Tuesday, September 27, 2005

House and Disaster Update

We will be closing on our new house today. Yay! This doesn't mean we'll be moving in today, though. We're going to take a few days to paint and prep. But we'll be in Thurs or Fri night. I am so very happy. Of course, today is the day I pay closing costs, so I get to see several thousand dollars flushed down the drain. How frustrating!

On another happy note, the house I grew up in was relatively unscathed by hurricane Rita. About 30 trees were knocked down by the storm, but none of them hit the house. They don't expect power to be back on for three to four weeks, so I think I'll probably be keeping some family in the new house for a little while. I'm not sure if anyone other than my mom is coming, but we'll see. My grandmother's house also escaped damage, so she was fortunate as well.

My other relative's houses did not fare so well, however. And a tree fell on my uncle's truck, and a limb knocked a whole in his roof. Another Aunt lost her kitchen to a tree or two as well.

But, as far as I know, there were no family fatalities or injuries, though I haven't heard from one cousin. But hopefully all is well.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Most Important Consideration When Teaching Greek

Here is my fundamental philosophy when it comes to teaching first year Greek. It can apply to lots of other things as well, but this is most readily apparent when studying subjects that take a long time to master. And is there any better example than Greek of this?

So here it is. Here's what you need to keep in mind when you lead a group of students through a course of study in Greek. The most significant thing for their success, by a very huge margin, is their desire to learn the language. It's that simple.

You can put a really horrible Greek textbook in front of their face and they can learn a lot of Greek if they want it bad enough. Sure, they would learn better with a really good textbook. No one would deny that. But if the textbook at least conveys the basics, a person can make it through and go on to learn how to translate by the sheer force of their determination. This is something I learned working through my first year Hebrew textbook. At the time it was the worst foreign language textbook I had ever read, and is second now only to one for Khmer that I have. Despite that book, I made it through first year with enough Hebrew to intelligently handle some of my later Hebrew classwork (though I could have been better off!).

You can be a really horrible teacher, and if they want it bad enough, they will learn the language despite your inability. This was true of me in one of my classes as well. But despite the teacher's complete lack of sense when it comes to teaching a language course, I still made it through (this was made much easier because the first semester teacher was super excellent, but it was still a hard semester). Obviously, if you are a teacher, you want to be capable. But, if they want it bad enough, they'll learn it despite your mistakes.

The student can even have a low degree of intelligence. I think that there are very few people who just couldn't learn the language. Brilliant people will learn it faster than less gifted people, but the average or below average of intelligence can succeed and exceed in language learning if they want it bad enough. Brilliance is very helpful, but not necessary.

What this tells me is that if I want my students to learn, I need to do whatever I can to make the material interesting, to make it as enjoyable as possible. Of course, I'll try to create a good text/use a good text and be a good teacher. But much of those two things will be focused on increasing the student's desire to learn the language.

One thing I'm doing to help with this is following an approach similar to Athenaze. Every chapter begins with translation, and I introduce the ideas in the chapter through that translation, and explain it afterwards. Though I think this had pedagogical benefits in general, specifically it is the psychological benefit that I'm primarily looking for.

When I've taken Greek and Hebrew foreign language classes especially, it always felt like one big exercise in paradigm, pattern, rule, and vocab memorization. Translation seemed to be (though it wasn't) an afterthought. That, frankly, is not fun. It is the use of the language that really makes it interesting.

Starting a lesson off with translation, basing the discussion on it, and ending it with more translation, gives a completely different feel to the material. I think it makes it a lot more interesting. Even though my students are going to learn just about all the rules and paradigms that all the other first year students have to learn, they shouldn't feel the bashing that most of them do. If I can maintain this, and they can keep their desire, I know we will succeed. Thanks for the idea, Maurice and Gilbert.

It's about the cultivation of desire. If the student has that, he will rarely fail.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

My Parent's House Is Going To Be Leveled

Well, I hope that's not the case, but it is possible. The storm is headed straight for Beaumont, and my home town is Vidor, about 5 minutes east. It will likely get pounded.

Fortunately, most of my relatives have already left. At least, all those with sense have. My dad had to stay behind, unfortunately, but he should be just fine. He's a prison guard in Dallas and will be staying in a large cement and steel building, so he could probably ride out hurricanes and tornadoes there with no problem. You'd probably actually have to bomb the place to take it apart. But most of the others are on their way out, are about to be gone, or are already a safe distance away.

Hopefully all will turn out well.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A Developer Leaves MPower, And A Surprise

Often the exodus of employees from a company will mean that the company is doing something wrong. Not always though. The guy leaving here is a contractor, and his contract is up. It is a bummer that he's leaving since he seems pretty talented. Here is what he said in an email, and I don't think he was being insincere:

"As I’ve said before to some of you, I’ve worked on roughly 16 client sites since I’ve been in Dallas and MPower is by far the best place I’ve been in terms of the people and team work."

I've never heard that from someone leaving the companies that I have worked for. See, I'm not the only one who likes it here at MPower. This says a lot about this company, because programmers are really good at complaining :)

Greek Class #2

We had our second Greek class last night. It went well, though I need to get more feedback on the particulars of the grammar and how it is working for the students. I'll have to talk to them about that more in the future.

There are two things that hit me pretty strongly this week about why I'm really glad I'm writing this grammar. It has two really nice advantages.

First and foremost, I can pace the material better. When I taught the class last time using Mounce I frequently had to combine chapters every week because we only met once a week. Sometimes this worked very well, sometimes it was a bad combination, either having too little or too much material. But now I'm not contrained to this, and I like that a great deal.

Second, I like being able to organically weave various elements together into the text. Though the chapters are still focused on particular topics (second declension nouns, present verbs, etc.), I am able to introduce extra material that is important but does not itself warrant a separate chapter.

All in all, I'm enjoying, despite the vast amount of time it takes.

Conservative Protestant Monasticism - Commentary On Homeschooling

Though I am out of touch in general to the happenings in the biblioblogosphere, I did catch an interesting post (as many of his posts are) from Jim West. Today With Zwingli- Or, Why Homseschooling is the New Monasticism is a blast from the past about Zwingli (no surprise coming from Jim), where Zwingli's criticisms of monasticism are applied to the modern homeschool movement. Also note his own comment attached to the entry. Given both, I heartily agree.

But as another commentator on the entry, Ben, said, this is just one outlet or expression of "an entire lifestyle of withdrawal from the world." I generally think of it in terms of separatism, and my general rule is that Christians should be separatist in their practice only when absolutely necessary, and this is incredibly rare. This is one reason why I stopped listening to Christian music years ago. It is a Christian subculture that encourages separatist tendencies, non-communication with the world of art/music and thus non-influence, a false standard of godliness (I've heard comments that would equate wearing a Christian t-shirt as a great act of obedience or something), an inferior sensitivity to good art, etc. A withdrawal of children from public schooling for the purpose of withdrawal from the world is just another form of retreat, and is not the best way to engage the world.

But, as was also said in the comments, there are valid reasons for homeschooling. Kathryn and I intend to homeschool the kids for a number of years, though they will rejoin the general school population somewhere in the middle of their schooling (around 5th grade. We haven't decided on that yet). These reasons are entirely educational. First, there is no way our children will grow up without a great deal of experience to foreign languages. I'm not sure what we'll end up teaching them, but they'll likely hit at least two of Greek, French, German, and Spanish. I didn't get any until High School French, and this is not going to be the case for my children. Second, my wife was an elementary school teacher, as was my mom. They are very limited in the effect that they can have on the children, and this has nothing to do with their skill. It is very difficult for a teacher to really educate a classroom of 23 kids at one time, especially if discipline is lax, which is usually the case. One of the most important things that we can control as parents is the education of our children early in life. It is very important to me that they get a better education than I did.

Now as for the whole monasticism issue, I really do see this as a huge problem in American culture. Christians have very little positive effect on culture as a whole, and the effect is declining as people are polarized ideologically and politically. What can we do about this? Well, that's a whole other discussion, and I certainly don't know all the answers.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

I Look Pretty

"You look pretty." This is what a fortune cookie told me yesterday. I don't normally pay attention to those, but in this case I will.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Back In Action

Yay! I have my temporary study set up here at the in-laws. That means I actually have email access for all my email addresses, my feed reader, most of my code, etc. Tonight is night 2 at their house and all is going well. Still anxious about the new house though...

First Greek Class

The first session of our Greek class was last night. Fun times. I'm really looking forward to next week, where we start digging in to translation and morphology stuff. Fun!

Want to know what it is like to take my Greek class? Well, here's the reaction of one of my students:


Yes...this could have happened to you.

