Misc: These podcasts are worth your time and attention

Here are three shows I listened to and enjoyed in 2014 (and continue to listen to into 2015).

The Broad Experience by Ashley Milne-Tyte

I've appeared on Ashley's show, which is about the experiences of women in the workplace, twice. In another life I was also responsible for one of its corporate sponsorships. That's how much I'm into the work Ashley is doing with this.

Episodes average a perfect-for-my-commute 20 minutes. [Bonus: there's also a Broad Experience newsletter]

Here's an excellent recent episode, on the (slow) pace of progress and the important of paternity leave.

|iTunes| Stitcher|


TLDR with Meredith Haggerty

I met Meredith at BinderCon NYC. She is warm, funny, thoughtful, provactive - all excellent traits in a podcast host.

TLDR's pitch is "short, surprising stories about the internet." Episodes range from 5 to 15 minutes.

This episode, about the rabid (and demanding) fans of astrologer Susan Miller, is a good taste of the show's style and voice.

The Heart (formerly known as Audio Smut)

Kaitlin Prest's show is smart and sexy as hell and decidedly NSFW (or possibly your commute, if you blush easily).

Here's the show's official description:

The things you whisper. The things you do in the dark...or light. The things you feel but you don’t know how to name. This is a radio show about all of those things. It’s about the triumphs and the terrors of human intimacy, the bliss and banality of being in love and the wild diversity of the human heart. Part of the amazing Radiotopia Network by PRX.

And this is a recent episode, titled "Firsts".

|Soundcloud|iTunes|

Misc: Giving things away assumes all your needs are met

The "net stuff" rule - it's one I've long believed in, and one I've regularly broken.

What it involves is simple, and difficult in the way that all truly simple things are: my net possessions should hold steady or decrease over time. To achieve this, every time I acquire something I ought to get donate/recycle/bin something else.

In 2014 I filled bags and bags and bags with books and shoes and clothes and jewelry and indeed sometimes with other bags. I lugged these to Goodwill and to Dress for Success and gave them away to strangers on the internet.

I can do this because I don't need anything. As far as the worldly goods bit of Maslow goes, I am sorted.

As Tracy Moore wrote at Jezebel, "getting rid of things requires the having of things. If minimalism is a kind of voluntary thing-poverty, then real poverty is involuntary minimalism."

I can embrace minimalism because I can afford it. It is easy to forget that choosing to eschew possessions in the name of happiness and serenity is a luxury. It assumes that, among other things, should you find you do need something you have the ability to replace or acquire it at the moment that need arises. It assumes that the quality of the items you do choose to possess tend toward the durable rather than the disposable.

But if you are in the position of being able to choose which watch you're going to wear today, and with which pair of shoes - you might consider the net stuff rule as an experiment in identifying what you really value. And what you're afraid of letting go of.

This post first appeared as en edition of The Galavant Times, An OG TinyLetter.

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If nothing else, wear comfortable shoes

Over in the country where I live these days, a privileged young man murdered nine people. Nine people - his three roommates and six strangers. Nine people, because he felt entitled to women and women's bodies and women's affections. And when he failed to receive them, he penned a homicidal manifesto, a misogynist treatise that I will decline to link to, accompanied by a series of increasingly evil videos.

He killed nine people. And then himself.

What kind of boys are we raising? What kind of men are we creating?

And so this weekend, I went for a walk. A long walk. The kind that starts wherever you're standing and ends wherever you end up. The kind that lasts a few hours. The kind that by the end of it, your rage and despair and melancholy have been - if not replaced - at least supplemented with a sort of renewed ability to be the best damn change you can in the world.

Sometimes what you need to keep going is a pair of comfortable shoes.

*A version of this post first appeared on the #awesomewomen list. *

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Misc: Some statements of personal policy

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Part One:

1) If you believe that talking about difference or acknowledging that -isms exist is tantamount to either "making the problem worse" or being that -ist - "Talking about racism means you're a racist!" - I will disagree with you.

2) If you contend that "we are all just people" or "I don't even see colour" or "it wouldn't matter if she was a purple alien", I will seriously disagree with you.

Typical, real example: ""Personally, I feel that the way to break down the minority divides is to ignore the existence of a minority at all. Let's forget about gender - we're all just people"

3) If your arguments include such threads as "then why isn't there a White History month?" or "we only wanted the most qualified people for this panel", I will end the conversation.

