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Olivetti Praxis 48

Monday, 07 Jun 2021, 09:51 GMT-0600

It was because of poor penmanship. There were several of us who were evidently judged in need of intervention by virtue of how we wrote. Perhaps they will write more neatly if they see how neat things could be.

So several times a week, we were excused to a glass-walled room behind our fifth grade classroom where there were rows of scrumptious Olivetti Praxis 48 electric typewriters.

src: Wikipedia commons

The keys were labelled with green “frosting”. They were smooth and contoured and caressed your fingertips. And they had carriage return keys on both sides of the keyboard. I was in heaven. 

In the end my cursive did not improve, and as I recall, the experiment didn’t last very long — likely just a thesis for a graduate student at that long-since-shuttered laboratory school. Still, I did learn to touch type. 

Years later, when computers swept onto the scene, I remember remembering those twin carriage return keys. At first, I felt cheated that computer keyboards so obviously catered to the right-handed typists, and then I began to doubt my memory. Perhaps there had not been two carriage return keys after all.

This morning I finally looked for evidence. When I found the picture above, a flood of memories of using the machine instantly came back. And although the picture is tantalizing, it is ambiguous, since the keys in question are not labeled. But those are, I tell you, the two carriage return keys (as you can clearly see here), and now I know that my memory was not playing tricks.

Two carriage return keys. Imagine it. Oh the world that could have been.

Cashews and Pickles

Friday, 28 May 2021, 07:47 GMT-0600

She came into the room at the beginning of the sixth period final. It was the last exam of the year. But she was exempt, so I was surprised to see her.

“Here, Mr. Hasan,” she said. “Thank you,” her long dark hair framing a relaxed smile.

She handed me a card and then left for the cafeteria, where the exempt students were assembling. It was a long, sweet note that concluded with these words:

I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I’m going to miss algebra. I hope your summer is full of cashews and pickles!

They know us really, really well.

The Abyss

Wednesday, 26 May 2021, 20:53 GMT-0600

“Remember,” I told them. “You have a week to get late homework to me. Anything later than that falls into the abyss.” 

I drew a picture. I attached it to the message. In class the next day, I taped it up in the front of the room.

don't throw your homework into the abyss

“What’s this?” I asked the students.

“The abyss,” someone said.

From this, and from the flood of late homework that arrived over the next few days, I think it’s fair to say they got the message.

Very Suspicious

Wednesday, 26 May 2021, 18:34 GMT-0600

It was the second day of final exams. The first period students were coming into the room. I was passing out the answer forms — half-sheets of paper with a box for each multiple choice answer.

This class never gets multiple choice tests. They didn’t know what to make of it.

“Is that all!?” one of them asked before he had even looked at the paper.

“No, it’s the answer sheet,” I said.

“How many problems?” he asked, evidently still not having looked at the paper which consisted of little more than 17 numbered boxes.

“Seventeen,” I said.

“Is that all?” someone else said in a tone of sincere surprise.

“Wait,” I said, turning toward them. “You mean you want me to put more problems on the test?”

“No, no, no!”

I looked down at my desk to take attendance.

“Very suspicious,” one of them mumbled. “Mr. Hasan giving a multiple choice test. Very suspicious.”

I don’t think so

Tuesday, 25 May 2021, 21:52 GMT-0600

He walked into the classroom after school. He had taken the final exam earlier in the day, and now he was here to make up a test he missed a long time ago.

“I have some news,” I said after he had walked past the students finishing overdue homework. 

He stiffened.

“You did well enough on the final that you’re passing.” 

He let out a long breath.

“Oh. That is good, good news.”

His face was covered in sweat, his eyes wide with relief.

“What do you want to do? Do you still want to take that other test?” 

He looked at me, paused a moment and then said, “I don’t think so.” 

Good decision.

Is It Ok if I…

Tuesday, 25 May 2021, 20:49 GMT-0600

It was the last day of algebra for him. We had been talking about his grade, and to his relief, he passed.

On his way out of the room, he stopped at the garbage can by the door. He was about to throw out the notes he had brought with him, notes about exponential functions and logarithms. Just the kind of stuff you’d throw away with glee, right?

He stopped short and looked in my direction.

“Um… is it ok if I…,” he said as he feigned tossing his handful of notes into the garbage.

I laughed.

“Yes, it’s fine. Have a good summer.”

Do Not Solve

Sunday, 02 May 2021, 18:22 GMT-0600

Sometimes I give the students problems which are not problems at all. They only need to demonstrate that they know how to get started. In situations like these, their instructions will say something like, Set up a synthetic division problem for the following dividend and divisor. DO NOT SOLVE IT.

Inevitably someone will ask, “So Mr. Hasan, in problem #2, are we supposed to solve it?” Sadly, this would be the astute student who senses something is amiss. Most don’t read the instructions, and for them this kind of problem is a tricky trap.

I need to fix this. Or maybe I don’t.

Style

Sunday, 02 May 2021, 07:21 GMT-0600

On Friday I wore a sea green STS-125 short-sleeved shirt from when I worked in Houston. It’s one of my favorites, and I don’t wear it often, since I don’t want to wear it out. It dates me, but no one really knows that.

Alicia sits in the front row, and we often have mini-conversations when they are working on practice problems. 

“Mr. Hasan, you look good in green.” 

She didn’t ask about the embroidered Hubble emblem, but it made me happy, anyway.

“Thank you, Alicia.”

Victoria sits in the back row. She often has mini-conversations with Roberto when he comes back to sit with her when they are working on practice problems. She looked up when Alicia spoke.

“You have style Mr. Hasan,” she said.

I laughed. 

“But I don’t wear a tie.” 

“It doesn’t matter,” Victoria said. “You make it work.” 

And now I really laughed.

“You need to tell my wife that!” 

Sea Queen

Sunday, 02 May 2021, 06:48 GMT-0600

“Do you want me to do your nails?” I heard her ask him.

They sit in the front row. I can hear the front row conversations.

“No,” he said. 

“Last year you let me,” she said.

He didn’t reply. 

“It is a nice color,” I said, looking over at the two of them.

“Sea Queen,” she said.

“No,” he said.

You Should Hear It

Tuesday, 27 Apr 2021, 19:26 GMT-0600

They came in before sixth period. Robert was holding a box with a cupcake. Daniela had something in a glass. Stephen, who came in last, was tagging along.

Daniela held up the glass. “Do you have a spoon, Mr. Hasan?” 

“I do!” I reached into the cabinet and pulled out a plastic spoon. 

Robert stepped forward, and for a moment it appeared as if I was going to have to decline a cupcake.

“Mr. Hasan, what does après un rêve mean?” 

“After a dream.” 

“You are right!” he said.

“Were you testing me?” 

“You should hear the song,” he said as he and Daniela turned to leave. Stephen followed close behind. 

“It’s opera,” Robert shouted from the hallway. “You really should hear it.” And he broke into song.