Friday, June 24, 2016

Weekend Reading: The Interesting Times Edition

We're living in interesting times, aren't we? It has never been so clear to me why that is considered a curse.

I don't have any great insight on the Brexit situation. I am hoping for the best for my friends in the UK and the EU, and for all of us, really.

My reaction is pretty similar to what Josh Marshall wrote on the subject.

And hey! We've got some wild things happening in our politics here, too. I really liked this essay from Nancy LeTourneau about how the situation in Washington right now isn't like a poker game, it is like a bad divorce, and why we shouldn't be hoping the Democrats learn to play the game like the Republicans are doing right now. I could try to quote the important bits, but it is a short piece, so just go read it.

OK, I'll include one quote:

"At some point, voters have to decide if it is in their interest to elect politicians who are simply using them as their pawns in a power game. I know that as a family therapist, when I saw that a divorce wars situation was intractable, I would eventually go to the kids to begin the process of empowering them to make good choices (luckily in my practice they were adolescents)."

We've vilified politics, but politics are how things get resolved without bloodshed. It isn't pretty, and the compromises you end up reaching can sometimes look really bad to history (hello, three-fifths compromise!) but in a large, diverse country, different people will want different things and if we're not going to resolve these differences with politics, we're going to be left with angry groups who feel disenfranchised... and I fear we'll eventually end up with bloodshed.

Jamelle Bouie writes about this, and also gun control. This is another really good essay I hope you'll go read. Here's a good quote:

"The United States is an impossibly large country of people with competing, contradictory, and often antagonistic views and priorities. Ideas and policies that seem popular often aren’t once you drill down to the details, or once they come in conflict with the values, ideals, and identities of an individual, of a family, of a community. The only way to make a country like this work, as a democracy at least, is to accommodate pluralism, encourage compromise, and limit the system’s capacity for rapid change."

This is a really good post by Debbie Cameron about the way treating women like posessions intertwines with racist, xenophobic behavior like that of the man who killed MP Jo Cox.

And this is a gut-wrenching post from Jen Gunter about doing abortions after 20 weeks. You should read it, but be warned: it made me full out cry.

Some economists studied the impact of gender neutral policies that stop the tenure clock for new parents, and found that they help men and hurt women. We really struggle with the idea that sometimes the fair policy is not the one that is strictly equal, don't we? Pregnancy and childbirth aren't gender neutral, so the policies that try to mitigate their impact on women's careers can't be gender neutral.

I know that many men are very involved fathers and try to make things as equal as they can on the home front (I'm married to one such man), but... pregnancy has an impact. All those doctor's appointments have an impact. Childbirth and the recovery from it has an impact. Breastfeeding (as much as I loved it) has an impact. The fact that everyone in our society defaults to contacting the mom has an impact.

And some men aren't so involved, but will take the extra time, anyway. They won't feel bad about it at all, and society will give them a free pass and not expect anything more from them.

Also, no one gives a damn what they do with their hair after their kids are born, but apparently the New York Times has felt the need to weigh in on what I should do with mine.

Do you know why women opt for "mom bobs"? BECAUSE THEY SAVE TIME. And we need that time to focus on the things that are more important to us than what random people think about our hair. (For the record, I think my hair is still too long to be considered a "mom bob" but that might change...)

Tressie McMillan Cottom wrote a great piece about "time bind tech," why dads love Alexa, and what that says about time use.

Basically, I want to just listen to this ringtone on repeat.

So... we need something lighter to end on, don't we?

I like this piece by Bonnie Tsui about drinking, and how much is too much, and periodic abstinence as a way to "reset."

And the Hairography is pretty awesome.

This map of musical genres is addictive. (h/t @xzqx)

This is weird:




And, saving the best for last: The Lilies of Dawn cover reveal! Click through and see the gorgeous cover.

Happy weekend, everyone! I'm going to be on a short hiatus. Posting over the next couple of weeks is uncertain, and there may not even be any links. Sorry! You can browse the archives... there's good stuff in there. Also some dreck, but that's how it goes. I'll see you when I get back.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Stop Worrying and Start Living

I loved Kiese Laymon's collection of essays How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America primarily for its title essay, which is one of the things I read that helped me start to get my head around what it means to be a Black man in America.

One of the other gifts of that collection, though, was this quote, which I used as my "from the archives" quote on Tungsten Hippo this week:




I do not think I can fully express how much I love this quote. It was written about the special sort of worry a Black man in America grows up with, and I don't want to distract from that. But like so much great writing, it speaks beyond its original context.

It speaks to me, a white woman who grew up learning a very different sort of worry. I've been thinking a lot about how society's expectations of girls and women has fed into the limits I have let worry put on my life, but I've not yet come to conclusions that are ready to share.

