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

The Roundup for January 14-20, 2019 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.


I live a pretty minimalist lifestyle — I try to be super careful about new purchases and to not own more than I need — but it’s been a few months since I’ve done a purge. So over the past week I’ve gone through almost all of my clothing, cupboards, and drawers, and quickly and easily found four (small) bags of things to either recycle, donate, or sell. I still feel like I need to get rid of some additional things or, if not dispose of them, at least more tightly organize some of my spaces to dispense with any clutter in my closed storage spaces. I find that even organizing the ‘hidden’ spaces in my home — such as closed drawers that only I open — provides me with a sense of relief; it’s not sufficient that things outwardly appear organized and tidy, it’s important that even that which no one sees has the exact same properties. Sorta like how Steve Jobs demanded that his factories were organized by design principles and the insides of the early Apple IIs were meant as works of silicon-art…


Inspiring Quotation

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

― George Orwell

Great Photography Shots

As is increasingly common — in part because I keep spending time looking at just how much you can get out of smartphone cameras, and even those which are years old! — I was struck by these black and white mobiography images. It’s really impressive how well the small sensors on smartphones, even those as old as the iPhone 6 and 6s, work when placed in ideal lighting situations.

Shapes and Shadows‘ by @bigpeabella
Haunted‘ by @corvis_carrion
Untitled‘ by @db.cooper
Favorite building in Los Angeles‘ by @mjhmalibu
Long way home‘ by Dina Alfasi
Untitled‘ by @agkolatt

Music I’m Digging

  • Jrd. – Growth // I’ve been listening to this album some through the week and been really enjoying its downtempo beat; it’s been great for quietly reading or cooking. If I have one complaint, it’s that many of the tracks seem too short – just as they start to find their full on-grove, the track is over and it’s on to the next one.

Neat Podcast Episodes

  • 99% Invisible – Atomic Tattoos // I was struck by how during the Cold War, Americans were specifically taught to engage in resiliency preparation in the case of an Atomic attack. This podcast starts by examining why certain people had their blood type tattooed on their rib cage, but then proceeds with a broader assessment of resilience and questions whether Western nations are anywhere near as resilient, today, as they believed they were in the 1950s-1970s.
  • Hurry Slowly – Creativity vs Efficiency // I appreciated how, in this episode, the host explores how efficiency actually can act as a barrier to creativity. The manifold numbers of hinderances in life and creation can actually fuel the creative process itself and, as such, creatives needs to reflect on whether they really, truly, want to become ‘efficient’ and if so, why and for what specific benefits.

Good Reads

  • California’s Monarch Butterflies Hit ‘Potentially Catastrophic’ Record Low // It’s hard to imagine that in a few decades the only place we might see monarch butterflies is in butterfly conservatories and augmented reality representations.
  • The Rise and Demise of RSS // This is a tremendous summary of the history of the RSS protocol and the reasons behind why it was forked multiple times. I don’t know that I agree with the concluding assessment — that RSS is falling increasingly out of use — insofar as it still powers a lot of the backend of the Internet, unbeknownst to many Internet users. Moreover, as companies such as Feedly grow and attract subscribers I expect that people will use RSS more and more, even if they don’t know their reading is being powered by RSS feeds. Still, it has to be admitted that outside of a relatively tech-literate audience the protocol itself is largely unknown. Less evident, however, is whether knowing about the protocol matters so long as it remains in use.
  • If we stopped upgrading fossil-fuel-using tech, we’d hit our climate goals // While there isn’t any possibility that the world will generally swap its infrastructure to green technologies in the near future, this study (depressingly) shows how much of a difference would be made should we adopt green infrastructure now versus by 2030. Do it now, and we would likely limit limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial times; do it by 2030, and most of the simulations put us on the wrong side of 1.5°C but below 2.0°C.

