>WOO I weigh in under 405!

So I haven’t been posting much over here because I am working very hard on my senior project(hacking-education.blogspot.com). Which is coming along slowly but surely. I’m facing some technical difficulties in putting together my first video but I think that I’ll have it ready my mid-week.

On the diet front. I made some fairly radical changes to my diet last week, which are a large part of why I believe I dropped so much over the weekend. I was very busy this weekend and didn’t weigh in. I did it twice about 30 min apart because I didn’t believe that I could lose so much. both times I came in around 404. The changes really were quite simple, but they’re making a pretty big difference. I started doing a smoothie for breakfast every morning, my recipie is really simple. 1 scoop coffee, 1 scoop protein powder and about 1/4 cup frozen berries and 1/2 cup water and two icecubes. For lunch I’ve taken all the lunch containers I bought and filled them with salad fixins. I grab one of those organic clamshell spring mix greens. I take about a cup of the greens and about a tablespoon of all of the fixins and measure my salad dressing. Dinner is my bigger meal, around 4 or 5ish. It’s usually my second big dose of protein, I’m doing chicken or fish for dinner fairly often right now. Or cooking something to share with my roomate.

On the school front my CS class is both interesting and a total pain in the ass. The professor is interesting, if kind of a jerk. The grader though is basically an idiot. I got marked down more for a compiler error that was M$’s fault than I did for my own screwups(which were pretty big on that assignment). Epistemology is interesting, but frustrating. I need to make myself attend more reliably, I’ve skipped both thursdays so far because I feel like many in the class are wasting time. Hint: Philosophy is about learning what others have thought about the big hard questions, and after you’ve done that, having a go at them yourself.

I’m tying to make a few changes to my routine this week. I am giving myself three hours every day to play. That feels like a lot of time to me. But I think that there is something to be said for giving that time to myself, for that purpose. It lets me focus much better when I am working on projects. I can know that I’m free to go play whatever I want to when I am done with the project. I’ve also moved my schedule around a bit. I’m fairly sure that I’m naturally a bi-phasic sleeper. I function best with a nap mid afternoon and then working late into the night. I’ve moved my bedtime to between 12 and 1, and my wake up is still 8ish. I just take a nap around 3 or 4. If this works well then I may make it a semi-permanent thing.

My 750 words challenge is going pretty darn well. I am writing 750 words on about %80 of the days, and generally feel much better having written them. What I write is really quite random though. Sometimes I work on homework using 750 as a scratch pad, other times I write up stuff for games.  I noticed something interesting about my writing the other day, 750 words is just a little bit more than I’m comfortable just writing. When I just write I often petter out at about 600. This is interesting because it indicates that 750 really is a good goal for me. It is not so much that it occupies all day coming up with the words, but it is enough that I have to stretch for it.  Because of that I have decided that in febuary I am going to expand on that story I wrote at the beginning of the month and turn it into a novella sized work. As I complete a week’s writing I’ll edit it and post here for those who are interested. I’m not sure yet where the scene I wrote before fits into the story as I’ll post it, because it is the end of one of the major plot arcs I’m imagining, and mid-way though the one that I think is most interesting. I suppose I’ll start with that scene, or maybe the viewpoint’s flight from the hordes invading his home island,  to the mainland.

 

>So, when I look at education reform ideas, all I see are ideas to reform a system. That’s not how we will create real change. Think about it for a moment. what are the current ideas for reform. They are all high pressure; more tests, increase competition. As I started looking online for examples of online I’ve started sorting the kinds of solutions I see. First are traditional systems, these kinds of reform basically trumpet the horn of, More Spending, Higher Standards, More Teachers. The second seems to want to take a Venture Capital approach. These people like to shiny new things, Virtual Classrooms, Ipads for Classrooms, big flashy things that make headlines. The third school of thought on reform seems to be focused on seeking and solving “special problems.” The solutions I see out of this philosophy are things like, after school programs, better school lunch, [insert minority here] in [insert hot subject or specialty here] programs. All of these seem to have the same goal, but believe that the root cause, and solutions are all different.

