Zen and the Apocalypse

The multitude of movies and books about the apocalypse indicates that the idea of a societal collapse has a strong pull on us. What is so attractive about widespread destruction? A first thought might be that the idea of death and mayhem offers an escape from the humdrum monotony of everyday life, but I think the appeal of the apocalypse is the exact opposite. With civilization gone, so is the stress—all of your mistakes and transgressions have been washed away with the records of society.

The apocalypse allows us to finally relax and enjoy that vacation we’ve been meaning to take but couldn’t because of our imaginary obligations at work. With all of the societal distractions gone, we can get back to just being human and being fully present in the environment. The apocalypse seems very Zen.

Unfortunately, knowing how way leads onto way, we probably would just fall into new patterns with new imaginary obligations. The boss man might no longer need that PowerPoint presentation, but the former head of the homeowners association and now local chieftain might want those plans for defending against the marauders from the neighboring subdivision.

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We must be champions

Sent this email to the kindergarten soccer team I coach:

I was disappointed in our team’s play Saturday—both positioning and individual displays of skill were sloppy. To remedy these deficiencies, we will begin having additional practices. We will practice twice a day every day except Sunday. The first practice will be at 5:30 AM, and the second practice will be at 6 PM. For the morning workout, your child does not need to bring a ball; we will focus solely on conditioning. For the evening practice, your child should bring a ball and ankle weights. In addition, I would like to wish you all a happy April Fools Day.

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The Curiosity Cycle has been released!

The Curiosity Cycle: Preparing Your Child for the Ongoing Technological Explosion has been released. It is about raising your children to be lifelong learners in our technology-laden society.

The Curiosity Cycle is available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Curiosity-Cycle-Preparing-Technological-Explosion/dp/0615574734/

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Lies, damn lies, and Santa

I used to think that lying to my kids about Santa would needlessly confuse them. They’re learning about the physics of the world, what’s possible and what’s not, and there’s a guy that can eat cookies at every house on the planet in under 24 hours?

Now I think the lesson that comes from realizing that some of what you are told is not true may be worth the initial confusion that stems from believing in flying deer and elves that make Wiis.

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Busy work

Maybe vacations are so relaxing because our brains must process the new sights, and so they have less time to turn over the usual worries.

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Program Early, Program Often

A key takeaway from The Curiosity Cycle is that education should be ingrained in the child’s life instead of being added on as an appendage. As we all know, two aspects of integrating education are timing and relevance. You want to introduce an idea at a time when the child cares about it, and you want to explain in in a way that is relevant to what the child already knows.

A great example of this occurred yesterday. My four-year-old son was trying to count to 1000. It was the first time he had gotten past 100, and he could mostly do it, with some prodding and help at key points, but he was stymied by the tedium of counting that high. He wanted to get to 1000, but it just seemed like too much work.

I told him that we could write a computer program to do the counting for him. He was intrigued, but he wasn’t quite sure what I meant. I told him that we would use Scratch. Scratch is a free graphical programming language  (http://scratch.mit.edu/).  We had played around with Scratch to move silly characters around, but we had not done anything useful with it.

When I told him that we would use Scratch it seemed relevant to him because he knew what that was. Getting it to count to 1000 was great timing because it was something that he wanted done right then. It was an opportunity to teach him the value of programming and computers beyond games.

We wrote the program shown here. We debugged it as we went. For example, at first it counted too fast for him to

enjoy it. We added a sound before each number, and he got to watch it count all the way to 1000. I then asked my older son (who was interested by this time) how he could change the program to make it start at 500, or to make it count to 1500.


Of course, when striving to make education relevant, there are also some spectacular failures. When my oldest son was about 4, I bet him that I could write his name 100 times in under a minute. I wrote a program to do it, and he started to cry when he saw his name flash on the screen. I had “cheated.” (Don’t worry, I didn’t have the heart to collect on the bet. I guess the outside world will have to teach him those lessons.)

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Your call is very important to us, and other corporate lies

It’s funny how corporations are free to lie as long as it would be hard to prove. I got a letter today from Access Group, my student loan company. The first page of the letter said that my privacy was very important to them. Well, that’s very nice.

The second page of the letter said that they share my personal information with other companies for marketing purposes. It also said that there is nothing I can do about it. Additionally, it stated that they will continue to share my personal information even when I am no longer a customer.

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Do I know everything now?

The world is incomprehensibly complex. To deal with this overwhelming amount of information, we carve out a few little paths that allow us to go about our lives. Our brain does this subconsciously, and we don’t even realize that we are only seeing part of the world. The result of this is that we always feel like we know everything there is to know. Sure, we are aware that we don’t know anything about how Cheetos are made, but those questions usually seem small compared to what we see and experience right in front of us. This starts young. When my son was 3, my wife taught him some small thing about the world. My son then paused for a moment and said, “Okay, do I know everything now?”

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This one is for the robot

{EAV_BLOG_VER:ce82e5afa69cca23} If you don’t happen to be a robot, then there is no need to read this post. Sorry for any unnecessary notification. Subsequent posts will be limited to human readership.

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Don’t forget about me!

I love how my 12-month-old daughter laughs not because she gets the jokes, but because she wants to be part of the group.

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