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March 30, 2018

This has been beautiful Good Friday weather, and my book from last Friday (about fresh metaphors for God) has been keeping me company into this week, too. It’s been good to see things anew in this season.

  1. In Defense of Trends (Keep Calm and Let Them Be)  “But now it seems like everyone and every space is up for judgement in some way (and yes, as a site that posts home tours, that’s something we’re aware we’re a part of — more on that next week) and just about anyone feels it’s okay to make pretty big assumptions about someone’s life, choices, beliefs or personality based on what they see in someone’s home — especially if what they see is part of a popular trend.”

    I browsed all the links she mentions about judge-y design writing

    and they are really judge-y…and also contradictory! I swear I heard all these trends talked about in exactly the same prescriptive way like…last year. It’s like, you guys are the ones responsible for making trends blow up so fast! And of course they also fizzle out quickly, and here comes a piece from the same magazine on how “copper fixtures are so done.” I like thinking about my home and tinkering with it, but I am glad to have a moment of being critical about dissatisfaction/constant redesigning.

  2. How to Get Back Your Privacy Online Without Completely Checking Out.  I have used DuckDuckGo, and it’s pretty good! And they do really value your privacy, so you might notice they aren’t serving the results they think are most tailored for you, but that can be a good thing. This author’s fast facts about Google’s use of your info are kind of nuts!

    I’m sharing this article with some reservations about the author’s advice. This type of security-checkup article starts as easy, practical changes, and then veers into "pay for your email service and only use VPNs and TOR browsers” so fast…And I’m sorry, but a girl still has to function. Do what you can and make changes you can stick to, but if you aren’t willing/able/interested in locking everything down just yet, channel some of that energy into advocating for legislation that supports your privacy (like net neutrality, etc).

  3. Supporting Musicians: A Practical Guide. A great piece, and the best advice in here, in my opinion: “SHARE IT. Talk about your favorite artists. Post their links on your social media. Recommend them to friends. Word of mouth is still one of the most trusted, valuable ways to market in our over-saturated, algorithm-based world. YOUR OPINION AS A FAN MATTERS.” And to buy merch that you like

    “encourage them to keep making.” This advice hits home for me because my husband’s new album is coming out next Friday! Listen to the first single here, or check out the music video!

  4. The Intermediary We Don’t Need? Veronica Arellano Douglas. This turned my model of teaching information literacy (a model which is only about a year and a half old) upside down! Meditating on removing mediators in my classroom and exploring how to build a relationship in 50 minutes or less. “How amazing would our teaching be if we didn’t have an instructor
    computer at all? Is our focus on databases, websites, and functionality
    of resources interrupting our relationships with our students? How much
    more effective would we be as teachers and facilitators without that
    tech intermediary? Do we even need it?”

    Any tips, my teacher friends?

  5. How to Balance Your Media Diet (infographic). “When we have control over what we consume, we tend to feel happier.” I didn’t read this article very closely, because I was mostly taken with the infographic at the top!
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March 16, 2018

I had the perfect opportunity to unplug the other afternoon – I cracked my phone screen and landed it in Phone Hospital for a few hours. Somehow it was the first time I’ve ever done that, and I ended up with a phone-less afternoon… It’s kind of embarrassing how refreshing it was to be parted with my phone for like 3 hours, because it made me realize how constant that presence is. Like, I never do anything in silence. Unloading the dishwasher, staring at my groggy face in the mirror, walking my (perfect) dog, sewing…I usually have a podcast or tv show on. I’m going to be working those afternoons in more often!

  1. Words for Empty and Words for Full, Bob Hicok. I just discovered this poet in my life thanks to Wonderful! podcast…His poetry is musical and grammar-flexible; it’s the kind of poetry I want to be writing. My favorites from this collection are A Primer, A Wedding Night.
  2. Are Home Renovations Necessary? Curbed. I’m a big fan of Kate Wagner’s blog, McMansion Hell! “Whether presented as a self-improvement project (update
    your house lest you be judged for owning a dated one) or a form of
    self-care (renovate because it will make you feel better), the home
    remodel is presented as both remedy and requirement.
    Take a moment to consider this simple idea: There is nothing wrong with your house.“
  3. The Dirty Secret of Secret Recipes. “But more frequently, when readers learned the truth, they accepted it and loved the recipe more than ever. The cookies and cakes and potato salads were, after all, still associated with childhood memories and departed loved ones.” This is really sweet to me. Did you know that copyright rules for recipes are interesting – a list of ingredients isn’t protected, but the instructions and other narrative material is? (source: “Copyright law does not protect recipes that are mere listings of ingredients….. Copyright protection may, however, extend to substantial literary expression—a description, explanation, or illustration, for example—that accompanies a recipe or formula or to a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook.”) Is that why some recipe blogs have the longest rambling stories and photos before you get to the recipe? I just want to bake this chicken!
  4. I Have Information Overload, Haley Nahman. “My challenge now is to resist my animal-like impulse to constantly
    consume, to pick what I engage with more thoughtfully, and then dare to
    embody the kind of idleness that work demands. Maybe art needs space
    like we need space. Maybe, in a simple resistance to the mindless
    scroll, ideas bloom.” Same girl!
  5. The Perfect Man Who Wasn’t, The Atlantic. These women taken in by a conman team up to take him down. "For years, Derek had evaded punishment by
    moving around; local police had limited ability to chase him across
    state lines. But the women he’d victimized had no jurisdictional
    limitations.”
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March 9, 2018

