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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 2-5 March 2016 - Jim Huggins
March 5th, 2016
08:12 am
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 2-5 March 2016
The Wednesday Hodgepodge appears courtesy of From This Side of the Pond.

1. February ended with an extra 24 hours in 2016. What did you do with your bonus day?

Well, actually ... I hosted a lunchtime gathering of geocachers at a local burger joint.  By "hosted", mostly I meant that I filled out the paperwork online to create the event.   I was amazed that 35 people came out for the event.  A good time was had by all, and I did pretty much nothing to make it happen.

2. What's something in your life that's grown by leaps and bounds in recent days, weeks, months, or years? I'm giving you lots of room to come up with an answer here, so no fair passing on this one.

I'm slowly realizing (mostly, thanks to that "On This Day" feature on Facebook) that I spend a lot more time complaining about work.   Not my students --- far from it.   My students are the joy of my day.   It's the administrative crap, and the professional development, that's dragging me down.   I need to find ways to start breaking out of this vicious cycle.   I suppose naming it is a first step, right?

3. Do you read reviews about a film before deciding if you'll see it? Did you watch The Oscars this year, and if so your thoughts on the program? How many of the Best Picture nominees had you seen prior to the broadcast? (Spotlight, The Martian, The Big Short, The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road, Room, and Brooklyn) If you watched The Oscars who gets your award for 'best dressed'?

I don't watch the Oscars anymore ... not that I'm not interested, it's just that I rarely see enough of the named films to have any sense as to what's going on.   I didn't see any of this year's Best Picture nominees ... we had wanted to see The Martian, but life just got too hectic.   I find we're not getting out to the movies much anymore ... which saddens me a bit, as it was a natural date night.

Reviews?   I tend not to read them too much.   In part, that's because my wife and I tend to enjoy more escapist fare than the elite reviewers will like (or admit to liking).   So movie reviews don't tend to offer much helpful information.   Sometimes, if there's a particular question I'm interested in, I'll seek out specific reviews --- Focus on the Family runs the pluggedin.com review site, which does a nice job of reviewing movies from Christian perspectives, but in a thoughtful way (i.e. the rating isn't just a measurement of how many curse words you hear).   Especially when Biblical movies seem to be all the rage, it's nice to get some perspective on the difference between Noah (which was almost unrecognizable from a Biblical perspective) and Risen (which was faithful to the source material while providing a different perspective).

4. When did you last have overnight houseguests? Give us your top three tips on being a good houseguest.

Probably the last overnight guests we've had were friends of my dear daughter.   I don't know that I have tips on being a houseguest, other than being a nice person in general.

5. March 2nd is Peanut Butter Lover's Day. Will you be celebrating? If so, would you prefer a home made peanut butter cookie, a Reese's peanut butter cup, an old fashioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or shall I just hand you a jar and a tablespoon?

I completely missed this ... of course, I'm traveling right now, so that's not surprising.   Of the options, I'll take the peanut butter cup.  (I shouldn't, but my sweet tooth ...)

6. Why is failure important? Or isn't it?

Oh my heavens, yes, failure is important.   Charles Kettering (the namesake of my employer) has tons of quotes about failure; it's hard to pick just one.   I'll go with this one:

An inventor is simply a fellow who doesn't take his education too seriously. You see, from the time a person is six years old until he graduates form college he has to take three or four examinations a year. If he flunks once, he is out. But an inventor is almost always failing. He tries and fails maybe a thousand times. It he succeeds once then he's in. These two things are diametrically opposite. We often say that the biggest job we have is to teach a newly hired employee how to fail intelligently. We have to train him to experiment over and over and to keep on trying and failing until he learns what will work.

Training people to fail is hard.

7. Share with us one fun thing on your March calendar.

Probably the biggest highlight is what I'm doing now ... sitting at the SIGCSE Symposium in Memphis, with like-minded folks learning how to do a better job of being a CS educator.   (More in the next item ...)

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

This event is often a bit of a touchstone for me.   It's good to hang out with "my people" (mostly, my APCS people) and remember that ... well, yes, everyone has unreasonable administrators that only give lip-service to the stuff that really matters.  Sometimes I walk away with amazing insights.

This time?   I don't know.   I mean, I've been hearing lots of interesting stuff and all, but ... I've felt unsettled throught the whole event, just trying to get my bearings so that I can figure out what I'm supposed to be hearing and doing.  

Part of that unsettlement goes back --- yet again --- to my feelings of professional angst.  But maybe even that is making a bit of progress.

Impostor syndrome is real .... and, professionally, I'm suffering from it a lot right now.   Some of that is, I suppose, to be expected, because I'm still flailing around trying to find a research program to initiate.   And I feel inadequate because I don't have one ... especially when well-meaning folks walk up and say "So, what's your research program?" and it's really not nice to say "well, I don't have one".  

But some discussions I had with colleagues this week --- one colleague in particular --- have reminded me that it's okay to be there.   It's part of the problem of attending conferences where people present completed work; you don't see the years of effort it took to get there, only the polished final results.  

There's a quote from a West Wing episode: "there has been a time in the evolution of everything that works when it didn't work."   That's where I am right now; research isn't working for me right now.   But I need to remember that this doesn't have to be a permanent condition, and that I may not realize that it's working again until it's almost done.

I believe; Lord, help my unbelief.

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