austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Without a warning there's a thought, it just comes over you

We got in to bunny_hugger's home late Monday night --- I'm including the story here for better balance of these --- and she was eager to show off some of the changes.

It's hard to say which was the more dramatic change. One was that she and her parents have cleaned out and renovated her former and under-applied office --- which had mostly housed her mice, the last of whom went to his reward earlier this year --- into a proper guest room. This included a good deal of cleaning out, and repainting, and the forming of theories about what the plan was for the old paint job as that included a weird speckling pattern which bunny_hugger's mother thought initially represented unfortunate accidental stains. But now the room is open and very airy (in daylight), and has as centerpiece a lovely futon. She's ready for a houseguest.

At least as dramatic was the basement, which had previously contained almost as much clutter as a basement I would have access to would have, if you can imagine. But again, determined cleaning had meant that it was now not just emptied out but also organized, neat and clean and with enough room that it practically begs to be put to useful purpose again. It was cool, naturally, what with it being early winter, but not inhospitably so.

Less accommodating was her wireless network. My PowerBook has for some reason never got along with her wireless cable modem; in previous trips I've had to make use of a secondary router which she had for reasons I can never quite keep straight. But she'd had modem problems and replacement since my last visit, and no longer had the backup router, so that my computer was completely unwilling to get online through her network. Plugging my computer in by Ethernet directly to her modem didn't work either. What eventually did work was for her to connect her computer to the router by cable, and then for her to set up a wireless network from her laptop, and for me to get on through that. There may be a more awkward way to get online, but we couldn't think of it.

Tuesday was going to be a highly scheduled sort of day, as bunny_hugger had four classes dotted across the afternoon and evening and her presence was sort of expected due to her being the instructor. She offered to let me stay home, but I wasn't going to have any of that. For one, why waste twelve hours away from her? For another, I like being on college campuses even if I have nothing to do with the college. We were able to stop partway up at the farm where we got pies for last Thanksgiving, to buy a pecan pie and loafs of soup for lunch, and went in to class. I did bring my laptop, the better to work on some mathematics research which I really ought to have had finished up by now but there you have it.

She had one class of instructing to do, the first one, and I sat quietly in back listening to her struggle in getting people to participate and discuss in class. I thought it reasonably successful in getting student-teacher chatter going, but then I'm judging by mathematics-instruction standards. Mathematics has got its place for student comments, but they're really along the lines of the students warning that they're completely lost, or the instructor leading students to develop correct answers to carefully framed questions (``this polynomial would be really easy if the left-hand side were the perfect square of something; could we make it a perfect square by adding some constant to that side, and not break the equation by adding the same constant to the other side?''). Philosophy lends itself to more open-ended questions and she felt the class was falling short of that level of involvement, not least because some of the more loquacious students were absent.

The other classes were student presentations, putting forth various examples of ethical questions as business students taking their mandatory philosophy class will do. Some of the topics were pretty near inevitable --- the Ford Pinto case, for example, can't help but be discussed in business ethics, and while I was confident I knew more of the subtleties of the case than the students had found out, bunny_hugger knew much more than me --- and some were novel --- one was a local case in which a McDonald's employee was fired because she reported to the Board of Health that the refrigerator had been broken and raw meat was being kept at room temperature for at least two days while still being served to customers --- and overall it left me impressed that bunny_hugger has not turned to drink. I mean, I know business majors are going to be inclined to think The Market Must Be Right, but, honestly, the McDonald's employee failed to show sufficient loyalty to her employer because she called in the Board of Health on an incredibly obvious failure of food-handling procedure? At least feudal lords were expected to not knowingly poison their serfs.

Anyway. We did have a dinner at the food court there, and it was different from last year's similar experience in that more food stations were open, and the cup of soda I got had no catastrophic holes in it anywhere. I did experiment with the condiment station at putting honey-based syruppy glop into my Diet Pepsi, which did not make for any appreciable improvement in Diet Pepsi's taste, but I think the experiment was worth trying.

We did have a little food-shopping necessary, which had to be done on the way back because we get up way too late to have shopped in the morning and classes ran from something like 2 pm through 11:30 pm. This took us then to Meijer's, where I identified as one of my favorite kinds of apple the red anjou, which is traditionally categorized as a ``pear'' by those who like to be ``correct'', and where I found a suitable card to send an aunt and uncle celebrating their 25th Anniversary. And a locally-printed card, too, which would end up being the first card I've sent anyone from Lansing, for those keeping track of such statistics.

While an otherwise successful day, it did end with continued frustration regarding my computer and her network not speaking to one another. I had formed an excellent theory which tied in to why sometimes my computer refuses to deal with my Time Capsule to explain it. I still think the theory correct even though the cure it implies didn't work.

Trivia: William Burt, assigned to survey the Michigan Principal Meridian starting in 1836, discovered while doing so that his Gunther's Chain, used to measure distances, would contract by as much as an eighth of an inch in the lower peninsula winters. He thus built a fire each morning to warm the chain up to its proper 22 yards. Source: Measuring America: How The United States Was Shaped By The Greatest Land Sale In History, Andro Linklater.

Currently Reading: Iron Sunrise, Charles Stross.

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