Hope Over Fear: On the Importance of a Connected Global Community

Here's Mark Zuckerberg on the importance of a globally connected world (as opposed to a Trumpian* 'walled world').


We stand for connecting every person — for a global community, for bringing people together, for giving all people a voice, for a free flow of ideas and culture across nations. And this idea of connecting the world has gotten stronger over the last century. You can now travel almost anywhere in the world in less than a day. Countries trade more openly and cooperate more easily than ever.

And the Internet has enabled all of us to access and share more ideas and information than ever before. We've gone from a world of isolated communities to one global community, and we are all better off for it.

But now, as I look around and, as I travel around the world, I'm starting to see people and nations turning inward — against this idea of a connected world and a global community. I hear fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as “others.” For blocking free expression, for slowing immigration, reducing trade, and, in some cases around the world, even cutting access to the Internet.

It takes courage to choose hope over fear — to say that we can build something and make it better than it has ever been before. You have to be optimistic to think that you can change the world. And people will always call you naïve, but it's this hope, and this optimism that is behind every important step forward.

Our lives are connected. And whether we're welcoming a refugee fleeing war or an immigrant seeking new opportunity, whether we're coming together to fight global disease like Ebola or to address climate change, I hope that we have the courage to see that the path forward is to bring people together, not push people apart — to connect more, not less.

We are one global community: The mother in India who wants to work so her family can have a better life, the father in the US that wants a cleaner planet for his children, the daughter in Sierra Leone who just needs basic healthcare and education so she can stay safe and reach her full potential, and that young boy in Syria who is doing the best he can with the cards he's been dealt to find a good path forward in the world.

And we, sitting here today, are part of this community too. And if the world starts to turn inwards, then our community will just have to work even harder to bring people together. And that's why I think the work we are all doing is so important. Because we can actually give more people a voice. Instead of building walls, we can help people build bridges. And instead of dividing people, we can help bring people together.

We do it one connection at a time, one innovation at a time, day after day after day. And that's why I think the work we're all doing together is more important now than it's ever been before.


* Trumpian: After Donald Trump: Former contender for the Republican nomination for president. Meaning something that is parochial, narrow-minded, bigoted, insular, short-sighted and intolerant. As in: The recently passed anti-LGBT legislation was very Trumpian in nature. Or, the removal of that atheist page from Facebook was seen as highly Trumpian.


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Quotes for Free Thinkers

I’ll just leave these here.



How to Change Minds: 7 Gentler Persuasive Strategies

In disputes upon moral or scientific points, ever let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent. So you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.

Arthur Martine (As quoted by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings)


It is incredibly difficult to change minds. Even the strongest arguments, with the best supporting evidence, will seldom cause any kind of crack, let alone foundational mind-shift. Opinions and world views tend to set over time, and they become more resistant to being chiseled away at.

The reason our minds become so solidly set mostly has to do with cognitive biases like confirmation bias, loss aversion, the bandwagon effect and the just-world phenomenon. I don't want to go into these in great detail here, as fascinating as they are, so in short: cognitive biases essentially work because we treat ideas and information like we do physical possessions. That is, once we 'own' them, we protect them, assign them a higher value than they would ordinarily have, and, of course, we see them as markers of our social, cultural and economic place in the world.

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24 Things Gaming Can Teach Us About Real Life


Whatever the format, whatever the genre, every day, digital games engage millions of people from a multitude of backgrounds, ages, ethnicities and lifestyles. And yes, there are a few evils associated with gaming, but these are mostly related to the nastiness that anonymity seems to breed in some (especially younger) players, as well as the health problems related to being too sedentary in front of a screen, munching snacks and imbibing carbonated drinks. But we are fairly certain that there is no causal link between what people do inside games and what they do in real life.

