December 7, 2018
Blog news: I might be moving to WordPress in the new year, given some of the strange news about the Tumblr platform, which is too complicated and frustrating to get into on my weekly-reads blog. Just a heads up that some changes may be coming down the pike.
This has been a week of unusually high anxiety for me, but I’m working my health and self-care plans as best I can. I haven’t had the brain space for anything really deep or intense, but I hope you enjoy this lighter, story-based fare this week!
How a 6-Year-Old Survived Being Lost in the Woods, Outside. “Some kids will sit down and stay in one place,” says Koester. “If you are in the open woods and there is no landmark to follow, then the majority of six-year-old kids are going to circle.” So it wasn’t surprising that the search party concentrated its efforts around Deerings Meadow, where Cody was last seen. But lost people also latch on to linear features, like a road, Koester says.” Spooky!
Ask Polly: I’m Broke and Mostly Friendless and I’ve Wasted My Whole Life. This is such a generous, beautiful essay about shame and art and how to start again. I’ll let her own words speak for themselves:
“Shame is the opposite of art. When you live inside of your shame, everything you see is inadequate and embarrassing. A lifetime of traveling and having adventures and not being tethered to long-term commitments looks empty and pathetic and foolish, through the lens of shame. You haven’t found a partner. Your face is aging. Your body will only grow weaker. Your mind is less elastic. Your time is running out. Shame turns every emotion into the manifestation of some personality flaw, every casual choice into a giant mistake, every small blunder into a moral failure. Shame means that you’re damned and you’ve accomplished nothing and it’s all downhill from here.
You need to discard some of this shame you’re carrying around all the time. But even if you can’t cast off your shame that quickly, through the lens of art, shame becomes valuable. When you’re curious about your shame instead of afraid of it, you can see the true texture of the day and the richness of the moment, with all of its flaws. You can run your hands along your own self-defeating edges until you get a splinter, and you can pull the splinter out and stare at it and consider it. When you face your shame with an open heart, you’re on a path to art, on a path to finding joy and misery and fear and hope in the folds of your day. Even as your job is slow and dull and pointless, even as your afternoons alone feel treacherous and daunting, you can train your eyes on the low-hanging clouds until a tiny bit of sunlight filters through. You are alive and you will probably be alive for many decades to come. The numbers on your credit-card statements can feel harrowing, but you can take that feeling and keep it company instead of letting it eat you alive. You can walk to the corner store to buy a newspaper and pull out the weekend calendar section and circle something, and make a commitment to do that one thing. You can build a new kind of existence, one that feels small and flawed and honest, but each day you accumulate a kind of treasure that doesn’t disappear. Because instead of running away from the truth, you welcome it in. You don’t treat what you have as pointless. You work with what you have.”
How to Clear a Path Through 60 Feet of Snow, Japanese Style, Atlas Obscura. This is so fun to look at. I can’t even fathom this amount of snow, and yet it’s a yearly thing for them. I would watch a movie about Snow Canyon and the people who live (and plow) there.
Pushcart-Nominated Poet Accused of Plagiarizing Multiple Peers, Jezebel. There seems to be a lot of plagiarism happening in the exploding landscape of “social media poetry.” It makes sense in a way, even though it’s absolutely not ethical. This example is basically an object lesson to the extremely damaging consequences of plagiarism via paraphrase. Things shared on social media are often fractured from their context or source – we see that all the time with the frustrating sourcing on Pinterest (although this seems to have improved somewhat as the years go by). That’s why I tell my students: what you say matters, but also how you say it (ethically, responsibly)! I feel for the poets involved in stories like this, especially those whose work has been stolen.
We thought the Incas couldn’t write. These knots change everything, New Scientist. This is so cool! I would love to see a fantasy story that adapts this language system for magic purposes. If I had world enough and time, this is the kind of mystery I would love to know everything about.
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.
- 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.
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!
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Know Your Squash: How They Look, How They Cook, NYT. This is a great guide to a wonderful vegetable!
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.
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.”
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!
- 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.
- 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.
- “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.”
- 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!
- 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.”
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!