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Annoying advertisements

Livejournal has these new annoying advertisements that pop up in some places. They take over your whole LiveJournal canvas so that you have to wait and look at this one stupid little ad. I don't like it.

So, does Dreamwidth have that, too? Because I suddenly have the urge to abandon LiveJournal.

Note: I have no problem with ads around the edges of my experience. Some years I have had a paid account. Others I have had a free account. Currently, I'm paying for my LiveJournal with my momentary attention to advertisements and I get that. But an ad that takes over EVERYTHING? No. They are WAY too intrusive. And I don't love this place enough to throw cash at it to make those go away, when there are other options I can explore. Sorry LJ.
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30 and 31

To happy birthdays

The first, today, is catvalente and who has the best "this is my birthday" post evar today: My Age Ends In Zero!

Happy Birthday, catvalente!!!

The second is for tomorrow. vrax is, like, one of the coolest people I don't really know. No, seriously, I have this huge, massive admiration for this guy, and I love reading his journal and watching his life. Anyway, his birthday doesn't end in zero, but 31 is a pretty decent birthday, too.

Actually, all of them are pretty decent, cuz, you know, birthdays suggest that you've managed to survive another year, and that's always a good thing, I think :)

Happy Birthday, vrax!
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A BSG epiphany

Just now, as I was washing dishes, I had this thought about how kabbalistic the ending of BSG turned out to be. Beware, utter geekiness ensues in which sci-fi fandom meets a love of religious philosophy for its own sake.
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OK, yes, I realize that this is way too much heavy philosophical thinking about a fictional world, but its interesting to contemplate.

Homeschooling Thoughts Part 2

Welcome to the the "why I love homeschooling" issue of "An Open Source". Part 2 of my Homeschooling Thoughts is open to the public because this is the stuff that is less about just my family and more about what I think about Homeschooling in general.

I don't have an ax to grind against the concept of school in general. There are good ones and there are bad ones. There are good teachers and there are bad teachers. There are also schools and teachers that are good for some kids and not good for other kids. Education is not a one size fits all sort of thing. The thing that I do have an ax to grind against is the idea that all children need to be educated in one specific way. That idea is patently ludicrous and isn't even borne out in the world of public education within one given system, much less across the many different systems that exist on our planet today.

Some people think that you can't give your child as many opportunities to learn at home as you can in a school environment, and for some schools that may, in fact, be true. The vast majority of schools, however, suffer from the opposite problem. Each class has to teach to a specific level, not getting ahead of itself for the quick nor slowing down for the laggers. Most schools suffer from a lack of funds and resources, and so they have to do with whatever they have. In general, schools also suffer from time constraints that require subjects to be carved into specific time slots and attention blocks.

At home you are not constrained by the four walls of an institution nor by the scheduling issues of a corporate body. If you would like to study French by visiting a French speaking place on the off season, you can go right ahead and do that. If you would like to keep reading your book about Greek history past 10 o'clock at night, that's fine, too, as long as your own priorities for the next morning allow for a late wake up.

As a homeschooler, for each topic you study you can be an autodidact or you can seek out tutors from a wide variety of sources. Sometimes you will choose to take an organized class on a specific subject. Sometimes you will find an inspiring mentor to help guide you in a particular learning endeavor. Many times you will learn a single subject from a number of different people that you communicate with in different places and different contexts -- the librarian, a professional in the field, hobbyists on the 'Net, friends you meet at a supply store or event. Some of your teachers will be peers of your own age. Some of your peers in a topic you explore will be much older than you are, and will be learning as much from you as you do from them.

As a homeschooling parent I don't have to know everything that my children want to or need to learn. I never even took calculus, so how could I ever teach it? I can't. Instead, my kids can teach me, or we can learn together. I take immense pride in the fact that my eldest son taught me almost everything I know about marine biology and absolutely everything I know about cephalopods in particular.

Homeschooling builds a sort of tightly bonded family that is extremely rare today in the Western world. People notice the relationship that I have with my kids, and fellow homeschooling families say that they experience the same thing. One of the reasons that we are so close is that we talk to each other. A lot. About lots of different subjects. That builds familiarity, sure, but it also builds trust. How many teenage kids actually enjoy sitting and talking with their parents? For me, the teen years have proven to be the best so far precisely because of the great conversations, movies, books, and activities that we've been able to share.

Homeschooling also builds a kind of independence that is uncommon amongst regular-schooled kids. The homeschooled youth knows that he or she has power over their day, their life, and the things that they learn and do. They may be guided by adults, but they have a much stronger sense than most about the fact that they are ultimately in control. Whereas school children who study topics outside of the school curriculum or skip ahead in their textbooks are considered nerds and geeks, homschooled children who do the same are the norm. Whereas school children who decide to start their own business, write a novel, arrange an apprenticeship for themselves or volunteer independently at an organization they care about are considered remarkable, amongst homeschoolers any of those endeavors are just part of the package.

