God and Dice and Quantum Physics

Albert Einstein. Great dude. Everyone has heard of him. From a young age he is presented to children as the epitome of genius. His image is often what comes to mind when one is told to picture a scientist. Old, grey haired, moustachioed, a little bit crazy. A simple equation that is only useful to a handful of people known and repeated by children. E=mc2. It rolls off the tongue. One doesn’t need to know the meaning of it just that it had a huge impact on physics at the time of its conception.

The deeper and deeper you get into physics the more and more stories you hear about this marvelous human. It forms a beautiful picture of intelligence, wit, humility and admiration of the physical world. If you want to know what Albert Einstein contributed to science you can get that information almost anywhere. Try trusty old Wikipedia. But to really get an idea of how amazing he was you need to be finding anecdotes and letters written between him and other great minds of the time. It’s particularly hard to find true anecdotes about Einstein. His name is synonymous with ”genius” and many stories have popped up over the years about Einstein’s cheeky antics and witty comebacks. Most of these are just reworded jokes, all of which are dubious as to their veracity.

There is one quote from Einstein that often pops into my head when thinking about quantum physics. Though it has been translated from German it is a genuine thought from the man himself:

I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not throw dice.”

This is often shortened to “God does not play dice”.

What does this quote mean?

More often than not to a non-physicist it sounds like a beautiful metaphor about fate. Like God does not leave anything to chance or Everything happens for a reason. But to be very frank this is wrong. Sorry. Einstein was a physicist after all.

The first misinterpretation is that Einstein believed in a God. In a way he did. It is widely interpreted that Einstein was what we might call a Pantheist. Pantheists believe in the divinity of nature, not in a personal God. It is a belief that goes well with mathematics and science and discovery. But I’m not here to discuss religious beliefs of historical figures. If you want to get an idea of Einstein’s beliefs check out this letter Einstein wrote to Erik Gutkind after reading his book, Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt. I’m here to talk about quantum physics.

You see, when Quantum theory was first revealed, Einstein had a problem with it. He had a problem with the indeterminacy: the idea that before we measure something, it’s everywhere and doing everything it possibly can. Not because we don’t know, but because we can’t know.

It’s probably worth going into the physics a little bit here so bear with me. For example, let’s take an electron, the negatively charged sub-atomic particle that “flies” around the positively charged nucleus of an atom.

 

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Fig. 1 Really crude Rutherford model of an atom. Protons are positively charged sub-atomic particles. Neutrons are neutral, they have no charge. Electrons are negatively charged. Protons and neutrons live in the centre, the nucleus, while electrons are much lighter and faster and fly around the outside.

Now imagine we want to know something particular about it. Like, what’s the spin? An electron will act as if it is spinning (spinning doesn’t really doesn’t really make sense for an elementary particle but it still has this property). The ‘spinning’ can be either clockwise or counter-clockwise which we label up and down.

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This is where the word Quantum comes in, when we measure the spin of an electron it can only ever be these two values and nothing in between we say spin is quantised. As a classical analogy, that’s like saying your car can only go 10km/hr or 20km/hr and nothing in between. Nonsense!

But I glossed over a little point here, it’s not that it can only BE up or down it’s that we can only MEASURE up or down. The electron is often in a superposition of states until we measure it. This is an idea you may have heard of in terms of the thought experiment (or in German, Einstein’s native tongue a Gedanken) Schroedinger’s Cat. “The cat is both alive and dead until the box is opened” is what people often take away from it. While this is not the correct interpretation of the problem it does help us to grasp the concept of superposition a little more easily. The particle is in this weird superposition of up and down until we measure it and it picks one.

My car analogy breaks down here because it’s not that the car can only go one of these two speeds it’s that whenever we check the speedometer it ‘jumps’ to either 10km/hr or 20km/hr.

Weird, I know.

Now imagine I prepare an electron in a specific way that I can replicate over and over again. I do this and measure the spin with my SPIN-DETECTORTM. Let’s say I get spin up. Now I have a cup of tea and a biscuit and after by break I set up the experiment again in EXACTLY the same way with a new electron. It’s important that it is exact, that’s what makes it an exciting result. I don’t mean like an experimental ‘I did it the same’ but a theoretical ‘exactly the same preparation’. Now I measure the spin of this electron. It is spin down.

