On my mind

In light of Thanksgiving and Native American Heritage Month, I have been trying to spend more time learning from Indigenous writers and media outlets and amplifying resources that support these communities. Here are some I’ve come across:

If you’ve got more Indigenous writers, media outlets and organizations to share, please send them along!

What I’m noting

  • Donate to my birthday fundraiser // I’m raising funds to support Miriam’s Kitchen, a nonprofit dedicated to ending chronic homelessness in D.C. If you don’t have Facebook, you can just send a donation directly through their website. I appreciate anything you’re able to give!

  • U.S. Supreme Court won’t hear Adnan Syed’s appeal // I assume most of you have listened to the Serial podcast and continue to be interested in this case after a Maryland court ordered a new trial for Adnan. Does this announcement mean it’s the end of the road for him? *cue piano music*

  • The Massacre of Black Wall Street // This is technically a marketing tool for the new HBO Watchmen show, but the graphic novel is telling the true story of what happened in 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma when a group of white rioters destroyed a thriving Black neighborhood and killed nearly 300 people. Almost a century later, there have been no reparations. Definitely recommend reading.

  • A new 'Sesame Street' show in Arabic aims to help refugee children // Sesame Street continues to be a force for good and my favorite children’s TV show.

  • These Chinese vloggers are changing how China’s rising middle class sees Africa // Africa continues to be stereotyped in popular Chinese culture, so these Chinese vloggers are sharing their experiences living, working and traveling throughout the continent. “The average Chinese tourist will most likely be part of a giant tour group that visits the typical sites, but the tourist will leave without having had any real interaction with locals,” explains Molly. “When do Chinese and Africans speak to each other?” This cross-cultural dialogue is what both Molly and Huiling see as extremely important about their work.

  • Political hashtags like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter make people less likely to believe the news // Interesting research out of U.C. Irvine that finds political hashtags are not a good way for news outlets to engage readers, because it changes how they perceive that story. “When the story included a hashtag, people perceived the news topic to be less important and were less motivated to know more about related issues.”

  • Hala movie review // I have not watched this movie because I don’t have Apple+, but I was eating popcorn watching the discussion that #MuslimTwitter had about a new coming-of-age film about a Pakistani American Muslim girl. Hannah Giorgis from The Atlantic did watch it and wrote a pretty balanced review. It’s really unfortunate that all the hate and criticism the director Minhal Baig got when the trailer dropped made her go private on Twitter. We really need to learn how to calm down and be respectful when critiquing stories that are personal to writers, even when we disagree with them.

  • Why Emotional Excess is Essential to Writing and Creativity // “Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.” — Anaïs Nin

What you’re noting

  • Millions of black people affected by racial bias in health-care algorithms // A study of an algorithm widely used in US hospitals to allocate health care found that “the algorithm was less likely to refer black people than white people who were equally sick to programmes that aim to improve care for patients with complex medical needs. Hospitals and insurers use the algorithm and others like it to help manage care for about 200 million people in the United States each year.” — shared by Gina S.

That’s it for me. I hope you enjoy the long weekend if you’re fortunate enough to have the time off.

— Nesima

Spain and back again

On my mind

Hola! I’m back from a really wonderful trip to Spain that felt incredibly long and also not long enough. I tried not to have high expectations other than giving myself the opportunity to wonder and wander, so by that measure, I’d deem it a success. It was really empowering to navigate a complicated four-city itinerary with two friends (one of which I had never met before), comfortably speak Spanish with locals, and do it all while managing a bad cold.

I was at first incredibly frustrated that I got sick so early on in the trip especially after being mindful to take care of myself weeks in advance, but as usual, you can only plan for so much. All the advice I was given to rest a lot and drink tons of water was hard to follow, but I did manage to buy tons of tissue packs, cough drops, and some meds from a local pharmacy. Somehow the excitement of being in a new place pushed me to get out early and stay out way too late nearly every day and I’m so happy I got to enjoy the trip to the fullest.

My favorite cities in order were Granada, Barcelona, Sevilla, and then Córdoba. I wish I could describe in detail everything I experienced in each one, but here’s the quick rundown:

  • Granada was a charming, slow-paced city, tucked into the mountains, with ornate palaces, mosques and gardens that enchanted us with the rich, tumultuous history of the Moors. This is where I would retreat when I’m ready to be away from the hustle life and focus on writing a book.

  • Barcelona was a proud, ambitious city, full of fashionable and thoughtful people, delicious coffee and food, bustling markets, and bold architecture that made us swoon. The architect Antoni Gaudi’s hands were all over this city and I was so impressed by his museum, his home and Park Güell as a whole. This is where I’d see myself working out of as a digital nomad.

  • Sevilla was a brooding, romantic city, where my feet grew tired next to the emotional steps of flamenco dancers, bull-fighters and street musicians. This is where I’d return to fall in love, according to the incredibly high number of smiles, conversations and mutual glances exchanged here. Is Craigslist’s Missed Connections still a thing?

  • Córdoba was a quiet, humble city, where I explored a haunting mosque-cathedral, a patio of blooming orange trees and a sunset-soaked bridge, and then used the extra rainy weather to recover from my sickness for a bit. This is where I’d see myself taking language, art and history classes.

Other cities I wished I could have visited but clearly did not have enough time include Madrid, Malaga, and Cádiz. Traveling in the off-season is great, but I would really like to go back in the spring when I’m not forced to wear a jacket and boots. All in all, Spain was a dream and I’m grateful for the adventure and the knowledge gained. More pictures available on my Instagram, so hit that follow button.

I have a lot of great cafes, restaurants and other fun places saved from the trip, so if anyone is planning to visit Spain soon, please let me know and I’ll share!

What I’m noting

  • Packing tips // This is a little late now that I’m back from my trip, but the struggle to have my carry-on close and make it onto these tiny European budget planes was so real. Join me in learning how to pack light and travel minimally.

  • Spanish language apps // I studied Spanish for many years but I’ve gotten rusty after college without the ability to use it consistently. To help me get back into the right mindset before my Spain trip, I redownloaded Duolingo and let that annoying owl back into my life to force me to practice my vocabulary. I also learned about this new app called Lupa, created by the folks behind Radio Ambulante, that gives you a more advanced and realistic approach to learning Spanish the way it’s spoken by native speakers. If you’re not a beginner and don’t want to waste your time on the basics, I’d recommend Lupa instead.

  • Catalonia protests // I came across a student protest in Barcelona and didn’t know much about what was happening regarding the pro-Catalonia independence movement. Check this out to catch up on what’s been developing over the last few years.

  • America’s Jailhouse Journalists // Understanding what happens inside our prison system is difficult, but more journalists are committing themselves to sharing those voices and stories to the rest of the world. I also highly recommend this podcast Ear Hustle, which tells the real stories of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people and brings you inside the San Quentin State Prison in the Bay Area.

  • The End of Babies // Fertility rates have been dropping precipitously around the world for decades — in middle-income countries, in some low-income countries, but perhaps most markedly, in rich ones.” Interesting read about why it’s becoming harder and less appealing to have children, even though we claim we want them.

  • 'Badass': The One Word That Has Become A Lightning Rod For Many Female Chefs // I’m one to use the word “badass” to describe the brilliant women I admire in my life, but this article made me pause and reconsider the implications of that term and how it gets interpreted by others.

  • Philanthropists Bench Women of Color, the M.V.P.s of Social Change // Only 0.6 percent of foundation giving was targeted to women of color in 2016. If women of color are on the front lines of social movements, why aren’t philanthropic organizations recognizing that and funding them?

That’s it for me. I’m still catching up on things, so please send me what’s going in your world or something I missed that is not impeachment related.

Hope you all have a great weekend and lovely Friendsgiving gatherings. I’ll be trying to recover from this jet lag and cold, plus prepare for my family to visit for the first time in my new place (!!)

