Category Archives: Random

Epic Ginormous Math Portrait… of me.

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Okay, this was EPIC.

After the seniors graduated, I had about 2 weeks of class remaining, the only problem being that I still had three juniors to teach… I needed to do something with them, but pushing forward in a math curriculum didn’t make any sense. Instead, I wanted to do something fun and give them a chance to be creative and do something they could be proud of, so I proposed that we partake in some sort of epic math art project. I gave them tons of ideas from MArTH Madness at Saint Ann’s (and they loved the word MArTH), but they eventually decided on doing something completely different…

Behold the final product!

What is it? A ginormous mathy portrait of my face (if you were thinking about saying something snarky about me being egotistical or something, you’re too late, everyone in the math department has been ribbing me for a few weeks now, but I SWEAR they insisted on doing my face). It is 60 inches by 40 inches (yeah… I said ginormous) but it’s made of 1080 small pieces of paper that are 1.5 inches square. We colored each piece of paper individually using oil pastels and put a math symbol on each one then arranged them and glued them on a canvas. So it’s a math teacher’s face… made of math symbols. YESSS.

It looks better the further you walk away from it… here is a zoomed out version (feel free to squint too, if you are so inclined):

But it’s also pretty cool close up… here are some close up views:

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The students finished it today while I was proctoring an exam, and left me this sweet note at the bottom – so nice! What a fun way to end the year. Now I just have to find an appropriate place at the school for a 5 foot tall picture of my face…

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Changes in the Blog

I had a busy year last year and didn’t get to update as often as I would have liked. I feel like some stories definitely went untold, like when I won the school’s Dance Dance Revolution title… or when a student decided to tell me a filthy joke in the middle of class… or when a student killed an octopus (a large one) with his bare hands while on vacation in Aqaba. Lot’s of stories all the time. But I’m having trouble keeping up with stories blogging and have been more interested lately in teaching blogging. So, long story short, I wanted to send out a warning to people that the blog is going to take a sharp left turn and become basically a math teaching blog. There is a great community of educators in the blogosphere that all share materials. I have benefited an unbelievable amount from them and have decided it’s time to enter the fray. So, if you see much more about Calculus, and much less about monarchs or car damage or Arabic gaffes, don’t be surprised. I don’t think I’ll be able to stay away from those stories, but they will be overshadowed by teaching practice.

Also…

  • Now you can just go to bowmandickson.com – cool!
  • I redesigned the blog a bit, I hope you like the new look.
  • I’m going to be adding things from my teaching portfolio.
P.S. I added some photos that I took while watching the Austin bats from a kayak below the bridge where they live. It was awesome!

Best Birthday Candles This Side of the Mississippi

Another exciting year has past in my life, and I recently celebrated with another birthday. This was my first birthday under my new astrological sign, Capricorn. I have been an Aquarius, a water bearer, my whole life and now some observatory in Minnesota says I am a sea-goat. I would love it if they could explain to me why it was time to change, and what exactly a sea-goat is. I celebrated by going out with a few friends in Amman, but besides good food and friends, the highlight of all birthdays here in Jordan are these ridiculously cool birthday candles that I have only seen over here. They flame up to like 12 feet high. Here is a two second video from February 11 to show what I’m talking about…

Preeeetttty cool, we just make sure we have all birthday parties in rooms with high ceilings. Ignore any related videos that pop up, I guess titling the video “Birthday Dance” was dangerous.

A Man of Many Names

There is something about my name that affords itself very easily to nicknames. Maybe it’s the fact that it is chock full on short common nouns, or that it already has man in it, a common element of many nicknames. It all started in seventh grade… back then my older brother was going through a brief phase where his friends were calling him Dickie, which left me with the unfortunate younger brother derivative Little Dickie. Since then, I’ve been Bo, Bubbles, Bobo, B-man and even Mandick (taking the middle part of BowMANDICKson). Whenever I go somewhere new, I tend to accumulate a few more nicknames. Here are a few of my favorites from my name at King’s, of course in addition to my Arabic name, Rami:

BOMALY
Bomaly is the Arabic word for pomelo, which is some sort of large citrus fruit that I don’t think I have ever seen (though you may recognize it from this somewhat well known picture of cat with a pomelo rind on its head). The guards at the gate of the school are somewhat notorious for messing up some of the ex-pats names (though certainly no worse than how badly some ex-pats massacre Jordanian names). I guess they heard Bowman and tried to make it into something that they recognized, so Bowman became Bomaly. This has stuck with a few of the Jordanian faculty here, as they found this story pretty amusing. I’m a fan of this one, though I need to get my hands on a bomaly to see what all the fuss is about.

