Text Messages #2

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From Sarah, regarding the best possible use of the ORL Conference Room:

Im actually playing rock band in the conference room...

From Lauren, regarding residents:
So get this. My rezzies stole one of the tubs of cereal from the dining hall. Like the clear plastic things that holds a shitload of rice crispies

From Lauren, regarding life as an RA:
Fire alarm @ 3am last night. Oh the wonders of being an ra

From My Youngest Brother, regarding the greatest coincidence ever:
Dude pokemon tells the future. Think about the first gym leader.. Its BaROCK and when you beat him you get tm '08 which is BIDEn

From Sarah, regarding jealousy:
I woke up to snow, be jealous ;-)

From Aaron, regarding push ups:
im sad you're not here, but im comforted to know that where ever you are - you're doing push ups!

From Sarah, regarding me trying to ice skate:
Oh that would be priceless. I thought you would have been good with balance with you martial arts an ish

From Ariel, regarding her crazy professor:
My professor just compared the Amish to the Taliban, but with less guns and a better aptitude for making furniture. Umm....

From Ariel, regarding a program we don't much care for:
OMG OMG OMG Noooooo

From Ariel, who obviously isn't a Sci Fi fan:
What's a hologram?

From Ariel, regarding the roof sweep I got to do:
OMG I should have stayed! I'm so effing jealous right now!

From Aubrey, regarding Thanksgiving:
Turkey! AWESOME!

From Lauren, regarding a funny coincidence (three-parts):
One of my residents had ur dad as a teacher. Random
His name is [censored]. He said he was from [censored] and went to ur high school. He said he had ur dad and then proceeded to tell me his son went to ucla
He had no idea how i knew his teachers name. I had to fill him in that i dated his son

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Video Games and HIV/AIDS Awareness

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I found this article online, and thought it was a pretty interesting little blurb. I've copied the full text below, since the article has an annoying popup ad:

"Here's a very cool use of videogames for a great cause.

As part of a larger corporate partnership with the U.S. government, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment is launching a free multi-player PC game in Kenya intended to change HIV risk perception, attitude and behavior. Called "Pamoja Mtaani" ("Together in the Hood"), it's launching in youth centers in Nairobi, Kenya.

This is how WBIE describes it:

"The "Pamoja Mtaani" game, developed by noted serious games developer, Virtual Heroes, Inc., follows five strangers who are brought together through unforeseen circumstances, losing what is most precious to each of them. Working their way through various East African neighborhoods, players must recover the stolen items and help an injured woman on their quest. Along the way, they will experience barriers and facilitators to behavior change through a variety of missions and mini-games."

The five person game, which can be played via LAN, also has music from Kenyan hip-hop artists. All of the characters are being introduced via trailers that the studio is producing.

"Pamoja Mtaani" is part of the Partnership for an HIV-Free Generation, a public-private partnership that's part of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

Kudos to Warner Bros. for not only getting involved, but using its videogame unit to engage young people in this vital issue."


This is cool, because it is a case of a "good" use for video games (though I don't mean to imply that video games are "bad" in general... just an entertainment medium). It's nice to see video games being used this way, and for a really good cause too. While not something I'm personally passionate about (though I'm very supportive), I do know that HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention is really important to some of my good friends. So much so, that one of them took off to Africa for a couple years to work on this very thing.

Court, this one's for you! =)

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Sprinkler

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An interesting situation came up today on the way back from getting food late at night.

I was walking back to my res hall with Sarah & Yong (two other RAs). As we were walking, we came across a sprinkler that was acting up. Rather than being pointed into the planter on our right, like it was supposed to be, it was shooting off to the left, across the sidewalk and into the street.

What was so interesting about this situation was how the three of us responded to it. I walked toward the sprinkler head, and was just going to step into the planter, and go "behind" the sprinkler head. But Sarah got there first, and twisted it back to point the "proper" way. Yong just held back, and refused to do anything about the situation until it had been remedied.

I just thought it was an interesting reflection on our varying approaches to the problem - I figured out and used a workaround, Yong refused to deal with it, and Sarah actually fixed it.

Just interesting to see.

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100 Push-Ups

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I found a really cool site a few weeks back called hundredpushups.com, and decided I'd give the program a try.