— Nesima

It ain't easy being green

On my mind

Six months ago, I moved into my new apartment and decided it was time to invest in some real houseplants. I literally Googled “good apartment plants” and found a list that included the fiddle leaf fig and aloe vera plant as reliable, aesthetically pleasing options. Off I went to IKEA to bring home my little green babies to brighten up my otherwise dull living space.

After attending a book talk last night for Hilton Carter, the author of “Wild at Home,” I learned that the fiddle leaf fig was probably the worst option I could have chosen as a new plant mama. Carter aka The Plant Doctor lives in Baltimore and has over 200 plants in his home. He is known for his popular Instagram account where he shows you how to care for plants and style your space. I was in awe when I first came across his page through Apartment Therapy and watched his helpful video about repotting your plant, which I just did a few weeks ago when I was wondering why my fiddle leaf fig was losing leaves and getting brown spots.

I had never bought soil and repotted a plant in my life, but if I really wanted to take care of my plant, then I had to do it. With my first attempt at it, I thought repotting meant just getting a pot of the same size. That is very very wrong. I was rushing through the articles I was reading and failed to measure my plant properly because I didn’t want to get dirt everywhere.

I was forced to order two larger sized pots with self-draining trays and apologized to my fiddle leaf for delaying its watering and having it sit so uncomfortably for several . days. The photo of my failed repotting experience is pretty funny though.

The fiddle leaf fig is a tropical plant that can grow to 6 feet or taller. It’s incredibly temperamental with how much sun, water, and moisture it receives, which is why it’s challenging to take care of if you don’t put in the effort and don’t live in the right environment. I initially wanted to place it by my TV, but it’s right next to the A/C so the draft will affect it. Luckily, my apartment has a sun room, so that’s where my fiddle leaf fig resides now as I search for the perfect spot with indirect sunlight. Meanwhile, my aloe vera is on my TV stand and has hardly gotten any attention outside of weekly watering. Who knows what signs I’ve been ignoring…

The amount of stress and disappointment in myself through this process has been really surprising. But Carter shared a lot of really hard truths and good advice at his book party, which made me rethink my purpose for caring for plants.

People have always had plants and gardens, but there’s been a resurgence especially among the younger generation to fill our homes with plants. They look great on the ‘gram and make your space feel more lush and inviting. They’re treated as a precursor to children and pets and a replacement for a significant other.

But plants are living beings, as Carter reminded us. They didn’t ask to be brought into our homes. When you get a plant, it’s like a job or having a pet. You are responsible and have to think about who will care for it when you aren’t at home. Don’t get a plant and expect it to fit into your schedule and type of home. Study your home and figure out the best plant that can thrive there. He said to build a relationship with your plant and stop trying to get more. (He actually argued for plant shops to make people sign a background check for plants the way shelters do when you want to adopt a pet LOL). Focus on a few plants and spend enough time to understand their unique needs. Talk to them. Meditate. Slow down. Enjoy the quiet and the time spent watering and cleaning their leaves. Stick your hands in the soil. Don’t be afraid to get dirty otherwise why bring plants indoors?

I was initially going to get two more plants by the end of the year but not anymore. Running around and just having a reminder set for weekly watering and freaking out about what new thing is developing is not truly taking care of my plants or fully enjoying them. Sure, I wanted plants to add some freshness to my first solo apartment and signify my adultness but that completely cheapens the miracle of life that is happening right in front of me. I want to be more gentle, more present, and more generous for them and for my own well-being.

Fellow plant parents, tell me what you’re growing, what your pain points are and what you enjoy about having a leafy green home. If you don’t have plants, I’d also love to know your thoughts!

What I’m noting

  • Election firsts // Check out the four Muslim women who won their campaigns in Virginia, Minnesota and Maine this week, including Ghazala Hashmi, the first Muslim ever elected to Virginia’s state Senate.

