Saturday, September 04, 2004

Easiest. Dream interpretation. Ever.

Last night I had a dream about teaching lab, which is unusual since I don't typically have (or remember having) teaching dreams.

The dream started off with me heading into my Thursday lab section only a minute or two before it was scheduled to start. This isn't atypical for me, since I usually get all the lab equipment set up and the computer ready to go the morning before lab.

In the dream I was running behind and hadn't done any computer setup. As I walked into the room all my students were patiently waiting for me to start, so I headed over to the computer to get started, but noticed that the setup had changed. Instead of having a computer on a table in the corner of the room like usual, the A/V folks had installed a new computer on a computer desk/podium that faced the room. There was no room to put papers down next to the keyboard, and the monitor was small (reminiscent of 1980's monochrome monitors) and pointing down, which made it hard to see. I decided that now wasn't time to worry about the new computer, and started looking for the projector remote.

Now why I was looking for a projector remote is beyond me, since we don't have a remote for the data projector in that lab; I use a meter-stick (or other pointer) to push the buttons on the projector, which hangs about nine feet off the floor. But, in the dream, I found a remote. Actually, I found two of them. One remote was huge and horribly complicated, so I decided to use the other. It was a typical projector remote with far too many buttons on it, so I spent a while looking for the power button, but finally found it. I turned on the projector, and only then noticed that the A/V folks had also installed new projectors, one smallish one facing the front of the room, and a huge triangular projector that faced the back. I guess the second remote was for the new wacky projector.

Now that I had turned on the projector it was time to get my slides up. I went back to the oddly set up computer and tried to adjust the monitor so I could see the screen better. At one point I put the monitor on its back so it was pointing at the ceiling, but thought better of that, and after a short while decided that I'd just have to live with the odd setup so I could get on with class.

I then noticed that the computer people had installed some new-fangled version of Windows on the computer. There was some semi-circular menu that I couldn't figure out at the bottom-center of the screen, but I noticed that one of the buttons in the menu looked like a PowerPoint icon, so I clicked it.

The program that started looked like PowerPoint, but had some other name on the flash-screen. I tried to open my presentation file, but the program gave an error message and wouldn't open it. At this point some students laughed, and I realized that they were, of course, watching everything I was doing since the projector was now on. Not having time to worry about that at the moment, I looked at the program and noticed that it wasn't actually PowerPoint, but instead was some cheap knockoff version that wouldn't support my files (something like "PeoplePoint," though I don't remember the name), so I closed the program, and hunted for the start menu. I finally found the menu by pressing the start menu key on the keyboard, but found almost nothing in it (there was a "PeoplePoint" folder, but nothing for PowerPoint or any Office products), so I closed that and looked on the desktop. I saw an icon that looked like PowerPoint, so I clicked on it, but it was the cheap knockoff again. I tried to open my file a second time, with the same lack of success.

By this point stress was really starting to set in, as I needed my slides to give my introduction to the lab, and the lab period was quickly ticking away. I wondered briefly what the students would say about this on my evaluation forms. A few students were coming up to try and help, and I was about to give up and just talk through the introduction, when I opened the start menu again and found that a PowerPoint menu item had miraculously appeared. I told the students to go back to their seats, clicked on the menu item, and was relieved to see the real PowerPoint starting.

I used PowerPoint to open my slides (without an error message), and was about to start talking when I realized that these were the wrong slides. They were the slides from the first lab of the week, and I was doing the second lab of the week (on habitat diversity, the lab that is actually scheduled for this coming Thursday). The students had realized the same thing, and started talking amongst themselves rather loudly.

I remembered that my slides for the lab were still in my G-mail account, so I started up Internet Explorer. (I regularly e-mail files from home to work as a transfer mechanism, but I don't use G-mail to do it, so why they were there I don't know.) A few students commented sarcastically that my use of Internet Explorer probably wouldn't be any better than my use of PeoplePoint. I navigated to the G-mail login screen, but realized that I didn't want my students to know my G-mail account name, since that's my personal account, so I decided to blank the projector so they wouldn't see my login.

