Tuesday, March 30, 2010

W for What the French, toast?!?

Music Man and I are looking into upgrading our cell phones. We typically do this every two years when our contract is up, because our service provider offers great deals on upgrades. We decided that we’re finally going to join the grown up world by getting Smartphones. You know; the kinds where you can surf the ‘net, check email, manage your calendar, etc. We realize that we are behind the curve on this, and nothing made that more apparent than an online review I read:

“I am 13 years old, and I absolutely love this phone, this is actually the first time I have touched my computer since I got it. It is fast and ideal for facebook, and other internet applications. I love the photo quality and I love the texting features, it is easy to work, and the touchscreen feels great.”

Apparently, there are 13 year olds out there with Smartphones!  Ummmmm…what?!?

Now, Music Man and I don’t exactly need these phones, but we will be able to make good use of all of that extra functionality. I’m particularly excited about the calendar, because I need a good, easy way to keep track of my schedule (especially my class schedule) and to do lists. I used to love the Palm that I carried around, but it got to be too much having to regularly check, and lug around, a cell phone, ipod, and Palm. Having all of it combined into one phone really will save me a lot of time; though I do still plan on using the ipod for music and games.

I’m also excited about the ability to check email on my phone, and to have the ability to access the internet; this will come in handy when I want to check personal email while I’m at work or waiting for class to start or when Music Man and I are on one of our mini-getaways and want to find restaurants near us. The GPS feature will be great for getting directions to locations we’ve never visited before.

What I don’t understand is why a 13 year-old would need, or have, a Smartphone. I can maybe understand the necessity of a pre-paid cell phone, because it seems pay phones are in short supply nowadays; in case of emergency, I’d probably want my kid to have a cell phone too. However, I cannot fathom why you’d want to give a 13 year-old the ability to access the internet anywhere and everywhere, to play games whenever they want, and the unlimited ability to text. Seriously! What good can come of this?!

Some of my classmates enjoy spending class time texting, surfing the net, and doing who knows what else on their phones during class. These same classmates are the ones who complain about not understanding the subject matter, not knowing (even though it’s been said at least once per class) what material will be on the upcoming quiz, and not understanding how to complete the labs. Now, if those 18 and up can’t exercise self control, and don’t have the ability to understand that class time is for learning (not texting), I can’t imagine that putting that temptation in the hands of a 13 year-old is a good thing.

I’d imagine that it has become necessary for elementary, middle, and high schools to have cell phone policies now. So in addition to shaping young minds and dealing with difficult parents, it is now the teacher’s job to act as cell phone police. They don’t get paid enough to do their jobs to begin with, and now they must waste time fighting with a 13 year-old over his or her cell phone. Unreal!! Is it any wonder that the entitlement whore epidemic is sweeping the nation?!

Perhaps it is a good thing that Music Man and I probably will never have children. We’re way too out of the loop and old fashioned. That online review sparked a conversation between us that shows that, not only are we on the same page as far as parenting is concerned (which we already knew), but also that our kids would absolutely hate us. When they got old enough to need a cell phone and to understand its uses, they’d get a pre-paid cell phone for emergency, or call mom and dad, use only. There would be no internet capability and no texting.

Yes; our kids would absolutely loathe us, which wouldn’t be at all surprising when you consider the teasing and shunning we’d be condemning them to by not allowing them to have a Facebook account until they were at least 16; and even then, we’d need the id and password in order to be able to check up on them. Also, computer time for non-educational purposes (i.e. to hang out on Facebook) would be seriously limited and would only be done on a computer centrally located in a public section of our home (i.e. not our child’s bedroom).

I just really don’t understand a lot of parents nowadays. What’s happened to parenting?! It seems that far too many parents are more concerned with being the “cool parent” or the friend than with disciplining and educating their kids! This creates parents that give in to their child’s every whim, because god forbid Junior doesn’t have the cool cell phone that all the other kids have. What statement would that make? Obviously that we don’t care enough about Junior’s social development, or that we cannot afford such luxuries, and we must not allow people to think that!

These same parents are shocked when their kid falls victim to an internet predator, ends up pregnant as a teenager, gets caught drinking underage, falls behind in school, etc. Maybe it’s one of those things you have to be a parent to understand, but I doubt it. I swear, lovely reader, sometimes I feel as though my head will explode when I try to figure out where common sense has gone!!

In other news, Geology still sucks, but there are only five weeks left! (Then, I get a couple weeks all before jumping into that crazy summer schedule!) The class location is still absolutely ridiculous, and I will be writing that into my class evaluation at the end of the semester. I walked into the building at 6 o’clock last night, and I saw my classmates on the elevator as the elevator doors closed. I finished checking in with security, and began walking to the elevator.

I was stopped by the guard. “Ma’am you have to wait. You can take a seat over there in the lobby.”

Me: “Ummmm…that was my class on the elevator; I just missed them.”

Guard: “Yep. And you’ll have to wait. I can’t have you going up there and getting lost somewhere.”

Me: * Disarming laugh* “This is my third week here. I know where I’m going. Besides, by the time I get off the elevator I’ll only be about five feet behind my classmates. I’ll be okay.”

Guard: “Take a seat in the waiting area. I’ll give them a couple minutes to get to the classroom, and then I’ll call up.” (Obviously disarming laugh didn't work)

Me: *Thinking WTF?!? Are you serious right now?!?* “No thanks. I’ll stand here and wait, because I’m now late to class.”

I know, I know; poor me. (Who’s the entitlement whore now, Elle?!) I get that it was entirely my fault that I’d just missed the class. I know this guard was just doing his job. However, he’s seen me for the past two weeks now, and he knows I’m part of that class—he’d even commented as I was checking in on how I’d just missed them! I don’t understand why I couldn’t be allowed to join them.

Five minutes passes; two other classmates have arrived. I’m getting incredibly impatient. I glare at the guard. He finally picks up the phone and dials up to the room. The classmate whose job it is to lead the latecomers up to the room arrives, just as one of our late classmates had decided to go use the bathroom. (Really?!? She couldn’t have waited one godforsaken minute for us to at least get up to the floor the classroom is on?!)

I’m very, very agitated at this point. I hate being late, and due to circumstances beyond my control, I’m now over 10 minutes late to class!

We arrive in the classroom as the instructor nears the end of attendance. Good thing my name is near the end of the alphabet; he calls it out right as I sit down. I didn’t miss out on anything, but I’m still pissed. It is inevitable that, on any given class day, someone (or a few people) will be up to five minutes late. It happens—you hit a long red light, you get stuck behind the slow car, you’re halfway into the building and realize you forgot something in your car…

That being the case, I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to hold classes in an offsite location that has such strict rules for coming and going. It’s asinine, and that’s exactly what I plan to write in my review at the end of the semester!

Final thought: I’m ridiculously busy lately! I’m trying to stay caught up with Geology homework, which seems to increase by the week, and I still haven’t started working on my Public Speaking Competency, which is now just over two weeks away! I’m feeling very stressed out and overtaxed.

I had a minor meltdown yesterday, and poor Music Man suffered the brunt of it. It's moments like those that I'm glad to have such a kind, patient, understanding husband. I realized, thanks to him, that I just need to ask for help. Novel idea; I know. If I need him to pick up some of my household chores, I just need to tell him. I know that deep down, but I just hate feeling as though I'm not doing my part. It's not fair that Music Man has to be the sole person responsible for keeping our household in order!

That said I have to apologize for not making it around to visit and comment on all of your blogst. I haven’t forgotten about you, lovely reader, and I will catch up on my blog reading and commenting as soon as I can!

