Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Stuff I learned today

  1. I spent part of the morning re-attaching our mailbox to the post that it's supposed to be attached to. I was successful, but it took longer than it should have and isn't a very elegant solution. It's a bit of a kludge, really. Reminds me that math and theoretical physics are probably good fields for me.

  2. I was in a meeting today in which a colleague used the words "lichen" and "world-class" in the same sentence. As in "so and so is a world-class expert on British lichens." Interesting. This was actually one of the most enjoyable parts of the meeting.

  3. At this same meeting, I learned from our Director of Admission that in 2008 the number of U.S. high school students entering college will, for the first time in many years, decrease. This decrease is projected to continue for around ten years. This is sobering news for all those colleges that are planning on growing enrollment over the next decade. Interesting. But not as fun or happy as the talk about world-class lichens.

  4. The meeting I was at concerned a very large Department of Education grant that we're applying for. (If we get it, it's 1.75 million dollars over five years.) As part of this grant, we will upgrade our registration system to allow for electronic, on-line registration. Currently students fill out actual paper forms listing their choices. They hand them in to the registrar, who then spends a few days entering in all of the students' courses by hand. Really. I suppose it's sorta quaint and retro. The registration forms I filled out at college in late 1980's were more modern looking. I think if we're going to go retro like this we should do it all the way. Maybe we should put pictures of 80's pop music stars on the forms and ask our registrars to dress in 80's clothes on the days that the forms are due.

    Why do we still do it this way? The short answer is that upgrading software to allow for electronic registration is expensive. How expensive? $114,000. The more I think about this, the harder it is to understand. This amount of money is more than two years of my salary. Given two years, I bet I could write a pretty good electronic registration system. I'm not that good a coder, and I don't really know anything about databases. But in two years I bet I could learn a lot. How can a single piece of software cost this much money? And from what I understand, it's not like this program is that great; it's clumsy to work with and doesn't have an appealing interface. Oh. And the $114,000 is just the initial fee. For each subsequent year we need to pay $14,000.

    I'd much prefer to hire a programmer or two to write a program that does exactly what we want. Are there any open source registration systems in the works? Or some open source something that we could use as a starting point?

  5. Lastly, I realized today that I own very little relaxing music. This is ok, except on those occasions when I'm trying to relax. Like now, when it's after midnight and I'm absolutely wide awake. I think I'll have a glass of wine and do some grading. This should help make me sleepy.


Sarah said...

Perhaps some of the world-class lichen could be used to round out our classes when the population of high school students dwindles.

BTW, re: relaxing music. Enya has a new album out. I bet you're a hardcore Enya fan. I bet hardcore and Enya are in sentences about as often as world-class and lichen.

I'm kidding about you liking Enya.

Dave said...

Lichen students is an interesting idea. It certainly would help our institution maintain distinctiveness.

I find Enya so relaxing that it pisses me off. Also, in around a month I'll be heading to Quebec City for a few days. I think there's a law there that says that at any given time half of the population has to be listening to Enya. So I'll be hearing plenty of Enya soon.

Groove Armada's Back to Mine is more what I have in mind.