Tuesday, 9 January 2007

09-01-2004_09-30-2004

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Sleeping pill kicking in...
At this site they are plugging a TiVo for FM/AM, a kind of FAMMO I guess it could be called. And having taken my sleeping pill/2 all the visual hallucinations have kicked in, flickering things that move in the peripheral feral vision, and I read the arttrickle down to this phrase:
Favorite station presets can be set with the dick of a mouse, - hmmm, a mouse has more than one dick? It takes the dick of a specific mouse? Weird...
Then I realise (doh doh DOH!) it reads Favorite station presets can be set with the click of a mouse,
and some of my initial worries about the SharkFMfin abate somewhat. It sounds like the kind of thing I'd like to use to catch Adam and Will in the morning on, or Sharif Gulal's Groove Train. And then download to my MP3player so I can listen to it around midnight...
Yeah - that'll work! Ciao all!
Categories - ::/:: posted at 11:37 PM Ted
postCount('6213');
Comment (0)

postCountTB('6213');
Trackback (0)
-->
Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Pentium M slow in the States
The news in the USA is that Pentium M are not widely accepted - I use a Pentium M laptop and it is GREAT, but it seems that V8 mentality still rules in the laptop world. "If it doesn't have a SOLID power consumption, how can it be any good?" seems to be the attitude.
I use a Dell Axim handheld at work - the 624Mhz Xscale processor is designed for PDA use, as the Pentium M is designed for the laptop - they both perform exactly as required, and that can only be good. Right? I get four to six hours per recharge for the Axim, and two hours for the Tishiba Satellite Pro 6100. That's excellent, and is what these chips are meant to do.
Performance is great too - if I wanted to play Wolfenstein or Unreal Tournament I should be using a desktop which has power available to it, not a laptop or PDA with batteries. In fact, performance is exactly right for the PDA and the laptop, they are DESIGNED that way. Using a laptop as a desktop replacement isn't an option, they are specifically DESIGNED to do different things.
Using the wrong machine is a bit like using a tack hammer to drive home a coachbolt - if you get a bigger tack hammer it will then be useless for hammering in tacks.
I can't wait to get my hands on a Centrino based machine for evaluation, as I think that will be an excellent advace over the Pentium M, but again I would have to find its niche purpose and then evaluate it based on that.
Anyway - my 2c worth, use the appropriate tool for the job and you will never be disappointed.
Categories - ::/:: posted at 1:00 PM Ted Comment made, yay!
postCountTB('6212');
Trackback (0)
-->
Thursday, September 23, 2004

Which OS Are You?
Which OS are You?
Categories - ::/:: posted at 12:00 AM Ted
postCount('6211');
Comment (0)

postCountTB('6211');
Trackback (0)
-->
Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono - if ever there was a name that rolled off the tongue, here it is... And as you all know I am not normally a political blogger, because I figure political opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and everyone thinks their own is the only one that doesn't stink.
But in this case I just can't resist. I have one qualification, I was on the Papua/Irianjaya border almost 30 years ago...
Taken from a recent news item:
In Cairns, Prime Minister John Howard said he believed Australia would have a close security relationship with a new administration in Indonesia. Mr Howard said Yudhoyono was an able man with a military background who had visited Australia. But the prime minister would not directly comment on whether Yudhoyono would be able to achieve more in the war on terror than Megawati. The United States, which regarded Indonesia as a test case for its claims that democracy can operate successfully in the Islamic world, congratulated it for carrying out a fair and peaceful poll. "These elections have set a strong example for the region and emerging democracies everywhere," said US State Department spokesman Adam Ereli.
This is the same Indonesia which brought you East Timor. THAT East Timor, yep...
The same Indonesia which, while I was up in PNG, executed a missionary for daring to educate the locals, which had made them less tractable than the rest of the population whose lives (at the time I was there anyway) were pretty bad. Not that PNG was any better, a few years earlier again...
The same Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who worked under Suharto in the military while Indonesia systematically eliminated a race of people from their own homeland... I will always be wary of people like this, always.
I am not out to sound a warning, I think that Indonesia has made huge strides in its politics and policies, and in fact I am pretty much behind them now, especially if they continue to enlighten their attitudes as they have done. I don't have much of a concept of racial distinction and while I know that some of my colleagues were born in countries such as Indonesia China Vietnam Phillipines Greece Italy and others I say that they are here now and they are my colleagues and workmates and friends.
But I wonder if the pressures which caused those aggressive and catastrophic expansions into East Timor and West Papua (now Irian Jaya) have really gone away?
DISCLAIMER: I do not harbour any ill will toward Indonesia or any other Oceanian country, and I do not consider myself biased. I do however have a long memory and an ability to extrapolate. While I think that the Indonesians as a people are very pleasant and likeable, I cannot say that I was ever aligned with their policies at any time and nor do I think I ever will be.
Categories - ::/:: posted at 2:35 PM Ted
postCount('6210');
Comment (0)

postCountTB('6210');
Trackback (0)
-->
Monday, September 20, 2004

Space Time And Cats
I'm sitting watching the TV, and one of the cats (the elder uncle of the pride, which consists of him, a female, and two of her kittens) was - somewhere - and making a small wheezing noise, almost like "aha".
I spotted him, sitting by the window, staring out intently, and making those whuffing little noises. I thought maybe a rival was outside so I drew the curtain aside and there - was a snail. He's been watching this snail slime its way up the window, and I have no doubt that he was sussing it out, figuring out how it does that slidey thing, and hence his "aha" noises.
Meanwhile, the younger tom comes running in with a sneak attack in mind, sees that the older tom's studying something, and just stops. Mustn't interrupt serious studies, after all. One of the rules of civilisation...
Then the youngster (named Ghostie, just by the bye) jumped up on the lounge and did something that everyone's seen cats do. He found the one piece of paper on the lounge, lined himself up ever so carefully to be right on it, and plonked himself down.
I think it's a pretty good way of indicating intelligence. It's saying "Hey I know that this piece of paper makes THIS spot different to all the other spots on the lounge, and I know that I'm individual and different to every other creature on this earth. So I'm placing a unique being (me) on a unique spot. (here)"
I also think it's because cats have got us all fooled. We think they have 9 lives - well ain't we suckers - because they have 99999999999 lives... And they live them all at the same time, in 99999999999 alternate side-by-side Universes. The reason cats need to find a unique spot like that is because that's the only way they can keep track of which parallel Universe they're currently in...
Since alternate Universe theory says that each Universe will be slightly different, it's obviously that piece of paper is in a different spot in some other Universe, so cats notice those sorts of things. Otherwise, things could get messy. I mean, is this the Universe where my humans have that homicidal mastiff? A cat's gotta know...
You think I'm kidding don't you? I'm not so sure I that I am...
I mean, here I have cats studying snail locomotion, demonstrating a sense of total spatial awareness and location, and radiating confident self-awareness. I go to work every day, and I have no idea what my cats do during that time. They may just sleep all day, but then again, who knows?
And today, I have another interesting observation on cat capabilities. The above was written a few months ago now, and has just been waiting for me to edit and proof. Now, more cat cleverness...
I'm home taking some leave while a new shed is due to arrive, and deciding to have breakfast in bed. Watching Discovery channel, naturally, and there was a show about trained owls. Ghostie is sitting with me deciding if he likes prosciutto ham, which it turns out he doesn't. He's just lying there getting his back rubbed and purring, when all of a sudden I feel him tense right up.
On the screen, there's footage of owls flying tethered and untethered between the trainers' hands and a perch. Ghostie has recognised the untethered owl as something to hunt, and suddenly he's creeping toward the TV. A minute later the segment ends and there are a few ads, then some footage of people on jet skis flying off the waves and looping and diving, much like the owls earlier. Ghostie loses interest right away.
This is a bit of intelligence we don't normally think about. Firstly, many cats chase the moving dot of light from a laser pointer or torch, or the moving images on the TV. That's no big deal, something moves, you chase it. But Ghostie has been watching the TV for fifteen minutes and nothing else induced him to go into stalking mode. He correctly recognised a 2D image as prey, and reacted appropriately.
Which seems to imply that commonly-held wisdom, (that cats and dogs are incapable of recognising 2D images as representations of the real world) may well be wrong. I mean, perhaps it was the flying movements the owls made which tipped him off, but the jet ski riders were moving in very similar ways and they didn't even get a second glance.
Well okay, maybe I don't believe that cats live in multiple Universes - but I do believe that there are practical experiments in animal intelligence that can still be done, observations which can be recorded.
Have you noticed that the deeper we look, the less difference there is between us and animals?
Categories - ::/:: posted at 10:16 AM Ted
postCount('5614');
Comment (0)

postCountTB('5614');
Trackback (0)
-->
Sunday, September 19, 2004

Been a few days
... since I last blogged. What's happened? Ummmm... Bought a shed. Nice new 3x4x1.2 shed for the back yard. That is a bonus.
Bonus because I've been asking us to put money aside for a shed for two years now, while our belongings that don't fit (extra books without a bookshelf, tools, equipment) have been sat taking up our back porch surrounded by tarpaulin weather shields...
We'd recently re-mortgaged and are using that money to put a fourth bedroom and a second ensuite on, which will take a bit of the pressure off the living accommodations here. (The existing bathroom is a semi ensuite - this one will be the biggets bedroom and true unshared ensuite.)
I added the extending of the back patio to the plan and then we hit on putting a shed in at the same time. This gives me a 3x2 shaded work area as well, so I'll be turning out the odd carpentry jobs like spud/onion/garlic kitchen boxes soon, and a few other odds like that. (I've only been promising my patient sister Liz that I'd make her a spud/onion box for a year now...)
As this changes the whole layout of the house, my vege garden has to go, and I'm looking forward to raising the beds into aboveground frames (keeps slugs etc off to some degree) and while I'm at it, putting in a rainwater collector for the water shortage times. Grey water for the flowers, but rainwater for the veges thanks... Dunno why the idea of greywater with cleaning chemicals on my veges doesn't appeal to me but there you go...
I enjoy cooking, especially with fresh (I mean "just cut from the vine fresh") ingredients, and I will be able to force growth all year round with a properly laid out 3x4 garden area. That means fresh tomatoes and herbs (especially herbs, yummm...) for cooking with. Like tonight... Aged diced beef marinated in special blend Mediterranean (I make this one myself, it's very good) and then layered with sliced potatoes, sliced onions, more meat more potatoes and baked under foil for an hour, then uncovered for 30, then with sliced tomato on top for another 30. All ingredients as fresh as I could manage, from Swansea St Markets, God bless them. Tomatoes because my trusty tomato plants are in their second season and producing already.
Shed arrives sometime this week, meanwhile I've got a pad to dig and level up, so that the shed can be placed there as soon as it arrives.
Because, the other thing which the shed will achieve, is that our backyard entertaining area will become available, and then I intend to use it to the full...
Categories - ::/:: Edited on: Monday, September 20, 2004 12:27 AMposted at 9:13 PM Ted
postCount('6209');
Comment (0)

postCountTB('6209');
Trackback (0)
-->
Sunday, September 12, 2004

Stuff Education, Let's Get Out Of This Book!
Sorry people, I'm out of Gatto's book. I can appreciate a revelation as well as the next person. I can appreciate that he made a Rubicon-crossing discovery. But I'm over the book. After chapter 8 my eyes glazed over well and truly and I skipped to Chapter 18, finis. "Silicon Valley" is one of the chapter topics. I thought that maybe there would be something new to spark my imagination, but...
As I said I appreciate a new idea, I appreciate that a person could feel flabberghasted, elated, excited, when they had a new idea. But really John Taylor G - 18 chapters of the same idea over and over? How many more ways can one find to say the same thing?
And the same internal self-inconsistency. Is it a Chautauqua or Prussia? Ummm... makes us all dumb and poor or... ?
He opens the chapter addressing a bunch of Silicon Valley geeks. They work at their company not because they need the money but because they enjoy using their intellects. The year is 1999. JTG is giving a speech on how prevailing industrial interests are keeping the population dumb and complaisant and wageslaves. Can you spot the inconsistencies?
For a start, these guys he speak to are wealthy. They didn't get that way from being dumb. They are in SV so their money is more likely to be dotcom boom bucks than old established industrialist ruling caste secret squirrels cartel.
Then, they're working at something that they enjoy. Why do they enjoy it? Cos they are INTELLIGENT and intelligent people find nothing more enjoyable than exercising that intellect...
How did they get so intelligent? Well if Daddy's dollars didn't buy them an "upper-class" education then I guess they have one of the *other* kind of schoolings - the ones that JTG says are only there to "make dumb." Well gee they sure work well hey?
Oh yeah - scattered throughout ch 18 are little cameos of ordinary people who do extraordinary things. For some reason Gatto seems to point to these and say "look! see what I mean?" but all I see is that he's shooting his own argument in both feet and the back of the head...
I'm sorry - the book lost some appeal for me around ch 8 when I realised I wasn't going to see anything but a rehashed version of the same argument, over and over. And when I read ch 18 I realised that that was the ONLY consistency I'd find..
OVERALL IMPRESSION:
John Gatto discovered something - that authority is assumed, fortune favours the brave, and people get the government they deserve. (Okay on the latter, maybe the government that exists, exists because the situation allows it. Same idea though. Governments don't make up their minds to be a particular thing, they are molded by circumstance.)
Say it, include supporting facts. Don't ramble, don't dribble. And don't belabour it. Finish with it, move on.
A few good facts emerge from the book (did you know that there was a Gates and a Clinton active in early American history? That's my next research project, to see if they're related.) but the rest is pretty much repetition of Sevenths and Chautauquas and Prussias and cartels. Lots of educational history, one great revelation, and lots of supporting details.
Categories - ::/:: Edited on: Sunday, September 12, 2004 12:48 AMposted at 12:42 AM Ted
postCount('5718');
Comment (0)

