Bite-sized Nuggets of Wisdom

I’ve reached a few conclusions over the last few days, and I thought I’d share them with you:

  • Sometimes, failure is just failure. There are no lessons to be learned, no unseen benefit to be found anywhere, it just flat-out sucks. And that’s okay.
  • If your EDI committee doesn’t have support built in for the facilitators of your EDI efforts in your organization, find the money to make this happen. People will want to share their horror stories with the committee leads, and as a result, you are creating an unsustainable and unsafe environment for the people who want to drag your organization (kicking and screaming) into the future.

On Pessimism, Optimism and Legacy

James Baldwin famously said “I can’t be a pessimist because I’m alive. To be a pessimist means you have agreed that human life is an academic matter. So I’m forced to be an optimist. I am forced to believe that we can survive, whatever we must survive.”

This quote has been on my mind a lot lately. I’ve been thinking about it in the context of professional success, the fulfilment we are expected to get from our work. The pessimist in me says that the situation in libraries — the conservatism, the unwillingness to make room for opinions from and the leadership of people who don’t toe the party line — will never change, and that speaks to the pessimist in me who looks at my work in libraries in a somewhat detached fashion, as if the circumstance I find myself in is immovable and hopeless.

But I’ve come to understand that nothing is truly hopeless, that progress is like an iceberg carving out a canyon in the landscape. You don’t see the iceberg move, but over eons, the after effect of those changes are clearly visible.

Optimism, as Baldwin frames it, is an active engagement with life and the issues. The act of struggle means that you are, whether you know it or not, striving for something better.

This willingness, this optimism is what pushes us forward when things seem most bleak. It’s a belief that even though I may not personally benefit from social or organizational changes that are more open and equitable, I believe that someone who comes behind me will, and that may well be enough to keep me motivated.

How can I begin to make and effect change for future generations? What is my legacy?

Gender/Queer

An idea has been going around in my head ever since the pandemic started. I’ve been thinking a great deal about gender, sexual orientation, and their connection to my identity, more-so than I ever have in my life. This feels significant as someone who was an angry, young queer activist. I won’t bore you with my thought processes (that may come at a later time), but the conclusions I’ve reached thus far are this:

  1. Gender is a myth and an utter fabrication, and any allegiance to it is completely nonsensical now. Yet, people can and do feel variably female, or male, or other, or both, or neither, and they can do so at any stage of their life because gender is a fabrication and like all fabrications, it can be dismantled;

  2. That even though I have identified as straight, questioning, bisexual, lesbian, monogamous, married (but bisexual), the apex of a polyamorous V, and “just Cecily” at various points in my life, I have come to the realization that for me, queer is my political identity, but gay — no, not lesbian, GAY — is my sexual orientation. Do I still find men attractive? Yup. Would I slide into a dude’s DMs some night? Nope, not anymore. Besides, I’m done looking.

  3. The term lesbian has never suited me1; I have always felt excluded from it. Furthermore, lesbian always seemed to signify a particular political ideology2 that I did not share;

This may not be news to my close friends, but it felt like a big shift in my thinking. I believe in learning in public, and so… gestures at this whole blog


  1. While I owe a lot of my ideas/political awakenings to the community of second-wave lesbian feminists (especially since I’m old as dirt), I never felt like I was among their number. Queer always fit me better. “Dykey” was fine, but still not quite right unless I was feeling full of swagger, which was never, and; 
  2. Women who identify as lesbians are still an important part of the history and continued viability of the Alphabet Mafia, and I wish to GOD dyke bars would come back because I miss them more than I miss angel biscuits, which is a LOT. 

How I Take Notes

grayscale photography of woman writing

I promised myself that I’d do a deeper dive on my note-taking and study habits, so here’s a very quick brain dump on how I make sense of what I read.

