Things I’ve Read While Pretending to Work



For some people November is a slow month. In my job, we have a name for it: No-Work November. There are obvious and good reasons for this: along with the non-existent workflow, there are also days off like Election Day, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving. That means November is a month with some serious downtime to spend on expanding your gut as preparation to take more food in the upcoming holidays; getting to know your coworkers better by throwing things at them when no-one is looking; and of course finding some interesting things to read.

But at work we still have to keep up appearances. We don’t want to be outright just surfing the internet in front of the boss. Let’s not get fired. What I like to do is quickly highlight the article I’m interested in reading, then copy/paste it to a Word document or email the text to myself. Then I’ll be free to read all day and it will look like I’m just writing or checking my email.

The following is a list of interesting articles I’ve read over the past week that have made me look productive, but really just served to inform and entertain me.

Don’t Eat Before Reading This by Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain was a recent guest at Fresh Air on NPR. In the show, he talked about how he first got started. He was initially a dishwasher and through the years worked his way up all the way to becoming a chef. Back in 1999, he was just a local chef who also discovered that he liked writing. Nobody knew who he was and he wrote things entirely for himself. He decided to submit a piece to some local New York newspaper—mostly so that other people in the restaurant industry could read it. The paper had accepted it but they never went on to actually publishing it. Fed up that he wasn’t good enough to be on a shitty local paper, he submitted it to The New Yorker in a what-the-hell-why-not kind of way. The New Yorker decided to run it. This is the piece that made him.

Marjorie and the Birds by Emma Straub

“Here is a suite of things difficult to capture—wistfulness and grief, hope and love and hesitation—all somehow swept into a single, simple, beautifully etched story by the multitalented Emma Straub”. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve read this piece multiple times. It shouldn’t interest me—I don’t care about bird watching or relate much to rich old people living in the Upper West Side, but I find this piece and her writing style very comforting to read.

The Secret Life of Trees: The Astonishing Science of What Trees Feel and How They Communicate by Maria Popova

After reading this, I will never look at trees the same way again. They are just like any living beings: they want life, community, and they socialize and communicate with each other. Although they don’t have “brains” the way animals do, it seems that they have an awareness of their environment and they can learn and remember. Be right back, I have to go hug a tree. They’re my friends.

The KFC Chicken Sandwich That Ate Pakistan by Sabia Imtiaz

KFC opened in Pakistan back in 1997. Unlike in America or other Western Countries, eating at a KFC signaled your wealth and status. The wealthiest people lined up to be seen at the one KFC in Karachi. One particular burger from KFC, the zinger, thus became a symbol for aspirational spending—and that chicken sandwich took on a life of its own to becoming a ubiquitous national staple.

The Price of Nails by Sarah Maslin Nir

Nail salons in New York are basically sweatshops. I’ve never had a mani-pedi, but if I did, I’d give the workers a big tip. “You can be assured, if you go to a place with rock-bottom prices, that chances are the workers’ wages are being stolen,” said Nicole Hallett, a lecturer at Yale Law School who has worked on wage theft cases in salons. “The costs are borne by the low-wage workers who are doing your nails.”

Beyond Reservatrol: The Anti-Aging NAD Fad by David Stipp

I suspect in the next decade, enough studies on this will have confirmed that the chemical NAD does work as an anti-aging supplement. Part of me is intrigued by this because I don’t want to get old. I want to stay young forever damnit!

Scientists Trace Society’s Myths to Primordial Origins by Julien d’Huy

If you’re into ancient myths and or the history of human migration going back to the Paleolithic era, this will be a fascinating read. It explains how say a Greek myth explaining the origin of a certain constellation can be so remarkably similar to South American myth explaining the same constellation. It turns out that as humans have migrated, they have also taken their stories with them, with the stories slowly changing in details, adapting to the environment, but with the same basic premise still in tact.

Okay that’s enough reading for now. Don’t forget to also stuff yourself. Happy No-Work November, ya’ll!


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