Archive for November, 2013

On the need to pretend that children are professional athletes

November 30, 2013 | By | Reply More

As I watched these guys in the park today, I was reminded of many of the things they didn’t need to get a great workout and to play some serious soccer: uniforms, referees, cheering parents, scoreboard, official schedules and trophies.

IMG_5307  Tower Grove Soccer

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They brought some orange plastic cones to serve as the goals. These players knew that it didn’t need to be “perfect” to be worthwhile. And they focused on the process of playing, not the score. There was great camaraderie between all the players on the field. They didn’t need any of the things so many parents and children think they NEED to play soccer in America.

I draw from experience similar to what I saw today. The guys in my neighborhood would put together pick-up games all the time. Soccer, baseball, football and street hockey. No parents, not referees, no scoreboards. We officiated our own games. If there were a dispute, we worked it out together. We picked the teams to make competitive matches. We knew who played well and not so well, and we divided them evenly.

As you can tell, I have some misgivings about how obsessed we have come about the “importance” of having out children play sports the “proper” way, which often includes “select” leagues and 20 mile trips to and from the site of the games.

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Wire Pilots

November 30, 2013 | By | Reply More

For me, it’s always a challenge shooting in the dark without a flash. I had some good practice tonight at a local concert. Guitarist Dan Rubright, percussionist Ted Rubright and bass player Rick Vice comprise “Wire Pilots,” and they put on an excellent show featuring music composed by Dan Rubright. Dan’s music (all of it instrumental) is difficult to classify, but it tends to be centered around salient memorable melodies supported by complex chordal and percussive textures. A special guest for one song was violinist Daniel Schmidt, a 10th grade student at Grand Center Arts Academy. The location was the Kranzberg Arts Center Studio in St. Louis.

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[More . . . ]

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Lee Camp hammers the fossil fuel industry – This episode features the dangers of fracking

November 29, 2013 | By | Reply More

What’s the problem with fracking?    This five-minute video tells you enough to justify making it a crime.   The evidence is easy to uncover, our media is largely silent, we are poisoning our precious limited supply of fresh water at a horrifying rate, and our government policies encourage all of this.

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Lenore Skenazy elaborates on the dangers of helicopter parenting

November 29, 2013 | By | Reply More

I loved the ideas and enthusiasm of Lenore Skenazy when I first heard her. She sharply criticizes helicopter parenting. She labels her approach: “Free range parenting.”

Actually, lots of overlap here with this talk by “Humans of New York” author, Brandon Stanton.

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How Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald broke the NSA story

November 29, 2013 | By | Reply More

This is an interview with Laura Poitras regarding her early contacts with Edward Snowden. Excellent background and a peak into Poitras’ thought process.

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The damage done by helicopter parenting

November 29, 2013 | By | Reply More

As one who is finding helicopter parents increasingly annoying, I appreciated the many good points made by this article by Tim Elmore.

Here is his take home:

Bottom line? Your child does not have to love you every minute. He’ll get over the disappointment of failure but he won’t get over the effects of being spoiled. So let them fail, let them fall, and let them fight for what they really value. If we treat our kids as fragile, they will surely grow up to be fragile adults. We must prepare them for the world that awaits them. Our world needs resilient adults not fragile ones.

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What we know, thanks to Private Chelsea (Bradley) Manning

November 29, 2013 | By | Reply More

At The Nation, Greg Mitchell has compiled a long list of things that we know, thanks to the efforts of Bradley Manning, nka Chelsea Manning. It’s a long and important list for which Manning sacrificed many years of liberty and suffered torture at the hands of the United States government. As someone who hates being lied to, I am thankful for the efforts of Manning. Here is a small excerpt from the list:

• Yemeni president lied to his own people, claiming his military carried out air strikes on militants actually done by the US. All part of giving US full rein in country against terrorists.

• Details on Vatican hiding big sex abuse cases in Ireland.

• US tried to get Spain to curb its probes of Gitmo torture and rendition.

• Egyptian torturers trained by FBI—although allegedly to teach the human rights issues.

• State Dept. memo: US-backed 2009 coup in Honduras was “illegal and unconstitutional.”

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Pope Francis takes aim at unbridled capitalism

November 29, 2013 | By | Reply More

The Washington Post reports on the Pope’s recent writing on economic policy:

In the first lengthy writing of his papacy — also known as an “apostolic exhortation” — Francis says such economic theories naively rely on the goodness of those in charge and create a “tyranny” of the markets.
“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” the pope wrote. “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”

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The false belief in multi-tasking and the price we pay for believing in it

November 29, 2013 | By | Reply More

At New Yorker, “HOW TODAY’S COMPUTERS WEAKEN OUR BRAIN” makes some good points. First of all, humans, though they claim to be good at multi-tasking, are terrible at it.

[Humans are] not very good at achieving extreme states of concentration through sustained attention. It takes great training and effort to maintain attention on one object—in what Buddhists call concentration meditation—because the brain is highly susceptible to both voluntary and involuntary demands on its attention. Second, the brain is not good at conscious multitasking, or trying to pay active attention to more than one thing at once.

I am living proof of this struggle to focus.  When I am writing anything serious, I cloister myself in a room with phone off, door closed, no music.  That’s how it must be if I want to write something I’ll be proud of.   I can write in bad environments, but the product is often merely passable, not something excellent.

The article then makes a strong argument that modern computers mostly exacerbate this problem we have with focusing:

[T]oday’s computers feature programming and writing tools more powerful than anything available in the twentieth century. But, in a different way, each of these tasks would be much harder: on a modern machine, each man would face a more challenging battle with distraction. Kafka might start writing his book and then, like most lawyers, realize he’d better check e-mail; so much for “Das Urteil.” Kerouac might get caught in his Twitter feed, or start blogging about his road trip. Wozniak might have corrected an erroneous Wikipedia entry in the midst of working on Breakout, and wrecked the collaboration that later became Apple.

Kafka, Kerouac, and Wozniak had one advantage over us: they worked on machines that did not readily do more than one thing at a time, easily yielding to our conflicting desires. And, while distraction was surely available—say, by reading the newspaper, or chatting with friends—there was a crucial difference. Today’s machines don’t just allow distraction; they promote it. The Web calls us constantly, like a carnival barker, and the machines, instead of keeping us on task, make it easy to get drawn in—and even add their own distractions to the mix. In short: we have built a generation of “distraction machines” that make great feats of concentrated effort harder instead of easier.

It’s time to create more tools that help us with what our brains are bad at, such as staying on task. They should help us achieve states of extreme concentration and focus, not aid in distraction. We need a new generation of technologies that function more like Kerouac’s scroll or Kafka’s typewriter.

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