30 January 2007

Airport Muse

What would happen if I Googled "binary bomb components" while on a wifi connection at the airport?

26 January 2007

Day 1

Nine hours in, and I'm hanging in there. Day two and three are going to suck, but by day four, I should be okay.

My throat is really dry and I'm drinking water and tea like it's going out of style, but it will be better in the long run.

The impetus for this isn't aware of it. I'm so bad at keeping secrets.

The heartburn sucks like I can't begin to describe, but it'll be done with soon.

And watching all these people do things in An American In Paris isn't driving me nuts like I thought it would. I have no doubt that there will be times where I wish I could go back to doing it, but I think this time it'll stick.

23 January 2007

Another day bartending...

Today was a bartending teaching day. When I was doing the booze-slinger gig, there were a lot of days where I knew I went to work, made drinks, chatted, and cleaned up. But the things that actually happened? No earthly idea.

It was that day on campus.

I know I made some inappropriate comments in CS, and I'm pretty sure I openly mocked God in History. I blame lack of food. You see, I've started a diet (it's a sensible one, don't worry) because I'm tired of being overweight, and there's a bloke I'm trying to impress1.

Tomorrow is to be spent playing with clay, working on my digital photography class, getting supplements in, and, with any luck, doing actual prep work. I need to flesh out the powerpoints for History *and* CS, as well as come up with discussion questions for History on Thursday, otherwise I'm fucked.

And somewhere in all that, I have 6 weeks to learn how to spin. Maybe I should just admit to overwhelm and ask to cancel the class.

We'll see. All I want right now is a hot bath, a massage, and snuggling. What of that am I going to get tonight? Nothing. My flat is a mess and I'm exhausted. Clean up must happen soon. And I really must stop doing the Internet equivalent of sitting by the phone waiting for a call. I also must stop harassing the dear man with phone calls. Oy, but I'm daft sometimes.

1 The meet and greet for the bloke is in late March, so there's plenty of time to get svelte. I'm not going to be teensy (ever), but I'll be in a much better position. And aside from forced weight gain (that's all I'm saying), I'm going to do my damnedest not to get this way again.

[Edit to add: Is "illicited" even a word?]
[Edit to add the second: It's so wrong that my mannerisms alter so much when I've been having BBCA on in the background since I've been home.]

22 January 2007

Rube...Who?



I love Rube Goldberg machines. I just got into a discussion last night as to whether the Rube Goldberg machine in Mousetrap was a good part of the game or the only part of the game.

I don't think there will ever be a satisfactory conclusion to the discussion. But I still love Rube Goldberg machines. That this one starts with a Mentos/Diet Coke fountain is fantastic.

21 January 2007

Behold the English language

...It is a wonderful and glorious thing!

Really. I promise!

First, a slight rewind. I've recently come back into contact with an old classmate, one that seems to love using that word that's just right, as I do. So, my poor atrophied vocabulary is starting to go through verbal therapy and is slowly but surely getting stronger...

Just in time to torture my students.

Case in point.
History 1x1. Survey of Western Civilization I1. First day of lecture. We're discussing the paleolithic era through to the New Kingdom of the Egyptians2. So, we're happily discussing the role of Sumer, Mesopotamia, and the Egyptians... Right before the advent of invasion by the Sea People. I mention, as my lovely powerpoints display, that Egypt and the other nations/confederacies/kingdoms/civilizations have reached a detente at this point in time. Blank looks.

I swear, you could have heard crickets chirping.

