Thursday, March 30, 2006

10 out of 10 for effort

Real blunders from real student papers. Apparently. I can't find the original sources for either article, sorry.

According to this site, the first one was compiled by Anders Hendricksson (that first link misspells his name) using extracts from student papers at McMaster University and the University of Alberta, Canada. It appeared in the Wilson Quarterly, Spring 1983, and Mr Hendricksson later published a book using the same or similar material - Non Campus Mentis: World History According to College Students.

And I've got no further info on the second one. So, without further ado: some excerpts!

After a revival of infantile commerce slowly creeped into Europe merchants appeared. They roamed from town to town exposing themselves and organizing big fairies in the countryside. Mideval people were violent. Murder during this period was nothing. Everybody killed someone.
The Reformation happened when German nobles resented the idea that tithes were going to Papal France or the Pope thus enriching Catholic coiffures. An angry Martin Luther nailed 95 theocrats to a church door.
The enlightenment was a reasonable time. Voltaire wrote a book called Candy that got him into trouble with Frederick the Great. Philosophers were unknown yet and the fundamental stake was one of religious toleration slightly confused with defeatism.
Great Brittian, the USA and other European countrys had demicratic leanings. The middle class was tired and needed a rest. The old order could see the lid holding down new ideas beginning to shake. Among the goals of the chartists were universal suferage and an anal parliament. Voting was to be done by ballad.
Pharaoh forced the Hebrew slaves to make bread without straw. Moses led them to the Red Sea, where they made unleavened bread, which is bread made without any ingredients. Afterwards, Moses went up on Mount Cyanide to get the ten commandments. David was a Hebrew king skilled at playing the liar. He fought with the Philatelists, a race of people who lived in Biblical times. Solomon, one of David's sons, had 500 wives and 500 porcupines.
Without the Greeks we wouldn't have history. The Greeks invented three kinds of columns - Corinthian, Doric, and Ironic. They also had myths. A myth is a female moth. One myth says that the mother of Achilles dipped him in the River Stynx until he became intollerable. Achilles appears in The Illiad, by Homer. Homer also wrote the Oddity, in which Penelope was the last hardship that Ulysses endured on his journey. Actually, Homer was not written by Homer but by another man of that name.
In the Olympic Games, Greeks ran races, jumped, hurled the biscuits and threw the java. The reward to the victor was a coral wreath. The government of Athens was democratic because people took the law into their own hands. There were no wars in Greece, as the mountains were so high that they couldn't climb over to see what their neighbors were doing.
History calls people Romans because they never stayed in one place for very long.
Then came the Middle Ages. King Alfred conquered the Dames, King Arthur lived in the Age of Shivery, King Harold mustarded his troops before the Battle of Hastings, Joan of Arc was cannonized by Bernard Shaw, and victims of the Black Death grew boobs on their necks. Finally the Magna Carta provided that no free man should be hanged twice for the same offense.
The government of England was a limited mockery. Henry VIII found walking difficult because he had an abbess on his knee.
The next great author was John Milton. Milton wrote Paradise Lost. Then his wife died and he wrote Paradise Regained.
George Washington married Martha Curtis and in due time became the Father of Our Country.
On the night of April 14, 1865, Lincoln went to the theater and got shot in his seat by one of the actors in a moving picture show. The believed assinator was John Wilkes Booth, a supposingly insane actor. This ruined Booth's career.
Meanwhile in Europe, the enlightenment was a reasonable time. Voltare invented electricity and also wrote a book called Candy. Gravity was invented by Isaac Walton. It is chiefly noticeable in the Autumn, when the apples are falling off the trees.
Bach was the most famous composer in the world. and so was Handel. Handel was half German, half Italian, and half English.


:) Bravo, I say. Why be right when you can be funny?

Edit: I've just noticed: two lots of "the enlightenment was a reasonable time", and not identical either. Hmph! Not impressed.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


New Yorker cartoon by Leo Cullum. From Cartoonbank; originally published 9 May 2005.

Howdy, reader. I'm turning comments off for a while, and it's not because (a) I don't care what you think, it's because (b) I don't care what you think at this time. There's a subtle but important difference: the second option makes me look less self-centred and bitchlike than the other, and that makes it the best.

Best wishes to you, though. Please have a nice Sunday.

Monday, March 13, 2006

So teeny-weeny!

I found this feather on the edge of the bird bath outside this morning and, after going right through my identify-a-bird book, can say with some confidence that this tiny feather comes from a tiny bird.
Can't find them in the book, damn it. These birds splash around in the water a lot, and they're very cute, they're very little, they're kind of brownish and have some red on the back of their necks, or on top of their heads, or maybe it's under their throats? There's a bit of red on them somewhere, of this I'm almost sure. I'll try the book again next time there's a real bird out the window to refer to. It would be nice to know what they're called.


Red-browed Firetail (Neochmia temporalis)

Open Universities Australia: 2

I’m now into Week 3 of my philosophy unit and just starting to settle in. The first week was an introduction to the online process, and the official lecture period started last week, though the beauty of studying this way is that you can listen to the lectures and participate in the "tutorials" (ie. online discussions) whenever you want.

Here, for the record, is the story so far:

- The study materials arrived a week early (they were due a week before the start of semester, called a "study period" at OUA) and I was really excited about it. But the mail arrives in the middle of the day here, and I made the mistake of setting the envelope aside, unopened, so I could take a more leisurely look at everything that night. Somewhere during the afternoon I got scared about opening the envelope at all. (I don't know how or why I've become such a twerp, but sometimes it seems like I'm scared of everything, even good things.) Curiosity finally took over though, a day or two later, and revealed a Student Information Handbook, some form letters, and two CDs, one containing all the lectures, and the other the software which might be required for accessing online study (Adobe Acrobat Reader, QuickTime, and Shockwave/Flashplayer) and a list of Frequently Asked Questions. The material came from Macquarie University. I don't know what role Open Universities Australia (OUA) plays in setting these things up, but it seems that all study is conducted through the individual universities themselves. I've got a Macquarie uni email account, access to the Macquarie Uni library, the course is run by Macquarie uni staff... So far the only thing to come from OUA is the confirmation-of-enrolment letter, so I'm guessing it acts as a type of education broker or agent.

- The first problem: the CDs wouldn't run automatically when inserted in the CD-ROM. No problem though, because there were instructions for opening them through "My Computer" on the desktop.

- Next problem: I couldn't access the Macquarie student portal. Some of the relevant addresses in the study materials package were wrong, and it took an hour or two to find the correct place to apply for my password to login to the site. When I finally got the password and tried logging in, it wouldn't work: incorrect password. Tried again. Incorrect password. I knew it was NOT incorrect, so I left it for an hour and tried again. Incorrect password. Gave up and tried again the next day. Incorrect password. Sent an email to IT help and waited for a day or two to be told I should be using the password I HAD been using. Tried again. It worked. (And no, Caps Lock hadn't been on, if that's what you're thinking.) That afternoon a letter arrived to tell me my password. Thank you, I thought. Very timely.

- The unit has its own web site, providing access to the study guide, lecture notes, reading lists, assorted helpful bits and pieces (a calendar, a timeline, space for notes) and a discussion board. We're required to listen to each week's lectures on CD, read the lecture notes, go through the readings available online from the library, and discuss the topics via the discussion board, where participation is compulsory and worth 10% of the unit's assessment.

- Next problem: (and according to one of the students it happens every study period) the readings weren't available from the library. The clued-up student had saved his own copies before the end of the last study period, and kindly made them available to the rest of us by posting them as attachments to the discussion board.

- Next problem: making comments on the discussion board. This is similar to making blog comments, thank God, so at least I know how to, but it was weird at first too, and continues to be so still. I posted my first question at the end of Week 1, feeling okay about it, but then in the hours and days later I got scared about going back to check the thread. I kept avoiding it, and getting more nervous about going back, and the longer it went on, the worse it got. In the end it took me five days to get back there. And it wasn't that I was worried my question might look stupid, or that I lack confidence in my own ideas, because if anything I'm overly confident in that department and occasionally think I'm completely brilliant. It was more just general fear about nothing in particular, and probably just nervousness about starting. When I finally went back I posted a message about it, and a second-year student said that she'd felt the same way when she first started. I don't know why it helps to know this - that I'm not the only one who ever felt this way - but it did help, so bless her. (And in another comment thread she said I'm the same age as her mother, which was slightly perturbing and funny at the same time, so bless her mum too :) )

- And now, the first essay is due at the end of Week 4. The last time I wrote an essay was in 1995, and this is the first time I've ever had a computer to use for the purpose. Bloody hell, the difference! Copying and pasting... footnotes... flipping between one document and another... And researching online?! Oh, the joy! Having access to the uni library databases is (I'm not joking) worth the cost of enrolment, just for that alone. I could sit here all day just collecting details of journal articles I'll some day never get around to reading, and arranging them all in nice neat bibliographies. (It takes a certain type of person to find happiness in making a nice neat bibliography, you know. Generally speaking, we're known as weirdos, I think.)

- My classmates are a varied lot. Ages range from 16 to a self-described "over the hill". Locations include most states and territories in Australia plus the Netherlands, New Zealand, Germany and Poland. Occupationally-speaking, we have an engineer, an astrology teacher, an aromatherapist/ryoduraku practitioner, an office worker in the retail industry, an admin worker in the adult industry, a teacher, a public service manager, a musician, two nurses (both men), many students (including at least two teenage home-schoolers) and someone who in his spare time impersonates Michael Jackson. So far there are 42 students (some only started yesterday, it seems), including one mother and daughter, and one husband and wife. Our tutor seems like a lovely chap, and he's been very encouraging so far. I like the way he writes too; he can explain complicated things very well. It's his job to patrol the discussions, and he also gets involved himself, which is good; he seems to know what he's talking about. A lot of people haven't said much (or even anything) yet, and a few people have said a lot. In fact, a couple have been thumping their chests about just how much they know (which seems to be a lot) and I'm guessing that in the beginning this had a temporarily-demoralising effect over the rest of the class. Isn't it always the way, though? It happens in on-campus tutes as well. I blame humans. All of us. We're just so damn crappy when you get right down to it.

Oh, shut up. I'm joking :)