Happy New Year!

I'm here in L.A. and it's not quite midnight yet but it's past 1AM in Austin so Happy New Year!

[I was going to publish something for Christmas but I guess the Japanese in me wasn't so excited about it. In Japan New Year's celebration is the most important and considering that my parents are Japanese and my wife is Japanese, it means a lot more for me than either Christmas or Thanksgiving -- in fact this Thanksgiving we spent all day moving from old, sold house to our new address which is a rental.]


European Women Becoming Muslims

"Why European women are turning to Islam" explains why many women, not just men, are attracted to Islam. Muriel Degauque, a Belgian convert who became a suicide bomber in Iraq, is the extreme end of the converted (a "Catholic" turned Muslim).

So, challenge for me is to raise our children to really understand Christianity without being lead astray. But I've written before, I'm waiting for their heart change...


Why gov is always worse than private efforts

I love the article at NYTimes "On Gulf Coast, Cleanup Differs Town to Town" where, in Mississippi, gov run cleanup is about 39% done while privately contracted cleanup is 57% done (in Louisiana, it was 45% gov vs 70% private). Private cos are charging $7.80 cubic yard while Army Corp is charging $17 to 19 for the same work. Our tax dollars "at work." Sigh.


Is your child a camwhore?

The article "Boy joins a sordid online world through his Webcam" starts off with:

The 13-year-old boy sat in his California home, eyes fixed on a computer screen. He had never run with the popular crowd and long ago had turned to the Internet for the friends he craved. But on this day, Justin Berry's fascination with cyberspace would change his life.

And after reading it all, it kind of hits close to home since my oldest son will soon turn 13! Both our sons have their own computers. Fortunately, none of them have internet access for now.

These days anyone (not just teenagers) can become a camwhore. I'm guessing that there is more appeal for teenagers than for older adults (partly the very fact that it is illegal but I'm sure there are some sense of perversity involved, too.) [Things like this prevents me from publically posting my children's names and for now my own name on the internet.]


Japanese Population on Decline

"Japan's population shrinking for first time": more deaths than births are projected for this year. First time in Japan's history where the population is declining naturally! Will US be next?


Science as we know it and the way it should be

Science is a funny thing: it is just as man made as the mathematical symbols which science depends on. Science, to me, tries to make sense of the universe out there for the sole purpose of human consumption or understanding, all based on what you and others have observed and measured. Sure it can be used to create new tools once we understand nature (like nuclear weapons), but science in and of itself is mere description of nature.

How is this different from history (study of the past based on human records)? Not much. Just as it is easy to fabricate history (less eye witnesses and records, the easier to alter the past), science can be just as readily faked esp. if it's hard to reproduce (compare cold fusion vs the S.Korean stem cell debacle).

With all that said, I think a true science class would be a long term one (say 4 years) and would:
  1. start with a blank slate
  2. study a phenomenon
  3. extrapolate what might happen (i.e., create a theory)
  4. teacher presents one of the older theories
  5. have student prove or disprove the first theory
  6. teacher presents a newer theory to disprove.
  7. repeat until premodern theory
  8. finally, have the student look up modern theory and prove or disprove it
An added twist would be to not name the scientists nor the history but present each theory as yet another new challenge to overcome. If they hit the wall with #8, great job! If they break through #8, we may have found the next Einstein! Either way, for step #9, go over the past scientists and the reasoning behind each theory.

[If the above can be done like a video game challenge (you advance from easy theory to harder theory), I just might get my sons interested....kind of reminds me of Ender's Game. For those who aren't into SciFi, Ender's Game is a story about a bright kid who is a natural leader and plays in multiplayer video game and beats the aliens -- but turns out that the training simulation was actually controlling real space ships and really did wipe out the alien ships. I rather get my sons playing games and then realized they were doing real science problems than for them to study in school setting and then realize that it had no meaning in the real world -- the latter was the case for most of my classes I took in college.]

I personally don't care if my sons can't tell the difference between Newton and Einstein as long as they know how to find out about them if they want to. Schools will make students memorize birthdays and death dates and "significant fact(s)" about them but not how to find out what they thought and how to understand them and even have them think through in disproving them.

Spy on all citizens, foreign and domestic

The NYTimes report "Spying Program Snared U.S. Calls" claims that some domestic only phone calls were monitored "accidentally" -- yeah right.

