Archive for December, 2007

I’ve Got Class

WARNING: The below is a stream of consciousness of observations from a graduate school class. It’s probably not going to make a bunch of sense, but it’s what occurs to a student sitting in a class where he has already turned in all of his assignments for the semester (motivation levels were not high, in other words).

The first thing I notice about this class, other than the undercurrent of students restless to turn in their final assignments and go home, is that the professor, as usual, is nattily attired. From what I can tell, he is wearing a button down shirt, covered by a sweater, covered by a nice sports coat. He looks sharp, but such layering has never been possible for me…fat guys don’t layer clothes well, in my experience. Stuff doesn’t fit particularly well on the first layer, never mind a sweater and a sports coat.

The professor is giving a short lecture to begin the class; essentially he is reviewing stuff that we covered earlier in the semester. He stops periodically and asks for volunteers to help define ideas, and about 5 people (out of 13 in the class), contribute to his lecture. These are the same 5 people who have been contributing all year. I’m one of the contributors, not because I have anything particularly intelligent to say, but because I am physically not able to shut up for a full hour and a half.

After his lecture, the professor gives us a short break and tells us that there are some people who have to give the required presentations for the semester who will be speaking to us in the second half of class.

During break I hustle over the local pizza shop and buy myself a caffeine-loaded soft drink, let’s call it “Hill Drizzle,” and a bag of Pizza-flavor Combos. I almost never drink soda, but I figure that the caffeine might help, and the Combos, well, the Combos are just a weakness. I also grab a pack of gum to avoid pizza breath, and it occurs to me that the last time I bought a pack of gum I ended up pulling out a filling with it. Nice.

On my way back into class one of my classmates points to the soda I’m carrying and says, “Drinking spermicide, eh?”

Shocked, I stop in my tracks and stare at the offending bottle; actually wondering for a moment if I accidentally bought a bottle of spermicide. He laughs and tells me about a rumor that this brand of soda might just reduce a man’s chances of fathering children. He is surprised I haven’t heard the rumor and suggests gently that I should get out of the house more often.

When I sit down, I look at the label on the offending soda and notice that the 20 oz. bottle is reported to contain 2.5 servings. Some quick math comes out to 8 oz. a serving, or the size of those old glass Coke bottles. It reminds me of something I read in The Omnivore’s Dilemma about high fructose corn syrup being so cheap that the soda companies decided that, rather than lower the price of their products, they should increase the volume. The theory was something about people not being willing to buy more than one bottle of soda (or hamburger, or order of fries) because they would feel piggish, but that these same people would gladly buy a larger portion (a 20 oz. soda instead of an 8 or 12 oz.). This resulted in the companies selling more soda with the larger portions and making more money. It’s evil genius, I tell you.

I am snapped out of my economics day dream when the presentations begin. The first presentation is given by a woman who clearly has no desire to be giving a presentation in this class at this moment in her life. She rushes through her presentation in a quick, low voice that never rises or lowers in tone. This sort of public speaking encourages daydreams, and before long I have a vision of one of my least favorite middle school teachers carrying a whip and a chair and shouting at a nervous student:

“Dance for your grade! DANCE!”

The monotone presenter mumbles to a finish to a round of polite applause. The class is just playing out the string, and everyone is anxious to be finished for the day. It has been a long, difficult semester with a great many assignments, and we are relieved to be done with them all.

Another woman then stands up and begins her presentation. She presents on the theory of reading to children. She is a teacher and reads to her students to begin every class. She says that it helps to calm them down and get them ready for the lesson.

She then explains that parents should read to their children, as it models the behavior of reading and also allows the parents to read things that are perhaps a little above the reading level of the child. She provides some research that says that this shouldn’t just be done for children in grades 1-5, but up through high school. It’s almost like advertising reading, she says, just like restaurants that everyone has already heard of continue to advertise and remind people how good their food tastes.

The entire class is engrossed by this idea, and we are all discussing it and asking questions well beyond the allotted time. When the professor interrupts us to wrap up the discussion, we are reluctant to stop. This sort of thing never happened in my undergraduate days. Sometimes I really enjoy graduate school.

