Aside

The Roundup for November 19-30, 2018 Edition

Explore 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, make a tea, or grab yourself a drink, find a comfortable place, and relax.


Inspiring Quotation

Hope requires action.

  • Barrack Obama

Great Photography Shots

Ugur Galenkus’ work is not easy to look at, but constitutes an important artistic intervention by juxtaposing the lives of those in war torn parts of the world with those in the West.

Music I’m Digging

  • 2018 – Tracks I Liked in November // A new addition to my music lists, I’m starting to pull together the different tracks that I liked in a given month. This month sees some tracks from 2018 but just as many from earlier in the decade. It’s a diverse collection of pop, R&B, rap, and alternative, and electronic, with a bit of orchestral thrown in here and there.
  • American Gods (Original Series Soundtrack) // Having just watched the first season of the show — which was excellent! — I had to get and listen to the soundtrack. It’s got an eerie mix of jazz, electronica, and classical undertones. While merging all three genres is somewhat novel it works incredibly well throughout the album and stands up well without needing the show to support the music.
  • Jean-Michel Blais – Il (Deluxe) // Blais plays classical piano, and the album he’s created is absolutely beautiful. The title track of the albums, il, is a treat to listen to as he flies over the keys to create a truly spellbinding moment.
  • Lavnia Meijer – Glass: Metamorphosis, The Hours // This is a really impressive set of classical music; I’ve listened to it throughout the past couple weeks when passing through the city so as to just reflect on what is near and far, in the past and in the future.
  • If you like these albums then you should follow me on Apple Music!

Neat Podcast Episodes

  • Heavyweight – Gregor // I hadn’t heard of Heavyweight until last week. It’s a curious concept: the host attempts to bring a resolution to a personal conflict of some sort between two people. In this episode it is between Gregor — a guy who feels like his life has passed him by — and Moby, to whom Gregor has loaned a CD box set in the 90s. Moby sampled from the disks and created some of his most iconic breakout hits but never returned the CDs nor really spoke to Gregor again. This episode resolves some of that historical conflict between the two men.
  • The House – Midweek pod: Millennials’ money habits // In this episode of The House the highlight exploration is of a study into the actual financial status and security of millennials in Canada. The assertion is that most millennials are in about the same status or better than their parents. The assessment seems to pass over what generates anxiety: for those living in Canada’s big cities, debt from student loans are slowing progress into home ownership while home prices skyrocket and (correspondingly) renters are always in a situation of being forced from their homes, attitudes of employers means that it’s hard to trust that you’re going to have a long-term job which impacts an ability to engage in long-term fiscal planning, and there are lingering concerns amongst some millennials about the status of their parents and what will happen when they retire with limited savings. Moreover, the analysis is based on millennial perceptions around the country: the status of those in the big cities is very different from those in other parts of the country, which raises the question of whether such cross-cutting analyses that arrive at holistic ‘understandings’ for the entire country are really fitting given the significant economic and social variation across the entirety of Canada.
  • The Sporkful – Carla Hall Isn’t Going Back To The Frozen Food Section // I remember Carla from when she was on Top Chef and was the ‘quirky’ one; this episode rewrites much of that perception by extending the depth of her experiences before, during, and after the show. Throughout I was struck with how her joy is communicated in some of her stories about her youth, and also the struggle and pain that came from recognizing that for her entire life she had been struggling against the structures of racism and not really realized their presence. Her honesty and candour, along with the host’s probing questions, turned this into one of the best episodes of the show to date.
  • The Daily – The Human Toll of Instant Delivery // By investigating the conditions in major shipping warehouses it becomes apparent just how inhumanely people are being treated so that goods which are ordered online arrive quickly to doorsteps. That some warehouses push women to work to the point of miscarriage, and have broad-brush misogynistic policies, is repugnant and speaks to the absolute need for workers rights to be better protected. All people deserve respect and dignity in their workplaces, regardless of the type of work, and this episode shows how poorly some employers will treat their employees in the absence of strong, and well defended, labour laws.

