I can’t come out and play…I have homework

19 09 2010

“Two hours outside of class for each hour of classroom credit,” is the ‘new’ rule of thumb, according to one of my instructors. “Frogs! I thought it was one-to-one,” was the first thought crossing my mind. I guess the memories fade as the years go by. I’ve heard it said that women don’t remember the pain of childbirth, maybe the same holds true with the time invested in homework.

After a couple of weeks of school…I can’t believe we’re heading into the second month already…I’m find that the two-to-one rule isn’t quite right for me to maintain my “A” average, but it’s close with some classes, not so with others. In any event, it’s now Sunday, the sun is shining, the dog’s at my side with a tennis ball in her mouth and a cold wet nose nudging my mouse arm, “Come on, Dad. I want to play.” “Sorry, Hershey, I can’t. I have to do my homework.”

It’s not that homework’s piled up, I’ve been keeping pace, but this is the day for the assignments that require some real effort—the angle for a seasonal feature requiring an interview, an analysis of networking (computer networking), and a paper discussing application software. Miraculously, none are due until next weekend, but I’m going camping.

Add to that a couple of deadlines for some online web content and a need to update my own site (Eric Toll Online), I’m not going to be going out and playing today.


Exit logic here

16 09 2010

“We require you to take three credits of Literacy and Humanities,” he explained looking at my transcript from Southern Illinois University. I am now taking classes online from Paradise Valley Community College to obtain certifications in Microsoft Networking, plus several other certificates. The number of courses I want to take started pushing the degree line, and so it was suggested I use prior college courses to walk out with the certificates and an AA in Information Technology.

“I have 18 units of humanities and 24 units of English, including upper division.”

“That’s not the same as humanities. It’s a broader variety of courses.” The advisor handed me a sheet of paper with a list of classes meeting the humanities and literacy requirement at the community college.

“Oh, Journalism 234 is on the list. I’m already enrolled in that class.”

“I don’t see it on your schedule.”

“It’s English 235. It’s the same class.”

“English 235 is an elective.”

“No, you misunderstood me. There are 18 of us in the class, the same class, the same teacher, the same classroom, the same time. Nine of us are taking it as English 235, the remainder as Journalism 234. It’s the same course. Who can I see to get this accepted?”

“You’ll have to withdraw from English 235 and obtain instructor permission to enroll in Journalism 234. You’ll probably have to make up your missed work and tests.”

“Can’t the Registrar just transfer the course number?”

“No, you have to withdraw and re-enroll. You can however, get a withdraw passing on your record if the instructor approves.”

“It’s past the date from which I can withdraw and obtain a refund of the tuition I’ve already paid. Then I’ll have to pay tuition for the Journalism class, plus a late enrollment penalty. That doesn’t make any sense.”

“That’s what has to be done.”

“OK, let me read this back to you to ensure I understand. In early August, I enrolled in English 235, Magazine Article Writing in a section taught by Dr. Judy Galbraith as a hybrid with classroom on Thursday night at 6:30 in Computer Commons 140. I paid tuition for three credits, roughly $210. Now I find out that English 235, Magazine Article Writing doesn’t count as a humanities and literacy requirement. However, Journalism 234, Magazine Article Writing, which I can take in a section taught by Dr. Judy Galbraith as a hybrid with classroom on Thursday night at 6:30 in Computer Commons 140, does count as a humanities and literacy requirement. So I have to lose my tuition of $210 and blemish my transcript with a Withdrawal from English 235. I can obtain a Withdrawal Passing if Dr. Galbraith approves it. Then I have to ask Dr. Galbraith for permission to enroll late in Journalism 234 and pay approximately $210 in tuition plus the late enrollment fee. Did I leave out any steps?”

“Well, when you put it that way, it doesn’t make any sense.”

“Right, can you put it another way so that it does make sense? What if I finish English 235 this semester and then enroll in Journalism 234 next semester and proficiency out of the class?”

“We can’t give you credit for the same course twice.”

“You just told me they are not the same course, which is why English 235 cannot count as a humanities and literacy class.”

“Why are you making this so difficult?”

“I was going to ask you the same question.”

Sometimes a lust for life isn’t lusty

12 05 2010

My friend Cheri passed last week. I learned about it today when I called for a weekly conversation about life, politics, jobs, and ironing. Answered by a strange voice, and I thought perhaps my voice dialing had misdialed.

“Oh, I was calling for Cheri, I must have misdialed.”

“No, this is her father.” Not necessarily surprising, as her mother had just spent the winter with her, maybe her father was here for the spring.

“Oh, uh, hi, is Cheri home?”

“When did you last talk with her?”

“Hmmm, about two weeks ago. I called her last week, but she didn’t call back. Sometimes we went for a couple of weeks without connecting because of her schedule and mine. Then we’d connect and it would be as if we had not been out-of-touch.”

