Play power

These are the times of quiet revolt (very quiet) in the First World, where men and women declare their freedoms subtly, semi-publicly, playfully. Witness the the Credit Card Prank, where one man, seeking to test the limits of his accountability, discovers that he can sign his credit receipts just about any way he wants to. In fact, more than just about.

This may not be a giant leap for mankind, or indeed a small step, but it is a clear and present demonstration of play power. Just a little playful prodding here and there, a little, just-for-the-fun-of-it-all testing of the rules, and we quiet revolutionaries discover, if you forgive the expression, yet a little more freedom, and yet another reason to wonder about the sanity of it all.

Smart Fun, part two: walking drunk and related concerns

You'd think that this little, pointless exercise in seeing how far you can get a drunk guy to walk before he falls over is, though significantly amusing, more than vaguely familiar, and surprisingly challenging, little more than an exercise in, um, pointlessness. Howsomever, as my scientifically informed correspondent Ianus Keller gleefully points out, it's more. Far more.

It is in fact a demonstration of Control Theory. I quote from the aforementioned:

Some machines are easy to control, others are difficult. As a child we learn how to point in the direction of something we want, and we can do that without difficulty. But landing a helicopter on a helipad takes extensive skill and training...Control theory is a branch of science that deals with questions like when and how hard should the driver of a train apply the brakes in order to halt at the precise spot at the platform. Continuous control systems...are characterized by their order. A finding with important implications for interface designers is that people can be good at controlling positions, velocities, and accelerations. Technically these are known as zeroeth, first, and second order control systems, respectively. Beyond second order, things get very difficult indeed.

For a playworthy, but significantly less playful demonstration of control theory, see this little demo.

Getting these links from Ianus right before I posted yesterday's piece on the mathematical depths of the Simpsons is a dip beyond serendipity - as instructional about the nature of fun as it is about the experience of learning.

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Of Math and the Simpsons

"The Simpsons...contains over a hundred instances of mathematics ranging from arithmetic to geometry to calculus, many designed to expose and poke fun at innumeracy. In fact, Al Jean, Executive Producer and head writer, has a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University."

Who knew? Dr. Sarah J. Greenwald, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC and Dr. Andrew Nestler, Santa Monica College, Santa Monica, CA, who produced

Here, from Andrew Nestler's Guide to Mathematics and Mathematicians on The Simpsons a sample from Bart The Genius (7G02, 1/14/90):

Child genius to Bart: Tell you what, Bart, I'll trade you the weight of a bowling ball on the eighth moon of Jupiter for my lunch, for the weight of a feather on the second moon of Neptune from your lunch.

Another child genius to Bart: I'll trade you 1000 picoliters of my milk for 4 gills of yours.

3. Teacher at gifted school: So y = r^3/3 and if you determine the rate of change in this curve correctly, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

[Class laughs.]

Teacher: Don't you get it, Bart? Derivative dy = 3r^2 dr/3, or r^2 dr, or r dr r. Har-de-har-har! Get it?

This site does makes two very instructive points: 1) it is the depth of the cartoon series that makes it so much fun for so many people, and 2) things that we think of as "pure entertainment" may, given the intelligence of the writers and the insights of the instructors, also lead to learning.

Thanks for this highly entertaining and yet significantly educational connection go to Ultimate Insult

Kayak Polo

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as Kayak Polo. And no, I hadn't heard of it either until I clicked across this from the Springfield News Sun (subscription required):

"The sport, with roots in Europe, is growing in popularity all over the country. Places such as San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, San Diego, Washington, D.C., and San Diego have active clubs. Austin, it seems, is a natural for it because of its mild climate. Scrimmages unfold every Wednesday night under the MoPac Boulevard bridge. Addicted players hit the water year round, even in January.

"Donning helmets and face masks, they use kayaks modified with blunt noses and rubber bumpers, all the better to avoid cracked ribs if a player is T-boned by a kayak. Team members chase down the ball, which they pass to one another and heave into suspended goals. Think water polo on kayaks, with a 5-second time limit on players holding the ball with their hands. They also push the ball through the water with their paddles or flip it onto the bow of their kayaks...

