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the thing with feathers

I know that practically every generation has thought that the end times were nigh, but it’s hard for me not to think that maybe this time we could be right. After all, we have Science now, more information than our brains were ever meant to absorb, and if I think too much about the bees and the coral reefs and the antibiotics and the cellphones in our hands and in our oceans and the borders and walls and cages and guns and bombs —

I find it a little hard to catch my breath.

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Blog

the thing about places and homes

Toronto was my first view of Canada, a grey slushy view in the dead of March that called into question my parents’ entire sanity. After the idyll of a tiny German university town (complete with castle ruins!), nothing about this place that was too big and too loud and too cold made sense. It had giant box stores in the middle of the city and a downtown that wasn’t entirely dedicated to pedestrians. It was basically barbaric.

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Blog

things that get my hackles up: a countdown

9. non-tech people trash talking tech products that don’t function perfectly as though tech were easy
8. tech people trash talking tech products that don’t function exactly the way they want them to as though tech were easy
7. non-tech people citing Arthur C Clarke’s “sufficiently advanced technology” quote as an excuse for wilful ignorance about the technical systems they use
6. tech people citing Arthur C Clarke’s “sufficiently advanced technology” quote as a justification for hostility and contempt towards their users
5. non-tech people rationalizing bad product decisions as though tech being hard were an excuse for mediocrity
4. tech people rationalizing bad ethical decisions as though tech being hard were an excuse for perpetuating social harm
3. non-tech people thinking the latest brand new disruptive app will generate enough cover to distract from the labour-hostile late-stage capitalist systems they’ve built
2. tech people latching onto universal basic income because it absolves them of the massive inequalities they’ve perpetuated
1. the macbook pro touchbar

it is possible I am in the wrong industry

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Blog, Commentary, Me

Media habits of the exhausted

I like thinking about media consumption habits. The often unconscious choices we make about what we allow space in our brain say a lot about what that brain looks like in that moment, and if you get good enough at noticing those patterns, they can be canaries in the coal mine for your mood. I track my reading habits pretty closely on Goodreads, so it’s easy for me to notice when I’m on a streak or going through a dry-spell. For example: when I’m anxious, I read detective stories where there is a logical reason for events and the bad guys get caught in the end. When I’m depressed, I stop reading new fiction because I don’t want to be potentially disappointed in a new world I’ve put emotional investment into. When I’m angry, I read non-fiction in the hopes that if I just understand our world a little better I can get a little better at helping solve its problems. And when I’m feeling optimistic, I buy new dead-tree books. I’m normally an e-book reader and I only get physical copies of books that resonate with me in some way, so if I’m buying a physical copy of a new book it’s because I feel like I have space in my life for the potential of something wonderful.

I’ve been noticing shifts in these patterns since the election. For one, I’m in school full time, so I’m already doing a lot of difficult new reading, which doesn’t leave a whole lot of time or brain space for leisure reading. For another, running the TinyLetter means that when I see things on the internet, there’s always a part of my brain that’s thinking about what ought to be included in the newsletter. It feels like an indulgence to read a long piece about something non-political on its own merits. I find myself automatically filing away articles that are not immediately salient in favour of Yet Another Explainer About Our Current Political Nightmare, and feeling guilty that it’s taking me months to work through The New Jim Crow while the fiction books on my nightstand gather dust.

This is, of course, damaging. Because one of the important things to keep in mind is that the capital-S Struggle is not enough for its own sake; there must be something to struggle for. And though it may be a small sliver compared to Big Complex Problems like human rights and equality and health care and climate change, the freedom to create and consume art that brings us joy is an essential component of the end goal, too.

We talk a lot about self-care. (Or, well, I do.) And it’s easy to take an afternoon off and unplug from Twitter and go for a walk and take a photo of the sunset and pretend that’s proof of mental serenity, but it’s a lot harder to practice mindful self-care on an ongoing, day-to-day, hour-to-hour basis. I’m not even talking about actually sitting down to read that cool review of a video game you’ll never play. I’m talking about exorcising that reflexive dismissal that such a thing could even have space in our lives, the foregone conclusion that we can no longer afford tiny beautiful things. We can, and we must.

