Cleaning day

I really dislike holidays. I normally end up just sitting at home watching Sarah read a book. She’s never too keen on doing anything except to go out and get food (always the same food too).

So, instead I have been cleaning all the junk out of my room in preparation for leaving.

I have always tried not to be too attached to material things. One of the reasons I don’t wear any jewellery or even a watch is the fact that I don’t like the idea of being too emotionally attached to any material object.

On the other hand, I am very sentimental and I’m a hoarder. So, against my best efforts, my cupboard is literally brimming with things I have just never had the heart to throw away.

  • An easel my parents bought for me under the mistaken impression that I might actually work up the motivation to do some painting.
  • Books I bought with the intention of reading but never “found the time”: from Les Miserables to self-help to amateur electronics, they are all just a little more faded for having sat in my cupboard for years.
  • A card from my last job, wishing me well and telling me how much I will be missed.
  • Business cards meticulously collected from the conference I went to but that I have never had the chance to followed up on.
  • Countless piles of paper, with notes for great ideas, thoughts on philosophy, religion, art, short stories. All only partially finished.
  • Boxes and boxes of gifts well-meaning people have bought for me, only to be piled up with the boxes and boxes of stuff I have bought for myself.
  • I used to collect coins. Now it’s just a box full of useless bits of metal I am going to have to find a creative way to dispose of.

All of this will be gone to the dump soon enough. These past 4 years of my life have been very safe and unchallenging. Work and life has been far too easy. Here’s hoping the next 4 will be at least a little more interesting, if not more of a challenge 🙂

I killed today

“Hello, SPCA”
“Hi, may I speak to Mike please?”
“Oh, hi. Someone else called earlier… I… I just ran over a cat.”

Perhaps a little background is in order.

It was late, after church. My flatmate had asked me to buy some groceries on the way back, I guess it was around about half-past 10. Continue reading I killed today


I’ve had to fill out a lot of forms lately. Forms for NZ security clearance, forms for visa applications to the US, forms for this and forms for that. Lots of paper and lots of annoying PDF documents that have been designed so I can’t even save the form or email it, I have to print the jolly thing.

Anyway, this process can sometimes feel a little demeaning. For example, the security clearance one asked me to list 4 people who know me well, who have known me for 5 years or more, who are not related to each other, not related to me, not co-workers, who I have seen in the last year and who I do not live with. So, in essence: “list your friends”. Uhh… do I even have 4 of those?

Also, I was asked to list all the countries I have visited in the last 10 years (not a whole lot) the degrees I have received (not a lot) and the jobs I have had (not a whole lot there either).

Essentially, these forms really ask: “so how much have you achieved over the last 10 years or so”. Like I said, kind of demeaning. Glad they didn’t ask me how much sex I’ve been having lately, that would truly have been embarrassing.

I did get a big laugh though. The question depicted above was part of an American form, of course.

Visualization of Asynchronous Discussion

A paper I co-authored a year back has just been accepted into EdMedia 2006.

The theory of the paper was basically using a visualisation technique to display the “relationships” between students in online education courses.

One of the interesting things I found was that it was very easy for the lecturer to “dominate” discussion forums by responding to every message. The visualisation made it clear that the discussion became very “hub-and-spoke” with the lecturer in the middle and students on the periphery.

If lecturers delayed in responding just a little, the profile of the discussions changed and a group of “core” students would be drawn into the centre of the discussion.

The opportunities for using this in real course discussions are quite appealing because it would encourage lecturers to think more about the “overall” picture of the “health” of a given discussion topic rather than the immediate problem of answering students’ questions.

The conference is in Orlando in June. Hmm….

Abstract below: Continue reading Visualization of Asynchronous Discussion