I'm a little slow today. I just switched to Sanka. So...have a heart?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Here's another article on my Plants and Man class.

And here's an article about Tim Allen.

And here's a page with a whole bunch of his exam questions, both essay and multiple choice on it. I am currently flabbergasted I got an "A" in the class, because that shit is ha.a.a.a.r.d.

Botany 240 - Plants and Man

You know how you have that one class in your life that's like the most amazing class ever? Well, I had a couple. 10th Grade Gifted and Talented English with Jerome "Jerry" Berkowitz - that was a mind-altering class that probably changed my life for the better...walked in a "D" student according to him, and walked out an "A" student.

No classes like that in law school, surprisingly... or not.

And then there was the pinnacle of all of them. Botany 240 at the University of Wisconsin: Plants and Man.

If you are a young 'Sconnie who happens to stumble upon this posting, and you are in attendance at the Hallowed Halls of Madison, I would strongly urge you to make it to Birge (haha rhyme) and take the class. It was, truly, the best class I have ever taken. And I'm not just saying that because I aced all of his impossible tests, and got a 98% on my 45-page Term Paper, analyzing the transformation of Floral Imagery from Religious to Sexual, through the Medieval, Rococo and Feminist Modern periods, and didn't have to take the final, because I had done so well on all his tests.

Well, maybe I am, a little bit. I'm still really proud of that.

That class... rocked my world. I read a lot for it. A whole lot. But his reader was really interesting, it wasn't like all my shitty urban planning classes where I would read a 50-page scholarly article full of words like "paradigm shift" and "module of intracenter pedestrian conveyance" and come out having absolutely NO IDEA what anyone was talking about, only to later realize that 1) the authors also had no idea what they were talking about and 2) the articles all said this: Cities are changing, because there is more communication, and they morph based on commerce. Ugh. I can't believe at the time I let myself get intimidated by those annoying long, and useless phrases of academia.

But back to Botany 240. Unbelievable class. Tim Allen who is the professor and has been probably for about 35 years, is a Jowly, Arrogant, nutjob. I honestly spent most of the class staring at him and wondering whether I would hook up with him, because even though he wasn't attractive, he was such an amazing professor and knew so much stuff, and had such amazing things to say, it might have sealed the deal. Thank goodness that never even came close to happening. Because...ew.

In the class, I also met the guy who figured out where modern corn came from. I know, it sounds really nerdy, and it is, but if you think about what impact corn has had on millenea of human growth and societal development, and this is the guy who traced corn's evolution from a like Nicaraguan weed, up to Silverqueen... it's sort of astounding.

And that was the amazing thing about this class. The subject matter was...fucking amazing, if you'll pardon my French. Learning about how a bad Barley harvest could throw Europe into centuries of war, or how the rise of Beer in Europe prolonged life expectations, but halted productivity, because even though everyone had a bacteria-free liquid source now, they were always drunk all the time...

It was simply fascinating. Instead of writing the Term paper, you could make a "Digby Dinner" for your T.A., modeled after Digby Anderson, a British Food-Snob Columnist, or you could produce a fire out of rubbing sticks together. I opted for the paper. Believe it or not, I think a 45-page paper was probably easier than making a fire with no matches. His tests were also crazy, but I did well on them, becuase I actually did the reading and studied for them (that was sort of my thing in college.) And I learned SO MUCH.

There were also labs that you'd go to and learn about rhizomes and how the fruit part of strawberries is actually the seeds. He even had a Durian fruit that he invited the class to come try. Unfortuately, I missed that -- next time I run into it, I'm going to try to eat it. Apparently, it's a fruit that lead to Chimpanzee evolution into Humans. I don't really remember how, though. I hear it smells like ass, and tastes even worse. But still, it's a big hit in like Thailand.

In this article, they talk about his final lecture. The one where he makes Bananas Foster and a Ceasar Salad while teaching. Eh. Not his best lecture, but the man was majorly multitasking.

All I know is, he was sort of a pig, and definitely a cockey motherfucker, but he had every reason to be. His class was the best class on campus, and he knew it. Not like that Harold Scheub and his African Storyteller, African Studies 210...the most annoying class EVER, and unfortunately the one that all Tour Guides tell you is "The most famous and most popular class on Campus! Most popular because we all buy into that lie, and then kick ourselves for the rest of the semester, how a 3-credit elective begins to rule our lives. (Still got an "A" in it, but my first grade in the class was a "C," and yes, I'm still bitter. NO ONE, but NO ONE GIVES ME A C!)

In fact, Allen was such a sarcastic jerk sometimes, here are the instructions to his multiple choice section of his tests:

"Standard instructions on exams.

Fill in your name now, both in writing and in the black dots the computer can read on the multiple choice answer sheet, surname or last or family name first. Do it now - Yes now! We always threaten if you don't do that correctly, we will hang you up by your thumbs and take your first three children, but you don't believe us and so a few of you forget the name anyway. I guess you know we would not fail you, and you're right, we wouldn't. So a new strategy; we will lower your final result on this exam by a half grade (e.g. b goes to b/c) if you mess up on getting the computer dots for your name or any of the printing of your name. Now that is not a big deal, therefore you know we will do it! And we will too! So why not just fill in the name stuff carefully right now. Go on, just for your peace of mind. We did lower a couple of grades last exam in this course, so we are not bluffing. The reason we get so upset is that we end up with a name that has no exam, and we are forced to wonder if we lost it, or testing and evaluation did (so far it is always the students screwing up). Then, if you do it wrong, we have another person named your mistake of whom we have never heard. Sometimes there is not an obvious link, and then we get really mad.

Warning: some of the multiple choice answers may be true statements in themselves but do not address the opening statement. I have used that strategy as a standard maneuver to select between those who understand the question vs those who only know that an irrelevant statement is true. Make sure your option is not only true, but also that it addresses the point raised by the opening statement for the question. The form requires numbered options as well as numbered questions, so to avoid confusion, the option numbers are preceded by a letter eg. j9. If you fill in two blanks you get no credit like a wrong answer. Do fill in something for each question, because a blank gets no credit just like a wrong guess."

But there you go. A little insight into me. My favorite class in college had to do with the interevolution between plants and man. I won't let my mother throw out my notebooks from college, because that's the one notebook I want to make sure I keep. My notes from that class would re-make me a genius if I re-read them. And I'd actually enjoy it. Not just to see what I was doodling in my margins five years ago, but because I know if I re-read them, I'd re-learn some of the most interesting stuff I ever learned.

Filling in.

I have to go cover a Family Court calendar call tomorrow morning in Broward County, for one of the attorneys that rents space in our office.

I don't know Family Court, and I don't like going up to Ft. Lauderdale. Not only is it far as hell, and trafficky, but the times I've been in the Ft. Lauderdale Court, despite one or two major victories for me, I've also had a few tongue lashings. Thanks, Judge...who remembers...oh, now I do, but I'm not going to write his name all over my blog and get in trouble with the Florida Bar for speaking ill of the venerated judiciary. (I guess Free Speech applies to everyone except Governmental Workers and Attorneys.) That's quite the decision the Supreme Court handed down today...(Kennedy, what were you THINKING!? You're supposed to be a GOOD GUY!)

So, another trial by fire tomorrow. I know the basics of the case, and it's ONLY a calendar call, but I'm told the attorney on the other side is a slimeball (again, what is it with going up to Ft. Lauderdale and standing/sitting across from assholes?!) and the Judge I'm in front of is a jerk.

But -- it's not my case, it's not my client. All I know is this: It's okay to set the trial in July. So that's what I'll aim for. Hopefully I won't get asked any specific questions about the case. That would be nice.