Adonis Diaries

Archive for November 2nd, 2008

Yesterday, when we were born Earth didn’t lack anything; when we died Earth didn’t lack anything.

Today, when we are born Earth did not to lack anything; when we die Earth lacks a little of everything.

Tomorrow, when we are born Earth would lack a little of everything; when we die Earth would die with us!

Article #24, (June 11, 2005)

“Students’ feedback on my teaching method for the current semester”

After many unsuccessful attempts to generating students’ feedback on my teaching methods and how this course might affect their perspective and behavior in approaching the remaining core courses before graduation and in their career I decided to include two questions in the final exam that I expected would shed some insight.

The required question, which I told class two weeks ahead of the final exam that it will be part of the exam, directed the students to focus first on the diligent A and B students and then to target the C and D students in their teaching methods in case they might have to teach a course in Human Factors and the third part was to restructure the course materials and which chapters should have to be developed further. 

Now, any logical person would expect the students to have prepared detailed answers to these questions since it is an open book and open notes exam, but unfortunately, I didn’t have any shred of evidence that any student did prepare a written answer. 

You would also expect students to be lenient in teaching this course but their reaction was even harsher.

 Students required that drop quizzes be delivered on a weekly basis after students hand in a chapter summary, that case studies be debated in class, a few lab workshops and many more assignments. 

A student suggested attaching a CD copy of the course material so that they would not have to carry books.

They suggested that summarizing chapters as assignments might force students to read, a suggestion that I did try in a previous semester but was discouraged because the endeavor ended up with students heavily copying from one another and I carrying home heavy loads and wasting more time flipping through useless pages.

I think that frequent and consistent drop quizzes are an excellent tool although it will cost me dear time for grading and from teaching time.

Actually, I didn’t expect even the most diligent students to read the whole course materials. 

I provided hints and suggestions on the best way to assimilating the material that would help them navigate through the content of the course. 

I encouraged them to browse through the whole course contents and focus on the graphs, tables and figures and try to comprehend the subject matters by analyzing and using them as facts in their analyses.

May be you would have a better assessment of the students’ harsh requirements, if given the opportunity to teaching, after I expose the load they shouldered throughout the semester.

Besides the mid-term and final exams, each student had to submit two assignments, two lengthy lab projects; three extensive take home exams that covered most of the chapters, three quizzes for 45 minutes each, two presentations to class of graphs, tables and figures, reading revised articles that I assigned them and a take home exam on a research paper concerning hand tool design. 

Not a single student was exposed to a research paper before and it was a pretty tough awakening for the students planning for higher education. 

I think that the students lacked an appreciation of the time allocated to managing a class that prohibits many well meaning teaching plans. 

In many instances, I had to read in class the assignments and take home exams questions and provide directions because I noticed that the students tended to dig these assignments up from their folders before a long lapse of time. 

The time allocated for students’ presentation takes up more than a third of the teaching hour and fielding questions takes the best of the second third 

There are no lab credit hours for this course and still students believe that they can set aside free hours for doing lab projects necessary for assimilating this course.

The alternatives restructuring of the course materials did not differ much from mine.

The optional question for bonus points asked the students to select 3 topics of interest to them, provide catchy titles and explain in two paragraphs for each topic how it might apply and improve their careers. 

Although I have assigned to the students articles that I wrote as an introduction to the course materials only one student offered complete sentence titles; the rest just named the topics. 

It appears that their preferred topics were: risk and errors, designing interfaces, work environmental factors that might affect performance, human-computer interface and hand tool design. 

A couple students interested in medical technology engineering wanted more emphasis on the biology aspects of the body structure. 

Only one student mentioned the cognitive preference for this single course.

Many students signed petitions to re-include the elective course of “risk assessment and occupational safety and health” for the fall semester but the administration refused to consider these petitions two years in a row.

Why?  I still did not receive any feedback either written or verbal. 

It appears that the meaning of asking students to deliver petitions for any demand is less a matter for taking their cases seriously but to erect roadblocks and present a procedural façade to secure grants as a professional institution.

Actually, students’ apathy toward the effectiveness of the student council is strikingly telling.

I had to harangue my class to grab and snatch their rights by persistent pressure on the administration for the demands in their petitions.

Article #23, (April 24, 2005)

“What undergraduate students care about university courses?”

