The Future of Literature

Penguin Books has commissioned 6 authors to tell 6 digital stories, one each week, for 6 weeks. The last one, and I think what is going to be the best one, is coming up on April 22. This is the future of literature, where a linear paper-based model is no longer applicable to the way people think (or at least the way young people think).

Check out We Tell Stories, and read at least Hard Times, and 21 Steps. I can’t wait till the last one comes out.

Judge orders convicts to learn English

A judge in Pennsylvania has ordered 4 robbers who needed translators to learn English in one year or get put in jail for two years.

WILKES-BARRE – Learn English or go to jail.

That’s the succinct directive Luzerne County Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. made as part of his sentence to four criminals on Tuesday.

The defendants – Luis Reyes, Ricardo Dominguez, Kelvin Reyes-Rosario and Rafael Guzman-Mateo – all needed translators when they appeared in court to plead guilty to criminal conspiracy to commit robbery. It led to Olszewski leveling the unusual condition.

He sentenced them each to four to 24 months in the county prison, but paroled three of them because they have already served at least four months.

But in order for them to avoid the 24 months in prison, Olszewski ordered the men to learn to read and write the English language, earn their GED, and, within 30 days of release, get a full-time job while on parole. The defendants, who range in age from 17 to 22, are to return to court in one year with their parole officers to take an English test, according to Olszewski’s order.

“If they don’t pass, they’re going in for the 24 (months),” Olszewski said.

This is from the local newspaper.

Education in America

My younger daughter may be going over to the US for high school. I am looking forward to seeing her older sister attend university in the US, but am wary about the prospects for the one going into 10th grade. This article in the Atlantic is one reason why I worry. It shows how local control is causing the US to fall behind. Here in Japan every teacher follows a very specific national curriculum so they are all teaching the same concept, the same equation, the same event in history in the same week. This may seem crazy to you, but it works here. There is a very high literacy rate with a writing system that is 100 times as hard as English. It works. Find out why the locally-run system in the US doesn’t.

A good quote from the article:

“In the first place, God made idiots,” Mark Twain once wrote. “This was for practice. Then He made School Boards.”

And kudos to The Atlantic for opening up their archives to all. I’m sure it will lead to increased revenue from increased traffic.

Brains work differently in US and Asia

That’s what a study done at MIT says. East Asians and Americans were asked to make both absolute and relative judgments about shapes and length of lines in a drawing. The Americans used more of their brain for relative judgments, and the East Asians used more of their brains for absolute judgments. Reported in PsyCentral online magazine.

Spellify Spell Checker for your website

I use Firefox as my browser, much better than Internet Explorer. One of the add-ons I use is a spell checker. But many people don’t have a spell checker in their browser.

What if I could put a nice spell checker on my web site? Well, I can. Spellify is an Ajax based web 2.0 software application that you can add to your domain hosting site so that everyone can have their form input checked for spelling. I have to try this out and see if it works with other programs like Moodle.

Love on Campus

William Deresiewicz writes a stupendous article, Love on Campus, for the American Scholar in the style of a literary critic about how English professors are portrayed in the movies these days; weak, philandering, selfish, pompous, self-pitying.  He goes on to stipulate how wrong this is, and that in reality, intellectual intercourse is a goal of the university, and since WW2 a number of social and cultural trends have made this kind of “brain sex” more and more illusory or taboo.

The article borders on the absurd at times, with thick prose (I had to look up the word demotic), and used the words luftmensch and parvenu in the same sentence. But his logic is impressive and he reaches a surprising conclusion; that lust, or eros, has its place on campus. Between your ears, and not your legs.

Distance Learning and Daylight Saving Time

Daylight Saving Time changes this year in the US on the first Sunday in November (the 4th) at 2 AM. This is a week later than usual. Bush changed it to save energy. I still find daylight saving time an annoyance, and am happy to miss it here in Japan. Unfortunately, I am involved in a Japanese course in the US (Distance Learning). We meet 9-11 AM Eastern time, which is 10-12 PM here in Tokyo. In November that changes to 9-11 PM. Too complicated.

Couple of interesting facts from the web site for Daylight Saving:

The official spelling is Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight SavingS Time.

Saving is used here as a verbal adjective (a participle). It modifies time and tells us more about its nature; namely, that it is characterized by the activity of saving daylight. It is a saving daylight kind of time. Because of this, it would be more accurate to refer to DST as daylight-saving time. Similar examples would be a mind-expanding book or a man-eating tiger. Saving is used in the same way as saving a ball game, rather than as a savings account. …
Adding to the confusion is that the phrase Daylight Saving Time is inaccurate, since no daylight is actually saved. Daylight Shifting Time would be better, but it is not as politically desirable.

and

Many fire departments encourage people to change the batteries in their smoke detectors when they change their clocks because Daylight Saving Time provides a convenient reminder. “A working smoke detector more than doubles a person’s chances of surviving a home fire,” says William McNabb of the Troy Fire Department in Michigan. More than 90 percent of homes in the United States have smoke detectors, but one-third are estimated to have dead or missing batteries.

Can you imagine? One Third?

Is happiness U-shaped?

According to research at the NBER, the life-cycle of humans these days contains a fluctuation in happiness. We start out our life relatively happy, and it declines gradually to a point, and then starts rising, which looks like a “U” shape on a graph. The bottom point for men is 49, and 45 for women. I’m just at the point where things should start looking up. Hope they are for you.

Tokyokevin at kevinryan.com

Tokyokevin comes back. I’ve used WordPress before, but moved to Expression Engine, paid $200 and watched it get eclipsed by improvements in WordPress. So I am switching back. I’ve had blogs at JapanLang.com, LanguageJapan.com, but have consolidated those here. I am going to put everything online in one place.

I will continue to write about my favorite subjects (check the category listing), and welcome comments. I hope to pass along enough information that is helpful so people check in now and again. See you soon!