Typical, real example: "Besides, how would the world react to male-only networking groups/ online forums? I bet that wouldn't be tolerated."

Part Two:

I believe these statements to be true:

1) Highlighting the work of minorities in a field helps dispel two myths: "No one in this looks like me so I don't belong here" and "No one here looks like you so you don't belong here"

2) Giving more visibility to the work (or indeed existence) of minorities does not threaten, exclude or diminish the work or existence of non-minorities in a given industry, business or sector.

3) Acknowledging difference is an important step in understanding when and why unequal access, unequal representation, and unequal outcomes persist. And to quote [a wise friend]("http://twitter.com/dorachomiak"), "we are all different, by definition. If we don't acknowledge those differences then we're not bringing out whole selves to the conversation and everyone loses out."

4) Ignoring the testimonies of minorities who have had different experiences is tantamount to acting like those lived experiences did not happen or are not legitimate or valid.

5) There are minority individuals (and indeed, archetypes) who will argue very strongly a) that their minority status has neither helped or harmed them in any way b) that it is patently false that anyone's minority status could ever be a source of difference in access, representation or outcome. This is valid, because (4). I equally contend that acknowledging difference, including differences in access, representation, and outcomes, does not tokenize or diminish the accomplishments of these individuals or groups, because (2).

Part Three

1) What token actually means.

2) Racism is systemic.

3) "Reverse racism", you say?

4) Oh, misandry! Oh, men's rights!

5) My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.

6) No, I will not 'change my tone'.

Wellness: The path of least resistance (involves not pretending I'll exercise after work)

I'm not a morning person, but I do an excellent impression of one. And that fake-it-till-you-make-it extends to my ability to drag myself out of bed before dawn in the depths of winter to attend a spin class, or to show up for the 7am yoga practice with a smile on my otherwise not-really-awake face.

But no matter how resolute I think I am, how many events I put in my calendar, how often I take my gym clothes with me - if I'm still in the office at 7 or 8pm, I am not going to make it to that yoga class. I am not going to suit up for a run. I am going to get on the first available form of transportation that will get me home and drinking tea in the least amount of time. (I call this "Time To Tea", and I aspire to 30mins or less after a long day)

Whether you believe that ego depletion is real or are convinced you can overcome wobbles in willpower, the key is to architect paths of least resistance during your day. Whether those paths successfully lead to the gym, the studio, the bike, the treadmill - or indeed, to tea - is a function of how honest you are about the tension between your goals and your psychology.

Wellness: I think I'll just pass out in this corner, thank you

The emergent popularity of books like Susan Cain's "Quiet" means that more people now understand - or have at least been exposed to - the traits of introverts.

But this growing awareness hasn't yet been coupled with widespread attempts to design schools, workplaces or even conferences that give introverts the time and the space to rest and recharge, to avoid burnout.

Today, after a week that consisted of back-to-back meetings bookended by breakfasts and dinners, I slept until 3pm. And then, after making some lunch and still completely exhausted, I went back to bed for a nap.

Most Western societies are optimised for extroverted behaviour. I'm not.

Wellness: What's your burnout indicator?

I've learnt to recognize when I am burning out. Sleep fails to refresh me; I wake up with a sore jaw from having clenched and ground my teeth all night; I don't laugh as often or as easily.

For me, burnout is rarely about stress. It is usually about losing control of my time (manifested, most often, as unbroken blocks in my Google Calendar - representing back-to-back meetings that consume the day).

Because those blocks mean I fail to make it to yoga - as I write this, my rolled-up mat rests accusingly in a corner. Those blocks mean I cancel the coffees and dinners with the friends who recharge me.

Burnout means I begin to resent those blocks.

Time to make time for yoga.

Misc: No, you may not 'pick my brain'

I am not sure when the phrase "pick your brain" began to be used as a substitute "I would like you to give me free advice and possibly throw in some consulting work and you will probably have to pay for your own coffee".

And I am not sure why my reaction to seeing or hearing it is so visceral.

In 2013 I started saying no to certain of these kinds of requests: if I asked you for specifics - and in some cases, I went so far as to assign 'homework' - and you couldn't follow-up or weren't willing to commit to, I declined.

