Rev Up For School on Ebay!

Not sure how eBay know I’m a student, albeit part-time, but maybe they just blasted this out to everybody. Nevertheless, shows the perception (and maybe reality) of undergrads. The email included links to things that presumably students want, and it’s an ordered list:
1. Laptops
2. Backpacks
3. Cell Phones
4. Sneakers
5. iPods
6. Jeans
7. Xbox 360
8. Shirts
9. Textbooks
10. PC Components
Hint: one of those items is actually directly related to going back to school, and another is handy for containing the first. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t see how buying things for an Xbox 360 has anything at all with actual schooling.
And yes, I fully understand the need for hobbies outside of school that aren’t competitive drinking, but don’t you need those hobbies when you’re not in school too? Stupid marketing.

Office Space

Academic offices.

Ahh, I can remember the offices of a few of my own professors.  Always fascinating places to visit, once I got over the innate fear reaction.  I used to love my mother’s too.  Visiting other offices, there’s lots to see, especially books on
shelves.  Nowadays I look to see what’s on the shelves that *isn’t*
directly related to their field.  Professors being who and what they are, it’s actually disappointingly rare to see much along those lines, but I look anyway.  I also like to see how people lay
things out, to see if I can scoop any ideas for my own disaster.  Unfortunately, few people have the sort of work I do, so that’s difficult.

In my current job, I see a great many offices of faculty members, but more importantly, I have my own.  Many of my friends are in industry and have, at best, cubes of their very own.  Some people I know on campus have offices, but have to vacate them periodically.  At my last job, I started in a real office, then got moved to a desk in a corner of cubeland, then I got my own cube walls, then my cube got doubled up, then I lost a bit more space – eventually winding up in a 5’x5′ square with shelving higher than I could reach and a pair of CRTs gobbling up most of the desk space.  I won’t say that’s *the* reason I ditched, but it sure didn’t hurt either.

A good-sized office is a nice thing to have, and is one of the things I appreciate about my current job.  If I changed jobs, I suspect it would be something I’d miss a lot.

A university’s environmental responsibility

Just submitted to my university’s opinion website:
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Many a criticism of universities starts with something like “You’d think a university…”, so much so that it’s a bit of a joke, but here goes.
You’d think that a university would be committed to things like ensuring a cleaner environment and enabling its employees and students to do the same. You’d think that would go double for an institution with an entire faculty devoted to Environmental Sciences. Apparently, you’d be wrong.
A co-worker of mine car-pools to work from another city with up to 4 other people in the car. To even things out, they rotate vehicles. So far so good. From the point of view of Parking Services, however, they must represent a loss of income, not sensible environmentalism and fiscal responsibility. They are still required to each get a parking pass at full price for their individual vehicles, despite the fact that it is people like them that allow PS to oversubscribe their lots and make still more money off the available spots.
I understand the importance of the revenue stream that selling parking spots represents to the university. But in a city where it seems that summer days mean smog alerts almost as often as not, it seems to me that Waterloo could lead the way in this sort of thing rather than simply maintaining the status quo. It’s still worse when the university seems determined to put a building over top of every parking lot while simultaneously expanding the number of people on campus.
People like my co-worker could be — and are — helping the university out in this respect, and are getting nothing in return, even when getting something would cost the institution nothing at all.
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Some afterthoughts: No matter where you are in your organization, no matter what you do, you are also marketing. You are marketing yourself, and you are marketing your department. When my co-worker gets told “we never thought of that, and are unlikely to consider it,” what he’s really being told is really “I’m sorry you feel that way, now please go away and let me go back to what I consider to be my real job.”
If you sit at a public-facing desk, you’re a marketer. If you respond to email from people outside your department, you’re a marketer. If you answer your telephone, you’re a marketer. If you tell the people who spend their valuable time to try to contact you that they should go away — either explicitly or through your actions — you’re doing a poor marketing job, and those people will wonder why your department exists. I shouldn’t have to say that’s not a good situation in which to find yourself.

Philosophy is out of the picture

Courtesy of the always-excellent xkcd:

The purity of academic disciplines
Philosophy is, of course, so far out of picture to the right that the mathematician can’t even hear the philosopher, who also somehow exists simultaneously to the left of the sociologist. Philosophy is the hoop that binds the academic disciplines together.

Computer thefts and privacy: some administrators get it

Several computers were stolen in a school district in Newfoundland & Labrador. Not normally terribly exciting news any more, unless it happens to be your school district, although the President of the Federation of School Councils there actually seems to get it:

In both cases, data were password-protected, although Hoskins said that offers little comfort.
“There’s always people out there that can hack into any type of system, no matter how secure or what protocols are put in place. So I think it’s a serious issue that has to be addressed,” she said.

In this case, chances are the “password protection” is little more than a requirement for a username and password to be able to log in. Something I try to impress on every high school co-op I have: if I have physical access to your computer, that can’t stop me. It’s nice to see senior administration anywhere acknowledging this.