Category Archives: Jeneral findings

Jeneral finds of the week: 2016-10-16

The start of the movement to make our devices less addictive,the terrible environmental costs still incurred when recycling smartphones, could a Donald Trump happen in Canadian politics, and Michelle Obama’s powerful response to the 2005 Trump video —on my Jeneral finds of this week: 2016-10-16

The movement to make our devices less addictive

Blackberry launched the first portable device with email in 1999, hooking the corporate and government world. Then when Apple launched the iPhone in 2007, the consumer market for smartphones exploded. In Canada and the US, over two-thirds of the population have smartphones and/or tablets, and growing. It is a massive technological shift in this generation, creating an explosion of new companies to make different software and social media applications for our digital devices. Combined with a generation of users trained to expect that content and services should be free, the measure of success for many of these companies are things like size of user base, time spent interacting on the tool, and the data freely given by users in exchange for the free service.

However, in the rush to adopt all the wonderful and exciting that these devices and services offer to us, we are slow to consider the all the ill-effects of the technology. These applications are purposefully-built to be more addictive in the attempt to win the competition for our attention. In addition to the consequence of the time we spend on social media and games, there are many, many secondary consequences that we aren’t aware of yet. (I highly recommend Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle to help illuminate these consequences.) And if we aren’t aware of the consequences, we can’t devise strategies to deal with them effectively.

In many ways it feels like the wild west, where the laws and regulations and enforcement to protect citizens are setup after the initial fray of competition. Perhaps now is the start of the movement to deliberately make the usage of our devices less additive. Should there be something akin to the Hippocratic oath for software product design?

Tristian Harris may well be an evangelical leader for this movement, as profiled here in The Atlantic, “The Binge Breaker” http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/11/the-binge-breaker/501122/?. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on his progress.

What I learned about phone recycling from Samsung’s combusting Galaxy Note 7 recall

Continuing on the theme of smartphones, I mistakenly thought that recycling old smartphones can reclaim the precious metals for reuse. That is dead false. The best case scenario for your old device that you don’t want anymore is to return it to be refurbished and resold: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/galaxy-note-7-explosion-environmental-impact-recycling

Could a Donald Trump happen in Canada?

The election south of our border has me both captivated and horrified. I can’t look away and stop reading about it, even though it just aggravates me to no end. Thankfully I’m in Canada, but I know I can’t sit here smugly in the belief that someone like Trump could not rise in power in Canada. It already happened in Toronto with Rob Ford. This article in the Globe was an interesting analysis about the factors that may have kept the similar extreme-right sentiments at bay to date in Canada: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/growth/could-trump-happen-here-canadas-left-behind-workers/article32245715/

Michelle Obama’s speech on Trump’s comments: ‘Enough is enough’

I hate that I’m continuing with another item related to that man, but this one inspires and creates fortitude, instead of indignant rage and disgust. Michelle Obama has given some powerful speeches in the last few months. This speech in New Hampshire, days after the tape of Trump uttering his lewd comments in 2005, was devastating. She made the political personal, and her reflections of her own experiences with men who objectified her body mirrored our own. She demanded better from those who would seek to lead the country, as we all should.

~Jen

Jeneral finds of the week: 2016-10-02

An amazing example of storytelling to make space science relatable, discovering there are such things as Pun battles, and how your footwear impacts your comfortable temperature in the office, in this Jeneral finds of the week: 2016-10-02.

Wake Up Rosetta

This past Friday on September 30, the European Space Agency (ESA) satellite Rosetta finished its’ 12-year mission by completing a planned crash landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerisemenko. This was one of many huge milestones in this mission to study a comet up close. (and one that looks like a rubber duck) You may remember two years ago there was some news about its lander named Philae.  Philae didn’t land as expected, couldn’t get enough sun to recharge its batteries, and so had to go into premature sleep. You don’t remember?

Well I discovered this week that ESA has put out a whole series of short animated videos to help explain the mission. And I don’t know if it was because I was sick, but I really did get emotional from watching the last video. Yes, they anthropomorphized the satellite and lander and dramatically simplified the science and don’t mention the large costs of space exploration. But, it’s a really wonderful way to engage and educate the public about the space work, so we can care to keep supporting it.

This Globe article is also a more straightforward write-up about it: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/technology/science/europes-comet-chaser-rosetta-concludes-12-year-mission/article32161181/

Good night Rosetta and Philae!

