πŸ”— Link Dump #1

  1. An archive of 500 of the most interesting Wikipedia articles. [πŸ”— endwalker.com]
  2. Recommendations for a happy life. [πŸ”— jimwestergren.com]
  3. For those who have seen Banshees of Inisherin, you can now play this Pacman-like game. Warning: spoilers. [πŸ”— bansheesthegame.com]
  4. A master list of recipe websites, organized by cuisine. [πŸ”— github.com]
  5. Tyler Cowen is a well-cultured economics professor, as well as a podcast host and blogger. Tyler has written a series of posts over at Marginal Revolution detailing his favorite things related to several locations. Here is a compilation of those lists. [πŸ”— erikgahner.dk]

πŸ“š Books I Read 2023

πŸ“š Books I Read 2023

Below is a list of the books I have read in 2023, so far. They are organized in reverse chronological order. When I finish a book, it gets added to the top of the list. Five stars is the highest rating, one is the lowest.

TitleAuthorFormatGenreSubgenreRatingNotes
The WagerDavid Grannebooknonfictionadventure⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The HollowAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐⭐
Murder in the Mews and Other StoriesAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐
Five Little PigsAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐The same recounting gets repeated over and over and over again. The ending is satisfying, but it's a slog to get to that point.
The Murder at the VicarageAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐⭐I like Poirot as a character more than Marple, but the Marple mysteries tend to be more consistent than the Poirots. Poirot has higher highs, but lower lows.
Light BringerPierce Brownebookfictionfantasy⭐⭐⭐See my notes here.
The Moving FingerAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐⭐Quite the collection of characters. I was wrong about the killer.
Crook ManifestoColson Whiteheadebookfictioncrime drama⭐⭐⭐⭐The sequel to Harlem Shuffle. Whitehead is a two-time Pulitzer winner. Well worth a read.
The Girl with the Dragon TattooStieg Larssonpaperbackfictioncrime thriller⭐⭐⭐See my notes here.
Moonflower MurdersAnthony Horowitzebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐I guessed the Pünd mystery, but not the Ryeland. Fantastic sequel. I want more books than just a trilogy. There are nine Pünd "novels." There should be nine Ryeland novels as well.
Magpie MurdersAnthony Horowitzebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐⭐Consists of a story within a story, so you get two mysteries for the price of one. See my notes here.
The RithmatistBrandon Sandersonebookfictionsci-fi/fantasy⭐⭐⭐A fun YA book. It's only the first in a forthcoming series, so it feels a bit incomplete.
4:50 from PaddingtonAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐A Miss Marple.
Whose Body?Dorothy Sayersebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐Somewhat straightforward. At least Wimsey isn't boring.
Cards on the TableAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐One of the few Poirots that is unsolvable to the reader.
Evil Under the SunAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐
Gaudy NightDorothy Sayersebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐⭐If Vane is indeed based on the author's self, then boy did Sayers have an ego.
Dead Man's FollyAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐
By the Pricking of My ThumbsAgatha Christieebookfictioncrime thriller⭐⭐⭐A Tommy and Tuppence. Weaker than the first two.
Murder in MesopotamiaAgatha Christieaudiobookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐
The Autobiography of Benjamin FranklinBenjamin Franklinaudiobooknonfictionbiography⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐So many lessons to take away.
N or M?Agatha Christieebookfictioncrime thriller⭐⭐⭐⭐Another Tommy and Tuppence novel.
Poirot InvestigatesAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐⭐Excellent short stories.
Pastoral SongJames Rebanksaudiobooknonfiction⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Modern farming has gone too far, and we are starting to pay the price for it.
Hallowe'en PartyAgatha Christieaudiobookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐
The Secret AdversaryAgatha Christieebookfictioncrime thriller⭐⭐⭐⭐A Tommy and Tuppence novel.
The Mysterious Affair at StylesAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐The very first Poirot novel.
The Sun Also RisesErnest Hemingwayebookfictionliterary⭐⭐⭐⭐
Hercule Poirot's ChristmasAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐Very little to do with Christmas.
Death on the NileAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Murder on the LinksAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐Hastings at his most annoying.
The Illustrated ManRay Bradburyebookfictionsci-fi/fantasy⭐⭐⭐⭐Scary and accurate dystopian stories.
EnduranceAlfred Lansingebooknonfictionadventure⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Peril at End HouseAgatha Christieebookficitonmystery⭐⭐⭐⭐Underrated and clever.
The Library BookSusan Orleanebookficitonmystery⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Big FourAgatha Christieebookficitoncrime thriller⭐⭐A major departure from the usual Poirot novel. More crime thriller than mystery.
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and TomorrowGabrielle Zevinebookficitonliterary⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐A moving story with many lessons about life, loss, friendship, and creative collaboration.
After the FuneralAgatha Christieebookficitonmystery⭐⭐⭐Clever but immediately solvable.
The Body in the LibraryAgatha Christieebookficitonmystery⭐⭐⭐My first Miss Marple.
The River of DoubtCandace Millardebooknonfictionadventure⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐So good. It's more about the expedition and the Amazon than Teddy Roosevelt.
The Mystery of the Blue TrainAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐Based on a short story, so the outcome was spoiled for me.

