My Stuff

As a long time reader of Vanity Fair, the first thing I turn to is a section called “My Stuff,” where famous people tell you what they use daily….. everything from sheets to watches to toothpaste. It’s amazing to me how many people make millions in different industries, and yet still love Crest.

(Well, now it’s the first thing I turn to……….. Dominic Dunne and Christopher Hitchens are dead…………….)

I’ve never done such a writing exercise, so I thought it would be fun to do my own. I’ll divide everything up into categories for easy reading. If you have something better that I absolutely must try, leave it in the comments.

Health & Beauty

  • I have a huge morning allergy regimen, because inside or outside, I’ll find something that makes me sneeze.
    • Pills- Zyrtec (getting Allegra next week) and Sudafed (NOT PE)
    • Sprays- Fluticasone and Sinex
    • Eye drops- Bausch + Lomb Alaway
  • Soaps
    • Bioré Charcoal (face wash)
    • Suave Professionals Shampoo and Conditioner in Almond + Shea Butter
    • Axe Body Wash- Fresco in the summer (sage and mandarin), Dark Temptations in the winter (chocolate and vanilla)
    • Nivea for Men shaving cream
    • Neutrogena Make-up Removing Wipes (a must-have with a tubing mascara)
  • Fragrances
    • Winter
      • Axe Dark Temptations body spray
      • Axe Dark Temptations deodorant
    • Summer
      • JASON Tea Tree Deodorant Stick
      • Liz Claiborne for Men
  • Hair Products
    • Garnier Leave-in Conditioner
    • Viking Revolution pomade or Gorilla Snot (moco de gorila) Gel
    • Aussie Sprunch Spray
  • Makeup
    • Mascara and eyeliner in “Brynn” (a deep black) by Thrive Causemetics
    • Lipstick by Burt’s Bees in Plum
      • A quick note about makeup- this is all I own. Jeremy Renner was a makeup artist before he started acting and he says you only need to frame your face. I’m going to go with Hawkeye on this one….. foundation on a hot DC summer day is for dummies)
  • Dental Care
    • Colgate Essentials with Charcoal- toothpaste
    • Crest ProHealth Advanced Enamel Care- mouthwash
  • Sleep
    • 10mg melatonin
    • Weighted blanket (basically a human ThunderShirt)

Devices

  • AMD Desktop running Windows 10 with 32-in HDTV as monitor. Bluetooth remote control for Kodi Media Center.
  • Original Kindle 7-in (useful for reading long periods at a clip)
  • iPad
  • iPhone
  • Apple Watch
  • Logitech K480 Bluetooth Keyboard
    • I cannot recommend this product highly enough. It’s relatively full-size and comfortable, yet will fit in a messenger bag/medium to large purse. Plus, it has a switch on it so you can connect three different devices- I have my iPad, my iPhone, and my desktop hooked to it now.
  • Android tablet connected to a Bluetooth alarm clock- makes an AWESOME stereo
  • AMD laptop running Ubuntu 20.04 “Focal Fossa” and Cinnamon as the window manager
  • MPOW H7 Bluetooth headphones (80’s “can” style)
  • Sandisk Fuse+ MP3 Player running Rockbox
    • I listen to so much music/so many podcasts that having one of these saves hours of phone battery.

Applications

  • Mobile
    • Carrot Weather
    • Clue (period/ovulation tracker)
    • Just Press Record
    • Amazon Prime Music Unlimited
    • Spotify
    • Pocket Casts
    • LastPass
    • ProtonMail
    • Reddit
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • WordPress
    • Google Chrome
    • Washington Post & Post Select (Select has an Apple Watch app)
    • NY Times
    • Goodreads
    • Uber
    • Blood Donor (Red Cross)
    • Ambience
    • NordVPN
    • Mega
  • Desktop
    • Operating System Agnostic
      • NordVPN
      • Kodi
      • LibreOffice
      • Mozilla Firefox
      • Mozilla Thunderbird
      • GNU Image Manipulation Program/Glimpse
      • Google Chrome
      • Vivaldi Browser
      • VLC Media Player
    • Windows
      • Amazon Music Unlimited
      • Spotify
      • Netflix
      • Microsoft OneNote
      • Picasa 3
      • MusicBee
      • White Noise
      • iTunes
    • Linux
      • Nuvola (streams music and videos from all sources on Linux)
      • Variety (wallpaper changer)
      • Conky Manager (adds widgets to the desktop for looking at processes and internet speed)
      • ANoise (short for Ambient Noise- has everything from forests to beaches to oscillating fans)
      • LollyPop (music manager)

Podcasts

  • The Moth
  • Modern Love
  • Risk!
  • Unlocking Us
  • The Confessional with Nadia Bolz-Weber
  • On Being with Krista Tippett (I generally download the unedited version)
  • The Robcast
  • Pod Save America
  • The Rachel Maddow Show
  • The Daily Show: Ears Edition
  • Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend
  • SpyCast
  • Death, Sex, & Money
  • Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4
  • The Infinite Monkey Cage
  • Wild Goose
  • and, like, a hundred more but these are the ones I anticipate

Books I Read Often

  • Dynamics of Faith, Paul Tillich
  • The Solace of Leaving Early and A Girl Named Zippy, Haven Kimmel
  • All of William Barclay’s books on the Gospels
  • Hatchet, Gary Paulsen
  • The Giver, Lois Lowry
  • One L, Scott Turow (pretty sure this was in my bathroom for three years in college)

Clothing Brands

  • Nautica
  • Tommy Hilfiger
  • Ralph Lauren
  • American Giant
  • Dockers
  • Levis
  • Dickies

My Bags

  • XINCADA Men’s Messenger Bag, L
    • Not a messenger bag in the classic sense. Looks way more like a travel purse, especially since the canvas is advertised as “Blue/Black,” but is actually purple. The only reason I went with the large is that I needed it to fit my 10-in tablet and keyboard. If you have a seven or eight inch tablet and a foldable keyboard, the small is perfect. I was amazed at the quality of the bag for the price. It will last me years on end.
  • Swiss Army Backpack
    • Perfect for my 15-in laptop and all its accessories while traveling. Not my daily driver because it’s too heavy….. I call it “Leviathan” (Veep joke)

So that’s my stuff. I’m not going to include movies and TV because those things change frequently. If there’s something I haven’t covered that you want to know, just ask. I’m not energetic enough to be cagey.

White Noise

I have no idea what this entry will entail. I think I’ll just jump around with life updates until I find something worthy. I’ve found that you can start out with one thing and delve deeper as you go. Writing is a muscle, and blogging, for me, is “working out.” It’s completely stream-of-conscience and changes topics on purpose. I remember one woman thinking that my blog was tied to my mental disorder (Bipolar II) because of it. She didn’t understand, and some people don’t. Tangents upon tangents are just the way I roll (most of the time, anyway). It’s not a sickness- it’s how blogging has been for many people since they premiered on the Internet.

Speaking of mental illness, though, I will say that the pandemic has reinforced my agoraphobia. Mask or not, I’m afraid…………. but that’s not a bad thing in this type of societal climate. Too many people are eager for “normal” when in the United States, we are clearly not ready for it. No state has gotten to zero and in many, cases are on the rise. This is because we do not have a safety net. There is no socialized medicine, unemployment insurance that gives you enough money to take care of one’s basic needs (especially in big cities, where rent and mortgages are high), and no leadership from the federal government. Other countries are doing so much better.

So, my response is to stay in my own home 99% of the time. I put off getting groceries and medicine, or I order them over the Internet. For instance, I need coffee creamer (my main basic food group), and I can’t even bring myself to go and get it.

I should be doing more writing than I have been, because I have more time to do it and I’m not taking advantage. I’m hoping that will change. 2020-07-17 14_37_43-WindowOne of the things that’s helping me today is a new app I found in the Windows store. It’s called “White Noise,” and it actually comes with lots of free sounds. Today I’m listening to brown noise, but the one they’re giving away for free is a thunderstorm on a loop. The app is a gift because there’s a great Linux app called “ANoise,” and before today I hadn’t found a Windows equivalent. I still have ANoise on my laptop, but for some reason, my desktop has problems with Linux, no matter what distribution I try. I can’t get the OS to boot from a USB key because it can’t find my hard drives and gets stuck. I’ve sped up my computer as far as it will go because I put in 16 GB of RAM (eight on each channel), and an SSD for Windows. I have a two TB mechanical hard drive for all my “stuff,” excluding my most frequently used applications. I have no idea why Windows will install and Linux won’t, and I have too little energy to figure it out. The thing about being good at technology and getting a job doing it is that you have very little patience for dealing with your own. The only thing I’ve done with my laptop is add an SSD to it, because even with a relatively slow processor, it screams with an SSD. If you don’t have one, they’re cheap and it’s worth it. I got a 256 GB because on my laptop, I hardly ever store things. I use Internet apps and streaming media.

I’m sorry if this is boring for non-IT people, but I’m basically putting on a commercial for SSDs. It’s the fastest and easiest way to speed up everything and took me less than a half hour to install. The longest part was unscrewing everything and putting it back together. If you’ve never done it before, there are YouTube videos for nearly every computer on the market, and so much cheaper than hiring someone else. If you do need to store a large amount of data, there are kits to take out your optical drive and put a mechanical hard drive in its place, because most people don’t need them anymore. Think about the last time you watched a physical DVD or ripped your music. It’s so 2001. If you have a lot of CDs and DVDs, there’s a lot of free software to copy them before you put them in the trash. I am all about the minimalist lifestyle. 😉

In terms of saving your data, just make sure you back it up so that you have a failsafe if and when your hard drive fails. Two copies of everything will save your ass someday. You’ll thank me when you don’t lose all your family pictures, the only thing that’s truly irreplaceable. If you want/need cloud storage for pictures, there are plenty of free services. Mega is the most generous– you get 70 GB free, and additional is cheap- about $6.00/mo.

