Classy

A student films my teaching assistant, in slow-motion, slamming a sledge hammer into a cinder block on my chest while I lay between two beds of nails.

I’ve run silent for months. Why? I had the time and energy for only a finite number of things, and none of them were writing. This semester hit like a freight train. In addition to trying to maintain something resembling a home life, there was a fragmented faculty life with about 2-3 department-level things going on all at the same time. In addition, there was something very precious to me on the research side: my involvement in ATLAS trigger system operations, one of a small number of people coordinating operations for collecting physics signatures from the new data this year. But the elephant in the room was my course. This semester, I was the instructor for the largest course I have ever taught (while also simultaneously being a course I have never taught before): Physics 1303, “Introductory Mechanics”. In addition, I was instructing the Honors Physics course. In this post, I want to reflect on what it was like to teach first-semester undergraduate physics (PHYS 1303) for the first time. It raised both opportunities and challenges, and it might be useful to another professor facing the same situation to talk a little about all of this.

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Re-Running

My measured weight from Jan. 10, 2016 to today.

By the end of 2016, I was running 10 miles at my longest stretch. Then I injured my hamstring. Then 2017 came. I was on sabbatical, which sounds like “academic vacation”  but isn’t. My exercise schedule was disrupted. My teaching schedule in the fall of 2017 was a mess that disturbed any semblance of regularity. I got sick in the spring with a really bad cold, then sick in the fall with hand, foot, and mouth disease, then a cold, then the flu. I injured my right foot, and even walking became a problem. By 2018, I had gained 12 pounds from my low of 188lbs. 2017 was not a good year. But, then, you probably all knew that 2017 was not a good year.

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Road diary, day 3

Bombogenesis. Noreaster. Bomb cyclone. Polar vortex. These are none of the words you can use to describe the first day of our return trip to Texas. After a wonderful 5 days of play and rest wtlith family in northern Wisconsin, Jodi and I loaded up the car with bags and cats and hit the road for home. 

Uneventful. Now THAT is a word that applies. The weather was cold but generally clear, even with overcast skies. But we had blue sunny skies, too. No real snow fell on the drive. We went from -13F when we started to 10F by the time we hit Des Moines at 3:30pm. No bad traffic. No major road construction. We are far west of the weather excitement pummeling the east coast today. It shows. 

Road Diary, Day 2

This is the second and last day of our trip north to Wisconsin. As we have continued north into the cold Arctic air parked over the middle and Northeast of the United States, the temperature had only declined even as the day grows later and the sun higher in the sky. 
The cats had a very exciting night last night in the hotel room. They seemed to stay up for much of the night, running around the room and climbing all over things to explore the new space. Snowball after normally, Lilac not so much, but this is a very new experience for Lilac, who is only 7 month old. 

Jodi and I had a lovely dinner at a restaurant called “Gino’s” in Kearney, MO. We even met Gino. I highly recommend their pizza. The sauce is great. The pizza then made excellent lunch for today… hooray for leftovers! 

We made it to Wisconsin around 2:30. Pretty much on-time given where we thought we would be by that time of day. 

Looking forward to seeing family soon!
Scenes from the road