Thursday, April 14, 2011

If Paperwork = Marking this is Me

'Tis the marking season here at Liberal Arts U. I purposely went out of my way this semester to make it a "soft landing" for my students with all the majour assignments due two weeks ago. But somehow it just always happens that I have a pile of orphan / late lab reports, term papers and lab portfolios to mark, each one pretty much squeezed out of some orifice of my students with no time on the clock and therefore each one looks, reads and smells like a first draft. When they are marked and returned I can look forward to the line of students at my door all with the message "I know my mark in your course sucks because I didn't do any work during the semester *but I care now*(1) ... what can I do to improve my mark?". It would be a great service to me if you could provide me with some completely impolite, unacceptable responses to the question.

(1) *but I care now* is an expression that I have begun to hear from students and I think they are confused by what I mention earlier in the semester where I will say "Show me once that you have mastery of the content of the course and I can/will adjust the values of the tests and exams to reflect that you understood the course material". Somehow they are translating that as "Show me once that you care". Meh, back to marking.

This made me laugh and remember when they renamed a number of fish here on the East Coast because city people wouldn't eat Cusk, Pout and Suckerfish. They also renamed rapeseed to canola for the same reason.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Periodic table of Fictional Materials

This is very clever and related to a previous post. Alexandra de Groot has created an interactive periodic table of fictional materials grouped by the medium in which the material is reported. I see Administratium made the list of joke elements but the old jokes about the elements Woman (Wo) and Man (Mn) don't seem to be in the table. I am also pretty sure however that Unobtanium (Element # 71 Unb) is mentioned as the ore that drives the mining operation in "Avatar" as well. In any event, this is an epic amount of work and a cool online resource.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Law of Diminishing Expectations

This is an interesting article (it is currently behind a paywall but will come out in a week or so). There seems to be a sub-text here that a generation ago a number of PhD grads had to "settle" for a lower tier university just to have a teaching job. It would appear that those that made such a deep sacrifice of hopes and expectations discovered the joys of teaching undergraduates and the bitterness of failure has been washed clean by the chamomile bath of mediocrity (mediocrity = re-definition of success). I doubt that the PUIs are entirely populated by faculty that dropped off the conveyor belt with newly minted PhDs and hopes to teach undergraduates. On the other hand I do know that many of us in our graduate work and post-docs looked at the research intensive life and said "You know what ... I'd rather spend my life (and in reality the same amount of time and commitment to work) helping people face to face then spending day after day in frantic scramble to stay current, submit and maintain grants and publish largely derivative work." I have to admit that I am unaware of any decent study that looks at the expectation and intentions of faculty in chemistry PUIs. It would be worth a look.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Action Elements Periodic Table

I don't know about you but when I have a mountain of marking to do I often irrationally find trivial things to focus on that I would normally ignore. I was taking a break one night and looked at the family DVD selection ("... hmmm Transformers ... nah, I don't think I want to watch that") and then flipped through the hundreds of channels up in the numbers that I usually ignore ("... Oh, Transformers that looks good."). So I was watching the movie and noticed that the cable channel (Rogers Communcation, The Action Network) is using icons of chemistry to sell their programming.

From Apr 3, 2011
You can see one icon on the left where they use the icon of the periodic table to organize the elements of action movies. What is facscinating is the care that someone on their design team used to organise the elements and use them consistently in their advertizing ...

Each element has a symbol and an atomic number that correspends to the attached table.

Their elements can only be partically sorted out from the small bit that I saw during one movie. The symbols are someone straightforward but other are more cryptic (Bz = Testosterone?).I could not find a systematic treatment on their webpage and I oddly haven't seen anyone comment online on this odd use of our icons. This is their element list as far as I can determine:

Element/ Symbol/ Name
2/ Ka
3/ Ex
4/ Vi/ Violentium
5/ Hk/ Hunkium
6/ B/
7/ Bu/
8/ N/ Ninjane
9/ Sx/ Sexcetylene
10/ V/
11/ Hr/
12/ Cc/
13/ Wa/
14/ In/ Infernium
15/ Ad/
16/ Ht/
17/ So/
18/ G/
19/ Te/
20/ J/
21/ H/
22/ D2/
23/ Ff/
24/ Cr/ Chromium
25/ Ev/
26/ Sn/ Sniperite
27/ P/ Punchium
28/ K/ Kickium
29/ Bm/ Bombtane
30/ D
31/ Rr/ Rocktane
32/ C/ Corpse
33/ R
34/ S*/ Swearite
35/ F
36/ Ro/ Robotane
37/ M/ Monsterane
38/ Hg/ Hangrenadium
39/ Jp
40/ E
41/ Nk/ Nudium
42/ Zb
43/ Fa
44/ Je
45/ Wp/ Warpium
46/ Lz
47/ Ai/ Air
48/ Bz/ Testosterone
49/ Bb/ Bruise
50/ O
51/ I/ Insultane

This was not what I should have done with my last hour. Oh well ... Back to marking.

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For a while it was all about research and then it was all about teaching and now it's all about trying to find a balance while teaching at a small liberal arts and science university.