Tai Chi Y3D195: Breathless

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I’ve not talked about this much, but part of the reason for so many abbreviated practices in the last few days has nothing to do with accidie, and everything to do with illness.  For about a month now, I’ve been fighting off a ‘cold’ that started with headaches, moved into post-nasal drip and has finished up with a nice solid throat-cough which has gone on… and on… and on… and on… My doc finally put me on antibiotics, which helped not a whit, and may have temporarily made things worse.  So, it’s viral, probably, and maybe it’s this viral thing that put several kids on respirators in the midwest. Almost impossible to know, I guess, without a bunch of tests.  Also, no fever, nor much in the way of symptoms that would keep me home in bed.

Today I did sixty push-ups, and two qi gong forms, and the tai chi form that I’ve been doing for two and a half years. And I feel good.  I don’t feel well, but I feel like I’m at 80% of “well” instead of 60% of “well”. This is progress, and I’ll take it for now.

Tai chi Y3D194: abbreviated

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Today’s tai chi practice was somewhat abbreviated. I woke up with a need to solve an immediate problem, and getting that taken care of left me with not very much time. I performed the tai chi for him, and 20 push-ups. I may get to the Qi gong forms later, along with some more push-ups. But this is all I have time for right now.

Life intervenes, you know? Things go wrong. Things go right. There are unexpected difficulties, and challenges. But the mark of a practiced person, seems to be their ability to get up and get things done that need doing. What needed doing this morning, took precedence over my usual form.

Even then, though, I found a way to continue my basic practice. It is always necessary to have a core practice to which one can return again and again. That way, there is a core skill which you are always practicing, even when emergencies intervene.

Computer Science: Teaching Terminal


Finding the center of a circle

We find the center of a circle by exploring its edges…

I may have bitten off more than I intended to chew last week, when I began teaching the Apple computer program Terminal to my students in our Digital Arts and Sciences curriculum in seventh grade. For those who don’t know, Terminal is a command-line program, which allows one to navigate one’s hard drive via text commands rather than Graphical User Interface (GUI) commands.  It’s a layer closer to machine code than many of them are used to, and it’s a layer closer to the actual way that a computer operates than most of them really understand yet.

See, graphical user interfaces are actually a shell or interface between you and how your computer actually works.  On an Apple computer running Mac OSX of any level, as I understand it, the mouse clicks and the movement of the mouse’s X/Y axis are essentially giving instructions to Terminal, which is then translating those instructions into machine code for the computer’s hardware chip to read.  It’s more complicated than that, but the essence of it remains the same: the graphical user interface is a façade operating in front of the real software mechanisms.

I’m using Appendix A of Learn Python The Hard Way to teach the use of Terminal, and kids are finding it annoying. But they’re going to thank me when it comes time to write python programs, or at least I hope they will.  In the meantime, I’m finding it mildly scary for myself to be learning how to run computer commands this way.  It’s also been useful, though — when I found a program-test to see if the Shockwave bug in Bash affected me, I was able to figure out how to do the test.

I never intended to be a computer science teacher. If you’d asked me ten years ago what I’d be doing in a decade, I’d have told you, “Teaching history.”  But teachers have a funny way of being thrown for a loop late in their careers. Either they become skilled at a new area of study, or they become administrators.  I’ve become a little of both.  My computer science classes are still weighted heavily toward multimedia and typing and learning to make presentations, but at the same time I’m leaning into my weaknesses, and learning how to be a computer programmer and a teacher of computer languages.  It’s scary.  But at the same time, it’s going to make me a much more powerful and flexible teacher in a couple of years than I am now.

The result has been fascinating. I’ve been teaching some of my students geometry a year earlier than they would normally be exposed to it, by showing them how to use vector graphics programs to lay out geometry proofs.  It’s good practice for them, picking color and shape and line, and designing a problem’s solution-space.  Some of the kids have taken to animating them.  Others are working on short animated videos.  Still other students are learning to type, while others are learning HTML and CSS — first at the level of typing commands, and later on using a dedicated editing program.

An animated triangle proof

An animated triangle proof

It’s a bit of future shock, though.  For me, and for them.  So much of the class is not about learning, but how learning.  They’re learning how to program, how to build slideshows, how to choose fonts and colors and shapes.  It’s hardly what they normally experience in school.  It’s been hard learning for me, too — learning how not to touch the keyboard and mouse, learning how to give verbal and visual instructions instead of simply taking over their projects.  It’s been wild to discover the actual boundaries of what “digital natives” genuinely know how to do (which is more limited than we suppose).

I took up the role of our Design Thinking director at my school in part to teach many more hands-on skills with hammers, saws, knives and drills. Instead of doing that, I’m teaching kids to manipulate bits and bytes: to be graphic designers, slide-show creators, better typists, and now computer programmers.  It’s still design, but it’s a weirder kind of design than I expected to be doing.  So it goes.

