Oh, hello! What have you been up to lately? Here are a few things I’ve been enjoying.
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
People either love or hate her, but her George Saunders-esque take on Everglades life is engaging and poignant, so far. And some of her sentences are just killer. Extra credit for the awesome anhinga reference.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
Sometimes the simplest possible meal is exactly right. Satisfying, portable, wholesome, and suitable at any time of day, particularly when made with good peanuts-only peanut butter and quality preserves. And toasting a lightly buttered sandwich in the skillet for a few minutes per side could change your worldview completely. Try almond butter to completely upend your idea of PB&J.
Inbox < 20
The whole Inbox Zero concept is nothing new, and while it’s an admirable goal, getting your work inbox down to fewer than 20 emails is liberating. Even better is when you’re able to leave for the day with fewer than 15 emails: the next day begins with a feeling of clarity and promise.
You Look Nice Today: A Journal of Emotional Hygiene
The only podcast whose episodes I can listen to on constant repeat and still make me bite my tongue to control the laughter on the train. Merlin Mann (@hotdogsladies), Scott Simpson (@scottsimpson), and Adam Lisagor (@lonelysandwich) have terrific chemistry, and their ad-libbing genius is impressive to say the least. By turns satiric, puerile (those who abhor salty language should give it a miss), surreal, and smart. Bonus: John Hodgman both provides the interstitial voiceovers and guest-stars (with Jonathan Coulton) in a three-part “VSOP” series. Also bonus: Mann has a knack for impersonating folks, including Burgess Meredith, Robert Evans, Randy Newman, T.S. Eliot, and Tom Waits.
The live recordings at events such as The Monsters of Podcasting tour suffer a bit without the benefit of Sandwich’s keen editing, but there are nuggets of brilliance that make them still worth a listen. Start with the first episode, Morning Powder, or try The Tux Age, The Sake Period, or Truck Spank on for size. RIYL Patton Oswalt and Mr. Show.
Fair Isle Knitting
Also called “stranded colorwork,” this technique feels impossible and you’ll worry that your tension is all wrong, but as each row reveals a bit more of the pattern, it’s like a little magical surpriise. Next project: Pirate Mittens or the Squirrel and Oak Mittens. Bonus: knitting garments using this technique makes them doubly warm.
Easier to peel than an orange, and larger and more flavorful than a clementine. This is the snack that will make nearby cubicle-dwellers green with envy. And the vestigial nub on top is rather charming.
Leaving work early to see a movie with your fella or gal
Feels like playing hooky, without the threat of getting in trouble, especially if it’s a Friday afternoon. It will breathe a sense of anticipation into the end of your workweek, and, depending on the timing, you’ll be able to enjoy dinner afterward (preferably someplace delicious you haven’t yet tried) at a sensible time.
Nothing against the charms of The Triplets of Belleville, but Sylvain Chomet’s animated feature based on a script by Jacques Tati is more gorgeously drawn and tender — and benefits from better editing — than its predecessor. See it on a big screen, and you will wish that you could walk out of the theatre and wind up in Edinburgh.
Benefit’s Dr. Feelgood
Hard to say what this stuff does, besides making your skin look a little velvety-smooth and smelling a little citrusy and nice. Supposedly the Vitamin C in it also has something going for it, too. And the smoochers on the label are rather charming.
Pulse (iPhone 4.0)
Pros: lovely, easy to use interface makes it possible to read your RSS feeds (up to 20 in the free version) when you don’t have wireless connectivity. (That is: on the subway.) It also magically talks to Google Reader, so the things I’ve read in one are marked as such in the other. Cons: Feeds can be sluggish to update if you haven’t logged in for awhile, but they seem to have improved this in the last version.
Finally learning the name of that nice woman at work
She greets you by name in the hallway or ladies’ room, but after working at the same company for several years, it had seemed too late and bad form to flat-out ask. Now you can respond in kind. (It’s Cara.) Satisfying.
30 Seconds with Phone Guy
Another Merlin Mann project: short videos featuring that Assenstein sitting next to you at the airport or in a cafe. His phone is a wallet, for some reason.