The Roundup for February 16-March 4, 2019 Edition

Families by Christopher Parsons

Welcome to this edition of The Roundup! Enjoy the collection of interesting, informative, and entertaining links. Brew a fresh cup of coffee or grab yourself a drink, find a comfortable place, and relax.


Inspiring Quotation

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right —for you’ll be criticized anyway.”

  • Eleanor Roosevelt

Great Photography Shots

Winnie Au’s photographs of dogs in sculptural comes of shame are just amazing and hilarious.

Music I’m Digging

  • Daniil Trifonov – NPR Tiny Desk Concert // Trifonov’s performance is just spectacular, and his Chopin is amongst the best I’ve ever experienced. The nuance of his playing cannot be overstated; his technical mastery lets him truly express the emotions behind each of the with which pieces he engages.
  • Kehlani – While We Wait // I’ve been listening to this a lot over the past few weeks; Kehlani’s R&B and soul vibes make for both pleasant background listening as well as concentrated, full attention, listening. Her track with 6LACK, in particular, strikes me as a solid contribution to her emerging body of work.
  • Run the Jewels’Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 2, and Run the Jewels 3 // I’ve had these albums on near-constant replay over the course of the past two and a half weeks. I really appreciate the aesthetic of the beats that El-P lays down and his general MC skills, especially as combined with Killer Mike’s lyrics. It feels like they’ve taken the best of New York circa the mid-90s or early 2000s and Atlanta circa the mid-2000s to today. Almost every track has a special bit of resonance and, on the whole, the cohesiveness of all their albums to date is really exceptional.

Neat Podcast Episodes

  • TVO – The World’s Shrinking Problem // This is a counter-intuitive assessment of the state of the world’s population. Whereas popular thought holds that the world is running out of space, Darrel Bricker and John Ibbitson’s new book Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline suggests that average birth rates are significantly declining to under 2.1 children per women in numbers well populated areas of the world (e.g. China, India, etc). The result: immigration is critical to maintain populations, and especially youthful populations, if a consumer-based economy is going to continue.
  • TVO – The Asian world Order is Coming // With Asian populations increasingly coming into their own, as they become more truly self-governing states as opposed to driven substantively by colonialists their decisions on who to trade with, how to approach basic rights, and baseline conceptions of equality will increasingly follow from self-determined positions as opposed to those imposed by others. There are more people living in Asian democracies than in any other part of the world and trade between Asian countries is increasingly interregional. As such, a genuine reorientation of the world blocs may be taking place and to the effect of seeing Asian nations coming (back) into their own after approximately 500 years of colonial influence and rule.
  • Lawfare – Marie Harf and Bill Harlow on CIA Public Relations // In this long form interview with former members of the CIA’s public relations team, Daniel Priess unpacks what the role of the team is, how they interact with other members of the Agency, and the reasons for which the relations team tries to correct the record. What I found most interesting was that the press team was not designed to create positive spin for the CIA but, instead, to make news that comes out less negative. Close observers of the CIA might dispute this position — there is a history of the CIA, especially over the past decade or so, attempting to influence American public opinion vis-a-vis who gets access to people in the CIA to develop movies and TV shows — but nonetheless this was an interesting podcast that while presenting information about the public relations team was also, without a doubt, an effort to influence minds about how the CIA itself operates.
  • The Axe Files – Claire McCaskill // McCaskill was a Democratic Senator who lost her seat in the last election. This interview with her is helpful and productive in thinking through how the Senate works, changes in USA politics over the past twelve years, and the things that primarily drive Mitch McConnell, the current Senate majority leader.
  • The Documentary – Japan’s Elderly Crime Wave // The issues of loneliness, shame, and insufficient welfare state mechanisms along with a generally healthy society are all leading to a heightened number of elderly persons in Japanese prisons. This episode of The Documentary dives into the problem and speaks directly to those who are incarcerated to better understand why they’re imprisoned, whether they see a life for themselves that is permanently outside of prison, and how a Japanese culture of shame is leading to elder members of families being permanently exiled from their closest social connections.

Good Reads

  • Love and Limerence // A long assessment of what’s it’s like to experience infatuation towards another, this review of limerence — “an involuntary interpersonal state that involves an acute longing for emotional reciprocation, obsessive-compulsive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and emotional dependence on another person” — functions as a diagnostic utility as well as a way of mapping likely outcomes when there is a variance between expressions or perceptions of limerence. The review of the term, and Studs Terkel’s associated book, are underscored by hundreds of pages of first hand accounts of feeling enthralled by another person, with the components of limerence breaking down to, first, a sign of hope that the person might reciprocate and, second, uncertainty. However, the perceptions that a limerent person has towards their limerence object is as much a projection of their own illusions as anything else; that which is perceived is unlikely to be representative of the actual other person.
  • Shopping in Pyongyang, and Other Adventures in North Korean Capitalism // The development of the North Korean economy, and specifically the acceptance and integration of open markets throughout the country, bely the perception of the country as a fully controlled socialist system. Of particular note is the rise of bosses who collect rents from persons selling in markets. This emerging upper-merchant class is unlikely to seek political power and work to open North Korea’s borders and gain access to foreign markets. Instead, these merchants principally seek to maintain the existing political system because it protects them from external competition; instead, this group of merchants are likely to instead seek to obtain and leverage political power to keep the state’s attentions fixed elsewhere. In effect, these are scions of political conservatism as opposed to leaders for liberal political reform.
  • Don’t buy a 5G smartphone—at least, not for a while // Ars Technica’s Ron Amadeo has a terrific, and concise, summarization of what 5G technologies entail in 2018/19 and why the hype over the technology likely won’t meet reality in the near future. Specifically, the characteristics of the radio frequency utilized in 5G communications combined with the increased size of chips used (and associated radios) mean that not only will early-generation 5G-compatible phones be significantly more expensive, they will likely also have worsened battery lives. It’s based on details like this that I genuinely believe we won’t see real 5G penetration for at least 5 years, barring a significant revolution in how and why the newly utilized spectrum is taken advantage of by innovative technologies and systems.
  • How Run the Jewels Became Hip-Hop’s Most Intense Truth-Tellers // While Weiner’s article came out several years ago, it continues to provide a solid background to where Run the Jewels emerged from, the variances in attitudes and politics of El-P and Killer Mike, and what happened (and why) when they teamed up. Further, it’s noteworthy that their music is as much ‘consciousness rap’ as it is about asserting their status in the hip hop community and delving into their sometimes difficult pasts.
  • Modern Love – How Bibliophiles Flirt // There is so much to appreciate in this story about presentation of self, and becoming who one desires to be (or sees oneself as), as well as the blossoming of love that culminates with a return to fun game which was played a year earlier.
  • A basic question about TCP // This is about the best explanation of TCP/IP that I’ve ever come across. Graham has littered the typically technical explanations with a large volume of examples so that even the most technically unsophisticated reader should walk away with a pretty good grasp of the protocol, its difficulties, and the problems associated with ‘smart’ networks.
  • Strep A bacteria kill half a million a year. Why don’t we have a vaccine? / I’d had no idea just how dangerous Strep A could be or that repeated cases of it can lead to serious health issues. impressively, there has been an uptick in efforts to develop a vaccine against most types of Strep, with tests appearing promising. Hopefully a vaccine can be developed…and we can then convince or coerce people to get vaccinated.

Cool Things

  • UCCA Dune // Without a doubt, this is perhaps the single most beautiful contemporary art gallery — from an architectural perspective — that I’ve seen in a very long time. The interior shots of it are organic and sensuous and communicate an openness to the world whilst simultaneously behaving as a protective shell for inner contemplation.
  • Animating Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars™ Battlefront™ / The way in which the designers attribute psychological properties to Skywalker based on how he used his lightsaber prior to his turn to the dark side is pretty incredible, and speaks to the thoughtfulness that goes into many games associated with the Star Wars universe.

