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The Most Important Piece of Equipment

October 26, 2011

I remember Dr. Giles and Dr. Seward of the Physics department when I was an undergraduate. I remember vividly on that first day of my Physics lecture, how the first transparency of Dr. Seward (the funniest professor I knew that time) is entitled “The Most Important Piece of Equipment”.  And when he placed the next piece of transparency, it was his office waste-paper basket. Everyone flipped.

Now it’s my turn as a lecturer in a college. And if I were to consider all the equipment that are electrical (not counting the fluorescent lights) it has to be all that were in the following picture:

And which would be the most important?

I won’t say it’s the DELL desktop. That computer should be taken out of my office after the MacBook arrived.  But after procrastinating for 6 years, the technical staff here decided that it is now a piece of junk and unless I strongly request to junk it, it will be left in my office indefinitely. And so I used it as a server for WeBwork–that way I can let my students do homework online even in the weekends. Ha! Brilliant! See how I can make something unimportant useful?

I won’t even say it’s the MacBook either.  See, that apple computer is mainly for keeping grade on my students on a spreadsheet.  And for writing their exams.  So basically, I’m using a very expensive equipment just for word processing and test score records?  I remember these things were done on pieces of papers without a computer just as efficiently.  So seriously, if the school were to remove my MacBook, I’m not in any kind of emergency (like banks losing their computers).  I can always have copies of the students grades on papers anyway.  I know I need a computer to enter grades at the end of the semester because all grades submission are online.  The school stopped accepting grades on papers (or SCANTRON) two years ago, much to the protest of some old professors.  But that I could go to a computer in the computer center once a semester.

So then what about the beige machine in front of the MacBook.  Errr, no.! That’s just an electric pencil sharpener.  I just keep that because I’ve never seen one in Singapore and most pencils here in the US are non mechanical.  I’ll do just fine with a non-electric sharpener.  And believe it or not, every classroom has a pencil sharpener on one of the walls!  So that makes that machine totally unimportant.

So by process of elimination, the most important piece of electric equipment in my office is the drip 8-cup coffee maker!  Absolutely.  Ever heard of the definition that a mathematician is a machine that “churn coffee into theorems”?  Click on the link to read about it.  And for me, without it, I would not be able to churn out any research.

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the most important (electric equipment)of them all?”

My mirror replied, “Have you consider the old telephone?”

With that, I answer, “Mirror, that phone is so old it probably belongs to the museum!  Good thing it wasn’t a dialed phone! And is a phone really considered ‘electrical’?”


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