Celebrating, I didn’t reproduce day

Bill Mahar hits the nail on the head with “I Didn’t Reproduce Day.” Its a  excellent observation of the state of our society, where people are pressured into having children because “you don’t have children?

I know Bill is being deliberately controversial and I don’t really think we need a I didn’t reproduce day but he’s right about this pressure from our society and its not really on…

This will instantly wind up a lot of people, especially those with children. It may feel like an attack on you but its not. Its about giving people the space and freedom to make their own decisions not feel guilt tripping them into something which others think is correct. Similar messages are applied to couples which are not married.

If I was offering advice to young dyslexics…

… what advice would I give…? Well first I would watch the video above!

This is a question I ask myself after reading the Guardian’s post about writing tips for dyslexic kids.  I think myself and Tom are pretty much in agreement, but here’s my thought alongside his top liners.

Tip 1: sometimes the things we struggle with can be the most rewarding.

I struggled with writing for many many years and now I write almost every single day and publicly. Many of non-dyslexics fear writing publicly but I do it for myself. Its hard when you get people picking holes in your own words but keep going it is very rewarding. Its the grit of getting knocked and coming back stronger, which will make you stronger in the future.

Tip 2: never be afraid to think visually.

Absolutely, and its important not to feel ashamed for thinking differently. You are gifted in many ways. visual and spacial thinking is beautiful and fascinating. The medium still needs to catch up but push it and make it work for you. I’m no longer waiting, I’m building it to suit me. You should do the same.

Tip 3: Try not to get annoyed and throw a book/custard pie/tantrum at anyone who corrects your reading*.

They just don’t understand and will never understand how painful it is having people corrected over and over again. Its not you being dumb, its only one disadvantage, in a massive arsenal of advantages. Feel better by doing something you love straight afterwards if you feel the need to get very upset.

Tip 4: don’t be afraid to surround yourself by what you love.

If you are not doing what makes you happy find ways to escape, ultimately it will make you unhappy. Treat it as a problem which needs to be solved in the most creative way you can. This also applies to people as well. If somebody is making you feel rubbish, tell them and if they still won’t listen, avoid them, basic communication till they change. Love is passion and underestimated by many

Tip 5: if anyone goes at your work with a red pen, grab it off them, snap it in two and throw it out of the window, then ask them to read what you have written, rather than correct it.

Absolutely! Recognise that its always easier to pick holes and correct than start. Put a blank piece of document/paper in front of them and ask them to start writing, see how they get on with the pressure. Conformity is boring and will make you ultimately unhappy.

Tip 6: poetry often works to a structure, you know that a certain line rhyme with another, it makes you think about words. It’s like the foundations of a house are laid out in front of you, and you have to add the walls and roof.

Poetry can be messed with, there is plenty of room for your creativity. The constraints are there to drive creativity not hinder it. Think on your feet and don’t try and emulate somebody else.

Tip 7: don’t be scared of a blank piece of paper, it’s the best thing in the world.

A blank paper, screen, wall, etc are a world of possibilities. Its waiting for your ideas and inspiration. Make your mark and never apologise for making a mark/your mark.

Tip 8: learn about what dyslexia is, read about it, you’ll find yourself going “I totally do that!” quite a lot. There are many others like you, all of them probably have felt isolated, stupid, like they didn’t belong at some point too.

There are others like you and me. If you understand the advantages and disadvantages, you can learn where you’re strengths and weaknesses lye. There are some great people who are dyslexic, but even better you can help others.

Tip 9: writing is about you, they are your thoughts, the things you have to say, and those can never be wrong.

No matter what people say, don’t feel the need to censor yourself and write personal things in somebody elses voice. Be creative with your words and don’t be ashamed when making up new words. Just put some quotes around it, like “thingybob” and then define it.

Tip 10: stop reading this and go write something amazing.

Agreed…  and never be ashamed of your writing and voice.. Anthony below further expands on the themes above…

How can you still be single?!

Killer Prom Date - Dig The Grave Black & White

I opened OKCupid to find a message which brought a smile and with some time a puzzled look to my face. The message was…

I’ve lurked your profile on and off since we spoke. How can you still be single?! 🙂

The lady in question is lovely but the distance is too far and shes quite young. Whats the rule again? (Half your age and add 7?) Ok if I go by that rule it wouldn’t be so bad, but I generally go for slightly older it has to be said. But she’s quite mature, going by the things in her profile.

But as I said, I had a puzzled look after a while.

I answered her message with…

Honestly… I think my modern attitude and values seems to cause conflict with women my age. I tend to go for older women but they also tend to be in relationships or have old school views. Distance tends to be a problem and for some reason I end up falling for the same type each time…

Keep lurking…

I thought about it quite a bit since and even had a discussion with my sister.

First thing, I’m not one of those guys who believes I should be in a relationship. This isn’t a goddamm right of being born. Secondly I know the lady in question meant it as a honest question rather than a slap in the face.

So why am I single?

Some suggest I may actually like dating (well I do enjoy meeting new people). Others say I just haven’t found the one (yeah right, I don’t believe in the one) others think I might be a secret playa and even a womanizer! (cheers sister) Of course I totally disagree (although I can see the haters, laughing this one up). Another friend in Manchester thinks I’m making everything up and I’m actually not going on dates. MancNewgirl recently said I was a ex by ex… “Dating Expert by Experience”  something she came up with on the spot. I certainly liked that, and fits nicely with my unofficial tag line of the wikipedia of online dating.  Wikipedia because my advice is made up of lots of experiences and trust me its not made up. Sheila promised a book to me which explains exactly why I’m single (but even after 4 years) I still have not seen this mystery book? (I don’t even know the title of it). Some say its the clothes I wear, I have already had a offer to take me shopping for new clothes in a Queer eye for the straight guy remake. Although I agree, sometimes I should get the clothes out the washer/dryer a little quicker or do a tiny bit of  ironing (which I bloody hate).

All interesting but brings me no nearer to understanding why I’m single. I mean who wouldn’t want to go out with a modern geeky gentleman who has modern views and is a feminist? I get I’m not exactly in shape and have a face which is better for radio. But I’m confident, funny, smart, tall, dark and handsome?

My sister also suggested my comfort with female kind might be putting other women off? I can’t understand why, and to be honest if a potential women is put off because I have quite a few friends who are female. Then that’s simply crazy and I’m not going to give up being friends with women because of her insecurities. The fact I might have dated a few of them might be some area for concern but within the first hour of chatting with me, it should be clear there is never going to be anything questionable

This whole thing reminds me of a Single Black Male post I saw a while ago. Am I a picky or patient dater? Maybe I am too picky and settling isn’t such a bad thing? This also seems consistent with my recent lack of speed dating dates. The ones I’m interested in, don’t seem to be interested in me? Don’t even get me started on my very bad tinder activity. But at least the online dating side isn’t going so bad.

The idea of settling does bug me and give me much to think about. On the whole, I feel too young to settle (don’t ask me what age this changes as I have no idea). However everything I read seems to indicate this isn’t necessarily the case, for example this is something I read while putting together slides for Dating, Lies and Algorithms recently.

“The future will see better relationships but more divorce,” predicts Dan Winchester, the founder of a free dating site based in the U.K. “The older you get as a man, the more experienced you get. You know what to do with women, how to treat them and talk to them. Add to that the effect of online dating.” He continued, “I often wonder whether matching you up with great people is getting so efficient, and the process so enjoyable, that marriage will become obsolete.”

Why settle at all? Now some of you may say “Well this is typical of your generations lazy self-centered and selfish attitude. In my day, we had kids by the age of 22” And it would be hard (but certainly not impossible) to debate against the first part of the statement. But bear in mind I was married at the age of 23! Its not like I wasn’t open to everything.

There seems to be a connection between education (will find the reference later) and the amount of kids you may want/have… Now you could take the statement above and say well I’m being selfish but I disagree, my parents (I’m sure many others did the same) encouraged their kids to pursue their dreams by getting a decent education and making something of themselves. That push to better thy self, leads to finding a partner who is equally ambitious?

Why would you settle for less?

Teaching the next generation with Povray?

Reach for the Stars

On Saturday I went along to Hack to the Future, the idea of Alan O’Donohoe, Teknoteacher on Twitter. A very ITC teacher in Preston who wants to make a difference for the next generation. Alan’s one hell of a guy, after pulling off one of the most daring stunts at BarCampMediaCity with his fake BBC Codelab idea, he decided to take the idea of the unconference to young people in the form of a day of informal learning – Hack to the Future or #h2df.

It is an un-conference that aims to provide young digital creators aged 11 – 18 with positive experiences of computing science and other closely related fields, ensuring that the digital creators of today engage with the digital creators of tomorrow.

We plan to offer a day that will inspire, engage and encourage young digital creator

The event was all about the young people and it was amazing to see over 200 young people surrounding the make shift board where the talks and tutorials were put. H2df wasn’t a talking shop, all that was put a side for the day and the teaching started. (If you are interested in hearing about the whole problem space, you can hear Alan and the rest of the #techgrumps waxing lyrical about this whole issue here…)

So inspired by everything, I decided to do a 30min class on learning Persistence of Vision Raytracer.

