In which modernity is stupid

You may not be aware of this, if you’re not a math teacher or a middle school student: did you know you can just, like, Google any equation, and it will not only solve it for you but it’ll actually explain how to do it? I’ve talked about calculators here before, and my policy remains more or less the same: that I allow calculators on any assignment where calculation is not the point, because I don’t want a kid’s issues with basic multiplication to get in the way when they’re trying to internalize the Pythagorean theorem.

This one is … a bit more annoying. I mean, sure, it explains how to do the problem, which is an actual advantage over calculators– it’s not like the calculator is going to walk you through the multiplication algorithm or anything like that– but the Venn diagram of the types of kids who are going to Google equations rather than solving them and the types of kids who will read explanations is two completely separate circles. Also, I’m a little hamstrung right now by the fact that I need to present my assignments on computers; the easiest way to ensure that more of them do the work properly is to simply present the assignment on paper and restrict device use during those classes. I could also require them to give me answers as decimals, since Google always puts theirs as fractions, but that’s just going to add a different confounding factor to my grades, dragging down the kids who don’t know how to convert fractions to decimals and the kids who don’t read directions.

There is also the possibility of simply writing more complicated assignments than a list of fifteen equations to solve, of course; I could do word problems or any number of other things, but the problem is the specific skill I need them to have actually is solving equations. I need them to understand the logic of modifying both sides of an equation at once, the idea that constants and variables alike can be moved willy-nilly from one side of an equals sign to the other as needed, so long as you follow the rules properly … because if they don’t get this shit at this easily-Googlable level, life’s going to suddenly get much harder in high school when they hit equations that you can’t, at least yet, easily feed into Google. I think anything requiring a superscript or any actual math symbology might be a problem, for example, although I haven’t tried to test that.

I’m going to choose to ignore this particular problem, for the moment. There are ten instructional days of school left and I have two days of equations practice planned before we get back into systems, and I’ll make sure to write those assignments so that they’re not as easily Googled. Frankly, most of the kids who are cheating have grades so deep into failing territory that it barely even matters, so I’m not going to waste the energy necessary to stress about it other than maybe barking at them about it tomorrow. It will, children, actually hurt you much more than it will ever hurt me if you don’t get this stuff. You may think I’m training you to solve equations, which, true, you are unlikely to be presented with as an adult! However, mastering basic fucking logic is a life skill, as it turns out.

INCOHERENT SCREAMING

I remembered what the extra thing I wanted to include in yesterday’s “Today’s Nonsense” post was– that I had been teaching my kids about the Pythagorean theorem, and all day the phrase Hypogean Gaol was interfering with it and making the words come out wrong. The Hypogean Gaol is an area in Bloodborne. I am an idiot.


I’ve realized something today, which is that I don’t actually think I would be able to graduate from college if I were to attend today. There is something that happens to my brain each and every time I am forced to access Canvas for any sort of training, and I am completely unable to pay attention to any prerecorded or even live talk through a computer screen for more than fifteen to twenty minutes. I have never in my life shown any other signs of ADHD; it’s not that I can’t focus in general, but something short-circuits in my brain whenever I have to listen to someone talk through a computer screen and I cannot do it. And unfortunately right now I have put myself into three different situations at once that are requiring me to do either or both. Again: I am an idiot.

Featured in the above image: I am currently enrolled in a program to build online courses through Indiana University. That launched this week, with a horrifying two-and-a-half-hour Zoom meeting last night, and is supposed to be 10-15 hours of work a week on my end, with a $2500 reward if I make it through nine weeks and actually manage to collaborate with other humans to build this class. Unfortunately, the first thing we need to do is make it through this week’s work, which is an “eight to ten hour” Canvas class called Responsive Engagement and Virtual Learner Assessment. I did a few early bits of it today, including a request that we read the article above and “socially annotate” it, and, well, you can see my response to the bit I highlighted in purple on the right.

There are around 200 people involved in this thing, we’re all supposed to do this course this week, and as of right now there are no comments whatsoever past the second page of the article, which is 17 pages long. The yellow highlighted comments at the top there are one person writing “test comment” three times.


The other thing that’s driving me nuts is that we have been in a world where we have done everything online for a solid year and there are still people out there on the “I don’t know how to rotate a PDF” level of understanding of technology. How are you a teacher in April of 2021 and you don’t know how Zoom works? Look at this:

Now, part of this is IU’s fault, because I am a tech guy and even I’ve been kind of blindsided by the sheer number of digital tools that they want us using to be able to do this, and there have been some clear “wait, we sorta fucked up the roll-out here” signs from the people running the program, so I imagine people who aren’t as savvy are probably drowning. But how the hell do you log into Canvas, open a course, navigate through a third of the first module of that course, follow the instructions to open and register for another web service, then use that web service to complete your assignment by saying you don’t have access to Canvas?

