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Heroes of history

December 20 2014 |

I am reading a series of back-and-forths between Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jonathan Chait on the subject of race relations in the United States, as well as this accompanying thread over on the Dish.

Within that thread, I took note of a reader comment:

“Coates actually says this: ‘I insist that racism is our heritage, that Thomas Jefferson’s genius is no more important than his plundering of the body of Sally Hemmings, that George Washington’s abdication is no more significant than his wild pursuit of Oney Judge.’

“The difference between the two seems pretty obvious to me. Coates isn’t saying that Washington was nothing more than a slaveholder. He’s saying that being a slaveholder isn’t cancelled out by his role as president. He’s saying the two things are inseparable, in the face of lots of people who try to separate the historical greatness of the Founding Fathers from their faults.”

That is the point I was trying to make in this post, and something I don’t think we talk about enough. The heroes of history had their strengths, but they had their share of weaknesses, with differing degrees of terrible actions to go alongside them. That’s true in Canada, as it is elsewhere.

People pine for the days when John A. Macdonald could build a national railway, conveniently ignoring the head tax and dangerous conditions forced upon Chinese workers to get it done and policy of starving Aboriginal people who might get in the way.

Does all this negate the fact he founded the country and built the railway? No. Nor does the fact that he founded the country and built the railway negate the fact that he did some pretty awful things. It’s all connected.

People will sometimes dismiss these criticisms by saying it’s easy to judge the the past with perfect hindsight. And that’s true. But if we’re going to invoke the past as justification for our present actions, I’d rather we do it with 20-20 vision rather than through rose-coloured glasses.

Filed under: Aboriginal, Canada


December 20 2014 |

As we go into the Christmas break, the big news is that the provincial government has announced the creation of the biggest public infrastructure project in British Columbia history: the Site C dam.

Before we go further, let me be clear: what I am about to say is not an argument for or against the building of this or any other project. It’s simply an observation about the narratives surrounding the decision to build it.

The government says the dam is a necessary investment to provide clean, reliable power for the province. Opponents, who include residents whose homes will be lost and First Nations whose traditional territory will be flooded, say the loss of land is too great and alternatives should be investigated.

In counter to these arguments, supporters of the project point to the importance of “vision” from leaders, and the “visionaries” of the past who took on similarly large projects. The case study in visionary leaders is W.A.C Bennett, the B.C. premier responsible for the damming of other rivers back in the mid-twentieth century. Writing in support of Site C, former MLA Kevin Falcon opens with a quote from the Lieutenant-Governor at the opening of the W.A.C. Bennet dam:

“It may be apparent to everyone that harnessing of the Peace River promises great benefits for the people of British Columbia, but this was not always so. There were some who expressed concern when the project was launched. Despite this criticism, one man stood above all others in his faith in the future of the province.”

There is a distinct sense of nostalgia in much of the talk around Bennett’s time: a time, presumably, when leaders got things done instead of having to wring their hands over opposition. Over in the Globe and Mail, Gary Mason characterizes this version of the past thusly:

“Building dams in B.C. used to be a relatively straight-forward procedure. Governments did not need to worry about constitutional challenges to their authority. Or spend years trying to broker deals that would make those affected by the project happy.

“It was an era that some recall fondly as the good old days.”

But this is only one version of history. The mid-twentieth century wasn’t the good old days for everyone. Yes, government could build major projects without court fights, but that’s because the 1940s and 50s was a time when the notion of First Nations rights were all but non-existent. It was a time when over 1,000 children were starved in residential schools for the sake of “science”.

So noticeably absent from the talk of Bennett’s visionary dams are things like the forced relocation of the Tsay Keh Dene First Nation, who lost their homes and way of life and were moved to an isolated reserve and only recently received any form of compensation.

Here’s the story of another dam built in the “good old days“:

“When the Kenney Dam opened in 1954, it turned the Nechako River into an enormous reservoir, flooding a significant part of the Dakelh territories. The Cheslatta people were displaced ‘with little or no warning, [they were] forced to flee the rising waters and watch[ed] as their community’s hunting grounds, trap lines, and burial sites disappear[ed].’

