Saturday, May 16, 2009

Distance is Love

There is something distant about grading homework. I've been on both sides of the deal - one can dissociate from the student, and just look at her work. From the student's side, one turns in homework, waits (sometimes an awful damn long time), and then gets it back with a grade. There is no participation in the process beyond giving the prof. the work. This is even more pronounced with big classes, where you might even reasonably expect the professor doesn't even know who you are.

For my industrial ventilation course: It's not as though it's a large 300 person intro to chemistry course. There are 8 people in it. This is the 4th course I've had with Pete, and he's my research advisor. No hiding, here.

rewind 30 hours ....

My project was due at 5 p.m. I had 80% of it done and had to stop because I needed a software program to select a piece of machinery for the design. Oh, I needed sleep, too. I had everything set up, so that I could go to the lab, run the program, let it pick my machine, and then I could take the numbers and finish the calculations. Right? Because - of course - the damn software won't run on my Mac, and I can't figure out how to get VM ware to let it run on my Mac, either.

I go to the lab armed with the administrator's password for the one computer which has the program. Error. repeat. error. turn computer off. turn computer on. error.

Go to other computer in lab. Program installed. Great! Error. Repeat. Error. don't bother to reboot. Go on line. Find company. Try to download program directly from them onto the computer. After all, I have the password right? Somehow, the website thinks I down loaded it, but the computer spat in my face and tells me it wasn't actually downloaded.

Call Pete (Dr. Pete, not to be confused with my spouse Dr. Peter). Pete's not in his office. Go to the Sphere, keep writing the paper that goes with this project.

Pete's still not in his office. Keep writing paper. Keep staring at 15.51" w.g. in utter conviction that this is actually a bad number to have.

This time I walked upstairs to Pete's office. Thank god, he's there. I ask him what I should do, in the absence of the technical specs for this machine I need. I suggested that I could simply include the directions for picking the machine, then make one up, and continue. (my thought was that this should be the important points - I know how to pick the instrument, and then I know what to do with it once I have it).

Pete groans - this is of course merely the latest in an on-going saga wiht this software program and me. He says "well, why don't we just pick it now?" He has the program on his office computer.

He turns back to the computer. There is just something horrifying about the idea of standing behind your prof, looking over his shoulder, and giving him directions which prevents you from hiding the fact that you're an idiot.

After about 2 minutes, I simply cannot stop laughing. In utter mortification and embarrassment. Pete looks back over his shoulder and up at me, asking what's wrong. I answered

"It's one thing to turn in your homework and have your prof realize what an idiot you are. It's a completely different story to have to stand next to him and see him realize what an idiot you are."

Turned in project. We'll see how much of an idiot I am in a few weeks.

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