Thursday, December 11, 2014

Teaching is more than knowing...

At the coffee shop this morning a man was at the table behind me proclaiming how intelligent he was with lines like, "they thought they could tell me how to teach my own child," and "I'm sure I know more than they ever will."

Here's the thing that got under my skin about his arrogance. There's more to teaching something than knowing it. I'd say, and this isn't an exaggeration, that knowing something isn't the primary requirement for teaching something. I don't need a doctorate in mathematics to teach someone how to calculate gross profit or what an item's price is with tax added. Knowledge isn't the most important part of that training at all. Being able to communicate with the student on their level is the most important part. I'd listened to his bunghole for about five minutes when it was obvious he wasn't communicating even to his adult audience on their level. He was bragging, putting on his indignant panties and showing off how smart he was and what a bully he could be with his acquired knowledge. Even the person at the table listening to him wasn't engaged with him in the conversation. He wasn't noticing. He was listening to himself talk. That is not a quality that is needed in a teacher.

I've never been a teacher but I've been a trainer in a work setting for years, decades even, and it's something I'm good at, very good at. The training program I developed at my last job is still being used company wide today. It's good. It works when it's done right by the right person. When done by someone like this person though, it won't work. Most of the process is listening. It's finding out where the student is and how they learn and letting them do it. Learning isn't top-down in spite of how often it's tried in meetings with monster decks of powerpoint tedium. That's a way to convey information, that's not teaching though. Not even close.

Teaching is a skill. Training is a skill. Those who do it well, those who do it for a living, may not have as much specific knowledge as one of the arrogant helicopter parents out there, but what they will have is some training in how to train, how to teach, how to pry open your special snowflake's brain bucket and not just pour the information in there, but make the student ASK them to give them more information, more help, and help them learn more when they're stuck. So, if a teacher is offering you tips on how to teach something, step down off your high horse and listen for just a little bit. It's December and the teacher's interacted with your snowflake for months at this point and probably knows what they're talking about.

Note: Not all teachers are good teachers. I know that. I've had my share of bad ones and they, to be honest, resembled the speaker at the coffee shop more than the resembled the teachers that did a really good job at teaching me something I hadn't known when I got there.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

New Favorite Low-Carb Recipe

I'm not sure how I found this recipe but it became an instant hit at the house and is my favorite... so favorite I immediately made it again to take to work for lunches.

Slow Cooker Pepperoni & Chicken over on the SkinnyMom blog is delicious. Seriously, and easy too.

Go to Skinny Mom's blog to get the actual recipe. What I'm going to do is describe it. Start with a crock pot, any size, and layer the bottom with one layer of chicken breasts. On top of that I deviated from the recipe because I had no chicken broth so I dumped half a can of tomato sauce and about the same amount of water over the chicken. No, I didn't mix it.. either time. I dumped. On top of that I sprinkled Italian seasonings from McCormick I think, until it looked right. Next I dealt pepperoni onto the mess like they were cards and I was covering the whole thing in them. Slap on the lid, turn on the crock pot and enjoy as the house starts to smell like pizza is cooking. Six hours went by as it cooked on low and the roomie finally woke up (he works nights, and I had to wait for him to wake up enough to feel like something decidedly unbreakfast like for his breakfast) I put some cheese on it, generous amounts of shredded mozzarella and put the lid back on while I steamed some broccoli which I sprinkled with lemon pepper and then dumped more shredded cheese on as I plated the rest the cheese mostly melted.

It. Was. Delicious! Cut it with a fork chicken, the spices were perfect, the whole thing, seriously great. My hat's off to Skinny Mom and I love this recipe. Low carb, delicious, and easy... also, relatively inexpensive.

Note: The recipe on the site calls for black olives but a) I didn't have any and b) I had no clue what I'd do with the other 3/4 of a can of black olives this would have left me with so even if I had had them I probably would have left them out. I just can't see throwing away that many olives and I don't eat them enough to justify the expense. Roomie says he'd eat the rest of the can just with a fork... if he buys 'em I'll use 'em I guess, but I'm not going to buy them. Not worth it to me. Bacon would be worth it to me... not black olives.

Note: The knife was completely unnecessary. I didn't know that when I grabbed it. Seriously tender and delicious. Make this. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Eve Online: Space Sandbox?

Eve Online is a science fiction themed MMO (Massive Multi-player Online) Game in which you are the pilot of a space ship of some sort or another depending on the role you are taking on. That's vague I know but that's part of what I'm going to talk about here.

