Daily Archives: September 15, 2010

NY Times Magazine: Learning by Playing (Video Games)

Sitting in front of laptops, the students started in on their game-building, each one beginning with a blank screen. They created borders, paths and obstacles by dragging and dropping small cubes from a menu. They chose an animated sprite to serve as a game’s protagonist. They picked enemy sprites and set them marching in various patterns around the screen. They wrote the text that introduced the game and the text that flashed when a player reaches a new level. (“If the entrance to your cave is being guarded by a bear or a woolly mammoth,” said Doyle, sounding teacherly, “you have to tell us it’s a bear or a woolly mammoth.”) They added a variety of rewards and punishments. If the game seemed too easy, they made it harder. If the game seemed too hard, they made it easier. Earlier that day, I watched a girl named Maya make a game. She created a labyrinth, changed all the colors, swapped enemies in and out, changed the background, changed the music and finally set the game’s timer to 90 seconds. Then she played her game and finished it in 75. She adjusted the timer to 75 seconds and played again, this time losing. Finally, she set the timer at 80 and beat the game, but only just barely, at which point she declared the whole thing perfect.

The work appeared simple, but the challenge was evident. Twenty minutes in, the Sports for the Mind classroom was hushed but for the sound of keyboards being pounded and a faint arcadelike cacophony of poinging and bleeping over the syncopated pulse of game music. That night for homework, they would play one another’s games and write up constructive critiques.

The gold standard in class, I was told by nearly every student I spoke with, was to create a game that was hard to beat but harder still to quit. Kai was sitting in one corner working on a game he named What the Cave. It was teeming with robot enemies. “The whole point,” Kai said, “is you want your game to be hard, but you want it to be good.” He studied his screen for a moment. Then using his mouse, he deftly deleted a row of enemies. “What you want,” he said finally, “is good-hard.”

The language of gamers is, when you begin to decipher it, the language of strivers. People who play video games speak enthusiastically about “leveling up” and are always shooting for the epic win. Getting to the end of even a supposedly simple video game can take 15 or more hours of play time, and it almost always involves failure ”” lots and lots of failure.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Education, Science & Technology

WSJ–Is America A Nation on Entitlements?

Efforts to tame America’s ballooning budget deficit could soon confront a daunting reality: Nearly half of all Americans live in a household in which someone receives government benefits, more than at any time in history.

At the same time, the fraction of American households not paying federal income taxes has also grown””to an estimated 45% in 2010, from 39% five years ago, according to the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan research organization.

A little more than half don’t earn enough to be taxed; the rest take so many credits and deductions they don’t owe anything. Most still get hit with Medicare and Social Security payroll taxes, but 13% of all U.S. households pay neither federal income nor payroll taxes.

“We have a very large share of the American population that is getting checks from the government,” says Keith Hennessey, an economic adviser to President George W. Bush and now a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution, “and an increasingly smaller portion of the population that’s paying for it.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, House of Representatives, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Psychology, Senate, State Government, The U.S. Government

Robert Colvile–Pope Benedict's visit shows the need for a stronger Anglican voice

Don’t get me wrong ”“ I think that it’s great that the Pope’s coming here, and that the Church of England is engaging with his visit in a constructive manner. But I haven’t heard anyone take the opportunity ”“ at a time when religion’s profile has suddenly soared ”“ to state the basic Protestant case: that faith is, in essence, a matter of active and personal choice, the result of an individual contract with God rather than something mediated through the authority of the Church in Rome.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

NY Times Letters–What Ails America? What Can We Do?

Here is one:

I welcomed and agreed with most of “We’re No.1(1)!,” by Thomas L. Friedman (column, Sept. 12), especially his observations about students’ lack of motivation and work ethic. As a retired community college teacher, I’m surprised that teachers don’t report even higher percentages of apathetic students.

Like him, I find it troubling that no politician dares to say that maybe everyone’s taxes have to go up.

I’m puzzled, though, as to how we might return to the discipline and values of the so-called Greatest Generation. Coupled with those older values were qualities that we don’t want to revive: intolerance, fatalism about one’s place in the world, excessive stoicism, repression, bigotry and the exploitation of women and minorities.

We want the tolerance, openness and search for equality and self-fulfillment that are the better side of baby boomer values. The challenge for the next generation will be to face up to the realities while promoting the well-being of all.

