#Eschaton2012: some additional reflections

While my earlier summary was a bit more formal, I thought I’d give some more personal thoughts on the way I thought the conference went. First off, the TL/DR version of this post is “I enjoyed the shit out of the conference”, so there’s that for people who don’t want to read that much.

Me at the conference

Photo credit: Frances Wicks (@ottawafran)

A few of my favourite things [Read more...]

Two views of black masculinity

Circumstances have once again robbed me of the time and energy to dig too deep into blogging. Part of this is a massive paper that I have just finished – it looks at whether or not mandatory childhood vaccination is legally, ethically, and scientifically justified in a Canadian context. Part of it is prepping for my Eschaton2012 presentation that I will be giving in Ottawa this weekend. Part of it is prioritizing my personal relationships above blogging, given how much of a time suck these other two things have been. At any rate, no post for you today.

In lieu, I want to highlight two essays on a topic I’ve had some call to think about recently. The first is by Robert Reece, perhaps better known to some of you as PhuzzieSlippers, a former guest on the SERIOUSLY?! podcast*: [Read more...]

Because Abortion needs to be explained, apparently.

I am irate. Look, I realise that I am in a position of privilege, and I realise that I’m not angry about this all the time because I’m male and that this is something that I have the privilege of simply not-concerning-myself-about for the vast bulk of my life.

I rationalise this as that I pay attention only insofar as harm is brought to my attention. And Ireland has ever-so-slowly been moving towards legalising abortion since 1992. Oh, that’s right, you didn’t know that abortion was illegal in Ireland. My bad. Did you know that it was actually illegal for doctors to tell patients about their abortion options in other countries? And that it was illegal for people to travel to another country for an abortion? No? Well, anyway, we were focused on my privilege, so let’s keep on topic.

[Read more...]

Thinking in tune

Many of you probably know that I am a musician. Perhaps fewer of you know that guitar is my second instrument (third, if you count voice). I am actually probably better identified as a classically-trained viola player. In my relatively short career, I played 5 years in the Mississauga Youth Orchestra (3 years as viola section leader), 2 years with the University of Waterloo Symphony, and another 2 years with the Kingston Symphony. I was also a member of various string quartets through the years – one of our most notable achievements was playing at a dinner hosted by the Metro Toronto Chamber of Commerce and attended by the then-deputy premier of Ontario.

I wasn’t a particularly good player until I came under the tutelage of Mark Childs, a viola virtuoso who had a reputation as a strict disciplinarian and a wizard at teaching technique. To work with Mark was to re-learn the viola – he literally brought me back to the very beginning: learning to hold the bow, learning how to place my fingers on the fingerboard, learning to listen to notes, learning to make the right sound. It was an unbelievably frustrating process, coming as I was from nearly 8 years playing experience to return to a beginner level.

One of the most obvious differences between an instrument like a viola and an instrument like, say, a guitar, is the absence of frets on the fingerboard. While there are fretted viols, those mostly fell out of favour in the classical era, meaning that it is theoretically possible to produce any and all possible pitches within the span of an octave. Of course, you only want to produce one of twelve at any given time, meaning that anything other than the right note is the wrong note. Unlike a fretted instrument where as long as you stop the string somewhere between the frets you’ll hit the correct pitch, classical viols require your fingers to know where the correct position is within fractions of a milimeter. [Read more...]

State of the Blogion

I feel I owe you an explanation for the disrupted service that’s been going on for the past weeks. Maybe you haven’t noticed, in which case “great”, but if you’ve been missing the schedule of posts, here’s what’s been going on.

As I mentioned some months ago, I started a PhD program at the beginning of September. This means that, in order to fit my class schedule into my work schedule, I have moved to longer days at the office. As a result, I have been trying to bang stuff out on my lunch hour instead of working on it the night before as has been my habit for the past year or so that the blog has been running. Hence why, for example, most of the last couple of week’s posts have been going up at 1300 PST rather than their usual 0600 PST. It also explains why there are fewer posts.

As I’ve also (I think?) mentioned, I have just started dating someone. Because she and I are both busy people, we covet the time we get to with each other, meaning that on weekends I am usually preoccupied with enjoying the living shit out of her company. Weekends were when I was able to get most of my substantive writing done, but that time is now being used for something else. [Read more...]

My triumphant return

I am (at least physically) back from Tofino after an unbelievable weekend, only some of which I am comfortable describing on the internet :P

It’s going to take me a couple of days to have new content up here, so unfortunately my hiatus continues for a while but (as always) I will get back to my routine as soon as I can locate my frontal lobe. Until then, you can check out my photo album from the trip. I haven’t yet had a chance to resize these pics for those of you without ludicrous-speed internet, so please stay tuned.

