Wednesday, 31 December 2014

AMV Friday Roundup IIII

It began the last Friday of September, 2013. It ended 52 weeks later. It's Anime Music Video Friday (#AMVFriday), as tweeted from @mathtans.

Some artwork really impresses me.

See here: the first recap post (1-12), the second recap post (13-24), the third recap post (25-40), and now for the first time in one place, this post, the last set... plus a little bonus at the end.

Why did I stop? Largely because I now have a new project, a serial where I try to get people to vote for choices every week. Check it out! AMVFriday is also a project that took more time than one might realize, depending on the videos that did (or did not) turn up when searching. Remember, there were requirements to make the cut.

What requirements? Same as before:  1) Not a Slideshow; 2) Posted by (or with permission of) Creator; 3) Low View Count; 4) Few Subtitles; 5) Single Song -or- Single Anime. In the list, the anime remains listed first, then the song. The boldfacing still shows the search term. Let's get to it.


41) Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Song: Atop the Fourth Wall Theme (Vincent E.L.)
Channel: CaptainLhurgoyf's channel
Views on Jul 4: 1,225

*42) Anohana (Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai).
Song: We Used to Wait (Arcade Fire)
Channel: nicolio1313
Views on Jul 11: 2,153
* The first ever suggestion from someone

43) Vividred Operation. Song: Kill Everybody (Skrillex)
Channel: G9eekK
Views on Jul 4: 332

44) Sailor Moon. Song: Canadian Idiot (“Weird Al” Yankovic)
Channel: chibilenne
Views on Jul 25: 6,177

45) 5 Centimeters Per Second. Song: Hello Again (The Gregory Brothers)
Channel: Breeman AMV
Views on Aug 1: 1,404

46) Various! Song: Touch You Right Now (Basic Element)
Channel: ElGranEmprendedor
Views on Aug 8: 422

47) Toradora! Song: Roll To Me (Del Amitri)
Channel: MomoTheStrange
Views on Aug 15: 2,159

48) Highlander: The Search for Vengeance. Song: The Evil That Men Do (Iron Maiden)
Channel: JECtheStampede
Views on Aug 23: 4,711

49) Various! Song: Year of Summer (Wildstylez)
Channel: marbilSWE
Views on Aug 29: 893

50a) Various! Song: Release Me (Agnes Carlsson)
Channel: Janae Roop
Views on Sep 5: 4,015

50b) Jormungand. Song: Bulletproof (LaRoux remix)
Channel: Wakibozu
Views on Sep 5: 3,668

50c) Various! Song: Bulletproof (La Roux) vs Release Me (Agnes Carlsson)
Channel: YunaLuv1 .
Views on Sep 5: 361

51) Tokyo Mew Mew. Song: Ike Ike (Hinoi Team)
Channel: TarriThief
Views on Sep 12: 149

52) Natsuiro no Sunadokei. Soundtrack: 7 Days TV Theme
Channel: Gregory Taylor
Views on Sep 19: 6


53) Various! Song: Auld Lang Syne
Channel: i3orje
Views on Dec 30: 1,021

If you search #AMVFriday on Twitter, you can see the blurbs I posted with each AMV. If you want to comment, do so below. Thanks for joining me on the video experience!

Monday, 29 December 2014

Avoid American Airlines

Let’s meet American Airlines. AmerAi will lose your bags, but more to the point, will not communicate well with you about the problem. For me, this problem included being on a cruise ship near the equator with little more than the clothes I was wearing from the north. For you, it could spoil your vacation. I recommend you avoid American Airlines.

This may be information you already know, but I’m not a frequent flyer.

Granted, part of the larger issue is corporations. While individual employees may be nice, they are trapped within a corporate model which does not care, and has no incentive to provide any information that might result in them losing money. Plus, the more hoops you have to jump through, the more likely it becomes that you will give up - and they win. Why some consider corporations “people” is a mystery to me. Consider how corporations used to have mascots, but now they’re going more impersonal, almost to emphasize this “shut up with your problems” philosophy.

With airlines in particular, we’re seeing a minimalist take on logos... I think in part because those things are expensive to draw. (See this article about Porter Airlines going the other way.) Regardless, getting upset at individual employees is no use, they’re doing what they can from behind a desk. I want someone larger, someone I can talk to right now about what happened - even if it's a personified logo, which amounts to talking with myself. Feel free to listen in.


So, as I said at the start, let’s meet Amerai. And discuss what you can expect if you fly with him... that is, American Airlines.

Amerai: We know why you fly! The new American is arriving!

Right. First of all, I’m not American, I’m Canadian. More to the point, what’s the deal with losing the luggage of me and my family? We had to board a cruise ship with no shorts, no swimsuits, no suntan lotion, no-

Amerai: You must have had a stopover en route. We need, I dunno, say, 3 hours to transfer bags between flights. Everyone knows that, so it’s your fault.

One of our nine bags made it. Implying the others could have.

Amerai: Seriously? Huh. Yeah, well, it’s not like we know which bags are grouped together.

All nine bags had bright “Priority” tags, for flying first class. And by the way, you had to ask some of us to take a downgrade, since the airplane you provided didn’t have enough first class seats.

Amerai: You rich people! Just get your business people to contact mine.

I’m not rich, I’m a math teacher. We took the upgrade because this was a Christmas vacation, and it also seemed to me like this would prevent the lost baggage problem.

Amerai: You’re a bit of an idiot then, aren’t you.

Optimist, maybe, but this is why I fear for other people taking American Airlines. But let’s move on. It took 48 HOURS for the bags to reach their intended destination. By this point, of course, our cruise ship had changed ports twice, but why such a delay?

Amerai: What delay? That’s normal. Didn’t we provide you with a little ’Spa in the Sky’ kit to tide you over?

The kit had no clothing in it, a third of the stuff was for shaving which isn’t useful given my beard, and the carbon copy note implying you cared felt a bit offensive.

