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World’s Worst Officemate November 23, 2015

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, family, gifted, homeschooling, research, science, younger son.
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I have been working at home, trying to finish up this PhD thing once and for all.  Earlier this year, the place I worked was shut down and so I figured that if I had any desire to stay in academia (which I do), the PhD thing is kind of a necessary evil.

Because of the job situation, however, I also ended up with a new officemate: my younger son.  It was actually a combination of factors: private school is expensive, middle school is a cesspool of derision and contempt (and therefore not the best place to develop social skills), and, finally, the younger son really wanted to take high school biology and no one would let him.  Except me, being the overindulgent parent I am.

I have to admit that he’s been a bit easier to deal with than his older sibling.  It’s amazing how much easier this education thing is when you’re not dealing with ADHD.  The younger son is amazingly self-sufficient and does a good job of keeping a schedule.

I have, however, discovered one major flaw in this plan.  I had no idea how much middle schoolers talked.  Mostly, he gets excited about the things he’s learning in his class, which really tickles me.  However, he wants to share everything with me.  Every. Thing.  I have learned more about genes and cell processes and reproduction in the past two months than I probably did during my own high school biology class.  I have learned about social and mental and physical health.  I am beginning to speak Spanish with a level of proficiency that has not been present since my teens.  And mostly, I see him being happy and excited about learning again.

Unfortunately, he’s not quite so receptive when I begin to talk about coding and arrays and debugging and compiler issues and, especially, writing.  I have begun, as of late, to tell him that while I’m glad he’s learning, I really need him to let me focus on my work, too.  Someday, if he has to share an office with someone, this will be good real life practice for not making them insane.  At least he’s not asking to go out every ten minutes, like the dogs.

The Christmas Aftermath December 26, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in computers, family, younger son.
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Christmas presents are better when they have an element of DIY. The younger son is learning how to replace a laptop screen…


Wordless Wednesday: There’s no place like December 3, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in computers, photography.
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I hate computers December 9, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in computers, grad school.
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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.

Does this make me multilingual? July 16, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in computers, electromagnetics, engineering, grad school, math, physics, research.
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I began my programming education quite young and have maintained my skills over the years.  I have recently been thinking of documenting some of the various languages and software programs I’ve learned to use, so here is as good a place as any.

  • 4th grade – TI Basic
  • 8th grade – Logo
  • 10th grade – BasicA and Apple Basic (pretty close to the same thing)
  • 12th grade – Fortran and QBasic (these were at the college)

In college:

  • took a class on C and had to learn unix, too
  • learned Maple in a calc course
  • learned matlab for a research project and used it extensively in a numerical analysis course
  • learned mathcad for a physics lab course
  • learned mathematica for intro to differential equations and used that for many other classes

During my MS, I was exposed to half a dozen software packages for computational electromagnetics modeling (half of which are trademarked, so I’m not going to bother listing them).

In the past couple years at work, I’ve gotten pretty handy with Scilab.

After all of this, you would think that I have a pretty complete toolkit.  I should be able to do pretty much whatever I need with what I’ve already learned.  I find it ironic, therefore, that I am back to using Fortran (one of the first things I learned).  I also have been spending the past month trying to learn IDL (which, if you don’t mind me saying, seems like a less friendly version of matlab), so there is something new, again.  Also, I have people pestering me to learn python.

Looking at this list, I’m starting to think I’m learning things so that I can simply forget them again later.  I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten more than I remember.

Review me, critique me, pan me, print me March 14, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, papers, research.
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One of the first things I remember asking my MS advisor was how much detail should I include in a paper for publication.  He said to make sure there was enough for someone else to replicate the work.  When reviewing papers myself, I also look at this as one of the major criteria for publication.

I have tried very hard to stick with this rule of thumb, though there are things I overlook.  Given most of my work is simulation, I sometimes forget that there are certain things which I tend to always do in my work, and not everyone does.  Or maybe there’s a setting I never use and so the default stays in place.  However, someone else may have a different default for that particular setting.  And on and on.  Regardless, I do my best.

The past couple weeks, I’ve been working on a new set of simulations.  I’m basically taking widgets that other people have designed and seeing if I can use them for a particular, and somewhat unusual, application.  I think it’s a rather interesting approach to the problem, but I keep getting mucked up.  The reason is that several of the widgets I wanted to use are not described adequately in the papers.  I’m not talking about some esoteric setting: some of these papers show widgets that don’t give physical dimensions of any of the parts!  I have come across three different papers, all suffering the same problem.

I have decided that these papers are going in the round file.  I was, at first, inclined to write to some of the authors of these papers and see if I could get some clarification.  However, after encountering the third one, I decided it wasn’t worth the effort and decided to use papers from people who are more careful.  I’m lucky in that there are several approaches to making these widgets, so I can be picky.  That isn’t always the case, however.

I’m sitting here wondering first why the authors didn’t think to include this information and, second, what were the reviewers doing?!  It’s not like these are complicated widgets with a million parts.  Is it just my field of research?  Am I the only one who replicates other people’s work?  As much as I think peer review is awesome, I kind of feel like some people have fallen down on the job.  It makes me appreciate those third reviewers that much more.

Always mistaken for a student December 7, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, work.
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A week or two ago, I commented that I get mistaken for a student a lot.  There’s another way this happens, and it has nothing to do with my appearance.  It has to do with the fact that my work email ends with .edu.

I work for a university, hence the appendage on my email.  Many vendors, but particularly those who sell software, give educational discounts on their software.  The problem is that I work in a center that does a lot of work with commercial interests, thus requiring we have commercial licenses on our software and any other equipment we need to buy.

This is not a big deal except when it comes to getting support or information from the vendors.  That little appendage on my email means certain doom.  The assumption is that, because I am at a university, I must be a student and don’t have the right to get support from the vendor.  There are also those vendors who won’t call back to give prices, likely for a similar reason: I’m probably a student who doesn’t have any money to spend.

While I really like where I work, this is one of the more frustrating aspects of the job.  I would like to say it’s a fluke, but it happens to my colleagues and myself on such a regular basis that I know it’s not someone just having a bad day.  I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for an actual student.

That’s totally the way it works… November 18, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in computers.
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When you finally have the time to sit down and work on something that you’ve been putting on the backburner but is very important, you know what’s going to happen: the computer will decide it’s the time to have a temper tantrum.

Computers will make our lives better! September 3, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in computers, engineering, teaching.
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Some days I really wonder.  I mean, my research would be almost impossible without computers.  However, I sometimes wonder about using them so much for teaching.

On the one hand, computers are very helpful if you’re attempting to implement universal design in a classroom.  Computers make things far more accessible.

And then there’s the other hand…

After last year, I decided that I would make one major change to the class.  I decided that, as much as possible, I would not accept in-class submission of homework assignments.  There are a few assignments my students must do on paper, such as their course schedule.  However, they have several assignments that are, more or less, short essays.  There are also assignments where they need to submit a file, like a powerpoint.  In order to avoid all the hassle of collecting assignments and handing them back (especially given one of those hassles is that it’s easy to lose submissions that are not handed in with everyone else’s), I figured that electronic submission would be a great way to keep track of these assignments.

Except…it seems like we’ve been plagued with technical difficulties so far this year.  Last week, a couple of the students couldn’t get in to submit their assignments.  (One brought his laptop to class to show me the problem.)  Yesterday, I was trying to post class notes, which students need to do their next assignment, but it wouldn’t allow me to upload any files.  Today, we can’t access the online classroom at all.

Obviously I’m going to give the students extra time because of these issues, but I hope they’re resolved soon.  I’m not sure I can deal with issues like this all semester.

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