25.1.19

Fried Rice


I've been working on my fried rice game, so I figured I'd share how I make it along with some tips I've learned the...tasty way.


Ground rule: either chop fast or pre-chop (before you put on the heat). You'll survive if you don't, but you'll also see why I'm writing this.

Procedure:



1. Cook rice. 1:2 rice to water, rinse then cook till there's no water and it tastes done, but it's not caking on the bottom yet. Or use a rice cooker. Do your thing, it's rice, most people agree that it's easy.

2. Heat the pan on high and add some oil.

3. Chop an onion real fast and add that to the oil. I'll share my quick-chop method sometime, but I just figured it out today so go easy on me, yeah?

4. Chop whatever else you're adding and add it. I went with a bell pepper. Let these things cook a bit, adjusting the heat as the level of burn concerns you or something.

5. Once the veggies are cooked, add some eggs.

! DON'T ! add the rice before the eggs. It'll all just get stuck together and the texture will be disappointing. When I made this mistake, the rice was also somewhat soggy, which didn't help.

6. Once the eggs are decently cooked, add a bit more oil and then the rice.

7. I like to add a few spoonfuls of powdered beef broth for flavor. If you don't add that, consider salt and/or other spices.

8. Stick it on a plate and eat it. Or save it for lunch tomorrow. Congratulations, you have food.


I'd add a life story bit, but I'm waiting for Connor to get home so we can eat and also coming up on exams. So like, I'm busy studying these next few weeks.

Later, dudes!

25.12.18

Highly Improvised Cookies (Tutorial)

Hello my dudes,

This is how to make the peppermint meltaway cookies I've made before, having realized that there's no peppermint extract in the house and the stores are closed. Enjoy!



Materials:

  • mixing bowl (small)
  • spoons (1 large, 2 small)
  • baking sheet or something
  • oven
  • butter (1 cup = 227g)
  • powdered sugar (1/2 cup = 60g)
  • corn starch (1/2 cup = 60g)
  • flour (1-1/4 cup all-purpose = 150 g Type 405)
  • something pepperminty
  • some sort of frosting
  • a desperate need for peppermint cookies

Procedure:

1. Weigh or measure everything out. I realized later that I did have measuring cups here, but where's the fun in that? Plus they're harder to clean than the plates I used, and not as aesthetic if I do say so myself.

everything all measured out
a bunch of Porsche mints lined up neatly on the kitchen scale
Don't forget the peppermints!
2. Wait for the butter to get to room temperature.
3. Put the butter in the bowl and squish it around with the back of the large (table) spoon, to get some good surface area and kind of oil the bowl. Add the sugar and squish that around until well combined and fluffy. In other words: "cream the butter and sugar". If you have a mixer, this goes a little faster, but the back of the spoon is so much better than any spatula.


4. Add the flour and corn starch to the mix. I combined them separately just because the flour was already in a big enough bowl, but who knows if it's really necessary?

It's a sort of messy process.
5. Chill the dough for 30-60 minutes. Fortunately, there was room in my fridge. Otherwise I'd have had to put it outside!


6. Use two teaspoons to scoop out teaspoon-sized balls and place them on your baking sheet. These will expand so leave some room. My notes say 2 inches between cookies but not even I follow that. I had too much dough for one sheet and much too little for two, so of course I just ate the rest. Didn't feel great after a few bites but to me, it feels better than wasting it. I could've made a big cookie or something but they're crumbly enough as they are.

Okay so maybe those are bigger than a teaspoon.
7. Preheat the oven (350˚F = 175-ish˚C), then put your cookie sheet in and wait until the edges are a little brown on the bottom (10-15 minutes).

They do flatten quite a bit.
8. Remember that you had a peppermint Ritter Sport.


9. Let the cookies cool and frost them. I left them on the baking sheet because it was a reusable paper thing over a metal rack, but I think you're supposed to transfer them to a normal rack without paper after 10 minutes. Anyway before they get too cold, stick a piece of your lucky find (see above) on top and let it melt so you can spread it around.


