Sphere College Project

A New World of Learning

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Another Take

How fun! The winner of the Sphere College Creative Writing Contest 2011, Jessica Perhaps Portia Epp, has made available her own version of her winning entry. You can find it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFOvp91P4cM. Enjoy!

For reference, the one we made is available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=so7xUSTw6vg. IMHO, it’s interesting to compare the two versions.

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The Envelope Please…

And the winning entry for the Sphere College Creative Writing Contest 2011 is Jessica Perhaps Portia Epp! [sic]

Congratulations to Jessica for her accomplishment! The video of her entry being read can be viewed at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=so7xUSTw6vg. She also wins a check made out in the amount of $10 (US).

We thank those of you who entered the contest, and we invite everyone to view the winning entry.

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Creative Writing Contest Update

Quick update… We’ve received the entries for the creative writing (humor) contest and are beginning the selection process! I haven’t personally read them yet, but will do so soon. It should be fun to make the video of someone reading the winning entry. This will be uploaded to YouTube and announced on Superbowl Sunday, February 6, 2011.

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Creative Writing Contest!

Hi everybody! For your holiday R&R, and to raise funds for the Sphere College Project, we’ve decided to run a contest: the Sphere College Creative Writing Contest 2011. While visiting my old, dear friend Bill Vernon we made a video describing the contest and put it up on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URYAavLAdY4. Please check it out and consider submitting an entry. Also, take a moment to think of all your friends who have a good sense of humor and may like to submit an entry and let them know about the contest. Help us spread the word!

Here are the relevant details:

How to enter:
Age: no age limit. If you can write, go for it.
Topic: Write a humorous piece about a moral dilemma. You choose the dilemma and style of writing. As long as it is loosely related to a moral dilemma, it’s fine. We’re really looking for the funny here. Watch the video for Bill’s take on it. Keep in mind that it will have to be able to be read and posted on YouTube, so check their restrictions.
Fee: This is a fundraiser for the Sphere College Project, so we’re asking for at least $20 by check or money order to Sphere College. You know, it’s the old processing fee! Hey, send more if you like! It’s for a good cause! But it won’t increase your chances of winning, even if Bill claims in the video that it will.
Length: It must be able to be read in 3 minutes or less. Everybody’s got ADD, you know. Now, if you like, you can even make notes about the style you’d like it read in. We can’t really guarantee we can deliver, but hey, we’ll try.
Deadline: MUST be postmarked by January 10, 2011. Kind of arbitrary, kind of not. It’s my (Richard Liston) 50th birthday. w00t! But it’s coming up really soon, so get cracking on it!
Address: Send entries w/entry fee to Sphere College Creative Writing Contest, PO Box 1024, Phoenixville, PA 19460.

The winning entry will be selected by Sphere College students.
Winners will receive the following:

  • We will make a video of someone reading the winning entry and we’ll post it on YouTube on SUPERBOWL SUNDAY, Feb 6, 2011!
  • We’ll read it in an open mic at the Steel City Coffeehouse in Phoenixville, PA, apparently the finest coffeehouse in the galaxy.
  • You’ll receive $10.

See, what did we tell you? Fame and fortune! Make sure you send us your contact info, by the way.

Oh, yeah: once you send the entry, we own it and can do anything we want with it and you can’t complain. But we won’t change any of the wording unless maybe it appears to be a typo or goof of some sort.

Have fun! Happy Holidays! Happy New Year!

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It’s Here!

Tonight we celebrate one year of classes of Sphere College!

My, how time flies! We’ve come a long way, but we must keep our nose to the grindstone. Good things come to he who waits, but the waiting is the hardest part. Oh, I could go on and on listing clichés now, particularly with the help of websites that list clichés. But what we’re doing is trying to create new human experiences—the feeling of being deeply connected with one another. It will be a good day when this feeling is worthy of cliché. I do hope you’ll join us tonight and we can work on establishing the connected feeling that, in my humble opinion, is all too rare.

What exactly is it that we’re celebrating? Well, this is a milestone on a journey into something that truly has never been accomplished before. And trust me, as good of an idea it is to provide free, high-quality education to adults, it’s a seemingly impossible task to many people—particularly to many of the very people who truly have the means to make it happen! It’s surprisingly easy for us to believe that as a world society have already done it all—climbed mount everest, conquered all the lands, explored space, created all kinds of artistic expression, established that we can completely destroy the earth. Is there anything left to do?

