Thursday, November 22, 2007

(happy thanksgiving)

Well, I had a lovely Thanksgiving day with the fam here in Bakersfield. I saw the Rockettes in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, we played Scrabble, we played badmiton (which I suck at, in case anyone was wondering), we watched football, we ate Chex mix, and my mother made four pies (if you're counting, that's one pie per person...she didn't want anyone to be disappointed by not getting exactly what they wanted).

And yet, I feel a bit blue. I'm a little stressed out about money (the holidays = unpaid time off), I still don't know what to do with my professional life (I love my job, but it isn't a career), and I miss DWE too much (by which I mean he's been gone as much as usual, if not less than usual, and for some reason it's harder than it used to be). I have some vague sense that the free time and the independence that I have when he's gone is really a blessing, but I'm struggling to figure out precisely what it is that I want to do with my time (other than watch Law and Order reruns, which I finally stopped doing a half an hour ago).

I suppose what I should do right now is go to bed, since my mother and I are going to make some attempt to hit the sales at Target tomorrow (but probably not until 9 a.m. or so...we don't do that whole nutty 4 a.m. thing). I just finished transfering all the music on my ipod to my new computer, which was a small but satisfying accomplishment (that wasn't really apropos of anything; I just thought I'd mention it because I am mildly pleased with myself).

(Is this post heavy on the parentheticals or what?)

Monday, November 19, 2007

the most dangerous cities in america

A controversial study was recently published by CQ Press which purports to rank American cities by crime rates. Apparently, the study has been attacked as "an irresponsible misuse of crime data," a criticism upon which I am entirely unprepared to comment. All I can say is that, according to this study, my current hometown of Oakland, California is the fourth most dangerous city in America, and Richmond, California (the much smaller city where I work) is the ninth most dangerous.

Needless to say, my mother is very proud.

I'm not even a little bit surprised by either of these rankings. Oakland, like any city, has its sketchy parts, and they are truly quite sketchy. I, however, live in one of the safest and most gentrified parts of Oakland, and not a second should be wasted worrying about my safety in good ol' Rockridge. As for Richmond: yep, there's quite a bit of violence (hence the need to help the kids avoid all the violence and go to college instead). Most of the shootings are north of the BART station, while I work just south of the BART station, and I never walk by myself after dark. Also, there's been a very admirable community effort to stymie the violence through grassroots organization (there's this thing called "Tent City" which is sort of an intense version of a neighborhood watch, and which is apparently working pretty well).

I know it's kind of silly, but I'm almost a little proud that I live and work in the only two Californian cities to make the top ten on the dangerousness list. It isn't that I want to be in danger; it's more that I recognize that danger is out there, and I'm glad to be aware of it and acting in some very minor way to combat it (I figure that any time I spend in Oakland or Richmond during which I don't commit a crime is decent progress).

Saturday, November 17, 2007

lonely and politically ambiguous

I've been contemplating my social life (or lackthereof) this evening. I have friends here, but I rarely see them, partly because I don't make the effort to contact them. To some extent, I have been busy with DWE and with out-of-town visitors (last night my stepmom and her friend were in town, and last weekend Muffin was here), but I've also just been antisocial and moody. And of course, since I get home from work at 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, my socializing is generally limited to just weekends. So, I wish I had something to do tonight, but I suppose it's largely my own fault that I don't.

Instead of being social, I'm sort of goofing off and sort of trying to clean a little (after being inspired by Rebel's bout of weekend cleaning). I just took a sort of interesting but sort of dumb quiz at The Political Compass that is designed to situate people on a political spectrum with two dimensions (social and economic), the theory being that it is more insightful than the traditional single-dimension left-to-right spectrum. I agree wholeheartedly with the concept, because socially, I consider myself highly liberal, but economically, I'm moderate-to-conservative. It's why I'm hesitant to classify myself as a Democrat (but I do anyway, more or less). Anyway, after taking the website's quiz, here's where I'm supposedly situated on the compass:

The Political Compass

Economic Left/Right: -2.75
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.00

