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Some links to brighten your day
Things that are Pretty Good
Pretty Good Things all the way
Hello, friends. This week we have a few positive things that’ll make life just a little bit nicer. I hope you are having a good day. Here we go!
Jodi Ettenberg’s gluten-free resources
I’ve recommended Jodi Ettenberg’s work before—she’s one of the OG travel bloggers, quitting a legal career to become a digital nomad long before “digital nomad” was ever a thing. In 2018, she suffered a cerebrospinal fluid leak that never healed; she has since stopped traveling and now writes about living with disability, and resilience after (repeated) setbacks.
Jodi has celiac disease and has created gluten-free guides to several destinations, as well as gluten-free digital translation cards (the guides are free, the cards are for sale). She’s just added a gluten-free guide to Egypt; these resources are thoughtfully put together, so I hope they are useful to those of you with gluten restrictions. There are guides to countries like Mexico, Japan and Malaysia, and a few specific cities and regions as well.
I’m also a subscriber to Jodi’s newsletter, in which she gathers her favorite stories from the month to share. The first three items below are my favorites of her favorites:
This Iceland town has a Puffling Patrol: a team of townsfolk young and old, dedicated to saving baby puffins that have been confused by the artificial lights of the town and gotten lost on the way to the sea. Wonderful. This is the kind of project that brings purpose and a sense of belonging to a community, and we need more of it.
Worldschooling isn’t a new thing; it’s just been given a new name now that more and more people are joining the movement. But families have been doing it for eons. The Robertsons—parents and four children—set sail in their schooner in 1971 on an adventure across the seas. A year into their voyage, killer whales attacked and sunk the schooner, leaving them stranded in a raft drifting in the Pacific Ocean. For 37 days, they clung onto life in a raft and then a tiny dinghy, until a fishing boat finally rescued them. They all survived, and father Dougal Robertson later wrote a book about their experience.
The Marginalian has a piece about this ordeal, featuring Robertson’s book Sea Survival: A Manual, and how he was able to go on even when the situation seemed hopeless:
I have no words to offer which may comfort the reader who is also a castaway, except that rescue may come at any time but not necessarily when you expect it; and that even if you give up hope, you must never give up trying, for, as the result of your efforts, hope may well return and with justification.
Barnes and Noble is thriving
It’s a funny world when Barnes and Noble is now an underdog you root for, rather than the behemoth bad guy that was obliquely referenced in “You’ve Got Mail,” the movie starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks…a lifetime ago (i.e., 1998). I remember after Barnes and Noble closed its Walnut Creek store in 2016, it was quite missed because there weren’t many bookstores around anymore. I did think Barnes and Noble would soon shut down completely (who do you know with Nook?).
But last summer, they opened anew in downtown Walnut Creek, part of the company’s revival and expansion after years of barely hanging on. In 2019, they got a new CEO who has focused on making the stores more like independent local bookstores, with autonomy to cater to local interests. Now, even independent bookstores regard Barnes and Noble as on their team because they keep publishers invested in distributing physical books and keep the “discovery” of books alive:
Buying a book you’re looking for online is easy. You search. You click. You buy. What’s lost in that process are the accidental finds, the book you pick up in a store because of its cover, a paperback you see on a stroll through the thriller section.
No one has quite figured out how to replicate that kind of incidental discovery online. It makes bookstores hugely important not only for readers but also for all but the biggest-name writers, as well as for agents and publishers of all sizes.
The Painted Porch
Speaking of bookstores, writer/blogger/podcaster Ryan Holiday posted 29 lessons he learned from running The Painted Porch bookstore for two years (h/t to Taz for sending me the post). Taz has a dream to own a bookstore some day; I love bookstores but I’m not sure I’d like to have one. I wouldn’t mind sitting in a bookstore all day reading, drinking hot drinks, and occasionally finding a book for a customer, but I think owning a bookstore entails a little bit more than that. Actually, I know it entails more than that because I read Ryan Holiday’s post.
#4. Keep your eye on the prize. What is success to you? What metrics actually matter to you? Remembering why you did something and how you measure success helps you calibrate your decisions properly. I’m happy enough to be putting books out in the world, making this community better, having a physical space, challenging myself, etc…as long as I don’t lose lots of money, that’s a win.
This cool use for drones
Ex-NASA scientist and uber popular YouTuber Mark Rober, he of porch thief glitter bomb and squirrel maze fame, has this new video out (above) about American company Zipline’s medical drone delivery service in Rwanda. These drones send blood, plasma, and other medical needs across terrain that is difficult to drive through, and the delivery happens within minutes. Sometimes people can be so clever and innovative and helpful—it’s fantastic! Just watch the video—it’s worth your time.
I heard Chris Martin of Coldplay talk about Subpac, a device that allows wearers to “feel” music through vibrations. On the Subpac website, the company promotes their product as a way for music lovers to have a more immersive experience, and for music producers and sound designers to use as a tool to replicate the club sound in studios. Coldplay has found a different way to use it: some people who attend their concerts are deaf or hard-of-hearing (“Our critics say that’s the best way to experience our concerts, is if you can’t hear the music,” Chris Martin joked…He knows what’s up. He knows what people say). For these concert-goers, Coldplay provides Subpacs and sign language interpreters so they can enjoy the experience with everyone else.
C’mon, Coldplay-haters. That’s pretty cool.
Lastly but not leastly
And lastly, this isn’t a specific recommendation, but something I have to tell myself frequently to do: When I’m feeling down and caught up in my own problems, I tend to move inward into my own mind. I have to work hard to turn outward. But I’ve found that when I do, when I push myself to get out and—for example—volunteer or help someone else with their project, I invariably feel better. This is just me here, reminding myself this is a technique that works to alleviate the doldrums, and I shouldn’t forget it.