Thinking about Writing

Posted by Avrila

There was a time when I was pretty serious about being a writer, to the point where I still have writing listed as one of the themes of this blog. The thing is that I've been writer's-blocked almost straight through since 2005, for reasons that friends and long term readers know (and if you don't know, I'm not going to tell you), with a few breaks here and there but it's safe to say that I've lost the habit. I was never exactly a scheduled writer before, but it came naturally as the thing to do when I had time, before that.

I. Want. That. Back.

So I've been, off and on for some time now (I'll admit, more off than on), editing and adding scenes and changing things around, in some of my old stuff from back then, and there is a lot I need to change because in very real and important ways I'm not that person any more. For one thing, and I don't think that this is a bad thing, I'm more critical of my own work than I was before. I attribute this to reading fanfic, which I got into because Diane Duane writes more Young Wizards books too slowly, on the grounds that my ability to be annoyed at ill-conceived or poorly executed dreck has had a workout in the course of digging for that which is any good...even though that's one of those things writers aren't supposed to do, or at least admit. To heck with that.

I'm thinking about self-publishing my stuff as ebooks. Not right away, it's not ready yet, the person I am now needs more time to work with it. But...eventually. Which means coming up with the money to get it edited, since no one can edit their own work as well as they would someone else's, and get cover art done. I'm considering a Kickstarter if I can find out how much those things are supposed to cost. Not now, and not next Tuesday, but...sometime.

It feels like, similar to how my career has gone, I've spent the past almost-decade not so much moving on an particular trajectory as...percolating. Having ideas that needed to be had, with various processes running in the background while I hang on by a thread in practical terms. It may be that now things are ready to happen.

New Cars Kill

Posted by Avrila

If you torture the data enough, it will confess to something. Spurious Correlations is a web site where you can explore a wide variety of data sets to find correlations.

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As you can see, either new cars kill, or fiery deaths cause people to buy cars -- according to how some people think. This site demonstrates the importance of considering the possibility of coincidence.

Canadian fiscal conservatism

Posted by Avrila

You may already have heard that Burger King is moving to Canada; in fact, it's fairly likely that you have, considering that I heard about it long enough ago for the fact to rattle around in my head sticking to other things until it gave birth to an idea.

There's basically one reason why most corporations would move between countries: money. $$$. That would also be the reason why most corporations would do pretty much anything. (I say most because there are also such things as nonprofits, and sometimes a for-profit company wants to do something that's legal or not enforced in one country but illegal in another, but we don't really think either of these are a factor in the cheeseburger industry, right?)

Therefore, we can conclude that Canada now constitutes a tax shelter, as compared to the United States. We're not talking about the Caymans or some backwater Cheapistan here; Canada really ought to be the country most similar to the United States. Similar colonizing populations. Complicated history, involving things the descendants of the victors aren't proud of, between the colonizing and (also related) previous main populations. Both, by varying means, had to at some point have the "you know what, butt out of our business" chat with England (admittedly theirs went more smoothly, arguably because we did it first). Both run "from sea to shining sea" with the implications of extensive agricultural and mineral resources plus trade with both sides of The Rest Of The World. Civil War, Quebec, close enough.

The main difference between Canada and the United States is that Canada has, over the years, built a more extensive collection of social services, such that the mentioning Canada sets off some people's "eww, socialism" reflex (and other people's "yay, socialism" one). But from that, you would expect taxes there to be higher, because it costs more to provide more.

And yet, it's worth it to Burger King to flee to Canada for lower taxes.  Huh.

Maybe we need to send our congresscritters to Canada to see how it's done, since I find myself wishing we could achieve Canadian levels of fiscal conservatism.

On the value of college

Posted by Avrila

I posted this comment in a Facebook thread about the value of college education, and then decided that I'd like to preserve it somewhere easier to find again. Enjoy

College can be great for those who want what it is supposed to be: a chance to invest the time and effort in going through the process of polishing your general education and acquiring a specialty in some subject. However, not everyone wants this, so it has been oversold for other things, like career and money (the range of outcomes in either is much larger than the difference between average salaries for those with and without university degrees; tactical decisions of which major or trade school matter more). Then there's the "that's what you do after high school" crowd who wants the perks of adulthood, like voting and alcohol, whilst deferring the responsibilities of deciding what to do with themselves for a few years; since they don't want to study, they have to be entertained, so my one course a semester toward an additional master's degree (not required, but it's enhancing my work) helps pay for a rec center where they can take kickboxing and zumba classes and rent canoes. I do not see how we are better off as a society by working toward universal canoe access for 18-22 year olds.

