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.


Monday, September 16, 2019

Thumping to the Gyre -- Interpreting Harry Nilsson

It's two in the morning and I should be sleeping before my shift at the elder care facility in a few hours, but my novels are in my head and my brain is interpreting Harry Nilsson's "Jump into the Fire":
We can swim the mountain
We can climb the sea
We can thumping to the gyre
But we will never freebie
No we will never freebie
We could make each other happy
I know we could make each other happy
I wanna make each other happy
(So it was two in the morning, and I spelled his name Nillsen on the first try. My interpretation fits the time of morning, too.)

Okay, since I took the trouble to post this a day and a bit ago, I guess I should unpack it now that I have a little time.

Climbing the mountain and swimming the sea are metaphors for struggle. But the mountain and the sea are made analogies to the distance between people, and the song is about trying to get across the gap between.

And the fire is not the heat of sexual lust. Rather, it is the refiner's fire Isaiah and other prophets in various scripture talk about.

Relationships are a struggle, and the freedom many people expect from ideal relationships just never happens.

The struggle shakes us up and breaks us down, but we can still make each other happy.

And my post-midnight solipsissm, well, it's definitely hyperbolic.

Monday, September 2, 2019

War And Where I Grew Up (West Texas)

(I'm not really sure this is a wise rant to post, but this is close to home for me, too. I wrote a more reasoned post on the main subject, here: If you only have time to read one of my posts, I'd rather you read that. This one is much less lucid.)

When the mass shootings in El Paso hit the news, I knew it was a matter of time.

I grew up in west Texas. I spent a lot of time driving I-20 and US-80. I knew parts of Odessa like the back of my hand.

I made a comment to a FB friend that he may have misinterpreted.

If we keep killing the shooters, how are we going to find out why?

It's an easy comment to misinterpret, I imagine, especially for people who, like me, grew up where a mass shooting has occurred. This hits close to home, and it feels like I am saying there is an acceptable level of collateral damage or something.

But walk with me on this.

If there were a sudden epidemic of bird flu, we'd want to pin down where it was coming from.

If there were a sudden uptick in rabid animal cases, again, we'd want to look for a source so we could eradicate it.

But we are not looking for the cause of the sudden epidemic of mass shootings.

No, calls for getting rid of the guns is not looking for the cause. It's assuming the cause, because, you know, guns are dangerous.

But guns have been around for a lot longer than the sudden epidemic of mass shootings. Hundreds of years longer, unless you count wars as mass shootings.

Even without a surviving killer to talk to, we can still think about possible causes.

Odessa is a relatively violent town. It has several times been highest in the number of murders per capita, not just in Texas or the US, but in the world. There have been, in the past, shootings we might now call mass there before, but they only made local news.

Most of the city is relatively safe, but, yeah. Bar shootings on the weekends. Eruptions of the war on drugs. Certain parts of town you really should avoid on weekend nights.

At times, part of the violence has been the town's dependency on the oil industry. Boom cycles always attracted lots of temporary workers and often caused serious shortages of housing, and made it difficult for the temporary workers to get access to necessities.

Boom economics is like that. The people who come for the work find that maybe they should have stayed where they were, and get frustrated, have money in their pockets, go to the bars, and let their frustrations boil over. Arguments happen. Fists, bar stools, knives, and guns come out, whatever weapon is handy. People get hurt and sometimes die.

Another part of it is probably the desert heat and the mineral level in the tap water, making it easy for people to be irritated.

But the biggest constant factor since before I was in middle school was that Odessa was the first big town after El Paso on one of the primary traffic routes that drug runners took from Mexico to the eastern seaboard.

Violence has a reason.

The spate of mass shootings in the US that began sometime after the turn of the millenium must have a cause.

The kinds of mass killings that occurred within the US until recently were cases of one killer gone over an edge and committing a string of murders over a period of time, cases of fighting between organized crime organizations, a few cases of bombings by organized violent political groups, a few cases like Charles Manson, and so on. Random shootings were rare in non-war conditions, and we haven't had war within the borders of the US since about 1865 (according to conventional wisdom).

Violence has been with us for a long time. It is not going to magically go away any time soon.

Taking one weapon away will only turn those who think they have reason to become randomly violent to other weapons -- knives, poisons, arson, makeshift bombs. (I'd add a few more to the list, but that would make this rant even more insensitive than it already is.)

You can see this in Japan. There's been a recent spate of knife attacks in which several people die before the attacker is brought to bay, and there have been a spate of deadly arson cases recently, as well. Looking back only a little ways in the past, there have been a case of arsenic in the curry and of poison gas in the subway that stand out.

If you are seeing one specific weapon, or of weapons in general as the cause, you are missing something really important.

When a shooter is dead, we can guess from his recent history what his motives might have been. He can't defend himself, but he also can't make a fool of himself. We cannot know what actually pushed him over the edge, to go to war against society, and we leave his motives in a darkness that invites glorification by rumor.

And this is what it is. We are at war. Death by violence is a glorious rebellion against some form of oppression. These mass shootings are evidence that the madness of war has leaked back into the parts of our society where we have lazily thought that violence had been put away.

Compare the deaths from mass shootings in the US to deaths from other causes. Drunk driving? Suicides? Working (and living) conditions among the undocumented workers? ...

Compare the deaths from mass shootings and such all over the world to death from other causes. What is going on in Africa, the Pacific Rim, and the less known parts of China?

We are at war.

But we keep killing the best sources of information about the enemy, in the cases of mass shootings. And dead shooters tell no tales, leaving us without the best source of information on why the rash of killings occurs.