I'm now living in my in-laws house. Finished moving in about 3:30 yesterday morning. I was dead a lot of the workday yesterday. I don't have my temporary study setup yet, so I can't even check all my email and my feed reader is on my desktop. Doh!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

I'm About to Be Homeless

But, I'll still be better of than 90% of the world. We closed on our house this last Friday and are leasing it back from the new owner. We will be out today. We are moving in with Kathryn's parents for 3-4 weeks as we wait for the soon-to-be-former owner of our new house to move out. We will probably get in during the first week of October.

I'm glad this house is working out. It is cheaper than the last house we actually had a contract on, and it doesn't have foundation problems! I will also get my super-duper-humongous-amazing-fabulous-stupendous study. It is a converted 2-car garage, so I have about 400 square feet of study, a 20x20 room. One wall has shelves built into it already, so that will be nice, but I need to figure out what I'm going to do with the other three walls. I'll need a few more bookshelves, I'm sure, but I am going to have lots of wallspace. And I will be putting in wood floors, so my study is going to be super-cool looking!

Yes, there are other nice features about the house. It is in great shape and big enough for two kids and a wife, and room for more. But it is this study that I find most exciting personally.

But, for 3-4 weeks I'll have my 40-50 books to give me what I need for basic study and for the Greek class (which starts this Monday).

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

New Blog Friend - The Militant Pacifist

A buddy of mine, and deacon at my church, Edward Cook, is blogging now. His blog is The Militant Pacifist. Edward...say something else! And welcome to the blogosphere.

Two Days at MPower

I have finished my first two days of work at MPower Systems. Here are a few signs that make me think that I'll like working there:

1. Free drinks! No, none are alchoholic, but free Coke, Sprite, and bottled water is groovy!
2. The people are very friendly. Nuff' said.
3. The people like to have fun, and it shows at work. That's very nice.
4. There is a super-amazing-powerful Starbucks coffee brewer in the break room. It will take beans, grind them, and create you a single serving of Starbucks in about a minute. So groovy...
5. I'm right next to a window. That's kindof nice.
6. The biggest thing, the company is in the middle of taking 40 days off to do bug fixes. No enhancements...zero. Ideally all bugs would be fixed as discovered. But, this is so much better than what I am used to, an environment in which enhancements are constantly being added, and bugs are constantly piling up, and no-one is doing anything about it. If you're a programmer, you know what I mean, and you know how good this is.
7. We had a testing night last night to test a hotfix. The upper management was there testing with us. How odd...and encouraging.

So, the first two days have been pretty groovy. These are some signs of a good software development company. I'm glad I'm there and I'm looking forward to getting to know the place even better. Hopefully this will continue...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Last Week at Work, Blogging Slowdown to Continue

This is my last week as an employee of RealPage. I've got about a day and a half left of work. Next week I'll start at MPower. Woohoo!

Blogging will continue to be sporadic till my life settles down a bit, though I'll pop in occassionally to make a note.

Feeling Illiterate

I have no books, at least that is how it feels. Just about all of my books are in boxes now for the move, and I won't be surrounded by my bookshelves for several weeks it seems. I've got the 44 books around me that I wanted to use as resources for writing the Greek curriculum (my main time expense at the moment), a few German books, and a few other random books. I haven't had this few books available to me since high school. But, Lord willing, this hiatus from intelligence won't last too long.

Greek Class Update

The class begins in a week and a half. I'm very much looking forward to it. I'm developing the curriculum/text for the class so there's going to be quite a bit of preparation involved in this. This is a lot of work, but it will pay off in the end.

If you are still interested in the class, let me know. You need to sign up soon if you are. If you live too far north to take my class, but still want to learn Greek, Eric Weiss is teaching a class at Denton Bible Church. For more info, check out the churches calendar (http://www.dentonbible.org/index.php?pfile=calendar). Click on the class link on the Monday after labor day. That will give you contact information.

No New House... :(

Well, the house that we had our eyes on fell through. And it is for the better. First, because of Garland building codes for that subdivision, I wasn't going to get as large a study as I was hoping for. Now I get another chance! But more importantly, there were foundation problems that the owner didn't want to fix. Sorry, not going to pay for that for a house I don't even own yet!

So, we're off to find another one. We're closing on our house next week. We'll either be leasing this house back from the future owner to fill in the gap between houses, renting an apartment, or temporarily living with Kat's parents. Regardless, it will work out.