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Dumped

May 31, 2011 Leave a comment

The beginning of this story happened a couple of years ago, and often times dramatic events happen because of some small beginning such as the word “genocide” being invented because a poor Austrian couldn’t get into art school or some idiot left a window open which happened to carry particular spores into a lab inventing one of the greatest medical breakthroughs in history* we start rather small.

It’s also probably important to mention that I’m talking about dumping a cell phone carrier and not anything actually important.

In the US (I really have no idea if any non-Americans read this), cell phone carriers reduce the cost of the cell phone device by subsidizing the cost with two year contracts. This would be like increasing a tax to pay for healthcare, you pay more in one way so that you pay less in another. European, and possibly Canadian work a different way, you pay the full price of the phone but then your month to month is cheaper and usually no contract. The reduced device rate is the trap that US companies use to get the type of brand loyalty that usually comes from good prices, service, or products. That type of loyalty is what really counts, if you doubt me just ask a mac user why they would rather pay three times as much for a iMac when they could get a Dell. It’s almost religious like the way they defend it.

Two years ago I purchased a cell phone for about 50 bucks after two discounts. This was with Verizon, and I bought an LG Voyager (which some of you may know as the Envy Touch) with the condition that I would sign on for another couple years. I was replacing an LG Chocolate, a phone which kind of sucked but had a great Mp3 player, for the reason that the phone just stopped ringing. Smart Phones were beginning to grab the substantial market place share that they have now, the very first android phone was still to be released. If you wanted “smart” you went with either blackberry or iPhone (then an ATT exclusive) or the short lived Google Nexus. The sales guys at Verizon didn’t push, they couldn’t, I knew what I wanted walked in and told them.

Forward a month or two ago, and I’m in the market again. It’s been almost two years and the Voyager shuts off on its own, repeatedly, and sometimes in the middle of doing something with it. This occurs whether the battery is drained or not. Truth be told, I wasn’t too happy with the phone at all. The touch screen really didn’t work that well, it wasn’t an amoled (like those on Droids, iPhones, etc.) but that wasn’t the problem. I could adjust to that, a working touch screen would be a step up from the Chocolate. The Voyager would “throw” things on its own, it was sometimes unresponsive and other times ultra sensitive. Because it had hard keys however, it was easy to just shrug and say ‘whatever, i’ll just ride out the contract.’ Not to say that I was just stoic about it, my stoicism began once the warranty ran out, I had taken it in several times and every time they told me that I needed a software update, they took in the back of the store and brought it out twenty minutes later. Nothing was different and I knew that it sat on a desk in the back. I’ve worked customer support for tech before, I know the drill, they just didn’t want to tell me that the phone was a POS or that it was suffering from the “ID 10 T” error that afflicts all manner of electronic devices from televisions and computers to phones and video games.**

It shutting off, however was a serious problem. Especially given that I commute an hour for school with my daughter in the car I am unwilling to drive that hour without a phone in case of emergency. Usually we substitute “need” for “want” but this time it was an actual need. I needed a phone that wouldn’t shut off if I was dialing someone in an emergency. However I’m a gadget guy, and if I was going to get a new phone I wanted something that I would like. My wife began to think that perhaps we would escape Verizon, but I was unwilling. I’ve had them since I moved back to New York, and in the six years the service has been good. I’ve only roamed once and that was in Baltimore, which was odd, but we already had service with them and the easiest thing to do is not change horses mid-stream. I popped Gwen in the car and we were off to the Verizon store.

I like to bring Gwen with me because sales people are less pushy when you have a small but garrulous little child with you, they can’t get into their shtick if they’re being interrupted and they can’t get mad about it when it’s an adorable little monkey. The experience at the store was when I realized that Verizon wasn’t the way to go. First off the sales guy didn’t even listen to me, but directed me right to the Thunderbolt, the first 4G LTE phone on the market. I get it though, it was brand new that week and I’m sure they had to sell so many on that day for a commission. Pointing me in the direction is one thing, but bringing me back to it three times after I explained we weren’t going in the smart phone direction is just dumb. You push hard one way, you get pushed back another. He also answered a text from his girlfriend while talking to me, although to his credit he did a good job at pretending he was showing me a feature of the Droid X. I gave him a point for that but since I had explained that smart phones weren’t our bag of tea it was a useless gesture.

Verizon, and what seems to be the rest of the industry now, labels the non-smart phones “feature phones.” In some marketing maneuver thought up by grad students to fool people into thinking that they are getting something good while at the same time letting them know that there are better things out there. Verizon simply did not have a single feature phone that was got a good review. I did the research, CNet and Verizon’s own website were basically giving the phones 3/5 at best. Any attempt to talk to the sales guy about it just got me pointed toward the smart phones, which told me that he was uninterested in selling me anything other than an HTC Thunderbold, Droid X, or iPhone 4. The problem was simply money, it’s not that my wife and i didn’t want one of those phones (although I wanted the Droid 2, because I like physical buttons on my keyboard) it was price. Verizon’s data plan, which you “need” on that type of phone, costs 29.99 a month on top of the phone bill and per smart phone. If my wife and I were to have gotten these phones that’s an extra 59.98 a month.

And it’s built on a lie. They say that the phone needs the data package to run because it’s a smart phone, however the only reason that the phone is considered “smart” is because it possesses the ability to receive wifi, i.e. if your phone has the ability to do something your laptop could do back in 2002 it is a smart phone. Secondly I get that to use the internet on the road or in a place without wifi the data package allows this, but that isn’t a necessity it’s a luxury (remember what I said earlier about “need” versus “want”?). Having a Droid hooked up to my wifi at home negates the need for the data package. The other places I go to school and the coffee shop all have wifi, why again would I need the data package? The sales guy explained to me that the phone just wouldn’t run without it. So even if I had one and had an active wifi connection the phone wouldn’t be able to function at all if I was in the basement of a building (at school for example) and couldn’t reach the network. He didn’t answer me instead going for the sale’s device of freezing out. This is when the sales guy wants you to feel bad for wasting his time by considering your options and then buying whatever it was that he wanted you to. Car sales and high end electronics sales people do this. I don’t see how it works but it must since I have had it done and seen it done many times. Gwen and I left and I began new research on other cell phone plans considering AT&T and Sprint/nextel. At the time T-Mobile was possibly going to be bought out by Verizon so they were off the grid for now.

I’ll say this about AT&T, they were at least honest. The woman taking care of me was kind of pushy (I was by myself this time) but not overtly so. She pushed a new HTC phone that had just come out, but when I explained that I was looking more for non-smart phones she never mentioned it again. It was a good tactic because it was what I actually wanted to talk about. At&T had a much better selection of “feature phones” than Verizon, in both quantity and quality. None really stood out for me though, then we went to pricing and plans and such. AT&T had better pricing, much better. Everything on their plan was cheaper by about ten-fifteen dollars. What it amounted to was that we could save around 30 bucks a month on the service and get everything including data for smart phones. That’s when the sales woman took me back to show me the newer phones, once it was established that we could get them, to her credit she didn’t lie to me about the definition of “smart” or why it needed data. She just told me that is the way it is, which is much better than not answering my question.

We then went to Sprint. The Sprint store in Rochester, the one official Sprint store, is a nice place. Couches, actual couches and a wide open room for Gwen to run around in…or for me to chase her made a nice presentation different from the cramped locations of the two previous companies. Sprint’s phone pricing occupied a place in between Verizon and ATT. Once we added up everything, with the optional data, it came to be the same as Verizon’s price. That isn’t a deal breaker necessarily, we are used to paying one price and if I could pay the same price and get more that’s a step up. The phone selection wasn’t so great though. They had more than Verizon but they weren’t as good. The sales guy there never pushed toward smart like the others had, but I think he was letting the products do the talking. The ultimate deal breaker with Sprint was that he made it sound like calling Canada was not possible with that company. My sister-in-law lives in Canada and while cutting her from the plan wasn’t out of the question it wasn’t going to fly with being unable to call her at all.

