It’s not about the A

One of the many jobs I’ve had is that of tutor. I’ve helped teach a variety of subjects including math, various sciences, and English. Additionally, I have designed and taught smaller classes, and have also helped siblings and friends study and understand the class material. I spent a lot of time thinking about teaching and about what and how we learn.

Growing up was interesting. My parents were relatively new immigrants to Canada, and it was their first experience with the Canadian school system. Much of their approach to education came from the European systems they were raised in. While grades mattered to them, education was about something more than regurgitating back information and facts.  I never realized how lucky I was in some ways for that, until I started hearing students repeating the same idea over and over again: it doesn’t matter what the right answer is, it matters what the teacher thinks it is. The only thing that matters is the grade they get.

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It’s not about the A
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Octo-Nope: Six Reasons Not To Get A Pet Octopus

If you’re building a marine aquarium and the thought of putting an octopus in it crosses your mind, consider not doing that. Consider not doing that so hard that you put this ill-conceived notion to permanent rest, no matter how much fun Finding Dory made it sound. An octopus makes for a difficult, finicky, and potentially even dangerous marine-aquarium inhabitant, best left to nature and specialists.

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Octo-Nope: Six Reasons Not To Get A Pet Octopus

The Eerie Sadness of China’s Paddlefish

China is home to a fish so rare that photographs of living specimens can be counted on two hands. Its lineage is so bizarre that it has only one close relative, found a continent away, and its skeleton straddles the anatomical cues that divide cartilaginous and bony fish. Even within its kin group, its habits and anatomy are unique.

The Chinese paddlefish or báixún, Psephurus gladius, is the only apparent preferential piscivore in the order Acipenseriformes. (The North American paddlefish is a planktivore, and sturgeons prefer shellfish.) Unlike its American sibling, its “paddle” is conical, and it is sometimes termed the “Chinese swordfish,” “white sturgeon,” or “elephant fish.” As an active, predatory schooling fish, it was once known for leaping across the surface of the Yangtze in large numbers. Rumor holds it can exceed seven meters in length and therefore rivals the beluga sturgeon for status as the largest freshwater or anadromous fish on our planet. However, the largest recorded specimen did not exceed a still-impressive four meters. Chances are, no Chinese paddlefish ever will.

CN veterinary imagery

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The Eerie Sadness of China’s Paddlefish

Ask Alyssa Anything

This week, I expanded my blogging horizons by giving my readers the option to ask me questions they’ve been curious about. The result was a mix of questions about me and things they hope I write about at greater length in the future, and it’s been fun to read and to contemplate.

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Ask Alyssa Anything

The Terror of Instructions

My autistic brain faces a whole series of seemingly ordinary situations with annoyed, helpless dread.  Gatherings with friends-of-friends that involve changing locales, especially if some of those locales are nightclubs, set my mind into panic mode—do I stay, do I go, which group do I stick with, if they disband again what happens, if I lose them do I wait, how much does my opinion of where to go actually matter, do I even want this evening to continue?  Phone calls from unexpected people disproportionately mean something has gone horribly wrong, and leaving my apartment when the neighbors are in the hallway means I might face the specter of small talk during the contemplative silence of my morning walk to the bus.

Those nightmares pale before the noctilucent stomach churn that is neurotypical people telling me how to do things.

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The Terror of Instructions