Archive for June 2004
A while ago, there was a knock at my office door. A colleague stepped in and said, "I would like to have a Web site, could you help me with this?" I asked, "Here at the university? You want to upload course- and research-related" materials?"
I explained that he had two choices: he could either host the new site at his department, assuming that the department runs a Web server, which many departments do; or he could host it at the Data Center. I recommended the latter option because the machines at the Data Center are maintained, full-time, by professionals, whereas the department servers mostly aren't, which makes the Data Center option more secure and more reliable.
We agreed that he was going to request a user account at the Center and that, meanwhile, I was going to cobble a layout together for his site. He also promised to send me some of the stuff he wants to have online.
I'm still waiting for the stuff, but I have received the Data Center's account information, and the layout is ready. Once I receive the stuff, I'll manually plonk it into the layout and upload it. Then, I'll either offer to maintain the site and add any future updates, or maybe I'll teach the sensei how to open the pages in a text editor, teach him what a few of the most important tags do, and teach him how to use FTP/SSH to upload any additons.
All of which should be entirely unnecessary.
As it is, faculty and staff at this university create their own Web pages -- and it shows. Even a cursory glance at a random sample of those pages will reveal that they're both coded and designed to fairly low standards of excellence -- and no wonder: who'd expect university teachers to be expert webheads?
So, while coding the layout, I was grumbling to myself: why can't the Data Center set up a university-wide system that would allow anyone to simply log in, drop their stuff into a set of templates, and -- hey presto! Instant publication? Add weblogging functionality and -- hey presto! Instant improvement of communication across the board?
Security concerns. When I originally set up Tawawa, the Data Center wouldn't allow me to run the site on their servers because, as a matter of security policy, server-side scripting is out of the question.
Other universities take another line. I've just come across UThink, a new project at the University of Minnesota which gives all students, faculty and staff their own weblog.
How cool is that?
Due to recent renovation work on the Front page, the RSS excerpts available on Tawawa have become even shorter. For those who'd prefer RSS feeds of the whole Big Tree entries, we have just added those, both in RSS 1.0 and RSS 2.0 format. Please find them here.
All new code is properly groomed, manicured and validated, but if it gives you a headache anyway, please let us know.
What is this all about?
Well, feeds are alternative versions, written in XML, of the new content posted to a Web site. Instead of reading Web sites, users can choose to read the feeds instead. They do this with a feedreader, a software application much like an e-mail client. The main attraction of doing so is that users can subscribe to feeds and get notified whenever a site publishes new content; it's no longer necessary to go to a site to find out if it has been updated.
Here's a simple diagram that explains How RSS Works.
If you're new to this, the best way to start is probably to sign up to Bloglines. This is a free online service that acts like a feedreader and allows you to subsribe to feeds as soon as you've registered an account.
Chat with pketh
We are going to have a chat session with pketh, a biology student in Toronto and a frequent Tawawa visitor.
Date: Friday, June 25th, 12:30 PM (Japan time)
If you can join, please do! I'm looking forward to having a good chat with you!
My graduation thesis
I am now very busy and I am exhausted because of overworking, as a doctor says. But I now have to do many things; studying for the teaching exam, reading papers for my thesis and seeing a doctor regularly. I am worried about what to write in my paper. The topic of my graduation thesis is vocabulary acquisition in SLA. The title of the thesis is "Vocabulary acquisition by intermediate learners".
The reason why I chose this topic is that I think vocabulary is one of the most necessary elements of language learning. When people do not understand more than three words in one sentence, they will not be able to understand the meaning of the sentence even if they have a perfect command of the grammar. Also, if people know the meaning of all the words in a sentence, they can guess what happens there even though they may be unfamiliar with the grammar, I think. Thus, knowing the meaning of words is the key, especially for reading. In speaking, I think knowing many nouns is important.
In fact, there are many people in Japan who do not like memorizing English words because they have to memorize spelling, meaning and pronunciation. Furthermore, they have to recognize the words in spoken English. Then, I want to research how to memorize words effectively; for example, to trace the etymology of the word to understand its meaning is a good way.
However, I think grammar is also important. When I write on Tawawa, I always think how to express my feelings or opinions in English effectively. But I do not read so much English, so my English may be awkward sometimes.
And, I have not defined precisely the term "intermediate learners" yet. I am now pondering…
Good Old Songs
Now I'm studying many things to become an elementary school teacher. One of them is to remember the lyrics and melody of many songs chosen to be taught in every elementary school by the Ministry of Education. Most of them are songs I learned in my elemetary school days too, and they are very familiar to Japanese people.
