The Capitalism in Our Ledgers

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.

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The Capitalism in Our Ledgers
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Suburbs Are Conservative

Look at recent election maps, especially in Canada, and it is easy to spot a demographic pattern taking shape: vast swaths of residential land around cities voting conservative or worse while the urban cores they surround vote far more progressively. The US has similar patterns and maps like these are not difficult to find in other countries as well. Much ink has been spilled about the rural/urban divide in developed-world elections, but increasingly, the divide that matters is between urban and suburban voters, and the reality that makes it matter is that suburbs seem inescapably conservative. But why?

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Suburbs Are Conservative

Make The Correct Thing Easy

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.

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Make The Correct Thing Easy

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.

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The Edges Build the Center: Transit You Can Rely On

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.

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Elegy for the Ones Who Never Got to Be: Trans Day of Remembrance 2022

You Don’t Want to Live in Miami

I have been away from Miami, the city where my family made their homes after relocating from the northeastern US, for many years. I moved away in 2009, and this year made the most complete departure I likely ever will. One by one, the threads holding me to that place in particular wither and crumble, in items reclaimed and funerals attended. I had sad, sad cause to spend a few days in this sunlit hometown recently, being driven around in relatives’ cars, and those days were enough to cement in my mind what my opinion of Miami had already long been: the sheer heedless decadence of this place is incompatible with a life well-lived. You do not want to live in Miami.

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You Don’t Want to Live in Miami

Canadian Conservatives Scare Me More Than American Conservatives

It is election season in Ontario, and for the first time, I’ll be voting. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, my citizenship is complete and my voter registration is in place. I can call myself “Canadian” with that much more conviction now, and the attention I pay to this country’s politics now weighs on a vote where it previously weighed on just my thoughts. In this unusually portentous time, I have been confronted not only with the mainstream parties, but with the tiny splinter parties trying to gain a foothold in real politics, as they litter public spaces with their signs and pamphlets. And they have reminded me that Canadian conservatives are pit-in-the-stomach terrifying compared to their American counterparts.

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Canadian Conservatives Scare Me More Than American Conservatives

The Last Word on “Genital Preference”

It’s one of the last retreats and first rejoinders of people whose support of the transgender community isn’t rock-solid. It’s the base of operations of people who don’t oppose our existence but nevertheless find us grotesque and confusing. It’s tiresome, it’s exhausting, and it makes more of us more likely to date each other than our shared experiences and social spaces already did. We have to warn each other that our relationships might end if we transition, partly because of this specter.

The argument from “genital preference” simply will not go away, and that’s because its framing is tangled and often dishonest.

As a trans lesbian who herself finds one genital configuration more aesthetically and sexually desirable than the other, I come at this topic from a distinct perspective. And the most important thing I have to offer here is this point:

It is not the preference that is a problem, it’s how that leads a person to treat their prospective partners.

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The Last Word on “Genital Preference”

Imagining Ottawa’s Metro, Round Three

A few months ago, I wrote a fantasy scenario for an expansive train network for Ottawa. The revised version of that that I posted in March was head and shoulders above that original. Now, it’s time to think even farther into the fantastical future. This article is meant to be a complete reference as well as a commentary on its predecessors and also contains some readability improvements on its map.

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Imagining Ottawa’s Metro, Round Three

My Time Among the Tankies

The online left is a very, very strange place. It’s full of people who are all urgently certain of how right they are and how wrong everyone else is. It’s loud and hostile, with minor ideological differences turning into over-dramatic schisms in bizarrely little time. Vast slices of it are chronically, toxically vigilant, waiting with unwholesome eagerness to be the one who gets to turn on or cast out someone else for a misstep. Dial all of that up to 11, and you get the tankies.

For those who don’t know, “tankies” are devotees of the strand of leftist thinking usually called Marxism-Leninism, the philosophy of Josef Stalin rather than the eponymous Marx and Lenin. An extension of this idea, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, incorporates thoughts from Mao Zedong. They get the name “tankie” from their penchant for defending the less defensible actions of the Soviet Union and similar governments throughout history, in particular the mechanized (hence “tankie”) invasion of Hungary during its anti-communist revolt in 1956. In the modern era, long arguments about specific events from 70 years ago are far less salient than their modern corollaries. Tankies are, these days, characterized by their full-throated defenses of modern China and North Korea, which become more and more uncomfortable the clearer it becomes that some rather nefarious things are happening in those countries.

Here’s where I come in.

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My Time Among the Tankies