10. There is no Step 10. You're done. Let them cool or eat them hot and melty, that's your call.



Commentary:

The mints melt weird and threaten to stick to your teeth but will also melt in your mouth faster than candies. It's a little annoying but hey, peppermint. I get desperate when the only candy canes around here are strawberry flavored. The "frosting" really pulls these together into something beautiful.


Life Story:

Merry Christmas!

I'm home alone today but that's perfectly fine. My housemate's room is basically a professional recording studio and he's letting me use it, so I'm happy as can be. Of course I miss people, but believe me, I'm an expert at distracting myself. Feel free to video call me if you're out there missing me, though. I'm up at all sorts of crazy hours lately, but if it makes you feel better you can shoot me a message first.

Love you lots! 😘🎄🎅🎉

🎆And in case I don't update by then, happy New Year!🎇

31.10.18

Mushroom + Cheese Omelette Recipe


Last Saturday, I got hungry (surprise!). Here's how I fixed it. As usual, life story after the recipe.


Materials:

  • Pan
  • Butter
  • Mushrooms
  • Knife
  • Nonmetal Spatula
  • Small Bowl
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Fork
  • Cheese
  • your go-to Seasonings
  • Plate


Procedure:

  1. Heat the pan on medium heat on the stove. I had mine set to 4, if that helps.

  2. Take the butter, peel back the wrapping, and paint the bottom of the pan with it. (Note: you might just want to slice some off like a normal person depending on who you share the butter with or how clean your pan is.)

  3. Clean your mushrooms. See here, Step 1 if you're not sure how.

  4. Slice the mushrooms directly into the pan. You could use a cutting board, but I didn't and the world did not, in fact, end.

  5. While you're waiting for your mushrooms to cook, crack your eggs into a bowl and add a splash of milk.

  6. Scramble the eggs with a fork, but don't over-beat them.

  7. Keep an eye on the mushrooms, turning them occasionally with your spatula. Now is a good time to go grab your camera so you can take pictures for your blog.


  8. Once the mushrooms are cooked, remove them from the pan. I put them on the plate that would hold the final product, because who wants to do more dishes than they have to?

  9. Pour the egg-milk mixture into the pan. Don't adjust the temperature, as medium is just fine for our purposes. Swish it around as you would to make any omelette, making sure to keep the pan coated.


  10. Wait until the eggs are cooked almost to your liking, then add the mushrooms on one half and slice the cheese on top. Now is a good time to add any seasonings. I totally forgot and just added them on top at the end, which was also fine.


  11. Fold the unoccupied half over the full half, careful to keep the eggs intact. Flip immediately so the cheese is on the bottom, melting.


  12. Once the cheese is done melting, slide it onto your plate. Add any seasonings you like.


  13. Eat.

Life Story:

I'd be out partying with the international students but I can feel a cold menacing in the corners of my nasal passages and would rather avoid inviting it in. It is indeed Halloween and I'm sitting at home tonight, reminiscing about last week's lunch menu. tomorrow is a holiday and Friday I dance with my folklórico group for Día de los muertos. I feel normal in the practices but I will probably cry at some point on Friday. Folklórico connects me to my grandma, who'll be able to visit Friday, if you believe in that sort of thing.

I am not wearing sandals anymore; in fact, it has snowed near my house already.

Anyway, my life is probably boring to talk about at this point - all schoolwork and stuff that belongs in a journal. Maybe I'll post another rant sometime, but not today.

Later, dudes. 🤙

17.10.18

Lemon + Champignon Salad Recipe



I went looking for something like this and didn't find what I was looking for, so I made it and thought I'd share. Story at the end because I myself am not a fan of scrolling through a whole page of life story to get to the recipe. If you're here for the story, click here.



DISCLAIMER: All amounts are approximate and highly dependent on what I had on hand. Everything is optional, substitutions are encouraged, and everything else they never taught you in school. If that's not your style, consult the cook in your family for advice before proceeding. Or trust yourself and jump in!


