Archive for November, 2006

The winds of change

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

The weather has been ridiculously warm of late—yesterday the temperature hit 80, despite its being the second-to-last day of November. I actually turned on the air conditioner in my car, which is not something I do lightly.

But winter’s about to come smack us in the face: there’s a mother of a cold front blowing through today. You should’ve seen the clouds skittering across the sky last night.

Did you click that link? The temperature is supposed to drop TWENTY DEGREES between 9:00 and noon. Yikes.

UPDATE (9:42AM): Okay, so the weather people weren’t kidding. When Sam and I left to go to the vet an hour and a half ago, it was warm, muggy, and still. Now? Rainy, blustery, and fucking freezing. So I should change before school—yesterday’s short sleeves and flip flops won’t cut it.

UPDATE2 (9:41PM): I didn’t forget to post a link today; I intentionally postponed it so I could get to my Syntax exam on time. In honor of Syntax, then, the final NaLiPoMo link will be Babel’s Dawn. It is, as the tagline says, a blog about the origins of speech, which just goes to show that no matter what you’re interested in, even if it’s pre-historical linguistics, someone somewhere is blogging about it.


Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

It’s funny how I only notice all the crap stuck in my keyboard when I’m trying to write an essay. Gosh, I should really clean that out . . .

Link? Let’s go with Salon. (Yes, you have to sit through the ad, but only once a day.)

Comments (optional)

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

Use the space below to give additional comments. Your comments will be sent (anonymously) to the instructor after the final grades for the semester have been assigned.

This course gave students a lot of independence and responsibility for their own learning. Those who didn’t want to do any work didn’t have to, and those who wanted to challenge themselves could. [On the other hand, if a student wanted to do the work but had trouble…I don’t know what resources were available. We had no textbook, and I’ve heard the university’s Math tutors weren’t much help.]

I wish we’d had a proper syllabus—this class was structured differently than most of the others I’ve taken, and it took me a third of the semester to figure out what was expected of me.

The lack of tests and graded assignments makes it difficult to gauge how well one is doing in the class and puts a lot of pressure on students at the end of the semester. I don’t know how our course grades will be calculated or what to expect on the final, since it will be the first graded assignment we’ve had.

I did enjoy learning the material and working through the proofs on my own, but the actual classes were often tedious, as the class sat silently watching one person put up a proof on the board. Several students worked crosswords, read, or did homework for other courses during class. I don’t know at what stage in the UH math sequence students learn the fundamentals of writing and presenting proofs, but many students in the class seemed not to have a firm grasp of these, which made class frustrating at times.

The class did improve significantly over the course of the semester, after Dr. —— switched from going down the roll to asking for volunteers to present proofs of their choice. He also gave us hints and suggestions on a few proofs as well as a list of easier problems to try, which I found helpful. Dr. —— clearly knew the material well and was able to tell us exactly where a proof had gone wrong.

We were not allowed to discuss the problems with other students outside of class. If we had been, I know that I would have gotten a lot more out of this course, and I think many other students would have, too. We might also have made more progress as a class, as I think allowing us to help each other and study together would have cut down on the number of obviously incorrect proofs presented and would have allowed some of the students who never participated to ask questions and present their ideas in a less intimidating setting. I understand the need to evaluate each student’s individual work, but I think tests or graded homework would have been a more effective way to accomplish that.

UPDATE (12:13 AM): I was just feeling all proud of myself for not having to rush to post before midnight tonight . . . until I remembered I’d forgotten the link. Again. So here you go: names are fascinating. To see where all those graphs came from, check out the NameVoyager. It’s nifty. So nifty, in fact, that I’ve probably blogged about it before.


Monday, November 27th, 2006


* Ever.


Sunday, November 26th, 2006

I’m taking* the official LSAT. Why would I do such I thing? First, because I’m a standardized test dork and think dissecting arguments and playing logic games is** great fun. Second, because I’m currently on hiatus*** from teaching LSAT classes, and taking the official test is part of the plan for my return.

The LSAT is administered four times a year, in February, June, September/October, and December. The deadline to register for the December test date has passed, so my next chance to take the test is in February.