The title for this post comes from one of my all-time favorite commercials. I need to start working "lint licker" and "cootie queen" into my vocabulary.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

M for Mash-Up

Before I get into today’s topics, I want to send a heartfelt thank you to all of you who commented on my last post. I was a little scared when I hit the post button. Your amazingly well thought out, supportive comments warmed my heart. You are my people!!! I’ve found my bloggy tribe! I had visions of a max exodus of readers from my blog. You can imagine how astonished I was not only to not seem to lose readers or followers, but to actually gain some as well! Awesomesauce!!

Okay; now onto week two of Geology. This week was a little bit better than last week. My expectations were obliterated, but in a good way: only one person was late to class and only by ten minutes! That means the classroom phone only rang once. It also means that class wasn’t disrupted, because the professor was just doing roll call. He insists on doing it old school style; calling out names and waiting for a “here” or a “present” or a “yep.” My faith in my classmates is temporarily restored!

Because I didn’t do a very good job managing my time last week, I had to get all of my homework done over the weekend. It was not cool, but I deserved it for not doing a better job of spacing out homework over the week. After going to my niece’s fourth birthday party on Saturday, I took up position on the couch and began reading the three assigned chapters of the textbook. (An amazing feat in and of itself, because I would usually crash and nap on the couch after a children’s birthday party)

I nearly fell asleep several times, and I really started to wonder if it was truly possible for someone to die from boredom. I allowed myself to take a ten-minute break here and there to check email, read a blog, or check up on Facebook. I surprised myself with how good I was about reigning myself back in after ten minutes and pushing my nose right back down to the grindstone. I was proud of me!

Four hours after I started, I had the three chapters read and outlined. That seems like a ridiculous amount of time—I know—but I was being really anal retentive about note taking, because I just wasn’t sure about how to approach this class, and the chapters were surprisingly long (like ridiculously long). I figure it’s better to do too much than to do too little though.

I watched two of the three assigned videos on Sunday and the third one at work during lunch on Monday. I was pleased to discover that the videos did a really good job of summing up the topics from the chapters I’d read in the textbook. The videos weren’t as bad as I thought they’d be in terms of content. The one on volcanoes was actually quite interesting!

The ‘80’s haircuts and clothing of the narrating professors left something to be desired though. Wow! Have we come a looooooong way since the ‘80’s!! Did every guy seriously walk around looking like “Chester the Molester” with the Tom Selleck moustache, out of control sideburns, and short shorts that would rival those worn by many a teen girl today?! I honestly can’t recall; maybe it was just the geology professors that favored that particular style.

I felt pretty prepared walking into class (well, into the building to wait to be led up to class) on Monday. The professor lectured for two hours. I was able to keep up with what he talked about, even referring to appropriate areas in my notes. I took that as a sign that I did a good job on my notes. We took a fifteen-minute break, and then it was time for our first lab.

Since we’d just finished learning about igneous rocks (summarized for you, lovely reader, as rocks formed by lava), the lab was designed to test our knowledge by having us identify twelve rock samples. We needed to come up with the mineral content (based on color) and the texture: glassy, aphanitic (or fine grain), phaneritic (coarse grain), or porphyritic (two textures).

That information decided, we referred to our handy dandy rock charts with mineral content on the x axis and texture on the y axis. Where our mineral content and texture crossed, was the name of the rock. To double check our work, we could refer to pictures in our lab manual that showed dozens of rocks and their texture. I am proud to report that I got 10 out of 12 correct! WOOOOHOOO! This Geology thing might not be so bad after all!

Well, except for the fact that I snagged my fingernail on the pumice sample, which then left me with a ragged fingernail, which just about drove me nuts by the time class was over. I cannot stand having snaggy fingernails!! Oh, and it’s still really, really boring material.

I have two chapters and videos as homework this week. I’m halfway through chapter reading, and I plan to watch the videos on Sunday and Monday. I’m doing much better on homework this week.

I had a moment of panic today when I realized that April 17 is coming fast, which means I need to get my ass in gear on the Public Speaking Competency! I still have no idea what I want to do my persuasive speech on. I’m thinking maybe something about domestic violence or animal rescue—both things that I am quite passionate about. I have to prepare a ten-minute speech, do a “sentence outline” of the speech, and prepare the competency narrative (basically a resume of my public speaking knowledge, abilities, and experience). Hopefully I’ll be able to focus on that in the weeks and weekends ahead! (No, not hopefully; I must make time to focus on it!)

I registered for summer classes yesterday. It was slim pickin’s, and my summer schedule will be a doozy!! I’ll be taking Lifetime Fitness online. Here’s the class description:

Studies physical fitness, nutrition and stress as they relate to health. Through testing and self-assessments, the student's current status is analyzed. After the information on improving skills in each area is presented, the student will develop a plan for implementation. The course will include information on cardiovascular and cancer risk reduction, aging and health, sexually transmitted diseases, and substance abuse control.

The cool thing about this course is that it’s a two-for-one; it covers both the health and physical education requirements. I think it will be an interesting class, and I can most definitely use information/motivation to become more healthy and fit. It’s my first online class, so I’m a little nervous; I don’t know exactly what to expect in terms of time commitment and workload. Class starts June 1 and runs to July 22.

I’ll also be taking Social Inequalities: Race, Class, & Gender. This class is bound to be fascinating, and I’m really looking forward to it. The class name is pretty self-explanatory; I’ll be learning about economic inequality (poverty), ethnic inequality (racism), and gender inequality (sexism). Class runs from 6-10 PM Mondays and Wednesdays, starting June 2 and ending July 12. This will be the first time that I have a class that meets twice a week.

I’ll end the semester with my final required English class: Research Writing in the Disciplines. The reason I decided to take this class this summer is that I eventually have to take creative writing to fill a fine arts requirement, and I didn’t want to be stuck having to take two writing intensive classes during the same semester. I like writing, but there is such a thing as overkill! This class runs from 6-9 PM Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting July 6 and ending August 5.

When I plotted this all out on an actual calendar, I wondered what in the heck I’d gotten myself into! There is some overlap that’s going to cause the week after the 4th of July, and the week following that, to be pretty hectic. I’ll have my two English classes both weeks, and one Sociology class each week, so I’ll be in classes for three nights both weeks. I’ll also still be involved in Lifetime Fitness online. I think I’ll be able to manage it all, but it’s going to be a crazy few months!!

Photo: Zazzle.com
(I might end up needing to invest in one of these! It's only fair to warn those around me.) 

Good thing I’ll have a few weeks off after the summer semester ends. I think I’m gonna need a vacation!

After summer semester is over, I’ll be halfway done with my associate’s degree, which is super exciting. That means I’ll only be a year away from joining the social work bachelor’s program. I’m so psyched!!
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Monday, March 22, 2010

B for Blogging & W for WOW

I am so so so so so excited, lovely reader, to tell you about a brilliant new blogging community that’s been started by the fabulous Pam at Pam’s Perspective and the sensational Sandy at It’s a Jungle Out There. It’s called Words of Wisdom, or WOW for short, and its purpose is to unite “bloggers of substance.”

Who are “bloggers of substance?” you might ask. I’ll tell you. They’re bloggers who focus on content; writing blogs that are thought-provoking, encourage conversation, challenge your mind, stir emotions, and maybe even make you laugh once in a while. The goal of WOW is to unite these bloggers so that these like-minded individuals can find one another and support each other’s blogs. I am excited to watch this community grow, and am eager to meet more bloggy friends who are more like me.

Lovely reader, if you’re looking to connect with bloggers who want to put the blogging back in blogs, go visit WOW.

I’ve been blogging for about five months now. Well, here at least…I did the whole myspace blog thing for quite a while, and I did a few posts on another blog I’d setup, but this is where I’ve settled in as a blogger; my little home on the internet, if you will. In that amount of time, my readership has grown, thanks in large part to SITS. I’ve found some brilliant blogs and bloggers though SITS, and am very fortunate that other brilliant bloggers found me.

The concept of SITS is wonderful, and I’m pleased to have gotten some great followers as a result of participating in the community, but I don't really get all that much blog support anymore. Lately, all I really get from SITS is the occasional commenter who stops by to point me to their own blog rather than to read mine. I’m sorry, but that’s just a waste of my time. If you can’t stay long enough to read even one post that I’ve written and to make some sort of meaningful comment beyond, “Stopping by from SITS. Nice blog!” (tell me what’s nice about it, for example), then clearly I will not waste my time visiting your blog.

Look; I know my posts tend to lean towards the lengthy side, and I know that’s not for everyone. But, if you’re going to take the time to comment, you really should read at least part of what you’re commenting on. It just seems trite and meaningless, and leaves me feeling a little used, when all you have to say is, “Hi! Now, come visit my blog.”

Through visiting blog after blog that I’ve found on SITS, I’ve noticed some trends in blogging that I just can’t get on board with. At the risk of alienating some readers, I will summarize them below.

The “mommy blog”
You’ve probably heard it before, “Don’t mess with the mommy bloggers!” I recently read/heard, “Mommy bloggers are taking over the world!” If you’re a mommy blogger, you see that as “girl power,” strength in numbers, and a call to arms, which is great for you. Since I’m not, nor will I ever be, a mommy blogger, it's a scary thought and really just irritates the crap outta me.

I’ve figured out that the majority of bloggers out there are mommy bloggers, so they are, in fact, taking over the world. I just wish they could leave some small part of it for the rest of us. I used to make it a goal to visit as many bloggers doing SITS roll call as I could. I don’t do that so much anymore, because almost all I’m finding is mommy bloggers, and that’s just not what I’m interested in.

Don’t get me wrong, lovely reader; I don’t hate moms. Well, okay, I hate bad moms. (If you’re a mom, and reading this blog, and I’ve read and commented on your blog, you are not a bad mom. I try not to associate with bad moms, because they just make me want to punch things.) However, I don’t understand why one would want to define themselves only as a mom and nothing more. I know that having kids kinda takes over your life, and that it’s hard work, and blah, blah, blah; however, I don’t understand why one would completely give up her identity to her children. I don’t need it explained to me either; it’s not a concept I’m interested in understanding.

What I’m trying to get at is that I don’t much care for, or about, mommy blogs. If I want to see cute pictures of kids or hear stories about the super funny things they do, I’ll talk to my sister, my mom, or my cousin; I know their kids and like their kids and care about the things their kids do. I know that being a mom is a hard, often thankless, job. I don’t care to read about just how hard and thankless it is, especially over, and over, and over, and over again. Many mommy bloggers seem to forget that they chose motherhood. As a result, you only get to bitch so often about how hard and thankless it is, okay? I don’t want to hear about it, so I’m just not going to read it.

I have met some cool moms, some of whom I'd consider friends, who are bloggers and many other things: wives, daughters, friends; and funny, witty, intelligent women. These fabulous women understand that they, and their lives, are more than playing the role of mommy. Thus, I can relate to them on other levels, and when/if they occasionally choose to write about their kid(s), the stories are usually interesting and/or funny and/or make me really really really glad that I’m not a mom and will never be a mom. (To humans, at least; I love being a dog mom, and that’s also sometimes very hard and very thankless.)

Advertising, Sponsors, and Giveaways
I started my blog as a way to document my journey through school as an adult student. I thought maybe there were a few people out there who might be interested in how I approach the whole experience, or maybe I could encourage someone who’s thinking of going back to school, or perhaps I could answer questions an adult might have about returning to school.

Eventually, I evolved to writing about my life as well. It was scary at first; opening myself up in such a personal way. However, the feedback I received was fantastic and supportive, and encouraged me to continue blogging.

I write for me, and I write to write.

That’s why I’m absolutely baffled that there are people out there who’ve managed to turn their blogs into businesses, and many others who are trying to follow in their footsteps. Many of the “do’s” and “don’ts” of blogging involve commentary on how to draw advertisers and sponsors to your blogs. Giveaways are apparently a good way to draw traffic to your blog; perhaps helping to increase the number of followers one has. You just won’t find that stuff here.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll tell you that I would absolutely review a product that I’ve wanted to try. Were a company to contact me with some cool thing that could be helpful to adult students, something fun to have or use, or something to possibly improve my life, I would gladly accept the product and write a review for it. That’s as far as I’m willing to go though, and I most certainly will not seek out these types of opportunities.

I don’t have any delusions that I am really the next big thing; I'm not just waiting to finally be discovered. I’m a relatively simple, thirty-something woman who happens to enjoy writing.

Social Media Overload
I don’t understand why bloggers simply “must” have Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts tied to their blogs. It’s enough for me to just maintain this blog. I can’t imagine having to update a Facebook page and Tweeting (is that even right?) as well. I would seriously run out of ideas for blog posts if I were throwing out every single idea that crosses my mind as soon as I have it! If you have a blog, a Facebook fan page, and a Twitter account, kudos to you for being able to balance all of that!

I understand that social media is yet another tool to draw traffic to your blog, but I’ll pass. I know my limits, and I don’t want my blog to become a chore, so I’ll maintain the status quo.

Popularity Contest
Speaking of drawing traffic and increasing followers, some of Bloggyland is a little too high-schoolish for my tastes. There are some really competitive, really cliquey people out there. There are also some really big egos. I hated the high school bullshit when I was in high school, so I most certainly won’t take part now. Also, I have enough drama in my life. I don’t need to seek it out in the form of blog wars or narcissistic rants.

Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy followers and comments just as much as the next person; I think it's awesome, and I'm really flattered, that there are people who enjoy reading what I write. I also love feedback, good or bad (though bad gets a better reaction if it’s respectful and/or constructive). I appreciate every single one of you who has taken the time to read and thoughtfully comment on my posts. I hope I show you how much I love and appreciate you when I respond to your comments and visit your blogs.

I also hope, lovely reader, that if my head ever started to get too big or my ego evolved into a nightmare of epic proportions, that you'd smack me kick me throat punch me right back into reality. That's just not who I am, and it's not who I ever want to be. No one likes a vain, narcissistic, braggart.

If you genuinely enjoy reading what I write so much that you decide to follow me, that is incredibly cool and means a lot to me. If, however, you’re following me in an attempt to get me to follow you back so that you can watch your empire grow, you will be sadly disappointed.

I follow blogs that I find interesting. Period! If I like the writing style and attitude of the blogger, and can relate to them in some way, I will follow their blog. I visit the blog of every single blogger who comments here (as long as I can find the blog and the comment was meaningful), and if I like what I see, I’ll follow or subscribe to the RSS feed. If I’m just not interested in the blog, or don't feel a connection with the blogger, I’ll try to leave a thoughtful comment; then, I’ll be on my way.

It’s not personal!

I wouldn’t want you to force yourself to follow me simply because I follow your blog. Life's too short for that kind of tit for tat! I want you here, reading my posts, because you want to be; not because you feel forced to by some arbitrary Bloggyland rules. I don’t take it personally if a blogger chooses not to follow me back, partially because I don’t check to see if they do (Who has time to keep track of that?!), but also because that’s just the way the world works. If everyone loved and appreciated everyone else the same way that everyone else loved and appreciated them (did ya follow that?), we wouldn’t have racism, classism, sexism, hate crimes, etc.

I seek out and spend time reading blogs that challenge my thinking, give me insight into who the blogger is, make me laugh, have good content, educate me, encourage conversation, and restore my faith in humanity.

THAT is why I’m so incredibly happy and excited about WOW.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

T for Textbooks

I’m going to warn you in advance that this post will probably be pretty boring for most of you.