Some days you're...not the pigeon

Posted by Avrila

Shopping on Amazon for replacement power cables (I swear this thing eats them) and stylus (it doesn't eat those so bad, this is only my third one counting the original) works best when you actually push the button at the end.  Lost the stylus about a week ago; I've been using a promo pen stylus as a stopgap, which violates my principles since I know one of these days I'm gonna write on my screen if I keep using it, plus it just doesn't write anywhere near as well as the S Pen.  And then the power cable quit.  Am using a short little cable from WorstPurchase that I picked up for a stopgap because I was down to 3%.  They didn't have the OEM wall adapter; fortunately it turned out to be just the USB cable that was bad, even though I suspected the wall adapter when troubleshooting last night.  Replacements would have come in Monday if I had pushed the button sooner, but, got distracted.  WorstPurchase used to have proper versions of both but why would anyone still want to use a computer that's a year and a half old?

Found a clerical error in the grades I posted last night, in which a student officially got a lower grade than was earned.  Already emailed the department secretary to find out how to fix this, generally feeling like an idiot right now.  It happened to me once as a student at Chemeketa, so I'm trying not to be too upset with myself over it since I know it's a thing that happens, but, limited success there.  This is not anywhere near meeting my personal standards, dammit.

Also, had to reboot my tablet to get it to Bluetooth with my keyboard.  But that one was a relief because I thought it was the keyboard that wouldn't, until I tried to connect things to my phone to narrow down the problem.  It was very plausible that it might be the keyboard, and not a software problem that turning it on and off would fix, since the keyboard got dropped pretty hard the other day.

In short, some days you're the pigeon, other days you're the statue, I am not the pigeon lately, and there's a recurring technological theme here.

So, since the past few days have been going to well for me technology-wise, let's have a conference call for the online class service I'm involved in starting up, in a couple hours...it will be fun to see how many emails have been not getting seen, and if things really go the way they've been going maybe the phone network will implode entirely.

Days like this

Posted by Avrila

There are a variety of reasons, like Thomas is out of town for work, and gardening isn't going how I meant for it to (I accidentally broke some of the bean vine seedlings putting them in yesterday, partly because they were overgrown for the space they had been kept in), and I didn't get half of what I needed to do done over break (couldn't get into a rhythm with stuff changing every couple days) so it's all still sitting there waiting for me...but those things, or things like them, are not unique; situational stuff piles up on me all the time and I don't always feel like...this.  Run down, but that doesn't really describe it, not all of it.  Mentally bruised is a more comprehensive description: it's only so bad, as long as I don't poke it, but if I poke it to make sure it hasn't gone numb, it's pretty bad.  I'm having trouble deciding what I prefer, between numbness and feeling like crying would be appropriate but too much work.  Everything seems like too much work -- I popped earbuds in, because I'm at the library and the person at the next table is doing something with sound effects turned way up in his earbuds, but I can't be bothered to tap the screen as needed to pull up Spotify.  Also, I stopped and took a break from typing in the middle of that sentence.  And that one too.

I wish things were different, but then I realize, it's not really things.  I wish I were different.

Not actually my problem

Posted by Avrila

Got a student who made a slightly ratty grade on the first test. Not even that bad. Within the range where it will be not too difficult to pull up the average to something acceptable...if I were giving final grades today, homework would pull it up over the passing line by a healthy margin.
First test is a great time to get a slightly ratty grade because you know you need to dig down deep and there's still time to do it.
Student wants me to change the grade on an application problem where directions in bold were not followed. No.
"But I got the right answer!" I've lost points for things like that. In Undergrad Abstract Algebra, a couple summers ago, I gave the definition I was used to from Math Ed for the greatest common factor of two numbers, instead of the technical one with formulas. It's all about knowing the expectations. Mine were, as I said, in bold. So still no.
Student is threatening to drop the class. For purposes of my own ego I would rather inspire the kid to dig down deep and pass, since that's still easily within the range of possibility at this point in the semester. However, I don't get paid on a per student basis, so in practical terms, if anyone wants to hurt themselves by giving up too soon...I can't let myself care about that more than they do.

