There are two situations I don’t like being in: being bored and being overwhelmed. Shouldn’t that crap end after college? I think everyone can relate.
Four weeks ago, I decided to become a Task Rabbit to make some extra money. I’m on a kick to get out of debt as fast as I possibly can. What is a Task Rabbit you ask? Well, basically someone’s, anyone’s, bitch.
I work as a virtual assistant for a bunch of people through the website. The tasks are extremely varied. Someone right now wants a rabbit to pick up cupcakes and deliver them to a friend for her birthday. On Monday. At 6am. Extra money for dancing. I totally bid. But last week I read a BOOK and summarized the chapters for a total of, you guessed it, $8. This came out to less than $1 an hour. The VA marketplace is all over da map.
As I struggle to find time to blog, I thought I would use this entry to share a few takeaways from my whole experience.
No. 1: COMMUNICATE – oftentimes the posters don’t know how to articulate exactly what they are looking for. If you want a good laugh, just sign-up to be a task rabbit and look at some of the descriptions.
No 2: Do not take on too many tasks at once. You end up letting people down, and then you just want to relieve the pressure by eating a lot of ice cream (which you have delivered, of course). And then you gain weight and lose your pride.
I wrote this in-between tasks and mini-Twix breaks. Excel is waiting.
Studies have shown (I prefer to bury the lede thank you) that the happiest people are busy, but not overwhelmed. Good to know; now, how to get there?
This past weekend a 26-year-old young man in Brooklyn committed suicide by hanging. His name was Aaron Swartz. You may not have heard of him, but this blog post, the Internet, techdom today – all owe him a great deal.
Aaron has been in the tech spotlight for over a decade. He is credited with developing RSS (that little feed you can add to your email client so that you see when a web site has been updated). He worked with Reddit. Recently, he was in the news – and was awaiting trial – for stealing a bunch of articles from JSTOR to put on the net for public access. Apparently not for financial gain.
I don’t understand the technical stuff – but essentially, while Swartz was a student at Harvard (ironically), he used MIT’s network to access JSTOR. He began downloading thousands of articles, changing his IP address each time JSTOR peeps started getting suspicious. He eventually ended up figuring out how to get past the system, put his laptop in a closet in some building at MIT – the same closet a homeless man used to store his belongings – and downloaded millions of articles from the humanities’ database. Parties had settled (JSTOR abandoned civil charges), and everything was wiped clean…until a federal prosecutor decided in 2011 that Aaron deserved further punishment (after MIT contacted the authorities). At the time of his death Aaron was facing up to 50 years in federal prison if convicted of the crimes committed against MIT.
None of the articles I’ve encountered had explicit answers as to how a potential conviction might have affected Aaron’s decision to take his life, but almost all mentioned it. While Aaron suffered from depression, Aaron’s family made specific mention of his legal issues in their public statement: “Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts US attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death.” As of today, 25,000 people have signed an online petition that asks the White House to remove the prosecuting attorney in Aaron’s case. (The charges have been dropped in light of Aaron’s death.)
If Twitter is anything to go by, the tech community is up-in-arms. But I realized today – the rest of the world has stayed pretty much silent. What gives?
We live in an exciting and malleable time, and sometimes I think we forget just how exciting it is. And what kind of implications there are. The Internet has changed everything – information is democratized, and we all have access to it. If knowledge is power, we’ve got a new playing field. Perhaps institutions that are typically in charge (governments, universities, corporations) aren’t too thrilled with it all, for understandable reasons. As a society, we’ve been taught to worry about technological progress, to fear the hacker. He has become different, the “Other.” He is not one of “us.” It’s kind of 1984.
I can’t pretend to know enough about the government’s or MIT’s side to make an educated judgment on what’s happened. I do know that from my perspective – someone who’s interested in tech but doesn’t understand it – there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground. It is often in those instances where there isn’t that middle ground that we should examine society’s narratives and dialogue surrounding the issues in question. If there isn’t a dialogue already, it’s time to start one; wherever we stand, get things out in the open and take the stigma and power out of uncomfortable issues. Right? Wrong? Let’s talk about it.
Bottom line: there is rarely something more tragic than losing someone who has so much left to give to the world. By all accounts, Aaron had only just begun.
Illuminating links to Aaron’s work and thoughts. How he read so many books in one year beats me-
National suicide prevention lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK(8255)
Most people outside of California probably haven’t heard of Huell Howser. A fixture in public television in Los Angeles for 25 years, Huell hosted and produced the ubiquitous “California’s Gold” series, in which he traversed the state in search of the cool, amazing and little-known. Much of the time he didn’t run into the cool and amazing (the episode chronicling his trip to In ‘N’ Out’s headquarters potentially the exception), but he did run into the left-behind, tedious and even sad. It was how he reacted to all of it that was remarkable.
He died Monday at the age of 67. The outpouring of sadness in this state has been really beautiful.
As far as I know, Huell had no surviving family members. He wasn’t married, had no children. I think there is a general consensus that he was gay, but I don’t know if that’s relevant.
