Categories
miscellaneous

🤷🏾‍♀️ Privacy vs Convenience: My Move Away from Google Revisited

This Ask Metafilter thread about some recent changes to Google’s search results has me thinking about a post I wrote six years ago. I moved away from Google for email, search, and document creation, and I offered suggestions on how you might make a similar move. At the time I recommended using DuckDuckGo, something I still recommend, but not always as enthusiastically as I have in the past.

There’s a simple reason for that: after almost six years of nearly daily use both at home and in the workplace, I still find myself using Google as a fallback search engine1, primarily because of how I use search engines. When I turn to a search engine, I’m primarily trying to answer a question or choose between the best options for a product I’m interested in buying. The kinds of results that these two search companies produce can be very different, and I’m not just talking about how Google (now) includes favicons in search results. Let’s take a look at a few screenshots.

A screenshot of Google search results that highlights Google's featured answers

In this search, I was trying to learn about the differences between acrylic gouache and regular gouache, and Google delivered the results right away. It even provided featured links to websites for additional information in an accordion beneath the most relevant search result.

DuckDuckGo search results for the difference between gouache and acrylic gouache

DuckDuckGo returned a search result that wasn’t relevant to my question even as it offered a direct link to the specific question I asked. The answer I needed was second in the list, which may seem like a small thing. Over time, not having the most relevant result presented first adds up and leads to a general dissatisfaction with their results, hence my reliance on Google as a fallback search.

I asked folks on Twitter what the balance was between privacy and convenience, and while I didn’t get a direct answer to that question, one user told me that they switched back to Google because of DuckDuckGo’s unreliable/unrelated search results.

User tweet about their problems with DuckDuckGo's search results

“DuckDuckGo has mysteriously gotten worse for image searches for me. Seems like it declined about 3-4 months ago”, they told me. Another Twitter follower said that they’d noticed a similar decline in quality.

I don’t know what’s going on over at DuckDuckGo, but I hope whatever it is they’re able to right things very quickly. I think it’s important for consumers to have options when it comes to search results, particularly if a search engine company is dedicated to returning results to lesser-known sites that still provide useful information. Until then, I’ll begrudgingly continue to use Google (in private browsing mode) as a secondary search engine.


  1. I always open a private browsing session to do this ’cause I still don’t trust Google. 
Categories
personal

Is it Work or is it a Job?

Have you ever given any thought to the difference between a job and work? If we have a regular daily grind that we are rewarded financially for, in conversation we blithely say “I’m going to work” without taking the time to think about what that really means. I believe that having dissatisfaction in one of those areas (a job) doesn’t have to mean dissatisfaction in the other (work). Here is how I differentiate between the two:

A job is a series of tasks, usually directed by someone who holds a position of greater authority than your own. These tasks are intended to help an enterprise reach a certain goal. A job is a regular position that, if you’re lucky, comes with some sort of remuneration.

Work, on the other hand, is a thing that occupies your time, incorporating your interests, the things you love, and, if you’re lucky, will guide you toward a more fulfilled sense of self. Work is produced when you exercise your creative muscles, your curiosity and intelligence toward some sort of output that grounds you. This output centers you and helps you understand your place in the world.

I am thinking about this in the context of my professional life and my own feelings of inadequacy/feelings of failure. What I have one to understand is that as long as I use my job as the sole or primary performance indicator, I will never measure up. In a system that is designed to privilege a very few, I am incapable of fully being the person I am. If I can’t fully be myself, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to give my all to a concern that, by design, is not intended to benefit all people.

Coffee break (Gouache on watercolour paper)

What I have learned to do instead is to find work — things, experiences, and connections — bits of effort that produce items that bring me pleasure. I choose to engage in this type of work because it makes me happier and more fulfilled than a job ever could. I had to learn to divorce remuneration from measurements of success, because my mental, physical, and emotional well-being are far more precious than the number on my bi-weekly pay advices.

Perhaps this has been obvious to you for many years. I won’t beat myself up for not figuring this out sooner. I’m just happy that I’ve stumbled on a new definition of success that doesn’t leave me wanting.

Categories
libraries

The Case for Normal, Natural Emotions in the Workplace

A few things I’m thinking about today:

  • How often I see words or phrases like “positive energy” in library job descriptions
  • How frequently I have heard the refrain “respectful workplace” used to squash critique
  • The effect of forced positivity from library leaders on lower-level library workers and their trust in leadership

A couple of things I’ve encountered online recently are making me think about this even more. In what ways do library managers who insist on a culture of positivity create barriers (interpersonal or structural) for their staff?

