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Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

On occasional Fridays, I point you towards some recommended reading around the blogosphere:

1. I absolutely loved Sir David Attenborough’s take on curling at the winter Olympics. (American readers can see it here.)

2. Equally compelling in an entirely different sort of way is this video of the train station at Alexanderplatz in Berlin.

3. On a lighter note, here is news anchor Brian Williams rapping (sort of).

4. And lighter still, we have Jimmy Fallon and Paul Rudd in a lip-synching contest. Brilliant.

5. I love Buzzfeed. And here are 15 reasons to love its style guide (as in writing style, not fashion style).

6. One of my favorite Twitter accounts is Waterstone’s Oxford Street. Here’s their take on the whole Harry and Hermione kerfuffle.

7. Finally, some hilarious reactions to last month’s London tube strike.

Have a great weekend everyone!

My New Year’s Resolution: Slow Living

Hello there. And Happy New Year!

It’s been a while since I forced myself to set some New Year’s Resolutions. The last time I did  it – at least publicly, on this blog – I not only listed the resolutions I’d set for myself that year, but offered some tips for keeping them. (And yes, I’m pleased to report that of the five that I put down that year, three of them  –  getting a job, eating less meat and seeing more of the U.K. outside London – have all been realised.) Still need to work on “being more romantic” and “easing up on my kids.” Sigh.

But I thought I’d do something different this year, which is to set a goal for myself that I hope others will also emulate: to begin to consciously practice slow living.

There’s an entire philosophy underpinning the slow living movement, which I’ve yet to immerse myself in. (For a great primer, check out Carl Honoré’s book and blog.) Here’s how he describes it:

It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace.It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.

I got wind of it through my husband, who happened upon this BBC Radio 4 special on slow living – featuring Carl himself – and recommended that I listen to it. (My husband and I have an ongoing I go too fast/you go too slow dynamic in our marriage, although in the last year and a half since we’ve both taken on new, incredibly busy jobs, I’d say that we both suffer from the “going too fast” dynamic.)

Revealingly, the first time I sat down to listen to the first segment of this programme, I found myself simultaneously paying bills, checking emails and shopping for post-Christmas bargains Online. In other words, although I recognised the value of forcing myself to listen to a programme about the virtues of slowing down, I couldn’t seem to find the time to slow down and actually listen to it. Exhibit A.

But then my husband suggested that we listen to it together, over coffee, one Sunday morning during the Christmas holidays. And so we did. And the more I listened to the three people featured in the BBC programme, all of whom desperately needed advice from Carl on how to slow down, the more I saw myself – or better put, versions of myself throughout the day: as wife, as mother, as worker – grafted onto their lives.

I won’t ruin the programme for you, which is well worth listening to. (Note: it’s on the BBC website for one more day, and the second part airs tomorrow.) But here are three actionable items I took away from it – the “learnings,” as we say at my office – which I hope to implement immediately:

1. Do something slow every day. It could be gardening. One guy on the programme takes up ironing. I myself made a banana bread today. It doesn’t really matter what you choose, as long as the activity allows you to perform a slow, repetitive motion that enables you to practice, physically, the art of slowing down.

2. Create larger spaces between activities. If you’re like me, you race around from activity to activity – especially those involving your kids – leaving yourself just enough time (if that) to make it to the next thing. You actually feel lucky if you manage to eek out an extra five minutes to run to the dry cleaner or return a library book. But one of the things Carl recommends is deliberately building more time in in between activities, to eliminate that feeling that you are always “just in time.” (Phew!)

3. Say no to one thing everyday. Of all the kernels of wisdom that I gleaned from this 30 minute segment on slow living, the one that must rung true for me was the piece of advice to “say no to one thing every day that you’d normally say yes to.” It could be coffee with a neighbour when you’re completely fried. It could be volunteering for that extra bake sale at the PTA. These days, for me, it’s usually something at work. Someone asks me to edit an article that isn’t technically part of my job. Someone asks me to go to a meeting that I don’t really need to attend. I’m given an impossible deadline but fail to ask for an extension. There’s something truly liberating in learning the word “No.” Try it sometime.