Ultimately we settled on AT&T. It just made the most financial sense, even with the data plans and the smart phones. I’m not an AT&T fan boy or anything like that, but it just seemed like they understood that lowering prices in this financial climate makes sense. Verizon it seems is trading off their name but their service seems to be centered around a reputation that they’re the best and no one would leave them. I’ve heard bad things about their land phone customer service but until this happened I was never anything but pleased with their cellular people. The objection that I have heard the most about AT&T is that it drops calls frequently, but two things bother me about that: 1) if this actually happened they wouldn’t be number 2 among the companies and 2) I know people with their service (anyone who owns an iPhone prior to 12 months ago) and they haven’t complained about it. I haven’t had a dropped call yet and the service works in the sticks (literally the forest in Alleghany NY and Humphrey NY). At the end of the day I went with an LG Quantum. A Windows Phone 7 that I’ll review in the future.
___________________
*Hitler and Penicillin respectively
**I’m willing to bet that anyone working customer service for technology just smiled to themselves while anyone who didn’t is confused as to what problem could afflict such a variety of techological devices. I’m not explaining it.

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Categories: personal update

The Optional Re-Write

January 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Back in December I had a one on one interview with a professor to discuss my final paper in the class. It wasn’t anything special, he required these in lieu of a presentation in the class. I didn’t like this requirement because without sounding too boastful I completely rock at giving presentations. Yet, a face-to-face interview is still nice because I’m a much better speaker than I am a writer. As long as the paper was adequate I could better explain the concepts in it orally rather than through the writing itself. I’m not sure what the difference actually is in my head, perhaps it’s the immediacy of the conversation and the opportunity to correct myself on the spot rather than having a written paper which is complete and final.

I walked into the professor’s office, which was completely Spartan by any definition of the word, and after introducing myself again to him he remarked that he didn’t like my paper. I didn’t blink at the comment, because it didn’t matter whether he liked it. Academics are about what you can prove not about what a person likes. If, for instance, a person wrote a paper I hated (which happened more than I would have liked–basically any pro-Marx paper I received) they could get a good grade if their argument was good. I knew the professor wasn’t that into American Pragmatism and my paper concentrated on John Dewey with respect to Martin Heidegger. He could not like it, but it could still be appreciated.

The problem was that the reason he didn’t like it was exactly for the reason that I feared the most: I had made a mistake. Heidegger has these concepts of ready-to-hand and present-at-hand. Because he’s German he likes to hyphen, don’t ask me why but I’ll bet it has something to do with the German language which I don’t speak. In basic definitions present-at-hand is the theory of an object. If you need to pound something you think of the idea of an object for which to pound and that object is a hammer. Present-at-hand is the idea of a hammer and its possible function. In this respect as well, it is any object that could possibly be used to pound things. The second, the ready-to-hand, is the object as you are using it. We tend not to think of the objects that we use while we are using them. To do so would severely impede our abilities to perform actions. My typing is me using the keyboard without thinking of the keyboard or the location of my fingers. If I did so, my typing would completely slow down reverting possibly to the hunt and peck method of writing. Even now, in writing these sentences I am having trouble not thinking of my fingers while typing. More to the point is walking. One of the most difficult problems in robotics is getting a robot to do everyday tasks that we perform without thinking of them. Walking was the first hurdle, which is why that 1950s looking Toyota robot (from the late 90s early 00s) moved so slow, it needed to compute weight balances and such just to take a couple of steps.

That makes sense right? The problem I had was that I had messed up the definition of the ready-to-hand. I had written the paper as though the object being used was still considered an object. To do this would fall into the consciousness trap that I had just previously mentioned. Since the whole paper was built around this it essentially collapsed under this fault. Not good, what saved the paper (and my subsequent grade) was the section on John Dewey after the mistake which was independent of the mistake–until I put the two together–and my explanation of some of the concepts in the paper.

I re-read the paper and huffed. I tried to turn the paper in early so I could get some pointers on it as Heidegger is notoriously difficult to read, comprehend, and enjoy (although people like the Nazi for some reason). Yet the professor stated that he didn’t do pre-reads of drafts. A policy that I am unfamiliar with and disagree with, but that’s his policy so I just have to deal with it. A reviewed draft would have saved my grade, but I stress that I should NOT have made the mistake in the first place. So today, sans conclusion, i have just re-written the paper making the changes necessary.

Here’s the thing: it probably won’t be accepted for a change of grade. If the professor in question won’t even look at them early the odds that a grade change for a better paper are pretty slim. None of this really matters to me though. My other class grades are sufficient to bolster what I received in the class. Why am I doing this? Because I feel terrible for having turned in a bad paper.

