Saturday, November 24, 2012

Meditation Education

I recently read an interesting article in the magazine, Scientific American Mind called "The Education of Character" by Ingrid Wikelgren, and the concepts intrigued me because it reminded me of the book I read entitled, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human StrengthSince I cannot find the article online (without a paid subscription, though there is a related blog here), I'll summarize some of what it says.

There are several places, and it was apparently it started by a variety of people, including some actors, where an interesting concept has been used alongside traditional education.  Students in these programs practice a variety of meditation-like breathing exercises and other concentration and "mindfulness" practices.  These practices, along with emotional self-regulation are growing among elementary educators.  According to the article the MindUP program and the similar program PATHS (Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies) have both been producing great results throughout the students' lives.  Though the article concludes with a couple notes about how tweaking children's thinking can be difficult to understand in general and sometimes has mixed results.

It was quite interesting to me that I found this article after reading the book about Willpower because the article (and the following article about increasing brain power) confirmed quite a bit of the book.  Now, I'm not the type of person that reads a single article and totally believes every word, but with this well researched article and that book confirming each other, I'm pretty convinced that one of the most important thing a person can learn, especially at a young age, is patience and self-control.  I'm excited about working on some of these patience-teaching techniques with my boys when I get home, and maybe working on some of it myself.  I'm fairly sure that everyone agrees they could use more self-control.

When I was young, I distinctly remember not being permitted to learn martial art because of the link to east Asian mysticism/religion and meditation.  Now, while I don't regret my parent's decision, I think they did what they felt was right in shielding me from negative influences, I think meditation would be good for me.  The difference between what my parents were afraid of and what I would like to practice is the reason for meditating.  Meditation for the purpose of reaching some mystical higher plane of existence and some out-of-body religious experience would be contrary to what I believe.  However, meditation to focus on self-control or breath control would be healthy.  Also, part of meditation is concentration, it'd be good for my mind to spend some time each day meditating on God.  I guess you could just say "prayer," but I kind of see it as slightly different.  Basically, I only want to concentrate on one aspect of God during meditation.  Though sometimes I'd also like to try to just concentrate on nothing.  Though, technically thinking about nothing doesn't really seem possible to me--we'll see.

Gosh I miss home

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day 2012 선거일

Or as my Korean friends would say "erection day."  I don't really want an answer to this, and I've already made my preference clear (Third Party), but who or what are you going to vote for?  I'm sad to say that I officially missed the deadline and my vote won't count, but YOUR'S can!  So, rather than pushing one party or ideal, I'd just like to take this chance to encourage you to voice your opinion.  God has blessed (those of my readers that are US citizens) us with the chance to choose the type of governance and lawmakers we want.  Also, we have decided, as a country, to have a popular vote for the position of President/Vice President (though more on that here), sort of.  Either way, and no matter how you feel about the electoral college, go out and vote today.

On a totally different subject, in order to practice writing in Korean, and to appeal to my (possible) Korean readers, I'm going to start writing a blog in Korean.  It may be full of grammatical and spelling errors, but I'm going to try.  I'm also going to try to make it parallel this blog.  Not necessarily a direct translation of this on but at least the same topic.

Our political system

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Intellectual Property Rights

This is an interesting topic I once discussed with a cigar buddy at the Havana Garage in Omaha.  I had sent out an invitation to my church to meet up for cigars and scotch at a cigar bar, unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, only one person was able to attend.  We held an interesting conversation for hours about intelectual property and copyright law (he's a copyright lawyer for a firm there in downtown Omaha).  One of the more interesting tidbits I learned is that one does NOT have to have a copyright to sue for intellectual property rights (in the US).  If you write a poem, song, business plan, or anything that requires (virtually) any amount of creative effort on a napkin at a restaurant and someone overhears you talking about it and steals your idea, EVEN if they have a copyright, and you can PROVE that it's your idea that that person stole, you can win in a copyright case.  Though granted it's much easier to prove something is one's intellectual property with a copyright, but it's not necessary.  That's what copyrights are supposed to do, protect or give legitimacy to the claim to one's intellectual property.  A copyright in and of itself is not proof, just good evidence.

Anyways, another thing I talked about at that time was how I thought it kind of silly that large companies sometimes sue little mom-and-pop businesses that make a small amount of money off selling copyrighted material.  (My lawyer friend replied that large companies often overlook small organizations so long as they don't make too much money, because it's not worth the cost of a lawsuit to pursue every single copyright infringement.)  If you look on there are any number of copyright questionable sellers that run the risk of drawing the attention of some big company that decides to crack down on these small-time sellers.  To me, for some reason the 'big guy' picking on these tiny establishments is completely unfair.

I know it's a double standard but it bothers me just as much that there's a person on Etsy that has copyrighted a silly simple technique for making a fabric baby toy called a taggy, and that person is (or was, I see multiple taggy makers now) constantly hunting down fellow makers and forcing them to remove their goods from Etsy based on copyright infringement.  Then I came across this from a English language teaching program I'm interested in getting involved in:

This is about the future of creativity and innovation, a David v Goliath flashpoint that we hope to rally your support around.
We are a tiny company called Languages Out There (LOT) and publish the world's first social media English course called English Out There (EOT).

EOT works with Facebook and Skype and can transform the English speaking ability of long-term frustrated learners. It is inexpensive for the students but can help teachers to start their own businesses.

We have developed our content over 11 years and have only made a tiny profit in the last two years. It has not been at all easy.

Over ALMOST THREE YEARS we provided privileged and confidential information about our unique content to Oxford University Press (OUP) because they said they were interested in our content.

In March of this year they wrote to us,

"we do not feel that LOT offers the type of materials that we could bring within our catalogue, whether in relation to the current offering or our future plans."

JUST FIVE MONTHS LATER they launched a new five level English course book series with the words,

"Network is the first course to use social networking to help students succeed in English."

The first three English teachers we sent the OUP product link (just the link, nothing else), said this:

Link here.

This is even worse!  I can understand the "little guy" making a tiny bit of money off innovating or recreating a copyrighted item but when a large corporation steals copyrighted material from a tiny company that's just despicable.  As I said, I know it's a double standard and no one should get away with stealing someone else's hard work, but hopefully English Out There can win this one and stop Oxford University Press from stealing their material.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Questioning the consistency of the Bible

Recently I (kind of) got suckered into a discussion of the consistency of the Bible.  Namely, someone said that the Bible has two different dates for when Jesus was born and one of them couldn't have happened because it would have been before he was born.  References given were Matt 2:1 and Luke 2:2.  I found an interesting response to this idea here.  To save you the time of reading that (rather lengthy and well formed) response, I'll sum it up: No one knows exactly when Jesus was born and the dating system is based on tradition and conjecture and is subject to men's opinion.

I responded to the person that pointed out this inconsistency and his response remained that those two events (mentioned in those verses) were not at the same time.  Though he did point out that at the most they are only different by about 10 years which is pretty close given the extreme length of time that has passed since.

Well, all this discussion, by the way my counterpart in this discussion has challenged me to find an extra-biblical account of Jesus even existing, led me to do some research into what people perceive as biblical contradictions.  I found a rather lengthy list and started going through them.  Now, to be fair the introduction to the list does state that some of the "contradictions" listed are explainable by a variety of translations.  So, I started going through the list reading as much of each example given as I could.  It was an interesting exposition of the Bible and led me to reading quite a bit.  I didn't make it through the whole list, but of all the supposed contradictions I did read through only one or two made me scratch my head and didn't have an immediate and obvious explanation.  I didn't notate which ones... but I'll be going through the list in more detail in the future.  What I would like to mention about that list is that all but a couple were so easily explained.  It was like the person who compiled the list didn't really read what was written in the verses listed as "contradictory."

Prime example:

Gen 7:7 Noah and his clan enter the Ark.  (KJV)

7 And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood.

Gen 7:13 They enter the Ark (again?) (KJV)

13 In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark;

No one claims the the historical accounts in the Bible are in exact chronological order every time.  Obviously verse thirteen is NOT saying they went into the ark AGAIN after they had already entered.  It's simply a restatement about their activities during that time when they were entering the ark, also, who says they didn't go in and out of the window on the deck or some other explanation.  It's not a contradiction at all.  Many of the contradictions listed on that site follow a very similar pattern to this example.  Many mis-translate the word day to an exact 24-hour period of time when often times it's obviously used as just a 'period of time' or similar meaning.

Anyways, all this to say none of this is making me question my faith, but (ironically) it is making me get into the Word more and study a variety of Biblical passages that I may not have studied before.  I wonder if this (obviously anti-Christian) site ever expected that kind of reaction to their post?

Gosh I miss home

Friday, November 2, 2012

Vacation Plans

I don't know much about my readers, but I'm always curious who reads my blog.  I sometimes review my viewership stats and the vast majority of my readers are out of the U.S. (which makes sense), but unfortunately, whenever I look through my blog to edit it, that also counts as a view so my stats are artificially larger because of my views.  But that's all beside the point...

I'm trying to make some vacation plans for when I get home from this deployment.  I have ample vacation time saved up and I'd like to go someplace fun and interesting.  Unfortunately Michelle (my wife) thinks we should postpone any such plans.  However, we've been talking and making plans to possibly have more children.  I'd like to have a little girl.  Michelle wants either no more or two more to make a round 4 total.  I'm content with 2-3.  My issue is that if we don't take this time to travel there won't be a better time.  Traveling with young children is tough, but if we're traveling with a baby it will be much more difficult.  What I'm wondering, is do you have children?  And if so, do you go on vacation?  Or maybe mini-vacations where you don't really go anywhere?  I don't remember much from my childhood but I do seem to remember going on vacation even when I was very young and my brother much younger.  There was a big difference though, my family NEVER flew anywhere for vacation.  Even when we went to Colorado, we drove all the way!

My options are open for vacation.  It is much more expensive, but we could try to go home to Ohio.  Honestly, I don't think that's worth the expense.  It would be nice to see family again but it would be over $1000/person for plane tickets.  I'd like to take my family to visit Korea.  Since I speak Korean I could be their personal guide.  There's tons of great places to ski and it would be fun to teach the boys skiing.  And of course I'd get to practice all the Korean I wanted.  Then of course we could go pretty much ANYWHERE in the S Pacific.  The options are endless, we even discussed going to New Zealand  or Australia.  It's a bit tough choosing to leave the island because we live in a vacation paradise and every weekend is like a mini-vacation.  But, I'd like to go out and explore the world around the tiny island and I think it'd be a great experience for our family.

The boys enjoying dinner on the beach