Here's one of my favourite passages from Ammon Shea's Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation (2014):

The first recorded use to date of OMG is from 1917, and reads in full "I hear that a new order of Knighthood is on the tapis — O.M.G (Oh! My God!) — Shower it on the Admiralty!" The citation comes from a letter by one John Arbuthnot Fisher, who happens to have been the admiral in charge of the British navy (a position know as first sea lord), and was written to Winston Churchill, staunch defender of both the English people and their language. One can hardly make the case that this use of OMG represents the decline of the English language and civilization. What of other such initialed specimens?

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Apparently Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is reconsidering his pledge to make the election which brought him to power the last one held under the present electoral system. That may be difficult to spin but it is ultimately the right call. Electoral reform has the potential to improve our politics but it is hardly the panacea that it is made out to be.

First, no one has convincingly demonstrated that the electoral system is the source of what ails parliament. It is, at best, a symptom. So, too, are the party monopolies over leadership decisions and selection. Except that is a much easier issue to address and it does not involve suddenly upending a proven and functioning system.

Second, a critical mass of the interest groups, members of the public, journalists, and even sitting MPs involved in the reform debate do not sufficiently understand the present system let alone parliament itself. Everyone seems more interested in advocating for the reform scheme that would most immediately benefit their side rather than the one which will ensure democratic integrity.

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Here's Jaime Watt in the Toronto Star on the lack of public interest in the respective CPC and NDP leadership races:

Both leadership contests are struggling from similar deficiencies — a dearth of well-known talent, a closed and exclusive electoral process, and a lack of substantive policy alternatives that challenge the status quo.

A weak opposition is not a good thing.

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Dear Team:

As promised, here is the late-afternoon update to your talking point packages from this morning for tonight's door-to-door voter outreach drive. While the media continue to pursue this latest round of baseless allegations, we are aiming to take back control of the narrative on the ground one voter at a time. Please distribute to your teams and keep an eye out for further updates every hour.

Updated Talking Points

  • Our candidate is not now, nor has he ever been, "one of the lizard people" — do not validate this premise when challenged by prospective voters; instead, deflect by asking whether we can truly trust his opponent when he claims to have been on the Space Station for the entirety of the mission. Just because there is no flight log of a secret meeting with an alien delegation does not mean it did not not happen.
  • NASA have confirmed that the purported anomalous bird migration patterns just prior to appearances by our candidate are inconclusive — what they have not confirmed is the whereabouts of his opponent for the entire duration of his mission on the Space Station.
  • We now have over twenty forensic photography experts who have testified to the fact that the green smudges under our candidates eyes at his last rally were a trick of light from a nearby neon fast food sign — do not discuss with voters; refer to expert testimony. 
  • Our national campaign manager did not resign this morning. His request for leave has been graciously granted by our candidate.Nor is he missing; rather, he is spending more time with his family. At their remote summer home. Deflect questions about his sudden departure by insinuating that the only way our opponent could fund operations with so many volunteers is through illegal campaign contributions.
  • The national unemployment rate remains at a steady 8% — thanks, in large part, to our candidate's predecessor, The President. Our plan is a targeted 1% quarterly reduction leading to full employment. When our candidate encouraged a voter to "get a job" during an unscripted encounter this morning, he was merely expressing enthusiasm for his unprecedented and comprehensive plan.
  • Remember what our candidate always says: If there isn't a treasure map on the back of the Constitution then what is on the back of the Constitution? The voters have a right to know.

Thank you and hang in there, it's going to be a long night — 

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Following up on the reference earlier in the week, here's a passage from the lengthy digression on simulations in Iain M. Banks' final "Culture" book, The Hydrogen Sonata (2012):

Whether these simulated beings were really really alive, and how justified it was to create entire populations of virtual creatures just for your own convenience under any circumstances, and whether or not — if/once you had done so — you were sort of duty-bound to be honest with your creations at some point and straight out tell them that they weren't really real, and existed at the whim of another order of beings altogether — one with its metaphorical finger hovering over an Off switch capable of utterly and instantly obliterating their entire universe... well, these were all matters which by general and even relieved consent were best left to philosophers. As was the ever-vexing question, How do we know we're not in a simulation?
There were sound, seemingly base-reality metamathematically convincing and inescapable reasons for believing that all concerned in this ongoing debate about simulational ethics were genuinely at the most basic level of reality, the one that definitely wasn't running as a virtual construct on somebody else's substrate, but — if these mooted super-beings had been quite extraordinarily clever and devious — such seemingly reliable and reassuring signs might all just be part of the illusion.

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Yesterday, the UPI reported on a new study that rejects one of the most cherished myths about the "baby boom" generation: that they don't work any harder than subsequent generations.

Interestingly, the report goes on to suggest: "A new analysis of generational differences suggests such narratives are just that and little more — narratives with limited basis in reality." Is that so? Well, keep that in mind over the next few weeks as you see another round of articles blaming Millennials for everything.

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I want to riff on Olivia Solon's thoughtful report in the Guardian yesterday, regarding Elon Musk and Silicon Valley's "...keen interest in the 'simulation hypothesis', which argues that what we experience as reality is actually a giant computer simulation created by a more sophisticated intelligence. If it sounds a lot like The Matrix, that's because it is."

First, such obligatory references to The Matrix (1999) betray the film's complexity: it is far more interested with responding to much deeper themes from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) than the prospect of living in a simulation. The Thirteenth Floor (1999) on the other hand, which followed The Matrix to theatres by just two months, explores the existential implications of living in a simulation far more directly and seriously.

Second, a poor command of science fiction may actually be a liability for media in reporting on futurists like Musk. His respective projects and overall vision tend to be portrayed as random and unmoored. Yet, anyone who has read Iain M. Banks' "Culture" series will recognize his recent reference to a "neural lace", noted the unique naming convention for the SpaceX fleet, and feel the influence of the lengthy digression about simulations from the final "Culture" book, The Hydrogen Sonata (2012). They're out of this world (literally) and fantastical (that's the point) but they are not without context.

Third, is there anything in the so-called "simulation hypothesis" that's all that different from, to generalize and borrow a phrase from Bill Hicks' famous "Positive Drug Story" bit: "...that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively"?

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Dear Team:

It has been brought to my attention that the note to staff from earlier this week requires further clarification. Allow me to dispel any lingering misapprehensions that you might be harbouring: only Human Resources, under the direction of management, can make decisions pursuant to employment status.

In other words: you may not fire, dismiss, send home, relocate, trade, or otherwise discourage your colleagues from attending work or impede them from executing their duties. I really cannot put it any more clearly than that. For anyone who may still be confused, please drop by my office; I will draw you a picture.

Lastly, I am going to give you one hour to tell me where you sent Thom. I need his assistance with a report and I have to explain to him that there's no such thing as being traded to another team. If you do not comply, then we will be forced to begin interrogations —

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Citing a handful of recent studies that have investigated ideological bias in consumer media trends, the Globe and Mail's Doug Saunders suggested last week:

It appears, from this work, that people are not being isolated into self-confirming thought ghettos; rather, they have more sources than ever before, and prefer the credible ones – but they’re also members of communities of believers who influence them, sometimes darkly. It is community, not content, that causes extremism.
As those studies show, the Internet has compartments, but it also has a lot of cracks. They’re how the light gets in. A lot of people have been won over by bad ideas, but they’re able and willing to listen – so it’s worth the effort to try to persuade them otherwise.

Maybe's there's hope yet.

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Here is Caitlin Moran from her first novel, How To Build A Girl (2014): 

So far, the only plan I've come up with is writing. I can write, because writing — unlike choreography, architecture, or conquering kingdoms — is a thing you can do when you're lonely and poor, and have no infrastructure, i.e. a ballet troupe, or some cannons. Poor people can write. It's one of the few things poverty, and lack of connections, cannot stop you doing.

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Tabatha Southey's article on Canada's recent flirtation with "birtherism" from the Globe and Mail late last week is not only heartwarming but draws attention to an uncomfortable national hypocrisy (one glossed over by the editorial board a couple of days prior): 

Were [MP Maryam] Monsef not a “foreign” immigrant, one of that kind, I imagine people would laugh at Conservative MP and leadership contender Tony Clement even more than usual – the national mirth would be heard from his claimed birthplace of Manchester – for demanding, as he did last week, that she resign over this trivial a matter.

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Dear Team:

I just got back home from my vacation and caught the last half of the weekly lottery numbers on the evening news broadcast. I could have sworn I heard something very close to our regular set — could someone please check in on that first thing tomorrow?

Oh, and while we're on the subject: I keep forgetting to ask when it's my turn to buy the tickets next. I just can't seem to remember and I really don't want to be that guy, you know? — 

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Here's the Washington Post's Catherine Rampell on the impracticality of third-party candidates in the 2016 US Presidential Election

These candidates have received relatively little media scrutiny, let alone attacks from competitors. This allows many Americans to think of them as the purer choices for the presidency. If all the mudslinging misses them, their feet of clay go unnoticed. 
Which is precisely why they probably haven’t felt the need to do their homework. If you give them your precious vote, you haven’t done yours, either.

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