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Note to Self

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Forty Years of Coding In a Man's World
Silicon Valley is still a man's world. And Ellen Ullman, who started programming in 1978, thinks it's high time for the rest of us to infiltrate. Ellen's new book, Life in Code, is full of great and awful stories. Her love of the work. The joys of hunting down a bug. But also, the client who would rub her back while she tried to fix his system. The party full of young men drinking beer, where she turned down a job offer from Larry Page. Ellen has watched tech-bro culture take over everything. Now, she says, we have to grab our angry dignity and fight back. 
Can Your Phone Make You Better In Bed?
No, not by watching porn. By sharing with your partner what turns you on, and weirds you out. Through an app. Kaitlin Prest of The Heart podcast recruits two couples to test drive the Pls Pls Me app. And talk about awkward conversations, making out, and more… unusual desires. Support Note to Self by becoming a member today at    
Play Video Games for Your Mental Health
You judge the person playing Candy Crush. Even when it’s you. But that mental fist pump from leveling up has real value. How to stop judging and use games for a strategic reset. With game designer and futurist Jane McGonigal, author of SuperBetter and Reality is Broken.
Dan Harris Knows All Your Excuses for Not Meditating
People have a lot of excuses for not meditating. Eight, in fact. Dan Harris knows them all. And he can help. ------- Subscribe to our Wednesday morning newsletter for info on new episodes, our must-reads, and the news you need to get just a little geeky. Follow us on Twitter @manoushz and @notetoself, or on Facebook. Email us any time at - we love to hear from you. Responses from real humans, not bots, promise.
A Neuroscientist’s Guide to Getting Organized
If you had to guess, how many facts have you taken in today? How many factoids, dates, times, sale alerts, tweet-sized factoids, and other factual-or-at-least-pretending-to-be-factual pieces of information have passed across your screen? At this rate, how many more do you expect to take in by midnight?  Let us present you with one more: According to Dr. Daniel Levitin, author of "The Organized Mind," your brain can only fully absorb four. Four. "[More] will compete for neural resources with what you're really doing at the moment, what's in front of you. Your brain will be narrating... all of this undone stuff," Levitin says on this week's show. We’ll be hearing more from him later this month when we dig very, very deep into the phenomenon of “information overload” – and to get there, we need your help. Click here to take our quick survey on what information overload looks like for you. Your responses will help us build a project that actually matters to you. In the meantime, you can hear Dr. Levitin's explanation of where our neurological limits lie, either in the player above or on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, I Heart Radio, and anywhere else using our RSS feed. He also gave us some tips on setting limits. Here's a cheat sheet (in numerical order as he suggests!): 1. Write down everything you need to do. Everything! Then make sure you prioritize what really needs to be first. Basically: brain dump with bullet points, then go through and number in order of importance. "You look at your list of things to do and there's one that you've put there on top, you sit down to do that, and you really become immersed in it. Instead of wondering, like so many of us do, 'Is there something else I should be doing? Is this really the thing I should be doing? Let me check my email, maybe there's something more important...'" 2. Find a way of making all your digital stuff look different. You could create different email accounts for different parts of your life, or amp up your Gmail to do some real filtering for you. "During the day when information comes in you're not quite sure how important it is, or how important it's going to be. [If] you have no system for it, you can't attach it to anything on your priorities list. And so you put it in your brain and you kind of toss it and turn it around, and because it doesn't attach to anything, it takes up neuro-resources." 3. If paring down isn't an option, communicate.  Need to keep up with everything at your demanding job? Then your challenge is one of communication: explain to those around you what's on your plate in terms of priorities – i.e., "yes, I will read that, but after I put the finishing touches on this. It's due at 3 p.m. See my list of priorities I wrote out right here? I can make changes if need be, but..."  Levitin says these are conversations best handled in person. 4. Don’t beat yourself up about it. When you start to feel overwhelmed, that is the exact moment when you need to make your list of prioriites. "Cortisol is released whenever we're trying to do more than we can handle. Its part of the fight or flight response, which made a whole lot of sense in hunter-gatherer times but now it's just toxic, it makes your stomach ache, it shuts down your immune system, you're more likely to get sick when you're stressed. All because of cortisol." Stay tuned for more from Dr. Levitin, and don't forget to take our survey here!
