Unphotographable

Here is a picture I did not take of a kid deciding to do some impromptu sledding by taking a running leap down the hill behind the tuck shop at the park. Lacking a sledding device was of no concern, as the front of his nylon snowsuit was sufficiently slippery to get him most of the way down the hill. And when he stopped, which was fortuitous, since there was no barrier between him and the boardwalk next to the lake, he finished off the distance by turning 90 degrees and rolling the rest of the way.

Well played, young sir.

Unphotographable

This is a picture I did not take, looking in on Perimeter Institute on a Friday evening while walking my dog, when their Christmas party was in full swing. Bright colours, music, groups socializing, and pockets of awkward dancing downstairs, while here and there on the otherwise dark upper levels, a few offices were illuminated, and backlit physicists poked away at the great mysteries of the universe instead of rockin’ around the Christmas tree.

Peach muffins

I had some late rhubarb to use up, so found this and made the recipe. They were wonderful. But then peaches came ripe, and I wondered…

Wonder no more. These are amazing.

Specifics:

  • Make it with 1.5 cups of peaches cut up small, instead of rhubarb.
  • If you pour boiling water over ripe peaches, leave them submerged for a few minutes, then rinse with cold water, the skins will come right off, often in one piece. Makes them a snap to slice up.
  • Be generous with the cinnamon and vanilla.
  • I use yogurt instead of sour cream, just because it’s on hand.
  • Don’t bother with the topping. (The recipe can use it for rhubarb since it’s not real sweet, but peaches don’t need it.)
  • If you make them big with shoulders, you’ll get a dozen from this.

Unphotographable

This is a picture I did not take while standing in a field at the dog park, the breeze redolent of honeysuckle and lifting the damp hair off my neck. And watching the local osprey casually soar past on the hunt for a meal for its chicks.

Lend me your ears, part 3

Went on a bit of a podcast-adding binge a little while ago, thanks to coming across mentions of new ones, and an article that listed oodles. Since then I’ve listened to and whittled things down a bit, so here’s the new stuff I’m enjoying.

CANADALAND: COMMONS

I mentioned CANADALAND in my previous podcast post, and have been finding it really educational. COMMONS is their take on a Canadian politics podcast. Now, typically I can’t stand politics, and given my avoidance, don’t know as much as I likely should. (I tend to bone up when I need to, like when there’s an upcoming election.)

Wasn’t initially sure what to think, as this seemed to be politics for dudebros. That said, I like the schtick of having a politics podcast hosted by guys who weren’t any more into or educated in politics than I am. It means that while they have shows about what the Senate is and what it’s for, they also ask questions during interviews and stuff about terms and concepts that get thrown around a lot (e.g. what is populism? what does fiscally conservative means?) Sometimes they already know but are asking for their listeners, sometimes they don’t know.

They’re young, educated, urban guys, but balance dorking around with intelligent discussions and interviews. And they aren’t white, which gives them an additional perspective (e.g. recently with the shootings in South Carolina). They also call each other and themselves out when they screw up, like in a discussion among four people, three of them men, asking the other male interviewee instead of the female one (who’s a gender in politics scholar) about a gender in politics issue.

Episodes are short enough (half an hour-ish) that they don’t get bogged down, and I’m caught up, so with nine episodes under my belt I can say that I’ve been learning and enjoying.

Freakonomics Radio

Same schtick as the books, etc., and one I’d listened to some time ago, but then it seemed to disappear. Back now and enjoying it. Economics isn’t really my thing, either, so it’s interesting to see it approached from angles that do interest me, or have a certain “WTF?” aspect. Like recently I listened to an episode on the economics of being a sex offender (it’s a really bad idea – aside from being punished for the crime, you’re going to be punished socially and financially pretty much forever). That ended up being even more interesting and timely with a recent article I read on the families, etc. of sex offenders and their experiences.

Not all episodes venture into such uncomfortable territory, but if you love peeking at the world in different ways, it’s a great way to get the brain grinding away.

