Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tide nor time tarrieth no woman

"So now does your heart pitter pat with a patriotic sound when you see the stripes of Old Glory waving?"

My life has become weirdly accelerated.

Days, weeks, months evaporate into the magnetosphere.

Today marks 30 months since my last day working in corporate America.

How is that even possible? Time has moved at warp speed.

I hardly know where to begin because so much is going on.

Maybe I should start by prioritizing the things that are important right now.

1. Continuing to work at my art. If it wasn't 35 degrees (and "feels like 27 degrees) right now, I'd be making beads. I'm over-the-moon excited because Beads of Courage has asked me to make 100 more sets of Team Bead pairs and suggested that they will want more after that. I'm so happy because they love my beads and I love making pairs.

2. Volunteering with Sugar Land Animal Services. Yes, I've gone back since the cat-bite incident. It has mostly been OK. The first time was awkward but since then things feel more or less normal. I only have one cat out at a time, which is less fun for the cats, especially the playful ones, which is most of them. I try to make up for it with one-on-one attention, but honestly most of them are more interested in stretching, scratching and exploring than being groomed or petted.

3. Working out aka walking on the treadmill. I'm now shooting for four times a week and will be satisfied if I make it three times. Until now I was shooting for every day and probably averaging five times a week. My back has been hurting a lot, so I'm pacing myself a little more. I'm also in maintenance mode for now, as opposed to training mode. It doesn't look like we will make it to LeConte Lodge this year, although I'm not completely ruling it out. We will most likely make it to Great Smoky Mountain National Park in May or June and I will be calling to see if there are any cancellations once our plans are set.

4. Spend time with Neil. This would be my first priority if it was within my control. Given that he is a workaholic and has taken off about one day per fortnight, it appears to be one of those things I cannot change. I do spend as much time with him as possible when he is at home, but when he is at home he has an endless list of things to do, from catching up on his online interests to keeping up with house stuff to packing for his next business trip (The Netherlands and Italy in February, in case you are wondering).

And let's not forget the mindless TV watching. Star Trek re-runs (on the all-Star-Trek-all-the-time-re-run channel). Gilligan's Island and Hawaii Five-0 re-runs (yes, truth). We do watch some tube together, PBS programs mostly, also Buying Hawaii and Hawaii Life (who knows why). I try to sit with him while he watches his junk and read, but either the sound track is distracting or Neil won't stop talking, filling me in on background details about the actors and plots. Most nights he falls asleep watching, which puts him in a bad mood (and makes me feel like he is angry at me). He berates himself for it, but he runs his machine at a ridiculous RPM rate all day and he's flat out exhausted. I do understand.

So, those are my four priorities but they are far from being all the things going on in my life ATM.

I'm taking another class at Glassell. I wasn't planning to attend this semester, but Glassell ran an Amazon Local deal offering vouchers for classes for $239. Tuition for these classes ordinarily is $600. I could buy (and did buy) two vouchers, good for the Spring and Fall 2014 semesters. I didn't read the fine print carefully enough, because it turns out the vouchers are good only for certain basic classes. That makes sense - Glassell is hoping to hook in new students who will want to continue at full price.

It worked out for me anyway, since the class I most wanted to take was Beginning Digital Photography. My second voucher is for 2-D design, and I'd misread the terms to mean any 2-D design class, which would have included Collage and Assemblage, another keen interest of mine. Turns out the voucher only is for the Beginning 2-D Design class, so that is what I will be taking next. From the making-lemonade standpoint, one of the teachers of the 2-D Design class also teaches the Collage class, so if that class times works with my schedule, I can assess whether I want to pursue Collage later.

My photography class meets on Thursday afternoons. We started last week with a review of the course schedule and no homework assignment. The time sucker so far for me has been the inordinate amount of research I did into which digital camera to buy, which included hours on the internet, four separate camera store visits and a series of electronic conversations, first with a photo instructor on Lampwork Etc. and this past week with my class instructor. I feel like I need to take the course first to comprehend what features I most would value in a digital camera. Since that isn't really an option, insofar as there will be homework to do following the second class, I had to bite the bullet.

I was pretty sure I wanted a relatively compact mirrorless digital rather than a clunky D-SLR. I'm glad my instructor was open-minded and encouraging about my camera choice, because what I encountered when consulting "experts" was that most were surprising misinformed as well as biased. Expert number one pushed me hard toward Canon and Nikon D-SLRs and told me Sony was discontinuing its line of NEX mirrorless cameras. (Sony only was discontinuing the "NEX" branding and calling the camera line "Apha" going forward.) Expert number two was Sony-all-the-way, and told me Nikon was getting out of the mirrorless digital medium. (In a January 2014 AP story, Nikon confirmed that it remained committed to the format.)

My camera considerations ran the gamut from "get the expensive one with all the potential options" to "go with something basic and upgrade later if you love it." After much anguishing over the decision, I landed on an older model of the Nikon 1 with two lenses, primarily because the price was essentially the same as the best price I could find on the better lens. I sacrificed a viewfinder and a couple of megapixels.

My philosophy is that, since the lenses interchange among all the Nikon 1 models, if I love it (it being both the camera and digital photography) I can keep the better lens, upgrade the camera and sell the original camera with the kit lens. The minor fly in that ointment was that the camera I got only came in red for that attractive price, so I may wind up with a white or silver (or pink or khaki) camera with a red lens. Which might actually be kind of cool.

