Tag Archives: English

A Brief Detour to the Other Side of my Brain…

 

So the dearth of posts here recently can be explained by something other than my general lethargy or reticence to engage.

For the last year-and-a-half, my academic career (community college) has taken me from one side of my brain to the other.

I originally re-enrolled at the community college that I took my first class in 1979. Yes kids, you heard that right…1979. It was an Emergency Medical Technician class I took as a senior in high school. That class led to a 26 year career as a first responder (EMT, Paramedic, Fire Captain).

When life intervened in 1999 and my world turned upside down as the result of my step-son’s car accident…all the best laid plans I had flew out the door before I realized they were missing. Without rehashing the last two decades (artfully hidden elsewhere in this blog), in the spring of 2013 I decided that a degree in Addiction Studies would afford me a stable career in a field I believed deeply in.

Well, two things happened: when I began my coursework, I also found a job in the field and was quickly disillusioned at the profit-making nature of the business; but more importantly, while taking my basic coursework for the AS, I found a passion for learning again. Not to say that as I younger student that I craved knowledge (far from it), but I found that as an adult with some life experience under my belt, that what I was learning about politics, world history, literature, and mathematics simply enthralled me.

Yet again, I steered a course change and decided to obtain a BA in English at UCLA (other fantasy universities include Berkeley and Georgetown).

Based upon by GPA, I was accepted into my colleges Honors Transfer Program for UCLA, and for the past three semesters I’ve been slogging through Math and Spanish courses. I dreaded Math and looked forward to Spanish. Both expectations were misguided.

It turns out that in order to attain fluency in a language, immersion and more than three semesters of the language is required. So after 3 semesters I can read and conjugate verbs like a boss but am panic stricken if I actually have to form real sentences in my head. Still, I managed to get A’s all three semesters.

Math was the surprise. I have always suffered from profound math anxiety, and frankly was dreading these classes. What I found was a real “duh” moment. If you put in the work, study, ask questions, seek outside help, that math is actually pretty stimulating. Don’t get me wrong, there were moments in Logarithms where I was sure the nuclear anxiety would take me out, but I persisted on and moved onto Honors Statistics last semester; another class that 4 years ago I would never have even had the courage to attempt.  I’ve received A’s in all 3 math classes the last 3 semesters. No one is more shocked than me…

So here I am…finished with the core work to get into university and back to my true love…general knowledge. This semester is going to be very challenging as I have three Honors classes: Physical Anthropology, Cinema, and English (persuasive writing). It also means a boat-load of research papers and familiarity with MLA/APA that I haven’t used in the last year-and-a-half.

So, of course the panic has set in…but it’s a panic that has enabled me to maintain (fingers desperately crossed) a 4.0 GPA during my time here. I didn’t set out to do this by any means; it has simply been a by-product of my thirst for knowledge and has now become self-perpetuating.

Three more semesters to go and I’m hoping to report my entrance into UCLA (or CAL or Georgetown or, as my life seems to arc, somewhere else I haven’t planned) as a junior.

Until then, my brain has shifted back to the other side, the non-math/language side and I’m hoping to crank out some more Conversations with the Moon…

 


Why I Write

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Because I must.

Because if I don’t, the wellspring of thoughts and emotions roiling under the surface will spill over in ways which are neither appropriate nor constructive.

I need to write.

Some people need to run, to ride, to work-out…to breathe.  I need to write.

I continually aspire to greater perfection in this craft; in fact at times, my words embarrass me, but if I let that stop me, the spigot runs dry and the unhealthy pressure begins to build again.

I am no wordsmith with an appropriate grasp of sentence mechanics but I do know this much: when the sentence starts, it’s hard to stop…the flow must continue to fruition.

I have loved to write since 1974 when an English teacher named Mrs. Doi inspired in me a passion for communicating that continues to this day. I’ve enjoyed accolades over the years for my ability to communicate verbally, but it has never produced the personal satisfaction that a carefully crafted sentence brings me.

John LeCarre is my inspiration. I began reading Mr. LeCarre because I enjoyed the genre, but developed a deep appreciation for the English language I had never imagined. His ability to seduce and convey imagery through the written word is unrivaled in my opinion and this gift is a goal toward which I gleefully aspire.

Ironically, I have yet to be able to clearly convey on paper,  the feeling…the emotion within me that is produced when I write.

It just is.

It is satisfying like no other.

It is life.

 


College English Assessment Test…WTF?

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Last Thursday night, I had the pleasure of experiencing my local community college’s English Assessment Test. This is a placement test designed to appropriately place incoming freshman in English classes.

All good.

So the morning of the test, I go online and take advantage of the “Practice Assessment Test”. The practice test consists of one reading comprehension question example. So off I go to a full day at work, looking forward to getting off and beginning part two of my college career. It was not without a great deal of whimsy and reflection that I drove to the college that night remembering making the same trip only 34 years earlier. I am enrolling at the same college that I took my first college course in 1979.

Long day at work ends and I head out early as I head to the school. The website advises to plan on a 2.5 hour test and bring a #2 pencil and student I.D. Check.

I arrive and check in and am seated next to a stunningly beautiful woman near my age who could have easily been a high-fashion model in her earlier years.  High cheekbones, laser-like hazel eyes and pencil thin, perfectly formed lips. O.K., I’m off to a good start.

Here’s where the train starts to feel like it’s coming off the tracks. As we are led into the room, and I seat myself across from my future wife (I have an astonishing ability to ignore the massive diamond ring on her wedding finger) the proctor hands out part one of FIVE separate tests. And guess what Sparky? It’s a friggin’ ESSAY test! At this point I’m starting to scream bait-and-switch in my head but I’m game so here goes…

Choose one question, address all the issues, keep your answers succinct and within the two blank pages given. And WRITE your response with your #2 pencil. What.The.Hell????  I have not written two pages of ANYTHING with a hand writing instrument in at least two decades. Much less with a damn #2 pencil.  And I stopped using cursive nearly 30 years ago as all my writing was done block style on computer scanned reports.  EVERYTHING I’ve composed in the last generation has been typed.  Oh joy…

I choose the more controversial of the two topics and begin to panic a little as I struggle to recall appropriate college level essay construction (remember I was only prepared for reading comp questions). As my panic spreads, I force myself to relax and simply attack the topic as I would a blog post. This immediately calms me down and reminds me that if I do need a refresher in these areas, an honest effort on the essay will be best.

I knock out a very tight 1 1/4 pages that I’m happy with and end with about 5 minutes to spare. My pencil lead is a nub and my hand hurts. It does allow me to steal glances at my partner across the table who seems to be struggling with her work…alternately frantically writing and erasing. I feel more at ease.

The next four components of the test do indeed include a reading comp section and three syntax/sentence structure and vocabulary areas. All mind-numbingly easy and frankly I’d be surprised if I didn’t ace it.

Test over, I finish early and leave my future wife with her scantron as I walk out into the cold air of the parking lot around 11 p.m. What have I learned?

  • Don’t trust “practice” tests
  • Plan on upping the strength on my reading glasses…those small words get blurrier after a long day at work
  • Enjoy the ride and welcome to part two of my future

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