Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"tsukuru" 作る which is "to make/create".  I didn't mention last time that I was on my final practicum week.  In reality, I've been off practicum since Apr 16th and from Apr 19th - May 7th I'm actually teaching at Science World, which is a great experience in itself.

Anyway, back to the practicum.  It was a lot of work (like, a lot) but I enjoyed it for the most part.  Admittedly I had a lot of very helpful people around me, supporting my progress through the ten weeks and while the prep work never got any easier, I did enjoy my experience in the classroom for the most part.  It wasn't always easy and I wasn't always kind, but most of the time I left the classroom feeling pretty good about what I did in the classroom and how I was relating to the students.

I got some useful and positive feedback from them which I'll compile for you next week.

But for now, I wanted to show you some of the great pieces of work that some of my students made and graciously allowed me to keep (or in one case, presented me with as a gift).

In my grade 9 class' human reproductive system unit, the students put together a small project on the "Journey of the Gametes", where they traced the path in the development of a sperm or egg cell.  A pair of students put together this big picture book called...

It's actually a neat little read and it was surprising when the two of them offered it to me as a present since I figured they would've wanted to keep it considering all the work they put into it.  Here's a look at what they put on the inside.

For my Biology 11 class' algae unit, I had the students work in groups to build 3D models of algae.  One of the groups paper mache'd welding rod and painted them red to make a rather good red algae model.

Along with their model they had to put together a small info booklet/poster and on an "Algae Fair" day when the students had to present their projects, they all voted for the best booklet and it came down to a tie followed by a vote.  This booklet lost the tie but I still think it's very well put together and very well done.

Along with the best booklet, there was a vote for the best model and this one, of a dinoflagellate, won.  Made from a paper mache'd balloon, it had walnut shells on the outside (because the outside of a dinoflagellate is rough) with cell structures strung on the inside.  The "face" is because I said the model could be anthropomorphic if they wanted heh...

The amount of work that some of the students put in and the amount of creativity some of them show when given a chance really impresses me.  The great thing about having these with me is that, as many have suggested, I can show them the next time I give the project to another class and that'll help raise the level of work that the next group does.  So here's to hoping that this is only the beginning...

Friday, 16 April 2010

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"kaminari" 雷 which means both thunder AND lightning.  And this is completely true; they aren't distinct terms like they are in English.  I asked once while I was in Japan, what's the word for just the sound component- "kaminari"...  So then I asked about the light component- "kaminari"...  Then I asked how they would talk about each part separately- "Don't they always happen together?"...  Which I suppose, in a profound way, is very true.

I even asked is "kami" was lightning and "nari" was thunder...  I was just met with an incredulous look most likely reserved for people butchering another's mother tongue...  It was worth a try at least =P...

Regardless, this week in my Science 9 class, we learned about static electricity and one of the classes included various demos with the Van de Graaff generator.  It was a blast with lots of neat demos that involved this mystical, invisible force that could move things.

Even better was when we got the charges to jump between students, shocking them with what is basically lightning.

The crowning acheivement, however, was when I managed to jump a spark between my finger and a bunsen burner to get the gas to ignite.  I told the class I'd only try 3 times (it's not really that fun to have sparks coarsing through your body so often) and, lo and behold, it lit on the 3rd try.

And who says science isn't fun? =P...

Monday, 5 April 2010

Your Japanese word of the week is...

"azakeru" 嘲る which is "to mock/ridicule".  No, this isn't about me mocking my students or the other way around.  This is more about the state of the car market currently.

As I mentioned last week, I went to the Vancouver International Auto Show with fellow car friends and, while lacking in truly exceptional cars, there was endless scope for us to make fun of bad ones.  We got into lots of different ones and pushed buttons, turned dials, knocked on panels, and ran our fingers over surfaces.  What did we look for?  A generally high quality feel.  A button should "press" with a dampened solid feel, not "click" in a plasticky sound.  Dials should turn smoothly with consistent resistence, not stiff at the start and sticky like it was set in molasses.  The same goes for materials- panels and surfaces should feel substantial and pleasant to touch, not feel and sound like plastic painted to look like wood.

In fact, high end luxury car makers actually spend money into research and development on what kind of pressure it should take to turn a dial, what kind of sound each button should make, and what materials to use.

So it's no surprise that the Europeans seem to do it best, with the Japanese in a close second. It's also not surprising that expensive cars tend to do it better.

What ~IS~ surprising is just how poor some cars are built, despite being expensive.  Not to sound biased, but the majority of these were American cars.  A Lincoln Navigator is, for example, atrociously put together.  Door handles have visible seams where the plastic was moulded together; the gauges are incredibly small and hard to read; the covers for the storage compartments rattle and sound cheap.

Similarly, the Lincoln Mk S is just as bad.  The materials are woeful, the gaps in the panels are consistent only in their inconsistency, and the feel of all the controls the driver touches just reeks of budgetary constraints.  The worst part is that, at $66,000 as displayed at the Auto Show, it's not cheap.  In fact, you can get the ridiculously fast and aggressive Mercedes C63 AMG for ~LESS~ money which, despite being a bit smaller in the back, is a no-brainer in terms of choice.  And if you opt out of the performance, you can buy a similarly equipped Audi or Lexus for less as well.

Then again, it's not just the Americans.  One of the most hideous cars of the show, the Porsche Panamera, is equally affected.  All the controls feel fine up front, but some of the stuff in the back seats are just awful.  The lid for the cupholder, for example, springs open with a tinny "clack" and the cover for the storage area only manages to open itself halfway before getting stuck.  That kind of stuff is unacceptable for cars costing $50,000, let alone $100,000.

Perhaps some people don't care.  Perhaps some people don't have a chance to compare.  But even so, most people should have a sense of what feels expensive to them.  But more critical than that, the upper management of these companies shouldn't settle for second rate standards.