Thing 20: Ticket to Ride App

Let me clarify something by saying that despite my nerd pedigree, I am not really a board game person. There are a few I like a lot, and I will always try new things, but so often board games are like woodworking: the set-up and rule learning takes an egregious amount of time and I am ready for a new activity by the time the game is going to begin. One of the games I like is Ticket to Ride…mostly because it is about trains. And the app is a spectacular way to play. 

Now I will clarify something else: the app is a spectacular way to play but it is not a spectacular app; it is a little glitchy and if you get logged out god help you, but the hard parts about playing a board game are solved by the digital version. Plus, you can play with friends and strangers around the world, as I did every Friday night for over a year. It’s not a free game but it really is worth the $6.99 on the App store or Google Play. If you have a tablet, I highly recommend using it to play over a phone if you can. Stephanie in SF gets a gifted version of the app and also has gets to play with me!!!

Thing 13: Books!

This is my 5th year of running an online book club (was doing online book club before it was cool). I wrote a lot about it last year, so you can read more there if you like. Rebecca in Cleveland gets a copy of the November 2021 book Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia purchased from the Bookshop page for Visible Voice Books in Cleveland. 

We have one more book to read for 2021: How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith. Smiths’ book, as well as another 2021 pick Kink, made it to the New York Times Notable Books of 2021 list. Essentially, I am a good picker. 

Normally here is where I would release the 2022 Book Club list, but I am not ready yet! Feel free to send me your ideas!

Thing 3: El Buho Verde

My language skills are absolutely abysmal for someone who travels as much as I do. Thankfully I have sold my soul to a green owl who harasses me to try harder. Duolingo, the brainchild of another Carnegie Mellon alum, is actually a pretty good way to learn structure and vocabulary in a fun, gamified way. Plus, a cartoon owl threatens you until you give in to learning some more verbs! 

As an English speaker, you can learn Spanish, French, Japanese, German, Korean, Italian, Chinese, Hindi, Russian, Arabic, Turkish, Portuguese, Dutch, Latin, Swedish, Irish, Greek, Vietnamese, Polish, Norwegian, Hebrew, Indonesian, Hawaiian, Danish, Finnish, Romanian, Welsh, Czech, Scottish Gaelic, Yiddish, Swahili, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Navajo, Esparanto, and even Klingon & High Valyrian. 

Apparently they want to be the Sesame Street for adults (isn’t that The Muppets?), which is all fine and good, but honestly try it for the memes alone. There is a free version anyone can use and try, but the really good learning comes with a paid version (impactante!). Peri, of Beloved Flavortown, will be added to my Duo Plus family to learn the languages of her dreams!

Favorite Things 2021: Day 1

copies of vanity fair magazine

Favorite Things is back, baby! One day, one thing. The theme this year is “I hate everything but maybe some of these things are ok.”

For my first Thing, I am talking about Vanity Fair—a magazine combining serious journalism with perfume samples. I honestly think I subscribed to VF when some child in my life was selling magazine subscriptions for a school fundraiser. Perusing the titles available, I suddenly had flashbacks to standing in front of the magazine racks of Marc’s circa 1997 Cleveland, Ohio. I wanted whatever life Vanity Fair had to offer then, and thought I may as well see if the idea still applied.

Having the physical magazine has been so great. Sometimes I tire of looking at both good screen AND bad screen and need the heavily saturated pages of a glossy. The covers, once a predictable Leibovitz-controlled aesthetic, have opened to a wider range of photographers e.g. Dario Calmese with Viola Davis, Adrienne Raquel with Issa Rae, and Quil Lemons with Billie Eilish. I also subscribe to print versions of The Atlantic, Washingtonian, and the Washington Post, but only VF is the perfect magazine for long flights, a lazy Saturday on the couch, AND when you need to make a collage.

I am a little torn here because I wish I was favoriting a magazine with a journalism union/guild. I’m inspired by some of the other Condé Nast unions (especially by The New Yorker and their excellent organizing graphics) and look forward to supporting the VF writers if they choose to take that route.

Elizabeth in Manchester is getting a physical and digital subscription to Vanity Fair UK.

Thing 16: Books, from a indie shop

It’s about to be the fourth year of my online book club (the original idea I stole from Oprah), and all are welcome. Many join, but few participate…and this is OK! Sometimes people need book ideas, others need aspirational reading goals; there are no obligations or bad reasons to join. We read one book a month and discuss it on a chat platform (text chat only) for an hour at the end of the month. I choose all the books (muahaha), and we only read things published in the past 18 months. 

I am using Thing 16 to celebrate the end of Book Club 2020, and invite you all to participate in Book Club 2021! The world debut of next year’s titles is right here, right now! The actual physical Thing #16  is our final book for 2020, Real Life by Brandon Taylor. Since I chose the book last December, before it was released, it has received much acclaim, including being shortlisted for The Booker Prize! (This is a brag about how I pick good books.)

Books are also a great thing to buy locally. Support independent bookstores in your area. You can use sites like Bookshop to browse availability (if they don’t have their own ecommerce), but you should always try and email or call in your order if possible. Meg is getting her copy of Real Life from Loyalty Books, which is a great Black and Queer-owned bookshop in DC and Silver Spring. They have a fantastic ecommerce platform and have many things available for pre-order too (which can be hard to find in independent bookshop sites).

Pre-orders can be so important for authors. If there are authors you want to see thrive, pre-order their next book from a local, independent book store (if you don’t have one, borrow mine). There are a few unreleased titles you can pre-order on the 2021 Book Club list: How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith, Kink edited by R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwald, and Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia.

And don’t forget about libraries when you pre-order―request your local library also purchase (this link is for DCPL and requires you to be logged in) a copy too. This is also a great way to show support if books aren’t in your budget: requesting is free!


✔️ DC Based 

?️‍? Queer Owned

? Black owned 

? Woman owned