I first found out about Huell in 2009, a result of a conversation with my then-boyfriend Greg. Greg had just seen Mr. Howser at the grocery store, and Greg called me afterward with an urgent energy I couldn’t understand. Who is this Huell Howser? This guy must be something special, to make a grown man at the grocery store excited.
My relationship with Huell was cemented later that year when Greg got sick and had to take six weeks off of work. I wasn’t working at the time, and Greg and I spent our stolen, lazy days lying on the couch watching public television. (Greg didn’t and still doesn’t have cable.) We made fun of Huell’s Southern drawl – Kaliforneeya’s Gawld – and were constantly in awe of his awe. He was excited by everything – the butterfly that got into the shot, the people who walked by, the Socal woman who furnished a room using only lint! I remember one episode where Huell interviewed the employees and management of a plant that manufactured grass, as in on-the-ground GRASS, for corporate clients. And there was Huell, in his yellow button-down and shades, the epitome of the invisible protagonist in Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now, grateful for the experience and excited by everything he heard.
Huell stayed with me as my life circumstances changed. As Greg and I started dating other people. As life threw its inevitable wrenches. I kept episodes of the spin-off Visiting with Huell Howser on my DVR, probably just so I could listen to Huell’s voice anytime I wanted to. I made it a goal to meet and interview him one day.
I didn’t know Huell was sick. I don’t think anyone really did. He was such a fixture and larger-than-life figure that it didn’t seem like he would ever be gone. Right now it seems like nothing has happened, with his show, seemingly asynchronous, still airing in re-runs. But over time his absence will seem more profound – especially the absence of his joyful voice, which once upon a time narrated my life.
I’ve come to the realization that sometimes you’re just going to write shit.
Travel – for business and pleasure – is kind of an unavoidable luxury these days. Part of the fabric of our culture, and certainly a favorite pastime for many a man with an online dating profile. It’s just not cool to admit you don’t like traveling. So…yeah! Of course I love it!
For me, it means a few months of pre-travel panic. Everything must be perfect – legs shaved, eyebrows plucked, pores extracted, hair highlighted and cut, teeth whitened, pounds lost. It’s anxiety. And when you’re away from home, it’s living in the moment, feeling the heartbeat of life and not having enough “familiar” around you to ignore what you’ve been repressing. Travel is a jolt, a way to shock yourself into looking at things as they really are. Scary.
But not liking travel doesn’t mean you don’t see the beauty in it.
My favorite part is getting home. Unpacking. cleaning. Ah, sweet routine. I thought I lost you!
But your eyes are new too. You can’t look at things quite the same way again.
A trip last year to Monaco to visit a dear friend actually turned out to be my saving grace. After a year at a job that I wasn’t sure I was a good fit for, it was an opportunity for me to realize – I can still function in groups! I haven’t lost the ability to laugh so hard it feels like a 9-year-old David Beckham kicked a soccer ball directly into my abdomen! While my daily routine at home was different from what it felt like it should have been, it didn’t mean I had lost who I was. I needed space – apparently a distance as wide as that between Los Angeles and Monte Carlo – to see it.
I do feel grateful I got to go on the cruise last week, but it’s a mindful struggle to remind myself I didn’t fail. It’s a struggle that apparently requires outside assistance: “Dad – are you sure it wasn’t a failure? I mean, I didn’t have the right amount of fun! It didn’t meet my expectations!”
We are told we have to like to travel, that everyone wants to travel. That we should be grateful. Well, Jeneration Why, travel IS a revelation, but it’s also a crapshoot. Maybe we don’t always have to go so far from home to cultivate a new perspective. Or to “fit in.”
We’re here. In the middle of the ocean. We dock in Jamaica tomorrow, where I will partake in some snorkeling. Considering that the ocean is one of the things on my least-favorite-things’ list, looking forward to it!
We got upgraded to a room with an ocean balcony. I sat on it. It was hot, so I went back inside.
The only time I have had seasick-ness (not in the “sick” sense, but in the “oh, we’re moving” sense), was last night, lying in bed.
The Internet is costing me .45 cents per minute. Hence the brevity.
Cruises are fun. Can’t decide whether they are kitchsy (don’t have time/money for spell-check) or heaven on earth. Both prolly. I think the Apple dude in the “Celebrity iLounge” is a little worried that I’ve been in here over an hour. Most people are rocking the Internet for five min max.
I look forward to posting more in-depth thoughts as soon as I have a chance!
I’ve never been in love. At least I don’t think.
Yeah, LA has offered me a “stable job” in a “rough economic climate” and given me the opportunity to make a few “friends” I can “shoot the sh*t with” and count on “when times get hard.” But that’s the small stuff. What about the fact that The New Mickey Mouse Club‘s Ryan Gosling is practically a neighbor? You know, somewhere in the city? The triple-threat talent, soft-spoken feminist and movie star who I must interact with at least once in my lifetime in order to validate my existence as a human being?
I have seen a lot of stuff on the streetz lately.
In his autobiography (yes, read it. yes, signed copy), Fiddy Cent talked about how in the ‘hood your car is all you got – it’s the mobile way to show people you’ve made it, cause if you a crack dealer you can’t be takin people back to your house. It was a really insightful theory. I love Fiddy Cent.