Friday, September 28, 2007

My sleep pose

It is Friday, and I have not posted one of those online quiz results in a while. I hope I have not disappointed the two people who actually may look at these Friday posts. As for this particular quiz, I am not sure that position is fully accurate, but given that when one sleeps, one often shifts their position, I am sure it is possible I could sleep like that at one point in the night. At any rate, feel free to go find yours.

I am a excalibur!
Find your own pose!

A hat tip to Oso Raro at Slaves of Academe.

If you are a guy, stay away from those kids

This is something that I think about now and then. As a former high school teacher, the issue was always somewhere in the back of my head. I debated whether to write about this or not, and I finally felt the need, so here goes:

When I was in "teacher school" (working on my undergraduate degree and teaching license), one of the most important lessons I learned was to never, under any circumstance, touch a child. I was training to be a high school teacher, but the rule still applied. No physical contact. No student was worth losing your career. That was ingrained in me to the degree that it still stays with me all these years. I should note that, as a Latino, I come from a very affectionate culture where hugs and kisses are common. However, when I came to the States, I learned to be more careful of who to be expressive with, if at all. And given the current pedophile hysteria, for a lot of what we hear is pretty much the sensationalist press coverage, I am always aware. So, this article from the Wall Street Journal for September 6, 2007, "Avoiding Kids: How Men Cope With Being Cast as Predators," by Jeff Zaslow made me stop and think. I was particularly moved by the following quote from the article:

"Ted Wallis, a doctor in Austin, Texas, recently came upon a lost child in tears in a mall. His first instinct was to help, but he feared people might consider him a predator. He walked away. 'Being male,' he explains, 'I am guilty until proven innocent.'"

Ordinarily, I would like to think that I would have helped a child lost in a mall. But then again, given I am a guy in my mid-thirties, and on an ordinary day may not have shaven for a while (i.e. may look a bit scruffy), the last thing I would want is to give some overzealous passersby any suspicion. Not my kid? Not my problem. Does it sound harsh? Not as harsh as me getting any cloud of suspicion for being helpful. It's a scary thought overall when even parents have to worry about being out in public with their children. I know. I have a daughter. She is 11 now. We often hold hands in public. In that case I don't care who sees, but I am still aware.

I am proud of the fact I am an Eagle Scout. I was fortunate to have great male role models then. But these days, I probably would not volunteer in Scouting, or I would really think about it. Again, not worth the risk. And what does that say? Does that make me a bad person? I think it is being cautious. When I was a teacher, I always made sure if I had to meet with a student after school, that the door was open, and another teacher was nearby. To do otherwise was foolish. The same principle applied when I was in college working as an adjunct teacher, and it would apply today. The lesson is simple: never place yourself in a position where you could arouse any suspicion. No kid is worth it. And I find the fact I feel that way scary. What does that do that men feel they cannot be nice to children? There are shortages of male teachers in our public schools. This hysteria is one reason. I am not saying not to be cautious, but when the media message becomes one of children should avoid men, I can't help but wonder if something is being lost in the process. I am trying to provide a positive role model to my daughter. It's already challenging enough without certain people and the media adding fuel to a fire.

Overall, I am not changing my life over hysteria. I will continue loving my daughter. I will go on working as an educator, but I will always be aware.

A hat tip to Obscure Store and Reading Room. By the way, the comments in the WSJ forum and at the blog may be worth a look. Clearly this is an issue that has many people thinking.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Visiting the East Texas State Fair

We finally made the move to Tyler, Texas. I am the new Outreach Librarian at the University of Texas at Tyler, and I will write more about the position as I get settled in. The move itself was a bit harrowing, but we survived. We are likely going to be living out of the boxes for a few weeks now.

Anyhow, we took a break from unpacking to go see the East Texas State Fair, which actually started this weekend. We went on Sunday, and we got there early in the morning. I think they opened the gates at 10:00am, and we got there shortly after. Going to a fair like this early in the day has the advantage that the crowds are small, and there are not too many lines. Of course, the big events are not until the evening, but enough was going on to get a good taste. We spent most of the day there. We watched a pig showing competition. Basically, it's kids showing off the pigs they have raised. What I found interesting is the fact that it is not just about showing the pig to the judge. There is some pageantry involved: from the kid dressing up nicely to the way he/she leads their pig around with a little stick. Meanwhile, one of the judges offers a sort of color commentary on the performance. The critiques are a bit more lax when the kids are younger (i.e., they are doing this for fun) versus the older kids (where there is a bit more attention to details). Next, we visited the cattle pens. Afterwards, we got hungry, so we got some food. When you go to a fair, you have to get some food. We got a pretty nice chicken fingers basket (big enough for the better half and I to share), some drinks, and a fried twinkie. Yes, I finally got a fried twinkie, which I have been wanting to get since I read this book. All I have to say is that a fried twinkie makes mighty good eating.

Next, the little one wanted to get on some of the rides, so naturally, got some tickets and did some of the rides. And the little one did drag her daddy to a few of them, and I am happy to report that I did not lose the twinkie in the process. It was fun.

