“Can You Conference Me In?”

content is content

Nicole: Hello!

Ester: Hello! How’s the West Coast this morning?

Nicole: Cloudy, but that’s no surprise. How are you?

Ester: Sunny and expensive in New York, also no surprise. But I have a Diet Coke and I’m happy. So, you and I were talking the other day about CONFERENCES — professional, academic, etc. How does one decide whether it’s worth it to go? And then how does one feel on the other side, besides dehydrated and exhausted?

Nicole: I used to go to a lot of conventions, and I’m making the distinction between conventions and conferences here, because the latter is usually a professional development thing and the former is kinda an excuse to hang out with friends and talk about shared interests and enjoy adult beverages, possibly while wearing themed costumes related to shared interests. But for me I think “whether it’s worth it to go” comes down to a few factors: is it close by, am I getting paid (at least in part) to attend, and will there be other people attending whom I want to see? What do you think? I know you’re thinking about attending a conference and I’m totally blanking on which one!

Ester: Hahha yes! I’m considering AWP for the first time, which will come as a surprise to Ben if he reads this. (Hi, Ben!) (This “informing our spouses of stuff via the site” thing is a lot of fun for everyone.)

Nicole: LOL.

Ester: I’ve never been to a proper convention or conference before. At one of my old jobs, I got to attend a professional conference for scholars in a specific discipline twice and it was fascinating: I got to sit in on a couple of panels and even asked a question once. It was like being back in college! But I was also very much aware of being on the periphery. I didn’t rock out at night with my compatriots, for example.

Nicole: I think you should definitely go to AWP, and I say this as someone who has absolutely no skin in the game. But I think you should also think about what you want to get out of AWP. READ MORE


Share, Don’t Scroll: How to Do Internet on Vacation

No Internet, deal?

When my husband and I went on our honeymoon, we had no smartphones and Wi-Fi wasn’t prevalent yet. In fact for part of those blissful two weeks, the only internet we found on our wind-battered Brittany paradise was a shared laptop perched on the side a local bar. One night we sat with drinks and checked our email and saw that an essay I’d written about our wedding had been published, and a slew of laudatory responses had arrived. We got all gooey and sentimental. Then we ate freshly-caught mussels. Things were pretty great. The internet was a friend.

Three vacations later, we’re bound for France again, slightly more beaten down by that crazy thing we called Adult Life, but no less excited and eager to escape the continent together. The daily routine we’re leaving behind has become quite different, too: this time we’re negotiating how many hours of the day we can use our smartphones, and when those hours will be. If we bring a computer for creative writing purposes, how will we handle the fact that every hotel and Airbnb now advertises its free and easy Wi-Fi? How can we avoid the same sticky webs of the web that catch us up at home?

Today, it’s less that we’re entwined with work and more that we’ll be relying on the web for travel arrangements, schedules, and for a kind of fun we didn’t even know existed in 2010. For instance, why would we deny ourselves (or ourselfies, if you will) the pleasure of a daily Instagram or two and the admiring comments that come with that uploading process? In our shareable world, Instagram feels like a legitimate way of getting joy out of a vacation and immortalizing time spent a beautiful new place. And what about an occasional Foursquare check-in and accompanying Tweet? That way, when we get home and look back at our Foursquare trail, we can see and remember all the cool little cafes we checked into.

That having been said, I do spent a lot of time at home staring at my smartphones, scrolling through Twitter. The point of vacation is to stare at stuff like: Art. Menus. The Sky. Each other.

So I offer you set of rules, some of which have been brainstormed with my significant other and some of which are specific to your humble neurotic blogger.  READ MORE


Two Weddings, One Summer

OCI’m getting to that age—the age in your twenties when a portion of your summer is dedicated to witnessing people you know get hitched. This summer was the first time I attended more than one wedding. Some numbers:

Wedding #1

Attended as +1.

Dress: I spent six hours over two days trying on dresses because the ones I had weren’t “wedding guest appropriate.” By the end of the experience I was pretty miserable, so my mom took pity on me and paid for the dress when I found one. $0.

Accessories: Purple necklace I’ll never wear again except with the dress. $20.35.

Transit: Public transit to the venue was going to cost $18, but it turned out my boyfriend had the time of the ceremony wrong by an hour and a half. I re-read the invitation the morning of and we had to hurry and borrow our roommate’s car to make it in time. He made my boyfriend sign something saying he was liable for damage to the car, so, worst case scenario, if we totalled his car, this could have cost about $18,000. Boyfriend gave him $20 for gas, but since I’m not the one with the reading comprehension problem, I paid $0.

Gift: Chipped in for honeyfund. $40.

Food: Because of the mix-up, we didn’t have time to eat at home. $9.58 for a burrito and drink after the lovely ceremony.

TOTAL 1: $69.93



Friday Estimate

U.S. OpenGood morning! We’re cutting out early today for our one last long weekend of the summer and we hope you will be doing the same! Meaghan will be off the internet and on vacation for most of next week. Okay, let’s get to some estimates!

I’ll be finishing up a housesitting stint and also attending the U.S. Open this weekend, which I haven’t done before and am really excited about. I may also have dinner with some friends. My estimate is $200.

And how will you be spending the long weekend?


Let’s Throw Some Money at Our Problems: August 2014 Check-in

It’s time to check in on our debt payments and savings goals again. If you’re joining us for the first time, you can read about our decision to publicly keep track of our debt here.

Pull up those balances!



Good Enough Homes & Destinations: What You Get For $240,000

The Grey Lady is packing bathing suits and plastic bags (to hold wet bathing suits) and towels and face sunscreen and body sunscreen and aloe and moisturizer and hardly has time for Great Homes and Destinations this week. Her magic number is $2,400,000, which is again and always hilarious. What’ll that get you?

The three-story house has an elegant foyer on the first floor. To the right is a den with chestnut paneling and a coffered ceiling; a flat-screen TV over the fireplace is hidden behind a painting. To the left is the living room. Ceilings on this level are more than 20 feet high. Updated kitchen appliances include a Wolf range and a Sub-Zero refrigerator. Both the kitchen and the dining room open to a terrace and a bluestone patio overlooking downtown Providence.

A rich lady in Beverly Hills once showed me how, at the press of a button, artwork on the wall of her bedroom rolled aside to reveal a flatscreen TV. She was so proud.

We’ll see if we can find some houses with secrets in today’s installment of Good Enough Homes & Destinations: What You Get For $240,000.

cambridge md



The Billfold Book Club: David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done’


It’s hard to write about a book that literally changed your life.

What can I write about Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity besides “it changed the way in which I interact with the world?”

Still, I’ve got “write BBC GTD” on my list for today, so I had better see what I can come up with.

The Productivity System

On the surface, Getting Things Done is a system of tracking responsibilities. That’s the part of GTD that tends to attract the most readers, as well as inspire productivity blogs like Merlin Mann’s (late, lamented) 43 Folders.

I’m guessing that some of you read the book and thought “wow, I can just write everything down!” and others read it and thought “wow, I really have to write everything down?” READ MORE


The Most Correct Way to Grill Vegetables on a Stick


In a few days, grills will be ceremonially set ablaze for Labor Day (“it’s the end of summer,” we’ll say, even though the first three weeks of September are still summer, technically and temperamentally). Many of those grills will be piled high with vegetables. Good: Direct heat and smoke can do lovely things to plant matter. But the most common technique for grilling vegetables, the kebab, is performed incorrectly by the vast majority of American grillmasters of the universe—even though most other countries mastered the technique sometime around the time it was discovered that fire hurts when you touch it.

Stabbing things with a skewer and putting them over open flame is just about as primitive as it gets, and we still do it because it’s 1) a convenient way to grill bite-sized pieces of food 2) fun and 3) delicious. Pretty much every culture has independently invented some version of the kebab, whether it’s brochette or yakitori or pinchos or satay or döner. For some reason, we Americans have chosen to ignore all of these kebab styles in favor of just one: shish kebab, a mutant version of Turkish şiş kebab that is a fairly simple riff on skewered grilling. If one had to pick a single way to grill vegetables until the end of civilization, it’s not a bad choice at all, with dominant flavors of lemon, oregano, mint, and olive oil.



Surprise! Women Are Criticized More Personally in Performance Reviews

working girlI just got in a big, insane fight with a woman at the library and I am steaming mad and this article about the disparity with which men and women are treated in performance reviews? Well it is completely unrelated but it certainly isn’t helping!

There’s a common perception that women in technology endure personality feedback that their male peers just don’t receive. Words like bossy, abrasive, strident, and aggressive are used to describe women’s behaviors when they lead; words like emotional and irrational describe their behaviors when they object. All of these words show up at least twice in the women’s review text I reviewed, some much more often. Abrasive alone is used 17 times to describe 13 different women. Among these words, only aggressive shows up in men’s reviews at all. It shows up three times, twice with an exhortation to be more of it.

Writing for Fortune, Kieran Snyder followed an anecdotally-supported hunch that women’s careers were often undermined by perceptions of abrasiveness. She collected performance reviews, functioning as a written record of perception, from men and women in tech — 248 reviews from 180 people (105 men, 75 women, 28 different companies). READ MORE


When Restaurant Workers Can’t Afford to Eat


In July, the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) of New York, an organization dedicated to improving wages and conditions for people who work in restaurants, released a report called “Food Insecurity of Restaurant Workers.” The report, based on surveys and interviews with people in the restaurant industry in New York and San Francisco, shows the ways in which the employment conditions of restaurant work make it very difficult for workers to feed themselves.

Though the low-wage nature of serving, cooking and dishwashing is well-known, the report puts some hard numbers on this phenomenon: 32% of restaurant workers meet the USDA definition for food insecurity, more than twice the national average. (The definition of food security that the USDA uses is “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life”—food insecurity is measured by asking people if they ever didn’t have enough money to buy food, if they skipped meals, etc.) This is particularly jarring given that food prep—i.e. restaurant work—is one of the fastest growing jobs this decade, and the ROC report claims that it’s the segment of the food system that employs the most workers.

Specifically, the employment conditions the report writes about include wage theft, tip theft, failure to pay overtime, and a constantly changing work schedule (see: the Times’ Starbucks story).

There has been some great writing recently about the class dynamics and poverty aspects of working in the food industry. A few recent favorite of mine—which I’ve taught in an urban food studies class at Columbia—include Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones, and Butter, Tracie McMillan’s The American Way of Eating, and Molly Osberg’s “Inside the The Barista Class.” READ MORE