My Best Teaching Is One-on-One

一対一が僕のベスト

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

当然、先生方と共同レッスンも、特別レッスンの指導もします。

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

しかし、僕の一番意味あると思っている仕事は、講義が終わってから、
一対一と
個人的にその課題の勉強を応援することです。

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.

まあ、コンピュータプログラムにすると、得意先の方に出来上がった製品を体験させるようなことと思います。
役に立たない製品はまだ製品になっていないと同様です。

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Playing Games with Our Children's Emotional Well-being

I've spent a lot of time watching my children playing video games these last few weeks. It's something I've needed to do for a long time. Parents should play with their children, even if the games the children are playing are no longer interesting to the parents like they used to be.

My son's main game is Star Wars Battlefront. Or whatever.

My daughter's main game is Dragon's Dogma.

Dragon's Dogma has a lot of realism, in that you can see the relationship between what you have done in the past building up what you can do now and in the future.

But it is missing some important realism. After a certain point, which my daughter passed long ago (well, about a month ago, but a month is a long time for kids), beating and killing every apparent enemy in sight should start burning your game karma.

She did recently get a quest to go help a goblin king, but this goblin king is not related to the goblins she kills on a regular basis to improve her experience points and get money so she can get into the harder parts of the dungeon Dragon's Dogma world.

Well, now that her experience points are getting on up there, the goblins die too cheaply now to pay as much attention as she used to. She just runs past them more, now.

I'm thinking that, at her level, killing domestic pigs and wild rabbits for sport and practice should produce negative experience points. Likewise, killing weaker enemies should begin to carry negative experience points, and running past them should yield positive points.

Or maybe the game should begin to track karma in addition to experience at some point, such that unnecessary violence would negate experience.

One more thing, there ought to be ways to actually help enemies constructively, in a way that would give bonus karma or something.

If you've read this far, maybe you can guess what critiques I have for Star Wars Battlefront.

The game, as it exists (or, perhaps, as my son plays it) runs in a "Bang! You're dead!" -- "I'm a new man now!" mode that is typical of young children's cops-and-robbers games. You attack or hide and snipe. You get killed. You come back to life at sort-of random places in the battlefield and continue until time runs out or one team hits the points target. Points for kills and points for assists and points for taking out automated weapons, etc.

Beginners' strategy. It's good for practicing the controls.

I'd personally rather they called "kills" "takedowns", and called "coming back to life" "extraction and re-insertion", but that's not my primary concern.

There is an attempt to capitalize on strategy-building game play, and some of the games look like they should push the players towards cooperative strategies, but I don't really see that happening. That is, it seems like you have to pay to join the parts where strategy building can occur and where real cooperation can occur. Since I'm a cheapskate and not paying all of his college tuition, he doesn't have enough money to get into those parts, and I can't see if that really happens.

It's hard for me at this point to be too critical of EA about their marketing strategies. The laborer is worthy of her hire. And thou shalt not muzzle the ox. Etc. But I have the impression that paying to play just gets you more weapons and armor, and entrance to more battlegrounds.

I want to see play modes other than I'm-a-new-man. I'm-a-new-man mode should only be the most basic practice mode.

There could be a slightly advanced tag mode where, instead of killing, you freeze the enemy. And if you touch a frozen player on your team, he is unfrozen.

This alone would expand the strategies and significantly reduce the emotional isolation my son plays in. And it would be more realistic, better echoing the need to get wounded soldiers out of the battlefield in real war conditions.

I think there is a built-in audio chat function, but it costs money. If that's the case, maybe I should subsidize that part of my son's play. Chat could help him learn more cooperative strategies.

And he needs to learn to talk with the other guys he's playing with. Anonymous fighting is not good for a person's emotional health.

I'd like to see a standard battle mode where soldiers are responsible for getting downed soldiers to the battlefield hospital. It would be really cool to have players taking turns as medics and carrying the downed players off the battlefield, but even requiring a simple tag from a teammate to bring the downed players out would be an improvement.

Having to spend too long recuperating would impact the play-action, but coming back to life takes about fifteen seconds anyway. That might as well be visualized as being in the battlefield hospital.