Materials:

  • Bowl
  • Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Champignons
  • Parsley
  • Lemon(s)
  • Lemon Pepper
  • Sea Salt
  • Tajín
  • Chili Flakes or Powder
  • Bell Pepper(s), aka Paprika
  • a plate, I guess

Procedure:

  1. Clean your champignons and paprika. I'm pretty sure it's standard to just wipe mushrooms off, but I put them under running water and everything turned out fine. I used about 4 mushrooms and one paprika, but none of this is to scale so adjust as needed.

  2. Slice your champignons and put them into the bowl. I cut them in half before slicing them thinly across the cap. Really all that matters is that they end up thin. Use a cutting board for a safety boost, and a sharp knife for quality.

  3. Chop and add the parsley. Or if you're using frozen parsley like I did, pop it out of the freezer and into the bowl.

  4. Slice the lemon(s) and squeeze it into the bowl. Toss or stir to coat the mushroom slices. I also added a bit of the zest, but without a proper zester I lost motivation. I only mention this so you don't have to wonder what the yellow thing is in the picture.

  5. While you're impatiently waiting for the lemon to "do its thing",  add in the spices and adjust to taste. If you're not the biggest fan of lemon flavor, you may want to add some olive (or other kind of) oil. I personally will eat a lemon for the heck of it, so my salad had no added oil in it.

  6. Cut off the top of your paprika and remove the seeds. I accidentally sliced my paprika in half too, which probably makes it easier to eat but was not the original plan. 🤷

  7. Stuff the salad into the paprika halves.

  8. You're done. I chose a hybrid between eating this refreshing Second Lunch over the sink and putting it on a plate the way Mom would want me to, but only because I wanted to take a picture and share.

I did take inspiration from this Paris Mushroom Salad, but like I said earlier, it wasn't quite what I wanted. This recipe may not fit your mood or taste either, which is why I'm saying make it what you want it to be.


Life Story Bit

My life is going well so far this third week of the second semester of my studies here. I've got a hobby for every night of the week, so skipping one day doesn't mean missing out on a whole week of personal growth / sport / music / social interaction / etc. And I've taken to reading on my commute to and from uni, so that's been a focus boost.

The weather got cold for about two days before jumping back up to comfortable, I-can-still-wear-sandals temperatures. The leaves are starting to turn colors and fall, and there are red squirrels that take walnuts right out of the tree across the street, which is a funny sight.

I'm also hanging out with the international students more this semester, and I figured out why I was hesitant to last semester: On exchange, for most of us exchange students, the schoolwork counted for absolutely nothing, so most didn't take school seriously. Here, on the other hand, they're either doing their entire Master's here or are taking classes that will count for something back home. Not only do the international students at this level take uni seriously, but they also have perspectives to offer - cultural, political, personal experience, general curiosity. Plus, lots of them know how to dance and where to go that'll play good dance music.

Amy's birthday was a lot of fun, and Taya seems to be settling in well. I video called Nabeelah the other day and she seems to also be well, besides really wanting to visit Germany.

TL;DR: I'm good, my people are good, also the food was good today too.

I hope to do more regular updates, but I can't promise anything.

That's all for now, folks!

18.10.17

Stuttgart Improv Shows

I've been to three improv shows here and seen two different groups, and figured I'd publish my thoughts and experiences for your amusement (or maybe it's useful to you).

The first show I went to was a battle-style show between Frackwürdig and Kanonenfutter, two improv groups from this area of the city. I showed up a few minutes late and ended up standing in the back until they invited people to sit in the aisle. I was the only one who actually went up for a front-row ground seat. The games were mostly short-form so as to be conducive to the battle style. The performers gave all the effort to earn their points and applause, and the audience consistently voted to give all the points they could for the various games and scenes (as it should be). One of the major differences to improv as I've seen it before is that they had musicians improvising along. A keyboard, a cajon/splash/tamborine, and a violin. It just adds that extra layer of emotional context and contributes to the pacing.