This is not the distant past. Remains from the burial ground still occasionally wash up in these waters, an ongoing reminder of the utter lack of respect and attention given to an entire community of people whose existence is an inconvenient footnote in the visionary, province-building narrative of the past.

a cross in Cheslatta Lake

Look, it’s complicated. I recognize that British Columbia as we know it may not exist without these projects, that we all use energy produced by these projects, and that we need energy to come from somewhere in the future. Some people say a new dam is necessary, others don’t. That’s not what this post is about.

My point is this: in having these discussions, it’s important to remember the past is not as clean as the simplified “grand vision” narrative would have you believe. It’s messy and uncomfortable. There were very real negative consequences for real people, and just as the energy from these dams is still flowing, so too is economic and social fallout for the people they displaced. The legacy cuts both ways. And we need to look at history holistically- the good and the bad- when using its example to make plans for the future.

Filed under: Aboriginal, British Columbia, Canada


December 19 2014 |


One of the trending topics on Twitter right now is #2014In5Words. My choice:

“In Case You Missed It”.


Google searches for ICYMI since 2004

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, ICYMI is primarily found as a prefix to a Tweet or Facebook post. It’s used when someone is re-posting something they shared earlier- the acknowledgement that yes, you may have seen this before, but I’m posting it again in case you missed it.

#ICYMI: Time is finite, the void is nigh.

— Andrew Kurjata (@akurjata) December 19, 2014

#ICYMI: on your deathbed you won’t regret not clicking on that link about the latest business news

— Andrew Kurjata (@akurjata) December 19, 2014

#ICYMI: 2014

— Andrew Kurjata (@akurjata) December 19, 2014


I think of ICYMI as the flipside of another term created by social media: FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out. Just as FOMO describes the anxiety people have that they’ll miss someone else’s awesome thing, ICYMI comes from the fear that other people will miss our awesome thing.

Once upon a time I would write a blog post like this one and just assume people would see it. They had bookmark bars or RSS readers that they used to catch up on stories from a few people they were interested in. Maybe they’d come every day, maybe every week, but they’d come without me having to work too hard for their attention.

In 2014, that version of the internet is gone. More and more news organizations and independent outlets are building their strategies around pushing their content to people on social networks, primarily Facebook but also through Twitter and others. And posting just once isn’t enough. Facebook’s ever-changing algorithm and Twitter’s lightning-fast speed means you have to be strategic: post at the right time, with the right headline, reaching the right people. Screw up and few people will see it and even less will pay attention. In Case You Missed It is a way of hedging your bets.

There is a backlash to all this. The slow web movement, exemplified by the things like email newsletters, ~tilde.club and even a return to personal blogging are all driven in part by the desire for those quieter days when we could hear and be heard without being drowned in a series of quizzes and listicles and photos of puppies.

But the audiences for those quiet parts of the web is low compared to the carnival going on elsewhere. If you have a thought that goes beyond 140 characters, put it in a Twitter essay or screenshort because lord knows no one’s leaving the stream to spend any time digesting what you have to say. And if you’re posting something on Facebook, put as much information as possible in your headline because that’s all most people will read anyways.

At the beginning of this year, I took on my most ambitious creative and journalistic project yet. Hours of interviews, archival tape, stories and sounds, painstakingly edited together over the course of weeks to create a radio series that is probably my proudest professional achievement. When it was all packaged up and ready to be heard, I put it online and then I posted it to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr where it was up against memes and selfies and breaking news. I had no guarantees that even the people who had chosen to follow me on Twitter or were my friends on Facebook would see it because things just go by so fast.

So throughout the year I posted it again. And again. And again.

In case you missed it.

Filed under: media, misc | Discuss

Said the Gramophone: BEST SONGS OF 2014 → 

December 18 2014 |

“Said the Gramophone is one of the oldest musicblogs. We try to do just two things, well: finding good songs, and writing about them. We don’t mess about with tour-dates, videos or advertising. We post new songs and old songs, write clumsy dreams of what we hear. If this is your first time here, I hope you’ll bookmark us or subscribe via RSS. You can also follow me on Twitter.

