Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thursday Night: Music Appriciation

This class is an hour earlier than the others and at a campus in an area I'm not incredibly familiar with. Given the 6 o'clock start time and this being Houston, I leave my house at about 5:15 for a destination that Google Maps tells me is only 20 minutes away. Hey, in this town, you account for traffic at all times.

I got there at about 5:35. Found my building, and found my classroom but didn't go inside. I heard a loud voice from inside the room, but figured it was someone from the previous class. There's no way a professor is THAT early. I went and bought a soda and returned to the classroom. Sure enough, there was my teacher and one other student.

This guy is probably around 50 or 55 and a rather large human being. Super nice though, he greeted me and gave me a syllabus on my way to my usual seat. Second row, against the wall. "You have an assignment on the board here, please answer these questions." He points to the other guy in class who is sitting on the other side of the room. "And NO cheating!"

Har har, he's here all night, folks!

The assignment was as follows:

Write down the following:
What you do in the world? (job, otherwise)
Course of study?
Musical ability, if any
What type of music you enjoy
Why are you taking music appriciation

I was expecting that in my English class. Even as a warm up writing exercise or something, but not in here. I guess this furthers my thought that I really have no idea of what to expect in this class.

I wrote down my answers and waited for the class to come in. There are nine of us. NINE. I hope this class isn't cancelled next week. I believe we need twelve to have a class. So behind me are three kids, fresh out of high school two guys and a girl. Behind them is another guy who is friends with the first three. Other side is the guy  who beat me to class, a Hispanic guy, probably the only other guy older than me in the class and an Asian kid  in the back row. Including me that's eight. Someone didn't show up. I have the feeling this class is going to be cancelled.

The teacher introduces himself. He's from Georgia, has a masters in music education. He has taught high school choirs, middle school choirs, back to high school, but currently teaches music class in elementary school. He sings in local choruses and at the opera. He also plays piano, trombone, guitar, string bass and tuba. Ok, so I guess he's legit.

We go around and share our answers to the assignment on the board. The kid behind me says he's a rapper. HA! Ok, Slim Shady, just because you have a rhyming dictionary and a sense of rhythm, doesn't make you a rapper. You're a snotty little white kid who grew up in a well off planned community. Get over yourself!

Going around the room the Asian kid says that he's a rapper too and that he's the founder of his own label! What the hell? Neither one of them accepted the teachers request to rap for us. I won't believe their rapping ability until I see it. Er... hear it.

All of the four kids behind me have "attempted" to play an instrument and gave up after a very short period of time. Wow, good for you guys! All of those "damn kids" I was worried about having class with all turned out to be in one class. This could be interesting to say the least.

The guy who beat me to class is a vet as well. He was injured in Iraq and was medically discharged. Now he's a CO at one of the prisons in Huntsville which isn't too far away. Hats off to you, sir. Not a job I could do.

We had a break before we went over the syllabus and I got to talking to the teacher. Turns out he knows all of the band directors I had in high school. In fact, one of them did his taxes last year and they're pretty good buddies. Weird.

It seems that this class is more involved than I thought it would be. I have music that I have to listen to every week and write down my thoughts. Then take notes while we talk about it in class, then write a final entry about what my thoughts were on it. I have two of these a week. PLUS I have to attend two concerts. The Rush concert I hope to go to in December doesn't count. Dammit.

I was a bit worried coming into this class. I was worried I was going to have some pompous old fart teacher who took it waaay to seriously. This guy is cool. He said the only way you fail this class is if you don't try. Pretty sure I'll do ok in here too.

Since you're all wondering, and even if you're not, here are the answers to my questions:

Name: [student]
What do you do in the world? I work full time [at my job] and I am enrolled in school full time.

Family? I am happily married and have a 6 month old little girl
Course of study? Right now, Associates of Applied Science, major to follow
Musical ability, if any: I started playing drums when I was little, joined band in 6th grade and did percussion until 11th. I quit band when it stopped being fun.
What type of music you enjoy: Pretty much anything. I'm a hard rock/classic rock/metal kind of guy, but I appreciate any kind of music that has talented musicians playing it.
Why are you taking music appreciation
: I needed an art credit. Since regular art bores me, and I don't get it most of the time I decided this class was a better fit for me. I get music.

