My Best Teaching Is One-on-One


Of course, I team teach and do special lessons, etc.


But my best work in the classroom is after the lesson is over --
going one-on-one,
helping individual students with their assignments.


It's kind of like with computer programs, walking the client through hands-on.
The job isn't really done until the customer is using the program.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Is every difference a perversion?

We've been using Disney's Frozen and the song "Let It Go" in some of our English classes at school this last week.

I like to dig into the background of the literature we use, and while I was doing so I noted a bit of momentary controversy. Some of the Christian community have claimed that both the film and the song are promoting homosexuality/bisexuality.

Naturally, many of the homosexual/bisexual community were only too happy to pick up on that and claim the song as a new anthem.

Pardon me for drifting off-topic for a moment, but I remain nonplussed by the use of the word, "gay", as a euphemism for homosexuality/bisexuality. "Gay" was once a corollary to the Japanese word 「派手な」(hade-na), "showy, ostentatious, dramatic, flamboyant". (And I wonder about the similarity between "gay" and 「芸」(gei), "arts/literature/crafts".)

The current use of the word in English presents a conflation. People who are "creative" are supposed to be "liberal" in their attitudes towards sexuality, particularly their own sexual behavior.

Hmm. Historically, much of our "greatest" art and literature has been produced in such an environment. By scare-quoting "greatest", I don't mean to disparage our cultural legacy. The kind of art that crosses cultural borders and endures history does tend to be born in the furnace of internal conflicts. And "liberal" sexual attitudes do tend to lead to internal conflicts. But they are not the only factors.

But there is another kind of "great", and the predominance of creative work is born in many kinds of trials, tribulations, strivings, conflicts, troubles.

There is much that is dramatic that is not at all about "coming out of the closet of sexual repression".

There is much that is romantic that does not involve sexual adventure.

There is more to both life and love than sex.

(Sure, queue somebody famous saying, "There must be, but I don't know what," I suppose. Woody Allen? I don't remember.)

Sure, the classic animal responses to stress are fight, flight, and sex. But sex is only one out of three there. And none of those are the correct general human response. One of the traits of the human animal is supposed to be sometimes reacting to stress by thought, and by behavior guided by rational thought.

Okay, I've ranted about the conflation. Someday I want to rant about the negative impact of that conflation on social and private dialog, and on our relationships and behavior. Today, I just want to say that conflating things with sex is not necessary.

When I first heard "Let It Go", the lyrics bothered me. Too many people I know spend too much of their lives repressing the wrong things, then break out of that repression, but fail to break out of the real self-oppression. But the final line of the song provides he counter-balance. The storm does matter for Elsa after all, and so does the cold. And I don't think the listener will be deaf to the irony in that line.

Put in context of the plot of Frozen, if "Let It Go" were intended to be a metaphor for "coming out" sexually, it is provided with a stiff warning that coming out is not the ultimate solution.

As members of the Disney crew who produced the movie have noted (quoting other artists and authors from pretty much every era), once you publish, the work of art takes a life of its own. People should interpret it according to their own ideas. That's part of the purpose of art.

But I don't think Elsa's differences have to be interpreted as a metaphor for a different sexual orientation. There are many ways people are different from each other, and there are many social influences that work to try to get us to suppress our differences.

And simply suppressing our differences is not good. Quite the opposite. We need to look at our differences, acknowledge them, embrace them, and put them to good use. Those differences are what makes the world go 'round, as the saying goes. And they also are important parts of what makes us as individuals tick.


I will note that I'm a little ambivalent about the ending of Frozen.

Part of me wanted Hans to find out his love was not real by actually kissing Anna. Then he could have been a bit less treacherous, maybe found a more positive way to help set Anna and Elsa up for the act of true love.

I generally like plots to work out so that people can be forgiven of their mistakes.

Then again, in Frozen 2 (Unfrozen? I'm sure the stockholders are going to insist on a sequel.) maybe a plot twist as ex machina as in Frozen can bring Hans back to prove he's not such a bad guy after all. This is Disney, after all.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Getting some use out of Android

This is going to try to be a positive post.

First, a list of applications I'm using regularly (on the train and at Church, mostly):

  • Jota+ -- text editor -- after learning (erk) more of the "gestures" (like how to let my finger just sit long enough on an icon), I have figured out how to start a selection. Also, an external (hardware) keyboard is sometimes useful.
  • Elecom bluetooth portable keyboard (real hardware) -- I have the old flexible one. Flexible means I have to put it on something flat to use it. Bluetooth means that I really can't use it when the WIFI is active, or when lots of people around me are using WIFI and/or the wireless phone network. Bluetooth stutters and repeats like crazy and does other undesirable things when there's a lot of stuff going on in those frequency ranges.
  • USB keyboard -- A cheap one, for using at home. Nothing special. But the physical keyboard is just more useable than the touch-screen keyboard, especially when I want to use control keys and Japanese input.
  • EMobile portable router -- Without this, I couldn't really use the thing as a portable. However, I'm not fully satisfied with it, and the lack of source code is a serious pain. I'm pretty sure there's a full-fledged GPL violation hiding in there. And the result is that I can't tweak the settings. Using it on the train is a bit hit-and-miss. And at church, sometimes it just won't connect.
  • Book of Mormon, Gospel Library, and several other apps from the Church. I can read the scriptures in English or Japanese. If my Spanish were good enough, I could read them in Spanish, too! Lots of languages. Except the Bible. I have the Bible (King James Version) in English on the tablet, but copyright issues prevent the Church from publishing the Bible in most languages other than English. But if the WIFI connection is good, I can get the tablet to read the scriptures out loud to me, too.
  • Firefox is in the Play Store after all! I also use Google's browser, of course.
  • Google's stuff: map, mail, quickoffice and spreadsheet (way limited), map, earth, youtube.
  • Debian No Root -- finding ways to make it work for me. I can run gcc on it, and vim. Synaptic blows up on me from time to time, but apt-get works okay. gedit wouldn't load by synaptic, but "apt-get install gedit" took two tries and got it. YAY! A real text editor!
  • Terminal IDE -- This helps immensely with making the Android development stuff more accessible for people like me that just have to use C.
My initial impression was pretty negative.

Currently, well there seem to be ways around the stupid artifacts of corporate culture.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Have Android, Will Exhibit Tourette's.

Sudden tendencies to socially unacceptable behavior while riding the train for about a month. I'm sure the people around me were a little put off, although they didn't show it.


Acer Iconia A200 and Android.

Android is missing so many pieces it is not funny. If you want a functioning system, you have to load all sorts of apps from Google's play store or whatever that is.
  • No way to edit text. (I'm using the free version of Jota+ for now, but it's like a straightjacket compared to, say, gedit.)
  • Likewise for getting a good look at your filesystem.  (Yeah, there are free file managers, but the blurbs for all of them make me feel less than comfortable about installing them.)
  • Firefox? (Well, there is a free version of Opera, and some browsers I've never heard of if you want an alternate browser.) 
    • [Wait! I found it! (I mean, really, how hard was searching the Play Store for "firefox". Sometimes I guess I'm a little braindead when things don't work the way I want them to.)]
  • Sylpheed? (Yeah, there are other mail browsers, including a Google gmail app, but I can't find a way to access the paste buffer in the gmail app. 10 MB, and no paste function. I'm not willing to try any of the others at this point.)
  • Gnupg? (Supposedly, the functionality for apps is built in with the Google Play app. But I haven't find any way besides the meaningless popularity ratings to decide whether I trust a particular independent dev. And what about the other, more important uses of gnupg?)
    • [Okay, searching the Playstore for "gnupg" found this, as well, although I have to do a little research on the Guardian Project first. That chicken-and-egg problem of "trust" is not really solved well by the PlayStore.]
  • Libreoffice? (Google has their QuickOffice and their spreadsheet app, but, again, there's important stuff missing. I've plunked around with KingSoft in the docomo store. No. Huh uh. Do not want that. And the rest? Trial versions? Huh?)
  • bc? gcc? Good luck with that.
Well, wait. There are two bright spots in the mess, a no-root Debian and a Terminal IDE. Seriously rough edges on both, but access to command-line tools, after a fashion. (I'll have to review them later.)

Why does this mess exist? Really, really simple. When Google put Android together, they made a way for hardware companies to provide lip-service letter-of-the-law appearance of compliance with the GPL, without really complying.

Specifically, don't expect drivers from Acer. In fact, pretty much every manufacturer thumbs their nose at you about drivers. So, no, if you want to install real Debian on the thing, you're on your own, in an intellectual property paucity minefield.

So, I take notes at a conference, using Jota+, thinking I'll paste them into e-mail after. (Editing text in the gmail app is a bit of a UI minefield.) Select, copy, and ... no paste.