Statistics rule society. People need things that can be measured, because as Calvin said (the comic character not the theologian) when the numbers go up you are having more fun. We know things are effective when the numbers increase or decrease depending on what the numbers are attached to. Thus an effective student has good objectively defined grades. This doesn’t take into consideration whether or not that student can teach, speak, or perform only that the student is technically proficient. This goes for any subject. Good accounting and the focus on the numbers are what got us into the banking collapse. The numbers went up so the business was doing well and this focus is inherently dangerous because it removes any focus on the individual or on ethical considerations.

I want to turn in the revised paper because I want to show that I can write without making a mistake. Nothing in the paper was that groundbreaking but the mistake burns in the back of my head. Even if I had gotten a good grade in the class overall, I would still have rewritten this paper because I care about more than just my grade. Education is supposed to be about more than just grades and numbers, we are supposed to be learning something and I cannot without hypocrisy let the paper slide and still hold that opinion. In all the requirements of passing classes in graduate school should go way up and everything should just be a pass/fail. We would probably turn out better doctoral (Ph.Ds and Mds) and Master’s students that way.

School

August 30, 2010 Leave a comment

There’s nothing that takes the fun out of doing anything like knowing that you have to do it. For instance sitting in a chair, notebook and pen beside me, some rather lengthy discourse from a philosopher in hand is something that I enjoy doing. Now, that orientation is over and tomorrow I will have to be doing this for the next couple of years it somehow seems less fun. I want to do it less than I did on Thursday.

My schedule is going to be a bit odd this semester, luckily it is compressed into four classes on two days. The nice thing about Grad school is that normally you only have to go to each class once a week, but that does have it’s drawbacks too. Monday, being the first day of class I saunter in at 11:00am and finish around 6pm. Because the only classes that I could get for the day have a three hour break in between them. The original plan was to go from 11-3, but for some reason they scheduled a legal philosophy class with a professor that was on leave, these things happen I suppose.

On Wednesday I have classes from 3pm-7pm, which is two classes back to back with no break in between. When I say “no break” I don’t mean that figuratively like how most classes go from 3:00-4:50, no this class at three ends at five. The next class begins at five. For one singular instant I will be attending two classes at once. The nice secretaries have assured me that this was a mistake and that there is a ten minute break. The overlap was purely a scheduling typo.

The problem for myself and everyone else who was using the scheduling system is that the typo was fed into the machine. The machine does not see how it is possible for one person to be inhabiting two classes at the same time. It will not allow one person to schedule classes back to back because its program can’t resolve the conflict. I have to have this straightened out by the nice secretaries as well. Any problems and i just bring the negotiator (Gwen) to get what I need.

Speaking of the terror from below, Gwen gets to spend more time with the grandparents as they have generously decided to pick her up from school and entertain her for the several hours that I am going to be occupied. Strangely enough I think she is looking forward to it, although I may miss having the little monster around more than she is going to miss having me around.

As I said earlier this semester is going to be rough. Yet what I need to remember is that i have already done this, these classes aren’t at a higher level than what I took in Toledo and finishing the class work during the next two years is equivalent to having a master’s. My advantage now is that I am much more serious about the work and literally can get a do over in some classes I didn’t pass so well (Advanced Logic). Should be a fun couple of years, hopefully this will go over much better than the last go around.

Categories: personal update

Location Anxiety

August 26, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ll be taking a course in a week or so, that has in its description “introduction to Philosophy of Geography.” I am perplexed enough to be curious and since this is a sub-subject (if that’s a word) of a class that I should take anyway, I am going to bite down for this one. The fact that I am not familiar with professor is only encouraging as the only other time that this subject has been broached was in a guest lecture given the first time I was in Grad school, and I hated it. Not the subject but the lecturer, who was more about us being witness to his genius rather than actually trying to teach something (you can do both, I have experience ;-).

Today, I am more encouraged to take the course because of a series of conversations that I have been having with Gwendolyn. The trouble is that I was told the little creatures aren’t supposed to be this inquisitive for another six months but here we are. Anyway, the first scene takes place in a parking lot behind the coffee shop where she is a favored customer and I am her chauffeur.

