her blog have been featured on The Today Show, local networks in Philadelphia, and she has been featured in magazines and print in both national and local publications including Money magazine, Kiplinger’s, and Woman’s Day.

Kelly is a mom to 4, and loves that she can stay at home with her kids, and still pursue her passions for writing, personal finance, and social media.

Good things to read.

Raising Digital Families for Dummies by Amy Bair.  This is a MUST for parents. Let’s face it we’re all dummies when it comes to technology. Even though it’s my job to know digital media I learned so much from this book. It’s an essential tool for parents.

Humor blogs–(Neon Fresh, The Bloggess, Hyperbole and a Half, among others). Sometimes you need a laugh. A good, long, real LOL. Humor blogs are one of my favorite ways to destress or find a little pocket of laughter in my day. Just make sure to put down any liquids before you click over.

Gillian Flynn’s books.  While much has been made about Gone Girl, her latest work, I wasn’t a fan of the ending. I won’t spill the details, but I did love her writing style. I picked up two of her previous books both of which I loved. Be forewarned these are dark, but entertaining, and you won’t be able to put them down.

Good things to watch.

Orange is the New Black.  This Netflix original series is daring and deep. Based on a book and real life experience of Piper Kerman, a upper class white woman from NYC who smuggled drug money a decade earlier. She’s settled into a ‘normal’ life now, but has to serve 15 months for her past crimes. While the premise could be contrived the beauty of the show lies in the way it follows the various characters the main character encounters. It explores the power structure in the prison, race issues, and the hard realities of prison life. It manages to at times be funny, sexy, shocking, and touching without losing its’ tone.

Despicable Me 2.  Yes, it’s a kid’s movie, but it also manages to be fun for the whole family. If you haven’t seen the first film, watch it on DVD or On Demand first. It’s fun, touching, funny, and just makes me smile no matter how many times I’ve watched it. (Two for the DM2, and I can’t count for the original!) It’s worth seeing for the Minions alone!

The 11 o’clock hour on Comedy Central.  The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.  The 11 o’clock hour on Comedy Central is possibly my favorite thing on TV. Comedy, smart interviews, social commentary, all wrapped in a two 30 minute shows. While I like to stay current on news and current events I prefer the smart and funny commentary to 24 hour news channels.

Good things to use.

iPhone.  Seriously. Do I need to say more? It’s sleek, easy to use, and basically contains my life. I can manage our family calendar, pay bills, share photos and updates, and soooo much more.

ChromeCast.  I just learned about this today, but already I’m in love. Streaming your content just got easier with this $35 device from Google. Watch your videos and stream Netflix with just this little ‘dongle’. On backorder now, your best bet is to head here and see what the fastest shipping option is right now.

A budget! I’d be remiss if I didn’t say a budget was a good thing! Having a budget in place is the best thing you can do to help manage your money, and save more. While budgeting can be challenging it will help you consciously spend on what is important to you. Love travel? Cut the cable and get out of the house. Those kinds of choices will bring you more happiness and a better quality of life. You an download a free printable budget on my blog. (http://www.thecentsiblelife.com/printables/)

You can often find her on Twitter, @censisiblelife, and Facebook talking money and motherhood.