public library

Maura Henn – Internet Enthusiast

Maura has been a lot of things in a small amount of time. A wedding and event photographer. A self portrait artist. A farmer’s market manager and free lance writer. She’s learned a little bit about butchering, a lot about baking and a fair amount concerning the making of candlesticks. You can read her sporadic writings at Equal Parts: Magic and Mischief. These are her good things.

Good things to read.

Your friend’s books shelves. If you are lucky maybe they will lend you an interesting title. Friends can be the best librarians.

The acknowledgements inside album covers and novels. These tributes give insight into inspiration, and you may be surprised at what you find.

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. A book about what it is to be stranger in a family of strange people.

Good things to watch.

Women’s Roller Derby! Do you know if you have a local roller derby league in your town? If you do, you should go watch a game (or a bout as us Derby enthusiasts call them). If you don’t have a league, maybe you should start one! Either way, Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby has a little bit of everything: athleticism, entertainment, and grassroots appeal any community can support. As a former Roller Derby Player, I can attest to the determination and commitment it takes to be part of a league, requiring cooperation and volunteer work, not just from the players, but their family and friends too. If you are not interested in playing or volunteering, the best way you can support your team is paying for a ticket and cheering for the people who make the games happen( not just the players, but the referees, and officials too!). Most teams are non-profit and give a part of their game’s proceeds to charities, and if none of that matters to you, just know derby is a fast paced, full contact sport. Expect for there to be loud cheering sections in the crowd!

Buffy, the Vampire Slayer the series. I came late to the Buffy-Verse, as this show aired while I was in high school, I didn’t pay it any attention. Several years later, on the behest of my my boyfriend, I started watching while I was in college. When I finally began to watch with interest, I realized all my pre-conceived ideas about who Buffy was were all wrong. She was an odd girl with with strange friends. This was something to which I could relate. When you take away the vampires and demons and the super-human strength, Buffy Summers is just a young person trying to figure out who she is and what she is supposed to do with her life. As I was often referred to as that “weird girl” in much of my youth (and probably even now) how could I not relate?

Internet Cat Videos.  I declare my love for these here, unapologetically. It is likely that if you own a cat and you share a video of your feline friend on my twitter or facebook feed, I will watch it. Cat videos make me smile, they are my comedy relief. Cat videos got me through more than one final’s week in college. And I know I am not the only one. In 2012 The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN held their first Internet Cat Video Film Festival. The festival is now touring and will return to Minneapolis in August 2014.

Good things to use.

Your Local Food Co-op. They often start as buying clubs and with the right ingredients become grocery stores that support local farmers and families, offering local and organic food, community meeting space and educational opportunities. Co-op’s are member owned which means as a member you have a voice in how the co-op evolves over time, but in every co-op I have ever been in you do not need to be a member to shop. Food Co-op’s are just good.

Equal Exchange Fair Trade Coffee and Chocolate. Equal Exchange takes the cooperative model and uses it to provide fairly priced coffee and chocolate to consumers while returning a fair wage to the farmers who grew the coffee and cacao beans. Their coffee is delicious and their chocolate is often wrapped with a photograph and bio of one of the farmers.

The Public Library. Whatever your preferred form of entertainment (reading, movie watching, listening to music, community involvement) the library has something to share with you. I moved to a new city a couple of years ago, and the library has helped me feel more at home. My current public library has a huge Fantasy and Science Fiction section (yes, a whole section, it isn’t all mixed in with the other fiction!). I have met with knitting groups, gone to book signings, and even attended roller derby meetings at libraries; they are a huge resource in so many ways. Owning a book collection is great. Supporting authors by purchasing their books is also important, but when you can, use your library so they are continue to be here for people who might not have the ability to pay for the words you read, or maybe even the words you write.

Connect with Maura on Twitter, @TigerinVaseline.

Michael Cummings – Writer (of many things)

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

Good things to read.

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

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

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

Good things to watch.

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

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

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

Good things to use.

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

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

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

Connect with Michael on Twitter, @KoderMike.

Mary Kincaid – Style Blogger

Mary Kincaid is the founder of Zuburbia, a style blog that curates vintage fashion and home items. She’s also a storytelling and content coach for keynote speakers. Here are her good things.

Good things to read.

The Circle by Dave Eggers.  I found this technothriller more terrifying than other science fiction because it paints a picture of a digital dystopia that could be right around the corner. Its examination of ripped-from-the-headlines issues off privacy, surveillance and social media participation is sure to spark riveting conversation at your next dinner party.

Creative Authenticity: 16 Principles to Clarify and Deepen Your Artistic Vision by Ian Roberts.  Ian Roberts is a painter but he has also written this beautiful book for any of us engaged in artistic pursuits. Less of a how-to and more of a deeply personal ode to creativity and self-expression, this is one of those books that I underlined, highlighted and circled like a mad woman.