I found out pretty quickly that college credits, even at Community College, are expensive; I expected that. What I didn’t expect was how expensive textbooks are. I cannot believe the prices on some of the textbooks I’ve needed so far!

I knew that the college bookstore was probably not the cheapest in terms of price, so I set out to find the best deals on textbooks. I found many places all over the internet to buy cheap college textbooks. Some provide better deals than others, depending on the book, so it is important to cross reference a few resources; which is quick and easy when one utilizes the internet.

A couple weeks before new classes start, I go out to Community College’s bookstore website to look up the books I need and to get the bookstore prices. I keep the list with title, ISBN, and prices open on my computer desktop as I search online for the best prices. Of the over half a dozen textbooks I’ve purchased so far, I’ve found every single one online for cheaper than the used price offered by the bookstore, and that includes paying shipping!

My favorite sites to search for textbook deals are: DirectTextbook, Cheapest Textbooks, and Cheap-Textbooks. These sites search among many textbooks sites, including Half.com, and provide a list of online sites that have the book for sale along with prices for the book. By utilizing these sites, I’ve saved myself anywhere from 10-50% on textbooks!! Granted buying books online isn’t as quick and easy as the bookstore, and usually there are shipping charges, but the savings I’ve found have included paying for shipping (and I’ve never paid more than $3.50 for shipping).

An example: The college bookstore listed my English textbook as $46.65 used. I was able to get it for $23.49 (including shipping), which is a savings of $23.16 or almost 50%!

Now, if you’re like me and hate the idea of buying a book that someone else has used, which means it could have germs, and food particles, and god knows what else on/in it, you might prefer to stick to purchasing new books. The savings won’t be as large, but I have still found new textbooks online for cheaper than college bookstore prices. When I realized the cost benefit, I quickly got past my fears over buying used textbooks. I stick to purchasing those listed as “like new” or “very good” condition, and I haven’t had a problem yet. No gross findings in my books, and really, germs can only live for so long.

I also found out that it’s possible to rent textbooks. The cheapest rental site I’ve found is Chegg. Chegg’s rental options include a 60-day, a quarter, and a semester rental; they also provide the option to extend rentals by anywhere from 15 days up to a whole semester. One must pay shipping to receive the books—I paid $3.99—but return shipping is free. I’m renting books for the first time this semester, and I’m pretty excited about the savings.

An example: My Geology textbook was listed at the bookstore for $100.05 used. (I know; it’s crazy, isn’t it?!?) Since I only need it for 8 weeks, I rented it for a quarter; which is a few weeks over what I needed but was the best option price wise. The rental price was $45.53 and shipping was $3.99 for a total of $49.52. That’s a savings of 51%!!

I think renting is the way to go for books that I don’t see myself hanging on to, because I won’t need to refer to them in the future. Not only is there quite a bit of savings, but I won’t have piles of unneeded/unwanted books sitting around my house waiting for me to get off my butt and try to resell them. Another thing that is appealing to me about renting books, especially from Chegg, is that Chegg plants a tree for every book that’s rented. Two trees were planted as a result of my renting the Geology textbook and workbook, and I got to pick where they should be planted. (I was given three locations as options.) I think that’s pretty cool!

I do have one caveat to the rental route. I found out that the Geology lab manual I rented was missing quite a few pages. Unfortunately, I was in the middle of class, and the missing pages included a lab we were supposed to do. I was not pleased, to say the least. Thankfully, the professor had made a few photocopies of the needed pages because so many students hadn’t shown up with materials, so I was covered.

I will be exercising Chegg’s 30-Day “Any Reason” guarantee. According to this policy, I have 30 days from the date my order was placed to return the book and get my money back. Good thing I realized the problem with this book early enough to exercise this option. I went to half.com (my go-to site, because they have cheaper prices and fast shipping) and order a new lab manual for about the same price I paid for the rental.

I’m always, always searching for the cheapest option, so if any students out there have a resource that I haven’t mentioned here, I’d love to hear about it!

NOTE: None of the website I've listed in this post asked me to write this review, nor was I compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are mine, and mine only; your experience with these particular sites may vary.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

E for Examining Differences

As I sat in class on Monday, I began to ponder the differences between my classmates and me (probably because I was bored and the differences were right there in front of me). Well, really, the differences between adult students (who I’ll define as those 30 and older) and regular/younger college students (first time students). It becomes obvious sitting in a college class with a mix of these two types of students that wisdom, and perhaps even appreciation, comes with age. Some of the differences I’ve noticed…

Class is scheduled to start at 6 PM. Adult students typically show up no later than 5:45. Regular students show up anywhere from 5:45 to 6:45. Not only can I not comprehend arriving late for the first day of class, but I can’t understand being consistently late to every subsequent class. I also can’t comprehend being over, say, 15 minutes late. 45 minutes is absolutely ridiculous and disrespectful to me. At that point, you’re not only wasting the instructor’s time, but you’re wasting your classmates’ time as well, because class is disrupted when you walk in late. To continue obliviously along your path of rudeness by proceeding to ask questions to get yourself caught up is likely to earn you the death stare from the likes of me. Not that you care, because apparently the world revolves around you.

(It should be noted that good professors don’t indulge the attempt by late students to catch up, but it’s still frustrating and annoying.)

It boggles my mind how many regular students show up to the first day of class without the appropriate materials. Some at least make the effort to bring a notebook and some sort of writing implement, but it seems to be a stretch to obtain the required textbook(s). REALLY?! It’s not that hard to find out what, if any, textbook(s) are required for class; once you have that information, the books are relatively easy to find at the college bookstore, or, if you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg, online. (Boring post on procuring textbooks to come.)

There is no excuse, in my book, to be so ill prepared; especially for a class that starts the second half of the semester, meaning you had at least six weeks to procure the necessary textbook(s).

Giving Vs. Earning
When I started class on Monday, two twenty-somethings had the following exchange as we boarded the elevators and rode up to the floor our classroom was on:

Brah: “Hey, dude, weren’t you in my art class?!”
Dude: “Yeah, brah, what’s up?!”
Brah: “Not much. What’d you end up getting for that class?”
Dude: “He gave me a C.” (Something about 78 points.)
Brah: “Awwww, man! He couldn’t even bump you up to a B?!”

For some reason, the younger set seems to believe that grades are given. The idea that you earn them based on the amount of work you put into class and homework totally seems to elude them. They almost always seem to think that they deserve better than what they got and that they deserve to be given a break—like a high C should be bumped up to a B.

Perhaps the younger students aren’t wise enough yet to grasp the value of a dollar, or to appreciate the opportunity they have before them. If they did, perhaps they’d work harder to earn good grades, and would show up on time and prepared for that class that someone* is paying good money for. (*I say someone, because I doubt these particular students are paying for their classes. I’ve gotta believe they’d try harder and appreciate class more if they money came out of their own pockets.)

Classes are expensive! That’s why I get irritated when my class time (time = money, so also my money) is wasted. I work hard to earn the grades I want, because it’s important to me to do my best. I take school very seriously. I know what’s at stake, and I have a clear mission.

Perhaps that’s part of the problem with the younger set: They don’t appreciate what they have. They are entitled little brats, wanting everything to be done for them and feeling as though everything should be handed to them. There is an entitlement-whore epidemic in the world today! It’s very disturbing and sad.

Now, I often say: those on high horses have the furthest to fall, so it behooves (heeheehee) them to be careful. I know I’m not perfect. No one is. However, I try my best to be realistic, responsible, and respectful. The world doesn’t revolve around me, and I don't expect it to. I see and hear that there are a lot of people out there like me—frustrated and sad over the direction society seems to be taking—so I can’t be that far off base.

