What’s happening

2012-07-16

in Daily updates, Toronto

Things are unusually busy at the moment.

This fall, I am starting a PhD in political science at the University of Toronto. I am also starting a junior fellowship at Massey college, where I am moving on August 31st. In order to accomplish this move into a smaller space, I need to pare down my possessions again (having already reduced somewhat when leaving Ottawa and again when moving into my current place). Invariably, I find that packing is a chore that takes much longer than expected. Those last few objects to be boxed up tend to become a chaotic agglomeration stuffed together into cardboard boxes and duffel bags, creating the need for further tedious sorting after the move. At least I was able to give away my ice skates yesterday, to a neighbour with the same size feet who promises he will make good use of then. Given the hazards of urban cycling, I am thinking about giving up my Trek hybrid, along with helmet, bike pumps, lights, panniers, clothing, and the rest of the lot.

There is also a great deal of academic work to be done. I need to identify and read sources that will help me to develop my thesis research, reach out to potential collaborators and supervisory committee members, and gain a familiarity with what is happening in top journals. Several menacing stacks of highly relevant books – along with fat folders of journal articles – need to be read and understood. I also need to prepare to work as a teaching assistant, choose courses and register for them, and begin the process of general subject area reading that will culminate with comprehensive examinations in two years. There is also a preliminary paper on climate ethics that I wrote months ago, which is now desperately in need of being updated on the basis of generous and intelligent comments from friends (the same goes for a letter I am writing). I am three weeks behind in reading The Economist. I have also been meaning to write a detailed response to an IEA report on climate change, and I need to prepare to apply for funding in the fall, since the University of Toronto obliges all PhD students to do so, later rather heartlessly clawing back any funding they win from their U of T funding package.

I have also been working with a great group of people to establish a local 350.org organization in Toronto. We are planning a couple of events in the next few months, and working to recruit more volunteers and organizers. The 350.org model has much to recommend it, so it is encouraging that Canada’s largest city will be seeing a more active 350.org presence. We have been holding planning meetings on Tuesdays, and are very much in search of Toronto residents who are interested in joining what aspires to be an active and effective group combating climate change.

As ever, there are lots of projects in mind but on the backburner. I am still considering holding a photo show using my images from the Keystone XL protest in Washington D.C., but it will need to wait until I find an appropriate space and enough time to bring it together. Lately, there hasn’t been much time for new photographic work. Also, I am still trying to come up with a scientifically accurate and visually interesting demonstration of climate science, for use in a television show. The hack suffered by my websites still has me a bit nervous, as well, and I am trying to keep an eye on server behaviour to assess whether all the cracks have been filled in. My wiki remains totally broken. My low-fee low carbon mutual fund idea remains on mothballs.

I’ve not yet decided whether I should take the Greyhound to Vancouver in August. I haven’t been there in quite some time, and the idea of spending a few weeks in that excellent city has considerable appeal. At the same time, there is much for me to do here, and first impressions are extremely important. If I can come across as unusually committed and prepared when I begin my PhD, I may be able to create a positive impression which will help me to succeed in the project.

Oh, and I still have a full-time job (for twelve more days) and a commute that requires spending more than 15 hours a week on streetcars, subway trains, and buses.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

alena July 17, 2012 at 10:34 am

You have an active mind for an active life! As you get closer to another major shift in your life, there are so many things to do. Fortunately, you are well-organized and systematic. Everything will unfold in due time and you will soon be back in the world of academia. That should be very exciting. A trip to Vancouver would also be splendid for all the people here who care about you. I hear that the train ride is much more pleasant and I am willing to contribute.

Lynn July 18, 2012 at 9:59 am

Good luck with the PhD! I think you’re going to do an amazing job. Looking forward to reading about your progress.

Milan July 22, 2012 at 9:17 pm

A big part of what I am working on now is just familiarizing myself with the oddities and bureaucratic complexities of U of T. In a school of 45,000 students, each of us is an insignificant speck – and it shows in the jargon-heavy and hard to comprehend administrative materials.

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