Sunday, September 9, 2012

Facebook Timeline ...

Okay, so maybe I don't hate timeline completely for one reason: the activity log. It makes it a lot easier to look up old posts.

For example, I was wondering when I first started sharing k-pop videos. Apparently it all started with BigBang & 2NE1 on August 18, 2010. And I said that it looked that a bag of skittles had thrown up on them. O_O

Then I saw that I "liked" Wonder Girls over a year earlier on August 17, 2009. My cousin Natalie even saw Wonder Girls in concert on August 13, 2009 (and liked them) and I commented that I was super jealous of her.

Soooo ... I guess this k-pop thing has been going on longer than I remember. It's just gotten much worse in recent months. ^_^ You can blame Eat Your Kimchi and their K-Pop Music Mondays for that, though.

I also used to play FB games waaaay too much. *hangs head in shame*

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I Miss Teaching ...

... but I don't miss being a teacher and I don't want to go back.

Almost every aspiring teacher has this rose-colored view of what being a teacher will be like. The teachers will be a tremendous force for good/change in the world, fully supported by all parties. Creativity will be encouraged. The administration will do what's best for the school. Parents will do what's best for their child. Students will learn how to think for themselves. I could go on for ages.

If this is what education was really like, there would be no shortage of teachers. Instead, approximately 50% of all teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years. When I signed my contract, I was determined not to become one of those 50%. I guess 7 1/2 years is a bit better.

What I miss...
I love computer science. Introductory computer science should be learning how to think logically, not just learning programming. When I was able to teach computer science, my favorite activity as at the beginning of the year which I dubbed The Robot. The students would be responsible for giving me instructions for a simple task, such as drawing a square on the whiteboard. Without fail, one of the instructions would be turn around, after which I would end up spinning in circles until shouts of "Stop!!" filled the room. Then I'd get to walk forward until I ran into the whiteboard because they'd forget to tell me to stop again. Occasionally my response to their commands would be "does not compute" if they were too complicated, impossible, or just plain stupid. There would also be "hardware" failures, such as my arm being too short to draw the square. This lesson taught them that computers only do what people tell them to, they are limited by the known instructions, and by hardware. (I feel bad for students whose first activity was a "Hello World" program. Booooring.)

Most of my students had simply accepted that their computers and cell phones somehow just worked, but they never stopped to think about why or how they worked. Suddenly they were forced to think about the fact that people actually had to make it work. It was a paradigm shift for almost all of them. Sometimes it happened right after the robot activity, sometimes it took months. When it happened, it was incredibly evident on each of their faces. That same light of understanding shone when they grasped a concept previously foreign to them.

I had a great time with my students, joking around and talking. But it was those light bulb moments. That's what I miss. I know that very few of my students went on to major in computer science in university. I also know that by the end of the year, all of my students understood that it takes a lot of work to get those angry birds to fly across their phone's screen.

What I don't miss...
The constant emphasis on state-mandated tests (even though my subjects weren't tested)
Standing in front of a classroom of students taking said test, only allowed to stare at them
The constantly waffling administration, never willing to take real action or accept responsibility
Parents who had given up on their teenagers
Students who had given up on themselves
R-rated hallways
A constantly shrinking budget
Being told to act like a professional but not being treated like one
Social double standards for teachers in general
Going above and beyond and never being recognized
Students who were only in my class because their parent/counselor insisted
Five years in a room without windows
Not having nearly enough time during the work day to actually finish working
Being expected to work after hours and over breaks
How stupidly difficult it is to get a day off
Students who expect to bring their 25 average up to passing in 3 days
Being held responsible for things I had absolutely no control over
Stupid and outdated rules
Preparing detailed instructions for substitutes
The aftermath when the sub doesn't follow the instructions
The inevitable pessimism that permeates the faculty after years of all of this
Did I mention grading?

