The Roundup for August 1-31, 2019 Edition

(My Most Popular Photo 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

“Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys.”

Great Photography Shots

The whimsy, symmetry, and lines of these bowling alleys make me want to go bowling in Germany!

Music I’m Digging

  • My ‘Songs I Liked in August’ playlist is done, and is biased pretty heavily towards rap, R&B, with some metal (i.e., TOOL).
  • Dave – Game Over (EP) // ’My 19th Birthday’ and ‘Question Time’ are really amazing tracks that showcase Dave’s ability to engage in contemporary social and political issues in the UK, but which also affect most developed countries. The former song grapples with the challenges he has with his first major relationship, questioning how he should behave and how he can overcome his own patriarchal attitudes towards women. The latter is an anthem for the UK under Prime Minister May, where has asks her, along with all other major UK politicians, the hard questions that were likely on the minds of most socially consciously citizens of the United Kingdom.
  • Dave – PSYCHODRAMA // This full-length album continues Dave’s encounters with himself, and situations of himself growing up in South London. His flow remains as strong as his earlier work, and continues to work through the challenges of growing up socially conscious, in a time that often feels more ignorant, racist, and nationalist then decades past.
  • TOOL – Inoculum // Their first new album in 13 years, the technical instrumental skills alone make this 80+ minute album worth the listen and the wait. But it’s more than that: Keene’s lyrics continue to impress, while deftly floating in and out of the instrumental scores.

Neat Podcast Episodes

  • The Secret History of the Future – Dots, Dashes, and Dating Apps // This is a fascinating episode that showcases just how much the telegraph, and writers of that era, imagined the uses of the Internet which are now commonplace. As always, everything old is new again, and it behooves is to attend to our pasts to both foretell the challenges of the present as well as better envision new futures.
  • Planet Money – The IT Guy vs The Con Artist // It’s fascinating to get a behind-the-scenes look of how the US Postal Office was able to take down scammers using an insider. The bravery exhibited by the protagonist in the episode, Filipe, and willingness to right wrongs, makes this a particularly positive episode to listen to.
  • Modern Love – The Night Girl Found A Day Boy // Modern Love has to be one of my favourite podcasts, and I really enjoyed this episode’s story of how the couple overcame a major and inflexible difference to develop a long lasting and positive committed relationship. Throughout, I was thinking about how much a couple can push through if they’re able to stand side by side together to support one another, while simultaneously appreciating and respecting one another’s differences.
  • The Daily – Inside Hong Kong Airport // The ongoing protests in Hong Kong are pitting democratic values against those of autocracy, and protestors are valiantly trying to secure their democratic processes. The reportage in this podcast drove home, at an emotional level, just how committed protestors are, as well as the seeming indifference or disbelief amongst mainlanders that individuals could rise up against their government on their own, and without having been manipulated by foreign government spies.

Good Reads

  • Ham of Fate // Without a doubt this is the most scathing, and articulate, assessment of Boris Johnson that I’ve read to date. Of particular note is the ways in which Johnson masks a very deep racism through elite language. Whereas Trump is blatant and boorish, Johnson is slightly more subtle and studied.
  • What Apple’s T2 chip does in your new MacBook Air or MacBook Pro // Gallagher has a pretty accessible, and extensive, article outlining everything the T2 chip is doing in Apple’s newest devices. I knew about the security properties but was unaware of the audio and image processing it also is involved in.
  • The forgotten part of memory // I’ve been pretty convinced for a long while that perfectly recording and remembering information is detrimental to a person’s life, on the basis that from an evolutionary and social perspective we have forgotten information and seemed to still persist and evolve as a species. Research in Nature showcases the apparent truth that forgetting is normal and important, and that we may do it to abstract away some details of precise encounters so as to build up abstract thinking that’s suitable to solving a range of problems, instead of being overly mired in the details of solving very specific incidents and experiences.
  • Combating disinformation and foreign interference in democracies: Lessons from Europe // Though written to derive lessons for the United States Government to learn from, this article from the Brookings Institute does a good job outlining the successful, somewhat successful, problematic, and disasterous responses to adversarial disinformation and influence operations campaigns. Ultimately, however, the crux is mostly missing from the article: should states and their populations truly fear disinformation—is the Swedish approach genuinely useful or is it, perhaps, just that some populations can sense disinformation when they see it? Regardless, the comparison between actions undertaken by Sweden, France, the United Kingdom, and Bulgaria provides a handy overview of some policy options available to democratic states, if not effective assessments of the utility of such options.
  • Influence Operations Kill Chain // Bruce’s assessment of the elements of effective influence operations is pretty on the money, though I do have to admit I’m partial to the comments made by Jones, which recognizes that while it may be hard to deal with influence operations, there are things that the government can do to address issues which arguably have much more significant (and problematic) roles on election fairness. These issues include: 1. Gerrymandering; 2. Deregulated political spending; 3. Systematic black disenfranchisement; 4. Black box electronic voting machines; 5. VoterID laws; 6. Drug felons who can’t vote; 7. Domestic for-profit news propaganda; and 8. Campaign strategies to game the Electoral College. Still, even fixing the aforementioned list will do little to prevent information operations from, over a long-term, threatening democratic integrity as clefts in society are identified and widened in efforts to decrease trust in the democratic system itself.
  • Housing Crisis Grips Ireland a Decade After Property Bubble Burst // Things in Ireland, like major cities in Canada, are terrible if you want to either rent or own. In effect, rent prices are too high to enable saving for a downpayment while, at the same time, owning is sufficiently affordable that — if people want — an owner can save up for another downpayment, and the cycle simply continue.
  • How the El Paso Killer Echoed the Incendiary Words of Conservative Media Stars // It’s one thing to strongly believe that the language of the American right wing is fuelling the violence, hatred, racism, and misogyny being expressed by a host of white supremacists throughout the country. It’s another to have the very words of American media commentators placed against the language of the President of the United States and white supremacists alike.
  • Acquisitions Incorporated Review // I’ve been on the fence about the new D&D sourcebook based on Penny Arcade’s adventuring groups. On the one hand, I appreciate the humour of the games but I wasn’t certain about whether the gaming supplement that’s emerged from those games was just Wizards cashing in on the popularity without adding real substance. This review has mostly convinced me that this is a neat supplement that I might want to add to my (growing…) collection of gaming books.
  • Facebook’s Illusion of Control over Location-Related Ad Targeting // This deep dive into how Facebook tracks location showcases just what a lie it is that you can exercise control and stop the company from tracking your location. Well researched and yet another indication as to why this is a malignant company that needs to be heavily regulated.
  • Do not Fall in Love with a Smart, Introverted Man // While some of the assertions of introverted men seem a bit off — we’re not all messy or nearly as eclectic as Lowe makes us out to be — I can appreciate this line: “One day, he will decide to leave you. It will be sudden and swift with no warning.” The thing is…I don’t think that’s true. The messages which communicate warning are made, deliberately and regularly, but are often unheard. And that failure to hear us is, in and of itself, one of the reasons why we may have decided “quietly, independently — because that is how he has solved every problem — that it’s over.” There’s a fundamental values mismatch, and communications mismatch, and potentially even an intellectual stimulation mismatch, and so the introverted man is making a decision they know is correct. Even if that’s not what the other partner thinks or wants.