  • Watch: Parasite // This is by far the best (and creepiest) movie I’ve seen all year. I don’t want to spoil it for you but it’s a psychological thriller/dark comedy set in South Korea and centers on two families—one rich and one poor. I loved how this movie created a suspenseful plot based on the conflict between classes and showed how our desires can drive us to make unexpected choices. Highly recommend. Make sure to avoid spoilers!

  • Why are rich people so mean? // “Research conducted at the University of Toronto by Stéphane Côté and colleagues confirms that the rich are less generous than the poor, but their findings suggest it’s more complicated than simply wealth making people stingy. Rather, it’s the distance created by wealth differentials that seems to break the natural flow of human kindness.” 

  • NatGeo November issue // The latest issue of National Geographic is the first ever with all female contributors, with photos and essays all built around the theme of Women: A Century of Change.

  • Philanthropy for the women’s movement // Philanthropy tends to get excited about supporting short-term projects that deliver measurable outcomes, which arguably takes away from funding systemic change for women’s rights worldwide.

  • Amazon Sells Clothes From Factories Other Retailers Blacklist // I’ve talked about my growing concern about sustainability and human rights in the fashion world. This is yet another reminder to not get excited about buying cheap clothes off Amazon, because they continue to sell products from factories that do not ensure certain safety-standards, even after the tragic factory collapse that killed more than 1,100 people in Bangladesh in 2013.

    That’s it for me. This weekend, I’m heading to Spain (!!) for a vacation with a few friends. I’m looking forward to getting out of my element, enjoying good food, wandering museums and cafes, and basically not sitting at my desk and thinking about the news for a week. Although I probably should have thought about the fact that I’m traveling post-daylight saving time so sunset is now at 5:30 p.m. and it’s actually going to be quite chilly.

    If you have any must-sees in Barcelona, Sevilla, Granada and Córdoba, please send them my way. I look forward to sharing what I experience with you when I return.

    Have a great weekend!

    — Nesima

November is the Thursday of the year

On my mind

This week flew by for me, despite being interrupted by an undesirable migraine and stomach flu yesterday. I’m trying to rush through prepping stuff at work ahead of a really big project and an international trip I’m taking that will have me OOO for 9 days. I’ll talk more about the trip next week when I have more time to process that it’s actually happening lol

Today is November 1st, which means there are now two more months of the year. That sentence just made you either freak out or get excited. November feels like a yawn to me. Sometimes it’s a frenzy if I’m doing NaNoWriMo, then there’s Thanksgiving and anticipating my birthday in early December, then BAM, it’s Christmas break.

I’m curious about what you want to get done before December 31. Are you nervous of how little time there is left? I have a few things on my to-do list that I really want to cross off my list, but at the same time, I feel sort of indifferent to how 2019 ends. It’s interesting how our New Year’s resolutions are so grand and ambitious and by the end of the year, we are often disappointed or kinder to ourselves.

I hope you choose to be kind to yourself. But if you need a kick in the butt and an accountability buddy for those deadlines, I’m here for that too so let me know!

What I’m noting

  • See Something Say Something: The Tribes of the Jinn // Who doesn’t love a good jinn story? Satisfy your curiosity and expand your knowledge with some academics and jinn experts on this episode of the See Something Say Something podcast (formerly of Buzzfeed, but now you can support it through Ahmed Ali Akbar’s Patreon)

  • Let’s Talk About Death // This week’s Books Briefing from The Atlantic threads together stories and books that put mortality in perspective. One of the things I’ve appreciated about how Islam is how it teaches you that death comes for everyone and to not spend a lot of time mourning someone after they’re gone. We don’t do grand funerals with eulogies and all that, which I used to wish we did because I thought it meant we didn’t care enough. Instead, I learned that we should pray for our loved ones and use their life as a reminder that we’ve got a limited time here on Earth so we should make the most of it. It’s still scary to think about the end of course, but seeing death in that way helps me whenever I struggle with grief.

  • How Outrage Is Hijacking Our Culture And Our Minds // New social science research asks: What's the effect of all the outrage we’re exposed to on TV, online and in person?

