Note to Self

Note to Self

United States

Host Manoush Zomorodi talks with everyone from big names techies to elementary school teachers about the effects of technology on our lives, in a quest for the smart choices that will help you think and live better.


If My Body is a Text  

This episode features new writing from both Kim Brooks and Kiki Petrosino. Find Kim's essay, "The Problem of Caring" here, and find the poem Kiki wrote for this project, entitled, "Letter Beginning: If My Body is a Text," here.

Six years ago, Kim Brooks started going on "news fasts." She was struggling with parinatal depression at the time and the news of the world was often too much—too terrible—for her to absorb. So she got into the habit of taking time away from headlines and her Twitter feed to turn her focus inward. 

During the week of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling's deaths, Kim was on one of these fasts. When she returned to her screen, she realized her break from the news was possible because of the color of her skin. Kim is white. She doesn't have to think about police brutality. According to Pew Research, there’s a significant difference in how black and white adults use social media to talk about race-related content. About two-thirds of black social media users (68%) say at least some of the posts they see are about race or race relations. One-third of whites agree. And there’s a similar racial gap when it comes to posting, too: among black social media users, 28% say most or some of what they post is about race or race relations. 8% of whites say the same.

"This is one of the ugliest manifestations of my privilege that I can envision: the luxury of ignorance."

Kiki Petrosino, a poet, professor, and a friend of Kim's, saw the internet as a necessary way to immerse herself in what was happening. Kiki is bi-racial, and while Kim was offline, Kiki noticed a striking paradox at the center of the storm of circulating images, video, and information on her feed.

"On the one hand we're brought really front and center, because you can literally watch someone dying, which is probably the most intimate moment of a life. But we don't know that person. We can't touch them, we can't talk to their family. It really throws into question how to participate in community given all these technological advancements that we're making..."

Videos of police shooting young, black men and a troubling election cycle, played out on social media, have made racism in this country more visible. How do we balance being informed people with being healthy? Kim and Kiki come up with a strategy for absorbing, understanding, and addressing the news—from places of fear, exhaustion, and privilege.

When Silicon Valley Takes on Elementary School  

"We have an opportunity to do what we want - choose our path instead of the teachers making a choice for us." 

Meet Piper, a blond, freckled 9-year-old from Brooklyn who talks like a seasoned grownup. She used to go to public school with Manoush's son but now - with the help of financial aid - she's enrolled in a new experimental school in her neighborhood: AltSchool.

AltSchool is not your typical private school. Its founder is Max Ventilla, a former Google executive with a vision to reform education. Ventilla's company, with over 100 million dollars from investors like Mark Zuckerberg and Marc Andreesen, uses tech to teach and track students' social and academic skills. Ventilla's idea is that over time, that data can build a more thorough picture of each student and determine how she is taught. This method of "personalized learning" (think Montessori 2.0) is being prototyped in eight "micro-schools" in Palo Alto, San Francisco, and New York City, with the goal of applying it to schools everywhere. Manoush went to visit one in Brooklyn.

NPR's education reporter Anya Kamanetz is skeptical of Ventilla's goal to optimize education for the masses, and she's concerned about Silicon Valley's foray into education. "They have a giant promise, which is that the right software system, the right operating system, is going to transform teaching and learning... and, what it ultimately means is that they have shareholders to satisfy."

This week: can a tech startup engineer a better system for learning everywhere and make money doing it? And would these two tech reporters/mothers send their own kids there?

There are a lot of buzzwords in education technology — including the phrase "education technology!" We've rounded up some of the most common in this list. Consult it as you and your kids face more tech in the classroom. 

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Facing our Weirdest Selves  

Life is made up of gestures, sayings, emotions, and sounds. Note them one by one and you see them as individual elements, granular aspects of our day-to-day.

On a minute level, they may not say much. But look at them together, draw them out, and they can begin to tell a story. (When we say "draw" here, we mean literally draw.) 

That's exactly what two whimsical data scientists did in a new book, Dear Data . It's a collection of whimsical postcards Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec exchanged over the course of 52 weeks.  Each week, Giorgia and Stefanie would assign themselves a small-scale data collection project-- to track their "thank yous," or their desires, or their productivity, or the frequency with which they checked the time-- and then exchanged their findings in hand-drawn postcards.

This week, Giorgia and Stefanie took us down the rabbit hole of three postcards: "thank yous," "complaints," and "sounds." You can check out the images here along with the original music made by Hannis Brown featured in the episode.  


Now it’s your turn, dear Note to Self listener.  Have you been collecting data about your life? No topic is too small or too large. We want to see your homemade data visualizations.  Share with us a weekly visualization of the times you walk your dog, or boxes of mac and cheese your kids eat, or the strange sounds your car makes, or the times you text your spouse, or the places you daydream of visiting on vacation… or anything else.

We'd love to get a postcard from you; our snail mail address is: Note to Self c/o WNYC, 160 Varick St., New York, NY 10013. You can also email a photo of your postcard to; or share it on Twitter or Facebook.


Digging Into Facebook's File on You  

Algorithms operate everywhere in our daily lives. Using the information we give them, they're constantly learning about who we are and what we're more likely to buy. (Remember how that pricey coffee maker you looked at online showed up in your Facebook ads for the next two weeks?)

Most of the time, it's no big deal. But in an era where more than 40% of Americans get their news from Facebook, these algorithms can have a real impact on how we see the world. They may even have the power to shape our democracy. (Cue ominous music.) 

So here's the thing: every time you "like" something, share something, tag yourself in a photo, or click on an article on Facebook, the site collects data on you and files it away in their folder of YOU. And it's not just your activity on Facebook that they're keeping track of. They also track what device you used to log on, what other app you came from, other sites you've visited, and much more.

All that data helps Facebook paint a detailed picture of who you are and what you like for advertisers. The problem is that we don't know how, exactly, that picture is formed. The algorithms at work are a "black box." We don't know how these algorithms decide whether we're a "trendy mom" or a "frequent traveler." And we don't know how they decide which ads to show us. In short, no one is really accountable.  

On this week's episode, we talk with ProPublica investigative journalist Julia Angwin about how Facebook collects data and uses it to categorize us.

And here's where you come in, dear N2S listener. We are collaborating with ProPublica on their Black Box Data Project, which has just launched. You can take part in this important digital experiment. So go download the Google Chrome extension for your web browser at Tell us what you find out and how it makes you feel. Reach out in the comments section below; email us; holler at us on Twitter or Facebook; and fill in ProPublica and Julia Angwin too.   

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Bonus: Chelsea Clinton Talks Global Equality and Breastfeeding  

Who is probably the only person in the world who can talk about technology and global equality, breastfeeding, and how her kids’ Grandpa used to be president?

Yup, it’s Chelsea Clinton.  Manoush recently caught up with the daughter of the Democratic nominee for President at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York.  

Chelsea has been collecting and analyzing data and stories about women, girls, and tech in developing countries to understand how learning to code and getting digital access can help them build better lives. And she'll talk about why she's so frustrated by the gender gap in tech, how she juggles time between her 3 month-old and the campaign trail, and why she's passionate about policies that support parents in the workplace. 


Chelsea Clinton and Manoush Zomorodi snap a selife at CGI. (Manoush Zomorodi/WNYC)


The Secret to Making Video Games Good for You  

Video games are the new self-help, and Jane McGonigal is here to tell us why.

She's an all around gaming boss (see here and here) and she's the director of game research and development at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, California where she's spent years researching our brains during what she calls, "the state of play." After wading through tons of research, she found that gaming is a wonderland of possibilities to make us smarter, happier, and more creative people. 

So game play isn't just an escape? Nope, it doesn't have to be. Jane says that the key to finding positive emotions and empowerment is to ground your gaming in real life. So when you're trapped in Minecraft, don't give up and walk away, trudge on. Fight. Or use creative problem-solving to get to to the next level. Those skills or resources will spill out from the virtual world and into the real one. 

