true detective

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_

Shanna Germain – Author

Shanna Germain is an author of poems, short stories, essays, and books, recipient of a few awards, and lover of words and games. These are her good things.

Good things to read.

Galveston.  If you liked True Detective, or even if you’ve never seen True Detective, but like gritty, southern-semi-noir novels with a strong voice, I’d suggest Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto. The language, the landscape, and the human truths of the novel break your heart and then put it back together before you can even take a single, hitched breath.

All the Windwracked Stars: The first of a trilogy by Elizabeth Bear, this book just blew me away with its wonderful language, its unique mixing and retelling of myriad mythologies, and its wonderful anti-hero, Muire. Science-fantasy with a post-apocalyptic, mythological bend? Yes, please.

Fallen Angel. I read a lot of comics, and this series continues to be one of my favorites. Created by writer Peter David and artist David López, it is a beautifully dark, sensual, powerful tale of a screwed up woman, a corrupt town, and a plethora of characters that you either want to make out with or junk punch (or sometimes both).

Good things to watch.

Upstream Color.  If you liked director Shane Carruth’s movie Primer (or if you like weird, narratively abstract, beautiful science-themed movies at all), I highly recommend Carruth’s second movie Upstream Color. I was physically shaking when I left the theater, that’s how strongly it affected me. I am afraid to rewatch it, in fact, although it’s been on my queue for a good long while.

True Detective.  I’ll admit, I thought long and hard about whether to put two items by the same writer on this list, but I had to do it. I think True Detective is some of the best TV we’ve seen in a long time (and I say that as someone who’s well aware that we’re in a feast-phase of great TV, with shows like Walking Dead, House of Cards, and Sherlock at our fingertips).

TED Talks. I don’t care which ones you choose — this fantastic one by Cameron Russell on how looks aren’t everything or this harrowing and heartbreaking one by Philip Zimbardo on the psychology of evil (NOTE: super graphic and awful images are in this TED Talk. Please be careful before you click, but find something that interests you and grows your mind.

Good things to use.

A Treadmill Desk.  As a writer, I sit too much. That is a serious truth of my life. So I have my computer set up on a regular old treadmill with a bar across the handlebars to hold my keyboard and mouse. I crank up the incline and go pretty slow, but I can do a couple of hours a day if I’m lucky. Sometimes I work while I’m on it — answering emails or editing. Other times, I game on it. It keeps me moving during the day, and keeps away whatever sedentary disease is creeping up on me and my writing-based lifestyle.

Don’t Starve. One of my favorite all-time past-times is gaming, and this adorable action-adventure game has everything that I appreciate in a game. Great characters, smart game play, interesting ideas, and just great fun. You can pick it up and play for a little bit, or you can waste long hours on the treadmill desk trying not to get eaten by giant spiders, frozen by winter, or starved by your own inability to cook something in a crockpot.

Your Body and Your Mind.  I know, it’s two things. But they’re so closely connected that I feel like they can be listed as a single entity. Work your body, work your mind. In whatever way is good for you. You only get it for so long. I try to remind myself never to waste these incredibly valuable resources that I have at my constant disposal.

Connect with Shanna on Twitter, @ShannaGermain.

Sara Heller – Pusher of Boundaries

Sara Heller works in Digital Programs for Organizing for America. She recently formed The Silent Initiative, a film and television production company, with several friends. She dreams of the day she gets more than 6 hours of sleep.  These are her good things.

Good things to read.

The “I Heart” Series by Lindsey Kelk.  Sometimes it’s nice to zone out and lose myself in a book that’s not trying to do anything other than entertain me. This series follows a British expat navigating love and friendship. Angela, the main character, is inherently relatable and I find myself missing her between book releases.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. This book seems to be everywhere and yet I keep finding people who haven’t read it. This book, divided into 11 sections, is a must read for women of any age. Not only is it a primer for women seeking to empower themselves and get ahead, but it’s also a textbook as to why we women do the things that we do.

Worldchanging by Alex Steffan.  I can’t stress how invaluable this book is. It’s a companion piece to the website and covers a multitude of different subjects and how one can reduce their footprint and live a far greener life. The book also includes websites, phone numbers, and addresses for businesses and services for those wanting to live a much more environmentally conscious life.

Good things to watch.

The Dead Files (The Travel Channel).  One of the true standouts in the world of paranormal programs. Steve Dischavi, a former NYC police officer, and Amy Allen, a psychic medium, travel to the sites of purported hauntings to try and help those affected. Where it differs from many of its counterparts is its approach. Each investigator works on their own. Dischavi interviews the affected and researches the site. Allen walks the property to get a reading about what may or may not be haunting the location. The two then meet with the clients to discuss their findings and advise on the best course of attack for dealing with the problems.

The Mindy Project (FOX).  I love Mindy Kaling. I’ve followed her career since The Office, and couldn’t contain my glee when this show was announced. Not only is the cast truly gifted and hilarious, but it contains one of the best pairings on TV right now, Mindy and co-worker Danny Castellano.

True Detective (HBO).  Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey are amazing in this truly dark and twisted police drama. In present day, both are being interviewed separately in regards to a murder case that they worked in 1995. Not only is the story truly gripping, but the characters are as well. It’s one of the best shows on television right now.

Good things to use.

Hall.  I do a lot of work on projects with people who aren’t in the same building, city, or even state as me. This free to use site allows you to create chat rooms that have file sharing and video conferencing. One of the most impressive perks offered is the ability to restrict who can join your chat, creating a higher level of privacy.

SickWeather (iOS).  This app uses your location to display a list of illnesses being reported around you. You then get a notification when one of your predefined conditions is recorded near you. It’s a great way to find out where you would do best to avoid over the next several days in order to avoid a cold, the flu, or even pneumonia.

Melodies Pro (iOS). I wanted something where I could stream my music on my phone. iTunes Match seemed like an intriguing choice, but I couldn’t see paying for it when I could use Google Music for free. This app allows you not only to see and the music that you’ve uploaded to the site but also has the ability to scrobble the tracks to

Connect with Sara on Twitter, @Alfabettezoupe.