The Roundup for July 16-22, 2018 Edition

Ocean Town by Christopher Parsons

When I first bought my Olympus EM-10ii I immediately purchased Panasonic’s 1.7 25mm lens. My rationale was flawed: I assumed that the kit zoom lens was garbage and that a cheap prime lens would get me photos that would be substantively better than anything that the kit lens provided.1 Even after I figured out that I could take shots I enjoyed with both zoom lenses and the prime I tended to stick with the primes on the basis that I kept reading about the importance of shooting with primes.

Fast forward a year, and I started using my zoom lenses a lot, especially when I was travelling somewhere that would include nature shots. It’s been pretty normal for me to have a long zoom lens combined with an iPhone 7 for wide angle and panoramic shots. And over the past few months that I’ve been shooting at home I’ve tended to pick up and use the kit lens that came with my camera: there’s no way that what I’m trying to do with my lenses are outside of scope of what that lens can do.

The result has been that I’ve been using zooms a lot over the past 6 or 7 months. To the point that I hadn’t picked up a prime lens for months.

Yesterday I decided to just head out and shoot with my trusty Panasonic 1.7 25mm. It was a surreal experience, largely because I’ve gotten so used to the qualities of my zoom lenses that I had to spent at least an hour just getting used to the 25mm’s characteristics. Specifically, getting used to the different coloration, the ability to play with wider apertures, and my need to fully zoom with my legs. In the coming days I’m hoping to post some of the photos from the walk as well as the importance and value that I took from just taking the walk.


Inspiring Quotation of the Week

When our intentions toward others are good, we find that any feelings of anxiety or insecurity we may have are greatly reduced. We experience a liberation from our habitual preoccupation with self and paradoxically, this gives rise to strong feelings of confidence.

  • Dalai Lama

Great Photography Shots

I’ve never actually looked at a series of black and white photographs of undersea life; Anuar Patjane Floriuk’s photos look like they emerge from some kind of a science fiction movie as opposed to the worlds under our seas and oceans.

Music I’m Digging

  • Huaschka – Abandoned City // I find that the album is very haunting, and is exciting to listen to when concentrating on it alone while also functioning as nice background music when I’m reading or writing.
  • Amy Shark – Love Monster // A very pop album. The song ‘Adore’ always bring a smile to my face.
  • Johann Johannsson – Orphee // I haven’t listened to Johannsson’s work previously and found the composition of the orchestras he performs with are both accessible (good for someone like me who likes classical music but hasn’t yet learned enough to know which specific compositions are responding to/playing with one another) and fun to listen to through the lens of the Greek tale of Orpheus.

Neat Podcast Episodes

Good Reads for the Week

Cool Things

  • An entomologist rates ant emojis // Some of these descriptions are terrific. As an example, the review of Mozilla’s emoji is “This is a termite, -10/10.”
  • Radkan Tower // 800 years ago, Iranian astronomer’s built an entire building that was able to identify the different seasons and account for when the solstice and equinox took place, as well as determine leap years and the start of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. Amazing.
  1. I would note that I immediately took my camera and that prime lens to Cuba; I think that being forced into a single focal lens the whole time did result in me getting more shots that I would like. The constraints, themselves, were helpful when I was first learning the camera.
Aside

The Roundup for July 9-15, 2018 Edition

Eyes to the Home by Christopher Parsons

This has been a week where I’ve been trying to get used to living in a new location. So there’ve been trips to Ikea and other places to get the necessities needed for the new location, getting used to wandering a new building, and learning the new routes to walk to work. And it’s been a quiet time of reflection, thoughts, and considerations of the future, as well as the recent past. It’s been a very busy week and, as things step into a new tempo, I suspect things will feel less comfortable and those reflections properly take hold.


Inspiring Quotation of the Week

To be clear, privacy is no ‘contemporary’ hang-up. This is a diversionary argument floated frequently in the tech / security fields; that privacy concerns have somehow erupted in the past decade, simply on account of social media, smart phones or Edward Snowden. Not only is that premise self-serving if one works in the bureaucracy of intelligence, it’s also demonstrably false.

The Latin root of privacy is ‘privatum’, an enunciated principle of civil law as early as the Roman Republic under Cicero. Privacy was a constraint on government action inscribed into England’s Magna Carta of 1215. And, perhaps most famously, the individual’s right to privacy is there in the Fourth Amendment of the American Constitution.