Hymn to saint Michael and all angels

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Today is the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels, an Episcopal saints’ day that has resonated with me since I was a teenager.  For reasons I don’t understand, of course, except of course that there were the Deryni novels of Katherine Kurtz (and Jason Miller, these might be the occult novel recommendations you’re looking for, though they were really more teen oriented than master magician today).   Some of my devotion to and interest in Saint Michael came from a visit to the abbey of Mont-St.-Michel in France on the Brittany-Normandy border in 1983 or 1984, as part of a school trip; and I remember on that trip finding myself fascinated by the interplay of myth and legend and prayer and structure, as evidenced by the interactions of the Deryni lore of Katherine Kurtz, and this genuinely real place. There was also another book about Mt-St.Michel I read as a child, about a group of children who find a tunnel between the abbey and another rocky island in the bay, which is probably this one.

In any case, I felt like I should write a poem in Saint Michael’s honor today.  Magically, of course, the Archangel Michael is super-important.  He’s associated with the Sun in Christian angelology, as well as being the warrior of heaven and the archangel of fire.  Some people pronounce his name Mi-chel, while others make his name three syllables: Mi-Ka-El, meaning “Who is like God?”.  The Angels around Michael are equally critical; ceremonial magicians tend to care a great deal about Raphael, Uriel or Auriel, and Gabriel, but there are other angels, as well; and I haven’t even touched on the Holy Guardian Angel at all.  Seriously important, as I said.

Hail to you, Michael, heaven’s sword and shield,
defender of the light, and God’s right arm:
you turn against darkness, and never yield;
no demon stops you; no devil can charm
you to yielding. You are the brigadier,
commander supreme of heaven’s bright hosts
and you tread the dragon beneath your feet.
Your flashing sword makes the path of light clear,
and the foes of the Lord become pale ghosts
when you throw down the devil in defeat.

Around you in their armored ranks of wings,
march the host angelic: by squad and corps
they hold discipline; and each angel sings
a song that crashes on Creation’s shore,
which all sorrow flees! Every blade of grass,
and every sparrow, has its wingéd guide,
or pillar of flame, or ring of bright eyes!
Guardians blowing their trumpets of brass
call us to follow this cavalry’s ride —
to grow more holy, more skilled and more wise.

Michael, archangel, with all your forces —
angels, archangels, dominions and thrones!
Protect us! Defend us! Guide our courses,
so that dark powers, with sighs and with groans
shall see us well-protected by the Light,
and shrink back. By the name of the Most High,
whom you obey, and to whom we give praise,
Come and assist me! Arise and take flight,
for you know my trouble and you hear my cry—
beneath your wings shield me, for all my days.

I would very much like to know if you use this poem as part of your devotional practice today or any other day, and may it prove useful to you in in your own work and practice.  Feel free to leave a comment, and let me know how you found it, too.

Tai Chi Y3D193: Nose to the Floor

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I was only able to do 65 push-ups today, but 10 of them were nose-to-the-floor push-ups (as part of the second set of twenty).  In between sets of 20 push-ups, I did Five Golden Coins, then Eight Pieces of Silk, then the tai chi form.  Those nose-to-the-floor push-ups wiped me out.

I’ve not written much about my tai chi practice since the poetry ended. Part of me wonders if I’m done writing about it.  It’s integrated into my practice at this point; I don’t think I could genuinely go a day without it, given that I feel so much better on days when I do it than on days when I don’t. But then there’s that noonday demon, accidie, who’s constantly telling me it doesn’t matter, go back to beddon’t do your morning practice, it’s easy to catch up later.  OK, yes, it can be caught up with later, but it’s not really the same.

Part of it, really, is that I need a new plan or program to boost my tai chi. And frankly, I have one. While I was writing the poetry, in truth my practice suffered.  I was constantly thinking about the poem I was going to write afterward, rather than the tai chi I was doing right now.  And now I have to fix that.

Tai Chi Y3D192: Separation

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Due to hosting responsibilities, a flat tire, a protracted wait at the only tire place in town that was open on Sunday, and various other challenges, I didn’t get to my tai chi in a single dedicated shift. Instead, it was broken up into four sessions throughout the day — tai chi in the parking lot of the tire place, the qi gong forms when I got home (one right when I got home, another a short while later), and the push-ups scattered in four sets of twenty throughout the day.  Not ideal.


Tai Chi Y3D191: Light day

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I didn’t push myself very hard today. I’m on antibiotics this weekend for a cold after three weeks of being sniffly and sneezy, and I’m not at my best.  I may do some parts of the work over again this afternoon, but we’ll see.

I’m planning to be at WMPPD today, in Florence, MA on the green.  If you’re going, find me and say “Hi!”

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