What I Hated the Least Today 144/365: Awkward and Amusing

What I Hated the Least Today 144/365: Awkward and Amusing

Wired classroom
Wired classroom

Since I’ve been spending so much time recently poking fun at my students, it’s only fair to look at the whole teaching situation from their perspective—and poke fun at myself. I’m often mentally and physically out of touch with my surroundings and have issues performing simple tasks—because they are confusingly simple. Typically, I lose my papers at random locations in the classroom, I stumble on and crash into objects and I can’t make classroom equipment work. Naturally, students never warn or advise me and instead quietly observe as I make impact with chairs or struggle to open a tricky window.

Today I was allocated to a different classroom than usual. The room was so high-tech that it was impossible for me to use. To start with, I couldn’t find the light switch. This posed a bit of a problem because the classroom was windowless, hence pitch dark. I switched my phone’s flash light on and embarked on a search mission. I took the teacher’s desk apart and discovered hidden compartments and even a built-in PC, but no light switch. Ten excruciating minutes later, I gave in and called IT help. The man came, touched the touchscreen on the top of the desk and it was light. It didn’t occur to me that the touchscreen was activated by touch (because how logical is that?).

Once the lights went on by the workings of black magic, I thought I would close the door. I thought wrong. The door was protected from closing with some probably primitive mechanical trick, which I couldn’t crack. I didn’t feel like summoning the powerful technician-magician again, so I used force (not the force) and smooth talk. Neither helped. In depths of despair, I asked a fit-looking male student for assistance—he smugly moved something at the top of the door and it closed. Students never tell you anything.

Finally, before beginning the class, I attempted to retire to the restroom through the other door, which seemed to be closing and opening normally. I had the unfortunate idea of trying to back out of the door while informing the class that I’d be right back. I hit the door frame because, while the door appeared to be stable, it clearly had the ability to move around in space when nobody was looking. My ribs and my dignity suffered in this incident. The students seemed well satisfied with the result.

What I Hated the Least Today 143/365: Kitty Cat

What I Hated the Least Today 143/365: Kitty Cat

The kitty cat not being annoying (at the moment)
The kitty cat not being annoying (at the moment)

I call my four-year-old cat kitty to suggest with the diminutive that I consistently hate her the least. She’s become a little annoying bugger recently since she can’t cope with me going out in order to earn for her treats, among other things. I imagined she would grow used to it after several months, but she didn’t prove to be very adaptive.

She acquired a new habit of meowing plaintively, not when I leave but, paradoxically, when I come home. She doesn’t seem to have any good reason, and petting and treats only help as long as they last. While I’m very sorry for her discomfort, I’m not particularly enjoying myself either, so I guess we’re even.

She started another, cuter habit, which consists in her routinely checking the bathtub. I’m not sure for what, maybe she expects a fish will materialise in there. She places her paws on the edge of the tub, wags her tail and inspects the perfectly uninteresting bottom of the tub with great interest.

She does this without any regard for whether the tub is being used or not. The only difference is that when I’m having a shower/bath, she tries to tap me with her paw. I certainly admire her persistence—or perhaps it’s lack of sense—because she gets her feet wet every single time and she hates it. I don’t hate it that she amuses me though and I always pet her back (much to her disgust, because water).

What I Hated the Least Today 142/365: Deadpan

What I Hated the Least Today 142/365: Deadpan

Dead inside out (and a curious choice of bra padding)
Dead inside out (and a curious choice of bra padding)

I cultivate a deadpan face at all times because I maintain that showing emotion makes one open to abuse. Unfortunately, my deadpan skills cause some confusion when dealing with people who are less dead inside out than me. It’s especially difficult to get my humour across with my straight face—though my sense of humour, which is often somewhat less digestible, might be to blame.

My students are incredibly credulous. Something in their education is apparently amiss since they take everything at face value. The other day when I distributed their final tests, I advised them to write their name on the paper and their student number. I added that should they fail to include their student number, I would award penalty points. There was deathly silence in response. I had to explain the joke, which made it somewhat less charming.

During oral exams, I made a point of looking encouraging, though anything that was still alive inside me was being slaughtered at the moment by the assault of incredibly bad English I was forced to sit through. This considerate approach turned out to be poorly thought through, in keeping with the law that each good deed shall be punished accordingly.

Several days after the oral exam, I received an email from a student who wanted me to explain why she got such a poor grade when I “looked content”. I doubt that I ever look content, but I can’t say, and I certainly have no recollection of this particular student—I examined about forty candidates within two days, plus I’m consciously working on suppressing this traumatic experience. I wrote a polite response suggesting that next time the student might want to raise questions on the spot.

On a more cheerful note, I learned a lot of interesting details about the students during the oral exam. One student intimated that he was looking forward to feeling the virginity of the forest in Romania, where he was going for holiday. I didn’t pry for details. Another student explained that while he thought domestic animals were sometimes abused, he couldn’t envision a cow living on its own and enjoying its freedom somewhere in the woods. I couldn’t envision it either. I managed to keep a serious face, though with utmost effort.

What I Hated the Least Today 141/365: Swiping Keyboard

What I Hated the Least Today 141/365: Swiping Keyboard

Exotic Czech Keyboard
Exotic Czech Keyboard

While I did discover the joys of swiping keyboard for mobile some time ago, it took me some digging around to figure out which one I want and how to set it up best. The idea of a swiping keyboard is that instead of pressing each key individually, you trace the keys you want in a swiping motion and the keyboard guesses what you’re trying to type. In my experience it’s not particularly accurate to start with, but once the keyboard learns your usual vocabulary, it gets smart enough. The benefit of the whole thing is of course that typing on mobile becomes faster and less annoying.

I was using the original Swype Keyboard for Android (for Apple here) for what seemed ages (in tech time), so I was surprised when the keyboard suddenly died on me, claiming that my trial period was over. As I refuse on principle to pay for apps—it’s not like I have nothing better to waste the money I don’t have on—I switched to what seems to be the second most common choice, the free Google Keyboard (apparently only available for Android at the moment).1 I don’t see any differences between the two in functionality, besides Swype being able to suggest emoticons for some words, which I think I can survive without.

My Google Keyboard was updated these days. Normally, updates tend to break things for me rather than improve them, but it wasn’t the case this time. It looks like the keyboard got a new option, which is to show key borders. I only came across this feature when I was reading through my favourite geek site and found a rave review of the key border feature. As I’m naturally suspicious, I certainly didn’t believe that it would make typing any better, but I tested it—and it does make a difference. I stand (auto)corrected. On a related theme, I found another article with tips for typing faster on iPhones, and most of them work on my Android too. I could be totally typing this on mobile (I’m not). 

Besides UK and US English, Google Keyboard most likely comes in your language—it even comes in Czech. I find it less accurate for Czech, which might be given the nature of the language. Czech uses a scary amount of diacritics that often affect a change in meaning, but when typing on mobile, no one bothers to use it (not to mention that old devices, like my mother’s phone, can’t display a text message sent with diacritics), so it would be a bit too hard on the keyboard to expect that it will guess the constellation of diacritics that you have on mind at the moment. When swiping in Czech, I use the keyboard for entertainment—and to relearn Czech, as the keyboard suggests an array of curious bookish words that are not part of my active vocabulary.

1 Update: Google Keyboard, under the name Gboard, was actually released for Apple a week ago. Back.

What I Hated the Least Today 140/365: Ticket Collector

What I Hated the Least Today 140/365: Ticket Collector

Waiting
Waiting

*In this post nothing happens.*

My country’s public transport operates on a self-service system which places responsibility and trust in the hands of travellers. The passenger is required to procure a ticket prior to getting on the vehicle and then punch it in a mechanical device placed in vehicles. This operational plan is conductive to creating blind passengers, wilfully so or otherwise. (Not blind passengers as of blinded by punching their eye instead of their ticket but blind passengers as of seeing passengers who don’t see the need to have a ticket.)

I stopped indulging in the sports of trying to obtain a free ride and hoping to get away with it at the wrong moment. It was precisely at the point when I learned to recognise reliably, at the distance of twenty meters and more, all ticket collectors on duty in my city. Ticket collectors are devised as the controlling mechanism – they occasionally materialise on buses and trams and demand to see your ticket. (I usually tell them I’ll show you mine if you show me yours since I’ve noticed the ticket collectors also punch their tickets.)

This morning I was waiting for a bus with a senior ticket collector waiting alongside. He is the longest-serving public harassment official to my knowledge and I can always tell him by his passive-aggressive mien. His hair was horribly mangled, as per usual, but his face, curiously, was still not. I’d expect that ticket collectors get jumped at on the regular by frustrated ticketless citizens, the risks of their jobs matching those of tax and debt collectors.

I climbed on the bus, punched my ticket, taking care not to punch the ticket collector, and shoved my freshly defaced ticket in the man’s face before he even came out as the public enemy. I think I blew his cover. The bus driver clearly knew his man too, for he punched a button and the bus loudspeakers started to advise the travellers that there was a raid and that they should get their tickets ready for inspection. I applied my ear buds and shut the noise off.

Mural May: Random Scribbles

Mural May: Random Scribbles

In response to Karla’s Mural May challenge.