To joke is human, but to pun is divine!

I always appreciate a good pun, even if I end up groaning after hearing it. It’s one of the many reasons I love listening to CBC’s As It Happens, because they always have great puns in their intros or outros to their segments.

But apparently there are competitions out there where people can battle head-to-head in the linguistic art of puns! Like a rap battle, but for dad-joke nerds! Peter Rubin writes of his own pun battle experience in this Wired article, “ReflexLOLogy: Inside the groan-inducing world of pun competitions“. While I’m nowhere as linguistically nimble to compete, I would love to be in an audience for this one day. I can just picture my kids rolling their eyes in the future at how lame I am.

Gotta get a cozy for my feet

I’m one of those people who always feels colder in an office than most others. Apparently it may have to do with what I’m choosing to wear on my feet, according to this article “Why Shoes are the Key to a Comfortable Office Temperature“. Now I know what I’ll need to do this coming winter to stay warm in the office.

~Jen

p.s. The Blue Jays made it to the playoffs with home-field advantage in the wildcard game. It was kind of a nail-biter this last week, but it’s off to the playoffs now. Go Jays!

Jeneral finds of the week: 2016-09-20

One man’s constant connection to the endless news and media feed and how it broke him. The differences between being rude, mean, and a bully. And the amazing tale of two brothers’ discovery that their parents were not Canadian emigrants to the US, but rather Russian spies. That’s the Jeneral Finds of the week: 2016-09-20

This is your brain on continuous information feed

The pervasive usage of digital devices is on my mind a lot lately. And by lately, I mean for the last two years. It started off as an exercise to come up with a strategy of how and when I would be comfortable getting a mobile phone for my daughters. As I read and think more though, the exercise is quickly morphing into examining what my own device usage is doing to me.

Andrew Sullivan’s long-form piece “I used to be a human being: Technology almost killed me” in the New York Magazine this week is an eye-opening cautionary tale. It is all the more terrifying to foresee how easily many more of us will experience the same breakdown as Sullivan.

Rude vs. Mean vs. Bullying

My younger daughter got pinched and pushed to the ground by another unknown child at school last week. When she later worked up the courage to tell me about it, she started off her story with “I was bullied today”. A phrase that sends the heart up the throat of any parent.

The info in “Rude vs. Mean vs. Bullying: Defining the Differences”, by Signe Whitson, was helpful to keep in mind while I assessed whether I needed to be alarmed about the occurrence. (thankfully it seems to be an isolated incident of a kid being super rude) With the hyper awareness and classroom discussion on the issue of bullying now in our schools, it is not surprising that she labels all aggressive behaviour as “bullying”.

Most of all, I am so proud of her that she put her hapkido self-defence training to use. She told us she immediately confronted the child by making a stop sign with her hand and saying assertively, “Stop that! That was not nice!”. She was shaken up by the experience that day, but she seems be be okay now.

The Spies who loved me

The day we discovered our parents were Russian spies“, by Shaun Walker in The Guardian is a fascinating read. The title of the article says it all; it’s a crazy story out of a TV show plot that happens to be true and real life.

~Jen

Jeneral finds of the week: 2016-01-30

The anniversary of Target Canada’s demise and my knowing head-nods to data problems behind it, the inspiration for the singular Disney villian Ursula in the Little Mermaid, and how J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard commencement speech is still just as pointedly applicable in today’s culture of fear—it’s this week’s Jeneral finds of the week: 2016-01-30

  • During my days at Accenture Canada, implementing SAP systems was the crux of what my colleagues and I did. Many of these same colleagues were staffed at the Target Canada SAP implementation project. Several of my own project experiences were in the area of data migration and data enhancement for the Loblaw SAP implementation, so it’s with great interest that I read this article from Canadian Business,  “The Last Days of Target Canada“. I found myself nodding my head knowingly as the story unspooled. Again this underlines the extreme importance of the quality of data, as the huge volumes of both master data and transactions combine with errors in said data to take down the retailer. I’m sure the folks at Loblaw are feeling pretty good about their own implementation in comparison after reading this.
  • There was always something thrilling and compelling about Ursula the sea witch in the Little Mermaid animated Disney movie. This was one of my favourite movies growing up, and it’s still enjoyable now but for completely different reasons. Much of it has to do with Ursula and her power to get what she wants by trading it for what others foolishly want. Plus that song “Poor unfortunate souls” is bonkers.  “Unearthing the Sea Witch” by Nicole Pasulka and Brian Ferree tell the story about the inspiration for the character, particularly a real life Baltimore drag queen named Divine.
  • While poking around Youtube looking at David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech, I came across J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard Commencement. It is a remarkable address that again demonstrates she is a great writer in how she deftly uses humour and personal example to provide inspiriation to not fear failure, and the importance of imagination and empathy in our world of uncertainty, complexity and fear. It resonates just as clearly now, nearly 8 years later, and I have no doubt will stand the test of time to resonate truthfully into the future.
    (The transcript of her speech: bit.ly/1zeUPfA)
  • And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces leads to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.

