My mom and I are now in
So far the trip has been relatively normal for a move: a rather hectic wrap-up of packing and running errands Friday morning, a traffic-delayed drive out of the
This evening, though, we had a delightful meal with some relatives at Maddox, a restaurant in
What made the evening very special, however, was that by almost random chance my great-aunt, an incredibly kind and caring woman who now lives in
Saturday, July 31, 2004
My mom and I are now in
Friday, July 30, 2004
We'll be heading to the Salt Lake City area first (where my mom grew up), then up to Mt. Rushmore, and finally over to Niagara Falls before we arrive in the Albany area. We'll finish the coast-to-coast trip by driving to Boston, where I'll catch a plane back to Southern California.
My mom's buying a condo in New York, and I was planning on spending a few days there helping her fix it up after we finished the drive, but unfortunately the close of escrow has been pushed back more than two weeks, so we probably won't have access to it while I'm there.
Oh yes, considering that I still haven't finished posting my hourly pictures from my Canada trip, don't expect any hourly pictures from this one.
Thursday, July 29, 2004
The presenter that Pharyngula discusses got relatively unexpected answers to two questions he asked using the in-class response system. Instead of following up these unexpected answers, the presenter just continued on with the presentation, which caused some audience grumbling (though in his defense he may have had a tight time constraint). This is a good illustration of just how much flexibility is required when using in-class response systems: as an instructor you need to be willing to throw out your planned lecture so you can discuss the results of questions you've asked. If you don't, it's likely the students will learn that their answers are meaningless, and you'll probably stop getting thoughtful responses. And, after all, the whole point of the system is to get feedback on how the students are doing, so using the system while ignoring the data seems self-defeating.
"Re-vote control" and "Delayed Elections" (mov link for both clips) both discuss the recent proposals to delay the election in the case of a terrorist attack. Quite possibly the best line is that, according to Jon Stewart, the administration is just "spitballing the idea that the president of the United States could, under certain circumstances, declare himself Caesar."
"The Boys in the Ban" is a response to the Senate debate about the gay marriage amendment, ending with a hilarious analysis of Senator Cornyn's speech-writer's comparison of gay marriage with the marriage of a man and a box turtle (though the senator apparently did not include that portion of the speech in his final speech).
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
- The in-common-laws were able to sleep in our newly created guest bedroom last night, which we brought about by putting the books that were on our "library room" floor into new bookshelves, moving the mattress we've been sleeping on from the guest room into the library room, and then moving the futon from the garage into the guest room. We'd normally just have our mattress in our master bedroom (as I imagine most people do), but we're using the master bedroom as a construction supply area for the master bathroom project.
- The fourth coat of paint was enough for the master bathroom walls, which was a big relief. While there are still a few thin spots (especially on top of some of the textured areas), the walls look very nice.
- The electrical finish installation went well, and we're psyched to finally have working lights in our bathroom. We have four lights around the mirror on one switch, two on the ceiling controlled by a separate dimmer switch, and a third switch for the fan. This is the first time we've had hard-wired lights in a bathroom in our house for almost a year; turning on the lights after they were installed yesterday was incredibly satisfying.
- The plants in our new bed in the front yard are growing like crazy. Eleven of our 12 roses have leafed out (10 have flowered already), almost all of our cannas have sent up leaves, and all of our calla lilies have sent up leaves, with one blooming just a few days ago. The front of our house is much cheerier now (and hopefully I'll have many more flower pictures to taunt Minnesotans with this winter).
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
We've got a futon for them to sleep on, but it's still in our garage, our spare bedroom has books piled up on the floor, and the rest of the house isn't exactly spotless. So it's off to IKEA to buy some bookshelves, and then time to dust off the ol' biceps to do some furniture moving.
Monday, July 26, 2004
Astute readers will realize that it's taken us more than a week to do the painting. We started off painting the ceiling (white), which went incredibly smoothly. One coat of primer the first day, one coat of paint the next day, and we were done.
We're painting the walls a rich reddish-purple, and even though we used a tinted primer, the first coat didn't cover well at all. For the second coat we decided to try to put the paint on a bit thicker (since some of our books mentioned that most people put paint on too thin), but this backfired as we found numerous drips the next morning (even though we did many "drip patrols").
