Week Ending

No, I’ve not forgotten you. It has been a rather busy and very stressful few days, and I’ve only just arrived at a place I can take a break, sit down, and type a bit to the blog. I do not know how long this break will be before the next thing comes up. I’m going to reflect a bit, with no particular aim in mind, so beware.

After a not too hectic Sunday, which saw me shopping and preparing the house for visitors, ending in a Holiday dinner gathering at the President’s house where I finally met Murray Gell-Mann (more later, I hope), things descended into a crush of colliding events. Monday saw a long job search committee meeting and then the big final exam for my Physics 151 class. Due to delays and various earlier logistical constraints on my part during the booking of the flight, the exam of course coincided with the landing at the airport of my mother, who is going to be visiting from England for a few weeks. So that was quite a hectic time, in the end (saved by some substitution help), as was the grading of the exam the next day, which involves (with my colleague who also teaches on this course) organizing several TAs, getting them to solve the problems first so that they can properly understand how to grade them, writing solutions, and so on and so forth…

Beyond that, Tuesday is all a blur, except for one sharp point that obscured everything else. While driving along from one place to another (yes, I do drive from time to time), there was a small dull thumping sound and suddenly my dashboard went a bit weird, showing symbols I don’t see during normal operations, followed by a loss of power steering…. I focused on getting home, as I’d left my mum home on her own all day (not very good-host-ly of me), wrestling the car around the corners I needed to take – amazing how much we rely on power steering. Then the engine started to overheat, the temperature gauge measuring in the red… Was that a real reading, or had all the electrical systems gone haywire? Should I pull over or go that last mile or two home? I opted (some might say recklessly, as it risks the engine) for the latter, not wanting to leave my mum waiting, and figuring that a short trip further on surface streets at low speed more might not be so much worse than has already happened, whatever happened. I got the car home a short while later – fun challenge backing into my garage off the street with the steering all messed up. On getting out, I observed a quite dramatic trail of fluids along the road, leading to the car. Things clearly were not good with the hydraulics.

So Wednesday was spent waiting for a towing company to take the car to my mechanics, waving it goodbye as it departed, and then discussing the bizarre chain of events with the mechanics to try to figure out how the car’s interior got the way it did. I won’t trouble you with the details here, involving a tangle of belts, an entirely sheared-off (!) support bracket that needed to be replaced from an as yet unknown source, and so on and so forth.

The worry in all this was that I had to pick up my next group of visitors from the airport the next evening. My sister and her young son. Would I have to take the bus there and then taxi back with them? Thursday saw me eventually get the news that the car was reconstructed and tested out, with no adverse effects on the engine from the overheating phase. Ironically, that day also saw me exchanging email with the producer of a new TV show about whether I would contribute to a show about …. The science of cars.

After work, I jumped on a bus, and then another, for a two hour ride in rush hour traffic to pick up the car and pay the bill (Yikes! is all one could say – internally – to the total, and give a “sh*t happens” shrug while putting various major purchases on hold for a while in one’s mind list of things to buy – and we never solved the mystery of what caused the mess). Next a brief stop in at another Holiday party (of a production company that I often do some TV work for), then a stop to get a booster seat for the young one, and finally heading off to the airport to get my sister and nephew. Happily the flight was an hour late so that allowed me a little extra time to get those all done (except that I failed on the booster seat operation after a while of standing in Sears looking confused…). I picked them up successfully, and we stopped at Target for a booster seat (the place is better organized, and actually had the right thing that my sister wanted), and took them home, the car running marvelously.

Today? Ugh. Mostly data analysis to produce final grades for the class. This should not be as hard all that, and certainly not take the whole day, as it more or less did, but such is life. There are several components of the course, generating lots of data, not all formatted the right way, with various complications coming in from students dropping the class, having special circumstances, coincidental last names, etc etc… So lots of time was spent cleaning up the various data sets, designing spreadsheet formulae to normalize each of the data sets in a way that allows them to be combined properly and fairly, and so on and so forth. Finally, I generated a rough set of grade assignments based on the final ranked list of 170 or so students (it is a class in two sections, mine and my colleague’s) and sent them off to my colleague to get his opinion. We are late, so I hope he responds soon so we can finish this all tonight.

And here I am, blogging and reporting on sundry goings and comings to you while my newly arrived guests get a jet lag induced nap. In a short while, despite being drained of energy for anything (after so much tedious data manipulating), I must stop and switch into Jolly Uncle mode.

Then I’ll try to find some time to disappear off to a nighttime film set where some of my friends are doing Henry IV (See earlier post. ). I want to check in and see how they are doing.

And no work on either research or The Project for over a week. Not good.


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