Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Theory of computation jokes

I encouraged my students to write jokes (about the course subject matter!) on the back cover of the midterm and final exams. (Writing a joke was worth 1 point of extra credit.)

I then foolishly didn't copy these jokes into my permanent lecture notes! I chalk this up to my first-year teaching experience; I'll not make such a grievous error again.

I only remember a few, usually the GROAN-inducing ones; so here, with no attribution, I share them with you below.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Proper system revision documentation

Dear readers,

If you can read this, then an incredibly unlikely sequence of steps has succeeded. Huzzah!

There is currently some sort of eldritch alignment of planets whose main influence is to rewrite critical boot sectors of all my hard drives. (Perhaps concomitant with finishing a semester?) Alas! Time to reformat and reinstall, in every operating system known to man. If one more computer fails, I'll be reduced to publishing tweets via carrier pigeon. This blog post may have been written via telegraph STOP

This means I get to start a new "installation notes: what I did" file. And so I am revisiting my past logs, little missives from my past self, to make sure I set up all the bells and whistles just right. (Keyboard shortcuts are the main way I interact with these light-boxes I relentlessly stare into.) Usually these logs are curt and useful, but sometimes they range into quite colorful and narrative tales, for example (details and lengthy intro expurgated to prevent your eyes from bleeding):
After fiddling with [hardware], I find that [software flag] is again disabled. Augh. The following commands did not work to re-enable it: 
sudo [heinous and expurgated set of commands]
This time, banging around wildly on [list of unusual keyboard keys] and crying openly into my hands worked.
... it's important that every log includes instructions for how to replicate the steps that ultimately led to a successful setup. Apparently at the time I felt that the strange wizardry that made my keyboard commands work included crying, and included the notes necessary to replicate it.

Don't worry, I have extensive notes on which "fiddling with [hardware]" caused this weird thing, and I am very carefully not reproducing that. Also, according to the logs, I have not solved any computer problem by weeping since 2012. My streak continues!

Writing to you from the edge of known OS support forums,
 --- Lila

P.S. While writing this post I jinxed my wifi card and it refused several times to maintain a connection. Go figure. I also managed to get exactly the perfect alt-tab behavior, so it's a wash.

This post's theme word is lazaretto (noun), "a medical facility for people with infectious diseases", or "a building or ship used for quarantine", or "on a ship, a space between decks used as storage." I fear my brain is the lazaretto between different computer systems.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Living life publicly

From Gaby Dunn's podcast, "Bad With Money", episode "Get Rich or Die Vlogging" @ 19 minutes:
Youtubers are allowed to have struggled --- in the past tense --- because overcoming makes us brave and relatable. But we can't be struggling now, because then we're labeled whiners.
This observation resonates strongly on any number of dimensions. The incredible skewed, biased versions of ourselves we're encouraged --- by explicit and implicit social pressures --- to present on social media. The way that public behavior is policed and monitored, especially in any minority group (bonus points for each category you don't fit: white, male, cisgendered, straight, wealthy, speaking unaccented English, able-bodied, no mental health issues, ...).

The idea of having to maintain a sort of "purity" of one's personal brand is insane.

There are arenas of life, even outside the weird social-media William-Gibson-esque semidystopian future which we all inhabit, where this bizarre packaging and marketing of oneself is promoted, standard, ideal. I am thinking particularly of applying for jobs,  where there is enormous pressure to present oneself in an idealized version, having overcome struggles but not now being engaged in any particular struggle.

I'm so glad I am employed. The amount of psychological pressure this lifted is still astonishing.

This post's theme word is pungle (verb tr.), "to make a payment; to shell out." If you want my labor, you'd better pungle and pungle hard. I know my worth.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

"Flashbacks" and nightmares

The balance of the universe is restored, as today a student informed me that they were having "flashbacks" to my course last semester. The word "nightmare" was used more than once.

Me: "Well, I hope you used your experience to warn future students away from my class!"

Student (chuckling): "No, I told them all to take it! It was really good."

I'm not sure if it's Stockholm syndrome, sheer sadism, or a third option, but I'm glad to see that my veneer of frighteningly demanding professorhood has been restored. (See a few weeks ago, when a student called me "benevolent".)

(On a more serious note, I am now awash in guilt and concern over the negative impact that my job has on student mental health.)

This post's theme word vituperate, "to use harsh or abusive language." In manner and outward appearance mild and approachable, she nevertheless invoked the same fear as if relentlessly vituperating her students.