Category Archives: My own thoughts

Chasing Ice: I remember this from Star Trek

Light spoilers ahead! Go watch Star Trek: The Next Generation episode ”The Inner Light” (Season 5 Episode 25) before reading this post!

In my last post I mentioned the documentary Chasing Ice, which I described as ”a disturbingly beautiful account of the impacts of global warming”.

When I saw it shortly after its release, I was in awe at the beauty of the landscapes photographer James Balog documented. But more importantly, I felt deeply disturbed.

Watching the glaciers melt away at such an impressive speed is shocking even if one already knows the facts about global warming: reading about it and seeing it happen at two very different things.

This is what Balog is counting on. He hopes his documentary will leave future generations with records of the beauty of glaciers, and with a world to live in. With his work, he seeks to bring everyone a better, clearer, and undeniable proof that global warming is real and already has grave consequences.

I must say, if seeing this documentary doesn’t convince you to change your habits and plant a few trees, then chances are you have a clinical denial problem. 

Then again, people tend to be dense. People tend to strongly deny global warming. It seems that we won’t react until it’s too late. That brings me to Star Trek.

As an avid science-fiction fan, I am familiar with scenarios involving apocalyptic climate changes. Many episodes from the Star Trek and Stargate franchises, for instance, revolve around a planet on the verge of catastrophe because its inhabitants caused irreparable damage to its ecosystems and atmosphere. Such scenarios can be found in several sci-fi books, short stories, movies, etc. They most likely reflect the issues of our time, including global warming.

Watching Chasing Ice, I couldn’t help but think of my favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, ”The Inner Light’ (Season 5 Episode 25)’.

I won’t summarize the scenario. Go watch the episode. I don’t care if you don’t like sci-fi: watch it. It is regarded as one of the best, if not THE best Star Trek TNG episode. The music and Sir Patrick Stewart’s performance are memorable. Do yourself a favor and watch it.

All I will say is that the episode revolves around a civilisation in denial of its own imminent doom, and their incapacity to stop it. They did not cause the problems they are facing, but the government, knowing there is nothing to be done, denies everything to the public. The inhabitants face increasingly harsh environmental conditions, and realize that their children have no future.

As I sat in the movie theater, looking at the glaciers of Earth melting away forever, I thought of ”The Inner Light”. I thought of many more sci-fi scenarios of the sort. I wondered if we will be dense enough to allow them to come true. I wondered if maybe, we already have.

Learn more

Morgan Gendel, who wrote ”The Inner Light” discusses the episode and its webcomic sequel on Forbes and Tor.com.

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Hate Traffic, Love the Bus: Why Claustrophobia is the Future of Humanity

I'm out of here! (1)It’s back to school week and now that vacation season is over, public transportation is once again filled with swarms of people at peak hours. The streets are also filled with a lot more cars, and drivers are honking at each other in anger at several intersections where there are traffic jams. They’ll have to get used to the increase traffic over the coming weeks.

Looking at the sea of cars yesterday, I thought of how much I hate being stuck in traffic.

I am a little claustrophobic, you see, and I am no fan of feeling confined to a small space like a car. When I think of the record-breaking 12 days traffic jam which occurred in Beijing, China in 2010, I feel chills coming on. I would prefer living through a zombie apocalypse rather than being in such a scenario.

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to ride a car on a week-long road trip, and enjoy taking the plane a great deal. But put me in a traffic jam for 15 minutes, or make me wait in the passenger seat while you are looking for parking, and I quietly start climbing the walls. I’ll sit peacefully on a plane for hours despite turbulence, but as soon as we land I want to rush out and can’t wait for the doors to open.

Go figure. Phobias are a strange thing. 

My hate of traffic and of travelling by car in the city are among the reasons why I live in a central area, close to the center and my work. It is why I prefer taking the bus, which I don’t have to drive or park, and in which I can sit and read my emails in peace.  I often ride the bus outside of peak hours as my work hours are flexible. And I would gladly pay more rent in order to save 20 minutes of the time I spend in transit.