Aaaaaauuuuugggghhhhhhh. It reminds me of this:


One more thing, and then I’ll draw this embarrassing bout of whining to a close: part of the 2 1/2 hour zoom-a-thon yesterday was a talk by a retired History professor at IU, of tenuous connection to the course, about what he called bottlenecks to understanding class material. A bottleneck is not an especially complicated concept, and in fact it’s something that’s a known problem by every teacher with more than about ten minutes of experience: that sometimes our students have trouble with our material because of other things that are interfering with their ability to learn said material. Now, he seemed to be limiting himself to academic roadblocks, such as, to stick with the Pythagoras example, if you think “squared” means “multiplied by two,” you’re going to have a hard time figuring out the length of a missing hypotenuse. I asked at one point if he considered economic or family or even motivational factors to be bottlenecks and unfortunately didn’t get an answer. And the lecture was over an hour long, which wouldn’t have been an issue in-person, but over Zoom was absolute torture, because I can’t pay attention to people talking at me on Zoom. It was made worse by the competing factors that 1) I thought the material was a classic example of academics thinking they’ve discovered something that is, forgive the pun, elementary to the people doing the work, and 2) no one else seemed to get what he was talking about. Like, he asked us a couple of times to talk about bottlenecks that we’ve seen from our students in our classes and people just started listing topics. Like, “finding a main idea” is not a bottleneck! Not by itself! “Integers” is not a bottleneck, but brain development issues that make the abstract concept of subtracting a negative to be difficult to understand might be!

tl;dr I am tired and quite possibly an asshole.

Oh come the hell on

Okay, damn it, I get it, logistics decisions that make sense on a nationwide level often don’t make sense on a specific, individual package level, and these large shipping companies have to make decisions that make sense on a nationwide level.

But I cannot help but notice that this package, which sat in a warehouse in California for five days after being received, was originally supposed to be here yesterday, then was rescheduled to today, and now has been rescheduled to tomorrow, appears to have been routed completely around where I live.

I assume that you will not look askance upon me if I reveal that I find this fact moderately frustrating. There is nothing especially important in the package; it’s not, like, insulin or something, and I’m not being harmed by having to wait an extra day or two for it. But if it’s in Chicago the day before it’s supposed to be in South Bend and you know that for some reason it has to go to Indianapolis and then to Detroit before coming to South Bend, which is in between Chicago and Detroit, maybe you update your scheduled arrival then? And then maybe don’t keep insisting it’ll arrive by 2:45 on that day right until the moment where that is temporally impossible?

In other Stupid But Annoying news, the last time I bought a new watch band for my Apple Watch at the beginning of the school year it got stuck while I was installing it, and I’ve never been able to remove it. The band is starting to look more than a little raggedy but I still can’t get the sumbitch off, and I am going through this spectacularly stupid mental calculus where I’m starting to seriously consider buying a new watch rather than continue to deal with this nonsense. I’ve had the old watch for over four years and I feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of it, but that sort of means that I’m buying a new, $500-800 watch depending on the options I choose because a thirty dollar band is stuck, and that also is on my last damn nerve.

(Why the hyperexpensive option? Because the stainless steel case and the sapphire glass screen are what are on this watch, and four years after buying the damn thing and wearing it 20 hours a day there is not a single mark anywhere on it. No scratches, no paint chips, no dents, no nothing. The stainless steel case with the sapphire glass screen are indestructible, and I don’t know how close the cheaper model comes to that ideal. I don’t like scratches on my watch.)

So, yeah. I’m having a Day. How are you?

(EDITED TO ADD: I just received a helpful text message from FedEx informing me– no, two helpful text messages from FedEx!– informing me that my package has been rescheduled to Thursday, 03/11. Which is … today.)

In which Black Friday came early

I am officially twenty percent more of a capitalist than I was two days ago, apparently. Wal-Mart is clearly the way to go lately if you want to land a PS5, if only because they’re advertising when each batch of systems is going to go live so that you can be in front of your computer to hit reload and hope you get lucky.

And, well, I got lucky, and I hit reload at the right time, and I don’t actually physically have my PS5 yet but I can pick it up at the store (by which I mean “have them bring it to my car”) sometime between two and six days from now, and honestly I suspect it’ll be on the earlier range of that.

That’s not what increased my capitalist rating, though. What increased my capitalist rating is that I went and fucked around and now I’m picking up (by which I mean “have them bring it to my car”) a new fucking TV tomorrow to go with my new PS5. We didn’t need a new TV by any reasonable definition of that term, but the PS5 can output 4K graphics and our current, several-years-old TV cannot receive them. So.

Now, before ordering this TV, I tried to dig into TV reviews for a while to figure out what sort of TV I was interested in and what price ranges were like (and, honestly, 43″ 4K TVs are so much cheaper than I thought they would be that this is not really a major financial hit) and after a bit of reading and a bit of comparing I realized that TV reviews and car reviews are the exact same thing and I needed to stop reading them.

What do I mean by that?