Adjunct Slave: Ooookay, so, does anyone know what I mean by detente?
*crickets*
AS: Does anyone want to take a guess as to the language of origin?
Male student: Miss? Isn't this a history class? I mean, do we really need to know what these words mean?
AS: Oh hell no. You did not just say that linguistics has nothing to do with history, did you? Seriously? You are making my baby Buddha weep.
AS: How else are you going to communicate concepts now, much less through time, if you don't have a grasp of the meaning?
Ms: So it's important, huh?
AS: Nope. We'll just ignore all technological advances, forget all the nice things that the Romans stole and adapted, won't count the Hellenistic Age, and go back to living in caves. Class dismissed!
Female student #1: Is it Italian?
AS: Why do you think it's Italian?
Fs1: Because the Romans were everywhere.
AS: We're not at the Romans yet. It's a latin based language, but it's not Italian. I'll give you a hint. *Blank* fries. *Blank* toast. *Blank* bread.
Female student #2: Oh! French!
AS: Indeed! Okay, in French, the prefix "de" is similar to ours, what does it mean?
Fs1: "The"?
AS: Can I hang myself with the USB extension cable? Would it matter?
AS: Nope. It's generally a negation. Think "deconstruct" and "demilitarized" - these words usually mean "not," right?
Class generally nods.
AS: Okay, so de (not) ... anyone know that tente might be?
Class has blank look, is obviously getting bored.
AS: *sigh* Detente is when two or more political entities that were at odds have agreed to something like a truce. Anyone here have siblings? Good. You know how when you're really pissed off at your brother or sister, but you still have to have dinner with them, and you know if one of you looks at the other crosswise, all hell will break loose, peas will go flying...
Class giggles and some nod.
AS: It's like that. You make sure you say, "please pass the butter" - not because you really want to be nice, but because it's better than the alternative.3
Class collectively begins to see the light.

And that was for a grand total of six students. Six! Doesn't anyone read anymore? I'm going to have to bring in a dictionary and watch them pass it around. Granted the newspaper in my town is horrid. I want to know what Mad Libs they filled out and sent in to get their BA in Journalism, because that address needs to experience the wonder of Dresden in World War II.

Back to the point.

It is a community college that is attached to an accredited state university. It is open enrollment. And I have to give the kids credit for coming at all... But for the love of all that is shiny, could they crack a book before they get to college? I have a co-worker who was told that some of his students were getting through the class without knowing how to cite their work. I'd be happy with a student that knows basic sentence and paragraph structure. Comma rules would be asking a bit too much, I know.
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In other news, the geeks are back, and I'm quite pleased with them. There is a new student in the class that tries so hard to be smart. I keep telling them not to overthink things, but they do and it makes me cranky.

When asked why one aspect was different from another, he gave me this long exposition on how computers work and everything... It was about five minutes. And I looked at him after his monologue and said "okay, and if we don't overthink it?" Blank look. (I'm starting to get used to these.) "How about the limitations of the BIOS and its interaction with the hardware?"

Is it wrong that after one meet-and-greet and one lecture class, I'm really hoping for that kid to drop? He's sitting in the same seat as Mumbling Boy was last semester. I hope that seat is cursed.
------------
Online courses are going well, aside from the requisite students sending me emails that contain improper language, no matter where you reside. "Thx" is "thanks" on text messages and waitress stubs. "U" is a letter, not a pronoun. "kthxbai" should be used only in mocking someone's netspeak. I'm tempted to write back in 1337speak and watch the emails to my supervisor clog his inbox. "zOMG, mi teechur wuz meen! u kant let her do that! kthxbai!"

Though, I want someone to explain this to me. In the course catalog, it states that my online courses start on Tuesday. The students are loaded in on the Saturday prior. Now, given that my contract doesn't kick in until Tuesday, when classes start (Saturday if I'm teaching a face-to-face Saturday class), why should I be getting nastygrams from students via IT because the course isn't fully updated, yet? Is there some parallel universe where all my students are eager learners and want to crank through the course as quickly as possible and absorb all information about history, great and small? And when did I get here?

Ah, well. The hope of grad school acceptance letters will keep me going. And Spring Break, and the trip to New England. And liberal applications of baileys and coffee. ...Until they give me permission to do as the Sumerian Scribal Schools and cane my students for any infraction, those things will have to keep me going.