This afternoon, my mother and I visited my grandparents' house. I brought a music book I'm studying now and a recorder I used in my childhood, just because I guessed my grandparents might know some of the songs in the book.
Once I began to play a song on the recorder, my grandmother kept singing to the recorder's accompaniment. It turned out that she knows almost all of the songs, and remembers the lyrics far better than my mother and I, which surprised me very much. She said that those songs are the ones she learned in her elementary school before World War II broke out.
I found that those songs taught in elementary schools have not changed since my grandmother was in elementary school; that was about seventy years ago. I was surprised to learn that, but I feel it is great because those songs can be a good vehicle for different generations to communicate with each other. Actually my grandmother, my mother and I enjoyed singing and playing them very much. Thanks to them, we had a very good time!
Today technology is developing rapidly and society is continually changing and changing. But it is good for us to know old traditions and culture, so that we remember something important across generations. I'd like to pass those good old songs on to my children and grandchildren.
Dining in Milwaukee
Can anyone identify the mysterious "pink in the lower left" of the sushi bento? It "smelled spicy, but tasted pungent in a sweet way". Suggestions?
Going to the movies
Recently I have enjoyed seeing movies that cost 1,500 yen per regular admission, and I have come to realize that I like watching movies. Before, I did not go to theaters at all, nor did I rent videos and watch them at home. But I don't know why this was so -- I did not dislike them. Maybe I just did nothing and had no interest. Once I had a go, I got involved and enjoyed the experience. Now I want to watch other movies, both famous and not so famous.
Last weekend, I went and saw "Day after Tomorrow" at Suzuka city.
The movie taught me that global warming is serious and dangerous. In the early part of the story, a group of workers who drill the ice of Antarctica find that the floor of the glacier they stand on is very thin, and that the drill pierces it easily. In the hole of the glacier, they see the Antarctic ocean heaving up. The scene surprised me very much, and later, the weather observers throughout the world recognize that the climate is becoming strange. And the… oh, I will stop telling the story here.
This movie warns us that we should pay much more attention to global warming. In this movie, as you may know, not only the U.S. , but also Japan, Great Britain, France and perhaps China appear and are described as nations that collapse instantly because of extremely abnormal weather; golf-ball or baseball-sized hailstones fall and the climate plunges into another ice age.
You may say that it is just a movie: it may be exaggerating situations with computer graphics. But once you watch this movie, you might say that it is not just a movie, but something that might happen in the future.
I have one question on the title of this movie, "Day after Tomorrow." What about the day after tomorrow? I could not understand it, so I would be very glad if someone who has seen the movie could explain its title to me.
And another thing about watching movies. If you have any movie recommendations, please let me know.
Sir Paul says
In my course on British short stories a character named Sir Edward appeared only last week as part of a tale by William Golding. To fill in the cultural background, I had to explain the peculiarly British institution of elevating commoners into the ranks of the aristocracy. For a handy and well-known example, I mentioned Paul McCartney, who, in recognition of his outstanding work, is now known as "Sir Paul".
As it happens, the BBC has just published an article on the former Beatle: Sir Paul reveals Beatles drug use.
And I just don't know. Much as I love the Brits and their funny ways: to me, a knighthood has always looked like a severe blow to a rock star's street credibility.
So Bob Geldorf of the Boontown Rats picked up a knighthood many years ago. Can anyone say "Sir Bob" with a straight face or is the gentleman now known as "Sir Robert"?
I really like my prefecture, Mie, which is set in the Kii Peninsula, for several reasons: it's one of the most important places in the religious history of Japan (I'm not so religious, though), its rich nature serves us fresh seafood and edible wild plants, and the people in Mie are generally mild.
Before long, one more reason will be added to the list above. Kumano Kodo, the generic term for many old routes in the Kii Peninsula, is likely to be designated a World Heritage this summer. Some fourteen trails are in the southern part of Mie. I've tried three of the trails before and I enjoyed the scenery from the top of the mountains very much. Each trail has unique features: Ohbuki Pass, for example, has very beautiful bamboo woods, and Magose Pass is famous for its old stone-paved road. While walking, I also enjoy small talk with other hikers as well as talking with my friends.
These days I see many posters of Kumano Kodo at train stations, local bookstores and travel agencies. I'll be really happy if Kumano Kodo becomes a World Heritage. My friends and I are planning to take on the toughest trail, Yakiyama Pass, before we graduate from university.