In the mid of the spring semester I had finished writing 20 articles that covered most of the topics of the Human Factors in engineering course.

I had more than once asked the following questions in exams: “How would you like to define Human Factors regardless of the various textbooks definitions and how your perception of this discipline could enhance your career?”

Invariably, the undergraduates preferred to rely on textbooks definitions instead of providing me with any meaningful feedback as to how my message was conveyed.

I decided to generate statistical responses through a simple questionnaire.

The experiment was to discover their preferred topics from the titles of the articles and then, when all the articles have been read to class, to acquire their new responses as to their personal interest in the topics.

I then went ahead and submitted to class the 20 titles and asked them to select only three titles they would be interested to read more about and to grade them according to preference such as first, second and third choice.

Before analyzing the gathered data I found it useful to group the current 20 titles according to meaningful dimensions or components which could be reduced to four dimensions; first dimension related to career orientation or job market availability for Human Factors practitioners might be represented by articles (1, 5, 6 and 19), dimension 2 of design improvement for engineers represented by articles (3, 8, 9 and 20), dimension 3 related to safety in workplaces represented by articles (4, 10, 15 and 16) and dimension 4 difficulty of the course or related to difficulty of passing the course represented by articles (2, 7, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17 and 18).

After collecting their responses I distributed the articles according to their choices with the following assignment; every student had to recopy the assigned article, reedit it according to his understanding using the words that might suit better his writing skill and style and then to read his version to class.

This experiment was intended to encourage the class to focus on the topics that they are more willing to assimilate and apply in their careers.

Seventeen students submitted their response sheets in class.

A preliminary analysis of the preferred choices generated the following statistics:

Title #19 generated the highest number of 7 responses among the choices; titles #5, 6 and 10 came next with 5 responses, and third in place titles #1, 3 and 4 with 4 responses.

Titles #12, 13 and 14 that concerned error and task taxonomies and methods did not generate any responses although my conjecture is that these esoteric nomenclatures might have generated at least many third preference choices.

Titles #4, 5 and 10 had the highest number of first choice which was 3 responses.

It appears that the majority of undergraduates are interested in career orientation or more precisely they need confirmation that they selected the appropriate major and would like to know how this course can help them secure a job or make a dent in their career behavior with a total of 21 choices.

The safety dimension came second with 16 choices and if we assume that safety engineering was implicitly considered a career alternative then a total of 37 out of a grand total of 51 choices was clustered around anxiety toward their careers.

Furthermore, if the design improvement dimension with 14 choices could be viewed as an affirmation of their career selection then everyone was concerned one way or another with his future job prospect.

.Once all the articles have been read I intend to redistribute the titles of the 20 articles and find out if there is any significant change in the responses based on contents.

I provided the class a feedback to the statistics and my own interpretations and did not receive any negative comments.

Thus, for my final take home exam I inserted questions related to their career. 

One question was for them to take stock of their knowledge and training capabilities and limitations as engineers based on 3 job descriptions, then to investigate their deficiencies when they select a graduate major from the catalogue of required courses and then what courses or workshops they would attend in order to strengthen their promotional opportunities.

For their final exam I hinted that a question will deal with how they would teach this course from two perspectives: the first perspective is targeting the diligent students of grades A and B and the second method when targeting the C and D students. 

They were told to be ready to restructure the course materials given that it will be the unique course offered as Human Factors.

I expect from this exam question to receive valuable feedback as to my teaching method and which topics are of interest to the students.

I also expect that the students will start evaluating their potential in a teaching career.

Article #22, (April 22, 2005)

“How can an under graduate class assimilate a course material of 1000 pages?  Why so much material for a single course in the first place?”

Assimilating a new discipline or new methods in a single course is too strong a term. 

You indeed can scarcely describe the process of comprehending a topic and assimilating it, even within a specialized discipline, without overshooting the mark.

Now that the title might have captured your attention let me describe my teaching methods that may permit students to cover an overview of such a vast discipline as Human Factors in one semester course.

I encourage my students to learn and read as trained engineers should.

They are to locate first the graphs, tables and figures in a chapter, try to understand the topic by concentrating their attention on these tools of learning and then read the preceding and following sections if they fail to comprehend the graphs, tables and figure on their own merit.

