Noom: For a lifestyle change

Noom is spooky sometimes. Great, but spooky. Noom is an app for your phone, one that introduces a healthier lifestyle. Not a diet app, definitely. It is specifically designed as a mobile app. You carry it with you. It never nags, but does put thoughts into your head. Good thoughts. It uses psychology. A lot of psychology. To come at you from every angle. But never too much (well, maybe once or twice in the last month). You get set up to recognize three categories of food. You log your weight and food intake each day, but it is a lot less onerous than other apps. They ballpark some, but it comes out close to reality.

Each day, they have 3-5 short lessons, broken into a half dozen screenfuls, with a light approach to ideas like attitudes toward food in general, then to attitudes to missing your targets, and how to reign in your id without strangling it. On top of all this, you they pick out a couple dozen people from around the world in a similar situation, or a complementary situation, and let you help each other out. And then you get a coach, someone to organize all the psychobabble, so that it just turns into good advice that is pretty easy to follow.

The scary part is like the time I skipped breakfast. The next day, I get a lesson on how getting 3 squares is a good option to follow unless you are a forager type. See how they get you there? They know I am not a forager by my logging of food. But set that way, I am motivated to get my 3 squares and limit it to that. Healthy without being too constrictive. Last night, I came in under my calorie ceiling, so I had a nice chunk of dark chocolate. Today, I get that as an example, saying great to have rewards, but make them intermittent, better reinforcement. Touche. I have been too regular there.

On their website you can see they are a young company, with lots of female input. Offices in Manhattan, Tokyo, and Seoul. Versions of the app in those languages and more. My daughter works in tech in Tokyo, and she instantly recognized the name when I mentioned it. She is guessing the format will get applied to other areas besides health and lifestyle once they have the blueprint down. Looks pretty well done from here.

This has given me some ideas for language teaching, but that is for another post.

Weakly Update #5

Feel free to make a comment. The first one I have to approve, then you are cleared for others. Below are links of stuff I found interesting this week.

After my two posts about my problems with Amazon, I am looking into ways to save my content locally. My faith in “the cloud” has been seriously shaken. The EFF and Cory Doctorow are right. Once it happens to you (losing access to YOUR information), it changes how you think and feel. Take precautions out there. The best one so far is how to back up your Kindle books. Once you get your Kindle books on your computer, you need to strip out the DRM (Digital Rights Management). I am looking into that now, and it will probably involve Calibre software. More on that later.

If you are soured on the news from last year, read 99 Good News Stories (FutureCrunch), a list about our world, our climate, our people and our economy. What is a computer? This will stretch your concept. And I am not embroidering the truth here. Space-based entertainment, a way to impress your partner. A company in Japan rocketed up a satellite full of metal balls. They can release it so it makes meteors, on cue. Stories. We think in stories. We tell stories to remember, but they control our conception. See how stories work. Roma, the greatest movie of the year, maybe of the decade. Watch it, read my post, then read Guillermo de Toro’s 10 thoughts on Twitter about his compatriot’s work (Careful. Spoilers). David Brooks is a columnist but did some teaching a while ago. He writes about emotion and learning. Facebook has a thing where you post your own picture from 10 years ago and from now. There is no ulterior motive, right? (Wired). Nicolas Carr (famous for the book about how Google is making us stupid) reviews Shoshana Zuboff’S book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, which looks like a better read. He makes it frightening, but this time it should be (Los Angeles Review of Books). Amy Brooks has no arms or legs. But she has a website and YouTube channel and shows us what persistence is like. Learning styles have been pretty well debunked by psychologists, but teachers haven’t listened and continue to hang on to the theory. Is this a Neuromyth? New learning and teaching for 2019 includes a report by Open University on 10 new ideas. I like the ones about Place-based learning, roots of empathy, action (not active) learning, and am curious about drone-based learning and virtual studios. 45-page pdf. Retirement communities on campus is an idea that could revolutionize Japan. It is already being done in the US, but it ain’t cheap (Bryan Alexander). Good listeners (and voice analyzers) get information from more than just words. See how much you can and can’t hide about your feelings (BBC). Are you on task? Are your students? The problem is that sometimes being on task is not such a good thing.

Tools: Brainstorming at tricider recommended to me by a friend. Group decision-making with Loomio, it works. Free for groups of 5 or less. Spoken word LP albums which you can listen to online. Examples: Voices of History, with leaders speaking in crisis, Martin Luther King, Ronald Reagan. Not just English, either. (BoingBoing). Studs Terkel is the best interviewer of the 20th century (Terry Gross can have the 21st century). The archives have 1,200 interviews. Studs lived in Chicago, my home town and the most American city in the US.