In fact, gaming can help cope with depression and combat anxiety, but it's all about the dosage (i.e. how much gaming you're doing). And we didn't want to leave you hanging when it comes to figuring out which games are best for what. Here are Jane's prescriptions:

If you're trying to lose weight: "When you feel a craving coming on, play a visual pattern-matching game on your phone -- like Tetris or Candy Crush Saga – for ten minutes. These games have been shown in scientific studies to reduce cravings, by monopolizing your visual imagination and blocking your brain's ability to picture the thing you crave. Research shows that players make healthier eating choices in the hour after they've played!" If you need to reduce stress or combat anxiety: "Try the new game Reigns. It's a simple and easy-to-learn game in the style of games known to activate the same blood flow patterns in the brain as meditation, creating a blissful state of mind known as "flow." Research shows that twenty minutes of these flow-inducing games, three times a week, will help you focus your mind and calm yourself, and improve your mood for hours afterward. (Believe it or not, I’ve met many Buddhist monks who play Angry Birds!)" If you could use a boost of extra energy and motivation: "Play a really tricky puzzle game, like Sudoku, Cut the Rope, or The Room. Research shows that trying to solve a difficult puzzle increases dopamine levels in your brain, which is the neurotransmitter that increases your work ethic and will power. It doesn't matter if you successfully complete the game or not – just trying will do the trick, and the harder the better. So if you have a difficult project to tackle, or a complex problem to solve, prime your brain for success with fifteen minutes of puzzling first."

Manoush is an old-school Tetris addict and she just downloaded it on her phone to play guilt-free. But what's your jam? Tell us what you like playing and why. As per the usual,  get in touch at, or the comments section below, or on Twitter or Facebook.  

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There Is No "Off the Record"  

Come along with us... into the future. A place where there is a written record of everything you've said-- ever.  We're calling it the transcribed life, and our guide is Rose Eveleth, the host of the Flash Forward podcast. This week, Rose delves into the benefits and dangers of this not-so-distant future. 

The tech is coming. It's just a question of getting past the "sheep and goats" hurdle according to Steve Renals, professor of speech technology at the University of Edinburgh. Sheep and goats? It's a nerdy metaphor technologists in the field use.  Sheep are the voices the software can easily recognize. Goats are outliers. As the technology gets better, it'll hear us all as sheep.

Once the machines can consistently recognize-- and transcribe-- our speech patterns, things get tricky.  Sara Watson, technology critic and research fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, considers whether such technology could fundamentally change the way we communicate with each other.

Finally, we get a taste of the transcribed life with Heather Ratcliffe, who, because of a rare genetic disorder, wants a detailed log of her day to help her fill in gaps in her memory. Her experiment brings some unexpected results. 

As we consider the pros and cons of this technology, we want to hear from you, dear N2S listener. Does the transcribed life sound good to you? Or does this searchable record terrify you to your core? Tell us about it. Record a voice memo and email it to, or tell us in the comments section below, or send us a message on Twitter or Facebook.  

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Sext Education: Teens, Photos, and the Law  

It's tough being a teenager these days.

This week, we head to Fayetteville, North Carolina where high school star quarterback, Cormega Copening, faced five felony charges of sexual exploitation of a minor for exchanging racy (or romantic, depending on your point of view) photos with his girlfriend in 2015. Just half of states in the U.S. have proposed or implemented laws that address teen sexting directly.

Depending on where you live, teens who send or receive a sext to/from anyone under 18 can be charged with child pornography. In Fayetteville, things took a turn for the Kafkaesque because of a North Carolina law that treats 16-year-olds as adults if they are charged with a crime. Fayetteville Observer reporter, Paul Woolverton, explains, "We're one of two states that say that if you are 16 or older, if you're charged with a crime, you're an adult. But if you're the victim of a crime, you're a minor. So in these cases, since they were under 18 but over 16, they were both the adult criminals who exploited their minor selves." 

Click "listen" above to hear more about the case of two consenting teenagers who expressed themselves in sexts and became the center of a very public debate. 

Further listening: 

Last year, N2S spoke to Cañon City Schools superintendent the day after students were found trading nude photographs "like baseball cards."  Listener favorite: Manoush and Peggy Orenstein discuss what it's like to be desired AND empowered as a young woman. And don't forget, 16-year-old Grace who schools Manoush on how cell phone envy is still a thing.

