Archive for 2004

Read this book.

The Underground History of American Education, by John Taylor gatto.

You don’t of course have to agree with it. Personally I felt like it was putting into words a lot of things I had felt for a long time. You don’t even have to buy it; the entire text is online (I personally prefer real books, and this has driven my highlighter very nearly dry) My overall impression was that Gatto thoroughly supported most of his points, often with quotes of people expressing their desire to do exactly what he is accusing them of. Even if your views differ, the grand sweep of history, psychology, religion, economics, and of course schooling will probably give you at least a few new perspectives on things.

Of course, maybe there won’t be so much new material for some people. I freely admit to squandering my college education, and not making very much of elementary, either. Of course that is precisely the point of the book – the purpose of the school system is to dull minds, not to sharpen them. It took five or six years away from schooling before I started to really thirst for knowledge.

The book covers so much ground that I can’t hope to do it justice here. One of the basic premises is that there are a number of different ways that the world can operate. Through the interaction of various different processes, the dominant world view has become safety and science. This gives us the wonders of industrial society, all our medicines, our computers, SUVs, TVs and movies. The price is tight, stifling, hierarchic control. One of the major tools used to promote this world view is the mandatory school system, which turns the great majority of people into predictable, interchangeable parts accustomed to being told what to do.

The opposite world view is total freedom and self-responsibility – which entails a healthy dose of risk. This is the world view that America was founded on. The transformation into it’s opposite view has been a slow and ponderous process; so slow that very few people noticed what was happening.

Shameless Plugs

A few weeks ago I went to the Chicago Toy and Game Fair While there I un-surprisingly saw several people from the game designer’s group. I also saw a couple people from Protospiel set up in booths, and bought their games.

I played Cluzzle the first time I went to Protospiel, and saw a revised version the next year. Dominic has gone into production since. It’s aimed at the lighter market, but it does that very well.

I didn’t see MetaMemes at Protospiel since I didn’t make it this year, but I heard about it (and the game design expansion ;^) ) It’s in ‘early adopter release’ now – which is to say a very small print run that costs more to make than it sells for. Kesavan considers a marketing expense rather than a real product run. The idea is to generate word of mouth, which is really what inspired me to write this. It’s somewhere between a geek version of Apples to Apples and a brainstorming tool with a scoring mechanism. Players combine cards with various concepts to try and create some new invention. Sadly I haven’t played the game yet, but if nothing else it’s a pretty interesting set of cards – Flatland, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, Mambo Chickens (the game’s author’s favorite example card) or simply words (“Laugh”)

It didn’t have anything to do with Protospiel, but I also bought SeigeStones, just because I liked it. I felt a lot like some of the games I’ve been designing.

As requested ;^)

This is due in part to a dying electric shaver. First, I forgot to charge it. Then it didn’t work anyway. After poking at it for a while, it ran for a bit, but wasn’t terribly effective; presently it seems to have failed for good.

In any case, other being a bit prickly, and meaning a shorter time till have to mess with the facial hair again, there’s no reason not to give it a try.


Since I was tinkering with FotoBilder, I uploaded some of the pictures of my flowering basil I took a while back.



After a gentle introduction by Shaun, I thought I might get Dance Dance Revolution to keep up some kind of exercise during the winter. I was, however, swayed by the argument that regular exercise increases general energy levels.

So I went out and got a set a few weeks ago. I’m working at about 3-4 on a difficulty scale of 10; the right of difficulty increase goes up dramatically from here though, so progress will be much slower. At least starting to get to the songs that can get my heart pumping ;^)

What the Bleep

Mission successful. I headed into Chicago for the early show, in a calculated attempt to avoid any possible sell outs (which I found out later have actually occurred at some of the evening showings) (Side note: on the way there I saw a cemetery with the sign: “Drive safely. We can wait.”)

Other than a tendency to exit the tram stations going the wrong way (usually corrected by the sears tower after walking a bit – titanic landmark navigation doesn’t come naturally to suburban midwest natives) I arrived at the theater just in time to sit and wait through the previews.

I got, pretty much, what I expected. A tour-de-force of quantum spirituality, with the latest science and spiritual perspectives presented in a format for the short attention span generation.

Was the film right? Insightful? It is easily argued (for instance from the fact that I saw it at all) that I was already pre-disposed to agree with most of the information presented. What you think of the movie, from my report, depends a lot on what you think of me. I consider myself to superficially informed on most topics to offer any authority on them.

I wrote out a basic subject list, in part for myself, to try and figure out what the big picture was. It might be considered a spoiler; for a typical hollywood movie a list this long would be pretty much the whole show. In this case it is just the topic list for a pretty deep conversation, and it is the conversation itself that is interesting.

-Paradigms – there is a lot we take for granted.
-The mind cannot distinguish between events and memories
-Do we see with the eyes or the mind?
-We create our reality.
-Quantum uncertainty
-Multiple realities
-There is no matter.
-Power of intention
-Pre-creation of the day
-We are god.
-Religion damages god by making him ‘other’
-Dr. Emoto – words influence water; what do they do us?
-Neurons are being remapped all the time, associating and disassociating concepts
-Mere thought affects the body.
-Peptides are driven by the brain.
-Peptides direct cells (dancing personified cells)
-This creates emotion
-Colors all perception (horny teenager-o-vision)
-Sub conscious creation of situations that create feelings; addiction (choreographed dancing with IV bags)
-Wear and tear on cells by peptide bombardment – aging
-Who is the observer?

What the #$*! do we know?

I’m thinking about seeing this movie in Chicago tomorrow. Anybody else interested? (Or have you already heard good/bad reviews?)


For the martial arts test there were three demonstrations required. In Taekwondo, this is pretty straightforward. The demonstrations are weapon demonstrations, which consist of learning and performing a form. Demonstrations are included in the colored belt curriculum, such that by the time one is testing for black belt, at most one new demonstration is needed. The Hapkido curriculum has no such requirement. Come black belt one suddenly needs to come up with three demonstrations. The concept of demonstrations encompasses a lot more than weapon forms, but this only adds vagueness to the mix.

I picked up most of the sword form at various times, so that was one down. When I went to ask my instructor about the rest, I was told, before I really made suggestions, that I was doing don bong (short stick) and cane. Just what I was supposed to do WITH the don bong and cane was unspecified, and I didn’t push past the hand waving. (Intellectual integrity is something I’m still working on.) The end result was that I reviewed some possible angles and locks in a very general kind of preparation, but really didn’t have demonstrations.

The critical question I need to ask at some point is if demonstrations are purposefully vague in order to make the student take responsibility for them (in which case I simply failed) or if improvements can be made in the support system. The precedents also aren’t good – for my first black belt test the demonstrations were totally hand-waved and I didn’t have to do anything. With the requirements not really required, it is little wonder that it didn’t seem very important this time around.


I’ve been ignoring this thing for a while. I haven’t been in a writing mood in general.

The martial arts test was a few weeks ago. I’m officially 2nd dan black belt now. Beyond that, my instructor has wanted to get people certified as instructors, so now i’ve got an instructor’s license and a stamp with my name in Korean. (The stamps got mixed up at the banquet; fortunately the english names were written on the bottom of the box, so I noticed the problem. I investigated the stamp itself to verify though, and the Hangul script is actually pretty nifty.) In addition to that, I got a merit promotion in Taekwondo because I’ve been helping manage the little kids in those classes. All this involves two more certificates, one of them large (~10×13). In my house there is a little section of wall where several years ago I found a place to put the martial arts certificates. Since then it has been slowly added to and rearranged, until today it makes for a slightly frightening display.