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SOMETHING THAT UPSETS ME

There are people in the world who actually justify their refusal to vote by claiming that franchise is an opiate for the masses. That's so sad and frustrating I want to retch.

SOMETHING THAT I FIND BITTERSWEET

"Coma Girl", by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, is damn near everything a rock 'n roll song should be. The Towson college station has it in furious rotation, and this fact confirms my notion that said station kicks ass. It is barely an exaggeration to say that I can't get enough of that song, because it makes me fucking giddy.

Of course, this giddiness is tempered by the knowledge that Joe Strummer (like Johnny Cash, Warren Zevon, and a frightening number of Ramones) is dead. As I've said before, I hope some of these folks enjoy a posthumous career as lucrative as Tupac's; Strummer seems off to a solid start, at least.

SOMETHING I THINK IS AWESOME BECAUSE I'M A TOTAL FUCKING GEEK

I went by the comic shop today after work, and came home with JLA/Avengers #2 and Superman/Batman: Worlds' Finest #3. Both lived up to my expectations in a big way. The former demonstrates why Kurt Busiek is amazing: it's filled with interactions among characters, ranging from the obscure to the iconic, that display a deep knowledge and love of said characters -- while also making for a great story. It also manages to find some surprises in among the familiar: folks expect the Batman/Captain America and Superman/Thor showdowns to be fun, and they are; but the issue almost gets stolen by Wonder Woman/Hercules.

The latter title is generally more predictable, but still manages to throw a few curveballs. But really, the draw for this one is the interaction between Bats and Supes, and it doesn't disappoint. Again, I'm really pleased when I read comics written by folks who love and understand the characters. (Of course, I use a very odd definition of "understanding" in this case -- some of my favorite depictions of these characters utterly contradict each other. I suppose I just dig on authors that find one aspect of the characters that they can relate to, and produce powerful and consistent renditions of the character in that light. I could start rambling about mythological parallels and modern-day demigods and what not, but I feel that I've probably geeked out enough for this post.)

THINGS THAT MAKE ME BEAM WITH DELIGHT

Our weekend has begun in earnest. We're getting a Margaret visit next weekend, and a Trevor visit sometime this month. My dad and I are trading book recommendations. We're going to see my family for Thanksgiving. There are amazing movies out right now, and more to come. My boss is more than willing to shift schedules around to get me more time in front of classes and/or trainees. Nina and I get to sleep in tomorrow, and get an extra hour of it at that. Samson is willing to be used as a pillow, for short naps at least. And did I mention that I get to spend a weekend with Nina? I think I might've. :-)
niwandajones: (yes.  It's a dagger.  Move on.)
You know, this week should've been a big posting week.

Last Friday? I was offered a job at some hack-job version of Amway specializing in medical supplies. (Yes, a hack-job version of Amway. Square that shit.) Now, this was all the more disturbing because I was in Borders at the time. Looking even scruffier than usual. Reading a magazine. What's that you say? Was I reading an issue of Inexplicably Underemployed Ubermensch?

No, I was reading fucking Dungeon.

So, here's the lesson, boys and girls: being unshaven and wearing a faded t-shirt and frayed khakis while reading about the fucking Githyanki screams "LOW SELF-ESTEEM", and will attract the attention of even the most pathetic of pseudocultish organizations.* You've been warned.

Onto less soul-crushing news. This week pretty much wrapped up my LSAT and SAT classes, while also marking the beginning of my GRE and GMAT classes. The student evaluations of my teaching were almost universally excellent, which is a pick-me-up even beyond the effect this will have on my chances of getting a raise. I was amused by the one SAT kid who gave me the highest possible marks on all aspects of my teaching ability, but then said he would never recommend me to his friends.

It's good to see that kids these days know how to artificially manipulate a curve.

Well, this actually turned out to be longer than I'd thought. So, I'll leave you with an IM conversation that you may find amusing, especially if you know one (1) Eric Daza.

Me: my dog is untrustworthy
Eric: OH YES HOW SO?
Me: I decided to let him be uncrated while I ran errands. He managed to get two stuffed animals off of a 5' shelf (remember the bookshelves we built? the second shelf from the top!), and while they were not destroyed, they were damp. Now, he has shown no interest in these animals before this, biding his time.
Eric: INSIDIOUS! CALCULATING!!
Eric: I THINK YOU SHOULD PET HIM.


* At least, that's the only thing I can imagine was going through this guy's -- and did I mention he was 6'5" and about 300 lbs? -- mind. I know what was going through mine:

"What's this guy want?"
"Is he hitting on me?"
"Is he recruiting me for a cult?"
"Why would I want to be in a cult that would have him?"
"Holy shit, he's offering me job."
"Why would I want to work for someone who headhunts in the hobby magazine section of Borders?"
"No, really -- is this guy hitting on me?"
niwandajones: (Default)
Well, my posting has been erratic at best recently. I'll try to do better, because I believe in my heart of hearts that you people care.

I'll lay partial blame for my silence on the upcoming LSAT. While I'm not taking the thing myself, the October exam's frightening popularity means that I'm at least partially responsible for the preparation of about a score of folks who are. Add on the dozen kids in my SAT class, and it's been a busy couple of weeks.

Regarding those SAT kids: I've come to the conclusion that I can't deal with teaching SAT anymore. I don't have the patience to deal with seventeen-year-olds who are being forced to give up their nights and weekends for extra school. It doesn't pay any more than teaching the folks who choose to prepare for graduate school entrance exams, and it's a hell of a lot more aggravating. Luckily, my next two teaching assignments are a GRE and a GMAT class.

Of course, I've got to teach them tomorrow morning, which pleases me not a whit. But then I get to hang out with my brother-in-law, which is something I've been able to do far too little of these past few months.