Amerai: How about a clothing allowance, sometimes we do that.

We WERE left a message saying we had $200 per person, but we later discovered this had not been flagged on our account. Also, we’re on a ship. There isn’t a typical pharmacy around for MILES. On top of THAT, we’re travelling to ports which are using the euro and peso, not the dollar, necessitating conversions.

Amerai: I can’t see how any of that is our problem.

Seriously?! You put us in that situation! Actually, I feel bad for women in this case - there was almost NOTHING for them in stores on board the ship. Except purses and jewellery. And even in a major department store in port, we couldn’t find decent shorts - the only pairs they had cut off above the thigh. Seriously! And the skirts were all above the knee! Sexism seems to be alive and well.

Amerai: I KNOW that’s not our problem. Are we done yet?

How about the fact that I’m on vacation, and you’re forcing me to track receipts??

Amerai: You’re such a complainer. No one’s forcing you to do anything, I’m fine with not giving you any money. So unless you have an actual concern to address, I’m leaving.


Communication. That was my actual concern. We filed the paperwork at the airport before heading for our ship, and were left a phone number, but it didn’t seem to be much use. You also didn’t email. In fact if it weren’t for the cruise line coordinating things, probably nothing would have happened. They were ten times better to us than you were, American Airlines!

Amerai: Well, cruise lines, it’s their job.

It’s NOT your job to track lost luggage? To advise travellers? To try to get them the bags YOU LOST?!

Amerai: Nope. I mean, maybe I’ve got some peons - er, employees - who do that sort of thing. Probably. I’ll look into that for you, all right?

Sigh. Let’s ignore for the moment the fact that if the bags had arrived within 24 hours, there’s every chance they could have been forwarded on to a major port, and we could have had them in less than three days. As they didn’t, we were advised that the alternative would be forwarding them onwards on Dec 23rd, to the port where we’d be landing on the 25th. Christmas. Five days into our trip.

Amerai: So we give you your bags on Christmas. Aren’t we nice?

We were told on the 23rd that the bags - the Priority First Class bags - were still in our original port. That they MIGHT still be sent onwards on the 24th IF there was room in a plane.

Amerai: So we told you that much.

We found this out through our cruise line. You know, if there is a problem, you could at least be courteous and tell us what the problem is!

Amerai: The problem is that we’re having to pay extra here to send the bags on another airline. It’s inconvenient. How rude that you’re not seeing our side.

Uh huh. We even started to think you wouldn’t “find space” until the 26th, and that you would send them on then, after we’d left port. Such that we’d have to make new phone calls on Christmas Day telling you not to do something so stupid.

Amerai: Pfft, like you’d get through on Christmas. So did we send them on too late then?

You not knowing implies this is the sort of thing you’re likely to do.

Amerai: Maybe. I’m infallible, of course, being a corporation, but it’s my employees who can be idiots. So, did we send your bags on too late?

You didn’t. We did get our bags on the 25th, which is the only reason this post isn’t titled “American Airlines Attack On Christmas”. Seeing as our presents were in our luggage.

Amerai: There you go then.

But since we didn’t know where our luggage was most of the time, we were still having to buy supplies we already had on Dec 24th. Swimsuits. A pair of black shoes. All of this adding to the total and costing YOU money.

Amerai: It only costs us money if you try to claim it.

Right, that’s the other “pass the buck” thing here. We were told back in port that we had to make the claim at the end of our trip, in Canada. We were told THERE that they used to be able to do this sort of thing, but cannot any more. We have to submit everything centrally, through the mail. In both cases, the actual people took pity on us but said there was nothing they could do, these were the policies.

Amerai: Just wait until you send everything in. We’ll likely claim we didn’t get it, blame the fact that you’re Canadian sending things across the border, and then say that the 30 day window has expired. Hah!

You also charged us luggage fees, on an INTERNATIONAL flight, for bags we barely had. Saying that this would also have to be reimbursed later. Maybe. I hate you.

Amerai: I know. But at least there’s others who love us.

I can only hope they won’t after reading this.

Amerai: Haha! It’s funny because you think people read your blog.

Airca: Bet you wish you’d flown with us now, huh?

Air Canada, your only flight down to our destination went once per week. Coordinating that wasn’t feasible. And your track record is a bit spotty too. Though - and I can’t believe I’m saying this - you are better by comparison. Even Air Europa, which once literally closed an embarkation door in my face, saying we couldn’t board because our luggage hadn’t made the transfer, was nicer by comparison. Because Air France, their parent company, got us to our destination that day, and our bags reached us 24 hours later.

Amerai: I will point out that if WE’D refused you boarding here, you would have missed your cruise entirely. So points to us for that.

Seriously? You want points? Because you didn’t merely let one family member travel, and hold back the rest of us?? Rather than find the other 8 bags with the big PRIORITY stickers on them?!?

Amerai: Don’t be silly. We wouldn’t have loaded his bag at all, and would have claimed not to know what you meant.

Airca: Hey, I think I got a compliment in there! Yay!

Amerai: Look, “customer”, you’re blowing things out of proportion. We airlines, we’re all the same. We lose bags. It’s what we DO. Wise up.

I know. We've said I can be an optimist. We've also said I’m not on you about the loss, it’s HOW YOU DEAL with people who face that which is important. So important. Especially for a vacation. And you botched it. Big time.

Amerai: I don’t think so. You got your bags. This is a difference of opinion. And since I’m obviously not going to change your mind, that’s it, we are DONE here.

Oh, we are. We are done with American Airlines. Forever and ever, I hope. At least, once I’ve submitted all these receipts. >.<

On the bright side, I was with family, and we made the most of a taxing situation. Also, the islands were amazing. This just wasn’t what I expected for my first full vacation away from work in, not joking, sixteen months.