In which my forehead meets my hand

Posted by Avrila

The same relative, who will remain nameless, reposted both of these on Facebook today.

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What I see when they come up together in my news feed:

LISTEN TO ME ABOUT SCIENCE BECAUSE I DON'T UNDERSTAND THE PREREQS!!!!!

And so I stand with Charles Babbage in my inability to comprehend such a tortured tangle of thinking.

Stereotypical Update Post

Posted by Avrila

Once again I realize that I haven't been blogging lately.  Either life needs to get easier or I need to get better at it...and that first one is seeming less and less likely, seeing as I'm already the first scary age ending in 9 and I thought it would have happened by now if it were going to.  I may possibly get more writing done, both blog-wise and story-wise, as well as more work on setting up online course content, since Thomas got me a Bluetooth keyboard for my tablet (it also works with my laptop, which lost function in its L key a while ago) for Christmas; now it'll be that much easier to work on stuff from wherever I happen to be.  I got him a book and stuck it in the middle of a pack of socks so it wouldn't be totally obvious; the socks were harder to find since apparently all of Lufkin agrees with him that no-show socks cost too many Man Points to be worth considering (by the time I went shopping, crew socks were almost sold out, as in it's possible, from what I saw, that I got the last pack).

Work-wise, teaching for AC is going OK.  About half of my students passed; if I recall correctly, I had achieved percentages like that in a summer semester, when the students are supposed to be somewhat better than usual, but nothing close to that during a regular semester at SFA.  The upcoming semester is going to be a challenge in a way because I'll have a one-night-a-week intermediate algebra class; just keeping the time from dragging is going to take some heavy lifting because I don't even do that well when I try to spend three hours at a stretch on the same math, let alone on spending three hours watching someone else do math.

I miss the health insurance, and am going to miss it even more when Obamacare makes me a criminal, but having work that isn't as enmeshed with school has distinct advantages, like not having to take three classes and feel like crawling into a corner and pray for oblivion all the time.  I exaggerate a little but the fact that leaving campus by around 10:00, during second semester, was setting a boundary (during first semester, staying past midnight was normal) speaks for itself, I tend to think.  This past semester, I only had to take one class, Topology, and I got an A in it, partially because I had the capacity to do crazy things like process information.  Taking three classes at a time last year, I barely scraped a B average in the first semester, and only a little better second semester, so this was an improvement.  Trying not to let it get me down that, unless I manage to take more than three credits at a time at some point, I'll graduate after the current first-years; that's the only down side.  But it's not like I need the degree at any specific time anyway.

I already started on school so let's finish that topic.  Next semester I'm planning to take Complex Variables (think calculus but in the number system where -1 has a square root).  I have a list of topics from the professor to study in advance and I'm also reading ahead a little in alternate resources, something that wasn't allowed for topology (the one thing that drove me batty about that class), and I've already found a Thing That Bugs Me...can't seem to visualize what a complex derivative would mean.  I see how to run through the formulas but it bothers me to Just Trust The Formulas without getting some intuition for the thing as well.

Most other things are a bit harder to encapsulate.  One thing that's been on my mind is that I really want to have Independent Studies Academy up and running, with students, this coming fall.  That means getting a lot of content ready and it means a lot of behind-the-scenes structure needs to be in place, but it's been on my mind a lot as something that needs to happen.

The housekeeping dimension of things has been two steps forward, one step back, on the good days.  One of the steps forward was that I came up with a game where Thomas and I race to fill a shopping bag with stuff to toss; it works best in rooms that desperately need decluttered, which is still most rooms, so that works out OK as far as it goes.

As far as New Year's resolutions, I'm thinking it'll be another year where on about the 5th I think of something I might be able to stick to, like "I will only blow up stuff that deserves it," then decide it's too late to be worth making it official.  If I resolve anything, it will be to get this keyboard remapped to Dvorak, because even looking at the keys to remind myself of what I'm typing on, there are a certain amount of typos happening based on muscle memory of a keyboard that's not designed for inefficiency.

To whom it may concern...

Posted by Avrila

If you're not sure how to act around a depressed person, go with something like this:

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Not spouting platitudes.

And especially not spouting anything equivalent to "snap out of it," since that is the category of phrases most likely to cause us to spend spoons on not punching people in the neck. If you can notice that there's anything to snap out of, we're low on spoons and might not feel like spending them on that right now and we would probably feel bad about punching you in the neck but that would happen afterward.