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EssayTagger is a web-based tool to help teachers grade essays faster.
But it is not an auto-grader.

This blog will cover EssayTagger's latest feature updates as well as musings on
education, policy, innovation, and preserving teachers' sanity.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Time-out for: Mosquitos... and the death of the English language

Oh, the pain.

I'm suffering from two mosquito bites that are out of reach of my normal method for alleviating the itch: scalding them with hot water. I claim that there are vaguely scientific reasons for why the scalding hot water does actually work (I'll get to those at the end).

But I figured it couldn't hurt to google--yet again--to see if there was another remedy to try. I came across a particular Yahoo article that was vaguely interesting. The reader comments had a lot of home remedies to offer as well.

Now let me warn you. Plenty of readers had mistakenly used the possessive S "mosquito's" when they meant the plural S "mosquitos." That happens all the time. Everywhere. Sorry, English teachers; this might be a battle we cannot win.

But nothing could have prepared me for the grammatical terror of this comment:
Click to view full-size, if you dare

And if that's too hard to read, here's the text in all it's awful glory:
"I use something most peole would never even think of to repell mosquito's. It is better than off or anything you can use in a can or a tube. I buy off brand dryer sheet's and I take them and rub them on my open skin and on my shirt. pan't or short's. Then I keep the dryer sheet in my pocket. I learned from when I did alot of fishing at night. It really work's, everyone should try it."
Is it really possible?! Gods, the pain is blinding!!

I get the possessive-vs-plural S confusion. I do. I'm reasonably sympathetic. But "pan't"?!!! Seriously?!!! "Pan't"?!! "PAN'T"?!!


It's as hilarious as it is aggravating. And it's still on display for all the World Wide Web to appreciate:

It occurs to me that it might be considered cruel to mock someone's grammar like this. But he appears to be an adult and he did post a public message to the World Wide Web. We all have to be aware that we are exposing ourselves to silly or spiteful attacks whenever we put anything out for public consumption. That reality keeps me on my toes. I constantly review and rewrite my posts here.

In truth, I think there's a lesson here that can be brought to your classroom. Maybe it'll help your students care a tad bit more about how they present themselves in writing.

Justifying my home remedy for mosquito bites
Look, I'm no scientist, but I try to think like one.

Oh, but before we get too far: I am not a doctor. This is not medical advice. I only took Bio my freshman year of high school. That was 1992! Do not listen to anything I'm saying here. If you try my method, you will injure yourself and regret it so stop reading now. Seriously. I'm an English teacher and a programmer. What do I know?

And we're back.

Scalding mosquito bites by running them under the hot water faucet works for me. I slowly ramp up the temperature until it just reaches the point where I can't take it any longer. My skin stays red for awhile afterwards, but nothing worse than that. I'm careful--and my hot water only gets so hot. I would NOT use one of those Insta-Hot taps or anything similar that only has one insanely hot temperature!

Why I think it works:
- Heat supposedly breaks down the enzyme that causes the itching. Maybe. Not sure enough heat transfers from the water and through the skin though.

- I read that white blood cells break down the enzyme slowly over the course of a few days. That's why the bites eventually go away. I figured that scalding the area would lightly injure it, promoting increased white blood cell activity. No clue if that's true.

- My mosquito bites tend to get kind of hard and puffy. I can't imagine much of anything getting into those cells to work on those bad enzymes. I figure that spreading out the enzyme would reduce its concentration and make it easier for those white blood cells to access and break down.

Hot water should cause osmosis, drawing anything out of the cells that can pass through the cell membranes. I think that's why hot tubs use salt water--by matching the salt solvent level of our own bodies, osmosis is mostly prevented. Otherwise hot tubs would drain our cells and leave us with dry skin. But in this case we actually do want to drain the cells, suck that bad enzyme out, or at least force it to spread around at a lower concentration to make it easier for the white blood cells to break down.

- Final reason: it fries the nerve endings enough to turn them off for a while. I've had the effect last for half a day. That's pretty dang awesome when a bite is really driving you crazy.

So there you have it. Don't try it.