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Preparing for the onslaught of the semester (#986)

Topics/tags: Overcommitment

We are now one week away from the start of the semester [1]. The week before the start of the semester is traditionally a stressful time for faculty [2]. It’s your last chance to make sure that your classes are set for the semester. It’s also you time to wrap up projects, both professional and personal, before you get buried in teaching and service responsibilities.

I’m on sabbatical this spring, so the week should not feel so anxiety inducing. But I have a surprisingly large number of tasks to complete this week. Sabbatical seems to have become an opportunity to say yes to a wide variety of different things, many of which have associated tasks. And so it feels just as bad as, if not worse than, it does in years when I am teaching.

What do I have on my slate for this week?

One high-priority item is to get ready for the Faculty/Staff Friday on Persistence, Belonging, etc. which will be held on Friday, 24 January 2020. As I think I’ve mentioned, someone read a recent musing on persistence rates and suggested that I lead a Faculty Friday on the topic. I negotiated for a Faculty/Staff Friday, rather than just a Faculty Friday, and for it to be a team effort, rather than something I led. But that date is fast approaching. I have a bunch of stuff to read and, after looking online for a while, I finally got access to the dozen or so documents today [3]. I need to meet with the team to plan the event. That means that I need to schedule meetings. I’m not sure why, but scheduling meetings fills me with anxiety. Nonetheless, I managed to schedule them. Next up is to plan the first meeting and to read a bit before the meeting. We also have to write a blurb to describe the event and respond to questions about the equipment we need.

Another high-priority item has to do with my role as a member of the Scholarship Team for the ACM Richard Diversity in Computing Conference. is to *review the public information about scholarships to attend the ACM Richard I have to figure out the organization of the Scholarship Team. I had thought we had the same leader for the team, but he appears to have been promoted to Program Chair. I’m not sure what that says about who is now in charge of the Scholarship team. The team has three people; Two of us are in their second year on the team and one is in the first year. Much of our work will happen a bit later in the semester, but the scholarship info needs to be ready for Thursday. Agh! If no one else takes the lead, I probably should. I’ll send a message to the other two members tomorrow. We also need to recruit reviewers, review the application form and the review form, reflect on last year’s process, and more.

I have to do followup work on my two innovation fund proposals. Both include summer workshops as a core activity. That means that I need to work with others to plan the workshops. For the Convocation proposal, I should schedule a meeting with the other members of that team. For the Assessment proposal [4], I should meet with my partner from the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment. But we know how I feel about scheduling meetings. Oh well, that’s something else for tomorrow morning or something like that. I already had to meet with the director of the CTLA for a preliminary conversation about summer workshops [5]. Beyond the meetings and the workshops, I need to think more about the form of each project, rewrite the description of the Assessment proposal for the public announcement, think about scheduling lunch meetings for the semester, and likely some other things. I think the meetings are all that are immediately required and should happen this week or next.

I have some responsibilities in my role as Vice-Chair for ACM SIGCAS. Today, I had to decide whether or not I was going to run again. I hadn’t planned to, but after some back and forth with the nomination committee, I decided that I would stand for the SIGCAS board again. Next week, I should probably distribute a survey to our members. There’s also a request or two from ACM that I need to respond to, most of the form Read this document and provide your perspective.

You know what? I should probably go back to using a to-do list manager. Oh well, I’ll add that to my list. Let’s continue considering what I should be doing this week.

On the family side, I still need to decide on a book for the Rebelsky Family Book Club. I’m trying to read the candidates before I choose a book, but may have to give up before I do so. Right now, I’m reading The Starless Sea. I still want to try re-reading some books by Howard Frank Mosher as candidates. And there are one or two others, too.

Continuing with things outside of the professional realm, I have to do some things related to my service as treasurer for a political campaign. I’m still not sure why I agreed, other than that a friend asked me to, and I convinced myself that because I was on sabbatical, it was a reasonable commitment. So what do I need to do? This week, I think I need to fill out some forms with the state. Soon thereafter, I need to set up an account for donations. At some point thereafter, I think I’m supposed to plan a fundraiser.

