Princeton established the Institute for Advanced Study in 1930 as a place where some of the world’s greatest minds could pursue their research without distractions like teaching and administrative tasks. Richard Feynman famously criticized the idea, saying: When I was at Princeton in the 1940s I could see what happened to those great minds at […]



June 12, 2015

in Geek stuff, Language, Rants

English spelling is a vestigial mess: Getting Letting Betting Netting Petting Wetting Jetting Vetting Sweating

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A supposed value of the Boy Scouts is to leave every place they visit in better condition than when they arrived. ‘Better’ is the critical word here. This is not a matter of walking into the ruins of a depraved binge and bringing it to Martha Stewart’s standards. Rather, it’s about the courtesy and precaution […]


His career at the top of Canadian politics tells us more about the state of Canadian politics than anything else. That such a palpable cipher could have remained in high office for nearly a decade is a testament to many things: the thinness of the Tory front bench, the decline of cabinet, the prime minister’s […]


The inequalities of being at U of T are weirdly mixed together and overlapping in my life now. It’s weird to live in one of the most expensive parts of Canada, but regularly find it worthwhile to walk for 90 minutes rather than spend $3 for the subway. It’s weird to be at one of […]



March 10, 2015

in Daily updates, Rants

Today I had to pull out from an academic collaboration because I don’t have time for that, striking, preparing my PhD research proposal, finding somewhere to live after Massey, and updating the fossil fuel divestment brief. This is a further illustration of why it is probably pointless to aspire to any sort of long-term work […]


I am at Convocation Hall for a meeting of the members of CUPE3902 Unit 1 – the union for teaching assistants at the University of Toronto. We are discussing a tentative agreement which the bargaining team reached with the administration late last night. To me, the proposed deal looks deeply inadequate. They are proposing wage […]


One neat thing about J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is the way in which the story is set within multiple frames. The Hobbit, for instance, is sometimes presented as the account written of his adventures by Bilbo Baggins. It is also presented as part of the Red Book of Westmarch: […]


Fry on language

November 26, 2014

in Geek stuff, Rants, Writing

The brilliant Stephen Fry on the balance between rule-following and tiresome pedantry in language use: I admit that if you want to communicate well for the sake of passing an exam or job interview, then it is obvious that wildly original and excessively heterodox language could land you in the soup. I think what offends […]


“More recently you have the positive psychologists who are deluded enough to believe that happiness is a hallmark of mental health – which has gotta be the stupidest theory that’s come out in the last, I would say, probably 2000 years.”