Wednesday Night: Composition and Rhetoric II

Yet another class I was dreading. Back to campus #2 for Composition and Rhetoric II, or English class as I like to call it. Saying that I take Composition and Rhetoric just sounds pompous to me.

The reason for my anxiety about this class is that, I never seem to write a good paper. Yeah, I'm here spilling my guts and all, but I don't ever seem to give the teacher what they want. This started my senior year of high school and spilled into comp and rhetoric I in that failed semester of college I tried. Luckily I passed that class with a C somehow and it stayed on my record. I wish the other classes I took would have been dropped, but that's another story. The other part of this is that I NEVER seem to understand what is going on in anything I read. I could read all of, say, Hamlet, and I'll totally miss the point. Oh boy, English class!

So, I get to class a few minutes early, and wow, the teacher is ALREADY here! I walk in and some idiot is sitting in MY spot. Luckily for him the same spot on the other side of the room is open. The teacher hands me a syllabus and I take a seat. I think I'm older than the teacher, and he looks like he could be Tom Cruises little brother. What is it with my teachers looking like people? The class fills up...

We have a couple, yes an actual couple sitting in the back row, sharing a Macbook and a text book. They're as pretentious as they already sound, drinking their coffee from a coffee shop nobody has probably heard of. The guy who is probably 6'2" and 130lbs and has his shirt buttoned about halfway up with no undershirt. Yeah dude, gotta show off those pecs. His girlfriend/wife/whatever is not half bad looking, but can't seem to keep her mouth shut. There's a younger guy with a ponytail in front of me. Looks like the kind of guy who will be volunteering at the renaissance festival in about a month or so. Hey, whatever floats his boat, right?

There's something weird going on in this class though. There are five rows of tables split down the middle, and on each set of tables, there are two people. There are two sets where the two people don't seem to know each other, or the professor, and one is MY row. I guess since this guy has return students, he must be pretty good.

So, the teacher starts with the class intro. He remain seated and proceeds to tell us his name, his AGE (he's only like two years older than me) and how he's married, has two stepsons and the world's greatest dog. I'm going to call BS on that one because well, he's never met MY dog who just happens to be the world's greatest. He then goes on to tell us how he just finished his man cave and all about the surround sound system he has and the couch, and mini-fridge and how awesome it all is. Why do I need to know this for you to teach me this class?

He also fills us in on his educational background. He has a masters in English education, and got his bachelors in Film, Radio and Television production. I can't help but immediately label him as a complete tool bag. Then he says "I guess I can shut the door now."

He gets up and walks over to the door... and I can't help but notice, he's disabled. Great, I feel wonderful now.

He sits on his desk and says "If you didn't notice, I have quite a limp. That's because I have Spina Bifida." Great, now I feel like a tool bag.

He starts talking about the course itself and it sounds like he's pretty reasonable. As long as we try, participate, turn things in and ask questions if we need help, he's reasonable. If you don't try, he's not going to feel sorry for you. I get that. I wouldn't expect anything else from a college level English class. Anxiety is slowly starting to fade.

Once we get into talking about the type of things we're going to be reading, he manages to equate literature to movies. BINGO! Something I KNOW. He mentioned Vincent Price for a second and the girl sitting at my table says "Oh! He's my favorite actor!"

After she exclaims this, he asks her what her favorite movie of his was. "Um, you know that one where the guy has a scar on his face and it makes him look like he's smiling all the time, but he's really not?" Wow, yeah, you know your Vincent Price, chick.

As we move on we continue to discuss literature and he says something that makes me almost hit my head on my desk. I forget exactly what we were talking about but he says "Well, in this class, for all intensive purposes..."  Seriously? You're here to teach me English? *headdesk

We then read a short story that was a bit odd, but he walked us through how he wants us to look at things we read. This was the FIRST time I had ever managed to "get" something that was an assigned reading. I think this class will be alright.

