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.


Friday, December 6, 2019

Pie vs. Sex

If we want to analyze discrimination relative to sexual orientation, it is tempting to compare it to discrimination relative to kinds of pie.

But the choice of kinds of pie is itself problematic. For some, the question of same-gender sexuality is a question of blueberry pie vs. banana pi. For others, it is a question of blueberry pie vs. horsefeather pie, and the question of whether horsefeather pie is homosexual sexual intercourse or heterosexual sexual intercourse is quite dependent on the person expressing the preference.

The reasons such a state of affairs should exist are worth examining, but, from the public discourse on record, it is clear that such a state of affairs exists. Therefore, we should refrain from such analogies, as not having a great potential to lead to mutual understanding.

(Can we file this one under semi-intentional irony?)

(Horsefeather pie. Horsefeathers pie. Which grammar rules take priority?)

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

A Confession

On the train home after a long day of directing traffic around a worksite, and the lady across from me is giving me a wary eye, and the people sitting next to me moved.

I don't know that I blame them. I just exploded in a fit of random finger-beating on this Android on-screen keyboard that insists on misreading my typing, and then I whacked myself side-of-the-head to calm myself down.

Maybe it's time to admit it to the world. I'm on the spectrum.

I generally don't vent my frustrations this way, at least not since I've been an adult and have started learning how to give an appropriate voice to my doubts and frustrations. But when I'm really worn out and struggling with mis-designed software, something like Tourettes happens in my brain. It feels like mental violence, and mental violence breeds physical violence, and I have limits. I've buried the rule against hurting others really deep in my psyche, so the physical violence gets turned inward before I notice it. Since I don't want to hurt people, the violence gets directed towards towards myself and towards objects I own.

Once I notice it, I can take a mental time-out, but when I'm really tired, I don't notice until it gets expressed externally.

I know everybody has a little of this, but mine gets expressed in noticeable ways sometimes. Like this time on the train. I don't know if it would be all that noticed in the States, but it kind of sticks out in Japan.

And I realize now, that the reason I had to quit the kaigo (essentially, nurse's aid) job in the elder care facility is related to this.

When I'm faced with expectations and requirements that I can't justify, it takes me time to process things enough to move ahead without bumping into things and people.

Some people can just cut corners and "get it done" without hurting people. I can't. I have to think about which corners can be safely cut and where I can safely move and such, or I move suddenly where people aren't expecting me to move. And I leave things undone that people don't expect. And people and things get hurt.

And I have to figure this all out across three languages -- Japanese, English, and the internal language of the mind. Most people have overlaid the internal language of the mind with their "mother tongue". I haven't. And now I have essentially two mother tongues to switch between. There are advantages, but it slows me down when I have to communicate complicated things.

When I slow down, people call me lazy. That stresses me out in different ways. When people harp on my supposed laziness, my desire to get the job done right is strong enough to cause me serious stress.

When the stress gets bad enough, it can cause me to lose track of what I'm doing within twenty seconds. On the kaigo job, I ended up doing things that, had circumstances been different, could have seriously hurt several of the residents.

I like all the residents. I don't want to cause any of them to be hurt.

I know. Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody has stress. Patience and a willingness to learn what others are doing overcome such things.

But it wasn't working. Over the three and a half months I was working on that job, it was just getting worse, week-to-week. My speed was up, but the accidents were getting worse.

I was discussing it with the boss, and he didn't think it was that big a deal on the one hand, but he wanted me to commit to getting my work up to speed on a time frame that was not going to happen. My giving "service overtime" to complete my assignments, and the potential it caused for communication delays, was causing problems with my co-workers. He wouldn't take try for an answer. Wouldn't believe that I already know about pushing beyond my limits.

(For the sake of all that is rational, I'm sixty years old. I've seen this before. I've seen things you wouldn't believe. I've seen the magic. It isn't instantaneous. The fact that you want it to happen is not somehow magically stronger magic than the magic I've used just to get me to this point. Give me some credit for knowing myself.)

So, things were getting worse instead of better, when it was clear that I could no longer trust myself to remember what I was doing long enough to safely get it done, and when patience just saw things get worse, I added that into how long it would take me to get to the point where I could pay rent and food for my family, I knew I had to quit. Before somebody got hurt and I got sent to jail.

By the way, until I find something better, I'm now working as a 警備員 (keibi-in), something of a cross between a security guard and a crossing guard. Mostly, I direct traffic near construction and work sites.

