Thursday 28 August 2008

ESUG 2008 Presentation

I'm in Amsterdam and just finished my ESUG 2008 presentation on the evolution of Seaside this morning. The gist of the talk was that Seaside has evolved through Experimentation, Stabilization, and Optimization and is enjoying a bit of an Adoption phase which should be encouraged. Sort of a call to arms.

I also took the opportunity to try to communicate the architecture and key metaphor of Seaside through illustrations. Finally, I rounded it all out with a few examples of less obvious (read badly documented) places people might consider extending the framework.

I think it went pretty well overall. I had a few people come up afterwards saying either that it had helped them understand some part of Seaside, that the historical perspective was interesting, or that they agreed with the need for documentation and advocacy.

I imagine James Robertson will post video on his blog at some point as he was filming all the talks. In the meantime he's posted a quick summary (wrong title and name spelled wrong, though! :) ). I'm guessing the slides will be available on the ESUG website sometime soon but I'll post them if not.

Update: Slides are available here.

Sunday 10 August 2008

Teaching a nation how to wave (part 1)

Friday was a national holiday, declared only days in advance in recognition of the Olympic opening ceremonies. My poorly judged trip to Tiananmen Square that day revealed more people than I have ever seen in one place in China. Flags, stickers, and headbands were being sold, purchased, and worn everywhere I looked. The Olympic excitement seemed to have finally hit.

Trying to get home, I eventually give up on taking the subway after finding stations closed and streets blocked off at every turn. With the heat finally getting to me, I fall into a taxi (the best 30 quai I ever spent!) and head for home. All of a sudden, the driver is trying to talk to me. We manage to communicate that I come from Canada and he from Beijing. He pats my leg and says jianada a few times with a big grin on his face. I try out jianada yo shan yo shui (Canada is beautiful, literally: there are mountains and there is water), messing up the pronunciation but earning a smiling correction from him instead of a disinterested grunt. Finally, he rests his hand on my arm, rubbing my arm hair between his index finger and thumb. As I'm beginning to find this creepy, he starts miming shaving his face. Now I get the joke! I mime back that it may be stinking hot in China but in Canada I need this fuzzy layer.

Heading to a bar to watch the opening ceremonies, I carefully write out the chinese address, copying it character by character from a book. I hop in a taxi and the driver studiously examines my scrawled lines, picking out the characters he recognizes and piecing it together. Finally, he gets it. He turns to me and mimes, "Did you write this?" Yes, I laugh. Hen hao, he smiles (very good) and gives me a thumbs up.

It seems the city is suddenly filled with high spirits and friendly good will. The drive to the bar is the quickest I've ever experienced, despite two of the four lanes being set aside for Olympic vehicles; apparently residents were asked to keep off the roads. The street is lined with police officers and vehicles and, at every intersection, bus stop, on-ramp, off-ramp, and pedestrian overpass, a soldier in dress uniform stands at careful attention. Beijing is about to throw a party and everything seems to be ready.

(to be continued)

Friday 1 August 2008

Random Thoughts

I'm not quite sure what to write today so it will be a bit of a stream of consciousness.

I saw a man on a subway platform today repeatedly slapping a woman (presumably wife or girlfriend) in the face. It was truly horrifying. I thought we were all supposed to be desensitized by violence in movies, games, and the news but the sheer brutality of it was absolutely shocking. I mean this is something I have literally never seen before in my life. Hours later, it still makes my blood flash boil thinking about it. All I could think to do was to start screaming at this guy in a language he didn't understand, indicating by gestures that he could try it on someone else, but the subway doors had closed and all I could do was grimace and talk myself out of taking the next subway back. Apparently domestic violence is a big problem in China.

Only three weeks to go before my departure from China and (much like my last job) I don't really want to stay but the departure is still sad. I won't miss the slow, spotty Internet. I won't miss ordering bottled water. I definitely won't miss the pollution or the heat. I won't miss the one channel of English propaganda on television, or the staring, or the spitting, or the manually controlled traffic lights that don't give pedestrians enough time to get across the road, even if you get a head start before they go green.

What will I miss? I don't exactly know. I'll miss the cheap taxis and cheap beer. I'll miss the variety of food choices (at least compared to where I'm going next!). I'll regret not having got the most out of the country (no travel!) and not having learned enough of the language to even have a basic conversation with the taxi drivers. I'll miss the way something noticeable has changed every single time I go outside. But these all seem insignificant and I think there's something more to it. Or could it be just sentimentality because it was "home" for a while? It may take some time for me to figure this one out... and I think I may be back sometime to see a bit more of the country (maybe they'll have fixed the traffic lights!).

One final observation: I seem to be getting restless. It's been 5 or 6 months since I went on leave and this appears to be a pattern. When I returned from Europe in July of 2002, it was just after Christmas that I started working at UBC. When I returned from Australia, it was about 5 months before I started working at Emily Carr. And I became restless in Australia after about five and a half months of being there. It seems that's about as long as I can stand being unfocused (at least in one place). Julia commented that for her it would be more like a few hours but it's good to know what my limit is.