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Nerdcore Games Junkie June 15, 2007

Posted by flyingsirkus in Academia, Servittude, Who Am I?.
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Wednesday was another day in the life of an eggslinger.  It was the lunch shift, and I had a dull station on a slow day.  The customers were dull and unwilling to engage with me, and so the minutes ticked by like time slogging through syrup.

The hostess sat a single woman at the center deuce in my station.  (I can’t find a decent Restaurant Slang page on Google, so I’ll let those of you outside the biz know that a deuce is a table that seats only two people.)  I noticed the woman was doing a magazine with Sudoku puzzles.  I am a big fan of mathematical puzzles, but Sudoku seems so trendy right now that I tend to shun those in favor of more classic challenge puzzles.   This doesn’t mean I won’t solve Sudokus, just that I’d pick up a Variety Puzzles magazine over Super Sudoku! any day.

This led me to think about a quote in a book I read by Anne Tyler called Ladder of Years.  The main character leaves her comfortable, predictible life one day and, on the spur of the moment, hitches a ride to an unfamiliar town where she sets up a new life for herself without informing her family.  It is an incredibly well-told story, where feminist ideas just ARE:  not pushy, not a betrayal, not bitchy or political; just the idea of a woman not having to answer to a husband and grown children she no longer feels a responsibility for and following her own whims for the first time.

Anyhow, in the book a big deal is made over the observation that a woman is rarely, if ever, seen eating alone in a restaurant without a book or a magazine.  As a woman who has done a lot of eating alone in restaurants, and a woman who has worked in many restaurants, and a woman who loves to read, I have found this hypothesis fascinating.  I have eaten out alone with and without books, and I have watched women eating alone in restaurants, and I have to say that Tyler’s observation is for the most part accurate…except for the past few years, when cell phones have replaced books as the single woman’s distraction.

Anyhow, I greeted the woman and took her order.  Ironically, she ordered almost exactly what I would have ordered had I found myself lunching at my restaurant for the first time:  an order of crab cakes and a glass of La Crema chardonnay.  I commented on this and smiled, partly out of standard waitress banter but mostly out of a sort of happy self-recognition.

A good server will walk by a table three or four times during the course of a customer’s meal.  S/he won’t necessarily say anything and may not even be noticed, but the server’s presence on the floor is vital to reading and anticipating customer needs and upping sales.  As I was walking past my customer’s table, I noticed she had moved on to a different page in her magazine.  The typeface on the page was cheerfully familiar, and it stunned me for a second.  I had to make an unscheduled stop at her table.

“Excuse me,” I asked.  “Is that….Games Magazine you’re reading?”

She smiled and showed me the magazine cover.  It was Games.

Games Magazine has been my favorite periodical ever since I was about eight years old.  As a child, I attended the Old Donation School for the Gifted and Talented in my hometown, and it was that school that taught me to love clever puzzles.  Word puzzles, number puzzles, logic puzzles, pop culture puzzles, picture puzzles…all were fair game, as long as they were challenging and threw in an egregious amount of bad puns for good measure.

Games went out of print for a few years, and I remember being happily surprised when I saw it again on a magazine stand in my mid teens.  I buy it whenever I see it, but I have realized that in the past few years, my trips to the bookstore have gotten further and farther between and I have not picked up an issue of Games probably since my early twenties.

As if my question about the magazine she was reading didn’t have the dork-identifying tone of voice that most people reserve for impossibly valuable art, cars, or cocaine, I had to let her know how I identified her choice of reading material.

“You know how I knew that was Games?”  I crowed idiotically.  (wait for it…..wait for it….)  “I recognized the typeface.”

Yeah, I actually said it.  I am about as groooovy as they come.

Luckily for me, she was as enthusiastic as I was about the magazine, and invited me to help her finish a puzzle she had been working on.  Ah, bliss.  I solved the one that had snagged her, then attempted to finish the puzzle while standing at the table.  I got all but two right away.  What a bonus!

We only chatted for a minute, but I was thrilled to talk with a fellow woman (how’s that for an oxymoron?) interested in puzzle solving.  I told her I’d blog about the experience.

Oh, yeah.  Nerd-core.

But guess who gets to wake up every morning, excitedly anticipating the arrival of her first subscription issue of Games Magazine in the mail?…

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Why I Want To Be A Teacher June 14, 2007

Posted by flyingsirkus in Academia, Who Am I?.
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Here’s an essay I wrote today for admission to the College of Education at Nevada State College.

Why I Want to Be A Teacher, by Kristina Raisinbran

There is a real and contagious condition that a child must be infected with in order to understand what it is to be a success in life.  This condition is called a Love of Learning, and I am a firm believer in its communicability.  I am also afflicted with this condition, and I want to become a teacher in order to expose as many children as possible to its life-changing side-effects, including a passion for asking questions and finding answers, an awareness of the underlying beauty in the world, a zest for the written and spoken word, and a desire to be a contributing member of a progressive society aimed at cultivating the greater good.

There is a tremendous need to reach a community of children who face tough challenges in almost every aspect of their public lives.  These are the children of our immigrant community.  Many of these children are uprooted without warning from their comfortable home countries, where they were surrounded by the friends and family who have been constant figures in their lives since birth, and taken on frightening journeys into the United States, where they live lives of social isolation.  They do not speak the language and are shunned by their American peers, and because of the risks of deportation are not allowed far from the home.  Their poverty and differentness are brought into sharp contrast with their schoolmates’ new wardrobes and fancy Lunchables.

I received my Associate’s degree in Florida, where I saw firsthand the challenges the immigrant child faces, especially in regards to standardized testing.  These students were taught just enough English to get a job at McDonalds, since passing a state-level English proficiency test meant they qualified to take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.  Teachers did not want these students taking the FCAT, since their lower scores would bring down the school’s grade and therefore cut the school’s funding.  I watched these children in academic limbo, being babysat in computer labs but not being taught English at a level where they would be competitive in any but the lowest of service industry jobs.

These are bright children, with interests like any other child’s.  These are children who are reachable, but they must be approached by someone whom they can trust, who doesn’t bore them, and who has clear rules and expectations.  I am multilingual.  I play guitar and draw passably.  I have a deep interest in science, theatre, and the arts. I am not afraid of classroom discipline.  And I know I can make learning fun.  My students and I would all walk out of my classroom better people.

I had the great fortune of being taught by three incredible langauge teachers.  John Mueller, my first German teacher, taught me the difference between speaking a language and communicating in one.  Leonid Kobyljanec, my Russian teacher,  taught me to value cultural differences and to have a tremendous amount of fun with incredibly difficult subject matter.  Antonio Spezia di Montespina, my Italian professor, taught me to immerse myself in language body and soul through exposure to his analysis of how Italians think based on their Roman history.  I’d use all the tools these teachers have graciously equipped me with and more in order to give these children a lesson in a subject they’ll never be formally taught: the value of intellectual freedom.