Here’s something that bugs me about Christianity: when something good happens in your life: god is at work, pulling the strings. But that’s lame! I made that decision, I took advantage of that opportunity. I made that thing happen.
Flotato, run web apps as native desktop apps
This has got all kinds of pleasure-points for me: 80s technology, time-traveling, childhood, Rube-Goldbergian mechanics, puzzle-solving. #pleasurepoint
I’m noticing that good video game puzzles introduce questions about the design of the puzzle. (Examples: Why is that thing changing when I do this? What is that thing doing over there? How in the world would I get from here to there?!).
Which means that: 1. a ‘game’ is just a series of designs presented to the player, 2. a ‘puzzle’ is just a situation where the player can see the design, but doesn’t (yet) understand the goal, 3. a ‘clue’ is just the game designer’s way of helping the player ask the right questions, and 4. the player ‘wins’ by understanding/deconstructing/reverse-engineering what each puzzle is designed to do. #design
Bought the FightCamp Home Gym #treatjoeself
Demo-Man, interactive PICO-8 tutorials
Fastmail, private, ad-free email/calendar/contacts
What a movie! Made me think about essentially everything (movie-making, death, family, friends, relationships, grad school, traveling, parenting, religion, drugs). Walking out of the theater, I felt like I’d just returned from some far-off place. And it’s one of the rare movies I’ve seen recently that was still on my mind for hours afterwards. This is the power of movie-going.
“The scariest parts of this movie are [the horror of the everyday]: Dani’s lack of an emotional support system, Christian’s culturally sanctioned entitlement, and the mutual terrors of codependency.”
Firefox: Wikipedia Anywhere, pop-up search
Alesis Strike MultiPad, compact drum kit
Designing a Rock-Skipping Robot #design
Holy shit, this will be a fantastic way to demonstrate the design process to the CWA kids (who tend to love skipping rocks).
“So often, people want to jump straight to [building], which usually won’t work. But it’s almost worse if it does, because you have no confidence that you're close to the optimal design.”
“software is eating the world without taking responsibility for it. We used to have rules and standards around Saturday morning cartoons, and when YouTube gobbles up that part of society it just takes away all of those protections.”
“the most important topics to us are increasingly complex, while we can say increasingly simple things about them. And that automatically creates polarization because you can’t say something simple about something complicated and have everybody agree with you. People will (by definition) misinterpret and hate you for it, and then it’s never been easier to retweet that and generate a mob that will come after you.”
PICO-8: Lander, spacecraft-landing game
Roli LUMI, illuminated MIDI keyboard
Yossa Von K, low-res pixel illustrator & game developer
Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad by Austin Kleon Great™
I love this series (including Show Your Work! and Steal Like An Artist). And I appreciate how they’re written iteratively: they start as ideas or discoveries → which become personal journal entries → that become published blog posts → that (over time) become a recognizable pattern of posts → that eventually become a cohesive collection of ideas in a book. I’ve followed Kleon’s blog long enough to have seen the original posts that became this book, which is just really cool. #iter8ordie
“I think trying to be creative, keeping busy, has a lot to do with keeping you alive.” — Willie Nelson
“A list is a collection with purpose” — Adam Savage
“You will someday die with items still on your list, but for now, while you live, your list helps prioritize what can be done in your limited time.” — Tom Sachs
“You are not responsible for the world — you are only responsible for your work — so do it.” — Sol LeWitt
“What I’m really concerned about is reaching one person.” — Jorge Luis Borges
“We pay attention to the things we really care about, but sometimes what we really care about is hidden from us. I keep a daily diary for many reasons, but the main one is that it helps me pay attention to my life.… Many diarists don’t bother rereading their diaries, but I’ve found that rereading doubles the power of a diary because I’m then able to discover my own patterns, identify what I really care about, and know myself better.”
Thinking about the How to Learn About Yourself class I might do some day: it could be a workshop of the techniques for finding the patterns of what you’re into/not — hands-on Pleasure-Point Analysis. #project
“The purpose of [doing your work seriously] is to keep people from despair. If people [interact with] your work and, as a result, choose life, then you are doing your job.” — Sara Manguso
“I’m making explorations. I don’t know where they’re going to take me.” — Marshall McLuhan
“Everything you think is a response to what someone else has thought you said.” — Alan Jacobs
“if you really want to explore ideas, you should consider hanging out with people who aren’t so much like minded as like-hearted. These are people who are ‘temperamentally disposed to openness and have habits of listening.’ People who are generous, kind, caring, and thoughtful.… People you feel good around.”
I told a friend (Melanie) recently that I’d like to meet more people in Tacoma who I have more things in common with. She asked what those things would be. Like-hearted is what I meant.
Although most of my Omaha friends were in the design industry, what really tied them together was like-heartedness.
“Like a tree, creative work has seasons. Part of the work is to know which season you’re in, and act accordingly. In winter, ‘the tree looks dead, but we know it is beginning a very deep process, out of which will come spring and summer.’”
“It’s the American view that everything has to keep climbing: productivity, profits, even comedy. No time to contract before another expansion. No time to grow up. No time to learn from your mistakes. But that notion goes against nature, which is cyclical.” — George Carlin
I feel like I’m in a season of contraction, but it’s helpful to think that it’s part of a process, and things will expand again. I don’t feel professionally very successful right now. I don’t feel friendly. I don’t feel generous with my time, energy, or attention. I don’t feel confident or optimistic about relationships.
“I don’t want to know how a thirty-year-old became rich and famous; I want to hear how an eighty-year-old spent her life in obscurity, kept making art, and lived a happy life. These are the people I look to for inspiration. The people who found the thing that made them feel alive and who kept themselves alive by doing it. The people who planted their seeds, tended to themselves, and grew into something lasting.”
“Hitler was making another speech. But Leonard had had enough. ‘I shan’t come! I’m planting iris and they will be flowering long after he is dead.’ He was right. In his memoir,… Leonard Wolf noted that twenty-one years after Hitler [died], a few of those purple flowers still bloomed in the orchard under the apple tree.”
FightCamp, home boxing gym + workout videos
Pi0CKET-tiny, ultra-mini Raspberry Pi gaming handheld
LightNote, music theory lessons
Mini vMac, Classic Macintosh emulator (Systems 1–7.5)
Spent a good chunk of the day getting Mini vMac to run on my Kano Touch Raspberry Pi — which was a super fun and heartwarmingly-nostalgic little project. I have such golden memories of using the Macs (probably a Macintosh Classics) at Millard Central Middle School, in the library and learning ClarisWorks in computer class. It’s like time-traveling!
Mini vMac Applications, ready-to-use vMac disks
After Dark in CSS, the classic Mac screen saver
Just realized that (now that I live an hour south of Seattle), I’m only a 2½-hour drive from seeing a Portland Trail Blazers game. Gotta do this next season!
“we will need to accept that how much people earn in the market is often not what they deserve, and that the tax they pay is not taking from what is rightfully theirs.”
“[All] goods and services… depend on the economic and social infrastructure, including transport networks, communications systems, energy supplies and extensive legal arrangements covering complex matters such as intellectual property, formal markets such as stock exchanges, and jurisdiction across national borders.… In sum, it is impossible to isolate what is ‘yours’ from what is made possible, or influenced, by the role of government.”
“Fewer people are buying tickets to movies because fewer people need to leave their homes to see new things. And so to draw out the homebound consumer, a theatrical experience must be an event.”
2019 is one of the worst years for movie-going I can remember. Streaming (watching movies at home) isn’t the same experience disconnecting, creatively-satisfying, life-affirming for me. And I notice, personally, when I have fewer movie-theater-movies in the queue. It’s so sad to think that this movie-going era of my life might be evaporating.
There’s also something pretty dark about a future where everyone just stays at home, watching movies and having everything delivered.
“Movies are no longer about the thing; they’re about the next thing, the tease, the Easter egg, the post-credit sequence, the promise of a future at which the moment we’re in can only hint.” — The Birdcage
“Marketers revere the idea of brands, because a brand means that somebody, somewhere, once bought the thing they’re now trying to sell.… Sequels are brands. Remakes are brands.” — The Day the Movies Died
Adventuron, text adventure game-maker
Graphical User Interface Gallery, database of classic OSs
Technology promises to simplify, but it does the opposite. The more advanced a thing becomes (the more it promises to do for us) the more complexity it introduces into our lives. (Examples: pen/paper vs. computer, walking vs. driving, talking vs. texting/email). The more advanced the technology: the more maintenance it requires, the more likely it is to break, the more it relies on other technologies to keep working, the more likely it is to eventually become obsolete and need replacing, the less certainty we have that it’ll work when we need it to. #digitalanxiety
Archive.org has a snapshot of my first website:
Switched back to a sans serif on this site: Neue Montreal.
I like to think the typeface on this site reflects something about where I’m at, personally. This time, it feels like time to undo the specificity and character I was aiming for with the last typeface. Visually, the goal this time was neutral — Neue Montreal is a nice alternative to my first choice: Untitled Sans (designed specifically to be nothing special).
Calling Code, curvy monospace typeface
Keyboard Sports: Saving QWERTY, keyboard-as-controller
I’m in a funk. I’m feeling cynical, irritable, unhealthy, unconfident, unattractive, socially awkward, disconnected, like a weirdo outsider.
I’m really disappointed in how much I allowed my frustration to show with the kids in sScreen Printing. The kids were being disrespectful to me, and their behavior needed to be addressed. But I wish I would’ve responded with love. Showing my frustration (not smiling, being short, demanding, cynical, joyless) transforms those moments from professional to personal. I’m complicating the problem by introducing my feelings into the situation.
In Summer Fun Screen Printing, some of the students have been disrespectful (interrupting/singing/humming when I’m talking to the group, talking back, bending rules, doing things I asked them not to, calling me by my first name). At a level that’s slightly (but noticeably) different than during the school year.
I don’t think they’re being disrespectful on purpose. Which (I’m realizing now) is why classroom management has been so hard for me, emotionally. They’re acting in these ways because they don’t respect my authority as their teacher. They may think I’m cool. They may even call me their “favorite teacher” which one student (Ryan) said this week. But based on my style of teaching, or my personality, or… WHO KNOWS WHY, they don’t take me seriously. And that stings. #management
Teaching confronting your ego. It’s a reason I think it’s so valuable — but also why it’s so hard.
A 3rd grader (Ben) is printing a poster for his YouTube channel, and (talking about the videos he plans to post) used the word “content” correctly and unironically. Oof.
sok-stories, point-and-click + drawing game-maker
Kindle Oasis: Invert colors, for reading at night (dark mode)
I’m wondering if Summer Fun Screen Printing was a good idea. It’s a fun process, and I really like the kids in the class. But I’m technically on summer break, and yet, still working full work days (cleaning/coating screens and otherwise getting ready for class). Is missing a week of summer vacation worth $1,000? Not sure.
Summer Fun Screen Printing started today. It’s been a few years since I last screen printed, but it’s all coming back. And it still feels like magic. I love: 1. the combination of analog and digital, 2. the solid colors, 3. that it requires expertise to do well, but that it’s also easy to start doing. The kids think it’s pretty cool, too.
Neighbor on the elevator asks: “Do you shop at Met [Market, the more expensive neighborhood grocery store] or Safeway [the discount neighborhood grocery store]?” I said: “Safeway. I aspire to be a Met Market shopper.”
“None of the actors within the system is malicious or stupid – their behaviors all make sense given their incentives as dictated by the rules of the system. This is true of television, of internet media, [politics], and of consumer capitalism broadly.”
“the objective function of a politician is optimized not results but for votes.”
“Expecting new and ‘better’ personnel to behave differently within the same structure and system of incentives is a wishful thinking (if not outright delusional).”
“Because we have (rightfully) lost faith in our institutional leaders and the systems of incentives that govern their behavior, but we do not yet have a replacement system, we now find ourselves in a dangerous transitional period.”
“I have to constantly remind myself to get into a Systems Thinking framework when I’m thinking about improving our broken institutions…. So, rather than talking about how bad an individual politician, party, corporation, or special interest group is, the discussion becomes: what are the incentives that might lead an actor with this position in the system to behave this way? How might we change the incentives or rules of the system to lead to different outcomes?”
This applies to classroom management, too. Problems with student behavior starts with the environment (which is dictated by the teacher). #management
BitFontMaker2, online pixel font editor
Bitsy: Redlander, ship-repair adventure
PICO-8: Sk8Border, anti-border-wall skateboarding
PICO-8: Brawl, 2-player, 1-hit fighting
Another recurring struggle of my life is a failure to figure out how to be honest — to say what’s important to be said — without making it uncomfortable for other people.
Visiting year-end UW Design exhibitions, I’m recognizing one of the reasons I’ve lost interest in teaching design is that although many design school projects are (on paper) intended to help other people — that’s disingenuous (in practice). Often, students do discover valuable, helpful things in the midst of their work… but rarely implement them. Ultimately, the intent of design school work is to demonstrate that a student is capable of designing. These projects are more about the designer than the solutions or the audience they’re intended (on paper) to help.
Font for Nerds, 3×3 pixel typeface
It’s amazing that this is possible!
PICO-8: Expanded font libraries, lowercase, 3×3
Christina Neofotistou (@castpixel), low-res pixel illustrator
Noticing that I have the same hair-loss pattern as Jony Ive, and that I’m responding to it in the same way (just buzzing it really short). It feels pretty great knowing that!
Why: “1. because you're already using [your calendar], 2. if you can minimize the number of applications you need to go to to figure out what you should be focusing on, you’re going to be more productive, and 3. you can see [visually] the relationship between your tasks on a given day and your other commitments.”
I’ve been looking to simplify my task management, and I think this is it.