Day 5: Your Personal Terms of Service
The last day of the Privacy Paradox challenge. We'll draw some conclusions from this week—and some boundaries for the future. With Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who invented a little something called the World Wide Web. He has a big idea for a more secure, more private experience online. And he thinks we can build it together.  Support Note to Self by becoming a member today at    
Day 3: Something To Hide
It's day three of Note to Self's Privacy Paradox challenge. There are the things you know you share online: selfies, emails, Facebook posts. But there is so. much. more. Marketers are mining the words you use, your tone and sentence length, to profile you. To assess your personality.  Today, find out who the Internet thinks you are. With the man who helped Google implement the right to be forgotten.  Support Note to Self by becoming a member today at     
Introducing: The Privacy Paradox
We want control of our personal information. But even when risks to our data are high, we sign up for services and apps. We download, click, and post without being sure where that data ends up. The Privacy Paradox, Note to Self's latest interactive project is your answer to this digital dilemma. Next week, we'll bring you five days of challenges and mini-podcasts, to help you make digital decisions that feel right for you.  To join the project, sign up at And listen here. Let's do this, folks. Support Note to Self by becoming a member today at    
Saving Big Data From Itself
There’s so much potential. With big data, researchers can smooth social interactions and create better cities. Maybe cure cancer, and slow climate change. But the data has to come from somewhere. And that somewhere is us. Support Note to Self by becoming a member today at    
Revealing Selfies. Not Like That.
Your selfies are sharing way more than your smiling face. They’re full of data. Which is being used by stores. And banks. And police. And, well, everyone. This week, you sent us your photos. We gave them to data scientist Andreas Weigend, to see what he could deduce. A lot, it turns out. Date and time. Location, down to where in a building you were. Your name, education, employment history. Your hopes and dreams. Well, not quite. But close.  Support Note to Self by becoming a member today at    
Spring Cleaning for the Mind
Information overload has reached an all time high. Is there a way to stay-up-to-date without losing your mind? Yes. We call it “single-tasking.” Here’s a reminder of what multi-tasking does to your brain plus a proven way to find focus. Support Note to Self by becoming a member today at    
Government Secrets Worth Leaking... or Keeping?
So, the C.I.A. has a back door to your phone. At least, according to the Vault 7 data dump from WikiLeaks. This week, when are these tactics really making our lives safer? Support Note to Self by becoming a member today at    
Marina Abramović’s Method Blew Our Minds
Artist Marina Abramović – the woman famous for staring into a record-breaking number of people's eyes at the MOMA, letting an audience point a gun at her head, and convincing the public to take performance art seriously – has some opinions about our phones. Namely: They are distracting us, and we need to stop pretending like they aren't.  Her latest project is called "Goldberg," and it is a collaboration with celebrated pianist Igor Levit and the Park Avenue Armory. The team says it's designed to help audiences remember what full attention actually feels, looks, and sounds like. Through a performance of J.S. Bach's notoriously difficult Goldberg Variations, they are attempting "a reimagining of the traditional concert experience," in which attendees first trade their tickets for a key. Each key has a corresponding locker, in which they are instructed to put their phone, watch, computer, and any other personal belongings that tell time or receive a signal from outside. Guests arriving at the Armory, putting their distractions behind lock and key. (James Ewing) Once they've locked the doors, they're given a pair of noise-canceling headphones. For the first thirty minutes of the performance, that's it. The entire audience – and also Levit, the performer – will sit together in complete silence.  The audience sitting in total silence. Yes, mandatory total silence. (James Ewing) Levit then breaks the silence by starting to play his version of the Goldberg Variations.  Legend has it that Bach originally wrote the Goldberg variations to soothe an insomniac Austrian Count through the night. (James Ewing) On this week's show, Abramović explains her "method" for really, truly listening: Marina Abramović: You're taking a taxi, you’re concerned you’re on time, you’re answering [a] last phone call and so on. And you’re arriving, and you sit down, and you hear the concert... but you’re not ready to hear anything. You’re just too busy. So I’m giving this time and space to the public to actually prepare themselves. Manoush Zomorodi: But surely, I mean, we’re grown ups right? I’m coming to the concert. Can’t we just turn off our phone? Why does it have to be so heavy-handed? Abramović: ...If Igor has enormous discipline to learn by heart the Goldberg variations with 86 minutes, and play [them] in the most incredible magic way, we can have discipline to to honor this. And to just see, to have [a] new experience... the moment you don’t have your phone and you don’t have the watch to check if you’re sitting there for five minutes or ten, it just gives you a completely different state of mind. Zomorodi: I’m concerned that my state of mind won’t be one of calm but rather one of agitation. That it’s going to be very difficult for me. Abramović: Well this is where you have the real problem then. That you have to address the problem in your life. That is why it is good for you. Listen above or anywhere you get your podcasts. Bonus points if you sit in total silence for 30 minutes first. In this week's episode: "Goldberg" runs from December 7-19 at the Park Avenue Armory. Tickets are available here. Igor Levit, pianist and performer. His newest album is "Bach, Beethoven, Rzewski," and it features the Goldberg Variations you'll hear on today's show. You can purchase on Amazon or iTunes. Alex Poots, Artistic Director of the Park Avenue Armory.  Marina Abramović, visual and performance artist. Marina Abramovic on Rhythm 0 (1974) from Marina Abramovic Institute on Vimeo. Subscribe to Note to Self on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, I Heart Radio, or anywhere else using our RSS feed.
Creating a Super-Human You with Dave Asprey
Welcome to Note to Self Cafe. Would you like cream and sugar with your coffee? How about... butter? We're on a mission to try and change our minds and bodies with data—first with fitness apps, then by strapping sh*t to our heads. Now we have arrived at act three: biohacking.  If you're not familiar with biohacking, there's this group of guys (yes, mostly dudes) who look at data and experiment to optimize their minds and bodies. Enter, biohacker Dave Asprey, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur behind Bulletproof Coffee—a blended drink with grass-fed unsalted butter, Brain Octane Oil and puppy tears (two of those are actual ingredients). At this point Bulletproof is a huge operation that includes Bulletproof Radio, the best-selling book The Bulletproof Diet: Lose up to a Pound a Day, Reclaim Energy and Focus, Upgrade Your Life, and a blog. A lot of people who are part of this biohacking wave, frankly, seem ridiculous and self-centered. But in this case, we'll admit it, we really do want to live long and happy lives. And so does Asprey. "The goal is to die when I want," he tells host Manoush Zomorodi in this week's episode. "I'm planning to hit at least 180." A goal that Asprey says isn't so far-fetched. How does he plan on getting there? By reaching a high-performing, altered state through whatever means are necessary—as long as he can track it. "The only thing wrong that Lance Armstrong did is he didn't tell everyone he was doing it. As a matter of fact, from what I hear, he wasn't the only person in pro-cycling doing this, not by a long shot. And here's what pisses me off about this: Do you know how much precious knowledge we would have as a species had Lance published what he was doing? And all of the other people there? So I say if these athletes want to do experiments like that, they just need to publish the data. Why hide it?" If you like this episode (or just can't stop thinking about buttery coffee), you'll probably also enjoy a story from our friends at Only Human about a man who started a dieting trend before most present-day trendsters were even conceived. You can listen to that here. And one last thing: We have a request for an upcoming show we are working on about death. Sounds ominous, but we could really use your help. Do you have a story about how technology has changed or helped you deal with death? Record a voice memo on your phone or send us an email at We're also here to listen on Facebook and Twitter. Subscribe to Note to Self on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, I Heart Radio, Pocket Casts or anywhere else using our RSS feed.
We Tried to 'Hack' Our Diets. We Totally Failed.
On this week's episode of Note to Self, host Manoush Zomorodi and executive producer Jen Poyant team up with The Sporkful's Dan Pashman to try to cut back on sugar, by using technology that promises to make them healthier. You might remember Dan Pashman from the time he and Manoush cooked avocado at the instruction of IBM's Chef Watson. That experiment was a success. Spoiler: This one really wasn't.  By some estimates, health and fitness technology is a $200 billion industry. That includes the oh-so-romantic FitBit you got for Valentine's Day, the dieting app you paid a dollar for on your phone, and even the sugar detox kit you may or may not have ordered online. But as we've heard from many of you, the promise of these magic wellness panaceas doesn't always play out the way you expect when you put them in the real world. Many of our listeners tell us their health apps and hacks have been a mixed bag. Early studies bear these experiences out. Inspired by the burbling questions we're hearing, we're working on a show that will look more closely into the claims various "we’re going to make you healthy!" apps and services and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs promise will fix us. Help us take the story deeper. Tell us about the different ways you've tried to "quantify" or "bio-hack" yourselves. What happened? Are you still doing it? Why or why not? Has your employer asked you to buy a sleep tracker? Did you make your own optimized protein sludge? Did you lose a ton of weight calculating calories, or did you just lose your mind? Send a voice memo to with your experience. Put "self hack" in the subject line. Help us out by forwarding to anyone you know with a story. The more the better!  Don't miss it! Subscribe to Note to Self on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, I Heart Radio, or anywhere else using our RSS feed.
