I'm 42 today, so it's time for a self-diagnostic.
Boobs and ball sack saggier? Check.
Hair grayer? Check.
Increased frequency of senior moments? Check.
More cynical outlook? Check.
Deteriorating eyesight? Check.
Unwelcome hairs? Check.
I think we're good.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
I'm 42 today, so it's time for a self-diagnostic.
I live in a rather lame spot when it comes to local restaurants. We've got one or two decent burger joints and a halfway decent Mexican place, but just about everything else is as uninspired as it gets. That's especially true of the local Chinese food, which somehow manages to be even more depressing here in the boonies than it is in most places: I'm surrounded by shitty buffets. A local Cracker Barrel, visited two days ago, also proved a bust, which pretty much means that, if I want good food, then I need to make it myself. Unfortunately, with my schedule reverting to the "normal" routine next week (roughly 3PM to 9:30PM), I doubt I'll be cooking many inspired meals in the dead of night. Good food will have to be a weekend thing.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Monday, August 29, 2011
I finally found a shop in Annandale that sells those Monami brand but-pen (brush pens). I tend to think of these pens as calligraphy brushes for children. Real masters don't use these for their art, but novices like yours truly-- who aren't working in a traditional vein, anyway-- don't mind playing with them.
Inspired by Bill Watterson's revelation that he drew Calvin and Hobbes on Strathmore Bristol board with "a small sable brush," I tried making some drawings on my own Bristol board, but quickly realized that that wouldn't work: Monami ink, whatever its chemical composition, isn't suited for Bristol, which is a textured paper that encourages ink to bleed horizontally, turning a clean vertical or diagonal stroke into something that looks a bit like a centipede.
So I switched to a more modest drawing paper from my Caliber Drawing Pad, and immediately enjoyed better results, which are displayed for you below. Sorry if I seem to be on a tiger/rabbit kick (and have been on one for years), but I can't help thinking that these are characters that are trying to tell me that they want to be in a story (I tried writing a story a few years back, but never got beyond the first chapter). So I guess I'm going to keep on drawing them in various scenarios until I figure out what that story is supposed to be.
Along with the three renderings of Tiger and Rabbit below, I've drawn a character that I haven't drawn since my undergrad days: Super Herman, whom my buddy Mike will remember. A foot tall and as strong as Superman, Super Herman was the buddy of The Protector, Mike's own version of Superman. I remember some adults looking at my old Super Herman drawings and saying, "Oh, that's Kilroy!" I was in elementary school at the time (Super Herman was invented when I was a fourth- or fifth-grader), so my response was, "Who's Kilroy?" If you don't know who Kilroy is, see here. Super Herman appears first in the lineup below.
I've drawn my usual scenario, in which Tiger is scaring Rabbit, but that image is the last of the three tiger/rabbit scenes. I've also branched out and done two silly studies-- one in which Rabbit looks delighted to see Tiger, thus changing the emotional tenor of their encounter, and one in which both are looking deadly serious while smoking pipes-- a reference to a Korean version of "once upon a time": "Long ago, when tigers smoked pipes..." Somewhere in my pile of possessions is one of my favorite scrolls, which depicts this scene in more traditionally Korean style: Tiger and Rabbit are just hanging out, smoking long pipes.
A discussion while I was visiting my buddy Mike and his family this past Friday led to the question of how to pronounce autonomic. I pronounced it "aw-tuh-NOH-mik," but Mike asked whether the pronunciation was, rather, "aw-tuh-NAH-mik." I forgot this exchange until just a few minutes ago, when our conversation popped back into the foreground of my consciousness, so I decided to look the word up, suspecting that I might need to check a few different sources: autonomic struck me as one of those words having at least two legitimate pronunciations.
As it turns out, every source I checked (Dictionary.com, M-W.com, and howjsay.com-- the latter for the UK angle) agrees that Mike's preferred pronunciation is the only correct pronunciation. So I stand corrected, and this old fart will have to unlearn a bad habit of pronunciation.
[Some years back, Mike got me on my mispronunciation of miscegenation.]
Was it as good for you as it was for me?
Hurricane Irene turned out not to be very impressive to those of us living over an hour west of Washington, DC. Our apartment complex's rental office had issued a sheet with some safety guidelines ("Make sure you've cleared everything off your balcony," etc.), but these turned out to be unnecessary. All we got, this close to the mountains, was rain. If there were high winds, I didn't hear them roaring by, and this flimsy building normally gets as creaky as a wooden sailing vessel when it's windy outside.
Really, Irene? After all that sexy hype, I was expecting a much better blow.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
The new GRE is, it turns out, even more of an endurance trial than the old one was. On the test I took yesterday, the two Analytical Writing sections-- 30 minutes each-- were considered Section 1, after which I had two Verbal sections and three-- count 'em, three-- Quantitative sections, alternating Quant, Verbal, Quant, Verbal, Quant. At a guess, one of the Quants was an experimental section and won't be counted in my final score.
The test began at 7:30AM. I got to the center at 7:15AM, which was a bit late, since I was supposed to arrive at 7AM. This didn't turn out to be a problem, though; the 30-minute margin is there to make sure you've gone through registration before testing begins, and I was able to register quickly enough. In fact, I had time to spare, as I had to wait for my turn to be called up to the desk.
Unfortunately, the early start time had other ramifications: it meant that I wasn't fully pooped out. Every morning, especially on work days, I normally try to have a nice, long, thorough dump before I start the day, so as not to have to poop while I'm in the office or out somewhere. This is how I get through the day at YB: by purging myself of my shit-demons, by avoiding eating anything during class, and then by going home and pooping out what little is left in the intestines. (There's always an unpooped remainder, you see.) Yesterday morning, though, I was in a rush and managed to poop out only a fraction of what I needed to void before I left for Falls Church.
Around the time I finished my first Analytical Writing essay, my insides started burbling. This was a sinister sign: another brown subway train was nearing the terminus. I had sound-dampening headphones on, but I could hear the wet bubbling right through them. Many of my fellow test-takers hadn't opted to wear headphones; I could only wonder at how this auditory onslaught sounded to them. By the time I was allowed a ten-minute break-- about two hours into the test-- my insides were bubbling about once every three minutes. I signed out of the testing room, rushed into the bathroom, and got rid of most of the gas and gunk buildup with a shuddering sigh of relief. The second half of the test went much better, and was noise-free.
