As we get to the end of the year, the days get short and dark, and the post-Christmas kipple offer emails start flooding my inbox, I get to reflecting.
This year in particular has been full of happy, amazing, and bittersweet things. First and foremost, I had my son. Then, it’s my daughter’s last year before going to school. Also, I’m very slowly starting to make the transition back from the twilight zone into the real world; maternity leave is ending and I’m going back to work in January.
And, I started this newsletter.
I have no idea what compelled me to do it, except I’d been missing writing, and had a TON of opininos about stuff in tech that I didn’t feel like putting on Twitter. Also, everyone’s doing newsletters now. I had zero expectations when I set out, which is always a great place to start, because the success of this project has exceeded my wildest dreams.
I’ve written a lot of things on Normcore I’m really proud of. My favorites, if I had to pick, are the ones that I put a lot of thought into, to dig underneath the prevailing narrative and find a different angle to what’s going on:
the one about Siraj Raval (which I rewrote three times),
my Kafka piece, which has become foundational Normcore cannon and was written before a lot of people were criticizing WeWork
This piece on neural nets being just humans
the Keybase piece which, I’d like to think, was key in getting them to change their policies
This piece on the invisible people online
This piece on the Russian internet
This piece on OpenAI and Microsoft
I’m just as happy about my subscriber posts, which have evolved to be a little more personal in nature, particularly this one about what parenting is like.
I think, though, what I’m most proud of, and grateful for, is that I started this project seven months pregnant and churned out the majority of my work so far during maternity leave.
I do not recommend doing projects - or anything really - during maternity leave. And I absolutely would not have been able to with my first child. But this was my second kid, I was already used to not sleeping, and writing Normcore helped me enormously.
The early days of parenting, as modern Western society has you experience them, as are hard.
Maternity and paternity leave are a special kind of shadow world apart from society, where you’re home, but both living at day and at night, blending time, fully in the world but also entirely not a part of it, on your own schedule as you learn your baby’s rhythms at three in the morning.
Maternity leave for me (and for most women) entails being mostly completely alone all day, and at night looping through a twenty-four hour cycle of diaper changes, kisses, clothing changes, spit-up, cleaning, reading books to a human who isn’t fully ready to appreciate them yet, and night feedings, oh the night feedings (they’re still going on here and will probably for another six months at least. There are no bonuses, no recognition, no retweets, and you don’t see the rewards of this endless labor for years and years.
To be able to still contribute to the discourse around tech, and to keep up with what was going on outside has been the greatest gift technology could have ever given me.
There are a lot, a LOT of negative things that can and will be said about technology now and far into the future, but I will forever be greatful that technology like Substack, the Internet, Twitter, web browsers, WiFi, mobile apps, and keyboards, all came together levelled the playing field for me. It gave me a window back out into the world, and allowed me to feel like a thinking human again, instead of just a ragged pair of Adidas sweatpants holding a bottle in one hand and a baby in the other for months on end.
I am extremely grateful for the time I’ve spent at home. But, during the hardest parts of that time, Normcore has been there to give me a mental out.
Thank you to you, readers, for coming along for the ride - for emailing me, for tweeting, for leaving long, thoughtful comments, story suggestions, and for sharing Normcore with your friends, family, and coworkers. Humanity in tech seems to be one of the most emergent themes of this newsletter, and I’ve experienced that in spades here.
Normcore in itself is all about looking beyond the hype and headlines, and I refuse to believe that technology can only be negative, despite myself increasingly believing so. I don’t really have any resolutions for next year, other than to try to get back to at least six continuous hours of sleep, but I am hopeful that I’ll find some more positive stuff to write about.
In that spirit, here are what some other people had to say about technology that made their lives better this year.
Thank you for reading, sending emails and comments, and thanks for sticking with me on this crazy ride.
Happy New Year, and see you (and whoever the next WeWork turns out to be) in 2020!
Art: Yamamura Toyonari, Festival Night Fireworks 1924
About the Newsletter
This newsletter is about issues in tech that I’m not seeing covered in the media or blogs and want to read about. It goes out once a week to free subscribers, and once more to paid subscribers. If you like it, forward it to friends!
Select previous free Normcore editions:
Keybase and the chaos of crypto · What’s up with Russia’s Internet· I spent $1 billion and all I got was this Rubik’s cube· Die Gedanken sind frei · Neural nets are just people· Le tweet, c’est moi· The curse of being big on the internet· How do you like THAT, Elon Musk?·Do we need tech management books? ·Two Python Paths
Select previous paid Normcore editions:
Sidewalks for the internet· Imgur is bad now · Eric Schmidt and the great revolving door· No photos please · Deep thoughts of Cal Newport
About the Author:
I’m a data scientist in Philadelphia. Most of my free time is spent wrangling a preschooler and a baby, reading, and writing bad tweets. I also have longer opinions on things. Find out more here or follow me on Twitter.