We let the paint dry for a few days and then tried to sand off the drips. Unfortunately the paint was still somewhat elastic, so instead of nicely sanding down the high points, the entire drip would usually just pull off the wall, leaving a spot of bare drywall texture visible. We sanded off the most egregious drips (leaving the less noticeable ones since we had no idea how patches would look), and then set off to re-paint the sanded areas. We put primer on all the areas that had large sections sanded down to the drywall (>1-4 square mm), and let that dry for a full day. We put two more coats of paint onto the primed areas (or any other area needing touch-up after sanding, being sure to feather our edges), and let each coat dry thoroughly.
After the second coat on the patches dried, we finally were able to put on third and fourth coats of paint yesterday and today. After the third coat yesterday none of our sanded and patched areas were visible, which was a relief (but also made us wish we'd sanded off more drips). The patch-hiding is probably helped by our wall texturing, which already makes the surface look a bit uneven.
While doing this painting we've picked up a few good tips from various sources, which I thought I'd pass along:
- Paint pour spouts are a useful (and cheap) tool; they fit onto an open gallon can of paint to help you pour neatly.
- To save roller covers between jobs you can put the cover, filled with paint, into the freezer (in a sealed bag, of course, unless you want to paint your freezer). Then just give your roller cover a few hours to defrost before you want to use it again, and you're ready to go.
- Use low-adhesion masking tape (the blue stuff here in the US) to pull out loose fuzz from the roller covers before you start using them (just put the tape on the roller cover and then pull it off). There's a lot less roller fuzz on our walls this time than on any of our previous jobs.
- Using a work platform (a long, low bench) makes painting high areas much easier. Ours is 20 inches high and about three and a half feet long (link to Home Depot's page on it), and was much more convenient than our old six foot ladder.
- Singing "Crown molding, crown molding" and "We can always do a faux finish ..." keeps your spirits up.
I walked excitedly up to the sign, visions of a blog post from Lasqueti Island flashing through my head, only to be let down when I read the hours of the cafe:
I was there on a Wednesday.
Sunday, July 25, 2004
Saturday, July 24, 2004
We took a boat to another island, which was reputed to have rather liberal occupants, and hiked across it. About halfway across the island, while walking through a wooded area, we noticed what looked like a glorified lemonade stand up ahead along the side of the road. We walked up and saw that it was a "cookie stand" that contained fresh-baked cookies, cinnamon rolls, and other treats, along with many types of seedling plants. There was nobody tending it (though it was on a driveway, so it was probably near a house), and there was just a little sign with prices and a tin to put your money in. Luckily my colleagues all decided to buy something, so we hung around long enough for me to get an hourly picture (1300) of the stand. We were all relatively shocked that such a stand would exist, though after we walked further we saw at least one more (dedicated to breads), though it was sadly empty. That stand made our day (and the cinnamon buns were quite good).
After our hike we stopped by an aquaculture facility; the 1600 pictures were taken at this facility, and are of algae rearing tanks.
In the 1900 picture you can see our makeshift curtain, which we erected because the cabins completely lacked curtains. We didn't erect it for privacy, but instead to counter the afternoon sun that shone directly onto our bed while we were napping. While cats basking in the sun sure do look comfortable, I quickly learned that napping in the sun is not all it's cracked up to be.
We also discovered today that the island has a view of cruise ships as they head north from Vancouver (see the 2000 picture). We were quite depressed to see that there was nobody visible out on the deck of the ship; everyone seemed to be inside ignoring the beautiful scenery they were sailing past.
Our hourly pictures from the day are below. (This text was written after returning from the trip).
06-16-04: 1000 - talk in progress
06-16-04: 1800 - Napping
Friday, July 23, 2004
1) Dubbed anime series are more likely to be edited to change content.
Cardcaptors, the American dubbed version of Cardcaptor Sakura, was horribly mangled by the dubbers as they changed dialog, edited out scenes, completely altered the personality of certain characters, and turned a character who wasn't introduced until the 8th episode into a title character. Apparently the dubbers were trying to turn this "magical girl" show into an action-adventure show suitable for boys, but the subtitled version stays much more faithful to the original (doing no edits that I know of). Cardcaptors Uncensored is an excellent website that details the changes between the two shows, including comparisons of the episodes (episode 36 is a good example).
Yu-Gi-Oh!'s American dubbed version has also been intensely edited. Again the dubbers change dialog drastically (often adding inane blabber where there is silence in the Japanese version), completely alter plot elements (e.g. turning personal quests into cliched good-vs-evil battles), remove elements that are deemed too graphic (guns are turned into threateningly pointed fingers, scantily clad characters have more clothes painted onto them), remove any "occult" elements (e.g. five-pointed stars), change character deaths into people either just disappearing or being "sent to the shadow realm," and erase both Japanese and English text from the screen (and these were just the things my SO and I could think of quickly). The Yu-Gi-Oh! Episode guide is a good website that details some of the changes made in the dub.
