The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

March 21, 2010 at 2:31 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

I bookmarked only one link for public view this week, but it’s from Danah Boyd, so it’s a good one!

  • “…rough unedited crib of the actual talk” delivered by Danah Boyd at March 2010 SXSW conference.
    QUOTE
    Fundamentally, privacy is about having control over how information flows. It’s about being able to understand the social setting in order to behave appropriately. To do so, people must trust their interpretation of the context, including the people in the room and the architecture that defines the setting. When they feel as though control has been taken away from them or when they lack the control they need to do the right thing, they scream privacy foul.
    UNQUOTE

    tags: privacy, danah_boyd, socialcritique

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

danah boyd

Granular

March 20, 2010 at 11:36 pm | In health, just_so | 2 Comments

After a week of keeping at bay a bug running through the family, I’m now either succumbing to its viral power …or else experiencing an especially bad case of hay fever.

Pollen grains magnified: they look like toys for insects.

.

The future of publishing video

March 19, 2010 at 12:32 am | In just_so, media | Comments Off on The future of publishing video

This is pretty damn good: a video created by the UK branch of Dorling Kindersley Books and produced by Khaki Films about the death of publishing. Or not. The video runs forward to confirm every nasty stereotypical prejudice about “the younger generation,” but then…

But then runs backwards to reveal something quite different.

(Hint: click on the image to go to YouTube video – the static image is my hack for not being able to upload videos to this WordPress MU blog… 😉 )

Hat-tip to Arsenalia for the pointer.

Full-spectrum babes

March 18, 2010 at 8:22 am | In arts, ideas, writing | 4 Comments

I saw a copy of the National Post newspaper lying around at the gym the other day and was struck by the article, Using a baby to represent evil in society. It’s a revival of a story that started 10 years ago when Danish-Norwegian artist Nina Maria Kleivan let her newborn daughter Faustina model custom-sewn costumes that cast her in the role of historical (male) villains. Potency, the resulting series of photographs, raised plenty of hackles and debates.

Kleivan’s daughter in a Hitler disguise was the most controversial image:

~

Obviously, the image of an innocent babe in garb like that, with all that we know about what that uniform and that mustache represent, is going to piss people off.

But I have a hard time taking the photos seriously as art.

There’s a lively discussion of Kleivan’s work on a post by Judy Mandelbaum, with a long string of unequivocal comments. Mandelbaum also includes a more complete set of photos from the series (Faustina appears not just as Hitler, but also as many other infamous historical villains: Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Mao Zedong, Idi Amin, Augusto Pinochet, Slobodan Milosevic…).

One of Mandelbaum’s commentors points to a July 25 2001 The Onion spoof, Anne Geddes Starting to Lose It. Clicking through, we see this picture:

~

For me, that spoof image kind of nails what doesn’t sit right for me with Kleivan’s photo series.

<—

Kleivan’s images lost their potency after a surprisingly short while.

Is it the baby-theme? That cute Anne Geddes trope lurking in the background?

–>

Or is it the technique and the medium?

One of Kleivan’s objectives is to make viewers understand that:

“We are all born as a blank slate, who knows who we will become,” Ms. Kleivan said. “I wanted people to think about where tremendous evil comes from.” (source)

But isn’t tremendous evil always generated (rather like devil spawn)? Generated out of circumstances and contexts? The baby – which we do see as a beginning (of possibilities) – is far too difficult to situate as a fulcrum in the generation of evil, although it may be a product of such. But generally, the baby is too new – like a fresh cabbage leaf. You need to have a few miles on you to have a story, without which nothing has yet spawned from you.

That said, while I question the viability of creating art that casts babies as the potential generators of evil, I’m also not a big fan of representations of babies-as-victims.

Except in the case of one Spanish genius who managed to contextualize societal evil with painful precision. I refer of course to Francisco de Goya and his Caprichos, specifically plate 69, “Blow” (or Sopla):

~

The babe is a victim in this image, its body used as a bellows to fan a lamp that illuminates an idiotic and vile grouping of “witches” and superstitious asses. Goya referred as well to the perversions visited on young and helpless children by priests and other benighted authorities.

For me, Goya’s image, perhaps because it’s part of a series of 80 etchings that cover the whole range of social folly and evil, has a disturbing power that trumps that of a real baby photographed in a costume, even if the costume refers to Hitler. The babe in Goya’s etching is a pure instrument, a bellows – an instrumentalized human being, which can’t happen in situations absent of evil.

Some of the commentors on Mandelbaum’s post seem to pick up on this, because they detest most of all that Kleivan instrumentalizes her daughter.

That’s not the whole story, though. Many artists have used children. Photographer Sally Mann caught plenty of flak for “instrumentalizing” (according to some critics) her young children. In the end, it’s a question of whether or not the images work. Goya’s do. Mann’s do. I’d like Kleivan’s to, but I’m just not sure they manage to.

28 seconds of reasons why I live here

March 17, 2010 at 8:21 pm | In just_so, vancouver_island, victoria | Comments Off on 28 seconds of reasons why I live here

Walking my dog along Dallas Road’s dogs off-leash area along the cliffs, with a view to the pebble beach, I watched a kite-surfer hard at play in the Juan de Fuca Strait…

March 17 2010

Click on image for Youtube video

Preservation is inherently sustainable

March 16, 2010 at 11:47 pm | In heritage, johnson street bridge, victoria | 1 Comment

Last week I had the pleasure of hearing Barbara Campagna speak at Victoria City Hall. Her presentation was part of a Transformational Lecture Series sponsored by the Cascadia Region Green Building Council.

Barbara Campagna is the Chief Architect of the National Trust, which administers a Sustainability Program to ensure that the “29 historic sites of the National Trust are integrating historic preservation values with green building practices – from green housekeeping techniques to sustainability master plans to LEED certification for historic rehabilitations.” (source) As the lecture description also noted:

The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Sustainability Program is demonstrating that conservation and improvement of our existing built resources, including re-use of historic and older buildings, greening the existing building stock, and reinvestment in older and historic communities, is crucial to combating climate change.  The construction and operation of buildings accounts for more than 40% of the United State’s carbon dioxide emissions. But reusing and retrofitting our existing buildings can reduce these emissions dramatically. In fact, our existing buildings are one of our greatest renewable resources.

Campagna’s informative presentation made the case eloquently that preservation is inherently sustainable. Preservation means that you:

  • reuse existing buildings
  • reinvest in communities (making existing communities and the city core attractive and amenity-rich counters sprawl)
  • retrofit older buildings
  • respect historic integrity

It turns out that buildings built before 1920 and after 2000 are the greenest in terms of low energy use: they have venting windows, and they’re adaptable (office to condo and vice versa). The worst buildings are those built in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s: difficult to adapt to any kind of reuse, inflexible HVAC systems (no individual control over venting, for example), high-energy usage. Quality of materials also comes into play: buildings from before 1920 and after 2000 are better quality. All of this suggests that in the post-World War II decades we went on a bender – of building cheap (not to last) and also of building mono-culture buildings. (For example, Robert Stern points out that modern office buildings can only be good for being office buildings: their huge floor plates mean that the distance from exterior wall – where there are [non-venting] windows that let natural light in – to the core [center] of the building is too far to allow carving the space into discrete rooms. The only thing these buildings are good for is an open plan cubicle farm – and even then, you need electricity to bring light to most areas. To retrofit a building like that so as to allow reshaping it into either smaller offices or even living spaces would involve carving a light-well into its center – a huge and costly retrofit, as we’re seeing here in Victoria with the retrofitting of the old Hudson’s Bay Department store into condominiums.)

Campagna also spoke about life-cycle assessment, which (if I understood her correctly) is a significantly better metric than embodied energy for assessing eco- or “green” questions when dealing with preservation. If I understood her point, much of what’s applied to preservation comes from a 1981 study on embodied energy – and it turns out the data is suspect.

The City of Victoria likes to congratulate itself on its work with historic preservation, and one of Victoria Council’s most outspoken defenders of built heritage, Councilor Pamela Madoff, was at Campagna’s presentation.

However, sadly Councilor Madoff also voted in favor of tearing down Victoria’s storied Johnson Street Bridge and replacing it with a new structure. One wonders whether Campagna’s illustrations of preservation and sustainability provoked any kind of reconsideration of Victoria’s unique historic bridge, or whether Industrial Archeology is simply too far a stretch for just a building preservationist.

Another thing to note: one of the arguments that the City of Victoria’s Engineers made – an argument subsequently embraced by some of the councilors who profess Green allegiances, notably Councilor Sonya Chandler – is that building a new bridge represents less embodied energy than refurbishing (preserving) the old one. Yet as Campagna’s lecture suggested, the embodied energy argument has to be pondered carefully. Surely, manufacturing new steel in China (after burning bunker oil to transport the raw materials from South America, say, to China’s factories), then burning more bunker oil to transport that steel to Victoria, is not the greener option. And let’s not even get started on how much fresh concrete a new bridge will require.

There was an irony in seeing a councilor who’s a heritage advocate listen attentively to an expert historic preservationist make the argument that the embodied energy argument should be viewed with skepticism, that preservation and reuse are always the greener options, and that retrofitting old buildings – can we say old structures? – is the environmentally responsible thing to do, given her readiness to trash the Johnson Street Bridge.

The question is: will Campagna’s message reach Victoria on the issue of the Johnson Street Bridge, or will Victoria remain comfortable in believing that it’s doing its best with regard to preservation …and sustainability?

Mark Holland to speak in Victoria BC

March 15, 2010 at 8:48 am | In NIMBYism, politics, victoria | 3 Comments

The City of Victoria’s Shape Your Future site notes that Mark Holland will be at the next community forum on March 26:

Mark Holland has been announced as the keynote speaker for the March 26 Community Forum. He will be joined by a panel of Victoria citizens at the Friday evening event from 5:30 p.m. – 8 p.m at Crystal Garden.

The Shape Your Future site is set up like a blog, yet doesn’t allow comments (which bugs me). Since I can’t post comments on the City’s site, I’ll have to do it on my own blog. I’d like to point to some things Holland said in a 2006 Tyee interview with James Glave, which I annotated via Diigo at the time, although I forgot all about it.

In James Glave’s interview, Holland notes that “The market isn’t a clean thing, it is completely invented and it’s constantly maintained and managed and manipulated by regulations.” In other words, as part of a feedback loop, taxation and subsidies act as a kind of information: they literally inform (that is, form or shape) the market. Municipalities in Canada are in a hard place here since they don’t have the autonomy to shape those feedback loops fully. However, they do have some powers, and it’s critical that cities figure out what they can do to move markets in the right direction. And as Holland adds, “…the question is, ‘Do we want to create national and international agreements to create a structure that leads us toward a more sustainable society, or do we want to create market forces that lead us away from it?’ That is one of the biggest questions in play right now.”

It means that at the city level, different departments need to cooperate, work together to figure this part of the puzzle out. (It also implies quite a lot at the regional level, which is a whole other matter when dealing with a municipal puzzle as tricky as ours. More on that, below.)

I also really liked what Holland said about the world-changers. After first noting that “The only sustainable future we can have is a profitable one. If you can’t make money saving the world, you won’t save the world,” he adds a couple of thoughts about partisans:

“But there is a stream that still carries on in the old way — supported by trade unions, and people who have little experience with how government works — largely driven by those who have an ‘outsider’ psychology [guilty as charged, I have my share of ‘outsider psychology’…]. They move the world forward very slowly. That said, they are critical for creating demand for those on the inside to do something. Without them banging on the pots and pans, no one anywhere needs to do anything. So, governments do sometimes need people throwing their bodies against the wall. But we will never change the world by going around the system. We have to change the system from within.”