Push-ups are one exercise that I've always been familiar with; nine years of martial arts training will do that to you! As will a year of football. I have no problem doing them, so I figured this would be the perfect way to build some strength, and get myself into some kind of exercising routine (though I really need to start doing some cardio work...).

You can check out the site yourself, but the basic idea is that you take an initial test, and depending how well you do on that, you follow a certain path. In the early weeks, you do 5 sets of push-ups, with rests in between. The first 4 sets have defined numbers of push-ups to do, and on the fifth set, you do as many as you can (with a particular minimum value). Each day, the number of push-ups in each set goes up, so you slowly start adding on push-ups.

In the later weeks (5 and 6), you do more sets, with shorter rests between them (though each set also has fewer push-ups). And the minimum value in that final set goes up each time.

Anyways, I started off on week 3, because I could already do a "fair" number (20-30). Here are my totals for each week thus far (keep in mind that these are spread throughout multiple sets, not all at once):

Week 3

Mon: 75
Wed: 85
Fri: 90


Week 4
Mon: 100
Wed: 115
Fri: 133


After week 4 of the program, you do a "progress test", to see how many you can do in one go. Depending on how many you do, that determines the path you follow for the next week. I'm still a little tight from Friday's workout, but I decided to do my progress test today (Saturday), so I can keep going on Mon/Wed/Fri next week.

Progress Test: 50

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Text Messages

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From Chris, regarding video games:

HALO!!

From Zach, also regarding video games:
xboxlivenow

From Zach, regarding Halo 3's impending release:
fuck yea! tonights the night!

From Lauren, regarding My Sister:
So ur little sister added me on facebook. I think we have the same musical tastes. Yeah jonas brothers and disney channel! I like her already

From Natalie, regarding vacations:
We're going to vegas... YAY!!! IM SO EXCITED!!!

From Ariel, regarding overexcitement:
Haha I wouldn't expect you to. You were doing a high kick on dietz's hand and then decided to shove your face in my camera and start yelling

From Natalie, regarding the reliability of UCLA infrastructure:
Hi! im stuck in the elevator in evergreen... Facilities is on their way, hahaha... And im on duty. Just my luck...

From Ariel:
Fucking awkward flagpole

From Aaron, regarding life in general:
Oy vey

From Aaron, regarding me getting rehired in Dykstra:
Jerry Demmy! Congrats jerrrr!

From Courtney, regarding me getting rehired in Dykstra:
Jerry Demmy! Congrats jerrrrr!

From Aaron, regarding a particularly awful day:
I must have done something very bad in a previous life

From Courtney, regarding me getting "Top Performer" in Rock Band:
Haha omg. When i come back ten bucks says you're back to most gutsy.

From Aaron, regarding my future in ORL:
Jerry demmy for seppy

From Courtney:
When can we rock?

From Courtney, regarding music:
I'm in the middle of the most epic bon jovi karaoke ever...

From Courtney, regarding priorities:
I just found a to do list from last week and "play rock band" was written in between "write paper" and "study for midterm"

From Courtney, regarding programming:
Haha. I can see the publicity now: "come paint wooden crap with court and jerry." who WOULDN'T come?!

From Courtney, while coming back from Vegas on Memorial Day weekend:
Omg. Traffic stopped for so long that we all got out and performed six morale dances in the middle of the freeway. Traffic in the other direction almost stopped!

From Courtney, involving three completely unrelated comments:
No big. I'm hungry. Karen Hedges just whizzed by me on a razor scooter.

From Ariel, regarding Mythology:
I AM FUCKED

From Zach, regarding athletics:
woot soccer tonight. y'all motherfuckers aint readyyyyyyyy!

From Aaron, regarding history:
men of dykstra- interesting fwd from courd > FWD: Fun fact: back in the day, dykstra had a midnight curfew for women (2 on fri/sat) and NO curfew for men! Wtf?

From Courtney, regarding The Dark Knight:
BEST MOVIE EVER. Run, don't walk to the nearest movie theater. Now.

From Aubrey, regarding Grand Theft Auto IV:
Haha slap dat ho! you go jeremy!

From My Youngest Brother, regarding the aforementioned Zach:
Okay so i went to white lime and i looked up onto the tv and theres zach with his fist pumped up in the air then i look down and hes standing there looking at me laughing. Just thought i should share that

From Courtney, regarding "Snow (Hey Oh)" on Rock Band:
Ariel beat you?? EPIC FAIL!!

