Saturday, July 22, 2006


Received yesterday, about two months after finishing the semester. I gather they had some difficulties...

Monday, July 17, 2006

GED practice continues

Over the weekend, I completed the Reading and Science sets of my online GED practice tests. The reading went as expected -clearly, I know how to read. The science tests threw me several surprises, but I managed to struggle through. I need to study up on proteins and gene pairs and some other "stuff." I had some trouble with black rats and white offspring.

Still, the practice tests are bolstering my confidence in a big way. No matter how lost I felt, I managed to make a minimum of 60% on each subtest, usually more like 70-80%, with three to six subtests in each GED subject area. To earn my GED, I'll need at least 65% total in each of those subject areas: Writing, Reading, Science, Social Studies, and Math.

That last area, Math, is the one that I expect to be weakest in. I loved algebra back in high school, and I don't recall having trouble with math in general, but let's face it: I haven't had to take a math class since then, and other than some basic arithmetic it just hasn't come up much. I might read about and discuss science topics, history, geography. I certainly use reading and writing. But math?

So this weekend, I got through the Reading and the Science, and then I decided to do the Math... and the very first question that popped up had me staring blankly at the screen. "Duh... What's that supposed to mean?" Quickly, I closed the browser window.

What is it about math, I wonder, that scares some of us? This morning I went back to the math topics and worked my way through them, and I did fine. Not great, but certainly passing. In the process, I learned some key concepts, and on a fresh set of questions I'd be willing to bet my score will improve. But that first time I brought the test up onscreen, the vocabularly looked unfamiliar, and where in other subject areas I would try to work out the meaning, with math I said, "yikes, I don't know this, I can't do this."

Is it because I've heard so many people say, "math is hard"? Is it because in math, I expect there to be finite answers, so I expect my own knowledge to be cut and dried? Know/not know?

In the end, these GED tests are not really about knowledge. They're about logic, combined with experience. Sure, some of the questions would be impossible to answer without some of those aforementioned "key concepts." But enough -certainly enough to pass- can be deciphered with plain old "reading comprehension."

If the GED is a good representation of the abilities we expect our high school grads to possess (not by any means guaranteed), then two skills are crucial: Reading, and a willingness to create or discover an answer, versus simply regurgitating one. What are our schools doing to address that second requirement?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Simplicity, the series

In addition to getting my GED, this summer I also want to launch a comic strip. Right now, I'm in the process of developing the characters. It's an interesting process, because I have to think about what I can actually do consistently, so I can't just make one nice drawing and consider the character designed.

The central story of the strip is the relationship between a cat and a flightless baby bird. It's based on a time when our own cat, Simplicity Simone, brought a baby bird home for dinner. You can kinda see where this is going.

I started with the cat. I got a book about drawing cats ("Draw 50 Cats: The Step-by-Step Way to Draw Domestic Breeds, Wild Cats, Cuddly Kittens, and Famous Felines Like Morris the 9 Lives Cat") and have been using this as a starting point for practicing poses and attitudes. Next, I'll have to develop the bird. I wonder if there is a book I can use? Draw 50 Naked Baby Birds: The Step-by-Step Way to Draw Completely Helpless, Sightless Animals That Cannot Possibly Survive...

Friday, July 14, 2006

GED Day 1

I have piddled away most of this summer on inconsequential things like earning money and improving my health, but there is still time to accomplish something meaningful. One thing I'd like to do is take the GED exam.

According to the Southern Regional Education Board, GED stands for "General Educational Development." Often, however, people replace "Development" with "Diploma" or "Degree." This is because the "GED" is something you can get in lieu of a high school diploma. Well, it just so happens I never finished high school!

I dropped out. I got a job. I got an apartment. I worked. I traveled. And then when I decided I wanted to go to film school, Ryerson provided a "mature student" option. I met the requirements, and ultimately I earned a Bachelor's degree.

Now that I'm halfway to my Master's degree, I think it might be time to do something about that missing piece of paper. Sure, some friends suggested I could wait until after my doctorate. But since I am not taking a class this summer, this is as good a time as any. Step 1, I figure, is to figure out exactly where I stand. Do I need to study, or can I "wing it"?

To that end, I located some online practice tests. Today, I took my first set. The Southern Regional Education Board breaks this section of the GED down as follows:

Writing Skills, Part I (50 questions, 75 minutes)
15% Organization
30% Sentence Structure
30% Usage
25% Mechanics

I spent about 30 minutes on the four tests. I got 10 out of 10 on Sentence Structure, no surprises there, but I ran into a few problems with the others. One careless mistake in Usage, no big deal because I will pay more attention in the real exam. In Mechanics and Organization, I dropped three more questions on pretty subjective issues, so I spent some quality time rereading the tests and arguing with my computer screen. My final grade in Writing Skills Part I: 91.5%. I think I can safely "wing" this first section of the GED.

If you like, you can follow along with your own attempts on this site:

The Reading tests are next! Oh boy!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Blogs and bubbles

It's funny that I'm such a johnny-come-lately with this blog thing. I've had an email address for about 25 years. I chatted on newsgroups via the usenet over 20 years ago. I was always the roommate with the PC. I was online with a Mac laptop when they didn't come with color screens. I met my husband online, for crying out loud. I thought I was a technogeek. But at some point the world caught up and passed me, and now there're all these blogs and flickrs and mp3s and I'm just lost in the wilderness, enjoying a look around, but not sensing a path.

My friend James has always understood that I'm not all that. He laughs at me. It turns out this is simply because he's brilliant, and I am one of those poor ignoramuses wandering helplessly at his feet. Luckily, he blogs! So when I have a moment of clarity and a good cup of coffee, I remember to visit his world and attempt to understand it all. This morning, I find that he has been talking about bubbles.

Someone recently suggested that Luther was too old for nipple rings. This will seem very much off-topic, but bear with me. Bubbles? It seems that on July 2, a whole lot of adults with or without kids trekked down to Old City Hall in Toronto to blow bubbles. There are even pictures to prove it, James reports.

This is the kind of gathering that makes me really miss "my old life." Outside Toronto (and New York and London), I have not met many adults that spontaneously gather to blow bubbles just for fun. This is whimsical. This is youthful, even. And outside a place like Toronto, Luther and I are told we are much, much too old to do such a thing. It's for "young people," or it's for "children."

So I've been wondering why people are so old outside the city? Why do they just stop playing? And once again, I find myself blaming the automobile. Picture this same event, for a moment, taking place in your average new-city sprawl. Everybody drives to the location. Everybody has to park. This alone rules out most locations where people would mingle with the wider world. The whole charm is lost, the whole silliness factor. A bunch of adults, some with children, standing around in a parking lot blowing bubbles. Uh huh. Fun. Okay, bye. Everybody walks back to their vehicles. The doors shut, and they are disconnected again. No more bubbles.

Everybody knows I miss the city. What I love is that I'm starting to understand why, and it's beautiful. People should live in cities and towns or be farmers. I think the two extremes are the only way to keep living. You should always know some guy who got his nipples pierced when his kid was in High School. You should always see people of all ages enjoying the world, making friends, sharing new experiences. And blowing bubbles.

And then they should blog about it all, so that everybody gets to be there with them.