We were out an hour early, at about 9pm. He said that would be the norm because he doesn't want to keep us until 10. WORKS FOR ME! Tomorrow is my "fun" class with Music Appreciation at campus #3. Hope this goes as well as the rest of the week has.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tuesday Night: Federal Government I

Well, after a pretty vanilla first day I make my way out to campus number 2 and my first day of Federal Government. Now, this part of town, or this particular suburb is pretty... well, it's pretty country. I was expecting more blue jeans and cowboy boots and got a bunch of saggy-ass pants and backwards ball caps. It was really a pretty diverse crowd, more so than it was eleven years ago when I first came to this school. Pretty much any social or ethnic group was well represented. This should lead for some pretty interesting conversation in my government class to say the least. 

My class starts at 7, which is fifteen minutes later than I thought. I found my class and took a seat in the hallway. Surveying around, I look to be the oldest person waiting for this class. The teacher shows up at 6:55 and says for us to go in and grab a seat, he'll be back in a minute... this guy, seems interesting. He's probably in his 60's, slightly hunched over and walks with a shuffle. He's very energetic and friendly it seems. He's wearing a red flowered shirt with black slacks and white tennis shoes. Hell yes! I go in and sit in essentially the same place I sat the day before.

While waiting for the teacher to return, the rest of the class files in. We have a big jock wearing a black tank and some gym shorts, the two popular girls who won't shut up and seem quite bitchy. A dumb blonde. I'm not being mean, judging by the conversation she was having with the guy next to her, she's dumb as a post. Seriously. "Oh my gosh, I was so hungry on my way here, so I went to Sonic, but the line at the drive through at Sonic was long, so I ordered and I was waiting. And then I got tired of waiting and I told Jennifer I didn't want to be late for class so we got out of the line and came here. I wonder what happened to my food? I could be eating my food right now. It was so funny when we out out of that line." She was one of those girls that says everything like it was a question. Pencil, meet eyeball... 

Eventually, we also had about a 50 year old lady that was too spunky for her own good. She must have just left Starbucks, there is no other explanation for her perkyness. She was also friends with the bitchy girls and gave them hugs when she got to class. That was weird.

Then THIS this guy comes in. Younger, I'd say around 20 and tall, around 6'3" or so. Wearing all black, and I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he came from work at a restaurant or something, because he had a black button up shirt, black slacks and black shoes on... and sunglasses. Black aviators. No explanation there, just... weird. He moved slowly across the room and took a seat at the end of the row next to me. I also noticed he was a little scruffy in the face. No big deal, as I usually am too about five days a week. The problem with this guy is that he didn't quite have it all coming in yet. Think Joe Dirt's facial hair. It wasn't trimmed up this way on purpose, it was all this guy had.

The professor comes back at about 7:15 with a GIANT fountain drink. We're talking your big 44oz-er here. He comes in and starts speaking with a bit of a stutter. Oh man, that's going to drive me nuts. I wish there was a way that I could get a profile of everyone I'm about to meet a day ahead of time. Yesterday, with the teacher with the mysterious "back lump" and now this character. Physical deformities and speech impediments get my curiosities and imagination going. I have no problem with it, I mean I'm not going to not shake your hand because you have a scar on your face or something, I just can't help but think about it and be distracted at the same time you're trying to tell me important information.

Luckily that was NOT the case here. He starts with "I'm not going to pass out a syllabus, I'm not even going to start talking about government. You see, friends, we're here also to learn about.. ROCK AND ROLL!"

As he goes on, I can't help but think, as the night before, "Who does he remind me of?" Someone from TV or a movie... then it hits me. He looks just like "Doc" from Fraggle Rock! If you don't get the reference, perhaps you know this one. He also played the bartender in the movie Boondock Saints. Yes, my government teacher is "F*ck-ass" from Boondock Saints.

