Weakly Post #8

This week was the last class for many of my students. Tuesday the first-years will receive guidance on how to prepare for April and the new academic year, I will be there to remind them that learning English is like playing an instrument, or keeping in shape. Daily practice is key to maintenance. English has a phrase “One step forward, two steps back” but the Japanese equivalent is a bit more optimistic: “Three steps forward, two steps back.” I will give a 10-minute lecture on how to maintain their English in the next two months (slides). I am working on adding resources to the handout from last year.

I also am developing a module on getting student to build their own vocabulary learning tool or process. I outline the process into four stages (FILM) for Find, Investigate, Learn, Maintain. Slides. That I tried out for the second time last week and find it works better early in the term, along with follow-up.

The third project is analyzing data from our Extensive Reading component of our skills program. I have managed Xreading, the software instead of a typical physical library of graded readers. Students find the access to materials on their phones allows them to read in many more places. The idea of Extensive Reading is to get students to read a lot of easy books to improve their English. This has solid research behind it, but Xreading allows me to monitor things like which books they choose and read, when they start and finish, and how much time they spend on each book and scores from simple comprehension quizzes. I now have ported data vrom the 21,000 books 232 students in 9 groups based on TOEIC scores have read this year. Looks to be a wealth of information. I am using JASP for statistical analysis because it allows me to try out many different kinds of relationships in the data. More as analysis proceeds.

Reading this week: Science: If you aren’t religious, or if science is your religion, you should watch this 6-minute video of a zyogote develop into an embryo and then into a salamander. This may tilt your opinion with the amazing way life develops. (Kottke). On the other end of the spectrum, you can watch as 10,000 maggots devour a pizza. What is amazing is that they follow the rules of fluid mechanics. (BoingBoing)

Politics: My sister, niece, and nephew just moved to Anchorage Alaska, where it was warmer than the midwest US this week. They were feeling hemmed in in Portland, and were seeking out more space and fewer rules. The goverment there, though, seems to be in worse shape than the rest of the US, but maybe that is what they wanted.

What is wrong with the Democratic Party in the US? They tried to sideline Bernie Sanders and now they are trying to sideline Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She is a breath of fresh air and a new look at a very stale party that looks like it has been bought and piad for my corporate doners. She could lead us back to the roots of the party, post-war at least, when they used to fight for the little guy. Now they seem as bad as the Republicans. AOC is AOK, in my book.

An author writes about how her life at 47 resembles her life at 27 with a marriage in between, and how maybe she was meant to live this way. In New York. (Medium)

Thinking: I have been learning the wrong stuff all these years, trying to stay on the “bleeding edge” of technology (as my Tokyo PC User Group cohort put it in the 90’s). It seems that Warren Buffett studies things that don’t change that much, and is thus able to “compound” his knowledge, much like compound interest. Over at Farnam Street they look at a new book about him, called The Snowball. Read the post, to get the idea. It is an important one.

Toilets: I have long considered sewage systems one of the most important advances of technology, and James Fallows and a panel of 12 scientists at the Atlantic agree, rating it number 12 out of 50. But things have gone portable in recent years. Read this engrossing story about a port-a-potty king and his world in New York. (The New Yorker)

Pizza: More New York centered history, this time looking into who was the first Pizza Kingpin in that fair city. The common story has come under investigation. Another sign that History is Not Over. Also, to get your pizza on, and maybe to increase your chances of passing on those genes, a study has found that along with increased appetite, marijuana smoking can increase your sperm count.

Holes: In the ground. South Carolina spent $US 9 Billion to dig one and then fill it up. Nuclear power is now more expensive than renewable (solar/wind) when you factor in the waste. (The Intercept). The amazing thing is how little we have heard of this story.

Games: Computer/video/TV games make far more than movies do. It is important to know what these billions of dollars of entertainment are throwing at people. Go read about Fortnite, or talk to any teen. Then read about how the model of gaming is the future of entertainment (Redef). They even have concerts in the virtual world, attended by millions (Wired). But Epic Games, who host Fortnight, are moving into the territory long held by Steam, using their money to entice developers over to their new online store, making the sign exclusive contracts. The competition may be good for prices, and good for developers, but right now there is a lot of recriminations and confusion.

And finally, a great beer glass, available from Swiss-miss if you can afford it.

Weakly Post #7

Mimi Wada, artist, and former student

Friday I met Bill and we went to a steak place in Roppongi. Nice, not so much for the steak, but for the salad bar, and dessert bar. Then we went to see Mimi Wada at the National Art Center. She was part of an exhibit of sumi-e, or painting with India ink. We got to meet her sensei, and caught up on her travels around the world. She and I have an affinity for Myanmar, and for trying out new things. Altogether a very very pleasant afternoon.

I saw that my credit card was charged for my donation to The Correspondent, who aim to purvey Unbreaking News as they start to use their $2.5 million to get set up and turn their Dutch agency international.

Facebook earns more than ever as fact-checkers leave. Kind of like Mitch McConnel, who made his bones blocking campaign finance reform and supreme court appointments. Both he and Zuckerberg figure that the public cares, but not enough. Sadly, both are right. Zuck knows that with 2 billion daily users, even if leaving Facebook makes you happier, he’s got the lock in.

Here in Japan, my students (I teach at a women’s university) move out into a very tough environment when they graduate. Japan is rated as one of the worst in the world for workplace equality, and that has not been fixed for a long time, even though it gets lip service. But even after they get married, it gets worse.

There is such a thing as too clean. We need lots of bacteria to help us avoid allergies. We are an ecosystem.

My kind of linguist. A traveler and scholar, he even got a new name on his quest to link his native Transylvanian to the Mongol Magyars. He spent his life trying to prove the theory but it was the journey that lead to a Tibetan dictionary and then on to India. He picked up his new name Sikander Beg in Iran.

Required reading for waiting in line. Cueing theory parses what is the best way to organize to shorten lines. Ignored around the world.

Scary stuff. Prisons in the US are assembling a database of voice prints (like fingerprints, but with the voice) from inmate calls. Those voice samples can be compared to live or recorded voices to match them up. Some prisons only give permission for outgoing calls if the inmate consents to be recorded and added to the database.

More scary stuff. The Trump administration is moving plutonium around the US without telling anyone.

If you ever need to teach a course on how to facilitate online learning, get this manual. It is really helpful. It includes specifics on the content for 4 different courses. Great for teacher-trainers, or anybody interested in teaching online. The FLO Facilitation Guide.

My mother, then my wife, picked out my ties. I did pick out one, but you can tell immediately. That is why this color-picker helps to choose which colors go with which. Good for web developers or if you are going to paint the room again. Really simple to use.

Cool video of people talking about their scars. 4 minutes and they come at you quickly. Maybe something to base an English lesson around?

Cheers until next weekend.