Sunday, 15 February 2015

TMC: Your Turn There

I won’t be going to “Twitter Math Camp” (TMC) this year. But if you’re a math teacher, I recommend you try it out. This post of mine has some tips.

In theory, that’s all I really need to say, but regular readers know I enjoy overanalyzing everything, from teaching to depression to “failure” as a fiction writer. Also, I posted last year and the year before about whether to attend TMC, and I’m a fan of tradition. So let’s make a longer post out of this. Reading it is optional.

Courtesy of AMV Friday #7
Oh, you’re reading? Here, have a bonus AMV soundtrack.


In brief, the TMC logistics aren’t great this year - it’s July 23-26, in California... shortly after my cousin’s wedding. In Germany. Now, that doesn’t make it impossible. My wife was even debating making the trip with me this year. But it now looks like she won’t get the extra vacation time.

Coupling that with the same concerns of last year (notably another white male taking up a place), and the fact that I could use “down time” this summer (having had little of it in 2014), I reach the conclusion that TMC 2015 is not for me.

Oh, there’s also the fact that I declared myself a writer and seceded from the MTBoS back in August. In case you’re wondering why I haven’t been hashtagging much, or going to GlobalMath presentations and guild meetings and all.

Some of you may even be wondering who I am... I’m the guy who made the parabola a character in the time travel serial I began in September.


It's a natural extension. I’ve done the whole TMC thing backwards. It might be sad, if it wasn’t funny.

Consider - when you first learn about something, do you toe about in the shallow end for a while, to become more familiar, or do you immediately dive into the deep end? In my case, I’m an introvert who prefers to take on a supporting role. In 2013, I didn’t know the attendees, except through Twitter and a couple Google Chats. As I said above, I even blogged about indecision over whether to attend at all. So what do you think is the natural course of action?

I not only attended, I signed up to present a session. And a “My Favourite”. With AV clips. Handing out business cards to people. Singing 3 parody songs at karaoke. And I live blogged the whole experience. Daily. Deep end much?

Where exactly do you go from there? How do you top that?

Well, you don’t. Which is why in 2014 I didn’t present a damn thing, only offered a card to a couple people, and generally hung about in the background. Trying to act as a bridge between new and old attendees. Blogging summary points in a not-wholly-live way.

Now, in 2015, I won’t be there at all, I’ll simply be lurking online. I actually haven’t tried that yet, I only found the MTBoS after the first TMC in 2012. Meaning, it’s like I’m at the beginning.

Are we backwards, or are they backwards?
Surely I’m not the only one who sees that as completely backwards?

Then again, it DOES make a certain amount of sense. From the perspective of being insecure.

In 2013, I was adrift, looking for like-minded people, looking for serial readers, looking for song writers - but I was afraid to approach anyone. So I did the equivalent of running around, waving my arms in the air with my hair on fire, to see whose attention I might attract.

In 2014, I knew the format, and (despite my ability to jumble names in my head) had a better sense of individuals. Others also had a better sense of me. So, with no need to make a name for myself, I sat back, learned, and tried to facilitate things for others. (Or, you know, sabotage them, using my old technology...)

In 2015... I’m a known quantity. My stance on things hasn’t changed much in the past two years. If something relevant comes up, I’m easily messaged. I’m not needed. Better to let someone else put in their voice in my place.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel like I’ve peaked myself. Perhaps I’m at the “plateau” stage mentioned in one of Michael Pershan’s older blog posts. But I feel that pushing myself at this stage is liable to make me capsize, or quit altogether. No one wants that.

Life is a road, and I want to keep going on... eventually.

For right now, I’m at peace with where I am in the journey. (Even if where I am involves continuous struggling with marking on “levels”.) In particular, I’m less insecure, professionally if not personally, and while it would be nice to see TMC tweeps again... I’ve never been a social beast. Someone else is liable to get more out of the experience.

Along those lines, are you a math teacher? Do you feel the need to push yourself? Or do you feel like you need your status quo shaken up? Then I reiterate, I recommend you sign up. The link to my tips again is here. TMC may challenge you. It may change you. And although you won’t see me there, you’re welcome to tweet at me any time. I’ll be there when the storm is through - at the beginning with you.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

The Fringe of Depression

Okay. Let’s put this out there. I’m wondering who else feels this way.