postCountTB('5718');
Trackback (0)
-->
Saturday, September 11, 2004

Less And Less Education...
Up to chapter 8 of JT Gatto's book on education. Reading the book certainly makes one aware that one is in the presence of a True Believer of another kind, one who finds only the old ways appropriate and right.
Gatto seems to yearn for what he supposes was a gentler time, a time when family ruled supreme, when values were valued above valuables. Aside from the quibbles I mentioned in my previous article, I have this quibble with him too: what's with the Luddism?
We have had mass schooling for just about 150 years. JTG claims that this has coincided with duller people, depersonalised humans, and basically I think he thinks school are the work of the devil...
I'm thinking that there are other causes and effects at work here, not just some noblemen's conspiracy to pwn the world.
At one stage of our development, it made sense for everyone to either hunt things for food, dig things up for food, or pluck things for food. What we learned as children was "Here. Take this stick. Hit something, dig something up, eat it. Eat the stick." That just about sufficed for a lot of generations of prehumans and humans.
Then Ugg (no, not THAT Ugg, the other Ugg, the famous one, you know?) discovered that if he sharpened the stick it made a better hunting thing by poking things with it than using it as a club. Now Ugg was teaching this to others. Okay okay - teaching implies an active wish to better the lot of others, and Ugg probably didn't give a rat's ass whether the others killed more food for themselves. But the others *were* learning by watching, and imitating.
Because of this, eventually the race got so good at killing stuff to eat that the next Famous Ugg came up with the next thing to learn. Maybe it was sharp rocks used to sharpen his stick, maybe a spear launcher like the Australian woomera - but the point is that at each development, there was more to learn and luckily once you learned it you had more time to think about new things because you didn't have to hunt quite as much.
A leisure class was emerging, a bunch of dilettante rock apes with too much time on their hands. Next thing you know they're farming and hugging and kissing and all that gross stuff and forming bigger and bigger clusters of smaller and smaller living units, and next thing - wham! - here we are. Yes this is the Reader's Digest Condensed version but you get my drift yes?
Once you have a few tools, you need to gently pry that knowledge from the tool maker. Since their tool is probably bigger better sharper and has a longer reach than yours, some creative and interrogative grunting might just achieve what your club couldn't...
Language, tools, inventiveness. Family groups, village groups. Things that make people what we are, that define us. Gatto thinks that those have been lost due to enforced schooling and technological progress. I don't think so.
Remember what I said about the printing press? That it initially fuelled a great tsunami of intellectuals because they only had to read books that had been sorted through the sieve of history, and that subsequently, the printing press created it's own Waterloo, because suddenly, ANY old crap could be printed? That's dilution in effect. Nowadays the aspiring intellectual has to know enough to decide which books are good, which are the crap.
So where once only a handful of people had access to a few painstakingly preserved books, suddenly anyone had access to those books, and now, anyone has access to more books than they could read in a lifetime. There is a bulge on this curve somewhere, a point at which the maximum number of good books was available.
There's a bell curve, therefore, where there was the highest density of excellently educated people in the population. No wonder Gatto reminisces and sighs about a Golden Age... There are just as many excellently educated people out there today, but they are diluted by several orders of magnitude more fellow beings. Dilution again.
For Gatto, I have the following questions: If the Prussian system was so good at producing citizens for this modern technological world, where is Prussia now? For that matter where is Russia? Each country that applies these dehumanising systems seems to be falling by the wayside. Keep an eye on China, they have DONE their sociology studies before pushing and prodding at the fabric of their nation, and they are going to surprise a lot of people soon.
I'm saying that as we pass through each stage of our development as a species, the way we behave must change. There is no going back because while those past ways may seem to have borne a Golden Era, they would not generate one under current conditions.
The enforced schooling may be capable of being used as a tool of control, but that does not make it an evil system. And despite JTG's fears, it has not crushed the humanness out of us. It's made a different human out of us, but that too happens. How many people here today remember being forced to work in the fields from age six? Thought so, not too many are there? How about people who would have no worries about killing and butchering their own meat animals? I see a few hands up. And so you see the stages we go through. Each seems like it was idyllic but each had its unique sets of difficulties too
Taking the example of meat. Once, every Ugg and his dog was killing meat animals and then just getting right in there with their teeth and nails and gorging themselves. A few steps up the developmental ladder, the Uggs with stone knives were dealing with the complex social problem of dividing their sliced meat and a few old guard Uggers were no doubt wishing for the good old "rend and tooth and claw" days when you didn't have to sit through the de-Ugganising ritual of letting Ugg With The Knife divvy up the catch...
I define as "human" that which no oppressive regime, no "evil Prussian school system," no adverse condition in the world can keep supressed. I nominate the very things in fact, that we see today. Greed, looking out for Number One, humour both good and bad, and learning ability. Strangely enough those things always seem to resurface in any system, despite the efforts of people like Gatto to claim that "it was better back then."
Categories - ::/:: posted at 2:19 AM Ted
postCount('5717');
Comment (0)

