Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Odds and Ends

Posted: June 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

I finally finished my degree. In the end, it took all my attention, and this blog had to fall by the way-side as I completed multiple papers, exams, and projects. I was a fool to think that I could manage all these things AND still write at the same time.

Graduation came and went last month, and while I’d love to say it was a wonderful day, ultimately it wasn’t that big of a deal. I’m still awaiting the arrival of my physical diploma. We had 6000 graduates over a 3 day weekend, and as a result the sending out of diplomas to graduates has been delayed.

After five years of wall-to-wall work, I’ve taken some time off. A month so far, to be precise. I’ve spent this time reading several years worth of books that I’ve missed out on. I’m currently devouring the Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child books about Agent Pendergast. I’m on Book Six. If you haven’t read this series, I highly recommend it. It’s a perfect blend of Anthropology, murder mystery, and action. I’m on a murder mystery kick lately.

What does the future hold? Graduate School. Considering the state of the economy, I have to do something that will add to my marketable skills, so I’ve officially decided to continue my education for another two years. As it turns out, this may have been my best decision. Employment prospects have been nil in the area where I live. However, this isn’t a problem insomuch as you might think. I’ve been corresponding with a former professor, and very likely upon acceptance to graduate school, I’ll have a job working for her Archaeology center as a graduate assistant. I don’t relish the idea of another two years of studying, but all I can say is my master’s degree won’t be as trying as the last two years of my bachelor’s degree in anthropology. I am looking forward to studying something that is far less depressing than the world’s problems. This new path of education will take me into Library and Information Science, an area I’ve long had a passion for.

In terms of writing, I’m mulling over some ideas that might make their way into projects. One item is a book about how I graduated with honors, and how my tips and tricks can help the average college student. One thing I’ve heard continually over the years of my degree was, “I could never be like you,” which is something that instantly sets my teeth on edge. This is a cop out.  While I may possess an above-average intelligence, it does not account for my ability to pull A after A. What accounts for that are my study methods, my methods for taking notes, my writing ability, and my time management skills, all of which can be learned. Also, one must not discount the value of hard work. While college may also be a social experience, you must not forget that the reason you are there is to get an education.

Finally, I’m not sure about the future of this blog. I may change my scope to something more specific than just the college experience. Having completed that challenge, I’m already moving onward towards new challenges. There are books in my future, for sure, but at the moment they are no more than vague glimmers. I have yet to settle on a specific story to pursue, though the ideas are numerous. I will eventually have to choose a plot and just go with it. While I have never really been one to procrastinate, I find myself doing it more and more on the writing projects in my future.

I have nothing but time these days. Perhaps it is time to put fingers to keyboard and see what I come up with.

Congratulations to the Class of 2012! We did it!

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It’s really strange when you starting thinking of everything as a potential blog.  This used to happen to me when I was attending the University of Tampa a couple of years ago. I would sit in my Government and World Affairs class and scribble notes about what I was going to blog instead of listening to the scores of freshmen around me, the results of which can be seen in those blog issues from that time period if you are so inclined to look back. Some of those posts still make me laugh and remember all the fun (like Ogre of 4D, for example).

I’d love to say that the campus of USF is teeming with interesting stories and potential blogs, and it probably is. The truth is, I rarely pay as much attention to those in my classes as I used to.  Being a senior, I find that the average age has increased rather drastically from previous years.  I’m no longer the oldest person in my classes, which is kinda cool.  We have a woman in her early sixties in my Theories of Culture class, a man in his forties in the Caribbean, and I think a majority of Museum Informatics is actually older than I am.

Speaking of age…I’ll be 35 this week. I’m not really sure how I feel about that. In my mind, I think I’m still early twenties but with a thirty five year old dose of responsibility.  If only I’d have had that in my twenties! I might have done something with myself long before now instead of stumbling through life doing this and that.  Not that I’m complaining, mind you. We are all the summation of our past experiences. Without it, I wouldn’t be who I am today, nor do I think I’d be as driven to get things done.

It still makes me laugh when people ask me what I do and I tell them I’m a student. Their reactions are amusing.  My doctor is very fond of the phrase “some people grow up later than others” which I suppose is true, especially in the digital era that we live in.   This isn’t a case of that though. This is a case of me not figuring out what to do with my life until I was thirty one already. Anyway, the point I’m making is that it is never ever too late to go back to school to do something you love. Yes, it’s difficult and a shit-ton of work. It is still worth it, though. Who cares what other people think, really.

