Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The New Semester

The first week of Spring semester is over, so it can be officially determined that the classes are good. The two lecture classes are old school, however - very little student interaction, which is why they are "good", and not great. Interactive classes, that highly encourage student participation, have been the most interesting classes the last year and a half.

The two lecture classes this semester are on media history, and advertising and society. The "textbooks", that is to say, the required reading, seems really diverse. Luckily we've been able to avoid too many textbook-ie textbooks. You know, the kind that spew a bunch of terms and years at you to memorize instead of teaching you to understand the implications of those terms and the things that happened in those years. Critical thinking is fun. Each will require a final paper (yay!).

The only other classroom class this semester is ballroom dancing, which is great as a stress reliever and as exercise. Having taken it ten years ago (from the same instructor, mind you), it seems easier. Maybe it's the confidence, maybe it's the other dance classes taken [like hip-hop], whatever it is, it's fun. Hopefully there will be real-life opportunities to use the skill.

Of the six classes total this semester, the three remaining are a bit different; two are independent study (one in communications, one in political science) which means they are self-directed reading. The first (the PoliSci) requires a weekly "conference" with the professor (the one from last semester's PoliSci class, and a favourite) to discuss elements in the reading. The first book of three (self-chosen) is Culture War? The Myth of the Polarized America by Morris Fiorina (not to be confused with Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America by James Hunter).  It's interesting, but perhaps a bit outdated, which means fresh new polls can be brought to the table for discussion. It's an easy read, and probably the easiest of the three. Jury is still out on whether or not, in 2015, the polarization is a myth. The other two are: Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences by John R. Hibbing, Kevin B. Smith, John R. Alford and Digital Disconnect by Robert W. McChesney. It should be a fun self-directed course with much learning.

The other independent study course requires twice the books, which...is fine. Each book requires a 4-5 page paper (not a "book report" or book review however). More like the critical reflections from the Knowledge, Truth and Reality class last Spring...but with different types of books related to communication topics. At the end a final paper is required that juxtaposes all of the reading...somehow. We've already blown through the first two, which were Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room by David Weinberger and Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. Both are really good books and recommended reads.
The papers related to them have yet to be written, but there's time, after all.
The four additional titles for this self-directed study course are: Advertising as Culture by Chris Wharton; The Age of Persuasion: How Marketing Ate Our Culture by Terry O'Reilly, Mike Tennant; Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder by David Weinberger and Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology by Neil Postman

As a quick recommendation of high caliber, this book: A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn, which is a text for media history, is stellar from the get-go. A pure pleasure to read. (hint: go out and buy a used copy! You can get them for less than $10 on Amazon if you're lucky)

Oh, by the way, all of the book links are to Goodreads, not Amazon. So feel free to check out what those titles are about without feeling pressure to purchase them. :-)

The last class for the semester is the internship, which is of digital graphic design nature. So far it seems fun and moderately challenging - and thankfully it pays, which is hard to find in an internship of any sort. It is a mere 12 hours a week, which is spread over Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The thing that makes this semester a bit different is that the decision was made to stay in the city Tuesday through Thursday, rather than drive the 80 mile round-trip each day.
One reason for this decision was the Tuesday night class is scheduled to end at 9pm. After a long day {9:30 am - 9 pm} of classes and working (media history, ballroom [15 minutes to eat lunch on the move] internship, fitting in the second job [30 minutes to eat dinner on the move] then going to advertising class) driving in the dark, long distances, exhausted, is a bad choice.
Staying in the city = good choice.
Obviously saving money on gas was a motive too.
Yes, prices are low. But when you make next to nothing, and actually, nothing after the money you DO make goes to household bills...it doesn't matter how low the gas prices are...unless it's free.
And gas isn't free.
So, we're back at The Mother's house midweek until the end of the semester, for a savings of around $300. Score. The long days means there's not a lot of time for socializing. Nobody is complaining. Luckily James is okay with it all, and he stays home to tend to the (2) cats, and of course go to work, which is only about 5 blocks from the house.
It's interesting, and different. So far, so good.
Two nights away from home for four months isn't really that much anyway...

So, that's it.
You can probably expect something interesting soon.

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