Category Archives: catalytic projection

everything I know I learned

You’ve might’ve read Robert Fulghum‘s great mini-essay entitled ‘Everything I know I learned in Kindergarten‘. It’s cute. Full of stuff I wish was true – or, that at least was the way we conducted business and/or employment and/or the way we treat each other in work as adults. What Robert neglected to mention was that order in the kindergarten was maintained by an all seeing, all wise adult teacher who’d ensure everyone played fair and did as they were supposed to at the right time, and provided the milk and cookies. Or so I believe, I didn’t go to kindergarten.

I did, however, have the pleasure yesterday of watching a young man teacher (sorry, I didn’t have my camera to get a photo of this incredibly rare sight, but I swear this is true – there was another witness) it was a young man school teacher, yes, in Wellington, and yes, with a class of primary aged kids – I know – amazingly rare – anyway, this guy cruises up with his class, explains they were going to have lunch in the park, and there were other people here and we’re going to treat this place and these people with respect, and please, sit down and enjoy your lunch. I know, I didn’t have a camera. Guess what. The kids sat down, with their teacher, and everyone ate their lunches. Not much got fed to the gulls and pigeons, so I take that to mean they all enjoyed their lunches.

And then the teacher got up and said, ‘Everyone wait here, I’ll be right back, and I can see you from where I’m going.’ I’m glued in by this stage…

The teacher went a few metres away, grabbed out one of the public bins, and brought it back for the kids to dump their trash. At this point I had to leave because I knew you wouldn’t believe me anyway. I was so completely and utterly stunned – and on so many layers. A young, male teacher – probably not more that five years out of training. In control of a class of primary age kids. In public. Everyone seemed to be having a polite, pleasant, respectful, positive learning experience, on a beautiful day, near the waterfront, in perhaps the most wonderful day of the year, in this astoundingly fabulous capital. My faith, so cracked and smeared by how kiwis seem to be treating each other these days, was shockingly restored. I felt shattered that somehow the stuff that was once normal in my childhood world seemed so foreign and exotic. I really didn’t know how to respond. I was (I still am) completely inspired. My heart sung, to be honest, that this looked like the first excellent teacher that I’d seen in a damn long time. I wonder if he’d had superb training at uni (I’m sorry, that’s totally unimaginable) or perhaps he had parents with a special gift. No matter what, I hope that young man stays in teaching forever without become a jaded, stressed-out, cynical 30-something. I hope the kids go on to become Robert Fulghums. I hope their parents thank their lucky stars that somehow fate sent them the best teacher I’ve seen in decades, and that they do everything they can to support him. Whoever the mystery teacher is (you and your class had lunch in the park on the bridge over Capital E, by the Fowler Centre) I wish you all the success from the bottom of my heart, and I hope above all hopes there’s 1,000 more just like you working in classrooms and showing such wonderful leadership across New Zealand. We need as much of this as we can get.

Everyone has something to learn, everyone has something to teach

Way, way back in the 1970s – yep, I had flared trousers and pet dinosaur – I was interested in what we called ‘learning exchanges’. The concept is simple enough. I know how to put in a fish pond and water garden, you know how to write ruby on rails, we get together and swap/share the information. Money may, or may not, change hands. Generally not – the concept was ‘exchange’. Barter.

The weak link in the chain (especially in the 70s) was how to let people know what was available to learn, and what could they offer to teach. The School of Everything has attempted to address this using a Drupal implementation. It’s sort of a cross between a crappy poster in the supermarket for piano lessons and the labour exchange.

School of Everything is a site where teachers can advertise, and everyone can browse for someone to teach what they’re looking for.

It’s free to use, whether you’re teaching, learning or both. To contact teachers or advertise your own teaching, all you have to do is register.

