Designing Your Life

Books 10 and 11 of 2020 are a funny story. My friend recommended a book, which I misheard as Design Your Life. I’m cheating by calling it book 10 because I only got through about half of it before giving up. The book she actually recommended was Designing Your Life. The book was recommended as something that could help me apply design principles to improve my life. My friend thought I would like it because it’s similar to one of my bibles, Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

So, I tried reading Design Your Life. At first I was puzzled. Sure, maybe personal style is somewhat important to living a satisfying life. I went with it. But when chapter after chapter featured long-winded expositions on the author’s personal style and personal opinions about what pieces make her look and feel the best, I was puzzled. I don’t care what makes the author feel feminine yet powerful. I don’t care what she thinks every woman should own. I don’t believe in the “law of attraction.” There were sections about shoes, jewelry, accessories and story after story where the author name drops people like Anna Wintour and brands like Chanel. Vapid. I gave up reading this book after it became clear it wasn’t about designing my life so much as designing my wardrobe to be a copy of the author’s.

No way my friend could be as vapid as this book. I went back to look for the correct book and found it. Thank goodness I did. It was so much more useful than the first book. The authors of Designing Your Life do not believe in telling people to find their passion and make a career out of it. Although some of their tools seem a bit woo, like “mind-mapping” and “grokking” or a bit goofy to implement, like having brainstorms with a group of 5-6 people specifically about how to improve your life, I want to try many of the exercises given.

I especially like all of the “reframing” statements and stories. In Marie Kondo’s book, it was these reframing arguments that helped me give up a lot of things I had been hoarding. Similarly, reframing in this book will help me get over inertia, fear of failure, fighting against gravity, and many other detrimental beliefs and behaviors.

The book offers techniques to figure out which parts of your life you need to work on: work, play, love or health. It seems basic that in order to improve something, we have to find a metric and determine the baseline, but I had never thought to sit down and think of it this way. There are also tools to determine which activities are engaging and energy-boosting. With such analysis, it’s easier to see the components of a good job, and to excise the aspects of your current job that you don’t like.

The book covers principles that I’d like to incorporate into my own thinking. For example, becoming immune to failure by categorizing failures to either get over them or learn something useful from them. I also appreciate the section on making choices, then moving on instead of agonizing over whether you’ve made the right choice. The bias towards action, prototyping, and failing fast/failing forward are also concepts I really need to implement. I am finding things hard to implement, so maybe I do need outside help for brainstorming. We’ll see.

AB5 Shutdowns

California lawmakers recently passed Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), which goes into effect January 1, 2020 and re-classifies many contractors as employees. While the intent was to give more workers benefits like unemployment insurance and health insurance by re-classifying them as employees, the effect will be that some companies shut down, stop doing business in California, or hire fewer workers. This is a list to keep track of the unintended consequences of AB5. Feel free to comment if I’ve missed one and I’ll add it.

SBNation, a sports blogging site owned by Vox, has indicated they’re replacing hundreds of freelance blogger positions with about a dozen full and part-time positions.

Envoy,  which began as a grocery delivery service and has grown to include elder-care tasks, announced it’s shuttering operations in the following message to its workers sent November 30:

Continue reading

“Nigger” is not Lord Voldemort

Right. I spelled the word out. We should spell the word when discussing it. We shouldn’t have to call it “the n-word” or use other ways to disguise it. Why? Because nigger isn’t Lord Voldemort. Using it in an academic context does not give it more power, but maintaining the taboo around it does. Here’s a discussion of the same on the Language Log blog.

I’ve seen it in a few discussions now, where some who want the word to be masked in discussion accuse those who refer to it in full of being racists, or of wanting to spell it out/use it. I tried to educate myself on why it shouldn’t be spelled out in discussion, or why doing so would be offensive, and I found an article by John McWhorter in The Atlantic where he mentions the case of professor Laurie Sheck, who was investigated for using the word in a discussion about James Baldwin. He said “I am not a nigger” in a speech, and this was changed to “I Am Not Your Negro” for the title of the 2016 documentary on him. She had her class discuss why. She said the word, but did not use it as a slur. In short, McWhorter defends academic usage of the fully spelled out word, and implies that those who take offense are being hypersensitive.

Since it has become common to mask the word in online discussion, I wanted to see if there might be a good reason to do so. From what I’ve read, I’m not convinced there is. Furthermore, news sources seen as liberal (NYT, The Atlantic, NPR) do not engage in masking. What it means for you: it isn’t necessary for you to use clunky terms like “the n-word” or a row of asterisks. Referring to the full word in discussion doesn’t make you racist.

