The devil has the best lines.

 Big Hair, even Bigger Dreams:  Wisdom from the G.L.O.W. 

Be Ok with Being Unlikeable.

Being okay with being unlikeable is a rude awakening for many in this selfie-driven / likes-driven world. We can not imagine being ignored, discounted or misunderstood by the public at-large.

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Ruth, our heroine in magenta tights, does not suffer from this delusion. Her life as a struggling actress in L.A. does not allow her to ever, ever forget that she is unlikeable.

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Ruth gets rough treatment on almost every casting call she goes for;  mostly for being original, authentic, and adamant on achieving her dream to become a Hollywood star. While she refuses to give up, that constant negative feedback has turned her into a worrier.

Accept Your Lot in Life.

In episode 2 her director Sam drives the truth home – to find your place in the sun – try not giving a f*ck.

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As the roles for the upcoming wrestling match are being assigned, Ruth is disappointed to hear that she is not playing Liberty Belle, a patriotic Southern Belle, in the fight. Instead, Sam has pegged her as the adversary in the ring, who will lose in the end.

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She needs to embrace the role that is being offered, to accept responsibility for some of the shitty things she has done as well as the inevitability of everything else that remains a confusing mess, like her broken friendship and the *always* overdue rent.

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Ruth is made to see the role as the villain for the big break she was striving for. It is not until she embraces this fact and pursues her character, albeit with a wonky Russian accent,  that Ruth’s talent is recognized.

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Plus, like Sam says, the devil has the best lines.

Haven’t seen G.L.O.W. yet? I highly recommend this show as it consists of smart writing, unpredictable characters, a diverse cast and kick-ass female leads who keep you at the edge of  your seat. 

City Blog: Joie de Vivre & Lahore Eat

It was supposed to a quick stop. In and out. A check-in. Basically a #keepingupwiththeKhans in lieu of the Joneses. Plus, we didn’t have any other plans this Saturday night.  We trooped into Lahore Eat with minimal expectations and maxing out on  comfy shoes. To our collective surprise, the open-air stadium ground was well-kept, there was a large variety of activities to take part in, from attending a concert to taking part in a renegade rickshaw ride.

W16be412f784aaf1dd9792ef8b7f8bd6d.jpgithout meaning to, our inhibitions started melting away. Something pulled us in… reeled us in. Reminded us of what can not be terrorized out of us. It was our distinctly Pakistani flair for Life –> ZEEST *.

*Zeest is a word from the Urdu language that literally means viability and life. 

We live life to the fullest – it’s a gift. We cherish it in every which way: by wearing the brightest colors, laughing a little too loud, singing off-key in public spaces and spending time with those we love the most. Those couple of hours at Lahore Eat became a testament to our collective joie de vivre. 

 

Data-driven Insights for Dating

When apps and love come up in a conversation, we ready ourselves for some lame stories of another Tindr swipe gone-wrong or questions of whether we tried the latest contender for OkCupid.  Taking love (and lust) online is fast becoming a need versus a last-ditch option.

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What a meet-cute looks like when J-Lo wears heels. (The Wedding Planner-2001)

There is a limit to how long a man or a woman can honestly expect to bump into the perfect someone in a meet-cute situation (a la rom-com). Thanks, but no thanks, Hollywood. Millennials are taking these matters into their hands – and onto their smartphones.

There is something truly unique in the App Store now, going far beyond the newest Tindr or any of the miscellany of dating or hookup apps. It’s called Evolve. Evolve’s tagline on the website reads “Introducing the world’s first DRM- Dating & Relationship Manager”. Like a Hubspot, a customer relationship management tool, but for courtship, the Evolve App analyzes the data you are tracking, pre-and post every date.

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Evolve allows you to rate your dates, gauge relationship potential, reflect on your dates, see patterns, discover date spots- everything except the actual matching itself. That you figure out on your own. The idea is that once you understand your patterns, Evolve helps you change your behavior and make smarter decisions.

You won’t find any matches here – you’ve got plenty of apps for that. Evolve helps you date with intention. Weigh your options, reflect on your dates, and make the most of your time. Get personalized insights, tips, and discover where the best dates are happening in your city – all backed by data.

