Month: October 2014

Math class

There’s a couple of complaints I get in math class on a regular basis, usually along the lines of “when are we going to use this in real life?” and “this is too hard for me.”  At first I thought it would be good to discuss the question to remind the students of the importance of the work we’re doing, and that mastering it is mostly a matter of consistent practice.  Each time I hear the same students make the same complaint I become more aware that they aren’t listening to my answer.  It’s never the students with great grades who say these things, it’s lazy kids trying to get out of work.  Each time my answer has been less polite.  Today I might have hurt someone’s feelings.  If this trend continues at the same rate, there may be an incident.  To avoid that event, I’m going to give a short presentation and hang a poster about the following information:

5 Reasons why we’re going to do more of that type of problem you are complaining about:

1. Strengthening your mind

The mind is like a muscle and needs to exercised to improve or maintain it’s ability.  Math provides a good structure for learning logic and problem solving skills with a clear set of boundaries.  Practicing math helps develop general mental function.

2. Building fundamentals

The math we practice in class is always going to be difficult because we are trying to learn as much new information as possible.  That doesn’t mean that this math is especially hard however.  In fact Algebra is relatively basic math, and it is a stepping stone to understand more advanced math.  Eventually it will seem easy, and you will learn more short cuts, but only after you spend enough time working at it.

3. Employment and practical life skills

There are a number of careers that use a high degree of math on a regular basis, including in the areas of engineering, research, finance, medicine, etc.  Also, most jobs and daily activities that involve determining costs or quantity or size or understanding statistics could be made simpler with a better understanding of math.

4. Higher Education

If you have plans for further education after highschool, most programs, even if they aren’t math related fields, will have some basic requirement for acceptance into the school and classes that must be taken while at the school.  The curriculum in our school is designed for preparation for higher education and general life skills, so if you feel like these skills don’t apply to you, please take a moment to consider what your other options have to offer.

5. This class

This is math class.  In math class we study math.  I’m the teacher.  I choose what we study based on the curriculum that has been chosen for this school.  You don’t have to enjoy math class.  You don’t even have to study in math class, but my job is to give you an opportunity to learn and give you a grade based on your effort and understanding of the material.  If you want to pass, I recommend you spend more time focused on the material.

Now, I want to help students of students who are frustrated and struggling.  We can talk about it on an individual basis.  Understand if you are behind, it’s going to take work on your part to catch up.  I’m also supportive of out-of-the-box thinking about effective education systems, and we can discuss that after math class.


Hot like coffee

The absent discussion in the previous post tended slightly homoerotic, so to defend my heteronormativity I’m going to overcompensate by delving into a topic on the opposite side of the spectrum.  Straight from Batman’s bulge to South Korean singers’ swinging hips.  Thanks to Psy and “Gangnam Style” most Americans got a glimpse of what can come out of Korea’s Pop music industry.  Not very many Americans seem to go far beyond that video though.  I go pretend to work at a little Korean owned cafe near my house because it is usually quiet, the wifi is good, the coffee is ok, and Korean music videos are playing at all times.  Here’s a bad cellphone pic of what that looks like:


I don’t understand the lyrics, and I don’t have a broad understanding about music theory, industry, history, or reception, I am not an authority on this subject, but I have watched hours of Korean made music videos in this coffee shop.  Based on that experience I’ve come to two conclusions about K-Pop:

  1. Gangnam Style is pretty good, but not so much better that it deserves the enormous viral explosion it has received
  2. Psy must be one of the least attractive people in the K-Pop industry

Not that he is dreadfully ugly, he just looks like a regular guy, but all the other Pop-stars look like supermodels.  for example:


I haven’t spent enough time to recognize and differentiate the Korean groups, but generally the videos are similar to the American music industry in the quality of production and in employing the same type of hyper-sexualized, not-quite-pornographic style that is eye-catching without getting censored.  Compared to Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea’s recent archetypal video “Booty,” they’ve taken the video producer’s basic recipe, transitions between women shaking their butts, and increased the ingredients from two butts to five and increased the transition rate from 1.2 to 3.4 butts per second.  Here’s an example with occasional English lyrics to get you hooked.  Not that the production is entirely about butts.  There’s also interesting set design, costumes, choreography, and lighting.  But ya, the butts are mesmerizing.

Batman neutered

neutered batman

It wasn’t until after I finished that I noticed how Batman’s suit shows deep contours over his whole body… except for his private parts, which appear perfectly smooth.  It could be that Batman designed his suit to be less revealing  or that I chose a less realistic interpretation to make it appropriate for a general audience.  It’s more likely that the I have a subconscious aversion to drawing genitalia.  There’s room here for a full discussion about the effects of repressed sexuality in modern culture, but I’m going to leave that for a more prepared artist to explore.

Effective branding


A rose by any other name may smell just as sweet, but if dragonflies had a different name I wouldn’t have been nearly as interested in them as a child.  I was fascinated by dragons, and although the relationship between the insect and the mythical creature was unclear, it was enough to give me a profound respect for dragonflies.  Other memorable bugs from when I was little were roly-polies, lady bugs, earthworms, and grasshoppers, all of which were common and easy to catch and play with.  Dragonflies however, were too quick and fleeting to observe for long.  That mysteriousness and unattainability probably added to their allure.  Since they don’t breathe fire or raze medieval villages, a renaming might be appropriate.  Considering dragonflies are among the fastest flying insects, can fly backwards and hover, and their general body shape, a more accurate name could be “helicopter bug”, and that might be one of the few names that could compete for the attention of a six year old.



The color is weird because I wasn’t allowed to use the fancy markers and the fancy pencils are nowhere to be found, so I used the boy’s colored pencils.  I don’t think it takes away from the message though.  Clearly you can see from the image that the boy got new shoes.

Pictures of people taking pictures of people

The artist asked me to take pictures at the opening night of her exhibition, which I was glad to do because it would give me something to keep me busy instead of standing around struggling to make small talk. I wasn’t the only person with a camera however.  In fact, it was hard to take a picture without catching someone in the background angling his or her own shot.  Rather than take my assignment seriously, I made it a game to capture the other photographers at work.  Camera phones and Facebook certainly allow information and experiences to spread faster than traditional media, but I wonder if people are actually clicking through the galleries of pictures we spend so much time to take, or if sharing on social media is more of an individual experience.


Good ideas with no traction


I thought we should use the good camera to take a picture, but someone insisted I use my phone.  I took a few blurry pictures.  Then, when I moved the bottle to get a better shot, the moth flew onto my shoulder and she decided we should get the good camera.  It was too late, the moth was already spooked.  Before she got back with the camera the moth was gone.  I know I don’t have a perfect track record of making the right decision, and this wasn’t a high stakes situation, but I feel like there are many times when we could get better results for the same energy spent if we went with my plan.

Mixing paint is hard


First time using acrylic paint.  Everything was going fine until I got to the hair, and went a couple shades too dark.  Roxy is supposed to be blond.  She’s from “Homestuck” at mspaintadventures, which has new updates coming out after a year of hiatus, so I’m super excited.  Excited enough to paint it.  This was based on another fan’s art I found with a google search.  And finally, yes, that’s a cat with four eyes on her shirt.