Friday, October 28, 2005

So I'm not Unique

My students' potentially differening opinions notwithstanding, I am not in fact unique.

There is another TMWA, namely the Truckee Meadows Water Authority. A brief comparison seems in order, so that in case you meet one of us on the street one day, you can identify which you are speaking to:
  • Them: Employs approximately 160 people.
    Me: Employs approximately 0 people.
  • Them: In Nevada.
    Me: In Virginia.
  • Them: Teaches Reno, Sparks, and Washoe County how to conserve water.
    Me: Teaches math to approximately 200 students.
  • Them: Treat water.
    Me: Drinks water (when Coke Zero is not available).
I hope this helps clear up any lingering confusion.

This has been a reasonably non-productive alternative to finishing grading two large stacks of tests, which I am not enjoying. We now return to our regularly scheduled procrastination.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Sneaky Movie Theaters

While I was in Atlanta a few weeks back, I went to see Corpse Bride (which was cute). The theater down there is following the trend of having clever ways of telling people to turn off their cell phones. This one uses a preview for a non-existent movie which gets interrupted by a cell phone. The characters on-screen turn toward the audience and complain about the interruption.

The first time I saw one of these it was imitating some sort of martial-arts genre film. Last time it was animated, but it caught me a little more off guard because I had actually seen a poster for this non-existent movie in the lobby, together with other coming attractions. I double checked on the way out: The poster is there, and it looks fine, but there is no studio information or release dates at the bottom.

The segments are entertaining, but I don't know if they get people to turn off their phones. I have noticed a lot of people in theaters these days playing with their phones through the course of a movie--probably playing games or something similar. There's a bunch of little glowing screens floating around amongst the audience anymore. I'm not sure why these people came anyway.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


I was having high hopes for Halloween this year, and it's one of my favorite holidays. I usually wear a pair of fake plastic horns or something, especially if I have class. (One year I came in with the horns and said, "What you have been suspecting about me all semester really is true." Then a wag in the back of the class shouted back, "That's not what we've been suspecting about you all semester...") This year, I decided to splurge and buy the really good ones. There are plenty of kits available, based on stage/movie makeup, that let you create some great special effects for costumes. I'd seen horns plenty of times before, but hadn't been willing to actually get some. This year was my year.

I saw some great examples of the kits while I was down in Atlanta a few weeks ago, plus some really awesome decorations. Target also had a nice selection of decorations this year. I thought it was likely to be a good year for Halloween. I set out a week or two ago with two goals: (1) good horns, and (2) a cheesy Halloween themed tie.

No luck. Everyplace I checked didn't carry either. A local downtown store used to have lots of great costume supplies in their basement every year, but this year it's become devoted to fraternity clothes. The closest I came to a Halloween tie was a rack of discounted Christmas ties at the local Goody's. (And the crazy thing is, I'm sure I've seen these ties before everywhere. Someone heard me planning.) I'm slightly miffed that I've seen several stores offering Halloween themed clothing for women, but none for men.

I've also realized I'm going to miss some of the trick-or-treaters this year because I won't leave work until 7:00 on Halloween night. (Yes, I'm finally living someplace where we get trick-or-treaters, and I love having them. My favorite last year was a tiny girl dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, sitting in the arms of her parents as they coaxed her to say something. All she could manage was to stare at me with enormous eyes and a slightly agape mouth. I think it was all a bit much for her.)

I'm not completely discouraged yet. K-mart has some passable horns, and I at least have a nice orange shirt and black leather jacket that would work well, if no tie. And maybe I can still find some good horns somewhere. (I know I'm doing my job if some of my students start wondering about me on Halloween. If I do find the horns, I think my line this year will just be: "It's a little physical problem I have this time every year, and I really don't want to talk about it.")

Alternatively, it occurred to me I'd probably also get my students attention if I went with the Elvira costume I saw and a big pair of fake boobs. Whatta ya think?

Air Vents

When I first came to grad school, I was assigned to sit in on a class with some computer labs and to assist students with the labs. The course was a standard calculus course, except for the addition of some numerical/graphical work in the labs. The teacher I was assigned to was a nice person, but I came to realize he was not the most exciting. His class was not tremendously interactive, and he was pretty laid-back rather than particularly personable or energetic. (My own undergraduate teachers had mostly been awfully good, so this was a little different for me.)

After a while, I came to notice that when you sat in his class long enough, the sucking (or maybe blowing) of the air vents gradually became overwhelming. There's an ongoing drone about the limit of this and the derivative of that, and an incessant hiss low in the background. It's a bit like the never-ending whoosh in the background of Star Trek episodes, representing the hum of the engines. But when there's nothing much else interesting going on, the hiss becomes overwhelming.

Now years later I observe grad students who are teaching, and offer them observations. And sometimes the main observation I make while watching someone else's class is "Man, those air vents are really sucking today." Then I have the challenge of translating this into a constructive comment.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

More Ooga-Booga

Since I introduced you to Ooga-Booga recently, I thought you might like to see the pictures we have up of him on the door to our common room/testing room. (Also the future site of Dean C's Celebrity Dance Party.)

Below, we see Ooga-Booga rising over the mountains, and skeet-shooting with son Oogie (2004):
Next, we see O.B. enjoying his iZot shuffle ("Utter chaos made even more random, starting at $99"), "Ooga Booga hates moving", "Guess what ELSE Ooga-Booga hates?" (all names are of local car dealerships), and finally "Ooga-Booga HATES meetings."

Another instructor's student once asked "Did someone's kid draw those?" He answered it was someone he worked with. Technically of course all the artists were in fact someone's kid, however.