[update: Attach an external keyboard, and ctrl-v pastes for me. No promises for your Android device, though. Or mine, next time I try this. Oh, and the external keyboard is a Japanese keyboard, but the layout seen by this Acer is US. Most of the shifted punctuation keys are out of place, and I don't see anywhere to change the keyboard mapping.]

No, if you were sitting beside me today on the train, I was not swearing at the person I was writing the e-mail to. I was swearing at Acer and Google. After several years of pretty reasonable self-control, I guess I've find something that pushes me over the edge again. (And this blog post is part of the stress management routine that results.)

[Update 2: I'm finding ways to use it after all.]

Friday, June 13, 2014

God as an Extraterrestrial

I was talking with one of the teachers I work with after school yesterday, and he asked me what I think of the idea that God is an extra-terrestrial.

I told him that i don't really see any other possibility. Any useful concept of God that I am aware of presupposes a being beyond the confines of this planet, both physically and temporally.

But I'm afraid that wasn't the question he was really asking.

Most of the theories that God was an extraterrestrial tend to involve making "a god" something less than God, because we tend to think of extraterrestrials in the frame of the fantasy literature on the subject of highly advanced, but still limited beings, perhaps mortal.

God is not just highly advanced, and He isn't limited in any sense, definitely not mortal.

So I think I need to explain my thoughts a little further to him:

God dwells in the eternal, immortal realm.

This earth, and the universe of its existence, is just one small part of that realm. We, in our mortal state, can't make much sense trying to talk about the nature of eternity, but we can understand that the influence of God fills this universe of our existence.

Hmm. In that respect, God is very much not extra-terrestrial. He may be watching us from a distance, but he is also watching us right up close.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Note to the Members of the PTA English Class [Updated]

For the time being, I will post the PTA English Class posts on my Random Eikaiwa blog. (But it's not ready yet.)

The first post is up. I'll try to annotate it later.

Thanks, in advance, for your understanding.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Things I Like about the Book of Mormon -モルモン書の気に入ったところ

Sometimes people ask me whether I believe the Book of Mormon to be what it claims to be. (I do.)

Sometimes they ask me why.

There is no single reason. Hey, even my characteristically long blog posts are too short. :) But I can list a few things here that I like about the book.

** First, if you want a good summary of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon provides one. For instance, you can find a good definition in 3rd Nephi, chapter 27, particularly starting around verse 13.

Reading this, you can see the even shorter summary Joseph Smith wrote in the Articles of Faith, that we believe

  • in Jesus Christ,
  • in repentance -- turning our hearts and lives towards God,
  • in the covenant of baptism,
  • and in the gift of God's Holy Spirit.


  • イエスキリストを
  • 心をも人生をも神様へ傾ける悔い改めを
  • バプテスマの聖約を
  • そして、神様の聖なる御霊の賜物を


** Second, most of the book of 3rd Nephi is devoted to the record of Savior's personal visit to a group of his disciples in the Americas, shortly after His resurrection. The visit starts in chapter 11 and essentially continues almost through the end.

If you wonder why Jesus would have visited the Americas, you might recall what He said about "other sheep, not of this fold" in John 10. And if you wonder what made the Americas so special, you will be interested in verse 1 of 3rd Nephi chapter 16.

** Third, I am a firm believer in the freedom of the soul, and the Book of Mormon confirms this pretty strongly. See, for example, 2nd Nephi chapter 2, where the necessity of law, opposition, and choice is explained, and the relationship between redemption, freedom, and joy is shown.

These are just a few of my favorite passages from the book, and I think they are worth recommending to pretty much everyone.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Facebook or Basshook?

My wife was interested in a promotion of some sort recently. The promotion requires either facebook or one other social network login to register for.

(What? I have to share my social login stuff with them to join their promo? NO THANKS!)

But I did click the Facebook link.

Did I type in my address? I don't think so. That means the promo must have shared the address I typed in with facebook, without my permission.

So I got a "Just click here to complete your registration." mail.

I did not click.

This is not an "I don't think so." When me wife understood that the promo required facebook or something equally noxious, she said she'd do without the promo.

So, now I suddenly get hundreds of "so-and-so accepted your friend request" and such. I checked the headers and the raw source. These are not spoofs, these are from the facebook servers.

Not sure what to do about it. Even complaining to Facebook requires giving them more information than I gave LinkedIn when I signed up there.

Facebook is poison.