2016-09-25

According to one estimate reported in the New York Times, climate change (and other factors augmented by climate change) threatens to “...reduce the global area suitable for coffee by about 50 percent across emission scenarios.” Less coffee will make us crankier, less productive, and even poorer — not to mention making the conversation about what to do about climate change even more tense.

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2016-09-21

Earlier this week, the Ottawa Citizen's Kathryn May reported on the findings of a recent survey that asked Canadians what they want from electoral reform. As May writes, the survey found keen interest in both online voting and maintaining the right to vote or not vote (that is: no mandatory voting) but "no overwhelming desire to change the way we elect MPs." You don't say. I'm almost proud.

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2016-09-20

Here's The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald on the Washington Post's unprecedented own-goal in calling for the prosecution of their own source, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden:

The editorial page is separate from the news organization and does not speak for the latter; I seriously doubt the journalists or editors at the Post who worked on these news stories would agree with any of that editorial. But still, if the Post editorial page editors now want to denounce these revelations, and even call for the imprisonment of their paper’s own source on this ground, then they should at least have the courage to acknowledge that it was the Washington Post — not Edward Snowden — who made the editorial and institutional choice to expose those programs to the public. They might want to denounce their own paper and even possibly call for its prosecution for revealing top-secret programs they now are bizarrely claiming should never have been revealed to the public in the first place.

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2016-09-19

Dear Team:

What did we say about mounting a rescue in the event that one of us is captured? That's right: don't fuck it up. What did you do? You fucked it up. Way to go. As if that weren't embarrassing enough on its own you went and left Murphy behind. Now they're twice as mad, they have two of us, and they're asking for twice the ransom.

This is totally unacceptable. If I actually manage to get out of here there will be consequences. I will have no choice but to take this up with the guild's senior leadership. ...Okay, I gotta log off: my mom's calling me for supper.

See you guys tomorrow? —

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2016-09-17

Does the design of a parliament have any influence on its members and proceedings? In Wired this week, Margaret Rhodes draws our attention to a new architectural study of "...the halls of parliament of all 193 United Nations member states", from two partners at Amsterdam creative Agency XML, that ponders precisely this question.

The answer, as Rhodes observes, is obviously yes:

All 193 assembly halls fall into one of five organizational layouts: “semicircle,” “horseshoe,” “opposing benches,” “circle,” and “classroom.” And these layouts make a difference. If you can imagine how debating with someone seated beside you might feel different from arguing with someone standing at a pulpit, you can appreciate the impact.

It's curious that such a study is so novel given the social significance of parliament and the careful design of each respective body across the world.

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2016-09-16

Here's the always wonderful John Cleese with a thoughtful digression about humour from his recent memoir, So, Anyway (2014):

A good sense of humour is the sign of a healthy perspective, which is why people who are uncomfortable around humour are either pompous (inflated) or neurotic (oversensitive).
Pompous people mistrust humour because at some level they know their self-importance cannot survive very long in such an atmosphere, so they criticise it as "negative" or "subversive." Neurotics, sensing that humour is always ultimately critical, view it as therefore unkind and destructive, a reductio ad absurdum which leads to political correctness.
Not that laughter can't be unkind and destructive. Like most manifestations of human behaviour it ranges from the loving to the hateful. The latter produces nasty racial jokes and savage teasing; the former, warm and affectionate banter, and the kind of inclusive humour that says, "Isn't the human condition absurd, but we're all in the same boat."

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2016-09-13

Here is Scott Gilmore of Maclean's with a damning point of order about Canadian ambivalence to the North

Canada needs to stop pretending that it cares about the North. Decades of false rhetoric has created expectations among those few who do live up North that someone “has their back.” No one does. They’re on their own and they have been for generations. We tell the world the North is ours, that we are protecting our sovereignty and our vast mineral wealth. But the truth is we aren’t, and those resources are so far from the nearest railhead they may as well be on the moon.

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2016-09-12

Dear Team:

I will be participating in my local thoughtfulness collective's biannual silent humming drive tomorrow. As you know, we campaign twice a year in order to raise awareness for awareness. We believe that being thoughtful is the best means of improving our collective wellbeing together.

Tomorrow, I would appreciate it if you would be courteous and show your solidarity by avoiding speaking to me directly or indirectly, around or near me, and by refraining from wandering into my peripheral vision. It is imperative that I be left alone to focus. If you absolutely must communicate with each other, please engage in silent lipreading.

Regrettably, I will be unable to attend or participate in the presentation tomorrow. I have attached my notes to this message for you to review and assemble. Good luck with the presentation and thank you for your support —

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2016-09-11

In the Harvard Business ReviewGary Hamel and Michele Zanini argue that the US workforce has a surplus of administrators, managers, and supervisors. They suggest that doubling the ratio of employees to managers "from 4.7:1 to 10:1" would "...free up 12.5 million individuals for other work that is more creative and productive" and result in significant growth. I'm for anything that means more doing and less talking about doing.

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2016-09-10

The National Post has seen fit to publish an excerpt from an essay by Canada's worst prime minister, from the forthcoming book The Defining Speeches of Sir Wilfrid Laurier (2016) edited by Arthur Milnes, lauding one of Canada's best prime ministers.

Laurier would certainly find it a bit rich to be praised for his "...passionate belief in parliamentary government and her institutions..." by the only head of government in Canadian history to have his administration held in contempt of parliament.

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2016-9-09

Here's a favourite epigram of mine from philosopher John Gray's Straw Dogs (2002): 

THE DISCREET POVERTY OF THE MIDDLE CLASS
Bourgeois life was based on the institution of the career — a lifelong pathway through working life. Today professions and occupations are disappearing. Soon they will be as remote and archaic as the ranks and estates of medieval times.
Our only real religion is a shallow faith in the future; and yet we have no idea what the future will bring. None but the incorrigibly feckless any longer believe in taking the long view. Saving is gambling, careers and pensions are high-level punts. The few who are seriously rich hedge their bets. The proles — the rest of us — live from day to day.
In Europe and Japan, bourgeois life lingers on. In Britain and America it has become the stuff of theme parks. The middle class is a luxury capitalism can no longer afford.

There's something about the last days of summer, as parliaments return with their long lists of promises and our little prayers to the future push the economy to its annual crest, that brings this passage to mind.

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2016-09-08

The Pew Research Center has a new study confirming that digital books have not, in fact, killed physical books (as the prophesy so foretold) — and the New York Times is on it! Okay, that's not fair. But they did bury the lede: readers read books — physical, digital, or audio — even if they may cite a preference for print. It's the same market. Everyone else? Not so much. Don't get too excited, though. Readers may keep on reading but, as the Washington Post notes, what they're reading is increasingly fewer literary titles.

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2016-09-07

The Guardian reports today that "Denmark has become the first country in the world to apparently buy data from the Panama Papers leak, and now plans to investigate whether 500-600 Danes who feature in the offshore archive may have evaded tax." Germany, as the report goes on to note, started the trend when it purchased similar information from a smaller leak in 2014.

Tax evasion is a serious problem but a broader trend of governments openly purchasing private information about their own citizens (and feeding a market thereof) is extremely troubling. There has to be a legislative solution. And the political will to deliver a legislative solution.

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