Diversions: July

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

Ink - Written by Hand
I’ve had quite a few people ask me who did the gorgeous lettering on our wedding save-the-date bookmarks and our website. If you watch this 7-minute documentary, you’ll be able to easily guess it was Tanja. Tanja is one of the most talented photographers I’ve ever met, but she’s also an incredible penpal. Not only is her penmanship stunning, but she is also kind and thoughtful. I’m lucky to know her, and feel extremely lucky and blessed that she shared her beautiful script with L and I for our wedding.

Stop Buying in Bulk
I once read an article that compared the standard sizes of refrigerators in North America and in Europe and used that to explain how we went from “buy groceries many times a week” to “buy groceries in bulk every couple of weeks.” This isn’t that article, but it’s an interesting look at how we can start changing habits.

What the End of the Universe Can Teach Us About Dying
One of the projects I was working on in my previous job was around end-of-life care and how we can make that better for everyone involved. A big part of the issue was the reluctance and inability to talk about death and dying throughout our lives in a coherent, rational way. Death isn’t an easy topic to address when you’re young and healthy, but that’s exactly when you need to start talking about it.

The real Vancouver emerges (from the ruins of the plebiscite)
The results of the recent Vancouver plebiscite around transit is a clear indication of what I had been noticing more and more when I’ve visited that city recently: the car is king, and the appetite to invest in public infrastructure of any kind is dwindling. We’re still planning to move out west at some point, but I’m not liking what I’m seeing from this trend.

How One Man Poisoned a City’s Water Supply (and Saved Millions of Children’s Lives in the Process)
Steven Johnson looks at Dr. John Leal who, without the appropriate permissions, introduced chlorine into the drinking water supply of Jersey City, and subsequently changed public health as we know it. The fact that one of the basic tenets of public health was introduced surreptitiously (and that Dr. Leal was prosecuted for it) is astounding

All My Single Diners
Even now that I’m in a committed, long-term relationship, I still carve out time for solo dining. I’ve long been a proponent of eating at nice restaurants alone; while I love having the company of friends and loved ones, from time to time, I want to be able to fully engage with the food, service, and experience of the restaurant, and let it be my company for the evening.

City Hall Glossary
Neville Park put together a list of all the jargon and technical terms you might find in a municipal council meeting (focused specifically on Toronto, but relevant to other municipalities). This is an incredibly useful public service for anyone that cares about how decisions are made in their towns and cities.

An urgent matter: more public washrooms
Something I’ve been thinking about as I’ve been exploring how to encourage pedestrianism in the city: how do we ensure people have access to washrooms? As it stands now, I have to buy an espresso at a Starbucks every time I need to go to the bathroom on one of my long, meandering strolls through the city.

Social Issues: A Woman In Uniform
I’ve often wondered how good, thoughtful, introspective police officers these days have been grappling with the big issues around police abuse, brutality, racial profiling, and other inexcusable behavior, all while doing their best to do their job of protecting citizens and the neighborhoods in which they live.

Sincerely, Ralph Nader
Think what you want about Ralph Nader’s politics, but these letters prove that he is eloquent, articulate, knowledgeable, opinionated, and generally-well-reasoned—and of course, a little full of himself too. Still, this collection of letters to Presidents is an enlightening look at domestic and foreign policy over the past decade.

When You Give a Tree an Email Address
Officials in Melbourne gave email addresses to trees so that people could report concerns and problems like broken branches. Instead, people did what we all should do: write beautiful love letters to the wonderful trees that surround us and add so much to our built environment.

A new class: Canada neglects the precariat at its peril
Interesting piece of thought: instead of the lower, middle, and upper classes, what if we reframed our economic and social policies to reflect the changing reality for many these days, where work, housing, and social support is all precarious?

Why I Am Not A Maker
Over the past four years, I’ve been immersed in a career where I’ve been surrounded by “makers,” people creating products and services to for either profit or social good or both. When people ask me what I make, I always tell them that I “help the people who make things” rather than make anything myself.

