Monday, December 21, 2015

Random Musings of a Ramblin' Fool LI

It has been four days past a year since I last checked in with this column. In that period of time this blog has reached over 557,000 distinct visits and 1,800 posts. A year ago this blog was at 456,000 distinct visits and 1,509 posts. Over the course of 2015 I found difficulty consistently blogging to the degree I have in previous years, especially 2014. Now that autumn 2015 is coming to a close and a grueling fall 2015 quarter ended a week ago I hope to get back in the rhythm of daily blogging. I have a lot of catching up to do here as much has happened this year in my life of which only a small amount I have shared. Note: in the above title the LI is the Roman numeral for the Arabic numeral 51.

Winter 2015 Cal Poly Quarter Synopsis

The Winter 2015 quarter began and ended oddly for me. In the first few weeks I was invited to go visit a dying childhood friend awaiting a heart transplant in San Diego who seemed to be giving up living after many disappointments and setbacks and a long wait for a new heart. I was invited over the MLK holiday weekend to join childhood friend Jannine and her mom Patsy to visit Jon Marsh which experience I shared HERE back at the time. This quarter I took on only 12 units which is the minimum to maintain full-time student status. Click to view my Fall 2014 Quarter review.
However, I'm glad I did take only 12 units as I had all I could handle with a 3-hour-a-week, but 4-unit Historiography class taught by Cal Poly's history teacher of the year Dr. Matthew Hopper (History 304) which required a lot of reading and not a little writing and some research towards the end for a 3-part/20 page paper.

I also took my terminal Spanish class Intermediate Spanish I (Spanish 201) which is a subject I struggle with at my age and as you recall I got a C in the Spanish class the previous quarter. Fortunately for me Dr. Fernando Fabio Sánchez is a wonderful professor and I thrived in his 4-unit class.

Finally, I took History of Modern America (History 322) with Dr. Sarah Bridger who is an engaging instructor and the class covered some of my preferred subject matter in history and thus I thoroughly enjoyed the 4-unit class even if I felt I should have gotten a better grade.

Aside from the distracting but magical trip to San Diego as well as my usual mild case of wintertime S.A.D. I also was struck around the time of finals week by the horrible distraction of substance abuse/addiction problems in somebody very close to me for which I had to drive them down south to detoxify and all the while worry about their survival.

Despite all this I managed to stumble my way into a B in History 304 although I was capable of getting an A in the class but failed to earn it, a B in Spanish 201 which was the best I could have hoped to do in that class, and a B+ in History 322 in which I felt I should have gotten an A- or A.

Spring 2015 Cal Poly Quarter Synopsis

The Spring 2015 quarter continued the pattern of mental-emotional turmoil from the substance abuse of the aforementioned individual, but due to the change in the seasons and my own growing sense of optimism and confidence I had my best quarter at Cal Poly to date. This was my first time ever taking as many as 16 units at any level be it Cuesta Community College or California Polytechnic State University SLO. It was also my first quarter at Cal Poly in which I made the Dean's List.

I took Dr. Tom Trice's Lure of the Sea 4-unit course (History 317) which is about the history of human activity on the seas and in the adjacent littoral zones. I thoroughly enjoyed that class and the professor is wonderful.

I took history department chair Dr. Lewis Call's History of Network Technology 4-unit course (History 354) which was the high point of the quarter and one of the most fascinating classes I have taken at Cal Poly which focuses on the history of the internet and operating systems and some ancillary issues like hacking and cybernetics and such.

I also took Dr. Cameron Jones' Topics & Issues in Latin America 4-unit class (History 442) which focuses on subversion in Latin American history of which there has been much. Dr. Jones (which I always call him in an ominous Indiana Jones villain voice) is one of my favorite professors at Cal Poly and yet given his lecturer status makes as much money as I will be making as a high school teacher soon. This is wrong.

Lastly, I took new professor Dr. Eileen Peña's Cultural Geography 4-unit class (Geography 150) towards getting my minor. This professor was high-strung and insecure which showed often and her inflexibility about late homework assignments cost me a solid A in her class.

Once again the aforementioned person close to me had a slip and I had to take them to detox down south around the time of my finals week to go with the fact I was taking 16 units for the first time. Despite all this I managed to get A's in History 317 and History 354 and A-'s in History 442 and Geography 150.

