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Along for the Ride

I got to see Along for the Ride, the Netflix film based on Sarah Dessen’s novel of the same name. It was written and directed by Sofia Alvarez, who previously wrote the adaptation of To All the Boys I’ve Loved before. I’m not the target audience, but I loved it: breezy, fun, and awash with a kind of teenage nostalgia I’m here for all day.

But I also have to disclose this: Sarah is my cousin. She babysat me, and I got to see her career bloom. She’s inspiring to me as a human being first, and a writer second.

Writing, as I’ve mentioned here from time to time, is my first love. If I could figure out how to do that as a living, I would; I got into technology as a way to tell stories, not because I’m particularly excited by the discrete logic and how the components fit together. Programming is a means to an end. Every project I’ve started has been about storytelling of some kind.

Sarah’s been kind enough to share some writing tips along the way. The biggest one is something I’ve been bad at: just write. I’ve entered writing competitions and have published stories, but it’s always taken a surprising amount of effort for me to give myself permission to take it seriously. I think that’s because it’s something I want to do for myself, rather than something other people want me to do. Given the choice between nurturing my own needs and making someone else happy, I’ll usually pick the latter. In other words, I don’t take it seriously because I don’t take myself seriously.

So I’m in awe of people like Sarah who have the drive to make it happen. She’s a very talented writer who has built up a dedicated audience of people who love her work. Creating that work is hard: a novel is not a small undertaking, and building a story with emotional resonance that keeps the reader turning the page is a rare skill.

There’s a whole generation of predominantly women who have grown up with her books now. People have tattoos. That’s amazing.

At around the sixteen minute mark in the movie, Sarah leaves the Clementine’s boutique: a tiny cameo that I know she was nervous about. The girls say, “thank you, Sarah”. It’s a sweet moment if you know to look for it.

Every so often, Sarah will ask me how my writing is coming along. I don’t claim to have anything approaching her takent or dedication, but before too long, I hope to give her an answer that makes me proud. Thank you, Sarah.

 

If a project is only welcoming to a narrow demographic of people, it is not open.

 

Democracy means the right to vote, and easy access to voting, for all. It also requires a strong education system and a robust free press. Miss any of those things and it’s little more than a performance.

 

Roe and work

We’re living through a notable period of history. This week’s Supreme Court leak is a lot: an early opinion by a noted constitutional originalist on the court which indicates that Roe v Wade will be overturned.

For people with a uterus in particular, this decision carries much emotional weight. It’s an emotive topic that speaks directly to their agency over their own bodies, after two long years of a global pandemic that disproportionately affected women and people of color, set against a backdrop of rising nationalism and discrimination. Injustice against tragedy against injustice.

It’s been a lot, yet many businesses want those same people to leave politics at the door, seeing these discussions as an inconvenient distraction that could divide offices and undermine performance. It’s a lot to ask for, and belies a position rooted in privilege: an obliviousness to how heavy this issue is, and how much of an effect the discussion necessarily has. If you feel like you’re being subjugated, the ask to ignore that subjugation for eight hours a day in support of someone else’s profits is offensive. Doubly so when those who profit are not subject to the same restrictions.

Those situations are discriminatory to people from vulnerable communities and harmful to almost everyone. If injustice must be compartmentalized away, the only possible outcome is a reinforcement of the status quo.

It’s important to make space for team members who need to take care of themselves; to reflect; to care. It’s important to feel like you can bring your whole self to work, and to feel like work is a safe place to be. It’s important to have the time and space to process in order to progress. A workplace that doesn’t make these allowances will always create psychological friction. In a world where every knowledge worker is working from their own space, letting their workplace into their homes, that’s even more important.

While the leak has been confirmed as real, it’s not necessarily a reflection of the final Supreme Court decision. As of writing this today, abortion is still legal. But that’s not the point: it’s the simple fact of the conversation that, for many, is an assault. And enforcing a denial of that fact is an assault again.

 

Me? I'm with democracy.

 

Today is a lot. You are valuable; take care of yourself. Give yourself the space you need to breathe. You are not alone.

 

I would like to read more blogs by people who are not cis white men.

 

First person to attend the Met Gala dressed as three raccoons in a trenchcoat wins

 

Reading, watching, playing, using: April, 2022

This is my monthly roundup of the books, articles, and streaming media I found interesting. Here's my list for April, 2022.

