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.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Taxing My Patience

I've complained about the FuBAR and the generally and necessarily convoluted nature of individual taxes administered on a national level.

This year, they've gone a bit farther out into looking-glass land. The FuBAR form is now electronic-only. Not only electronic-only, but it requires the Adobe Reader. The instructions can be read with free software PDF viewers, but the actual form you have to fill-out has to be opened by the Adobe Reader, which, at the time of this post, is no longer available for Linux. (Android (ARM), yas. Linux, No, No, Nooooh!) According to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (huh?), it only works on Macs and MSWindows boxes. The pdf file I linked above even goes so far as to say that mobile devices are not supported, although, when you go to Adobe's site, you can download an Android version.

Wait. Let me get this straight -- I have to download a PDF file that I have to open with Adobe's proprietary (and bug-ridden) reader, on a Mac or an MSWindows box, read and follow the instructions in that form, and then fill out the form on-line?

Uhm, no. But it's still just as silly. I have to download that form on a Mac or MSWindows box, fill it out on the bug-ridden Adobe Reader, and submit it through my bug-ridden web browser to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network over the bug-ridden internet. (Who named this agency? How long until the US has its very own Agency of Silly Walks? And where did they learn about electronic document security?)

And somewhere in the "FinCEn" site, there is mention of a digital signature, and the problem of putting two digital signatures on the document when submitted by a married couple, requiring submission of a form to give one spouse the authority to submit for both.

What The Foolishness?

The Constitution was constructed, not so much to protect freedoms or rights, but to prevent this kind of insanity. It is precisely this kind of insanity which allows corrupt officials within a government to commit offenses against the freedoms and rights of individuals with impunity.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Is There a Girl on the Beach Waiting for Me?

I was listening to the radio this morning, Asahi Broadcasts Morning Partner (おはようパートナー). (My wife chooses the station and program, I just listen while doing the morning chores.)

Keimoto-san's team played The Beach Boys' "The Girls on the Beach". I was hanging out the laundry. And I heard the lines, "... are all within reach, if you know what to do. ... and one waits there for you."

(Can't quote too much, don't want copyright lawyers trying to enforce intellectual property on me.)

And I think about the shift in attitudes, from when it was a boy's right, as it were, to make a play for a girl, to now, when it seems it's anyone's right to make a play for anyone.

What is this business about making a play for, well, anything? Or anyone? Why does the entertainment industry seem to be so fascinated with making control a commodity?

What could Brian Wilson and company have been thinking, when they penned lyrics that seemed to suggest it was a boy's right to have a girl? What were they selling? And why would a self-respecting woman listen to such lyrics willingly?

I had to dig deep in my memory. Read up a little on Wikipedia about the history of The Beach Boys and about their father and such. Remembered what it was like listening to their tunes on the radio. And about taking my stereo to church to play music for the dances.

Dug out memories of when it seemed like etiquette lessons were primarily about teaching me to assert control. Politely, of course. Memories of wondering whether I could really do such a thing as ask a woman to become, essentially, chattel, for a few minutes for a dance, for a few hours for a date, or especially for a lifetime.

I didn't want to be in control of everything in a relationship. That was too much work, and I was having a hard enough time figuring out how to be in control of myself.

I wasn't interested in structured relationships or activities, too young to see the structure as a framework within which to move, instead of as a set of rules defining everything that had to be done.

And too young to understand that learning how to set structure aside, and when, was the next step after learning etiquette.

Somehow, I learned how to ask for a dance, and then I learned how to ask for a date. Almost. Still not good at asking people to schedule me a piece of their time.

I figured out that the best way to succeed at asking for a dance was to put the question of whether I could get a kiss or not out of my mind. I wanted to dance, and many of the girls at the dances wanted to dance. Neither they nor I really wanted to do anything more, so there was no real need to fuss with the social pressure, ego competition, really, over kissing and making out.

Focus on the dancing and you can get a dance.

Most of the girls I danced with didn't really know what to do on the dance floor, so I usually had to lead. And they liked letting me lead them on the dance floor for a bit. After a few of the more adventurous girls saw that I wasn't going to ask them to go off and engage in ego stroking sessions, more of the girls were willing to dance with me.

Some of the most popular girls seemed a bit disappointed that I didn't want to do the mutual ego-stroking thing. Part of me said, "Wait a minute, what chance did I just miss?" and part said, "That's okay." I wasn't ready for it.

Never really did learn the etiquette, the small-talk, the rules that keep the mutual ego stroking "safe".

