Huawei Mate 10: Headshots and the Perfect Selfie Camera


I was asked to participate in the Huawei Mate 10 battery challenge. After relentlessly complaining to my friends at Huawei about the pathetic battery life (among other things) of my iPhone 7 they agreed to lend me a Mate 10 to play with if I’d pick a 24 hour period of time and record my battery usage.

Here’s something you probably didn’t know about smartphone batteries:

When you get a new device it’s very important to fully charge it before the first use. When using the smartphone for the first time you’ll want to use it until the battery is completely drained without plugging it into anything. Repeating this process one more time creates a smartphone battery that’s been trained to deliver its full potential.

The Huawei Mate 10 is impressive.

Most days I switch between the Mate and the iPhone 7. Before that, I was carrying my P9 tethered to my iPhone. I’m still a little hooked into the ios ecosystem but the only device more disappointing (and expensive!) than the iPhone 7 has been my husband’s iPhone X. I’m slowly making my way to full-time Android. Until them tethering the iPhone to the Mate 10 is a great solution. Just weeks ago it was the reverse. I’ll likely always want both Android and iOS because my FOMO is extreme and because my office consists of two phones, a laptop, and a completely neglected home office space.

In any event, the folks at Huawei were making an infographic for the Mate 10 battery challenge. When Huawei sent a mock-up including my headshot it was cropped oddly. By me… oops. So they asked me for a new headshot and when I didn’t respond right away they asked about using one of my facebook photos. Which, although serviceable, was three hair colors ago. They asked for a second and I told them I’d provide a new photo over the weekend.

I set up a tripod and put the iPhone on selfie mode. Let’s face it, I’ll be 48 this month and there’s much to be said for a kind of crummy selfie camera. We don’t need to pick up every detail. Except, that it was just a selfie. The three-second delay is helpful but I couldn’t get a good photo, and with every bad photo I was crankier.

I switched to the Mate 10 and skipped the selfie mode. I put the Huawei phone on the tripod and clicked through to the smile menu. You see, you can set the Mate 10 to automatically take a photo when it sees a smile. I just sat in my room alone. It was just me, my tripod, and a cat (who was likely judging me), smiling at the camera and taking dozens of photos in about three minutes. It was painless. Even though I’m able to turn a selfie into an existenial crisis I think the photos came out pretty good.

Use the capture smiles feature on the Huawei Mate 10 for selfies

Well, most of them…. I’m really about words not selfies for a reason.

You can check social media for the hashtag #Mate10BatteryChallenge and see what people are experiencing around the world.

I found that I used the phone (funny to call it that because I hardly ever use it to actually speak) for 25 hours, received more than 400 notifications, sent or received in excess of 700 emails, streamed NPR all day long, messed around on social media, still had 27% of my battery life to play with.


Chopsticks, Death and Love


I’m in Monterey Park and after dropping a chopstick on the floor I grab a new one. Just one. As my hand hovers over a dumpling my friend practically shouts, “Don’t do that!”

Alarmed, I drop my hand and ask, “Don’t do what?”

“Never use mismatched chopsticks,” she says, “it’s bad luck.”

Not being superstitious I raise my chopsticks again and start to grab a dumpling when I am interrupted by an older woman at the table next to us, “We use chopsticks like that when someone is dead. It’s for the bones.” And she gave me a look that made it abundantly clear that this wasn’t about superstition, this was about manners.

I waited and asked a server for fresh chopsticks. But I was obsessed with learning more about the chopsticks rule. So I ran home and started reading about Chinese funerals. We’d been to dim sum, right?

I’d inadvertently learned about Japanese funeral customs while in a Chinese restaurant surrounded by mostly Chinese and Chinese-American people.

Japanese Buddhists cremate their loved ones differently than Americans typically do. I was interested to learn that, much like observant Jews, Japanese Buddhists perform their funerals within 24 hours. Also, like observant Jews, the body is never left unattended. After the funeral, the body is escorted to the crematorium where it is incinerated at a much lower temperature than we are accustomed to, and that is where the chopsticks come into the picture.

