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Discarding stuff (#1157)

Topics/tags: Autobiographical

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the possibility of moving offices. About two weeks ago, I learned that my suggestion of moving to Henry Walker’s office was approved, and I should have my stuff packed by July 10. I started making plans. I thought about what would move where. I asked about furniture and was told that I’d hear back from FM.

Then I got an interesting message on my birthday [1]. It contained a list of office moves, with mine scheduled for June 29th. That’s a bit sooner than July 10. Packing will be hard, especially since I have a trip scheduled in the middle. But I’m nothing if not cooperative [2]. So my goal is to get everything boxed in the next five days. And as I’m boxing, I’m discarding. I don’t quite have time to undertake a true Marie Kondo-ish reflection on each [3], so I’m trying to think broadly.

I don’t know how technology gets moved, nor what happens with my paintings. I’m packing up my tchotchkes and moving them myself. So my focus right now is on the books and other printed materials.

I decided to discard all of my copies of Academe and ACM Inroads. I don’t like getting rid of either, but I’ve admitted to myself that I probably won’t look at them again. All the Inroads articles should be available online. And, well, Academe is fun [4], but not necessary.

I’m about to shred all my old end-of-course evaluations. I may try to scan them first. I know that I would have liked to have read mom’s, and perhaps, my children will eventually want to read mine. But I’m not likely to read them again. I had hoped that I still had the ones from when I first taught CSC-152 [5,6], but those seem to be gone.

I’ve offered some of my old books on language [7] to my sons. I assume one of them will take the Mencken volumes on the American Language and the Fowler second edition. Youngest Son loves Bryan Garner, but he may already own the Garners that I have. The language books were intermixed with the too-many books I have about writing and teaching writing. I wasn’t going to offer them the latter, but it sounds like one may want some of them. After the boys, I’ll give young colleagues a chance to pick through the books. In any case, I’m unlikely to teach Tutorial again, and, even if I do, I’ll likely stick to tried and true classics [8] plus a few others that I kept for reference.

I enjoy thinking about intellectual property and have two 42"-long shelves of books on IP and related issues. But I’m not going to teach an IP Tutorial again. I’ve offered the two shelves of books on IP to a colleague in another department who teaches related issues. If they don’t take them, I’ll see if I can find another taker.

I’ve offered my books on gender and computing (as well as a scattering of gender and math, gender and science, and gender and higher ed) to a young colleague who is thinking a lot about those issues. It’s an issue that I care a lot about, but I see value in giving resources to the next generation. If they don’t take them, I’ll probably end up keeping them for a while longer.

I’ve told the College Archivist that they can take a look at my five shelves of books related to Grinnell, including not just books about Grinnell, but books by faculty and alums and about some alums, such as Hallie Flanagan. I assume that the College owns most of them, but you never know. I did discover that I ended up with Bill McKibben’s [9] copy of Strunk and White, which includes his annotations. I offered that to the archive, too. I don’t have a great need to get rid of my Grinnell books, but I also know that my family won’t want most of them. I’m not even sure why I accumulated so many, other than I find meaning in owning books related to the College [10].

I tried offering my books on video games to a colleague. Then I discovered that I boxed them up about two years ago and hid them somewhere in my lab. But the colleague tells me that they aren’t a book person. I’ll need to find someone else to give them to. Or maybe they’ll stay in a box for a while.

What other books are left in my old office? Two shelves of computing history. A shelf or two of classic computing texts. Five shelves of books on computing and the arts or just the arts. Five shelves of subjects related to academia. I don’t have any desire to get rid of those categories of books right now [11], but I’ll still try to Kondo them.

Getting rid of individual books is hard. For example, I picked up a book of pixel-graphics art that I acquired at some point. I said to myself This doesn’t bring me much joy. I can get rid of it. But I looked through it first. And they do some clever things with die-cut pages. Those bring my joy. So, it’s in the keep pile. Bad Sam!

What about my 1127 Park Street Office? It has two kinds of books: Books I moved from my old Noyce office, which I’m definitely keeping, and books I accumulated over the past two years, some of which I’m starting to question. I just packed a full box [12] of books I purchased on liberal education to have as references for my Tutorial. Do I need those? Do I need the five shelves of books on academia I already have? And I forgot to Kondo them while I was boxing them. Bad Sam! I may have to Kondo them when I unbox them. I also know that I have some duplicates. Who would want books on liberal education? I’m not sure.

That’s where we stand right now. Of twenty-five or so shelves worth of books in my old office, I’ve offered up about three shelves of books on language and writing, about two on IP, and a little more than half a shelf on gender and computing. I’m not sure how many shelves I’ll end up with in the new office; that’s still being negotiated. I may have to do more pruning in the office and the lab just to figure out where to put the current office books [14]. And then I’ll need to figure out what goes in my office.

Postscript: If you read this musing and said to yourself something like I’d like Sam’s books on liberal education, or IP, or video games, or whatever, let me know, particularly if you’re in Grinnell.

Postscript: When will I start on the home stuff? That’s a question for another day. At times, I just wish I had an assistant who would be willing to ebay some of the more valuable portions of it. Or people I cared about who wanted them. And I do have to discuss things with the kids first.

[1] June 17. Also known as Bunker Hill Day, sometimes known as Breed’s Hill Day.

[2] Stop laughing.

[3] Does this bring me joy? For better or worse, the answer is almost always Yes. I’m trying to say that less frequently.

[4] I realize that my sense of fun may differ from yours.

[5] I had some of my favorite students in that class. Plus, I graded almost no homework (only exams), asked students to grade themselves (they gave themselves B’s), forced students to write reflective essays on homework, and got nearly perfect ratings.

[6] CSC-152 was the course in data structures and algorithms in Java. I created the Java version when I started teaching at Grinnell. The prior version had been in Pascal. After about my first decade at Grinnell, we renumbered CSC-152 to CSC-207 and added CSC-161 in between.

[7] No, not programming languages.

[8] Style, Toward Clarity and Grace and The Craft of Research. Perhaps The Art of Styling Sentences.

[9] The classicist, not the naturalist.

[10] Finding meaning in books that I don’t necessarily read or things I won’t necessarily use is one of the more problematic aspects of my personality. I’m working on it.

[11] I don’t have a desire to get rid of any books. But I have more of a willingness to get rid of other categories. I anticipate caring about art, the history of computing, and higher ed for a while longer.

[12] One foot by one foot by one-and-a-half feet.

[14] I have to do more pruning in the lab in any case. I was just expecting that pruning to be a bit less urgent.

Version 1.0 of 2021-06-19 .