It happened to me. It could happen to you. Avoid American Airlines.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Yi Can't Even

I feel like I’m nearing the end of my rope. I should be marking papers right now, as lord knows marks are due Friday morning and probably the only way I’ll have everything done is to put in a minimum of 50 hours of work this week, so I should damn well start, but I can’t even. So, hey, I’ll blog, because it sort of makes me happy. I’ll even publish, in the chance it could be of benefit to other teachers (or sociologists) in some way, shape or form.

Historical Context: I used to see professionals for depression back in University, then again after moving to a new city, which was shortly after becoming a teacher. In both cases it wasn’t related to teaching, but in retrospect, perhaps it’s amazing I’ve now beenso long without needing to talk to anyone in a professional capacity. I am presently on a waiting list and I have support systems in place. So don’t panic about me. Yet.

With that said, here’s a list of the reasons that I can’t even.

a) I feel like my I’ve botched things with respect to my grand plans for seating this year. The randomizing is now spastic at best, disregarded at worst, and I don’t have the energy to restart with a new system. Physically, mentally, I’ve got nothing left. But I hate that I’ve given up.

b) I feel like the students who are presently being successful would be just as good with another teacher, and that the students who are not being successful would be better served by another teacher. And the more down I feel, the easier that is to believe, because I’m obviously not at the top of my game.

c) I feel like so many more students need extra help than those that actually come; at the same time, I know I can’t help everyone, and I hate that too. I also don’t like that we’re reaching a point where I may have to step away myself, possibly right when people need me. (That’s a large part of why I’m doing what I can to check in with myself, and why I’m actually writing this post rather than staring aimlessly at the ceiling. Come to think, I’m trying to help myself more to avoid letting others down, than for me.)

d) I feel like so few are actually doing any math work outside of class. (In one class they even asked me to check homework, for greater accountability.) I feel like it’s not because they don’t care, but because they don’t see the need, and they’re wrong, they’re so wrong, and it’s on me for not making them realize how important it is to practice constantly - not just before a test. Or if it’s because they don’t care... why am I unable to inspire caring? Why can’t I fix that?

e) I feel unable to keep one step ahead, despite how I need to be two steps ahead for certain IEP (Individualized Education Plan) students. Because it feels like everything is going to change by the end of the day anyway. (Because people won’t be there, or won’t have practiced, or won’t understand.)

f) I feel like the entire education system is becoming a vehicle for field trips, and extra-curriculars, and personally excused absences - which wouldn’t be so bad if learning content was still a part of it, but that’s only a priority right before a test. Students can’t learn through exploration if they’re NOT THERE to explore; they have to be told on the next day (that they’re present). Going back over things because half the class was absent and another quarter weren’t paying attention is getting tiring. Worse, it’s making the math less fun for me, which scares me.

g) I feel like I can’t do anything for myself, because it only leads to guilt over not doing what I need to do at work. (The exception to this being my serial, because that’s something I enjoy that I’ve committed to.) I haven’t written up my last AMV post here. Or my summary of CanCon, now a month old. Nor have I been able to read the serials of others. I have song parodies in my head I cannot work on. So not only is my teaching below par, so are my hobbies. I think there’s a snake eating it’s own tail here.

h) I feel like society as a whole doesn’t care about teachers. (Thanks TIME magazine!) I’m currently teaching under a provincial contract that ran out at the end of August. Granted, two years ago when that happened the Ontario Government exacted legislation forcing us back to work (even though we were already going to work), turning public opinion against us. They haven’t done anything so monumentally stupid this time. But I’ve seen what happened out in British Columbia. With a liberal government, no less. There are negotiation issues that float through my head periodically.

Basically, I feel tired. Not tired in the sense that I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, tired in the sense that if I’m just going through the motions, in the end, what’s the point. In that vein, excuse me in advance if I don’t jump to respond to any comments that might come up. But if you see something I’m missing here, feel free to speak up. Similarly, if you think posting this in public is a really BAD idea, advise me.

Final note: On the off chance you think it’s relevant, I’m listed as teaching for 7 years. My first year teaching was at a private school (doesn’t count for seniority), I did substitute teaching for 3 years (doesn’t count for seniority), then I got part-time work (doesn’t count as a full year of teaching)... so if you want to get technical, I’ve been doing the teaching thing for over 10 years now. Maybe I’ve simply hit a wall. But even there, is this wall is one of my own design, or not?

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Time Travel: CanCon 2014

This is a summary of the “Can We Time Travel?” panel from CanCon 2014. I learned about the Canadian Content Literary Convention last year, and previously blogged about that experience. I still plan to do some blogging on this year’s panels, but life is as crazy as ever. Particularly with me releasing 2,000 words every week in my “Choose Your Own Adventure” serial. (Feel free to check it out. Just saying.)

That said, priorities. Time travel has been my thing since Grade School! (It’s even a feature in my serial - where you can vote to influence my writing! Just saying.) So, if time travel is your thing too, or you simply want some perspectives on it, read on.

Panel Room, CanCon


The panel “Can We Time Travel? 10 Different Answers” occurred at 1pm on Saturday, Oct 4. (Or did it? Time is relative... no, ok, it did. As we understand it.) Professor Peter Watson (of the University of Ottawa) presented for about 45 minutes regarding that question. His first answer: Probably not. He started by running down the reasons why not - it’s forbidden by increase of entropy. By relativity. By logic. By cosmic censorship (according to Hawking). Alternatively, it’s possible in theory, but impractical as regards energy required. Or perhaps it’s irrelevant, because time is an illusion. For the rest of the session, he broke each of those arguments down, as follows.