The second show was a combo Poetry Slam/Improv Show for the tenth anniversary of Club Zentral (the venue). Frackwürdig and the poetry slam people traded off the stage. This group hands out candy to the audience for participating (suggestions, etc). Much more fun than trick-or-treating. The games were short-form, and there were no musicians. It was fun enough, and even had that Bollywood scene I mentioned last time. I suppose it's always funniest in the moment and then less and less as time goes on and the memories fade. At some point it goes from "you had to be there" to "I'd have to see it again."



That's actually my least favorite thing about improv shows: the laughter isn't easily spread. It has a context all its own, so a short video really doesn't capture it enough, and if you do want to share a joke or favorite moment with someone who wasn't there, you have to explain the context, which often translates to explaining the joke. Unless they happen to record and upload the entire show, in which case you either explain the joke or send them a link like, "Here, watch this hour-long video to get one joke." Speaking of which, Kanonenfutter has a YouTube channel. Here's a video, if you're interested.

If you've never tried explaining a joke before, imagine meeting someone who's never heard a knock knock joke before (an extraterrestrial, for example) and trying to explain why it is the way it is. "Well, see, our houses have doors on them, and it's custom to knock...to strike it with your fist, as a way of asking to come in..." Depending on how much you have to explain, it can completely take the air out of it.



The third show was a whole evening of Kanonenfutter, with 5 kinds of games broken up into 5 separate sections with an intermission between each. Part one was Shotgun style, part two was called Story Time, part three was called The Show, part four was titled "News Flash Online", and part five was called "Trinkshow" a.k.a. Drink Show. I couldn't explain specifically why the sections were called what they were. I do know that there were the following things:

  • A long-form theater piece about a guy in a windmill in the Netherlands whose grandma signed off to sell it to be leveled ("flat like the rest of the Netherlands") by a guy who wants to build a hotel, and a guy with a bike shop and a German tourist who help Windmill Guy save his windmill. An audience member got to throw a rubber banana onstage at will and a song ensued.
  • A long-form game where a group is in the car going somewhere, and each flashback is acted out rather than told. They were going to a festival called KrassNass, and the band was apparently also called KrassNass...it was the word of the game, used very liberally. They also threw a banana peel out of the window on the Autobahn (in the story) and later heard about a huge accident in that area which was, in fact, their fault. Then they were interrogated: first by the firefighters, then by the police. One of the band members (or was he a stagehand?) finally admitted to doing graffiti so the rest of the band could continue their journey to KrassNass.
  • A game where the audience gets to shout "That sounds like a song (about _____)!" and they sing about it in the middle of the scene.
  • The line, "I like my women how I like my frying pans: in the kitchen," getting a mostly negative reaction from the audience.
  • A plastic-communion-cup's worth of schnapps in return for participation (last show only).


At the end of the last show, they played a game called Freeze Tag, where players tag each other out of scenes and then take the poses and create a new scene out of it. This time, they used it to summarize and revisit the different scenes that had been created throughout the night. It ended with everybody singing along to a song from earlier on the theme of "you can have half." The words go like this: 

"Eine hälfte nehm' ich mir / die andere hälfte geb' ich dir / dann da ist mehr Platz, hier / [long pause] für Bier!"
Translation: "One half I will take for me / the other half I'll give to you / then there is more space, here (point to your stomach) / [long pause] for beer!"

Conclusion: In Germany, sometimes even the improv shows end up being about beer. 🍻

12.10.17

Day 90-ish Update

Many people have been asking me questions regarding how I'm doing and what my plan is. I'm here now to answer you all at the same time.

Not too long ago, I was frantically trying to get my paperwork together before my 90-day deadline of October 13th. Things to send that needed to be sent back once approved, contracts and verifications, applications for this and that. Not to mention gathering information on how to do certain steps. It was all taking so long that I was considering a short trip to London to buy me time, or even returning to SLO for a few months while I waited. The possibility felt so real, I actually started to accept it as a viable option and was looking at all of the positives, even getting a little stoked to go home for a bit.