Dating behaviour ranges from little understood to completely misunderstood. Once you add in the complexities of online socialization, all bets are off! Data analytics to suss out preferences and concerns – but can this approach work for human relationships as well?

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The question of the day is: Do we need software to analyze our dating lives? 

We use apps to track everything – from fitness activity level, via a pedometer or FitBit app/device to what we eat, or how far we travel in a day. Not only that, we also expect actionable data to result from all the data we are collecting and feeding into these apps.  We expect to live our ‘best life’ and want technology to aid us in the pursuit.

The more one thinks about it, the more natural it becomes to believe that the use of data can ensure a satisfactory courting experience.

That, however, might be because us digital natives have been conditioned to believe that data is queen. Data can do no wrong. Can behavioural science truly help us interpret the quirks of romance in the wild? Outside controlled social experiments? Is Evolve App the missing piece of the system attempting to measure complex social behaviours of contemporary times? Will we ignore the butterflies in our collective stomachs and depend solely on data-driven insights to foster relationships? Evolve App and others like it may be a sign of things to come. 

Catalyst Woman’s research also found that…

  • In the U.S. the online dating industry generated over $2 billion in revenue on an annual basis while in China it has generated $1.6 billion.
  • After young adults, 18-24 year olds, the other largest age group participating in online dating is 55-64 year olds.

On Dance (found on the web)

 

Dance isn’t something that drops from the heavens; it is a living, evolving tradition and conservation of this tradition lies in constant, responsible change, not in cementing the norms. There is a complete paranoia that we are going to lose our heritage if we expand its boundaries, but we will actually lose it only if we put it in a museum and don’t let it breathe.

‘Dance has to breathe’ – by Pooja Pillai

 

pixel-by-pixel- the psychology behind the Prisma phenomenon

Simple question coming up – Why Prisma?  Here are some captions from the official Prisma Google App Playstore Page:

Turn every photo into art!‘ ‘Every photo becomes art’  This line is the most disturbing: ‘Prisma transforms your photos into artworks using the styles of famous artists: Munk, Picasso as well as world famous ornaments and patterns. A unique combination of neural networks and artificial intelligence helps you turn memorable moments into timeless art.’

OH!  So all that has been standing between me and recognition of my artistic genius is a photo-editing app?  There is not a *teensy* bit of reason to expect that creativity, training in the various trades/genres and sheer talent may be the barrier from me becoming the next Rembrandt.  All that is required is an Application. If you have yet to recognize my stance on the latest whirlwind tech phenomenon, I don’t Prisma.

However, it is worth digging deeper into what makes Prisma so attractive to tons of people across the globe. 

What could possibly be attractive about a machine imaging process that converts a real instance into a thermal image or a blurred out robot-like attempt at monochromatic watercolor painting?

Is it because we are innately and infinitely curious about how computers  (inanimate machines of our making) view us?  Are we so alone that any shred of apparent creativity or artistic output is enough to render further endearment to the technological beasts-of-burden? 

Is this the very end of the line (I doubt it) of our narcissistical tendencies – the need to view ourselves from multiple vantages and viewpoints? When will this need quench?

Prisma photos look like (I can only imagine) when a cyborg needs to be thwapped from the side of it’s ‘head’ to adjust it’s vision. Colors bleed unnaturally.

One social media commentator was quick to call a freshly Prisma’d friend ‘gorgeous’. Gorgeous now means a modified, spray-brushed Microsoft Paint version of your likeness. 

Eventually, the novelty for Prisma will, too, die off.  Terminal overthinkers and worrywarts like myself will find a fresher topic to observe.  What will remain is the discovery that modern day humans seek easy,swift detachment from their immediate surroundings. Preferably at the click of a button.

It can be that we are escaping further into wilful delusion, aided by games and pointless tasks like flinging round birds at klepto-pigs  or collecting imaginary monsters.  At least the Pokemon do not instigate full-scale coups on a Sunday morning.  Apps like Prisma and Snapchat alter your facial features but you still have a passport that is recognized and country to call home.