MR BOKHMAN
As a bit of an Arabic nickname in and of itself, one student decided to give me some good Arabic sounds for my name, so he added a “kha” in the middle, which sounds like the hard throat clearing k/h end of loch in Scottish. He uses this name almost exclusively for me. It has a nice ring to it.

MR MAHMOUD
On a recent trip that I chaperoned to my favorite pirated DVD spot in Amman, Hamoudeh, my insane buddy who works there named Thaer was causing his usual ruckus, trying to peddle random crappy shows, proposing marriage to people, pretending to make deals even though everyone gets the same deal etc. He was trying to get my attention from a bit of a distance but still doesn’t know my name (I guess weekly trips and hundreds of movie purchases aren’t enough) so the students told me he was shouting for Mahmoud, a pretty random typical Arab name. I’m not sure why he picked that or why he thought that I would have an Arab name, but now a small group of senior girls call me Mr. Mahmoud.

BOWMAN
And then many of the rest of the senior girls just call me Bowman. If you’re 17 and too sassy for your own good, there’s no way you are addressing the 23 old dude in a lab coat and a bow tie with “mister”. Last year, I had  only 7 female students out of 35, so I didn’t get much exposure to the population of female high schoolers. This year my classes are about 50-50, so I teach around 30 young women, and I am actually having a very different year. I still haven’t decided which are stranger, high school boys or high school girls, but my experience with the newspaper this term has been tipping the scales toward the girls. This term, I have something like 15 senior girls working for the newspaper, and then like 3 or 4 others. They play this game during meetings called “Let’s see how many times we can get Mr. Bowman to blush.” They are very good at this. During the most recent one, I was working with someone else when I head one of the girls say very loudly “Would he rather hold your hand, or hold your ass?” They were making a Cosmo type quiz in which you answer questions about your boyfriend and add up points to get some sort of result. There were just so many things wrong with the situation that I had no clue what to do but turn completely red. Senior Girls – 1, Mr. Bowman – 0.

Welcome to the Future

Evidence that yes, we are currently living in the future:

One of my Calculus students injured himself pretty badly (broke his foot/leg) over the last break, and hasn’t been able to return to school. He is currently limping around his house with an old man walker. Instead of getting behind in all his classes, he decided that he is going to Skype into every single one of his classes. Every day, I set up the computer facing the board, call him on Skype, say hi, then start the class. He watches what’s going on and sometimes even asks questions. Though not the same as being there, he is keeping up with Calculus class…. from a few thousand kilometers away in Saudi Arabia. Every time I call him up at the beginning of the class I get this mental image of me teaching in 20 years to a room full of computer screens facing my direction. I’m not too sure how I will scold them for talking to their neighbor, but maybe that wont be a problem because their neighbor will actually be thousands of kilometers away.

And then this past Sunday, as part of our “Spirit Week” festivities, we had a Wii competition in our gym. So instead of playing real sports in the place that we are supposed to play real sports, we set up huge screens with projectors and had three Wiis going at once, one for a boxing tournament, one for a ping pong tournament, and one for Dance Dance Revolution. There were boxing gloves and a ping pong table literally in the next room over, but instead of doing that we watched people wave around white wands, which made digital people on the screen play sports that we didn’t really feel like playing in real life. Needless to say, it was very fun. The future is fun.

I can’t even imagine the type of crazy things that our kids will be doing when the future (part 2) comes around.

My Car – Shim Hates Me

I think my car hates me. I would probably hate me too if I were my car. I got in an accident when I was 16, a few months after I got my license, but then never touched another car again with my car in the states (his name is Webster, I miss him dearly)… But then I started driving here in Jordan. Within two months I managed to send our currently nameless car to the shop twice. Shim (also haven’t even determined its gender identity) has two brand new doors, a brand new front bumper, and has it’s SECOND brand new front-right-over-the-wheel-panel-thing in two months. Also, it has a new Jordanian flag because the first time it went in someone stole my flag (why, people?? jealous of my patriotism?). I know, I’m spoiling shim with all these new parts, right?

