August 30, 2015

Diversions: August

A selection of essays, articles, and blog posts that inspired me this month.

The Art of Changing a City
City interventions are often stuck in routine process; it’s inspiring to read about a mayor who tried to use new interventions involving art and laughter to try to create behaviour change within the citizenry.

Stock Options? Don’t Need Em! I’m Coding For Uncle Sam!
There’s a certain kind of person—I count myself as one of them—that wants to spend their career in the service of the public, whether in the public service, or working on public good outside of the government. These new kinds of groups that act as innovative businesses inside of the bureaucracy help bridge those two worlds, and I’m excited to see how this will influence the larger machinery of government in the future.

Divide and Conquer
I lived, for a few years, just south of the Mason-Dixon line, in Arlington, Virginia. For me, it was a metaphorical divide, but you could feel the difference of the worlds just south of me and just north. I had no idea that there was a more physical, real line as well.

Is there a better way to talk about wine?
For the past few years, I’ve stopped thinking about wine descriptions as appropriate descriptors for what I’m about to drink, but instead as poetry that tells me what kinds of emotions are evoked when drinking, instead. They say more about the writer than the wine, and I’m okay with that.

Darling, We Don’t Play With Our Vulvas At The Table
The way we talk about sex with our young children will help them make healthier and smarter discussions when they get older. The whole culture of silence and euphemism doesn’t prepare them appropriately, and creates a aura of shame and secrecy.

Drake’s Meek Mill Diss Was a Sign of Hip-Hop’s New Political Correctness
The whole Drake-Meek beef was something I didn’t totally follow, but I did appreciate how Drake’s diss was more thoughtful than most diss tracks I’ve heard before. That said, the internalized misogyny of it all was still troublesome, and doesn’t bode well for hip hop.

New Yorkers have been illicitly cracking open fire hydrants for centuries
The one and only time I ever ran through a cracked-open fire hydrant on a hot day was when I was in Washington DC and I was nineteen years old. We spent hours running through the gallons of water in our underwear, chasing away the DC heat, laughing and giggling like children.

When I’m Gone
We don’t talk too much about death in our everyday lives. Perhaps we should. Perhaps we shouldn’t wait until we have passed to tell the people we love that we love them, and to come to terms that we all have to die one day, and there’s no need to be afraid.

In Praise of the AK-47
The mantra that the AK-47 is so well designed that even a child can use it” is heartbreaking. Mike Monteiro makes the case that a good design is one that adds something of value to the world, instead of takes the value away.

The Thriving World, the Wilting World, and You
I’m going to revisit this piece often; we talk so much about what we can give the world, but not what we take away.

It’s Not Climate Change, It’s Everything Change
Renown Canadian author Margaret Atwood has imagined a world without oil, and while the first scenario is rosy, it is unlikely. Every other scenario is bleak, and we’re not doing enough to protect ourselves from those doomsday scenarios, right now.

Warren Buffett’s Family Secretly Funded a Birth Control Revolution
I’m fascinated (read: dismayed) by the political atmosphere where donations made for increasing the knowledge around, and access to, female health products have to be made anonymously because people are vitriolic when it comes to science, health, and women.

Who Should Be Kicked Out of the Canon?
The one thing I’ve noticed about any discussion of canon”, literary or film or otherwise, is that the canon is usually full of dead white men, and the inclusion of women, people of color, and other minority groups often comes as an afterthought. We need to fix that.

How White Came to Be Synonymous With Clean and Good
The history of the color white as a connotation of clean” is fascinating, but problematic. While the association between whiteclean, and good is a historical one, it is problematic when used in the way we perceive people and in the current context.

Women need access, not finger wagging
The idea that it is harder to get female contraception in this country than it is to get male virility pills is indicative of a larger issue around the legislation and regulation of gender and morality.

Amusement Parks On Track For A Record-Breaking Year
My brother is one of those people who will drive for hours to go to a new amusement park. He has been to Sandusky, Ohio quite a few times to go to Cedar Point, and is always on the hunt for new amusement parks to check out.

Stakes Is High: Drake Ghostwriting Accusations Matter More Than You Think
The question of authenticity in rap lyricism is something I grew up on: we lauded rappers like Nas, Kweli, and Rakim because we knew that whatever they said on the mic was their own words, and not something given to them in a studio. Until recently, it was an issue I had rarely heard about since the 90s, but I’m fascinated by how the discourse has changed. 

The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here
It’s easy to ignore the effect that climate change has on our oceans because those effects are almost impossible to see when we stare out into the sea. Change is afoot, though, and we’ve already done some irreparable damage; we need to address this immediately, before it gets worse.