All the Books

I love and hate this podcast. Love because it’s about books and recommendations and the hosts are adorable. Hate because it’s expanding my “to read” list faster than I can ever keep up. This is a fairly recent addition to Book Riot’s shows; they’re eight episodes in, and each week they list their favourites among that week’s new releases (hardcover, paperback, etc.) From time to time they do a broader episode, like for the end of June they did an episode on their favourites of 2015 so far.

I’ve read a couple of the books recommended so far, and while they’re not always 100% my thing, they’ve all been really good, and I appreciate the mental expansion. They also get a nice variety of men, women, authors of colour, stories for kids or YA, fiction, biography, etc., so there is something for everyone.

Gastropod

I’ve already gotten my friend Dave hooked on this one after sending him their cocktails episode. This one’s also fairly new, and is all about food through the lens of science and history. Everything from how temperature affects the taste of your drink to commercial snail farming.

There’s some cute “friction” between the hosts sometimes, as Nicola is British by birth, and so has very across-the-pond opinions on many things related to cuisine, manners, etc. Whereas Cynthia is American and Jewish and her east coast experiences reflect that, too. The ladies are both writers and journalists and have gone on some amazing adventures. And hey, what better way to learn all about a gazillion varieties of potato than to go to Peru and attend a festival for them.

Really interesting, will make you want to eat everything, and will give you endless cocktail party factoids.

Invisibilia

This one’s about unseen factors that shape our world, though that sounds pretty vague, and if you just start listening to episodes things can seem kind of random. Also, apparently people think that the hosts, Lulu and Alix, sound the same, but I don’t find that to be the case. :)

The episodes can be on huge topics, like how humans’ tendencies to assign (or chafe against) categorization shapes our world, or how our expectations of “disability” may be off base. I really like the combination of stories and anecdotes focused on the topics, but also how they blend that with science and studies and all that other rigorous stuff.

These are longer shows, and I don’t need to binge listen to them, but they’re great for being out on a long walk with the dog and whatnot.

Mystery Show

Dave got me hooked on this one, which is just so quirky and charming. The premise is that the host and chief investigator takes on a mystery for each episode. Something that’s been bothering someone for some time (could be weeks, could be decades), and solves it. That could mean finding out something, returning something to its owner, etc. It can’t just be something solvable by using the Internet, as we’re so prone to doing these days.

It’s also fairly new, but has been a lot of fun so far. One of the earliest episodes I listened to was about returning a unique belt buckle to a chef. Turned out to be an amazing chase and surprisingly poignant. Most recently it was the quest to find out how tall Jake Gyllenhaal is. (Slight spoiler: the man is really fun, a great sport, and utterly charming.)

Certainly unique, and really gets you pondering unknown or unsolved things in your own life and how one would go about solving them.

White Coat, Black Art

This is a CBC offering featuring a guy who’s a Toronto ER physician. It’s not specifically about his adventures, though, but more broadly about medicine and healthcare, in Canada and comparatively around the world, and how that ties into history, politics, and our society. In a country where we have a huge Baby Boomer cohort getting ever older, and the challenges that brings, there’s a lot to talk about. He also has some fantastic and intriguing guests, and some fascinating glimpses into how healthcare gets handled elsewhere (like the US and Europe), for better or worse.

Unphotographable

This is a picture I did not take while Sherry and I were on our way to a Hip concert. Stopped at a light, I noticed loud music after a moment, unexpected music: the Hallelujah chorus from the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Blasting out the open windows of the big, red 4×4 pickup truck in front of us, while the driver rocked out/hand-conducted out the driver’s side window.

Lend me your ears, part 2

Podcast rolls ebb and flow and change. Sometimes you listen to a series, then it’s over, like A History of the World in 100 Objects. Or you listen to the first set/season, then it’ll be a while until the next one, like Serial. So here’s some stuff I’ve been listening to since the last post.