I know enough about games programming to know it would not be easy to do the part about carrying the downed players off the battlefield. The rest of what I've described above should not be too hard.

Not really changing the subject, ...

Yesterday, we heard news about a high school boy who killed his grandparents because he was stressed out at school. It is not clear that he had any ill-will towards his grandparents.

What follows is a bit speculative, but I think it's stuff that needs to be considered more carefully.  

Watching my son play his game, I could see how easily a boy could get lost in the play of the game and not really be able to understand that killing people in the real world means they are really taken out. Permanently.

I feel sad for that boy's family, but I also feel sad for that boy. He has lost his grandparents to his own lack of judgement, he has lost a normal relationship with his parents, and he has lost a huge piece of his own life.

My son has the advantage of a Christian background. He understands that the Japanese/Buddhist traditions about re-incarnation are not to be taken too seriously.

I'm not sure that he recognizes that the apparent cruelty of many historic samurai was in part due to the belief that everyone gets recycled anyway.

I'm not saying that the current crop of video games train children to be killers.

I'm not saying we have a duty to make all the games fit some goody-two-shoes helicopter parents' point of view. Taking all the violence and gore out is not a good idea.

I am saying we are not teaching our children some good things that we could be teaching them.

I am saying that the question
Will it sell like hotcakes and make my company the number one company in the world?
as a marketing question is in the same class of thinking as I'm-a-new-man-again games. Managers who talk like that should be retired if they are old enough. If ther are too young to retire, they should be sent back down the ladder or temporarily taken out of the game, to learn more about what's really important.

(Everyone is too young to retire, really.)

We can and should do better, not for today's bottom line, and not for tomorrow.

We must learn to do better for all of our children's tomorrows that may not be.

(I plan to translate this into Japanese, but I have no time today.)

Friday, December 25, 2015

About Breaks My Heart

(This post actually belongs on my Freedom Isn't Free blog, but I don't have time to write a post that long today.)

Gene Heskett asks a sort of innocuous question:
Need a calculator that knows about coulombs
Quite a series of revelations in that thread.

[Update: I blogged about a bc programming example from my contributions to this thread under Programming is Fun. JMR20160111]

What almost breaks my heart is that we arrogant mortals think we, as a race, have advanced. We don't know how we got here, and we could not do it again, without help.

And we refuse to look to the source of help that got us here.

My children play their video games. They are getting good. Their parents think it's such a waste of time.

Investors (on Wall Street, etc.), who could be helping move money to producers and move product to the market, play their investment games.

Management (at technology companies, etc.), who could be making technology available to consumers, play their market games.

Lawyers, who could be helping people understand each other, play their games (and it's much more clear that it's about power and controlling others instead of themselves, not about money).

Who else do we have playing games, while people are dying?

And the rising generation can't get us back to the moon. Read the thread I linked to above if you want to know why.

[I don't think I've unpacked this explicitly anywhere yet, but it's a thread that underlies many of my freedom-isn't-free rants. It has to do with managers and marketeers thinking they have to monetize everything, so that technology becomes hard to get to, or wrapped it tape barriers, and with attrition among the real technologists, the people who knew how to do the technology without the monetized marketizing, getting old and leaving us you guys behind. JMR20151230]

[Update: I'm looking at qucs now. It looks rather interesting. JMR20151225]

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

8 or 10 -- 八か十 -- The Sales Tax on Food in Japan 日本の食費に掛かる消費税

Raising the sales tax on food to 10% draws enough ire to slow the spenders in the government down a bit, apparently.
食費に掛かる消費税を10%に繰り上げる案は税金のお金を使いたがる政治家をある程度差し止める程の怒りを引き起こしています。

It has been a top topic of my wife's favorite morning talk show this past week.
妻のお気に入りのラジオトークショーは今週よく取り上げています。

So they are planning to allow the tax on food to stay at 8%. (Is this really going to help people who aren't making enough money?)
それで、食費に掛かる消費税を8%のままに残す計画ができています。(収入の足りない人達は本当に助かるでしょうか?)

But non-essential foods, so the thinking goes, should be taxed like non-food.
但し、必須の食事でなければ、食費ではないものと同じように税が掛かるべき、と考えられているようです。

Where to draw the line?
どこで線を引くべきでしょう?