1 From really really really really long ago until that Luther guy did that thing on the church in Wittenburg. Nothing major happened then. Move along.
2 Really, don't get me started on the entire "Let's compress ~400,000 years of information into 75 minutes. There ya go! It's an overview!" Hell, even going back to the beginning of translatable writing in Sumer, we're still talking on the order of a few thousand years. But hey, they don't look like "us" so we can condense their role... Head. Meet lectern. Lectern, meet head. *thunk*
3 Yes, I know this isn't a full and accurate definition of detente, but with my students, telling them that it's a relaxation of political tensions would have made them make a comparison that would have really made my baby Buddha weep. "Is that like what Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky were doing?" (No, and while we are the New Roman Empire, we're still not there yet!)

12 January 2007

Grading Methods

Another instructor-blogger discusses the different methods of grading papers.

I keep threatening the primary method that he discusses, and I'm glad to see an analytical discussion on the technique.

Paranoia, Paranoia, everybody's comin' to getcha

So, SSU has decided to put all the courses, online or not, with an online shell. Why? Because of the fear of a bird flu pandemic. (Seriously? If there's a pandemic, do you think people are going to log on to classes when the university is shut down? Seriously?!)

Here's the rub.

For the instructors that do not normally teach an online course, they have no idea how the dogma or the pedagogy of the environment works.

Plus, if there's a pandemic and the university has to shut down... I'm holing up in my little domicile and getting as much sleep and immune-system boosting vitamins as I can. I'm not going to be worrying about my students and their education. I'm going to be worrying about me. There's only so much a contract and a paycheck can make me do...

Academia. Apparently, it's the last safe bastion for co-dependents and megalomaniacs. (Guess which one I am!)

08 January 2007

Winging my way back...

...to engage another group of students in an exciting new semester.

I'll be more excited once I'm unpacked and resettled. I have a strong suspicion that grad school may be delayed a year, which kinda sucks, but isn't absolutely horrid.

Here's hoping that my flight goes without a hitch, that the new year brings prosperity and good news, and that this semester is met with excitement and wonder.

Heinlein Was Right...

The Crazy Years are upon us.

Haiti still has no stable form of government, two years after a coup.

Dhaka, Bangladesh is rioting over elections and lack of proper representation.

Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, India, and a number of other countries are creating or in the process of creating nuclear (possibly weapon) capabilities.

Russia and Belarus are in an argument over oil.

The United States government still has no accurate definition as to what "winning" a war is, much less how to go about it.

Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, is on an exploratory mission in Darfur.

A 9 year old in Florida is the nation's youngest minister.

...All around the world, people aren't getting enough to eat, but obesity is the "new epidemic."
...All around the world, people are chronically under/uneducated, but those that wish to enter a graduate program are given the runaround.

The leaders have all gone insane. The people just want to live their lives as calmly as possible (with a few exceptions). Peace seems to be more of a foreign concept each day.

Now, this isn't to say that good things aren't happening. Recent developments include stem cell retrieval that doesn't destroy embryos. A female being appointed to the position of Beefeater in England. A myriad of things. But if the world leaders don't stop acting like kids in a sandbox, all the good things don't make a damned bit of difference.

06 January 2007

Band of Brothers/WWII

Another history instructor I know is transcribing her grandfather's diary from WWII. You can access the entries at Nite_Sheigo, they start in 2005.

Recently, I've been watching Band of Brothers, the HBO miniseries that focuses on the Easy Company of the 101st. First, it is remarkably well filmed, and, I believe, historically accurate. As historically accurate as it can be made based on the memories of members of the 101st Easy Company and government records.

A few things come to mind while watching this series. 1. World War II seems to have been the last "civilized" war the U.S. has fought. As civilized as war can ever get. 2. How amazing it is that anyone that goes to war can come back whole. 3. How dangerous, but necessary, beliefs are when it comes to wartime and combat situations. The troops have to have some level of belief that what they are doing is right and vital in order to continue doing it. When one starts to question the "why" of military action, it can create a very bad situation.

