The core of sociology is one simple truth: individual people can be a mess to predict, but masses of people are easy. Human behavior in aggregate is subject to simple incentives and simple outcomes. Crowds can be studied with models that verge on purely physical, scarcely requiring that even biology play a role. It is not difficult to figure out what humans will do when presented with a certain set of incentives, and one of the insights that follows is that if one wants people to take a certain action, one of the most effective ways to make that happen is to make the correct thing easy.
An Ersatz Travelogue for Alyssa’s Time in French Polynesia
I recently returned from a vacation in French Polynesia. This was my first ever solo vacation and something I planned and anticipated for a long time before I could finally make it happen. It was not my first air travel, nor my first vacation, but the first time I traveled to a far-off place alone with no academic conference, family visit, or other purpose in mind. It was also the farthest from home I have ever been, at nearly double the distance of my previous record. And it was glorious.
Continue reading “An Ersatz Travelogue for Alyssa’s Time in French Polynesia”
Pet: A Review
Poetry is perhaps the ideal artistic medium for processing an abusive relationship. One of the hallmarks of an abusive relationship, what distinguishes it from merely being assaulted, is that the attacker must convince their victim to linger, and abusers the world over share one key tactic: damage their victim’s senses of reality and self-worth. When reality breaks down, emotional impressions remain, tethered to the moments that made them and providing a path toward making sense of life once more. This is the place where Pet: the Journey from Abuse to Recovery, by Kella Hanna-Wayne, lives, and in that noisome soil this poetry collection has grown into something beautiful.
Snow Demands Urbanism
As my hometown of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada lurches dramatically into the coldest chunk of winter for several years and I prepare for some balmy foreign travel, it is difficult to avoid thinking about how much more pleasant my existence in this snow-choked city could be. Winter often brings critics of urbanism smug satisfaction, as they look down at us mere transit users from their heated vehicles that migrate from sealed garage to sealed garage. They watch us trudge through snow or sigh in defeat when paths are blocked, often by snow cleared for cars’ benefit in nearby areas, and imagine that this imbalance is a fact of nature. Well, very little about our relationship with automobiles is a fact of nature. Contrary to their privileged imagination, it is not the dashboard vents delivering slightly burnt-smelling warmth to frozen hands on steering wheels that make winter so much easier for them. Cities are systems that reflect the forces shaping them and past the most basic physical realities, every factor that makes winter feel like motorist territory that has trapped the rest of us until spring is the result of human decisions. And different decisions could have been and could still be made.
Paludarium 2: Tragedy Boogaloo
It’s the end of an era, and by era I mean a handful of months of trying something new and watching it not quite work. Today, I officially lay my paludarium ambitions to rest for the foreseeable future. It was okay while it lasted, but the test did not yield the desired results and it is over. I am pivoting.
So, what happened?
The Edges Build the Center: Transit You Can Rely On
As someone who does not drive, should not be trusted to drive, and is not legally allowed to drive, I spend a fair bit of time on public transit. It’s not as much as other people I know—working from home within walking distance of most of my groceries is pretty great—but it’s enough to develop a lot of feelings about the ways that public transit can fail. Much ink has been spilled about things like making sure a system’s vehicles arrive at consistent times, go places where people want to go, are frequent enough to make looking at a schedule optional, and so on, and today, I want to focus on an underrated aspect of making a transit system upon which a person can truly rely: edge cases.
Continue reading “The Edges Build the Center: Transit You Can Rely On”
Movement: Flash Fiction
“Don’t you know it’s rude to turn up in a woman’s bedroom uninvited?”
Plants Are Fucking Weird: A Video Presentation
Folks who pay attention to the Perfumed Void’s Patreon know that, for the Friends of the Void tier on up, I offer a monthly informative video presentation. These are patterned on, or derived from, presentations I give at presentation parties or events like Skepticamps and full of my characteristic wit, thoroughness, and sass.
To celebrate this tier of my Patreon, I am offering one of my most talked-about and sought-after presentations as a free sample on YouTube: Plants Are Fucking Weird. Join me on this tour through plant reproductive biology and how absolutely wild it is when analogized into animal terms.
Unfortunately, due to its title and subject matter, this video is age-restricted on YouTube, so I cannot embed it here. You’ll have to follow this link to enjoy it.
Plants Are Fucking Weird – A Video Presentation
And a visual tease:
Enjoy, and subscribe over at Patreon to see the rest of the series.
The Power of Urban Planning
People act like urban design is just something that happens, a fact of nature that unfolds as passively as wind patterns and desire paths. Developers develop parcels, drivers drive roads, commuters take buses, and it all happens piecemeal, one step at a time, all of them disconnected from the others and together forming a city as an accidental, organic, wild thing.
That just isn’t how this works.
Elegy for the Ones Who Never Got to Be: Trans Day of Remembrance 2022
Delivered as a speech for Canadian Heritage on 16 November 2022.
We usually hold these events for ourselves. Trans Day of Remembrance is a somber occasion we mark with candlelight, elegies, and promises to the future. Every year, hundreds of us breathe our last in Brazil and Turkey and the United States and, yes, here in Canada, and every year those of us who feel safe all being in one place at a known time gather and make our sad pledge: remember the dead and fight like hell for the living. They died unloved and endure one more cruel indignity by way of obituaries and funeral services that don’t acknowledge who they really were, and we place one wholly inadequate bandage on that wound by insisting: they never saw your light, but we did. And we will not forget.
Continue reading “Elegy for the Ones Who Never Got to Be: Trans Day of Remembrance 2022”