Archive for July 2012

Recent Good Things

I helped a friend connect with some new passions. – D. writes “Seriously, it’s funny how I’ve been stumbling around in my own little world on how to do music-light-flame art that can be interactive, rather than a passive audience, and here you’ve shown me a whole community working on PID (Physical Interactive Design) for Music.”

EDD problems resolved – I can take a few classes at City College as long as they don’t interfere with work at the Crucible. My classes are generally during the day and I teach generally at night. And most importantly, “job offers” at the Crucible are rarely “bonafide offers of work” since they are almost always contingent upon us having enough students.

Megan loves me :-)

I found a nice outfit for a wedding a few weeks ago – good clothes are nice!

I found a good physiology class – I had a teacher I didn’t jell with so I switched and it was awesome

I’m set to apply for Diagnostic Medical Imaging (DMI) in August

Megan’s suggestion to apply for an Occupational Therapy (OT) program is a good one, I’m checking it out

I know I don’t like Radiation Therapy (RTT) – My dad had suggested I look into it as a career; I went forward with allied health and just recently got to shadow some folks at CPMC Medical Center. Yow! That is not for me!

I converted the miles on a new credit card to dollars and I’ve got $500 free money burning a hole in my pocket

Not having a car for the last 3 months has been OK (except for hurting my knees on my bike! but I’ll figure that out)

SRL Was on the Cutting Edge When I Was in Elementary School

This is art. And incredible.

SRL staged the Crime Wave show in 1995 after which Mark Pauline and Mike Dingle were promptly arrested and questioned by local authorities and the FBI and later charged with arson and the use of explosives to endanger the public…

Here’s an excerpt from their 1989 show:

local version:

Notes from the Youtube video:

This is a show we staged under the 101 freeway which involved among other inadvisable things, the burning of 20 pianos against a freeway support. Also notable for a week long bomb scare caused by 300 or so TNT canisters we filled with plaster and fitted with fake blasting caps that had cannon fuse protruding from them. We filled a large plastic bag with these and at the end of the show machines ripped the bag apart scattering the canisters. Then we took a canister filled with about 80 grams of black powder and set it off. The audience thought the rest were real…..Video Shoot Directed by Jon Reiss, Video edited by Leslie Asako Gladsjo.

Really Nice Laser Printer

I’ve had my HP Laserjet P1606dn for almost a year now and I’m really happy with it.

reliable paper feeding… I’ve had printers that feed poorly
small footprint… it’s a tiny printer, really
double-sided printing… works great, professional looking and saves paper
inexpensive to operate… with my aftermarket toner. The eBay seller “Toplinkinc” sells toner cartridges for it for $13. My first cartridge from them just ran out, I got 1,700 pages out of it. That’s less than 1 cent per page for ink! Why does HP sell this same toner for $79 (5 times the price per page!) ??

Don’t buy an inkjet printer unless you REALLY NEED color, and you need it cheap, and you need it to fail when you least expect it. The cartridges are VERY expensive and they dry out when you least expect them to. You have been warned.
Read more about inkjets…

How to Pick a Professor in the Bay Area Community College System

If you are trying to “pick up” a class or two in the Bay Area, this guide is for you.

I took a Human Physiology class this summer at College of Alameda to fullfill a prerequisite for the programs I’m applying for in the fall. “Shopping” for a professor can be a daunting task. Here is how I did it and it worked out very well, after a long road.


Find the class

This can be a nice trick depending on the program. Equivalent courses are subjective. There is no definitive guide to what classes are equivalent to another. Go to the counseling department of the school you are trying to get into and ask. Here is a chart from City College of San Francisco from Spring 2012. YMMV!


Find a school

There are several college systems in the Bay Area. Find the you can actually travel to. For example, I visited Merritt College and realized the 1 1/2 hr door-to-door commute from San Francisco by bus was a bother. Here’s a list of local Community Colleges:

City College of San Francisco

  • Several San Francisco campuses

Peralta Colleges East Bay

  • Berkeley City College
  • College of Alameda
  • Laney College
  • Merritt College

San Mateo Community College District

  • Canada College
  • College of San Mateo
  • Skyline College

Contra Costa Community College District

  • Contra Costa College
  • Diablo Valley College
  • Los Medanos College

Foothill College

College of Marin

Chabot College

There is also the University of California system (UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco) and the California State (San Francisco, East Bay) system. I looked into picking up some Chemistry courses at SF State but the summer Chemistry course was $3,000 and it looked like a bother to apply (I didn’t actually try) so I bagged it.


And there’s online courses. Some schools offer intensive classes… like 5-8 weeks long instead of 16 weeks.

  • University of Phoenix – $585 per unit
  • American Public University – $250 per unit
  • Walden – $1500 per course online
  • Argosy University – They don’t offer individual courses online


Choose an actual class. This ended up being a multi-step, iterative process for me…

Apply for the school, Find an open class, Find a good professor.

Applying for any individual community college in California is easy. Every school system has their own registration system. For example, College of Alameda is part of the Peralta System. When you apply at Peralta, they give you an ID you can use at any of the Peralta Schools. You will be automatically accepted at any of the community college systems in 1-48 hours. I’m registered as a student at most of the Bay Area community colleges.

If you want to see if a class is open or wait-listed or whatnot, you should apply and use the school’s student registration system. For example, the “outward-facing” system at Diablo Valley College told me that their Physiology class still had seats available but the student system told me more correctly that the class was full with 10 people on the wait-list.

Often you will find yourself trying to get into an already-full class. If you really want it, talk to the professor. When he says “no”, keep showing up anyway. As other students drop the class in the first 2 weeks, the “no” will turn to a “maybe”. By the 2nd or 3rd week of showing up and showing your true passion for the class, you’ll probably (hopefully!) get accepted into the class.

Finding a good professor is a good trick. The quality of professors in the community college system is a mixed bag. You are the only person that can decide if you like a professor. There are innumerable qualities a professor might have that make or break the experience for you. Here are some of the big ones for me:

Attitude. Clarity of expression. Easy to understand accent or tone – if you can’t hear them, you are sunk. Cultural differences – if you can relate to a professor’s expressions, you will have an additional learning channel. Appropriate amount of collateral material – some professors drown you in materials, some give none. Ability to lecture well, ability to answer questions, ability to offer alternate explanations. Is the professor watering down the material to make it easier? Does he push you hard? Do you like or resent how they are pushing you?

Ok, so how do you find a good professor? Here is what I do:

  1. Read the comments they receive at
  2. Find the average grade they give at
  3. Ask my friends for teacher recommendations
  4. Google them, see what else they teach, what their passions are.

Integrate all this info into a best guess.

For the summer Human Physiology class I just took, it went like so:

  1. My counselor at City College said that “Bio 4” at Peralta Colleges would  be equivalent to Physio 1 at City College.
  2. I found 4 acceptable summer Physio classes.
    1. Merritt College class had an OK rated (according to RateMyProfessors and MyEDU) teacher. But the campus was 1 1/2 hrs door-to-door.
    2. College of Alameda had a “Hybrid” class with Prof Reza Majlesi. Most of the lectures were online, he got poor marks at RateMyProfessors and on average gave a “C” according to MyEDU (both bad signs).
    3. College of Alameda had a course with Prof Peter Niloufari. He got good marks with RateMyProfessors and on average gave an “A”. But his class was apparently full.
    4. Diablo Valley College had a course with a well rated professor, but it was at the far end of the BART line and likely full.
  3. I went with Professor Majlesi’s class. It was terrible. At the end of 2 weeks of summer school I felt that I hadn’t learned anything and was on track to fail… like get an “F”. Panic ensued.
  4. I checked in with Professor Niloufari, explained my situation and he said he’d take me if the school would allow the transfer.
  5. I went to the Dean’s Office who said, “Oh, you want to switch from the online class to the in-person class? I don’t blame you! Sure! Here are the forms.”
  6. It was HARD catching up to the rest of the class but I did. I learned a boatload and I got an A!


Here are good snapshots comparing my two Physiology professors. I spent time in both classes. Guess which teacher I ended up liking better (hint: I believe Professor Niloufari is a great teacher)




When you are trying to pick up a lot of classes and you aren’t sure which ones you will get into, make a spreadsheet like this to help you. It might seem boring and redundant to copy all the classes from all the schools into a spreadsheet but it was super helpful for me to keep things clear.

I made sample plans and my daily schedules with this. With a printout of this in your pocket, you are unstoppable!

Good luck to you!

PS. You should also read my post How to Get Your Classes



Some Nice Adventures with Megan

A chronicle from back in early June:


I biked to Fort Mason, we met up and saw an outdoor exhibit in Fort Mason Center called “Seat“, which was exactly what you think it might be… seats as art. Which you’d think was kinda dumb but after seeing a couple of them and “getting it” it was really pretty cool and fun.

The Exploratorium exhibits at Fort Mason were fun.

Went to Greens at Fort Mason – very chic and expensive vegetarian. I’m glad we went there but ultimately the tiny servings of flavored butter beans and tiny servings of the fried food were the best foods, which doesn’t speak terribly highly of the place.

Exploratorium After Dark was great fun. We got the backstage tour from Marnia and Corey, official visiting artists with the TE+ND rover (!)


Great breakfast at Sunny Side Cafe on Solano Ave in Albany. Their “Alameda” is the perfect hungry man’s breakfast. It’s this giant stack of French Toast, ham, eggs, hollandaise sauce and all that is good in breakfast. Megan’s niece Hanna was there, Hanna’s boyfriend Brett and Emma were there. Hanna sings a lot :-)

A 3 hour hike into Tilden Park with Megan, Hanna, Brett, and Cali. It started out as a regular hike until we decided to try and find the Tilden Park Caves. We succeeded and had quite an adventure! A bee climbed into Hanna’s hair and Brett had to get it out with a stick!

Sushi dinner at Mijori in Grand Lake with Caitlin. Megan ran into her faux-bo, we saw Martin and his son who really wanted to go to a sushi boat. A (successful) quest for frozen yogurt was undertaken, during which we ran into my pal Marcus.

Epic Rap Battles of History: Einstein vs Stephen Hawking

Watch the nerd in the chair rip Einstein a hole in his space-time.

local version: