Author Archive

A Field Guide to Gay Animals

A fascinating and risqué new podcast from the creators of Canadaland. Some viewer discretion advised.

From gay swans to self-pleasuring elephants and amorous giraffes, they learn how scientists have been understanding and misunderstanding queerness in nature for centuries. And they introduce us to a bold researcher in the 1990’s who helped us see nature for what it is – queer as fuck.

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Oil Tank Park

This is an old oil tank converted into a great looking public space.

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The Rarest Move in Chess

I am terrible at chess, but I also love it. I also love these kind of intense deep-dives into esoteric subjects.

Your Mind is Being Fracked

Ezra Klein‘s episode this week with D. Graham Burnett had a good analogy for the current state of the attention economy, fracking for oil once the easier reserves are exhausted:

The only way you can get the remaining petroleum and natural gas resources out of the deep earth is to pump down in there high pressure, high volume detergent, which forces up to the surface this kind of slurry, mixture of natural gas, crude oil, leftover detergent, and juice and nasty stuff, which you then separate out, and you get your monetizable crude.

This is a precise analogy to what’s happening to us in our contemporary attention economy. We have a, depending on who you ask, $500 billion, $3 trillion, $7 trillion industry, which, to get the money value of our attention out of us, is continuously pumping into our faces high-pressure, high-value detergent in the form of social media and non-stop content that holds us on our devices. And that pumping brings to the surface that spume, that foam of our attention, which can be aggregated and sold off to the highest bidder.

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251 Words You Can Spell on a Calculator

A fun little diversion: here is a great old list of words you can spell on a calculator, from bee to Zoe.

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Via Present and Correct

Origin of Term 'Caucasian'

I’ve often wondered about the origin of the term ‘Caucasian’. My assumption was that there was some logical reason to link all white people to this relatively small area in Eurasia. It turns out to be much more nonsensical, racist, and creepy.

While reading through Jason Roberts‘ truly excellent Every Living Thing, which explores the history of classifying living things into groups, he couldn’t help but touch upon the arbitrary nature of the term ‘Caucasian’. Here Roberts talks about the ridiculous origins of the term, which first appeared in On the Natural Variety of Mankind, by the German Johann Friedrich Blumenbach:

Blumenbach, however, did not hesitate to declare racial superiority. He was a collector of skulls, and in his opinion the prettiest specimen (in terms of pleasing proportions) in his collection was that of a female from the Caucasus, a mountain range between the Black and Caspian seas. Guided purely by personal aesthetics, Blumenbach wrote, “I have allotted the first place to the Caucasian,” explaining, “I have taken the name of this variety from Mount Caucasus… because its neighborhood, and especially its southern slope, produces the most beautiful race of men…”

Continues Roberts: “Blumenbach effectively combusted modern racism into existence.” I strongly recommend this book (Roberts’ not Blumenbach’s).

Carrot Weather

Years and years ago I designer a weather app called Skyline. Little of it exists on the internet anymore, but the core idea of the app was to present an hourly forecast as a series of icons which would rise and fall with the temperature, giving you an easy-to-read graph of the day ahead. I don’t believe we were the first to ever present a daily forecast this way, we were the first I know of to package a whole app around it.

App developer Carrot recently launched a new version of their Carrot Weather app, which has what I consider the best version of this concept yet, and the best overall weather app I know of for iPhone or iPad (it also runs on newer Macs, though it’s a bit less good there). It’s got good data, presented well, and it looks pretty.

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Community Service Mag

Here is a new Montréal-only mailing list I have high hopes for. Community Service chronicles upcoming art and design events in the city. I’m happy to have a non-social-media-based way of getting news about art events.

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Under The L

A couple of quick pics snapped in Queens, New York, during my trip there last week.


Taken in Mile End’s very picturesque skate park.