The final stream I found were people like Sir Ken Robinson, and Issac Asamov. This stream is definitely where I fall in. Quotes like Sir Robinson, saying “Education is always and inevitably personal.” Asimov makes a great argument in the video which basically runs, “If a kid is interested in baseball, why tell them to learn math, they’ll get curious about batting averages, or why the hits work the way they do and they’s look at statistics or ‘sports physics.’ I think this kind of individual focus, allowing student interest to dictate the curriculum rather than the curriculum dictate to the students, is more likely to create a school that students will enjoy, that can actually foster all of the buzzword, “Lifelong Love of learning.”

While doing this search I found an event “Hacking Education” that uses the same name as I’ve been looking at. I’m working my way though the transcript of their event posted over here They summarize what I mean by hack so much better than I have expressed it. “A hack solves a problem in a way that breaks some widely accepted rule, or conventional wisdom.” The transcript of this event is something like 200 pages, and I’m still working my way through it, one anecdote that Sir Ken told was particularly illustrative. He tells the story of a man who wanted to be a firefighter from a young age who said, “I got really mad at times in school about this, because not every kid wants to be a fireman. I actually wanted to be a fireman. And so, they said that I was stupid, that if I didn’t want to go to college, I would never amount to anything.” That is the kind of thing that a hackable education would avoid. If students goals were respected, I think that some students could graduate and begin their lives, the way the imagine them, sooner.

Most of the information I found related back to the kind of venture capital approach. They are making things to sell back into the existing, broken, system. startl.org is a great example of this, their working paper Designing for Learning in the 21st Century Says the things that I am suggesting, but wants to do them within the system. Reading their paper, with which I agreed, and then looking at the headlines on their website I found a disconnect. They say many great things about “Content-Creation not Content Delivery” but on the first 3 pages of their headlines only 3 of the 15 articles linked had to do with that. The most articles were about marketing content, and apps created to schools, and getting seed money to do that. There is nothing wrong with venture capital, but it seems to me like what we’re doing is creating a “Education-Technology Complex” where Schools pay for content that is made by outside companies, using taxpayer money. This solution leaves the content locked up and inaccessible to those who can’t afford to buy access, “pay-to-play” content delivery models, and ipads in the classroom are not real solutions to the issue, they are shiny toys that disctract us from the problem.

I don’t know exactly what the solution is, but I am convinced that anything that is pay to play, or requires hardware that costs more than $100-200 is not going to be widely available enough to make a change. I’m also pretty sure that these systems need to be bypassed. We need a second independent system that isn’t married to the history of schooling, and is focused on what students need and want. I’m not sure that the kind of small focused start up model is going to do that. I don’t think it’s scalable. We get really excited about new shiny things, but I never saw the “pilot programs” I participated in during high school, actually expand. The VC approach spend too much time finding money, and not enough teaching people.

Sometime next week I’m going to talk about people who I think are doing this right, taking the things I saw in Sir Kim Robinson and Asimov’s talks and expanding them out to what a new education system should look like.

 

>

Some Context

I wrote this paper as an assignment to explore my philosophy of education. It was also where I started calling myself an education hacker. I had explored the idea that perhaps our education system needed to be hacked, but this was the paper where I decided that I was an education hacker. Many of the slightly excessive citations have been removed, and instead relevant documents have been linked.

