“Disney Dreamlight Valley” is Japanese immersion paradise

The language-learning intermediate plateau is tough. You’ve grown out of beginner-friendly resources, and you see diminishing returns from traditional studying because the more advanced grammar points and vocabulary are less frequently used. But at the same time, at this level you’re finally starting to see glimpses of the payoff from all that studying: for the first time you can sort of understand your favorite shows or books or whatever else motivated you to learn the language in the first place, and when this happens it’s magic!

At this point, you want to move beyond textbooks and study apps and find materials in your target language – podcasts, books, TV, shows, video games, forums, etc – and spend as much time with them as possible.… Read the rest


Inspired by the Planet Money podcast, I’d like to celebrate Valentine’s Day by giving out some virtual valentines to things I’m especially glad are real things that exist.

Water Bears

Whether or not tardigrades, or “water bears,” can really survive quantum entanglement, they still have a lot going for them: they’re insanely tough and oddly charismatic. So I was absolutely delighted to discover a wholesome puzzle game based on rehydrating tardigrades that are in their dried-out hibernation-like “tun” state. The puzzles themselves are only fine, but Water Bears is totally worth playing just for the tardigrades. They even make cute alien-ish purring sounds.… Read the rest

A car-less person’s guide to hiking around Berkeley

Last week I was happy to have the opportunity to attend a research workshop on causality, hosted by the Simons Institute here at Berkeley. One of the other attendees asked for recommendations for things to do around the East Bay. Maybe because most of my time here has been under the influence of covid (but, honestly, I’m kind of just like this), I found myself rambling about different places I like to walk or hike around. Berkeley is a hiker’s paradise: hills overlooking the bay and San Francisco (with beautiful sunsets to boot), a huge diversity of plant life, and many miles of trails, all within 1.5 hours of the UC Berkeley campus on foot.… Read the rest

Life is amazing: Fish-eating bat (Myotis vivesi)

Two Myotis vivesi bats roosting in a rock crevice

Bats make up around one-fifth of all mammal species, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they’ve adapted to just about every ecological niche you could think of. Even so, I think Myotis vivesi is something special. These little guys subsist almost entirely on seafood that they catch during long fishing expeditions on the open ocean. They have huge claws to grasp fish with, and long, stable wings that allow them to glide efficiently and carry heavy prey. During the day, they roost among the rocks and cliffs of islands in the Gulf of California. Since their land home is quite dry and they spend so much time at sea, they can even get by only on seawater!… Read the rest