The heritage view was not considered!”

A trio of contrarian viewpoints caught my attention over the last month:

In each case, the authors take something that, at least in progressive circles, is taken as motherhood gospel–oat milk, small family farms, small business–and suggests that not everything is as it seems. 

Contrarian dissonance is important; it’s so easy to get trapped inside an echo chamber where certain truths are forever declared self-evident.

I thought of this when I was sent links to to petitions regarding the proposed development of a 99-unit apartment complex on the Charlottetown waterfront.

Both petitions mention the character of the neighbourhood as a reason for opposing the project.

Preserving Our Waterfront  calls out the “heritage view”:

The proposed concrete and steel structure is not compatible with lower Water Street and the surrounding area. The heritage view was not considered!

While Charlottetown City Council: Deny a Building Permit for 8 story waterfront development mentions the “aesthetic of this quiet, residential neighbourhood”:

If this development is allowed to go ahead, it will change the aesthetic of this quiet, residential neighbourhood. The scale of it will overwhelm the existing surrounding buildings, many of them Heritage properties. 

There may be other perfectly valid reasons for opposing this project, and both petitions contain bullet points of them, but if we’re going to increase urban density in Charlottetown, we need to get ourselves to realize that this will mean the scale, shape, and character of the city has to change. No, we shouldn’t have torn down Penn Station, but that doesn’t mean that nothing should ever change. And it means that “quiet residential neighbourhoods” and “heritage views” may need to be reconsidered.

Increased urban density is the clear ecological path forward for its decreased commutes, decreased need for parking, decreased urban sprawl, increased efficiency of public and commercial services. It makes sense to pack more of us together in closer proximity in more energy efficient ways.

I don’t know whether the building that’s the subject of these petitions should go forward, and my knee-jerk reaction, given my antipathy toward the developer, was to oppose it.

But, like a love of oat milk and deification of small businesses and small family farms, perhaps we need to give our assumptions a check from time to time, and realize that progressive change comes in all sorts of packages, and sometimes a knee-jerk reaction is a signal to stop and take a second look.

We Have New Fridge

The Refrigocalypse is over: Birt’s Furniture delivered our new Whirlpool fridge this morning just after 9:00 a.m., 3 days earlier than planned after I made a call earlier in the week when things went sideways with the old fridge.

Photo of our new Whirlpool fridge

The new fridge is, in design essence, almost a clone of the old fridge; I’ve always been under the impression that there is a single global maker of refrigerators, throwing different brand plates on at random, and this only serves to reinforce that assumption.

A couple of notes on the purchase and delivery process, should you be in the market and considering Birt’s:

  • To take the old fridge away was an additional $20 fee. That seems fair, given how complicated it would be to do it myself.
  • To get the fridge into the house, the delivery people needed to use the back door, and needed to remove the door itself, and break down the fridge, to get it to fit into the house. In other words, this is the largest possible box that can fit into our house.
  • Our kitchen and hallway floor got scratched in a couple of places by the removal of the old fridge; nothing too serious, but a little annoying.
  • I had to reverse the door, so that it opened on the right, myself. I knew this going in: my Birt’s salesperson told me “this isn’t something we do.” It wasn’t that difficult, but it did need some tools that not everyone would have: star-shaped screwdrivers in a couple of sizes, for example. This seems like something an appliance store should offer as a service, even if it’s an upset.
  • The manual for the fridge is horrible: filled with poor descriptions and hard-to-follow graphics. If I was looking for work, I’d offer myself out as a refrigerator manual designer, as there’s obviously a lot of room for improvement here.
  • The delivery people were friendly and helpful, and nothing at all like the notoriously gruff and complaining crew we used to get every time we had something delivered from Sears.

This was the first major appliance I’ve purchased all by myself: from our first appliances in our Kingston Road house back in 1995 onward, Catherine and I were always an appliance-shopping team, and we were generally a compatible one (although we had a longstanding disagreement about the role of standalone freezers that was never resolved). I managed to figure this purchase all out on my own, and I’m happy with the result. But also a little sad about yet another now-solo milestone checked off the list.

all the challenges are artificial”

This comment from Chuck about his son and school is worth highlighting (emphasis mine):

He and I have since concluded that school was simply not challenging enough. Not just in the sense of “not challenging given his abilities,” but in the sense of “all the challenges are artificial.” Jason had figured out in Grade 1 that school is just a place where adults warehouse kids so we can get things done during the day, and any learning that takes place there is almost incidental. Homeschool was better but only marginally; he simply was not interested learning until it meant something. He wanted to test his mettle against others at work that mattered, and see how he measured up.

The gift that computer programming provided me, from age 14 onward, is that it allowed me to escape from the artificial challenges associated with credentialing to confront real challenges, like “tell me how much model airplane glue I have in stock.” Contrasted against “enumerate the themes of The Cask of Amontillado,” this was thrilling, and provided me with agency the likes of which I’d never known.

School isn’t for everyone

Brent Simmons writes about high school:

I envy the people who had a nice time at school. For me it was a struggle against stupid, unfeeling power the entire time. I truly hated it. When I wasn’t in trouble, when I was actually sitting in class, I was just watching the minute hand on the clock, begging it to speed up, minute by minute. By my senior year I was the person in the school who skipped entire days the most. I stayed up late and slept way in lots of mornings.

Eventually I got suspended for smoking a cigarette without having filled out the paperwork.

Well. This is just to say that I preferred being at home, where I was reading and writing and writing computer programs. Like now.

There are young people who desperately need school for very practical reasons: food, warmth, sanctuary.

There are young people who thrive when they’re in a classroom learning from teachers and fellow students

And there are young people who don’t need school at all, who find it a toxic, frustrating, counterproductive activity.

As we’re building a system for COVID-learning, why not see if we can find a way to liberate these students from the tyranny of needing to buy what we’re selling.

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