What? ‘That doesn’t make sense’, I say. I repeat the experiment again and again. Each time preparing it in exactly the same way. And each time if find I cannot predict whether I will read spin up or spin down. That is the indeterminacy of nature. When SPIN-DETECTORTM looks at the electron God rolls his dice to decide between up and down and the little blue LED screen blinks with his answer.

If this doesn’t make you go “Wowzers, my brain is imploding!” then consider this classical analogy: I set up a cannon to shoot a cannonball in the air and paint a big old ‘x’ where it lands. After the obligatory cup of tea I set up this experiment again. Same cannon, same cannonball, same direction, same wind. Everything exactly the same. I shoot the cannonball and it lands precisely on the ‘x’ I drew before. No matter how many times I repeat this it will always land on that ‘x’. Its future is determined by the laws of classical physics laid down for us by Isaac Newton in the 17th century.

When you get down to atomic scales there is a fundamental limit on what you can predict. It’s not that we don’t have good enough equipment it is just not possible. This is what Einstein had a problem with. It just didn’t sit right with him. He, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen came up with the EPR paradox. Another Gendanken that was thought at the time (1935) to disprove this “quantum indeterminacy” stuff. He believed in the “Hidden variables” interpretation.  That there was some other factor that we didn’t know that could fill in all that gaps a number maybe that would allow us to predict everything exactly.

That is the meaning behind the quote and this is the reason it is so intriguing to consider: Einstein was not right about this one.

In the 60s a physicist named John Stewart Bell mathematically proved that no theory of hidden variables could ever reproduce all of the predictions of quantum mechanics. Amazing! It took thirty years but we now know that this is the way nature works. It is indeterminate. Unpredictable.

In no way does this mean Einstein wasn’t an extraordinary scientist and a great thinker. The moral to take is definitely not “Einstein wasn’t so great after all” but to accept quantum physics as strange. So strange that on a philosophical level it is hard to accept as truth.

This weird unpredictable trait of nature is known as the Copenhagen interpretation. If you’d like the read more about it and other theories check out the Wikipedia article on Interpretations of quantum mechanics.▼

Feminism is a ramp

This is a transcript of the talk I gave at Refactor. It’s not short (about a 10 minute read), so I recommend settling in on your favourite seat with a nice beverage before digging in. Cheers.


I was once a cool girl.

You know what I mean. One of those “cool girls”, who were “not like other girls”. “Other girls are so catty,” they say. “I’m smart, funny and reasonable.”

See, me and a lot of girls I knew, grew up online on the early internet in the ’90s. We grew up hating women. Because everyone around us hated women.

In the summer of 2012, I had this weird feminist awakening. I say ‘weird’, because if you don’t preface the words “feminist awakening”, people look at you as if you’ve just joined a cult. But also, ‘weird’ because I had always considered myself a feminist.

It takes a special kind of cognitive dissonance to participate in early internet culture, while saying, without irony: I am a feminist. I believe in women’s rights. When I finally got sick of caring about what all the dudes around me thought, I stopped talking. I started listening. I started thinking. This ‘feminist awakening’ hit me, hard. Suddenly, sexism was real, to a degree I never understood before.

It was like seeing the moon through a telescope for the first time. I didn’t know I didn’t believe it until the moment I did. None of my theoretical knowledge about the mass and orbital trajectories prepared me for the shadows of the craters on its surface and how it loomed, large and spherical in the sky.

And none of my pseudo-intellectual discussions about affirmative action and wage gaps prepared me for seeing the objectified female bodies, the insults shouting “girl, pussy, bitch”. The apologists shrugging: “boys will be boys”.

It was everywhere. It was like a veil had been lifted from my eyes. Suddenly I saw the subconscious bias inside of myself.

So my friends and I started an online magazine. HVNGRY. It was a challenge against a fundamental contributor to our bias: the media. It became a celebration. Of woman kings and rulers of industry. Girl scientists with their sleeves rolled up and heads, aimed at the heavens. Girl artists with magic in their hands and stardust in their eyes. Girls who were HVNGRY for more.

