Safe at School
Tippets #176: Language, BookTok, senior robots, and more. Enjoy!
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Growing up an expat in Jakarta, I, along with all expats, represented to some Indonesians the cause of several problems the country faced — corruption, poverty, and lack of resources. As a foreigner, I stood out anywhere I went around my home town. But one place was always safe: school.
The Jakarta International School was a shining symbol of expat life. Most commonly called JIS (like hiss with a j), with three campuses around the city, the school served as much more than a place for education. It was a place for gathering, where the expat community held sports tournaments and festivals. Where we hosted authors and filmmakers for fireside chats. Where we had UN Day, a celebration of all the nationalities represented at the school, complete with food, drink, and dancing. A meeting spot for friends ahead of a night at the movies and a sleepover.
Naturally, JIS was also a target.
I will never know the full extent of the threats made against the school and, by extension, to us as students. Bombs were what we were worried about. Guns were not a thing for me growing up. In Indonesia, firearms are largely outlawed, generally only available to "civilians employed in a profession that involves using firearms, such as in the military and law enforcement, with an exception made for politicians and businessmen."
A bomb threat was called in every so often, usually in the auditorium or the gymnasium. These were taken seriously (particularly following the rioting during the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the subsequent fall of President Suharto which resulted in mass evacuations from Indonesia, and the subsequent Bali bombing and hotel bombings…more on that another time), and so we had to understand how to prepare.
Bomb threat response was similar to fire drills. The sound of the alarm would trigger a semi-orderly walk to the large sports fields at the outer edge of campus. We would mass together like sardines, trying to stay on covered walkways as long as possible to avoid the 90-degree tropical heat or the thundering rains during monsoon season. Then, we would all line up in our classes, nodding and waving at friends in other lines, picking up the conversation from the last recess or celebrating the interruption of the exam we were taking. The teachers confirmed all students were present and accounted for, and then we'd wait until the bell would ring. Clang, clang, clang, and the walk back to class began, and everything was back to normal. We were aware of the threat of bombs, but we weren't that scared.
And despite being the largest and most prominent target out there for anyone looking to threaten the expat way of life, the school was a safe place. As I hope it is for most kids.
This week tragedy struck Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX. An 18-year-old gunman shot 38 people, killing 19 children and two teachers. I have spent the last few days attempting to process the range of emotions that wash over me. Grief. Fear. Rage. A hollowness that I have tried to fill by consuming the news, attempting to find the answer to a reasonable simple question. Why?
I ache by reading the stories of bravery from children and hearing the parents share loving tales of their beautiful babies. Kids. They were just kids.
As I watched my 3.5-year-old son and 1.5-year-old daughter play over the last few days, my mind screams. "How will I keep them safe?"
I'm grateful that my babies still exist in the bubble my wife and I create for them. We are in almost complete control of what they see, where they go, and who they interact with. We have an incredible support system, from our fantastic nanny and Montessori school, to my in-laws, friends, and terrific neighbors. But one day, my kiddos will leave this curated existence we have presented to them and experience the world as it is.
When I first had kids, my initial expectation of 'Fear of What the Child will Get Into' would start in the teenage years. That while needing to worry about their wellbeing, generally speaking, nothing terrible really happens until puberty hits. And between the house and school, they'll be fine. Safe at home. Safe at school.
One day, a few years from now, there will come a day when my son will come home saying he did an active shooter drill at school. At that moment, I'm not sure how I will feel. But I know I will hold him and talk to him about it. Ask him about what he did and how he felt. And he will ask me an entirely reasonable question. "Why did we have to do that Daddy?" And I won't have an answer.
Why did he have to go through with a drill for something that logically feels entirely preventable or, at the very least, deterrable? Why are guns now the leading cause of death for children in the United States? Why shouldn't kids feel safe at school?
To contribute to the Uvalde, TX community, visit the GoFundMe page here.
To contribute to the reduction of gun violence, please visit Everytown.org.
Tippets from Around the Web:
An intentionally lighter set than normal this week.
An awesome article and visualization of language around the world. I used to think that between seven or eight languages you could communicate with most of the world. The reality is you’ll need closer to 23 - 25. An awesome look at who speaks what where.
An important new tool has emerged for new authors looking to market their work: TikTok.
According to NPD Bookscan, the publishing industry sold approximately 825.7 million print books in 2021, led by fiction. This is up from 757.9 million in 2020. Kristen McLean, NPD Group’s executive director of business development, attributes the rise in sales to BookTok.
Traditional publishing is taking note of the impact that BookTok has, with most publishing houses pivoting to create TikTok content in the past year. Some publishers—in particular, Random House—are collaborating with known creators on the app to boost titles.
TikTok’s reign over the book industry has also turned heads with booksellers. Retailers both big and small are setting up sections of their stores devoted to books seen on BookTok.
Love TikTok or hate it, it certainly can’t be ignored.
ElliQ was specifically designed to provide stimulation for, make small talk with, and encourage activity in seniors. The device does this by proactively speaking up and engaging with people. It reads messages and displays photos from approved senders (such as family, friends, and health care providers), offers to play interactive games, and streams guided workouts designed for older adults. It can also be set up to schedule transportation.
I’ve often wondered how many times I have been photographed without my knowing it. Part of the background, blending into the scenery. A new company, PimEyes, offers the ability to find out.
For $29.99 a month, a website called PimEyes offers a potentially dangerous superpower from the world of science fiction: the ability to search for a face, finding obscure photos that would otherwise have been as safe as the proverbial needle in the vast digital haystack of the internet.
The company attempts to skirt the controversy faced by other companies like ClearView offering similar services in a few ways.
PimEyes does not include results from social media sites. The sometimes surprising images that PimEyes surfaced came instead from news articles, wedding photography pages, review sites, blogs and pornography sites. Most of the matches for the dozen journalists’ faces were correct….Despite saying PimEyes should be used only for self-searches, Mr. Gobronidze is open to other uses as long as they are “ethical.”
Quote I’m thinking about: “Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” - Emma Stone
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