Lots of layering is happening
What I Hated the Least Today 139/365: Happy Endings (*Snort*)

What I Hated the Least Today 139/365: Happy Endings (*Snort*)

Rubbish photo
Rubbish photo

*This is an unhappy post about happy endings.*

I read an intriguing article the other day which I forgot about and remembered today. It’s a touching life story with a happy ending. I automatically sneer at happy endings because I find them out of touch with reality, however, the story looks legit. Should you so desire, you can examine the original article, but you’ll need Google Translate to assist you with the Czech. (On a tech note, if you translate often, like me, you could make use of this nifty extension for Chrome.)

The article describes the downward spiral of a professor and faculty dean, who lost his job after his faculty was dissolved and proceeded to lose his wife and home, ending up a homeless alcoholic. This seems to be a rather typical academic career. What’s different here is that the man’s students found him, got mobilised and helped him back to a non-boozer life with a home and a job. The recovered man started running and finished a marathon this month.

This relates to me on a personal level and poses a few questions, such as whether any of my students would be so kind, for old times’ sake, as to throw me a coin when I end up on the street. I don’t think so really, which increases my wonder at the professor’s story. I didn’t imagine these things—someone helping someone else—could actually happen. Of course, I’m cynical and I have no imagination.

Another point is the heightened vulnerability of academic personnel, or anyone who has spent a prolonged period of time in the academic environment. Academia is a strictly closed system which does not operate on capitalist principles, hence the difficulty of academics to come to terms with functioning outside of their natural habitat. I’ve spent about a third of my life half-way in academia, mostly as a student, not as an employee, and I was marked for a lifetime. This shows in my confusion about how basic things work—especially the how-to-pay-your-bills kind of things.

While I have myself to blame, the academic system significantly contributed in conditioning me to a behaviour when I don’t expect to get paid for my work. Here is, in brief, what academics do:

  • We write articles/books for publication. An administrative fee for publication might be involved. Our university, when state-subsidised, gets points for our articles which then convert into money for the university budget. The author of the article is not paid and does not draw royalties.
  • We present at conferences. The conference fee, travel, accommodation and other costs might be fully or partially covered by our university, provided that there is a suitable grant project running to claim the expenses from. The presenter is not paid, unless it’s a top-ranking academic invited to give a plenary talk.
  • We teach classes, mark essays, provide consultations and do the rest of the workload proper for which we are paid, provided that we are employees, not doctoral students (the latter are free workforce). Salaries for academics are regulated and are somewhat above the wages for unqualified labour and slightly below the salaries of schoolteachers (who typically also have lower qualifications).

I don’t think there is another working environment where, in the extreme, people pay to work rather than to be paid for work.

What I Hated the Least Today 138/365: Emails from My Students

What I Hated the Least Today 138/365: Emails from My Students

College corridors
College corridors

Throughout the term, my students appeared thoroughly disinterested in their studies. It was all fun and games—and then there was the final test. This excited in my unexcitable students bouts of paranormal activity. This manifested itself in a previously unseen increase in questions, typically of the dumb kind: Will this be on the test?What will be on the test?Will you give us questions for the test? (Answers: Could be. — The content of this course. — That would negate the idea of the test, don’t you think?)

Besides nagging me in classes, the students discovered the joys of email spamming. One email from a visiting student from Spain was particularly interesting language-wise. It started with a reasonably regular question about how to sign up for the exam in the electronic system. I did my best to answer, on which the student got back to me, clearly thrilled that we had figured it out:

Hello Teacher,

Ohhh! Now I get it, this exam registration is so so different from Spain hahaha : O

So, If I clicked on the 16.5.16 – 10:00 registration,

It means that my exam is tomorrow monday at 10 am, in the building C8 (The library) in the classroom 687, instead of C4 like any other class, right?

: P I just want to be sure and not get lost tomorrow hahaha.

I replied in the affirmative. In Standard English. I wonder if I got my message across. I should have probably written:

Hey there,

ikr, the System sucks!!

but you got it right lol

see ya

xoxo

A series of less amusing emails followed after I published the first batch of test results. Ever since, I’ve been plagued by complaining students. I’m thinking of setting up an automated response along the lines:

Dear student, I’m sorry to see that you failed your exam. Unfortunately, I cannot arbitrarily change your result so that you pass. Best luck for your retake!

This should be followed by a translation into current speak:

Heya, whatsup, suck it up for fck’s sake and gimme a break. K?

The final K would be read by the student as OK because they wouldn’t get the allusion to the protagonist of Kafka’s The Trial. The whole thing is so Kafkaesque.

What I Hated the Least Today 137/365: Tech Things

What I Hated the Least Today 137/365: Tech Things

Wired
Wired

Tech things fascinate and confuse me. Fascinate because of what they are advertised to do, confuse because of when they don’t do as advertised (which is often).

