Friday, June 17, 2011

Mac'd Out

A few days ago, I was finally on a roll with my writing. I typed away furiously and was pleased with what I wrote. I went to save my work and screen just went blank. My heart skipped a beat. My muscles tensed. Flashbacks to when I lost my Masters thesis the night before it was due flooded my mind. I cautiously reached for the keyboard and pressed the spacebar.

Operating System Not Found.

WTF? I thought to myself … but tenderly pleaded with my Vaio. ‘Come on. You can do it. I’m sure you haven’t lost your operating system. It’s gotta be in there somewhere. Come on. Please.’

Pressed the escape key … Operating System Not Found.

I felt the tears welling in my eyes. I wasn’t completely panicked because fortunately just the day before I had backed up – not just my PhD work – I mean EVERYTHING! So, aside from losing the work I had done that morning, I knew that aspect of it wasn’t bad … it was the fact that my computer wasn’t working that was freaking me out. I can’t buy a new laptop. Not now. It’s not something I wanted to deal with at all.

I waited a while longer and pressed another button the keyboard. This time nothing at all happened.

I decided to just leave the computer and head to the gym. Escapism has always worked for me (or so I like to think).

When I came back there was still no life in my laptop. I decided to turn off the computer completely from the main power source. I waited ten minutes and tried again.

Well, whatdaya know? It worked. Word had retrieved the document I had been working on and all other files seemed to be in order.

So what happened? Who knows.

All I knew was that I was getting too close to the end of my PhD to really risk this happening again. I didn’t know what to do, but I thought – why not look for a new computer. Just in case.

I’ve been using a Sony Vaio for the past 5 years. Before that I used a Toshiba laptop. I loved both. I decided I wanted to stick to a Sony but I didn’t find anything that appealed to me. I ventured past the Mac store and I thought – let me just take a look. I have to admit, they were gorgeous. Sleek. Simple. Sexy.

But after having only ever used a PC would I be able to make a switch to a Mac? I was very hesitant.

So, I asked my friends – which one is better?

I was overwhelmed with the pro-Mac response. Out of 32 people who I spoke to, only 1 was completely pro-PC. Everyone else was pro-Mac.

Still, is it worth the price? I didn’t want to buy a MacBook. If I was going to buy a Mac I wanted it to be a desktop (since I already have a Vaio notebook to travel with). I was nervous about the compatibility of all my documents. Isn’t it a bit risky to make such a big move when I should be comfortable with my computer as I work on finishing my thesis? So many questions. I didn’t want to take the risk of my laptop breaking down without having a proper computer to work with … but … really? Hmmm … the indecisiveness went on for ages …

… well, not really. The next day I bought the Mac.

It’s been a few days that I’ve had it now and I LOVE IT!!

I’m still working out a few things, but overall, I have had absolutely no problem transitioning from a PC to a Mac. All my documents are in order. Whew. What a relief!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Two bags only, please

I am appalled at the number of plastic bags that are used to bag groceries at the grocery store. I have never understood why or how 12 plastic bags can be used for just 15 items. I totally agree with separating detergents and other non-edible goods from the edible ones, and I also understand keeping breakable/squishable (is that a word?!) items separate from heavier, more sturdy ones … but why do the cucumbers have to go in a separate bag from the cauliflower? Is it not possible to put the milk and

the salad dressing in the same bag? What is the logic behind not filling a bag up to the top before reaching for another one?

I haven’t really made a big deal about the overuse of plastic bags in the past. Inevitably I would reuse them at some point or another, so I didn’t really bother to say anything … but now, my plastic bag container has reached its limit and I have realized that I can’t use them fast enough!

So yesterday, I decided to follow my dear friend Raine’s lead and tell the guy who bags the grocery ‘two bags only, please.’ He looked at me quizzically as the cashier slid the items towards him. He started to put the detergents in one bag and the food in another bag. However, after only putting a packet of milk in the bag he reached for a third one. I quickly put my hand out and said – no, only two. Fill them up. He stared at me blankly. Another guy came up to him and asked him (in Bengali) what was going on. Not knowing I was Bangladeshi, and that I could understand them, he complained and said that I was crazy and that the bags would be too heavy if he put everything in two bags. They continued to have a bit of a laugh about the situation – I wanted to explain why I only wanted two bags (in Bengali) but decided against it as I did not want to go through the usual reaction that most Bangladeshis seem to have when the find out that I'm Bangladeshi as well (they simply don't believe me - even when I speak Bengali!) ... plus I was in a bit of a hurry. He tried, one more time, to reach for a third bag, but I just shook my head and repeated – only two please. He shrugged, reluctantly put the last item in the bag, and handed the two bags to me, and I left – happy with my two bags in hand.

At the moment, there really doesn’t seem to be any awareness or concern with recycling in Kuwait. Occasionally I will see a recycling box – but I don’t know if people take them seriously. I’ve seen all sorts of garbage dumped in the paper recycling boxes that are at work. What’s worse, I’ve seen our office assistant shred all the papers that were in the recycling box and dump the shredded paper in the regular trash … the concept just doesn’t seem to have caught on – and I really don’t see any steps being made towards making a change. I do know that there are one or two companies in Kuwait that have facilities to recycle – now it’s just about promoting the idea and getting people to participate.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Parent's Just Don't Understand

I wish I was writing about something more humorous and referring to Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff’s rap – but unfortunately, that’s not the case.

It’s the end of the semester and once again, the parents are on the prowl.

When I got to work last Monday, I was just about to turn the corner when I noticed a man pacing in front of my office. At that moment, H (our department secretary) caught my attention and signaled me to come to her office. She whispered that it was the father of one of my students who wanted to talk to me about his daughter’s grades. I was a bit surprised as I knew she had done well in my class. I didn’t think it would be a problem, so I went ahead and spoke to him. Our meeting went well, and that was the end of it … or so I thought.

He showed up again … and again … and again. First talking to me, then talking to our director, then talking to me again … and then talking to one of my colleagues! Now, seeing this man’s desperation about his daughter’s grade you’d think she did really poorly – but no. She got an A-. She needed another 1.5% to get an A and her father couldn’t stand it. He was one of those creepy parents who smiles and pretends that they appreciate your efforts as a teacher and claim that they are not asking for points … “but if you could just do something to help my daughter, I’d really appreciate it.”

I’m sorry. I must speak a different language from you because in my world – that statement = begging for points.

I’m amazed. Every semester I think it won’t surprise me, but it does. The number of parents who come in and insist on their child being GIVEN points so that they can get the grade they want. “Just give my son/daughter two more points.” “Just pass my child.” “Just help us out.”

It’s driving me insane. I just want to scream – Just F off!

Having parents come in is not easy to deal with, but what’s worse is when they have people they know call in favors. Over the past few years I’ve had random strangers call me up and tell me that they work in the university and that their friend’s son/daughter was in my class and needs a few extra points to get to the next letter grade – so if I could just help them out. All I can think in these situations is – who the *uck do you think you are? Why are you calling me? Why should I help you?!

I have always told my students that I would discuss their grades with them (at the appropriate time – not after the final grades have been posted). They know that I have no problem going through their work and even giving points in places where I’ve made an error. I’ve also told my students that the grade they get is the grade they earn. While there are some students who are a bit of a pain, it’s the parents and their righteous attitude that drives me crazy. They’re the ones who need a lesson in ethics and politeness.