One of the recurring struggles of my life is making sense of generally feeling misunderstood — like a weirdo outsider. I don’t feel accepted by new people in my life in the PNW (thinking, mostly of CWA teachers), as much as skeptically and confusingly patronized.
kayfabe: “the unspoken contract between wrestlers and spectators: We’ll present you something clearly fake under the insistence that it’s real, and you will experience genuine emotion. Neither party acknowledges the bargain, or else the magic is ruined.”
“Chants of ‘Build the Wall’ aren’t about erecting a structure; they’re about how cathartic it feels, in the moment, to yell with venom against a common enemy.”
“[Kayfabe] rests on the assumption that feelings are inherently more trustworthy than facts.”
Other celebrities born in 1979: Rosamund Pike, Zhang Ziyi, Brandy, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Adam Levine, Lee Pace, Heath Ledger, Kate Hudson, James McAvoy, Lace Bass, Robyn, Kevin Hart, Rose Bryne, B.J. Novak, Evangeline Lilly, Pink, Flo Rida, John Krasinski.
So, people that also turn 40 this year. There’s something… reassuring about knowing that these people are also getting older — and also don’t seem old now.
CWA Graduation. It’s fun to look forward to the day when I’ll know most of the graduating class (still several years away).
“Just trying stuff out to see what the right thing to do is.”
“nothing lasts forever, and we both know hearts can change.” — Guns N’ Roses
The Red Hot, Tacoma hot dog restaurant
Last day of school + 5th grade Moving On ceremony #classof2026
These were the first kids I really connected with at CWA (as 4th graders last year). I taught my interview lesson with them, went on my first field trip with them, and they were the group that confirmed for me that teaching technology to little kids was the right move for me.
Although, my connection with this group faded as puberty has taken hold (especially in Carie’s class) — as they (naturally) became more social, harder to manage, and lost some enthusiasm for being students. Which frustrated me, which (regrettably) showed in my teaching, which fractured those bonds and created some distance between us. And so, tonight wasn’t as difficult as I would’ve expected a year ago.
Luca gave me a hug during the high-five line, and Ayden said (talking in the hallway after the ceremony): “I’m going to miss you” (with tears in his eyes). Those were really special moments for me.
They’re the two 5th graders I connected with most, and I’ll miss them a lot. They both made it a point to walk up to me in class every week and ask how I was doing. That’s how these connections are built, and I need to work harder to do that on my side.
I want more connections with kids like this, and I have work harder. This has been a hard week for me, coming to terms with the fact that (based on generally flat interactions with kids throughout the week), I don’t have many of these relationships. I have to be outside at recess, eat in the lunch room, make more time before and after school for casual conversations. I’m not doing that now because: I’m planning, or I feel like I need to disconnect, or — more likely — I’m just being lazy.
I have a great connection with the 3rd graders, and I think I could build something really special with them if I put in the work.
“I never feel like I have a book in me. I always feel like there’s a book around me.… My job is to grab that stuff around me and shape it into something.”
This is how I feel about ideas, too. It’s why I read and watch as much as I do. There are ideas waiting to be connected and sense waiting to be made.
“My advice to you is to change your basic relationship to songwriting. You are not the ‘Great Creator’ of your songs, you are simply their servant, and the songs will come to you when you have adequately prepared yourself to receive them. They are not inside you, unable to get out; rather, they are outside of you, unable to get in.” — Nick Cave
A 4th grader (Ali) was still so stoked about the PICO-8 tutorial he completed during Game Design club (3 days ago) that, when I walked into his regular 4th grade Technology class today, he turned to me and said: “Frog animation”.
It’s the last week of school, and it’s been a hard one for me. In (what feels like) an ocean of gratitude from students and parents to their homeroom teachers, I feel like an island. Where are the thank-yous for the work I’ve done this year?
I’m genuinely disappointed, but this is also a little silly. I need to flip my expectation. I should expect that I won’t connect or make much of a real difference in the lives of most of my students. Not that I won’t try, but I shouldn’t expect my efforts to land. And I already know there’s more I could be doing to build those connections anyway.
Instead, I should celebrate the connections I do have.
This might be a common thing for specialist teachers to feel (since we have less definitive conclusions with our students), and as next year’s Specialist Chair, I’m wondering if I could help create those celebratory opportunities somehow? #project
Email from (Luca) a 5th grader:
“Dear Mr. Sparano, / Thank you for teaching me. I am very grateful. I love your classes. They have
tough taught me many things. For anything I will need in the future. I will honestly never forget you I love technology so much in my life so this will help for years to come. You being my first person that I sent my Gmail to. This is special to me. I love you. you were always kind to me even though all the questions I asked you. You always were there for me no madder matter my question. You had no answer but you always answered me the next time. My favorite class was the time we named memes. / I loved it because I love memes and you connected are things together to make it fun. That’s the type of off teacher I like. They connect to our lives and make school which was boring really fun. That’s the teacher you are so that’s why I had such a great year. I love you so much. / You just made everything so much fun for me and my classmates. / Thank you,”
The sincerity, it just pours out of kids. I love it. #sincerity>irony
pigame.dev, Raspberry Pi game dev tools
For our last LS Game Design, I did something a little different. Instead of trying to teach a traditional lesson (which is what I’ve been doing), I allowed the kids to choose their own PICO-8 or Bitsy tutorial and work independently. It was more hands-off (from me) and more self-directed (by them).
Mostly, it was a response to having a consistently difficult time in these after-school clubs getting students to listen when I need it. I haven’t even been teaching much — but it’s been a struggle nearly every time.
This structure (choose your own adventure, I help troubleshoot when necessary, we all share at the end) was super successful. 1. For students: they were waiting on me less, working more intently, making more choices, and working more at their own pace. 2. For me: it required less all-group teaching, less management, less coordinating pace. Some students got a lot done, some not much at all — but they all felt successful. This was the most focused, easy to manage class yet. It was awesome.
When I introduced PICO-8 two weeks ago, some students were skeptical at first… but they really got into it once we started coding. It’s fun and magical to make things work, and it’s so satisfying to see kids experience that feeling.
The Guardian: When Survival Is a Popularity Contest, the heartbreak of crowdfunding healthcare
Peter D. Harris, nighttime cityscape oil paintings
“I can’t help but think about how time slowly eats up the life that I have, turning the raw, beautiful potential of the future into the hollow sadness of memories in the past, forced through a focal point of the present that is gone too quickly. I am haunted by entropy even as I am in what I think might be the best years of my entire life.”
“Not only do you believe that thinking is the key to cherishing the present more, but you also believe, at some level, that you might just be able to solve the problem of time.”
“Thinking — particularly that puzzle-solving type of thinking — speeds up time.… Feeling slows down time.… When you feel connected to yourself, and connected to others, that feeling stretches out the moment instead of condensing it, reducing it, diminishing it.”
“A US Senate committee report in 1977 recommended a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet for all…. The food industry responded with enthusiasm, removing fat, the most calorie-dense of macronutrients, from food items and replacing it with sugar, starch and salt. As a bonus, the thousands of new cheap and tasty ‘low-cal’ and ‘low-fat’ products… tended to have longer shelf lives and higher profit margins.”
