November 30, 2018

After a long year of reading and experimentation, I have found a mini-calling to withdraw from much of my online participation and screentime. You know, participation is hardly the word because so much of my screentime has involved passive scrolling and skimming! I am probably becoming as pretentious about this subject as Neo-Luddite Frank Navasky from You’ve Got Mail, but I do think the mindful steps back I’ve taken have been helpful to me. I’m reading more, I’m journaling more, and I’m looking up a bit more. It’s not a perfect change, and I do still reach for my phone in unconscious moments of insecurity or mild boredom, but I’m getting there.

  1. Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight, Linda Bacon. I’m getting a lot out of this book, which sparked the Health at Every Size (HAES) movement. It’s very well-researched and talks about the factors that influence weight regulation and how to listen to your body’s natural cues regarding food. It’s a very generous book and while I do find some chapters difficult/anxiety inducing (the food industry, eek!), it’s been an excellent, stabilizing force in the ocean of diet and nutrition information out there.

  2. Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound
    . “We know from research that the reading circuit is not given to human beings through a genetic blueprint like vision or language; it needs an environment to develop. Further, it will adapt to that environment’s requirements – from different writing systems to the characteristics of whatever medium is used. If the dominant medium advantages processes that are fast, multi-task oriented and well-suited for large volumes of information, like the current digital medium, so will the reading circuit. As UCLA psychologist Patricia Greenfield writes, the result is that less attention and time will be allocated to slower, time-demanding deep reading processes, like inference, critical analysis and empathy, all of which are indispensable to learning at any age.” This is really interesting, talking about how our reading skills evolve to fit the mediums we use, and how our current screen media make it difficult to do deep reading. But read this piece – it ends with a message of hope!
  3. Disruption: Saadia Muzaffar. “For the vast majority of these workers, their only contact with their employer is through an app. You sign up through an app, you interact with them through an app, you get paid through an app. All of this is fine until a worker does something, let’s say unsavory, that the employer does not like. They are immediately kicked off the platform with no recourse. They have no way to reach anybody, talk, clarify, renegotiate, and their work history is erased. So it’s almost like they never existed, doing the jobs that they did for many years at a time. These platforms also purposely don’t provide any way for these workers to connect with one another, so it is a very lonely existence as a worker.” Wow, this is a really interesting look at a population (online labor workers) that I hadn’t considered to this degree. The level of employee surveillance is definitely something I’m not comfortable with, along with the designation of these employees as independent contractors to avoid giving them benefits or a safety net! This is a really good talk.
  4. The Problem With Being Perfect, The Atlantic. This is an interesting examination of perfectionism. When I had a therapist, one of the most freeing things she told me was to shoot for “excellence, not perfection.” Personal excellence, meaning that you tried your best and tried only to please yourself over any external judges, is a healthier goal for me than an ever-distant perfection.
  5. The Ugly History of Beautiful Things: Perfume, Longreads. “It’s not always about simply smelling good: We want to smell complex, so that others will be compelled to keep coming back, like bees to a flower, to sniff us again and again, to revel in our scents, and draw ever closer to our warm, damp parts.” Gross! But fascinating. I like reading about scent; it’s hard to describe and I love when people do it well. “Smell is the mute sense, the one without words,” wrote Diane Ackerman in A Natural History of the Senses. “Lacking a vocabulary, we are left tongue-tied, groping for words in a sea of inarticulate pleasures and exaltation.”

November 23, 2018

However you are celebrating this holiday, I hope you find a moment for gratitude and another for cozy. 

  1. Know Your Squash: How They Look, How They Cook, NYT. This is a great guide to a wonderful vegetable!

  2. McMansion Hell (Williamson County, TN). This is a Tumblr that pokes fun at the real estate listings of enormous mansions – the tacky taste, the iffy architecture, and the sense of dread you get from looking at pictures of a house with no people in it. It’s all here, and I’ve snickered my way through many a house profile on her blog. This post, which covers an eyesore of a house from Tennessee, is representative of her humor.