So for the first hour and a half of class, we had rock and roll trivia, going from the start of rock and roll up through the 70's with a couple of things coming after that. This was a chance to earn up to four points on my first exam. I managed to get all four points pretty early, and got to sit back and observe the lack of knowledge of the younger people in the class, which wound up being pretty funny.

One of the questions I answered was "Who was the African-American guitarist who wrote 'Johnny B. Goode'. I answered with Chuck Berry and got it correct. He then went on to say that Chuck Berry had all of his songs go straight to number two, but he broke that barrier with what risque song in 1968?*"

I raised my hand... "Would that be 'My Ding-A-Ling?"

He replied with an enthusiastic "YES!!" and wrote down my extra point in his book. What happened next was simply great. He sang the entire first verse of "My Ding-A-Ling". I've sen lots of things, I've been lots of places, but I never thought I'd go back to school to have my professor stand at the front of the class to sing that song. Mind. Blown.

So he moves on through the 60's and he starts to talk about Led Zeppelin. He asks the class what their most famous song was. Guy sitting next to the dumb blonde answers with "Hot for teacher". The professor doesn't even know who sang that. Once I told him it was Van Halen, he scoffed at them like they were Nickelback or something. One of the bitchy girls answered with "Welcome To The Jungle" and I almost lost my mind. Freakin' kids.

Amazingly enough, the dumb blonde got the answer correct! There may be hope for this chick yet. This went on for a while longer before we took a break.

After the break class was pretty uneventful. We wound up taking some notes, which was great. We were told what to write down and once we were done he'd tell us to put our pens down. Simple enough. He didn't even pass out that syllabus he promised us because the office they were in was locked up for the night. He did assign us a one page paper for bonus points on our second test. Looks like I'm going to be +2 on that test also.

This class should be fun. I no longer have anxiety about Government. Composition and Rhetoric 2 is tomorrow at the same campus. I took the first class 11 years ago. This is going to suck.

*According to what I looked up online "My Ding-A-Ling" actually came out in 1972, but the original version "My Tambourine" came out in '68. I should tell him this in case some nerd comes out and corrects him.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Monday Night: World Geography

So, here it is. The first day of real classroom school in about eleven years. Yeah, I had classes I had to go to in the Navy to learn my job, but this is different. I'm not wearing a uniform, I don't get my ass chewed if I'm late for class, and I don't have to call my instructor "Petty Officer". 

The college system I'm at is way spread out. I'm taking four classes at three different campuses. We'll call Monday nights campus, campus #1. It used to be an office building complex for a major computer company that was headquartered in the area but has been seriously downgraded. They sold some buildings to the colleges around here and they have classes here now. It's pretty convenient.

I park my truck in the parking garage and head inside. Upon entering, I stop at the desk to pick up a map. I had never been here before and wanted to make sure I knew where I was going. I asked the guy for a map, and he asked what building. Then he asks what room, and I tell him it was 449. He replies with "Ok, you're right here. What you're going to do is head down this hallway and hang a left at the intersection over here and keep going straight until you hit the elevators, take those to the fourth floor. Exit the elevator and hang a left and it will be in that wing."

Gee wiz, I could have never found that! Thanks, guy! So, a number starting with a 4, means it's on the fourth floor! Golly! All I asked for was a MAP. If I wanted to know how to suck eggs, I'd have asked. Also, I took the STAIRS. It was two flights. I'm of the opinion that unless you absolutely have to, if it's only one or two flights... take your ass up the stairs.

Moving on, I was slightly surprised by the people walking around. I was expecting a younger, or maybe a less mature crowd. I guess because it's evening classes it's more people who have a day job and are trying to get educated much like myself. There were a few younger people around, but not as many as I was expecting.

I find my class and walk around some because I was incredibly early. There was a lounge area outside of my classroom so I grab a seat and just hung out for a minute. Eventually the teacher shows up and we go inside. The classroom has four rows of tables on each side of the room. I sit on the second row on the right, against the wall.