Mamas, forget about cowboys; don’t let your babies grow up to be self-important, entitled brats! Teach your children that anything worth having is worth working for, that they should always try their hardest/do their best, and that the world does not revolve around them. Teach them respect for others (even when they might not agree with others), compassion, empathy, humility, and selflessness. Don’t cater to their every whim, because they will grow up to expect the world to cater to them as well, and they will be sadly disappointed—possibly even destroyed—when the world throat punches them into reality.

I’m paying my hard earned money to attend classes, and I want to get my money’s worth. So you’ll excuse me if I expect my classmates to, at the very least, respect those around them. If they don’t care, or don’t want to work hard, then why bother?!

The serenity prayer comes in very handy when my irritation levels peak, and I start to lose my patience: 

God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change, 
courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

I know that I cannot change my fellow classmates who just don't seem to care as much as I do. I can only change, or control, my reaction to them. It's unfortunate that they don't care, and that they proceed to waste everyone else's time; however, I need to remain focused. I have wisdom that they, apparently, do not; I know that education is priceless, and I appreciate the opportunity to attend classes. The best thing I can do is continue to work hard to earn the grades that I want and to finish my degree. Maybe someday the younger students will learn, and maybe not; I'll be too far ahead of them to know!
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I for Ick! (Alternatively, Geology is dumb.)

I bet you’re just on pins and needles, lovely reader, wondering how Geology class went on Monday. Okay, probably not, but I’m going to tell ya anyway!

The location is stupid. Because it’s a large business, we are required to check in with security. This involves giving them a photo id, singing in, and being presented with a guest badge. Then, we congregate in the lobby waiting for the professor to arrive, because he must guide us to our classroom. It’s a ridiculous system when you consider how many students consistently show up late, but I’ll get into that more in a minute.

The class itself doesn’t seem like it’s going to be horribly bad. I still don’t care about rocks, and I’m now even less excited about the subject matter. But, keeping in mind that I won’t love every class I take, I’ll persevere. There’s no doubt I’ll learn something, because I know very little about rocks and the Earth’s layers and all that garbage (that's a technical term) right now. And, even if we might not care or enjoy it, it is always cool to learn new things, isn’t it?

I mean, who knows what could happen with this newfound knowledge. Someday I could kick ass in Trivial Pursuit just because I know how sedimentary rocks are formed or what igneous rocks are. (You know; if I ever actually played Trivial Pursuit.)

Homework is pretty heavy. I’ll have approximately three chapters of the textbook to read every week and about an hour and a half of boring ass videos about rocks to watch. Based on the fist video, which we saw in class Monday, this will be excruciating. Imagine if you will, the wonderfully educational science videos you watched in elementary school. You know; the monotone voice, images that barely have anything to do with the words the narrator is saying, or graphics with a simple triangle labeled volcano and a circle labeled rock where certain objects light up as they are being talked about, etc. Just awful, dreadful stuff.

I will get through it though. It’s not exciting, and I still don’t care about Geology at all, but I do want to earn an A. With that in mind, I’ll work hard.

The professor is a whole ‘nother story. He made a bad class a whole lot worse. To summarize him, I’ll tell you that he’s a sexist pig douchebag, wannabe comedian, and unorganized dope; that’s putting it nicely (believe it or not). Let me go ahead and break down each of these wonderful characteristics for you…

On the sexist pig douchebag front, it was obvious from the get go that women are inferior to this man. He mentioned that we will all want to arrive to class on time every Monday, because otherwise security calls up to have someone come down to escort late students up to the classroom. And when that happens, one of the “ladies” in the room will have to go down to escort the late students. Let me assure you, lovely reader, that there are in fact male students in this class, so it’s not as though “ladies” must escort late classmates up by default.

Why is this a “lady’s” job? I got the distinct impression that it’s likely because we are not good at science, and thus can miss a portion of class to escort students up; it’s not like we were gonna retain that knowledge anyway. Now, he didn’t outright say that, but it was implied in comments he made about his stupid, boring wife who doesn’t understand a thing about rocks, even though he’s tried to expand her knowledge on numerous occasions. (It has apparently never crossed his mind that she just might not care.) He reinforced the sexist mentality by telling us about some kind of exchange between him and his wife in which she said, “You forgot to iron your shirt; it’s all wrinkly,” and he replied with, “No; you forgot to iron my shirt.” Nice. Real nice.

On to wannabe comedian…this professor thinks he’s absolutely hilarious. He said something about how, during labs, students tend to look towards the class leader for answers. He then said, “There are no leaders in this class, and there’s no class in this leader.” (Ain’t that the truth?!) At one point, we were working through a lab in which we had to complete a topography map. There was a point on the map marked BM 982. He said, “Now, that doesn’t stand for bowel movement; that point is not 982 in a series of bowel movements,” and proceeded to inform us that BM stood for benchmark. Ooooooooooooookay, dude, you sound so intelligent, and I’m eager to take you seriously, when you bring up bowel movements in a class about rocks. WOW! He, of course, laughed the loudest at his own jokes.

Well, him and the creepy guy who sat at my table leering at all of us girls as though he was trying to decide who he was going to rape in the parking lot after class. I’m serious, reader; this guy was very, very weird and creepy. He showed up to class with nothing more than a pencil and a sheet of printer paper; no books, but he did have an empty backpack with him (Why? One can only guess.). He spontaneously giggled this weird, quiet giggle at the most inappropriate times (when no one else was laughing, nothing funny was being said, and the professor wasn’t even trying to be funny) and then looked around the table at each of us expectantly; as though we were supposed to either laugh or ask him what was so funny.

I really wanted to ask him what the voices in his head had just said that was so damn entertaining, but I didn’t want to be the one selected for an after class raping in the parking lot, so I left it alone.

I can handle the professor’s douchey sexist behavior, because I just pass it off as him projecting his own feelings of inferiority onto us. I can even handle his horrible brand of comedy, because I only have to put up with it for seven more weeks. I cannot handle the fact that he is completely unorganized, and his grading system has no structure. This, lovely reader, is what will drive me mad. I like knowing what is expected of me, which is why I love when an instructor has a detailed syllabus.

This professor’s syllabus is one page that lists out the chapters we’ll be expected to read and the videos we’ll be expected to watch each week. It also shows the dates for quizzes. There are three quizzes over the eight week period, and the amount of max points per quiz varies. Quiz 1 is worth 30 points, Quiz 2 is worth 45 points, and Quiz 3 is worth 55 points for a grand total of 130 points. The reason for the point variation is that we are expected to be more knowledgeable with each quiz. The main portion of your final grade for the class is dependent on the total points scored in quizzes.

However, we will also complete about 11 labs in class. These labs aren’t graded on a points system per se. Instead, they’re graded on a symbol scale ranging from + to “nc” with check plus, check, check minus, and minus also included in the scale. The symbol you earn is based on your participation in the lab and how correct your answers are. Apparently labs can only factor into your final grade in a positive way. That is, if the total of quiz points earned has you on the borderline between an A and a B, but the majority of your labs were check plus or check, your final grade could be pushed up to an A.

At least I think I understood all of that right. It’s a very convoluted grading system. The professor told us we’d have the system figured out towards the end of class, but that’s a little too late for me. I’d like to know up front what I need to do in order to earn an A. From what I've gathered, it will be important to do the reading and to pay attention to what the instructor says in class, because that's the information we will be quizzed on. Each quiz has a preview quiz, so we'll know what to expect on the actual graded quiz.

So, that’s that, dear reader. I foresee a long seven weeks with lots of frustration. Hopefully it goes by quickly!!
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Sunday, March 14, 2010

G for Geology (which starts tomorrow!)

Where did the time go?! Geology class starts tomorrow, dear reader! I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before or not, but this class will be held at a satellite location. Not satellite as in outer space, unfortunately (because that would be something to look forward to), but as in an off campus location (which I’m sure you already knew). Since I haven’t taken a class at this particular location before, I decided to scope it out earlier this week.