What most articles on HVNGRY embodies, is choice feminism. It’s the idea that an action is feminist as long as you are free to choose to do it. Under this paradigm, for example, both wearing makeup and not wearing it is feminist, as long as it’s empowering for you.

Growing up as a woman who made individual choices about what to wear and where to study and what to think, choice feminism was a nice ideology for me. But as we ran HVNGRY and we discussed the inherent social biases against women, racial minorities, LGBTQA, and the like, I stopped seeing the world as a bunch of individuals making individual choices, bumping into each other occasionally, trying to find free food. I started seeing the world as intersecting systems of cultures; of expectations. That we were born into. That we grew up into. That we assimilated into.

And when you see that sexism is systemic, it becomes not enough to just make patriarchy work for you. Because not one of us lives in a vacuum. Our choices affect others, just as theirs affect us. And it’s the people at the intersections of these systems — black women, trans women, for example — that bear the brunt of our choices.

And these aren’t even our choices. Why do I feel empowered when I put on makeup? Would I have thought this had I not learned it at a young age? As children, television and movies show us what we should like. What we should feel empowered by. And growing up, these subconscious biases affect us every single day.

This is the tricky part — doing nothing means upholding the status quo. It’s what what makes these systems self-perpetuating, for the next generation, and the next, and the next.

zap zap

Let’s approach this from a different angle.

There’s this thing in education called “scaffolded learning”. It’s when you introduce a simple idea and get used to it. This idea might not be completely true, but in understanding it you prime your brain to better comprehend the more complex version.

(I remember in high school, I got real mad that they taught us a simplified version of electrons around the atom. But then a couple of years later, I learned that electron shells were more like solutions in 3-space to quantum energy functions, so I kinda got why they started with 2, 8, 8.)

I like to think of feminism as a ramp. A rad, sick, totally awesome ramp. And like any ramp, you can’t just glitch to the top. You need to ease into it. With societal biases, it’s not just learning we have to do. We have to unlearn a bunch of stuff too.

So while choice feminism is criticised as overly idealist and naive, it’s important to keep it around. For many, it’s how we survive within the framework of patriarchy. But also, crucially, it’s the kind of stuff that gets through producers, CEOs, editors — ones with veto power. It gets through gatekeepers. And these gatekeepers are not just the white dudes running most things. These gatekeepers are also ourselves.

It may seem like I’m talking in circles here, but bear with me.

Think back to the last time you had a discussion with a stranger on the internet about a social issue of some kind. Was it frustrating? Did it feel like they just didn’t get it? Like they thought the moon didn’t exist? Or you were in some weird kind of cult?

We experience this because we’re all at different places on this ramp. Maybe we think choice is the only thing that matters. Maybe we’re working on dismantling the system. Maybe we don’t believe the wage gap exists at all. Because of our different contexts, different biases, these can all be perfectly rational thoughts to have.

As our social circles become more and more curated, as our newsfeeds turn from current affairs to echo chambers — the most important skill we have left to communicate, is empathy.

Have empathy for those who have yet to realise their biases. You were once like them too. Don’t take too harshly the words of those who see yours. One day you might be in their shoes.

unrelated: butts r nice

When I look at this ramp — of feminism, of equality, of realisation — I see different ways of dealing with the society around us. Living within the system, or fighting against it.

Surviving, or flourishing.

We are all here because we realise there’s something wrong in our industry. In other industries. In our communities. We are all here because we want to do something about it. Whether it be mending the pipeline, or supporting senior women. Whether it be creating and changing communities, or simply sitting down to listen. Whether it be surviving, or flourishing. Both are important. You can’t flourish if you can’t survive.

We are all also here because we are extremely lucky. We have time, we have resource, we have privilege.

We have power. We can survive. And in our good times, we can flourish, too.

cool

I went from ‘cool girl’, to choice feminist, to seeing systemic and subconscious biases. I finally realised how learning about this is a process — a ramp. And a dialogue between us can only happen if we empathise with each other, no matter where we sit.

And progress — as a community, as an industry — only happens when we take part in this dialogue. When we challenge others. When we challenge ourselves.

There’s no question that we chose one of the hardest problems in history to solve. But it’s also one of the most important.

