McKinley Valentine, Writer and Editor


Cool Tools Show 231: McKinley Valentine

Our guest this week is McKinley Valentine, McKinley is a writer and editor from Melbourne, Australia. She makes The Whippet, a newsletter of interesting bits of science, history and unsolicited advice. You can find her on Twitter @mckinleaf.

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Show notes:

Book Riot SFF Newsletter
I read pretty much everything on Kindle now but one of the major downsides is how you find new fiction when you’re no longer in the habit of browsing a bookstore every week and seeing what’s out, and picking something up based on the cover and the blurb. You lose a) reading books you’d never otherwise have heard of, and b) having a general sense of what’s going on in bookworld. Book Riot’s Science Fiction & Fantasy newsletter will have maybe 5 books in it — sometimes new releases, sometimes themed, like “books about workers” or “books set in the desert”. (It also has general SFF news but I tend to skim that part and skip to the books.) They’re not reviews — it’s just the cover and the official blurb. But they’re all books that are generally well-regarded, so if you pick ones where the premise sounds interesting to you, you’ll have a pretty good strike rate. They also have newsletters for other genres: Mystery/Thriller, YA, Romance, Horror, Comics, etc. which I imagine are just as good.

Dot Grid Index Cards by Baronfig ($9, 50pk)
Bullet journalling is the closest thing I’ve found to a system that works for me, because it’s so flexible. In an ordinary planner, if you don’t use it for a week, those blank days really make you feel guilty. But in a bullet journal, you’re starting fresh every time – you can abandon it for 6 months and pick up where you left off. You can do a daily To Do list and then a random weekly one any time you have a complex week to figure out. But even that wasn’t flexible enough for me. By using index cards I can pull lists apart and spread them over my desk. I can do a braindump To Do list when my head’s overwhelmed, then use that to write a [Specific Client] To Do list, a [Personal Project] To Do list, and an “Absolutely everything I must get done by Sunday night or I’m screwed” To Do list. If a list is stressing me out, I can rewrite it as two smaller lists and throw out the original one. The physicality of index cards (being able to spread them over a surface, rearrange them, stack them, etc.) and the disposability of them (you know how it can feel difficult to ‘waste’ the pages of a nice notebook?) is hugely freeing. As far as I can tell, only two companies make dot grid index cards. I use Oxford brand ones, which are honestly a little on the flimsy side, because they’re more widely available. I think the Baron Fig ones are probably much better quality. Oxford spacing is 8.5mm, Baron Fig is 5mm. Buy twice as many as you need to prevent hoarding mentality.

MyNoise ambient noise/soundscape generator
MyNoise is without exception the best ambient noise generator on the web. It has 200+ sound generators, and they’re all based off actual recordings from real locations: rain off the Irish coast, cooking inside a Bedoin tent with a sandstorm outside, laundromat sounds, etc. But it’s not just a looped recording — they’re turned into proper sound generators, with separate sliders so you can increase, for example, the sounds of running water and decrease the wildlife sounds. For the more white noise-y ones you can automatically set to pink noise, brown noise, etc, or calibrate them to your speakers. Some of my favourites (other than the more obvious nature sounds) are: The Pilgrim (meditative, melodic humming), Three Friends of Winter (East Asian instrumental soundscape), and Duduk Song (Haunting, beautiful Armenian wind instrument).

Stratia Liquid Gold (Moisturiser)
Stratia is an indie skincare company that came out of the reddit skincare forums. So it’s made by nerds who focus on evidence-based ingredients rather than being marketing-driven. I know a lot of people aren’t interested in putting on a million layers of serums, but they might replace their basic moisturiser for a better one. Liquid Gold’s focus is specifically on restoring a compromised skin barrier. If your face stings when you put products on, or dries out quickly or gets oily really quickly, there’s a good chance you have a damaged skin barrier from using alkaline soaps.

About The Whippet
I’ve had a few sort of blogs that didn’t last more than a few issues because they’d always tell you, “You have to find your niche. You have to find your one topic that you’re going to talk about.” And I couldn’t do that because I’m interested in pretty much everything. You know that feeling when you read something that is so interesting that you immediately want to grab the nearest person and say, “Guess what I just learned?” Anything that makes me feel like that goes in the newsletter.


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