Sunday, November 30, 2008

What I've Learned This Week

Chronology is a really fun boardgame.
This coming Friday is the 75th Anniversary of Repeal Day.
Save Darfur Now doesn't give money to on the ground aid.
Writing a paper about anti-genocide NGOs and treaties over Thanksgiving is really really sad.
The dryer sometimes shakes the floor of my room.
Emma Thompson is dreamy.
How to speed cup stack.
Subvocalization is key to speedreading.
Footnotes are suppose to be tabbed and spaced, but I think spacing makes them look silly.
Taking a week off can help one focus on schoolwork.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What I've Learned This Week

“Instability” would be a great name for a speed based superhero
What the WTO does
That Bangledesh use to be East Pakistan
Strawberries are not berries
Pineapples are not fruit
Dan Deacon should be on Sesame St.
Neil Patrick Harris has been on Sesame St.
How to make california rolls
That I can find a job after college
The magic of 10,000 hours

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Schools and Community

This past week I watched both “Word Wars” and Dave Egger’s TEDTalk presentation. Word Wars is a documentary about competitive Scrabble playing and follows four players during the nine month journey to the 2002 National Scrabble Tournament. Dave Egger’s presentation has to do with local and community people pitching in to help students succeed. What do these have in common? Well, the documentary several times follows one of the players, Marlon Hill, to a local high school where he starts an afterschool Scrabble club where he gets kids together and gives the students tips and attention.

Now not every community will have members that are as obsessive about their particular gifts or interests, but each community will have dozens of people who are very good at a specific, and often quirky and interesting, skill.

So what connects this to Dave Egger’s talk is an idea: administrations always need more time to push school wide plans and teachers can always use more time for professional development and interdisciplinary collaboration. So why not give administrations and teachers extra time by having a community skills day? There could be an opening assembly that would then break down into seminars and demonstrations throughout the building that students would sign up for in advance. Community members who don’t feel like leading a session could be in charge of getting students from one session to the next.

Such a day event could happen each semester or trimester or whatever. Not only would it give faculty and staff some extra time to work on development, such a community day would foster, well, community and show that many talents, not just academic, are recognized and appreciated.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Change We Need

Two days before the Elections I wrote about why I was a supporter of Obama: he was a marketing campaign that could change my nation’s attitude and mind set. Well, turns out change sort of scares me.

Obama’s campaign and message resonated with many Americans. In fact, it resonated with most Americans. Hope and Change are the catchphrases of our nation right now, and this has larger implications then just changes in politicians’ rhetoric. Just as Jill Thompson tried to sell herself in Indiana with Obama’s message so might new cellphones and cereals. Strokefire’s blog discusses Obama’s effect on marketing:
Marketers are moving away from the wry approach - and are even dropping the sexy sales pitches. Heck, even luxury isn't selling.

If I'm right then Samsung is probably going to regret their recent name choice. I'm guessing the Rant isn't going to do well in this market. Instead look for new names to pop up that speak to our hopes and dreams. Phones with names like Breathe, Lift, Give, and Chance are going to be here in a matter of months.
This attitude change is not just going to affect the United State’s marketing. The change in marketing simply illustrates more foundational changes in our sense of humor and our world view.

As mentioned before, I’ve grown up with George W. Bush as president. Incidentally, I also grew up with irony and sarcasm. I grew up with Jon Stewart who now jokes that soon The Daily Show will be out of business. Turns out hope and belief tend to replace wryness and sarcasm: the two attitudes I am most familiar and comfortable with.

Now this does not mean that I don’t want change. I’d vote for Obama again if given the chance and I still do hope that he changes my nation’s attitude. I just didn’t think through how he might change my attitude, nor did I think about how scary change can be.

I like my sarcastic safety blanket.

