ENTRY 0013, June 15, 2004

Greetins, Cretins!

Well, quite a bit of time has passed again since my last entry.  The floor is done and beautiful.  However, in true Owen Male fashion, I have not yet finished the baseboards.  I have two sections, the wall baseboards in the dining area, and the under-cabinet baseboards.  I had the material for the wall baseboards.  However, a major equipment failuire in the router department destroyed the piece.  I bought more, but have not yet stained and cut it.  It is on my "to do" list, but is not yet on my "doing it now" list.  Someday soon.  Right now I'm working on getting the garage organized.  Sheila is bringing home her entire classroom, and I am bringing home most of mine.  It is going to be a monumental task to fit it all in the garage, so I must organize what is there before anything else. 

My school got out last Friday.  Sheila's gets out this Friday.  I'm using this week to do the garage.  Believe me, it will take the entire time.  I have really made a mess of my side.  There are rumors that a workbench exists, but I have not seen it in so long that I think it may only be a legend...  I'm hoping to install a door in the side, so I can access the side yard without going through the house.  Half of my work is done in the garage, half in the side yard.  A door would be nice.  Of course, this must wait until the garage is organized and all the school stuff stored.

After that comes the patio and my hobby area, then the yard/garden, then the staining and installation of the baseboards.  Somewhere in there we have a trip to England and France (number 10!) and a trip to Vegas.  I don't know how most people do it.  I need all the free time in the summer, and most folks just don't have it!


As for school, as I mentioned earlier, I kissed my kids goodbye last Friday.  I have to say, I am getting worried.  Our culture is taking its toll on our kids.  I don't mean that they are becoming corrupted by all the naughty images on TV. There is however, something far more insidious.  Many of our kids seem to have a MASSIVE sense of entitlement.  They expect that showing up is enough to get a passing grade in class, and they get mad if that's not the case.  I don't know how often this year I passed out progress reports to the kids, and some kid who's missing more than half of his/her work would come up and ask why the grade on the report was so low.  Then the kid would turn in one of perhaps fourteen missing assignments and ask about the grade.  Then the kid would get mad that the grade had not significantly increased.  It is amazing.  It is shocking.  It is depressing.  I hope it gets better, but I'm not sure what would help. 

Part of it, I'm sure, is the fact that this generation has had very little in the way of hardship.  Hardship, sad to say, is a great teacher.  Think about it.  "The Greatest Generation" were those people who lived through the Great Depression, only to then go through World War II.  Massive hardship.  It built character.  Today's kids generally face much less hardship.  As a result they have much less character.  Many kids also seem to have little in the way of ethics.  Cheating is fine.  Stealing is fine.  I had more things stolen from me this year than all my past years of school combined.  Nothing overly major, but lots of little things.  Pens and markers always disappear.  However, now it's other things.  I share my room with another teacher.  Her class requires kids to be around the front desk, where I store lots of my little geegaws.  Lots of little things disappeared as a result.  science toys were the most common.  However, I also have a drawer that holds all the pens and pencils that I sell.  (Yes I sell pens and pencils. I figure kids can bring them from home, but if they don't have one in class, they can buy one from me, and then they don't have to worry about returning them.)  Lots of these pens and pencils have disappeared.  Also, lots of the money I collected. I used to take the money out every week or two. It could add up.  After you lose $10 a couple of times, you start getting just a bit paranoid.  I started taking it out every night, and hiding the change in a paperclip box. 


What else?  Well, I am writing this on a new computer.  I was working on my project for my Geology class and the computer locked up.  Nothing unusual.  It is a Gateway, running Windows ME.  Sucky company, sucky OS.  So I shut down the computer.  As usual, it does not respond, so I try the three-finger salute.  Nothing.  So I do a manual shutdown.  Sadly, this is common, too.  When I start up the computer, however, I get an unusual message.  "Error loading Explorer.exe, you must reinstall Windows"  Reinstall windows?  Crap!  That will take a while. So I get out the CDs that Gatway sent with the computer and begin the reinstall process.  And promptly halts the reinstall process.  It lets me know that it can't reinstall windows.  Double crap!  I call Gateway.  One thing I have to give them is the fact that they do have great technical support.  I just wish I did not have to call them so often.  Anyway the tech has me try a few things.  None of them work.  Triple Crap!  Finally he concludes that the harddrive needs to be reformatted before windows can be reinstalled.  Quadruple crap!  Not to worry, I have Norton Ghost.  I can restore.

So I go through the process of blanking the harddrive. Sheila is sitting in her chair, behind me, watching TV.  She says to me "Once you get that damn thing online, I need to use it!"  So, it takes a total of 11 hours from the failure until I have the computer fully armed and operational.  We did lose quite a bit of material, but nothing mission critical.  I announce that the computer is ready and Sheila tells me to get up, she has important work to do.  I sit down in my chair and watch the news.  About 15 minutes later Sheila turns to me and says "Do you want one gig of ram, or is 512 megs enough?"  I turn to look at her and see that she is on the Dell website.  She has ordered a sweet new computer for us, with the full gig of ram, as I eventually replied.  I use Seti@home as a benchmark for computer performance.  The URL is http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/ This program allows your computer to search for signals coming from other civilizations. So far, nothing, but we have only been looking for a relatively short time.  Anyway, this program lets your computer analyze data collected from the Arecibo Dish.  A data unit is a standard size and is scanned by the computer in a standard manner.  This lets you set a kind of benchmark for your machine. 

My first machine to run Seti@home was a Pentium 90.  It started running the program on November 3, 1999.  It took that maching about 40 hours to process a single data set.  The next machine, a Pentium 4 - 1 Ghz, took about 8.  This new machine, a Pentuim 4 - 3Ghz does the same job in just over 2.  Amazing.  Of course, I have to explain to my students that what is now old was once State Of The Art.  With processor speed, I equate it to miles per hour.  My first PC, an 8088, operated at 8Mhz.  If you equate that with 8MPH, then my current computer is blazing along at 3,000 MPH.  That the kids can understand.  They also understand money.  When I explain that my first harddrive was a 20 meg drive, they think that's hilarious.  When I explain that I got it fot the bargain price of $500 because the 40 megs had just come out, they lose it totally.  My flash drive, which holds 512 megs cost less than 1/5 as much.  Or, to look at it another way.  My first storage device cost me $25 per megabyte.  The price is now down to $.16 per meg.  And I can carry the drive in my pocket and use it on multiple machines...

And here are my stats on Seti@home: 
Your credit:
Name (and URL) Walt Owen User Profile
Results Received 12185
Total CPU Time 38.518 years
Average CPU Time per work unit 27 hr 41 min 28.9 sec
Average results received per day 7.23
Last result returned: Wed Jun 16 05:27:08 2004 UTC
Registered on: Wed Nov 3 22:44:38 1999 UTC
  View Registration Class
SETI@home user for: 4.620 years
  View User Profile
Your group info:
You do not currently belong to a group.
You are not currently the founder of any teams.
Your rank: (based on current workunits received)
Your rank out of 5031535 total users is: 14940th place.
The number of users who have this rank: 2
You have completed more work units than 99.703% of our users.

Anyway, check out Seti@home.  It is a great hope to science, and as Carl Sagan said in "Contact"  Could lead to the most important discovery in the history of history.

Anyway, what's new?

-Bush is still a lying moron, and his people are covering for him, big time.  More books are coming out explaining how Bush is just not a good guy.

-We have had a major prison scandal.  The muslim world hates us even more now, thanks to this.  Thanks mr. Resident!

-We still have two working rovers on Mars.  That is still Too Cool For Words.  One is descending into a crater.  It might not be able to get out, but it well into "Golden time" and might learn quite a bit...

-I finished my Geology class.  Got an "A".  I expected as much.  On the pretest, which we took on the first day of class, I got 136 out of 140.  The posttest was even better.  I did learn a few interesting things along the way.

-Gas prices are MUCH higher than they should be.  All the news is talking about the last time crude oil cost this much.  Whenever that happened, gas didn't go up to $2.37 a gallon.  What gives this time around???

-It turns out that Enron really was resopnsible for the power problems in California.  We now have the tapes.  Can we dump AHHHHNUULLLD and get Grey Davis back in his rightful place?

-Bubba Ho-Tep is out on DVD for a limited time.  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0281686/  I mean, who could not like a movie where Elvis Presley (Played by Bruce Campbell of Evil Dead fame) and John F. Kennedy (played by Ossie Davis) team up to fight a mummy that is sucking the life out of the residents of the retirement home where they live?

Well, I gotta run.

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