When my parents visited in March they had a wonderful visit, but one of the only things they didn’t like here was the crazy no-blinker, change-lanes, honk-and-flash-your-lights, people-walk-in-your-path driving. Sadly though, I can’t even blame my driving blunders on the crazy driving here, because both incidents happened with parked cars or stationary objects. The first time, I thought shim was skinnier that it was and scraped the entire right side from front wheel to back (see earlier post Jordanian Driving Fail for a picture). Fail. And then the next time, I whipped out of my parking spot at school slamming the front right side of my car into a sturdy concrete trash can that was, out of fairness to me and my driving skillz, too low for me to see it out of the window from the drivers seat. I hopped out to realize that the incredibly heavy trash can was knocked over, at which point I wasn’t even mad, I was impressed, even more so when I tried to right the trash can, and realized it was almost too heavy for me to pick up. Shim is strong.

The complicating factor this second time was that I was planning on driving a few students into Amman, so they were standing about 100 feet away. After hoisting the trash can I hopped in, and pretended like nothing had happened. I didn’t know if they had seen or not because we got distracted when one bizarrely tried to let the air out of someone’s tires in front of me (no, you did not drop your cell phone under a car in the faculty parking lot, and no, that’s not a “prank”), but later they revealed that they had in fact seen me smash the trash can (and had heard the loud crack that it made). They confessed they were nervous to get in the car with me, but I was their last resort. I thought they were just giving me a hard time but no, they were actually nervous. After I dropped them off I went a couple of hundred yards up the street before deciding I needed to use my cell phone. Like the responsible, GOOD driver that I am, I pulled off to the side to talk. No more than a minute later, I see one of my gangly friends sprinting up to the side of my car. He looked in and saw me talking on the phone. “Oh, phew, I thought you had hit something!! Okay, bye Mr. Bowman!” Part of me thought it was very nice that he reacted like that, but that part of me was trying to convince the other parts of me that I’m not a failure of a vehicle operator. I have street smarts.

So my car hates me and probably thinks I’m about as good of a driver as those forced to ride with me do. Maybe it’s time I show some affection and give shim a name…

Texcapade: Whiskey’s New Friend Rocky

Whiskey absolutely loves toys, mostly stuffed animals. He came from his previous owner with a whole bin of toys, his favorites being the pink lamb (whom he slowly dismantled and consumed) and a stuffed football (which has impressively survived). He uses his toys to greet guests – whenever someone comes in the house he goes to his bin and picks out a toy to show the visitor – and as bedtime companions – he always has something in his mouth on his way to bed.

But the joke is on us for buying stuffed animals for him, because Whiskey’s new friend Rocky was free, he found it himself and even has the added benefit of being environmentally friendly. Rocky is a rock. And Whiskey treats Rocky like he would any of his other toys. He awkwardly tries to pick shim up (Rocky is a little bit too big to fit comfortably in his mouth) gingerly carries shim around in his mouth, gently nibbles on shim, brings shim to the door to show me when I come in the house and takes shim to bed to cuddle for the night.

There’s a John Stuart Mill quote that basically says “It is better to be [Socrates] dissatisfied than a pig satisfied?” but I think Whiskey has proved him completely wrong. I would be much more popular if I could make friends with inanimate objects

Texcapade: A Dog named Whiskey

Have you ever bought anything on Craigslist? How about a dog? ًOur beloved family dog Daisy died before we left New Hampshire, so when we moved to Texas we decided to get a new family dog (slash my mom decided that she needed a new friend). Naturally, the first place she looked was Craigslist. After we tried out a few dogs that were listed as “mixes” we learned that when they don’t specify the breed, it’s usually a crazy pit bull mix. And then we stumbled upon Whiskey. Whiskey’s former owner was about to die from cirrosis, a liver disease caused by excess alcohol (so he was a guy who loved alcohol so much that he named his dog after it). He was happy to give Whiskey to a nice home and sadly enough died the day we got him.