China’s Second Continent


Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Howard W. French’s book is, functionally, a travel log of his most recent tour of Africa where he asks the baseline question, “what, exactly, is happening with Chinese investment and emigration to African states?” He takes the reader across the continent and recounts his experiences, today, versus when he was professionally in the region in past decades. It’s this background experience — which enables him to conduct before/after assessments — combined with his experiences in both the populous and more rural areas of China, along with linguistic fluency, that makes the book as compelling as it is.

The actual findings of the book are pretty common across all cases: Chinese efforts to shore up mineral and vegetative resources are, widely, disliked by the public. This dislike follows from Chinese companies predominantly bringing in skilled labourers from China and minimally employing locals, and while also rarely providing sufficient training so that locals can take on more advanced tasks. Moreover, in many of the cases French recounts the Chinese companies are massively either underpaying locals or, in contrast, engaged in bidding practices that result in poor quality infrastructures being developed and which are often obtained in part through bribery or corrupt dealings.

Many of the Chinese persons who are interviewed in the course of the book hold, frankly, colonial values. They regard African employees as lazy, and uneducated, and as unwilling to adequately develop. And, similarly, Chinese companies and government consular staff are engaged in systematic efforts to, on the one hand, establish control of important resources that will enable China to prosper while, on the other, stripping Africa of its resources at a scale that could only be dreamed by Western colonial powers in the decades and centuries past.

The repetition that emerges through the chapters ultimately makes the book a tad boring to read, especially towards the end, notwithstanding French’s efforts to inject local colour and humour throughout the book. However, it is that very repetitiveness that makes the book as striking as it is: Africa has become a space where China’s transactionalist foreign policy means that Chinese companies can thrive while aggressively stripping resources from Africa whilst the country itself avoids projects focused on developing democratic norms, rule of law, or other governance systems. These latter activities, often associated with American and Western aid projects, are set aside by and large by China and, as a result, the supposed ‘progress’ of African states will only come if the states’ governance structures change on their own, and in the face of exceptional bribes and other corrupt business practices. I remain dubious that a Chinese-facilitated model of “development,” which largely entails economic activities and exclusionary approaches to engaging in broader governance activities, will do any more for Africa than the French, British, and Belgians did when they focused their attentions on Africa.

Quote

If anything, what [Bytes, Bombs and Spies] points out is how little value you can get from traditional political-science terms and concepts. Escalatory ladder makes little sense with a domain where a half-decade of battlefield preparation and pre-placement are required for attacks, where attacks have a more nebulous connection to effect, deniability is a dominant characteristic, and where intelligence gathering and kinetic effect require the same access and where emergent behavior during offensive operations happens far beyond human reaction time.

Quote

The fact that it was [sic] responsibility not of the RCMP but of the employer, whether government department or private company, to actually remove a security risk from employment, that is, to exercise direct coercion, is precisely in line with the panoptic element. The RCMP merely watched, gathered information, and provided advice, silently and in the shadows. The effect was to induce political discipline through pervasive, diffuse fear of the consequences of risky ideas, friends, or associations. Totalitarian states enforced political discipline through cruder forms of police state coercion. In fighting the Nazi state, Canada was also groping towards a more effective, non-coercive, form of discipline. The RCMP provided to be able students of the new science of political surveillance.

  • Reg Whitaker et al, Secret Service: Political Policing in Canada from the Fenians to Fortress America

The Roundup for February 1-15, 2019 Edition

Rest, Deeply by Christopher Parsons

Welcome to this edition of The Roundup! Enjoy the collection of interesting, informative, and entertaining links. Brew a fresh cup of coffee or grab yourself a drink, find a comfortable place, and relax.


A few top of line thoughts concerning the iPad Pro 11” versus the iPad 9.7” (2017).

