Jan 22, 2017


Things I found laying around the internet that brought me joy. 

How Louis C.K. tells a joke and here's a breakdown of the precision he uses to do it.

I love you and I don't know what to say is a trio of talent (Ryan Adams, Chris Thile, and Kacey Musgrave) sharing the stage at A Prairie Home Companion.

DIY street signs are delighters.

Artists collaborating for the win.

Jan 20, 2017

Lessons Learned Part 3

We learn and adapt our behavior in the small things we do and notice every day. This is my selfish account of what I learned and where the kernels of adaptation come from in my life. 

Twirling is the most fun
An emerging consortium of people who worked on digital initiatives and technology modernization efforts during President Obama's administration are organizing a group called Digital44. They threw a big party to kickoff this week. At this party my colleague Olivier Kamanda generously took my hand and twirled me around the dance floor for a few songs. I forgot how fun it is to dance like this! He brought me so much joy in those moments.

Fear isn't all bad
I've been going through the background checks, home inspections, and training required to become a foster parent (or resource parent as they're now called) since the summer of 2015. Now, the placement team has started calling. My instinct is to throw the ringing phone away from me because it's so scary to imagine how I'll shape myself around the best interests of a kid I don't know today. But, I keep answering the phone instead of throwing it. I haven't accepted a placement yet, but it's only a matter of time now.

Optimism is the way to go
It's up to us to establish equality and justice and because that is so, we are required to have the optimism that we can do it. This seems to be Obama's main parting message, and I dig it.

Speak Up
I don't like to indulge in personal attack politics but am avid about my knowledge of policy making. I will say as a woman it's been refreshing to work for a feminist, and I do believe in the idea that we all must continue the trajectory of equality for women (among many others). And so in spite of my dislike for crowds, I have made a poster and I will participate in the protest march this Saturday.

Previous Lessons Learned
Part 2
Part 1

Jan 18, 2017

Community Involvement Part 1

I've been thinking a bunch about what the average person can do to participate in creating a more perfect community. In my Daily Questions, I ask myself a yes/no question about whether I contributed to my community, but it occurs to me that more information about what I count as a yes might be helpful to inform myself and others about ways we all might contribute more easily.  I have a pretty low bar on a daily basis, but am optimistic that over time these small actions make a difference. 

Signed up to be a mentor to a Northeastern University co-op student.

Engaged in the neighborhood listserv conversation to advocate for a dog park.

Made recommendations to fellow NTEN Membership committee regarding branding, subscription services, member recognition.

Brought my neighbor who just started chemo a little treat.

Asked  city council member Brandon Todd and ANC Commissioner Scot Knickerbocker to be part of a task force evaluating whether/how to bring public wifi to Ward 4 in DC.

Became a "patron" of one of my favorite artists by pledging to send him $2/month.

Jan 13, 2017

Lessons Learned Part 2

We learn and adapt our behavior in the small things we do and notice every day. This is my selfish account of what I learned and where the kernels of adaptation come from in my life. 

Get your stuff together
This week I went from 30k+ emails in my inbox to about 5. I realized I am constantly spending time on CVS and Ann Taylor and losing valuable time and a potentially valuable inbox to consumerism bots. All that stops after this week, and I can pay more attention to the real emails from real humans and have room in my inbox and brain to create more and have more real interactions. A small but important step in my media diet.

Pause and give yourself time to think when you have to make a choice
Knowing I had an oil leak in my car took me to a dealer service shop this week. The mechanic found about $2k worth of things to fix while poking around in there. Because I don't understand my car or anything mechanics say, I would normally just suck up the painful expenditure and get it over with. This time, I took a pause amid the dealer's pressure to commit to the repairs on the spot, and said I'd need to evaluate whether it made sense to do this or to buy a new car, since my car's trade in value sits somewhere around $5k. I asked trusted "car guy" friends and read lots of reviews, and ended up taking my vehicle to a well-respected mechanic who told me I didn't need one of the fixes the dealer suggested, and was able to do all of the other work for $400. I can now enjoy this car (and a $0 car payment) for another couple of years without a huge investment. It felt like growth to not just cave in but to do my own homework this time. Thanks to my brother Rick for his advice.

