I think I’ll have more time to reflect and comment on my artefact and the experience of making it in a few days, but for now here it is.
Exploring rich media and social networking to create more innovative learning experiences…. 2 parts knowledge and inquiry, 2 parts plan, 2 parts sub and pop culture, 3 parts fun (including what the suits call execution).
I’m not sure if you remember that movie from the 70’s Phase IV. I didn’t discover it until a few years ago, and I found that it was my answer to Sominex. The soothing introduction explaining the genesis of colonies of super-ants with a melancholy 70’s scifi synth in the background always put me to sleep. It took me several weeks and finally watching it in the afternoon while I did my laundry to actually finish the movie. I just found out that Mystery Science Theater 3000 featured Phase IV. You can view some of the movie MST3K style on YouTube.
The recent news about the colony of Argentine ants that have supposedly colonized the entire planet (thanks to our help) immediately brought the premise of this movie to mind. Though I’m not thouroughly convinced the Argentine Ants are going to take over the planet or herald an alien invasion. I do wonder what this ‘world colonization’ implies other than we human beings through our messy lifestyle attract ants where ever we go. I have many questions. What sort of impact does this invasive species have on other native ants or other native species? What more can we learn from these ants that will tell us about ourselves? Does it mean all those million bottles of Terro sold only made the ant colonies stronger and more resistant? Why does it both freak us out and fascinate us that something so tiny could have such a universal and unified force?
I’m just babbling… so you’ll have to excuse me. I haven’t been writing in my blog lately, because I’ve actually been finding journal writing (on paper) a little more satisfying. Maybe it’s because no one hears what I’m saying. No, I’m serious about that. Sometimes it feels better to let oneself go on uncensored. Also, I find that sometimes it’s the best way for me to work things out before I’m ready to share them with others.
You may have noticed from my last post that I’m a bit obsessed with two subjects. Change and time (sub interest = resistance to change). I wonder if I will start to develop a crusty or curmudgeonly gait as I grow older. Sometimes it feels like the world around me resists change… despite the growing impetus for change. Sometimes it feels that it’s all too easy to confuse people because of their dependency on technology for information… and their immediate need for information. Media is simply a teat from which we feed our incessant hunger. Just change the filter or introduce a slightly different brew or concoction into the bottle and people will react accordingly. From the past century to the present, fear seems to be the most effective ingredient. If you want people to act or ‘not to act’ simply make them afraid of an enemy or impeding crisis. If you don’t want them to panic in the event of a crisis, such as economic one, simply downplay the seriousness of the problem… or even deny that it exists.
Is it only my perception, but does it seem that people just swallow these happy pills without question? I have to wonder too how easily people are swayed by what they hear even though many proclaim themselves to be cynical about the News. Sometimes I think that sharing of poll results can have an effect on the rest of the public who did not participate in these polls. They can either give us a false sense of security that our beliefs are shared by everyone, or they can dishearten us by convincing us that we are truly alone or so small in number that any hope of finding commonality with others is hopeless.
When people say that building a truly educated and enlightened society is impossible. I simply look at children and remember that most children have the ability (maybe not the opportunity) to be ‘smart.’ I listened to a Smart City podcast called Green Buildings and Smart Children not to long ago that featured Jeff Howard, head of the Efficacy Institute, which states as their goal that” The central objectives of our work are: to build belief that virtually all‘ children can ‘get smart;’ and to build the capacity of adults to set the terms to help them do so.” Some children need less help than others, but something tells me that it’s to our advantage to make sure that people ‘get smart.’ Hmmm… less problems with financial investments, better health that doesn’t tax the healthcare system, better living choices, better income … I think these arguments and many others have been made countless times in the past. I wonder what prevents us from moving forward?
I also believe that people can be taught good analytical and decision-making skills. I admit that I myself can be easily muddled by what I hear and am spoon-fed, so I rely on help to analyze what I’m seeing and hearing. I recently found a gem of a podcast called “LSAT Logic in Everyday Life.” I loved how Andrew Brody picked apart the whole rice shortage ‘crisis,’ and reduced it to action based on faulty assumptions. I may be a geek and a half, and that’s why this sort of thing excites me…. being able to pick apart a problem despite the assumption that it’s too difficult or impossible to solve. Think about it, come up with a solution, and then do something about it. To me that’s the original American ethic (good old Yankee know how) that I will be forever proud of.
Excuse me while… I chew on this thought for a bit… I may wax philosophical. Things change. The seasons change. The Earth changes. Geological records have proven that the Earth’s surface has changed many times over it’s long life. People change. Throughout history, technology has changed the way humans live, produce and interact with each other. Do you think the emerging democracies could have occurred after the Middle Ages and Renaissance without the printing press and proliferation of ideas through books?
But why then do we so cling to the desire to ‘keep things the same?’ I’ve been wrestling with this idea ever since I can remember. Maybe this explains my love of History. Perhaps humans naturally crave stability because they’ve spent much of their unrecorded and recorded history dealing with the seemingly unpredictable nature of the elements, disease, and natural events. Animals respond to change via natural selection or development of instincts, but we actively try to stop change from happening or build constructs that allow us to thrive despite change.
