Category Archives: Educational

What did you learn in school today?

That’s one answer down my alley…

 

And for all of you who want to sing along with this song “What Did You Learn in School Today?”  by Tom Paxton – here you go…

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned that Washington never told a lie.
I learned that soldiers seldom die.
I learned that everybody’s free.
And that’s what the teacher said to me.
That’s what I learned in school today.
That’s what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned that policemen are my friends.
I learned that justice never ends.
I learned that murderers die for their crimes.
Even if we make a mistake sometimes.
That’s what I learned in school today.
That’s what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned our government must be strong.
It’s always right and never wrong.
Our leaders are the finest men.
And we elect them again and again.
That’s what I learned in school today.
That’s what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned that war is not so bad.
I learned of the great ones we have had.
We fought in Germany and in France.
And some day I might get my chance.
That’s what I learned in school today.
That’s what I learned in school.

Paperless Living

I am getting better at living a life without paper.

A few weeks ago I have started again to read a pulp science fiction series that I started to enjoy when I was at the tender age of 16. It is still available in print but hard (speak expensive) for me to come by. So, I found a real application for my tablet and am reading these novellas now on a screen.

But beside the entertainment part of my life, I  have also started to get rid of any receipt and other need-to-keep papers. There is a short decision when something comes across my desk if I will ever have to look at or refer to this piece again. If so, it get’s scanned and the  hard copy goes in the trash – or shredder.

This is also true for manuals. Fortunately most devices already come with electronic manuals or you can find them online. But unfortunately not always. Today I looked for the manual of the thermostat at our new house. There was one tucked right behind the wall unit, but obviously I will not leave it there. But I also did not want to start a new shoe box with manuals of things we have around the house, so the decision was made to scan it. But wait, maybe somebody else did this already and I can save the work.

Somebody did, but it was hidden behind having to jump through who knows how many hoops to get it free. Create a free account first. I still did that, but when I then was asked to try this subscription or sign for a trial membership on that other thing, I canceled out of that and did the scanning myself.

Hopefully Google will properly make it known that I did that, so, in case you need that particular manual you don’t have to sign up for any stinking free account – instead you get it right here…

DoIt Model No. 474045 5/2 Day Programmable Thermostat

 

Canon and Nikon together – At Last

Sometime in the dark ages – more than 15 years ago – I invested in a Nikon SLR 6006 with a nice 35-135mm zoom lens and it served me well until the dawn of the (reasonably priced) digital age. Early DSLRs were way too expensive and not worth the money, so I went with a few consumer digital cameras for some years, one of them also a Nikon, albeit not with exchangeable lens.

For many years my old 6006 sat in the closet losing value but I always had in mind  that at one point I would invest in a DSLR and then I could use the nice lens which was about five hundred bucks in the days I acquired it.

The time of the DSLR finally came in form of a Canon T4i. I had strongly considered waiting for the perfect mirror-less camera, but the deal I got on the Canon – I just could not pass up. I did not go with a Nikon DSLR because I also wanted to use the camera for video and Canon seemed to be superior in that department. Thus, I still had that good Nikon lens sitting there without any use. The idea of selling it on eBay shattered quickly when I saw for how little these cameras were traded – it really appears the time of the 35mm film is over.

I finally a reasonable offer for an adapter for Nikkor AF lenses to EOS bodies and it arrived today.

First test with that ‘good’ Nikkor lens were rather disappointing. It appears that lens technology has made long strides over the last decade and a half. The lack of transfer of data to and from the lens through the adapter (none) was no big deal, as I grew up, focusing manually and with the camera set to aperture priority the exposure was still pretty automatic – if I wanted. One feature of the Nikkor lens I was looking for was the macro range – at 35mm I could push one little button and extend the barrel quite a bit further, thus getting much closer to the subject.

Here the closes with the Nikkor

nikon-out

and the closest I could get with the Canon 18-55

canon-out

That was pretty good, but then I wanted to see how it fared when I looked closer, and this is where the disappointment took hold.

Big bad color fringes on the Nikkor lens

nikon-in

at least in the out-of-focus areas of the image while the Canon lens showed no such faults

canon-in

I will have to make some more test to see how the aperture will affect this behavior as, I believe, the Nikkor was wide open, while the Canon was exposing with the lens closed to 11. Now I start to imagine how the quality will be for a modern lens for the price of the old Nikkor, and even more so for a modern lens that I can not justify to buy.

What this little experiment really drove home to me is that the experts are right when they say that glass is more important than body.

UPDATE:

The above was written sometime in March of 2013. Since then I looked into other options of getting a closer look at things without using the macro setting on the Nikkor lens.

