What I’m Reading: The Trying A Newsletter Edition

I’ve gotten really into a couple of email newsletters that people I like and admire put out — notably Ann Friedman‘s, Jamelle Bouie‘s and Sean Bonner‘s. Newsletters are all the rage these days and I’ve toyed with doing one myself so I’m trying it out. You can subscribe at this link, and I’ll cross post here on HeyElise if you prefer not to crowd your inbox further.

What I Wrote

I’m on leave so I’m not doing a ton of writing for work. That said, I hope you’ll enjoy one of my last NPR pieces before I had a baby, on hard-core Korean hikers and how hiking links Korean immigrants to their ancestral homeland. I also wrote a bunch of answers for Cup of Jo, the popular lifestyle blog, about motherhood in South Korea. And if you haven’t moseyed over there yet, I started a blog for two-week-old Isabel Rock, because it wasn’t going to be fair that her sister has a Tumblr and I didn’t do some sort of documenting for Isa.

What I Read

Korean Juliana Haahs on being shamed for her looks by her Korean family. Ann Friedman on how the Taylor Swift/Nicki Minaj Twitter tussle laid bare what happens when white people hear big picture critiques about system racism. Sheila Smith on the uproar in Japan over legislation that would allow the pacifist nation to better defend itself militarily. Andy Greenwald on why Masters of Sex is not as good this season. The Atlantic writers scathingly and deliciously diss True Detective each week and that’s my favorite thing to read after my viewings. Choice example:

“Why, why, why, does Pizzolatto keep making Frank say thinks like, “It’s like blue balls. In your heart”? Poor guy’s got enough to deal with without it sounding like he’s doing pornographic slam poetry.”

What I’m Still Reading

Book: Korea: The Impossible Country, by Daniel Tudor

The former Economist correspondent in Seoul explores the history, culture and ways of life here on the land I now call home. It’s been dragging in a few parts but I’m learning a lot of fascinating tidbits so I’m working my way through.

What I’m Watching

Rectify is a quiet and sometimes lyrical show on Sundance Channel that I only recently discovered. The first season is only six episodes and available on Netflix or Amazon Prime streaming, so it’s easy to get caught up. It’s worth the investment if you enjoy character driven stories and can handle a more plodding pace. Not sure? Read Matt Zoller Seitz’s review, which won’t give much away.

Also: I’m hate-watching True Detective, of course.


The Instagram account of Chriselle Lim: Chriselle Lim is a stylist and video blogger that once worked with the famous YouTube tycoon, Michelle Phan. I’ll never have her glamour or togetherness so I lurk on her Instagram, instead. Also she has an adorable baby who is also already living a more stylish life than the rest of us.

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What I’m Reading: The Love and Relationships Edition

It's complicated.

It’s complicated. (Photo credit: Channing Johnson)

If you and I spend any one-on-one time together, we inevitably get around to some of my favorite topics — love, fidelity, identity and memory. I cover human connection (and how technology is changing it) as a beat, so over the past year I’ve been writing more on these themes, with posts questioning whether online dating is really helping us make better matches, etc.

I’ve also evangelized the best show on TV right now (since Mad Men isn’t back yet), The Americans on FX. It’s ostensibly a show about Russian spies living as sleeper agents in the U.S. But really it’s about love, fidelity and identity. And it stars one of my mad crushes, Matthew Rhys. (I love Matt’s! And Welshmen!)

Buried in that exposition was RECOMMENDATION #1: The Americans on FX. Watch it. Seriously. Season 3 debuts on Wednesday.

Okay, here are the rest of my recommendations on this theme:

#2 Why We Cheat (Slate Magazine)
The author of the book ‘Mating in Captivity’ sits down for a Q&A, in which she dispels some of our black-and-white thinking about stepping out on our partners. The nut graf: “Very often we don’t go elsewhere because we are looking for another person. We go elsewhere because we are looking for another self. It isn’t so much that we want to leave the person we are with as we want to leave the person we have become.”

#3 The Split-Screen Marriage (The New York Times)

Showtime’s Golden Globe-winning (but not necessarily deserving) program, The Affair, explores the notion of perception and memory in our intimate relationships. It tells half its story from the man’s point of view, then flips midway through each episode to the woman’s perspective. Even though they remember the same sequence of events (for the most part), the tone and details are completely different. This NYT piece gets at “the canyon of ignorance that cuts across every human relationship” and got me thinking about how we can treat one other better by seeking to know our partners more.

#4 Vonnegut on Marriage (dannyman.toldme.com)

An argument for the villages of yesteryear — extended families. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote: “When a couple has an argument nowadays, they may think it’s about money or power or sex or how to raise the kids or whatever. What they’re really saying to each other, though without realizing it, is this: “You are not enough people!”

#5 Searching for Sex (The New York Times)

This piece made me want everyone to get laid more. As I mentioned in a previous post, an economist dives into the big data we have on sex-related searches, whether it’s penis size or the number of times “sexless marriage” is searched instead of “loveless marriage.” The results show Americans are have WAY TOO LITTLE SEX and that they’re really hung up about body insecurities.

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Sex Study

An economist reviewed Google searches that Americans conducted about sex. It reveals we’re collectively having too little of it, and way too anxious and insecure about it. Get laid more often, people! One of the funniest data points among the searches was this one:

sex study

Do You Remember … Dancing In September

Goofing off with Googlers.

Goofing off with Googlers. Photo by Bruce Gibson.

Here are some things I learned from Google Chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt last night. He and Jonathan Rosenberg were in town as part of their book tour, and I was honored to moderate a conversation with them before a hypersmart DC audience of 600, at the Sixth & I Synagogue.

He likes those Hershey’s miniatures as much as the rest of us. When we were hanging in the green room before the show, I think he consumer about 17 of them in a row. Rosenberg even quipped, “I don’t think those are on your diet.”

He uses a Motorola Razr X, running Android, of course.

He prefers generalists over specialists, because the number one quality he looks for in people is passion. “It can be passion about anything,” he says. “But you can’t teach passion.” In other words, they want people who really care a lot, and they don’t care particularly about wedging people into particular roles. I love that.

He has new appreciation for Stephen Colbert and other comedians after learning how much time and energy Colbert spends getting into his character and preparing mentally to be so witty.

He’s not sure about the whole selfie thing, he says. But he gamely agreed to shoot a selfie of us. Luckily, photog Bruce Gibson caught us doing it, above. So meta.

Anyway. I’ve spent the last two months in such a state of constant motion that at no time have I not been rushing somewhere, recovering from what came before or preparing for what comes next. In no particular order I have: spoken in London on wearable technology and love, flew halfway to Cleveland to moderate a panel on the tech community in Ohio (only to be canceled at O’hare), reported stories on fashion that comes in a box, the PayPal-eBay split, net neutrality and other stuff I can’t remember anymore, spoken to public radio programmers about risky reporting situations, presented to the NPR board about Ferguson, threw a 2nd birthday party for my daughter, and interviewed billionaire Googlers about the inner workings of their company. On the same day, as if the random subjects I’ve been speaking on weren’t random enough, I was invited to moderate a panel on the future of reproduction.

Just the subject-shifting alone is enough for total cognitive overload. I do love nothing more than meeting new people and engaging with fresh ideas. But I also think I need some time to just not prep for anything or recover from anything. Onward.

What I’m Reading: SF Struggles, Vonnegut on Marriage, Manly Startups

This morning my new pal Om Malik tweeted out his list of what he’s reading, a list he’s been sharing for quite awhile. I find it really enjoyable, much like I love receiving friend Sean Bonner’s newsletter. The missives are basically his delightful stream-of-consciousness with reading that guides that consciousness.  I used to do some link roundups on this here blog, but have largely abandoned it. I think I’ll try and start it up again. A few of the pieces I read today:

Is San Francisco New York? (New York Magazine, with writing from San Francisco Magazine)

The team at my favorite magazine ever got the help of San Francisco Magazine writers to write a series of dispatches from SF, a city whose tech-boom-2.0-fueled identity crisis seems to foreshadow the kind of struggle America is about to have in a few years. I love the little vignette about ‘founder hounders’ — ladies who seek out tech company founders just before their company’s IPO. Absurd.

Journalism startups full of white men (The Guardian)

The Guardian’s Emily Bell calls out this era of white-men-led news startups, i.e. Nate Silver, Ezra Klein, Glen Greenwald. “The new micro-institutions of journalism already bear the hallmarks of the restrictive heritage they abandoned with such glee,” she writes. Nate Silver recently responded, admitting that 85 percent of his applicants are men and “that worries us.” He follows up by saying, “We’re hiring the best candidate for the position,” which worries me. Because “best” is subjective, and if you extend this defense too far, you could fall into believing a meritocracy myth that is so pervasive in the mega-gender-unbalanced world of tech. I’ve written about that before.

Kurt Vonnegut on Marriage

When a couple has an argument nowadays, they may think it’s about money or power or sex or how to raise the kids or whatever. What they’re really saying to each other, though without realizing it, is this: “You are not enough people!” A husband, a wife and some kids is not a family. It’s a terribly vulnerable survival unit.

This makes a tremendous amount of sense, especially in the face of studies recently that show our expectations of our spouses are higher than ever, which makes marital satisfaction lower. Conclusion: Our spouses can’t be — and shouldn’t be — our everything. I maintain that the key to success in my own marriage is the tremendous amount of freedom my introverted husband gives me to party hard with — and seek connection with — people-who-aren’t-him. h/t Sean Bonner


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Tough Week, Or The Toughest Week?

Satirical news source The Onion summed up the past week well:

“Maybe next time we have a week, they can try not to pack it completely to the fucking brim with explosions, mutilations, death, manhunts, lies, weeping, and the utter uselessness of our political system,” said basically every person in America who isn’t comatose or a complete sociopath. “You know, maybe try to spread some of that total misery across the other 51 weeks in the year. Just a thought.”

Pal Justin texted this to me, halfway through this week from hell: “What does it say when a justice of the peace murdering a district attorney and his family is at the bottom of the news totem pole?” (I’m not even sure that story made it into our newscasts. Nor did the sentencing of the Travis County District Attorney for DWI. She’s serving 45 days in jail. Normally I would think that was a big story, too.)

Oh, and then, last night the week was capped off with a destructive earthquake in China:

“As Boston celebrated last night, the week from Hell managed to end with one more tragedy: A 6.6 magnitude earthquake hit southwestern China’s Sichuan province on Saturday. Right now, 156 people are said to be dead, and an estimated 5,500 are injured, making the earthquake the country’s worst in three years. We’re just hoping marathoner and West, Texas resident Joe Berti wasn’t around.”

Journalism and social media both got a reminder to just chill out and take a breath. Reddit sleuths went down as many bad trails as promising ones, implicating innocent people in the process. The New York Post was particularly egregious in its fact ignorance, reporting 12 people were killed on Monday and that a Saudi national was a suspect. (Neither of these reported “facts” proved true.)

Oh, and our newsroom was split into two buildings, producing our afternoon show, All Things Considered, from 1111 N. Capitol, and the morning program, Morning Edition, from 635 Massachusetts Ave. As tragedy struck blow after blow, we were struggling to coordinate news reporting and broadcasting while in between the final phases of our staff move. By Friday, the old building and its parts were getting dismantled around us. The moving and salvage crews outnumbered NPR staff. Yesterday, in the middle of our efforts to report a manhunt that shut down the city of Boston, the TVs got cut off. This prompted a move to 1111 half a day early.

President Obama called it a “tough week.” I’d call it a curl-up-in-fetal-position-and-rock-back-and-forth-week.

As you reflect and process and drink heavily (you deserve it), consider consuming any of the following:

Your kids, your parents, your friends, your lovers: Hug ’em tight. Hug ’em tight.

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I’m Worried My Little Brother Is Losing Years From His Life



This is today’s view from my brother Roger’s window in Beijing, where the pollution has reached crisis levels. “I literally try not to breathe much anymore. Have to take super small inhales through the nostrils,” Roger writes. “Eyes are sour, throat itches, no energy… It hurts badly to breathe.”

