Monthly Archives: December 2007

This Country Desperately Needs a Real Leader Now

I just thought of the rhetorics for the preemptive war today. Those rhetorics sound plausible to many people. The country really needs a true leader now, who can perform well under great pressure and lead American people out of the current dilemma and headless situation. Only a real leader can go beyond those rhetorics for the preemptive war, and point people to the right efforts and the right sacrifice for world peace.

America needs a true leader now more than any time. The world peace needs America to have a true leader now more than any time.

None of the candidates are real leaders except Mike Gravel. Don’t expect Obama or Clinton to bring any real change to the current situation. They haven’t, and they won’t.

If Al Gore really believes he is a true leader different from other democrats, he should come forward to run for president (doesn’t have to be democratic party. Better independent), unless he thinks he is no different than other candidates. It is not time for him to hide now. He shouldn’t care about what his party peers will say if he choose to run. He shouldn’t care about losing either. Hope he doesn’t make another mistake if he still believes in politics. Maybe he should run as Gravel’s vice president? ūüôā

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Some Ways to Support Mike Gravel

As a normal individual, how do you support a candidate you like? Here are some ways I thought of. Feel free to add more.

  • If you blog, write about this candidate;
  • If you do arts, make arts about this candidate, for example, make videos on youtube, or write songs (I just noticed that Gravel’s campaign videos are a lot more creative and fun than other candidates’.¬† Check them out from my channel: http://youtube.com/beyondliu It seems that more and more people start paying attention to him now.);
  • Put your support of this candidate in your email signature, and holidays such as Christmas are a good chance to send out greeting emails and let your friends know your support of this candidate;
  • Digg articles about this candidate to digg.com, or reddit.com;

Note: this will be kept updated as new ideas come up.

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Natural Learning in Compulsory Schools

Note: below is a response to a friend who asked how to apply Space and Learning to conventional schools.

It is a very good question. It is also a very difficult question. I don’t have a definite answer. Here are some of my thinking of how we can approach such an issue.

John Taylor Gatto, who has been teaching in the public schools for around 30 years and awarded Best Teacher of New York City and Best Teacher of New York State, finally had to quit teaching
in public school. He said then that he couldn’t continue hurting children anymore (http://johntaylorgatto.com/aboutus/john.htm). Throughout Mr.Gatto’s career, he has been very active designing various projects to soften the compulsory schooling’s damage to the children, and help children still being able to learn somehow. But even he had to finally quit. So we have to be very aware of the great difficulty of doing this in compulsory schools.

Secondly, I think we need to really understand what is learning and what is teaching. Here I will try to give a greatly simplified version of what I think is learning and teaching since this should be another topic by itself. Learning is to adapt to and expand space in the process of playing. Teaching is to align yourself with the students’ space, get students exposed to the new space, open up the space up a little for them, so they can explore the space by themselves. (I have very rich learning experiences. But my teaching experience is very limited.) I think an example of a great teacher is Socrates, who was very good at asking students questions (In the tradition of Zen, Koan would be those kinds of questions.). I feel his asking questions is to help the students opening up the space a little bit. My posts on my blog hopefully can provide more details on my thinking on learning and teaching. I think understanding learning and playing can help us greatly understand ourselves, and thus a very good Buddhism practice.

If we clearly understand what is learning and teaching, we then can see what are really wrong with compulsory schooling, and thus how we can work with it to counteract those negative effects it has on children’s learning. For example, as you mentioned, schools are test-oriented. How can the teachers put less emphasis on the testing score, especially its humiliating effects on children who are simply just not ready for the subject yet? Also schools occupy too much of children’s time. Children really need a lot of time of their own to build up their space. If their lives are occupied by following someone else’s orders or schedules set up by someone else, they gradually lose the sense of building their own space. So how can we work hard to get children more free time of their own? Schools isolate children from real life for a really long time. How can we have them more exposed to real life experiences? There are a lot of things we have to think about. Mr. Gatto had done quite a lot of projects in his teaching career trying to give children real education. I think we can borrow some experience from him. I remember his book Dumbing us Down tells a little about what kind of projects he had for his children when he was fighting the school within the system.

From my own experience in my middle school, I benefited a lot from some free thinking teachers who are really very practical, independent and innovative, experimenting with various ways of teaching the subject. It was really a good learning experience to see the teacher very passionate about the subject, very creative in designing various ways of teaching the subject, very honest in getting the feedback and continuously improve the teaching. And we students love this kind of teachers! I mean ALL students love this kind of teachers!

I am developing Natural Learning as a set of thoughts and practices that can be applied to various environment in different scopes. Hopefully we can work together to see how Natural Learning can be applied to schools like yours.

It can be very difficult work since compulsory schools are designed so that only a very small percentage of people can survive it.

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the Python Principle is the Principle of Playing

The Python Principle is a principle of playing. Python makes it easy to play with programming.

Recently when I was refactoring my software project, I realized I want to make it easy to play, the same as Python did. So I am thinking about providing a web based python interactive console (possibly with good features similar to ipython console) so other members of the project including non-programmers can play with the code, supplemented with a very concise tutorial as python tutorial provided, some examples, good API reference, and so on, similar to python itself. By thinking this way, it helps me refactoring the code a lot and easily see how I should change the code to make it easy to play with. I guess eventually if the code is easy to play with then it must be very KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid), readable, well tested, robust and functionally complete.

So I then have a sudden realization about why Python is designed so well. I guess in the design and implementation of Python, Guido (the author of Python), probably followed the principle of playing, treating being able to play with Python as the top priority (for example, it was explicitly stated by Guido Python is made easy to learn and program with — as a programming language for everyone). After meeting that top priority, other concerns such as performance are then considered.

Thus my thoughts went to my understanding of human society, I thought what this Principle of Play implies for the human society. When we are kids, we all like to play. Everything is new to us. We are curious about everything. Everything we see and touch is new to us, and easily accessible (we just need to open our eyes, walk around, and touch things). It is so easy to expand our space, and we definitely enjoy keeping learning of new things. So it is always fun. Nature is at our finger tip. So we can see that play and learning are intrinsically connected, just like in Python.

But as we grow older, it becomes harder and harder to expand our space and feel the space, to be exposed to new things. The space becomes more and more invisible and inaccessible to us (For example, it takes a lot of learning to explore human society, know and understand history and various cultures.). So this difficulty is natural and intrinsic.

Of course, in human history, people at the top of the hierarchy take advantage of this difficulty, and intentionally designed a system to make it harder for people to explore the space. So various approaches were developed to dump people down, such as compulsory schooling.

The significance of Internet and web is that they make the space more easily accessible. The information around the globe and through history can be at your finger tip. Exposed to this space (especially when it is beautifully structured), people want to learn and play again.

By applying the Python Principle to the human world, what we can do is to make the human world easy to play. To make it easy to play, we need to make things handy, easily accessible and visible so people can play with it (just like Python did). We need to build the hierarchy of space so people can learn layer by layer.

The primary projects of my life are: 1., natural learning: how people can learn naturally in real life; 2., open project: how independent artists/professionals can take control of their work/arts/creativity and build their business by cooperating with their peer professionals and professionals in other professions (This is essentially about Playing). To do these two well, on either a smaller scale (such as within an organization) or a larger scale (such as the whole society) we need to apply the Python Principle, by which I mean that by making things easily available and thus easy for people to expand their space. This is essentially social programming, e.g. doing programming not just with computer, but with the whole human society (online and offline) (in which software running on computer and Internet is inextricable part of it).

Note: below are some extras if you are interested in reading more

The experience of the Python programming language helps us gain the concrete experience of the best practices of how to program to make it easy to play with.

The open source movement these years also developed a lot of similar best practices, which I think can be summarized as making things easy to play with. Open source, by making the source code available, is to make it transparent and thus people (at least good programmers) can play with it. The appearance of many mash up webapps in the recent years means more and more people can play with programming now.

To dissect a little bit of the Python Principle, what makes Python easy to play with:

  • transparent (visible instead of invisible/hidden) (Java is a hidden box. But in Python, you are playing inside the box);
  • component, every component is made easy to play with
  • easy to try, ground up and layered;
  • easily accessible (at your finger tip);
  • overall, fun and you can play with.

Above is just a very rough attempt trying to understand the Python Principle.

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Space and Math

Human activities are primarily activities within space. Mathematic, or logics are only one dimension of space abstracted out (Not sure how to put this into language).
So by forcing people to study math when they are not ready is to screw up people’s sense of space. I guess some people figured this out and applied it in the compulsory schooling. After people have a very good sense of space, learning math is easy, especially when they have a good sense of collective way of learning in the social space (for example, cultural learning). Math, after all, is based on human’s feel about space. Business and liberal arts are very much about space.