While I was taking a smoke break between classes yesterday, I kept thinking how USF would make a great reality tv show.  Now, I really hate those shows, and make it a point to never watch that garbage, but the university would be quite funny as a reality show I think. As I sat on the bench, I kept thinking “Previously, in the SOC…” and laughing to myself.  Here’s the pitch: A 35 year old man goes back to college to get his degree.  Watch as he battles parking, children and malignant professors to achieve his goals. It’s rather simple in concept, but I’ve seen worse shit on TV (cough *Jersey Shore* cough). Imagine the tension as he prepares for exams, papers and finals. What a great finale it would be to make a spectacle out of the graduation ceremony. Not to mention all the interesting people who could make appearances throughout the season.  Come on, you know you’d watch.

I usually write about how class has gone this semester, but there really isn’t a ton to report.  My first two classes of the day were an info dump, in which the professor in ToC hammered us with five theorists right off the bat. It got worse in Caribbean when he condensed 200 years of Caribbean history into one hour and fifteen minutes.  My pen could not keep up with the amount of information he was shoving at us, so eventually, I quit taking notes and just concentrated on listening.  I have a plan to deal with that: it’s called the livescribe pen. He doesn’t know it yet, but I’m going to use technology to defeat these info-heavy courses. In fact, I might look for that today while I’m out running errands. It would certainly come in handy during these sessions of information transmission.

Speaking of tech:  for those of you unfamiliar with the awesome powers a livescribe pen will grant a student, I strongly urge you to check into one.  I sound like a product placement ad, but whatever: Please visit http://www.livescribe.com/en-us/ and check them out. Not only is this extremely useful for linking live audio recordings directly to your notes during class, but it has myriad outside “real world” applications. For example, as an anthropologist, I do a lot of interviewing and note taking. Being able to directly index your notes to exactly what the person you are interviewing said can be VERY helpful indeed in analyzing context and linguistic significance. I often find myself taking notes while the person is talking, so being able to simply tap the paper and know exactly what I was referring to by hearing it from the person makes the notes make more sense. For anyone who takes copious notes, I recommend at least checking this tool out.  Sometimes, I really DO love technology.  (/product placement – too bad they don’t pay me.)

And that is a good thing, I guess. If I want to get a job in a museum in the 21st century, I need to be extremely well versed in technology. I’m very glad I chose to take this museum informatics class, it has opened my eyes to all the things I don’t know but will need to in order to be more effective at my chosen job. I’m still marveling (and it probably shows my age) at 3D printing and 3D pdf technology.  I’ll admit, some of this stuff is very complicated to learn, but if this is what I want, then I better know what I’m doing.

A thought to close us out today:  People 100 years ago would think that how we live today among all this technology is sorcery.  Pens that record voices? Flat boxes that tell you anything you want to  know? Machines that create exact copies of things?  It does sound a lot like sorcery to me, too.  Just a little perspective in how far we have come as a society from 1911, when people didn’t even own a  television, much less wifi, ipads and cars with computers in them.

 

Day 1, Fall 2011

Posted: August 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

Six A.M. comes very early. That is especially true when you wake up long before your alarm is supposed to go off, as I did yesterday morning.  Surprisingly, I was not gripped by the sense of foreboding I used to get on the first day of classes; Having been at USF for a year and half and 4 semesters total, nothing the school can do will surprise me.

That’s a good thing.  That very statement was put to the test before my 2nd class ended.

My first class of the day is Theories of Culture, which readers of my blog will know I hate (See: Knowing your limits blog post  for information about my first attempt to take that last fall).  I’m pleased to say that the professor I have this time seems to actually a.) care about his students success and b.) does not have unrealistic expectations.  This class is meant to be hard, yes I know.  It’s the Senior seminar course and is required for all majors.  My last experience with it was one of abject horror. The professor was a monster, his exams made no sense (I have NEVER failed an exam since I returned to college, except for Theories of Culture) and the class in general was filled with attitude-infused students who thought they knew everything.  I felt extremely uncomfortable there.  This time, I don’t have that feeling at all.  There may be about 40 students in this class, but I know by the end of the semester that number will have drastically dwindled.  So far, the layout is understandable. We have no exams.  There are 3 short papers and one long paper, plus a group project that looks like it will be entertaining.

My second class of the day is an anthropological overview of the Caribbean as a whole.  This class also looks extremely interesting, and it doesn’t hurt that my ToC professor is also the professor for this class. I already know how he is, so no shocking surprises there. We have 4 multiple choice exams (and he says they will be hard.  I’ve had previous courses where M/C meant very difficult) and one end of term paper on a topic of our choice. I’m already leaning toward a comparative study of Voodoo and Santeria as practiced in the various countries and islands of the Caribbean and what these belief structures mean to the participants.

Before this class was over, I discovered that my 4th class of the day, Forensic Anthropology, had been rescheduled for a time that would not work with my current schedule. I had originally chose it because I find the subject interesting, and because it fulfilled my requirements for methodology. The professor decided on a whim, without notifying students, to move the time up and change the room. Sigh. I found out because a fellow student discovered it on the course schedule site.  I’ve been registered for that class for 4 months (since March) and they choose NOW to change the time and location?  Only in the Anthropology department at USF.

My third class is called Museum Informatics, and I’m strangely excited by it after meeting the professor. It’s not at all what I thought. This professor will be teaching us real world applications for the things we learn in class, which includes using cutting edge technology in museum presentations, and about the changing definition of Museum in the modern era.  She’s very animated, and seems to know a great deal about the subject. It’s always great when a professor is excited, it rubs off on the students.  I do not doubt it will challenging. I was slightly confused by the professor’s referral to our final project, what she called a “tangible deliverable” whatever that means. She promises to explain more in the coming weeks.

So, instead of having forensics after that class, I got to come home at 3:15. I still was not panicking over losing a course, though. I simply drove home, went to the registration site, and chose something else to fill the 4th slot. In this case, it turned out to be Fantastic Archaeology (yes, I know, I said I would never take another class in that subject) with a professor I’ve had previously.  The benefit of taking this is that it’s strictly online, so I don’t have to attend on campus meetings. I didn’t really want another online class after this past spring where I had 3 of them, but taking one won’t be nearly as exhausting as 3 was, of this I’m certain.  I’m a little behind in it since I just added it, and I don’t have my book yet, but I’m still not worried.  I knew this week would be busy (and thank whoever that the profs seem to realize there is only one day between classes for us to get all this reading done!) and so far it’s not letting me down.  I’ll have to attend an online meeting on Friday and have read a chapter from the book, but I can do it friday morning.  Then, I have the whole weekend to get ready for next Tuesday’s lectures.

Here’s hoping the week stays on the up and up.  I will not curse myself by saying it is going well.

It’s that time of the semester again: the mad dash to digest several weeks worth of material and regurgitate it out as something usable, also known as the Mid-Term Exam.

This is my second semester at USF, and my second round of midterms.  I got out easy in the Spring semester; there were only 2 midterms and neither was very difficult.  This semester however, I’m getting my ass beat.  While I would have thought that this summer semester wouldn’t be very difficult, I stand corrected.  I’m taking 9 credit hours this summer (it satisfies a requirement) in French II and Religion: Life After Death.  This religion course I picked turned out to be VERY writing intensive (it’s also an exit requirement for graduation).  We write at least 1000 or more words a week (which of course I write more, wordy shit that I am) in addition to sometimes reading 5 chapters out of several of the 8 books we have for this course.  The material is interesting and engaging, and the teacher is very attentive to the class.  However, with that said, let me recount the midterm yesterday.

One thing I hate about professors are those that do not specify what will be on an exam or else, they use an old midterm exam guide like this professor did.  There were many things on the study guide we hadn’t even covered yet, and there was no mention of a dreaded essay. She merely said to expect 60 multiple choice or true false questions.

Tuesday night, the day before the midterm, I got an email that said to be prepared for not one essay, but three of them, and they had to be 500 words EACH and we had an hour and thirty minutes to finish them.  Needless to say, I panicked. We have covered so much material in 5 weeks that it was starting to make me feel dizzy.  We’ve gone through Christianity (again) all the way to Taoist views on death and the afterlife, and everything else in between.  We’ve read 4 books already as well.  I figured those essays could be about ANYTHING at that point, and when you have no idea what to prepare for, you panic.

So, as the midterm began, I took my time working through the 36 multiple choice and true false questions that comprised section I.

The insanity of midterm preparation

That part didn’t take very long, and I ended with a 98 on it.  The second part, however, was much more complicated than I thought.   Three essays asking us to relate shamanism and ecstatic process to the movie Don Juan DeMarco, the book Tuesdays with Morrie and of all things, Dicken’s a Christmas Carol (which was the only movie I didn’t watch! I had 4 others to get through, and who hasn’t seen or read that story a thousand times?).  That will teach me to skip something I think I know well.

I had budgeted 30 min per essay to myself to ensure that I gave each the full attention to detail it needed, but upon seeing the question about Dickens, I had to change the order I wrote them in to give myself more time to think on the worst of the three.  Lets be clear here: I’m not very good at writing essays on the fly.  Previously, professors have always hinted as to what you should think about for the essay, so that you can prepare. In this case, she wanted to see who can do it quickly and make it sound intelligent and knowledgeable.  I think I succeeded at that.  My total word count for all the essays was nearly 1400, so I was only a trifle short on the suggested 1500.  I feel like at least two of the three were very strong, it is only that Christmas Carol essay that I’m uncertain of.

Today’s midterm is in French.  We’ve also covered a lot of material in that class as well, and I think I’ve been studying so long that my brain can’t switch back and forth very well right now.  I find that I am talking to myself in French, and this morning it was the first thought in my head when I got up to study: Preparez pour l’examen aujourd’hui.  I’ll be glad when this is over this afternoon. My brain is fried from day after day after day of studying.  That one also has an essay, about a recent trip we’ve taken somewhere.  At least this essay I’m not worried about, I have a good grasp of the language and it’s grammar and stupid endings people don’t pronounce. I’m reminded of a former Religion professor who said she gave up for that very reason – it just doesn’t make sense that they don’t say the whole word to her.  I’m starting to agree. The slight change in pronunciation from present to imparfait is barely noticeable unless you have a well trained ear.

I look forward to 2 o’clock just so I can get this exam over and done with.  The French Professor (ha, he’s younger than me by like 6 years!) never makes his exams that difficult unless he has just decided to be evil this term.  Mostly it is not comprehensive, it is on a the first 6 lecons we have covered so far, and most of that are the imperfect tense and reflexives verbs.  Luckily, I do not have to drive to campus to take my test, I’ve set up a proctor at the local library to administer it to me.  Given my history with completing his exams in 20 minutes, it seemed foolish to drive for an hour and fifteen minutes for something I’m only going to be on campus for that lasts no more than 30 minutes tops.  Yay me for thinking ahead this term!

Well, that’s it for me right now, back to studying for another 15 or 20 minutes, then it’s time to get ready to go.

When this day is over, I will be very glad indeed.

Sleepless

Posted: May 12, 2010 in Uncategorized

It’s almost one am, and I should be asleep.  I laid down 2 hours ago, and just cannot turn off my brain.  So, since I’m awake, I felt like I would write out some of what I’m thinking in the hopes that it will put me to sleep when I’m done.

Now that this semester is over I can sigh in relief.  This was easily both my worst and  most difficult semester in college.  Having dealt with as much crap as I did early this semester, I’m lucky to have pulled the grades out that I ended up with.  Sometimes, a transition in the middle of the school year is not the best idea.  Duly noted, and filed for future reference.

I keep worrying about my Mom for some reason.  I wonder if she’s happy.  She never really goes anywhere now that they unceremoniously retired her from the job she had been at for 25 years last Fall. I know she worries about money.  Hell, I worry about money too.  She shouldn’t have to, though. She’s raised 4 kids in her lifetime and now she has to scrimp and save to make ends meet.  I try to be as helpful as I can, but being a student doesn’t make that very easy sometimes, since I live on a shoe-string budget.  I wish I could take her places she’s always wanted to see.  I’m thinking of taking some of my summer money and taking her on a cruise when school is out in July. Nothing fancy, just maybe a trip to the Bahamas or the Caribbean.   She’s done so much for me over my lifetime, that I want to repay her every day with something new and exciting, but as any college student knows, that’s often difficult to do.

I try to be a good son. I live here with her so she’s (Or I for that matter) not lonely, has someone to do the heavy lifting and to take care of the yard and house maintenance.  Yeah, I get something out of it too.  I enjoy spending time with her.   We watch tv shows and movies together, and I try to keep her involved in what’s going on in my life and with school.  You only get so much time with the people you love, so you should try to spend as much of it as you can with them.

Sometimes, though, I hate being the youngest.  It’s not my brothers and sister’s fault that things are the way they are.  I’m the youngest by 10 years, and that sometimes seems like a lifetime of it’s own.  I often wonder how much they even know about me really.  My oldest brother was married when I was born.  His oldest daughter is only 4 years younger than myself, and often times I feel I have more in common with her than with him.  We’ve never really spent that much time together, and I think he gets a majority of his information about me from Mom when he calls home.

I think about a lot of things that most people my age probably don’t have to worry about yet.  I worry about what will happen when my mom is gone.  I worry that I don’t do enough to help her.  I miss my dad sometimes too.  He’s been gone 20 years in 2011.  That’s a really long time.  A lot of people still have both their parents, and so they don’t worry about what life will be like when they are both gone.  Having lost my father when I was 13 was a very hard thing to deal with, and it really fucked my life up for a while.  I can’t imagine what things will be like.  The sad truth is, I’ll probably be the last one of my immediate family left.  That thought scares the hell out of me.  I don’t want to survive everyone I love.  I don’t know how I will ever go on without them.  I hope I’m in a safe place if that happens.

They say that if you want to really know a person, walk a mile in their shoes.  I don’t think people would like my life if they did.  They would discover that I worry about a lot of things that I have little or no control over.  I went back to school not just for my own benefit, but for my Mom’s as well.  I want to be able to take care of her.  She deserves it.  She’s worked so hard her whole life and has so very little to show for it.  She lost her husband long before she should have, and yes, maybe I’m resentful to my father for leaving us the way he did.  With both my brothers and my sister having their own lives, it was only natural that the responsibility of it would fall on me.  Sometimes, I don’t know if I am doing it very well at all. Most days, in fact.

I hear from a lot of people that I’m so strong, blah blah blah, but really I just deal with things as they come. It’s all you can really do, isn’t it?  I try to live a good life, be kind to those in need.  I try to be mindful of other peoples needs and wants.  Most of the time I rarely even think about myself.  I think about getting from one day to the next, with as little pain and trouble as possible.  Lately, I feel crushed by the weight of the future. So many things are uncertain and unknown, and I do not like that at all.  I like things to be orderly and neat, and the future is neither.  I think I went into Anthropology as a means of escape; there is no escaping your life, though.  You can try to run, but you will probably get the boomerang effect in the end. Everything will catch up to you at some point, so why bother running at all.  It solves nothing, does nothing.  Learning to love where you are and who you are is a lesson we should all learn early in life, I imagine it would make things easier.

Why is it that in the middle of the night is when the worst of it hits you?  Your mind, while happy and cheerful during the day, turns dark and brooding in the midnight hours.  This has been the cause of my insomnia over the years.  I lay awake at night, even when I was a child, worrying about things like what happens when your parents are gone?  What will you do to survive? How do you survive? I remember being 9 years old, a few weeks before my sister got married, and worrying about what life would be like without them all. I remember thinking about my parents passing, and it filled me with fear and such a sadness that a child should never know. I guess that proves I was never a normal child, not that I needed convincing.  I had a very happy childhood, with many friends and loving family.  So why on earth would I worry about stuff like that? I have no answers. I wish I didn’t worry about it. It makes me feel very lonely sometimes.  I would say that I miss being a kid, but as I’ve detailed, I wasn’t much different then than now. I’ve always been too mature for my age, worrying about things that I shouldn’t have to.

How unusual for me to pour my heart out in a blog.  It’s not usually my thing to tell anyone that I’m worried or sad. I really do miss the so-called carefree days of my youth, short as it may have been. I wish my Dad was here.  You never really get over the gaping hole something like that leaves inside you. People say it gets easier with time, but that isn’t always true.  20 years later and I still think about him often.  I guess I feel like my mother was robbed of her happy life when my father passed.  She had to work all day and raise a 13 year old, do without her husband and manage the household.  That can’t have been easy.  I was difficult, no doubt, doing stupid things that teen-agers do.  I doubt I’ve ever thanked her enough. I don’t think I even can.

I wish my mind would decide to go to sleep. Instead, it plagues me with thoughts about the meaning of life. Buddhism says that all life is suffering, and some days I completely agree.  We live, only to eventually wither and die.  We see our loved ones go, one by one, into the great darkness without us.  Each day we are tested and tried and stressed and exhausted.  I understand suffering, both in myself and in other people. Maybe that is what makes me so compassionate towards others. I wish I could fix everything.

More than anything, I wish I could just sleep and stop worrying over what the future brings.  I hope my family knows that I really do love them, even if I don’t say it or show it always.  Maybe it’s time to go back to taking sleeping pills, as much as I hate them.  Probably not forever, but a few weeks wouldn’t hurt. I hate these middle-of-the-night sessions where it’s just me, the cold air and long hours before dawn sitting in my bed thinking.

I wish I could stop thinking. You know what they say? Wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which one gets full first.

What the hell is Anthropology, anyway?

If my life were a movie, it would be hilarious.

Why do I say that?  I’m a 33 year old college junior.  I just transferred to the largest place I’ve ever gone to school in my whole life, so large in fact that it has its own transit system to get you to your destinations (when it actually works).  My first impressions of USF were kind.  After this past Tuesday, I totally have changed my opinion.  That was probably the worst (!!) day I’ve ever had, even worse than the day I broke up with my ex (and that was a hot damned mess, to steal a phrase).

Where to start? Ah yes, the beginning.  I’ve been having problems with Financial Aid. It’s a tiny, stupid thing really.  However, getting these people to actually fix it and take the hold off my account has proven to be problematic.  I’ve sent a letter, called six times, and finally took a last letter on Tuesday morning.

I woke up on Tuesday very excited for my first day getting my hands dirty in Anthropology’s Biological sub-field.  I was scheduled for Bio Ant + its required lab, and a class I grabbed for fun, Inequality in Global Society.   I left my house at 6:45, because I still needed to get my parking permit and get to class.  I had decided to take the Veterans Expressway from my house to Tampa, because I have a pass that pays my tolls automatically.  Normally, that is a very quick 1 hr drive.  Tuesday, Tuesday, Tuesday.  That morning, traffic was backed up for almost 20 miles, bumper to bumper, once I reached the outskirts of the Tampa Suburbs.  It took me forever to get to campus, thanks to one broke down car way off to the side of the road. My only thought is that people were rubber-necking.  What a shock.  There appeared to be no other reason for the traffic jam.

Getting my parking permit was the easiest part of my day.  It took only 10 minutes (another shock) and I parked and realized I had to hoof it to get to the bus stop that took me to the Social Science building where I needed to be. I had about 45 minutes to get to class at that point.  Plenty of time, I thought.

Wrong.

I needed the bus on the C route.  I saw four of them in the time I was standing at the stop in 34 degree weather.  None of them actually stopped however.  They were all going the way we needed to go (I wasn’t the only person at the stop) but none of them stopped.  The first one was full.  We could all see that. The other 3? Who knows where they were going, but the sign on the front said Social Science/Marshall Center.

It’s now 5 minutes before class starts.  USF has a strange policy, but I guess it makes sense.  If you miss your first scheduled class, they drop you. I was about a mile and a half from the SOC building.  It was simply not enough time to make it, because I was going to have to walk.  I started getting pissed.  I figured since I was going to be dropped, I might as well go to Financial Aid to see them in person, I expected a wait.  I got one.

The financial aid people (some of them, at least, including my FA counselor) are idiots.  He never returns phone calls, never sends an email, nothing. I get zero from him.  He’s completely and utterly useless.  After a terrible campaign to get the issue resolved, it ended up with me squaring off with a FA walk-in counselor, who looked like she was 12.  Needless to say, some heated words were said in which I questioned her intelligence, her credibility and her sense of style.

The problem is still not fixed.  I have to locate a single piece of paper from 2008 to prove my point.  It will take at least 10 days to get it, most likely.  I have a tuition deferment until March, but since I have a hold, I can’t get my text books on Financial Aid.  Have you seen the cost of text books?  That shit is insane.

Did I mention that I also missed my Inequality class and was dropped from that too?  Yeah. Thanks Financial Aid. You made my day so much better.

I left campus at that point.  I was fuming mad, and giving off a constant stream of static electricity.  Everything I touched shocked me, which made me more angry. Can you imagine that happening? It sucks. I went to touch the door handle of the car and ZAP!  Doorknobs, glass, whatever it was, it shocked me. It had been happening for several days, it comes from the cold and I think the jacket I wear generates it.  It was the proverbial last straw.