Depression is something that I’ve dealt with, on and off, since... I don’t know. A long while. Professionally, since second year university. I actually had a really good run from some time in 2005 to early 2014 when I didn’t have any professional guidance. That’s not to say I didn’t necessarily NEED it towards the end (looking at you Exam Debris), but writing serves as a bit of a catharsis, and I have friends who keep me sane.

But what sort of depression is this? I don’t take medication. I never consider suicide in any meaningful way. I know I have many friends, and many other reasons to live. All it usually takes is a reminder of those things, and I feel better. So am I really a depressive?

Well, let’s talk about death.

Welcome to my dry/dark humour.


Let’s start with the death you’ve likely heard about: Robin Williams, who killed himself on August 11th, 2014. I happened to be in the UK at the time, with a number of teenagers and chaperones from the high school where I teach. This because we’d been given the opportunity to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I learned of his death in the evening, from another chaperone, who had seen it on TV.

It didn’t really resonate with me at the time. But then, things don’t often resonate with me.

The show the students were performing there was “Pygmalion”. You may know the plot, it’s essentially the same as “My Fair Lady”. If that still doesn’t help, all you really need to know for the purposes of my post is that a professor of linguistics tries to take a common flower girl (Eliza) and pass her off as a duchess at an Embassy Ball. Someone at the Ball denounces her as a fraud, not because he realizes her origins, but because he believes “She is Hungarian!”

Something very interesting happens in our production at that point.

After everyone shouts “Hungarian?” and the script continues downstage left, Freddy looks to Eliza, on stage right. He points at her in confusion, and mouths something like ‘Are you Hungarian?’ To which she shakes her head. He then points back at himself, mouthing ‘Then am I Hungarian?’ (Because the topic had to come up somehow, right?)

It’s funny. It’s subtle. It’s likely missed by most of the audience, and perhaps even some of the other actors. I grant that I myself might not have realized, had I not been chatting with the lead actress at one point. All that said, this reaction feels completely right.

What happens next?
Often it’s the actions of others that make us question ourselves.

Often it goes unnoticed by the majority.

It was brief, but the death of Robin Williams did make me question whether things could ever be that bad for me. But let’s remove him from the equation. Let’s talk about Justin Carmical, aka “JewWario”, an internet reviewer. He killed himself back in late January 2014. Just over a year ago. That’s why I’m posting this entry now, though I’ve been writing it in pieces for months now.

His death hit me a little harder than Williams’, despite the fact that I don’t watch much in the way of video game reviewers (I had seen him in crossovers). Granted, it might have been the time of year (January exam time is already stressful) but I believe my greater reaction was that I felt more of a connection to who he was and what he did. He was a great guy, posting content onto the internet - not unlike me. If you’ve never heard of Justin, go watch this video of his: You are not stupid. I’ll wait.


When these deaths happen (and there’s another one I might add, that of a former role-player I knew, except death may have been accidental), there’s two extremes. The first camp is those who never saw it coming, and genuinely do not understand how it could have happened. The second camp is those who do get it, and who often lead the discussion about depression. I would say the majority of people are in a spectrum somewhere between those camps, but of course I have no research to that effect.

I feel like I’m on the cusp of the second group.

I get it. But I don’t feel like I could explain things being THAT bad. Could I? Can I even be a depressive if I’ve never been formally diagnosed? If I’ve never been on medication? If “Cognitive Behaviour Therapy” tends to be enough for me?

After Williams’ death, there were a number of posts out there, written by people who (it seemed to me) had it worse than I do. But what is “worse”? Perhaps it’s merely “different”? More troublingly, was I questioning myself because I saw that state as a possible future? Or was it more personal desire to “fit in” with that group somehow, so that I might finally understand myself?

Back to the actions of others. Even something we may know with CERTAINTY can be doubted in the face of someone else’s reaction to it. (Issues of Global Warming aside.) As a teacher, I often question myself, academically or otherwise, based on the actions of my students. As a writer, I often question myself based on the actions of my readers... or more frequently the seeming lack of readers. (Calling it now, this one shot in the dark post will get more views than the weekly scheduled stories that I write!) And as someone who’s experienced depression, I question myself based on suicides. To what degree is that normal?

