My mind is swirling with creative energy, new ideas, and optimism as we begin the Jewish new year. (BTW, now seems an appropriate time to re-share my Al Chet for Database Administrators!) There’s been so much good, juicy stuff coming across my inbox and news feeds that I decided to write up a little reading list. As always, I intend for this little corner of the interwebs to be dialogue as much as word splat, so feel free to comment with your favorite links or reactions to what I’m sharing!

News you can use

OMG y’all, Excel is releasing a NEW FUNCTION to complement our beloved VLOOKUP and HLOOKUP pals! It’s called XLOOKUP and it’s…. really powerful. Read up on what it can do here. Thank you for the tip, MK and EHR!

I learned today that the VLOOKUP is the most used Excel function, after Sum() and Average(). Who knew?! I haven’t had many occasions yet to take the XLOOKUP for a test drive, but I’m sure it will come back on the blog eventually 🙂

Rich girl

I’m deep, deep in an Adrienne Rich kick and I’ve been reading her essays like they’re going out of style. Fortunately for me, they are just as relevant now as they were 50 years ago, although in a few places you can see a little bit of aging. So far, my favorites from the collection have been “When We Dead Awaken,” “Split at the Root,” and “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Experience.”

Here’s a quote that I’ve found simply captivating, from a commencement address at Smith in 1979:

Try to be worthy of your foresisters, learn from your history, look for inspiration to your ancestresses. If this history has been poorly taught to you, if you do not know it, then use your educational privilege to learn it. Learn how some women of privilege have compromised the greater liberation of women, how others have risked their privileges to further it, learn how brilliant and successful women have failed to create a more just and caring society, precisely because they have tried to do so on terms that the powerful men around them would accept and tolerate. Learn to be worthy of the women of every class, culture, and historical age who did otherwise.

What Does a Woman Need to Know?

Event-ually, We Will Win

I really liked this piece on “distributed organizing” and online-to-offline base building. I don’t know much about the company behind the article, but it seems smart to me to combine CRM technology with smart social movement strategy… heck, that’s what I’m all about! So a combination of organizer-led events and recruiting volunteer leaders, with some magical mail merge sprinkled in there, seems like a recipe for success.

Open Data Philly! Maps! Housing Injustice ;(

My first entrypoint to the world of data and justice was through taking GIS courses with a mentor professor. GIS is a powerful software program that allows you to analyze “geo-spatial” information, for example, census data overlayed with environmental data, elevation data, or custom data. The end result is making maps that show how these different variables overlap and relate. The awesome and appropriately highly respected local B-Corp, Azavea, hosts a fellowship every summer to support college students and grad students in advancing this methodology while partnering with local nonprofits on data projects. Some of the results from last summer’s fellows are available now and I have SO enjoyed reading them! Check out this reflection on using public data to identify substandard housing trends in Philadelphia, and what to do about it.

My opinion? This type of work would pair really well with a more anthropological approach, which I think Matthew Desmond did in his recent book, Evicted. Also, at least in the case above, I think the methodology is more groundbreaking than the conclusions they developed, but that’s ok because it’s just a summer program! Still totally worth a read.

JB Brager’s comic zines

I am absolutely transfixed by the worlds JB creates in their comics and zines and I think “My Gender is a Saturn Return” is a particular masterpiece. Intimate, irreverent, nonlinear, confessional, wise – reading these letters is almost like reading liturgy to me… and the art is spectacular. In so many ways, I feel like they are telling the story of subcultures that formed me and my communities, let alone our individual stories. I’m a supporter of JB on Patreon (highly recommend!!!) but you can also follow their work on Instagram or order their work through their website.

From “My Gender is a Saturn Return” – from the Artist’s website

On my last trip to NYC (when I visited the Salesforce Tower!), I popped into the bookshop next door to explore, where I picked up The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang, and WOW. What a masterpiece. This book left me with more questions than answers (in a way that actually felt pretty satisfying, which surprised me!). Learning about her intersecting identities, her evolving diagnoses, her experience of trauma and triggers, was a tremendous gift. The open question about how our society should handle involuntary hospitalization is an important one – and seeing how she scoped out the terrain, arguing both sides of the debate, and sharing what it’s like as a patient, should be required reading for anyone engaging in this policy discussion!

Which leaves me with one more book to shout-out – Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. Because man, I’ve never been so undone by reading a book. I only wish I had read this text in a group or a course, because there was so much to discuss and so much to learn! This book absolutely, without a doubt, deserves all of the attention it has received. I truly feel honored to have peered into Jesmyn’s world, met her characters, and mourned injustice with them. I can’t do the book justice by summarizing the plot here, but I can say that the language was staggering in its lyricism and honesty; the characters were unforgettable; the conclusions, heartbreaking. I cried many, many tears as I closed the book, but I wouldn’t choose to have it any other way.

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