Friday, August 29, 2014

One Down

I don't know why, but I've had real trouble motivating myself to finish prepping my classes and get the syllabi and calendars done.

I finished the stuff for the class I teach on Tuesday today, so I have Tuesday to finish up the Wednesday classes.  One of them is mostly done.  No, really.

The other is not even started.  I should be panicking, but I'm not.

I want decent biking weather this weekend, but fear it will not be so.

Good luck, everyone!  Time to hunker down here in the northwoods!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Repetitively Repeating

I went to a meeting of an administrative unit I'm part of on Tuesday afternoon.  There's a new administrator administrating, and to give hir the benefit of the doubt, I went.  The administrator talked for, say, 40 minutes.

Then there was a "retreat" of the same administrative unit today.  And the administrator spoke for about 40 minutes, and pretty much said exactly the same things zie had said on Tuesday. 

Why, for the love of whatever you consider holy, why?  It wasn't that exciting the first time around, but it was irritating as all get out the second time.

There were also other things said.  Did you know that advising is important, and connected to retention?  After hearing about that for half an hour, I still don't know anything about doing better advising.

Why is it that people who I'm certain are fine teachers are deadly dull giving presentations at these retreat things?  (But I'm sure a number of them are aiming towards administrative positions, so they're practicing to compete with our new administrator for deadly dullness.)

I'm so sick of people talking at me.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Meeting Moment

I was at a meeting today with lots of other people, and a few minutes towards the end was devoted to celebrating 50 years of this and that, with pictures.

One of the pictures showed some students using optical stuff in the physics sort of way.

I was a few rows behind a row of physicists, and in unison, they said, fairly loudly, "hey, we still use that same equipment."

And everybody laughed through the room.  It's probably true, too.

It can't have been planned, can it?  I mean, I didn't know they were going to show 50 year old pictures.  I think it's just that the physics folks were all thinking the same thing and just said it aloud.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hamster Wheel

Today felt like I was just running and running in place.

At about 8am, I started in on a project, which absolutely has to be done tomorrow.

I started in, and then a colleague stopped by and chatted about some concerns.

And then I restarted, and another colleague stopped by to talk about something for tomorrow, and promised to send an email about 3pm.

Then I restarted, and another colleague stopped by to chat about some concerns.  I invited the colleague to go out to lunch (it so happened that I had a couple of free meals from customer cards because I buy food at this place often).

I got back, restarted, and then a student came in semi-panicked.  So we figured hir stuff out.

And then I restarted.

Then I got the promised email, and thought, oh, it's after 3pm!  I should check the time!

So I did, and realized it was after 4:30, and I was supposed to be at a meeting at 4.  Oops.  I went over, and went in, because the meeting was going long.  I was able to get the handouts and apologized to the deanling (it was sincere, because this is a good, helpful deanling).

I finished most of the project before I left.  I still have to make a bunch of special copies, but it shouldn't take too long in the morning.

Hamster wheel, I tell you!

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Sometimes the whole world just seems horrible, doesn't it?

It's seemed that way for the past ten days or so, to me.

On the other hand, I went out of town to be materteral and see a music recital and sports event, and I had a good time at both.

I really, really need to get my syllabi and such in order.  I'm so not ready for the semester to begin!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Word of the Day: Materteral

Seriously, we need to use this one lots!

I've never heard it before, but I've often wanted it.

And how come many people know the parallel word for the other gender?

It's "characteristic of, or like an aunt."  So, it's the auntie version of "avuncular."

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Good Aunt / Bad Aunt

My young relative is off to college, so I sent a box of dorm supplies, including a set of Cards Against Humanity.

Does that make me a cool, good Aunt, or the worst influence on a young person ever?

Friday, August 15, 2014


We've already started working on job ad language.  I have a feeling that there's stuff in the ads that no one applying really worries much about, but it's there.

One of the things NWU likes to have in our ads is language about how the community is "safe" and "friendly." 

What do "safe" and "friendly" mean to you?  To other folks you know?

For me, "safe" codes as "white," and I worry that I'm not the only one who feels that way.  Are we making people of color feel less welcome as applicants?  Or does everyone pretty much apply to every job anyway out of desperation?

And "friendly," for me codes as "only if you were born here," in a small town sort of way.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Committee Schedule Dance

It's time to schedule big committee business, and since I'm chairing one, I get to try to set up meeting times.

I started with a master schedule that one of our admin assistants did, Xing out all the times the five committee members are teaching.  Then there's the university committee one of us is on, that has to be Xed out, too.

Amazingly, we all had MWFs midday open.  So I suggested Wednesday, or Monday, or Friday times.

And the responses trickled in: no, I don't like Mondays.  Can't do Friday.  Wednesday's out.

So I tried the 8am times.  The trick is, none of us teaches at 8am, and that likely means that none of us wants to be in a meeting at 8am.  So I also suggested that maybe the Monday midday would work after all. 

First response: 8am is bad because of getting kids off to school. 

Then the Monday dislike agreed that midday Monday was better than 8am.   Voila, schedule figured out!

One of the people who couldn't do one of the times is someone who will likely set the committee time for another committee I'm on.  I bet zie will set the time based off an Xing out schedule, and just insist that we do it.  (I need to not be petty or passive aggressive about that.)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Movie Still

One of my young kin posted in effbee recently about the new Godzilla movie and how excited he was about it, sharing a picture from it.  In the picture, Godzilla was HUGE.  I mean, way bigger than ships and stuff.  (Here's a link to the Wikipedia page, where you can see a poster picture, and see it compared to the Golden Gate Bridge.)

Now I know I'm totally the wrong demographic for this, but I have to admit that when I saw the poster I immediately thought:  how the heck did it get to be that big and no one noticed?

Here's the thing:  big animals need to eat a lot.  A LOT. 

There are basically three choices for eating a lot:  plants.  You do the elephant thing, and you eat plants, a lot of plants.   Fortunately, there are lots of plants to eat, at least in some places.  (And in the sea, there's algae, which grows fast.  But, my understanding is that most algae grows only in relatively shallow areas (or is the free floating kind, which I'll count as plankton for now), so you'd think people would notice a giant lizard thing eating algae off the coast of Humboldt County, wouldn't you?

plankton.  This works GREAT for the big baleen whales.  There's lots of it, which is good because whales need to eat a lot.

The problem for godzilla eating these things is that really, no one would be scared of a giant manatee godzilla thing, because it would be busy eating plants all the time.  Yes, hippos are really dangerous, and you shouldn't swim with them, but they're not going to take out big ships very easily.  And whales can be, I suppose, really dangerous around small boats, but not against the navy.

And finally, most plant and plankton eaters don't look fierce and scary, right? 

That leaves us with an animal that eats largish animals.  But there's simply no largish animal for something the size of Godzilla (in that poster) to eat and get enough.  Compared to a Godzilla that size, a whale is like me eating a minnow, not an entirely satisfying meal.  And it's a whole lot easier to catch and eat a messful of minnows (or other smallish fish) than whales.

It's worth noting that many of the largest predators around these days are actually smaller than most of their prey, no?  I mean, Brown Bears are bigger than salmon, but lions are smaller than wildebeasts.  You either have to eat a whole lot of smaller stuffs (salmon, say, or plankton), or have a plentiful supply of bigger stuffs that you can somehow eat (wildebeasts for lions).  Even so, hunting big stuff seems to work best cooperatively.  Otherwise, it's handy to be bigger than what you want to eat.  (That's why I should hunt minnows.)

Thus, a Godzilla that would find the TransAmerican Pyramid barely up to its chest is a Godzilla that would have deep unmet dietary needs.  No wonder it's pissed off!

Let's just admit that I wasn't nearly as impressed by the movie poster as my young kin.

Friday, August 08, 2014


Yesterday, I was doing the catch up and make sure all the bills are paid on-line thing, and there was an alert message at the top that said that my credit card account was unavailable and that I needed to call a number.  I checked quickly, and the bill was paid in full by the specified date, so I was clueless.  But I called and eventually got a real person.