I say often that people don't scale, and I certainly don't. My commitment to supporting the members of the various communities of which I am a part, and to mentorship, would be undermined if I devoted hours to people who are not willing to do the work. Saying no meant saying yes to more meaningful engagements with people who are themselves committed and driven. And it is a regular reminder that when I ask for help, I too need to be prepared to do the work.

An extract from my weekly #awesomewomen newsletter

Misc: When you play with amateurs, you're going to get hurt

Damon Collins speaks convincingly about the importance of aligning yourselves with people who know what they're doing in any collaborative venture.

What strikes me as (even more) interesting is that other folks talk about the tendency of 'amateurs' to be dangerous in a different context - that of 'disruption'. A little learning might be a dangerous thing, but it can sometimes be liberating.

Read: Best of the Week to Jan 10

SNLís Real Race Problem - Tanner Colby, provoking thoughts:

When racial-justice advocates call for more diversity, what theyíre saying is that the hiring pipelines into Americaís majority-white industries need to be expanded to include a truly multicultural array of voices and talents from all ethnic corners of America; they want equal opportunity for minorities who donít necessarily conform to the social norms of the white majority. When exasperated hiring managers use the word diversity, what they really mean is that theyíre looking for assimilated diversity

11 Awkward Things About Email, which inspired my short reflection on exclamation marks.

Writers and Rum - Adam Gopnik knows:

writing is, if not uniquely hard work, then uniquely draining work. Some basic human need for a balance between thinking and acting is still kept intact even by the most tedious of other tasks. All rewarding effort involves a balance between wit and workóbetween the bits you do alone in your head and the bits you do in company with your hands (or voice or body or whatever). Laboring in your head, exclusively, does feel unnatural; whatever else we might have been doing, back out there on the primeval savannah, we werenít sitting and moving the ends of our fingers minutely on a stone surface for six hours at a stretch.

Travel: my favourite gadgets

Win friends in airports while charging all the things: [Belkin SurgePlus 3-Outlet Mini Travel Swivel Charger Surge Protector with Dual USB Ports] (http://amzn.to/1aLczSw)

iPhone at that deadly 20% threshold? Never fear: Satechi Portable Energy Station Extended Battery Charger Pack

Cabin lights so bright, meeting so early tomorrow: Bucky 40 Blinks Mask

Oh hey, 12 hour time difference: Lewis N. Clark No-Jet-Lag

Misc: Thanks for reading

For a long, long time I avoided using exclamation marks in email correspondence. I am not a wildly demonstrative person and exclamation marks have always struck me as oh-so-emotional.

But after the fifteenth person told me that in emails I can seem "terse" and my favourite, "unfriendly", I started peppering my missives with emoticons and exclamations. "Thanks for sending that over!" and "Looking forward to next week!" and "It's been a long week for everyone, so let's all take a break this weekend :)"

So I very much appreciate this cartoon - and indeed the entirety of the post from which it is drawn:

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Misc: What would you grab in a fire?

1.30am fire alarm in an unfamiliar hotel in a big city after a long day of travel. A flashing red light and an overwhelming clang clang clang ring ring ring. You scramble out of bed and grope around in the dark red dark red, find your glasses and your footing in one movement.

What you grab before you leave the room?

I swiped my passport and left all the rest.

Food: Apples + Squeezo + Slow Cooker + Immersion Blender = Apple Butter Yum

Two years ago, I took up water-bath canning. Since then, I've filled many, many jars with various types of tomato-based sauces, chutneys, and ketchups.

My go-to resource for recipes and techniques is Liana Krissoff's excellent book, Canning for a New Generation. My favourite recipe from the book (so far) is for apple butter - which I've spent much of this weekend making.

Here's a condensed and slightly modified version of Krissoff's recipe, which I've now used to make about two dozen pints of apple butter.

Gadgets: [Squeezo] (http://amzn.to/1kkrRYq), slow cooker, immersion blender

Ingredients: 6 pounds apples; 2 cups apple cider; 1.5 cups cane sugar; 1.5 tsps ground cinnamon; 0.5 tsps ground cloves; 0.5 tsps ground allspice; 0.5 tsps ground nutmeg (this makes about 3 pints worth of apple butter)

Technique: Put apples in a large (6 to 8 quart) pot or pan. Add cider + 4 cups water and bring to boil over high heat. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the apples break down and the peels separate from the pulp. This usually takes 30-45 minutes.