“Exercise [has] clear health benefits. But… it plays a smaller part in weight control than most people believe. As much as 75% of the average person’s daily energy expenditure comes not through exercise but from ordinary daily activities and from keeping your body functioning by digesting food, powering organs and maintaining a regular body temperature.… powering the brain consumes about a fifth of a person’s metabolic energy each day.”
Coca-colonisation: The point in a culture’s history when junk food is readily available.
“The calorie system lets food producers off the hook. They can say, ‘We’re not responsible for the unhealthy products we sell, we just have to list the calories and leave it to you to manage your own weight.’”
Retirement party for (Judy, Bob, and Diane) three CWA teachers. These are the kinds of things I’d love for people to say about me when I retire: 1. Joe is an innovative teacher, 2. he isn’t afraid to try new things, and 3. he models gracefully how to rebound when something doesn’t work, 4. he’s legitimately curious what’s on kids’ minds, 5. he’s surprisingly current!, and 6. he respects kids for being kids. (I'm not saying I do these things now, just that it’s my goal to be known for these things some day.)
Scratch vs. PICO-8, tutorial videos
“A good rag is not gonna save the world.”
I really appreciate this about Annabelle: she cares about graphic design while also recognizing that it’s not really that important.
I consider Annabelle a teaching mentor. She really cares about her students, and she’s full of ideas on how students can improve. And with zero ego in the way — she’s just a very real person.
“To teach is to learn twice over.” — Joseph Joubert
Two 3rd graders (Ben and Alexander) have started an improtu “Pun Club” during my crosswalk duty on Wednesdays and Fridays, where we workshop new pun ideas. I’m not quite sure how this became a thing, but it’s fun.
Originally, it was endearing how much they didn’t understand about how puns work — but now, they’re starting to get it, and it’s neat to watch that happen.
One of them (Ben) said, “It’s helping me think more creatively, I’ve been thinking of puns during the day.”
Why did I record this? I wanted to remember it. It’s a special thing for me, that these kids have chosen, uninvited, for a few weeks in a row, to show up and chat about puns and video games for 20 minutes.
Picked up another new nickname (from different 3rd graders): “Joe Asparagus”.
“[To a narcissist,] phenomena in the outside world have no reality in themselves, but are experienced only from the viewpoint of their being useful or dangerous to one. The opposite [of] narcissism is objectivity; it is the faculty to see other people and things as they are, objectively, and to be able to separate this objective picture from a picture which is formed by one’s desires and fears.” — Erich Fromm
iPiccy, web-based image editor
I think I’m making my CWA clubs more frustrating than they need to be. (Thinking about this after another bumpy LS Game Design.) Most of the time, when I attempt to teach (asking for students’ attention, and then anticipating they could all listen or follow instructions… for just a few minutes) it’s really hard. I’m not teaching much, but it’s hard every time. Especially at the end of the day and after school (which is understandable). For everyone’s sanity, I need to teach less — these clubs should be mostly opened-ended designing/making/exploring. #teaching
Although, if I pull back too much, the kids will notice that too (which happened in MS Coding & Robotics last quarter).
I need to figure out how to make these clubs fun for me. Right now, I’m on the fence about whether they’re worth the effort (≈ $1,000 for 10 × 90-minute sessions.)
Drafts for Mac, desktop version of my favorite iOS notes app
“the choice isn’t between [this environmentally-conscious product or that environmentally-conscious product]. For environmental purposes, we should choose nothing.”
“When people list unethical behavior, they often cite the illegal actions of corporations or the heinous decisions of politicians…, but what’s missing on the list are the smaller and far more numerous everyday choices we make.”
“a more moral way to handle the problem would be to attempt to resolve it — to think of [the living creatures] who are affected, production processes, supply chains, and the nature of capitalism itself — and to reach a reasoned conclusion that at least takes others into consideration.… There isn’t a simple answer to complex questions, but the ethical approach is to engage with the difficulties rather than avoiding them.”
“When considering ethics, good and evil become limiting concepts. It’s far more beneficial to consider our ability to make personal choices that [correspond to] either our higher or our lower nature.… evil lives in the conscious desire to act solely for oneself.”
“feeling guilty is a selfish response. It’s more self-involvement, which is pretty much the opposite of ethical living.… guilt is only a boon for guilty people’s egos, and will make you more likely to look away from injustices. The ethical response to bad acts is considering how to right them, rather than thinking about your personal feelings.”
“the Aristotlean view [is] that figuring out how to live the good life is fun.… A truly ethical life is joyful, lived with a clear conscience, ‘knowing that we are doing the best we can, even if that means our behavior may be unsatisfactory at times.’”
Thomas Game Docs, video game video essays
Pokémon Mini, Nintendo’s smallest handheld system (from 2001?!)
Animated Knots, knot-tying database (and neckties!)
Bought a Title Black Double-End Bag #treatjoeself
Demo-Man, PICO-8/gamedev tutorials
DSEG, LCD typeface
“What happens when you hit this piece of technology with a rock?… A device that can be easily damaged and not easily repaired is one where a person does not truly have possession of the device, they must always be aware that should something go wrong they will be powerless without the help of that specialized technician.”
“Waste is a problem inherent to new technologies, though it is often put off as really being a question for old technologies, but allowing this distance hides the fact that a devices death should be considered in its creation [and purchase].”
Usually, I can’t avoid thinking about the end of a thing when I buy it. It’s a not-insignificant weight on my conscience, and those thoughts feel about as ridiculous to be having as they do essential and important.
But/And, I also feel the weight of these things globally/culturally/systemically. Like, FUAY new gadget, man.
“this question… should be directed… at the sector that is frantically flooding the market with new devices.… Those who have designed, marketed, and sold a device filled with hazardous materials… have a responsibility to ensure that these can be disposed of without creating harm.”
Another contributor to my digital anxiety that’s so pervasive I haven’t officially acknowledged it yet: charging. The battery clock (iPhone, Pebble, MacBook, wireless headphones, DS) is always ticking. #digitalanxiety
3rd grade field trip, day 3.
3rd grade field trip, day 2.
A bonus of these field trips is getting to see a different group of teachers teach (our trail leaders). This time, I’m noticing that getting kids to listen and take you seriously has a lot to do with: 1. how confidently you speak, 2. how clearly, and 3. how concisely. Kids will (intuitively) not respond to wishy-washy-ness and lack of clarity. More successful teachers do all three things, and the rest don’t. There’s a 1-to-1 correlation. #teaching #management
This is another reason why teaching is hard (and good) for me. Speaking clearly and concisely has been an ongoing challenge for me.
Spending more time with the 3rd graders (8–9 years old) has brought something into focus: kids at this age have very little concept of themselves as part of a larger system (they’re constantly shout-talking, talking other each other, with no concept of how conversations work). Which is irritating (my brain is mush!) But they're also not yet self-conscious — they’re still just wacky kids who don’t give a shit what you think of them (in a good way). #growingup
3rd grade field trip to Mount Rainier Institute, day 1. #classof2028
Dropping Rowan off at school this morning, Joanna stopped to tell me that she was happy that I’d signed up for the Specialist Chair position. She said she appreciates my “quiet leadership” at CWA and the ways I’ve supported Rowan’s interest in coding and games this year.
In 5th grade, for our last project, students are picking a favorite technology in their lives to concept a future version of. To jumpstart their thinking, I asked some questions based on 5 Things We Need to Know About Technological Change.
I asked: “Who’s affected negatively by your technology — who suffers?” One student (Piper) said that since her technology (3D printing) uses plastic, the earth suffers for it. Then I asked: “OK, so how could that influence your future design?,” and another student (Ryan) suggested a 3D printer… that prints with trash!
Also: “Who is your technology biased towards — and against?” As an example, I held a pencil in my hand, and I asked: “Who is this pencil was designed for?” It took some pushing, but they eventually realized that a pencil’s design is biased towards someone with the ability to pick it up — for someone with hands! That rocked their world a little bit.
I’ve been looking forward to these questions all year — a synthesis of design and technology, and I knew these kids would be interested in thinking about fairness and bias. Some full-circle, Matrix-revealing, special teaching moments, for sure. #design #teaching
In LS Game Design, I showed a Bitsy demo I’d made (“Joe’s Junk Food Adventure”). This school year, I’ve built several demos this way: 1. where some kind of problem/question arises in class, 2. I do some research, 3. work through the tool myself to build a demo that answers the question, and 4. then bring it back to class to show the kids.
After visiting UW this week, a few people at CWA have asked: “Do you miss it?” 1. I do miss: teaching classes that involve more creative problem-solving, really getting into the weeds of a project and watching students figure it out, having more in-depth conversations with students about life. 2. But I don’t miss: talking about design constantly, nitpicking the nuances of graphic design, or grading. I did that for 7 years, and I was ready to move on.
My Famicase Exhibition, fan-made NES cartridge designs (for generating game ideas)
“what [Facebook] realized was that appealing to outrage and fear was much more successful than appealing to happiness. Because one person’s joy is another person’s jealousy. Whereas if you’re afraid or outraged, you share stuff in order to make other people afraid or outraged [too]”
“The Google Captcha system:… touch all the photographs that have a traffic light or all the ones that have a bus.… What you’re doing is training the artificial intelligence for Google’s self-driving cars.”
Oh damn. What! That’s totally what this is!
“it’s so obviously a dodge that [Mark Zuckerberg is] looking to use end-to-end encryption to absolve himself of responsibility for content that he’s put on the site. [Because then the content would be private.]”
“the value of [Facebook’s] system is based on getting to peoples’ most raw emotional state because that’s the thing that has greatest predictive value of whether you’re going to spend money or what you’re going to be interested in.”
“there’s a fundamental flaw in their business.… [The chemical industry originally] dumped waste products wherever it was convenient…. Then one day, the country woke up and realized: this is a disaster.… And we decided… we’re going to assign responsibility to the people who created the mess.… And it went from being an incredibly profitable industry to a not-very-profitable industry.… when you assign that [financial consequence], you realize: well, actually, this isn’t that good a business. And… I don’t believe that Facebook or… Google are that good a business if they actually have to pay the costs of the toxic digital spills they create.”
Teach Like a Champion: ‘Wait Time’ Technique, giving students more time to raise their hands before calling on anyone
I love this blog! Teaching continues to be an incredibly fascinating thing to think about and try to get better at. (#teaching)
I’m committed to mastering teaching, I don’t mind that it’s gonna take a really long time. I’m excited for the challenge. It’s so interesting!
Starting the 4th grade documentary project. I showed the “Mockumentary” I made last year. I just hit play, then asked them to stop me when they identify a creative choice that they’d make differently.
They loved it — they wanted to find these things! In both classes, we discussed this (a 35-second video) for a half-hour.
This is another example where I’m satisfied with having-turned what could be a dry exercise (what not to do) into something fun.
I framed this whole exercise around choices (in video, music, pictures, sound, narration, etc.): “How do these choices help communicate the message of the documentary?” This kind of project feels like the culmination of my whole teaching life — the nexus between teaching design and teaching technology. Setting goals, communicating, and being intentional. #design
“Online I’m a designer, activist, collaborator, citizen. Offline I’m still those things, but there are other more important words I use when I think of what I am. And those real world titles I’ve come to protect from the noise of what happens online — son, brother, friend, neighbor, husband, father.”
The way we describe ourselves online seems to skew professional. We use those titles to market ourselves — to distinguish us in the “digital void”. The more important titles (the ones that describe personal relationships with ourselves, friends, and family) tend to be less meaningful to others — and so, those words are less useful as marketing tools.
And choosing to use the (private, meaningful) offline titles online means we’re awkwardly leveraging something personal for professional gain, which can make things weird. #digitalperson #weird
OpenMoji, CC-licensed, monoweight emoji/icon set
Spent the day at UW, for mid-quarter feedback in two of Annabelle’s VCD classes (juniors and seniors). It’s been a long time since I’ve given VCD feedback, and walking into the Art building, I had a moment of panic that I might not even know how to do it anymore.
“Today as always, men fall into two groups: slaves and free men. Whoever does not have two-thirds of his day for himself, is a slave, whatever he may be: a statesman, a businessman, an official, or a scholar.” — The Book of Life
A 3rd grader (Ayla) started calling me by my first name. I told her it’s important for her to call me Mr. Sparano, but I also asked why she’s using my first name: “Because you’re my friend.”
“People like to share ideas that make them look cool, smart, in-the-know, morally superior.”
There’s a lesson in here somewhere: design a post/headline/tweet for maximum viral-ness. #lesson
PICO-8: Blocks For Life, resource-management platformer
04b03, 4×5 pixel typeface
“On a scale of 1 to 10, what is your favorite color of the alphabet?” — CGP Grey
I really can’t stand the word ‘educator’. Why create distance with showy language? Why not use a clearer word — like ‘teacher’? Why sound like a douche? And why are words like this so popular?
Kanopy, public library movie streaming service
Snetris, Snake + Tetris
It’s interesting, meeting new people in the PNW, the default assumption is I’m not a religious person. Casual, Christian-critical talk is pretty common among the people I’ve gotten to know here. Which is so different from the Midwest, and which (again) I’m so grateful for.
Last week, during my introduction to our bike rack unveiling, I mentioned that I was a graphic designer before I was a teacher. Since then, a few students have brought it up: “My mom is a graphic designer.”, “What kinds of things did you make?”, “Did you design tarriers.org?” (Yes). Which is just cool! It’s nice to know that they’re listening, and I like being able to add that context.
One of the upsides of teaching in other teachers’ classrooms is that I get to see them managing the same students in the same environment. And at times, I get to see them feeling (personally) the same frustrations I feel. It’s helpful to know that even teachers who are truly at the top of their game (and who I really admire) still get frustrated with kids — and lose their cool.
4th grade field trip, day 3.
Jammin 181 FM, funk, R&B and soul music.
This was playing in the NaturBridge kitchen.
Thanks to tutoring from a 4th grader (Will) during some of our downtime on this trip, I finally have all of the NATO Phonetic Alphabet memorized.
4th grade field trip, day 2.
One of the trickiest parts with working with kids is managing constraints: 1. anticipating what kids will want to do and designing constraints around that, 2. setting consequences that matter, 3. communicating those constraints and consequences in advance of the situation where they could happen, and 4. then following through. #management
There can be no ambiguity. Kids will find the holes and wiggle through. Every time. Always.
I’m still calibrating. I’m still learning what holes to even anticipate — which means I can’t yet seal them up in advance. Right now, I’m discovering too late what the constraints should’ve been, so I’m not communicating them in advance, and everyone’s frustrated. But this should get (and is getting!) better over time. #teaching #iter8ordie
I’m thinking of this with the kids’ bedtime. They just want to know: “How late can we stay up? Can we talk? How loudly? Can we use flashlights? Can we use the strobe mode? Can we play American Ninja Warrior [climbing between all four bunks in a room as fast as possible]?”
These kids were awesome about all of that, but I can see opportunities with the next group to just lay the groundwork in advance instead of building those rules on the fly.
4th grade field trip to NatureBridge at Olympic National Park, day 1. #classof2027
For two years now, after we get to our cabins, kids almost immediately discover that they can use the vents to communicate between rooms. It’s so interesting! What is it about secret messages that makes it so appealing? #growingup
“[Holding a pencil] Without a pencil sharpener, this is pointless.” — 4th grader (Carly)
A co-worker (Katie) who discovered this site (although, not this page) asked what it’s for. Why do I go to the trouble of documenting (in such detail) so much of what’s on my mind? 1. Journaling and list-making help me manage my anxiety and mental health. They’re the best techniques I have for processing my thoughts and feelings. And 2. this site is a way of saving ideas somewhere — so don’t lose them (individually), and for making connections and finding patterns (collectively).
One of the reasons being a dad is intriguing to me is that I like the idea of helping a kid navigate the complexities of growing up — including inevitable struggle and heartbreak. But I’m wondering: is it selfish to want that? If I don’t help bring a kid into the world, then there’s no struggle or heartbreak to be navigated.
A ‘friend’ (Katie) asked (after seeing this site and feeling that it’s an unusual amount of information to have collected… and that’s without seeing this Journal page) if I’ve ever considered that I might be on The Spectrum. Which, no, I haven’t. Not once.
However, now I’m wondering how this site reads to other people? Is it really that unusual/weird/strange?
She also said that, maybe, one of the reasons I feel like I have so few dating options is that I’m the same level of friendliness to everyone. That it might be hard for a woman to tell if I’m interested, because I’m so friendly?
It’s been a long two months since my last satisfying movie-going experience. Moviegoing is still the best way for me to disconnect, and I feel like I need it regularly.
Why is moviegoing so helpful for me? 1. It’s a true disconnect — physically (because I’m in a place that’s reserved just for this other thing) and mentally (because I’m focused, for two hours, only on this other thing). 2. With the right movie, it’s creatively satisfying — it’s a fully-realized, complete idea and I’m inspired by that (I almost always leave with new thoughts to think about). And 3. it’s an affirmation of adulthood and independence — I can eat a bunch of Peanut M&M’s, drink a big Coke Zero, and spend $25 on two hours that’s just for me.
“Social media is more about wining, it often feels, than it is about connecting.”
“The very qualities that made Snapchat fun and weird also made it hard for business and influencers to thrive there.”
There’s a direct (and sad) connection between social media’s popularity and its business-y mechanics. Posting to social media is always participating in an economy of likes. And so, a post is always marketing. People are always promoting a brand (even if it’s just a personal brand) and always selling something (even if it’s just a set of life choices). Likes are the measure of success — the market validation. Before social media, there wasn’t a way to quantify personal ‘value’. With likes and followers (any kind of social media metric), there’s no difference between a person and a business. It’s so fucked up. #digitalperson
This kind of thing really pisses me off, I can’t help it! I can remember, sometime in high school, instead of filling out a bubble sheet for homecoming king/queen, I left the bubbles empty, wrote “popularity contest” at the top, and handed it in.
Unveiled the new bike rack to the Lower School. Everyone’s pretty stoked about this.
I’m going on two overnight trips this year with the CWA kids before the end of the school year (3rd and 4th). Since the teachers announced that I’ll be on these trips, the students’ demeanor towards me has shifted just slightly towards warmer and friendlier — more personal, less distant. And this is on top of having pretty solid connections with them already.
This reinforces how difficult it is to build connections with kids during my class. My kid connections have to be built anywhere but my class — during lunch, in the hallway, other classes, even. Anywhere.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working harder to have real convos with kids in these moments (and hand out more high-fives), and it’s been helpful. Classroom management has been easier and more fun recently, and this is why. #management
“What happened to the American dream? It came true! You’re looking at it!” — The Comedian (Watchmen)
Pebble: Pixel Grid Analog, watchface
unconditional positive regard: “it is essential in any helping relationship to have an anticipation for change.… that anticipation presents as hope — an optimism that something good and positive will develop….… [It requires] the ability to isolate behaviors from the person who displays them.” #teaching
MacMenuBar.com, Mac menu bar app directory
Resolutionator, display switching
In 5th grade, I asked what makes a website different from a book. One student (Finn) answered: “ads”.
Insta-stories, anonymous Instagram
I think it’s super weird that people know when I’ve viewed their Story. I don’t think that posting something on the Internet entitles anyone to know whether or not I’ve seen or interacted with their post. I’m not your data point.
Interesting, though: with an Instagram Story (or any kind of read receipt), I’m a data point either way. Knowing that I haven’t viewed something may still be meaningful information. #digitalperson
On communicating online vs. offline: “Writing things to or about people when they are not in front of you and you can’t see their reactions makes one more prone to nastiness. Not being able to hear another’s tone of voice makes misunderstandings more common, and the escalation from confusion to anger is quick and often irreversible. Being able to publish or send things immediately — without waiting to find an envelope, a stamp, and then a mailbox the next morning — makes it easier to write things you will later regret.” — The New Atlantis
Picked up a Garfield book today (in a classroom), for the first time in years. I can remember, sometime in 4th/5th/6th grade, noticing and loving the way Garfield and U.S. Acres books were colorized — with super solid, flat color. #pleasurepoint
Bought a KÜHL KLASH (Carbon), moto/rain jacket #treatjoeself
“‘[It’s foolish to believe] that the proof of the rightness or wrongness of some way of bringing up children is the kinds of adults it produces’.… it’s a terribly incomplete way of looking at life. What about the quality of experience right now?… Judging your experience solely in terms of its future effect is to disregard the present – even though that’s the only time it ever is.”