From My Sister:
happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you. happy birthday dear jeremy, happy birthday to you! happy 20th birthday!

From Aubrey, in regards to being Republican:
Amg i just saw a rainbow shirt and i lifted it up and it said "barack the white house" yuck!

From Lauren, regarding UCLA rules:
I feel like not wearing red is just a standard rule @ ucla, like dont plagerize

From Aubrey, regarding policy training:
blah blah dont draw penises dont harrass blah blah can we leave?

From Ariel, regarding the truth:
Lol my anthro teacher just said "the lottery is essentially a tax on people who are bad at math."

From Lauren, regarding LA:
Only @ LAX would the starbucks line be longer than the line 4 security

From Aubrey, regarding the corn market:
"It looks like the market has been dominated by Dempsterco, in todays purchase of the entire world corn supply. CEO Dempster says the corn will go on his salad"


I have strange friends.

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Another License Plate

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This time, it just read "HHAPPYY".

So I smiled.

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Teachers

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Found this in the comments field on this blog post. And I know that person would never see my response, but I've got one anyways.

First, the comment:

"Yes, teachers are overpaid. Teacher’s pay ought to be commensurate their effort and and this would be measured by the student’s results. So if the student average is 60%, they ought to get paid 60% of the profile salary, the profile salary representing top performance. They should also only get paid for work actually performed. During the summer when they are not delivering results, they should get compensated accordingly. I see student failure, this is only due to teacher’s not performing their role, or performing it poorly, so they should get paid accordingly and not hide behind a union system. These slackers wouldn’t make it out in the real world, and they’re failing the kids too. So hell yeah, they are overpaid."


I'm going to deconstruct this piece by piece. First, the idea that teacher's pay ought to be commensurate with their students' results.

This is absurd for a few reasons. If teacher's pay is related soley on their students' results, then teachers are going to only teach to the test. Moreso than they already have to do. Any good teacher will tell you that teaching to the test is not real education. I could "teach" my 13-year-old sister how to compute the integral of a polynomial, but that doesn't mean she'd understand it. She'd just be a trained monkey, regurgitating without understanding. And that is NOT education.

Also, you can't have their pay be a function of 30 wild-cards. If the kids decide they don't like a teacher ("He/She's too mean!") then they can literally bankrupt him/her. Just don't perform well on standardized tests. Done.

Now, even though I don't think paying teachers based on student performance is any good, I do like the idea to give them the same percentage of a "base pay" as the average student score. Of course, as the poster said, this "base pay" would be for a perfect teacher.

Now, a perfect teacher would make a world of difference. Every kid would understand all the material perfectly. They'd be primed for success in any field. So I think a yearly salary of $150,000 is a good minimum. Again, this is the base pay, only to be doled out if the student average is 100%. But in the poster's example, he suggested 60%. Well, that's fine. I can't think of any public school teachers who wouldn't be ok with $90,000/year. Sounds fair to me. Of course, this is more than double the average teacher salary in America right now...

"They should also only be paid for work performed." Well, that actually already occurs. At least in the school district where my dad works, the teachers only get paid for the 9 or 10 months of school. A portion of that pay is deducted each month, and rolled into his "summer paychecks". So he really only delays those funds, so we still have income during summer. But he's not getting paid for doing nothing.

And, when you think about it, teachers spend much more than 8 hours a day, when you count grading tests and setting up lesson plans. So there should be some overtime... but I digress.

Apparently, teachers wouldn't make it in the "real world". But I disagree. See, in the "real world", you aren't responsible for imparting information to 30 potentially unwilling children. See, when I work on a web page (which is what I do mostly in my "real world" job), I don't really have to worry about the internet just deciding it doesn't care today. Our servers don't decide to ditch. Basically, I'm working with non-sentient things (though as anybody who's done work with technology can tell you, these things do have a mind of their own on occasion...). And that's the difference. In the "real world", when you go to solve a problem, and you come up with a solution, that's that. It's done. You don't need to suddenly teach a bunch of uninterested people how to replicate what you've done. Or how to understand it.

But that's the crux of education. It's showing them things, giving them tools, and then TEACHING them how to use them. How to think. How to come up with unique solutions. We're not programming robots, we're teaching students.

