Journal April

23

Pebble: Icon Design Library (Heydays)

Bitsy: Video Tutorial Series

22

This week, I’m subbing in a few 8th grade art classes (Photoshop), as the only teacher. The first was today, and it went as well as I expected it to go — not well. It was really difficult to get students to stop talking for the 10 minutes of my intro.

  • I don’t know these kids, really at all. (And there’s no reason I would or could — I’ve just had very little interaction with them.) But I’ve written off the chance that a class of CWA middle schoolers could be manageable, and I expect to feel like shit when I leave the room. Maybe this isn’t a healthy teaching perspective, but it’s true.

ForkLift 3, FTP/file manager app

Hostinger, web host

PICO-8: Tic-tac-toe, a juicy version!

21

The Guardian: Why The Online Influencer Industry is Going ‘Authentic’

  • The Atlantic: Influencers Are Faking Brand Deals

  • I think a lot about how the idea of ‘selling-out’ has changed (and just within my lifetime).

  • I also wonder if there’s a point in the future when Internet consumerism collapses, because the components (content, clicks, marketing, products) are mostly bullshit: 1. Internet content exists to capture clicks, 2. clicks only matter as an avenue for marketing, 3. marketing exists mostly to sell products, 4. products only exist because people will buy them.

GB Studio, Game Boy game-making tool

20

Two very predictable life things that are super frustrating… but that I continue to participate in anyway: 1. I know that buying shit often generates as many new problems as it solves, and 2. I know that it’s foolish to trust that technology will work as advertised without lots of troubleshooting and super glue.

  • Examples: 1. the ilovehandles Cantilever Flatware I bought rusted on the first wash, and 2. the GameCube-to-USB controller adapter I bought/trusted-in randomly switches between 1st/2nd player input (which makes it unusable).

  • The only solution to either of these is to not participate: to not buy stuff and not trust technology. Is this possible?

Learn X in Y Minutes, programming language overviews

Nerdy Teachers PICO-8 Tutorials

Kirby: $field->toStructure(), building pages from simple databases (text files)

  • Building a Kirby version of Mr. Sparano’s Technology PlaygroundMrSparano.com/playground. This page is generated from a template I’ve designed + a text file (the database) + a folder of images. Pretty sweet!

19

Cozy Spaces: The Making of PICO-8

  • “Music is sound, that’s played slowly down.”

  • “I wanted to make something that lets me work how I like to work rather than fighting against other tools.”

  • “[A cartridge is] a basic unit of expression that’s shareable”

  • “[The small cartridge size] forces you to think more about design than manufacturing a lot of content. And to focus on what’s important to you and to throw away things that are not important.”

  • One of the things that makes PICO-8 such a special idea for me is that the image of the game cartridge (a PNG file) is cartridge data, and that sharing the game is as easy as sending an image file — that’s so cool.

  • careful friction: “I need to put friction in the right places, so that people work on interesting problems and don’t have to think about things which are not interesting.”

  • This is a useful concept for teaching. Designing lessons where the friction is only in valuable places (and not in tedious places like: picking groups, logging into websites, sharing files, etc.) is hard. #teaching

  • “Once you have two projects, and you can see them next to each other — that gives you a frame of reference, and then you can [isolate what each of them is, relative to each other].”

  • freedom from boundaries: “It’s like being out in space. You’re looking at the stars in the distance and they’re interesting, complex things, but they just all appear as points of light. Whereas, if you find some boundaries it’s more like being down on the surface of a planet with a lush jungle and interesting life — but it’s just one planet.

18

Finally bought a bed frame: the Floyd Platform Bed.

One frustrating thing about teaching technology is that — while usually, when students are confused, it’s because they don’t yet fully understand how the thing works — sometimes, they’re confused because the thing isn’t working like it’s supposed to. And, the only way to tell the difference is understanding how the thing is supposed to work in the first place. #teaching #technology

  • Thinking this now, helping the 8th graders with Photoshop, which is notorious for doing weird, unexplainable shit.

PICO-8: Clock #tweetcart

17

“Sorry, y’all, I ain’t got no haters.” — Ice Cube

My next door neighbor and I confirmed that our living room walls are indeed soundproof (we both thought the other person was rarely home). One of my worst nightmares, averted — and I continue to love this apartment!

Something I’ve noticed: the older, middle school siblings of the students I teach tend to be pretty cool towards me, despite not knowing each other, really at all. The most likely explanation for is that the younger kids are saying (at home) some version of, “Mr. Sparano is cool.” And I’m really proud of that. #teaching

Happy Anniversary Not Great™

16

PICO-8: Sunrise on The Grid #tweeetcart

15

Lessons from the Screenplay: The Social Network — Sorkin, Structure, and Collaboration

  • Will there ever be a movie I love as much as this one?

Thomas Flight, culture video essayist

  • How Memes Capture Our Attention

  • The modes of a meme’s lifespan: 1. The first time you see [a meme], you find it funny because of the way someone modified it to make a joke, but also because the photo itself is funny. 2. A meme’s ability to be remixed is crucial. This is the mode where the meme gains the most traction. A good meme has a formula that makes the application of the core archetype to many different scenarios easy. In this mode, most of the humor is generated from seeing all the ways in which people can use the meme. 3. Humor and freshness are generated by the subversion of the established formula of the meme. Now that most of the possible applications are exhausted, people begin to modify the original nature of the meme and use it to express ideas that are similar or even the inverse of the original archetype.”

  • OK Soda and Postmodernism Advertising

  • “Coke did some market research and discovered… that Coca-Cola was the second most well known term in the world. The first was the term ‘OK’.”

  • OK Soda branding was one of the earliest examples in my life of graphic design that I resonated with (although at the time, I’m not sure I recognized that that’s why it appealed to me).

14

Mechanical Mario Platform Game

Storing Binary Numbers in Super Mario Maker

PICO-8 Mono, pixel typeface

Lost in Translation Good™

13

When all media happened at specific times (TV, movies, radio), if you missed something, you missed it. That block of time was reserved for that thing, for everyone. On-demand media (streaming movies/TV, podcasts, etc.) solves the access problem, but there are some weird trade-offs. Now, there’s a lot more pressure now to fill all free time with media, there’s no time that can’t/couldn’t be media time, and there’s no media that could be missed. #digitalanxiety

Gutenberg Printing Press

12

With the 4th graders, started a new unit about the design of video games — specifically exploring: “How are games designed to be compelling or addicting?” I showed them clips from How Free Games are Designed to Make Money, How Not to Make Mobile Games, and It’s Not You, Phones are Designed to be Addicting. Next, they’ll choose two games to deconstruct the design of and use those techniques to design prototypes (in Scratch) of: 1. compelling/addicting game they can, and 2. a game that’s compelling in a healthier way. @t

  • Major win. It’s about games (which, no surprise they’re into that). But kids also really enjoy talking about design. It’s a way of pulling back the curtain and revealing how the world works — which seems to be empowering for them. #design

10

Firefox: Now blocks autoplaying videos

  • This is so ridiculously overdue. There seems to always be a new level of noise to combat, and it becomes our responsibility to re-gain the peace we had before. #digitalanxiety

PICO-8: Hexagon Game #tweetcart

Teach Like A Champion blog

  • There’s really no substitute for learning how to teach than to watch other teachers teach.

  • Tracking student understanding with real-time feedback

  • “Not only is she more aware of how they did but she uses the data to make the players more aware of the root causes of their struggle or success.”

  • How joy and order go together

  • ‘Show Calling’ technique, showing student examples on screen (instead of students sharing verbally) to incentivize higher-quality work.

  • “all of this is fast, fast, fast.”

  • From these examples, I’m taking away how valuable fast-paced lessons are. I tend to be a pretty enthusiastic when I’m teaching, but I could increase the pace of my lessons for sure. #teaching

Bitsy: A Month to Look at the Moon, long distance love story

Prime(d): We wanted fast delivery. Amazon delivered.

Title Capitalization Tool

09

Bought ilovehandles: Keep Track Coatrack/Shelf, Cantilever Cooking Utensils, Cantilever Chopsticks, and Cantilever Flatware.

The Million Dollar Homepage + info, pixels for sale

08

Two weeks ago, a 3rd grader (Ayla) walked up to me during recess to ask about a dilemma: the class field trip is happening on the same day that one of her favorite YouTubers JoJo Siwa is coming to town. She asked me what to do. (How she knew that I love thinking about life problems like this — I have no idea.) I asked if this person maybe has another show in a nearby city on a different day. She was stoked about the idea, hugged me, and ran off. During class today, she said the plan, in fact, worked, and she wanted me to know. How great is that?

Adaptation Good™

  • “I was starting to believe that the reason it matters to care passionately about something is that it whittles the world down to a more manageable size. It makes the world seem not huge and empty but full of possibility.” — Susan Orlean

  • “Your characters must change, and the change must come from them.” #teaching

Lessons from the Screenplay: Adaptation, Unconventionally Conveying the Conventional

  • “Zach: Why don’t you just make [the thing]? Michael: I don't have a clear picture in my head of the finished product or how it will be good. Zach: Well maybe just start see what happens.”

  • I used to be more like Michael. And now I’m absolutely more like Zach. Prototyping, iteration, feedback — I’m all about it. #design

  • “You can… convey exposition through dialog!”

  • This is what good teaching is. Straight-up exposition in a movie tends to be boring — just like standing and talking in front of class is boring. It’s better to integrate exposition naturally, in two directions. #teaching

“Only Outlaws are outlawed.” — Waylon Jennings

PICO-8: Newton’s Cradle #tweetcart

Bought 3 more Pebbles. Which means I have 6 extras (and 8 total). Is this craziness?

07

Keywords: The New Language of Capitalism

  • “In a world and an economy rent and ravaged by other people’s innovations, the lesson seems to be that you can, and must, creatively fend for yourself.… we… call it innovation and entrepreneurship.”

  • “These keywords share an affinity for hierarchy and competition, an often-uncritical acceptance of the benevolence of computing technologies, and a celebration of moral values thought to be indistinguishable from economic ones: decisive leadership, artistic passion, and self-realization. Wealth and professional success are consequences not of fortunate birth, dumb luck, or exploitation, but hard work, hustle, and grit.”

  • “digitization is an intensification of the commodification of all forms of culture” #digitalperson

  • “pre-2000 uses of the word content [defined it as] the material in a book or on a television network, not the book or television program itself.”

  • “Since there is broad affinity between one’s economic and imaginative activity in the [Richard Florida] regime of creativity, you ‘live, work, and play’… as an economic subject at all hours.”

  • This book is written in the kind of dense, academic style that I don’t have the patience to wade through (and so, I gave up).

  • But generally, it solidifies a vague impression I’ve had — that words like brand, coach, content, design, entrepreneur, innovation, maker, etc. have become slimy somehow — because they mask hidden economic angles, where the goal is to: 1. sell something to someone or 2. leverage one person’s work for another’s gain.

  • Everything’s fucking marketing. Everything.

  • FUAY marketing

I’m getting dangerously close to buying a Samsung Frame TV.

  • I don’t want a TV as much as I would like images on my wall. Specifically, animated GIFs (like waneella and Kenze Wee). But I’m really (deeply) hesitant to add another major gadget to my life.

Beautiful Dingbats: What’s the best date format?

  • “Sunday, 7 April 2019”

06

Ben Bruce (cephalopodunk), Bitsy game designer

PICO-8 API Cheat Sheet

Boss Fight Books, books about classic video games

Pop Culture Detective: Sexual Assault of Men Played for Laughs

  • “The idea behind the joke here is… that men who aren’t tough or manly enough to avoid being victimized are pathetic and therefore deserving of ridicule or worse.”

  • “emasculation jokes are supposed to be funny because, in a patriarchal culture like ours, we’re meant to think that there is no greater humiliation for a man than to be treated like a woman.”

05

Thinking more about how responding to a text/email often just creates another text/email. The visual metaphor I keep thinking of is Connect Four or Tetris Attack: things just keep piling up and filling in the empty spaces. #email

Controllers, gamepad-to-keyboard mapping

Choi Dambaek, LEGO builder (chunky characters)

CineFix: Top 10 Production Designs of All Time

CSS Hyphenation

Indepth Sound Design, movie sound design breakdowns

Course Computer Science: Binary

  • Khan Academy: Alternate Number Bases (Binary/Hex)

  • “The number system that most of us are familiar with is the base-ten number system, often called the decimal number system [‘dec-’ = ‘ten’]. And why 10? Well probably because… most of us have 10 fingers.”

  • I don’t think I truly understood until now what ‘carrying the 1’ actually means (it’s not 1, but a bundle of 1 × that column’s place value).

  • And just like that, I finally understand binary and hexadecimal. Sweet!

04

How to be an active listener

  • “Contrary to what you might think, demonstrating you care does not mean trying to solve the other person’s problems…. Do not provide unsolicited advice on what you would do.”

The Spriters Resource, video game sprite sheet database

mailbox.org, private, ad-free email

  • Still considering nixing Gmail. Still thinking it seems like a lot of work!

  • Truth is: I don’t want an email account at all. Which isn’t feasible. But it’d be nice to move all personal communication to texting (or something like that) and reserve email for impersonal/necessary stuff. #email

  • I have a bunch of un-responded-to email in my inbox again, and I feel like shit about it.

WebShot Pro, retina-resolution web screenshots

02

DSi Guide, custom DSi firmware (for playing ROMs)

  • This is so cool — playing games from every Nintendo system I grew up with on one handheld. This would’ve absolutely rocked my world as a kid.

  • Also interesting: one of the visual themes for this is based on the UI for the original DS — which felt advanced at the time (15 years ago), but now, feels like a beautifully-nostalgic throwback.

  • For years, I’ve been waiting for a time in my life when I can get back to playing some games.

Bought a GameCube-to-USB controller adapter

  • As far as I’m concerned, the GameCube has the best-designed controller there ever was.

Dank Tomb (PICO-8) Good™

  • It feels even less important for me finish games than ever (I didn’t this one, although I was close) or to solve puzzles without looking up the answers (I did a few times). Anymore,

The 8Bit Deck, pixel art playing cards

ethical.net, more ethical alternatives

Bought a Shark Rocket Handheld Vacuum (HV292)

  • Buying new gadgets tends to be pretty tricky for me. Not only in choosing which one to buy, but also in initiating a long-term commitment with a new thing (regular maintenance, inevitable troubleshooting), plus the eventual breakdown and the guilt of throwing more plastic in the garbage.

Picked up some new LEGO sets: Winter Village Fire Station + NINJAGO City + NINJAGO City Docks #treatjoeself

Bitsy: Visit, a trip to the art museum

The Guardian: The truth about modern food

  • “our culture is far too critical of the individuals who eat junk foods and not critical enough of the corporations who profit from selling them.”

  • “The marketing comes in, and boom! boom! boom! the snacks are not healthy any more.”

01

Tacoma

The Royal Ocean Film Society: Richard Linklater On Patience

  • “What I strive for is to be excited about brushing [my] teeth… because that is… life.”

Sincerity > Irony March

31

Re-read The Late, Great Stephen Colbert

  • “You have to learn to love the bomb. It took me a long time to really understand what that meant. It wasn’t ‘Don't worry, you'll get it next time.’ It wasn't ‘Laugh it off.’ No, it means what it says. You gotta learn to love when you’re failing.… The embracing of that, the discomfort of failing in front of an audience, leads you to penetrate through the fear that blinds you. Fear is the mind killer.”

  • “the only way to not be swallowed by sorrow, to in fact recognize that our sorrow is inseparable from our joy, is to always understand our suffering, ourselves, in the light of eternity. That might be why you don’t see me as someone angry and working out my demons onstage. It’s that I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.… It’s our choice, whether to hate something in our lives or to love every moment of them, even the parts that bring us pain.”

Stanford and the Ethical Dilemma of Silicon Valley’s Next Generation

  • “technology is not just something to be trusted. It’s not just something that’s objective and fair because it’s numerical, but it actually reflects a set of choices that people make.”

  • “The problem here is not that people are making decisions that are straight-up evil. The problem is that people are not foreseeing the outcomes of their actions.”

29

San Francisco #treatjoeself

My Life at 47 Is Back to What It Was Like at 27

  • “This is not to be confused with my best life or even the life I’m still on some level programmed to believe I want. I’m talking about my situational set point, the version of myself that inevitably swings back into the foreground even if I’ve managed to pretend to be another kind of person for a period of time.”

  • “much if not all of the reason my life hasn’t changed is that I’m not a parent. Children are life’s great timekeepers”

  • “I may not always live in this apartment or even in this city. I may not always live by myself. I may grow tired of the [Taco Bell]. But on some cellular level, it will always be Friday evening, 8 p.m., alone [clicking on links].”

28

Bayonne: Drastic Measures Good™

Betty Who: Betty Not Great™

Google Sheets: Pivot Tables, adding a third dimension to spreadsheets

Mike Caulfield: Network Heuristics, using the properties of the Internet to verify information

  • “We’re not looking at hair, or photos, or personal websites or LinkedIn pages or figuring out if a company name is plausible or a work gap explainable.… those are cheap signals…. Instead we figure out what traces we should find on the web if [this person] is really [who they say they are].”

26

Whenever I learn that two CWA kids I already know are siblings, I’m always like, “Whoa, really?! Cool!”. I think the kids think it’s weird that I think it’s so interesting. (This has happened twice [Ben and Sophia, Caty and Alex] in the last two weeks.)

  • Not having any siblings myself, it’s all pretty fascinating to me.

Met a person (potential new music teacher) who’s moving to Seattle because their spouse got a job at Facebook. I know people get jobs at Facebook every day, but why in the world would someone still want to work for Facebook (slash Instagram, or Twitter, Google/YouTube, or any company that’s currently destroying the fabric of humanity as we know it)?

Request a Lyft on desktop, without a smartphone

The Hottest Chat App for Teens Is Google Docs

The Guardian: The Aldi Effect

Added a new life goal: make a PICO-8 game.

  • Right now, I’m thinking it’d be some kind combination of pleasure-points: 1. tiny, enclosed, self-sufficient little world (a village, an apartment, a school, a train), 2. pixels, 3. low-tech/high-tech, 4. miniaturization, 5. randomness / procedural generation, 6. the process / change over time / intersection of past and future / growing up. Sounds dope!

24

Thinking more about how my list-making might be contributing to my procrastinating, I cleaned up some lists: 1. straight-up deleted my movie list — it’s gone!, 2. set podcasts auto-delete after 30 days, 3. nixed everything on Links.txt older than a few weeks (I had a stuff on that list over a year old), and 4. did the same for my Spotify queue (mostly).

  • It’s unusual for people to keep lists as comprehensively as I do. So I’m going to try doing what most people do: either remember… or don’t remember and don’t give a shit. With all this, the goal is to eliminate the weight of lists on my life — and the feeling that I’ll never actually be caught up.

  • Although, I’m keeping: 1. my book list and Instapaper queue (because ultimately, I want to be reading more), and 2. my games list (because it’s relatively small).

23

Today is my 4th Journal-versary. Still at it! #journaling

PICO-8: Bounce the Ball Game #tweetcart, a demake of this

  • This code is too advanced for the kids in my upcoming LS Game Design club (it’s too advanced for me. But, I want to introduce them to PICO-8, and it’s pretty magical to start with a blank canvas and manipulate some code… that’s a playable game. Neat!

  • I loved the Game Boy Advance e-Reader (trading cards with barcodes that contained games and add-ons). I wonder if it’d be possible to recreate that experience with them somehow using QR codes or itty bitty. #lesson

PICO-8: Super Funky Ball!, reverse Breakout

CSSeffectsSnipets, copy-and-paste CSS effects

Us Not Great™

Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj: Supreme + Amazon

  • There’s an Amazon Locker IN MY APARTMENT BUILDING now. No company should have this much control.

22

I’ve been thinking about how my classroom management is affected by my connections with the kids. It’s been on my mind since the EdCamp unconference (two weeks ago) — where my main takeaway was that it’s only when teachers have genuine connections with students that management can happen.

  • I like to think I have solid relationships with the kids I teach. But the more I think about it, the less convinced I am that I actually do. I acknowledge them, I remember their work, their questions, and their contributions in my classes. But how much do I know about them personally? How many real questions am I asking and following-up on? In some cases, a lot. In most cases, not much at all.

  • And the students I know the best are the ones that make the effort to talk to me. (Ayden, Luca, Teo, Nolan)

  • Example: between the two 5th grade classes, I have significantly stronger connections overall in one class (like, significantly — connections [Luca, Ayden, Julianna, Saanvi, Kerr, Alyssa, Liv, Fisher, Camdyn, Maddie, etc.] that’ve carried over from 4th grade). And my lessons with that group tend to be way better: 1. management-wise (there’s a lot less pushing and pulling, the respect flows in both directions), 2. learning-wise (students are more engaged, productive, the discussions are better), and 3. fun-wise (for everyone). It’s a night-and-day difference, with same/similar content. #management

  • Granted, the better class is also my second class of the two, so I’ll always have iterated my lesson plan to a tighter version, too.

‘Trans-digital’ animated art, transforming a real-world 2D drawing/painting into an animated GIF

PICO-8: Arpongi, RPG + Pong

“There is no man… however wise, who has not at some period of his youth said things, or lived in a way the consciousness of which is so unpleasant to him in later life that he would gladly, if he could, expunge it from his memory. And yet he ought not entirely to regret it, because he cannot be certain that he has indeed become a wise man — so far as it is possible for any of us to be wise — unless he has passed through all the fatuous or unwholesome incarnations by which that ultimate stage must be preceded.… We are not provided with wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can take for us, an effort which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world.” — Marcel Proust

Crash Course Computer Science: Boolean Logic + Vacuum Tubes & Transistors

  • “Anything mechanical that moves will wear over time. Some things break entirely and other things start getting sticky, slow, and just plain unreliable. And as the number of [components] increases, the probability of a failure increases too.”

  • This is a straightforward explanation for why digital technology is so infuriatingly unreliable. (In digital technology, the moving parts are metaphorical, though — affecting each other, programmatically.) #digitalanxiety

  • “These huge, dark and warm machines also attracted insects.… ‘When anything went wrong with a computer, we said it had bugs in it.’”

21

Something I’ve learned this year in my ‘coaching’ role in the MS is that I really hate dropping into other teachers’ classrooms to do demos/lessons. (This week, Soundtrap in 8th grade.) Why? 1. I don’t really get to set the vibe for the room (or, at least, I don’t have the skills yet to correct it so quickly), and 2. I have nearly zero relationship with these kids, so classroom management isn’t (or at least doesn’t feel like) an option. Instead, I just have to roll with whatever the vibe is and however the kids choose to respond to me (sometimes it’s fun, often awkward). And then GTF outta there.

Realizing: although my job is super creative, (designing lessons and improvising/problem-solving on-the-fly, constantly) — it’s one of the things I love about it: my success (or my perception of my success) relies on a whole network of other factors. It’s too complex a network, too unreliable a measure, and too dependent on things I have no control over. I need another creative outlet that I can control, exclusively — where my success is my success, definitively.

KeyCastr + Presentation Assistant, keypress and cursor highlighters (for presentations)

19

And then there are days where I leave school, and I wonder if what I’m doing makes much of a difference at all. It feels like an awful lot of hours-spent, sleep-lost, stress-felt, energy-expended, kids-managed… but very few moments in class that I could point to and say: that’s what it’s all for. Or where someone says: congratulations, thank you, you nailed it.

  • Do I care too much or not enough? Could easily be either.

In 5th grade, I’ve been trying larger, more conceptual projects this year (vs. stand-alone 1–2 week lessons): What is Technology?, Memes, Design & Technology, and currently Screen Time. I’ve been incorporating more detailed research and more flexible lessons that are driven by the ideas and data they bring to class. I want them to think deeply about technology as a concept. And generally, that’s happening.

  • But: 1. the research steps are taking longer than I expect (I’m still calibrating to what little kids are actually capable of), so 2. half of my lessons this year have felt more academic than creative, 3. I don’t see them often enough to maintain momentum, and 4. when they run into trouble or have questions between classes, there’s really no way for them to contact me. I think these projects have potential, but not on my hour-a-week schedule.

  • On the upside, today, I asked them why they’re tracking screen time instead of just technology time. One student answered: “Well, then we’d have to add ‘5 minutes: pencil’ and ‘20 minutes: desk’ to our tracking sheet. [Because those are technologies, too.]” So some of this is landing.

Talking to (Riley) a MS teacher about Science Fair projects, I said that one thing I miss about working with college students is that they’re capable of so much, creatively. The creative work of the kids I teach now is still surprising, fun, and interesting for me. But not nearly as much as it once was.

This Resume Does Not Exist, randomly-generated resumes

  • “I have a positive helping executive with people new content and social businesses and increase scale aim to bring higher other technical experiences.”

  • “Assistance Assistant To Account Representative”

  • It’s interesting how neural networks do a pretty good job of surfacing BS. #bs

Generative.fm, endlessly unique ambient music

FR Kraken Slab, chunky slab serif typeface

18

One of the reasons I like spending the majority of my day in an elementary school is that little kids default to sincerity. Sincerity is important to me. It’s real, honest, and uncomplicated — it gives me hope. This, contrasted with irony, which is phony, dishonest, and layered with pretense and guessing-games — and wears me down. #realness

  • Also a reason why the LS is feeling like a better fit for me than the MS — middle schoolers default to irony.

  • “Observe a 4-year-old child going through her daily life. You will not find the slightest bit of irony in her behavior. She has not, so to speak, taken on the veil of irony. She likes what she likes and declares it without dissimulation. She is not particularly conscious of the scrutiny of others. She does not hide behind indirect language.” — How to Live Without Irony

  • It makes sense, developmentally, that we fully embrace irony at the same moment in our lives that we become tragically self-conscious. It’s a way of creating distance and masking our feelings. #growingup

  • Sincerity (realness) vs. irony (phoniness) is one of the major threads that run through my thinking. #pleasurepoint #sincerity>irony

macOS: Change the login wallpaper

  • No photo wallpapers. Black. All black.

17

The Guardian: The Sea Nomad Village Devastated By Fire (Moken)

How to clean a stainless steel sink

Pop Culture Detective: Stalking for Love

  • “Movies have taught us that never giving up is one of the most admirable traits of all, especially for men.”

  • “When the gender roles are reversed, and it’s a female character stalking a man, her actions are typically portrayed as manic or unbalanced, instead of endearing.”

  • “[These movies] serve to reinforce a variety of harmful myths about romance, [including] the idea that women don’t really know what they want”

  • “Contrary to what movies tell us, attraction is not the same thing as love.… Romantic love is mutual and reciprocal. It’s an exchange between people.”

The Modest Fantasy of the PICO-8

  • “Perhaps one reason [for its popularity] is that it’s easy to see at a glance what the boundaries of PICO-8 are, and to imagine what you might make with it.… Modern programming environments and even game making tools tend to be very flexible at the cost of offering an intimidating abundance of possibilities.”

16

Easing Functions Cheat Sheet

Pixel Vision 8, fantasy console (à la PICO-8 with adjustable limitations)

15

Woke up with an idea for the big reward that kids could earn if they reach their typing goals: Typing Tournament. Teachers and kids compete in front of an audience — live and on the big screen the LS Commons — to see who can type the fastest. Pitched it to the 4th graders today, and they were into it.

Bitsy: Snail Detective, whodunnit mystery

14

Email continues to feel like a burden. A thing about email is that I don’t ever want to write one. I procrastinate on most chore-like things, but at least there are times when I want to (for instance) clean the kitchen, do laundry, wash my car, vacuum, etc. But email is not fun, ever. It’s always hard and time-consuming. I hate it. #email

PICO-ATE, PICO-8 tutorials and resources

Markdown Guide, syntax reference

Blot, Markdown-to-website platform

“Voice recognition is amazing. Instead of texting my wife, I can use one simple voice command to compose a message; a second to choose a contact; a third to choose which "Erica" [sic]; a fourth to confirm mobile vs. work; a fifth to send; and a sixth–eighth to repeat myself.” — Josh #digitalanxiety

13

With the 5th graders, I did the Digital Footprint lesson again, and I saw it differently this year. The exercise is intended to illustrate how our posts on social media reveal aspects of our personality. But this year, I noticed how quickly the kids labeled the people liars and bad people (it happened last year, too — the exercise is shallowly-designed to provoke that reaction).

  • So I expanded the lesson to two days and we dissected it a little more. I asked follow-up questions that flipped the perspective on digital footprint back on the audience — based on things I heard during the kids’ discussions: 1. if someone comments on a post, calling it a lie, does that mean it is?, 2. how do we know that these posts (which are from similar usernames, but different websites) are actually from the people we’re talking about?, 3. if someone does something dishonest, does that make them a dishonest person? #digitalperson

macOS: ⌘ + F1 (brightness down) = toggle display mirroring for external displays.

  • HOLY CRAP. Discovered this by accident, too.

IKEA ThisAbles, accessible IKEA modifications

I’m still all-in on Shark Tank. Love it. One of the things I appreciate about the show is its design — it’s a brilliant system: 1. it’s a flexible system (there’s no ceiling to the number of pitches it could support), and so, 2. it’s infinitely interesting to watch because every episode is entirely new, 3. when there’s a deal, the investors and entrepreneurs both benefit, 4. but if there isn’t a deal, the entrepreneurs still get a boost from being on the show at all, 5. ABC benefits because the whole thing is a TV show, but 6. since the investors are investing their own money, it’s relatively cheap to produce.

  • The design of Survivor (its system) is a reason I like that show, too.

  • All this, opposed to how I’m feeling about The Bachelor. I’m losing interest because it’s such an inflexible system — it produces the same output no matter the input.

12

Another thing I’m noticing about elementary school that I didn’t notice as a kid is that the teachers tend to talk with a certain kind of unaffected tone of voice. Mostly, it communicates seriousness, and clearly. But it’s also unemotional, and it sounds unnatural to me. It avoids communicating frustration (which can affect classroom management) and it’s also void of enthusiasm (which is just hard to maintain in the midst of the frustration).

  • I mention this because I’ve started to catch myself using this voice with kids, too. It’s not what I want — it’s not the voice of someone who sounds like they enjoy their job. I know it’s possible not to use it (and I can think of examples of teachers like Carie and Suzy who don’t).

10

I want my computer and phone to do a lot less than they do. I want them to feel like less of a thing I have to manage and think about. But I also want them to continue to be infinitely flexible and customizable, and do exactly the things I want them to do. For me, computers are a never-ending source of anxiety and life admin. But also an outlet for incredible creativity and purposefulness. #digitalanxiety

Beautiful Dingbats, Unicode text tools

Queer Kids Stuff, LGBTQ+ and social justice lessons for kids

They Shall Not Grow Old Good™

  • “Let me have a bit of a think.” — Peter Jackson

Nature Soundmap, nature sounds from around the world

Another bonus of Feedbin: I can unsubscribe from Twitter and Instagram feeds guilt-free (because my follow was never counted in the first place).

09

PICO-8: The Ballz are Lava!

Castle, game dev environment/community (uses lua/LÖVE)

The First Emoji Set (SoftBank) + History

07

Officially posting the LS Game Design club for student sign-up. Really stoked for this.

  • The description: “Use game design tools to create your own, playable video games. Write a story, draw sprites and backgrounds, construct puzzles, compose music and sound effects. Plus (of course) play-test games and provide feedback to other game designers in the club!”

  • I’m only opening this to 4th & 5th graders (so, no 3rd), based on how difficult LS Coding & Robotics has been to manage. Which I’m feeling confident will transform this into the fun, creative experience I’d hoped for. This club has been fun, but it’s also been really hard. And even though they pay extra, these after-school clubs really need to be satisfying creatively and emotionally if they’re going to feel worth it for me.

As a teacher, it’s been hard for me to come to terms with the fact that every student won’t think I’m a particularly helpful, cool, creative person that they enjoy working with and learning from. But I’m not sure why I even expect that’s possible.

  • But I absolutely connect with lots of students in a way that is what I hope for, and that’s worth celebrating and being satisfied with. @t

06

Nerdy Teachers, PICO-8 tutorials/videos

  • Gearing up for a Game Design class in either/both LS and MS in April. It’ll definitely involve Bitsy and likely PICO-8. Really, really looking forward to it.

PixelArtM: 1-bit Cars & Roads

LEGO Technic gears explainers: Spur + Bevel + Conical + Specialty (Worm, Knob, Rack & Pinion, Differentials)

  • This is a major bonus of my job: getting to integrate things into my classes that I want to learn how to do myself. This year: more coding and electronics (micro:​bits), robotics (LEGO Technic, LEGO Mindstorms, Sphero), and game design (Bitsy, PICO-8).

  • Several times this year, I stared a project not knowing exactly how the class (including me) was going to get from point A to point B with that particular technology (e.g. “Design an arcade game with a micro:​bit” or “Design an animatronic robot using Mindstorms motors and gears”). But feeling confident that I could learn what I needed to learn in time to teach it — and usually in response to the students wanting to learn something specific. And in every case, it’s gone super well.

05

Thinking more about feeling annoyed while I’m teaching. Throughout my teaching career so far, there’s a pattern: in the classrooms where I’ve revealed that I’m feeling frustrated, 1. I also feel less invested personally, 2. I have fewer personal connections with students, 3. the classroom continues to be difficult to manage, and 4. the students tend to act more disrespectfully towards me over time (which is weighing most on my mind right now, and which I know is a reflection of the way they think I feel about them). In other words, my frustration maintains (and likely compounds) the problems that caused the frustration. This is obvious, and I’m subconsciously aware of it in the moment, but it’s worth writing down. #teaching

  • I’m struggling with this in both of my Coding & Robotics classes. Both of them end in three weeks, and I’ve been looking forward to that.

Weval: The Weight Not Great™

Bought an IKEA LINNMON Tabletop (oak + white)

  • Sometime over the last couple of years, I figured out where that magic, thin line exists between minimalist and plainness/boringness. In clothes, furniture, and as a graphic designer, too, the magic (and intentionality) is all in color, contrast, and/or texture. (This is replacing an all-white tabletop, which was fine, but not especially anything.)

04

Minimal Stainless Steel Flatware (David Mellor)

03

Gale-Shapley Algorithm, a system for optimizing the pairing between two groups of people, matching them with their most-preferred available partner from the other group. (Essentially, a metaphor for how heterosexual dating works.)

  • “The matching is optimal from the [initiator]’s perspective.”

  • “[the algorithm] results in each man getting the most desirable lady he has a hope of snagging, and each woman getting the ‘least bad’ of all the available men.” — The Guardian

  • The thing that stuck with me most from reading Modern Romance is that, in the US, it’s so widely accepted that men make the moves that initiate relationships that it wasn’t even worth discussion — in a book about relationships.

  • I mean, I know that’s how the system works (heterosexually, in my case), but it seems so ridiculous to me. The system: 1. puts all of the risk on the guy (why not share in the risk/responsibility?), 2. favors guys who approach the maximum number of women (which seems like a dumb behavior to encourage), and 3. seems bizarrely conservative and reliant on gender roles to still be the trend. I really don’t get it.

  • Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this lately because it’s clear that, after not making any moves in 4 years — and having not dated in 4 years — that this is still how the system works. I like being single, and most of this time I’ve wanted to be single (which is why I haven’t done any asking), but I haven’t been asked either.

Gaming Historian: Aladdin Deck Enhancer

02

Dating Around¹ Good™

  • This was life-affirming. And the first time in long time that dating actually seemed like it might be fun.

PICO-8: Micro-8, fantasy console inside a fantasy console, i.e. “Console-ception”

Here’s Why So Many Americans Feel Cheated By Their Student Loans

  • “The cost of education shifted from a societal investment — spread across the tax-paying public, in the name of a thriving society and economy — to an individual one.… This attitude toward student borrowers is a far cry from the original conception of education as a worthwhile investment in America’s future. It conceives of the borrower not as the bearer of the future of the country, but a customer”

01

How Local TV News Stations Play an Enthusiastic Role in Spreading Internet Hoaxes

vlogbrothers: Robocalls

  • “Sometime in 2019, the FTC is predicting that there will be more mobile phone calls attempting to defraud people than there will be mobile phone calls not attempting to defraud people.”

  • “For a lot of people, the majority of the times that the world reaches out to them… are people trying to steal their money. And that’s a pretty big societal cost — one more way in which a lot of people have just lost faith in the world around them.”

The “Bad” Design of City Flags

  • This does a classic graphic design industry thing, where subjective and shallow critique of how something looks (in this case, calling it “bad” and laughing at it) is treated as a critique of its entire design. These flags might’ve been the ideal solution to whatever goals and constraints they were designed around. Who gives a shit if it’s “bad ass” enough for you? Or if you could redesign it in a vacuum?

  • Also, people are responsible for these flags. It’s not OK to introduce something as a “trainwreck” and then pause while the audience (naturally) laughs at it. Especially not having participated in the process of how that thing came to be.

  • Is it fun to talk trash on other’s people’s work so you can feel better about yours? Sure, but that doesn’t make it right. It’s condescending, exclusive, self-inflating, surface-level — and really (really) common in the graphic design industry. It’s one of the big reasons why it wasn’t the career for me.

Journal February

28

I’m having a really hard time managing talkouts in MS Coding & Robotics. Generally, they start talking about whatever’s on their mind, the moment it occurs to them, no matter what I’m doing. The class is (intentionally) more loosely structured than a normal class (it’s more of a workshop, where I’m teaching ⅓–½ of the time, and they’re working on their projects the rest). I’ve asked them to choose to help and communicated my expectations (to what feels like a stupidly-obvious degree), but it hasn’t been effective.

  • I know it’s something I’m doing (or not doing). There’s no way these students are this disruptive in the rest of their classes. But I also feel like I’ve been fair, clear, and measured.

  • At the end of class, I feel deflated and trivialized. I haven’t been looking forward to class, and I’ve started to get cynical about it. I know that’s probably coming through, and it’s probably making things worse. I just hate it, though. I dread teaching moments because (cynically) I know exactly how it’s going to go.

  • This is a hard thing about managing classes. As a teacher, I can’t ever give in to cynicism or frustration. I can’t ever act angry or annoyed. I can’t reveal that I’m feeling the feelings that are totally natural in those situations. Because an ounce of negative emotion — just one reaction, one moment in time — has long-lasting effects on the dynamic of that classroom.

  • That’s not to say I don’t have good relationships with most of the kids in class, individually (I do). Or that I’m not teaching interesting things in an interesting way (I am). Or that the kids aren’t excited about what they’re learning (they are — and some of the kids who interrupt most often are the ones who are most excited to be in this class). This is exclusively about my ability to manage a room of kids (I think), which continues to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. #management

27

Didn’t get the iD Tech job. Which is OK, actually. I’d mostly lost interest — the hours and pay are kinda silly (40–50 hours @ $525/week). But still — it’s crazy how hard it is to get a job around here!

  • Which means I’ll have the summer off (11 weeks, June–August). I won’t be teaching at UW (which I’m disappointed about), but my CWA after-school clubs (Coding & Robotics, Game Design) are covering extra cash I would’ve made there, so I’ll be good financially for the year.

  • Started a Summer of Joe list. #summerofjoe

  • I think employers should have to call people to let them know they didn’t get the job. There needs to be some resistance in the process for employers. I wasn’t really even invested in this one, and it still stings to be rejected generically.

26

A strange thing about teaching in the MS is that most kids won’t acknowledge me in the hallway (not just me, they seem to ignore most adults). The little kids rarely do this. Everyone in the LS smiles at each other and acknowledges that they exist — another reason the LS is feeling like a better fit for me.

  • I know it’s not personal (probably). Early adolescence is the point in our lives when we — out of self-consciousness and insecurity — start to pretend like we don’t notice other people. It’s depressing. #hello?

  • If this happens with the current 5th graders next year (a class that I know really well and love), it’s going to break my heart.

My LIFX lightbulbs are the only smarthome gadgets I use (I bought another one this week). And they’ve been a helpful gateway into thinking about the weird mix of helpfulness and anxiety of smart stuff. A few things: 1. When I interact with a smart bulb, I have to think about the whole system and whatever ‘smart’ things it will do later. (If I flip the switch on a smartbulb to turn it off, it won’t turn on in the morning. And I can’t ever not be thinking about that.) Also, 2. I have to use another totally separate interface (my phone) to turn the light on or off at all. I can’t interact directly with the thing, and that feels disempowering. And 3. my lights are now beholden to other totally separate systems (the WiFi in my apartment, the Internet generally) which compounds the likelihood that my smartbulb system won’t work either. #digitalanxiety

  • It feels like a lot of shit to worry about. But 1. turning my bedroom light on in the morning has been incredibly helpful for waking up in the PNW winters, and 2. I like having more subtle control over the lighting in my living room during all hours of the day.

Ask Polly: Is My Absence From Social Media a Red Flag?

  • “Is your absence from social media helpful for your anxiety or is it a product of your anxiety? Why can’t it be both?… So you’re too strong and independent for social media, but you’re also too fearful and weak for it.”

  • “So the next time someone [criticizes you for not being on social media], I hope you’ll be ready to say a few words… like: ‘What are you afraid of…? A world where your career and your brand aren’t everything? A world where you’re forced to stand exactly where you are and live with yourself, free of distractions?’”

The watches on the Rolex product pages sync to local time.

#tweetcart #pico8, PICO-8 carts that fit in a tweet

25

During my copyright lesson with 3rd graders, one of the students (Rowan) asked if the Wikipedia entry on copyright (which I showed for the list of things that can be copyrighted) is itself copyrighted. Awesome.

24

I have a couch! It took almost two months, and the only reason I managed not to drag it out any further is that a friend (Aubree) was selling hers. Buying second-hand saves me some cash, but it also relieves the anxiety of even having to choose a couch. These kinds of decisions (expensive, long-term, stuff-acquisition) are really hard for me.

The 8th grade TI-BASIC class I’m subbing in (for two more days) has felt like more trouble than it’s worth. It’s required quite a bit of preparation, but without any particular excitement or interest from the students during the lesson. (Their excitement and interest is my responsibility, but I haven’t figured it out yet.) And it doesn’t help that it’s a middle school classroom at 8:00a, with students I barely know.

  • Teaching/prepping-for three different classes in a day is one too many.

Bought Food Huggers Reusable Silicone Can Toppers

  • I’ve been looking for something like this for years.

Also got a Tomons Wood Tripod Bedside Lamp

AudioKit Synth One, free/open-source iOS synth

Bought more Chris McVeigh sets: Modular Arcade Air Hockey (Lime) + Modular Arcade Pinball (Orange)

23

Fighting with My Family Good™

  • “That’s not advice, that’s a tweet.”

22

Vox by Design: Safe vs. Adventure (Risky) Playgrounds

  • “The idea behind [riskier playgrounds] is that kids respond well to being treated seriously: if they’re presented with risky items with a serious functional purpose, they’ll respond cautiously and conduct more experimentation. But if presented with an overly safe, static space, they often wind up seeking dangerous thrills that the built environment fails to provide”

21

Prepping for my TI-BASIC classes this week is a helpful reminder that actually building something — making it work and struggling through it in real time (instead of just listening-to or reading-over the steps of the process) is the truest way to understand — to connect all the dots.

  • Helpful because: 1. when I’m preparing to teach an existing lesson — until I’ve actually done whatever I’m asking students to do (used the tool, built with the materials, etc.), I don’t really understand what I’m asking them to do and can’t fully anticipate the questions they’ll have, and 2. when I’m figuring out how to teach a lesson — making/building/designing a thing is the best way to learn… absolutely, that’s it, the best. #teaching

This is Not a Conspiracy Theory Podcast #3

19

How do Christians believe in ghosts and astrology?

Orientation, stencil typeface

Aspect Ratio Calculator

18

Still need to figure out how to make more time for reading. (I’m reading a lot, just not many books or Instapaper.) It’s possible I could cut out TV completely — no Bachelor, Survivor, or Shark Tank. Shows I really enjoy, but (in the end) are more a way to chill out than they are creatively or intellectually fulfilling.

Did some IKEA shopping (and I love IKEA so much), but in outfitting my apartment, I’m finding that shopping (especially for furniture) has become a really fraught exercise for me. I think about — the whole time — that all this stiff will end up in the trash some day. After my minimizing last year, buying big stuff feels like a more serious commitment than ever. I’m aiming to only buy stuff (except the obvious) that I intend keep for a really long time. Which is maybe unnecessary anxiety, but it also feels the right thing to do. @t

This week and next, I’m subbing in 8th grade Honors Geometry, introducing TI-BASIC programming on the TI-83/84.

  • Which, man, is bringing back some memories. My first coding experience was on the TI-85 (in high school). I built a few small programs, but it was more my introduction to the the ‘underworld’ of customizing and re-purposing devices. @t

  • And, of course, I loved the grayscale pixels.

  • ticalc.org, TI programming resources

  • I’m pretty sure this is the same site I was using 20 years ago!

  • Calcutron Plus_SE, TI-BASIC tutorials

Unicons, free monoweight icon set

IRL: Online Shopping and Surveillance Capitalism

  • “John Wanamaker said 100 years ago, ‘I know that 50% of my advertising works, I just don’t know which 50%.’ The whole goal of the 20th century, and now in the 21st century, is to figure that out.”

17

Laurent Durieux, movie poster illustrator

  • Back to the Future streetscape posters: I, II, III

George Bletsis: Back to the Future II poster

The Guardian: The life and death of John Chau, missionary to the Sentinelese

  • I rarely talk about my feelings on religion (even on this site) because it’s so difficult to be honest without alienating people I know and appreciate (mostly Nebraskans). But freedom from religion (mostly Christianity) is one of the reasons I moved the PNW. And it’s been such an incredible relief — to be mostly done with the worry that I might accidentally reveal how I really feel.

  • For the record, I tend to be pretty skeptical of diehard Christians, and I see Christianity in the same way as any folklore or mythology: it’s a story — fiction. It just happens to be a fiction with current critical mass. But it’ll eventually seem (to some future group of people) in the same way we see the beliefs of Ancient Romans.

  • If you believe in heaven and hell then what he did was the most loving thing anyone could do.

  • This only reads as a reasonable justification because lots of people happen to believe in heaven and hell right now. But to me, this reads the same as replacing “heaven and hell” with the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Eye of Sauron, or the Big Bad Wolf. It’s magical thinking.

You¹ Not Great™

I now have four extra Pebble watches in storage (bought two more today). I love the thing, and they aren’t producing any more of them, and it’s hard to imagine a watch that I’d ever like as much.

16

For me, one of the most pervasive, anxiety-inducing aspects of digital technology is the leap-frogging of software updates. Bugs are found and vulnerabilities are exploited, so bugs are squashed and vulnerabilities are patched with new features and technologies — which opens the door to new bugs and vulnerabilities. There’s no end. So there’s no end for me either: to continue using these things, I have to participate. I have to spend my time updating and reconfiguring — just to get back to the way it was yesterday. All that work, and I’m just catching up. #digitalperson #digitalanxiety

  • This occurred to me updating Firefox on all of the LS lab computers — 80 of them (an update which has to be done manually). The app was “critically out of date” after just five months.

  • FUAY software update

jQuery: .prepend + .append, add code before/after elements

  • Using this to add visual category tags after posts on this page. (I was already adding a category CSS class to each post on the FoldingText side, so this was super easy to do.)

  • This site has more Javascript than is necessary (currently 8 .js files). I’m doing things with scripts that I could do manually (fetching my current top song and latest movie) or without (tweaking line breaks and typography). But it’s so fun to figure out — to build that system. I don’t even care!

PICO-8: Dungeon Generator

IRL: The Surveillance Economy

  • “in our globalized economy, where prices have been driven down to the lowest common denominator,… everyone… is chasing margins. We’ve had relatively low inflation, and so now this data surplus, this behavioral surplus, which we can sell into these new markets that trade explicitly in bets on the future of human behavior”

  • I’ve been thinking about how the global economy (facilitated by the Internet) affects competitions (economies) of all kinds, not just commercially. Because very few things are local anymore, everyone must compete with the biggest-fastest-strongest-loudest-nastiest-sexiest-shiniest other thing — period. This is why dating is so difficult, getting a job is a humiliating obstacle course, why every movie has a climactic battle scene, and why Instagram is an unreal fantasyland. #digitalanxiety #digitalperson

15

St. Lucia: Hyperion Not Great™

CineFix: 3 Most Important Tech Innovations in Film History

Use & Modify, open source typeface database

Deconstructed: Juvenile’s “Back That Ass Up”

14

It’s sounding more likely that I’ll also be teaching 1st and 2nd grades next year. Which, I still think could be a fun move for me.

  • Although, I’m recognizing that it’ll be important for me to continue splitting my time between the LS and MS (if not also, some day, the US). The little kids are so optimistic, curious, and full of life — which is important for me emotionally. The older kids are significantly more capable and their work is more complex and meaningful — which is important for me creatively and intellectually. I want both! #teaching

  • No doubt, these are intricately-connected trade-offs. As we grow up and gain awareness of how life works — that’s exactly the thing that tempers our optimism and enthusiasm for it. #growingup

  • Also, I need to keep in mind that, starting next year (when students I know really well are in the middle school), it likely won’t feel like such an odd place for me anymore.

Trying a new incentive to encourage kids to practice Typing Club more often: a competition/leaderboard.

  • Helping kids learn to type is part of my job (and I think it’s a super important skill), but I haven’t been spending class time on it this year because it feels like a major waste of the hour I have with them (using an app they can use from home that’s intended to be done solo anyway). But many of the kids haven’t been practicing enough, and if they don’t learn to type faster, I’m gonna be held responsible (rightfully).

  • In the past, CWA 4th/5th graders have been able to see how they rank, individually, in the midst of the class. That feels weird to me, so I disabled that feature (which probably also influenced the practice time problem). My new strategy reframes the competition as class vs. class instead, which feels healthier — sharing the responsibility and the glory.
  • This spreadsheet, as usual, was super fun to make. I love spreadsheets. #pleasurepoint

Google Sheets: Sparklines, miniature charts

13

macOS: ⌥ + F1/F2 (brightness keys) = open Display Preferences + ⌥ + F9–F10 (volume keys) = open Audio Preferences

  • WHAT. Discovered this by accident.

Catastrophe⁴ Good™

PICO-8: Elias Grey, existential story of unfinished goals

12

Thieves of Experience: How Google and Facebook Corrupted Capitalism

  • “Without permission, without compensation, and with little in the way of resistance, [Google] seized and declared ownership over everyone’s information. It turned the details of the lives of millions and then billions of people into its own property.”

  • “The bullying style of TOS agreements also characterizes the practice… of threatening users with a loss of ‘functionality’ should they try to opt out of data sharing protocols or otherwise attempt to escape surveillance.”

  • “In the choices we make as consumers and private citizens, we have always traded some of our autonomy to gain other rewards. Many people, it seems clear, experience surveillance capitalism less as a prison, where their agency is restricted in a noxious way, than as an all-inclusive resort, where their agency is restricted in a pleasing way.”

Low←Tech Magazine: Building a Solar-powered Website

11

Cult of Pedagogy: Lessons in Personhood, Teaching by example

  • “Lead with imperfection. Try things you’re not good at, right in front of them. Demonstrate a spirit of experimentation. Speak of your mistakes without judgment.”

  • “Lead with humility. When you don’t know something, say so. Allow for the possibility that you might occasionally be wrong. Check your ego. Apologize.”

  • I do both of these, pretty often, I think. It feels unusual, though, and I think students are thrown off by it, but I think it’s the right way to teach.

  • This is a reason why teaching feels like such a meaningful thing to be doing. Ultimately, learning to teach (being in a classroom with kids) is about working, really hard, to be a better person myself.

Bitsy: Mystery Dungeon, exquisite corpse adventure (34 rooms, each designed by a different person)

Bitsy FAQ

The Final Girls Good™

  • Taissa Farmiga, forever.

Why Data, Not Privacy, Is The Real Danger

  • “[Facebook] can predict your interests and intentions before you even know them. And this is what gives rise to the illusion that our phones are recording our words and feeding us ads for cars just as we’ve finished a conversation about cars…. ‘I get that it’s creepy to imagine they listen to your conversations. But isn’t it more creepy that they can predict what you’re talking about without listening in?… You are super predictable to these platforms. It’s about persuasion and prediction, not privacy.’”

  • “Once upon a time advertisers paid a ‘CPM’ — cost per thousand views — for a marketing campaign. That was just the chance to get in front of people. Now Facebook offers a rate based on ‘CPA,’ or ‘cost per action,’ a once-unimaginable metric offered because the company is so confident in its understanding of people and their preferences that Facebook can essentially guarantee a certain number of people will do certain things.”

The Pudding: The Sexualized Messages Dress Codes are Sending to Students

  • “Some suggest that dress codes that use words like [‘distract’ or ‘disrupt’] send a complex message to all students: girls are responsible for the way that others see them… and it relays to boys that… others’ bodies are theirs to judge.”

  • Oregon NOW Model Student Dress Code

Turing Tumble, marble-powered mechanical computers

macOS: Set wallpaper and disable screensaver from Terminal

  • This is an irritating thing about kids and computers. They want to change settings just because they want to change settings. (I get it, I even respect it, but it’s annoying.)

“We’re gonna lose games, but if we don’t have no attitude, we don’t have no toughness, we ain’t having fun… you know, it’s gonna be a long season.” — Marcus Morris #basketballquotes

10

Got my first issue of The Guardian Weekly, which is legit.

  • I subscribed for a few reasons: 1. I want to support some kind of journalism, 2. I’m not following enough substantial/global news, 3. I miss print layout and typography.

life admin: “the office work of life [healthcare/insurance/lease paperwork, booking appointments, responding to texts/emails, online banking, charging/updating/fixing gadgets].”

  • shadow work: “unpaid labour that benefits someone else [commuting to work, self-checkout, self-service gas, travel planning, posting to social media].”

  • “It’s ironic… that technology should bear so much blame for this. Automation was always supposed to take care of the tedious jobs, so we could enjoy more leisure time. In reality, it’s taken paid work away from humans, while also… transferring tasks from employees to consumers.” #digitalanxiety

  • Related to subsystems.

Hebitsukai, illustrator (isometric, colorful cluttered spaces)

Jogaq, pixel illustrator (isometric rooms)

Kowloon Walled City infographic

Brandon James Greer, pixel illustrator

Kenze Wee, pixel illustrator (animated cityscapes)

turtle.audio, shape-drawing music sequencer

PICO-8: Cheat Sheet, code reference

09

Bitsy: WELCOME_OWNER, smart home story

Bitsy: M.E.C.K. 415, mech preparation story

macOS: Brightness Slider

  • For no reason at all, I now can’t control my Thunderbolt display brightness from the keyboard — a thing that should be one of the most fundamentally-unbreakable features of a computer. #digitalanxiety @t

vlogbrothers: Deepfake, A Brief History of Unreliable Images

  • “Hi,… it’s real me.… Or is it?”

  • “Instead, reality has come to seem more and more like what we are shown by cameras. It is common now for people to insist about their experience of a violent event in which they were caught up — a plane crash, a shoot-out, a terrorist bombing — that ‘it seemed like a movie.’ This is said, other descriptions seeming insufficient, in order to explain how real it was.” — Susan Sontag

Dmitry Petyakin, pixel illustrator

Gaming Historian: Sega 32X

Game Maker’s Tookit: Telling Stories with Systems + The Rise of the Systemic Game

  • I’m spending so much time right now reading and thinking about video games, but spending very little time playing them (yet). I’m realizing that the reason for this is that video games are about system design. More than anything, the thing I love about video games is the system.

  • It’s the same reason I’m drawn to coding, magazine design, and concept-driven horror and sci-fi movies: I like the challenge of building a self-sufficient little world, throwing something at it, and (based on the design fo the system) watching what happens. #pleasurepoint

  • “that’s what makes systemic games fun. Instead of finding the single, authored solution to a puzzle, you can use the inherent behaviors of the game’s systems to find your own way to overcome the problem at hand.”

  • And teaching is system design! Projects/exercises are more fun and interesting for kids if no one (not even me) knows what’s going to happen — but I’ve engineered rules (the system) that keep students moving towards a specific learning goal, no matter what they create. #teaching

  • “Making levels for systemic games is more about giving the player a goal, and not caring how they achieve it.”

Here’s A Thing, inside baseball stories from the video game industry

  • How Dwarf Fortress’ System Kills Cats

  • I like this as a coding analogy. One of the things I’m discovering about teaching coding is that, when a student’s code doesn’t work, they often want to blame the the tool (the code editor) for being broken, instead of considering how they (with the code they’ve written) might be responsible for the problem — which is way more likely.

  • Although, sometimes the tool is broken, which is a frustrating thing about teaching with technology. #digitalanxiety

  • Did Nintendo download the Super Mario Bros. ROM and sell it back to us?

PeerTube, decentralized, not advertising-supported video hosting (YouTube replacement)

Crash Course Media Literacy: Propaganda, Disinformation, and Misinformation

  • propaganda vs. advertising: “Both are a form of one-directional, one-to-many communication that has a targeted audience, a content that resonates with them and a call-to-action.… Propaganda… promotes a point of view or a political cause. Advertising… promotes commercial goods and services and tries to convert existing general needs into specific wants.” — Quora

08

Austin Kleon: Love what you do in front of the kids in your life

  • “when you share your learning and doing, you don’t make them also love (whatever); you DO show them how great it is to do meaningful work”

  • “Your kids… They don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.” — Jim Henson

“Find out who you are and then be that on purpose.” — Dolly Parton

NYT Retro Report: Woman Burned by McDonald’s Hot Coffee

Firefox: AdNauseam, automatically click ads to pollute tracking data

Getting the Best Picture from Game Boy, GBC, and GBA Games

The Book of Life: Whether or not to have Children

  • “For those of us contemplating whether or not to have children, the message is dark but consoling in its bleakness: you will be at points very unhappy whatever you choose. With either option, you will feel that you have ruined your life – and you will be correct. We do not need to add to our misery by insisting that there would have been another, better way.”

  • “There is, curiously, relief to be found in the knowledge of the inevitability of suffering. It is, in the end, never darkness that dooms us, but the wrong sort of hope in that most cruel of fantasies: ‘the right choice’.”

It’s the end of news as we know it (and Facebook is feeling fine)

  • “Facebook is simply not incentivized to make [quality journalism] its top priority. It’s a publicly traded company required to create value for shareholders — not the public — and the business incentives are to continue doing what it’s been doing: optimizing for engagement.”

07

FUAY GIF (or sticker or embedded video clip)

  • How did we get to the point where communication now need to be sprinkled with irony and pop culture references? Where we feel the need to entertain each other in the middle of normal conversations?

Gaming Historian: The Super Mario Land Series

  • The Game Boy only had four colors?! Amazing.

06

Idea: teach a graphic design class in the US (high school) next year.

Creative Commons Search

DeLorean Ipsum, random lines from the Back to the Future script (for sample text)

Retronator, pixel art and gaming news blog

05

Norton74, LEGO builder (Americana)

Virtual Punch Card: Keypunch + Reader

04

First snow day as a full-time teacher, and damn, I got so much done! (I was already at school when the day was cancelled, and I worked all day.) Mainly, two big projects that I’ve been procrastinating on for months (the LS bike rack design and cleaning/updating the last laptop cart). Awesome.

  • It says a lot, though (about my ability to procrastinate, my productivity, and/or my workload), that it took a surprise workday landing in my lap to get these checked off the list.

03

I tend to stack stuff up on my table and desk (things I need to put away, do, or otherwise deal with). I tend not to do these things right away, and it’s stressful to watch them pile up. But… I also tend to procrastinate on other, totally unrelated tasks, because I have this constant reminder of already being behind.

  • This is part of a bigger issue for me. I have so many to-dos and lists — all of them, things I want/need to do (including journaling, which feels as much like a burden as it does an essential part of my day) — that I have trouble keeping up. I really don’t know how people manage it all.

  • This is interesting to think about: that my list-making, might itself discourage me from accomplishing things on those lists.

GameShell, modular (repairable, upgradable) portable gaming console for PICO-8/emulation + video reviews: 1/2

  • Just ordered one. I’ve been looking for a way to PICO-8 games and (for even longer) a way to play Game Boy games. Stoked. #treatjoeself

  • This is money I might’ve spent on a Switch, but it doesn’t feel like the right time to open that door. I’m clearly in a video game mood right now, but I’d rather go back and play the games I’ve had on my list for ages.

  • I started using Simple Expenses recently, and I’m buying this out of my savings bucket for games, toys, gadgets, and books. Every month, I’m adding specific chunks of money into buckets (clothes, food/fun, home improvement, subscriptions, gifts, donations, etc.). It’s really working for me — simultaneously adding limitations to my spending, while also freeing me up to buy things guilt-free (since the money’s already saved).

More PICO-8/emulation options:

Pixilart, pixel art editor

Firefox: YouTube Ad Auto-skipper

DIY Classroom recording booth, organizer cube + foam

iOS: Triggering IFTTT with iOS Shorcuts

  • Using this to dictate notes into Tasks.txt, Journal.txt, Buy.txt, and CWA.txt.

Code.org: How encryption works exercise (Unit 5, Lesson 6)

Lessons from the Screenplay: Groundhog Day, An Inescapable Premise

  • “Phil is designed to be a character that seems like he could never change.… The brilliance of Groundhog Day is that once all these elements are setup, the protagonist’s change is the inevitable result of the premise.… There’s literally nothing left for Phil to do but change.”

  • “Groundhog Day is a great example of what it looks like to fully commit to a premise.… the film fully explores every avenue within its simple premise, mining the idea for every funny, moving, and heartwarming scenario Phil could find himself in”

  • I’ve loved this movie since the first time I saw it (sometime in my early teens). And it’s interesting to recognize how — years before I understood my connection to design or problem-solving — I loved this movie for exactly those reasons.

02

BrickLink AFOL Designer Program, crowdfunded LEGO projects

  • Backed Eight Studs, a LEGO brick-shaped modular tiny house

  • That’s a 3-pleasure-point combo: LEGO, modularity, and tiny, self-contained spaces #pleasurepoint

Lunark, pixelated cinematic platformer

Bought Kenneth Cole Suede-ish Chukka Boots (Brown)

01

In 4th grade, I’ve been having consistent problems with kids talking without raising their hands (aka “talkouts, blurts”). This morning, tried a new strategy: turning it around. I said, “I need your help. I have a really bad habit of responding to talkouts. If you catch me responding to a student who hasn’t raised their hand, let me know.” It was really effective! The kids were pretty intrigued by the challenge.

  • Was it a trick? Not really. This strategy occurred to me because it’s legitimately difficult not to respond in those moments. And responding just encourages more of it. #management

Here’s an idea I struggle with: it’s important to me that other people, at least sometimes, recognize that I’m doing my job well. (Which, honestly, hasn’t been happening much lately.) Is that self-involved? And if I really believe I’m good at what I do, shouldn’t that be enough?

At CWA today, I met a woman (Melanie) who was visiting from a private school in Salt Lake City. She was working in the library, and I walked over to introduce myself, and we talked for a few minutes about our jobs. I mention this because she is extremely my type: really open, curious, and friendly, not at all pretentious, lots of eye contact — just really genuine and kind. And it’s interesting to recognize that the things I’m attracted to are the opposite of the things that really piss me off: phoniness, artificiality, bullshit.

  • I’d like to follow-up on this, but how would I even do that?

StoryCorps: Great interview questions

vlogbrothers: YouTube & Copyright

  • “The current state of copyright is… only peripherally related to the law. It’s much more related to the policies of the platforms on which we operate our businesses and our lives. Which is a strange situation to be in, as we realize that we are kind of citizens of corporations.”

Shipping Container (Expandable) Tiny Home

Programming Fonts, monospace typeface tester

Lazy Devs: Making a Rougelike in PICO-8

Bitsy: Midnight Dungeon, dungeon crawler + PICO-8 version

Arduboy, credit-card-sized, 8-bit game system (i.e. Arduino + Game Boy)

Littlewood, pixelated, town-building RPG


Loving the frustration January

31

Recognizing how important it’ll be for me to continue making space in my schedule for teaching some kind of creative elective (like Coding & Robotics) — no matter how/if my job evolves. The meat of my job (3rd–5th technology) is going well, generally. But at the end of the day, those classes aren’t (and could never be) as fun or meaningful as working with a group of kids who are all stoked to be creating and learning for themselves.

  • It’s been a fun few days with the new MS class (learning HTML with Code.org and building sites on Glitch). It warms my heart when kids are working on their projects outside of class (voluntarily) and getting hyped about something like <​a​> tags (which they learned today).

  • Neither C&R has been a walk in the park, management-wise. But these kids really want to be here, doing what we’re doing. As a teacher, there’s nothing better. #teaching

  • It’s been easy for me to overlook this because almost all of my undergrad teaching was to students who elected (in some way) to be there. And although I do legitimately enjoy all of my CWA classes, there’s some magic lost when butts are required to be in seats (unfortunate example: 308 at UW).

ClipGrab, download YouTube videos

  • It’s irritating how difficult this process can be. The browser extensions that work always inevitably stop working.

  • I save a lot of stuff from the Internet locally (for my reference and for class) — videos and images that are inspiring/useful enough that I might want to get to again. Why? Because I know, for sure, that whatever I’m seeing on my screen right now (thanks to the Internet) will absolutely change. It’s all editable and erasable — and likely to be. It’s exciting, but also anxiety-inducing, and if I want to see this thing again, I have to save this version of the thing for myself. #digitalanxiety

29

Man, it’s been a rough couple of days for classroom management. 3rd yesterday, then 5th and both Coding & Robotics classes today. Mostly, it’s constant talking, with resets that last just a few seconds before the talking resumes — as soon as I say/ask anything at all, turn around momentarily, or change anything on screen. Seconds. In those moments, I’m staying cooler than ever, and I’m able to appreciate the frustration about half the time. But deep down, it’s still frustrating as fuck.

  • I’m spending so much energy, and the net result is… what? A lot of spent energy and very little forward progress. I feel foolish, ineffective, disrespected, exhausted. I feel bad, professionally and personally.

  • I’m even doing the things I’m supposed to be doing: 1. clearly communicating my expectations, 2. practicing/demonstrating those expectations with students, 3. calling out students who are doing those things well (instead of dwelling on misbehavior), 4. handling misbehaving student issues privately.

  • I’m recognizing that (as a specialist teacher) I don’t have leverage. What can I do, really, when students don’t do what I ask? I actually don’t know. I need repercussions, and this is the next thing I need to figure out. #management

detectportal.firefox.com, force the login page when using public WiFi networks

What a Brandless Brand is Selling You

  • social factory: “When branding appeared at the apex of industrial capitalism, the means of production were still largely confined to literal factories…. These days, however, that distinction isn’t so clear.… In consumer culture, brands are a primary source of meaning, and it’s (in part) up to us to make them meaningful [by doing the work of promoting and embodying the brand], creating value for capital in the process.… We’re used to thinking of production and consuming as separate activities, but in modern branding, they are one and the same.”

  • “Brandless™ is itself a brand, just like normcore is itself a style.”

28

I told the 3rd graders a story about how the (current) 4th graders (who are a real joy to work with now) were (a year ago) also a talkative, distracted (hard to manage) group. I said this: “You learn how to be 4th graders in 3rd grade.” Which feels real deep.

Talking to (Nick) the lower school principal, I mentioned that I’m open to the idea of picking up 1st and 2nd grades technology next year. I said this because: 1. these classes are currently taught by the science teacher (on top of K–5th science), which doesn’t seem fair, and 2. I’m jiving with the 2nd graders way more than I ever expected to, and I think it’d be a fun age to work with, too.

  • Although, that switch might mean less time in the middle school for me, which I’d probably regret. Overall, I like MS Coding & Robotics a lot, and it’s only going to get better as the middle school fills with the younger kids I’m already teaching.

