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WordCamp Atlanta 2012

I’ve decided that most professional conferences are, as far as I am concerned, not really worth it for me. I’m far more interested in improving my technical knowledge than listening to a bunch of educators blather about what is the most appropriate pedagogical approach to computing, or in listening to a different bunch of academics blather about some esoteric aspect of computing with no practical application to anyone’s life or work.

So I love WordCamp because I can hang out with fellow geeks and learn WordPress and web design stuff I can actually USE on an everyday basis to make my teaching, my business, and my volunteer work better. Both WordCamp Atlanta events that I’ve been at have been held at SCAD Atlanta, which is really a great facility, and have been well organized and run by an all-volunteer staff. Most of the sessions I attended this year were in the designer or developer tracks because I was interested in more technical information, but there are always many good presentations for beginners and non-technical users as well.

Plus no one blinks when they see you sitting there knitting while you wait for the next session to start!

If you’d like to see a little of what I learned, Marna Friedman has collected most of the presentations from the event on the Northwest Atlanta WordPress Meetup site. We heard also that plans are in the works for the second WordCamp Savannah to be held this May, so you have an opportunity there to experience this for yourself.

I’d Rather Do It Myself

I found out today that one of the two people we hired to teach CS this year is quitting at the end of the semester. That’s all I know about it because I didn’t want to pry for the gory details in such a public setting, but my suspicion is that he didn’t really have a clue what teaching at a community college is all about. His perception was what he saw the professors doing at the Large Research University where he earned his Ph.D.

We don’t teach one or two classes per semester; we teach four or five. That is certain to involve at least two preps, more likely three, sometimes four. We don’t do much in the way of research, and what we do is teaching-related, not subject-matter-related. The committee work is something that occurs everywhere, and it’s not going to be much different from one academic institution to the next. And no, you don’t necessarily get to teach what you want, when you want — curriculum is dictated by committees directed by Higher Powers, and scheduled according to the needs and desires of the customers, er, I mean the students.

Anyway, this means another search this year. In fact, I was told that there would be TWO CS searches this year, one for a F2F position and one for an online position. That’s three years running. When The Dean told me that Person was quitting, she grinned and said “you know what that means,” followed by something along the lines that I didn’t HAVE to chair the committee unless I wanted to. It didn’t take much thought to say I didn’t mind chairing it. The alternatives would make me bat-shit crazy — One is disorganized as all get-out, Two won’t do anything unless you tell them exactly what to do and when to do it, and Three, well, let’s just say that Three won’t do for various reasons. So I can either go crazy with someone else chairing the committee or go crazy chairing it myself.

I think I’ll chair it myself. At least then I can control the crazy.

It’s Too Soon To Have Short-Timer’s Syndrome

What I was supposed to do today vis-a-vis attending the CCSC:SE Conference:

  • Drive up to Furman University
  • Attend a digital forensics workshop
  • Network with other presenters over lunch
  • Sit through a keynote address
  • Attend two paper/panel/workshop sessions
  • Have dinner with colleagues at the banquet and enjoy the featured speaker

What I REALLY did today:

  • Drove up to Furman University
  • Attended the digital forensics workshop
  • Returned to my car and found Dee
  • Went ahead & checked in at the motel
  • Drove all over the Greenville area visiting
  • one closed yarn shop out in the ¬†country (at least it was a nice drive)
  • one bead shop (nice but spendy, though I bought a cat & a dog metal stamp for CDD)
  • one yarn shop (nice but no one needed anything)
  • Mast General Store (always fun, always a place to find stuff)
  • various other shops downtown and on Augusta Road, including the local Ten Thousand Villages, where I found a headband to tame my overgrown locks, thank goodness!
  • Earth Fare, the nom-alicious MUST VISIT of the trip
  • Ate dinner from the hot bar at Earth Fare
  • Returned to the motel and collapsed on the beds, spending the next three hours watching TV, knitting, and checking email.
  • So which sounds like more fun? What I should have done, or what I actually did? Ten years ago I would probably have done what I was scheduled to do. But with Dee retired and me quite “over it” with computer science conferences, well, “should do” went out the window.

    Tomorrow I will actually do what I am supposed to, which is get the programming teams situated and put my two pesos’ worth in on our panel¬†presentation. I will try to avoid the conference chair, since I am clearly, and deservedly, on his shit list (and, I must add, don’t really care). I will try to keep my students more or less in line (HA!!). Then after I find out how the programming teams did I will hop in my trusty little vehicle and flee down the highway towards my lair, thankful to return to it.

    After twenty years, a first

    One of my students came up after class this evening and handed me an invitation to this month’s Phi Theta Kappa honor society induction, saying that I and my class meant a great deal to her and she wanted me to know that. When I read the entire thing, I was very touched, and quite honored! Apparently each Phi Theta Kappa inductee is allowed to recognize one professor at the ceremony who has been especially important in their academic career so far — I didn’t know that. So I get a certificate and a really meaningful attagirl (really meaningful because it comes from a student!).