"Depending on what you read, the game started in Scotland, Germany or England sometime around the late 1800s, when bored dockworkers rigged barrels with wooden horse heads, tails and saddles, grabbed paddles and batted around a ball for amusement...Today, the game is still most popular in Europe, where it's known as canoe polo, although players use what Americans call kayaks."

Wanna know more? Paddle on over to the United States Canoe Polo Committee

The Amazing Wooden Bike Company

Found this amazing wooden bike thanks to the ceaseless and intrepid curiousity of the folks at Grow-a-Brain. And it made me remember how much more a bike is than a mode of efficient transportation, how, when I was young enough, my bicycle could take me to outer space and then down, down, down to the ocean depths.

Then there's the wooden part. The wonderful, sensous heft of it all (and we're talking hefty: more than 50 pounds). Which, of course, is the antithesis of what you want out of a bike. Unless, of course, you're not really concerned about speed and liftability and the like.

The story of the Amazing Wooden Bike Company is a story of art, craftsmanship, and, above all, a deep sense of play. The result is an invitation to wonder, which, once you get beyond the sheer practicality of human-powered transportation, is what biking is all about.

e-playing and e-learning: integral fun and meaningful failure

eLearning magazine recently ran an article called "Online Learning and Fun." It is somewhat encouraging to find educators who are, despite the intense pressure for academic justifiability, championing fun. There were a couple insights in the article that I found especially heart-warming.

The first: "The classic approach in e-learning is to add a bit of fun later, rather than designing learning experiences to facilitate a joy of learning, where the learning process itself is fun." That is definitely it, in a very compact nutshell. When fun is added after the fact, it is more often than not a denial of the fun inherent in the experience of learning.

And this: "...the concept of meaningful failure. A player learns through trial and error and especially from mistakes, trying a different approach to accomplish the task at hand. Games often provide multiple opportunities and methods for a player to succeed. If a player fails using one approach, there are other ways to solve the problem. e-learning can leverage this gaming approach, offering multiple means of solving problems to encourage exploration and learning from failure."

Yeah and again yeah. I call it "learning by dying" and I think it's probably one of the most powerful contributions that eplaying has for elearning. The most fun and efficient way to master most computer games is to play until you get killed, and remember what killed you. You usually have a few lives to sacrifice to learning. And you can always start over. This approach to learning has given most young people so much confidence in their competencies that, when confronted by a new game or new technology, they hardly ever need to look at the instructions.

These are essential messages for those of us who are aware of the arbitrariness and downright silliness of the separation between learning and fun.

See also the excellent Literature Review in Games and Learning from nesta futureLab.

Waca Waca

When Googling for children's games, you never know what morsels of merry mentation you might find. Sometimes, they seem to come from deep within. Case in point, Waca Waca, from:

Erin Marie Panttaja
Sugar House Lane
Bellevue, Dublin 8, Ireland
of Media Lab Europe

who writes:

The "Waca" (<) is the thing you hit when you forget to take your finger off of the Shift key at the end of a sentence. Proper pronunciation for the angle-bracket characters <> is "waca waca" Here is some poetry for you.. The text of the poem follows:


I received this poem over email from my Grandmother last week. It presents a puzzle, challenging the reader to guess a way to read the poem in order to make it sound like a poem. Interpreting the poem is an asynchronous activity, but nonetheless could spawn interaction as users tried to create similar puzzles for one another.

Waka waka bang splat tick tick hash,
Caret quote back-tick dollar dollar dash,
Bang splat equal at dollar under-score,
Percent splat waka waka tilde number four,
Ampersand bracket bracket dot dot slash,
Vertical-bar curly-bracket comma comma CRASH.

To which I add:


Brolf, Brockey and Plunger Ball

Always delighted to see evidence of the junkyard sportly, I invite you to join me in celebrating the following find:

Every school culture has a way of arriving at its own games of eccentric ingenuity. Found objects in the environment - a set of steps, a stick, a trash can, a ball of any kind - are inspiration for play, for sport, and for the relationships they weave. And Ralph Wales, my colleague for nine years, is my archetype of the school-game inventor.