You could say that I have a problem. But yesterday as I looked at all the cars stuck in traffic, I realized something: if everyone was like me, global warming wouldn’t be as bad. 

Think about it. If everyone hated traffic, looking for parking and driving around the city as much as I do, they wouldn’t use one car per person and would walk, take a bike, ride share or hop on the bus. Instead of being so spread out around a big city center towards which hoards of humans converge each day, cities would once again be organised around smaller neighborhoods with their own centers. Wouldn’t it be bliss to have services and work close to home? Forget the suburbs!

Yikes! The Suburbs!!

Have you seen Chasing Ice? If not, see it now! Global warming is very real and it’s impacts are already felt.

And in that sense, I think it’s safe to say that impatient and claustrophobic people like me are the future of humanity.

 

Learn more!

Composting, recycling and avoiding mindless consumption can’t hurt either, of course! So head over to the Zero Waste Home blog for great tips and inspiring lessons!

Read The Worst Traffic Jams in History by Jim Gorzelany on Forbes.

Watch Chasing Ice, a disturbingly beautiful account of the impacts of global warming.

First image created using the photo ”Traffic Jam” by Wendell on Flickr.

Second image created using the photo ”Chicago suburbs from the air” by Scorpions and Centaurs on Flickr.

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On the topic of introversion

Recently I saw this image online:

34966edff38b546a76ff80e804bb7013

For anyone who is unfamiliar with Supernatural, you probably won’t understand why that makes complete sense. And if you don’t watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, you won’t understand this other version of the analogy I came up with:

Introverts art by zacatron94-d6mboih

Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy banners by Zacatron94 on Deviantart

I recommend both of these hilarious TV shows by the way.

As an introvert, I completely recognize myself in such analogies. I’ve been shy for a long time, but it was only after highschool that I realized how much other people’s perception of me differed from how I saw myself.

Once a friend said to me that she found it interesting that I dressed up in such a colorful and original way considering what kind of person I was. I hadn’t tought of my personality and my style as contradictory and it left me wondering about how others saw me. Then another friend told be he was glad he got to know me better, because he had initially thought that I was a very boring person.

Boring? Me? I could have imagined myself has having many bad qualities, but boring was not one of them.

That’s when I realized that I’m a lot more fun in my own head than I am to the rest of the world.

I simply don’t translate my thoughts and emotions well. This is certainly why although I appreciate friends and family a lot, I don’t always express my feelings clearly and efficiently to them. It’s probably also why my facial expressions don’t match what I feel. I guess it’s why I think the only person who really knows me is my husband, because when I’m with him I think out loud. He seems to think that I’m hilarious.

So I guess I’m not boring, I’m damn funny. It’s just too bad the rest of the world doesn’t know it. Castiel and Fluttershy indeed.

I don’t have the best social skills, I sometimes look like a robot with no emotions and I don’t show what I think and feel in a way people can have any idea of the party that’s going on in my head. I’m even a little fearful of others, especially in situations in which I have to meet a group of strangers and break the ice : I’ll avoid a meet and greet almost any day if I don’t have at least one person I know going with me.

And yet, I sometimes find it surprising that some people tell me that I am nice and that can listen to them very well. It’s happened several times while I was conducting interviews and discussions in a professional setting. I am happy when the care I have for others actually translates clearly, and when people can feel that I respect and appreciate them. Because introverts, while they might seem anti-social, have low social skills and even occasionally (or often) avoid the company of others, actually like people.

Afterall, there’s a difference between being fine or enjoying being alone, and feeling lonely.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think anyone enjoys feeling lonely. I certainly don’t, so I’m grateful for friends and family I get along with. I also try to make efforts to meet new people and maintain new friendships, and occasionally reach out to people I lost contact with.

