August 9, 2019

Earlier this week, my dad and I were talking about hope. It is a surprisingly difficult word to define in your own terms. He said that hope is a future-looking word, different from “wish” or “want.” We talked about how it’s imagining that something could be different than the way it’s always been, that the impossible could happen. To me, feeling hope is essential for showing up to work tomorrow, for believing that our work has purpose. But sometimes our supply of hope gets low, eroded by acute chronic pain, or wiped out by tragedy. And while belief in an eternal hope is important, we also need to build up our stores of ordinary, everyday, on-earth hope. I see that as a community effort, so I tried to gather that kind of story this week. If you have stories or moments of hope, I would welcome them in return.

  1. Ethiopia plants 350m trees in a day to help tackle climate crisis, the Guardian. Ethiopia, in pursuit of an environmental initiative called #GreenLegacy, encouraged every citizen to plant 40 seedlings. That final number, somewhere around 353 million, is just so impressive! “Trees not only help mitigate climate change by absorbing the carbon dioxide in the air, but they also have huge benefits in combating desertification and land degradation, particularly in arid countries. They also provide food, shelter, fuel, fodder, medicine, materials and protection of the water supply.”
  2. Be Water! Seven Tactics that Are Winning Hong Kong’s Democracy Revolution, New Statesman. This is such an inspiring look at successful protest built on unity, ingenuity, and care for one another. The tactics listed here, such as a leaderless movement (to protect protestors from being singled out and imprisoned) and coordinated hand-signal communication through a crowd, are actionable and exciting to read about.
  3. The Happiest Design Ethics Article You Will Ever Read, Modus. “The whole spark of design comes from our seeing another human being attempting to do something, not having a great time doing it, and thinking: I bet there’s a way to help them do that. And then figuring out what that is. That’s it, that’s the whole thing. Whether we’re helping someone fill out a naturalization form in their own language, keep better track of their finances, find the right charity to donate to, keep in touch with someone they love, or just find the right cat gif, everything we design should be in service of making people’s lives easier. Feel free to replace “easier” with “more efficient,” “delightful,” or any other positive word you prefer.” Design ethics is not a subject I’m familiar with, but what he’s talking about here is using design to make people’s lives better in some way, not to trap or trick or manipulate them (to purchase, vote, etc). The above quote about the spark of design reminds me of my urge to teach, and that’s why this piece made me feel hope.
  4. Want to Change the World? Talk to Kids, Glamour. “Did I write this for kids? Of course I did. Grown-ups don’t want to read books about nervous chipmunks, and otters named Duffles and Nudge. Their loss, honestly—they are solid otters who make some really good points. But I also wrote it because, in my heart of hearts, “welcome someone new” and “kindness is stronger than fear” are what I want to tell adults. Kids encounter new things all the time—new kids at school, new experiences, even new foods. It makes sense to be a little fearful of them. But unlike adults, kids are open to change. If you give them new information, they don’t immediately get defensive or call it #fakenews. They take it in, and if it makes sense to them, they try to incorporate it into their lives.” This is sweet. I’m gonna check out her kid’s book.
  5. Mediterranean Blue,” by Naomi Shihab Nye. “They are the bravest people on earth right now, / don’t dare look down on them. Each mind a universe / swirling as many details as yours, as much love / for a humble place. Now the shirt is torn, / the sea too wide for comfort, and nowhere / to receive a letter for a very long time. / And if we can reach out a hand, we better.” Emphasis mine.

August 2, 2019

You ever have a day where your thoughts are racing with ideas, worries, and your to-do list, to the point that you are essentially useless until your brain calms down? Yesterday my strategies (deep breaths, making sure I’ve eaten protein, a quick walk) didn’t work like they usually do. So I tried something we did in college when a train makes you stuck at an intersection: focus on a space in front of you and count the railcars as they cross your vision. I just sat still and counted the individual thoughts that crowded out my ability to function. Eventually the train will pass and the light will turn green, and in the meantime I will crank the air conditioning.

