Since the original Star Wars movie debuted in 1977 there have been over 1000 scholarly papers published about themes explored in the Star Wars movie franchise. Wow! I bet that many more will soon emerge, given the recent release of the seventh film in the series, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I saw it on Sunday and loved it, even with sky high expectations. The original was the first movie I ever fell in love with, and the first movie I saw more than once. (I viewed it three times in the theaters in the summer of 1977). I will have to re-watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens soon, as Sunday’s viewing was on an IMAX screen; it was hard to track everything given that the screen is so large. I’m also going to resist fancy 3D showings. Old fashioned 2D is the best format for me!

First Lady Michelle Obama and comedian Jay Pharaoh have partnered on a music video about the importance of going to college:



Pacific Standard magazine published an informative graphic about internet service inequality on Native American lands.

The news these days is filled with stories about students organizing on campus to improve the climate for those who are not members of traditional privileged college populations. This week I came across two very interesting — but very different — reactions to student activism. Check out “Jamar Clark: I’m Not Sure What to Say” and “This is Not a Day Care. It’s a University!” Which one resonates more closely with your views?

The new Pixar film The Good Dinosaur opens this week, and it will be preceded by the short film Sanjay’s Super Team. Pacific Standard magazine has an interesting article about the significance of Sanjay’s Super Team:

This seven-minute warm-up to the main attraction breaks lots of new ground for Pixar: It’s the first to feature a non-white lead, a director of Indian descent, and to touch on religion—Hinduism, specifically.

Sanjay’s Super Team depicts a young boy’s quest to bridge the generational and cultural gaps between his American and Indian heritage.

I want to see the last Hunger Games movie and latest Rocky franchise installment — Creed — but I should also add The Good Dinosaur to my list…

Wired magazine’s November 2015 issue has an interesting article about why most computer-generated voices are female. A sub-heading in the print version of the magazine notes, “When computers talk to us, their voices are almost always female. There’s actually science behind that — and potentially change ahead.” In the article the author says, “In the short term, female voices will likely remain more commonplace, because of both cultural bias and the role technology plays in our lives.” Later she adds, “As voice technology improves, though, designers say diversity will too. Thanks to big data, cloud computing, and the artificial intelligence those trends enable, companies will be able to tailor voices specifically to individuals, making sure you hear the ones that most resonate with you.” In short, culture and technological capabilities/constraints both play roles in the design of computer-generated voices. Why then, does the title of the online article scream “Siri and Cortana Sound Like Ladies Because of Sexism,” whereas the title of the article in the print magazine is the more ambiguous “Her, Again” [A reference to the movie Her]? Hhhmmm.

Yesterday I attended the Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge, an event that promotes creativity and entrepreneurship from San José State University students, alumni, faculty, and staff. One of the most interesting ideas was a project to deploy drones to monitor neighborhood criminal activity. I asked the students about privacy concurs, and they steered answered towards technical considerations. It appeared that they had not yet thought much about ethical and cultural issues surrounding drone deployment. I should have suggested that they add a social science major to the team!

The Pacific Standard magazine has a short article about a book with a very intriguing title: Why Does the Other Line Always Move Faster? The Myths and Misery, Secrets and Psychology of Waiting in Line. I will have to add this book to my reading list, as I always end up in long lines, no matter what!

After not completely stopping before making a right turn on red — what I’m told is called a “California Stop” — I had to sign up for online traffic school. The experience was not as bad as I feared, as students are allowed to proceed at their own pace, and there is no penalty for finishing earlier than anticipated. (When I took online training as part of new employee orientation here at SJSU, for example, one could not proceed from one section to the next until the time allocated for the section had expired, so lots of time was spent watching the counter count down.) Also, I was pleasantly surprised to see that social science research was cited. Here’s an example: “Different people have different beliefs about what causes road rage. A sociologist might say society as a whole has broken down and the values we shared have deteriorated. A psychologist might say vehicles provide drivers with a sense of power as well as anonymity, which can lead to road rage. If you ask traffic engineers they may claim lack of proper driving skills and driving at variable speeds leads to acts of road rage.”

Later in the section on road rage we get this: “Lack of respect for the law is another factor that encourages aggressive driving. The moral values of our society have changed over the years, and it has led to the growing lack of respect for law enforcement authorities. Many people believe factors like breaking down of the extended family, influence of media, and other aspects of modern society have led to this attitude toward the law and authority.” It would have been really nice if the authors had thrown in sources for further reading, but at least some basic information is presented. Hopefully some students will take the initiative to do additional research on their own!

Lots of folks don’t understand the nuances of capitalism, socialism, and communism. To better understand a comment Donald Trump made about Bernie Sanders being a “socialist-slash-communist,” a reporter asked a high school teacher and a university professor to explain the concepts. The university professor interviewed was the chairperson of SJSU’s Department of Political Science, Professor Lawrence Quill!