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  • 18:28 @evndahm Just wanted to let you know that Terrin Oculon is one of my favorite characters. Ever. #

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I find myself running low on things to listen to as I drive back and forth between school, school, and home. The five-odd podcasts I listen to just aren't cutting it. Does anyone out there know of any great podcasts or free audio fiction? I'm mostly looking for fantastic (fantasy & sci fi of various varieties) since listening to podcasts has currently replaced reading in my world. However, I'm always looking to expand my horizons, so post if you've got 'em.

Thanks in advance!
electricpaladin: (Default)
I faced an interesting quandary in class today.

The learning target was "I can list the characteristics of animal cells" and the activity was your basic cheek cell lab (have I mentioned that I love labs? I do. They're labor intensive, sure, but so much fucking fun!). Then, one of my 6th period lobstrocities (actually one of the sweeter ones, for whatever it's worth) asked "so, does that mean human cells are the same as animal cells?"

She didn't raise her hand, so we have to go through that again. Once she followed the correct procedure, I answered her question with "well, yes. Humans are animals."

Bad. Idea.

Class got derailed for about ten minutes as several of my students (loudly, and without raising their hands) opined that we are not animals, that we are not descended from monkeys ("I ain't no monkey!") [and yes, I know we're not really descended from monkeys, exactly], and so on.

I finally stopped the conversation with "look, I'm not going to tell you what to believe. I'm going to tell you what science believes; this is a science class, and science is what you're going to have to know to pass the CST next year. I don't care what you believe, but I do care that you pass the CST."

I don't know if I did the right thing. I think I did, but some part of me still wishes I'd ridden out to battle with the douchebags who own part of my kids' brains. To be fair to myself, that is what I do every day, and perhaps this was not the time and the place for that particular battle.

Evolution should hit in January-February, anyway.
electricpaladin: (The One Electronic)
Today in my first period, during your typical onion skin microscope lab, a girl turns to me and says "this is great! I feel all smart and sciencey!"

Maybe I'm not the worst science teacher in Oakland. In fact, I feel like I could burst.
electricpaladin: (Default)
I've been meaning for a while to write about my first week at school, and now - taking a break between grading Period 3's first week quizzes, diagnostics, exit slips, and daily catalysts and Period 2's - seems like as good a time as any.

I am having the time of my fucking life.

I teach five sections of 7th grade life sciences a day: Period 1, Period 2, Period 3, Period 4, and Period 6. My lunch is beteween 4 and 5, and 5 is my prep, which is a pretty pleasing arrangement. I usually roll into work around 7:30 AM. My commute takes between half an hour and fourty five minutes, depending on the traffic, and I have my podcasts to keep me occupied. I occasionally feel guilty about the driving, but I'm currently considering it an important slice of "me time" before I begin my day. Besides, public transit would take me three times as long and cost about as much. Carpooling would be virtuous, but there goes the "me." Anyway, I arrive, I make my photocopies, I arrange the classroom, and then the kids arrive.

They're a rough bunch. A lot of them are clearly grappling with some serious issues. I can already see signs of learned helplessness, serious anger issues, and the hypervigilance that Abby tells me characterizes trauma. I'm not seeing things: this part of Oakland is one of the most violent, and Oakland itself is one of the most violent cities in America. Gangs are a huge issue. I'm under instructions to report any kid I see wearing baggy pants and exposed boxers, oversized white t-shirts, or a marked preference for certain colors. Scrawling the wrong symbols on their notebooks is also a big deal.

But they're also kids. They're snotty and loveable. They want to assert themselves, but they also want structure and limits to help them grow. They might grumble when I tell them the rules, and they definitely test my rules, my dedication to my rules, and my patience, but they want me to pass their tests.

And I love life science. The science of living things has always fascinted me, and at the middle school level, I get to focus on the fun stuff.

Grad school is also surprisingly nice. I had expected to find my classes pretty useless, but I'm finding them remarkably interesting so far and looking forward to next week, when classes start again after the furlough. Stupid furlough.