And then one day I went into the Welcome Center, and I left in less of a hurry. I could get something called a Fiktionsbescheinigung, a provisional residence document. I had enough papers for anybody to believe I was planning to stay here legally (though not yet all I need for a student visa). I went to the Foreign Registration Office and inquired, still unsure how long it would take to actually receive the paperwork or if I did, in fact, have to make an appointment in order to get this document. Mind you, I would've had to put in a request months in advance to get an appointment with the Foreign Registration Office in the near future. I was still in a tiny bit of a panic, drafting a pleading letter in case I did have to beg for a sooner appointment.

I walked in like I had twice before, to ask questions. The lady who helped me said I could get the document right then if the machine weren't broken. Totally calm, no problem at all.  She informed me that with this document I'm not allowed to leave the country (not even to other EU countries), and that I'm still not allowed to work. But I can stay another 90 days to get my paperwork together, and the appointment for my visa will be scheduled as soon as I let them know I have everything, within the 90 days by default. I had a few extra weeks until my first 90 were up, and she asked if I wanted to take a trip before she issued me the document. I'd had enough of long bus rides and train stations and worrying about whether I'd be able to stay, so I declined the offer. The next morning, I got an email saying I could pick up my Fiktionsbescheinigung. The machine was working again, and so were my lungs. It was a deep breath of fresh air, a washing away of the stress and hurry.

One of the papers I had already was one that states that I took the TestDaf, the Big German Language Test that will confirm I have enough of a grip on the language to study at a university in German. When I went to take the test, I walked into a room of foreigners. I'm not sure what I was expecting, actually, but what I noticed the most was the identification document that sat on my desk throughout the whole process: my U.S. passport.

Many of the people present for the test came from Middle Eastern countries. When the proctor went to call people back from breaks, she would look at the name marker (last name, first initial) and sometimes it started with a mumbled, "Oh, boy.." But I was self-conscious of my passport. After I got my documents later on, I thought back to the test day and wondered just how much more stressful the whole situation could get. I mean, my passport will get me just about anywhere. Border check on the bus? The officer doesn't even look twice at my passport before handing it back to me. Meanwhile there's a kid in front of me getting a full pat-down and his bags thoroughly searched by multiple officers. What's the difference between him and me, really? Why does he get the short end of the stick?

Once I got my Fiktionsbescheinigung, I had to wonder if I hadn't been psyching myself out about how hard all the paperwork is and how short 3 months have turned out to be. But it's a living, breathing, Douglas-Adams-was-probably-making-fun-of-it bureaucracy. It's not fun for anyone. However, it's very empowering to be doing everything myself. And having been on Bylaws Committee back at Cuesta, I can better understand where some of the extra requirements and layers and things might come from.

So now that I know I'm good until Christmas day (December 25th is when my Fiktionsbescheinigung runs out), I can get my documents together without the rush. I have proof of insurance, proof of registration, proof of having taken the TestDaF (results come out at the end of this month), the contract for my internship in January, open bank accounts, and papers in the mail so they can finally tell me "your educational background is verified and enough to study here in Baden-Württemberg" (most of which translate to a single word in German, by the way). And once I have that paper in my hands, it will probably be time for me to apply to university. And the proof of application will help in getting that visa.

The university is my plan for the next few years. Hochschule für Technik Stuttgart -- HFT Stuttgart, for short. I'll be studying KlimaEngineering, which is not the most intuitive word found in the German language. I describe it as a mixture of architecture and engineering, with a forte in sustainability and environmental implications. It's a niche role, and a new-ish study program. Even I don't know how I found it, but it was exactly what I was hoping to find. I can apply between November 2nd and January 15th. I'll find out if I got the spot sometime in January, most likely. The internship is required to get into the program, so that makes it easier on everyone. Minimum 4 weeks of some kind of related experience to give me an idea of what I'll be doing after I graduate.

I'm left with a lot of free time between now and January. Not allowed to earn money, not allowed to leave. What am I doing with all of that time, you ask?

