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From January 6:

Things that amazed me at the high school today:

1. The sheer pace I must've had to sustain to do all the crazy, amazing amounts of things I did in high school, never seeing the sun all winter long in dawn-to-dusk school days. I woke up at 6 a.m. this morning after being up 'til about 1-something a.m. last night, laid in bed 'til 6:20 a.m. or so, then took a shower and went up to the high school and spent all day and then some up there...I was damned tired by the time I arrived home amid the creeping dusk. There just aren't hours enough in the day to have done all the things I once did.

2. The sheer illiteracy of my former physics teacher's advisees. These kids apparently expect to get by on charm, 'cause they sure as hell can't write worth a damn. He offers his paper-writing help services to anyone who bothers to ask (as well as a few who don't ask at all). This one girl didn't even seem to understand that not only had she not written half of her own paper—her friend Aaron wrote about half of it for her—but that the very first sentence was plagiarized, since she "edited out" the quotation marks. Yet she just kept giggling and saying, "But Aaron wrote that part!" when the teacher marked something in red ink or asked her about the flowery thesaurus language she'd used. Further, this paper had supposedly already been graded, no less, with an A across the top, of all things—it was readily apparent that Mr. Hebberd hadn't even looked at it, which is unfortunately pretty standard for him. [shakes head]

They really don't teach—and never really have taught—grammar there at the high school. (Take this sentence here, for instance—that girl he was talking to would've labeled it ungrammatical just 'cause she doesn't understand the subtleties of the language she speaks, and, in fact, she even speaks ungrammatically—I heard her say "un-good" quite seriously at one point to describe what he thought of her paper.) I remember when Larsen tried to teach us grammar freshman year, with a whole unit on that stuff that we all hated with a passion. Unfortunately, she tried to use preprepared worksheets for some of it, which is always a bad move, as the people who make up preprepared worksheets and workbooks are apparently idiots out to make a quick buck, leaving most worksheets of that sort with nonsensical questions and unexpected answers. So yeah, that didn't really take—luckily, I somehow have a natural sense of grammar. A few teachers have that as well and bother to try and teach it...but the vast majority of kids and teachers there suck at it. Most English teachers there simply have kids read stories and "discuss" them, grading essays on content, not grammar.

Sigh. Such corruption. Some call me a grammar nazi, as I mark up everyone's papers, even those written by otherwise good writers, giving the page an almost pinkish cast after I've bled all over it in red ink, but someone needs to do that! It almost makes me want to become an English teacher so I could reverse some of that—I thought I'd seen bad college writing, but the people with the real problems won't even get into college, as they're really not trying, much less being taught anything.

3. The fact that another one of these young male teachers is running this racket out of the workshop in the basement, selling various snacks and sodas for a profit in some vending machines, with a grocery cart he appropriated from somewhere...

4. Just how friggin' hyper the people in the one-act play were...I got a headache sitting there listening to them prattle on and on about nothing while waiting to do their tech run-through after school. How did I ever stand theater people at all, even for a short time? Ugh.

5. How well-respected and well-liked my brother is...lucky kid. Apparently during D&D Club he makes hats and wears them the entire time, letting other people tell him when to move and what to do. He's apparently getting even better than I was at playing the dunce for comedic effect. My brilliant words of the day? "Hey, look, I have four pairs of feet!" as Beth cowered next to me, hiding behind my awesomecoat—I decided to spread my feet apart so it'd look like I had four feet, which isn't quite the same as four pairs of feet.

It's strange to think that these young kids I know, my freshmen, so to speak, are seniors now. They still look like freshmen to me, and it gets harder for me to tell what age/year people are. I can do it, sure, telling a freshman from a senior, for instance, esp. 'cause the seniors swagger and assign undue importance to everything they do, whereas the freshman haven't yet grasped the importance of existing, much less doing things well...but yeah, they're all young.

