Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Negligent Blogger is Negligent

Things have been a bit quiet around here lately, partly because things have been rather unquiet offline. The course I'm TAing has multi-week labs, and the last one was a doozy. It was a complicated set of experiments, with numerous equipment failures, concepts the students had never encountered before (ferroelectricity) and they had to share data across groups and sections. We TAs had some major communications SNAFUs, so the data formatting was horrendously inconsistently, and labeling was inconsistent at best. All of this results in many, many more student emails of "I can't find ____ on the course site". The reports have been turned in at last, and are sitting in an imposingly large pile on my desk. 14 reports shouldn't be a full ream of paper, but conciseness is a concept that continues to elude them.

The last lab of the semester is on mechanical properties of materials, and so far, things are going much more smoothly. I swear the lab gremlins demand a certain number of things be broken each lab, but thankfully, they can be satiated with intentional fracture. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that I'm vastly more comfortable with this equipment, or that there is considerably less jury-rigging involved with our setups... nope, nothing at all.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mid-term panic

Even though I myself am not *taking* any classes this semester, I'm still feeling the mid-term crush. Part of this has to do with the class I'm TAing, as we want students to compare data across sections, which calls for a lot of extra effort from the TA's to make sure it's accessible. I'm also frustrated by the students who would much rather email me than read the damn handout.

On the other hand, I finally found an exercise class that 1) is on par with what my out-of-shape butt can handle and 2) fits in my schedule and budget. A friend convinced me to come with her to bellydancing class, and it's actually quite a lot of fun, but not going to destroy my joints.

What I really want right now is a vacation, but my Thanksgiving break promises to be full of grading.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Keeping sane...

In spite of the busyness of TAing and the rest of my semester, I've been making a much more concerted effort this year to take care of myself and stay sane. Part of this has been taking up two more hobbies (because I clearly didn't have enough), knitting and spinning. On the other hand, these are both very transportable and fairly affordable, and take relatively little energy. They also take enough focus to help my brain disconnect from work for a brief while.

Still, I'm having more coding related dreams than I've had in quite some time, so clearly something's not working. What do you do to de-stress and keep sane?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Productivity is overrated...

It has not been the most productive week of my life (other than knitting, which I learned this weekend). This week I had my first guest post of at Engineering Blogs, but mostly I've been waiting for code to run. I'm at one of those awkward points where until this batch of problems gets cleared up, there's not too much progress I can really make on my main project.  I'm supposed to be meeting with an undergrad who will help run some of the final simulations and analysis code I need to finish up the Project That Won't Die. Last week, I managed to drag some actual feedback about my paper from my PI, so I have suggestions on how to make the next manuscript reviews go more quickly, once I get the last of the data to redraft the manuscripts.

TAing is going fairly well, in spite of the best efforts of the equipment sprites. Voltage slowly drifting downward while trying to measure a ferroelectric hysteresis loop is troubling. The default tech support solution (unplug it and try again) worked, but still no clue what went wrong. Unfortunately, due to the way the lab is organized, the students are writing several large reports, when I think they would really benefit from writing more, shorter reports. They clearly are struggling with certain aspects of scientific communication, and need more feedback than the class is currently giving them. This is also the largest group they've ever had taking the class at once.

I have no impending deadlines (which is an odd sensation), but my baseline stress levels are still super high. It's as though I've forgotten how to work when not under extreme pressure. Maybe I just need more time to decompress...