CoolThings

Of all chants great and small, none so stirs the heart as the haka

April 30, 2011

There’s a line in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies as he describes the boys amid a gloom-gathered rain storm intone a circle dance, just before Simon stumbles down from the mountaintop and into the maw of the beast: “There was the throb and stamp of a single organism.”

In my home town of Portland, the newly minted Major Soccer League Portland Timbers have a home field advantage called the Timbers Army, who chant for the whole game. In their first two home matches, the Timbers scored seven goals.

Years ago, while in New Zealand for the International System Dynamics Conference, Scott Guthrie and I stayed at a B & B in Wellington.  On the last night, the All Blacks took on the Wallabies from the west island (AKA, Australia) in a home match in Auckland.  Before the match, the All Blacks, the fans in the stands, and our hosts all stood for the chant.

Here, then, is the chant of chants, the All-Blacks with the haka.  Ka tū te ihiihi!*

* We shall stand fearless!

Swarms can teach us a lot about living systems

February 6, 2011

Swarms are a staggering mystery to me.  Maybe also to you.  At once fascinating and befuddling, swarms of bees, ants, antelope, birds, fish, humans, viruses tell us something universal about life.  I recollect Annie Dillard‘s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and her chapter on “Fecundity.”  Swarms are like that – a pulsing, mind-boggling display of nature’s capacity to indulge in life.  In a systems view of things, we know that while the swarm announces an organism’s success, it also announces, within the food chain, that lunch is served:  in a predator-prey relationship, it’s important that swarms exist.

I have no doubt that any swarm captivates us, but this one in particular is absolutely riveting.  Listen to the narrative as the journalist tells us about how it forms and dissipates. Here it is, then, the starlings at Ot Moor.

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Play Dynamic Systems, a free online game on Kongregate

January 8, 2011

Dynamics simulations that allow one to learn some physics and logic

I am not the guy who plays computer games, but I must admit that this was a pretty fun exercise for this liberal arts guy.  As they describe it, the player must maneuver a series of levers, bars, rollers, rebound pads, bolts and other things to drop a marble into a bucket.  I found it increasingly difficult and wondrously engaging.

Take this link http://www.kongregate.com/games/LorenzGames/dynamic-systems?acomplete=dynam, register, and start playing.

Kongregate looks like a blast of site for the deeper gamers who might wander over this site.

If you can stand the mounting tension in your wrist as you finely nudge tools with the mouse, then you’ll love this game!

You can go back to my home page and read my latest blog entry.

If the World were a Village of 100 People

January 15, 2011

In the last week, I have read Donella Meadows’ Thinking in Systems three times – picking through at various chapters to read about “Why Systems Surprise Us” or how to “Liv[e] in a World of Systems.”  Her narrative style is so compelling and convincing that I have spent hours thinking and rethinking policy at our school:  what is the difference between a stated goal (the set point) of our school and its actual behavior over time? Where in our little school is “rule beating” going on? where have we falsely drawn boundaries that were either too broad or too narrow?

Just this morning, I was sifting through some ideas when I lit upon this little gem of a video:

Click and take it in.

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Steve Spangler – How to be an Amazing Teacher « Science for All

January 5, 2011

Steve Spangler

Just for some fun . . . but also to ponder deeply, take in this video of a crazy science teacher.  It’s not the nutty things he does, but his devotion to wonder. This calls to mind the words of Anacharsis:  Play so that you may be serious.

Enjoy!

Steve Spangler – How to be an Amazing Teacher « Science for All.

Let’s talk about models, machines, and metaphors

December 26, 2010

The lever has been much on my mind – both as real thing and metaphor.

Just the other day, I mentioned in the K-12 Systems Education List Serve that we educators have to find the right fulcrum on which to lean to lift political and educational will . . . yada, yada, yada.  Of course, there’s a reason I don’t teach physics.  As you can tell, it’s NOT the fulcrum, but the bar that one leans on.

A well-placed fulcrum, a bar ‘neath the resistance, and sufficient force exerted can lift the load.  It’s a helluva machine.

As a metaphor, it doesn’t quite get the respect it deserves because, well, all these officious writers (like myself) foolishly say the wrong thing.

So, let me revisit this metaphor, with school reform as its dissimilar pair.  First, let’s assume that we recognize the enormous load on the system that keeps it in stasis – traditional model of inculcation; second, let assume that, collectively, we can exert equally enormous effort against that resistance.  Now, what remains are the troubles . . . the bar and fulcrum are a problem here.  I’m pretty sure we don’t know where to place either one of these:  new texts with the publishers; wave of change within schools of education; single teacher in a school; single department across a district; the local media; a national study that decries our poor academics.  We’ve tried them all, and none of them work.

Perhaps, again, it’s the wrong machine. The wrong metaphor.

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2 comments on “CoolThings

  1. Politicians need to change their metaphors from war and violence to using musical metaphors.
    Tim you need to go to washington and teach them how.

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