Bookmark Beat: EP 17

Making space for yourself and connecting with others

Welcome back to the Bookmark Beat 🥁 It's been a busy couple of months! I've been playing Baldur's Gate 3 (I'm a Githyanki Warlock named Qeh'zera 🤓), transitioning to a new role at Teradata (still on the Stemma team) and last weekend I attended a silent meditation retreat 🧘

For this beat, I'll be talking about choosing to make space for yourself. I'll connect this idea with a few hobbies of mine - including a brand new hobby (film photography 📸).

Finally, I'll close out with a reflection on how (and why) we connect with other people… with plenty of bookmarks along the way!

Want to know what podcasts and music I'm listening to? Or maybe you just prefer more frequent updates on my latest bookmarks… if so, check out the “I am” page on my website.

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Intro: It's dangerous to go alone

Although Baldur's Gate 3 is my new current obsession, I've spent the last few months completing the main story of Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom (TOTK). It was a phenomenal game with plenty of interesting new mechanics. But what doesn't get enough credit is its story and how much it differed from Breath of the Wild's.

In her recent video essay Tears of the Kingdom - “It's Dangerous to go Alone”, LauraKBuzz compares and contrasts the two games and how subtle changes to TOTK's companion characters help support the overarching narrative.

It's also a great introduction to the topic of today's beat: making space for yourself and connecting with others…


Let's talk about “making space” for yourself

Now, I know I usually talk about the big kind of space… you know, the one with all the stars and black holes. But today, I'm reflecting more on the other kind of space. The small spaces. The way we arrange our desks and schedules.

Something that comes up a lot in my industry is “imposter syndrome,” the controversial name for a mental trap that we create for ourselves within the imaginary cage of “I'm not good enough.”

In her essay How my disability fuels my imposter syndrome, Holly Tuke aptly describes a feeling that I've had countless times in working up the gumption to exist within a space:

Disabled people find ourselves thinking ‘I don’t want to seem difficult’, ‘I’m not disabled enough for that’, or ‘if I mention my disability, it’ll put an entirely different spin on it’…

I’ve realised that asking for help doesn’t mean that I’m incapable. Often, it enables me to complete a task.

When I ask for help, it’s usually because something isn’t accessible. If said task was accessible, then I wouldn’t need to ask for help in the first place.

That last bit (emphasis mine) is what really stood out to me. Of course I'm scared to ask for an overhead light diffuser, a dark room to lay down in at lunch or to turn down overhead lights in a conference room… This space wasn't designed with me in mind!

The Harvard Business Review (likely in an effort to support the return to office movement 🙄) boldly stated: How Your Physical Surroundings Shape Your Work Life. For those of us who have been working from home for years, this is obvious. Of course I work better when I can set up a space exactly how I like it! At home, I don't have to worry about Ronald from accounting filing a complaint about all the papers I have left out on my desk (it's none of your business, Ron).

But the tips in the article were a good reminder that we can control our spaces. I am grateful to be able to work in a home office with no overhead lighting (which gives me terrible glare in my bad eye) and don't have to ask for accommodations that could sometimes take months to resolve.

It also reminded me that my emotional and temporal space matter just as much as the physical one. Blocking out time in my calendar for lunch, “sunshine time” (which is what I call my 15 min morning breaks) and “shutdown” (5 mins before the end of my day) have been instrumental in ensuring I take the time I need away from the desk to adjust to the pace of real life and relax my eyes, brain and body.

I've been getting into film photography

During some breaks, I walk outside. Sometimes with the dogs; other times with a camera. The camera I've been using is an old Pentax Spotmatic that was handed down from my grandpa to my dad, and then to me. It's pretty janky and I've already messed up one roll of film from not loading it correctly! But it's been nice to get to know a physical object that doesn't work perfectly.

Like my eyes, there will be times where the problems with the lens or the film makes it impossible to get a clear picture… but that doesn't make the scene any less beautiful.

If you're interested in film photography, Jason Koebler wrote a great article on 404 media called How to Get Into Film Photography (And Why You Should). It's at once practical and inspirational!

