I think I've got it

I've just sent to my advisor what I hope will be something around the penultimate draft of my Master's thesis.

I think it's pretty good, and I'm rather proud of both the work that went into it, and the product that came out of it.

In fairness

Last week, I bought a refurbished Velocity Cruz T301 mini-tablet (7"), running Android 2.2, basically because it was on sale for very little money ($75 shipped). It's basically crap, in that everything on it (including, for example, the Kindle app) runs quite slowly-- even the core OS, which often pauses 3-4 seconds between receiving input (like, "go to the home screen") and responding to it. I had to download the actual Android app store, because it comes with the Cruz app store, which contains something like 8 apps, total; having done so, there's about 2000 apps available to me, none of which is a graphing calculator (that's right, I cannot find any sort of graphing calculator app, at any price, for this Android device).

In fairness, I don't think that this is particularly Android's fault. I think it's just a cheap piece of crap of a tablet. I'll probably just use it as a slightly larger screen for reading Kindle books (though the app runs so slow on this beast that it's actually kind of hard to deal with).

Suffice it to say, though, this has done nothing to convince me to leave The Ecosystem.

Define "lucky"

This morning, my wife and I set out for a breakfast picnic at the Morton Arboretum, which is a thing we do about once a month. Sarah describes it as her "reset button", a calming way to de-stress.

This morning, instead, we were rear-ended at high speed. The car's almost certainly totaled (they removed my door to get me out), and we're both being kept overnight at the hospital for observation, based solely on "the mechanism", which is apparently trauma-doc speak for "what caused your injury". In other words, the description of the accident given by the first responders was sufficiently dire, that the hospital decided early on that we'd be staying for observation, even if the tests all came out well. The thing that the EMT said to me, while in the back of the ambulance, was that when he saw the car, he assumed that they'd be pulling out bodies.

So, that's left everyone we've met saying that we were really lucky, and I agree: an exceptionally violent accident (our car was spun a bit more than halfway around on it's own-- I had steering, and was able to bring it to the curb, and it was lucky that we weren't hit by a third car through that bit), and there's a very good chance that we're both essentially uninjured: I'm waiting for a neurosurgical referral, based on a bulging disc between my cervical vertebrae (which the attending orthopedic surgeon thinks was probably pre-existing: bulging discs are pretty common), and Sarah's about to get what should be her final evaluation before being cleared for unrestricted movement.

Still, I can't help but think, I would rather we'd been about 8 feet luckier. Guess I shouldn't complain, in all, but it's been a bit of a day.

I'll definitely be missing my first day of school tomorrow. Hopefully I'll be in on Wednesday.

The Rules

I've been thinking a bit about the value of "Following the Rules." From the perspective of a liberatory educator, I may have just decided that I generally approve of Following the Rules, but only if the rules have got it right, because I do think that students will have a better life if they learn to advocate for themselves and to negotiation with people for what they want and need, instead of Learning to Follow the Rules.

Being handy is fun!

So, our gas dryer stopped heating, a few days ago. That sucks.

Fortunately, I am a pretty handy guy... I've done a bit of research, and I'm quite happy to see that contrary to my expectations, our dryer does not use a piezoelectric igniter, but instead has a pair of what the manufacturer describes as "house fuses" and appliance repair people refer to as "dryer coils", which serve to ignite the gas.

After lunch, I'm going to pop out to Home Depot, and see if I can't find a pair... That'd be rather more convenient than the alternatives (hiring a man to come and fix it, and then waiting for him to arrive; buying a new dryer; continuing to take 4-6 hours per load to dry clothes...)

Turns out, I was wrong.

I've decided that I was wrong to leave the classroom last year. And so, just about 9.5 months after starting this job, I'm actively and eagerly looking for my next teaching position. There's two decent opportunities recently posted on the CPS job board (both at the same school, one math and one science, at my kind of difficult-but-hope-filled school), and I'm also going to circulate my resume at a couple of other places (especially the schools near my home-- I've come round to liking the idea of working in my own community).

My friend Anne once taught me that, before you decide that it's over, you tell yourself, "I'll just stay, until..." A month ago-- a week ago-- I was telling myself, "I'll just stay in this job until next August, the beginning of next school year." Now, I'm done. I want out, and I'm going to move as quickly as I can to get back into teaching.

Acknowledging that I made a mistake was hard. (See http://uselessmath.blogspot.com/ for more on acknowledging why I came to this job-- that was hard, too). Of course, the fact that I'm really, really not getting along with my co-worker is making it easier to acknowledge that I'm in the wrong place, for the wrong reasons, and that I'm not happy with the work I'm doing, not excited about going to work and not feeling like I'm growing in this work.

All of which says, it's time to go. And, for that, I have to thank my co-worker, for being enough of a jerk to shake me up!

Damned fine weekend

Went up to Madison, WI on Friday (my wife and I do this at least once a year, to eat at our favorite restaurant in the US, L'etoile, and to shop at the Madison farmer's market; this year's trip included visits to the National Mustard Museum-- a perennial favorite of ours-- and Little Norway). Excellent trip.

Saturday afternoon/evening included some significant local shopping for me, picking up lots of bits and pieces for various projects... which saw me through Sunday:

My first all-grain beer (a sort-of IPA-ish thing, which is fermenting now. Or possibly stuck-fermented now. The next couple of days will tell the tale, there).

The bits for the cold smoker (I recently bought a cut-down wine-aging keg, which will be the smoking chamber; I built out the cart it will live on, and bought the cheapo-grill to be the combustion chamber, and a bit of ducting to cool the smoke down as it moves into the smoking chamber). I just set the last of the glued-together lid-pieces (a bunch of 1x4, glued together, which I'll cut into a rough circle on Wednesday).

A conduit bender and exterior-grade switch for the backyard electricals.

LFR vs. Story

I've been playing for about 2 years in a D&D 4th Edition "Living Forgotten Realms" (LFR) group, because LFR is a nice little MMTTRPG-- you show up for a game/instance, and play through. There's not "party", it doesn't matter who else showed up (so long as you have 4-6 players and a DM/"judge"), and so it's easy for busy people to get some game on.

Today, I played my first "grinder". Just as 4th Ed. D&D borrows a lot from MMOPRGs, and LRF especially so, our local group has taken to borrowing the idea of "grinding through the lower levels": All of us have one character who we've focused on, who is our "main", and other who we've just sort of tinkered with (various "alts"). The Grinder game is all about leveling up the alts, by playing LFR games that everyone's been through already (as a player), so that we can crank through the RP and get to the fights... We did a game tonight (rated for 4 hours, the first time I played it it was more like 5.5 hours) in 2.5 hours. It was glorious.

And, it got me thinking more globally about the LFR concept broadly: the stories aren't very good (they seldom suck, but they're seldom something worth telling to my non-gamer but hyper-literate wife, either). But smashing monsters (and winning skill challenges) is fun. So, the 2.5 hour, abbreviated, tactical-tabletop-with-RP-elements game was actually great fun (even though I knew what we were about to face in every encounter).

Maybe, then, the goal should be to ALWAYS rock through LFR-- don't try to play up the RP-elements, but just let it be a series of tactical scenarios, loosely connected by a vague plotline that will, by and large, not connect to any other plotlines that any one of us will ever play.

If you want to play a story-driven game, find a good story-teller, and build a party. If you want to play a series of episodic one-offs, do LFR.

Just sayin.

Better late than never

Yesterday, I finished my final paper for the DePaul academic quarter (and year), where I'm about half-way through an MA program. That gave me time today, at long last, to finish putting up the gardening!

Actually, I'm not totally finished: there's still three small mint plants to pot, but I ran out of soil. So, that'll be a half hour job some time this week. What I did get done today is hanging all the remaining eight wall-boxes (these are, basically, window boxes that I built, six last year and six new this year, which hang on the wooden fence around the backyard)-- this including building the last one, and putting in the hooks and eyes for the new six. I also cleared the old soil out of the window box on the shed (10' long), potted a couple of plants (the aromatic geraniums), and weeded pretty much everything (the front strawberry batch, which is looking good and is probably about a week away from giving us a couple pints of very nice berries, the cold frames, which get birdseed in them from the upstairs bird feeder, and the back bulb garden, which included digging out three baby cherry trees, which I think actually turn out to be root-risers, not seedlings). My wife then seeded the newest wall box and the long window box.

Speaking of, I'm curious to see if we'll get any of the cherries on those trees... this is the first year that they've seriously produced...

In short, though, a good afternoon's gardening (and especially nice that it came after an absolutely incredibly wonderful morning, with a breakfast picnic and long walk through the Morton Arboretum!)