Good Reads

  • What to do about the Olympus Problem // I’m not going to lie: I think all the camera nerds saying one camera type or another is ‘dead’ or ‘useless’ fails to recognize that the worst cameras today are better than those used by the greats of photography 10, 15, 30, or 40 years ago. That said, this is probably one of the better ways to think about how Olympus might diversify its camera line to make clear which cameras are for which group of consumers. In this way, what Rammell is proposing is less reforming the cameras themselves — though there is a little of that — and more how to reform the public relations of Olympus. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though if companies like Apple are any indication I don’t think we should expect brand clarity anytime soon.
  • Palm Oil Was Supposed to Help Save the Planet. Instead It Unleashed a Catastrophe // In this long-form article, the New York Times’ Abrahm Lustgarten outlines how American efforts to adopt biofuels to combat climate change have, instead, promoted climate change. By converting palm oil into biofuels the forests and peatlands of Indonesia and Malaysia are being ‘converted’ into oil-palm tree groves that have their seeds converted into biofuels. The problem is that these old-growth forests and peatlands act as massive carbon sinks: by destroying them, often by burning away the peat, more carbon is being released into the atmosphere than any time in the past millennia. Once more, human hubris concerning our knowledge of the complex environment we exist within has led to poor policy choices, in an era when such choices move us ever closer to ecological crisis and collapse.
  • Heritage beyond a building’s walls // What was most striking about this editorial was how heritage can be preserved in a multitude of ways, such as creating museums of key elements of an older location or building, within the new building itself, or otherwise honouring or relocating materials from the heritage site and into the new site. But, also, that heritage extends beyond the physical space itself: it may also mean establishing affordable housing to continue to legacy of a boarding house, or otherwise support the community that was essential to why a heritage site possesses a heritage in the first place.
  • You Don’t Have to Be a Journalist to Want to Keep Chats Private // I really appreciated how this interview with the New York Times’ Kate Conger walks through her process: while she’s mindful of security and privacy she still needs to be very social in order to do her job. So the technologies she’s using reflect her current decisions around security, and they’re ones that she regularly evaluates. The interview both surfaces some tools that others might be curious in trying out while, simultaneously, making clear there is no perfect, and that perfect is the enemy of good enough.
  • Period-tracking apps are not for women // Vox’s deep-dive into the world of period-tracking apps reveals an ecosystem dominated by men, and wherein women’s bodies and data is used principally to collect personal information so as to sell ads and products. These aren’t apps to empower women but, instead, ignorant applications designed by men to spy on women and profit from the spying. They are, in effect, creeper apps.
  • Fascism is Not an Idea to Be Debated, It’s a Set of Actions to Fight // This is a complex essay: it notes how those willing to entertain dialogue with fascists tend to be in positions of privilege, whereas those most targeted are most disinclined to engage in debate and instead actively work against fascism not with words but with actions. While perhaps the most dangerous thing that liberal democracies can be is tolerant to intolerance, the author’s disassociation of action and ideas seems ill-conceived. Fascism exists as an idea, an ideology, and as a set of practices. What is required to combat it is, similarly, an idea set and series of practices; some may be discursive in nature and others more tactile. But shunning a diversity of tactics seems to be alienating allies with different skills and fundamentally turns into an intolerance of parties who are actively working against fascism but using different tactical means.
  • What the UAE’s arrest of Matthew Hedges means for political science research in the Middle East // The threats facing academics studying politics are rising throughout the world, and perhaps nowhere as quickly as in the Middle East. While this article raises questions about the safety of conducting research in the Middle East it also raises questions about Western governments which condone the sale of surveillance technologies used to track and round up academics and activists, as well Western governments’ broader support for autocratic regimes. It’s not sufficient to just warn scholars: governments themselves need to re-engage more aggressively to advocate for human rights and democratic reforms around the world.

Cool Things

The Roundup for November 5-18, 2018 Edition

Sentry Duty 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.


There’s been a lot written about the newest iPhone cameras, but what I continue to find most striking is how well they seem to deal with dynamic range. I won’t be upgrading this year, and am eager to see just how much more Apple can advance computational photography in the course of another year, but remain struck by Tyler Stalman’s video putting the iPhone XS against his DSLR.


Inspiring Quotation of the Week

Love is patient, love is kind.

  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Great Photography Shots

I like the symmetry of these shots; critically, neither is symmetrical for pure aesthetics but because doing so brings the subject and story of the image better into focus.

The best seat in the house‘ by @jawdoc2
Untitled‘ by Nicolas Xanthos

Music I’m Digging

  • Sword Coast Legends – Original Game Soundtrack // I’m in the process of getting a game of D&D ready and this has been a helpful source of songs to play for different areas and events.
  • Fallout 76 – Original Game Soundtrack // I was curious about how the instrumentals for this were going to come together — I’m never totally certain what orchestral arrangement ‘works’ best for Fallout games — and was both pleasantly surprised that the score was well done and that several of the overland background tracks will work as well in a medieval fantasy setting as in a post-apocalyptic one. Not sure what that says about either setting…
  • Ghostface Killah & Apollo Brown – The Brown Tape // This album was randomly recommended to me. While the majority of it is very in-character — and something I have a hard time tracking because I’m not sufficiently aware of how various Wu Tang members have built their backstories — the flow is solid all the way through and also has very, very strong MCing.