And, a bit further down:

You can’t presume that the do-gooder, 1970s approach to changing your lifestyle is going to change the world, because it’s not. There is no way that trying to sell starving in the dark and doing without is ever going to make a penetration. In fact, it’s highly irresponsible for activists to argue that. They turn the world against those of us who are trying to change it, we all get branded the same way.

Makes sense to me, but the place we’re talking about is Victoria, where everyone wants to save the world – either by not changing a thing, pulling up the drawbridge, or being politically partisan (which usually involves comparing the BC Liberals to child molesters or worse). And in this city it’s going to be a hard slog to convince certain people to look at markets like they’re you’re friend, vs some kind of “alien” thing you can eliminate.

Consider, for example, one of James Glave’s own recent posts, Density is not the boogieman, which includes a passionate letter to his municipality, Bowen Island. He notes that he’s “advocating …for the best and most responsible way to deal with the growth that is already occurring,” which is exactly what we should be dealing with in Victoria, too (versus thinking we should stop growth by pulling up the drawbridge). Here, too, there’s a typical rejection of density – perhaps because people don’t understand that by not allowing it, they’re encouraging sprawl and the paving over of greenfields.

If you read through Glave’s letter, consider also reading Bernard von Schulmann’s January 12 post, Higher density needed near UVic. One of the comments on that post is particularly telling: Barbara Julian asks, “Why does everybody accept density and overpopulation? Anyone remember ‘small is beautiful’? UVIC has to grow for whose benefit …? Corporate interests did you say ..?” Julian’s questions encapsulate the thinking around here: stop development, density is bad, just don’t let anyone else move here (aka the drawbridge mindset) and we’ll be all set.

It’s a hopeful sign that we also have people like Rob Randall, who posted this response to Julian:

“Why does everybody accept density and overpopulation?”

Because density is good, Barbara.

Because density is good.

But you know, those of us who get that also get awfully beaten down by those who bury their heads in the sand on questions of growth (and growth management).

Once more back to Mark Holland, this time on the question of community gardens, which also illuminates what a hard sell Victorians wanting change will have here. Holland notes, “We need to include serious community gardens in our public parks.”

Let’s see anyone try to move that past the Friends of Beacon Hill Park, who fight tooth and nail against any “infringement” on the museum quality of that public park, whether it’s a temporary advertising banner to support a community festival (Luminara, anyone?) …or community gardening.

So, all this from Glave’s 2006 article, which I annotated the hell out of almost four years ago. In the years preceding 2006 as well as the years following I attended numerous community planning sessions, bashing my head against certain Victorians who always seem to find time to attend these events. Now I can’t muster an appetite for this stuff anymore. It’s up to the people getting paid – city staff – to find out if it’s really the case that everyone here has a BANANA mentality, or if it’s just a very vocal subset. City staff and politicians have, however, nearly bankrupted public trust due to the still-ongoing Johnson Street Bridge debacle. Nobody trusts them anymore, including me.

And I’m also less than hopeful because our municipal employees can’t do what Andrea DiMaio so eloquently suggests in How To Love Government 2.0 and Be A Contrarian at the Same Time:

My main concern, which I have expressed countless times, is that an open government must be a government that both talks more about what it does and how it operates, and listens to what people have to say. But in doing so, it does not pretend it owns or controls the communication channels or the style of interaction.

(…)

If governments really want to address the other side of the engagement coin, and figure out where people are, what they care about, what language they use, what makes them tick on a topic and stick to a community, then they need to empower their employees to be market researchers, information brokers, idea transformers.

The attitude needs to shift from “we need to engage people who tell us how to work (because our folks are not good enough)” to “we want our folks to become even better by tapping into the ingenuity and creativity of people”. Now, I’m sure you’ve heard many gov 2.0 leaders and proponents using similar words. But if you read the fine prints, you may have noticed that they say “government must tap into the ingenuity of people” and not “government employees”. This is a fundamental difference, and one that I have been stressing for quite some time now.