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Blind Kids, Touchscreen Phones, and the End of Braille?  

The Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired is stocked with all kinds of gadgets: singing calculators, talking typewriters, even video games that you navigate using only sound. Most are specialized and expensive — the school can afford them, but a lot of families can’t.

There is one piece of tech, however, that almost every student has, and, absolutely every student wants. It’s a status symbol, it’s a social media machine, and it will read text out loud. Yes, it's an iPhone. And 'reading' on a smartphone is gaining prominence as a reliable tool for the visually impaired. 

However this tool is the center of a larger question blind students and society at large are facing: Are iPads and iPhones rendering Braille obsolete? And if so, should advocates for the visually impaired be worried?

Click "listen" above and hear reporter Ryan Kailath take us into The Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired to hear all sides of the issue. 

And don't forget to check out our test to see how fast you can 'read with your ears,' a skill that blind kids often acquire and master. 

This is a repeat episode which originally aired in 2015. For more Note to Self, subscribe on iTunesStitcherTuneInI Heart RadioOvercastPocket Casts, or anywhere else using our RSS feed.  

The Thing About Texts From Your Ex  

"You go, 'Damn, just it’s not my crazy person... it’s everyone’s crazy person!'"

– Elan Gale, creator of Texts From Your ExTinder NightmaresUnspirational and more

If you're not one of Text From Your Ex's 1.9 million followers already, here's what you need to know: Elan Gale's brainchild is an Instagram account with pages and pages of awkwardness captured in screenshots. They're submitted by email, and Gale says he has a backlog of 40,000 "just sitting around."


A photo posted by Unspirational (@textsfromyourex) on Jun 9, 2016 at 10:16pm PDT

It turns out, reading through hundreds of thousands of other people's emotionally loaded conversations gives you some pretty profound insight into relationships, technology, and privacy (or rather... the utter lack thereof).

"You’ve never had an interesting text conversation that hasn’t been sent to ten people. That’s just what people do," Gale says. "Even though we treat relationships more casually because of text messages and the way we communicate, you have to actually trust people more to be open and honest with them because you have your entire personal life on their phone, or their watch, or their unguarded computer. And they're irresponsible dicks... and at any moment anyone could just have a lapse of judgement for 45 seconds and leave their phone on a table without a passcode and your entire life is visible. So why pretend that it’s not?" 


Seems like a fair trade

A photo posted by Unspirational (@textsfromyourex) on Sep 9, 2015 at 2:06pm PDT

Elan Gale's "Texts From Your Ex" book is available in paperback. This is a repeat episode which originally aired in 2015. For more Note to Self, subscribe on iTunesStitcherTuneInI Heart RadioOvercastPocket Casts, or anywhere else using our RSS feed.  

Should We Post Pictures of Our Children Online?  

According to the internet security company AVG92% of children in the U.S. have a digital presence by the time they turn two. But a University of Michigan poll from March 2015 found that three-fourths of parents think another parent has shared too much information about their child online.

In this episode, we bring together three people with very different approaches for a conversation about ethics, photography, and the struggle of weighing future consequences in a world we can't quite picture yet (no pun intended).

Here's where our three moms stand on posting photos of their kids:

Note to Self Host Manoush Zomorodi, who posts nothing. Note to Self Executive Producer Jen Poyant, who posts every day on Instagram. Longest Shortest Time Host Hillary Frank, who posts drawings and side-angles but no faces.

This is a repeat episode which originally aired in 2015. For more Note to Self, subscribe on iTunesStitcherTuneInI Heart RadioOvercastPocket Casts, or anywhere else using our RSS feed.


The One Thing You Can Actually Do to Fight Surveillance  

Reading this right now? 

Congratulations. You're winning.

