Thursday, 17 January 2019

Dancing Doilies

Saskatchewan artist Lindsay Arnold livens up the tedium of women’s work from days of yore.

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Native American routes: the ancient trails hidden in Chicago’s grid system

The Guardian quoted Coll Thrush, a history professor at UBC, in an article about Indigenous pathways in North American cities.

“We have to remember that the urban landscape often almost completely overwrote indigenous territories in places like Seattle and Chicago,” he said.

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Smart ways to handle snark and trolls on social media

As a TV meteorologist, Emily Sutton has been on the receiving end of negative comments for a decade. Here’s how she deals with them.

Every weekday for the month of January, TED Ideas is publishing a new post in a series called “How to Be a Better Human,” containing a helpful piece of advice from a speaker in the TED community. To see all the posts in the series, click here.

For all its benefits, social media can be a pretty grumpy place. Most of the time, the value of being connected to a global community, and staying up to date on all the memes, outweighs the negativity. But nasty comments online can take the wind out of your sails — and leave you tempted to quit altogether.

So how do you deal with negative comments?

Meteorologist Emily Sutton, who covers the weather for a local news station in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, has racked up close to a decade’s worth of experience dealing with online rudeness. While the weather in her state sometimes turns nasty — it ranks third in the US in tornadoes — so too can the social media comments. Since Sutton is a woman in a public job, many of the derogatory tweets and posts focus on her looks, wardrobe or ability to do the job.

Here, she shares advice on how to deal with e-jerks. Keep in mind that she is not talking about bullying, hate speech, personal threats or other forms of online abuse; those users should be reported and blocked.

Shake it off.

Nine times out ten, Sutton has adopted this approach: Just move on. Do you really want to spend your precious time and energy engaging with blockheads?

Also, she tries to keep things in perspective — chances are, positivity outweighs negativity in your feed. “I’d estimate at least 98 percent of the viewers [I hear from] online are awesome or at least neutral,” says Sutton. “It’s only that 2 percent that causes issues, and sometimes that’s all it takes to sting.”

Find people who know what you’re going through.

Sutton belongs to a Facebook group of female broadcast meteorologists, and it’s where she and her colleagues vent about trolls and, in some cases, discuss potential replies. Whether on social media or in real life, seek out your own peers to commiserate with.

Respond with kindness or sincerity.

Sutton frequently opts for extreme courtesy as a response. When someone wrote to tell her she stunk as a weather forecaster, she tweeted back: “Have a blessed day, thanks for watching!”

One of Sutton’s fellow meteorologists received the tweet: “Please burn that dress you wore this morning.” She replied honestly with: “Sorry, I love this dress too much.” The tweeter immediately apologized, saying “I feel like an ass” and that he’d doubted his tweet would even be read. Says Sutton, “Sometimes you just have to show that you are a real person.”


Sutton seizes upon any opportunity she finds for teaching or for correcting misconceptions. When a person’s snarky comment about her is accompanied by a weather-related inaccuracy, she will politely inform them of the facts. With a degree in atmospheric science, Sutton enjoys sharing her expertise.

Stand your ground.

Sutton finds that comments about her body are some of the toughest to shrug off. Once, when someone told her in a tweet that they’d noticed she had a small bump and asked if she was expecting, Sutton shot back: “No, I just gained a few pounds at Christmas. Honestly, my reproductive parts are none of your business. Thanks for watching.”

Unsurprisingly, Sutton’s response brought her some additional flak, but she felt supported when another viewer chimed in with a tweet that read, “Way to go. Just because you’re out there and in front of us every day doesn’t mean that we should be privy to your private personal information. Keep up the good work.”

Try to empathize.

Having shared what she thought was an amusing exchange with a troll on Instagram, Sutton got a message from that commenter asking her to take down the thread because he was being trolled as a result (although Sutton had not included his name, people found him through the original post on Facebook).

