School: February 2004 Archives

Lights Out


After an evening in cabinetry class with The Guy Who Stands Too Close (ladies, you know this guy. He stands RIGHT NEXT TO YOU even though there's plenty of other places to stand, and he likes to smile at you a lot, as if you were Something Special. Ugh. Anyway), I thought nothing would be more noteworthy to talk about. I was even composing a little entry about TGWSTC as I walked off campus.

Then I crossed the street.

As I did so, a lady came around the corner with her lights off, and of course, she didn't see me (on account of it being, like, dark and stuff). So I waved, and she slowed down. I tried to signal to her that her lights were off, but she didn't seem to get it, so I walked closer to her car and she FREAKED OUT. Like I was seven feet tall and four thousand pounds of pure muscle. Jesus, people! I'm a wimpy little girl. She swerved wildly, almost driving right into the street light in the median, then whipped past me as if I were Satan incarnate. So I did what I always do when people think I'm threatening: I cursed her soul, those of her ancestors, and hoped she drove into a pole.

Moments later, as I was pulling out of the parking lot, she came back up the street in the other direction, lights still out. I flashed my high beams at her, and she nearly drove into the side of my car. You'd think that in this time she might once have checked her dash, but apparently not.

I was ahead of her, so I drove slowly, hoping she'd pull up alongside and I could roll down my window and tell her, but she was having none of that. She stayed right behind me, then suddenly whipped into a dead end alleyway after I'd passed it. Um, that's not a very good survival skill if you seriously think you're under attack. But honestly, I was ahead of her, we were both in cars, and she's the one who nearly drove into me, twice, with her erratic behaviour.

Anyway, I gave up on trying to help her out and just came home. Some people want to live in a world where nobody will help them out, and they do everything they can to make it that way. I choose not to live in that world, so it's best to ignore psychotics like that lady.

Of course, she could have just been on drugs or something. This was downtown Oakland.

Head to Toe in Sawdust


I was kind of excited by the woodworking class, but it's so incredibly slow-paced that it's actually not all that fun. I mean, I get that we're talking about safety and all that, but it's been five weeks and we just cut wood for the first time today.

Lots of people in the class were seduced by nice woods at the lumberyard. I bought poplar (went over to MacBeath's in Berkeley this afternoon) because I figure I'll paint the project (a bench) and put it in the front hall. I don't want anything too fancy as a hall bench. One woman got some rough-cut maple that was truly lovely when it had been jointed and planed -- one of her pieces has a gorgeous figure on it. Another had bought a very nice piece of poplar to do a solid (not glued-up) seat. Mine is going to be very utilitarian. Bench, not art.

Another thing I did today was buy more stuff to make molds from for ceramics. I'm out of control. If I make all these molds I'll have no time for anything else all semester, I think. But I must. It kills me to think that I might not be able to make castings and fire them in the future. I will work overtime, all weekend, making plaster molds, so I can cast them and get them in the kiln before school is over (no ceramics in the summer, alas, and besides I'll be travelling and building a shed).

As Promised


So, I've been taking a bunch of art classes. I like learning new art things, and generally enjoy these classes, except for my classmates. While most people seem to understand what the teacher says the first time around, in every class there is at least one person, usually more like five, who simply cannot make sense of the language.

I'm not talking about non-native speakers. I've got a lot of sympathy for people who simply don't know how to translate technical words into something they can understand. I'm talking about native speakers of English who sit there in a demo and ask the same question five times, seemingly unable to understand:

Teacher: You take the temperature of the developer and look it up on this chart to find the developing time. See, this developer here is 68 degrees, so we'll process the film for 9 1/2 minutes.

Student #1: So the developing time is 9 1/2 minutes?

Teacher: If the temperature of the developer is 68 degrees. If it's 70 degrees, see, it says to develop it for 10 minutes.

Student #2: So which time do we use?

Teacher: You check the chart in your lab manual for the time.

Student #1: There are lots of times here. Which one do I use?

Teacher: You find your film in the list. You find your developer in the list, too. And then you find the temperature of your chemistry to find the time. See, we're using Kodax Tri-X 400 and this Lauder developer, so you have two choices. You can use the developer at full strength and it will take this long [points to chart] or you can dilute it 1:1 and it will take 9 1/2 minutes at 68 degrees, which is what we're doing now.

Student #2: So do we have to have a thermometer?

Teacher: Yes, to take the temperature.

Student #3: Can we use those times even if we're not using the same film?

Teacher: No, you have to look up the film you are using separately. But the assignment requires the Tri-X film.

Student #1: So we process the film for 10 minutes?

Student #2: How do we know how long to process the film?

This went on for HALF AN HOUR.

OK, I get that I'm an impatient person, and I also understand that I tend to learn this sort of skill really quickly (especially anything involving mixing chemicals). But were these people even listening?

Even better, when we had class yesterday and had to produce our developed film, one person had simply NOT DONE one step in the developing (adding fixer), and she wondered if that was a problem. Um, yes. Notice how your film is not transparent? That will make it a bit rough to do any kind of printing, don't you think?

Then there's ceramics. High-fire glazes are kept on one side of the classroom. Low-fire glazes are on the other side. There is a good reason for this: low fire glaze in high-fire conditions is VERY VERY bad for the kiln and anything else in there. So why is it that every class has one person who mixes the two glazes? And why is it that every time we talk about glazes, we need to discuss why it is that glaze looks different when it's unfired? This is just how it is, no amount of questioning it is going to change it. Come ON, people.

The worst part is that all this dithering about stuff that's written on big signs all over the room (well, now I understand the need for the big signs) means we don't get to get to the meat of the matter. I'd really like to understand more about the chemistry of glazes, for example, or maybe discuss different methods for developing that will produce interesting results. But we're too busy repeating the same basic information over and over for the people who are categorically unable to listen and comprehend. It's a good thing I'm not a teacher, or there would be bodies everywhere.

Apparently I've Got a Magnetic Personality


Twice today I turned around or stopped walking to find somebody standing right behind me. Now, when I say right behind me, I don't mean feet or even inches away. I mean standing so close that you could not slip a piece of paper between that person and my backpack.

One guy chewed me out because he was apparently trying to get around me, despite the fact that he'd stepped, with me, to the side of an aisle -- a move I made to get him to stop walking directly behind me like some kind of creepy stalker. The other guy responded to my turning around and smacking into him with "Excuse ME!" as if it's unpardonably rude to expect that it will be safe to turn around in place without finding yourself in an intimate situation.

The next time I feel one of these creeps breathing on my neck, I'm going to suddenly take a step backwards, with all my mass aimed at knocking the idiot over. I may even throw in a quick elbow, if I'm feeling cranky.

Further Proof of the Bozone

Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

I've long considered grades as a relatively objective way of determining whether you're not getting it to sucha degree that you're incapable of understanding how little you're getting it. If you get bad grades, you can be reasonably sure you're doing something wrong, right? I was not previously aware of just how deep this unawareness could be.

So it surprised me to discover that one of my physics classmates from last semester had failed the class three times, and yet was unable to understand why she was doing so poorly. I suggested to her that perhaps the combination of her rare lecture attendance, inability to keep a coherent lab notebook (I was given hers to grade in a peer review once), and spending much of the classes she did attend texting her boyfriend might have contributed to her lack of absorbtion of the concepts of mechanics. But, well, I'm not one to fight for other people's lost causes, so I didn't try to make her a better student. I ran into her in the hallway this semester, and she admitted that she was re-taking the class, again, and said, "I don't know what I have to do to pass this class." [smacks head]

Around 2pm today, I began thinking, "What if I'm one of those people? What if I'm so stupid I can't figure out how stupid I am, and all my friends and teachers are just humouring me?" You can really go down a rabbit's hole with that one, my friend.

Kids, in Classrooms?


On another forum, somebody remarked that her classmates bring their kids to class when they can't get adequate childcare. This leads to some rather awkward situations in biology lab, which is definitely not the place for a child. Hell, it would lead to fisticuffs in my physics lecture, where there are not enough seats for all the students in the class, much less an extra seat for a child. I caught some flak in the conversation for asking where the fathers of these kids were (it's always the mother who gets stuck with the kid). More to the point, where are the so-called friends, the family, the social network every mother needs? We're so socially detached that somehow we let people get in a situation where they have nobody they can ask for a favour. I can't think this is a good thing. Not at all.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the School category from February 2004.

School: January 2004 is the previous archive.

School: March 2004 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


Powered by Movable Type 4.12