Object Lessons: Semiotics of Robot Fashion Edition

Nobody has ever confused me for a Bitcoin bull– the ever-increasing energy consumption of transactions and non-fiatness of the currency has always had me wary. But even supporters, and especially new speculators, should keep in mind that the Bitcoin market is unregulated, shallow, and can be heavily influenced by a handful of investors.

What happened to the legacy premium fashion brands? I bought a Tommy Hilfiger sheath dress a decade ago, wear it weekly, and it still looks brand new! I wonder if clothes from the current class of premium brands– Everlane, Cuyana, DSTLD– will have the same longevity? I expect this new wave of brands will cut quality to lower production costs, particularly during the next recession (thereafter losing their hardcore followers). Everlane’s clothing has rapidly declined in quality over the past few years as they’ve expanded. Maybe that’s just the lifecycle of a premium brand.

When people tell me robots will take all our jobs, I read stuff like this bot-generated Harry Potter chapter and feel a lot more secure.

Speaking of robots, Racked explores how we design and dress female androids reflects whether we’re building artificial intelligence or artificial subservience. (Hint: it’s the latter).

Crinolines: an agent for asserting feminine sexual authority and busting class barriers. Who knew? “Crinoline-clad women, in the reactionary cartoonist’s imagination, crushed men beneath their expanding skirts or caged them within steel frames.” Which kind of reminds me of the women crushing things under their heels trend from the past few years.

In case you haven’t noticed, reality is collapsing into a cheap supermarket tabloid: This article from the NY Times on a secret government U.F.O. research program is the best too-bizarre-to-be-fake news this country needs.

I ❤ Kristen Wiig:

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Do I Have To Lean In?

Lately I’ve been thinking about what’ll happen when I reach financial independence.

Right now I’m working in a particularly white, male-dominated area of tech. In my group there are over a hundred technologists. At the age of twenty-six, I am the most senior woman of the group. There used to be quite a few women in just-under-C-level roles, but they all left en masse after no women ended up in the C-suite. No minorities either, for what it’s worth.

I have been told that this year, our incoming college graduates have been recruited 50-50 men and women, which is good. In hiring committees, I’ve come across my fair share of cringe-worthy moments. Like when my colleague remarked that an American-born Asian candidate needed to improve his English skills. Or when another defended hiring a candidate that was dismissive and sexist to the administrative staff. There have been times I was the deciding vote between hiring a qualified female or minority candidate or not.

I’m at the point in my career where the youngest new hires see me as a mentor. A couple of them even thought I was a mom (still reeling from that one). They ask my advice. I put them up for promotions. I am now apparently “old.”

I have enough seniority to affect some influence in my department. And if I decided to lean my career, I could probably increase it. In this area that really needs more diversity, I can continue to push bit by bit for change.

The problem is: I don’t identify strongly with my current field. Nor with tech in general. I don’t know if it’s just not a fit or if the culture has worn me down, but when I hit financial independence I plan to leave tech. I may even go before then.

That means around the peak of my career I’ll be throwing away any hard-earned influence I have. And that feels uncomfortable. Shouldn’t I be making spaces for women and minorities? Don’t I have a moral imperative to suck it up, put on my activist hat, stick it out (maybe even past FIRE) and pave the way? Even if I don’t like it.

I imagine I’ll be able to assuage my guilt of leaving after FIRE. I only have so much life and labor and I want to spend as much of it as I can doing things that bring me joy. Even so, there’s more I could be doing now while I’m here to increase my sphere of influence. I could stomp out my burnout, go corporate, get ambitious for those promotions. If I really push myself, in the next eight or nine years I’m still working, I could leave a real legacy behind me. But do I have the energy to do it?

What do you think? Are you a minority in your field? Is there a moral imperative for those who can to “lean in”?

Object Lessons: Capitalist Overlords Edition

From Bloomberg: “Major companies including Cisco Systems Inc., Pfizer Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. say they’ll turn over most gains from proposed corporate tax cuts to their shareholders, undercutting President Donald Trump’s promise that his plan will create jobs and boost wages for the middle class. The president has held fast to his pledge even as top executives’ comments have run counter to it for months. Instead of hiring more workers or raising their pay, many companies say they’ll first increase dividends or buy back their own shares.”

Everything I know about capitalism I learned from this paperclip game. (Warning: do not engage unless you’re looking to kill about six hours.)

Should law enforcement need a warrant to get your phone location data from service providers? I think the answer is clearly no, but it’s interesting to contemplate an alternate world where companies didn’t collect our metadata in a centralized fashion by default.

Jeff Bezos wishes there were a trillion people in the solar system because then “we’d have a thousand Einsteins at any moment.” Personally, I’m way more interested in all our “lost Einsteins“– bright kids from low income and minority backgrounds whose talent is being left untapped.

I just discovered thegeneraleconomy Instagram and it’s the most refreshing “commerce” site I’ve seen in a while. It’s like Poshmark meets minimalism, minus the seller’s fees. Could definitely be dangerous if I got back into the clothes shopping game.

I was once into lifelike doll-sized architectural replicas, so this Buzzfeed video in which producers cook tiny food with a palm-sized working stove speaks to a special place in my heart:

 

Building My Skill Set For The Career I Want

My job is not going to get better. It’s not just the weekend work, though there is that. It’s that I’m not doing the type of work I want. And that’s something I either have to stick out or actively change.

The type of work I want to do has this common thread. Writer, tinkerer, editor, data journalist, director. I want to tell stories. Whether it be through words or visual images or podcasts or objects. Whether real or fiction. A good story makes me feel whole.

To get there, though, I need two things: (1) financial stability to do the work on my terms and (2) the skills to actually be able to tell a story. Become a better writer, learn how to spec out designs, get those audio engineering skills, etc. Whatever it is, I don’t want to find myself eight years from now at financial independence starting from zero. I want to have ideas and the capacity to execute on those ideas. And in order to do that, I need to be putting in the work not just in my finances.

I asked my fiancé where he thought I should start: create a podcast, start writing short stories again, or work on data visualization projects? I need to focus only on one thing at a time. He said I should try the dataviz. It’d be easier on my introversion than an interview podcast. Besides, it’d be pretty.

Honestly, I have the biggest mental block with regard to the dataviz path. Looking up libraries to use, learning a new set of frameworks, etc. It all feels way too much like work. Those initial steps before getting into the flow of coding are always a big on pain and low on pleasure. I’ve also failed at getting myself to focus on this before.

There are benefits going down the dataviz path though. For one, it would be a legitimate career transition. I’d be closer to doing something I like and make good money. For another, I have some skill already. Even if it’s not at the level I want it to be, I’ll be able to see results and level up quicker than through other creative pursuits. Plus I already have a project in mind.

The only question now is how much time I’m going to dedicate. I need to block off chunks of time. Otherwise, mid-task, I know I’m going to feel like things are too hard and get distracted by blogs or YouTube or whatever else. For now, I’m going to schedule two four-hour sessions a week, using Freedom to kick me out of my distraction. Taking it one step at a time.

What is the career you want to have? How do you plan to get there?

Mindful Internet Usage: Freedom App Review

This is not a sponsored post, no affiliate links. As always, all opinions are my own. 

There’s a lot of talk nowadays about people needing to decouple from the internet. Internet gurus– ironically?– offer us respites in the form of digital “fasts”, “detoxes”, “diets”. Like candy, the empty calories of morning listicles are leaving us feeling lethargic and distracted. And it’s not just that constant connection via smartphones is lowering our productivity. It is believed that new technology is causing teens to experience a sudden spike in suicide and rates of depression.

Now, I don’t know how much of these calamitous warnings are the first outcries of a major public health crisis vs. “kids these days” but I do know my brain and, in particular, my concentration has nosedived since I started using a smartphone. My eyes are generally tired from staring at a screen. I have less patience to push through difficult tasks. And, in general, I’m beginning to question how much control I have over my technology vs. the control it has on me.

In an attempt to rescue my brain from the depths of mindless internet browsing, I uninstalled all the apps from my phone that had me clicking for vague dopamine hits. That meant disabling my Slack, uninstalling Poshmark, and– worst of all– removing Mint from my mobile front page. Gasp!

But it wasn’t just my phone. Oh no. I’d spend hours throughout the morning and evenings vaguely reading blogs, shopping online, watching videos to distract myself. And at the end of the day, I felt tired, in a fog, and generally like my life was slipping by.

And so, I downloaded the Freedom app to help me regain control.

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Freedom is a multi-platform app that helps you block distracting sites on Mac, Windows, and iOS. Freedom allows you to define which sites you want to block (grouped as blocklists) and when you want them to be blocked (defined in sessions).

When defining your blocklists, Freedom makes recommendations of oft-distracting sites you probably want limited access to like Netflix, Instagram, Reddit, etc. In addition, you can manually add other domains to your blocklist. For instance, here’s my Shopping blocklist:                                                      freedom3You can make any number of blocklists to define different types of sites you might want to block or leave open during an internet session. So, for instance, I have separate “Shopping” and “Personal Finance” blocklists in case I want to remain free from ebay while in the middle of blogging.

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When deciding when to block sites, you can schedule a session to occur immediately, in the future, or on a recurring basis. Since I want to start my mornings and evenings on the right foot, I’ve blocked all my mindless browsing sites before noon and between 5-8 PM every day. On top of that, I’ve blocked all my target sites during regular business hours, so I don’t get distracted when I’m working from home.

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If you think you’ll have an itch to suspend your session, you can also put yourself into “locked mode” which means you cannot disable Freedom in the middle of a session by yourself (though if you are desperate enough, you can send in a support request to their team to unlock you).

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“Don’t push the red button”

Right now there are a lot of Freedom 40% discount codes floating around so the service, normally $29/year can be had for $17.40/year instead. In addition, with a subscription you also get access to Offtime, which is helpful for doing a full multi-platform detox on Android as well.

Already, I’m about a week into using Freedom on my laptop and Offtime for my phone. As far as initial progress goes, I can recenter myself a lot more easily now with less screen time. I still feel easily distracted, like I have extra fidgety energy to burn, and throughout the day I’m still grabbing at my phone only to realize I can’t do anything with it. But, since I don’t have Poshmark at my beck and call any more, I’m slightly more eager to redirect that energy to working or, in my off time, exercise, cooking, and other forms of physical self-care that allow my mind a break from the glare of the screen.

How do you stay mindful while browsing the internet?