Archive for September, 2013

September 29, 2013

Cool Online Interfaces for Community Engagement

Here are some examples of how technology is changing the way we interact and share information. These are all videos advertising various online interfaces that allow people to communally engage with their physical environments. Super cool!




September 25, 2013

Thesis Cloud

Thesis Cloud

This image is the result of our first assignment for the M1 Studio. The goal of the assignment was to create a gathering of research in the areas relating to our thesis work. My interests revolve around the application of an integrated development and planning method at a local level in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. At the same time I wish to ask big questions about if development globally can take on an integrated method across scales, and if new technologies can aid in the data collection, prototyping, and dissemination of development plans, policies, and even small community initiatives. The local scale becomes incredibly important in a country where most development is unplanned and the central government has little participation in municipal activity.

I approached my cloud by establishing that my thesis involves three main categories: context, theory, and methods. The context is the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Beni which is located in the Great Lakes region. The theories that my thesis involves include the very different topics of development, games, and visual communication. Methods are the way an initiative is carried out: data collection, mapping, and planning methods. Planning methods can be understood as how the community becomes involved in the initiative, how technology is employed, etc. As I began laying out these subtopics in a venn diagram, I began to discover intersections that corresponded with my research or even gave me a new question that I had not yet considered. An example of this is that I was first inspired by regular board games and how their cooperative strategy and visual understanding could be applied to an integrated form of development. This led me to discover that economic game theory is an established subject of study and is actually beginning to be applied in more recent years to policymaking. What these complex strategies still lack, however, is visual communication strategy.

Creating the thesis cloud was a very healthy exercise by which¬†I was forced to really contemplate and sort through and find the relationships between my ideas.The next step of my research will involve looking in-depth at various case studies to analyze and learn from them. These will mostly consist of precedents that have been considered in my “methods” category, but I may be interested in finding and studying a related situation that employs game theory and seeing how the complexities could perhaps be more clearly visualized and understood.

September 17, 2013

Masters Thesis

I’m now one week into school and I’m knee deep in research related to my thesis. The great thing about the Waterloo program is that it is very independantly driven. I’m looking forward to getting started, but am slightly overwelmed at the shear size of all my thoughts and ideas at the moment. This will hopefully narrow down in the coming weeks.

I’m interested in pursuing a project in the DR Congo because I have been there twice now and care a great deal for the plight of the country. My research depresses me though because it seems like no policy, no amount of money will be able to bring this country out of the pit of hell it has sunk into. What difference can my itty bitty thesis make?

When I was in the DR Congo the first time, I worked on the master plan for a University in the small city of Beni in Nord Kivu province. While I was there I heard the story of the founder of the University. He, like many other Congolese, dreamed of the chance to escape the country and become a wealthy business man. He actually did get that rare chance, but then when the Congo war began he realized that God was calling him back to his home to found an organization called the Congo Initiative. They have the overwelming goal of seeing a transformed Congo. It’s a huge endeavor, and they are doing the only thing they can do which is to put their trust in God and take it one step at a time. And yet there is progress to be seen. They now have a thriving university of around 500 students that is deeply rooted in the community. These students are becoming educated leaders that are learning that they can make change – even if it starts with the small things.

I am realizing that my thesis might also be more influential at the community scale even though I still want to ask big questions. Could I teach a small community about mapping and analysis and how it can be used to design programs to improve community well-being and local resource stewardship? At the same time could this thesis challenge the existing paradigm of development, asking if, in a global world we should be shifting from an individualistic to a global development perspective? Can technology in mapping and data collection offer new forms of comprehensive visualization and communication? Is there a role for the architect in the design of complex programs that extend beyond the building? Can my work in a local community act as a case study?

So as you can very well determine, I have quite a ways to go! But even though it is intimidating, it is a subject that I’m very passionate about and I know that I won’t want to stop learning more. I’m excited to see where these next two years will take me. The first step of the work is to cast a net of research and create a “thesis cloud”. In doing so I am learning more about an assortment of topics including DR Congo, Nord Kivu province, precedents for mapping and planning models that have been done, resources for data collection, and general theory about development and visualization. I will share more about these topics at a later time, but for now here is a short film that will give you an introduction to the DR Congo. This video is the final installment of CNN’s Anthony Bourdain: Parts of the Unknown.