I love homeschooling because it is limitless, borderless, boundaryless, and immensely fulfilling.

When I was very young and impressionable, somewhere around the age of 6 or 7, my dad told me that school wasn't there to teach me all the subjects that I was supposedly learning. What it was really doing was teaching me how to learn. Learning, he said, is one of the most important things in life. You will need to do it all the time if you want to be able to compete in the job market, if you want to be able to keep up with changes in technology and science, and if you just want to be a better person. Reading and math are tools for learning. The scientific method is a tool for learning. The things you learn about social studies and literature are building blocks on which to build more learning.

The thing is, if that's true, then school may be the wrong tool for teaching what we most need. What percentage of 5 and 6 year olds start their school careers as curious and inquisitive little beings excited about the prospects of learning more, more, more? What percentage of people come out of school full of wonder and a desire to keep learning? I don't have exact numbers, but I'm sure that you know as well as I do that the majority of people finish up school feeling burnt out and not wanting to go back to that experience ever again. For many people, the idea of learning a brand new skill 5 or 10 years after they have gotten out of school is terrifying. This does not bode well.

There are a few things that I think that my parents did extremely well in my early life. One of them is that they helped me to separate between the concept of "school" and the concept of "education". When I was a kid the first was presented to me as a legal requirement, the second as a thing of great joy which, when you are lucky, you can glean from the first. Why hope for luck when you can squeeze education out of every moment in your day without school?
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Synesthetic feedback in computer GUIs

OK, I have a weird question for all of you.

Let's say you are working on a computer, and there is a window on the screen that somehow locks your pointer inside it. When you move your mouse, the pointer hits the edge of the window and doesn't move on beyond that window, as if it's hit a wall. You with me so far? OK, so here's the question:

When you see the pointer hit the window's "wall" do you feel it, too? Do you sense a subtle, imaginary feedback when you see that? Or is it purely visual and nothing else?
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I thought my first time would be meaningful

It wasn't though. I didn't have any strong feelings. There was nothing I really wanted. In fact, I had to be prodded into doing it at all.

Local elections here remind me of high school class president elections. Basically, it's like a big popularity contest, as if nothing really important is riding on this. Sure, we all want a nice prom and good cafeteria food, but we don't actually know anything about the people who stand there and say that they want us to vote for them, except for their faces and their tag lines.

The most obnoxious tag line I saw this election season was something like "vote gimmel and get". Get what, you ask. Well, the poster had all these hands in the air reaching for something. Handouts? Whatever. It was tasteless.

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Anyway, I don't really care how it turns out. It's mildly interesting, but I don't feel like I have much stake in it. I don't have any sense that anything will actually be any different due to my vote.

Petach Tikvah is a nice city, actually, despite the bad rap it gets. We have nice parks. Some nice little museums and galleries that almost no one knows about. We have some rather decent schools. In fact, I'm rather fond of D's school. We have nice community centers. We have lots of public art -- and yes, a lot of that has gone up during the campaign period, but they'd been putting new things in place for at least the last year and a half. They are building a light rail system that looks nice in the posters by the construction zones. We have excellent medical facilities, cute main street shopping areas, a large mall and some big box type shopping in another area. People who make fun of Petach Tikvah clearly haven't actually been here any time recently, or else they are too stupid to realize that Tel Aviv might be a nice place to hang out on Thursday night, but it's not as great a place to raise a family.

I don't know who's most responsible for all the good stuff here, and certainly no one campaigning made any attempt to inform me (or any other voters as far as I could tell) of the real work they were doing. It was all "blah, blah, blah! I'll make it better!" with no description whatsoever of what "better" meant or how they were going to go about that.

I take that back. There was one bit of campaign material that I saw that seemed comprehensive at all was in Russian. So, maybe I should have voted for "Petach Tikvah Beiteinu" (Petach Tikvah is Our Home) and hoped that what is good for the Russian speaking population of Petach Tikvah is good for me, too. (Eh, no. If they'd had the same pamphlet available in Hebrew, I would have struggled read through and considered it, though.)

So, here's a little message to all you future Israeli candidates for whatever, and political parties of all stripes. Israel is one of the most Internet connected countries on the planet. We have lots of language groups represented amongst our citizenry. Next election, don't just tell us to "vote and get". That's BS. Use Social Media. Use the Net. Use volunteer translators. Reach out and tell us what you are REALLY going to do. And make it a two way conversation. Use that same technology to listen to us.

Cuz you know what? If you don't, you are going to continue to frustrate the best of us, and the brightest and most marketable are going to continue to flee to "more civilized" countries where even if they can't vote they can still talk to actual representatives and have a say in the little things about their real lives. And all the work put into bringing in North American and European born Olim will be for naught, too, because we do have a choice of where to live, and a lot of us really do prefer a real democracy over a place we can call "ancestral home".

And if you want partners to make Israel better and stronger, well you just can't get that by playing the popularity card. You have to do that by engaging the people.