Summer 2015 Cal Poly Quarter Synopsis

For the first time ever I took a college/university summer course which in my case was a class I had hoped to be able to take while at Cal Poly but feared I would not: Fire & Society (Natural Resources 308). Although the foreshortened summer session with Dr. Christopher Dicus is not as intensive and scholarly (not as much reading of books by Dr. Stephen Pine and such) as are the regular sessions of the class) it was nonetheless a fascinating overview of fire and American society and to a lesser extent Australian society as a counterpoint to the American relationship with wildfire. It was also a de facto history of wildfire in America so I loved the class given my interest in both history and wildfire, After a slow start I ran away with the class and earned a solid A while once again dealing with drama from the previously-mentioned person close to me and their ongoing addiction problem.

Fall 2015 Cal Poly Quarter Synopsis

The fall 2015 quarter saw me back at 16 units trying to squeeze in a geography minor to go with my history major by graduation time next June. I unwittingly took a history class I did not need to take instead of a geography class I needed to take in order to complete my minor by graduation day in June 2016. The only way to fix this would be I were to take an extra quarter (Summer 2016 quarter) to graduate just to capture that minor, but then I would not be able to walk with my class in June. Between what God was telling me and my own cost-benefit analysis I elected to drop the minor during this quarter which in my case requires nothing on my part other than to stop taking geography classes.

Given that I began the quarter planning on acquiring the minor, I did take Dr. Thomas Keese's Geography of Resource Utilization 4-unit class (Geography 301) which was challenging but informative in an integrative sort of way and showed me a glimpse of how many careers may be had with a geography degree. I co-wrote and co-presented an overview of Clear Lake in Northern California which my partner and I aced.

I took the fun but one-too-many history course Britain at War: The British, the Americans and the Struggle for Freedom, 1939-1945 (History 336) which was a 4-unit class taught by Dr. Mike Carver, the only professor I have ever heard throw F-bombs in class (usually in the same sentence with Nazis) to which I salute him.

I took Dr. Kate Murphy's fascinating but difficult 4-unit History of the Scientific Revolution (History 350) which was as engaging and instructive as Dr. Call's History of Network Technology last spring. Unfortunately, my ongoing struggles with deadlines and Dr. Murphy's inflexibility with deadlines combined to make the final grade on this class less than satisfying.

Finally, I took Dr. James Tejani's 4-unit History of the American West, Southwest Borderlands, and California (History 433) which I thoroughly enjoyed and found most fascinating given my interest in the American West since I was a child. Thankfully, Dr. Tejani was much more flexible with deadlines but nonetheless my worsening issues with deadlines caused me to turn in late the three largest and most important papers in the class which when penalties were applied prevented me from achieving my full potential in the class quite unfortunately,

In a disturbing continuance of a year-long pattern, as as if on cue, the that person close to me once again fell of the wagon during my finals week but this time did so near the end although I smelt trouble all through the week which did distract me somewhat. However, it was my fault for leaving so much work to be done until the last week of school which included to in-class finals as well as a paper due Monday I turned in Tuesday and a paper due a few weeks earlier I turned in Wednesday and a paper due Friday morning I worked Thursday into early Friday morning and a paper due Thursday I turned in early on Saturday morning. I need to get over my paper phobia and start getting on these things early and often as next up is my senior project which will be a 30-page paper.

Anywho, despite my own self-created drama and the drama of my deeply troubled dear one, to go along with my annual touch of S.A.D. down the stretch as the days shortened and the sun sunk in the sky, I managed to eke out B+'s in History 350 and History 433 and I achieved A's in History 336 and Geography 301. My Cal Poly G.P.A. now stands at 3.486 and my overall G.P.A. is 3.536.

My Career Goals Narrow, Solidify

My general career plan upon graduating next June had been through much of this year to try to get into emergency management first choice or write content for some internet-based company second choice. Becoming a journalist after all (back in late high school and my first year at Cuesta College circa 1989-1990 I had thought I would become a sports writer) was probably my third choice while teaching was in the cellar at fourth choice.

However, I received from God an epiphany about this last September when I realized that I am and always was supposed to be a teacher (high school and perhaps even some community college). For years people told me I should go to college and I always poo-poo'ed that idea time and again. Subsequently, I went back to school and completed Cuesta College career picking up two Associate of Arts degrees (History and Social & Behavioral Sciences). My parents both have bachelor's degrees and my brother has at least one Associate of Arts degree and a nursing certificate of some sort. I have been the odd man out heretofore in regards to education.

Of course, just because somebody says something does not automatically make it true. However, in my case in regards to going back to school such people were right as they were merely pointing out the obvious. Well, the same goes for my natural ability to teach to which I have been in denial for years as people have often told me I should be a teacher and I poo-poo'd that as well. However, like the Holocaust, never again. My mom's mother was a schoolteacher by trade. My mother was educated to be a schoolteacher but ended up not liking it and instead going into the mom and wife business. My father was educated to be a history teacher but went off in a different direction, initially working for NSA and later installing television antennas, the latter of which got him killed. I realize that just because other generations in my family did something or were educated to do something or should have done something does not automatically mean I should do those things. However, sometimes God does call families to particular careers spread over multiple generations. I am supposed to be a teacher (and coach) and that is all I know for now.

With this in mind I have contacted various people about it and have received some marvelous counsel of which much of it God has directed me to implement. Currently there is a dearth of school teachers in California and on the Central Coast in particular. That makes my career move seem all the more prudent at this time. On top of that, my two preferred schools at which to teach, Paso Robles High School and Atascadero High School need teacher-coaches.

I was already contemplating for some time now to volunteer locally as an assistant football coach at either of the aforementioned schools just for shits and giggles long before I ever contemplated teaching. I was told by wise counsel to absolutely do that self-same thing starting this spring practice. By doing so I would already be involved volunteering in a local school district and if I could get a coach to pay me even $1 then I would technically already be employed as a coach. It also helps that I know both head varsity football coaches at Paso Robles High School and Atascadero High School having been coached by Rich Shimpke (head varsity football coach at Paso Robles High School) back when he coached me at Atascadero High School in junior varsity football and both frosh and junior varsity basketball and youth basketball in eight grade. Head varsity football coach Vic Cooper at Atascadero High School played varsity football there while I played junior varsity but was called up to play in the playoffs his senior year. I also played varsity with his younger brother Christian who is also now a coach and teacher at AHS. My dear friend of mine named Marty is a Rotarian and knows the superintendent of Paso Robles Unified School District (Chis Williams) who is also a Rotarian and whom Marty has told about me and is interested to hear from me I am told. I also know the athletic director Sam DeRose at AHS who was one of my varsity football coaches at AHS and is currently a part-time co-worker at Vino Vice. Atascadero High School is especially noted for its use of alumni who come back home to teach/coach.

Now you're probably asking why I am listing all of this minutiae? Well, the explanation is simple. This area despite its population growth still functions much like a small town and so much that happens and is transacted happens through the good 'ole boy network for better and for worse. Needless to say, I will be contacting these various personages after the upcoming holidays have past.

Upon graduating Cal Poly next June, Lord-willing, I shall begin the teaching credential program there next fall and hopefully have my own classroom by academic year 2017-2018.

Winter 2016 Quarter Preview

It is rather quite serendipitous that I dropped the geography minor when I did because the class slots that decision opened up will become fully filled by classes I absolutely must take before I can start the teaching credential program next fall.

This next quarter I am signed up to begin my senior project with Senior Project I (History 460) with history department chair Dr. Lewis Call being my project adviser. That is a 2-unit class focused on the research end of my project.

I'm also signed up for Dr. Christina Firpo's History of Prostitution 4-unit class (History 421) which will double-count for both my third of three required 400-level history classes and my third of three required non-European/non-U.S. history classes.

For nearly my entire time at Cal Poly I have been aware of wanted to take Nuclear Science & Society (Science & Math 335) given my interest in nuclear war and the growing specter of its threat returning as well as the fact the only operating nuclear power plant in California is located 45 minutes' drive from my house.

I could not sign up for so I must crash a Healthy Living (Kinesiology 250) 4-unit class required for my teaching credential. These courses add up to 14 units in total.

Spring 2016 Quarter Preview

The plan at present for my final quarter of undergrad work at Cal Poly is to take four final classes for 14 units just like I hope to have achieved the quarter previous.

I plan on taking Senior Project II (History 461) with Dr. Call which will also be 2 units but will focus on the writing end of my senior project. The finished paper should be about 30 pages long and in it I ask the question as to why there is such a prevalence of End-of-the-Age-themed movies and television shows and literary works

I'm also planning on taking Dr. Cameron Jones' Political Economy of Latin America and the Middle East (History 214) 4-unit required course which I unsuccessfully crashed the first day of Winter 2015 quarter nearly a year ago.

To graduate I must take a writing-intensive English class and being the movie buff I am I have elected to sign up for Film Styles and Genres (English 371) in lieu of Film Directors (English 372)  the other film-related English class which is even harder to get into from what I have heard. Both 4-unit classes are high-demand but at Cal Poly there is a special privilege afforded seniors in the quarter immediately preceding graduation to help speed them through. Needless to say, I shall not "check my privilege" to get into that class.

My last remaining course slot to fill will be filled with Historical, Philosophical, and Social Foundations of Public Education (Education 300) which is the second of two required 4-unit courses for me to complete before I can enroll in the teaching credential program.

My First Intership Offer

Last month I received an email from one of my history professors at Cuesta College (Dr. Christopher Nielson) in regards to a paid position at Cuesta College as an embedded tutor helping instructors in the classroom. I conveyed interest in this opportunity and await word back as to if there will be a scheduling conflict or not (I sure hope not).

Ixnay the M.A. (For Now)

Since last I shared here, I decided to apply for the Masters program in the history department at Cal Poly. That plan is on hold as it appears it is not feasible to be in a Masters program simultaneously with being in a teaching credential program. I still fully intend to get the Masters degree later on after I am securely in a teaching career. I want to do this both because I want to have a Masters since I won't be going for a PhD as that is too much time and money to start this late in life and, more importantly, I believe it is not God's will for me. A Masters degree is a nice compromise and consolation prize and it will get me paid more money as a teacher. Some have suggested it is better not to have the M.A. when applying for a teaching job anyway as school admins are looking to hire cheap.

Things I've Done OR Still Haven't Done At Cal Poly

For the second consecutive year I worked security (crowd control really) at the June 2015 Cal Poly Graduation. In 2014 it felt unreal that I would actually even be attending Cal Poly. This year it felt real, of course, but graduating still felt a long way off and perhaps a bit unreal. Now that I am about six months away from graduation and have all my remaining classes mapped out it feels a bit more real now. At this pace I will not be working the June 2016 Graduation at Cal Poly because rather I shall be IN the ceremony (with any luck at all).

This year I never did get around to volunteering to work on the Rose Parade Float as I had originally wanted to do when I first entered Cal Poly. It simply is not convenient to do such things when not living on-campus or nearby but rather living 30 miles up the highway from campus.

I did check to see if the on-campus Christian group was meeting when (11 a.m. on Thursday mornings) and where (northwest corner of Dexter Lawn) they claim to on their sandwich sign that is often visible in that part of campus.

I have also not yet used the free athletic club on campus which is one of the nicest in the state at any public school. I also haven't yet attended any athletic event or artistic event or academic event. I had planned on attending a couple of talks this Fall (one on the Cold War and one on the California Drought) but for various reasons neither worked out for me to attend,

I have managed to sans any effort on my part form a clique of friends/acquaintances with whom I hold court in a particular part of campus on a daily basis (second floor of Kennedy Library near Julian's).

No, I have not yet dated anybody I've met at Cal Poly (staff or student) but there is still time. Actually, I have not dated anybody since the night of Vine Street Victorian Christmas in Paso Robles in December 2012.

As previously revealed, I made the Dean's List last spring, but did not achieve that this fall quarter.

Something Else I Didn't Do But Instead Did Do

I have not managed to loose any weight this year (especially in the summer) as I did in 2014 when I lost 25 lbs. to go from 265 down to 240 lbs which I gained back my first quarter at Cal Poly. What I did manage to do this year is gain 25 lbs. placing me at a whopping 290 lbs., the heaviest I have ever been in my life. Although I am heavy I carry this weight fairly well and visually pass for being less albeit still overweight. However, this is not a good development in my life and will kill me eventually if I do not take corrective action. I do not exercise nearly enough. I do avoid processed foods and carbs to a reasonable degree, but I also eat for energy quite often and during times I am not exercising but rather studying. I also do not sleep right by being a night owl and often not getting enough hours of sleep per night. All of this contributes to my weight gain. This has become a battle for my life.

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