Here’s the problem: the February test is nondisclosed, which means the LSAC (the folks who administer the LSAT) doesn’t release the questions. If you take one of the other three tests, you get to see all the test questions, your answers, and the correct answers.

If I take the February test and miss a few questions (which is likely, since that’s what I’ve done on every practice test I’ve ever taken), but I don’t get to see what they were, or even how many I missed, will I absolutely explode? It’s possible.

If I do take it in February, that’ll certainly be an extra bit of incentive to work my ass off in practice to have the best shot at nailing every damn question. But what if I slip up and miss a couple anyway? Will the agony of not knowing whether my defeat came at the hands of a tricky inference question or a careless error be too much to bear?

Is it worth the guaranteed peace of mind to wait until June? I have until the ninth of January to decide.

Link: Just before composing this post I stumbled across this database, which contains 200,000 internal Enron emails released into the public domain. I found it through a Google search for something unrelated, and at first I thought some company was allowing public access to their employees’ *current* email, which seemed exceedingly strange. Then I noticed the dates. Ha.

I haven’t poked around much—it feels creepy to flip through other people’s correspondence. Most of it’s dull as dirt, but I still can’t read too much without getting weirded out.

* It’s funny that this tense, which I think people call the present progressive (right? I’m shaky on English tenses), can sometimes refer to the future, as it does here. And by funny I mean not fun at all for anyone trying to learn this crazy-ass language, I imagine.

** (Apparently I’m grammar-happy tonight, excuse me.) Why is this not plural? Is “dissecting and playing” not a plural subject? Replacing “is” with “are” sounds awful to me. I feel like dissecting-and-playing is a single action, like the conjuction happens before the ‘ing’-ing, as if it were [dissect and play]ing. Does that make sense? More important, can I get someone to pay me money to talk about grammar? Because I could do this all day.

*** I wasn’t sure which of “on hiatus” or “on a hiatus” (or neither) was idiomatic. Google declares victory for the former, 1.6 million to 63,000.


Saturday, November 25th, 2006

I keep writing posts and saving them as drafts because I don’t like them but don’t want or have time to fix them right now.

My Thanksgiving break officially ends at 2:45 tomorrow afternoon, when I’ll have to leave for the first of three back-to-back lessons. I’m hoping to be home by eleven. Yay work.

All I’ve wanted this whole break is food. Food food food. And since I’ve been at my parents’ house, which actually contains real food, I’ve been eating a lot of it, especially the junky stuff. Ice cream, chips, chocolate, cheese . . . gobble gobble. I’ve eaten Bagel Bites, people. Twice.

Link: Cool Tools is full of nifty, handy things.


Friday, November 24th, 2006

Sam finally broke down tonight and ate his kibble, thus ending a 2.5-day hunger strike. He’ll gladly snarf down dead birds and bugs and poo, but Purina? Please.

He hasn’t quite starved since we got here—he’s proficient at begging, nosing along behind anyone who has food (or anything that looks or sounds or smells like food), and hanging out under the table during meals, waiting for spills. Notable seizures include a stack of cookies my brother left on an ottoman and a bite of the turkey, left unguarded on a chair in the kitchen for a few moments while we cleared the Thanksgiving table. That crafty pup.

Link: Bruce Schneier is, as far as I know, *the* security expert these days. He has a blog which is rather popular and which works at clearing up common misconceptions about security issues, of which* there are many many.

* Is this a misplaced modifier? I can’t decide. I intend it to refer to “misconceptions,” or more precisely, to “common misconceptions about security issues.” My guess is that the sentence is technically okay but should be rewritten for clarity.

Casino Royale

Thursday, November 23rd, 2006

Last night I went with my family to see the twenty-first James Bond movie. The title sequence was impressive—it took the designs from playing cards and animated them, but stylized and with bolder colors, and of course with Bond running around shooting people in the middle of it. Hard to describe, but lovely to watch. If you don’t have time for the whole thing, just stay for the first five minutes—totally worth the seven bucks.

Everything after the title sequence . . . was pretty good, I guess, if you’re into movies, which quite a few people seem to be, so I’ll let the rest of the world judge the quality of the actual film.

That said, I’ll share my reactions. No real spoilers here, but if you don’t want to hear ANYTHING about the movie . . . well, you probably stopped reading at the title.

I suppose I’m required first to opine on Daniel Craig as the new Bond. I wasn’t thrilled with the notion of a blond Bond, but my opinion has since improved to a solid ‘meh.’ He’s younger and scrappier than Pierce Brosnan. My mom rather liked the shot of him striding all muscle-y and dripping out of the ocean.

I didn’t much care for Craig’s Bond, personally, but then I’m not a fan of the Bond character in general. He’s arrogant, violent, and womanizing—what’s there to like? His ego was, if anything, even more ridiculous in this movie than in others I’ve seen. I realize he’s a caricature, but that’s not the sort of hero I can get behind. Take, for example, the following bit of dialogue.

Vesper: I’m afraid I’m a complicated woman.
James: Well, that’s certainly something to be afraid of.

See, at this point I would’ve slapped him, but Vesper, of course, goes in for another smooch. Whatever. No one’s arguing that the Bond films are great victories for feminism.

While we’re discussing the characters/actors, I must of course pay homage to the world of awesome Judi Dench brings to the movie. I can’t imagine anyone playing M better. Dame Judi is near the top of my List of People About Whom it is Difficult to Say Anything Bad. How would you even begin to make fun of her? She’s Judi effing Dench. I mean seriously.

By the way, Eva Green? In the magenta dress? Wow. Stunning. Also the green dress. And the second red dress. Oh, and her accent was remarkably good. Maybe actual British-English speakers would be better judges of this than I, but I would’ve never guessed it was her second language (after French).

I won’t say much about the plot, except that it kept going, and going, and going. Just when you thought everything was about to be tied up, Bond would do something arrogant and stupid, or someone else would betray him, and off we’d go again. I was never all that bored, but after the movie I started thinking back to some of the things from the first hour and was like what? Those happened in the same movie?

One scene was filmed at the BodyWorlds exhibit, which I’ve seen, so that was nifty. It’s the horse! And the soccer guy! And the poker players!

There was one scene that threw me—the shower scene? What was that? I felt like I’d wandered into another theater, perhaps one playing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Maybe they were trying to give the characters some “depth,” but it seemed out of place. I kept expecting the wall to explode or bullets to come flying in.

Okay, so there’s my bits-and-pieces review. Like I said, I’m not a movie person and am relatively unqualified to pass judgment on this one, but I think if you like Bond films, Casino Royale won’t bother you. There’s running and kicking and betrayal and pretty girls and things exploding, blah-di-blah.

Today’s link: Jess is a graduate student in Linguistics at the University of North Carolina. She’s the only native English speaker I’ve known who does not have Dutch parents, yet speaks the language fluently. Check out her Life List—wow. I wish I had half the determination and self-discipline she does.


Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

I’ve eaten quite a lot of food today: cereal for breakfast, Sonic for lunch, ice cream for snack, Mongolian for dinner. Funny, I thought that was supposed to happen tomorrow.

Sam doesn’t like the kibble at my parents’ house, so he’s gone the last day and a half almost without food. He managed a couple bites tonight; he’ll get around to liking it once he gets hungry enough*.

Well, now I’ve gone and done it. I’ve told you what I had for lunch. NaBloPoMo brings out the good stuff.

Link: This isn’t a blog, but I love these Flickr photo pools (via BoingBoing). Proper punctuation isn’t *that* difficult, people.

*Before you wonder, he does seem to have a normal appetite, so I don’t think he’s sick. Milk-bones and crap he finds on the ground go down just fine.

Lesson learned

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

If you make a music video, song choice is important. The editing takes a long. ass. time.

You can’t pick a song you really like, because hearing clips of it over and over and over and over and over will ruin it forever. At the same time, you can’t pick a song you don’t like at all, because it’s guaranteed to get stuck in your head after the first day. But if you have a song you don’t much care about either way, why would you make a video about it? It’s a delicate balance.

UPDATE (1:17AM): Whoops, forgot the link again. By the Bayou is one of my favorite local blogs. I’d say something more interesting about it, but it’s past my bedtime*.

*Is this excuse getting old yet?