Friday, August 11, 2006

Making This Into a Working Vacation

First I want to give a shout-out to the neighbors with the wireless networks "default" and "linksys" for making my life so much easier. Not only can I use their wireless internet, but they both have Comcast (normally my nemesis!), and I can connect to my outgoing SMTP server. With k's DSL, I haven't been able to connect to my server (blocked) or to hers (Mail being a pain in the ass and refusing to give helpful error messages). Now all I need is some wireless electricity, as this is a lovely old building with a shortage of outlets.

Since I woke up at 5am PDT, I've been working on my calculus syllabus. This somewhat soothes my angst over all the airport security nonsense. Who knows what will be allowed on planes on Monday when I fly back to the sticks; will crazed bureaucrats spend the weekend hatching new rules that will convert my laptop into contraband? But at least now I can tell myself that I brought my fragile electronic toys with me for a good reason: the calculus syllabus is almost done!

My syllabus starts out based on the standard departmental syllabus for Calc 2. I will be covering the same sections of the text over the same number of days and assigning the same homework problems as on the master syllabus provided by the department. However, I've made two substantial changes. The original allows for four midterm exams, each with a day of review. I hate review days. So I am ditching the review, not giving any quizzes, and giving eight tests during the semester. The other change is in order: after I do the chapter on the techniques of integration, I'm going to do series, and then come back and do the applications of integration. After looking carefully at the book's presentation of series, there was no way that I could start with series. There was just too much dependence on integration (including, but not limited to, the integral test) to start with series. Do you know how much I would have LOVED to start with series? It would really shake up a lot of the complacent students who expect this course to be easy because they took calculus in high school.

To make my life easier, I've also come up with a fairly draconian homework policy. Homework is due at the beginning of class and must meet my standards for legibility (spelled out in the syllabus). Any homework that is not up to snuff will be immediately handed back to the student and not accepted. They can redo it and resubmit it, but it will be late. I am sick and tired of reading half-ass crap scrawled out by lazy students in the 15 minutes before class.

I've also crafted rules and regulations that border on legalese and spell out in detail things that I have come to realize really do need to be stated explicitly. My academic honesty policy is all about stating the obvious, so now students won't be able to claim that they didn't know that it was wrong to look at someone else's test paper. I now explain the consequences of not taking the final exam. All that's left is for me to insert into the late policy that the official clock for determining lateness is my cell phone.

Now I just need to decide whether or not to carry out my plan of making a CD-ROM of supplemental materials. I like to make all my old tests widely available to all my students to level the playing field a bit. There are the really bad PowerPoints that the publisher sent me that make up a reasonable outline of the book. Some other calculus crap that I found online. Still not sure if this is worth the effort. But if I keep working on it, it will further justify the laptop's trip to LA.

My battery is now on red (36 minutes remaining, it estimates) after 2.5 hours of work. For those contemplating the MacBook and wondering what I'm getting out of these 3 hours of battery life: I have had the screen at full brightness and the energy consumption set to "better performance"; I am using both AirPort and a Bluetooth mouse. Haven't been doing much that would require much use of my hard drive; haven't been using the CD/DVD drive at all; haven't been using the speakers for more than the stray system beep.

Now to find breakfast -- and electricity.