To go deeper, Bird Photography with Melissa Groo is a course that's on my list to take. Even if you're not jumping into the hobby with both feet, I do recommend watching the 2-minute course intro. The little cardinal on Melissa's porch makes my heart swoon 🐦❣️

Some books I'm reading

The time I spend with myself, or sitting alongside my partner, is often filled with literature. I read constantly thanks to audiobooks and my local libraries (I have collected quite a few library cards from moving across the country so many times).

I'm reading four books right now:

  • Design By Definition is making me rethink how naming works from the ground up. If you dig metaphors, language or just overcoming ambiguity in organizations - check this one out.
  • Perdido Street Station is one of my partner's favorite books and is weird fiction. After just a few pages, I was completely immersed in China Miéville's world and, despite it being a terrifying place to live in, I never wanted to leave… It's worth bringing a thesaurus along with you, though. Lots of new words in this book for me!
  • The Country of the Blind is the story of Andrew Leland, the author, as he continues to lose his sight. A curious look at living between worlds and the inhabitants of both, I'm looking forward to returning to this book multiple times in my life.
  • War & Peace (Unabridged) via Modern Serial (and, simultaneously, via the amazing audiobook by Neville Jason) is long. So very long. But I'll be damned if it isn't the best soap opera, war story and philosophical reflection on the meaning of power I've ever read.

I also just finished You Deserve a Tech Union which is a great introduction to the concept of union organization, the steps required to unionize and what's at stake in our industry if we don't…

A Book Apart is actually giving away free paperbacks right now with every eBook order until the end of September:

  1. Go to https://abookapart.com/products/
  2. Add the Paperback and Ebook bundle to your cart
  3. Use code FREEBOOK at checkout

I am not sponsored by them or anything… I just really love their books.

On connecting with others

I realize that most of this post has been about me. It is my newsletter, after all. But I also think that it's been a bit about all of us, individually, and how we choose to spend our own time.

This last set of links is about what happens when we choose to spend that time with others - and all the joys, frustrations and solidarity that may come from it.

Finding Common Ground: Reshaping Our Communities | Sam Diaz | TEDxPortland

There's a trap - I admit I fall into it. We start with complaints, we start with criticism. As Van Jones said about Martin Luther King Jr, [he] did not inspire a movement saying “I have a compliant.” A good land use planning program invites you to name the future you're excited to live in.

It sounds a little bit like this: I want to live in a neighborhood where I can safely walk my kids to school and along the way we'll run into their teacher because they can afford to live in that same neighborhood.

When Wizards and Orcs Came to Death Row

D&D turned associates into a crew. After they started playing together at Polunsky, Ford noticed that when Wardlow was in charge of the game, the other guys didn’t bicker as much.

These writers were all in conversation with each other—in their work, in their private correspondence, arguing with each other or praising each other in reviews and on panels and in other venues. There has long been an idea that science fiction can be viewed as a kind of conversation in narrative, with one writer responding to another writer’s book with a book of their own, building upon each other’s ideas, or setting out to correct one another’s errors.

Welcome to Brandon Sanderson's Fantasy Empire

We’ll see if our philosophy holds out, but the idea is that you invest in your people and the company will be successful, rather than investing in your company first

I hope these excerpts inspire you to read at least one of these articles. They all, I feel, touch on a different aspect of coming together. From choosing to find common ground with those unlike yourself to choosing to be with the ones closest to you in order to have a stronger foundation. I think it's helpful to consider these as different choices and to invest our energy in the relationships we feel will help us grow stronger as individuals.

Coda: Gender in industry

To close out this beat, I wanted to share a few links about gender:

Women are superstars on stage, but still rarely get to write songs

This first link comes from the music industry. The folks at The Pudding have created an interactive infographic to demonstrate the enormous lack of diversity in songwriting credits. They look at the data in a bunch of different ways that I found insightful and easy to read.

Growing up Alyssa

This one is a bit closer to home - an autobiographical piece from within the tech industry. Alyssa Rosenzweig is a graphics developer that has been instrumental in getting Linux to run on the latest of Apple's computers as well as countless other contributions to open source graphics technology.

Her story of growing up with access to gender-affirming care is both inspirational and cautionary, since access to this sort of care isn't guaranteed for many. I'm so glad that she shared it.


Whew! That was a long one… I had a lot to say for the last two months, it seems! I'll catch ya next beat 🥁😎🥁