Sunday, April 30, 2006

Knife and Fork

Knife and Fork
Originally uploaded by victorpanlilio.
There's been a recent controversial news story about Luc, a 7-year old Filipino boy in Quebec, who was chastised for eating his meals in the school lunchroom with a (gasp!) spoon and fork. The school principal, Norman Bergeron, professed ignorance of any culture where it's the custom to eat this way. There's been an avalanche of email and online commentary heaping scorn and contempt on him, and I daresay he deserves every bit of it. In fact, this whole incident illustrates why schools can be toxic to children. On the other hand, Luc's parents should probably have taught their son how to also eat with a knife and fork, as my 6-year old son CJ does (he can also eat with a spoon and fork, or with his bare hands, but we're working on chopsticks). As the saying goes, when in Rome...

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The 'Second Life' Generation

Checking the result...
Originally uploaded by victorpanlilio.
Today we made a huge decision. We registered officially as a home schooling family. Not yet sure exactly what it all means, but we're taking primary responsibility for CJ's education. Our decision was far from easy, and it involved a whole lot of reading and pondering. I'm inclined to believe that we're doing this primarily with CJ's best interests in mind, but we realize we're doing this for ourselves as a family, too. After all, we're part of a "community of learners."
I think we live in a society in which a rapid and accelerating change in social life and the economy and the kind of work that people do is transforming the need for knowledge... knowledge in the 21st century is going to be very different... a very substantial proportion of people are engaged in work, in jobs that did not exist when they were born and that number is increasing. So the model that says learn while you’re at school, while you’re young, the skills that you will apply during your lifetime is no longer tenable. The skills that you can learn when you’re at school will not be applicable. They will be obsolete by the time you get into the workplace and need them, except for one skill. The one really competitive skill is the skill of being able to learn. — Seymour Papert, MIT
CJ taught himself to read, the same way he learned to eat solid food, walk, speak, and use the toilet. Notice a pattern? I suspect that, with proper guidance, encouragement, and resources, he can probably teach himself just about anything. What's the alternative?
Many children struggle in schools... because the way they are being taught is the way is incompatible with the way they learn. — Peter Senge, MIT
One friend told me her son's teacher forbade students from using the Internet to research a topic, so they'd be forced to look it up in the library. Now, I have nothing against books (we have hundreds of them), but what's wrong with Wikipedia as a starting point? Why are schools trying to assert control over people who've discovered tools that empower them to direct their own learning? This strikes me as silly, wrongheaded, and counterproductive. It's like forcing someone to dig a hole with kitchen utensils when a shovel would be more efficient.
We don't have to make human beings smart. They are born smart. All we have to do is stop doing things that make them stupid. — John Holt
Google the combined terms "MIT learning children 21st century" and read the first five articles. If you can read only one, read this.
Now, given that picture of a rapid change of society, one would expect to see a rapid evolution of the institutions charged with preparing the young for it. We do not see this. We see a much slower rate of evolution of the school and that means we’re seeing a bigger and bigger gap between school and society. This gap is what I believe is responsible for the deterioration of performance in our schools and our educational systems. Because the children can see this; they can see that school is irrelevant. They feel that the pace of school and the mood of the school culture is out of sync with the society in which they live. And so it becomes harder and harder to get them to buy into the idea that school is satisfying their needs, that school is a bridge to the 21st century. — Seymour Papert, MIT
Another friend – who taught in schools for over 30 years – pointedly told us not to put CJ into a regular school. Why? Because, according to her, he'd only be bored to tears. It seems a lot of schools turn children off to learning by having them do pointless busywork. No child should have to endure such nonsense.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Jojo's Bistro Parisienne

Bon apetit
Originally uploaded by victorpanlilio.
The other night Caroline and I went out for dinner at one of our favourite restaurants — Jojo's, which used to be on 17th Ave. S.W. right beside The Sultan's Tent, but is now along 33rd Ave. S.W. in Marda Loop. What a wonderful treat to enjoy a relaxing midweek supper with your spouse, a good bottle of wine, and superb French cuisine with a Moroccan touch! Our attentive and knowledgeable server, Nabila, is the owner's daughter. I had the Shrimp Spinach Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette, Spicy Scallop with Halibut Tagine, and Coffee Chocolate Mousse; Caroline had Mussel Saffron Soup, Rack of Lamb, and Amaretto Creme Brulee, accompanied by a very pleasant and affordable Louis Sipp Pinot Gris 2003. We had not visited Jojo's in some time, and it was well worth the trip. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Driving in India – whoa!

Burning the Midnight Oil

A friend dropped off his iBook G4. It boots but won't get to the login screen. Disk Utility on my Tiger DVD won't repair it; neither can TechTool Deluxe, which reported surface errors and a damaged Volume Directory. Tried booting from the DiskWarrior 3.0 CD – kernel panic. Can't even mount it in Firewire target disk mode. The drive in my iBook G4 died in July 2005, when it was 19 months old. Fortunately, I had a recent backup on an external Firewire drive. My friend has only partial data backups on a network attached Maxtor OneTouch II. This could get ugly real fast. I hope I can backup at least his Home directory.

Update: the drive is toast. Drive Genius could not even see it in Firewire target disk mode. Oh well. Laptop drives are fragile critters. Backup, backup, backup! (My iBook is backed up nightly).

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Blinking Green Light of Death

Well, it happened. I have a Nikon D70, purchased sometime Spring 2004, and it's exhibiting the symptoms well documented on the web — with a memory card in the camera and a fully-charged battery, the D70 remains inoperable. Pressing the rear Menu button briefly displays the menu in the rear LCD, then it goes blank. This is apparently a known defect in D70's manufactured before September 2004. I hope Nikon Canada will fix this free of charge, considering the problem seems so commonplace — Googling "dead D70" returns 377,000 hits. Sheesh.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

For Prospective Employers and Colleagues

Lately I've been going through the interview process with headhunters and prospective hiring managers, and certain questions come up again and again. Here are the short answers, so next time I can just point my interviewers to this blog — kidding!

1. Q: What's your greatest weakness?
A: I can be too much of a perfectionist.

2. Q: What's your greatest strength?
A: My personal integrity. I say what I mean, and mean what I say.

3. Q: Describe a recent situation in which you committed an error.
A: While configuring a new IBM server, I forgot to enable RAID.

4. Q: What did you learn from this incident?
A: Next time, ask for help if you're not sure what to do.

5. Q: How do you handle difficult situations? Give an example.
A: Left my mug on a colleague's desk. She tore a strip off me in public.

6. Q: How did you respond?
A: I ignored her for days, until she broke down and apologized.

7. Q: Describe a work accomplishment you're especially proud of.
A: In over 2 years, a company I looked after didn't get a single virus.

8. Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?
A: Doing consulting work in some area of information technology.

9. Q: Why are you the best candidate for this role?
A: Am I? I listen well, and I get along fine with most people.

10. Q: Do you have any questions?
A: Why do interview questions tend to be the same?

First Post... sort of

After much procrastination, I've decided to start blogging again – mostly because a friend has been prodding me to. I had a blog, but I stopped writing in it, so I decided to ditch the old one, which I created in 1998 (before the term 'blog' existed), and started this one. I write better in responding to email, but then my thoughts go only to the recipient. Rather than spam friends and family, a blog is probably a better way to share what's on my mind.