Neat Podcast Episodes

  • The Agenda – PTSD and the War at Home // PTSD is one of the silent threats and killers of the Canadian Armed Forces. Steve’s interview with Stéphane Grenier touches on the challenges in identifying and treating the disorder. What stuck out in my mind was Grenier’s discussion that it was only when one of his supervisors gave him the space to care for himself — telling him to not run back to work because he needed to work on himself and his mental health — that he felt permitted or authorized to get the help he needed. That kind of action speaks to the need for employers to treat employees with compassion and facilitate their health over the short-term goals of the organization.
  • The Sporkful – The Chef Who Drinks Milk With Her Chocolate Soufflé // I appreciated how the guest for this episode, Samir Nosrat, was able to speak to the need to enjoy oneself even in fine dining experiences. Part of that enjoyment comes from being honest with the servers — what would really make an experience better? — but also by the staff of restaurants treating their customers with care and empathy. How many of the challenges that are faced between and within organizations could be solved if we simply showed one another a greater degree of attention, care, and empathy?

Good Reads for the Week

  • Learning to Attack the Cyberattackers Can’t Happen Fast Enough // The need to attract new talent into the field of cybersecurity — at technical and policy levels — is critical. But it’s deeply disturbing when a leading faculty member pitches all advances as being techniques to let the state better monitor and track its citizens. Given that state actors are themselves routinely abusive the normative position assumed — that we can trust the state but not its citizens engaged in dissent and protest — speaks to the problems facing the STEM field more generally.
  • How to Talk to People, According to Terry Gross // I like Terry’s reasons for avoiding pointed questions, like ‘how is your job’, on the basis that they presume things which may not be true. Instead, open a conversation with ‘tell me about yourself’ to let the other person open into what they are interested or willing to talk about.
  • Printing at Home // While I’ve never been able to print at home for storage space and cost reasons I’d love to be able to with some frequency, if only to better see and fix things in some of my prints. My hope is that in a month or three I’ll be able to at least do small-size printings, such that I’ll be able to see if a photo makes sense to be printed in a larger size or not.
  • Targeted Advertising Is Ruining the Internet and Breaking the World // What is most striking in this article is the emphasis on how the invisible data collection economy has broader impacts on all dimensions of social life in the Western world and globe more generally. Further, the conclusion acknowledges that much of the debate has been about stopping targeted advertisements and that this debate misses the forest through the trees; the real issue is the very collection of data and not its uses or avoiding such uses. Recognizing data collection as the problem underscores the importance of the consent doctrine and need to avoid shifting purely to a use-based analysis of privacy risks and threats.
  • Patching Is Failing as a Security Paradigm // For two decades a security cycle has been developed that, while not perfect, has begun to be more and more effective. However, this model likely cannot work in a world where everything is computerized and in need of security updates. Schneier’s assessments are on point, direct, and poignantly express the magnitude of the emerging computer security crisis and how ill-suited we are to addressing it.
  • Putting away pints: Are cellars worth it or just expensive beer purgatory? // I’ve long wanted to cellar wines and beers but I move too often — and into too small spaces! — for that dream to have ever come true. This blog walks through why cellaring most beers just really isn’t worth it, and why you should instead enjoy your beer within a few weeks of production instead.
  • We need to talk about cars // Climate change is real. The world is becoming more hostile to most kinds of life, humans included, and our failure to seriously confront the problems of climate change threaten to create events capable of killing millions. While it’s all fine and good to approach low carbon modes of transportation, this article powerfully argues that we need to remove some of the most dangerous things from our communities: private motor vehicles. To be clear, transit replacements will be needed as will re-architecting the city to one for pedestrians, but these are doable kinds of changes. And they have to happen, fast, before it’s too late.

Cool Things

The Roundup for October 29 – November 4, 2018 Edition

A Day at the Beach by Christopher Parsons

When I moved into my current condo I was excited about the location and soured by the lack of light and the closing of a local business I was excited to live near. And that lack of light really ground on me: since I moved in I’ve thought about what it would be like to move in the next year or so into a place with far more natural light. Where I choose to live was where I lived but not where I identified as being home.

In the past week, however, I’ve made a personal decision to try and make my rental feel more like a home. So instead of putting off purchasing some particular decorations — additional frames, new prints of my photos, small decorative pieces, etc — I’ve committed to picking up pieces that I’ve known I’ve wanted and started putting them where they fit in my space. It’s been helping me to love where I live and not feel like I’m just living in a semi-personalized Airbnb.

Toronto is an incredibly expensive rental market and I’m fortunate to be in the unit that I am, at the price it’s renting out at, and in exactly the location of the city that I love. I’m beside many of the leading theatres, the main symphony hall, all the large sporting stadiums, the water, and some of the best shops in the country. And the process of decorating is shaping and positively affecting my relationship with where I live: that there are bright prints helps to liven up what are otherwise dark walls. My use of candles during the night remind me of how amazing it is that light doesn’t intrude into the space, insofar as I can create a more intimate space than should neon lights or street lamps leak light through my windows. And the relative quietude of my space is also a bit surprising for the part of the city I’m in: being away from the main streets, it’s rare to hear much noise at all from the city.

