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

Aside

2018.4.19

It’s an unpopular position, I’m sure, but I’m genuinely enjoying Starbucks’ reserve coffees that are made using their in-house Clover machines. To date, I think that the Nicaraguan, La Laguna, is the tastiest of the reserve coffees that I’d had *and* it’s cheaper to buy coffee at Starbuck than at some of the other coffee shops in my work area. (At home, of course, I buy beans from local roasters, temperature control my water and weigh bean portions, and an Aeropress. But I just can’t have that kind of control over coffee making at work for a reasonable price.)

Next Level Coffee Snobbery

I haven’t brewed a typical ‘cup’ of coffee at home for over three years. I drink 1-3 cups a day but in a particular coffee-snob kind of way.

I’ve been exclusively brewed using an Aeropress.

An Aeropress is basically a vacuum plunger where you attach a filter to the bottom of a plastic tube, load grounds into the tube, and after adding water and stirring the grounds, plunge water through the grounds. I wasn’t initially using a particularly ‘nice’ kettle and so wasn’t regulating the water temperature very rigorously. Despite this, the simple shift from a coffee maker-made coffee to Aeropress represented a a massive step-up in my morning coffee experience.

Enter a Proper Kettle

A few years ago I bought the Cuisinart CPK-17 PerfecTemp Cordless Electric Kettle so that I could precisely heat my water to the temperature I wanted. This kettle will let you select one of six preset temperatures (160°, 175°, 185°, 190°, 200°, and Boil) whereas a normal kettle is far less specific in the temperature it can consistently reach.

The Aeropress plus Cuisinart combination plus good coffee beans that were recently roasted (i.e. within a week or so) has always resulted in pretty good coffee. But if you spend time looking at the Aeropress championships that take place around the world, and the recipes that the baristas use, you find that they measure out the beans and water by weight.1

Weighing Everything Out

I got a scale for Christmas to weight out the amounts of water and coffee beans I use in making coffee. I’m using an American Weigh Scales (SG-2KG) Digital Pocket Scale. After trying it out I learned something profound: I’ve been using almost the precise amounts of boiling water and coffee beans as many of the most popular Aeropress recipes!2

I’m guessing that the scale will ensure that I’m better able to control for quality each time, and so instead of almost nailing the perfect balance of water and beans I’ll have a ‘perfect press’ more regularly. I’ll also be able to try out other recipes with accuracy and confidence. But it was surprising to learn that despite adding the extra coffee gear it’s actual improvements may be less significant than I’d expected.

Now I just have to upgrade to an even better burr grinder…

  1. They also have a specific number of times they’ll churn the water over the coffee, break up when they add water, and more. It gets pretty complicated and ritualistic.
  2. The technique varies between the recipes I’ve looked at, but weights are pretty consistent.
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.

Link

The Best Coffee Roasters in Toronto

Only helpful for those local to Toronto, but it’s great for those of us that are. I particularly enjoy Pilot and Propeller, though admit that my favorite place to get coffee these days is from Ideal Coffee (the Red Sea beans are absolutely terrific). Still, I look forward to trying the whole list and determining if there is a company that can unseat Ideal Coffee or Pilot and Propeller!

The Best Coffee Roasters in Toronto