My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

Recent Posts

  1. Happy Ada Lovelace Day, now dismantle the tech patriarchy

    I just started writing my review for Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet, by Claire L. Evans. If I had timed things better, I could have written this review earlier and published it today, on Ada Lovelace Day. As it is, I’ve paused writing my review of this amazing book for a quick blog post about this day and women in STEM in general.

    Ada Lovelace, by the way, is often called the world’s first computer programmer. This is because she designed the first algorithm for Charles Babbage’s never-built Analytical Engine, which was itself the first stab at a mechanical computer. Additionally, Lovelace was a kickass mathematician—although she was reluctant to draw attention to herself by publishing her own work, she ended up translating a bunch of other work and adding annotations of her own that were often longer, in total, than the original work!

    Lovelace, and the many women who follow her (read Evans’ book for more!), demonstrate that women have always been a part of tech. Women don’t just belong in STEM; women are an essential component of STEM and have been from the very beginning.

    Yet we have what…

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  2. 10 years of reviewing every book I read

    I reflect on writing over 1400 detailed reviews, one for every book I’ve read since joining Goodreads 10 years ago.

    Back in May 2008 I joined a little website called Goodreads, then privately-owned and managed, which wanted to be the next big social media platform for readers. At first I just played around with the site, rating some books I'd previously read, and keeping track of what I was reading now. I'd write the odd review. Sometime later that year, probably around August or September, I began to review every book I read.

    And now I’ve been doing that for a whole decade.

    So much has changed over that time. Amazon bought Goodreads, and while it hasn't torpedoed the site the way it did Shelfari, our new corporate overlords have been felt (mainly in how much the site hasn't changed). But this post isn’t about that. It isn’t even about how, in the past 10 years, I’ve learned how to knit, graduated from university, lived and taught in England and then moved back to Thunder Bay, started teaching in adult education, bought a house, made new best friends, etc. All that is to say, 10 years in a long time to do anything, and one of the few things that have remained constant during that time is my book…

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  3. Ben and Becky take Montreal

    I went on vacation to visit my friend Rebecca in her new city of Montreal, and I had an awesome, relaxing time.

    Previously I mentioned how one of my best friends moved to Montreal in June. After working through the summer (yes, some teachers don’t have the summer off!), I had the last week of August for holidays. I chose to spend some of that time visiting Rebecca in Montreal, which was my first time going to that city.

    I should mention before we get into the travel diary portion of this post: ironically, I think Rebecca and I have spent more time together since she moved away. (To her credit, she predicted this, and she was right.) We video chat so frequently, still watch Buffy together even more frequently than when she was in town—often synced up so perfectly I can listen to the audio through her mic and my computer speakers and mute my TV! Lately, she has taken to calling me on the phone (yes, actual voice calls without any audio component) most days … and … I actually kind of like it. I hate chatting on the phone; I find that without being able to see a person, I have more trouble remaining engaged in the conversation.

    But … it’s just really nice to have friends in my…

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  4. New site who dis?

    It has been over five years since the last major redesign of my website! The gap is largely because, as I’ve grown older and become more occupied with adulting and other real-life things, I’ve lost much of my interest in coding. I’m finding it difficult to devote the time required to keep up with advances in technologies like CSS, much less finishing my own designs or tweaking the software needed to keep the lights on.

    Still, I stubbornly refuse to give in and just throw up a WordPress site. Never going to happen.

    That being said, part of me wondered if this update would ever get out the door. It has been a long time coming. The clunkiness of my website has been the major reason I haven’t blogged since January (way more so than available time or even interest), and sometime over the summer, my blog actually broke entirely (no clue why). I reached a point where I realized I finally had the motivation and the need to finish this upgrade. Fortunately, when I opened up Sublime Text and poked around this project, I discovered that the redesign aspect of the project was almost complete. Whew. I hate…

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  5. New phone who dis?

    I have a new phone for the first time in nearly 4 years. Thoughts on upgrading and a cursory review.

    Almost 4 years ago, I upgraded from my first smartphone, a Samsung Galaxy S Captivate, to a Nexus 5, then Google’s flagship Android phone with a nice stock Android experience. Now I’ve returned to the Samsung fold with a Galaxy S9.

    I loved my Nexus 5. It was such a great piece of hardware, and while it had its shortcomings (the camera wasn’t great), there was so much to like about it. I miss the soft backing! I wish I could have at least made it to 4 years.

    Alas, it was time. My Nexus 5 hadn’t received a security update in over a year. In Internet time, that’s a lifetime. My phone was slow, apps kept freezing or crashing or not receiving updates. I managed to go 3 years without scratching the phone despite eschewing a case—and then in the past year, I managed to crack the bottom portion of the screen quite badly.