πŸ“Ί Stuff I Watched 2023

πŸ“Ί Stuff I Watched 2023

Below is a list of the stuff I have watched in 2023, so far. Everything is organized in reverse chronological order. When I finish a show or movie, it gets added to the top of the list. Five stars is the highest rating, one is the lowest.

TitleFormatSeasonRatingNotes
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)movie⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐The sci-fi movie.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)movie⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐A timeless classic.
Barbie (2023)movie⭐⭐I appreciate the message(s), but after a strong start, the movie fell flat for me.
Charade (1963)movie⭐⭐⭐Very Hitchcockian, but not the same.
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)movie⭐⭐⭐⭐A fantastic, harrowing sequel.
Father Brown (2013β€” )seriesvarious⭐⭐⭐My new favorite comfort show. It's a cozy mystery series featuring a crime-solving priest from the Cotswolds.
Barbarian (2022)movie⭐I don't understand the positive reviews. The monster is laughable, and the decisions by the protagonist(s) are infuriating. I know this movie is supposed to have deeper meaning, but it just does not work.
A Haunting in Venice (2023)movie⭐⭐⭐Saw it in a theater. Easily the best of the Kenneth Branagh Poirot movies.
The Blob (1958)movie⭐⭐⭐A slow-moving, amorphous blob can only be so scary. Otherwise enjoyable.
Pet Sematary (1989)movie⭐⭐Laughably bad direction and acting. Wasted potential.
Cat People (1942)movie⭐⭐⭐⭐They did the Cat Woman dirty. Featured on Ebert's great films list.
What We Do in the Shadowsseriesfive⭐⭐⭐⭐A big improvement over the past two seasons.
Persona (1966)movie⭐⭐⭐⭐How do you evaluate something you aren't meant to understand?
Little Big Leaguemovie⭐⭐Honestly has some funny moments.
Fargoseriesthree⭐⭐Disappointing.
Twistermovie⭐Terrifying as a kid. Laughably awful as an adult.
Fargoseriestwo⭐⭐⭐⭐Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst steal the show.
Fire of Lovemovie⭐⭐⭐⭐A documentary following the lives and deaths of a volcanologist couple.
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)movie⭐⭐
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusademovie⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Rewatch. I prefer it to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Funnier. Better one liners.
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arkmovie⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Rewatch.
The Bearseriestwo⭐⭐⭐⭐See my notes on the show here.
Lightyearmovie⭐This movie doesn't need to exist.
Eastern Promisesmovie⭐⭐⭐⭐Viggo and Cronenberg make a great duo. I wish the Anna character wasn't written as such a fool.
Blue Velvetmovie⭐⭐⭐⭐What a wild ride.
The Bridge on the River Kwaimovie⭐⭐⭐⭐
Andorseriesone⭐⭐⭐⭐Excellent show.
The Dropoutmini series⭐⭐⭐Seyfried kills it as Holmes.
I Love Lucyseries⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Lucille Ball was a master of physical comedy.
Back to the Future IImovie⭐⭐⭐Rewatch.
Back to the Futuremovie⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Rewatch.
I Think You Should Leaveseriesthree⭐⭐Weaker than previous seasons.
Realitymovie⭐⭐⭐I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this.
Successionseriesfour (final)⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐A worthy ending to an all-time great show.
The 39 Stepsmovie⭐⭐⭐⭐Another Hitchcock.
The Lodger: A Story of the London Fogmovie⭐⭐⭐⭐A silent film made by Alfred Hitchcock.
Michael Claytonmovie⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Rewatch. A personal favorite.
Super Mario Brosmovie⭐⭐Saw it in theaters. Exceeded my low expectations.
The Gooniesmovie⭐⭐⭐Rewatch.
Rockymovie⭐⭐⭐
Down Periscopemovie⭐It was free on YouTube and I like Frasier.
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdainmovie⭐⭐A good chunk of this documentary is spent pinning blame for Bourdain's suicide.
Seven Kings Must Diemovie⭐Should have ended it at the series finale.
The Banshees of Inisherinmovie⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Wonder Boysmovie⭐⭐⭐
Ted Lassoseriesthree⭐⭐Just couldn't get into the new season.
Se7enmovie⭐⭐⭐⭐Rewatch. Haven't seen it in years. Holds up even better than I thought.
The Last of Usseriesone⭐⭐⭐
Cunk on Earthseriesone⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Absolutely hilarious.
Spotlightmovie⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Rewatch. I can watch this movie over and over again.
Before Sunrisemovie⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Rewatch. An all-time classic.
La La Landmovie⭐⭐⭐⭐
Casablancamovie⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐You were dumped, Rick. Get over it.
The Staircase (2022)mini series⭐⭐
Guillermo del Toro's Pinnochiomovie⭐⭐⭐Wonderful craftsmanship.
The Pale Blue Eyemovie⭐⭐
His Dark Materialsseriesthree (final)⭐⭐⭐Underrated series.
The Menumovie⭐⭐⭐⭐Morbid and hilarious.

