Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Eighth Doctor Review Update

So I never thought I would actually have to update the Eighth Doctor, as I figured his run was over in the movie.  But as you're well aware, Paul McGann's Doctor came back in Night of the Doctor with quite possibly the greatest intro line ever given the context: "I'm a Doctor, but probably not the one you were expecting."  Not gonna lie, I flipped out when he appeared, and the segment was really what the Eighth Doctor needed: some closure and establishment of character.  Like many people, I had a hard time imagining the mild-mannered Eighth Doctor going to war, so it was interesting to see that he did not, and the hatred for himself when forcing his regeneration into something that could is vividly apparent.  But what caught my attention the most was his final line.  "Physician, heal thyself" is an except from Luke 4:23, further driving home his connections with being the Second Coming that I pointed out years ago.  Looks like Steven Moffat also caught that link.

Hoping to actually continue these posts again sometime soon!  My comic, Spoofy Randomness, is drawing to a close soon, so that will open up more time.  If you haven't read it, you should.  Those of you stumbling onto this blog because of the Doctor Who connections, Matt Smith is a regular character in it.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Japan-U.S. Teacher Exchange: San Francisco Conference Reflection

Lately, I have become very interested in the educational systems of different schools. The media keeps up a constant bombardment of “The U.S. education system is so screwed up” and “x country is doing so much better”. While I certainly acknowledge that there is room for improvement in our system, I also know that I can read a whole bunch of articles about what other countries do but without seeing it in practice, it is mostly meaningless. When I found out about this program, I realized it was a two-for-one deal for me: not only could I explore the educational system of a different country, and being able to explore a topic of much interest to me. I applied, thinking “eh, I’ll get my name out there and maybe if I’m lucky in a few years I’ll get to go”, never dreaming that I would actually get in right away.

I was highly impressed by the caliber of teachers involved in this program. In discussions with them, I realized that for many this is not their first trip, and they emphasized something I had been a little concerned about. Many times on teacher travel trips, you get a handful that are only there for the trip and less so about the objectives and growth as a teacher. I did not get that feeling about this group; they are teachers who love learning and are very committed to sustainable development and professional growth. It was also fascinating to me to see and hear about all of the wonderful projects that different schools are doing. Being a fairly new teacher in a small school, I haven’t really seen what the final result of some of the ideas I’ve had could look like, so that was very inspiring. It was also a little intimidating being the youngest teacher present as well as the only teacher representing a truly rural school the size of mine (180 students in the district Pre-K through 12th grade). It never gets old watching city teacher’s faces when I tell them I’m the whole 7-12 science department, though! While it was a little intimidating, the teachers in this group are very accepting and I never once felt like I didn’t fit in because of a lack of experience. I cannot say enough about the teachers in this group, both Japanese and American.

It was particularly interesting to me to talk to the Japanese teachers and learn about their schools. Some of the more unusual things that stuck out for me was the Japanese love for baseball (I didn’t realize that baseball was a big thing outside of North America), the fact that students clean their own school (the thought of my students’ reactions if I suggested that is amusing), and how much they incorporate the outdoors in their school. From the sustainable development standpoint, it was interesting to me that their views on water conservation were much more laid back, as apparently they get enough rain in the mountains that it is not as big of a problem as it is here. I was really interested by the current energy situation in Japan; the fact that they were 40% reliant on nuclear power before the earthquake and they still have not restarted their nuclear operations nor have they really found a suitable substitute is an interesting situation and really drives home the importance of diversity in resources.

I did not have much of an opportunity to get into much of what I learned back at my school, as by the time I returned from my sister’s graduation on the opposite coast we were gearing up for finals and school is now out. I did try to give them the brief version (it’s hard to condense such a wonderful conference into a few minutes!) and posed some of the questions we talked about, such as the aforementioned energy issue, to get them thinking. I have started to work on plans for next schoolyear, which will include a lot of sustainable development emphasis in my Modern Biology class on top of interspersing ESD throughout my other courses.

I am looking forward to the Japan portion of this trip more than ever. When I first got into the program, I was a little hesitant, not really knowing what to expect or what the program was going to be like. The fact that I know absolutely no Japanese didn’t help much in that regard, either. Now that the conference is complete, I am ready to jump on that plane and get started! I am really looking forward to seeing other schools in action and meeting back up with the teachers in this conference to continue to share ideas. I am excited to figure out what my project will be; I was in some discussion with one of the Japanese teachers about vaccines and I am hoping that my project can somehow incorporate learning about different countries’ viewpoints of vaccinations, given the large and quite honestly frightening movement in the U.S. against vaccines. If that doesn’t work out, I have a few other ideas starting to form in my mind. One thing that I had kind of thought about but never really solidified in my mind was the fact that sustainable development is more than just environmental issues. I feel like American schools lose sigh of the other two key components: social injustice and poverty. (Incidentally, this also helped me understand why my church has such close ties to sustainable development; it makes more sense once those two components are included.) I would really like my project to incorporate one or both of these components, as I feel like I do a well enough job discussing environmental problems with my students but not nearly enough in the other two areas.

Looking forward to June 16th!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

License to Travel

Just a quick post, but kind of an interesting one.  Back from the honeymoon, where my lovely wife and I traveled to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  We stayed in a condo for a week, then traveled up NC 12 to Kitty Hawk and crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (turns out I get really claustrophobic in that tunnel, which is odd given I don't recall having problems with the Eisenhower Tunnel).  We then had about 30 hours to kill before we had to be in Raleigh, so Laura decided spur-of-the moment that we needed to go to DC.  We got there around 5:30 (rush hour, AAH!), went into the Smithsonian Institute of Natural Science, and saw the White House, Washington Monument, and WWII Memorial before leaving that same evening.  As much of our vacation involved driving, we decided to keep track of license plates starting from when we left the airport and culminating when we returned to the airport.  It was fascinating to see how many states we got!  Here is our list in no particular order (*=we were in that state):

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Peri and the Technicolor Dreamcoat

Nope, the new outfit still ain't
Completely by coincidence, the first two Doctors I am reviewing are also probably the two most infamous.  As mentioned previously, I do blame the horrible scriptwriting of Fox and the simple lack of screentime for Paul McGann's Eighth Doctor (although he still remains at second-to-last on my list, manly due to such great competition).  The Sixth Doctor, as portrayed by Colin Baker (no relation to the fantastic Tom Baker, by the way), does suffer from the same scriptwriting flaw.  However, there are other reasons why he is at the bottom of my list, and we shall discuss those here.

Colin Baker's era as the Doctor was the shortest of any of the classic Doctors at slightly over two seasons, and arguably the second shortest of all if one counts McGann's time as between 1996 and 2005 (in which he did appear in many radio dramas and novels), only being longer than Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor.  With the start of Baker's era came some other changes to the Doctor Who seasons: they were shortened from the previous 20 episodes in season 21 to 13 episodes in season 22, which was an ominous sign that would hang over the series until it was finally placed in hiatus in 1989.  While Season 22 had longer 45 minute episodes, Season 23 returned to the 25 minute format with 14 episodes, reducing Baker's airtime even further.  There was also an 18-month production hiatus in between Baker's two seasons.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Gut Feelings

So apparently one of life's greatest ironies is the dichotomy of my stomach.  I can liquefy bird brains and squirt them out, watch a lobotomy and still be hungry, and watch all fourteen episodes of Trial of a Time Lord without throwing up from the sheer horribleness of it.  Yet when it comes to the actual function of the stomach, mine is definitely on the weak side, and the issue is that there appears to be a plethora of problems.  Starting around junior year of college, I was having a hard time eating a lot of foods, often feeling rather ill afterward.  I also had the effect of certain seemingly unrelated foods shot through my system faster than Jayne running towards free money.  The former would cause some discomfort, sometimes intense, for an hour or two and would include a fair amount of belching, the latter would be done in about 15 minutes and I'd be fine.  I talked to the doctor about it, as Tums wasn't cutting it, and he had me use Pepsid AC and that seemed to work a little better.

Then I got mono in the spring of my junior year.  An odd thing occured.  The feeling of being ill afterward seemed to vanish (although certain foods still tended to trigger the flushing of my guts).  I mentioned this to my doctor, and he hypothesized that my acid reflux was being triggered by a bacteria, and the mono had actually attacked the bacteria as well as my own cells.  It is unusual but not unheard of to have a virus attack two completely different cells.  What was also interesting was that the mono virus went for my liver; it usually aims for the spleen.  More on that later.

Well, over the past year to year and a half, it's been coming back.  At first I was just having difficulty eating yogurt in the morning, which I just figured was because it was too thick.  But it got worse, especially around February where it got to the point where I could hardly eat breakfast and actually culminated with me throwing up after eating.  (Not eating breakfast was particularly a problem, as I t get another chance to eat until lunch and I get HUNGRY).  So I scheduled an appointment with the doctor in Tecumseh.  He couldn't figure it out, but thought it might be a proton pump problem with acids (yay for being a science guy and actually understanding that!).  So he put me on some meds that were suppsed to help.  Other than some really uncomfortable muscle soreness for a few days (a common side effect), they did nothing.  I had to go back anyway for a BSA physical to work NOAC this summer, so I told him what was going on again and he prescribed Nexium and scheduled an upper endoscopy for June 1st.  After having to deal with the fact that insurance would not pay for it and the medicine cost $200 (and I didn't even know if it would work!), I got a generic for a tenth of the price and started that Sunday.  At first, I didn't notice much change...and then guano hit the fan.

Yesterday resulted in greater discomfort than normal, and it continued all night and got even worse as today went on, along with lightheadedness.  Needless to say, this worried me a little so I called the doctor and he told me to stop taking the medicine (I figured that was a given) and I got my upper endoscopy scheduled for May 4th.  Hopefully that will get me some answers as to what the heck is going on.  It's really stressing me out (and I don't get stressed too easily).  I considered taking a personal day this morning because of the stress, but I realized that work has nothing to do with my stress and doing so would a) allow me to dwell on it more, which would not end well, and b) stress me out more with sub plans.  Also, I tend to ramble when I'm stressed, if you can't tell...

One thing that many people have mentioned to me is a gall bladder problem.  Now, I'm not saying that's what it is, but I do have similar symptoms.  What interests me is the possible connection with mono.  (Disclaimer: The following is merely a hypothesis and has not been confirmed by any sort of medical personnel; it is solely based off my own somewhat-more-than-average informed conjecture.)  The fact that the liver and the gall bladder are so closeley linked (the liver makes bile, the gall bladder does what a bladder does best, stores it) is interesting.  Suppose I was developing gall bladder problems due to storing too much bile/letting it sit for too long.  Liver problems arise due to mono and suddenly there's less bile produced.  The gall bladder gets cleaned out as the bile is now needed, and takes a while to reaccumulate to the level it was at before.  Again, that's just a working hypothesis, but I find it interesting.

So anyway, on May 4th I will be put under for the first time in my life (not thrilled) and hopefully I will get some answers from this upper endoscopy.  And I am VERY grateful it is an upper endoscopy and not a lower one.

Also, do not expect many blog posts to be personal, as I prefer writing reviews and stuff, but this one has been nagging me a lot.