Category: Uncategorized

A story about neighbors and incivility

So a story, if you will. Like many older houses in the Plateau we share a water entry with next door. IE the water comes in from the main and then it divides at a valve to our house (straight up) and to next door (90 degree angle) through the wall.. this happened because of cost or because the buildings were being put up by the same builder (also code was pretty lax back in the day). So, when we bought it was the same owner for ours and the neigbouring rooming house (that is a story for another day). After a while the boarding house was sold to two guys A and B who divided and renovated it into two houses (also a story for another day – but let us stipulate now that hellish and horrific and shamblerific are terms that barely scratch the surface) using possibly the stupidest, most pig ignorant construction crew known to man (see hellish and horrific and shamblerific).

Right, so water; in these situations, if one is now renovating to a modern house with modern water requirements one is presented with two choices:

  1. One eats the cost, hires a serious plumbing and excavation company and has a new water entry put in. This costs thousands (numbers I have heard are between $5K and $10K), but solves all your problems and sort of makes sense if you are already renovating.
  2. Booster pump. This is basically an inline pump that lightly pressurizes the water as needed. It looks at water flow and adjusts it to make sure that you have enough pressure for, say, your shower that is two buildings and two floors up from the water main.

So, because of cost both A and B decided to go with a single, shared heavy-duty booster pump. All good. After a few years though it burned out. So A called B and asked him if he wanted to go in with him on a new replacement. B indicated no so A put in his own and had his plumber route the water for A around the pump (why would he pay for a pump for B).

Fast forward a bit, B suddenly (or always) has no water pressure (old neighborhood, old pipes, who the hell knows, maybe all in his head). He wonders if construction damaged the pipes, he wonders if we have turned off his water (more on this in a second), he wonders all manner of exciting and wonderful things. So he calls the city (and abuses them verbally one assumes), the city pops off to look at their plans and figures out that the water for our street was not touched by the construction. So then they pop round ours and check that a) the valve is not damaged b) that we are not crazy and have not decided to turn off the water. During this process the City guy was very apologetic; said to Chris that he knew we had done nothing to the water etc etc.

A slight digression here to provide context and some colour commentary:

  1. B and I do not make eye contact, we do not speak, there is, at best, a wary recognition that the other exists. This is due to the renovation process: bad things were done, bad things were said.
  2. A’s house draws water from the same line as B’s. IE the water line is controlled by the same valve in our basement (how their respective house are plumbed past our wall is a black box to me). IF we had done something to B’s water it would have happened to A as well. This fact has escaped no one but B.

Anyway, the night before last I get a message through C (who is a dear friend and a neighbor to B) asking me if B can come and take pictures of the water entry. To what end I have no idea but given we do not talk (see 1 above) this would be complicated. So I get B’s email address, pop into the basement, take several pictures with my phone and politely title it and send them along.

Fast forward to yesterday. B has some issue with his cable and calls his provider (the same as ours I would imagine) but doesn’t let A know this is happening (due to the alley, availability of only one post etc our wires are all intermingled).  This means A is not available to let B’s cable tech into his backyard (ATTENTION KIDS THIS IS FORESHADOWING).

So, yesterday at noon the cable and interwebs die. I don’t mean “oh they are slow” I mean, they plant completely. So Chris tries all the reboot/reset/unplug jiggery pokery she knows and then I do the same when I get home and I ring them. They do a offsite check and discover they haven’t had a return signal from our equipment since noon.

Now we schedule a tech, I make sure the house is tidier than normal and ensure that the cable entry point in the basement is clear for inspection etc. So poor Chris is stuck in a interwebless house for the morning, not being able to go out for fear of missing the tech.

Around 10ish or so he shows up, takes a look in the basement and then wanders out into the alley and wants to go into A’s backyard. I called A last night to give him a heads up (because I am, you know, civil) and he and I had arranged for us to text him if we needed to go into the backyard.

The tech disappears for a long long while. Finally he comes back and everything works. Chris asks what happened and gets roughly the following explanation: yesterday, when the guy was doing work on B’s cable and they couldn’t get into A’s backyard B convinced him to just cut a random cable to get his work done. The random cable, of course, was ours.

So, to review, the guy who is convinced we have turned off his water (which we haven’t) managed to turn off our internet.

There is some kind of meaning in this, but honestly all I get out of it is that B is a quite shit.


Just what are we assessing?

