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May. 14th, 2012

Some other stray bits from the close of classes. One was that during the statistics exam the head of the department --- and, come to that, the dean of the school --- stopped in and wanted to chat briefly with me. Specifically he wanted to know if I'd gotten the revised plan for the course for next year. He knows that (barring the unthinkable) I won't be back in the fall, he just wants the input of everyone who could say something meaningful. He also --- besides patting my shoulder --- talked about the homework assignments I'd made up; I'd handed in some of them for my department reviews. I made the statistics homework assignments up entirely, since I didn't find the book's interesting (and I assume that any reused textbook's solutions have been worked out and are available for download for any student who tries).

But he was quite enthusiastic about them, and really liked that they were plausibly real-world problems and also that ``they built on each other''. I believe he was talking about how I had one question set up so that half the calculation in problem 2c was already done in 2b, for students who pay attention to the calculations they're doing, and that problem 3 used the same setup information as problem 2 but asking different questions. I did write the assignment that way on purpose, but it's not like it was some subtle pedagogic point at work there.

I do feel flattered, particularly that he sought me out when it would take literally no effort to worry about the input --- or feelings --- of an adjunct who's on his way out. But I also have to admit that from our meetings he's such a relentlessly positive, enthusiastic person that I don't know whether he's actually impressed with the homeworks I wrote or whether he's impressed with the homeworks everyone writes for their classes. Not for the first time, I can take what any sane person should receive as a compliment and turn it into a problem.

Trivia: Near the end of the 18th century the British found that the county of Hampshire alone had three different units of area called ``acre'', and that each market town had its own unit called the ``bushel''. Source: The Measure Of All Things: The Seven-Year Odyssey That Transformed The World, Ken Alder.

Currently Reading: Tomorrow's Crimes, Donald E Westlake.

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