Things That Make My Life So Much Better

Happy Thanksgiving

For some time, I’ve been keeping a list of things that make my existence so much more enjoyable. Also, convenient. And don’t forget awesome.

And, since I’m flush with Thanksgiving gratitude, I thought I’d just post it here.

Not included on this list are things that I prefer to take for granted, things like

  • My husband, parents, brother and close friends
  • Cats (both the large and the domestic varieties)
  • Being born, through absolutely no effort on my part, in a country that so many people go to such great lengths to get to and stay in
  • Food, shelter, etc.

On some level, of course I’m grateful that I have those things. But let’s face it: My life would be completely, incomprehensibly different without them. I wouldn’t be me. And that is freaky. This is why I prefer to take them for granted.

This list, on the other hand, is all about things that I probably wouldn’t miss if they weren’t here. Without them, my life would be pretty much the same, but way less rad.

iPhone Photo Apps

Toy Camera ("Warm") + TiltShiftGen

Specifically, Old Camera, Toy Camera and, for editing, TiltShiftGen. And wow, I just learned they were all made by the same developer. I have other ones, but I find them gimmicky and slow. Nothing will ever replace my Nikon DSLR, but I love the portability of the iPhone, and the attitude of experimentation and guerrilla documentation that it gives me. Plus, the quality is really damn good.


To me, Wikipedia is the absolute pinnacle of the Internet: It’s free, it’s user-generated, it’s comprehensive and it’s (mostly) accurate. And there are no ads. Since it launched in 2001, I have used it probably every day that I’ve had access to the Internet. I use it for my work, whether it’s to find out the specifics of a certain developmental disability, jargon used in economics or a certain director’s filmography. And I use it every day for pleasure–some articles are so well-written that I go back and re-read them sometimes (this one for example, and this and this).

There’s nothing more soothing than going down a Wiki Worm Hole, clicking on link after link until you can’t remember where you started.

The Subway

Fort Hamilton Subway Stop

The New York City subway has a reputation, and I don’t think it’s a good one. People think it’s scary and dirty (it is kind of dirty). Once on a visit, my mom said that the only thing she really wanted to do was to ride the train from her hotel in Times Square to my apartment in Brooklyn. By herself. A 40-minute commute involving no transfers was her Big New York Adventure. She was so proud of herself.

I love the subway because it’s one of the few truly democratic things left in New York. Also, it goes everywhere. Also, it’s fast. And it’s cheap! And nobody ever has any excuse to drive under the influence. You never have to find parking and you can read while you’re in transit. And you get to spy on people you would never ever hang out with anywhere else.

Rice Cookers

When I was a freshman in college, my roommate, Wheels, introduced me to the wonders of the rice cooker. With a bag of white rice and a bottle of soy sauce, Wheels and I could hole up in our dorm room for days, watching 90210 reruns and complaining about our lame lives. Sophomore year, I branched out, keeping brown rice, cans of beans and Cholula in my fancy RA cupboard. I made a lot of friends by offering comforting, healthy, dorm-cooked meals. I have gone through many rice cookers since that first one and I don’t go a week without using one. The only kitchen implement I use more consistently is my tea kettle.

The Works of Jane Austen

Since I was 16, I have never gone a year (sometimes not even a month) without reading a Jane Austen novel. She wrote six complete books before she died from a mysterious illness in 1817 at the age of 41. They are all brilliant. She was the first author who wrote the way people actually speak. There is no melodrama; her characters are extremely relate-able and realistic. And those who are not are hilarious. The best thing about reading her books is realizing that even though so much has changed in the past 200 years, people have stayed the same: Many of them are shallow and petty money-grubbers, narcissists and drama queens. But some of them are witty, sensible, down-t0-earth and perceptive. I find this so comforting.

Hiking Trails Constructed and Maintained by the Government

Todd Lake

Between torturing people, allowing the American public to be sodomized by investment bankers and trying to ensure affordable health coverage for poor people, the federal government is hated by all kinds of folks these days. But it does some nice things sometimes. A good number of the best experiences of my life have taken place on wilderness trails that I simply drove up to and started walking on. I have seen spectacular vistas and Martian landscapes 30 miles up abandoned logging roads; I have gone for 10 hours without seeing another human being. All thanks to the efforts of the US Forest Service and various other government agencies.

PG Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster oeuvre

Whenever I’m feeling sad or anxious, I pick up a Jeeves and Wooster compilation, open at random and start chuckling. Wodehouse’s healing powers have been well documented by none other than Hugh Laurie, who played Bertie Wooster on TV back in the ’90s.


Dan Bejar

At any given time, I am pretty much obsessed with the New Pornographers or one of their many side projects. For a while now, Destroyer (aka Dan Bejar) has been my favorite of these. I have seen him many times in person, with the New Pornos and solo, and I think he is such a wonderful, creative, eccentric, lovely songwriter and musician. There are songwriters and musicians who are better, probably, but none that make me feel so happy. Here’s a song off his forthcoming album.

Online Shopping, and These Cups

I’m not big on buying stuff in general, but shopping in chain stores, boutiques and (ugh) malls are tantamount to torture for me. I enjoy grocery shopping, that is all. Fortunately, the Internet has provided a way for me to avoid going into a physical store ever again: The book cases in my home, the books that fill them, the pots I cook with, the dishes I eat off of, practically all of my clothes and definitely all of my shoes have been ordered from the Internet.

These cups are my favorite thing I own, perfect for tea, coffee, wine and bourbon. And they have the seasons hand painted on them. I ordered them in October 2008  from bailey doesn’t bark as one of my first Etsy purchases. Etsy is by far my favorite place on the Internet to buy things. If I were rich, I would be clothed only in Etsy-wear.

That Gwen Bell Commented on My Blog

For a while now, I, along with a lot of other people, have been following the various projects of Gwen Bell, goddess of social networking and the Internet. She’s on all kinds of lists for her amazingness, skills and compassion. And yesterday, she found and commented on this website of mine (see previous post). It was the highlight of my Internet existence so far and I’m still basking in the glow. Gwen is leading a year-end project of creativity and reflection here. I’m doing it and so should you; it will be fun.

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6 Responses to Things That Make My Life So Much Better

  1. Valerie says:

    I love this! Can’t wait to see you in mere hours and share bountiful food. And thank you for pointing me toward Gwen Bell’s project…I’m going to participate for sure.

  2. Davey D says:

    This is my favorite entry thus far, by far. Thankful for YOU. And Hipstamatic.

  3. Joan says:

    This is so great. Like YOU! Thank you.

  4. Jeff London says:

    It is amazing how much we have in common, ranging from Jane Austen ( i blush ) to the Destroyer. I thank my lucky stars the Depper helped us to make the acquaintance of you and your hub. See you next Saturday night…J Lo.

  5. Thank you for all the Thanksgiving love, friends. And yes Jeff, we will rock the party next Saturday. Safe travels.

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