Anne Matlack Evans

Read them all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology

NPR on Alan Bennett's new Book: A Family Portrait Of Depression

“Every family has a secret and the secret is that it’s not like other families,” Alan Bennett writes in A Life Like Other People’s. This family memoir, extracted from his 2006 autobiographical volume, Untold Stories, is at once a touching portrait of his parents, “the tenderest and most self-sufficient couple,” and a sobering tale of depression and dementia.

Bennett, the British dramatist best known on this side of the Atlantic for the satirical revue, Beyond the Fringe, and his stage and screenplay versions of The History Boys and The Madness of King George, first uncovered a deep family secret in 1966, when he was 32. He and his father were checking his mother into a mental hospital for depression, the first of what would be many hospitalizations. When asked if there was other mental illness in the family, Bennett unhesitatingly answered no. “After all, I’m the educated one in the family. I’ve been to Oxford. If there had been ‘anything like this’ I should have known about it.”

He was wrong….

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, Marriage & Family, Psychology

Bishop Nick Baines responds to Polly Toynbee

….the sheer sloppiness of Polly Toynbee”˜s tirade (yes, another one) in …[the] Guardian is breathtaking….

So, let’s pick on the worst elements of religious expression (which millions of religious people also find weird and/or dodgy), shall we, and ignore the rest? What response would I get if I used Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao and the other usual suspects as the epitome of secular atheism? Like everything else in this world ”“ the real one in which most of us live ”“ religious institutions or movements comprise huge ranges of agreement and dispute with just about everything the institution or movement lays claim to. There is no objective monolith ”“ not even when leaders pretend there is.

And, just to be really clear, (elements of) the secular world looks on with utter perplexity at all sorts of religious motivation, belief and behaviour: self-sacrifice, humility, generosity, etc. (There I go again ”“ generalising”¦) The mere fact that ”˜the secular world looks on with utter peplexity’ tells us nothing other than that some people are perplexed by other people ”“ it says nothing about the subject of the perplexity itself….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Atheism, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Sexuality

(Guardian) Polly Toynbee–Sex and death lie at the poisoned heart of religion

Where once secularism and humanism were relics of a bygone religious age, its voice is important again. But pointing out the blindingly obvious need to keep faiths in their private sphere has united religious gunfire against secularists. All atheists now tend to be called “militant”, yet we seek to silence none, to burn no books, to stop no masses or Friday prayers, impose no laws, asking only free choice over sex and death. Religion deserves its say, but only proportional to its numbers. No privileges, no special protection against feeling offended.

The director of pastoral affairs in the Westminster diocese, Edmund Adamus, says Britain has become a “selfish hedonistic wasteland” of sex and secularism. He echoes the supreme arrogance of all the religious who claim there is no morality without God. Nonsense, but unlike the religious the godless claim no moral superiority. Wise humanists know that good and bad are pretty evenly distributed. Humanity has an innate moral sense, without threats of divine wrath and reward. Good and bad works are done by both the secular and the religious. But wherever the institutions of religion wield real power, they prove a force for cruelty and hypocrisy.

Atheists are good haters, they claim, but feeble compared with the religious sects. Atheists have dried-up souls, without spiritual or visionary transcendentalism. To which we say: the human imagination is all we need to hold in awe. Live in optimism without fear of judgment and death. There is enough purpose and meaning in life, love and leaving a good legacy. Oppose the danger of religious zealotry with the liberating belief that life on earth is precious because this here and now is all there is, and our destiny is in our own hands.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Sexuality

Charity report: U.S. ties for fifth in global giving

The U.S. tied with Switzerland for fifth place in a “world giving index” by the British-based Charities Aid Foundation that measured charitable behavior across the globe.

The ranking in the “World Giving Index 2010” was based on the U.S.’s showing in three categories””60 percent of Americans gave to an organization; 39 percent volunteered for a group; and 65 percent were willing to aid a stranger.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Globalization, Parish Ministry, Poverty, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

Chris Mooney: Spirituality can bridge science-religion divide

We hear a lot these days about the “conflict” between science and religion ”” the atheists and the fundamentalists, it seems, are constantly blasting one another. But what’s rarely noted is that even as science-religion warriors clash by night, in the morning they’ll see the battlefield has shifted beneath them.

