Coming May 4: Micro Challenge Sprints

After the success of Microblogvember and the February Photo Challenge, we are ready to challenge you again. Instead of a single month-long focus, we thought it would be fun to break things up with a series of challenge sprints!

Each Monday in May, we’ll kick off a new weeklong challenge sprint. Here are the details:

May 4: Quotations 💬
Inspiring, funny, serious, joyful, famous, made-up: it’s up to you!
Bonus: We’ve just activated the quotation tagmoji as a Discover category.

May 11: Photos: Color-A-Day Challenge 📷
We’ll prompt you each day with the colors of the rainbow, starting with Red.

May 18: Book recommendations 📚
Which are the seven books you most love to share?

May 25: Artwork and drawings 🎨
Show off your own creations, or share someone else’s work.

We are not creating a new pin for this series. But your posts will count toward existing pins, such as:

  • 10 Posts
  • 25 Posts
  • 7-day photo challenge

And if your trying to earn the elusive 30-day Blogger pin, you’ll get very close if you post for 28 days in a row in this challenge.

We’ll post reminders about each day’s challenge, and we’ll also add your entries to the Discover feed. And if you feel the need to use a hashtag: #mbmay

Submitting a Guinea Pig Emoji Proposal

On March 4, 2020, I submitted a proposal for a guinea pig emoji to the The Unicode Consortium, the folks who decide these things. My guinea pigs are five-and-a-half years old, and I always wanted to have an emoji to represent them. There is a rabbit (🐇), a rat (🐀), and a mouse (🐁). There is even a hamster face (🐹), which some suggested would be usable as a guinea pig. *

Update (4/13/2020): The emoji was rejected. The committee felt that there wasn’t enough evidence that a guinea pig emoji was needed.

You can see that The Unicode Consortium’s emoji proposal request page has been updated, with the Guinea Pig marked “New” instead of “No proposal form.”

Like many guinea pig enthusiasts, I’ve always complained that there was no emoji representing our favorite rodent. I was inspired to stop complaining and work on a proposal when I saw Jennifer 8. Lee of Emojination give a talk titled “How I Became An Emoji Activist” at the 2018 XOXO conference. From Jennifer I learned that there was a process to getting a new emoji accepted. It requires some research and writing. My friend Heidi Helen Pilypas also inspired me with her successful proposal for a bell pepper/capsicum emoji.

The Unicode Consortium has a very specific template for emoji proposals. (Emojination has an annotated template that can be very helpful.) Besides building a case for why a new emoji is needed, you have to do research on the relative popularity of the proposed emoji item via Google and Bing searches.

You also can make the case that the proposed emojii can represent multiple meanings. Guinea pigs are synonymous with laboratory test animals; human test subjects are referred to as guinea pigs; and guinea pigs are also a popular meal in some parts of the world. (Researching that last bit was hard on me 😱, but I knew it was important to be complete and as objective as possible for the proposal.)

You also need to submit a proposed design. I was very lucky that Neven Mrgan, designer at Panic, has also owned guinea pigs and offered to design the sample. His guinea pig emoji so good, I want to start using it right now! But the earliest it’s likely to appear would be spring 2021, and it might not even be accepted. I would be disappointed, but I will still be very happy that I got this proposal together and submitted it for consideration.

My Favorite 25 Star Trek: Voyager Episodes, Ranked

Today is the 25th anniversary of the premiere of my favorite Star Trek series.

You might say I am a big Voyager fan. I put together a guide to every Voyager episode with ratings and descriptions. I launched a podcast called Voyager Revisited for fans of Voyager and for those who might like to revisit their earlier opinions. 🤨

But there is nothing harder than choosing and ranking one’s favorite episodes. It’s like being asked to choose your favorite tribble. And it would be futile to claim that these rankings will never change.

But today, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of a show that I love, I have compiled my top 25 Voyager episodes. I may feel differently tomorrow, next week, or far off in the future, but here they are.

LLAP, Voyager cast, crew, creators, and fans.🖖

  1. Deadlock (S2E21)
  2. Counterpoint (S5E10)
  3. Year of Hell (S4E8 - 9)
  4. Equinox (S5E26 - S6E27)
  5. Basics (S2E26 - S3E1)
  6. Gravity (S5E13)
  7. Dragon's Teeth (S6E7)
  8. Dark Frontiers (S5E16 - 17)
  9. Faces (S1E14)
  10. Flashback (S3E2)
  11. Distant Origin (S3E23)
  12. Living Witness (S4E23)
  13. Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy (S6E4)
  14. Timeless (S5E6)
  15. Blink of an Eye (S6E12)
  16. Workforce (S7E16 - 17)
  17. Eye of the Needle (S1E7)
  18. Tuvix (S2E24)
  19. Random Thoughts (S4E10)
  20. Real Life (S3E22)
  21. Critical Care (S7E5)
  22. Dreadnought (S2E17)
  23. Future's End (S3E8 - 9)
  24. Shattered (S7E11)
  25. Child's Play (S6E19)

7 Seven-Of-Nine Episodes to Watch Before the Picard Premiere 🖖

It’s one month until the new Picard series is here. When I saw Seven in first trailer, I shrieked with joy at the prospect of spending more time with this character. And I started rewatching Seven episodes of Star Trek: Voyager to prepare, using my handy Voyager Viewers’ Guide.

Expect this topic to come up, when Picard airs, on my Voyager Revisited podcast.

Picard premieres on January 23. That’s 11.5 hours of television to watch over the next month. You can do it.🖖

Scorpion (S3E26, S4E1)
Voyager makes a deal with The Borg in order to defeat the even more deadly alien species 8472. Seven of Nine is designated to work with the Voyager crew. Captain Janeway takes an active interest in the welfare of this borg who was assimilated when she was a young human girl. And that gets this whole thing started…

The Raven (S4E6)
Seven has only been on Voyager for two months, when she starts hearing Borg voices and experiencing a clear case of PTSD. We learn something about her background, and we see how the crew pulls together to help save her. Throughout the series, Seven has given the writers an opportunity to portray mental health issues.

One (S4E25)
The crew must be put into stasis to avoid the deadly radiation of a nebula that they must pass through on their charted course. The radiation does not affect Seven, so she is left with the responsibility of monitoring the ship and the crew for a month, alone except for the Doctor. The psychological toll of isolation is high for a human who is a former member of the Borg Collective.

Bliss (S5E14)
Voyager finds a wormhole that leads directly back to Earth, but Seven of Nine suspects that it may not be what it appears. Neither she nor her sidekick Naomi Wildman (the Kitaran-Human girl who was born on Voyager in Season 2) have a personal interest in Earth, and are immune to the siren call of this wormhole.

Dark Frontiers (S5E15-16) When Captain Janeway devises a plan to steal a transwarp coil from a damaged Borg sphere, the mysterious Borg Queen learns of the plan and uses this knowledge in an attempt to return Seven of Nine to the Borg by issuing her an ultimatum: rejoin the Collective or watch as Voyager is assimilated. This episode flashes back to Seven’s parents and the events leading up to their assimilation.

Someone To Watch Over Me (S5E21)
The Doctor teaches Seven about making friends, dating, and romantic relationships. This is a key episode in Seven’s evolution and her close bond with The Doctor.

Equinox (S5E26, S6E1)
Voyager finds another Federation starship, the USS Equinox, stranded in the Delta Quadrant. But they also find that the Equinox crew is harboring a dark secret. Janeway seems to lose all human perspective, while Seven gains hers.

Relativity (S5E24)
A popular episode in which Future Seven is sent back to undo a sequence of events in which Voyager is destroyed. Bonus: Seven gets a Starfleet uniform and one pip.

Survival Instinct (S6E2)
Seven encounters three ex-Borg with whom she had been temporarily separated from the Collective eight years previously. This episode illuminates the impact of being assimilated as a child compared to most Borg, who were adults when they were assimilated.

The Voyager Conspiracy (S6E9)
Seven investigates a massive “conspiracy” involving the Federation, the Cardassians, the Caretaker, and numerous other alien races, which indicates that Voyager was deliberately stranded in the Delta Quadrant. This is the episode that cements the tight relationship of trust between Seven and Janeway.

Tsunkatse (S615)
Championship wrestling in the Delta Quadrant. This might not be a key episode to Seven’s story, but I love The Rock, who guest stars, so I am including this.

Unimatrix Zero (S6E26, S7E1)
Seven is drawn into a virtual reality that some Borg drones inhabit during their regeneration cycles. It’s one of the best Seven/Borg Queen/Janeway stories ever. Even Torres and Tuvok take a turn on the Borg ride.

Confession: OK, eagle-eyed readers with strong math skills will notice that this is more than 7 episodes. I tried to come up with a short list, and I did leave some things out, but I couldn’t cut it down to 7. These are the 12 episodes about Seven Of Nine that you should watch to understand this fascinating character’s story arc. (Feel free to suggest which 5 are irrelevant, you soulless Borg! Comments welcome to @voyagercast on Twitter and…)

Spider-Man: Into The Polyglot-Verse user Dominik Höcht posted that he liked the animated film Spider-Man: A New Universe. At first, I thought there was a new Spider-Man film I hadn’t seen.

But instead, I learned some fun translation facts. In English-speaking countries, the title is Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. But in many places, the title is Spider-Man: A New Universe, translated into the local language.

And then there are a few interesting exceptions:

  • Slovenia: Spider-Man: Novi svet (New World)

  • Russian: Человек-паук: Через Вселенные (Through The Universes)
    (Note that the Russian name for our hero is “Man-Spider.”)

  • Ukraine: Людина-павук: Навколо всесвіту (Around The Universe)
    (“Man-Spider” again.)

  • Czech Republic: Spider-Man: Paralelní světy (Parallel worlds)

The French and the German versions have titles in English, but not the original “Spider-Verse” title:

Portuguese is pretty interesting.

  • Brazil: Homem-Aranha: No Aranhaverso

  • Portugal: Homem-Aranha: No Universo Aranha

“Aranha” means spider. In Brazil, they actually created a word for Spider-Verse.

I wish I had time to delve into the reasons behind all these variations. If I were to apply to graduate school today, I would go for Comparative Lit and I already have a dissertation idea. 😂

(The source for these titles is the IMDb listing for the film.)

Microblogvember: Micro All The Things!

On October 31, I mentioned to founder Manton Reece that I had seen references to a challenge called Blogvember. It sounded like a nice writing exercise for those who wanted to rededicate themselves to daily blogging, much like NaNoWriMo does for novel writers.

Micro All The Things!

Ever since I became the community manager of, I’ve developed an appreciation for the beauty of going “micro”: microposts, microcasts, micro meetups, microcosms of interesting humans interacting online on a human scale. I always think of prefixing things with “micro-” now, so I wondered if “Microblogvember” would have any appeal. I put the question to the community and got an enthusiastic response.

I came up with a simple way to generate daily random prompts (less work for me!) for people to incorporate into a short micropost (less work for everyone!). It was really fun and inspiring to see so many folks participate. Many commented that they were happy to have a nudge to get back into a daily writing habit.

This is what I like about a micro approach. Start with something small, and build on that. It also works with podcasting, for example. has spawned several microcasts (including our own Micro Monday) by making it easy to start small.

Starting small is great. And it’s also important to recognize the value of staying small, if that suits you or your project.

As I write this, there are fewer than 24 hours to go in the calendar day November 30, 2019. Today’s word is integrate. I look forward to seeing more posts from the community, as folks integrate blogging into their day.

A Few Lessons

1) Plan! Unfortunately, the idea didn’t hit me until October 31. It was already November 1 in some places, particularly New Zealand and Australia, where we have quite a few community members. Now that I know, I will be looking at my Focused 2020 Wall Calendar to schedule future challenges and get the word out in a timely manner. (We decided to extend the prompts into December, to give anyone who missed the beginning a chance to do 30 posts and earn the Microblogvember pin.)

2) Time zones make things a little awkward. For a calendar-based challenge like Microblogvember, I felt it was important to provide new prompts on the correct date in time for our friends on the other side of the International Date Line, a concept that gives me a headache! That might have been distracting for people who were still working a day behind. I have done challenges that just have numbered days, i.e. Day 1 is Day 1, regardless of the date, but then the Kiwis and others would be starting on November 2. I will be mulling this over, and would appreciate any feedback.

3) The random word generator was an excellent tool. It saved me from my natural inclination to curate a “perfect” list. Sometimes we got a word out of left field (woebegone?), but overall, the resulting list worked well. I plan to keep this tool handy, if only to give myself a random word when I need a theme or inspiration.

The 2019 Microblogvember Prompts

1: key
2: mark
3: fancy
4: mean
5: street
6: stick
7: frightening
8: star
9: cold
10: space
11: touch
12: stay
13: able
14: neck
15: murky
16: selective
17: superb
18: build
19: abate
20: second
21: hollow
22: hum
23: woebegone
24: company
25: secure
26: mix
27: rich
28: property
29: fantastic
30: integrate


I noticed a few references this week to an idea called Blogvember. It’s like Inktober, with daily prompts for inspiration for blogging rather than drawing.

So of course, I wondered if we could do Microblogvember, to encourage folks to post something short on their blogs everyday. Spurred on by enthusiasm from the community (and friends on Twitter!), I’ve come up with this plan:

1) Every day I will go to a random word generator to get the latest prompt and post it.

2) Participants write a micropost, 280 characters or fewer, that includes the prompt word.

In the spirit of other challenges, you can do any variation of this that suits you: write something inspired by the word, write a longer post and link to it, etc. But I’ve made the basic instruction as simple as possible, so it’s fun while helping you flex that writing muscle and establish a daily writing habit.