My teacher is probably in his late forties, blondish grey hair with a slight belly and he has some weird bump on his back. Not a hunch, but it's just a big... bump on one of his shoulder blades. This is going to drive me nuts, I must know what it is. Aside from that I can't shake the feeling that he looks incredibly familiar. Then it hits me. He looks EXACTLY like Alex Lifeson, the guitar player from Rush. Seriously, they could be brothers.

Looking around at other people, there is a lady that's probably around sixty sitting on the row behind me, the back row has filled up with girls on my side of the room, and guys on the other. How middle school dance of them. The front row on the right, DIRECTLY in front of the teacher are two very young girls who start talking to him. Turns out... they're in high school getting college credit. NERDS! Most of the class seems to be people from about 18 - 22 or so. There are probably three people older than I am.

An older guy shows up, who turns out is one of the IT guys on campus. He has his iPhone in a nifty little camouflage holder with safety orange parts on it too. I guess he doesn't want to get shot if he's hunting with his iPhone. (I live in Texas y'all, this is pretty common.) So as we're waiting the teacher realizes that he's the IT guy and asks him if he can get Google Earth on his computer. The IT guy, to my AMAZEMENT says "What's that?" Wow.

Class starts and really all we're doing is going over our syllabus and what the teacher expects of us. Every time the teacher says anything, the sixty year old lady behind me has a giggle or a comment. That's going to get real old, real fast. He starts to explain his grading process, and things of that nature when *crunch*. *cellophane*. *crunch*.

Oh hell no. One of the girls in the back row was digging into some Corn Nuts. Seriously, Corn Nuts. There are a few sounds that I really hate, and two of them are the sound of people eating something really crunchy and loud, and the sound of a small cellophane bag being rustled about. If this becomes a regular thing, I'm going to lose my mind. No matter how hard you try, you can't quietly eat Corn Nuts. Plus, they reek. Seriously, they do not smell appetizing in the least.

Class was supposed to go until 10 but we wound up getting out at about 8:45. The guy seems reasonable and I don't think there is any reason I won't destroy this class and get an A. Tomorrow is my Federal Government class and I am slightly intimidated by it. Guess I'll see how that goes.

Well, here goes nothing

Here's a little bit about my life. I graduated high school in 2001 in the suburbs northwest of Houston, TX. After one semester at the local community college system and a STELLAR GPA of 0.75 I decided that school wasn't for me. I was miserable and felt like I wasn't going anywhere. The fact that I never went to class didn't help my GPA either. Something about missing tests and not turning papers in doesn't make for good grades. I did the only thing I knew would get me off of my butt and doing something with my life. I joined the Navy. 

I spent five years in the Navy and got out as a second class petty officer, the same as a sergeant in the Army or Marines. I enjoyed my time there and would do it again in a heartbeat, but I didn't like it enough to make it a career or anything. It did a lot of good for me personally. 

I came home to Houston. Got a job. Met a girl. Got married to said girl. Got a Labrador. Got a house. Had a baby. We have a pretty typical life, filled with friends, family, church, bbq's... your typical suburban life. But once we had our little girl earlier this year, I thought to myself, "I have to do better."

After a lot of thinking (and by that I mean drinking) I decided I had to get a degree. I have a free education waiting for me to use through the GI Bill and it would be a shame if I let that go to waste. So, here I am at 29, about two months away from turning 30, going back to school to get my bachelor's degree. I have no idea in what yet, so don't ask. My current degree plan, because I have to have one, is an associates of applied science. Once I've exhausted that, I'll move on.

I went through the process of getting my GI Bill started and enrolled in that same community college system which was brutal. If you've ever tried to get money from the government you know what I'm talking about. You have a better chance of getting ice cream from a sack of dirt.

So there's the long and short of it. I'm sure I'm not going to be the oldest person in all of my classes, but I'm old enough to where "those damn kids" will get on my nerves. It will be an experience to say the least, one that I hope to get a laugh out of in the midst of all of the complication it will throw into my life.