What DiMaio, followed up by Candi Harrison in her post, Use Your Best Resources to Engage Citizens – Your Employees, propose is getting government employees to talk to their friends, neighbors, social circles to find out what people are thinking and want for their community. Why is this a problem in Victoria (aside from possible internal communication blocks between management and staff)? Political balkanization – thirteen municipalities, each with their own municipal governments. The City of Victoria’s own highest paid employee – Gail Stephens, City Manager – doesn’t even live in Victoria. What’s the point if she talks to her neighbors? They’re not Victorians. And while I don’t have the statistics, I’m sure a significant percentage of City employees don’t live Victoria.

In other words, the political balkanization contributes to making shared information either difficult or …irrelevant. Neighboring folks in Saanich might aspire to the same things as those in Victoria, but under our crazy system their views must be addressed to Saanich politicians, not Victoria’s. It’s completely ridiculous.

Which is why I wish Mark Holland luck in addressing Victoria. I think he’ll enjoy it and will find lots of enthusiastic world changers. But they just might not be aware of how market-oriented his thinking is. In fact, I wonder how much of a surprise Holland’s approach will be to some of the usual participants at these events, people who are against all development. And I wonder, too, how much bringing Holland here was a staff-driven decision as opposed to one made on the basis of gauging the community. Holland’s views on underlying economic drivers are so progressive that I have a hard time reconciling them with the usual stance of Victorians.

By my lights, it’s now pretty late in the day and Mark Holland should have been here four years ago to talk about shaping Victoria’s Official Community Plan.

At any rate I think I’ll be staying home on March 26. After waiting all these years, I’ve come down with a real bad case of community fatigue.

Amateur food porn for Pi Day

March 14, 2010 at 11:29 pm | In just_so | 5 Comments

Earlier today, I posted photos of a coffee cake I made this afternoon. This evening I made pizza (a staple around here), and decided to take photos of that, too. And post them to my Picasa account – with commentary/ instructions.

~

Each photo on this page is click-able, and I added comments for each stage.

Call it amateur food porn, but here’s how I do it… 😉

On those photo pages I left out the steps for making the dough, however, so I’ll add them now.

I like a thin crust pizza myself, but everyone’s different – which is why I didn’t put a recipe for dough on the photos page. You can probably go to your local bakery and buy some dough (I know I can do this at Bubby Rose‘s, for example).

My pizza dough is pretty basic:

3 cups of flour, 1 cup of water, some yeast, some sugar, a bit of salt, and olive oil.

Proof the yeast with the water [heated to lukewarm], add a bit of sugar. Once the yeast is puffy, add a tablespoon or so of olive oil, some salt, and start adding the flour bit by bit. Stir, then knead [I use a Kitchen Aid], keep it up and going for a while. If you can, make the dough a while ahead of time, which makes for a chewier dough since it “develops” more. That’s all. Easy as …pie.

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

March 14, 2010 at 1:31 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Terrific post by Andrea DiMaio (of the Gartner Blog Network) that’s a must-read for governments starting on public engagement strategies etc. In particular, final paragraphs are spot-on, given the propensity to use walled gardens (Facebook) or stand-alone portals for “engagement.”


    QUOTE
    As I said earlier, when I was giving my sermon about the limited use of citizen-facing portals I had an army of vendors and consultants against me. They were cashing juicy contracts to develop one-stop-shop strategies, maturity assessments, rankings of all sort, and my dissenting voice was suggesting their clients to be more cautious, to do less rather than more.\n\nI have the sneaking suspicion that it is the same right now. Events and seminars, social media strategy toolkits, enterprise social software, more web sites, more storage (possibly in the cloud), you name it: the government 2.0 frenzy implies lots of opportunities for vendors of all sort. My dissenting voice is suggesting that listening on a consumer platform (such as Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter) may be more rewarding than deploying enterprise tools for collaboration and engagement; that piloting with internal (business) resources is more important than engaging social media consultants; that leveraging their employees’ personal networks may give faster results than building a captivating series of pages on Facebook.