What Do You Say When Someone Tells You About Their Mental Health Diagnosis?
When I first started being vocal about my bipolar disorder and my anxiety, a lot of people didn’t know how to react. It wasn’t any malice on their part: we’re just not prepared or taught how to respond to the sharing of that kind of information.

Planning your ideal week
Mike Anderson plans his ideal week around themes, rather than activities. I need to start being more conscious about this kind of thematic planning. I wouldn’t know where to start, though — it might require more introspection on what themes are actually important to me.

Dispatches From the Content Factory: On the Rise and Fall of the New Creative Class
It’s a bit shocking to me just how little copywriting is valued in large organizations, still, to this day.

The Web We Have to Save
I remember when Hossein Derakshan went to jail. As someone who has been blogging since 1999, and who had interacted with Hoder quite a few times while he was heading up the Toronto blog scene, his capture and incarceration was shocking and sobering. Things have come a long way since then, for better, and for worse.

The Good Indian Friend: A Manual
“The good Indian friend knows all about the perfect way to make “chai tea”. The redundancy keeps her up at night. But the good Indian friend refrains from informing you that the term makes no sense.”

Sadness Scares The Shit Out Of Me
Inside Out is the first Pixar movie to be released that I haven’t seen on opening weekend. Despite all the glowing reviews, I was worried that all the focus on “emotion” would focus on happiness as the natural resting state of an individual; I worried that despite it being an excellent film, this perceived importance of happiness would linger and marr the my enjoyment in the long term. Matt Brown assures me that this is definitely not the case.

Masculinity Is Killing Men: The Roots of Men and Trauma
Growing up, especially around sports teams, the recurring refrain was to “man up” or to “be a man.” Expressions of emotion were discouraged, and that pervasive culture of emotional shuntedness is making our world a worse place.

Thousands of days later
No matter how hard you try to forget, some phone numbers just stick in your head.

The Hard Truths of Ta-Nehisi Coates
I met Ta-Nehisi Coates, briefly, about five years ago. I had no idea that he would end up being one of the leading intellectuals and thinkers on race in the world, back then. His is a voice that needs to be heard, and I’m glad that people are listening.

Obama on the Hoofbeats of History
The huge successes of the end of the Obama administration’s tenure have been a reflection of why people elected him in the first place — and why so many people have been disappointed over the previous six years. The end of this presidency reflects the “hope” that was espoused at its start.

How to Come to Terms with Your Attraction to ‘Fat Girls’
The societal pressure for men to be sexually attracted to women who fit a certain mold of “attractiveness” is part of a larger discussion on body image, acceptance, and the creation of an insidious culture that continues to tell us that “normal” is a certain way.

The Pixar Theory of Labor
Are Pixar movies just a way for us to understand the nature of work and our relationship to it? If so, what kinds of messages are we getting from this movies; what kinds of children are being created because of this ethos of work and life?

Why Are Our Parks So White?
I don’t go camping very much these days, but when I was younger and went to national and provincial parks more often, I did notice that there were very few people of color there. That said, city parks are definitely (at least in Toronto) hotbeds for minority (especially immigrant) activity. The Toronto Islands, beaches, and even the barbecue pits at the local parks are often full of immigrant families, enjoying the summer weekends. I wonder why that integration doesn’t necessarily translate to the larger provincial and national parks outside the city.

How Hot Chicken Really Happened
The first and only time I’ve ever eaten hot chicken was in Nashville a few years ago. I’ve heard that there are places in Toronto that serve it now, but haven’t found them yet. I love how the story of a meal—in this case, a very spicy chicken—can tell the history of a city and a nation, as well. We really do live through our food.

The Really Big One
Late one night, when I was in high school on Vancouver Island, the ground started to shake and the books started falling off of shelves. The shaking stopped 10-15 seconds later, but it was a scary, if not exhilirating, moment. This article about the impending monster earthquake on the west coast makes me wonder what more we need to be doing, as a country, to make sure we’re prepared for an upcoming disaster of unimaginable proportions.

The Low Road
“Not everyone who breaks your heart is a monster. Not everyone who wounds you deserves to be wounded in return.”