Though I was pretty sure I knew where I needed to go and how to get there, I like to be prepared. So after work on Wednesday, I began my mission. In addition to knowing exactly where I’ll need to go on Monday, I would also be able to figure out approximately how long it takes me to get to the location in rush hour traffic after work.

I arrived at the location in a decent amount of time—about twenty minutes—and it was exactly where I had expected it to be. However, I soon realized that I had picked the wrong day for my mission. Minnesota was experiencing a dense fog on this particular day. As I navigated the streets, it was like driving through a cloud. One that was so heavy and tired that it needed to rest on the ground for a minute, and apparently, said cloud found the twin cities metro area to be quite comfortable. In other words, visibility sucked.

As a result of the cloud’s laziness, I could not see the buildings on this business’ large campus, nor could I determine which of the half dozen driveways and parking lots on the campus would lead to the correct building. A map the school had emailed highlighted a couple designated visitor parking areas, which I determined meant that students were to utilize said parking areas. Tired from a long day of work, and mirroring the cloud’s somnolence, I made no attempt to find them.

Also I didn’t have the map with me, because I’m super smart like that, and I wasn’t in the mood to try to navigate through the traffic created by the max exodus of the business’ employees leaving work for the day. Not that I’m trying to make excuses. (Well, maybe I am. Just a little tiny bit.) So, mission partially accomplished (but mostly not), I headed home. Hopefully I’ll be able to figure out where I need to be relatively quickly tomorrow.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the subject matter, I am excited to get back into classes again. My friend, Mel, who’s been in a couple classes with me now, will be suffering through this class with me. Mel had planned on taking two other classes this semester; but, when she found out during a discussion we had in English class that I planned to take Geology this semester, she switched her schedule around at the last minute in order to take it with me. At least now I know that I’ll have a cool, intelligent, and hard working lab partner.

Mondays typically see me exhausted and just wanting to get home, so I’m not a fan of having class on a Monday night. Because of stupid Daylight Savings Time, tomorrow is just about the worst day for class to start. I hate losing an hour of the weekend, and it always takes me a few days to a week to catch up with the time change. I am going to be completely exhausted tomorrow, but it should be okay. I’m banking on the fact that the first class will be mostly administrative stuff—going over the syllabus and all that—so it shouldn’t matter if I’m not as attentive as I could be.

I paged through my textbooks a little bit today as I got my school bag ready to go for tomorrow, and my brief review just confirmed that this class is not going to be a fun one for me. That’s okay, because I know that I’m not going to enjoy every single class I have to take. Though classes are a lot easier when you enjoy them, I’ll get through this. I’m most likely going to have every single second of it, but maybe (hopefully) it will give me some fun stories to tell you, dear reader. I just need to remember that it’s only eight weeks. Hopefully it goes by quickly! Wish me luck!!

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I for Idiot (M for Moron): Apparently, I is one.

This is the story about the time I dabbled in being an Economist. I know it probably sounds incredibly boring, but it’s not; at least I don’t think so. It’s a sneak peek into my work life, dear reader. If you’ve ever wondered what it is I do all day, besides read blogs, the answer lies below.

My boss was out of the office last week attending a conference. When he returned to the office yesterday, he stopped by my cubicle so that I could welcome him back. Okay, not really. He wanted to enlighten me on all of the amazingly brilliant things he learned at the conference. You know, as though I cared.

He said, “You mentioned the week before last that you had some free time on your hands. Is that still the case?” I told him that it was. What I didn’t say was that he already should’ve known the answer, because I tell him every single week in our update meetings that I have too much free time. In fact, my free time is a longstanding issue; for years now, I’ve not had enough to do. It’s been especially bad the past two or three years, and I have been quite vocal about it.

Boss Man asked if I’d mind if he sent an email to the team reminding them that I’m available to help them. I told him that I didn’t mind, but what I wanted to say was that, judging from the Investment Consultant’s behavior last week while their boss (Boss Man’s boss) was also gone, they don’t have enough to keep themselves busy either. I listened to very intense discussions on the pros and cons of the fast food joint value menus, and whether the walk through the skyway to a fast food joint further away justified ordering the whole value menu or not. Yes, I’m serious.

If the Investment Consultants aren’t busy enough, it really goes without saying that I’m not going to be busy enough. I am, after all, the lowly Investment Research Specialist.

Boss Man told me that I should continue to let him know when I have free time, because he knows that being bored can take a mental toll. I wanted to ask him just how frequently I need to tell him that I have free time. Because, ya know, I ALREADY TELL HIM WEEKLY! But, I realized he was playing the role of oblivious guy, as he’s apt to do, so I let it go.

Later on, Boss Man told me he had a project for me. He came over to discuss said project after I failed to stop by his office within five seconds of him emailing me that I should stop by to discuss it when I had a chance. The Federal Reserve Board publishes a summary of economic conditions among all its districts eight times per year; this document is commonly known as the Beige Book. The Federal Open Market Committee uses the information in the Beige Book to analyze the economy and to set economic policy going forward.

Four times per year, Boss Man summarizes the Beige Book for release to our Investment Advisors and their clients. He wanted me to complete the summary for him this time around. Boss Man has always made this seem like an arduous task—locking himself in his office for days at a time. He always makes it sound like this project is a really big deal, and a huge time sucker. As a result, I always envisioned him laboriously analyzing an eleventy-billion-page document as he tried to distill it down to two pages of the most important facts. I was quickly reminded that Boss Man is a lying liar who lies. A lot.

He handed me the six page Beige Book, about 3/4 of which was highlighted. He indicated that he’d highlighted the important facts, and that all he needed me to do was to write those facts up in our summary format. In other words, this project was simple. He told me that, while it’s okay to copy word for word from the report, he tries to change up the wording a bit.

His example: If a sentence says Dallas, San Francisco, and Minneapolis reported XYZ since the last survey, he’d switch it up to: Since the last survey, Dallas, San Francisco, and Minneapolis reported XYZ. He said this as though he were giving me the most fantastic top-secret tip I’d ever receive in my life. I couldn’t believe how sly and tricky he though he was. I wanted to say, “WOW!!  That is genius!” but I didn’t think my sarcasm would be appreciated.

He must’ve known that I wanted to comment on how changing a few words around is still plagiarism, because he quickly told me that this is like “a book report you used to do in school”; we’re really just restating the important facts. I don’t know what kind of book reports he did in school, but I never rewrote my favorite paragraphs of a book, transposing a few words and sentences here and there, and called it a day; even in elementary school, I think I knew that that wasn’t acceptable. But, Whatever.

After he finished explaining the task to me, he asked if I had any questions. He seemed quite disappointed when I said no, but really how many questions could one have about reading and retyping a six-page document? He eventually walked away, leaving me to my important task. Since it was basically quitting time, I didn’t bother starting on it. I knew I’d be able to get it done today.

Bright and early this morning, Boss Man showed up at my desk. I hadn’t even fully logged onto my computer yet, but more importantly, I hadn’t even had the chance to think about coffee let alone drink any. He asked if I had any questions on the Beige Book project. I said no, but what I thought was: Does he think I’m a fucking idiot?!? What kind of questions could I possibly have?

What I wanted to say was:
REALLY?!? Boss Man, if I honestly had questions on retyping the highlighted information in a six-page document to turn it into a two-page document, you would have to question my abilities as an employee and as a fully functional human being. The project involves reading comprehension and typing. If I had questions on this, it would really be a wonder that I manage to get myself dressed and here every single day; let alone that I am attending college courses and somehow not only passing them, but earning A's. Seriously!!