I drove home, chain smoking.  I kept thinking of the advice one of my Anthropology contacts gave me: No matter how things work, make them work for you. I had only six credits at that point, because of missing class. I need to be full-time for Financial Aid purposes, so that meant scouring the schedule again to pick up six more.

That turned out to be a genius idea.

Instead of having to commute to Tampa, I’m taking my entire full-time schedule from home and eliminating pre-requisites for my major at the same time.  I picked up two more online courses in addition to the ones I had already managed to grab: Archaeology and Cultural Anthropology.  The schedule had quite a few choices for online stuff, but it was limited for Anthropology.  I ended up with Religion in America and French.

At the moment, it appears to be a competition between Religious Studies and Humanities for my minor.  Either one would probably be useful.  I guess it just depends on what I take next semester, that will be the decision. I think I have more Humanities credits than I do Religion, but it comes down to what will be available. One more upper level religion course and I’m halfway to a Religious Studies minor.

Online courses are not easier than in person, and in a lot of ways, it isn’t the same thing.  In a classroom you get direct attention from your professor, yet online you probably don’t see them. I won’t see mine in person. To them, I’m just another name in the chat room. They don’t know me. But since these are only the intermediate training in my field, I’m not that concerned about it. Upper level stuff (my capstone, senior seminar, etc) will have to be taken in person.

It turned out in my favor, really.  I’ll be saving a ton of money by not having to commute.  My poor car needs work.  The breaks are shot, and the CV joints are going.  I think I’m going to take the gas money I save by not driving to Tampa and put it towards a cruise this summer.  It’s about time I went somewhere.

So, I’d like to say, fuck you USF campus, at least for this semester.  I hated the parking issues there, and anyone who has to battle it this semester gets my sympathy.  It’s a mess.

The real kicker is that I also got invited to join an honors Fraternity this morning, Phi Sigma Pi.   Too bad I won’t be on campus to actually do it.  Not until summer, anyway.  I can save more money where I’m at and move myself comfortably during the summer when I don’t have 15 credits hanging over my head. Maybe in the Fall I can join.

Enough for now. This blog is longer than my last term paper.  I have Archaeology to look forward to in about an hour.

And as a note:  Just because I’m at home this semester doesn’t mean my blog won’t be interesting. I’m still full of shit and still make observations and position myself to hear things.  I guarantee it won’t be boring.

Yes, it is truly coming down to the end of my semester here at The University of Tampa.  Since I know how pigheaded and short sided I can sometimes be, I’ve decided to write out what I’ve learned about people in the few months that I’ve been in this collegiate setting.  That way, later I can look back over it and remind myself of the trials, tribulations and triumphs of the Human Spirit.  We all have lessons to learn, right? This is my list of ones I’ve seen.

Without further fanfare, I present the Inventory:

The world is a much worse place than most of us even want to know.  We avoid it, living in our own little bubbles, selectively seeing and hearing what is really going on around us. We should really, really stop that. Without people to do something about it, it’s just going to get worse.

Technology does not always make people smarter.  The more you rely on technology instead of doing things the old fashioned way, the dumber some people get.  Call it laziness.  We become complacent with the internet at our fingertips, answers for everything in seconds from your iPhone or Smartphone.

The education system in this state is abysmal.  Teaching children to pass a test (the FCAT in this instance) instead of teaching them how to apply the knowledge they gain is causing High Schools to turn out some of the dumbest kids I’ve ever seen in my 33 years on this planet.  They don’t know how to take notes, do a term paper or think for themselves. Terrifying.  Who is going to be running this country in a few years? We are only a few years away from “Tila Tequila, President of the United States” if things keep going they way they are now.

My cell phone is the most expensive instant messenger I’ve seen.  I don’t talk to people on the phone much anymore, everything revolves around a text. Why talk face to face when you can instant message someone anywhere in the world at any time?  Who doesn’t carry their cell everywhere nowadays? Who isn’t always on it? I’ve never seen so many people with a phone glued to their ear or in their fingers for texting as I have when I moved to Tampa.

People are quick to judge about anything.  We are a self-righteous bunch of shit heads, aren’t we? We label and categorize people to fit our scheme of life. I can guarantee: for every person you’ve ever talked “smack” about, made comments about behind their back, they’ve probably said the same thing about you. And some of us are much better at it than you think.

People who juggle work and are a full-time student have my respect.  It’s a very tough thing to do well.  My own balancing act isn’t quite as great as some of theirs.  They even manage to have a real life outside of all that they do.