I don’t think that I’m ever going to be in a situation where the lack of light is a defining good thing in my life, but I do think that it’s one of those facets of life which I can make due with, and especially as I balance that one negative element against all of the positive facets of the rental I’m inhabiting. One of the key things that I want and need to do is be at peace when I’m at home and I think that my most recent mental shift is going to be key to achieving that sense of peace and relaxation.


I was prompted into personal reflection this week by a relatively simple set of questions.

  1. Who has had the greatest impact on your life?
  2. In what place are you most comfortable or safe, with ‘place’ being defined as either a physical location (e.g. bed, cottage, lake) or a kind of situation (e.g. wrapped in someone’s arms, a dog or cat on your lap, etc)?
  3. What thing could you not live without?

I won’t delve into my own answers but the process of reflection, itself, has been personally revealing insafar as the questions prompted some answers which I don’t think I would have intuitively expected.


Inspiring Quotation of the Week

“Either we all live in a decent world, or nobody does.”

  • George Orwell

Great Photography Shots

The winners of the 2018 Siena International Photo Awards are just breathtaking in both composition and, in many of the shots, the feelings and emotions they express.

”Migration” by Khalid Alsabt. Desert of Dahana, Saudi Arabia. 2° Classified, The Beauty of Nature.
“Game of Colors” by Anurag Kumar. Nandgaon, Uttar Pradesh, India. 2° Classified, Fragile Ice.
“Hanging in the Primary Forest” by Marco Gaiotti. Gunung Leuser National Park, Indonesia. Honorable Mention, Animals in Their Environment.
“Fisherman at Inle Lake” by Yinzhi Pan. Inle Lake, Myanmar. 1° Classified, Student.
“Runner” by Marcel van Balken. Arnhem, The Netherlands. 1° Classified, General Monochrome.

Music I’m Digging

  • Mikel & Gamechops – Zelda & Chill // There’ve been a few mornings when I’ve felt somewhat melancholy, during which I’ve found this album to be good company. It’s sufficiently chill that it prompts reflection and a sense of quietude is occasionally punctuated by smiles when you can hear the familiar Zelda music themes come through in a given track.
  • Daniel Hope – A Baroque Journey // I had the distinct privilege to hear Daniel Hope (and accompaniment) play this week. It was a truly exceptional experience. While the album doesn’t do the live performance justice — the album is extremely well done but is far less playful than a live performance — it’s excellent. What I find perhaps most striking is the role of the harpsichord and the lute, which are instruments for which I’d never really had a great deal of appreciation.
  • The Prodigy – No Tourists // This has been a terrific album to dig into; I’ve listened to it at least a half-dozen times since it’s come out and enjoy it as much (if not more) with each playing. The tracks are tight and are pretty well ‘classic’ Prodigy; some, like, ‘Need Some1’ are probably going to end up as classic as ‘Firestarter’ insofar as it just expresses who and what the band is at a fundamental level.

