How do you rate books?

Every time I rate a book, I struggle with what I’m rating it on.

Both Amazon and GoodReads use a 5 star system. If I loved the book, that’s easy. However, what if I liked the book except for the ridiculous stereotypical romance that was a minor theme. Do I ding it half a star? What if I read a romance and it’s really well written and the character development is good but I hate romances? Do I rate it on how good of a romance it is? (Maybe pretty good.) Or on how well I liked it?(Maybe not at all.)

And it depends on who I’m rating it for: me, friends, potential readers or authors. If these ratings are just for me, maybe to remember how I like a book or for some system to recommend books for me, then it’s simpler. I’ll rate it based on much I liked it overall. But these ratings are also for our friends to see if books are good. And if you leave your rating on Amazon, it’s used to make recommendations to potential purchasers. I’ve also had authors reach out to me and ask me to write a review because I’ve rated their book.

I really want a rating system with many more subcategories. Readability, character development, plot, dialog, descriptions, … And each category of book might have an additional subset of categories. Nonfiction books might have an accuracy category. Science fiction books might have a universe category.

How do you choose to rate a book? Do you just pick a star rating based on how you feel? Or do you have a system? Who are you rating it for?

It’s u̶n̶acceptable to not know it all

It’s become unacceptable to not know it all. And in today’s world of information overload, that’s not ok. It’s not doable, so we are fooling ourselves.

I find myself silently thanking people who look confused when some famous person is named or some incident is mentioned or a meme is laughed at. Keeping track of all the current affairs is getting harder and harder and the looks when you don’t know what they are referencing are getting more and more incredulous.

I care. I really do. I care who leads our country. I care about all the issues facing us. I care about who (and what) is influential today. I care about all the people negatively (and positively) affected by daily events. I care about all the people affected by our changing political climate. But I can’t keep track of them. And I certainly can’t be educated on all of them and be a good advocate for the right thing all the time.

It used to be that you were well educated if you knew your political leaders, their competition, the capitals of every country, the name of their leaders and their basic political structure. In addition, you usually also knew about major conflicts and the top issues facing every region.

Now you are expected to know about hundreds of famous influencers, thousands of issues and millions of affected people.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t keep track of *all* current affairs and do my job and raise my kids and stay healthy. I can’t advocate for all the worthy causes out there. And that’s ok. However, I need it to also be ok for everyone to ask “dumb” questions. When someone doesn’t know what’s going on in Alabama, it should be ok for them to say “so what just happened in Alabama?” and not get incredulous stares that they haven’t been following their Facebook feed.

We seem to have decided that it’s not only important for everyone to know everything but it’s important for everyone to share their opinion about every major happening on social media or they aren’t supporting the cause. It’s like people feel as if they aren’t a good person if they don’t like or share every worthy announcement. Like they aren’t a good person if they aren’t informed about every trending topic. (I’ll ignore for now whether or not the trending topics are actually representative of current affairs.)

I make sure I make educated votes. I try to follow the high level news. I read the newspaper and my social media feed every day. I ask questions in conversations when I don’t understand all aspects of the issue. I speak out when people seem to be forming opinions based on missing information. And I try to be brave enough to ask questions when I have no idea what people are talking about.

Let’s focus again on the level of news that lets us all make a difference, not the level that makes us all feel like it’s a full time job to stay in touch with the world and so we tune out because we already have several full time jobs.

Originally published on Medium.

Chefs don’t believe in Four Burners

I read the Four Burner theory and I call bullshit.

Mozillians cooking.

The Four Burner theory says that your life can be represented by a stove with four burners, one each for family, friends, work and health. The theory goes that you can only do two of them well because a chef can only pay attention to two burners at once. So you can do great in your career and with your family but you’ll be in poor health. Or you can be in good health and have great friends but your career will suffer.

What kind of chef came up with that theory?

Any good chef knows you plan out your meal. You know when to start each dish so that you can do the labor intensive things in a series of moves. You might start by chopping everything for one dish, move to sautéing another set of ingredients all while water is coming to a boil. You think about all the dishes before hand, go to the grocery store once, plan when you are going to start each thing and make sure you have the appropriate pans. Execution is important but it is only possible because you planned. You can have a four burner meal with the right planning. It just takes planning, practice and experience.