Education Hacker

I am an education hacker. Computer Hacker culture was one of the earliest and deepest influences on my thoughts concerning education. As a teen I was fascinated with computers and hackers, and tried to learn as much as I could about them. The writings of “The Mentor”, ESR, and RMS, were my introduction to that world. Their ideas about knowledge and skill shaped my own. By the time I eventually learned that hacking wasn’t, and has never been, about criminal acts. Hacking instead refers to finding a particularly clever, unique, or elegant solution to a problem. So many of their ideas seemed obvious to me; “Boredom is Evil,” “If it makes a mistake, it’s because I screwed it up,” “It’s good to Share!” “Release Early, Release Often,” and “Information wants to be Free,” These ideas, internalized while I was young, have informed my educational experiences. I believe that products, “the code,” matter more than any particular doctrine of how to achieve those products. It is better to move on to a new problem than repeat solving hundreds of similar ones; constant feedback, both positive and critical, helps us achieve our best possible results. As I have studied the theories of education, a few of them have stuck out to me as relating to the ideas I already possess.

Social Constructivism teaches us that sharing is, in fact, good, and goes further to teach what kinds of sharing do the most good. As a teacher, I play the role of a More Knowledgeable Other (MKO), sharing my knowledge and providing scaffolding to help students achieve more than they could alone. This idea places learning as a process of sharing, something that is best done in groups, and enables us to explore learning and get from ideas and facts to a useful knowledge.

Despite its utility and support for the idea that sharing is good, this theory falls short of my expectations for a unifying theory of education in one major way. It rejects my basically positivist philosophy of truth. In my experience, facts are true in a binary sense; either the fact is true, or it is not. A fact is also essentially useless. That “Columbus engaged in a voyage of exploration in 1492” is true. So is the statement of “two plus two equals four.” The meaning and utility of a fact is what is important. This contrasts with constructivist thought, where the meaning of a thing is what matters. This learning makes it too easy to counterfeit understanding. Students can begin by exploring the meaning of a text before they understand any facts about it, and then provide an illusion of learning without ever needing to explore the objective facts of a subject. The need for students to master the facts of a subject in order to be able to later use those facts makes the ideas of constructivism useful only after the groundwork is laid.

“Release Early, Release Often” is a mantra among hackers. It is better to show people your rough draft early in order to get errors seen and corrected than to invest effort in a task that will fail. Instructional Conversations and Cognitive Apprenticeship are the educational equivalents of this mantra. Both tools rely on the creation of a space where error tolerance is high and it is okay to be wrong. Within such a space, students are able to release “Beta” ideas about their learning and receive feedback to understand them better. Instructional conversations draw on the idea of sharing. The goal is to give students an opportunity to see not only their own process of learning, but that of their peers. Such conversations are rarely boring and enable students to contribute to one another’s learning. Cognitive apprenticeship and Discovery Learning place the responsibility of sharing on the teacher but share the same goal: getting students to try things and receive feedback, rather than simply absorb facts. These early releases of their newly gained knowledge and skills help students obtain confidence in their ability to apply what they have learned: working solutions are better than “perfect” ones, and mistakes are okay as long as we try to solve them and move forward.

A critical observation of hacker culture is that boredom is evil. Hackers spend a lot of time sorting out the “boring details” of compliers and machine code, so they don’t have to solve the same problem more than once. This idea has two equally important implications: first, that people don’t fully engage in tasks that they find mundane; second, tasks like this can, and should be, automated. These observations explain why our system fails so often. We expect kids to do the same boring things we had to. Do problems 21 – 51 odds, list all the events leading up to the Civil War, and name all the parts of the cell. These patterns of memorize and regurgitate, the same methods used on us when we were young, are boring. They do not promote the higher level knowledge we claim to be aiming for, and are mostly good because assessing them is difficult.

Bored people try to entertain themselves. I wonder how many “classroom problems” are caused by really bored students that are finding ways to entertain themselves. How many students are bored in math class because they’re not learning math, but mathematical algorithms instead; how many history students because they’re not learning history, just names and dates without meaning or context? Without something to engage in, we become bored, and we apply this cognitive surplus to problems that interest us such as making a paper airplane that can stick in the ceiling, drawing snakes or getting a date.

This whole mess suggests a simple solution: “Stop doing boring things in the classroom.” Conveniently, most of the items on the traditional list of “boring things” (i.e. copying paragraphs, summarizing texts, doing repetitive problems, and reciting names and dates), happen to be things that correspond with very low levels of cognition. They almost invariably are on the bottom two levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, meaning that students rarely connect to the material. Instead it is possible to memorize just enough to get though the test and then forget while memorizing the next batch of content. Students have hacked the system to avoid doing work they can see is useless.

The hack that teachers need then is how to get kids to a higher level on that taxonomy. Students need not be assigned to repeat the same task over and over without any significant variation. We can step away from the role of gatekeeper to knowledge and take on the role of an excited tour guide, pointing out exciting landmarks and dangerous pitfalls along the way. It means avoiding asking the student to solve the same basic problem more than absolutely necessary, and instead asking them to show you why the answer is the answer. At the end of the day, it is those “why” questions which are interesting. Facts, that is, the formulas, ideas, names, dates, and models that we teach, are useless without context, without that “why” question and its answers.

Sometimes though, our emphasis on answers may be preventing higher level thinking about complex subjects where there is no answer. Stallman identified several things that are essential to software freedom, and a healthy community of practice; one of the most important of these: is the right to study how something works, and read the source code of a program, and make changes. Within that code are comments by the authors, explanations about how the program works, and why they choose to do make it do so in a particular way. When we examine ideas deeply, particularly the kind of complex ideas where answers are difficult to find, it is important that we give students the metaphorical “code” of the issue.To enable students to explore an issue deeply, for example the advantages and disadvantages of a particular system of government, it is necessary to allow students access to the code. In this example the code is primary documents describing various systems of government, and life under these systems. As students examine these documents, and see how decisions about systems of government were made in different times and places, they can come to an understanding of those why questions. This type of “how and why” understanding enables them to comprehend the reasons for so many different answers to the same question. This kind of understanding corresponds with the high level kinds of thinking we claim to want students to be capable of.

“Information wants to be Free.” This idea, more than any other was the one that inspired me way back when I first discovered the world of hackers. I internalized this idea, far more than any other I learned of. Freeing information why I choose to become a teacher. We as a species rely so heavily on the ability to share on information that it has become the foundation of our greatest institutions, culture, art and science, everything we school our children in, depends on our ability to share information. The source of the quote is unknown, and anthropomorphizes a characteristic of information that is unique: I can give it away without losing it. That observation is at the foundation of hacker culture, and is the essence of education. I can give without losing. This fact more than anything else is the core connection that guides us to share what we know, and invest so heavily in our children’s future, we multiply knowledge by sharing it.

Hacking however is primarily about finding solutions, solutions that can be shared and used by the entire community. We can and should look for these hacks in our practice; sharing them when we find them useful. The sharing of skills and deep learning is a difficult task that requires all the ingenuity and clever solutions we can direct at it.

 

>My lack of posts over here is not anything to do with a lack of motivation or any deficit my thinking about it. I just haven’t had enough time to put together something meaningful. I started a new blog over at hacking-education.blogspot.com this is for my senior project, and most of my writing time and brainpower has gone towards that in the past week. I think I need to keep up over here though since this is where I keep a record of my life.


School

Is going quite well, none of my classes are boring, and none of them are so challenging that I feel completely overwhelmed. Web Development so far has been a review of stuff I learned back in the early 00′s with a few new things taught about doctype. We’ll be covering styles next week and I think thats when I’ll start learning more things than I knew.
CS II is “fun” in the ohh god I didn’t realize I was gonna have to wrap my head around 2-3 new and difficult concepts every week. I finally understand pointers, and am fairly sure that I can use them when necessary, even if I don’t grokk them deeply enough to use them to optimize things like sorts without needing to do a lot of drawing out what I want to happen. I did accomplish a long time goal while learning this though. I’m quite comfortable in emacs, and find it much better than the gedit+terminal, or vi+terminal dev envroment I was using for CS I.
Epistimology seems to be covering ground I’ve already thought pretty deeply about, but getting a solid sense of what the “important” thinkers have has to say on the topic is a good thing. If only I was feeling more like being in that classroom was a genuinely solid use of my time. About 1/2 of the class seem more interested in “seeming smart” than in exploring the issues. I am trying to be charitable in my thoughts because I know that I’ve been “that guy” in the past.
My Sr. project is detailed over at the new blog, and all I’m going to say here is, maintaining that kind of visible to-do list and then going into edit it and strikethrough my to-do items was way to satisfying.


