I spent three summers at math camp as a teen; I got my degree from one of the strongest schools in the home country; I've been working in IT all my life. So it shouldn't come as a surprise when I say I've been surrounded by people of above-average intelligence for, well, as long as I remember. I never gave it much thought until last year or so. Last year, through a social networking site, I found many people I went to math camp/college with. Seeing what my classmates did with their lives so far was a tad of a wake-up call.
Take my math camp. Everyone I've talked to has been doing well for themselves. Nice careers, research work, teaching at universities etc. Two guys from our camp made it big. One manages power plants across Russia. The other one is a successful play director at an up & coming theater in Moscow. I barely remember the scrawny, dorky kid from my '83 camp. Now he's a celebrity. That shook me up pretty bad. When I tell people about it, they think I'm upset because these two have the fame and money, and I don't. It's not that. When I look at my classmates, the question I ask myself is, We all started out as, for lack of a better word, gifted kids. They made their gifts work, so now they're happy and satisfied, because their talents did not go to waste. What about me? It's like that parable of the talents. "Where's the talent I gave you, Goldie?" - "Oh shit, what'd I do with it? Wait a sec, lemme look, I'm sure I had it here somewhere. Nope, can't find it. The dog must've dragged it off. Shit, sorry."
That's what my writing class is all about, finally pulling my head out of my ass and putting my abilities to work. We'll see how it works out, or what else I can come up with. At any rate, a large part of my life has already been flushed down the drain.
Then I remember that, back at math camp, I wasn't considered that good, average in fact, and that the first two years of college were an uphill struggle. This makes me feel better. Maybe I didn't have that much, after all. Maybe the loss is not that big.
If you're reading this and you do have a brain, I urge you - use it. Don't let it lay around and gather dust. If you do, you will regret it when you're my age. This goes especially for you, LP, and you, CB. You heard me. Now go do your homework.
After almost twenty years in the workplace, I think of myself as having one. But I just googled it, and turns out I don't know what it really means. The Intraweb has different definitions for different professions. So now I'm curious, what does it mean for you? In my position, I see it as not letting your personal likes or dislikes interfere with your work. You may hate your coworker's guts, or you may want to make out with them ten different ways - none of this should be relevant when you're working on something together. You have to act completely indifferent, treat them like you would any other person, and concentrate on the work at hand. Otherwise, nothing gets done. That's my definition. Ya think it's accurate? complete? Is it missing anything?
CB just walked in and shared a definition of his own: "Professional conduct means you have no fun or social life at your work". I pity CB when he enters the work world.
First of all, allow me to thank Jimmy Wales for the email he sent me today. I shit you not, kids!
Anyway. I had a week off work, and now it's over. Strangely enough, I feel I've had enough vacation and am in fact looking forward to coming back to work. The weather was nasty, we couldn't go outside, and there's only so much crap you can do around the house. Like for instance, every little thing in the house, short of knives and furniture, has been run through the washing machine this week. We hosted a party, we went to a party, I did my writing homework, I made the obligatory latkes, now I'm bored and ready to go back!
I went to visit my old job on Friday. You know, the BigPaper Corp. Caught up with my old friends. One of them said a profound thing to me: she was talking about their offshore partners - she said that, to make it work, you have to establish a relationship and build trust with the offshore programmers. This actually is true of work in general. The more critical your work is, the closer to truth these words. I found when I worked at BigPaper that, whatever you do, you interact with people. It could be your teammates, it could be your users. It could be a blue-collar worker who called the helpdesk that paged you. It could be a plant manager trying to find why your program does not work the way she expects. Either way, if you and that person fail to show complete, 100% respect and support for one another, it's not going to work. You're not going to solve your problem and you're not going to fix your support issue. Or, if you do, it will take three times longer. I've always thought this Dire Straits song says it best:
I just finished reading the book my Mom gave me, I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe. It is about a freshman girl's experiences living on the Dupont campus. I don't recommend it; I found it two-dimensional, and a huge letdown after The Bonfire Of The Vanities. Therefore, spoilers abound ahead.
I read the book cover to cover, because it brought back memories. I found many parallels with my own college life (back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.) Like Charlotte, I came expecting to see some amazing union of new generation's brilliant minds, and was stunned to encounter a small-town atmosphere instead. Like her, I had an older mentor who tried to enlighten me while making me fall in love with him at the same time. It didn't work, because my mentor was five feet tall. He had a scrawny body, slimy hands, and a bad habit of flicking his tongue in and out of his mouth when he was nervous, much like a lizard. On top of it, the guy had hangups about Jews. Didn't work at all. I learned a lot from him, though. Like Charlotte, I came to my university as a straight-A student and a small-town prodigy, only to see myself struggle and fail subject after subject for the first two years. Unlike Charlotte, I failed my exams because I tried to juggle college and a full-time job - not because of being date-raped by a frat boy or anything.
