Wild Animals Keep our Cities Clean

CBC’s ecological science show is taking an unorthodox look at the vermin and critters in our cities by showing how they help us. On Jan. 31 The Nature of Things will air the episode, trailer above, all about how animals have adapted to urban environments and how those animals end up helping humans. It’s a neat approach to animals that otherwise get a bad reputation.

In Toronto, we join urban wildlife behaviour expert Suzanne MacDonald and Toronto Wildlife Centre Team Leader Andrew Wight on their hunt for the elusive opossum. Opossums are native to the southern United States, but in recent years, climate change has extended their habitat north to Canada. They look fierce and foreboding but they are one of the shyest scavengers of all. We discover how they help make our cities healthier by eating our refuse – they can even digest bone. They also eat and eliminate disease-laden ticks.

In Manhattan, we meet a team of young entomologists and learn the importance of ants in keeping city streets clean. There are over 2,000 ants for every human. The pavement ant, a rarely studied species, picks up and eliminates the food that people drop. These foraging ants can lift over ten times their weight and eat as much or more than rats in the city. Unlike rats, they do not transmit human diseases.

Check it out.

Decolonize Games at the Toronto Biennial

This coming Saturday (Nov. 23) from 2-5pm you can play a game which challenges the colonial narratives present in too many games. Presented as part of the Toronto Biennial, Unsettling: Settlers of Catan uses the bases of Settlers of Catan to get players to think about all sorts of assumptions on games. The game was made by Golboo Amani who creates art around and about our social interactions. It’s a really fun game and you should go play it!

Unsettling: Settlers of Catan is a playful, discursive intervention into the popular board game, Settlers of Catan. Artist Golboo Amani disrupts its colonial narratives with methodologies of treaties, collaboration, and allyship, inserting new game pieces, cards, and rules. With these new tools, players develop strategies of building on and repatriation of the colonized landscape, offering the opportunity to play out strategies for radical, social, political, and industrial change.

Biennial visitors can play the full game set with facilitated guidance from card dealers and the artist. Free ticket registration is required to play the full game, or join at any time to watch, or participate by tag-teaming.

Check it out!

Seeding Utopias & Resisting Dystopias with The Multiversity Collective

The Multiversity Collective wants you to think of a better world by exploring alternatives.The collective was created to explore the full potential of Toronto by imaging future worlds (or alternatives to today) that are fully aware of -and engage in – multiple ways of knowing. It’s a call to envision a better city and a better world through diverse multicultural thinking. Their first project on empowering creative communities launched this week and runs to the end of 2019 at Oakwood Public Library in Toronto.

On the cusp of 2020, more than a dozen science fiction creators will be germinating wild ideas at the Oakwood Village Library. Novelists, hardware hackers, game creators, and more will be doing workshops for apocalypse preppers, teaching lo-fi sci-fi podcasting, convening socials for sex workers, and generally inspiring those who believe in social change and a diverse future.

Every Thursday this Fall, 6pm at Oakwood Village Library – come rewrite the timeline with us! Free and all are welcome! Made possible by support from the Toronto Arts Council’s Artists in Libraries Program. For more details – please visit the individual event listings.

Check it out!

Cats do Care

cat

Cats have got a reputation of being uncaring pets that are dumber than dogs. In some cases this reputation is well-earned; however, for most cats they do care and they want you around. It’s taken animal researchers some time to figure a simple approach to testing if cats care, but they did it. They simply took a test used to see if infants and pet dogs care about their human companions and just ran the same test with cats. The conclusion is that yes, cats do are about you.

The key finding was that the cats fell into these subsets of attachment at roughly the same rates as dogs and infants. Around two-thirds clearly displayed a secure attachment to their owners, while most insecure cats were clingy and remained stressed. Subsequent experiments showed that these results stayed largely the same for the same group of cats six weeks later, as well as for a new group of older cats past the age of one.

Because of the similarities between cats, dogs, and human babies in their attachment styles, the authors said, it’s likely that the same intrinsic attributes and traits that make dogs and babies go puppy-eyed for their caregivers aren’t wholly unique to them. Cats bond to us, too, just in their own, not always apparent way.

Read more.

Run a More Innovative Company Through Suggestions

Interview

To make a company more efficient and innovative all that’s needed is a suggestion box. It turns out that listening to employees can increase the effectiveness of a company no matter how you do it. So if a suggestion box is too old school you can use a Slack channel or any other form of open communication. I’m sure this technique of listening to people who actually put the effort into a task can be applied elsewhere too.

Micah Johnson of GoFanbase, Inc., shared with Small Business Trends that his company created a Slack channel where employees can submit their ideas. Tomer Bar-Zeev of IronSource said that 24-hour hackathons enable his innovation team to break from their usual projects and work on entirely different, new projects. At my company, JotForm, we hold weekly Demo Days to give employees a forum to explore their ideas, no matter how far-fetched.

Even a system as simple as a suggestion box can be highly effective. Just ask Charlie Ward, the engineer who used Amazon’s digital suggestion box to submit his idea for free shipping, which eventually formed the basis of Amazon Prime. As journalist Brad Stone wrote in his book The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, CEO Jeff Bezos was reportedly “immediately enchanted by the idea.”

Read more.

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