I've also written fiction about depression.
To reiterate: I have never seriously considered suicide. I have sometimes considered future scenarios when I’m dead or not around any more - is that something more than merely being prudent? I have self-harmed (not this century), yet it was more to advertise that I needed help than anything else. This article link points out that such things may also be a pain thing more than a suicide thing. Then there’s the discussion of links between comedy and depression, which always ring true for me... but as a statistician, I have to ask whether this article has it right, when it says that link gets more attention than others. Certainly more variables could be involved.

Then to what extent am I depressive? Am I merely particularly empathetic? Is it that I’m really lousy at finding the bright side of things? That’s not unique. EVERYONE has those sort of moments. Right? Isn’t that what it’s like to be human? Then, do I merely have them with greater frequency?

What about when it goes further? Does everyone have moments where they think can do NO right? Where the thought of causing short term pain of loss to others might be better than drawing it out over the long term? Where a counselling session isn’t merely a good idea, but a necessity?

What makes what I feel “depression” and not “being human”?

I don’t know. I can’t see what others are thinking. I can only continue to question my beliefs based on their actions. And wonder if, some day, the balance will finally tip, and I will no longer be on the fringe of depression.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

The Teaching Battle: 10 Things

This will be a post about 10 Good Things I'm doing as a teacher! But first, time for backstory!

Begin at the beginning, go until you come to the end. Then stop.

Last week, Mattie B (@stoodle) posted about Exorcising Teacher Demons. I read it, I nodded in complete understanding (it reminded me a bit of my less eloquent post Yi Can't Even), I tweeted at him, and I went about my day. Basically disregarding the "10 Things You're Doing Well This Year" portion of his post, because he seemed to have that well in hand. Also, that's what I do. I disregard positive things. Possibly because I don't want to get too happy lest depression will feel like a bigger crash, possibly because I have trouble believing things about myself... I dunno, I'm seeing a counsellor right now. Anyway.

Meg Craig (@mathymeg07) seized on that part of his post. She created her own list and hashtag for the idea. Which Tina Cardone (@crstn85) grabbed as a matheme. And then Jon Orr (@MrOrr_geek) started tagging people. Interesting, I thought. Maybe I'll keep a partial eye on this. Which is actually a big deal, as the "One Good Thing" blog is REALLY not something I'm into.

I think it was Andrew Gael (@bkdidact) that finally spurred me into action with his 10 Good Things He's Learned. From other people. It occurred to me that if other people have been saying good things about me at work, and I'm dismissive of it - that's rather rude. So okay. Let's do this.

My way.

Ten Good Things I'm Doing - along with the Reasons I'm Dismissive Of The Things - and Why That's Not Helpful. (Did I mention I was seeing a counsellor?)

All that said, I recommend not reading if: (1) You aren't the sort of person to see the bad in good things, because I don't want to put terrible ideas in your head; or (2) You're the type of person who gets annoyed when a talented person talks about how they lack talent. Because yes, I am liked and have a lot going for me, but I'm not convinced that actually makes me a good teacher. One who actually prompts learning. Still here? Okay then.

10. I am hella organized.

Most of my colleagues say I have great binders for courses. And while I do tend to lose things within an enclosed space, it is enclosed, and it turns up on the bottom of the stack eventually. Except this year I've been worse at that. Even a test went missing somehow. But I have more material and students to coordinate now, I'm getting older, and it's anomalies, not the norm.

9. I help with some student events.

Either supervising, or lending desks... I even got a 'thank you' card from student council. It had some math in it. Except I've been having to scale back this year, plus I'm just there, I don't really do anything. But being there is enough, and you're allowed to have a life outside school too.

8. I'm approachable for things.

"What are these 'emotions' you speak of?"
Students approach me for help with events. Today, the broadcasting students filmed a "live studio audience" in my classroom. Occasionally a student has even come to me with personal concerns. Except sometimes I have to turn people down! And I don't know how to handle emotions and stuff like that! I'm so much better with the organization and things! So I don't know that this is "good" at all!! But I seem to be handling it and haven't destroyed anyone's life yet.