(The website she referred us to is http://www.stevelayne.com/webdata/resources/Handouts/Dynamic_Read_Aloud_Programs_and_Titles_that_Work.pdf)

The Day to Day Grind Tim 13 Dec 2007 No Comments

Hot Flashes

Thoughts I had recently while I was supposed to be doing something else: 

Everyone I have spoken to about the Patriots lately seems to joke that the latest games (against the Colts, Eagles, and Ravens) are probably keeping cardiologists in the area busy. 

I admit that the games have been thrilling, and that we as fans were spoiled by all of the blowouts early in the season, but it’s wild to get so fired up about regular season games.  We want the team to go undefeated, and we’re emotionally invested in it.  If the Pats had lost to the Chargers, people wouldn’t be chugging Maalox every time the Patriots fall behind. 

If the Patriots go into the last game of the regular season (against the Giants) undefeated, some people might be upset to learn that the last game will only be televised on NFL Network.  I’m not sure how many people get that channel but those who don’t – like me – will probably end up wandering over to their local watering hole. I suspect that my local bar will be standing room only, so I’m considering camping out in front of the place… 

…On the Friday morning after Thanksgiving, I joined several hundred of my closest friends in line at a local electronics chain store at 5am.  Yes, I am mostly insane, but what is a techno-geek to do?  We actually were done and out of there by 6:15, which wasn’t bad considering that most of that time was spent waiting in lines – first to get into the store, and then to pay for our stuff. 

When we showed up at the store at 5am, there was a line wrapped around the building, and a small crowd of people who were not in line, but who were standing close to the front of the line.  What was interesting was that some of the women in that small group were shouting loud threats and bad words at some of the women in line; and the people in line were returning the favor.  After a short time, the police showed up and suddenly no one seemed to remember what they were arguing about. 

It must have been comforting for the employees of the electronics store to look through the glass doors and see a crowd of people angrily shouting at each other and threatening violence.  In general, I feel that if you’re going to be involved in a riot, it should be about food or something important to survival, like duct tape, and not about electronics.  I can just see the employees explaining the whole thing to their friends: 

“Oh, that scar?  Yeah, I got that one when someone hit me in the eye with a surround-sound speaker in the Guitar Hero riots of 2007.”… 

…It’s funny; I heard a rumor that the Hollywood writers were on strike, but it hasn’t impacted any of the shows I watch yet.  I imagine that when the shows do fall into a re-run cycle, it won’t be as much fun to just sit on the couch, staring at the screen and drooling into a bucket.  I will need to do something else for entertainment.  My wife recommended that I do something crazy, like read a book not assigned by my grad school professors, but I was thinking more along the lines of sharpening my XBox skills.  I don’t want my adventure on Black Friday to have been a total waste… 

…And finally, as I write this, the Red Sox are in discussions with the Minnesota Twins in an effort to acquire pitcher Johan Santana.  I am very much in favor of acquiring Mr. Santana; for despite the fact that his numbers have declined each of the last four years he is still a quality starting pitcher. One thing I am not in favor of, however, is the trading of one Mr. Jacoby Ellsbury to Minnesota in any such deal. 

Ellsbury is an exciting player who seems to have adjusted very naturally to the Boston atmosphere and he seems like a perfect fit for the leadoff spot in the batting order.  Anyone who watched the team last year knows that there were no great fits for that spot (with apologies to Messrs. Drew, Pedroia, and Lugo).  It would be sad to see such an exciting young player leave town, even if it is for such a proven starter.

I admit that I am probably overrating Ellsbury’s talent, since I have a history of doing just that.  I was one of the people who didn’t want the Sox to trade Trot Nixon for Sammy Sosa (or, as our senior Senator called him:  Sammy Sooser).  Sosa hit a whole bunch of home runs and Trot; well, Trot got hurt quite a bit. 

Another reason to keep him was written by The Sports Guy of ESPN.com, who said that every woman in Massachusetts between the ages of 18-25 is against the deal because each believes that she will someday be Mrs. Jacoby Ellsbury.  I think that The Sports Guy aimed a little low, as I know a few women in their 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s who would gladly submit their application if such a position became available. 

Anyway, those are my thoughts for today.  Enjoy the bitterly cold weather and don’t forget to support the Clinton Lions Club by purchasing one of their fine Christmas trees.

Sports &The Day to Day Grind Tim 06 Dec 2007 1 Comment