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Nid (Friday, 2011 January 28)

January 28th, 2011

So here’s some shit that doesn’t suck.

  • My Premiere class, which was full of miscreants and ne’er-do-wells, went fairly well today. Half the class wasn’t there. I think they were celebrating the imminent departure of a surveillant general — he was the "most strict", and so "they’re free now". I was told they even brought drinks. Anyhow, only quiet students were left, and I get the impression that after explaining the same things three or four times, they eventually started to get the hang of it. Forgot to give homework, but no big deal.

  • I’ve started to learn the local language. I feel like it makes a certain difference in how people respond to me, but I could be imagining it. There are certain cognates, but in general it’s really hard. And I know cerebrally that it’s a tonal language but I don’t feel like I’m getting the hang of the use of tones. Linguistically I should be prepared for high, low, rising, and falling tones, but I have a really hard time differentiating them, and I can feel them refusing to be memorized.

    Weird stuff happens in this language — I hesitate to try to summarize or explain my findings, because I can just imagine Rosalie having a lot to say about my silly, ignorant ideas. But anyhow it seems to me like to change tenses, you do stuff like change pronouns. There’s still weird contractions and lots of stuff I don’t understand. But it’s always really exhilarating to learn a language, even if I can’t correctly make some of the consonants.

  • In the lab, for the practical exam a few weeks ago, I had to switch two computers in order to keep two stations a reasonable distance apart. Being lazy, I decided not to actually move all the equipment around, but just switch the cabling so that the monitor, keyboard and mouse are plugged into the "other" computer. What this means to the untrained eye is that when you press the power button on your computer, the computer next to you lights up, and if you try again to "turn on" your computer in the same way, the computer next to you shuts off.

    I knew at the time that this was going to be confusing to whoever looked at the cabling next and resolved to put it back at the earliest available opportunity. But faced with all the other crap I could be fixing in the lab, I haven’t had the motivation. And the students have, predictably, been utterly bewildered by the situation, since it seems like one computer won’t turn on, and their neighbor complains that his computer shut itself off.

    I find this display utterly hypnotizing. The first time they got into this mess, I sat and watched for about an hour, encouraging them on to turn on the "problematic" computer every now and then when they seemed to lose track of it. Eventually a clever one saw the connection and stopped letting people try the computer next to him because it kept turning off his computer. That’s critical thinking, kids! That was pretty cool.

    Of course, the older classes often have a hard time figuring out what’s going on. I try to hint them — "Find me the cable," I say, "Where is this monitor going to receive its information from?" But they don’t seem completely on top of the situation. The idea that a monitor receives information from somewhere seems to stump them. Still, highly recommended.

  • And in general, the kids are getting better at lab. They’re learning to read the directions on the board. They’re starting to play with GIMP now and then, like seriously play with all the tools and see what they do, or the typing games or math games I’ve installed on all the computers. (TuxType in particular has fascinating background music, including a very 8-bitty thing, no idea where they got it from.) A couple in particular have asked me explicitly how they can get better at typing, and one has made it a point to ask me every time he sees me whether I’m free right now to go to the lab with him so he can practice. The idea is starting to "take" — someone else saw him and wanted to get in on that too. It’s like patient zero for the memes I’m trying to spread. Put that in your reporting form, fuckers.

  • Next month’s paycheck. I haven’t spent it already! That’s progress. Another New Year’s Resolution: manage this shit better. All of it. Money, time, presence of other people in my house, lovesickness, all of it.

    Speaking of other people being in my house — at 19h I close my door and ask when were you thinking about leaving? That seems to work OK. Before 8h, of course, I’m "asleep" and I’m not getting up no matter how many times you knock on my door. Right now Brondon’s here. He wanted to cook something, but the dishes were dirty, so he decided to clean them. Completely makes up for how annoyed I’ve been that he’s been here every day this week to distract me.

I’m still counting weeks until spring break, and I still have more shit than I could actually do. But it’s going. Apparently there’s a saying in French, "Petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid" (bit by bit, the bird makes his nest). And in Pidgin, you can say "Small small catch monkey" (approach slowly and you will catch the monkey, whereupon you can eat it). I learned that last one back in stage, you know.

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