If I can surmise, I can offer this: If you aren't reaching out with what extra you have to help those who have less than you have, you potentially contribute to the complaints they have.

Having complaints is not always the complainer's fault.

Self-righteous anger is as likely a cause as any I can think of, coupled with the mirage of becoming a martyr in the cause against an inequitable society.

If you want to help reduce the number of mass shootings, reach out to the people near you.

If you have extra time, money, or other resources, reach out to help those who need help.

If you have needs that you don't know how to meet, keep reaching out to the people around you, even if they don't seem to care. Or look for people who do care to reach out to, who don't recommend violence. Please don't just give up. Giving up puts you in the position where violence no longer seems unreasonable.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Book Review: Meet Me at Half Court, by Julie Spencer

Julie Spencer is an author of sweet romance ranging from teenage to adult. I think she writes other things as well, but that seems to be her focus right now. She likes to post some of her works in progress in her blogs as she writes, so that fans and other interested parties can get hooked read them.

I've been reading along and commenting on some of those, and she asked if I'd put up a review of Meet Me at Half Court.

The premise is simple. A tomboy high school girl with a genius for basketball and an eye for a college scholarship finds herself choosing between her old, good looking next-door-neighbor boyfriend from elementary school days with a bit of history, whose interests lie in something other than basketball, and an equally good looking new transfer student basketball player with an attitude and something of an excuse for it, and something in his garage that he probably doesn't want all the kids at school knowing he has. 

Let's see what else I can say without having to give a spoiler alert.

I find myself wishing Julie had been willing to draw the plot out a bit and give the story less of a binary ending. (I have friends who have been in the position of the less-favored boy, you see.)

I suspect it will be more interesting to middle grade girls than other audiences, generally speaking. There are a lot of fun scenes. The sports angle works, although it could have been worked harder if she had been willing to add chapters. There are some gooey romance scenes, but they stay appropriate for an audience not looking for steam.

Rating? Four of five, assuming the middle-grade audience.

I think I can also recommend it to Japanese high school students looking for something relatively safe and relatively simply and modern to build their English reading skills with. And for parents looking for something for their middle grade children to read.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

God turneth neither to the Left nor to the Right

Talking with the missionaries about economics. One of them reminded me about the economic power of differences.

It's something we all know. The scriptures even talk about this, if you know where to look.

It is our commonalities that enable economic exchange. Thus the Left. Socialism. Communism, even.

It is our differences that make us profitable to each other. Thus the right. Capitalism. Corporatism. Maybe even Nationalism.

If we don't have enough in common, we have no way for economic exchange to occur.

If we don't have enough differences, we have nothing to exchange.

If we get stuck either direction, the economy falls over and dies.

Thursday, May 23, 2019


Somebody signed me up for wix.

So I looked them up on wikipedia:

Nothing but question marks. But it looks like it has been around a while.

They seem to have unresolved issues with improper use of GPL code (WordPress, who have their own SNS, BTW, which I also use a little).

Looking around their site, it sort of looked interesting. But there is no reasonable way to tell them to go away, and there is no way to contact a live person without giving them more information. They have an email address for me, why do they want more? If they are really legit, there should be some way to say goodbye without having to give them all sorts of private information.

Big no-no.

I will not be using or recommending wix.

In fact, at this point, I am recommending against using them. Negative recommendation.

If you don't know who they are, well enough. Don't bother. That's why I am not linking them here.

If you do, you should point them to this complaint and ask them to contact me. If anyone is at work over there, they should be able to figure out how. If they contact me, I might remove my negative recommendation here. But they will have to do some serious redesign of their services before I would consider using them myself, and, of course, I won't be recommending anything I don't use.

Mind you, this lights-on-no-one-home approach to business is all too common on the Internet, so they have lots of company. Not what I would call good company, but they aren't alone.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Green Teas vs. Black in Japan

I've been translating quite a bit of material for the tea market, in the mix of translation material that has been my means of trying to make a living lately.

In the process, I'm learning some things that reinforce my impressions about the differences between black and green teas.

I found a blog post ( written from the point of view of one who seems to think Japanese tea farmers should make more black teas, which blogpost contains a rather concise history of teas in Japan -- with a focus I really hadn't really seen before. It may explain why teas in Japan tend to be greener than black.

In the short version, teas in the first millennium ("Common Era") and the beginning of the second tended to be green, even in China. That was when tea was brought from China to Japan. Then Japan closed their borders for two centuries while Great Britain tried to take over the world. And Great Britain was fighting China with opium and other dirty tricks.

(Dirty tricks are dirty, even if the goal of opening China up could be viewed as somewhat noble, in case you need to be reminded about the dual consequences of European expansionism.)

So the Japanese tea market focused on, and developed an aesthetic around, green tea.

And Britain kind of helped move forward the trend in the rest of the world of focusing on the more intoxicating, more habit-forming black teas.

Japanese green tea, by the way, is generally prepared and consumed in processes that do not involve temperatures as high as with black tea, which is no small part of the reason that the beneficial chemicals in green tea tend to survive more and the toxic chemicals tend not to be produced as much.

So, I do not really recommend either black or green tea.

But I have been of the opinion that black teas tend to be worse for your health than green.

And now I have a bit more evidence of this concept.


Identify yourself!

Person with mail address pour_np3_liver@provider:
pour_np3_liver@provider というメールアドレスをお持ちの方、

I do not remember your mail address. I need more clues, or I must assume you are someone I don't need to talk with - a spammer or some such.

Which means I won't respond if you don't identify yourself.