“Of these 100 songs, approximately 63 are fronted by men, 37 by women. 44 acts are mostly American, 37 are Canadian, 10 are British, 2 are French, and there is one Belgian, one Dane, one German, one Ghanaian, one Nigerian, one South African and one Swede. This is the way it worked out; it certainly ain’t perfect.

“My favourite songs of the year do not necessarily speak to my favourite albums of the year. Songs and LPs are entirely different creatures. My favourite albums of 2014 were Andy Stott’s Faith In Strangers, D’Angelo’s Black Messiah, Arlt & Thomas Bonvalet’s Arlt & Thomas Bonvalet, Nap Eyes’ Whine of the Mystics and Owen Pallett’s In Conflict.

“Some songs that you heard in 2014 may have been omitted from this tally because I heard them before this year, and included them in my Best of 2013.”

Said the Gramophone’s year-end lists are always a good listen and their preceding write-up captures exactly how I feel about year-end best-of lists.

You can listen to all the tracks on the website. I’ve also made playlists on Rdio and bop.fm.

The Sony Hack and the Yellow Press → 

December 18 2014 |

Aaron Sorkin:

“Do the emails contain any information about Sony breaking the law? No. Misleading the public? No. Acting in direct harm to customers, the way the tobacco companies or Enron did? No. Is there even one sentence in one private email that was stolen that even hints at wrongdoing of any kind? Anything that can help, inform or protect anyone?”

On point.

“We have just communicated to any would-be attacker that we will do whatever they want.” → 

December 18 2014 |

Cyberterrorism expert Peter W. Singer on Sony’s decision to pull The Interview from theatres after vague threats of violence:

“There’s a parallel here to the Boston marathon bombing. I am going to be careful on this. The Boston attacks were real, and people died. This is not in the same category. But, a lot of terrorism analysts have talked about how they shut down the entire city of Boston, which was the wrong message. It sends the message to terrorists elsewhere that if two not-so-well trained guys with a jury-rigged rice cooker bomb can shut down an entire American city, what can we do if we’re good at this?”

How not to succeed in politics

December 18 2014 |

I thought I’d do a quick round-up of reaction to the news that former Prince George mayor Shari Green lost the bid to become the next Conservative candidate for Cariboo-Prince George.

Though the results aren’t being released officially, 250 News is reporting Green in last place with just 419 votes, coming behind the newcomer Nick Fedorkiw and well behind the thousand-plus votes given to winner Todd Doherty.

It’s a far cry from when she was first elected to council back in 2008, coming second to only perennial favourite Brian Skakun.

So what went wrong?

Over at 250 News, Ben Meisner points to the way her team handled her Conservative nomination process:

“From the taking over of the executive within the Riding Association, to the manner which the nomination  process was handled, it became apparent that each turn in the road  would become more difficult for Green to navigate.”

At the Free Press, Victor Bowman agrees:

“The mini-coup in taking over the constituency executive was not the best move. It lit the fire of resentment, which smoldered throughout the pre-vote period.”

Over at the Prince George Citizen, Neil Godbout goes back even further, placing the blame on how she conducted herself  at city hall. But he starts with a clarification:

“What follows is not an attack on Shari Green the person but a condemnation of Shari Green the politician. One of the reasons that distinction needs to be made clear is that Green never seemed to grasp the distinction between the two. To disagree with her politically was, more often than not, interpreted as a personal attack and she never seemed to forgive or forget the slights, real or imagined, large or small.”

He then delves into a seven-year-history of takeovers, freeze-outs, and refusing to talk to certain members of the media.

It may seem harsh, but let’s not forget it was less than a year ago that Green was apparently emailing citizens upset about snow removal with implications that the union might be at fault- all following a series of cuts and in the midst of the most heated contract negotiations with city staff in recent history. And her response when the Free Press asked her about this email?

