On Murphy's Law applied to Final Exams

Well, Tuesday morning I gave the final exam for my Spring semester class. That means, of course, that I finished writing it Monday late afternoon, and printed it out Monday night. I'm on record as being a fan of Apple computers, and I wrote my exam using Apple's new word processor -- "Pages". I like Pages, and have been using it for a while, but at the same time, it has been a bit flaky for me and I'm losing some patience with this app. For example, every once in a while there is a noticeable lag between hitting the delete key and a character being deleted. You would think this operation would not require much CPU power, but apparently it is a bit too much for my 1 GHz G4 with 1 Gb of RAM. Maybe with 2 gigs I could delete in real time.

Anyway... back to what was my point. You would think that printing out a final exam would be easy. Of course, as everyone knows, the more desperate you are feeling, the more flaky your computer behaves. So, for some reason, Pages decided I wanted 2" margins on top, bottom, and left and 0.25" on the right, and it shrank my text to fit this new page layout. This is not what I wanted, but no matter how I tried to fix this, it wouldn't revert to my original margins. The solution was cut and paste the text into a new document, reformat it, and one short hour later it was fixed. So much for a 5 minute print job.

Of course, Murphy's Law didn't just hit my computer. When my exam started at 8:00am, everything seemed fine. Everything was going smoothly until about 8:20am, when a tractor apparently outfitted with a spare engine from an F15 started up right outside our classroom window. Of course it makes sense -- the grass has to be cut! Why not do it during prime exam time right outside the biggest classroom building on campus? Thankfully it only lasted about 20 minutes and the students didn't seem to mind too much, but I felt badly for them.

I mentioned this to the front office staff in our department, and they did get me an apology from the physical plant folks, but it would have been nice if no apology had been necessary.


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