All Aboard The Reality Crisis Express!

, , , , , , , | Friendly | February 28, 2020

My mum was on a train with my niece, her granddaughter, who was about six at time. A man got on who was wearing a medieval jester costume with a life-sized sword and shield. He was nice enough to let my mum take a photo while he posed, so I got to see myself how impressively realistic his costume was.

My mum is by nature an extremely friendly person and started chatting with him, and he enthusiastically told her about how he was a dragon slayer off to a renaissance fair.

During the time they talked, which was only around five or ten minutes, whenever my mum looked at my niece she was exactly the same: leaning right back in her seat, wide-eyed, silently staring at him, white as a ghost. Any attempt at engaging her was a lost cause for that train ride. You know those stories about children excited to meet someone from a fairy tale? Not this kid.

Mum later explained to me that she realised my niece was so shocked because suddenly all the stories that she’d been told through books, movies, and storytimes had just become true. There was a jester with a sword and shield catching the morning train and he was off to slay a dragon? There was going to be a whole fair of medieval people doing medieval things in Melbourne? She just couldn’t handle how real it had all become.

A couple of weeks later while with her again, my mum tried to explain, “You know that man was just dressed up to pretend and play? He wasn’t actually a dragon slayer.”

In the most despondent voice, she replied, “I don’t believe you.”

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To Teach Geeks, You Have To Think Like A Nerd

, , , , | Learning | February 27, 2020

This happens during my first year of studying English at university. One of the first courses I take is Introduction to Linguistics, which consists of one lecture and one seminar per week. The three-hour-long seminar is on Friday afternoon, in one of the stuffiest, most cramped classrooms on campus, neither of which are beneficial to students’ concentration. So, maybe we can be forgiven for being more dense than usual one afternoon, as the teacher is explaining allophones and phonemes. She’s wrapping up an explanation.

Teacher:
“So /c/ and /k/ are allophones of the same phoneme that are in complementary distribution.”

The struggle to comprehend must be clear on our faces, because after one look he decides to simplify it.

Teacher:
“…which means that /c/ and /k/ are different versions of the same sound that never occur in the same place.”

We’re starting to get it, but not quite. The teacher thinks for a moment and then comes up with the most brilliant analogy ever.

Teacher:
“Think of /c/ and /k/ as Clark Kent and Superman; they’re different versions of the same person that are never seen in the same place.”

Class:
“Ooooh!”

Everybody laughs, but we finally get it. From that point forward, the seminar has a new theme.

Teacher:
“So, these phonemes are in parallel distribution, which means they’re different sounds that can occur in the same place. Basically, they’re Superman and Batman — different people who can be seen in the same place.”

There’s more laughter.

Teacher:
“Phonemes can also be in complementary distributions, so different sounds that do not occur in the same place. Like, say, Batman and Spiderman.”

Quick-Witted Classmate:
“That could still happen, if DC and Marvel decide on a crossover.”

Me:
“That already happened, in the eighties, I think.”

Teacher:
“Okay, something more radical, then. How about Batman and Care Bears?”

Quick-Witted Classmate:
“That could still be a crossover.”

Classmate #2:
“Not sure I’d read that, though.”

Classmate #3:
“You kidding? That’d be hilarious!”

Teacher:
“Okay, this analogy is going off the rails, so I need something new: an apple and a book. Satisfied with that? You don’t read an apple, and you don’t eat a book.”

Sassy Classmate:
“Well…”

Teacher:
“No, I don’t wanna hear it. Does everybody at least get it now?”

Class:
“Yes!”

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the difference between complementary and parallel distribution.

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Sounds Fake, But Okay

, , , , , | Working | February 25, 2020

After a month of trying to get medical leave and being given a difficult time about it, I quit my job. Between quitting my old job and being hired at my new job, a time period of about two months, I have three surgeries and spend a total of two weeks in the hospital. I’m worried about my chances of being hired while still in recovery, but I need the money. I’m discussing this with the head of HR.

Me:
“My doctor has told me to not lift over 15 pounds, but I know [department] has a lot of product that’s regularly over twenty pounds.”

HR:
“Do you know if it’s a permanent restriction? If it’s only short-term, we can just make sure there’s someone else in [department] with you so it’s never an issue.”

Me:
“I believe it is. I also have been told I need the ability to sit down when I feel it’s necessary.”

HR:
“We can absolutely get a stool over there for you. Do you know if there are any more surgeries you’ll need time off for? I’d hate to have you worry about that.”

Me:
“I should be good. You mean… you actually take care of your employees?”

HR:
“We try to. We’ve found that when we do, people actually like working.” 

After a few more weeks of recovery, my doctor pulled me off of my restrictions, and HR even gave me a card for it!

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Are You A Charged Atom? Because I’ve Got My Ion You

, , , , , , | Learning | February 12, 2020

(I’m a student in an all-girls high school. One day, we get a university student who is supposed to teach us chemistry as part of his degree. After his lecture, he realises that most of us don’t understand the concept and tries to explain it better.)

Teacher: “Okay, so, the difference in covalent and dative bonding is basically this. For example, let’s say that you dated a classmate and the two of you went out for dinner. The two of you probably have the same amount of money, so you will split the cost equally. That’s covalent bonding. You get that?”

Class: “Uh-huh.”

(As he speaks, he draws a diagram of two atoms contributing one electron each to a covalent bond. He then draws another diagram where one low-electron atom receives two elections from a high-electron atom to form a dative bond.)

Teacher: “However, you could date a rich sugar daddy, instead, and he’ll pay the full cost of dinner for you. That’s dative bonding. You get that?”

(After we stopped laughing, we got the concept. He got chewed out by our regular chemistry teacher for his “inappropriate analogy,” but he certainly made our day.)

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Avogadro’s Alligator

, , , , | Learning | February 2, 2020

(My ninth-grade bio teacher is a little off. She loves the subject and is good at teaching the class, but she phrases things in the funniest ways and tells barely related stories. One day, we’re talking about population dynamics:)

Teacher: “The alligator population is an example of a [science terms]. Did I ever tell you about wanting a lap gator? Instead of a lap dog, I want to someday own a cute little alligator.” *pulls out plush alligator* “Like this one, Louie. A few years ago, I told this story, and for the end of the year, they pooled their money and gave me this adorable little one.”

(My older sister was in that class, and she said she remembered the ringleader, who’d wanted to show how fierce gators were! The same teacher had a persistent rivalry with the other honors science teachers, made the noisiest PowerPoints, displayed a dozen stuffed pigs on her wall, and had an obsession with Avogadro’s number. My favorite teacher!)

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