Wolf Hall notes

A faithful historic rendition of the years Thomas Cromwell rises to power first under Cardinal Wolsey, then King Henry VIII. This account is the first of a trilogy, now finished, with the first two winning the Booker Prize. An acclaimed BBC mini-series brings the book even more to life. A story for all ages, reviewed in the Guardian and NYTimes, here a couple of takes on issues at the edge of the story: the printing of books and paper notes.

You get a really good picture of life in 1530s England under Henry VIII and his court with this book. Court politics aside, money and banking aside (both ample topics), we get a glimpse of how the printing press, tied to Luther and Protestantism, is infiltrating and changing England and Europe.

Cardinal Wolsey sees this early on and gains power and wealth by decommissioning monasteries, mostly full of corrupt monks, and using the proceeds to establish colleges at Oxford. You can see the power move from church to university.

When Tyndale translates the Bible into vernacular English, it becomes a target of the King, trying to maintain credit and credibility among the Catholic kings of Europe, to which he is indebted. With his annulment to Katherine, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabelle, things get confusing. But the disruptive nature of books in the hands of regular people is well noted by Cromwell, who tries to manage his fortune around that fact.

The other notable part of this book (for me) is Cromwell’s fascination with the Memory Palace, which he learned in Italy, and commissioned a sort of memory machine by the Italian (Name begins with C), now moved to Paris. He goes on about a box, or chest, with drawers, and drawers within drawers, each with a book in it, and each with more drawers inside, linked from the text to another book. There is an eerie resemblance to Vannevar Bush and his concept of linked texts in As We May Think. Evidently, though, this is an adaptation of a system to remember things, Method of Loci, where lists are remembered by assigning them places, so it is also called a Memory Palace.

I plan to take a short break and start book 2 of the trilogy in about a week, on my daily walks up the hill to the park, then winding down through the cemetery. The audiobook version read by Ben Miles is excellent. Also looking to find a place to watch the BBC mini-series (It’s on Amazon, 4 Episodes, each about 90 minutes).

TBLT Course: The Book Part 2

I’ve already written about the choice of the book and its place in the course, but wanted to say a few more things. Most of these reflect what I do in my graduate classes, and how I will modify those for this course.

When I pick a book for a course, I want one that I can discuss on different levels. Not just theory and practice. What struck me in this book was that we were talking (yes, I talk with my books) about teaching and learning, linguistics, and SLA. But there is another element. It is wide-ranging and historical enough that we can see the science of SLA. I love science, even though I am not very good at it. When people ask me, “What is the greatest human invention?” some may answer the wheel, or fire, or even currency. I think the height of human evolution is in a process. The most important human invention is the scientific method. Humanity would be so much poorer without it. Indeed, we may have shuffled off or been subsumed without it. Handling the breakneck progress is another skill we are working on.

I studied Psychology undergrad, and in those days it was trying to shake off the mantel of armchair science (ethnography, introspection) to become a real, “hard” science. When I studied Linguistics in grad school, we were at a similar point, moving away from anthropology to hard science. I am happy see here how far linguistics and SLA have come, and where exactly the bare areas are that need filling in. This is a very fulfilling feeling.

The second reason I chose this book was because of my personal journey. A fresh graduate with my psych degree I returned to Barcelona, where I had made many friends on Junior year abroad. I was there from Franco to Felipe, during the development of democracy. I studied at the International House for a certificate of teaching and began my career at the IEN (North American Institute) with 70 other faculty and 3,000 students. I think a left just about when Scott Thornbury got there.

I got a scholarship from IEN in Barcelona for a TESOL Summer Institute at Northwestern. I picked a lawyer turned linguist because he was said to be the toughest. Michael Long had us reading hundreds of pages of research every day, pounding it in every morning. He needed a tennis partner, so I got to be humiliated every afternoon for two weeks. It changed my life. He was getting ready to move to Hawaii and worried about it.

Living in Tokyo has its advantages, but when I landed here in 1984 I never realized it was also so central to SLA and linx. My boss, Kaneko-sensei, and my colleague, Robson sensei were in the first TESOL cohort at Temple Japan. Rod Ellis was a key faculty member. Kaneko-sensei got him to fly in from New Zealand twice a year for intensive courses at our university graduate school, so he was often available for questions. I like questions.

Peter Robinson is (was?) at Aoyama, I’ve lost track. But I will always remember the night we missed the last train and had to drink Hobgoblin until the first train. He went over the research implications of moving to the University of Maryland versus some other university in the UK. Our talk never really touched on his research, but I did get to see a very sharp mind, even after quite a few brews.

Living in Tokyo meant that I got to regularly see the leaders in area like vocabulary acquisition, statistics, testing, and too many others to mention. I’d have to say that the common denominator among those is a great and bustling energy. I wish I could hold a candle to them, but have contented myself to a measured slog with a long horizon to prepare things like this class.

Tomorrow, Reading 1 (of 3), the second step in the process.

Today Reading (0:27 Ch. 9) and Blogging (0:39)

Previously: Announcement. Book.

Categorized as Opinion, TBLT

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?

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.

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.