Weakly Post #18

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.

Golden Week is over, and the follow-up meant a week chock full of work. The most remarkable thing was observing teachers. For the vast majority, flying colors. I even learned a couple of new techniques. I made it a point to talk to the teachers after observation to get their take on it, and make a few comments. I have discovered that my positive comments work a lot better, most already knew what they wanted to improve on. But there was one teacher in whose class I felt in a time warp. Monotone lecture style with powerpoint, students sitting the back of the class scribbling notes (when they weren’t updating their calendars). Absolutely no interaction. I was flabbergasted. I felt like it was 1999.

I am liking the Baffler, an online magazine, more and more. This one is about white male privilege, and rule by tantrum. Another look at why the Cavanaugh confirmation hearings were business as usual, not something out of the ordinary. Teenage Pricks. (Baffler)

One of my favorite thinkers is Marilynne Robinson. In her (longish) essay she writes about economics, and humanism, and why most people live on subsistence wages. She quotes George, a 19th century economist who argues that the value of labor should be connected to the value of the things produced. Capital just sees labor as an impediment to creating more capital.

“Why, in spite of increase in productive power, do wages tend to a minimum which will give but a bare living?”

She works in Marx, George, Beecher and other older commentaries (curiously, not Piketty), along with social Darwinism and de-skilling. She takes a long hard look at where our society is going as we automate. Is Poverty Necessary? (Harpers)

It’s time to break up Facebook. Also, do you have a problem with anger? Here is how to take care of it.

Jake Adelstein takes a look at the dark underbelly of the new Reiwa Era.

Emily Short talks about classical literature and how it has influenced the ways she creates games. One of special note isn’t really a game, but different ways to translate four lines of Homer’s Odyssey. A real insight into the translation process. She also has an article in WireFrame magazine about her new translation adventure game Ancient Astronauts. Bonus content is a tutorial for Twine, the interactive fiction text engine. This is the one I will be teaching in my new Global Liberal Arts class (love those vague names, I can do pretty much anything.) Also, a view on the place of storytelling in game development. Also, how Dungeons and Dragons helps build a better learner.

Kottke loves maps. Here he points us to a video (9 min) on how New York developed. Amazing to see how slow it was at first, then in the mid-1800s, boom!

Back to conference going this year. Planning for EuroCALL in Belgium at the end of August. Went to a very nice presentation yesterday on life-long-learning at Gakushuin U. (Missed ExciteELT today.) But Thursday, I am going to a presentation at the Venture Cafe for innovators on Digital Transformation. A whole new crowd will have to bring my meishi.

Well, poo. Even moderate drinking is probably bad for you. But then, wine used to be prescribed for illnesses. What is one to think? Here is one for the critical thinking pile. Eat more rice to lose weight. Really? Also, Wolves are more friendly and altruistic than dogs.

Apple has easily accessible books on how to use photos, drawings and videos (and more) in their Everyone Can Create series. So if you are a maker, and use Apple products, these may be a help. They are free.

Most of us probably give too much homework. Min of Edu here in Japan suggest 45 mins of HW for 1 credit (besides the 90-min class). I am making a concerted effort to pare that down. Here is a tool to estimate. I double it for my students who are still learning the language.

A look at language learning apps and what they can and can’t do.

There is a special part of your brain designed for Pokemon. You just have to plug it in at the right time. Kind of like language learning. Also, some unusual “games” (more like experiences) of Angela He. Sorry to say that Letters-a written game will not be available until 2020. Can’t wait.

I am stoked to use Edji for collaborative reading in my class. Easier to use than Hypothes.is, I will let you know how it shakes out. Both these tools let a group of people highlight and comment on a common article or webpage.


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?