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Friday, May 30, 2014

F3 Artillery

            Breath frosted in the frozen morning as students grunted and groaned as they pushed the onager into position. The onager had taken a month to construct by the physics students, who would operate it.
            Alex’s class had been divided equally to help the physics students with historical accuracy, right down to the correct rope to provide torsional power to the catapult. The other half of his students lay up ahead behind the snow wall that took up half the campus quad. The goal was to replicate part of Julius Caesar’s siege of Alesia. The Roman fortifications were made of snow instead of wood, but it would help the architecture students understand load bearing and exceptional stresses on structures.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Law Dog Cometh

            My nephew is, on this day (and tomorrow) graduating from Harvard Law School. This is an amazing accomplishment—one that has aged him at least 22 years over the course of his three years of education (which means he is now older than me). Soon he will relocate to the Big Apple to join a prestigious law firm, and take the legal profession by storm. He’s going to be great.

Congratulations, Blaine, you earned it.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Complex Narrative

            Though I discussed waning attention spans, I find myself still drawn to complex narratives. I enjoy them. I love the trickle of information that allows for bigger pictures to be formed. A perfect case in point is the Game of Thrones series. I have a friend who has read all of the books, and I like to bounce ideas off him from what I observe in the shows, and where I postulate things will go. Even though he has the superior knowledge of the books, I manage to surprise him with ideas.

            I think it’s time I dive into the books myself and see what more I can piece together.

Friday, May 23, 2014

F3 The Lift

            Picking pockets on the street is different than it is with a specific mark. On the street, you look for what’s convenient, for where you can get the easy bucks without risk of bringing heat down on you. It’s not about size or smarts, but about where their minds are. You want people that look busy, are preoccupied. Could be they’re having a conversation, reading the paper, or they’re just staring at the same three feet of pavement in front of them. Those are the ones that won’t realize they’ve been lifted until you’re six blocks away.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Attention Span

            I worry about attention spans. I have noticed over recent years that it has become more difficult for me to concentrate on a single task. The expectation of multi-tasking constantly interferes, and I find myself, especially when watching TV, reaching to the web browser to do something else simultaneously. This doesn’t surprise me as I’ve often used TV as background noise, but there are times when I want to pay attention to the TV, but a few minutes lull in the show finds me reaching for something else to occupy my attention.
            I’ve witnessed similar behavior in students who constantly need to be reminded ad nauseum regarding due dates, procedures, and announcements. It becomes tiresome and tedious.
            I’m also concerned when it comes to readers. How will leisure reading further evolve because of shortened attention spans. Will we see the rise of chapters that are no more than a page long? Will full-length novels disappear in favor of novellas? Novelettes? Short stories? Flash fiction is becoming increasingly popular on the web. Will it permeate into collected fiction as well? Instead of a long, complicated narrative, will it simply be a loose collection of flash fiction vignettes?

            I wish I had answers. I wish I could get rid of the foreboding regarding this subject.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Irons in the Fire

            I wrote about the swiftness of change earlier. What I forgot (actually, I didn’t, I just thought I could get another post out of it) was that the change didn’t just happen on one front. I put multiple irons in the fire, preparing each one of them to forge into something useful. And when change came, it was with multiple irons.
            I found myself spreading out, but not in a way that made me feel like I was spread too thin, more like I could finally stretch out and fully extend my reach. It’s good to take these irons and hammer away at them, a few strokes each before returning it to the fire. The trick, obviously, is not to let one stay too long in either place or the metal will be ruined.

            Maybe when I can finally determine which iron is the real me I’ll make sure it gets most of my attention.

Friday, May 16, 2014

F3 Tools of the Trade

            “This one is all yours, Ben.” Eva said.
            “Surprised you’ll admit I’m better than you.”
            “At this. This is the only thing you’re better than me at, and you know I’m pretty fantastic at it, so don’t get so smug.”

