Endless Saturdays

Hit and Miss #344

Folks, it’s beautiful out! This is not a drill!!

I’m sitting in the yard, laptop and cider in hand (different hands, don’t worry), nothing but me and the sun and the birds (and loads of bugs, too, but the food chain should soon right itself) and a big smile on my face.

I’ve also just discovered that the door I used to go outside does not, in fact, let me back inside, so I’m actually locked out of the house, stuck (“stuck”) in glorious circumstances, but stuck with such a good mood that that isn’t bothering me at all.

It’s been so special to watch our outdoor spaces come to life. There’s a pair of Cooper’s Hawks nesting in a nearby tree, and they come to our yard at least once a day. As I write this, two chickadees are dancing back and forth in the big tree, singing to one another as they seek an afternoon snack. Birds aside, the trees are budding, and a few perennials are poking up from the ground, announcing their presence as we learn this space in a new season.

Years ago, inspired by Simon Collison’s “Internet of Natural Things” (that’s the intro post, but there were a whole slew of them), I started birding, aided by projects like eBird and Merlin. Especially through the first year of the pandemic, daily walks to Strathcona Park and the river became part of my routine, documented in a little Field Notes notebook where I’d note my route and three notable sightings or observations—loads in there about ducks, thinking back to it.

I just fired up Merlin again, and tried out the sound ID feature, which I’d never used before. My jaw literally dropped (perhaps inviting in a few of those aforementioned bugs) as it identified in real-time the birds I could see around me, the chickadees and cardinals. Most impressive was when one of those two Cooper’s Hawks flew to a nearby tree, close enough to see but not as near as the other birds; the app quickly picked up and identified the short chirps it made, which I’d never have known were those of that hawk if not for the app. Watching the spectrogram, I could see and notice what my ears were hearing, the various birds falling silent as they realized the hawk was near, its chirps becoming the only consistent sound as the recording went along.

Technology at our service, enriching life on our terms—that’s a good use of tech. (Yes, yes, is it really on our terms when any application has only a narrow set of things it can do? I can set aside such philosophical wondering for the moment.) Not being pulled into the phone and its feeds, but using it to better engage with what’s already around—the natural world is just as vast, just as infinite-feeling as the digital one, and one of them hurts our eyes and brains a lot less.

It feels like a slow Saturday, but the clock—and my writing this—says it’s somehow already late Sunday afternoon. Recklessly but rewardingly, we’ll pretend instead that it’s a life of endless Saturdays.

Though there’s been little to no formal, public announcement, the Ontario Digital Service is apparently no more. (I don’t know if it’s the general vibe on the OntarioPublicService subreddit versus the CanadaPublicService one, or the genuine goodwill ODS had built in the OPS, but the tone of comments is worlds more positive than I imagine a similar post about CDS would yield in the federal subreddit.)

The lack of announcement isn’t a huge surprise: ODS’s public presence has always been somewhat understated, seemingly structured with an eye to a future where digital government didn’t just happen under the remit of a particular, branded service unit. (ODS’s public email, per the still-live ODS page, was digital.government@ontario.ca, not ontario.digital.service@ontario.ca or so on.)

Sameer, in his thoughtful way, shared a few early reflections on grieving through this loss—knowing, too, that this isn’t really the end of the road.

Even when building the ODS originally, we had said that we hoped it would live until it served its purpose, and then be retired gracefully. We all knew that this was not going to last, but still I am grieving over what was lost.

Sameer doesn’t say so, but I have a feeling that, even if inevitable, this still felt too soon. I was, and will ever remain, a fan of ODS. The range of roles they hired for (expand the “Recent jobs” section) and the approachable, personable tone they used to describe those roles gives a good sense of what they were about—to say nothing of the projects and resources they created over many fruitful years.

Here’s to you, ODS. More specifically, here’s to the fine folks who made it such a great place—thank you, deeply, for all you did.

End of newsletter update: T was able to get me after an hour and a half of writing and wondering at the beauties of our yard; it remains glorious outside, but I’m grateful to her for happening to wake up from her inter-night-shift sleep and letting me in. All the best for the week ahead!