I want to share with you one of my favourite quotes—it’s by the late playwright George Bernard Shaw. He said,

The reasonable one adapts themselves to the world. The unreasonable one adapts the world, to themselves.

Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable one.

This rad, feminist ramp may seem daunting. It may seem too big to conquer. We might be spaced out, all of us at different points on this ramp. But we’re all doing important work. Support yourself, and your friends, the best way you can.

And when you have that extra strength, when you find that extra power, check in with George Bernard Shaw. Be daring. Be brave. Be a little unreasonable.

We can change the system. We need only to start with ourselves.▼

Introducing: Jessie Fenton

Having only seen the incredible poets at Rising Voices perform, I had little or no knowledge of slam poetry and was excited to be put in touch with a “rookie spoken word poet”. From what I knew of slam poetry or spoken word poetry it was intense, emotionally raw and a popular way of expressing yourself.

Jessie Fenton accidentally stumbled in to slam poetry when she thought she was going to attend a poetry reading through her university, fast forward past the audition she’s performing at the Wellington regional slam later this year. Here is what she has to say about becoming a slam poet:


Tell us what you do..

I’m a rookie spoken word poet – which basically means I get up on stage and recount my angsty thoughts to total strangers. I’m still very much a newcomer at it too, so the angst is sometimes poorly articulated – but always enthusiastic!

How did you get in to it? How could someone get in to it?

I got into spoken word slightly inauspiciously really, through poor poster comprehension. I saw a poster earlier this year and thought I was showing up to a casual poetry reading at uni – instead, it turned out to be a full-on audition for a slam! Mostly spurred on by embarrassment I auditioned, and ended up coming second in the slam overall – since then, I’ve been hooked. I think if someone was looking for a less baptism-by-fire method though, getting up at an open mic night and just giving it a go is really the best way – the audience will always be supportive and encouraging, so it’s a super safe space to test the poetical waters.

Where do you draw inspiration from? any words of advice for aspiring poets?

I think I’m probably too aspiring myself still to have much advice! I spend a lot of time watching poets online though (channels like Button Poetry and speakeasynyc are awesome) and trying to figure out what I like about them. And in terms of writing my own stuff, I generally just sit down and decide what I want to vent about – there’s nothing like complaining on stage to get it out of your system.

Where can we see you perform?

I’ll be competing at the Wellington Regional slam later this year, and I’m also part of Rising Voices up in Auckland. Other than that, if there’s an open mic night in a bar with good cider, I’m there 🙂


Jessie also kindly shared a poem with me which she recently performed. It’s A Warning for Girls who like Movies Too Much.

Dear girl,

The films you grew up with have given you a skewed perspective on life. Between your mother’s romantic comedies and your father’s Rocky Balboa box set, you’ve never been sure if you want to meet the love of your life or beat him in a final knockout round. This, is not a good foundation for a healthy relationship.

Girl, I know you want real life to mirror the movies you love, but you will never be his Adrian.

He will never have you at hello, you will never be just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her, you will always be… just a girl.

You will meet a boy.

You’ll know the one I mean because he’ll wear a pretentious hat and wax lyrical about Woody Allen, and you, will silent-film your own opinions in order to nod more vigorously at his. And he, will have so many opinions. He will teach you the meaning of real cinema.

He will tell you, that if a great writer wants to make a woman’s character strong, first he makes the woman suffer.

He will tell you, that if a great writer wants to make a man’s character strong, first he makes the woman he loves, suffer,

This, is how you will become aware that female suffering has been a crucial plot point in every great narrative throughout history. Dido and Aeneas, Desdemona and Othello, every female character in Game of Thrones ever,

And this, is how you realise that all his favourite stories involve women in pain.

And you will remember that you are not the only one who wants real life to mirror the movies you love.

So when you cry in front of him, do not be surprised to see his eyes light up. Look how interesting you have suddenly become.

You, his damsel in distress,

You, his manic pixie dream girl,

You, just fucked up enough to save him.

Girl, you, are not here to save him.

Your suffering, is not his character development, your suffering is not his narrative arc, your suffering is your suffering, is your story and you, will never be his Adrian. Why would you let someone else do all the fighting for you?