    The last straw came a couple weeks ago. I was preparing to go to Montreal for a vacation. My phone was getting on my nerves; in particular, sending texts was slow and unreliable. And my carrier had the Galaxy S9, which I’d had…

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  6. Life in Cartoon Motion

    Every once in a while, someone remarks or asks of me, “Don’t you ever wish you could have lived in simpler times?” or something along those lines. And every time, my response is some version of, “Hell, no.” Setting aside the obvious benefits of clean drinking water (at least, in this part of Canada) and flush toilets, I am forever grateful to have the privilege of being able to stay in contact with people I’ve befriended no matter where they are in the world. In “simpler times”, if your friend moved overseas … well, that was it for visits. Maybe you would write, sure, and depending on the time and the weather your letter might make it. Maybe you could exchange telegrams. But modern telecommunications means I can literally hang out with a friend no matter the distance—just call them up, turn on the camera, and prop them up next to me on the couch. It isn’t quite the same as them being there in person … but it’s really damn close.

    I’m grateful for this because one of the hardest lessons I’m learning as an adult is that I am very content to stay in this one place, yet…

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  7. You can't outrun every monster

    Mental health issues are not a personal failing

    Trigger warning for detailed descriptions of anxiety-inducing social situations.

    I went to the play alone, and that was probably my mistake. There are reasons I don’t like going to movies or plays by myself. But my friend was in the production, and I really wanted to see her and support her endeavour, so I dragged myself out to the small (but thankfully not crowded) theatre and thoroughly enjoyed the performance. It wasn’t until near the very end that I started feeling … off. The curtain came down on the final bows, the house lights came up--and suddenly, all I wanted to do was get out.

    But first I had to run the gauntlet. The actors lined the exit into the lobby. I wanted to stop, say hello to my friend, tell her how much I had liked the show and her role in it. But I couldn’t. I could only keep my head down, rush through, and escape into the chilly night air. Only when I was back in my car, body moulded to the seat, music playing through the speakers, did I start to feel better, and I wasn’t really myself again until I was safely ensconced at home.…

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  8. Best books I read in 2017

    As with last year, I’m eschewing lists of top 10 best and worst books in favour of simply highlighting some of my favourites read in the past year.

    Social Justice

    I want to start with a book that is actually being published this year, on January 16: Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race. You must read this book if you want to learn more about systemic racism and the ways in which we can dismantle it.

    Next up, one of my favourite books of the year is The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. This is a powerful book about police brutality and anti-Black racism by a Black woman. Again, it’s a must-read, this time in novel form.

    Closer to home, we have Seven Fallen Feathers, by Tanya Talaga. This book examines the deaths of seven Indigenous youth who came to my town, Thunder Bay, for high school. Talaga exposes the racism and systemic failures of our police and government. It’s a harrowing but important read.

    Science

    Lots of my non-fiction this year was dedicated to science, which I’m happy about. I requested many ARCs from NetGalley, and two science texts in particular went…

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  9. This year I learned: friendship is a verb

    I’m not always down for a “year in review” kind of post, except maybe for my reading—it’s not that I dislike them, but hey, they require effort. Yet 2017 has seen so many dramatic changes in my life that I feel the need to set something down in this record for posterity. Disclaimer: I know that 2017 has been a shit year for many people, but for me personally, it has been rather great. If you aren’t interested in reading a post filled with unbridled positivity, I understand.

    Firstly, obviously, I bought a house! This was a long time coming, though I did accelerate my timetable somewhat. Four months in, and I have zero regrets. I am loving this life. I’ll talk a little bit more about how living alone in a house of my own has changed things for the better later in this post.

    Secondly, I quit my part-time job as a gallery attendant at my local art gallery (read more on that in this blog post—I was good about documenting changes as they happened!). I had some trepidation about this. Aside from the (small) drop in my income, the gallery was a significant source of…

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  10. Star Trek: Discovery is #NotMyStarTrek

    My unexpected optimism for Star Trek: Discovery is fast turning to disappointment.

    No spoilers for this week’s episode, although I do want it on record I’m incredibly disappointed that after going to the effort of casting formidable women of colour, this show seems intent on fridging them. WTF.

    I’ve been reading a lot of behind the scenes things about TOS as I rewatch it. One thing is clear: Star Trek was ahead of its time in almost every way. From its storytelling to its acting to its design and production, it departed from the norms of television in the 1960s. Roddenberry and co. took a risk, and it paid off.

    The more I watch of Discovery, the more I’m convinced of a few things. Firstly, I don’t think Discovery is trash in the way I think the new movies are trash. It is a quality production, with excellent acting and characterization, and it’s trying to tell a compelling story that, magical spore-drives aside, could make for some good science fiction.

    But it’s not Star Trek. At least, it isn’t my Star Trek in the way that the first four live-action TV series (and … OK … yes ……

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