Pictured: Not Now
The BIGGEST problem: Why is there a “NOW”? Our mental model of time (a linear model) sees time as a sequence of events. But in physics, time is a parameter, there is no ‘now’. Further to that, what tells us the direction of time? We like to think of “order moving towards disorder” (2nd law of thermodynamics) - is this why we think we can only go forward in time? Yet a refrigerator DECREASES entropy... as long as you plug it in (energy source needed). Peter Watson showed some videos to challenge our usual way of thinking (one of them from the show “Red Dwarf”).

What about paradox preventing time travel? First, why is it “the Grandfather Paradox” when you’re much more likely to know who your mother is than your grandfather? (Sexism? An aversion to killing your mother?) There’s also the “Where are they” paradox, in that we should now see time travellers back from the future, if they’re going to exist. Well, the ‘Many Worlds Theory’ takes care of such issues... while simultaneously being the most untestable and uneconomical theory ever. (Uneconomical because of the exponential explosion off of every action. Related to the notion of parallel Earths.)


Pictured: Not quite what I mean
What about time as a fourth dimension? This is a vague concept. However, “light cones” allow us to map worldlines in a geometrical way. Picture yourself standing somewhere. You cannot exceed the speed of light, so even after a second has elapsed, we can still pinpoint your movement on a plane within a circle, the radius of which is the maximum distance you could reach. Now continue this process using time as the fourth dimension, and we get a cone, the tip of which is your starting position. All your possible futures exist within this cone. Now, can we time travel? Can we arrange for these world lines to be closed, or to intersect back on themselves?

Having turned a vague question into something specific, Einstein said NO. Conversely, Godel invented a universe where time travel is not only possible but compulsory - but it’s not our universe (it has a centre). We DO know that gravity can twist the light cone... and if you’re close to a black hole, all your possible futures involve falling into it. (“Event horizon”: The place where no events happen. Because to an external observer, there is no time.) So a Tipler Cylinder, which is infinitely massive and rotating fast CAN achieve a world line wrapping back on itself - but there’s a technical problem here. It would be made of matter a trillion times denser than an atomic nucleus. Also, more critically, the math breaks down if it becomes a finite cylinder.

Also possible: Bake Time. We clear?

So perhaps we can construct wormholes, bending space to get around the issue of massive infinities. First problem, it would allow for instantaneous communication across space (bad because... I’m not sure. Sound barrier?). Second problem, it requires negative energy to construct one. Thus probably cannot be done in practice. Perhaps then, time simply flows, using the analogy of a river, rather than existing as a separate dimension. In reality though, that isn’t useful beyond an analogy, because “rate of change” (or flow) is per unit time... so then is time “the amount of time that passes you in a given time frame”? (One second per second?)

At around this point, it was pointed out that if free will doesn’t exist, time travel is certainly possible, but it’s not very interesting. (Destiny becomes unchangeable.) Reference here to “Slaughterhouse-Five”, a SciFi novel with a war message (or vice versa), when Billy Pilgrim becomes unstuck in time. Of note, the aliens tell Billy that free will is a very human concept. There was also mention of the idea that dreams release us from linear time (and some stories do mental time travel), but then is time just an illusion? (Lunchtime doubly so?)

Well, if illusion is involved, we’re certainly not aware of the alternative. Much like asking a fish what their opinion is about water. Put another way, is a freeway ordered in time? As you move along it, events (locations) will occur at particular times - and we could return to earlier events - but this is merely mixing up spatial position with our speed. Moreover if time IS an illusion, how can we measure it to such fantastic accuracy? Why do we even care about it?

Peter’s conclusion to “Can We Time Travel?”: I wish I knew.


Peter Watson (who, by the way, teaches a course about this) then took questions for the last 10 minutes or so. I asked about the problem of an Anchor Point (which appears in my own stories). Given how we’re constantly in motion (on Earth’s axis, around the sun, etc), how can you pinpoint location along with time? Peter basically agreed that 99.9% of the time you should travel to empty space, and he’s not sure how Doctor Who manages it. (Makes me wonder if a machine itself needs to act as an anchor point, or if it can be mobile.)

Another teacher (Richard Taylor, at Merivale) asked about gravitational conventions. Zero is the baseline, so negative gravity CAN occur close to a planet, how does that affect calculations? Peter countered that it’s technically negative curvature, not negative energy. At least, that was the bit I understood. Those were the main questions I remembered. There was also a mention of “Meta Time”, the idea that big time jumps may be possible (over centuries) while little jumps are not (over years or hours), and perhaps that’s the reason we don’t see future time travellers.

The image makes sense if you know my serial.
Someone also asked Peter what he might recommend in terms of Time Travel fiction. In addition to “Slaughterhouse 5”, he had previously mentioned “All You Zombies” (by Robert A. Heinlan) and “River of Time” (by Jorma Kaukonen). Peter finished with a slide of a number of literary options, so a few more: “The Time Machine” (HG Wells), “Times Arrow” (Marin Amis), "Einstein’s Dreams" (Alan Lightman). There were also Non-Fiction books for the subject, which includes “Time Machines” by Paul J. Nahim - a book I read back in University when writing my own stories. (Apparently J. Ouellette has also written about the Physics of the Buffyverse.) With respect to movies, Peter said one of the best is “Sliding Doors”, and one of the worst is “Hot Tub Time Machine”.

To close off this post, it would seem that the one place we CAN “time travel” is in works of fiction. (Like my serial. Just saying.) It’s so dreamy. Oh, fantasy free me. ... Okay, at the least, I hope you don’t feel like the time you took going through this post was time wasted. If you have other thoughts, mention them below!

Monday, 13 October 2014

The Grouping Experiment

This is a follow up post to Classroom Evolution, where I looked at how my seating arrangements changed over two years. This year (2014), I placed the desks into groups of three, not in a row but facing each other. At the same time, I implemented randomized seating - people not sitting in the same desk for two days running. (Not vertical surfaces, I’m not that daring.) Here’s how that’s been going. Spoiler: Painfully.

