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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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'.

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If I am too busy for yoga, I am too busy

I need to run more, so today I added a new habit to my Lift profile.

But before I added the habit, I had to decide on what I wanted to pursue:

Initial goal: daily 5k. Immediate mental pushback: seriously, when are you going to fit that in? 3 miles? Are you sure? Do you really have the time to commit to that every day? Also, it's getting cold and Blink is packed on evenings. How early do you want to wake up, seriously?  
Revised to: 30 minute run. Monologue: Hmm, maybe, but still a tricky one to fit in - not easy to do a lunchtime run and still be back in an hour.
End result: 20 minute run. Monologue: Okay, this isn't wildly ambitious. This could work. Let's do that.

There were other thoughts. Like: you haven't run a decent 5k in weeks! Months, even! Why not start smaller? 

Which was, for me, an interesting departure from my usual approach - go big, all-in, buy all the gear. book all the classes, DO ALL THE THINGS.

Because I've come to realize that I don't want to do all the things, and crucially, I no longer care about maintaining the appearance thereof.

But I do want to meditate. I want to practice yoga every day. I want to spend more time with friends and family. I want to get through that pile of books and magazines and articles to which I add almost daily. I want to write more. I want to fall asleep to the sound of waves crashing on tropical beaches. I want to make contributions that are bigger than me.

And when I look at my schedule and I can't fit in a yoga practice because I've scheduled a 7.30am breakfast meeting and am attending an 8pm Skillshare session, I realize I am doing it wrong. 

Do less, do better. Be better.

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Nothing routine about it

Lavender incense. Ravi Shankar's Chants of India on surround sound. Ambient lighting. Tea. I could scarce be more relaxed.

And I wonder, why don't I do this more often? Where this = downtime. Chill out time. Only-one-browser-tab-open-and-it's-the-one-I'm--composing-this-post-in time. 

I get busy. I get caught up. I get sucked into the clicking and the scrolling and the emailing and the constant monitoring of Asana and the checking of and for replies, mentions, reblogs, retweets. Those little hits of dopamine. Those bursts of activity that are more appearance of busy than real productivity.

I have to step out of the busy to get into the zone. Flow requires a presence of mind and an intentionality, a focus, that I cannot attain unless I take a deep breath, don some headphones and turn up some Damian (when deadlines loom) or some Shankar or whatever ambient action Songza serves up. 

Flow requires rest. Downtime. Critical and emotional distance. None of which I sufficiently prioritize.

But sometimes I come home and take a deep breath or five and break out the sitar music and the lavender incense and the jasmine silver needle tea. And I remember, again, that balance is about opposition, too.

A life in beta., continued.

Inbox zero and other stories

I've been using Lift - think of it as a foursquare for habits - since its public launch about two weeks ago: 

(Some of) my lift habits

If nothing else it's reinforced how competitive I am - and that the person I compete with (or against) most is myself. (One of my goals is 'write blog post', and I want to get this post in before midnight to I can check it off in Lift...)

It's also a daily indicator of how I am, or am not, prioritizing. Yoga: winning. Meditate: not so much. Some irony in that one of the habits for which I have zero checkins so far is "prioritize my day".

I am also crushing inbox zero for both my work and main personal inbox. But am still months behind on emails, because I don't include - or regularly check - the two other accounts to which most of my friends-and-family emails go. Which is (another) clear priority fail.

And there are the things I haven't put on the list: run; bike to work; write down one thing every day for which I am grateful (working on just saying this aloud, daily). Read a book every week. 

In this vein I tried the 3 Tiny Habits course by Dr BJ Fogg, with mixed results. My intended habits were (are):

After I wake up, I will not pick up my phone until I meditate for three breaths.
After every email I send, I will take a deep breath and relax.
Before I go to sleep, I will write down one thing I'm grateful for today.

And because I belong to the throw-a-book-at-the-problem school, I bought Eknath Easwaran's text on passage meditation. Which I have started reading. But not finished. Or using. Yet.

