Why has this winter been so cold in Toronto?

Global temperatures on the rise, and yet Toronto is in the midst of what may be one of the city's coldest winters on record.

How could this be?

Conor Anderson, an environmental science PhD student at the University of Toronto, has studied Toronto’s climate data – and has some theories.

In a Q&A blog post, Anderson said our current cold snap and the previous coldest winters of the past 30 years (1993-94, 2013-14, and 2014-15) all included the jet stream veering south, bringing cold, polar air for extended periods – sometimes for 25 days or more in a row.

What has climate change got to do with it?

Anderson's research suggests that the jet stream itself is weakening due to a warming climate, allowing arctic air to push southward. "This in turn," he said, "has led to colder recent winters in Toronto, which seems counter-intuitive."

Overall, Toronto winter temperatures have warmed considerably since winter 1840/41. But since winter 1985/86, there was a significant expansion of extremes partly due to anomalies in the position of the polar jet stream over Toronto.

It's entirely possible that these cold snaps are a complication of climate change. Anderson said, "More and more climate scientists are focusing on the impact of climate change on extremes rather than average conditions, and these extremes can be cold ones as well as warm ones."

Main image by Osman Rana // Unsplash

Fast Journalism: Researching Quick Tech and Business News Updates

I’ve written thousands upon thousands of news updates over the years. (Seriously!)

Many websites need to turn around quick news summary and analysis shortly after it goes public, and there are tons of people (like me) ready to react to those news stories.

I tend to cover technology and business news, and have developed a rough process that could be helpful to those new to this arena where speed is very important.

I think it’s best to know what information you need for the story while researching. Research can be really time consuming when you don’t know what you’re looking for.

WordPress and Long-Form Content

While it’s not explicitly designed for long-form-style content, WordPress is actually a great platform for long-form.

In this post, I’m going to discuss some of the themes that are suitable for long-form, the Aesop Story Engine plugin for long-form storytelling, and some simple CSS tweaks to help tune a theme for long-form.

Writing Articles Fast

Before I go into the specifics of writing non-fiction quickly, I want to mention that there are plenty of advantages to writing slow. It leads to a certain meditativeness and nuance that’s often impossible to achieve when writing for a quick deadline. Most of the best writing involves quiet contemplation, careful consideration and a seemingly endless process of editing and revision.

I’m a fan of slow writing – but I also realize that writing needs to get finished and get in front of an audience, especially in a reporting or blogging context. As a news writer, I certainly know that posting quickly is essential, and it’s a skill that takes some time to learn.

When seeking out advice on writing with clarity, purpose, and speed, there’s probably no one better than writer Roy Peter Clark (who I’ll refer to as “RPC”).

A few months ago, I binged on his various books and interviews. This post is a summary of the advice that has helped me the most.

A Novel Resolution for 2014: Make Your Own Criteria for Success

With 2013 coming to a close, many of us can’t help but think about making some big changes for the new year. But is the way we go about setting goals actually what makes us feel unsuccessful in meeting them?

A video from Marie Forleo showed up on my YouTube feed today in which she interviews Danielle LaPorte, who’s essentially a self-help guru for business-oriented folk. This isn’t something I’d usually be interested in – and I did find some of it grating – but LaPorte did bring up some very compelling ideas.

LaPorte says that it’s important to figure out how we want to feel rather than looking for outside validation when making goals. Instead of a goal like getting a promotion or making your first million, she says you might be more content working towards feeling good. 

Before you start draping yourself in velvet from head to toe

What she means is that it’s not about the goal. It’s about how you’re going to feel when you get there.

Sure, these external validations help us cope with creeping anxiety and insecurity, and some of these feeling help us get out of bed and do the things we need to do to live. But this frantic pursuit for outside validation often leaves one without the feeling of accomplishment because they’re not helping us feel what we were hoping to feel. 

LaPorte brings up a conversation she had with a Buddhist about the need to balance acceptance of how the world is, and striving to change what we can. Realizing we’re not entirely in control of our own destinies is an important thing for people to realize, but also that we ought to reign in other peoples’ control over our destinies. For instance, don’t tell me when I’ve had enough – I know when I’ve had enough.

