bookmark_borderWeekend Reading

  • The Ukrainian Hacker Who Became the FBI’s Best Weapon—And Worst Nightmare
    One Thursday in January 2001, Maksym Igor Popov, a 20-year-old Ukrainian man, walked nervously through the doors of the United States embassy in London.
    I do so love these stories, the hidden truths, the human interest. I wonder if anyone has thought about making movies like this? (I fear I may be too late).
  • Nick Brown Smelled Bull
    It was autumn of 2011. Sitting in a dimly lit London classroom, taking notes from a teacher’s slides, Nick Brown could not believe his eyes.
    A good example of challenging things and trusting your own instinct.
  • Why Designers Love The Ampersand
    Cheerily nuzzled above the “7” key like a pear-shaped pill bug, the ampersand is perhaps the most intriguing character on the keyboard. While all letters and punctuation marks look similar enough in abstract, the ampersand feels unique, like a shape-shifter that could transform at a moment’s notice.
    Apparently some people like these so much they get tattoos… weirdos…
  • Sorry, There’s Nothing Magical About Breakfast
    I don’t eat breakfast. It’s not that I dislike what’s offered. Given the choice of breakfast food or lunch food, I’d almost always choose eggs or waffles. It’s just that I’m not hungry at 7:30 a.m., when I leave for work. In fact, I’m rarely hungry until about lunchtime.
    I’ve read a couple of articles about this, I’ve been working on the ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ for all my adult life! World. Up. Side. Down.
  • Scientists Discover Genes Associated with Nose Shape
    The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, suggests that the width and “pointiness” of human nose is being influenced by four different genes that each plays a crucial role in shaping the olfactory organ.
    So what you are saying is I have ALL of the genes in abundance. Ace. #bignose
  • The Unhealthy Truth Behind ‘Wellness’ and ‘Clean Eating’
    A few years ago, I found wellness. My body felt like a burden, and the food I ate didn’t seem to energise me or push me on: it dulled my edges, left me foggy, soft and slow. So I made a change. I got rid of the chocolate bars, microwave meals and cakes.
    In my continuing effort to eat better, I too should get rid of chocolate bars and cakes. ‘Should’.
  • 6 Secrets of Radical Productivity, From an Entrepreneur Who Runs 4 Businesses
    Tina Roth Eisenberg, a Swiss-born designer also known as Swiss Miss, runs four businesses with just 17 employees. And they’re not small businesses. The one for which she is probably best-known, an event series called CreativeMornings, hosts monthly events in 100 cities.
    I’ve been reading Swiss Miss blog for years, still do. She was one of the first and remains an inspirational class act.
  • How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds
    I’m an expert on how technology hijacks our psychological vulnerabilities. That’s why I spent the last three years as Google’s Design Ethicist caring about how to design things in a way that defends a billion people’s minds from getting hijacked.
    Once you’ve read this, ask yourself what I’m really doing with these blog posts…
  • When Brother and Sister Became Sister and Brother
    One warm night last August, James Hyde learned that his sister Justine was disappearing. In a way, he had expected it.
    Given the current hoo-haa in the USA about who uses a toilet, it’s important to remember that it’s all about people. Real people, not abstracts.
  • This is what it’s like to grow up in the age of likes, lols and longing
    She slides into the car, and even before she buckles her seat belt, her phone is alight in her hands. A 13-year-old girl after a day of eighth grade. She says hello. Her au pair asks, “Ready to go?”
    Humanity is doomed! Or is humanity in the process of saving itself. Hmm lemme tweet that.
  • Baby carrots are not baby carrots
    Ten years ago, NPR opened a radio news segment with a few words about a man few knew. Mike Yurosek, a carrot farmer from California, had passed away earlier that year. The homage was short —it lasted no more than 30 seconds — but for many of those listening, it must have been eye-opening.
    One of these things I know I knew but I keep forgetting. Which is the same as forgetting, or something. Anyway, baby carrots!
  • On Twitter, a study says half of all sexist abuse comes from women
    Half of all sexist tweets come from women, according to a new study. The research, carried out by British think-tank Demos, revealed the scale of misogynistic abuse on Twitter perpetuated by both men and women.
    Not sure if this is an important article, or just a reminder to us all that our Twitter use is very ‘local’ to us. My bubble is not your bubble etc etc.

bookmark_borderLess to say

I’ve hit a strange point in my use of social media recently. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing but I am definitely using it less.

I don’t check Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram multiple times a day, and some days not at all, and as such I’m posting less and less too. In fact if anything I’m preferring Instagram these days.

Why? Because there is too much and I don’t have the energy to sift through it to find the good stuff.

Too many opinions, too many in-jokes, too many overlapping conversations I am not a part of, too much noise, too much hate, too much love, too much silliness, too much, too much, too much.