So I'm set for the class or at least I will be once the camera arrives. I hope that will be by the time the first homework assignment is due. It will be close but I'm optimistic.

Now that the camera die has been cast, the photo class is unlikely to be my biggest educational time consumer in the upcoming months. That's because I'm taking another class. Believe it or not, I'm taking an online class at my Alma Mater, Colgate University. The class is "The Advent of the Atomic Bomb" and I'm both incredibly excited and frightfully overwhelmed by the opportunity.

The course is (self) described as a collaborative effort between current students and alumni volunteers to explore the science, history, politics, and ethical questions surrounding the Manhattan Project. The format is similar to a conventional Massive Open Online Course or “MOOC” - an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web, per Wikipedia. (Did you know that you can take free courses designed for interactive study via the web provided by MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, UT and a host of other respected international institutions? I didn't.)

In the Colgate course however, only students currently enrolled at the brick-and-mortar campus in Hamilton, NY, and Colgate alumni may participate, leading the instructor (Karen Harpp) to quip "maybe we should call it a “SPOC”, Selective Private Online Course?"

Luckily for me the class isn't following a traditional course format for alumni. From the website.
There are no exams, and you won’t be graded (ok, yes, there are exams and other requirements for the current students, because they are taking this for credit, but you as alumni have done your time in that regard already!). Instead, we are providing opportunities for intellectual interaction with students, focused on the course material. We are trying to construct a venue for extended, sophisticated conversations and connections with an intellectual purpose.
The class is structured with various mechanisms for interaction between alumni and students, including these.
a) online discussions with topics that change weekly, permitting us to delve more deeply into the complex issues in the course than is possible in the limited classroom time;

b) a timeline project, in which students and alumni collaborate to construct a comprehensive database of historical events related to the atomic bombs;

c) a “real-time” project to re-enact the events from Pearl Harbor in 1941 to the dropping of the bombs in 1945, carried out on Twitter;

d) a communal wiki, designed to become a repository for anecdotes, reminiscences, and stories from alumni and students; and

e) the possibility of videoconferences among a small number of students and alumni, to solidify connections and talk (almost) face-to-face.
The meat of the course consists of video presentations by Harpp and her collaborator, Retired US Air Force Colonel Scott Willey, and a textbook, The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. I just received my copy from amazon. The book weighs 2 lbs. 6.5 oz. In paperback.

Col. Willey, by the way, has been working with docents at the Udvar-Hazy Center, part of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, and has been instrumental in restoration efforts of the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb over Japan.

It's all a bit like drinking from a fire hose. I'm already behind, mostly because of technical difficulties accessing the "courseware" and time constraints (my interminable mantra), but as an alumni participant I'm allowed to participate as wonted, from engaging as fully as if I was a currently enrolled, paying student, to as little as watching a few videos or joining in an occasional online conversation.

Of course I want to do it all. I'll be putting Inspector Morse aside to watch course videos, which this week includes the movie Gallipoli. Last night I muscled my way to finishing the book A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, so that I can delve into the Rhodes book. Interestingly it was the Bryson book that had me pondering nuclear fission (and my ignorance about the culminating events of WWII) at the exact time when the Colgate opportunity presented itself.

I'm disappointed today that my first discussion contribution, that I stayed up past midnight last night to write, did not post. And stupidly, I did not copy it before I left that computer window (it appeared to have posted). Live and learn. Although it was relatively short, I labored over it.

I'll probably try to reconstruct it as the discussion topic is open for a few more days. It is the first week's topic and we've now moved into week two. In some respects, that makes it easier for me to post in week one. I'm conflicted because I dearly want to jump right in, yet I'm aware of my naivete (i.e., "lack of experience, wisdom, or judgment") with regard to both the subject matter and any scholarly discipline.

It's going to be an interesting ride. You know I will keep you posted.

By the way, harkening back to time-sucking, this post took me roughly four hours to draft (and I've still to polish it). It doesn't help that my computer is dragging, dallying, unhurried, dillydallying, languid, poky, lagging, sluggish, poking, crawling, snail-paced, dawdling, dilatory, creeping, laggard, and in fact, just about every antonym of warp speed that you'd care to name.

I'll be buying a new computer next. I wonder how long it will take me to decide on one?!

I always knew that you would take yourself far from home
As soon as, as far as you could go
By the quarter-inch cut of your hair and the Army-issue green
For the past eight weeks I can tell where you've been

So now you are one of the brave few
It's awful sad we need boys like you
I hope the day never comes for "here's your live round son
Stock and barrel, safety, trigger, here's your gun"

Well I knew, I could see, it was all cut and dried to me
There was soldiers blue blood streaming inside your veins
There is a world outside of this room and when you meet it promise me
You won't meet it with your gun taking aim

For I don't mean to argue, they've made a decent boy of you
And I don't mean to spoil your homecoming
But baby brother, you should expect me to

So now does your heart pitter pat with a patriotic sound
When you see the stripes of Old Glory waving?

Well I knew, I could see, it was all cut and dried to me
There was soldier's blue blood streaming inside your veins
There is a world outside of this room and when you meet it promise me
You won't meet it with your gun taking aim

And I don't mean to hurt you by saying this again
They're so good at making soldiers but they're not as good at making men."

(Natalie Merchant, Gun Shy from In My Tribe)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz