I spent half an hour this afternoon ogling the speaker line-up for the upcoming Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco – the Education “point of control” holds enough of interest to make me want to be there – but then I looked at the price of admission and needed to sit down: $4195 (and it’s by invitation only, just to rub it in).
Anyone want to get me invited – and give me a ticket?
Very late to the game, I left a comment on the Points of Control Map just now – apparently, one can qualify to win a free pass that way…! My comment argued for Diigo, which I didn’t see on the map, but which offers unique and interesting opportunities, particularly in education and academic endeavors.
Specifically, I was reminded of OpenDemocracy.net‘s Tony Curzon Price who used Diigo to do a collaborative online annotation of Jonathan Zittrain’s book, The Future of the Internet – and how to stop it.
In the absence of a fairy godmother sponsor, winning a free pass would sure be nice. Someday, someday…!
It’s not all politics all the time at my house, although for today’s meal I managed to find a political angle to describe even the preparation of vegetables.
After my success with re-plumbing the kitchen sink this afternoon, I decided to do something vaguely creative with the beet and the cauliflower in my fridge.
My red and white ended up somewhat blended – albeit unintentionally. I wanted the colors to stay distinct, but they melded into a happy union. How’s that for dialectics you can eat?
Two-tone Cauliflower puree, baked, with parmesan crust.
Chicken, cut along the back and flattened, grilled (that is, baked in oven at high temperature).
For the cauliflower:
Somehow cook a head of cauliflower (first washed and broken into florets, of course) and a beet (I write somehow because you can steam or microwave the vegetable, as you wish). Separately. Do not let them get to know one another just yet. Make a roux of butter and flour, add milk, and seasoning and herbs, and a good amount of turmeric, as well as some paprika (the latter two ingredients add a nice deep color). Make your roux taste good, make it concentrated, make enough: this is going to flavor your dish. Next, puree (separately!) the cauliflower and the beet. Add the seasoned roux to all of the pureed cauliflower, mix well, and then divide the mixture in half. Add the pureed beet to one half of your pureed cauliflower. You now have a bowl with a fairly deep pink puree and another with a yellow-tinged white puree. Drop alternating tablespoonfuls of the white and red vegetable puree into a well-buttered baking dish till it’s full, smooth the top with a spatula, and then run a skewer through the mix. (My idea was to create pinwheel-style swirls, but the puree didn’t really take to that method – save it for black-and-white Bundt cakes, I guess…) Grate Parmesan cheese on top and bake for however long it takes to firm the dish and brown the cheese. I usually always bake everything at 500 degrees (which is why my oven looks like hell), and that means I don’t need to bake things for very long. The other day I made Japanese eggplants marinated a day before in oil, soy sauce, and garlic, and roasted them at 250 as per directions, and they took HOURS to finish. Next time? 500 degrees. Maybe 425, but nothing less. Take it from me: crank up the heat and give your home’s smoke detectors something to screech about. Your neighbors will be thrilled.
With the cauliflower I served a standard chicken dish: using poultry shears, cut the chicken along its spine (sorry, vegetarians, brutal, I know) and break the breastbones by flattening the open chicken on a board with the flat of your hand. Season with whatever you like (salt, for example) and pop into the oven (500 degrees, of course). It will probably be done after 30 to 40 minutes max. When chicken is prepared like this, “carving” is a cinch: you cut along the joints and there’s no mess.
I put the photos up on my Picasa account under Red and White Vegetable Bake; here are a few that show the progression:
Tonight I took myself to the Victoria Conference Centre to listen to Sebastien Ricard (of Wilkinson Eyre Architects) and Joost Meyboom (latterly VP of Engineering at Delcan, now at MMM) talk about the proposed New Johnson Street Bridge.
Given the scope – more on that in a moment – of the project and what it means for the City of Victoria in terms of expenditure and debt, the event was certainly under-attended. You’d think this would have packed people in – instead, everyone was able to sit well apart from everyone else, which was probably a good thing. There were some people in the audience I really haven’t wanted to get close to since this project got underway, not now, not ever again. These include city staff and politicians, who, in my opinion, are leading Victoria on a fool’s errand. A very expensive fool’s errand.
Sebastien Ricard struck me as a really nice guy, and I don’t doubt that he’s a good architect. But his lengthy slide show of past works consisted almost entirely of pedestrian bridges, whereas what Victoria wants is a multi-modal (car, bicycle, pedestrian, wheelchair/ scooter access – and rail) bridge. The design his firm proposes in answer to these clamoring demands looks superficially snazzy, but actually consists of so many disparate parts – as well as some missing components (rail!) – that it starts to appear clunky.
Sure, there’s a nifty “wheel” (the bascule mechanism) at one end of the bridge (the downtown end) through which pedestrians could traverse. But the cantilevered doo-dads attached to the side of the bridge, and the overly complex system of over- and under-passes designed to satisfy the impossible soup-to-nuts menu that Victoria – or possibly its most ambitious council member – has demanded of the architect unfortunately eliminates all hope for an elegant solution to this crossing.
It needs to be said: this design is a hodgepodge.
It’s a hodgepodge, and if we complain that we currently have “an octopus” of roads at the downtown end of the bridge where a number of roads converge, we will – by the time the new bridge is finished – have an additional octopus of attachments and byways ensnarling the bridge itself.
And Ricard didn’t seem particularly inspired by his own proposal, frankly. He seemed more enthusiastic when he showed us his other efforts – ones that actually got built (I have serious doubts that what he has designed for Victoria will ever see the light of day, at least in the form he showed us tonight): in that part of his slide show – which consisted of simple, elegant solutions offering design affordances in response to a rational set of constraints, as opposed to Victoria’s pie-in-the-sky wish-list – he seemed genuinely confident and engaged. When it came time to run through the slides of the New Johnson Street Bridge proposal, on the other hand, the energy level dropped off significantly.
Perhaps he knows something we don’t – something to do with where this project is heading?
The project has already headed with unparalleled vengeance into scope creep. We have councilor Pamela Madoff to thank for that: it was she who suggested that we need an apples-to-apples comparison, when in fact that comparison was never on the agenda. The people’s question originally was, “do we want a simple repair job or do we want a Cadillac-version of a new bridge?” Madoff ensured that the question of a simple repair job was swept off the council table, replaced instead by the ridiculous scope creep that resulted in “repair” estimates that exceed the estimated cost of a new bridge.
Well, we’ll see what happens on November 20 – that’s when Victoria voters (those of us who bother to vote) decide whether or not the city should be allowed to borrow $49.2million – what will no doubt be a mere fraction of the end cost of the Sebastien Ricard-Joost Meyboom proposal.
PS: Here’s a photo that David Broadland of FOCUS Magazine sent me – it shows how empty the Conference Centre was last night (Mayor Dean Fortin is at the podium, Howard Markson is leaning against the pillar; Sebastien Ricard and Joost Meyboom are seated at the table to the right):
Yesterday afternoon I purchased Rebecca Kennel‘s new guidebook, Victoria Bench by Bench. This is a really great “little” book – not so little when you start unpacking it! From the backcover (and website):
In Victoria—Bench by Bench, Rebecca Kennel takes you on her journey of discovery in and around spectacular Victoria, British Columbia. Visit historic sites and gardens; cemeteries and viewpoints; shipyards and restored creeks. Using pieces of local history and personal reflections, she introduces you to over 60 benches and inspires curiosity and creativity.
What you discover when you dive in is a different kind of guidebook. Yes, there are maps and historical facts and descriptions: all the traditional guidebook trappings. But Rebecca also added journal entries – thoughts on what she observed and thought as she used the benches she describes. Sitting in Market Square, she observed a feather falling down from overhead, and a sparrow snatching it in midair:
A treasure to line her nest. I have to keep my eyes open all the time to see the treasures. Maybe I’ll just sit here and wait for my treasure to fall from heaven. A gift to me that I will only receive if my eyes are wide open. Sitting. Waiting. Seeing.
In other words, this guidebook gives you the “outer” (description, locale, historical facts), but also an “inner” (one particular person’s). There’s no attempt to fuse the two – they are simply juxtaposed. But in the juxtaposition, both gain impact. Really a lovely way to structure guidance…
I went a bit quiet during the last few days…
My navigational instruments are seriously compromised. It’s all too easy to go – even if only by increments, which are nonetheless steady and dreadfully cumulative – down the off ramp.
Inch by inch by inch.
And before you know it, you’ve landed yourself in a ditch.
Finding the on ramp again can look like Mission Impossible: the notion of slowly, painfully, edging your way out of that ditch and moving again into society of any sort makes death in a shallow grave look cushy.
It’s hard to get back onto the on ramp. With heart. Or courage. Especially when you can’t even see it from where you are.
When respect dies, contempt takes its place.
That’s a theme taken up by, say, movies, which analyze the relationship between lovers (when, for example, the relationship is breaking down).
But having fallen more or less out of love with a non-human entity – let’s call it a place – I’ve noticed that the horrible alchemy does its work to disenchant us humans in all sorts of ways.
In my sphere, I can no longer respect the local political leadership I see. I can no longer respect the status quo of where I live, its economy, its habits, its image. Most bitingly of all, I can no longer respect the potential of the place I find myself in. These days, the word potential, when applied to where I live, makes me want to run. Away.
If I want some comedy around the tragedy of disenchantment, I think of Dylan Moran warning us about the dangers of “releasing” potential: “Don’t do it! Stay away from your potential. You’ll mess it up, it’s potential, leave it. Anyway, it’s like your bank balance – you always have a lot less than you think.”
Of course Moran leverages cynicism to craft brilliant stand-up comedy – his skit shows how cynicism is a variant of contempt. In either case, what was there before (respect – even love) lies wounded.
When respect dies, contempt comes alive.
It’s an art to push contempt away, it takes a muse and fresh eyes.
At this point, though, contempt is in the kitchen, cooking up a storm.