Health and Diet

My weight keeps creeping up, about .5 lbs a week. that may not seem like much, but adds up to 25lbs over the year. It means that I’m eating 750 calories a day more than my goal. I just picked up a secret weapon in this fight, a blender, for the last week I’ve done smoothies for breakfest, which has helped me cut my overage by about 250(from 500). I’m switching to salad for lunch and suspect that I may be able to push my count back below “even” to something closer to my goal of a 500 cal/day deficit.


Games and Leisure

I’m trying to pick up the amazing game of go again. I got two books on the topic and have enjoyed reading them. The book by Iwamoto is espeically interesting, and quite dense. I’ve tried following what is happening and still wind up getting lost. I would love to make time to play once a week with some friends.

I am really really loving my current L5R game. The GM has a bog hag loose at winter court, and it’s busy eating all the female guests. My character is absolutely terrified because he was recently tainted by a bloodmage, and the person assigned to make sure he doesn’t go crazy is the girl he’s had a crush on since before he was really a shugenja. Their families are negotiating a marriage between them, which basically means he’ll be married to the person who is supposed to kill him when the taint drives him mad.

In Camstuffs – Mage is interesting and finally has a lex magica that is almost usable. Issue being that I think custom status manipulating mechanics are global. The consillium is pseudo democratic with a concentration based model for decision making, and a “high council” whose membership consists of the most powerful mage of a particular path. Vampire is likewise interesting and I look forward for opportunities to play Jacques again. Greg seems like I may wind up playing the “how long can I get away with mocking the elders” game, but if I can get him released I think he’ll become a contributing member of the city.

 

>My friends on facebook exploded when I asked people about using “Hacking Education” as the title of my project website. I was told, from CS professionals, fellow hackers, and educators that the name was, “Provocative” but also, “Negative” that it implied “something illegal” and the idea of being “Unprofessional.” Here’s the thing, I’ve totally fallen in love with the name. I’m going to try and look for something that I love better because I can see pretty clearly that calling the final website “Hacking Education” will be loaded with a lot of baggage that a new website doesn’t need. So, I’m asking for help with the following steps.

A. Identify my message, what is it that I am trying to say.
    What is my core message
    What tone and mood do I want to imply
    What sub-messages should be implied,
        how can my brand prime visitors for the messages I am trying to send?
B. Identify issues with the “Hacking Education” Name
    What unintended messages am I sending about my intent
    Can I overcome those unintended messages, or are they inherent in the layperson’s understanding of the words
C. Find a better name
    It needs to convey all of A
    without conveying any of B
    While still being interesting.
    And keeping me in the background

I’m adding some strange criteria here, but I think when we look at the name’s I’ve considered they’ll become more clear.

When I first came up with this idea I was going to name it “Mr. Redbeard’s Classroom” My dad and I really liked it, until I started thinking about some of the implications and assumptions I’d bundled into that. First off I was making myself a Star, which is not what I wanted at all. While I may be producing video lectures, they shouldn’t be starring me, the content must be the star. If I push myself into the foreground then I am taking time away from my goals. This name also implies that this site will be a classroom, with a teacher, and tests, and quizzes, and don’t pass notes to your neighbors. It aligns the site with a status-quo that I want to be compatible with, not a part of.