“Green’s office told the Free Press that the mayor was too busy to grant an interview to confirm whether the e-mail was from her, but Green supplied the newspaper with the following e-mail response:

“‘During heated and lengthy contract negotiations, sometimes unions do what they can to disrupt the employer, and that should be no surprise to anyone in this case,’ Green said in her e-mail to the Free Press.

Mere weeks later it would be revealed that mismanagement and poor planning were largely to blame. An apology was not forthcoming.

I’ve no doubt Green did many things right. I even wrote about it on occasion. And let’s never forget that being a politician of any stripe is an exceedingly tough job. But you don’t go from mayor to third place without making a few missteps. And so with that in mind, Godbout’s assessment is worth considering:

“Her short political career is a parable of how not to succeed in politics.”

We’ll see who learns from it.

Filed under: Prince George

The Year of Outrage 2014 → 

December 18 2014 |

Slate tracked what everyone was outraged about every day in 2014… From righteous fury to faux indignation, everything we got mad about in 2014—and how outrage has taken over our lives.”

A truly epic piece on the phenomena of outrage on the internet. Looking back, it’s true: I spent much of the year reading about how people were outraged about everything from the inane (selfies) to the serious (violence against women, racism). This and the accompanying essays are a worthwhile reflection on what all that outrage means- and whether it matters.

Here’s what Site C would flood if it were in Vancouver

December 16 2014 |

One of the first things I learned in radio is not to use numbers, especially big ones. They’re too abstract for people to understand. For an example, visualize 1,000 rocks. Now visualize 100,000. Do you really have a sense of the difference between those two things?

So as we’re hearing the B.C. government is approving the Site C dam I’ve been trying to come up with ways to understand just how much land would be flooded if the project goes ahead. The number being used is “5,500 hectares of land over an 83-kilometre stretch of valley” but really, what does that look like?

To start with, I tried to figure out what 5,500 hectares is. First of all, it’s 55 km² but that’s just a different measure. So think of Stanley Park.  Walk all around it. That’s 4.05 km². So Site C is a bunch of Stanley Parks.

But that’s not quite the same, because the flooding won’t be a nice square park. This 55 km² is being stretched along 83 kilometers.  So that means the flooding will, on average be just over half a kilometer wide (roughly 660 odd meters).

How big is that? If you were to walk from Pacific Boulevard where it crosses Smithe over to  the Georgia Viaduct, that’s about 650 meters. Enough to cover BC Place and then some.

650 meters downtown van


Now stretch that along 83 kilometers. I went on Google Maps and started midway through Stanley Park and then did the closest thing I could to a straight line out of there. It took me through Burnaby, New Westminster, Surrey, Langley and right into Abbotsford.

83 km

So there’s your visualization: when Site C is built it will flood a piece of land larger than BC Place stretching from Stanley Park to Abbotsford.

I recognize that this is not exact- the river flooding will not be a straight line, and I wasn’t able to make an exact line on this. Also, the area being flooded isn’t a densely populated urban area, it’s largely farmland and wildlife.

But this, I think, gives a much better sense of what’s happening that just ‘5,500 hectares’.


December 16 2014 |

Decisions can be hard. So make less.

Every day it’s my job to decide what will go on Daybreak North .

Daybreak is a morning show that covers literally half of the province. Our listening area has thousands of people. Dozens of cities and towns. Multiple First Nations. Major resource projects. Small businesses. Senior’s homes. Community groups.

It can be tough to filter through all that and decide which five-to-seven stories make the final cut.1

When I first started doing this I found the decisions difficult, sometimes overwhelming.

There’s a thing called decision fatigue: the notion that you only have the ability to make so many good decisions a day. One of the more famous anecdotes comes from Barack Obama:

“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” [Obama] said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”

I haven’t gone that far, but I have tried to reduce the amount of decision-making I take on in choosing stories. To do that, I have a formula. The formula includes our show mission and values, regional representation, story subject, and much more. I take a look at our pitches and start mentally checking off boxes to see what fits best. It makes it less of an arbitrary decision and more of an assessment of strengths and values. It also frees up my mental space for other work.