Of course! And you know what it is: to bring people together to really communicate with each other. To learn how to be patient with one another, to understand that we all see the world in radically different ways and that instead of living in conflict and trying to get each other to see things our way (because we’re so convinced that our way of looking at the world is the right way) we can learn to experience the world through all the senses of another. If I’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that there are many, many other worlds out there to explore—our complex, beautiful, scary, wonderful world as experienced by other people—and that doing so opens us up to extraordinary experiences.

So please join us tonight, Tuesday, April 20 at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville for the Sphere College First Anniversary Celebration. We’ll have a reception at 6pm, a presentation at 7pm, the Sphere College Short Film Contest screening at 7:30, and the fantastic feature film, Living in Oblivion, a self-referential comedy with excellent acting about independent filmmaking, at 8pm. Come talk to the students about their experiences—what we’ve been doing and learning together. And find out what we hope to accomplish in the future.

Whether or not you are able to join us in person for the celebration tonight, and I know there are many who will be there in spirit, I invite you in whatever way you can to become a part our journey to chart the truly unknown territory of bringing humanity closer together.

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Letz Put Those Social Networkz to Work!

It’s tomorrow night! What??? You don’t know about the Sphere College First Anniversary Celebration on Tuesday, April 20 at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville?! You don’t know about the reception at 6pm, the presentation at 7pm, the Sphere College Short Film Contest screening at 7:30, and the fantastic feature film, Living in Oblivion, a self-referential comedy with excellent acting about independent filmmaking, at 8pm?! Well, now you do, so please join us in the celebration! And let’s all do what we can to make this a big, fun event. Use your social networkz to contact everyone on the planet and bring them out to celebrate with us. Facebook, Twitter, your own blog, texting, whatever. Yes, I mean it… do it right now before you forget! Ok, I’ll say it… pretty please?

Oh yeah, although this is primarily a celebration, we’ll also be raising funds to help the college move into a space and build the infrastructure of people who can handle the myriad tasks associated with providing a FREE education that WORKS to the huge population of adults who desire and deserve to learn! So stop by the ATM on your way so you can purchase some raffle tickets. There is a variety of items and you just may want to try to go home one of them.

FYI, here’s the press release. We look forward to seeing you there!

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We’re Almost There!

In just two days Sphere College will reach its first anniversary. We’re celebrating with an event at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville.

It’s been a rewarding, difficult, exciting, growing, bonding, and fascinating year. After the reception at 6pm I’ll be giving a speech at 7pm. I’ve been thinking a lot about the form and content of the speech. I’ve observed many speeches of this kind, but never given one.

Ok, I’ll admit it: giving speeches has never been my forte. To give this kind of speech I have to step very far outside my comfort zone. But this is exactly what I’m asking my students to do in pursuing their education, so I know I must rise to the occasion.

Actually, my greatest concern is not being able to individually thank the many, many people who have made it possible for the College to make it this far. But it is not possible for me to do this. It would end up like those Oscar acceptance speeches, where the actor or director goes on and on. It would be tedious for the audience to hear a list of names of people they don’t know. But there truly are so many people I’m indebted to who have given their time and energy to this seemingly impossible project. So I’m going to have to strike a balance. I’ll do my best.

We do hope you’ll join us for this celebration. Come, share some food with us, meet the students, meet Michael Reddy, meet the members of the Steering Committee, the Advisory Group, the Fundraising Committee, and all the other people who are supporting Sphere College in so many ways. Enjoy the entries to the first annual Sphere College Short Film Contest, and the feature film, Living in Oblivion—a comedy with some fantastic acting. And hey, why not bring a little cash so you can purchase tickets for the very fine raffle items collected by members of the Fundraising Committee, and provide some financial support the ongoing activities of the College?

We look forward to having you celebrate with us on Tuesday night!

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Passing the Baton

Really great class last night. And it was the first night I got to participate completely in the role of student!

I passed the baton to Michael Reddy, who is taking over responsibility for the Thu night class. What a relief to have someone so capable of managing a discussion! And I get to learn along with the other students. That’s a large part of the idea here: a college administration that understands that we’re all learning together.

