Sabbatical Plan

August 23rd, 2008, 9:53 am PDT by Greg

Many people have asked what I am doing on my sabbatical (officially “study leave“). I guess I should say a little more. According to the University,

The purpose of study leave for Lecturers… is to provide a period of time during which the individual is relieved of his/her employment duties in order to complete a project or course of study which will enhance his/her work at the University in the future.

Sounds good. What I officially proposed to do to make the world a better place is:

  • Learn more about programming language design and implementation, so I can teach CMPT 383 (Comparative Programming Languages) and possibly CMPT 379 (Principles of Compiler Design) in the future. This is something I have always been interested in, but one of the gaps left by not doing a full undergrad in CS. (I was mostly math.)
  • Revise the distance ed version of CMPT 165 (Intro to the Internet and WWW). The old version is a little crufty and has been shoved into a “breadth course” role that it wasn’t intended for.
  • Finish the distance ed version of CMPT 120 (Intro to CS and Programming). That has been almost done for a couple of years, and needs to be polished off.
  • Get back to the biological modeling stuff that has been shoved to the side of my desk for two years while I have been undergrad director.
  • Continue to participate in the School’s recruitment and outreach activities.

And the unofficial stuff:

  • To get to the “more about programming languages” stuff (and because it will be interesting), I intend to learn a programming language a month.
  • I’m trying to convince Amanda that she needs a CMPT faculty member to do international recruiting and partnership stuff. (Her new title is “Manager of International Recruiting and Partnerships”.) Basically, I don’t care where she needs me to go: I’m willing to literally go to the ends of the earth for the University… as long as the University foots the bill and I can take a few extra days to tourist-it-up.
  • A few games may be played, particularly for the first two weeks. I haven’t taken more than a few days off (to go to North Carolina) for about 20 months. I’m not going to feel even the slightest bit bad about a couple of weeks of god-game addiction.
  • I probably should figure out what I want to be when I grow up. In particular, does that involve getting a PhD, or climbing some administrative ladder, or some other career entirely?

Undergrad Director Wrapup

August 21st, 2008, 4:32 pm PDT by Greg

As of next week, I’m done my two year stint as Undergrad director (officially, “Director of Undergraduate Programs”). Ted is taking over, and I have no doubt that he’ll to a fine job.

Overall, I’m reasonably pleased with what I accomplished. There are a bunch of things that I’m happy about:

  • We introduced concentrations to our major and honors programs. This adds some value to our degrees (e.g. students can go to EA with a “concentration in Computer Graphics and Multimedia” on their resume) but requires just about no work to implement. [Margo’s idea, my push to implement]
  • We actually now have a curriculum! This is the first time we have had any standardized expectations for our courses (other than the calendar descriptions). It’s not much, but it’s an important start. [all me, baby]
  • We introduced a learning skills workshop in (at least) CMPT 120/126. I think this is the most effective student retention activity in the university. [Diana, with moral support from me]
  • Removed our external breadth requirements, falling back on (and removing duplication with) the now-universal University breadth requirements. This will prevent a lot of confusion about which requirement did what. [me, advisors, the undergrad committee]
  • Simplified entrance requirements, making it easier for colleges to offer the courses needed to transfer to SFU, and faster for SFU students to transfer in. Kept enough that we still have a decent picture of the students’ ability, but eliminated the hoop-jumping. [me and the committee]
  • Countless other cleanups to the calendar. [mostly me, annoyingly]
  • We met our admissions targets in 2007 and 2008. That leaves us well positioned to raise our entrance requirements next year.
  • The School has better relationships with Student Services. Both Amanda and I worked on getting our faces known over there. She got a shiny new job out of it. I just get asked to be on more committees.
  • The Software Systems program was introduced on the Surrey campus. [mostly Tom]
  • I started a push to reform/replace CMPT 150 and 250 (our hardware/system courses). It remains to be seen if this really gets off the ground, but there’s some hope. [me and Sasha]
  • Our student records are now paperless, thanks to an electronic record keeping thing (except legacy files). [Nathan]
  • The recruitment team has several more cool demos (mostly unplugged) that can be pulled out for recruitment fairs and open houses. [me, Dom, Santi]
  • After Amanda left for her new position, I spent 6 months as (what I have decided to put on my CV as) “recruiting and advising Team Lead” or maybe “Director of Enrollment Management”. That was a hassle, but I learned a lot. I understand even more now why Amanda wanted me to do it, but I’m still going to get her for talking me into it.
  • Somewhere in there, I taught 6 courses (4 × CMPT 470, 2 × CMPT 120) with reasonable success.