    In twenty-one years at GPC, I’ve never received one of these invitations from a student before. I’m especially pleased that it is from this woman, because she is one of those very special non-traditional students — a older African-American working mother who sets the standard for the rest of the class and is a great example for her children. When I allowed students to get extra credit for attending Maker Faire, she not only came herself, she brought her children and made sure they got something out of it. When a student started giving me a hard time for being behind on grading between over-scheduling and Dad’s death, she had my back — “we women have to stick together!” She’s one of the uncommon ones who cares, and thus pushes me to be a better professor. So I say, Thank YOU!

    WordCamp Atlanta 2010

    I spent the past day and a half downtown at the inaugural WordCamp Atlanta, which turned out to be one of the best technical/professional conferences I’ve ever attended. Usually I find that there is at least one time slot, and usually several, where there is no presentation in which I am interested. Not so this time — there was at least one interesting talk in every session; because of the shortened schedule there were even conflicts and at least one canceled presentation that I’d wanted to attend.

    Lucky for me and everyone else, all the presenters are sharing their presentation slides at Slideshare (hashtag #wcatl). All the presentations were also taped and streamed, and are being made available online for later viewing, hurray! Plus some people took notes and have posted them online, as I will be doing for the sessions I attended over the next few days.

    So what did I choose to do while there? On Friday night I:

    • Listened to Alejandro Leal and Thomas Wheatley of Creative Loafing talk about the journalists’ (read: users’) perspective of using WordPress. The technogeeks in the audience weren’t too appreciative but I think it was a good perspective to hear.
    • Became evangelized in the ways of SEO by Topher Kohan of CNN — thirty minutes that made the $35 registration fee seem like a bargain.
    • Heard from Chaz Parizman about how Scripps Network uses WordPress to cover their “quick and dirty” “need a website THIS MINUTE” needs.

    Saturday I spent my time with:

    • Jane Wells of Automattic as she shared what we have to look forward to from WordPress during 2010 in her keynote address.
    • Ryan Imel, who finished the job of convincing me that parent/child themes are a GOOD thing.
    • Chris Scott, who told us all how we are coding things wrong and how to do it The WordPress Way (or rather the correct way regardless of platform).
    • Scott Kingsley Clark, who failed to absolutely convince me that the Pods plugin is the answer to my CMS issues, though he did pique my interest enough that I will investigate further.
    • Wade Kwon and audience, who all wanted to break those barriers to blogging and brainstormed some good solutions.
    • Dave Coustan and his suggestions on strategies for creating quality content and not losing out to the “content farms.”
    • and finally Mark Jaquith’s closing Q&A session, straight from the mouth of a WP lead developer.

    The live Twitter stream (hashtag #wcatl) moved at warp speed, it seemed, and it was hard to catch all the information on it. Attendees posted a lot of good links there, and I tried to “favorite” all the good ones so I could find them later.

    I feel like my poor brain is in information overload, so I just may process some of that in my next few posts here. I also have some new ideas and tasks in my head to handle in the next few days/weeks — a GOOD outcome!
    Continue reading

    A Followup Letter

    Following up with My Latest Special Snowflake:

    Dear Student,

    Rest assured, the grade you saw this week on your semester grade report was the grade you EARNED in my class. Let me repeat that. I did not GIVE you that grade, you EARNED it. As far as discussing that grade with you, I do not discuss grades via email, via phone, or in any other way than in person. I will not be back in my office until the beginning of next semester’s registration, therefore I won’t be having any discussion with you until then. Not that there is really anything to discuss, mind you — the calculations don’t lie.

    Furthermore, let me remind you: I am on vacation,a vacation which I have earned, in no small part thanks to you. If you continue to insist that I interrupt my vacation to deal with your dissatisfaction, I have two simple words for you. HELL. NO.

    Sincerely,

    Professor _________

    My Latest Special Snowflake

    Received via email tonight (personal data changed to protect the student’s identity):

    hello professor

    this is ********** in your ********** class, according to a friend in the class that you gave back the exam 2 grades in class which i asked you for it before i left the class on monday, you told me you didnt have them graded yet and do not know when you will, may i please know my first exam grade(after corrections) and the 2nd exam grade please?
    if possible, i would like to know my average up to this point before the final exam so i can estimate how much i need to get on final in order to get an A in your class, since i do not know any assignment grades after the midterm drop point. it was very hard for me with school work this semester. Regardless of my (medical condition), i kept up with the assignment due days (except ch9 hw, my (medical treatment) prevented me to do them on time).

    greatly appreciated if i could get my average in the class.

    Dear Student,

    You are correct. Your class’s tests were not yet graded when you asked on Monday. They were graded and returned on Wednesday in class. However, you chose to not come to class on Wednesday. Your test, along with those of the other students who were not in class, is in my office.

    It is Friday night, I am at home, and I am not going back to my office until Monday. I do not have a copy of my gradebook at home, nor do I memorize each student’s test grade as I enter them. Therefore, I will not be able to inform you of your grade until Monday.