Cool Things

  • The Homebrewery // This is a pretty cool latex installation that enables a dungeon master to robustly produce documents that looks and feel very similar to official Wizards of the Coast publications.
  • The Confessions Game // I’m a big fan of these kinds of ‘games’, which are really facilitated conversation starters that bypass trivial talking. This looks like it would encourage some pretty intense discussions amongst friends and partners.

The Roundup for December 24, 2018 – January 13, 2018 Edition

(Rusty Heights by Christopher Parsons)

Welcome to this edition of The Roundup! It’s taken a bit longer to put this together given the holidays, but I’m hoping to get back to scheduling these every other week or so. 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.


Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to take my coffee-game to a whole new level: I was generously gifted a Hario Cold Brew Coffee Pot by my family in December, and a Vietnamese Coffee Filter by a friend earlier this month. It’s been a lot of fun trying to determine which brew methods I prefer more or less and, also, meant that my coffee intake has probably doubled in the past month or so! Expect some thoughts and discussions about using either tool sometime in the future!


Inspiring Quotation

Be louder about the successes of others than your own.

  • Birthday fortune I received

Great Photography Shots

In a bit of a detour from most Roundups, I’m including some of my own preferred shots that I’ve taken over the past few months.

(Ghosts and Galleries by Christopher Parsons)
(Electric Blue by Christopher Parsons)
(Safe Harbour by Christopher Parsons)
(The Deep by Christopher Parsons)
(Eat! by Christopher Parsons)
(Dive by Christopher Parsons)
(School’s In by Christopher Parsons)
(Aquatic Textures)

Music I’m Digging

  • Bird Box (Abridged) (Original Score) // This is Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross at their best. The score is haunting, dystopia, and persistently just a little creepy.
  • Neisha Neshae – Poppin on the Internet (feat. Rocky Badd) (Single) // The power and energy of Neshae’s voice comes through in this single as clearly as in her EP, Queenin’. She remains as fun to listen to, now, as with her earlier work. I’m hoping that whenever she publishes a full album it manages to retain the strength and consistency of all of her work to date!
  • Jean-Michel Blais – Eviction Sessions (EP) // Blais’ work remains evocative and minimalist. This EP came after he was literally evicted from his Montreal apartment, and the work he played was an effort to memorialize and commemorate the space where so much of his music had been produced.
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse (Soundtrack) // I was absolutely amazed with how good the movie turned out to be, but before I saw it I was captivated by the soundtrack. Sunflower, Familia, Invincible, Memories, and Home were the stars of the album for me, though the entirety of the album held together remarkably well. I was surprised to hear almost all of the songs when I watched the film: these aren’t just songs intended to touch on the mood of the film but, instead, are key audio-emotional components the film itself. That they stand alone as strongly as they do is a remarkable accomplishment to my ear.

Neat Podcast Episodes

  • The Sporkful – When Celery Was More Special Than Caviar // I learned so much about celery in this episode! There are different kinds! There are different tastes! There is red, as well as striped, as well as ‘blanched’ celery!
  • The Current – ‘Don’t do it’: Trump’s criticism of central bank could backfire, warns former vice-chair // I found it most useful to hear about the difficulties in linking politics and a central bank and how, even if Trump does want to effect change quickly, that central banks and economies move so ponderously that he’s absolutely unlikely to adjust rates or the economy in a rapid manner should the current chair be replaced or the Fed totally shift its approach to the economy. Of course, neither of those things are likely and, instead, Trump will just posture for the purposes of satisfying his base.
  • Relationship Advice – What’s Your Fantasy? // The non-stigmatizing approach to thinking through, and engaging with, sexual fantasy in romantic relationships struck me as outlining a useful way of having conversations on the topic. Equally important was how to engage with a partner when they outline a fantasy that would be challenging or uncomfortable to satisfy, and how to find alternate means of expressing it in a manner that is satisfying and comfortable for all partners involved in it.
  • The Documentary – India’s battle with online porn // I went into this episode assuming, by default, that I would oppose all the proposals to ban or censor access to pornography. And while I mostly retain this position, I admit that I was shocked to learn about how common rape videos are being shared and it left me wondering about what approach makes the most sense to inhibit the spread of such violent videos while preserving basic rights. Especially given that many of the videos are shared between peers over encrypted messaging applications I don’t have an immediate response on how to deal with the sharing but, nonetheless, concur that the transmission of such videos does represent a real social ill that needs to be addressed.

Good Reads

  • Managing Burnout // As someone who’s suffered burnout a few times I think it’s really positive that a prominent member of the security community is openly discussing this challenge. Richard’s suggestions — that you build a fund for just burnout — is pretty solid, though admittedly works better in a community with above-average wages. What is missing, however, is an assessment of how to fix the culture which leads to burnout; that has to come from management since employees will take their cues from above. And to my mind management has to focus on combating burnout or else risk losing high-value employees with little opportunity to get an equivalently talented and priced replacement employee in the contemporary job market.
  • The 12 Stages of Burnout, According to Psychologists // Ever wonder if you or a loved one are suffering through severe burnout? This helpful list will showcase the different things that suggest burnout is being experienced with pretty clear indicators that you can use for self-diagnostic purposes.
  • “They Say We’re White Supremacists”: Inside the Strange World of Conservative College Women // Nancy Jo Sales’ long form piece trying to understand and express why young women support Donald Trump is illuminating, insofar as it showcases how these women hold more complex positions on some issues (e.g. abortion, rape) than might be expected while also conforming to stereotypes in other ways. What is hardest to appreciate is perhaps that they genuinely do regard feminism as ‘over’ and no longer needed, at least as they have lived their experiences as young white women. That they do not have a longer set of life experiences, such as in long term employment, nor experiences of minority populations, combined with Fox and similar news sources filling their political news appetite, makes their positions largely unsurprising. However, what also stands out is the automatic dismissal of their values and thoughts by liberal minded persons on campus: while liberalism must be intolerant of deep intolerance — such as white supremacy — that cannot apply to people who are simply holding divergent political opinions or else liberalism will have internally rebuked it’s own reason for acting as an effective and inclusive political theory.
  • Pilot project demos credit cards with shifting CVV codes to stop fraud // The idea that the CVV will change to combat online fraud seems like an interesting idea, though the actual security is going to be based on how effectively protected and randomized the seed for the randomization algorithm happens to be. Since attackers will have access to the actual cards — at least if distributed widely to the public in the future — then we’ll have to assume that any failures that are readable on the chip will certainly be found and exploited, so the math and tamper resistance properties are going to have to be exceptionally well implemented. Perhaps the most notable element of the proposed cards arrives at the end of Megan Guess’ article: whereas a regular card costs $2-4, those with a lithium battery to update the CVV will run closer to $15. In other words, whomever is producing the cards will need to be assured that they will, in aggregate, reduce fraud costs enough to merit the heightened production costs. It’ll be very interesting to see if the cards are suitably effective to lead to mass production or whether economics, as opposed to security, result in the cards being just a short-term trial or experiment.
  • Kengo Kuma’s Architecture of the Future // Kuma-san’s efforts to make architecture disappear, and work in contravention to the fantastic metal and glass structures of modernism and post-modernism, strike me as a kind of attempt to envision wabi-sabi in structures. In effect, his focus on the natural and celebrating the traditional and honouring its (often imperfect) characteristics seem to align with a need to seek peace and simplicity absent overt efforts to establish egoist-driven artefacts devoted to humanity’s triumphs.
  • This is how Canada’s housing correction begins // Kirby does a good job in collecting data to suggest a serious market correction could be coming as the Bank if Canada increases rates, which has had the effect of squeezing a large portion of homeowners who have grown up — and relied upon — cheap credit to buy homes and other consumer goods. Key is that the assessment doesn’t just indicate a forthcoming housing correction but, also, potentially a serious recession. Moreover, just how widely will this ‘correction’ be felt: will it mostly be younger millennials or include aging boomers who have drawn against their homes to support their children’s education and home purchases?
  • Great Expectations // Reflecting on what are non-negotiable traits in relationships is something that I do with some regularity, and this Medium post does a good job of summarizing many of the basic expectations that should be realized in any loving relationship. I particularly liked how the author ends by asserting that it’s critical for partners to engage in kindness in communicating, or work to avoid brashness and hostility in communications and instead focus on communicating our feelings in an open, transparent, and loving manner.
  • The US Military Is Genetically Modifying Microbes to Detect Enemy Ships // That humanity is modifying bacteria to react in the presence of different types fo fuel exhaust and related exhausts from ships, for the purposes of surveillance of maritime environments, is the thing of science fiction. And it’s going to start happening, soon!
  • GE Powered the American Century—Then It Burned Out // In an exceptional long-form piece, Thomas Gryta and Ted Mann document the slow, though hastening, fall of the General Electric. It’s stunning to read just how hard it has been for the company, and its CEOs, to effectively reposition the company in the face of major economic and political hurdles, and without clear evidence that the company will manage to survive in its conglomerated form over the coming decade.
  • Apple Expands AirPlay 2 Video Streaming To TV Sets // Benjamin Mayo’s Assessment that Apple licensing AirPlay 2 is a good thing, because while it might cannibalize Apple TV sales it will increase the joy of using an iPhone and the overall value of Apple services, is dead on.
  • Why Cider Means Something Completely Different in America and Europe // It makes sense, but I hadn’t thought of how important alcoholic cider was for colonial Americans (and the British, more generally) for ensuring that there was a drinkable liquid available that didn’t include harmful contaminants. Nor had I thought of how the temperance and prohibition eras would have transformed the nature of cider production, and led to the destruction of orchards that contained high-tannin apples that were principally grown to make cider. If you’re interested in cider and the broad strokes of its history in the United States of America, this is a good article to read through!