Here’s James Fallows, writing for The Atlantic:  

“[In 2008] the level of dangerous “PM 2.5” small-particulate pollution, as reported by the rogue @BeijingAir monitoring site on the roof of the US Embassy in Beijing, was in the low-300s “hazardous” range. The readings in the past few days have been in the previously unimaginable 700s-and-above range, reported as “beyond index” by @BeijingAir. The worst I have personally seen in Beijing was in the high 400s, and that day I did not understand how life could proceed any further in such circumstances. The conditions this weekend have been much worse.”

We have got to get Roger out of Beijing. He’s living there to launch his startup, but it can’t be worth his lungs.

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Inauguration Is Over. Now I Have a Brain Cloud.

The presidential motorcade as it headed to the Capitol for the swearing-in.

The presidential motorcade as it headed to the Capitol for the swearing-in.


The single best thing about living in DC is that people I love come into town frequently for one reason or another. Since presidential inaugurations only come around every four years, MANY people I love came into town at the same time. I had been training my liver for this weekend for awhile.

My only other DC inauguration experience was when I covered Bush’s first inauguration in 2001 as an intern for WFAA-TV. Attending that swearing-in ceremony was the coldest I’ve ever been. I remember getting dressed up for the Texas State Society’s Black Tie and Boots ball in the public bathroom of Belo’s DC bureau building at 13th and G.  I remember anchor Gloria Campos being in DC to anchor the coverage and wanting her scripts printed in bigger type, and how I had to help rush reporter Jim Fry into a cab so he could go do a post-parade live shot.

I remain on maternity leave, so I got to take part in this inauguration as a straight-up spectator. I skipped the weekend balls but was looking forward to the Common/T-Pain/John Legend concert since, as many of you know, Stiles loves loves LOVES Common. (BTW: Where WASN’T John Legend this weekend? Anyway.) We waited until the day before to respond to the ticket email and it was too late. Instead, we went to a delicious Indian restaurant for our 2nd anniversary dinner, seven months late. (Hey, 2012 was a little busy, okay?)

Continue reading →

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In Memoriam: 2012 Celebrity Death Pool

Our long-running celebrity death pool has concluded yet another year of being awful at picking celebrity deaths. (To prove my point, the year Amy Winehouse and Steve Jobs died, none of us picked either of them.)

George H.W. Bush’s passing, which did not happen despite the publishing of his obit, would have given Evan the 2012 win. But I ultimately get to claim victory on a technicality. Here’s a snapshot of the final scoresheet, which I’ll follow with an explanation:

CDP 2012 Final Point Totals. Click to enlarge.

CDP 2012 Final Point Totals. Click to enlarge.


Scoring is one point per death, then we subtract the age of death from 100 and put that number behind the decimal point. For example, a 25 year old celebrity death gets you 1.75 points, while a 80 year old celebrity death is 1.20 points.

Who counts as a celebrity? The group can veto a pick for obscurity during a draft, but we haven’t had a situation so far in which a questionably famous celebrity was drafted.

Lippy and Blake finished the year with 0 points. It’s the second shutout year in a row for Lippy, who didn’t correctly predict any celebrity deaths in 2011, either. Evan was prescient to pick Inouye, whose December passing took a lot of Washingtonians by surprise. Lindsay Lohan, who like Hosni Mubarak shows up on two lists, is somehow still alive.

The 2011 Holdover Rule of 2012, which has since been amended, is responsible for my second victory in a row. We don’t draft on the very last day of the previous year, which creates a death loophole for those who die between draft night and January 1 of the new year. In 2012’s draft, anyone who died in 2011’s gap period would count toward the 2012 total. That’s how I wound up with points for Christopher Hitchens.

No one benefited from the Two Deaths-Same Incident Rule, which doubles your points if two of your celebrity death picks die in the same incident.

2013’s contest introduced some major changes, notably the snake draft in which we can’t duplicate any picks, and the elimination of the holdover loophole. (Those who died in the gap weeks were replaced with fresh picks.)

The CDP Death Notification Rule remains. (The death of any CDP pick must be immediately tweeted and then shared or retweeted by other CDP members, sometimes with a standings update.)

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Election 2012 Maps: Prediction vs. Reality

How UnskewedPolls.com, which claimed to “erase the bias” of polling, predicted tonight’s results, versus a look at the actual results:

The Unskewed Polls prediction


The actual results map, as of 1am EST

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