The current discussion is focusing on eating out on the one hand, and buying at a hamburger or pizza place and taking it home. Taking it home somehow magically brings it under the umbrella of essential foods.
現時点の焦点として、外食をすることと、準備済の食事を家の外で買って、持ち帰りにすることを事細かく議論しています。お持ち帰りにすると、食事は魔法的にに必須項目に変換させるようです。

And so they are writing an overly detailed set of rules to determine which is which. Reminds me of the Pharisaical limits on Sabbath day activities.
したがって、外食と持ち帰りを区別する細かすぎる法則を作成中です。安息日の活動に制限をつけるパリサイ型立法のようなものだとボクは思っています。

I think computers spoil us as to how complicated laws can be.
どれほど複雑な法律を作って良いかについてはコンピュータがあると皆が甘えるかも知れません。

These complicated rules will not be abused?
こんな複雑すぎる法は悪用されること無いと思えるでしょう?

My mom used to tell me, when you write exceptions into the law, the exceptions become the law.
お母さん曰く〜例外を法律に組み込むと例外が法になる。法が例外になる。

If you have to make a distinction, the restaurant should have to collect full taxes when the price of a meal for a single person exceeds half the daily wages of a poverty-line worker. That would be about 5000 yen right now, and that's a clean, fair line.
区別しないと行けないなら、一人前の食事の値段が貧しい人の一日の給与の半分を超えた時点で普通の税金がかかればいいでしょう。現在は凡そ5千円です。公平に、綺麗に引ける線です。

But the difference between eighty yen on a thousand and a hundred yen on a thousand is really, well, only two percent. Yeah, my wife tells me about the psychological effects, but taxes shouldn't be a game of boiling the proverbial frogs by degrees.
しかし、千円に八十円と千円に百円の差は、本当は、2パセントに過ぎないのです。家の妻はその精神的影響について話ししてくれるにしても、税金は、蛙をお湯に入れて少しずつ温度上げて煮物にするような遊びではなかったと思います。

Shouldn't be a game at all. Why don't they just completely drop taxes on food? Then they don't have to spend money on untangling complicated rules every time someone buys food at some sort of restaurant.
何の遊びになっているはずない。食費に掛かる税金を完全に無くしたほうが良さそうではありませんか?そうだと、何らかの食堂に食物を買う度に、絡まった税法を解けることにお金を費やす必要がないでしょう。

Friday, December 4, 2015

When You Find Yourself Inclined to Swear, Look in the Mirror.

Sometime last week or the week before, my wife received the first Unsolicited Commerccial Message I think she has ever received on her mobile phone.

(UCM, in other words, so-called "spam". My memory is that the term "spam" was originally said to be a coinage derived from the coined term, "spatter mail", but the Monty Python theory seems to gain the better press. I know the term was in use well before the 1990s.)

It was an offer to register on some sort of social media kind of web service. It looked like bait for e-mail addresses to me. My son looked up the name of the supposed service and he thinks the name is intended to be a spoof of a possibly legitimate new social web service.

(I personally think that social media is just an organized method of spamming, but ...)





About four more of these messages have found their way to here inbox since then, and we've been talking about it, on and off.

But I have somehow forgotten to tell her she can block the source address if it doesn't change. She is thinking of changing the e-mail address of the phone.

And I, in my distraction, have been talking too much about how it is all Microsoft's fault for producing the very shoddy Microsoft Windows OS family and the very shoddy Outlook and Outlook Express e-mail software and the very shoddy Microsoft Word and other very shoddy Microsoft Office components.

All of Microsoft's offerings have traditionally emphasized feature over safety, or even usability. Their current offerings are improving, but still are not safe on the internet at any speed. And the rest of the information industry seems to feel themselves compelled to chase Microsoft's putative feature list, so that most of what is available now is not that secure any more, either.

(Unfortunately, the Linux OS community also seems to be caught up in this race.)


We were talking about it some more yesterday morning while I was exercising, and the talking was slowing me down, making me about fifteen minutes later out the door than I intended to be, a bit too close to the wire for comfort.