    What is more, those who choose not to empathise enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.

~Jen

Jeneral finds of the week: 2016-01-17

Women and unpaid emotional labour, the Genius of Music breaks down pop music, and the mash up of Star Wars and Calvin and Hobbes you didn’t know you needed. Also, 2016 gets off to a sad start with the loss to cancer of two big forces in arts and culture, David Bowie and Alan Rickman. The Jeneral finds this week: 2016-01-17

  • Leah McLaren asks “Should women be paid for emotional labour?“. It’s the unspoken glue that keeps communities together, isn’t it? And I another realm of unacknowledged tasks that many women perform on top of all they do at work and in their direct families. Examples: making phone calls to circle of friends just to check in, remembering to get birthday cards and/or presents for children’s classmates, organizing baby showers for work colleagues, keeping track of friends and acquaintances’ goings-on so you are aware when things aren’t well and help is needed…and then offering the help, etc. No wonder it seems women often seem to have a harder time to balance life and work, their buckets of work in the “life” column, beyond home maintenance and family duties, are larger than men’s.
  • Why are some pop songs just so catchy and infectious? Chilly Gonzales is a self-proclaimed Genius of Music, but he earns the title honestly. He is a pianist, producer, songwriter,  and more, working with the likes of Feist, Daft Punk, and Drake. He has a done a series of videos deconstructing popular songs that are fascinating. In this video, Gonzales breaks down The Weeknd’s “I can’t feel my face” 
  • Of course, the last month’s entertainment hype has been all about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And as a lovely response to this, Disney Animation Story Artist Brian Kesinger did a series of wonderful mashups of Star Wars and Calvin and Hobbes together. (these are just two of them, peruse some earlier posts in his twitter feed to see them all)

~Jen

Jeneral finds of the week: 2015-10-25

What a week it’s been. The federal election and Trudeau leading the Liberals to a surprising majority government. The unfortunate focus on his looks afterwards, but at least there is one being clever about it. The Blue Jays. And a duck comic that speaks real truths about the parenting experience—the Jeneral finds this week: 2015-10-25

  • This past Monday night, the Liberals and Justin Trudeau won a majority government in the federal election. It was a better result than I could have hoped for, when my hopes were pinned on merely getting Harper out of government. But just as I took umbrage at the objectifying of Belinda Stronach when she became an elected MP in 2004, I am really irked with the glut of worldwide headlines and social media shares about Justin Trudeau’s looks. How is the world supposed to take the leader of our country seriously if all the ink being written on him comes in the celebrity and lifestyle sections of the news? We need to keep the focus on the policies he’s pledged during the campaign. But still…this piece by Tabatha Southey is hilarious if you want to get all the *wink, wink, nudge, nudge* about his physical appearance out of your system, once and for all. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/note-to-world-please-stop-ogling-our-new-prime-minister/article26951125/  Sample innuendo: “I’ll bet that’s a right honourable member.”
  • The Blue Jays’ playoff run ended, but it was a thrilling, joyous ride while it was happening. Though our hearts were broken by the result, it was better to love this team and lose, than never to love at all, right? We are so proud of how the team worked hard and kept it oh-so-close until the very last out.  A big hurray, high five, and a tip of the hat to the team that truly made the city #comeTOgether.
  • Has the author of this comic strip www.fowllanguagecomics.com  been spying on my household? Because he speaks the hilarious truth, man. This listicle picks 15 great ones to share in one page http://www.upworthy.com/15-hilarious-parenting-comics-that-are-almost-too-real?g=4.