(I realize and acknowledge  I sometimes buy books with the same motivations for which I use time-shifting apps like Instapaper.)

I don't want to add too many goals to Lift; or at least, I don't want to add more goals to Lift before the ones currently there become habits.

Like this 'write blog post' situation.

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When I do yoga I am a better person (I do yoga because I want to be a better person).

I am forced to concentrate. To focus. To be present.

I’m disconnected. I’m not online. I’m not responding to email. I’m not experiencing any Pavlovian responses to unread counts or the succumbing to the promise of a quick hit of dopamine.

Why I need this disconnection, this presence: because it’s taken me an hour just to write these hundred or so words, as I fiddled with AppleScripts and Marked and Squarespace settings.

When I do yoga I am centred, I am equanimous. I am not worried about hacking my workflow.

I don’t practice enough.

Dear everyone: enough with this "millenials are whiny and entitled" bullshit

I have just about had it with drive-by generalizations like this one from Sarah Lacy, is a post about (of all things) Oracle:

Millenials are coming into the workforce and the generation has an amazing capacity to demand the world revolve around their desires, whether that’s reasonable or not.

Or this tweet [sic] and accompanying post by Above the Law:

Students sue law school for grading them on a curve. Yes mellinals are just that weak: http://bit.ly/zGBZu8 -EM

At least once a month, something happens that makes millennials seem insufferable. It’s like we’ve bred an entire generation of people who can’t take criticism. It’s an entire generation that hasn’t watched the Godfather and doesn’t understand the phrase “it’s business, not personal.” When they fail, they don’t redouble their efforts; instead, they get their feelings hurt, make excuses, and whine and complain to anyone who will listen.

Let's get several things straight, here. The generation of people born in the so-called "developed world" in the 80s and the 90s are facing an inherited recession and staggering loss of wealth, paucity of opportunity, massive and rising inequality, enormous student loan debt, social immobility, a capricious labour market (jobs for life? what? defined benefit pension plans who?) and an uncertain geopolitical outlook. And they are contending with a steady stream of invectives from the very same baby boomers who are holding on to their extensive and expensive entitlements for dear life - all but ensuring they will be the last generation to benefit from them.

So even if Gen-Yers were anywhere near as whiny as the commentariat  make out -- and they avowedly are not -- who the hell could blame them?

As a journalist far greater than I will ever be remarked in 2001:

10 years of martial law and a war-time economy are going to feel like a Lifetime to people who are in their twenties today. The poor bastards of what will forever be known as Generation Z are doomed to be the first generation of Americans who will grow up with a lower standard of living than their parents enjoyed.

That is extremely heavy news, and it will take a while for it to sink in. The 22 babies born in New York City while the World Trade Center burned will never know what they missed. The last half of the 20th century will seem like a wild party for rich kids, compared to what's coming now. The party's over, folks. The time has come for loyal Americans to Sacrifice. ... Sacrifice. ... Sacrifice. That is the new buzz-word in Washington. But what it means is not entirely clear.

Etc.

Related: Heather McGhee on the Millennial Generation - Vimeo

To pass through Grand Central Terminal, one of New...

To pass through Grand Central Terminal, one of New York’s exalted public spaces, is an ennobling experience, a gift. To commute via the bowels of Penn Station, just a few blocks away, is a humiliation. What is the value of architecture? It can be measured, culturally, humanely and historically, in the gulf between these two places.

Source: NY Times

'the average American spends only $17 a year on music'

Really?

 the average American spends only $17 a year on music, a number cited to me by an indie label executive who wished to remain anonymous. "If you get more folks spending $17 a month on music," he says, "there's a bigger pot of money to split up and it lets us use the power of our own marketing rather than gatekeepers to develop fans and convert that most precious commodity — attention — into revenue, however that consumer might choose to engage."

SourceDebate rages as Spotify, MOG, and Rdio kill / save the music industry - The Verge

H/T maoxian

I am not an 'average' music consumer. And I am not 'America'. But $17? I can spend that on music in a day*.