Anybody who thinks a teacher couldn't last in the "real world" should try this challenge: find a teacher who is qualified to do what you do (i.e. if you're a journalist, find an english teacher), and switch with them. See how well you can teach a class. I'm quite sure that you'll find yourself struggling with teaching far more than the teacher will be with your job (though I will concede that some jobs ARE far above what teachers would be able to do... not many public school teachers could pass as brain surgeons, for example).

But even to respond to my concession above: if your job requires some kind of specialized instruction, then yeah, a teacher wouldn't last very long doing it. Unless they got the same specialized instruction. I would be willing to wager money that if you took somebody from the "real world", provided them with educational instruction, and swapped them with a teacher who likewise got appropriate education, the teacher would fare better overall.

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IMMALBU

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I was driving back to UCLA from work today, and I saw a car with license plate of "IMMALBU". The first thing I thought was how arrogant of a plate that is. Then I saw the plate frame:

"I meet 'em dry.
I leave 'em wet."

Awesome. Somebody thinks he's tough shit. He IS Malibu, and he leaves 'em all wet. I was disgusted, but then I realized something really funny. He was driving a Ford Mustang.

It wasn't one of the old Mustangs either... it was the newer body style, probably not more than a year or two old (I don't really know cars all that well though).

The reason I find this funny is that he obviously thought he was some big-time player. But in Malibu, you can't go more than 5 minutes without seeing a Mustang. There's nothing special about driving one of those in Malibu. You're just like any other person. Mustangs in Malibu are like Honda Civics in a normal city - everybody has them. You aren't special.

My boss drives a Lamborghini. Your Mustang doesn't impress me at all.

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Chit-Chat

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I love working here:

---------------------------------------------------
Ash says (3:34 PM):
ha ha ha haza
in my head that sounded like an eighties rap song
but when I typed it, it just looked stupid
:(

Jeremy says (3:34 PM):
hahaha

Ash says (3:34 PM):
ha, ha ha, ha-ha -haha ha ZA
nope, still stupid
---------------------------------------------------

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Something I Kinda Want To Do...

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One of my friends from my freshman year at UCLA recently contacted me about helping him with his (newly established) club's web page. He had a design in mind, but needed help with the coding aspect, so I agreed to tackle that for him. But while we were talking about the site, he also brought up the LA Marathon, and if I'd want to run it this year. A part of me wants to train for it, and just do it, but I'm not completely sold on the idea. Maybe I'll make that my goal for next year.

The idea of running a marathon reminded me of UCLA's Dance Marathon, which I participated in last year. I was thinking about how Courtney (my good friend who just arrived in Mozambique for 2 years with the Peace Corps) listed all the cool things she'd done (traveling Europe, dancing for 26 hours multiple times, etc.), and thought about what things I'd put on my own list.

I think I would like to have running a marathon be part of that list. But there's another thing that, until this weird sequence of thoughts occurred, I'd completely forgotten about.

It's called National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short). It's basically an event that takes place over the course of November, where participants (which can be anybody) pledge to write a 175-page (50,000 word) novel by the end of the month. It has a whole online forum and such for authors to discuss with each other, share excerpts, update on their current status, etc.

I really think it'd be fun to do this. I wish it wasn't during November, which is probably too hectic of a month for me (midterms are all happening around the beginning, then prepping for finals at the end). But I think it's a really cool idea. That's one thing to add to my list, I guess. Again, don't think I'll do it this year, but I would like to try it out eventually.

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The Force Unleashed

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So I just started playing The Force Unleashed, and I like it so far. I'll track my thoughts here as I go... trying to keep spoilers to a minimum (but no guarantees).

Thoughts so far:

1) Vader is a bad-ass.
2) Love story this quickly? Wow.
3) First level as Starkiller... just the demo. Only with background story.
4) No Force Lightning yet... :(
5) Ah, there's the lightning... I love me some electrocution!
6) Battling Jedis is really fun.
7) And there's a plot twist!
8) I love upgrading my Force powers; improved lightning is just sweet.
9) Die Balrogs!
10) Sarlac? I don't think I should mess with that... oh well!
11) I wish Force Push was stronger damage-wise. It's really useful for managing large crowds (Fable had a move like it which I used a lot too), but just doesn't cause the kind of damage to objects that lightning and saber strikes do. But I suppose that's just a balancing thing.

