I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
April 10, 2014 - 1:33 p.m.
Yesterday was a very bad mental health day. Even though I did nothing all day I couldn't get myself up to making dinner at a reasonable time and I couldn't get myself ready in time to go see Beaucoup Blue at 9PM at Rockwood Music Hall. I did get my laundry done so it wasn't a total failure. I had to go to my bank and that's near Shake Shack so that's what I did for dinner. Not as good as the steak I had taken out. I'll make that tonight.
Teaching today was rough. I gave a quiz on Thursday and handed it back today not one person got all the questions right. Out of five questions the average was 1.7 correct. And this was simple. The first question was knowing the quadratic formula, the other four were knowing how to use the determinate to determine the nature of the roots o a quadratic equation. They had a homework assignment on it. It's just a simple rule to memorize an you can figure it out if you forget. But they couldn't do it. I think part of the problem is that it is abstract. It's finding things about the solution without finding the actual solution. But the main thing is that nobody made the effort to learn the rules. I went over it and then gave them some problems to do in class and when the rules were in front of them they had no trouble and did it almost instantly as you're supposed to.
Then I taught solving rational equations. Things that look like this.
I told them that the key is what in the picture is called the restrictions. You have to reject x=5 because if it did the first fraction in the equation would have 0 in the denominator. I emphasized that. I don't call it restrictions, I call it "the check." When I was finished doing problems a student asked, "On a quiz we have to do the check?" I said, "it has nothing to do with the quiz. You always have to do the check. It isn't a rule of mine, it's reality. In any situation you have to do the check or you'll get a wrong answer." The students don't get that it isn't me being arbitrary. That this isn't about the way I want things. That it's about objective reality. And when I explain it they didn't want to hear about it. It's all the same to them whether it's a personal idiosyncrasy of mine or something important. To them it's all arbitrary rules. That's a mind set I try so hard to overcome but have very little success at. They just don't get that math has meaning.
Like I said I didn't have a good mental health day yesterday and today isn't going well either. So there are two ways I can go to feel better and I am going to go with both. The first is to write about Discworld. I am almost finished with Raising Steam the latest and I'm afraid final Discworld Novel. Terry Pratchett has early onset Alsheimer's disease and in the book he seems to be trying to wrap everything up into a neat little bow. That isn't going to make me feel better but reading his writing and writing about it does.
As you can see from the cover it's about the invention of the railroad on Discworld. Don't you love the juxtaposition of technology with trolls, dwarves, and goblins?
What the book is really about celebrating modernity. The story is the conflict between those wanting to live in the past and those looking forward to the future. What I love is that Pratchett sees new technology and new social mores as part of the same phenomenon. The villains are the drags, the dwarvish Taliban who view all change as un-dwarfish. They want to stop new technology like the railroad or the clacks, the mechanical semaphore telegraph, and new ways of living like making peace with the trolls and dwarf-human marriages. Without ever bringing it up directly has a brilliant defense of same-sex marriage. It supports civil rights for all species, not a far leap from all races and ethnicities. And near the end it champions gender equality. The good guys get excited about progress, technological and social, the bad guys resist it.
I once saw Andrei Sakharov described as a 19th Century liberal. He combined love of freedom and optimism about science and technology. I said "that's me!" and it's still me, and it's Terry Pratchett too. The future is where I want to go. Good thing too as it is where we are all going, like it or not.
There I feel better already.
An now I don't have time to write the other thing. Oh well. I always put off writing about it. I have to get ready for my class.
Brother Brothers in Arms - October 01, 2017
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