Sunday, May 26, 2019

What we learned this year, College Sophomore Edition

My father would say, “You can always tell a sophomore, but you cannot tell him much.” 

Our rising junior, on the other hand, can say a lot about what she learned her sophomore year.  I’ve tried to boil it down to a concentrated syrup.  

Human Physiology class

Younger Daughter: I learned the different parts of the heart and how blood flows through it.  I learned about pancreatic alpha and beta cells and the way the insulin is released.  

Father and daughter joyfully begin singing the Weird Al Yankovic song
 “Insulin, glucagon,
   Comin' from the islets of Langerhans...”

Me:  Wait.  Pancreatic what?

YD:  The pancreatic alpha and beta cells.  We learned the ‘fasted and fed’ cycle.

Me [finding something I understand]:  I’m on the fed cycle.

YD:  Yeah, you actually are, because we just had dinner.   And we learned about the acid kine and the parts of the [she waxes on about anatomy]… and the glomerulus…

Me:  Okay, you lost me.  Let’s move on to the next class.

* * * * *

Introduction to Physics 2 class
YD:  Okay… In Physics class – did I learn anything in physics class?

Son (who tutored her all year long in physics):  Yes, you did!  

YD:  I learned that I hate ‘flipped classroom’ methods.  It’s essentially a way for a teacher to duck their responsibilities.  It means the student is responsible for teaching themselves instead of the professor teaching them.

Husband: I want this transcribed so I can share it among all of my colleagues.
 [Lengthy discussion of the flipped classroom model.]
Me:  Hmm.  So there’s not one single thing you learned in physics?

YD: The things I learned are what my brother taught me. I did not learn any thing from my physics professor.

Son (that very brother who taught her): Really.

YD:   Yes.  You were a much better professor than he was.

Son:  That’s very interesting because I didn’t know half of the stuff that you did in physics.

YD:   I learned about resistance, and whether or not it is futile.

Son:  You learned what voltage is.

YD:    Yes , I did. It took me a very long time to get that, but I did eventually learn what voltage was.

Husband:  What is the difference between voltage and power?

YD:   Um, power equals V over R.

Son:  (whispers ‘wrong!’)

YD:   Power equals V R?

Son: (whispers ‘wrong!’)

YD:    Come on! Power equals I r-squared!  Power equals voltage times current.

Son:   Ding!

* * * * *

Introduction to Film class
YD: In Film class, I learned that film is not about quality.  You should not care whether or not you like the film.  It’s not allowed.  … I learned the Coen Brothers are amazing and I love their filmography so far.

Me: She used the word ‘filmography.’

YD:  I also learned to use the word ‘mise-en-sceh.’ [She leaves off the final ‘n’.]  I don’t think that’s how you pronounce it.

Me:  ‘Mise-en- scène’.  [Pronounced ‘sen’.] 

YD:   That’s costumes, placement of the characters, background, like whether or not there are trees, or rivers going by, props that you have.  The shot itself is like the framing around those things in the mise-en-sceh ,… sceeene,…

Me:  Scène. 

Husband:  You sure it’s not Noonian Soong?

YD: It’s not Khan Nunian Soon.

Son: Did you mix up Khan with Dr. Soong?!
(Star Trek fans can refer to Khan Noonien Singh.  I had no idea what they were talking about.)

* * * * *

19th Century British Literature class
YD: I learned that Dickens is not the champion of the poor.  I learned that George Eliot is –

Me:  Wait!  Back up.  Dickens not the champion of the poor?!

YD:  No.  Not really.

Husband:  Didn’t he make fun of the poor?

YD:  Sort of.  He doesn’t quite see them as human.  He sees them as things to be cared for. 

Husband:    He makes fun of Jews, too.

YD:  Yes, he does.  Dickens mainly is a great supporter of the middle class.  He sees the poor as people who are automatically below ‘us’, and yet should be taken care of as part of our responsibilities as the middle class.  The aristocracy must fall because they are overbloated and corrupt.

Husband:    Denny Crane said, “I have a problem with the poor.  They have no money.”

YD:  Dickens’ problem with the poor was that he didn’t like them.  He thought that they were violent and helpless.

Me: [thinking of Oliver Twist] I think I see what you mean – the orphan street boy who is saved is actually surreptitiously a part of the middle class.

YD:  Yes.  Either that or he dies, which happens in Bleak House.  Which is less bleak than you think, even though many people die in it.  And one person spontaneously combusts.  I learned that that was a viable theory in the 1800s. 

Husband:  There are still people who maintain that people can spontaneously combust.

YD:  There are some people who maintain that the earth is flat.

Husband:  That too.

* * * * *

Me (thinking back to the YD’s crisis caused by her needing to mail in a tax form before April 15th and not having postal items): Did you learn that you should always have an envelope and stamps?

YD:  No, I didn’t, because I was able to do everything online.

Me:  But you might have needed an envelope!

* * * * *

What the Common Household Mom learned:
The youth no longer need envelopes, nor stamps, nor cash.   But they still want me to buy the groceries and make the dinner.