“I want go outside,” she says, remember we are actually standing next to the car walking toward the coffee shop, i.e. already outside.

“Well Gwen, we are outside.”

“Want go outside?” (this time the tonal inflection at the end indicates this is a question as in “how come we are not going outside?” or “why can’t we go outside?” )

“No, see Gwen, already we are outside. This isn’t like getting more chocolate in your milk, we can’t get further outside.”

“Want outside.” (she’s reverted back to making declarative sentences, in other words she wants to go outside and I’m just not doing it because I’m a jerk or whatever)

“No Gwen, it’s not actually possible for us to go outside, because we are already outside. There isn’t a door we can open and walk out of to get out of the outside, the only thing we can do is go inside. Unless you want to build a rocket ship and go outside of the planet, but even then we would have to go inside the rocket so I don’t think that is what you mean.”

“Outside,” (no she’s giving me the big eyes. The ones that get her free stuff everywhere we go and the reason I advise people to not stare directly at her when she’s asking a question)

“Well we have to go inside right now so I guess you’re just out of luck.”

“Out of luck” she likes to repeat things.

So we are in the coffee shop. After she says hi to her friends and we find a table to sit down she takes three gallon deep chugs of her drink, plays with my wallet, her ‘colors’ (silly bands), and then looks at me, “Want to go coffee shop.”

“You want to leave?”

“No, go coffee shop.”

“We’re already in the coffee shop.”

(she takes both of her hands grabs my cheeks and pulls my forehead to hers) “Coffee shop.”

“Gwen, unless this place opens a coffee shop in the bathroom of their already existing coffee shop again it’s not really possible, although this is Starbucks so that may be possible.”

Nodding, “Coffee Shop.”

My wife, Laura, seems to think that Gwen is not asking to go anywhere but is merely stating what we’ve already done. So when she says, “want to go coffee shop” she means that “we have already gone to the coffee shop.” That may be so, but I think things are much more fun this way. Plus it’s good practice in logical argumentation when you deal with someone that won’t accept reason or evidence as counter proof to their claims much like a Mac user, Creationist, or Marxist…the only difference is that Gwen isn’t even two yet.

The Hangover Chart

August 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Sunday and I’m hungover. What was once a normal, regular…probably too regular occurrence is now irregular. Mostly because of little Gwen. If you think that having a hangover is nature’s way of punishing you for having fun have one with a small child and you’ll stop recycling out of spite. About two years ago I was in the middle of a really solid hangover, a good one as the kids say, and I was asked “how do you feel?”

Typically the answer is always, “hungover.” That usually doesn’t get much information across because the person asking is only trying to aggravate you more, so you have to expand on the idea. What is a hangover, in fact why is it even called that? If it truly was a hang over from the night before I would still be drunk and having a good time. Unless the alcohol convinced my brain that it was enjoying a headache and upset stomach. Anyway, I digress…

So two years ago I’m sitting at this guy’s campsite trying really hard to make sure that the baby didn’t eat any rocks (which she did) and all of the sudden it hit me: I should make a chart. Well “chart” isn’t the right word, it’s more like a list with descriptions like the terror alert color list that no one ignores since it’s been at orange for the last eight years. What am I supposed to do at orange anyway, bring a sweater?

I also wanted to correlate the list with the number of drinks that I had the night before, but that wouldn’t work for a couple reasons. The first being that sometimes you just don’t plain remember how much you had. Not because you blacked out, but because you were drinking out of a pitcher (the rough estimate is a little less than five beers per pitcher) and you don’t know how many you had from the pitcher only that your friends and you went through six of them (Muttz was like this back in the day).

Secondly you sometimes get the bullshit sneak attack hangover. The type where you literally have one (re: three) drink and wake up the next morning with a headache, stuffy nose, and grogginess and think to yourself, “this is such bullshit, how am I hungover?”

Let’s be clear, it’s not what you drink, whether you mix or not, or my dad’s personal favorite draft beer versus bottle; it’s how much you drink. It’s simple math, the more alcohol you drink the more hungover you are going to be. Of course different drinks give you different hangovers, nothing is worse than the dreaded red wine hangover.