Neat Podcast Episodes

  • Song Exploder – Halloween (Theme) // It was interesting to hear the Carpenters talks about how, and why, they created the original Halloween theme song the way they did. In effect, a limited budget, time, and capability drove them to create the original Halloween theme song in a manner that was better because of it’s imperfections. And, when they recreated a version of the song for the latest Halloween movie they, once again, sought to capture those imperfections to convey an eerie atmosphere to the song. I definitely think they were successful in their endeavour!
  • Putting Racism on the Table: Implicit Bias/White Privilege/Structural Racism // This series of podcasts from 2016 was sponsored by the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers (WAG) and broadly sought to have open, and transparent, discussions about key problems with the social and power structures of white Western states. In addition to unpacking the various topics covered in each of the episodes (and denoted in their titles), the speakers in each identified strategic interventions that can take place and why acting at the structural level is so important. To begin, as humans we are capable of consciously engaging with a small fraction of our world; our subconscious deals with the majority of the information coming into our brains and prompts our subsequent reactions without deliberate thought. In effect, we’re predisposed to respond to the world based on learned behaviours and stereotypes. Consequently, we need to modify the environments from which those behaviours are developed and stereotypes learned. Some of that, in a hiring environment, means deliberately mitigating the subconscious biases that might intrude into the process: we should perhaps remove names, or have different parties review education and experience, and must absolutely have checklists to ensure that each and every candidate has a fair opportunity in comparison to other candidates. In the discussion of white privilege one of the new ideas I heard was to deliberately engage with the idea of white identity. This approach was meant to prompt a reconsideration of how ‘whiteness’ is developed, perceived, and realized: it’s not sufficient to address ‘whiteness’ solely through the lens of reacting to the harms associated with it (and caused to others) but, instead, demands a proactive engagement with a sense of what it means to inhabit white skin. Such an engagement might focus on inclusively, on shared community and learning, and on facilitating equity versus equality. But, critically, it’s about reconceiving the conception of ‘whiteness’ itself in order to re-order the subconscious and, subsequently, enable more equitable relations in the social, political, and economic spheres of life.
  • Word Bomb – ‘Partner’: The best name for your better half // The hosts of this TVO podcast reflect on the terms which are used to refer to romantic partners and discuss how there are significant differences of opinions concerning whether ‘partner’ reflects a romantic relationships (versus a business relationship) and, also, whether straight couples adopting the term ‘partner’ entails stealing a term away from the gay community. I’d never considered ‘partner’ as a straight/gay term but, instead, one that just indicated a level of intimacy and seriousness while simultaneously lacking the religious or secular commitments of marriage.1 Towards the end of the podcast I was taken aback that the idea of people like myself using ‘partner’ was appropriating it; while the podcast hosts ended up coming to a conclusion that it’s likely acceptable for all relationship-types to use the term I was left less certain than they were and am left questioning the appropriateness (ahem) of using the term.
  • Hurry Slowly – Adam Grant: Don’t Underestimate the Power of Appreciation // Grant’s assessment of the effects of demonstrating appreciation to others — and receiving recognition of how we have affected other people’s lives — clarifies the specific and positive results of affirming how other persons impact our lives. Perhaps most interestingly, Grant find that delaying the communication of appreciation — such that we inform someone months or years later — has the effect of enhancing the positive experience of receiving such feedback. Moreover, he finds that by preparing a large number of such messages in a short period of time, as opposed to doing a little bit each day, has a correspondingly more powerful impact on the person who is expressing their appreciation to other persons.