postCountTB('5717');
Trackback (0)
-->
Thursday, September 09, 2004

Busted-ass education systems.
I'm amidst reading John Taylor Gatto's book on American education. Online, because Mr Gatto has kindly made it available for reading at the site.
It's certainly a blockbuster of a book in its own way, and is in a lot of ways reminiscent of some of Eco's masonic plots. Gatto has obviously studied education and the history of education, but for someone who is claiming for themselves a philosophical niche, he's not a very solid author.
Okay - philosophy? Yes, Gatto is indulging in the application of reason and investigation, he is advancing a theory he has obviously thought out - early philosophers sought to make order out of their world using reason and intelligence, and to communicate that to their fellows using the tools of clear language.
In places, pardon me, he is not seeming to make as much sense as he could. Education is German - no, it's Hindu - ah, hang on, no I was wrong it's just plain experimentation. Chautuqua was idyllic. No! What am I saying, Chautauqua is the root of the modern evil education system! No, hang on! They gave us condoms! And aqueducts...
The thing is, he is so ambivalent about some things that you get the impression that he's not sure himself if he should be poking fun, gasping in outrage, or keeping an eye over his shoulder for the headmaster. I have good reading skills and reasonable expression skills. I was struggling through the chapter on Chautauquas to figure out what his drift was. They taught people to read, which is one of Gatto's bitches against the current education system is that it's removing the reading skills. Yet Chautauqua was evil according to Gatto...
For that matter he compares the WWW to a tent Chautauqua. WTF? My partner's kids learned basic reading skills in school. Letting them loose on instant messenger and the web has resulted in kids who can think, who can express themselves in written form, and who are able to use the Web as Franklin did his books, as a source of further learning and discovery. Maybe the mechanics of WWW are showbiz flimflam, but the content on there is placed there by free thinkers and Calvinists, modern day Platos and Hegels and lord only knows what other kinds of minds.
As quickly as the Industrial Revolution created a need for conformity-induced stupid automatons, the Internet is giving them wings again. I note that Gatto does not even have an email address. He's a True Believer himself, a Luddite at that!
Strangely enough he had no problem with printing presses and admits that they fuelled the revolution, the sudden increase of freethinking and gifted thinkers, the Utopia that was the Wild West. But he denies that PCs and Internet are a similar freedom, because dammit they aren't made of paper and paper is what creates brilliance! (Obviously. Can't have been the rapid and timely adoption of the printing press technology by contemporary folks, nosirree!)
I also call his writing a little unclear. He refers to something 17th Century as "psychological" whatever (I can't for the life of me find the reference right now, but noted it as I read) and the term never came into proper being until a few hundred years later. It's as though he were to say that the Phoenicians called their ships "nuclear-powered." It's wrong. Had he said "what would now be called psychological whatever" his writing would be far more clear.
I also study syntax and how a person's frame of mind affects their mode of expression. Gatto is definitely a True Believer, what we in the wicked mechanised world of the Internet called "FRZ" short for Fanatical Religious Zealots. The point is that the term doesn't imply religious fervour but the state of mind. And FRZs are known to me for constructing long and convoluted sentences which twist and turn and try to include several concepts at once, such as the writer's state of mind as they are writing the sentence, oh yes and the fact that what they are saying is probably unique and no-one else has ever had this idea - honest - so that by the time you arrive at the end of the sentence tired battered and beaten you have no idea what the author was originally on about anyway and the sentence may as well finish with a Monty Python BURMA!
Gatto has a LOT of those sentences in his book...
I'm still reading the book - after all, I want to improve my mind too - and will add review material as it comes to me. But I must say to Mr Gatto that one other reason that the early American generations did so well is that up to the time printing presses were deployed, only the most significant and popular texts were preserved. After all, it needed manual transcription to get hold of a copy of Principia, and it's only when a text was considered of great value that anyone could be bothered to copy it.
So those early readers had a much smaller range of books to read, and all of them had been censored and selected by many generations before them. That particular revolution HAD to come, just because at some stage the availability of time-tested knowledge would reach a critical mass and ignite a generation of people right around the world into prodigy status.
Have you ever wondered what happened to the Babylonians? Why there are what seem to be highly technological artefacts found in ancient geological strata? Think about other civilisations which may just possibly have reached that critical mass point, gotten to this point, and then... pffffffffftttt!
Categories - ::/:: posted at 8:15 PM Ted
postCount('5716');
Comment (0)

