27 December 2013

The "World Peace Game"

I'll get to the truly important fact about the World Peace Game: the recent well-received book about it mentions Me in the Acknowledgements.

Yeah, Me. Makes Me proud.

The World Peace Game was developed by John Hunter, as a teaching tool in the areas of problem-solving, creativity and current events. John's TED talk about it is amongst the most-viewed videos of that ever-growing series of events.  Here it is, and it's well worth 20 minutes of your day:

In his talk, John describes how he developed a simulation involving four countries and what is now over 50 major problems that the world faces, from hunger, epidemics, bigotry and destruction of the rain forests to lack of water, pollution, religious strife and economic inequality. The countries have different resources, random events can alter the game in drastic fashion, and to win, every problem has to be solved and all countries must show progress.

Oh, and the players? Fourth graders.

Yeah, what were you doing in 4th grade?

In his over 30 years of using the World Peace Game, John has made changes to the game, to not only reflect new realities, but also to accommodate the impact of new technologies. In early versions, John provided the students with binders filled with information on the problems to be solved. Now, the players do most of their own research, working off a descriptive list of the problems. What hasn't changed is the immersive nature of the game, as the players come face-to-face with new concepts and have to develop strategies to not only understand problems, but find ways to fix them.

I learned about the game through a blog post and was immediately taken by the concept. I sent John e-mail and he was kind enough to respond. In a few exchanges, I addressed issues I saw might be pertinent to expanding the game so that other teachers could host it. As much as I wanted to jump in and help John and the World Peace Game organization, I couldn't stretch enough to do it. Didn't matter, as John and his organization expanded workshops and the Game to reach a much broader audience.

The book (did I mention I was thanked in it? Okay.) is a wonderful read, packed with experiences that good teachers thrill about, those that have students reaching far beyond their expectations to explore their greatest potential. I defy any teacher who thinks they are goof to read about the World Peace Game and not come away prouder of their profession and inspired to do more.

One thing John learned early in the Game--and that he still has to challenge himself with--is to sit still and let the students do. The urge to jump in and "correct" them is ever-present, and the Game's overwhelming success--and it is an overwhelming success--is due to this "the students learn through their efforts" process. The current education system is a top-down, fully-imposed, authoritarian, command-center, conformist, shut-up-don't-ask, memorize-and-vomit sausage factory (My words, not anybody else's) while the World Peace Game is a "Here, experience this directly" journey.

There are only two things I regret not being able to participate in as a kid: parkour/free running (although We did do "run away through obstacles to avoid getting beaten up" a lot) and this Game. I love strategic games, the more complex the better, and I can only imagine what it would be like to face the challenges John places before his students. Workshops and Games are held often, for students and teachers, but time and travel constraints can limit participation.

Now the game is more accessible, as the online version allows players to join in from around the world, even using cell phones. The format is adapted to asynchronous play, and though I'm sure that the challenges are as riveting, in many ways the direct and personal sharing involved in classroom or workshop play adds a rich dimension to the entire experience.

You can see the results yourself in the film about the Game, a companion piece to the book (where My name appe--Oh, you know that already...).  If you have kids, want to have kids or were ever a kid, I urge you to see the film, read the book, watch the video...and support similar projects.

Our children's education is far too important to leave in the hands of government. We need to do more to support dedicated teachers, visionary principals, community resources and Our own talents in order to make education less destructive. (Yes, I said "destructive." It is.) John Hunter has his way of improving education, but he'd be the first to say that his way is certainly not the only way. Whether it is through a game, dance, journals, music, lab experiments, robots, painting, making films, building castles or making costumes, kids will learn better when they are (a) engaged in activity and (b) allowed to explore their solutions and their mistakes.

And no, not everything has to be a game. But it helps if the lessons are merged with a sense of excitement that can be treated as fun. And kids can tackle more than you think, as John has shown over and over again in his Game.

All of the world's major problems solved, and everyone making progress together. Sounds utopian? Most great ideas do, and through the World Peace Game, fourth graders are getting a chance to experience that maybe, just maybe, Utopia is not as impossible as adults believe.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

25 December 2013

Solving Puerto Rico 007: Laura Gorbea and James O'Malley


The James Bond vidcast presents two of my favorite people, the husband-and-wife team of Laura Gorbea and James O'Malley. Both are talented, well-educated, entrepreneurial souls that also happen to be the parents of four lovely children. In this video, they discuss their idea about fostering Fine Arts education in Our schools. And as you shall see, they don't just talk about ideas: listen and you will discover what their wonderful oldest daughter did.

To get to know Laura and James a little, click here or just click below:

And with this family-oriented theme, I want to wish all of you the very Merriest of Christmases.

The Jenius Has Interviewed.

18 December 2013

Solving Puerto Rico 006: Gabriel Pagán

Here's the thing about ideas: the best ones are often the most startling.

On that note, welcome Gabriel Pagán. His idea is simple to express and once you get past the "Huh?" factor, it makes a ton of sense: spread Our government agencies around the Island.

Simple, right? At least in concept, for execution will take some effort. But once you get into the idea, you'll see it has more pros than cons. And no, I won't make a joke about "cons" and government workers. It's your turn.

You can explore this idea with Us by clicking here, or just aim your mouse at the video link below:

You will note that I don't appear at all, except as a disembodied voice. Cheer if you must. A technical glitch kept the camera on Gabriel the whole time, or maybe he rigged the system because he needed the attention.

I doubt that, though. A little.

Either way, take a look at decentralizing Our government and if you notice a trend in these videos, it isn't an accident: many of Our solutions have a common thread.


The Jenius Has Interviewed.

12 December 2013

Someone Shut The PoopyHead Up

Detroit declared bankruptcy. The largest municipal default in U.S. of part of A. history. Want to guess who might be next?

Uh-huh. Although in Our case, We can't "go bankrupt": We "default." Which still leaves Us holding a smelly diaper of diarrhea-drenched debt.

Speaking of which, Head Beggar Pedro "PoopyHead" Pierluisi had this to fart about the situation: “Some people might say, ‘This is their problem.’ But Puerto Rico is part of the United States, you own this problem."

Well, yeah, they own pretty much everything We have, what with Us being a colony and all that jazz. But here's the trouble with your statement, PoopyHead Beggar: you sound childish and stupid.

Pedro "PoopyHead Beggar" Pierluisi
I know, I know: you can't get sweet wine from a lump of filthy clay. But your job, PoopyHead Beggar, such as it laughingly is, consists of one single, undeniable, unimpeachable and uniquely central goal: Don't make Us look bad. 

Mission unaccomplished. Pat yourself on the ass, you ass.

Capable, responsible and mature human beings, also known as "adults," don't go whining and blaming others for situations they are involved in. 

Intelligent people who think clearly about their situation, don't spout shit that makes the people that most likely to help think twice about doing so or disgusts them enough to make them walk away.

Is the $70 billion clusterfuck We are in Our fault? Damn right it is, based on your fellow shitbags in blue and turdsacks in red, going back to 1968. We elected the vermin and let them run the country into the ground, so yeah, it's Our fault.

Is the U.S. of part of A. involved in Our problem? Hell yeah: they hold most of Our debt. But does that mean that they have to help Us, to bail Our sorry asses out? Not really. As I pointed out before, the Puerto Rico Constitution forbids the government from declaring bankruptcy and is obligated to repay external creditors (i.e., investors in Our bonds) firsteven at the expense of the people it is supposed to serve.

You know PoopyHead Beggar, you should read Our Constitution sometime. It's in Spanish, too, so you won't strain what feeble linguistic skills you have. Then again, you might.

Here We are: up Shit Creek and some PoopyHead Beggar takes a dump in the paddle-makers' faces. Who would you rather help: the whiner or the guy who rolls up his sleeves, exhibits a can-do attitude and gets to work?