But I avoid trying to break my shell too violently. I’m sure it would be fun to be a liberated, fun, energetic and extroverted lean, mean, assertive machine (hehehe). However, that’s simply not who I am. I just don’t think there’s anything wrong with being an introvert. I like myself as I am. The fact that I am an introvert only means that once I am friends with someone, our friendship isn’t simply a superficial one. I don’t have a problem with that.

Even if the party stays in my head. 

 

Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy banners by Zacatron94. Go check out his work!

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When Fan Productions Are Better Than the Official Stuff…

This week I tried to find a picture of Pinkie Pie’s hilarious ”Forever!!!” moment. I was writing a document for The Geek Anthropologist editorial team. It was totally relevant.

In the search result I discovered this beauty: a Pinkie Pie stained glass vector by Akili-Amethyst.

Pinkie Pie Stained Glass

Of course, I had to look at her Deviantart profile! It turns out she created a ton more of these stained glasses. I particularly like Princess Luna‘s and Doctor Hooves‘. One of these would look really nice in my geek room office!

Even better, Akili-Amethyst created this absolutely beautiful coin representing Princess Celestia on one side and Princess Luna on the other! How pretty it would look in a nice frame, right next to my desk. It would be a constant inspiration and would remind me to always strive to be the best person I can be! I would have to buy two to see both sides though…

So where can I purchase these? Oh…Well it turns out that I can’t. Because of copyright infringement, Akili had to stop selling on Etsy and her Kickstarter project was shut down. I guess I won’t be able to work on my self-improvement. Oh well.

It makes sense, you might say. Well sure, it does. And yet, not so much.

Continue reading: it gets even better!

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«Raven» vs «the raven» : sur l’écriture anthropologique

Un commentaire de Bill Reid, publié en 1984 dans Culture, nous rappelle qu’il faut faire preuve de prudence et de vigilance par rapport à l’écriture.

Dans ce commentaire, Bill Reid exprime son agacement profond vis-à-vis d’une pratique qu’il juge courante chez les ethnologues : ceux-ci omettent selon lui généralement d’utiliser un déterminant lorsqu’ils font références aux créatures mythiques de la Côte-Nord-Ouest du Canada, préférant mettre une majuscule au nom de leur espèce ( ils écrivent « Raven » plutôt que « the raven »).

Pourtant, les aînés autochtones utilisent un article ou un nom propre vernaculaire pour parler des protagonistes des mythes autochtones, ce que l’écriture des  ethnologues devraient, selon Reid, refléter de manière à respecter ces aînés (1984 : 64). Il considère que cette pratique est peut-être attribuable à une association, en Occident, des mythes à des histoires pour enfants. Il donne en exemple la personnification de Winnie the Pooh, mais souligne en contraste que les monstres classiques, comme le Minotaure, sont décrits avec un déterminant (Ibid : 64).

Selon Reid, la suppression du déterminant, et surtout l’utilisation du nom de leur espèce plutôt que leur nom vernaculaire propre, diminue les grandes figures mythiques à des personnages de simples histoires folkloriques (64-65). Il conclut finalement :

« (…) [it] is an exercise in condenscension. For it is a device used only when recording the literature of tribal people, completely unsanctionned by any accepted standards of ordinary English usage, and is therefore discriminatory, and no matter how unconsicous its use, ultimately racist ». (65)

Cet exemple indique, selon moi, clairement comment des biais subtiles peuvent influencer le choix de vocabulaire des chercheurs.

Référence :

Reid, B. (1984). The Anthropologist and the Article. Culture, 4(2), 63–65.

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I Did Not Blog En Français, But I Am Going To

Photo by Diodoro

Graffiti of Beckett by Alex Martinez

As I discovered the work of Samuel Beckett several years ago,  I read that despite being a native English speaker, he prefered to write in French, a language he felt allowed him to write ”without style”.

I could not help but wonder if that was sarcasm, especially coming from someone who’s first language was English. No offense, native English speakers, but I find your language much easier to learn and speak than French. The later is more complex, has a richer, more colorful vocabulary, and relies on grammar rules which are far more difficult that those found in English, in my opinion at least. Feel free to disagree and even contradict me. In any case, it is neither a good or bad thing. Each language has its own merits and I enjoy speaking them both. It allows me to communicate with more people, and I actually use them differently.