CANADALAND

News, media, and criticism about Canada. Jesse Brown is the guy who broke the Ghomeshi scandal (the most common way new folks would know him now). It’s opened my eyes to how little I know about what’s going on, news-wise, in the country, and who’s making the news (and what their agendas are).

Caustic Soda

I did a full binge listen of this one of the entire archive. It took a while, but it’s a lot of fun. Big time geeky, lots of science, lots of grossness, sometimes really interesting guests. Plus the Muppet Show cover theme song for when they have guests always makes me grin.

Serial

Of course. It became a phenomenon this fall, and it was everywhere, so I checked it out. A dozen episodes delving into a 15-year-old murder for which they may or may not have convicted the wrong guy. They crowdfunded their way into a second season, but no word yet on what the topic will be.

Criminal

In keeping with the true crime vein, stories recounting actual crimes with interesting details, weird twists, or lingering mysteries.

The Truth

Short radio plays/vignettes that are odd, affecting, and strangely engaging. It’s really hard to describe, but hooks you quickly.

Language choices were made

English is a bitch of a language. It’s imprecise, follows rules… until it doesn’t feel like it, and lacks the right word for entire swaths of human emotion and experience.

And yet, English is capable of great cunning and impressive cleverness. Take, for example, the passive voice.

Scourge of good writing, we are told to eschew it. Take responsibility! Take action! It’s hardly the most subtle of cop-outs when companies and politicians are trying to do crisis management, but boy do they love it for that purpose.

Passivity can be used sneakily, too. And it can make you wonder if the person meant to do that, or did it subconsciously, and so quite possibly meant the opposite of what was said, but felt obliged… or something.

To wit: I recently returned from three weeks overseas. These two sentiments were said to me. (See what I did there?)

“We missed you.”

“You were missed.”

Now, at first glance those two phrases might appear to say the same thing. But do they? The first one pretty explicitly states that the people in question (i.e. with whom I was conversing at the time) missed me while I was gone. Aww, thanks.

The second phrase backs that up — I was missed — but does it say by whom? Nope. So can I assume the person who said it actually missed me? Nope. Well, depending on the relationship there, perhaps. But what if it was someone with whom you weren’t well acquainted, or who might have an unknown agenda?

The person who said it could mean he/she missed me. Or that person might not have missed me at all, but wanted to sound good and curry my favour with apparent expressed affection. And so basically he/she might have made a statement resting on the assumption that someone probably missed me, and if I want to assume that person was one of them, so be it, but he/she isn’t going to just come out and say so. Convoluted, no?

Now, I might be cynical (hell, I’m all kinds of cynical), but I find language fascinating, especially when in use with people you don’t know inside and out. Like would your Mom ever greet you after weeks away with, “You were missed”. Not bloody likely.

Sure, analyzing relationships this way might be courting trouble, but with some people, I consider it an act of sanity to apply some rigor to our interactions. People are sticky and messy, and some are fairly diabolical.

While you don’t want to be ruled by paranoia or “what ifs”, it’s not a bad thing to be cognizant of people’s efforts in how they present themselves. At the very least it can make you more aware of how you present yourself as well.

Close the bathroom door

This past week having brought us Valentine’s Day, of course the digital landscape was awash in content about relationships and sex and being more successful at both of those and whatnot. This was one of them.

As I read it, I got a little twitchy, as I am still wont to do, recalling the trials and tribulations of a long-distance relationship even this many years later. The Internet was getting mainstream then, but it was primitive. We mostly communicated online via telnet programs and email. Not too many people had cell phones yet, and those phones didn’t have cameras, apps, or any of the other key features that enable you to be connected 24/7. Hell, we wrote letters to each other.

But what I found really interesting about that article is that it’s a lot more broadly relevant than just for long-distance romantic pairings. I don’t know how many times it’s happened at this point where I’ve run into someone, or have intentionally met up, and they’ll inquire about something that we’ve never talked about before. Now, I freely admit to my senility, so my reply is often, “Did I tell you about that?” And as often as not the reply will be that they saw me mention it on Twitter or Facebook. Right.
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