7. I manage the anime club.

Both students and teachers have thanked me for this, the club having being called "the best ever" on a few occasions. Except I don't "manage", I only provide the space, supervision, and occasional old school anime. I didn't even start the club, just inherited it. But I have done things in the past, and even if I don't do much now, what I do is obviously enough.

6. I offer excessive extra help.

A teacher told me the other day that I was name dropped as someone who makes themselves available for math help at lunch and after school. Constantly. Except I just like talking math and it's setting a bit of a bad precedent, isn't it? People have to fend for themselves too. But not all the teaching can take place during classroom time.

5. I know the mathematics well.

Pictured: Research?
I mostly have my web serial research and twitter observations to thank for this, but also students themselves who've seen it in different ways. Which means I can, in theory, come up with good questions. Except when it comes to calculus and more math I've forgotten, plus there's a gap in Grade 10 which I haven't taught, and I struggle with Level 4 stuff. But I have colleagues to turn to for this if/as necessary.

4. I was asked to go on a trip to Edinburgh.

By a colleague - this was a school trip, with teenagers, in August, for theatre. Did I mention I like theatre? I was the only one on this trip without a son/daughter there. My guild named themselves the "Perfect Circles". Except I was out of my depth, really had no clue, no experience. But now I do.

3. I get personal thanks from former students.

Generally in the form of "thanks for passing me" (or "for giving me 75"), to which I always respond "you passed yourself, I don't do freebies". Though a couple months ago, a student came back with "you still helped, I liked the songs". I didn't have a counter to that one. Except... actually, no except here, still a bit floored.

2. I got a post-high-school email.

That was new this past year. It was a student I taught in Grade 11. She had a math question related to a review evaluation at her post-secondary institution. So, I helped, she thanked me, and she also said don't stop doing the songs. ... Another one I'm forced(?) to put in the "win" column.

1. I had half a high school singing a math song. Twice.

My third annual parody presentation at the holiday assembly last month had more audience participation than I ever expected - I didn't figure on matching the previous year. More than one person said they hope the video version gets thousands of hits. Except it has less than 20. But that doesn't mean it's bad, just that it works better locally or in person. Or for a fleeting moment in time. Which is probably what I want anyway, because I dislike being in the spotlight. Except if it's fleeting, it is still accomplishing what I want? Is it like my web serial, a curiosity, the message buried by the messenger, who is up there raving like a madman with a box plot? The content ultimately forgotten? Because that's not what I want. I want it to be more. I want it to be about the mathematics, not about me.

Got a long list of past students. They'll tell you I'm insane. 'Cause you know they loved the singing -- but that's not my aim.

I suppose the aim of this post was 10 Things though, and I've accomplished that! You may want to consider doing it yourself - though perhaps with a bit less of the self-doubt. As they say, and as I may at one point believe: "You got this."

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Delayed Gratification

As I sit here, staring at the non-existent hit counts on my weekly serial, it occurs to me just how much writing and teaching have in common. I have no idea which of those two categories you fit into, if either, so go with me here as I explain both. Do tell me if I'm full of it.


How many times does one throw blog links out on social media before one figures it's futile, no one's listening to you? Comparatively, how many times does one repeat a concept in class before figuring it's futile, no one's following you?

For me, the number is probably three.

In writing my serial, two tweets on Sunday, and one on Monday... maybe another on Tuesday if I'm desperate. (For Facebook, one post, then a couple reminders. Parody videos, same treatment.) If THAT doesn't get you to read... well, then I'm not as interesting or important as other stuff in your life that week, so fine.

In teaching mathematics, a couple times on a concept the first day, a follow up the next day... and maybe hit it harder during review if it's a key item. If THAT doesn't make it click... well, the exam panic might, so cramming. But that's not learning any more than binge reading an archive is the same as tuning in every week.

Every week, I'm teaching. Every week, I'm writing. To what end? Are people getting anything out of it?

Team 'Yes': There's always about 10% who are right there with you, saying you're making them think, questioning the plot logic or the mathematics. In the writing, I do get a tweet every few weeks, maybe a comment every couple months. (I need to acknowledge that to myself.) In the teaching, I seem to do better in terms of responses - along the lines of "I enjoyed that" - but the feedback is more immediate by definition.

