How to read more books

Replied to 8 Ways to Read a Lot More Books (

I read a lot of books. I agree with several of this author’s suggestions for reading more*:

  • Quit more books, earlier
  • Make your space comfortable for reading, and set it up to encourage you to read books over other activities
  • Always be bringing in new books and cycling out others
  • Track your reading

But I think he forgot an important thing: you should read books you actually enjoy. Reading will become much easier when you recognize that not everyone’s reading tastes will match yours — even your family and friends. Just because someone recommends a book directly to you doesn’t mean you’ll like it, or even that you have to try it. Just because a book is on a “best of” list doesn’t mean it’ll be meaningful to you.

Don’t treat reading as a chore, the brain equivalent of eating your spinach. Honor your own interests and read at whim, for pleasure. That means you need to learn to know yourself as a reader. The more you read, the better you’ll learn your own tastes, so you can choose books you’ll enjoy in the future and feel confident about quitting books you don’t.

*And if if turns out you’re actually not that into books as a storytelling medium, that’s totally fine too! There is nothing inherently virtuous about reading books versus watching video or listening to podcasts. If what you’re worried about is your ability to pay attention to long-form storytelling, you don’t have to win back your attention through books.

Tracy Durnell

24 Mar 2023 at 02:58

COVID ongoing, COVID eternal?

Bookmarked The reality gap (
The failure to recognise the ongoing severity of COVID-19 is creating a reality gap that is being filled by groups peddling misinformation.

“You don’t want to get this disease once if you can avoid it, and you don’t want to get it four times for sure.”

— Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Programme


The reality is that virtually nobody is immunologically naive any more yet we are still observing rampant transmission and continued markedly elevated levels of excess deaths. The pivot towards extolling the virtues of reinfections and breakthrough infections thus seems to be an attempt to rationalize the mismatch between those early claims and the objective reality around us…

Rather than recognising and educating the population about the well documented role of COVID-19 in cardiac and neurological damageas a consequence of vascular damage or auto-immune dysregulation, governments and policymakers have remained silent, thus allowing misinformation and disinformation to flourish. The end result…is that trust in vaccination as a whole is eroding, undermining the foundation of public health, beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

This forced normalcy doesn’t seem like it can last forever. There is too much actual economic impact to pretend forever, especially if reinfection truly does continue to carry cumulative risks of long covid so disability rises. We’re being sacrificed for capitalism but it’s not going to work. Same with climate change, though it will be too late to do much about it with quick results when we hit the really bad effects or hit positive feedback loops with dramatically large impacts like the melting of the Greenland ice and shutdown of the Atlantic Ocean cycle.


Tracy Durnell

24 Mar 2023 at 00:40

Work intensification

Liked How the Push for Efficiency Changes Us by Tara McMullinTara McMullin (
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg declared this the Year of Efficiency for the company. It was time for them to buckle down and get leaner, get flatter, and get more optimized... Efficiency initiatives are all about doing the same (or more) with less. And while sometimes that can be done purely through technology, *humans* often bear the brunt of efficiency initiatives.

Work intensification happens on two levels. First, there’s the amount and pace of work. In the case of layoffs and the euphemistic “restructuring,” that’s literally making up for the work that used to be done by one’s former colleagues by adding it to the remaining employees’ workloads. Second, there’s the type of work being done and its emotional or cognitive load.

Hard work, long hours, real commitment—that’s the recipe for moving forward. But it’s not as though it’s a temporary sacrifice for those who remain.

Waiting for the remaining workers at Meta and Amazon to unionize 😎 Not that my union was much help to me, but at least I had someone on my side.

Tracy Durnell

23 Mar 2023 at 23:54

Watched The 5 Secrets to Designing a Feelgood Home

Watched The 5 Secrets to Designing a Feelgood Home

The challenge

Not trusting yourself

  • stuck in inspiration mode
  • indecision and overwhelm
  • “design by default” (e.g. just pick the neutral)

these are symptoms that you’re overwhelmed by external voices and can’t hear your own inner voice

These feel like they apply far beyond simply home design, to all aspects of life decision-making.

–> to get unstuck, tune out others’ opinions, tune in to your own intuition

Prompt: secret room in your house — what is it like?

This is tricky for me because I’m too rooted in function, so would need to know what I’d use the secret room for first 😂 But I guess identifying what I’d want to do there could indicate a lack in my current space? 🤔

–> pay attention to the gap between your fantasies and your reality

See also: The fears that hold us back

See also: You need to know what you want to find joy

Starting with look not feel

Bad places to start designing a space:

  • picking paint colors
  • make a moodboard on Pinterest
  • make a floor plan
  • pick a style

puts the emphasis on how it looks instead of how it feels

See also: Make your home a sanctuary

See also: Coziness comes from life

Ignoring how spaces make us feel

How often do you feel…?