  • The weight increase on the iPad Pro is really noticeable and makes holding it aloft for long periods of time less pleasant;
  • FaceID is magical. It’s just amazing to have a device with it;
  • iPad Pro’s screen is terrific. Hands down, the best screen I’ve ever used on a device;
  • Apple Pencil is really amazing for taking notes with (side note: GoodNotes seems pretty good?) but it took me forever to figure out wtf was going on when I couldn’t use it on a recent trip. The issue? The nib wasn’t fully secured and there were no indicators to alert me to the problem;
  • iPad Pro’s speakers are so good that I don’t need to bring a separate portable speaker with me (which I’ve done while travelling for years). Massive win for a regular traveller;
  • Battery life is amazing, as is true of all new iOS devices, though I wonder how that will change over time…
  • New ‘SOS’ features — with no explanation when I was setting up the device — meant that it was initially a pain to take the device through a border checkpoint (pro tip: press power + volume up);
  • Once more: the screen is just amazing crazy good.

Do I recommend iPad Pro? Kinda sorta? If you do a lot of professional work on it or require a secure device and can’t live in ChromeOS (i.e. the Venn circles I live in) then it’s a terrific option. Otherwise…consider whether the 9.7″ (2018) iPad is better for your life (and pocketbook).


Inspiring Quotation

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go do that. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.”

— Harold Whitman

Great Photography Shots

The top 25 photos posted to Flickr in 2018 are just absolutely stunning.

Music I’m Digging

  • DaniLeigh – The Plan // I’ve even listening to this album on repeat for days: the tracks alternate between melodic singing and stronger hip hop vibes. Tracks I’m particularly fond of include ‘The Plan’, Do It to Me’, ‘Blue Chips’, ‘Easy’, and (of course) the breakout track ‘Lil Bebe’.
  • Joy Crookes – Reminiscence (EP) // Crooke’s soft and husky voice powerfully communicates the emotions and experiences she has lived through and contemplated. Her experiences with relationships and social expectations — in particular, that she should change her life to accommodate a man — are both erudite and communicate both a willingness to engage in introspection while expressing self-confidence in who she is at the time of writing the respective songs.
  • Hauschka – A Different Forest // A piece of classical music that communities the experience of passing through nature, this newest album by Hauschka complements their broad and excellent body of work.

Neat Podcast Episodes

  • The Economist: It’s note easy: the Green New Deal // We might be approaching a time where the primary threat to human civilization — catastrophic climate change — is becoming a ‘real’ political issue. This episode of The Economist takes a look at the proposed Green New Deal in the United States of America and, to my listen, does a good job in assessing what’s been proposed thus far as likely more an affirmation of principle than a proposal of actions and activities.
  • The Sporkful: Dan Savage Recommends A Polyeaterous Lifestyle // I’ve always found Dan Savage’s advice to be blunt, direct, and helpful. His discussions on The Sporkful are no different. Though not novel, his suggestions about romantic days (i.e. sex, first, dinner second) just make good sense, and his thoughts on not badgering your partner to do things that you like but they don’t are similarly common sense and likely to enable partners to live independent and fulfilling lives.
  • The Sporkful: Why Roy Wood Jr. Sees Pros To Bad Service And Confederate Flags // Roy Wood Jr. is a comedian. He’s also African American, and tours the entirety of the United States of America. As a result, he’s often in states where his body is perceived as either threatening or as something to be harmed. His discussion of what it’s like to try and determine ‘Is this a white person who’s going to harass or try to kill me?’ served to, again, remind me about the structural racism that is built into society and needs to be remedied. Unrelated, it was interesting to hear him talk about the relationship he had with his father and how, in Wood Jr.’s own case, his own parenting approach is as much to behave contrary to how he was raised as anything else. I particularly liked his rationales for not seeking to bribe his child into forgiving past bad actions; the accountability he recognizes in parenting strikes me as helpful for developing productive and positive longer-term relationships in the child’s unfolding life.