Instead, I want to talk a little bit about that quote, and why I love it.

I may even love it more than this quote, which has traveled with me printed on various pieces of papers since my third year of college: "Everything always works out well in the end. If things aren't going well, it is not the end yet." That quote comes from my college physics professor, who said it was an old Portugese proverb. Something similar turned up in the 2011 British movie Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and then reading Don't Call It Bollywood taught me that the source for the quote in that movie was a 2007 Hindi film called Om Shanti Om. Since my college physics class was in 1993, the Portugese proverb source is still the one I go with.

Whatever the source of the "everything works out well in the end" quote, I love it because it reminds me not to take the crap that happens in life too seriously. Obviously, there are some things that could happen that most definitely would not "work out well in the end." But those things don't happen often. Mostly, when something has me down, it is of the "it is not the end yet" variety, so the quote helps me keep perspective.

I love the Kiese Laymon quote for a different reason. It doesn't help me keep perspective so much as give me a kick in the pants.

I am a planner, and a well-known side effect of being a planner is being a worrier. I don't mean the "I worry I'll forget something important when I pack for a trip" sort of worrier (although I do worry about that). I mean the "I might make a mistake and destroy my career/life" sort of worrier. I can live with the first type of worry, which I generally deal with by reminding myself that the place I'm traveling to has stores. The second type is poison, because it can paralyze me and fool me into staying with the status quo just because I'm afraid of messing up as I try to aim for the life I really want.

I'm working on letting go of this type of worry. I'm working on accepting the risk of mistakes, and trusting myself to work through mistakes.

Brene Brown's book The Gifts of Imperfection helped me realize what fears were holding me back. But as I read it, I also realized that I already know what I need to do to live the type of life I really want to live. I just need to practice at it. And Kiese Laymon's quote reminds me to keep practicing.

For instance: last night, I had a networking event to attend. I did not do my best there. I flubbed explaining what it is I do, and want to do. I struggle with the fact that what I want to do is so different from the norm of what people expect. I want to run a consulting/contracting/training business AND run a products business whose first focus is books. I don't want to pick the one that excites me the most and focus on that, because they both excite me. Part of the reason I chose this path is because it lets me do multiple things at once. That is the sort of life I want to lead.

I usually deal with this by just picking the part of my story that is more relevant to the crowd and focusing on that. That strategy usually works well, but last night's event needed the full story, and I don't tell it well yet. I need to work on that.

I think that to learn to tell the story well, the first step is to stop apologizing for it. I need to stop worrying about whether or not what I'm trying to do is "OK" and just keep doing it. I'm paying my bills. My business is doing OK. That's enough. Maybe what I'm doing will turn out to be the wrong thing. Maybe it will all fall apart. I have to trust myself to put the pieces back together if that happens, and trust the plan I've made and am following.

In short, it is time to stop worrying, and start living.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Release Day for Academaze

Today is release day for Academaze, the collection of essays and cartoons about academic life by Sydney Phlox, the more easily indexable pseudonym of Xykademiqz.

Even though my particular publishing model does not require a "big bang" release day, I still love release days. It is great to see something I've worked hard on out in the world. Today is no different, except due to some scheduling issues and my recent "crunch time" I ended up putting this release day on a day when I was scheduled to go in to my main client... so I am later than usual in posting the release day post.

But, better late than never! Academaze is out, and you can grab a copy at the following links:

You can help spread the word by sharing this post, the release day Facebook post, or the release day Tweet.

Also, Xykademiqz is running a raffle on her blog, and has a running list of reviews as they come in from our advance reviewers (and others). Here are a few quotes from reviews to give you a feel for the book:

"Reading Academaze was like having a long chat with a colleague who’d had experiences similar to mine, but actually processed them instead of simply surviving. It was invigorating and inspiring, and I’m looking forward to sharing the book with my students." - Review by Elizabeth Haswell

"[A]n absolute must-read for anyone who is either thinking of a career in research or has already embarked on the path." - review by Pawel Niewiadomski

"The book is fun, there are tons of RL stories that illustrate each point – I highly recommend it." - Review by Clarissa

"I would highly recommend her book for anyone who is considering a career at a research university, at least in physical science or engineering." - Review by Alex Small at Physicist at Large (Note: the review from Elizabeth Haswell is from a professor in the biosciences, and the review from Clarissa is from a professor of literature... I think the information is relevant for any science professor, and that parts of it are relevant outside of the sciences, but I didn't want to truncate the quote.)

So, what are you waiting for? Grab a copy. Buy copies for all your friends! I think you'll be glad you did.