Love, An Inner Connection by Carol K. Anthony.  This book examines love based on principles drawn from the ancient Chinese text, the I Ching. Unfortunately, I discovered it too late to save my marriage. If only I had been introduced to it before I said “I do”! Read it and learn from my mistake.

Good things to watch.

HBO GO.  It’s hard to pick a favorite HBO series since they crank out winner after winner. But here they are. All the winners. All the episodes. All in one place. Pinch me, I’m dreaming.

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.  I’m writing a solo show at the moment and taking a lot of inspiration from comedians. This 2010 documentary takes you behind the scenes for one year into the life of this 75-year-old comic and it’s a lovely tribute to her grit, hard work and talent. You go girl!

Iconoclasts.  What happens when you throw two creative visionaries from entirely different fields together? Six seasons of pure riveting magic on the Sundance Channel.

Good things to use.

Your Local Library.  If you haven’t been to your local library since you were a kid, it’s time to re-visit. They’re not just treasure troves of books anymore. My Los Angeles Public Library allows me to download music, movies, audio books and magazines plus it offers an amazing lecture series. All FREE!

Moleskine Notebooks.  There’s nothing like the feel of pen on paper especially when that paper is FSC-certified, acid-free and bound beautifully. I’ve used the Moleskine daily planner as my nightly journal for years.

Eucalan.  Hint, hint: Just because a piece of clothing says “Dry Clean Only” doesn’t mean you have to take it to the dry cleaners. I loooove this eco-friendly alternative. It’s a non-toxic, biodegradable, phosphate-free, no rinse delicate wash that’s enriched with natural lanolin and it’s simply amaaaazing.

Connect with Mary on Twitter, @MaryKincaid.

Wendy N. Wagner – Author

Wendy N. Wagner writes tie-in fiction for the Pathfinder role-playing system. She also writes other stuff, like sad stories about endangered dwarfs and poetry about dinosaurs. She blogs at the Inkpunks publishing blog and sometimes on her own site, winniewoohoo.com.

Good things to read.

One Ring Circus, by Katherine Dunn. An amazing collection of essays about boxing, with all the intelligence, heart, and beautiful prose of her classic novel Geek Love.

The Pushcart Book of Poetry, edited by the Pushcart Editors and Joan Murray. A selection from thirty years of the best poetry published by the North American small presses. It will make you glad that you can read, that you are alive, and that words were ever invented.

Brain Pickings Weekly Newsletter. It’s basically a once-a-week blast of cultural intelligence, dropped right into your inbox.

Good things to watch.

The short films of the Brothers Quay. Our public library has a collection of them, but some are available online, for example, the 1984 short The Cabinet of Jan Svankmejer. These tiny, often disturbing films are packed with remarkable imagery that has heavily influenced popular culture.

Showtime’s Masters of Horror series. If you haven’t caught any of these one-hour horror films, you are missing out on a really great time.

The extras on the remastered Eraserhead DVD. “Stories,” which is about an hour and a half of David Lynch and the cast members discussing how they made the film, provides some tremendous insight into his world. (I also highly recommend the extras on the Inland Empire DVD, which includes one of my staple quinoa recipes.)

Good things to use.

BoardGameGeek.com. Where else can you track your game plays, your friends’ wishlists and sign up for a tabletop gaming Secret Santa? No place, that’s where! You might not think you need this service, but when your spouse claims he’s never won a game of 51st State, you can pull up some stats and totally prove him wrong.

A clothesline. Okay, hanging your clothes up instead of just tossing them in the dryer is a lot of extra work. But it’s easy, meditative, and saves a ton of electricity. As someone who just went full-time freelance, I’m living on a pretty tight budget, so every penny counts. Plus, clothes hung up outside in the sunshine smell great!

The local public library. Sure, everything’s online these days. But so are most public libraries, and they’ve got a lot of amazing resources. With just my library card, I can go online and download e-books (including audio books, which pretty much rocks), tap into all kinds of databases (need the Statistical Abstract of the United States for the year 1886? The library will let you use it from home), use language-learning software, and best of all, read all kinds of journals, magazines, and newspapers. Plus, it’s free.

Connect with Wendy on Twitter, @WNWagner.

jlcollinsnh – Money, Life, Business

James Collins is financially independent and writes about money, life, and business at jlcollinsnh.com, these are his good things.

Good things to read.

There is nothing you can’t learn, no place you can’t go, if you read. So I’m going to cheat with expansion on this one a bit.

Fiction.

I once had an engineer friend proudly tell me he didn’t read fiction because “he couldn’t be bothered with things that weren’t true.” Nonsense. Good fiction writers are meticulous in getting their background facts right and some of the greatest of all truths are to be found in their works.