Be honest with me, Boss Man, when you were flying back from the conference the airplane lost oxygen for a bit, and you weren't quick enough to get your mask on, right?! Contrary to the flight attendant’s pre-flight instructions, you wanted to be the hero and try to save others instead; but you seriously misjudged how long you could go without oxygen. I mean something had to have happened to make you this stupid. Confession is good for the soul; you can tell me the truth.

Oh. My. GOSH! In your oxygen-deprived state, did you get thirsty and stumble around to find a tasty beverage? Did you think the blue water was a special airplane punch? Did you drink the toilet water, Boss Man? Did you?!? That's not for drinking! It's in a little room all by itself in a receptacle that resembles a toilet because it is, in fact, toilet water. You really should see a doctor regarding the possible lingering affects of oxygen deprivation and airplane toilet water ingestion!!

Then I wanted to say:
Actually, now that you mention it, I do have a couple questions: (1) I don't really like the color Beige. Can I call this the Red or Pink Book summary? Would that be okay? Does the color really matter that much? AND (2) Do you understand basic math? I know that you have an MBA in finance and everything, but I don’t understand how you accomplished that without the understanding of basic math.

Let me break it down for ya: You have about 3/4 of a 6-page document highlighted. In what world does 3/4 of 6 equal 2? At this point, the only way I'm gonna be able to keep this to two pages is to make the margins as small as possible and to change the font to teeny tiny eight point. Is that acceptable? You didn’t actually need this to be readable, did ya, Boss Man?

I realized that Boss Man obviously thought that this project was going to be a lot more challenging to me than it really was. I also realized that the reason this project seems to take him so long every quarter is that he probably spends about a day and a half just typing it up. Because I am a whiz at typing, I was going to be able to bang this thing out in less than a quarter of the time it would take him. He probably hadn’t considered that.

I sent the completed summary to Boss Man before lunch. Almost four hours later, he appeared at my desk. “You did a great job on this!” he said. He genuinely seemed to be surprised. I replied, “Yep.” I know I probably should’ve said, “thank you,” but come on. We both knew I was going to do a good job, or at least I knew and he should’ve known. He said, “You’re an Economist now!” and laughed. I didn’t find the joke to be funny. I didn’t say anything, because all I could think to say was, “Well, shit! If that’s all it takes to be a mother-fucking Economist, I’m wasting time and money going to school. Screw social work; I’ve already got it made!”

Sadly, this is a typical day in my life. Despite the fact that I’ve worked in the financial services industry for 12 years now, I’m continuously treated like an idiot. Many years ago, I wasted six months of my life studying for the Series 7 General Securities Representative exam. It’s a huge licensing exam that is so all encompassing that eight hours is the allotted time to take the exam. Many people don’t pass it on their first try, which is telling when you consider that a score of 70% is passing. I passed it on my first try, scoring 82%.

I’ve worked my way up from administrative assistant, to technology specialist, to research specialist. Yet Boss Man is still patronizing; he talks down to me and treats me as though I’m a complete moron on a far too regular basis.

This is why I hate my job. This is why I’ve returned to school to make a career change to social work. This is why, no matter how hard I work, I can’t finish school quickly enough. I originally thought I’d tough it out at this job until school is over, but I really don’t think I can make it another three years. One of these days I’m going to snap. I’m going to say all the things I wanted to say, instead of censoring myself. I just don’t know how much more I can take!!

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Friday, March 5, 2010

W for WOW!

Wow, dear reader, I have over 40 followers of my little blog! Thanks, you guys! I’m seriously humbled and amazed. I am also honored to report that I’ve received another blog award. This one is badass! It’s the Master of Karate and Friendship award, and you can see it in all of its awesomeness below:

(Honestly; who comes up with these things?!? This is one of the funniest awards I’ve ever seen—it’s absolutely brilliant! Isn’t it glorious, dear reader?!)

My sincerest thanks goes to, Anything Fits a Naked Man! I’m so flattered and really appreciate you thinking of me! If that name isn’t enough to intrigue you, dear reader, then let me encourage you to read about a really cool gig that Ms. Anything recently started. The way she calmly and cooly handled a recent injustice is impressive; I wouldn't have been able to be as nice or forgiving. Ms. Anything’s blog is very well written, and she tells a great story. You simply must go see her.

As always, there are rules: I have to list six things I "master."  This is hard; off the top of my head, I totally can’t think of six things I’d consider myself to be a master of. I’ll give it my best shot:

1. Knitting. Because of school, illness, and other obligations, I haven’t gotten much of a chance to knit lately. But, even after a long break, I’m able to take up the needles and yarn and start right back up where I left off.

2. Entertaining my husband. Get your mind outta the gutter, dear reader. I didn’t mean it that way. (Not that I’m knocking my bedroom abilities. And, not to brag or anything, but when I asked Music Man for ideas on things I’m “master” of, he mentioned some naked time activities. I know, I know, that was totally TMI.) Music Man seems to think I’m one of the funniest women around. He particularly enjoys my “road rage.” He thinks it’s hilarious that I seem to develop a case of tourette's syndrome when I get behind the wheel of my car. When I scream things like, “Nice driving, douchebag!” or “Put down the cell phone and concentrate on going the speed limit you stupid twat waffle." Music Man laughs and says, "God, I love you. This is why I married you!" Apparently I threaten to stab people in the neck with a knitting needle so often that Music Man saw fit to warn me when I got the Beetle that the inspiration pod (that little vase thing on the dashboard) is not for holding knitting needles. (Lest you worry that I’m a road-rage-aholic, let me assure you, dear reader, that yelling ridiculous things and making empty threats is the extent to which I show my rage.)

3. Acting. When Music Man and I first started dating, we’d sometimes rent movies on the weekends. Since watching movies was one of the only things my previous boyfriend had wanted to do, I had seen a lot of movies. By contrast, Music Man barely watched movies before he met me. On one trip to the video store, I got sick of always saying, “I’ve seen that” to all of the movies Music Man wanted to see. I decided that, no matter what, I’d pretend I hadn’t seen the next movie he picked up.

Unfortunately, it was one of the worst movies of all time. Music Man happily rented “The Village,” while I died a little inside. I apparently put on quite the believable performance, because he truly thought I’d never seen the movie. It was months later that I finally admitted the truth to him. To this day, he is amazed that I liked him so much that I watched such a horribly bad movie a second time just for him. We both wish I had pretended not to see a much better movie.

I am also the queen of looking busy while actually doing nothing (or almost nothing) at all. I’ve mastered this skill at my boring, soul-sucking job. My boss is consistently fooled, because despite my best attempts to get him to give me more work (including the obvious technique of just asking him for it), I still spend the majority of my days wishing I had more to do.

4. Napping. Sometimes I think I could nap all day. If I have a blanket and a cozy place to sit/lay, I’m all set. The blanket is key, even if the temperature is warm; I need to feel covered up. I nap in the late morning/early afternoon on most Saturdays. Music Man and I will be watching TV, and all of a sudden I’m out like a light.

5. Spelling and Grammar. I know I probably make my fair share of mistakes, but I’m a whiz at spelling and grammar. My husband and my BFF consider me their human dictionary.

6. Procrastination. I have procrastinating down to a science. I can always justify neglecting homework and any other thing (i.e. housework) I don’t particularly want to do. This definitely isn’t a skill I’d encourage mastering, because it almost always causes stress (and sometimes crying and hissy fits). Thankfully, I work very well under pressure.

Ok, now to pass this award on to six others. If this award is a repeat for you, or if awards aren’t your thing, feel free to completely ignore it. I promise that I won't be the least bit offended!  Here are my choices:

Doesn’t that blog title intrigue you just a tiny little bit? You will remember Christine from my recent Awards post. I’m not presenting this award to Christine simply to pay her back; she is incredibly deserving of it. Christine is absolutely fantastic! I adore her and her blog, and I am truly glad to have “met” her out here in Bloggyland. She’s witty, intelligent, and funny, and you need to go check out her blog. I recommend her post on ridin' dirty; it’s fantastically funny.

