Archive for ‘References’

July 5, 2014

Dancing in the Glory of Monsters

Book Review 4: Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa, by Jason Stearns

I just recently finished reading this book in preparation for my trip back to the Congo this fall. I had previously read King Leopold’s Ghost, another great read that describes the history of Belgian colonialism, but had yet to read a book about Mobutu’s dictatorship and the two Congo Wars of more recent history. I was recommended this book by an architecture alumni from U of T who did her thesis in the Eastern Congo, and I equally recommend it to anyone who wants to have a better understanding of the wars and modern Congolese politics. Before I read the book I didn’t even know what the motivations were for the war and was probably guilty of making generalizations. What this book reveals is an extremely complex conflict that offers no easy answers. The book is extremely well researched, following narratives from people on all sides of the conflict and from all walks of life. It demonstrates that there is no completely good or bad side because most people had reasonable motivations in response to their circumstances. The book was also very difficult to read because it doesn’t shy from the brutalities that occurred.

I don’t think that many people know about the two Congo wars even though they are a part of very recent history and occurred following the Rwandan genocide that is more well known. The first war was in 1996 to 1997 and the next from 1998 to 2003, although tension still exists with the presence of rebel armies in the Eastern provinces. It is estimated that close to five million people died. The majority of deaths were not from combat, but rather from the absolute poverty and disease that ensued. Although the country was ready for a shift in government, and almost welcomed the Rwandan invaders, it could be argued that very little has changed in the country since the time of Mobutu. What I learned about Congolese politics is that those in power have never been able to represent the public interest. Recent leaders have spent the majority of resources protecting their position than sticking their head out to set in place the necessary political reform. The culture of corruption has developed to such an extent that people have no choice but to act corruptly in order to survive or get ahead. It has become business as usual and will be something that might take generations to lift. The future appears dull after reading such a heavy book, but the author comments at the end that he saw the same thing that I saw when I was in the Congo: there is a lot of joy in everyday life and hope for a brighter future.

 

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May 9, 2014

winter TO spring

The winter term has just finished up and spring term has begun. I enjoy this time because it is a chance to recharge, set new goals, and it is also a break from the regular schedule of classes. Because I had more free time, I made it to Toronto for two consecutive weekends to meet with friends and do various activities. You can tell it is spring when Toronto starts waking up with events of all kinds! May is also quite a birthday month and so there are many moments to celebrate being alive!

Two weekends ago I had opportunities to attend Pulp Paper Art Party, a launch for the sixth publication of Scapegoat, and the Gladstone GrowOp exhibition. You may remember that I went to Pulp Paper and Grow Op last year. I didn’t make it to Pulp Paper this time because I couldn’t find a place to stay on Friday night and also needed to finish up one last paper. I headed to Toronto on Saturday evening and met up with Farimah at Strada241, a great Italian restaurant on Spadina, for dinner. Afterwards we walked the backstreets southwest of Spadina and Dundas to find Unpack studio where the opening was happening. The book launch was for two different publications: Scapegoat 06 and Architecture in the Anthropocene. It was a lot of fun to meet new people and also see a few familiar faces. I stayed at Farimah’s place that night in Thornhill and woke up early the next day to give myself the hour it would take on transit to get to church. After church a group of us were gathering to get lunch, and then the Mugg’s offered to host us at their place. We had a fabulous lunch of salad and sausages and good fellowship. When we headed our separate ways, I decided to drop by the Gladstone Hotel to catch the last half hour of the Grow Op exhibition. Since there were only five minutes left by the time I got there, they let me in for free! I don’t have any photos of this weekend because I’m still without a camera, but here are pictures of my favourite Grow Op pieces: The first is called Crusher Run, triple mix and bark nuggets, a beautiful framing of layers of earth, and the second is Catharsis by Marie Pierre Daigle. I think the second one was part of a different collection on the third floor that was more related to textiles.

Next on the itinerary was to head to Parkdale to a bar called The Pharmacy to meet two girls from U of T who did their graduate theses in the DRC. They partnered with their research to propose a design for a vocational school in Nyalebbe in the Ituri province. It is located several hundred kilometers north of where I will be working in Beni. It was really great to hear about their experience. They created a studio called Reach Architecture in the process of doing this project and hope to build the school when they have gathered enough funding. I was lucky to have a place to stay with Jen from church for the night because it would have been very late to head home on the Greyhound that night. I left mid-morning instead back to Cambridge and ended a very wonderful weekend. I’m pretty sure I just recovered for most of that day!

The following weekend was slated to be just as full and exciting. On the Friday night I went to a party in the Loft that was made up of a lot of architecture alums who are working in Toronto but also a few others who came in from Cambridge. It was also a night of musical talent. We heard some amazing drumming, spoken word, and combinations of ukelele, guitar, and violin! It was fantastic! It only inspires me to play guitar even more and to hopefully write my own music and learn the violin some day. I stayed at the Logans that night and count myself fortunate to have a place where I could arrive late and let myself in quietly. The next morning I was surprised with a treat of a waffle breakfast because several of their friends from Grace had come to help Mike move some big boulders in the front yard. Then on a wim I joined a car that was headed to Guelph to check out Rob Hengeveld’s exhibition opening. I had most of the day to kill anyways so what was an hour drive to Guelph and then back? Rob is an artist from my church who does pieces that question the relationship between technology and nature. I really enjoyed his pieces. He had a sculpted hilly lawn that was being constantly mowed by a programmed milling machine. He also had a fairly large working roller coaster that had a mechanical wolf chasing a mechanical rabbit. My favourite was a fabricated elevator that almost looked convincing in a wall at the gallery, but instead of taking you to another floor, it brought you to level “P” for “paradise”. When the doors open you step out into a room that is transformed into a fabricated natural environment. The room is filled with different mechanical elements simulating nature such as mechanical tweeting birds and moving floating ducks on water. Once you are on the other side you can see that the elevator was completely constructed and that it simply pulls away from the original door, rotates, and then pulls up to a platform on the other side. I thought it was a great experiential piece that told an interesting story.

The next completely different part of my day was to return to Toronto and head to Yorkville to meet Vikkie, Rachel, and several of her friends at Babaluu for dinner and Salsa dancing to celebrate Vikkie’s birthday. Oh… not before I hung out at a very busy Timmie’s for two hours to kill time and transformed myself in their grungy bathroom by changing into my nice dress and putting on makeup! Now that’s typical nomad style! I’m glad I dressed up because Babaluu was very classy (at least for the dinner portion). We all ordered tapas to share and the food was delicious! At nine-thirty there was a teacher who began to teach some latin dance steps; there were too many people though and so I don’t think anyone learned much. I must say I had a better dance experience at the Plaza Flamingo when it was open and the Lula Lounge, two other Salsa clubs in Toronto. It was way too full in the place to even dance properly. Overall though it was still a nice evening to spend with some great people. I stayed with the Ellens that night which worked out because I was to join their Grace Gathering breakfast the next morning. We woke up pretty early and made delicious breakfast sandwiches and were joined by Rosy and the Muggs. Then we all headed to church together. After church I headed with the Wills to join the axe throwing party to celebrate Leah and Benissa’s birthday. I actually didn’t know Benissa until that day but I am glad I met her! The party was at BATL, the Backyard Axe Throwing League located at the Docks. I already knew there was such a thing because there was a small axe throwing club in the building where I worked for Philip Beesley in the Junction Triangle. It was way more fun and less scary than I thought it would be. That doesn’t mean that I was any good, but I did manage to sink several into the wood somewhere close to the center of the target. All of us got a chance to practice for a while, and then they arranged a round robin tournament. The action of throwing the axe is a similar motion to soccer throw-ins. My abs were sore for several days after! Whenever there was a tie, it would have to be broken by the competitors throwing the full sized axe. Those of us who never experienced a tie got to try throwing it at the very end. I managed to get it into the target even though it was dangling slightly. I would definitely do axe-throwing again! It’s a much more fun (though more expensive) party activity than bowling! That about sums up my two crazy Toronto transition weekends.

throwing axes

retrieving axesroar!

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May 2, 2014

Introducing Some Awesome Tools

This is a post that I intend to grow as I come across useful tools for my research. Here are a few that I’ve discovered so far:

Codecademy

This is a website that teaches how to code. It currently offers beginner lessons in HTML/CSS, jQuery, JavaScript, PHP, Python, and Ruby. I decided to try it out and found it to be very comprehensive; the lessons are interactive, and it sets up milestones and saves your progress.

