Strategic voting

I really dislike First Past the Post as a voting system. It’s so incredibly flawed. It leads to situations that the current election in Ontario where I have a preferred party that has currently 0 chance of getting elected. I also have a strong preference of the remaining choices. I’m fine with the NDP who’s policies are similar to mine except often (IMHO) unrealistic in how they will achieve all (or any) of them concurrently. And there’s the conservatives which the leader (Doug Ford, which some of you may know as the brother of the late Rob Ford) is practically a caricature of how to be a terrible human being.

The problem is that the NDP and the Conservatives have been statistically tied in the race for a while now with the Liberals far behind. In a perfect world we’d have something like the preferential ballot which has a few other names but is basically that instead of writing an X you rank folks 1,2,3 etc. This has many advantages over the current system and has one very big advantage over all the systems political junkies try to get to referendum in that you can explain it in one sentence and folks will instinctively understand what you mean. In my current situation I would just vote Liberal 1, NDP 2, Green party 3, any random independent running 4, Conservatives 5 and all would be fine.

In the current context the choice would ostensibly be wasting my vote or voting the lesser of two evils. While I support people who want to always vote for the best candidate or the one who represents them the most, I find that in reality that leads to things like Stephen Harper, George Bush, Donald Trump, and potentially, Doug Ford. That’s too high a price to pay.

So at this point you could reasonably assume that I would vote NDP. The problem is my current riding. I live in Ottawa which is the only place the Liberals are actually still in  the running with polls showing the NDP with a slight lead but within the margin of error. The conservatives sadly are leading in the region (because of this split IMHO). From the latest polls I can see here the NDP has a slight lead. If that remains the case on election day I will sadly need to cast my ballot for them. Not because I think they are the best party, but because they are, by far, better than the alternative. Hopefully one day we’ll get election reform right and it won’t have to be this way.

Why blogging is harder than posting links

After writing my last post, I decided to google if others had thought of it before. And voila: A much better article that goes thru what I wanted to much better then I can. ( Seriously, I recommend you read it). And I think that’s partly why it’s hard to blog. I know what I’m writing isn’t the best on the topic. So why not just post a link to what I believe on Facebook?

Maybe because I feel that posting a link is sometimes not as much about trying to tell people something but to tell others who we are, or who want people to think we are. Kinda like wearing certain clothes or doing certain activities. “Oh, Stéphane must be a great Liberal because he posted this article on such and such”. Who hasn’t shared an article they only read the headline of and were like “I agree with this and I want others to know”?

Facebook is becoming similar to our lawn or our bookshelf. We make it in the image we want people to have of us. We keep the lawn well maintained, (or that we don’t care about such superficial things as lawns). That we have Kant on our bookshelf (Or a truly ridiculous amounts of Dave Barry books).

Is blogging more “truth”? Harder to hide behind? Potentially because of it’s public nature (vs the appearance of privacy from Facebook).

Compassion for Donald Trump

I remember talking with someone and they mentioned how it’s pretty easy to have compassion for people you know and kinda dislike, but having compassion for someone that you truly despise, now that was challenging.

And I’ve thought about it especially after reading Leadership and Self Deception (which I was sure was titled Leadership and the Art of Self Deception). The book really helped me have compassion for former colleagues that I use to scorn. The way the book is written is really different than most books of the genre and I think that’s what made it go from some abstract ideas about compassion to really have me be introspective about my past behaviours and consequently theirs.

But there were (are) still folks I don’t think I have compassion for. If we’re supposed to have compassion for lettuce where should I draw the line? Is Donald Trump not worthy of my compassion?

I disagree, often quite strongly with his policies, his actions, his beliefs. But does that mean I shouldn’t have compassion for him? After thinking about it, there seems to be many things I should be compassionate about. There appear to be some struggles with his relationship with his wife. He is criticized (rightly or wrongly) on a daily basis by many people on TV, in magazines, online. The way he talks about things often feels like he’s insecure and afraid. He even has polls daily that tell him how many people disapprove of him. None of that can be fun.

That’s without even examining his past and what made him. If we take the lettuce metaphor. It’s easy for me to say, well that means I should be kind to someone who might be addicted to drugs and commits a crime, or who have suffered trauma and lashes out. But is that just because I know (or can imagine) their past? How can I truly judge Trump without being omnipresent?