That said, there are a number of social, emotional and especially cognitive benefits associated with gaming. And on a philosophical level, the experience of gaming can teach us a few important lessons about real life:


  • Sometimes you just have to grind through it. There isn't always an exciting new quest or a sparkling new level to navigate or an intriguing new puzzle to solve. Sometimes you just have to stick at it, going backwards and forwards, to get the thing done.
  • Sometimes it's better with friends. Sometimes it's better on your own.
  • You may be able to carry around everything you find, but you can't use it all. In fact, sometimes a full inventory can slow you down and confuse you. The parallel with life is both in terms of our tendency to accumulate stuff we don't really need, as well as the useless mental and emotional baggage we carry around.

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Teaching Freedom: Why a Liberal Education is an Essential Component of a Progressive Education


What is it to be liberal? My definition runs as follows:

Liberalism is a world view that espouses the values of freedom, democracy and equality. Encoded into the term as a political system are the notions of social welfare, secularism and choice.


A liberal worldview would thus be one which emphasizes the value of personal choice – so long as no-one else is hurt as a result of those choices. Translated into a system of government, liberalism focusses on this same freedom to choose, as well as endeavoring to uplift the living standards of all people (especially the destitute) so that they have the option to choose their lifestyles more freely. A liberal society is thus one which embraces individuality, change and the welfare of the many.

A conservative world view is not the opposite of liberalism but a perversion of it. Co-opting the language of liberalism, conservatives will still say they value freedom of choice, but in reality, these choices are placed within such narrow bounds, as to make them statutory. Thus, even though conservatives will argue that they should have the freedom to choose how they live their lives, those choices are essentially confined to what the group believes is traditionally morally acceptable. As a political philosophy, this constrained worldview is put forward as the model of correct behavior, to which all citizens are to subscribe. A conservative society will privilege the rights of the few, be averse to change and multiple perspectives, and advocate a parochial view of the world.


Now let's look at education:

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Edtech Integration Advice: The Pipes Before the Taps

Original image: Wikimedia


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What I Want for Virtual Reality in Education

So, the release of the Oculus Rift is getting us tech geeks all excited. And Microsoft is working towards making the Hololens a viable prospect. HTC is also ready with a cool-looking system, and I'm sure many others will be following and refining their systems in the next few years. I am convinced that virtual reality headsets and peripherals are going to be a really big thing in the next 5 years. Already, the gaming industry is frenetically building immersive virtual reality experiences. (Amongst them quite a few horror titles – Um… nope. And nope again!) And, as we usually do, tech-minded teachers are thinking about how we can use virtual reality to enhance our lessons.


Here's what I would like for virtual reality in education:

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Why Television is Really Ruining Our Kids


I'm not one who believes that watching TV makes our kids violent. But I do think it can be dangerous by irrevocably warping their thinking. Here is why I think television is REALLY hurting our kids:


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Acronyms for Dysfunctional Schools

Dysfunctional schools are not necessarily under-resourced schools. In fact, many struggling schools do amazing things with minimal resources. And many affluent schools simply cannot seem to get it right, despite having the best of everything.

(That said, severely under-supported and under-funded schools are a different matter altogether. To all intents and purposes, it is physically impossible for a school to function adequately if it receives practically no funding, while servicing a socio-economically disadvantaged community. What follows is not aimed at these schools.)

Dysfunctional schools can be found across the spectrum. And, perhaps controversially, much of what makes them dysfunctional is either poor policy choices or sheer inertia. They are marked by…

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Flipped Music Theory Classroom

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Originally posted on Redhill Teachers' Idea Board:
By Angie Mullins Teaching music in a classroom setting can be very challenging. Students who have played a musical instrument for many years (and completed practical and theory exams) are placed in the…


Psychopathic schools

A wonderful post about slowing things down at schools…

Some of my boarding school colleagues have a frenzied start to the day. Overseeing morning roll call in a fog of morning breath, checking that all the boys are present and correct, making sure they…

(Click on the link below to read the full post…)

Read the full post: Psychopathic schools


Bloom’s Taxonomy: Thinking Group Questions


Bloom’s Taxonomy Thinking Questions:

  1. On the most basic level, is the ability to recall the same thing as knowledge? Why?
  2. Bloom’s is often imagined as a pyramid or a hierarchy, moving from the simpler skills to the more advanced. Could / should we imagine it differently? If so, how and why?
  3. The ultimate aim of Bloom’s taxonomy is to foster critical, creative and independent thinking. Do you agree with this statement? (Explain your answer.)
  4. Bloom’s isn’t always just about the verbs. What other factors could influence the cognitive demands of a question?
  5. How can we prepare students to be able to answer a fuller range of questions in class (without necessarily resorting to using past papers).
  6. Is the ability to look up facts almost instantly on Google going to change our use of Bloom’s?
  7. Bloom’s is described as a being ‘one way’ – meaning that teachers merely have to think of compatible questions for their students. Do you think teachers themselves need to model especially higher order thinking in their own lives?
  8. Higher order questions often require value judgements from students. Do you think this is fair? What happens when the teacher’s values clash with those of a particular student?
  9. According to Bloom’s knowledge comprehension presupposes knowledge, but knowledge does not presuppose comprehension. Is this right?
  10. In the age of ubiquitous information, knowledge must go hand in hand with judgement, analysis, synthesis, assessment and the evaluation of sources. What does this mean for how we use Bloom’s taxonomy?
  11. How can we use Bloom’s to design better, more meaningful, ‘Google proof’ project based learning?
  12. What exactly is meant by ‘creativity’?
  13. If we are going to teach our kids to think critically, is it fair to put certain topics and questions off limits?
  14. If we are going to teach students to analyse effectively, should we be teaching them foundational skills in argumentation, hypothesis formation and logic?
Image: Bloomin’ Apps
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It’s About Time: Flipped Teaching, Forms, Flubaroo & Google Classroom

A wonderful post by a very dynamic teacher!

Redhill Teachers' Idea Board

(By Barbara Williamson) * TECHIE OF THE WEEK! *

Fortunately I have always been able to learn a couple of tricks using computers relatively quickly… as long as it involves working with programmes that I find useful! I love things that make my life easier, especially if teaching becomes more effective at the same time. I certainly don’t enjoy time wasted by using something just for the sake of using it. Although I tried flip my teaching a few years ago when I first was introduced to the idea, most of the Grade 9 guinea pigs I used were not happy with being taken out of their comfort zones, and so I decided not to exert all my energy on something that freaked them out too much. Now they are bigger, and I decided to give it another try in this, their Grade 12 year. Fortuitously, what with our being…

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One Reason for Using Tablets in the Classroom: Agency

Image source: http://owl.laptop.org/media/countries/Ethiopia/Kids%20with%20Tablets/Kids%20using%20tablets%203.jpg

(In response to David Didau's recent post titled: Just give me one good reason to use a tablet in the classroom)


Without any scene-setting to wade through, here is the one good reason for using tablets in your class:


Tablets are agency machines: They enable students to co-create knowledge, to research independently, and to demonstrate personalized mastery. They enable teachers to spend their time coaching individual students, and honing application skills rather than being the gatekeepers and disseminators of knowledge. Tablets have the potential to revolutionize education because they democratize the acquisition of knowledge and skills, giving students real agency in their own learning.

The kids in the lead picture are connecting with the wider world. And tablets enable kids around the world to connect to the collective knowledge of humankind. How dare we not allow them entry to the wonders of what's out there, in a safe and responsible way? And how dare we not allow them to become confident, independent participators in, and contributors to this world of ideas?


Of course, tablets are also useful in engaging students by making learning fun, hands-ons and relevant. They also encourage the on-going, self-driven acquisition of knowledge. But this is not the real purpose of tablets. Nor is it to simply replace paper-based activities with digital equivalents.

Also, devices do not have to be tablets, although tablets tend to be the most convenient option for most grades and classes.

Let me be clear: schools that issue tablets (or require parents to purchase them), without the requisite intensive pedagogical training of teachers, and the sincere, school-wide reorientation of methodologies, are simply wasting time and money.


Here's a little more about how tablets are being used in South Africa to revolutionize education.


