Thursday, September 28, 2006

Fashion Spectrum

OK, my inability to post pictures to blogger is really starting to get me down. London Fashion Week just happened and I really wanted to share with you the photo of what I've taken to calling the Red Tumor Suit. Can I add this to my list of why I think the species is doomed?

On the other hand, strolling across campus today I saw a bloke in a kilt. If a guy can wear that in a smallish U.S. town (read: not Scotland) today, maybe we're not so doomed. Stay tuned.

Paris Hilton is immune to zombies.

Atari code as art - so this is what was going on inside the console while I ate fruit and slew ghosts

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Enter the Fray

OK all you residents of the Buffyverse (you know who you are), run—don't walk—run to your local book peddlar and get your hands on a copy of Fray, Joss Whedon's first graphic novel. The main character is Melaka Fray and she is everything Buffy was, sans the Scoobies.

If I am not prepped for class tomorrow it is because I was once again unable to put this book down. I almost didn't get to sleep last night. The pages seemed to turn themselves. I can hardly wait to re-read it and I haven't even finished my first run yet.

I thought that Whedon's skill at writing great dialogue couldn't possibly translate well into a static medium where the speed I read at dictates the flow of the conversation. Also, in a graphic novel, the art, layout, design, and etc. all factor into the pace one moves through a page. Well, it all works in this text. I particularly liked Melaka's reaction to, uh, not ducking: You hib my face wib a girder. You can just hear that being said in our house incessantly now, can't you?

It is good to know that mankind still has a protector long after Sunnydale dropped off the map (literally).

Monday, September 25, 2006

and.... we're off!!!

OK, one day down. Does this really count for anything, besides counting?

Only one entertaining anecdote to report. In Intermediate Algebra (which differs from Elementary Algebra in that all letters in the alphabet are eligible to be a variable, not just x), t
wo students came up to me before class started to verify that their names were on the roster. They both were and the students had two different responses.

Student A found a seat in the back row.

Student B said, "I am so going to lunch" and walked right out the door.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Better living through chemicals

I know I should be totally focused on tomorrow's first day of classes and all but I just have to get this off my chest. And I've been dying to use the words "colloidal suspension" in conversation for so long I think I just might burst.

Me and The T hit the grocery store this morning. This is a kind of pseudo-synchronized dance routine of which the cart is the moving focal point and the troupe members constantly whirl around, flitting off in search of some item and then swooping back to deposit the prize in the cage-on-wheels. When the chaos portion of the blitz was over, I found The T in the laundry aisle. The T said, "I hope you don't think this is an impulse purchase." And we both simultaneously say, "I've been looking for this for years!!"

The prize was a bottle of Mrs. Stewart's Bluing. I had chalked up the existence of bluing as another entry in The Louie's Book of Fictional or Extinct Things. My father, The Louie, always claimed that bluing was the best way to get white things white in the laundry. It sounded so bizarre that I held off on outright scoffing and began what would end up being a 20-year quest to find a container of bluing. He is otherwise a rational man so I reasoned his claim just might have something to it. While I never actually saw my father do laundry, his father was a tailor/cleaner, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Turns out this stuff is a colloidal suspension of a very fine blue iron powder in water that contains such potential that the future of mankind may hinge on our species' ability to harness it fully. In a nutshell: the whitest whites are those that have a little blue in them. The added blue reflects more light than just white on its own so—voila!—adding some bluing to the laundry makes whites whiter. Works on pets too! Fluffy not white enough? Just blue the pooch. Can't see the goldfish in your pond due to algae? Just blue those pesky greens away.

As a totally unforeseen jumbo/LARGE bonus to finding this bottle of laundry bliss, the info card banded to the cap took us in a new incredibly exciting direction. It turns out this colloidal suspension is the secret ingredient in magic salt crystal gardens. I have always wanted one of those but was never courageous enough to admit it (the slight anonymity of the virtual plane has made me brave enough to fess up). I'm also a fan of sea monkeys and ant farms but these are topics for another day. I'll post pictures of my crystals when they get rolling.

Friday, September 22, 2006

T-minus weekend and counting

Monday looms on the horizon like my 14-year-old cat on the edge of the bed and my reaction to the former is very similar to my reaction to the latter: if I just roll over and act like I'm asleep, it won't poke me in the face with its paw.