Room setup, Sept 2014

Initial Issues

-One particular class would have two students (autistic, and visually impaired) who needed the same seating every day. I worked that out in advance, giving them particular seats, figuring the others can permute around them.

-Two of my classes were less than 30 students, meaning one of the sets of three likely wouldn’t be needed (if I wanted to avoid a group of one, plus having an empty group seemed beneficial if there was someone who wanted to work individually on a certain day). Thus I figured on removing the “10”s. (Aside: I also put lines underneath 6 and 9, to distinguish them.)

-I scratched my head a bit about testing with this setup. Rather than rearrange desks on test days (as I had with prior setups), I decided I would create a couple different versions of the test - they would look the same, but with different numbers. With that plus randomized seating, hopefully there would not be the temptation to look at someone else’s paper.

-I am NOT good with names. It usually takes me a couple of weeks, and the crutch I have previously fallen back on is their spatial location in the room. I wouldn’t have that any more. So I figured on having the students make labels for their desks (colour coded by course) to help me out initially.

With all of that (more or less) decided, I laminated numbers 1 through 10, and handed them to students as they came in the first day. There were labels on the grouped desks of mathematical formulas (for instance, group 3 was “tan-squared 30”). There was some confusion, but once people had seats I went around to explain those pieces of mathematics, which acted as a reminder of what math was. Then we could get going.

I have been doing this for six weeks now.

What Didn’t Work

1) Desk labels with names. Failed within two days. People didn’t have them, or if they’d left them in class they didn’t want to search for them, or they WERE there, they were buried under binders, so no. On the bright side, what this forced me to do during the first week was go around to every group to try and get names, and while there, discuss where people felt like they were at with the material. Also, it let me recollect the laminated numbers, which became a bit of a mental check for me. If at the end of the period I hadn’t collected up the numbers, this told me I wasn’t always managing to hit individual groups. (Granted, sometimes that’s because you go where the hands are.)

2) Lamination. I hesitate to say it was a complete waste of my money, because it’s made the paper more robust, but students would flick at the corner, and literally peel away the two sides of the page, turning one number “5” into two of them. Then potentially give one to a friend, or keep theirs for the next day, or... I’m not sure what they were doing. I expected a bit of sifting through numbers, but I found myself having to do it every day, to make sure I had three, and exactly three, of each set. There now are a bunch of extraneous half sheet laminated numbers in my desk.

3) Random selection. Before the end of the first week, students weren’t grabbing a random number out of the box, they were sifting through, looking for a “nice” number. This defeats the whole purpose. So I started having to dump the numbers into my hand and literally just hand someone a number as they entered. The trouble is, in the afternoon, I have two large classes back to back (with 5 minutes travel time). So as I’m trying to save the prior SmartBoard file, and find the new class directory, and answer lingering questions, and reassure student X that they can come for help after school... the new class is wandering in and sifting through looking for a “nice” number.

I eventually had to read my largest class the riot act. I explained (again, as I had the first day) that I was doing this to encourage more collaboration (particularly with my 3M class, I don’t want a clique of 2D/2Ps - Ontario teachers will get that), and to create a sense of community, and to see how others have the same problems or different solutions, and so everyone get back out into the damn hallway and do this right it’s not that bloody difficult! (I may have been slightly more diplomatic. Slightly.)

Really? Seriously?
Related to that, it was pretty much impossible for me to pull the numbers for a single group consistently after my large class, meaning my (somewhat) smaller classes were spread out throughout the whole room - sometimes one person at a group. Leading to me saying they could hook up with a set of two. Essentially sabotaging myself. I also teetered on the edge of an emotional breakdown one morning when I was busy, and my seniors came in and figured they could just sit where they liked because I wasn’t physically at the doorway with numbers.

Writing it down, probably the sole reason I’ve been able to keep this up despite their “let’s game the system” attempts is the fact that I have no backup plan. Well that and the fact I still believe in it, trusting things will be better in the end.

4) Projector. Oh, right - my projector started complaining of overheating, so our tech fixed it up and replaced the bulb. Except the new bulb (somehow) isn’t as bright as the previous one. So if you’re in a group near the back, it’s actually hard to see the SmartBoard. I anticipated visibility being a possible issue since I wasn’t “de-fronting” the room, but this made it worse. I’ve had to let a couple students “get a lower number” (1-4) so they’re closer to the front (again sabotaging myself, as I don’t know if they’re all being honest). However, some students have simply started moving closer to the front (or to my computer) for when I’m doing an example, and returning afterwards. Words cannot describe how grateful I am to them making the effort.

5) Desk Numbers. I could not have anticipated this problem in a million years. End of September, student comes in, I hand them a “5”. They don’t know where group 5 is, and no other students can help, because they don’t know either, and where is 7 again? The layout: HAS. NOT. CHANGED. ALL. MONTH. 1-2-3-4 across the front, 5-6-7 through the middle, 8-9-10 across the back. I understand still not being sure the second week. But apparently, I can learn the names of students who are constantly shifting positions and attendance days FASTER than the students themselves are able to assign my specific values to fixed positions of unmoving objects. Do. Not. Understand.

(I had considered revising the numbering system of desks at one point, to get at anyone trying to “game” the system... number “1” isn’t at the front anymore! Thank goodness I didn’t implement this. I think there would have been riots.)

Add to ALL of those issues a couple guys who stubbornly resist my attempts to transplant them. I’ve spoken with one, he’s adamant about not engaging with people unless they approach him, and wants that particular desk. I’ve approached this from multiple angles, including saying how it bothers me, and ultimately I’ve decided do not have the energy for this daily battle. There’s also times when I feel like some of the same people have ended up together, but my memory isn’t completely certain, so I’ve avoided complaint.

In short, after six weeks, I’m kind of battered and broken.

What Did Work

All of THAT said, I feel like there have been, and are, some benefits to keeping this going. I’ve already touched on a bit of it above. Namely:

1) Forces more interaction. Not just with others, but also with me. The first week, I was having to go around to each table for names, and to get numbers. Now, if I’m not getting numbers, I know I’m not necessarily getting around to everyone. (I’m also potentially letting them get away with seating a ‘2’ a ‘6’ and a ‘7’ at the same desks. Seriously, guys?) I also feel like there’s more interaction... though that may just be someone going over to their friend to ask something rather than engaging at their seat. It’s kind of hard to tell, so I’m trying to be optimistic. I do know that once when a guy was sitting alone, and I said he could move, and he didn’t, someone else went to join him. That made me happy.

2) Creates community. In that all of them are simultaneously annoyed with me and how I’m implementing things - aka, I have united them together against me. Okay, maybe it’s not quite that bad (though they’re certainly united in not knowing where “group 7” is), but there isn’t really a “pocket area” of the classroom that people do or don’t want to be in. One thing that drove me nuts last year was spatial cliques in my Data Management class. This year, there’s maybe some stigma on individuals (I’ll have to work on that) but not on whole groups (not that I’ve noticed). There’s also the fact that taking the numbers has become a routine thing upon entry, which is probably not a bad way to start a class.

3) Promotes adaptability. In the sense of dealing with new peers, as well as being close to the board one day, then further the next. Plus if someone realizes they need to be away from a “friend” to get work done at some point, I’ve given them a good reason why they can’t sit together. (The flip side is if someone does want to work with someone who helps them, I’ve prevented that too, sigh. But maybe in the long run it’s better to have options? Though I’ve been a bit flexible on consulting when starting on the homework too.) Even attempts at “gaming my system” is forcing them to adapt so that they can sabotage effectively. Yay?

So that’s where I’m at. If you have any thoughts, let me know!

To conclude, just a couple things that I haven’t yet mentioned:
Back of class view
-The couple times I’ve been away, I haven’t been able to leave a seating plan (obviously) and have tried to explain in my notes to the substitute/on-call. No major complaints yet.
-The one day I allow as an exception to randomization is the review day before a test. They can even redesign the room at that point if they want, work in a group of 5, or 1, whatever helps them to understand the material better. I figure it’s not bad to shake up the usual routine.
-You may have noticed in the image above that every group has two desks with bolted chairs, and a free floating chair. You go with the materials you’re given. I have not tried to gather statistics on which student prefers which type, but do wonder about it on occasion. (Also, the actual desk positions do seem to migrate a few centimetres every week. Okay then.)

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Death to Kill The Moon

“Doctor Who” has been generally good through September. However, the latest episode was terrible. I’ll try to be brief, mainly because there’s at least three other posts on this blog that I’ve been meaning to get to... but in the last day or so I’ve seen so many people either: 1) praising this episode for being amazing, or 2) getting annoyed with Clara, that I just... can’t... even. Seriously? SERIOUSLY?

I’m going to do a quick deconstruction of everything that went wrong in "Kill the Moon". However, there will be spoilers, so if you don’t want those, don’t read beneath the image. (Hint: Clara’s not the real problem.)

Don't kill this moon...

I did rewatch the episode to make sure I wasn’t misremembering things. And I grant that some of what follows is personal issues. But some of it is pretty basic. Here we go, in order of appearance.

1) Flashback Episode. I generally don’t like these, ones that start us in the thick of things, then move back in time. It’s personal preference, but I’ll come back to this point later.

2) “She wasn’t special” (regarding Courtney). Something of a shift from “900 years of time and space, and I never met anyone who wasn’t important”. I rather liked that line. But it’s a new doctor, looking at things in a new way, so fine, moving on.

I do not have an issue with the yo-yo.

3) “Save the air” The lights come on, and immediately you can breathe normally? That’s not how that works.

4) “Unicellular life” That... doesn’t seem right either, even if they’re “non-chromosomal”. Also, what’s with the cobwebs then? But okay, suspension of disbelief, I’ll stick with it.

5) “My Gran used to put things on Tumblr” Tumblr is a 21st century invention. This episode takes place in 2049. If Lundvik was 40, she would have been born shortly after Tumblr appeared. The generations don’t make much sense.

That said, to this point, the episode has been perhaps one of the creepiest “Doctor Who” episodes I’ve ever seen (and yes, I’ve seen some classic Who... and yes, I’m no fan of spiders). I’ve been able to overlook things. But we know what comes next.

It slices, it dices, it determines things like...

6) The moon is an egg.

I get that we’re dealing with science fiction, but you can’t just toss that out and not consider the implications. If so, how did it get there? Why is it orbiting? Why is it the last of it’s kind? More to the point, when the sun consumes the Earth several millennia down the road, I do not recall any mention of “saving the moon”. Or any future analysis of the thing, alive or dead. If a huge crater were to appear on Earth, you can’t just brush it off as “it’s always been there”, people are going to WONDER.

I’m hitting my breaking point of credulity here.

7) “It’s your moon, womankind, it’s your choice.”

Okay, whether you MEANT that to be a metaphor for a woman’s right to choose or not, if you’re going to phrase it that way, you REALLY need to consider implications! Dusting your hands, saying “it’s not my problem” and running off to leave the women to decide how to handle a major life decision is NOT BEING A GOOD ROLE MODEL. Show some SUPPORT, particularly given how YOU’RE the reason they’re IN THIS MESS (for at least two thirds of them)! And believe me, we’re coming back to this point too!

But even IGNORING all of that, the problem was the extra mass! How does killing this thing eliminate that mass? This is when I officially threw up my hands. Which is when it got worse.

8) The hull breach. Bizarrely superfluous. Why?