πŸ— Notes on Florence, Italy

I spent the first quarter of 2022 living in Florence, Italy. Here are my notes:

  • I recommend visiting in the shoulder or off-season (I was there from January to April). The weather is mild, and there aren’t as many tourists as in the summertime.
  • We stayed in the neighborhood of San Frediano. I recommend it for long-term stays. The neighborhood is populated by locals, but still within walking distance of the city center. I also like the Santo Spirito neighborhood, but it’s much more touristy.
  • The Mercato Centrale is the place to go if you need a break from traditional Italian food.
  • Walk through the Piazza della Signoria after dark. The statues and buildings are beautiful to view in the moonlight. And you won’t have to jostle with tour groups for space.
  • The Duomo is the most stunning building I have ever seen. Buy tickets to go up the dome and down to the crypts. Make sure you visit the Opera del Duomo Museum. It’s well worth it.
  • My two favorite places to read a book are in Parco di Villa Strozzi and on the Pescaia di Santa Rosa.
  • Speaking of books, the trains are a great place to get reading done. Make the time to visit Siena, San Gimignano, Bologna, and/or Cinque Terre while in the area.
  • The pasta and pizza are amazing, but I miss the gelato most. Gelateria La Carraia is spectacular.

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.

🎲 Random Internet Button

Taking inspiration from indieblog.page, I’ve created my own random internet button. This button opens an internet thing I find useful, insightful, or otherwise inspirational. Give it a try:

I will add more webpages to the button as I discover cool stuff. I will also delete webpages that fall into a state of disrepair. Of course, that’s easier said than done. The web is ever-changing, and I only have so much time, so be wary of what you may encounter.

πŸ“’ Why I Use a Pocket Notebook

I carry a pocket notebook with me wherever I go. In it, I write thoughts, ideas, anecdotes, and to-do tasks. I could use a notes app for this purpose, but I find a paper notebook more convenient and accessible for several reasons:

1. Paper and pen is quicker.
2. While with company, it’s perceived as less rude to write in a notebook than type on a phone.
3. Phones and computers are distraction machines. Often I open them for one purpose and end up down a rabbit hole of frivolity.
4. There is an indefinable magic to writing things by hand.

For multi-page writing, a computer with a keyboard is the most efficient tool. For anything less, pen and paper can’t be beaten.

πŸ“ˆ Things You Can Do Right Now to Improve Your Life

1. Tidy your space.

2. Make a gratitude list.

3. Read a book.

4. Listen to an audiobook.

5. Watch an educational video.

6. Drink water.

7. Go for a walk.

8. Tell someone you appreciate them.

9. Read a Wikipedia page.

10. Set a budget.

11. Check your credit report.

12. Talk to someone smarter than yourself.

13. Sit up straight.

14. Unclench your jaw.

15. Floss.

16. Delete Facebook.

17. Block time-wasting websites.

18. Eat something healthy.

19. Do push-ups, squats, or burpees.

20. Write a list of goals for the week.

21. Download a password manager.

22. Set up automatic deposits for your savings account.

23. Take a break from the computer screen.

24. Set up a file backup system on your computer.

25. Stretch.

🎨 Ways to Unlock Your Creativity

1. Read. Read about creativity. Read about artists. Learn new things.

2. Get bored. Sit down. Do nothing. Let creativity fill the gaps.

3. Journal. Free write. Let your thoughts flow unencumbered. Try asking yourself questions. Answer them on the page.

4. Do something mindless. Go for a walk. Go for a drive. Do the dishes. Keep your body busy while your mind wanders to other places.

5. Review your notes. Look at your past thoughts. You might have a different perspective now than you did then.

6. Copy your idols. In other words, Steal Like an Artist.

7. Start with one small step. Write one sentence. Make one brushstroke. Do the minimum. Just get things started to overcome that first hurdle.

8. Make a list. Create a mind map. Spit words and ideas onto the page. Figure out what to do with them later.

9. Create more. Creativity isn’t finite. The more you create, the more ideas you get. 

10. Break routine. Do something different. Use new experiences to fuel your creativity.

11. Talk through it. Just saying your thoughts out loud can help you work through them.

12. Change your process. Use new tools. Try a new technique. Approach your work from a new angle.

13. Try collaborating. Get an outside perspective. Find help from someone with different experiences and expertise. Just talking your project over with people can bring new insights.

14. Set constraints. Endless options can lead to analysis paralysis. Set constraints to force creative solutions.

15. Remix your old work. Edit it. Tweak it. Repackage it. You are a different person now than you were in the past. You have experienced new things. You have different skills and opinions. All of that can impact your work.

⏰ Spend Money to Buy Time

Money is infinite. If you lose money, you can always earn more. Time doesn’t work like that. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. Therefore, given the opportunity to trade money to buy time, one should take it.

There are even scientific reasons to buy time. According to studies, buying time promotes happiness. But how do you do it? Depending on your disposable income, you have a few options.

1. Get a housecleaning service. Pay someone else to do your dusting, vacuuming, and scrubbing.
2. Hire a gardener. Get someone to mow your lawn and prune your bushes.
3. Outsource repairs. Hire others for home and car repairs. If you rent, hold your landlord responsible for home repairs.
4. Pay for faster transportation. Fly instead of drive. Opt for direct flights.
5. Get an assistant. Hire someone to keep your schedule, make your appointments, and run your errands. If that is out of your price range, try online services.
6. Outsource work. Hire freelancers to research, edit, write, design, code, or do whatever else you need to be done.
7. Cut down on commute time. Pay more to live closer to work. Or quit your job and find one that allows you to work from home.
8. Pay someone to cook for you. Order out for meals. For a healthier (and expensive) option, hire a personal chef.
9. Retire early. Be frugal with your spending. Save as much as you can. Invest wisely. Retire early so you can spend time doing what you want and not what you need to do.

Not everyone has the disposable income for these options. Luckily there are ways to free time without spending money.

1. Automate repetitive tasks. If you need to do it more than twice, find a way to automate it. Set up autopay on your bills. Write scripts for repetitive computer tasks. Use automation software.
2. Streamline decision-making. Author Neil Strauss eats the same lunches from the same restaurants every week. He does this so he doesn’t have to spend time choosing what to eat. The decisions are made for him. Find ways to cut down on your decisions.
3. Stay healthy. Eating healthy, exercising, and regularly visiting your doctor can add years to your life you might not otherwise have.
4. Stay on task. Manage your responsibilities in a timely manner, so you can move on to tasks you enjoy.

It’s up to you to decide which strategies you implement. Some things you might actually enjoy doing. Others you will want to outsource. If you enjoy cooking, don’t bother ordering out. However not many people enjoy dusting and vacuuming, so you might want to hire someone to do the house cleaning for you. Like most decisions, the more money you have, the easier they are to make.

Now take the time to choose what you want to outsource. Do it for your own happiness. Go task by task, deciding what you can and can’t afford, what you enjoy and what you don’t. Don’t limit yourself to the tasks in this post. The more time you buy, the more time you have to do the things you love.