I hate computers December 9, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in computers, grad school.
Tags: computers, dissertation, research, software
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I hate it when things don’t work the way they should….like when your software license that’s supposed to last for one year suddenly stops working after 8 months.
Sadly, that was pretty much the highlight of the day.
The Dynamic Duo December 6, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, family, papers, research.
Tags: acknowledgements, collaboration, engineering research, Mike, papers, research, spouse
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When I was doing my MS, I ended up getting a research assistantship working in the same place as Mike (which is, of course, where I now am working). There was one person higher up in the ranks who would occasionally see us having lunch together and would exclaim, “There’s the Dynamic Duo!” This person was rather tickled that Mike and were interested in the same field of engineering.
At the time, it kind of peeved me. I was already getting a bit of a feeling that people viewed me as his shadow, and this comment didn’t help to alleviate that concern. Now I think about it, however, and it actually was much better than I thought because there was no implication that either one of us was better than the other: we were peers.
We both take this view when we’re doing research, and we really enjoy collaborating on things. We’ve found that our strengths are complimentary, so it’s very easy to talk to each other about a topic and get good feedback. We also have several projects that we’re doing separately, but we almost always (especially on our drives home) talk about what we’re doing and asking for feedback. (Well, admittedly, it’s volunteered whether we want it or not.)
Those conversations have, more often than not, been incredibly helpful in moving projects forward. However, this leaves us in a bit of a bind because, as I said, some of these projects really aren’t involving the other person. When this happens, especially if the project results in publication, we always have to make a decision: do we add the other person as co-author or mention them in the acknowledgements. When it’s been nothing more than conversational input, particularly when we proofread each other’s papers, we choose the latter. This does lead to some interesting possibilities for entertaining acknowledgements.
I would like to thank my spouse for suggesting such a nifty title.
I would like to thank my spouse for catching that diagram that was completely bass ackwards when proofreading the paper for me.
and maybe even
I would like to thank my spouse for the helpful input in developing the concept of this project, despite the fact that they laughed at my hokey acronym.
I know. It’s totally unprofessional. But it’s a lot of fun to imagine doing such a thing.
Does anyone speak Chingalese? December 2, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, work.
Tags: chinese, chingalese, electronics, legalese, patents, translation
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I spent this morning reviewing patents. Normally, it’s hard enough to wade through documents written in legalese, but I have the added complication of some of these being written in Chinese legalese (Chingalese!) that has subsequently been run through Google translate. (Although I would like to claim I’m brilliant to have come up with such a name, there’s already a site in existence, so I’m not as original as I’d like to be.) However, the diagrams cannot be run through the translator, so all of the diagrams still have Chinese labels. That makes it a tad difficult to see what they’re actually doing 99% of the time.
I wish I could use the excuse that my analysis is only as good as my translator, and that my translator is not one who is ‘skilled in the art’ when it comes to electronics.
The end is nigh December 1, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in education, teaching.
Tags: goodbyes, semester, students, teaching
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Coming to the end of the semester is an unsettling thing for me. I like to do something fun, like bring treats, although I always make sure to do that the week AFTER we’ve had evaluations. Once someone accused me of trying to butter them up…
But beyond that, I am left with this curiosity. I wonder how the students will do continuing on. I wonder if anything I’ve done has helped them. And, to be honest, I wonder if they’ll even remember the class a few years down the road…at least for something other than being the only female college instructor that many of them will encounter.
Anyway, it makes it awkward because it’s not something you can easily convey. I’ve always enjoyed teaching the class, and I let them know that. I tell them I hope they’re successful in their future endeavors. I’ve even considered giving them the Vulcan salute…although I’ve never followed through on it.
But there’s a bit of a melancholy feel as I’ll probably never know what happens to most of them.
Guest post by Gigadog: “Help me, please!” December 1, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in personal, pets.
Tags: arthritis foundation, cold, costume, donations, Gigadog, newfoundlands
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Mom took a picture of dad and me while he was scratching my neck:
Dad was just placating me. You know why? Mom is making me wear this ARFul costume next weekend. Mom says that I’ll love it because we’re going for a long walk. Yeah…a long walk, where people won’t see beautiful me, they’ll see beautiful me all covered up and looking like an elf.
Also, it’s supposed to be -5ºF that morning. That’s cold, even for a fluffy pup like me. I have no idea what mom is going to do without a beautiful fur coat like mine.
She says it’s for a good cause, though. Something about ARFritis. If you can please donate, it might almost make it worth it to go out in public, especially in the cold, and both mom and I would be very happy. (Although, let’s face it. I’m a dog, so I’m pretty much happy all the time.) It certainly would make it worthwhile to look so silly and undignified.
Tags: grading, students, teaching
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I’m digging myself out of my grading hole, albeit very, very slowly.
I have to admit that reading these essays is kind of fun. At least some of them. There was at least one student so far who wrote that s/he needed no improvement in their time management skills…and then on about page five of the essay, it suddenly stopped with a request for an extension/redo. It’s really hard not to be snarky when things like that happen.
Most of them discuss the same issues, which is not a surprise. I’ve had a couple, though, that were quite interesting. My favorite so far is the student who compared getting through college to Lord of the Rings. Although there wasn’t a parallel for every goal I wanted them to discuss, there were a fair number of references.
I really enjoy it when I get to see a bit of creativity and personality creep into these things. I also like seeing how much their views have changed since the beginning of the school year. It’s amazing what three months can do to a person.
The best news is that I’ve figured out a way to revise the assignment so that it’ll be shorter as well as make it more effective. I worry, though, that this will remove some of the more creative submissions. I have to admit that I like how some of my students see themselves on an epic journey.