Limitations: UK only (at the moment), teaching is not for free. Not entirely limiting however, and it’s great to see a web-2 variation/inspiration on an old idea.

from exploratory nibbles to big bites…

Image from http://spirithousesafari.blogspot.comI did manage to swim to shore long enough to be convinced that the local bug vendor had some pretty tasty goods and imbibed on some pretty dang yummy fried silkworms!
Ben Livingston

We just got back from a cultural exchange in Austin, Texas. A rich panoply of delights were explored, including the company of neon artist, Ben Livingston, and his delightful wife, Patti. We tripped over them in a tour of the mean streets of the Austin arts quarter, and well, one thing lead to another, and we somehow managed to convince Ben that writing about his experiences and adventures as he travels through Asia in pursuit of photographs and stories of spirit houses would be a good thing. And good thing it is – thanks, Ben, for sharing your experiences – and for not sharing the bugs.

WordCamp Melbourne

The pain, the pain… it doesn’t have to be an exceptionally tempting offer to encourage me to jump the ditch over to Melbourne, Australia. Sadly, I’m heading in the other direction on the weekend of 17 November, or I’d be front and centre for WordCamp Melbourne – an initiative by arch blog supremo, James Farmer, ably assisted by big name blog gurus – and I don’t mean they just write stuff, I mean they know how to make blogs sit up and their readers beg for more. Congrats James and collabs, hopefully I’ll make the next one.

tiddle me

I was talking about my new online Japanese haiku tiddlywiki with one of my workmates. He was saying how he’d like a tiddlywiki to create manuals etc, but the whole online hosting drama was just a pain when you’re not a geeky – after all, there’s a lot of energy required to create the content, and then working out the grit of getting a web site running – erk…

Well, fear not, would be/wannabe tiddlywiki owners, help is at hand. The illustrious team of Simon Baird and Daniel Baird have created a spot where you can have your tiddlywiki hosted. Online. Free. Ahhh – nice. They call it, well, tiddlyspot. Thanks, guys. And thanks also for the nice write up.

I’m not 100% sure if tiddlywiki is a wiki in the model of wikipedia – I’m uncertain about its ability to scale to that extent. I’m inclined to think Jeremy and his team have come up with an entirely new form – looks similar – but different. But I am extremely sure about the way my laptop is becoming entirely infested with tiddlywiki managed information – I’m managing a lot more information – knowledge, if you will; a lot better. I’m taking more and more of the information I’ve stored on paper, and weaving it into my tiddlywiki – an orderly world is a productive world.

Wreck on the south coast

Apparently Wellingtonians have been saved from an awful fate as the National Aquarium plans have been sunk, thanks to the Environment Court. Disappointing. I hope that the guy who trotted out the dead seahorses as evidence of cultural significance is satisfied – they seem to have done their job.

I don’t understand how a project of this scale is able to be sunk given that:

The proposal had been backed by the Conservation Department, two prominent local iwi bodies, and two marine education specialists.

I’d like to think it wasn’t small mindedness, or some petty attempt to NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) the project and that, ‘It’d be ok as long as it was on some other section of coast…’

I’ve kept aquaria for many years, including marine aquaria. I’ve been to public aquaria in places like London, Townsville, Melbourne, and Sydney, and of course, Kelly Tarlton’s in Auckland and Marineland in Napier. They seem to be able to provide a happy balance education, entertainment, and employment; and there’s sure room for more of all of that here in Wellington. Also, given that the essential nature of caring for the inhabitants of an aquarium is entirely about ecosystems, balance, and responsible management; the subsequent environmental impact from the actual running of an aquarium would be given continual consideration.

Ok, so the council liked it, DOC liked it, two iwi liked it, educationalists liked it, a chunk of Wellingtonians liked it, and damn it, even the environment commissioners were not totally opposed to all aspects of it. And yet it sinks. I can only assume the voices who complained so bitterly have their reasons. Could it be…?

simple solutions are best

I’ve been away for the last couple of days sorting out some of my past lives. It’s alternatively hilarious and tragic, but almost always enlightening. Often the discoveries about me, myself, and I come thundering in and give me a whomp and I’m amazed at how this stuff happened around me and I didn’t notice, didn’t know, didn’t catch on, and/or didn’t care.

The most recent learning was to discover that when I was a child I lived with my parents and siblings in a tiny village – today a slightly fashionable widening in the road, then it was a little wider, but a lot less fashionable. There was also a magazine – I’m guessing tabloid (later: actually broadsheet – 17 x 22 inches – about twice the size of tabloid) in size – that had a dusky pink cover – the Auckland Weekly News.

According to my sister, there was a family who lived in this little town, and they never traveled in their car without a supply of Auckland Weeklys. Apparently, they would tear out pages from the magazine, and throw them out the car window as they drove along in order to frighten the elephants away.

I didn’t see any elephants driving up or back. Damn effective I’d say. I believe the Auckland Weekly News ceased publication in 1963.

stories make the difference

My workmates (and I) have a regular daily ritual involving answering the 10 trivia questions in the DominionPost. The DomPost? It’s a newspaper. If you didn’t know that you’re in those slightly scary foreign parts…

One of the questions required, as an answer, the Maori word: mauri. It’s a word that can be translated as – the life principle, emotion, spirit – maybe the essential essence – the vibe.

I was a bit confused because I thought the word was: wairua. It’s a word that can be translated as the spirit, or as having a spiritual quality.

I talked to my Maori colleagues about what they thought was the difference – or not – between the words. I knew that most everything has mauri, but what’s the story about the wairua? Can that only be applied to animate objects? I can really feel the energy – the mauri – from a waterfall, but does that also bear wairua?

My colleagues weren’t 100% sure what the difference is between mauri and wairua. In my mind – and let’s face it, my Maori language knowledge is iti at best. I think that mauri – the vibe – can be in any object or item, alive, animate, or not. But I don’t think that necessarily makes it spiritual. A superb knife can have a vibe, but it’s a long way from being spiritual. I think the difference is in the story.

The story. A bible isn’t spiritual unless you can read it. It’s a book, at best. If you don’t know what a book is, it’s not even a book. It’s the story that makes – confers – the wairua. An alley cat definitely has mauri, I think it’d only have wairua if the cat somehow has a story.

So, what’s your story?

kiwi steampunk

It’s unclear what make New Zealand such fertile soil for growing steampunk. Perhaps it is a relic of our colonial past made new in a post modern way. It’s certainly difficult to travel any distance in New Zealand without seeing some evidence – some relic – from the from the Victorian times. Within 200 metres of where I’m writing there is a plaque noting the New Zealand contingent to the Boer War, and of course, houses from the Victorian and Georgian times. Our house is built on part of what was the Donald Tea Gardens. I’ve written more information about the Tea Garden.

It’s a huge relief to see the craftsmen and women at Weta have fired a shot on behalf of civilisation by becoming the authorised manufacturers of Dr. Grordborts Infallible Aether Oscillators. Huzzah!

They are a

…are a line of immensely dangerous yet simple to operate wave oscillation weapons. Meticulously built to the exacting standards and plans of Dr. Grordbort, these weapons, bespangled in fine detail and with various (most likely quite dangerous) moving parts are the perfect addition to a gentleman’s study or a deterring centerpiece for a lady’s powder room or chiffonier.

More steampunk at Brass Goggles, and the Steampunk Workshop, and kiwi steampunk composers/musicians, fiffdimension.

stuck in the boondocks?

Ok. So you’re stuck in the boondocks and yet, weirdly, you have a call, if not a burn to learn stuff. Oh, how I know the feeling. And you and I both know that Tim Berners-Lee and Noam Chomsky are not going to do a double act down the pub on Friday night. So what do you do? You’ve burned the local library out (both books), bought a beer for the one bright light in boondockville, and now… and now?

Well, good news. Now you can check out lectures by and interviews with some of the world’s leading lights, not at the local pub, to be sure, but right here at Oh yeah, Chomsky’s going to be there, as will Tim (that’d be Sir Timothy) Berners-Lee.

When you find a spark of the burn to learn, even in the boondocks, the best thing anyone can do is pour on petrol and back up apiece.