When I say safe, I'm not just taking about keeping things from heading towards physical/sexual exploration, but also about keeping the conversation topic away from traps where people hurt each other and themselves. The mind games.

I've sometimes noted that marriage is the archetype of all relationships. When you learn the fair give-and-take of marriage, you can extend that understanding to less intimate associations.

If I do a little meta-substitution with the lyrics, substituting "partner" for "girl", and "world" for "beach", and think beyond the adolescent focus on control for the "within reach" part, the lyrics are more about encouraging young kids to get out and find people to be friends with, to work, study, and play with.

And I remember the innocence of youth (the ironic, but very real innocence of youth), and I remember that I usually read such better meanings in the lyrics back then. I was a kid. I knew better.

I think that's still the case with youth, and it's a good thing.

Monday, August 4, 2014

"Lose Yourself to Dance" == Date with Dojo-san? -- 「ダンスに奪われるまま」 ≡ 道上さんとデート?

My wife regularly listens to a morning talk show called 「おはようパーソナリティー道上洋三です。」 ("O-hayo Pasonaritei Dojo Yozo Desu." or "It's the Morning Personality Dojo Yozo!").

Sometimes I'd like a little quiet in the morning, but it has been good for my Japanese.

The last couple of weeks, Dojo-san has been running a corner called 「道上さんとデート」("Dojo-san to Deto", or "A Date with Dojo-san").

Some listeners wrote in to say that Pharrell Williams singing the refrain on Daft Punk's "Lose Your Soul to Dance" sounded to them like "Dojo-san to Deto".
リスナーの何人かのメールに、ファレルウィリアムズが歌うダフトパンクの "Lose Yourself to Dance" (「ルーズ・ユアセルフ・トゥ・ダンス」)のリフレインが、「道上さんとデート」に聞こえることを知らせてくれたのです。

And that turned into this corner, where Dojo-san meets up with listeners and their families at places like the Osaka Aquarium, and then talks about it on the radio.

Neither my wife nor I was were listening when they first explained this, but Dojo-san was kind enough to blog about it.

So, how does "Lose yourself to dance." sound like "Doujou-san to deeto."?

The "l" of the "loo" sound in "lose" is a little harder than the soft "d" of the Japanese mora "ru". Moreover, the "l" consonant colors a long "u" vowel towards the long "o" sound. That's where the Japanese ear hears the lengthened "do" mora.
"l" の影響で「ウ」が「オ」に近くなって、「ル」がかたくなって、「ド」に移ると思います。

The final voiced "s" of "lose" combines with the initial "yo" of "your" to produce "zyo" (which happens to be an alternate Latinization of "jo"), and the final "r" disappears. Thus the "jo".
濁った "s" が "yo" にくっ付いて、 "zyo" が発生したら、尾にくる "r"が消えて「ジョ」の「オ」が延びる。

How "se" could sound like "sa", you'll have to ask the French. They know.

Final "l"s often sound to Japanese ears like the Japanese nasal mora. And the "f" sandwiched between the "l" and the "t" disappears, without a vowel to sustain it.
尾にくる "l" の発音は日本人の耳によく「ン」に変わるのがあります。そして「ト」の前の "f" が消えるでしょう。

And that's the pair of mora, "san".

"To" sounding like "toe"? There is no native lingual fricative "t" sustained by a long "u" sound in Japanese, so that gets mapped to either the "te" or "to" mora with a trailing "u" which disappears.

Shifting "da" with short "a" to "da" with long "a"? The short "a" is just a little lower in the front of mouth then the short "e", and the long "a" is a diphthong, the short "e" sliding into the short "i" or long "e" sound. It's close.
どうして「ダ」が「デー」に聞こえるでしょう?ここの "da" は「ア」よりも、「ェア」のような発音です。つまり、短「o」ではなく、短「a」の発音です。あの聞き難い「apple」の「a」です。「エ」から行けば、「エー」まで聞こえるらしい。

Why does the nasal "n" disappear? It gets hidden by the lingual fricative, "s". But how on earth does that "s" turn into a "to". Lingual fricative spoken heard as a lingual stop?

Maybe that disappearing nasal helps. Push the tongue a little hard, and the lingual fricative kind of gets stopped.

But I'll note, in addition, that with certain dialects of Japanese, it can be really hard, sometimes, for the foreign ear to hear the difference between "so" and "to".




And Daft Punk has presented us with a nice small example of the fun stuff that happens at the boundaries between English and Japanese.

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. [Update, August 18th: Not enough.]

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.