On, you’ll earn a new Microblogvember pin for your account. (Manton and I are still working out the exact details of the requirement.) Use the abbreviation “mbnov” or the word Microblogvember so we can credit you for the post. Just post at least once a day in November, and you’ll earn the pin. (And if you haven’t yet earned the 30-day blogger pin, you’ll get that too!)

Email me if you have questions email

Daily Prompts

November 1: key
November 2: mark
November 3: fancy
November 4: mean
November 5: street
November 6: stick
November 7: frightening
November 8: star
November 9: cold
November 10: space
November 11: touch
November 12: stay
November 13: able
November 14: neck
November 15: murky
November 16: selective
November 17: superb
November 18: build
November 19: abate
November 20: second
November 21: hollow
November 22: hum
November 23: woebegone
November 24: company
November 25: secure
November 26: mix
November 27: rich
November 28: property
November 29: fantastic
November 30: integrate

note: We’ll supply prompts through December 6, as promised, to give folks a few extra days to complete 30 days of microblogging during Microblogvember and earn the pin.

December 1: horrible
December 2: panoramic
December 3: knock
December 4: wrist
December 5: verse
December 6: bewildered

Twenty Years Late to "Law & Order: SVU" Fandom

I do not mind admitting I am addicted to Law & Order. I don’t remember exactly when it was added to my TV-watching diet. That would be like remembering when you started breathing air. For the last 20 years, if you were channel surfing on a hotel room TV, you’d invariably find an episode in syndication. The fact that you could usually start watching in the middle of an episode and still enjoy the story, thanks to the twists and turns, made it perfect channel-surfing material.

I am a fan of the original series and cast, and a HUGE fan of Vincent D’Onofrio and the Criminal Intent franchise. But I have always avoided Special Victims Unit. A series devoted to sex crimes against women and children struck me as too depressing. Until last fall…

I don’t subscribe to cable TV. Even when I had basic channels, I didn’t keep up with cable box updates, since I had Apple TV and Roku, so I didn’t even get limited service I paid for. But last year, I cut cable completely and bought an HDTV antenna. Suddenly, I was back to four networks, broadcasting in real time, just like when I was a kid. I watched the Season Premiere of The Good Place, which I also love. Being sucked into couch potatohood, I decided to stay tuned to NBC for the 20th season premiere of Law & Order: SVU to satisfy my curiosity.

I had no idea how hard I would fall for the star Mariska Hargitay. Until the 13th season, she was the co-star, with Christopher Meloni, with emphasis on the “co-”. Every time I caught a bit of SVU while channel surfing, Meloni’s character was generating the majority of the story’s energy. A flawed father of five with major anger management issues, the character of Elliott Stabler could not be ignored. The actor left in 2011, reportedly over contract issues.

Since then, Hargitay’s character, Detective Olivia Benson has been the heart and the soul of the show. After watching Season 20 of SVU, I went back and rewatched starting Season 12. And I realized, “Wow, I like the Stabler-free version of this show so much more.”

It goes beyond great acting. Hargitay has become a trained rape counselor. She has produced an Emmy-award-winning documentary for HBO about the travesty of untested rape kits, an institutional failing that denies justice to victims and allows criminals to attack again. On SVU, Hargitay allows me to feel safe, to feel that someone on this show actually cares about violence against women as I watch some of the “most heinous” crimes in the L&O universe. (I still skip some that are too upsetting. If they do a Brock Turner- or a Brett Kavanaugh-based episode, I’ll pass.)

I also appreciate watching a woman my age as the lead of a TV action show. Benson is a great role model. And a rare one. I generally gravitate to British detective shows, with lots of fantastic complex mature female characters (Check out the great shows featuring Jane Tennison, Vera Stanhope, Sam Ryan, Catherine Cawood.)

Congratulations to everyone associated with this show, as of tonight the longest-running prime time show in history with Olivia Benson the longest-running prime time character.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Lack of Likes

I like this piece by Frank Chimero about how a function meant to encourage positivity (e.g. the Like button) ends up encourage active negativity, as there is no way to express disapproval except through negative comments.

I’m reminded how I changed my mind about Likes after joining In the beginning, I assumed that Manton would be adding them, along with follower counts. But now I’m glad we have a platform that encourages positive personal engagement with a community of bloggers.

All Structures Are Unstable. (Knees Included)

One of my favorite passages from A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. I’ve been thinking about it a lot during this long wait to regain mobility. My mishap was a big lesson in how quickly your life can change, and how little you control what happens.

As I was walking with a friend through a beautiful nature reserve near Malibu in California, we came upon the ruins of what had been once a country house, destroyed by a fire several decades ago. As we approached the property, long overgrown with trees and all kinds of magnificent plants, there was a sign by the side of the trail put there by the park authorities. It read: DANGER. ALL STRUCTURES ARE UNSTABLE.

I said to my friend, “That’s a profound sutra (sacred scripture).” And we stood there in awe. Once you realize and accept that all structures (forms ) are unstable, even the seemingly solid material ones, peace arises within you. This is because the recognition of the impermanence of all forms awakens you to the dimension of the formless within yourself, that which is beyond death. Jesus called it “eternal life.”

After 44 Years, I'm Finally Brave Enough To Watch "Jaws"

When Jaws was first released, first as a book then as a movie, my teenaged self said “No way am I reading/seeing that! I’ll never be able to swim in the ocean again.” As a Miami kid, that was a legitimate concern. But despite the fact that I never saw it, I was still to afraid to go swimming in the ocean, or really anywhere.

I am very suggestible. A publisher’s jacket designer can plant an image of a huge shark with all the gnarly teeth about to gulp down a teeny tiny swimmer, and it stays with me forever.

My pals at The Incomparable network chose this for the Old Movie Club podcast series, and I decided to join in. Since I am already too afraid to swim in the ocean, I may as well see it. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit and it was a fun discussion. [Listen here.]

Once I watched Jaws, I decided I may also as well read a book that piqued my interest years ago, Close To Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks Of 1916 by Michael Capuzzo. “Jaws” was influenced by this story, which took place in the era when bathing in the ocean became acceptable as an activity, an era when men felt supremely confident in their ability to subjugate the natural world (despite the Titanic sinking four years earlier). Mass culture and communication could create mass uproar. Natural history mixed with cultural history is fascinating.

(Doing the podcast reminded me that I had goldfish named Jaws my senior year of college. The fish was completely orange except for a little white marking around its mouth, like lipstick. I won it at a carnival. Poor Jaws. We had a massive ice storm and freeze in North Carolina, our pipes froze, so my roommate and I decamped from our rural rental house to stay with friends closer in for a couple days. Jaws didn’t survive. 😢)

The Who, What, When, Where, and Why of Micro Monday

As we look for new ways to facilitate discovery on, I wanted to recap one of our original approaches to helping you find people to follow: Micro Monday. If you are new around here, you may have seen folks making Micro Monday recommendations and wondered what that’s all about. Here’s everything you need to know about our platform’s weekly ritual!