  • agitated, on edge
  • lethargic, drowsy
  • struggle to be productive
  • unmotivated, unspired
  • irritable, spiky

–> how much does your space influence your emotions?

Prompt: pay attention to how you feel in different spaces, what the energy is like

See also: Overcoming home design challenges

See also: When your space feels off

Thinking you need to buy new stuff to improve design

“When a home is just a collection of stuff, decorating becomes a shopping list.”

Designing a home isn’t an act of consumption. It’s an act of creation.”

Prompt: what moments do you want to create in your home? what’s one moment that matters you could design for?

The approach

–> pick three words (or a short phrase) to describe how you want the space to feel (can also do for whole house)

can also pay attention to how spaces currently make you feel

Prompt: describe how you want to feel in your home in 3 words

–> instead of feeling you need to “get it right,” focus on what feels good

–> think in terms of spectrum to help choose a direction (e.g. complex vs. simple)

The theory

  • Valence: how good or bad it feels
  • Arousal: how stimulating it is
    • too low –> draining, depleting
    • medium –> centered, balanced
    • too high –> irritating, agitating

Prompt: do you need to raise or lower your home’s arousal level?

Tracy Durnell

23 Mar 2023 at 18:10

Organizing information

 At tonight’s Homebrew Website Club, I asked for feedback on my new “Big Question” pages, which I’ve created as a way to group thoughts and writing on specific topics. I got some great ideas and food for thought and will be making some tweaks right away, while others I’ll need to think about a bit more.

Johannes suggested I start by considering how I would design the organization on paper, without letting the limitations of technology affect the way I presented the information. As he pointed out, especially on these new question pages, I’m trying to filter multi-dimensional content in a two-dimensional space. On paper, I might use all sorts of arrows and bubbles and connecting lines to help show overlaps and connections. I used to be a big fan of mind mapping as my first step for writing an essay in college, though I’ve gotten out of the practice. Then I could think about what was important to convey from that presentation of the info, and how I could adapt that for a webpage.

Tracy Durnell

23 Mar 2023 at 04:39

The suffragettes’ fight for equality

Liked A hunger striker's medal, a Danish love token, and Hello Kitty by Monica McLaughlin (Dearest)
The medal above was awarded to suffragette Ada Wright (1861-1939) by the English women’s suffrage organization The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), in recognition of her efforts in the campaign to grant women the right to vote... Wright was a small, slight woman who was tireless in her work for the campaign, contributing both funds and action.

The WSPU’s motto was “deeds, not words,” and in addition to organizing rallies and protesting outside Parliament, they also advocated more aggressive means of demonstration. Members smashed windows, set buildings on fire, and assaulted the police — sometimes in a deliberate effort to be arrested and therefore gain more publicity. When incarcerated, the women often went on hunger strikes and were brutally force fed.

In a bit of serendipity, last night I reread one of my favorite books, The Suffragette Scandal, about an investigative journalist and advocate for women’s rights — and this morning read this auction newsletter about a real-life suffragette’s hunger strike and advocacy.

Reading about the hell these women went through to change public sentiment makes it all the more distressing that a hundred years later, women’s rights — and women ourselves — are still under siege. And voting rights — even the very concept of democracy — seems at risk in America.

Patriarchal, woman-infantilizing attitudes remain strong in our society. Society diminishes the value of care work, which is perceived as feminine work, and belittles the romance genre and “chick lit” — books written primarily by women for women, whose sales basically prop up the book industry. Women who express strong emotions are dismissed as hormonal or hysterical.

I don’t buy the concept of heroes, but there are a couple women I particularly admire, who both happen to be involved in women’s rights:

  • In the past, Ernestine Rose, a Jewish freethinker immigrant entrepreneur and admired orator who agitated for suffrage and abolition of slavery
  • In the present, Courtney Milan (pen name), author of The Suffragette Scandal, a former lawyer who is a huge advocate for women’s rights and voting rights today, who has endured personal attacks for speaking up but hasn’t stopped calling out injustice — and also got the dino emojis adopted 🦖🦕

Milan obviously wrote with the knowledge of history, but I’ve found her framing helpful for present battles. In the book, I especially appreciate this passage:

“She raised her chin and looked him in the eye. “You see a river rushing by without end. You see a sad collection of women with thimbles, all dipping out an inconsequential amount.”

He didn’t say anything.

“But we’re not trying to empty the Thames,” she told him. “Look at what we’re doing with the water we remove. It doesn’t go to waste. We’re using it to water our gardens, sprout by sprout. We’re growing bluebells and clovers where once there was a desert. All you see is the river, but I care about the roses.”

