April 26, 2019

Black lab looking over an empty soccer field on a pretty day

I drove into work this morning (running dangerously late) and enjoyed the optical trick of trees appearing from the thick fog in Westminster today. Reminds me of that Carl Sandburg poem, where he says that the fog “comes / on little cat feet.” The first time I read that poem, I was in middle school. He was one of the first poets I felt like I understood all on my own, and I have a soft spot in my heart for him and especially for “Fog.”

  1. Is your pregnancy app sharing your intimate data with your boss?, Washington Post. “The rise of pregnancy-tracking apps shows how some companies increasingly view the human body as a technological gold mine, rich with a vast range of health data their algorithms can track and analyze. Women’s bodies have been portrayed as especially lucrative: The consulting firm Frost & Sullivan said the “femtech” market — including tracking apps for women’s menstruation, nutrition and sexual wellness — could be worth as much as $50 billion by 2025.” This story frightens and repulses me. The idea of the human body as a rich vein of data (to make money from), it’s antithetical to what I believe about personhood. Also, depending on the app and employer, some companies can access way too much information about their employees (information which I don’t think we’re consciously consenting to provide our BOSSES). “…The company can access a vast range of aggregated data about its employees, including their average age, number of children and current trimester; the average time it took them to get pregnant; the percentage who had high-risk pregnancies, conceived after a stretch of infertility, had C-sections or gave birth prematurely; and the new moms’ return-to-work timing.” This isn’t okay, and I hope this story reminds you that you are not just a resource, not just a commodity, and that you have a right to privacy!! I’m heated!
  2. The thesaurus is good, valuable, commendable, superb, actually, The Outline. “What a thesaurus gave to people was the ability to see words not simply as isolated bits of vocabulary but as parts of a bigger way of thinking and associating ideas and meaning. Language could be exciting. Language could have ideas lurking in it you never even knew were there. Language was grand, dignified, sublime, majestic; vast, immense, and enormous. To the idea of the ten-dollar word, the thesaurus says: really, there is no such thing as a budget for words. There’s no language austerity. Go ahead and spend. This is all yours, and it’s not running out.” Cute.
  3. How to overcome perfectionism in a judgmental world, Quartz. “So right at the outset, take however bad you think your project or pitch or big idea is and dial that fear down a couple notches. Think of this as your “reality” setting.” Also in praise of editors: “Your editor needn’t be a professional for this tactic to work, nor does the process apply only to journalism or storytelling. You might ask a trusted coworker to review your PowerPoint presentation when you’re feeling stuck, or drop by a professor’s office hours to run an admittedly messy outline by them. What’s important is that you release yourself from the expectation that you are capable of producing great work, and only great work, all on your own.” I find this piece very encouraging; I often need to remind myself not to compare my first drafts with other peoples’ finished works, and to fight the fear of making ugly things in sketchbooks and notebooks. A healthy amount of ugly is necessary to make something beautiful, I think.
  4. I Don’t Know What My Label Is, ¡Hola Papi! for Out Magazine. Another column selected by your friendly neighborhood advice lover! I thought his point was lovely: knowing yourself is a process, not a static label. Parts of my identity remain stable, like being white or being a daughter, but others might be for a season (being a student) or something to grow into (leader? mother? author?). “Identity is not some buried object that, once you dig up, is yours to keep and hold and put on your coffee table as a conversation starter. It’s more of a terrain unto itself, an ecosystem of instincts, motives, subconscious desires, and experiences. It is subject to profound change over time, affected by the shocks and throes that come with moving through the world. We can spend our whole lives examining it and trying to understand it, and the best we’ll come up with is a crude map. And that’s OK! Language and identity are our deeply human, deeply flawed attempts to make static what is turbulent and elusive, to render legible what is inherently illegible: the experience of being.”
  5. Definitive 100 Most Useful Productivity Hacks, Filtered. I am attracted to strategies that will improve my productivity, because I don’t feel in control of how I spend my time and frequently fight discouragement and distraction. Throw in the word “hack” and I’m listening. This long list is super readable, but I have been wondering lately if “being productive” is an inherent virtue. Maybe at work? What about being collaborative? What about being contemplative? Also some productivity hacks make me feel like a robot (Paraphrasing #69: Don’t feel like spending 10,000 hours to become an EXPERT in banjo? Drop it and focus on something else.), but I can see its usefulness as a buffet. Sample and select according to your preferences and how your brain works. My favorites: #37 (Time Yourself), #52 (Biological Prime Time), and #87 (Close Open Loops In Your Head – I use journaling for this).

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