Creating Computer Games with Terrance Jackson

At Larchmont Library we conducted five sessions with local 5th – 8th graders on the following Wednesdays: October 15th, 22nd, 29th, November 5th, and 19th. This is the game that they created:



Click here to play.

It is very important that children learn computer programming as Douglas Rushkoff wrote in Program or Be Programmed:

When human beings acquired language, we learned not just how to listen but how to speak. When we gained literacy, we learned not just how to read but how to write. And as we move into an increasingly digital reality, we must learn not just how to use programs but how to make them. In the emerging, highly programmed landscape ahead, you will either create the software or you will be the software. It’s really that simple: Program, or be programmed.

“This Girl Is On Fire” T-Shirt Project

Girl on Fire

The Achievement Gap

For decades, educators have struggled to close the “achievement gap,” the persistent differences in test scores, grades and graduation rates among students of different races, ethnicities and, in some subjects, genders.

According to an American Psychological Association article, a group of social and cognitive psychologists have approach this problem not based on the idea that at least some of these disparities are the result of faulty teaching or broken school systems, but instead spring from toxic stereotypes that cause ethnic-minority and other students such as women to question whether they belong in school and whether they can do well there. While such a major problem might seem to require widespread social change to fix, the psychologists are finding evidence that short, simple interventions can make a surprisingly large difference.

We are developing projects to close the achievement gap:
But we need your help!

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Should The NYPD & LAPD Be Using CIA-Funded Software?

RIP Akai Gurley!
Akai Gurley

Akai Gurley was shot and killed in a Brooklyn building by Peter Liang, a probationary police officer.

On Thursday, November 21st, probationary Officer Peter Liang shot and killed Akai Gurley in the stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project. A recent FBI Annual Uniform Crime Report determined that killings by police are the highest they’ve been in two decades. In 2013, there were 461 “justifiable homicides” by police which is most likely a significant undercount. In addition, this number would not include a killing such as Akai Gurley which will most likely be classified as “accidental.” The 461 “justifiable homicides” in 2013 doubles the number of people lynched in 1892 when there were 230 lynchings, the highest lynching totals in American history.

As we mourn the death of another person killed at the hands of police officers, we should examine the underlying culture that is responsible for these mass killings. In dealing with culture, one of the most important concepts to understand is something called implicit bias. Below is a definition provided by Kirwan Institute.

Defining Implicit Bias

Also known as implicit social cognition, implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.  These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control.  Residing deep in the subconscious, these biases are different from known biases that individuals may choose to conceal for the purposes of social and/or political correctness.  Rather, implicit biases are not accessible through introspection.

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Women’s Government Contracting Forum in Larchmont

Women's Forum

Save The Date
We are working on the idea of a government contracting forum series for women-owned businesses in Larchmont. The series will help women, obtain government contracts at every level of government: school board, local, county, state, and federal.
The focus for the first forum on Saturday, May 16th will be how to obtain a contract with the Mamaroneck Union Free School District. Their 2014-2015 budget is $131 million with $429,000 for equipment, $13.5 million for purchased services, and $2.3 million for materials and supplies.
At this forum we will also be exploring how to replicate the DC Central Kitchen model locally to train local people to provide healthy food to local school districts.

One important issue in this process is that millions of GMO Meals are served to our children in American schools each day. These meals also contain food dyes, pesticides, synthetic chemicals and high fructose corn syrup which have been linked to diabetes, autism, food allergies, ADHD and auto immune diseases.

297 scientists and experts have signed a statement saying that GM foods have not been proven safe and that existing research raises concerns.

An article from the Institute for Responsible Technology talks to the issue of serving young people healthy food:

Before the Appleton Wisconsin high school replaced their cafeteria’s processed foods with wholesome, nutritious food, the school was described as out-of-control. There were weapons violations, student disruptions, and a cop on duty full-time. After the change in school meals, the students were calm, focused, and orderly. There were no more weapons violations, and no suicides, expulsions, dropouts, or drug violations. The new diet and improved behavior has lasted for seven years, and now other schools are changing their meal programs with similar results.