~Jen

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Jeneral finds of the week: 2015-10-17

The Blue Jays, a great resource to up your presentation slide creation skills, a thoughtful explainer from a woman who traditionally votes Conservative and why she isn’t this election, and how efforts for inclusion will ultimately make Canada more successful – on this week’s Jeneral finds, 2015-10-17

  • Yes! The love affair continues!! On Wednesday the Blue Jays did the statistically improbable and beat the Texas Rangers 6 to 3 in the 5th and deciding game of the ALDS playoff series (after they had lost the first two games of the series). The city has just lost its mind. The thing that will be remembered is the crazy 7th inning. This piece by Cathal Kelly in the G&M sums up the game perfectly, “The Blue Jays have finally broken Toronto’s sports curse“. Yesterday’s result in the series opener against Kansas City wasn’t what fans were looking for (a 0-5 loss), but there’s still lots of baseball to go yet. Go Jays!
  • “Slidedoc (n.) a visual document, developed in presentation software, that is intended to be read and referenced instead of projected”. This term is coined by Nancy Duarte, and I am oddly gratified to now have a more appropriate term to describe what I generate at work for half my days. This free online resource/ebook created by Nancy Duarte is wonderful, and I am inspired to follow these principles to generate more useful and visually appealing slidedocs going forward. I highly recommend this for anyone who generates a lot of content-heavy work via presentation slides (aka slide jockeys).

  • This is a great post by an Albertan who traditionally votes Conservative, but is not for this election. “Lord help me, I just voted for a Trudeau”. May this resonate with other traditionally Conservative voters.
  • I am such a fan of Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. I’ve been impressed with every encounter I’ve had with him via the media – he’s able to communicate in full paragraphs instead of merely soundbites. This piece in the Globe and Mail is an excerpt from a speech he gave earlier this fall, “Divided, Canada stands to lose what makes it great“. He starts with his own personal story as part of an immigrant Ismaili family and how the community’s acts of inclusion helped make him a successful today. This is in contrast to the divisive policies that are being spouted today to help “protect us” from radicalized Muslim youth. Such a worthwhile read, and inspires me to be optimistic and try to make my own small difference. This is what a great leader *should* do. So evaluate if the leader of the party you are voting for on Oct 19 does the same for you.

~Jen

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Jeneral finds of the week: 2015-10-06

The real reason many women struggle to advance their careers, on losing the love of your life, a profile of a potential Prime Minister of Canada, and the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics, in this week’s Jeneral finds: 2015-10-06

  • It has always felt so unfair to me how our society doesn’t properly value those who care for others and teach others – nurses, teachers, caregivers. Instead we place higher value to those who “make things” and generate value (aka money) – business people, engineers, professional athletes. What I didn’t realize was how this frame of mind also systematically hinders women in the workplace even in those “making things” and “generating value” careers.  “Caregiver discrimination penalizes women at all income levels“, an excerpt from Ann-Marie Slaughter’s Unfinished BusinessIdentifying and recognizing the issue is the first step, but what is great about this piece is it also provides ideas on how to move forward. Between this piece by Slaughter and her prior writings, I’ve really come to admire her.
  • Close friends of my parents had their 40-year-old son-in-law pass away suddenly this weekend, leaving his wife and three young children. I can’t even imagine the grief and shock their family must be going through; I went and hugged my husband and held on a little longer than usual. I was also brought back to this truly moving post from Sheryl Sandberg earlier this year, a month after her husband Dave Goldberg also died suddenly. Would that we all have the same type of support in our times of need.
  • In the shadow of the upcoming election, Ian Brown continues to deliver outstanding writing in his in-depth profile of Justin Trudeau in the Globe (unfortunately it may be behind a paywall). It is a long read, but I’ve been yearning for more context and depth in the media coverage of the election, and this delivers on this front.
  • Physics friends celebrate! Canadian Arthur B. McDonald is the 2015 Nobel prize co-winner in Physics! Along with Takaaki Kajita, they were awarded for their contributions to experiments demonstrating that subatomic particles called neutrinos change identities, also known as “flavours.” The neutrinos transform themselves between three types: electron-type, muon-type and tau-type. The metamorphosis requires that neutrinos have mass, dispelling the long-held notion that they were massless. Cool that something I have vague memories learning about in Physics classes are newsworthy again. =)

~Jen

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Jeneral finds of the week: 2015-09-29

A deliriously fun music video using a car+instruments+desert track, a British puzzle book that was the “Lost” of that nation in 1979, lessons now for our cities’ future, artisan firewood, and learning to be lonely so we can learn to talk to one another – these are the Jeneral finds of the week for 2015-09-29!