  • How does the Internet laugh today? // The Pudding is one of my favorite dataviz publications to follow, because they illustrate such interesting topics like rappers sorted by the size of their vocabulary, common misspellings, where your adopted dogs come from and how inclusive are makeup shades and brand around the world. You can preview the essays on Instagram and read them in full on their website. Here’s one of their latest series:

    That’s it for me. Have a good weekend and keep sending me what you’re noting!

    — Nesima

Your sense of time is broken

On my mind

Hello friends!

Did you miss me? Probably not, because your inbox has 520 unread emails and you had an extra week to get through the last newsletter I sent you. It’s okay. I understand. My time in California was short and sweet but served as a good reminder that taking breaks is very important even if you think you don’t have time. Life is overwhelming, is it not?

What I’m noting

This long and wearying decade is coming to a close, though, even if there’s no sense of an ending. People are always saying stuff like: Time has melted; my brain has melted; Donald Trump has melted my brain; I can’t remember if that was two weeks ago or two months ago or two years ago; what a year this week has been. Donald Trump tells the story of 2016 again. Your Facebook feed won’t stop showing you a post from four days ago, about someone you haven’t seen in three years. The Office, six years after it ended, might be the most popular show in the United States. Donald Trump tells the story of 2016 again. One high schooler dances to a Mariah Carey song from 2009 (“Why you so obsessed with me?”) in a video that loops in 15-second increments on TikTok; then other teens do it; then a high school dance team dances that dance to this Mariah Carey song as a gym full of teens sings along, in a video that loops in 15-second increments on TikTok. Donald Trump tells the story of 2016 again. What was here yesterday no longer is.”

  • Listen: The View from Somewhere // This is a new podcast that interrogates the idea of “objectivity” in journalism and how it’s been used to hurt marginalized communities. You’ll hear from different journalists and their experiences standing up for justice while balancing their professional obligations. The host, Lewis Raven Wallace, was fired from the public radio show Marketplace, for writing a personal piece about being a trans journalist trying to write ethical stories in the Trump administration.

  • Listen: How to Resist // I went to a live taping this week for The Intercept’s Deconstructed podcast hosted by Mehdi Hasan. He interviewed Rep. Ilhan Omar and Michael Moore about defeating Trump in 2020, why they endorsed Bernie Sanders for president, and the challenges progressives face in the country. It was a fascinating and unexpectedly funny conversation about the strange point in history we are in.

  • Watch: Modern Love // I binge-watched this series on Amazon Prime over the weekend based off real-life messy, sad, joyful, weird love stories from the New York Times’s “Modern Love” column. My favorite episodes were the first three. I cried a lot (probably also from exhaustion). I just read that the show has been renewed for season two! While I enjoyed the series, I also agree with this critical review of how it adapted the personal essays. Don’t read it until you’ve watched, because spoilers.

  • Watch: Fleabag // I also finished this brilliant show last week, which sadly only has two seasons and will only ever have two seasons. I don’t want to ruin what it’s about, but essentially it follows a British woman navigating her work, weird family, relationships and the loss of her loved ones. I am now such a fan of Phoebe Waller-Bridge and how she wrote about grief, love and anger with wit and style.

  • Read: Children of Blood and Bone // This young adult book has gotten so much buzz since it published for getting a huge book and movie deal for the now 25-year-old author, Tomi Adeyemi. It’s a dystopian fantasy set in the land of Orisha (inspired by Nigeria) and involves a quest to return magic to its oppressed people. I liked the unique incorporation of West African myths and the analogy to racism and police brutality. At times, I found the writing to be simple and repetitive (there are multiple narrators) and would have wanted stronger descriptions of the world and how magic actually works. It’s very obvious the author was inspired by books like The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Divergent, but overall it’s a light (albeit long) read if you’re up for it.

That’s it for me. Hope you all have a good weekend. Keep sending me your thoughts and what you’re noting.

And if you’re enjoying this newsletter, feel free to pass it along to your friends and tell them to subscribe!

— Nesima

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