Alas, there is no way I can avoid either the campus or the cat. Classes start Monday and I am oh-so-very behind in my prep. I am further behind, I think, than I was three years ago when I was new at this gig. Sheesh. It's not like the math has changed any since I taught it 12 weeks ago, especially not in Intermediate Algebra. Regardless of the time-crunch I have brought upon myself, I am looking forward to the quarter, even the part where I play the role of honest-but-brutal teacher when I tell Annie Student that, yes, even though we are all individuals, your particular method of manipulating symbols on the page won't solve the equation. Ever.

How do I convince my students that the textbook is nothing more than a collection of methods that work and it's not such a bad place to start? The techniques in the book work now, they worked yesterday and they will work tomorrow. Granted, an alternative method may not be incorrect but we need to start at a common point and I elect to use this book as the starting place. I swear sometimes I think I am the first person to ever dare say No to some students when I deny points, praise, or pleasantries. As of Monday at 8 a.m., I am going to start a counter to track how long it is before a student asks, Well, why can't I do it this way? Inside my head, the mini-math-prof will stomp her foot and scream
Can we put off exploring your ideas under after you solve two consecutive problems correctly?!?

Yes, there is value in seeing the problem a different way than the text shows, perhaps, but algebra is a set of rules and there are only so many ways those rules can be interpreted. Most of my energy will be spent convincing a handful of people that we do not have the time to explore n different wrong ways of trying to find x.

The part I enjoy most is looking for new problems to assign as homework exercises. I'm going to go do that now and put off fine-tuning the syllabi for a little while longer.

USBCell - given that we can now plug in fans, lights, and missile launchers into a USB port, what took so long for someone to come up with rechargeable AA batteries?

Hardwood floor via puzzle pieces - do you start with the corner pieces?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A new feature on Mostly Filler

I find myself emailing links to cool sites to friends who may or may not appreciate receiving the onslaught of messages from me telling them to Click Here for Fun!!! In an attempt to conserve some of the internet pipeline for traffic other than these messages, I'm going to start tacking on links of the day to the bottom of my stream of consciousness blatherings. Also the links to the right will be expanded to include both the mind-expanding and time-wasting sites I find and would like to share.

Here's a few to get the ball rolling. Be daring. Click a little.

+-+-+ Click Here Roulette +-+-+

Not a lot of time but want to read a classic? Try out DailyLit. A piece of a public domain work that can be read in about 5 minutes is emailed to you daily or every other daily. I'm currently working on the The Federalist Papers (only 207 more segments to go!)

What time is it?

State of the Union - graphs the key terms in every State of the Union address. You can see which words figured prominently. You can also see the reading level of each address.

Meme of Three (or: I'm it!!)

I'm back from my romp in the woods, sans gadgets. It was glorious, thankyouverymuch. Nothing like a few days in a sleeping bag on an air mattress in a two-person tent to make you appreciate the waterbed that much more. Even cleaning the litterboxes is not the chore it was before my week hiatus.

On to the meme. Many thanks to Kfluff for tagging me. This was a fun exercise.

Three People Who Make Me Laugh
1. Lily Tomlin
2. Robin Williams
3. T, my sidekick (and it's a damn shame y'all can't listen in)

Three Things I Can Do
1. Ride a unicycle
2. Fashion a wallet from duct tape or playing cards and non-duct tape
3. Brew beer

Three Things I Can't Do
1. Pass up the opportunity to pay for an item in such a way as to maximize the number of quarters I'll receive as change.
2. Sit quietly while someone else is driving.
3. Bring down the patriarchy.

Three Things I'm Doing Right Now
1. Cat-sitting while drinking coffee and watching SportsCenter and trying to define how long of a time period "right now" defines
2. Wondering if #1 counts as three separate things if they occur simultaneously
3. Drooling in anticipation of the creation, purchase, and use of a full-screen video iPod with a virtual click-wheel

Three Things I Want To Do Before I Die
1. Travel to another hemisphere
2. Get through all those books stacked on, under, and around the bedside table
3. Learn another language besides English, mathematics, and the little bit of html I understand

Three Things I Hate the Most
1. Hearing four words: I can't do math.
2. Cult of the empty celebrity
3. Scent of juniper

Three Things that Scare Me
1. Belief without questioning
2. Fundamentalism's seepage beyond the arena of faith
3. The erosion of civil liberties under the guise of "security"

Three Things I Don't Understand
1. How the discussion of intelligent design/fundamentalism pseudoscience is allowed to continue
2. Economics, be it macro, micro, or my checking account.
3. The "need" to own a SUV

Three Skills I'd Like to Learn
1. crossword puzzle design
2. drawing (cartoons)
3. Vulcan nerve pinch or a martial art

Three Ways to Describe my Personality
1. forthright
2. intense
3. generous

Three Things I Think You Should Listen To
1. Allison Kraus (run, don't walk, run)
2. The Daily Show
3. Tom Lehrer (utterly timeless)

Three Things You Should NEVER Listen To
1. Infomercials
2. Talk radio
3. Leonard Nimoy singing

Three Favorite Foods
1. Popcorn, popped in oil
2. Fried Chicken
3. anything someone else has prepared for me

Three Beverages I Drink Regularly
1. Homebrew
2. Tea (iced, hot, black, green, herbal, whatever-if it's a leaf, I'll steep it)
3. dihydrogen-monoxide

Three Shows I Watched as a Kid
1. The Carol Burnett Show (why-oh why!-is this highpoint of western culture not available on DVD?)
2. The Muppet Show & Sesame Street
3. Looney Tunes cartoons (this continues to today)

Three Blogs I'm Tagging (note: this is the single most difficult threesome on the list)
1. Amelia, over at (Not So) Old and Married, since she's home with Kaos and he's got to sleep sometime, right?

If anyone reading this has a suggestion for a blog to tag, I'm open to it. Add it to the comments.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Where do bytes go when they die?

One of my most favorite pieces of mental lint I acquired in graduate school:

You know when you're typing furiously even though your document is not open or is in the background? Where do those keystrokes go?

I bring this up because I have not had any luck posting images to this blog for 48 hours. I've tried it approximately 274 times to no avail (and that is the definition of stupidity). My clicks resulted in the extraordinarily unhelpful error message that says "There was an error uploading your image. The following image was not uploaded: {name of image.jpg}"

So if you see any images go floating by in the digital ether surrounding you, they may have come from me. Feel free to add your own caption.

I'll be back in a week or so. I'm off to commune with some trees, large mammals, and a lack of electronic gadgets.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Can't do this with a Pee-Cee

All you readers sitting in front of a Mac running OS X, try this super-duper neat-o jumbo/LARGE tip (all you pee-cee-ers will have to find a friend with a Mac to see this live and drool over these pics in the meantime). This will work in any cocoa application, like Safari, Mail, iChat, etc.

Press and hold down the keys apple-control-D while you point the mouse at any word on this blog. I've provided some interesting text below in case my own words are not fascinating enough.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

In case your left hand is in a cast or something or you're surfing with the Firefox browser, here's a pic of what success should look like:

hmmm, can't seem to load the damn picture ... click here to see the results, please ...

When the virtual gremlins decide to work with me rather than against me, I'll upload a screenshot.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

It's stamped so it must be real

No purpose other than good clean fun.

Only click here if you want one of these for your very own. Here's another I gave my hosts when invited to dinner:

People who have always been dead

It's that time of year when the diesel cheeseboxes appear on the roads again, tourists complete their migration back to their nests, and Beloit College reminds us what events have formed the perspectives of today's college freshmen.

One of my favorites from this year's Mindset List® is #34:

They have always known that "In the criminal justice system the people have been represented by two separate yet equally important groups."
The item on the list that gave me the most pause was #2:
They have known only two presidents.

Since a President can only serve eight years, I'm assuming that the president-during-infancy is not being counted. Otherwise, we have the first incoming class of all 16-year-olds. Anyway, I was born under LBJ (sounds kind of astrological, does it not?) so my lifespan thus far has covered eight members of the White House Gang: LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Shrub. By the time I was 18-years-old, the First Bedroom had survived five different makeovers by First Ladies. The Oval Office was more merry-go-round than the set-in-stone throne it must seem like to today's newbie-adults.

Related to this, my voting ballot for the primary election arrived. A Senator and Representative are on the ballot, as are two state representatives. It is a pretty short ballot because there are no choices to make in three of the four races. The only place on the ballot where it matters where my pen hits the page is for the Senate race. For every other seat, I can mark either the incumbent or the write-in box. This is not an election so much as it is an affirmation. It is a disturbing trend. Whether or not I like the ideas/performance of the incumbent, his/her party provides no options.

I find myself stuck between two competing ideas: I should not paint the world with a broad brush and force categorizations on individuals but I am forced to settle for lack of nuance in my candidates for office, menu selections, music choices, etc.

Hmm, I need to think about this more. I'm going for a walk.