What I've Learned This Week

How to tie a balloon animal
Dave Eggers can be very inspiring
When emailing a professional starting with “Dear Mr./Mrs.” helps
Kung Fu Panda is surprisingly good
The Wire is consistently good
Nick Hornby just published a third collection from his Believer column

Sunday, November 9, 2008


This past week I participated in a mock interview for a teaching job. The first question that I was asked was why and when did I decide to become a teacher. Well, I became a teacher in order to do two things: interact with young adults and to contribute to my country. For me, teaching social studies to a way for me to fulfill my civic duty by helping create the next generation of effective citizens. In a democracy, especially one of so many cultures such as the United States, a multicultural education is key to helping form and encourage effective citizenship.

Multicultural education really has two main components: empowering students and teaching the skill of critical reflection. Empowering can be accomplished by any number of things. Students could be given vast artistic agency to perform a drama or some slam poetry. They could also be empowered through the simpler and less consuming poster project. The key is voice giving. This requires creative control and an audience.

Students can, thankfully, also be empowered by arguing, an activity that encourages critical reflection. Critical reflection can also be encouraged simply by critical lessons or by metareflection lessons when students can practice diagraming and somewhat deconstructing the aims and flaws of advertisements or political speeches.

The key really is to make multiculturalism a priority during instruction. Sure specific lessons and exercises will help greatly, but if a teacher is reflective, critical, and empowering students will pick up on that. And they will become better citizens for it.

What I've Learned This Week

Roger William has an amazingly sad, but also uplifting, sermon against coercive conversion
Indiana can surprise me, even if my county did not
Japanese tubs are cozy and spatially effective
Pudding and cubed Pound Cake is a great dessert
Kibitzing – Unwanted advice, such as during a card game
Petrichor – The smell of the ground after rain

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


This semester I am taking a full load of upper level, major related courses. Needless to say I do not have a lot of free time, but when reflecting upon what I use my free time for, I realized that I end up thinking about nonhomework topics. For example, I am part of a fundraising committee for my old High School. The point is that I recharge myself not by doing nothing, but my intensely thinking and reflecting on other topics. One way I do this is by listening to podcasts.

Before I get into the specific types of podcasts I listen to, I'm going to talk about them as a medium. Firstly, they are amazingly convenient. Once I find a podcast, I subscribe either through iTunes or an RSS feed. From then I will automatically receive any new podcasts that I can listen to at my computer or through my iPod when I'm cooking or riding my bike to class. Basically I can take in new information whenever I'm usually not doing anything. I've read before about the power of audiobooks, well podcasts are just about everything good about audiobooks, but shorter and therefore even more convenient.

As for specific podcasts, I mostly focus on podcasts that will teach me something. I enjoy the stories from This American Life, as well as Radiolab, the TED presentations and other science based podcasts because they are the best way for me to learn something new about a field of study that I have little academic interaction with. I also use podcasts to keep myself updated about the news, or corporations/organizations that I want to keep updated about (Wikipedia Weekly, for example). Finally, and most importantly, I use podcasts to audit university courses. Many university's post recording of their class records. For example, right now I am auditing UCSD's East Asian Political Thought, Introduction to Western Music, and New Ideas/Clash of Cultures as well as Stanford's Geography of World Cultures. These are all courses that simply are not offered at a small liberal art's college such as the one I am currently attending. Because these lectures are available to the public for free, they are an inspiring show of the opening of academia. They have also become a great resource both for my education and my sanity as they provide me both knowledge and a respite from homework.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Democratic Journalism

The current Wikinews logoImage via WikipediaThis week I've been looking into techniques that social studies teachers can use to empower students and give them a voice. As I've been thinking upon this and reading about this I realized that there is another way one can empower a student: not by giving them an individual voice but by having them become part of something bigger than themselves. Now that isn't to say that we shouldn't give students a voice, but I do think we can supplement the individual soap box with a democratization of voice, or citizen writing.

In many ways, Wikinews can describe this better than me. Here is what they have to say about how they work and what democratic journalism is:

Citizen journalism is a growing phenomenon of grassroots participation in the media. Wikinews, a sister project to the highly successful Wikipedia, gives you the chance to be both writer and editor of the news you think should have a wider audience.

Wikinews has a strict neutral point of view policy, rigorously enforced by its users. It strives to meet traditional reporting standards and all reports must be fully sourced. This makes it an ideal training ground: here you won't be rewriting press releases or covering the local flower show but can wade straight into breaking scandal on a world level with an audience of thousands.

One thing you won't get on Wikinews is a byline. Your work could be ruthlessly re-edited and your reward will be satisfaction in a good story rather than cash. But your work will be freely available to anyone in the world with a computer, you won't be exploited by a commercial organisation selling news like peas and you will be working towards telling the truth as you see it with a team of thousands.

So if you don't get a byline, what do you get? Well, these skills won't do your career prospects any harm:

* news writing
* high standards to fulfil of source recording and note taking for original reporting
* proof reading and copy editing
* factchecking
* direct involvement in media production processes
* writing and enforcing high standards of neutrality in reporting
* teamwork with a wide range of contributors worldwide in a consensual environment
* strategy and policy development for an international media outlet
* basic programming syntax of a widely used online system

Starting at Wikinews is easy. Just create an account and a community member will give you some tips - or if you can't wait that long: hit edit and get going.


the Wikinews community

I'm a historian so much of my work is individualistic and argumentative in nature. However I am more and more drawn to ideas such as this, ideas that if we all pitch in a little bit then we can all reap great benefits. I have not yet contributed to WikiNews, but I would encourage others and certainly will encourage my students to contribute to any of the WikiMedia projects, because I believe that such projects are great examples of democracy and in a way civic duty, and also are immensely satisfying.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Why Obama/Which Change Do We Need?

Election Day is coming up pretty fast and as a guy who gets teary over Starbuck's new Pro-Democracy ads, I've been looking forward to this day for sometime. Not just because I have not been pleased with Bush's terms, but also because it is my first time voting during a Presidential election. My excitement has led me to follow election news compulsively. Right now about a third of the websites on my Google Reader are election coverage. One thing that I've been hearing more and more about is Democrats for John McCain, a increasingly large group of Democratics unhappy about their party's nomination who have decided to actively campaign for McCain, particularly in Pennsylvania. Being originally a Clinton supporter, I would like to talk about why I am now a strong supporter of Obama.

When talking about Democrats for John McCain with my friends, many of them where surprised and angry. Name calling ensued. In a way such reactions make sense, why would a person go from supporting a Democrat like Hillary Clinton to supporting a Republican like John McCain? Well, they both are experienced, they both have demonstrated adherence to their personal values, and they both would use their experience and drive to change our nation's policies. Say what you will about how many times McCain has voted with Bush, McCain is still very much for change.

So even though Clinton and McCain differ on many topics, there is still an overall connection: they both would undo some of the bad done by Bush. This very reason was why I support Clinton early on in this election. She could actually change the government. She could change policy. However over time I became less sure that policy change was what our nation needs most.

I have not enjoyed Bush's terms, and Clinton (and now McCain) was a solution to that. But the bigger issue, for me, is that we as a nation elected Bush twice. Even after the first four years we collectively decided to keep him in office. This worries me more than his policy. Therefore I shifted by support to Obama. One of the ongoing criticisms of Obama is that he is a marketing fad. That he won't be able to actually change our government due to lack of knowledge and experience. In a way this is a nonissue for me, or even a good selling point because I feel that the bigger problem is our nation's identity and attitude, and Obama can change that. I believe that in office, he will be a far more effective figurehead than a policy former, but I also believe that a revolutionary figurehead is what we need. I'm not voting for Obama because of his agenda or policy. I'm voting for Obama because of him.

What I've Learned This Week

There are design firms that specialize in museums
Wikimedia has an open source quasi-P.R. firm
Saints pretty much universally have weird lives
Roger Williams was the unJefferson
Some dictionaries' corpora are public and online
The plural of corpus can be corpuses or corpora
Magnets do not have to be hard
Daytime trick'r'treating is a lot more fundraising
Starbuck's new ad makes me tearly