  1. How to read the news without frying your tender circuitry, Courtney E. Martin. “Don’t feel obligated to take in the headlines on a daily basis. I don’t. I still find out the most important things via a sort of strange and very modern osmosis–my friends, the guys shooting the shit outside of the donut shop, my social media feeds, overhearing the radio. But otherwise, I store up all that saved energy and heartache for a deep dive on Sunday with the print edition of The New York Times. It allows me to stay informed, but in a more contextualized way.” I’ve been doing this with the Frederick News-Post and it’s been a helpful practice when I stick to it!
  2. These police dogs are trained to help survivors, Los Angeles Times. (TW: Types of violence and abuse mentioned in passing.) This story will most likely make you cry but not in a bad way. This is the part that got me: “Adam Roulston, a Corona police patrol sergeant and one of Raider’s handlers, said that while it’s up to the trainers to decide where to take their dogs, he’s learned the dogs usually decide which person to approach. When everyone else is focused on the primary victim, Raider often heads in the direction of someone experiencing secondary trauma. “He’ll lay on their feet or sit on them. Then they’ll break down,” said Roulston, who learned of police facility dogs after reading about Scottie.” Dogs are so, so good. And I just learned that Frederick therapy dogs are doing this kind of work too! Read more about that here at the Frederick News-Post.
  3. A Very Low-Key Summer Checklist, A Cup of Jo. I love the ideas Joanna sets up for a fun, meaningful summer with her kids. They’re things that will get you out of patterns, but nothing so ambitious that you feel guilty about not checking them off. I really like the idea of trying an ice cream flavor you’ve never had, and taking breaks to intentionally do nothing at all. What’s on your summer checklist?
  4. The Meaning of All Caps in Texting and in Life, Wired. Ooh I love when someone walks me through a niche part of language. Here McCulloch is talking about the history of talking in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, and it’s a fun read: “Rather, our interpretation seems to flip depending on whether we read the text as formal or informal: HOME in a website’s menu bar is a mere graphic design choice, while HOME in a message like “ugh I want to go HOME” is typographical tone of voice.” Her book, Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, is next on my list!
  5. Why Do Kids Have Imaginary Friends, the Atlantic.  This article about imaginary friends is so interesting. “Imaginary companions are giving kids a sense of control,” Carlson says. “They get to conjure them up, they get to make up the stories, they’re not being intruded upon by others. It’s something they can own all to themselves. It’s an interesting way to take a little bit of control back. But it can be very frustrating for the parents.” The article talks about an imaginary friend named Salad which reminds me that kids’ creativity is the best kind. I (lol) had an imaginary boyfriend in middle school. There’s a lot of sweet quotes in this piece, you should read it! Did you have an imaginary friend?

Bonus features:

  • House for Booklovers and Cats – This house is adorable. My favorite photo is the one of the cat emerging from a trapdoor in the bedroom.
  • All About Xoloitzcuintl, the Mexican Hairless Dog – I just discovered a new favorite Youtube channel, Dogumentary TV, which has well-produced videos teaching about different breeds (and as far as I’ve seen, doesn’t have any sad dog content, but use your best judgment based on video titles).

July 26, 2019

Ezra Jack Keats

Ezra Jack Keats

I’m back in the reading saddle this week! After browsing some cool bookstores in Colorado, my to-read list got ridiculously long and I ordered a whole bunch of books from my library. Of course, they all come in at once and now I’m sitting on 13 books to get through! My weekend is (wait for it) booked. (nice)

  1. The Rich, Complex History Hiding Within Chinese Plate Designs, Thrillist. This essay about the iconic Chinese plate design talks about “the nostalgic element of going to a Chinese restaurant and seeing certain plates on the table.” I also liked their thoughts at the end: “I think that’s why that red bowl pattern appeals to me so much: it’s an honest admittance that the way I grew up wasn’t fancy or exotic. Rather, the fact that it’s a gorgeous cultural art product condensed into a mundane housewares design feels right to me, as someone who feels like a simulacrum of a real Vietnamese person, after being estranged from my family’s origin point my whole life.” The ceramic artist mentioned is Stephanie Shih, here’s a write-up of her work!
  2. Whole 60, Laura Lippman. This piece has some weird moments (watch out for some specific weight numbers and diet habits early on, though they are critiqued) but overall the message is so great, about embodying yourself exactly as you are right here and now, against all odds. “All the women I know look at old photos and say, “Da-yum” or words to that effect. […] But if you believe you looked good when you were younger, then simply imagine your future self in a parallel universe, studying 2019 photos and saying, “Da-yum” at how you look now. Stop waiting. Stop entrusting praise to others, especially to sad deluded men who think our bodies are theirs to judge. It is not the trolls or the blunt dance teachers or even our partners who get to tell us we are beautiful. No one can lift us up until we choose to leap.” There are a lot of great lines, but that section was one of my favorites.
  3. If Men Carried Purses, Would They Clean Up Messes? The Cut. A lot of women in my feed/newsletters were talking about this article this week. It made my blood boil here and there, as with quotes like “A new study shows that visitors to a disorderly home will judge the female inhabitant if they believe she’s responsible for the mess but give the male inhabitant a pass.” I like the idea that not only should men start carrying a bag (be it tote, laptop bag, or backpack), but that women, if they want to, should enjoy some purse free days. I especially like to travel light on a day where I’ll be walking a lot, and for me that’s easiest in the winter, with my coat’s deep pockets. One source is quoted, “I do it to be free. […] To walk fully. After you carry a bag and then you don’t, you feel like you can fly.”
  4. A Last Look at Ebony’s Archives, Before They’re Sold, NYT. Photographs are my favorite kind of archival material. I think they make history so immediate and intimate. “You can’t really tell the story of black life in the 20th century without these images from the Johnson archive. So it’s important that whatever happens in this auction, that these images are preserved and made available to scholars, art lovers and everyday folks.” As of yesterday, it was reported that the materials will be donated to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is great news! Highly recommend looking through the photos collected in this article!
  5. The Crane Wife, CJ Hauser. I loved this short story. A woman breaks her engagement and goes on a crane-watching research trip, but the story is more than that, as the best short stories are. “Even now I hear the words as shameful: Thirsty. Needy. The worst things a woman can be. Some days I still tell myself to take what is offered, because if it isn’t enough, it is I who wants too much.” It reminded me of past relationships and making myself and my needs smaller so they were less inconvenient. I can definitely relate to feeling ashamed of needing so much, a need to define the relationship or talk about where it’s going, the need for reassurance about silly things, over and over (thanks, anxiety). I am afraid of being called needy, as if it’s the worst thing someone can be. But this is not a sad story — it ends with community and the healing process. Everyone has needs. And we’re responsible for each other. The story made me want to be kinder to myself and other people.