    As for giving you your average in the class, there is no such thing as an “average” in my classes. Your grade is calculated with a rather complex formula which weights assignments, tests, and the final exam differently, and at this point would only tell you your grade for the class if you made a zero on the final.

    Rather than worry about “how much you need to get on the final,” I suggest you worry about making sure you have completely mastered the material that will be on the final exam. That way, you can ensure that if it is mathematically possible for you to earn a grade of 90 or above in the class, you will do so.

    Sincerely,

    Your Professor

    Photo Woes

    I was trying to photograph some of my chainmaille bracelets tonight to get them listed at 1000 Markets and Artfire. Photography isn’t my favorite part of the process, but tonight was particularly aggravating.

    One problem I’ve had in the past is getting a clearly focused picture because I run into depth of field issues. In automatic mode, my camera shoots at a low aperture, typically around F5.6, which means I don’t have a lot of DOF. If I up the aperture, the camera thinks there isn’t enough light. So I’d gotten a daylight fluorescent bulb for one of the regular lamps in the studio, and I added that to the two photo fluorescents I have in there. When I turned all three on, it certainly SEEMED bright enough in there, even with the photo tent filtering the light.

    I decided to try to figure out Av mode (aperture priority) on my camera. Well, the user manual doesn’t exactly explain it clearly, but I finally managed. So I set the aperture to F16, but then couldn’t get it to accept a slow enough shutter speed. I generally use the two second timer on the camera, and have it on a tripod, so I should in theory be able to use a long exposure. But the camera just wasn’t happy.

    I finally got some pictures taken, just to trial-and-error. When I downloaded them, I found that the ones on the black background seem a little over-exposed, if anything, and the ones on the beige tile background are a little dark. I’ll have to see how well that can be corrected in GIMP.

    Some of the pictures seemed to focus through the full depth of field, but most didn’t — either the front part or the back part were still blurry. I really wish I had a “Photographing Glass and Metal for Dummies” guide so that the camera could do its job the way I want!

    Oh well, NaBloPoMo Fail

    In case you didn’t notice it, there was no blog post last night. It was a crazy but fun day, but at the end both Dee and I were wiped out.

    I got up yesterday and got on over to Roanoke College to make sure my programming team was ready to compete and to answer any questions they might have. Once I’d done what I could there, I went back to the hotel, picked up Dee, and checked out. We then headed for the yarn store near the airport that Linda Davis (the Roanoke CS department secretary, a FABULOUS and woefully underpaid person) had highly recommended. We shopped a bit and then went back to the college to hang out, schmooze, have lunch, and wait for the contest to end.

    As for the contest outcome, this wasn’t one of GPC’s more stellar performances…in fact it was a bit abysmal in that they tied for last place. The guys appeared to have a good time, though, and they certainly made an, ah, impression on the other teams and coaches ::wince::.

    Once the prizes & such were awarded, we got on the road. Our initial plan had been to head for the Blue Ridge Parkway and take that over to I-77, but when Dee found that I had never been to Floyd, VA, she stated that we MUST go there on the way, as Floyd is apparently the Artsy Hippie Center of Virginia. We did get our bucolic country backroads drive, just on U.S. 220 instead.

    Floyd is a lovely little one-stoplight town, worthy of a full day of exploring instead of the hour and a half we spent. Dee introduced me to the WinterSun outlet, where I bought two batik tops, and we visited the Floyd Country Store and the local natural foods store.

    Once they started rolling up the sidewalks at 5 p.m., we got back on U.S. 220 headed for Hillsville and I-77. Driving two-lane country highways after dark is not my favorite thing to do, but I definitely see better in the dark than Dee so I was the D.D. Heading south on I-77 down that lovely steep eight-mile grade into North Carolina and on towards Charlotte, past the bazillion billboards advertising JR Discount Whatever, it grew darker and darker.

    Around Mooresville we finally decided that, it being 8 p.m., enough was enough, and found a Sleep Inn next door to a Carrabba’s. It was a good thing we walked to the Carrabba’s, because a single glass of Italian Sangria with our tasty (albeit delayed due to a wait) dinner was enough to put us both out like lightbulbs when we got back up to our room. Even if I had remembered about blogging in my fuzzy brain, my eyes weren’t focusing and my eyelids felt like forty pound weights.

    So that’s my story, and I AM sticking to it!

    Insanity is Hereditary…

    …mostly you get it from your children, but if you are a college professor who is also a programming team advisor, you can also get it from your students, especially when they call you on their travels to share with you their more, ah, interesting adventures and observations.

    Apparently one of those observations included a Honda Civic hatchback, with a gunrack in the hatchback. Not an empty gunrack, either, a gunrack with two shotguns and a rifle (or maybe the other way around) in it.

    According to their latest Tweet, said students are busily studying in preparation for tomorrow’s contest. Not that I am going to check up on them, because they are at a different hotel. That is partly economics and partly an attempt to save my sanity and allow me to get some sleep tonight.

    Truth be told, though they may make me want to bang my head against a wall on some occasions, and make me long for a large, potent Adult Beverage on other occasions, it is actually nice to have some enthusiasm and humor among my students for once…