People can also be ridiculously petty and envious over nothing.  You might think your life sucks, but I can also guarantee someone out there is envious of you for something you would never have thought of on your own.

Fun is a precious commodity.  If you juggle as many things as some people do, if you don’t have fun once in a while, you will explode.  Fun is a life requirement.   If you don’t have fun, what are you working for exactly? Do you hate your life?  Get out and do something fun. Life should have those moments, it’s what makes it worth living.

If you are a younger person and you are a college student, do not do the following: Do not go up to the man in the class that you know is much older than you, older in fact that the professor, and ask him how old he is.  Then, when he tells you he’s 33 don’t say, “Wow, I thought you were a lot older.” It’s not a great way to break the ice. It’s also very impolite to point out the amount of grey in his hair as you try to fumble for a way to make up for asking his age.

The library on campus is not a very useful resource in the Technology Era.  I’ve never even been inside of ours since school began in august. It’s sadly all about resources, and the internet is faster, more convenient, and closer than a library. Not to mention you gain 12-15 articles instantly for a term paper if you know where to look. That makes me sad in a lot of ways.  I used to love being in a library.

That brings me to this: The internet is not just for porn.  Yes, it is convenient for porn searches. The internet is a much more powerful resource if used correctly. If you like to research, it can probably be found. Learn how to use it.

And here’s another technology-era observation for younger students: Wikipedia is not a primary source.  Say it with me: Wikipedia is not a primary source.  A primary source is a place that is factual.  Wikipedia can in fact be altered by anyone, and it is not considered “the source” of true information.  Don’t ask your teachers if Wikipedia is acceptable. It is NOT.  Yes, it is a great place to start.  You can get a great deal of information on a topic quickly.

However, that textbooksdoes not mean you ever cite anything directly from there.  It’s a place to start gathering info on a topic, then decide what to further investigate about it from there.  It isn’t the end of the search. It could probably be considered, in some cases, a tertiary source at best. And don’t give me the argument that it has been used as a Primary Source in certain court cases. I’m well aware of that, and still don’t care. It is not an acceptable primary source. Period.

Cell phones are never okay in a classroom.  It’s extremely disrespectful to your professors, your colleagues and your fellow students. Not to mention, it’s also a distraction.  How would you feel if you were talking and someone started playing with their phone, obviously ignoring anything you have to say? Oh wait, you probably wouldn’t care.  That is sadly the world we live in now, where basic communication skills have been tossed out the window in lieu of the ever-present cell phone and internet.

Something else I’ve noticed: a lot of people don’t know how to take notes effectively.  Particularly the younger students at the University are not accustomed to taking notes at the collegiate level. Teachers don’t always write everything you need to know on the board.  I’ve heard a lot of kids complain that some of the teacher’s notes don’t make any sense. One girl even said, “If I took a picture of the board after she finishes the lecture and showed it to someone outside of class, no one would understand what the lecture was even about.” Yes, that’s largely true; they expect that you will edit the lecture yourself and decide what is most important about what they were talking about. A very good rule of thumb is that if a professor says it more than once, it will probably be on the test. Note taking is a skill and it can be learned. It just takes adequate practice and the development of your own shorthand system.

Someone should also teach a class on time management skills.  Those are totally invaluable in college.

Term papers are a process. A well written paper can take several days to truly develop from your initial notes to the final draft, much like everything else in life.  Take some time to really understand your topic before you pull an “all-nighter” to write a paper.  If you have notes to work from, it makes the whole process that much easier.  Also, you should really write from an outline.  An outline is a great way to get everything you want to say in a nice, linear fashion. It helps stop you from wandering off topic (like I’m prone to do!).

In addition to these collegiate/world lessons, I’ve also seen some great things.  I’ve seen people be compassionate, kind, generous, welcoming, friendly and humorous too.  Being in a weird place like a dorm building takes some getting used to, but you do meet people just in the course of your day to day life, whether it be on the elevator, or in the lobby that are just as uncomfortable as you are at first.  That setting can bring people together that wouldn’t normally have associated with each other.  For a lot of these kids, I think college is a much needed wakeup call about life. It has shown me that even in a few short months you can see the transition some of these kids make as they start learning how to be an adult.  A little life experience on your own goes a very long way.

Above all else?  Anything worth having in life is always worth working for.