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My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

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EdTech Update





Lessons learned from bicycling revisited

Another lovely weekend in Minnesota and the LWW and I spent a fair chunk of it on our bicycles, riding to Red Wing from Cannon Falls (MN) and back. I thought it time to up-date the "Lessons Learned from Bicycling," a post almost exactly three years ago:

  1. It's usually uphill and against the wind. (Murphy's Law of Bicycling)
  2. Most big hills that look impossible are usually a series of small hills that are possible.
  3. I've never met a hill I couldn't walk up.
  4. It's better to shift to a lower gear than to stop altogether.
  5. Sometimes it's nice to be able to have equipment to blame things on.
  6. You really can't make your own weather.
  7. Coasting feels good, but you don't get much exercise doing it.
  8. A beer at the end of a long day of riding tastes better than a beer when just sitting around (or at breakfast, I'm guessing).
  9. Don't drink at lunch time and expect to enjoy the afternoon.
  10. Bike helmets are a sure sign that natural selection is still a force of nature.
  11. The five minutes putting air in your tires at the beginning of the day is time well spent.
  12. There will always be riders who are faster and slower.
  13. Watching as old people zip by you should be encouraging, not discouraging.
  14. Too often we quit because our spirit fails, not our legs or lungs.
  15. Spouses who dress alike should not expect the rest of us to consider them normal human beings.
  16. Too much padding between you and a bike seat is impossible.
  17. Before you wear Spandex in public look at your backside in the mirror. Please.
  18. The happiest people are the ones who consider life a ride, not a race.
  19. The more expensive the gear, the higher the expectations.
  20. The 500 calories burnt exercising do not compensate for the 2000 calories from beer drunk celebrating your accomplishment.
  21. Everyone can look buxom on a bicycle - guys included.
  22. You always feel the headwind, but rarely the tailwind.
  23. Most forms of travel involve some degree of discomfort. But keep moving anyway.
  24. Cows always have the right of way.

And your observations, fellow bicyclists?

Photo from Ireland 2006 bike trip with University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point.

Three Cups of Tolerance

Schools should teach children to think, not to believe. My Biases

Last week I finished reading Relin and Mortenson's (rightly) popular book Three Cups of Tea. Biography, adventure story and political tract about a single individual's efforts to build schools in poverty-strickened northern Pakistan, this compelling tale is absorbing and important. Check it, and the children's books base on it, out.

Given the popularity of the title I had not planned to write a blog post about it, but then I read Paul Krugman's recent NYT column, The Big Hate. Krugman suggests that the right-wing media is feeding the violent, fringe elements in our own country, and asks:

What will the consequences be? Nobody knows, of course, although the analysts at Homeland Security fretted that things may turn out even worse than in the 1990s — that thanks, in part, to the election of an African-American president, “the threat posed by lone wolves and small terrorist cells is more pronounced than in past years.”

And that’s a threat to take seriously. Yes, the worst terrorist attack in our history was perpetrated by a foreign conspiracy. But the second worst, the Oklahoma City bombing, was perpetrated by an all-American lunatic. Politicians and media organizations wind up such people at their, and our, peril.

Whether coming from the left or right, the ideological demagogues are pretty damn scary. Pakistan has the Wahabi madrassa schools that inculcate mindless intolerance in students; we get Fox News and Air America that attempt to engender intolerant rage. Same, same. Whether media or mullah, the philosophy is requiring people to believe, not to think.

I thought it interesting that Mortenson changed the subtitle of his book from the hardback to the paperback editions, from "One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations...One School at a Time" to "One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time." After reading how the fundamentalist schools in central Asia work as recruiting tools for the Taliban and other Islamic extremist groups, I think the first subtitle is more accurate.

Both the book and the column ought to make all of us think about the primary purpose of education in our own countries. Are about simply about the 3 Rs - Rote, Restrain, Regurgitation - or about giving kids access to a multiplicity of voices and views and then allowing them to form their own conclusions, opinions and values?

How's that one right answer thing working out for us?


Hardass view of reading

Boy, talk about being unsympathetic (but probably correct.) Penelope Trunk writes:

...If I tell people I’m a blogger, they say, “I don’t have time to read blogs.”

Here’s what I am going to start saying to those people: Only losers say they don’t have time to read blogs. Because everyone has the same 24 hours in the day. So it’s not that you somehow are more busy than everyone else – no one is actually too busy for anything – the issue is that reading blogs is not high enough on your priority list to read them.

So the real response, when I say, “I’m a blogger,” should be “I stay away from blogs so I can shield myself from alternative opinions to mainstream media.” ...

and she offers (and explicates) three ways to "a grip on your reading pile":

  • Stop talking about information overload. That term is for weaklings.
  • Stop talking about good and bad media. Just because you don’t read it doesn’t make it bad.
  • Stop talking about time like you need to save it. You just need to use it better.

I am not sure anything Penelope wrote will make me a better or more proficient reader, but it was fun to read her comments.

And sheepishly I have to admit that I got the link from a Tweet...


Oh, a recent telephone conversation:

Local Barnes & Noble: I'm sorry we don't have that book in stock, but we could order it for you and have it for you in about a week.

Me: Why don't you order it from Amazon and get it here in two days?

Local Barnes & Noble: We can't do that here, but I suppose you could yourself.