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. The battle over education isn't about the money

    The government is keen to make the battle over education all about the money. But it isn't and has never been about that. This is about ideology, plain and simple.

    You have to hand it to Minister Lecce: he has at least been consistent about his talking points. He repeats them, almost word for word, in every interview and press conference he gives. He's fighting for the students, and teachers are refusing to negotiate in good faith because we want an unfair amount of compensation. His government is the reasonable one, the one that has “moved” on negotiating positions like class size and mandatory e-learning, while we teachers have stubbornly refused to accept the offer of a 1% wage increase for each year.

    If you take Minister Lecce at his word, then no wonder you see the unions and our job action as petty. His government is just trying to pay down the debt created by those irresponsible Liberals, and if increasing class sizes and moving students towards e-learning to cut education worker positions is how they need to cut costs, well … that's what has to be done, right?

    The problem is that it's not that simple. It's never that simple.

    Both sides have been throwing numbers out into the void like they're going out of style. Lecce keeps repeating that OSSTF's cost-of-living increase in wages (which keeps…

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  2. We are not the enemy

    Tomorrow my local district of OSSTF, the Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation, is holding its strike vote. This vote determines whether we union members give our leadership a mandate to engage in job action, once we are in a legal position to do so, if they feel it is warranted. This could take many forms, from work-to-rule to rotating strikes to an all-out strike. It’s not something we do lightly. Although the Ford government is sadly not unusual in its unproductive approach to bargaining with the unions of teachers, support staff, nurses, and other public sector employees, it is certainly more vicious and more perfidious. No other government has so quickly sought to shift the rhetoric and vilify hard-working people, like myself, for seeking to preserve the education system we have and obtain minimal cost-of-living adjustments to our wages.

    At 30 years old, I’m young enough that the last time teachers went on strike in Ontario, I was affected as a student instead of a teacher. This is my 7th year of teaching. During the previous contract negotiations 4 years ago, there was some discussion of striking, and I wrote a defence of striking as a response to a letter…

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  3. Supercut

    "And in my head / The visions never stop / … There's just a supercut." (I know it's a song about love and loss, but I still love supercuts, mmkay?)

    A very young me and my brother, standing next to each other on the sidewalk, in windbreakers.

    I'm in Grade 4, and I'm holding a book from the school library all about idioms, which is entirely on brand. I already knew I wanted to be a teacher by that point, by the way. (The kid on the right is my younger brother, Brad.) And we're wearing fluorescent windbreakers, the height of ’90s fashion!

    Me standing next to my friend Lauren, who is much shorter than me.

    Although I'm sure I can find photos between 1999 and 2005 if I look somewhere, most of my extant digital collection dates back to 2005, when I got my first digital camera. Here I am in 2008, a year out of high school. I visited my friend Lauren, who lives in Ohio and whom I had only known online, for about 3 years. It was my first time travelling by myself, and back then going to meet someone you'd only ever known online (and stay at their house for two weeks) was still quite adventurous.

    This also begins my long history of awkwardly taking photos with people who are much shorter than me.

    Three women I worked with at the art gallery and me sitting in what I believe is Applebee's. From left to right: Dayna, Thea, Brittany, and me.

    You know what the secret is to avoiding awkward tall shots? Take the group shots sitting down! I believe this is in an Applebee's in 2010. At this point I had…

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  4. Fun, Food, and Friendship in Montréal

    Last year I visited one of my best friends in her new town of Montreal. From pretty much the moment my plane landed in Thunder Bay at the end of that vacation, I was looking forward to returning again the next year. This summer has had its share of ups and downs, but nothing was going to deter me from getting to spend some time with Rebecca in person in Montréal again. So on August 16, I flew back to Montréal for some more fun, food, and friendship.

    Fun

    It’s safe to say we took everything we loved last year and doubled down on it. I’ll talk about the food separately in the next section of the post. But most of the fun simply came from being in Montréal and from walking around, both with Rebecca or on my own.

    Rebecca lives in the Plateau, a very historical yet well-preserved residential neighbourhood, with Mont Royal Ave very close to her house. You could eat at a different place on that street every day for a year and still have options! We walked up and down Mont Royal so many times I lost count, both for shopping and food…

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  5. My big break

    I broke my elbow in early June. This was the first time I broke a bone, and the experience was enlightening on many levels.

