Poop coming in handy

Yes poop. 💩

Here are two ways poop came in handy this year:

In Japan: “Professor Poo bestseller brings scatology-based study to Japan” (from the Guardian). This book is helping kids learn to write kanji characters, and the term うんこ漢字ドリル(Poop Kanji Drills is the name of the book) was one of this year’s Words of the Year in Japan. (“The Japanese words that perfectly sum up how the country felt this year” from Quartz)

Read more about the workbook at Spoon and Tamago.

In the US: turning cow poop into electricity

Read more about this “methane digester” at the Strauss Family Creamery in California.


Kingfishers and owls and penguins. Oh my!

Train geeks and birdwatchers will like this story. It’s about how the newer shinkansen are modeled after kingfisher birds’ beaks because the guy who helped design them was a birdwatcher and noticed that nature’s designs can be pretty perfect. He also got hints from owls and penguins. The video goes on to explain biomimicry and how we can learn a lot from biology and nature.

Watch with the CC subtitles turned on to help you improve listening skills and learn some language. Like this phrase: “to make a splash” — which can be literal (a bird makes a splash when it dives into the water) or an idiom (to become noticed/gain a lot of attention because of something you’ve done).

My students will probably not get the title reference. It’s from this scene of the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz”:

Last photos and alien fish

This short documentary asks people to share the stories behind the last photo on their phone. It’s a good discussion starter. WARNING: This particular video has a bit of swearing, but I think it’s worth it to see real people speaking real English.

One of these stories reminded me of something I was watching on TV last night about alien fish species in Lake Biwa. In a short time, the people caught something like 30+ blue gill (a foreign species) and only 1 fish that was indigenous to the lake. They also caught some turtles that didn’t belong there. The problem is partly due to people throwing unwanted pets into the lake. Like the lady in the video with the guinea pig her kid no longer was interested in. At least they did the responsible thing and took it back to the pet store, instead of abandoning it in the wild.

Here’s a little explainer about alien fish in Lake Biwa and other places. It’s a teacher’s blog and it’s a bit old, but it may give you some ideas for research.

Anyway, what’s the last photo on your phone? Mine is of Mt. Hood in Oregon. Last week my dad and I took a drive to Jonsrud Viewpoint, about 25 miles outside Portland, to see the view.

On the way, we passed a sign for a small community with a funny name:

Here are other videos in the Last Photo series::

Last Photo – San Francisco: vimeo.com/73180322
Last Photo – Los Angeles: vimeo.com/80692249
Last Photo – New York: vimeo.com/81688267
Last Photo – Miami: vimeo.com/95000692
Last Photo – Alabama: vimeo.com/95023516
Last Photo – London: vimeo.com/104988916
Last Photo – Detroit: vimeo.com/126819316