An Alarming Rate Of Alarming

, , , , , , | Learning | August 30, 2019

I am a resident assistant in a hall occupied almost entirely by freshmen; in essence, I am a poorly-paid babysitter. A few days into the fall semester, the fire alarm goes off at around 11:00 pm. I usher all the sleepy freshmen out of the building and across the street, and we wait for the firefighters to give us the all-clear.

Eventually, we are able to go back inside, but that’s not the end of it. We have to check the student ID of every. Single. Person. Mind you, 650 students live in this building, not counting overnight guests. It takes a long time, but it’s necessary to keep students safe and prevent strangers from entering the building. 

Finally, everyone is sorted and the RAs can go back to bed. I’ve just fallen into a blissful sleep when I am awakened again by the sound of a fire alarm. I look at my clock and see that it is 3:00 am. Grudgingly, I get out of bed and we do the same song and dance. It takes the firefighters less time to do this round, and we end up going to bed within the hour.

I am appalled when, just before dawn, the fire alarm goes off again. I notice that far fewer people are outside than the previous two alarms, which I later learn is because many students elected to just stay in bed and endure the ear-splitting alarm — and make it that much harder for the rest of us, since we can’t get the all-clear until everyone has left the building. Finally, finally, we get back inside and I get a couple more hours of sleep before my 9:00 am class.

Later, I’m talking to my boss and discover the reason we had so many alarms in one night. There is a dining hall on the first floor of the building, and it was being renovated all summer. They had finally finished construction that week, but somehow messed up the wiring such that it repeatedly triggered the fire alarm. After the third alarm, they finally fixed it.

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Another Day In The Hogwarts Janitorial Department

, , , , , | Learning | August 29, 2019

(I am a resident assistant in a building that was constructed on the site of an orphanage that burned down during WWI. Unexplainable incidents are not unusual, but this is one of the stranger ones.)

Student: “So, uh… A cross just fell off my wall and flew across the room.”

Me: “Put in a work order?”

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The Psychology Of Laziness

, , , , , | Learning | August 27, 2019

For a while, I was a psychology major in college. The major had some interesting electives, including “psychology of animal and human interaction.” I loved animals and thought psychology was interesting so it was a no-brainer to me.

Our final, worth a considerable portion of our grade, was a group research project. Groups of four to five students had to find participants and animals, and record how people talked to the animals. Each student had to have their own set of data so that the professor could still grade our individual contributions.

Enter Lazy Classmate, who, while seeming soft-spoken and nice, absolutely refused to participate meaningfully in this project worth a huge part of our grade. He was never confrontational, but he never delivered on anything promised and we had to write his portions of the paper for him, etc. Standard useless project member things. The real surprise was when we all reviewed the final paper and data.

The lazy classmate had apparently failed to collect his data set, as well, and it was incredibly obvious. He had taken my data and copy-pasted it completely. This was an upper-level, restricted elective. He couldn’t have been that stupid, right?

He was that stupid. The teacher noticed immediately and our feedback on his contributions to the project was the final nail in the coffin. The project was graded out of 100 total, and then divided for each student. So, a 100% for an individual student was a 20/20. Imagine my surprise when the lazy student didn’t show up on the final day, and the rest of the group had found we’d all been given 25/20. The teacher had not only reported the student, but had given us his points, as well, giving us all a big grade boost right before the semester’s end.

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Unfiltered Story #160928

, , | Unfiltered | August 27, 2019

I work in IT for a university. One of the systems my team manages is the users server, where our faculty, staff, and students can host personal websites if they choose to do so. We recently got a support ticket from a member of our faculty. The exchange went something like this:

Faculty: My site isn’t working correctly and my colleague says I probably need to do [task].

My coworker looks over his site, confirms what’s wrong, and replies.

Co-worker: Your colleague is correct. You can find a tutorial on doing that at [URL].

Faculty: I don’t know how to do that. Will you do it for me?

Since the amount of support we are supposed to give to personal sites is minimal, we specifically designed the system so that we only have read access to users files. That way we can help identify a problem, but it is up to the site owner to fix it.

Co-worker: Sorry, but no, I don’t have access to your account to make the change, but the tutorial I sent you explains exactly what you need to do.

Faculty: Well this is typical of IT Services! You’re too good to ever help someone out. GO AHEAD, SEND ME THE SURVEY [referring to the satisfaction survey that our ticket system sends out when close a ticket] I CAN’T WAIT TO FILL IT OUT!!!!!

Me: I’m sorry you didn’t like [co-worker]’s response, but it was not inaccurate. As a matter of policy, we are not allowed to make changes to user’s sites, in fact, we don’t even have the access required to do so.

Faculty: You can close this ticket now. I found a student who was able to fix it for me in 2 minutes. I assume you must be [co-worker]’s boss. I certainly understand that there have to be policies and restrictions, but the way [co-worker] handled the interaction could have been much better. Please use this as a teaching moment for [co-worker]. These would have been appropriate ways for him to respond:

* Dr. [faculty], I’m sorry that I’m not able to make that change for you, but please stop by my office at your convenience to ender your password and I’ll do it for you.
* Dr. [faculty], I’m sorry, but I can’t change the file for you on my own, but let me come to your office and do it for you there.
* Dr. [faculty], I’m sorry that I’m not able to make this change on my own, but please call me to set up a meeting where I can do it for you.

I’m not sure what he didn’t know how to do, because he had already, somehow, posted his website and the tutorial he was sent showed every step necessary to do exactly what he needed. Also, keep in mind that both my co-worker (who I do not manage, by the way) and I are both senior software engineers, and are probably about the same age as this faculty member, judging from the picture on his site. Our team frequently has to turn down project requests because there is such a demand for our services, so contrary to what this guy seems to think, we aren’t just sitting around waiting for his ticket to come in.

Our boss tried to set up a meeting with the faculty to discuss “reasonable expectations” from our team. After the faculty cancelled, for the third time, all at the very last minute, he stopped trying.

At The End Of The Day, It’s All Semantics

, , , , , | Learning | August 23, 2019

While I was doing my bachelor’s in linguistics, I also took a Norwegian practical writing course. It aimed to teach an academic approach on how to write, critique, and understand various genres of text. I was in it to improve my article writing proficiency.

We usually worked in groups in this course, and one of the assignments was writing and critiquing poetry. Our teacher was a major experimental poetry nerd, so we wrote various more or less serious poems without structure as jokes, but every member of our group wrote poems. I figured we would be fine. 

Then came the day when we were to turn in our poems, and I found out that I was the only one in our group that had actually finished any poems that I was willing to turn in. I was too flustered to be angry, so I just went into problem-solving mode. I grabbed the poems I felt done with, and I was one short to complete the assignment. While the teacher was going around getting the poems for other groups I was frantically going through my rucksack to see if I had anything. I found a page from a Semantics paper I had done. For non-linguists, that’s word-math. It’s strange lambda transformations, arrows, and brackets. It was one simple sentence, “John kicks the ball,” written five or six times in increasingly more obfuscated ways with various symbols scribbled around. “F*** it,” I thought, added it to the pile, and turned it in.

The week after, we were going through our poems in class, and the lecturer was beaming. One of the poems was just fantastic! It had broken with all convention while using simple language and yet conveyed so much meaning, life, and action. It was one of the best poems she had seen and was written by one of us. And then she held up the page from my Semantics paper and wanted to know who the poet was.

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