Thursday, January 25, 2007

Three Dumb Things

Dumb thing #1: Several years ago we replaced our old electric hot water heater with an efficient on-demand propane water heater. The new heater is great. It works well and we've saved a lot of money on our electric bill. We're having some work done in our basement, and the carpenter noticed the other day that our old electric hot water heater was still hooked up and turning itself on and off periodically. Ooops. No need for it to be on, because it's not hooked up to anything. It's hard-wired, so there's nothing to unplug. So I turned off the circuit breaker, and now it's no longer eating power. How long had it been eating power? I'm not sure. A few weeks ago we blew a fuse in the bathroom when Doreen was plugging in her new electric toothbrush. I fiddled with the circuit breakers then and might have accidentally turned the hot water heater on. Or, it might have been on for years. I suspect the former. But either way I don't exactly feel like a genius.

Dumb thing #2: Driving home from school today I flipped from station to station and found myself listening briefly to the New York Knicks pregame show. They were interviewing some coach who was talking about the Phoenix Suns. He offered up this bit of wisdom: "They have put together a crew that fits like a close-knit puzzle." Ouch. My head hurts just thinking about what this might mean. Potentially three metaphors are mixed in one sentence: Fits like a glove, close-knit team, pieces to the puzzle. Ow.

Dumb thing #3: I briefly watched the NHL all-star game tonight. It was boring so I only watched five minutes or so. While watching I saw an advertisement for Quizno's subs. They were boasting about how good their subs are, and they said that if you're not satisfied they'll give you another sub for free. This seems like a really bad deal. If you don't like their sub they'll give you another one.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Document and Soul Updates

The next draft of the soul-crushing reaccreditation document is complete. I distributed it to faculty and Academic Affairs Committee members late this morning. Comments on the previous draft were surprisingly positive, and very helpful for producing this latest draft. I would be pleased if subsequent comments are as constructive. Somehow I find that the more I read the standards, the less I understand some of them. But I'm trying not to let this bother me.

Ken Hill, who is working on other parts of the reaccreditation report, fell asleep while working on it a few nights ago. He woke up to find his head on the keyboard. His forehead had managed to type seventeen pages of spaces while he was sleeping. So writing these documents is clearly a dangerous endeavor. I actually thought that the seventeen blank pages should be retained in the document. But it doesn't seem like an efficient use of paper.

When Doreen and I were in Philadelphia around Christmas we stopped at a Mexican grocery store. They had a bunch of those candles in tall, skinny glass containers. They were quite inexpensive and I like candles, so I checked a bunch of them out. Most of them had Saints on them, which didn't interest me. One had Pope John Paul, which definitely didn't interest me. But then I found a black candle whose glass jar was decorated with some skeleton-looking dude. I thought it was cool in a Goth sort of way so I bought it.

A few days later Doreen read what was written on the candle. (I couldn't read it because it was in Spanish.) Apparently this is a candle that you're supposed to keep lit when someone is about to die, and the skeleton dude is not a Goth, but some angel or saint of death or something who helps to take your soul away, presumably to heaven or someplace nice. That suddenly made my new candle less fun. However, I have been trying to remember to keep it lit while writing the soul-crushing document. My hope is that the soul-crushing document and the soul-removing candle cancel each other out, keeping me safe.

Thus far, it seems to have worked. My soul has picked up few dents, but it's not crushed.
It could be, however, that my soul has not been crushed because it's frozen. It's currently -6 F outside, and quite chilly inside our house. I will sleep with a hat on tonight.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Draft one of the deadly document

I have finally finished the first draft of the soul-crushing document. Forty-one single-spaced pages. Arg. Now I get to share it with colleagues who will tear it to shreds. But this is good -- it needs strenuous critique. And I almost always find that the first draft of a document is the most difficult for me to write. I don't mind editing and re-writing. In fact, I usually enjoy it.

I now get to turn my attention to another tedious, but hopefully not soul-crushing document: my self-evaluation for my five-year review. (This is roughly analogous to a post-tenure review. It's a big deal, but not really.) Writing this shouldn't be too bad, as I kinda enjoy making lists of all the stuff I've done, and I can use much of the material I've written in my yearly self-evaluations that I do because I have an administrative as well as faculty appointment.

Nevertheless, I'm looking forward very much to having both of these large documents finalized. My self-evaluation will take only a week or so. The reaccreditation report will take a few more months of editing. But it will be done eventually.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

First week

Already one week of our ten-week term has come and gone. I think things are off to a good start. I'm quite pleased with my Computer Science class. Students seem enthusiastic about the work and it's been really fun for me to be teaching something new. Also, all students are using Linux or UNIX-based operating systems, which means that I'm able to give them lots of detailed help. It's great to be teaching a course without using any Microsoft products.

As on much of the East Coast, the weather here has been very warm. It got up to 55 degrees yesterday, and much of the week it's been in the upper 40's. Looks like it will be a long time before I get any ice hockey in. At the end of December we had some cold weather and it seemed as if ice wasn't far away. Optimistically, I got my skates sharpened. Alas, they've still not been used.

I'm currently working frantically on the academic portion of COA's self-study document for our re-accreditation. This is the soul crushing document which I've mentioned several times before. My soul is doing ok. It's not completely crushed, but it is somewhat broken and compressed. I will be done with the draft soon. Then will come much editing and re-writing. I am confident that my soul will recover, but it might take a while.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Day one

The first day of the new year was rainy and slushy. Perhaps not a good omen. It's disappointing that it's not snow, but given that a lot of students were traveling today, I suppose it's a good thing that the weather wasn't worse. I spent much of the day working on the materials for my computer science class. Unfortunately, in a colossal brain cramp I deleted a few of the files and had to re-write them. Also perhaps not a good omen. But maybe it's good to get dumb stuff out of the way quickly.

This is the 100th post on my blog. I suppose I should have something profound and introspective to say, but I don't feel up to it. The last year of so of blogging has been pretty good, I suppose, but it's not been quite the rejuvenating distraction that I had imagined it to be. Nevertheless, I think I'll stick with it for a while.

Time to do the last bit of preparation for the first day of class tomorrow. It will be good to see students back. The campus was far too empty the last month.