September 1st, 2005

krazy koati

I believe that yours says ``Etch-A-Sketch'' on the side

Computer labs got off to a rocky start, when my students said they couldn't log in to the computers. So I went for the support staff ... and they weren't in. So we had a half-hour wait for someone to get back, where it was quickly determined the students' accounts from last year still worked; they just had thought they didn't. Why? Because -- something they didn't tell me; they just told me they didn't have valid accounts -- when they typed passwords at the login screen, asterisks didn't appear; so they didn't bother hitting return. They just hit the ``Start Over'' button.

Later, as I demonstrated how to write a Matlab function file, four students had problems. This is partly because the only text editor on these machines besides vi, which I won't inflict on newcomers, is a lousy shell thing that puts up a window indistinguishable from terminal windows or the Matlab windows, and doesn't have a unique name (I don't even know what its name is) in the title bar, so even people who know Unix can't tell windows apart without close scrutiny.

One tried to follow my directions to ``save the file'' by typing that, verbatim, in the text editor. I corrected that; the student typed in the first line I gave as demonstration, saved it, and then erased that line to type in the second I gave. Why did the student do that? ``I already saved the first line.'' I don't quite feel as frustrated as the song line suggests, but I did glare, baffled, at the wall.

Hurricane Katrina footage has been getting rather more play on the news channels here. Still, there's some odd juxtapositions with ordinary scheduled programming, such as (on Disney) the short-cartoon version of ``The Sorcerer's Apprentice,'' or (on Channel 5) Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior.

Offered without comment past a derisive snort, two photographs that appeared on Yahoo's News Image service. The first, from AFP/Getty Images, taken by Chris Grayten, is captioned: ``Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store.'' The second, from the AP, taken by Dave Martin, is captioned: ``A young man walks through chest deep flood water after looting a grocery store in New Orleans.'' No points for guessing the substantial difference in the photographs' contents before looking. (I can give URLs to the original Yahoo News pictures; I just prefer links from my main entries here be to URLs I can theoretically be sure will stay fixed.)

Trivia: Auguste Comte's reform ``Calendrier Positiviste'' dedicated September to the abstract concept of monotheism, and the concrete person of Johann Gutenberg. Source: Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History, E.G. Richards.

Currently Reading: A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, Barbara W Tuchman.