Bonus features:

  • Whitney Catalano’s weekend challenge – “My homework assignment for you this weekend is to be radically messy and try to have a little fun while you’re at it. Cry in public. Tell people how you feel. Let your belly hang out and go eat some ice cream. Do what you gotta do to break your own rules”

July 19, 2019

Daisies

Hi! While I was away I read so much that my eyes crossed, and walked miles and miles of Colorado sunshine, and I’ve come back to tell you that, well, I just don’t have it in me to share anything serious or grim this week. So here’s another round of the nice and the interesting:

  1. A Toast to When Harry Met Sally..a Romantic Comedy for Grown-Ups, Vanity Fair. This week was the 30th anniversary of one of my favorite movies! This author expresses my affection for the film well: “Watching When Harry Met Sally… as an adult, it feels as if the movie spills some secrets that grown-ups aren’t supposed to share—about the messiness of attraction, the circuitous path of romance, the erotic tension in spirited antagonism. It’s about how another person can become a part of you despite your best intentions. Behind the film’s wryly entertaining tone, there’s a wild liveliness that animates the characters, a combination of deep-seated longings and carnal passions.” I also really love this line, about the author’s marriage: “When Harry Met Sally… has served as this example I could keep in my pocket of what love should feel like—an endless, unspooling conversation with a partner who, like a counterweight, provides equilibrium.”
  2. In the Future, Everything Will Be Made of Chickpeas, The Atlantic. “In a country increasingly wary of meat, more open than ever to non-Western ingredients, and anxious about climate change, the chickpea’s expanding role in the American diet is less a trend story than a logical inevitability.” Chickpea!! David loves a hummus and I am experimenting with other uses for chickpeas in our cooking too, so if anyone has any recommendations I’m listening! Also this makes me smile: “Chickpeas just aren’t an intimidating bean,” Kennedy says.”
  3. The Frankfurt Kitchen Changed How We Cook — and Live, CityLab. “the only fully-outfitted kitchens were, prior to the 20th century, true workspaces where household staff labored in the service of a well-to-do (or even middle-class) family. For the poor and working class, dwellings generally had no discrete kitchen. In a one- or two-room home, be it an apartment or a farmhouse, a large cast-iron stove was likely to be the only major appliance, and might also be a family’s primary heat source. A table or set of shelves might serve to house utensils and tools, but there were no standardized cabinets or kitchen “furniture” as we know them today.” Interesting look at the history of something I’d never considered! The original designer of the apartment kitchen took inspiration from the dining cars on trains. There are a few photos in this piece worth checking out. It’s also cool how gender politics comes into play as architects design kitchens — Schütte-Lihotzky created a kitchen for the working wife and mother to do housework more efficiently, and in the 1920s that was liberating on its own.
  4. Where’s Simba’s mom? In real life, female lions run the pride, National Geographic. “Females define their territory. They’ve grown up there and have been listening to neighbors roaring their whole lives […] And if their pride gets too big, the females will even carve out a new territory next door for their daughters to take over and start their own pride. Ninety-nine percent of all the members of a lion pride are related females.” Lionesses are so cool.
  5. The Truth About Cast Iron Pans: 7 Myths That Need to Go Away, Serious Eats. This article busts a bunch of myths about cast iron pans, which I use but barely understand. “Cast iron is tough as nails! There’s a reason why there are 75-year-old cast iron pans kicking around at yard sales and antique shops. The stuff is built to last and it’s very difficult to completely ruin it.” That’s a big reason why I like them! Although he also points out that they don’t conduct heat evenly, so it’s good to have other cookware too, in my opinion. Some controversy here about soap though. Read with caution.

Bonus features:

 

 

July 12, 2019

Henry and Mudge

I wrote this post early because by the time you read this, I’ll be on vacation! Just a couple short or light pieces this week:

  1. The Oral History of the Super Soaker, MEL magazine. I kind of love inventor stories. Super Soaker was one of those toys whose makers really cared about the product, and I like the design loyalty that comes with that over the years. This piece also made me realize that Nerf guns have gotten very militarized looking, which I don’t care for at all. “Part of the reason Super Soakers did so well is because they look nothing like a real weapon. They’re these things with giant orange nozzles, and they’re made to look like these space-alien things. To be honest, when we were kids, my friends and I would cover them with black tape and stuff, but for how they actually looked, you can’t mistake them for a real gun.” Plus a lot of people now like to make their own water blasters and modify their old 90s ones! “I started Waterarms Over Firearms about seven or eight years ago. It started with my own love of Super Soakers as a kid, and when I rediscovered it as an adult, I began acquiring old Super Soakers at yard sales and eventually via Amazon and eBay. Then I’d organize events where I’d give them to children and spread the philosophy that this is a peaceful gun — a water-arm that actually has a life giving ammunition. My hope is to help change these children’s attitudes about guns. I’ve made a point of visiting children in places that are heavily affected by gun violence — many of which are children of color — and I let them know that this peaceful gun was invented by a black inventor and that they can use it to have fun and give life as opposed to taking it away.” Now, who would like to have a water gun/balloon fight ASAP?
  2. Why Those Plus-Size Model Mannequins Matter, Glamour. Curvy plus-size mannequins at Torrid made me feel seen the first time I walked in there. “To place a plus mannequin on the store floor, front and center, is to proudly state that you stand for every single size you offer, that you believe that no matter the number on the shopper’s tag, they’re valuable and should have options to choose from. It signifies a mentality change from selling clothes by pushing an ideal to embracing who your customer is when they walk in.” I think this is true, but fashion retailers could all do better, from actually carrying plus sizes in-store and not online-only, to design that isn’t just a stretched out version of the straight size (my mom’s nemesis is the huge scooping neckline, like I saw in this review online: “Why do plus clothes makers think we need 2 foot round neck holes . Its crazy . Just how big do they think our heads are ? The size of beach balls ?”) “Brands need to have a long, hard think on their demographic and who they are selling their clothes to,” Scriver says. “So often I see brands introducing a plus-size line, but when I walk into the store or scroll through their online pages, there are no plus-size mannequins or models on-site to display or signal to me how the clothes would fit on my body. If you want to profit from my fat dollars, then you need to signal to me that you truly want to promote inclusivity and all shapes of all sizes.”
  3. Maryland voter registration to allow for ‘X’ gender identity, Baltimore Sun. Pretty cool news! This is to go along with a new law that starting in October, the MVA will allow Marylanders to use “X” in the gender field on their driver’s licenses and state IDs. Other coverage I read said that the database already had an “unspecified” option, so this change won’t have a fiscal or logistical impact. Love an easy, life-affirming change!
  4. The Why of Cooking, Sarah Miller. This essay is pretty funny. “My mother was always saying she just wanted to be alone with her book but it seemed like whenever this dream looked as if it might actually become a reality she would decide to make a pie.” This passage feels true to me: “People cook—particularly women, but not only women—because they think people are going to notice them, and love them, but no one thinks about who made what they’re eating or how it got on the table. They’re just hungry, and they eat, and they sometimes say thank you, and then they forget about it.” I don’t really feel the same resentment for cooking as this author, but I understand where it comes from and I believe she came to her conclusions honestly.
  5. Jessica Francis Kane’s Rules for Visiting in Real Life, Slate. “Studies show that when life gets too busy or too difficult, the first thing we drop is time with friends.” This author wrote a novel about a woman who decided to travel with the sole purpose of visiting friends, and then she did her own challenge and I really like that concept. “I’m after the kind of visit you get when you are present for all the intangible in-between times—coffee before everyone is up, a chat with one of the children when other grown-ups aren’t around, the sounds of your friend’s house at night—that somehow add up to more than the sum of their parts.” Yes! This is what I’m after in my visit to Amanda in Colorado this week!