First there was Brolf. Ralph and his sixth-graders would tee off from their classroom porch using dilapidated brooms, the bristles wound with a regulation 36-inch length of duct tape, and deflated volleyballs. Had to be deflated. The "pin" was the willow tree down in the swamp by the studio, and a good Brolfer could make it in, say, eight strokes, weather permitting. Brolfers are undeterred by wind, snow, sleet, or rain.

Then came Brockey, a hybrid of equal parts brooms, hockey rules, and the circus, which often turned into low and muddy fooling around when the teams of six faced off in the spring muck to try to drive the lightweight six-inch plastic ball through the regulation clown-shoe goals. The teachers who played this every day with the eighth-graders often wore foul-weather gear; however, many a post-recess class was conducted with squelching feet.

When it came to plunger ball (plumber's helpers, softball, two toilets - tankless), the school headmaster had to draw the line. The parents conducting admissions tours were hard-pressed to explain away the toilet "goals" in front of the library. Headmasters are contractually obliged to be Wonkham-Strongs on occasion.

From the article by Todd Nelson "The Importance of Having Fun"

Let Them Sing it For You

"By typing in a text of any kind you can get it sung for you by some of the world's great-est pop stars. A database of sung words has been built up and is supposed to be gradually growing through the users' own interaction. If you find a word missing in our sound vocabulary, just tell us, and we will extract the word from a song of your choice, and add it to our database."

It's called "LET THEM SING IT FOR YOU." And it kinda really works (1400 words worth). It's kinda fun to hear those one-word-song-snippets. And you can even email your song-collage to everybody.

And I was thinking how this kind of Internet-enabled play taps into the collective semi-conscious, growing in usefulness with use, so to speak, becoming more fun as more people have fun with it. Cool.

Developed by Eric Bunger, sound artist, for the Swedish Radio.

Link-gratitude goes to Milk and Cookies."

Dice - many, many dice

Dice are probably as old as culture. In one form or another, dice have been since man first became aware of the diceyness of life. (For previous DeKoven dice-significance-expounding, see Chance and Odds - accounting for the wild things in nature). There are probably thousands of different games that use dice. And, given the many, many pages in Kevin Cook's Dice Collection, probably almost as may different kinds of dice.

And therein lies a most empowering find for anyone who likes to play more or less abstractly with fate - because all these amazingly odd-shaped dice (he has counted 75 different shapes so far), and these dice with different combinations of dots and numbers and letters and pictures and colors, combine to provide a fathomless treasury of fate-tempting games and game ideas.

Take a look, for example, at some of the dice available through Koplow Games: place value dice, decimal dice, interrogative dice, money dice, parts of speech dice. And, lest you think this is all some educational ruse, click on over to Koplow's Double Dice - the old die-within-a-die game, where the outer-die meets the inner-die to add or subtract, multiply or divide, match or differ.

Can't wait to get your hands on one of these new, fun-enticing dice forms? Well then, think of thanking Mr. Cook personally for his small but print-and-playworthy collection of Paper Dice.

Thanks for this dicey link go to Grow-a-Brain


You take, you know, art, like for example Mondrian's serendiptously computer-game-looking Broadway Boogie Woogie, and you marry it with something as close as possible to like, well, Pac Man, and you get what apparently only can be called PacMondrian. I quote:

Pac-Mondrian transcodes 'Broadway Boogie Woogie' into a Pac-Man video game: the painting becomes the board, the music becomes the sound effects, and Piet Mondrian becomes Pac-Man.

Pac-Mondrian disciplines the syncopated rhythms of Mondrian's spatial arrangements into a regular grid, then frees the gaze to follow the viewer's whimsical perambulations of the painting: a player's thorough study of the painting clears the level.

Each play of the game is an act of devotion. Mondrian's geometric spirituality fuses with his ecstatic physicality when Pac-Mondrian dances around the screen while the Trinity of Boogie Woogie jazz play 'Boogie Woogie Prayer'.

