Geek Catharsis

VIOLINWarning: there is much whining and self-indulgence ahead. I’m going to be selfish today and write this blog for no one but me. If you want to play your tiny violins in mock tribute, I certainly won’t blame you. Some people blog as a means of emotional therapy. I’m going to do that today.

One of my pet peeves – and I must be becoming a curmudgeon because the list seems to grow by the day – is when people assume that all I do is teach. When I shopped for a car this summer, the salesperson said I could come in any time during the week because it was summer and I didn’t have classes to teach. Needless to say, I didn’t buy my car from him. A fellow parent at my kids’ school recently remarked with surprise when I complained that I didn’t know how I was going to get everything done, it being summer, after all. Even my mom has this view. She certainly means no insult, of course, but her asking if I taught today, as if that even comes close to taking up a substantial portion of my day, grates on my nerves.

In truth, I suppose these unintended slights irritate me so much because, well, I find it really hard to answer just what it is I actually do accomplish in a day. Most days are just a race to stay ahead of the infernal email spigot, collecting the assignments that flow out of it into my capacious to-do bucket, and wondering if it actually has a bottom, questioning when something will flow out of it that I actually want to embrace. It seems somewhat empty to respond that “I categorize and answer email all day”, but that is probably the most accurate answer. One of the reasons I blog daily is that it gives me a set time during the day when I feel I actually accomplish something other than push paper.

By no means am I alone, and to any faculty member who happens to be reading this, my apologies for bringing yet more whine to the cotillion. The truth is that I don’t think any educator gets into the “business” to do what must of us do daily. We entered academia because we want to help young people discern a path toward happiness and fulfillment. We took on this job because we wanted to coach them on how to align their strengths and interests with their career choices. We hoped to show them, by word and example, how they can use their talents and knowledge to help themselves and to help others. We most certainly didn’t go down this road to have summers off (no matter how idyllic that mythical notion sounds), and we absolutely didn’t pursue this to compete weekly, daily, hourly, and instantaneously with other academic programs for enrollments on a mercilessly high-speed credit-hour-production treadmill. Most of us wanted no part of the “business” of higher education. And yet, that relentless email spigot and that bottomless bucket of inappropriate to-do’s is an irksome reminder that that has become our lot.

I love the students, and I love teaching them. Lewis has awesome students. We graduated several in Computer Science in May, and they are, without exception, great people, the kinds of souls I hope my kids become. They are talented, bright, inquisitive, and selfless. They know the world doesn’t revolve around them and that they are to use their talents and knowledge to help others. They are great. Similarly, we welcomed a record number of new Computer Science students this Fall. Thirty-four young people committed to learning Computer Science from us, a number which nearly matches the total number of Computer Science majors we had five years ago. I’ve met many of them this week, and I am grateful for their interest, enthusiasm, and willingness to participate in class. In the classroom, the future is bright, and I feel fulfilled.

But, man, this other stuff … it makes it hard to focus.

All these words may simply be the ramblings of a 42-year-old man stuck in a funk. I know that. And I know the world has no shortage of people doing jobs that make for a funk far funkier than mine. Certainly, I have a lot going for me, and I know I should be grateful. I’ve heard that from so many people, and I know I should take it to heart and be inspired by it.

But the Computer Scientist in me senses something different, that malware has slipped past my firewall and is now spreading through my system, taking down processes and stealing important bits of intelligence. Frankly, I’m having a hard time keeping it from doing a denial-of-service on me and causing a crash.

 

 

 

Ray Klump

About Ray Klump

Professor and chair of Mathematics and Computer Science Director, Master of Science in Information Security Lewis University http://online.lewisu.edu/ms-information-security.asp, http://online.lewisu.edu/resource/engineering-technology/articles.asp, http://cs.lewisu.edu. You can find him on Google+.

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