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Thursday, November 12, 2009 

There are no words

Normally I try and write something for Remembrance Day (part of which this year was spent drinking beer at the local A.N.A.F. Club, where I believe we will be visiting quite often in the future), but I've been too gloomy to do so. This has a good deal to do with why. Weirdly enough, I think I'm more comfortable with my mortality than with the mortality of others.

In grade school my twin brother and I were friends with one of the sons of the teacher Gord talked about, and we used to go over to their place for sleepovers, usually spent hopped up on sugar playing SNES Mario Kart and listening to the Offspring (I think I just dated myself). In high school, I took computers with Ms. Thielman for five years, and everything Gord says about her as a teacher is absolutely true. Getting a phone call from my mom earlier this week letting me know that she was suddenly diagnosed with liver cancer - which only gave her two more weeks after she found out about it - was a nasty shock. It's bad enough when one of your old teachers die (there's something rather unique about that particular pain), especially if they're related to an old friend. But cancer is supposed to be slower. It's supposed to at least give you one last chance to talk to the person, to let them know how much you appreciated them. I found out about this the day Ms. Thielman died. I really, sincerely hope that she knew how much those of us who knew her as a teacher and as a mom liked and valued her. And I hope my old friend who I haven't seen in years is holding up okay.

Hey man - Gords thing requires a login to read. Can you maybe just post what he wrote here? Thanks.

By popular request (my dad asked too)... again, Gord Bird wrote this, not me:

The year was 1997. Windows 95 graced Pentium 166 computers around the world. The internet was beginning to hit mass appeal, and the concept of growing up to be a computer programmer was suddenly not a bleak existence.

The small harbour town of Kincardine Ontario, located disturbingly close to the Bruce Nuclear power facility somehow found the funds to install a state of the art computer lab within the walls of the local high school. What they failed to realize in doing so, was that there was a current class of nerds progressing through the ranks, who would make those machines and any instructor attached to them, their collective bitches.

From 1997-2000, the computer classes at KDSS were amazing. The members of the then 'Negaverse'
[That would be Gord and myself a bunch of our friends, although I certainly didn't/don't have the computer acumen most of them possess - ed.] would show up for whatever level class they were enrolled in, ruin any potential grading curve and leave. Then we'd return a few hours later to tweak our code after classes. It must have been difficult to teach that class. You know less than the students, and are forced to learn at a rate greater than them. And it's not math or english knowledge, where the students advantage will suffice by giving them an A. Computers were a constantly evolving field. In this sense, despite all the mockery, Toni Theilman did a great job. She kept current. She presented the correct information that was relevant and timely. In 3 years we learned Object Oriented programming in Turing, and Class systems in C++. We were even encouraged to delve into the Allegro library, which was pretty advanced at the time. But the impressive feat was keeping US entertained, while also teaching the generic high school mongoloids how to do any of this, from scratch.

I was sad to hear that Toni T passed away yesterday. Suzi and I visited KDSS a couple summers ago, and Toni T was right there in the computer lab. She hadn't changed a tick. She still seemed stressed out about keeping up with the students, but to that end she seemed on top of it. I'm sure she'd garnered the skills by then to program her way into a far more distinguished job, even though she was teaching accounting.

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Ian Mathers is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Stylus, the Village Voice, Resident Advisor, PopMatters, and elsewhere. He does stuff and it magically appears here.

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