Yes, all of the usual corporate and government entities know you're here. Google remembers everything you've ever searched, BuzzFeed knows how you've scored on all their quizzes, and your cell phone provider knows who you talk to and who you sleep with. Terms of Service agreements are an exercise in futility, encrypted email often takes more trouble than it's worth, and yeah, sure, go ahead and give Facebook a fake name, but don't think you're fooling anyone. Companies are collecting your data from just about everywhere, storing it through time unknown, and using it however they want. Oh, and that's where the FBI-and-friends find it.

But Bruce Schneier, author of the book, "Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World," says the fact that you've taken the time to read this far means you've got the one reliable protection available to us in year 2016: awareness.

Schneier also happens to be a security technologist and cryptographer and well, he's kind of a tech hero - a Chuck Norris - of the digital sphere. His cause: privacy.

In fact, even before The Economist called Schneier a "security guru," a different company tried to make him into an $100 dollar action figure (he didn't like their price and proposed $40 instead). Go to the site, "Bruce Schneier Facts," and you'll find photos of Schneier's face pasted onto different movie heroes' bodies, bearing captions like: "Bruce Schneier watches Blu-ray movies by looking at the discs."

Click on listen above and hear Manoush and Schneier discuss ways we can feel less helpless when it comes to protecting our data and maintaining some online privacy. 

PLUS: We still want your feedback on N2S and we want YOU to help us decide what we should cover in our next big project. So please, fill out this short survey - it's only 11 questions and won't take you more than 3 minutes. 

This is a repeat episode which originally aired in 2015. For more Note to Self, subscribe on iTunesStitcherTuneInI Heart RadioOvercastPocket Casts, or anywhere else using our RSS feed.

Is My Phone Listening in On Me?  

Do we need to be worried about our phones tracking our every move? Because it sure seems like they are. Walter Kirn wants you to know that you're NOT going crazy and maybe you should be a little paranoid with your phone. He covers privacy, tech and surveillance, and – unrelated – he wrote the book behind "Up in the Air" with George Clooney.

He answers some of your most pressing questions on phone privacy and how concerned we should be about what our phones are tracking. Here's a sampling of one of the many questions we've received from listeners that captures a thought-to-be-private moment:

Between Me and My Dog
"So, I get out of the shower and I’m getting dressed and of course my dog is over there on his chaise and I’m looking at him and I’m feeling all sad that I’m about to go to work for a couple hours. I’m humming to myself a song... my poor dog is tortured by this, but I start singing, 'Every time we say goodbye I cry a little, I die a little,' you know... that song. I get in the car, I put on the iPhone music. I have 6157 songs. I hit shuffle randomly, and the first song to play is the song that I was just humming... I haven’t heard this song in forever... So anyway, that's my question... and make sure you sing to your dog whenever you can because they love it, they absolutely love it." – Michael Grant

So... should we be paranoid? Do we know whether our gadgets are passively listening to us? No. We don’t know for sure, beyond what they tell us in their privacy policies. But we do know that voice recognition is what many major companies are trying to get us to start using. Google has OK Google, Apple has Siri, and Amazon has Echo, a home appliance that listens to you all the time. We know that many third party apps use location data services, and we know that personalization – especially personalized ads – rely on tracking.  

Listen to the our show to hear our interview with Walter Kirn and if you're interested for more phone privacy discussions, be sure to read his article in The Atlantic, "If You're Not Paranoid, You're Crazy."

Also, enjoy the picture below (from listener Michael Grant) if you're feeling stressed out by all the privacy talk.

Note to Self listener Michael Grant wrote in with a strange story about a private moment talking to his dog, which may or may not have been overheard by his phone. This is that dog. (Courtesy of Michael Grant and Bodhi the dog)

One last thing: We want your feedback so Note to Self can get better and better. Please, fill out this survey. Your answers will help us make content that fits into your day-to-day and keeps us at the top of your playlist. 

This is a repeat episode which originally aired in 2015. For more Note to Self, subscribe on iTunesStitcherTuneInI Heart RadioOvercastPocket Casts, or anywhere else using our RSS feed.

Taking the Lead Bonus: Andrew Moravcsik  

We just wrapped up our four-part series "Taking the Lead." It’s about two Brooklyn moms turned entrepreneurs with a big idea to revolutionize caretaking. It’s also about women, work, families, priorities and relationships... and how our listeners are juggling all those things. If you missed the series, start at the beginning and enjoy the ride.

It’s right here:

Episode 1: The Pain Point Episode 2: The Paradox Episode 3: The Pressure Episode 4: The Partnership

In this bonus episode, listen to Manoush’s full conversation with Andrew Moravcsik, the accomplished author, academic, and husband to Anne-Marie Slaughter (yeah, the one who literally wrote the book on women in the workplace.) Even if you listened to our "Taking the Lead" series, you’ll want to hear Andy’s insights into what being the lead parent has meant for his career, his psyche, and their marriage.  

For more Note to Self, subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, I Heart Radio, OvercastPocket Casts, or anywhere else using our RSS feed.

Taking the Lead Episode 4: The Partnership  

It all comes down to this — we’ve arrived at the fourth and final episode of our month-long series about women and work: "Taking the Lead."

And the timing couldn’t be better: Ivanka Trump took on equal pay and affordable childcare during her speech at the Republican National Convention last week, becoming the model mother/entrepreneur for her dad’s campaign. Hillary Clinton goes into the final stretch as the Democrat’s presidential candidate, breaking political glass ceilings no matter which way you vote.

Back in podcast land, a quick recap: our two Brooklyn moms turned tech entrepreneurs, Rachael Ellison and Leslie Ali Walker are co-founders of Need/Done, a service for backup childcare and household support. (It doesn’t exist yet but think Nextdoor meets Sittercity.)

If you missed the first three episodes of our four-part series, enjoy catching up here:

Episode 1: The Pain Point Episode 2: The Paradox Episode 3: The Pressure

In the final chapter, the women face difficult choices: Should they drop the feminist mission behind the company when they make their pitch to investors? Does Rachael need to give up entrepreneurship so she can remain the kind of mom she wants to be?


Plus, we’ll end the suspense and talk about the seismic shift happening to our culture around women and work with Anne-Marie Slaughter, Hillary’s former advisor at the State Department. Anne-Marie is now the CEO of New America and the author of Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family, which she wrote after detailing her struggles to combine her career with parenting in a hugely popular piece for The Atlantic called "Why Women Still Can’t Have it All."

And yes, we’ll tackle the male perspective on caretaking and professional ambitions by speaking with Anne-Marie’s husband, Andrew Moravcsik. He’s a professor of Political Science at Princeton University and the "lead parent" at home. Andy explains how being his family’s primary caretaker has affected his career, psyche and marriage... and why he feels so strongly that the conversation about work/life balance is really about men and their role in society.

A special note to listeners: Your thoughts on these issues have been a hugely important part of this series. Thank you so much for being so honest and open with your stories and struggles. We want to continue to hear what you think — any/all of your reactions. Send them to us by recording a voice memo or emailing  

We’d also like to make a request: Please share this episode with one person whom you think needs to know more about this topic (or needs to know she's/he's not alone!). Share and talk about the series with a colleague, boss, spouse, or friend by cutting and pasting this link here [] in a Facebook post or email.

Also, if you enjoyed the little bit of our conversation with father and lead-parent Andy Moravcsik, we’ve got great news: You can listen to his full conversation with Manoush in a bonus episode right here. For more Note to Self, and to get episodes like this one sent straight to your feed, make sure you’re subscribed in iTunes, Stitcher,

Taking the Lead Episode 3: The Pressure  

Rachael Ellison and Leslie Ali Walker are two Brooklyn moms and the co-founders of Need/Done, a digital platform with a feminist mission to help more women make it to the corner office.

How does it work? Through a crowdsourced community of parents, the service provides backup childcare and household support. Think: Nextdoor meets Sittercity.

If you missed the first two episodes of our four-part series, catch up. They're right here:

Episode 1: The Pain Point Episode 2: The Paradox

Faced with financial barriers, this week Rachael and Leslie join a startup accelerator and pitch their idea to investors. But while honing their pitch, the business partners' different goals surface. Rachael is focused on the service's potential for social change. Leslie sees the potential to create a giant female-led company.