We launched Micro Monday on January 8, 2018. had just opened up to the public in December, and people were eager to find other people to follow. The idea was inspired by Follow Friday, the Twitter convention, but we wanted to distinguish ourselves from Twitter, and Monday was a day that started with an M. 😊

We also wanted to encourage people to think a bit differently, and rather than recommending a long list of Twitter handles (which I rarely clicked through because it was too much work to figure out who to follow), we strongly suggested that a Micro Monday post consist of one recommendation plus a short description of why someone would want to follow that person. (If you have multiple people you want to recommend on the same Monday, feel free to make multiple Micro Monday posts!)

If you use the phrase “Micro Monday” in your recommendation, it will automatically be added to the Micro Monday feed. You’ll also get a special Micro Monday pin on your account page. We generally add Micro Monday recommendations to the Discover timeline as well.

In March 2018, we launched the Micro Monday podcast. (Subscribe here.) Manton had been working on a podcasting feature for, and I wanted to test it. We will publish Episode 65 tomorrow. Each episode features a member of the community. It has been a great pleasure to host this show and talk to so many of the people behind the microblogs we enjoy. (Your Micro Monday recommendations help me find new people to interview, too!)

This month, June 2019, we launched a Micro Monday newsletter, to complement the podcast and provide updates and selections of some of the posts that caught our attention.

I hope this inspires folks to add their Micro Monday recommendations tomorrow and every Monday.

(A post about Micro Monday would not be complete without a shoutout to @smokey and his regular Micro Monday postings. He maintains a page of his recommendations on his blog too, a great source for finding people to follow.)

Where Discover Doesn't Help

A discussion is going on about how to discover people with your interests when the Discover timeline doesn’t really help. In a post in this thread, Khürt wrote:

I’d like to discuss F1 and photography and hiking in New Jersey etc.

I actually share Khürt’s frustration when it comes to my own niche interests.

As I review the main timeline of posts, I haven’t seen anyone else express an interest in the topics of F1 or hiking in New Jersey. In my case, I am passionate about Star Trek:Voyager, and even have a podcast about it. There are some ST fans on, but not enough passionate ones to engage in regular conversation or to build an audience. So I scrapped my plans for quitting Twitter because I wanted to be able to reach a larger audience for a niche interest, and Twitter has zillions of Trek fans.

Quitting Facebook meant that I lost my connection to thousands of guinea pig owners. On, we have four that I know of. But I was sick of Facebook, so the tradeoff was worth it.

Khürt also said:

The Discover feed is useless. Hand picked by people who don’t have similar interest to me.

Discover is intended to feature all the topics that people here post about. Anything that meets our guidelines gets added, while striving not to have one person or topic dominate the feed. I intentionally exclude software development posts for the most part, because that interest group is firmly established. Manton even created a special WWDC feed this year to separate that topic from dominating.

We are not filtering out topics like F1. There just are not any posts to add. For a lively community on that topic or other specialized topics, you probably need to find a forum or follow hashtags on Twitter.

When I interviewed Gabriel Santiago for Micro Monday (aka @Gabz), he made an interesting observation:

To be honest, at first I felt out of place because most of the people I happen to follow are coders, developers, engineers, things that I am not… Then I realized they are just normal people and we have common interests.

For general interests such as food, music, film, travel, kids, pets, etc., I think is pretty great. I have gotten a window on so many interesting experiences around the world. For some niche interests (such as the pen and paper notebook folks), it does offer an engaged micro-community. But for others, it’s not yet reached a critical mass and I don’t know if it will in the near future.

Tip: One of the Discover curation guidelines is the Buddy Bench principle. If you want to find someone who shares a particular interest, write a micropost asking “Hey, are there any fans of ___ out there?” We add posts like that to Discover.

Curating the Discover Timeline is a blogging platform with a social engagement component. We have a timeline where you can follow and interact with other bloggers. Sometimes it feels like Twitter, because of the timeline, mentions, and conversations. But there are key differences, built into, to make it a safe and sane place to share ideas with others.

For more details on the differences, see my Guide To For People Who Have A Love/Hate Relationship With Twitter.

In our quest to keep people safe from harassment or harmful viral waves of trolling, we limit the usual parts of a social network like search and trending posts for discovering new people. We do want like-minded people to be able to find each other on We tried a few strategies in the beginning: a short list of people to follow, then a photo gallery of the images that microbloggers were posting. Neither was really working for us or for the community.

And then we came up with the Discover timeline. It’s a simple general timeline, with entries culled from everything posted by registered microblog accounts. As Manton recently wrote in his essay on Open Gardens, at, we are curators, not gatekeepers. You control the posts on your own blog, and when you choose to follow someone, you see all of their own posts in the timeline. But for Discover we want to provide an easy-to-skim cross section of posts, so the culling is done by hand: no algorithm, no upvoting, no promotions. And from the response we’ve received, it is a very popular feature with the community.

The curation is done by me and Manton. We thought some of you might be interested in how we choose what to add to Discover. Here are the basic guidelines:

  1. Our goal is to start conversations, not arguments. We almost never include political posts for this reason.
  2. Posts that fit into the 280 character limit, not truncated, are preferred. Sometimes a link to a longer post is included, if it has particular relevance for the community. But in general, the Discover timeline should be easy to skim and read without clicking through to outside links.
  3. No expletives. Not everyone enjoys that kind of language.
  4. No obvious reposts from Twitter or Instagram. The Discover timeline reflects our vision that posting first on your own blog is best.
  5. Limited hashtags. does not support hashtags which can accelerate the spread of fake news and harassment. So we don’t want to confuse people by including hashtags in our Discover timeline. If an otherwise Discover-worthy post has a single hashtag, it might be included.
  6. One or two photos at most. Too many photos affect skimmability of the timeline.
  7. The Buddy Bench principle, as explained by Patrick Rhone. We include posts from people who are seeking out others with similar interests and questions. The Discover timeline can be a digital Buddy Bench, where our community can connect.
  8. The posts we include are from people, not companies or organizations.

The Discover timeline has evolved and will continue to evolve with the community. The guidelines will evolve too. We want to have additional curators from the community. We need to build some tools to make that possible. It would be particularly nice to have curators who can encourage discussions and connections in languages other than English.

Thinking About App Camp: Amazing Accomplishments That Are Hard to Scale

It’s been a week since the news was announced that there wouldn’t be the App Camp For Girls program in Summer 2019 and that the board of directors would be exploring options for furthering the mission of the organization by other means. I said I would write a proper blog post once I had a chance to process my feelings, and this is it.


(This is a really long post, and there are some nice photos at the end. I thought I would post a photo here at the beginning to balance things out, so you won’t have to wait until the end for photos. This is me and App Camper Aysa. We got to go on TV after the first AC4G beta session in June 2013!)

Jean and Aysa, Live at 7


Back to the blog post:

The board’s announcement noted that the 2019 preregistration numbers did not make camp programs feasible this year, and:

“It has become apparent that the high-touch, high-craft model of App Camp is difficult to scale and the high cost per camper is not financially sustainable.”