The only cure I have determined is time. Like our short existence in this reality time will cut short a hangover as well. I know that’s not really a cure, but every hangover in reality is just dehydration sickness. The headache and dry mouth are the best indicators of that. The stomach is from the all of the stuff that makes up a beverage being left over when the alcohol is absorbed, because alcohol doesn’t need to be digested if you hold a shot of whiskey in your mouth for a long time it will enter your system, I forget why this is the case as it’s been a long time since I have been in a chemistry classroom.

Alright here’s the chart, it ramps up suddenly so saying that you have a level four may not sound that bad but it’s hard to want to leave the bed with one. Also these are general categories nothing specific.

The format is level, title, symptom. All levels include the symptoms of the previous one.

Level 1: “I held back last night” Hangover: Slight grogginess due to the fact that if you fall asleep with a slight buzz you don’t really sleep you are just unconscious.

Level 2: “That Last Beer was Probably a Mistake”: Moderate Grogginess, minor headache, stuffed sinuses. Subject may also present constant yawning.

Level 3: “Started with Beer Switched to Liquor:” I know what I said about mixing, but here’s the thing. When you go from beer to liquor you drink the latter like the former which is why you get sicker as liquor has more alcohol per volume (mystery solved), this is also why going from Guinness to Liquor doesn’t produce the same effect as most people don’t chug Guinness. Symptoms include: Moderate Grogginess, minor headache, stuffiness, with an added upset stomach.

Level 4: “I’m never doing shots again:” Extremely tired despite having been out for 12 hours. Major headache which feels like your skull is squeezing your brain, sinus pressure and stuffiness, dry mouth, and a strange desire for salty food which is unfortunate because eating requires carefully ingesting small bites lest you trigger dry heaves.

Level 5: “From now on, It’s only beer:” Consistent yawning, Sick stomach with the intermittent desire to vomit, willingness to eat under the knowledge that being hungry too will just make things worse. Some loss of motor coordination, extreme impatience.

Level 6: “Uh, Where Am I?”: A psychological unwillingness to do anything and attachment to the bed. Persistent hunger from the body trying to repair itself, random and unconnected dry heaves, and increased loss of motor coordination.

Level 7: “What Day Is It?”: Light causes physical pain, movement possible with focused concentration. Can only eat things that are small and need no work. Basic tasks are difficult.

Level 8: “I swear to [insert name of favorite Deity], I am never doing this again!”: Can only consume liquids, and even then in small sips. Sensory information is painful, sleep is the only comfort.

Level 9: “Ben Franklin was an asshole*”: Vomiting, the worst headache that anyone had ever.

Level 10: “This is Weird:” It’s weird because you have no symptoms, because you are still drunk. Beware though, the pain train is on its way.

________________________________
“Beer is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy.”

Picking Classes

August 11, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s hard to remember what it felt like to pick classes before now mainly because the feeling was so different. Back then, I had lots of options but as the level of college goes up the number of choices you have apparently goes down. It really sucks too because I don’t like any of my choices. Not one of them.

Usually, as I remember it, you take the classes you have to take–the requisites for the program and then you fill in the rest of the schedule with classes that you find interesting, challenging, or cool. The only reason that I have a majored in philosophy to begin with was because I had so many credits in the subject from taking the classes that seemed most interesting to me. Yet this semester I am having the problem of not having any required classes coupled with a bunch of offerings that are in no way appealing to me.

The Existentialism class seemed interesting until the reading list indicated that we would be required peruse both Foucault and Deleuze, both icons of the anti-globalization (re: those who rage against the setting of the sun everyday) and anarchist (the organizations that are against organizations) groups. I don’t care for Existentialism particularly but like metaphysics it’s always a good idea to be familiar with it, but with those two pedestrian philosophers on the list I am opting to skip.

Skip to what exactly? Philosophy of Language? Well I should take it, since the whole discipline is turning into some kind of weird philology/linguistic hybrid anyway, but my advisor suggested that I not take the class at this particular time because it’s heavy in logic which is not my strong suit. So then move on to Logic? Well, yes and no, I need to clear that bullshit C I have from the University of Toledo. I have interviewed three times for full time positions and each time someone brought up that C.