Each play of the game is an improvisational jazz session. Pac-Mondrian sits in as a session drummer with Ammons, Lewis, and Johnson, hitting hi-hats, cymbals, and snares as he eats pellets.

The thing is, it's fun, and it's got something to do with art.

Link to PacMondrian found on Ultimate Insult

Rube Goldberg, Honda, and the gift of silliness

The good people at In4mador made mention of this faith-restoring, Rube Goldberg-like car ad that Honda had launched last year, and I gotta tellya, Rube should have lived so long. It's a Rube Goldberg machine event, made entirely out of Honda car parts. O, it's a glorious thing, watching the precision and playfulness as the chain reaction unfolds. I think it was the walking windshield wipers what did me in.

The cartoon illustrating today's story is by Rube Goldberg himself. I thought maybe you might want to get a perspective on both the source and the remarkable evolution of this gift of silliness. Here's the caption:

"As aviator jumps from plane, force of wind opens umbrella (A) which pulls cord (B) and closes shears (C), cutting off corner of feather pillow (D). As white feathers (E) fly from pillow, penguin (F) mistakes them for snow flakes and flaps his wings for joy which draws buck-saw (G) back and forth cutting log of wood (H). As piece of wood falls into basket (I), its weight causes rope (J) to pull trigger of gun (K) which explodes and shoots lock from cage (L), releasing giant Umpha Bird (M) which flies and keeps aviator afloat with rope (N). Aviator breaks paper bag of corn (O), causing corn to fall to ground when bird swoops down to eat corn. Flier unhooks apparatus and walks home. The biggest problem is where to get the Umpha Bird. Write your Congressman."

Slanty Line

I have just learned that my Slanted High Bar concept was inspired by a physical educator named Muska Mosston. I like this alot - learning that something I had invented to explain a central concept about my approach to games was actually invented by someone else to explain his approach to physical education. What could be more affirming? Or sobering? Sobering to learn that the idea has been around so long and that so few people have put it into practice.

The Slanted High Bar concept was inspired by a physical educator named Muska Mosston, who useds a similar concept he called "The Slanty Rope." A good resource is Teaching Physical Activity - Choice, Challenge, and Change by Jim Stiehl, Don Morris, Christina Sinclair. Steve Stork writes: "Mosston and Ashworth (1986) suggest in their 'slanty rope' theory that, given options, children will choose that which is maximally challenging but at which they can also be successful. In gymnastics classes this can mean offering students a choice of rolling in different body shapes (tuck, pike, straddle), or from different heights (squat, handstand, dive) As long as the teacher acknowledges each child's choices and execution."

The Extra Special Olympics

So, the Athens Olympics are coming up. As are the Special Olympics. And each provides opportunity for heroism and grace. And I was thinking, OK, we have these special athletes and they have their Special Olympics, and we have these state-supported athletes and they have theirs. And we have Junkyard Sports where people in wheel chairs play with people in sneakers.

And suddenly I realized that there could be maybe yet another, maybe even more special kind of Olympics - one for all kinds of athletes, together.

I haven't really thought it all out yet, but the events in this "Extra Special Olympics" would have to be designed so that the athlete gets to, as it were, control the goal - decide for themselves, the level of challenge they will face. Like taking high jumps across a slanted bar - slanted so that every player could try to jump just as high as he could, regardless of abilities. Wider, too, so that several athletes could make the attempt together.

Track events could feature wider, slanted hurdles. Swim meets could take place in a trapezoidal swimming pool. Starting lines and finish lines could be drawn diagonally.

Maybe athletes of all abilities could compete on trapezoidal fields throwing not just the discus, but anything from paper plates to sewer lids?

So I thought this: in honor of the Athens Olympics and all, how about if we play with this idea together. Yes, both of us. And work on inventing more and Extra Special Olympics events? It could be fun. It could even have implications.

Digital Street Game

Here you see someone in New York playing what can only be called a game of Newspaper Hopscotch.

"Digital Street Game," explain the inventors, "is an Internet-enhanced street game in which players stage and document small interventions or "stunts" on the street corners of New York in order to claim turf on a virtual map of the city. The game is an experiment in collectively reimagining commonplace views of New York. By providing an online counterpart to the urban environment, it allows players to share their visions of the city with others.

"Digital Street Game is virtual graffiti that draws on your imagination, your sense of humor, and your dignity. Some people look at New York and think 'why?' We look at New York and think, 'Why the hell not?'

"Digital Street Game is a research project developed by Michele Chang and Elizabeth Goodman, design researchers working with Intel Research's People and Practices Group. The research goals of this project are to gain a better understanding of how games can be integrated into everyday life, how technology can play a role in fostering engagement in urban places, and how collective views can aid in building community.

"But most importantly, the game is an excuse to get out and have some fun."

But wait, here's more:

The object: "To dominate New York City through public acts of stupidity, foolishness, and fun (hereinafter referred to as "stunts")."

Stunts: "...Stunts have three elements: a prop a game, and a wildcard. Props are objects you'd find around a city, like coffee cups or fire hydrants. Games are any traditional game, like jump rope or hopscotch. And wildcards are urban situations, events, or attributes, like the St. Patrick's Day Parade or 'vice.'"

All in all, digitally-enhanced street-game-wise, this one seems to be amongst the best and bravest. It makes me happier just knowing that such silliness is brewing in the big cities.

Thanks for the link Nonsense NYC and he who is known as "Noise E. Pirhanna."

FOUND Magazine

By collecting and displaying discarded notes and photos and scraps, FOUND magazine creates a kind of conceptual frame around them, helping us see their depth and expressiveness. It takes a playful eye to find the kinds of things found in FOUND. It's an art in itself, building on the everyday to reach the transcendent, remarkably similar in spirit to, for example, to kids playing in a vacant lot, and, coincidentally, Junkyard Sports.

They explain: "we collect FOUND stuff: love letters, birthday cards, kids' homework, to-do lists, ticket stubs, poetry on napkins, doodles- anything that gives a glimpse into someone else's life. anything goes. we certainly didn't invent the idea of found stuff being cool. every time we visit our friends in other towns, someone's always got some kinda unbelievable found note or photo on their fridge. we wanted to make a magazine so that everyone can check out all the strange, hilarious and heartbreaking things people've picked up."

Online, be sure to take a look at FOUND's Find of the Week as well as their collection of found notes, and found photographs.

Thanks for this find go to Scrubbles

message to a PE teacher re. Junkyard Sports

Almost regardless of what other developmental purposes playing a sport might have, if children experience playing sports as fun, those objectives all become so much easier to reach, so much more joyfully.

Fewer and fewer school children seem to have actually experienced anything close to playing sports for the fun of it.

When we were their age, we knew how to play for fun. We'd have these neighborhood pick-up games that anybody who wanted to could play. And we'd play them maybe on the sidewalk, or in the street, or on some currently vacant lawn. And if we didn't have a ball or bat or whatever, we'd make them out of whatever we had with us or could find.

We'd play games like stickball, wallball, stoopball and boxball – using unofficial equipment to play in unofficial spaces; changing the rules if we had to so it could be played by anyone who wants to; for the fun of it. In the experience of playing improvisational, homemade, environmentally sensitive sports, even winning isn't as important as fun.

These games are the foundation for a new sports event, designed specifically to restore the sense of fun to sports. It's called "Junkyard Sports," as comprehensively described in a book of the same name. Like the TV show "Junkyard Wars" (except for the "war" part) Junkyard Sports events are played in phases. During the first phase two or more teams each create a new Junkyard Sport – one that everyone has fun playing, and that takes full advantage of where it is played and what there is to play with. The second phase begins when everyone plays everyone else's sport.

And therein lies the event: fun, physical, collaborative, creative, competitive, ecologically sensitive, and just about infinitely extensible. It's an event that brings fun back into sports, that challenges kids almost at every level: intellectually, physically, socially. An event that you can hold every week, for every class or for several classes at the same time, that the kids can more or less run themselves, for the whole community, even.

Getting to lead a Junkyard Sports event is almost the opposite of what you do and how you are when you hold drill and practice sessions. You're less a gym teacher and more a Junkmaster. You find yourself gathering collections of recycled material (junk), scouting unexpected locations for the event to be held in. During the event, you're doing more cheering than what you might call "teaching" or leading" – even though you are constantly doing both.

As Junkmaster, you set the challenge. The collection of junk can have tremendous impact on the kinds of games the kids invent. The more junk, the more difficult it is to use it all. The less obviously appropriate the junk (what if nothing looks like a ball or bat or racquet or stick?) the more creativity required. The place that you select for the event has similarly powerful impact on the challenge. Playing in a hallway requires a different set of strategies and skills than playing in a gym or a playground or parking lot or sidewalk or swimming pool.

Though there are many possible solutions, the problem posed by the Junkmaster is as much of an intellectual exercise as it is physical and social. It's a kind of puzzle, and solving it, even if you never actually get to play the game you create, is fun in and of itself.

For example, how would you play soccer if you had the whole playground, including the swings, basketball court, and play structure to play in? And all you had to play with is: four beach balls, two six-inch balloons of different colors, two trash cans? Plus whatever you might find laying out in the playground? And 14 seven-year-olds, two of whom are in wheelchairs?

Here's one possible solution.

Let's call it: "Beach Ball Balloon Trash Basket Playground Soccer." Divide into teams. Each team gets a different color balloon. Balloons are placed in the middle of the play structure.

Each team sets up its goal area somewhere in the playground. The goal area is a circle, about 5 feet in diameter.

Each team selects one player to be Canner. The Canner is like a Soccer goalie, except not at all. Using the trash can, the Canner attempts to capture, hold and carry his team's balloon.

The only players who can touch a balloon are in wheelchairs. If the Canner is in a wheelchair, the Canner can also touch a balloon directly. As long as the trashcan is empty, the Canner cannot leave that area. Beach balls can only be kicked or butted. Balloons can only be hit by beach balls. And there should be no physical contact between players. The winning team is the first team whose Canner has planted that team's balloon in an opposing team's goal area.

Beach Ball Balloon Trash Basket Playground Soccer (BBBTBPS) is clearly only one of many possible soccer-like games we could create with the specified collection of materials, players and environments. We could even use the very same to make a basketball game. After all, there is a basketball court in the playground. And getting a balloon into a real basketball basket could take a lot of teamwork. Especially if there were any wind. Whereas getting a beach ball into a basketball hoop is simply impossible. Or is it?


Putting a face on time

Of all the endearingly silly ways to watch yourself waste time, Daniel Craig Giffen's Human Clock is by far the most of both - endearing and silly, which explains why it is a recipient of the coveted Major FUN Award.

Everything on Giffen's site shows an almost maniacal dedication to human-scale whimsy. There are three clocks: digital, analog and text. Each mode is sillier than you'd expect it to be. To change between clocks, you go to an equally silly, but fully functional control panel that looks like something drawn by a fifth grader, and acts like a grown-up web interface. Try all three.

Then there's artist Yugo Nakamura's Industrious Clock. Not as human, perhaps, but it definitely conveys a certain "hand-made" humor. Nakamura's art, and playfulness, are even better represented by his "Surface" collection. Click on the small circles on the bottom of the page to explore.

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Discordian Games

Well, maybe not unique to Discordians, but definitely creative and playworthy, this collection of 40 campus-coffee-house-worthy games is worth the bookmark. Let us take, for example, Solitaire, as played discordantly:

...once you have finished your turn, rule changes happen. Your opponent (hereafter referred to as Player X) is allowed to change one of the rules in any manner, but only in regards to you. This includes "rules of politeness." (Legal rule changes include but are not limited to: "You cannot build black on black." "You must do the Achy Breaky Dance before every deal." "You do not have to shuffle before dealing." "You must deal a 5 by 5 field instead of a 7 by 5.") Player X, optionally, may forgo this privilege and remove a rule you imposed on hir.

Though sites relating to Discordianism abound (e.g., there is either too little or too much information available about what Discordianism is all about. The closest I came to epiphany was this, from the third commandment of The Pentabarf: "A Discordian is Required during his early Illumination to Go Off Alone & Partake Joyously of a Hot Dog on a Friday; this Devotive Ceremony to Remonstrate against the popular Paganisms of the Day: of Catholic Christendom (no meat on Friday), of Judaism (no meat of Pork), of Hindic Peoples (no meat of Beef), of Buddhists (no meat of animal), and of Discordians (no Hot Dog Buns)."

See also The Way of Fun.

Discordianformant: Sir Fancy Reverend John Fenderson, BBC, KSC, ULC, GWHA, BotTBoPD

Play Your Way

Play Your Way is a Disney and ESPN collaboration that will warm the hearts of Junkyard Sports fans the world over.

The core concept: the PAG - "...Physically Active Games that kids create and play indoors, outdoors and anywhere!"

There are currently ten games listed on the site. Here is the winner of the PAG Super Hall of Fame:

"Handball is a combination of soccer and rugby. There are two nets and two goalies for each team. Handball can be 3 on 3, 4 on 4, or 5 on 5. If you push someone with or without the ball, there is a 1 on 1 showdown and the fouled person goes 1 on 1 against the opposing goalie. You can steal the ball from anyone except the goalies. In Handball you can only use your hands. You can pass the ball from player to player. When the ball hits the ground its anyone's ball. If the ball goes out of bounds the last team to touch the ball has to give up the ball to the other team. That is Handball!"

They even have Junkyardly recommendations for sports equipment on a page called: "STUFF TO PLAY WITH"

"You don't have to have all the latest sport equipment to create your own PAG. In fact, true ESPN PAGGERS prefer to use common items in uncommon ways when creating their games. Below are a few suggestions for things you can use to create your own games: CHALK, BANDANNA, BUCKET, HULA HOOP, HACKEY SACK, FRISBEE, BEAN BAGS, JUMP ROPE, TIMER, RAMP"

OK, so maybe it's not so inclusive, junkwise or playerwise. But it's a one of the few, and probably one of the best-sponsored invitations for kids to invent their own sports. And as such, is a treasured, and significantly praiseworthy resource.

Exercise for fun

The easiest way to get kids to exercise more is "to get kids outside with friends."

"When a group of youngsters get together outside, they're going to exercise," said Jim Watkins, director of activities and athletics for Jefferson County public schools. "They're going to do something. ... They'll chase each other around."

Watkins recommends a simple "exercise" routine, imposed by parents, that goes like this: Turn off the television for an hour and go outside.

My friend Marianne Torbert, director of the Leonard Gordon Institute for Human Development Through Play of Temple University in Philadelphia, was also included in this article. It tells how she observed kids at play while while she was standing in a long line, near a big grassy area:

There was no playground equipment, no gym teacher, not even any organized adult effort to get kids moving. But the wide-open space and the empty time were enough incentive for the children, many of whom did not know each other, to "organize" their own tag-like games, which they naturally adapted to accommodate children of different ages.

They were laughing and running and falling down and were not only getting cardiovascular exercise, but also what Torbert said amounted to physical training for youngsters. Running between other moving children, avoiding contact, trying to pass each other — during all these maneuvers, kids are learning balance, which Torbert called "the keystone of all movement," and spatial awareness.

There is an awful lot going on...and much of it will be of longer-term significance to children than upper body strength — because it will build an ability and willingness to be active throughout life."

Not to mention their experience of community, of social health and shared leadership, of the shifting boundaries of friendship, compassion, fairness, playfulness....

Fun is part of the solution

You know how they say it takes only one student?

This email was the one from the one.

After I stopped crying, I decided to blog it, thus:

I was just taking some little bits and pieces of papers out of my journal and I found the following hard-copy of something your brother-in-law wrote to you:

"I find many if not most people today are not in a particularly
"fun-seeking" mood. They are preoccupied with finances, war, the economy
and personal problems. Fun, however, is a vital therapy no matter the
circumstances. The release of life's anxieties cannot have too many
channels, in my view. I....have a need to communicte via Fun to people. I
may not want to enter that Fun because I cannot overcome the 'troubles of
the day' without major incentives to do so. Fun may be good for me but I
can't seem to allow myself to enter in anyway. Perhaps I don't see fun as
the solution but rather as an escape from solving the problem(s). Funny,
when people most need the releases, they are less apt to seek them."

I am touched again by his honesty and his insight. I too feel unable to enter into Fun when so much feels wrong and sad and overwhelming in the world today, everyday. I forget your teaching, so to speak, that Fun IS part of the solution and not just a form of denial, an escape, a narcissistic indulgence at the expense of others who are not as fortunate as I am.

Just thoughts, which bring me back to the mindfulness practice that DeepFun is for me. It is the practice of Little Fun all the time, despite the trying external circumstances on this beautiful and fragile earth I love and despite the woe I see. And as I practice this path, I want to change my paradigm and begin to really believe that having fun, living fun, teaching fun, being fun, can transform this world, that it is part of the solution to the distress. IF not the world at large, it may have the power to transform MY little world, my circle of influence, I hope. And that is a step in the right direction.

(Yes, as it so happens, I will be conducting my next aformentioned September 5-10)).



Spookies "...are plush animals with faces.... The Spookies come in pairs and communicate with each other through a wireless radio link within a range of 200 meters.

There are seven different pairs of Spookies that with help from their sensors can perform tasks, for example feel the movement of people, listen to buddies, send secret codes, photograph and see how far away the best friend is. The capabilities are strongly connected to the Spookies appearance, making their function more obvious.

Pairs of Spookies can be connected to each other, together forming a new toy with new combined capabilities. The possibilities of combination are numerous and are only limited by imagination as each Spookie has two in and two out ports. Three Spookies, one Audio, one movement and one timer can for example be connected and together build a new unit that, after it is actuated by movement, listens for a time set by the timer unit....


Even spookier when you read their research proposition. I quote:

"Today’s computerised toys tend to restrain children’s natural need to move and interact socially by locking the interaction to a screen. Adding to this the fact that the interaction often situates merely between the user and his/hers computerised artefact leaves the social togetherness between children suffering. Interactive toys are often formed to be a substitute for a friend or pet. We believe that there is a need for new electronic toys that have a positive influence on children’s social and physical development."

So, I'm thinking that these "social toys" are precursors, not only of what we'll see in the kids' playroom, but also what we'll find in classrooms and business offices even. Toys and gadgets that mediate - between themselves, between us. New sports, maybe, with robots and humans, playing together and between.

What is happiness? - a multiple choice quiz

I was Googling for happiness again. I suppose that says a lot about my current state of mind. Anyhow, I found this partly funny and partly profound Happiness Quiz that I thought would amuse you in a provocative sort of way. OK. You're taking a test. The question: "What is happiness?" You can check any or all of these sample answers:

B) It is a Ben & Jerry's Double-Scoop Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream cone.

C) It's what we're all searching for.

D) It's something we all already have.

E) It's something that, in a way, we're all searching for, and we all already have, simultaneously...

J) Warm, fresh, Krispy-Creme Doughnuts.

K) Warm, fresh, Krispy-Creme Doughnuts . . . that are free, have no fat, no calories, and you can eat as many as you want without throwing up.

L) It's something you'll have once you find that perfect guy or girl, fall in love, and live happilly ever after.

N) It's something you once when you have enough money, status, fame, power, or respect.

O) It's a process of accumulating more and more and more pleasure or fun experiences.

P) It's something that you get when you finally enough cool clothes...

T) It's something that's pointless to think about.

U) It's something that's absolutely crucial to think about - because otherwise, you might just miss it.

V) "Happiness is like peeing your pants: Everyone can see it, but only you can feel it's warmth." - unknown...

EEE) Jed McKenna: "Suffering just means you're having a bad dream. Happiness means you're having a good dream. Enlightenment means getting out of the dream altogether."

FFF) It's something you're here to discover . . .