Writer’s Workshop: Geometry and Me

I never actually flunked a class. I had one incident in college, which I’ve already discussed here, where I came close, but I’m sure the professor took pity on me.

The other time I almost flunked was in high school with Geometry.

I transferred to a different high school in sophomore year. The summer before starting there, I took a bunch of placement tests, then met with the transfer counselor to register for school.

My new school had a level system, where level 4 was the top level (there was a 5 level for Advanced Placement classes) and level 1 was for those who had learning disabilites. Level 3 was for kids who were fairly bright but not smart enough for level 4. I had always been in the top classes, so I assumed that I would be placed in level 4 in everything. So, it was a shock to my ego when I learned that I would be placed in level 3 classes, and I was livid when the counselor told me that he was recommending that I be placed in level 3 Geometry. I was fantastic in Algebra, even mastering trigonometry and matrices and determinants when I took Algebra 2 as a freshman. Plus, I had heard all my life that I was some kind of a math genius and just assumed that I’d be placed in level 4. I argued my case with the guy, and finally he agreed to put me in level 4.

After a week or so of level 4 Geometry, I realized that the counselor was probably right, that I probably should have taken level 3, and I even thought that maybe I should slip back to level 2. But, I stayed with it, and was pulling a solid C by the end of the first semester. At the end of the semester, we were gien the option of continuing with level 4 or moving to a more advanced level 4. Not content to settle for level 4, I asked to be moved to the more advanced class, and the teacher (who was also the department head and with whom I had butted heads on more than one occasion) was more than happy to let me go.

That was a huge mistake.

I liked my new teacher a whole lot more, but the class moved at an even more accelerated pace and I was totally lost. By the time I got the hang of one topic, the class had already completed another topic and was two topics ahead. I was floundering. The teacher did her best to help me get through, even gave me a B on a test on which I probably deserved a C, but in the end, I ended up with a low D, barely above flunking. (Thank heaven for the gift B.)

I learned my lesson: I really should have gone with level 3…

Writers Workshop: Vanished Chicagoland Stories, The Podcast

Since one of our prompts today is "Tell us about a podcast you enjoy," I thought I’d talk about one that a friend of mine does. "Friend" might be pushing it, since I’ve never met him in person, only through his blog, YouTube channels, and Facebook pages, but the thing that brought us together was our memories of places and businesses in Chicago that are no longer around.

Vanished Chicagoland Stories: The Podcast is the creation of Pete Kastanes, who grew up in Chicago. He has a number of pages on Facebook, the chief one being Vanished Chicagoland, where he shares advertisements and photos of packages and other ephemera from businesses that no longer exist.

Admittedly, if you didn’t grow up in Chicago, not much of it makes sense. The members of the VC group, on the other hand, share memories of their experiences with the businesses and products. A picture of a Christmas box from Marshall Field’s will result in people telling stories of things they got in similar boxes; a picture of a business like Robert Hall will lead to a discussion about having gone to that store, people who worked there or at one of the other locations, and so on.

The podcast grew out of memories like that. He’s recorded 220 episodes, which can be found on YouTube and pretty much wherever you get your podcasts from (I get it on Spotify). He chooses a topic and chats about it, and will play commercials where they’re relevant. Occasionally, he talks a little about himself: he’s a proud Greek and a prostate cancer survivor.

He has a second podcast called TV Oblivion, where he talks about TV shows that have been forgotten, in case you’re interested….

Writers Workshop: Practice What You Preach

Our last prompt for today was "Look into your archives. What were you blogging about a year ago around this time? Are you still dealing with the same thing? Your thoughts?"

Well, wouldn’t you know it: when I went back to exactly one year ago, I found this, where I said that, because of some product decisions they made, I was going to switch from Google Chrome as my browser to one less prone to taking my personal information and using it for their own nefarious purposes. Then, I realized that I was, in fact, back to using Google Chrome as my browser.

Why, you ask? Because most software developers creating browser extensions create them first for Chrome, because more people use Chrome than any other browser. In some cases, they then forget to develop extensions for any other browser except for Microsoft Edge and Safari, the ones delivered with Windows 11 and MacOS.

Fortunately, the Brave browser is built on the Chrome code base, and thus the extensions written for Google Chrome also work on Brave. I’ve had Brave installed for a while, and it was a simple matter to shut down and uninstall Chrome and make Brave my browser du jour. I figure, the less I allow Google into my life, the less opportunity they have to take my personal data and do nasty stuff with it.

I tend to change browsers almost as often as I change my underwear, so who knows what I’ll be using next year at this time?

Writer’s Workshop: My Contribution To Science

The prompt I’m choosing today is "Share about a time you responded to an ad in a paper." A few things before we start:

  • This is a true story, and not one I’m especially proud of.
  • It has to do with my response to a news story (not really an ad) in the Daily Northwestern when I was a sophomore (specifically Spring Quarter 1976).
  • It’s definitely not safe for work, and not for our younger and more sensitive readers.
  • Just to be on the safe side, I’m putting it behind a cut tag…
Continue reading “Writer’s Workshop: My Contribution To Science”

Writer’s Workshop: The Long Way Home

I didn’t drive until I was 28, which meant I was dependent on public transit, taxis, or other people to pick me up and get me places. If I was out somewhere at night, I would have to make sure to get to the end of the Evanston CTA line (now the Purple line) before 1 AM, or there were no taxis available and my stepfather would have to get up and drive over and get me.

One Saturday, I was told that there would be no one at home to get me if I got to the train station too late to get a taxi, so I had better be sure to watch my time. Needless to say, while I left my girlfried’s house in plenty of time to make all my connections, the CTA was less than cooperative, and I managed to get to the train station a little too late to get a taxi.

As I was standing outside, wondering what the hell I was going to do, a friend of mine came bopping out of the station. Thinking I could get a ride with whoever was picking him up, I asked how he was getting home. "I’m gonna walk," he said.

I balked at the idea: I had been up early to work, had been on my feet all day, was still dressed for work, and while my date had been good, I was very tired and had to be up by 10 the next morning (Sunday) so I could get to work by noon the next day. But, I reasoned, I really didn’t have much choice, and besides, I had a full pack of cigarettes….

So, we set off, not going too fast, but not dawdling, either. We had one of those long, rambling, philosophical discussions along the way, the kind 19-year-old boys have when it’s very late and they have to walk home. We got to where he had to go one way and I had to go another, said goodbye and parted company. I finally walked in the door of my house at a little after 3 AM, went to bed and right to sleep.

I got up the next morning and Mom was furious. "And just where the hell were you until 3 AM?" I said, "well, you said there’d be no one to give me a ride if I missed the taxis, so I walked home."

Suddenly, I was her poor child. "Oh, honey, are you all right? You must be exhausted. Why don’t you take the day off today?" As tempting as it was, I needed the money. So I got dressed, walked to work (a little over a mile), was on my feet all day, then walked home.

Now I was tired. My stepfather said that he measured the distance I had walked, and came up with just under six miles. And I realized, walking with someone at 2 AM and having a long discussion isn’t really all that bad.

Not that I was willing to do it any time soon after that.