“How do you know her?”

“We’ve been friends for almost two years. We, uh, well, we started out dating, but it didn’t connect that way. We’ve gone camping a couple of times. But we’re just friends. I’ve been there for her when she needed someone. Is she ill?” But I knew the answer before he said it.

“I’m sorry to tell you this, but Cheri is deceased.”

I pulled off to the side of the street in the Amex wide driveway just across from the Mayo Hospital. I didn’t know what to feel. I wasn’t in shock, yet. It just seemed that this was a call I expected and I dreaded for any number of reasons. Cheri has passed to the next world.

It’s hard to eulogize a friend where the bond between is so severed. She died sometime over a week ago, the day before we would have normally spoken. Apparently it was a day or two before she was found. She may have had words with her boyfriend. I hadn’t yet met him, but knew of him in a detached way. Her father told me that there was an email from a man beckoning her to call and not let “last Saturday” stand between them. Ultimately it seemed he reported her missing to the police, and she was found…but not at home.

Perhaps that’s what hurts so much. Her life ended alone, without anyone around her. Once before she her demons had nearly overpowered her. She called me, and I spent the day at her side in the ER until her friend Laura arrived nearly six hours later to take the night vigil.

Cheri was a blessing-giver in a meditation group. We both shared a lust for life, but she sometimes had to fight off challenges to her positive energy, her warm smile. In recent months, it seemed that the darkness had been brushed aside with the positive energy of the gongs and her group.

I guess now she has found her peace and the demons can no longer suck her energy. My sadness is more than just a loss of a friend. I had always reminded her that she could call any time, any day, and I would be there to listen or there to be with her. “Cheri, you have people who love you. You’re never alone. No matter how dark your spirit, we’re here to light your way.”

Cheri leaves two cats, her parents, a sister, the warmth of her smile, electricity of her touch, a an empty space on this planet.

It’s like a pecan pie … burnt on the floor of the oven

22 04 2010

“Do you think she’ll kill him?”


“Kill who?”

“Wait! Wait! I can explain!”

Oh the laments of a college afternoon in 1972. Sometimes it’s fun to take a trip down memory lane. Been doing a lot of that lately as the ol’ high school’s 40th Reunion approaches this fall. With a group of friends over dinner the other night, a pecan pie was brought to the table for dessert. Although with my tree-nut allergy, I can’t eat such, the wafting sweet fragrance of warm brown sugar and honey, along with the toasty nut aroma triggered an afternoon years ago in Carbondale, Illinois.

On quiet, two-block long Hays Street, Dan, Mark, and I lived in a typical three-bedroom southern Illinois bungalow. Now, we’re talking 1971, so I don’t have to explain about the regular use of herbs and spices in college life. Mark for some reason have craving for a pecan pie. He convinced my then girlfriend to make him a pie. In the heat and humidity of a warm afternoon, she rolled out a from scratch pie crust, mixed up the pie filling, pre-heated the oven, and put in the pie.

“Don’t touch it,” she cautioned. Dan and I were doing our homework at the kitchen table, but Mark, having completed his, had imbibed in some fresh herbs. I don’t remember why, but she then left the house—I have a vague memory that a dog had been hurt in the street or something. The fragrance of the pie filled the house. The sweetness of the browning sugar and syrup, the nutty flavor of the pecans, it was intoxicating.

After a bit, Mark came into the kitchen sniffing the air, “I wonder how it’s doing?”

“Don’t know, Mark, but she said, ‘don’t touch it.'”

“I just want to see it.”

Mark, I have to explain is over 6-feet tall, she was 5’5 or so. He was a former all-Chicago first baseman for Mather High School; she was a refugee from Aquinas Dominican and weighed under 100 pounds. In the slowly ending summer afternoon in southern Illinois, the influence of the demon weed crushed common sense, and Mark pulled open the oven door.

With a potholder, he carefully and slowly pulled the rack forward, deeply inhaling the fragrance of the pie. He admired its golden color, and carefully pushed the pie pan back into the oven. Yep, pulled out the rack, pushed back the pie pan. The look of horror on his face with the glop of pecan pie filling hitting the floor of the oven—pricelss. The summery fragrance of warm sugar coagulating into charred and burnt coal—terrifying.

Dan and I looked at each other and returned to our homework. Mark, panicking now, turned the 400-degree oven off, grabbed the household spatula, and began shoveling the burnt mess back into the pie pan. My back was to the door, but Dan looked up as she was seen returning to the house.

“Do you think she’ll kill him?” he asked as Mark fled quickly into his bedroom, locking the door.

“Absolutely,” I confirmed. 

“Kill who,” she asked and then sniffed the smell in the kitchen air. “What happened?”

The bedroom door opened a crack, and a plaintive voice pleaded, “Wait! Wait! I can explain!”