The other hitch occurred at the very end of testing. I had finished the final Quant section and found myself on the Report Scores screen. Score-reporting is for people who are hoping to send their scores to such-and-such graduate school; since I was taking the GRE for job-related reasons, I didn't need to report my scores, but at the same time, I did want to see them and to receive an official paper copy of them. When I had asked the guy who handled my registration about what to do-- "Would I still see my scores if I opted not to report them?"-- he said yes. It turned out, however, that he should have qualified his "yes."
The Report Scores screen begins with a simple option: you click on either "report scores" or "cancel scores." Since I didn't want to report my scores, I clicked on "cancel."
And that abruptly ended my session.
I stared at the monitor in disbelief, then went back out to talk to the registration clerk about what had happened. He clarified: "You have to click 'report' first, then you can opt not to send your scores to any universities." I wish I had known this before I clicked "cancel," goddammit.
"So what do I do now, if I want to see my scores?" I asked. Before the test, and contrary to what I had read online about the revised GRE, the clerk told me that the GRE test-taker does get to see his scores at the end of the test. Up to that point, I had thought that no scores would be available at all.
So there we were, post-test, and me without any notion of how well I had done, despite a promise that I would know. I wasn't happy. The clerk wrote down a number at ETS for me to call; I could sense that I was entering the bureaucratic vortex, and this man was washing his hands of the problem. I thanked him and left. Once I was back in my car, I called the number and was pleased to reach a human being right away: I had thought that I was going to be subjected to one of those 40-minute waits where you hear that horrible combination of nauseating elevator music, looped self-promos, and the always-unhelpful "Your call is important to us; please stay on the line for the next available representative."
The gentleman who took my call sounded somewhat older. Rather haltingly, he told me that I would have to go through a "reinstate scores" procedure, and that this would cost a dick-punching, scrotum-slashing thirty bucks. He also told me that, had I clicked the "report scores" button and seen my scores, I would have seen only a score range as opposed to exact scores: the revised GRE is so new that the old 200- to 800-point system no longer accurately reflects how the new GRE is scored. Stats are in flux, and we, the first wave of test-takers for the revised GRE, are contributing to a data pool that will help refine statistics for future score-scaling purposes. As I mentioned a while ago, the new scale is 130 to 170. The scores I would have seen yesterday would have looked like "700-750" or "750-800" or (God forbid) "650-700." Not precise at all.
Upshot: I've got to cough up thirty dingle-damn dollars to reinstate my scores. The score estimate will be available two weeks after my faxed or mailed request has been processed. The official scores, though, won't be available until November, and even then I'll have a hard time interpreting them. I'm going to have to rely on percentile rankings to judge how well I did.
All in all, yesterday's test-taking experience was interesting and frustrating, not to mention an adventure, thanks to the gastrointestinal factor. Since I'm likely to sign up to take the test again in October (new rule: you can take the GRE General test only once per 60 days, so September is out), I hope to sign up for a later hour than 7:30AM. Taking a test in the early morning truly bites.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
I don't know my scores, and won't know them until November, but I can say with some confidence that I probably performed at about the 5 or 6 level on the Analytical Writing section, and may have done better on both the Verbal and Quantitative sections of the new test. I'm glad I did all that drilling; even if Kaplan's problems were occasionally poorly constructed, the manuals did help familiarize me with the new format, so there were no surprises on that level. I also managed, this time around, to finish every single section without running out of time-- I even had time to recheck most or all of my answers for some sections, which was a good thing, because I think I caught one or two gaffes. I know: first instinct is best when it comes to multiple choice, but when I scored a 20 out of 20 the other night on that Kaplan GRE Quant section, that was because I had gone back and found errors before my time ran out. I think my instinct for sniffing out such mistakes is pretty good.
I do hope I scored above a 730 on the Verbal; that would be encouraging. As for the Quant, well... I seriously doubt I'll get the coveted 800, but I'm also pretty sure I did somewhat better than a 710. I can't talk about specifics (you have to sign a form to that effect before you take the test), but I think it's OK to say that there were two questions related to standard deviation that tripped me up; I definitely got both of them wrong, since I don't recall ever practicing standard deviation in either my Kaplan or my ETS manual. Will have to work on those; standard deviation might make an appearance in the tutorial section of the Kaplan GRE Math manual.
I have more to write about how today went, but that'll have to wait: I'm off to Fredericksburg to visit my buddy Mike and his family, hang a bit, and then get back home before the storms get truly bad. While I look forward to a good and hearty thrashing from Mother Nature, I do worry about whether my flimsy apartment building will survive the onslaught. Most of my own possessions in here aren't precious to me, but because I'm the keeper of many of Mom's possessions, I'm worried about those things-- especially her ashes, which are in my care, but which don't truly belong to me or to any one individual.
Friday, August 26, 2011
The hurricane may be heading our way, but tomorrow morning, I rise at 5AM: I'm taking the GRE at the same Falls Church ProMetrics testing center I went to last time. The test's start time is 7:30AM; I have to be there 30 minutes early, and it's at least a one-hour drive out to Falls Church. That means waking at 5AM and skedaddling by 5:50 or 6AM.
I'm hopeful about this test, but not sure I'll hit 800 on the Quantitative. A lot depends on what sort of Quant problems I receive. I'm sure I'll do better than 730 on the Verbal, and I'm betting I can score another 5.5 (or possibly a 6) on the Analytical Writing section. I studied a lot harder for this upcoming exam than I did for the previous one. At the very least, I'd like to prove to myself that I can score at least a 1500, Verbal plus Quant.
If I do break 730 on the Verbal, I'll email MGRE and ask them Nathan's question about whether a person can teach only GRE Verbal at their school. Of course, I won't know my results for a few months, so it's going to be a long wait.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
I'm back at my place after my Monday-to-Wednesday house-sitting stint. Quake damage in my apartment amounted to little more than a few shifted books and toppled photographs.