Note: I am not saying it’s okay to go around using the word.Ta-Nehisi Coates gives a good explanation on context and why it matters. However, he only covers using the words to refer to people, not saying the words to discuss their usage. For example, he wouldn’t call his wife’s friends as bitches just because she does. But he feels comfortable saying the word “bitch” and does not feel the need to call it “the b-word.” That’s all that I’m arguing here: without a target, a slur is not a slur and we should be comfortable using words (spelled out in their entirety) in discussions about them.

And if people get offended? Why, it’s the perfect chance to tell them “that’s not my religion.”

Americans misuse French

Sometimes it’s nuanced. Sometimes it’s blatant. Mostly it’s hilarious. Americans have taken some French words or sayings and made them something they aren’t to the French. If you know of any not on this list, please leave a comment, and I’ll add it!

Ooh la la!

To Americans, this phrase means “Well, isn’t that fancy.” It’s a response to a friend showing off a new designer purse, for example. When the French say it, there are usually more “las.”  It sounds like “ooh la la la la la la!” It doesn’t mean they’re impressed. It means something like “What a mess. How annoying.” It’s a common response when a child drops something and it breaks all over the floor, or when a child falls and starts screeching.


This one has a hilarious backstory. My boyfriend’s mother asked him to hand her a casserole from the kitchen cabinet. I stared at them both. “Don’t you refrigerate your casseroles? The French make shelf-stable casseroles?!” They stared at me, and he got a “casserole” out of the cabinet. It was a cooking pot. It wasn’t even the flat, rectangular baking dish that Americans bake casseroles in.


To Americans, this word has a romantic or sexual connotation. So when I heard a French person say they had a rendezvous with their hair dresser, I was curious. “You’re sleeping with your hair dresser?” That’s when I was told that in French, it just means any kind of meeting or appointment. Not necessarily sexual. Probably not sexual, in fact.

A la mode

In America, this phrase means “with ice cream.” In French, it isn’t used to mean anything other than its literal meaning, “in the fashion.” If you ask a French person to serve your dessert “a la mode” they’ll just give you a funny look. “In the fashion of what?” they might ask you.


Apparently, this is a name in America. In French, it means “the watch” (la montre). The most common reaction I’ve heard from French people upon learning that this is used as a name in America is “Really? But why?”


10 Reasons Fasting is Fantastic

1. It’s FREE. Diets, especially fad diets, come with specialized foodstuffs that taste only vaguely edible and cost more than actual food. There’s often a subscription-only service to a website, an app, a community. The only thing you need for fasting is some salt to replenish electrolytes.

2. Simplicity. There’s nothing to keep track of. No calories, no carbs, no macros to count. There’s no list of foods to reference.

3. Diabetes reversal without drugs. I’m not that kind of doctor, so don’t take medical advice from me. Those wishing to find out more can check out Dr. Jason Fung’s book The Diabetes Code: Prevent and Reverse Type 2 Diabetes Naturally.

4. Increased energy. This sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true. If think about fasting, you’re probably imagining starvation. And when you’re starving, your body will conserve energy so you’ll feel tired and slow, right? Not quite. Imagine if that happened every time our ancestors couldn’t find food for a few days. We wouldn’t exist today. Instead, fasting increases energy — it’s that extra boost we need to get out and hunt some food.

5. Lower food costs. Common fasting protocols recommend fasting for 2-3 days a week. Or eating only during an “eating window” of up to 8 hours a day. Even if you try, it’s hard to cram the same amounts of food you eat when not fasting into a fasting regimen. Which brings us to…

6. Decreased hunger. This also seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? It was a revelation to me that hunger doesn’t increase linearly or exponentially the longer you don’t eat. Hunger is controlled by hormones, and is cyclical. I’m sure it’s happened to you: you were hungry but too busy to stop and eat. After 10 minutes or so, you weren’t hungry anymore. It’s the same when fasting. You’ll get hungry in response to cues like normal meal times or food smells, but if you don’t eat, it goes away. For those who do extended fasts, hunger will generally go away entirely as the body switches to ketosis (burning fat for fuel).

7. Flexibility. There are many ways to fast. Alternate day, 2 days a week, eating windows, extended fasts a few times a year. Since there are no special foods, you can easily bring fasting with you on vacation. If you’re on a road trip and the only food available is unappetizing, like day-old pizza from the gas station, you can fast.

8. More free time. How much time does it take to do meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning up? Even going out for each meal doesn’t save as much time as fasting. If we estimate that 2 hours per day are spent preparing and eating food, then fasting 2 days a week saves you 4 hours. How much is your time worth to you?