The second name I’ve looked at, Hacking Education, implies many things I think of as good. Solutions to problems, valuing autonomy, avoiding boredom, Free and Open content. It also implies some things that are less good. That the site is about something illicit or illegal. That last one is a mixed bag, teenagers tend to like rebellion and being “edgy” but parents, teachers, and district IT guys who manage the blocklists at school don’t. The name will definitely draw attention, but probably the wrong kind.

The trick is tricking a balance, between being provocative and interesting, having a URL that is easy to type, and conveying the message I want to. This is obviously going to have to be a much more calculated decision than I thought.  Well if it was easy to do this kind of thing it would already be done.

TODO:

  1. Email Teaching Open Source list(subtask- write a clear goal of what you want to do with their content, and why this will help their project.)
  2. Write a review of the articles you’ve read so far
  3. Hit the library and find some scholarly sources.
  4. Tech eval(Due Jan 26)
  5. Check the standards and see if Revolutionary war, or World War II is more appropriate for this project.
  6. Post my original “hacking education” paper, and make a clearer statement of intent.
 

>Hack – n. a particularly appropriate application of ingenuity

This blog is the repository for reflections, reading reviews/summaries, and project updates for my senior project. Right now that project has been loosely defined along the lines of “do something cool, useful, and that will impress future employers that involved education, curriculum design, and the internet.” This reflection is an attempt to arrive at a set of more concrete goals for the project and outline my thinking about it.

I have said for a while now that there are basically two main obstacles to getting an education. First is finding the information that you want to learn. Second is proving that you have learned. There are all kinds of additional obstacles and sub-steps to this process, but those are the basics. The general shape of this project is to create a website that helps solve both of these problems using open education resources.

The biggest problem I see in open education resources is usability. It is fairly easy to find a video about almost every topic under the sun, but for those who do not yet have an education on the topic, it is very hard to determine if the video is valuable you might get something like This video that claims that, “local tea growers” in america were protesting tax cuts. While it’s not really open content, it is one of the first results that comes up if you Google “Boston Tea Party History Video” and is exactly the kind of problem that I see with this. In some areas, particularly math, and science this problem has been much reduced by superstars like Sal Khan that are easy to find and have had major media coverage.

The second problem is much thornier though, because to learn effectively you need solid assessment. Assessment is especially important for self-directed learners who do not have a mentor to guide their learning. In some areas, many arts and crafts come to mind as examples, it is immediately obvious even to a non-expert if learning has happened or not. In the early stages of learning it is easy to tell if what you are doing works. When a child draws it is easy to tell if they are drawing something we can recognize or not. If I write code, someone who doesn’t program can’t tell if it is clean or elegant, but they can tell if it works or not. In other areas it is much harder to test your own understanding, how can you be sure that you really do know US History, or Psychology? That is much of what Grades do for us, they provide that feedback. Degrees and Certifications provide a larger grained assertion that the granting institution believes that the person they are giving the degree to has mastered particular content.

For open learning tools to be “pick up and learn” they need to include easily accessible self-assessments. And if we want to see them widely adopted by teachers the will need to include the kinds of features that commercial textbooks do, lesson plans, worksheets, and supplementary material. What the, as yet unnamed, website I am building will do is try to solve both of the problems I’ve described by making available some, “pick up and learn” materials, open and freely redistributable materials that include a study guide, and high level overview of the unit, self-assessment tools, and some kind of interactive progress tracker. There should also be content that is useful for teachers, such as the extras that come with textbooks. The end goal is a website where an individual learner can come to learn, with materials that are useful for teachers who need to teach these classes. To be really useful I think they should be available in learning “packages” that a teacher or student could burn onto a CD or DVD, and use from their home computer, without an internet connection.

