Sunday, February 18, 2007

RenFest '07

We enjoyed Renfest again this year despite the deforestation around the lake due to Hurricane Wilma. Our favorite part of the "forest" is shown here in 2005 and currently. It's where we try to get a good picture of the troupe coming through the path with their royal processions several times daily.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Most for the Least

It usually happens like this: I see them at the first or second class of the semester, then they disappear for several more and no longer respond to attendance. Within a couple of weeks I review and test the first material, which they don't show up for either, and I assume they have dropped the course.

Then a few days later their sponsor, or mentor, or coach, or other wetnurse (everyone has some sponsor, it seems, lurking behind the bench in loco parentis) emails me to assure me that they are vitally concerned about Johnny or Suzie's progress in my class and will do all they can to be sure they are successful, and how has their attendence been, and are they meeting their assignments, and please contact them all about the course and their protege's progress. These emails often coincide with a meeting with parents the next day and may be accompanied by other emailed excuses from the parents themselves about what a rough time Johnny or Suzy has been having healthwise or personally, and how he/she really wants to do well and must have an A to pull his/her cumulative grade out of the cellar and graduate in May, and I'm the only thing standing in the way, and would I work with them closely to make sure their budding scholar gets back on track and passes.

When those emails descend on my campus inbox, I can almost guarantee that the longlost Johnny or Suzie is about to reappear in the next class and request to make up the entire term's work posthaste. If I offer to let them make up the test on the spot, however, they "couldn't possibly do that; I haven't studied for it at all," they say. What they want is time to ask a classmate what was on it, since we've already passed it back and gone over it. That's why I collect and keep all copies and change the test.

Somehow we have trained an entire generation to believe that they have a right to succeed in everything and have everything and do everything, without earning it. Rules are for fools, and if they run into obstacles or problems along the way, there are always others to run interference for him, always ways around requirements, and always someone else to bail them out of their jam. Their only object, it seems, is to do whatever they want to do, whenever and wherever they want to do it, for there's a good chance they won't be caught or face any penalty for their misdeeds. And the idea that somehow they must take responsibility for their actions and that there are consequences and a price to be paid for their sidewinding slither through life's challenges is simply lost on them. All they must learn is the art of the excuse, and all will be smooth sailing through life.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Something's Changed around Here

I went shopping for a replacement ps2/usb adapter today, and on the way I swung in to Hess to fill my tank. The Hess station had worn-out instructions and labels on the pumps, so it was hard to tell which way the credit card slot wanted me to position my card from the partly-worn drawing. The "start" button I was supposed to press had been completely erased and looked like a bullet hole in a plastic square. More than once the pump speaker has blared out at me "Other way!" but this time I was unmonitored. I looked up.

"Wrong way," the lcd said. "Insert card again." I did, another possible way. "Card inserted wrong" the lcd said. The pump wasn't going let me use my credit card, telling me instead to "pay inside." I didn't want to pay inside. I wanted to pay at the pump, as I'm used to. But I went in, got in line behind another guy, and waited my turn to pay in advance. No clerk in sight.

"He's coming right back," the other guy said. Okay. Wait, wait, wait. Five minutes later. "He's coming right back," the other guy said again. After ten minutes, I decided he wasn't 'coming right back,' so I left and drove to another pump. Same message: "Pay inside." I decided to drive on.

Office Depot didn't carry my adapter, but they thought Walmart might, so I started for there. Then I saw the Big Beautiful: the new Best Buy was now open, right across the street! I jockeyed my way into the newly-paved lot and entered the Promised Land: Best Buy of Coral Springs!

Before I was halfway through the door, the deep boom boom boom of the car stereo gear's bass amplified speakers which bounce customers of most electronics stores these days rhythmically along the aisles assaulted my ears and vibrated my knees. "WELCOME TO BEST BUY!" a kid barely out of high school wearing a Best Buy Blue teeshirt shouted over the din, thrusting a sale flyer at me as a winsome, matching-teeshirted girl in a ponytail gyrated to the beat and smiled like Vanna White as she worked a cellphone display, blocking my further progress. "Welcome to Best Buy," she mimed, though I couldn't hear a word. I tried to work my way to a section with shelving high enough to block the bass. There was none to be found.

Yep, it's a Best Buy alright, I marvelled, borne by each beat further along the aisles, scanning for the cables and connectors section. The new store was filled with eager young helpers who typically clustered themselves around computer islands in small groups and talked excitedly. Finally a manager, or at least a young fellow who seemed to be at least twenty-one and who wore a tie, asked "May I help you find something?" I showed him my broken adapter. "Mm, this isn't good," he said, pulling it apart. "I don't think we carry anything like that by itself." It was what I expected, so I reached out to take it back. "Wait," he withdrew my item," I'll check with the Geek Squad." The Geek Squad are the Green Berets and Navy Seals of Best Buy and other such stores, the creme de la creme of techies; they actually know something about computers and parts. So elite are they, in fact, that even my presumed "manager" dared not interrupt their commisserations around a computer register. So I waited some more.

Finally one tall geek squadder turned his head, flipped away my manager after a disdainful glance at my lowly broken adapter, and returned to his cybercrowd. My manager handed me the pieces and announced triumphantly, "I was right. We don't have it." with a wide smile.

So I marched out of Best Buy to the boom boom boom of the thousand-watt trunk speakers and headed for Walmart. On the way, however, I was able to fill my gas tank at the 7-11 across from Hess (and to use my card!) Of course, I now had to add my zip code at the pump, "for protection against unauthorized use," the lcd said. And surprise surprise, Walmart didn't carry my adapter either. I finally found it online for $2.50, but had to add $3.45 for postage and another $4.00 handling fee for "orders under $10." Wonder if that guy ever came back to the counter at Hess.