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier might be my all time favorite novel.

George Pelecanos has a series of novels set in the gritty inner city of Washington DC where the African American and Greek American communities intersect. Fun, light, exciting, sometimes intense books with wonderful tone.

Tony Hillerman’s novels will take you out west to the Four Corners desert reservation where you can ride along with Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee of the Navajo tribal police. You’ll witness another way of looking at the world while you do.

Non-Fiction.

My blog is about using money to achieve financial freedom. Freedom being the operative word. Two of the more influential books that shaped my thinking are:

How I found Freedom in an Unfree World by Harry Browne.

The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason.

In another realm, Knocking on Heaven’s Door by Lisa Randall almost makes particle physics understandable for me. No small feat that.

Magazines.

I love magazines. I spent my career in the business. At any given moment I have subscriptions to about half a dozen and the subject matter can be just about anything. The serendipity of what you stumble upon in them can be magical.
Once you subscribe to one, you get offers for others. I’m forever letting subscriptions lapse and adding new ones. I once subscribed to a newly launched glossy magazine called Garbage. It didn’t last long, but how could I not?

Good things to watch.

TV. Yeah. I know. The more common advice is to trash can your TV. Not me. Sometimes you just want to be spoon fed entertainment while sinking into the sofa. At least I do. And the programing has never been better. Dexter, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Downton Abbey, Hell on Wheels are a few that leap to mind, all more captivating than most movies I can remember.

People, preferably from outdoor cafes. Next time you’re traveling to some exotic – or not so exotic – local, skip one of the endless museum and church tours. Park yourself instead on the plaza with a cup of coffee and just sit. Watch and absorb and, for pity’s sake at least for this brief moment, put the camera away.

Live Theater. Every time I go I walk out wondering why I don’t go more often.

Good things to use.

The Public Library. What a brilliant concept. If they don’t have a book I’m looking for, they find it for me. Why anybody not living in the wilderness ever buys a book is one of life’s enduring mysteries to me. Since I hope to publish one of my own one day soon, I’ll be grateful they do. Baffled, but grateful.

Money. We live in a complex world and the single best tool for mastering it is money. Moreover, if you don’t learn to be its master, it will certainly become yours.

Down Time. The irony of my retirement these last two years is just how damn busy I’ve been. It is all self-inflicted and nothing I don’t relish doing, but it over-fills the days all the same. One of the best uses of time is doing nothing. I need to recapture some time for just that.

James isn’t on Twitter but you can read about more of his good things in his Home Again post and this one.

Denise – Show Me Simplicity

Denise writes at Show Me Simplicity where she shares stories about failing miserably at being a minimalist, but attempts daily to live life in a more simple fashion and these are her good things.

Good things to read.

Children’s books. It’s funny how a children’s story book can cram a life lessons in fifteen pages and adult books drone on and on and on…

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. Everyone writes: Letters, emails, blogs, books and those god-forsaken status updates. This handy book is my go-to resource every day. Yes. Every. Single. Day.

Joshua Becker’s Simple Living eBooks. I owe my current lifestyle to Josh. His thought-provoking, non-judgmental approach to minimalism is something anyone can incorporate if they desire a simpler life. My favorite is Inside-Out Simplicity: Life Changing Keys to Your Most Important Relationships.

Good things to watch.

Live music. My friend, Robin, hosts house concerts each month and I am so inspired by the local songwriters and singers who come to share their talent with us. I’m married to a musician and have to say there isn’t any kind of ‘bad’ mood that a good, thoughtfully written song can’t soothe.

Children playing. I became a mom last year at the age of 41. I thought I had reached a point in my life where nothing could amaze me anymore. But, when I watch my son reach for a wooden block, or see him laughing at the cat walk by, I realize the simple things in life are truly amazing. And it puts life in perspective for me.

I’m Fine Thanks. This film gives wonderful examples of everyday people giving up THE American Dream in order to live THEIR American Dream. It brought me to tears many times.

Good things to use.

Nap time. Last weekend the house was messy, I needed to go to the grocery store, and laundry piled up around me. And when my son went down for his afternoon nap, I joined him. Those three hours gave me strength to get through the rest of the day. Anyone who passes up a chance to nap is crazy!

The public library. Free classes, children’s story hour, book sales, workshops and um…books – all at your disposal and all free. My son and I go to the library at least once a week.

Parent’s Day Out. In my community, several local churches host these events and times vary. Here in my town, most PDO’s are daytime (and yes, I ship my son out two days a week for four hours), but one local church has a monthly Parent’s Night Out and that’s a great, affordable way to get babysitting so you can enjoy a date night with your partner.