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Come to our Discussion Evening!

As a way to apply the wisdom we’ve learned during the last few years, we’ve decided to start hosting Discussion Evenings at our home every Thursday evening. We want to meet people, talk about what makes life worth living, and most of all we want to discover the goodness in people all around us. 

Everyone is welcome, just make sure you let us know before you come, or else you may find yourself drinking your hot chocolate on the front porch: we don’t have a big house! Don’t worry though, there’s a rocking chair there 🙂

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2013 in Life

 

A reconstruction of computing history

Hi! I’m a time-travelling archeologist from the 25th Century. For centuries we’ve been struggling to understand the mess that were the 20th and early 21st centuries based on archeological digs and archaic storage devices, but we were only just starting to piece things together when some clever twit invented the time machine. So I’m here to share some of our theories before I explore your century to see how accurate we were.

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Posted by on July 3, 2013 in Musings

 

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We value only what we can measure

In all the literature I have read, I know of few statements more profound than the following quote from St Exupery’s Little Prince:

The wise fox

My secret is this. It is very simple. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye

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One reason I dislike iPads

One reason I dislike iPads

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No comments…

Actually let me comment before I get flamed for being ignorant. The real way to add attachments to an email on iPad is to first open the app that opens the file you want to attach, then “share” the file by email. This makes two assumptions:

  1. You have an app that can open this file type
  2. This app knows how to share the file through email

If either of these assumptions is violated, you’re out of luck: you cannot attach that file to your email.

So what if I want to share a non-standard file type, like a password manager database created on my Linux machine, and there are no iPad apps that can open it? Or what if my PDF reader was written by ignorant coders who didn’t include a “share” button?

Too bad, welcome to the non-productive, all-entertainment world of Apple mobile devices!

and while I’m at it, let me share two more things that completely infuriate me: typing in any sort of online text editor is an absolute joke, with jumping cursors and buggy selections galore; and WHY ARE THERE NO DIRECTIONAL ARROWS ON THE VIRTUAL KEYBOARD???

Oh wait I get it…. I’m supposed to buy a Bluetooth keyboard, right?

FAIL, Apple, FAIL!!!

 

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2013 in Life

 

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The transformation of learning into education

The transformation of learning into education paralyses man’s poetic ability, his power to endow the world with his personal meaning. Man will wither away just as much if he is deprived of nature, of his own work, or of his deep need to learn what he wants and not what others have planned that he should learn. (“Tools for conviviality”, Ivan Illich)

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Do-it-yourself?

DIY is a broad segment of television programming that purports to demonstrate how to do something, be it renovate a house, decorate a cake, tend a perfect garden, build a TV cabinet or cook a scrumptious meal. These shows sell themselves as educational. Their intent is apparently to freely share some expert advice with its audience.

I contend that most of these shows are designed to entertain, not teach. In fact, I would argue that they have the opposite effect than what they pretend to have: they “uneducate” their audience. How so? Think about it.

The educational value of something can be estimated by looking at the ratio of exposure to application. For example, if I spend 1 hour studying a cooking technique from a book, then 15 hours practicing and applying that technique during the coming months, the ratio is 1/15. It is a bit like a Return On Investment (ROI). Likewise, if I spend 4 years in University studying for a degree and the next 10 years working in a career that makes use of the knowledge gained, the ratio is 4/10. In addition, it provides me with an income during these 10 years, and much experience and skills that will be an advantage to me for the rest of my life.

In contrast, most watchers of DIY shows spend much more time “learning” than putting that knowledge into practice. In fact, research on television viewing during the past 30+ years shows that viewers retain very little practical knowledge of what they watch. As the shows are designed to be entertaining rather than educational (to maintain high ratings and secure audience fidelity), viewers justify watching episode after episode with the comforting thought that they are accumulating knowledge that will one day be of immense help to them.

In fact, what they are really accumulating is familiarity with the show, and especially with its host, who becomes like a close friend, always happy to freely share his/her vast treasure trove of tips and advice–and to do so in a very entertaining way, because who can bear to watch a boring host?

One sad consequence is that watchers start to believe that mere exposure to the show is turning them into experts in their own right, before they ever put hand to shovel or knife or saw. And when they finally start attempting to apply their pseudo-expertise, they are bitterly disappointed by their mediocre results, or put off by the gruesome reality of the sweat, blood and tears conveniently concealed from the televised images.

Since everything looks so easy and fast on television, watchers are hit with painful force by the difficulty of real work, and they retreat back to the familiarity and ease of their TV DIY show.

Let’s face it: a truly educational show would demonstrate general techniques and principles, and would lead its viewers to spend less and less time watching, and more and more time doing. Since that is precisely the opposite of what all commercial TV shows want to achieve, we can safely dismiss all commercial educational television as distracting from real learning.

The best learning occurs in the physical presence of a master or mentor who demonstrates skills and provides instant feedback on the learner’s performance. It requires humility, patience, effort and courage, none of which are required for, nor fostered by, DIY shows.

So make a change today: stop watching DIY shows and

DO IT YOURSELF!

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2013 in Musings

 

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A way out of the cycle of self-loathing

Whether your self-loathing cycle involves weight loss, parenting, self-restraint, mastering a skill, maintaining healthy relationships, or anything else in life for which you’re fighting for a better outcome, consider this:

To win a war,

you don’t need to win every battle…

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2013 in Life

 

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