I looked through the maze of buttons on the projector remote for the "blank screen" or "no show" button, but couldn't find it. I did find the input button, so I figured that by switching the input I could blank the screen. I hit the input button, and the screen switched to blue for a moment, but then the stupid projector realized that there were no other signals coming into it so it automatically flipped back to the computer input. I tried again, and the same thing happened.

So I looked back at the remote and saw a button that said "mute". "Mute? What the heck is a mute button doing on a video projector?" I asked myself, but after trying a few other buttons without luck I hit the mute button, which did indeed blank the screen. Cursing the designer of the remote, I went back into my e-mail, downloaded the proper PowerPoint file, and opened it up using the real PowerPoint.

I un-blanked (un-muted) the projector, and was about to start giving my lab introduction, when I looked around the lab and realized that the equipment for the lab wasn't out! This lab's equipment is the same equipment our now-retired ecology instructor used to use for a field trip, which is contained in bright yellow plastic toolboxes. There were no bright yellow plastic toolboxes in the room.

Luckily, however, the stockroom containing the toolboxes is right across the hall from my lab. I quickly told my students to do something (I think it was "read the handout" or some other brilliant instruction) and rushed off to get the equipment. Some big lecture halls had just gotten out, so the halls were swamped with slowly moving students.

After I had fought my way past a few students I realized that the stockroom wasn't actually across the hall, but was actually off in another building. I made my way through the hordes of students, trying to find the stockroom. On the way I passed a field geology lab, where a number of students were lugging around rocks of various sizes and colors in a large open area, while other students measured the rocks with small calipers. There were three professors in the field lab area, and they were relaxing around some benches chatting casually while their students worked diligently.

Field geology lab? Students lugging around rocks and measuring them with calipers? Our campus has no such thing. In any case, I finally found the entrance to the newly-moved stockroom (it was behind the field geology lab), and found that the inside was a maze of shelves and corridors. I eventually found the bright yellow toolboxes on a shelf in the very back corner. I pulled them off the shelf, opened them to verify that the equipment was inside (it was), but then noticed that the two shelves below the toolboxes were filled with old Nintendo games.

I looked through a few of the Nintendo games, and was thinking, "Hey, my SO would love to play some of these." Then I realized that stockrooms don't usually have piles of Nintendo games in them, and wondered why they were there. I then remembered that our newly retired ecologist's son had died young, so he had probably brought the games into the stockroom since he didn't want to keep them at home to be constantly reminded of his son's death, but also didn't want to throw them away. It was a sad thought, but then I remembered that I was supposed to be teaching lab, so why was I looking at these stupid games? (As far as I know, our newly retired ecologist has only one son, who is quite alive and attending college, though one of our lab technicians did have a young son die a number of years back.)

I grabbed the toolboxes and stood up, but since I hadn't re-latched the lids after checking their contents, the toolboxes flopped over onto their sides, spilling some of their contents. I hurriedly put everything back and tried to latch the lids, but the latches wouldn't work properly; they just kept opening back up.

And, thankfully, at that point I awoke before something else could go wrong.

So, as I said at the beginning, this is one of the easiest dreams to interpret, eh? While I felt very stressed out during the dream, I woke up feeling refreshed and relaxed, and found the dream amusing. I'm amazed at how well I remember the dream; I almost never remember this many details.

One of the things I like about this dream is how my brain kept coming up with explanations for strange things in the dream. For instance, there were two remotes on the table, so there were two projectors, and the second remote was larger so the second projector was also larger. Then the presence of video games was explained by a personal tragedy that didn't actually happen to the person my brain applied it to. I also love how my brain kept finding new ways to make life hard for me (loading the wrong slides, the stock room moving, classes just getting out, etc.). Looking back on it I think my brain must have been like Nelson from the Simpson's, continually saying "HA ha" as it threw each new obstacle in my course.

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