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Becca Stareyes
24 October 2014 @ 09:19 am
So, I signed up for a service called TheFresh20. Basically once a week, it posts five recipes that take 20 new ingredients (in total) and up to 20 'staples'*. I've been using it for a month or two and here's my thoughts.

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Becca Stareyes
14 October 2014 @ 04:54 pm
I think it's finally cooled off enough this week that I can wear fashion scarves with my work shirts and not feel like I'm going to pass out from heat exhaustion.
Becca Stareyes
08 October 2014 @ 07:59 pm
Open thermometer
Bathroom rug
Kitchen/dining chairs
Kitchen/dining table
Shelves. (Lots of shelves; best guess is to buy them as I unpack.)
A desk, preferably one I can have both a computer and paper-writing space. I can use the laptop and my table*, but I'd rather not. Computers and food are not friends.
Comfy chair. I'm debating about whether I want a futon or sofa-bed or something that means I can have guests spend the night. (If I get a cat, the cat then has the important spot next to the human. )
Eventually I should get a TV and stand... when I have time to play console games, I mean.
A nightstand.
A tiny dresser so I don't have to keep my underwear and socks in a suitcase in the closet.

Probably things I'm forgetting. It already drives me nuts that I don't have a medicine cabinet in the bathroom, so my stuff is all around the sink.

Anything that can fit in my car I can get secondhand, otherwise my cheapest bet is probably the kind of furniture I have to assemble myself. (I'm shooting for a step above particle board in quality... except for the shelves. I need a lot of shelves.)

* Or get a table big enough to keep the desktop on and still have space for one person to eat a meal.
Becca Stareyes
02 October 2014 @ 10:46 am
I'm starting to think I need a beta reader for my homework assignments for my general education physics class, to make sure I keep the jargon out.
Becca Stareyes
30 September 2014 @ 10:38 am
So, for those of you who don't know, I'm on the autism spectrum. Back when they separated that out into several diagnoses, I had Asperger's Syndrome*. In general that means:

1. I had few to no problems with spoken language. I was the subset of autistic kids who never suffered a language delay. I did have problems with written language in school: mostly I couldn't write well when I was stressed, so would have meltdowns in class when I couldn't take writing assignments home if I was having trouble.

2. I required minimal accommodations. I've always showed symptoms (according to my mother), but they never were strong enough to mark me as more than 'weird kid'.

My little brother, in contrast, had symptoms that as soon as they were noticed (about age 2), he got a diagnosis of 'high-functioning autism'. It's entirely possible that other members of our family are like me, but never were formally diagnosed.

In general, I treat social skills as a second language. Imagine you come to a country as a kid where no one speaks your language. It's not that you can't learn the language, but all your peers have been learning it since birth, while you know some basic rules about language, you don't know this language. So you learn it. And maybe you can get fluent enough to think in that language, or maybe you can just learn enough to be conversational, but you don't reflexively use it.

It also means I hate the narrative of the autistic kid as trapped. It's a communication barrier, but it's one that often has to be met both ways: if we're 'trapped', you have to help find the place where the barrier is weakest as much as they do. Which means listening. I've heard of non-verbal autistic folks embracing the Internet because they find typing so much easier than a real-time conversation with listening and speaking. Even my little brother (who is verbal) prefers to talk in certain places (restaurants are his favorite) than others -- it's why Mom budgets for going out to eat; because Ben needs that environment, even if it's a Subway, to focus on communicating with Mom and not the distractions at home.

That's why I say it's something to be met both ways. If it's easier for someone to type than to speak, then focus on helping them use that rather than forcing speech. Just because someone is non-verbal, doesn't mean they are non-communicative.

I was thinking about this because of an article about a girl with autism and her cat The little girl, Iris, paints, but doesn't do much talking. The article mentions that she is willing to talk to her cat, Thula. And I can imagine why. Thula doesn't pressure Iris to speak, since Thula doesn't speak English either. And yet, she communicates to Iris, and Iris can communicate back. And if Iris is relaxed, the words probably come easier. And cats are very relaxing companions. (I'm inferring this, based on my experiences and that of other folks with autism, rather than from Iris's own words; if I am stressed out, do not expect anything coherent to come out of my mouth until I calm myself down. And often, I don't understand something until I take the time to put it into little bits, like I'm doing here.)

* No, seriously. Diagnosed by a psychologist in middle school, even.
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Becca Stareyes
21 September 2014 @ 02:58 pm
Your first few grocery store trips will be expensive, because you know all those things in your pantry that you use a lot, but you only need to replace every month (or six months)? Yeah, you need to buy all of those at once.

