Being able to, you know, actually work on my own stuff (stuff that I care about, stuff that I need to get done if I am going to teach the way I believe I should teach) makes me a lot happier.
I came up with a pretty good intro exercise for the first day of Geographic Information Systems. (I co-teach the class, but I'm the "instructor of record" this year.). And I've done some updating for GenBio, including coming up with a first-day activity.
I've also been reading more scholarly stuff. I think if I let my brain get too idle, I get sad, because I do start to sort of feel stupid. (I don't think it's really "stupid" so much as it is "my brain is bored.") I found a copy of Paul Ewald's major paper on the evolution of disease virulence online and am reading that. (It's a topic I cover in Ecology, and I had never read the original source).
I want to keep up better with background reading. Sometimes I get into the mindset of "If it doesn't directly serve the research you are working on right now, you don't have time to read it" but really, there are so many interesting papers out there, and in some cases, they contain information that can be used in teaching. (The GIS exercise, for example, came from a paper I read the other night on "ecocorridors" - the idea that if you must put roads in wilderness areas, you can considerably cut down on their fragmentation effects by doing things like making large and accessible underpasses, or even "greenbelt" overpasses, for wildlife to use. And to fence off the roadsides so that you cut down on roadkills)
I also pulled out my copy of The Ghost Map last night to re-read (and actually finish - I don't think I ever read the last 100 pages or so. I'm like that about books. I get distracted by something new and "forget" to finish what I had been working on). This is a history of how John Snow (among others) did the first real modern epidemiological study, tracing the origin of an outbreak of cholera in a working-class London neighborhood back to a contaminated pump. This is an example I use in Ecology (I do a section on epidemiology and disease transmission) and I also sometimes mention it in general biology. (Also, arguably, his "ghost map" could be a pre-computer example of Geographic Information Analysis...so it would be a useful example in GIS).
I read quite a bit on it last night while knitting on the Putney Shawl. It's a hard book to read - there are a few graphic descriptions of what happens to someone with cholera, and what's more, the description of entire poor families suffering alone, with pretty much no one to help them, and knowing they would die, in their small stifling rooms...not happy reading. But it's interesting from the figuring-out-a-puzzle aspect.
(It's funny. I enjoy the whole figuring-out-the-puzzle thing - which is why I also liked the early seasons of House, MD and why I like Criminal Minds. But at times, I find the human suffering I'm seeing gets to be too much and I can't continue following the puzzle-solving because the suffering distresses me too much. Which may be the reason I put down "The Ghost Map" a year or so ago when I first read it).
Today's agenda is to prep the first week of Biostats (yes, I prep it new each year, more or less). And it's departmental meeting day.
Depending on whether I'm likely to be needed this afternoon for enrolling late coming students (which will be a "good luck with that" if I ever saw it: almost all of our classes are full, and many are already oversubscribed), I might go to Sherman this afternoon and spend tomorrow working on other stuff.
And more on the Putney Shawl: I'm on the decrease section. It's a nice, simple design, and I can see how you could easily modify the idea to make a more extreme triangle rather than the gentle-almost-semicircle that the shawl is. And once I start the edging, I bet I will see how I could append any edging I wanted....I'm wondering if maybe some kind of a modification of the pattern might work well for the KnitPicks Chroma in "Mixtape" (as someone who was in high school in the 1980s, I had to order that when it was on sale).
I'm also considering buying a second skein of the Simply Fine in a different (stronger) color and making one of these for my mom for Christmas. ("You know who else has a Putney Shawl? MY MOM!" Yeah, okay. I watch too much "Regular Show.") It's something I think she would like and wear - and it's certainly a nice pattern (well, thus far. I'm reserving my full judgment until I start the edging) to knit on - it's a good knit-and-read pattern, or at least the body of the shawl is.