Technology

Developing a language-learning program (high-frequency sentence identifier)

UPDATE: I devoted most of my nights and weekends this year to building the program described below with the help of Kostyantyn Grinchenko, an excellent Ukrainian freelance developer. Then, after realizing that we had stumbled upon a breakthrough idea that could revolutionize language learning and help many people become fluent readers of their target language, I assembled a remote team of freelance and volunteer developers, designers, native-speaker audio recorders, and translators to help me develop it into a webapp (and future mobile app): WordBrewery.

Use of Predators Sets Dangerous Precedent

My op-ed “Use of Predators Sets Dangerous Precedent” appeared today on Antiwar.com. In it, I criticize President Obama’s decision to authorize drone warfare in Libya. I write:

“The expediency of drones makes it all-too-tempting for governments to use them frequently and carelessly, brushing aside the ethical questions they raise and ignoring the long-term security consequences their use could entail.” Click here to read the full article. Thanks, as always, for reading.

The case for Facebook and social networking

Even though Facebook currently has over 200 million active users, many people continue to doubt the value of social networking in general and Facebook in particular. Critics argue that Facebook and other social networking and Web 2.0 tools - including blogs and Twitter - are symptomatic of the “solipsism” (meaning, in this context, the self-absorption of users) of the contemporary Internet. Indeed, Facebook can be an enormous time-waster and procrastination tool, as can any medium or Internet resource.

Readings from Camus and Melville

I once said that, after the experiences of the last two years, I could no longer hold to any truth which might oblige me, directly or indirectly, to demand a man’s life. Certain friends whom I respected retorted that I was living in Utopia, that there was no political truth which could not one day reduce us to such an extremity, and that we must therefore either run the risk of this extremity or else simply put up with the world as it is.

Excerpts from Jim Harrison's 'The English Major'

I recently finished Jim Harrison’s latest novel, The English Major. Harrison, a native of my home state of Michigan, is my favorite contemporary author, and The English Major is the best ”fun read” I’ve had in a long time. In trademark Harrison style, it is both hilarious and poignant, and it contains some great passages. Excerpts below. …I tried to dismiss a pinprick of homesickness beneath my breastbone but then thought that homesickness like marital love was mostly a habit.

Quotes from Kohak's 'The Embers and the Stars'

I recently discovered the work of Erazim Kohak, a Czech philosopher and Professor Emeritus at Boston University who has written extensively on environmental ethics. I am 30 pages into Kohak’s The Embers and the Stars: A Philosophical Inquiry into the Moral Sense of Nature, and it is incredible so far. A few excerpts below, with more to come. Reflection and speculation remain no more than cunningly devised fables if they are not grounded in what, paraphrasing Calvin Schrag, we could call the prephilosophical and prescientific matrix of self-understanding and world-comprehension.

Readings from Mann, Golley, and Eliot

-Must-read: the New York Times on a severe case of protracted bullying. This is real, and it’s an enormous problem. There is a spectrum of school violence ranging from verbal harassment and bullying all the way to school shootings, and it needs to be taken more seriously and addressed more quickly at every stage. An atmosphere of security and mutual respect in classrooms is essential to students’ well-being and ability to learn.