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Archive for September, 2007


from google images

According to research coming from 华东师范大学, pumpkins may be powerful diabetes fighters. Yraaarrrgh!

Happy Halloween.

Over the last month, I’ve really noticed Scribd taking off. It seems like it’s just about got the critical mass it takes to go big time. To the right is a map comparing its traffic with Reddit’s [1].

Today, I found an old George Orwell essay about the way advances in weaponry have tilted the balance of power towards authoritarians or libertarians. Specifically, he speculates on the political and social effects of the atom bomb.

It’s a thoughtful essay, and now that it’s been 72 years since he wrote it, it’s interesting to see how accurate his predictions were.

Note: Click on on the Scribd button and it will take you to it in on their site.

[1]: Reddit and Scribd are both Y-combinator start-ups. I can’t believe how many cool things Paul Graham has his hands into.

Yesterday was 中秋節, one of the three major Chinese holidays. Just like the other major Chinese holidays, the main focus is eating. This one is particularly good, since you’re supposed to barbecue. It’s kind of like the 4th of July in the US, except that you get to barbecue anytime you want, all weekend!

On Saturday, I had a little “warm-up BBQ”, on Sunday I ate with two of my students and their family (and destroyed them at wii tennis), on Monday I got a surprise invite from Ben to go to his rooftop party, and then yesterday I wussed out and just hit the 2-for-1 Italian special at the Cain. I’m feeling slightly ill from three straight days of drinking like a fish, eating over a pound of barbecued beef, lamb, chicken, octopus, mushrooms, and whatever else came my way… but it’s a very satisfied kind of ill feeling.

Sometimes I really miss Boulder…

I really don’t know what words to put to these images I’ve been seeing over the last year. The videos speak for themselves.

This happened just this week at the John Kerry speech in Florida. The youtube poster is a bit of a sensationalist, but the MSNBC coverage is good.

I found this one on Amnesty International’s website:

This is possibly the worse of all… from UCLA at the end of last year:

Five times… after saying he had a medical condition.

I’ve written before about the sheer number of idiots who comment on Digg. What I didn’t mention at the time is that Youtube comments are even worse. That doesn’t bother me much. Youtube comments are easy to ignore, but discussion is a central part of Digg.

If you have a problem with explicit language, want to hear something intelligent, or have any standards at all, this video’s not for you.

Update: Part two

I love it when other teachers put up videos of their students. This school is obviously quite a bit different than mine is, but the kids sure are cute.

Here’s the final performance. The costumes sure were involved, but they didn’t have real hammer pants like I’d never admit to having wanted when I was 12.

In always like to assume the best about people. Sometimes, though, it costs me.

I live in a 加蓋房子, which is basically a floor illegally added onto the top of an apartment building. As such, I don’t get my own electric bills. Why that legal quandary didn’t slow down the phone company when I asked them to install phone and DSL service this spring, I’m not sure.

In any case, since it is illegal to have separate power bills, my power has been routed through my downstairs neighbor’s apartment. He put a meter on the power going to my floor and then I pay a portion of his power bill, depending on how much electricity I use.

He seemed like a nice guy, and I’ve basically just paid whatever number he said I owed each month, since it always seemed reasonable. Apparently, that was a mistake.

My bill for February and March was two thousand and change, my bill for April and May was four thousand and change, and then my bill for June and July came out to over thirteen thousand. I know air conditioning costs go up in the summer, but $13,455 is nuts. My bills in the winter last year at my old place were the same as this year, and the most expensive summer bill was about $5,500. With no change in my habits, could the bill have more than doubled?

I very nearly just paid it, but I’ve been short on cash and it was a monstrous bill, so I decided to get some more information. The entire bill the electric company sent my downstairs neighbor was 14,484. I went downstairs and asked him about it. He showed me my meter and stood by his calculations.

The problem is, there’s no way that I used $13,455 of electricity and his family of five only used $1,029. Even if they never used the air-conditioner at all, just the refrigerator would use more than that over a two month period.

I called our landlord and explained the problem. Fortunately, he agreed with me that there was no way the power usage worked out the way my neighbor claimed. It also turns out that the neighbor in question had been using the air-con, hasn’t been paying rent for a few months and is on his way out of the building. The

Best of all, the landlord is getting a working meter installed in my apartment, so I don’t need to rely on anyone else’s estimates of what I owe each month.

I recently stumbled accross a site called Fuzzwich, that automates cheesy video design. Here’s the result of my first effort:

This last week has been the roughest work week for me yet. I’m very pleased with the progress of my students, and the development of my EFL curriculum, but the business side of things has been disastrous. I had thought that I’d be opening two new classes this Monday, but neither opened.

We had a list of several students who wanted to attend my evening classes but couldn’t find space this spring. None of them were still interested when we called. The only three remaining students who want to take the class are ones I’ve given entrance tests to over the last couple of weeks.

What’s worse still, is the fact that nobody wants to enroll for my 1st and 2nd grade class. Originally, there were four students who were planning on enrolling, plus a few maybes, but now there aren’t any. There was one mother who was planning on signing up a pair of twins just last night, if we could move the class time half an hour earlier, but when we talked to her today, she said she’d found something else. Ditto for the other two who had signed up.

Of all of my classes, there are none I’m as proud of as my 1st and 2nd grade class that just finished this summer. I’ve never had a class make such great progress in my entire life. Some students who had studied for years at Sesame Street or Uncle Jason tried to join that class after it had been going for just over 6 months, and it was too hard for them in every aspect. It’s was no surprise that students were much better at phonics and spelling than those from other schools. However, my students also had learned more grammar, and had far, far larger vocabularies. Over the last year, I’ve poured so much of my time and my effort into designing and teaching the best classes I possibly can and the results show. Being faced with the idea that nobody wants these kinds of classes felt like being punched in the gut.

I feel like we’re always right on the cusp… if we can just get the number of students we need to open a class all at the same time, then it’s great. If we come up a few short, though, those who have already signed up leave by the time a few more kids trickle in. All of my summer students’ parents are pleased with class and have decided to continue. The problem is getting new students in the door to replace the older ones who can’t continue. Direct mailing has been almost completely ineffective. We need some better way.

I passed out stacks of fliers at a local elementary school yesterday, but not even a single prospective student came into the school today.