Once the apples have mostly disintegrated, pass the (hot!) mixture through the Squeezo to remove the peels and cores. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and purÈe with an immersion blender until smooth.

Pour the purÈe into a large slow cooker and stir in the sugar and spices. Keep the slow cooker lid slightly askew to allow liquid to evaporate. Cook on low heat for 9-12 hours, stirring occasionally, until the apple butter is thick and dark.

Enjoy the fruits of your labour with oatmeal, yoghurt, waffles, pancakes, toast and for baking.

Krissoff provides some neat suggestions for additional uses in her book - and, of course, what you'd need to do if you want to can the apple butter for long-term storage.

Food: Sticky Chai is terrific

Or, the only product I've ever bought on the strength of a How To Spend It recommendation

I love chai. I've made my own, and I regularly scout tea shops for new blends.

Recently I came across an article in the FT's How To Spend It Magazine about an Australian blend, Sticky Chai.

One impulse buy and several weeks of waiting later, I can confirm that this chai is among the best I've ever had. And the writer of the How To Spend It article described the pleasure of the preparation perfectly:

I find the preparation a pleasing ritual (simmering two tablespoons in 150ml of water in a saucepan for two minutes, then adding 350ml of milk and a dash of honey and further simmering for two to three minutes before carefully straining into a petite teapot), and the result is a mix between an invigorating wake-up and a fragrant rush of heady exotic aroma.

Highly recommended.

Time > Money

Update: As of 2014, I cancelled my subscription because of a significant and persistent detioriation in the quality and reliability of FancyHands' virtual assistants. I've since switched to Zirtual, which is excellent.

Original post:

After years - years - of dithering, I signed up for Fancy Hands sometime around midnight on the Tuesday of a week during which my calendar, my inbox and my immune system all seemed to be conspiring against me.

It was similar to the situation that prompted me to sign up for Task Rabbit last year: three months of being silently mocked by the bag of clothes I'd earmarked for charity and which I failed, every single day, to deliver to Goodwill.

I quipped then that as I've gotten older, I've become more willing to exchange money for time. This continues to be true.

In the 19 hours or so since I coughed up for their basic service, the virtual assistants at Fancy Hands have:

  • scheduled five meetings for me (which involved creating calendar invitations and sending them to all participants - this service is free with their subscriptions)

  • sorted out a fairly involved but entirely solvable with a lot of Googling type-query that I've been putting off for not quite three months, but close. This is what I emailed my 'virtual assistant', whom I've dubbed (at least for the purposes of my address book) Patrick G Jeeves, to figure out "restaurants eligible for DiningDough.com AND Either 3.5+ (preferable 4) stars or higher on Yelp OR higher than a 7.5 Explorer rating on FourSquare." I also asked that the list include the Yelp and/or 4SQ link.

90 minutes later, "Ana R." replied with this list:

-Walkers Restaurant 4 out 5 starts out of 161 reviews http://fncy.it/YJTYGp (yelp.com) Categories: American (New), American (Traditional) 16 N Moore St (between Hudson St & Varick St) New York, NY 10013 Neighborhood: TriBeCa (212) 941-0142 http://fncy.it/1611f24 (walkersnyc.com)

-Ecco 4 out 5 stars out of 42 reviews http://fncy.it/1611f25 (yelp.com) Category: Italian 124 Chambers St (between Church St & Broadway) New York, NY 10007 Neighborhood: TriBeCa (212) 227-7074 http://fncy.it/1611han (eccorestaurantny.com)

-Le Pescadeux 4 out 5 stars out of 111 review http://fncy.it/1611hqA (yelp.com) Categories: Seafood, French 90 Thompson St (between Spring St & Prince St) New York, NY 10012

-Giorgio's of Gramercy 4 out 5 stars out of 306 reviews http://fncy.it/1611hqC (yelp.com) Categories: Italian, American (New) 27 E 21st St New York, NY 10011 Neighborhood: Flatiron (212) 477-0007 http://fncy.it/YJTYGv (giorgiosofgramercy.com)