Good Reads

  • How the Slice Joint Made Pizza the Perfect New York City Food // Korsha Wilson has written a beautiful homage to New York pizza, and briefly extols on its history — with great black and white photos included! — and argues that the common love of the food truly binds New Yorkers together. I’d be lying if I said this was the most absolutely breathtaking writing, but it does capture the senses in the course of spinning a narrative.
  • European Genocide of Indigenous Peoples in the Americas Cooled Earth’s Climate // The sheer breadth of the harms incurred by the West’s genocide is staggering in human terms. But it’s also incredible that, as a result of land lying fallow, that nature was better able to absorb carbon dioxide and thus reduce the amount of heat trapped on Earth, to the effect of dropping global temperatures. Humanity’s ability to abuse itself while, also, inadvertently terraforming its environment is stunning.
  • Lagos, City of Hustle, Builds an Art ‘Ecosystem’ // The caliber of the art coming up in the emerging galleries in Lagos are absolutely stunning, though it strikes me as a shame that the revolution in the country’s art world is largely taking place in private instead of public galleries. However, the fact that artists seems to be responsible for the revival itself speaks well of the explosive talent in the community that will hopefully nurture itself as opposed to rely on public or private subsidies to find meanings or existence.
  • The Great Myth of Alberta Conservatism // Alberta is routinely cast as an ‘other’ in Canadian politics, by its own politicians as well as by commentators external to the province. A series of myths abound about the province which, largely, stem from perceptions emergent from populist conservatism. Jen Gerson seeks to recast some of these narratives; she recognizes that populism is largely enabled by a perception that Ottawa and the rest of Canada seeks the wealth of Alberta and, in general, regards Alberta as a sub-colonial aspect of Confederation. Her descriptions are useful for appreciating the contours of Albertan populism while, at the same time, indicative that the boom-and-bust province has clung to age-old grievances to the detriment of better relations with other provinces and the federal government. Moreover, it is challenging to believe the province is an actual ‘other’ as a Liberal federal government invests billions in a pipeline for the province’s exports and Albertan-based politicians led Canada for almost a decade. In this way, we see that the myths of Alberta may compose a political identity which fades somewhat when challenged with facts of the modern political era.
  • Can You Get Too Much Exercise? What the Heart Tells Us // As someone who regularly works out more or less everyday that I’m in my home city, I keep being told that it’s dangerous to work out so often. This article by the New York Times summarizes what we know: those who work out a lot tend to build up more plaque in their arteries than those who exercise less often. However, that plaque seemingly possesses different characteristics: it may tend to be denser and more stable and, as such, less likely to break off and lead to coronary distress.
  • Why Won’t You Love Me? // As someone who constantly grapples with a sense of abandonment by my biological father, this piece resonated deeply and strongly with me. My own father’s absence has taught me the value of simply showing up, though I wish it was through imitation of his behaviours as opposed to in contravention of them.
  • ‘Shoplifters’ Director Pierces Japan’s Darker Side // The review of the movie, itself, is somewhat interesting. But where this article thrives is in examining the rationales and philosophy behind the movie. In particular, I was taken by Hirokazu Kore-eda’s comment that: “If you think of culture as something that transcends the state, then you understand that cultural grants don’t always coincide with the interests of the state.” This perfectly captures the difference of receiving money from a government versus from a state.
  • Doug Ford’s TTC subway upload and Margaret Thatcher’s cautionary tale // With more and more concerns being raised that the Ford government is going to steal away Toronto’s subway, this assessment of the ‘successes’ of doing so in London should be sobering. In short, Thatcher’s similar activities led to under financing, corruption, safety risks, worsened commute experiences, and higher costs. Perhaps this isn’t the model that Ontario and Toronto should be mimicking?
  • The Problem With Compromise // The idea that couples’ problems tend to stick around in 2/3 of cases belies the point that compromise isn’t necessarily what will help people navigate challenges together. I liked the proposal that, instead, persons in relationships need to accept differences and subsequently adapt in the face of them. This approach also seems remarkably healthier because it recognizes — vis-a-vis adaptation — that a deliberate act of change is required, but that change might not entail mutual modifications in action or behaviour in all cases. Finally, the idea that expressions of gratitude are central to successfully managing adaptation and acceptance over time resonates with my past experiences: it’s through acceptance and celebration of one’s partner that relationships can truly bloom in the face of interpersonal differences and challenges.
  • My Body Doesn’t Belong to You // This short personal essay is about the negative experiences the author has at the hands and voices of men, with the harassment purely arising because she is a woman. The narrative — to feeling like her body is hers as a child, and now only hers in seclusion from men and with her girlfriends, speaks loudly to the casual misogyny built into Western society, and also to the absolute need to structurally reform social relations. The lines that stuck, and likely will continue to stick, with me the most were: “I am 24, and my body makes life dangerous for me. My breasts, my hips, the way I walk. Any woman’s breasts, any woman’s hips, the way any woman walks.”

