Saturday, June 25, 2005

Walking Man Walks


I made a trek to the city to get camera toys today. Long story short – there were issues with public transportation. Again. This is why I don’t go to the city much. Bonus public transportation story. My Anthony Burgess book was a little big to lug around, so I picked up another smaller book that had been looking longingly at me from my bookshelf to join me on the trip. It's Naked In Baghdad by Anne Garrels. Anne is one of NPR's corresponents and one of the handful of American journalists who stayed in Baghdad through the war. The book is organized as a journal of her days interspersed with emails that her husband sent off to family and friends to keep them all informed about Anne's activities. It's really a moving portrait. I really like this type of book and recomend Shutterbabe and My War Gone By, I Miss It So. When I've got more time, I'll write more about these.

In any case, I made it there, and I bought paper and film and little negative holders. And Pizza. I left the camera shop and immediately shot almost a whole roll of film. Wow. I had forgotten how satisfying the click-whir of a film camera can be. I’m sure I’ll remember the grief of film soon when I run out of film or start paying for developing again. I will admit that several times I couldn’t stop the reflex of looking at the screen after I took a questionable shot (note to brain: There is not little screen on the back of your film camera).

Again, unfortunately, the shots I took were very area-recognizable, so when I do get them processed (processed! How quaint!), I probably wont be able to post any of them of Flickr, but those in the know know where they can be found.

I’m feeling very good, but I haven’t been working as much as I should be, so I’m going to get back to it.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Parlez-Vous TA?

I don't know if this article has been making the rounds or not. I've been neglecting my blog reading lately.

I am very conflicted about the situation that it describes. I have seen and heard TAs that had a very limited command of the language and probably shouldn't have been selected to TA a course.

What I remember more clearly though, is a discussion section I had with an Italian TA a while back. Her English was impeccable – it seemed to me to be much stronger than most of the native speakers in the class, but she did have an accent.

Some of the students complained and tried to switch out of her class. Those that stayed either could understand her or needed the class and couldn’t get out. The class split into those two camps, and it made for a very difficult environment.

Obviously, I can’t say for sure why the students couldn’t understand her, but I got the impression that it was partially because they hadn’t ever really dealt with anyone with an accent (other than the watered down versions native to the US), and also perhaps because they just weren’t actively trying to understand. I could tell that the TA had become very frustrated. In the end, she implied that she had just chalked it up to the lousy US education system.

I hear that the problem is especially bad in the Engineering School. I’m assuming that the school selects grad students based on their ability to do research, and then they support them by giving them TA slots. If the best researcher is from South Asia and has a thick accent, should they be overlooked because their language isn’t ‘North American Standard’? Or to put it another way, should they be not selected simply because most of the undergrads in universities aren’t able to understand anything but ‘North American Standard.’

This gets into the nasty area of research vs. education which I don’t want to get into. On the language side though, I worry that this is just another way the US discourages international exchange. Obviously, being fluid (not necessarily fluent) in English should be a prerequisite for TAing or teaching a class taught in English, but we only benefit from having people come from all over the world to educate our students.

English testing is certainly one part of the solution, but the TOEFL (the standardized English test for foreigners who want to come to study in the US) is deeply flawed. There have been many full scores registered by students with very poor English, but who had simply learned how to take the test in a prep school.

Maybe I’m just tired, but it’s frustrating to see the foreign grad students, who I generally take to be some of the hardest working folks on a campus, getting painted with such a broad brush.


Whew. I don’t think I’ve needed a weekend this bad in a long time. Pity I don’t get to enjoy it much. Well, I’m sure I’ll enjoy it. I just won’t be able to be as lazy as I want to be.

Today’s accomplishments:

-faxed next to last piece of random paper to people arranging late-summer trip
-threw out peaches that were becoming a little less than peachy (tho’ they smelled nice)
-four hours of the COD
-replaced ‘Prof. Article’s iMac memory
-3 hours of Photo class

The photography class today was great fun. Another student and I developed a couple of prints. We did one ‘wet,’ with all the noxious chemicals and stuff, and another two in the monster print machine. Both were amazing. It’s wonderful to see a sheet of white paper blossom into a photograph right in front of you. We would still need to do a few more tests to get the exposure down well, but the prints looked pretty good for armatures!

The down side to that is that I ended up buying the wrong film a week ago. I got ‘black and white film for color processing only.’ What the heck? Does that even make sense? I need to buy paper anyway, so I’m going to make the long trek to the pro photo shop this weekend and pick up a whole bunch of toys. Well, maybe that’s not a down side then.

The first assignment is a self portrait, and I think I know what I’m going to do. I think I’m going to take several pictures of my face in different poses and with different expressions each morning next week as I let my beard grow out. Then I’m going to cut the photos into vertical bands and splice them together into individual pictures of each specific pose at the end of the week. I’m hoping it will be a passage of time kind of series. Hmm. That might not have made sense. Pity if it didn’t, ‘cause I ain’t posting the results, even if they rock.

Ah, Friday. Maybe I will be a little lazy tonight. That sounds nice. I might just go to sleep. That sounds nice too.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Force is Strong in Him

Maybe all that Scientology stuff about getting superpowers is real?

Also worth a look is the quiz - Do they all look the same?

(thanks to the fish for the last link)

Ok, now I'm off to work. Really this time.

Scatological Trevor

Apologies for the title to the Magical and Hedgical varieties of Trevor.

Fair warning:

This post is even more useless than usual. If you are looking for debatably intelligent debate on topics of the day go here.

There’s a problem in the land of academe. Specifically, there’s a problem on my floor. It’s a bathroom issue. There are two bathrooms. One is labeled ‘Women.’ Good. Good for them. The other is labeled ‘Men/Women.’ Ok, this isn’t the way I would have done things, but, I’m still okay with this situation – more power to the women and their toilet claims. I use whichever is open, with bias to the men/women’s room.

Here’s the problem. You might want to put down the food for a sec. For quite awhile, the men/women’s room had a… well… enthusiastic flush. Not only would it flush for a good 15 seconds (or more – once I had washed my hands, splashed some water on my face, cleaned up and left down the hall with the toilet still flushing), but it has been quite a bit more than necessarily powerful. Well, today, I went to the women’s room and I found a beast that put the men/women’s unit to shame. I literally jumped back when the thing flushed. Spray was going all over the place.

This must be a recent change, because it hasn’t always been like that. I can imagine someone complaining that the toilet flush didn’t have enough umph, but, man. I don’t think this is the answer. I mean, come on! The place looked like it needed to be mopped afterwards.

Ok, that’s all. Go back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Run Fine Day

6.31km – 34:34

A little further and a little faster. Yea!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Homeward Bound

Woohoo! I'm getting ready to leave the offic and it's only 9 o'clock! That means I've only been on campus for 14 hours! Granted, only 7 of that was in class and maybe another 5 working, but hey, it's an improvement!

Okay, I think that got most of the smart-ass out of me for the moment.

The photography class was very nice today. We played a bit in the darkroom and discovered that it is really becoming obsolete except for artistes who live for the medium. They said that they will probably demolish the building in a couple of years and they have no intention to build a teaching darkroom into any new building plans. I imagine that means this type of class will go away too. I'm very much a digital media guy, but I'm a bit sad. Time to grab the opportunities and shoot film, right? Right.

I should have a little time this weekend as long as I don't dive whole hog into my research, which I really should do. Ah, well enough whining.

I am going home at 9 o'clock and it feels goooood.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

At The Point of a Run

34:49 – 6.19km Avg 5:38 min/km

Ugh. Time isn’t that great, but I’m happy overall because I ran a trail near campus that’s hillier and a bit longer. Well, it’s shorter, but I ran an extra loop. Anyway, felt nice out there, but I forgot to put on sunblock and I think I got a wee bit tan. Ok, I’ll be honest. I don’t really tan so much as I ‘pink.’ On special occasions, when I really overdo it, I turn a lovely shade of lobster red.

Experiment was very interesting. Just for an example, part of it included trying to freehand draw a map of the campus. I got 15 minutes to do it, which is too long to be satisfied with a really cursory sketch, but not long enough to have the detail I would like. Oh, yeah, and it’s really hard. Give it a try. Time yourself for 15minutes and try to sketch map your campus or your neighborhood

Final note – how do I always forget that the salads at that restaurant are the size of a Volkswagen? And why do I still try to eat it all. Now I'm working on a post-gorge coma. Silly silly me…

Back to the COD!



So part of the last minute aspect of the possible travel is that I have to get a full health check-up (traveling abroad, yadda-yadda).

  • Ok, that’s fine, I get those almost every time I go anywhere interesting, so I’m not fretting.
  • Oh yeah, we need it now.
  • Well, I’ll get the next appointment available.
  • No, we need it now.
  • Well, I can’t really kidnap a doctor and force a check-up, and I’m not really so good at the medical stuff myself so…
  • Ok, well, then all you need is a basic check-up, but make sure you get an HIV test.
  • That doesn’t really change the fact that I can only get the earliest appointment available.
  • Ok, all we need is an HIV test, but we need the results by Thursday.
  • Um… The quickest appointment I can get is for Thursday. They couldn’t say how quickly the results would be back.

I’m waiting for the response on this one. I obvioulsy didn't get the memo that this was something that could be negotiated. It’ll probably get downgraded to only needing a note from my mom that says I don’t have leprosy.

Ok – Man on the move. A quick run (brought my gear today), then off to lunch which will end up being linner (lunch/dinner). Then, as a favor to a friend, I’m taking part in some kind of post-doc experiment on Geography and mapping which actually sounds kind of cool. Then I get to dive back into the COD work. Somewhere I need to build a photography log for the photography class and write down my reactions to the stuff we’ve seen.

Woohoo!! At least I took my vitamins today :)

PS – In being energetic, it helps to have ‘Hand Jive’ from Grease playing on the iTunes.

PPS – Fear not for my eating habits, I’m well stocked with apples and other various munchies. I could outlast a SWAT team in my little office-bunker.


I was optimistic when I said I would be out of the office at 10ish.

I didn't even get home until almost midnight, and here I am waking up at 6, in the office at 7, sans bushy tail and bright eyes.

This better not be a pattern.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Lack of Planning + Laziness = FUN!

So, if Monday is a run day, and I'm on campus (in class or frantically trying to pre- and re-view material) from 7:30 to 10ish, then when do I run?

Maybe it's time to bring the running gear to the office.

Seriously, all I need here is a hammock. Who needs an appartment?


Day one of the summer from hell is over, all but the crying anyway. The class of doom (Hereafter: COD) is, much as expected, a bit over my head. I think I can catch up, but it’s going to be quite nasty – quite nasty indeed. The lucky thing is that it seems that there are others in the class that are in my situation too, so either we can all gang up and drag the class down with our collective ignorance, or we can wallow in our failures as a group which is better than doing it alone.

On the plus side, the photography class should be a lot of fun. The prof is very into the creative creation of the image, and the photographer’s consciousness of the process of taking the photograph. That’s not my photo background at all, so it’ll be nice to stretch a bit. We are going to learn all the developing tricks and such, but she said that she doesn’t care what camera we use. Digital’s fine, 35mm, large format, camera phone, whatever.

I figure I’ll do a bit of 35mm in the beginning and then switch over to digital for the sake of speed as the projects start to come due. Maybe I need to dig out the old Polaroid, too. Anyone have one of those pinhole cameras?

Oh yeah, sorry to the Jayfish, but the first assignment is self-portraiture, so the photos aren’t going up to Fickr. Maybe you will be able to find them elsewhere though. If the rest of the assignments are less revealing, I’m hoping to put them up for all to see and critique.

Ok, I’ve got about a pound and a half of reviewing and three kilos of previewing to do for the COD, so I’m off to get some snacks to last me through the night.