The long and the short of it is that I'm loving my job. I feel fulfilled and empowered and like I'm doing something worthwhile in the world. I'll keep you all posted on how it all goes.

electricpaladin: (Default)
 I just had my weirdest, coolest dream yet. The dream of a lifetime, maybe.

I dreamed that there was this guided roleplaying game/book/boardgame thing - it seemed so real in my dream, but now I'm not sure it ever existed. It was something you could play with friends, with characters, narrative, and choices like a roleplaying game, but it had a fixed story, like a boardgame or a book. There were multiple endings depending on the choices you made - you certainly needed a book to run the thing - but it was still very structured. There may have been an actual board at some point, I don't remember.

It seems so real. To me now. I remember Cadwallon the bard - except actually he was the figher you could play, it's just that he was good enough at fighting to do the job, but singing music and knowing a little song-magic was his calling rather than killing people -  and Reme the thief (there was a wizard and a dwarf you could play, too, but they were lame, and in my recollection, I never played them). I remember that Cadwallon was an extravagent fool, always making bad choices, and Reme was so serious. I remember Reme's love affair with the dryad - it was almost always tragic, you almost always had to make the choices that led to her sacrficing herself for the cause unless you were very skilled and very lucky - and the frog monster puzzle. I remember fleeing the city as its inhabitants were slaughtered by ghosts.

In my dream, I was hunting down copies of this book/game with my fellow enthusiasts. We wandered all over the place, looking, searching, asking questions. We googled, we bothered publishing industry executives, we followed bad leads down dead ends, but we never gave up hope. We all had memories of this game - it had been years since any of us had seen it a copy - and we talked about it constantly, sharing our memories of the characters and the trouble they got into.

And then we found it. I don't know where we were - a bank, maybe? - but there were people standing in lines and piles and piles of game books. Most of them I didn't recognize, but I finally found my book. It was a small, bulky hardback, like Spirit of the Century or Burning Empires, I glanced through it and saw everything I thought I had forogtten. I held the book to my chest and cried with joy at finding it again, while one of the other enthusiasts - a woman - sat with me.

And then I woke up.

I've been searching all over the internet, but I'm pretty sure it was just a dream. I can't find any reference anywhere to Reme the thief or Cadwallon the Bard of Swords. I'm not sure, though. It's so vivid, and the dream-memories seem so real.

It's a weird, melancholy feeling, to wake from a dream where you longed for a book that validated childhood memories, back to a waking world where the book doesn't exist.
electricpaladin: (Default)
For Geist: the Sin Eaters.

Can anyone - off the top of your head - name a progressive, crippling, and invariably fatal disease that strikes in childhood and is not cystic fibrosis?

Weirdness

Aug. 20th, 2009 04:18 pm
electricpaladin: (Default)
Weird physical reaction today...

It started when my hands started shaking. Not full-on palsy, but more shaky than I'm used to. My hypochondria hits hard, and I start to convince myself that I'm developing some kind of terrible brain disease. After about a half an hour of this, I suddenly start feeling really, really hungry, and then I remember that all I've had to eat today is a muffin, a cookie, and a handful of shrimp.

So, not a brain disease, but rather some serious vitamin deficiencies.

Still, it was a strange reaction. I've never had the shakes hit before the hungry.

Now, to enjoy my sammich...
electricpaladin: (Default)
  • 12:03 I'm alive. And the Burning Zeppelin is alive. And posting about, you know... stuff: tiny.cc/toydT #
  • 12:35 @GuyShalev It's a pain, but it happens. That drat cat. #
  • 12:42 @GuyShalev Man, it's good to be back on twitter. #
  • 13:10 @rdonoghue That's an odd question. Of course not. The point of the death penalty (such as it is) is to kill the guilty, not the innocent. #
  • 13:15 RT @rdonoghue I ask (about the Death thing) because this is Justice Scalia's Position: Quote can be found here - tinyurl.com/mzb5nk #
  • 13:15 Holy shit - Scalia is a monster. #
  • 13:22 @stevejmoore I'm in a TfA-like program, & research indicates that teachers *are* one of the most important factors in student achievement. #
  • 13:25 @stevejmoore Pssst! Your link is broken. #
  • 13:35 @stevejmoore Amen, bro! I don't get separating student achievement and teacher quality. It's like separating profits and business quality. #
  • 13:57 @ExplodingDragon Webcomic addiction? No such thing. Webcomics are good for you. They cure diseases and hair loss. And cause world peace. #
  • 15:20 @kcarothers It works for me. Very strange. #
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OTF Dream

Jul. 31st, 2009 06:09 am
electricpaladin: (Default)
Lat night I dreamed:

My sister and I were park ragners just like our dad.

Until a new species of Hyena was introduced to our (temperate) forest.

And our father was eaten by one.

So we went out to kill the Hyena - because animals that get into the habit of eating people need to be killed - and also for revenge.

We were stocked up and sent out by the boss ranger.

Who looked just like my Oakland Teaching Fellowship advisor Sean Tamarisk... 

I did it!

Jul. 19th, 2009 10:26 pm
electricpaladin: (Candle)
I did it! I made the printer work. I can print now!

For lo, I am like unto a printing GOD. All I see shall now be rendered onto paper, for such is my will.

I'm going to get so much more sleep now...

Re: Geist

Jul. 4th, 2009 03:47 pm
electricpaladin: (Default)
I have read the Geist quickstart, and it pleases me. I have some guesses and responses. If anyone out there has also read the Geist quickstart, I would love to hear your responses to my thoughts:
  • It looks like what we've got here is one important splat ("Threshold" - how you almost died) and one purely stylistic splat ("Archetype" - what you do with yourself).
  • Every Threshold gives you your Keys, which are the domains in which your magic powers fall. It looks like the Keys your splat provides are the only Keys you can start with. I don't know if you can ever acquire more.
  • You have your choice of Manifestations, which are how you channel your Keys. The Manifestation of Caul lets you channel your Keys through your body, for example, while the Manifestation of Marrionette lets you control things. Some powers let you haunt the area around you, with some benefits, which is awesome.
  • All Sin Eaters can freely see ghosts (there's a roll to stop seeing them), spend magic points to make even stupid ghosts smart enough to talk to, and spend magic points to interact with ghosts. Each Geist also has a Keystone, which is a magical thingy somehow tied to the life of your ghost half.
  • The final aspect of a Geist, the Geist itself, is basically the ghost from a ghost story.
Anyway, I am totally awesomed out by this game and cannot wait to own it.

That is all.

Good News

Jun. 28th, 2009 08:26 pm
electricpaladin: (Default)
Thanks to the generocity of Abby's parents, who wanted to celebrate my new career, I am the proud owner of an Acer Aspire One, one of those new tiny little PCs to hit the market. It's adorable!

Anyway, the specifications are:

533MHz of RAM, 2GB of System Memory
166 GB of storage

And a lot of other nifty stuff, but it's not what's important for my question. The question is this: my computer comes all set to run Windows XP Home and Windows Vista, but I've heard terrible, terrible things about those operating systems. I'd like to gear this little guy up with something more cool, more stable, and more customizable. My friends all seem to like Linux.

So, friends: can I do this? How do I do this? Links and instructions would be most awesome.

Thanks!
electricpaladin: (Default)

  • 06:48 So... sleepy... but srsly, someone in my program has a 10 month old. I have no idea how she does it. #

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I first encountered the concept of (white/male/etc.) privilege in college when I read White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh. I'm not ashamed to say that I didn't get it. At the time, the idea of an invisible system designed to benefit me and detriment others seemed absurd.

I have since come to understand the concept. You may laugh, but I got it during an online argument about the art content of the roleplaying game Cthulhutech, which was oddly monoracial, and represented women as solely scantily clad and sexy, while men had a wider variety of poses and costumes. Big surprise, I know, but I was then - and am now - on a kick of speaking my mind. No one will ever change the world by sitting on his ass and being quietly outraged. In any case, I was struck by how hard it was to get people to see my point - which was, incidentally, not that it was bad or wrong to have sexually titilating art in RPGs, but rather that it sent a message about who the book was for that we might not want to send. The other posters, who I'm sure were reasonably empathic individuals, were completely incapable of taking the point of view of someone who wanted to look at someting other than tits. They argued that an equal amount of non-tit titillation would be an unacceptable eyesore... unable to understand that someone not interested in tits would be equally put off by the status quo.

