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Nibbled to death by ducks, Episode two

I’m pretty sure that I’ve used the term nibbled to death by ducks in an earlier musing [1]. It’s a phrase I use to indicate the way in which small tasks build up to create a lot of work. I can’t remember where I first heard the phrase [2], but I find it a useful way to think about my workload.

As I do on most mornings when I wake up, I made a mental list of tasks, both small and large, that should probably be completed today. There were enough that I decided to text them to myself [3]. Here’s what I texted myself [4].

Hopper applications. Tapia applications. MINK-WIC applications. Textbooks? Check status of placement system. Accounts on server. Printers?

Ticket receipt from student. Chair re chairs. Student re Tapia. GitHub stuff? Jon transcript. Congrats for Jen P. Ask CTLA Director about Math Lab and …. Email Chair re SysAdmin on first two days of class.

Hotel Grinnell re reservations. Ask code camp co-director to make budget for code camp.

Charlie architecture. Workshop syllabus. Check on external review. Update intro paragraph - Carver. Moving instructions to students. Check show times. ASA re timesheet downloads. Purple T’s. Chair re textbooks.

Start musing. GSP T’s? Colored dots. Charlie volunteer GSP? Tasks for later in the week. Tomorrow’s lunch meeting.

What does all this mean? I’ll explain the tasks in the order that I did them, or at least the order in which I started some of them.

Colored dots. Students in the code camp are broken up into counselor groups. I suggested that we identify the groups by adding colored dots to their name tags. Fortunately, I have a ton [5] of dot stickers that I got when I bought part of the inventory of a closing OfficeMax. But I did have to find them in my office.

Update intro paragraph - Carver. In my draft article on the code camps, I forgot to mention that Grinnell has a data science initiative funded by the Carver foundation. I think it should be included, so I sent it along to the newspaper editor.

Purple T’s. We’ve decided to have the camp counselors wear the same shirts every day [6]. Our common shirt for Wednesday is the Grinnell Women in CS t-shirt. But not everyone has one and some folks who have one don’t know where they are. So this is a reminder for two tasks. First, I need to email all the counselors to see what shirts they need. Second, I have to dig them out from the storage closet.

Email Chair re SysAdmin on first two days of class. Our SysAdmin distributes accounts to students on the first few days of class. The SysAdmin also generates new passwords for students who have forgotten their passwords. With the transition in SysAdmin models, our SysAdmin no longer has an office in Noyce 3rd. But I don’t think students should have to walk over to the forum to get passwords, particularly since we count on them having passwords in class. I suggested that we ask our new SysAdmin to do their work someone on Noyce 3rd during the first two days of class. That will also help with the back-and-forth to classes.

Start musing. You probably guessed this one. I’ve decided to turn today’s to-do list into a musing. I wanted to get some mail sent first, but then I started this thing that you are reading.

GSP T’s. The bookstore is having a sale on one style of t-shirts. I had picked some up for the counselors for today’s code camp. But we sometimes need prizes for activities at GSP [7]. So I wrote to my co-directors to see if they thought we should buy some of these. It appears we have enough prizes for now.

Printers? As I noted recently, we are in the process of moving things into our storage closets. The third floor closet will also serve as a kind of display space for the museum. I was thinking about moving the printers to that space, since the shelves are fairly close together. I ended up asking a bunch of Osera’s Pets [8] to do so [9].

Accounts on server. We are having our campers use Jupyter for their data science projects. I set up a Jupyter server late last week. Of course, I forgot to set up accounts for the campers. I had thought we were starting Jupyter tomorrow, but we’re starting it today, so I had to set up 40 accounts.

Ticket receipt from student. I promised one of our unpaid camp counselors that I would pay for their plane ticket. I need to get it from them.

Charlie volunteer GSP? GSP runs a panel on introductory science classes on Monday of NSO [10]. I’ll be watching the eclipse. I think Charlie served on the panel last year, so I’m asking him to do it again. He’s warm and friendly, and will make a great department rep [11].

Student re Tapia. A generous alum has suggested that they may be willing to donate to support student travel to the Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing. They asked to talk to some students who have attended. I wrote to some students last week, and I know at least one responded, but I should remind one of the others.

Middle son transcript. The high school switched its records software and we want to see whether the way transcripts are reported changed. Middle son was tasked with getting his transcript from Admissions or the Registrar. I needed to remind him a few times and then call the Registrar to find out whether he can actually see them [12].

Chair re chairs. You may recall that we were having some issues with chairs on Noyce 3rd. It’s less than a month until classes start, so I thought I should send a note to check in on things. I’m in alliterative mode, so I titled it Checking on Classroom Chairs.

Ask CTLA Director about Math Lab and …. The College is hiring a new director for the Math Lab. That person usually participates in some parts of GSP. I dropped a note to the director of the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment to see if we have hired yet. There are also some other CTLA searches going on and I wanted to check on those, too.

ASA re timesheet downloads. As I think I mentioned earlier, I overspent the peer education budget last fiscal year. It will therefore be useful for us to understand where the money went. We had asked for a breakdown from accounting, but the breakdown gave us only how much we spent on each person across the year, which doesn’t really allow us to identify patterns or problems. Our ASA had written that I can pull individual timecards for a certain range of dates if that’s what you are asking. My experience with our payroll software is that it lets you view those data, but not download them in a usable format. So this was a reminder to write to her and check.

Check on external review. Part of next week’s department workshop is to prepare for our department’s external review, to be held in 2018-19. In looking at the documents that I received from the Dean’s office, I discovered that the guidelines that we received for preparing the self study do not match the template that we received for writing the study. I also observed that some things I expect to see in a self study appeared in neither place. I sent a message to the Dean’s office a week ago, but haven’t heard back. It’s time to check in again.

Ask code camp co-director to make budget for code camp. In writing my article on the code camps, I realized that I should start thinking about how we will continue the camps when the Innovation Fund funding [14] runs out. The first step is to figure out what we actually spend, ignoring most Counselor costs [15].

Hotel Grinnell re reservations. I’ve been waiting for a notification that reservations are open for Hotel Grinnell. It’s time to check in again. Yup, they are open. I just have to figure out where.

Check show times. Kumail Nanjiani’s The Big Sick opens in Grinnell on Friday night. I’d like to bring my students (and perhaps all the interested students in the department). But we also have to conclude code camp and debrief during dinner. Let’s see … Strand Cinemas has shows at 3:50, 7:00, and 9:30 p.m. We probably need to do 9:30. Time to check in with my family and students.

Textbooks? Since we have huge overflow in the bookshelves in the new CS Learning Center, we should probably clear some things out. One of the things we don’t really have room for are non-CS textbooks (Physics, Chemistry, and Calculus). Should those go to the CRSSJ Lending Library or to the Math Lab and Science Learning Center? That’s a decision for the department. But someone should probably grab them off the shelves. Should I delegate? Nah! Pulling those books will help me think about the bigger picture [16]. I ended up pulling a few no-longer-useful books and thinking about categories [17].

Chair re: textbooks. I’ve been purchasing a few textbooks for our lending library [18]. I should see if the department might reimburse me. It’s unlikely, given the state of our budget, but I should ask.

Tasks for later in the week. Start making the next list of nibblers. That list includes home tasks. We have at least three car issues to deal with, as well as some everyday stuff.

Tomorrow’s lunch meeting. The CS Department is meeting with VP Voos, Assistant Dean Students & Director of Wellness & Prevention Jacobsen, and Assistant Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer Johnson. I should check out the location and send a reminder to my colleagues.

Check status of placement system. This weekend, I’ll be attempting to place the 450 or so incoming students. Much of the work is done by an expert system that Henry Walker and his students designed and implemented, but the system needs some tuning and watching. I don’t get the data until Friday, but it’s good to make sure that the system is working first, particularly since I’ve found that our upgrades sometimes get in the way. I checked my email and the last day I can have them done is August 7, but I’d rather be ready in advance. My quick check suggests that I have access to the database, which is about all I need to know right now.

