EXAMS! EXAMS!

I’m not sure how you can call an exam a “midterm” when it’s scheduled for two weeks before the end of term. Unfortunately, in my case, I have two of these “midterms” to write this week.

Actually, I wrote one of these “midterms” today. It was fairly straightforward and a fair exam. I applaud my professor for testing us on material that we were taught. Often, I find that professors take great pride on assembling exams that question students on material that was not covered in class. I’ve also seen professors base a lot of their exams on material they’ve taught poorly. I remember in one case in undergrad, when a prof ran out of time at the end, and had to teach the last component in two days. A sane and understanding educator would have shown restraint during the exam and would have not emphasized the rushed material. Yet, when the final exam came, he decided to make 20% of the marks based on questions from the last component. The funny thing is, I don’t attribute this outrage to him being a mean person. I think he was showing signs of dementia in all honesty.

So, I have another exam on Thursday and I can assure you it will not go as well as today’s exam. The professor in that class hasn’t made any sense to us for about a month now. He slaps on transparency after transparency, full of puzzling equations and formulas, most of which he glosses over, as if we were discussing thing like, “the sky is blue” or “it gets cold in the winter”. We don’t even have enough time to copy any of it down, since he appears to be keeping to a rhythm of sorts. To top it off, we don’t have copies of the transparencies, so no one has any record of what he’s been saying. I have my suspicions that had I skipped the last four weeks of class, I’d be no further behind in my understanding than I am now.

Knowing how things work and how university practices go, I bet he’ll base the majority of the exam on the material covered in the last month. I haven’t failed a midterm since first year, but this looks like a good candidate for a repeat.

Which brings me to a larger question. Shouldn’t the biggest obstacle to learning just be the material itself? That is, the only thing standing in your way of mastering the material, should be just understanding the concepts being presented. Yet I find there are a host of different problems students face in learning. Beyond just the material, it’s the professors themselves that are obstacles. At times, it appears they’ve analyzed the most efficient way to teach a concept and then done the complete opposite.

Many a time, after struggling to understand something, and finally reaching the summit of that concept, I’ve realized there were numerous, better ways to have taught that. Inherently, some profs are better researchers than educators, that much is clear. I’m beginning to think that faculties should be divided into two groups: those who have exceptional teaching skills and those who should be left alone in their labs.

Wow, this has been a long post! Now, if you’ve been reading all of this, you deserve a prize. Click here for the best type of bikinis on this planet (WARNING : Not work safe! Copy the link and look at it at home!)

MORE INTERNET CINEMA GOODNESS

It’s been out a few weeks already, but the next installment in the series of BMWfilms is a great one. Joining Clive Owen this time are Don Cheadle and F. Murray Abraham. The Ticker is another action-packed piece of short cinema directed by new-comer Joe Carnahan. If you watch closely near the end, you’ll see uncredited cameos by Robert Patrick of X-Files fame and Dennis Haysbert from Fox’s 24.

In two days, the next installment, Beat the Devil will be out. This one stars, of all people, Gary Oldman and James Brown. Be sure to check out the trailer.

As always, if you can, download the large format version of the film!

While I’m posting, I’d like to say hi to Ryan Allan and Ryan Nordman, no relation. 🙂

GIDDY AS A SCHOOLGIRL!

As the owner and proprietor of erwintang.com, I’m curious as to who’s visiting my site. It’s neat when my friends visit, sure it’s even neat when someone from the US Office of Naval Research takes a look at my site. Today, however, I had a visit from an organization that far exceeds any others in importance (at least in my mind).

Just half an hour ago, I was sifting through the visitor logs for my site, looking at the IP addresses for all the visitors for today. Using commonly available tools, I’m able to trace back where visitors are coming from, generally to what city or what company (ie. Compaq, Texas Instruments).

Well, I picked one particular IP and entered it into the reverse DNS and traceroute tools. What came back stunned me. I’ve included a screenshot of what I saw below.

I’ve blurred out the last two digits of the IP for privacy, but we can all see where this visitor originated from. Yep, you’re reading it right… I had a visitor from LUCASFILM!!!

I just sat there, not knowing what to think. I was excited, humbled, suprised, all those things at once. According to my logs, the visitor from Lucasfilm only went to the pages where I analyzed the musical endings to Return of the Jedi. They downloaded one MP3 and that’s all they saw.

Then my mind began to think of fantastical situations. What if… what if this visitor, was THE MAN himself? No, no it couldn’t be I thought. Why would I be blessed with that honour? What if it was though? A simple guy like me, just trying to make his way through the universe, having his site visited by the creator of Star Wars.

Too crazy I thought. What if it was Rick McCallum visiting or even Ben Burtt? Any one of those and it would still be a great honour. In reality, I know it could be anyone at Lucasfilm. It could have been a lowly production assistant or someone like that.

Still, someone at the Ranch, someone who works for the company that makes Star Wars(!) decided to take a look at my site! Cool!

YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT?

Around 5pm yesterday, I’m watching Clones in my room… again. As Jango’s seismic charges reverberate through my room, I hear someone slip something underneath my door. I wait for the scene to end before I go pick it up.

It turns out to be an annoucement for a lecture given by the Educational Studies department here at UBC. Specifically, it’s being given by a Dr. Richard Townsend, a visiting professor from Toronto. He’s not just visiting, he lives here at SJC with me. I’ve had some pleasant conversations with Richard. He’s a hell of a nice guy. At the top of the announcement, he’s written if I’d be interested in coming to this lecture.

I continue to read the whole thing, and it turns out the lecture is about the weblog phenomenon, and how it might pertain to educational studies. It seems to be a talk for beginners new to weblogging. Now I’m wondering. I already have a blog, so this isn’t new to me. Two questions come to mind: why would I come to this, and how does Richard know about my blog? I’m suddenly a bit embarassed that he might be reading my blog… lol.

Later, I go to the dining hall to get dinner. Low and behold, Richard is there. We sit together for dinner. I tell him I got the announcement. I ask him how he found out about my blog. He tells me Nic told him earlier in the day. We talk briefly about weblogs. It turns out he actually hasn’t seen mine, but he wants to. He asks me for the address of my site. I am reluctant to give him the key to this little dog and pony show. He might not talk to me after seeing the weirdness here. I write down the address for him, but I also give him a caveat, “It’s not pretty… if you don’t talk to me again… I understand.”

I also find out that he’s looking for an actual blog writer to be at his lecture. I see why he wants me to go now. If anyone has any blog specific questions, I can answer them. Also, he can bring my site up during the talk as an example to show everyone. Hmmm… now I’m apprehensive. I’ve always viewed this little site as a small, hidden away, community cable tv show that goes on at 4am in the morning. Now Richard wants to show it to an audience of academics. I begin to wonder if E3 babes are what educators should be looking at. The chances of me being embarassed are high.

As we part ways, I tell Richard to check out my site first before he’s so sure he wants to invite me as the “star” of his lecture. He agrees. Silently, I do a quick run-through in my head and check if there’s any porn accessible on my site. I come up with none.

A few hours later, I check my logs and I see someone from the Education department has gone through my site. Then I get an e-mail from Richard. He loves the site. He likes my writing and most of the content on the site. I doubt I’ve ever had a Ph.D make a critique on my site. This is a first. He says it would be really, really nice if I could attend the lecture, but only if I was comfortable.

Right now, I’m leaning towards going. I doubt he’s going to go through my site during the entire lecture, and he’s making sound like no one is going to come anyways. I figure this might be a way to get some exposure. Plus, if it goes horribly wrong and I get totally embarassed, I’ll have more stuff to write about in my blog. Ironic isn’t it?

Well, sometimes, you just have to run with the opportunities you’ve been given.

YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME

Ok, I’ve just spend the last hour doing one question from a practice midterm. Actually, “doing” implies I understood how to do it… more like spending the last hour reading the solution for this one question.

The question was deceptively simple… sketch out two functions. Usually, the prof makes it so that the functions are really simple to sketch out since the focus is not on sketching the functions but what those functions mean. Previously, the sketches usually take like less than a minute (and about one line) to figure out, requiring no calculations.

So, here I am thinking, alright, let’s get this thing done. I ask myself, “Ok, so what’s the damn function?”. I now realize I don’t know what the function is. Again, previously, the prof had made it easy to figure out, since this isn’t a course about sketching functions on paper.

I’m started to getting worried now, so I dig out the solution and look at it. What followed was me going over five pages of mathematics that really had no bearing on what the problem was about, but was a total exercise on calculus. The whole five pages was just math… barely relating to the topic of the question.

It wasn’t even easy math either, he got into partial derivatives! No one uses partial derivatives anymore… we’re in grad school, that’s stuff we learn in 2nd year and never use again. Then somewhere along the way he pulls out a Lagrange multiplier, which at one time I think I knew what that was.

It goes on and on, and I’m feeling stupider by each line of confusing math. Then near the end, he writes this gem, “It is intuitively clear that…” Yeah, intuitively clear if you have a Ph.D, but for idiots like me, it’s intuitively clear I’m going to have some serious problems on the midterm next week.