If you find yourself making a lot of decisions every day, I’d highly recommend thinking about if there’s some outside values you can apply to help make it easier.

  1. You might think we just go with what’s important, but what’s important to one person won’t be to the next. Virtually every story will be considered important by somebody, and unimportant by somebody else. 

Filed under: management | Discuss

Management is a new job

December 15 2014 |

I’ve written a couple of times about the skills I am trying to develop as a manager, but the buried lede in those stories is the fact that being a manager is an entirely different job. It’s sort of like “hey, you were good at doing this- how about you now do an entirely new job so other people can do what you were good at?”

Before this job, I conducted interviews, researched stories, and wrote scripts. Now I spend most of my time assigning other people to those jobs while I work on things like long-term planning, personnel management, and a bunch of crossing i’s and dotting t’s. My skills at making radio and being a journalist only come into play inasmuch as I can provide guidance and feedback to people who are doing those things, while I do something else.

This isn’t a unique situation, by any means. Earlier this year I linked to a piece called “Against Editors“, in which Hamilton Nolan pointed out that most writers who want to advance in their career become editors at which point they basically stop writing. Now I’ve come across this piece by Lindsay Holmwood called “It’s not a promotion- it’s a career change“:

“If you want to do your leadership job effectively, you will be exercising a vastly different set of skills on a daily basis to what you are exercising as an engineer. Skills you likely haven’t developed and are unaware of.”

That isn’t a complaint. I fully expected this to be a new role and one that I wanted to (and am) learning about. I’ve also been given guidance and training, prior to starting the job and ongoing. But it’s still something I’m wrapping my head around- this is a new job, new skills, and I’ve got a lot to learn.

Filed under: management

On the other hand…. → 

December 13 2014 |

Pete Davies:

“This post explains why we have no idea how many people are actually listening to Serial (or any podcasts).”

In short, because there is a very real difference between downloading a podcast and listening to it. And many people will download the same episode multiple times (I’ll often have the same episode of something on my phone and my computer – and sometimes I’ll never wind up listening to it). A bit of caution on top of all the hype.

Another bit of caution:

“Our culture industry generates an infinite supply of Mad Men recaps and Serial thinkpieces, even though the audiences for those shows would be a rounding error for, say, NCIS or The Big Bang Theory.”

Podcasts may be booming, but they’re hardly mainstream.

Binge Listening is the New Black → 

December 13 2014 |

The team at Stitcher take a look at the data to find out whether people will binge-listen to audio in the same way fans watch Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. Answer: they do.

“Six episodes in, 21 percent of Serial’s listening behavior matched our definition of binge listening. As a point of comparison, Alex Blumberg’s new StartUp Podcast, which is also serialized, saw 12 percent of listeners binge. Looking at non-serialized shows like WNYC’s Death Sex and Money, bingeing behavior drops to only three percent of listeners.”

As I’ve argued, podcasts aren’t back, a new type of podcast has arrived.

Best Songs of 2014 Long Lists

December 12 2014 |

For the past few years I’ve been putting together a list of my favourite songs of 2014. The first time I did it I had over forty tracks, but I’ve been whittling it down to less every year. I try to do less because I feel like seven hours is too much for most people to sit through and I’d rather put together a nice short list of the absolute best. Still, before the short list is the long list – or in my case long lists. I usually have a pretty good idea of what’s going to be in my top ten/twenty but before choosing I like to spend a few weeks listening to the year in review. Here are my sources:

  1. Personal favourites: all year long I’ve been sharing songs on This Is My Jam and favouriting songs on Rdio, Hype Machine, CBC Music and Soundcloud. Everything there goes into consideration. If I don’t really remember the song and a second listen doesn’t really impress me, I eliminate it. I also look at my last.fm charts to get empirical evidence of what I’ve been playing the most.
  2. Critical favourites: I take a look at what’s being chosen by things like Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and other well-known publications. I used to try to listen to all of this but the last couple years I found myself disagreeing with a lot so now I only listen to the ones that are consistently highly ranked that I haven’t heard yet.
  3. Trusted favourites: there are still a few year-end lists that I find often align with me and will have tracks that I overlooked so I’ll try to listen to most of them. This year it’s Exclaim’s Best of 2014, Hype Machine’s Music Zeitgeist, and CBC Radio 3’s 103 best Canadian indie tunes of the year. There’s also a few friends who make lists that I’ll listen to, as well.