9) “School trip” and Clara’s broadcast.
a) That’s not an answer. The guy has no reason to trust Clara, or broadcast anything she says. For all he knows, she’s the cause of the problem.
b) Clara’s talk of “a creature” makes very little sense without context. Humans didn’t even seem to know about the extra mass of the moon (coming back to that!), so how can they make anything resembling an informed decision here?
c) Clara’s talk about killing an innocent: back to point 1, I felt like initially she was referring to Courtney, the only other person visible in the shot. In another context, I might be applauding the misdirection, at this point I feel cheated.
d) The broadcast is only in English? That sort of eliminates a large portion of the population. Though we had ALREADY eliminated the population that doesn’t have anything which can receive the broadcast! Which brings me to...

10) Turn On A Light.
a) Night doesn’t happen everywhere on Earth at once! The image looked like it was over the Atlantic, so we saw Europe and North America. I guess if you live in Australia, Africa... you don’t get to vote?
b) Not everyone can afford electricity. I guess if you’re too poor, you don’t get to vote? And if you own multiple houses, you can vote multiple times? Nice message.
c) You’re telling me that absolutely EVERYONE got this message, and decided to turn off their lights, in the span of less than an hour? Airports too? National landmarks? No fires burning anywhere?
d) You’re telling me that NO crazy people who wanted to shut down an entire power grid could have taken this opportunity to do so, to sway the vote? Or that a government wouldn’t simply pull the plug? This method seems like a REALLY bad idea.


11) TARDIS on a Beach.
a) YOUR OWN EPISODE established “tides drowning whole cities” and “worst natural disaster”. Why is the ocean so calm? Where is this beach?!
b) They look up in the light of day and see a full moon. They JUST looked down from the moon AND SAW THE PLANET IN DARKNESS. Where is the sun?!?

12) “Humanity made it’s choice.”

From point 7. The Doctor’s entire speech about humans “looking up once again” is undermined by the fact that EVERY HUMAN IN 2049 (supposedly, see point 10) actually voted for the OPPOSITE. Okay, so maybe humanity sees the error of it’s ways, but it’s because the decision WASN’T made by a human from 2049, but one from 2014. Except she wouldn’t have been there if it weren’t for the Doctor!! HE is the reason this happened, if HE weren’t there, things would have been different, which is so far from “it’s your choice” that it’s not even funny! Forget fixed points or grey areas, the idea that there was any “original history” here is completely shot to hell! This can't have happened the same way as before he showed up!

I think this is seriously becoming my problem with the show. It’s not that Clara is saving the day all the time. It’s that she’s constantly being put into a situation where she seems to have no choice but to do that. It’s as if, in trying to correct the problem of “ignoring” her character with Matt Smith (which I've previously remarked on), we’ve shot through towards the other extreme without so much as a breath in the middle.

13) The Problem of Mass. The newborn just laid an egg which was, at minimum, equivalent in mass to itself. Which, I suppose, started orbiting. From 9b, that can’t be how that works either. Unless it’s a tribble, I guess.

So it was with GREAT relief that I saw Clara go off on the Doctor at the end. “I’ll smack you so hard you’ll regenerate.” Hells yes. He was not being respectful, he was being patronizing, and while I’m fine with this as his new personality, he wasn’t merely being patronizing to the women, he was being patronizing to the continuity of time, and possibly physics too (the shell just dispersed, huh?).

You go away, Doctor. Don’t come back until you decide to start making sense again.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Author Follow Fest '14

By random chance, I stumbled upon "Follow Fest '14" earlier this week on Twitter.  Coordinated by Melissa Maygrove, it's a chance to connect with other writers during the week of Sep 22-26.  Feel free to join in yourself, the instructions are here, and if I've done this right, the "Blog Hop" is below.

My responses to the questions are as follows. Apologies in advance for kind of breaking them... I like to think I defy categorization.

Name: Gregory Taylor

Fiction or nonfiction?  Fiction.  (Though my math web serial involved actual math, and I also write a non-fiction education column for MuseHack.)

What genres do you write?  Urban Fantasy.  (aka, I take real life and mix in time travel. Or magic. Or whatever.)

Are you published? No. Nor actively seeking. (Passively, maybe.)

Do you do anything in addition to writing?
Editing for friends (and myself). I’ve also drawn for my own web serial. And I teach high school mathematics.

"I'm going to read your thoughts!"
Tell us a little about yourself:
Late thirties, married, no children yet. Live in Canada, my in-laws are in France. I roleplay. I have seen every episode of Star Trek, and I watch Doctor Who - time travel is cool. For 52 weeks, I posted #AMVFriday on Twitter, because anime. I hate beans, chilli makes me physically ill. I rewrite pop music songs to have mathematical lyrics, and I perform them in my classes. I’m a little weird.

What are you reading right now?
  Shadows Over Sheradan by Scott Barker

Which authors influenced you the most?
That’s a tough one. Going back to high school, I suppose Piers Anthony. Add Douglas Adams, with some Madeleine L’Engle. Then the mystery genre, so Agatha Christie, Eric Wilson, the pen name Franklin W. Dixon, and the like. 

Where can people connect with you?

Oh boy.  Okay...
Blog 1: Personified Math Serial
Blog 2: Choose-My-Own Adventure Serial
Blog 3: Everything else (you’re here now!)
Static Website: Writing Page here

Twitter: @mathtans
Facebook: Personified Math (permanent hiatus)
Goodreads: I have an account, keep meaning to use it.
Google+: Rarely use it, but check here.
LinkedIn: I lurk there.
Pinterest: No.
Tumblr: No.

Do you have a newsletter? No.  (Already busy enough.)

Is there anything else you’d like us to know?

Owing to the day job, I’m a lot more active in the summer. The rest of the year, I tend to spontaneously show up in a forum/chat for a week, then vanish. Particularly around report card time. I'm not being dismissive; keep poking me.

I did once participate in a JulNoWriMo (November, hahahaha, no) and while I managed over 50,000 words, I found it not to my taste - I can’t stop myself from editing as I go. I'm better at serials, since once it's out there, I stop fiddling with it.

Speaking of, I am always looking for anyone who feels like voting in my current ongoing serial.  Thanks for reading to the end!

Friday, 5 September 2014

Summer's End 2014

Summer? What summer? Well, I did a wrapup for 2013, I might as well repeat the process this year. Once again, I failed to get to a bunch of stuff I wanted to - while simultaneously getting a bunch done too. Here's the record!


One of the first things I did was attend a tweet up at Mary Bourassa’s place, whereby I met Audrey McLaren in person for the first time! My parents and my aunt also came by for a visit. Beyond that though, the first couple of weeks of July were spent trying to do things I hadn’t had time for in the 5 months previous.  Namely: Edit Book 3 of my Time Travel story (which I managed by July 10th), fully read Mawi’s book “The 5 Powers of an Educator” (I blogged about him here), and catch up on my blog posting both for here and on MuseHack.

I blogged more in July 2014 than in any previous month.

Let's squeeze in a 5 minute break
I felt like I’d FINALLY caught up to the end of June around maybe the 14th of July. My wife took some time off work, we did some bicycling and took a day trip out to the beach. I tidied my office, started reading Steven Strogatz’s “The Joy of X”, and sketched out the back story of new characters for my Time Travel story sequel. (Taking place at University of Ottawa.) The plot itself, like all time travel plots, turned out to be one I’ll have to fully map out in advance. I also wrote a single song parody.

So that was maybe 4 days of summer.

Rehearsals started up for Pygmalion at school by the 17th (weekdays only, weekends free). To say there were some complications from parents would be an understatement. In the midst of it, I skipped out to “Twitter Math Camp” in Jenks, Oklahoma from July 23rd to 27th (and I blogged about that too, starting here). I actually hadn’t been sure about “live blogging” again, but effectively the day before, I decided to make it a point form “facts game”, as my motivation. I even managed to finish “Joy of X” on the plane ride back.

Upon my return to town, “Pygmalion” rehearsals were going on in earnest, so I was at school nearly every day (for less than 6 hours?), doing what I could. I also wrote some post-TMC blog posts; weekends were still free, but the last day of July was a Thursday.

Thus... 5 days of nothing-to-do summer by this point? I’m counting weekends here, because I’m usually working on the weekends during school. Granted, I suppose it’s less days if you consider needing to tend my lawn. My wife helped me clip the hedges.


Not that kind of archive dive
We can make the total 8 days by August 5th (long weekend), if we ignore me randomly worrying about things. During that time, I finally got to reading Andrea Milne’s “Short Story Project”, started an archive dive on the (x, why?) webcomic by @mrburkemath, and watched a wee bit of the anime “Suite Pretty Cure”. Following that weekend, I wrote this post to bow out of the “MTBoS”, because I hated that I hadn’t been doing more fiction writing myself. Speaking of, with most of the planning for my Time Travel sequel done at that point, I DID write a good 3 pages or so. Also remembered to celebrate my anniversary.

Then, August 9th, off to Scotland for two weeks with 23 teenagers and 4 other chaperones. (Have I mentioned I’ve never even taken a school trip out of the city before?) That actually went pretty well, the students didn’t have major medical emergencies and Mrs. Schrum (lead chaperone) didn’t go completely crazy (that might have left me in charge). I even saw some great sites/sights, and I then managed to finish reading a third book (which I’d started late July): “A Strange Wilderness: Lives of the Great Mathematicians”. (Completed on the plane ride back.) Only managed a couple pages of writing though, unless you count the daily journal.

Got back August 22nd. Not counting the trip with students, I can now add more onto my 9 days of summer!

Logged some Napier in Edinburgh
Finalized this TV Tropes webpage for (x, why?) - FYI, I now have two at that site, the first was the “Being Erica” page. (I’m not counting the partial page I made for my own web serial because it’s pathetic.) Saw the new Dr Who, and blogged about that. Got my MuseHack post done. Bought a new watch strap (it broke in Scotland) and dropped by University of Ottawa to get a better sense of my story setting. FINALLY started reading “Shadows over Sheradan”, a book I bought last October, written by a local teacher. Updated my personal webpage. Completed editing on Book 4 of my Time Travel Story, which means the whole thing is now converted. I THINK that on August 26th, I did nothing but edits. PRETTY sure that's as close to a nothing day as I had.

At 14 days of summer, I had to return to school... well, I suppose I didn’t HAVE to, no one was paying me, but it was August 28th, I wanted to reorganize my classroom, and I’d already received an email from a parent regarding an IEP (Individual Education Plan). As I write this, I realize I never bought caulking for something I needed to take care of at the house. Darn it.


SO... productive summer? I guess... but I’d also wanted to catch up on Scott Delahunt’s blog, spend time on the Web Fiction Guide Forums, and generally get a better sense of serial writing. There was sewing I didn’t get to, and home improvement (the kitchen faucet still behaves funny, and I need to clean the vents). I didn’t make any new videos, and only managed one song parody. I wanted to actually watch an anime series I’ve had in my possession for a while, and one I don’t.

A teacher colleague of mine says they were able to cross off everything on their “To Do” list this summer. I literally have NO idea what that’s like - is that even possible? Has that ever happened in my life?? (Genuinely curious, is ALWAYS having something else that needs doing just a “me” thing?)

Read, man!
However, I feel like I redeemed my lack of writing a wee bit with an initiative that coalesced in my head on August 31st. I have a lot of characters. If “Guardians of the Galaxy” can pull together a working team from different backgrounds, how about I do something like that? Based on reader suggestions! It’s serial writing without a buffer, you can follow it over at my new (third) blog: Numbers Game Index.

I hope it goes well. Writing is one of the few things that still invigorates me after a week of exhaustion. Time will tell. Coming in some future post: Actual Goals going forwards.