Which pisses me off, because at neither location (I had been teaching at both when I interviewed) I was not required to teach logic. At ECC, there was a lawyer who taught the night class in the subject and wouldn’t give it up to anyone–which was fine by me I didn’t want it. At Trocaire it wasn’t a class they even offered. Yet, this C hangs over my head like the sword of Damacles, even though the problem that I had in the class was more personal than it was professional (a direct quote from a professor at the school). Adding to the personal friction was that the class was taught in a auditorium with 100 students who were mostly math and computer science students. The “what” and “how” was covered very well (the professor, even though I hated her did know the subject pretty well) but it tended to neglect the “why” which was more important to me and the other Philosophy students in the room.

The Logic class is being offered, yet the course description insists that students looking to write their dissertation in logic will be most suited to it, i.e. Predicate logic, Modal Logic, and probably a couple others that I haven’t heard of will be the subject. With my horrid background in math I should sit it out this semester and wait until a different professor with less analytical background teaches it. In waiting there is no loss.

I’m probably biting the bullet on the Ontology class, is one that I should take because the department is heavily directed toward Ontology as a subject, but I am rather dispassionate about. Philosophy of Law, is something I have already taken, though not at this level. At least it will be familiar to me. Philosophy of Anthropology is looking to be of some interest, but the class seems misnamed as it seems to be dealing with the place of man in nature (not in an environmental sense though but even if so it doesn’t matter). Perhaps I can bring out the classic presocratics into this course. Then i need to throw darts at a wall for my fourth.

While I’m excited to be going back to school, it’s the classes that are giving me pause. The only trouble is that unlike undergrad, or even grad school, classes are everything as I round the last leg of this journey. Next semester will be better, it has to be.

Timing is Everything

July 28, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s difficult sometimes to not believe in fate, but Yogi Berra once observed that if there gets to be too many coincidences you can no longer call it a coincidence. Then again maybe luck, our oldest deity, really does govern all things. So here’s what happened in order of occurrence.

Having no luck with email, or telephone I decided that the best bet for myself would be to proceed to UB in person to see what, if anything, I can do to get myself ready for the coming semester. Since I’ve been through this several times already with various schools I know that by getting some things out of the way in the summer means less lines therefore less waiting on Orientation day where the beleaguered workers are dealing with thousands of people. I would rather have a problem with no people in line than have even a small one with that many. Anyone who speaks differently has never dealt with an office of the New York DMV.

So I proceed to the school, getting the first glimpse of the university in about ten years. There was then the obvious difficulty of parking, because I don’t know what is technically legal parking and what isn’t during the off season. I found a paid lot, which I figured was the best option since I did not expect to be there that long.

I easily found the office, which was unusual. Of course no one was around, it is summer so that was to be expected but I did find someone to show me where the two department secretaries were hiding. I shouldn’t say “hiding” as that admits a conscious effort, but their offices are scattered. The department itself has three, one Graduate secretary, who has since retired. Her office was the one that was empty. The other two, were very helpful when it came to showing me around and introducing myself to people. Then we got into business.

First off I wondered if there were any departmental paperwork issues that I could resolve now. They decided to check and we discovered something: I was not in the system, I had no paperwork save my application form, along with that–none of the other incoming graduate students were in the system either! This was bad, and while I had been emailing the previous secretary she had assured me that I was to receive something from the department regarding orientation which I never did. The complete lack of any hard materials was disconcerting, another motive in my stopping by the school itself.

Because of this problem I was asked to sit down and wait a bit while the attempt to resolve the issue was made. If that had not been the case I would not have had the opportunity to accidentally run into my adviser. Which was fortuitous as I need some classes. While the secretaries were obviously overwhelmed by the lack of preparation the department had for the new students, they were thankful that they were at least made aware of the situation with a month to go. Something that had I not stopped in they would still be ignorant of.

Which of course never would have happened had my advisor not been out of town for the last month, prompting me to make the stop to begin with. Which then allowed me to make an appointment with him for Thursday because the secretaries needed me to hang around if only to see whether they could get my information in the system. Of course all of that would never have happened if I had been a half hour late (catching the secretaries on their lunch break) or a half hour early (they were in a meeting). The timing was just too perfect.