I was just a little stressed, but still within my range of rational thought and not pushing too hard on the Tourette's buttons.

It was raining, a fine drizzle, not quite light enough to ignore, but light enough that I debated leaving my umbrella shut to make it easier to run.

I wanted to check the time, to see how motivated I should be to run.

So I pulled out this expensive pocket watch I call a cellphone, ...

... and the external time display was blocked by a notification.

You know, something like, "You have mail waiting." Or whatever. Something was more important than my need to see the time.

This mobile phone is a semi-recent clamshell. I think I've had it about a year.

CPU, RAM, persistent store (FLASH) -- the specs were pretty much the same, except for the screen, as a cheap Android phone on the next shelf over when I bought it.

The OS is, as near as I can tell, whatever the thing was called between LiMo and Tizen. Or maybe it is Tizen. Anyway, it's built on a partially GNU userland running on a Linux kernel.

Technically required to be GPL-licensed, and thus supposed to be technically accessible to the end-user/owner, should said end-user owner desire to go to the effort of modifying something like the format of notifications so the time is visible when there is an active notification.


Technically required to be GPL, and there is, somewhere, on a public-facing server owned by Sharp, a tarball that technically fulfills the requirement of access to the GPL-licensed code.

A tarball that no ordinary engineer without a lot of expensive debugging equipment and other things that no one but the manufacturer has access to can use.




Anyway, I swore at whoever had caused that notification. (Okay, I've been getting a bit careless about the Tourettes tendencies lately.)

Had to wait for a stoplight, so I looked again. The notification was a schedule reminder, one I had set myself, to remind myself that I had a visit with the doc this morning.

So I was swearing at myself. Look in the mirror.

You know, that scheduler is much better than the one on the phone that this phone replaced (which was a LiMo phone). It's almost useable.

And if I were to dig into the Tizen website, I might find information that would allow me to alter the notification templates.

Or even write the stopwatch applet I wanted to write for my previous phone (which was a LiMo).

Or maybe even bc in a bash shell. No, probably not that. They wouldn't allow that, I'm sure. That would be way too much power in the hands of the user.

I won't really know until I take the time to nose around the site and exercise the patience to read the Japanese.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Waking the Sleeping Dog

Notwithstanding this blog post, violence is not the way to solve things. When God condemns the greedy rich for not giving to the poor, He also condemns the greedy poor for taing by violence and force what they have convinced themselves they deserve.

You may want to think that the other guy will give in when you show you are serious about what you claim to be your rights, but the spirit of reason does depart from human beings when they refuse to listen to it.

Desolation is the result.

There are more important things than vengeance and making others conform to your ideals.

[And I had a few more thoughts on this today. JMR20151207]

Shopping Conundrums

I'm in a bit of a funk.

My father raised me and my siblings with a sense of honesty that echoed the stories about Abe Lincoln walking back to a store to return a penny. I remember Dad driving back to a store to return a dime when a cashier gave him that much too much change and he hadn't noticed until he got home.

Now, that was back in the day when a dime could buy you a loaf of good whole-wheat bread. (Or two loaves of white bread-substitute, as Dad put it.) And that was a whole loaf, not the third-loaf packs of partial whole wheat bread we usually buy for between 160 and 230 yen.

So when the decorative hammer loop on these ancient blue jeans I'm wearing today caught a pack of breaded squid rings and knocked it to the floor in the store, I was wanting to talk to a clerk, buy the whole pack but ask them to discard the one squid that ended up on the floor.

The store manager was in the checkout lane I was lined up in, but he did not want to talk about it. He had four lines of customers nearly filling his small store, and it was the time of day that the volume would make the day's quota of profits.

Now I see that I had two options that would have partially or wholly satisfied my conscience.
  • Just close the pack back up with the dirty ring in it, buy it, and throw it all away when I got home. That would make the manager whole, and I would take the 189+tax yen loss. But he would not have approved.
  • Or take the manager's offer and buy a fresh one and let him dump the spoiled one. That would allow me to split the loss with him, and I don't think he'd have disapproved.
As it was, he took the whole loss, and I took the singed conscience home.