On a more personal note, I was struck while reviewing the proofs of this book by how far I've come in the technical aspects of publishing. When I compare this book to my first foray into publishing (with my own Navigating the Path to Industry), the difference is quite noticeable, particularly in the paperback version. It is not that Navigating the Path to Industry is terrible- nothing interferes with your ability to read it, for instance. But I hadn't figured out all the publishing norms, and since the paperback was an afterthought, the cover image wasn't the right size, and I had to pad it and I've always regretted my choice of filler color. 

However, this was sort of the plan. I wanted to try out publishing with a book of my own, so that I would make my mistakes on my own work, not someone else's. Even now, when I want to try something new (like adding a second printer for non-Amazon sources of the paperback), I try it first on a Taster Flight. 

I'm not sure if it is worth going back to fix the issues I now see with the Navigating the Path to Industry paperback. Let's just say that it hasn't made it to the top of my priority list yet.

For now, I'll just feel happy for how well Academaze (and Don't Call It Bollywood) turned out!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Weekend Reading: The Silly Season Edition

Another week with no post between the weekend reading posts! I hate that. My excuse this week is that it is the last full week of school for my kids. I call this silly season, because school-related things crop up unexpectedly in addition to the multiple scheduled events.

So, I am lucky if I keep on top of my work and blogging time is basically nil.

However, I do have a few links for you:

This piece by Alex Massie about the assassination of Jo Cox in Britain is one I think we should read and consider here in the US, too. We tend to frame our political agruments in very dramatic terms. As Massie says (and I think is so important I'm going to bold it):

"When you shout BREAKING POINT over and over again, you don’t get to be surprised when someone breaks. When you present politics as a matter of life and death, as a question of national survival, don’t be surprised if someone takes you at your word."

I see this extreme rhetoric more from the right than the left here in the US, but it is not entirely absent on the left. It is wrong wherever it happens, even if (perhaps especially if) you agree with the cause being argued.

I also wonder if our tendency to ratchet up the rhetoric has made it harder for people to take the danger of Donald Trump as seriously as we should. Here is a case where comparisons to the rise of fascism in other countries are warranted, as historians, political scientists, and people who lived through the Holocaust have attested. And yet, so many people brush them off. Is it a "boy who cried wolf" problem? Did the ratcheted up rhetoric about George W. Bush and Barack Obama make it easier for portions of the population to ignore the warnings about Trump? I don't know. But I hope we can ratchet things down.

Donald Trump revoked the Washington Post's press credentials. So Alexandra Petri wrote a style guide for covering Trump.

Here's the story that apparently annoyed Trump so much. Let's make sure everyone reads it!

Speaking of ratcheting down, Bernie Sanders has not conceded, but he is no longer attacking Hillary Clinton and has said he looks forward to working with her to stop Trump. So that's something. But he's still annoying a lot of top Democrats, and this piece from Matt Yglesias explains why.

I don't think Sanders cares what top Democrats think of him. He is not, afterall, really a Democrat. He's an interesting man, and I am curious to see if his campaign has any lasting impact on politics in this country. I've seen arguments both ways, and I certainly don't have any special insight. There are aspects I hope persist (some of his ideas to make our social safety net stronger, for instance) and some aspects I hope we never see again (the aggressive behavior of some of his supporters, for instance). I think if he and/or his supporters want to change the Democratic party, though, they're more likely to do it from the inside than by yelling from the outside.

What happens when a rabbi walks into a gay bar? That's not the start of a joke... it was something better.

This poem by Maggie Smith really spoke to me this week.

Billionaires and the threat to our free press, from the editors of Mother Jones.

Speaking of Mother Jones, they had a deep dive into gun companies that I am hoping to read this weekend.

Speaking of guns, this piece from Jamelle Bouie expresses how I've come to think about the gun debate better than I can. Here's a particularly important quote:

" It took 30 years for a fringe right-wing vision of the Second Amendment—an individual right to bear arms—to become the dominant one, adopted by all sides and ratified by the Supreme Court. It will likely take just as long to reverse that status quo. The past few years of shootings and massacres have galvanized more and more Americans to take action and try to out-organize the gun-rights movement. If those efforts succeed, then this period, which feels like a nadir, doesn't have to be one."

If we want to change this, we have to be willing to keep up our efforts for the long haul. I was thrilled to see Chris Murphy's filibuster, and the outpouring of support for it. But it was only a start. An important start, but just a start. I see momentum growing, but we have to be ready for this effort to take a long time.

OK, now we need some fun to end on:

Apparently, New Zealand had an avocado shortage this year, and this has led to an avocado crime wave of sorts. Our own crop from our backyard tree is pretty much done now, but it is still funny to think about an avocado shortage when just a month ago we were giving avocados away to pretty much anyone who would take them.