And the real person said that there were a bunch of charges on the card which had been denied in the past couple of days.  (That is, the bank/card company had refused the charge.)   So we went through the charges that had been denied, thousands of dollars in all, but some under a buck even.  (I try very hard not to charge small amounts so that I don't cost merchants, especially small merchants, more than makes sense; I want my small merchants to stay in business.)

But none of the purchases I'd made (gas for the car for my camping trip) had been denied, even over the same couple of days.

So somehow, the bank computer system had a good enough way of figuring out what my buying patterns are, and what they aren't, and was able to accurately say "no" to a large number of charges.  (A scary large number of charges, to be honest.)

In a way, the fact that the bank knows my purchasing patterns so well is sort of creepy.  In another way, it's fantastic, because they'd denied the charges, so we didn't have to resolve anything at all.  And someone out there who stole my number (I had the card in hand) didn't actually get to steal either my or the bank's money.

I wonder how the computer system algorithm works?

Does it care about: What sorts of merchants are doing the transaction? 

Where the transaction is happening?  (and for on-line, I wonder if the thing that goes through to the credit card company reports the internet source number thingy?)


I just got the new card (overnighted to me with no charge; of course, the bank makes plenty of money off me). 

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

A First

I went camping yesterday. 

I went up to an island park, complete with my car packed full.  How full?  I think the Lewis and Clark expedition had less stuff.

Maybe not quite, but there was a lot of stuff.  Some years ago now, I bought a tent for a specific purpose, though I no longer quite remember why.  I used it once for that purpose.  And I lent it to a friend about five years ago.
When I thought about going camping recently, I aired it out and found the friend's reading glasses (a different style than my own).  So it's been a while.  I wasn't sure I'd enjoy camping, even, so I made a one night reservation, and figured if I hated it, I could leave and come home and never go again.
I got my camping spot and set up my tent.

As you can see, it's a beautiful site.  There's water!  (But there were surprisingly few bugs, which was great.)

I had the Retirement Fund with me.

So I went for a paddle, a couple of hours, first up the river, and then back down.  It was beautiful, and quiet.  I saw some other boaters, but mostly fishing or paddling themselves.

Then I went for a 20 mile bike ride, first scoping out the nearby town, where I found a diner.  Towards the end of my ride, I stopped at the diner and had dinner, and then road back, making it to my campsite in plenty of time to get stuff ready.  And then it was time for bed.  I was really tired, so I was lying on my sleeping bag, trying to get the energy to take out my contacts  (I did).  It was semi-noisy until it got almost totally quiet at 8:45.  After that, there was the occasional kid noise, but almost nothing.

And then it was morning!  I made my coffee (elixir of life!), and had some basic breakfast, and then I paddled around the island.  And as I was reaching the landing, I saw something swimming in the water.  I thought it was a muskrat, but hoped it was an otter.  So I paddled closer.  (I was a good ways off.)  And then it turned towards me, and it had a tan muzzle.  And round ears.  My eyes got big, and I stopped, and it swam a bit faster towards the shore.  So I paddled a bit faster.

And Yes, I saw my first bear!  It wasn't huge, but it was definitely a bear.  It got to shore, and jumped up, and went off into the underbrush.

That was pretty much the highlight of a really good camping trip.  (Short, but good.)

Meanwhile, I did some birding recently and saw a couple new birds, some of which I even got pictures of!  (The first is a Least Sandpiper; there there are Red-headed Woodpeckers.)

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Early Bird

I just got a very polite email from a student requesting the reading assignments for a course.

(It so happens that I'm not teaching the course zie seems to think I am, so that solves that for me.)

Now, if a student emailed me about my Shakespeare class, I could give hir the names of the plays I've ordered.  But if I were teaching a survey type course, there's no way I'd know all the stuff I'd ask them to read at this point.  And for the course that's brand new for me, other than the books I've ordered, I don't know quite yet.

We have about four weeks to the start of classes, and I think it's pretty reasonable not to have a course calendar planned.  How about you?

(I'm not blaming the student for asking, but even if I were teaching hir course, I'd have difficulty answering.)