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Another month of (almost) daily musings (#1060)

Topics/tags: End-of-month musings

It’s the beginning of May. My end-of-month musing is slightly overdue. However, yesterday I felt like writing about card games rather than reflecting on the past month of musing. In any case, it seems like it’s time to reflect on the past month of musing. For those who are new to the musings and those whose memories are like mine, the end-of-month musing is an opportunity to look back on what I’ve learned or done or something like that. In the early days of SamR’s Assorted Rants and Musings, I found that I was regularly discovering new things about my writing. These days, things seem a bit more static [1].

Let’s start off with something easy: Counting the number of musings I’ve written. My previous end-of-month musing was musing #1035. This one is musing #1060. I posted twenty-four musings and rants in a month with thirty days. That’s not quite daily but it’s better than weekdaily and it’s much better than I was doing in the past few months [2]. Why didn’t I post daily? A few times, I wrote a musing and then decided that it was not appropriate to post. I think one of those was a rant and one or two were comments on the pandemic. A few times, I wasn’t up to writing at the end of the day. I’ll accept twenty-four.

How did I get myself to re-devote myself to musing? At the start of the month, I shaved my head. The top of my head is still shaved, but I’ve started to let my beard grow back [3]. Now, it would not seem that a head shave would make a difference to how I write. But I shaved it, in part, to get myself to approach the world differently. So for the first week or two, I could say to myself You shaved your head. You can push yourself to do anything [4]. It seemed to help. I’m still not productive enough, but I do spend most of my days working on things, and I did muse. I might even continue shaving my head if I was a bit more successful at keeping flesh while removing hair.

It also helped that I had two manuscripts due for The Craft of Creative Nonfiction last month. You might think that spending time writing and editing, particularly writing and editing prose that must be significantly better than these musings, would leave me little time to muse. And you’d probably be right. But each manuscript represents a portion of two or three or possibly more musings: The assignment I’ve written for myself, the manuscript I write in response, perhaps some notes on development or on what I’ve learned in workshop. It adds up. I do add a bit more to each musing; it’s not just cut, paste, and reformat. But it gets stuff out there. For those who care, the CoCN musings I’ve identified for the past month are as follows

I also wrote one more musing related to that class, one in which I ranted about the stylistic comments the editors had made for one of our readings. So fully one-fourth of my musings were directly related to that class. What will I do when it’s done?

Other topics for the month included some reflections on how the pandemic affects teaching, advising, Grinnell, me, stuff, like that. I wonder what they will read like in a few years. I never got around to musing about Microsoft Teams [5,6], which was one of the related topics. Maybe I’ll do that next month. I also wrote a bit about the online meetings I’ve been having with prospective or admitted students. I didn’t get to do online meetings with parents of prospective or admitted students. I wonder if we’ll add those as an option in the future [7].

This was also a month in which I got to post my amazing reflections on prereg. It remains a popular topic for some folks and an utter bore to others. From what I can tell, those who like it appreciate the narrative approach to the data or like seeing their names. Speaking of popular topics, I don’t think anyone has ever said Your end-of-month musings are my favorite. I wouldn’t expect them to.

That’s about it for the patterns of musing. I’m going to skip the traditional How many sketches remain in the sketchbook data analysis.

Perhaps I should look forward to the coming month. I have one or two email messages I’ve sent to students that might become musings. I do want to look at Teams. More broadly, I might muse about techniques to support pair programming in 151 and elsewhere if we have to continue with remote learning [8,10]. I’m tempted to give a partial view of this semester’s cut-close-balance experience for CS, just because I think it’s so stupid to force us to do CCBs at all. Oh, speaking of stupid, I’m considering posting my sarcastic rewriting of our technological minimalism policies [11]. Let’s see how grumpy I get.

I’ll report back next month. Perhaps I’ll even take advantage of some of the things I’ve learned in The Craft of Creative Nonfiction. Stay tuned.

[1] Given my experience with Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, static seems to be a good way to describe my speaking voice.

[2] Thirty musings in February and March.

[3] Middle says that he’d prefer the reverse. My beard is, shall we say, sparse and scraggly.

[4] Or at least anything stupid.

[5] No, not teams of people at Microsoft. Rather, the product from Microsoft called Teams [6].

[6] That reminds me, I need to set up one more Microsoft email account so that I can set up an external team.

[7] While I hope we never again have to do an exclusively remote prospective program, I can see some benefits for retaining some of the practices.

[8] That will, of course, require that I do some exploration of options for remote pair programming, particularly pair programming for 151. The late and lamented was great for pair programming in 321/322 [9], but is no longer available. My initial experiments with Pair Programming with DrRacket in Teams have not gone well. Someone suggested Microsoft VScode, which seems to be open source. There’s even a Racket plugin. Repl.It doesn’t seem to support Racket. Hmmm. I don’t think supports screen sharing and it also doesn’t support full Racket. Whoops! I think that’s all supposed to be part of the musing.

[9] Also late, not so lamented.

[10] The department did propose a version of 151 for the summer. We probably have to figure things out relatively soon.

[11] The College is imposing technological minimalism on a department that both teaches and relies heavily on technology. Would they expect, say, biological minimalism in biology, linguistic minimalism in English, artistic minimalism in studio art and art history, periodic [12] minimalism in history, and so on and so forth? [15]

[12] w.c. [14]

[14] w.c. stands for word choice, not water closet.

[15] I understand and support many of the reasons that the College has asked faculty to be more cautious in the use of software. And I’ve found ITS to be quite responsive. But a broad insistence on a policy without considering the pedagogical implications seems problematic.

Version 1.0 of 2020-05-01.