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Fall break, 2017

It’s fall break at Grinnell College. Last week, I told my students that I don’t quite get fall break. The part I love most about my job is being in the classroom with students. And that’s the part of my job that I get a break from. Instead, I get to spend fall break grading, doing paperwork, preparing classes for after break [1], doing more paperwork, trying to make my various environments habitable, and so on and so forth. But that’s okay, getting those things done will likely make my time after break a bit better.

I will admit that I tend to enter fall break optimistically: While I have many things to do, I am convinced that I can do them. Then the end of fall break hits and I wonder where the time has gone and why I didn’t get things done. This fall break is different: I know that I have so much that I need to or want to do that there’s no way that I can do it all. Unfortunately, that knowledge is not particularly freeing.

So, what do I have to do this break? I don’t have a complete list, but I know a lot. There’s the big paperwork: I have a ten-page-or-so review to write and another ten-page-or-so review to review. Both have about fifty pages of accompanying data and documentation to read. I need to get my CV and Sedona documents up to date and write statements for my triennial salary review. I have a policy to update and some outstanding issues to ask about.

In terms of grading, I have the second exam in CSC 151 [2], a bit of cleanup on the first exam for CSC 301, a bunch of outstanding CSC 301 homework assignments, the final grades for CSC 321, a few bits and pieces for CSC 151, and likely something else that I’ve forgotten.

We’ve added a new unit on program verification to CSC 301 this year. I need to prepare that new unit [4]. I also need to write the readings and labs for two or so weeks of CSC 151 [5]. I also need to design and write the new project description.

I’m hoping to start musing again. It looks like I have a list of topics that are appropriate for this time of year, some of which I’ve already started to write about. I’ll see how that goes.

What else? Oh, yeah. I need to make my spaces cleaner. That includes straightening my work office and my lab and my home office. Our house has fallen apart a bit this semester, so I should use some time to work more broadly on the house. And I still haven’t gotten things together after the crash of my music backup drive [10]. I have a new backup strategy in mind that involves cloning my backup drives, but they need to be organized first.

There are also some professional responsibilities. I need to get a database up and running for the SIGCSE volunteers project. I probably need to work on the Web site for SIGCAS. I have some shorter reviews to write.

I’ve left out many of the smaller tasks, such as updating some policies, getting data to the registrar [11], and so on and so forth. I’m not even sure they are written down any where.

And, of course, I should try to have some fun.

So, what have I done in the first three days and one evening of break? Friday night, I helped eldest son pack for his move. Saturday, I worked on getting my files organized a bit better. I clearly have a lot more to go; I may not be able to get everything done this break. Sunday, I wrote most of the materials for my triennial salary review and started on the longer review I had to write. Oh, yeah, I watched Kumail Nanjiani on SNL and binge watched The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt [12]. Monday [14], I continued to work on the longer review and spent a lot of time attempting to straighten my work office [15]. I also got lots of trash out from phase one of eldest cleaning out his room. And I wrote this musing.

Should I plan what I’m doing each of the following days? Tuesday I should continue on the long review, start grading the CSC 151 exams, and spend an hour or so on my lab. I think I’ll leave it open what I do on Wednesday and beyond.

But I will also try to muse each day.

[1] Okay, I like preparing classes, too.

[2] Let’s see … six questions plus paperwork [3]. About five minutes per questions. 70 exams. Yup, that’s a whole week worth’s of work all by itself.

[3] Totaling grades, adding in extra credit, recording it in the gradebook, sending the graded exam to the student, etc.

[4] I normally have to prepare old units, too. But new topics take more time.

[5] Let’s see … debugging [6], randomness and simulation [7], pairs and pair structures, vectors, trees [8], higher-order procedures [9], and files.

[6] No, write statements do not count.

[7] That probably needs some expansion for the new version of CSC 151.

[8] I need a new application of trees.

[9] Revisited. I hope they are excited to write map, reduce, filter, and other procedures they’ve been using for the semester.

[10] It doesn’t help that every time I try to copy a file with a bad block, the computer freezes for five to fifteen minutes. rsync helps, but things are still slow.

[11] I also have to find the sheets that contain the data for the registrar. That’s worrisome.

[12] Don’t ask. I was looking for something light to watch while trying to organize the hard drive and got a bit too hooked.

[14] That’s today.

[15] I have a floor!

Version 1.0 of 2017-10-16.