Cool Things

  • Trails of Wind // While in our conceit, humanity may believe it changes the world without regard for the environment, a mapping of how we actually terraform the earth can showcase that we unconsciously, as a species, build in accordance with global environmental patterns and characteristics. I wonder, though: as climate forces changes in the jet stream, will we end up with monuments to the past that are left abandoned or will we, instead, re-engineer these monuments so as to continue using them?
  • The World’s Greenest and Most Economical Shelving System? // This shelving system is substantially based on Dieter Ram’s design philosophy and design language. While it’s expensive as hell, once invested you’d never need to buy shelves again in your life. Definitely want!
  • The Best VPN Services // The Wirecutter has done terrific work sifting through various VPN providers to identify solid choices. If you use or want to use a VPN then check out their work!
  • Paramour: A One-Shot Music Video Filmed From the Perspective of a Toy Train // Just a cool bit of filming!

The Roundup for February 1-15, 2019 Edition

Rest, Deeply by Christopher Parsons

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


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

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

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


Inspiring Quotation

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

— Harold Whitman

Great Photography Shots

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

Music I’m Digging

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

Neat Podcast Episodes

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

Good Reads

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

Cool Things

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

The Cure For Pessimism? Action

GQ has a good interview with Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia. It’s far-ranging, covering the company’s attitude to making clothing, to climate change, to politics. But what really struck me was this:

Gradually, the conversation went even darker. About Trump, Chouinard added, “It’s like a kid who’s so frustrated he wants to break everything. That’s what we’ve got.” I asked sarcastically if any part of him was an optimist. Marcario, sitting next to him, laughed loudly. “Did you just ask Yvon if he’s an optimist?” Chouinard smiled and cocked his head. “I’m totally a pessimist. But you know, I’m a happy person. Because the cure for depression is action.”

I would note that I think action is the cure for pessimism, as opposed to depression; one is a state of mindset whereas the other is often a serious mental condition that can require professional assistance. But that nitpick aside, I think he’s correct that you press through pessimism by acting to make the world a little bit better every day than how you started it.

Link

Climate Change is Threatening Coffee

Imbach et al:

Coffee production supports the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers around the world, and bees provide coffee farms with pollination. Climate change will modify coffee and bee distributions, and thus coffee production. We modeled impacts for the largest coffee-growing region, Latin America, under global warming scenarios. Although we found reduced coffee suitability and bee species diversity for more than one-third of the future coffee-suitable areas, all future coffee-suitable areas will potentially host at least five bee species, indicating continued pollination services. Bee diversity also can be expected to offset farmers’ losses from reduced coffee suitability. In other areas, bee diversity losses offset increased coffee suitability. Our results highlight the need for responsive management strategies tailored to bee pollination, coffee suitability, and potential coupled effects.

In effect: climate change is risking the growth of coffee beans, in particular the more sensitive arabica beans that are lower in caffeine content and generally regarded as more delicate and tasty compared to robusta-type beans.