When it was time to buy something from Amazon with a price under the minimum to get free shipping, I added a Macro Extension Tube Set and a Macro Reverse Ring Camera Mount Adapter. The first one simply adds distance between the sensor and the lens, thus allowing to focus on objects closer to the lens (but losing the ability to focus on infinity with a ring inserted). The second allows to reverse the lens and mount it on the camera with the filter thread, allowing for extreme close-up shorts.

When I received these adapters I took my trusted lens cap and took a few shots to compare with what I could get with the old Nikkor lens. This time I was positively surprised. I got the same good quality of the image with my 18-55 lens – much better than the old Nikkor lens.

Close-up with Distance rings

Close-up with Distance ringsNow, that I have a solution to do close-up photography without the use of the Nikkor lens I can put that lens on eBay again, throwing in the body of the 6006 which I have not been able to just throw away so far.

Past Life Echoes

Past Lfe EchoesEchoes from the Past – a story once told on a web site that were to promote diving into past life times, not out of curiosity, but to find and remove reasons for things not quite going right…

It was a beautiful morning in Frankfurt…

I had been very excited about my first job after college although that excitement had now calmed down a bit after a long winter – living in bread-and-breakfast hotels waiting for my own place to become available. Spring had finally come and with it the date to move into my own apartment close to my new work in Frankfurt, Germany.

Now life was just perfect. A good job with the perception of an abundance of money after long years of scarcity during college. A very nice girl-friend, my own comfortable apartment and now – to top it all – spring had sprung.

And there I was, driving through this beautiful morning, along the river Main. Heading into Frankfurt.

Music from the radio, and then suddenly I started to cry.

I mean CRY – tears running down my face, sobbing deeply.

It was just a song on the radio! In case you are interested – it was “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” by Edith Piaf – -

- – what, you don’t even know who that is? – OK, just briefly so that my story will make more sense. Edith Piaf was a big singing star in the 30′s in France. Her stardom peaked during the 40′s when Germany occupied bigger parts of France, especially Paris. She died before I was beyond the children’s song phase – in this lifetime.

In other words, I could not have had any experience with her that I could place within my current lifetime.

So – what the heck happened?

It took me many years to find out – many years and a lot of money. I might, at a later time, tell this long story of my trials and tribulations, but for now let’s get on with the short version and Edith Piaf.

On this beautiful morning my drive into town was fortunately long enough to give me time to collect myself, this was an experience that I could not forget and that did not really seem to make sense to me.

Shortly after these events I started to study a philosophy that easily accepted the idea of past lives. However learning about a philosophy and making a connection to the real life around us are usually two very different subjects.

Although being educated in the hard sciences I had started to look for more meaning behind it all. Somehow physics alone was not explaining all the things I could observe. Science fiction had been a nice compromise with the technological aspect on one side and the possibilities of mental and spiritual powers on the other.

I had easily accepted the idea of telepathy, surviving the death of a body and similar concepts found in science fiction but it had always been from the point of view of a spectator.

That was about to change! The philosophy I was learning about was an applied philosophy, meaning that the ideas we studied were not only of intellectual value but were actually put to the test by trying them out.

This allowed me, for the first time, to leave my spectator’s view-point behind and get involved. Thus I experienced that there were past lived and that made a whole lot of a difference in my daily life.

Now back to Edith …

… it must have been one of those WOW-moments while singing in the shower – that I realized, some time after I had to cry so hard, that I knew Edith Piaf! I did some digging with the techniques I had learned and found myself to be one of those Germans occupying Paris, France in World War II and having a hell of a good time, going to shows and other entertainment Paris had to offer.

Imagine this proper SS officer, arrogant to the max, believing that Paris was all his – that was me!

One of those shows my buddy-officers and I had liked had been a concert with Edith Piaf.

And did I ever connect to this tiny person with the huge voice and those sad eyes.

There was something about those eyes – something always there but never firm enough in my grasp so that I could have examined it to understand.

I also felt that there was something more but I could not get a handle on.

What to do?

For quite a while I chose one very interesting way of handling it – ignoring it. Have you ever done that? That was pretty easy, because rarely this incident was brought up to it the level of consciousness in order to actually bother me.

But deep down we always know if a matter is just dormant, right? Waiting to be restimulated and taking control is rather different than the condition when something is really, once and for all, handled.

I did unravel the whole story to a point where it now takes effort to recall it because it has become unimportant. It obviously had an effect on my life because uncontrollable crying can be considered ‘having an effect.’

There are now many resources available on the interweb if you are on the quest to unravel your past or find out, for example, why you are afraid of heights or small spaces. One I can recommend is the Whole Self Institute which takes a no-nonsense approach to subjects like past lives or grief handling.

Anarchy is Good

voluntarizmI have to admit that my first understanding of anarchy was in line with the definition that most people use these days – chaos!