For my project I will build at least two of these unit, one “US History I” type unit covering a particular period or set of standards. This unit will focus on utility in a traditional academic environment for users like teachers and students needing to make up the class, or extra study help. For that reason it will be aligned to Utah’s curriculum standards for the class. It must still be useful and easy to follow for home learners and other self directed student in addition to those goals. Second I would like to help with the Teaching Open Source project by building a CS 1 at the high school level using the TOS textbook, with Python as the computer language being learned. This project is aimed more at self-directed learners, focusing on providing a set of tools to help you teach yourself the skills needed. Like the first unit it should remain useful for all user types, and if I can locate a suitable set of standards align to those.

    TODO: for next week
  1. Examine name options for the site being developed by this project.
  2. Locate readings on the topics of online education, and open education and post a series of reviews on the topic
  3. Determine what kind of technical resources I will need to make this happen
  4. Email the TOS list to determine what thoughts and suggestions on the idea of doing something related to their project are
  5. Narrow down a period of US history to focus on for that unit
 

>Look Ma’ I’m a real blogger. I’ve got my first guest post. Check it out at USU SHAFT

 

>Just a Dialog study I did after listening to writing excuses, using a prompt “Take an idiom and make it literal” I made “an old flame” literal and came up with a magic system. This is loosely in my DnD world Arthril, but only touches on the setting on the edge(though the more I play with it the more I like the magic) I would really appreciate comments on how the dialog feels, I know the plotting and exposition are on the weakish side.

“I swear it’s at least 50 years old, it was lit for my great-grandpa’s pyre!”

“Well den why’s you sellin’ somethin’ wid sentiment-type value?”

“Because, I don’t have anything else. I lost it all making it here alive.”

“But you kept an old flame burnin’ dat whole time?”

“Well yeah, my grandpa had a safelamp made, and pyre-flame maintains well with just about any oil.”

“Hmm… lemme see here”

“No! I know how the fire-clan works, and the damn king says that your law on this stands, you won’t have it from my hands for less than two thousand.”

“Hey now, I have customers insultin’ de king while I can hears it. I doesn’t like dat, sides s’only worth a couple hundred.”

“Only a couple hundred! It’s a 50 year old flame, you could light wardfires from this, imagine having a real 50 year old flame to light wardfires from, I saw a man selling wardcandles with fires lit from a 20 year old hearth for a hal-mark a piece, you could get a whole mark, and you wouldn’t be scamming your customers like that creep four streets over, you’d make your thousand and a half back in a month at most!”

“You want a dousand for dis? Is an old pyre-flame, but dey’s not dat useful. Mostly for burnin’ and endin’ sides I ain’t able to make wardcandles can’t get the ingredients, de gob’s own the cemeteries I’d barely be able to clear 500 on a good month. If it was such a good plan you’d be doin’ it now youself”

“Well you’ve heard there’s a war on haven’t you?”

“Not for my der isn’t”

“What! But dwarves are fully incorperated members of the empire, we’re at war! Damnit I got over here cause of this flame, I can’t sell it for less than I can get a good start for!”

“So 8 hundred it is den?”

“On the god graves maybe! Really I don’t have to sell to you, I know a gutterling who was willing to give me 1250, and a 10 year hearth-flame. I’d be a decent baker with something like that now wouldn’t I. If you’re going to make an offer, at least make a real one.”

“So why’s not sellin it to de gutterlin?”

“You know, I’d… it’d be bad for my gramps pyerflame to be used for, well the kind of things they use them for.”

“Old wives tales, an rubbish. I know an old matrarch, she’s like to use somedin’ like this to keep wardfires round a room so she can sleep widout her dear ghosties boderin’ her. Bettcha that’s what dey’d use it for.”

“Or, goryfires.”

“Ohh more rubbish, king stopped han’in’s 20 years back, Hanged men’s bodies was worth to much. Tell ya what dough, I got a 5 year forge-flame. dink on it, dey’s good fer makin’ din’s a five year’d let ya speak iron to steel, or wood into new shapes. Wid de right candles you could do conjers, sell tools o’ smoke an ash’ strong as any o’ wood.”

