I learned some of my favorite words from Poe

I’ve recently started my MEd, and I feel like a child wading through a foreign language – but a foreign language almost-learned, concealing ideas that promise to illuminate and inspire.  I finally started a makeshift glossary, full of words once known but forgotten, half-known, and brand new.  Some of the best so far – Black BoxZone of Proximal DevelopmentAutopoeisis… each word holds a delicious idea.

I remember a similarly profound experience when I was a teenager, consumed by Poe’s The Raven.  I felt my heart and mind swept up in the perfect music of the language, and I devoured it, greedily looking up each new word and the world it held.  Surcease, obeisance, nepenthe – beautiful words that have almost never come up outside of this poem, have become a part of me.  I learned panacea while looking up nepenthe.

And still, over 20 years later, this poem thrills me, fills me with fantastic wonders never felt before.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;

I swoon.

This.  I must chase this feeling.



I want more, I want it all

When I am the most stimulated, I am simultaneously satisfied and not-satisfied.  I’m studying fascinating learning theory, and I suddenly realize it’s all design!  And I want to run to my studio and play, make messes, turn the world inside out and upside down, and then run back to my home office and do the same thing all over again but in ideas.

Balance is a lie.

The more I do, the more I want to do, the more I do.

The Science of Creative Thinking

Creative Thought Has a Pattern of its Own, Brain Activity Scans Reveal  – According to a recent study, highly creative thinkers have a distinctive combination of brain activity – areas which are associated with wandering thought, and with focused thought are active simultaneously.  Usually these processes work against each other in less creative brains.  It’s clear just how undervalued creativity is in our modern world – one scientist suggested further research would be necessary to determine whether creativity was a transferable skill (*eyeroll*).  Best quote: “One of the barriers to creative thinking is the ease with which common, unoriginal thoughts swamp the mind.” Too true.

Another recent study suggests that suppressing areas of the brain responsible for planning and abstract reasoning results in a greater aptitude for original thinking.

Nick Davis, a psychologist and neuroscientist at Manchester Metropolitan University, who was not involved in the study, welcomed the research. “When the [dorsolateral prefrontal cortex] was ‘cooled down’, the brain seems to have stopped applying old rules, and been more successful at finding new rules – this is the essence of creativity in problem-solving,” he said of the study.

In a way – it seems like creativity requires us to ‘turn off’ what we’ve learned.  This makes sense when we consider divergent (“blue sky”) thinking.  We generate ideas without considering the barriers, without judgement.  So much of the design process is the interplay between divergent and convergent thinking – is the first study essentially saying that creative thinkers are better at doing these simultaneously?  Continue reading

Minister for Loneliness

The U.K. has appointed a Minister for Loneliness.

This is both heartbreakingly sad, and darkly amusing.  Imagine the business card?  It’s too much.  Theresa May has said the appointment is in response to “the sad reality of modern life”.  Too true, Theresa.

I’ve been thinking about the future lately, as an educator, and as a program developer.  What kinds of gaps are in our society?  Where do people really need help?  How do we support human happiness while (obviously, and necessarily) moving away from a product-based economy?  How do I help my students who need more and more support?

It seems our dystopian future has finally arrived.  Escapist commune fantasies aside, how do we really make positive change?  What does Rat Park look like for people?

Tearing down walls

If you haven’t heard Heavyweight yet, why not start with episode 5, Galit?  In this episode, our hero Jonathan meets with his first love, and examines the impact of his first broken heart.

“‘We all get hurt,’ she writes.  ‘And we all build walls to protect ourselves… and then spend the rest of our lives trying to take down those walls. […] the ability to fully give and receive love seems to get more complicated as we get older.'”

In love, isn’t it all about painstakingly deconstructing walls that seemed to go up in an instant?  Now that I know that the hurt won’t kill me, I feel like most of adulthood is an attempt to retrain my heart and brain to be as pure and open as it once was.

The same goes for education.  Somebody tells us, once, that we’re not good at something, and we veer so sharply.  In my creative program area, we have implemented curriculum that encourages risk-taking, and turns failure into learning opportunities.  It’s a step in the right direction, but my students are already so damaged by the time they arrive.

A fellow learner in an online teaching MOOC shared this Ted Talk with me, and I’m grateful for the reminder – this is why I’m here.  I work to provide safe environments for students to tear down their own walls, and mend the broken children inside.

Makes me think of Kintsugi – the Japanese art of repairing broken china with gold.  It is the scars that make us beautiful.




A portrait of the artist as a rhubarb

I am endlessly intrigued and inspired by the Carol Sawyer: The Natalie Brettschneider Archive exhibition on at the Vancouver Art Gallery right now.  I have gone once with the distraction of performance art and alcohol, and again with a 5-year-old.  I’m planning to skip work Tuesday to have Natalie Brettschneider all to myself.


Carol Sawyer/Natalie Brettschneider Archive, from the artist’s website.  My best friend said this was me when I’m 80.  One of the nicest things anyone’s ever said to me!

Continue reading

Exposing bots

I get great pleasure at accusing chatbots of being chatbots – especially if they’re trying to hide it.  It’s a strange feeling – gleefully trolling a robot – while imagining the programmer through the looking glass.

Today I was trying to get clarity on an aspect of Canadian Copyright Law (ugh, don’t ask), and naively (or desperately) tried a chat window on a ‘free legal advice’ website.  Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 11.17.17 PM

Continue reading

Culture Shift?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the #metoo thing.

At first, it seemed like it would just be another meaningless internet fad, rife with vague half-tellings and moral highground.

Then women I knew started getting specific.  One described harassment in high school by a teacher, and institutional resistance to pursuing a complaint.  Another spoke of deliberately avoiding presenting as attractive, to avoid unwanted attention.  Yet another spoke of the moment in adulthood, when a waft of cologne brought her reeling, vomiting back to childhood, and she realized she had been abused.  One woman spoke of how several incidences of abuse robbed her of her sexuality before she left childhood.   Continue reading