Food for Thought:

Susan David’s 2017 TED talk on emotional courage:

Toni Morrison’s essay “The Source of Self-Regard”, but especially the section on how elision and indirect language used in slave narratives contributes to people’s assumption that the treatment enslaved people endured was ‘not that bad’;

Slave narratives were very much like nineteenth-century novels, there were certain things they didn’t talk about too much, and also because they were writing for white people whom they wanted to persuade to be abolitionists or to do abolitionist type work, did not dwell on, or didn’t spend a lot of time telling those people how terrible this all was. They didn’t want to call anybody names, they needed their money, so they created an upbeat story.

I’m thinking about the silences and the shaming I’ve endured in the last 12 years in this profession, and I’m thinking of what it has cost me.

More to come.

Categories
black folks libraries

Thoughts on the Universality of the Black Experience

It took me three years to read Beloved. I tried on my own as a college sophomore but couldn’t handle it. It wasn’t until I took an African American Women’s Literature course, taught by the then president of the Toni Morrison Society1 that I was able to make it through. I was surrounded by my contemporaries, led by an older, wiser Black woman who helped me see the gutsiness, the sheer defiance and love it took to call that which is most reviled Beloved. I could never have learned that lesson from a white woman (or a white man, for that matter).

I am thinking today, on the occasion of her death, of how Morrison emphasized Blackness and centered Blackness in her work, daring to call Blackness universal when the world tells us in no uncertain terms that we are the margins, and therefore strange. Unworthy. And I am thinking of the beginnings of stories, of essays, of keynote speeches that have gone unwritten because at their heart they’re about Black people but because I could not whitewash those words and make them palatable to a white audience, I thought I was a failure.

(I am also thinking about how many of my story ideas came from dreams where Black people could set things on fire with their minds, and I chuckle, but I digress.)

My upcoming keynote in Australia has vexed me for months because I received the advice that I should try to make it universal. And I couldn’t. No matter how I tried, I could not get away from the pain, heartache, and self-doubt this profession has caused me, a Black woman, and others like me. Keynotes are supposed to address solutions, they’re supposed to set a tone. My tone is righteous(?) anger, and a desire to tell anyone like me to abandon the idea of universality. Do it for yourself. Do it for US. Let the rest burn.

I will set them on fire with my mind and I will not apply salve to their burns. And as things burn and are destroyed, I am also creating a path forward for others like me. That’s what my instructor did for me with Beloved. And that’s what I’ll do for others.

Embed from Getty Images


  1. Dr. Carolyn Denard at Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA 
Categories
culture & society

Mama Used to Say – a British Soul Playlist

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen me occasionally post links to my morning Get Ready With Me songs. The songs are usually tunes from my youth that lift my spirits as I start my workday, but I am also a woman of a certain age who sometimes feels a disconnect and a tiny bit of auntie-ish disdain for modern music.

I was an inveterate Anglophile as a teen/twenty-something, and I’m also fascinated by Black people who make homes in places like the UK or Canada, where the Black experience is vastly different from my own Black American one. The other day I tweeted that I wanted a playlist of nothing but 90s British soul music and so I present the fruits of that labour. You’ll notice that the list isn’t limited to the 90s, nor is it limited to soul music/R&B. Some of the best Black1 music to come out of the British Isles wasn’t made by Black people.

Because I’m the Internet’s Auntie, and because I sometimes have a secret desire to show that I’m still cool enough to listen to new music, there are a fair number of newer British artists on this list. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I did. Lists are available on Apple Music and Spotify because I can think of nothing better to do with my disposable income than to have subscriptions to two music services.


  1. Not all of the artists on this list are Black people, but they are all performing styles of music that are associated with Black cultures. I acknowledge that this is some messy-ass shorthand, but :shrug emoji: 
Categories
miscellaneous

The Most Beautiful Part of Your Body Is Where It’s Headed

The week is over, I have a four day weekend, and it’s unseasonably chilly in Vancouver. The roller coaster that was this week was full of peaks, valleys, and loop-de-loops, but at this particular moment, it feels good. Onward.

Here are a few things I shared this week:

  1. Going Home With Ocean Vuong – an Atlantic profile on a young Vietnamese-American poet and novelist. The excerpt from his poem “Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong” stopped me in my tracks. It’s also the where the title of this blog post came from.

  2. VALA 2020 Keynote Speakers – I’m pleased to announce that I’m one of six keynote speakers at the VALA – Libraries, Technology and the Future Conference that will take place in Melbourne, Australia in February 2020.

  3. Anthony Ramos (Hamilton, She’s Gotta Have It) shared the official lyric video of Cry Today, Smile Tomorrow, the (incredibly moving) song he performed during season two of She’s Gotta Have It.

