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 July 30-August 5, 2018 Edition

The Seat by Christopher Parsons

I’m finally back in the swing of regularly getting up, and out, to make more photos. It’s once again an almost meditative activity: the process of carefully looking at my surroundings, thinking through what might be aesthetically appealing, and then trying to push myself to realize what I see in my minds eye is deeply relaxing. It’s leading me to start looking at the world as someone involved in photography: even when I don’t have camera in hand I’m trying to ‘see’ the shots around me, the focal ranges I’d want, apertures I’d prefer, and so forth.

Strapping on my camera has also been good in getting me to walk around areas of the city that I haven’t visited in too many months or, in some cases, years. Huge parts of my city have transformed themselves in short periods of time, with new art installations scattered throughout the core, old places I liked to photograph having been torn down, and new places being built right now.

In case you’re interested in seeing more of my photos, I post them more regularly at Instagram, despite my annoyance with certain elements of that social media platform.


Inspiring Quotation of the Week

“When you take responsibility for your life, you can choose peace instead of drama, growth instead of complacency and love instead of abuse.”

– Kyle D. Jones

Great Photography Shots

I’m continually impressed with just how much can be done with smartphone cameras; a recent set from Mobiography on the topic of ‘stunningly beautiful world inspired’ photos led to some great shots.

On this dreary day, memories of Provence sunflowers make me smile‘ by Barbara Frish
Foggy morning‘ by Liz Anderson
Out of the mist they come‘ by @Rawdeb

Music I’m Digging

  • Underworld and Iggy Pop – Teatime Dub Encounters (EP) // The curious combination of electronic dub and Iggy’s mostly spoken word contributions make for a unique listening experience. I keep thinking that it reminds me, here and there, of a very very upbeat Leonard Cohen. And then a few bars later (and Iggy’s own screechy voice) and I recant that position.
  • Sam Hague – Altered Carbon (Playlist) // I loved Altered Carbon when it came out: it was the gritty cyberpunk environment that I love that was accompanied by a decent plot and sufficiently interesting characters. The original series’ soundtrack is good, but I find that Sam’s playlist does a better job at more broadly capturing the ambiance and mood that I associated with cyberpunk settings.
  • Tool – 10,000 Days // Not a new album by any stretch, but I’ve been listening to this regularly all week. I love the instrumentals in Jambi and how in-depth the instrumentals and vocals are for Wings for Marie, Pt. 1 and 10,000 Days (Wings, Pt. 2).

Neat Podcast Episodes

  • Planet Money – Venezuela’s Fugitive Money Trades // A discussion of why the current government of Venezuela is struggling to shut out groups who are providing US dollars to citizens, and the potential for the Venezuela economy to spontaneously shift default currencies to one pegged to the US dollar.
  • The Heart – No: Answers // (Part three of a four part series; trigger warning) In this episode, Kaitlin talks with men about why, and when, they ignored when when women said they wanted a given sexual activity to stop. It’s a raw, hurtful, episode to listen to. And it’s critical than discussions like this are listened to, widely, by men to understand the threats that many women have already faced, and many more fear facing in the future.
  • Lawfare – Should Humans Communicate with Aliens? // Shane Harris hosts a fun discussion about the ethics of communicating with foreign beings, and works through a series of different thought experiments with his guests (e.g. what if we get a message from 50,000 years ago? What if spaceships suddenly appear over our cities?). One thing that stuck with me was that we are likely to be deeply challenged in speaking with any visitors; we can’t current communicate with intelligent life forms on Earth such as dolphins, whales, or octopi; why do we think we’ll be any more successful with beings not of this earth?
  • Wag the Dog – Dark, Dirty, and Disruptive // A new episodic and intermittent CanadaLand podcast, Allison Smith and Jonathan Goldsbie look over what Doug Ford has done since becoming Premier of Ontario, and what those actions means for how Ford will govern and Ontario likely fare under his dictates.