Great Photography Shots

Brendan Siebel has a nice essay to accompany photographs taken by Eugène Atget, who took photos of Paris around the turn of the 20th century. Atget’s work documents the changes to the city and captures that nature of the city-that-was as it was forcibly transformed by city planner.

Music I’m Digging

  • Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems // I’m slowly going through Cohen’s corpus, and I’m definitely finding that I prefer his more gravelly and poetic work as opposed to that when he was younger and more melodic.

Neat Podcast Episodes

  • Planet Money – Peak Sand // This story about the nature of sand forensics, and how sand is being stolen to provide resort beaches with Instagram-perfect sand, was eye-opening and yet another indication of the issues with tourism.
  • The Daily – One Family’s Reunification Story // There is so much that is wrong in the United States of America right now, and this piece by the daily that recounts the reunification between a migrant family is heart wrenching.

Good Reads for the Week

  • How to Be Alone and Why // A nice meditation on the value of being alone and, also, why being alone is increasingly common given the rise of single-occupancy homes. We are moving to a society where are are separated from other persons more regularly than in the past, but must also recognize that to participate fully in society we must sometimes enjoy periods of solitude so-as-to learn how and why to engage with those around us in a meaningful manner.
  • Unidentified Plane-Bae Woman’s Statement Confirms the Worst // The problems largely associated with the spread of social media, and capability of other persons to deliberately intrude into one another’s personal lives, is a continuation of social problems that pre-date the digital era. However, whereas once gossip and innuendo would have been relatively restricted to a physical space it can now break free of geographical boundaries and, in the process, lead other persons to actively intrude upon persons’ private lives and engage in harassment and abuse. While such social problems cannot ever be truly ‘solved’ they can be ameliorated by teaching the right and wrong ways to behave online which will, fundamentally, explain the problems linked with historical social ills and how they can be aggravated by digital communications mediums.

Cool Things

  • I’m a huge fan of Yamazaki’s design language: simple, clean, and minimalist. I recently picked up their Tower Laundry Basket and love how it just quietly sits in my bed room without drawing any attention to itself.
  • I love these ‘monumental nobodies’ pieces by Mathew Quick.

The Roundup for February 24-March 2, 2018 Edition

Evening Dream
Evening Dream by Christopher Parsons

For the past few weeks I’ve been deliberately constraining my photography by shooting exclusively by a 35mm equivalent lens. This was the focal length that really convinced me that I enjoyed photography as a way of seeing and experiencing the world. I’m a big fan of zoom lenses, and keep eyeing the Olympus 12-40mm 2.8 Pro lens, but I find that I learn the most about a scene by having to walk around it with a bright prime lens.

Alien Reach
Alien Reach by Christopher Parsons

When I travelled to Cuba, having to march around with a 50mm equivalent lens meant I went into entirely new places and angles that I wouldn’t have if I’d had a zoom lens to otherwise get a shot. And while I’ve previously used my 35mm equivalent, I have to admit that I’ve been far more reliant on some of my zooms and the 50mm; I just haven’t focused on learning to use the 35mm lens because there is so much more walking-by-zooming that I have to do with it compared to even my other prime lenses.

Sound Off!
Sound Off! by Christopher Parsons

But that’s silly: I enjoy the focal length, I just have to work a lot more to get things out of the camera. So I’ve been using it at night, during the day, and exclusively attached it to my camera body for the past month and intend to bring it (along with an 80-300mm equivalent lens) when I travel to South America in a week and change. I like the idea of an unobtrusive lens as my walkabout, and then the zoom for when I’ve trekking through nature. And, perhaps most importantly, I really like the idea of forcing myself to get a lot more comfortable with my current gear as a way to inhibit my desire to buy more gear: I have functionally underused equipment, and I should be playing with it, first and foremost, before even considering the purchase of new kit.


Inspiring Quotation

“We start on the path to genuine adulthood when we stop insisting on our emotional competence and acknowledge the extent to which we are – in many areas of our psyche – likely to be sharply trailing our biological age. Realising we aren’t – as yet, in subtle ways – quite adults may be the start of true maturity.”