And here is a short clip about a young man I have the pleasure of teaching this year:






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10 Alternative EdTech Terms That Make More Sense



“Words used carelessly, as if they did not matter in any serious way, often allowed otherwise well-guarded truths to seep through.”

― Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul


Hello Blogland

So I've been thinking about words lately. Specifically the edtech lexicon. And I think it's time we made a few well placed changes. Here are my suggestions:


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Here Be Dragons: A Parable of Learning


Once upon a telling, a score of young adventurers set sail on adventure across the wide seas. They had a wise ol' captain and an ultimate destination, but they would each take turns to steer the good ship Learning by their own stars and towards their own discoveries. Most often, the captain's role was simply to ensure that the ship moved forward and avoided any danger. And to find destinations he knew they would love to explore.

They would stop at many strange and interesting places, whereupon the adventurers would go their own way, in groups or alone, to explore and make their own discoveries. And upon their return, they would regale the captain and their fellow travelers with stories of what they'd found out. Some would fail in their tasks, but they would still learn and they would try again at the next destination.

Yes, there were many challenges at sea, but they had the determination and courage to face them and conquer them.

Even the frightening first Sea Dragon of Failure was conquered once they figured out that to beat it, they simply had to reimagine it. They scooped Failure up and kept it as a pet. And it never bothered them again.


But then things changed. A dark squall appeared, the waves grew and the wind howled. The twin storms named Syllabus and Exam were upon them. They hunkered down and watched and readied themselves to weather the storm – armed only with the magic of Superficial Learning and a smelly coat of Rigor.

After the storm had passed, things were different. They skies remained grey and the sun remained hidden. They no longer had the desire to steer the ship, they were less enthusiastic to make their own discoveries, and they left it to the captain to steer the ship the rest of the way. They had only the end port of Grades on their mind.

And when they saw the mysterious beast called The Curiosity, they steered the good ship Learning directly at it, and killed it, never even bothering to look astern to see what it was. They tried to avoid the other sea dragons, but they were not always successful, and they did lose some of their crew to the nasty beasts.

And the 'ol captain was powerless to get them back to their former spirits.

Instead of scouting for new lands and new adventures, the crew, now many years older, sat below deck, infected with the scurvy of homework.

What had started out as such a wonderful journey of adventure ended in sullen silence, boredom and a general feeling of resentment. They disembarked vowing never to take the journey again. And as they watched, a new crew bounced aboard, bright-eyed and energetic, shouting enthusiastically while exploring the ship, all ready for their years long journey. To where? They knew not, nor did they care.

And the 'ol captain, pipe in mouth, bent over his charts, trying for all he was worth to plot a course to steer clear of storms and dragons. And if you listened closely you would hear him mumble something over and over to himself. And here's what he was saying:

“Next time, it will be better. I have to make it better.”


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Something Strange Happens to Time When You Teach

(Excerpted from my farewell letter to the staff of Crawford College Lonehill at the end of 2015.)

I love the subject I teach. (Actually, I just love teaching.) But teaching Geography is especially nifty, mostly because of how it teaches kids (and teachers) to think on different scales. When geographers look at a map, or a settlement, or weather patterns, or anything else, we have to zoom in to analyze the details, but we also need to zoom back out to identify trends, connections and patterns.

I think that teachers can become habituated to being zoomed in. We have due dates for marks and for comments, guidelines for getting sections of the syllabus done, deadlines for setting tests and assessments and moderation and so on.

We also do most our work in chunks of less than an hour and keep a very narrow focus to ensure that our students are engaged. We work on short, focused, nose-to-the-task timescales of periods, days and weeks. It gets so bad that when we look up at a child we've taught for a few years, it can be a real shock when it suddenly dawns on us how much they've actually changed in those years. And how quickly those years have gone by.

The problem with being so intensely focused is that sometimes it becomes difficult to uncross our eyes, to zoom back out, and to appreciate the bigger picture. And when things don't happen on our timescale, we become impatient, frustrated and sometimes even pessimistic. And there never seems to be enough time to learn new things, to reinvigorate our professional skills and to experiment with new ways of doing things.