Actually, I have to figure out how to condense all of this onto my CV in a reasonable way (i.e. like 3 sentences). All-in-all, I’m pretty pleased with my term. There are a few “I wish…” things, but not too many. Now… sabbatical!


August 19th, 2008, 12:12 am PDT by Greg

I am finally finished the marking of the CMPT 470 projects. It usually takes me a week (or maybe a little more) to get them done. This semester, the world conspired against me. They were in for a week before I even looked at them.

But in exchange for my lack of 470-mindshare, I live in a nicer place, we had a successful Shad Valley intern for two weeks, we have a new manager (in Amanda’s old position), two co-op students have been hired, and none of our staff quit. It has been a really rough couple of weeks. This quote from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has been on my mind a lot:

The possibility of physical and mental collapse is now very real. No sympathy for the Devil, keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride.

I bought the ticket, and I took the ride. I’m sure I’m a better person for it. But mostly, I’m ready for my sabbatical.

I finished the marking about 20 minutes ago, and if I’m to be honest, I’m already fairly drunk. Hold on… I can still do that “close your eyes, hold out your hand, and touch your nose” thing. It’s probably because the last drink hasn’t hit my bloodstream yet, though.

Free Stuff

August 13th, 2008, 12:37 am PDT by Greg

I have two things still to get rid of from the old place, and I want to be out by Friday, so if you want these and can pick them up, let me know.

My DVD/CD shelf has been on Craigslist for a while and the only responders have flaked out. I’m going to put it up for free soon, but dibs to all of you.

The TV/component stand that I mentioned earlier is still around. I need to get rid of it. I know I’ll get responses from Craigslist, but if anybody here wants it (and tells me soon), it’s yours.

Centre channel problem solving

August 11th, 2008, 4:31 pm PDT by Greg

As part of our recent move, I have had no choice but to buy a new TV. There is a built-in nook for a flat screen to sit. I had a 27″ CRT. The options were to bring the old TV and have it sit awkwardly in the room taking up a bunch of space, or buy a new flat screen.

So, I bought a new TV. Like I said: I clearly had no other choice. The TV was to be mounted on a big heavy-duty arm, so it could be swung a bit to see from the kitchen. No problem, since there was a big chunk of wood behind the nook designed exactly for this purpose: it would hold the weight of a big friggin’ TV.

While mounting the TV, Oli and I learned that the big chunk of wood in question wasn’t quite as high up as we would have liked. We ended up mounting it as high as we could, but that still didn’t leave enough room below for my centre channel:


So, this left me with a conundrum: where exactly am I going to mount the centre speaker for the home theatre? Before I get into the options, two important facts about a centre channel need to be reviewed. (1) The centre channel I have is from the same speaker series as the rest of the speakers, so it is acoustically matched. Having a distinctly different speaker could sound funny (e.g. sounds moving left to right sound different for part of their journey), so keeping this speaker would be ideal. (2) The centre channel needs to be horizontally aligned with the screen so the dialogue (which is what it makes its living doing) seems to come from the people speaking.

Many options, with varying degrees of insanity have been considered:

  1. Below the TV in the nook. Ideal, but it won’t fit there. Stupid mounting bracket isn’t height adjustable.
  2. Above the TV. This would meet both of the criteria above, but Kat is (for some reason) not thrilled about the idea of hanging the speaker above the TV by fishing line (or maybe I shouldn’t have led with that implementation). To be fair, this would look stupid, and it would block the accent light above the TV.
  3. Beside the TV, in the nook. It won’t fit there. Off-centre
  4. Beside the TV, outside the nook. This is the current solution because it’s easy. It’s annoyingly off-centre and ugly, but it fits and it works. The cable to the speaker could be hidden with a subtle hole drilled in the cabinet behind.
  5. In the stereo component cabinet. This has the problems of the above, but it would probably echo like crazy (since the speaker is rear-ported). It eliminates the need to do any drilling, though.
  6. Behind the TV, facing up. Even I didn’t think this was a good idea long enough to say it out loud. It wouldn’t fit anyway and would probably sound like ass.
  7. Having established that there is no good position for the current centre channel, I looked into buying something new. The first option there was a new thin centre channel that would fit below the TV. Nice idea, but I can’t find any that are decent, so criteria (1) would be blown out of the water.
  8. I could buy a whole new set of sub-sat speakers. These sets include tiny main speakers that can’t produce much bass and a wider-range subwoofer that takes up the slack. These would probably fit, but don’t sound great, and getting anything decent would involve more money than I want to spend. It would also negate the money spent on the very nice speakers I already have.
  9. The TV has built-in speakers. I could run the centre-channel line-level out from the receiver to them. It would probably sound horrible, but it would be cheap and inconspicuous.
  10. Yes, this idea is strange. I buy a left-right pair of small bookshelf speakers and use them together as the centre channel. I think I can split the speaker cable and connect it to both speakers, tucking one in to either side of the screen. This should fool the ear into perceiving the sound as coming from halfway in between the two and I’m optimistic that I can find a decent pair of speakers that is small enough and will match my current set.
  11. Same as above, but mounting the pair of speakers above the TV on the edge of the cabinet. This would relax the size restriction on the speakers.
  12. And after all of this, I started to think “no really… is there no way to get the TV up three inches?” The mount isn’t height adjustable, and the bracket on the mount can only attach to the TV in one position. Or can it?