In the last few years, I believe I have gained a clearer understanding of what Beckett meant.

Continue Reading!

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Keep Your Mouth Shut

 

Silence by Alberto Ortiz

When I was about 13 years old, I accompanied a friend to one of her friends’ house. I did not know that girl because my friend and I attended different schools, so her social circles where different.

The television was on in the house and the girl’s aunt was watching television.

A bad publicity for an equally bad sounding country music album came on. I was about to say “what terrible music, and that lady is wearing a denim shirt with jeans! How awful!”.

Right before I spoke, my friend’s friend said “look that’s my aunt! It’s her new album!”.

That day I learned of the importance of shutting up. Especially when all I have to say is mean.

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Why I Am Dumping My Cell Phone

Can You Hear Me Now? by Jean-François Chénie

In three weeks my cell phone contract comes to an end. I will not be renewing it.

When I signed up for a contract three years ago, it was mainly to be able to talk to my husband. He was living in Mexico and having a smart phone allowed me to use Viber or Skype anywhere, anytime.

I purchased an iPhone for 49$. It wasn’t the latest model. I couldn’t have cared less. My contract included 200 minutes a month, 1 Go of data, a voicemail and a few other features. I never used more than half those minutes and data. I rarely listen to my messages and simply call people back. Furthermore, I generally text instead of calling. My phone is most useful to listen to music, take photos and check emails.

And recently, my phone and I have been developing a love/hate relationship.

Continue Reading!

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You Don’t Know What You Have Until It’s Drenched in Water

A Glass of Water Falls on my Laptop

A Glass of Water Falls on my Laptop

Last Wednesday I spilled water on my new laptop computer.

It was a bizarre accident.

I never keep my beverages too close to it. I never let anyone pass near it with liquids in their hands. I barely allow anyone to set eyes on it while they are drinking. I have heard too many stories of students finishing a paper and dropping their coffee mug on their computer to take my chances. And when shopping for a computer, the first thing I look for is an all-risks warrantee.

But last Thursday, I left an half-empty class next to my laptop and started moving things around me. I hit the glass, most of the water fell to the floor, and just enough of it touched the keyboard of my computer to make it seem like it had been drenched as I hastily turned it off and put it upside down. The drops that fell out the computer reminded me of waterfalls.

Continue Reading!

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How scientific training ruined non-scientific publications (for me)

Books by az

I find it hard nowadays to enjoy non-fiction publications that are written by authors who are not scientists.

More precisely, I get a little furious every time an author talks about a study, a survey or any type of data without providing a reference.

In scientific publications, authors generally, if not always, provide a reference to the source of the data they mention in the very sentence in which they make a mention of it. Should the reader wish to learn more about the data, how it was obtained and what conclusions it led to, it is easy to do so. The reference, which often follows the (author year : page #) format, guides the reader in the bibliography. In this golden mine of information, one can also discover more relevant literature on the topic, and select further reading material to feed his or hers insatiable thirst for knowledge.

After years of training in anthropology, I may not consider myself half the academic I want to become, but good old scientific standards have gained a special place in my heart. They are rather attractive to anyone with slight OCD tendencies.

Sadly, however, non-fiction writers too often neglect not only to provide clear references to the research they mention, but also to include a bibliography in their book itself. So when they write, for instance, that ”according to a survey, 20% of people sleep well at night”, I cannot help but ask myself these questions:

  • Who conducted the survey in question?
  • How many people took part in the survey?
  • Where and when did the survey take place?
  • Was the research methodology sound?
  • To what extent can the results be considered valid?
  • Does that research even exist, if the author can’t bother to give me the title of a paper?

What am I supposed to do? Have blind faith in people’s honesty?

I don’t think so.

Still, the non-fiction book I am reading right now is pretty great.

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