If only the teaching profession was actually about helping students learn.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Plateaus and Paradigm Shifts

I was reading a fascinating article on memory training, Secrets of a Mind-Gamer, when I came across a quote which really stuck in my brain:
There are no limits. There are plateaus, and you must not stay there; you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. - Bruce Lee

Like many people, I think that Bruce Lee was an amazing person. He had his flaws, like every other human being, but the feats he was able to accomplish in martial arts are still legendary, nearly 40 years after his death.

What really struck home about this quote is that it directly contradicts my usual thinking. I enjoy new challenges like picking up a new instrument or learning a foreign language. At first I dedicate myself to my new endeavor almost to the point of obsession. The problem is that I almost always give up once I hit that plateau. Many times I stop when I reach the first bit of resistance.  

I often feel limited and stuck, with no possibility of progress. I wonder how I could change my outlook from seeing only limitations and failures to viewing them as challenges and opportunities for growth. How can I possibly gain the attitude of "if it kills me, it kills me"? This paradigm shift is definitely not easy, but I'm certain that it is vital.

Instead of likening stagnations of progress to plateaus, perhaps we should think of them as steps. After all, plateaus stand tallest in the landscape, while steps are a vehicle to keep climbing. I'm sure that some of those steps will be higher and more frightening than others. There will not always be a guard rail. The danger of faltering and tumbling down the slope is always present. However, by consistently giving up halfway, I am depriving myself of some amazing views.

My Purple Hoodie

I have several items of clothing that mean a lot to me, but at this point of my life, there is one which trumps them all: A simple purple hoodie with a zipper front.

My mother gave it to me when I was having a really difficult time. I needed something to wear and requested a sweatshirt. She apologized when she could only find this hoodie, but it was a real comfort to me. She  chose the purple one, my favorite color. I still wear it quite often at home. It reminds me that I have people who care about me, even when I'm a burden to them.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Cable TV and the Olympics Rant

I haven't had TV for years.

When I moved in with my sister Sarah in 2006, she didn't have cable television and wasn't willing to pay for it. If I wanted it, it would have to come out of my pocket. Since my budget was rather tight, I decided to go without. To be honest, I went through a sort of withdrawal period. But after a couple of months, I found that I only missed a few things.

There wasn't much in the way of streaming video at the time, so I used NetFlix quite a bit and downloaded fansubbed episodes of anime through bittorrent. It's not that I stopped watching shows; I just changed the method of delivery.

Over time, most television programming has become available online. This works great for me, because I can pick and choose. For example, I watch Castle online. When NetFlix increased their prices, I switched to streaming-only, but their selection stinks so I dropped them completely. I haven't felt deprived whatsoever. Most of what I want to watch isn't on American TV anyway. Also, it's somewhat surprising how much quality content is being generated for YouTube now.

So the Olympics finally roll around. Honestly, I don't really care about the Olympics, but I'd like to watch some of the gymnastics.

So I go to NBC's website and get this:
Say what?!

I can watch English subtitled anime a week (or sooner) after its release in Japan online for free, but I can't watch the Olympics? Absurd. I'm certainly fine with watching ads. I understand that people are trying to make money off of this. I would even be willing to pay a fee to watch the content. 

I find it more than annoying and somewhat ironic that I am forced to have a conventional TV provider to watch world wide games over the world wide web. I'm certainly not going to go sign up for overpriced cable TV just to watch gymnastics. Yet another nail in the coffin for conventional TV in my book. 

The age of purely offline television has passed, IOC and NBC. Get used to it.

Well that's okay. I'm sure I'll be able to find it re-posted on another site if I want to anyway. YouTube may take the videos down, but there are a whole lot of sites that don't.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Cleaning the Big Cubes

I noticed recently that my 6x6x6 and 7x7x7 Rubik's cubes were getting a bit sticky. No, not on the outside, but more difficult to turn. Time to clean and reapply the silicon spray!

Each cube consists of 213 parts. The mechanism is essentially the same, but the center cubies (small cubes) are hidden. It's kind of like someone took the 7x7x7 and squashed it so the center rows all got tucked in underneath the other cubies. (I hope I'm making sense here. If not .... well, I tried.) The silicon spray is the best lubricant to use because it doesn't degrade the plastic and it's pretty easy to apply.

Here are the cubes before.

They are rather easily disassembled, but I had to be careful not to lose any pieces.
(You can't get replacement parts....)

Washed in lukewarm water with just a bit of dish detergent.
Rinsed at least twice. Done separately for each cube.

All pieces laid out to dry for ~30 mins.

6x6x6 cube laid out for easy spraying with silicon.
Any water left on the cubies has to be dried off before spraying. Q-tips were helpful.
Sprayed the interior surfaces with silicon and then let them dry.

Reassembled 6x6x6 cube.
When putting the 6x6x6 back together, it only matters that the corners are in the correct position and orientation. It makes it easier to reassemble if you don't worry about reassembling it into the solved state.

Then you just solve it!
(I did it while waiting for the silicon spray to dry on the 7x7x7)

Here's the 7x7x7 laid out.
There are the same number of pieces as the 6x6x6, but some of the pieces are larger.
Same as the 6x6x6: sprayed with silicon, let it all dry.

When reassembling the 7x7x7, the corners must be in the correct location/orientation, but so do the center edge pieces. I actually messed up when I reassembled it the first time, but it was about 2 am, so I just went to bed.

I fixed and solved the 7x7x7 the next day, but I didn't take a picture, sorry. Both cubes turn a lot more smoothly now.

I actually find it more fun to disassemble, reassemble, and then solve these cubes than to just mix them up before solving. It's like having two puzzles in one. Cleaning and re-lubricating them... not so much. At some point I'm going to need to replace the stickers (which I already have), but I'm really not looking forward to that.

Side note: These actually aren't Rubik's Cubes. The Rubik's Cube folks couldn't figure out how to make a Rubik's Cube larger that 5x5x5. The 5x5x5 Rubik's Cube is a bit unstable as it is, and applying the same design to a larger cube would make it too fragile. It took a Greek inventor, Panagiotis Verdes, to figure out another way to make large puzzle cubes from 5x5x5 up to as large as 11x11x11. They are marketed as V-Cubes. The largest V-cube remains at 7x7x7, even though the 10x10x10 and 11x11x11 have been listed as "coming soon" on the website for about 2 years. I'd quite like to have one of each if they ever come out, but I'm sure they're going to be rather expensive.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

If I only had time... and motivation...

I've been thinking a lot about all the things I would like to accomplish if I had unlimited time, money, and motivation. That last one is probably the biggest problem. So, in no particular order (mostly), here we go:

  • Pay off my credit card. I was getting close, then I bought a house. Frustrating!
  • Get a piano. A baby grand would be awesome and I have the perfect place for it.
  • Play piano well enough that I could sing along to relatively simple songs. The ultimate would be if I could play Claude Debussy's Claire de Lune, but that's probably a bit much too hope for.
  • Sing well enough where I wouldn't be embarrassed to do a solo. I'd love to have some lessons.
  • Play Mozart's Concerto for Clarinet. Even just for myself, no performance necessary.
  • Play guitar well enough that I can sing at the same time.
  • Compose songs.
  • Become fluent in Japanese.
  • Visit Japan (for a significant length of time).
  • Attend my favorite K-Pop artists' concerts. Meeting them would be awesome, but I know that won't happen.
  • Lose weight and be fit (~120 pounds). This is the hardest one on the list, for so many reasons. 
  • Learn how to build furniture. I'd like custom furniture for my house, and building it myself would be rather awesome.
  • Write. I have quite a few stories floating around in my brain, but I find it difficult to actually get them on paper.
  • Write at least one application for Android that would be a useful tool for many people.
  • Nicely landscape my front and back yards. I don't really care to do the physical labor myself, though!
  • Become a better swimmer.
  • Learn how to sew as well as Mom. 
  • Knit an Aran sweater.
  • Help reduce the social stigma of bipolar disorder.
  • Somehow encourage more girls to major in Computer Science (or something like it) in college.
I'm sure there's a lot more, but I that's what I can think of right now.