Across the Western world ”” including the United States ”” traditional religion is in decline, even as there has been a surge of interest in “spirituality.” What’s more, the latter concept is increasingly being redefined in our culture so that it refers to something very much separable from, and potentially broader than, religious faith.

Nowadays, unlike in prior centuries, spirituality and religion are no longer thought to exist in a one-to-one relationship.

This is a fundamental change, and it strongly undermines the old conflict story about science and religion. For once you start talking about science and spirituality, the dynamic shifts dramatically.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Cyprian

Almighty God, who didst give to thy servant Cyprian boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of the same our Lord Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O God, who by thy Son Jesus Christ hast set up on earth a kingdom of holiness, to measure its strength against all others: Make faith to prevail over fear, and righteousness over force, and truth over the lie, and love and concord over all things; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

–War Prayers (1940)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by soothsaying. She followed Paul and us, crying, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she did for many days. But Paul was annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

–Acts 16:16-18

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Resolutions for the Reconvened Diocesan Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina

At the Clergy Conference held at St. Paul’s, Summerville, on September 2, Mr. Alan Runyan, legal counsel for the Diocese, presented a report detailing revisions to the Title IV Canons of the Episcopal Church, which were approved at the 2009 General Convention. These Canons deal directly with issues of clergy discipline, both for priests and bishops. The impact of these changes is profound. It is our assessment that these changes contradict the Constitution of The Episcopal Church and make unacceptable changes in our polity, elevating the role of bishops, particularly the Presiding Bishop, and removing the duly elected Standing Committee of a Diocese from its current role in most of the disciplinary process. The changes also result in the removal of much of the due process and legal safeguards for accused clergy that are provided under the current Canons. For a detailed explanation of these concerns, members of the diocese are encouraged to review the paper co-authored by Mr. Runyan and found on the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI) website.

In response, the Standing Committee is offering five resolutions to address the concerns we have with these changes. View the resolutions. Each represents an essential element of how we protect the diocese from any attempt at un-Constitutional intrusions into our corporate life in South Carolina. In the coming weeks these resolutions, along with an explanation of the Title IV changes, will be discussed in the Deanery Convocations for delegates, as we prepare for Convention to reconvene on October 15th. By these resolutions, we will continue to stand for the Gospel in South Carolina and pursue our vision of “Making Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age.”

Please follow both links and read all the material carefully–KSH.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Anglican Identity, Church History, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention, Pastoral Theology, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils, TEC Polity & Canons, Theology

Elizabeth Scalia–The Twentieth Century’s Last Great Figures

Almost from its first moments, the 21st century has been plagued by insecurity and doubt; the disputed election of 2000 has given rise to such a pervasive habit of political cry-babyist-conceit that a graceful concession speech has become the grown-up exception rather than the selfless rule. Tolerant America, which managed after the September 11th attacks of 2001 to make clear distinctions between peaceful Muslims and radical Islamists, has lately”“perhaps because her leadership seems unwilling to use meaningful words to maintain those necessary distinctions”“become confused about who to trust on that score….

This decade of believe-what-you-want truthiness has been disorienting and exhausting, and it makes the upcoming meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Elizabeth II of peculiar import, for both of these octogenarians know all too well what happens when governments and ideologies loom too large, and distortion carries the day.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Europe, Germany, History, Other Churches, Politics in General, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

WSJ–Pope's offer colors first U.K. visit

The [Ordinariate] offer sent shock waves through the Anglican Communion. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, first among equals in the Anglican Communion, the world’s third-largest Christian group after Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, indicated that he had little warning of the Vatican move and reacted coolly to it at the time.

Most people who will act on the Vatican’s still-undefined arrangement, called a special ordinariate, are expected to come from groups that have already split from the Anglican Communion. That reality, along with the resumption of the official ecumenical dialogue between the churches, has helped to smooth relations between Pope Benedict and Archbishop Williams, who will host the pope at Lambeth Palace in London on Friday.

“The Vatican offer “felt like a hard thing at first, especially since we were in Rome preparing for the next round of ecumenical talks when it took place,” said Rev. Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, director of unity, faith and order for the Anglican Communion, who leads the Anglican side of the official dialogue between the churches. “But I think it won’t cause disrepair to the Roman Catholic-Anglican Communion discussions.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic