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Another taskcade

I’ve written in the past about how my tasks cascade. There are a number of reasons that happens. In part, it’s that some of the work I do depends on other work I do. In part, it’s that I have enough outstanding tasks that some tasks naturally collide with [1] others.

Let’s consider today’s taskcade.

I was working on the syllabus for CSC 321 [2]. I realized that I needed to try to schedule the visit from my alumni mentors [3]. Since the alumni mentors traditionally give a Thursday extra in addition to meeting with the students, I needed to check the Thursday extra schedule.

As I checked the Thursday extra schedule, I realized that we had not scheduled the annual talk on MAP/MIP [4] opportunities. I traditionally arrange that talk. But I often arrange that talk because it seems to go with being chair of the department. I added the talk to the schedule, but I also needed to send email to Jerod to find out who he wants to arrange the talk. If it’s me, I’ll have a number of additional messages to send: to department faculty to see if they want to present and to folks in some other departments to see if they want to recruit CS students [5].

Looking at the Thursday extra schedule also made me realize that my summer research students had not yet presented their summer research. That meant that I had to schedule their talk and then send them a message to let them know that I’d scheduled the talk. We’ll need to work on preparing that talk once they get back and then we’ll need to work on the associated posters.

Okay, back to scheduling the mentors. By looking at the Thursday extra schedule, I was able to identify two likely weeks. I then sent email to the alumni mentors to see if either of those weeks work.

Then I remembered that because the Wilson Center is funding the mentor visits, I am expected to try to coordinate with the other Wilson classes. So I looked for the email about coordinating visits. It appears that the weeks that the other instructor wants won’t work well for my class. So I sent a followup message to see if the weeks I’ve planned will work for him. I also realized that in his most recent message, he indicated that he had not known about some of the short-term Wilson courses [6].

So I dug up the descriptions and dates for the two courses I thought might be of interest to him and sent them along.

But that made me realize that I planned to attend one of the two courses, at least as often as I can. But I have some of my office hours scheduled for the same time. That meant that I had to go back and update my syllabi to indicate that I would not be available for certain office hours on some weeks [7,8]. And, as long as I was marking office hours, I thought I should put them on my Google calendar [9].

Of course, as long as I was updating my Google calendar with office hours, it seemed appropriate to add other weekly schedule items to my calendar.

I’m pretty sure that there were a few other tasks in the taskcade. But that’s enough to report on for now. I never did get to finish my schedule for CSC 321. Perhaps I’ll get to it tomorrow. And let’s hope that whatever I do next on that schedule, it doesn’t set off another taskcade [10].

[1] Or set off.

[2] I did say that I was working on syllabi this week. And, while I had hoped to be done earlier this week, I lost a day to transferring my digital workspace. In addition, writing the syllabi is taking much longer than I’d planned.

[3] Each project in CSC 322 has an alum who helps the students with both technical and nontechnical aspects of the project. Since CSC 321 and CSC 322 are paired courses, I use the CSC 321 time for mentors when they visit CSC 322.

[4] Mentored Advanced Project and Mentored Introductory Project.

[5] CS students have contributed to projects in Mathematics, Statistics, Physics, and Digital Humanities. I’ve probably missed some other topics.

[6] The Wilson Center supports a wide variety of short courses. This spring, we have one by the awesome Megan Goering ’08.

[7] It feels like I should be clear with the students.

[8] That’s okay, I still have three other office hours each week and I have an open-door policy for other weeks.

[9] That way, they show up on

[10] I didn’t mention it, but there were a number of more minor taskcades in writing the syllabus, most of which had to do with a series of updates to the software and pages in the broader site and the more general software and site it derives from. I think those are mostly done.

Version 1.0 of 2018-01-07.