2) Japanese voice acting is typically superior to the dub's English voice acting.
Japanese voice actors are generally better trained and more respected than their American counterparts. Japanese voice actors also have the benefit of working with the directors and producers of the show, while the American actors do not. Even though I can't understand much Japanese (ed.: that's an understatement), by listening to the Japanese voices I can still feel the emotions and grasp the mood that is being set. My SO and I started watching Princess Mononoke on DVD with the English dubs, because we'd heard they were good, but after about 15 minutes couldn't stand it anymore and switched to the Japanese language track, which meshed with the movie much better.
3) Dubs sometimes replace the musical score that goes along with the show, which changes the mood of the show tremendously. Yu-Gi-Oh! is a particularity good example of this change.
4) Since the original Japanese language track remains in subs, it is thus possible for viewers who understand Japanese to do their own translations. For example, I have a rudimentary understanding of Japanese honorifics (e.g. appending -chan, -san, -sama to names to indicate the social relationship between the named person and the speaker) and while watching subs I like to hear which honorifics characters are using for each other. I haven't ever heard a dub use the honorifics (which makes sense since there are no direct English equivalents, though some try to convey the same meanings), and subs rarely put the honorifics in the subtitle text.
5) Since the animation of mouth movements is designed to match the Japanese language track, dubbers must work hard to match the English script to the Japanese mouth movements (often ending up using odd constructions).
In conclusion, while subs have the limitations of any translation, dubs include many more changes to the source material than subs, and I think these changes reduce the quality of the finished product.
Thursday, July 22, 2004
I've only read a tiny fraction of it so far, but it appears to provide incredibly thorough accounts of the hijackings and other events of the day; it is engrossing, if depressing, reading. I highly recommend reading it.
However, my SO and I own small, gas-efficient cars (highway mileage 35mpg for one and 40mpg for the other), and while we've managed to transport an incredible amount of stuff in our trusty small cars (including bookshelves, our entertainment center, and 6' tall garage organizers), a queen-sized futon would have been impossible to fit. Thus we rented a cargo van from Enterprise (with unlimited mileage), and in 20 hours made a sleepless round trip to the bay area to pick up the furniture. The futon fit inside the cargo van fully assembled (we pondered napping on it at a rest stop), and was protected during transport, all for $80 including tax and supplemental insurance.
On the road we were pondering that it was probably more cost-effective for us, and most other folks, to own small cars and rent a van occasionally than to own a pickup truck (and not have to rent a van), so when we got back we ran some numbers to test the idea. The difference in fuel efficiency between pickup trucks and small cars is large: the average small car gets 34mpg, while the average pickup truck gets 20mpg on the highway (data calculated from fueleconomy.gov's pickup truck and small car listings; large pickup trucks are apparently not included in the data). To make the calculations a bit more broadly applicable we found that the average employed person drives 35.5 miles a day in the US (data from US Bureau of Transportation Statistics household survey); we used this number for our mileage estimates.
Since the average US gas price is $1.92/gallon, small car owners save $1.38 in gas costs every day (0.72 gallons per day, assuming 35 miles driven); over a year this adds up to $505 saved (263 gallons of gas). Thus in only 58 days of average driving the average small car owner has paid for an unlimited mileage van rental for an entire day. This calculation doesn't include the increased purchase and insurance cost of most large vehicles, so small car owners likely save even more.
Since this is the first time in more than a year that my SO and I have rented a vehicle to haul something large, and we just got back from a 2,000+ mile trip to Canada, it's clear that we're saving quite a bit of money by having a fuel-efficient car, even though we have to rent large vehicles and pay for deliveries every now and then.
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
To keep my dedicated readers occupied, here's a neat site that contains pictures of various "different" animals (e.g. two headed snakes, fork-tailed lizards, etc). Who says two headed snakes aren't cute? (via BoingBoing)
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
"When I hear silence during a lecture, I assume the students are absorbing the material without a problem, so I start ramping up the quantity of information to challenge them --and I've discovered that it takes a major overload to blow the fuses on these quiet, diligent sons and daughters ..." (link)Why don't students ask questions about material they have failed to grasp? We've all been students, so I'm sure that we've all been in this situation (did you ask questions every time you were lost in class? I know I didn't), but I'll detail some of the reasons I can think of here, grouping them into three major categories.
