Thursday, January 27

Genius as group: being part of a genius

Who among us has jumped at the opportunity to do group work?

Sensing the crickets via blogosphere, I'm guessing most of us would rather work alone. Group projects present a myriad of difficulties, from scheduling and personality conflicts to leader/follower issues and unstated expectations of others. Throughout my scholastic career, I endured (yes, barely tolerated) many group projects. When teachers announced a group project, I prayed we were at least allowed to choose our partners. (In which case I would choose the best friends I had in the class, at least being able to rely on them more than the average classmate.) I loathed group work because it felt like I ended up doing most of the work (so why couldn't I just work alone?), that everyone else was slacking (thus stressing me and stifling my creativity) and therefore I had to pick up the slack and carry it—while carrying my own load—across the finish line. And then my hard-earned A became everyone's A.

You know the story well. Either you've lived it or your kid complains about it. This is the unavoidable grip of group work in our world. I'm not the only person who has experienced this and these experiences do not cease after scholastic endeavors end with pieces of paper declaring aptitude and capability.

Perhaps, now more than ever, group work prepares us for the real world... especially the smart, innovative, genius-hungry real world.

I don't use my own experiences as examples to suggest I'm a genius, so let's get that out of the way first. I'm also not saying that I don't like to work with people or don't work well with people. I like it (now) and I'm rather good at it. (I'm better off when I have some sort of leadership role, but I know that's not always possible.) I'm also not suggesting that group work is bad and shouldn't be used in schools because my training as a teacher has taught me that classroom-focused, student-centered, peer-to-peer learning allows for incredible learning potential not present in lecture-centered, teacher-centric classrooms. That, and the whole idea of "no man is an island" (thanks, Donne) rings true once students go home or out into the workforce.

What I'm suggesting is that even though smart kids tend to despise group work because the other kids tend to either expect (because they're lazy/apathetic) or allow (intuiting that the smart kid wants to be in charge) the smart kids to carry the bulk of the work, perhaps the smart kids should buckle down and realize that this will help them not only be better people ("works well with others" is still a bragging point?), but also grow towards the illustrious genius status.

Lehrer suggests that the current "dearth of geniuses" is because "our modern problems have gotten so hard – so damn intractable, complicated and multi-disciplinary – that we can no longer solve them by ourselves."

So instead of following the models of geniuses that have gone before, today's genius first has to join a group project with a variety of stakeholders with different disciplinary expertise to attack the world's problems. Does this mean that a person is no longer considered a genius but instead a part of a genius? Not that the title means much, but it's likely that the suggestion of genius brings with it some ego, respect, and, today more than ever, earning power.

Sunday, January 23

The day after AppleCare expires

I bought my Macbook in 2008 after my iBook bit the dust (on my first day of grad school, no less). I learned my lesson with my iBook and bought AppleCare for the Macbook. Since 2008, I've only had minor complaints. Once the screen was flickering, so I took it to a Genius Bar. There was a loose wire and they fixed it right there at the store. Then, last year I noticed the top case (by the keyboard) was cracking. I read online that it was a common issue and covered under AppleCare. I sent my computer away for repair using the home shipping method. When it returned, I had a note saying that Apple had replaced my hard drive too after finding a bad sector that may eventually fail. (That replacement alone was worth the price of the AppleCare!)

Then last week, I carried my laptop to the kitchen to check my email after work. I set it down on the table and my boyfriend remarked, "Did you know there's a crack in the back near your hinge?"

I said no, but was aghast when I saw the crack. I hadn't noticed it. I treat my laptop with tender loving care. Finding a crack in its lower case was very upsetting. The crack was curved around a screw.

"I wonder if this is covered under your AppleCare," my boyfriend said.

I froze. "Oh my gosh, I think it expired yesterday." The one year of courtesy coverage plus the two years I purchased were set to expire this month of this year—January 2011. I looked through my files and found my receipt.

I shrieked. "January 19th!" Today was the 20th.

"Are you kidding me?"

"No." I sighed. "I guess I have to put up with it. I hope it doesn't affect the life of the computer."

"Why don't you call them anyway?"

What did I have to lose? I called up AppleCare and first spoke with a nice woman named Brittany. She said she wasn't sure if they could do anything, but that she would get her senior advisor on the line. I waited on hold, all the while feeling like Apple had somehow tapped into my personal music preferences for the "hold" music, until Phil came on the line.

Phil was a friendly guy and sounded genuinely sorry for the crack in my Macbook. It wasn't his fault, but he somehow sounded like he personally wanted to help fix it. He asked me to take a photo of the crack and email it to him. So I did. That's the image you see here.

Phil looked at it and said they'd cover it. He didn't even hesitate. He said he was glad I called just one day after my AppleCare expired, saying that if I had called one month after it expired that we wouldn't be having this conversation. I agreed, and thanked him. I was so glad my computer would be repaired.

We worked out the details for the repair. I'm sending it through the home shipping method again. It's scheduled to go out tomorrow. I'll probably have it back by the end of the week. (It didn't take that long last time, so I anticipate roughly the same turn-around time. Regardless, I can check the status of my repair online if I want to know where it is or if I get nervous.)

This, among other reasons, is why Apple will have my business. I enjoy their products and they back up what they sell. They treat their customers right—or at least this customer—and I am pleased.

Friday, January 21

Tweet and retweet

I joined Twitter today. I never thought I would, but I'm giving it a shot. Enjoy the Twitter feed to the right. Feel free to follow!

I also changed my blog title to "The Adventures of Grammarissa." I was given the nickname Grammarissa at work because of my penchant for grammar. When combined with my first name, Karissa, it fits well (despite the fact that my colleague tends to call me "Gramma").

Perhaps this is the new change I needed...

Wednesday, January 12

New blog, old blog

I'm attempting to migrate my old blog—my school blog, which I've kept for over seven years now—to Blogger, since the school is switching from Movable Type to Wordpress and is leaving old users (read: graduates who still blog) behind. I suppose it was only a matter of time, considering the university let us keep using its blogosphere for free. What I'll miss is the clout that came with having the university's name in my URL.

The archive of my old blog is almost 1gb of fun and Blogger kicked it back when I tried to upload it a few hours ago... I let the browser churn for about three hours before calling it quits and deciding to get this thing established in its own right.

I don't know exactly what will happen to my old blog, but it was called Sugarpacket. It may still exist somewhere in cyberspace, but I won't be able to post to it soon. Sionara...

My beloved Sugarpacket. The title suited me for years and perhaps still does, but I'm hesitant to continue blogging under that name. I'm trying to move into the professional world more and more, so it's possible that if my blog name reflects that I might find the transition easier. (This is all theory.) I'm not sure I like the title I came up with—The Glory of Writing—except that it was all I could think of when trying to get this new blog going.

We'll see if I can get the old blog to redirect to this new one... Wish me luck.