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Blog, Me

It’s not like I was already working 80 hours a week or anything

A couple of quick things:

I went to the Women’s March and it was great! Then I wrote a guide for Canadians who want to keep that momentum going, since we can’t exactly call US reps. (I’ll have to mirror that here at some point for ~*canonical record*~ reasons but uh I don’t have time to deal with the formatting right now.)

I also started a TinyLetter. Since I’m patently not going to consume any less news than I currently do, I might as well use that fixation to help you consume less news.

Also, for the sake of full disclosure: I made all the posts on this blog prior to 2013 private. Because it turns out the writings of a self-important early-twenty-something-year-old are actually really obnoxious! Who woulda thunk.

I’m clearly much wiser now, in my ripe old age of late-twenty-something.

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Blog, Whimsy

Books of 2016

I read 65 books in 2016. Some random numbers:

At least 1 female author: 54%
At least 1 PoC author: 18% (Yikes – I’ll have to do better about that)
Nonfiction: 29% (this is way higher than normal and I am v proud!)
Fantasy: 20%
Comic books: 14%
YA: 11%
Mystery: 11%
Sci-Fi: 8%
Literary: 8%

Best fiction: Dark Orbit by Carolyn Ives Gilman (review), Fifth Season by NK Jemisin
Best non-fiction: Unspeakable Things by Laurie Penny (review)
Most beautiful language: Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Most thought-provoking: Utopia of Rules by David Graeber (review)
Most useful: Don’t Think of an Elephant by George Lakoff
Most enraging: How To Suppress Women’s Writing by Joanna Russ
Most sheer fun: Raven and the Reindeer by T. Kingfisher
Best comic: Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
Best follow-up in a series: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
Most disappointing: Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller (I like unreliable narrators but the nature of the reveal here was just, ugh.)
Most overrated: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Worst read: The Unhappenings by Edward Aubry (review)

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Blog, Commentary, Social Issues

Be Neville Longbottom

Donald Trump is President-elect of the United States of America.

This was a shock, but it was also not a surprise. It is always a mistake to underestimate the depth of bigotry.

I have spent most of the day staring off into nothing. I have not gone more than half an hour without tearing up or outright crying. I am already sick and tired of reading postmortems but I cannot stop clicking them like a hamster on speed, looking for something that could have saved you, could have saved us. I am angry at everybody. I am angry at everything. I want to tear shit up and burn things down. I want to disappear. Continue reading

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Blog, Commentary

Ashley Madison: It’s not really about infidelity.

(This post was first published on Medium.com)

About a week ago, I posted the following tweet:

In the week since a lot of new information has come to light. There has been a second, larger dump with source code and the CEO’s email. We know about “family values” activist Josh Duggar’s account on the site (for which he seems to be more apologetic than, you know, molesting his sisters). We know about women and members of the LGBTQ population living in repressive regimes whose lives have been put at serious risk because of the leak. We know there are already mercenary “security experts” that are using the public’s fear to harvest email addresses for scams. We are starting to see real-world fall-out, including at least two possible suicides that have been linked to this.

In other words, things have gotten a lot more complicated.

This issue is about much more than infidelity. It’s about our vicious delight in negativity, the inevitable failure of computer security and computer literacy, the collateral damage of schadenfreude, the normalization of vigilante justice, and a collective desire for black-and-white judgments.

This is going to get long. Bear with me. Continue reading

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Blog, Social Issues

Scattered thoughts about minimum wage

I got into a conversation about raising the minimum wage on a friend’s FB thread, and I am reposting my comments here cleaned up a bit so that text is not wasted. 

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If you work 40 hours a week doing nothing but flipping burgers, or mopping floors, or making coffee, I see no conceivable reason why you should not make a living wage. Any argument that attempts to justify why someone working full time should be unable to support themselves is nothing but classist bullshit for “keeping the poor in their place”. Continue reading

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