Obviously what I take from social media is down to me but I am finding that my tolerance for somethings has been dropping recently and, more often than feels healthy, I just get narked by all of it.

This is largely down a distinct lack of energy on my part. I’m eating healthily(ish) and walking more to get some level of exercise, but my current job is proving to be very mentally draining. Every day I feel exhausted, every day feels like a battle (and it’s not just me, the others in my direct team say the same). The advantages of contract life mean I leave my work in the office but, of course, that’s not how it really works. I may not have the laptop or my notebook but my brain still churns.

It’s not just social media either, I’m reading less – I don’t think I’ve finished a single book in the last couple of months, whilst I was averaging over 2 per month at the start of the year – and I’m not as productive with my ‘down’ time, with even the basic things like keeping my flat tidy (which I’ll admit is a bit of a ‘thing’ for me) has slipped.

And that’s why I’m more inclined to avoid social media. Without enough energy to gather my elephants* they steam in all angry and ranty and make a mess.

My get up and go seems to have got up and gone I’m not sure where, nor how to get it back, or even if I’m that bothered.

Maybe I’m actually just learning to detach and slow down, to stop worrying about “What’s next?” (guess who’s been re-watching the West Wing recently), and to appreciate just not doing very much at all. Maybe.

Wow, this is a long winded post to say ‘it’s not you, it’s me’, but isn’t it ever so.

* What is the rider and elephant metaphor? From behavioral psychology, a theory that suggests we have two sides: An emotional/automatic/irrational side (the elephant), and an analytical/controlled/rational side (its rider).

According to the model, the rider is rational and can plan ahead, while the elephant is irrational and driven by emotion and instinct. We have to find the balance between the two.

bookmark_borderWeekend Reading

  • Until I was a man, I had no idea how good men had it at work
    Testosterone made my voice low. Really low. So low that I am almost impossible to hear in a loud bar or a cacophonous meeting, unless I speak at a ragged near-shout. But when I do talk, people don’t just listen: they lean in.
    Something I am aware of in the workplace, it really needs to change faster.
  • Starbucks Orders and the Mass Customization of American Food
    Food customization is more than a craze in America—it’s a reflection of identity. It’s been said that there are 87,000 ways to order a drink at Starbucks.
    What’s wrong with my Grande Skinny Latte, Extra Hot, with Sugar-free Vanilla Syrup??
  • Racism is the bogeyman
    I started having a nightmare when I was 11 – not nightmares – just a single, vivid reoccurring dream. In it, I answered the door to my parents house. A man wearing a cap raised his shotgun and blasted me in the gut. Reflexively, I reached down and could feel the hole.
    Views outside my own always hit hard, all I can do is keep reading, learning, and supporting however I can. We all should.
  • How Typography Can Save Your Life
    After decades of silently shouting at the top of its lungs, the National Weather Service recently announced that it’s going to stop publishing its forecasts and weather warnings in ALL CAPS.
    AS IF ANYONE PAYS ANY ATTENTION TO THINGS IN ALL CAPS (I said, as if anyone pays any attention to things in ALL CAPS).
  • The Longest Shortest Distance
    I’m convinced a lot of us like to believe the shortest distance from point A to B is a straight line. That’s a nice thought though. Really, wouldn’t life be so much easier? The reality, I’ve learned, is that life looks more like a giant, haphazard scribble drawn by my 2 year-old daughter.
    New life motto, ‘life is a scribble’. I like it.
  • There’s No Such Thing as Free Will
    But we’re better off believing in it anyway. For centuries, philosophers and theologians have almost unanimously held that civilization as we know it depends on a widespread belief in free will—and that losing this belief could be calamitous.
    I should probably thank you for reading these comments
  • A Psychologist Analyzes Donald Trump’s Personality
    Narcissism, disagreeableness, grandiosity — a psychologist investigates how Trump’s extraordinary personality might shape his possible presidency.
  • Post-it Note War Erupts On Canal Street
    Companies in buildings across the street from each other are filling their windows with Post-it notes in elaborate designs in what’s become something of a colorful battle of one-upsmanship, as first reported by New York 1.
    LOVE this, LOVE IT!! (Ohhh sorry, you won’t read that cos ALL CAPS… )
  • Blue Feed, Red Feed
    Recent posts from sources where the majority of shared articles aligned “very liberal” (blue, on the left) and “very conservative” (red, on the right) in a large Facebook study.
    Facebook offers biased news? Look at the surprise on my face! (for those reading in the dark, there is no surprise in my face)
  • Portugal runs for four days straight on renewable energy alone
    Portugal kept its lights on with renewable energy alone for four consecutive days last week in a clean energy milestone revealed by data analysis of national energy network figures.
    But hey, all these hippy dippy sources of energy aren’t really worth the money, right? *rolls eyes*
  • Lessons from America’s First Memory World Champion
    On the Saturday before Mother’s Day, Alex Mullen, the country’s top-ranked memory athlete, joined his parents and grandmother for dinner at a restaurant near his grandmother’s home, in Easton, Pennsylvania.
    If there is an anti-memory competition, I think I’d have a shot.
  • The inside story of when Run‑DMC met Aerosmith and changed music forever
    It’s 1986. Rap music is explosive and on the rise but still misunderstood and barely represented in the mainstream. The leading innovators are Run-DMC, a trio from Queens who sport black leather jackets and unlaced Adidas sneakers.
    Love stuff like this, didn’t realise Rick Rubin produced it (and the Beastie Boys provided the bass guitar).
  • We need a Paris climate talks to fix the global food system
    The Paris climate agreement began its long road to implementation with a formal signing ceremony in New York in April, attended by representatives of some 170 countries.
    I do wish politics would get out of the way, some of these large ecosystem related discussions need to happen, and yes, we all might need to take the hit. For the better good and all that.
  • Privileging the Forbidden
    Adam Phillips has been called “the Oliver Sacks of psychoanalysis,” and in his remarkable new book, Unforbidden Pleasures, he writes about agency and desire in an utterly transformative way.
    Basically, pause and be mindful of yourself and your surroundings? AKA Buddhism?