I don’t know about you, but all of this feels very right to me at this stage of my life, both personally and professionally. I’ll let you know how it goes.

What have you resolved to do differently in the new year?

 

 

Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

On occasional Fridays, I direct you to some recommended reading around the blogosphere:

1. I thought I’d lead off with June Thomas’ beautiful explanation for why, despite being a lesbian in a long-term, committed relationship, she doesn’t want to get married.

2. On the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, The Guardian had prominent writers weigh in on the psychology of some of the book’s main characters. I like to think of this post as more aptly sub-titled “Deconstructing Darcy.”

3. And speaking of writing, wise words from Jane Friedman on how long you should keep trying to get published.

4. This Modern Love essay by Julie Goldberg on a love affair that didn’t quite work out really spoke to me.

5. It’s hard to describe how much I loved 20 obsolete English words that should make a comeback. Don’t jargogle it! (Hat tip: Lisa Romeo Writes)

6. Slate just re-published this hilarious essay by John Swansburg on why he hates (adult) birthday parties. And how, John…

7. Finally, over on Londontopia, some gorgeous pictures of London at Night in the 1930’s.

Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

On Fridays, I point you towards some recommended reading around the blogosphere:

1. This news item is a bit out of date now, but for all you who took delight – or umbrage – at the revelation that some GOP congressmen went skinny-dipping in the Sea of Galilee last summer whilst on a fact-finding trip to Israel, I encourage you to read Cord Jefferson’s take over on Gawker, appropriately entitled Let My People Get Drunk and Swim Naked In The Ocean.

2. This is riveting: a first-hand account – via Twitter – of what it’s like to sit next to an unruly passenger on an airplane. What’s amazing is how the author manages to make you, as a reader, actually feel nervous as the suspense builds.

3. I loved Cecilia’s honest take over on the Only You blog about how the death of a colleague – and breaking her leg – made her rethink that most fundamental issue in parenting: control.

4. If you’d like a laugh, check out Mitt Romney’s new video blog, on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

5. Finally, do take a moment and check out these one-star reviews of classic literature on The Morning News. Priceless! (Hat tip: Brainiac)

 

Have a great weekend!

Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

On Friday, I point you towards some recommended reading around the blogosphere:

1. In case, like me, you’re still missing the Olympics, I give you Mo Farah Running Away From Things.

2. I loved this essay by James Gleick about the rise of autocorrect.

3. From The Huffington Post’s Lisa Belkin, a lovely meditation on parenting.

4. Well, I’ve lived in London for 6 years and I’ve never heard of #5, but otherwise, this BBC America piece on 10 Things Brits Say…And What Americans Think We Mean is right on the money.

5. Finally, if you’re a Tim Minchin fan – and even if you’re not – have a listen to this fabulous interview with the barefooted, piano-playing comedian on BBC Radio 4. He is surprisingly astute about comedy, fame and agnosticism.

 

Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

Should Fareed Zakaria Be Forgiven For Plagiarizing?

I’ve always thought that Fareed Zakaria was a bit too slick.

It’s not that I don’t like him. I share the pundit’s broadly liberal internationalist view towards world affairs. And unlike many wonks (the big exception here being the University of Chicago’s Austan Goolsbee), Zakaria’s actually got a sense of humor, which is always a plus.

But there was always something a bit too cute by half about this good-looking, well-spoken darling of the Center-Left with his million dollar smile.

So it didn’t come as a huge surprise when I learned that Zakaria had become embroiled in a plagiarism scandal that has – temporarily, at least – cost him two of his plum platforms: Time and CNN. On Friday, both news outlets suspended Zakaria while they investigated charges that he had lifted passages from an article by New Yorker writer Jill Lepore on gun control. He has since apologized to Lepore and taken full responsibility for the incident, which he described as a “serious lapse.”

