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My, What A Busy Week!: 2009 edition - Lindsey Kuper [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Lindsey Kuper

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My, What A Busy Week!: 2009 edition [Aug. 30th, 2009|05:58 pm]
Lindsey Kuper
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My, What A Busy Week! Week is the last full Monday-through-Saturday in August. Previously; previously; previously.

Monday: I blearily see Alex oniugnip off to Computer Science Graduate Student Orientation Ought Nine Wooooo!, which starts at an unconscionable eight in the morning. My second attempt at the theory qual is scheduled for tomorrow, but I procrastinate from studying by washing dishes, doing laundry, working on the Secret Comics Project on which I'm collaborating with Chris chrisamaphone, and bending mod_rewrite to my will. As it turns out, I can get a hell of a lot done while procrastinating. In the afternoon, I bike to campus and participate in a panel discussion in which the other panelists and I try our best to answer questions from a room full of new computer science grad students who, due to recent school-wide centralization of orientation procedures, have spent the entire morning being deluged with what amounts to marketing copy while not actually being told how to, you know, sign up for classes or get into buildings or anything. We're fuming on their behalf, and afterward, my friends Mark and Christine and I send emails appealing to various reasonable faculty members to help fix this. On the good side, I manage to spirit a large bag of bagels away from orientation, and I bike home and finally study theory for a while. Late in the evening, Alex returns from Beer and Algorithms, and we go on an invigorating four-mile run. When we get home, I try to study for another couple of hours, but can't concentrate. I finally crash at two in the morning, annoyed with myself for not getting to bed earlier on the night before an exam.

Tuesday: Despite only five hours of sleep, I bounce out of bed in a wash of adrenaline: it's theory qual day! I kiss Alex goodbye and bike off to school, where there's just enough time before the exam to get coffee and do one last reduction proof for good luck. I go in to take the exam, and my friend Jack says, "You so have this." I so have this. We're given three hours; I finish in two. I'm happy with my answers to almost all the problems, thanks in large part to having studied with Christine the previous week. I'm ebullient, and I quickly sign up for choral ensemble auditions before my confidence ebbs. Old and new folks are arriving on campus, and we all mill around trying to handle various administrivia; I keep telling new students not to panic, even as I'm panicking myself about the next day's systems qual, which I've signed up to take for some reason. I head home, ostensibly to study, but instead busy myself with errands for the CSGSA party we're hosting the following night. When Alex gets home, we head out for an eight-mile run, which is fairly unremarkable for him, but the farthest I've tried going at once in several months. All is well until mile six or so, at which point I, feeling tired and irritable, say something incredibly spiteful and mean to Alex, who understandably doesn't want to speak to me for several blocks. I feel like a jerk and apologize again and again, and by the time we get home, we've smoothed it over. By then, though, I realize that studying is not going to happen, and that I would rather spend Wednesday morning sleeping late and snuggling with Alex instead of failing the systems qual.

Wednesday: Screw the systems qual. We don't get out of bed until noon, and it's great. Alex heads off to campus for the afternoon's orientation events, which comprise visiting various labs and research groups. (From his later retelling, it seems that the FARG people had the classiest food and the E.T.H.O.S. people the best presentation, but the HRI people pretty much won for having dinosaur robots.) Meanwhile, I exchange roughly five thousand emails with CSGSA people about party logistics, then furiously clean house. When I get home from a last-minute shopping trip for party stuff at 6:45 p.m., folks have already started showing up -- and they keep coming. The turnout is great, and I credit at least some of our success to the fact that we actually physically handed invitations to all the new students earlier in the week. My house is filled to bursting with computer scientists, which is how I like it. After most folks have left, a dedicated core group, comprising Mark, Christine, Will, and new students Rebecca and Cheyenne, stick around and play Rock Band late into the night. Yes.