You’ll also remember Margaret from my previous Awards post. Again, I’m not just paying her back; she deserves this award. Margaret is another good bloggy friend. She is one tough cookie! She wrote a very personal post a while back, sharing information about one of her biggest struggles. It was a brave and honest post to write. (Margaret, if you’d like me to take that link down, or link to another post, please let me know.)

Alyssa @ Bloggin 2 Noggin cracks me up! Alyssa writes about her husband, her daughter, and anything else on her mind. She strikes a fine balance between wildly entertaining and very down to Earth. Alyssa’s husband is a doctor, and her post about an experience he had at work will have you squirming and laughing at the same time.

The Fabulous Bitch truly is fabulous. She isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. I love her honest, unapologetic style. Her Story for Every Picture series is beautiful, artistic, and poetic. You will not regret checkin’ out her blog.

Jo @ The End of the Rainbow writes very candidly about her life after bankruptcy. In the short time I’ve been following her, I’ve ascertained that she is an incredible woman with a beautiful soul. Her recent post on humanity is good food for thought, and shows that in addition to being a beautiful person, she’s raising a magnificent son.

Jenny Mac @ Let's Have A Cocktail writes about life, parenting, news, and whatever else comes to mind. Her recent childhood memory had me chuckling, and brought back memories of my own. Despite the fact that she has many, many followers and gets lots of comments on her blog posts, she has always personally responded to any comment I’ve left for her, which I think is awfully nice.

Dear reader, you simply must check out all of these brilliant bloggers. I know you'll love them, and they are all deserving of your attention!

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

B for Back to School

Before I jump into this post, I wanted to extend a warm thank you to all of the SITS Welcomnistas who’ve visited my blog lately. The extra comments and attention have been so fun, and I appreciate the warm welcome!

For those of you who may not know, SITS (or The Secret is in the Sauce) is a group of, and for, blogging women dedicated to showing bloggy love through visiting and commenting on blogs. It’s a great way to find new blogs to read and to meet new bloggers. In addition to providing this great community, the SITS girls, Tiffany and Heather, provide great blogging tips each Saturday.

In the short time that I’ve been a regular SITS visitor, I’ve found lots of really cool blogs and some really awesome bloggers; some of whom are such kindred spirits that I consider them to be friends. If you haven’t already, you should totally go check out SITS (click the fabulous button over to the right).

Soooo, March is here, which means I’ll be starting classes again soon. My Geology class starts March 15, to be exact, and while I’m not thrilled about taking Geology, I am excited to get back into school mode. And, actually, that whole not being thrilled thing is an extreme understatement. I hate that I have to take a stupid class about rocks. I’m actually quite pissy about it.

The course description is as follows: Studies the nature, properties, and processes that shape and alter the Earth. Analysis and study of the nature and character of materials composing the Earth; and processes that have formed, altered, and transformed the Earth's surface. To me, this all sounds about as fun as a trip to the emergency room. I know that it’s a necessary evil, but I’m still pissy. My calming mantra, “it’s only eight weeks,” is helping me to remember that I’ll get through this. I’m just really hoping those eight weeks go by very, very quickly.

Due to my unplanned extended break, I’ve gotten really complacent about school. I had grand plans to finish up my public speaking competency before this class started in order to be ahead of the game work wise, and that just hasn’t happened. Why? Well, quite simply, I got lazy.

I enjoyed having nothing to do most weekends. I enjoyed having no deadlines to meet or homework to worry about. I reveled in my new found free time and settled comfortably into my laziness. I will miss my spur of the moment weekend naps and spontaneous dinners out with Music Man, but I am eager to hop back on the learning train to graduation town. (Cheesy, I know. I honestly don’t know where that came from. I think I was temporarily channeling some kind of skeevy motivational speaker or something.)

I’m half a semester behind now, so I’ll need to figure out how to get caught up, which I think I’ll do by taking an extra class next semester. That won’t make for a terribly fun summer, but I really want to get caught up. I want to be done with the associate’s degree ASAP so that I can move on to the social work curriculum and bachelor’s degree.

I’m not tremendously worried about being a little behind where I planned to be on the public speaking competency. The requirements for completion are pretty simple: I have to write an outline for a ten minute persuasive speech, which I have to give on evaluation day (sometime in April…I should probably look it up). The speech is extemporaneous, meaning only limited use of note cards is allowed, and the evaluator expects to see visual aids supporting the main points of the speech.

I’m still working on figuring out which textbook I need to refer to in order to correctly outline my speech, but other than that, I’m not worried. I don’t mind public speaking, and though I hate persuasive speeches (just as much as I hate writing argumentative essays), I do have ideas for topics. There are many subjects that I feel pretty passionate about, so I should have no trouble with a ten minute speech. In fact, I think the trouble will lie in keeping the speech to ten minutes.

Speaking of competencies, I finally received the final evaluation form for the interpersonal communications competency that I completed way back in December. I knew I’d passed, but I’ve been eagerly awaiting the letter grade equivalent, which, I’m happy to report, is an ‘A’! I’m excited and relieved, but at the same time, I’m disappointed in myself.

I did a piss poor job on the paper. I didn’t cite any of my sources; not a single one. I’m so incredibly embarrassed, and I’m disgusted with myself. Since I was taking English at the same time as working on the competency, I knew all about the requirements for citing sources. I cited sources like a champ in all of my English papers, and took pride in the instructor’s comments on my perfect sources cited page and fantastic internal citations. I don’t know how I completely spaced that out on the interpersonal communications paper!

I suspect it might have something to do with deciding at the last minute that my paper was crap, which resulted in me staying up until 3 a.m. the day it was due to rewrite the whole thing.

According to all of the evaluation materials that I finally got back, I got an ‘A’ for thoroughly demonstrating my superior knowledge of interpersonal communications theory and practice. That’s awesome, and I am very pleased; however, I’m still beating myself up over my dumb mistake on the paper, and I probably will for a while. It’s the price I pay for being a perfectionist and an overachiever, which no matter how hard I’ve tried, I cannot break myself of.

I mean, I almost want to email a revised paper with correctly cited sources to the evaluator along with a note saying, “I’m really not a complete idiot. I know how to cite sources, and I know that I screwed up by not including any internal citations in the paper. Attached is the paper the way it should’ve been handed in. I’m sorry you had to waste so much time writing citation reminders in the margins of every single page of my paper. I suck!!”

I know I probably sound like a raving lunatic right now. I got an ‘A’ for crying out loud! I know I should just STFU, but I’m really really really disappointed in myself. I have a habit of being my own worst critic, and I can be quite harsh. I will eventually get over it and move on, but for now, I wallow…

Random Thought: I absolutely loathe the phrase “brain fart.” So much so that I actually cringed just typing it. I don’t know who came up with it, or why, but it has become so commonplace that it’s even used in professional settings. I think it’s a ridiculous and disgusting phrase, and I’m so tired of hearing and reading it. Maybe it’s because I don’t think farts (or poop for that matter) are funny; in fact, I think they’re vile. At any point, I can’t stand hearing it or reading it, and I most definitely don’t say it.

I would offer the following alternatives in lieu of “brain fart”: memory lapse, brain hiccup, temporary stupidity, or brain spasm. I’m sure there are plenty of alternatives out there that would more appropriately, and less disgustingly, communicate the same thing that this irksome phrase does. And, I just traumatized myself by typing it twice in order to accurately portray to you, dear reader, just how much I abhor the phrase; as though this is a groundbreaking fact you absolutely positively needed to know.

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