That was how I got privilege, leaning over my laptop and getting increasingly frustrated with the Cthulhutech forums.

However, I have since rejected the concept.

Wow, I bet I got a lot of you all worked up there! Let me clarify.

The concept of privilege is this: we swim in a sea of advantages and disadvantages based on race, gender, age, nation of origin, religion, and pretty much any other even slightly significant (and a few completely insignificant) characteristic. These advantages and disadvantages are invisible, since we have been exposed to them practically since birth. So, it takes a lot of work to identify these unfair benefits and detriments, and it can be a profoundly upsetting experience. I have no problem with this idea. I've come to see that I gain from being (apparently) white, straight, and male. and others lose from being obviously something else. There are ways in which being Jewish, for example, has influenced by my life, ways I feel about the world that have to do with an unspoken but prevalent disconnect between me and many of the people around me.

However, privilege is also a word, and the word means this (according to Answer.com): "a special advantage, immunity, permission, right, or benefit granted to or enjoyed by an individual, class, or caste."

McIntosh lists a few examples of privilege:

"If I need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I should want to live."

"I can go shopping alone most of the time pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed."

"I can protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them."

"I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help my race will not work against me."

These are examples of privilege? These are examples of "special" advantages? What the fuck is up with that?

Yes, I went there: what the fuck is up with that?

Now, Professor McIntosh lists numerous other examples of privilege that make more sense to me, things like "if I as to talk to the persons in charge, I will be faced with someone of my own race" and "I can choose blemish covers or bandages in 'flesh' color and have them more or less match my skin tone." However, many of the others are not privileges. They are not special rights or immunities that some people have and others lack, they are basic rights, things I like to think our culture extends to everyone.

In short, some privileges - many of the most pernicious and invisible privileges - are not privileges owned by the white, the male, and the straight. They are basic courtesies that we deny to the black (and etc.), the female, and the gay. They are detriments.

I am a writer and a crazy person, so I believe that language creates reality. Not in a flippy, weirdo Mage: the Ascension way, but in a basic, logical, and quite down to earth way. Parents and teachers in the audience: do you deny that a child who comes home and says "Mom! I got a B!" and a kid who says "Well, I didn't fail" are living in different worlds, even if they got the same grade? Of course not. Would you argue that teaching the children to think and speak of their grades differently - "Yeah? Why didn't you get an A?" or "You got a B? Congratulations! I know how difficult this topic is for you and that's a good start." - won't change their realities? Of course not.

So why do we - and for that matter, Peggy McIntosh - define these basic courtesies as "privileges?" What are we creating with our language when we call a series of experiences that can, in part, be summed up as "being treated with compassion by our fellow humans" as a "special advantage?"

My answer is guilt. I think we want to feel guilty. We want to put the blame for all these problems on our shoulders rather than acknowledge that the problems are bigger than we are. The problem seems more manageable if we can imagine that it's our personal, invisible fault. I also think privilege is often used to silence people - if you know the "privleged-ass motherfucker" story, you might agree. Privilege is a convenient blanket under which to shove opinions you don't approve of - "that's wrong and this is why/you don't see my point? Of course not. It's invisible. Privilege." - and a label for the people who hold them.

Unfortunately, in many cases, it's weird doublethink bullshit. There are certainly some cases where I might be given things I don't deserve - a job, a lease, a lucky break, the benefit of the doubt - but those are far rarer in the articulation of privelege than things someone else deserves not being given to her. Privilege is a term that does not accurately reflect reality, and therefore, I reject it as incoherent.

The fact is, we live in an unfair world that hurts some people more than others, and we can't fix that while making up imaginary terms that don't reflect the way the world is and create situations as backwards, creating guilt where none need exist. We need to look at things clearly in order to fix them, and privilege doesn't do that.

That's my argument. Fire away.
electricpaladin: (Default)
This is my second or third favorite recipe in the world. If followed correctly, it produces the fluffiest, savoriest, most delicious couscous I have ever eaten. This recipe comes to us from [livejournal.com profile] homais, who clearly knows his couscous. The recipe was a huge hit on Thursday night, where it was served alongside maple-soy glazed salmon to [livejournal.com profile] centaur and a good time was had by all.

