Saturday, October 8, 2011

Masdar City, Wendy's, Avatar and Apple

A relatively unremarkable past few weeks. It's been good to get back into the routine of work. I've been enjoying working with my students and colleagues. I like teaching. It can be immensely satisfying when done well; however, it is an occupation that continues to daunt me. Years ago, when I was going to school, I worked at a mail order company specializing in Smokey Bear merchandise ( I had a few responsibilities, but my main job consisted of the timely packaging of stuffed bears into the perfect box. After a few years of it, I have to admit to a certain level of skill. In fact, I feel like I was a pinnacle of packing perfection. When I was in the zone, I could look at an order and know, without question, the perfect box and just the right amount of packing material. I was as good as a man could be at that job. I doubt I will ever enjoy that feeling as a teacher. Every day I feel like I'm learning new ways to teach, and that there is always room for improvement. It's a profession that keeps me humble (to a certain degree) and for that I should be grateful.

A couple of weeks ago, we had an honest to goodness outing (owning a vehicle allows you to do stuff like that). We went to Masdar City, located not far from the Abu Dhabi airport. It's an ambitious project in the heart of the desert. Designed to be a model of sustainability and green technology, it has the potential to revolutionize our approach to building and sustaining viable living accomadations over the next few decades. I was taken with the architecture and design of the place; the kids loved the driverless electric cars. You might think it a little ironic to find green initiatives in the heart of an oil rich nation, but there is a real vision and desire here to use the wealth of this nation to create a lasting legacy.

We also went to the first Wendy's in Abu Dhabi. Now that I can get a spicy chicken sandwich here, I don't know why I'd ever leave.

James turned five last week. He's owed a belated birthday party with friends (Miranda too for that matter), but I think we acquitted ourselves pretty well as far as cake and presents were concerned.

It's a volcano!

As a family, we just finished working our way through Avatar:The Last Airbender, a cartoon series the kids had watched a couple of times through already but wanted me to watch. It's been a little tradition of ours to watch an episode before the kids march off to karate. I had heard good things about it, but I never would have anticipated enjoying it as much as I did. The humour was genuine and I laughed out load often, but there was also some real emotional depth that I didn't anticipate. By the end of the series, I was fully invested in all of the characters and their respective journeys. Definitely one of the most satisfying things I've seen in a while. It's available on Netflix streaming and even if you don't have kids, I'd recommend it. Warning, you might be tempted to watch the live action version by M. Night Shaymalan. Don't.

Also, I thought I'd link to a commencement address that Steve Jobs gave at Stanford a couple of years ago. Obviously, there's been a lot written about him and his genius, and I don't really have much to add. When I learned that he had passed away, I was much sadder than would have expected. I've been a fan of Apple products for a very long time, and after some effort, I've converted pretty much everyone in the house to them, but I was sad for more that not having him at the head of one of my favourite companies. I was sad because a person who had an actual, tangible impact on my life and the way that I do many things is no longer with us. It would be hard to measure or quantify his impact. Obviously, he changed the way we consume media, and he was directly responsible for some of my favourite movies of all time. Even as I look at some of the pictures of Masdar City, it's hard not to see the Apple influence. The speech below is worth your fifteen minutes if you haven't seen it before.

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