I have not been a member of the App Camp board for some time, but I understand and support the board’s decision. The program had a great run. We showed hundreds of kids that they could make apps and they should feel empowered to pursue a career in the software development industry if they wanted to.

Over my years as founder/director of App Camp, I have learned that this financial sustainability is a harsh reality. My original idea was to model the program after Rock’n’Roll Camp for Girls. At Rock Camp, participants learned how to play an instrument, form a band, write a song, rehearse, and perform in a showcase at a local music venue. As a volunteer and board member at that organization, I saw firsthand how the experience excited and empowered youth in an endeavor they’d never tried. Rock Camp is an awesome program, but every facet of it is much less expensive than an app development camp.

At App Camp, we taught app brainstorming, UI and icon design, coding, marketing and pitching the finished apps. The participants, usually 12 per camp, worked in teams of four, using design tools and Xcode, under the supervision of an adult who themselves had overcome the barriers of gender inequity. Each camp location had an organizer to manage all the logistics, a lead developer to teach coding and to handle troubleshooting, a design coach to teach design principles and help the kids individually. We had a presentations coach come in on the last couple days to help the kids with their Keynote decks and prep them for public speaking.

This program, which required many specialized volunteers and a lot of hardware, was expensive to run. We thought we could scale the program, both by increasing the size of the camps and by launching more camp locations in other cities.

In 2016, after four years, managing 16 sessions in 5 locations with over 60 volunteers, I learned a thing about myself: I am not executive director material. I got into this endeavor so I could work with kids and inspire them, yet I spent most of my time as unpaid administrator. I was burned out trying to make this camp model work, and so were local camp organizers, some of whom had to step back reluctantly because the demands on their time and energy were so great. In 2017, we experienced our first contraction in the number of locations.

I sought out experienced non-profit professionals who helped me and the board see that a paid staff was needed to:

  • develop a strategic plan;

  • manage the organization and the camps;

  • significantly increase the level of fundraising;

  • improve the outreach to kids and families;

  • recruit/retain the necessary organizers and volunteers.

Since then, the board of directors has employed professional executive directors. Unfortunately, the goal of making the program sustainable remained out of reach. The costs per participant grew as the number of participants decreased. I know each member of the board has been dedicated to App Camp’s mission. Volunteers themselves, the board members have worked very hard to identify new solutions to the scalability and sustainability questions. I support the conclusion they have come to, given the realities of the program:

Rather than move forward with the likely outcome of disappointing campers, their families, our volunteers and our donors, we felt it would be more productive to take the time to research other ways to use our resources to support our mission.

This was a hard conclusion for an organization and program that is so well-loved. For those who are frustrated with this decision, please direct your frustration at me. I established a model of camp that doesn’t scale, and I tried to scale it. I had a vision that App Camp participants could learn to build an app in a week. I knew from Rock Camp that the joy of writing and performing a song in one week was magical. I knew from my own experience that building even the simplest app and running it on my iPhone was life-changing. But the cost of making that happen is high, both in terms of funding and in many dedicated hours of volunteer work. And, by working as an unpaid director for so long, I contributed to the false impression that the camp’s model was sustainable when it wasn’t.


(You’re about 2/3 through this long post. Would some emergency guinea pigs tide you over until the end? These are Grace and Ada, almost 5 years old, named after legendary computer scientists Grace Hopper and Ada Lovelace.) guinea pigs


Back to the rest of this blog post:

Accepting the reality that the goal wasn’t feasible does not take away the amazing accomplishments our team has made. Over 250 girls, transgender, and gender non-conforming youth made an app in one week. They also learned how to design their app and pitch it. For many of them, camp was truly life-changing, and I believe they will take this experience of empowerment in technology with them through their lives. And they got to spend time learning about tech with their peers and making new friends.

It was not only the youth who benefitted. The volunteers, most of whom learned Xcode and Swift along with the kids, were also empowered to level up in their own careers. In addition, they found a community of women, transgender and gender non-conforming adults who became friends and offered mutual support. The fact that the volunteers were able to benefit from the program was a bonus outcome for the team and the organization.

This includes me. I was used to having mostly male colleagues in tech. App Camp changed that forever. I will never forget the day I met App Camp co-founder Grey Osten at WWDC 2012. An app developer, Grey was the first person who believed in the idea that kids could learn to make apps in such a short timeframe. Kelly Guimont was my original personal cheerleader, a boundless source of energy who worked with Grey and me planning that first camp. The photo of the three of us with our three “alpha” pioneer campers during Spring Break 2013 is one of my favorites.

App Camp Alpha Session

For our first “beta” camp session in Summer 2013, Maia Olson and Momoko Saunders came on board and made it happen on super short notice to be team leaders. Liz Marley and Kristina Sontag came down on Thursday from Seattle because they really wanted to help. Again, this photo of the seven of us, completely exhausted but so happy because we made it work, is one I will cherish.

App Camp Beta Team

For our second session of 2013, Michelle Petruzzi volunteered to help out with logistics. We learned from the “beta” camp that we were seriously understaffed and having Michelle made a huge difference in organization of everything from badges to lunch breaks to kid wrangling. In the off-season, Michelle agreed to be our part-time Operations Manager and that was key. Our ambitious 2014, 2015, and 2016 seasons wouldn’t have been nearly as awesome without Michelle’s steady hand and friendly manner backing us up. Sadly though, we lost Michelle to pancreatic cancer in 2016, and that was a huge blow for everyone and the organization.

Michelle Petruzzi, operations manager

Under Liz and Kristina’s leadership, the Seattle team started their own successful location, and held a total of five summer sessions from 2014–2018. Next, teams from Vancouver BC, Phoenix, Orange County, Chicago and Minneapolis/St. Paul put on sessions. I have so many great memories from these locations and their dedicated organizers and volunteers. You all have a place in my heart.

Seattle Volunteers 2014

We have also have the most incredible group of supporters in the Apple community and the tech world at large. Our initial Indiegogo campaign reached its goal in 3 days! At WWDC 2013, before we even held our first session, the WWDCGirls team offered to host a cocktail hour fundraiser for camp. Each subsequent year they organized a bigger fundraising party, and eventually combined forces in 2016 with James Dempsey and the Breakpoints to make their annual LIVE near WWDC event into a benefit show for our cause. The show is a highlight of WWDC week for me (I’m a Conditional Breakpoint, playing guitar on a couple songs) and became our most successful annual fundraiser. In addition to James, I want to express my profound gratitude to the organizers from WWDCGirls Michele Titolo, Jaimee Newberry, and Jane Lee, as well as the hundreds of folks who showed up to these events and contributed.

James Dempsey, LIVE near WWDC

(You can see so many more fantastic photos and videos on the App Camp For Girls website. It still astonishes me to see how much was accomplished since the launch of camp.)