Girl, you are Furiosa. You are Lieutenant Ellen Ripley, you are Katniss fucking Everdeen. Girl, the films you grew up with have given you a skewed perspective on life. You do not have to suffer to be this strong.

You have been this way, from the very beginning.

Being A Cool Kid

It’s difficult to describe what makes a Cool Kid in high school. I have vague memories of them being attractive and playing netball and listening to The Edge or ZM. Maybe the kids are into different things these days, with their Joseph Beibers and their youfacetube.

Disclaimer: I’m not actually a crotchety old person.

What I really want to talk about is how high school isn’t forever, and at some point you will stop being a teenager.  Let me tell you my story.

I was born in 1992, but I’ve never really been a… 90s kid. A lot of my earliest memories are from growing up in Beirut, so I kind of missed a lot of Western things (The Spice Girls, S Club 7, Backstreet Boys), and then when I got back to New Zealand I didn’t really click back in with this culture. Having boy-short hair before it was cool (or even socially accepted, the early 2000s were a dark time), only listening to the radio for the period where My Chemical Romance and Greenday were big, didn’t have a cellphone until I was 15 – the first CD I purchased was a Jethro Tull CD, and I used my Walkman right into 2010 (it uh. Took tapes in it. Ask your parents).

I had a truly horrible time at high school. I didn’t look right, I didn’t feel right, there was one point where the girls in my class classified everyone and I was a Freak. I hated netball so wasn’t going to be cool that way, and the year that I went to maths camp I accepted I was probably doomed to never, ever be a Cool Kid.

When I ask a lot of the people I am friends with now about high school, a lot of similar stories come out. Being awkward and unhappy isn’t uncommon, and wishing to be even slightly further up the social hierarchy is something you share with pretty much everyone else your age.

The people I value the most now, the most interesting, charming, kind and intelligent people I know now, without exception had a terrible time at high school.  They were never Cool Kids and they never had a chance at being Cool Kids, but now they are successful and popular adults whose views are valued and sought out.

If the social hierarchy doesn’t make sense to you, if everyone is using Snapchat but your phone can’t handle it, if everyone loves these new hip tunes but you never really got over reggae, and if you just get so uncomfortable around people your own age, then seriously don’t worry. Things are going to get better, and high school isn’t forever.

Being a Cool Kid isn’t the most important thing, and the sooner you realize that the happier you will be.▼

I’m blonde, and THAT’S what’s irrelevent

Recently there has been an article doing the rounds about how hard it is for a young expat to find a job in London. The article was written by a young girl who spent five months trying to get a job in her field. Her key point was that expats often go traveling thinking everything will work out swimmingly, they will leap off the plane and into a great job in the big wide world. The reality is that it is a lot more tough, and as newcomers, expats can end up feeling like irrelevant nobodies in the big city.

Having also worked in journalism, I really felt for her. I was saddened to hear how hard it was for her to break into broadcasting in the UK as that’s something many of us dream of. It is an important perspective to have, as many young soon-to-be-travellers leave with naive expectations.

But there was one comment in her article which I strongly disagreed with and it actually made me quite upset. It was part of her justification that she should have found a job easily: “I’m blonde and talented”.

I’m also blonde and talented. But I don’t see why the colour of my hair matters. I also have legs that seem to go on and massive tits but hello, were not in the 1950s any more and there’s no way that’s going on my CV. I highly doubt that it was my looks that got me my break in journalism. Even more so given I worked in radio.
In reading her article, I feel like she’s implying that only blondes or those who use their looks/sleep with the boss will make it to the top. It was saddening to see that when so many women are working so hard to create more gender balance in the media, she would voluntarily put her hand up to objectify herself.

Reading on, she makes some really smart, articulate, balanced and educated points in her article. Aside from that line, it was a great article about the realities of moving overseas, warning others not to listen to everything people say. I’m positive she is a really talented, hard working girl, but the words are on the paper and they completely overshadowed the rest of her article.

I’m about to move to London and if I get a job based on my looks I may even turn it down. If I wanted a job that required me to have blonde hair and wear short skirts then I don’t know why I bothered with a Journalism degree.

Girls: work hard. Don’t change your looks for anyone but you.