Not something The Youth need to know

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Professor has questions about the election

Here is a guest post from the Common Household Husband, who is a university professor.  He takes a cue from his students on important questions to ask about the election.

* * * * * * * *

There is an election today. My wife will be working the polls.  These are some of the questions I asked her:

Will this election cover all of the political landscape for the past term, or just the last few weeks?

How many questions will be on the ballot?

Is each question on the ballot worth the same number of points?

Will some questions on the ballot have more than one correct answer?

If yes, will I lose points for selecting an incorrect answer?

Will calculators be needed for this election?

Will phones be allowed?

I don’t do well on electronic ballots. Can I have a paper ballot?

I arranged several weeks ago for a ride home on the day of the election. Can I take the election when I get back?

I am uncomfortable in crowds. Can I take the election in a separate room at a time of my convenience?

Will the results of the election be curved?

After the election is done, can I meet with you to go over my selections on the ballot?

Friday, May 3, 2019

First Lines: April 2019 edition

Our cherry tree.  Not on Cherry-Tree Lane, though.

Here are the first lines of the books I finished reading in April.  My selections this month all seemed to contain some form of gaslighting, a vicious psychological manipulation in which the perpetrator tries to get the victim to question reality.  And family features prominently, in one form or another.

Book 1
The handsome dining room of the Hotel Wessex, with its gilded plaster shields and the mural depicting the Green Mountains, had been reserved for the Ladies’ Night Dinner of the Fort Beulah Rotary Club.

Book 2
If you want to find Cherry-Tree Lane all you have to do is ask the policeman at the crossroads.

Book 3
I’m standing on the red railway car that sits abandoned next to the barn. The wind soars, whipping my hair across my face and pushing a chill down the open neck of my shirt.

Book 4
This report is submitted to the Attorney General pursuant to 28 C.F.R. § 600.8(c), which states that, "[a]t the conclusion of the Special Counsel 's work, he ... shall provide the Attorney General a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions [the Special Counsel] reached."

Book 5
The villagers of Little Hangleton still called it “the Riddle House,” even though it had been many years since the Riddle family had lived there.

The titles and authors revealed:

Book 1
It Can’t Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis.  © 1935.   In which “the Right Honorable Mr. Senator Berzelius Windrip” snatches the Democratic Party nomination from FDR, and comes to power as POTUS.  This fascist comes from the left, but to get to power employs gaslighting, anti-Semitism, and racism just the same as any fascist does.  Such tyranny hasn’t happened here on a national scale (yet) for white people.   But can it?

Here’s Lewis’ description of Berzelius ‘Buzz’ Windrip:
The Senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his “ideas” almost idiotic, while his celebrated piety was that of a traveling salesman for church furniture, and his yet more celebrated humor the sly cynicism of a country store. …
Certainly there was nothing exhilarating in the actual words of his speeches, nor anything convincing in his philosophy. His political platforms were only wings of a windmill. …
[He] would coldly and almost contemptuously jab his crowds with figures and facts—figures and facts that were inescapable even when, as often happened, they were entirely incorrect. …
he bellowed his anger like Jeremiah cursing Jerusalem, or like a sick cow mourning its kidnaped young. …
He grinned and knee-patted and back-slapped; and few of his visitors, once they had talked with him, failed to look upon him as their Little Father and to support him forever. . .. The few who did fail, most of them newspapermen, disliked the smell of him more than before they had met him. . .. Even they, by the unusual spiritedness and color of their attacks upon him, kept his name alive in every column. …

By contrast, here’s Windrip’s Republican opponent running for President:
Walt Trowbridge conducted his campaign as placidly as though he were certain to win.  …  The conspicuous fault of the Jeffersonian Party, like the personal fault of Senator Trowbridge, was that it represented integrity and reason, in a year when the electorate hungered for frisky emotions…

Book 2
Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers.  © 1934.  
I read this (again) because we watched “Saving Mr. Banks” on Netflix which gave me a new perspective on this childhood favorite.  My reaction, as a child, to the Mary Poppins movie was kind of the same as the author’s:  Mary Poppins was supposed to be much more stern than Julie Andrews portrayed her.  It must be said that in the book Mary Poppins is a gaslighter, telling the children they didn’t see what they saw.

Book 3
Educated by Tara Westover. © 2018.    Memoir.   Everyone has raved about this book, but I found it difficult to take.   This book has a Class A gaslighter in it.  I read it for book club, but then was not able to attend book club.  It’s a good book-club book - there’s a lot here to discuss. 

Book 4
Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election, by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, III.  Washington, D.C.  March 2019
A.k.a. The Mueller Report
I think I have never read a written work with so many footnotes (2,375, an average of 6 per page of text). My main conclusion is that Mueller is a wimp and that the Trump Campaign and Administration, i.e. the Trump Family, has zero regard for US democracy.    This time the gaslighting is done by the POTUS to his own staff.  For more on the Mueller report, see my Mueller Report Haiku.

Book 5
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (#4 in the series).  Not my favorite Harry Potter book, the first time around.  Nor this second time.  It reads like a movie script, with very little character development, I felt.  This one gets distinctly bloodier than the earlier books in the series.