You can have a four burner meal with the right planning. It also takes practice and experience.

The same with life. You plan your career, your family, your friends and health.


You can’t dictate how each quadrant of your life is going to go but you make a plan for how you want it to be and you figure out what you need to do to head in that direction. If you want to get in better physical shape, you can sign up for a Crossfit gym. If you want to lose weight, you read a book on nutrition. If you want a better relationship with your kids, you can schedule time to hang out with your kids in the evening. If you want to progress your career, you can sign up for a programming class.


Just like the chef doesn’t start all the dishes at once, you don’t tackle all four areas of your life at once. Maybe you spend 3 months focusing on getting in shape. You sign up for a regular yoga class twice a week and weight lifting twice a week and you work on making it a habit. Once that’s done, you work on the next thing while making sure you can keep your fitness habits. If you fail (you burn the dish, i.e. stop going to yoga), you start over. You practice.

Learn tricks

Chefs learn techniques, they get better at what they do. You learn what works for you in life. You get better at communication at work. You learn what time of day your kids are most willing to hang with you. You learn what type of exercise you like. You learn which friends are best to go out to eat with and stick to your nutrition plan. You learn by trying. And maybe you can’t try something new on each of the four burners at once, but over time, you’ll accumulate techniques for each of the areas of your life.

Like a good chef, your plan for life can encompass more than two burners. It just takes time, some planning and lots of practice.

Originally published on Medium.

11 reasons why I don’t write any more

  1. It’s too easy to post that interesting article to Facebook or Twitter and not say much about it.
  2. I wasted the last hour reading updates on Facebook.
  3. I don’t want to break other people’s news. The ideas that really fascinate me are the ones other people tell me about … and they haven’t written about them yet. They never seem to get around to writing about them and I don’t feel like it’s my role to break their news.
  4. I don’t know where to post it. Should my funny dog post be two sentences on Facebook or a post on my personal blog or should I create a dog blog or should I guest post on a dog website?
  5. I don’t want to deal with the flame war. A lot of really fascinating ideas have become really hot topics lately and nobody seems to be able to debate them even semi-objectively.
  6. I don’t want to deal with hate mail. The last time I posted what I thought was a personal post about how I deal with life as a woman at conferences, women from around the world came out of the woodwork to tell me I was stupid and wrong and harming women.
  7. Too personal. I used to feel like I was sharing my blog with a group of friends and friends of friends. Now it feels like I’m sharing it with the world. Forever.
  8. Too invasive. I have lots of stories that I now write down but can not share because it wouldn’t be appropriate to share that about people. I don’t remember having this problem so I don’t know if I used to write about people confident in the fact they wouldn’t read it or if I just wasn’t as tempted by the stories of other people. This is particularly true for me for stories about other parents.
  9. Too much social media. It feels like we spend so much time sharing the moment on social media, with people that aren’t here, and then checking to see how many people liked it, that we forget to live in the moment. The answer to this would be less social media, not less writing, but what happens is that I write less.
  10. No RSS reader. It feels like Facebook has replaced RSS readers, so I no longer feel like I have a following on my blog. Blogs are more dependent on SEO and social media than they are on a following which really changed the audience and the conversation.
  11. Higher standards. Blog posts used to be something people wrote daily. They often were not polished. Now blog posts are expected to be well polished, often with professional editors and multiple levels of review.
  12. No pictures. Where’s my picture to go with this post? Should it be a selfie of me not writing? Or a stock image photo? Can you publish an article without an image any more? Medium says you should add a high resolution picture to capture people’s interest.

Why aren’t you writing more?

Saturday morning: 4 things I learned from credit card deals to getting great at Photography

Working the travel points system

I did some research to see when I should get two new Southwest credit cards. People look at you weird when you say you play the credit card game but I’ve found them to be worth it. This time I’m working on a Southwest companion pass for 2018 and 2019. This means every time we fly Southwest on vacation, one of us will fly for free. A lot of travel bloggers have written about it. You need to apply for one card by October 1st and the other by October 5th. (And if you froze all your credit, you will need to find out what credit agency they will use to check your credit and unfreeze it first.)