I've played most of the popular (and many of the not-so-popular) MMO games out there and they all tend to have one thing in common and that's that they're easy to pick up. They're easy to learn. They've got introductory missions that guide you on a path dependant on your race or your class or whatever. There tend to be quest lines that guide you from your starting newbie area to ever-increasing areas until you're finally in the end game content with other high level players. The zones, or gaming areas, tend to have other players of about your level and the relative safety of you as a player is something you can control typically. You can normally not be hurt by other players unless you're dueling them, which you typically have to agree to, or if you're in an arena area, or maybe if you've chosen to play in a Player vs. Player (PvP) server. Mostly the games are designed to be PvE (Player vs. Environment) and the game designers really hold your hand as you go through it from start to finish. I've played those and I really like those games. It's great. You wake up on a beach or escape from a jail or whatever and usually within sight of where you are is a person with a giant glowing question mark over their head.

Eve Online is nothing like that. Yes, there is an introductory tutorial to introduce you to the game and the controls which is great and if you play it (If you click on any of the links in here it'll get you 21 days of free game play that you can do for free without giving any credit card information or anything. If you DO decide to extend and keep playing it'll cost about fifteen dollars per month. Try it out first though, give it a go. It doesn't cost anything.) I wholeheartedly recommend without reservation, that you do ALL the training missions you can find. The rewards are worth it, very worth it.
An open world is a type of video game level design where a player can roam freely through a virtual world and is given considerable freedom in choosing how or when to approach objectives. The term free roam is also used, as is sandbox and free-roaming.
Eve Online, like I said, is nothing like that. After you finish the introductory missions you've got a ship, some knowledge of how to operate it, and a giant galaxy... but no guy with a question mark over his head. No information on where to go next or what to do next. And, if you think you're perfectly safe wandering around out there like you would be in other games you're sorely mistaken.  Unlike other games Eve Online is a giant sandbox, the first time I've used the term since the title, and as such the rules about player interaction are very much almost completely hands off from the runners of the game. If a player wants to attack you they can. Sure, in some zones, the starting zones (hi-security zones, AKA hi-sec zones) have a police presence and the police will attack someone attacking you. That doesn't mean you're safe. It means your attacker is in danger. They could very well still kill you and bug out and live through it. The police are strong and fast, but that doesn't mean they can instakill someone attacking you. Also, players can trade items and in-game ISK (that's what they call the money in the game, it's game money earned within the game) and if you're scammed by someone it's not something the game runners, GM's care about. You should've been more careful is their theory. Would you give your rent money to somebody you'd met ten minutes ago? No? Well, why would you give a lot of in-game money to someone you'd just met?

So, there are no quest givers to lead you around by the nose. You can mine asteroids, and if you look for them you can find mission givers that will pay out for doing mining missions. You can run courier missions where you'll pick up something from one station, fly it to another station and drop it off. That's nice. Sometimes there's combat. Sometimes there's combat in all the missions as space is a dangerous place. There are pirates and such out in space and they'll agro, attack, you when you're out in space. The police don't do anything about them. You can be mining or delivering some cows and then get jumped by pirates. Pay attention! Maybe you're running security missions, escorting a scientist from one place to another... you can count on being attacked on those. But you get to choose what you do and you can change what you're doing from one hour to the next, one minute to the next. If you don't feel like mining run courier missions, run security missions. Exploration is another option, harder than the others as there are NO mission givers for this one. It's exploration after all. You go into outer space and use probes to find anomalies and then send in probes to find out what the anomalies are. Are they wormholes? Are they pirate hideouts? Drug warehouses? Only way to find out is use probes and then go in there and see what you can find... if you can live long enough to take it then it's yours. But there are no mission givers and no hints. You just go out there and start looking.

All of this is totally up to you. You need different ships to take on different roles to run different missions. Mining works best with a ship with a giant hold, for example, so you can haul the most ore at a time. Courier missions work best with a fast ship that has a lot of legs and some weapons just in case you're jumped by pirates or opposing faction ships that don't want whatever data chip you're delivering to get where it's going. That variety of ships means you need to learn a variety of skills. Skills are learned at different rates and are learned in real time. You can't really speed it up. So, if it's going to take you 3 days to learn your  next skill level of Frigates then it's going to take three days in real time, before that skill is learned. You don't have to be logged in for it. It's real time.

I love the game and the freedom of it. I love that edge of unsafety that there is. I can be playing side by side with a player who has been playing for 7 years when we're running some mining missions. I have NOT been playing for that long at all. But the level based zones of other games aren't really in Eve Online. The low-security player vs player areas of the maps are mostly higher level players but there's no reason I couldn't go there right away. Now, to do so would mean my almost immediate death at their more experienced, better equipped hands. But I could go there. And, if they were unlucky I could possibly win even.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Low-Carb Cooking: Flax Meal Muffins with Cream Cheese Frosting

I've been doing low-carb for a long time and one of the things that I crave is desserts and pastries. I'm not a big bread person but who doesn't love a cupcake? One recipe that I see a lot are low-carb flax meal muffins made in a cup in the microwave and they've always been a little... flaxy. I decided to play with the recipe a little and try and make it a dessert.

I started with the recipe linked to above and modified it. I used cinnamon in it, about half a tea-spoon and added 4 Tablespoons of Stevia and nuked it for about a minute 40. It rises up really tall, but don't panic, it calms down and gets back down in the cup where it belongs.

While it was cooking I stirred a little over an ounce of cream cheese, some of Penzey's double strength vanilla, just a splash, and a splash of almond milk along with 3 Tablespoons of Stevia. It stirred up pretty thinly, not thick like a frosting but more like a glaze like you'd find on a cinnamon roll.

As soon as the cup was out of the microwave I dumped it onto a paper plate and let it cool for a bit before scraping the frosting onto it. When I cut it with the fork and ate it it was light and not packy and the cinnamon and frosting helped to tone down the nuttiness of the flax meal that typically bugs me with things made with flax meal. I think this would be really good with a banana and walnuts chopped into it. Maybe some banana extract in the frosting instead of vanilla.

I'm a fan of low-carb because I feel good when I'm on it and my bloodwork from the doctor's point of view is consistently good and better than before I was on Atkins. I'm happy when I find something good enough to share.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Review: The Kid Dies by Haji Outlaw

The Kid Dies by Haji Outlaw was free for the kindle edition and I grabbed it. The book's description looked interesting, from amazon, "This superb work of dark fiction, in the vein of Chuck Palahniuk and Cormac McCarthy, finds a female assassin with five kills remaining in order to exit her life of murder." Wooo... I liked Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. It's one of my top five favorite movies of all time. I even bought an autographed copy of the book because I loved it. And while I didn't LOVE The Road by Cormac McCarthy he's got a name like a Scottish barbarian so he's probably better than I think... his book's just too depressing though. If I want bleak I'll look out the window. Iowa winter's aren't known for their unbleakness (which is, evidently, not a real word).

On my kindle the book shows how far along I am in the book in percentages. I was late back from break. I was almost late back from lunch. I got an app for my phone so I could read later into the night without it hurting my eyes so I could read this book late. Great book for 96% of the book.

It had two amazing characters who could have whole series' written about them. A smart, talented, capable, attractive female assassin named Freya Simone. I loved her. She's like an anti-James Bond. So, great. Really liked her bits.

In the other story line was an 8 year old um... he's imprisoned in a prison for psychopathic criminals or something along those lines. He's described as completely without empathy, killed his own mother while he was being born; kills a fellow inmate/patient while the staff talks about how bad he is. Evidently he's also got psychic powers and they're really well written, well done. I liked it a lot. I liked HIM a lot as a bad guy though. He's not a bad guy we'd normally expect. 8 year old kid? Not your typical baddie. Cool twist. Sociopathic 8 year old with unstoppable mental powers? Muahahaha... bad news.

Then there was 2% of transition where I was um... not sure where things were going with the book and then the final 2% of the book happened and I realized the author had accidentally ended the wrong book. The whole book had built to something and it happened then there was an epilogue part of the book, a part like in the movie The Piano after the piano is pushed into the lake, stop watching there!!! Or Pay it Forward, you'll know where to end it. Don't keep watching! It's stupid! Well, this is the same way. After the scorpion goes down to the sand to do what scorpions do... STOP READING. Everything that comes after that goes back in time and retroactively wrecked the book for me because the story was retconned and warped and turned into a Bob Newhart "it's all a dream" kind of thing, no, it's not all a dream... it's just the ending was such a complete non-sequitur. Stop at the scorpion doing what scorpions do, seriously. Up to that part it's a GREAT book... after that... well, if you keep going don't blame me... seriously, he ended it weirdly... and it didn't add to the story or the book or the characters. It subtracted from all of those things.