Tracy Durnell

22 Mar 2023 at 17:30

Last chance on climate

Replied to Scientists deliver ‘final warning’ on climate crisis: act now or it’s too late by Fiona Harvey (The Guardian)
In sober language, the IPCC set out the devastation that has already been inflicted on swathes of the world. Extreme weather caused by climate breakdown has led to increased deaths from intensifying heatwaves in all regions, millions of lives and homes destroyed in droughts and floods, millions of people facing hunger, and “increasingly irreversible losses” in vital ecosystems.

I’ve dedicated my career to the environment, and particularly climate change. I studied ecology in college — the systems of nature that surround us. I consider it tragic when species that have developed over millenia to be specialized to their niche — a perfect puzzle piece in their ecosystem, complementing the other plants and animals there — are dying out because climate change and habitat destruction are occurring too fast for them to keep up. These intricately balanced systems are devastating to lose. Each species a wonder of nature that can never come back once it’s gone.

Species coming and going is the natural way of things, of course, but the rate of change is stupendous, and this time it’s caused by humanity.

We like to think we’ve made progress since the 1800s, but we have not when it comes to our perspectives on the value of ecosystems: we see their value as extractive, with anything not monetizable easy to dismiss.

I will keep hoping and working to stave off the worst. But I believe we’re locked in to at least 1.5c.

I try to always keep an upbeat attitude when talking about the environment because when people get too bummed out they give up on doing anything or feel disempowered — and every partial degree increase we can prevent actually does make a meaningful difference (even if we can’t hit 1.5, 2c would be much better than 2.5c or 3c! Especially if we want to avoid positive feedback loops of warming.). But an insistence on relentless positivity is toxic. Our society doesn’t make time to feel — emotions get in the way of productivity — so I wanted to counter that and take a moment to mourn.




And now, I can return to the long effort.

Tracy Durnell

21 Mar 2023 at 21:30

Editing photos in Affinity Photo

Watched Affinity Photo tutorial - Kodachrome Vintage from YouTube
The vintage analogue look is massively in vogue right now, and it’s simple to re-create the look and feel of a classic emulsion such as Kodachrome by using the handy toolset that can be found in Affinity Photo.

Admired the colors on a shot by Maique and he told me it was a Kodachrome filter 👀


  • Gradient map – with complementary colors
  • Curves – I rarely use the color channels and just adjust contrast, but maybe should play around with it
  • Selective color – reminds me of what you can do with the color tools in the raw editor
Tracy Durnell

21 Mar 2023 at 02:13

Accepting your role as a tourist

Quoted On Place📍 by Alicia Kennedy (From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy)
Place and travel are confused when the pursuit is an impossible immersion in an ever-shifting idea of "authenticity."

AirBnB and the idea that a tourist can have a local experience interrupt the significance and possibility of people to talk about and control their surroundings or define their cuisines.

The displacement of local people leads to the displacement of local culture and knowledge—and then what is left? A facsimile of what was desired in the first place: the all-important and ever out of reach “authenticity.”

Indeed, to go back to Zatarain’s point, to dismiss the tourist experience often means changing precisely what is a local experience.

This is the consistent problem of tourism: While sold as a way to strengthen the economy, it doesn’t actually support local people having the same opportunities and leisure time as the tourists.

Referencing Ana Karina Zatarain’s Texas Monthly piece “Why You Should See Mexico City As a Tourist.”

Above all, I noticed, many searched for an “authentic” experience, turning up their noses at places packed with “tourists,” a term almost vilified in the past decade or so by start-ups offering the possibility of living “like a local” wherever you go.

That’s the value, to me, in not attempting to mimic the “authentic” experience of a local but instead embracing your genuine condition as a visitor; in chipping away at the surface knowing that’s all that is really within your reach. Were you to come to Mexico City, I would tell you to explore the obviously grand but also to wander into the unknown and unlauded—the anonymous restaurant, for instance, where a mediocre meal might allow you to turn your focus on your surroundings and become conspicuous to yourself. What else do we travel for but to be able to observe ourselves in a new light?


See also: Travel as a capitalist, colonial dream of freedom

Tracy Durnell

21 Mar 2023 at 01:30

Using AI for facts is a cue to unsubscribe

 I just saw a post in my news feed reader where the author generated a list of (theoretically real-world) examples with Chat-GPT.

I immediately unsubscribed.

My husband says I’m being unfair. But I see it as a measure of quality: if you use Chat GPT to generate examples, to me that indicates you don’t care about being factual. To trust any generated list I would need an assurance it was fact-checked — which might be slightly faster than just doing the research in the first place but still require time. If you can’t be bothered to do research, you’re not meeting my standards for evidence. I’d have thought nothing of it if he just didn’t list examples, but as soon as I saw it was generated, I lost my trust in the entire article, and my interest in reading the newsletter. (It was also a feed I followed relatively recently so I was still in the evaluation stage.)