There is video, however:

What happens when you throw naphthene on a fire?

We bought fire colourant packages from a park administrative office. Very pretty result:

When our fire got shut down, we started a mobile beach dance party:

I’ve also freed some people from comment jail. Again, my apologies, but it was either that or get spammed to hell. New stuff up soon!

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Movie Friday: Off the grid

I’ll be in Tofino this weekend, which means no phone, no e-mails, and best (or worst, depending on your perspective) of all, no blogging. I will be complontly unplogged for 4 glorious days. This means I will not be supervising comments or posting new stuff for a few days, which means y’all are on your own. I’m sure I’ll come back to a bunch of people with comments in moderation complaining about how I’m “censoring” them and how un-”freethought” that is of me. I won’t care though – did I mention I’ll be in Tofino?

See you when I get back.

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“How come there’s no post today?!”

Because instead of doing the responsible thing and staying home last night, I went and did this:

Talib Kweli is an unbelievably skilled emcee, and when I saw he was coming to Vancouver I thought there must surely be a mistake. My reflexive skeptical cynicism notwithstanding, I bought a ticket and went to Yaletown to check out the show. The first opening act, a local outfit called KIDS, was unbelievable – lots of energy, great stage presence, culminating in a finale spit partially in English, partially in Farsi. Definitely planning on checking them out again. The other openers… I won’t waste time identifying them – they were mediocre.

Kweli was, of course, amazing. In the seminal and timeless cut “Eric B. is President”, Rakim lays down a manifesto for all those who would try to bless the mic in the coming years: “to me, MC means ‘move the crowd’.” Kweli didn’t shy away from this challenge at all – a previously lukewarm crowd was whipped into a frenzy so hot that the rafters actually started sweating. Vancouver’s hip-hop scene is pretty weak (hence my surprise that Kweli was here), but clearly there are some true school fans there that night. [Read more...]

I have amazing friends

I know what my role is in the ‘struggle’ for minority equality and greater understanding. I’m a writer, a describer, an arguer. That’s what’s in me to do. Although I am more or less content with my ‘job’, I can’t help but feel a deep and quasi-envious admiration for those people who actually go out there and do stuff.

Case in point:

The 13 girls and their families are mostly recent immigrants, from Nigeria, Pakistan, Jamaica, Somalia and Iraq. Two girls have only been here a month; they’ve just arrived from Iraqi refugee camps in Syria. Their friends help to translate, and they soaked it all in.

The workshop is lead by a young woman, Heather Payne of  a non-profit called Girls Learning Code. I met Heather through the Mozilla Foundation, who has hired her and others like her to build a new generation of webmakers around the planet. This summer, they’re encouraging people around the world to run Kitchen Code Parties of their own. We thought it would be great to do so at the HIGHRISE highrise too, where we’ve worked with adults for almost 3 years now with such participatory photography an storytelling projects such as One Millionth Tower.

We also knew we needed to work with the youth at this building when our Digital Citizenship Survey showed us last year that a whopping 50% of the population at this highrise is under 20 years of age. That’s a lot of kids with not much to do all summer long.

“We know that if we advertise the workshop for both boys and girls,” Heather explains to me, “Only boys will show up. So making the group open only for girls ensures girls make it to the keyboard.”

“I was so excited to hear about this workshop,” says one girl, “Because all we do all summer long is stay in our apartment and clean.” The needs of the kids are high, and so few services exist in highrise neighbourhoods such as this.

Heather Payne is a friend from high school who I (in my self-centred undergraduate haze) lost track of for a few years. When she popped back onto my radar, she had decided that it simply wasn’t enough to merely comment on the obstacles facing young women when it came to career path selection. She decided to do something about it, and in the past handful of months her brainchild Ladies Learning Code has taken off in a big way.

Read the rest of the profile about what she’s doing, and if you are so moved, follow her on Twitter. And then tell her I said nice things about her. And then… I dunno, go do something else.

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Movie Friday: All Along the Watchtower

Today is the last day of blog vacation. I’ll be back to normal starting on Monday. I have no idea if this dude is ever going to find ‘normal’:

Seriously though, if you ever get a chance to go to Montreal, you should. It’s a crazy place.

This wasn’t part of a festival or anything, this was just a random Friday lunch-hour in May. So much fun!

Anyway, see you next week.

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