postCountTB('5716');
Trackback (0)
-->

15istooyoung? You KIDDING?
Just musing, after the late news, on how Australia became the Third World Country from its position as the "Lucky Country" of 40 years ago. Why am I musing? Because I just went over my tax return, and you know how one thought just starts another, one thing led to the next, and next thing you know, there you are.
Firstly I have held the same salary for two years, except for CPI increases. Yet last year I came out ahead (only by $200 but still ahead) and this year I came out $1050 ahead. The big difference is that this financial year I'd been putting an extra $100 per month away as extra tax payments. If the tax rate was the same as last year then I should have been in for a little windfall of $1400.
What happened? Instead of my tax payments over the year (same amount of payments as last year don't forget, plus another $1.2k) leaving me with $1400 to spare, I ended up paying an extra $350 in tax. Multiply that by, how may of us are there, some 20 million? - and you get a staggering figure of $7bn... And I'm sure I wasn't the worst affected citizen, either. My estimate may be out by a considerable amount.
I'm not talking about total tax here, either - just the extra tax that the Government must have earned if everyone got as screwed as I did. The actual taxes are probably in the order of 20 to 60 times more than that little bit of "extra cream"...
And that started me asking - why hasn't anyone picked up on this? Why has no-one bothered to do a simple calculation and say "hey! We're getting ripped off here!" and then present that to the world?
The answer's in the education system folks - we are taught from an early age how to make the sum of the squares on the hypotenuse equal the sum of the squares on the other two sides but not how to balance a chequebook or how to calculate our tax forms.
I started my education in a school system which was different to the Australian-American system, which was run by a bunch of nuns in Arabia. I spent my first and most of second year there, and learned things that aren't taught in the Australian system until you're in seventh grade or high school, if they're taught at all. I was doing multi term mathematics in first grade and basic trigonometry in the second grade.
Born in Austria and having not a word of language other than German, I learned Arabic from the workers in my first year there, then English on the fly at the Convent school. Additionally, the school was teaching us quite advanced reading, and Latin and French.
When I came to Australia I was considered too young to go into third grade so I sat second grade for a year. I thought I'd been placed in kindergarten. School held no challenges for me other than becoming bored very quickly and thus failing subjects I knew quite well. In High School I got my most convincing demonstration yet of the efficacy of the school system in eradicating learning. I took a year of French class, to (as I hoped) improve my French to the point where I would become as fluent as I felt I needed to be.
After one year of French I had lost almost every word of French I'd learnt at St Christopher's - my reasonably-fluent French had been reduced to a few stumbling words...
I began to look at why the education system was so - horrible and stunted - and came up with a few observations. Back then we had TEE scores, and the highest score was around 1000 or so I believe. Universities set their entrance bars at 600 and upward depending on the subject. Teachers Colleges set their bar at 450, even below the 50/50 fail mark...
In my last years at the High School it became an open joke between some of the smarter students, that if you were too dumb to get into any other University or College, you could still always become a teacher. I will however say that there were several teachers who (luckily for me and others like me) were still proper teachers, who let you learn rather than drumming policy into one. Miro Vujowicz and Rob Steer, you are great teachers. I owe you a huge debt, of the rest of my life. The rest of you ragtag pack of losers, thanks for the miserable parts of life. You sowed seeds that I'm still killing the sprouts of, to this day.
I noticed how docile and depersonalised we Aussies have become, and I can trace a lot of it back to the school system. When did I lose faith in authority figures? When my primary school teacher told the class that hot air rises. When I said that this would be impossible because the air would just rise and rise until it could get blown away into space, and that I had been taught that it was in fact cold air which sinks and displaces hot air, I was roasted by this prick, in front of the class, for doubting him. I later took a textbook from the small Library we had at the school and took great pleasure in leaving it open at the appropriate page, with a black pen box around the relevant passage, on his desk... My grades declined noticeably after that, but he was too late, my excellent scholastic record had already netted me a scholarship to help with my High School education.
What this school system does is take away the learning and replace it with catechism. The catechism is "boredom! bordeom! All your lives will be boredom!" Children are not taught how to think, they are taught what to think. They are not taught the skills which will allow them to be smart, they are taught the skills to slide into a niche in production.
Production, of course, is the least god we should be following now. We need a few big thinkers, people who can design an alternative to unclean energies, a better way to farm the land, without salination.
Production is, while not The Enemy, at least Not A Good Thing, as we're rapidly finding out. Global warming comes from Production, producing many automobiles merrily with a thought only to how much money they can peel from the hip pockets of the ex school students who are busy in Production themselves and selling that to - other ex school students...
Production has given us annually worse El Nino and global warming weather conditions, to the point where a significant proportion more of many populations are dying from weather or the effects of it. Production has given us Chernobyl and Minimata and Bhopal, and more recently, Indonesia's Buyat Bay. Production has given Western Australia soil salination, our forest cover large holes, all sorts of amounts of pollutants in the air and water, and of course the Ozone Hole.
Before I forget. Production, the mighty god of the century, has also given us tobacco, acid rains, and fluoride and chlorine in our drinking water. It has given us Coca Cola and the Big Mac, and thus obesity sloth and more apathy. Bear in mind that tobacco, acid, fluoride, and chlorine are about as healthy for us as each other, i.e. they will kill you.
I've always said that it was good to take religion, with it's control-freakiness, out of the education system. But now, I wish it were back in there. And while it taught a set of morals and standards which were biased a particular direction, that is better than the total lack of moral standards coming out of schools now... Rob Steer taught a subject I was very saddened to see taken ex curriculum - "Social Studies."
