Last night, I broke a personal Internet fast. I’ve spent the past three months using the Internet heavily for work—mostly research. Even while traveling, because I’m excited about this project. “Personal Internet fast” translates to sparse Tumblr posts, tweeting, and Facebook activity (Does anyone else find Facebook overwhelming? Post-news feed cleanup, it’s still too much), and the usual Instagram activity—lots, in sporadic bursts. When the day is finished, and I’ve digested the news and other articles of interest online, nothing feels as good (technologically) as a mental health break spent scrolling through photos of family, friends, and beautiful surf.
Over the past year, I’ve amassed a significant quantity of books and periodicals that I would have normally spent reading while in transit during the week or weekend. Watching the stacks grow was pretty sad. I chose to “read” Twitter and skim articles saved to Pocket while in transit. I skimmed digital editions on my tablet while traveling and home. I chose this because it was simply easier to read, watch Twitter, and switch music playlists while on one device.
Over the past three months, I made time to sit down with a few of these books*.
I read David Carr’s latest column last night and felt his weariness. “It struck me that part of the reason we always stay jacked in is that we want everyone — at the other end of the phone, on Facebook and Twitter, on the web, on email — to know that we are part of the now. If we look away, we worry we will disappear,” he wrote. The digital world and social communities that we’ve created and continue to foster have in turn created beautiful and / or good things, but it feels wonderful to sit down with a book, a magazine, shut the smartphone off, and thoroughly inhale a story.
*Books I read, and recommend:
Eurasian: Mixed Identities in the United States, China, and Hong Kong, 1842–1943, by Emma Jinhua Teng.Mixed, a collection of essays written by multiracial college students.Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, by Adam Grant.Contagious: Why Things Catch On, by Jonah Berger.Think Like a Freak, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.Love and Math, by Edward Frenkel.Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina, by Misty Copeland.Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Most magazines are enjoyed in real time, but I did enjoy plucking the more seductive issues from a year’s worth of The Economist, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Wired, Vogue, GQ, Vanity Fair, Esquire, The Paris Review, and Lapham’s Quarterly. (The latest issue of Lapham’s, “Youth,” is a treasure. Do not skip around with this.) I skipped Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Forbes, and Harvard Business Review, as they no longer felt relevant, and I had previously read most of the issues online. I also skipped Monocle and Apartamento, which are coffee table material and I’ll inevitably spend time glancing through both.
Photograph via @wblau. Last night, while checking out The Economist’s Tumblr, I noticed an interesting out-of-home advertisement featured prominently on their public display of “likes,” and found this. Clearly, I was supremely excited to be back on Tumblr.
It’s good to be back on THE INTERNET.
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“When people say ‘I hate math’ what you’re really saying is, ‘I hate the way mathematics was taught to me.’ Imagine an art class, in which, they teach you only how to paint a fence or wall, but never show you the paintings of the great masters. Then, of course, years later you would say, ‘I hate art.’ What you would really be saying is ‘I hate painting the fence.’ And so it is with math. When people say ‘I hate math’ what they are really saying is ‘I hate painting the fence.’”

Edward Frenkel, author of Love and Math, on The Colbert Report.

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“I don’t particularly care about the usual. If you want to get an idea of a friend’s temperament, ethics, and personal elegance, you need to look at him under the tests of severe circumstances, not under the regular rosy glow of daily life. Can you assess the danger a criminal poses by examining only what he does on an ordinary day? Can we understand health without considering wild diseases and epidemics?

Indeed the normal is often irrelevant. Almost everything in social life is produced by rare but consequential shocks and jumps; all the while almost everything studied about social life focuses on the ‘normal,’ particularly with ‘bell curve’ methods of inference that tell you close to nothing. Why? Because the bell curve ignores large deviations, cannot handle them, yet makes us confident that we have tamed uncertainty. Its nickname in this book is GIF, Great Intellectual Fraud.”

—Nassim Nicholas Taleb, on the black swan theory.

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“It’s a competitive world I guess, but all we can do is feel our best. I’m not a competitive person, I love women, I’m intrigued by them. I think women are fascinating and complex.”

Liv Tyler.

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Throwback to this beautiful issue launch.
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At Ruffneck Constructivists, curated by Kara Walker.
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“I asked Yuri, ‘How do I do this? How do I live a political life with motherhood?’ I was exhausted, but Yuri made it seem so easy. ‘This,’ she said, gesturing to my daughter in her lap, ‘is what you do. You just take your daughter everywhere, like I did with my kids — protests, rallies, long late-night planning meetings. We take our children with us and they grow up to be good people, people who care about the community. And she will learn what kind of woman her mother is by watching you work in the movement.’”

Katrina Socco.

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Mural at the Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center, A.P. Giannini Middle School in San Francisco, by Nils Westergard.
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Maya Angelou and Gloria Steinem on their way to the March on Washington on August 27, 1983.
Photograph by James M. Thresher for The Washington Post, via Getty Images.
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“You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot—it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.”

Dr. Maya Angelou. Rest in peace, beautiful soul.

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#urbanwomen_Philly

I was thrilled to attend the Healthy Cities: Healthy Women conference at the University of Pennsylvania. Several women whom I admire greatly for their contributions to the field of global health spoke, including Dr. Afaf I. Meleis and Edna Adan Ismail. Ms. Edna was the recipient of the Penn Nursing Renfield Foundation Award for Global Women’s Health, and gave a moving lecture on Somaliland and maternal health care. Today — because of her work — the region has 97 maternal and child health centers, 200 health posts, and seven midwife schools.

I was also moved by Dr. Bridgette M. Brawner’s lecture on the influence of geography in exposure to HIV. Dr. Brawner presented community-based participatory research findings, and emphasized the importance of shifting humankind’s apathetic and stigmatic thinking in order to fight the urban epidemic.

The empathy of those not afflicted is the most importance factor in creating momentum for change.

Notes from the conference can be found here.

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