The thorn in my semester November 26, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in education, teaching.
Tags: failure, grades, students, teaching
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There are two things I hate about being a teacher. The first is dealing with angry, threatening students. Fortunately, I don’t run into those too often, but they are seriously unfun. The second is dealing with students who don’t show up (sometimes physically, sometimes mentally) but still want to pass the class. This problem is more common than the first, though, so I’ve had to learn to get used to it.
The very first semester I was teaching, as an undergrad, I had a student who missed a couple labs. This student in particular annoyed me because it was someone I knew through other activities. When I introduced myself to the class, he said to his neighbor, quite audibly, “She’s the teacher?! This class is going to be SO easy.” The department policy was that anyone who missed more than a certain number of labs would fail, but I tried to be nice and let him make it up. When I set up a time for the first make-up lab, he showed up drunk and could barely function. I complained to the chair, and he got upset with me.
“Why are you letting him make up the labs? This is exactly why we have this policy in place. Fail him.”
I was surprised how easy a decision it was for the chair. Appalled, actually. But the student had been a pain all semester, so I rationalized that I didn’t owe him anything.
I got a call from him over Christmas break: it was my fault that he wasn’t graduating.
I don’t take lightly to guilt trips, so any residual guilt I had about failing him disappeared in that moment. The maneuver backfired, and I told him to take it up with the chair.
I’ve always wondered if his comment about the class being easy was an indicator that he thought he wouldn’t have to put in any effort. I also realized that he was right: if the chair hadn’t told me to fail him, he likely would have gotten through the class easily. That one was my fault: he accurately predicted that I was going to be much nicer than I had to be, and he was going to take advantage of that. I try very hard not to do that any more.
I really hate every time I have to go through this with a student. It’s not that I put a lot of faith in grades, but I would really rather that the students put in enough effort that I can at least justify passing them, even if just barely. It’s much easier on all of us.
I didn’t do the math November 24, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in teaching.
Tags: goals, grading, reading, teaching
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I came to a horrifying realization this weekend: I should not have assigned final projects for my class. Or at least not this one.
I decided to actually use a textbook this year after being sent a review copy of one that lined up very closely with many things I was already teaching. I pretty much stuck to my original plans for the class, except I made one big change. I got rid of the programming project, deciding that I really didn’t have time to teach them much other than how to get really frustrated.
There are some assignments that come along with the textbook, and one of them is a 10-15 page essay on goal setting. It’s a great project. Students are given a list of several areas that affect a student in both major and minor ways (including thinking forward to what they’ll be doing after school). The students are supposed to reflect on where they are and where they want to be. Then they’re supposed to do some goal setting and try to figure out how they can get closer to the ideal that they outlined.
This might be a good project if I had 30 students. I have almost 100. And each paper is 10-15 pages long, so we’ll say 12 on average. That’s about 1200 pages of reading I have to do. I have two weeks to grade them, so I figured if I did 10 projects per day, I’d be good. That’s about 120 pages per day.
I got started Friday but progress was limited due to our weekly family activities that occur Friday night. I figured I would make up the difference yesterday, but came to an awful realization: grading projects is a lot more time consuming than grading programs.
I discovered that reading reports/projects, is really not much better than reading novels. I am an abysmally slow reader; I’ve never been able to figure out how to skim. When I read a novel, I generally read at a 25 page/hour pace. That’s about what I’m doing with the reports, too. I can read about two in an hour…three if they’re shorter and I’m really cruising. This means I’m spending about 4 hrs/day over the next two weeks to just grade this assignment. Next fall, I either have to drastically shorten this assignment or do it far earlier in the semester.
I suppose it’s just deserts. My students were very freaked out when I gave them the assignment and only three weeks to do it. (Although, to be honest, I believe about 2/3 of them did it within a couple days before the assignment was due.) If they knew I was regretting assigning it now, they probably wouldn’t be able to contain their schadenfreude.
She loves me more… November 22, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in older son, pets.
Tags: Gigadog, older son, parenting, pets, teenagers
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Tonight, the older son jumped over Gigadog. I asked him to please step over her carefully. If he jumps over her, he could slip and miss her, and he’d fall on her. Having someone fall on her would likely freak her out, and she would bite him. This would leave me in a dilemma: I have an injured dog and an injured child. Who do I bring for medical care first?
I told the older son that I would likely bring Gigadog because she loves me more. He looked stunned.
“It’s not that I love her more, but she loves me more. She sits and pants and wags her tail when I get home. You do none of those things,” I told him.
“It’s not that I don’t love you, it’s that I just express it differently,” he responded.
“I don’t recognize the way you express it. It would be much better if you panted.”
I’m not sure *anyone* recognizes the way teenagers express affection toward their parents. Dogs are so much easier to read.
What not to do during an interview November 21, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in work.
Tags: blunders, faux pas, hiring, interview
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Fortunately, I get to tell you about someone else’s faux pax, not my own.
Nice change of pace, eh?
I’m interviewing students for a position right now. I have to admit it’s a bit weird because I really never saw myself as being in a position to hire someone. I’ve always been on the opposite side of the table before.
I’d say that most of the interviews have gone as expected, and I’m dreading the final decision. Except one interview was…odd. There always has to be one.
Based on my experience in this process, it’s not a good idea for someone to say, “Oh, I thought this was the other position you have open.” It seems to make the interview short and awkward. It also explained why this candidate was talking about things that I wasn’t sure were relevant. As you may have guessed, this particular candidate is not a good fit for the position.