9. Improved mood. No, this can’t be right. Don’t people get “hangry”? Sure, but it’s a response to wild swings in blood sugar (which happen after eating high-carb foods without the balance of fiber to slow down the release of glucose into the blood stream, and the concomitant flood of insulin which crashes blood sugar levels). When you don’t eat, your blood sugar is low, but stable. No wild swings in blood sugar means no accompanying swings in mood.

10. Less bloating. As mentioned in 9, fasting keeps blood sugar low. In turn, this keeps insulin levels down. Insulin causes water retention (because it causes our bodies to retain sodium).

There are some folks who shouldn’t fast, but for the vast majority of us, it’s a good idea. This is not, in any way, a sponsored post, but a lot of great information about fasting can be found here.

10 thoughts on a Wednesday [5]

one. Ask 100 people to define “success” and you’ll get 100 different answers. Most will involve some combination of money, power, status, happiness. Ask me, and I’ll say this: the only way to be successful is to be paid to kiss Alexander Skarsgård.

two. Stormi is a strange choice for a name. It seems like it should be defined as

Stormi (v.) – Past participle of regular French verb “stormir” meaning “to enter a space in an angry or aggressive manner.

three. Men are wearing flood pants. Or capris. I don’t know what to call the trend, but these are fashionable men with pants that end several inches above their shoes. Sometimes, this shows off colorful socks (and is supposed to indicate colorful personalities?) but sometimes what I see is 5 long ankle hairs. San Francisco is too cold for this trend: please notify these poor men that their mothers think they’ll catch their deaths exposing that much ankle.

four. Speaking of trends, has the culinary world gotten over putting foam on food? I would so love to have a tasting menu where not a single course has what appears to be cat vomit on it!

five. I found an 8gb usb thumb drive on the sidewalk that says “BELTRAI” on it. Maybe it’s someone’s name. Maybe there are secrets on it and this is the beginning of a mystery spy novel. But probably it fell out of a trash can that was being emptied. And just has old pictures of landscapes and things once put up for sale on Craigslist.

six. I have been spending most of my evenings working on jigsaw puzzles. Why? It’s strangely meditative. I am trash at meditation because I am unable to not think thoughts. One trivial thing chases the next and I either can’t empty my mind, or I fall asleep. But when I work on puzzles, I don’t think anything — my brain’s busy hunting. Also, finding a piece and feeling it click into place is rewarding. The topic deserves an entire post, but why is it that useful pursuits never feel as satisfying as things no one needs to do? It’s really too bad that useful things like work or chores can’t reward the brain circuitry the way that candy crush or scrolling on Instagram does.

seven. While I still agree with the idea that there is nothing religion does for humanity that can’t be accomplished in a secular way, I’ve come to recognize that there are areas where some religions are doing a better job. One is community. I follow a few Mormon family blogs, and I saw this post. Middle school and high school students in the community were able to raise $20,000 by throwing a festival for a friend in a coma. I would be surprised to learn of a secular community of students accomplishing the same, even with similar levels of wealth and education.

eight. I learned something fascinating about starches: if you let them cool and then reheat them, you are only able to absorb about half the calories as if you ate them immediately after cooking. I know, it sounds like fake news. But it’s real: I read it in The Death of a Calorie.

nine. For some time, I’ve wanted to be an advice columnist. Isn’t it fun to tell people how to deal with their problems when you’re the world’s premier expert on ignoring your own? Anyway, please comment with things you’d like advice on. This should be fun.

ten. According to Pete Buttigieg’s campaign, his last name is pronounced “boot-edge-edge.” But when I heard it, it definitely sounded like “Buddha-judge.” I was pleased that my interpretation is the 2nd on on Chasten Buttigieg’s list. I was also pleased that he knew his first name would bring its own pronunciation questions so his bio says “Chas-ten” (as opposed to the verb chasten, which rhymes with Jason).

Exchange BP gift cards for Arco

BP gift cards used to work at Arco, but in some areas, a system upgrade now prompts users for a PIN when they try to use a BP gift card at an Arco gas station, and these cards do not come with PINs. Here’s how to exchange your BP gift cards for Arco gift cards.

  1. Call the number on the back of the BP gift card: 1-800-519-3560.
  2. Follow the menu prompts to get to an operator. Tell the operator you have BP gift cards which no longer work at your local Arco stations, and you would like to exchange them for Arco gift cards. They will ask for a name, phone number, email address, and mailing address. Then they’ll instruct you to do the following:
  3. Email (no, that’s not a typo, it is “sservices”) with:
    • your name
    • a copy of the original receipt (when you purchased the BP gift card(s))
    • picture of the front of the gift card(s)
    • picture of the back of the gift card(s)

That’s it! According to customer service, you should receive a response/replacement within 7-10 business days.