December 21, 2015

Diversions: December

A selection of essays, articles, and blog posts that inspired me this month.

(Yes, it’s a week early, but I don’t think I’ll have much time to collate this list during the holiday season rush. Enjoy, and happy holidays!)

The Politics of Empathy and the Politics of Technology
Important reading for any of us that live and work at the intersection technology and the people it serves: The people who run the Internet platforms are making calls about who they think is deserving of empathy. That makes their decisions thoroughly political.”

How To Say Goodbye To City Life
There’s a part of me that will always crave the urban life, the kind of life that comes from being in a place with more than a million people and thousands of things to do. Recently, however, there’s a growing part of me that aims to escape the intensity of the city, and go to a place that is smaller, quieter, better for my physical and mental health. How I work on that balance between the two is still to be decided, but for now, I’m actively exploring opportunities to change pace and scenery.

The Heart Disease Conundrum
Doctors have been baffled by men in my family for years: until our mid-forties, we have no outward signs of heart disease (good cholesterol levels, normal blood pressure), but then boom — heart attack. After the initial heart attack in the mid-forties, we live the rest of our lives with the markers of heart disease. Every specialist we’ve ever seen has no idea why this happens with such regularity, and have echoed that they’ve seen similar patterns in other South Asian families. I’m glad to see that there’s new studies taking place that will help shed some light on this weird pattern.

Teachers! Please Do Not Make Your Students Use Synonyms for Said,” I Blurted
One of the best writing teachers I ever had told me that if I ever got a teacher that suggested using a thesaurus just for the sake of being different, rather than to supplement my writing, that I should walk out of that classroom. There is nothing wrong with the word said,” and in fact, I’m shocked that teachers are dissuading students from using it. I’ve always been taught to use the right word for the occasion: in many (most?) occasions, said” is the mot juste.

Vast, interconnected and stunningly beautiful: A view of Canada’s waterways
A gorgeous piece of art made using open government data, that shows the interconnectedness of Canada’s waterways, and helps us reflect on how water shapes the natural and built environment around us. Absolutely stunning.

10 Former Viral Sensations on Life After Internet Fame
The stories of unwanted fame always fascinate me. I’m glad to see that some of these stories have happy endings. (And Tay Zonday seems really interesting; I’d love to chat with him sometime.)

How Elmo Ruined Sesame Street
All the other Muppets had variability to their character, and it was from that nuance that children learned life lessons. Elmo is just cute, and nothing more, and there is very little to learn from entitled cuteness.

In Praise of Meaningless Work
This is a common point of discussion with my friends recently: too many of us find our meaning in our profession. We’re all lucky to have meaningful work, but we all acknowledge that we need to do better at deriving meaning from our lives outside of work, and letting meaningful work be an added bonus, when we can have it.

I’ll Never Be My Wife’s Equal
This piece brings up some ideas that I had never articulated before because I never saw them as being issues. Like the author, my wife is better educated and smarter than I am, and will bring in a higher income than I ever will; I’ve never seen this as a problem, or even something to think about, but it is interesting to see how that dynamic plays out in societal views of masculinity.

Bomani Jones Is More Than Just the Smartest Person in Sports
There are four sports radio commentators that I listen to every day: Tony Kornheiser, Dan LeBatard, and Bomani Jones. Tony and Dan are interesting and entertaining, and Dan and Bomani are articulate and opinionated. While I might not always agree with what they say, I love that sports radio is turning into a place where we can have intelligent, heated, and nuanced discussions about societal issues that are bigger than sports, and I’m so thankful that people like Bomani and Dan exist in that space.

Why I can’t stop putting dildos into the hands of powerful conservatives
I will never understand the conservative mindset that takes away the right for women to take care of their own bodies, but is happy to give people the right to carry tools of murder. Matt Haughey’s satirical edited photos are powerful in showing that dichotomy.

2016 New York City Housing Market Trends
New projections show that the average household in NYC will spend over 65% of their total household income on rent in 2016. This seems ridiculous, but as someone that spends 50% of my income on rent already, I am not surprised. The lack of relatively-affordable housing in our big cities has driven many out of the middle class.

The Low Road
A rumination on revenge, vengeance, and the way we cope with a broken heart. Beautiful, powerful, jarring, and poignant.