Since I find it reasonable to assume that anyone reading this is literate, I have no qualms about making a universal recommendation for S.M. Stirling's The Peshawar Lancers. It buckles all the swashes and alternates the histories, and is a damned good yarn all 'round.

Of course, if you still haven't read George R.R. Martin's The Song of Ice and Fire, then I must assume you've given up books for some kind of ascetic reasons anyway, and so to hell with you. Go read A Game of Thrones, dammit. Enlightenment can wait.

Two agenda items upon which comments are most welcome:
1. Figuring out whether I like General Clark for what he believes, in addition to what he is.
2. Figuring out what the hell to do with my life.

Depending on the answers to the above, I may consider volunteering in a political campaign. As I said, comments are welcome.
niwandajones: (yes.  It's a dagger.  Move on.)
I have purchased the IKEA furniture, and assembled it. Though I had the assistance of my wife and Eric for both endeavors, I feel that the brunt of the responsibility is mine. Though, in my defense, the coffee table isn't a hideous yin-yang symbol, and the bookcases are so fucking huge that they manage to dwarf even our over-large collection of reading materials. This is good: now I can buy more books. :-)

Eric also gets a round of applause for providing the stabilizing influence during my sit-down with Nick. Though, honestly, it was pretty cool from the start. Being only one of the parties involved, I'm not going to go into details: hopefully it's enough for everyone for me to say that, in my opinion, it went really well, and I left feeling much better about the whole thing than I have in over three years.

What I'm feeling worse about with each growing week is teaching the SAT. It's not that I feel like my teaching's getting worse; it's that the fact that many of these kids are being forced into attendance by their parents is becoming more and more blindingly fucking OBVIOUS with each passing class. Getting answers out of anyone other than two or three attentive nerds (and I use the term with great affection) isn't at all like pulling teeth: it's far bloodier, and more painful. Kids fall asleep (which assures that they're getting called on next). For many of these punks the most conscientious behavior they display is reminding me that their watch says it's time to go, when I've got a solid two minutes left of teaching to do (which assures that everyone's staying put until I'm damned well finished).

*sigh*

I am extremely grateful for my LSAT class. They're intelligent, attentive, and enthusiastic. I'm sure much of that is due to the fact that they're choosing to take the LSAT, and not having forced upon them; the rest is mainly that they're at least four years older. But teaching that class is a goddammed oasis in my week.

Last thing for tonight (maybe): as I sit here and try to figure out if I've got the disposable income this week to grab Warren Zevon's last record in a non-pirated format, it occurs to me that, in a just universe, this wouldn't be his last record. If Tupac and Biggie and Jimi can keep churning out records from beyond the Veil, why not Warren? Death didn't stop Roland, why should it stop his creator? Surely Heaven cannot be this indifferent?

But I know, in my heart, that the morbid good humor running through every note of the final recordings will have to be enough. God damn it.
niwandajones: (Default)
Just got back from a whirlwind tour of Virginia yesterday. (I'd have posted something last night, but I had to go teach an LSAT class immediately upon my return, hence my mood.) We left on Sunday, spent most of the time in Richmond visiting Myles and Tovah, and a good part of Monday down in Williamsburg with Margaret and Jeremy. It was, all in all, quite a lot of fun. I was amazed at how much I liked Richmond -- it's a small city with quite a lot of character, and most of it not of the sort you'd expect from the erstwhile capital of the Confederacy. It also has a great FLGS, and a kickin' BBQ place. We'll be returning.

Also arranged to meet with Nick next week. As most of y'all know, we've been talking about this since early summer. It's going down next Tuesday, and I'm pleased to note that there will be one (1) Eric Daza in attendance, from all indicators. I'm actually looking forward to this.

In other news, I had the opportunity to read all eight issues of Joss Whedon's Fray this weekend. I recommend it to all Buffy fans, and heartily. To humans in general, I recommend G.I. Joe vs. The Transformers. My reasons should be self evident.
niwandajones: (Default)
So, I'm actually doing some real teaching for Kaplan again. It's been a while: I went on a leave of sorts last October, so in the six months prior to our move, I'd only been doing some piecemeal tutoring and substitute teaching.

Then we moved to Maryland, where I'd been hoping to pick up some classes to bring in income while I finished up the degree and looked for full-time work. Well, the loved me down here, but all the summer classes were taken already. Luckily, they had some tutoring for me to do, and I got to help run two sessions of teacher training. (At Kaplan, being a utility player is a very good thing.)

It's only been within the last week that I've actually gotten to do some real classroom teaching. I've got an SAT and an LSAT class going (utility, baby), both of which meet twice a week.

And so far, I think it's going well. There's been a lot of new material integrated into both courses since last I taught them, but I've managed to fit it all in without running overtime -- which is a big deal for me, since I used to have to keep classes late pretty consistently, even before all this new stuff got added.

In fact, I'm finding that I'm feeling better about my teaching than I have in a while. The time management thing is part of it, but I also feel like I'm handling a lot of the aspects of teaching far better than I used to. A big part of it was being a trainer all summer. The old adage that the teacher learns as much as the students proved pretty true, it seems: while trying to turn new employees into good teachers, I came across some flaws in my own work, and I'm taking many of the lessons that my fellow trainers and I emphasized to heart.

Which is a good thing, as it's also helped me deal with the one major problem I have with my job: teaching gives me stage fright. And you see, since I never got stage fright at any point while I was actually acting, I have no idea how to deal with this. It just never came up. Luckily, I'm finding that actually teaching well helps with subsequent episodes.

Which is good. I've got to run some errands before I teach tonight, and I'd prefer not to spend today paralyzed by fear. :-)

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