Team 'No': There's always about 10% who will never really be with you. They look at the serial and say "What's the point of this?" and never return. Or at the mathematics and say "I don't understand" and you may not be able to explain it differently. (By the way, I maintain that it's not that a student can't do the math, they simply may not be able to do it in the time frame needed.) Again, I see more of this in the teaching... where it's a bit more of an issue because they're stuck with you.


Regrettably, this leaves up to 80% of friends/followers/students where you don't KNOW if you're making an impression. Or at least, you don't know within the first day/month/year of having presented something. For my writing, this has led to MANY posts, among them:
-If You Build It... So What
-The Pass in Passion
-Why Do You Blog?
-Why I Post
-Being The Outlier
-On Building An Audience
-Writing At The Intersection
-On Seeking Validation

(Yes, I whine a lot when I feel my passions are micro invalidated.) But then, just like writing, one doesn't necessarily know if one is making an impression when teaching either. One may not know until the student graduates. One may never know. Because in our age of "instant gratification", teaching - and writing - is very much a story of delayed gratification.

At the end of the day, I won't have the satisfaction of a working computer program, or a functional garage door, or having played to a sold out crowd. I guess I'll have the satisfaction of this post, but that doesn't mean it's even going to be read by anyone until June! (At which point it may get 50 views. Seriously, my dead web serial is now getting more daily views than my ongoing one. What is even the hell.) Similarly, merely because I teach something today, doesn't mean it's going to be understood by others until June either.

So what's the incentive to keep going? It needs to be more than routine, right? It even needs to be more than the 10%, doesn't it?

I think it's the personal touches that help to bridge the gap. When you can interact on a more one-on-one basis with students - or readers. Which is (of course) where I completely fall down on the writing side, as I always figure saying "READ & VOTE PLS!" means I'm bothering people. Which is sort of reinforced by social media gurus who say not to constantly tweet out links to your stuff.

The funny thing is, some students apologize for bothering me with math questions... and I almost never feel bothered. I like talking math, and I like even more if it helps them to understand something. So I'm not sure why I can't get past that mental block when the situation is reversed. (Maybe because I really am bothering? I mean, no one's forced you to sign up for my serials. Am I actually in anyone's reader out there??)

Oh well. As I say, this simply felt like an interesting link between writing and teaching. Patience, as always, is a virtue. And since I only have 5 views and 1 vote for the weekly web serial, there wasn't much point writing THAT tonight, so you got this instead. Thanks for reading, feel free to take me to task in the comments.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Four Webpages, One Post

I'm seeing a bunch of people wrapping up 2014 with a post summarizing their stats. That sort of thing tends to make me feel inadequate, as generally others seem to get more traffic, but possibly that's an illusion. So, what the heck, here's my statistics, reaching as far back into the past as I can. If my inadequacy is illusion, let me know, and if it's not, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you're doing better than I am.

We can't all be right - or can we?

Of course, as the title says, I manage 4 webpages. Five if you include my personal page. Six if you include my course website. So let's break it down, starting with the oldest.


Google Site. Began: July 2011. Posts in 2014: 2.
Contained my math web serial until August 2012, by which point I'd migrated to the blog. Contained the index pages until personified math folded. Still houses my song parodies.
In the beginning, it updated twice every week for over a year. I don't recall why there was a spike (of 421) in Sept 2011. Bit of a spike in Sept 2013 too. Total of 617 sessions for all of 2014, and 3,719 sessions all time.


Blogger Site. Began: June 2012. Posts in 2014: 22.
Continued my math web serial until May 2014, when I ended it.
In the beginning, it updated twice every week. In 2014, it scaled back to once per week, until it ended. The peak was in November 2013 (1,264 views). October 2014 spiked up with more views than January 2014 for no reason I can fathom. All time total of 20,042 page views. (With 160 total posts, an average of 125 per post, but many of the between-arc posts skew that.)


Blogger Site. Began: August 2012. Posts in 2014: 56.
It's been reinvented a few times, but there's never been a month without a posting.
The peak in January 2014 (over 5,000) is artificial, that's when I went through and updated all my tags, and for whatever reason (bots?) they counted as hits. July 2014 is the real high mark, at 4,005 page views, when I had 18 posts. What baffles me is no month for 2014 was below 2,250 views - even if I had only one post that month. If only my web serial had been so lucky. All time total of 55,465 page views. (With 174 total posts - not including this one - that's 319 per post... which is weird, since aside from CMEF at 611 and TrigGate at 417, everything else is below 340.)