  • Apparently I’m 10 years late being in-the-know, but I’ve found my new favourite thing, at least when it comes to music videos. I’ve spent the evening binge-watching all the videos of OK Go. They’re amazing in the sense of fun, wonder and joy they inspire, with real physical effects and often in single takes. One feels inspired that we can recreate many of the videos at home, if we happened to have the same dedication and creativity with the things laying around the house. Their treadmill video for their song “Here It Goes Again“, or the Rube Goldberg Machine video to “This Too Shall Pass“.
    But this one is definitely my favourite one of all: “Needing/Getting”. 
  • In 1979, Kit Williams published a book in Britain that was an illustrated fable—which also incorporated clues to a treasure hunt in real life. Imagine in the days before the internet and smartphones, this mystery is put before you. Would you be able to solve it? It took 3 years for it to be found, and even then it was not buy solving the clues in the book (the ones who did were too late). This article in Hazlitt provides an account of the story, but also delves into the human nature of desiring to find solutions to a mystery, even in convoluted and obsessed manner.
  • This article “8 Cities That Show You What The Future Will Look Like” from Wired magazine has some stunning examples of urban design and thinking. Even if they are not directly applicable to us here in Toronto, it shows that innovative thinking and political will can help solve the problems our cities are facing now and into the future. It’s just too bad that our current political focus during this October 2015 federal election campaign features very little to do with urban planning. Discussions about transit, affordable housing, and infrastructure have largely lacked much substance.
  • There’s definitely been a movement lately away from mass-production of products of dubious quality towards the hand-crafted, quality and bespoke. But perhaps the earnestness in some places is overwrought. This recent satirical video from CBC’s This is That program hilariously skewers it, profiling an artisanal firewood maker (the name may be the best part): https://www.facebook.com/radiocbc/videos/10153630196091913/

  • In “Stop Googling. Let’s Talk“, Sherry Turkle eloquently and convincingly describes how the constant distraction available from our smartphones is causes us to lose the skill of learning how to truly talk to one another. What’s surprising to me is that the argument takes a step beyond addicted to the distractions of the phone, and towards our ability to be alone and to process through the silences that are natural in any conversation.

But this way of dividing things up misses the essential connection between solitude and conversation. In solitude we learn to concentrate and imagine, to listen to ourselves. We need these skills to be fully present in conversation.

~Jen, aiming to be fully present in future conversations

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Jeneral finds of the week: 2015-09-25

A 1980 homemade bomb plot fit for a Hollywood thriller, two sets of twins in Columbia switched at birth and finding the truth after 24 years, and a different argument against pot…after a little hiatus for the summer, these are my Jeneral finds of the week of 2015-09-24:

  • The 1980 extortion attempt, and resulting bombing, of the Harvey’s casino in Lake Tahoe is something I had never heard of until this week. Likely it isn’t notorious because no one got hurt, but a recreated model of the improvised bomb device is apparently still used in FBI bomb training. There were seven different ways the bomb could have been triggered to blow. This account here reads like a Hollywood thriller! It’s a long read but amazing, I’m in marvel of the perpetrator’s engineering feat. http://www.damninteresting.com/the-zero-armed-bandit/
  • It’s an amazing story of two sets of identical twins who were mistakenly switched in the hospital in Bogota, Columbia. Raised in completely different situations, (one set in relative middle-class in the city of Bogota, the other set in poverty in a rural area over 11 hours away) they accidentally discovered the truth when a colleague of one in an engineering firm walked into a butcher shop to discover him working behind the counter. The complexities of identity and fraternal relationships as the two sets meet and get to know each other are fascinating. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/12/magazine/the-mixed-up-brothers-of-bogota.html?_r=0
  • The mini-biographical snippets collected and shared by Humans of New York continually have stories and ideas that touch me or provokes a second thought. This picture and profile of a teacher has a viewpoint about marijuana use by teenaged students that made me have a second thought: “I’ve taught high school for 25 years and I hate what marijuana does to my students. My students become less curious when they start smoking pot. I’ve seen it time and time again. People say pot makes you more creative, but from what I’ve seen, it narrows my students’ minds…I hate when people say that it’s just experimenting. Because from what I’ve seen, it’s when my students stop experimenting.”

~Jen

<–previous finds of the week