I guess this brings me to what I struggle with the “compassion for lettuce” concept. If I should be compassionate for everyone, even someone like Donald Trump, then does that mean not holding people to account? If it’s not the lettuce’s fault that it got no sun, too much water, bad soil, is anyone responsible for any of their actions?

I “know” what the answer to this is. It’s that both things are not dependent on one another. That you can have compassion for someone while still holding them accountable. But I’m not sure I know how to do that yet…

EDIT: you might as well just read it’s a much better article than this one.

Compassion for lettuce

When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look into the reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or our family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and arguments. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change. – Thich Nhat Hanh

Distribution of Media

Some ridiculous percentage of the views I get (all 10-30 a day of them!) come from Facebook or Twitter. They are in a sense the only real method of distribution I have. It’s interesting because while I advocate for most folks to take control over the distribution channel by using email (RSS and most other means are for all intent and purpose irrelevant now) I haven’t done it for myself. I’m not sure if I will spend the time trying to convince people to subscribe.

And if I do, is it just because I like seeing views on the site?
Is that the goal of why I write? To feed my ego when I see 40 views instead of 0?

Maybe that’s it, but I feel like if that was the case I’d polish these pieces out a bit more.

I could for example, with this post, start by explaining how historically the methods of distributions were in a few large media companies (that’s if I start with the last century) and you had to go thru them to get your message out.

Then the Internet was supposed to revolutionize this. Everyone would be on an even playing ground. And for a while things actually were better.
There were many different aggregation sites. Digg, Reddit, Slashdot, Yahoo, AOL, MSN and still other ways to follow sites (RSS, ATOM) and tools to do that (Insert complaint about Google Reader being discontinued here) and then finish with how it’s right back where we started with Google and Facebook controlling most of the traffic.

I guess I don’t see the point in doing that. It’s like most books. It’s a 10 page idea wrapped with 300 pages of explanations, evidences, anecdotes, the same idea repeated in different ways etc. I don’t think I’m going to sway many opinions. You already know if you agree or not or you’ll form an opinion quickly if you don’t well more facts won’t change your mind.

All that to say, would you sign up for an email subscription? What if I make a popup that blocks your screen while reading? Would that be even more enticing?

You work all the time!

I often get people telling me things like:
“What? You’re working on the weekend?”, or
“What? it’s 9pm and you’re working?”
The implications being that I’m working all the time.

On the other hand, I often get weird looks from my landlord and neighbors when it’s 2pm and I’m out in the yard gardening. I’m pretty sure the landlord thinks I’m some sort of internet scammer that doesn’t do any real work or something.

Both of those show the strange relation we have with work. That it’s all the same and that he best way to do work is to get up at 8, get into work at 9 and then get home at 5. And you shouldn’t do work outside those hours because that’s over working and you shouldn’t not work in those hours because then you’re lazy.

And to be fair, that system works for many people. I have many colleagues who like the 9 to 5 and that’s it. They are always there at 9 and always leave at 5. One of the great things about working remotely and my job ( you should think of joining us ) in general is that you can set your own hours. If I don’t feel like getting up for 10 am today. I don’t need to! If I feel unproductive at 2pm (which I often do) I can just go outside and spend 30 minutes to an hour gardening or doing groceries or playing a video game.

Now that’s not to say it’s all just fun and games. We all have responsibilities and things that need to get done by a certain day or time and we have some on call shifts (usually during hours that you’d work anyway) and we take turns being on call on the weekends (for which you take time off for). I’m a big fan of a Matt Mullenweg quote:

[…]We think someone’s working if they show up in the morning and they’re not drunk, they don’t sleep at their desks, they leave at the right time[…]
-Matt Mullenweg

And that quote was actually a contributing factor to why I applied to Automattic in the first place.

I personally greatly enjoy the flexibility, the autonomy and the trust we have in eachother in my team. If you’re interested, maybe you should check us out.

Technology will solve everything

I just finished reading Geek Heresy (that’s now a lie as this blog post is based on a draft from 2015!! But it was true at the time), and I really recommend it to techno-optimists such as myself.

It was a very well written account of a point of view I had partially embraced previously. I’ve always thought that the only thing we should (and can because everything else fails) ‘export’ as a means of charity is training. The book expands on why technology itself will never solve any social problems.

