Once-Feral Cat

This cat is celestial. Brought to the house on a sled down a snowed-in road, he arrived in the deepest winter I’d seen in years. Fresh from a shelter, he entered our home wide-eyed, a couple years old, sniffing everything. My girlfriend said he was perfect. The year before had been hard. We’d lost four […] …

Once-Feral Cat

The day I tried to love ticks

This post originally appeared in 2016, but now that my morning ritual involves picking at least one fat tick off the dog, I figured it was time for a reprise. There’s a certain category of mundane but distinctly unpleasant discovery: The blueberries you just mixed in your oatmeal explode mold into your mouth at 6 […] …

The day I tried to love ticks

Your birthday is bad for you

I know a guy who doesn’t have a birthday. Andy* was born in the Moroccan desert. His parents were nomads. There were no smartphones in the 1960s and a nomadic tribe didn’t have much use for the Gregorian calendar. And when it came to recalling the exact day and month of Andy’s birth, there were […] …

Your birthday is bad for you

The Zone of Proximal Development

According to Lev Vygotsky’s psychological development theory, children should be given experiences that are in their zone of proximal development. That is, things that are beyond their own independent capability, but that can be achieved or understood with the guidance of a “knowledgeable other.” The adult’s help provides scaffolding that can eventually be dismantled as […] …

The Zone of Proximal Development

In which I might learn the difference between baking soda and baking powder

Despite having spent many years eating I still have much to learn about cooking. For example, I did not know there was any particular technique needed to fry an egg. When my husband walked my oldest son through the steps of egg frying, it was a night full of revelations—and not just for the intended […] …

In which I might learn the difference between baking soda and baking powder

Our Planet: Under Threat

A few weeks ago, I started watching the eight-part series Our Planet with my daughter. I thought it would be a good alternative to cartoons. “Ahh, a nature documentary,” I thought. “She gets to watch TV. I get to feel like she’s learning something. Win-win.” I was so wrong. The show delivers spectacular footage and […] …

Our Planet: Under Threat

My Kid is a Genius. Kind Of. Maybe.

Recently I’ve started research on a new book proposal about developmental psychology and achievement. And, by research, I mean tinkering with my child’s mind. Nothing invasive, mind you – I would never do that. And besides, it turns out home electroshock therapy kits are crazy expensive. It’s not like back in my day when dad […] …

My Kid is a Genius. Kind Of. Maybe.

OK Google, Search: My Life

Google saved my life so many times last month, as I trudged through Europe alone. Without Maps, I would never have made it to my meetings, train connections, flights, meals, or anything. Google sent alerts to remind me when to leave; it translated my questions, so I could bleat them in a pathetic form of […] …

OK Google, Search: My Life

The Once and Future Canadian Disease

On a February day in Ottawa, the Rideau Canal is teaming with skaters. Along the 7km length of canal, kids and adults alike enjoy some small compensation for the face-burning cold of our long winters. We eat the thick, sugared pancake known as the Beavertail, drink hot chocolate, and feel the ice whip by under […] …

The Once and Future Canadian Disease

A bird in the hand

The marmoset looked unlikely on the filing cabinet. It reclined on a piece of poster board, its skinny arms folded across its chest. Its cotton-stuffed eyes stared at the low, tiled ceiling. The specimen room smelled strongly of tea and cornmeal. Carina pulled the handle of a taller cabinet, and Mo and I leaned in. […] …

A bird in the hand

Out for a walk in Big Sur

We camped this past weekend at Big Sur, meeting up with some friends from the north. I made the reservations in November and wasn’t really looking at the calendar, so I didn’t realize that the weekend was a nexus of holidays—Passover, Easter, Earth Day. It felt right, though, being under the trees and in the […] …

Out for a walk in Big Sur

Science Metaphors: Hysteresis

My first encounter with the word “hysteresis” was ten years ago when I was editing a particularly difficult electrical engineering feature. That story was one of my favourite I’ve ever worked on, the wild first-person account of the researcher who had unearthed an ancient prediction of a fourth circuit design element, foretold by the laws […] …

Science Metaphors: Hysteresis

An interview with Helen about drawing!

Cameron: Helen! It is I, the high school state debate champion of 2009, here to have another vicious argument with you. Although there are many things about that sentence that are not true, and even grammatically incorrect. Helen: Oooooh this is exciting. And slightly scary. Cameron: Don’t worry, I am not going to argue with […] …

An interview with Helen about drawing!

Parks without people? A response to Jason Mark

A few days ago, environmental writer Jason Mark published an essay in Sierra, the national magazine of the Sierra Club, in which he advocates for “a provocative idea”: establishing nature reserves that would be “off-limits to most people” except “working scientists.” These preserves would be managed exclusively “for wild nature alone.” Mark invokes conservationist icon […] …

Parks without people? A response to Jason Mark