Cool Things

  • “Roll High Or Die” spinning enamel pin // A d20 spinning enamel pin? So nerdy.
  • WANDRD Travel Journal Notebook // This looks like a really cool product for people who use paper to organize and record their travels. I particularly like how it’s divided into long, medium, and short-term adventures, and the miscellaneous travel aids included in the book.
  • One Breath Around The World // This is a stunning short video, where you are taken throughout the oceans over the course of a single breath and experience them in their freedom and wonders. Without a doubt its one of the best artistic pieces I’ve seen so far this year.

The Roundup for January 21-31, 2018 Edition

(Smile! by Christopher Parsons)

Welcome to this edition of The Roundup! Enjoy the collection of interesting, informative, and entertaining links. Brew a fresh cup of coffee or grab yourself a drink, find a comfortable place, and relax.


Inspiring Quotation

“To create one’s world … takes courage.”

— Georgia O’Keeffe

Great Photography Shots

I really appreciated the very different natures of the three shots, below, which were compiled by Mobiography as part of the 15 Superb Smartphone Photos of Urban Life challenge.

(‘Waiting for their pasta‘ by @zoyazen)
(‘PANCHIKAWATTE‘ by @the.r.a.b.b.i.t)
(‘Sunsets and silhouettes‘ by @tanvi2016)

Music I’m Digging

I’ve been listening to a bunch of different playlists over the past few weeks, with my favourites being:

  • Apple Music – The New Atlanta // There are some amazing artists coming out of Atlanta, with 21 Savage, 6LACK, and Takeoff probably being amongst my favourites at the moment.
  • Apple Music – The New New York // Part of the reason I wanted to listen to this list was because Atlanta is being seen as where a lot of the freshest talent is coming from; I wanted to be able to compare between the two cities and the new artists emerging out of them. If I’m honest, I’m preferring the New York playlist with artists like Thutmose, Princess Nokia, 6ix9ine, HoodCelebrityy, amongst others.
  • Jasmine Jones – 🍽 // I’ve been listening to a lot of Jasmine Jones’ playlists, with her playlist for dinner parties being a really nice background playlist with interesting and cool tracks that I haven’t ever found on an equivalent playlist. Really though, all of Jones’ playlists are worth checking out!
  • Songs I Liked in January 2019 // I didn’t actually favourite a huge number of new songs this month, which was actually a bit shocking when I ran my script. Still, I really do like the few tracks that did get a like!

Neat Podcast Episodes

  • Backstory – Nixon Beyond Watergate: A History of the Presidency Before the Scandal // I really didn’t know much about Nixon other than the scandal and so, as an example, had no idea that it was under his presidency that a lot of the United States’ environmental regulation began in force. Nor was I really aware of just how effective a political communicator he had been prior to the scandal itself. If you’re interested in filling in some historical blank spots then this is a good listen.
  • 99% Invisible – Gathering the Magic // I played Magic: The Gathering periodically during high school and university but always got out because I saw that it would demand a regular monetary investment to have the ‘best’ cards. That said, it was a lot of fun when I played. This episode goes through all of the challenges in putting together a game that is card-based and yet has a significant storyline behind it. Moreover, it talks about the politics of adding progressive cards, such as characters with non-CIS sexualities. That said, I think that the discussion of the game that fails to account for the financial rationale for putting out new decks on a regular basis papers over the fact that this is a game built to print money, and has for a long time. A more holistic accounting would have touched on the relationship between that business model and the progressive nature of that game itself (at least as presented by the persons interviewed in the episode).

