Gym parachute
From Once Upon A Win:  The Giant Parachute Game!  This was the reason I went to elementary school.  I'm not quite sure why playing with a parachute was so fun, but it was the most fun thing I've ever done in my life. #education

Music degree (4)
When I was younger, I wanted to go to college to major in music.  This pie chart perfectly explains why I changed my mind: 
[Image: musicdegree.jpg]

Efficiency of school vs. work
One definition of efficiency is the ratio of output to input.  It occurred to me the other day that there was a huge shift in my efficiency between college and getting a job.  Not efficiency in terms of how much stuff I accomplished, but efficiency in terms of output vs. input, whether it involved time, money, happiness, stress, energy, etc. 

I worked hard in college.  I inputted tons of time, immeasurable stress, incalculable energy, unfathomable amounts of money (mostly not my own), and sacrificed much in terms of happiness, peace, and rest.  But the results were comparatively minimal, consisting of simple numerical estimations of my mental grasp of specific topics.  Sometimes those numbers would be high, sometimes low.  There was certainly no correlation between input and output.  But I can easily say that the overall efficiency of the system (school) was much less than 1.  In other words, I put in way more than I got out.  Sure I got a degree, which enabled me to get a job, etc., etc., but still, it was a very inefficient process. 

During and after college, I had a few jobs.  Sometimes the jobs were boring and slow, sometimes fast and mildly stressful.  But the output was different:  I got paid money instead of grades.  Money can buy you health, happiness, and love, and don't let anyone tell you different (but you shouldn't depend on it for those things).  Even when I wasn't making much money, the output was still significantly greater than the input, making the efficiency much greater than 1.  And even after working for a few years and becoming cynical about money and work and life, the efficiency of working is still unbelievably greater than the efficiency of going to school. 

I remember talking to a woman at church when I was in college, and when I told her I was a student, she told me how much she wished she was back in college with no worries and no responsibilities, since life after college is full of stress and work and problems.  It was a Sunday evening, which meant I had just spent several hours doing schoolwork, and I'd quickly leave church after the service and continuing doing schoolwork until the wee hours of the morning.  I remember thinking that I couldn't imagine work ever being harder than school.  And so far, it hasn't been.  As long as the efficiency is greater than 1, it's all good. #education

No-credit class
This morning, in addition to the past four Thursday mornings, was spent in a classroom.  "But Dave, I thought you finished your graduate degree and are done with learning forever."  You're right.  Or at least I thought I was done.  If it were up to me, I'd be done.  Heck, if it were up to me, I'd be spending all my time and energy trying to unlearn everything.  Drinking, fist-fighting, staring at the sun for hours.  But no.  My boss wanted me to take this class because it happens to have the same name as the department I work for.  Convenient.  But this class has a catch, or rather, a few catches: 
  1. It's absolutely not interesting (though that's not exactly surprising).  Now I'll admit that I'm not interested in all aspects of my job.  But there are certain parts of it that interest me.  This class is not one of them.
  2. It's too theoretical.  The teacher is a college professor, and like every college professor, he has no concept of real life.  Apparently he's spent some time in the real world and gotten paid to do some real work, but it appears he's forgotten all that and gone back to his roots.  Equations, proofs, examples involving ideal conditions and perfect spheres.  Just give me one example where actual work was done on an actual product that had an actual outcome!  Just one!
  3. It's for no credit.  That's right.  A college-level class, complete with homework and tests, of which none are graded, and at the end of which no credit is earned.
Sometimes it feels good to write these things down to lend legitimacy to what gets to me. #education

Modern group work (1)
Group work in high school and college used to consist of me doing all the work* while the rest of the group sat around with their fingers up their noses.  This past week, I've had the privilege of taking mandatory training for work, which largely consisted of group work.  But since there was literally zero motivation for trying hard let alone passing the class at all, I was finally able to comfortably assume the role of finger-in-nose group work slacker.  It was the best experience of my life. 

* Except that one time I was in a group with Allison, the valedictorian of my college's 2004 graduating class.  She was the hardest-working human being I've ever encountered. #education

8th grade writing (1)
I still write the way I was taught in 8th grade:  Introductory paragraph, three supporting points, conclusion.  It's sad. #education

Who cares, I'm graduating (1)
Quite possibly on the first day of my senior year of high school, I heard a phrase I'd hear many more times:  "I'm not doing that / going there / staying here / listening to this.  I'm graduating!"  This became known as the "Who cares, I'm graduating" excuse.  It can be conveniently applied to pretty much any situation, as long as the user is graduating from something in the somewhat near future.  It was used for skipping class ("I'm not going to class.  Who cares, I'm graduating."), slacking off ("I'm not doing that homework.  Who cares, I'm graduating."), and eating cookies for lunch ("I'm totally eating 7 cookies for lunch.  Who cares, I'm graduating."). 

It was actually a really stupid excuse because it often had very little to do with the situation at hand.  Plus, most users of the phrase were planning on attending college the following year, so many of the responsibilities they were trying to avoid were actually unavoidable and even detrimental.  "I'm not filling out these stupid applications.  Who cares, I'm graduating.  Oh wait..." 

This is also known as senior-itis, and it popped up again during my senior year of college.  The usage wasn't quite as widespread, presumably because people are more mature in college (ha!), and also because the next phase of life wasn't as attractive as college was to a high school student.  "I'm not taking this stupid final.  Who cares, I'm graduating.  But I could always stick around for another degree."

It turns out this excuse pops up yet again later in life in the workplace.  It seems to happen near holidays or before long vacations.  Instead of finishing a project or doing any type of meaningful work, you think, "Who cares, I'm gradua-- not gonna be here next week."  Depending on your level of importance, it can be very effective.  Honestly, what can your employer really do?  Call you while you're on vacation?  They could, but they might get a return call while they're on vacation.  It's a lose-lose, which is why I'm writing this very thing at this very time. #education

Super Singers (1)
In elementary school, we used to go to music class once a week.  Typical classes consisted of playing strange instruments like zils and glockenspiels, and group singing led by a tape or record (I still don't know why records were around as late as 1990; was my school waiting for a personal invitation to throw them out?).  After the group singing, our teacher would go around the room and ask each person to sing a single line or phrase from the song, encouraging us and helping us along the way. 

I don't know if I've mentioned this, but I have an unimaginable fear of singing in front of people (more so then; less so now).  If I had to choose between eating a hundred spiders, laying in a pile of spitting cobras, or singing in front of people, I'd choose the spiders and the cobras just so I wouldn't have to endure the trauma of singing in front of judging, criticizing, taunting people. 

Each week, one person would receive the ever-so-coveted award of Super Singer.  It was obvious that the award was simply handed out to people in a rotation, but the point was that it came with a certificate.  Nothing says "I'm better than you, jerks" than a certificate.  My mom probably saved them, and they're probably sitting in a box in my attic.  Someday I'll frame them and decorate an entire room with them. 

Because of my hatred of singing in front of people, music class was really stressful.  It would get towards the end of class, and I'd always have an ounce of hope that we wouldn't do Super Singers, but we inevitably almost always did.  The worst was when I sat in the back of the room.  I'd have to listen to each and every person sing their little solo, all the while feeling my lunch in my throat and my heartbeat in my head.  If I was fatter, I probably could've had a heart attack. 

When kids don't like things, adults usually rationalize by saying things like, "Oh, you'll turn out ok," or "Someday you'll look back on this and laugh," or "It builds character."  Well, Mrs. Mello, you're only partially right.  Sure, I turned out ok (relatively), but I certainly don't look back and laugh.  I still look back at Super Singers as one of the most traumatic and damaging experiences of my life, tantamount to child abuse.  You're a great lady and a great teacher, but please end the torture that is Super Singers. #education

Celebrity schools
Grade schools, middle schools, and high schools are usually named after someone important.  John F. Kennedy.  Martin Luther King.  Buzz Aldrin.  If not a famous historical person, the school will often be named after its founder, who's usually a philanthropic educationally-minded person. 

Not so for the public school district of East Orange, New Jersey.  Of its many excellent (and by excellent, I mean awful) schools, the following three stand out to me: 
  1. Whitney E. Houston Academy
  2. Dionne Warwick Institute
  3. Johnnie L. Cochran Junior Academy
What better role models for our children than a druggie husband-abuser, a delinquent taxpayer, and a Hollywood lawyer.  God bless the children of East Orange. #education

Finals burnout
After taking the final for my last grad class ever, I felt like I normally feel after taking a final:  Completely burnt out and numb.  I think this feeling happens for two reasons:  (1) I spent 2.5-3 hours working on complex math problems, and (2) I spent 2.5-3 hours doing anything.  It's one thing to do math problems, but it's another thing to do anything for several hours at a time.  Even when I'm busy, I'm still not very busy.  If I work for 10, 30, or 60 minutes on something, I usually end up moving onto something else, getting a phone call, answering an email, or doing something else that takes me away from my initial task.  My day is filled with things that detract from other things.  Alas, that's how things work.  But with a final exam, I don't have the option to do anything else.  I'm totally focused on doing the work, getting it done, and completing it in a certain amount of time.  No time is wasted, no time is spent on anything other than the exam.  It's 2.5-3 hours of totally focused time.  I think that's what really causes the burnout. #education

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