What if the call was from US citizen in the US and US citizen in another country. Won't this violate the laws? Or what if it was an internet phone overseas? How can NSA tell who's what? Or does these accidental calls monitor just the "right" person(s)? I don't think so. And there are no oversight and punishments for breaking these laws.


Thinking not allowed

Justine Nicholas in "What do you think?" writes:
[N]early every one of us encounters a situation – whether in our careers or personal lives – that calls for an answer or solution we’ve never before seen or heard. Or there may not be anyone who can guide us through those crises and conundrums. [...] A person’s ability to navigate such treacherous currents is entirely dependent on his or her ability to think independently and to trust what he or she thinks. Disturbingly, this is exactly what most schooling discourages.
That's what schooling does today: No thinking allowed. You must be quiet, sit still and answer in turn. You must take and pass the tests. You will learn to follow meekly and you WILL obey!

That's why I'm so much against schooling, testing and even degrees: they discourage independence while demanding blind obedience. At school, you can't hop around reciting a memorized text, as my sons are apt to do. With school, you can't spend 6 or 10 hours, say, writing a computer game, as schooling plus homework would leave no time for such concentrated free activity ("self direct study" is what we call it in our household).


War Against All Citizens

It seems that US government is out for non-U.S. citizens, too:

I read opinion article by Khaled El-Masri in LA Times, called "America kidnapped me."

I also found "Special report: Khaled El-Masri describes America 's secret offshore prison nework" dated Jan '05!

Here's a German citizen kidnapped by the US government (or their contractors/minions) to interrogate an innocent man in the name of fighting terrorism (or should that be just "raising terror?"). No one is immune from the U.S.

It's ironic how Japan was and still is up and arms over kidnapping done by N.Koreans to take Japanese children and young adults and take them to N.Korea to train Koreans the Japanese language (to send spies to Japan). And here the US government is doing the exact same thing but "to fight terror[ism]." Who's being the terrorist here? When innocent people are targeted, it doesn't matter what the group's name is (government, terrorists, mobsters, gangs), their actions are always wrong.

In fact, the worst terrors are done by the governments, Rhmer Rouge being the most visual one in the recent memory (thanks to the movie "The Killing Fields"). U.S. is not exempt: how many innocent people have died over the years thanks to military weapons (2 nukes are the most obvious but it doesn't stop there)?


War Against U.S. Citizens

The following head lines are disturbing:

"Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts" [mainly the NSA]
"Pentagon accused of spying on Americans" [DOD and FBI and others]

With the US Sky Marshalls shooting innocent citizens at will, the trend is very negative...


Children imitate while chimps don't

"Children learn by Monkey See, Monkey Do. Chimps Don't." points out a research on when chimps are shown how to get something inside a clear plastic box, all the extra unneeded steps (like move a bolt back and forth and tap with a stick on top of the box) were skipped.

When they did the same to children, they almost always faithfully followed what they were told. Even when they (the children) could see that the steps are not needed but feel the need to follow authority figures (i.e., the lab assistants).

What's the lesson? As I've pointed out before, how one lives and behaves as parents have more impact than what we force them to hear (model the life they should live, not just mouth it). The other is that children are impressionable and they shouldn't be left with any others than the parents for education. (Or why child abuse is easily perpetrated by teachers, police officers, pastors and other leaders.)


More minorities are home educating!

"More black families home schooling" is a good sign. Finding other Asians or Asian-Americans are even harder! Especially Japanese-Americans.

More and more Japanese are opening up to the idea of home education (even Japan has their problems with schooling) but Japanese-Americans are even rarer breed. That is, I don't know of any other Japanese-American families who do -- we know of several familes where the Japanese mothers home educate (we even know of a Japanese-Brazilian), but Japanese-American parent who is into home education I have yet personally get to know. I stand out even more since I insisted on home education before I got married (and made sure my potential bride [i.e., my dates] knew about it full well -- what a female repellent: most didn't want to stay at home let alone become an at home teacher). Now that I think about it, I actually know of only one Asian-American family who home educate.

Asians are raised to think that school = education and it is grilled so hard into you it's hard to become unbrain washed.... [My parents still think I'm crazy but that's for another posting.]


Language does not exist

I tried to explain my thoughts on why language is unmeasurable at Vox Popoli thread on "Christians are polytheists." I'll try to organize my thoughts and answer the objections raised as well.

Language as we know it is based on words. Without words, we won't be able to communicate (nor would I be writing this or any other blog entry). Words do not require hearing nor seeing ability: Helen Keller was blind and deaf and yet she gained words through kinesthetic teaching of words.