Good Reads for the Week

  • What’s All This About Journaling? // The author’s evaluation and assessment of journaling is not necessarily novel: keeping a journal can be helpful for thinking through what matters, a way of dumping debris from the brain so you can focus on other things, or encourage the writer to prompt changes in their lives if the same difficult topics keep arising. What is missing from the assessment, to my eye, is that the power of keeping a journal is also tightly linked to reviewing the past and determining whether, and if so what, has changed in one’s life. From my own practice I’ve found that writing alone isn’t sufficient: reflection, after the fact, of what was written is as (if not more) important as the practice of writing itself.
  • How Not to Return to the Spotlight // Emily K. Smith’s analysis of Ansari returning to the spotlight is helpful in understanding what could have been done by Ansari, and the significance of him not undertaking the labour to genuinely reflect and engage with what he is accused of having done. One of the things that I noted in Smith’s analysis was that for Ansari, and many others, the ground shifted quickly underneath them and what might have previously been regarded as ‘bad behaviour’ transformed radically into ‘absolutely unacceptable and socially condemnable behaviour’. The act of nagging someone into consent hasn’t ever been acceptable but it’s now especially unacceptable and can come with mass condemnation from hundreds of thousands if not millions of people. Unfortunately, instead of trying to come to grips with those changes and continuing to work towards being an ally towards women Ansari has, for now, chosen to retreat from the very group whom he had previously seemed to have supported.
  • How An Entire Nation Became Russia’s Test Lab for Cyberwar // There have been so many times where people have said that a power grid has been hacked that it’s hard to take seriously. The boy has cried “wolf” too many times. However, Greenberg’s article on how the Ukrainian grid has been repeatedly attacked and the degrees of detail contained make clear that operators have successfully and deliberately interfered with power distribution in the Ukraine. What’s more, the operators could have engaged in more disruptive activities had they so chosen. In aggregate, the article both reveals the ability of the operators — and their supporters — to engage in significant kinetic activities in some situations and, perhaps more worrying, a lack of strong and clear normative redlines to establish that such behaviours as absolutely out of bounds. Such redlines are essential in international relations to clarify the boundaries of acceptable behaviour and the terms of contravening such boundaries; their absence emboldens adversaries while enabling Western operators more freedom of action to the potential detriment of other nations’ citizens’ and residents’ basic rights. The latter cannot be seen as a rationale for avoiding norms meant to inhibit the former.
  • How Writers Map Their Imaginary Worlds // While I don’t have experience writing any genuine works of fiction, I’ve always found that maps are essential both for collaborative storytelling as well as for helping me imagine what a roleplaying game world functionally is in an important sense: without a map, I have a hard time thinking about the relationships between different groups, natures of economies, sacred places, and so forth. At the same time, I often find that the mapping process itself takes far longer than the act of writing, with the former existing in the challenging world of art, whereas the latter fits within what is, for me, a comparatively accessible and ‘easy’ creative domain.
  • Japan’s Unusual Way to View the World // Wabi-sabi is a philosophy underlying some creative Japanese works, and embraces the imperfections of the world and celebrates the beauty latent within the world that we exist within. It’s the very lack of perfection — the lack of symmetry in pottery, as an example — that inspires a moment of reflection and contemplation, that centres the persons engaging with the pottery with the fact that human hands touching natural materials created the items in question. As someone who was recently gifted with pottery which was crafted per this philosophy, the article gave me that much more to think about whenever I drink from the bowls that now live in my home, and has led me to appreciate the depths of the gift.
  • Big In Japan // This article about Japanese Kit Kats is spectacular. The writing, in and of itself, is a kind of linguistic art form, with sentences like, “All I knew was that the wafer was huge, golden, marked with square cups and totally weightless. That if it hadn’t been still warm from the oven, I wouldn’t have known it was there. That if this was the soul of a Kit Kat, then holding the soul of a Kit Kat was like holding nothing at all” and “…it was, in fact, completely impossible to remove a taste from its origin without changing it in the process.” The little details — such as the chocolate being different around the world but wafers the same everywhere, or the nature of how stores feel when tourists are buying product was inspiring. This is food journalist at its absolute best insofar as it leaves you with both a cultural appreciation of the foodstuff as well as a mouth that is watering after reading about the culinary experience.
  • Writing well ≠ dumbing down // I appreciated how this article considered how writing for the general public is often harder than writing for specialist audiences, significantly because “…you usually have to know your stuff better to write well for a general audience. If you’re writing for your scholarly peers, there are certain critical buzzwords, voguish phrases, and terms of art that you can use to gesture in the direction of a concept, trusting that people who have used those terms themselves will pick up on what you’re saying. But you don’t even have to have a very clear understanding of the concepts in order to deploy the terms — you just have to have a sense of the kind of sentence in which they belong. By contrast, when you’re writing for a general audience who does not know the language of your guild, you have to understand those concepts well enough to translate them into a more accessible idiom.” I could not agree more though, by way of juxtaposition, I sometimes find that when I’ve spent a great deal of time working on certain projects with public groups and/or professionals that it has deeply challenging to translate what is relatively obvious and coherent facts and ideas into the often tortured venue of academic analysis and writing. Perhaps the greatest sin of much academic writing is analysis and critique for no evident purpose or relationship to the object of study, to the point that a practitioner looks at academic writing and (at best) amusedly tries to figure out how their subject area has become entirely obscure and opaque to them.
  • ‘God Is Going to Have to Forgive Me’: Young Evangelicals Speak Out // As the American mid-terms come closer and closer, it’s intriguing to read what persons aged 18-38, and who identify as Evangelicals, are saying about their faith and politics. It’s clear why Trump resonates in some forums and equally clear why he acts as a repugnant force in others. What is most striking as I read these is that for many the idea of voting for a party supportive of safe and lawful abortions is a red line. It’s the most common area where there remains a deep desire by evangelicals to impose the tenets of their faith on an ostensibly secular state, but if other faiths asserted the same kinds of demand I suspect evangelicals (young and old) would be up in arms to prevent the spread of ‘non-Christian’ values.
  • New data shows China has “taken the gloves off” in hacking attacks on US // What’s perhaps most interesting in this article is that the present deterrence systems adopted by the USA and its allies are not mitigating or restraining attacks. While it’s possible that the inditements being issued by the USA’s government will have some effect, I think that this element of lawfare depends on the USA being seen as a high rule of law country. Should its judicial system fall into disrepute — such as by overly politicizing the judiciary — then other countries with low rule of law (e.g. Russia or China) might be able to issue similar kinds of inditements towards the USA’s operators, and those charges be as respected as the American charges. In effect: the one tool that might be a quasi-effective manner of inhibiting at least some operations may be threatened by the growing politicization of the American judiciary, risking the removal of one of a few (potentially) useful modes of responding to adversarial attacks on USA companies and government infrastructure.

Cool Things

  • All Over The Map // National Geographic has a maps blog!
  • Paper Airplane Designs // Super impressed by the different kinds of paper airplanes that can be created and their respective flight profiles.

Footnotes

  1. On a personal note, I’d used this term for many years in British Columbia and it was only when I returned to Toronto that it was apparent to me that the term was associated with gay couples.
Aside

The Roundup for October 8-28, 2018 Edition

Glass, Rising by Christopher Parsons

Content moderation is something that is fraught with challenges; is too much speech being blocked as a result? Too little bad speech that harms others being permitted? Does moderation enable political actors to distort the public sphere? Enable corporations to advance their interests at the expense of competitors and innovators?

These are all important elements of the ‘content moderation’ debate. But it’s not what has me thinking about moderation at the moment. Instead, it was a more localized environment — a conference setting — that left me with a bad taste in my mouth because of how things were not moderated. Specifically, in a situation where there were only men on a panel addressing threats to electoral processes, another older white man asked how society should deal with cases where women accuse politicians of sexual impropriety, abuse, or other misdeeds: how do we deal with such threats to the political process that run the risk of undermining white men’s abilities to run for office?

The panelists muddled through the question/statement and noted how these disruptions could be challenging for electoral processes. None asserted, as panelists, that women do not tend to allege such activities unless they genuinely happened; women know the costs of making even the most absolutely best-founded allegation, insofar as society will demonize the accuser and tend to shield or defend whomever is accused. Moreover, while an accuser may suffer for the rest of their life for raising the allegations — they may be less likely to be employed, as an example — the accused tends to be fine: they can re-enter society after a minimal ‘cooling off’ period and shrug off the allegation or accusation.

So I was annoyed by the panelists and their decision(s) to not engage with the question head on. But I was most upset that the moderator for the panel didn’t just slap down the ‘question’ and move on: the very fact that the question was upheld as legitimate by the moderator showcased the structural problem that continues to face women who merely want to declare that given persons are, or have been, dangerous. Moderation at the global scale carries with it a unique set of challenges — noted in the opening paragraph — whereas in more localized settings those challenges are remarkably less problematic. It was deeply disappointing that in such a localized setting male white privilege was permitted to reign supreme, with no moderation, though it did affirm to me — and made much clearer — that panel moderators and panelists themselves need to be more affirmative in not accepting the premise of the question in the first place.

And, failing a willingness to stand up and push back against questions that raise doubt about women’s experiences, how people react to such questions at least indicate which men are not committed to equity in a meaningful sense and, as such, are not persons who strike me as suitable to collaborate with on current projects. I just don’t think that I could, or would want to, work with someone who carries a latent suspicion of women either consciously or unconsciously.1 That’s a value-set that I cannot appreciate or understand, and think is fundamentally the latent set of values that had led to the passive approval of individuals and political parties which are substantially committed to the supremacy of (white) men over all other persons in the political commons. And that’s a kind of value-set that needs to be stamped out and have a stake driven through its ideological heart.


Inspiring Quotation of the Week

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

– Fredrick Douglass

Piece of Poetry

Love after love

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

– Derek Walcott

Great Photography Shots

Grey Chow’s astrophotgraphy is absolutely stunning; looking at it, it makes clear that the universe is so much larger than we imagine and surrounds us, though often in ways in which our sense of time prevents us from immediately perceiving.

Music I’m Digging

  • Tom Misch – Reverie (EP) // Misch has a kind of jazzy album which I’m enjoying listening to when I’m cooking or reading, or just generally want to generate a downtempo mood in my home. It’s not the most magical of sounds but it is pleasant to have playing in my backgrounds.
  • Logic’s Bobby Tarantino, Bobby Tarantino II, and YSIV // Logic is a rapper who came from Maryland and, for his first few years, thrived principally on mixtapes. The character/play of the Bobby Tarantino series showcases both a kind of nihilism in the lyrics as well as solid rhythms and poetic inflections, and strong homages to the classic eras of west coast wrap. YSIV has a series of tracks that I’m absolutely captured by: Wu Tang Forever is one of the best Wu Tang songs from the past decade or so, 100 Miles and Running speaks to the challenges and triumphs that come with success, and the final track on the album — Last Call — is a really beautiful story of his life and what he went through to become where he is now. I’ve been listening to logic on near-constant replay for a week and I’m still just picking out more depth and appreciation for the work he’s doing.
  • Abir – Mint (EP) // I’ve been listening to Abir’s 2017 album over a series of playlists for over a year, but it just never struck me that it was part of the same album. That’s not because it lacks cohesion — it does! — and more that I just hadn’t paid sufficient attention to link everything together. The album significantly speaks to being alone, or single, and surviving in the world. Survival, I think, is probably the right word: Tango, Young & Rude, and Finest Hour all speak to the challenges that can arise especially following challenging relationships, or even preceding new ones. The album, on the whole, feels cohesive and as though it could also be merged with a larger series of works to create a narrative arc of relationships through a full album.

Neat Podcast Episodes

  • Modern Love – I Was Hardly the Perfect Fit // This podcast, about a distant father trying to connect with his son who lived with his ex-wife, resonated with me; though the relationship that I had with my own father was notably different, elements of the story sounded similar to the relationship that I had with my own dad. The ending — where the strength of their present relationship was revealed — was painful: it was exactly the kind of relationship I’d have dreamed to one day built with my own father.
  • Lawfare – Jim Baker on AI and Counterintelligence // Jim has a good, broad, assessment of the counterintelligence challenges associated with AI technologies. He isn’t a technologist so the assessment of AI is pretty high level/superficial at the technical level, but the analysis of ways that foreign state actors might interfere with or compromise the development of domestic (USA in this case) AI systems, algorithms, and technologies is relatively comprehensive. It’s a useful listen if you want a good and fast intro to some of the challenges in this space.

