This time, something’s different.

Another day, another -6F on the mercury. Chicago remains cold and covered in snow. One upside, at least, is that it’s too cold for cloud cover, so the light is gorgeous and the sky a crystalline blue.

We’ve got something going for us now, though: birds are singing. I don’t know what kind they are, but there’s a nest wedged into the roof beams of my back steps, and I’m thrilled to hear some life out there each morning.

Inside the apartment, things are trucking along. I’ve done some applying, interviewing and networking, all of which I believe is going to bear fruit in some way or another. I’ve also rediscovered my fiction groove, and am reminding myself of my own words, that writing fiction is also something I want for myself, and it’s not just okay but necessary to give myself time to do that.

I’m giving myself other projects too. Radio was something I always wanted to try more of in grad school, but time constraints and course availability meant that I was mostly focused on written storytelling. Last week I put out a call for audio story prompts, which I am still taking — if you’d like to suggest something here in the comments or over in my Tumblr askbox or on Twitter, I would find that super exciting! Yesterday, on either side of a less-than-successful trip to the Apple Store, I spent my train trip collecting natsound — the rumble of the tracks, the squeaky door, the automated announcements, the click of the turnstiles. I remember one Medill professor calling radio “the poetry of journalism,” and in trying to get more practice with it, I’m starting to understand that a little more.

The day is young, and I’ve got emails/cover letters/fiction/cover letters to write, so — on to the link party! 

The problem I’m having with my MacBook is in the fan: it’s whirring loudly and heating up the lefthand cover of my laptop. My designated Apple Genius was able to clean a lot of dust out of the body yesterday, but when I got home, the constant, low-level whirring was still there. I’m going to have to find another solution, but for now, I’m masking it with this selection of white noise generators, which have had the bonus effect of helping my concentration tremendously. I recommend the 10 hours of crackling fireplace, though if you want music + lyrics, Chell in the Rain is a great option too.

Given the cold, I’m trying to find ways to keep active without bothering with subzero temperatures or gym memberships. This free 30-day yoga challenge looks like a possibility: it delivers daily routines into your mailbox. This is a model I’m really enjoying with Notes from the Universe, which emails daily affirmations in the mornings. It’s dorky, but it’s working.

I thought this infinite inkless pen was pretty sci-fi, until I skimmed the comments and saw that, like many great sci-fi things, the animating principle is closely associated with Leonardo da Vinci.

Alas, I broke my 25-day coding streak at Codecademy — Javascript is awful and I hate it, but I’m pushing through, because the challenge is interesting and good for me. Lifehacker has crowdsourced some additional great places to learn code online, if you’re interested in other learning models and want the added kick of being able to tell people you code.

Another hobby I’m picking up again is the ukulele. Having music in your life is A++, but ukuleles get a lot of flack for being twee hipster nonsense. And that’s true, but Vulture thinks you should lay off, because none of that stops ukuleles from being great.

There’s been another conversation going on about toxicity in online conversations, which… I have not been following, because I feel like I’ve been living it from the sidelines since about 1999. But a post at Feministing makes an excellent point about call-out culture, which is that mistakes cannot make human beings disposable.

The urgency of having conversations that upset people remains, though. This Tumblr post about magic and colonialism has had me and some of my friends thinking about worldbuilding in fiction, and how or why we must uphold or build around real-world injustice in our stories. I have a lot of feelings about systems like this: I loved seeing Islam as the universe’s default in G. Willow Wilson’s Alif the Unseen, and grew incredibly frustrated with the TV show Supernatural when, among things, it made the show about the primacy of the Christian Heaven and Hell, rather than giving all mythologies, including the Americana the show began with, equal consequence. (There’s even a whole episode in which a character is retconned as an archangel; in that same episode, Lucifer massacres a hotel full of gods, including some who are still worshipped by millions today. Is anyone else bored of this?) I’m always eager for recommendations of books or other media that take different systems for their internal logic — if you’ve got one you love, again, please let us know in the comments.

Relatedly, it’s always good to talk about how to make our fiction look more like the real world. Here’s N. K. Jemisin’s series of posts on how to describe characters of color.

Meanwhile, Getty Images and Sheryl Sandberg are doing a simple but powerful thing: actively working to improve the diversity of how women are portrayed in stock photography.

In school, during our newsroom quarter, I reported on veterans and military families. It was really my first time closely engaging with the realities of war on an individual level, and it was an immensely eye-opening, humbling experience. After War, a Failure of Imagination caught my attention for its insistence that the wider public harms service members when we shy away from “imagining what it’s really like.”

This week has also seen a lot of retrospectives on the 50th (!!) anniversary of the Beatles’ first U.S. tour. I enjoyed this interview with photographer Larry Kane, about what the Fab Four were “really like.” I was particularly interested in his comments about Ringo Starr, whom you usually think of as sort of an easygoing goof.

There are some stories I will always read, like dissections of the state of higher education. Sarah Kendzior is one of the clearest voices out there on the matter, and she gave a great interview to anthropology blog Savage Minds last year about fear among graduate students and the chilling effect that has on the academy.

I’ve typed this entire post standing. Someone on the Medill alumni listserv (yup, that one) recently asked about affordable standing desks. VariDesk got a lot of kudos, but who can resist a $22 IKEA hack? (My laptop is sitting on top of a convenient cardboard box. Hey, I’m in the testing stages on this one. So far so good, though.)

Let’s end with Ben Whishaw as Richard II in shades. I try to never miss an opportunity to share this. Happy Tuesday, everyone, and good luck. ❤

Actually, a pretty accurate representation of Richard II
Actually, a pretty accurate representation of Richard II

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