Wordpress Site. Began: August 2014. Posts in 2014: 24.
My new web serial, not math related. Has updated once every week without fail (except over Christmas).
There were 499 views before January, over the four months it existed. So there's a while to go yet.

I suppose there's enough evidence to say that my mathematics web serial wasn't as much of a failure as I thought, given how it's still getting some hits. Even so, the lack of engagement was enough to make me move on at the time. I'm also sure I'm misinterpreting some of the data; Facebook also tends to taunt me with messages like the following every few months, despite the Math-Tans page having only 18 likes:

Anyway, if you're doing better than me on stats, pat yourself on the back. If you're not doing better than me, perhaps it's an issue of volume. If it's not that - keep at it, we all had to start somewhere.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

AMV Friday Roundup IIII

It began the last Friday of September, 2013. It ended 52 weeks later. It's Anime Music Video Friday (#AMVFriday), as tweeted from @mathtans.

Some artwork really impresses me.

See here: the first recap post (1-12), the second recap post (13-24), the third recap post (25-40), and now for the first time in one place, this post, the last set... plus a little bonus at the end.

Why did I stop? Largely because I now have a new project, a serial where I try to get people to vote for choices every week. Check it out! AMVFriday is also a project that took more time than one might realize, depending on the videos that did (or did not) turn up when searching. Remember, there were requirements to make the cut.

What requirements? Same as before:  1) Not a Slideshow; 2) Posted by (or with permission of) Creator; 3) Low View Count; 4) Few Subtitles; 5) Single Song -or- Single Anime. In the list, the anime remains listed first, then the song. The boldfacing still shows the search term. Let's get to it.


41) Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Song: Atop the Fourth Wall Theme (Vincent E.L.)
Channel: CaptainLhurgoyf's channel
Views on Jul 4: 1,225

*42) Anohana (Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai).
Song: We Used to Wait (Arcade Fire)
Channel: nicolio1313
Views on Jul 11: 2,153
* The first ever suggestion from someone

43) Vividred Operation. Song: Kill Everybody (Skrillex)
Channel: G9eekK
Views on Jul 4: 332

44) Sailor Moon. Song: Canadian Idiot (“Weird Al” Yankovic)
Channel: chibilenne
Views on Jul 25: 6,177

45) 5 Centimeters Per Second. Song: Hello Again (The Gregory Brothers)
Channel: Breeman AMV
Views on Aug 1: 1,404

46) Various! Song: Touch You Right Now (Basic Element)
Channel: ElGranEmprendedor
Views on Aug 8: 422

47) Toradora! Song: Roll To Me (Del Amitri)
Channel: MomoTheStrange
Views on Aug 15: 2,159

48) Highlander: The Search for Vengeance. Song: The Evil That Men Do (Iron Maiden)
Channel: JECtheStampede
Views on Aug 23: 4,711

49) Various! Song: Year of Summer (Wildstylez)
Channel: marbilSWE
Views on Aug 29: 893

50a) Various! Song: Release Me (Agnes Carlsson)
Channel: Janae Roop
Views on Sep 5: 4,015

50b) Jormungand. Song: Bulletproof (LaRoux remix)
Channel: Wakibozu
Views on Sep 5: 3,668

50c) Various! Song: Bulletproof (La Roux) vs Release Me (Agnes Carlsson)
Channel: YunaLuv1 .
Views on Sep 5: 361

51) Tokyo Mew Mew. Song: Ike Ike (Hinoi Team)
Channel: TarriThief
Views on Sep 12: 149

52) Natsuiro no Sunadokei. Soundtrack: 7 Days TV Theme
Channel: Gregory Taylor
Views on Sep 19: 6


53) Various! Song: Auld Lang Syne
Channel: i3orje
Views on Dec 30: 1,021

If you search #AMVFriday on Twitter, you can see the blurbs I posted with each AMV. If you want to comment, do so below. Thanks for joining me on the video experience!