Of course, I am sad that things will change. I’m encouraged to see so many new programs springing up since we started. The board is dedicated to making sure that the assets of App Camp For Girls are used to support our mission; that’s the primary goal of the transition. Everyone – volunteers, donors, sponsors, aspiring young developers, and the board – have a lot to be proud of.

As for me personally, after I turned over the reins of App Camp For Girls in 2017, I joined developer Manton Reece who created a new blogging platform that also includes a social community with anti-harrassment standards. I am very passionate about the tools and experience we have built at since our launch. Building a safe space to blog and interact on the web, based on open standards that offers an alternative to the social silos like Facebook and Twitter, is another way I can put my energy into bringing a better experience to those who are currently underrepresented in tech and whose voices don’t get heard on the internet.

You can reach me at blog is at See you at WWDC. I’ll be focused on producing another awesome LIVE near WWDC show with James and the other Breakpoints, and we are holding the 3rd annual WWDC meetup. I’m also planning to attend Release Notes Conf in October.

Star Trek: Voyager — A Viewer's Guide

I have published a viewing guide to Star Trek: Voyager. It’s a big project that I’ve worked on as a hobby for over a year in an effort to provide a constructive response to those who have watched a few random episodes and declared Voyager is not good.

I have 95 episodes to recommend, about 60% of the total. Episodes are rated:

Y = Yes! A must-watch; these episodes are great, or at least important to the story and characters.

S = Skip. Unless you’re interested in a particular character or story.

N = Nope. Even I don’t rewatch these episodes. Some of them are truly dreadful.

I included the IMDb ratings, in case you’re curious about what the collective thinks. I generally agree with those ratings, but there are a few exceptions because I have my own biases. I try to note that where it’s relevant. (Spoiler alert: I have a crush on Tom Paris. Gingers are my weakness…)

I wouldn’t have put this amount of effort and heart into a TV show viewing guide without deeply personal motivations.

My Voyager Voyage

As a little kid in the 1960s, I watched Star Trek. I loved everything about it, but I especially loved Mr. Spock. He was handsome like my father, pointy ears and all. Some of the episodes really scared me, like The Doomsday Machine, which featured an enormous cylinder of unknown origin that just went around the galaxy destroying planets. Seven-year-old me worried such a thing could actually exist.

By the time The Next Generation aired, I was in the “No TV” phase of my life. I attended graduate school for four years; most of the time I was in the library. Even after I left school and went to work in New York, I was living with a man who was a terrible cultural snob and disdained TV watching as an activity. (He was from Buffalo, so we did get a TV in time to watch the Bills lose in the Super Bowl. Four years in a row…)

So I missed the second wave of Star Trek television including TNG, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. I might have seen snippets if I was at someone else’s house, but I didn’t see any complete episodes on a weekly basis.

In Spring 2011, I had a terrible cold, a TV of my own, and a Netflix subscription. I treated myself to the first binge watch of my life. I must have been pretty sick, because my recollection is that I watched all seven seasons of Voyager in a couple weeks. It was fun. It was a great show, but I didn’t think much about it.

A couple years later, I returned to Voyager for a rewatch. It was Summer 2013, and I was running the inaugural session of App Camp For Girls in Portland. I was up until midnight every night, prepping the next day’s materials so we could teach middle school girls how to make iPhone apps. As a way to wind down before sleep, watching Voyager seemed like a good mindless choice to me.

Instead, I found myself watching Janeway and making mental notes. She became my idol in leadership. Nerves of steel, yet kind and compassionate. Fair. And badass when she needed to be. At camp, I had a new mantra: What Would Janeway Do?

In 2014, discussing some of the criticism of Voyager with my friend and fellow Voyager fan Brianna Wu, I tweeted, “I think the series is held to a higher (aka double) standard.”

I hadn’t really noticed it before, but once I started to pay attention, it was so obvious. The mostly-male fans of Star Trek never gave this show a chance. Without watching it from beginning to end, they’d claim Voyager wasn’t as good as their favorite series.

The truth is, when you watch a whole series, you develop a completely different relationship to the characters and stories. If you dip into the series randomly, you don’t have a stake in it.

Gratuitous and uninformed sniping at Voyager continued to make me mad. I finally decided to channel that energy into a a viewing guide that would allow potential fans to avoid the truly bad episodes, skip the ones that aren’t relevant to the ongoing story, and be sure to watch the best episodes, as well as the episodes that are important for understanding the series.

I’m not arguing that every Star Trek fan is obligated to watch every episode of every series. But you cannot claim a series is not good if you haven’t really watched it. I know from my own experience. I didn’t really like Deep Space Nine. The characters mostly get on my nerves. The religious underpinning of the plot is baffling. It’s a war story, the opposite impulse from “seek out new forms of life and new civilizations.” But I had only watched a handful of episodes from the first two seasons. When I learned that the host of Random Trek, Scott McNulty, considers DS9 his favorite, I decided to give it a real chance. I watched the whole thing. I still don’t like it as much as I do Voyager. But I appreciate what is great about Deep Space Nine now.

Voyager is good, in the estimation of legions of fans. It is the most watched Star Trek series on Netflix. It has some of my favorite characters, it travels far, and and it encounters so many different alien species.

But most importantly, it has three major characters who are women: strong characters who are not relegated to second-class status, who are not pigeonholed as healers, counselors or switchboard operators. And one of them is captain. Seven-year-old me could never have imagined that.


(photo: meeting my hero at a booksigning in Seattle, 2015)

A Day Off

Late last night I saw the Christchurch news breaking as I reviewed posts for the Discover timeline. It was such a shock. This morning I woke up to read the latest updates and the shock is even greater. You know that feeling when you first wake up, and you wonder if some bad news was a dream?

We don’t keep stats here, but in my experience, we have quite a high proportion of Kiwis in our small community. I feel so sad for them today, and for all the Muslim community that is so senselessly attacked.

In the face of such horror, I feel I have nothing to add today. So I am taking a day off. Thanks to Sameer for posting these photos of his mosque.

Preparing to Delete Facebook Is Hard Work

It’s hard work to delete Facebook. I resolved to do it a month ago. On January 31, 2019, the day I had planned to click “delete,” I was in Austin to do some work with Manton. I felt a bit overwhelmed that day, and decided to postpone it a day or two so that I could make sure all my Facebook ducks were in a row.

But then I realized I had much more to do. I had set up an email newsletter for people who wanted to stay in touch via the occasional news and guinea pig photos. (I’m calling it a friendsletter.) But I wanted to be sure I found at least one alternative way to connect with Facebook friends I did not want to lose touch with. So I’ve been combing through my Friends list and confirming emails and/or phone numbers. I also ordered some custom photo postcards to share via the postal mail. Email me your address if you want one! (

I’m ready to click “delete” now, but I thought I would share one more post with tips on preparing to delete a Facebook account, before my account is no longer accessible. This Mashable article had the best tips. Here are a few steps you will want to take before deleting.

1) Download your archive.