Employers should value your integrity, your work ethic, and what you can produce for the team. They want a smart woman with great leadership skills.

Have pink hair if you want. Because the only one who should care about your looks is you. Not some 60 year old over-weight board executive.▼

The Dreamer Generation

It’s late, I’ve spent most of my night weeping and catching up with multiple episodes of Doctor Who that I’ve avoided.
Why, You may ask?
Well, I guess I put off these few episodes because I didn’t believe I was ready for Matt Smith’s send off, and I think I was right. I sat through most of it crying and sobbing, riding the emotional roller- coaster, hoping, fingers crossed that it hadn’t ended, that there would be a smidgen more.
When I finally thought I had moved on I went into the first episode of season 8 and ohhhh boy a certain phone call sent me out on a loop. (Don’t even get me started)

The reason I am bringing my emotional collapse to light is that through the watching of the shows that I love, the movies I watch, the books I read and I have noticed one thing in particular,the thing that seems to connect a lot of people in the same conundrum of partaking in an aspect of science fiction or fantasy,and that is that we are all losing part of ourselves into these worlds.

For a moment, we are living alongside the characters we love, exploring and experiencing their world. I guess, when we love something we really put our heart and soul into it. After it’s over, there’s this moment of distorted reality where we need to detach ourselves from the make believe and adjust ourselves into the ordinary.

But why do I call the youth of today the ‘Dreamer generation’? surely there are many years where people have escaped from the reality of their hectic lives to get away from it all and fall into the fiction of a comic, film or book.

I guess that this generation changed when Harry Potter was brought into our lives. Not only did our generation grow up alongside Harry as we read along with him, but we also fell into the world of Hogwarts and the lifestyle that it enabled us to imagine.

Sure we’ve had many other influential media outlets in the past to get us dreaming *cough Star Wars *cough

But I bring up Harry Potter because it started a whirlwind of interest into the possibility of fantasy, into the belief that hopefully our letter’s had been lost in the mail, that given the chance we would know for certain what House we’d all be a part of (Hufflepuff and proud) and guessing what the shape our own personal patronus would be.

We are the dreamer generation because we detach ourselves from what is going on around us to escape and live in a place not like our own.

We are the dreamer generation because we realize that there is more to life than just reality, it is the fantasy that our minds enable us to explore, and sometimes that’s just enough.▼

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to: Start you new job with a bang!

You spent months searching. You wrote so many cover letters that you had to create a new filing system on your desktop. And you printed so many CVs it makes you weep a little on the inside thinking of all that paper. It all paid off in the end, you landed your dream job – well done! Or like most of us, you landed the job that you desperately hope is in the direction of your dream job.

Once you’ve posted your celebratory Facebook status, gone out for that fancy dinner and updated your LinkedIn profile, for many, the next step is often a mix of nervousness, excitement and maybe even a little confusion. For the 99.9999% of us that don’t finish high school or graduate from University and immediately fall into our dream jobs, building your career is top of mind, and one of the first questions is ‘How do I make an impact in my new job?’

No matter what your new job is, whether it is a part time gig after school, a graduate program with a full-on orientation or a newly created role that no-one’s ever done before, there are loads of things you can do to kick off with a bang, start making an impact and get noticed by the right people, for the right things. Here is my guide to getting the best start in your new job.

1. Make sure you arrive on day one feeling refreshed and energised

For some, new jobs are super exciting. Everything is shiny and new, you get to meet a bunch of new people, there might even be a cake with your name on it. Everything seems super easy, because realistically, no-one’s giving you any real work yet. This might lead some to decide they can work right up until the night before the new job, or consider the first few days ‘chill out time.’ However, the first few days are when you’re making first impressions (which we all know count), all while being told a tonne of stuff all at once that you’re expected to remember. If you arrive burnt out, you won’t be on your A-game, you won’t remember key information, and worst of all, you won’t make a good first impression with people you are soon to be working very closely with.

2. Ask loads of questions

When you are new in a job, you have a grace period where everyone will go out of your way to help you, and that’s the perfect time to ask tonnes and tonnes of questions. Everything from where the stationary cupboard is, to social events to what your boss loves and hates. And of course all of the specific things you need to do in order to do your job well.