Great Photography Shots

Mobiography’s landscape photography shots are really, really amazing and showcase just how much you can do with a contemporary smartphone and good lighting conditions.

Jagged horizon, Monument Valley…
Jagged horizon, Monument Valley… by Joseph Cyr
It’s been a good day… full of weather again..
It’s been a good day… full of weather again.. by Fi Austin
Snow & Fishing Cottages
Snow & Fishing Cottages by Jen Pollack Bianco
Windswept
Windswept by lkbside

Music I’m Digging

Neat Podcast Episodes

Good Reads for the Week

Cool Things

The Roundup for December 23-29, 2017 Edition

Bright Fathers by Christopher Parsons

It’s the time of year when people reflect on past annual resolutions while beginning to think about what resolutions they’ll ‘commit’ to in the coming year. I enjoy the idea of establishing annual targets and goals. Not just because it’s fun to imagine how great life would be if you hit them all, but because it provides an ongoing sense of direction in what is often a rote world. More than that, resolutions, goal setting, or whatever else you call it are helpful for providing a lens through which to reflect on a year gone by.

I had one standard resolution, which I absolutely failed to make possible, and a host of them that were far more successful. I fully exited consumer debt hell, increased monthly student loan payments, photographically documented many of the major events in my life, dealt with the last administrative aspects of my last relationship, and mostly righted my financial ship. All of those were major life accomplishments and have done things like change how I visually see the world every day, how I experience my relationships with money, and how I approach my relationships today. It’s not just that I finished something but that in the course of undertaking a series of activities I’ve opened up entirely new (and, arguably, healthier) ways of seeing the world.

But there were other things that I accomplished that I think are as important as those goals that were set last year. I think I’m most proud of the fact that I can see ways in which I’ve grown emotionally. In specific, in my desire to avoid some of the mistakes of my last relationship I’ve had honest and oftentimes painful conversations that were based on what I believe to be right for me; rather than subsuming myself to make life easier I’ve just been me, even when doing so might cause challenges in my relationships. Such challenges, however, are healthy insofar as strong areas of disagreement aren’t indications of a lack of love but, instead, of a healthy set of egos that simply must come to a consensual agreement on how to proceed. Learning how to love in a healthy way has been scary while also amplifying my ability to be present and with others in ways I never understood as possible.

I’ve also managed to overcome some long held fears that were the result of bullying I experienced while growing up. The result is that I can make healthy choices for my body without having a voice in the back of my head that sabotages my efforts to be fitter, eat better, and be happier in my own body. Getting over those particular demons is especially important, in my situation, given that I’m creeping up on the age when coronary diseases start to take the lives of the men in my family.

In the coming days I’ll be thinking through the kinds of resolutions and thematics that I want to carry forward into the coming year. Centrally, I think I’m going to have ‘testable’ objectives, insofar as I’ll be able to actually measure whether or not I’ve advanced in some of the hobbies that I’m involved in, while also trying to find ways of deprioritizing activities that are pleasurable but don’t really do much to advance my physical, intellectual, artistic, professional, or emotional wellbeing.


I spent a significant amount of time thinking about the implications of path dependency in socio-technical systems over the course of my doctoral degree. For my work, I hypothesized that similar kinds of technologies in a path-dependent system would unfold in similar ways cross-jurisdictionally. This common unfolding would take place because once technological development began down a particular path, other paths would be foreclosed and a common end would be reached regardless of regulation, policy, or law.

In the work I did, this dependency wasn’t actually evidenced with much regularity. But some of that was because the technologies I was looking at were heavily socialized: they were used for a range of different tasks and, as such, their development impetuses were often decidedly non-technical. In contrast, the development of Transport Level Security (TLS) has a kind of path dependency that is notably challenging to deviate from, not just because clients and servers must implement new versions of the protocol but because developers of middle boxes simply assume technology will unfold in a given way and have developed their own technologies based on those assumptions. In reaction, the Internet community has spent a considerable amount of time trying to ameliorate the difficulties that arise when implementing new versions of the protocol, difficulties linked to assumptions as to how the protocol would, and will, develop.