The family accompanies the body to the crematorium and witnesses as both casket and remains are placed in the cremation chamber. They are there two hours later when the remains are taken out.

The family then begins the process of placing the remaining bone fragments into an urn that will later be buried in a family plot.

The ceremony of placing these remains into an urn is quite beautiful and, I imagine, healing, as religious rites are designed to be. Special chopsticks are used to start at the feet and collect the bones to place in the urn. It’s important that the loved one is upright in their urn, and part of the ritual of picking the bones (kotsuage in Japanese) is passing them from chopstick to chopstick on the way to the urn.

Here is a striking photo of kotsuage.

Like any other religion or region, there are many steps, clearly defined, to the Japanese Buddhist funeral. Too many for this groups of words. But they’re comforting steps that serve to honor the dead while soothing the living. Funeral rites give rules to the family table, to the community, and to a nation first and the world second.

Even in good health we are planning for deaths. We keep our rituals sacred so that when the time comes for the people we cherish most the chopsticks are mismatched and the feet are at the bottom of the urn.

It’s not a Japanese thing, or a Buddhist thing, or even a chopstick thing. It’s a human thing. The way we preserve these moments, these rituals and their tools. We withold their use from daily existence so that the chopsticks that don’t match become tools for healing. What a waste it would be to use such a thing for just one dumpling.

This all got me to thinking about the ways we run from death. We keep death from our lives as though it’s a separate entitity. There’s living and there’s death. We’d like to believe they are two different states. But that’s not quite the case.

Ask any night nurse or hospice worker, ask widows and emergency responders. There are things we all do when we’re dying. Sudden deaths lend themselves to proclomations, grand and otherwise. Long illnesses or simply fading away in old age carry a predicability that leads to the moment. There’s a lack of hunger, and then of thirst, the eyes close and the breath slows, and if you’re very lucky there are no gasps before the permanent silence. If you’re even luckier someone will hold your hand and breathe slowly with you.

Then someone will sit with the body. And perhaps they will chant, perhaps they will pray, surely they will cry. Mostly though, there will be rituals, some of which make sense and others will be carried out with no understanding of why, and no desire to know. And death sort of bleeds into life as we care for those who pass before us.

With special chopsticks.




Tomorrow I’m meeting with some people from the city. We’re scheduled to discuss the prostitution problem in my neighborhood. We don’t have streetwalkers and pimps, we have massage parlors.

We have massage parlors that no one ever enters from the street. We have massage parlors that use their rear entrances with free parking. We have massage parlors where no one speaks English and the older woman at the front desk wears rainbow eyeshadow.

These massage parlors are admittedly not good for property values and I have some concerns about that, but we’re in a spot where our home values will continue to rise in value regardless of the local criminal activity. Nonetheless, I have made it a habit in the past to wander in and ask about an appointment. I’m hopelessly suburban. I look like your mom, I look like the lady who’s going to call VICE and it freaks them out. You know why I look that way?

Because I am the lady that calls VICE.

And I didn’t call VICE when I realized there were brothels popping up around my house. I called VICE when I realized that no one comes and goes. That perhaps women might be living there. I called VICE not after I recognized the fact that none of these women were American women but when I saw a teen there, not 18 or 19 either. I called VICE when I saw children being bought and sold.

And then VICE told me about all the ways they couldn’t help, but a few ways they could. So I encouraged them to please to keep visiting. And I kept visiting and flipping out the women in their 50s who wear too much rainbow eye shadow and pretend to look through empty appointment books to tell me there are no massages available for me.

And when my friends introduce me to their friends who are running for public office I ask these candidates what they’ll do about human trafficking. I watch them shrug and talk about what a terrible problem it is. One even let me know about places where it’s worse.

But I’m walking four blocks to the gym and I’m walking past a child in a brothel who is unlikely to read and write English. So I can’t turn my head and I won’t stop asking. This is ripped from the headlines human trafficking. And 30 yards from that massage parlor is a family like mine with a child the same age as the happy ending masseuse. And they’re freaking out because their daughter isn’t in the top 5% of scores for the SAT and how will she ever have a future…..