bookmark_borderThe days slip away

Rise to the chime.

The bleary eyed shuffle and the morning ablutions.

Take your pills. Dress yourself. Brush your teeth every day. Floss not often enough. The scold of the dental hygienist awaits!

Then to the bus. Then to coffee. Then to my desk.

Computer screen glows from black. The cogs whirr into life. Around me a cacophony of tapping rises.

Good morning. Good morning. Good morning. I say. I am well. How are you? I am good, and you? Verbal tennis, the expectation of politeness.

I stare at rows and columns, words white on black. I sit in rooms and listen and talk and listen and talk. The clock moves in fits and starts. Taunting me for moments, racing through others.

I am working. This is what I do. I am pay my bills. I laugh. I anger. I do. I do not.

Then I am done, outside as the bus sweeps to the kerb, ready to take me home.

I shed my work with each foot fall on pavement, leaving it behind me. I will find it in the morning. Most of it at least.

Another day.

How is it May?

bookmark_borderWeekend Reading

  • Apostrophe-gate
    The Watergate scandal produced a number of far-reaching effects. It brought down a president. It created a new era of disillusionment with politics. And, more important for my purposes, it spawned one of the most flexible, enduring suffixes in modern history.
    I’m not that fussed about apostrophes, but just you wait for interrobang-gate, wow that’s gonna be something‽
  • America Has Never Been So Ripe for Tyranny
    And right now, America is a breeding ground for tyranny. As this dystopian election campaign has unfolded, my mind keeps being tugged by a passage in Plato’s Republic. It has unsettled — even surprised — me from the moment I first read it in graduate school.
    I hear ‘tyranny’, my brain hears, ‘A wretched hive of scum and villany’
  • Every Episode of David Attenborough’s Life Series, Ranked
    This Sunday, Sir David Attenborough, naturalist, maker of wildlife documentaries, snuggler of gorillas, wielder of That Voice, keeper of the blue shirt, and Most Trusted Man in Britain, turns 90.
    A true legend in every sense of the word.
  • I tried to make my own tortillas from scratch the Mexican way in the US, and it was a disaster
    Corn tortillas are ubiquitous in the US. Factories daily churn out millions of them and disperse them to all corners of the country.
    I think the mistake is in trying to make your own… I have mine delivered (and pre-filled!).
  • Should Prostitution Be a Crime?
    Last November, Meg Muñoz went to Los Angeles to speak at the annual West Coast conference of Amnesty International. She was nervous.
    Some cultural changes bubble, this seems to be one about to hit the top and burst.
  • The Russian Spy Who Painted Brooklyn Red
    This is a story about a man named Rudolf Ivanovich Abel. He was a colonel in the KGB—a master spy, a mole deeply embedded in the United States, and the central hub of a massive, all-consuming espionage network that threatened all that we hold near and dear. Well, that’s not totally true.
    Spies! Secrets! Intrigue. Someone phone Dan Brown!
  • Where Did All The Dicks Go?
    The transformation of the word “dick” from endearing nickname to phallic slang term was so complete by the time I was a child that it was difficult for me not to snicker whenever I heard someone mention my grandfather by name, and impossible for me to understand why any man would choose to go with that name.
    FNAR! Ok, there, got that out of my system. I hope this isn’t a hard read (sorry!).
  • Two minutes playing this video game could help scientists fight Alzheimer’s
    Michael Hornberger always enjoys watching his children play the video game he helped create. Their small fingers move deftly across their sleek cellphone screens. Their brows furrow in concentration as they maneuver through the brightly colored virtual reality.
    I think there’s a word for this intersection in thinking but I can’t remember it..
  • Why You Shouldn’t Tell That Random Girl On The Street That She’s Hot
    Ah, spring. What a wonderful time of the year. Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, terrified college students are graduating, and dudes on the internet are pondering that age-old philosophical question: “But whyyyyy can’t I tell that random girl on the street that she looks hot?”
    All good advice. Heeded.
