28 February 2010

Part 3 of 3...I hope...

This is the 2nd post for Sunday, 28 Feb, & the 3rd for the weekend. So
scroll down to read them in order!

There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary
& those who don't. Of course, there are limitless ways to divide
people into two opposing groups - unless you're a destructivist of the
Kronecker school. One of relevance to my current station: those who
feel it NEVER hurts to ask for something, & those who won't ask unless
they're reasonably sure the answer will be yes. Without ever making a
conscious decision, I've always been firmly in the latter group-it's
embarrassing to make someone refuse a request! Everyone here is in the
other camp. Which means I'm constantly being asked for gifts, money,
quoi que ce soit. It gets really old. For instance, a guy recently
harassed me to give him a shirt since I had a new one. The one I was
wearing WASN'T new, in fact, but I don't wear it often because I want
it to last. I explained this...then the next time I ran into him he
harassed me again as if we hadn't had that conversation. Which to be
fair (if such the following may be called) may have been true d'après
lui-I've never seen him sober. Even more frustrating are the people
who tell me that "now I know what it's like here" so when I get back
will I set up an association to send them money? To them, it's just a
philosophy of ask, because the answer might be yes. Though I recognize
that intellectually, it still feels more like "hey, you haven't helped
enough. What else have you got?"

No matter how strict I was with myself, I knew you couldn't last
forever. The day I dreaded has finally come, and you are gone. You
picked me up when I was down. You satisfied a craving both physical
and emotional. Grits, you will be missed!

Mossi proverb: Better underwear today than pants tomorrow.

I need to slap some fresh cement on my door, and it'll be good as new.
Literally. Exactly as good as when first built!

My phone has a character limit!

Hence my rather abrupt need to split this post into parts. Please note
that,as I've mentioned, the reason I'm using email to update is that
Blogger loads very slowly on my phone. So if you comment here, I won't
see it for a while. I'm not discouraging comments, I'm just saying
talk amongst yourselves. If you want to talk to ME, email is the way
to go.

That's the name of a book by E.T. Bell in 1936 I just finished, and I
highly recommend it to anyone teaching a math curriculum based on the
French model. It highlights the major advances in math from Zeno up to
Cantor, and it's fascinating to find how strong a historical (if not
pedagogical) basis our curriculum has.

Not just because I've read the book. Not even because it makes me want
to study advanced math. I'm a nerd because I've spent several
delightful mornings trying to independently prove Fermat's Theorem*,
as well as solve one or two geometric puzzlers.
*Not Fermat's LAST Theorem (x^n + y^n = z^n has no integer solutions
for n>2), which I suspect requires something akin to algebraic
numbers, well beyond my capabilities. Fermat's Theorem** is for any
whole number n and any prime p, the result of (n^p - n) is divisible
by p.
**Please don't tell me the solution, I'm wholly aware that Leibniz
solved it centuries ago. The point is that it requires no advanced
mathematical knowledge, and I want to see if I can do it.

Character limit again. Obviously I need to either update even more
frequently or learn to be more concise. That's not true. I CAN be more
concise-if college teaches you how to turn a one page concept into a
10 page essay, grad school teaches the much more difficult skill of
reducing 10 pages of work into a 1 page summary. But that's not really
the point of a journal, is it?

To be continued...again...

27 February 2010

Hello, gentle reader, and welcome to another edition of This Is MY Life

I did so want to post This Is YOUR Life, dear reader, but try as I
might, I couldn't contact your 3rd grade teacher, and she was frankly
the lynchpin of the whole piece. Without her, our producers just
couldn't find sponsors.

While standing in front of my class whilst administering a test, it
seemed like I could almost see a wave of heads ducking as my gaze
swept over the room. I felt like the Eye of Sauron in a room full of

But while he may have prostituted my beloved Transformers to
big-budget Hollywood, he at least pulled them into the mainstream.
Which means many more of you will appreciate what I'm about to tell
you: I met the guy who killed Optimus Prime! A gentleman from this
really cool NGO called Trees For The Future came to chat with our Food
Security Committee about partnership opportunities. He later revealed
that his uncle was the creator of the Transformers comic in the early
eighties, and he decided to name the main human character after his
favorite nephew. Ethan Zachary was the Autobots' programmer, who
eventually introduced an experimental program into OP that killed him.
And I met the real Ethan Zachary!

There is a group of kids who come by daily asking for chalk. I gave it
out freely a first, but they've become really rude now; for instance,
when they see me napping they will yell to wake me, just so they can
ask for chalk. So for about two weeks I've refused to give any. They
still come every day. And now the bad thought: I really want an
airsoft gun.

Let's face it. If you've ever studied a foreign language, chances are
that even though they were never taught in class, you went out of your
way to learn how to curse in it. I can still swear in Russian 10 years
after I last spoke it. It's sometimes fun to see the little ways
people are the same everywhere. Seen on a blackboard at my school:
"You want to fok your mother?"

To be continued tomorrow...

This is not a real post

I noticed on the last one that via email my double line breaks were
treated as singles. So i'll test another couple ideas before posting.
Blogger takes entirely too long to load for me to consider posting
directly. First, a TRIPLE line break:

ok, check. Two empty lines in this email...we'll see how that looks.
Next, html? How about my favorite, the horizontal rule, for this one
no line breaks.<hr>if it works it will be between this sentence and
the preceding. I vaguely remember testing all this two years ago, but
don't remember what worked. Real post to follow, hopefully prettier
than the last. Though i don't know what i'm telling you for, reader,
you're still in bed!

20 February 2010

Update via email

Apologies if the format is wonky, this update and those to follow for
a while will be coming via email. Directly from my site!

You see, I recently realized that I won't be here forever (even if
some days it feels that way). The time of my "return" fast approaches.
Why the quotes? Because while I most certainly WILL be returning, it's
completely unclear at this point whether such a thing will be
permanent. Which brings me back to the topic of how it comes to be
that I can email from my village: the job hunt.

I have started nosing around looking for jobs, and i quickly decided
that only being able to correspond once a month, and that on weekends,
was simply not very useful. This would be less of a problem if I were
not mainly looking for teaching positions. But I am, and waiting until
my close of service (which has not yet been scheduled, but will with
90% certainty happen around the end of July) is a recipe for being
unemployed - or worse, a SUBSTITUTE teacher - for an entire year.

So, I decided to invest some of my vacation money into a phone capable
of basic internet usage. Along with hopefully helping me to find work,
I figure I can use it to update my blog in a more timely fashion. My
current plan is to update once a week. Naturally, the updates will be
much shorter, both because I'll generate less to say in a week versus
a month as well as because typing long updates on a phone number pad
isn't really my idea of a good time.

So that pretty much IS this week's update; I haven't much else to
report. My new challenge will be keeping my phone charged, what with
accessing the internet and our new cell plan that allows us to call
other volunteers for free.

Ah, that reminds me. In order both to get this internet and to
participate in the aforementioned plan, I had to change numbers. Get
rid of the old one, it's no good. The new number is
Use it sometime!