  3. Why UX Designers Should Consider the Role of Sound Design, WIRED. This is interesting! Describes the phenomenon of “sonic trash,” like that grating noise when you need to remove your card from the chip reader at the grocery store. Some of their findings: “That credit card chip reader sound has an emotional appeal of 95.7, just slightly
    better than nails on a chalkboard. In that same range is the relentless
    beeping of a typical microwave when your food is done. The least
    appealing designed sound we tested was the government issued Emergency
    Broadcast Alert—with an Emotional Index of 93.1, it’s only marginally
    better than hearing a pained scream.

    the most appealing designed sound we tested was that of The Weather
    Channel’s Severe Weather Alert on its mobile app, which falls somewhere
    between an orchestra tuning and the sound of applause (Emotional Index =
    107.8).  Not far off, with an emotional index of 107, was Disney Now’s
    streaming media UX sounds.”

  4. Quitting Instagram: Why did one of the original employees of the social media platform quit the company and delete the app? Washington Post. “She was one of the 13 original employees working at
    Instagram in 2012 when Facebook bought the viral photo-sharing app for
    $1 billion. She and four others from that small group now say the sense
    of intimacy, artistry and discovery that defined early Instagram and led
    to its success has given way to a celebrity-driven marketplace that is
    engineered to sap users’ time and attention at the cost of their
    well-being.“In the early days, you felt your
    post was seen by people who cared about you and that you cared about,”
    said Richardson, who left Instagram in 2014 and later founded a
    start-up. “That feeling is completely gone for me now.”

    This line also identified why Instagram Stories, along with a few other features, make Instagram a less authentic internet space: “The result of these changes and others prior to it was increased
    follower counts, produced larger social networks with weaker ties, and
    more time spent in the app.” Interesting!

  5. Quality Time: The Presentation That Changed My Work Life, ACRLog. Forgive me for the self-promotion, but this blog post just came out on the library blog I write for! I talk about the book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, and the new way I structure my day.

November 16, 2018

Were you snowed in this week? Maryland had the first snow-before-Thanksgiving in years and personally I loved it. I spent the afternoon with my favorite snow day food (grilled cheese and tomato soup) and my favorite snow day company (my black lab during the day, my intrepid husband back from CA in the evening). Back at work today caught up on sleep and feeling cozy.

  1. The Freedom of Designing a Non-Performing Home. “Inspiration and copying certainly primes the pump — but then it’s time
    to let go and trust we don’t need to make our homes for the world, but
    simply to reflect the people living inside them.” This is such great advice for anyone who looks at staged interiors online and then back to their own lived-in living rooms with a sigh. It’s your space, it’s supposed to function for and reflect you! I like this piece a lot.
  2. “For Strong Women,” by Marge Piercy. I recently discovered this poet, whose words are rooted in nature and feminism in perfect measure. This poem is from the 80s but sounds as relevant today. “Strong is what we make / each other.”
  3. RSPB Scotland’s Nature Prescriptions calendar. I heard about this pamphlet from this piece in the Cut, but I encourage you to check out the checklists for each month! Hearing about doctors prescribing nature, and specific ways to encounter it, made may day. I want to talk to a pony or make a rock sculpture on the beach this November!
  4. Laziness Does Not Exist. “I know, of course, that educators are not taught to reflect on what their students’ unseen barriers are. Some universities
    pride themselves on refusing to accommodate disabled or mentally ill
    students — they mistake cruelty for intellectual rigor. And, since
    most professors are people who succeeded academically with ease, they
    have trouble taking the perspective of someone with executive
    functioning struggles, sensory overloads, depression, self-harm
    histories, addictions, or eating disorders. I can see the external
    factors that lead to these problems. Just as I know that “lazy” behavior
    is not an active choice, I know that judgmental, elitist attitudes are
    typically borne out of situational ignorance.” I really appreciate the author’s compassionate perspective on student “laziness.”
  5. The Mindful Twenty-Something: Life Skills to Handle Stress…and Everything Else, Holly B. Rogers. Reading this book with some coworkers as we explore how to make mindfulness a conversation on the campus at large. If you’re a 20 something (or not! the advice is approachable and mostly age-neutral), and new to the ideas of meditation, paying attention to your breathing, and practicing non-judgment to yourself and others, this book really lays it out in a friendly and doable way!

November 9, 2018

We all made it to this Friday! I’m proud of you. This week I’ve been thinking about self-care – the fun kind that nourishes her skin and hair, but also the hard kind, the kind that mops the kitchen floor and finally washes her bras. Do you ever get the urge to ponytail up, plug in your headphones, and finally face all the things hanging over your head, mumbling that you should attend them? Now you know my weekend plans. Wish me luck!