  • Be A Better Bystander: How Third Parties Can Help Targets Of Online Abuse
    I’m not posting this because I get abuse, I’m posting it because we are ALL part of the solution.
  • What It Really Means That Facebook ‘Suppressed’ Conservative News
    Facebook’s black box is slowly being opened.
    FNAR! Ohh wrong post… anyway… 1984 anyone?
  • Radiohead Meets With My Shrink
    Notes from a therapy session during which I only spoke in phrases from Radiohead’s new album. I won’t get heavy. Keep it light. Keep it moving.
    You have heard the new album, right? I mean if you’ve had time to… what, you don’t like Radiohead?
  • How Breakfast Became a Thing
    What you may not know is the origin of this ode to breakfast: a 1944 marketing campaign launched by Grape Nuts manufacturer General Foods to sell more cereal.
    OK, this I can handle, but if anyone tries to fuck with brunch they’ll be on my list!
  • To boost your creativity, procrastinate
    Procrastination, it turns out, may not be such a bad thing after all. The most effective way to tackle a new creative assignment is to put it off for a while, according to psychologist Maria Konnikova.
    These posts are a testament to the power of my procrastination (and if you are still reading, yours too).
  • Alison Bechdel on Writing, Therapy, Self-Doubt, and How the Messiness of Life Feeds the Creative Conscience
    Virginia Woolf lamented in her diary midway through writing To the Lighthouse.
    We human beings are a complex lot, eh?
  • The Unbelievable Reality of the Impossible Hyperloop
    Startup Hyperloop Technologies has started shooting magnetically levitated capsules along a track in Las Vegas to show off a radical idea for the future of freight and mass transit.
    This is the Jetsons, right?
  • Watch The First Real-World Test Of Hyperloop Technology
    Hyperloop One is one of the companies attempting to take the hyperloop from Elon Musk’s imagination to real-world application. On Wednesday, the company held the first live test of its version of the ultra-fast transportation system at a site in Nevada.
    And here is the proof that it’s really happening! WHOOOOOOOOSH!
  • How Typography Can Save Your Life
    This story was co-published with Source. After decades of silently shouting at the top of its lungs, the National Weather Service recently announced that it’s going to stop publishing its forecasts and weather warnings in ALL CAPS.
    Typography. Proof I’m a nerd.
  • I Promise You Don’t Have To Lose Weight To Be Happy
    Obvious fat. You’ve-got-such-a-pretty-face fat. Internet-trolls-making-digs-at-the-double-chins-on-my-upper-arms fat. I am, in the parlance of the fat acceptance community, known as an “in-betweenie” or a “smallfat” — I fluctuate between a size 16 and a size 18.
    I too am fat! HOORAY!!

bookmark_borderOnly one

“Ask yourself if you would do it if nobody would ever see it,
you would never be compensated for it and nobody wanted it.”
– Ernst Haas (via)

There must be a reason I write. I write here, I write in a journal, I (don’t really at the moment) write short stories, and I (definitely not at the moment) am writing a novel.

I write.

All of it because I want to, for me and my own personal reasons which I’ve mentioned here before, at least that’s how it started.

Reading that Ernst Haas quote made me realise one of the reasons I’ve been a bit blocked on my novel. During NaNoWriMo I wasn’t thinking about anyone reading it, I was writing for me, writing to meet a target number of words every day yes, but it was (and still is) a first draft that no-one will ever see. I was writing a story I wanted to read.

However having let it sit for a while, which was always part of the plan, I find myself revisiting it with the expectation (hope?) that it will be read by others in the future. It wasn’t a conscious decision and it hadn’t even occurred to me until that quote sparked the thought in my head.

I’ve mentioned On Writing, the book by Stephen King that really helped me get my head into the right place to tackle NaNoWriMo, but I’ve forgotten one thing that he is very VERY clear on.

You write for one person, and one person only.

So that’s what I need to do, finish the first draft in the same vein I started it, write it because I enjoy writing, write it to tell a story that I want to read. I am my own constant reader.