Sometimes I think about how much I miss my family’s old pictures because our house burned down in 1990. If cloud storage had existed back then, they wouldn’t have burned. Even the ones that survived had streaks on them and smelled like a camp fire. My grandparents helped us piece them back together, but they only had so many…… and that’s why technology is so important to me. It’s not the technology itself, but the things that can be preserved. Memories are precious, and because of computers, phones, tablets, etc. none of it is clutter. If you’re anything like me, you have or have had giant stacks of pictures thrown in a box that you say you’re going to put in an album, and the day you say you’re going to scan them turns into into 25 years. I know me. We’ve met.

For instance, I am grateful for every picture I have of my mother and my grandparents, only one of which is still alive, and he turned 90 on July 13th. He loves movies, and I always ask him for recommendations when I call. The last one was “Mrs. Miniver,” and I immediately bought a copy. I enjoyed it so much, and so did other people. It was the Oscars’ Best Picture in 1942…… the entire reason I ask my grandfather for so many recommendations in the first place. I haven’t seen many of the great old movies out there, and he knows them all.

The only old movie that I haven’t finished is “Three Days of the Condor.” A bunch of innocent CIA case officers and analysts get shot in the first half. I had a visceral, nauseous reaction, and there’s a reason for it. I’ve met case officers, albeit retired, and in my mind those people were replaced by people I know and have pored over their books. It was horrifying.

In terms of horror, I am much more interested in fiction. I started “American Horror Story” two nights ago and it’s fabulous. I’m late to the party because I didn’t think I’d like it, but between the pilot and now I’ve loved several scary movies and TV shows……. most notably “It” and “Stranger Things.” Eleven completes me.

The other show I love right now is “American Soul” on BET. It’s the story of how Don Cornelius started “Soul Train,” and as you can imagine, the music is divine and lots of famous people are portrayed. My favorite has been Wayne Brady as Little Richard. The only horror in it is how blacks are treated, because we still haven’t solved the problem (I say “blacks” instead of African American because not all black people in the United States are from Africa).

I also watch a lot of YouTube, because I enjoy the hell out of seeing James Baldwin. He was so integral in my becoming a teenager. “Go Tell it on the Mountain” was assigned to me for summer reading before my sophomore year. I devoured it and went on to read all of Baldwin’s other works. Because he was black and queer, there were lots of similarities between the discrimination he faced and what was happening in my own life.

I was lucky in my freshman and sophomore years to have black English teachers, because I have found that most of my white teachers didn’t bother to include black authors (surprise). The one book by a black author I was assigned by a white English teacher was “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker. I loved it as well, but it seems to be the only book written about black people that white teachers across the country assign (i.e. the only book white English teachers will let cross over into their generally white classrooms). With my black teachers, we read Alan Paton (white author, but wrote about race relations in South Africa), Richard Wright, and Toni Morrison as well.

The black authors I read were usually better at creating a lasting impression. I still remember lines from “Beloved,” “Native Son,” and “Black Boy.” I need to get digital copies of them as well, because they’re not books I ever want to lose. There are three reasons that, at least for me, digital trumps paper books. The first is they’re in the cloud, so they keep. The second is that I don’t have any books that I’ll lend to people and I still haven’t gotten them back years later. The third is that I’m always in the middle of at least three, and I don’t like it when my backpack weights 30 lbs.

I give digital books as gifts a lot, and they’re a big hit. For instance, I gave one friend a copy of “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle,” and she said “that’s one of my favorite books, no idea where the hardback is.” I thought that might be the case, because her life is books and dogs, so it seemed like the kind of book she would have swallowed whole the moment it came out…….. but I sent it to her anyway because I couldn’t imagine a world in which she hadn’t read it and I had to make sure. 😉

She’s also Latina, so I sent her my favorite Latinx novel, which is “Bless Me, Ultima” by Rudolfo Anaya. It’s about a Catholic boy and the curandera who mentors him. The laugh lines I love the most in it is the scene when the young boy is going to his first communion, and worries that Jesus will get stuck to the roof of his mouth.

The last thing I’ll say about books is that I go through periods of reading, then writing, but not both simultaneously. It’s because I tend to pick up the style of the last author I read, and I’m not interested in filling their shoes.

I want to wear my own.