Very large caveat: lately I have been seriously struggling. I get so bogged down in tools and methods (thanks, ADD brain ?) that I find it difficult to focus on anything else. Ironically, this impacts my ability to finish reading anything lately, so be wary of that. With that out of the way, behold:

My Note-Taking Workflow

  1. Take notes on everything you read. (More on this later)
  2. Take notes in your own words. Don’t just copy & paste from the text.
  3. Take the time to process your notes. A weekly review is a good strategy.
  4. Work toward building connections between concepts. This builds depth of knowledge.
  5. Once you feel that you have a good understanding of a concept, publish it someplace. It’s okay if you’re wrong, or if your thoughts change over time. Documenting your thoughts and ideas in this way helps you trace the development of your ideas, and helps you refine your ideas which furthers your understanding.
  6. Relax. Just start writing. Don’t worry so much about your tools or which platform(s) to use. A pen and a stack of index cards is how the Zettelkasten method got started, and it works just fine if that’s all you have access to. Ryder Carroll’s indexing and threading methods that he developed for his Bullet Journal system might also work well for this purpose, but I failed at keeping a bullet journal, so…

Is this helpful to you? Would you like more content like this? Please let me know in the comments, or on Twitter.

Review of the PaperLike Screen Protector (2021)

screenshot of the PaperLike screen protector

If one good thing has come out of this pandemic, it’s that I’ve been able to take a serious look at my study and note-taking habits, and identify ways that I can try to work with more focus and more efficiently in these areas.1 One of the things I noticed is that even though I enjoy reading on my Kobo Clara or Kindle Paperwhite, I find them difficult to use for study purposes, because taking notes on those devices can be slow and painful, especially if you don’t have the latest edition. I’ve also learned that the productivity space is completely overrun by white men, that women tend to call themselves “organization experts” instead of “productivity experts”, and that it is freakishly easy to become overwhelmed by choice when investigating productivity tools. But I digress.

Today I want to talk about a new tool I tried that seems to have been the bridge for the tiny gap I felt when trying to take notes on my iPad. That tool is the PaperLike screen protector.

If you’ve spent any time on YouTube or Instagram, you’ve no doubt seen the PaperLike screen protector, as seems that the company is actively targeting social media influencers and creatives for in-kind reviews. I am not ashamed to admit that I was completely sucked in by the reviews I saw, so I bought one. It arrived thoughtfully packaged, and the company included two screen protectors, wet wipes2, a microfibre cleaning cloth, and stickers to help you correctly place the PaperLike on your device, as well as to assist with dust removal.

My biggest complaint with writing on the iPad is the glass is so smooth that it makes the Apple Pencil glide so easily across the page — almost too easily. Controlling my strokes when writing was difficult to do before I applied the PaperLike, so I was pleased to see that the protector’s texture not only added some much needed friction to the stylus, but it gave me back the pen control I was missing.

However, what you gain in control, you lose in clarity. The screen is darker and text is less clear with the PaperLike applied, although you can counteract this effect by increasing your screen’s brightness somewhat. But if text clarity and colour accuracy is more important for you, then you should probably avoid using PaperLike or any other screen protector.
I have a more detailed breakdown of the pros and cons in the document below, but the short version is that PaperLike mostly works well, but that if your work requires text or colour clarity, it might not be the best tool for you. Do you use PaperLike or some other screen protector on your iPad? What do you like/dislike about it?


  1. I may take a deeper-dive into this in another post at some point. 
  2. For cleaning your screen 

The Most Cringe-worthy Street in Vancouver

I walk past this street from time to time, and every time I walk by, I am reminded of how good intentions can go horribly wrong.

The name is intended to memorialize a portion of Vancouver’s Black community. This is a noble effort, and the city should be commended for it.

However.

The street is named after a nameless individual. What’s worse, it’s named after a particular job, a job that was limited to Black men because of the servile nature of the work.

The city might as well have called this “Black Maid Street,” or “George Street”.

Changing the name so that it represents a class or group of individuals is marginally better, but what would have been even better would have been to name it after A. Philip Randolph, for example.