That is why I think people generally should learn liberal arts and business first. So even my art of life is software, I still feel my top priority is to learn liberal arts and business first, and have a good sense of all the attributes of space. I always feel having that good sense of space will help tremendously when I come to computer programming. It will speed up the learning dramatically, at least 1000 times.

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Driver Licence for Illegal Immigrants in NY State

This has pasted for a few weeks. This is a news coverage at that time.

The¬†host critisized equalizing illegal immigrants to the black people in the segragation time. ¬†But remember at that time, segragation is legal. And a centrury before that, slavery is legal. So I guess the host’s¬†stand is more based moral ground instead of legal ground. If so,¬†below is my argument based on moral ground, which I posted on a forum.¬†

“If you agree that people moving around states in US is an essential elements of freedom, why moving around different countries not an essential element of freedom? Can you tell me why you think people should be able to move freely around states? I can tell you why I think so. To me, each individual has the right to develop his full potential and pursue his happiness as long as he doesn’t hurt other people. Because there are different opportunities in different places, if we say everyone is born equal, then everyone should be guaranteed equal chances to explore opportunities in different places. To explain further, a person’s development towards a full human being shouldn’t be limited by his birthplace. With this understanding, I think being able to move freely to explore various opportunities is essentially an individual freedom. In communists countries, people are not allowed to move around freely, and we think it is a serious violation of individual freedom. In this regard, US is always a good example we can use to educate people there. In this regard, I think not allowing individuals to move freely around different countries is also a serious violation of individual freedom. And we all know the inequality of opportunities among different countries is much much larger than that among different states within US. Not to mention that US directly contributed poverty in many other countries. ”

And I had a post related to this earlier.

https://freestone.wordpress.com/2006/11/06/on-illegal-immigrants/ 

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Major Forces of Human Society in the History and Our Time

Note: below is what I said during a Buddhism discussion about Buddhism Economy. Here I just revise a little and put it here.

The way I look at human history is somehow different. I view human history as a history of how human beings organize together, how organizations/institutions arises under various forces in the historical context. So it is very interesting to see how the core values of individual human beings get reflected collectively in the organization/institutions under various forces at a certain historical time.

Now in the west, there are a lot of reflection on capitalism. Most of them, especially views from progressive/grassroots communities, are quite harsh criticism of capitalism. But to really understand capitalism, it is better to go back to human history before capitalism to better understand it.

When we look at capitalism, we need to compare it to what was before it, the feudalism. In the feudal society, it is ruled by military power, by bloodline. That is how its hierarchy is maintained. It is maintained by raw forces. That is the dominant fore that was in play in the feudal society.

With new technology, as the productivity improves, the capital become a more and more important force, until it can fight against the raw force. In the rising of capitalists, they naturally demand democracy and protection of private property, and so on. But some of them will get increasingly attached to the wealth and greediness, and thus want to use the system to maintain themselves on the top. More importantly, they feel they need to maintain the hierarchy for the purpose of mass production. Although knowledge is power in the time of capitalism, capital still plays a dominant role and professionals are dictated by the capitalists.

In our time, capital plays less and less important role, and real professionals become more and more important and able to accomplish themselves. Capital more serves the purpose of professionals, instead of dictating them. We can see this in engineering, music industry and journalism.

So trying to do your professional very well is the same as saying playing the art of your life. With this, it ties in with Buddhism. How can we have more people to have a chance to practice Buddhism or experience what Buddha experienced through their real life? They have to play with their arts of life. So from Buddhism’s perspective, to build a better society is to build a society in which everyone can pursue what s/he likes to do.

Above is a very simplified version to just give you an idea. The complete story is of course very complicated and tangled, like a huge novel. A lot of evidences and theories can be added to elaborate more. I think I might put them into other posts in the future. Basically the key is to look at various forces at play collectively in the human world. My basic conclusion is: given more choices to try and develop, collectively the core values of human beings can less be suppressed by institutional forces imposed top down, and thus the core values can be more able to be expressed collectively. And thus human society, as an organic whole, has more life and be richer and more beautiful.

(If your art is software programming, you can feel how the core values of a domain can be better reflected when you program with a better programming language (such as Python), how the core values can be less restricted by the artificial barriers set up by the programming language, and thus how life can emerge out of it and be more beautiful. I think in other arts it is the same. That is why everyone has to pursue an art of life in order to experience this and thus understand self.)

We have to let people play, and learn (e.g. expanding the space) naturally.

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