You should all know that if a picture is worth a thousand words then a graph, table or a figure might be worth ten thousands words.

I assign a graph, table or a figure to students to hand copy it, write a short presentation, and then copy it on a transparency sheet to present to class.

After the presentation of a unique graph the student will field a few questions from class and then I take over and explain and expand on the content of the transparency.  

This method of training students to learn through these learning tools and giving them an opportunity to appreciate them, as engineers should, I am able to cover most of the course material throughout the semester.

Another method is by handing out two take home exams in addition to the regular exams.  Take home exams are handed out three weeks in advance of the due dates and cover questions from all chapters that need to be read thoroughly and supplemented from other sources for substantiation. 

Students are encouraged to take very seriously these take home assignments not only because they weight heavily in points but also because a few of the exam questions will be selected from the take home assignment. 

Assignments and lab projects are other methods for revisiting the course materials and other sources.

The quizzes and regular exams are open books, open notes and whatever printouts from the internet students are willing to carry to class. 

I even encouraged students to use an efficient cheat sheets technique that might convey the message effectively based on the fact that most of the chapters are interconnected. 

The main subjects such as designing interfaces, displays and controls, occupational safety and health, environmental and organizational factors in the workplace, designing workstations, capabilities and limitations of human users, sensing and perception capacities, and physical and cognitive methods have links to many other chapters in addition to the main one. 

Thus, if a student selects a subject as the central item he would be able to link different sections of other chapters to it by writing down the page numbers of the source section.  These cheat sheets could be excellent learning methods to answer open book exams without the need to fumble through hundreds of pages for each question.

A different technique to assimilating course materials is through questions. 

The catch is that asking questions on assignments, lab projects or take home exams have to be submitted in writing. 

The written question has to follow a certain process: first, stating in complete sentences the subject matter; second explaining how the question was understood and the last step is expressing the problems with links to the chapters they had to read in order to comprehend the subject.

I am still waiting for a single written question and it might be for the best because it eliminates a host of redundant questions that are asked out of laziness, failing to carefully read the whole question sheet or shirking from diligently doing their best to browse through the course materials.

Here we go:
1) If you Mobile gets STOLEN!!!!!! 
To check your mobile phone’s serial number, key

in the following digits on your phone!: * # 0 6 #,

a 15 digit code will appear on the screen. This

number is unique to your handset. Write it down

and keep it somewhere safe. When your phone

get stolen, you can phone your service provider

and give them this code. They will then be able

to block your handset so even if the thief

changes the SIM card, your phone will be totally




You probably won’t get your phone back, but at

least you know that whoever stole it can’t

use/sell it either. If everybody does this, there

would be no point in people stealing mobile







2) Hidden Battery power: 

Imagine your mobile battery is very low. To


activate, press the keys *3370# Your mobile will

restart with this reserve and the instrument will

show a 50% increase in battery. This reserve will

get charged when you charge your mobile next




3) The Emergency Number worldwide for Mobile is

112. If you find yourself out of the coverage area

of your mobile; network and there is an

emergency, dial 112 and the mobile will search

any existing network to establish the emergency

number for you, and interestingly this number

112 can be dialed even if the keypad is locked.


4) Does your car have remote keyless entry? This


may come in handy someday. Good reason to

own a cell phone:


If you lock your keys in the car

and the spare keys are at home, call someone at

home on their mobile phone from your cell















Hold your cell phone about a foot from your car

door and have the person at your home press the

unlock button, holding it near the mobile phone





on their end. Your car will unlock. Saves

someone from having to

drive your keys to you. Distance is no object.

You could be hundreds of miles away, and if you

can reach someone who has the other ‘remote’

for your car, you can unlock the doors (or the









Editor’s Note

: It works fine! We tried it out and it

unlocked our car over a mobile phone!’


“The Satanic Verses” by Salman Rushdi, Part 2. (written in November 1, 2008)

This is the period before Prophet Muhammad fled from persecution to Yathrib (Medina) in 630 BC.

The public in the tent were listening to the poets declaiming their yearly poems, competing for the best seven verses.  The Prophet Muhammad entered the tent. Eyes closed, he recited his new revelation saying “Have you thought upon Lat, Manat, and Uzza, the third, the other?  They are the exalted birds, and their intercession is desired indeed”.  

Muhammad was found unconscious in a street by Hind and her servants transported him to her palace. In the morning Hind made it clear that her three Goddesses would never make peace with his Allah; she also proclaimed that she is Muhammad’s equal.

The reactions of Muhammad disciples, his uncle Hamza, his wife and Hind sent Muhammad hurrying back to Mount Cone and spent the night in the cave, 500 meters below the top of Cone facing the vast desert.

The Prophet returned with a counter verse and recited it in the House of the Black Stone in front of the praying pilgrims of the three idol female Goddesses “Shall He have daughters and you sons?  That would be a fine division!  These are but names you have dreamed of, you and your fathers.  Allah vests no authority in them.”

The previous night, the three disenchanted disciples Khaled, Salman, and Bilal got drunk and had a brawl with four Kuraichi youths wearing gold masks.  Hamza reached the place in the nick of time with his sword and killed two and two managed to flee.  The two dead young males turned out to be the brothers of the all-powerful Hind.  Everyone understood that a new period is beginning and that they would have to leave Mecca pronto.

Muhammad told the disciples of his counter verses and that the previous one was inspired by the Devil “Shaitan“.  Khaled replied “My faith is stronger now since the Devil is real”.

The Prophet finally got home and he found his 70-year old wife dead! He mourned her for 40 days in seclusion and had ordered his disciple to leave to the northern city of Yathrib in small groups.

How Muhammad slipped away to Yathrib and how he managed this city and ruled over his followers you may read in my book review “Aicha, the beloved of the Prophet“.

The satiric poet Baal composed a valedictory ode: “What kind of idea does “Submission” seem today? One full of fear.  An idea that runs away.”

The next part is extracted from the chapter “Return to Jahilia”.

After 13 years from his flight of Mecca, Muhammad returned victorious. He destroyed the 360 idols and (kept the same old worshiping ceremony at the Black Stone with different connotations to the meanings in the procession. It is reported that Muhammad forbade to erase the pictures of the Christian Virgin Mary and kept the idol Allah intact…

Hind is the real power broker in Mecca but her husband has made a deal with the Prophet; the city would open its gates and no revenge would take place; the citizens would stay in their houses.  Hind faked conversion to Islam by reciting at the feet of Muhammad “There is no God but Allah”.

The Persian Salman had fled Yathrib back to Mecca incognito.  Salman was the official scribe to Muhammad and he got suspicious with the increased rate of rules issued every day to organize and manage the lives of the followers.  Salman started experimenting and tampering with the verses recited to him by the Prophet and then he realized that Muhammad was about to find him out.

In a long night of drunkenness Salman told Baal, the much heavier, forgotten, and decrepit satirical poet, that the Moslems in Yathrib hated him (Salaman)because he suggested to the prophet digging a ditch to save the city from the cavalry of the unbelievers, a realization that was not conform to the practiced chivalry in wars. He also told Baal that once the bold Aicha, the favorite wife among twelve, replied to the prophet “The Angel Gabriel has a way of answering all your wishes“.  Bilal later intervened on behalf of his long time friend Salman who had his life saved from certain death.

Baal hid in the famous whore Curtain House called Hijjab for over two years.  The prophet had taken the suggestion of Abu Simbel not to close this House right away because the conversions of the citizens of Mecca are at best skin-deep.

Baal suggested to the Matron of the House that each one of the 12 whores emulate one of the Prophet’s wives in name and in historical incarnation.  Business was great and the 12 whores got the crazy idea of asking Baal to marry them all as the Prophet did an idea that was consummated.

Two year later, Muhammad returned to Mecca and closed the Curtain House.  The girls were incarcerated.  For 12 days, Baal would show up in front of the prison and recite wonderful and touching love odes to each one of his wives.  The guards finally realized that the names corresponded to the Prophet’s wives and Baal was taken prisoner.

The girls were stoned to death.

During the trial, the public would not believe Baal’s story and thought that he was jesting which aggravated the Prophet’s mood who said “In the old days you mocked the Recitation; then too these people enjoyed your mockery.  Now you succeed in bringing the worst out of the people

Before being decapitated Baal said to Muhammad “Whores and writers Muhammad; we are the people you can’t forgive.”

The Prophet replied ” Writers and whores, I see no difference here.”




November 2008

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