Weakly Post #17

A collection of things I have read this week, and some tools for tech and/or learning new stuff, especially languages. Your first comment is checked, after that you are free to comment.

Happy Easter. I posted this week about Moral Decay.

Reading Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff as part of Bryan Alexander’s book club. It is a depressing read so far as she outlines how unfettered capitalism is now mining our society and personal relationships for profit. Not so fun.

Also not fun is Hanna Rosin’s take at NPR about the End of Empathy. (NPR) Counteract that with this video of a speech by David Foster Wallace.

Also, the NRA seems to be unraveling as the top brass make off with the loot. One greater fool? Taking the gun nuts for a ride? The end of the most successful terrorist organization on the planet? (New Yorker). Facebook looks like it may be falling apart. (Wired) An Olympic bicycling champion grows up and becomes homeless in Seattle. Fox “news” is addictive and can be dangerous to your family’s health. (NY Mag) Trump gets schooled by Jimmy Carter on China and how they spend money in the right places (not on the military). (Newsweek). New style for funerals. Put the fun back in. Gotta hand it to us boomers. (WaPo). Code-switching (changing your language to fit the audience) can be dangerous in politics when your opponents are willfully ignorant. Go AOC. She is AOK.

In learning this week we find that the future will be built on Skills Maps. An old argument against Paolo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed gets rehashed. Attacked by Russ Maynes. Defended by Paul Walsh. Memory. 3 tips to enhance it. (NYTimes)

Science is really a labor of love. Has to be. Read about trying to find two equal packets of Skittles. In glorious detail. (Blog) Build your own facial recognition machine for $60. Be the first on your block. Really. (NYTimes)


Moral Decay

The family is writing about politics again. Reacting to David Brooks’ new book The Second Mountain. He writes mostly about moral decay. Here is what I added to the mix.

It does seem odd, from a perspective far away, across a big ocean, that the richest country in the history of the world, with a matching military budget, with no significant opposition, feels so bad. 

Do note that overall happiness here in Japan is much lower than in the US. (Japan at 58th/156 just beats out Honduras and Khazakstan, the US is 19th and trails countries like Israel and Costa Rica.) They don’t advertise it, though. You might think the US is all about “buck it up”, but they (we) look like a bunch of whiny kids from outside the US. 


We are squandering huge social and technological advances. Let’s hope the pendulum swings back before it is too late. 


I was talking yesterday to a programmer from South Africa and a Trump supporter in the park. I walk there to get my 10,000 steps, and to read*. He started out our conversation by saying he liked to talk about politics. He had some unusual perspectives but we agreed on the fact that we (he and I) lived in a country only Trump could dream about. Voter apathy here, control by one party over almost all of the last 60 years, common white-collar graft that is overlooked, absolutely locked-down immigration (30 Syrian refugees were thought to be too many), rampant discrimination, with objectification and exploitation of foreigners (the new guest worker program) all are on the conservative list. The only real difference here is that individuality has a much lower place in the hierarchy of values. 


It is all relative. (We here in Japan do have a lot less income disparity, an administration that takes care of its people, and national health care, so there is that.)


*Reading Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff. Talk about a real downer! New kind of capitalism that uses society as a resource for building income. Just finished Team Human by Douglas Rushkoff who proposes ways to fight it. 


Happy Sunday and a happy 4/20, y’all.


Weakly Post #16

A collection of things I have read this week, and some tools for tech and/or learning new stuff, especially languages. Your first comment is checked, after that you are free to comment.

I posted this week about Other Kevin Ryans because I found the collection in my weekly (automatic) search even more than unusual.

I posted this week on FB (breaking my weekday “fast” routine) with a post about Colorado Governor Jared Polis (great guy) signing a “Red Flag” gun bill that allows judges to take away guns from really dangerous people. A great first step.

I just finished reading Team Human, but Douglas Rushkoff. He talks about how humans need to shape technology to their needs, and that is not the way it is happening. He starts out pretty dark.

This is the true meaning of “the singularity”: it’s the moment when computers make humans obsolete. At that point, we humans will face a stark choice. Either we enhance ourselves with chips, nanotechnology, and genetic engineering to keep up with our digital superiors; or we upload our brains to the network.

Mostly because of capitalism, and the inherent qualities of technology, but there are other factors as well. The biggest takeaway came late in the book..

These stages of video game play—from player to cheater to author to programmer—are analogous to the stages we passed through as a civilization.

It has gotten me to reconsider what cheating is all about. Whether it is not really as bad as it seems, but is simply a way of playing the game in a different way, not intended by the authors.

The US has now officially regressed to developing nation status. On the skids.

A nice analysis of YouTube algorithms and how they are designed to create a false environment of anger and outrage. The initial case shows that search results for education show more negative results than positive ones. This is followed up by results that show teachers in a sexual light.

Another Digital Media entry, with a great interactive article (check out the maps of Austin) about how the US government is increasingly writing warrants to search for people’s phones near where a crime is committed. This seems like a terrible breach of the 4th Amendment (unreasonable searches and seizures). For now, Google is complying with these requests. Apple said that it was not possible on their system. This is really disconcerting.

It may seem counterintuitive, but removing a big highway may actually improve traffic. Six cities have tried it and it seems to work.

The 2019 Peabody Awards for news-related media have come out. I have already watched Bride and Brothels, The Rohingya Trade . Not in the Peabodys, but it should, I am about to watch Japan’s Secret Shame about Shiori Ito. Both of these are about an hour long. Check out the other Peabodys. Make time.

A great podcast about telling stories, The Moth is celebrating its 20th anniversary with, what, a book? I don’t get it.

A new book of photos about “half” Japanese (my kids are double), is coming out this month.

Play this addictive web-based game in French. Bet you can’t stop.

I like cartoons, comics, graphic novels. My seminar students are reading Media Meltdown and In Real Life. But now there is the Global Problem Solvers. I am investigating for possible application in a course.

For the techies. 1-minute explanation of Searle’s Chinese Room (as opposed to Alan Turing) on Artificial Intelligence. Why did I read the books?

An open source kit to build a robotic cat. Looks enticing until you see the price. Still, ….


Other Kevin Ryans

Having a relatively common name like Kevin Ryan sometimes has a comedic advantage. I have google send me an alert each week with Kevin Ryans in the News (not a boy band name). Anyway, last week I found a Kevin Ryan in upstate New York (Buffalo) that bowled a 279 in a league game. He plays for the Midnight bombers.

Another Kevin Ryan near West Point missed his court date so police are looking for him. Check the bowling alleys.

Danbury Connecticut has a Kevin Ryan teamed up with Kevin Pape to score 45 points to beat the Bethel Royal Fish and Chips team. I really don’t care what game they were playing.

Black belt KR showed off his skills by breaking boards in Dallas. He is 12. Stay away.

There is a US Attorney (for the Federal government) that prosecuted a prostitution ring in 2005, with the help of 400 law officers, which lead to the “recovery” of 100 sex workers. He was asked about it in relation to the sex ring in Florida where some basketball (?) coach and friend of DaTrump got caught with his pants down.

The internet entrepreneur Kevin Ryan is in the news again. After making millions by adding advertisements to web pages (doublespace, or something like that), he is now a venture capitalist, spreading capitalism around as if it were peanut butter. Something about Bluegound Business, but the link is broken. That’s OK.

Another Connecticut Yankee named Kevin Ryan is a politician. The Hartford-based state Rep is pushing a bill to give a rural area of Connecticut more mental health resources. Kudos. A good one.

Some soap opera character has two personalities, one called Kevin, the other Ryan. Double duty. But does it count?

Another politician in New Jersey, mayor of the small town of Verona, looks like he is for legalizing marijuana, asking people who voted to legalize gambling which hurts more people. Yeah.

Yet another east coast polititican, Kevin Ryan from Lincoln Rhode Island won re-election to the health board.

That was this week. The guitar maker (luthier), the Irish race horse owner, the Irish hurling coach (owner?), the Dublin Professor (some science), and one in Germany often show up, but not this week. Any I beat them all to the domain name. I had a page redirecting to others for years, until Facebook came on the scene.

What about your name? Have you looked it up lately?


Weakly Post #15

A collection of things I have read this week, and some tools for tech and/or learning new stuff, especially languages. Your first comment is checked, after that you are free to comment.

Getting started with the new academic year. The entering students usually look really young each year. This year not so much. Not sure why. My colleague said it was because they used social media. I don’t think so. They just seem more sure of themselves. The good job market?

Candidate Pete Buttigeieg has a lot of good ideas, but one that he is going against is universal tuition support for students capable of a degree. An analysis shows that this goes back more than 50 years, with 2 factors changing our ideas: that public works should be considered by cost-benefit, as should an education. But this is short-sighted. You can see why it makes sense in many other countries in the world. (Washington Post)

On the race front, a black person goes into details about when and why women clutch their purses when he is around. (blog) In another sad story, a pioneering history researcher is worn down by the academic system in the US, relegated to adjunct jobs. It finally, slowly, killed her. (Atlantic)

Mama. What goes around. When I was a kid, the old-fashioned people used “mama” to call their mother. Now I guess it is the opposite. But among the stuff about the US is some good information about how cultures call their mothers. (LongReads) Speaking of great mamas, this photographer took pictures of her own baby being born. (Petapixel)

I threw away most of my floppies. I have a a DAT and a ZipDrive somewhere in my office. That is the 5 missing years of media storage they are talking about here. (BBC)

Flipped Learning has given new life to homework. At least it isn’t workbooks. Yet still, we should think very carefully about what kind of homework we give out. It gets abused way too often. A nice look at the issue from many sides. (Atlantic)

Burger King introduces the beefless “impossible whopper“. I want to try this out. (NYTimes). Also from the NYTimes, we need unions in the game industry.

Very interesting looking video content resource at Ready to Run. There is a free level to check things out. Then individual and class subscriptions. I am going to look into this.

If anyone is into Twine and interactive fiction, get this book, especially if you are teaching it. Great simple introduction. The only bad thing about it is the cartoon on the cover. This would work with adults, too.