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Two Years

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Today was a weird day. My really good friend, Courtney, is leaving LA tomorrow. She's going to Africa soon, and will be gone for two years.

Two years is a LONG time, I've come to realize. So many things can happen. She likely won't even have regular internet access during that time, so who knows how often I'll hear from her. Or vice versa, for that matter. So much can change, and it's scary to think that in roughly two weeks, she's gone.

I think back on how much I've changed in my first two years in college, and I can't help but smile as I realize that many of my changes came about in some part due to her. Court was definitely a role model to me last year, and one of my closest friends. It's just weird to think that when she gets back, I'll have changed SO much. But what's even weirder is to think how much she will have changed after two years in the Peace Corps in Africa.

That all said, I know this is something she's passionate about, and I wish her the absolute best of luck out there.

Go get 'em Court. I'll miss you.

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Training

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I've been in training for my job as an RA for the past few days, and it's been quite an interesting experience. I was an RA last year, so this is my second time through the training, and it is very different for me, being a "returner".

I almost feel like I'm learning MORE this year, despite the fact that all of the sessions are almost exactly the same as last year. Last year, there was so much to take in, I could only scratch the surface. I relied on the returners to help me out with stuff I wasn't sure on, and there were definitely mistakes I made. This year however, I find myself being that source of aid to the new RAs, which has helped me immensely. Doing what I can to help them has forced me to look at what I learned more intently, which in turn has made me understand it better. It's similar to tutoring, where when you teach something you already know, you view it in a different way, and understand it better as a result. Though I suppose this shouldn't have surprised me like it did, it definitely caught me off guard. In a good way of course; I feel like I'll be a much stronger RA this year.

The other thing that has been quite different is the staff bonding. Last year, I didn't know anybody on team when I started. So as we went through training, I essentially made 30 new good friends in just a few short weeks. This year however, many of the people on staff are people who I already consider good friends. Some were team members last year, a few were my residents last year, and others were people I'd met already through some venue. So the bonding is quite different. I wouldn't say it's any worse or better, just different. It is slightly off-putting when I start drawing comparisons in my head, as I feel at first like I may not be bonding with this team as well as last year. But I know that isn't the case. I'm just bonding differently.

And if there's one big takeaway from the two-day diversity retreat we just returned from, it's that different is good. I'm definitely feeling good about this year.

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Ready? Not so.

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Posted this up on my old blog, before I retooled it to make this one. I still like it though:



“Is the nation ready for a black/female president?”

This was one of the questions asked to students at UCLA for a political awareness project. The details of the specific project aren't that important; they were just collecting responses for later display. I walked by the board, saw the question, and wanted to answer. I just knew I'd need far more room than they were allotting.

So, are we ready? I think that the answer is no. We are not ready... not by a long shot. And the reason I believe this is as follows:

The mere fact that the question is asked proves we aren't ready. We still think it's a big deal if we have a black or female president. People have described the race between Clinton and Obama as coming down to whether people are more likely to choose a minority male, or a white female. The issue the invariably gets drawn up is one of their physical characteristics, not their policies/experience/etc.

But you know what? If Obama wins the Democratic nomination, and goes on to win the general election, his race is going to have NO bearing on how he is as a president. He's not going to wake up every morning thinking “I'm black, let's do this!” It might shape his stance on certain policies, but the only ones I can see his race playing into would be civil rights based ones. The same applies for Clinton (though with her gender, not her race, being the issue, obviously).

A friend of mine made a good point on this issue when we were talking about it. What we need to do is consider race and gender in the same manner as we do hair color. To paraphrase him (as I can't remember the actual wording),
“If Clinton gets elected, she'll be the first blonde president. Is America really ready for a blonde president?”
Obviously, this is a question that would be rejected as ludicrous if ever seriously asked. Yet the question about America being ready for a black or female president has merit?

That's the problem with our society. The civil rights movement has gotten to a point where there is so much attention being focused on where the “line” between people of different races and genders is at, that we are actually actively maintaining that line. What we need to do is erase the line completely. No more line. Your skin color should be treated no differently than your hair color. Your gender, your sexual orientation, your socio-economic status, all of those things, should have no more attention than your hair color.

We'll only be ready for a black/female president when that question no longer has any merit.

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