1. Students perceive that there are potential negative consequences to asking questions in class:
- Students almost never do the required reading ahead of time, but they don't want to make this fact obvious to the instructor. Thus if they believe the answer to their question may have been in the reading, they won't ask a question until they've checked the book.
- Students may think that their question has been answered in a prior portion of the lecture that they missed (while they were not paying attention, in the bathroom, out sick, etc.)
- Students don't want to appear ignorant in front of their peers, and thus they don't want to ask what they think may be a question with an obvious answer. In the same vein of peer pressure, students might not want to appear as though they're holding the class back by asking too many basic questions. These reasons especially apply when no one else is asking a question, which can lead students to believe that all their peers are understanding the lecture.
- Students may be so completely lost that they have no idea where to start. If a student hasn't understood the last three hours of lecture, the last thing they want to ask is the equivalent of, "Can you go back to the beginning of the unit and start over?"
2. The students believe that there are other ways of obtaining the information that don't involve the potential negative consequences of asking questions in class:
- Students may be hoping that if they can write everything down they can review their notes later and figure the material out then. Thus if there is a lot to write down a student's first priority will be to take notes and not to think about the material or ask questions (this can apply even when notes or slides are given out ahead of time, since then the student's time must be spent finding the topic on the notes and squeezing their own notes onto the pre-prepared notes).
- Students are more willing to ask a classmate or check the book than they are to ask the instructor. This also applies to the web, as I know I've had students search the web for hours looking for an answer before asking me a single, basic, question.
- Students may believe that if the instructor couldn't convey the information clearly the first time around, there's little likelihood another go-round will help.
3. There may be other factors outside of the classroom environment that inhibit student question-asking:
- The students may be tired and overworked. At my community college more than half of my students are working at least part-time (and a select few work nearly full-time), many are taking multiple classes at once, and even if they're not taking multiple classes or working they're likely doing things outside of school that are keeping them quite busy. Asking questions requires more active thinking than just writing down everything the instructor says, and being tired makes this harder.
- Students may be in a foul mood due to some event that has occurred outside of class.
- A lack of good language skills may inhibit a student's ability to understand the lecture the first time around (many of my foreign students tape my lectures and listen to them multiple times, a very intimidating thought), and may also make the student feel quite awkward about asking questions in class.
- A few students may have psychological predispositions (e.g. social anxiety disorder, being incredibly shy) that inhibit question-asking behavior.
The fact that there are so many separate reasons why students may not want to ask questions in class means that instructors cannot assume that students will ask questions whenever they don't understand the content. Of note, however, is that when a student has a basic understanding of the topic at hand many of the reasons for not asking questions evaporate, and thus we get the counter-intuitive conclusion that students ask more questions when they understand the material better. This also explains Pharyngula's observation that graduate students ask more questions than undergraduates: they're more comfortable with the material and thus many of the reasons for not asking questions don't apply.
Thus, in my view, the way to get questions in class from undergraduates is to cover the material more slowly and in more depth, which allows the students to understand the material and thus begin to ask questions about it. But if we stop using student-asked questions as an indicator of student comprehension, what can we use?
- Common sense. We, as instructors, can think back to how long it took us to comprehend the material we are teaching, and we can also logically deduce how long it should take students to understand something (and then probably double that time). The problem here is that we often forget that it took us years (or even decades) to learn what we know, and thus we can't expect a student to gain even a semblance of the same knowledge in 30 minutes.
- Ask questions of students. Instead of waiting for students to ask questions, turn the tables around and ask them challenging questions. But don't just wait for a student to raise their hand to answer your question, because then all the reasons above come into play again and you'll only get the one person who understands the question raising their hand. Instead either pick students at random (I co-wrote a program with a friend that did this automatically for me in-class) or ask the entire class the question (e.g. with an in-class response system, or some lower tech format).
- If you do insist on waiting for questions from the class (or asking the rather horrid question, "Does anyone have any questions?"), then strongly consider interpreting a lack of questions as a lack of understanding, and cover the topic again.
- Base your time-on-topic on end of the semester evaluations. At the end of each semester I ask every student which topic I should rework in the next semester and why. I then rework the section(s) that are most frequently listed, generally giving them more time.
Monday, July 19, 2004
One of the neatest things about this area is the very large (and relatively fast) tides. This is observable in today's pictures: compare the water levels in the 1300 and 1500 pictures; both pictures are looking out over the exact same little inlet/bay. One of the reasons we ate lunch on this island was that we had to wait until at least 1500 so our boat could come in and pick us up.
Our hourly pictures from the day are below. (This text was written after the trip)