Go to Settings > Your Facebook Information > Download Your Information to request a download. There are two formats: JSON and HTML. You should download them both. If you decide you want to move your data to another platform (using Ditchbook, for example), you’ll need the JSON files. The HTML files are good for viewing your archive in a browser.

You have the option to specify the quality of media files included. Even if you choose the highest quality, the photos in your archive are still going to be crap. Hopefully, you still have your originals somewhere!

I recommend that everyone download these files now and have a look at them. The JSON files in particular, recording every iota of activity, are a stark reminder of how every little thing you do is noted. My downloaded archives were about 300 MB each, by the way.

2) Sign out from any apps that are using Facebook or posting on your behalf.

I never trusted the idea of using Facebook to sign into apps and websites. This paid off for me. There was only one app that was still listed, EventBrite, but I have an email-based account with them.

(The Mashable article also recommends deleting your Facebook activity history, but this is really a setup for a joke. You would have to click on “Edit” for each item and delete it manually. “But, the option is there, so if you have an eon or two of extra time at your disposal, knock yourself out.”)

Even if you aren’t planning to delete Facebook, it’s probably worthwhile to think about how you would do it. Maybe the perspective will impact your Facebook habits going forward, so that if the time comes, you won’t have Facebook more entangled in your online life than necessary.

So this time I’m really really going to do it. I’ll be clicking that delete button in two days, giving my Facebook friends a little time to see this post, in case they are interested.

(photo: Grace would like you to sign up for our email friendsletter!)


Yesterday, I made the tough decision to cancel my trip to LA for Gallifrey One. I have been getting over a cold, but I might have powered through–until the moment my temporary crown cracked in half.

It took me a while to make the call. I kept picturing the decision being about giving up this super fun weekend with fellow Doctor Who fans and lots of my favorite podcasters. But really, the choice was not super fun vs. staying home. Super fun was no longer on the table. The choice was me possibly dragging through a weekend with a cold and a molar ready to cause me extreme pain vs. staying home, not spending any more money, and not being stressed about getting myself ready for another trip.

There’s FOMO, and then there is what I’m calling FOGo, fear of going. The latter won out.

If life was a series of obvious decisions between something awesome and something not-quite-as-awesome, it would be easy. But in most cases, the choice is not clear. If it was, it wouldn’t really be a choice, would it?

(PS. Tonight, the new temporary crown cracked, and I am SO glad I am not scheduled to get on a plane tomorrow. Back to the dentist in the morning. I wish all my Whovian friends a terrific time, and I’m sorry I will miss it.)

Congratulations. Now You're A Podcaster.

While listening to the latest edition of AppStories with John Voorhees and Federico Viticci, I learned that Apple released a new iPad Pro ad, “A new way to host your own podcast.”

Like John and Federico, I was particularly curious how Apple would show the world how to podcast from an iPad Pro. But I was really disappointed to see Step One: “Download the Anchor app.”

Anchor is a venture-funded podcast hosting service that offers everything for free. By now, I think folks should be circumspect about using a silo to host their creative work. Manton Reece, founder of, wrote:

I want my own podcast at my own domain name so that I’m not dependent on a company that may or may not be around in a few years.

Think about Facebook. At some point, Anchor will have to monetize your podcast. I have no doubt. And your podcast will be hosted at their domain,, making it difficult to move it to an independent platform.

My goal with Microcast Studio is to help folks navigate their way to publishing podcasts on their own terms. Follow me here as I publish tips, reviews, and how-tos to get started with microcasting, which I call the gateway drug to podcasting. And then we can say, as Apple does at the end of the ad, “Congratulations, now you’re a podcaster!”

A podcaster who controls their own content.

My Moment

(Darn it! I missed the exact anniversary.)

On January 16, 2017, I wrote an email to Manton Reece, declaring my interest in the role of community manager at

Have you ever found something so compelling that you couldn’t stop thinking about it? When I read Manton’s plans to hire a community manager, a stretch goal in the Kickstarter campaign to launch a new blogging and social media platform, I had that feeling: this is me. In my memory from then, I took some time to think about it before throwing my hat in the ring for something that was still quite speculative. A day or two, as one should, to reflect about how this position, not at all what I was looking for, would fit my life and change my life.

Yet, when I dig into that historical archive that my email has become, I discover that I might have waited an hour or two at most. I wrote to Manton on the same day that he announced he would be looking for a community manager.

My community building and PR skills might fit well with what you are doing with I am very intrigued with the concept of a community manager who manages the line between openness and harassment.

I had already put the wheels in motion to transition App Camp For Girls to a paid professional non-profit staff. I was eager to get back into the business of software. I couldn’t have predicted that I’d be working in a web-based, cross-platform, software-as-a-service business, implementing independent web standards in contrast to the corporate social media silos. But I read that Kickstarter update, and I was hooked.

Now I am making plans to step back from those silos (Goodbye, Facebook) and go all in at I write more than I ever have before, blogging regularly here at my personal site. I’ve “met” a bunch of internet friends who have reinvigorated my passion of the web.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Goodbye Facebook

A message for my friends at Facebook:

For almost two years, I’ve been working as the community manager at a new blogging and social media platform called It’s a blogging platform, like WordPress, but it’s optimized for short posts. It also has a social timeline where you can follow bloggers and engage in conversations. It’s built on open standards, which means you control your content and can move to another host at any time. It’s ad-free, supported by fees paid by people who want us to host their blogs. It doesn’t interfere with the chronological timeline, so anyone who follows you sees all your posts in chronological order. (You might think that would be the standard in social media, but it’s not.)

Offering an alternative to the closed corporate social media silos is a key part of our mission. The other is creating a safe space for a community engagement that is free of harassment, guided by community guidelines that are enforced.

Working with founder Manton Reece has been one of the best collaborations I’ve ever experienced. I have learned so much from him, and I feel like I have a lot to contribute. He has very specific ideas of how we get out out of the mess that Facebook and Twitter have created in our personal, business, and civic lives. I have come to share his vision, and we are pretty excited about the future

The more time I spend on, the worse I feel about participating in other social networks: the creepy targeted advertising, the outrage, the endless lists of tips that imply something is wrong with me, all the notifications and suggestions that are intended to capture more of my time and attention for the benefit of the platform.

For example, about a year ago, I decided to stop following Facebook’s instructions to “wish a happy birthday.” It felt so false. Instead I texted, emailed, or called the person. If I didn’t have someone’s contact info, I didn’t wish them a happy birthday. Which seems right.

It’s time for me to pack up my presence on Facebook. The company’s actions regarding privacy, harassment, and political manipulation make me very uneasy, and I don’t want to support it any longer. I don’t want to lose touch with people I’m engaged with here. I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with old friends, cousins, my godmother and her family, and I will be making an effort to keep those connections alive. I have a few options to offer if you want to keep up-to-date and in touch.

1) Subscribe to a personal monthly email that will include updates on me, my family, my critters, work, and travel (including my July trip to Slovenia). Of course, there will be guinea pig photos in every email, guaranteed.

Instead of newsletter, I’m calling it a “friendsletter.” I don’t care if 2 or 20 or 200 people sign up for it. I’ve turned off all the tracking and stats on this account, because it’s not intended to be a list for marketing. It’s just a low tech way for people to keep up-to-date. And if you reply, I’ll answer you back.

2) Send me an email with your email address and (if you like) your street address. I plan to send out more quick notes, photos, and postcards going forward.

3) Follow my personal blog. You can add it to your RSS reader, if you have one. If you don’t have an RSS reader, I suggest you try one. If you don’t know anything about RSS (Really Simple Syndication), here’s an introduction. It is in fact really simple, a great way to keep up with new material on websites without having to visit each site individually.

4) Listen to my podcasts. The Weekly Review is a good choice if you are interested in how to better manage your life, even if you’ve fallen off the organizational wagon a few times, like me. My cohost James Dempsey is a great friend who helps me on the way to my goals by keeping me accountable. He is also a great songwriter who wrote our catchy theme song. I do a few podcasts. I also like helping people start podcasting.

I have downloaded all my Facebook data to keep, and I will be deleting this account on January 31. I don’t want to contribute any more of me to Facebook’s relentless data marketing machine. The company has not proven themselves worthy as the steward of what I treasure most: my relationships.

Hope to keep in touch! - Jean

(Update, Feb. 22, 2019: I clicked the Delete button today. It took me more time to get eveything prepped than I expected. My post “Preparing to Delete Facebook is Hard Work” has some tips for others contemplating making this move.)

PS. I’m also quitting Instagram, which is being ruined by Facebook. I’ve already loaded all my Instagram posts on to my blog. There are a lot of good guinea pigs and dogs on Instagram that I will miss, though. (Update, Feb. 22, 2019: And cats! I didn’t mean to dis all my kitty friends.)

PPS. Next month, I’ll sign off from Twitter. I’m working on a strategy for that. (Update, Sept. 25, 2019: I did not quit Twitter. Yet.)

My Word for 2019

I used to engage in the practice of choosing three words for the New Year instead of making resolutions, which was popularized by Chris Brogan, a writer whose work has inspired me since I saw him at SXSW 2010 speaking about Trust Agents.

Then my friends Pace and Kyeli suggested trimming this down to choosing just one word for the year. And that felt good to me. I was getting a bit obsessive about picking three words, and one year I could only come up with two.

This year, I decided I would pick my 2019 word on New Year’s Day. When I woke up this morning, the word “grace” came to me.

I have certainly benefited from “unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification” (Webster). I consider myself fortunate to be here for another New Year’s Day. 2019 will be a big, challenging year; regeneration and sanctification are on the agenda.

The word as a name works for me, too. There are several people named Grace who inspire me. And, of course, I have a constant reminder to stop and remember my word for this year.

All my best wishes to you for 2019. Let me know how you get inspired.

A Month In Slovenia

A few months ago, one of my podcaster comrades from The Incomparable, Anže Tomić, posted a link to a YouTube video that completely captivated me… which was surprising because the video featured people in Slovenia speaking Slovene. But once I started, I found that it was weirdly entertaining to watch people speaking a language that I didn’t know.

“I could learn that language,” I thought. “I could do an extended stay there, and take a course.”

I’ve done this before, but it’s been a very long time. I’ve studied French in France and German in Germany. I even studied Russian in Vermont. I love learning languages, and it’s been a long time since I learned a new one. I started looking into the options in Slovenia. Everything I learned about this small country located between Italy and Croatia got me more interested, and a plan started to form.

In the past, when I decided on learning a language, it was always with an eye to its utility, i.e. will this language help me get a job someday? For Slovene, I’m pretty sure the answer is “Not at all.” And the sheer lack of practicality made the choice more compelling. It’s also the chance to immerse myself in a Slavic language again. I love the Russian language. It’s beautiful and challenging.

And so, the vaguest outline of a plan was taking shape. But I wasn’t listening to my heart, or at least not taking it seriously. Who in their right mind goes to Slovenia to learn Slovene for fun?

In early November, Cate posted a tweet that caught my attention:

Everything is terrible lately? Let’s find something to be cheerful about… suggestions:
1) something you accomplished
2) a thoughtful thing someone did because they care about you
3) something you are looking forward to
If you have an answer for all three, your prize is hope 💜

That particular day, I was feeling hugely unproductive, bordering on useless. At first glance, I could think of NOTHING that I had accomplished in 2018. But I forced myself to give it some thought, and realized, “Wait a minute, I’ve been producing three podcasts every week. That is not nothing.” And a little dam broke, and suddenly I felt capable and even hopeful again.

I replied:

1) I hosted/produced over 100 podcast episodes.
2) People sent me nice tweets when I missed a conference due to illness.
3) Planning travel to somewhere I’ve never been. I have a cool idea.
You’re right! I do have hope.

Number 3 was the Slovenia plan. I hadn’t realized that I was quite looking forward to it. It had been a long while since I had a concrete plan for extended travel, my favorite kind of travel where I rent a flat and get to know a place, the people and the language.

So, big thanks to Anže and to Cate, who helped me reconnect with a passion I nearly forgot about. I’ll be flying in and out of Munich, and spending the month of July in Ljubljana, studying at the Centre for Slovene As A Foreign Language. The most important details (flights, flat, course, pet sitters) are sorted. I’ll be learning as much Slovene as I can in the meantime with the goal of placing out of the beginners’ level, starting with important vocabulary such as “morski prašički”, i.e. guinea pigs.

Giving Away The Sun

The Sun: Independent, Reader-Supported Publishing

In each issue of The Sun you’ll find some of the most radically intimate and socially conscious writing being published today. In an age of media conglomerates, we’re something of an oddity: an ad-free, independent, reader-supported magazine.

(Sound familiar?)

I have been a subscriber to The Sun since 2001, when my internet friend Marya gifted me a year’s subscription. I immediately became hooked on this monthly treat of writing and black-and-white photography, beautifully produced without a single ad. It’s nearly impossible for me now to go back to reading the typical commercial magazine that is almost half advertising.

Each issue of The Sun is so nice and filled with such good work, I can never bear to toss them into the recycling bin. But I don’t want to hoard them either. I currently have a large stack of issues that I want to give away to anyone who wants one. They go back to 2013. Each issue has a beautiful photo as the cover, an in-depth interview with a noted thinker or activist, poetry, photos, essays and short stories. My favorite section is called “Readers Write,” a collection of short writing on a specific theme each month submitted by readers.

Why am I doing this? Because I love this publication and I want more people to have a chance to experience it. Maybe it will even inspire you to subscribe, maybe not, but at least one story or photograph will further your understanding of the human condition.

If you like the vibe at, you’ll probably like The Sun, but the offer is open to anyone who asks. Send me your mailing address and I’ll be happy to send you a copy, more or less chosen at random. My goal is to give away 25 issues. I’ve already given away four as a test, so only 21 to go!