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

More Incidents

            This semester has had quite a few incidents in it, all of which have us questioning whether or not we should follow suit with the previous example.
            A friend had a student very nearly go ballistic in class. He yelled and cursed at her, even after she kicked him out of the classroom. He did leave, but she nearly had to call campus security. And the entire dynamic of the class suddenly changed, not to mention my friend’s tolerance and patience.
            She needed to vent to her family and other teacher friends in order to calm down. Over and over she kept talking about how she had gone home and began to calculate her finances to see whether or not she could afford to give up teaching.
            She only has a few more semesters to go before she can stop entirely, but she doesn’t think she can keep teaching—all of us, really feel the same way.

            And, sadly, we all know that such incidents are only the beginning. It’s only going to get worse.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Two Months Back

            I’ve been sitting on this story, waiting for an appropriate cool down period, I guess. Not for the subject matter, but for myself. I had to know if my feelings went unchanged.
            They have.
            The previous F3 was inspired by this story.
            Two months back an instructor at my school quit. Mid-semester. She found better, more consistent employment, strolled into the department chair’s office, and resigned.
            At the time this was related to me by other friends, I smiled. I may have even chuckled.
            So did they.

            This is what has become of our jobs, where all of us feel a need to get out, to escape, and we greatly admire anyone who can manage to pull off the feat.

Friday, May 9, 2014

F3 With Style

            “I’m doing it,” Stan said to Alex.
            “You keep saying that,” Alex said, continuing to move his pen over the essay. Most of the students had done well with their mid-term projects, but a few still didn’t quite get the true significance of the Civil War. They kept wanting to talk about abstract factors. They couldn’t grasp how personal the war was, literally brother against brother all along the border states.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Semester Reflections

            The semester has ended, and I find myself once again evaluating. I always begin with myself, but nevertheless extends to every facet. It is with something of a heavy heart that I make the following statement: teaching has lost its charm.
            Obviously it has, but I mean more than just on the surface. I’ve been teaching for over six years, which any teacher will tell you is like time spent serving in combat. Whole lifetimes can be crammed into those six years. So I knew the charm had worn off teaching a long time ago. I’m not a hopeless romantic about it.
            What I mean is that the remaining charm is no longer enough to keep me in the profession. Before there were always bits and pieces that gave me hope, that made me want to press on, knowing that I did something noble and beneficial.
            I helped students.
            I don’t think it’s enough anymore. Even subjects I once looked forward to teaching have become things I had to force myself to do.
            I wish there was hope, that there could be some kind of redemption for what I used to love, but I just don’t know any more.
            I still don’t hate it, but it’s harder and harder to see the benefit of what I do. I’ll press forward, trying to make something of this, but I don’t know.

            This is a horrible way to feel about a job I used to love.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Swiftness of Change

            Change is quite often a hurry up and wait. But after the waiting change is unleashed like a breaking dam. I spent weeks waiting on some paperwork to go through, and the people I waited on had fallen behind (as is ever the case with bureaucracy), so the waiting continued.
            Then, without warning, it went through. From there I made my next moves, and with lightning quickness my next moves were completed. I’m still in awe at how rapid all of that change happened.
            Looking back at events in my life, however, I can see the pattern. It seems that preparation for change, both the mental and physical, takes time, but the actual changes happen quickly. My analogy of the dam is a good example. Water takes time to build up the force necessary to break through the dam.
            Of course then the trick is riding at the head of the wave instead of being crushed by it.

            So far I’m managing to hang ten, but I wonder if I’ve also bitten off more than I can chew.

Friday, May 2, 2014

F3 Reaper Ammo

            I inspected the bullet, looking closely at the top of the round, which resembled a shark’s mouth or maybe a hole saw. Instead of a slug, it was all teeth, and not made of lead at all.
            “What does it do?” I asked Wes.
            The former Army Ranger and munitions specialist, complete with his own secure workshop grinned at me. “Those little teeth, they start ripping into the target, then they peel off like a flower, like a death blossom!”
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