This Friday’s Coffee Chat

I’m hosting this Friday’s coffee chat at the StartUp Zone. Though they don’t often attract the same level of attention as other events in Charlottetown, I have found these coffee chats to be some of the most informative sessions I’ve had the pleasure to attend. This is in part due to their informality; there is no agenda, no “I’m going to show you how to be an Instagram influencer”, or other marketing nonsense. It’s just people sharing their story, being open to questions, and the resultant conversations. The last one I attended was hosted by Kaaren May, who would later spend 90 minutes of her time giving me a personal tour of UPEI’s School of Sustainable Design Engineering.

Still under the influence of Crafting {:} a Life, I had gotten permission to lead a different kind of talk, I was going to demo how to roast your own coffee, and use that as the jumping off point for conversations. Unfortunately, with the recent arrival of all the roasted beans from Taiwan, I forgot to place an order. It’s likely for the best, as it can be a smokey process and not everyone in the office might appreciate the smell of coffee.

I’m not sure what we will talk about, like many others before me I’ll rely primarily on whatever questions people might have, but it doesn’t have to be limited to design or design research (aka work). I love talking about all kinds of other things; running, language learning, education, Taiwan and China, and etc..

The coffee is free and I encourage you to drop in and go as you please.

More info on the event can be found here.


It’s like Christmas

Sheryl has the best friends

This came last week.

A testament to the relationships that she was able to build in Taiwan and the quality of her teaching, a parent of one of her former students sent us a large box of our favourite thing. There is enough roast coffee here to get us through the crispness of fall.


Todays long run

Today felt like a dress rehearsal for just about any marathon I have run; very little sleep, upset stomach, out the door before sunrise, and pain and huge appetite after the run.

I took a similar route as last time but wanted to give the hills on Sherwood road and on University a try on tired legs. The last time I ran the PEI Marathon these pushed my left hamstring over the edge and I started to cramp, which caused a loss of about ten minutes in my final finish time. Today I had no such problem, but I was also running far slower. The protests from my body have progressed this year to the muscles around my hips, which have been getting a great work out from CrossFit and my running. Every year of running brings some malady – I’m hoping that this year, with the 15+ hours of training I do a week, may be different.

I’m still not convinced that I can complete a marathon in October within a respectable period of time. At the pace I am running now it’s mostly a mental game. As I don’t listen to music, I usually pick work related problems to solve while running. But work is far less challenging than in the past so I usually spend time writing blog posts or stories, which never see the light of day. I also do other visualization exercises (sometimes visualization a huge feast at the end of a run helps) to keep my mind off the fact that once I hit the 21k mark I start to feel real discomfort. When I start looking frequently at my watch I know that I am near the end of my patience, today that happened at around 25k. At that point though I still had ways to go and had little choice to continue.


Storms

One of the benefits of apartment living for us (I might say the only benefit) has been that when a storm of any magnitude comes the responsibility for cleanup and prep largely lies with someone else. That was the case this past weekend when Dorian hit and we, with the exception of a loss of power for four hours after dinner, escaped unscathed. Others were not so lucky, and the topic of sore backs, the love of hot showers, and the zombies lining up for hours for bad coffee was the topic of many recent conversations.

Being the Gentle Island whenever the wind picks up some level of devastation follows.

Incidentally, it was 3 years ago this month that I experienced another storm, a typhoon this time, right after I landed in Fuzhou.

We were pretty accustomed, as much as you can be, to the yearly onslaught of cat 1-5 typhoons that wreak havoc on Taiwan, China and the Philippines. Living in the Hsinchu Science Park meant that we were well protected, the power never went out, and flooding was at a minimum. But we still would be prepared with fresh water and food in case the need arose.

I was entirely unprepared when I first landed in China. For some reason the company’s HR department required my arrival just as everyone was about to go on a week long holiday. The logic behind this was never explained and it was one of the many mysteries of working there. Since there was no one to show me to my apartment on the new campus I was given temporary accommodations at one of the dorms in the city. And then after a meal of dumplings left alone for a week. Which is fine, I’m in China, on holiday, lots to see. Except, I couldn’t leave the city until all my papers were sorted, which would take longer because people were all on holiday.

I had about a day before the rain started and during that time I covered as much by foot as I could of the sprawling city of Fuzhou. I’m not sure why but for some reason when I went back to my room that night I brought water but no food. Perhaps, it was due to the typhoon being downgraded to a simple tropical storm, which in my mind meant business as usual.

Unfortunately, in the part of the city I was staying in, rain meant flooding, and flooding meant sewage everywhere. So when the storm struck I was stuck in my dorm room. The murky water wasn’t deep, only up to my knees, but any cut from the debris might bring along all kinds of maladies. So at the behest of the building security guard I stayed put.

On PEI Dorian brought out best in some Islanders, and in China as well there were moments of kindness. As the day went on people were checking in via WeChat, there were frequent offers from my new colleagues to come and fetch me, or have food delivered. There were still some restaurants open nearby with people willing to risk the possibility of infection, but I hadn’t yet started the long arduous process of setting up WeChat Wallet, so I had no way to pay. It was the security guard who came to my aid first. Noticing that as the day dragged on I still had nothing to eat he insisted I share his dinner. Which I did, and thanked him as best I could. His simple act of kindness made an otherwise dreary day all the brighter.

By the next day the water receded and the legions of workers came out to clean up the mess. A week later I was settled in my apartment on the new campus by the beach.


The Blue

Sept., 2018

Of all the benefits of living on Prince Edward Island certainly the clear blue skies, which I could stare at for hours, must rank near the top.

The summers when we would arrive from abroad would be a healthy respite, a noise and pollution detox. My mother used to say that the sea air cures all, and I can confirm that the effects of finally breathing air free of pollutants feels curative, like some kind of magic elixir. Others leaving Asia for extended periods report similar effects.

This morning was near perfection, with crisp cool air of the type that I seldom experienced during all the years I lived and traveled throughout Asia.


Homework is wrecking our kids

A child just beginning school deserves the chance to develop a love of learning. Instead, homework at a young age causes many kids to turn against school, future homework and academic learning. And it’s a long road. A child in kindergarten is facing 13 years of homework ahead of her.

Then there’s the damage to personal relationships. In thousands of homes across the country, families battle over homework nightly. Parents nag and cajole. Overtired children protest and cry. Instead of connecting and supporting each other at the end of the day, too many families find themselves locked in the “did you do your homework?” cycle.

When homework comes prematurely, it’s hard for children to cope with assignments independently—they need adult help to remember assignments and figure out how to do the work. Kids slide into the habit of relying on adults to help with homework or, in many cases, do their homework. Parents often assume the role of Homework Patrol Cop. Being chief nag is a nasty, unwanted job, but this role frequently lingers through the high school years. Besides the constant conflict, having a Homework Patrol Cop in the house undermines one of the purported purposes of homework: responsibility.

One of the reasons we wanted to leave Taiwan was the overbearing high pressure rote methods employed in the schools. But our experience was that this didn’t start until junior high – generally elementary school in Taiwan, especially the private school our kids went to, was great. In many ways a superior experience to what they might have had elsewhere. Homework and studying starts in earnest in 7th grade, and is especially heavy from grade 9 onwards.

It was just today I read on Facebook a friend in Taipei complaining that his daughter started school at 6:30am and didn’t get home until 9pm when she still had homework. Our daughter started at 6. I don’t think my son, outside of a few assignments had any homework at all last year. Which I don’t consider an entirely good thing as I believe there is a time and place for individual learning, but there is no denying both kids are far more relaxed. The only pressure they received last year was from me.

Homework is wrecking our kids: The research is clear, let’s ban elementary homework


My Haircut

Kudos to The Humble Barber for yesterday’s haircut experience.

At about 2:40pm I suddenly realized the time, and that I had an appointment for a haircut at 3. I was in the car 5 minutes later and with the help of the Hillsborough Bridge Raceway managed to walk in their door on Kent St. at 3 on the nose. By the looks of the staff standing around in a circle, they expected me to be a no show.

In years past I would take advantage of my time getting a haircut to practice various Chinese language phrases or listen to the banter of the other customers in the shop; it was a great way to gain some insight into what is important to people outside of my usual social circle, or to find out where the latest and greatest restaurant is. But generally I find getting a haircut a chore, and prefer to go and be finished in as short a time as possible. With the exception of language practice, I seldom have the inclination to talk. Some barbers here on the other Island try to engage in conversation, younger ones especially, who use unique difficult to understand language full of adjectives. After a few concise replies, they often give up, figuring I am unfriendly. The ordeal often leaves us both uncomfortable.