    I think I can get a metal plate that’s the same width and a bit taller than the mounting bracket, and bolt it in between the bracket and the TV. The TV would be able to bolt on a few inches higher than the original holes, so it would sit that much higher.

For the more visual among us, here is an illustration of the options. The red ones use the current speaker; the blue ones use something else:

centre channel placement

So, after 11 insane options for how to deal with the speaker, I’m likely going to ignore them all and just fix the mounting bracket to do what I wanted it to in the first place.

Finally, we get to the real question here: Does anybody know where I can get a 9×12 inch piece of steel plate?

Edit: Pictures of the implementation of option 12.

New place: we’re in!

August 5th, 2008, 10:26 pm PDT by Greg

We just got keys for the new place. It’s really awesome. Everything is new, nice, and well thought out. We took a whole pile of pictures to document where things are (since not knowing how much space there is somewhere, or what colour something is can be a real hassle).

My example of why it’s so awesome probably won’t be the same at Kat’s, but here’s when I almost lost the thread: I was looking around, and there are wall jacks everywhere that have RJ-45 jacks, which are the ones used for Ethernet:

wall jack TV nook hookups

This puzzled me: Ethernet is inherently double-ended. It needs to terminate somewhere, and these didn’t have an obvious endpoint.

I moved on to the rest of the tour, until we got to the hall closet, and the landlady showed us this thing that she didn’t exactly understand:

patch panel

A full-blown RJ-45 patch panel! The place seems to have been wired with Telus TV in mind (which uses Ethernet and a set top box), but I’m pretty sure these are standard RJ-45/Cat5e/T568A cable runs. That means that an hub/router in the closet gives us 100Mb/s (or even 1Gb/s) data everywhere in the apartment.

Sure, the place has other features as well. You can see them in the pictures.

Must go!

August 4th, 2008, 10:25 pm PDT by Greg

More stuff that we have to get rid of in the move. All prices are “or best offer”. As with other stuff, I’ll give y’all a day or two lead on Craigslist.

VCR: Sony SLV-N88.
Hi-fi, dead-easy programming with the little knob on the front. Works perfectly, as far as I know. $30
TV/component stand.
Nice stand for TV and two shelves of components below it. Won’t fit in the new place, so it’s gotta go. $20, must pick up.
TV stand

Doesn’t include the electronics in the picture, natch.
CD drawers.
2 × 4 drawer CD jewel case drawers from Ikea. $10

CD drawers
White bookshelf.
68×29×8.5 inch bookshelf. $10, must pick up.
white shelf

Doesn’t include the crap on the shelf in picture.
Beech bookshelf.
71×28×10.5 inch bookshelf from Ikea. $10, must pick up.
beech bookshelf

Doesn’t include the crap on the shelf in picture.

For Sale

August 2nd, 2008, 2:40 pm PDT by Greg

All for sale:

  • Simpsons DVDs, Seasons 1–10. All in excellent condition. $120
  • Family Guy DVDs, Sets 1–4 (seasons 1–5) and Stewie Griffin the Untold Story. All in excellent condition. $60
  • Angel DVDs, Seasons 1–5 (complete series). All in excellent condition. $50
  • Minoura 850 Mag Trainer, $80
    Minoura Mag 850

Will post on Craiglist tomorrow or so.