Yeah, the U.S. of part of A. too. Too bad We specialize in whiners.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

11 December 2013

Solving Puerto Rico 005: Ramphis Castro

The best thing about talking with smart people is that you come away with an enhanced perspective on the issues discussed. That's the case with Ramphis Castro, an energetic explorer of ideas who takes action. As you'll see in the vidcast, I give him the idea of "the 5--", uh, actually, Ramphis gives Me the idea of identifying "the 5%," the folks who know what's up and are either doing or are willing to do what's needed to make Puerto Rico better.

Yeah, I want credit for every great idea out there.

Here's the link or just click on the bearded man below:

 You'll be hearing more about "The 5%" (now capitalized, which was MY idea) in future Jenius posts.

The Jenius Has Interviewed.

05 December 2013

Choking Our Information Stirrer-Straw

Look what I just found: an executive order that seeks to centralize all--ALL--digital information sources and services of Our hideous shitfest of a government under one shitpile, the Office of Management and Budget.


Now I'm not going to sit here on what was supposed to be My week off and tell you that Our digital information system is A+. Or C+. Or even D+. It's more like a D--, but it is making progress. Here are some highlights, in just 7 months:

* Oracle contract reduction cost from $33 million to $16 million.

* Mobile phone compatibility (finally) for government webpages.

* The discovery and elimination of over 64,000 viruses infecting government computers, most of them originating in Russia and China.

* A centralized portal for government tech projects, to avoid waste through repetition or needless redundancy.

* Coordination of agency groups for enhanced inter-agency communication and collaboration.

* Database contract cost reductions, the first ever.

* A Tech Summit, the first such high-profile event in Puerto Rico.

* The implementation of transparency and open source software as the official policy of the government.

In the words of a Mythbuster, "There's your problem!" This power ploy by the OMB--OGP in Spanish, as in Over-Grown Pus-heads--is pretty transparent, seeking as it does to quash not only the notion of "open government data," but also that of "open source software." The order issued would consolidate all purchasing power and purchasing-related decisions into the hands of the OMB, leaving the tech experts as before, "advisors" with the power of watching their best efforts be derailed.

I can practically smell the crabbed hands of Micropore and Bore-acle in this mess.

Now I'm not a techie. Can't program an 8-track to record a video for My Nokia. But I do understand one thing: change hurts. But change is needed, and in Our tech environment, it is absolutely necessary. The change coming out of the technology director's office is a breath of fresh air for two very basic, very cogent reasons:

1) True techies are finally in charge of tech development and policies, and...

2) The established providers are being shown up for what they are: money-grubbing, bribing apes.

Okay, not convinced? Then look at it from another direction, in step-by-step fashion:

Step 1: The current (faux)governor, Alejandro García, "The Ova," made transparency and open source a commitment of his (faux)administration.

Step 2: The OMB Director, one Carlos "¿Quéseyo?" Rivas, decides to unilaterally erase that policy, effective December 15th, 2013.

Carlos ¿Quéseyo? Rivas
Now, analyze:

* Did The Ova decide the policy's time was ova, uh, I mean, over? If so, he is now several parsecs further from considering the potential of maybe having a spinal cord than he was before.

* Has ¿Quéseyo? decided that The Ova is too soft to stop him? In so much hot water that he'll crack before taking action? That The Ova is fried from too many problems and nowhere near enough solutions? Or is it that ¿Quéseyo? thinks The Ova is ultimately a chicken?

* Yes, I enjoyed writing all that.

You see, this 3-page document is not just another dosage of stiff toilet paper, this is a battle for the type of government We will have. On one side sits a group of tech experts who want to implement best practices and truly place Puerto Rico at the forefront of tech innovation. On the other side, you have whores. Nothing more, nothing less.

I know what side I'm on, and there's only side to be on. The days when whores run rampant on Our dollars should have ended long ago. Transparency is a sure way of starting to run them off.

So Let's make sure they stay on the run.

The Jenius Has Spoken.