Ingredients
  • 2 cups of couscous (one per person or so - though, I did three cups for three people and still have a huge quantity of couscous in the fridge)
  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • 2 tsp turmeric (I don't know what this is and I didn't have any, and the couscous was fine)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • Dry dates (or raisins)
  • Feta cheese (don't overdo it)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Assorted Crap: currants, almonds, pine nuts, finely chopped dill or parsely, etc.

Note: what you want is large-grain couscous. Apparently, something terrible happens if you try using ordinary couscous. It's often called Israeli or Moroccan couscous, and it should be little balls of couscous, rather than that grainy stuff you get in most couscous boxes. Here's a picture.

1. Chop the onion coarsely (that means into big chunks). If you're using dates chop them into raisin-sized chunks. If you're using raisins, leave them alone.

2. Put the chicken broth into a saucepan and set it to high.

3. Melt your butter in a big (bigger than you think you need - the biggest you have) skillet or wok, then sauté the onions until they are clear and just starting to brown. Then add the tumeric and onion, and then pour in the dry couscous and stir it all around so everything is coated in onion, spices, and butter.

4. Fry it a little (like a minute) just for good measure.

5. Pour on the chicken broth (which should be boiling by now). Turn off the heat and cover the enormous skillet or wok.

6. At this point, you leave it alone for 20 to 30 minutes while the fried couscous absorbs the boiling chicken broth. You can stir it from time to time, if that makes you feel good, but you don't really have to.

7. When the broth is absorbed, salt and pepper it to taste, mix in the dates and whatever other crap you've got, and then add the feta. Granish with a little feta on top for prettyness, and you're set!

Final Note: Successful variants on this have also mixed in various meat products (kefta meatballs go particularly well in this), but you definitely want to cook those separately and just add them in at the end. Trying to cook them with the couscous apparently ends in tears.
electricpaladin: (Default)

  • 16:51 First interview for a teaching position is scheduled for Monday... wow, they work fast. #

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electricpaladin: (Hobbes)
So, I don't have Tuberculosis. Or, rather, my body is home to horrible little bugs that can cause Tuberculosis, but haven't.

Because I'm just that badass.

Since a latent case of Tuberculosis can blossom into full fledged Consumption at any time (especially if I should at any point be immunosupressed, which can happen when you get a bad flu) it is prudent that I spend the next six months taking a medication that will hopefully drive the little fuckers so deep into hiding that they may never come out.

Unfortunately, this medicine has the side effect of maybe making my liver fall off.

So, no booze for me for the next six months, and also regular blood tests to check up on my liver and other body functions, and if my skin or eyes suddenly change color I am to report to the hospital immediately.

But I'm ok. I'm good. I've still got the teaching fellowship.

You may all breathe again. I know I am.
electricpaladin: (Default)
  • 09:25 Cramming this teacher tome is stressing me out. I don't care if I finish it, I'm worried that what I'm reading isn't making an impact. #
  • 10:08 If you're into Mage: the Awakening and are not my friend Jon, please check out tinyurl.com/le3zoq and offer thoughts and advice? #
  • 11:01 @npilon Thanks! Hit me with any specific comments you might have? #
  • 14:08 So... I have TB. Or my skin does, anyway. Yay? #
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electricpaladin: (Default)
So.

I may or may not have Tuberculosis.

My skin test says that I've been exposed. I just got my chest x-rayed, but I'm unlikely to know before Monday or Tuesday what the result is.

Now, normally I wouldn't care. I'm a hyperchondriacal nut, but I know TB isn't that bad in a world where I can take a round of antibiotics and probably be clean as a whistle. An antiseptic whistle. It would just mean not drinking booze for half a year, which I can deal with.

No, I'm stressed because of my teaching fellowship, because the teaching fellowship that I have fought for, agonized over, and spent more than $300 in testing fees and car gas and bus fares, is going to boot my ass to the curb if there's TB in my lungs.

Wish me luck.

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