Journal February


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


How do Christians believe in ghosts and astrology?

Orientation, stencil typeface

Aspect Ratio Calculator


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 (codding) 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.

  •, 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.”


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. 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.


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 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, and why every movie has a climactic battle scene, and why Instagram is an unreal fantasyland. #digitalanxiety #digitalperson


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”


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


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


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


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


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), shape-drawing music sequencer

PICO-8: Cheat Sheet, code reference


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, branding, 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


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.”


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.


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

Creative Commons Search

DeLorean Ipsum, random lines from the BTTF script (for sample text)

Retronator, pixel art and gaming news blog


Norton74, LEGO builder

Virtual Punch Card: Keypunch + Reader


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.


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.

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. 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.


BrickLink AFOL Designer Program, crowdfunded LEGO projects

Lunark, pixelated cinematic platformer

Bought Kenneth Cole Suede-ish Chukka Boots (Brown)


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


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 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


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, 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.”


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


At-home, doorway-mounted boxing equipment:

Refurbished Game Boys: Pocket + Advance SP

Notable, Markdown note-taking app

PICO-8: Upward, puzzle platformer


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. #apartments

  • 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.


“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


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


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.


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.”


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.


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


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™


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.


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


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.”


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?


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.


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


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

mui, wood panel digital display

Escape Room Not Great™


“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?”


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, made-to-order generative art

Bitsy: minimalist, reflections on minimizing game

Maya Kaimal Indian Sauces


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


Teleport Bot (@bot_teleport), randomly generated scenarios


Alterego, bitmap/pixelated typeface



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


Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Good™

  • An example of a juicy movie.

More Bitsy resources:


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


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


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


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™

Journal index20192018201720162015