I also mused on how my perceptions have changed with the advent of the current war (because it can be called little else) in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is a scene in Band of Brothers where a woman is standing by the side of the road, holding an infant or toddler. My first and immediate thought was "why aren't the troops shooting at her?! Don't they know she could be a suicide bomber or bait to set off an IED?" And I have to stop and realize... That was not the way of warfare in WWII.

Neither one of my grandfathers saw combat in WWII, as far as I'm aware. They both had skills needed stateside, and they were also in their mid to late 30s when WWII started. They were too young for WWI, and too "old" for WWII. But yet, I have friends whose grandfathers served in the European and Pacific theatres. I have friends whose grandfathers were "detained" at Dachau during the war (if I remember the conversation correctly, as we only had it once or twice, the grandfather in question was imprisoned at Dachau because he was of German descent, fighting for the Americans, and was there for "crimes against the Fatherland"), and I have other friends who never knew their grandfathers because they were KIA. One for certain at Iwo Jima, another in Belgium.

It never fails to make me stop when I watch well executed programs on WWII. ...How basic the war was. How the troops were lucky if they had someone that could play the role of a competent leader, whether they were CO or not. How little tactical training mattered in the immediacy of engagement.

How they would think they were done for the moment and able to relax for a few moments, only to see the guy next to them slump over dead from sniper fire.

And yet, I also wonder how the German soldiers that were drafted into service viewed their role. Did they stop and wonder why they were in this situation? Did they muse, as I do today, over the confusion as to why one man, or a group of men, can declare war that makes sense only to them? At what point did "logic go boom"?

But my biggest question is "how did these men come back whole?" My only answer is "they didn't." And that concerns me for my friends that are currently in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the ones that have already come back. I know of one friend that did his time in Iraq and since he's gotten back, he doesn't have a single night where he sleeps through, free of nightmares. I have a friend that's currently over there, and what his emails home don't say speaks volumes.

Perhaps history will show current events to be more clear-cut than they appear today. Perhaps not. I'm sure there were people in WWII that were asking, at the time, "would it really be so bad if Hitler was in power?" We know the answer today to be a resounding "yes"... Perhaps, in time, logic will prevail and the accuracies of what has gone on will be known.

1The label of "War - what is it good for?" is in reference to the song, but unlike the song, the answer is not always "absolutely nothin'". Sometimes war has its purpose, but sometimes not. I am attempting not to make a judgment call on either the current conflicts or past conflicts. For both, I am not in a position to do so outside of a historical context because I did not/have note served in combat. For past conflicts, the only reference I have is historical. For current conflicts, all the information is not available.

04 January 2007

On Bond

After reading through SavageCat's posts1 on Bond, I've been thinking about how the Bond flicks, while based off the writings of Ian Fleming, have always been relevant to the world at the time of filming/release.

Now, there have been many movies that reflect the issues going on at the time, but they seem to skirt around the real issue. MASH was really about the Vietnam War, but it was set during the Korean War. Why? Because it was more politic. There is a long history of public entertainment dealing with sensitive current topics - The Crucible was a thinly veiled commentary on McCarthyism and the Red Scare - but Bond seems to be one of the few entertainment franchises that actually deals with the issues that are relevant in the now and makes no bones about it.

Let's look at Casino Royale, shall we? The essential premise is that terrorists are bad and we need to keep them from being funded, however the funding occurs. There is the added bonus of turning a character that has been recently known for finesse into one that is single-minded as to his task and will do things through brute force if necessary. The Bond they've written for Casino Royale reflects the sensibilities of what people think need to happen today. In the "War on Terror2" a lot of the Western World wants a protaganist that's closer to Anti-Hero than Hero. Someone that will skirt that line of being more lawless than the outlaws. And, to a certain extent, that's always been the appeal of Bond. The individual against the mob.

So, I'll put that into my writing bank, figure out if there's anything to it, if anyone else has written on it, and call it a day.


1Do The Running Man, Hypocrisy! Nudity! Torture!, and Beating A Dead Horse, The Anal Bead Edition
2What a crock of shit this is, but I'll save those observations for another time.