CS50x

This is an Introduction to Computer Science course that Harvard University offers online. It is free and offers video lectures and support. You can either choose to just watch the videos and do only some of the projects, or else you can complete all of the course tasks and final project in order to get a certificate that says you completed the course (pass/fail).

PP.gis.net

This is a website that provides an “Open Forum on Participatory Geographic Information Systems and Technologies.” It offers a great list of tools, article/book references, and much much more! I haven’t even brushed the surface of the content that this forum has compiled together.

learnOSM

For my research I will be using and contributing to OpenStreetMap (OSM), an online map that is contributed to and used by people all over the world. The data from OpenStreetMap is open source and can therefore be appropriated and used by anyone for free. LearnOSM is a website that brings you through step by step how to contribute and use the data and maps from OSM.

Geojournalism Handbook

This website has a collection of excellent tutorials that describe various tools related to participatory mapping. It covers a whole variety of topics including balloon mapping, using Open Street Map and related tools, using Frontline or Ushahidi software for SMS reporting, and creating a simple animation.

May 1, 2014

Before the Throne of God Above

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea;
A great High Priest, whose Name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.

My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart;
I know that while with God He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.

Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there, the risen Lamb!
My perfect, spotless Righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace.

One with Himself, I cannot die;
My soul is purchased by His blood;
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Savior and my God.

Credits:

Charitie Bancroft and Vikki Cook, Sovereign Grace Worship

 

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March 9, 2014

The Count of Monte Cristo

Book Review 2: The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas

I recently finished reading the Count of Monte Cristo. I only ever knew the plot of the first few chapters of the book, and was happy to find that even the story beyond the imprisonment and famous escape is very interesting. I was intrigued by the lengths that Monte Cristo takes to know his rivals and to awaken the ghosts from their past. He strives equally to bless the benefactors of his past as curse his betrayers and his actions are like a strategic game of chess. He attempts to play God, but in the end realizes that his heart can’t sustain it. And although his humanity comes apparent as occasional glimpses, he seems most deserving of the divine role by the patience and wisdom obtained from reaching and returning from a place of no hope. Similar to the the previous book I read, Speaker for the Dead, I enjoyed the subtleties of the characters as expressed in their comportments and conversation. It was by pale face or hidden meaning in his words that the true Dante would occasionally be revealed. I think the lesson that I got from the book is that we can have great impact on the lives of those around us by our actions, be it for the worse or for the better. It is another book that awakens the realities of the human condition. Here are some of my favourite quotes:

“He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness… Live, then and be happy beloved children of my heart and never forget that until the day when God shall deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is summed up in these two words – wait and hope.”

“Those born to wealth, and who have the means of gratifying every wish, know not what is the real happiness of life, just as those who have been tossed on the stormy waters of the ocean on a few frail planks can alone realize the blessings of fair weather.”

“Often we pass beside happiness without seeing it, without looking at it, or even if we have seen and looked at it, without recognizing it.”

“Life is a storm. One minute you will bathe under the sun and the next you will be shattered upon the rocks. That’s when you shout, “Do your worst, for I will do mine!” and you will be remembered forever.”
“On what slender threads do life and fortune hang.”
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February 23, 2014

Speaker for the Dead

Book Review 1: Speaker for the Dead, by Orson Scott Card

In this new year I have the goal to read more books. I have also decided to write about what I think of them, especially since I have a poor memory of most books that I read, and writing for me is a way of remembering. I really enjoyed the first book that I read in the new year called Speaker for the Dead. It is actually the sequel to the book Ender’s Game, the more well known of the author’s books that was recently made into a movie. What is curious is that Scott Card wrote Ender’s Game for the main reason of setting the stage for this, the book he really wanted to write. The book takes place thousands of years in the future, on a planet shared with another intelligent species. It describes the interactions between these two species as they learn about one another, but also the more subtle human relationships that evolve with the story. In this way there are almost two different plots that are tied together and carry related themes. I think this book would be much more difficult to do justice as a motion picture, because of the level of concealed emotion. The book is almost void of action except for exploring the nature of relationships in all its forms, be it between lovers, parent and child, siblings, enemies, a person and their community, and two cultures and “beings” altogether different. The conflict from the story arises from a secret that is kept in love to protect, but weaves together a life of lies that inevitably causes even more harm. The Speaker for the Dead is a man who has more life experience across time and space then anyone in the world, and because of this he is the most capable of compassion and has profound understanding of a person in all her complexity. He is called to speak for the dead and therefore comes to the planet and touches the very soul of the entire community, laying bare the secret but by doing so offering immeasurable healing. When I read the book I definitely saw a metaphor of Christ in the Speaker just because I imagine Jesus having the same wisdom from the fact that he was God in the flesh and had incredible interactions with people that still permeate today.

Here are some quotes I liked:

Oh Pip, I’d be glad for you to try. But do believe me, my dear friend, touching her heart is like bathing in ice.  I imagine. I imagine it feels like bathing in ice to the person touching her. But how does it feel to her? Cold as she is, it must surely burn like fire.”

“But when it comes to human beings, the only type of cause that matters is final cause, the purpose. What a person had in mind. Once you understand what people really want, you can’t hate them anymore. You can fear them, but you can’t hate them, because you can always find the same desires in your own heart.”

“A strange thing happened then. The Speaker agreed with her that she had made a mistake that night, and she knew when he said the words that it was true, that his judgment was correct. And yet she felt strangely healed, as if simply saying her mistake were enough to purge some of the pain of it. For the first time, then, she caught a glimpse of what the power of speaking might be. It wasn’t a matter of confession, penance, and absolution, like the priests offered. It was something else entirely. Telling the story of who she was, and then realizing that she was no longer the same person. That she had made a mistake, and the mistake had changed her, and now she would not make the mistake again because she had become someone else, someone less afraid, someone more compassionate.”

“Ender was a destroyer, but what he destroyed was illusion, and the illusion had to die…the truth about ourselves. Somehow this ancient man is able to see the truth and it doesn’t blind his eyes or drive him mad. I must listen to this voice and let its power come to me so I, too, can stare at the light and not die.”

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October 14, 2013

ACADIA 2013 Adaptive Architecture

Some of you may know that my job since April has been planning the ACADIA conference that is being hosted by Waterloo Architecture this year. ACADIA stands for the Association for Computer Aided Design In Architecture and it is one of the oldest associations that gathers this kind of architectural research. The Conference is just one week away now and everything is slowly coming together. It was very difficult to let go of “my baby” and move to part-time when I started school in September. It is nice to be working on my own stuff again though. There is an incredible team invested in the event and I’m excited for the opportunities it will hopefully bring to the school. Even though it isn’t exactly related to the work I’m doing for my thesis, it is still a great networking opportunity. I know the research work so well from communicating with all the authors and pushing forward the handful of publications that will accompany the event.

My job has been as general manager involving a wide range of tasks, from arranging catering and hotels to author communications, to paper editing and publications production, to website development and promotions, and the list goes on! Even though I’ve missed doing architectural design work as a job, it has been interesting to get glimpse into the domains of website and publications in particular. Working with the ACADIA website has given me the confidence to create my own website for my design portfolio which I hope to have a first version up before Christmas! Anyways, if you are at all remotely interested in this kind of research, I totally recommend you come to the conference or at least check out the research abstracts that will soon be online. All information can be found on the website: http://2013.acadia.org.

ACADIA poster

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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!

 

 

 

July 25, 2013

O Great God of Highest Heaven

O great God of highest heaven
Occupy my lowly heart
Own it all and reign supreme
Conquer every rebel power
Let no vice or sin remain
That resists Your holy war
You have loved and purchased me
Make me Yours forevermore

I was blinded by my sin
Had no ears to hear Your voice
Did not know Your love within
Had no taste for heaven’s joys
Then Your Spirit gave me life
Opened up Your Word to me
Through the gospel of Your Son
Gave me endless hope and peace

Help me now to live a life
That’s dependent on Your grace
Keep my heart and guard my soul
From the evils that I face
You are worthy to be praised
With my every thought and deed
O great God of highest heaven
Glorify Your Name through me

Credits:
Words and music by Bob Kauflin
© 2006 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

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April 11, 2013

Grow Op

Check this out!  Not only is our Field Cushion project going to be exhibited in the Grow Op landscape exhibition at the Gladstone hotel at the end of April, we also had a photo selected to be published in the promotional material!  Feels good to finally be published, even if it’s just a poster!   Come on out to the exhibition from April 25th to 28th.

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