We then took a break, and we saw the commercial exhibits. The better half likes doing this because she sees it as a good opportunity to get local information. At times, she thinks like a librarian. Anyhow, you go around, pick up some information, get a knick knack here and there, and you learn a thing or two. After that, we did some of the local vendors, where I got a small unicorn miniature for the better half (to add to her unicorn collection), and a small dragon for myself (I collect dragons, though my small collection is nowhere near hers); the little one got herself a small arrowhead necklace. We next moved on the other craft exhibits. I was amazed to see some of the collections that earn awards. For instance, there were some pretty good sport card collections and at least one magnet collection. I will admit, collections like that are not my first thought when it comes to crafts; I would think more in terms of quilts, dresses, pottery, etc. (and they did have those as well), but some of those collections do make for a good display. You can learn a lot about people by what they choose to collect. But you can also tell about a community by what they present in their fairs, and that is a large reason why the gypsy in me likes visiting fairs, carnivals, feasts, etc.

My better half had a bit of insight. She said that "if we come back next year, odds are good we'll see people we know." She is already looking ahead. But to her, I can see this is something she enjoys because it is close to her experience growing up. You see, my better half grew up in a small Indiana town where things like the Popcorn Festival are big events (and yes, I have been to the Popcorn Fest in Valpo). I get the feeling we will be doing well up here.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Yes, I do know my scifi movies

Well, it is Friday, so readers of this blog know the odds are good I am amusing myself with another one of those online quizzes. So, here you go. And yes, I do spend a lot of free time watching and/or reading sci-fi, though I would not see myself as a geek.

Sci-Fi Expert

Your Sci-Q is 97!

You are a Sci-Fi Expert!

You definitely know your Sci-Fi. This also means one of two things.

1. You are a total geek that spends all of your free time watching Sci-Fi (movies/tv), reading Sci-Fi books, looking at graphic novels (comics), playing video games and combing the net for any news about the next Aliens, Predator, Star Wars, Star Trek movie or Sci-Fi TV show slated to become a movie.

2. You just love movies (especially Sci-Fi) and know all there is to know about movies including the wonderful and expansive genre known as Sci-Fi.

Congratulations and Qapla'

My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Sci-Q

Link: The Intergalactic Sci-Fi Movie Test written by tech_art_nature on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

On some useful college tips

This list of "Useful Things College Taught Me," from the site The Best Article Every Day, should probably be taken with a grain of salt. There are some truths in it, but there are also some things that may make you wonder. So, with that in mind, here are some of the things I would add or rectify:

  • 1. "NEVER buy your books until you absolutely need to. $500 to buy all of your school books per semester is extortion. Borrow or steal if necessary. Some professors even list their books but never use them." Actually, this is very true. It definitely should be underlined and told to every student. However, we do not advocate stealing on this blog.
  • 3. "Use the library whenever possible. It’s free and you can get your books there. Plus, the lesser used cloisters make for an excellent place to have sex." Partially true. Yes, you should use the library whenever possible. No, they can't get you all your books. Sure, a library will have all sorts of books to support a curriculum, but it does not carry your actual textbooks (that is what the bookstore is for). In our case, we do not buy textbooks, precisely to avoid a bunch of kids who do not want to buy books coming in trying to get them for free. It would not be practical. What you can often do is borrow the textbook if your professor placed a copy on reserve (usually for a couple hours), so you can at least read it or photocopy any necessary pages. But if you go to the library hoping you can simply check out that expensive math textbook, forget it. That's what online retailers are for, which you should be using when possible instead of the campus bookstore anyways. Another lesson: learn to do comparison shopping. As for the sex, I'll let others chime in on that.
  • 5."If you live in the dorms, STAY AS HEALTHY AS POSSIBLE. Come finals week, you will understand why. This includes but is not limited to: using shower sandals, getting vaccinated, eating healthy, practicing safe sex, and hermetically sealing yourself off from your neighbors." This should be self-explanatory and evident. Do take care of yourselves.
  • 21. "The popular group from high school made it into college too. They’re called fraternities and sororities." and 22. "Avoid frat guys and sorostitutes like the plague." Again, another example of self-explanatory. If you were part of the "popular" groups in high school, you may gravitate to this. Otherwise, avoid like the plague indeed. Find your own path and bliss.
  • 24. "General Education requirements are a fact of life. Even though they’re useless and do not apply to your major, they’re usually very easy, so don’t blow them off. The good grades in these classes with save your GPA later on in college life." This is true as well. Those early classes are often pretty easy, and the fact you got good grades on them may well offset that not-so-good grade you got in your advanced class in terms of the overall GPA. Overall, try to balance easy and hard classes.
And I think this line is probably the most important:

  • 39. "Figure out who you are, what you want out of life, and identify your beliefs while in college" In the end, college is your time to grow and make your life. If you are an 18 year old coming in for the first time, it is the time for shaping and making your beliefs. You are away from your parents. Define yourself. If you are older and returning, then it is your time to grow as well, perhaps try out new things. Either way, best of luck.

Update Note (9/27/2007): Another post from The Best Article Every Day blog, this one on "7 Strategies to Raise Your GPA This Semester," provides some useful advice for students as well. It is definitely something for college students to read and put into practice.