I drive a Kia Soul. Two cars before my current Kia Soul was a two-door Toyota Yaris, and I need you to understand that I loved my Yaris (I traded it in when I moved out of Chicago and had a child, at which point a two-door car was not nearly as practical an idea as it had been) and I love my Kia. I plan to keep my current car until my son is old enough to drive, give it to him, and whatever car I purchase to replace it very well might be another Kia.

If you read car-people reviews of the Kia Soul, you will come away thinking that it is a garbage car, barely fit to convey one to work, because car people review cars for a living and they have standards that simply push them out of the realm of relevance to the regular car owner, who may well go decades in between cars and for whom anything that is new and up-to-date is going to feel like an enormous improvement.

And TVs are the same thing. Most people do not replace their television sets all that often, and there is simply no way that a 43″ TV at a price range that I’m willing to consider (I ended up spending $279; I could have been convinced to go as high as $500 if I’d felt the advantages warranted it, and I’m not convinced) can compare with the type of wall-dominating, four-figure monstrosities that these guys are used to. I got all worried about viewing angles before I realized that my wife and I sit maybe fifteen degrees separated from each other when watching TV and if it’s an issue we can literally pivot the screen, and it’s not going to be an issue. 43″ is the biggest screen I can get without radically reconfiguring our living room, and it’s plenty big enough. I didn’t even consider a larger size.

(Why a Vizio? The other two TVs in the house are Vizios. I’ve been perfectly happy with both, the price was right, and good user reviews. Good enough.)

Because no matter what TV I get, my standards are going to be “make my PS5 graphics look as good as they can, and don’t feel like a downgrade in any way,” and it’s gonna, and it won’t, and even if it ends up being crappy compared to other 4K TVs I don’t have any others lying around to compare it to.

User reviews appear to be pretty damn solid, especially figuring in the “people are fucking idiots” factor– that guy who literally reviewed this TV at 3/5 stars because it didn’t fit on his console (I’m not joking) is not, in fact, entitled to his own opinion, because his opinion is dumb. Good user reviews are really all I need here. So long as I can avoid the soap opera effect, which drives me batshit insane, we’re all good.

So, yeah. I spent money at Wal-Mart, and they’re the devil, and I spent money on Black Friday sales, which makes me an asshole, particularly this year, and I’m actually going to go to Best Buy tomorrow, even if I don’t plan on getting out of my car and I’m going to go in the afternoon when crowds should be minimal, so obviously I’m a failure as a person on a number of levels. But, man, is the remake of that game I’ve already played and beaten going to look great!


Finally, and in accordance with our most ancient traditions, Happy Thanksgiving.

In which this isn’t fair

It is an unbelievably perfect demonstration of how fucking perverse all of existence is right now that, literally less than ten minutes after telling my wife that I was getting (hah!) stir-crazy and wanted to go out and impulse-buy something, I went outside and checked the mail and found a brand-new Goddamned Best Buy card waiting for me. The card currently carries no balance at all; I typically use it only for large purchases (really, the only reason I ever enter a Best Buy nowadays) and the last thing I bought was my desktop, which is a 2017 model. I could use a new laptop, as the battery on the old one is starting to go, or I could make the smarter choice and just replace the damn battery. Similarly, for the first time since my initial upgrade I’ve cast an eye at the new Apple Watch, but there’s just no good reason to do that either. In either case it would be spending money just to spend money, and I’m trying to be smarter about that crap nowadays.

(I do expect to have to shell out the money for the laptop battery pretty soon, which will be a couple hundred bucks. But the thing is … six? seven? years old and there’s no speed issues at all, and if I bought a new one it would be north of two grand. The only problem is the battery, and since I don’t go anywhere I can keep it plugged in most of the time. I even still have my work laptop at home in case of emergencies.)

(Checks to see if BB has PS5s available)

(They do not)


In general, the election has failed to improve my mood. Other than the presidency, which is all over but the shouting at this point, I went from “it looks like I’ve lost every other race I care about” the other day to “I have lost every other race I care about” today. The School Board race was especially heinous; not only did the plagiarizer not lose her seat to the crank, but the other district seat up for reelection, another person who voted to return, also won, and the teachers lost their best advocate on the Board in favor of an imperious ass who I am not at all looking forward to having to deal with, ever. My personal interactions with her when she was with the district were never good, plenty of people have much worse stories than I do, and her husband was fired for incompetence.

And yet, because this is South Bend and we hate education here, she actually got the most votes of any of the At-Large candidates. So. Dandy.

But yeah: I’ve been waiting for that moment when it feels like the weight falls off my shoulders, and apparently Biden at least theoretically clinching the Presidency hasn’t done it yet. In theory the rest of the networks (particularly the AP) getting the fuck in line and making the call might help, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to relax until the fucker is hauled out of the White House by his hairpiece, preferably to be tossed directly into jail to die alone in a deep pit. Apparently the AP is waiting for Biden’s margin to exceed half a point before they call Pennsylvania; I’m not sure what the holdup is otherwise. Either way, I thought I was going to feel better about all this by now.