Words are not instantaneous. That is, with the ability to record words starting with writing and now with audio and video recordings, words can be not only preserved but also transmitted beyond one's audio or visual range. Words, once recorded, become timeless and geographically unrestricted. Even before the printing press, written words were copied and passed on beyond one locale. For example, the dead sea scrolls were essentially "written off" and dead to the world until it was (re)discovered in 1947.

Words are taught, not innate. Feral children do not have words (that is, they do not naturally have language). You may read about children who come up with new language (e.g., deaf children creating one in Nicaragua), but if you read the details they are always taught initially directly or indirectly by adults around them. No normal children raised among humans would be left in languageless isolation. And if and when they are abused in such a way, they are no different from feral children: languageless and end up struggling to learn words.

[I'll finish this off over the next few days, I hope]


Innocent Man Killed Again: Sky marshals 1, Passengers 0

Why is it that cops love to kill men? (Esp. female cops?) As discussed at Vox Popoli "US Sky Marshals 1, Airline Passengers 0" and after watching NightLine program tonight, it hit me:
  1. A bomber runs out of the airplane (why not blow up in the cabin for maximum effect)?
  2. He gets shot in the boarding bridge (no eye witnesses)
  3. He was killed (definitely no eye witness: couldn't be left alive to give contradictory info -- you don't want to confuse the public)
  4. No passenger claims to have heard him say that he had a bomb.
  5. His stuff turns up no bomb.
Sounds to me yet another innocent killing like the Brazilian in London.

Update 12/8 2PM: Doing google news on "Jean Charles de Menezes Rigoberto Alpizar" (without the quotes) there is only one hit!

Update 12/8 4PM: My #4 is confirmed.

saving the boys: disappearing act

A commenter @ Vox Popoli pointed out "Disappearing Act" and paints a picture I'm very familiar with since I have 2 boys who are 11 and 12. One is more kinesthetic learner: he learns better by moving around -- he would not fit in school at all!

I don't agree that college is the goal (and the bit about gaming is very misleading since a gamer like "fatal1ty" makes close to $900,000 per year): turning boys into productive men (earning a living to support his family) takes more than just getting good grades or "gaming" the system. I don't know the best way (which is why I explore manhood in my other blog) but as I look for ways to live my life in ways which would be an example for my sons, I hope that they have a clear picture of the kind of men I want them to become.


Enslaving the homeschoolers: national/regional contests

As I become more and more unschooler, I question the value of winning all those national competitions. I saw: 16-Year-Old Wins Science Scholarship And thought, what value is there for the home educated to become mainstreamed? Is the process trying to equalize the home educated students? Make them more like regularly schooled children?

Since my goal is to turn my sons into godly men, I don't care if they can win a prize (national or otherwise). They aren't trying to beat the schooled children but I'd like to see them say with Apostle Paul:
No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. [1 Corinthians 9:27]
I don't want them to be in "the game" that everyone else is in. I want them to learn to listen to God's calling and to follow it, come hell or high water. Not because I want them to or to please any others on this earth (themselves included), but because they are personally in touch with Jesus Christ.

For myself, I know that I need to be more "in touch" with Him not just in His Word...


Brain injuries turns engineer entreprenuer into an artist

"From tragedy, art" starts off with

A traumatic brain injury after a motorcycle crash eight years ago robbed Doug Woodward, co-founder of Pervasive Software Inc. in Austin, of the life he had known. He lost most of his ability to speak, read and write. His thinking is impaired, and the right side of his body is virtually paralyzed.

But he gained something he did not have that November day when a deer dashed in front of his motorcycle in Uvalde: a talent for painting.

I was amazed to see this being done on TV (discovery channel) about savants called "Fragments of Genius" and how artists ability can be stimulated by disrupting the magnetic or electrical signals in the brain. I googled for the scientists' names and found: "transcranial magnetic stimulation: savant for a day". It seems that brain injuries disrupt or change the brain signals to allow for the artistic side of us to be released. It'll be interesting to see if this disruption can be removed or change via mental training rather than physical changes via real injuries or machine induced (temporary) disruptions.


Innocents who can't be helped

Reading the story of Ruben Cantu is very distressing: He was executed based on a false witness coerced by the police. The witness recanted but because there was no DNA evidence to prove innocence, folks like the innocence project couldn't (wouldn't?) help.

All the more reason why death penalty should be abolished....