Obviously I expected to land closer to the "Libertarian" end of the Social spectrum than the "Authoritarian" end. I'm certainly not a Libertarian (as an overall ideology, I think it's pretty dumb), but I support legalized marijuana and abortion, I oppose the death penalty, I am concerned by anti-terror curbing of civil liberties, etc. But I really don't consider myself to be as economically "lefty" as the quiz is telling me that I am. The reason for the discrepancy brings me to why I think the quiz was kind of stupid: some of the questions had (in my opinion) flawed premises and therefore elicited very misleading answers from me. For example: "The only social responsibility of a company should be to deliver a profit to its shareholders." Well, in theory, I strongly agree with this statement. Companies aren't designed to make the world a better place, and that's not what they exist for. They exist to make profits, and that is what they should do. But what of the environment, the downsized employees, etc? Well, the environmental costs of what the company does should be paid by the business along with all of its other costs through very carefully designed regulatory systems. That way, the business only polutes to the extent that it is profitable to do so (keeping in mind that it's probably not profitable to pollute very much, because pollution is very expensive when you have to pay for all of its consequences). Companies should support the employees that they lay off by paying high taxes that ensure that the government can afford really good public health care, retraining programs, etc.

My point is, I don't think it is the responsibility of a company to be anything other than a ruthless little profit machine. I think it is the responsibility of government, not business, to protect its people and its environment. Business should merely be made to pay their fair share in order to help the government do all this (after all, government is gracious enough to support the legal and property rights that businesses rely on).

So in retrospect, I should have answered that question with a "strongly agree", but instead I said "disagree" because I don't think that business should be given the latitude to tromp all over people and the environment, and I feel like that's what the question was implicitly asking. But maybe I was overthinking the whole thing. But this also brings me to the point that my actual view involves a pretty powerful federal government that collects a lot of taxes and does a lot of stuff, which should probably scoot me a bit closer to the "Authoritarian" end of things.

Yeah, so, did I mention how bored I am?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

math woes

I cried at work today. Okay, I'm lying. But I did cry, very briefly, in the parking lot of the Bank of the West which is between work and the 7-11 where I get my Dr. Pepper fix. I was crying because one of my students got an F on the test he took today, and which I helped him prepare for yesterday.

This is hardly the first time since I started teaching that one of my students has failed a test, and I knew that he was really struggling with the material, but for some reason I just found it particularly devastating. Obviously I can't control the grades my students get, but I do feel responsible, partly because I don't know if I am doing a very good job teaching this particular student. He is in Pre-Calculus, a subject which I neither enjoy nor excel at. I don't know how to make it interesting to him, because I don't find it interesting. His class moves very quickly, and is very challenging, so I don't have time to linger over underlying concepts or to review the stuff he should have learned in Algebra 2 (apparently his Algebra 2 class last year was kind of a mess, so his foundation in terms of understanding functions and graphing is really weak). As a result, there's a lot that he doesn't understand, and therefore much of what he knows how to do he knows by rote rather than through actual comprehension. That's the way I learned math in high school (I think that's probably how most students learn it), and it contributed to both my lack of success and my hatred of the subject.

The upside is that my feelings of failure are motivating me to seek out and embrace my inner Pre-Calculus Goddess. I plan on taking a copy of his textbook home with me over Thanksgiving break so that I can immerse myself in the next few chapters, both to understand it in a less superficial way and to figure out what is interesting and cool about it. I'm hoping that my brother will be helpful in this endeavor (although I have a sneaking suspicion that he hated Pre-Calc's kind of a stupid class because it's a hodge-podge of semi-difficult concepts that are sort of helpful to know before Calculus, but it has no unifying theme the way that, say, Calculus or Geometry do). Anyway, maybe I'll be a better Pre-Calculus teacher after Thanksgiving.

One bright spot at the end of the day was that I taught a class for one of my coworker's students. The coworker is Mr. W, who is probably my closest work buddy, and who sits across from me. Our desks face each other, so pretty much all of his students know who I am (and I know them). The particular student I taught today is this really funny, outgoing sophomore, and she absolutely cracked me up for the whole hour I was with her. We were learning about the different methods for proving triangle congruence, which involve combinations of angles and sides. So if you know that two triangles have two pairs of congruent sides and one pair of congruent angles between those sides, then you know that they are congruent using the "side-angle-side" method of congruence, referred to as "SAS". But this student says "Saaaassss!" in this really funny voice, and for SSS congruence, she says "Sssssssssss!" And then in the middle of class she was like, "Do you want to scratch my ear?" I said, "Um, no, not really. Did you want me to scratch it?" "No, I just wanted to check." It's good that she's not usually my student, because I have a hard time keeping her focused (because I have a hard time staying focused, because I just want to sit around and gab with her and let her crack me up).

Well, there's discouragement in every job, and at least if I feel like a failure with one student, there's always another one that I feel like I'm doing great with.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

drunk posting

helloooooo! hi. i'm at home with dwe right now. we went out for dinner and beers with his boss and one of his other coworkers (it was basically a business meeting that they let me tag along to...dwe feels bad because he's convinced it was really boring for wasn't that boring, but i'll let him think it was because i can score points that way...). after that, we went at got a drink at the conga lounge, which is this tiki bar a few blocks from my place. i would have liked to stay longer, but someone was tired and wanted to go home. so now i'm being kind of a punk to him, because i'm kind of annoyed. he's watching the end of a football game on his computer, and i'm blogging on my computer. we're pretty lame (but also cute because our computers match).

muffin is coming to the bay area tomorrow! i'm so excited because he'll get to meet dwe, and because he gets to see my new apartment and stuff. and also i haven't seen him in a few months, so it's exciting.

dwe is trying to play footsy with me now. i think he's tryingto figure out if i'm annoyed. we're listening to bruce springsteen. i LOVE bruce springsteen.

anyway, i'm being silly. later dudes.

Monday, November 05, 2007

math trick and the return of the internet

Just when I was about to cave in and pay for internet, the mysterious unsecured network reappeared. Yay! Assuming that it sticks around, I'm going to do my best to get far more prolific on your asses, so stay tuned!

In the mean time, let's do a fun math trick, shall we? First, grab a calculator, or pull up the one on your computer. Now punch in the first three digits of your phone number (not the area code). Complete the following operations, making sure to hit "enter" or the equal sign after each one:

multiply the first three digits of your number by 80
add 1 to the answer
multiply the answer by 250
add the last four digits of your phone number to the answer
add the last four digits of your phone number to the answer again
subtract 250 from the answer
divide the answer by 2

Recognize the number you got? Pretty cool, huh? I did this with one of my students, and she told me it was "hecka tight." Anyway, here's why it works:

Let x=the first 3 digits and y=the last four. Based on the instructions, we get:

[(80x+1)*250 + y + y -250]/2

Does everyone remember how to simplify an expression? We have to distribute the 250 into the 80x + 1, giving us 250*80x + 250*1 = 20,000x + 250. We also know that y + y = 2y, so we end up with:

(20,000x + 250 + 2y - 250)/2

The 250s cancel out, and then we divide by two, giving us:

10,000x + y

If you multiply, say, 123 by 10,000 you get 1230000. Obviously, if you add 4567 to that, you get 1234567.

Yeah, I know. That's five minutes of your life that you'll never get back. Sorry.

But look, here's baby M (practically toddler M now!), all adorable when I went up to Portland to visit:

Saturday, November 03, 2007

not so much with the internet again

I'm not really sure why I thought that stealing a weak, unsecured wireless signal was a permanent solution to my internet needs. 'Cause guess what? It wasn't. The signal, alas, has gone away, so I've been sans internet at my apartment again for more than a week. Hence no blog updates.

Right now I'm at Shine Laundromat, my local laundry joint, which has free Wi-Fi. I'm wondering how long I can get away with being here. My laundry is probably ready to go in the dryer, but I'm going to wait a little longer before I check, I think.

So, what's new in my world? Not much, I guess. I'm still really enjoying my job, and becoming more and more attached to my students and there math successes (or lack thereof: I spent all of Thursday night in a funk because one of my 6th Wavers got a D on a quiz). (By the way, "6th Waver" just means he's a senior, and that he's in the 6th cohort of students to go through the Making Waves program.) One of my 7th Wavers just got an A on a quiz though, which is a big deal because she has some major test anxiety issues.

DWE and I went to The City on Halloween to go to a party that one of my coworkers had. It was fun and pretty mellow, which was what I was in the mood for (as opposed to being in the mood to get wasted and flash my boob). We dressed up as vikings, which involved viking helmets, swords made out of cardboard, foil, and duct tape, and capes made out of twin-size sheets. So yeah, it was kind of lame, but at least we dressed up.

Other than Halloween and the safety meeting* last weekend, I've been pretty antisocial lately. I haven't seen my USF buds in ages (even E I haven't seen for at least two weeks, now that he has his own place). I also haven't seen S in close to two months now (although things between us are cool again). It's hard to socialize on a weeknight when I get off work at 9, and I was out of town two weekends in a row. DWE was around more than usual as well, although that was mostly on weekdays. Anyway, the point is that I should really try to get together with some people sometime this weekend, or I'm not going to have any friends left anywhere in the Bay Area.

Okay, it must be time to switch my laundry now. I'm going to suck it up and start paying for some sort of internet, so hopefully I'll be back to my regularly scheduled blogging soon.

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