Friday, February 29, 2008

At the dealership

And how did I spend Leap Day? A little bit of professional development
and a little bit of oil change, not necessarily in that order. In
fact, I am currently at the dealership waiting for the conclusion of
said lubing.

The part of this I find interesting is that my age of approximately
14,600 days is almost 10,000 days below the average of the rest of the
folks here in the waiting room. Is there a correlation between
February 29 and senior citizen car maintenance? How about between
Friday and this demographic? My curiousity is piqued.

Anyway, I have spent some of this time grading calculus assignments. I
asked this rambunctious, mostly engaged, motivated gang of budding
mathematicians to graph the normal curve. You may know this curve by
its street name of the bell curve which has been credited or blamed
for almost every blanket statement ever uttered about any group of
people. This is also the villain behind the inevitable question: are
you going to curve these grades?

So I asked the students to apply the ideas of differentiation we have been
studying for lo these many weeks to closely analyze the curve. Where
does the maximum value occur and what is it? Where does the curve
change its concavity? etc. Overall, with respect to the calculus
ideas, they gave it the old college try, as I hoped they would. The
part that is currently baffling me is their inability to follow
directions. I am not a heartless individual and I told them to "let a
= 1" before attempting to find the derivative. Half of the students
ignored this or didn't see it or didn't know what it meant and
proceeded to calculate the derivative with this constant of 'a'
mucking up the works. Oh, good for them for attempting this but their
lives would have been so much easier if they put a 1 in instead.

Oh, the car is done. I'll pick up on this later.....

Sent from my iPhone

3/1/08 - completed from home

My concerns for the calculus students lie mainly within the realm of what if they didn't understand what the direction to 'let a = 1' meant? This is a basic tenet of mathematics: know thy definitions. This comes right after read the directions but is even more important in some cases. Oy, if this is where their confusion lies then I will have a few days of doubting my skills as a teacher. On the other side of that, I'll be feeling all good again but I am baffled about what is on the list of things I have to worry about as a teacher and what I need to just let go and let the students learn on their own or realize they should know already. This is a fuzzy zone for me and is the source of most of my professional angst.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

So many posting ideas, so little time

I have been experiencing quite the blog jam. There I am just minding my own business, going about my day when WHAM! an idea for a blog post bops me right on the head. It'll be great, I say. It'll be funny/witty/informative/worth the click/etc. Well, if my recent posting history serves as any indicator as to how well my intentions of turning thoughts into bytes goes, then let this be a lesson to all you aspiring bloggers out there.

I think I will spend some time today fine-tuning this here site. Rather than having a blog roll full of blogs I never visit but always have intentions to do so, I believe I will change the roll call to something like Current Book and include both titles in old media and new media. I am totally sucked into books on pdas and books on bytes but there is something about the physical act of turning the page that keeps me nosing around in bookstores. I think the list of titles will be, uh, eclectic, to say the least.

I believe I will also add a listing of Last Movies seen. In order to prove I am not un-American and that I am, indeed, with us, I watched The Graduate the other night. I never understood the significance of the line "Plastics." I mean, The T and I went round and round with how I must have known that was a movie line—and a classic one, at that—while I insisted I was not aware of its cultural significance and that I had no idea how often I used it or some other two-syllable word, delivered dryly yet with over-the-top conviction.

My new practice in movie watching is to read The Wik entry soon after seeing the movie. This is my effort to learn all the Trivial Pursuit answers before the next version of the game is released and without having to slog through the director's comments on disc 2. Gaia save us. Is there a bigger waste of digitization then the frame by frame analysis of "what I was trying to do here" or "what the cigar represented was the see-saw he had fallen off of as a child." Anyway, The Wik is chock full of info available at less than one-eighth the ego preening. For instance, the lead cast of The Graduate might very well have consisted of Marilyn Monroe, Burt Ward, and Sally Field as Mrs. R., Ben, and Elaine, respectively, instead of Anne Bancroft, Dustin Hoffman, and Katharine Ross. While I can picture Ms. Monroe seducing a younger man, I cannot picture her pulling off the other scenes in which Mrs. R's true colors show through in her manipulative and devious actions.

Oh, and good career choice, Mr. Ward. Holy stockings! Are you trying to seduce me, Mrs. Robinson?

Anyway, I'm going to start tweaking the column to the left. Enjoy today's entertainment, in honor of Mao.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Almost Peed Myself

Not because I was wearing these and couldn't get them unlaced in time:

but because I read this. Nothing but funny.

(FYI: I'm blogging commando.)

Monday, February 04, 2008

Move over, Jetsons

I've had my iPhone for six months now and it has transformed my life in a myriad of ways, the least of which is the ability to blog from bed ... or the quilt store ... or aisle 5 of the Ho' Depot. My evolution underwent another step just the other day as I went to make up a grocery list.

But first, a little back-story. Maintaining and updating a grocery list has always been a challenge for the household. I used to keep it on my Palm pda. Whenever an item was needed, I would fire up the grocery program and check off the Need box. While shopping, I could fill in details like the aisle and the price of said item. Noting like some data collection to make the chore more chore-like. Well, since the iPhone came along, I have a noticeable shortage of pockets. Since I refuse to wear cargo pants or strap on a utility belt ala Officer Friendly, something had to go and the pda was booted. This made the most sense since my wallet resides in my other pocket. I no longer have my Palm on my person at all times so the grocery list was no longer always available.

There was also the little detail of how The T would add things to the list. We tried many things like a paper and pencil list on the wall or on the fridge or on the table or every place else where it would either be lost or misplaced or accidentally recycled after it was used as a coaster. I would add the items to the digitized list when I saw them accumulate. Well, most of the time I did. This issue of The T's access to the list was never fully resolved.

Recently, the list became a pile of labels. For instance, all the tea ran out at the same time. Yup, I couldn't believe it either. The boxes for lemon zinger, honey lemon ginseng, oolong, evening delight, rooibos, and that other one all came up empty at the same time. (I wonder if the grrllzz mistake the tea for catnip during their midnight sojourns.) Rather than spend valuable time writing down all those multi-word names, I simply tore the box-tops off the boxes and piled 'em up on the counter. When I told The T it was my new way of creating the shopping list, she walked over and set a banana peel on the pile. The flaw in the design of the list was immediately apparent.

So now we've arrived at my latest solution for grocery list creation, thanks to the iPhone. When the last of an item is plucked from the shelf or when the milk jug goes empty, I simply take a picture of it with the phone. I am slowly creating the ultimate in iconized food lists. I'm also sorting the pictures using folders for Need and Not Need. I can transfer the photos to the appropriate folder as the pantry grows empty or the cart grows full. The iPhone has become the iPhood.

"How does The T access this list?" I hear you cry. Well, just this very morning she realized we needed bananas and apples and bread and I had not taken any photos of the last specimens in the house. She surfed the net for images of said items and emailed them to me. Well, OK she tried to email them to me. This plan worked right up until her pc realized she was trying to save a picture of the rainbow-striped Apple logo and crashed. So, she sent a picture-free email listing the items and I surfed the net for said images and took pictures of them on the screen.

It's a wonder we were ever able to get food into the house before the iPhone.

Saturday, February 02, 2008


Recently I've been having Episodes of Enlightenment. These are moments
of clarity that light up a room; realizations that make others wonder
how I made it this long without a monitoring device strapped to my
ankle. Gather around, kids. It's sharing time!

The first involves our upcoming trip to Italy. The Easter Princess is
celebrating her golden jubilee and the festivities are taking place in
da' boot. She is opening the doors to her rented palace for a week and
we, as faithful minions, are invited to the week-long gala. The d'oh
moment occurred at the intersection of when The T and I were talking
about our travel arrangements while we were watching Paris Je t'aime.
The T asked if I wanted to go to Paris while on our trip. I replied,
in all seriousness, that Paris isn't in Italy. There was a long, long
pause while The T waited for my other braincell to kick in. Oh d'oh.
Paris isn't quite as far from Italy as, say, Miami is from Anchorage.
It's still a hike but we'll be on the right side of The Pond and we
could do some sightseeing before the golden jubilee starts. Got it.
Thank you for your patience during our mental construction.

The second d'oh moment which I am willing to share with you involves
the care and comfort of Mao, the über-cat. Since she is now outliving
some of her organs, namely her kidneys, I am trying to keep her
comfortable my administering subcutaneous fluids. I decided to do this
at home so that it could be done more conveniently than repeated trips
to the vet. It's not that difficult and, like when giving blood, there
is only a moment of discomfort before you get a treat.

The detail I was stumbling over was how to get the fluids warm beyond
room temperature. Room temp in our house involves wearing layers of
clothes and closing doors to slow down the gale force drafts. Would
you want something at that temp dripped onto your skin let alone
injected under it? I thought so. But the IV contraption should not be
repeatedly nuked and one bag o' juice has five or six doses in it. So
how do I get it warm? This is the moment as it happened in my head: "I
have to buy a heating pad. Then what? Then we have a heating pad. One
more thing to clutter the house. But it's for Mao. How am I going to
heat this stuff? I need a heating pad. Oh I have to get to bed. Can I
borrow a heating pad? OK, grrllz, make room for me. I wonder if LS has
a heating pad from when he went through this with his cat. Three, why
are you laying on the mattress and not the blankets? Do we need to
trim your nails so you don't poke the mattress again? I'll ask LS
tomorrow when I see him. I wonder if Goodwill has some for sale in
that weird catch-all aisle. Oh, I love getting into a warm bed ... a

Yup, just one more thing to clutter the house. D'oh. What makes this
particular episode more jarring for moi is the fact that I have
utilized the bed in just this capacity in the past. For instance,
Kinicky, I warm the yeast in the bed before pitching it into the wort
to begin fermentation of H20bed Ale. I also shove sweaters under the
covers while I shower in the morning so that donning them isn't quite
so jarring.

I am shocked by the obvious more often than I care to admit but I will
share the more amusing episodes with you when I can.

Sent from my iPhone