Taking the dirty ring out so I and my kids could eat the clean ones was not an option. There was no room to perform that kind of operation, and walking around with the pack open so I could find a place to do so would have invited misconceptions about what I was trying to do, and would possibly have wasted store personnel time in tracking my actions.

Having the "personal faith" to put the ring back and taking them back home for the family to eat them was also not an option, of course. It's not just my faith at question there.

I'm not smart enough to live according to my conscience.

I left that store on my bicycle and went to another store. Had to walk through that store carrying a tied grocery bag containing what I had bought at the the first store. This is not just a bad example that might give others ideas about how to shoplift, it makes it harder for the people at that store to keep track of potential shoplifters.

Leaving the bag in the basket on my bike is not an option, of course, not even in Japan.

The thing I should do is get or make a big bicycle baggage carrier with a lock. Then I could safely leave stuff on the bike. Maybe not in the States, but it would be okay in Japan.

I don't have the money to do that.

I'm not making enough money to live according to my conscience.

Now I know that this is not my fault. It's the world we live in. Mass produced merchandise makes things available to relatively poor people that have not been available in the past, but those things don't really help poor people do the things that would enable them to quit being poor.

Jumping past the analysis of what rich people do to the world to make themselves rich, God allows this world to exist.

He doesn't ask us to do things we can't do. He just asks us to make the best choices we can from the options that are available to us.

So, I'll just have to try to think more quickly next time I break something at the store. And try to remember to arrange my path around the stores to allow me to carry the purchases in ways that don't set the bad example or require store personnel to try to guess whether my implicit assertion that the stuff in the tied bag is not from their store is legitimate.

And let the disturbances to my conscience keep me on my toes, rather than induce me to quit caring.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Adventures in OpenBSD (and NetBSD) parts 1 through 4, MacBSD

My first sorties into OpenBSD were almost twenty years ago, trying to install OpenBSD and NetBSD on old Macintosh hardware. Ran into SCSI and floating point issues. And bad CPU mask set problems.

Really wish I had known Apple was offering to replace the bad mask set 68LC040 in the LC/Performa 630 series Macintoshes. Found out about it too late.

The bad mask set CPU in the Performa 630 had faulty MMU operations during exceptions in certain address ranges. It almost functioned reliably for Mac 7.0 and 7.1, but not so much for Mac OS 7.5 or 8.x. Loading OpenBSD or NetBSD, you'd get tantalizing close, and then it would panic. (Actually logged in once to a completely installed NetBSD, looked around a bit, then tried to conpile something, at which point it died. Later versions would not even get that far.)

Was somewhat tempted by offers of a full 68040 on ebay, for $100 plus or minus, but I needed the money for rent and food for the kids.

The problem with the Performa 550 was lack of hardware floating point. (Always regretted not splurging 6,000 yen for the 68882 when I had a chance to get it on a closeout at, I think it was Ninomiya in Sannomiya.) My understanding was that the SCSI problems there were partly due to lack of floating point. Mac OS 7 ran pretty well, though.

Still have both machines, although my wife wishes I'd get rid of them. The 550 seems to have developed whiskers in the floppy circuitry that cause phantom disk insertion interrupts. The 630 has something in the monitor circuitry that ruins focus and color. Maybe that's whiskers, too. (Early lead-free PC boards tended to whisker around the solder joints.)

I keep them for sentiment, I guess. And because I someday hope to have the time to implement figFORTH and my bif version of FORTH in 68K assembler.

I extracted the ROM image from the 630 recently, to run the BasiliskII emulator under OpenBSD and on Android. It looks nice, but a major part of the magic of the old Macintosh was the careful timing that made the mouse work smoothly. That timing does not work under emulation. It's bad enough to prevent me using either emulated environment to start working on my re-implementation of FORTH during commute time on the train.

No current OS, including Mac OS X, really gets the mouse timing right, by the way.

To really get the timing right, the GUI really should be controlled by a separate CPU.

Consider what could have been in 1992, had Apple simply started putting both the Mac OS and A/UX in a single box, each with its own CPU, instead of running off into fantasies with the first abortive re-design which was theoreticallly intended to become Mac OS 8 but ended up as a pipe dream.