These remain difficult times, and are likely to for quite a while now. I simply don’t have enough in the tank to rage against all that is wrong with the current state of affairs, so I thought I’d share a few things that make me happy, or distract me, or are just interesting.
In case you were wondering, the image above has nothing to do with any of this. It just made me smile.
If there is one thing on this list you check out, make it The Crafsman’s YouTube channel (linked above). The Crafsman, as you might imagine, makes videos about making crafts, but that description seriously undersells the appeal. He’s often compared to Bob Ross or Mr. Rogers because he’s got a wonderful, gentle voice and he’s relentlessly positive, but The Crafsman doesn’t really sound like either of them. His videos are genuinely informative and a delight to listen to. I cannot recommend him highly enough.
WTNV has perhaps the easiest elevator pitch in the history of podcasts: H.P. Lovecraft meets NPR. If that description appeals to you, then go check it out right now. If it doesn’t? Then we’re just wired differently, I guess. WTNV at its best is gently weird and weirdly hilarious. The voice of WTNV is Cecil Baldwin, and I’m not sure it would work without him. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to.
Q.I. is a panel show hosted by Stephen Fry featuring four other comedians discussing trivia and general knowledge in the silliest way possible. It’s ostensibly a game show, although the scoring format is more about providing interesting answers (“Q.I.” stands for “quite interesting”) than obvious ones (which are almost always incorrect, anyway). No one skips from highbrow wordplay to vulgar puns as easily as Fry, but the guests make a game effort at keeping up.
Comfortable and indestructible. They ain’t pretty. They’re not especially cheap. But if you want a shoe what will last you for a decade of hiking on rocks, or snow, or water, or whatever weird thing the universe throws at you, this is the only choice.
Ugh, Google, am I right? I’m not a big fan of the privacy-destroying monolith that seems to have its fingers in every aspect of my life. But, I will tell you this: Project Fi is the best cell phone service I’ve ever used. They have a “virtual SIM” thingie that allows them to use the best signal available from four different networks, so you will have signal in abundance. It’s cheap, too. My average bill is under $40 a month (it’s a pay-as-you-use-it plan, but with pretty generous terms). You do have to use one of only six phones, but there are some really good ones available.
(You have to scroll down a little to get to the Volca series.)
These innocent little boxes, about the size of a Stylophone, are some serious kit for making music at very low prices. I have the Beats and the Sample and paid under $100 each for ‘em used. They’re not as powerful as some of the computer-based drum machines and synths, but there’s a tremendous satisfaction in twiddling with the knobs and getting crazy good sounds. I could talk for days about how fun they are and how they’re built to work together and with the Minilogue, but honestly? If you’re into making music, you really ought to get your hands on some of these. The value-to-fun ratio is off the charts.
This comic, by Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen, is the pop-art masterpiece of the decade. It’s not my favorite book by this team (that would be Phonogram), but it’s the best and the most ambitious by a wide margin. Every ninety years, twelve young people become gods, manifestations of one or another ancient deity. It’s a (mostly) different mix every time through. After two years, they die. No one really knows why. That’s the setup. It’s a high-wire act from start to finish and…no, I’m not going to spoil it for you. Just enjoy the ride.
This is a little 4x game for mobile devices. I downloaded it last February and immediately thought “Gee, this is way too simple to be interesting.” Danged if I’m not still playing it regularly. It doesn’t take terribly long to play, and the basics are super easy to pick up, but there are a ton of subtle wrinkles that give it an absurd amount of replay value. I love honing strategies to a fine edge, though, so your mileage may vary.
Not the catchiest name, is it? After several decades of working in an office, my back was starting to feel the strain. I did a little testing and determined that I was most comfortable in a not-quite-standing position, with my butt on an angled stool and my legs still supporting some of the weight. I tried this with some conventional bar stools and, um, I broke a lot of conventional bar stools since the weight was all at the front of the saddle. I found this sucker online and it was exactly what I needed. People look at me funny now (I mean, they did anyway, but you get the idea), but I haven’t had any back pain from sitting in four years now.
This one’s a life-saver. I had to cut down on my coffee consumption, but I wasn’t going to completely give up on caffeine because, well, because I like caffeine. I didn’t even know what yaupon was before I tried it at the farmer’s market. I tasted a sample out of pity, but holy smokes, it’s good. It tastes like tea but without any of the bitterness, much the way cold brew tastes like drip coffee without the acid. It’s local, it’s sustainable, and it’s the only north American plant that has caffeine in it. You owe it to yourself to try it.
That’s it for now, because ten seems like a nice number to stop on. I just wanted to share some of the things that I like, that work for me, and make me happy. I hope one or two of them appeal to you, too. OK, I hope all of them do, but I don’t really expect that to be the case.
I’m babbling now, and it’s starting to get late in a post-daylight saving time sort of way. Good night, and sleep well.