Cryptographers are increasingly talking about the problems associated with adopting new versions of TLS as ‘joints’ ‘rusting shut.’ As discussed by Cloudflare, in the context of middleboxes:

Some features of TLS that were changed in TLS 1.3 were merely cosmetic. Things like the ChangeCipherSpec, session_id, and compression fields that were part of the protocol since SSLv3 were removed. These fields turned out to be considered essential features of TLS to some of these middleboxes, and removing them caused connection failures to skyrocket.

If a protocol is in use for a long enough time with a similar enough format, people building tools around that protocol will make assumptions around that format being constant. This is often not an intentional choice by developers, but an unintended consequence of how a protocol is used in practice. Developers of network devices may not understand every protocol used on the internet, so they often test against what they see on the network. If a part of a protocol that is supposed to be flexible never changes in practice, someone will assume it is a constant. This is more likely the more implementations are created.

It would be disingenuous to put all of the blame for this on the specific implementers of these middleboxes. Yes, they created faulty implementations of TLS, but another way to think about it is that the original design of TLS lent itself to this type of failure. Implementers implement to the reality of the protocol, not the intention of the protocol’s designer or the text of the specification. In complex ecosystems with multiple implementers, unused joints rust shut.

To some extent, the lesson to be taken from the efforts to update to TLS 1.3 is to have protocols which are simpler in nature and with fewer moving parts.1 Another lesson is that it takes years to actually shift the global population of Internet devices en masse to more secure ways of communicating. But perhaps the most fundamental lesson — to my mind — is that the security of the Internet is still trying to mediate and resolve problems which were initially seeded many, many years ago and which may mean it takes up to a decade to fix the specific problems to TLS 1.2.

Built infrastructure such as middleboxes isn’t updated on a regular basis because the infrastructure represents a capital cost. And so even as new protocols struggle to come to terms with the past, they do so by comforming to the paths sets down by previously deployed protocols. Even as TLS 1.3 is deployed and made usable, it will be done so based on how earlier versions of the protocol were designed and then implemented. So the questions that linger include: how will implementers of TLS 1.3 make decisions, and how will their decisions direct the development and implementation of future versions of TLS? In effect: how much will the paths of the past continue to affect how future versions of TLS can be practically — as opposed to hypothetically — developed??


Inspirational Quotation

“Generosity is the most natural outward expression of an inner attitude of compassion and loving-kindness.”

– Dalai Lama

Great Photography Shots

I’ve really fallen in love with some of the shots which were submitted to this year’s Sony Wold Photography Awards.

The Horns at sunrise. © Vincent Chen, China, Entry, Open, Landscape & Nature (2018 Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards.
The Horns at sunrise. © Vincent Chen, China, Entry, Open, Landscape & Nature (2018 Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards.
Little Indian. © Virgilio Liberato, Philippines, Entry, Open, Portraiture (Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards
Little Indian. © Virgilio Liberato, Philippines, Entry, Open, Portraiture (Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards.
Lunch Break. © Omer Faidi, Turkey, Entry, Open, Street Photography (Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards.
Lunch Break. © Omer Faidi, Turkey, Entry, Open, Street Photography (Open competition), 2018 Sony World Photography Awards.

Intriguing Video Art

Music I’m Digging

Neat Podcast Episodes

Good Reads for the Week

Cool Product Advice

  1. Per Cloudflare: David Benjamin proposed a way to keep the most important joints in TLS oiled. His GREASE proposal for TLS is designed to throw in random values where a protocol should be tolerant of new values. If popular implementations intersperse unknown ciphers, extensions and versions in real-world deployments, then implementers will be forced to handle them correctly. GREASE is like WD-40 for the Internet.

The Roundup for December 16-22, 2017 Edition

Picture of a illuminated maple leaf
Canadian Heart by Christopher Parsons 

My less-busy times this week were spent writing out notes, cards, emails, and other correspondence to some of the most important people in my life. It’s been a challenging year; the world seems to be falling apart due to changes in American politics, deaths and illnesses by family and friends have been hard to take, and the tempo for high-quality professional work never really slows down. And so I took some time writing to the people I’ve most closely worked with, supported, or been supported by to thank them for just being present and active in my life.

I find writing these sorts of messages of thanks, encouragement, and praise challenging. They’re not the kind of thing that I have ever really received much of throughout my personal or professional life; it’s just not normal in my family to communicate our deep feelings for one another, and in academe the point is to move to the next project (and subject it to critique) instead of dwelling on past projects and receiving accolades for them. But as challenging as I find writing these messages they have a profound personal impact: by pulling together my thoughts and writing them down and sending them, I’m humbled by realizing just how blessed I am to be surrounded by the kind, funny, supporting, and amazing people in my life.