-Kellari Taverna 3.5 out 5 stars out of 180 reviews http://fncy.it/1611f2d (yelp.com) Categories: Greek, Mediterranean, Seafood 19 W 44th St (between Avenue Of The Americas & 5th Ave) New York, NY 10036 Neighborhood: Midtown West (212) 221-0144 http://fncy.it/YJTYGw (kellariny.com)

-L'YBane 3.5 out 5 stars out of 90 reviews http://fncy.it/YJTVuh (yelp.com) Categories: Mediterranean, French, Wine Bars 709 8th Ave (between 44th St & 45th St) New York, NY 10036 Neighborhoods: Hell's Kitchen, Midtown West, Theater District (212) 582-2012 http://fncy.it/1611hXE (lybane.com)

-Acappella 4 out 5 stars out of 63 reviews http://fncy.it/YJTYGE (yelp.com) Category: Italian 1 Hudson St New York, NY 10013 Neighborhood: TriBeCa (212) 240-0163 http://fncy.it/YJTYGF (acappella-restaurant.com)

-Blue Planet Grill 3.5 out 5 stars out of 99 reviews http://fncy.it/YJTVuj (yelp.com) Categories: American (Traditional), Bars 120 Greenwich St (between Albany St & Carlisle St) New York, NY 10006 Neighborhood: Financial District (212) 571-1700 http://fncy.it/YJTVuk (blueplanetgrillnyc.com)

-India Place 4 out 5 stars out of 84 reviews http://fncy.it/YJTYWU (yelp.com) Categories: Indian, Vegetarian 655 Vanderbilt Ave (between Prospect Pl & Sterling Pl) Brooklyn, NY 11238 Neighborhood: Prospect Heights (718) 398-7776

-Ethos Gallery 51 4 out 5 stars out of 85 reviews http://fncy.it/YJTYWV (yelp.com) Category: Greek 905 1st Ave (between 50th St & 51st St) New York, NY 10022 Neighborhood: Midtown East (212) 888-4060 http://fncy.it/1611hqT (ethosrestaurants.com)

-Benito One The Original 4 out 5 stars out of 55 reviews http://fncy.it/YJTVuo (yelp.com) Category: Italian 174 Mulberry St (between Broome St & Grand St) New York, NY 10013 Neighborhood: Little Italy (212) 226-9171 http://fncy.it/YJTVuq (benitoone.com)

-Cafe Espanol 3.5 out 5 stars out of 105 reviews http://fncy.it/1611hHc (yelp.com) Categories: Spanish, Basque 78 Carmine St (between S 7th Ave & Bleecker St) New York, NY 10014 Neighborhood: West Village (212) 675-3312 http://fncy.it/1611hXR (ordercafeespanol.com)

-Cercle Rouge 3.5 out 5 stars out of 113 reviews http://fncy.it/YJTVuu (yelp.com) Categories: French, American (Traditional) 241 W Broadway (between Beach St & Moore St) New York, NY 10013 Neighborhood: TriBeCa (212) 226-6252 http://fncy.it/YJTYXa (cerclerougeresto.com)

Brilliant. Next step, reservations.

With all due intent...

Don't join a gym this January. Seriously. Gyms aren't so much about helping you get fitter as they are about raking in profits by maximizing their total membership, and minimizing their active base.

And I say this as a hard-core gym-goer who's spent many thousands of dollars/euros/pounds on personal training and gym memberships over the years.

Take a yoga class. Try a self-defense course. Start running. Take the stairs. Get off one stop early. Buy some weights or a suspension system. Attempt the 100 push-up challenge. Try bodyweight exercises or P90X.

Any one of those options will set you back less than the cost of a one-month gym membership. And your sunk costs will be considerably lower if you flake out by February.

But whatever you decide, you might want to wait before you tell anyone lest the Gollowitzer principle undermine your very best intentions. There's a very watchable TED talk by Derek Siverson the subject, if you're so inclined.

Writing goals down, though. That's cool. If somewhat unscientific. Writing your goals down in a Moleskine probably wouldn't help you get them done any faster, though. Or if pen-on-paper isn't your thing, or you prefer recording achievements (ahem, Gollwitzer) iDoneThis might be of interest. And if even email is too old school, Streaks.

May you achieve at least 50% of your resolutions, etc.

This post first appeared, with links and other content not included here, in the Galavant Times on Jan 5 2012.