A.M.'s Myth and Folklore Blog

Myth and Folklore ML-3043-996

Category: Week 1

Time Strategies

A lot of my commitments, like this class, are fairly flexible; there are weekly or biweekly deadlines (or meetings at the least), but the bulk of the responsibility for making sure that something happens between these spaced-out checkpoints falls firmly on my shoulders. This also tends to leave me with big empty spaces in my schedule that I have to be careful not to waste.

Still, I’ve never found firmly scheduling those times into chunks useful. I tend to just start with whatever I feel I will work the most productively on in that moment, pursue it until I hit some kind of minor roadblock (or get sick of it), and then move along to the next task. Rinse, repeat.

For me, the most important time strategy is just being ahead. I find that if I can stay one or two days ahead of everything, any last minute changes or additions to what I want to do become a non-issue — there’s always a day of buffer.

“I’m late!” (Image from the animated film “Alice in Wonderland,” sourced from the Disney Wiki.)

I read the articles “The Important Habit of Just Starting” by Jory Mackay and “Why Time Management is Ruining Our Lives” by Oliver Burkeman. Mackay’s discussion of the importance of “starting” resonates strongly with me: I have repeated found the most difficult part of any of my obligations to be the first moment; the moment where I convince myself to get going. After that, inertia kicks in.

Burkeman’s article also spoke to me, particularly where it points out the folly of believing that technology and superficial ease necessarily lead to leisure and prosperity. Often the surest way to ruin something is to focus on it, theorize about it, and bureaucratize it. Doing that with time management is no different, and I’m glad Burkeman took the time (I know, I know) to point that out.

Class Technology Tools

I’m choosing my technology tools (most of which I’ve used before) because I’m trying to stay away from Google services; hopefully this list will be helpful for anyone else in the class who wants to try some more technically involved and open-source tools:

  • WordPress (for the blog): WordPress is an open-source website CMS and blogging platform; OU offers hosting for free through OUCreate and Laura has great info on how to use that if you’re interested.
  • GIMP (the “open-source Photoshop”) for image editing. A very powerful tool and one worth learning for making many more things than just cat memes.
  • Jekyll (an open-source static site templating/creation/build system) for creating my storybook website. This requires some familiarity with HTML, CSS, and the command line, but is a great opportunity to play around with those technologies.

And finally, and most importantly,

  • Firefox (browser). Many people (myself included) used to avoid Firefox because it was slow and outdated. It was. But boy has it changed. Firefox Quantum was a complete makeover, and the browser is now fully competitive with ­— and often better than — Google’s Chrome. There’s no longer an excuse for giving Google control over your browser along with everything else.
  • DuckDuckGo (search engine, substitutes for Google and Google Images). They and others make the arguments for why in detail elsewhere; I won’t repeat them. But I do want to note just how good the DuckDuckGo results have become in recent years — I haven’t had to use Google in many months. (And they’ve got Dark Mode…)
A DuckDuckGo results page. (Original image.)

Reflection on Assignments

(I took Indian Epics last semester, so this is a reflection on the various class assignment types, rather than my expectations.)

Like I anticipated last year, my favorite assignment remains the storytelling. It’s so much fun to create a new story every time, each new assignment bringing a fresh opportunity to experiment with style, flow, and technique.

I’m hoping this time around to try some different approaches to the Reading Notes. I’d like to try some different styles of reading notes — commentary, summary, highlights, and so on — and see which help me the most in the storytelling process.

My version of this post from the class last semester — meta, no? (Original image.)

Thoughts on the Growth Mindset

While the Growth Mindset (as a capitalized noun with a ™ after it) was new to me last semester when I took Indian Epics, it is now fairly familiar to me after that class’ assignments about it. So, this time around, I chose to look more at some of the more recent articles about it linked in the assignment page; in particular, I enjoyed reading Alfie Kohn’s article, “The ‘Mindset’ Mindset.”

I agree wholeheartedly with Kohn that “mindsets” have taken over and that the obsession with supposedly rigorous and infallible psychological results precludes asking a number of far, far simpler and much more important questions: Is the material worthwhile? Are any of the tasks relevant to the material? Is the teacher even familiar with the material, let alone sufficiently adept with it to explain it from the many different angles that the many different students may need?

Of course, Dweck’s concept is itself useful and interesting, but it, and indeed a great deal of social psychology and education research, ends up serving as empty hype for budget expansions and an endless cycle of trendy and ultimately meaningless reform.

Teaching is not rocket science. It is difficult, very difficult, but it is not a science because people are not cogs in a machine. At the end of the day, a teacher is a person dealing with people, and thus their foremost priority must always be the development of relationships with their students and their understanding of the subject. Research and theory can guide them, but they risk becoming scripts and futile exercises in social engineering that stifle the simple reality of people interacting with each other.

Not quite as useful when it becomes a dogma and a formal, bureaucratized imperative.
(Source: Growth Mindset & Feedback Cats course blog.)

Incidentally, that’s one of the things I love about this class: Laura, like anyone who teaches must, has a clear philosophy about teaching. But she shares it with us, asks us to engage it and discuss its merits with her, and in the end, it is a part of the content of the course itself. It is not a script for our interactions with her or each other. The centerpiece of the course remains the content: writing, reading (whether about these philosophies or the stories), and interacting as people with her and each other.

Introduction to Me

Hi everyone. (There’s really nothing quite so awkward as introducing yourself online, but here goes nothing.)

My name is Alby, and I’m from Denver, CO. I’m in my final year here at OU, and I’ll be graduating at the end of the Spring semester with a B.S. in Math. UsuallyMy OU jazz combo, people’s first reaction when they hear “math” is to ask whether I’m planning to go into teaching. That is, of course, important, but I think it’s a symptom of people misunderstanding what math really is. Math is the study of structure and symmetry, form and reasoning. Math isn’t about numbers or “solve for x,” though that’s sadly all most people ever see of it. Rather, it’s about building things, but out of concepts instead of wood or Lego.

Math also isn’t just a theoretical endeavor, or something disconnected from practical application. The shape of all ideas — even, and actually particularly aesthetic, artistic, and philosophical ones — can be found in the shape of ideas in math, even if not in its formalisms or notation. I want to apply that math, and not just simplistic number crunching, to real world problems. Math lets us understand the objects we model and observe, and I’ve applied mathematical tools in research and projects to fields as varied as materials science, biochemistry, atmospheric science, arachnology, and music. Finding the symmetries and analogies between those fields through math is one of my favorite things.

Outside of school, I love music — listening and (more than anything) playing. I play drumset, every kind of random percussion, and I’m teaching myself the accordion. Jazz is my main genre these days, but I love to play almost anything and with anyone. (The picture I’ve included is of my jazz combo here at OU, Diminishing Returns. We play all kinds of jazz, traditional to funk fusion to Latin. We gig around the school and Norman in general; keep an eye out for us at campus events. If anyone’s interested — or needs concerts for Understanding Music/History of Jazz — I’d be happy to post performance dates somewhere here as I have them.)

(I was also the drummer/sound engineer/co-producer for an album, I to I, and am in the process of working on another.)

I also love literature, to read, to write, and to play with language. I was lucky enough to take Indian Epics (the version of this class with different readings from the Indian epic poems) last semester, and I’m excited to be able to do it again this semester with Laura and with all of you!