#AFK: Last Week’s Edition

While I was #AFK (away from keyboard)…

  • Where I’m at: Mexico City
  • What’s next: Whistler, Canada for Automattic company-wide meet-up
  • What I’ve been doing: 
  • Things I’ve been reading / watching / listening to:
    • Handmaid’s Tale: I’m not a TV person, but after watching one episode, can tell this is a series I’ll finish
    • The News: A User Manual by Alain de Botton: This read similar to Religion for Atheists (e.g., he lays out an ideal newspaper similar to laying out an ideal non-religious religion), and it made me reflect on my own news consumption (and ways I can be more moderate than this)
  • Quotes I’ve been underlining:
    •  Huxley (Brave New World) wrote Orwell (1984) to congratulate him on his book and in his letter included the following: “Within the next generation I believe that the world’s leaders will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging them and kicking them into obedience.”
  • Thoughts I’ve been thinking:
    • I really should put more effort into learning a second language (e.g., more than a few minutes on duolingo)
    • And why isn’t Snapseed on desktop?
  • What I’ve been seeing:

#AFK: Last Week’s Edition

While I was #AFK (away from keyboard)…

  • Where I’m at: Mexico City
  • What’s next: Whistler, Canada for Automattic company-wide meet-up
  • What I’ve been doing: 
    • Eating, eating, eating. Evidence is in the photos.
    • Museo Frida Kahlo (a la blue house): This house-turned-museum felt like an intimate, a sneak peak into the private lives of Friday and Diego. We all know of Frida – the self-portraits, the a-famed unibrow – but not everyone knows how much she suffered – polio, a bus accident, three miscarriages, an amputated food, Diego’s affair with her sister (yes, her sister! and for revenge, she had an affair with Leon Trotsky)
    • Warhol @ Museo Jumex: This three story exhibit space was entirely taken over by a Warhol exhibit. Historically, I’ve always thought of his work as “fun” in a pop-culture, mad men type of way, but this exhibit felt dark, almost nihilistic, like because there were screen prints of car accidents and a man hanging from a telephone pole amidst the usual Elvis and Flowers and Marilyn Monroe. Left feeling quite depressed, then ate a candy bar
    • Picasso and Rivera @ Palacio de Bellas Artes: If you like art deco, this place is amazing. Inside, it feels like you’ve been transported to a the 1930s and on the top floor, there’s a recreation of Man at the Crossroads. Dreamy
  • Things I’ve been reading / watching / listening to:
    • Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton:  Book can be summarized with one idiom: “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” As someone who was once quite religious and now, not so much, I appreciated Alain’s moderate and creativity approach on how to apply to good bits of religion to moral education in the 21st century (which we are desperately lacking). Up next, The News: A User’s Manual
      • “However, in a world obsessed with freedom, there are few voices left that ever dare to exhort us to act well.”
      • “The difference between Christian and secular education reveals itself with particular clarity in their respective characteristic modes of instruction: secular education delivers lectures, Christianity sermons. Expressed in terms of intent, we might say that one is concerned with imparting information, the other with changing our lives.”
      • “By contrast, we have constructed an intellectual world whose most celebrated institutions rarely consent to ask, let alone answer, the most serious questions of the soul.”
    • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi: I was first struck by Paul’s thoughtful approach to live, to his work, to his calling, and then later, I was struck by his wife’s parting words in the epilogue (yes, I started crying over my enchiladas verde in a taqueria). The world would be a better place if we approached life like Paul
      • “If the unexamined life was not worth living, was the unlived life worth examining?”
      • “Literature not only illuminated another’s experience, it provided, I believed, the richest material for moral reflection.”
      • “The Pilgrim’s Progress: “Who would true valour see, / Let him come hither…/ Then fancies fly away, / He’ll fear not what men say, / He’ll labour night and day / To be a pilgrim.” Paul’s decision to look death in the eye was a testament not just to who he was in the final hours of his life but who he had always been. For much of his life, Paul wondered about death—and whether he could face it with integrity. In the end, the answer was yes. I was his wife and a witness.”
  • Quotes I’ve been underlining:
    • “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
    • “Die with memories, not dreams” – Unknown (h/t: Debbie)
  • Thoughts I’ve been thinking:
    • Capitalism feels broken. There has to be a better way
  • What I’ve been seeing:

#AFK: Last Month’s Edition

I’ve been so #AFK (away from keyboard) that I haven’t had a chance to blog… So, here’s a recap of the last few weeks.

  • Where I’m at: Mexico City
  • What’s next: Whistler, Canada for Automattic company-wide meet-up
  • What I’ve been doing: (hence the long #AFK)
    • Montreal: The three amigos (e.g., mom, dad, me) turned into foodies for a week, which shows significant palate growth over the last decade, all previously victims of the can food revolution (e.g., lots of this) and the low fat diet of the 90s (specifically me, diving deep into rice cakes, Yoplait and yes, spray butter… all in failed attempts to look like this or maybe this). We’ve hit milestones before at home – Laganitas IPAs in the fridge, charcuterie plates on the patio before eating something off the grill – but this was a true upleveling!
    • Vermont: I partook in the monoculture (e.g., bikes, third wave coffee, IPAs and lots of sarcasm) of my WordPress VIP growth team by spending a week with them in an Airbnb in Stowe. We went to Ben & Jerry’s, where I made a major ordering mistake that led to envious stares (note: don’t order what you can get at the bodega across the street). I also won at Cards Against Humanity, boom (is that something to be proud of?)
    • Maui: My very good friend Linda got married to Blake, who I also adore (#lindamauisblake – get it?), and it was all the right things – a lovely relationship to be celebrated, great people, beautiful setting, fantastic food and music (like this, Australia’s equivalent to Bon Jovi?). At the end, Blake ordered a round of fireball shots (“fireball shots bitches”) to which we found him in the toilet an hour later. I say, that’s a sign of a good night.
    • San Francisco: I made two pitstops in San Francisco (thanks Jess!) and had a great time reconnecting with good friends. Despite my issues with living there (I’ll save that for another day), I really do enjoy visiting 🙂 Until next time…
    • Finish(ing) up the Book: Debbie and I have (almost) finished our book. Even if only my mother reads it, I’ve learned a lot – about writing, about writing with another person, about grit –  and it’s exhilarating, in some ways, to feel like I can learn a new skill, quickly, in my thirties. It’s probably one of the hardest thing I’ve attempted to do, more so than the app or anything at work (except maybe joining Oliver Wyman, a quant-heavy consulting firm, without ever having opened Excel or SQL… but, alas, I learned).
  • Things I’ve been reading / watching / listening to:
    • My Kindle is filled with partially read books, trying to absorb techniques for my own writing. I did, however, finish Eric Fromm’s The Art of Loving, which was chocked-full of insights on love and romance (I plan on using in a new writing project – a speculative twist on modern romance). A few highlights:
      • “Modern man is actually close to the picture Huxley describes in his Brave New World: well fed, well clad, satisfied sexually, yet without self, without any except the most superficial contact with his fellow men, guided by the slogans which Huxley formulated so succinctly, such as: “When the individual feels, the community reels”; or “Never put off till tomorrow the fun you can have today,” or, as the crowning statement: “Everybody is happy nowadays.””
      • “The illusion, namely, that love means necessarily the absence of conflict. Just as it is customary for people to believe that pain and sadness should be avoided under all circumstances, they believe that love means the absence of any conflict. […] Real conflicts between two people, those which do not serve to cover up or to project, but which are experienced on the deep level of inner reality to which they belong, are not destructive. They lead to clarification, they produce a catharsis from which both persons emerge with more knowledge and more strength.”
      • “Modern man thinks he loses something—time—when he does not do things quickly; yet he does not know what to do with the time he gains—except kill it.”
      • “If one is concentrated, it matters little what one is doing; the important, as well as the unimportant things assume a new dimension of reality, because they have one’s full attention. To learn concentration requires avoiding, as far as possible, trivial conversation, that is, conversation which is not genuine. If two people talk about the growth of a tree they both know, or about the taste of the bread they have just eaten together, or about a common experience in their job, such conversation can be relevant, provided they experience what they are talking about, and do not deal with it in an abstractified way; on the other hand, a conversation can deal with matters of politics or religion and yet be trivial; this happens when the two people talk in clichés, when their hearts are not in what they are saying.”
      • “To be fully awake is the condition for not being bored, or being boring—and indeed, not to be bored or boring is one of the main conditions for loving. To be active in thought, feeling, with one’s eyes and ears, throughout the day, to avoid inner laziness, be it in the form of being receptive, hoarding, or plain wasting one’s time, is an indispensable condition for the practice of the art of loving.”
  • Quotes I’ve been underlining: (I read Zorba the Greek ages ago, but was reminded of the book this summer)
    • “I felt once more how simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else.” – Zorba the Greek
    • “This is true happiness: to have no ambition and to work like a horse as if you had every ambition. To live far from men, not to need them and yet to love them. To have the stars above, the land to your left and the sea to your right and to realize of a sudden that in your heart, life has accomplished its final miracle: it has become a fairy tale.” – Zorba the Greek
    • “True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their own.” – Nikos Kazantzakis
  • Thoughts I’ve been thinking:
    • Mexican food is so good!
    • How many of our actions are derived from outdated versions of ourselves (e.g., how I was when I was 18, or 25, not 33)? 
  • What I’ve been seeing:

#AFK: Last Week’s Edition

  • Where I’m at: TbilisiKazbegi, Georgia
  • What’s next: Montreal, Canada
  • What I’ve been doing:
    • Tbilisi: Explored with an actual Georgian, Etuna, and my friend Jo who flew in from London. Etuna took us to the funicular lookout and the hipster area of town, which were both very lovely, but the most interesting part was hearing about life before the Rose Revolution in 2003 (they only had 5 hours of electricity per week). Hard to imagine how much a place can change in less than 15 years
    • Roadtrip: Went on an adventure with our driver, Zura, through the Caucasus Mountains. We kicked off the day with Jo getting locked in a public restroom (and Zura jumping over to help her only to be locked in as well) and ended with Zura throwing firecrackers out the window and scrawling our names with sharpie on a rock
    • Kazbegi: Stayed at this beautiful, former Soviet hotel and did a lot of hiking, random friend making and drinking of this moonshine, which I only found out this AM is 70% alcohol. Guess how I’m feeling 😉
  • Things I’ve been reading / watching / listening to:
    • Navel gazing: Took the Enneagram test this week (oh, why, hello there, belly button… nice to see you again). I’m a 7. Also like this 16 Personalities test (a better version of Myers Briggs). I’ve changed from I to E; still very high on N; am a J at work, P in the wild
  • Quotes I’ve been underlining:
    • “But I’ll tell you what hermits realize. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything.” – Alan Watts
  • Thoughts I’ve been thinking: 
    • Mountains are beautiful. Georgia is a gem!
  • What I’ve been seeing:

 

#AFK: Last Week’s Edition

  • Where I’m at: Tbilisi, Georgia
  • What’s next: Stepantsminda, Georgia (my friend Jo is coming with)
  • What I’ve been doing:
    • Living in Tbilisi: 
      • Say my name – Finally there’s someone with my name, e.g, this lady & half of Georgia
      • Postcard perfect – Tbilisi is a delight on the eyes and unlike anywhere I’ve been before! It has its own, beautiful alphabet, windy cobblestone streets set on the Kura River and a mix match of cultures from all the folks who conquered it (Mongols, Persians, Russians, Russians turned Soviets) and traded on it (follow that Silk Road). Favorite place thus far.
      • No monoculture here – There’s also the most adorable, granny restaurants with vintage chairs and wallpaper, such as Pur Pur and and Cafe Le Toit
      • Who needs electricity – Water was out today, electricity is scheduled to go out tomorrow in my apartment. But, who cares when there’s more carbs and cheese to find?
      • Speaking of the food – It’s delicious, especially this
      • Speak Russian to me – I keep getting confused for being Russian (which I guess is better than being confused for being an American?) And, I’ve been hit on more than ever before (which in an alternative universe could be a boost for my 33-year-old ego if it weren’t so creepy), including a man who came up to me three times in a restaurant with Google translate (note: he wasn’t even eating in my restaurant)
      • Cruisin’ – Lots of dudes driving around in SUVs. Like high school in Texas without the trucks
    • Still off Instagram: The first week, I check my emails a lot (yeah, boring, right) out of nervous habit, but now I feel great. I must say, it was easier than I expected. I don’t miss it (much).
  • Things I’ve been reading / watching / listening to:
  • Quotes I’ve been underlining:
    • “He suffers more than necessary, who suffers before it is necessary” – Seneca (from Tim Ferris’ 5 bullet pts)
    • “They had fallen into the habit of considering their universe to be boring—and their universe had duly fallen into line with their expectations.” -Alain De Botton, The Art of Travel
  • Thoughts I’ve been thinking: 
    • All I really need is my laptop, my kindle, a camera, some clothes and makeup. I’m simpler than I thought.
    • My friend, Debbie, sent me this article, about the recent backlash against the main actress in Hulu’s rendition of Handmaiden’s Tale (tl;dr: she said “it’s not a feminist story, it’s a human story, because women’s rights are human rights;” the pitchforks came out; she reversed her statement). It made me wonder if we really have “free speech” in the US if everything is so quickly policed by the media? Where is the grey?
  • What I’ve been seeing:

#AFK: Last Week’s Edition

  • Where I’m at: Mykonos, Greece; Athens, Greece; Tbilisi, Georgia (now)
  • What’s next: Stepantsminda, Georgia
  • What I’ve been doing:
    • Sightseeing: Went to Mykonos for three days, then explored some of Athens nightlife with my friend Amrita. I love to travel, but I’m realizing I’m not that great at explaining it (but do take lots of photos)
      • A few recs in Athens: this restaurant is excellent (I went three times… get the lamb) and this bar felt like a hipster’s treehouse in the very best way
      • A few recs in Mykonos: this restaurant for lunch & beach time, this restaurant for sunset & view of the windmills and this bar for feeling fancy
      • A few random things: the guards in front of the president’s house can be (surprisingly) flirty, there’s cats everywhere, to which Amrita couldn’t help herself from calling Mykonos Meow-konos and somehow I managed to get hit by a raw egg around 2 AM (apparently teens are bored everywhere in the world)
  • Things I’ve been reading / watching / listening to:
    • The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham: The beginning reminded me of Chicago’s version of the Great Gatsby, but then the story got more engaging as he fleshed out the characters (the lead, Larry, is very similar to Mitchell from The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides). There’s unrequited love, strong female characters and a timeless philosophy lesson at the end. Surprisingly modern & relevant. Recommend!
      • IN ALL BIG CITIES there are self-contained groups that exist without intercommunication, small worlds within a greater world that lead their lives, their members dependent upon one another for companionship, as though they inhabited islands separated from each other by an unnavigable strait. Of no city, in my experience, is this more true than of Paris. There high society seldom admits outsiders into its midst, the politicians live in their own corrupt circle, the bourgeoisie, great and small, frequent one another, writers congregate with writers (it is remarkable in André Gide’s Journal to see with how few people he seems to have been intimate who did not follow his own calling), painters hobnob with painters and musicians with musicians. The same thing is true of London, but in a less marked degree; there birds of a feather flock much less together, and there are a dozen houses where at the same table you may meet a duchess, an actress, a painter, a member of Parliament, a lawyer, a dressmaker, and an author.
      • “[…] It’s strange how many people suffer from it. I don’t mean fear of closed spaces and fear of heights, but fear of death and, what’s worse, fear of life. Often they’re people who seem in the best of health, prosperous, without any worry, and yet they’re tortured by it. I’ve sometimes thought it was the most besetting humor of men, and I asked myself at one time if it was due to some deep animal instinct that man had inherited from that primeval something that first felt the thrill of life.”
      • “[…] Can there be anything more stupendous than the conception that the universe has no beginning and no end, but passes everlastingly from growth to equilibrium, from equilibrium to decline, from decline to dissolution, from dissolution to growth, and so on to all eternity?”
      • Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it. If change is of the essence of existence one would have thought it only sensible to make it the premise of our philosophy. We can none of us step into the same river twice, but the river flows on and the other river we step into is cool and refreshing too.
      • But why should we of the West, we Americans especially, be daunted by decay and death, hunger and thirst, sickness, old age, grief, and delusion? The spirit of life is strong in us. I felt more alive then, as I sat in my log cabin smoking my pipe, than I had ever felt before. I felt in myself an energy that cried out to be expended. It was not for me to leave the world and retire to a cloister, but to live in the world and love the objects of the world, not indeed for themselves, but for the Infinite that is in them. If in those moments of ecstasy I had indeed been one with the Absolute, then, if what they said was true, nothing could touch me and when I had worked out the karma of my present life I should return no more. The thought filled me with dismay. I wanted to live again and again. I was willing to accept every sort of life, no matter what its pain and sorrow; I felt that only life after life, life after life could satisfy my eagerness, my vigor, and my curiosity.
  • Quotes I’ve been underlining:
    • “Words out to be a little wild for they are assaults of thoughts upon the unthinking.” – John Maynard Keynes
  • Thoughts I’ve been thinking: 
    • Tradition as prophesy: How many of our choices are already predetermined by our families, culture, etc?
    • Sexism in Silicon Valley: Will all of the buzz on sexism in Silicon Valley result in better HR policies and general awareness? I hope so. Will it deter women from entering the tech industry? Will it widen the gender divide? I hope not.
    • Religion:
      • Codifying Religion: Amrita was telling me how the caste system in India is derived from an ancient Hindu text that named four important functions in society – Brahmins (priests and thinkers), Kshatriyas (warriors), Vaishyas (merchants) and Shudras (laborers, craftsmen). It was never intended to be codified or manipulated into a class system you were born into, which reminded me of how Christians, past and present, have used the Bible to codify racism or homophobia
      • Religion and Corporations: Ever since reading Sapiens, which made the point that the ability to believe in ideas sets humans apart from the previous 6 human species that roamed the earth, I’ve been seeing belief in a new light. It doesn’t need to be confined to the spiritual realm; instead, it’s why we believe in the US dollar or the American flag or corporate promotion systems. If employees stopped believing in its systems – e.g., org structures, leveling, the value of the work, the importance of the brand – what would happen. And, also, sometimes we get so into the systems (e.g., next promotion) that we forget what we were there to do (e.g., build good products for users)
        • “This is why cynics don’t build empires and why an imagined order can be maintained only if large segments of the population – and in particular large segments of the elite and the security forces – truly believe in it.” – Sapiens
  • What I’ve been seeing:

#AFK: Last Week’s Edition

  • Where I’m at:  Athens, Greece & Mykonos, Greece
  • What’s next: Tbilisi, Georgia
  • What I’ve been doing:
    • Greece-ing: My friend Amrita came in on Thursday night (see selfie… still as untalented as ever at the craft). Thus far, we’ve been eating (lamb, croissants, things with feta) and drinking (wine, coffee, random shots of tsipouro). Apparently Athens is hotter than Delhi in the summer (42 celsius). Who knew that was possible, but were spending the weekend in Mykonos
  • Things I’ve been reading / watching / listening to:
    • The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion: Poignant account of love and death that only could be written by Joan Didion. Like her previous work, is able to give an outside viewpoint with acute observation to a subject incredible personal, her grieving process after the death of her husband
    • “This is my attempt to make sense of the period that followed, weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I had ever had about death, about illness, about probability and luck, about good fortune and bad, about marriage and children and memory, about grief, about the ways in which people do and do not deal with the fact that life ends, about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself.”

  • Quotes I’ve been underlining: (h/t: Debbie)
    • “Caution is the path to mediocrity. Gliding, passionless mediocrity is all that most people think they can achieve.” – Frank Herbert, God Emperor of Dune
    • “It is difficult to live in the present, pointless to live in the future and impossible to live in the past.” – Frank Herbert, God Emperor of Dune
    • “The problem of leadership is inevitably: Who will play God?”- Frank Herbert, God Emperor of Dune
    • “Dangers lurk in all systems. Systems incorporate the unexamined beliefs of their creators. Adopt a system, accept its beliefs, and you help strengthen the resistance to change” – Frank Herbert, God Emperor of Dune
    • “Privilege becomes arrogance. Arrogance promotes injustice. The seeds of ruin blossom.” – Frank Herbert, God Emperor of Dune
  • Thoughts I’ve been thinking:
    • How long will advertising hold up as the primary monetization model online? What would happen if people decided to stop buying?
  • What I’ve been seeing: