The Updates #28

Estimated Reading Time: 17 minutes

Week 28 of the updates and life is bussssssy!


Very slow progress but hopefully that ends this week as I finish grand jury duty. 

124 days until July 1 (goalposts moved from June 1 to July 1 for realistic expectations).

A park bench with a sign inviting people to sit on the bench and talk to one another.
Happy to Chat Bench

I did a webinar for NERCOMP about ChatGPT and AI-generative tools with an audience of over 170 people which is one of the bigger crowds I've talked to in my work. I circled back and made a video recording for folks that want to learn about what I covered here:  AI Generative Tools and Teach - A Look at the Landscape (35:20 minutes). I also did a talk for the Rhode Island Career Development Association and then recorded it: ChatGPT, AI Generative Tools and Your Career: Parallels, Possibilities, and Problems (27:40 minutes).

So, my class is winding down, and I'm excited about that. It's been really interesting to work with the students over the last 8 weeks. As we learned and thought about the use of ChatGPT and other iterative tools, I'm impressed with their different possible applications for teaching and learning. I really enjoyed seeing these students think through these tools and, together, develop a draft of a policy. So, what happens next? Well, this class will wind down, and the students will have a first draft of a policy around the usage of these tools. Then, I'll be teaching a second class around the same topic in session two, which starts up in about two weeks. In that class, we're going to test the policy. We'll kick the tires, see where it works, and see where there are problems, limitations, or new opportunities that weren't considered. We'll also be talking with faculty about the policy and seeing what they think about it and what their input is. Now that grand jury duty is just about at an end, I am greatly looking forward to being back at work full-time and not having this other thing hovering over my head. I feel like I'm in the space to hit the ground running, and we'll be able to do a lot more than what I've been able to do over the last six weeks. I'm also looking forward to being back in the office with my colleagues and friends as well as starting to move forward on other projects that have just been kind of in a holding pattern for the last month or so.

What I'm Reading


The Great Man Theory by Teddy Wayne:  This felt very much like a book I read a few months back called Stoner by John Williams. In this case, the protagonist is a lecturer at a college and is then demoted to essentially a full-time adjunct faculty member and is just kind of living a largely miserable life. He has this idea that his next book is going to be his moment to shine. Of course, the book is this discourse on the problems of technology in a tone that is akin to the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. We follow this protagonist as his work continues to be less and less rewarding and his personal life continues to be less and less valuable. He eventually finds himself using and relying on the very technology that he hates which plays a key role in where he goes next. I think what's interesting about this book is that it is one of those books that can be read as satire and yet, somebody could read it and feel like that's very much their experience. Within higher education, the increasing adjunctification of people is real and the ways that impact people are real. Also, this particular protagonist is not necessarily loveable. So in many ways, it's a commentary on higher education on the traditional stereotype of who is a professor and what they mean or should mean the politics of higher education inside and outside the classroom in the institution, etc. So it's a particularly targeted book that I don't know everybody would really appreciate but if you are in higher ed there are definitely things there you're going to recognize if not personally relate to

The Babysitter Lives by Stephen Graham Jones:  This Novel by Graham Jones is a real treat. It's a horror novel of sorts that explores a babysitter who ends up in the wrong house and there are a lot of different things wrong from the people that hired her to the children she's watching and the history of the house. I like the way Graham Jones interlaces a lot of things that are often absent from Horror stories. In this case, the protagonist is a young woman who is also navigating different parts of her identity some of which become Central or at least resonate with the situation she finds herself in within the house. I don't want to say too much about this but if you enjoy horror novels that aren't necessarily gross or the like but have a little bit of the weird to them definitely pick this up.


How to Lose Weight for the Last Time: Brain-Based Solutions for Permanent Weight Loss by Katrina Ubell:  I am quite skeptical of books about dieting. However, Ubell’s book I thought had a lot of useful insights in consideration about the challenges around eating and our emotional connection to eating and how we navigate through that complex process. It falls in line with a lot of other books that leverage mindfulness, Journaling, and seizing opportunities to just sit with your thinking and what you're doing when you're eating. So in that regard, if you haven't really done an approach that is more about sitting with your body and your thoughts as opposed to practices that tell you to eat this don't eat that eat this way at this time Etc this is probably a good book to start with. There are some things I'm not as big a fan of that she advocates or encourages folks to do that I don't necessarily think are really that easy. I'm also a little bit skeptical or maybe just find it a little hard when she talks about emotional eating and in many ways, nearly all eating for many people and in many cultures have an emotional component to it so the idea that we can somehow rid ourselves of emotional eating or significantly decreases I think is a real challenge that the book can't necessarily address that well.

Segregation by Design by Jessica Trounstine:  This was a really powerful book that explored the way that segregation actually became built into particularly how neighborhoods in cities are set up. Trounstine does this phenomenal job of diving into the historical record and looking across lots of different spaces of data of City Records and moving the demographics so many different things that it's such a powerful thing to read and to learn about and think about the long-term implications of decisions and how those decisions actually create situations where segregation now just happens as a matter of process. It's a really powerful book for understanding how we end up with communities that are largely segregated and the byproducts of that in terms of what we want and don't want to support politically in terms of community resources and community opportunities.

Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts by Rebecca Hall:  A version of this book was published as a graphic novel a year or two ago and it is one of my favorite graphic novels. The way that Hall tells the story of women-led slave revolts through both the past and present is just phenomenal. This is actually not the same book even though it's titled the same thing. This is actually the story of how the graphic novel came into being. It's about Rebecca Hall as she leaves a law firm and tries to begin teaching and continually runs into criticism and dismissal because she takes on the issues of racism in history head on and the schools that she's at are uncomfortable with that. So this is a full-cast production on Audible that shares her stories through a series of moments in time as she progresses her way to the point where she decides to make her dissertation which was on women LED slave revolts into a graphic novel. In that way, it's this awesome additional exploration of her work that I just feel pears really well with the graphic novel, and can't recommend both of them together enough.

The Gospel of Wellness: Gyms, Gurus, Goop, and the False Promise of Self-Care by Rina Raphael:  This book does a deep dive into Wellness culture in so many different forms from SoulCycle to various supplements to products that we put in our hair and on our skin to this idea of wellness and Purity and how all of it is often wise misrepresentation and attempts to make people feel inadequate so that they will spend more money. In total Raphael does a good job of drawing out each of the different areas that she explores showing where there's some possibility and then also making clear the various ways that the industry or the practice or the thing falls short and should be approached with skepticism. At the very end, she does seem to do some hedging around what she's talked about thus far and I feel that's where it becomes a little less useful but as a whole, I think it's an important book for many folks to read especially those who are likely to use these types of products and services with the hopes of what it offers as opposed to what it actually does.

Textured Teaching: A Framework for Culturally Sustaining Practices by Lorena Escoto German: This is a really solid book that explores how teachers in particularly teachers in the K-12 sector can work within systems that often are focused on testing or focused on offering curricula that can alienate many students. The book provides a guide for working within those systems while simultaneously sustaining richer and more culturally relevant practices that will connect with a more diverse classroom. What I like about this book is it doesn't try to be overly prescriptive. It provides this framework, it explains how it can work, and also pushes the reader to think about what would it look like in their context since every classroom is a different context.

AIQ: How People and Machines Are Smarter Together by Nick Polson: This book does a really interesting thing where it explores artificial intelligence and how it operates but it does so by providing some of the earliest examples of thinking, theories, or inventions, that provide some of the central aspects of artificial intelligence. So it's not just about what contemporary artificial intelligence can do but it's grounded in where that central thing that it can do came from. And so within that comes some of the limitations and some of the challenges that the AI may not have been able to surpass or conquer just yet. 

Graphic Novels

My Cat Hates Me (Cat and Dog, 1) by Bai Cha: This was a cute graphic novel about a person with a cat and the Dynamics of course between the human and the cat. Obviously, I can relate to it and it had some funny moments. It was not great but I got it from the library and it certainly made me smile a few times.

Adrastea by Mathieu Bablet:  This beautiful graphic novel follows an immortal king who nearly everyone has forgotten and who wanders the country to ultimately go to Mount Olympus to challenge the gods for why he exists and has not died yet. It's a really interesting story to read and reread. There's a lot of depth and small little things that you catch as you read this graphic novel. As someone who enjoys retelling older tales there's just so much here that is worth exploring and revisiting.

The Fourth Man by Jeff McComsey: This is a crime story that starts at the end where several bodies are discovered and as the police look at each body we slowly learn the backstory. The interesting piece here is how all the bodies are somehow connected. It's not a great story but it is enjoyable and in some ways reminds me of the film, The Usual Suspects.

A collection of jersey barriers next to each other with different animal eyes painted on each one.
Animal Eyes

What I'm Watching

Jerry & Marge Go Large:  this is such a sweet film! I picked this up because it included Brian Cranston who I am a fan of. But I didn't expect to have such a warm feeling after watching this movie. The film's premise is that Jerry played by Bryan Cranston is retiring and he doesn't really know what to do with his life. he looks at one of the local lotteries one day and realizes that there's this huge fallacy in it that nobody has realized yet. He decides to start betting on the lottery based on that fallacy and he begins winning. And eventually, he brings in his wife and the whole town and uses the money to start investing and rebuilding this town that is nearly economically abandoned. And yes, there's some tension and some drama but in the end, it just felt like a really good movie. I recommend it to anyone who just wants to smile and appreciate the ways that storytelling like this can help us understand the ways different people can connect to one another.

Pearl:   so this was the prequel to the film X that came out and I think 2020. And so this film was very much created during the pandemic. There's a lot of things about this film that are just as much about the pandemic as it is about trying to set up the story to which the film X will follow. Mia Goth is amazing and how uncomfortable she makes the audience feel in her performance and there are just pieces of this film that I think are really interesting to consider as kind of this look at the past of the late 1910s and also, a reflection of the ways people played with risk throughout the pandemic and some of the devastation that brought in different ways and the way the impact of long-term illness that many people experienced as a result of the pandemic.

Groundhogs Day:  it's probably been decades since I watched this film and recently was invited to watch the film at a friend's birthday party. It is this interesting contemplative film about how and why we do things and what is the result and how do we get to something that doesn't feel so repetitive, doesn't feel rote, doesn't feel like we're trapped. There's something to be said about how we find our way through things. In this case, we see Bill Murray's character Go through what feels like must have been thousands of days before he was really able to break through to the next day. And I think what was really powerful is that what the character has to do is this mixture of learning about the world around him and reflecting about who he is and how he engages in that world around him. And so for me I love that idea of in order to break through to that new world, he has to be a lifelong learner and utilize that process of learning and reflection to become somebody that wakes up on February 3rd.

The Village of the Damned: I had never watched this before I think. It was interesting to watch this film in the context of the recent abundance of artificial intelligence. In many ways that is what this felt like. In the film there is this moment in this village where all of a sudden everybody falls asleep and it's unclear why. Months later, eight or nine of the women are all pregnant and deliver babies that are fully matured but didn't actually gestate for the full 9 months. Those children have this telepathic relationship they all look the same and they work together and they increasingly become this threat to the village and the world at large. It's unclear who they are or what they are or how they came into being. But it is very evident that they are this collective power that feels threatening and at times feels threatened to the world around them. I think the film's final outcome is a really interesting approach and certainly not the first nor the last film that hands it this way. Still, it is a surprising decision that has me thinking about lot about how we may feel about AI. 

Graveyard of the Fireflies:  One thing I really like about Japanese animation is how often they engage in deep, emotional, and thoughtful explorations of the human condition. In this film it explores a teenage boy and his very young sister as they navigate being orphans in Japan in the midst of World War II. It's this caring film where you see the brother and sister try to survive and navigate hard decisions and somehow look for joy in many different spaces. It's also this harsh film where you see the world not able to help these young people and the outcome that results from it. It's a really beautiful film that was recommended to me by a good friend and for those who like to sit with mixed emotions of joy and sadness, it's definitely a film I would encourage you to check out. 

This Week's Photos

Happy to Chat Bench: I was in Salem recently and found this sign on many different benches throughout the downtown area. I really like that invitation to sit on the bench and to talk with somebody. I appreciate how it creates a space of welcoming conversation that can somehow and sometimes be harder to do in our world today given the different ways individuals are drawn into conversations that are happening through different technologies. It has me thinking of what are other ways that we can craft a social and public world to invite people to interact and encourage them in a way that isn't judging or dismissing the value or the reasons why they may be using their devices but just creates curiosity and opportunity in the way that I feel this bench does.

Animal Eyes:  I Appreciate how this collection of Jersey barriers now becomes a mural of animal eyes. And what's cool is that collectively they look amazing and also if they're used elsewhere individually, they still add a bit of art and a bit of whimsy to their environment.

What's on My Mind

There's not a lot on my mind that doesn't show up already elsewhere in this blog post or in some of the other blog posts I've posted of late and we'll be posting in the near future so I'm going to leave this space largely blank.

Words of the Year

Focus: Focus is always the thing that I'm wondering if I have or not. I think in some ways these past 2 weeks I've been able to dig down into some things and keep my attention on them. But of course, is it I'm focusing on those things to avoid focusing on other things or are those the things that feel right that I can mentally get into working on at that given time. My guess is that it's a little bit of both probably a little bit more of avoidance but I still feel like I'm moving big projects along so I'll take that.

Kind:  I still circle on this one around whether am I being kind or helpful. I know they do not have to be different things or mutually exclusive. Yet, I still find myself leaning on being helpful and wondering where I am missing opportunities to be kind. Still, I do feel I have definitely worked in a few ways in the last two weeks to and I kind of for people that are both near to me and not so much.

Earnest:  I’m thinking about this term and a lot about my jury duty. As the weeks go on, I'm wondering exactly how much earnestness I am providing and how much I'm going through motions. I think early on I had more earnestness driving me but in the second half, it felt less central and how I'm engaging in the process. That's not because it's less important and more about what can feel like the futility of the process. I will have more to say on this after I am done with jury duty.

Till next week...

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