The Art of Putting Yourself Back Together: Moving Through Difficult Times
I’ve written a bunch about this before, but this piece is a good reminder: sometimes, when the world chews you up and spits you out, the rebuilding process is a good time to start afresh, become who you want to become, and leave the old you behind.

Episodes in the Life of Bounce
So much of the foundation of modern sport is built on the idea of bounce (and hence, rubber), but we so often don’t think of the role that bounce (of the ball, of our feet, etc.) and rubber have on the evolution of sport, and hence, the evolution of culture.

The Confession of Arian Foster
Are we at a time in popular culture where being an atheist, or at least, not espousing in a religious belief, can become an accepted, non-marginalized position? I know that in sports, and football especially, god is a central figure to the mythology of the game; what needs to happen to change that way of thinking?

Tinder and the Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse”
The age of mobile dating (particularly, Tinder) came about after I was in a committed relationship with the woman I am about to marry, so all these articles about how mobile dating (and easy access to sex) is changing our culture are absolutely fascinating to me.

The medium matters
I’ve been thinking about my need to have a personal computer, recently, and have realized that the only real reason I keep one around is for typing. I do a lot of writing, but I’m convinced that if I had a good, full-size keyboard that attached to my phone, maybe I won’t need a computer anymore. How would this affect my writing style, though?

Why Your Team Sucks 2015: New York Jets
Football begins in just over a week, and this off-season was a good reminder of how miserable it is to be a fan of the New York Jets. Read the fan responses” included in this post; they capture quite accurately how it feels to root, year after year, for the biggest joke of a sports franchise in the world.

The Downstairs Gays
It’s amazing how much we can learn about the people around us without speaking a word to them, these days. I’m making an effort to get to know my neighbors offline, but the internet is like a treasure-trove of secrets, open for everyone to see.

Faves and Facebook and the Tyranny of the Like” in a Difficult World
The idea of the fave” or like” is something I’ve been grappling with recently. There are times when the fave or like is a marker for the person who posted the update, there are times when I use it as a marker for myself to return to, and there are other times I use it to influence an algorithm. How can (and should we) separate the various use cases?

Tan Lines
As a person with dark skin, I would often get comments about my permanent tan” or how people would get as dark as you” during the summer. I never realized how this was problematic until I read this piece.

Design Thinking Comes of Age
The Harvard Business Review has a cover story on design thinking and ethnography, which is a big part of what I do everyday at work, this month. The article is a good way to help people understand what I’m working on at this new job.

What We Don’t Know About Canada Might Hurt Us
I had a chat with Munir Sheikh, who resigned in protest from his position as chief statistician of Canada in 2010 following the government’s decision to make the long-form census voluntary, a few weeks ago, and he was very explicit in stating that the changes around data and information happening in Canada are going to be extremely harmful to our economy and social services.

The two worlds of my Etobicoke
When I tell people that I grew up in Etobicoke, they immediately think of Mimico, or Queensway, and the quiet life of pseudo-suburban childhood. This is not the Etobicoke I know, and it takes me saying that I grew up in Rexdale that lets people realize that my Etobicoke is not necessarily the one they know.

The Rise of Phone Reading
Since getting her new phone earlier this year, almost all of L’s library reading is via ebook on her phone. People often mock me because I’m still prone to carry around big, heavy hardcovers with me everywhere I go.

Passageways open up Toronto neighbourhoods
Whenever I’m on one of my meandering strolls through the city, I do my best to find and walk down little, hidden passageways. Shawn captures the sentiment perfectly.

Never trust anyone who is rude to a waiter
That description of the author at a restaurant, being perhaps too nice and ingratiating? That’s basically a description of me every time I go out to a restaurant to eat.

8 Reasons to Turn Down That Startup Job
This piece is memorable mostly for the paragraph under point 7 which talks about how the new service economy” is essentially rich people trying to figure out how to get poor people to do all their work without paying them a decent wage.

How The Ballpoint Pen Killed Cursive
Being forced to write with a ballpoint pen probably made me loathe writing in cursive; I never really did learn how to write that way as a kid, because my hand hurt way too much. Now that I use a fountain pen for the majority of my writing, I may have to learn, finally.

A Father Introduces His Newborn Daughter To Books
The kind of letter I want to write to my child, one day: Books give you a way of decoding this crazy muddle of life. They will give you a way of describing the world, a way of finding your way through the extraordinary and the everyday. They are also a much needed refuge and escape. There are books for the break ups and the break downs, the make ups and the get downs.”