 

the world on the web this week

Sound that You Can Wear

“…“You’re going to change the word listen to feel,” says Timbaland. “It’s about whole body, completing the experience.” …

SubPac is creating its own physical-sound category through two unique products: the SubPac M2, a wearable vest, and the SubPac S2, a seatback device. Similar to sub woofers in the back of seats, when you wear this wearable, which is similar to a backpack, you literally feel the low-end frequencies throughout your entire body — and you can take it wherever you go. The startup has attracted major investors and industry leaders who have joined forces to engineer this sound movement.”

Our 30s are the decade when friends disappear.

Distracted Users are the New Normal , Design for Them 

‘Debating the relative merits of a more distracted versus a more focused society is about as worthwhile as kicking rocks.  … What does that mean in practice? Expecting that any opportunity your UX presents for distraction will result in divided attention, for one. Here’s a list of what that means:

  • If your product allows a user to feel at all that they can do something else simultaneously, expect them to do that.
  • Assume that partial participation by a user is roughly equivalent to no participation at all.
  • If a task requires significant user attention, make it challenging – this might mean actually downplaying so-called “smart” features.”

The Brilliant Mechanics of Pokemon Go

 

‘Amid the entire play session, the game has to stay open. That keeps you from getting distracted and flipping out to other apps. I find myself walking with my phone in my pocket, but with the game open often enough while wearing headphones. Whenever there’s a chime, I take the phone out of my pocket and start playing — whether that’s collecting Pokéballs or trying to capture something new (or some crappy junk Pokémon for the sake of experience). The game world is vibrant and beautiful, making it something easy and fun to see. It’s filled with flair and flashes that are visually stimulating and signal new elements of the game. All this makes the player want to keep their eyes — or ears — glued to their phone, ready to engage with it the moment something new happens.’

‘I needed VR to get away from the augmented reality of Pokémon Go.’ 

 

 

Meet the Millennial Asian: Over-educated + Under-employed

If you are a Millennial Asian, the newspapers think you are pretty pathetic. Looking at the numbers, you have earned more degrees than anyone else in your family,  are up to your neck in education debt, you are chronically under-employed and will stay so for the foreseeable future.

Yes. Under-employed.

Investopedia defines this phenomenon like so:

Labor that falls under the underemployment classification includes those workers that are highly skilled but working in low paying jobs, workers that are highly skilled but work in low skill jobs and part-time workers that would prefer to be full-time.

The market has few jobs to offer the growing legions of fresh grads and the ones available fail to offer much of anything: little money, little career growth and little in terms of security. These handful of jobs are not what you aspired to back in college. It is highly likely you will be delivering goods ordered online or managing a social media campaign for the local non-profit organisation until a “Real Job” opportunity turns up.

Let’s suppose that you finally get a chance to interview for a “Real Job”.  As a fresh grad  you are facing competition from the people who graduated years before you and have relevant work experience to show for it.

Jobs available in the government sector are scarce, practically impossible to access unless one has a ‘link’ (how I loathe that practice)  and the benefits hardly ever compensate for the dismal pay.

Gordon Orr warns China’s fresh graduates that even the low-barrier, entry-level careers  in bank telling or insurance agencies are going obsolete. Technologies like AliPay and WeChat have streamlined basic banking tasks and banks will soon be a thing of the past – much like post offices.

…there may be new jobs but they are just not the jobs you set your heart on when you went to university: low pay and low security is a poisonous combination of many of the new jobs in China’s “rebalancing economy”.

Orr suggests brushing up on vocational skills that may come into play in the emerging sectors, like learning coding or other such I.T. wizardry. If nothing else, it is suggested that a fresh grad like you should start a business and embrace self-employment as your fate.

The fastest growth category of urban employment in recent years has been self-employment.  While some of this is likely a cute way of describing unemployed, the broader trend that it represents is the growth of small and mid-sized enterprises and their importance to job creation in the economy. 