When FOMO Meets JOMO
If you haven't heard of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) by now... well, no fear. There are cartoons to get you up to speed. There is a definition in the Oxford English Dictionary. There are diagnostic quizzes. There is a heavily-annotated Wikipedia entry.  There is also a meaningful counter-term: JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out). And yes, the person behind FOMO and the person behind JOMO know each other - they are, in fact, old friends. Technologists Caterina Fake and Anil Dash – popularizers of FOMO and JOMO respectively – say they wish more had changed since they published their now-famous blog posts five years ago. On this week's episode of Note to Self, the two talk about the utility of acronyms, the importance of thoughtful software design, and the recent history of the Internet as we know it.  "I don't think Silicon valley today, the technologists coming of age today who have always had access to the Internet and were born into it, understand that there are ethical choices to be reckoned with in the way that we build our apps and the way we build technology," Dash says. Fake agrees. She says that sense of "oh there is something I should be paying attention to" has been built into the platforms we use – our attention is the currency by which social networks are considered successful. "It's a lot of work to tilt the meters more towards the JOMO end of the spectrum,"  she says. "Software is good at exploiting those tendencies that we are unaware of or subject to. I think that a very conscious approach – media literacy, and ethics classes –are really where we need to be. As a culture, as a society, we know the software isn't going to go away. All of this is going to be with us and we should take it for granted that it will remain." It's a sentiment we know a little too well. Especially the certifiable digital junkies among us. (Note To Self)   Read Caterina Fake's 2011 post about FOMO here. Read Anil Dash's 2012 post about JOMO here. For more conversations like this one, subscribe to Note to Self on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, I Heart Radio, or anywhere else using our RSS feed.
Shaking Up Your Echo Chamber. For Democracy.
We tend to click on things we agree with already. And social media networks like it that way. Bumming out your customers is a bad business model. This week, we talk with Tracy Clayton and Katie Notopoulos from BuzzFeed about why that's a problem, and get their tips on widening our everyday nets. With minimal ick factor.  Support Note to Self by becoming a member today at    
Drop Your Phone, Make Your Bed, Says Gretchen Rubin
Note to Self listeners are struggling to find joy on the internet after this election. Gretchen Rubin, 'Happier' host and author of the New York Times bestseller, The Happiness Project, has advice. Support Note to Self by becoming a member today at    
A Post-Election Note to You
The nation is divided, and we're all processing. So, we curated a list of 7 episodes from the archive for your post-election reality.  Support Note to Self by becoming a member today at    
Bonus: Marina Abramović’s Method Blew Our Minds
How Marina Abramović, the world’s most famous performance artist, got Manoush and producer Jen Poyant to sit in silence for 30 minutes before a "magic" performance of Bach's Goldberg Variations. Support Note to Self by becoming a member today at    
The Realities of Virtual Reality
We've put it off for long enough. It's time to talk about VR.
The Puppet Masters Behind Online Shopping
We head inside Etsy's Usability Testing Lab to understand the art of User Experience and online shopping seduction.
No Filter: Christiane Amanpour
The CNN anchor talks to Manoush about sex, wearing a “uniform,” and staying profesh on air and online. Plus, Call Your Girlfriend co-host and Cut contributor Ann Friedman, who almost fell out of her ergonomic chair when she found out she’d be in the same episode as Christiane. Every day this week, a new episode of our series, No Filter: Women Owning It Online, with New York Magazine’s The Cut. Five conversations with badass women. And trust us, you don’t have to be a woman for this series to be a must-listen. We’ve heard from Instagram megastar Lele Pons, Transparent actor Trace Lysette, and painter Amy Sherald, who made Michelle Obama’s official portrait. Tomorrow, we close the week with iconic artist Barbara Kruger. ------- We want to hear from YOU. How do you portray yourself online? Let us know in a quick message. We have a new way to talk to us, right in your browser. Give it a try. Follow us on Twitter @manoushz and @notetoself. Email us any time at - we love hearing from you. Responses from real humans, not bots, promise. Christiane’s new show is Sex & Love Around the World. And Ann’s podcast is, of course, Call Your Girlfriend, with Aminatou Sou.
Help Us Collect Political Ads on Facebook
Let’s build a database of political Facebook ads. Just in case someone needs to check on them later. Like, say, if the Russians bought thousands of ads to sway an election. Manoush’s privacy girlfriend, ProPublica’s Julia Angwin, is back with a challenge (and a browser plugin) for Note to Self listeners. ------- Subscribe to our Wednesday morning newsletter for info on new episodes, our must-reads, and the news you need to get just a little geeky. Follow us on Twitter @manoushz and @notetoself, or on Facebook. Email us any time at - we love to hear from you. Responses from real humans, not bots, promise.
Have Dating Apps Killed Romance?
Real OKCupid message: “Hi, good evening, nice photos. You are not fat.” It’s rough on dating apps. Can romance survive? Eric Klinenberg wrote Modern Romance with Aziz Ansari. This week, he joins Manoush to make the case that dating apps have killed romance. Featuring a mystery dater, reporting from the frontier of 21st century love.  ------- Subscribe to our Wednesday morning newsletter for info on new episodes, our must-reads, and the news you need to get just a little geeky. Follow us on Twitter @manoushz and @notetoself, or on Facebook. Email us any time at - we love to hear from you. Responses from real humans, not bots, promise.
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Podcast Details
Dec 9th, 2015
Latest Episode
Oct 14th, 2019
Release Period
No. of Episodes
Avg. Episode Length
21 minutes
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