Thursday: We leisurely clean up the party aftermath and bike to campus together. I finally get to sign a contract for my job -- my salary is a whopping $14,300 a year, but hey, I'm pretty excited to get paid to teach at all, since last year I was doing it for free and living off my fellowship money. After taking care of some other paperwork, I hang around for a while and answer questions as best I can for the occasional new grad student who's trying to figure out which courses to take, which makes me feel oddly old and wise. I do some work on the Secret Comics Project and head home, where Alex and I get into a heated discussion about what IU's intro CS course should be like and how to fix its high attrition rate. I realize, uncomfortably, that I might not understand why the average person taking intro CS is there. I started studying computer science because of the people, and all this time later, I'm still in it for the people. But more people, perhaps most, start doing it because they want to build awesome stuff, and if we make them build boring stuff, they'll leave -- or so the theory goes. I sleep fitfully.

Friday: In the morning, we bike to campus for the annual Women in Informatics and Computing Breakfast. It's mostly okay, but I'm irked by the male faculty member who, during the stand-up-and-introduce-yourself section, takes the opportunity to inform us all that he has been supporting women in CS since nineteen-seventy-whatever and that some people in the department would do well to remember that. (Dude, what do you want, a medal? Besides, equal opportunity for women isn't something that you can take care of once and for all and then check off your list.) Afterward, I go to a C311/B521 teaching staff meeting with Dan and the two undergraduate instructors, Melanie and Adam, and then to the library to make copies of the piece I'm supposed to sing in my audition that afternoon. This last involves waiting in line for 45 minutes behind what appears to be the entire incoming freshman class, all of whom need help installing Service Pack 2 on their laptops. Eventually I get to talk to an IT guy to get money added to my copier account balance, only to find that he cannot, in fact, do that, and that I was supposed to go to a vending machine and do it myself, which I do. Now with an hour to spare before the audition, I bike furiously to the music practice building, suck down a lot of water, warm up as fast as I can, and run through my piece several times. Finally, I bike to the audition space and pace around the hallway until I'm called. The audition itself goes much like it did last year, except that this time I know half the people in the room, and I get an "It'll be great to work with you again this year" at the end, which I take as a good sign. I head to Lindley, feeling good, and am promptly kidnapped by Will and Larisse to get Tibetan food with them. Afterward, there's a pizza-and-movie thing in honor of the new students, but a group of us bail and go play with Legos instead. Finally, Alex and I bike home, go for a snappy four-mile run, and finally to sleep.

Saturday: Our friend Dave comes over to pick up his grill, which is still at our place from the party on Wednesday. The grill is a giant, propane-powered, brushed-metal behemoth, and it takes an hour for the three of us to clean it, disassemble it, and schlep it to his car. Afterward, it's clearly time for a coffee break, and the three of us get into a great conversation about machine learning, which then turns into a great conversation about religion1. Suddenly, there's a knock at the door from Adam, who, along with Dan and Melanie, has been wondering where I've been for the last hour. Oh, no! I'd forgotten about our plan to collectively clean Dan's office today! I dash to campus on my bike, Adam having zoomed ahead on his motorcycle, and plunge into the already-well-underway attack on Dan's office. It's quite a large room (at least, once all the junk has been moved out of it), and by five p.m., we've transformed it into a clean and usable space for all four of us to work in this semester. I head home, and eventually Alex returns from Yet Another Orientation Event, bearing veggie burgers and stories. We have dinner, I write a long and perhaps overly defensive screed to Maureen about why Scheme is a good idea for introductory CS courses2, and we head for bed and sleep for twelve solid hours.

Bonus extra day!: Um, today we ran sixteen miles. That's about all we did. Well, that and eat. Ow. Time for bed -- it's a school night!

  1. Assuming there's a difference.
  2. In a nutshell: along with its good qualities as a teaching language, it has the additional property that the students aren't likely to have used it before, so it levels the playing field.

[User Picture]From: mimeograph
2009-08-31 01:31 pm (UTC)


"I started studying computer science because of the people"

Me too. :)
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2009-08-31 03:11 pm (UTC)

Re: yes.

Yeah, I thought that might be true, from what I knew of your story. It's fundamentally a story about people, and so are all of my CS stories.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: gorthx
2009-08-31 08:44 pm (UTC)
holy crap, I'm tired just reading all that. :)

Are you guys training for another marathon?
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: oniugnip
2009-08-31 09:52 pm (UTC)
Yes :)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)