But if we look at the definition and root of this word, we find that chaos is not really part of it. It comes from the Greek an- + archos meaning no ruler. It is certainly true that the removal of an established ruler can easily lead to chaos.

Take, for example, a kid that is strictly controlled. Take this control away suddenly and you will most likely had a child that goes wild. But does that mean that the child will remain wild? With most sane kids – and most of them are sane – they will soon find a balance and become accustomed to the lack of control and will be as productive or unproductive as their inherent make-up is. This has been demonstrated in an experiment of un-schooling, where a group of kids were not forced to do anything. Certainly they first slacked off, but after a rather short time of turbulence they started to better themselves voluntarily. If you have ever experienced the difference between forced and voluntary learning you know how much more efficient learning is that you actually want.

But this is an experiment that needs to be run to its end result. A system that would want control could easily subvert the experiment by first taking away control, let the kids go wild and then, when chaos is at it’s best, step in, proclaim that freedom does not work, and put the control back on.

This is the same principle used to convince us that anarchy is not working. Governments want to keep their control because this is what they live on. Any instance where control slips for a while, for example after a revolution or war, is them used to rationalize that chaos ensued and that government has to be established again as soon as possible.

Let me give you another picture that demonstrated that perfectly and which you will have in mind from now on whenever you hear about anarchy. Think of cooking pea soup in a pressure cooker. All the ingredients go in the pot, the lid is closed (control) and heat is turned up. Soon boiling starts, steam develops, and pressure builds in the pot. Nothing dramatic happens. The valve in the lid of the pot will let off some of the steam occasionally in order to keep the pot from exploding.

Now, suddenly open the pressure relief valve and see what happens.

You will have pea soup all  over the kitchen. Yes, I tried that and this is the reason I used pea soup for my example. All the pressure trapped within the peas suddenly has no opposition any more and goes everywhere and takes pieces of the peas with it. The conclusion could now be to never relief the pressure – which would be equivalent to the politician telling us that we need police and military and prisons and laws regulating everything from commerce to farting.

But there is also another solution, because, after all, we want to get to the delicious pea soup. That solution is to release the pressure gradually, or – in the more dirty alternative – don’t care about the mess in the kitchen. Either way, we can enjoy the pea soup.

The sweet taste of liberty and lack of legalized violence where personal interactions occur on a voluntary basis.

Back to the idea of anarchy, a society of ‘no ruler.’ To get there will require a total revamping of the up-bringing of the next generations. Right now, kids, that have a disagreement or fight, are taught to go to an authority who will decide for them who is wrong and who is right. That will have to change to teach them to solve their problems and disagreements amongst themselves. Certainly this will not happen in schools that are sponsored by those who want the status quo.

I see this state of mind appreciating a society based on voluntary interactions spreading and getting more and more into the main stream, Ron Paul being one of the examples for that. He had to fail because the bigger part of the people is still too afraid of pea soup all over the kitchen, but it appears to me that we are at this time in state two of the three stages of truth as described by Arthur Schopenhauer:

  1. It is ridiculed.
  2. It is violently opposed.
  3. It is accepted as being self-evident.

I just wonder when we finally get to stage three.

 

 

German Seeking Political Asylum in the US

When I went to school in Germany, there was no real choice where to go. If you were Catholic you went to the Catholic school, and to the Protestant school when you were anything else – like Protestant.

That was the first four years. Then you could either stay and prepare for a life in trade or craft, go to middle school and plan to become a middle manager, or go to high school and aim for an academic career.

home schoolingWe heard it through the grapevines that there was something like private schools but that was for the very rich and weird and I never knew anybody who went that route.

Homeschooling was not even a consideration.

Apparently there are some parents now in Germany who don’t want to get their kids to be state-indoctrinated.Uwe and Hannelore Romeike are such parents and they tried to homeschool their kids but the government said ‘No!’ and the battle ensued. They, eventually,  fled from Germany to the United States after their family was vigorously prosecuted (fines, forcible removal of their children, threats of jail and more) for homeschooling. Initially, the Romeikes were granted political asylum, but the U.S. government appealed that decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals. That Board sided with the government. The HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association, a group defending homeschoolers in the US) took their case and appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

First of all I wonder why the US government would try to deny this family to stay in the US. I can only imagine that they want to stay friends with the Germany government which tries everything to avoid creating a precedence. Imagine the PR flop if a German family is granted political asylum in the US!

In addition, those domestic homeschoolers are already a thorn in the government’s flesh, daring to doubt their benevolence. The arguments brought by the government why this German family should be sent back to Germany to be torn apart and fined into oblivion are very revealing and indicate what might be in store for American homeschoolers.

