The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

In case you were wondering …

Monday 13 December 2004 at 10:08 pm

To summarise the last week or so of Hourann-ness, one might be tempted to write thusly:

  • Half-Life 2 is awesome. Like, mate, fully sick. Even on an ancient & dodgy box like mine, it actually runs smoothly (albeit at lowest quality), which makes it quite possibly the only recent and cool game that my computer is able to run. Mmmmm, headcrab …
  • I have managed to brainwash enough of the right people into thinking that I’m cool, that I’ve been invited to do honours in stuff! This is amazing … although it’d be a tad more amazing if I’d actually finished my degree and was able to do honours. Still, receiving a (personally signed!) letter from the head of Maths was a rather momentous event.
  • While I’m being self-congratulatory … OMG I GOT 85 IN 3P7! That little bribe *ahem* positive incentive, er, must have worked. (If you know anything about 3P7 Rings and Number Theory, you know why this counts as a Major Achievement.)
  • There is (egad!) photographic evidence that I did, in fact, work at the ASCILITE conference, and I did, in fact, receive free alcohol as a result.
  • Big Man Cam is back from Florida, so all is well with the Universe again.
  • I am a slack bastard, particularly when it comes to birthday presents. This is not a reference to anyone in particular. No. Of course not!

ASCILITE day 3: it works if you press the right button …

Wednesday 8 December 2004 at 9:39 pm

Note to self: learn to press the right buttons and unplug the right cables when setting up gear in lecture theatres. Stuff tends not to work if you don’t (not that I’d ever make a mistake like that, of course …).

Yet even though all of us tech staff stuffed things up quite a few times over the last three days (like when one of the projectors died yesterday, or the time that every machine in the computer lab set aside for delegates suddenly froze), someone still saw fit to congratulate us at the final speech today. We were even each given a bottle of the “special” conference wine! Perhaps everyone was just in a congratulatory mood, what with it being the last day and all.

Also presented at that speech were a bunch of other prizes, for what the committee thought to be the most impressive papers. But they failed to include a special prize for coolness, which I’d have awarded to the group of committee members (Perth academics, all of them) who decided it’d be nice to sing something at the conference dinner last night. Coincidentally, they also decided to use my venue for their lunchtime rehearsal yesterday; while I sat in shock, they belted out a somewhat modified version of “Home On The Range”. I was actually reasonably impressed — for a bunch of non-musicians, they were able to hold a tune pretty well, and it wasn’t sounding at all bad by the end of their rehearsal. I never knew that there existed academics who could sing!

Even more amusing, though, was their attempt at an encore this afternoon, at the end-of-conference function while everyone was lapping up the free beer (man, this ASCILITE mob are a bunch of borderline alcos …). Suffice to say, the singing group that had me so amazed yesterday was, er, a tad underwhelming when half their members were sloshed :-)

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ASCILITE day 2: food glorious food!

Tuesday 7 December 2004 at 8:17 pm

So my major discoveries after my second day at an academic conference are …

  • Educational theory is much harder to understand — and uses much more complex jargon — than I’d previously thought. Constructivist pedagogy, indeed.
  • Uni lecturers are worse than students when it comes to leaving rubbish in lecture theatres. They’re also worse than us at turning off or silent-erising their phones (heck, even one of the speakers today admitted his phone was on!). And yet they complain about us!
  • Everyone from Sydney thinks that Perth weather is really hot, even though Sydney’s supposed to have a similar climate (and besides, it wasn’t that hot today …)
  • Despite being supplied by Guild catering, the free food is awesome. Tim Tams (!), blueberry muffins, scones with jam and cream … dang it, I have to get me some more of these cushy conference jobs!
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The Future Is Now!

Monday 6 December 2004 at 9:14 pm

So my first impression from my first-ever visit to an academic conference (even though I ain’t no academic) is that my employers should take greater care when printing name-tags. Or maybe they did take due care, and I have in fact become trapped in a bubble in the space-time continuum, catapulting me forth some eighteen thousand years. (whoa, dude!)

Curiously enough, the keynote speaker made mention of “realising potentialities latent in human consciousness”, which had me thinking I’d heard that before. Sure enough, he was quoting writings of the Bahá’í faith, which I’ve encountered in the past (yes Mum, I did learn something in that philosophy of religion class!). His ideas certainly have merit — according to him, for example, the Future of TV ™ is interactive (yay!) — but I have to say, that choice of words seems just as dodgy now as when I first read them.

Overall, the day was mostly non-eventful; not the exciting version A that I predicted yesterday, but also not the boring version B. Even though the conference is about teaching uni students using computers, I’ve actually managed to learn some stuff that’s relevant to my work as a tech support person, like how research confirms that academic staff don’t like centralised training and support organisations. And I get free food, so it’s hardly a complete loss :-)

I have also re-learned the principle that was first taught to me by three years of watching lecturers struggle with lecture theatre gear: just because they’re smart and all, doesn’t mean they understand the concept that when you stand back from a microphone, it will fail to pick up your voice. But then, I guess that’s why I’m there.

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A Monday for all to love

Sunday 5 December 2004 at 11:26 pm

So tomorrow is Monday the 6th, which means I temporarily cease being a Mac-support badger and start being an AV helperer at the ASCILITE conference being held at UWA for the next three days. I predict two possibilities: the day will either be (a) an exciting opportunity to listen to several cool speakers, or (b) mind-numbingly boring, but punctuated by five minutes of setting up each speaker’s laptop before their talk. I do hope it’s the former, but indications so far are not good …

Turns out tomorrow is a big day for a few others, too … namely Cam, who’ll venture forth on his 35-hour flight home (hang in there mate!), and Daniel, who just might (deity permitting) find out about the Really Scary Surprise Thing that is happening to him (mwah ha ha haaa!). Does this make it the Super Dooper Monday Of Wonderful Shared Fun or something like that?

(No, you were not supposed to answer that.)

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