The discussion last night was a reading, suggested by one of the students, involving the metaphor of the earth as Divine Mother. We learned a lot about Self and Other in the process.

Next up, we’ll consider masculine/feminine in the character Portia in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.

DON’T FORGET: Join us for the Sphere College First Anniversary Celebration? It’s Tuesday, April 20 at the historic Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville. Reception at 6pm, presentation at 7pm, screening entries to the Sphere College Short Film Contest at 7:30, feature film, Living in Oblivion at 8pm. Here’s the press release. Come on out! Bring friends! Bring enemies! bring random strangers!

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Transitions and Balance


Mark your calendars for the Sphere College First Anniversary Celebration on Tuesday, April 20 at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville. There will be a reception at 6pm, presentation at 7pm, we’ll screen the winners of the Sphere College Short Film Contest at 7:30, and the feature film, Living in Oblivion will be at 8pm.

The Sphere College Short Film Contest is accepting entries through April 10. Tell your film/video-making friends. Let’s see those submissions!

Nothing is static. Oh, sometimes things may seem static, but really everything is always moving, adjusting, shifting, flowing, contracting, expanding. If we are aware of the changes going on around us as they are happening then we can consciously move with them. It’s a bit like dancing. In my case, I feel like I’m dancing a dance I don’t yet know.

But I’m not the only one in this situation. Today I read a fascinating article in New York Magazine entitled “Betraying Salinger: I scored the publishing coup of the decade: his final book. And then I blew it.” I think I know a bit how the author, Roger Lathbury, felt at times. The fact that ego is the most difficult thing to transcend resonates with me. The challenge is that one must have to have a sufficiently healthy ego in the first place to make the decision to embark on a seemingly impossible journey, then figure out how to keep it in check. It’s a very fine line. But we’re all human and prone to error. The one thing we all share is that we’re all doing the best we can at every moment in time given our knowledge and experience.

So it goes with the College. As I shifted my focus of building the College to space, funding and faculty, attendance at the classes has waned a bit. There is a core group of dedicated students who come to every class. Others, I think, need the college to grow to offer more classes, have a home and generally become more substantial. So we recently made a hard decision—we consolidated the afternoon class into the evening class. On the bright side, we do have a waiting list of people interested in becoming students, and will soon be ready to start working them into college activities.

Meanwhile, we have added one imminently qualified faculty member, Michael Reddy, and we are working to solidify our agreement with another one. And we are making excellent progress towards obtaining a home for the College. I suspect there will be good news to report here in the very near future.

We also agreed that Michael will be taking on responsibility for the Thu evening class, which allows me to focus my efforts on continuing to build the college while he focuses on the quality of the class, a very sensible division of duties. To get things rolling during his transition, we are reading two articles authored by Michael: “Does Digital Dilute Materialism?”, and “Voice-only, Email, and Text–the Goodwill Squeezeplay”. Feel free to read them and post comments.

And like everyone else in the world, I’ll continue to do my best at every moment in time given my knowledge and experience.

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Game Theory

A Brief Introduction to Game Theory:

At any given moment each of us has an infinite number of choices of actions we could take. We subconsciously project what we believe are the likely outcomes of each action based on a combination of our knowledge, experience and our innate ability to accurately project. We subconsciously place probabilities on each of these outcomes, and also place values on each of these outcomes representing our desire. This desire is called our ‘utility function’, and varies widely from individual to individual also based on our experience and proclivities.

Board games can be modeled using probability and statistics. Often it is assumed that one player’s win is at the other player’s loss. Such a framework is called a win-lose game, or “zero sum game”. But by reframing we can transform a win-lose game into a win-win game. For example, I could play a game of chess with you, and not care so much whether I win or not, but just enjoy playing the game no matter who wins. (This is good for me because I’m not a very good chess player.) This reframing is effected by a conscious change in my utility function.

It seems to me that humanity today is a bit too entrenched in the win-lose mentality and we would do well to get a bit better at reframing our interactions in life as win-win situations. We all have the freedom of choice to do so.

Don’t forget to spread the word about the Sphere College Short Film Contest! Submissions will be accepted until April 10!