The way I see it, is PoVRay as its called on the street, helped me to learn how to script all those years ago, and I think theres plenty of mathematical & raytracing techniques to be learned while having fun. And now its very quick to raytrace on the modern machines we have. So advanced, PovRay doesn’t even really support multi-core processors (its over 20 years old!) In actual fact people do ask, what licence is it? And I have to say Free before Freedom (aka before the GPL!)

The lesson didn’t go well for many reasons including trying to get the online version of PoVray working on IE7 was a no go. Switching to my laptop wasn’t much better due to the cable length and my dodgy thinkpad. Anyhow I did get a chance to raytrace some stuff and do some povray hacking with the class, so I guess it worked. Although if I was to do it again, I would make a ton of changes including a having a free whiteboard and focus on the hacking of Pov.

I’m sure PoVray could be used to teach scripting and I was amazed to find out Mark Shuttleworth was also a PovRay geek. Such a perfect picture for Hack to the Future, don’t you think?

It was an amazing day and really well done to Alan and the team of Our Ladies High School. Unforgivable we also had to listen to his #h2df rap which I can help but cover my head and cringe when I hear.

Great work Alan, less rap more chat?

 

Should we teach people how to code in school?

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

I’ve seen quite a lot of blogs, notes, and even papers on the question of shouldn’t we teach the next generation how to code? Somewhere in the mix, there’s lots of thoughts that the problem we’re having keeping up with our american friends is because we’ve gone soft on teaching the next generation the essential skills needed to not just become workers but to think for themselves and ultimately take control and drive their own destiny.

And finally there’s a lot of thought that the BBC should be a large part of what ever happens, after the success of the BBC Micro ecosystem back in the 80’s. There is no way I could go on without mentioning the fantastic work which is going on in these areas from Ant Miller, Michael Sparks, Mo McRoberts, Alan O’DonohoeKeri Facer, Adrian Woolard, etc, etc…

My own thoughts are quite complex on this issue but I wanted to talk about one aspect of it… teaching people to code.

Lots of people have said code is law, code is power, code is freedom, code is a way of life. They may even be right but I have a problem with this…

…I’ve never had any formal programming/computer science training. So obviously I would say, its not as biscuit critical as some people are making out. Don’t get me wrong its powerful and the ability to be able to manipulative the landscape around yourself and others is a fantastic thing to have. However there’s more to it than just this.

I have the power to manipulate and bend the landscape to suit myself, its not so elegant but it kind of works because I understand the systems and services around us. I would conclude this is the hacker mindset (although others would disagree or think I’m being a little broad with the definition.

So what is the hacker mindset? And ultimately what is a hacker and what does this have to do with the next generation? Bruce Schneier explains what a hacker is…

What is a Hacker?
A hacker is someone who thinks outside the box. It’s someone who discards conventional wisdom, and does something else instead. It’s someone who looks at the edge and wonders what’s beyond. It’s someone who sees a set of rules and wonders what happens if you don’t follow them. A hacker is someone who experiments with the limitations of systems for intellectual curiosity.

There’s some keywords in that statement which stimulate my thoughts… But the big one is the Curiosity.

From Secret & Lies, the famous Schneier book which I actually own, but I think I lent to someone? (Glyn?)

Hackers are as old as curiosity, although the term itself is modern. Galileo was a hacker. Mme. Curie was one, too. Aristotle wasn’t. (Aristotle had some theoretical proof that women had fewer teeth than men. A hacker would have simply counted his wife’s teeth. A good hacker would have counted his wife’s teeth without her knowing about it, while she was asleep. A good bad hacker might remove some of them, just to prove a point.)

How do we entourage young people to keep there natural sense of curiosity? Somewhere in the process of growing up its kind of knocked out of young people and I don’t know where it exactly happens. I also feel this fits well with my thoughts about the need for young people to explore their inner geek or passion if you prefer.

I would also suggest curiosity + passion is a killer combination and something a lot more people could do with (imho). This combination seems to be great (although not all of them appear in the 8 great traits) ironically.

Inspiring the next generation is the game and aim here, not teaching young people to code. Being smart, curious and passionate is what I wish for all the young people of this and every nation. How the BBC and BBC Micro Redux project (I totally made that up!) fit into this frame I don’t honestly know, but I know many people are chipping away at this in many different ways. I just hope there ultimate aim isn’t to just create a whole bunch of coders because that would be very dull and a crying shame…