We didn’t have a budget for a podcast when the pandemic hit. We were all locked in our houses reading the news, doomscrolling, trying to buy masks and toilet paper and bags of flour and rice. Hospitals were overflowing in Italy and there were creepy videos released of empty streets in locked-down China. Things seemed pretty bleak. And sometimes when things are bleak, it helps to have a project.
For me, my boss Cindy, and our colleagues Danny and Jason, that was a podcast.
Note: this is a short fiction story I published in Evocations in January 2022. I was thinking about the impact of the gig economy on the body, and specifically on women’s bodies, and I was also thinking about hypocrisy I’ve seen among men who count themselves as revolutionaries and feminists. I was also thinking about the power of friendship, and about how uncertain and hungry those first years after college can feel. I wanted to poke gentle fun and be a little humorous, but also be real about loneliness and despair.
The Revolutionary Class The same month I gave birth, my roommate quit her internship at the art gallery to become a hypnotherapist. “There is just more opportunity for career growth,” she told me. We were occupying the uncertain eddy of life after graduation, living on top of each other in the smallest studio apartment in Santa Cruz. During the day, we tried to make money scraping paint and pulling weeds on TaskRabbit. In the evenings, she hypnotized me. She wanted the practice, she said. And hadn’t she proofread my entire dissertation, though she had no interest in Trotskyism?
Sometime in fall 2023, I’ll start having conversations about my next role and applying for jobs. My goal is to not rush this process; my work is incredibly important to me, and so it’s important I find a great organization and a role that suits me.
If you think I might be a good fit for your organization, please drop me an email or message on LinkedIn so I know you might be interested and then we can reconnect in the fall of 2023 to talk about it. I’m intentionally choosing to not have conversations about my next role now because I don’t want to fall into the trap of spending my sabbatical thinking about my next job or in job interview mode.
At this stage of my career, I am optimizing for purpose. I like knowing that I’m having a big, positive impact in the world. If I’m going to be doing something for 8+ hours every day, it should be work that makes me proud and makes the world better. I have so many passions; civil liberties, combatting surveillance, financial inclusion and privacy, nonprofit management, defending whistleblowers, blockchain & decentralization, press freedom, feminism, animal rights, and preserving public lands are all issues I’d be delighted to work on.
I’m specifically looking for two things: an awesome organizational culture and a place where my unique skills will be a force multiplier. When I mean awesome org culture, I mean a creative, low-drama, high-output team that’s aligned on its mission. Life is too short for office politics. Though, I will admit that some of the most fulfilling moments in my career have been walking into a team that was in disarray and helping them turn things around so that they were effective and collaborative….so I guess I’m also open to that as well.
Finally, I currently live in a suburb of Sacramento, CA. I love it here. I’d be open to a move back to the San Francisco Bay Area if I need to for the right role, but my preference is to find a role that will let me stay near Sacramento. I’m not open to relocating outside of California.
If you’d like to stay in touch, please connect with me on LinkedIn. I’m also on Twitter. Thank you.
The last two years have been an awakening for me. The global pandemic made me take stock of my own life and think more deeply about my mortality. Undergoing ankle surgery forced me to take months away from running and made me confront how my body is already aging and breaking down in ways that are irreversible. Then last fall, my dear friend and colleague Elliot Harmon died of cancer at the age of 40.
I’m a committed atheist. I don’t think there’s some other secret life waiting for me after I die. This life, whatever I do with it, is the only shot I’ve got. And for years, I’ve focused so much of my energy on work that I let time with my loved ones, including my life partner and my chosen family of friends, slide into the edges of the days. I’ve repeatedly put off dreams of long distance hiking and visiting places like Thailand, Alaska, and the Mediterranean because it was always the wrong time to go. I’ve tried to squeeze as much backpacking and travel into long weekends and midweek camping as possible, but many of my dreams don’t fit into a long weekend.
So I’m moving my adventure plans to the top of my to-do list, and quitting my job to take 18 months to travel, hike, meditate, and figure out who I am outside of work. I’m calling it a sabbatical, but in some ways it’s more of a career intermission. (And yes, I’ll be looking for a job in 2023.)