It would seem though, that I have found my haircut nirvana. During the whole time I was in the chair at The Humble Barber yesterday, the barber didn’t once attempt to engage me in idle banter (in a previous visit another barber admitted that she didn’t like people). Also, she didn’t discuss hair styling – in Taiwan this always frustrated me, as barbers would always give themselves lofty titles such as “artist” and yet would rely on me to tell them the best look for my big head. What am I paying all this money for if I am doing all the “art?” Lastly, she positioned my chair so that I didn’t have to continuously look at myself in the mirror, another pet peeve, and instead could look out at all the curious characters on Kent St. In the end she performed the big reveal by turning my chair around to explain my new do.

All in all it took less than 15 minutes and I was out the door on Kent at 3:15 dodging the smokers crowded outside of the Tim Hortons.


When technology design provokes errors

Did you ever forget your chip & pin card in a card reader? Leave the original on a photocopier? Send an email to the wrong person from your address book? The way technology is designed can make errors more or less likely. Most everyday examples are just annoying; if a pilot or a nurse makes similar errors in the course of their work, the consequences can be much more serious. This talk discusses some of the causes of these errors and how the design of technology can provoke or mitigate them.

I’ve been quickly reading some of Professor Blandford’s work in preparation for my talk on thematic analysis and affinity diagrams on October 3rd. The above video was a bit of a diversion from that; diversions often occur when preparing most talks on what I consider somewhat dry topics.


Don’t ride here

When we lived in Hsinchu it was common knowledge that whenever a driver of any kind of a large vehicle hit you it was best for them to make sure you were dead, because the costs related to your death were less than your continued care while in and out of the hospital. So it was said that if you get hit watch out as truck drivers might back up for another pass to finish the job. How true that actually was I don’t know but I do know that the cost of hitting anyone with your scooter, bicycle, or car could cripple you financially. This despite Taiwan having a health care system equal to, or superior to, what we enjoy here.

With that in mind I still road my bike for a number of years, and when Camren was really young, with him in a trailer behind me. This we would do in the back narrow roads that lead from our house in the hills, to his kindergarten, all the while sharing the road with huge cement trucks that would regularly come within an inch or two of my bike. The same could be said of running, which was at times in a pretty hostile environment, as you dodge vehicles that would speed close enough so you could rap on the window to break the drivers from their stress induced myopia.

That said I think it mostly worked, at least for me as I’m still here, and able to utilize my legs. Part of this was due to a combination of looking out for yourself, the realization that there are kinds of things (people, dogs don’t fare well, cars, scooters, bicycles) sharing the roads, and the confidence and skill to be able to negotiate small distances when driving.

These factors don’t seem to exist here in Charlottetown – particularly in the heavily trafficked Hillsborough bridge and connecting streets. Every time I ride or run across the bridge I am convinced that drivers of vehicles large and small have no idea I exist on the road. It’s especially disconcerting when you see a large gravel truck slowly veering over the white line on the road as it speeds towards you.

This isn’t necessarily the case everywhere. When running on rural roads many drivers give me an extraordinarily wide berth. In Cornwall people used to slow down and ask me if I wanted to talk a break and get a drive home. In other cases people toot their horns and wave as they go by.

There is something about that Stratford to Charlottetown connection that brings out the less than friendly part of people.


Sunday’s route

In a place as small as Charlottetown it’s hard to find routes that stay within the town limits. Running for me is as much a mental challenge as it is physical; learning to ignore the pain while trying to enter into some kind of zen like state. It works for a while but then I get bored and need the kind of visual stimulus that running through an urban setting provides. Running in parts of Hsinchu was a bit like being hunted by people in machines and maimed by all manner of traps on the road. This required a level of mental alertness which is thankfully not usually necessary here

I’ve discovered much of the various neighbourhoods of Charlottetown on my feet. This is the second time I’ve run this route and my favourite part is not urban at all. The Robertson Road Trail goes through a beautiful piece of nature which looks much like how the world may look when all the humans have left. I think we will return this evening for a more leisurely walk around the area.


A company of one

This afternoon I was tired and unfocused so while I was drinking a cup of coffee I listened to a presentation regarding yet another accelerator program targeting companies who “want to grow fast.” This programs unique spin is that it prepares you to join more prestigious accelerators and unlike other presentations that I’ve listened to figures of 1-4-10 million dollars were thrown around. Though it might be hard for some to believe, I’m not against making money, but the whole culture of devoting your life to the pursuit of more and more wealth never jibed with me. Of course that also has the effect that I shop at noFrills, while others at SuperStore, or why I will never drive a Benz unless I become a chauffeur.

I’m quickly reading through Paul Jarvis’s “Company of One,” and I like some of what I am reading.

A company of one is simply a business that questions growth.

A company of one resists and questions some forms of traditional growth, not on principle, but because growth isn’t always the most beneficial or financially viable move. It can be a small business owner or a small group of founders. Employees, executive leaders, board members, and corporate leaders who want to work with more autonomy and self-sufficiency can adopt the principles of a company of one as well.
Paul Jarvis. “Company of One.”


The Positive Message Company

This Sunday past, as part of his participation with the Young Millionaires Program Camren got up and gave a short speech about his experience building a business over the summer.

It’s difficult to get up in front of a group of people and give a short talk. It’s doubly difficult when you get up in front of a crowd and share your challenges*, how you over came them and what you plan to do in the future. It was a proud moment and I admire his bravery. Speaking wasn’t a requirement and many kids declined.

While I am sure he would prefer to have more spending money at the end of the summer, I think he has learned more from failure than he could have if he had.


Responsive interviews

Responsive interviewing is yet another type to add to the vast typology (including: naturalistic, feminist, oral history, in-depth, free, organisational, culture, investigative, epistemic, agonistic, platonic, phenomenological, ethnographic, walk along (go along), informal, long, standardised, convergent, socratic, concept, clarification, open, theory elaboration, exit interview, evaluation, problem centred, walking interview, unstructured via U of Amsterdam .)

I like this explanation.

In ordinary conversations, people mostly focus on the immediate outcome—how was the date, who won the game. Qualitative researchers are more likely to look at events as they unfold over time, looking at chains of causes and consequences and searching for patterns—not just what happened at the last city council meeting but how council members make decisions or how citizens become engaged in public issues. In qualitative interviews, researchers seek

In qualitative interviews, researchers seek more depth but on a narrower range of issues than people do in normal conversations. Researchers plan interview questions in advance, organizing them so they are linked to one another to obtain the information needed to complete a whole picture. Instead of chatting on this and that, a researcher has to encourage the interviewee to answer thoughtfully, openly, and in detail on the topic at hand. If a researcher heard that a community group had held a meeting, he or she would want to know who was there, what was said, and what decisions, if any, were made. He or she would want to know the history of the issues, the controversies, and something about the decision makers—who they were, their concerns, their disagreements. The researcher might want to know about the tone of the meeting, whether anyone got angry and stomped out, or whether people laughed and generally seemed to be having a good time. This depth, detail, and richness is what Clifford Geertz (1973) called thick description . To get such depth and detail, responsive interviewers structure an interview around three types of linked questions: main questions, probes, and follow-up questions. Main questions assure that each of the separate parts of a research question are answered. Probes are standard expressions that encourage interviewees to keep talking on the subject, providing examples and details. Follow-up questions ask interviewees to elaborate on key concepts, themes, ideas, or events that they have mentioned to provide the researcher with more depth. Overall, qualitative interviewing requires intense listening, a respect for and curiosity about people’s experiences and perspectives, and the ability to ask about what is not yet understood. Qualitative interviewers listen to hear the meaning of what interviewees tell them. When they cannot figure out that meaning, they ask follow-up questions to gain clarity and precision.
Qualitative Interviewing – The Art of Hearing Data


Founders Food Hall and Market

I dropped by the Founders Food Hall and Market this afternoon for their opening. Well executed I think. Enjoyed some wonderful BBQ wood fired pizza from Fiamma and some kind of bacon, chocolate and coffee on a stick concoction from Holy Fox. This was washed down with samples from Receivers and RAW Juice. The sandwich meat was superb as well. I’m sure that different use cases for this space could be argued but it looks to my eyes to be the best looking space of this type on the Island. I didn’t catch the hours, but if they manage to have weekend hours it will be a more convenient alternative to the Charlottetown Farmers Market.


What a fascinating field study of the malevolent it would be; though I suspect they would be utterly boring in their ordinariness.

I wish I could follow these people around with cameras all day long. I want to know everything about them. I want to know what they do every day, how they talk to each other, how they spend their free time, where they vacation. I want to know what kinds of human beings are comfortable behaving this monstrously. Do they look like monsters? It’s hard not to picture them as monsters.

Ask Polly: My In-Laws Are Careless About My Deadly Food Allergy!

Because weird, antisocial behavior is interesting to me I poked around and found a whole Allergic Living piece from 2010 with anecdotes of relatives sneak feeding allergens.

Affirming group membership by eating the same thing must be deep in humans.

Family Food Feud: Relatives and Allergies
Erika Hall


The digital lives of refugees

Interesting research by GSMA which I’m slowly going through. I know very little about these regions included in the research, so it’s a bit of an eye opener.

There is growing recognition among donors and humanitarian organisations that mobile technology and mobile network operators (MNOs) have an important role to play in the delivery of dignified aid. This includes providing digital tools that help people affected by crisis become more self-sufficient, especially those in protracted humanitarian crises. However, more evidence is needed to understand the digital needs and preferences of people affected by crisis, how they are currently accessing and using mobile technology, and the barriers they encounter.

[…]

This report explores the ways in which mobile technology can improve access to financial services, utilities (notably energy) and identity services, as well as information to improve food security, with an overarching focus on gender and inclusivity in refugee contexts. The study aims to provide insight into these key thematic areas, drawing out emerging trends and cross-cutting themes across different contexts.

[…]

Key findings
The analysis begins with an overview of mobile technology access, use and barriers (section 3) in each context. This digital snapshot of refugees provides a foundation for subsequent chapters on five thematic areas.

  1. Over two-thirds of refugees in all three research locations are active mobile phone users, with the highest proportion in Jordan.
  2. Refugees access mobile services in creative ways depending on their context: sharing or borrowing handsets and owning multiple SIMs. For those who do not own handsets, borrowing is an important way of getting connected.
  3. The most commonly used mobile services among active users in all three research locations are making calls and using SMS services. Mobile money is one of the top three mobile use cases in Kiziba and Bidi Bidi, where 59 per cent and 44 per cent of refugees use mobile money, respectively.
  4. Awareness of mobile internet is high, but only about a third of respondents in Bidi Bidi and Kiziba have used it. The findings also indicate that refugees would like to use mobile internet more than they are currently able to.
  5. Affordability, literacy and digital skills, and charging are the main barriers to mobile phone ownership and mobile internet use in all contexts.

The digital lives of refugees: How displaced populations use mobile phones and what gets in the way


“perpetually dying of starvation”

For anyone who has not had the pleasure of meeting her, the utterly adorable Elsa. She’s sweet, affectionate, playful, and perpetually dying of starvation (her words, not mine!)

It makes me happy to see that all of Sheryl’s hard work has resulted in our old dog Elsa finding a home with someone who cares for her. It’s worked out better than we could have hoped.


Cork Board Ephemera

Part of our current collection of things tacked in our kitchen. I generally loathe most typographic signs in the home of any kind, at least the kinds that are so popular today. Why people need a sign to remind them of “Home” or “Love” or some other kind positive messaging is beyond me. But the card above slipped into the fray, perhaps because it was created by Kim Roach.

Unplanned color scheme of green, red, and black.


Secret Design Bunker Pop-up

I love the exterior of this building. So much more inviting than any blue glass monstrosity.

I dropped in to the Nine Yards Secret Design Bunker pop-up early this afternoon – it was a nice display of ideas. It would have been nice to have some explanation behind the work but my timing was off, as a large group arrived shortly after myself, which kept the sole person managing the affair busy answering their questions, afterwards they disappeared into what I guess was the secret bunker part of the exhibition.

It’s nice to see this kind of work – great aesthetic, perhaps a cross between Eslite and some of the work I have seen produced by NCTU GIA.

Hopefully this will be a regular event.


I know it’s pointless to argue against it, but circulating screengrabs of content make me sad. We don’t have a web anymore, just tides of flotsam and jetsam, a loose slurry of disconnected and contextless content microbeads washing over us.
Jesse James Garrett


The Brass Shop

We had coffee at the Receivers on Water St. yesterday and I agree with what was said at the table that the experience is far superior to their Victoria Row location. Better service and the latte’s better prepared.

The Victoria Row location would appear to not be designed for the flood of customers it often receives, particularly when the downtown is busy with guests enjoying the city. Sheryl and I had breakfast there earlier in the week while sitting outside; the environment was nice and the food ok if not comparatively more expensive. The latte did not look like the one pictured above.

I often mention the trials of finding good coffee in Charlottetown, but our friends we were chatting with thought it was richer tasting than I assume what they are used to in Singapore. I have little experience with coffee there but I have come to realize that my views on coffee are in the minority, or I’m just accustomed to, or romanticize the variety of tastes available in our former home.

Seeing as this location is only adds 2 minutes in walking time from Water & Queen, I’ll try visiting there when the need arises.


Comparisons are odious

As I was sitting at my desk sweating while waiting to talk with a CRA representative, I took the opportunity to connect with old colleagues and companies to see what kind of projects they have been working on. Comparing oneself to others, even other companies, is seldom a good thing, and it adds to my internal struggle as to whether to stay in PEI or to leave.

Working independently whether as a freelancer (not in my future), remotely for someone else, or as some kind of entrepreneur allows for the kind of freedom that I have always wanted in my life. It would be almost unheard of to take a 9am CrossFit class with my daughter while working in Taiwan, we would both be too busy and the political price for “custom” hours at a tech company too high. If you can manage the difficulties inherent in making a livable wage on PEI, the amount of free time people, including myself, have here makes for a higher quality life. Time > $$. The past year has felt somewhat like a vacation.

But, what I can accomplish alone, with very limited support, pales in comparison to what I was confronted with before. And what friends of mine are doing now. While they are building software that potentially affects the lives of many, I attempt to create things on a much much smaller scale. I’m not sure I can be content with creating podcasts, simple apps, and ed. services. Much of my experience and education has gone unused this past year; I feel rusty.

I guess this is an internal struggle many go through when they downsize or move to a more sane locale, some resolve it very quickly, and I suspect some struggle with it over longer periods like I do.

The beautiful summer skies here certainly help to push the problem to the back of my mind.


The past 5 days

With Sheryl’s arrival this past Tuesday on a delayed 1 am flight, my adventure as a single parent has come to an end.


Before my wife left Taiwan a student graciously gifted a huge box of coffee including these 3 bags. Good coffee is difficult to find on PEI, and shipping from elsewhere a tad too expensive, so after these are gone it’s back to home roasting.


What better way to kick off Sheryl’s first year in PEI than attending this years Business Women’s summit which was relocated to the Delta due to the Startup Zone’s ongoing AC troubles. They did a great job pulling it off considering, but I enjoyed last years more.


I’ve always marvelled at the skies on PEI; clean, free from pollutants and beautiful.

We attended the Pride PEI BBQ on Saturday, which I thought was well attended. After a quick chat with Sean Cassey we were off to Cornwall to attend Heath McDonald’s Strawberry Social. Despite not having any affiliation with the Liberal party, we attend (crash) their strawberry socials every summer.

We still feel like tourists here, so our annual sojourn to Cavendish still seems fitting.

It’s for the tourists. It’s fake. But Avonlea Village is the kind of city density that I appreciate. It’s walkable, free of cars, and well maintained. While I wouldn’t suggest a Disney-fication of all of Charlottetown, I would love to see this kind of density continue past the tourist area of the downtown.

I’m convinced though, that a walkable city is unpopular with many, if not most Islanders. Charlottetown is wonderful in the summer – kids running around, parents walking with strollers, all kinds of people enjoying the downtown in a myriad of ways, but these people are primarily visitors. Once they leave the city dies. Driving between the box stores seems to be more the norm.

Sheryl and I were in Georgetown for a 10k race on Sunday. It was so humid one would think we were running in Taiwan.


Design workshop theatre

After hours and hours of deliberate practice over years some people still cannot step into design thinking. Changing habits is hard.

Now let’s look at how design thinking is often taught: in boot camps and one day workshops. That’s design theater, not design thinking.

It’s not enough to say, look there is a better way! It takes practice. Lots of practice.
Christina Wodtke

I’ve been thinking of this quote as I get started outlining a series of workshops I have been tasked to facilitate for some kind of accelerator program that the Startup Zone (SUZ) is going to hold.

To their credit SUZ has held numerous workshops and talks over the past year, my favourites have generally been the smallish ones that are more conversation than speech, allowing for a more enjoyable flow. My least favourite are the almost day long events, in particular there was a workshop designed to teach you about personas with experts from off Island that taught without once uttering the word data. Personas without data are something else all together. The design thinking workshop was only moderately better, and only useful in that the facilitator was great and the activities entertaining.