The other key side of it is more strategic. Being the new person is a golden opportunity – everyone expects you to ask lots of questions, so you can use that naivety to identify areas that aren’t so efficient and question why things are done the way they are. Take note of them so that once you’re settled in and know the ropes you can find creative ways to solve internal problems.
Perhaps you noticed it was really hard to find written handover documents from your predecessor – a perfect opportunity to propose a solution to your boss, even if it is something as simple as the new folder you created on the shared drive.

3. Listen carefully, and take all the notes

Whilst some companies have a really concrete onboarding process with events and team bonding activities right through to 1000 page manuals, others will barely have anything written down. Instead, someone will dump what should be a day’s worth of information on you in 30 minutes, and you will be expected to remember it.

You’ll always be told ‘Don’t worry, no question is a dumb question’. But in reality, there are dumb questions – they are the one’s where you’ve just been told something but you weren’t listening. The fastest way to tank any good impression you made is by seeming like you are careless, uninterested and not listening – easily achieved if someone has to keep repeating something over and over to you.

4. Notice the little things

The other thing that will happen in your first days of the job is some of the most important bits of information will be the little off the cuff comments that your colleague drops without realising how important they are – what your new client’s kids names are, that project that’s going to start next month, and most importantly, what to do when the coffee runs out.

The little snippets you pick up can reveal very useful insights into the company – hints at how the office politics work, what previous people in your role did really well and who the key people in the company are (it isn’t often the job title that’s the clue).

The easy way to stay on top of both of these situations is to stay sharp and focussed, even when you’re just chatting in the kitchen on your tea break. And for anything formal, write it all down. There’s no harm in writing extra stuff just in case, and you’ll be thankful when your client calls a week later and you can look back over your notes and see what her daughter is called.

5. Don’t be afraid to do the rounds introducing yourself

If you’re lucky, your new manager will take you round the company and introduce yourself to everyone. Unfortunately most of us aren’t so lucky – some workplaces are fast paced, have a bunch of people off site or even have multiple floors and locations. Take the initiative and go around introducing yourself, starting with your team, everyone you bump into, and working through other nearby areas. Be sure to ask what everyone does, and even better – try to set up meetings with anyone you think might interact with your role. That way, you can get a really good understanding of who everyone is, what they do, and what the opportunities are to work together and help eachother out.

Often, different departments in a business will end up being quite focussed and independant, if you can bridge the gap, even by finding out little snippets of helpful information (like what projects people are working on) you can make a big impact by letting them know two people are actually doing pretty contradictory tasks and proposing a simple solution.

You’ll also start to find out the things that aren’t written down, and won’t ever be. Every organisation is chock full of implicit knowledge that it takes a long time to work out – things like the fact your boss won’t mind if you arrive 5 minutes late, but interrupt her with a question before she’s finished her morning coffee and she’ll be really pissed. Or mistakes other people commonly make when they are new, and how they impact teams other than your own.

Protip: If you struggle to remember people’s names, print off the page on the website with everyone’s names and photos and keep it on your desk for the first week or two.

I just really love comics you guys

Trying to get my friends and family into comics has been a rough journey. Comics are my favourite medium, but I will be the first to admit that they don’t have the best reputation. Comics is an incredibly diverse and experimental medium, but their public image is so dominated by one spandex-clad genre that it’s sometimes hard to get past, particularly in the representation of women. Luckily, we’re living in a new golden age of comics that star women, are written by women, drawn by women, and are aimed at women. Everyday the medium is changing, becoming more inclusive and diverse, and there are more and more amazing titles to recommend to the curious and dubious new reader. Here’s a few.

STRONG FEMALE PROTAGONIST

Brendon Lee Mulligan (Writer), Molly Ostertag (Artist)

sfp

So, superheroes: fun as they are to watch and read about, aren’t really equipped to tackle the real worlds ills, right? “What are you going to do, Mega-Girl? Fling poverty into the sea? Smash us all into a better tomorrow?” Mainstream comics do sometimes address this, and it’s often cringe-worthy. But, the first rec on this list makes superhero ineffectiveness a central theme. Strong Female Protagonist is a smart, gorgeously drawn webcomic updating Tuesdays and Fridays, following the life of Alison Greene, aka Mega-Girl, formerly America’s leading superheroine, physically invulnerable, and the strongest human being who has ever lived. She’s also a twenty year old Uni student, who’s desperately trying to find an identity for herself outside of heroics that defined her teenage years and to understand how she can more effectively help the world beyond punching people in the face.