To situate you a bit of biography:

I’m in my 40s. I have a BA and a MA and a teeny bit of another BA. I have taken a lot of tests and done a lot of other kinds of assessment over the years.

The MA is in Educational Technology. I have been working in the field for a bit over a decade now. I have written a fair number of tests and other kinds of assessment over the years.

I have a kid, he is 12. Short hand time: the assessment (there is that word again) we had done on him when he was 8 showed that he is “gifted” (a term I am not entirely in love with). It also showed he has processing speed issues and dysgraphia (TL;DR version: his handwriting is a mess and takes a long time).

So you combine those two things and a very bright kid suddenly looks like a dolt (mindful of its limitations, I think of this a lot “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”).

Now his school gives him extra time on tests (which, having worked in Universities, I can tell you most of them do for students with issues as well), has learning advisers, allows him to type what makes sense to type, dictate stuff that is appropriate etc etc. So this is good.

But it does make one think: what are we assessing? I mean, the classic learning design is: learning objective (what we want them to know), Assessment (how we will prove they know it) and content/activities etc (the stuff we are going to teach them). Read that back, nowhere does it say anything about speed. Clearly in “real life” some things have to be done with a pace (I really don’t want a surgeon who hangs out and thinks for a bit as a bleed out), but realistically aren’t most time constraints we place on assessment more about fitting the test to a class period or (in a professional development setting) not interrupting the work day too much?

Anyway, the boy had a test today. The learning adviser helped him out by typing for him, he got extra time. The learning adviser just emailed us to tell us how proud of him she was and how hard he had worked and how much knowledge he managed to get out of his head.

So questions aside, today was a good school day.

Hello, Bonjour, Kia Ora

Hello all,

I’m Cameron and I’ve been doing instructional design work for a bit more than a decade, first here in Canada, then in New Zealand and now back in Canada. I’ve worked in both Higher Ed and in corporate learning and development. I like to keep my skills sharp, so I am looking forward to (re)learning some stuff that I did when I worked in NZ and, as always, learning things that I can apply to my professional life.

I once described my personal view on learning like this:

Learning is a pie. The pie gets split up based on appropriateness and student need. Some of the pie is eaten at the cafe, some of it is eaten as take away, some of it is a theoretical discussion of pie, some of it is reading recipes about pie or maybe watching videos about pie, or discussing pie face to face or online. But in the end it’s all pie. That’s learning (also I’m craving something sweet).

Reckons on the Symposium Annuel Histoire du Jeu

For parts of the last two days I was at the Symposium Annuel Histoire du Jeu, which was provoking and interesting and challenging. Hightlights were too numeroous, and mb I’ll blog about that later, though getting to hear Christine (@kikidotca) talk was amazing (it’s been over four years since she’s given a talk in the same city, or even continent as I, so that was pretty cool).

But all the way through a thought, or series, percolated in my head (and they are unpolished and raw, so bear with me): What is wrong with the people who are fighting so very hard against diversity in gaming, games and game production?

Because I sat there, listening to person after well spoken, clever, passionate person talk about a medium they love, a medium they live and breath and how they would like to make it better and.. .. I can’t for the life of me figure out what the hell there is to resist.

My other thought was about how diversity (at its larger, intersectional level), or the lack of it, is like the struggle with patriarchy and how so many very insecure men don’t get how limiting sexist crap is for “us” as well as for women. It’s like this: I love, I am loved, I’m a dad, I’m a son, I’ve buried my mother, I have an, at times, complicated relationship with my dad, I have an, at times, stereotypically father – pre-teen relationship with my son, I’ve a MA in ed tech, but I suck at building curriculum for my own kids home schooling.. I’m lot of stuff but what I’m not is a raping, pillaging, mindless killing machine.

Now, I’m not saying that anyone would really like to play a game based on my life (seriously, my Saturday night has been co-op games with my son, cooking him dinner, cleaning the cat box and doing dishes.. woo!), and I’m quite addicted to Battlefield 4, but would it really be the end of the world if the we had a wee think about what videogames are saying about us supposedly manly men? Because seriously, the games that I play and are marketed at me (and it works, god it works, this all reminds me of these lyrics) and, I guess, mirror my interests, really don’t reflect my full me.

More thinking needed.


This was only ever supposed to be a three year visit. Somehow, almost six years later, we’re still here in Aotearoa New Zealand. The idea, the Grand Plan, was that we’d come over, Christine would do her PHD on her scholarship and we’d bugger off when it was done in three years. Cameron would get a job in Dunedin, our house in Canada would sell, maybe we’d buy an investment property to live in while we were here and everything would be grand. Oh yes indeedy.

So yeah, the PhD is nearly finished, the Dunedin job never happened and the real estate market in Canada crashed. So Cameron wound up working first in Wellington, then in Christchurch, while Christine and Lucas lived in Dunedin. Then everyone moved to Christchurch, just in time for the quakes to kick off (which slowed progress on ALL the things). Chris started working in Christchurch, then Cameron got a job in Dunedin and commuted for a bit, then we all moved here…

It has been, frankly, a bit exhausting. Through it all we’ve loved this place, but it has never felt like home.

Home is the wonderful mess that is Montreal. Home is a 130 year old end of terrace house. Home is where our now (god they’ll hit me if they read this) aging/aged parents live. Home is where winter comes for real and summer is insanely hot. Home is where we fight endlessly about language and culture and then make up over the shared joy we have about Les Canadiens having a good hockey season.

So home is where we’re going.

Sometime around the 25th of July all, or at least two-thirds of us (job offer dependent), are going back to Canada.

PS: we are going to be Trademeing the living crap out of our stuff (or accepting offers from anyone who’s seen something they want – We have Dunedin’s largest collection of IKEA!), we are also looking to borrow a line trimmer and may be begging a lift to the dump/a few other places.

PPS: Pardon for the third person usage, it’s just that this is to be a general announcement from all of us, not just me

Political expediency

Look, here’s the thing, I voted for Gilles Duceppe at least four times. I know, as an Anglo that this made me unpopular, but, given our FPP system in Canada and given that most other candidates in our riding were sacrificial lambs, I reckoned voting for the guy who I thought was the best MP for my riding seemed like a good idea.

Voting that way got me called names, caused some interesting debates in my family and was generally not always the easiest way forward. That said, I thought Gilles was an excellent MP, a great voice for workers and that the BQ did a really excellent job in committees on the Hill. I didn’t agree with him about everything (Afghanistan, which has worked out badly, was something I support(ed?) but the BQ didn’t), but for the most part he and the BQ had an 75% to 80% overlap with my views. I am also an odd sort of Anglo, in that I’m sort of ambivalent about separation. As I’ve said here before, I consider myself a Montrealer first and a Quebecois and Canadian a distant second.

That’s why this

upset me so much.

(Roughly, in English: Sovereignty is neither left or right, but forward. Pierre Karl Péladeau is basically everything Duceppe is not)

Seriously, the ex-union organizer, the social-democrat, the guy who I thought was onside with my views said that?

As we say around here, yeah nah.

February 22: three years on

As I write this (or start it at least) I’m sitting in Dunedin in the garden by Knox Church just off George Street. I’m killing time before I meet Chris and Lucas at a local restaurant for b-day celebrations for my buddy Steve (happy 40th you whippersnapper you). I’m alone and have just been reading some February 22nd earthquake commemoration stuff.

I am, as the people of the interweb (My people I suppose) say, feeling a great many of the feels.

For those of you just joining me: it’s been three years since the big quake that killed 185 people and destroyed vast swaths of Christchurch. I continue to have very complex feelings about this: all of us from Chch fit somewhere within what I figure are concentric circles of guilt and pain. Those of us who lost almost nothing feel guilty about those who lost homes who feel guilty about those who got hurt who feel guilty about who lost loved ones who feel guilty about surviving. I’ve felt all this for three years but this year I feel something new, something I’m not sure I expected.

Background time: I’m a Montrealer. Montreal is a messy, confused place. It has bits about it that I hate, it has bits that are unjust, bits about it that are amazing and stunning and wonderful. If you ask me where I’m from my answer is always Montrealer first, with Canadian and Québécois tied for a distant second. I’m not just from there, I am of there.

So the absolute longing for Christchurch I am feeling today comes as a total surprise; if I were to put a name to it I’d have to call it homesickness. The rage I feel when politicians and developers lie about what’s happening to my friends who are still there still amazes me. The heartbreak I feel when someone else gets screwed by a landlord or CERA or the EQC or some insurance company is stunning.

I love Dunedin, it’s my home for now and there is much to like about it. But it would appear, to my utter amazement, that Montreal AND Christchurch now compete for my heart.

Kia Kaha #eqnz whānau. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.