Books

Kleptopia: How Dirty Money Is Conquering the World, by Tom Burgis. Fascinating but also narrow: in this true life tale of global kleptocracy, all the players in the west are amoral at worst, while the real thieves are in the former Soviet Union. Still, there’s a lot to learn from the author’s research, and enough here to embarrass the banks and moneymen who made it all possible.

Notable Articles

Business

Rise of women in tech leadership. “Women in tech are gaining ground as the technology industry—or at least its largest players—makes slow but steady progress in shrinking its gender gap, and women in tech leadership are making the fastest advances.” Lots of work still to do, but good!

LinkedIn’s ‘career break’ feature can help normalize resume gaps. “LinkedIn users can classify their time away from paid work as one of 13 “types” of career breaks — including bereavement, career transition, caregiving, full-time parenting and health and well-being — and add details about what led to the career break and what they’ve done during the break.” I think this is good?

The Things We Did Not Do While Reaching $2M ARR. “A list of things tech startups usually go through that we did not.”

The Rise of the Triple Peak Day. “Findings from Microsoft and its researchers suggest that the 9-to-5 workday is fading in an age of remote and hybrid work and more flexible hours. That pattern was first spotted early in the pandemic, when Microsoft Teams chats outside the typical workday increased more than in any other time segment, particularly between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.” This is not okay.

Returning To The Office Is Creating The Great Reckoning. “Despite the endless pablum about “leadership” in business, those who lead - bosses, managers, and so on - by and large are not the ones doing the work, to the point that many of them have only the most tangential understanding of the tasks they’re demanding other people complete.”

Amazon Workers on Staten Island Vote to Unionize. “The win on Staten Island could herald a new era for labor unions in the United States, which saw the portion of workers in unions drop last year to 10.3 percent, the lowest rate in decades, despite widespread labor shortages and pockets of successful labor activity.”

Covid

75% of US children have now had COVID, up from 44% due to omicron. “About a third of all children in the country were newly infected during the omicron wave. Together, the data showcase just how poorly the country has done at shielding children—including those not yet eligible for vaccination—from the pandemic virus.”

Crypto

On anti-crypto toxicity. “If you feel the urge to “cyberbully” someone in crypto, direct it at the powerful players behind crypto projects that are actively taking advantage of the vulnerable. Or, just as reasonably, direct it at the powerful tech executives, venture capitalists, elected representatives, and lobbyists who have contributed to the untenable situation we find ourselves in.”

Gwyneth Paltrow, Mila Kunis are pushing women to invest in NFTs. “But they’re also buying into an unpredictable market that some theorize has already peaked. Most NFTs don’t sell and only a small group of people are responsible for the vast quantity of NFT trading, said Mason Nystrom, an analyst for Messari Capital.”

Culture

Donald Glover Interviews Donald Glover. “I mean farming everything. Talent, ideas, moments. You ever heard of Bauhaus?”

the html review. “The html review is an annual journal of literature made to exist on the web.”

Star Trek: Picard to Reunite Next Generation Cast for Season 3. Let’s be real: I will watch the hell out of this.

Return to Monkey Island. A new sequel from Ron Gilbert, following canonically from Monkey Island 2? Sign. Me. Up.

I would like to be paid like a plumber. “I explained this to Kurt but I thought I’d better reiterate it here. I do not want and will not take a royalty on any record I record. No points. Period. I think paying a royalty to a producer or engineer is ethically indefensible. The band write the songs. The band play the music. It’s the band’s fans who buy the records. The band is responsible for whether it’s a great record or a horrible record. Royalties belong to the band.” Steve Albini makes his pitch to Nirvana to help make In Utero.

Media

The L.A. Riots Were 30 Years Ago. I’m Still Trying to Understand Them. “But my editor, who was white, removed all references to King’s race from the story’s opening paragraphs.”

From the Arab Spring to Russian censorship: a decade of internet blackouts and repression. “Over the last six months, Rest of World spoke to more than 70 technologists, telecomms experts, activists, and journalists from around the world to track how governments’ control over the internet has grown and evolved during the past decade. Their testimony shows that the free, open, global internet is under severe threat.”

Let’s make journalism work for those not born into an elite class. ““Most news coverage isn’t created with people experiencing poverty in mind,” Heather Bryant, a journalist and founder of Project Facet, has said. That is frequently made clear when outlets want to run sensitive and authentic stories concerning class.”

White newspaper, Black city. “After years of sluggish progress, there’s something to be said about how journalists are growing more willing to publicly air the dirty laundry of their own publications in the name of making them better. While new journalism organizations are radically redefining what it means to reflect the communities they serve, it’s unclear if older institutions can truly reckon with their failures.”

How Silicon Valley is helping Putin and other tyrants win the information war. ““The power that Facebook has is scary. The way it is using it is even scarier,” a Russian journalist, who did not want to be named due to security concerns, told me. Her account was suspended after she was reported to Facebook by numerous accounts accusing her of violating community standards.”

Bitch Comes to a Close. Just a complete bummer.

BBC Staff Exodus: Women of Color Exhausted from Fighting Broken System. “At least 15 women of color have left the BBC in the last year saying they are “exhausted” from fighting a system that “is not systemically built to support anyone who is different,” a Variety investigation has uncovered.”

Politics

Supreme Court Denies Equal Rights To Puerto Ricans — Again. ““Equal treatment of citizens should not be left to the vagaries of the political process,” Sotomayor wrote. “Because residents of Puerto Rico do not have voting representation in Congress, they cannot rely on their elected representatives to remedy the punishing disparities suffered by citizen residents of Puerto Rico under Congress’ unequal treatment.””

Older women voters will likely play a big role in the midterm elections. ““Women over 50+ may not only be the decision makers in their households, they may also be the decision makers of the midterm elections,” Margie Omero, principal at GBAO, a public opinion research firm, said in a statement accompanying the poll results.”

Science

Alzheimer’s May Be Caused by Cell Phones, Scientists Say. “According to a press release on the research, most scientists agree that Alzheimer’s is caused by excess calcium buildup in the brain. And pulsed electronically generated electromagnetic fields (EMFs) emitted from cell phones, the study says, may be causing or worsening that calcium buildup.”

Reversing hearing loss with regenerative therapy. “In Frequency’s first clinical study, the company saw statistically significant improvements in speech perception in some participants after a single injection, with some responses lasting nearly two years.”

Society

Brooklyn Public Library Launches Campaign Against State Book Bans. “The Books UnBanned campaign provides youth ages 13 to 21 with online access to banned books.” Just superb.

Black principals receive leadership training, support through new initiatives. “Studies link Black principals, especially women, to better academic performance. New initiatives aim to train and support them.”

Stop matching lone female Ukraine refugees with single men, UK told. “The UN refugee agency has called on the UK government to intervene to stop single British men from being matched up with lone Ukrainian women seeking refuge from war because of fears of sexual exploitation.” Gross.

Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmed: How she will change the Supreme Court. “The Senate on Thursday voted 53-47 to confirm Jackson’s historic nomination to the nation’s highest court. Though Jackson will not change the court’s conservative majority, she will change the court. Her presence is set to create the first all-women liberal wing of the court, whose dissenting opinions are expected to outline their vision for a more just country and possibly influence future Supreme Court rulings.”

Oklahoma’s legislature approves total abortion ban. “This June, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case that examines the constitutionality of a 15-week abortion ban. Many observers believe the court, which has a large conservative majority, will use that case to overturn Roe v. Wade, allowing states to restrict access to the procedure as much as they wish.”

Technology

As Western social media apps leave Russia, Snap’s Zenly hangs on. “If you’re a restaurant chain, you’re either selling Subway sandwiches in Russia or not. You’re either selling a Rolls-Royce or not. It’s not as straightforward for the tech platforms.”

Applied for Student Aid Online? Facebook Saw You. “For millions of prospective college students, applying online for federal financial aid has also meant sharing personal data with Facebook, unbeknownst to them or their parents, The Markup has learned. This information has included first and last names, email addresses, and zip codes.”

Some Thoughts On Twitter. “I continue to believe that a single person owning one of the most important communications protocols of the internet is a bad idea, but maybe it can be a bridge to something better.”

Web scraping is legal, US appeals court reaffirms. “In its ruling, the Supreme Court narrowed what constitutes a violation of the CFAA as those who gain unauthorized access to a computer system — rather than a broader interpretation of exceeding existing authorization, which the court argued could have attached criminal penalties to “a breathtaking amount of commonplace computer activity.””

Jeff Bezos is worth $160bn – yet Congress might bail out his space company. “Who will, overall, be benefiting from space exploration? Will it be a handful of billionaires or will it be the people of our country and all of humanity?”

Lyft asked if this driver needed help. He was already dying. “Lyft says it’s worked hard to develop security features to keep drivers safe. In addition to the texts the company sends, Lyft also has 24/7 safety teams and partners with ADT, so drivers can use the Lyft app to contact the security company and get emergency services sent to their location. But Philpotts’ story is a case study not only in how those safety features fail in real life-and-death situations, but also in how Lyft itself fails the families of drivers who are hurt or killed on the job.”

Planting Undetectable Backdoors in Machine Learning Models. “Given the computational cost and technical expertise required to train machine learning models, users may delegate the task of learning to a service provider. We show how a malicious learner can plant an undetectable backdoor into a classifier. On the surface, such a backdoored classifier behaves normally, but in reality, the learner maintains a mechanism for changing the classification of any input, with only a slight perturbation.”

Ukraine using ClearviewAI facial recognition to identify Russian war dead. “In another conversation, a stranger sent a message to a Russian mother saying her son was dead, alongside a photo showing a man’s body in the dirt — face grimacing and mouth agape. The recipient responded with disbelief, saying it wasn’t him, before the sender passed along another photo showing a gloved hand holding the man’s military documents.” Grim.

A Web Renaissance. “So if we have the tech, then why hasn’t it happened already? The biggest thing that may be missing is just awareness of the modern web’s potential. Unlike the Facebooks and Googles of the world, the open, creative web doesn’t have a billion-dollar budget for promoting itself. Years of control from the tech titans has resulted in the conventional wisdom that somehow the web isn’t “enough”, that you have to tie yourself to proprietary platforms if you want to build a big brand or a big business.”

Pipedream Malware: Feds Uncover 'Swiss Army Knife' for Industrial System Hacking. “On Wednesday, the Department of Energy, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the NSA, and the FBI jointly released an advisory about a new hacker toolset potentially capable of meddling with a wide range of industrial control system equipment.”

Police Records Show Women Are Being Stalked With Apple AirTags Across the Country. “Of the 150 total police reports mentioning AirTags, in 50 cases women called the police because they started getting notifications that their whereabouts were being tracked by an AirTag they didn’t own. Of those, 25 could identify a man in their lives—ex-partners, husbands, bosses—who they strongly suspected planted the AirTags on their cars in order to follow and harass them. Those women reported that current and former intimate partners—the most likely people to harm women overall—are using AirTags to stalk and harass them.”

 

My first gig

Hunter Walk asked people about their first concert.

My first was Tears For Fears, for a friend’s 13th birthday. It was just me and him. I wasn’t that into the band, and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I loved it.

Perhaps more notably, the support band was a local group who had just changed its name to Radiohead. I remember that the singer, Thom Yorke, was very deadpan and reserved. Later, I’d see him around town a lot, always looking incredibly dour behind a pair of sunglasses while he went shopping or had a picnic with his family.

I love live music, but I haven’t felt safe to go during the pandemic. Even more recently, I’ve given up tickets to see Wet Leg and Dadi Freyr because I just didn’t want to risk it, despite being excited to see them live.

A couple of gigs that stand out to me:

I was glad I got to see Johnny Clegg on his final tour. Clegg formed the first interracial rock band in South Africa, which was illegal under the country’s apartheid rules, and told stories of their run-ins with the law as well as about the activists of the time.

I’ve seen Ani DiFranco fifteen times or so. I love the kinetic energy she brings live, and her politics - both about the world and about gender and identity - speak loudly to me.

I got to see Seasick Steve at the smallest stage at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in Golden Gate Park. He didn’t have a following in the US, so it was just a handful of us on the grass; intimate in the way great shows can be. And then he brought out John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin to play guitar with him.

And it was a treat to hear my sister’s band, Django Moves to Portland, for the first time after decades of hearing her play her songs acoustically. Her songs have always stood on their own, but the full band transformed them into something else.

How about you? What was your first concert? Which gigs have been notable for you?

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