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i break stuff.

Getting the Steam version of Omerta – City of Gangsters to run on Win7, Win8, and beyond

tl;dr version: Win7+ doesn’t come with DirectX 9. Install it from here and Omerta should work fine.

long version:

I like Mafia stuff. Movies, games, what have you. I bought “Omerta – City of Gangsters” on a Steam sale a while back for some Mafia-themed sandbox gaming fun but never fired it up… until tonight.

And tonight it wouldn’t start. And so I scratched my head and did what any good techie would do. I tried again. I restarted Steam. I verified the game cache integrity. I deleted the game. I re-installed the game. I rebooted the computer. I tried several of these again, scratched my head, stroked my beard, and went, “Huh.”

I searched the internet. Somebody there said they had the same problem, but used a Torrent to fix it. Um, no thanks. There’s gotta be a way, right?

Then I saw someone else who said, “The game works fine on Windows XP or in WinXP Mode… Try that!”

That got me asking myself: “What’s different about Windows 8 (or 8.1, or 7) and Windows XP from a video game perspective?”

I couldn’t come up with a quick answer, so I did some more digging. I ran into my …\steam\steamapps\common\Omerta folder and found the executable for the game, thinking that Steam might be swallowing whatever error I *should* be seeing. Sure enough, I got my answer in the form of this error dialog:

OmertaSteam.exe error

So back to the question at hand. What’s the difference between XP and Win7+ from a game’s point of view? That’s right! The in-box version of DirectX.

You see, most games need DirectX to talk to the video hardware. And they need a specific version. DirectX 9 games need DirectX 9, not DirectX 10 or 11, etc. As it happens, Windows 7 and Windows 8 don’t ship with DirectX 9 “out of the box”…

This problem is easily remedied. Download this:

And run it. That will scan your system and add any missing DirectX 9 files.

Once that’s done, Omerta should start up just fine.

“Keep the change, you filthy animal!”

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Posted by on August 27, 2013 in Computational Engines, Things Geeky


Dr. StrangeOS or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Windows 8

Geeks are often whiners at heart. We like things a certain way, and we are opinionated. The mere existence (let alone popularity) of websites like Slashdot and Reddit reveal the self-evident nature of these truths.

Being opinionated means that when someone upsets our digital apple cart, we are wont to get medieval. We like the interface to our world to look a certain way and to feel a certain way. After almost 20 years of the Windows Operating System (OS) looking and feeling more or less the same way (since the new “Start”-based Windows 95 UI refresh), ousting concepts like the venerated Start Menu, Task Bar, and infinitely resizable application Windows was bound to ruffle a few feathers.

The new UI is dubbed “Metro” and it saw its first commercial expression in the Windows Phone 7 OS reboot. Tiles abound. It is touch-first, touch-friendly, and highly gestural. Swipes and pinches galore. Mobile devices outnumber PCs by a staggering amount (I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to find out by just how much), and an increasing number of these devices are eschewing keyboards for multi-touch displays.

Windows 8 takes the Metro UI to the next level, often at the expense of the relative comfort and safety of the Windows 7 (and prior) Way Of Doing Things(tm). It places the digital world quite literally at your fingertips and does so with post-modern panache. If you’re blessed to be using it with a touch screen (perhaps on a tablet of some sort), it’s easy to intuit the experience the Windows design team was driving for.

But if you’re like me and the millions of other mouse-based PC users bumping off the virtual walls of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, you might be scratching your head and wondering, “What the heck were they thinking?!”

I started there. As a user of Windows since version 3.1, I loathed the new UI. It made no sense. It wasn’t intuitive. It was ugly, and this stupid Start page-screen-thingy flies up over everything I’m trying to do all the time. Gah!!! But as you’ll see in a moment… I’m coming around.

The “Aha! I get it!” moment for me arrived when a friend of mine sent me a message via Facebook. I had just finished associated all of my online identities with the Messaging app, and I was rewarded with a little ‘toast’ that faded in to view on the upper right hand side of my screen, accompanied by a subtle chime from my speakers. Clicking it launched the Messaging app full-screen.

I was web browsing on the Classic Desktop at the time and really wanted to get back to that, so I employed a little trick I’d learned recently. I grabbed the top of the app and “tore” it from the top of the screen and “docked” it to the right hand side of the screen, out of my way. The Messaging app re-arranged itself and presented just our current chat in a little private strip of space (perhaps 25% of my screen real-estate) on the right side of the screen. Blank pixels filled the left.

Clicking in the empty area brought up the Start Page, from which I selected the Desktop. It neatly filled the remainder of the space and resized itself accordingly. All of my full-screen apps (IE, Word, etc.) were still full-screen, but the width of the Desktop had been reduced to accommodate the Messaging app without any overlap. After a few minutes I realized how nice and even intuitive it felt to have the chat window in its own little space, not too big or small, protected from being overlapped by my “classic” desktop and its applications. It really feels like you’re simulating a multi-monitor experience (which I use a lot of at work) with only one physical display. Very snazzy!

Since that day, I’ve stopped grumbling and started dedicating myself to mastering the new Metro User Interface (UI). Since I’m an old-school keyboard junkie, I use “shortcuts” or “accelerators” quite a bit.  Many of the classic combos still work (Win+E for Explorer, Win+R for Run, Win+D to show the Desktop), but there more than a few new ones to add to your repertoire.

Handy Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Win+C opens the ‘charm bar’ (same as hovering in either right-side corner of the screen)
  • Win+I is the shortcut to the context-sensitive settings flying (same as Win+C and picking ‘Settings’)
  • Win+W scopes searches to Settings
  • Win+F scopes searches to Files
  • Win+Tab shows all the Modern apps you have running (same as hovering in the upper-left corner of the screen)

Remember, Searching in Windows 8 is easy… if not immediately intuitive. In Windows 7, when you wanted to search you just hit Start and started typing away, since the ‘Search’ box in the Start Menu had focus by default. It’s the exact same way in Windows 8… except there is no Search box visible until you start typing!  Hit the Win key and just start typing as you did before.

Along those lines, I have discovered a few general practices with the UI that may help the new Metro user. The bottom line is, most of the time, you’ve got to “think with your fingers” even if you’re using a Mouse. The new input motif is gestural.

Gestures are Key

  • You can control the fate of any Modern app by grabbing the top of the screen with the mouse pointer and dragging the app around. Want it compact on the left or right side of the screen? Just drag it over there. Want to close it? Just drag it down to the bottom of the screen.
  • If the screen is divided as I described above, you can switch which app is “big” and which is “small” by dragging (or double-clicking) the divider between them. You can also swap their positions by dragging either app over its neighbor). Or you can make one of them go away by dragging the divider off the screen.
  • While holding the Win+Tab menu open (you can release Tab, but keep holding the Win key), you can also choose dock apps selectively close them (all via the right-click context menu).
  • Right-clicking is still all about context. Play with it in various “Modern” apps and see what it does. In most, it will bring up a context-sensitive set of actions from the bottom (and/or top) of the screen. (Swiping ‘up’ from the bottom or down from the top will accomplish the same feat on a slate). The Modern “Immersive” Internet Explorer brings context options from both directions (tabs up top, address bar and other navigation tools below).
  • When using an actual touch input device, you can “flick” with your left thumb or “swipe in” from the left side of the screen to switch (“alt-tab”) between active applications.
  • Swiping in from the right opens the Charm Bar. Swiping down from the top grabs the current app and lets you move it around (dock left, dock right), or close it altogether.

Powerful Tricks

If you’re like me (a power user), you might be wondering where all your favorite toys are (Services control panel? Powershell ISE? etc.). Those are filtered out of search results by default, as most users never need them, and they would just clutter things up for the masses.

To get your power tools back at your fingertips, open the Start Page (Win key) and press Win+I to open the Settings panel. Select ‘Tiles’ and toggle on the ‘Show administrative tools’ slider.

Photos Woes?

While you’re in there, you might see a conspicuous ‘Clear personal info from my tiles’ option. This is for resetting the tile data caches for things like the thumbnails that rotate over your Photos app tile. Don’t like that lolcat that you deleted 3 weeks ago? Hate the pimply self-portrait it picked at random from your Skydrive? Hit the Clear button and it’ll (finally) go away!