    Of course the time for higher profile and more expensive ventures will come (and is already here for some agencies), but could we understand what the people we serve really need and want in the first place?
    UNQUOTE
    Found via Use Your Best Resources to Engage Citizens – Your Employees by Candi Harrison.

    tags: governance, gov2.0, public_participation, andrea_dimaio, gartner

  • Great article that explains how Canada’s taxation system destroys innovation and grass-roots ownership, even under the new Budget 2010 revisions, which were touted by Finance Minister Flaherty as supportive of investment & innovation…

    QUOTE
    As an illustration of the dire consequences of the proposed new changes in stock option taxation, we have had to halt the IPO process for a very successful Canadian technology company. Under the proposed new rules, if all 300+ employees exercised all of their vested options at once, post-IPO, the company would have an immediate withholding tax liability of about $20 million. This is a new, open-ended and completely uncontrollable contingent liability. If we happened to get “irrationally exuberant” technology markets again, the liability could be multiples of $20 million.
    UNQUOTE

    tags: canada, taxation, innovation, economic_development, techvibes

  • On policing, police power, and street safety.
    QUOTE
    Depending on police to solve all crime problems is equivalent to depending on emergency room doctors to be primary care doctors — it’s expensive, it’s not their job, creates a culture reliant on catastrophe to get any attention, and much better if we prevent the catastrophic stuff from happening in the first place.

    Crime prevention and public safety happens in many ways. “Safe streets” don’t just happen because people with guns, nightsticks, menacing stares, and power trips are always threatening to beat some teenagers into submission.
    UNQUOTE

    And:
    QUOTE
    I said that “public safety” as currently configured is a “male-centric” solution for a reason.

    If you take a step back, the friction you see between the police and gangs is essentially a bunch of older guys barking at young guys. Mayor Villaraigosa, Chief of Police Charlie Beck, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, less there’s something we don’t know about — all guys. Gangleaders, gang members — usually all guys too.

    I don’t notice too many women involved in these public safety conversations, unless they are UCLA Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris.

    Subject to more threats of attack, women, along with seniors, children, and the disabled would have a better idea of “safer streets” than males. Architect Doug Suisman once said that the best measure of a safety of a public space is to see how many females to males are in a certain area. The more females, the more successful.
    UNQUOTE

    And
    QUOTE
    Creating safer streets means lowering the speed limits on streets. When cars exceed 20 mph, the pedestrians and cyclists become uneasy. It’s no wonder, because 85% of individuals will die if struck by a motorist cruising along at 40 mph.
    UNQUOTE

    tags: policing, safety, street_life, streets, los_angeles, gender, cars, public_space

  • Vancouver Sun article by Jonathan Ross (civic affairs commentator at CivicScene.ca) that looks at how Vancouver’s (unique-in-Canada) city charter has allowed staff bureaucracy to wield quite a bit of power behind the scenes, and (it appears) behind the backs of politicians. This is interesting insofar as I had assumed the net positives of Vancouver having a charter, namely that it has greater autonomy vis-a-vis the province. But if the political leadership isn’t able to stand up to staff (which stays the same for years and years, while civic elections bring in new politicians every 3 years), then it makes sense that an all-powerful bureaucracy can develop.

    On the other hand, Vancouver has benefited from its planning department’s vision…

    From the article, just one example of city staff overstepping its boundaries:
    QUOTE
    City staff acted unilaterally without the approval of council and, according to the same administrative report, began to “operate beyond its existing budget approval in the spring of 2008.”
    UNQUOTE

    tags: vancouver, bureaucracy, politics, leadership

  • A February 21/10 interview with the inventor of The Bloom Box, an alternative energy generation system.

    tags: bloom_box, fuel_cells, futurismo, eco, alternative_energy, energy, video

  • Collection of Rotman School of Management video presentations by Rotman professors and recent guest speakers, including Mihnea Moldoveanu, Gary Vaynerchuk, Claudia Kotchka, Dev Patnaik, Ajay Agrawal, and Gary Latham.

    tags: rotman, utoronto, business, video, reference

  • Handy reference list of what the big boys consider architecture to watch.

    tags: architecture, starchitecture, businessweek, reference, lists

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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