In the past my approach to all talks was to cram as much information into peoples heads as I possibly could. This followed the philosophy endeared to me at Humber Music where they would often say that it will take us years to unpack all that we learned. This worked well with audiences in Taiwan and China in the past (I now know the younger generation desires more hands on, conversational approaches) but I realize this doesn’t fly here. Nor should it.

My other method, the method I use upon myself, is to simply point people to a few books and say – go read. When I joined a service design project in Fuzhou, despite all the similarities to what I had done in the past, I ordered and read the 3 most popular books on the topic. Not because I am smart, or like to read, but primarily out of fear. Despite all the available material available online, or in print, much of it cheap, this approach isn’t popular either.

I think my approach will likely combine what I experienced at Crafting {:} a Life (the conference that keeps on … influencing), kick off a topic of discussion with some salient points, give people something to work on, point them to resources to help them learn and maybe understand, and make myself available for help if I can give it. I’m not sure what else I can accomplish in an hour with people who may never have broached any of the topics we need to go through.


Good bye old girl

Elsa was the last of our 3 dogs. Our first dog in Taiwan was Buster, a large black lab and my daughters protector, who I had to send over the rainbow bridge due to a burst liver. Lulu, another Lab and an adopted sister to Elsa, developed cancer and I had to send her as well over the rainbow bridge, my last task before leaving Taiwan. All our dogs were adopted, Buster from the streets of Kaohsiung, Elsa and Lulu from the streets of Taipei. All had acute behavioural problems which required loads of time to work through as they became integral parts of our family. The kids miss them all.

Elsa didn’t join us here partly due to her age, we aren’t entirely sure, but we guess her age to be close to 15 years, which might make the stress of a long international flight too harrowing. There is also the simple fact that with the housing crisis on PEI, there was no place available that would allow pets. Our current lease forbids it and with the uncertainty of our life here the commitment of a house seems unwise.

Finding her a new home was an almost 1 year heart wrenching task for my wife; finding a home for any dog in Taiwan is difficult, we have re-homed many, but a senior dog is especially so. Luckily, in the end Elsa has a found a family that she can enjoy her final days with in love and comfort.


Switching to Amazon.ca

Canada selection

US selection

I switched my Amazon digital account to Amazon Canada from the US site recently, primarily to be able to try Kindle Unlimited, which has been running a .99$ 3 month trial recently. My daughters English reading habits were starting to be an over $30 a week expense, and I thought this might present some cost savings, and perhaps encourage her to read more. I could already access Kindle prime, but the selection is even more pithy than Unlimited has turned out to be.

My hesitation to date has primarily been the mess that my 3 Amazon accounts (US, CAN, CN) presented to me when dealing with Alexa and the belief that the American store would always present the best selection of books. A cursory search has proven that the category of books I might be interested in, the selection is indeed less on the Canadian side and in some cases more expensive.

Of all the possible specific titles I might be interested in reading, none were available as apart of Kindle Unlimited. So I suspect, other than my fascination with easy reads from fantasy and sci-fi genres, this will have limited utility for me. Hopefully it might be of interest to my daughter and possibly Sheryl.


St. Peter’s Harbour Lighthouse Beach

I’m not much of a beach person – I don’t swim and the kids seem to be just outside the age that we need to be concerned about beach shovels and the like. Also, I don’t particularly like going somewhere to relax, and can’t fathom travelling anywhere to just lay down (the beaches in Thailand are as much about the scenery, people watching, and sharing my kids love of the water as anything). But I appreciate the beach at St. Peter’s Harbour Lighthouse for its beauty, PEI has some of the best beaches I have seen anywhere (no medical waste garbage problems here), and for the fact that few if anyone ever goes there, so we often have the beach to ourselves.

That was the case yesterday and the kids and I walked along the beach talking, arguing, and enjoying the warm sun without any of the hubbub of the touristy areas. My son also collected drift wood, creating swords to protect against possible zombie attacks, and my daughter wondered if the buildings in the distance had any food. Admittance was free, as it should be.

Since it was only a short drive further, we drove to Ricks Fish ’n’ Chips in St. Peter’s Bay where we all had the haddock.

I’m glad we took this little afternoon diversion, as the weather this summer seems to be unusually cold and wet which would seem to continue for the next 10 days or so.