But when we are able to take the time to see things on a wider time scale, and to see the patterns and trends which have emerged over a few years, a very different picture emerges.

I know there are daily irritations. I know there are things that perhaps don't work as well as they should. And the schools of today are not the same places they were a few years ago. They are never going to be. Times have changed. They have a habit of doing that.

But if we take the time to zoom out a little, to see how far we've come, and to look at the exciting things that are ahead, we can find the inspiration and the time to renew our passion for what we do, we can reinvent ourselves and what we do in the classroom, and focus again on what really matters.

It isn't a matter of time, it's a matter of perspective.




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Things I’ll Never Do Again

This is a personal post. One of those cathartic things. Skip it if you're not into that kind of thing.


So everyone's still thinking about how 2016 is going to be different and pondering all the new things that are going to come their way.

And I'm sitting here thinking about all the things I'll never do again.

And now it strikes me how many of the things on this list are a result of being privileged enough to have travelled, to have the latest gadgets and to have Internet access. Of course, I am also relieved that I will not be doing some of these things again, and some of these things just happen when you get older, I guess. But a lot of it still makes me quite sad.


Things I'll Never Do Again

  • Visit the Palace of Versailles. (I prefer my crowds slightly less claustrophobic, thank you.)
  • Rent a DVD from a movie rental store. (I'll download what I need.)
  • Phone for a taxi. (Über FTW.)
  • Buy music from a music store. (Thanks iTunes.)
  • Write a letter on paper. Or post it.
  • Write a check.
  • Visit a bank to pay money into someone's account.
  • Open an encyclopedia. (Goodbye Britannica.)
  • Visit an Internet café.
  • Follow written directions to get somewhere.(Hello Waze!)
  • Remember a phone number. (I can still remember the number for the house I grew up in though.)
  • Be bored. (There's just too much to read and to do.)
  • Be impressed by cities like Dubai or Doha. (You can do amazing things with slave labor.)
  • Own a hi-if system. (With my phone, tablet, earphones and Bluetooth speakers, I'm set.)
  • Have a land-line. (Remember those telephones with wires?)
  • Drive drunk. (I confess: I have done this more than once. But I haven't touched alcohol for going on 5 years now.)
  • Use whiteout. (I prefer backspace.)
  • Take a non-stop ferry across the Mediterranean. (One of the worst journeys I've ever been on.)
  • Wear uncomfortable shoes. (Life's just too short.)
  • Go clubbing. (Noise. No.)
  • Ride a camel. (Poor things.)
  • Buy a home which hasn't been built yet off plan. (A very costly mistake.)
  • Eat an entire chocolate cake. (I did actually did this. More than once. But not in one sitting.)
  • Wish I knew the name of that song. (There's an app for that.)
  • Teach History. (I would really rather not.)
  • Have all of my own teeth.
  • Read a new Vonnegut novel.
  • Watch a new Robin Williams movie.
  • Read Cannery Row for the first time.
  • Take out a book from a library.
  • Get another piercing. (Or use the ones I have. Don't ask.)
  • Celebrate New Year's in public. (See 'Go clubbing'.)
  • Pray.
  • Buy a Volkswagen.
  • Buy an incandescent light bulb.
  • Roller skate.
  • Lie in the sun all day. (My skin can't do it any more.)
  • Have a camera film developed.
  • Buy a stamp.
  • Think that education is mainly about filling kids' heads with facts.
  • Pay for a haircut. (I wish I could, but alas there isn't enough hair left to justify the expense.)
  • Go without a beard. (Says the man with the weak chin.)
  • Buy a scanner.
  • Wear anything neon colored. (I did. Once. I think it was the 80s.)
  • Write poetry. (Fortunately, my muse has moved on.)
  • See my mother.
  • Take a corner as fast as I can on a motorbike. (I think being a male between 18 and 25 years of age needs to classified as a mental illness.)
  • Go out too far into the ocean. (Because I have. And I almost got swept away. The waves in Africa are not pacific.)
  • Sleep for more than 8 hours without needing to pee.
  • Watch a 5 day cricket test match. (In fact, I now see this as torture.)
  • Think there might be something to homeopathy. (Or crystal healing, or reiki, or any other kind of 'alternative therapy / healing'.)
  • Be careless with wasps.
  • Play a sports match against my students. (You only need to be permanently injured once.)
  • Trust an estate agent.
  • Be careless with broken glass and / or a Stanley knife.
  • Eat shellfish.
  • Think that exams are good things.
  • Go without learning something new every week.