Coming: A post on Bandersnatch and Interactive Fiction. Soon, I swear!

Upstream Amazon, but now with a paddle, finally

I wrote about my (now) 3-week ordeal when a tech over at Amazon.uk (Vishnu, you should be fired) for cancelling BOTH my UK and US account when I asked him to leave the US one alone. Three times.

My 5th attempt I tried using some ALL CAPS while writing in the chat with the support tech person. When the final result was another promise to email me with the login details, 4 times before without results, I asked who the boss was, and got a name. THIS time, I actually DID receive and email. But it directed me back to support. I click on the link, and I am back at square one. I go through the same process with the new tech, hoping this time something different would happen. Nope. SO I START YELLING FOR THE BOSS, FLIPPING OUT and pointing out this was my sixth attempt. The tech finally put me in contact with his boss, who discovered the problem and had my old account reinstated in less than 3 minutes.

The lesson from all this? I am going to find a way to save all my Kindle books locally, so I am not dependant on Amazon su- su- su- sucky support. Also, I am downloading all my highlights from books past. You never know how much you depend on something until you lose it. I was fortunate to get it back.

Amazon has me by the Books

I have had a frightening experience with Amazon over the new year vacation, and extending into the year, that has opened my eyes about the power relationship between seller (Amazon) and “buyer” (me) in digital commerce. I have ignored Cory Doctorow and EFF and their warnings about how buying hundreds of books (I have 320) at Amazon, they have power over you. For all of its daunted reputation, Amazon depends on having the power in the relationship. I cannot walk away. That leaves me begging for Customer Support. Long story below, I will try to get through it as quick as possible so you can see the effect. But this could happen at iTunes with your music. Google is a bit different because you can back up your content locally, so is more beholden.

Time for a Digital Bill of Rights.

Initial Question: I want to close my amazon.co.uk account because I have not lived there in years. I want to keep my amazon.com and my amazon.co.jp accounts open. 

01:57 AM GMT Vishn)u(Amazon): Thank you for contacting Amazon.co.uk. My name is Vishnu.
Am I chatting with Kevin Ryan?
01:57 AM GMT Kevin Ryan:, I am Kevin Ryan
01:58 AM GMT Vishnu: Hello Kevin ,hope you are doing good,I do understand your concern regarding the account close I will be very glad to help you with this.
01:59 AM GMT Kevin Ryan: Thank you, I wanted to make sure that will not affect the other two amazon accounts I have. 
02:01 AM GMT Vishnu: I have successfully closed your account 
02:02 AM GMT Kevin Ryan: Thank you. I can still use my other two accounts, correct?
02:02 AM GMT Vishnu: yes

Chat with Amazon.co.uk support Dec 28, 2018 (Excerpted)

OK, so then

10:51 PM PST Justin(Amazon): Hello, my name is Justin. I’m here to help you today.
10:52 PM PST Kevin Ryan: I recently closed my account at Amazon.co.uk and Vishnu, the tech, assured me that would not affect my Amazon.com account.
10:53 PM PST Kevin Ryan: But now I cannot access. The address is my@address.com
Here is the chat transcript
(Copy of Visnu’s transcript)

10:55 PM PST Justin: So you cannot access your Amazon.com account?
10:55 PM PST Kevin Ryan: That is correct.
11:01 PM PST Kevin Ryan: You there?
11:01 PM PST Josephine(Amazon): Hello, my name is Josephine. I’m sorry your previous chat disconnected.
11:04 PM PST Kevin Ryan: Visnu, when he disconnected my.co.uk account, also must have closed my main account at .com
11:06 PM PST Josephine: Yes, Kevin. Upon checking I see that your prime account in Amazon.com is closed.
11:07 PM PST Kevin Ryan: My main Amazon.com account is almost 20 years old, Prime, with about 320 books.
If you could resurrect it, please. 
11:09 PM PST Josephine: I understand your concern, Kevin. 
In this case, I’ll submit the form to our Account close team. 
11:10 PM PST Josephine: They will contact you within 24 hours
And respond to the E-mail.
11:10 PM PST Kevin Ryan: OK…Does that mean it will take some time over the holidays?
OK, I will be on the lookout for the email. 
11:11 PM PST Josephine: Thanks for your understanding, Kevin.
11:12 PM PST Josephine: Before that for security reasons, 
Could you please confirm …..(security check)
11:22 PM PST Josephine: I’m really sorry for any inconvenience this has caused for you, Kevin.
11:22 PM PST Kevin Ryan: As long as we can get it fixed.
11:22 PM PST Josephine: I’ve successfully submitted the account reopen form on behalf of you.
11:22 PM PST Kevin Ryan: OK. 
11:22 PM PST Josephine: You’ll receive an E-mail from our team within 24 hours.​

