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)

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, ….

Weakly Post #15

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.

Getting started with the new academic year. The entering students usually look really young each year. This year not so much. Not sure why. My colleague said it was because they used social media. I don’t think so. They just seem more sure of themselves. The good job market?

Candidate Pete Buttigeieg has a lot of good ideas, but one that he is going against is universal tuition support for students capable of a degree. An analysis shows that this goes back more than 50 years, with 2 factors changing our ideas: that public works should be considered by cost-benefit, as should an education. But this is short-sighted. You can see why it makes sense in many other countries in the world. (Washington Post)

On the race front, a black person goes into details about when and why women clutch their purses when he is around. (blog) In another sad story, a pioneering history researcher is worn down by the academic system in the US, relegated to adjunct jobs. It finally, slowly, killed her. (Atlantic)

Mama. What goes around. When I was a kid, the old-fashioned people used “mama” to call their mother. Now I guess it is the opposite. But among the stuff about the US is some good information about how cultures call their mothers. (LongReads) Speaking of great mamas, this photographer took pictures of her own baby being born. (Petapixel)

I threw away most of my floppies. I have a a DAT and a ZipDrive somewhere in my office. That is the 5 missing years of media storage they are talking about here. (BBC)

Flipped Learning has given new life to homework. At least it isn’t workbooks. Yet still, we should think very carefully about what kind of homework we give out. It gets abused way too often. A nice look at the issue from many sides. (Atlantic)

Burger King introduces the beefless “impossible whopper“. I want to try this out. (NYTimes). Also from the NYTimes, we need unions in the game industry.

Very interesting looking video content resource at Ready to Run. There is a free level to check things out. Then individual and class subscriptions. I am going to look into this.

If anyone is into Twine and interactive fiction, get this book, especially if you are teaching it. Great simple introduction. The only bad thing about it is the cartoon on the cover. This would work with adults, too.

Weakly Post #14

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 a course in Democratic Erosion. The course is taught over 25 universities, with students sharing blog posts about specific cases. This is something I want to do too. For my English and content classes.

Media: One for biting criticism, this guy can’t stand cable news. Of any kind.

Conference: This is one I really want to go to. Designing playful courses. Wow. What an idea. And the two main speakers are people I have been reading for a long time. Stuart Malthrop (author of Victory Garden, my first hypertext novel) and Kris Klimas (creator of Twine).

Music: With Spotify and Shazam, who can both show lyrics line by line, doing music in the classroom has become easy again. So this semester I am going to do a song a week, selected (and researched, and explained, and presented) by my students. Here are 10 new artists to look out for. There is a lot of buzz around Billie Eilish. Her music is depressing but interesting. A sign of the times?

TESOL famous people sniping at each other is a great way to learn where the field is heading these days.

Teaching. Opinion. This is how you kill a profession. Actions, even unintended, have consequences. These seem to be intended. My generation is certainly screwing up the world for the next one.

Weakly Post #13

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.

Learning: Laura Ritchie writes about making web pages and online courses. Matching the message to the audience is the key. Or maybe finding an audience for your message. Reminds me of the definition of a politician, one who gets in front of a line and makes noise. But this is different.

Language: Research papers often have impenetrable jargon-laden language with obtuse grammatical structures. Read about the movement to write in simpler language. I really like MIT Media Lab because they already make at least a version of much of their research in language comprehensible to the layman. A good example is one I am using next semester in my class, to teach about reading research papers. The ideas are all there, but the language is easier to understand. This one is about children learning from robots.

Tech: Inspiration for when I retire in a few years. An 83-year-old becomes a game developer. Gets well enough known that Tim Cook from Apple met her. Right here in Japan, too. (CNN)

Politics: Sad, sad story from Myanmar and China. Kachin (NE Myanmar) women sold into sexual slavery to Chinese men because there is a shortage of women in China because of the one-child policy years ago. Once the Kachin women have a kid, they can return home, but without the kid. (Guardian)

Research: I just finished an article where I had an embarrassingly rich amount of data, and a great way to analyze it, but could not find any significant relations among groups. Maybe that was not so bad. Researchers are taking a look at what really is statistical significance. (Vox)


Materials for becoming a responsible digital citizen ($40).

Watch a series of videos about how conservatives (and extremists) think in the US. Good balanced approach (BoingBoing). Much like the one from Jennifer Lawrence (YouTube).

A really good list of things to do to increase your privacy online. Get Firefox, install some extensions, use StartPage as your search engine, use DNS Start form the first one and work your way up. But don’t wait.