“1000, the forge flame, and that knive you’ve got on display there, the one with the bone handle”

“Done deal! From my hand I give ya de knive, de lamp deflame’s in, de flame, an 1000 marks.”

“And from my hand I give you this flame and the lamp which carries it.”

“Why did ya want de knive anyhow, I saw you lookin’ at it when we was gettin’ started, dought I’d be sellin’ dat, not buyin a pyre-flame.”

“Let’s say I know a good thing when I see it,”

“Naw dat’s just a pretty belt knive for someone who want’s to look tough, some poor gob got carved up by his own mum for talkin’ back.”

“The bone is much older than the flame, and looks to be hob-troll or ogre, it’ll move when I tell it to with a good forge flame, Especially since it’s rightful mine instead of my telling it to murder it’s owner, I tell it to murder the cheat who thought he could sell my fathers pyre-flame to the kings army for 3000 marks.”

“You… Gurgle… bastard!”

“Well yeah, but that’s okay, I have a few pounds of gold, I’ll leave it with a nice note saying you sold your life to return it to your people, you would too, except I’m not as good at haggling as you are.”

“you never would have sold me would you?”

“No of course not, not while your murderers are still out there. I just needed more tools, And I thought you might like some company.”

“Hey what am I doin’ here? how did you make me into a smokeshade?”

“It’s a 50 year pyre flame”

 

>The Yule ritual last night got me thinking, I plan too much, and do too little. So here is a few things I have done recently. A reminder to myself that I make my own present and future. I lead a sucessful group ritual. I won’t say I planned it, because Kassie did most of the planning and making things happen on the mundane side. I asked, and was given Frey and Heimdal’s blessing at my newest objective. I have totally made absolutely no progress towards my goal of getting fit. I managed to pull of Two A’s an a B. I Made a serious major change and got the program to do so approved.

My days right now are remarkably like my “ideal” days. I get up at a fairly late hour, between 8 and 10 most days. I wind up wasting too much time on facebook, and spending not enough time on my current objectives. I eat when I am bored, instead of when I am hungry, but I control my portions when I do that, so it’s not as bad as all that. Instead of wasting time, I would like to be making money, doing something I love, and I would like to be free in my evening to spend time on my hobbies.

Yule is a time to re-set intentions and set our trajectory to find our way to the future we want. I am glad to see how much closer I am to a life I can love to live. I am greatful to see that such a life is within my grasp, and to have learned an important lesson. If I can’t find “Twitchy-Compatable” then I will have to make myself one.

The greatest lesson of the Aseir, the one that brought me to them in the first place, is what got me into school, I make my own life. I may struggle against my situation, or against those who doubt me, but I can choose to fold up and die, or I can live.

Hail Heimdal! Hail Frey! Hail Andrew!

 

>

I took my own advice canceled my Comcast and moved my internet to a local company, Cache Broadband. I choose them because when I called to ask about their options and “soft cap” the sales rep noticed that my question was above his level of technical expertise, he transferred me directly to the owner, he and I had a nice chat for about 10 minutes. He explained their policies, and pointed me to some info about about the whole Comcast debacle, and told me that they have a system set up that will email me every day with how much bandwidth I’ve used. After setting that up I called Comcast to cancel.

All things considered it was relatively painless, I called Comcast up and talked with the “tier 1″ service rep, who tried to convince me that I didn’t need to cancel services. She pretended not to know anything about the dispute between Level 3 and Comcast, but got really defensive about how, “You do know that Netflix is our competitor?” and “You know in a free market we can charge whatever we want, right?” I got a little mouthy, no profanity, just a clear statement that I disagreed with Comcasts action, and was canceling my service in protest of their action. She pasted me up to a tier 2 guy, who asked me again. I said, “I’m canceling my Comcast service in protest of Comcast trying to charge them to deliver concent I have requested.” He noted that we have cable and asked if I wanted to cancel that, I said I want to cancel all services and he told me that they would send me a $10 credit or the time left in the month and my service would be canceled on Friday.

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