The short answer is, "I'm still figuring it out, ask again later."

The fact is that every day continues to go by, and the time is used somehow. So here's what I've done so far:

  • I went to this event on a whim, having seen it in a pamphlet. I discovered a master's program I might want to pursue in the future, and got to shake hands with the main speaker, Klaus Töpfer. He spoke of a group of people called Generalists -- people with knowledge of many fields and their vocabularies, but little in-depth work or research in most of them. Very important for communication and understanding, which the world needs, now and always.
  • I've been exploring the city a lot on foot. I could use public transportation, but I don't. I could use the exercise and fresh air, plus I get to see more and save $$. Or €€. Though I do sometimes walk through a station to skip some crosswalks and read some world news.
  • I'm keeping my eyes peeled to see what's going on around the city, ie collecting pamphlets, flyers, handouts, and anything else that lists one-off events and ongoing opportunities. That's how I found out about the Sustainable Cities event (mentioned above). And there's a German-American Center, so that's basically calling my name.
  • I've been to two improv shows already, and I'll probably go to another on Saturday night. My favorite scene so far was one between a hitman and his boss, played out in hell, and then replayed, same scene, but Bollywood style. It's not something easily reenacted.
  • I've been reaching out to all sorts of communities, both on- and offline. I've been looking for a choir to join, but haven't made it to any rehearsals yet. I've been to one Engineers Without Borders meeting, back in August. I'm planning to get hands-on involved now that I'm more oriented. I met someone on the internet and then in real life, and we hang out pretty often now. We went to a board game meetup where we met even more people. I've been surprisingly active on iFixit.com, for the fact that I don't actually work there anymore. This is my favorite response I've gotten to give so far, and this is my profile, which I finally wrote today.
  • I'm trying out a polyphasic sleep cycle. The one I'm trying to implement involves napping for about 20 minutes every 4 hours. I'm working on it, but also making some clear progress. It leaves me with so much more time in a day that I intentionally don't multitask, and it's been helpful for my focus and my willingness to do things that take awhile as soon as I get the chance. I also get to stop and think about things 6 times a day when I'm trying to fall asleep. 
  • One of the side effects of having extra hours is that I read a lot more. I've been reading like a dehydrated person drinks water, and I've finally reached the end of some things. In the blog I linked on the sleep cycle, there are many lengthy posts that go into detail about Steve's experience and his thoughts on it, among other things. I read it all in around a day. It's easy to take in when you have good reason to remember the details.
  • As a result, I've also been writing a lot. Yes, you have a "lack of sleep" (as some see it) to thank for this extra-long update. Really, it gives me the chance to breathe and consider my next step and gather the good ideas, sometimes even filter them, before I go to write them down.
  • I've also been journaling a lot. And yes, I consider journaling and writing to be two very different things. I'm directly introspective and retrospective in my journal, and I'd hate to bore most people with the memories that shaped me and realizations that have nothing to do with anyone but myself. I've tried it, and it doesn't normally end well.
  • I used wine to paint one night. I'm actually happy with how some of the sketches turned out once they dried. Maybe I will use those watercoloring materials my mom left me once in awhile.
  • I've also been writing and clarifying and mapping out what I'm doing and where I'm going on paper so as to have a clearer picture and a better idea of how to get there. Not to mention some items on my to-do list when I'm up all the time!
I hope this is as satisfying of an update for you as it is for me. It's neat when wrapped up in a bow like this, if I do say so myself.

A sidenote about how I answer so many questions:
I've decided to call my method "improvisational research." I take in the question, put it into Google-sized pieces, and usually pop out a decent answer with advice on what to do. In other words, I'm pretty good at Googling things.
The thing is, it works. And for me, all of the approved answers are more confidence that I can find my way if I need to. Google just makes it easier. Persistence and being able to scan for what you're looking for are the keys.
I know, I know. "Dear diary, ..."

I'll let you go now. Maybe my next post will have some pictures in it...