Read the full story at the HSLDA web site…

X11Forwarding But DISPLAY variable not set

x11-logoSerious programming in the olden days mean to deal with Unix – the father of today’s ubiquitous Linux running bigger part of the internet.

The first bigger project I was involved in was still the good old DOS with Turbo Pascal – anybody remember that?

As soon as I could, and we had to build something less of a hack but more of a software-engineered application, I steered my client into Unix, first the X86 version of Xenix, which turned out to be too flaky, and then a nice hundred thousand dollar HP Workstation. As it was an application involving graphics, an important order of business was to get familiar with the principles and techniques of the X11 windowing system.

This was not a very long-lived project and with the advent of more powerful x86 hardware and a finally decent piece of software from Microsoft – Windows NT – the develoment was moved to that new platform. The fact that the port from X to NT was not terribly difficult was a nice testimonial for proper application of software engineering principles. Hacking mentality as promoted by something like Turbo Pascal would have required a complete rewrite.

System administration, I had become familiar with during that time, was helpful when I started to maintain a few linux web servers years later. I always considered X11 far superior to all the other graphical windows software but I really had never anything to do with it any more – until a point in time a few days ago.

First of all, I finally succeeded in getting Ubuntu running on an old laptop. A flaky DVD had never gotten me through an installation properly and the machine was so old that it could not boot from a memory stick. I ultimately succeeded when I found a utility I could burn on a CD and boot from that made my USB bootable. Now I could load Ubuntu from the USB stick.

So, there I finally was again with a computer with a proper graphical user interface. But that computer was tucked away somewhere with little physical access. It serve as a local testing machine for web development – did not really need that X Windows for that!

But it was sitting there, teasing me, so I finally got XMing – an X Server running on MS Windows – installed on my main computer where I sit all day and I could finally connect to that old laptop remotely with a graphical user interface. In my early days of X11 there was not too much concern about security – it was all on the local network – yes, a coax ethernet cable – and to have an application display on an xterminal you just had to set the DISPLAY environment variable to the IP address of any X-Server, like a xterminal, and authorize its use.

That is all different now. I learned that from a remote machine you start an ssh connection on my workstation (windows 7) to the remote host (old linux laptop) using putty. If the putty session had X Forwarding enabled then a secure tunnel for all the X traffic was created. This tunnel could even go through a router with NAT without a problem. Initially I had wondered why I saw the value of the DISPLAY variable set to strange things like localhost:10.0 – but I finally understood that this was how the ssh tunnel worked: the ssh server on the old laptop pretended to be a local X server on display number 10; then it transported all the X traffic it received securely to the machine I was sitting on and fed it into XMing. It all worked perfectly.

Two weeks later I received my first Raspberry Pi and that little wonder did behave the same way as the old laptop, a bit slower I have to admit, so the old laptop is still a bit more powerful than the miniature linux box sitting over there on my speaker. Both are full LAMP systems and are even accessible from the rest of the world through the magic of DynDNS and port forwarding.

But then my trouble began.

As I had all this so nicely and easily set up, it was suddenly not enough any more that I logged into my real web servers only with putty, SCP, and DirectAdmin. Nostalgia had me in its grip and I just had to get X running on them as well.

First of all there was no X-stuff installed on those servers as they were web servers in some remote data center. But a “yum install xterm” got this handled. Still no go – starting xterm from the ssh login gave me the error message that the display was either not there or could not be opened.

The next step, I found out, was to enable X11Forwarding for the sshd on the remote server – but still no go – the DISPLAY variable was still not set. Lots of Googling around but no solution – everything I tried made no difference.

But I learned about the -vvv parameter to ssh. It would give me insight into what was happening during the establishing of the ssh connection. Unfortunately, putty does not have it! But I found that it has a logging function and after turning this on and comparing the logs from connections to my local old laptop and the remote web server I finally saw the light:

xauth

After I had it yum-installed and run to generate a new .Xauthority file for a local X server my quest for the xterm running on that web server and displaying on my local machine behind a NAT router in my office had come to a successful conclusion.

Not that I will use that much – putty and SCP have done the job for me for years – but I now could, potentially, install firefox on that server and start browsing through that server located at a very different place on the planet.

Hmmm  – why don’t I just try that: yum install firefox……………………….
finally, after installing a gazillion dependent packages, the installation is – complete!

Now: firefox& – wait – wait – wait…

ff-on-linux

But it is clear that I have to file this away under ‘education’ as it is so slow to make it more or less unusable.

School and Social Behavior

For a while I myself subscribed to the idea that school is a good place for kids to practice their social skills.

Even if that might be true to some extend and we try to weigh the good against the bad, I believe that it is about time to abolish the traditional, government-run schools.

I nice picture I ran into today drives that home a bit more…

What school really teaches