Friday, March 5, 2021

The Weekly Department Meeting Come to Life

Back when I attended college, Fridays at 3:15 PM were reserved for the weekly Physics Department meeting. Classes on Friday ended at 2:50 PM, so it was only natural that the department would schedule their meeting right after that, and once the meeting ended the professors would "retire" to the on campus pub and drink together for a while.

The students --both Physics majors* and any other interested students from the Science and Engineering fields-- were invited, although not that many students actually attended. Since part of the meeting was put on by the Society of Physics Students --and as I was the chapter President my Junior and Senior years-- it fell to me to go bring the donuts and coffee from the student union to the meeting. I'd have to say a few brief remarks ("Glad to see everybody here, we've remarks from the Department Chair and a presentation from so-and-so") and then the meeting would run itself. 

The main portion of the meeting, however, was the presentation put on by a guest speaker, frequently one of the professors or someone from the research division over at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. And to be frank, those presentations were technical.

Highly technical.

Oh, how I wish the equations were
this simple.


By my Senior year I could begin to follow along with the presentations, but my Freshman year? Hoo boy, was I lost. I remember one time I left a presentation with a Chemistry major, and as we walked outside the building he turned to me, laughed hysterically, and said "I have no idea what I just saw. Can I buy you a beer instead?"

"Sounds good to me," I replied.

While I enjoyed the meetings, to this day I still can't explain any of the presentations I saw. The fact that they didn't fire my imagination** was likely an indicator that my major wasn't going to pan out for me, but I could appreciate the work that went into them.


I was reminded of those department meetings the other day while I read discussions about DPS and Sapphiron on the raid's Guild Discord.*** The more theorycrafting people worked on, the more my eyes glazed over.

Look, I'm not an idiot, and I do want to optimize my DPS for both my own and raiding purposes. But from my perspective, there comes a point of diminishing returns. There's only so much WoW (or any game) that I can take. Shintar put it well in her post about how the more she plays Shadowlands the less likely she is to read fan commentary about Shadowlands.

I completely understand and I agree wholeheartedly. 


Like I described in my About Me section several years ago:

He isn't that interested in the intricacies of Theorycrafting --which he likens to his old Boundary Value Problems class-- but appreciates the results that others have provided.

And really, that outlook hasn't changed. 

I thought I'd be more amenable to Theorycrafting and more WoW (or other MMOs) once the mini-Reds grew up, but the reality is that my gaming time is limited by access to the PC. I share the PC with my wife, and given the current budget situation that isn't going to change. Additionally, on days when my wife isn't around in the evenings, I don't spend all evening playing WoW either. After a while I just say "okay, that's enough" and log out. I just can't push myself to do more WoW if I tried. 

I suppose that doesn't make me sweaty enough, and so be it.

And I'm at peace with that reality.


The other day I was asked by someone I knew why I go into Zul'Gurub runs if I don't need anything from there. "To support [the raid leader]," I replied. "To help out."

I don't think that quite computed, as he suggested I could be getting another Idol to use for enchanting purposes, and why wasn't I reserving them? (We use a soft reserve system on ZG runs.) I told him that there were a lot of people already reserving idols and I'd won one fairly recently already, so I was fine with waiting a week.

Again, the desire to play things on my own level and give others a shot didn't quite compute, because he wanted to help me improve my DPS.

And I get his desire to help out, really. But I'm not greedy, either. I don't have to be at the top of my game all the time, and when you reach 50 years old your reaction time isn't the same as what it's like in your 30s (or 20s). In terms of maximizing my DPS, should I be chasing down someone on the server to get a Fire Enchant to gloves? Sure. But do I have the time to spend hunting them down --and making sure I have the gold to cover the enchant-- to make the exchange happen? No, not really, not if I have to constantly farm for mats for potions and other items for raiding. 

I don't mind getting a bit sweaty, but there's limits. And in Azeroth I can pretty frequently reach them without trying too hard.

Now, will somebody point me in the direction of the doughnuts and coffee? Before the next presentation starts, I'd like to make sure I stay awake and well fed.

*Yes, my degree is in Physics.

**With the exception of the superconduction presentation. Yes, I'm old enough that superconducting was a brand new thing when I was a college student. I also remember the entire Cold Fusion debacle, and how the papers by Pons and Fleischman spread like wildfire from university to university in a pre-modern internet world, with students and professors frantically cobbling together materials to duplicate the papers' results.

***Before you ask, I've finally decided that I'm not going to join the guild. (If anyone from the guild reads this, sorry. Cajoling won't change my mind.) I'm going to wait and see how the Burning Crusade Classic shakes out with guilds before committing. I know that dropping from 40 to 25 raiders for a team means 15 people have to find another raid, and I also know I will be one of those 15 based purely on numbers: I'm 4/6 mages, and I believe at best they'll take 3 to the main progression raid. I also don't know whether there will be 2 co-equal progression raids (or more, if you count the 10 mans Zul'Aman and Karazhan) or a main team and a farm team. All of these have the potential to fracture guilds, so I'm not going to commit just in time to watch a guild blow up. Again. 

****Ye Gods, I need to update that.


  1. Somehow I am not surprised :)
    My dad is a physicist, so I remember the cold fusion hoopla, too -- at least from the perspective and comprehension of a mid-elementary school kid.
    I failed one of my grad school cumulative exams because it was all about topics from recent department seminars and I'd slept through most of them....

    1. I had an Optics class at 2 PM M/W/Fri, and that 2 PM Friday class was the absolute hardest to stay awake for. I typically was up until 4 AM the night before doing homework sets for Quantum Mechanics, so I desperately needed coffee to stay awake.

    2. The department seminar was I think 1-2 pm, and once I got lost from the technical details, it was hard to stay awake. The worst part, though, was that that particular cumulative exam had been written by my advisor...
      I was glad that as an Organic Chemistry student, I didn't have to take Quantum Mechanics!

    3. Of course the seminar would be right after lunch, when you're ready for a short snooze. Figures.

      Quantum Mechanics is highly dependent upon how good your professor was at explaining things. Thankfully the Department Chair had recently given up teaching the class to another professor, and he was damn good at his explanations.

      Now that Department Chair, he was a character. One story --that we immortalized on the walls of the student room-- was that the Chair would post grades from tests and homework outside the Department Office. This particular time, a student stopped by to see his grade, took one look, and said loudly, "Why that son of a bitch!" At that moment, the Chair opened the door and walked out into the hallway. Without missing a beat he said, "That's DOCTOR son-of-a-bitch to you!"