As I go through these, I’m adding tracks to a bop.fm playlist which I’ll be streaming regularly because, hey, it’s a bunch of my favourite songs. But eventually I’ll find which ones are my absolute favourites and put them together into my best of 2014 short list, which I’ll be sharing here on my blog. In the meantime, here’s my super long list for your listening pleasure/horror:

Best of 2014 Super Long List | Listen for free at bop.fm

Filed under: music | Discuss

Real Audience

December 11 2014 |

As a follow-up to this post about Gawker’s attempt to focus on promoting their original journalistic voice rather than chasing Facebook likes, I wanted to share my own strategy here in my own little corner of the journalism world.

Daybreak North is a show about northern British Columbia, its people, politics, and culture. That, to me, is its identity and its key differentiator in an increasingly saturated media world. To that end, I like our focus to be on stories that you will only hear from northern B.C. We have regular columns on federal and provincial politics, the movies, food trends, and the like, and I think they serve a purpose, but I don’t think they are the key reason people tune in. If someone is really into movie reviews or food trends, there are plenty of other places they can turn for the same or better coverage. What doesn’t exist elsewhere, or at least not the same extent, are these hyper-local stories.

So I like to focus on those on the radio, and I especially like to focus on those on the web. From experience, you will generally get more comments, shares, or likes if you post something about a national or celebrity gossip story, but I question the value of those likes. If we aren’t leaders in celebrity gossip or national politics, why would we make that the focus of our web strategy?

The clearest example of this I’ve seen is from Bryce Lokken’s post “Pandering isn’t content“,  summed up in this all-caps missive:


In it he chronicles the adventures of Virgin Radio Lebanon who grew a large share of “likes” by posting memes and celebrity photos, but failed to generate any interest in their posts that were actually about trying to get their audience to act. People weren’t there because they were fans of what Virgin Radio Lebanon was about- they were only there for the memes, a niche with many, many, many others willing to step in.

So as easy as it is to jump on a trend or major story to get a bit of juice,  I really don’t feel it’s a viable long-term strategy. Instead, it’s about attracting the quality long-term audience – a real audience –  that is there for what only you can provide. One that will miss you if you’re gone.

Gawker, journalism, and the “slaves to the Facebook algorithm”

December 10 2014 |

As tempting as it is to mock sites like Gawker, Buzzfeed, and Upworthy there is no doubt that they are cracking the code of how to make stories that actually reach people in a digital age. To that end, I tend to agree with Ben Thompson when he writes:

“I strongly believe that society in general and journalists in particular should be rooting for Jonah Peretti and company [Buzzfeed]. I’ve been clear that I believe a lot of writing – such my own – is best suited to focused, reader-supported niches. However, I am also aware that I could not do the sort of analysis I do without journalists actually doing journalism. We need strong journalistic institutions as a source for people like me – and the army of bloggers that made The New Republic less important – and, more importantly, as a check on ever stronger governments and corporations.

“For a journalistic institution to be strong means it has the following characteristics:

“Both BuzzFeed and Vox, as I recounted last week, are feeling their way towards an advertising-based business model that works, and as I detailed then, the fact that BuzzFeed makes money on the modern equivalent of the funny pages makes them no worse – and, given the laughs they elicit, arguably far better – than newspapers of old. This is a hugely positive development for journalism’s long-term prospects, and it seems the profession ought to be cheering the company on, not using it as a pejorative.”

It was with this in mind that I read Nick Denton’s crisis letter to Gawker released today. What jumped out at me was this line:

“We — the freest journalists on the planet — were slaves to the Facebook algorithm.”

What he means is that he feels the company spent too much time chasing virality rather than original journalism. In fact, early on he says 2015 will be the year of “more linebackers with fictional dying girlfriends; less pandering to the Facebook masses.”