I’m grateful for all the amazing experiences I’ve had working for EFF in the last 11 years—from launching the very first Tor Challenge to flying a blimp over the NSA data center in Utah, from the SOPA blackout to a march on Washington. While those flashy events make for the best stories, I’m perhaps more grateful for the experience of walking into an office everyday filled with people who were genuinely brilliant and committed to working together to defend digital rights. I’m grateful to have worked on fascinating topics with some of the top legal and technical minds in the world, and to have learned from outstanding writers and editors. I am also honored to have hired so many fantastic advocates early in their careers, and then watched them go on to accomplish amazing things.
My last few years at EFF, I left the activism director role and took on the role of Chief Program Officer, which is a largely internal role guiding the programmatic teams in being more effective in their work, offering day-to-day management of the organization, and supporting the team directors. There aren’t many exciting stories from this time, but I’m especially grateful for how much I learned about organizational development, fundraising, navigating complex human resources issues, strategy, and building consensus. Plus, I’ll be prepared the next time I need to lead a nonprofit through a global pandemic.
Eleven years at EFF have indelibly changed me. I’m grateful for the work I’ve done, the colleagues I’ve learned from, and the sense that I’ve made a big difference in the world. It’s honestly terrifying to walk away from a dream job knowing that I won’t be able to undo this decision. But it also feels like the right thing.
Often, doing the right thing is a bit terrifying
Life is fleeting and precious and also small. Let’s not defer dreams, whether they are quaint or wild. When I look back on my life, I want to know I was kind to others and that I approached my dreams with conviction and fearlessness. And while it’s unrealistic to cross everything off a bucket list because I’m always adding more, it’ll still be fun to spend a year and a half trying.
My friend Elliot Harmon died three months ago, taken by cancer at the age of 40. We wrote about it on the EFF blog, detailing his accomplishments, what he fought for, how much he meant to all of us. We are a community in mourning, and we are gathering in a few days for his funeral.
And me, I still have all these questions that rattle around in my head. Like, what’s it all for?
What’s any of it for? Why are we here? How can we measure the worth of a life, the worth of Elliot’s life or my life or anyone’s? I feel foolish asking these sleepless philosophical questions that have plagued people since the beginning of time, but maybe I feel even more foolish for not asking. Three months after Elliot’s death, I feel like I’m still staring into the void, my pockets turned inside-out.
Because I want it to make sense. I want there to be some grand calculus that says: yes, Elliot died younger than he should have. Yes, half his life was taken from him, and his family and wife had to suffer his loss, our community had to lose him. But in the end, it was worth it somehow. Because he lived so much in those brief years. He accomplished so much, and touched so many people. I want to tell myself that he died young but he had a whole life, a huge life, just in half the time—like one of those podcasts you listen to on double speed.
That’s the math of mourning. It’s trying to make sense of something insensible, to reason out a tragedy. As if cancer were some fortune cookie with a special message about the meaning of life.
Sometimes I think people more or less waste huge chunks of their lives just skimming through the days on auto-pilot, a jumble of automated reactions and animalistic needs, ego and consumption. The impact of any given person on the planet—ecologically, economically—is negative, on average, and yet we can make excuses that we ourselves brought something of value. We tell ourselves that love and relationships are as important—no, more important—than accomplishing anything truly meaningful, and isn’t that a consoling thought?
I think about Elliot’s brief life, and I think: he stood for something. He used his time on earth to champion a set of principles grounded in access to knowledge and freedom of thought and expression. He woke up every day and used his skills to advance this movement.
He was also intellectually curious and compassionate to a fault, a weird mix of self-confidence and humility, and did I mention he was a marvelous writer? So it wasn’t merely that he fought for something. It’s that he actually fought well. He was good at fighting for something.
And I keep circling back to that. There’s some important recipe in there, and I think that those two pieces—fighting for something, and being remarkably good at fighting for something—are helping me make sense of this puzzle of what the heck it means to do something with your life. It’s not enough, and it’s not finished, but it’s something.
On July 15, I underwent surgery to address years of unresolved ankle instability. After meeting two different surgeons, I opted for the generally well-regarded Internal Brace surgery from Arthrex. In this procedure, a surgeon shortens up and reattaches ligaments in the ankle (called a Brostrom repair) and then adds an additional brace that acts as a seatbelt for the ligaments. My surgeon was Dr. Kruelen of UC Davis, and I would recommend him to other runners.
In this blog post, I’ll offer a detailed overview of my running before the surgery, the first few days after surgery, and my return to exercise. Hopefully it will be a helpful resource to other people considering this surgery.
I am writing this 5 months post-surgery. Last weekend, I ran a 5K with a friend, and I did a 5 mile interval run on Monday and a 5 mile threshold run on Wednesday. I am not back to the mileage or the speed I was at pre-surgery, but every week I’m stronger.
The Mission and Purpose of the Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web
The mission of FFDW is “to ensure the permanent preservation of humanity’s most important information by stewarding the development of open source software and open protocols for decentralized data storage and retrieval networks.”
I love that the organization is committed to the long-term preservation of humanity’s most important knowledge. In the digital age, everything can be preserved, but how well are we actually doing it? Where forward-thinking projects like the Internet Archive and Wikimedia are committed to preserving the historical web and encyclopedic knowledge, Filecoin can help spread that burden: creating a system that could allow data to be archived for long periods of time in a reliable but distributed manner.
We especially need this because right now, file storage is basically a monopoly. Much of the modern Internet relies on a single file service – Amazon Web Services—to store and serve literally billions of websites and applications. This means a single corporation—with an agenda, narrow economic incentives, and little accountability—has a powerful ability to shut down access to vast swaths of human information. And we’ve seen the perils of that, including when Amazon Web Services suffered blackouts and hunks of the most popular Internet services were unavailable for long stretches. Centralization of this sort is dangerous and short-sighted. Thanks to the ingenuity of Filecoin developers, we now have new models for thinking about large-scale, distributed, incentivized data storage—so future competitors to Amazon Web Services have a chance at thriving and surviving.
Notably, FFDW doesn’t mention “Filecoin” anywhere in its mission. That’s because FFDW is not about promoting a single blockchain project. Instead, FFDW sees decentralized file storage as part of a larger ecosystem of developers, projects, advocates, and policies that work together to build a future that is more decentralized, more accountable to users, and more resistant to censorship. Filecoin is a key and important part of that, but we must also support the future of the decentralized web overall.
As the extradition hearing for Wikileaks Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange unfolds, it is increasingly clear that the prosecution of Assange fits into a pattern of governments selectively enforcing laws in order to punish those who provoke their ire. As we see in Assange’s case and in many others before this, computer crime laws are especially ripe for this form of politicization.
The key evidence in the U.S. government’s cybercrime conspiracy allegations against Assange is a brief conversation between Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning in which the possibility of cracking a password is discussed, Manning allegedly shares a snippet of that password with Assange, and Assange apparently attempts, but fails, to crack it. While breaking into computers and cracking passwords in many contexts is illegal under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, few prosecutors would ever bother to bring a case for such an inconsequential activity as a failed attempt to reverse a hash. But the government has doggedly pursued charges against Assange for 10 years, perhaps because they fear that prosecuting Assange for publishing leaked documents is protected by the First Amendment and is a case they are likely to lose.
I haven’t written much about EFF’s work on competition, and I’ve been hoping to do so for a while. I noticed the recent fight between HEY and Apple’s App Store, and it’s such a perfect example of where the current system fails innovators and the public. You can also read the full post on EFF’s Deeplinks blog.
Basecamp’s new paid email service, HEY, has been making headlines recently in a very public fight with Apple over their App Store terms of service.
Just as the service was launching, the HEY developers found the new release of the app—which included important security fixes—was held up over a purported violation of the App Store rules. Specifically, Developer Rule 3.1.1, which states that “If you want to unlock features or functionality within your app, (by way of example: subscriptions, in-game currencies, game levels, access to premium content, or unlocking a full version), you must use in-app purchase.” Apple alleged that HEY had violated this rule by pushing users to pay for its email service outside of the crystal prison of the App Store.
But many apps—like Netflix and Amazon’s Kindle —follow this same payment pathway, with users setting up accounts directly through a website and then logging into that paid account via an app in the Apple App Store. And it’s no wonder that tech companies balk at the idea of following App’s store payment pathway—as the BBC reports, Apple takes a cut of all in-app payments, often as much as 30%.
We’re on our third week of living in San Francisco during the COVID-19 quarantine, after spending three weeks away from home when the virus first began to escalate locally.
The streets of our neighborhood are twisty and steep, criss-crossed by narrow staircases, and the park at the top of the hill is always teeming with people and dogs. On any run or walk in my neighborhood, it’s pretty much impossible to stay 6 feet away from strangers, much though I dodge into traffic to try. Continue reading “Creating a sanctuary, wherever you are”