It turns out, if you have artist friends, you can pay them to make art and then they’ll make art for you.
I recently trained as a bookkeeper to diversify my skills and bring new functions to my workplace. It’s not much like my official role as a science writer, but it was a natural fit for someone as comfortable with spreadsheets as I am. Entering this distinct sphere was an interesting experience that broadened my horizons more than I expected. Bookkeepers are the unsung heroes of so many human endeavors, places where records all combine and become comprehensible summaries to guide the future. Bookkeeping is an extraordinarily old profession, and its current form traces back to the practices of 14th-century Venetian merchants.
Despite literally predating capitalism, bookkeeping is also one of the places where the base logic of capitalism sneaks into our lives, and it starts with the accounting equation.
I used to write about atheism, until I said everything I needed to say about it. Anything I write about it now would repeat my own past words. I’m just as unimpressed with the tangle of sometimes consciously illogical and impossible things religions expect people who take them seriously to believe; I am just as uninterested in community that comes bundled with authority figures; I am just as convinced that the wonder of nature does not require a magical guiding hand to explain or enjoy; and I’ve already said all those things. Saying them again is, at best, a game with search engine optimization. I’m bored of it. People still need those messages, but I’ve already written them.
Delivered as a speech for Trans Day of Remembrance on 20 November 2023, adapted from a previous speech.
The server arrived at my table holding the leash of a young woman otherwise clad only in lingerie and leather straps. The young woman knelt next to my chair and looked up at me with eyes of pure devotion. Above her, the server held out the leash for me to take. With a frazzled sigh, she exhaled, “Sorry, we were out of cheesesteak, so we brought you a sub.”
When I stayed on the island of Mo’orea in French Polynesia, breakfast at the resort was served as a buffet. It included a characteristic spread of cured meats, cheeses, croissants, fresh fruit, pancakes and eggs prepared to order, and similar fare, all the staples one might expect of hotel and resort breakfasts, all clearly influenced by the tropical and French setting, but it also had one distinctively Polynesian offering: a bowl of poisson cru à la tahitienne, usually translated as “Tahitian ceviche.” Known in Tahitian as “i’a ota,” simply “raw fish,” but more commonly described locally with its French name, this dish instantly captured my heart and my palate, and few breakfasts passed without a ladle-full of it next to the cheeses and croissant on my plate.
People who visit my living room are often struck by the sheer, jungle-like lushness of the vegetation in my 125-gallon aquarium. The tank has such a profusion of plant life that its fish sometimes fight for the clear spaces or disappear for weeks on end in the thickets, living as they would in only the most abundant natural settings. This is a far cry from the aquaria I maintained as a child, when the only plants I could keep alive were the most beginner-friendly, least demanding species, if even then. Perseverance got me to my current skill, and a key part of that perseverance is learning my way around more advanced tools of the aquarist trade. And for someone who takes great joy in aquatic plants, that means carbon dioxide (CO2).
Humans are very, very bad at biological categories. We focus on general shapes and ecotypes and miss the biologically significant details that truly trace the history of life on our planet, and again and again our colloquial terms fall short of the expansive splendor of reality. I’ve written before about how the basic categorization schemes humans use don’t quite capture the way turtles versus tortoises, frogs versus toads, and other dichotomous pairings relate to one another, and today, we dive into a still-deeper morass: what is an antelope?
This seemingly simple question is actually such a mess of corner cases and evolutionary accidents that it not only defies an easy answer, but drags the concept of “deer” down with it. Let’s have a look.
I don’t play many PC or video games, despite the somewhat silly amount of money I’ve spent on acquiring them and on making sure I can enjoy them in comfort. My solo gaming is divided between a small number of well-loved strategy games such as Ticket to Ride and Monster Prom that I play casually to while away low-energy afternoons and long role-playing games full of subplots, romance, choices, and level-up choices. I am a fiction writer, after all, and I thrive on narrative. It is among the latter that the small-release Japanese RPG I Am Setsuna claimed its niche in my life, and it is among the latter that it quite impressed me.
I recently acquired a bicycle for use as my primary means of getting around. Ottawa, where I reside, is neither a public transit utopia nor a city known for bicycle-friendliness, so this decision and my broader commitment to never driving a car might puzzle some of my readers. What did I hope to gain by adding a bicycle to my life, and how did I hope to make it work in this often infuriatingly car-centric city?
Navigating this city by bicycle for the past two months has imposed quite a few lessons upon me, some more surprising than others. Let’s begin.