We had another tremor out here in the boonies almost 45 minutes ago. I'm guessing this was an aftershock. Here's hoping that it means the fault is settling into its new configuration... and not that it's preparing to tear itself apart.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
I thought about titling this post-earthquake entry "Shaken, Not Stirred," but decided that thousands of bloggers have probably used that title already-- if not now, then certainly in other earthquake-related scenarios.
Yes, we had a nice little earthquake on Tuesday. It apparently had its epicenter near the city of Mineral, Virginia, somewhere north of Richmond. I live and work too far north to have felt much more than a decent shake, but it certainly livened up my work day.
More interesting than the quake was our reaction to it. There was some dissension in the ranks as to whether to clear out of the building to avoid being pancaked, or to remain where we were, taking cover under our flimsy desks if necessary. According to the FEMA website, the protocol boils down to this: if you're outdoors when a quake hits, stay outdoors in a clear area; if you're indoors, then stay indoors and take cover as best you can. While the latter part of this advice seems to defy common sense, the website gamely notes that many deaths occurred during the 1930s Long Beach quake because people were moving from one place to another.
From what I heard, people in DC quickly evacuated their buildings, and I also read that the Pentagon ordered its staff to evacuate (UPDATE: some Pentagon staffers did leave, but there was no general order to evacuate). So is FEMA's wisdom the final word on what to do in a quake? I have to tell you, my first instinct was to get the kids the hell out of the building and into the wide-open parking lot out front. My male coworkers demurred, and in the end, their opinion prevailed. None of us freaked out, but the excitement level in our little tutoring center was elevated for the rest of that particular two-hour session.
Working at my current job has proven more interesting than I would have thought: we've had a gas leak, a car fire, and now an earthquake-- all in recent weeks. Given the increasing seriousness of each incident, I can only wonder what's in store next.
This is my final night of house-sitting at Sean's place. His apartment seems just fine; Maqz the chihuahua greeted me with his usual cheer and didn't seem fazed by the rumbling. I flipped on Sean's TV and, after watching the most recent episode of Season 3 of "Top Shot," caught the final two-thirds of the ultra-stupid disaster flick "2012," which I'd never seen before. It was as asinine as I'd thought it would be, but served as the perfect end to a weird-but-exciting day.
I hope everyone else in the quake zone is OK.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Coming to Sean's place as late as I did this evening (about 8:20PM), and saddled with the burden of laundry-- including ironing-- I realized I didn't have the time or energy to undertake the CD-ROM version of the GRE. Instead, I'll be tackling the final Quant section of the Kaplan book in the hopes of getting another 20/20. Results will be posted tonight or very late tomorrow.
I'm here at Sean's place until Wednesday morning. The dog was, I should note, once again happy to see me. Luckily, he's not a leg-humper, so I didn't have to experience that sort of happiness.
Monday, August 22, 2011
I finally-- fucking finally-- scored 20 out of 20 on Set 5 of the Quantitative Reasoning practice sets! This has been a long, hard road. Victory is sweet.
Luck was a factor, for sure: the Data Interpretation questions were easier than some of the other ones I've encountered. But caution was also a factor this time: I finished the set early, then went meticulously over my answers, ultimately correcting two of them, a move that ended up saving me from getting an 18 out of 20.
I was beginning to despair that I'd ever get through a Quant set without making a mistake. This triumph is, for a nerd like me, quite a rush.
One more practice set to go (I was wrong earlier when I said I'd be doing Set 4: this was actually Set 5 out of 6). After that, the Kaplan GRE Math book is all about tutorials. I'll do those at my own leisure.
The victory is short-lived, of course: I've got one more practice set to go, and I'd like to be able to duplicate this feat to prove that I've improved. But on the actual GRE, there'll be two sets of Quant problems, so once I jump over to my other Kaplan manual-- the one that has full-scale tests in it-- I'll see whether I can survive the endurance test. Right now, though, it's awesome to know that I am indeed capable of getting a perfect Quant score.
Just finished and scored my first Verbal Reasoning practice set. This was a timed exercise involving 20 problems to be done in 30 minutes. Like the actual GRE, the set was a mix of the problems I've been practicing: Verbal Reasoning breaks down into Text Completion and Reading Comprehension, with each of these categories breaking down into subcategories of question types (1-answer multiple choice, 2-answer multiple choice, multiple-answer multiple choice, click on a sentence).
Upshot: I scored 17 out of 20, which scales to somewhere in the 740-800 range, which puts me above 730, i.e., into the 99th percentile for Verbal. Huge boost of confidence there. I think I'll have no trouble making MGRE's Verbal requirement on the revised GRE.
Am about to try the fourth Quantitative Reasoning practice set now, and after that I'll be packing up for my house-sitting trip, then hitting the hay. (I'll be sure to post Quant results before I go to sleep, though.)
One remark before I go: my buddy Nathan asked a very intelligent question a while back, and I don't think I ever answered it. He wanted to know whether I could apply to MGRE solely to teach Verbal. I don't know the answer to that yet, but I think the company wants teachers who can teach both Verbal and Quant. MGRE makes a big deal about its rigorous training program, and I have a feeling that the program isn't tailor-made for individual teachers: we all have to go through the same initiation phase. If I'm right about one-size-fits-all training, then I think it's fair to assume that that training will involve both Verbal and Quant. The bridge crew of the Enterprise has been trained to take over different work stations if a crew member goes down; there's value in diversification of the skill set.
Still, there's no harm in asking MGRE what the truth is, so I might just pose the question and see what the company says. It's not a pressing question right now: even if I succeed on this upcoming GRE, I won't know my results for a few months, so I can't even apply for the job.
I finished a large cluster of Verbal exercises in the Kaplan book. This particular section was devoted exclusively to Reading Comprehension work. Question types varied from "choose one correct answer" to "choose all that apply" to "select the correct sentence." As is typical with the Kaplan manuals, the exercises were grouped into Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced levels. Strangely enough, my best performance was at the Advanced level:
Basic: 7 out of 10
Intermediate: 7 out of 9
Advanced: 10 out of 11
Some of those questions were tough, requiring a subtlety of thought that's hard to bring to bear in an actual testing situation.
Here's the advanced-level question that I got wrong:
A study of children's television-watching habits by the federal Department of Education found that children aged 7-10 who watched more than 25 hours of television per week performed worse in school than children of the same age who watched fewer than 25 hours of television per week. Therefore, parents of children aged 7-10 should prohibit their children from watching more than 25 hours of television per week.
28. Which of the following, if true, would best strengthen the argument above? [NB: For this question, you're to choose only ONE answer.]
A. A separate study, by a renowned graduate school of education, found that when parents prohibited their children from watching any television, the children's reading scores increased rapidly and significantly, and stayed high indefinitely.
B. Children who watched more than 25 hours of television per week also performed worse on measures of physical fitness than children who watched fewer than 25 hours per week.
C. The television shows that children aged 7-10 are most likely to watch are saturated with advertisements for products, such as toys and candy, of little educational value.
D. The Department of Education study gave appropriate weight to children of backgrounds representative of children nationwide.
E. Children who develop a habit of extensive television watching are more likely than others to maintain that habit as an adult.
You chew on that while I do a practice set of the Verbal section, then turn my attention to the fourth Quant practice set in my other Kaplan book. Meanwhile, I'm changing my plans: I won't be doing the CD-ROM test until tomorrow night, when I'm back over at Sean's apartment. I'd rather not tackle the semi-official ETS test too late in the evening, when my wits are half-drained away. The CD-ROM comes with only one mock test, alas, so I have to make my one and only attempt a good one.
I tried to sell a small pile of used books at the local used bookstore. The tubby, slow-moving guy at the cashier's desk went through my pile and flatly declared, "There's nothin' here that I need." He replaced the books in my cardboard box, then didn't look at me again as I said a cheery goodbye and exited.
The last time I was there, I think I met this guy's wife. She was a hell of a lot friendlier.
Today's going to be mostly about the GRE. I'm planning to do one Verbal practice section, one Quant practice, and then I'm going to try the full-scale GRE that's on my ETS packet's CD-ROM. I feel more confident and comfortable with the new testing format, but am nervous as to how well I do on the CD-ROM test: it's hard not to think of my performance as some sort of omen regarding this coming Friday.
More later this evening.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
This Week's Problem: "Clement Walks"
Q: Clement walks around an oval-shaped track at a constant rate of 50 seconds per lap. If 18 laps equal a mile, how many miles does Clement walk in 54 minutes?
This took me about a minute to figure out. It's just quick algebra. The more gifted among you can doubtless do this in your heads. (The answer will be posted later in the comments.)
It may be a good thing that I'm going to be hanging my own tutoring shingle. I just discovered that, for the revised GRE, score reporting for Verbal and Quantitative won't be immediate: all testers must wait about eight weeks for their results. I think this is bullshit, but I imagine the inordinate delay has something to do with August being the first month in which the revised GRE is being implemented.
The upshot is that I have to wait until November to know all my scores, so I can't apply for work at MGRE until then. I won't even be able to walk out of the testing center with a notion of how well I did. If you're saying that that sucks leprous camel scrote, I agree. It sucks, it chews, and it swallows. In the meantime, I need to start gathering my own flock of vic-- uh, students.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
I had the chance to see my brother Sean before I left his place today to go back to my mountain hideaway. Sean got to see my new car-- the gray jellybean-- for the first time today. I said my goodbyes to Maqz the chihuahua, who was happy as a clam to have had both his master and his master's big brother sitting on the living room couch for a brief while. Sean has a wedding gig to play; he's got more gigs on Saturday and Sunday, and then he's back on vacation until Wednesday. I'll be dog-sitting again on Monday and Tuesday nights.
Last weekend, I bought two new shirts and an el-cheapo necktie at the local giant Wal-Mart when I went to get my oil changed; the two shirts replace two other button-down shirts that had been too tight from the beginning; the new tie replaces a tie I'd bought back in March or April-- one of questionable taste. The new tie is much more me.
That leaves me with little else aside from website work and GRE study to do. Hard to believe that I'm taking the revised GRE a week from today. The Kaplan guide has been pretty good; the ETS guide as well. Both references have made me feel very familiar with the upcoming test. I still haven't taken the "realistic" ETS test on the CD-ROM that came with my ETS manual, but I'll be tackling the computer test either on Sunday or early next week. Here's hoping I do well on it, and that I don't choke on the real thing.
Many thanks to Jason, another friend I've never met, who recently came back from a trip to Korea, and who is mailing me a made-to-order dojang (seal, chop) that I'd had the nerve to request. Once I grab some of those faux calligraphy brushes (called but-pen in Korean: "brush pen"), I plan on making and stamping a few dozen pieces of art to sell locally. Add that to my list of projects!
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Wednesday was a day of some drama. First, there was a car fire outside our school. That provided an interesting distraction from lessons: the car in question was sitting right next to the car of one of my supervisors; she was more composed than I had thought she would have been (her car turned out to be fine). Second, one of my favorite students pissed me off during my final class of the day. I held my temper, but I also made clear that I wasn't going to put up with diva behavior.
The rest of the day was calmer. I got my haircut ($3 more expensive at the barbershop near YB than at my usual spot, but at least I saved gas money), then drove over to my brother's place and was reunited with Maqz the chihuahua. It's about an hour past my bedtime right now; I did some laundry, watched TV-- something I haven't done in a while-- and came to realize how far behind my Hulu-cast episodes are compared to actual series broadcasts.
Along with catching a recent episode of "Royal Pains" (I'm following this series on Hulu, and am thus several weeks behind), I also flipped around to the Food Network and caught the first episode of Season 2 of "The Great Food Truck Race." This season features eight teams, none of whom really catches my eye. There's a Korean "Korilla" truck selling those LA-style kalbi/bulgogi tacos (have these become cliché yet?), but the guys running that truck are part of that poseur tribe of Koreans who think dey all gangsta. Painful to watch, painful to listen to. I also took an instant dislike to the vegan team, even though one of those three ladies is really cute. Still, cuteness aside, I hope the vegans lose badly (vegans on the Food Network almost never fare well, so there's hope). None of this season's teams reminds me of the incredible Nom Nom truck from Season 1; that team made insane amounts of money and was beaten only because of the poor design of the contest for the final episode.
I suppose I won't be following this show except via whatever video highlights appear on the Food Netword website... if I follow it at all, that is. What I saw tonight didn't exactly spark my interest.
And is Tyler Florence getting fatter?
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
After work today, I'll be trundling over to Sean's place to begin my house- and dog-sitting stint. Am contemplating getting a haircut at the local Korean barber a few doors down from YB Near.
Yes, this is one of those I brushed my teeth this morning blog posts.
Tomorrow and Thursday night, I'll be apartment-sitting for my brother Sean, who's going to be away for a bit. This means I'll be reunited with Maqz, Sean's cute-but-naughty chihuahua. I've come around to liking Maqz a lot, but a few years back, it was a toss-up: I often had thoughts of turning that dog into boshintang.
Maqz will take advantage of you if you let him, and he doesn't exhibit the simple-hearted loyalty I associate with larger (and arguably dumber) dogs. Still, he's loving in his own weird way, and a big baby to boot: if you shut the door of your bedroom when you go to sleep, he'll scratch on the door and whine, demanding to be let in. Once you let him in, he'll crawl into bed with you and curl up under the covers, basking in the heat you're generating. But don't mistakenly roll onto him: if you do that, he growls. Then again, Maqz's growls are hard to take seriously: he doesn't bite, so he means the growl as little more than a lame warning before he moves to a different spot under the covers.
This will be my first time seeing Sean's new digs, which aren't so new anymore: he's been at his apartment for a while. Tonight, I have to start packing so I can have everything in the car for tomorrow. I'll be driving straight from work over to Sean's place. On Monday and Tuesday nights, I'll be house-sitting for Sean again. Since I'll be taking along my computer, I'll still be in contact with the world, and will be working on my tutoring blog, which is almost ready for prime time. I'll also be toting my GRE books so I can continue studying.
This should be fun.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Monday, August 15, 2011
Finally-- a GRE Quantitative score to report. 18 out of 20, and only two practice sections left before I plunge into the Kaplan book's various drills. As before, the mistakes were stupid, i.e., the result of carelessness-- and this despite my having had extra time to go back and check my answers (the timed sections give you 35 minutes to answer 20 problems; I'm becoming a lot more confident with the new, revised formats).
The good news, I suppose, is that I seem to have left 16/20 territory; while I'm not 20/20 yet, I'm hovering in the 90%-95% region. This bodes well for my eventual scaled score, even if I don't get the fabled 800: I can at least proudly market myself as a legitimate 750-or-above kinda guy.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Again with the GRE Verbal, not the Quantitative. This time, it was three sets of ten Sentence Equivalence questions. These are a new type of question on the revised GRE. The object of the game is to select two words from a list, keeping in mind that both words must (1) properly complete the sentence (i.e., so that the result makes sense) and (2) keep the sentence's meaning similar, no matter which of the two correct words is used in the blank.
Here's an example from the Basic Level set in my Kaplan book:
5. The residents, who for many years relished the safe, idyllic surroundings of their suburban neighborhood, have in recent months faced __________ of vandalism.
A. a deficiency
B. an epidemic
C. a backlash
D. a scourge
E. an abatement
F. a revelry
The correct answers are B and D. Answer (A) makes no sense, since the contrast is between an idyllic existence and the recent appearance of crime. Answer (C) fails to make the grade because the sentence provides no evidence that the violence is the result of a backlash against anything. Answers (E) and (F), in their respective ways, also make no sense.
Here are the two problems I got wrong. Both are from the Advanced set. Feel free to leave your answers in the comments.
25. Not only was the author's prose __________ , but also his well-known penchant for dissembling colored the way that reviewers read his texts.
27. The unchecked __________ of state secrets is a source of great concern to intelligence agencies.
Let me tell you: both of these problems bugged me even after I'd read the answer key and the explanations.
Alas, this perfect score was from a Verbal practice set-- Text Completion-- but I'll take what I can get. The twenty problems were divided into three sets ranging from Basic to Intermediate to Advanced. I had trouble understanding what the difference in difficulty level was, since the Basic set included words like raillery and japery. Next up: another math test. Still aiming for the perfect score... mainly because I have to if I hope to apply for that job.
Summer is drawing to a close, thank Jeebus. Me, I look forward to fall, but don't expect I'll experience truly cool fall weather until October: September often feels like summer's last-ditch attempt to make me sweat.
My YB students are unhappy, as you can imagine: school starts up again soon. My own schedule will be reverting to the original 3:30PM to 9:30PM (we come in a few minutes early for planning), which means I'll be losing two hours' work every day, for a total loss of eight hours per week. Saturday work was offered to me, but only four hours' worth. That's not enough work to be worth the gas I'll be using.
Some of the kids I haven't seen all summer will be back with us; I'm eager to see most of them, although there are one or two whom I wouldn't mind not seeing. YB's kids are mostly gifted and motivated, but we've also got some children who are, to put it bluntly, ungifted and unmotivated. They just happen to have parents with enough disposable income to send them to a tutoring center.
YB seems to have gained a few students over the course of the summer, which is a good thing for the center. We survive on enrollment and re-enrollment since we operate separately from any established county school system. The fact that students keep enrolling with us is a good thing: we all get to stay employed, and we're all more likely to enjoy full schedules (as opposed to the partial days that plagued me from March until last month).
More than anything, though, I look forward to a change in the weather. The recent cooling is, I hope, a sign of things to come, but I won't be truly happy until we've got temps back in the 50s and 60s. (Fahrenheit, I mean.)
For the ladies:
Apaise ta frayeur et ton angoisse neuve.
Suce mon membre dur comme on suce un glaçon.
Mordille tendrement le paf qui bat ta joue,
Baise ma queue enflée, enfonce dans ton cou
Le paquet de ma bite avalé d'un seul coup.
Étrangle-toi d'amour, dégorge, et fais ta moue!
Adore à deux genoux, comme un poteau sacré,
Mon torse tatoué, adore jusqu'aux larmes
Mon sexe qui se rompt, te frappe mieux qu'une arme,
Adore mon bâton qui va te pénétrer.
Genet, Poèmes, 1948, p. 18.
Friday, August 12, 2011
My Honda Fit-- which currently needs an oil change-- has an interesting design flaw: if you're alone in the car, barreling down the freeway at 80 miles per hour, and you open the two rear windows, you create an air turbulence pattern that quickly becomes a horrendous harmonic vibration: the ceiling of the car shakes visibly while the air hammers your eardrums. I find this both hilarious and scary, which means I like rolling my rear windows down on occasion just to experience that vibration.
Is this design flaw common in other cars? I can't say that I've ever encountered it before, and I've driven quite a few different types of vehicles in my lifetime.
Just a reminder that religions are as they are practiced. Buddhism, no less than any other religion, is incarnated in its adherents.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
18 out of 20. In one case, I was simply stumped by the problem. In the other... dumb mistake. I'm running out of practice sets to work on; the Kaplan book has only six, and now I've done three. I'd like to get a 100% on at least one of these sets.
Tiger and Rabbit crouched behind a tree. They had a clear view of the valley below. In that valley writhed a great, wild-eyed dragon: its claws ripped the air; its tail whipped angrily; its fangs clacked and flashed.
“What’s happening?” Rabbit asked, trembling.
“Shh,” said Tiger. “Now you will see a thing.”
All of a sudden, the dragon froze. Its body was tense and bizarrely coiled; its tail jutted skyward. Without warning, the dragon vented a tremendous fart, and a billion flowers exploded gaily from its ass.
Tiger roared with laughter, grabbed Rabbit, and farted joyously on his tiny head.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
My two supervisors took me aside today after work with an ominous-sounding "We have to talk." I was immediately on my guard, wondering what exactly I had done wrong.
I needn't have worried. I wasn't in trouble, but my bosses did tell me something interesting: one of my students was apparently so impressed with how nice I am that she took it upon herself to ask my bosses to ask me whether I'd be amenable to meeting someone-- apparently a neighbor of the student in question.
YB is largely Korean-run, and this incident was a humorous reminder of similar experiences I've had in Korea. While there's something comforting about being in a workplace that feels as Korean as it does, I sometimes have to remember that the Koreanness of a place can also throw me for a loop now and then. I'm not completely Korean at heart, so there are times when my mother's culture reminds me of its foreignness, even after all this time.
I said a polite "no" to the prospect of being set up with someone. Too poor, too fat, I said. One of my coworkers was still in the building, and I'm sure he heard the whole exchange, which was partly in Korean, but mostly in English. Strangely enough, I don't feel (too) embarrassed by what happened: this sort of thing is, after all, somewhat expected behavior in Korean culture, where people can't imagine how a 40-something guy could possibly be single, and where the ladies will take it upon themselves to repair a perceived rent in the social fabric. An un-partnered man? Scandalous! I'll get right on it!
The incident was good for a chuckle on the way home, and was memorable enough for me to want to write about it. I wonder whether my relationship with my supervisors will have changed come morning... or whether we'll all pretend that this conversation never occurred. Ah, life is funny sometimes.
ADDENDUM: I won't say no to being set up with this lady:
Alas, my breasts are larger than hers.
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
19 out of 20.
My only mistake was-- as usual-- a dumb one, once again involving a Data Interpretation problem. In this particular instance, I assumed that "biggest loss" (the picture showed a pair of bar graphs tracking the average daily sales of two competing Italian fast food places) meant "biggest percentage loss," when in fact it meant simply "biggest raw-number loss."
As my buddy John the Kiwi would say: piss, fuck, diddle.
I've brought this exchange over from the TEF blog because I'm trying to keep comments about the blog confined to the Hairy Chasms (it's bad marketing to have a guest wander onto a blog, only to encounter possible criticisms):
Kevin, is it technically correct to say that "seong" rhymes with the English "sung" or that "do" rhymes with the English "doe"?
Doesn't rhyme require a difference?
For instance, do "so," "sow," and "sew" rhyme, or are they all just pronounced the same (in my 'dialect', anyway)?
Though I did once write a poem using "so," "sow," and "sew" as rhymes . . .
* * *
August 3, 2011 3:24 PM
From what I've seen after scanning a few online references, the concept of rhyme involves sameness or similarity of terminal sounds. This leaves open the question of whether a poem like
the girl with a bow
to market did go
rhymes. If the answer is that the above poem does indeed rhyme, then can it be said that "bow," "beau," and "Bo" rhyme? If not, why not?
That said, if we are to get technical, then I'd have to admit that the Korean "seong" and the English "sung," when pronounced clearly by the native speakers of their respective languages, don't really sound alike at all. But that observation opens up a can of worms: if we adhere to exacting standards, is it at all possible to declare a set of phonemes in one language to be the rough phonetic equivalent of a set of phonemes in another language? Short of teaching my non-Korean-speaking readership Korean, what can I do to give them an idea of what Korean words sound like?
August 3, 2011 10:50 PM
Although I'm still thinking it over, I'm very likely going to change "rhymes with" to "sounds like" in the entry in question.
Monday, August 08, 2011
I've done a lot of work over at the TEF blog, fleshing out course descriptions, etc. I still need to create a consolidated rate chart so that people don't have to flip back and forth all the time, but tonight, the main thing I wanted to highlight was the completed Religion page.
Enjoy. (Oh, and if you have comments, please leave them here, not at the other blog.)
As much as I love my apartment (I just renewed my contract for another year here), I have to admit that it does have its problems. In particular, it heats up like a greenhouse because of (1) its orientation, which catches a lot of sun, and (2) its line of windows, which are insufficiently covered by blinds that do next to nothing to block out the light. While I'm not interested in living in total darkness (yet), I do wish I had more control over how much light gets let into my place. I've had fantasies of doing the Alaskan thing: papering over my windows with tin foil to block out every speck of illumination.
In the meantime, I combat the light and heat with air conditioning. God help me if that ever fails. A/C is expensive, too, despite this being a small town: my electric bill these days is somewhere in the neighborhood of $70, just to maintain an ambient temp in the low 70s.
Sunday, August 07, 2011
I've given the TEF blog a new banner and a new background-- both of which announce in no uncertain terms that the site is devoted to tutoring. That's about all I have time for tonight; it's after 1AM, and I'm off to bed.
As I make alterations to the Time, Effort, and Focus blog based on the suggestions I've received, I'm finding it difficult to dig up photos of students actually learning anything. Part of the problem is that, during my time at Sookmyung Women's University, I didn't normally take pictures until the very end of the semester, when we were having those end-of-term parties. There are good pictures hidden somewhere on my hard drive, but tracking them down is proving to be quite a pain.
I do, however, have a new background in place-- one that definitely says "TUTORING."
It turns out I can't tutor in my own apartment: I'm a renter, so it's not legal. Scratch that option (which was never likely to occur, anyway). Luckily, I already had the Skype and away-tutoring options in mind, so the mission is still a go. I'm simply going to have to revise the text on my site, especially the rate charts; and the question of how to teach the religion/religious studies courses will now be more complicated. Perhaps I can advertise to local churches...? I've taught church workshops before, though never for money. This may require a bit of thinking.
In other news: I've signed on to stay where I am for another year.
I may have to work on my data interpretation skills. A few dumb mistakes kept me from getting 100% on the following practice sets.
Basic set: 9 out of 10
Intermediate set: 8 out of 10
Advanced set: 8 out of 10
I've apparently forgotten how to read and interpret the type of bar graph in which a single bar is composed of different colors. It's easy to forget that, if the black part of a bar goes from 0 to 250, and the gray part of the bar goes from 250 to 300, this does not mean that the amount indicated by the gray color equals 300: it equals only 50. That mental slip cost me a question. Another answer was ruined by a simple addition error; a third question was answered incorrectly because I flat-out didn't understand it (but the answer key's explanation helped me see where I went wrong); and the fourth error-- well, it was actually the first error, in the Basic set-- wasn't my fault, really: the shades of gray on the graph were too subtly different for me to interpret correctly. I cry foul on that question, and will gladly scan the page and show you what I mean, if you're curious.
I'm now done with the intro section of the Kaplan GRE Math book. What happens next is a series of timed drills in which the various types of problems are mixed, as will occur on the actual GRE. After the timed drills (and I'm still trying to figure out why the book is set up this way), we've got several chapters' worth of tutorials taking us from arithmetic through algebra and geometry, as well as a refresher course on data interpretation. Hurdle after hurdle yet to leap.
Saturday, August 06, 2011
Dr. Vallicella alerts us to the continuing ruminations over at 100 Reasons NOT to go to Graduate School. Dr. V links us to Reason #65, which is: Teaching is less and less rewarding. Why less and less rewarding? you ask. Here's why:
Anyone who has been at the back of a college lecture hall recently is familiar with the sight of row upon row of glowing screens. Some students are taking notes, but others are perusing Facebook, touching up their vacation photos, and playing games. From a student’s point of view, this can be distracting. From the teacher’s point of view, it is disheartening. Every day, you speak to a room full of people looking at computer screens without any idea of who is actually listening. Not long ago, it was easy for an instructor to tell if someone in her class was not paying attention, and she was not afraid to say something to students who fell asleep or leafed through newspapers in class. But with the proliferation of laptops and smart phones, the will to enforce attentiveness in the classroom has largely evaporated.
Students are spending a substantial portion of their (or their parents') life earnings to pay for the privilege of sitting in your classroom. As University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds has pointed out, they are, in fact, grossly overpaying for the privilege, which is inflating the higher education bubble (see Reason 27). As tuition rates skyrocket, it is perhaps understandable why students increasingly behave like customers to whom you should cater. They have, after all, purchased your services. Of course, in their minds, the important service that you provide is not imparting knowledge, but awarding credit. And they increasingly behave as if they believe that they should be allowed to spend their very expensive time in your classroom in any way they choose.
The problem, in my opinion, is that the above assumes that teaching equals lecturing, and as I've argued before, lecturing is the worst form of teaching. It barely qualifies as teaching at all. Do you want your students attentive? Try this: make your classes task-oriented and student-centered, break the students up into groups, and have them hash out the issues that they've encountered in their reading.
I've been exposed to two types of academic lecturer in my experience as both an undergrad and an MA student: (1) the lecturer who does little more than parrot, and perhaps slightly expand upon, the required reading; and (2) the lecturer who devotes his/her time exclusively to amplification, making little direct reference to the actual texts. Of these two types, I consider the first largely useless and the second marginally better.
It's not as though a teacher has no right to speak at length-- even passionately-- about a given subject. That sort of passion is important to transmit to students, who readily pick up on the fact that a teacher cares. But such speaking-at-length, when it happens, should be an integral part of the larger, student-centered dynamic. When students are in groups and hashing out problems, you won't see any of that Facebook or Photoshopping nonsense: you'll see young minds on task, which is one of the most uplifting sights in the world for any teacher.
As for the claim that the student/education relationship mirrors the consumer/product relationship-- well, we made our bed, didn't we? If we insist on everything being market-driven first-- without understanding that the market should work in service to nobler ideas-- then why should we be surprised when students see themselves as consumers who have the right to demand tailor-made products? I actually think that classes need to be structured more as benevolent dictatorships that reflect the mammalian tendency to self-organize in dominance hierarchies. There should never be any question as to who the boss is in the classroom: even when the teacher is acting merely as a facilitator of student-centered group activities, it should be obvious to all that the teacher is guiding the process.
Which brings us to the opposite of the inveterate lecturer: the teacher who does nothing more than sit in front of a ring of grad students and say, "OK... so what are doing today?" I had one such teacher in grad school. He was horrible. Many of my classmates enjoyed his "laissez-faire" style, claiming that they appreciated the fact that "he gives us the freedom to think." But from where I sat, it seemed the prof also provided no direction at all. A certain amount of undirected exploration is a good and healthy thing, but when class after class features a teacher who does nothing but open the hour to random discussion, you have to wonder whether he couldn't be replaced by a robot capable of doing the same thing.
Surely there exists a happy medium between the speech-loving Führer on one side and the do-nothing Pothead Camp Counselor on the other. Somewhere in that zone are the teachers who don't despair, because they've figured out how to keep their classes lively and their students engaged-- even students in a lecture hall built to hold five hundred.
[Side note: thank Cthulhu for haptic technology. The era of obnoxiously clickety-clacking keyboards will soon be behind us.]
ADDENDUM: I completely agree with this commenter (8/1/11, 4:35PM) here. This comment is immediately followed by a lame "sorry, not buyin' it" rejoinder.
Bill O. is the friend I've never met. I ran across him online back in the late 1990s, when I was haunting the AOL message boards and first learning about the destructive power of the written word. Recently, I've been in touch with Bill and his lady Ruth, both of whom are talented writers (see Ruth's book here), and both of whom have shown remarkable generosity to me. Bill recently did two amazing things for me: he bought ten copies of my book Water from a Skull, and he sent me a significant amount of money, insisting that I simply keep it. A polite "gift-or-loan" discussion ensued, with Bill taking the position that he doesn't care whether the cash comes back to him or not. The money came at just the right time, too: without it, I would never have made rent this month.
My thanks to Bill and Ruth, who have been life-savers despite our never having met face to face. I'm lucky to know the people I do.
Friday, August 05, 2011
I drew this during my third class session while my students worked on exercises:
It's a scenario that I keep coming back to. There's a story in there somewhere-- I can feel it. A children's book, I think, or maybe something more adult-friendly. Not sure yet. Below, we can see the tiger's interlocutor:
My buddy John Williamson, who knows a thing or two about teaching and about running a school, had the following sage advice (which he left in the comments section of the post about zits and tonsilloliths):
From my perspective...
You need photos of happy, smiling successful students...and lots of them. Not so many words- keep it simple. Not much about yourself unless academically. Brief bios of students you have tutored and how well they have done + photos. Kill the background and replace it with "an image of success" or a montage of exam logos.
Basically, take what you've done and cull 70-90%.
People are going to pay you if they can visualise their little sprog in the same position as the images and bios on the site - they really don't care about who you are. :)
I think these are all valid points, and John has had years of experience running his school in Dunedin, New Zealand. I'm shit when it comes to marketing, so I agree that a makeover may be in order, especially if the tutoring website seems as narcissistic as this blog is.
To respond to a few of John's points:
1. I'd love to slap up pictures of happy, successful students who have benefited from my tutelage... but the problem is that I don't have any yet, unless you count the kids at YB where I currently work. I'm certainly not going to display "found" pics of other kids; that might be a lawsuit waiting to happen. While I completely agree that pictures of students need to be on the site, I need to build a student base first.
2. I, too, wondered whether the background looked too serious for its own good. It may feel more like a Chinese tombstone-- it's actually the Heart Sutra-- than an attempt at cheerful advertising. (In truth, I wasn't going for cheerful: I was going for a serious, cultured vibe. Still, it's true that the background should be more directly relevant to who I am and what I'm doing.)
3. Rest assured that a montage/banner is in the works-- something to replace the current banner, which is nothing more than text.
4. I'll definitely cut down my bio. However, unlike John and his school, I basically am the institution, here: an "About Me" section strikes me as only polite.
5. Hey, John-- are you sure you're in a position to give marketing advice after having made this corny-ass video?? (I'm just busting your balls, man.)
Anyway, although there are differences between marketing a school and marketing a single person, I do plan to take this sage advice into consideration as I continue to tweak the tutoring blog. Expect changes over the next few weeks.
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
For the curious: a first look at Time, Effort, and Focus, the tutoring blog/website I've been working on. It's not complete yet; there are still quite a few elements to add, but the basic structure is pretty much set, and I've been plugging at this thing daily for the past week or so. Feel free to leave comments here if you have thoughts on what more could be done with that site. Most of the work I've done can be found at the fixed pages which are linked by those under-the-banner tabs.
Just FYI, I'm planning to work on the following:
1. finishing a write-up for the Religion section
2. adding an actual graphic to the banner, which won't be a text-only title
3. adding graphics to the fixed pages to liven up the text
4. adding material to the blog's margins-- teaching/learning references, a picture of yours truly, etc.
5. creating an actual rate chart
6. adding links, to be sprinkled throughout the fixed pages, that reference the rate chart and other resources
7. using Google Docs (thanks for the idea, Steve) to upload syllabi for the religion/religious studies courses
If you spot mistakes/awkwardness in the French or Korean text (especially the Korean), please let me know.
It's 9AM as I type this, but I've set this post to appear at lunchtime for the US East Coast crowd. These two YouTube vids ought to improve your appetite and enhance your dining experience:
1. Big Sis removes Little Sis's tonsil stones.
2. A Chinese man whose entire left cheekbone region appears to contain one huge pimple.
I originally sent these video links to a friend of mine. Enjoy.
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
With the arrival of August (my buddy Mike would normally say "RABBIT!" at this point to commemorate the beginning of the month), I see the end of summer approaching. Twenty-five days from today, I'll be taking a second shot at the GRE-- my first attempt at the revised version of the test. Depending on how well I do, I'm either going to be applying for a job at Manhattan GRE, or quietly pursuing a career as a private tutor. I'm actually taking the latter path right now: my humble blog/website is nearing completion, and I'll soon be advertising myself to the locals and beyond (Skype lessons will be available).
If I fail to get the desired scores on August 26, all is not lost: I'm allowed five tests a year, so I'll pick myself up, dust myself off, and try again.
Come September, my job at YB returns to its normal hours: 3:30PM to 9:30PM. I didn't think I'd like working such weird hours, but I must admit that it's great not to have to worry about traffic while going to and from work. The only real problem, though, is that, once fall starts, I'll be back to earning less money per week: I can work 30 hours a week on my current summertime schedule, but only a maximum of 24 hours once we're back to the normal schedule. All the more reason either to supplement my income or jump ship entirely.
ETS is offering half-price registration for the GRE in August and September; with only a few more months left in the year, I'll be aiming to retake the test in September, November, and December. That's what the near future looks like for me.