What are the things you'll never do again?


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10 Reasons Kids’ Minds Are Like Rainforests


In a recent post discussing a favorite quote, I wrote that…

[Young] minds are more like a rainforest: teeming with life and growth, filled with verdant mysteries, potential discoveries and unique richness, and we need to take care that we don't kill off more than we allow to flourish.

This in opposition to the view that their minds are like gardens “which need to be carefully planted and trimmed and tended and formed (and ruthlessly weeded)”.


In this post, I would like to extend the rainforest metaphor a little more.


Why Kids' Minds Are Like Rainforests

  1. Although you might think that they are richly fertile and if you clear out what's endemic and replace it with what you want to grow there instead, your forced transplantations will seldom last more than a few seasons. The fertile layer lies so deep that only the roots of the existing trees can reach it. (See: Constructivism.)
  2. They are quite resilient and can recover from hurtful things. But too much can damage them irreparably. And sometimes, just a little bit of toxicity can cause a great deal of unanticipated harm. If we care for them and protect them, they thrive.
  3. We seem obsessed with harvesting standardized logs from them, where we should be looking more deeply at the wealth of other amazing things they offer. If, instead of taking what we want, we take the time to investigate all the unique things they offer us, we begin to see them in a very different light.
  4. There is a natural balance. Things that have no place, or which don't play an active role, become supplanted by things which grow, adapt and fit better.
  5. The surrounding context and environment always have a far greater effect on them than does any inherent individual trait. (Actually, they do on all of us. See: The Person and the Situation*)
  6. There is as much activity in the dark as there is in the light. We shouldn't force young minds which prefer the shadows into the light.
  7. To the uninitiated, they can be incredibly difficult to understand and to navigate our way through.
  8. They can be immensely beautiful in both their strength and their fragility.
  9. Where there is an opportunity, it is taken.
  10. They can be truly surprising. Even when you think you know them.


(With thanks to the vivacious Melani van der Merwe.)


* Like Malcolm Gladwell, I have had my thinking entirely shifted by this book. More in a future post.


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20 Predictions for 2016 (And How You Too Can Become a Psychic Fortune-Teller Type – But Not Really)


This is the link to last year's predictions.

I've cast the bones for 2016, and the ancestors have spoken.

And here's how you too can learn to tell the future. (Spoiler alert: You can't really, all you do is look at what has already happened, what's happening now, and what always seems to happen. And, of course, you need to keep it vague.)


  1. There will be a new conflict between nations in the Middle East.
  2. The global climate crisis will reach epidemic proportions.
  3. A major Asian economy will approach near collapse.
  4. A major leader will be deposed.
  5. A large weather system will cause immense damage.
  6. A new disease will threaten the globe.
  7. Scientists will make a major new discovery.
  8. A new earth-like planet will be found.
  9. I see major racial conflict in a Western country.
  10. A new disruptive technology will fundamentally change the way we do things.
  11. There is an unexpected new president.
  12. A major victory for human rights / environmental lobbyists will occur.
  13. A sports scandal looms.
  14. A mass shooting.
  15. (Insert example of ignorance / stupidity).
  16. London.
  17. Africa.
  18. Some things will get a little bit better.
  19. Some things will get a little bit worse.
  20. Millions will experience bad luck after not favoriting that Facebook post.


And before you protest that I am being flippant about some potentially serious and tragic events, might I remind you that most of these things are already happening right now? And they've been happening for many years. Perhaps the real tragedy is that we aren't doing anything about them. And that we're still surprised when they happen. And that we have the kind of credulity that allows us to think that people can tell the future.


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