And Whiskey is absolutely hilarious. We have no clue what type of dog he his, but it turns out that we adopted the exact dog on whom Doug from the movie “Up” (picture above, video below) is based. Whiskey looks like him and even has the same “SQUIIIIRREL!?!” personality.

The novelty of having a dog named Whiskey has still not worn off after a year and a half. As funny as it is calling “Whiskey” out when you’re trying to get him to come to you, it’s not nearly as funny as hearing the little kids who live at our school talk about him. One little boy went to school and wrote on some sort of assignment “I love Whiskey”, which probably gave his teacher something to talk about with his parents at parent-teacher conferences.

Overall, better use of Craigslist than this hilarious jerk.

Texcapade: Chicken Sh*t Bingo

My parents moved to Texas from New Hampshire about two years ago, a distance of 1690 mi (2720 km). This is almost the exact same distance as the distance from Amman to Munich, Germany (1694 mi), Amman to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (1595 mi), Amman to Moscow, Russia (1648 mi) or even Amman to war-torn Southern Afghanistan (1625 mi). It’s pretty mind boggling to compare the cultural differences that come with the distances overseas to the same distances in our behemoth of a country… at first glance. Americans (or maybe most travelers?) spend 84% of the time they travel or live abroad pointing out differences between their homeland and their current locale, but I’ve realized that you don’t need to fly across an ocean or the Gulf of Mexico to get that adventurous experience.

TEXCAPADE #1: Chicken Sh*t Bingo
Ginny’s Little Longhorn, or Little Ginny’s, here in Austin, TX hosts a hilarious Sunday afternoon activity called Chicken Sh*t Bingo. The name probably speaks for itself, but in case you need an explanation, it’s fairly simple:

  1. First, you buy a ticket ($1) that has a number on the back of it.
  2. Then, seventy-something Ginny herself places a chicken in a cage that sits a board divided into squares labeled with numbers.
  3. After waiting, cheering, and yelling at the chicken, it eventually poops.
  4. If the chicken poops on your number, you win!

With the band playing Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, signs from the 50s adorning the walls (along with decade old Polaroids of devoted patrons who have passed away), dusty old bottles lining the shelves and free self-serve chili dogs sitting in a crock-pot on a table in the corner… the background for Bingo is straight from a movie set, exponentially increasing the hilarity.

I had the pleasure of playing the game myself, alongside my older brother Mack and cousin Joe, but unfortunately I drew a number tucked way in the corner, where the chicken’s butt did not frequently go. Joe had the square, however, that was the right distance from the edge of the cage so that when the chicken was trying to get food from Ginny, her butt was hovering directly over his square. Perhaps it was this lucky draw, or perhaps it was the expert chicken intimidation at the right times, but after about 12 minutes, the chicken’s feathers opened up like the clouds of the sky and a poop rained down on Joe’s spot like a gift from heaven. Judging by the size of the poop, I think the chicken had snuck one of the free chili dogs when Ginny wasn’t looking.

$120 richer, “New Hampshire Joe” as he came to be known, promptly bought a beer for everyone at the bar (the $120 went a long way when the beers were only $2). All this at 4 pm on a Sunday. We’re not in New Hampshire anymore.

The Biggly Wiggly

Here’s a math equation that I never learned in college:

There’s this amazing hummus and falafel shop that is off of the highway on the way back to campus from Amman that I stop at almost every time I am coming back around dinner time, and it happens to be right next to the “Biggly Wiggly” convenience store (from which I obtained the bag above). It seems like this would be perhaps a rip off of “Piggly Wiggly”, the grocery store hailing from South Carolina, which is somewhat likely because there is a lack of distinction between the letters “p” and “b” in Arabic… but maybe that’s not what happened becuase the logo seems to be a rip off of the Vlasic pickle bird dude. And there is certainly a distinction between pigs and birds over here (you don’t eat one, and you eat the other with basically every meal). But maybe, since pigs are unclean, they would make a bad logo for a convenience store, so they changed it to a pickle bird (but just had to have that iggly-icious name)? Or maybe they thought that by violating two copyrights (if that concept existed here) at the same time it would be some sort of Double Jeopardy loophole and they would get off scot free?

Who knows the answers to these deep riddles. Maybe I will go in and ask where they got their name one day…