Good Reads

  • The Route of a Text Message // I’ve never come across a simultaneously so-comprehensive and so-amusing explanation of a contemporary technology. Scott’s breakdown of every single element of typing a SMS message is remarkable; if only there were more such breakdowns, perhaps more social scientists would realize the importance of how policies and laws can affect protocols and code for good or ill.
  • Amazon Knows What You Buy. And It’s Building a Big Ad Business From It. // I had no idea how sophisticated Amazon’s advertising systems were, and that they were leveraging information given to the company, like type of car you own, purchases you make, size and composition of your family, and so on, to help third-parties target ads. This is yet another case of a company exploiting data in non-transparent ways that are, frankly, just creepy.
  • The Secret to Getting Top-Secret Secrets // Fagone’s article is somewhat mis-titled; it’s really a story about Jason Leopold, a journalist who’s been using the USA’s FOIA process to extract secret documents from the government to subsequently report on them. And the story of Leopold’s journalist and personal history is really, really interesting: he’s managed to turn his addictive personality from that which was destructive (e.g. drugs, alcohol) to positive (e.g. requesting documents from the government). Fagone effectively showcases the depths of Leopold’s character and, in the process, also raises baseline questions of why more journalists aren’t using Leopold’s method more rigorously given its successes.
  • Your Company’s Promotion Process is Broken // Mannan’s piece is a must-read for anyone who needs their regular reminder that gender and cultural backgrounds are factors managers absolutely must take into consideration when they’re evaluating employee performance. I found her honesty in presenting her own experiences, as well as how a manager productively engaged with her to improve how she wrote her own self-assessments, was refreshing and provided a good number of practical things to watch for when actually evaluating employees’ self-assessments.
  • The Secrets of Lyndon Johnson’s Archives // When I visited President Johnson’s ranch last year I’d never really known much about him. And, to be fair, I still know little about him. However, Caro’s article on his experiences in going through the president’s archives is deeply revealing of the limitations of other authors’ biographies of the president and the sheer amount of work Caro does in excavating the truth of his subjects. It’s a stunning article in just the process of Caro’s work, to say nothing of the actual insight he has in conducting interviews and gaining the trust of interview subjects.
  • The Sloth’s Busy Inner Life and Where Sloths Find These Branches, Their Family Trees Expand // These pair of articles from the NY Times’ science section are really, really interesting insofar as they explain why sloths in South and Central America risk the dangerous trip down from their trees to defecate (reason: to foster moths, which ultimately live and die in the sloth’s fur to facilitate the growth of moss that the sloth eats from its fur) and how trees in cacao plantations are helpful to facilitate survival of sloth populations. It’s incredible to realize how intricate these animals’ ecosystem has become and, also, worrying to realize how delicate these ecosystems really are.
  • 8 Tips For Incredible Urban Photography On iPhone // This is a terrific guide for thinking about how to see an urban environment and, also, how to compose and edit the shots that you take with your iPhone or any other camera that you happen to have with you. There’s lots of good guides like this, but it was the comprehensive nature of this piece that made me really like it.
  • I Tried to Block Amazon From My Life. It Was Impossible. // Using a customized VPN, Hill attempted to block any access to Amazon products and realized that while avoiding Amazon retail is challenging, but possible, it is almost impossible to avoid using the company’s Internet infrastructure. In the process, she disclosed in a clear and transparent way just how broad Amazon’s power has become, and that the company arguably operates as a quasi-monopoly in today’s digital economy.

Cool Things

Aside

2019.1.21

One of the things I enjoy most about academia is the emphasis on intellectual freedom even when expressing such freedom might be seen as problematic for the University’s commercial interests. Case in point: I was quoted in an article raising concerns that some universities’ contractual agreements to automatically transfer certain 5G telecommunications patents to foreign companies (based on research funded by the same companies) could be disadvantageous to domestic national security. One of the universities that is caught up in the issue is the one employing me. Despite my statements potentially being disadvantageous to my own university’s interests there are no rebukes but, instead, praise for being involved with national issues. If only all employers could be so similarly open-minded!