Those were good years. The campus was boring as hell, but I continued to reach out and look for new friends and experiences, and in the end had a good time. I did not hook up with a campus celeb, but I did emerge in the end with a degree, a decent transcript, and a husband. I will never be able to send my kids to a school of that level. My education was free. Let's take a break while I shed a tear.
Anyway, the biggest turnoff with the book, for me, was the way the author writes about young women. Unfortunately I just finished Lolita, so reading about all these clefts and declivities, boobies and asses, bouncy lovelies, and sweat pouring down young, tight buttocks as their owners run on treadmills, made me wonder if Humbert Humbert hadn't come to life and written this book for Tom Wolfe. Maybe if he had chosen a different narrator, it wouldn't have come off sounding so sick. If the story had been told entirely by Charlotte, the juicy detail would've made me wonder if the main character is maybe a lil bicurious - nothing wrong with that. If these observations were coming from a frat guy - totally understandable. As it is written, though, it's clear that the observer is the author himself - an elderly, gray-haired man whose picture's on the front page - which makes his descriptions sound, well, repulsive - musings of an old dude drooling over eighteen-year-olds. Don't get me wrong; I briefly dated a 60-year-old once when I was 20. It was okay. I just didn't want to relive it in that much detail.
I found it most intriguing that my Mom read this book and loved it. Possibly best thing I can say about the book. Maybe I should grill Mom about her college years.
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Speaking of books, I'd like to warn GRRM. If Dance With The Dragons does not come out in 2009, again, I'm going to write my own ending and post it, and I'm going to really mess up the characters. Heck, I'll start by making Sansa gain three hundred pounds, and go from there.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays. Have fun!!! We will.
1) All right, I can understand a family that decides not to expose their children to the school system and school them at home instead - we've all heard about the mean, bullying, pot-smokin', sex-havin' public school kids and I can see where it's not for everyone. But how does the same family decide it's okay to let a TV crew into their house and their lives 24x7? and become a reality show on national television?
What am I missing here?
2) Emailing me with a "can I please link to your blog" is cute and flattering. Following up with "send me your blog's description ASAP", however, is neither. As some of my former coworkers have learned, asking me to do random unimportant shit "ASAP" will only make me avoid them and stall on their requests. Save that stuff for 911 calls.
3) Thanks to all who have responded to my Sunday School plea. I think I have the problem narrowed down to one kid who cannot sit still. Like, physically incapable. Picture yourself on half a gallon of coffee. Yeah, that restless. Any ideas on how to deal with this? He's a nice kid.
"Hey CB," I said to my son last Sunday, "Has any of your Sunday school teachers ever told you: you guys are driving me freaking nuts?"
"Noooo," said the surprised CB.
"Oh great. Then I'm first," I lamented.
Seriously, I need advice from my teacher friends. What do you do when most of your class is interested in what you have to say, and actively contributing, but then two or three kids won't sit still, yell, run, and ruin it for the whole class?
I cannot give them a failing grade, there are none.
I cannot give them detention, there are none.
I cannot call their parents - their parents are on my buddy-buddy list.
I cannot hurt their feelings, because then Heaven forbid, they're not going to want to come back, and I'll get in trouble.
To be clear, I'm talking about fourth grade. I admit this is divine retribution in action. Both of my kids turned into ultimate smartasses as soon as they started fourth grade. I used to get calls from their teachers daily. Now I know how the poor teachers felt. But at least, they had leverage against my kids. I have nothing.
I had a kindergarten class last year. There was a boy that wouldn't sit still because he was bored. So I printed out mazes and puzzles off the Internet and brought them in for him to solve. That worked. Fourth grade is completely different. If I give a restless kid a piece of paper, he will rip it to shreds. Or make a paper airplane and hurl it across the room. (True story.)
This is starting to get on my nerves. Thankfully I have an experienced partner. But I'd like to teach some of the classes myself, as I have a lot to offer. It's hard, however, to offer anything serious when you have to talk loud enough to be heard over a hyper 10-year-old, and when you have to interrupt yourself every two minutes telling him to "sit down and shut up!" (c) Mrs. Crabtree of the South Park fame.
I know I've got a few teachers reading this. Advice?
Yet another question for you guys, again related to my party that I am having this week. Most of the RSVPs have rolled in by now, and I am looking at 40 to 55 guests this Friday. That's 20-25-ish cars that will be parked on our street.
Here's my question. Should I talk to my closest neighbors in advance and apologize for the upcoming inconvenience, or shouldn't I?
Question number two - should I bring a small gift to each of the neighbors (Trader Joe's cake, potted plant, other - what?) to reward their suffering?
My neighbors to the right and across the street, I've known for a long time (I actually met the ones on my right several years before we bought our house). Very nice people. The neighbors on my left, is another story - they are brand new. Just moved in, I don't even know what they look like. I am told they have a baby and a toddler. I really don't want to surprise them with my fifty guests, but is it even appropriate to go talk to them in advance? Remember I've never seen them, and they've never seen me.
Oh, how I wish I could ask this question via Michele. But she has just closed shop. Best of luck to her in her new endeavors! Her blog will certainly be missed.