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

Ben Babcock

Recent Posts

  1. Code fatigue and an amateur dilemma

    I believe this is what we call an impasse.

    My first forays online were in direct proportion to me learning how to code. I crafted my website in HTML, by hand, on GeoCities, for upwards of three years. Then I learned PHP, and MySQL, and from there the sky was the limit. For a long time, I loved coding for the web.

    This website is currently running a Frankensteined combination of frameworks. this blog is custom-built in Flask, a Python framework. You can learn more about this in a post I wrote back when I switched over to it from the previous software. The rest of the site sits on top of the PHP framework Symphony CMS (not to be confused with Symfony, another framework).

    I really like Symphony CMS. It does so much right, in my amateur’s opinion, as a framework, and it has an active and passionate community of developers. But I have two reasons I want to migrate my site away from it.

    Firstly, my interest in hacking in PHP has dropped to nearly zero over the past several years. The language itself is evolving at a healthy clip, although detractors would point…

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  2. I bought a house

    Those of you who occasionally pay attention to my posts on Twitter and Goodreads might have noticed I’ve been quieter than usual. May has been a busy month, to the point where it has seriously affected my reading (and that is saying something). I’ve only managed 5 books in May (and 7 books in April—what is wrong with me?).

    One of the reasons I’ve been so busy is that I’m buying a house (hence, you know, the title of this post).

    Since moving back from the UK, I’ve generally had a plan to buy a house by the time I’m 30. At the beginning of this year, I decided I wanted to advance that timeline (I’m currently 27). I had enough money for a reasonable downpayment and was as certain as anyone can be in this era of my job security. So at the end of March Break, I sought pre-approval for a mortgage. Then I found a realtor and started looking at houses.

    I’ve been very lucky. My dad doesn’t charge me for room or board, so there are no pressures on me to move out. I could quite comfortably keep living here for another decade. But as much…

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  3. Travelling is not my favourite thing

    What a week, or to be more precise, three days!

    Last month my former boss asked my current boss if I could travel to Guelph to present some Office365 training to teachers at a workshop. I don’t like travelling, nor do I think I bring much unique to the table in terms of doing training. But I was flattered that he had requested me, and I want to stay in his good books, so I said yes. The workshop itself was two days, but I committed to coming for the second day only; this week was the last week of the session, and I didn’t want to miss two of the last three days of classes while my students were completing culminating tasks.

    Travelling from Thunder Bay is always an interesting experience. We have an “international” airport because we have direct flights to the States and places like Cuba. But pretty much any other destination involves going through a connection in Winnipeg (west) or Toronto (east). So to get to Guelph, I had to fly to Toronto, then take a shuttle to Guelph. The realities of scheduling—finding a flight in the evening with enough time between the end of the…

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  4. We are not Sheldon Cooper

    “Oh, you’re like Sheldon!”

    Given that it is Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week, this seems like a good time to talk about something that has been on my mind for a while. I’ve taken a stab at writing a blog post about this but it never quite came out right. This week, and a recent Twitter exchange have prompted me to give it another try.

    In some superficial ways, I resemble Sheldon Cooper: I am a well-educated and lithe white man with a strong science and technical background, an intense interest in nerd topics, and a dislike of certain social norms. So I get where this comparison comes from, and when I reveal my utter disinterest in romantic or sexual liaisons, the connection seems only to solidify in the minds of friends and acquaintances who, I know, only mean well.

    I’ve discussed previously why I don’t think Sheldon is a good nerd icon. Today I’m more interested in talking about why representation matters, and how Sheldon Cooper is a poor representation of an arospec/asexual character.

    It’s a shame, too, because terrible personality aside, Sheldon Cooper could have been a good representation. Here’s why.

    Arospec people can date!

    The…

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  5. Let's stop policing the language of sex and romance

    Hey hey, it’s Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week. I already kind of cheated and started blogging about this last week, but needs must and all. This week, not-so-coincidentally timed to follow Valentine’s Day, is all about reminding the world that not everyone experiences romantic attraction in the same way, or to the same degree. And today I want to do this by picking apart the seams we often imagine between romance and sex.

    I recently read Son of a Trickster, a new novel from Eden Robinson. I highly recommend it; go check it out! There’s a fabulous exchange between the teenage protagonist, Jacob, and Sarah; they are sexual partners but their relationship status is blurry and ill-defined at this point:

    “No, you don’t understand. I’m not regretting it. I’m saying I don’t believe in monogamy, but I don’t fall in the sack with just anyone. And I certainly don’t believe in gender the way you do, and you’ve made it clear that you find my ways ‘pervy.’”

    “What”?

    “I’m normally attracted to people willing to push heteronormative boundaries.”

    Jacob felt his eye twitching. “So you’re gay?”

    “There you go,” Sarah said. “Thinking in Western binaries again.”

    “So you’re

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  6. The value of looking beyond romance

    I still experience a visceral shiver—yes, a shiver in my viscera—when Spock presses his hand up against the transparent barrier separating him from Kirk as he intones, “I have been and always shall be … your friend.”

    (Oops, spoiler alert there for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Spock dies at the end.)

    There’s a reason that Wrath of Khan is often cited as one of the best, if not the best, of the Star Trek movies. It is a grand space opera adventure with action and drama. It is a revenge plot with an amazing villain who can mug against the camera just as much as Kirk can. And it is a story, ultimately it turns out, about the triumph of love over hatred—except in this case, “love” means friendship, not romance.

    Kirk and Spock are not gay for each other (unless you read/write the slashfics, in which case, you do you)—but Spock literally dies to save Kirk and the Enterprise, and in the sequel, Kirk and the rest of the crew risk their careers and their lives and sacrifice the ship for the possibility that they might save Spock’s soul.

    If that’s not love, I…

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  7. Some thoughts on Hidden Figures, the movie

    I just returned from watching Hidden Figures, and I have some thoughts! Going to try to keep this short (I’m tired), but this is more than 140 characters, and I don’t like threads. That’s what blog posts are for. Also, I already reviewed the book, so read that for more information on the basic premise and why it’s so exciting. I’m going to try to restrict myself to gushing about the movie itself. And yes, I’m going to gush. Hidden Figures was excellent, sublime even. I’m not sure I have words to describe how much I enjoyed it.

    First, this movie is a brilliant piece of American propaganda. It really is. It captures that “can-do” attitude that American movies always like to evince about their history, the sense of American exceptionalism, dedication, and hard-working spirit that has them “win” the space race (eventually). Yes, the movie does this by showing how Americans of all races and colours come together to achieve orbital flight, and then the moon landing. But this is unquestionably a movie that celebrates the triumphs of a booming, technologically-savvy post-WWII United States. This does not do much for me, personally, as a Canadian and someone…

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  8. Reading goals for 2017

    Now that I’ve discussed my favourite books from last year, here’s what is in store for this year, hopefully.

    I’m not a super organized reader. I know some people make lists of what they are going to read, keep calendars of upcoming releases they want to buy, etc. I am a messy, spontaneous reader. I pre-order books and then forget about them until they show up at my door. I keep saying, “I’ll get to it next!” of many a book, only for it to languish in a pile. People have given me books for my birthday or for Christmas from years ago and I still haven’t read them.

    I say this so you get an idea of the kinds of goals I set. Think of these more as aspirations that will influence the books I choose to buy/borrow in 2017 and the priorities I give books I already own.

    Let’s start there: I currently have about 70, give or take, unread books that I own sitting in my room. If I make the pace required to meet a goal of 156 again this year, that means I could wait well into June before I need to go to…

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  9. Best Books of 2016

    Oh hey, it’s a new year.

    I usually do a round-up of my best 10 (and worst 10) books of the year and post it as a list. I’m fairly proud of the lists area of my site, but I also have ambitions to do a little overhauling this year, so the lists might be evaporating—hopefully temporarily. I’m going to keep it simple and simply blog about my year of reading.

    Also, I’m not going to try to rank my favourite books from 2016 like I usually do. This can be a fun exercise, because it really makes me think about why I enjoyed a book so much. Nevertheless, I would prefer to speak in general about more books. I had a good reading year! I met my goal of 156 books (which is based on a theoretical average of 3 books per week, kind of the most comfortable number I can achieve)—though, to be fair, a chunk of those were Animomrphs. I had fewer 5-star ratings this year than in 2015, 1 more 4-star rating, and 1 more DNF. I also had fewer 3-star ratings and more 2-star ratings. That doesn’t sound promising, I know. However, I…

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  10. What are your blindspots?

    I’ve been reading Hidden Figures, in anticipation of the movie coming out next week. It’s a fantastic book, and I already have so much I want to say in the review. This is one topic that would be too much of a digression, so I’ve spun it out into an adequate starting place for my blog posts of 2017.

    Throughout the book, Margot Lee Shetterly discusses the attitudes of people towards Black, female computers working at NACA/NASA. One thing that really got me was her descriptions of how these women were simply used to the discrimination and segregation foisted upon them by life in Virginia, how they might not like it, but they tolerated and accepted it. Moreover, Shetterly goes on to discuss the white people who would work with these women, even be congenial towards them, yet did nothing to stand up against these policies, to dismantle them, to protest them or support the fledgling civil rights movement. These well-educated, fairly progressive white people, who were happy to let Black women work alongside them, could not necessarily support these women using the same bathroom or living in the same part of town. That would be going too far.

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About Me

I’m a 27-year-old math and English teacher back in Canada after two years teaching in England. In my free time, I read books! When I’m not reading, I’m writing, coding, or knitting.

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About this site

I started coding websites, in bad HTML on Geocities, in 2004 in a fit of whimsy. Since then I’ve learned PHP/MySQL, coded my own blog software, and rebuilt this site several times. With the exception of the blog, it’s currently running on the exquisite Symphony CMS. This website is hosted by HawkHost

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