Thursday, April 14, 2016

Transgender people are still people, obviously

"Imagine going through life every day and having so many of your interactions involve somebody trying to give you a hug and stepping on your foot while doing it," Prince, a 31-year-old trans woman in Alexandria, Virginia, said. "And then when you ask them to step off your foot, no matter how polite you are about it, they respond with, 'Oh, excuse me, I was just trying to give you a hug.'"
This series on Vox is remarkable and honest. I'm not sure I can do justice talking about it, and I encourage you to go read the whole series.

What it comes down to is that it doesn't matter how people choose to live their lives. Being assigned the wrong gender at birth, or having genitals that don't align with your perceived gender or don't fit into our neat, tidy definitions of 'normal' doesn't make anybody less of a person.

As anybody who has ever been bullied for being 'different' can attest, it absolutely sucks. For humans, it has been evolutionarily advantageous to sort things into distinct groups and categorize them as such. But treating human beings that way, as though some are inherently more deserving of human rights or legal protections than others, simply because of how they choose to live their lives, is absolutely devastating.

In the last couple of weeks, we have seen big musical acts like Bruce Springsteen cancel concerts in North Carolina over a terrible anti-LGBT law that passed there, and more of this needs to happen. Lawmakers need to be responsible and consider the needs of all constituents, not just those who represent the majority.

I don't personally know anybody who is transgender, but it's just so blindingly obvious to me that those people are just as deserving of love, care, and compassion as anybody else in the world, if not more so.

> Transgender stories - Vox

Car crashes kill an absurd number of people

The numbers are so huge they are not easily grasped, and so are perhaps best understood by a simple comparison: If U.S. roads were a war zone, they would be the most dangerous battlefield the American military has ever encountered. 
I take the bus to work, and I absolutely love walking and biking. There are certain niche uses where a car is essential, but in an urban centre like Ottawa, many people can get around without relying on a car.

Having said that, just as many people, if not more, absolutely DEPEND on a car every day for transport to and from work and other social obligations. Most of this is because housing in big cities (Ottawa to some extent, Toronto and New York, for example, just take the example to astonishing extremes) is very expensive, so people choose to live where it's cheaper, work in the urban centre, and commute for 30-60 minutes by car.

That thought is crazy to me. Even though I spend a ton of my life listening to podcasts, which are pretty perfect for car trips such as that, the thought of getting into a car every day to drive to the office is not something I think I'd enjoy that much.

Adding to that, we tend to think of car crashes as a tiny risk in our day to day lives, and it gets worse as those lives come to rely more and more on absolute certainty of normalcy. If our pizza is late, it's free. If our Uber takes 10 minutes, we complain. When a bus breaks down (or doesn't show up at all), we're late for work.

But in a life (and society) where things are so safe (#firstworldproblems, anyone), the fact that any of us could die in such a quick, violent way on any given day is cause for alarm. We put car traffic above everything else in our transportation system, and yet it's responsible for so many totally preventable deaths on our roads every day.

At some point, self-driving cars will take over, and crashes between two of those will be as unlikely as a plane crash is today. But for now, we're stuck with an incredibly convenient transportation method where countless unknown cars around you are capable of completely changing, or ending, your life in an instant.

That's scary, but it gives us something to strive for, and I think car culture as it exists now might be nearing its peak.

> The Absurd Primacy of the Automobile in American Life - The Atlantic

The end of green screen, and possibly the beginning of true 3D movies

Since Lytro's tech basically captures all the 3D information in a scene, the imagery is unusually friendly to CGI. Placing virtual objects at exactly the right depth in a scene is essentially taking advantage of a native ability of the footage.
This is possibly the beginning of what I've been looking for since the re-renaissance of 3D movies in the last 10-15 years. As the new 'real' 3D movies came to theatres, what I really wanted was to be able to view a scene in full 3D (ie. with the right visuals, everything could theoretically be in focus at all times) and to be able to focus on whatever I wanted at any time.

You have no idea how disorienting it is (unless you do this, like I do) to be engrossed in a 3D movie, just to glance at something in the background of a scene and see that you can't focus on it. Is that what living with glasses is like? It's terrible.

I'm really hopeful that advances in 3D movies along with these Lytro cameras that are capable of capturing all aspects of a 3D scene could mean an overhaul of not only visual effects, but of the 3D movie as a whole. I think if we were to see something like this, we would be able to truly revolutionize cinema. It might take a VR type experience to truly make this happen, but I think at a certain point that's where we'll end up, and I can't wait to focus on the meaningless background part of a scene in a movie, just because I can.

> Lytro's new Cinema camera could mean the end of green screen