The comic explores the ethics of superheroing and social justice issues in a world just as messed up as our own. This can make for a pretty somber reading experience sometimes — SFP doesn’t shy away from explicitly addressing homophobia, racism, poverty and privilege. Still, all these issues are treated with sincerity and honesty, and you never feel as if the writer and artist are using them for cheap shock value. And for all the darkness inherent in the stories themes, SFP doesn’t come across as nihilistic. It’s a fundamentally hopeful story, about continued action in the face of injustice and the importance of cooperation over individualism in tackling complicated issues. After all, you can’t just kick homophobia through dimensions all on your own.

You can find SFP online, where it is still ongoing, or find the first print volume.

MS MARVEL

G. Willow Wilson (Writer), Adrian Alphona (Artist)

msmarvel

Ms Marvel began early last year, after the former Ms Marvel, Carol Danvers, claimed the title of Captain Marvel (actually a step down, she was a full Colonel when she left the Air Force. Lady outranks Captain America.). Kamala Khan of New Jersey is the “average girl” of the Tumblr age: obsessed with superheroes, writing fanfic, and stifling under parents who just don’t understand how important this gifset is. She’s also developing bizarre superpowers after exposure to a plot device. Inspired by her favourite superhero Captain Marvel and her inherent desire to do good, she sets out to protect the youth of New Jersey from various supervillains. Ridiculous teenage shenanigans ensue, iconic characters guest-star (Wolverine thinks Kamala is awesome), and writer G. Willow Wilson manages to intelligently and sensitively tie Kamalas Muslim faith to her heroic identity and motives. Kamala isn’t defined by her faith, but it is an important aspect of her character and her life that the comic treats with utmost respect.

Ms Marvel is also a magnificent rebuttal to every “teenagers today are useless and lazy and will contribute nothing to the future” argument. Teenagers today are as varied and wonderful as the rest of the world, whatever out-of-touch baby boomers say. And let’s be real, they didn’t screw up the economy or fry the polar ice caps, but they are the ones who are going to have to live with it. I’ll be honest, talking about Kamala and what a magnificent hero she is was about 98% of what motivated me to write this rec list. She’s not Marvel’s first female Muslim hero (X-Men has Dust and M, and Captain Britain has the delightful Dr Faiza Hussain, aka Excalibur), but is the first to headline her own ongoing title. Ms Marvel is about inspiration, hope, initiative and perseverance, doing what you can because it’s RIGHT, to make a difference, even if it’s hard, even if your parents don’t like the giant space dog you just brought home.

Introducing: The Prettiots

The Prettiots are a band hailing from NYC and their sound is as sweet as their band name. With a cute ’90s sound you’ll find yourself bobbing your head and giggling along to the catchy and dreamy vibes. Fronting the Prettiots is Kay Kasparhauser, who states the girliest thing she does is “[play] in a girl band where I sing about boys and play ukulele.”

The trio: lead singer Kay Goldberg, 23; drummer Rachel Trachtenburg, 20; and bassist Lulu Prat, 18; are fronted with a ukulele instead of a guitar. They’re into fashion and their lyrics are so quirky and true to life you’ll find yourself giggling along.

All I ever wanted to do was make out with you
Just hang out and order take out with you…

We don’t have to fall in love,
We can just make out and stuff
Not that I want a one night stand,
I’m actually totally not about that.

Lyrics to ‘Dream Boy

This bright new band has just released a music video for their latest single Boys (I dated in high school), painting a tongue in cheek view at Kay’s previous romantic relationships, which Kay states are all 100% true.

There’s something sweet and cute about The Prettiots, but they’re more than cutesy tunes and pretty faces, with relatable music that will help any girl going through a break up, their straight talking and feminist prose are refreshing to see and fit for a Sofia Coppola film or an early John Hughes movie.