Moving instructions to students. I’m hoping to delegate the problem of moving the materials back into storage to our students [19]. But that means that they need instructions. I’m starting by writing some notes to my colleagues.

Hopper applications. The department plans to send eight students to the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in computing. Student applications were due last week. I need to put the spreadsheet together to send to my colleagues to review. I also need to write the initial prioritization to run by them [20]. I did both. Now I need to prioritize students myself.

Tapia applications. The same thing, except for the Richard Tapia celebration of diversity in computing. And yes, I need to prioritize these students, too. We have a bit more slack for Tapia than Hopper; Hopper is sold out; Tapia is not. But we do have limited funds. Oh, yeah, I need to apply for those, too.

Tasks left undone

There is, after all, only so much that I can do in one day, particularly when I’m supposed to be helping out at code camp. When I got home, I made dinner, went shopping, put away groceries, dropped off some food for my students to eat in the morning, followed up on questions I’d received from the Herald Register, tried to answer computer questions for a friend [21], washed some grapes to freeze, answered some other email, made family plans for the next few days, and probably some other things that I’ve now forgotten. Here’s what I didn’t do, but planned to.

Workshop syllabus. I need to get a rough draft of the syllabus for next week’s workshop posted and distributed. I also need to gather the things I want people to read.

MINK-WIC applications. We’re probably sending everyone who applies, but I want to count how many and put together an agreement for them to sign before we buy the tickets.

GitHub stuff? I’m using GitHub in a variety of classes. When I ask nicely, they send along stickers and helpful documentation for my students. It’s time to ask. I’ll probably ask later this week.

Congrats for Jen P. Jen got tenure. She deserves a congratulations letter and a gift. I should get those ready (although not today).

Charlie architecture. We have some materials from old versions of CSC 211 that were in the storage room. I should have Charlie review those. I should also have him review what seems to be a stack of old Architecture textbooks in the new CS learning center. But I didn’t see Charlie today, so those are tasks for tomorrow.

I also have a bunch of small and medium things I came up with for tomorrow. Perhaps you’ll be stuck with more musings on nibblings. Writing them up takes time, but the time gets distributed throughout the day. We shall see.

[1] Let’s see … Yup! In fact, finding the old musing led me to rename this from just Nibbled to death by ducks.

[2] It may be a mystery novel. Yes, Nibbled to death by ducks by Robert Campbell. I have no recollection of reading it, but I probably did.

[3] I realize that texting to myself may not be the best way to record tasks, but I find that it’s a good quick and dirty solution for things that are too small to put into a task management system. My phone is at hand for text entry and they show up on my Messages app on my laptop.

[4] I have edited the texts slightly, primarily to replace names with positions.

[5] More like twenty pounds.

[6] No, that doesn’t mean that they don’t wash their shirts, or that we all share one shirt. It means that we chose a pattern for each day and all wear the chosen pattern each day.

[7] The Grinnell Science Project.

[8] Inside joke.

[9] I’ve learned to delegate!

[10] New Student Orientation

[11] Unfortunately, he’ll also be off observing the eclipse. Given the number of people going to see the Eclipse, I don’t think much is going to get done on campus that day.

[12] He can see them, but not get a copy.

[14] Or is that Innovation Funding?

[15] If we continue to offer code camps, our Counselors should continue to come from the MAP and MIP ranks. But I guess that I’ll also need to confirm that with the Dean’s office.

[16] I’m not sure that it’s still my job to think about the bigger picture, but that’s still my tendency.

[17] Jerod categorized the books a few years ago. The students who transported the books between the old and new learning centers did not make the effort to keep them in order. Perhaps we should ask them to re-order them.

[18] Sorry Michelle! At least they aren’t going into my office or lab.

[19] I’ve already done too much of the work myself.

[20] We have an informal ordering, but we should formalize it.

[21] It is incredibly difficult to guide someone through screen rotation issues on Windows when I don’t have a Windows box in front of me. I got my friend to the rotation screen, but Landscape did not work for them, even though Landscape (flipped) was inverted and Portrait and Portrait (flipped) were 90 degrees off.

Version 1.0 of 2017-07-25.