Good Reads for the Week

  • Four Hundred And Eighty Two (On Vulnerability // I found this transcription of David Whyte to be beautiful and powerful; the thrust is to unpack what is vulnerability and why it’s not something to run from but to embrace. Fundamentally our relationships, at their core, are best when they involve committing to vulnerability to one another. The pursuit of vulnerable relationships is the pursuit of relationships that matter the most, and resonate the most, throughout the course of our lives.
  • How to get that great “hoppy” beer taste without the exploding bottles // Jennifer Ouellette has a cool story of how Brewer-scientists figured out how dry hopping beer leads to refermentation and, by extension, increases to pressure in cans and bottles. Specifically, brewers can add hops after the heated fermentation process to impart flavours but without significantly contributing to the bitterness that is often associated with hops when they are heated. The culprit to the refermentation was found and that may mean there are fewer exploding dry hopped beers on shelves and homes as brewers take the results to heart.
  • Why Public Transportation Works Better Outside the U.S. // While I may disagree with some of the cheery assessment of Toronto’s transit infrastructure, English’s article nicely summarized the core differences between transit systems in the United States and other jurisdictions around the world. Key is that investment never has stopped in other jurisdictions and urban planners have built transit with the idea of people and businesses then coming to encircle the transit hubs, as opposed to trying to build hubs into existing urban infrastructure.
  • Senate Truce Collapses as G.O.P. Rush to Confirm More Judges Begins Anew // The norms of governance continue to be challenged by the GOP while they seek to transform the quality and types of justice that will likely be meted out in the coming decades. The systematic stacking of the judiciary with Republicans will mean that even should Democrats manage to disrupt and undue the GOP’s gerrymandering and voter suppression efforts, that any legislation they pass will likely undergo undue scrutiny and hostility from an increasingly politicized judicial branch of government.
  • Eight Stories of Men’s Regret // This set of eight stories demonstrate different levels of sexual aggressiveness or assault or inappropriate behaviour. They’re not the sole worst kinds of stories that exist but, in a way, that’s what makes them most significant: they are public revelations of the misdeeds of men that reflect their failures and, in some cases, the social pressures that led to their misdeeds. Those pressures do not excuse the behaviours, nor do they justify them. They do, however, provide a mirror upon which men can see themselves, through these other men, in questioning their own pasts and considering how to engage with other persons in the future.
  • Collapse of ancient city’s water system may have led to its demise // The failure of Angkor’s irrigation and water delivery system is a warning that societies are typically ill-suited to deal with massive changes in weather, let alone climate. It can and should be read as a herald of what may come six centuries later as our politicians and publics steadfastly fail to address the real, serious, and imminent threats posed by climate change.
  • The Goal in Love // I like this essay because it asserts we should be seeking ourselves, first, in our relationships as opposed to trying to find ourselves in the persons we enter into relationships with. Indeed, if I can think of single major lesson I’ve learned in the past few years it is the importance of accepting yourself and not depending on others to enable such acceptance; it’s by being comfortable with ourselves as whole persons that we are able to engage in wholesome relationships with one another.
  • When to Open a Bottle: Aging Wine Without the Anxiety // While I move too often to even contemplate what it would be like to cellar a wine for a decade or more — let along have the space to do so! — this article from the New York Times is helpful in guiding a novice through the process of properly investing, aging, and testing wines that have been cellared.
  • The Ultimate What To Bring Guide // I understand the rationales provided for making sure that you always have all the camera lenses you might need when on vacation, with a focus on covering off a fast prime, as well as having a short-, and long-range zoom. But I actually think that most travel is better done with a pair of lenses, maximum. My preference is a 35mm or 50mm equivalent, and a long-range (e.g. 80mm-300mm) zoom if I’m going to be travelling into the wilderness. I personally find that by having a fixed focal distance I’m inspired to be more creative and mindful of what I’m shooting, and spend more time just shooting as compared to thinking about what lens I need and when I need it.

Cool Things

Footnotes

  1. Yes, people can awaken and change. And so in the future it’s always possible that people holding these values might turn into someone I’d feel comfortable working with. But in the here and now I don’t think it would be appropriate to work with, or support, persons who hold (or at least don’t oppose) such views.
Aside

2018.10.14

I took a little under 900 photos over the course of a three week work trip. After a first round of cleaning and deleting, I’m left with about 300. Now time to evaluate what gets kept, what gets edited, and what gets published.