Monday, April 23, 2012


Classes ended.  I wrote finals.  Proof read them.  Proctored them.  Graded them.  Submitted grades.  And attended graduation, Thursday and Friday.

It's the end of my fourth academic year at G.O.D. University.  Three of the students graduating in my department were students who took that first year class with me back in 2008.  *Sniff*.  They get so big in such a short amount of time.

I knew people at the department reception -- graduating people this year.  I smiled and shook hands and congratulated, met parents and in-laws.

One of my students plays the carillon.  After the reception, he invited me and a few other professors to climb the bell tower with him, where he played a few pieces for us on the bells that ring out over the entire city.  The top of the bell tower gives the best view of campus.  Who knew?  You need a special key to get in.  I wonder if I'll ever make it back, now that my student has graduated?

I was supposed to finish a project.  One small key piece was missing, and I was going to think about it during those boring graduation talks.  And I did think about it, and I ran into trouble.  So then I climbed a bell tower, and picked up Jonathan, and did a lot of yard work, and read a long novel, and finished an epoch video game (die, Orphan).  And I never did get that project finished.  My collaborator is seven hours ahead, which means he'll be waking up to Monday in a couple of hours, wondering what happened to me.

What did happen to me?

Do you think in heaven we will get to play epoch video games all weekend long, without guilt?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Right and wrong

Jonathan has learned a song in church with a line that goes, "There's a right and a wrong to every question."

This morning, after he sang the line, I argued that in fact, there is no right or wrong to most questions.  

Most questions?  Jonathan was skeptical.  Maybe some questions.  But most?

How would you determine whether there is a right or wrong to most questions?  We started making up questions.

*What should I wear today?

*What do you want for breakfast?

Then we started keeping track of the questions that naturally came up in conversation.

*Will you please clear your dishes?  (There was a right answer to that question.)

*Did you finish?




*Were you going to put that away?

After I got to work, I was able to spend a huge chunk of the day dealing with grading, or rather, assigning grades.  Right or wrong to every question?  No.

*Is the common grading scale fair?

*Is that cutoff too strict?

*Can I give more A's without giving more C's?

*What should the average GPA our low level service classes be?

This evening, I got to grade my students' finals.  There was a right to every question, but fewer wrongs.  More questions were of the form:

*How much partial credit is this worth?

I stand by my original statement.  Most questions have no right and wrong.  

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Day off

Classes ended at G.O.D. University on Wednesday.  And this week happens to be Jonathan's spring break.  So I took the day off yesterday and we drove to Salt Lake City to see the new natural history museum there.  It was a very nice museum, and I do recommend it.

However, Thursday mornings aren't really as good a time for a visit as you might think.  You do miss the weekend crowds, but you will be smack in the middle of the field trip crowds.  When we arrived, the parking lot was completely full, and three large yellow bus-loads of elementary school children were just entering the building.

Then once inside, the museum was an ocean of children, all about Jonathan's height and noise-level.  In our party, there were two adults (me and Tim), two seniors (Grandma and Grandpa), and one child, and the school groups swirled and spiraled around us, pushing forward and sucking back and making little eddies around the tall people.  I was sure that our short one would be swept away into the crowds and disappear forever with some field trip group from Tooele.  Luckily, he did not.  But purely in terms of mental stimulation, it was somewhat more difficult to appreciate the museum with the noise and swirling foam of children.

Although I did like the dinosaur bones, most discovered "nearby".

And the Great Salt Lake exhibit, with the squishy floor and live brine shrimp.

And the wall of giant horned dinosaur heads.

And the sandstorm-under-glass.

I do recommend the new museum.  It was very nice.

The view from the museum, all the way across the valley, was spectacular.  When we arrived, dark storm clouds hovered far away at the edge of the distant mountains.  They moved closer and closer through the morning, until we left in heavy rain.  We ran through the rain to the car, then drove to the other side of the university campus to eat at the Xi restaurant, Tim's favorite.  We put too much money in the parking meter.  I suggested a walk through campus?  Vetoed by the rain.  We went back to Grandma and Grandpa's house instead, and I read a book while the rain turned to snow.

Today I've been back at home, writing and cleaning and preparing for finals.  Days off are good things.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Dying batteries

The battery in one of our smoke alarms has been dying.  We knew the battery was dying, because the alarm was sending out chirping noises. In fact, it was chirping sporadically for days before we were able to identify the alarm with the dying battery.  It would chirp a few times in a row, and we'd go off on a quest to the basement to find it, and then it would stop chirping for the rest of the night.

Eventually we did find the alarm with the dying battery, and we replaced the battery and hung it back on the wall to do its smoke alarm thing.  But within a few days, it was chirping again.  Wrong battery.

I am a smoke alarm with a dying battery.

I was in Paris just a couple of weeks ago, attending an amazing conference, having the honor of speaking to a crowd of people, many of them well known internationally in my research area.  I returned home, jet lagged, to find myself a week behind in my grading, a week behind in my class preparation, a week behind in my administrative duties, a week behind in my family life, having missed a week of family work and family weekly ups and downs, a week behind in laundry and yard work.  Behind.  And there was no extra week of spare time in which to catch up.  So I crawled to bed exhausted, and woke myself up in a panic early in the mornings, to write research papers.  And in late night frustration, I turned back to editing my novel.  Ha!  That will show them!  And weekend video games.  New battery?


Our last day of classes is Wednesday.  That means I only need to prepare two more lectures.  I only need to grade 21 more assignments.  I have to finalize an exam for 650 and two exams for seven.  And organize lunch for 20.  And find a local hotel for the conference I'm organizing....  I can't even keep in my head all of the things I need to do this week.

Chirp chirp.

But I'm taking Thursday off, because this week is Jonathan's spring break.

And it one month, I am speaking at one more important conference, to honor my graduate advisor on his 60th birthday.  Many of the people who were in Paris will also be honoring my advisor, and so I need to speak about something new.  The something new I have in mind is a project I have been working on with a colleague in England, but that we haven't quite finished.  If I can get a good draft of a paper written within the next two weeks, I can comfortably speak about that project and impress my colleagues.  Otherwise....  Trouble.

Chirp chirp chirp.

Oh, and I need to pull together my file for promotion and tenure.  And a major grant application.


I need more video games.

In the book I read on the plane, flying through my sleeping time, the author reminded the world that it is boring to talk about how busy you are.  Because -- guess what -- the whole world is busy!  We are all busy, and your particular flavor of business is not particularly interesting.

I keep thinking about that, writing this post, and I agree.  My flavor of business is boring.  I'm bored myself, writing it, or I would be, if my heart would stop making that annoying chirping noise.  I have decided that I should probably delete the middle of this post and talk more about smoke alarms, and pull the whole analogy thing together that I started.

But I can't do it.  I can't delete the middle.  If I do, how will I remember all the things I'm supposed to accomplish this week?

Happy Spring Break to you, too.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Fruit flies!

Aack!  We have a fruit fly infestation!  Here, inside our house.  And I don't know why, and it is driving me crazy.

When I was in high school, I grew fruit flies in blue oatmeal in test tubes, and I learned important things about fruit flies.  Like they can have red or black eyes, and sometimes wrinkled wings, and they multiply exponentially.  And most importantly, that they eat blue oatmeal.

I swear there is no blue oatmeal anywhere in my house.  So where are the flies coming from?  What are they eating?  We have taken out the compost, cleaned the sink and double cleaned the sink.  There is no fruit outside of our refrigerator.  And yet I have smashed about a bazillion fruit flies this evening.  And then a bazillion more have come to take their place.

I can't take it anymore.  I am throwing out all the houseplants.