The team is the most important thing
This one I learn over and over again, but have been reflecting this week as we bid farewell to the Obama administration. Politics aside, he built a team with diversity of experiences, ideas, ethnicities, cultures, and viewpoints and it all mashed together to make urgent progress attainable and desirable. The positive yes we can energy when you walked into any space occupied by members of this administration was palpable. The science of building a team is a fascinating area to me. How you push reset on dysfunctional teams with decades of animosity for one another is, too.

Put yourself out there
I broke my hand in September 2016, and while I think I handled it pretty well, it caused me to retreat and just survive for a little while. I didn't proactively reach out to friends as much, make plans as much. I just got through the days. I am still in a considerable amount of pain and have limited motion, but am mostly back to functioning and made a conscious decision this week to start being more proactive about life again.

Jan 6, 2017

Lessons Learned Part 1

We learn and adapt our behavior in the small things we do and notice every day. This is my selfish account of what I learned and where the kernels of adaptation come from in my life. 

Notice the Helpers
There's an automatic door opener button in the ladies' room at National Cancer Institute. On the morning of January 3, I watched a woman just ahead of me in the bathroom wash her hands and then elbow that button to exit the bathroom germ-free. A revelation. I hadn't noticed it before. Wish I had because my hand was super broken in the fall of 2016 and it was HARD for me to get out of that bathroom. Still, I will gladly use this helper from now on.

Figure Out How to Unlock New Skills and Understanding
I climbed right inside a metaphor when I installed a smart lock, requiring me to take apart my dead bolt and understand its inner workings, and then to attach a new mechanical and digital device to it. I found it rewarding to figure out how a lock works and to install a newfangled technology to make it even better. I found it equally rewarding to lean on my brother for help via video chat when all that figuring by myself didn't quite work.

Prep Makes the Changes Possible
I have thought to myself, "You should just get up and exercise in the morning," but every morning seems to come and go and I haven't done it. This week I did because I spent time in the evening to pack my bag. It's not the exercising that stops me but the carrying of the shower supplies. I don't know if it will become a habit but now I know it's a doable possibility.

Always Push Yourself to Seek Alternative Solutions
After seeing Hidden Figures and watching the Medium business model pivot this week, I am reminded to "look beyond" "remember your mission" and mostly to be brave enough to try to collaboratively pave a better way that hasn't been tried yet.

Nov 22, 2016

INVITATION: Help design a Pledge for Consuming and Sharing News

I used to spend every morning reading/skimming thousands of social media posts about the Red Cross. This activity taught me a bunch of lessons about being an active and responsible consumer and sharer of social media content.

Below are some lessons I’ve learned about how we might approach our engagement in the global social media community, and a draft pledge for consuming and sharing news. I’d love your input on the pledge and this approach. Is there a better way to look at the fake news issue? Are there more things we can do?

I’m in the “that way there be dragons” camp when it comes to imagining Facebook or Google as arbiters of truth. I think we can pressure tech platforms to design algorithms that expand our individual viewpoints rather than create echo chambers, and also continue to create “safe space” among people who share interests and viewpoints. These are not mutually exclusive and most all of us need both. I don't think it's a great idea to give platforms the power to determine what is true.

I know it’s an uphill battle, but how we handle social media content just might be up to all of us. We determine how we respond, react, and work together on social media platforms and as a society.

What I accidentally learned while reading millions of social media posts
about the Red Cross.

How to ruthlessly question everything I read.
I went to law school and overall had a spoiled person’s educational journey, but nothing honed my critical thinking skills quite like being surrounded by the social web for my career.

There is a caveman-like quality to our brain’s response to social media posts. I used to fall victim to it all the time, but after I got some experience being wrong, I learned to view those strong reactions as a trigger to START asking questions rather than to publicly share and respond based on my gut reaction.

How to spot a troll.
I take a naive approach to this one. I always give negative posters the benefit of the doubt because I believe in the old saying that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference. Therefore, if someone takes time out of their day to post something negative, that means they care about the issue. I would engage with the person to hear them out, to ask them how they would handle the decision or situation differently, and to offer to work with them to carve a path to creating a better solution.

If the negative poster doesn’t engage in this approach, they are a troll and I have learned to ignore them.

How to spot a lie.
Sure, when there are active tornado warnings it’s tempting to share that photo of a menacing and swirling tornado coming down the highway. Sure, when a superstorm is landing on New York City it’s tempting to believe and share that sharks are swimming on the flooded floor of the stock exchange. I’ve learned that I have to take a beat and check whether those photos are (1) real and (2) about the situation that’s happening now.

The truth is a slowpoke and lies are fast little buggers. Now I know that if something I’m reading seems too good to be true in that it makes me feel super indignant, I need to take a beat and evaluate where it came from and who else has corroborated it.

How to spot clickbait
Disaster response is hard and messy and new every time. It can always be improved. Always. A reporter recently claimed that the org built just 6 homes in Haiti when it pledged to build many more. It’s a scintillating headline and urges most sensible people to feel outraged and indignant. If you look into the situation a bit more, you’ll learn that permanent homebuilding wasn’t politically possible, so the org pivoted to other impactful projects. Its crime was not swindling and lying, but in not being able to capture press attention when it had to change strategies.

This fact hasn’t stopped the story from flying around the web without context. I’ve learned to think about the motivations of the author and to consider other viewpoints than the one being presented in everything I read. It takes a little longer, just like the truth, but it’s worth it.

Everyone wants to feel part of something bigger than themselves
Viral social media content is the best example I’ve ever seen that we all just want to belong. It’s fun and rewarding for us to join in sharing content that reinforces our belonging to groups. This is generally fine, but we owe it to ourselves and our society to push ourselves to look beyond our own groups and viewpoints. We owe it to ourselves to tear down our walls of comfort rather than build them higher.
Out of these lessons, I have started this pledge for how we might all approach consuming and sharing news. I need help and feedback and more viewpoints included:

Pledge for Consuming and Sharing News
I pledge to be an active and responsible consumer and spreader of content.

To read the entire piece of content before I share or comment on it,
To pause and question when a piece of content reinforces or shocks my views,
To consider alternative points of view before I comment or share,
To know who the author and publisher of the content is,
To check whether the content has been validated by more than one source,
To push platform owners to expand our viewpoints rather than continually reinforce them,
To invite constructive disagreement and debate about ideas and actions,
To ...

Jun 24, 2016

Daily Questions

Nerd alert. For the last two years I have been tracking my daily life by answering a set of questions designed to help me reach my goals. The questions change with my goals and other life circumstances, but the practice is always there. 

I traveled this week and found it hard to do as well on Health as I wanted.

How I Started Daily Questions
Introduced to the concept of daily questions in my American Red Cross LEAD program, which is a cohort of employees there being groomed for executive positions, my colleague Carrie and I teamed up and committed to talking to each other every morning for 15 minutes to go over our progress from the previous day. Sometimes these conversations are like therapy and other times a mechanical checking of the box, but every day we are held accountable to one another. 

How Our Daily Questions Practice Has Evolved
I left the American Red Cross in January, so Carrie and I agreed to continue to do our questions daily but to talk just on Fridays. We skip some of them because our schedules are nutso, but by and large we continue to support one another in this nerdy way. 

My questions are divided into 4 categories: Health, Wellness, Learning, and Work Performance, with 3-5 subquestions designed to push me to reach my overall goals. Most of the answers are simple yes, no, with 3 qualitative questions I treat sort of like a diary. 

Since Carrie and I talk on Fridays, I organized my questions to showcase Friday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday rather than a traditional work week. 

Additional Motivation: Adding Grades
About a month ago, I decided to take it up a notch. I am continually embarrassed that I don't know as much about what's possible with spreadsheets as I should, so I decided to use my questions to teach myself a few formulas and some conditional formatting. I coded the yes/no questions as 1s and 0s, and averaged my scores by category and activity horizontally, and by each day's performance vertically. I then average my scores for the week to give myself a weekly grade. 

It's much tougher to get all As on this report than it ever was in school. 

Week of May 30

Week of June 6

June 13