Social problems being things such as the state of public schools in the US (One laptop per child will not even things out, it will just amplify good schools and make mediocre schools even worse). Same with health care e-records. They are not what we need to become healthier (they are not by themselves a good or a bad thing, they just amplify social tendencies). The same goes for foreign aid. There are some people who talk about ‘capacity building’ and that is relatively close to what the book advocates for, but still most of the resources in foreign aid are ‘things’ that we give to other poorer countries.  It goes on to explain why even really simple things like vaccines will not cure a disease without other social aspects (A good example of how to eradicate a disease without a vaccine can be found here ).

It goes on to talk about how one should help train and finished by saying that mentor-ship, real mentor-ship not coaching or just plain teaching is what can help change the world. While some parts feel pessimistic I felt overall that it gave me hope that I can help make even a small dent in the world by helping mentor and ‘teach’.

That was where this post ended in 2015. The book and a post by a friend on Facebook is what got me to start being a big brother and to take part and help grow an internship program where I work. Since then I’ve taken part in hour of code and spoken to a few different classes about careers in technology. If you’re looking to make the world a better place, it’s often easy to focus on the really big things. But if you help mentor even just one person it might have a snowball effect.


I re-read a post from Wait But Why called “Religion for the Nonreligious”. I find it somewhat poorly named as I don’t feel it has much to do with religion. It’s a great post about Wisdom, consciousness and it’s title would probably have the word mindfulness in it if it was published today. What struck me is how similar the post is to discussions about life / the meaning of life from the Dalai Lama, the Leadership and self deception book, Ken Wilber, and a whole range of modern pseudo philosophical / spiritual books.

For most of these, we’ll read it, agree, and then a few days later it’ll be out of sight out of mind. What’s interesting about this post is he mentions that. How it’s a struggle to stay “aware” of our consciousness and that we keep making good decisions and not get dragged down into negative impulses.

It’s a very similar thought to my post on setting the conditions for things to come naturally and I guess it’s been on my mind a lot as I try to be more compassionate and to stick to it and not have knee-jerk reactions to things. It’s interesting because one thing I worry about is that people reading this will be like, “Wow Steph talks a lot about wisdom and compassion and all that, but he sucks at it, he always has oversized reactions and throws out blunt opinions when he’s frustrated”. This came to mind recently because a friend of mine had a boss who kept writing Facebook posts about management and leadership and all that. And she was like: “he’s a horrible boss”. I want to believe the reason he posted about it was because he was aware of that. Or at least, had a nagging suspicion that he could improve his management abilities and not that he thought he already knew the answers or rather that he “knew” the answers, but the implementation wasn’t there yet.

The interesting part is just a few days ago I wrote about self sabotage and the answer was to make small steps each day. Isn’t it the same answer as the question here? That yes we might forget things, but we should keep striving one day at a time? I guess that’s if we keep remembering things. Kinda like remembering Sammy Jankis….



Today is Saturday (or more accurately this post is scheduled for Saturday). And that means cheat day for me where I eat a bunch of junk food I don’t eat during the rest of the week. The science behind it is questionable but it works for me. There are 2 reasons that might be the cause of the cheat day, the first one is the whole it’s way easier to not eat any junk food (basically anything processed or anything with medium to large amounts of sugar) if you can just delay gratification. It’s not that I won’t ever eat ice cream again. It’s just that I will eat it in X days. The other theory is that one of the reasons some people who do calorie restriction long term start to metabolize slower (that’s pretty sure at this point) is that there body is responding to the fact it doesn’t have as much leptin. Anyway, the cheat day combined with cutting out almost all sugar and carbs (which also has a side effect of removing almost all processed food) has had a dramatic impact for me. It’s now been over 4 years now that I’m on it and it’s working for me. If you’re looking for something, give it a try :).

Google’s different voices

I decided I was going to try to write a blog post a day. So you’re probably going to end up with random thoughts.

Today I was in the car and I noticed (And this is not the first time this has happened) that Google Assistant’s voice changed half way thru a “conversation” on sending a text message. While both are similar one definitely seems to have a more fluid tone. I also feel like one has a more British vs US accent but it’s not super pronounced and it doesn’t jive with my current theory that it’s the “networked” voice (like the voice samples from the cloud) vs the “local” voice (just from the phone without internet access). I’m still not sure yet and truthfully perhaps if I spent a bit more time googling it I could find it, but up to now local vs networked is my bet.