Rey costumes

In anticipation of Krewe of Boo, Halloween and Chewbacchus, I’m working on a Rey costume. I spent a lot of time looking for pictures of her and then when I talked to my 11 year old, he remembered everything in great detail without having to consult any pictures. I should have asked him first. My partner mentioned that I’d need to figure out how to fix my hair and I told him there are tons of YouTube videos on just Rey’s hair.

Photos: Aperature

Last weekend I took pictures at a Crossfit competition and really wished I knew how to make the background blurry so that I could focus just on the people in the foreground — there were a lot of people standing around. So I spent some time learning about aperture and learned how to set up aperture priority mode on my camera. The article that got me started in the right direction was one about taking pictures at corporate events. There are a lot of articles about depth of focus.

Puerto Rico

Three and a half million people without power and running water! No drinking water! With no near term solution in sight. I’m sure money would help but they are also going to need some major logistical help and being an island is an disadvantage. And being a US territory, something few US citizens understand, is also a disadvantage. I read that Tesla is sending powerwalls. And private companies have been flying in medicine and flying out medical patients. It’s going to take a lot to help everyone that needs help.

How “I am Groot” defines a community manager’s role

I was watching Guardians of the Galaxy, Part 2 and I realized that while baby Groot was making me laugh, it was Rocket that I understood. Rocket is an interpreter. He might even be a community manager.

In Guardians of the Galaxy, there’s a character called Groot. And the only thing he ever says is “I am Groot.” After a few instances, it becomes clear that he is saying a lot with each “I am Groot.”

This becomes particularly clear in Guardians of the Galaxy, Part 2. Every time Baby Groot says “I am Groot,” Rocket either responds to him or tells the rest of the group what Baby Groot just said.

For example, in the scene below, Baby Groot knocks over an alien and then says “I am Groot” and Rocket responds “They were not looking at you funny.” In that moment, we realize that Baby Groot is obviously saying something that we don’t understand.

Community managers are often interpreters just like Rocket is. Community managers often can hear both sides of a discussion and they realize what someone is trying to say that is not being heard by others. They hear “I am Groot” and realize the person is saying “If we do it this way, then we’ll get more contributors.” or “If you do it that way, you’re forgetting about that risk I mentioned before.” They are interpreters. Or at least people that can recognize that something is getting lost in translation.

Good community managers make sure people are heard correctly and lead us to realize that we are missing some thing. That way we all learn to listen more carefully leading to better communities.

Originally published on Medium.

What I learned about human evolution in a book about sex

Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships was an interesting book that sparked many interesting conversations in my life. (Yes, animals do practice oral sex.)

Once I got over being angry about the final chapter that explains why all that history excuses why men cheat but not why women do, I realized the thing that stuck with me was not about sex but about how farming has changed our health.

Hunter gathers live to be about 70 years old. It was only after we introduced farming and land ownership to the equation that life expectancy dropped drastically in the middle ages. The book had a number of theories about why hunter gathers lived longer:

  1. Fewer children. They had fewer children due to delayed puberty. Hunter gathers ate a lot less fat and were generally a lot thinner. This meant that puberty was delayed and women did not start having children until later in life. Having a lot of children tends to decrease a woman’s life expectancy.
  2. Fewer children. They had fewer children because they breast fed longer. Because hunter gathers did not have animals to produce milk, they could not switch young toddlers to animal milk, so women breast feed their children longer. Breastfeeding women are less likely to get pregnant. Having less children increased their life expectancy.
  3. Less disease. Hunter gathers were less likely to die of disease because they lived in smaller groups. Hunter gathers lived spread out and had contact with only a small group of people on a regular basis. Farming communities could feed more people in a dense area. Dense areas are more likely to spread disease to more people quickly.
  4. Better diet. Hunter gathers, based on their bones, did not go through long periods of malnutrition like medieval village dwellers did. When food wasn’t good, they moved. Village dwellers had to depend on crops and if the crops were not good, they had no easy backup supply. Also villagers ate many more grains which had less calories and protein than what hunter gathers ate.
  5. War. Hunter gathers did not often fight wars nor even skirmishes. Wars came about when people settled and fought over land and possessions. The authors spent quite a bit of time on this one as they believe that hunter gathers have unfairly gotten a reputation for being violent.

The book goes on to theorize that the more promiscuous women are in a culture, the more peaceful it is. The authors had a number of reasons. Among them was that societies with promiscuous women don’t fight over women as possessions and they don’t promote their children over others. Since none of the men knows whose children are whose, they help all the children out. I think that’s a lovely idea but not sure why it makes sense for only one gender.

The book also briefly touched on how land ownership changed many things in our culture, including sex. According to the book, when landownership became a thing, people became preoccupied with making sure their land stayed in their family. They became more concerned with making sure their kids were really their biological kids; they became much more concerned about who their partners were having sex with. Since land was all owned by men, and women don’t have much doubt about whether a child is theirs or not, men spent a lot more time and energy making sure their female partners did not have sex with anyone else.

There were a lot of other interesting points in the book, many much more related to the title — things like why women are verbal during orgasms, why human male penises are so large compared to other primates and even theories on why different races have different size testes.

I recommend you read it if you are interested in all those things. I’m going to go learn more about the evolution of our society, hunter gathers and cities.

Originally published at Medium.

We should all be perfect now. And it’s boring.

I opened up my Medium feed this morning and I had a few entertaining posts like the top 25 memes of the web’s first 25 years or Why I am I so fat?(Which I highly recommend, it’s not just entertaining but thought provoking.) But the majority were recipes for how to succeed: 50 ways successful people live, 21 places to learn life skills, how to hack your brainand 3 people that hit it big later in life.

And that’s really not what I want to read.

I miss reading blog posts about things people are passionate about. I read Blog, You Idiots today and it resonated with me. What happened to all the people writing just because writing was fun and they cared about something? I don’t want to read top 10 lists. I want to read about you and what you think is interesting in the world. I want to know what gets you up in the morning, what you you are passionate about, what you found interesting in this morning’s feed, what made you angry, what you are obsessed about this week, why you are going to invest 10 hours in fixing something. And I don’t just want you to share the article in your Facebook feed. I want to know what you think about it. I want to know it’s something you care about enough to spend a few hours writing and trying to explain it to your friends. Teach me something new. Show me a new topic that I might be passionate about too!

Now I better go write something …

This was originally published on Medium.

What do you want to be known for?

If you put “the first …” or the “youngest” or the “richest” in your tagline or bio, be sure that’s what you want to be known for.

I was looking through authors on Medium and wondered, does that person really want to be known as “the youngest mayor”? Does he win Millennial votes that way? If not, what advantages does being young give him in the voters’ eyes?

If you are going to brag about being “the first” or “the most-est”, make sure it’s what you want to be known for! What you are proud of and what you want to known for might be two different things.

Originally published on Medium.

5 thoughts for the day: who moderates conversations, organization, grit and purpose

Photo by Michael Dunne.
  • When we make a private company the keeper of the space of most of our conversations, we give them a lot of control. Revealed: Facebook’s internal rulebook on sex, terrorism and violence.
  • I spend my day working on lots of different things and I’m often context switching. I was also playing around with the search on Google Photos and find it fascinating that I can see all the pictures of a particular person, or all the pictures of “doors” or all the pictures of “angry”. Now I want that ability to group together my emails. I want to automatically have my inbox grouped by topic.
  • I read the book Grit recently. This take by Jon Gordon, based on the author’s work, was slightly different but still good. I like the focus on doing something that has purpose to you instead of just “doing what you love” which I think leads people to think that you shouldn’t do things you don’t enjoy every minute of.
  • Foot binding in China might have had an economic factor behind it. Work, not sex? The real reason Chinese women bound their feet.
  • And some more political news. I learned about congressional subpoenas vs judicial subpoenas.