And does that $17 refer to money spent on streaming subscriptions? Downloads from iTunes or Amazon? Would iTunes Match or Google Music count?

(*Most recent purchases: John Forté - The Water Suite - EP;John Forté - The Bloomingdale's Acoustics - EP and John Forté - From Brooklyn to Russia With Love! (The Sampler) - EP. Yes, I'm really into John Forté. And yes, purchased in one sitting.)

Relevant: Behind the music: Is Sweden selling its music-makers for a song? - the guardian Release day economics - uniform motion Spotify From a Musician’s Perspective - musicianwages.com

 

'[Football] is, in other words, both romantic and tragic'

Sucker that I am for good writing about football, a recommended read by Brian Phillips over at Grantland. Even if he does persist in calling the beautiful game 'soccer':

the game is mercilessly hard to play at a high level. (You know, what with the whole "maneuver a small ball via precisely coordinated spontaneous group movement with 10 other people on a huge field while 11 guys try to knock it away from you, and oh, by the way, you can't use your arms and hands" element.)

“the largest area of outsourcing is not to India, Sri Lanka or China. Our jobs are being outsourced to us”

Typically punchy stuff from Rick Bookstaber:

And one notable area of consumption that by definition differentiates the classes, that of conspicuous consumption, is going by the wayside. Yes, I believe we are seeing the twilight of the era of conspicuous consumption. Not that Gucci and Chanel are going to go out of business, but for most people that sort of status statement is increasingly becoming irrelevant. No matter what you are wearing and driving, a far better picture of you and your status is just a few clicks away. You don't have to drive a Ferrari to let everyone know you are rich and successful. If you are driving a Ferrari, what it will convey is that you – who as everyone who cares to Google you knows is running a hedge fund and is worth tons of money – must like a Ferrari.

How to travel around the world for a year - if you have a US or European passport.

For everyone else, tough:

If you're lucky enough to be an American or European citizen, then visas are not an issue. The only country that wouldn't give me a visa at the border was Vietnam, and I just paid a guy at a Cambodian hostel to take my visa to the Vietnamese embassy and process it. It's worth doing a bit of research on this in advance, but it usually isn't a problem.

Helps to have $15k discretionary income, too...

'It isn't the 1% who destroyed the middle class. It was you. The IT nerds.'

Revenge of the nerds, a conspiracy theory by "Zombax"::

You automated our factories - which took our jobs. You automated our travel agents - which took our jobs. You automated buying books - and closed our bookstores. You gave us automated checkout machines at shopping centers - which took our jobs. You automated our skilled radiologists work - which took our jobs. You automated our accounting - which took our jobs. You gave us open source - and took away your own ability to make a living writing code - by allowing people in India and China to do that much cheaper for us. You automated our lives away. You see a person with a job and you think "how can I take that job from them and replace it with a computer"

You didn't replace them with anything. You just though that you have a fucking great idea about how to make things more efficient. More *disruptive*

It isn't the 1% who destroyed the middle class. It was you. The IT nerds. You constantly look at ways to "disrupt" our society so you can get some more silicon valley stock options.

Unemployment will rise - because you don't give us new jobs - you just take away our old ones.

Pat yourself on the back Gnat as you destroy another industry. You're the fucking problem.

 

 

'[perhaps] obligations are more important than debts [and] amnesties are the key to economic and social order'

Meditations on debt, amnesty, barter and the nature of society by John Médaille at Front Porch Republic:

And herein lies the real power of money: it coordinates the actions of millions of strangers. Our lives are critically dependent on the actions of others; thousands of people contribute daily to our well-being, and all but a tiny fraction of them are strangers to us. How shall we acknowledge our debt to them, and they to us, except by the medium of money? Money then, is not so much a medium of exchange as a record of the obligations we have to each other, a series of debits and credits. A dollar in our pocket is at once the symbol of the labor we have performed for others, and an acknowledgment of the debt they have to us. Our dollar is a visible credit, a claim on that portion of all the goods and services that are being offered for sale. It is a token of exchange only by being the symbol of the debt.