You cannot be a good person and worry about your child’s future while ignoring someone else’s daughter.

And I’m not a Pollyanna, okay, maybe I sometimes am. But I’m not opposed to legal prostitution. I’m not silly enough to think that sex isn’t a commodity and that women won’t sell something that men want to buy. I’m bothered by illegal prostitution for a million reasons that begin with disease and end with bringing crime to my neighborhood. Mostly though, I’m alarmed by women who don’t have agency selling something that they may or may not realize they own.

definition of agency sociology

So tomorrow I’m meeting with some folks at City Hall. I’m not overly concerned with having prostitutes rounded up for arrest. I am looking to have landlords held accountable. I am looking to have minors removed from this… existence. I don’t have solutions yet I’m hopeful that the people I’m meeting with will.

Overall though, I’m afraid to be hopeful. This isn’t a city that has done much to care for it’s most vulnerable citizens.

This is Privilege


Recently I mentioned on Facebook that I’d be visiting Pueblo, Colorado. It was met with a chorus of why’s, most with a disparaging tone.

I get it.

When people think of visiting Colorado they think Aspen or Vail, possibly Durango or Breckenridge, but people in Los Angeles don’t think, “I’ll go to Pueblo, Colorado today.” Which is all well and good but they’d be missing something because part of me really loves that little city and always will.

I went to school in Pueblo. After a false start at a swank private school, I found that West LA College was a really great place for learning. I was able to go to class distraction free (distraction = really rich boys in really fast cars) and learn a lot from teachers who didn’t have to worry about publishing or tenure or anything like that. They were just passionate. I’ll always remember the man who made me love math. I won’t remember his name but I’ll remember his crazy hair, plaid blazer, and pin that read: MATH IS NOT A SPECTATOR SPORT. I fell in love with linear algebra and I can’t remember a thing about that class except for his exuberance and it’s contagion.

After West LA I found myself in Pueblo. It’s one of those events where you sort of spin three times and there you are. It ended up being a perfect match. I knew little about myself at 19 except that I wanted to get a bachelor’s degree without writing any essays and that I needed to be in motion. A BS in Kinesiology seemed perfect and CSU Pueblo offered one.

College is more than just book learning. It’s this wonderful pause button that’s hit between childhood and adulthood. While the frontal lobe is experiencing its last bursts of growth and terrible decisions are repeatedly being made, college kids all over the country are able to make their mistakes in relative anonymity while learning how to meet deadlines, how to juggle too much work in too little time, and how to survive on not enough money. Loves are found and promptly lost. Politics are declared and then decried. Internships are miserable and wonderful and launch both careers and friendships.

College is a gift of time, of learning, of soft landings.

College was affordable for me. At the time I attended rents were low in Pueblo (still are!) and jobs were plentiful. I’d been working in restaurants for years and I just sort of knocked on doors and landed great jobs around town.

I left college with $1,500 on a credit card and I thought I’d never sleep through the night if I didn’t have it paid off. When I hear about the student debt that’s considered normal for kids now my shoulders creep up to my ears. I don’t know how or why we came to expect that kids should start their lives with mortgage payments due and no home to live in, but we do.

But that’s not what this is about.

Recently I was asked to join the board of the CSU Pueblo Foundation. The foundation exists to serve the students of CSU Pueblo. I’ve been to my first board meeting and my understanding, though incomplete, is that we will raise money for scholarships, school improvements, endowments, and grants. I could be wrong. I often am. But I do know that I sat in a room of altruists and I was inspired by their care, their caution, and their perseverance.

I have worked with many non-profits both as a consultant and as a volunteer. I have never been through financials like this before as I’ve not sat on executive committees, nor have I experienced this level of transparency. I have never witnessed anyone caring this much about someone else’s money.