I realized that I'm actually rather put off now by the silly sappy things these high-school guys do with their girlfriends, continually cuddling and holding each other and generally coming off as disgusting and obsessive to everyone else in the room. Sure, I used to do that, too—it always used to seem like there was never enough time to be around whomever it was I was going out with, hence I'd do the standard ignoring-what-people-think-for-the-sake-of-PDA thing that most high school couples do—but I broke myself of the habit during MSA, if I remember correctly. I realized that I really do come off better when I'm not always hanging all over a guy when he's around, then mooning about, talking to everyone in earshot about him ad nauseam when he's not, neh?

There's definitely something to be said for avoiding gratuitous PDA whenever possible and being a bit discreet. Such things aren't really done at the university—y'almost never see PDA. Everyone's just "cool" about things—and yes, I think that sort of machismo that guys and girls put on about being "so adult" and "cool" about things is pointless, too, but it does work well with my distaste for major PDA beyond, say, hand-holding or a brief kiss or putting arms around each other's waists while walking. In that sense I think the university way may just be better in general, especially considering what I'm finding out watching these high school kids, namely that it's embarrassing to watch people being that sappy on continual basis. I'm all for spontaneity, but some things labeled spontaneity are really impulses borne of a refusal to acknowledge that one is acting like a star-struck idiot...

I had fun earlier in the physics department, though—Beth and I built a fort out of these big things they use in PT (physical technology?), sticking stool legs in the top of the square pipes mounted on the top of them (they're essentially wooden platforms about 2 feet square, 2-3 inches thick, with big, square metal pipes sticking up from the middle of the top of one side to be used as support for various experiments) and people's coats draped across the top of the stools for a canopy. We stole the teacher's box of sugar and put it in the fort for sustenance, grabbed a physics book (never know when you'll need physics!) and put it in the fort along with a phonebook found in the back room, and hooked a heat lamp to a classy power strip and clamped it onto the underside of one of the stools, providing us with both light and heat. Then we propped big sheets of plywood against the back and sides of it, making the fort inhabitable and sheltering us from those cruel basement winds. Beth and I had a conversation about ponies, and she offered me a couple of her old ones, as the teacher muttered something about college and regressing...

I've lost my speaking voice to an extent, I think. In certain settings I'm still sure on my feet when it comes to speaking my mind articulately and concisely, but socially I've become less adept. Talking on the phone this week reminded me that I'm still pretty good at that, at least, but in person I've been having trouble addressing everyone, not just a select few. I come off more direct now, more willing to say what I really think—so that's good, but I think I've lost a bit of the tact I used to have. Some of the tact was inhibition, surely, so in the sense of losing inhibitions I'm a bit better off, but I'm not as well-versed in (or perhaps I've just lost motivation to do this) hiding what I really think about things around other people anymore. I suppose I haven't had to be nearly so articulate as I used to be, not living at home and all—but it was a valuable skill while I had it. I think this probably goes hand-in-hand with the loss of self-confidence I've suffered in some respects (a gain in others, since I'm more outspoken about annoyances now), as I've been demoralized a bit by the past few semesters, but yes, I do need to work on talking to people and having conversations, rather than falling to extremes of A. sitting in silence for lack of things to say or fear of saying too much or too little or B. being overly outspoken and letting my true opinions about things show too much.

Too much internal editing. This works out fine when I'm typing at lightning-fast speeds to make up for time spent thinking up answers, but doesn't work so well in person. To a certain extent, I figure I'll be fine—I always am—and I think my increased willingness to tell things like they are may be a good thing. I've become good at denouncing things, for instance. But I should probably talk more, engage in vocal conversation for sport, rather than simply relying on my written verbal skills to carry the day. I know I'm better in written conversation—this goes back to the experiment I tried at MSA, writing the first conversation I had with Jason despite sitting right next to him on the grass at the time, as I had a realization that I might be better at conversing on paper. It was a novel thing to do at the time, sort of a precursor to written online conversation—but it's not so novel anymore.

4:32 pm, February 02, 2004 :: the jablog years

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