Pokémon Go and iNaturalist

Santiago Sanchez and Sam McNally: Endless Forms Most Battleful

Santiago Sanchez and Sam McNally: Endless Forms Most Battleful

It’s too soon to tell if Pokémon Go is a transformative, niche-lifestyle-gone-mainstream-because-money phenomenon, or if it will burn out like Furbys and Pogs, but as I dodged past a pair of parallel-playing Poképedestrians this morning, I realized that my easy scorn was hypocrisy: I had merely already satisfied my own urge to collect and catalogue, though on reflection, my way was obviously superior, and therefore I was allowed to be smug again.

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Valediction 2

Danny from 2016: My M.A. years, and the thesis that came out of it was an awfully dark period, marked probably by undiagnosed depression, but also a number of good things: I got fit, I met my thesis supervisor, Clare Brett, who continues to be my exemplar for the non-academic responsibilities of a mentor and good human, I experienced unalloyed, simple joy in solitude at my family cottage, and as the miasma of the struggle dissipated, I eventually became proud of what I’d produced.  It took me at least a year not to feel broken, and I still don’t think the document’s tremendously good (or useful) reading, but if you’re interested to see what all this resulted in, I’ve built a little shrine for the misshapen leviathan over here.

I started writing this in my head during a shower two days before I finished my thesis, when my albatross fell off prematurely and hope flooded in.  I felt superstitiously hubristic, but I couldn’t stop being happy and peaceful.  It was awful.

I don’t know how much those minutes of time-warped exaltation were responsible for my ambivalence when people (all the people) subsequently asked me how it felt to be done—it’s been old news since before it happened.  There’s other stuff, though: I also didn’t feel like I’d accomplished anything meaningful: my work was incredibly narrow in scope, with a rotten theoretical foundation, which makes it unlikely that I’ll be able to chop it up into articles and offer it up to Academe, which is really the only way it might begin to make a contribution.  I’m not planning to teach in Second Life.  The document, in terms of broader literary value and polish, is a crooked sandcastle rendered in sun-ripened meconium, capable of bringing joy to no one I’d be comfortable meeting without adult supervision.  The sheer output of words seems impressive, but my snobby creative self immediately points out that it could have been a novel.  The thought of going on to do a PhD right now is revolting, and I have some very good friends who, if I seriously considered the enterprise anytime soon, could be counted upon to quite rightly break my legs.  I took two extra years to finish, at a pretty significant cost to my family’s finances and emotional wellbeing.  I’m not celebrating.

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I’ve had two distinct golden ages of walking: one was during undergrad, when I explored the trails around Nipissing and North Bay listening to Teaching Company lectures, and the other seems to be right now.  I’ve been at my family’s cottage since last autumn and through the winter, with walking being a critical part of my lifestyle: the grocery store is a six kilometre round trip, and is a very boring route, so I’ve taken to adding variety by hiking the trails near Brechin and Lagoon City to get there.  This typically entails detours of another four to eight kilometres, often in completely the wrong direction.  The bush here is swampy and beautiful, riddled with nicely-maintained ATV roads and a raised, straight strip of land that used to be a railroad line, handily cutting across the wetlands in slow, stately dereliction.  The bugs, which can be monstrous during the summer because of all the standing water, haven’t yet appeared, so the walks are essentially perfect.

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Inky Doodles

After two years of flaccidly trying to get a poetry group together (and now that I’m daily trying to figure out what to spend my hour-long writing sessions on), I’ve decided to work through Stephen Fry’s The Ode Less Travelled by myself.  But, the exercises don’t start for a while, and I’m bloody-mindedly reading it from the beginning (for the fourth time), so I got twitchy.  I did a couple of mad doodles, starting with this.

Stand, deliver up thy blows,
Weak in heart and long in nose,
Cyrano, before the sun:
Silhouetted, underdone.

I have no idea what it means.  If I’m very lucky, some scholar will devote her dissertation to excavating my genius while I’m still alive, and my curiosity will eventually be satisfied.  For now, I’ll assume it’s nonsense.

I like the metre, though. 

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Unwonted Productivity

(This post starts with lots of tedious, whining context.  If you’d like to skip to the good stuff, please click here.)

Since fourth-year of my undergrad, my academic life has been a losing struggle for productivity.  Procrastination no longer tested the edge of my due-dates, but the patience of my professors.  By the first couple of years at OISE, I actually got fatalistic about it, and felt often as if I was watching my own self-destruction from a safe distance with idle, morbid fascination.  Sometimes, I could muster misery; often I dallied with shame and self-loathing (publically, even, to the grief and probable boredom of friends and family).  My rationalizations for the consistently missed deadlines, and the undeniable fact that my peers were marching past me academically and socially, were always based in some sort of reality but they became increasingly byzantine and hollow.  I incorporated my sense of futility into my identity and wondered that I had ever respected myself.  It’s likely that I was clinically depressed, but consistently, I didn’t face it.

My desperation to be done with my thesis eventually grew strong enough to break through my apathy, and I started actively working on strategies to get work done.  Brian and I had some productivity dates around the time I was working at Indigo, the semi-successful engine of which was simulated peer pressure (since neither of us would ever have dreamed of chewing the other out for flakiness).  Scheduling and proximity were a problem, though, and made these meetings inconsistent.  When I moved up north after Gideon got his job in La Loche, the distance was an issue and meetings eventually stopped altogether.  There’ve been less distractions up here, and I’d become marginally more productive than I was in Toronto, but progress remained agonizing.

Over the last five days, I have (tentatively, but optimistically) turned myself around.  As with anything like this, consistency is more important than initial, favourable results, and therefore the bubbly remains on ice.  But, I’m chronicling how it happened here so that

  1. If I lose my way, I can come back here and try to reboot;
  2. If it turns out that this changed my life, I’ve got a record of my personality on the cusp, when I was happy and hopeful, but before I got all arrogant and preachy;
  3. Maybe a variant of this approach can eventually be useful to someone else.
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(Annotated Fragments) A Personal Guide to Extended Listening

(Danny from 2016: This was written on Christmas Day, 2010, evidently.  I never wound up finishing this post, and I’ll probably return to the material in the future – listening remains an awfully gratifying part of most of my days, and if anything, I’ve become more fastidious in my collecting and listening to British radio comedy, since I no longer have access to the filesharing resources that made indiscriminate consumption so inviting when I penned this.)

I am warm in my North York room, gradually digesting Christmas brunch, listening to Justin Bianco’s Blackbird, and watching my juicy Montblanc White Forest ink dry on the page.  My feet are resting in anticipation of my seven-hour Indigo shift tomorrow.  I am at peace.  I hope you are, too.

I met Lisa Bullock, a longtime friend of Geoff and Tab’s last weekend at their Christmas party and discovered I wasn’t alone in my obsessive interest in British alternative comedians: it was exhilarating to bounce obscure names and shticks back and forth with instant recognition and appreciation in front of our bewildered friends, like randomly meeting another Nipissing University graduate while wandering through an isolated rural village in Devonshire.  Though both of us love the same players, however, we discovered that we approached the scene through different media – Lisa is an impressive British TV aficionado while I’ve built my acquaintance almost exclusively with radio programs.  When I was (predictably) effusive in my desire to share my library, Lisa expressed concern that she didn’t know how to listen to radio.  This has come up often enough by now that I don’t take spoken-word audio consumption for granted anymore, and because it’s been a big part of my life for the last decade or so, I thought I’d take a shot at providing a tutorial.

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