That’s the problem of virality in a nutshell. You can do a big investigative piece on city hall, but it will never rarely get as many hits as a picture of a giant snowman. And there is no question we live in a feedback loop where “likes” and “retweets” creep in to affect editorial judgement.

So it’s interesting to me that Gawker- one of the pioneers of cracking the Facebook algorithm- is set to rebel against it by refocusing on their own brand of journalism. I think everyone else in the field should be paying attention to how they do.

Filed under: journalism


December 10 2014 |

Calvin: “The TV listings say this movie has ‘adult situations’. What are adult situations?”

Hobbes: “Probably things like going to work, paying bills and taxes, taking responsibilities…”

- Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes 4/8/1993

I’ve nearly adjusted to thinking of myself as an adult. It’s been a slow transition, but at a certain age thinking of yourself as a “boy” rather than “man” stops making sense, even when you don’t necessarily identify with all the traditional trappings of manhood or adulthood. I don’t think I’m alone in having this difficulty, a number of conversations with people around my age have led to trepidation around the idea of becoming an adult, despite T-Rex’s sage advice:


Obviously there’s a thinking that being an adult means more than simply ageing- you have to act your age well. And that’s where the difficulty is: what does it mean to act your age any more?

Frank Chimero tackled the subject of adulthood in a post I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately. He writes that the traditional definition of an adult is noun-based – spouse, child, home, job. Adults have these things. In the 21st century, he argues, we need to define adults by what they do.

“I’ll draw a line between being a ‘grown-up’—which comes with all the expected obligations like marriage, children, home-ownership, etc—and being an adult—living well within a dignified role in society, educating yourself so you can contribute, honoring responsibilities, having empathy, being a citizen, defining and living the life you want, and the other good stuff that makes the world get along a little better than it would otherwise.”

That’s a definition of adulthood I can aspire to.


Filed under: misc

Music Flow 2014

December 9 2014 |

2014 was the year I gave up on “hearing everything.” I used to diligently go through new album releases, music blogs, playlists, and charts to hear as much of what was being made as I could. An impossible task, obviously, but one I set for myself. This year, I completely gave up on that. Instead, I just kind of let the music that found me find me.

Which isn’t to say I stopped discovering new stuff – I remain a music geek – just that there’s whole weeks where I was listening to an album I really enjoyed and ignoring the Hype Machine charts, and I refused to give albums that bored me after a couple tracks a chance unless a lot of people whose tastes I respect told me to give it a chance. So here’s the listening method of a non-completionist music geek.

Primary: Rdio

The main service I used was and is Rdio. Both Spotify and Google Music came to Canada this year, and I tried each for a few weeks, but Rdio just works for me far, far better. A big part of what works is the design. Going through it actually feels like going through stacks of records. Below is the continue listening screen that shows you what you’ve been streaming lately. It feels just like sifting through a stack of CDs you’ve left in your car. It’s touches like that that keep me coming back. I also find the New Releases list (updated every Tuesday, just like a record store!) and individual playlists are a pretty good discovery method. Plus you can easily make your own playlists, complete with cover art and everything. And it’s easy to sync to mobile. And there’s remote control mode. I could go on, but basically, yeah, Rdio is my main music discovery, listening, and sharing service.



Secondary: This Is My Jam, Hype Machine, CBC Music

Rdio kept me busy most of the time, but I still want to be “hip” and “with it” which means you have to head to the underground once in a while. The place I spent the most time listening, aside from Rdio, was This Is My Jam. You’re only allowed to have one favourite track on there at a time, and you follow other people who also have one favourite track. That limitation is a strength, because once you follow the right amount of people you get a very manageable playlist of people’s absolute favourite tracks at any given time. It was also my preferred method of sharing my favourite songs of the year, as I basically stopped doing any music blogging on my Tumblr.