There used to be a time when a lot more holiday cards, notes, and messages were sent back and forth between people this time of year. And many people still send cards, but don’t take the time — five, ten, or even twenty minutes — to handwrite a real thought to whomever the recipient happens to be. But those are the cards and notes and emails that people carry with them for years, packing them carefully away as they move from one physical or digital home to another. They don’t cost a lot of money to produce, and in the case of email are almost entirely free, but they show that you’ve spent time thinking about a specific person. And that time, in and of itself, is indicative of someone’s importance in your life.

So before you go out and spend money on another present consider taking that time and, instead, writing a letter or note to whomever the recipient is. Chances are good that they’ll remember and treasure the message you left with them for longer than any material possession your might give them.


Some of the bigger news in the Apple world, this week, has focused on changes to how Apple treats older iPhones which are suffering battery degradation. While the majority of the reporting is focused on how iPhone 6 and 6s devices are experiencing slowdowns — which is the change Apple has imposed as of iOS version 11.2.0 — iPhone 7 devices are also exhibiting the slowdowns as they suffer battery degradation.

I’m of mixed minds on this. I see this as an effort by Apple to avoid having to replace batteries on older (but not THAT old) devices but in a sneaky way: the company’s lack of transparency means that it appears that Apple is trying to pull a fast one on consumers. This is especially the case for those consumers who’ve purchased Apple Care; if their devices are suffering known problems, then Apple should at the minimum be notifying owners to bring the devices in for servicing on a very proactive basis, and that doesn’t seem to have been the case.

So, on the one hand, this is Apple being sneaky.

But on the other it’s a semi-elegant engineering problem to resolve a hard-to-fix problem. We use our smartphones with such regularity and subject them (and, in particular, their batteries) to such exceptional abuse that degradation has to happen. And so I think that Apple stuffing processors into devices (at least in the current and last generation) that are excessive for daily use means the slowdowns are less problematic for most users. They might think that their devices are a bit slower but, generally, still be able to use them for about as long as they used to use them. And that length of use is what most people measure ‘battery life’ by so…maybe Apple is dealing with the problem the way users would actually prefer.

That Apple doesn’t change out batteries when they’re worn down, however, emphasizes that it’s a pretty good idea to resell your devices every year or so in order to get the best return for them as well as in order to enjoy the best performance from your iPhone. And I guess, as a byproduct, if you’re buying a second-hand iPhone you should definitely do a battery test before handing over your cash.


Inspiring Quotation

“Giving is about more than donating money. It’s about sharing your capabilities, content, and connections—and above all, giving others the chance to be heard, respected, and valued.”

– Adam Grant

Great Photography Shots

I’m absolutely blown away by the award winning photos for the 2017 Siena International Photo Awards.

Music I’m Digging

Neat Podcast Episodes

Good Reads for the Week

Cool Products

The Roundup – December 9-15, 2017 Edition

Winter Boardwalk by Christopher Parsons 

I have a whole host of things that I need to do in order to keep a chronic (very non-life threatening!) health condition at bay. Part of that is maintaining a pretty strict work-life balance. When I was doing my doctorate I absolutely failed to conceptualize of, let alone maintain, a real balance and as a result I suffered from a pretty problematic health condition for years and years. And because I didn’t have work-life balance (and ignored advice from those who maintained such a balance) a lot of unpleasant things happened in my life that didn’t necessarily have to and I prioritized the wrong things as being of importance.

I mismanaged relationships. I failed to take advantage of living in one of the most beautiful cities in Canada, if not the world. I didn’t develop, let alone maintain, many friendships at a time where I probably most needed them.

And in reaction to how my life didn’t work during that time, and with the privilege of having a full-time job where I’m not expected to be constantly on the clock, I’ve worked to maintain a balance in my professional and personal activities. The medical result has been that the condition I deal with has become an occasional inconvenience instead of a serious issue in daily life.