Monday, 29 December 2014

Avoid American Airlines

Let’s meet American Airlines. AmerAi will lose your bags, but more to the point, will not communicate well with you about the problem. For me, this problem included being on a cruise ship near the equator with little more than the clothes I was wearing from the north. For you, it could spoil your vacation. I recommend you avoid American Airlines.

This may be information you already know, but I’m not a frequent flyer.

Granted, part of the larger issue is corporations. While individual employees may be nice, they are trapped within a corporate model which does not care, and has no incentive to provide any information that might result in them losing money. Plus, the more hoops you have to jump through, the more likely it becomes that you will give up - and they win. Why some consider corporations “people” is a mystery to me. Consider how corporations used to have mascots, but now they’re going more impersonal, almost to emphasize this “shut up with your problems” philosophy.

With airlines in particular, we’re seeing a minimalist take on logos... I think in part because those things are expensive to draw. (See this article about Porter Airlines going the other way.) Regardless, getting upset at individual employees is no use, they’re doing what they can from behind a desk. I want someone larger, someone I can talk to right now about what happened - even if it's a personified logo, which amounts to talking with myself. Feel free to listen in.


So, as I said at the start, let’s meet Amerai. And discuss what you can expect if you fly with him... that is, American Airlines.

Amerai: We know why you fly! The new American is arriving!

Right. First of all, I’m not American, I’m Canadian. More to the point, what’s the deal with losing the luggage of me and my family? We had to board a cruise ship with no shorts, no swimsuits, no suntan lotion, no-

Amerai: You must have had a stopover en route. We need, I dunno, say, 3 hours to transfer bags between flights. Everyone knows that, so it’s your fault.

One of our nine bags made it. Implying the others could have.

Amerai: Seriously? Huh. Yeah, well, it’s not like we know which bags are grouped together.

All nine bags had bright “Priority” tags, for flying first class. And by the way, you had to ask some of us to take a downgrade, since the airplane you provided didn’t have enough first class seats.

Amerai: You rich people! Just get your business people to contact mine.

I’m not rich, I’m a math teacher. We took the upgrade because this was a Christmas vacation, and it also seemed to me like this would prevent the lost baggage problem.

Amerai: You’re a bit of an idiot then, aren’t you.

Optimist, maybe, but this is why I fear for other people taking American Airlines. But let’s move on. It took 48 HOURS for the bags to reach their intended destination. By this point, of course, our cruise ship had changed ports twice, but why such a delay?

Amerai: What delay? That’s normal. Didn’t we provide you with a little ’Spa in the Sky’ kit to tide you over?

The kit had no clothing in it, a third of the stuff was for shaving which isn’t useful given my beard, and the carbon copy note implying you cared felt a bit offensive.

Amerai: How about a clothing allowance, sometimes we do that.

We WERE left a message saying we had $200 per person, but we later discovered this had not been flagged on our account. Also, we’re on a ship. There isn’t a typical pharmacy around for MILES. On top of THAT, we’re travelling to ports which are using the euro and peso, not the dollar, necessitating conversions.

Amerai: I can’t see how any of that is our problem.

Seriously?! You put us in that situation! Actually, I feel bad for women in this case - there was almost NOTHING for them in stores on board the ship. Except purses and jewellery. And even in a major department store in port, we couldn’t find decent shorts - the only pairs they had cut off above the thigh. Seriously! And the skirts were all above the knee! Sexism seems to be alive and well.

Amerai: I KNOW that’s not our problem. Are we done yet?

How about the fact that I’m on vacation, and you’re forcing me to track receipts??

Amerai: You’re such a complainer. No one’s forcing you to do anything, I’m fine with not giving you any money. So unless you have an actual concern to address, I’m leaving.


Communication. That was my actual concern. We filed the paperwork at the airport before heading for our ship, and were left a phone number, but it didn’t seem to be much use. You also didn’t email. In fact if it weren’t for the cruise line coordinating things, probably nothing would have happened. They were ten times better to us than you were, American Airlines!

Amerai: Well, cruise lines, it’s their job.

It’s NOT your job to track lost luggage? To advise travellers? To try to get them the bags YOU LOST?!

Amerai: Nope. I mean, maybe I’ve got some peons - er, employees - who do that sort of thing. Probably. I’ll look into that for you, all right?