TL;DR (Stands for "too long; didn't read", and it's a term the kids use nowadays): I'm doing fine and I'll continue to be fine unless for some reason I'm not. Life is exciting. I've been writing a lot lately.

That's all for now!

9.10.17

Yet Another Rant...about the education system.

Yes, you read the title correctly. I'd lead with "I'm sorry", but that would be the American response. Actually, I take it back. The American response would be to not talk about it at all. By the end of this post, I hope you'll understand why. It's the main reason for me writing this, after all.

Firstly, in America, I get the feeling that problems are to be fought rather than fixed. Not just international or internal conflicts, but have you ever hit your DVD player in the hopes that it would stop skipping? I have enough material for a whole separate rant on violence in our language, but I think the reason "hit it" and "play that funky music" mean the same thing comes from a similar scenario. I have no links to back up that claim, but I also haven't found anything to say otherwise.

When I was here in Germany on exchange, I was in an eleventh grade class. I didn't understand hardly any German at first, but the first day was all explanations, introductions, and emergency procedures anyway. As the year went on, I realized that the students were actually expected to participate in the class. Not just by paying attention, but by speaking. And it's usually a class discussion: looking into the meaning of a political comic and what it says about that era in history, or describing and analyzing a graph and what it's trying to convey. They're usually very open-ended questions, with no one right answer. As it turns out, the questions asked as part of the lessons aren't rhetorical here. You're expected to respond aloud. A few times during the year, I think some of the teachers wanted to shake me like, "Say something, dammit!" But again, to expect such a reaction is an American thing, fighting the problem when it needs solved. Not that I've ever been shaken by an American teacher, either.

Once, our Government and Politics teacher was trying really hard to get me to talk, so he directed the question specifically at me. Spoke when spoken to, I guess. Problem solved. The answer that came out was unpolished, to say the least, but it was the truth to the best of my knowledge.
The question was about our college system and how it is here.
One reason I hesitated to answer the question is because I hadn't actually had a college experience and therefore didn't feel like I was a credible source. The other reason is that I didn't have anything nice to say about it. I had an outside perspective of college life, and it's similar to that song "I Love College"(NSFW), but my major problems with the whole thing are exactly what I answered with: "You pay a [heck] of a lot of money and *maybe* you get a job afterward." That's still somewhat of my perspective about the whole higher education deal, though I have more faith in the job prospects afterward. But alas, I'm going to finish college here anyway. That's not to say that it doesn't need fixed, but it's not something I'm personally concerned about at the moment.

The other thing I learned in school (in the States) is not only that the questions are either rhetorical or only have one right answer, but even worse, I learned not to listen as deeply as I did as a child. A question is asked, and you're not supposed to say anything, and the teacher moves on immediately. You don't even have time to think of a good answer. But that's ok, you don't have to have one. At some point, a question is just a statement with a different grammatical structure.

That brings up another topic: homework. In the States, I always saw homework as busywork. You do it, you turn it in, you get points. You don't do it, you don't get the points, but life goes on. Here, however, if the teacher assigns homework, it's going to have something to do with the following lesson. There's more reason to do it, because if you don't, you'll be out of the loop and probably have nothing to do the next day you have that class. You build on everything here. Things are more related, coordinated. There's a dependency between what you've done and what you're doing and what you're going to do. I don't see the same in the education system I went through, and the only reason I can think for it to be that way is laziness and lack of communication.

Looking back again at the difference in expectations as to whether you talk in class or not led me back to one of my fundamental bricks of language learning: Disney songs. (Click the links to see the videos I'm referencing).

In The Lion King, during the "Be Prepared" scene, Scar drops the line: "Just listen to teacher." At least, in the English version.
In the German version, there's no mention of a classroom setting. Ok, sure, the wording just didn't fit. Easy to write off.
The French version basically says, "Shut up and listen." Much more directly dismissive.
And, however comedic, the Google Translate version simply says, "The religious educator."

I'm not going to shove any conclusions down your throat. You already know how I feel about it.  But what are your experiences with any or all of this?