This week the pressure is on: The pressure to deliver the perfect pitch; pressure from family; and — this is a big one — financial pressure. Under the strain, they make a strategic move that confounds Manoush.

Next week, on the fourth and final episode of "Taking the Lead," Manoush shares what she learned from the investors with Rachael and Leslie. Plus, Anne-Marie Slaughter, author of "Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family," returns — this time with her husband, Professor Andrew Moravcsik — for an intimate conversation about the professional and personal sacrifices they have made for their marriage.


Several of you have asked us how to listen to podcasts. We've got you covered here: Look! I Taught My Dad To Download Podcasts. We're also making a master resource list of articles/books/podcasts for surviving the work/life balance struggle, so please continue to add your favorites to our growing list here. In the beginning of this week's episode, Manoush labels (in a fun way!) Rachael and Leslie with a personality test called the "Enneagram Test." It's a pseudoscientific survey that categorizes people into 9 groups that represent a person's core qualities, or most primal selves. Rawr. Take it for yourself here. If you have an opinion on our series, Rachael and Leslie's strategy, or your own work/life balance story, please tell us by sending a voice memo to

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Taking the Lead Episode 2: The Paradox  

Rachael Ellison and Leslie Ali Walker are two working moms who hatched the idea for Need/Done, an app that they think could help get more working parents — especially working moms — into top-tier positions, while also being present at home. How does the app work? Through a crowdsourced community of parents, the service provides reliable childcare, meal planning suggestions, and groceries delivered to your door. Think: Nextdoor meets Sittercity.

In the second installment of our four-part series, the co-founders test out a prototype of the service on 20 Brooklyn moms, including one very eager and willing participant: Manoush. She wants to check dinner off her to-do-list... but things don't go quite as planned. 

"They delivered sausages with pork casing which is a problem for my Jewish husband, so I took all the sausage meat out of the casings, and I’m cooking it now before he gets home so he doesn’t find out about it. Except now I’m telling you."

Meanwhile, one of the founders discovers that she may be ready to swap in her corporate blazer for a Silicon Valley hoodie, but the other is beginning to question if she can maintain momentum with her current day job, lead-parenting, and starting a new company.

If you like this episode, you’ll want to check out the first episode in our month-long series,"Taking The Lead: The Pain Point." We're also making a master resource list of articles/books/podcasts for surviving the work/life balance struggle, so please continue to add your favorites to our growing list here.

Also, we'd like to thank those of you who reached out to tell us about your own experiences. We know that families come in all shapes and sizes and we love hearing your stories. If you have a work/life balance moment tell us about it by sending a voice memo to

For more Note to Self, subscribe on iTunesStitcherTuneInI Heart RadioOvercast,Pocket Casts, or anywhere else using our RSS feed.

Taking the Lead Episode 1: The Pain Point  

Welcome to a very special month of Note to Self.

For the next four weeks, we're telling the story of two Brooklyn women, Rachael Ellison and Leslie Ali Walker, who have an idea (a tech idea) to help harried working mothers who still want to rise up in their professional ranks.

Why? Because of numbers like these:

4.2 percent of S&P 500 companies have female CEOs  43 percent of highly-skilled women with children leave their jobs voluntarily at some point in their careers The U.S. is the only developing country that doesn't mandate paid maternity leave. The Family Medical Leave Act gives workers a maximum of 12 weeks off unpaid per year Almost 70 percent of mothers and over 90 percent of fathers are in the workforce Caregiving is projected to be the largest occupation in the U.S. by 2020 Only 7 percent of U.S. startups that received at least $20 million in funding have founders who are women 

Being a working parent can take its toll. Between school lunches, conference calls, soccer practices, quarterly reviews, sleepovers, and PowerPoint presentations, many of you told us that maintaining your sanity, succeeding professionally, and being a present parent feels nearly impossible.

Here's what some of you said:

I am a freelancer and because of that don't have paid maternity leave. Thanks, America. We ended up in this situation where I could only really take the day I gave birth off.