  1. Well, Damn, Paper Books As Small As Your Phone Are Actually Great, Quartzy. Penguin is developing a mini book size that is meant to fit in the back pocket of a woman’s jeans. Check out the link for some pictures of how these books are read (horizontally! as if you are scrolling through a slightly-wider version of your phone!), and let me know what you think. According to the coverage of the mini-books, the pages are super thin, so I wonder if libraries will stock them or not. I could definitely see myself buying one of these for a favorite book.
  2. A Brooklyn Bookshop Owner on the Lost Art of the Phone Call, Haystack Stories. “That feeling when the phone rang throughout the house, and you were in another room but ran to get it, and it could be anyone but you had no idea who! Such possibility! And you had like 15 friends whose voices you could recognize simply from the word, “Hey.” And maybe because it had an actual cord it made you feel tethered to your friends in their other houses and you could picture them in their rooms, doodling, or painting their nails, as you chatted. I desperately wanted my own phone in my own room and when my mom finally gave in and got me one it felt like freedom, my secret world, a world of kids.” I really love this conversation about the landline, about how girls talking on the phone could get into the minutia of our lives back then, and that was a kind of intimacy that looks different now.

  3. Live Stream of a Norwegian Train, Kottke. This is a 24/7 stream of a train in Norway, from the perspective of the train driver’s cab. It’s so peaceful, with the noises of the rail and bell, or with your own music! Highly recommend a few minutes of this video on your lunch break.

  4. How to Host a Dinner Party When You Just Don’t Feel Like Cooking, Bon Appetit. This is a cute example of how to combine quick takeout with a few tricks at home to make it seem like you’ve made an effort. I am into it! Every time I’ve had friends over for chicken, it’s been a pretty good time.

  5. How to Not Always Be Working: A Toolkit for Creativity and Radical Self-Care, Marlee Grace. I want someone else to read this book so we can talk about it! It is a cute-sized (though not quite mini) book that combines thoughtful journal prompts with the writer’s informal reflections on the balance between work and life. She invites you to contemplate how you define your work – is it just what makes you money? Is it things you have to do but don’t feel like doing? Is it the things that make you money but also make the time fly by? This book gave me a lot to think about, and it’s worth a read if you ever think to yourself, on the way to your job, “This again? Is this all there is?”


November 2, 2018

It’s funny how the pleasure of a holiday changes as you get older. Earlier this year, I bought a pinata for a friend’s birthday party and learned that all this time, grownups have had to buy the candy and fill the pinata themselves. The feeling of dumping candy into a pinata came back to me on Wednesday, handing out treats to our neighborhood kids. The holiday is less about the thrill of free candy and homemade costumes and suddenly more about the crisp weather and porch conversations (and of course, leftover candy). As an adult with no children, it was really fun to watch kids practice being polite with fake blood all over their chins. What a fun, funny holiday.

Plus, my best friend had her baby this week! Welcome to the world, FJH!

  1. If Your Chair Hurts Your Back, Blame Technology, Then Try These Hacks, NPR. This is very informative! I want to practice better posture, especially sitting in a desk at work. I’m going to try some of these tips.
  2. How to Stay Focused. This blogger shares some of her tips for staying focused – playing classical or instrumental music has helped me at work too! So has the realization that I should write in the morning, and do email and other less intense things in the afternoons. What are your strategies for staying focused? There are some more good tips here at Buzzfeed.

  3. 9 Gift Giving Crafts to Start This Fall, Joy the Baker. Joy rounds up a few crafts that make good gifts here. I have my eye on this weekend as a crafting/sewing retreat!

  4. Awful Library Books. This is a blog detailing books that are withdrawn from all kinds of libraries (this process is called “weeding”). Each post explains a little bit of why the book was weeded, and most of the examples are just horrifyingly out of date or unappealing to readers these days. A funny, interesting look at a library process that not many know about! Here are a few of my recent favorites: The Art of Salad Making, How to Break Into Modeling, Toasts! The Complete Book of the Best Toasts, Sentiments, Blessings, Curses, and Graces.

  5. 26 Iconic Foods from Disney Movies You Can Actually Make, Buzzfeed. NOTHING looks better than animated food. If I had magic powers I would want to become a cartoon and eat a glossy, animated birthday cake and some pork dumplings. This roundup of Disney-inspired recipes is the closest I can come until the technology for making me a cartoon gets here.

Have a great weekend!