Sutton was a bit reluctant to do so until someone wrote to her and told her the man who’d baited her had been bullied his entire life and was pretty vulnerable. “We need to think about where they’re coming from,” she says. “I’ve found that thinking that way has spilled over into my day-to-day life. If someone does something mean or rude, I try and think, They could be having a bad day.”

Give yourself a break.

If you’re human, you will occasionally respond in ways that are not so wise. But please: Cut yourself some slack. As Sutton says, “We all have cracks in our armor. I have to get a tough skin for my job, but sometimes I’m not perfect.”

When you can, share kindness online.

If you were given a patch of dirt and told to fill it with plants, you’d probably grow things that were attractive or useful or both. So why not do the same on social media?

As Sutton says, “Let’s try and post something nice to someone else. It could be a stranger, it could be a business, it could be a friend … We can spread kindness and positivity.”

Watch her TEDxOU talk here:

Read more from TED: Ideas Worth Sharing

Canadian sentenced to death in China

UBC political science professor Yves Tiberghien was interviewed on CBC’s Power & Politics about the death sentence given to a Canadian in China.

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Study highlights lack of fair access to urban green spaces

People with higher incomes and more education tend to have greater access to urban green spaces than their less privileged neighbours, a new University of British Columbia study of parks and greenery in 10 major North American cities has found.

The study examined census data and highly detailed aerial imagery in 10 major cities–Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, Portland, Seattle and St. Louis. It compared the amount of vegetation and parkland available to residents in their home neighbourhoods with socioeconomic indicators like income, education, or racial background.

“Vegetation keeps our cities cool, improves air quality, reduces storm water runoff and reduces stress–it makes a huge difference in citizens’ well-being,” said lead author Lorien Nesbitt, a postdoctoral research and teaching fellow in the department of forest resources management at UBC’s faculty of forestry. “The issue is that when access to greenery isn’t equitable, those benefits aren’t always fairly distributed, reducing access for our most marginalized citizens who need them most.”

Lorien Nesbitt

Lorien Nesbitt

Ideally, people should be able to access parks within a 10-minute walk from home, and trees and vegetation along their street or in their backyard, Nesbitt added.

“For most cities, the more income and education you had, the more access you had to mixed or woody vegetation, while parks were more equitably accessible,” said Nesbitt.

In Indianapolis, the effects of education and income were particularly strong. People without a high school diploma had lower access to vegetation in their home neighbourhoods, while people with post-secondary education and higher incomes had higher access. Similarly, in Los Angeles, residents with post-secondary education and higher incomes had more access to vegetation.

In New York, the effect of post-secondary education on access to urban greenspaces was very strong, while income played a smaller role, and residents with higher education were much more likely to have access to vegetation in their own neighbourhood.

“In larger cities like Chicago and New York, racial and ethnic factors played an important role as well,” added Nesbitt. “People from Hispanic backgrounds had less access to vegetation in Chicago and Seattle, while people identifying as African-American had less access to green spaces in Chicago and St. Louis. Those identifying as Asian-American had less access in New York.”

The study highlights the need for wider distribution of trees, shrubs and pocket parks as cities continue to expand.

“For many people, the trees in their neighbourhood are their first contact with nature—maybe even the only contact for those who have less opportunity to travel to natural spaces outside of the city,” said Nesbitt. “As the effects of climate change intensify, we should plan for more urban green spaces and ensure that citizens from all backgrounds can access them readily and equitably.”

“Who has access to urban vegetation? A spatial analysis of distributional green equity in 10 US cities” was published this month in Landscape and Urban Planning.

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What we learned from walking in the footsteps of Harriet Tubman

Scientists grow human blood vessels in the lab in ‘game changing’ breakthrough for disease research

The Daily Mail reported on breakthrough technology from UBC which has built human blood vessels in a petri dish.

“Being able to build human blood vessels as organoids from stem cells is a game changer,” said Josef Penninger, director of UBC’s Life Sciences Institute.

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