Behind that are a couple of old favourites, the Hype Machine and CBC Music (more accurately, the Radio 3 section of CBC Music). Hype Machine, which aggregates music blogs to surface the most buzzworthy new tracks has been quietly improving on an already great service, adding genre filters and apps, which I think are worth the price for the 30-second fast-forward mode that allows you to quickly preview a bunch of songs and come back to the ones you liked. CBC Radio 3, devoted to indie Canadian acts, remains an area I like to keep an eye on to find buzzworthy acts closer to home.

YouTube, Soundcloud, Bandcamp

Obviously, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs remain another place of discovery, and most of the time tracks there are shared from YouTube and Soundcloud. This Is My Jam also plays tracks from YouTube and Soundcloud  and the Hype Machine uses Soundcloud tracks in its aggregation as well. So I am technically using those services, but mostly with other layers built on top of them.

Bandcamp is also baked into This Is My Jam and Hype Machine, and remains a site I like to keep an eye on. If I want to buy an album, I’ll check if it’s on there, and a lot of my friends who are in bands put their music on there for me to purchase. I know they have discovery services and apps, but I don’t really use those, and honestly I don’t find myself listening to albums I buy on there much, either. I’ve fully embraced the streaming library and if an album isn’t on Rdio I’m not likely to go back to it many times.

Playlists: Bop.fm

One of my few frustrations with Rdio comes when I want to make a playlist but a song isn’t in their library. This is usually something like an unofficial remix I found on Hype Machine or an indie act from CBC Music. Enter bop.fm. I’ve only just started using it, but I’m fast becoming a fan. Essentially, it combines music libraries from Spotify, Rdio, YouTube and Soundcloud. So as an Rdio listener I can stream songs in their library, but if that unofficial remix pops up, it will find it from Soundcloud or YouTube. I can also share my Rdio playlists to Spotify users or to people who aren’t on either. It’s great for doing things like rounding up all the guest verses André 3000 has done since leaving Outkast or listening to all the “3 Artists, 1 Track” songs Converse has put out on disparate platforms. Bonus points because it lets me import my Rdio playlists, which is great since I still find it easier to use. If I want to make a permanent mix, complete with crossfades and everything, I’m going to upload it to Mixcloud, but for the rest I imagine Bop.fm will be my platform of choice.


So that’s it: the state of my music listening in 2014. By the way, I have probably used my iPod, records, and CDs a combined total of maybe… ten?… times this year. That’s probably being generous, too. We’ll see if that remains the case for 2015.

Filed under: music


December 8 2014 |

Kirk Love wrote a post called “Decide. Don’t Apologize.

“Here’s a tip if you’re in a leadership position. Make a decision. Convey that decision to the team in a direct manner. Then execute it.”

Like Kirk, I’m new to being “the boss”. And like him, rather than do what he says above, I often hedge. I provide rationale.

A while back we did a workflow review and one thing I was told by many people on my team is a lot of the time, they just want the decision. They don’t need the consensus building, they just want me to decide on something and go forward.

So there’s another thing for me to work on.

Filed under: misc

Winter Bike Commuting → 

December 4 2014 |

Stephen Regenold:

“Winter riding is not without hardship. Evenings comes early, forcing riders to pedal home in the dark. Snowdrifts squeeze streets, eliminating a comfortable side lane for bikes. Frozen fingers and feet are common issues for the unprepared.

“But dress right, use fenders and lights on the bike, maybe add studded tires, and commuting in the bleak months can be comfortable and efficient. Here are 10 tips to help you ease into the wintertime cycling scene.”

Pretty comprehensive list, including the advice not to be afraid of using the transit system as a retreat from time to time. The only things I’d add is that if you’re going wearing a balaclava or scarf over your mouth you’ll want ski goggles over sunglasses because the glasses will frost up from your breath moving upwards. I also go with a lighter helmet with the headgear because having two heavy items on my head is a bit much.

I’ve been eyeing up fat tires for heavy snowfall days because when it’s fresh and deep, studs don’t do much to help.

With practice and the right gear, winter biking isn’t much harder than biking any other time of year, and you get special “hardiness points” for doing it. Give it a try.

winter bike

Filed under: bikes


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