This week my carefully maintained work-life balance entirely fell apart. It’s still apart, right now, and that condition is on top of me once again. I cannot wait until the holiday break and the chance to hit the reset button and return to balance. I can only hope that things haven’t gotten bad enough to need to return to visiting my doctors…


A few weeks ago, Ming Thien wrote about the relative importance of the shooting experience that you have with your camera of choice. One of the key things he mentioned was:

… if a camera does not enable us to either translate an idea, preserve a moment or present something otherwise unseen: it isn’t very useful as a tool, no matter how pretty or expensive or high-resolving it might be.

This point really resonated with me. It brought me back to when I was trying to decide which mirrorless camera to purchase. I’d been using (and still do use!) a Sony RX100ii and, temporarily, a Fuji X100. I loved the Fuji but I couldn’t really explain why until after I’d relied almost entirely on the RX100ii for a full year.

While in part I missed the viewfinder, what I was really missing was the ability to rapidly change settings to get the shot that I wanted and, also, to learn what I had to do, to get the shot I wanted. Let me explain.

The Sony is a great little camera. I’ve taken photos with it that I’ve gotten blown up to be pretty large (36 inches by 24 inches) and which now hang on my walls. I have a series of photos I took while in Iceland, Hong Kong, Australia, and other places that I absolutely love. But the shooting experience has always been subpar. The inability to just turn this knob or that one to get exactly what I want, in a second or two, means that shooting with the Sony is often really frustrating. If I can plan a shot it’s great. If it’s in the moment? The shot is missed more than caught.

So when I was looking at different mirrorless cameras to purchase and supplement the RX100ii I was drawn to the Sony a6100, which had amazing specifications. But when I actually held and touched and shot with it I just wasn’t taken by it. It’s an amazing camera but just felt cold. The Fuji line was pretty great – I really wanted to get an X-T10! – but I found the glass to be expensive, especially when I started thinking about buying image stabilized lenses.

So I ended up getting an Olympus EM10ii, instead, and was initially sorta scared of it. There were a lot of knobs to turn and, while I wanted that, it was also intimidating. But as I’ve used the Olympus I’ve come to realize that it is definitely the right camera for me, now. It’s light enough and small enough that I almost always have it with me. It performs pretty well with prime lenses in mixed settings. And while I can lust over other mirrorless systems when they come out I don’t see anything that they do which I absolutely need given my abilities, shooting preferences, and devotion to the hobby right now.

Most importantly, the Olympus feels right in my hands. I’ve used it enough that I’m comfortable with most of the settings that I use1 while it still provides me with a lot of room to learn and grow. I’m pretty comfortable with my 50mm equivalent lens after exclusively shooting with it for several months straight, and reasonably comfortable with the 35mm equivalent that I use.2 In terms of the shooting experience the EM10ii is pretty great for someone who is interested in photography but certainly never expects to do much more than travel the world, shoot, and then make prints for personal or family use. I know it’s not the ‘best’ camera out there but, for me, the shooting experience is pretty close to perfect.


Great Photography Shots

I’m absolutely entranced by the photos that South-African photographer and visual artist, Elsa Bleda, has taken which emphasize the dream-like fluorescent glow from neon signs and lights. Breathtaking.

Music I’m Digging

Neat Podcast Episodes

Good Reads for the Week

Cool Products

  1. Of course, the camera is super capable at doing lots of things I’m not interested in doing. And as someone who doesn’t ever shoot video the relative limitations of the Olympus camera system over that of either Sony or Panasonic doesn’t bother me.
  2. Perhaps curiously I’m the least comfortable using the kit zoom lens that came with the camera!

The Roundup for December 2-8, 2017 Edition

It feels like everyone I know has led a more stressful life this year. Beyond the chaos wrought on the global psyche by the American president, there have also been more deaths, serious illnesses, job losses, and emotional meltdowns than normal. In my own case, the death of two parents and ongoing revelations of sexual assaults and abuses near to my life have been incredibly challenging issues to deal with.

So it was with great interest that I read a piece by Ankita Rao on how she has turned dealing with her personal stress into a kind of science experiment. The tests and activities she points to reveal the number of factors in our lives that amplify underlying stress levels as well as the means we can use to reduce stress in our personal lives. I’ve made a commitment since mid-2017 to actively, and assertively, maintain a particular work-life balance. That involves taking on consulting clients only when the monetary outcome is necessary to address particular fiscal stresses (see: student loans) and ensuring that I actually spend time working out, taking photowalks, and letting myself engage in non-productive play.

I haven’t always been successful. But on the whole I’m exercising a lot more, have taken photos I’m incredibly happy with, and am overcoming a longstanding guilt that playing games is somehow undermining my productivity. I have a long ways to go to ensure the balance I’m trying to achieve is a permanent feature of my life but I feel like habits are starting to settle in, and my overall stress levels declining as a result.


Just prior to Netflix’s release of The Punisher some critics argued that the show had an opportunity to — and failed to — respond to the tragedy of gun violence in the United States. I haven’t quite finished the series but I tend to agree that the show is definitely not directly addressing that issue.

But the show isn’t about gun violence. It’s about what losing family means and drives a someone (read: white males) to do. It’s about the problems linked to how soldiers of all stripes are asked to endure physical and mental hardships and then return home without society acknowledging their sacrifices or providing support for their wounds. Or about how even when support is provided that there is no guarantee that those broken humans will ever be whole again. The show is about how fraught relationships become when we are separated from those we relate to, either by distance, by death, or by betrayal. Throughout the episodes I’ve watched a repeated motif, which does pertain to gun violence, is how firearms can prompt the aforementioned hardships, either by killing in the name of one’s country or in the name of one’s personal ideology or simply by accident when weapons are nearby.


I entered the workforce ‘late’ in terms of my ability to save for retirement. Since I went to school until my early 30s, and lived paycheque to paycheque to try and stay afloat, and have loan obligations, it’s not going to be until my late 30s or early 40s when I can ‘really’ save for my retirement. And that assumes that I save for retirement instead of for a home or condo that I own.1

So it was with interest, and trepidation, that I listened to a podcast put out by TVO entitled “Creating Retirement Security.” The conversation they had about people in their 30s was strange to my ears, with guests relying on different baseline facts for their assessments and recommendations. And significantly, not one of the guests recognized that loan payments for student debt are higher than with past generations, nor that repayment periods are longer now than in the past. Several of the guests held an assumption that persons would be saving in their early 20s. While this practice might be true for Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) contributions it’s presumably less the case for Register Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) that can grow significantly over the course of 40 years.

Each guest called frequently for ‘financial literacy’. While educational approaches matter and have merit, at the same time such calls assume that retirement decisions should be individualized. Does it fall to specific individuals to ensure that they are earning enough, saving enough, and investing wisely enough to be secure in their retirement? Or is retirement and aging a collective action problem that is best solved as a society as a whole?2

As with many areas of expert knowledge only the barest of basics of financial literacy are likely going to catch on with the general public. Were we, as a society, to take some of the lessons from behaviour economics we’d realize that experts are needed to develop appropriate ‘nudges’ to compel savings,3 while also updating savings models to recognize the precariousness of the labour market for those under 35. That constant threat of un(der)employment, need to service student debt, and potentially provide assistance to parents who have insufficiently saved for their retirement are all pressures on the largest generation now moving through the Canadian workforce. And that’s to say nothing of the need for people to decide if they want to save for their retirement or save for a home that they own. Until all those variables and conditions are appreciated any advice from experts seems to just fall flat.


Great Photography Shots

Flickr released the best 25 shots of 2017 and they’re pretty amazing. The ‘best’ in this case is derived from social and engagement metrics, combined with curation by Flickr’s own staff.

1-Iwona-Podlasinska-800x533
“Say Goodby…” by Iwona Podlasinka, at https://flic.kr/p/ZYM6Hd
6-Albert-Dros-800x534
“Mi Fuego” by Albert Dros at https://flic.kr/p/Tbcpio

Music I’m Digging

Neat Podcast Episodes

Good Reads for the Week

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  1. I actually do save every month to the tune of about 10-15% of my paycheque, part for retirement and part for an emergency fund.
  2. Guests did spend some time talking about whether retirement savings should should be an individualized/collective problem. But the constant refrain that individuals need to be smarter means that individuals, first and foremost, are seen as the parties that have to assume responsibility for their futures and any collective action work is an idealized maybe-solution to aging in Canada.
  3. To be fair, nudges were discussed, but the hard lessons came down on individuals having to gain literacy to make their own decisions.