Call the Groundskeepers

The lesson for the day is that equipment matters. Not something I didn't know already, but something that I was rather forcibly reminded of last night at the end of class.

My "Masterworks" course is taught in an evening time-slot on Tuesdays that runs from 8:10-10:40pm. because of the fact that we are covering a lot of ground quickly, and because of the fact that I run the class largely as a free-form discussion but still want to give out some information to contextualize the readings, I divide each class session into two pieces: a discussion that runs until about 10pm or so (sometimes longer), and then a brief lecture setting up the next week's readings. This means that the class switches from low-tech to high-tech in a flash: discussion (old school, with books open on desks and me walking around managing the speakers' queue and trying to press points and pull out parallels and controversies) is followed by break which is followed by presentation (new school, Keynote slides, digital projector, wireless USB click-y thing so I can walk around the room and talk, iPod in pocket recording the lecture for podcasting the next day).

Of course, this also means that if there's any problem with the tech in the room I won't find out about it until about 10:10pm -- far too late to really do anything about it. Usually this isn't a problem; my Apple PowerBook doesn't break (unless I mess it up myself by mucking through with low-level geekery), I just changed the battery in my wireless click-y thing…but the one thing that I am dependent on is the room's digital projector. We're fortunate that almost every classroom on campus is equipped with a digital projector, but sometimes they fail to work…which is what happened last night. Open PowerBook; plug in adapter (DVI -> VGA) and VGA cable; and -- well, first a distorted image of my desktop picture, then a lot of green flickering, and finally blackness. On the wall screen, mind you, not on my computer's screen; that was fine. I even restarted my computer (first time this month!) on the off-chance that something had gotten frelled up with my continually unplugging and reconnecting of external displays as my PowerBook journeys from home to office and back. No luck.

During the 2002 ALDS, the Yankees were in Anaheim playing the Angels; it was game three, I think, and Mike Mussina was on the mound. He didn't look comfortable at all, and started giving up hits and runs almost immediately. Not a good performance. Afterwards, he indicated that he felt uneasy on the mound, since it was packed a bit strangely and was, although within regulations, a little flatter than normal. Hence, a poor pitching performance. That's about how I felt last night: my rhythm was off because of the technical glitch, and not having the slides and not being able to walk around (I use the slides as projected to keep me on point; I had to look at my laptop screen to see them, which basically wedded me to the desk in the front of the room) meant that I was not pitching anywhere near the way that I am accustomed to pitching.

I was not pleased.

This morning, I e-mailed the office in charge of maintaining the projectors -- the groundskeepers for our peculiar baseball fields -- and reported the problem. They were quick and professional, getting back to me almost at once and proposing an alternative solution (a portable projector to replace the installed one) as well as promising to check out the faulty projector as soon as possible. This is encouraging; a good groundskeeping crew is downright essential to my work in the classroom, and having such a quick response spoke well of their commitment and competence. Hopefully the problem will be cleared up by next week; I'd hate to have to go and pitch off such a mound again.

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