⭐ My Rating System

Every month I recap the things I watched and read while assigning a rating to each title. Scoring is out of five stars using a half-star scale.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ = masterpiece
⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2 = near perfect
⭐⭐⭐⭐ = excellent
⭐⭐⭐1/2 = worth watching/reading
⭐⭐⭐ = good, but not worth going out of your way for
⭐⭐1/2 = okay
⭐⭐ = bad
⭐1/2 = bad bad
⭐ and under = burn it at the stake bad

🌎 Maps I Like

A running list of my favorite maps, in no particular order:

Long-distance trails in the United States

Animated pixel map of the United States

National Parks Voronoi diagram

List of ecoregions of the United States

Emerging megaregions map

Envisioning high speed rail

Essential geography of the United States

North America shaded relief map

Western United States shaded relief map

National Geographic maps

Raised relief classroom floor globe

A list of map gifts

A list of independent map sellers

A cartography podcast

Antique maps

National parks maps

USDA plant hardiness zone map

Fall foliage prediction map

πŸŽ… 2023 Holiday Gift Guide

Here are a few gift ideas that caught my eye this year:


Food and Cooking


Fun and Games

Read and Write


🌐 My Blogroll

These are the blogs and newsletters whose RSS feeds I subscribe to. The sites are categorized by personal blogs, newsletters, mass-posting blogs, and blogs. Some definitions: Personal blogs are written by one person. Newsletters have a recurring format, like a list of links. Mass-posting blogs are blogs that publish multiple posts every day. Blogs generally have a niche topic or don’t fall into the categories of personal blogs or mass-posting blogs.

LinkTypeOther Notes
Austin Kleonpersonal bloga writer who draws
Scott Youngpersonal blogan expert on learning
The Dishpersonal blogbaseball writer, board game columnist, food and movie critic
Julia Evanspersonal blogprogramming and blogging
Alexey Guzeypersonal blog
Tracy Durnellpersonal bloga storyteller from Seattle
Roy Tangpersonal blogthe diary of a software developer
Taylor Townpersonal bloglearning, time, design, software, ideas, and humor
Dense Discoverynewsletttercurated links
Recomendonewslettterpersonal recommendations of cool stuff
Curious About Everythingnewsletttermonthly writing from around the web
Nomadiconewsletttertravel news
The Land of Randomnewslettterfun links
Fave Fivenewslettterfive great links
Boing Boingmass-posting blogzine, blog, and directory of mostly wonderful things
Kottkemass-posting blogcool internet finds
Lifehackermass-posting blogtech and productivity
Marginal Revolutionmass-posting blogeconomics and more
Colossalmass-posting blogart and visual expression
Cup of Jomass-posting bloglifestyle
Pen Addictblogpens and stationery
Stationery Pizzablogstationery
True Blue LAblogDodger baseball
Notedblogtips on notetaking
The Flavor Filesblogfood science
Planetizenblogurban planning news

πŸ’― My Favorites

All of my favorite media and more:

πŸ“š Book: The Count of Monte Cristo

πŸ“š Detective series: Hercule Poirot novels

πŸ“š Fantasy series: The Tales of Dunk and Egg

πŸŽ₯ Movie drama: Rear Window

πŸŽ₯ Movie comedy: In Bruges

πŸŽ₯ Foreign film: The Lives of Others

πŸ“Ί Comedy series: Curb Your Enthusiasm

πŸ“Ί Drama series: The Wire

πŸ“Ί Comfort show: Poirot or The West Wing

πŸ“± Podcast: Take Note

πŸ“± Educational podcast: In Our Time

πŸ“± History podcast: More Perfect

πŸ“± Interview podcast: Conversations with Tyler

⏱ Historical figure: Theodore Roosevelt

✍ Authors: Agatha Christie, George R.R. Martin

πŸ“š Book publisher: DK

πŸŽ₯ Filmmakers: Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock

🎻 Composer: Johannes Brahms

🎹 Film composer duo: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

🎸 Band: Led Zeppelin

🎀 Standup comic: George Carlin

⚾ Sports team: 2020 Los Angeles Dodgers

πŸ€ Basketball team: 2001-02 Los Angeles Lakers

🏈 American football team: 1999 St. Louis Rams

πŸŽ… 2022 Holiday Gift Guide

It’s the holiday season. For the second time, I’ve made a holiday gift guide of stuff I personally love this year. Note: Some of the products listed below link to Amazon.com. I am an Amazon Associate member, which means anything bought through one of these links sends a little money my way at no extra cost to you.

The National Parks Pass is the go-to gift for outdoors lovers living in the United States. Some states, like South Carolina and Washington, sell annual state park passes. Fifty-Nine Parks created the artwork behind the Field Notes National Parks Memo Books. Now they’ve made a guidebook to the parks. If you’re looking for other outdoors swag, check out the Parks Project. Profits support the preservation of public lands. I highly recommend Nick Offerman’s book Where the Deer and the Antelope Play if you want something to read between hikes. It will give you a better grasp of the fragility and delicate balance of the land we take for granted.

Playing the board game Wingspan has given me an appreciation for the beauty of our avian friends. The best place to start for beginner birdwatchers is with an Audubon bird call and The Sibley Guide to Birds. See the Audubon Society’s gift guide for more bird-related fun.

On the tech side, Kindle finally made an e-ink tablet on which you can write. I’m a believer in the right to repair, so naturally I’m very excited about the Framework Laptop, a computer you can build and repair yourself. Watchy is an open-source, e-paper watch to fill that Pebble-sized hole in your heart.

E-bikes are a fun, healthy, environmentally-friendly, and ever-so-nerdy way to get around town. Here’s a short guide on how to find the best e-bike for you.

The man behind Baron Fig wrote a book on the creative process titled The Laws of Creativity. Speaking of creativity, Steal Like an Artist author Austin Kleon writes a Substack newsletter with bonus content for paying subscribers. His book bundle trilogy also makes a wonderful gift.

For stationery lovers, Yoseka Stationery has published their annual holiday gift guide. Currently, my favorite notebook is the Maruman Mnemosyne. If you’re looking for writing utensils, Pen Addict has you covered. I have long been a fan of Studio Neat’s work. They make a notebook designed specifically for your desk.

In the past, I recommended the Freewrite Traveler as a writing device without the distractions of an ordinary computer. For a cheaper, more retro alternative, check out the AlphaSmart 3000. If you are a notetaker like myself, Tiago Forte published a book on the subject titled Building a Second Brain. I use Obsidian for my notetaking. The software is free, but they sell a service that allows you to sync your notes across multiple devices.

Lately, I’ve taken an interest in chess. I even bought a small travel chess set. Bauhaus makes this cool chess set designed to show exactly how each piece moves. A chess.com subscription is a great way for beginners to learn the game. For board games other than chess, check out Keith Law’s list of top 100 board games. If you’re a fan of crosswords, buy a New York Times Games subscription.

Major streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ are known to everyone, but several lesser-known services are also worth a subscription. For the film snob, check out The Criterion Channel. For the horror fan, check out Shudder. And for the Anglophile, check out BritBox.

If you want to find a way to give back, there are several worthy causes where you can buy amazing gifts. Many museums, like the Smithsonian, Met, and Art Institute of Chicago, have online stores. The same goes for many major libraries, like the NY Public Library and Los Angeles Public Library. Wikipedia recently opened their online store with great swag. Or if you are anti-consumerism, use Charity Navigator and GiveWell to find the best ways to spend your donations.

πŸ’Έ Affordable Purchases to Improve Your Life

Sometimes a small purchase can make a huge impact on your life. Below are 75 affordable purchases that have the potential to improve your life in some way. Note: Links below include affiliate links to Amazon.com, of which I receive a small commission for every purchase, at no added expense to the customer.

1. A pull-up bar to get you in shape fast.

2. A heated blanket for cold nights.

3. A detachable showerhead for washing the hard to reach places.

4. A pair of blue light blocking glasses to protect your eyes from screen fatigue.

5. A YNAB subscription to get your finances in order.

6. A bidet for a thorough cleaning.

7. A headlamp so you can see in dark places without occupying your hands.

8. A sharp chef’s knife because a dull one is dangerous and less efficient.

9. A sunrise alarm clock for a more gentle way of waking up in the morning.

10. Blackout curtains to sleep peacefully.

11. A shoehorn so you don’t damage your shoes.

12. A journal for working through your thoughts.

13. Noise canceling headphones for focus mode.

14. A National Parks pass to explore America’s best places.

15. A second monitor for optimal efficiency.

16. Timer cap bottles so you don’t have to remember if you’ve had your medication.

17. A mechanical keyboard for satisfying typing.

18. An extra long phone charging cable so you can use your phone while it charges.

19. A toaster oven for quick meals.

20. A fireproof safe to protect your most valuable possessions and documents from disaster.

21. The perfect notebook for capturing ideas.

22. A therapy light to bring the sunshine indoors.

23. A rice cooker for easy rice.

24. A first aid kit for emergencies.

25. A AAA membership for safe driving.

26. An e-reader for cutting down on book clutter.

27. Slippers to keep your feet warm.

28. A phone lockbox with timer to cut out distractions.

29. A kettlebell for heavy lifting.

30. A BKLYN library subscription for unlimited ebooks.

31. A tongue scraper for better breath.

32. A Bluetooth headphones headband to fall asleep to soothing sounds.

33. A jump rope for some cardio.

34. An egg cooker for an easy breakfast.

35. A pair of socks to last you forever.

36. A curved shower rod for more space in the tub.

37. An electric toothbrush for optimal dental hygiene.

38. A meat thermometer for safe and tasty eating.

39. A Uni-ball Jetstream pen for smooth writing.

40. A beautiful planner for managing your schedule.

41. A kitchen scale for more precise measurements.

42. A fabric shaver to keep your cloths from pilling.

43. A handheld vacuum to clean the hard to reach places.

44. A toilet stool for better bathroom time.

45. An iFixit toolkit for electronics repairs.

46. Scrivener for writing efficiency.

47. A vertical mouse to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.

48. Motion sensor lights to make walking around in the middle of the night a little easier.

49. A carbon monoxide detector for a safer home.

50. An air compressor to fill up your tires and more.

51. A portable jump starter for when you need a jump.

52. A fire extinguisher to save your home.

53. A dash cam so you don’t get blamed for an accident you didn’t cause.

54. An SSD for faster computing.

55. A car emergency kit in case disaster strikes.

56. Touchscreen gloves for when you are outside in the cold.

57. A power bank so your electronics don’t die.

58. A Bluetooth car kit for more pleasant driving.

59. A pepper mill for delicious, fresh pepper.

60. A bento box for more pleasant lunches.

61. A running belt for a place to put your stuff as you exercise.

62. A foam roller to loosen your muscles.

63. Smart plugs so you don’t forget to turn things off.

64. An emergency blanket just in case you get stranded on the road.

65. Bar Keepers Friend for easy scrubbing.

66. A reusable water bottle so you don’t have to buy water bottles.

67. A water flosser for healthy teeth.

68. A bicycle helmet to protect your brain.

69. A water filter for clean drinking.

70. Cloth napkins to cut down on paper towels.

71. Magic erasers to clean the stubbornest of stains.

72. A slow close toilet seat so the lid doesn’t slam.

73. Houseplants to add some green to your living space.

74. A soft robe for luxurious lounging.

75. A drill brush to deep clean any bathroom.

πŸŽ… 2020 Holiday Gift Guide

Celebrate the winding down of this chaotic year with some holiday shopping. Below are my gift suggestions for the 2020 holiday season. This list emphasizes creation, exploration, and learning. You will find useful things, fun things, and causes worth supporting. Good luck shopping, and happy holidays!

Disclosure: Some of the products listed below link to Amazon.com. I am an Amazon Associate member, which means anything bought through one of these links sends a little money my way at no extra cost to you.

Write and Create