Someone recently asked me for ideas about how they could get more involved in their local community.
I like thinking about this question and coming up with suggestions. It may seem like the most consequential decisions and conversations about our future happen at the national or global levels. But when it comes to actions that we can take as individuals to make the world a better place, our attention is also needed at the local level.
Here are a few of the ways you could try to get more involved in your local community:
1. Join or form a neighborhood association. When we know more about the people we live around, we can tackle challenges and provide support a lot more quickly and easily. In-person gatherings can be a great way to learn about projects and opportunities for helping others, and many associations now have online groups that share neighborhood-specific information too. If you live in a mostly business-oriented area, look for a small business or merchants association where you can sit in and learn about issues facing those stores. If that all seems like too much, consider just starting with an open house or back-yard potluck and inviting the folks who live right around you.
Continue reading 6 ways to get more involved in your local community
This may be one of those posts that no one other than me cares about, but I've been meaning to take a snapshot of the software tools I use on a daily basis right now, and how they're useful to me. (This comes at a time when I'm considering a major OS change in my life -- more on that later -- so as a part of that I need to inventory these tools anyway.)
So every day when I get up and stretch my arms in front of my energy inefficient, eye-strain-causing big blue wall screen with a cloud in the middle, grumbling to myself that we now call things "apps" instead of programs or software or really any other name, I see:
Airmail 3 - my main tool for reading, sorting, sending and finding email across a few different accounts. Replaced Thunderbird with it a few years back, really good choice.
Chrome - on the desktop, my daily browser of choice. I tried the new Firefox recently and liked it, but not enough to switch. I have lots of extensions installed but some favorites are Adblock Plus, JSONView and XML Tree, Momentum, Pinboard Tools, Postman, Signal Private Messenger, Vanilla Cookie Manager, Xdebug helper and Web Developer. On mobile I use iOS Safari.
macOS and iOS Calendar and Contacts - works with all of the various online calendars and address books I sync to, have stayed pretty intelligent and user-friendly without getting too cluttered.
Todoist - for task management and keeping my brain clear of things I care about but don't want to have to remember.
Slack - for communicating with my co-workers and others. I have accounts on 11 different Slack instances, and only stay logged in to about 4 of those at once.
Continue reading My everyday apps
I recently finished reading Andy Weir's new novel, Artemis, and really enjoyed it. I've been immersing myself in political non-fiction lately (reviews coming soon) so I really needed a fun, smart page-turner to balance things out, and Artemis fit the bill perfectly.
If you're not already familiar with Weir, he wrote the bestselling book The Martian (mentioned here) which then became a surprisingly great 2015 theatrical version starring Matt Damon. It was so well-written, engaging and scientifically grounded that high school physics teachers convinced him to release a profanity-free version that they could teach their courses from.
Similar to The Martian, the book centers on a smart, extraordinarily resourceful main character who seems to be in an uphill battle against life-or-death surrounding circumstances from start to finish. Unlike The Martian, for this new main character the circumstances are much more derived from her life choices and penchant for non-traditional ways of generating income, and the experiences that unfold are much more intertwined with the choices and personalities of other people.
Continue reading Andy Weir's Artemis
Part of me is horrified at the stories of rape, assault, sexual misconduct and other inappropriate behavior that continue to come out every day now. I ache with grief and anger for those who have had their lives and careers changed forever by these violations, and who must now also face the judgment and distortions of having their experiences made public.
Part of me has known for a long time that our culture is one that facilitates and encourages these transgressions. That so many men move through the world causing pain and misery, sometimes by choice, sometimes because they lack the courage or will to choose something better, sometimes because the rest of us choose not to stop them.
We all know about it at some level, don't we? That long before we elected a misogynistic, sexual predator bully as President, long before any celebrity accusations were headlines or Twitter non-apologies were made and dissected, we as a culture have accepted that women (and some men) are going to be raped, assaulted, preyed upon or otherwise exploited, and that it's just who we are as a people? Many, if not most, of the women I know have their own stories of violation at some level (many, I'm sure, with stories I don't know about), and can further relay the stories of their mothers, sisters, daughters and friends beyond that.
So I believe women. I am grateful that we are in a moment where more often than not, at least some women are being listened to, heard and believed in the face of denials and cowardice from men who, in the past, got a pass.
What does justice look like moving forward?
Continue reading Believing women, pursuing justice
After my less than great experience trying out Netgear's Orbi wireless mesh product, I continued looking around for a better home wireless networking option.
I checked out the second generation Eero, but it wanted to replace my router, didn't support an OpenVPN server, and was going to cost $100/year ongoing for cloud-based services (malware protection, parental controls) that I want to manage locally. ASUS's HiveSpot aka Lyra offering looked interesting and would go nicely with my existing ASUS router, but the reviews I could find indicated deal-breaking performance problems. Google's Wifi option requires a persistent connection to their systems, doesn't support an OpenVPN server, and wants to replace my router to make use of most of its features.
Ubiquity's Unifi product line comes highly recommended by a number of people I trust. But as I explored what it can do and what I would need to do to manage it, I felt like I was crossing fully into the realm of "enterprise network administrator" instead of "home network user." Enabling something as standard as IPv6 included steps like "Copy the config.gateway.json file to the UniFi controller and force a provision on the USG." Not that big of a deal, but I've spent enough time doing command line management of network device config files professionally that I'm not super excited about doing it at home any more.
Then I found the Plume Wifi offering. I didn't find a lot of reviews about it, but the ones I did read indicated it had an innovative approach to providing an "advanced network topology," great speeds and a focus on doing wireless really well instead of trying to be an everything home networking appliance. That's what I wanted! They also had a detailed-but-beautiful website, a helpful blog (despite being on Medium) and some growing Twitter buzz. Once I confirmed that they'll let you try it out for 60 days with a money-back guarantee (assuming no damage and original packaging), I ordered a set of six units.
Continue reading Plume WiFi Review
A month ago I deactivated my Facebook account and I haven't used it since.
In the larger scheme of things this is a relatively inconsequential decision, and one that I may even eventually reverse. But for the benefit of my future self, and for anyone else who's interested, I thought I'd inventory my thinking behind this change:
1. My time spent on Facebook was minimal, especially since I deleted the app from my phone a few years ago. But it was almost entirely time I was not spending on things that actually matter to me. Any effort I put in to keeping up with my feed felt like it was actively distorting my understanding of how the real world works, how people are actually doing and what they're actually thinking and feeling. Even as distractions from the real world go, it was often more unsatisfactory and harmful than helpful.
2. I continue to be uncomfortable with Facebook's "walled garden" model of connecting people, content and conversations. I've nothing against the company or the people who work there, and actually admire their technical innovation, scale and impact on the world. But as someone who genuinely wants to see people truly own and control their online presence, I can't in good faith spend time contributing to something that undermines the open web. When I tried being just a casual observer without engaging, it didn't work. Which brings me to:
Continue reading Leaving Facebook
I turned 40 years old this week.
Friends have been kind to say that "you don't look forty" (whatever that looks like) and thankfully I don't feel "old," even if I don't often feel young any more.
I do notice the occasional sign of what might be aging.
I find myself increasing the font size on my various devices and apps, and at an appointment this week my eye doctor used the language of "you can't outrun it forever" instead of the past variations on "you're young, no worries."
A few weeks ago I butt-dialed two different people over two days.
The distance across which I can walk to retrieve or do something without forgetting why I started walking in the first place is decreasing. If it involves going to a different floor of the house, forget about it.
My hair has more strands of grey than ever before.
And my ability to sleep through the night without needing a visit to the restroom is all but gone.
Continue reading Forty