Speaking of Skydrive pictures, you can pick where Photos shows pictures from by opening it’s settings (Win+I) from within the Photos app. You can even stop the rotating picture display, should you desire. Lastly, if you really want a single picture to be your Photos tile, you can view that photo full-screen and then open the context bars (right-click) to reveal the ‘Set As’ option. This will let you set it as your Desktop background, or as your App Tile background.

As you can see, since my “Aha!” moment, the Metro UI has been growing on me, and I’ve gone from grumbling and complaining to feeling empowered by it to better organize my work space.

But all is not well in Metropolis!

I do find that the minimalist design of many of the Modern (aka “Windows RT”) apps makes me want for more flexibility in some of the applications. Standouts:

  • The new News application is beautiful. It brings the look and feel of modern, colorized, multi-column print journalism to current events. However, for reasons I can’t fathom, it will not format the contents of a news article for single-column display when the app is in “compact” mode. It will show you a list of articles to read when it is compact, but selecting one merely takes you to the headline with some metadata and a ‘Read article’ button that forces the News app into full-screen mode (or the not-quite-full-screen size, if you’re already running a split view). Seriously lost opportunity there. I’d wager it will probably be corrected by the time Windows General Availability arrives (if not shortly thereafter).
  • File transfers in Messaging. Sometimes you just want to send a picture to a buddy. Messaging doesn’t seem to enable this (currently). It may never, as file transfers are a bit of a niche nowadays. Seems like software designers assume what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, thus all sharing of all media will funnel through Facebook or other broadcast-style social media. What can I say… I break molds for a living. =^)

Phenomenal Cosmic Power!

For all the little quirks and the feeling of being stuck between two input paradigms, Windows 8 may well hit a home run with the Modern “app” experience. After all, all computers and all Operating Systems are all about Applications. Without applications, what’s the point?

I showed the built-in “Store” app (through which you download and install more Modern / Windows RT apps) to Becca to get her thoughts on it. (Bear in mind, she is an avid iOS ecosystem girl — which is entirely my fault. iPhone (birthday gift from me), iPad (just-because gift from me…). Case in point, she “gets” the Apple way of deploying software and doesn’t use a PC (or any desktop/laptop/etc.) very much anymore. It’s just too easy and too convenient to get things done on iOS, until Flash comes into play. I hear the plaintiff’s attorney saying, “Objection. Relevance?” to which I reply, “Credibility, your Honor!” My wife at least moderately ingrained in the iOS culture. Applications are disposable, one-touch-setup and two-touch-delete objects, and the devices that run them are like toasters or any other commodity appliance. They should Just Work(tm).

To gain her perspective, I showed the Windows 8 Store to Becca, installed a few apps from it, then ran them for her like a little demo, showed her the pretty Weather app and the News reader, Mail, and Messaging. Swapped them around, showed off the docking features. As she took it all in, she said things like, “Oh, that’s just like on your (Windows) phone! Oh, that’s cool! Hey, I like that!” (I’m paraphrasing a little, but she was rather taken with the demonstrated capabilities of what is otherwise fairly obtuse and non-intuitive).

Now that we both feel empowered (instead of hindered) by the Modern UI, our stance (well, my stance, at least) has shifted from that of a moderate detractor to that of a moderate apologist. No, the UI is not perfect (and neither was iOS when it launched) but it does provide for some really nice workflows that I find myself gravitating to more and more. Also, the immersive browser is kind of addictive. At first you hate it, but then it grows on you, especially when you use it for things like Netflix, Hulu, and other designed-to-be-full-screen applications.

In short, I’ve learned to stop worrying. I’m starting to love Windows 8. The parts I loathed before are starting to grow on me (and not like a fungus). I get the feeling that once I add touch to my machines, I’ll probably like it even more… as a matter of fact, the forthcoming LeapMotion may be the perfect thing for our home theater. Goodbye, mouse-on-the-armchair! Goodbye tiny-wireless-trackpad-and-novelty-keyboard-that-barely-works-from-10′-away!

Windows 8, for all its little wrinkles, is pretty great. I’m confident that the first few waves of app updates and refinements will only make it better.

What’s your Win8 story? Love it? Hate it? Feel free to comment below.

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Posted by on August 20, 2012 in Computational Engines, Things Geeky


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Sun + Washington, WordPress + Windows Phone 7

My buddy Hal wanted to know if you can manage a WordPress Blog from WP7. The app i’m typing in promises just that… of course, the last two times i tries to submit my post with a photo attached over 3G, the app crashed and I lost everything… so lets try posting first and adding the photo later…

The wife and I celebrated sun in Washington with a trip to Fatburger. Nothing like seared meat and a tasty shake to bask with!

Posted from WordPress for Windows Phone

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Posted by on June 5, 2011 in Things Edible, Things Geeky


Get DragonAge Origins Toolset on 64-bit Windows 7, Steam, and SQL Express 2008

With the latest installment of the DragonAge series shipping soon (only 4 days from now… *wibble*), a resurgence of interest in Origins has gripped me. I’ve bee whiling away the odd hour here or there playing through the campaign again, with little hope that I’ll finish it this time either. There’s just so much to do and that’s without all the weight downloadable content (DLC) of the epic Awakenings or the character-specific adventures that have rolled out since then. But I digress…
I wanted to mess around with the Toolset again (which allows you to craft your own adventures if you’re willing to invest a lot of time, or to just poke around under the hood and see how BioWare crafted Origins) but as I was running the installer I realized that it wanted to install SQL Express 2005. 2005? That’s a bit out-dated, don’t you think? After all, I’ve already got a SQL Express engine running on my box to support my independent development initiatives with Microsoft Visual Studio 2010. Why on earth should I install another copy of SQL Server?
I knew from my own professional experience that SQL 2008 and 2005 are largely compatible for most databases (and 2008 even has a 2005-compatibility mode you can set should things go awry…), I thought “why not see if we can make this work with what i’ve got already?” So, I ran a few web queries to make sure I wasn’t setting out on a fool’s errand, and I ran across this wonderful blog post by a bloke named Evan. Evan probably saved me and others hours of time with those steps, but they didn’t quite work for me. Why, you ask? Well, it comes down to the fact that once again, he wants me to use SQL Express 2005. I figured “meh, skip that step, i’ve got 2008 installed…” and just tried to install the 64-bit SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) Express package. No luck. For reasons unclear to me, it rolls itself back 75% of the way through the install claiming that it was “interrupted.” After trying twice in a row, I gave up on that and decided to use ply my sqlcmd-fu (that’s the special variant of kung fu SQL Server db admins are taught by the wisened sages of their art) and bend things to my will.
Sadly, his proffered advice about using SQL scripts he linked to was rather full of fail. While it gave me some (most? all?) of the DB schema, it didn’t give me nearly enough of the data. I kept getting errors about missing IDs and and other inaccessible data from the toolkit after running his scripts.  But a comment on the latter gave me exactly what I needed: the fact that BioWare shipped a full backup of the database with the toolkit. Well, of course they did. How much easier can installing a database get than to use restore a database backup (.bak) and call it a day?
The path to success for Win7 amd64, Steam, and SQL 2008 Express is as follows:
  1. SQL Server is installed, running, and responding to your queries. E.g: running:  sqlcmd -S .\SQLEXPRESS -q “select @@version” from a command/powershell prompt will yield:
    Microsoft SQL Server 2008 (SP2) – 10.0.4000.0 (X64)
    Sep 16 2010 19:43:16
    Copyright (c) 1988-2008 Microsoft Corporation
    Express Edition (64-bit) on Windows NT 6.1 <X64> (Build 7600: )
  2. You’ve got Dragon Age: Origins installed and you know where it lives. For example, my copy lives in ‘D:\Games\Steam\steamapps\common\dragon age origins\
  3. You’ve installed the Dragon Age Origins Toolset, but opted NOT to install the included 32-bit version of SQL Server 2005 Express.
SQLCMD to the rescue!
    1. Once you install the toolkit, you’ll find they’ve included the aforementioned SQL database backup file (bw_dragonage_content.bak) for you. For steam users, it resides in the tools\dbbak subfolder of your dragon age installation. Go search your computer for it and get a hold of the full path to that file. You’ll need it shortly.
    2. We’ll need to issue several commands to SQL Server, and we’ll use a console application called SQLCMD to do it. So open up an elevated command prompt or powershell prompt and execute the following command to connect to your local copy of SQL Server Express:
    1. Now, every database backup has a designated place in the file system where its data (files that usually end in .mdf) and possibly logs (files that end in .ldf) are stored. Most database restores assume that the files you’re restoring from the .bak should go back to where they were found originally, so we’re going to roll with that assumption. First, we need to see where those files are expected to be, without actually restoring anything. To do this, we’ll use a mode of the SQL “RESTORE” command called “FILELISTONLY” to get the logical and physical names of the mdf and ldf in the backup file:
RESTORE FILELISTONLY FROM DISK = ‘D:\Games\Steam\steamapps\common\dragon age origins\tools\dbbak\bw_dragonage_content.bak’
    1. You should see near the end the logical and physical filenames of the .mdf and .ldf in the file (after of a bunch of staggered “—–” characters … this is the pretty-printing that would make the data look like a table were your console window wide enough, or were you to output the query results to a text file), e.g.:
bw_dragonage_content C:\Program Files\DAODB\Data\bw_dragonage_content.mdf
bw_dragonage_content_log C:\Program Files\DAODB\Data\bw_dragonage_content.ldf
    1. The name without the path is the “logical” name. The fully-pathed file is… you guessed it, the filename. Once you are armed with these, you need to make sure the physical path this .bak file will expect actually exists. Since we’re running a 64-bit version of windows, chances are high that the Toolset installer created the “\DAODB\Data” folder in your Program Files (x86) folder (where all good little 32-bit programs go), not your Program Files folder (which houses the 64-bit ones). Fixing this is a simple matter of cutting and pasting the “DAODB” folder from your Program Files (x86) folder and pasting it in the Program Files folder. Once the folder C:\Program Files\DAODB\Data exists in your local filesystem, you’re golden. Use Windows Explorer to do this — far simpler and faster than aborting your SQLCMD session and then re-starting it later.
    2. Now we have to create the database so the backup will have a place to be restored to! Run these commands in your SQLCMD session (the color-coding is provided so you can visually map the values you got from FILELISTONLY above. If for some odd reason these have changed, you’ll know where to put the new values):
USE master;
CREATE DATABASE bw_dragonage_content
( NAME = bw_dragonage_content, FILENAME = ‘C:\Program Files\DAODB\Data\bw_dragonage_content.mdf‘)
( NAME = bw_dragonage_content_log, FILENAME = ‘C:\Program Files\DAODB\Data\bw_dragonage_content.ldf);
    1. You probably won’t get anything by way of a success message, but if you don’t get an error, you should be good to go.
    2. Now all we have to do is restore their database backup! Tweak the paths to match your system and then run this in your SQLCMD session:
RESTORE DATABASE bw_dragonage_content FROM DISK = ‘D:\Games\Steam\steamapps\common\dragon age origins\tools\dbbak\bw_dragonage_content.bak’ WITH REPLACE,RECOVERY
    1. This will take some time and you’ll see some output, and probably a few ‘upgrade schema’ comments, but at the end of it all you will have successfully created the database!
    2. That’s it for DB creation! Exit SQLCMD by typing:


    1. All that remains is to tell the Dragon Age Toolset how to find the database. (If you don’t, you’ll get an error that says it can’t connect. If you’re wondering why, it’s because when the Toolset installs itself, it installs a “named instance” of SQLEXPRESS that isn’t “SQLEXPRESS”that is To do this, run the “ConfigureToolset.exe” that is located in the tools directory (the parent folder of the ‘dbbak’ folder that houses the .bak file).
    2. It will open to the ‘Game Builds’ menu. That’s not what we want. Click [Next] to find the ‘Databases’ window. Once there, uncheck ‘Use the default database’ and then click the […] button. This will open the standard ‘Data Link Properties’ window that every Windows database admin knows and loves. Here, you will want to specify “.\SQLEXPRESS” for your server in #1, leave #2 alone (it should default to ‘Use Windows NT Integrated security’), and for #3, select the bw_dragonage_content database we just restored. Lastly, click [Test Connection] at the bottom and assuming all went well, you’re done!

What your settings should look like when you're done...

  1. Click [OK], then click [Next] in the ConfigureToolset UI, and lastly click [Finish].
  2. Now you should be able to use the Toolset to your heart’s content on Windows 7 64-bit with SQL Server 2008. Yay!
Caveat: I haven’t done extensive testing so I can’t vouch that running the Toolset on 2008 won’t cause some problems down the line. I’m a total n00b when it comes to the Toolset itself… I just happen to know a thing or two about Windows and SQL. 😉
Afterthought: More advanced / picky users might want to relocate the files from the DAODB directory to somewhere else. in that case you’ll want to create the DB with different filename specifications, and then restore with the MOVE directive as such:
RESTORE DATABASE bw_dragonage_content FROM DISK = ‘D:\Games\Steam\steamapps\common\dragon age origins\tools\dbbak\bw_dragonage_content.bak’ WITH REPLACE,RECOVERY,MOVE ‘bw_dragonage_content’ TO ‘[preffered path]\bw_dragonage_content.mdf’ , MOVE ‘bw_dragonage_content_log’ TO ‘[preferred_path]\bw_dragonage_content_log.ldf’
Happy modding!

Posted by on March 4, 2011 in Computational Engines, Things Geeky


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Van Der Memes

yes, i'm a stud

I think I watched about one episodes of Dawson’s Creek… but this is just too funny.

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Posted by on January 5, 2011 in Things Geeky, Things Humorous


My point, exactly.

I have a family somewhat steeped in institutional education. My mother was a home-school marm. I have aunts and cousins that have taught everything from toddlers to high school graduates. My father taught the Nuclear Navy how to tame the forces of nuclear fission to make a submarine move. They have all played their part in the institution of ‘higher learning,’ and they all deserve to be lauded for their efforts to keep their children (myself included) sharp as a tack and willing to learn.

And yet, I never really liked school. Much like Neo in the Matrix, I always felt that there was something wrong with the world, like a splinter in my mind. And when I tried to express these feelings, I was challenged to come up with a better system — but in the meanwhile, excel at the current one. And like Neo, I was never quite able to voice with due eloquence what I believed was wrong with the world. Unlike Neo, I was never given a white rabbit to follow, nor did a mysterious stranger named Morpheus suddenly appear one day to offer me the red pill.

But today I stumbled across the words of a high school valedictorian named Erica Goldson. She was inter(r|n)ed at Coxsackie-Athens High School and emerged, in her words, as “the best slave.” And while she doesn’t actually offer a true red pill in her delivery, she does paint a very vivid picture of the educational Matrix the youth of today are trapped in. She even pulls back the curtain on how we are groomed by the system to become workers, which is really just one step down the line from copper tops.

Here I stand

There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master, “If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen? The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years . .” 
The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast — How long then?” Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.” “But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?” asked the student. “Thirty years,” replied the Master. “But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?” 
Replied the Master, “When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.”

This is the dilemma I’ve faced within the American education system. We are so focused on a goal, whether it be passing a test, or graduating as first in the class. However, in this way, we do not really learn. We do whatever it takes to achieve our original objective.

Some of you may be thinking, “Well, if you pass a test, or become valedictorian, didn’t you learn something? Well, yes, you learned something, but not all that you could have. Perhaps, you only learned how to memorize names, places, and dates to later on forget in order to clear your mind for the next test. School is not all that it can be. Right now, it is a place for most people to determine that their goal is to get out as soon as possible.

I am now accomplishing that goal. I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer – not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition – a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I’m scared.

John Taylor Gatto, a retired school teacher and activist critical of compulsory schooling, asserts, “We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness – curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids into truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then. But we don’t do that.” Between these cinderblock walls, we are all expected to be the same. We are trained to ace every standardized test, and those who deviate and see light through a different lens are worthless to the scheme of public education, and therefore viewed with contempt.

H. L. Mencken wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not “to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. … Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim … is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States.”

Comment: The full passage reads: “The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, whatever pretensions of politicians, pedagogues other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else.”
To illustrate this idea, doesn’t it perturb you to learn about the idea of “critical thinking.” Is there really such a thing as “uncritically thinking?” To think is to process information in order to form an opinion. But if we are not critical when processing this information, are we really thinking? Or are we mindlessly accepting other opinions as truth?

This was happening to me, and if it wasn’t for the rare occurrence of an avant-garde tenth grade English teacher, Donna Bryan, who allowed me to open my mind and ask questions before accepting textbook doctrine, I would have been doomed. I am now enlightened, but my mind still feels disabled. I must retrain myself and constantly remember how insane this ostensibly sane place really is.

And now here I am in a world guided by fear, a world suppressing the uniqueness that lies inside each of us, a world where we can either acquiesce to the inhuman nonsense of corporatism and materialism or insist on change. We are not enlivened by an educational system that clandestinely sets us up for jobs that could be automated, for work that need not be done, for enslavement without fervency for meaningful achievement. We have no choices in life when money is our motivational force. Our motivational force ought to be passion, but this is lost from the moment we step into a system that trains us, rather than inspires us.

We are more than robotic bookshelves, conditioned to blurt out facts we were taught in school. We are all very special, every human on this planet is so special, so aren’t we all deserving of something better, of using our minds for innovation, rather than memorization, for creativity, rather than futile activity, for rumination rather than stagnation? We are not here to get a degree, to then get a job, so we can consume industry-approved placation after placation. There is more, and more still.

The saddest part is that the majority of students don’t have the opportunity to reflect as I did. The majority of students are put through the same brainwashing techniques in order to create a complacent labor force working in the interests of large corporations and secretive government, and worst of all, they are completely unaware of it. I will never be able to turn back these 18 years. I can’t run away to another country with an education system meant to enlighten rather than condition. This part of my life is over, and I want to make sure that no other child will have his or her potential suppressed by powers meant to exploit and control. We are human beings. We are thinkers, dreamers, explorers, artists, writers, engineers. We are anything we want to be – but only if we have an educational system that supports us rather than holds us down. A tree can grow, but only if its roots are given a healthy foundation.

For those of you out there that must continue to sit in desks and yield to the authoritarian ideologies of instructors, do not be disheartened. You still have the opportunity to stand up, ask questions, be critical, and create your own perspective. Demand a setting that will provide you with intellectual capabilities that allow you to expand your mind instead of directing it. Demand that you be interested in class. Demand that the excuse, “You have to learn this for the test” is not good enough for you. Education is an excellent tool, if used properly, but focus more on learning rather than getting good grades.

For those of you that work within the system that I am condemning, I do not mean to insult; I intend to motivate. You have the power to change the incompetencies of this system. I know that you did not become a teacher or administrator to see your students bored. You cannot accept the authority of the governing bodies that tell you what to teach, how to teach it, and that you will be punished if you do not comply. Our potential is at stake.

For those of you that are now leaving this establishment, I say, do not forget what went on in these classrooms. Do not abandon those that come after you. We are the new future and we are not going to let tradition stand. We will break down the walls of corruption to let a garden of knowledge grow throughout America. Once educated properly, we will have the power to do anything, and best of all, we will only use that power for good, for we will be cultivated and wise. We will not accept anything at face value. We will ask questions, and we will demand truth.

So, here I stand. I am not standing here as valedictorian by myself. I was molded by my environment, by all of my peers who are sitting here watching me. I couldn’t have accomplished this without all of you. It was all of you who truly made me the person I am today. It was all of you who were my competition, yet my backbone. In that way, we are all valedictorians.

I am now supposed to say farewell to this institution, those who maintain it, and those who stand with me and behind me, but I hope this farewell is more of a “see you later” when we are all working together to rear a pedagogic movement. But first, let’s go get those pieces of paper that tell us that we’re smart enough to do so!

She posted the entire speech online, here:…aduation-Speech

You can also watch a youtube video of the speech, but I warn you that she is not a polished public speaker, and she also must have been very nervous (the pressure of delivering such a damning thesis with her “slave masters” seated mere feet away must have added a small mountain of pressure to her already fragile nerves).

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Posted by on August 9, 2010 in Things Educational, Uncategorized


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Posted by on August 3, 2010 in Computational Engines