Cool Things

The Roundup for December 1-23, 2018 Edition

(Choices 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

“The Heart that gives, gathers.”

  • Tao Te Ching

Great Photography Shots

I really appreciated the simplicity of the smartphone shots, below, which were initially curated by Mobiography. I think it’s so important that to focus on the images that are being produced, as opposed to what produced them, to realize that almost all cameras are amply sufficient to get aesthetically pleasing images these days.

(‘Imagine a lonesome Pink balloon in a Pink room with no one to cheer up‘ by @arashrimus)
(‘Untitled‘ by @lucdigital)
(‘City boii‘ by @pixels.for.life)

Music I’m Digging

  • Bush – Deconstructed // I’ve been listening to Bush since they were Bush X. While I’ve never been a fan of all of their songs, Deconstructed manages to collect most of my favourite ones and remix them in particularly enjoyable ways. The album maintains the grittiness of the original tracks while mixing them with a healthy dose of electronica, thus transforming the tracks into something entirely new and different.
  • Ta-Ku – 50 Days For Dilla, Vol. 1 and Ta-Ku – 25 Nights for Nujabes // Both albums have a kind of trip-hop vibe and are almost entirely instrumental. I’ve been finding them to be nice background music while cooking, reading, or doing light writing. They’re definitely pretty solid chill out albums.
  • Sean Paul – Mad Love: The Prequel // I’m not typically a fan of Sean Paul, but any number of tracks on this album are great to listen to while going on a long walk, long bike, or other activity where you just want a fun beat to your step.

Neat Podcast Episodes

  • Wolverine: The Long Night // This twelve episode drama takes us to Alaska, where the FBI has come looking into whether Logan is hiding out in the area while also trying to solve the mysteries of a secret cult, a well established drug trade, magical ley lines, and a ‘protective’ town father. It’s the one podcast I’ve listened to over the past few weeks that gripped me and had me listen to almost all of it in a single, long, listen.