The paradox of the software update: you need the latest update to fix the things that the last update broke. #digitalanxiety

Post-it Room, drawing

27

At-home, doorway-mounted boxing equipment:

Refurbished Game Boys: Pocket + Advance SP

Notable, Markdown note-taking app

PICO-8: Upward, puzzle platformer

26

Bought a PICO-8 license for testing (potentially, for the middle school game design class).

Applied to teach at iD Tech Summer Camps this summer, which looks pretty legit.

  • I was hoping to teach Intro to VCD at UW again, but I learned last week that there aren’t any adjunct hours available. Which is a real bummer. Last year, the class felt like a real win (the students were great, and the curriculum came together in the way I’d hoped). And the extra money helps.

I have $5,000 set aside from 2018 for retirement savings, which I’d intended to invest before tax day. But I’ve been thinking that it might be smarter to use that money for dating — an investment towards the life I’d like to live. And which could, actually (as Uncle Al pointed out) also be a smart investment financially.

CSS: Style links based on the URL

  • Using this to differentiate links to other journal posts.

Bitsy: Palettsy, palette generator

Seattle Smol Games, tiny games meetup (e.g. Bitsy)

Scott Martin (Burnt Toast): Social Media series — Day & Night

Thanks to the new apartment, on days when I can work from home, I actually prefer working from home (instead of coffee shops or going into work). I don’t remember that ever really being true.

  • I’m really happy with the unit I picked: 1. since there are two walls with windows, there’s a ton of light, 2. since I’m on the corner of the building, it’s really quiet, 3. since I’m on the bottom floor, I can stomp around all I want without ruining anyone’s day (a constant worry in both Seattle apartments), and 4. since the 1st floor is the cheapest, I’m saving money vs. the top floor (which I considered).

  • A couple of drawbacks: 1. since I’m on the corner and above the parking garage, it can get pretty cold in here, and 2. since I have upstairs neighbors, I have to deal with their stomping around (but I’m learning to be OK with it, and they’ve been pretty considerate, actually — and even mentioned that they could hear their upstairs neighbor stomping around — which pays-off a theory I had about avoiding apartments where my upstairs neighbors don’t have upstairs neighbors).

  • I’m investing that difference in rent ($210) in my retirement account every month, which gives that decision a nice extra layer of meaning.

  • Construction left the empty apartment next door unlocked, so I checked it out. It’s the same size as my apartment, but the longest wall doesn’t have any windows, and there’s a lot less light.

Profile of an Everyday Instagrammer

  • “Instagram Stories reveal how people actually are rather than how they’d like to be seen, or that’s the idea.”

    • I’ve noticed that several of my friends post more Stories than regular photos/videos now. Which seems like a response to what regular Instagram feels like: a burden — of constructed, performative, curated, anxiety-inducing bullshit.

    • But the idea that Stories are more ‘real’ — that they’re not also constructions — that they release you from the burden of performance and curation — is hilariously wrong.

25

“An idea for birthday celebrations: Celebrate nice numbers of days since the year you were born; 1,000 days, 11,111, 123,456 days old etc.” — Daniel Eatock

  • I’ve been alive 14,331 days (2,047 weeks). And I’ll be 15,000 days old on November 24, 2020.

Compagnon, historic typewriter typeface

PICO-8: Feed the Ducks, surreal duck-feeding puzzle game

“I’d rather be here, now.” — Ram Dass

24

The Enduring Legacy of ‘Half-Life,’ 20 Years After Its Release

23

Over the last few days, my classroom management has been sharper. I’m: 1. intentionally planning for it, 2. breaking lessons into smaller chunks, 3. being as. clear. as. possible., 4. communicating my expectations more often. It’s clicking again! Next level, actually.

  • The switch in my mindset after the break — of recognizing that I love the frustration (or at least, that it’s an inseparable part of the job that I love — is helping me see that my management has to come from the same place. The strategies I employ have to come from a place of sincerity, empathy, kindness, and respect. Strategies that feel mechanical, patronizing, or authoritative don’t feel comfortable when I use them. I want to maintain my connections with the kids at the same time that I’m managing the room. I don’t want to draw a line between me and them.

  • I want both (the connection and the well-managed class), and I think it’s possible. #realness #teaching

  • For example, I told the MS Coding & Robotics kids yesterday (the first day of the new quarter): “I know it’s common in (CWA) middle school classes for students to talk a lot. But as a teacher, it’s hard to have to reset every few minutes. I could really use your help with that.” I said it smiling and sincerely, and they listened (collectively) more in that moment than they had for the 40 minutes before. Then, today, reminding them of that conversation, I said: “The students have the power in a classroom. I can ask for your attention and focus, but you actually get to decide whether or not to give it.”

L.M. Sacasas: Privacy Is Not Dying, We’re Killing It

  • “We want to live in public but also control what happens to the slices of life we publicize. Or we recoil at the thought of our foibles being turned into one day’s entertainment on Twitter, but we nonchalantly consume such entertainment when someone else is the victim.”

  • “Privacy flourishes in the attention economy to the same degree that contentment flourishes in the consumer economy, which is to say not at all.”

  • “all of this is just an extension of what used to be the case with celebrities in the age of electronic media and print tabloids. Digital media simply democratizes both the publicity and its consequences.”

  • Connects to thoughts on shame and social media.

22

Another bonus of the Digital Design Lab is that the kids who’ve been showing up lately have been mostly 1st and 2nd graders — kids I don’t teach. So I’m getting to know them, too.

  • There’s a chance that I’ll pick up teaching those grades next year (and move away from middle school), which… might be good, actually. Considering it.

  • As fun as my middle school class has been, it can also be pretty irritating for me. It’s just like: could you stop talking about death, stop making everything single thing about gayness, stop writing on the board, allow for a single moment of silence, stop rolling around on the floor…?, stop making everything about how you feel (or don’t feel) right now, and what you want (or don’t want) right now? Could you, like, get excited about school?

Pangram Pangram: Grafier, edgy serif typeface

Fourth-wall-breaking Nancy comic + more fourth-wall comics

Guidies: Distortion

NYTimes: The Insect Apocalypse Is Here

  • “Amateurs have long provided much of the patchy knowledge we have about nature.… The Latin root of the word ‘amateur’ is, after all, the word ‘lover.’”

  • “It is estimated that, since 1970, Earth’s various populations of wild land animals have lost, on average, 60 percent of their members. Zeroing in on the category we most relate to, mammals, scientists believe that for every six wild creatures that once ate and burrowed and raised young, only one remains. What we have instead is ourselves.”

21

Working on progress reports (grading) for the first half of the year. Even though I’m responsible for more students now (100+ little kids vs. 15–60 undergrads) I don’t dread grading as much as I did. It’s less frequent and more personal, but now that I’m working with the same students for much longer, I’m getting to see them mature and change. I really feel protective and proud of these little people — I know these kids pretty well. And grading (as a reflection of that long-term relationship) feels newly significant and worth the energy.

Thinking of taking a solo vacation to Vancouver for my 40th birthday. The city has a special place in my heart, and it was the inspiration for moving to the PNW, and so, seems like the appropriate place to celebrate having arrived at this next phase. And I want to take the train. #thenextphase

  • 40? WTF

Game Maker’s Toolkit: The Design of Super Mario Odyssey

  • “[Nintendo’s approach to difficulty is] to make the main game pretty easy and accessible — and then add additional challenges… for more dedicated players to tackle.”

  • This is what I’m trying with my new LS Coding & Robotics class, where I have beginners and advanced kids in the same room. My plan is to use the same projects for everyone, but include multiple, increasingly-difficult challenges for each project. That way, everyone is working towards a specific goal, but each student is at a level of difficulty they’ve self-selected. #goals

  • “Nintendo games might be weird and unpredictable, but they’re not just a messy hodgepodge of random ideas and mechanics.… the unique gameplay is often reflected in the game’s presentation. Take Splatoon’s punky aesthetic, which came from the graffiti-style ink mechanic. Or Mario Sunshine’s tropical [style], which was inspired by the Super Soaker gameplay. There’s certainly some of that in Mario Odyssey, with a race of hat-like creatures, living in a hat-based kingdom, flying hat-shaped crafts around the world. And everyone in the game is wearing hats”

  • This kind of meta-presentation is a dimension of juiciness. Odyssey is doubling-down on hat-ness.

Floyd furniture

Library Genesis, pirated ebook database

Sutori, timeline creation tool

Cloudflare Registrar, cheaper domain registration

Focus + 1Focus, block apps/websites on a schedule

  • Using this to block browsers any app but FoldingText after 7:00p 8:00p (Sunday–Thursday), trying to make more space for reading, journaling, and meditating — away time.

  • I don’t like that I’m tying my own hands, but I’m spending too much time online, and this’ll be more effective than willpower.

20

MakeCode Arcade, web-based game coding (using the same interface we’ve been using for micro:​bits)

  • MakeCode for Minecraft, and for Minecraft

  • Again, seriously, I would’ve been a perfect pick for working on MakeCode at Microsoft Research. But, also again, I’d rather be teaching and working with kids in classrooms every day than sitting at a computer, designing interfaces and lessons for teachers and kids to use.

  • Still bugs me. Why, though, if I really believe I ended up with the better job for me? I think, because when I was applying for that job (plus other design industry jobs: SMART, Microsoft Education, LEGO), I failed to present myself in a way that really captured what I’m capable of. Which led to a lot of stress and disappointment in the year afterward. And existential questions about whether or not I’d ever find my place professionally, or even understood myself in the way I thought I did. (And the money would’ve been nice.)

  • Part of that failure is in my portfolio, which was more focused on research than interfaces. But also in having not-selected UX projects in grad school. That said, even then, I didn’t want a UX job. But it was naive to think I could bypass that step.

  • And, at that point, I didn’t know that technology teacher at a private school was even a job that existed. So, all that to say, even though I ended up with a job that really works for me, I didn’t have a clear plan for work after grad school. And I think my portfolio accurately reflected that ambiguity. #jobs

grift capitalism: business models engineered around the trickery of the people they’re profiting from. (Related to surveillance capitalism).

“a book is also a collection of things you pick up in the process of writing it.” — Kyle Chayka’s editor #theprocess

19

Bitsy: I can’t find my glasses!, one-room puzzle game

  • At the end of MS Coding & Robotics yesterday, one of the students who’s not returning next quarter (Elliott) asked if I’ll be teaching this class in the spring. I said that it wouldn’t be the same class. Instead, I’m thinking it’ll be a game design class (using Bitsy), and he was pretty stoked about that idea.

  • We could break it into multiple units: story, sprites, puzzles, custom music, scripting. And all framed by design process: goals, inspiration (dissecting existing games), limitations (pixels), prototyping and feedback (play-testing). Oh man!

  • And eventually, an advanced class for PICO-8 games.

Bitsy: Spook Tower, spoopy (funny + spooky) castle game

Bitsy: The Fever, educational game about coral reefs

Mike Caulfield: Another example of the news fact-checking strategy, this time, for the “Trump resignation”

macOS: Schedule startup, wake, sleep, restart, or shutdown

Split Not Great™

18

Typewrite Something, typewriter simulator

Vox: The future of work and automation

Vox: How smart is today’s artificial intelligence?

  • machine learning: “Every algorithm has an input and an output: the data goes into the computer, the algorithm does what it will with it, and out comes the result. Machine learning turns this around: in goes the data and the desired result and out comes the algorithm that turns one into the other.”

  • “[Today’s machine learning is] pattern recognition masquerading as understanding.”

Paradiddle, VR drumming

  • This is cool, for sure. But like virtual anything, it wouldn’t feel real. Hitting a drum set is the most satisfying part of the experience.

Kurzgesagt: Organic vs. conventional vegetables

Gaming Historian, retro video game video essays

  • Super Mario Bros. 2

  • Punch-Out!!

  • Virtual Boy

  • I remember the day I got a Virtual Boy (I would’ve been 15 in 1995). When mom picked it up from Toys R Us (the same store I started working at a year later), the cashier told her that I was the only person who’d pre-ordered one.

17

Firefox: Page Info window: Media, the easiest way to save the source images, SVGs, etc. from a page

16

Got a new nickname, this time from (mostly, Iyla) 3rd graders: “Joe Froyo”.

  • This is in addition to “Stringbean” (which started on the 4th grade trip last year), and “Mr. Spara-n-n-no Pota-t-t-to” (from last year’s 5th graders).

  • Several of the kids call me by a nickname or use my first name in some way, which is pretty unusual for CWA kids to do with teachers (I’m the only one I can think of). Not really sure why, or whether it’s a sign of respect, or comfort, or what.

People in meetings are weird, including me.

  • I really feel like I’ve reached the pinnacle of my career arc, for me. I don’t ever want to be an administrator or a manager. I don’t want to move any further up the ladder. Fuck meetings, emails, sitting in an office, management, interviews, slimy maneuvering and bureaucratic bullshit. I want my work to be teaching — working with kids, in classrooms, every day. There’s no better version of my job than the thing I’m already doing.

Kemerling: A Social Rebellion

  • “I don’t want you to know where I am at all times, to know what I love, or know how I’m feeling. I’m a human. Thus, complicated and multi-layered like all other humans.”

15

Had another bumpy-ish lesson in 5th grade (introducing the Design & Technology project). But my perspective has changed since the last (much bumpier) lesson. The reason in both cases is that I spent less time planning than the lesson deserved. Having spent most of the fall feeling stressed and overworked, I’ve decided that I’m giving this job as much time as I’m willing to (and more than I even should, considering my salary), so if I have a hastily-planned lesson here and there (which tend not to go very smoothly), I think I’m OK with that.

  • Stoked about this project, though. The plan is for the kids to choose an important technology in their life and eventually answer: 1. how has your technology affected history? (through interviews and research), 2. what is your technology designed to do? (by investigating how it works), and 3. how could you redesign your technology? (deciding how it could be improved and building a prototype, based on the current technology’s effects and the intentions behind it).

First LS Coding & Robotics class (once/week after-school elective). It’s my first class in the LS that’s truly mine, and… it was harder to manage than I anticipated. Not surprising at all (in retrospect). One of the students even asked, “Do you wish you had two teachers?” Which suggests it was worse than it was. I don’t wish that, though — I want to figure this out.

  • One reason I signed up for this is that I thought it’d be fun to work with the kids who really want to code and build robots. But it didn’t occur to me until now that maybe it won’t be fun or worth the energy I’ll be investing in it.

  • Another reason I signed up for this is the extra cash. But I’m a little frustrated by the idea that I’m working more at the same job to compensate for that job’s already-not-great paycheck.

A thing I need to get over: the way kids (usually boys) are compelled by apps/tools not working: “glitching out” (usually just everyday tech quirkiness) and “hacking” (usually just features they think are bugs). I think they like the idea that they’ve mastered the system — which I can respect. But I’m irritated by it because they usually haven’t done that, and (at times) they’re more excited to have broken it than in using it the way it was intended.

  • This is what kids are engineered to do, though. And it just happens to align perfectly with the complexity and unreliability of digital tech.

Here’s something I keep returning to: I think I’m a pretty innovative teacher. I’m using digital stuff in fun and interesting ways. I’m trying lots of new things this year, and way more often than not, they work (I’m upgrading this shit!). And it’s all relevant to the things kids are into outside of school (I know what’s up!). But I don’t feel like that’s been recognized or appreciated much by other teachers. That bugs me. Should it?

14

Learned that the dad of one of the CWA kids is a current NBA player (DeMarcus Cousins) — a multiple-time (4×) All-Star, even. What!

Security Checklist, online privacy and security resources

A bonus of the new apartment: when you’re the only person who uses a washer and dryer, there’s no need to use a hamper — the washer is the hamper.

13

Shopping for a ‘low’-style bed: GLB + Natural Bed Company +

  • And I think I have a reasonable solution for my anxiety around owning a mattress: I already have one Milliard Tri-fold Foam Mattress (which I’m happy with), and two of those is the size of king. The modularity feels more manageable to me: it splits in half (so I could detach it and move it to another room as a guest bed), and they fold (which makes them easy to move around generally).

Vox: Magic Eye, The optical illusion, explained

  • It occurred to me, watching this, that I might be doing them wrong sometimes. And it’s true!

  • r/MagicEye: Inverted images?: “Q: so you mean to tell me that crossing my eyes has been the wrong way to approach these images? I’m not suppose to see the image indented? It's supposed to be embossed? A: Most likely it’s because instead of ‘relaxing your eyes’ you're crossing them.… try focusing on something far away from you and then looking at your screen while still holding the previous focus.”

  • r/CrossView, stereograms intended to be viewed cross-eyed.

  • Joss Fong, forever.

MeArm Robot, micro:​bit-controlled robotic arm

PewPew, little game console for teaching game development

12

Lazy Devs: Playing the games of my students

  • “[one] of the things that… newcomer [game designers, but this also applies to any kind of design based on appearance] don’t really understand is that consistency is a lot more important than quality.”

  • This guy is one of my new heroes.

jQuery: .load, import content from another page + :first, find the first instance of an element

  • Wrote (copy-and-pasted and trialed-and-errored together) a script that fetches the latest movie I watched (from this page) and displays it on About.

  • This is in addition to the script that already pulls my current favorite song from last.fm.

mui, wood panel digital display

Escape Room Not Great™

11

“It… feels to me like for something to be true, there ought to be an element of feeling and intuition.” — Christoper Nolan

PuzzleScript, puzzle game engine

The Take: Eternal Sunshine, the symbolism of Clementine’s hair

  • “the hair color’s progression signals to us the symbolic seasons of Joel’s and Clementine’s relationship: [spring = green, summer = red, fall = orange, winter = blue].”

  • “This is perhaps the most profound truth in the movie: that acceptance sets us free.”

  • Kate Winslet, forever.

TED Talk: How language shapes the way we think

  • “And if I ask an English speaker to organize time, they might lay it out… from left to right.… very egocentric of me to have the direction of time chase me around every time I turn my body.”

  • “Why do I think the way that I do? How could I think differently?… What thoughts do I wish to create?”

10

Over the break, telling friends and family how much I enjoy my job, plus having some distance from it, is bringing me a new ability to recognize — and appreciate — in real time, that the frustration is the job. In those tricky classroom management moments, I haven’t been working to keep a smile on my face, I’m actually smiling. I love the job. I love the frustration … ? #teaching

  • This maybe sounds cheesy and dramatic, but the way I feel has actually changed, and this is why.

In MS Coding & Robotics, did an all-class, post-project reflection on micro:​bit games (Project 2). It’s been so cool that one of my favorite things from my UW classes works with the younger kids, too. Reflections are never not worthwhile.

  • One question I asked was, “What do you wish Mr. Sparano had done differently?”, and the kids agreed that they wished I’d known more about micro:​bit coding before the project started. Which: 1. totally, me too, 2. I appreciate that they feel comfortable enough to tell me, 3. I learned a ton during this project, and I’m ready for the next class now, 4. I’m happy with what I did teach them, actually, 5. part of what they’re responding to is that it’s pretty difficult to look at students’ code and immediately know why it’s not working (and that ambiguity is an unusual classroom feeling), 6. I don’t even mind that they knew I was learning along with them — because I was, 7. which gave me a chance to model the more valuable skills (patience, flexibility, problem-solving strategies), 8. teaching digital-whatever means I’ll always be in the midst of learning/teaching new stuff (which I appreciate about my job), and 9. they all made cool little games, and they learned a lot in that process. #teaching #jobs

Internet Privacy: How the “nothing to hide” argument is flawed

Procedur.al, made-to-order generative art

Bitsy: minimalist, reflections on minimizing game

Maya Kaimal Indian Sauces

09

In 5th grade, did an exercise/discussion on whether or not a pencil is a technology, using the definition they created at the beginning of the year. In the midst of that, one of the kids (Ayden) mentioned that his favorite pencil had “Round & Round” printed on it — which is cool because Justin had sent that to me, and I’d dropped that into their classroom. #worldscolliding

B.M. Pixel, 5 × 4 pixel grid typeface

08

Teleport Bot (@bot_teleport), randomly generated scenarios

07

Alterego, bitmap/pixelated typeface

06

Tacoma

  • Four years in, and my closest friends are still in Omaha. Not sure what to make of that.

05

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Good™

  • An example of a juicy movie.

More Bitsy resources:

04

I have a lot of good, long convos on these trips back home. The theme of this trip has been parenthood (specifically, being a dad). How do you manage it all? Is it what you imagined? What are the hardest parts? What are the rewarding parts? In the hardest parts, what are you thinking about? What’s your schedule like? What do you sacrifice? Do you have time to yourself? I wouldn’t ask: is it worth it? Because of course it is. But it sure looks about as hard as something could be (to do well, anyway). @t

  • I’m asking these questions because I want to be a dad. But I also worry (a lot) that maybe I’m not cut out for it — that I’d have a problem losing the isolated Joe time that I seem to require. And I’m not all that interested in doing the work it’ll take to find a partner to build a family with anyway.

  • Life is pretty good as it is. And it’s possible that teaching is already the ideal balance for me of mentoring in a dad-like way while maintaining a relatively large amount of personal independence.

1UP Arcade cabinets + Galaga version

03

Watched Rockets vs. Warriors on the NBA VR app, which was pretty sweet.

02

I’ve said several times on this trip that my job at CWA feels like the ideal job for me. It’s hard to imagine a better fit — it matters, I think I’m good at it, and it’s fun (the criteria for A Good Day).

Strong Songs podcast, breakdowns of popular songs

01

This is it. The year I turn 40. How?

The Myth of Invisible Design #design

  • readiness-at-hand: “using a tool to accomplish something and you’re not aware of it (e.g. writing with a pen).” vs. presence-at-hand: “when you’re aware of the tool as a tool (e.g. imagine the pen running out of ink. You become cognizant of it as an object in your hand.)” — Heidegger

  • There are three great themes in design: making something beautiful, making something easier, and making something possible. The best designs accomplish all three at once.

  • This is a classic design industry assumption: that design = product design. That a designer is always designing a beautiful tool for a person to use, by choice, to accomplish a task delightfully — that a designer is always trying to incentivize a person to use the thing.

  • But sometimes a design isn’t good for the person using it — not all design is intended to be beautiful or make things easier (I’ve said this, too). A design can be abrasive (barbed wire), distracting (billboards), cumbersome (privacy policies), disorienting (buying a car), fear-inducing (local news), etc.

  • Matt and I talked this through. This essay interprets design invisibility as a visual feature, but invisibility can be intellectual, too (which is how I’m using it in the quote). So, a design could be visually invisible (so the user may think it’s hard to use, in a bad way) — but the designer may have intended it to be hard to use (so it’s also intellectually invisible, in a good way). [An example?] @t

Weval: Half Age Good™


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