Monday, October 29, 2012

Fun Nostalgia

©Sophy Laughing, Adare Manor, Ireland

Having lived, worked, and gone to school in a number of countries, I often find myself dealing with transitions from one culture to another. For most people, the key element of this transition is adjustment - adjustment at the individual level. 

Adjustment, for most people, relates to homesickness; without which, there wouldn't be a need for adjustment to the host environment. Separated from the memories, loyalty, and the sense of attachment that arises in our lives, which often times define and shape a person's individuality, it is no surprise that when people leave home they experience a sense of loss...

However, learning new languages, eating new foods, and creating new memories restores our sense of "home" and within time, we adjust, move on, and find "our home away from home."

In this sense, nostalgia, for me, is a fun activity. It's about discovery; discovering what I likewhat I want to try again, and places I want to revisit (either in my mind, by reading and learning more about it, watching a film on it, or sifting through family photos). This for me is nostalgia: a second change to enjoy pleasant experiences, sensations, and moments. 

Nostalgia isn't just a thing of the past. Nostalgia can be like a hopeful daydream, like when you're planning a vacation or eagerly anticipating the litter of puppies your dog is about to bring into the world (our dog is about to have puppies!). In this respect, nostalgia is a mental break from our daily lives, from actions involving or work or interactions with other people (or ourselves, i.e., our mental dialogue of never-ending "To Do" tasks). 

Perhaps this is why nostalgic moments cause us to pause and reflect, to take stock of who we are based on what we know about ourselves and the world. It's about creating and stimulating within ourselves a sense of awareness of our personal history, a way to identify patterns in our lives and search for alternatives or those things we label as "necessities". It's about taking stock...

Today, I decided to take stock of a few of the moments that cause me to pause and reflect on the ever-evolving nature of personal identity... 

Dogsledding in Sweden
RIP Tryggve! 

Ice Follies, Sesame Street, 1979
With Grandma & Mom

Disneyland, 1984

Easter Egg Hunts

Horseback riding
Lake Tahoe

My kids Trick o Treating on Halloween

Jamaica (and yes, that is a fanny with it!) lol 

Sumo Wrestling Match, Tokyo, Japan

My first office in Mexico City
Yes, those are my drums!

Me and my little brother
Who happens to be much taller than me! lol

My son, bodysurfing in Mexico

A photo of me photographing my kids in Paris

Traveling through Switzerland

My niece and daughter trying to hug my son in Mexico

Boating with the kids on Lake Folsom

One of the kids' television appearances

Goofing off with the kids in Switzerland

Safari with my daughter

Hanging out with the kids in Mexico City

My daughter, last week, in front of the Hôtel de Ville, Paris

My son, last week, in front of the Hôtel de Ville, Paris

Homesickness is a fleeting emotion. Personal identity is shaped by our experiences: yesterday's, today's, and tomorrow's... 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Parenting Gifted Children

Parenting a child with extraordinary abilities or sensitivities can be a lonely experience. Despite the feelings of joy and laughter that come with raising a child and the pleasures we derive from seeing them do things that take our breath away, many parents still find themselves uneasy and perhaps apprehensive to think of their child as "needing" something beyond what they believe they can offer.

It's not about offering our kids everything, it's about offering them what is relevant for their individual growth, self-satisfaction, and happiness. When parents are uncertain of what's best for their kids, it's sometimes easier to push that job off onto teachers and systems, despite whether or not those systems are relevant or helpful for our children.

What is the highest possible good that can come from a western education? Is the goal for every child to become a professor, a lawyer, or medical physician?

What do you do when you have a child that does not want to go into the field of educating others, litigating disputes, or mending broken bones? What then? Do we label them as "special needs" or "maladjusted" just because their interests lie elsewhere?  What is it that's stopping us from allowing children to become uniquely qualified in an area of their own choosing?

In a world fraught with dangers, it's easy to panic, and for the kids' "own good," put them back into the box.

There are plenty of ways to survive in the world without knowing the details of every 17th century battle that our forefathers fought. It's not that we can't learn valuable lessons from these battles, but the question of whether or not this information is timely or relevant should be considered more important that simply memorizing arbitrary information for a test (information that will be forgotten within 72 hours).

We give kids the freedom to play games and then close them off from the world for the majority of their youth in poorly lit, poorly ventilated rooms forcing them to focus their attention on learning the details of cellular biology or arbitrary standards from a bygone era.

Historically, the majority of these intellectual pursuits were the activities of 19th century (adult) philosophers. They were not intended for the musings of children. Nor are they relevant for 21st century children. So, why do we still deem it relevant?

When our present educational model was developed few families could afford books. To compensate for a lack of resources, children attended public school in order to learn how to write their names and to learn about new discoveries and ways of thinking that were relevant to advancing the industrialized world. At this time in history, the public educational model was relevant.

Today, our world is already industrialized. What's needed is a living model that utilizes our present-day technological tools and advanced mindset in a way that allows for growth and change. We are modern day gatherers of knowledge, our key focus should be on determining the validity and relativity of the knowledge we encounter about ourselves and today's world.

Having one or two hours of access to the Internet at school to focus on ancient knowledge or antiquated learning techniques is not the same thing as utilizing advanced technological tools to aid us in making new discoveries or in exploring what we can create from the newest tools and programs available to us.

Historically, knowledge has been passed down from generation to generation. Educating the general public was about celebrating the latest discoveries, not punishing creativity. Somewhere along the way, we seem to have forgotten the purpose. Because of this, only the processes we learned have remained.

New discoveries could lead to the nourishment of our starving global citizens. Teaching compassion and understanding could eventually eliminate oppression and greed.  Who cares about the creation of ATP from ADP and how biological energy is used unless you're going into the medical sciences. This is not to say that biology is not a worthwhile endeavor, but the important discoveries in this field that are relevant to our health and future well-being is what will attract new generations, not the specifics of releasing energy when there's no context or prior desire to learn more.

What we need to do is let go of the old systems that seem to punish individuality. We need to be willing to listen and learn from children rather than assume they have nothing of value to contribute. The unicity of each person should be developed and guided, not defined and labeled.

I'm not suggesting anarchy or doing away with the systems that protect citizens, but let's admit it, many of the citizens who act out are acting out because their needs are not being met.

The real question is... Who of us is brave enough to guide a child in discovering the world for themselves?   I wouldn't ask anyone this question unless I had asked it first of myself.

Perhaps if we weren't in such a hurry for our children to "grow up" or so busy comparing them to one stereotypical Athenian citizen, we'd actually make way for Neo-Rome's youngest citizens to grow.

In a world with real problems and true dangers, it's easy to hold onto fear and grab on tightly to any predefined lifeline offered, despite whether or not it causes turmoil for the child and their family.

This is not to say that learning isn't of value. However, let's not confuse learning with the memorization and regurgitation of outdated, canned knowledge.

Guided self-discovery along with emotional intelligence coaching and an opportunity to express oneself does wonders for the development of more advanced thinking that arises when people feel enriched rather than suffocated.

Some kids are avid readers with a passion for learning, discovery, and adventure, but put them in a classroom and they like this...

While some children actually excel in a closed-network environment, it's usually for other reasons (pleasing parents or teachers, fear of punishment, fear of failure).

Despite the differences we have in the world, it's important to make a little more room for people to discover it on their own terms.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Minecraft Fallen Kingdom


The reason for this post is not simply to point out which aspects are not Minecraft (the entire video was made with Maya, ) but rather to show non-Minecraft trained individuals which elements of this video aren't realistic if you're creating this world in Minecraft. It also provides you with ideas on what 3-D graphics could be added to a basic Minecraft world for those wishing to create their own music videos or animated series using Minecraft as a backdrop. 

At present, we are working on a Minecraft animated series... and simply enjoy sharing thoughts about Minecraft with other Minecraft aficionados. We also do this to expand our vista toward new horizons, whether or not the blocks exist to create those horizons is another story... 


The video starts out with a 3-D animation of a Minecraft-built world. You immediately recognize the 3-D animation because there is a squirrel jumping and the edges of the characters are slightly rounded. When the main character (king) walks down the stairs, you can see that his legs, arms, torso, and head tilt and move (swaying back and forth) in a way that is not consistent with Minecraft graphics. 

Obviously, the world for this 3-D video was originally conceived of in Minecraft with a few creative liberties made in 3-D animation.

For example, at 0:36 you see a cart - carts don't yet exist in Minecraft - and at 0:53 there are wheels on the bottom of the traveling puppet show, like the carts, wheels don't yet exist as optional blocks.

If you look to the audience enjoying the puppet show, you'll notice they're wearing hats. Since there's no hats in Minecraft, you know that those were also generated with a 3-D animation program.

Again, at 1:16, if there were wheels, we'd have carts in Minecraft. Obviously, for the moment, we have neither.

At 1:26, a woman is shaking out her rug. You guessed it... there's no rugs, either. And while I'm at it, sorry, Gramps (1:28), but there's no rocking chair or pipes in Minecraft.

While the view atop the castle is an impressive one, I'm sorry to say that there's no moving flags in Minecraft. 

While it is possible to juggle in Minecraft (1:48), it would not look like it does in the video. It would probably resemble someone vomiting up blocks rather than juggling miniature ones.

At 3:26 when the covered bridgeway explodes, the flag gets dislodged and falls to the ground - sorry, folks, not in Minecraft - not yet, at least. (But there's always hope!)

In the end (4:10), the king is found sitting on the remains of a tower, overlooking a fallen kingdom...


I used to rule the world
Chunks would load when I gave the word
Now every night I go stow away
Hide from the mobs I used to slay

They once were terrified
Every time I looked into their eyes
Villagers would cheer my way
For a hero I was, that's what they'd say

One minute we had it all
Next our world began to fall
Away from all that it had once become
They all cried for my help, but I stood there numb

I gaze off into the boundless skyline
Noteblock choirs playing in the sunshine
Turn 'round pick up my sword and wield
The blade that once forced evil mobs to yield
And hope one day that this chaos and
Destruction turns for the better
Never a bow in hand
And that was when I ruled the land

It was the creepers and Skeletons
Blew down the doors and boxed us in
Arrows whizzing by like streaks of light
I tried all that I could to stay and fight

As the undead roamed the street
Families broken at my feet
Life itself suspended by a thread
Oh, why is it that I wasn't dead

I gaze off into the boundless skyline
Noteblock choirs playing in the sunshine
Turn 'round pick up my sword and wield
The blade that once forced evil mobs to yield
If this battle should leave me slain
I know that Herobrine calls my name
Better to take a stand
And that was when I ruled the land

Friday, October 12, 2012