Left, right, and the French Revolution

I recently completed Mike Duncan’s epic podcast series on the French Revolution, starting with Revolutions Podcast episode 3.1. It’s become a habit of mine to listen to podcasts while washing dishes in the evenings. Throughout this one, I was amazed by the historical parallels to what I observed in US and global politics throughout my lifetime.

While righteous change can be achieved through violence, it is always at the expense of the values that would have made the change righteous. As an example, any good that could have been achieved by removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq has been eclipsed many times by the disastrous effects of the US invasion and occupation.

Interestingly, a quote from David Brin’s blog post, Cryptocurrencies, stock buybacks, regulations… they are counting on you being bored!, caught my attention at the same time the revolution was wrapping up.

The idea of the political ‘left’ and ‘right’ originated in the French National Assembly in 1789 when supporters of the king gathered on the right side of the hall, and supporters of the revolution were on the left. Why has such a context-specific dichotomy overwhelmed our political thinking for over two centuries?

This is a time of complexity, but are people’s thinking processes and understanding of the world in which we live keeping up? Considering that after decades of ‘education’, I had virtually no knowledge of the French Revolution, I would say not.

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Teaching portfolio and Chinese Crabapple

My ‘appraisal’ portfolio was due on Friday, so it more or less consumed my waking – and some sleeping – thoughts.

Thinking about teaching

That’s a flagrant exaggeration, but seeing as how a significant portion of my monetary compensation is tied to it, it’s something to take seriously. I also posted a handful of blog posts in an effort to share my learning and maintain a professional blogging habit. And despite publishing the posts within days of each other, they actually were ongoing works in progress until becoming due. The most philosophical of them is Agency and Independent Inquiry. I have designs on starting a more pedagogical, theoretical, rhetorical publication on Medium, Learning vs Teaching, and maybe Agency is a good topic to explore to get that project underway.

Late bloomer

Even with work hanging on my shoulder, I was lucky to notice and snap a photo of my new favorite blossom, the Chinese Crabapple.

I love how it screams ‘Spring!’ by blooming after the leaves are growing in, and the balance of pink and yellow highlights encourages a feeling of peace, as well as reminding me of my dad.

So long, Cecil

While not admiring natural beauty, I noted the death of one of my musical heroes, Cecil Taylor, and reflected on his deeply reverent music.

Unit Structures was my introduction to him, but I grew to appreciate the fearlessness of his solo piano music.

Endless Spring Break

Mentally, I’ve somehow been able to keep a ‘spring break mentality’ going. Is it due to a successful meditation regime? Lack of sleep? Hard to know but at least I’m having fun.

In case it doesn’t make sense, the idea of the graph is for the blue line to get lower, and the other lines to get higher.

Spring Break 2018

January to March is the most difficult season in school life. In Tokyo, it’s the coldest time of year, flu season, and also inexplicably popular for special events.

Spring break arrives just in time every year. This year has been one of the best ever.

First, the cherry trees bloomed perfectly on cue at the beginning of the week.

Sunset light on #Sakura

A post shared by Bart Miller (@bartmlr) on

Even better, the weather was sunny and clear every day, which kept the cherry blossoms on the trees for everyone to enjoy. We followed a ‘staycation’ model, venturing out into the city a few times. A highlight for me was a a ramen lunch with my son at Marutama.

Still haven’t managed to be more consistent with my workouts and meditation, but that’s to be expected during vacation.

New Year 2018

My joys: Food and kids. #bestnine2017 via Instagram
As I suspected, New Year festivities disrupted my routine quite a bit. However, I’ll publish what I can here and take a moment to share a resolution for 2018.

My primary goal for the year is to be more social. Over the past several years, my two sons grew out of the larval stage during which they require constant physical care. During that time I ruminated over many business and creative ideas but never took concrete action. I feel that I did so much ‘thinking without doing’ that now I can start ‘doing without thinking’, in a sort of Zen state. However I can’t do anything alone. My ideas are all collaborative, and if I don’t taking action to include others, share my ideas, receive criticism, etc, all of my thinking will amount to nothing.

Christmas 2017

Missed posting last weekend due to Christmas, nursing a sick family, and coming down with a cold myself. Recovered now, but assume it will be difficult to post this weekend as well with the New Year festivities. Hoping to be more active on social media, though, and that the highlight of the holiday will be more exciting than a nap.

Kidding aside, the real highlight was introducing our family’s first piano into the mix.

❤️ Christmas morning. via yukamila on Instagram

Snickerdoodles, the key to weight loss

First #snickerdoodles of the season! via Instagram
It’s officially December and the annual eleven month moratorium on all things Christmas has been lifted. Commence merriment.

UX Design, door stops, and other Japanese wonders

For the past few years, I’ve taken an interest in Design Thinking and user-experience design. It turns out that Japan abounds in carefully considered designs everywhere from toilets to shoe horns, instant noodles to vending machines.

The spirit of omotenashi thrives everywhere. Take, for example, grocery deliveries. Like any modern Japanese home, ours has a massive steel door with a hydraulic arm that pulls it closed. Secure and convenient, except when receiving a delivery. How many times have I stood, awkwardly struggling to simultaneously hold open the heavy door, receive a package or pizza, and sign or pay for it?

Imagine my delight when the gentleman delivering our order of groceries brought his own doorstop. The echoes of my palm smacking my forehead must have been heard for blocks.

People here generally enjoy deep satisfaction from simple solutions to problems, annoyances, and minor inconveniences.

Didn’t you know that the flag of Japan is a pickled plum on a bed of rice? via Instagram
I came down with a head cold this week. Japan hasn’t alleviated that discomfort, although they come pretty close by way of an affordable and efficient hybrid socialized health care system, and superfoods like umeboshi.
As detailed in the article, “Umeboshi”: The Health Secrets of Japan’s Sourest Fruity Treat, shared in my Flipboard magazine, Life in Japan, pickled plums, like green tea, can boost the immune system, although it seems that I didn’t eat enough before this week.