Saturday, March 31, 2007

Trip Report

It was great to see my better half again, and also great to see some people (and a few places) I had not seen in a while. The area has been growing rapidly. I'm amazed at how much new construction (some complete and some in progress) there has been since I left in June of last year. So I suppose I would rate it a good trip. Was it relaxing?

In the words of Edna Krabappel, "Ha."

Things went fine until the car started dying on me. That didn't happen until we got to Virginia, so when it got very bad on the second day, I took it to the dealer I bought it from. Unfortunately, the person who needed to look at it was gone and wouldn't be back until the next day. We ended up stranded at the hotel until the next day, then sitting in the dealership until about 4:00. The dealer finally said they couldn't replicate the problem, even though they had someone drive it for about 80 miles. So we finally just left for Kentucky, after stopping to get a prepaid cellular phone for the trip.

By the way, to activate the phone, you dial an 800 number to an automated system which does most of the setup before it transfers you to a real person to finish. The automated system opened with, as I recall: " 'Sup? This is Symone, and I'm here to get you set up with your new phone..." and continued with responses like "OK, cool." Much eye-rolling on my part ensued. The real person (who was probably much hipper than whoever wrote the script for the recording) never said "sup" once, by the way.

We got back to Kentucky without the car dying again, so I felt like I was in good shape. Then we found out the next morning that it was going to snow in Pennsylvania for the next three days, so I set off immediately to get home. I drove the last third of the trip in increasing snowfall and accumulation, and got in around 11 in the evening. Most of my body was sore from being constantly tensed up for the last few hours. I had forgone stopping at rest stops because I was iffy about how well the various on and off ramps had cleared.

But I made it intact, and the car never died again. It hasn't really given me more trouble since, although I did have a hard time starting it last weekend. Unfortunately, it also means I feel trapped. Unless it repeats the same problem and I can get the problem positively identified and fixed, I can't take this car on another long trip. So I can't really go down to Kentucky or anything else again until either that happens or I get a new car.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

I resurface

Sorry for the delay in posting, but I wandered to near the edge of the earth, and fell off. I've been battling sea monsters for some time, trying to make it back up the edge. (That first step's a doozy.) Or at least it feels that way sometimes.

In reality, I've just been living day to day, trying to keep up with all my classes and at the same time find ways to be involved with service to the campus and community, and at some point I'm supposed to publish some groundbreaking research. As a good start, I went to a seminar given by another new faculty member on her research area and actually understood most of what she was talking about, which made me feel like doing a little victory dance. Now if I only understood any of my research, I'd be in very good shape.

I've gotten away with an unusually light student load this semester. One class was an upper level elective that only attracted about 15 people, another was restricted by a Dean for a special cohort and didn't get over about 25, and another meets once a week at an odd time and ended up with only 19 students. With another class of just under 40, it comes out as a moderately manageable load. Except of course I have to keep coming up with stuff to do. Especially in the topics class, which is all me. (It's never been taught before, so it's up to me what we do. I keep feeling like I'm scrambling for something interesting each week, and I fear I've already used my A material.)

In the other classes, I have no lack of material, but some lack of time in which to get the students to understand it. A recent test of consumer mathematics in one class left me with the distinct impression that many students were just randomly selecting numbers and operations in hopes it might solve the problem: "Find the interest rate? Hm... let's see, I'll add those two numbers, divide by this, and then multiply by ten... maybe that's it." Perhaps they saw too many of the old McDonald's commercials, and are sold on the tag line: "Hey, it could happen." Unfortunately, passing will not happen for a number of them. Or there are my elementary education students, who in fact I like very much and who seem to mostly try hard, but a number just don't grasp some concepts.

And I currently have my winter cold. I may continue to have it until we get spring weather, which around here may be July. I just want my sinuses to be happy again. Happy sinuses. That's the dream.

But we're up to Spring Break; I've just taught my last class for the next week or so. I'm planning on driving down to pick up my better half, then going back to Virginia for a visit for a few days. I'm looking forward to seeing him again, and to visiting some friends. And we've got a list of restaurants we need to visit again while we're in the area. That was a high priority for both of us. It may explain this expansion I seem to keep undergoing. That or all the chips, cookies, and ice cream I tend to eat at home. But I'm feeling limited on what I can do about that, since I've been tending toward depression again this year. It's not that this is a bad place (although I am getting a little tired of all the snow), but it's not where my partner is, and that's just not satisfactory. Unfortunately, I can't figure out how to fix this right now. But at least I get to see him soon.

Next week will be a good one.