It gets better… he allocated only 20% of the marks for those five pages of work, which was a total ripoff. The previous question (which somehow I understood) took me only a page to do and it was worth 35% of the marks. What a huge discrepancy. I can’t believe he actually subjected some students to this exam!

Despair! Despair!

TIRED

I got four hours of sleep last night. I just couldn’t fall asleep until 4am. It was staying up all weekend that did me in. The timing was perfect of course, since I had to be up at 8am. Tuesdays are my busiest days.

I had a few morning meetings to go to. I got back home at 10:30am. I managed to nap for about 20 min. before I had to go to class. My class ended around 1pm and my last one didn’t start until 3:30pm. Plenty of time for a long nap, right? Well, not really… today was the day Episode II : Attack of the Clones came out on DVD. So I hopped on a bus and rode it all the way to the Future Shop on Broadway. I was back on campus by 2pm.

I watched about 30 min. of the movie, before I crawled into bed for a 40 min. nap. Afterwards, I had to get up for my last class. Man, what a doozy that class was. I swear no one, not a single person in that class knew what the hell was going on from the second the prof started talking. Considering I know there are a few Ph.D candidates in my class, that’s not a good sign.

An hour and half later, the class ended, leaving us all wondering what the hell that was all about. Our prof then informed us that next week’s exam was going to be two questions (two?), open-book, and an hour and a half long. Great, open-book, which means he’s gonna roll us next week. Open-book exams in my mind are always harder than closed-book because the prof needs to make up the fact that all the info is accessible. Remember, most of us in the class don’t have a clue what’s going on even with our notes. How’s this gonna help us next week? I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m gonna cry like baby after the exam is over.

Well, with those pleasants thoughts in mind, I came back home, and washed a pile of dishes I had in my sink. It was around 5:30pm when I done, still too early for dinner, so I took another nap (number three for the day). Forty-five minutes later I woke up to go dinner. Dinner sucked, which was too bad since I hadn’t had a lot to eat all day.

I spent most of the evening watching the rest of Clones and doing housework. I didn’t start studying until 12am, but here I am writing… lol.

I should really go to bed, but I feel like that would be a cop out. So, off I go to study…

Wow, I just read what I wrote here… man, remind me never to post when I’m exhausted. 🙂

HALLOWEEN PICS

I finally scanned in all my Halloween pics. Again, I tried to get everything done as quickly as possible, so I just whipped it all together.

Click here to take a look.

RANDOM LONG WEEKEND RAMBINGS

When you’re in school long weekends are a gift from heaven. It’s a time to catch your breath, get some sleep, do some domestic chores, and most importantly, get some work done.

I cleaned my bathroom and did laundry on Friday. Saturday was a bit of a write-off, but for very good reasons. I actually didn’t get any substantial amounts of work done until Sunday. I also had a visit from my parents on Sunday too. They came to give some supplies from Costco. They were nice enough to even take me out to dinner. My mommy brought pictures from her most recent trip to China. She went some place call the Stone Forest. It looked like a forest of stone monoliths. Kinda creepy.

Anyways, they also told me they’re going to Hong Kong for about a week. This is like the 700th time they’ve gone to Hong Kong in the last five years. My mom says she can’t go anywhere else because it’s too expensive. I guess so.

It was nice seeing my parents. Honestly, parents can be pleasant to be around in small doses. Oh before we left for dinner, I introduced my parents to Nic and Marcia. They were really excited to meet my parents. That’s funny. Marcia wanted to try her Cantonese out on my mom, but she was too nervous to try. Next time!

In other news, I’ve decided that if I get only one gift for the holidays, I would love to get the Band of Brothers DVD set. Sure it’s been on TV, but we’re talking six discs of 1.78:1 widescreen goodness, combined with both DD and DTS 5.1 audio options. Nevermind the excellent set of supplements and it’s all packaged in a neat tin case. 🙂

Holy crap, it’s almost four am, time to go to bed!

SWEET EATING

I’ve needed groceries for about a week now. The only food I’ve made myself lately is bacon and eggs. Even that ran out last night.

Today I went to Safeway with Lindsay and Francois. It was much needed. We picked up a whole bunch of crap. I came home with a roasted chicken, soup, hot chocolate, crackers, margarine, an apple pie, and some other stuff.

Even though I had dinner at 5pm, I ate some of the chicken at 8pm and even had myself a slice of pie. I didn’t have lunch today since I had no food. Man, did that chicken taste good!

You know, people only get this desperate for food when they’re students. Well, I suppose poor and homeless people get desperate too. However, it’s only students who have enough money to spend thousands on tuition but can’t buy a decent amount of food to eat.