Good Reads for the Week

  • The most relaxing vacation you can take is going nowhere // I’m anticipating a staycation at some point in the coming year or so, and have a list of specific things I want to do (mainly engage in photography around the city, where I’m unlikely to otherwise venture out to). Friends of mine have taken these for years and swear by their relaxing quality; while I don’t want to give up travelling for vacation, I also want to find ways of appreciating where I live that much more.
  • At any given time in their lives, people have two dozen regular haunts // Based on research, scientists have found that humans seem to have an upper limit of places that they regularly visit or spend time at. This research makes me want to think through the different places I regularly frequent and determine just how many frequent haunts I really do have, as well as when they change and perhaps why.
  • Inside the World of Racist Science Fiction // An insightful look at how the tropes of white nationalist literature now pervade the very language used by the White House.
  • Photo of Kissing Gay Couple Sparks Controversy at One of Brazil’s Most Important and Iconic Tourist Sites // Sometimes people ask how they can be an ally of a group they support, but do not belong to; this business owner shows how it can be done.
  • Your IoT security concerns are stupid // Robert Graham has a very contrarian position on IoT security: the issue isn’t patching or DNS, but something we can’t really see yet. Solving for old problems in policy is going to cost more than the benefit and, so, he argues we should let technologists just solve things at market speed instead of waiting for politics to catch up.
  • When Rio Tinto Met China’s Iron Hand // A truly stunningly detailed investigative report that unpacks how Chinese security and intelligence services are weaponized against foreign companies. Particularly noteworthy is the decision by Rio Tinto to maintain dealings with Chinese companies despite knowing they are compromised and targeted: the lure of profits mean that they will continue to negotiate and contract despite being at gross informational disadvantages.
  • Google Plans to Launch Censored Search Engine in China, Leaked Documents Reveal // When Google left the Chinese market it was heralded as a demonstration of how corporations could, and should, behave to advance human rights. Google’s plans to return to China are a serious, and painful, blow to those who have campaigned for internet freedom and human rights across the world.
  • Jeff Bezos’s $150 Billion Fortune Is a Policy Failure // The Atlantic argues that Bezos’ fortunes are the result of economic policies that disenfranchise those least well off in society while, simultaneously, externalizing the costs of wage depression and associated health challenges to the public purse. While the article concludes by arguing Bezos, himself, hasn’t necessarily done anything wrong I don’t think this holds up to the article’s own assessment of Amazon: a history of deliberately busting union-organizing, promoting non-compete agreements to inhibit worker mobility, and efforts to avoid paying taxes are all indications that the company — and Bezos by extension — is more interested in exploiting persons and localities than ?supporting the communities that it’s located within. Communities, like the humans they employ, are merely disposable assets.
  • The World Economy Runs on GPS. It Needs a Backup Plan // GPS is critical to almost all aspects of contemporary life. While Russia and the EU, along with China, have or are deploying their equivalents to reduce their dependence of American system, those very systems are vulnerable to interference that could shut down vast swathes of our lives. This is an issue that all governments need to seriously address, and soon, rather than just waiting until something bad happens.

The Roundup for July 23-29, 2018 Edition

Stay Frosty by Christopher Parsons

For several months it’s been hard for me to get out and take photos. Not because I didn’t have the time but I wasn’t in the right state of mind to work through the challenges in my life through shutter therapy. In the past few weeks I’ve pushed myself out to take a few photowalks and they’ve been immensely helpful in just helping me to slow down, to get into a different-than-normal creative flow, and to create things that I find captivating and beautiful. And, in the process, it’s been helpful to reflect on the past, the present, and contemplate my future.

For the past several months I wanted to avoid excessively taking photos to avoid capturing that time in amber; instead, I wanted to have memories develop that would fade and twist and turn over the coming years. I wanted to avoid capturing too many images that might, in time, come to feel painful upon reflection and consideration. I don’t know if this was the ‘correct’ decision or whether I’ll regret not spending more time to capture more images. Regardless, that die is cast.

At least for now, I’m motivated to get back out and shoot, often with particular aims and ends and shots in mind. One of the things that I’m finding most curious is that in returning to certain locations that I trend towards in the city, I’m not necessarily seeing them in different ways but, instead, seeing the breadth of scenes slightly differently. That is, I’m not just seeing the ‘kind’ of image that I’d like to make in a given location; I’m also seeing how to try and get that image, and a series of different techniques that might let me accomplish that goal. I’d be lying if I said that I’ve been successful in achieving many of those shots but I’m getting a lot more of them, now, than I ever would have a year or so ago.


I had a small moment of digital indigestion over at my professional site this week – a maintenance update didn’t take, leaving my site in a permanent state of ‘This site is temporary unavailable for maintenance’ – and fortunately the Internet had me covered to quickly fix the problem.