I’m taking two classes this semester. I need to get ready for each. I’ve bought the books for the one that requires books, but they are already scattered in multiple places, so I need to get them together. More importantly, there’s a reading for the first day of class, and the instructor wrote Please be sure to read the essay closely. Skimming doesn’t work in this sort of class. I can probably push that to the weekend. I also need to install software for the other class as well as to purchase some hardware [6]

Research has to fit in there somewhere. I don’t need to get any research done this week, but I’m pretty sure that I need to get my MAP application started. Cool, that’s not due until February 7. I thought someone sent me an earlier date. But I do need to get a description of my research done before next Thursday’s CS Extra on Summer research opportunities. I won’t be there, but I should have stuff for my colleagues to distribute in my stead.

I was asked to give a talk about the history of Tutorial and the Open Curriculum later this semester. That’s not something that I can put together quickly; I need to do research. Today, I met with someone to get a draft of the relevant portion of the Joe Wall book on Grinnell in the 20th Century [7]. I should also start talking to our archivist about getting access to Wall’s notes and other materials that may be of use.

I still have a daily responsibility to muse and rant. At times, that doesn’t take much time. At other times, it takes a lot of time. In any case, it’s another task to add to the list.

Speaking of the musings, I keep finding that I want to refer back to minutes and agendas from meetings of the faculty. I found a way to download all the electronic ones, or at least all of the ones that are currently on GrinCo [8]. Due to the wonder of Sharepointless, even though the originals were grouped by faculty meeting, the downloaded ones are not [9]. Next up is to rename the files so that they follow a sensible form (YYYY-MM-DD rather than MM-DD-YY) and then work on building a table of contents for discussion topics. I suppose that that doesn’t need to be done before the start of the semester. However, I do want to find the minutes from our vote on canceling classes for MLK day so that I can muse about the topic. And that needs to happen before MLK day.

Oh, yeah. I also have to worry about the MathLAN web server transition. I’m still not sure when that will happen, but I got access to a sample of my new site today. It’s going to take awhile to deal with all of the changes. I think I’ve already figured out a way to deal with my from-the-root references. But I don’t know how I’m going to deal with things like, which has stored all of the page annotations based on their old URLs. And I don’t know what will happen with my scripts and such. Since the transition is likely to happen within the next week or so, I guess I need to get moving on this stuff.

What else? I’m also trying to organize my backups. That probably doesn’t need to get finished before the start of the semester. But the longer I put off backups, the more likely it is that I’ll lose something valuable.

I plan to spend Friday and Saturday at the Grinnell Invitational. I always think that I can get some work done at Swim and Dive meets, but it’s rarely the case that I do. Hence, much of the work I’ve described will need to get done on Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday. Perhaps I shouldn’t have spent so much time musing about it.

Now that I’ve recorded all of these things, it makes more sense to me while I’m feeling a bit stressed. It also doesn’t help that Apple Mail and our Outlook server are not playing nicely right now, or at least not nicely for my account [10].

I’m thankful that I’m on sabbatical. I don’t know how I’d deal with all of this

[1] The semester would normally start next Monday. However, next Monday is Martin Luther King day, which means that we won’t start until Tuesday.

[2] Also for staff. And, perhaps, for students.

[3] Those materials should be in a public place, or at least a semi-public place. Asking for that can go on my list of things to do.

[4] Beyond Bean Counting.

[5] I tried to convince him that two-day workshops should be permissible and not count toward the cap on faculty workshops. I failed.

[6] Or at least reconfigure some hardware.

[7] Coming your way for the demisemiseptcentennial, or at least I hope.

[8] It looks like those go back to the fall of 2001 or so, but I have not yet confirmed that.

[9] If you care about the technical details, here they are. The originals were organized using SharePointless lists, rather than nested folders. When you synchronize a Sharepointless folder with your local drive, the lists don’t get parsed. Or something like that. But the use of lists explains why it takes so long to open the folders on the faculty meetings page.

[10] Once again, I need to strive for inbox zero.

Version 1.0 of 2020-01-14 .