November 4, 2016

On vacation.

L and I have just returned from a mini-vacation, a trip to New Orleans during which we worked and played at the same time. It was a lovely escape: the ability to do my work from a different location provided a fantastic change of pace and perspective, and the food, drink, and music was plentiful and decadent.

We try to escape a few times a year, L and I, for short little bursts where we can step away from the everyday and escape routine, even if for just a weekend. We’re lucky, her and I, that we have the kind of jobs and security that allow us to get away from time to time, and we don’t take that privilege lightly; we take the vacation we are afforded, and we are thankful for every minute.

Not everyone is so willing to take their time off, it seems. According to a recent article in Slate, Americans leave 658 million vacation days on the table each year. (I’m sure Canadians aren’t much better.)

The business case for vacation is so strong that a number of companies have instituted incentives to get their employees to take more vacation. At the financial-services company The Motley Fool, employees are entered into monthly drawings to win two weeks off—which they must take within the next month. The U.S. Travel Association increased the percentage of staff who max out their vacation days from 19 percent to 91 percent by offering $500 to anyone who took all the time off they were entitled to. Employees of the contact management platform Full Contact get a $7,500 bonus if they go on vacation and actually disconnect; they lose the money if they get caught working from their vacations.

Of course, not everyone has the luxury to take vacation, even when they have the days off available. Even I am guilty of checking my work texts and Hipchat while away—this recent trip was a working trip, so I can be excused for that—so a pure disconnection is often an untenable concept.

Still, we try. Even when we are staying at home and not escaping somewhere else, we take our time off, we do our best not to answer work emails, we focus on each other, on ourselves. We enjoy the change of pace, and we learn from the new perspective. And then, we’re on to planning our next escape.

Our inability to put down our devices, despite our desire to disconnect, isn’t just an individual issue. Our online behaviors are also driven by social class, systemic inequality, and the need for belonging.

A recent piece in The Atlantic about breaking the addiction to our phones completely ignored the larger social and structural issues that drive our online use. This thread of twitter responses by Jaime Woo was a much better read than the_ Atlantic_ article:

A few more diversions, gathered:

Wesley Morris is one of the most powerful and insightful voices in the media today. I’m so glad that The New York Times is giving him a platform to get his ideas and insight to the masses. (His most recent piece on Black male sexuality in the NYT Magazine is raw, deep, smart, and personal.)

The idea of creating a diet based on your genetic makeup isn’t new, but the ability to do it for a somewhat-affordable price is definitely a recent development. While I’m not fully sure about the science just yet, I’m very intrigued to see how this would change my weight-loss efforts.

Aside from Hunter S. Thompson’s brilliant piece about The Kentucky Derby, almost every great piece of sports writing I have read has been about baseball. What is it about baseball that evokes such beautiful, literary prose? Now that the season is over, that writing will have to hold us over until spring training.

I can’t find Chobani yogurt here in Canada, but as soon as it is available, I’m buying a whole lot. Anyone that does this much to help refugees deserves my support.

Ultra HD fly-through of the inside of the International Space Station. Put this on your big-screen television and enjoy.

This American Life asked Sara Bareilles to imagine the thoughts Barack Obama is not saying publicly about this election and Donald Trump. Then they got Leslie Odom Jr. to sing those thoughts, beautifully.