Inspiring Quotation of the Week

“Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.”

– Albert Einstein

Great Photography Shots

The shots that won in the iPhone Photography Awards this year are, as always, stunning. It’s really amazing to see how much can be done with the relative small sensors in contemporary mobile phones.

Music I’m Digging

  • blackbear – cybersex // I’m really appreciating the fusion of solid beats and good flow across the majority of the album.
  • Jazz Cartier – Fleurever // I’ve only listened to this a few times through at this point, and while I think that I prefer his earlier album Hotel Paranoia the beats and flow, again, are great in this. The opening — with a reference to Spadina station in Toronto — was really eerie when I first heard it; I’d thought I started listening to something entirely unlike what I thought was coming.

Neat Podcast Episodes

  • Dear Sugars – Trust Your Body // This is a strong episode from Dear Sugars, with solid examinations of the kinds of body issues that people carry with them, the rationales behind them, and ways in which our bodies react to our being in the world. While the emphasis is on destigmatizing our perceptions of the body, I found that it was equally helpful to just think through the ways in which we inhabit our bodies and why.
  • Song Exploder – Action Bronson – The Chairman’s Intent // I’m not going to lie: “The Chairman’s Intent” is far from a good song. The lyrics are…poor. But the beat is pretty impressive and, more generally, I found it interesting to hear the producer and artist talk through how over-the-top they perceived the song as they were getting it ready.
  • The Daily – Which to Believe: Trump’s Words, or His Acts? // In a start admittance, the Secretary of State was led to assert that Trump’s words meant little compared to actions and, upon realizing what he was saying, retreated quickly from that position. However, what was asserted was how members of the administration have been talking about Trump — and how persons surrounding the administration have been reassuring allies since Trump’s election — and that there is considered a problem in admitting to the public what we already know just further indicates the chaos built into the current administrations behaviours and associations with trust.
  • Planet Money – The One-Page Plan to Fix Global Warming Revisited // This is a superb overview of the rationales for a carbon tax and is helpful for showcasing how idiotic is that conservative populist leaders in Canada and the United States alike are abandoning a solution that would economically motivate the world towards a less carbon-intensive future.

Good Reads for the Week

  • Seeing My Body With Fresh Eyes // This is a beautiful personal essay that showcases the challenges of dealing with our bodies and the value of positive affirmations by those near to you. As someone who suffered negative body issues for years, issues which were exacerbated by persons who were close to me and deeply critical of my appearance, I can say that time spent with a loving partner who was supportive of my body made a huge difference in recuperating my own sense of self, and in finding comfort and safety in the body I inhabit.
  • Tony // This is a wonderful telling of who Tony Bourdain was, through the eyes and using the words of one of America’s best storytellers. It captures the heart of who Bourdain was and why his death is a loss for us all.
  • The SIM Hijackers // An long form piece of journalism that examines how easy it is to hijack your phone number, and the consequences of a malicious operator doing just that. In effect, there is the high potential for the operator to subsequently gain access to your online accounts regardless of whether you’ve set up two factor authentication.
  • Kinder Morgan company used private investigators to monitor pipeline protestors. Here’s how it worked // A detailed investigation into how Kinder Morgan — and now, perhaps, the federal government of Canada — uses private investigators to spy on protestors so as to obtain evidence used to strengthen penalties against those who participate in peaceful civil disobedience.
  • Beat Generosity Burnout // ”Generosity means caring about others, but not at the expense of caring for yourself. By protecting yourself from exhaustion, you may feel less altruistic. Yet you will actually end up giving more.”
  • Why I’m Deleting All My Old Tweets // I deleted a lot of old tweets earlier this year, and just went through the process of deleting almost all of them. Twitter is deliberately designed to be a reactive medium and, as such, I tend to regard it as a medium that should be relatively ephemeral. It’s a shame Twitter themselves haven’t set up their service such that tweets over a certain age are automatically deleted/archived/removed from public view.
  • When a Stranger Decides to Destroy Your Life // An investigation by Gizmodo which showcases how much harm random strangers can cause, and how such harm is sometimes linked to a lack of empathy between persons communicating over social media.
  • Behind the Messy, Expensive Split Between Facebook and WhatsApp’s Founders // Facebook: ruining otherwise good applications and services since it began acquiring them. In the absence of the pro-privacy founders of WhatsApp, who had designed the service to be profitable but not as profitable as Facebook desires, WhatsApp will now “be run by Chris Daniels, a longtime Facebook executive who is tasked with finding a business model that brings in revenue at a level to justify the app’s purchase price, without damaging the features that make it so popular.” Expect the app to suck, fast, and for people to hate it as much as they do Facebook Messenger, Facebook’s social media platform and, increasingly, Instagram itself.
  • How Silicon Valley Became a Den of Spies // This is the second piece I’ve read in recent history on the counterintelligence operations that the FBI undertakes in Silicon Valley. The article specifically speaks to some of the methods used by Russian, Chinese, Israeli, French, and South Korean intelligence services, and the rationales driving different kinds of operations. If you’re interested in the significance of intelligence and counterintelligence operations in the United States then this article’s for you.