My wireless mouse got ill with the usual affliction of wireless mouses—responds poorly and randomly (and why, yes, I tried switching it off and on and changing batteries)—so I took it to my tech supplier for treatment. Meanwhile, I’m using my old wired mouse, which works well, but its wire doesn’t work well with my OCD and I fear I might (accidentally or otherwise) strangle myself with it.

In front of me in the queue in the shop (clearly nobody’s tech devices work as advertised), there were two women whose universal charger spontaneously combusted. That much to universal chargers. No damage was done, besides to the charger, which got itself a new tan. My ill mouse was accepted in a nonplussed manner and I will be notified about its condition in due time.

On an (un)related note, I recently read a review of selected smartphones based on a thorough lab-condition testing. I was surprised at how well Samsung phones did on the test. I’ve had two Samsung devices, a netbook and a smartphone. Neither of them cheap. The netbook served reasonably well, though after five years, it simply collapsed and died. The smartphone pulled the same trick just after the warranty expired. I’m not buying another Samsung ever again.

I’m finding it increasingly difficult to single out a brand which I could trust as to the quality of their products (don’t say Apple, I’m talking mid-range price). I’m an unreasonable buyer in that I want things to work—and on top of it, to last for a while. At the moment I’m hooked with Lenovo (phone and laptop, Leni and Lena respectively), and I got me an ASUS tablet at the time when this was the only brand here that offered the kind of tablet with a keyboard that I wanted.

I was mildly discouraged when I found that Lenovo was Chinese. Chinese stuff doesn’t have a good name in these parts, but perhaps the Chinese are not to blame. Then again, Samsung is Korean, which to me sounds good, but it didn’t work well for me. Also, I believed Samsung was German—owing to the ung ending, but it’s apparently rather a sung ending. This post is as confused as my feelings about tech things.

What I Hated the Least Today 136/365: (Not) Healthy

What I Hated the Least Today 136/365: (Not) Healthy

Too red in the first place
Too red in the first place

And I am aware of my heart: it opens and closes
Its bowl of red blooms out of sheer love of me.
The water I taste is warm and salt, like the sea,
And comes from a country far away as health.

Sylvia Plath, “Tulips”

I blogged about pain management yesterday, mostly because I found it perversely interesting to have discovered a new kind of pain and also in order to congratulate myself on how comparatively well I’m managing it. I didn’t foresee that I’d get so many kind comments from concerned fellow bloggers.

This follow-up post is therefore to thank you, everyone, and to add an explanation of how come that I have such an aversion to seeing a doctor, which is the obvious first step, as your comments correctly pointed out. Finally, this fits as a response to today’s Daily Post prompt, which, as though they were reading my mind, offers the keyword Healthy.


Now, I’ve summed up in my mind the history of my dealings with doctors in the last few years, and it turned out that, unsurprisingly, my dislike for doctors comes from my previous not so great experience with them. There are notable exceptions, such as my allergist, who hates me and whom I’m scared of, who however continues prescribing me medication that helps with my all-year-round allergic colds.

There is my allergist then, and there are other doctors. Here’s a selection from my appointments with the other, somewhat less helpful kind. I suspect that the problem is that I look like the type who can be messed up with, which I probably am. I wish I looked more fierce.

 

Me: I feel constantly fatigued.

GP: You have anorexia/bulimia. Report to a psychiatrist.

 

Me: I feel constantly fatigued.

Psychiatrist: Exercise regularly.

 

Me: I feel constantly fatigued.

Another GP: It’s nothing.

 

Me: I have a bad toothache.

Emergency doc: I have worse. Consult your dentist in regular opening hours.

 

Me: I have ingrown toenails.

Orthopedist: Don’t wear narrow shoes.

Me: I don’t.

Orthopedist (snorts): You can try toenails braces. Not covered by your health insurance.

 

Me: I’d like a regular check-up.

GP (measures my blood pressure): We’re done here. You’re too young to qualify for blood tests.

 

On a more positive note, now I recalled another instance when seeing a doctor was actually helpful—that was when I had a case of migraine and was imagining my brain would explode (or, preferably, implode, as that would make less mess). My then-husband took me to the emergency room, where I was given an IV, which returned me back among the living. I suspect that I only got help because my former spouse looks like the type who can’t be messed up with, which he is.

There is one more recent happyish ending: years later, it turned out that my constant fatigue was caused by my antidepressants. It was a known side effect of the medication, though apparently unknown to the doctors who were treating me. It also accidentally turned out that I feel better without the antidepressants, which were apparently depressing me. Another known side effect of the medication. I guess it’s my fault—I always expect too much.