Gas station without pumps

2019 December 28

Holiday activities

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 21:28
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We celebrated several holidays over the past week: Festivus, Christmas, and Chanukah. We neglected Solstice this year (most years we make solstice cookies).

For Festivus, we put up a Festivus pole and ate meatloaf on iceberg lettuce (well, vegetarian meatloaf, since my son is a vegetarian).  We skipped the airing of grievances, though.

On Christmas Eve, we went out to eat, but almost all the restaurants downtown were closed (even the Chinese restaurant that we had considered as a backup), so we ended up at the Korean restaurant Sesame.  My wife and I enjoy the food there, but there is not a lot for our vegetarian son—he was ok with the japchae, but I could tell he was a little sad that both Saturn and Monster Hotpot were closed.

For Christmas we had a live Christmas tree (the same one as last year, but it is now 22 inches tall—plus a 12 inch pot), which my wife decorated with a small fraction of our Christmas ornaments. This tree has many years before it is the size of the live trees we used to use, but we can carry it into the house with needing a hand truck. (The big one that we gave away a couple of years ago was getting to be too heavy to haul up the 3 steps to the porch.)

We also opened presents from each other Christmas morning.  Most of the presents were books or consumables—we’re all hard to shop for as we don’t want much, and when we do want something, we generally just buy it for ourselves.

For Chanukah we lit the candles on the menorah each night and had homemade applesauce and latkes one night.

Over the winter break, I’ve been getting several things done:

  • I got the syllabus rewritten for my electronics course, got the assignments all entered into Canvas (which always takes forever—filling out the same form over and over is incredibly tedious), and hired my group tutors and graders.  Creating the Canvas entries for the due dates for the 12 homeworks, 6 prelabs, and 5 labs took a couple of hours, and I still have to enter the quizzes (which I’ll do after I’ve created and graded each quiz, as each will have a different number of points).
  • The cat fountain I created failed, and I spent some time trying to diagnose the problem.  The controller board is fine, but the pump won’t run.  The resistance of the pump is now about 100kΩ, which indicates that something in it failed.  I’m not sure of the reason for the failure, but most likely the impeller was jammed by a build-up of algae.  The cats were less interested in the fountain than I hoped, and keeping the cat fountain clean was more trouble than I expected (algae growth was fast, and clearing the hose with a pipe cleaner was a pain), so I decided to scrap the fountain, rather than buying another pump.
  • The mesh seat that I sewed for my recumbent bicycle five years ago had the stitching fail on one strap. I tried resewing it with my wife’s sewing machine, but it just jammed, so I ended up resewing the strap by hand.  I expect that some of the other stitching will fail in the next year, and that I’ll be doing more resewing, but there is enough redundancy in the straps that I can ride home even with one of the straps broken.
  • My son visited Monday–Friday, so we spent a couple of days installing the new range hood that I had promised my wife six months ago.  I bought a 2-part range hood (https://www.amazon.com/Awoco-Stainless-Cabinet-Speeds-800CFM/dp/B076XBQSMK) with the blower unit to be installed in the attic, even though this is more expensive than one-piece units.  There were two reasons: to make the range hood itself lighter and so easier to install, and to reduce the noise of the blower in the kitchen.  Holding up even the motor-less range hood while we got the screws in place was tiring (for my son), but installing the blower in the attic was also somewhat difficult, so that was pretty much a wash.  The new range hood is much quieter than the old one, but I think it moves as much air.  At any rate, my wife is pleased with the new range hood, which is all that really matters.

Mostly, though I’ve been reading and sleeping—things I’ll have much less time for once the quarter starts. I do still have to write the quiz for the first week of class, but I still have a week to do that.

2019 January 8

Struggles with Canvas

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 11:30
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Yesterday (2019 Jan 7) was a crazy day for me.

I got up early to walk my son down to the bus station for his trip back to college, then bought groceries, walked home, had breakfast, and cycled to work. It was the first day of class, so I had meetings with my teaching team (5 undergrads, but one was snowed in at Tahoe and unable to make the meetings—there were two meetings, because no time worked for all five students).

I spent most of the day struggling with “Canvas” the learning management system that the campus makes us use. Setting up courses on it is a major pain, even if all you use it for is turning in assignments and grading them. My course has 12 homeworks, 6 prelab reports, and 5 design reports, plus about 10 quizzes.  One of the problems is that each assignment takes many mouse clicks to create— setting the name, the due date, the number of points, the grace period for submission, whether it is a group assignment, what group set it is associated with … .  Setting up lab groups the way I wanted turned out to be impossible in Canvas.  I wanted random pairs, respecting section boundaries, with no pair of students working together twice.  Even the simplest version of this (doing random pairings without the no-repetition constraint) didn’t work in Canvas, which tried creating one group of 3 and one singleton, for a section with an even number of students.

I figured that it would be easiest for me to create the pairings on my own computer and upload them to Canvas. But Canvas doesn’t have any way to upload group assignments! The only way it supports instructor-assigned groups would have required about 1000 mouse clicks. I ended up doing the assignments on my computer and posting them on the class bulletin board, telling the students to enter themselves into the assigned lab groups. I hope that this did not violate any FERPA rules (I checked the summary provided to faculty and it looked ok, but it would have been better for Canvas to have permitted uploads, so that I didn’t need to worry).

Lecture went ok, but afterwards I found that one of the figures in my book had gotten messed up between the Dec 15 and Dec 30 releases, and I had to come up with a new way to create the figure and re-release the book. LeanPub is nice in that anyone who has bought the book can pick up the new releases for free.  I think some of my students haven’t figured this out yet, as there have been more uses of the free coupon I issued than there are students in the course.

So I was continually busy from 6am when I got up to midnight when I got to bed. This morning I went for a 1.5km run in light rain before breakfast, created the quiz for tomorrow’s class, and cycled up to campus for office hours, faculty meeting, and 4 hours of instructional lab. Today is (probably) not going to be as hectic as yesterday was.

The new complex-number exercises in the book have prompted a couple of students to come in for help, as they did not really understand Euler’s formula.  I ended up redrawing and re-explaining the figure from the book, and that seemed to help them.  I’m hoping that this complex-number review will make it easier for them when we get to complex impedances.

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