  4. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom details Lynda(.com)’s Privacy Problem. LinkedIn now requires library users to create a LinkedIn profile to use the LyndaLibrary technology resources, which appears to be a violation of the Library Bill of Rights.

  5. Apple’s Memoji Makeup Tutorial, featuring Patrick Starr and Desi Perkins. Initially, I hated this video, but the more I watch it, the cuter I think it is. I especially love that they worked in Patrick’s head wrap.

  6. If Austin Kleon says having a messy studio can make you a better artist, then I must be the best artist alive.

  7. If you follow me on Twitter1, you saw as I opined about career precarity in Gen X librarians, talked about how I managed to improve my credit score over the last 5 years and went on and on about how Phil Collins’ ubiquity in the 80s gave us some of the most memorable pop and rock music of all time.


  1. My account is currently locked, but I review new follower requests carefully at least once a week. 

Categories
miscellaneous

Is This Thing On?

It’s been almost two years since I’ve written anything in this space, but thanks to a tweet from my friend Jen Hanen (and okay, also some words from Neil Gaiman) I thought I’d give this another try. I attempted a newsletter but for whatever reason it never stuck. I don’t like the idea of writing on a set schedule, especially if I’m not being paid for it. I suppose I don’t think the flexing of my own spongy intellectual muscles is enough of a reason to keep up a writing habit, which if you want to get all deep about it, is a sign of my mental health and feelings of self-worth in general.

keep it inside - acrylic on paper, copyright 2019
keep it inside – acrylic on paper, copyright 2019

deep exhale


Yesterday on my way home from work, I passed an apartment building where someone had soaped a message onto their window. “This is a lonely place without friends,” the message read and it would have stopped me in my tracks had I not been in traffic. It made me wonder how much pain a person had to be in to go to such lengths to write this message on their window, in reverse no less, so that other people would see it. Vancouver can be a very lonely and isolating place, and yet I’m still here, still trying to reach out, still trying to make friends. I’m making more of an effort to see people than I have in the past, and that feels good. It’s almost like I’m rounding a corner or something.


Here are a few things I’ve read/listened to lately and enjoyed:

Categories
blogging

That “Skinny” Dress In Your Closet, or Hopeful Hoarding

red dress with black beltIf you’ve never gained, then lost (then regained) weight, this metaphor may be meaningless to you. If you have gone through that experience, you’re probably familiar with holding on to an item of clothing that no longer fits, but you hold on to it because “It might fit again someday if I go on a diet/eat healthier/work out more.”

That’s what this blog has become.

I’ve been blogging across several different domains, across multiple platforms in some form or fashion since 1993. There are people who follow me on Twitter who weren’t even alive when I wrote my first blog post. And to spare you my middle-aged reflections about how things were so different back in the early days of blogging, I’ll simply say that my attention span, willingness to write, elevated professional profile, and fear of writing something that might run afoul of work supervisors doesn’t really make it seem worthwhile anymore. Still, I held on to this domain and to my web hosting the way I held on to that skinny dress at the back of my closet. It’s probably crumpled on the floor, buried under a mountain of other stuff by now, but I know it’s there, and it nags at me.

I think the time has come to throw this dress away.

Categories
Uncategorized

Langston Hughes: The Black Man Speaks

I swear to the Lord
I still can’t see
Why Democracy means
Everybody but me.

“The Black Man Speaks” from Jim Crow’s Last Stand (Worldcat)

To say I’ve been feeling this acutely over the last few weeks is an understatement. I honestly think I’ve felt this way almost as long as I’ve been alive, but the feelings grow sharper the longer I live in Vancouver.

Today is Langston Hughes’ birthday. Hughes has long been one of my favourite poets/cultural critics, though I feel like he’s fallen out of favour a little over the last 20 years or so. Though he is better known as a poet, his essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” has been a source of inspiration for me, more so when I was a young African American Studies scholar who was trying to balance claiming my place in the Black community with my feminist leanings and my queer identity.

If you find yourself in a despairing place, read a little Langston Hughes today.

Categories
personal

After the Love Has Gone

I’m Cecily, I’m a librarian, and I’ve come to hate reading.

That’s not exactly true — my (barely) managed depression and (increased) anxiety have robbed me of the ability to process anything more than tweets, Facebook posts from the Hobonichi group, and texts from loved ones. Losing myself in novels and non-fiction is where I found comfort for so many years, but now it only adds to my already out-of-control anxiety and self-doubt.

I’ve found other pursuits in the meantime, like drawing and writing in my journal, but I miss the immersive experience of floating within a well-crafted story. Has this ever happened to you? What did you do to get back to reading?