You know, stand there waving flags or a traffic baton, keeping accidents from happening, etc.

Slow down.





Very simple communication.

I'd driven several hundred thousand miles over my life, about a third of that in Japan, before we had to give up the car. This is stuff I understand and know how to communicate.

(This gaijin face gets a few double-takes on-location. Can be fun, can be a problem sometimes.)

By the way, the name of the company I work for is スカイネット。

No, not that Skynet. Not at all.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Ubuntu on Let's Note (Defenestration and Deforestation, part 2)

In part one of this rant, I focused on AC adapter problems and how vendors, being stingy and hyper-competitive, use such problems to get us to buy new when we shouldn't, and how that pushes us to send a lot of potentially useful hardware to landfills and underdeveloped cities and countries where they poison workers and the environment instead of being properly recycled.

(Yeah, yeah, that sentence is too long, and my posts tend to lack that marketable "focus".)

Well, being the fan of libre software that I am, I decided to see how much use I could make of the notebook PC in question, a Let's Note CF-NX2 notebook PC anyway.

I started by installing the Android cellphone developer's kit, Android Studio, from Google. It ran,

but it took ten minutes to start an emulation session with naive settings. RAM might help, and emulating AMD64/i86-64 instead of ARM64 would probably help significantly.

But I'm not going to buy the extra RAM for this notebook until I'm sure I want to keep it, so I don't know how much the extra RAM would help.

(Really, if I want to develop for Android cellphones, I should be running the developer's kit on an ARM64-based PC, not on an old AMD64/i86-64 notebook PC. Yeah, that means doing my homework, because those are hard to find at high-enough specs. Let's not get lost in theories about why they are hard to find.)

So, test 1 -- Results, mixed.

Test 2 -- I installed Ubuntu on an external USB3 240G SSD (JPY 5000 or so).

It runs quite nicely, but it interacts rather inconveniently with the adapter problems.

Yeah, that's the brightness control on the screen, showing an undocumented state. And it often boots up, both in Ubuntu and in MSWindows, with the brightness on the internal screen forced to the bottom limit, with no response to the brightness controls, when the AC adapter is plugged in. You can't do much useful in a screen that dark.

Watching the boot process while playing with the BIOS to try to find a fix to the dark-screen-on-boot problem revealed some interesting facts about the AC adapter:

The intermittent connection in the adapter makes it think the adapter is not the original adapter for this PC.

Yeah, I checked. It is the original.

So the BIOS has some code in it to try to either cause problems for the consumer using a 3rd-party adapter, or try to remit possible issues with such adapters, depending on your point of view. Both points of view have a certain validity.

And that code is quite possibly what is causing the screen to go dark on boot. Or it may be unrelated. But it does seem to be a good place to start if I were to try to prove what I am going to say next:

You would think that plugging in the adapter and getting the charge indicator would have the opposite effect, but computer hardware has odd ways of interacting with problems. So --

If you have a notebook PC that boots up with a dark screen no matter what you do, it's possible that getting a new AC adapter will fix the problem, even if it looks like the adapter is powering/charging the PC.

[JMR201911152111: Update, the replacement adapter works well with Ubuntu and MSWindows -- does not cause screen brightness problems.]

Anyway, aside from the adapter and dark screen issues, Ubuntu runs well on this PC.

The steps are outlined on the Ubuntu forums, the link below shows how from MSWindows, and contains links for doing it from MacOS X or a Linux OS, as well:

So, do I plan on gambling on keeping this machine out of the landfills of some 3rd-world community, or do I send it back and spend about twice the amount on a new ARM-based Chrome OS notebook?

Not sure yet. Still have a couple of days to work out the equations. Very limited budget, both time and money.

I hate being on a budget so limited that I can't do my own small part for the environment.

[JMR201911132000: Fixing the screen controls is in the next part,  Connecting Screen Controls for Video And Audio on Panasonic Let's Note (Defenestration And Deforestation, Part 3), which is moved where this thread probably belongs, to my Defining Computers blog.]

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Defenestration And Deforestation

I find myself at something of a confluence of ideas, with a particular mode of thought running through many of my posts to the social web. (If you look at my Basshook timeline, I think you'll notice the common thread.)

There is a company here in Japan that specializes in receiving outdated computers from government institutions and large volume corporate users, wiping their drives, refurbishing them, and turning them over to the consumer market. They advertise themselves as (among other things) JEMTC, Japan Electronic Machine Repair Technology Corporation in English, 一般社団法人 日本電子機器補修協会 (Ippan Shadan Hōjin Nihon Denshi Kiki Hoshū Kyōkai) in Japanese. And one of their claims to fame ("appeal points") is to be helping keep the earth green.

I'll go along with that to a certain extent, particularly in comparison to what happens to most of the hardware we discard. (Yeah, I know that's an old link, and I know a lot of people talk about how things have improved, demonstrating their points with examples of ways things haven't improved. Taking things apart and re-using what you can still leaves a lot of unusable stuff around, often making stuff even less reusable, but that's another rant for another day.)

This company (JEMTC, et. al.) holds one-vendor fairs in public halls around the country, where people interested in obtaining the still useful hardware can look at it, test it out, get a little more educated in how to use it, and maybe buy a machine a little cheaper than what you could get from an electronics/small appliance store.

Well, not really cheaper. The prices aren't all that competitive. The advantage they offer is a level of guarantee that the hardware functions, plus a bit of support for users who need a little hand-holding. (They run a seminar in basics of maintaining a running computer in conjunction with their fairs, a seminar I don't particularly need, but many people do.)

So, I picked up a Panasonic Let's Note CF-NX2 from them for about two times what I could have paid for a same-model unit on Rakuten Ichiba (the Japanese approximate equivalent of ebay). But they've completely cleaned out whatever had been installed and updated the OS to MSWindows 10. They've added their own set of "essential applications" (including the Kingsoft office suite, -- cough). This is definitely stuff which saves me time (other than Kingsoft Office and some other freebies I don't really need because I get the real thing -- Libre software).

This notebook PC is fairly high performance: 2.6 GHz i5, four cores, 4G RAM, 120G boot SSD, which was pretty good specs when it was new some six years ago. Still not bad specs if I were buying new, really, and the CPU has a lot less vulnerable cruft from Intel's excessive optimization efforts in trying to keep an aged and mostly dead CPU architecture relevant. Older tends to be less vulnerable when it comes to Intel CPUs.

I got to try it out before taking it home, and I have some confidence that they'll support me with it.

For some definition of "some confidence" and "support". If I add RAM myself, it voids the warranty. If I even restore the OS myself, it voids the warranty. Definitely, installing Ubuntu and the Android developers tools voids the warranty.

(I bought it planning to void the warranty, after a short check-out period.)

So, I get it home, try it out a bit in MSWindows, congratulate myself that, for a used unit, the battery is holding well, and plug it in to charge it.

No charging pilot, no indication on the little widget in the task bar.

After playing with the AC adapter wires a bit, I see that there is an intermittent open, and I can sometimes get the wire just right so it charges.

So, I call them and ask.

They want me to send both the notebook and the adapter, and they will replace it with an equivalent unit. Won't be the same model.

Whoa. Brakes on. Defenestrated. Every reason I spent extra money on this machine just went out the window.

[JMR201911152050: Semi-correction. When I called two days ago to get approval to send it back, I got a different operator. Before I hung up, I mentioned that I would be happy to get a replacement AC adapter, if they hadn't already told me they wouldn't do that. This operator said he'd check, and called me back to tell me they could do that after all. Had some adapters in stock. And they'd give me a few extra days to give the new adapter a good workout. It came this morning, and, so far, so good. 

This is more like the kind of support I was hoping for. I may be keeping this box after all.]

I suppose I could sink another JPY 10,000 into a new AC adapter from Panasonic. Or I might be able to get a compatible adapter for maybe half that. Shoot, I could fix the wire myself -- splice the break out and void the warranty.

Or I could give it back now and get my money back and get a Macbook or something else, instead.

And what would they do with it?

Are they going to buy an adapter and put it back out in their next fair with a brand new adapter? If so, why wouldn't they be willing to just replace my bad adapter? (And send the bad one to some unnamed underdeveloped city where some poor soul working for something like a dollar a day exposes herself to poisonous chemicals to strip out the metals and leaves the plastics out to poison her family's environment, see link above.)

Or are they going to dump the whole computer, just because the adapter is bad and it will cost them too much in paperwork, skilled labor, and parts, to make a profit on the final sale? (And then there is even more poison sent to said underdeveloped city in southeast Asia.)

Where is Radio Shack now that we need them? Oh, I know, rose-colored glasses.

But it is precisely the lack of a store where I could go for parts and friendly discussion (of more value for encouragement and entertainment than for technical expertise) that forces us to send our cast-off poisons to said underdeveloped city in southeast Asia.

Parts, well, yeah. I can, with some effort, find parts on-line, and there are even concrete-and-iron-frame stores in Osaka, about a 500 to 1000 yen ride into Osaka from here. But nothing like running down to the neighborhood Radio Shack for parts and a little chat was.

There is value in chatting with the people we do business with.

Before we need carbon sequestoring, we need Intel to quit dumping their intellectual wasteproduct on the market, to quit forcing us into the never-ending upgrade-that-isn't cycle that spews poisons out into the undeserving 3rd world.

We need Intel and several dozen other large companies like them to quit their wars to take over their markets. World domination is so last millennium, so passé.

(And we need to take, not send, jobs that aren't harmful to the 3rd world communities instead of the poison we are sending them, but that's a rant for another day.)

And we need more businesses where we can go to get encouragement when we want to recycle our stuff ourselves.

[Update (JMR201911121208): I've spent some time over the weekend with this machine, trying to get an idea whether I should gamble on it by fixing the AC adapter myself. So I'll bore you in part 2 with a few problems I found.]

[JMR201911132000: Part three,  Connecting Screen Controls And Audio on Panasonic Let's Note (Defenestration And Deforestation, Part 3), moved where this thread probably belongs, to my Defining Computers blog.]

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Taking the Internet with You when You Move in Japan 日本内の引っ越しの際、インターネット接続を継続して持っていくコツ

So, we are in the process of moving.

We have to move because the apartments where we have been living are going to be taken down.

We aren't moving far, and that makes a difference in planning and in carrying things over. The bulk of our stuff was moved several days ago, but we had been moving a little at a time before then.

And since the main move, we've been going back and forth.

I arranged for the utilities at the new apartment to be started early and overlap the move, so we would have light, water, gas, and landline phone when we needed it.

Well, I didn't think the phone through. We needed an additional telephone, as well as the connection, to actually use it. However, it turns out there is another reason for the overlap.

I had wanted the wired internet to overlap as well. So I called a month in advance and was told it was too early. I had to have the telephone before I could get the internet moved over.

Then we got busy, and I finally called the phone company two weeks before the main move.
忙しくなって、引っ越し日の 2週間前になってやっと電話会社に取り寄せることになった。

No. That was not what I wanted to do. I wanted to call the phone company three weeks early, schedule the phone line in the new apartment to start two weeks early, and then call the Internet services provider when the phone line in the new apartment was ready.
イヤイヤ、それはするんじゃなかった。 3週間前に電話会社に連絡し引っ越し先のアパートの電話回線を 2週間早く開始するように取り寄せてから、回線が成立される次第にインターネットサービスプロバイダーに連絡するはずだった。

So, we're here, and my random decision to waste a week's money on a line with no phone means we save a week's wait with the ISP.

If your ISP is NTT, you apparently don't have the wait as long.

(Does that tell you something? Am I theorizing conspiracies? Or is it all just an innocent case of layers of bureacracy? Bwahahahahaha!)

So, here's how to bribe NTT what to do to avoid the wait after you move:
  1. Start your contract and rent for the new place at least two weeks in advance of the main move date.
    引っ越し先の契約及び家賃は、少なくとも引っ越しの日よりも 2週間早い内に開始するようにその契約を結んで家賃を払い始める。
  2. Call NTT 3 weeks in advance of the move date and schedule the new phone line where you're moving to be connected and the billing to start two weeks in advance.
    引っ越しの日より 3週間先にNTTに連絡し、引っ越し先の新規電話回線接続が引っ越しの 2週間前にできるように予定を作る。
  3. Meet the NTT technician at the new place to let him in to test the connection on the sceduled day.
  4. If you want to be able to use the phone line you're paying two weeks extra fees for, you'll need another phone, maybe a new phone or an old one you have lying around.
    新規回線の利用金を余分に払っているその 2週間の間、回線を利用したいなら、別の受話器が必要になる。それは新品の受話器でも、その辺に転がっている古い受話器でも、どちでも良い。
  5. Call your ISP on the day the phone line is connected, to schedule the Internet connection at the new place to begin on the date of the main move.
  6. Wait and hope there are no complications, and pay extra rent and extra phone fees.
Simple, hey?

This works best if you aren't moving very far, and are planning to move in stages anyway.

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.