Read the rest of this post on The Washington Post’s She The People website…

 

Image: Fareed Zakaria at the Newsweek Offices by barthjg via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Tips For Adulthood: Five New Trends In Work

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Lately, I’ve been struck by how much the nature of work seems to be changing right now.

Not just because of the seemingly endless recession that’s sapping all of our jobs and igniting political and social change across the globe.

But also because the very definition of work – what it means and how it’s carried out – seems to be in so much flux.

To wit, here are five new trends in the way we conduct work:

1. Offices are a thing of the past. These days, it’s all about the virtual company. Abolishing most – if not all – of a company’s physical space saves a ton of money. It’s also ecologically friendly, productivity-enhancing (no commute!) and tends to make workers happier. As this fascinating case study of Inc. magazine details, there are some hurdles companies need to overcome as they transition to the virtual office (i.e. how to maintain a vibrant organizational culture.) And you definitely don’t want to do it if you have children or other dependents at home while you’re trying to work. But at least for certain jobs, telecommuting  is emerging as an efficient business model, according to the latest research.

2. If you need to set up an office, shared work space is where it’s at. With independent workers now comprising a full 30% of the workforce in the United States, shared office spaces – the term of art is coffice – are proliferating around the globe. (Why do I love this term so much? I think it’s because it reminds me of coffee.) Apparently, coffices have become particularly attractive for female entrepreneurs, as a space in which to network and share ideas.

3. Think in terms of income streams, not jobs. This comes from career coach Ford R. Myers, author of Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring. Some 6.9 million Americans, or 4.8 percent of the U.S. workforce, hold multiple jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But Myers says that this doesn’t necessarily mean that all of these people are working a double shift just to pay the bills. Rather, they are more likely doing part-time contract work, running a side business, or teaching a course – in short, building flexibility into their work life – by thinking in terms of multiple income streams, rather than multiple jobs. Or, as blogger and business communications guru Chris Brogan puts it, work will be more modular in natureSounds good to me.

4. Working fewer hours can make you more productive. Yeah, yeah. I know. We’ve heard it all before. The Four Hour Work Week and all that good stuff. But it turns out that it might be true. According to a recent study in published in Psychological Review, the key to great success is working harder in short bursts of time. Researchers found that across professions, productivity is enhanced when you work in short, highly-focused bursts with no distractions, rather than across long periods of time. As someone who’s always put in long days, this is music to my ears.

5. Internships aren’t just for college kids anymore. Rather, unpaid adult internships are the new normal. This is either exciting vis à vis the whole concept of “second acts.” Or just a horrifying sign of the dire economic straits in which we find ourselves. But it’s a reality. In a country with an unemployment rate hovering steadily just below 10%, more and more college graduates and even middle-aged professionals are willing to work for free in hopes that it will help them land a paying gig. Yikes.

Image: Day 308/365  – Rough Day At The Office by Kevin H. via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

Every Friday I point you towards some recommended reading around the blogosphere:

1. In case you missed this feel-good moment of the century, here’s Paul Simon letting a fan come up on stage and perform one of his songs.

2. Equally inspirational is this commencement speech by NPR science correspondent Robert Krulwich on the future of journalism. If this doesn’t move you to go out and pursue your dreams, nothing will.

3. In other news, for those following the whole Lars Von Trier/Hitler/Cannes saga, this you tube video is priceless.

4. Loved Salon’s virtual tour of the world’s most inviting bookstores.

5. Also loved this sneak peak at book covers that didn’t make it over on the New York Times. (Ummm…Wetlands? Hello?)

6. I’m always drawn to stories about the kindness of strangers. Joan Wickersham has a great tale about drive-by kindness in the Boston Globe.

7. Finally, in the department of random, quirky and fun, read the Guardian’s interview with Director John Waters. Hat tip: Donna Trussell.

 

Have a great weekend!

Tips For Adulthood: Five Life Skills For Ten Year Olds

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

At my son’s school, they periodically teach the children what they call “life skills.”

I’m not exactly sure what they cover in that curriculum. I suspect that it may have more to do with social/emotional development. But I like the term “life skills,” as it captures something practical about what kids need to do to get on in life, as opposed to just learning facts.

When your kids are little, there are plenty of “life skills” milestones. Potty training is, of course, the first giant hurdle. Sleeping through the night on their own is another one, if you go in for that sort of thing.

But as your kids get older, they also need to acquire certain life skills. And if you’re like me, you wake up one day and realize that your ten year-old doesn’t know how to tie his shoes and you think: Yikes!

To that end, and because April in the UK this year was basically one giant, extended holiday, I decided to devote that month to helping my son master some basic life skills.

To wit, here are ten things all ten year-olds should know how to do:

1. Tie their shoes. I can’t say I’m proud of this. But I looked down one day and realized that with the advent of Velcro, my son didn’t know how to tie his shoes. This concern had actually been rummaging around in the recesses of my mind for quite some time. (And apparently, I’m not alone. More five year-olds today can operate a Smart Phone app than can tie their shoes. But it wasn’t until I took my son to his weekly soccer practice and noticed that all of the other boys were wearing lace up cleats (boots) that I realized it was time to pull the trigger. The good news? He mastered it in about 24 hours. (Seeing a friend tie his shoes without even looking down was a big incentive.) The bad news? It’s really hard to explain, especially when you’re facing your kid as it means explaining it backwards. (Here are some useful tips for how to teach this skill.)

2. Ride a bike. Once again, I know that I was way behind on this one. And my advice to anyone else wondering when the optimal time to teach a kid to ride a bike would be: earlier is better than later. I think that when they are lower to the ground the whole thing is less scary and dramatic. But now that he’s mastered this skill, he begs me to take him for bike rides. Next up? Riding our bikes to school. Can’t wait.

3. Cut with a knife and fork. This was another life skill I added to my list once I realized that I was really tired of cutting my son’s meat up for him every time we ate. I’m not sure if I’m alone on this, but I think that learning to cut properly with a knife and fork is actually pretty hard to teach. (And to learn. Lord knows I’ve seen some adults who struggle with this particular challenge.) Here are some handy tips I found on the Internet. I love #10: be patient. Not exactly my son’s forté. (Nor my own.) Sigh.

4. Employ Good Handwriting. Oh, how we have struggled with this one. For the longest time, my son insisted (and not entirely without reason) that in the age of computers, handwriting is totally passé. (Oh and by the way? Those of you who are nostalgic for the lost art of handwriting? The typewriter has gone the way of the horse and buggy as well.) But over the Easter holidays – and with the encouragement (and insistence) of his English teacher – we went back and actually re-learned cursive (joined up) from the ground up. I can’t say it was always smooth sailing. But boy, did he improve. I also realized that my own handwriting is complete rubbish. (Life skills for 45 year-olds, anyone?)

5. Get along with their siblings. Yeah, that’s more of a work in progress. I’ll let you know how it goes…

 

What am I missing?

 

Image: tying by vistavision via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A friend of mine is toilet training her two year-old. My friend has two older children, aged six, so she’s been through this before. And yet – like all traumatic experiences concerning parenting –

The funny thing about parenting is that .

Tips For Adulthood: Five New Facts About Generation Y

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

As an arm-chair scholar of adulthood, I like to collect facts and figures about the different phases of adulthood. Even though I’ve said before that I think the stages of life are defined less by a number than by a feeling, I still think it’s worthwhile to examine what the data are telling us about a given cohort. (Most recently, I did this when I presented five new facts about teenagers.)

In that vein, today’s topic is that much-discussed Generation Y, also known as the Millennial Generation, young adults, under-30s or just “Gen Y.” Gen Y is defined loosely by those people born between 1982 and 1991, which makes them (roughly) between the ages of 18 and 30.

About six months ago, the New York Times Magazine broke a feature story about the “new 20 somethings” who seem to be taking forever to grow up: delaying marriage, changing careers several times, failing to achieve economic independence and other milestones of adulthood. Ever since then, there’s been a lot of interest in this age group – both what’s driving their delayed adulthood and what else we know about this demographic.

Here are five new facts about Generation Y:

1. Living at home longer may not be so bad. While one might be inclined at first blush to condemn Gen Y for failing to get its act together sooner, two new studies suggest that there may be advantages to delayed adulthood. One, from the University of Minnesota, argues that parental assistance in early adulthood actually promotes progress toward autonomy and self-reliance. The researchers found that while almost half of the young adults in their sample received either money for living expenses or lived with their parents (or both) in their mid-20s, only 10-15 percent received financial or housing help when in their early 30s. Moreover, as young adult children took on adult roles such as earning higher incomes or forming families, parental support began to taper regardless of age. Two sociologists from Oregon State additionally found that living at home longer may also foster closer bonds with one’s parents.

2. Millennials care more about parenting than getting married. A 2010 Pew Research survey found that 52% of Millennials say being a good parent is “one of the most important things” in life, while just 30% say the same about having a successful marriage. In other words, there is a 22-percentage-point gap in the way Millennials value parenthood over marriage. When this same question was posed to 18- to 29-year-olds in 1997, the gap was just seven percentage points. Wow. Pew Research surveys also find that Millennials are less likely than adults ages 30 and older to say that a child needs a home with both a father and mother to grow up happily and that single parenthood and unmarried couple parenthood are bad for society. Given that we also know that young men are lagging behind young  women vis a vis jobs, income and graduate degrees, these attitudinal shifts may make a lot of sense: if these smarter, higher-earning young ladies want a kid, they may need to do it on their own.

3. Gen Y is isolationist. The Brookings Institution recently surveyed more than 1,000 young leaders about their views on foreign policy. Among the more striking findings was how solidly isolationist this group was in its foreign policy leanings. A full 58 percent of young leaders say that America is “too involved in global affairs” and should focus more on issues at home rather than things like building a stronger military or reducing poverty in the rest of the world. I found these results to be particularly fascinating in light of a recent study by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research,which  found that college students today are 40 percent less empathetic than they were in 1979. According to the findings, today’s students are generally less likely to describe themselves as “soft-hearted” or to have “tender, concerned feelings” for others. They are more likely, meanwhile, to admit that “other people’s misfortunes” usually don’t disturb them. In other words, while this is far the most connected generation vis a vis technology and the like, all that connectedness doesn’t seem to be translating to genuine concern for the world and one another.

4. Generation Y is changing its workplace priorities. While the initial take on Gen Y was that it was coddled, lazy and work-averse, that may turn out to be wrong. It’s true that 40% of 18-29 year olds either lack a job or underemployed. But according to an article in the Miami Herald, those who are working seem to be embracing a new more humble and realistic attitude towards work, one fueled by the hard reality of the recession. In today’s harsh, new economic climate, millennials realize that they can’t make the demands for raises, promotions, time off and training that they might once have done only a few years back. Nor are they reaching for the brass ring; they’re happy to do their best wherever they are on the corporate ladder and recognize that it may take awhile to reach the top. This sea change is consistent with a recent article in the New York times noting that millenials are embracing different kinds of careers these days, often “doing good” in the public sector (where the jobs are) rather than trying to score high-paying, high-powered jobs in the corporate sector.

5. Gen Y is More Confident and Optimistic. Another Pew Study – this one released last year – found that 18-to-29-year-olds remain optimistic, despite a job-killing recession, two wars and the threat of terrorism. In light of all the negative publicity around this generation, I, for one, was quite happy to hear this.

Image: ANC Young Adults Social CG Social 012 by roger_mommaerts via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.