    "Ouch, that must have hurt."

    That’s usually what people say when they see the scar. The funny thing is, it didn't. Not really (thank you, shock). When it happened, I felt fine, as long as I didn’t move my arm. Which, I guess, was probably the first sign something was seriously wrong.

    The whole point of an accident, of course, is that you seldom see it coming. When I woke up that morning and decided to bike to work, already a bit in a rush, I didn’t think I wouldn’t ever make it there. I didn’t think I'd be having my first real surgery (wisdom teeth don't count) two days later. But here we are, two months and lots of X-rays and physiotherapy and an arm brace later.

    "Oh, did you get hit by a car?"

    That’s the next question, after I reveal I broke my elbow by falling off my bike. It’s a reasonable guess, given the way a lot of motorists treat cyclists like inconvenient obstacles instead of vehicles sharing a road. But the answer is still no.

    I miscalculated, if I want to be generous. I screwed up, is what I say when I want to…

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  6. Maybe we should start that fire

    Canadian politics is desperately lacking in anyone with as much fire as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and that's a problem.

    Confession: I follow a lot of Americans, many of whom have an interest in politics, on Twitter. So I've been hearing a lot about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the rookie new Democratic member of the U.S. House of Congress. She has been getting a lot of pushback from the elements of American society who can't handle the fact that a young, opinionated, competent, dedicated, socialist woman of colour has actually been elected to Congress, let alone is now following through on her lofty promises not to immediately succumb to the system of corrupted checks-without-balances that is emblematic of that institution. As a Canadian, it has been interesting to watch this happen against the backdrop of the U.S. federal government shutdown (in a horrified, "what the hell are you doing to your own federal employees" kind of way).

    But I'm not American, and so this got me thinking more about politics back here in Canada, especially because we are actually in a federal election year now. And watching the furor over AOC south of the border, I just can't help but … yearn for something like that here.

    I'm 29 years old, and this will be my fourth time voting in a federal…

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  7. Part of the system

    Being part of a racist system doesn't make you racist. Refusing to acknowledge and stand up against system racism is what makes you racist.

    Last week the OIPRD released its findings of an investigation into the Thunder Bay police. The report, at over 200 pages, is the culmination of two years of investigation. It unequivocally states that systemic racism exists within the Thunder Bay Police Service. Also last week, a second report from a separate investigation, this one done by Senator Murray Sinclair at the behest of the OCPC, came out. It too found racism—this time from the Thunder Bay Police Services Board, which oversees the police. As a result of the report, the OCPC appointed an interim administrator to oversee the board until its members have undergone training and taken other required steps.

    Both reports also made very specific recommendations for how to address the systemic racism.

    None of this is news, really, for those of us in Thunder Bay who haven’t buried our heads in the sand, but now there are hundreds of pages of documentation backing up what is pretty common knowledge here: the police are racist, and it’s killing Indigenous people.

    Reaction though, of course, has ranged largely from lukewarm to ludicrous in the denial and shifting of accountability. Police Chief Sylvie Hauth (who took on the…

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  8. I have a podcast now. Podcasts are cool.

    In what is probably the most millennial move of my life, I have started a podcast with my bestie Becky. The podcast is called We Just LIke to Talk, and it launches today. Subscribe to it however you get your podcasts!

    We Just Like to Talk logo

    You may recall Becky as the friend I visited in Montreal at the end of the summer. We’ve known each other for several years now, but we’ve grown a lot closer over the past year and a half or so. One of the defining features of our friendship is our easy yet intense conversation—by which I mean, we can talk with each other about anything (literally no subject is off limits), and we can have incredibly intense discussions, without it ever feel awkward or acrimonious. Our topics range from inane banter about our lives to deep discussions of feminism, relationships, and heavier topics. We learn a lot from each other when we have these conversations, and I always look forward to them.

    So at some point along the way, Becky said we should be recording our chats—we should, in fact, start a podcast. Although I didn’t doubt her sincerity, I also didn’t, at the time, think anything would…

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  9. 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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  10. 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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