In Social Studies we were given glimpses of other cultures and lifestyles, geography, geology, and meteorology. I LOVED the subject as it prepared me to be a world citizen, not just an Aussie factory hand. I think it was right up there with physics and chemistry, for explaining the world around me so that I could learn from it. I wish I'd had a spot on my timetable for biology too, but woodwork and metalwork helped build the skills I needed to make those further experiments. That's not to say that I am now claiming that the school was good.
In fact the school had two exceptional teachers as I've mentioned, and they happened to teach Social Studies, and Chem and Physics. It would have been hard for a teacher to stuff the manual arts lessons up but the teacher I had did manage to do that, however because I could think for myself I usually managed to wring a passing grade project from his inadequate instructions and examples.
Hey when I was nine I helped my father around the property, I learned that meat doesn't come on styrofoam trays, I learnt that a pernicketty rooster with an attack reflex made a worthy addition to the chopping block and tasted absolutely divine after Mum finished cooking him...
By ten I could shoot a rifle and learned that you could learn from Aboriginals. They had some of the tastiest food! I learnt to hunt for food. Even now I could still call up the right mindset, the knowledge needed. It's a skill that I may never need again, but should the worst happen, I will have that to help me.
Most of my languages which I use were learnt in life not in school. The formulae I needed when I worked in avionics came from the chief technician not from high school books, and none of my manual arts classes had prepared me for precision soldering. I began to think back to my later school days with a sad sense of years wasted.
Now we have this ad on TV which claims that 15istooyoung.whatever.au and all I can think is - bullshit... Kids by age 15 should have some solid achievements behind them, something to be proud of. I worked for a Radio & TV Repair firm during my High School days otherwise I would have had no pride, no confidence in myself.
I proved how easy it is to teach real skills when volunteering for the State Emergency Service. There was a "Cadet Unit" composed of high-schooler kids whose main affection for SES was that it got them out of school for the exercises. I watched these young people suffering under the ignorance of the teacher assigned to them, and that of the SES group leader. Neither of them gave those kids a chance to do anything other than to hold a rope here, a spanner there.
On a whim I asked if I could take the cadets off the adult training sessions "to free you guys up to do serious exercises" and it was agreed. The first thing I did was abolish rope-holding...
By the next few weeks I had one cadet go to HQ to train as a Communications Officer, and after he trained us all in basic voice procedure, I taught maps and navigation. Then we'd go out and study the adult group setting up exercises. We asked if we could run identical training exercises along the adults if equipmemt and space permitted, and were told to go ahead.
On the first exercise, we watched what the older group was setting up, and suddenly one of the guys worked out the rest of it before it was built, We started at that point to set up a ladder wellhead derrick and were finished, with a more stable derrick, a good five minutes before the older. After that, we made it a point to study each exercise as it was being set up, analyse it for ourselves, improve it if there was room for improvement, and beat the oldies, time and again. Not one of our pieces of rescue gear came from the manual. They all came from observing, watching, and tweaking the design..
Later still, we wheedled a trip along with the SES to the annual Emergency Services Games & Contest. For the first exercise, we let the squad leaders take us on the navigation section. Bad mistake. We wandered around while they argued and turned, and finally my cadet with the best map skills looked over the map, pulled out his Silva, and pointed. "Checkpoint is there" he said. Both leaders glared at him and stumbled around another 30 minutes. Finally, the squad leader wandered up to Glenn and screamed at him "I want a course out of here and you have three minutes!"
I asked Glenn to sit tight and took on the squad leader and said that if he ever yelled at the cadets again I would have him on abuse charges as they were still minors. I then showed him the proper way, asking Glenn if he could take us out over the checkpoints as required. Glenn sat with the map for less than a minute and then walked us straight to the first, then second, third, and fourth checkpoints. We finished stoney motherless last.
The radio challenge. Our cadet comunications officer had to set up and operate a deliberately wrecked radio. He just glanced at me once, then took a step forward, and when the examiner asked for three volunteers to assist, I slipped backwards a little bit. My psychology woreked, the official pointed at me immediately. "You - you'll do for a start"...
Because I worked in this trade, I was able to whisper all he needed to know to Robbie, who then gave the orders and acted like he knew it all. We aced the competition on this one and brought home a trophy...
And so forth. All the trophies that our SES unit brought back that year were earned by the cadets. Whom I'd taught to *think* about things before they did them.
So hang on - if I can teach a kid to learn, why can't our teachers? I've started reading Gatto's book "the undergound history of american education" even while typing this because it's turned up in a search online, and already, it's interesting.
I'm watching it in action right now. My partner's daughter dropped out of school the minute she turned 16. I've known this girl since she was ten, and she is a very pretty and quick-witted young lady now, she was cute as a button at age ten. But High School did her head in. She often wagged school. She was sullen and extremely touchy, and aggressive when you tried to nail her down on any subject she didn't like.
She's been off school for a month now and the difference is amazing. We can talk to her about things like looking for work or doing housework in exchange for board and suddenly, she is grasping the ideas and concepts, and far less hostile to deal with. She makes efforts now to keep to bedtimes so as not to upset her younger borther's school schedule, and has grown up just from sitting at home and chatting to people on the Internet.
As I see it, I'll soon be abe to teach her the real lessons she's going to need, such as how to be picked for a job on the basis of her knowledge rather than her looks. I will be able to instil the seeds of financial planning, plant morals and ethics in my stepdaughter's mind. And I wonder how come the schools hadn't managed that...
Categories - ::/:: Edited on: Thursday, September 09, 2004 8:43 PMposted at 2:35 AM Ted
postCount('5715');
Comment (0)

postCountTB('5715');
Trackback (0)
-->
Monday, September 06, 2004

What Is Wrong With This Picture?
Most of my friends will heartily support me when I say I'm not a religious person. They will applaud me loudly when I say that I'm not a person with Victorian morals, and say something like "true dat." And they'd probably choke on their beer if anyone said I was politically correct. But you know, there seems to have been some sort of Rubicon of moral turpitude crossed sometime in the recent past, and I've just plain been looking the other way when it happened...
The place it's coming out most is in commercials. Commercials which, even to someone like me, are just giving the wrong message. Somewhere along the line, commercial scriptwriters are just missing the point.
These commercials seem (totally aside from trying to sell their product, which they do only tangentially) to hammer home the message that it's fine to be rude, it's good to be ignorant, it's praiseworthy to be a total tool. The ads are on in prime kiddie-time, so what the kids are learning is pretty much that being total assholes is okay.
"And I can't face them on an empty stomach" says the snotty little girl in a recent mcDonalds ad. It's fine for a jumped-up little kid to totally heap shit on her parents and siblings.
"Oh, now you've missed it. Okay, stop the car." says the instructor while the girl in the learner driver's seat proceeds to completely disregard him and drive off to enrol to vote. Bear in mind that a driving instructor is in a privileged position, a position given to instructors by the very same Government which is now exhorting teenagers to disobey him. Yep, you saw that right, it's fine to just ignore a representative of the Law and basically tell him to go fuck himself by your actions.
"And potato chips for - - - - .... the kids... " says the flabberghasted mum who's just prepared Moroccan chicken for her guests only to find them all sitting at the kids' table mugging and grinning for the chips and by their actions saying to her "hey tough shit about that Moroccan Chicken shit, but you basically wasted all the time you invested in us cos we wish you'da shoved the chicken up your arse and just given us the chips."
I like the Spiceblog and I like cooking and I tell you what, if my guests pulled shit like that with me I would throw them right out the door along with the precious fucking crisp chips, and I would probably make every effort never to recognise them again. Hell, even if they were the only group of people left in the world.
At the same time, there are organisations for this and nannycommittees for that, so that pretty much anything you do can be accommodated by some group and made into someone else's fault, there are people who specialise in making your stupidity someone else's fault (and they make it stick in the Legal System so it *must* be right) and there are still groups of people who don't give a damn whose fault it is but they can kill and maim and imprison people without any form of control over them and whom we tacitly accept by ignoring them and looking away.
Kids are suing their parents for divorces, stealing cars, acting like rude little guttersnipes, and the Government is wanting to "crack down on parents to make them more accountable and involved in the rehabilitation of their children" - who wouldn't be in need of morals lessons if the ads on TV and in papers and magazines were subject to a bit more scrutiny and liberal use of the censor's scissors.
People are getting used to friends shitting all over them and shrugging their shoulders and letting it slide, because that *appears* to be the way it is.
And kids are growing up without any clear moral guidelines because believe it or not we don't have any morals lessons. Religion was a pretty pointed issue but it did teach morals and scruples. Those kids grew up knowing right from wrong and became us. And because we can't see any use for moral standards, we let it drop out of the curriculum.
And oh the harvest we're gonna reap out of this one...
Categories - ::/:: posted at 12:46 AM Ted Comment made, yay!
postCountTB('5714');
Trackback (0)
-->

No comments:

De Counter Bits

 Subscribe in a reader | Add to Google Reader or Homepage | Subscribe in Bloglines | Ajax CommentLuv Enabled 38bd227bbe6382790452da794a46a311

Email Subscriptions powered by FeedBlitz

Subscribe to all my blogs at once!

Your email address:


Powered by FeedBlitz