You can’t always choose what happens in your life, but we you can choose how you feel and react to it.

I’m actually a big believer in New Year’s resolutions. I think self-reflection is important and if the new year spurs people to think how things can be better, then so be it. (And you could probably use some improvement yourself. Just sayin’.)

But it’s also important that people believe that they’re entitled to what they’re personally after – to feel good about themselves, not just have the outward symbols of success. The feelings could be security, happiness, connection, importance, and love. And it’s up to us to figure out how much these feelings mean to us.

Perhaps the best resolution we can make is allow ourselves to feel worthy to make the changes we need to make, and base them on our own criteria.

“Our way of working meant that the hugely talented writers we partnered with were only in a position to contribute content—not concept. They wrote copy, but we missed the opportunity to tap into the thinking behind it…Writers and designers are better together.”

– “What Does a Writer Know About Design?” by Ben Steele

Great writers don’t just put someone else’s vision into words, but help shape and refine that vision through language. -DH

With great power comes great…need for governance: Why the web hosting industry needs solid direction


Companies that provide web hosting services play a huge role in how free and open the Internet is. For how much a web host does to provide a platform for websites and media, it could also be providing your customer information to government bodies without you knowing…and without them being able to tell you. This is just one of the reasons web hosts need to have their concerns to be heard.

Read more about why and how to give voice to web hosts and their diverse issues and concerns in my latest article for the WHIR:  http://www.thewhir.com/web-hosting-news/giving-the-web-hosting-industry-a-voice

“Writing in scenes represents the difference between showing and telling. The lazy, uninspired writer will Itell Ithe reader about a subject, place, or personality, but the creative nonfiction writer will show that subject, place, or personality, vividly, memorably – and in action. In scenes.”

– Lee Gutkind, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up.

Blog Like a Journalist (presentation slides from WordCamp Montreal)

When we step back and think about it, we live in an era where so many different stories and experiences are made available through the Internet. And blogs are been a venue for expressing more voices than ever before. But while we’re oftne more likely to find our news on blogs than on our evening TV news or morning paper, the principles of journalism still apply to the new media.

It’s in this landscape that I frame my presentation from Montreal WordCamp 2013, “Blog Like a Journalist”.

Contrary to many naysayers, I think opening up media production via blogs bodes well for journalism, but we need to maintain the good journalistic practices that have served the public well for so many years.

Journalism isn’t about the medium, it can be thought of as a combination of practices, ethics, and philosophy. It’s about conveying information in a rigorous, responsible and accountable manner, paying attention to detail, accuracy, and high standards, and striving for balance and objectivity.

This all makes what you write more truthful to what you’re presenting and readers will find it more trustworthy.

In this presentation, I explain how a writer can maintain a high commitment to journalism, while also employing storytelling styles which are more compatible with blogs and their audiences.

Learning to Reframe Failure

It’s been my experience that a lot of people who did well in high school and university end up faltering later in life because they’re afraid to fail. I found, during high school especially, that doing what was expected – getting good grades and not acting out – was a way of avoiding confrontation. And while this education is something that has served me well over the years and I’m grateful that a great deal of my learning in school was driven by positive reinforcement, there is something missed if you’re not learning through failure.

In a recent podcast, Good Life Project host Jonathan Fields talks about how it’s important to let go of the fear of failure in order to do the things most important to us. It’s not that we should attempt things that have no chance to succeed, but that we shouldn’t think of failure as such as terrifying prospect that we don’t even start.

Fields notes that it’s important to reframe what it means to fail: “Instead of saying, ‘I’ll be judged and ostracized’ the different frame on that is, ‘If I fail, what an extraordinary opportunity for me to understand why I failed, understand how to do it better and then apply this new knowledge to the next iteration of my path.’”

While “Failure is not an option” was a snappy quote around the Apollo 13 mission, apparently the real quote was more along the lines of: “…when bad things happened, we just calmly laid out all the options, and failure was not one of them.” Contrary to the sort of thinking that cripples us, this reaction to bad situations is productive.

It’s not that be fail but how we fail that comes to define us.