Teaching In Socks


The medium is the message
December 10, 2008, 5:03 pm
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Today, in my class of scientist I was discussing free falls. Throughout this mini-lecture, one students happened to be particularly on top of the concept and familiar with the terminology.  When he recalled the meaning and proper pronunciation of "Terminal Velocity" with minimal prompting, I praised him with a hokey and mundane stock phrase such as "someone read their book…"

Luckily, he was able to rescue the any semblance coolness of this conversation had with his reply, "Oh, no, I’ve just seen the movie called Terminal Velocity". Terminal Velocity is by no means integral member of the Canon of Awesome Man Action  Films, but it does get an honorbale mention solely because it involves a scene where Charlie Sheen free falls out of a plane in a red convertible. I can’t recall the specifics of why Charlie Sheen drives a car out of an airplane, oh how he resolves this predicament, but the answers to both of those questions are irrelevant.  The student and promptly interrupted the flow of the lecture to spend a few minutes regaling the class (really just ourselves) with discussion of just that scene.

seriously, its not the fall, whoever told you that is wrong.

seriously, it's not the fall, whoever told you that is wrong.

That’s when I realized that Charlie Sheen, in spite of all of his massively devastating, insanely public personal issues and  body of work that includes numerous celluloid monstrosities and seemingly career ruiners such as Hot Shots:Part Deux and Predator: The Concert this man has ascended into the stratosphere of international lexicon and has become a cross-cultural symbol(albeit of a guy who sometimes drives cars our of airplanes for forgotten reasons).

Despite, the surprisingly amount of quality work (Navy Seals!), Charlie Sheen has done that might balance this out, and justify his status as a person the entire world can discuss, I’m not sure how comfortable I am with this. It’s just seems too strange an arbitrary that Charlie might be as recognizable a name as Einstein, or perhaps more recognizable than Aristotle. It’s kind of like when I was in the book store the other day, and in my perusing I noticed that The Wealth of Nations was 60 yen cheaper than The Da Vinci Code.   I’m not going to sit here and whine and scream about how “culture is dead” (culture is dead), that “we’re all doomed” (we’re totally doomed), and “society is a sham” (serenity now) but it’s evident that we have some work to do.

In summation, I think the only way to make this okay is if Charlie just divides all the money that he gets from his hit soul-sucking clown make up infomercial disguised as a television program and gives it to every single person in the world. It’s the only fair. He can keep the money he made from all dogs go to heaven 2. Those dollars were earned.

all dogs go to heaven 3

all dogs go to heaven 3

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small rodents and big gorillas.
bridge to a future Robot factory?

bridge to a future Robot factory?

This afternoon I was greeted with a sight that I am less than enthusiastic about. The owner of the prestigious Indian restaurant I frequently dine at, walked by rather swiftly with the head of shopping center security team (Ako’s finest no doubt). In his hand, the head of security was carrying a high-powered flashlight. Not a mag-lite or something you would use to subdue a hooligan, rather the kind of flashlight you would want if you were looking for something small….and perhaps agile.

At this point, any conclusion I come to is pure speculation, but this is not usually a good omen. When I saw the security guard leaving the eatery he had a bit of a hop in his step. It is difficult to interpet what that meant. My thoughts: either something was dropped some place dark and unmentionable, or more likely, they had summoned security to help them secure the kitchen area from an unwanted, and most likely, non-human intruder. Needless to say, I will be going on a short curry fast–for religious purposes, obviously.

I do want to comment that I think this would be one area where Japan’s robot infatuation would be handy.  What’s preventing them from taking the “roomba” a step further and adding some heat sensors, small arms weaponary and a “kitchen sentinle” mode? Certainly not desire or demand…

In other news, it happened today. In my science class the proverbial “bomb was dropped and the bomb was mentioned. I must confess, I asked for it. We were wrapping up the unit on Nuclear Physics and I needed a short activity that was that was highly verbal, featured the original thoughts of the student, and cumulatively covered the unit. Invoking the spirit of Socrates, I went for “Benefits and Detriments of Nuclear Physics and Nuclear Technology”. For purposes of the class, this was titled “Nuclear Phsyics: Pro-Con”.

I had them write five ideas for both “Pro” and “Con” on a sheet and then went over them in a short class discussion, eliciting one idea from them each.  Being the curious idiot that I am, I amd sure I secretly wanted to see how many students it would take before the “a” word was mentioned.For those of your scoring at home, (now is the time get out your “Teaching in Socks” bingo” cards!) the answer was four.

I know for a fact the first three all had “atomic bombs” listed on their sheet but omitted it. I even saw the second student I called on mull over his list, look at me, and decide to dodge that landmine.  Not that he should feel ashamed or afraid to say it, but I appreciated the polite gesture in attempting to avoid something he decided would been uncomfortable for me.

I got to appreciate that sentiment for about 20 seconds. When the words “atomic bomb” were said, I replied, “un-huh” and wrote “nuclear weapons” on the board under the “con” portion of the list. I might have been subconsciously shaking my head, mostly in response to the internal though of “one year ago I never would imagined I’d be doing this” however, the students must have been keen to my body language, or just generally aware of the situation, as they started the ribbing the student who provided the answers with quite whispers of what I imagine translates into, “nice one” or “good going, idiot”. When I got to the next student, he claimed to not have an answer to contribute at all and the following students stuck to more medical aspects of the science. I don’t think it was all that uncomfortable, but I purposely misprounounced some words comically  at the end of class to try and lighten the mood regardless. We’ll see what happens when I teach the class again tomorrow.  I’m holding out for total mutinity.