There are only so many articles I can read a day, only so many feeds I can follow — I can’t waste my time on low quality or untrustworthy material. Like I am practicing quitting books earlier, I am going to be more selective about the feeds I spend time and attention on by removing feeds from my reader faster.

Using AI to generate content will be a flag for me.

Using it to generate information that should be factual is an immediate no-go without a commitment to fact-checking.* I appreciated Wired’s recent enumeration of their standards for use of generative AI, and am ok with their stated approach of experimenting with research followed by fact checking at the original source.

(Using AI tools to generate writing signals that the author is not invested in their work; if they can’t be bothered to write it, I don’t know why I should bother to read it.)

In an age where the ruling minority is suppressing truth and gaslighting people with lies, when making the truth hard to ascertain is a regular tool of fascists, I care a lot about high standards of truthfulness in the info I consume. Others may trust AI to provide accurate information (despite the many examples where it fails), but I refuse to give in to convenience: trusting that I can make decisions from factual information is worth the time it takes to research. I wonder how much of the appeal of generative AI is founded in a lack of research skills.


* See also: On Generative AI, phantom citations, and social calluses by Dave Karpf

Tracy Durnell

20 Mar 2023 at 06:55

Swimming outside the lanes

Replied to lonely work is swimming alone in the ocean by Kening Zhu (kening zhu)
"everyone is swimming in lanes in a swimming pool," he said. "and you're swimming in the ocean alone."

working alone as an artist; attempting to stitch together a life out of nothing – was a different kind of hard. I’d wake up lost, dazed, and overwhelmed — with existential dread: a mountain of plans and possibilities, but no guarantee of success – in the form of validation, recognition, or income. everything that I did could all end up being a waste of time: all my efforts could result in nothing.

This resonates. It feels risky to try to go it alone. And yet, in all my years in a day job, I got very little in the way of recognition — a few awards for me and for my team. I did receive a guaranteed paycheck — though it was less than my colleagues doing an equivalent job, which I fought for three years before resigning. I argued I deserved a better title, but was given systemic excuses and gaslighted. I asked to do more strategic work, but with a limited team size, my colleague’s promotion meant I instead inherited her busywork.

People complain that no one wants to work anymore. And it’s true to an extent: no one wants to work in a job where they are underpaid, unfairly treated, unappreciated, and constrained.

I like my work, but so far dislike jobs.

My friend in the tech industry pointed out that a job can be good when you have a supportive team and rewarding compensation structure. Even with that, I’m wary of top-heavy organizational structures, inflexible systems and the sway of the status quo. Organizations need someone to fill a role, so when you’re ready to grow out of that role they have little incentive to support you. The machine is more important than the people who make it up.

when you work alone, you will always swim in your own moods, habits, and tendencies. you will be chased by your own sharks, and other creatures of the deep — many of which are those voices in your head, keeping you paralyzed with varieties of fear. if you listen to them, those are the ones which will drown you.

I’m just now (over the past few months) starting my journey in self employment, so I’m still working to update my mindset. Even though swimming in the lanes brought me little, I’ve spent my whole life up to this point knowing them for the path to security and success. I am fighting off my own monsters now as I reorient to my own control.

Tracy Durnell

18 Mar 2023 at 17:56

Tonight’s science and math video edutainment


Tonight’s menu of science and math learning:

Delightfully pedantic.


Lol the flat earther intro had me going… but was a good segue into the real topic.

Some really great metaphors, like “vaccine dojos” versus just-get-sick “natural dojos” — this team is ace at science storytelling.

Interesting genetics info I was out of date on! 🧬

Tracy Durnell

18 Mar 2023 at 06:12

Weeknotes: March 11-18, 2023

 This week I passed 2000 posts created on this website! A good number are drafts or private, and a few are in the trash, so there aren’t quite 2000 posts for everyone else to explore yet 😉

Stuff I Did:

  • 11ish hours of consulting work
  • Completed 2/3 of an inventory of the scenes in Book 1 to document how many scenes I’m merging in each chapter and what decisions I need to make
  • Went to a twomorning webinar with Oliver Burkeman called “Designing Your System for Creativity”
  • Attended a webinar on incorporating DEI into multicultural marketing
  • Walked with a friend twice (and bailed on another walk to take a nap 😴)
  • Wrote most of two blog posts on my other website but didn’t finish either 😭
  • Pruned the deadwood off of my Japanese maple for the first time in several years 🦾 Took three hours and involved crawling underneath the tree 😂
  • Called the DOL and got the (expected) bad news that I need to get a lien release from my bank I paid off my car loan from like 8 years ago because they never sent it so the title is technically still in their name 🤦‍♀️
  • Went to Homebrew Website Club
  • One appointment


Words I looked up/ concepts I learned:

Website changes:

  • Created a “favorite albums” webpage and added some new styling for it
Tracy Durnell

18 Mar 2023 at 05:40

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