Here's some cool research from Cambodia, showing the existence of large urban centers in the 12th century.

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a great weekend!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Weekend Reading: The It Has Been a Good Week Edition

I have a post I really want to write, about the baggage we bring to our careers, but I'm not quite caught up enough to have had time to do it this week. Maybe next week.

It wasn't a bad week, just a busy one. I got the final files for Academaze uploaded everywhere, ready for the June 20 release. I did the initial layout for the print version of The Lilies of Dawn, and got the necessary information to the cover artist. I had the final meeting for another beta test of my "focused management check up" offering (I need a better name... but if you're curious about it, I describe it a bit more in this month's Founding Chaos newsletter, and yes I'm still open for a couple more beta testers). I also put in about 16 hours with my main client.

The week is ending on a great note, too. Today, I booked another in person session of the Take Control of Your Time workshop (the 2 hour workshop version of the seminar of the same name). And I got a contact about potential work from a networking seed I planted months ago. Happy things.

And I have some great links for you!

First of all, Vanessa Fogg, whose wonderful novelette The Lilies of Dawn will come out from Annorlunda Books at the end of July, has a story up at Metaphorosis, and it is great. Go read it!

Also, Likhain, the amazing artist who is doing the cover art for this book, has been posting work in progress images on Twitter. Here's the latest:




I can't wait to see the final image. Check out her portfolio to see why!

If all of that has you anxious to read the novelette, the advance review copies will be out in a couple of weeks. Sign up to be an advance reader.

Don't forget you can buy Don't Call It Bollywood. Buy and read it now, so that you'll be ready for the next movie watchalong! Or sign up for the GoodReads giveaway, which is running now. Because the deeper point of this book is that we can use books and movies and the like to better understand other countries and cultures, I made this giveaway open absolutely everywhere, and I'll happily pay the postage to wherever the winner lives!

This was a good week, but the freelance/entrepreneur life is not always easy, not by a longshot. Here's Ann Friedman writing brilliantly about that.

I found this NYT piece about "fixing feminism" really interesting, but not quite complete. I'm not even sure that is really a criticism. I think this is a hard subject to discuss completely, because how we think about motherhood and work is such a culturally-loaded thing. I've written before about wishing for a world that I can't quite imagine, in which family and work aren't "balanced" but... I don't know. Integrated? In harmony?

Anyway, I think what is missing from that NYT piece is an acknowledgement of how much a lot of women value their non-caregiving work. I'm sure the author sees this, and perhaps even feels it herself. But there are space limitations, and the need to focus, etc., etc.... and it all makes me feel like we never really have the full, honest conversation. Also, I think we tend to assume how we, personally, feel is universal. I'm sure I'm guilty of this, too.

Another thing missing was the extent to which mothers have always been split between caregiving and other work. I have an old weekend links post about that.

And here's another piece for the conversation I wish we could have: what stay-at-home-moms actually do all day. It isn't 100% caregiving. Laura Vanderkam recently did a project with Redbook about this, and her blog post on what they found is interesting.

OK, moving on.

So, Hillary is now the presumptive nominee. I'll admit it, I cried watching her speech. She is not perfect, her policies are not perfect. But as I've written before, I've come to find her personally inspiring. And I find this nomination meaningful. This post, from a woman I suspect is 10-15 years older than me, resonates.

I hear what my African-American friends are saying, and what some of the Black women I follow online are saying, too. Some of Hillary's specific flaws make it really hard for them to celebrate her nomination like a lot of white women are. I understand that, and can't fix that... so I will just offer this: read about Shirley Chisholm if you haven't already.

Also, we need to be careful talking about how we talk about suffrage. White women unambiguously got the vote in the US in 1920. Black women technically had it then, but in practice could not exercise it until the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. Native Americans weren't even considered citizens until 1924, and so couldn't vote. Even after they were recognized as citizens, they often could not vote and it was not until 1947 that courts started ruling against barriers to their voting. Asian-Americans faced similar issues into the 50s. So, yeah, you can really only say that white women got the vote in 1920. Here's a timeline if you want to fill in the gaps of the story you were taught in school.

My last little bit of election stuff is to marvel at this week in memes.

First, Donald Trump sorta rickrolled us:




Then Hillary's social media team just owned the memes. First the "delete your account" one:




And then the "Thanks, Obama" one:




This is all just... weird for me. I'm too old.

This is a neat story about some cool pottery... and the image on the top vase is one that all Southern Californians will recognize. (H/t to Badmomgoodmom for sending me that, and while you're at her site, check out this post about providing infrastructure.)

Here is a cool, but bittersweet, story about a bit of Harry Potter in the real world.

Indeed:


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