- Amy


I am a full time high school English teacher and I have two young sons. Last year, my younger son was sick. He had some sort of fever so he couldn't go into preschool, and my husband had a meeting at work so he couldn't take him in, and I couldn't get a sub on short notice. So he came into school with me. And everything worked fine for a little while and suddenly I heard "mommy" said in the tone that all moms know is not a good sign. And it was followed by the sound of my poor child vomiting everywhere. 

- Serena


I was schlepping a breast pump into an old bathroom of a building I used to work in that was not remotely accommodated for nursing moms. And I had an extension cord coming out of the bathroom into the stall with my laptop while I was on a conference call and pumping and staying on mute and sending out an evite for a girls night reunion at my house.

- Rebecca


My daughter was about three or four and she was sick and had to stay home from school, but I didn't have anyone to stay with her. So I took her to work with me. I was working in an office with cubicles, so I sort of stuffed her under my desk at the bottom of the cubicle where a couple of pairs of shoes and a lot of wires and my hard-drive were, and I kept her under the desk for the whole day.

- Julia


Even though we live in progressive times, some mothers still find themselves doing the heavy lifting at home. Enter Rachael and Leslie, who team up to create Need/Done, a service they think will help working mothers conquer their to-do list and concentrate on their professional ambitions. Think of it as the working mom’s command center.

This week, Rachael and Leslie leave their families behind in a snowstorm to visit Silicon Valley, meet the competition, and find out whether two Brooklyn moms have a shot at VC funding. We also talk to Anne-Marie Slaughter, author of The Atlantic article "

Coming Soon: Taking the Lead  

Get ready to meet Rachael and Leslie, two working mothers in Brooklyn, who have a big idea (a tech idea) to help women "have it all."

From Manoush: 

Hi lovely listener,

For the past two years, I’ve been following two newbie entrepreneurs as they try to build a service to solve all our work/life balance issues... but they end up struggling more and more with those issues themselves. (Oh, the irony of being a working mother in tech. #meta)

Their journey illustrates how tough it can be for women to reconcile their professional identities with their caretaking identities. The series also brings up so many broader questions: Can women find a place in the tech economy? Is society ready to radically redefine gender roles in the home? What has to change in our culture to get more women into the C-Suite? 

Note to Self listeners and I share our own parenting and professional horrors and triumphs. Plus, special guest Anne-Marie Slaughter, author of The Atlantic article "Why Women Still Can’t Have it All," also stops by during the series to talk about work/life balance, lead parents, and the career advice every millennial needs.

Tell your partner, sibling, boss, employee, mom or dad to join you and us for Taking the Lead! 

Let's have this conversation!


Bored and Brilliant: BOOT CAMP 2016  

Bored and Brilliant is back.

This time, with a special announcement: The Bored and Brilliant book is coming in 2017!!! Manoush is spending a ton of time sorting through your feedback, listening to your experiences and getting super bored in order to make this book exceptionally useful.

So, now it's time for a summer refresher. Last year, tens of thousands of you took part in our Bored and Brilliant Project, a week of challenges that pushed us to rethink our relationship with our phones and jumpstart our creativity.

We adapted the idea into a short, condensed version with three very doable, modifiable challenges for those of you on a beach (or stuck at the office wishing you were on a beach).

This is not a digital detox. This is not an edict to lock your phone away in a drawer. This is not an ode to mindfulness. It is a way to apply what we know about constant notifications, neuroscience, and productivity to our lives. Right now.

Listen above for the boot camp!


And for those of you who want all of the challenges at once, here's the full, extended series:

The Case for Boredom What 95 Minutes of Phone Time a Day Does To Us Challenge 1: In Your Pocket Challenge 2: Photo Free Challenge 3: Delete That App Challenge 4: Fauxcation Challenge 5: Small Observation Challenge 6: Dream House The Winning Dream Houses The Results The Personal Stories

One final note: Tomorrow we're very excited to drop a preview episode of our upcoming series about work/life balance. So do us a favor — subscribe on iTunes and tell a friend. We've been working on this project for two years, and can't wait to share it with you.

For more Note to Self, subscribe on iTunesStitcherTuneInI Heart Radio,OvercastPocket Casts, or anywhere else using our RSS feed.

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