About | RSS

Stung Eye

The eye of the bee holder.

Open Democracy Manitoba (ODM) is now a registered non-profit corporation!

I helped found ODM six years ago, in the summer of 2010. Since then we’ve helped hundreds of thousands of voters research their candidates and learn about their local democratic process by way of WinnipegElection.ca and ManitobaElection.ca.

We recently launched WinnipegElected.ca, a site where citizen can easily follow Winnipeg City Council decisions on reports, motions and by laws. The site was developed with the assistance of the Winnipeg Clerk’s Department.

Incorporating as a non-profit will help us in securing grants, allowing us to continue to empower the citizens of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and beyond, through our online tools and resources.

Circles traveling along the path of a Hilbert Space filling Curve.

Thinking in Tic Tac Toe

Thirty one years ago I typed tic tac toe code, found at the back of a computer magazine, into my VIC 20. I didn’t understand the code but I felt wizardly when the game popped up on the living room TV. Thirteen years later I would code my own tic tac toe game for the first time while learning to build Microsoft Access apps during my coding internship at MTS. I added the game as an easter egg to the time tracking app I built for the MTS Solutions Group.

The first two were written in flavours of BASIC. I’ve since coded tic tac toe in Pascal, Perl, Ruby and Clojurescript. The Pascal one was Connect Four, a 4-run tic tac toe with gravity.

All were written as code kata in the name of learning through experimentation. Sketching with code.

“This kind of coding as thinking out loud is known in the Agile methodology as a spike. It is meant to be as informal as possible. It’s the equivalent of whiteboarding. And just as whiteboarding sometimes leads to a formal solution, sometimes it’s benefit is in quickly and simply framing a problem. Coding allows us to whiteboard directly with data.”

This quote is from my friend Sam’s talk on Coding and Humanism for the UTSC Digital Pedagogy Institute.

Sam’s talk is embedded below. Worth the watch if you’re into such things as digital literacy in libraries, agency through computational thinking, formalism vs hermeneutics, amateurism, openness and pedagogy. ლ(´ڡ`ლ)

Sam’s talk got me thinking about how I learned to program computers. It also got me thinking about the privilege of having spent three decades thinking in code. I was fortunate to have access to a computer from a young age, with leisure time for computational tinkering, encouraging parents, friends, teachers and mentors. The gender, race and class issues present in the tech world have not been working against me.

Sketching with code. As an IT educator I’ve tried to balance the strict formalism required by technology with an informal exploratory approach to learning.

Sketching with empathy. To better serve all my students a recognition of privilege must also inform my teaching practice.

* * *

My most recent tic tac toe sketch can be played here. The computer plays randomly, not strategically. View the game’s source code, written while learning Clojurescript, Reagent and React.

Reading and Listening in 2015

I read fifteen books this past year. Ten less than 2014, four less than in 2013, three less than in 2012, and one less than in 2011. All fifteen books were read in deadtree format. Fourteen of them were fiction. One was non-fiction.

As you’ll see at the end of this post, my drop in book consumption can be attributed to my new found love of podcasts.

Books Read in 2015

Read in that order. No incompletes this year. The majority of these books were really great.

Top Three Books in 2015


“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Publish 50 years ago, this sci-fi novel set 21,000 years in the future, has aged incredibly well.

Politics, religion, ecology, philosophy… Dune has it all. Forget top books of 2015, I’d say this would be one of my favourite books of all time. If forced to find fault, I’d point to sexism: The Bene Gesserit, a matriarchal order, develop a breeding program to produce the Kwisatz Haderach, a male Bene Gesserit who, being male, can do what they cannot do, can see what they cannot see.

Dune Messiah proved to be a solid follow up, and there were interesting similarities to the other far-future novel read in 2015, The Player of Games.

East of Eden

“The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel —'Thou mayest'— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if 'Thou mayest’ — it is also true that 'Thou mayest not.’”

This book came highly recommend by Sam and it did not disappoint. The characters (even the minor ones) felt so real, their struggles so familiar.

Oh, the things we do for love (or the lack of).

Never Let Me Go

“All children have to be deceived if they are to grow up without trauma.”

What would you do to preserve the innocence of a group of children shuned by the rest of society? A melancholy story about purpose, love and mortality. Like Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day (one of my top three from 2014) it’s also about memory and denial.

This book left me feeling sad and protective. Protective of my children but also of the entire human race. And that’s a weird feeling.

I don’t want to say much more, because spoilers, but I really enjoyed how well the author captured the way children see and interpret the adult world.

Podcasts in 2015

2015 was the year I discovered podcasts, which is why I read far fewer books this year. I listened to hundreds of hours worth of podcasts throughout the year. The podcasts I’ve been listening to, in alphabetical order, split into non-techical and coding categories:

General Interest Podcasts

Programming Related Podcasts

Top Three Podcast Episodes

Invisibilia - How to Become Batman

The story of a blind man who says expectations have helped him see. Literally, see.

Mystery Show - Case #3 Belt Buckle

A young boy finds an enchanting object in the street.

Reply All - #36 Today’s The Day.

PJ and Alex go outside. I highly recommend listening to episodes 1 through 35 first for context.

Audio Lectures and Audio Book in 2015

I only completed one set of audio lectures in 2015, but it was a doozy, a 42 hour review of Western philosophy. I also listend to the ebook version of Thinking, Fast and Slow, which was an amazing look at how we othen place too much faith in human intuition.

How To Think Visually Using Visual Analogies by Anna Vital

“If you know nothing else about visualization but pick the right analogy you are more than half way there.”