Cool Things

The Roundup for June 16-July 1, 2018 Edition

Monsterous Weather by Christopher Parsons

The past few weeks have been clustered with travel across Canada for work and personal reasons, and a lot of packing as I prepare to move a few kilometres in my city. (I suspect it won’t be until after I move that things settle down and return to a more regular posting schedule.)

I’ve made a small change in this Edition that I’ll be carrying forward in all future roundups: beside each link is a little more information about the item in question to clarify what will be found on the other end of the link. I hope you like it.

 


Inspiring Quotation of the Week

A person’s dignity does not depend on them being a citizen, a migrant, or a refugee. Saving the life of someone fleeing war and poverty is an act of humanity.

  • Pope Francis

Great Photography Shots

Daniel Mercadante’s light photography is just magical.

Music I’m Digging

  • The Carters – Everything Is Love//This might be the surprise album of the season, with APESHIT looking like it might be the Hotline Bling of 2018.
  • Jay Rock – Redemption//I hadn’t come across his work in the past, and it’s slowly starting to grow on me.
  • NAS – Nasir//I can’t pretend to appreciate many of NAS’ lyrics — the nonsense he writes about vaccines, in particular, are frustrating at best — but in terms of flow NAS’s new album is pretty terrific.

Neat Podcast Episodes

Good Reads for the Week

  • Interview with Ragnar Axelssom//An interesting, if sad, interview with a photographer who’s watched climate change damage and destroy otherwise pristine northern environments.
  • Instagram’s Wannabe-Stars Are Driving Luxury Hotels Crazy//More and more companies are capitulating to ‘influencers’ coming to promote their businesses. But to no one’s surprise, many of those so-called influencers really just want a free trip and a place to take swimsuit shots.
  • 8 Men on What It Was Like When Their Partner Had an Abortion//An honest account of the often complicated, and hard to express, feelings pro-choice men have in cases of unintended pregnancies.
  • Friends and enemies: Reacting to Apple’s privacy stance//”Is Apple your friend? No. Of course not. It’s a company that sells stuff. But, right now at least, it’s an ally. And The Macalope doesn’t know about anyone else, but he’s not clear on the rationale behind the “Always shoot your allies first” policy.”
  • The Death of a Once Great City: The fall of New York and the urban crisis of affluence//This is an ode to the downfall of New York that has been brought about by speculative land development, rising property taxes, and a hollowing out of what made the city itself. But the same thing could be written for any of the cities that are now experiencing hyper-inflated rent increases, declines of social and public services, and a general shift toward transient populations over permanent residents. What will become of these cities in ten or twenty years time?
  • Canadian winemaker Norman Hardie accused of sexual misconduct//The Globe & Mail’s investigation of sexual impropriety in the food and beverage business has revealed that one of Canada’s more notable winemakers has a long history of harassing women. And, once more, the reporting reveals that basic power imbalances led women to just leave bad situations instead of feeling like they could demand accountability and justice. If there is any silver lining, it’s that the story is coming out, now, and that there were at least some persons who refused to have business transactions with Hardie after realizing what he did to women who were around him. Sadly, such refusals were often premised on a personal realization of the truth of the behaviours: the men who stopped doing business with Hardie didn’t choose to believe women from the get-go.
  • A Janitor Preserves the Seized Belongings of Migrants//Looking at these everyday items which were (and are) seized and discarded by American border authorities I’m reminded of a Canada 150 exhibit where the contents of migrants’ bags were presented. Many of the ‘inconsequential’ things like rice, or toilet paper, held incredible value for those making the trip to Canada; while they might have been ‘inconsequential’ to the eyes of Canadian authorities, I’m very happy that we didn’t take away those things that provided a sense of security to the persons migrating to Canada.
  • How Tidal Got So Fucked//A deep dive into the problematic business practices associated with Tidal, Jay-Z’s music stream service. The title of the article is entirely apt.
  • It Can Happen Here //”In their different ways, Mayer, Haffner, and Jarausch show how habituation, confusion, distraction, self-interest, fear, rationalization, and a sense of personal powerlessness make terrible things possible. They call attention to the importance of individual actions of conscience both small and large, by people who never make it into the history books.”
  • Explaining the ‘Mystery’ of Numbers Stations//A great deep dive into how messages are decoded from numbers stations, as well as whom has used them and to what effect.
  • Intel and the Danger of Integration//Intel has been stumbling for years now, as evidenced in the inability of companies like Apple re reliably provide new processors with meaningful changes into their product lines for the past several years. At the same time, other chip designers and foundries are racing ahead of Intel. Thompson’s article does a good job in laying out how Intel got into its current conundrum and the corresponding implications.

The Roundup for April 14-20, 2018 Edition

Walkways by Christopher Parsons

Earlier this year, I suggested that the current concerns around Facebook data being accessed by unauthorized third parties wouldn’t result in users leaving the social network in droves. Not just because people would be disinclined to actually leave the social network but because so many services use Facebook.

Specifically, one of the points that I raised was:

3. Facebook is required to log into a lot of third party services. I’m thinking of services from my barber to Tinder. Deleting Facebook means it’s a lot harder to get a haircut and impossible to use something like Tinder.

At least one company, Bumble, is changing its profile confirmation methods: whereas previously all Bumble users linked their Facebook information to their Bumble account for account identification, the company is now developing their own verification system. Should a significant number of companies end up following Bumble’s model then this could have a significant impact on Facebook’s popularity, as some of the ‘stickiness’ of the service would be diminished.1

I think that people moving away from Facebook is a good thing. But it’s important to recognize that the company doesn’t just provide social connectivity: Facebook has also made it easier for businesses to secure login credential and (in others cases) ‘verify’ identity.2 In effect one of the trickiest parts of on boarding customers has been done by a third party that was well resourced to both collect and secure the data from formal data breaches. As smaller companies assume these responsibilities, without the equivalent to Facebook’s security staff, they are going to have to get very good, very fast, at protecting their customers’ information from data breaches. While it’s certainly not impossible for smaller companies to rise to the challenge, it won’t be a cost free endeavour, either.

It will be interesting to see if more companies move over to Bumble’s approach or if, instead, businesses and consumers alike merely shake their heads angrily at Facebook’s and continue to use the service despite its failings. For what it’s worth, I continue to think that people will just shake their heads angrily and little will actually come of the Cambridge Analytica story in terms of affecting the behaviours and desires of most Facebook users, unless there are continued rapid and sustained violations of Facebook users’ trust. But hope springs eternal and so I genuinely do hope that people shift away from Facebook and towards more open, self-owned, and interesting communications and networking platforms.


Thoughtful Quotation of the Week

The brands themselves aren’t the problem, though: we all need some stuff, so we rely on brands to create the things we need. The problem arises when we feel external pressure to acquire as if new trinkets are a shortcut to a more complete life. That external pressure shouldn’t be a sign to consume. If anything, it’s a sign to pause and ask, “Who am I buying this for?”

Great Photography Shots

I was really stunned by Zsolt Hlinka’s architectural photography, which was featured on My Modern MET.

Music I’m Digging

Neat Podcast Episodes

Good Reads for the Week

Cool Things

Footnotes

  1. I think that the other reasons I listed in my earlier post will still hold. Those points were:

    1. Few people vote. And so they aren’t going to care that some shady company was trying to affect voting patterns.
    2. Lots of people rely on Facebook to keep passive track of the people in their lives. Unless communities, not individuals, quit there will be immense pressure to remain part of the network.

  2. I’m aware that it’s easy to establish a fake Facebook account and that such activity is pretty common. Nevertheless, an awful lot of people use their ‘real’ Facebook accounts that has real verification information, such as email addresses and phone numbers.