What would happen if we had a ‘long memory’ for change? Who would build communities or cities on a flood plain or riverbank if they had memory or records of constant floods? How would we deal with social change? Would we nod things off as just a fad that would pass or would we actually try to develop laws or social institutions that were meant to adapt to change? I’ve noticed that politicians rely on people’s limited memory of history in order to push their agendas or to get elected or re-elected into office. Sometimes I lament that we live such mayfly lives. Still, having this memory might actually cause use to become more conservative in our actions. Since we could better predict cycles of events because of our personal memories.
Why people resist change (from the Slow Leadership Site)
I cannot believe that a people as innovative, inventive, and resilient as the Dutch would not be able to deal with a problem like Global Warming and the rising of sea levels. The city of Amsterdam has such a wonderful history just in its development over the centuries. The Amsterdamers constantly shaped and rebuilt their city as it grew. They also spent a great deal of time, support, and money on public institutions such as elderly homes, hospitals, and orphanages early as the 16th and 17th centuries. Perhaps because they instinctively and shrewdly knew that the people are the heart of a city and it’s best to take care of the people so the entire city can prosper.
I found this article on a proposed ‘floating city.’ Amphibious houses and buildings would be built on flotation foundations that imitate the hull of ships. These houses are anchored in place by huge steel posts. As the water rises and recedes the house follows with it. This is great, but what about the beautiful buildings, palaces, of historic Amsterdam? What about the city itself? Could they possibly build strong enough hulls to keep these buildings afloat? Or would and could they relocate the city away from the rising sea. If you look at a map of the the region that projects the effects of a rise of 1 meter to the sea level, you can see what effect this will have on the Netherlands (map from http://flood.firetree.net/).
The article notes that there are efforts to design buildings that are up to 100 meters in height that are adaptable to this floating way of life. These engineers have simply adjusted their building principles to meet the demands of the elements. It’s really quite astounding when you think of it, the ingenuity and effort that makes such ideas and plans reality. It makes one feel quite good to be human.
Houseboat in Amsterdam
Amsterdam has a hundreds of years of history or dedication to the smart and responsible growth of their city. I hope that this Dutch ingenuity serves them well with the coming changes to the global landscape. I was in the grocery store and I noticed that they sold chocolate pudding in cartons. When I read the calories per serving I nearly flipped, but I guessed that if you’re riding your bicycle everywhere then you can afford to eat a few hundred calories worth of chocolate pudding.
EVERYONE RIDES BICYCLES IN AMSTERDAM! It’s really neat to see. Families cart small children and dogs in little trolleys or carts in front of their bikes. There are cars on the streets, presumably commuters from the suburbs, but I was astounded and impressed by how bicycle culture is the ‘transport culture’ in this city. If only we could build up or separate the bike lanes in Portland to make them more safe for bikers. Also, I noticed that there wasn’t a lot of macho-mountain bike culture going on or people dressed ridiculously in tight Speedo shorts and brightly colored biker wear, instead you find just a bunch of normal people riding their bikes. I’ve decided that my next big purchase is going to be a used city cruising bike. I live just a few minutes bike ride from the local grocery store so why not.
Also, most of the cities in Spain have recycling containers labeled on their streets. Huge containers that stand about 5 feet high. Alicante, I noticed, was nearly immaculately clean. There was no or little garbage strewn on the streets. Also, power must be expensive in Spain because no one uses an electric dryer to dry their clothes. Where ever you go, you can see laundry left out window sills to dry. In nicer neighborhoods, the apartments all have inner courtyards with balconies and common areas for hanging up clothes. In addition, I noticed that all the hotel rooms we stayed at require the insertion of a room key to start the power in the room. This insures that power won’t be lost from lights or appliances left on. I did notice that there were no digital clocks in the rooms.
Markets are good (I wish we had more of them)
In all three cities we visited in Spain we visited a public market of some sort. In Barcelona and Alicante we walked through the Mercado Central. The markets were amazing, brightly colored booths with spices, meats, and candies. I did find a sweets vendor that was selling several kinds of metallic non-pareil (sp?) decorations for cakes, as well as many kinds of dried and candied fruits. I was kind of pissed off that I couldn’t spend more time in the Barcelona market, but we were on a mission and could not stop. As we walked through the Mercado in Alicante, Eric puzzled, how can all these vendors could make any money if they were selling the same products right next to everyone else. I made the assumption that it was a combination of personal relationships merchants made with their customers as well as the general volume of people who would come to the market over anywhere else because the selection was good. No one is going to offer crap if they have to compete with all the other vendors. The reputation of the market as a great place to purchase goods holds firm with the people. The meat market here, is a horror fest for most vegetarians, but for those of us who partake, it sure beats having to settle for the water injected chicken at the Win Co. The fish and seafood vendors sold everything from snails, tuna steaks, something that looked like baby geoducks, and octopus. Also, I was able to buy and eat some of the most delicous Empanadas and Ensaymada (sweet bread) I’ve had in my life from the bakery vendors.
The front of the Mercado Central in Alicante
Trains are good
In Spain we traveled everywhere by train. When traveling between big cities it seems like most people in Spain use the train system. Now, I’m no scientist but I suspect that using this mode of transport is easier on fuel consumption that a couple hundred people driving their SUV’s from city to city. No doubt with fuel prices being what they are here, who would? I liked riding the train, it was pleasant, quiet, nice and I had the opportunity to finish knitting a whole pair of socks.
More about good things people are doing to reduce their carbon footprints:
Smart Growth (NRDC) – http://www.nrdc.org/smartgrowth/default.asp