Next up is the “Has Pakistan overeducated it’s middle class?” article that appeared on Dawn’s website about two days back.  The lack of congruency between the education Pakistani universities are churning out and the jobs available is painfully apparent for anyone who been through a hiring cycle. Not only is the quality of education suspect, the graduates are ill-prepared for the rigours of the job-search and interview process. I am in complete agreement that there need to be university-based career prep centres at both public and private universities. Private universities barely scratch the surface when it comes to preparing their students for the corporate/real world. A mandatory 2 hour workshop in the last week of university does not suffice.  I recommend universities to start students on mandatory courses that cover internship seeking, c.v. writing and interviewing skills from freshman year.

The author, Murtaza Haider,  makes a valid point about how loosely underemployment is tallied and also how faulty the premise is regarding what constitutes a ‘living wage’.

My primary concern is about how the state defines underemployment.

The state considers those working for fewer than 35 hours in a given week as underemployed. This definition assumes that those working for 35 hours or more in a given week are gainfully employed, i.e., they are earning enough to support their families.

The under and unemployment figures are quite meaningless for struggling economies like Pakistan. Even by the government’s estimates, 60 million Pakistanis, 29.5 per cent of the population, live below the poverty line. Experts at Oxford University estimate a much larger proportion of Pakistanis (44 per cent) to be poor.

Thus, boasting about low unemployment rates is rather futile because a large proportion of those considered employed by the government are not earning enough to feed and clothe their families.

Lastly, here is an article from the World Economic Forum warning us that for the millennials post-graduate degrees may be a waste of money.  Lux Alptraum shares that despite belonging to a family accustomed to collecting degrees (the way some collect shares) she ultimately decided not to seek a postgraduate degree.  For her, the math simply didn’t add up!

Every time I’ve considered going back to school, I’ve done a cost-benefit analysis—and for me, that analysis has never worked out in academia’s favor. My law school dreams died when it occurred to me that the kind of do-gooder law I was interested in would likely leave me in debt for the rest of my life (and also when I realized that “liking to argue” is but a small part of a law career). My potential public health degree stopped making sense when I realized the small salary bump I might secure wouldn’t balance out the money—and time–I’d spend getting the Master’s.

As a fellow Millennial Asian, I feel your anguish.

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I also sense your need to reach for the nearest tub of ice cream to drown your sorrows.   Hold off on that for a second.  There has to be a Plan B.

Will it be running our very own Food Truck? Maybe.

Can it be starting up a coaching centre for the chronically under-employed and helping them loosen up via improv sessions?  Could be.

The beacon of hope lies in our ability to carve out careers, create brands  and provide services in emerging markets – despite the nay-sayers and dismal statistics. 

Drop me a tweet @marsonearth.

I write about financial empowerment, digital literacy, and educational technology at my blog called Catalyst Woman.  Who am I? I once described myself as a Communications consultant who conducts trainings focused on Women’s Empowerment, Employability Skills and Educational Innovation.

ICYMI : Uber in Pakistan + Women Right’s Bill

**ICYMI – The most tweet-worthy stories in #Gender in #Pakistan this week:

Source: Propakistani.pk Website & Dawn Website

Uber in Pakistan features in both the #gender and the #tech category this week, as Dawn/Reuters covers Uber Pakistan’s efforts to allay fears about conduct of it’s workforce with upfront sexual harassment training.  This follows the company being banned in Delhi after a driver was convicted of raping a passenger back in 2014.

What I found infinitely more interesting than the news story itself were the comments below.  The screen shots below captures exactly how divided us Pakistanis are when it comes to the rights of women in the public space.  One commentator sincerely recommends women be accompanied by ‘kids or other relatives’ while using the app-based taxi service.

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Another takes it upon themselves to reduce it down for all us simple folk. Stop getting into cars alone, Wimmin! Where’s your common sense?! 

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Focusing in on the faulty editing, notice the title of the article :  Uber teaches Pakistani Drivers how not to sexually harass women?  So, are there preferred practices for such vile behaviour?  A less loaded title could have been ‘ Uber launches mandatory sexual harassment prevention training  for Drivers’.  I was glad to see that another reader had already caught the lazy editing and proceeded to comment on it (captured below).

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Perhaps one of the MOST exciting tickers I have read – Punjab passes the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Bill – amidst massive uproar and opposition across the country. This news has reignited the debate on what constitutes mistreatment of women  and whether these actions should be punishable by law.

“…Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Bill redefines “violence” to include “any offence committed against a woman including abetment of an offence, domestic violence, emotional, psychological and verbal abuse, economic abuse, stalking or a cyber crime”.

(excerpt from Dawn’s Pakistan’s historic women’s rights bill praised by activists)

Debates on t.v. reached a fever pitch as some male guests on news shows tried to defend the minority view that this bill is ‘un-Islamic’ or  flawed in some grand way that harms society as it stands. Thankfully, those opinions were quickly shot down by most anchors and co-guests!  Even though the lame ‘what if something happened to your daughter/sister/mother/wife’ line was invoked once or twice during the discussions, overall the sentiment was that this bill is just a stepping block towards securing swift justice for women in abusive situations.

Some rightly note that there are many invisible, cultural hurdles before women in Punjab can actively break free from cyclical abuse. However, this law’s passing is being celebrated for it’s timeliness in addressing the increase in cyber-harassment and cybercrime targeted at women on the web.

“…The law not only caters to addressing psychological and emotional harm to women, but also includes stalking and cybercrime as punishable offences. The reason why this is important is because there is a tremendous momentum to silence women online — not just their sexuality but their very presence on social media as well as in terms of their freedom to have an email. For women, the Internet is not just about access, it is about escape. It is the gateway through which they learn skills and rights — all of which lead to empowerment and a shift away from all pervasive abuse.” 

(excerpt from  This law may be late, but it’s great by  Aisha Sarwari on Express Tribune Blog)

** In Case You Missed It

I would love to hear your thoughts about the new ‘ICYMI’ blogpost concept.  Drop me an email talktocatalystwoman @ gmail dot com , tweet @ Catalystwoman or write a note on the Contact Page

Needed:Co-working Spaces in Lahore

My headphones are plugged in to what I imagine a shoreside picnic coupled with thunderclaps and slight rain shower sounds like. If you have ever wondered who is lame enough to actually use a rain sound app, that would be me. It can also be you, too, if you were camped out in a busy cafe in Lahore’s commercial district. 

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I’m attempting to stay focused on the upcoming meeting, while the couple at the table on the left has once again asked me for the wi-fi password.  Such interruptions, while normal if one is in the mood for people-watching or idle posturing in a swanky eatery, are frustrating if one is waiting to meet a client to finalize terms on a contract.

photo-1429681601148-75510b2cef43Office-less, officially, when it comes to our consulting work, my partners and I feel the need for a formal meeting room or conference room at least twice to three times a month. While that seems quite frequent, when we calculated the math, it still doesn’t make sense for us to invest in a permanent office in the near future.  Reasons being that some of us are still working traditional 9-5 jobs while others prefer the convenience of flex-time and telecommuting afforded by the consulting work-life.

What Lahore desperately needs is an affordable Co-working space which is open to all types of professional, techies and non-techies, entrepreneurs, freelancers, cottage-industry workers, bakers and yes, even musicians. 

What should the co-working space consist of? The usual, a conference room, a small kitchenette, desks or cubicles for hire by the hour or the day, reliable wi-fi/internet connection, a tv lounge/reception and a printer/fax machine corner to round off all the mundane necessities of grownup, office-life.

Let’s step beyond the vomit-inducing, Silicon Valley-esque marketing gibberish that immediately gets plastered upon the advent of a functional service idea.  This is not a recommendation for all of you sitting on your butts to open up 5 co-working spaces right across from each other in Bahria Town  and begin hosting ‘entrepreneurship workshops slash mentorship sessions slash fireside chats’  on the regular.  I am not claiming to be your guru for new-fangled business ideas.

What I am recommending is a more holistic, survey-based approach to solving challenges  your peers and neighbors are dealing with in your immediate vicinity. If you solve that challenge successfully, and lucratively, good on you!  If you fail to solve that challenge the first time around, no problem; you’ll have earned goodwill in the community. Rest your bruised ego, keep your eyes and ears open, and rise up tomorrow with the intent to put your education and initiative to good use.

Note: I have heard inklings of a co-w0rking space popping up in my hometown, but I’m curious if there are any others on the horizon. If you know of any, leave a comment or drop a tweet at @catalystwoman