I'm not a science experiment

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Chess: The Immortal Game, An Interview with David Shenk

David Shenk

David Shenk

We are conducting interviews for our upcoming documentary addressing inequity called I Could Be….
David Shenk is the award-winning and national-bestselling author of six books, including The Genius in All of Us (“deeply interesting and important” – New York Times), The Forgetting (“remarkable” – Los Angeles Times), Data Smog (“indispensable” – New York Times), andThe Immortal Game (“superb” – Wall Street Journal). He is a popular lecturer, a short-film director/producer, and a contributor to National Geographic, Slate, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Gourmet, Harper’s, Spy, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The American Scholar, The Huffington Post, NPR, BBC and PBS. Shenk lives in Brooklyn.
What inspired you to write a book on the history of chess?
A couple of small events connected to chess came together to make me especially curious about the game and its history. One was Ricky Jay’s demonstration of the knight tour, which fascinated me. Another was an episode of the TV show The West Wing where the President brings back old chess sets from India, talks about how old the game is, and uses it as a metaphor for a contemporary stand-off with China. Like a lot of people, I had thought chess was a medieval European game, maybe 500 years old. To find out that it was 1500 years old opened my eyes and made me wonder what other games have continously lived so long and impacted so many different cultures. The answer is none. Chess is something unique in the history of humankind and my hunch was that a close look at its history could provide a unique understanding of human culture. So the shorter answer is that I wrote a book about the history of chess in order to learn more about who humans are.

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Innovation Is Driven By Government Policy


Two early programmers (Gloria Ruth Gordon [Bolotsky] and Ester Gerston) at work on the ENIAC

The first electronic general-purpose computer was the ENIAC or Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer. The ENIAC was designed to calculate artillery firing tables. ENIAC’s design and construction was financed by the United States Army, Ordnance Corps, Research and Development Command which was led by Major General Gladeon Marcus Barnes. The construction contract was signed on June 5, 1943, and work on the computer began in secret by the University of Pennsylvania’s Moore School of Electrical Engineering [I am a graduate of the Moore School].

Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper

The inventor of the first compiler for a computer programming language was an officer of the U.S. Navy named Grace Hopper. She popularized the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL, one of the first high-level programming languages. In 1982, Admiral Hopper gave a speech to my plebe class at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Bardeen, Shockley & Brattain

John Bardeen, William Shockley and Walter Brattain at Bell Labs, 1948. All three were awarded the 1956 Nobel Prize in Physics.

The transistor is the fundamental building block of modern electronic devices, and is ubiquitous in modern electronic systems. The transistor was develop in 1947 at AT&T’s Bell Laboratories by American physicists John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley, the transistor revolutionized the field of electronics, and paved the way for smaller and cheaper radios, calculators, and computers, among other things. At the time of the develop of the transistor, AT&T was a government sanctioned telephone monopoly.

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Improving Our Decision-Making with Freestyle Chess

We are developing the idea of a Freestyle Chess Tournament as way to explore Garry Kasparov’s ideas of using the decision-making process of chess as a model for understanding and improving our decision-making everywhere else and how we have discarded innovation and creativity in exchange for a steady supply of marketable products.
In a book review of Diego Rasskin-Gutman’s Chess Metaphors: Artificial Intelligence and the Human Mind, Garry Kasparov wrote about freestyle chess:
In 2005, the online chess-playing site hosted what it called a “freestyle” chess tournament in which anyone could compete in teams with other players or computers….
Lured by the substantial prize money, several groups of strong grandmasters working with several computers at the same time entered the competition. At first, the results seemed predictable. The teams of human plus machine dominated even the strongest computers. The chess machine Hydra, which is a chess-specific supercomputer like Deep Blue, was no match for a strong human player using a relatively weak laptop. Human strategic guidance combined with the tactical acuity of a computer was overwhelming.
The surprise came at the conclusion of the event. The winner was revealed to be not a grandmaster with a state-of-the-art PC but a pair of amateur American chess players using three computers at the same time. Their skill at manipulating and “coaching” their computers to look very deeply into positions effectively counteracted the superior chess understanding of their grandmaster opponents and the greater computational power of other participants. Weak human + machine + better process was superior to a strong computer alone and, more remarkably, superior to a strong human + machine + inferior process.
In a lecture, Walter Isaacson also talked about the power of the partnership between humans and technology:
[T]this type of artificial intelligence [where computers are not only smarter than humans but can also design themselves to be even supersmarter] may take a few more generations or even centuries. We can leave that debate to the futurists. Indeed, depending on your definition of consciousness, it may never happen. We can leave that debate to the philosophers and theologians.
There is, however, another possibility: that the partnership between humans and technology will always be more powerful than purely artificial intelligence. Call it the Ada Lovelace approach. Machines would not replace humans, she felt, but instead become their collaborators. What humans –and humanists – would bring to this relationship, she said, was originality and creativity.
The past fifty years have shown that this strategy of combining computer and human capabilities has been far more fruitful than the pursuit of machines that could think on their own.