So I’m basically in love with the mission and I’m going to bring you along on this journey. It’s new and it’s unfamiliar and it’s exciting. My greatest hope is that I can be part of the machine that allows someone else to leave college with a great education, a valuable degree, and a little less debt.


Parents Who Sustain Us


Over the weekend I met a lady in the baby business. We chatted a bit about her career and I was impressed, as anyone would be. She’s bright and hardworking, she’s the kind of lady you want to listen to and learn from.

Then she talked about social media and crowdsourcing photos. I smiled conspiratorially and faux whispered, “Yeah, it’s a tough trick when 90% of baby items are things no one needs.” Which, she ignored. And that’s when I knew she was brilliant.

The more she talked about social media the harder it was for me to nod and smile, until I finally blurted out that no one trusts any of those people anymore and it’s all smoke and mirrors, and my tirade may or may not have concluded with:

We built this business and then we burned it to the ground with sponsored posts, and my blog was garbage too. These new moms on Instagram are the most boring, unrelatable women I’ve ever seen.

But there were also expletives because I’m the kind of lady who says fuck, a lot. And I know it makes people tune out but when I’m passionate my mouth does my thinking so there’s no time for an internal censor to take the reigns.

When I drove home I reminisced to myself about how when my world crumbled around me I took to the internet to write anonymously. As Steven lay dying slowly, painfully, and without dignity, strangers uplifted me. They did more than just remind me that I’d survive, they gave me specific instructions about how to survive. Someone I will never meet gave me the exact verbiage to fill out social security forms. Another told me how to bluff my way through social services at the hospital. Still, another sent me a template for a last will and testament. Strangers did this freely, with a generosity of spirit I’d never known, and at a time when most of the country’s DSL lines were too slow to send an image. MMS and SMS were not how we shared documents.

So these strangers became my friends and my support system. I spent my nights in the hospital and my days mothering. I didn’t want to spend my days talking about the hospital time. I needed them to be separate. That was part of my survival.

When his pain finally ended I wanted to keep these people, these strangers, but I didn’t want to be in the land of death any longer so a blog was born. And then the internet called us Mommy Blogs. And then we were like “don’t call us Mommy”. And then the publicists were like “We have money for Mommy Bloggers” and then we said, “We are Mommy Bloggers!”

This is that space. That space that was good and interesting. That space where we talked about parenting and emailed and DM’ed and tweeted into the night when we didn’t know what to do with or for our kids. Then it was the space that was taken over by toilet wands and discount evangelists, and like all good things, it deteriorated. And that was sad. And I participated in my own business’ demise.

But along the way, there were the women like Tanis who patiently helped me be a friend to the mothers around me. She listened to me moan about how difficult things were for me and then didn’t really care and reminded me that no one else did. Tanis helped me get over myself and get into the sisterhood. Many of my friendships exist because Tanis believed I was emotionally capable of putting my feelings aside and giving to other women instead of worrying about myself. She believed in me when I didn’t know I had strength and she is the kind of woman that believes in other women. She is kind and strong and the thing you really need to know about Tanis is that she is unbelievably weird.

This kind of weird.

But make no mistake, Tanis isn’t flying solo in loving odd things. Remember when I said the Mommy Bloggers were men too? Well, don’t call CC Chapman or Curtis Silver Mommy, but you can call them leaders in the parenting community. In 2010 the four of us were in Chicago to learn about Kenmore appliances (I still love mine!) when CC taught me something very important: that a Dark and Stormy is the perfect wintertime drink.

To be fair he’s done many other things over the years, including turning me into an action figure. I’ve cherished this as much as a non-collector can and it’s remained on my desk since it arrived, unopened and admired.

CC Chapman turned me into an action figure for CMT.

And Curtis is that guy over there in Florida, who is publishing content everywhere, every day. He’s on Forbes and twitter and his couch of the day is something to behold. He’s twisted and smart and he paints to relax so when he offered to paint Tanis’ crazy Christmas gift for us all there was no reason to think he was bluffing (even though CC thought he was).

And that is the very long story of how this unnamed work of art landed on my office wall.