September 13, 2013

Snip Snip

I think that these photos should speak for themselves. :)

Photo 123 Photo 117

Side View

September 13, 2013

Three Weddings

This August I went to three weddings three weekends in a row. I wouldn’t have missed them for the world. It was a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family. The first was Mike and Katelynn, then Nicholas and Carrie, and finally Stephen and Leah. It was wonderful to see these friends of mine make lifelong commitments to eachother before God and community.


Photo by SallyJane Dentz


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September 5, 2013

Dear Apartment;


I just moved to Cambridge and unfortunately I am still feeling displaced. Maybe it’s because the place is too big for me to fill; maybe it’s because it doesn’t have the same quirky character or that it’s not located in as lively a city as Toronto. I’m sure that it will become home to me over time as I begin to fill the space, cover the walls, and create memories in this new place. Until then though, here is a tribute to my old apartment in the Junction Triangle:

Dear Apartment;

I will miss you.

I will miss the way I could open up the door to fire escape and just leave it open rain or shine whenever I was home in the summer.

I will miss the way I could sing and play guitar at any time of night because my neighbours couldn’t hear me.

I will miss my loft bed and how it gave the room character and made the space livable.

I will miss hosting couch surfers.

In some ways I will miss living alone just because I could do quirky things that would normally probably annoy a roommate like take a long bath while watching a movie on my computer, drip dry my sheets from the shower curtain bar, or listen to an italian language lesson while cooking dinner.

I will miss the way the kitchen was slightly seperate from the living area so that I didn’t necessarily have to wash my dishes right away.

I will miss the red sky sunsets and the strange, industrial view

I will miss my favourite cafes, restaurants, and shops: Toronto Coffee and Tea House, Starving Artist, Zocalo, Salvation Army Thrift Store, and Ransack the Universe.

I will miss not having to worry about messing up my walls and using masking tape to hang up my beer coaster collection.

You will always remain fondly in my memory as my first real home in Toronto.

Sincerely,Your occupant,


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September 5, 2013

Canoeing at Wolf Lake


To end the summer I was fortunate to be invited on a canoe trip planned by Matt and Leah. Originally there were too many girls that could make it, but when not enough guys could come, I got one of their spots. Leah and I decided that we were tough enough to keep up with the boy-girl canoe pairs! :P The weekend started calm with rain and then ended with dazzling sun and a strong headwind. The landscape was beautiful! There were white cliffs, tall cedars, small stretches of swifts and water falls, and shores of red stone likely coloured by the metals in the dark turqoise water. This trip was exactly what I needed in this next transition of moving from Toronto to Cambridge for graduate school. My mind was completely emptied of all the thoughts, worries, and anticipation for those few days, and instead I just enjoyed the simplicity of time with friends and being in God’s creation. I slept better on that hard ground than I had for days in my new (and foreign) apartment. I think that the whole group agrees it was a fantastic trip. Because we joked about listing these, I will blog by highlighting the top ten moments from the trip. Many thanks go to Leah Wills for taking these amazing photographs!

The Ikea Bag

The canoe rental gave us our smaller items in a random tarp Ikea bag. When we were preparing the boats to launch, we forgot to put it back in the car and so we had to take it with us. It so happened that the bag became the most useful item to us on the trip. If ever we needed a functional item, the bag usually filled the role splendidly. It served to carry our dirty and clean dishes to and from the lake for rinsing, carry all of the water bottles as we went to fill them with the filter on the lake, act as a table cloth on some of our lunch picnics, and carry the fish that Jim caught.

The Fish
Jim brought a fishing rod along on the trip and was fishing on-and-off most days while we were paddling. He mostly caught plenty of small bass, but finally caught a big one! We kept it and he prepared it for dinner that night. The poor Ikea bag never lost the fish smell after that.

Rosy, Ikea Bag and Fish

The Lagoon

On our first day we went to go swimming in a lagoon that was mentioned in a book about where we were canoeing. We had to climb over a pile of logs that traversed the river in order to get there, and then climb down a steep rocky ridge to get to the water. It was worth it though because a small waterfall fell into a nice deep and shaded area that was great for swimming. We were already in the water when we learned that Chris who was behind us had hurt his toe badly by slipping on the logs. It was very painful and Chris was hobbling for the rest of the trip. It was a good thing we had a nurse with us, and we were glad in the end that Chris was able to stick it out for the rest of the weekend despite the pain and inconvenience. From that point on we each had to take more items across each portage. Alexa and I took turns taking the extra boat. We were lucky that the two rented canoes were kevlar.



The Alexa

On the first day of paddling Chris and Alexa’s boat flew ahead. We asked what it was that made them so speedy and Chris said that they had an Alexa. I said it sounded like it could be the name of a motor…. but oh what strange sounds it made (she was laughing)! On the second day of paddling, Alexa and Chris decided to switch places with Alexa in the rear. Alexa got a bit frustrated at Chris who would abnoxiously have spurts of powerful strokes which would put them off course. Chris on the other hand said that whenever Alexa laughed they would go off course. I’m sure that both accusations were true! It was hilarious to watch them!

The Sunday Morning Service

While Alexa couldn’t laugh and steer straight, we soon determined that Leah could not sing and steer straight. On Sunday morning Alexa made the excellent suggestion to sing some worship songs together as we went along. Leah and I immediately began singing the songs we could think of. Eventually though we were far off from the others but just kept singing anyways. It was great to open up in song to the Creator right there on the beautiful water.

The Pan Lid (and other thrown things)

So Matt and Leah like to throw a lot of things such as pan lids, back packs, apples, waterbottles, shoes and the like. Sometimes their aim was questionable as was their judgement which resulted in some hilarious moments. The first moment happened when a pan lid fell into the water from where we were cooking dinner. It landed in shallow water and so Matt went down to get it. He decided to throw it back up but it didn’t make it and it landed back in the water; this time deeper. Leah later swam to go get it. We could still see it under the water because it looked so shiny. The second moment happened at a portage when I was already out of the boat and Leah was planning to pass her bag to me. She decided she was going to throw it but as she rocked back and forth to give the toss some power, she tipped the boat and fell in the water. The last moment was when Leah was throwing a water bottle to Matt but then lost her footing, slipped and landed on her butt.


Whenever we thought that we were in the middle of nowhere, we would quickly be brought back to reality by seeing very obvious signs of civilization. When we were packing up camp at the first campsite a couple pulled up on an ATV. Then that same day on one of our portages we came across a group of campers that had driven to a campsite that had access by way of a gravel road; they had Starbucks coffees in their hands! The most amusing moment was on the third morning¬† when a guy on an ATV pulled up while we were eating breakfast on the beach at our campsite. The guy stopped and asked us if we had seen two dogs. We told him we had not, and when he tried to continue on his way, he couldn’t get the ATV to start. He disappeared on foot and left the ATV sitting there. We joked about how it was ruining our view…. or that it was an answer to Chris’s prayer for a way to get through the rest of the portages! Finally the guy came back with his buddy on another ATV and they towed the one away with the other. Of course Leah had to climb on the ATV for a picture!

The Many Climbable Rocks

This title more or less speaks for itself. Whenever there was a sweet looking rock protruding out of the water (or an abandoned ATV), Leah had to climb it or jump off of it or both! I like to call the photos below Leah’s Power Stance.

Leah Power Stance

The Six Pack

Rosy got this fabulous new nickname this weekend. The funny moment happened when we were swimming and those of us in the water called out “Hey Six Pack, get over here!”. Jim – “Awww you guys are going to start calling me that now?” Us – “No, we were talking to Rosy!” Rosy took the nickname without complaint for the rest of the weekend.

The Committee and The FAB

Fire starting proved difficult on our first night because the wood was very wet and got easier over the rest of the nights. I forget when it happened, but Alexa invented “The Committee” to make an executive decision about the fire at some point. It became a running joke. Jim was often the one to add logs to the fire and whenever he did so he would say that it was time to “make an adjustment”. He eventually coined the term FAB for the Fire Adjustment Bureau, likely a subsection of The Committee.

Beach Campsite

The Chocolate Almond Affair

Those of us who know Leah know that she doesn’t do well if she’s hungry. On the last day we were paddling through a very strong headwind. We were running late to get back to the car and so we hadn’t stopped for lunch even though it was the early afternoon. Matt and Leah had saved chocolate almonds to have that day, and Leah finally asked Matt for some. We finally caught up with Matt and Rosy’s boat only to find out that Matt had already finished the chocolate almonds and that he was offering up Rosy’s. Leah wasn’t too pleased!

That was eleven top moments but I couldn’t think of which one to cut out. Thanks everyone for sharing in a great weekend!

Group Shot

Beautiful Sky