June 19, 2007

Move over Distillery District!

Queen's has just announced that it has picked the same firm that is currently designing the World Trade Centre Memorial Museum Pavilion to restore a former brewery & distillery (circa 1839) into a new Queen's "arts campus". The 3-acre, waterfront campus will house academic spaces for the departments of Drama, Film Studies, and the School of Music. In addition, the site will have a new performing arts complex that would contain such elements as a 500-seat concert hall, a 200-seat theatre, and other academic and performance space. This project is being funded by a gift from a very generous Queen's alumnus, and it is intended to create an artistic space not only for the University but also for the city at large. Public access to the waterfront location will be maintained and arts and cultural groups currently using the Tett Centre will continue to do so.

June 15, 2007

Proudly Marching

Last weekend I participated in my first ever Pride March! I had watched the Kingston Pride festivities from the sidelines for many years, but this year I got up the courage to join in, and I was blessed to have my partner, Mark, and my sister, Angela, along with me in support. I must admit it was an emotional experience. I was not prepared for how it hit me to the core, and what such an act truly means politically, emotionally, and spiritually. I was also so pleased that we were joined by the Sydenham Street United Church and our local NDP chapter. Other groups joining in included the Queen's student government, and CRFC radio. To his credit, Kingston mayor Harvey Rosen kicked off the event. On the ironic side of things, and unknown to most of us, the Shriners had also booked their massive parade for the very same day. So there were hundreds of older folks lined up and down our main street who ended up getting a rather colourful opening act!!

June 13, 2007

The Future is Here

Tucked away in a bland, multi-storey building on the eastern fringe of the Queen's campus is a renegade troupe of truly out-of-the-box thinkers who are busy creating the future. Strung out on enabling something called attentive user interface, the folks at Human Media Lab are Canada's answer to MIT and Stanford. As their web site states, their mandate is to "develop disruptive technologies and new ways of working with computers that are viable 10 to 20 years from now."

They are currently working on the design of organic user interfaces, an exciting new paradigm that allows computers to have any shape or form. Some amazing examples of their research can be found on their videos page, but the one getting the most attention from the media (including Wired and Businessweek) is their device for advertisers to track the effectiveness of their messages by measuring how many people are looking at their billboards and screens. This invention, called eyebox2, was unveiled at Google HQ last month.

What is so striking is that the team is currently working on creating and launching truly attentive (and interactive) work stations, computers, and cellphones, and even household appliances. And what with the Premier of Ontario announcing yesterday a grant of $21-million for Queen's to create and build an Advanced Research and Innovation Institute the stuff of cartoon fantasy and sci-fi blockbusters appear to be just around the corner...

June 12, 2007

Alumni Connections

I had the privilege and honour this past Friday to speak at the Law convocation, where I welcomed the graduands into the Queen's University Alumni Association. My speech was probably no more than three minutes long, but I had the pleasure of presenting the first alumni pin of the ceremony to our honorary graduate, George Thomson.
Queen's delights in its traditions, and our convocation ceremony has not changed much over the past 165 years. It was an extra pleasure as this ceremony took place in Grant Hall, which was built in 1905. It has a most dignified and elegant setting, and despite the oppressive humidity and heat, it was a lovely occasion.
A real highlight for me was that I was able to be a part of the academic procession, which afforded me the opportunity to walk alongside and chat with the Speaker of the House of Commons, Peter Milliken, Arts'68, renowned national affairs journalist Jeffrey Simpson, Arts'71, and former CRTC chair and noted political scientist John Meisel, LLD'96. It was a fun and memorable experience!

June 8, 2007

The world in your pocket

I enjoy immensely looking at random data points about the world. As a much younger geek I would actually read the encyclopedia (I was an only child until 9). One of my favourite sources is the 2006 Pocket World in Fugures from the folks who produce The Economist.
It's always a hoot to read through, because the results are often surprising, sometimes maddening, and always enlightening. For example, the country with the highest crime rate in the world is...Iceland. Now there's a surprise! Smug Canadians will be humbled to learn that Canada ranks 8th for highest crime rate, while the USA ranks 17th. Although, those same smug folks will relish the fact that the USA has the world's largest prison population, both overall and per 100,000.
Our American friends can boast that the USA dominates 5 of the 6 categories for the Nobel prize, just barely edged out by France for total winners for literature. The USA also dominates the world in books and music sales. But while the USA spends the most as a percentage of its GDP on health spending, its male population ranks 4th and its female population 10th globally for obesity; and it only ranks 40th (alongside Portugal) for highest life expectancy. In comparison, Canada ranks 11th for health spending, 27th for male obesity, and 8th for highest life expectancy.
It's striking to read about television consumption, literacy rates, population density, and a country's innovation index. This is a great introduction to that state of our world, and is a starting point to understanding the systems of inequalities that perpetuate these facts and figures. Obviously, it's crucial to understand that such figures don't explain the world, they merely reflect it as it is currently. I find it fascinating to think through the data to the underlying causes and possibilities for change.

June 6, 2007

Kingston aims to attract LGBT tourists

The good people who are part of Kingston Accommodation Partners (KAP) have launched a campaign to draw LGBT tourists to Kingston. They've branded Kingston as a "city of colours", making vague reference to the colours of the Pride flag. I salute their efforts and hope, with time, we can create a genuinely positive space for queer folks to visit and, perhaps, to stay.

June 4, 2007

I can see clearly now

I am struck at when and how it is that I have piercing moments of clarity. Such little ephiphanies typically happen to me rather organically. That is, they just bubble up on their own, having percolated for whatever time they needed to. Usually they occur when I am moving (in the car, while walking, sitting on a plane, etc). There's something key about moving and my thought processing, for some reason. I love to walk aimlessly about, while my hamster works furiously and creatively inside my head.
Overall, I do my best thinking on my feet, which leads me to wonder why we have constructed our working selves to be seated. In fact, our entire workplace design seems rather counter-intuitive to me. But that's another discussion entirely. I recall getting up in the middle of the night during my undergrad years and wandering along the Kingston waterfront. It always helped me clear my mind and find some answers, or at least ask the right questions (often more important).
Lately I've been asking myself some very good questions like what brings me happiness, what drives me, and what motivates me. This usually ends up with me having a hard time accepting our norms of acceptable ways to occupy one's daily life. In any event, I have been receiving my answers at completely unpredictable moments these last few weeks...in the shower, kneading dough, on the bus...proving that wisdom can come in many forms and in many ways.