Monthly Archives: January 2006

I wrote this essay as an assignment for class, but it seemed insightful enough to me that I thought I might share it with you:

An ancient axiom (taken from ecclesiastes 1:9-14) claims that there is nothing new under the sun. Even in this age of rapid progress, we would do well to remember that that is still the case. The computer is not new. It is only faster, and better, than the way we did these things before. The network is not new. It is only faster, and better, than the way we did these things before. After over a decade of widespread internet use, it can be fairly said that the technology is mature, that its possibilities have been fully explored, and that there is little left to think of short of outright invention. Therefore, it will be nearly impossible to discover some great application on the cutting edge of innovation.
Even so, were we to find such a place, it would be in the halls of education. Education has always lagged behind society, behind business, and far behind invention. Education is one of the slowest institutions in human society, and among the most traditional. Many things have been tried to enhance education through the use of computers and networks, and yet many things have, astonishingly, not been.
Outside these venerable halls, the internet is widely known as a resource. I hardly pick up a phonebook anymore, instead relying on superpages. I rarely see my old Random House College Dictionary, instead relying on Even my old encyclopedias sit idle, replaced by wikipedia, and various other information sites across the web. For society at large, the reference book, in hardcover form, is mostly a thing of the past. For educators, the advantages of this resource remain largely untapped. Teachers use the Internet to present their lecture notes, to post course calendars and assignment, but the student remains chained to the textbook. One of the highest costs for the student in education, the textbooks for one quarter could buy the student an inexpensive computer capable of performing most academic functions. For the price of a year’s worth of textbooks, a student could be provided with a laptop computer, offering even the same mobility as the venerable textbook. This is a cost a student (or, worse, a school board) must pay time and again, as the student moves into new classes, or new editions are released, or new textbooks are found which better suit the curriculum. With a captive audience, the prices of textbooks continue to skyrocket, as we pay for thicker books, and more color ink, and the textbook invariably becomes obsolete all too quickly.
If the dictionary can be replaced by a web site, if the encyclopedia, the phone book, and the Bible can all reside in electronic ether, so can Network+ Guide to Networking, Fourth Edition, or another book as well written and more continuously updated. Instead of spending millions of dollars on textbooks, schools could pool their money to produce electronic textbooks, written by top educators with real knowledge in their fields, which could be continuously updated and used by any student (or, in fact, any person) anywhere in the world. The savings would be enormous!
Instead, we see the internet being used as an attempted substitute for the classroom environment, which it is not. Internet classes such as those provided at CBC only take away one of the most important aspects of the academic environment: face-to-face interaction with teachers and peers. Meanwhile, the textbook function continues to be provided by a ream of paper bound between two pieces of cardboard, a medium that became obsolete in the 1980s.
So, there you have it: internet-based teaching and internet-based textbooks: both innovative, for education: The one vastly superior to other, the other vastly more popular. The reasons are unclear, but it has to make you wonder.

So…Homework. Lots of homework to do over the next couple of days. I’ve been ignoring my online C# class and I’ve got a bunch of stuff coming due the 10th, meanwhile, my Networks 2 textbook disappeared and I had to borrow another one, so I’m behind on that as well. Woo.

Well, so…slacking.

Been doing a lot of that lately. Like a lot of people, I have a monster cold I’m grappling with. Thus why no WotW this week.

In other news, I introduced my old grade-school buddy Hank Oliver to Megamek the other day. Had a fun game. I hadn’t done anything that lightweight (I took a Wolfhound and a Mongoose) for a while, and the randomly-selected map had more water than land. Ultimately, it was pretty much a matter of luck, and I won.

It occurred to me a while ago to check and see if, in persuing my Computer Science degree, I had accidentally completed my General Education for Transfer Degree. It turns out I did, so I’ll be getting my first Associate’s Degree in the mail sometime soon.

Finally, today I met with a couple of folks from Lockheed Martin. We had a nice chat, and they encouraged me to apply for a helpdesk job at their company. I believe I shall.

Monday again.

Replaced the starter on the Valiant. No major incidents with Alison’s mother. School started, but my instructors have been largely absent. All in all, not a bad week.

Just have to make sure I don’t fall behind.

Well, Happy New Year.

Not so much, but I’m trying. Okay, to catch my readers up with how horrific my holidays have been, it goes something like this.

Alison is allergic to cigarette smoke.
Alison lives with her mother.
Alison’s mother has a boyfriend who smokes like a chimney.

For whatever reason, Alison’s mother refuses to take her condition seriously, and brought her boyfriend over on Christmas without warning and insisted that Alison stick around and give it a try.

Alison tried to leave (not that she had anywhere to go, mind you) — which was a reasonable enough thing for someone in her position to do — at which point her mother tried to stop her and they had a “physical altercation.”

In other words, Alison tried to pry herself loose and her mother nearly choked her.

So, Bob to the rescue. Except I have no car. And no place to put Alison. I have three people renting space at my place that all smoke, so it’s normally not practical to have Alison here. Meanwhile, my only means of transportation is a 1970 Plymouth Valiant with a bad starter that I have to share with my dad. Since Christmas, it has left me stranded three times. Saying it’s unreliable is a bit of understatement.

Fortunately, it turned out the worst of them (we’ll call him “Bill,” a man with the mind of a twelve year old who smokes like whatever’s worse than a chimney) was off visiting his parents, and the other two were reasonable enough (I asked them to go down to the corner to smoke. They complied. Gee, how hard is that?) Since my room is downstairs and they stay upstairs, there weren’t really any problems there.

Of course, Alison’s mother’s boyfriend (we will, for no especially good reason, call him “Mike”) ended up staying the night, and therefore Alison did as well. Basically, her mother chose Mike over her on Christmas, and that had her depressed, desperate, and more than a little paranoid.

As expected, she did it again on New Year’s Eve. Alison’s been talking about killing herself, and I almost wouldn’t blame her if she did at this point. She doesn’t really have anywhere safe to live, and she doesn’t have any way of getting it. I’m not rich enough to afford a place, and my family can’t afford to boot our renters.

So that was my holiday. I certainly hope 2006 is better than 2005.