Amazon.com Customer Support with Justin (then Josephine, after line was dropped). December 31, 2018

We’re sorry that the Amazon US account was cancelled mistakenly by the previous associate.
We’ve submitted the Account Reinstatement Form regarding this matter and an Account Specialist /Escalation Specialist will get in touch with you
via email within 2-3 business days from now.

After phone support session with Amazon.com with Joe. Jan 2, 2019

Initial Question: My content and devices have disappeared.

02:04 PM PST Joel(Amazon): Hello, my name is Joel. I’m here to help you today.
02:10 PM PST Kevin Ryan: Long story. (recounts history)
Chat logs available. 
02:12 PM PST Joel: I am really sorry for the inconvenience caused. 
02:14 PM PST Joel: In this case I will forward this issue to our account specialist team. They will check and help you with this issue.
You will receive an email within 24 hours regarding the account issue. 
hope this works for you?
02:15 PM PST Kevin Ryan: This is the third time I have heard this message. 
02:15 PM PST Joel: There is no need for any concern.
02:16 PM PST Kevin Ryan: Right. Third time is a charm? I guess I will have to wait. Again. Thank you. 

Amazon.com Support chat January 10, 2019

The saga continues. I contacted Andrea by phone on January 11. I thought maybe being upset and angry might work–I’ve tried polite. I was gruff and impolite, just short of swearing–although I did say this whole scenario “scared the shit out of me”. I went through the whole process again.

Andrea: I relayed your information to the team trained to handle this scenario. You should hear back from them in the next 1-2 business days.
If you have any concern you can give us a callback at anytime.

And nada, nyet, nothing. Again. Time to consider legal action. Amazon just stole 320 of my books, and thousands of my highlights, which I often use for research and work.

Podcast Updates

I have been walking a lot lately, in competition with my friends to get as many steps per week. I now do about double what I averaged last year, now with 10,000 steps a day, plus the bike riding into work and back.

During these walks, I listen to podcasts, or music. Spotify lets me listen to Rosalía, a woman who mixes Flamenco and R&B. She grew up in the poor area of Barcelona where I had my first real job teaching English, in Llobregat. Good street music from the Andaluces who migrated north like the blacks in America, and were and are still treated similarly, but not quite as badly. But I digress.

I listen to podcasts more and more, as more channels pop up. So here is a list of my favorites. Top two: Political Gabfest on Slate with Emily Baselon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz. They all used to work together at Slate, but Emily is at the NYTimes Magazine, John Dickerson is hosting one of those morning shows, and David Plotz runs Atlas Obscura. But they get together each week to talk politics for an hour or so. Three topics. Emily has a screechy voice, but brings legal knowledge to the table, David is more conservative and promotes debate, John is the historian. They have a great rapport. Similar is the Culture Gabfest, with great conversation about things like Roma the movie, good music, reading and other reviews.

Rounding out news, the PBS Newshour with Brooks and Shields (10 mins) comes out on Saturdays (here) which is good because I can’t get the TV version. The Atlantic has a nice podcast, and I am just starting with The Argument at the NYTimes where liberals and conservatives debate issues.

I am terribly behind on music in the US, so Sound Opinions (like Siskel and Ebert) has two Chicago critics discussing the newest albums and tracks with an amazing depth of knowledge. For movies, a trio of young critics is both entertaining and informative on the Rewatchables. Great stuff.

Dan Carlin has slowed down a lot but what he comes out with in history is well worth listening to. Recently the Japanese part of WW2, in an installment about 4.5 hours long. Malcolm Gladwell and his Revisionist History bring new perspectives to events, challenging our assumptions. Did you know Brown did not want to integrate and didn’t want to fight the Board of Education, and that ultimately it was counter-productive?

Single-topic podcasts are really interesting too. Serial has 3 seasons now, the 1st and 3rd are great, the 2nd good. Each about 10 episodes of an hour. Shit-town is another great one. And of course, listen to the one that got all this started, This American Life.

So what you want to do is to go to a place where you can get these podcasts. Most people go to iTunes, but I prefer a standalone pod-catcher on my phone. But you can get podcasts on Spotify too.