I have lighter fare to share with you all this week, and it feels good. It’s been helpful for me to think about how to participate in technology and remain human, and about how stress and overwork can mess with your brain, but it’s also nice to remember that there are other things out there – like colors and weird cleaning tricks. Have a lovely weekend!

  1. The Lost Art of Bending Over: How Other Cultures Spare Their Spines. The hip hinge! I have been doing this in yoga and weightlifting, never thinking about how it could save my back in everyday bending. Dang!
  2. Beyond Lemons and Vinegar: How to Clean With Ketchup, Vodka, Butter and More, NYT. Over here taking furious notes on the weird household stuff you can clean with common pantry ingredients. Vodka?!

  3. What Is the Perfect Color Worth? NYT Mag.

    Wait, why isn’t “color forecaster” my job? I love colors so much! “…presenting “mood boards” they had brought with them. Like oversize pages from a scrapbook, these displays included photographs, drawings, artworks, ribbons, textiles, paint samples, bits of plastic, lengths of rope, tourist tchotchkes and, in one instance, a piece of frilly lingerie.”

    And: “…a larger cultural phenomenon: a growing popular enthusiasm for color in its own right and for its own sake, free of the constraints of form or function. Color’s liberation owes much to the rise of the internet, particularly the explosion of photo sharing on social media.”

  4. My Life as a Woman With Colorblindness, The Cut. “I wouldn’t want to permanently correct my color vision. As an adult, I can appreciate it, because I know my perception of the world is different, and there’s value in that. I have a totally different relationship with color than other people do. I think you see more color than I do, but I see more in color.” This is really sweet, especially the video she links to where you can see her try the color-correcting glasses for the first time.
  5. I Tried the Morning Routines of 5 Successful People. This is exactly my type of life experiment, although it sounds like a lot of gym memberships may be required. She also did one for the bedtime routines of successful people

Bonus features:

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March 2, 2018

Are you feeling fresh and rejuvenated? It’s a new month, and where I am, it smells like rain.

  1. The Good Room. This is a really long read and took me a few tries to get through, but I’m glad I did, even though I think I need to revisit it in a quieter frame of mind to drink it all in. Toward the bottom there’s two figures of how much time we use certain apps and how much we regret/feel negative about the time. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

    – “A library is the gift a city gives to itself.”
    – “…if technology is a place where we live, a place that we carry around with us, shouldn’t we choose to be in lively and nourishing digital environments? This reasoning should be enough to encourage you to leave the optional digital places that you don’t enjoy.”
    – “Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon aren’t going anywhere at this point—nor should we expect them to—so it’s best to recalibrate the digital experience by increasing the footprint and mindshare of the kinds of cultural and communal value they can’t provide. The web isn’t like Manhattan real estate—if we want something, we can make space for it.” There’s so much more here, this is one of the finest things I’ve read this year.

  2. The Case Against Open Kitchens, NYT.  “And yet people who actually like cooking tend to crave boundaries—to want to be, as Julia Child assured us we could be, “alone in the kitchen.” What if you wish to preserve a kitchen secret—to slip, say, the odd, shameful envelope of Lipton’s onion-soup mix into your meat loaf, à la Ann Landers? Radical transparency becomes kitchen exhibitionism: we are all on cooking shows now. “ This is so weird because I feel like I’ve read this piece in a more raw form on some vintage house-restoring blog…but maybe that’s because not everyone loves an open kitchen. While I don’t like that I can’t hear anything David says when he’s not standing in the kitchen doorway (which makes for a lot of accidental startling), I do like that when we have guests over we can whisper and scheme in the kitchen like Dick van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore.

    Also: “The history of taste is full of these moments when completely stupid, destructive misbehavior takes hold.” What a line! Spoken by a poet.

  3. My First Year Sober (Comic). This is vulnerable, winding, and valuable. I appreciated this quoted quote: “You might think you don’t have the willpower to stop smoking, but how many times have you smoked in the freezing cold or wet? Or driven, late at night, to get cigarettes? Your will is strong.” Memoirs that are a little more raw, that haven’t been wrung through an editor, that are maybe remembering things as they’re still happening around the writer, have resonated with me recently.
  4. Phone Calls Taught Me About the Power of Intimacy, Lenny Letter. “Phone calls have taught me about the power of this intimacy, how to be present in an emotional space with another person. It’s good to hear joy and anger and sadness, to receive it in your body, and to be heard in all of these states, too. This is what we mean when we say “It’s so good to hear your voice.”” Shout out to my faraway phone-call friends! I really love and relate to this essay.
  5. The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce. I got into this book, about a lonely record shop owner who knows how to find the perfect song you need in that moment, despite myself. It feels like a quiet, sweet, awkward romantic movie where the best characters are the secondary friends and coworkers (like Notting Hill). The final chapters took a twist I wasn’t so sure about, but it won me over.

Happy weekend!

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February 23, 2018

February made me shiver… A few of the readings from this week are focused on reading itself, or about getting our attention back. That’s a topic I’m really interested in, and if I could I’d ask everyone in my life about how they approach the problem of over-stimulation and shallow, widespread attention. Meditation and mindful practices have benefited me a lot this year so far, but I still feel like I pass a lot of the day like a leaf on water, carried along from stimulus to stimulus. This blog has been a fruitful reading exercise for me. Enjoy!

  1. Conscious consumerism is a lie. Here’s a better way to help save the world. This was really challenging and worth reading. It encouraged me to take my feelings and turn them into action for good. “On its face, conscious consumerism is a morally righteous, bold movement. But it’s actually taking away our power as citizens. It drains our bank accounts and our political will, diverts our attention away from the true powerbrokers, and focuses our energy instead on petty corporate scandals and fights over the moral superiority of vegans.”
  2. I Have Forgotten How to Read. This one stuck with me all week! “Even Eric Schmidt, the erstwhile chief executive of Google, was anxious about the mental landscape he was helping to cultivate. He once told Charlie Rose: “I worry that the level of interrupt, the sort of overwhelming rapidity of information … is in fact affecting cognition. It is affecting deeper thinking. I still believe that sitting down and reading a book is the best way to really learn something. And I worry that we’re losing that.”

    And this tidbit is fascinating: “Great researchers such as Maryanne Wolf and Alison Gopnik remind us that the human brain was never designed to read. Rather, elements of the visual cortex – which evolved for other purposes – were hijacked in order to pull off the trick. The deep reading that a novel demands doesn’t come easy and it was never "natural.” Our default state is, if anything, one of distractedness. The gaze shifts, the attention flits; we scour the environment for clues.” I’d love to think more about this, because I’ve heard all the time that humans were wired for story – but maybe not necessarily reading? We know that story-telling has been an oral and community endeavor for longer than it hasn’t…interesting.

  3. Why We Forget Most of the Books We Read, the Atlantic. “The lesson from his binge-watching study is that if you want to remember the things you watch and read, space them out. I used to get irritated in school when an English-class syllabus would have us read only three chapters a week, but there was a good reason for that. Memories get reinforced the more you recall them, Horvath says. If you read a book all in one stretch—on an airplane, say—you’re just holding the story in your working memory that whole time. “You’re never actually reaccessing it,” he says.” It’s also telling that the folks that “binge-watch” something are less likely to have enjoyed it, compared to someone who’s spaced it out over the week.
  4. How to Break Up With Your Phone, NYT. I disagree on the usefulness of the tip to “use technology to protect yourself from technology,” because you’re basically inviting monitoring and tracking software into your phone…which…see #5. But this article otherwise has some really helpful tips on the subject I’m apparently obsessed with! 
  5. The House That Spied on Me. Engrossing and creepy, this person buys a bunch of smart-home devices, runs them all at once, and allows her colleague to see what kind of information can be hacked from the devices. “All of the anxiety you currently feel about being tracked online is going to move into your living room. Talking to the human who actually got to see and analyze my smart home’s activity made me realize just how deeply uncomfortable it is to have that data pooled somewhere.”

Bonus features:

  • Americans Are Terrible At Using Vacation Time, HBR (video).
  • Well-Being Index, 2017. “The stark difference in our country’s well-being today versus just a year ago underscores the need to understand, assess and nurture the health of our populations comprehensively and continuously. Regardless of your role in the community – be it an employer, civic leader,  private citizen or any combination thereof –investing in the well-being of others is critical, now more than ever.”
  • 25 Best Icebreaker Questions for Team-Building at Work. We have a new person joining our team next week, and I might float the idea of trying one or two of these!