Good Reads

  • Inside Chronicle, Alphabet’s cybersecurity moonshot // Engadget’s long-form article does a really good job in working through the origins, and intentions, behind Alphabet’s newest threat-intelligence organization. The decision to leverage Google’s core strengths — search and machine learning — and then use them to track or identify threats in smaller organizations’ systems and networks seems like it could work, especially when Virus Total data can be used as a basis for teaching machines. Like all Alphabet/former X projects, however, it remains debatable whether the new organization will truly bloom or wither on the vine like some of Alphabet’s other moonshot projects.
  • Coffee roasting acoustics // This is, quite simply, an awesome paper that immediately appealed to me as a coffee nerd. The crux of the paper: ”The sounds of first crack are qualitatively similar to the sound of popcorn popping while second crack sounds more like the breakfast cereal Rice Krispies® in milk. Additional qualitative audible differences between first and second crack are: first crack is louder, first crack is lower in frequency, and individual second cracks occur more frequently within the chorus than first cracks. The purpose of the present work is to quantify these effects as a preliminary step toward the development of an automated acoustical roast monitoring technique.”
  • The Hidden Struggle to Save the Coffee Industry From Disaster // Coffee is in danger: it lacks significant genetic diversity and, as such, is threatened by increasing prevalence of rust leaf. Gunn’s article examines how geneticists are trying to diversity coffee trees’ DNA so that the trees adopt more resilient properties in the face of a changing climate. Any of their results are going to have to wait until 2025, however, which raises the question of whether a solution will be found in time to save/maintain/expand existing coffee plantations.
  • The Humble Brilliance of Italy’s Moka Coffee Pot // I learned so much about the Moka Coffee Pot in this article! Both in terms of the history of espresso and using steam in the brewing of coffee, as well as that the Moka Pot has serious design chops behind its creation. It’s painful to read, however, that coffee pods are significantly responsible for the threats facing Bialetti, especially given how the relatively affordable Moka Pot means that anyone can potentially create a nice cup of coffee compared to the travesties that emerge from the pod-based coffee systems.
  • Illusion of control: Why the world is full of buttons that don’t work // A combination of lack of repairs and belief that automated systems are safer have combined to mean that the beg buttons — those we press to get the walk signal to appear more quickly — just don’t do anything. Worse, the properties of these buttons meant to provide assistance to those hard of hearing don’t really function well because they’re largely inaudible. But the sense of pressing a button, in and of itself, is comforting and makes us less likely to just walk across a line of traffic.
  • The Amazing Psychology of Japanese Train Stations // The efforts to both try to mitigate suicides, while also drive youth from stations and prevent loitering, is pretty impressive. As is the rationale for different 7-second jingles in each station that indicate the closing of a door. Japan’s obsession with building things to perfectly suit the challenges at hand remain incredibly impressive.
  • Flying in airplanes exposes people to more radiation than standing next to a nuclear reactor — here’s why // As someone who probably flies too often I’m always worried about things like radiation exposure. This article from Business Insider does a good job in explaining the actual radiological dangers linked with air travel, though the only way to really avoid the harms is to not fly in the first place…
  • Inside China’s audacious global propaganda campaign // This longform article by the Guardian details how the Chinese government has been actively attempting to shape the world’s perception of the country’s and government’s ambitions, rationales, and motivations by way of taking control of the providers of information. From training journalists around the world to acquiring the media themselves, China is actively involved in a global information campaign that is different from any other type of information campaign in the world.
  • excerpts from my Sent Folder: to someone who wants to be a writer // I really like a lot of the editing advice here. It’s blunt and to the point and, if followed, will help someone start writing for the ‘right’ reasons and with an appropriate level of humbleness.
  • The Physical and Spiritual Art of Capoeira // I’d never come across a popular article that speaks to the totality of a capoeira practice. Some of it is, in hindsight, unsurprising: I don’t know of any martial art format that isn’t beautiful, deadly, and philosophical. What was particularly noteworthy was how capoeira is seen as linked with resistance and politics; though perhaps true of certain martial arts, it’s certainly not generally case and, as such, seems to make capoeira relatively novel.

Cool Things

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.