That and my stuff is still behind me, so I needed to grab a few pans and spoons and a turner. Which... look, I never have too many pans or spoons.
Becca Stareyes
21 September 2014 @ 09:18 am
Finalize everything I need on Monday, and get the bits that go to students up on the course websites. Also turn the course websites on (so students can see them).
Make a folder of everything I have to print as soon as I arrive on campus on Monday, and the stuff that will get printed after my 8 AM class.
Prep for Tuesday. Keep prepping if I can to cover Wednesday and Thursday

Wait for my fridge to arrive.
After it gets here, take a break and buy groceries.
Maybe also buy a desk chair and TV tray to tide me over until I have the time to get real furniture. Also, more hangers. Who knew that 40 wouldn't be enough for my stuff?
(Some of that is that I lived in geeky T-shirts and jeans as a grad student, but wanted vaguely professional clothing as an instructor*. So I now have two wardrobes: the one for work and the one for lounging about and weekends.)

* According to various people, I still look like I could be attending college. In a T-shirt and jeans, I'd probably look even more like a college student. Wearing (at least) non-blue jean pants, a button-down shirt and dress shoes makes me visually distinctive.
Becca Stareyes
20 September 2014 @ 07:29 am
After breakfast, I'll do my dishes and then load the car and check out of the hotel. I'm taking deliveries of my bed and my internet today, so don't expect me to be online.

Not that I should be online. I still have lessons to write.
Becca Stareyes
19 September 2014 @ 06:06 am
Sometimes I dream relatively straightforward things.

Sometimes I dream that Smaug is trying to demoralize Samwise Gamgee (life is pain and fire and your friends will all betray you) so that Sam will stay with him and cook potatoes and watch TV with his buddies.
Becca Stareyes
18 September 2014 @ 07:45 pm
I don't have to adopt every new idea that comes down to me. I can focus on developing a solid course this time, and try something new next time I teach. I should write the ideas down in my teaching journal**, since I know I had one, but I forgot.

(Well, besides that the general education physics course could use a better theme than 'broad overview of a physics sequence', even with my attempts to make it all about energy.)

In other news, the astronomy group practically begged me to teach Astro 101 (the gen ed course on the solar system) for winter and spring terms. And were willing to give me 102 (the stars and galaxies course) as well until someone pointed out that because I was a lecturer, there was no way I could do that without teaching a third new course. And that asking me to do three preps* was out of line. The main problem is that most of the astronomers are teaching the few upperclass courses for the minor, or other upperclassmen courses, and the one planetary scientist is on sabbatical. (They have an exoplanets guy, but he has too much else he has to do in winter term.)

One thing that happened yesterday that make things click for me: we met the Dean, and, among other things, he went on about how he's trying to get the students to study 25-35 hours a week. Which, yes, is recommended for college courses (2 times as much out of class as in class). And he did the math for us: a high schooler spends 25-35 hours a week in class (5-7 1-hour classes every weekday), and hopefully 5-10 hours a week doing homework or studying (say 1-2 hours a night), which comes out to 30 to 45 hours. A college student only spends 12-15 hours in class (more if they are like me and ended up taking two labs in one semester... don't do this), so to get the same amount of practice, they need 15 to 33 hours of out of class homework and study.

(Also, it occurs to me that I spend 17 hours directly interacting with students (12 in the classroom, and 5 as office hours), but I definitely have a full time job teaching because the magic pixies don't write my lectures, find the demo equipment***, grade papers (graders are not magic pixies; they need instruction and a rubric), and figure out how to measure that students learned a thing.

It's a bit different, since you specialize more in college. My first-semester schedule was math, physics, composition, and honors seminar (another English course), while as a high-schooler, I'd have also had social studies, Spanish, and another course (and I wouldn't have taken two English courses in one year). But I hope that helps students take things seriously.

I also know they are 18-20, and will screw up, because I did. See, above story about taking two labs at once. (I really hope that wasn't the semester I took 17 credit hours. I was full of good ideas.)

(And I feel bad that students who have a full-time job already are trying to do two full-time things at once; something is going to give for them. Probably sleep.

* As you all probably realize, it matters not only how many courses I teach, but which ones: it's easier to teach three sections of Physics 141 than one of Astro 101, one of Astro 102, and one of Physics 141. (Which, incidentally, because of arcane rules that count math-heavy courses as worth a bit more than their credit hours for faculty to teach them, is NOT a full load.) And it will be easier if I'm teaching Physics 141 or Physics 104 next quarter, because I don't have to adapt everything from scratch. (Though, if Cal Poly is like most schools, there will be fewer sections of 141, because it's the first in a three-course sequence, and most students do that fall-winter-spring.)

Basically, it boils down to a lecturer like me gets 3 lecture courses (at least two of which have to be math-intensive), or 2 lectures and 2 labs. (Labs also count more than their credit hours, because, unlike students, instructors have a lot of lab prep and grading to do, while it's assumed students will spend most of their time on the course in lab.)

** Not an online journal. It also holds research notes, since I'm going to forget everything by the time I can actually do research again.

*** Okay, there is someone in charge of the demo room, who gets out useful things each week for physics demos.