Sigh. Let’s ignore for the moment the fact that if the bags had arrived within 24 hours, there’s every chance they could have been forwarded on to a major port, and we could have had them in less than three days. As they didn’t, we were advised that the alternative would be forwarding them onwards on Dec 23rd, to the port where we’d be landing on the 25th. Christmas. Five days into our trip.

Amerai: So we give you your bags on Christmas. Aren’t we nice?

We were told on the 23rd that the bags - the Priority First Class bags - were still in our original port. That they MIGHT still be sent onwards on the 24th IF there was room in a plane.

Amerai: So we told you that much.

We found this out through our cruise line. You know, if there is a problem, you could at least be courteous and tell us what the problem is!

Amerai: The problem is that we’re having to pay extra here to send the bags on another airline. It’s inconvenient. How rude that you’re not seeing our side.

Uh huh. We even started to think you wouldn’t “find space” until the 26th, and that you would send them on then, after we’d left port. Such that we’d have to make new phone calls on Christmas Day telling you not to do something so stupid.

Amerai: Pfft, like you’d get through on Christmas. So did we send them on too late then?

You not knowing implies this is the sort of thing you’re likely to do.

Amerai: Maybe. I’m infallible, of course, being a corporation, but it’s my employees who can be idiots. So, did we send your bags on too late?

You didn’t. We did get our bags on the 25th, which is the only reason this post isn’t titled “American Airlines Attack On Christmas”. Seeing as our presents were in our luggage.

Amerai: There you go then.

But since we didn’t know where our luggage was most of the time, we were still having to buy supplies we already had on Dec 24th. Swimsuits. A pair of black shoes. All of this adding to the total and costing YOU money.

Amerai: It only costs us money if you try to claim it.

Right, that’s the other “pass the buck” thing here. We were told back in port that we had to make the claim at the end of our trip, in Canada. We were told THERE that they used to be able to do this sort of thing, but cannot any more. We have to submit everything centrally, through the mail. In both cases, the actual people took pity on us but said there was nothing they could do, these were the policies.

Amerai: Just wait until you send everything in. We’ll likely claim we didn’t get it, blame the fact that you’re Canadian sending things across the border, and then say that the 30 day window has expired. Hah!

You also charged us luggage fees, on an INTERNATIONAL flight, for bags we barely had. Saying that this would also have to be reimbursed later. Maybe. I hate you.

Amerai: I know. But at least there’s others who love us.

I can only hope they won’t after reading this.

Amerai: Haha! It’s funny because you think people read your blog.

Airca: Bet you wish you’d flown with us now, huh?

Air Canada, your only flight down to our destination went once per week. Coordinating that wasn’t feasible. And your track record is a bit spotty too. Though - and I can’t believe I’m saying this - you are better by comparison. Even Air Europa, which once literally closed an embarkation door in my face, saying we couldn’t board because our luggage hadn’t made the transfer, was nicer by comparison. Because Air France, their parent company, got us to our destination that day, and our bags reached us 24 hours later.

Amerai: I will point out that if WE’D refused you boarding here, you would have missed your cruise entirely. So points to us for that.

Seriously? You want points? Because you didn’t merely let one family member travel, and hold back the rest of us?? Rather than find the other 8 bags with the big PRIORITY stickers on them?!?

Amerai: Don’t be silly. We wouldn’t have loaded his bag at all, and would have claimed not to know what you meant.

Airca: Hey, I think I got a compliment in there! Yay!

Amerai: Look, “customer”, you’re blowing things out of proportion. We airlines, we’re all the same. We lose bags. It’s what we DO. Wise up.

I know. We've said I can be an optimist. We've also said I’m not on you about the loss, it’s HOW YOU DEAL with people who face that which is important. So important. Especially for a vacation. And you botched it. Big time.

Amerai: I don’t think so. You got your bags. This is a difference of opinion. And since I’m obviously not going to change your mind, that’s it, we are DONE here.

Oh, we are. We are done with American Airlines. Forever and ever, I hope. At least, once I’ve submitted all these receipts. >.<

On the bright side, I was with family, and we made the most of a taxing situation. Also, the islands were amazing. This just wasn’t what I expected for my first full vacation away from work in, not joking, sixteen months.

It happened to me. It could happen to you. Avoid American Airlines.