“positive reactions… work better than negative ones.”
This has been one of the trickiest parts of teaching for me to unlearn: my instinct is to want to correct students who aren’t following instructions, but it’s so much more effective (and positive) to thank students who are (and use them as examples for every one else). #teaching
“the best kind of [reaction] focuses on how someone made you feel, not on evaluating their talent. After all, there’s something weirdly arrogant about complimenting another person for being a good writer, strategist, team player, and so on: who made you the judge of such things? But praising them for inspiring you, persuading you, or helping you grasp a complex issue, is a totally different matter. You really are the only objective judge of that.”
Bitsy: Spider, spider-perspective
Wireframe, game-making magazine
Another thing I like about teaching: I feel like I’m being helpful. I enjoy having the chance to help kids think about their lives (their decisions, relationships, goals).
Trispace, monspace-ish typeface
curious elder: “someone who manages to retain their curiosity as they age and stays interested in what young people are up to. The curious elder isn’t interested in judging youth, they’re interested in learning from them.”
Oh yeah, this is definitely me!
Diary of a Song (New York Times), video series
I feel like I might be reaching critical mass professionally. I’m feeling appreciated by the school (I got an unexpectedly big raise for next year). And I’m really satisfied with the work I’ve been doing lately: in 3rd grade (classroom management), in 4th grade (pretty dope lessons all year), and in 5th grade (the Screen Time Experiment unit, which students and parents have both really responded to).
One of the things that (I think) differentiates me from some teachers is that I try to talk with them — instead of at them. #teaching
After chatting about Basketball yesterday, Ayden said this morning, “I enjoyed talking about basketball with you.”
GoBites, travel utensils (sporks)
Merrell Ontario (Dark Earth), waterproof hiking boots
If I’m truly cutting out Amazon, does that mean I need to give up the Whole Foods salad bar (one of life’s truest joys)?
Doodle MeetMe, showing availability for 1-on-1 meetings
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. @t
That said, I need to remember that, in 3 years, the middle schoolers (grades 6–8) will be the kids I’m teaching now (grades 3–5) — which I’m anticipating could/will be really great. The awkwardness and disconnection I feel now (the overwhelming feeling I feel when I’m teaching the MS should/will evaporate.)
ForkLift 3, FTP/file manager app
Hostinger, web host
PICO-8: Tic-tac-toe, a juicy version!
Pebble: Blockslide, watchface
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
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)
“Music is sound… that’s played slowly.”
“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.”
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
Learned a new technique (from Rob) for redirecting students who are off-topic: “I also like [thing they’re doing/talking-about instead]. You know what else I like? [whatever we’re supposed to be doing doing now].”
“Sorry, y’all, 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 (I hope, anyway) is that the younger kids are saying (at home) some version of, “Mr. Sparano is cool.” And I’m really proud of that. #teaching
Thomas Flight, culture video essayist
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.”
“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).
PICO-8 Mono, 3×5 pixel typeface
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 pressure 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
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
I’ve said before that I feel most like myself when I’m teaching. But I haven’t reached that point at CWA yet. I’ve felt it most vividly in 210 at UW — I think, because I felt like the students accepted and appreciated my enthusiasm, seriousness, and sentimentality.
The closest I’ve gotten is with one of the 5th grade classes (one of the 5th grade classes) — kids I’ve been in class with for about 50 hours so far (including last year), which is (I think) a first for me. (210 is about 45 hours).
Anyway, I still feel a little uncomfortable teaching little kids, because of the stress of management, discipline, and being observed by other teachers. I seriously wonder if it’s possible for me to get to that level.
There’s really no substitute for learning how to teach than to watch other teachers teach.
“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.”
‘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
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?
“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
“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
Bought 3 more Pebbles. Which means I have 6 extras (and 8 total). Is this craziness?
“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.
I’m getting dangerously close to buying a Samsung Frame TV.
I haven’t owned a TV in 5 years, and I like that. But my apartment is also pretty empty, and it feels like I needs stuff for it to feel like a home.
Ben Bruce (cephalopodunk), Bitsy game designer
Starship USS Bitsington: Tooth & Nail, space adventure
Amethyst Horologist, Radical Archaeologist, time-traveling adventure
Boss Fight Books, books about classic video games
“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.”
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)
Indepth Sound Design, movie sound design breakdowns
“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!
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
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
The 8Bit Deck, pixel art playing cards
ethical.net, app/service alternatives
Bought a Shark Rocket Handheld Vacuum (HV292)
Bitsy: Visit, a trip to the art museum
“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.”
With a smartphone’s ability to capture/record any moment, there’s unlimited anxiety in just the opportunity (“Should I be getting this?”) — but also anxiety about the potential of a missed opportunity (“I should’ve gotten that!”). And even if you do capture the moment, you actually miss it by having-been capturing it. #digitalanxiety
“When… someone really hears you without passing judgement on you, without trying to take responsibility for you, without trying to mold you, it feels damn good!” — Carl Rogers
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.”
“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.”
In San Francisco, I’m struck by how much the city feels commoditized by/for social media. So many people are taking photos (I assume, for Instagram) that San Francisco is no longer the thing it appears to be inside those photos… because it’s filled with people trying to capture that image. Every interesting thing is just Instagram content.
“If I had a dollar for every woman who wasn’t attracted to me, they would eventually be attracted to me.” — Guy at the airport restaurant
→ San Francisco #treatjoeself
“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].”
Another thing I miss about working with college kids is that no one asks me for professional advice. No one I’m working with wants the job I'm doing. But I also don’t miss this.
Google Sheets: Pivot Tables, adding a third dimension to spreadsheets
Mike Caulfield: Network Heuristics, using the properties of the Internet to verify information
I accepted the Specialist Cluster Chair position for next year. (Where I’ll represent the Lower School specialist teachers’ interests at the higher-level meetings, and vice versa.) I’m excited about this! It’s less of a management role and more of a facilitation one, and I feel comfortable with that. It’s a way to take on more responsibility and have more influence (which I’m ready for), without needing to be a manager (which I want to avoid).
Nick asked me to apply for this, and I was initially hesitant. I still feel like a kid — which is silly. I turn 40 fucking years old this year.
There were a few new things the school asked me to take on next year (including 1st/2nd Technology classes and the Robotics Team). I said that I wouldn’t be able to do all of them, communicated how interested I was in each, and then let the school choose. This decision is totally in line with my priorities, and I feel great about that.
A major bonus of teaching with digital tools is that cleanup is really easy. (Thinking this after our last LS Coding & Robotics club, where our final project was to build a game using any combination of Sphero Bolts, micro:bits, LEGO, and paper/cardboard). Even with the kids’ help, it takes a good chunk of time to get all these physical things back where they belong.
“What’s what the money’s for.” — Don Draper
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.)
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
Added a new life goal: make a PICO-8 game.
“I don’t really have an idea. It’s more like: I’m having an idea.” — Student in MS Coding & Robotics (Andrew)
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).
Today is my 4th Journal-versary. Still at it! #journaling
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
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
“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.’”
Sound Bible, Creative-Commons-licensed sound effects
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) — and the creativity is one of the things I love about it — my success (or my perception of my success) relies on a whole system of factors. It’s too complex a network, too unreliable a measure, and too dependent on things I have no control over.
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.
I have a hard time letting go of bumpy classes — they weigh on my mind.
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.
The goal of these lessons is to: 1. think deeply about technology how technology affects their lives, and 2. understand that they power and choices to make about technology. And generally, I think, 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
PuzzGrid, pattern-finding word game
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
“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.”
Pixel Vision 8, fantasy console (à la PICO-8 with adjustable limitations)
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
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
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).
macOS: ⌘ + F1 (brightness down) = toggle display mirroring for external displays.
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.
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).
Just realized/discovered that ‘Mad Lib’ comes from ‘ad lib’.
Used all of this for a teacher workshop on podcastsing/Soundtrap.
Teaching other teachers can be annoying as fuck. They think they can break the rules and be inconsiderate because… it’s all cool, right? But then you can’t use classroom management strategies on them because it feels condescending.
The closest thing I have to religion in my life is design. It helps me make decisions, it gives me purpose and direction, it’s the filter that I see everything through.
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
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).
Castle, game dev environment/community (uses lua/LÖVE)
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.
Nerdy Teachers, PICO-8 tutorials/videos
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.
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. #management
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.
But this has happened at UW, too (in 265 and 308).
Bought an IKEA LINNMON Tabletop (oak + white)
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 reward), 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 (well, one move, last year) — 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.
PICO-8: Micro-8, fantasy console inside a fantasy console, i.e. “Console-ception”
“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.”
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.
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
In MS Coding & Robotics, we finished our HTML/CSS unit. The kids got into this, which I’d hoped they would. Pretty regularly, I’d have to ask students to leave after the bell (because they wanted to keep coding).
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.
In the 8th grade TI-BASIC class, in response to the tepid energy from the first few classes, I scrapped the sub plan and tried something else. Instead of following the worksheet together, I flipped the workload onto the students as a series of “challenges”: 1. at the beginning of class, I quickly demoed the new functions they’d need to know, and then 2. just posted a challenge on the screen for them to solve.
Solving the challenges lead them to understanding what would’ve been on the worksheet and it required them to apply (more thoroughly) what they learned previously. But it was so much (so much!) more engaging. I think they enjoyed it!
Plus, it was more fun, less planning, and less management for me too.
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
“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
A responsibility of my job is to teach the basics of copyright as it applies to technology tools. It’s been really fun, during the introduction, to say, “This is copyright,” while holding up something (anything) made by a student (any student).
I’m noticing that, of the kids whose names are mentioned a lot by teachers as having a hard time managing their emotions — I have pretty good relationships with several of them (Ellie, Ashlyn, Sammy).
“Research is me-search.” #journaling
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 much 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.
Also got a Tomons Wood Tripod Bedside Lamp
AudioKit Synth One, free/open-source iOS synth
Draw How To Make Toast, a problem solving tool
Interesting to think about: if I’d gotten the Lakeside job, I wouldn’t know what it’s like to work with kids younger than 5th grade (Lakeside is 5–12) — which has been a really pleasant surprise. At CWA, I have the most fun teaching 3rd and 4th. #teaching
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.
We’re hiring for a new Innovation and Design Labs Director at our school, and one of the people applying is named Joe Rom— [with a rhyming last name]. He’s really well qualified, and I’m expecting he’ll get the job. And I’m selfishly thinking about how that’s going to affect me. I’ll be annoyed if I have to deal with the inevitable confusion and (potentially) intentional joking about our names. I don’t want to lose my individual identity at CWA. Is this a dumb worry?
How do Christians believe in ghosts and astrology?
Orientation, stencil typeface
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 stuff 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
Laurent Durieux, movie poster illustrator
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.
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.
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.)
“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
Use & Modify, open source typeface database
It’s sounding more likely that I’ll also be teaching 1st and 2nd grade Technology 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.
Google Sheets: Sparklines, miniature charts
macOS: ⌥ + F1/F2 (brightness keys) = open Display Preferences + ⌥ + F9–F10 (volume keys) = open Audio Preferences
PICO-8: Elias Grey, existential story of unfinished goals
“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.”
“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)
“[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.”
“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.”
Turing Tumble, marble-powered mechanical computers
“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.
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)
Brandon James Greer, pixel illustrator
Kenze Wee, pixel illustrator (animated cityscapes)
turtle.audio, 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
“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
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 a reason I’m so interested is that video games are 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
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
PeerTube, decentralized, not advertising-supported video hosting (YouTube replacement)
“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
Firefox: AdNauseam, automatically click ads to pollute tracking data
“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’.”
FUAY GIF (or sticker or embedded video clip)
Idea: teach a graphic design class in the US (high school) next year.
DeLorean Ipsum, random lines from the Back to the Future script (for sample text)
Retronator, pixel art and gaming news blog
Norton74, LEGO builder (Americana)
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.
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.
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:
sudomod, DIY handheld gaming blog
Pixilart, pixel art editor
DIY Classroom recording booth, organizer cube + foam
Code.org: How encryption works exercise (Unit 5, Lesson 6)
“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
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
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.
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.
Programming Fonts, monospace typeface tester
Arduboy, credit-card-sized, 8-bit game system (i.e. Arduino + Game Boy)
Littlewood, pixelated, town-building RPG
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
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 hell.
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
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 grade 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.
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:
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 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.
Bitsy: Palettsy, palette generator
Seattle Smol Games, tiny games meetup (e.g. Bitsy)
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.
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
Compagnon, historic typewriter typeface
PICO-8: Feed the Ducks, surreal duck-feeding puzzle game
“I’d rather be here, now.” — Ram Dass
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.”
“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
“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
“[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).
All of these disassembles into smaller pieces, which may be perfect for avoiding my big furniture anxiety.
Library Genesis, pirated ebook database
Sutori, timeline creation tool
Cloudflare Registrar, cheaper domain registration
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
“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: The Fever, educational game about coral reefs
Mike Caulfield: Another example of the news fact-checking strategy, this time, for the “Trump resignation”
Typewrite Something, typewriter simulator
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
Gaming Historian, retro video game video essays
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”.
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 know of). Not really sure why, or whether it’s a sign of respect, or comfort, or what.
People in meetings are weird, including me.
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.
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.
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.
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
“[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.
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
“It… feels to me like for something to be true, there ought to be an element of feeling and intuition.” — Christoper Nolan
“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.
“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 … ? #management
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.
Procedur.al, made-to-order generative art
Bitsy: minimalist, reflections on minimizing game
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 typeface
Teleport Bot (@bot_teleport), randomly generated scenarios
Alterego, bitmap/pixelated typeface
More Bitsy resources:
Borksy Game Hacker, simplified add-on scripts
Fontsy, import custom fonts
image to bitsy, convert images into rooms
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.
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