Just a few more days - during which I have nothing of consequence I have to do - and I get to go see my family.
I'm practically vibrating I'm so excited to have the time off and to get to see them.
As I was leaving after Thanksgiving, I said, "I'll be back in just about 2 1/2 weeks." But DANG, those were a long couple of weeks. I'm really tired and I really need the time off.
A blessed Christmas to all who celebrate. I know I am very much looking forward to mine - to decorating the tree, to seeing people I don't get to see often, to laughing with my family, to eating my mom's good cooking, to having time to relax, all of that.
I wish everyone had as great of a family as I have, and could enjoy spending time with them.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Just a few more days - during which I have nothing of consequence I have to do - and I get to go see my family.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
But this semester is over. I turned in my grades Friday (after dealing with a few of the standard, "Can't you do extra credit just for meeeee? I won't TELL anyone" e-mails. And at that point I'm not concerned about hurt feelings any more as I won't have to see these people (well, most of them) again, so I just sent a flat, "No. I can't do that." to them.)
I did make an error on totaling the grades in one class but fixed it after a student very politely called me and said, "I totaled up my grade and it shows me with a 70% but your total shows a 67%. I know I did poorly on one of the tests but I didn't think that was bad enough to drop me that many points. Would you please explain how I calculated wrong" I recalculated her grade and found an error, told her that yes, she had earned the C, and that was what she was getting, and then went back and recalculated all the grades. Turns out I had left one paper out of the accounting, so many of the people who did that saw their grade go up (there were a lot of people really close to a borderline and this paper was worth a fair amount.) The people who didn't do the paper - too bad, so sad. Better luck next time. But how much more likely was I to consider her request because she said "please" instead of going in, guns blazing, telling me I was WRONG from the outset (even though I was WRONG. And I told her I was, and thanked her for the heads-up.)
I wrapped up some research stuff that I wanted to get done - didn't NEED to get it done, could have waited until January, but I decided it was better to get the data collection done now.
This was, as semesters go, fairly hideous. It was saved by my having a good ecology class (and NO plagiarists for a change in that class). But my other classes had all kinds of either whiny and immature, or bad-attitude-followed-by-whiny-when-they-found-out-skipping-assignments-earned-them-a-D, or bad attitude in general, people.
I hate to say it but judging from my "service" class, the caliber of college students in this country is going down. Oh, maybe not the smarts, so much (but maybe that too), but the sense of responsibility and the sense of independence. I had people I practically had to hold the hands of the entire time. Which is effing exhausting. And which makes me realize that I'm glad I never became a mother because I don't think I could TAKE someone needing me like that 24/7.
(Though then again: I'd probably have wound up with a child like what I was, where if you gave her some crayons and a stack of paper, she would occupy herself happily for several hours. I was a pretty independent kid and remain an independent adult, which is why I think the level of dependency demonstrated by a few students irritates me so much. Being independent is Not That Hard.)
And actually, to tie this in to what I will be doing in the coming days: I think in general there's either an assumption or a reality that people have become less capable of taking care of themselves. When I take the train, I have noticed in the last year or two, they have become much more insistent and paternalistic with their announcements, like Do Not Smoke in the Lavatories than they used to be. Or if the dining car is running late and reservations are being called in late, they have to announce at every "time" there would be reservations coming up, "Please wait for us to call you; we are running late" even if there have been NO stops with anyone getting on between announcements. It's like people are becoming more like children, and not in a good way.
Me? I just need to be told once and I get it. (And I wouldn't smoke in the lavatories anyway, even if I did smoke.) And I admit a tiny bit of annoyance at having to hear the same dang announcement ten times because some person obvy wasn't paying attention and is now harassing the conductor.
(Actually, on my Thanksgiving trip I saw this. I had Special Snowflake woman in the next compartment - first of all, she and her (adult) son got on, and she got all cranky because the compartment they bought was a "roomette" meaning one of them would have to climb up into an upper berth. Well, that was just UNACCEPTABLE because she was an old woman and her son had back trouble; couldn't the car steward just give them a second compartment? Well, he sold them one, for part of the way, but told her, "When the people SCHEDULED to use this room are supposed to get on, you will have to vacate and let me clean it." And then she demanded the beds be made up early. Then she demanded extra pillows and blankets and sent the steward off to search for them. Then, she and her son missed their call for dinner, and the steward had to get them a later reservation. Then, the next morning, they apparently missed the three calls for breakfast, and were **very upset** with the steward for not coming and PERSONALLY inviting them to breakfast. And that he would have to bring them their food because the dining room was full and was taking no more people on the waiting list. And then when he did, he'd have to make up the room, because there was no way they could eat in their beds. And then, complained that the food was getting cold while he was making up their room.
I hope to heck she tipped him well, but I bet she didn't.
I always was kind of surprised when people who have manned the train when I've been on it before remember me - surely they see hundreds of people in a week - but it may be they do because I'm quiet and say "please" and "thank you" and tip them and just kind of "roll with the punches" of stuff that happens in travel (like delays) and am just generally not a Special Snowflake. Funny, I never thought that kind of thing was rare - I just thought the way I behave was Expected and Typical, but maybe it isn't so much any more.)
But anyway. In a few days I get to get on the train again - this time, at a time it is less likely to be super-crowded with people who don't travel often and who have the Queen Mary mindset about traveling. And then I get to see my FAMILY (not a Special Snowflake in the bunch) and have TIME OFF to RELAX and maybe I'll get to see some real snowflakes.
I really, really need this break. It's been a brutal semester.
Friday, December 11, 2009
From Tom Lehrer and a YouTuber who decided to add pictures (I LOLed at the Weasley twins becoming twine)
I remember this from my childhood - a bit of Google searching turns up that it was a bit on Electric Company (in its first run); apparently the producer of the show had been a classmate of Lehrer's at Harvard.
I never realized until now that Lehrer had done that song; that's pretty wonderful.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
I don't mean this to be snarky - I genuinely don't understand or know. And I'm not a fan of the BCS system of college football.
But why is Congress taking upon itself to abolish BCS? Where do they get the authority? Is this some kind of "interstate commerce" thing?
It just seems so random to me, in the middle of a war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a horrible economy, and the whole health-care mess, that they're trying to deal with how the "best" college football team is decided as well.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
I first saw this over at Joanne Jacobs'.
A teacher is trying to get his students to be more ethical - to, I would say, be more manly - by using a series of ten "ethical commandments" that a man named Jim Owen came up with. Supposedly this is a Cowboy Ethics Code (let us set aside any quibbles about historical accuracy. If students want to follow this code partly because of the "cowboy" tag, all well and good):
1. Live Each Day with Courage
2. Take Pride in Your Work
3. Always Finish What you Start
4. Do What Has to Be Done
5. Be Tough, But Fair
6. When You Make a Promise, Keep It
7. Ride for the Brand
8. Talk Less and Say More
9. Remember That Some Things Are Not For Sale
10. Know Where to Draw the Line
These were developed by a person interested in teaching ethics, particularly to Wall Street types.
But I think the codes fit pretty much anyone.
Live each day with courage = no whining. (And yeah, I admit it, I whine sometimes. But usually not to my students or colleagues).
Take pride in your work: by golly, what a nice place this world would be if everyone took pride in stuff. Especially if they did for the "just little" stuff. I have some students who are like this - who take pride in their work and strive to make even the low-stakes assignments good. And they learn a lot. And they are the ones who go off and get exciting jobs or good grad-school places.
Always finish what you start - that kind of goes without saying. Or, perhaps another way of saying it: don't start something you are unwilling to finish. Or, perhaps more crudely: don't write a check with your mouth that your ass can't cash.
Do what has to be done - sometimes you don't LIKE doing something. Sometimes it should not have to be your job. But sometimes it has to be done.
Be tough, be fair - I think all good teachers exemplify this. I probably haven't been tough enough this semester. But that can change with next semester. (The challenge is that there are people who believe that no matter how fair you are in reality, that if you are at all tough, you are being "unfair" because you are not cutting special slack for them).
When you make a promise, keep it. On one of the Internet boards I "socialize" on, people use the word "THIS" in all caps to indicate, "I strongly and heartily agree with the above statement." So for this one, I will just say, "THIS."
Ride for the brand: I take this to mean, "don't run down your place of work publicly, even if there are problems or things wrong there." Don't air the dirty laundry of work (or home) to people who don't need to know about it. Even when there have been problems at my campus, I have, when people have asked me questions, either said that everything was fine from my perspective, or I have worked to deflect the question.
Talk less and say more: Good advice for writing as well as speech. I do mark students down when they get too wordy in what seems like an attempt to pad lesser work. I think also in life - I am actually not a very talkative person in real life, I prefer to listen and then to say something only when it seems necessary. But there are an awful lot of people who seem to need to talk, like it's a nervous habit, and not only does it wreck others' solitude (I guess some people don't care for solitude any more?), but sometimes people wind up revealing things they probably are better off not revealing.
Remember that some things are not for sale: I've had students ask me to severely bend rules for them. I've never been out-and-out bribed but I've had people offer to do things like wash my car or take me out to lunch. And I ask them: do you think I am that cheap? They are often a little taken aback. But yeah. Once you compromise certain things in your ethics, it is a slippery slope, where if you compromise for X you might as well do it for Y and Z...and then, over time, your word comes to stand for less and less.
Know where to draw the line: I need to work on this, at least in the interpretation of "sometimes you need to say 'no' to taking on more tasks and responsibilities." And also on listening to student sob stories. And other various things.
I think this is a pretty good code. Maybe not the Ten Commandments, but in the pluralistic society we live in now, if we can at least get people to follow the Cowboy Code, that would be an improvement.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
This is why I am glad I am a reader: you think of different characters and their way of reacting to the world, and it gives you different ideas.
I was thinking this morning of Scrooge's nephew (I can never remember his name but Google tells me it is Fred. Last name I do not know, as he was Scrooge's sister's son and would have the surname of her husband).
But you remember Fred's response to Scrooge's declaration of "bah, humbug"?
He went on celebrating Christmas, he wasn't let down or discombobulated. (And in some movie versions I've seen, he snags a few coals and throws them on Crachit's fire so he won't freeze in the counting-house). He keeps his Christmas, he remains merry despite Scrooge's deluge of cold water.
And I need to keep that in mind. Even surrounded by people who seem to roll their eyes at the very idea of celebrating, or who act offended that the word "Christmas" is being used in a public, tax-funded situation.
And I think I'm going to exercise part of that, either today or tomorrow: I have to run to the wal-mart for some stuff, so I think I'm also going to go to their toy department, pick out and purchase a toy I would have enjoyed as a child, and drop it off for Toys for Tots.
Toys for Tots is just another reason why I love the Marines and think they're awesome.
(This is actually not an uncommon reaction of mine, when I see someone cranky or nasty or selfish: to try to be more helpful and unselfish myself. I don't know if it's an "I'm not like that person" reaction, or if it's an attempt to cosmically balance things out - if one person is going to be crabby, then one person can damn well be nice - or what).
Monday, December 07, 2009
Just had a back-and-forth exchange with a couple of friends about the people-with-problems-and-issues I am having to deal with.
What they said - mostly just listening and sympathizing - made me feel better.
I don't have a LOT of friends, but the ones I have are quality.
And they're right. Everyone around me is seriously panty-wadded right now and they just need to take a breath.
I'm losing my Christmas spirit again.
Already today, I have had:
one colleague bitching loudly and long about how the school is having a "Christmas" party and calling it that. And how we are in budget retrenchment mode and money should NOT be spent on fripperies, especially using the name Christmas. (Guy is, as far as I can tell, a former Christian. And very bitter about it). And how the supreme court declared it "illegal" to use the word "Christmas" in and around a public university. (No idea if that's actually TRUE). And went on to rant about the invocation before commencement and other things.
And another colleague joined in with him. I just went back in my office and (mostly) closed the door under pretext of having to update my online grades.
Look, I'm sorry it wadifies your panties. But it IS Christmas time. Call it "holiday" if you have to. But if you're so upset about it, why not offer to come in and work on the 25th.
I have had friends who were Jewish. Friends who were Hindu. And they still wished me a merry Christmas and my Hindu friend commented that "a lot of the stuff we do for Diwali is not all that different from some of the secular celebrations of Christmas" and so seemed to think it was OK to enjoy.
I get sick of people who have to agendize everything. If I taught at a historically Jewish school (Brandeis?) I'd participate in Purim and the Seder and the other various celebrations that non-Jews are welcome in.
If, in 20 years, I am forbidden from having a tree in my house, or forbidden from using (gasp!) the public mails to send cards, or forbidden from any of the other Good Things about this season, I will FIND this person who bitched back in 2009 and kick him in the 'nads.
And as for "money spent on fripperies" - There are far bigger wastes of money at this school beyond trying to make the faculty and staff a little happy. I'm sorry, but "cutting back" should not have to mean "cut out all pleasure."
Second: my "two amigos" in one class BOTH handed in late homework - one piece that was due in September, one that was due in early October. Both came with marginally literate notes begging me that "some points are better than none." Yes, that is true, but seeing as the homeworks have been handed back to the rest of the class for a good two months, and you could have very easily have copied them, AND I gave a classmate of yours pulling the same stunt zeroes....
Grr. Just, grr. I need to get the heck out of this place for a few weeks. I need to go somewhere where I'm not surrounded by people who either demand far more than their due, or who get upset over every damn little thing.
Sunday, December 06, 2009
when you do something because you are trying to be compassionate person, and someone else decides to poop all over your compassion, it's hard not to lash out or get discouraged.
Maybe I need to go listen to more Christmas music. And try to ignore the people who have chosen to be cynics.
Last year, when I first put on the Christmas music I listen to every December, I had to sit down and cry. I was sad - sad because I had lost several people I cared about over the course of last year, and sad because several more people I cared about had moved away.
This year, I pulled the CDs out this weekend and put them on.
And I found myself crying again, but for a very different reason.
I was grateful that it was Christmas again.
Grateful that I have a little time to take a breath. To look at lights and the decorated church, to see the Angel trees in some of the local stores, to dump the change at the bottom of my purse into the Salvation Army kettles.
I now feel - upon having found and recovered my Christmas spirit - almost like I lost my way a bit this fall, like the funny and compassionate person that I really am kind of got hidden under a bitter veneer. I don't know if that's due to excessive worrying about what is going on in the world, or having listened too much to an embittered colleague, or having dealt with too many demanding and ungrateful people, or if I merely focused too tightly on work-stuff, and didn't think about the bigger, larger world.
Because work stuff can get pretty stifling at times, pretty close, like being inside of a small sealed room, and the air gets kind of stale and smelly, figuratively speaking. It is almost as if I forget about the bigger wider world, and I can only see the problems I am having at the moment.
But my Christmas spirit is pulling me out of that. Already I think I have laughed more in the past several days than I have in a long time. I've made food for people I care about (the various social groups I belong to are having their annual parties). I didn't cook much this fall, because I felt so busy - and honestly, a lot of the time, I'd go into the kitchen TO cook, and then decide I didn't feel like all the bother. (There have been a lot of things I normally do for myself that I haven't done this fall, because it seemed at the time like "too much bother.")
I've made a few small gifts for friends - just simple stuff, but things they will enjoy. And doing that makes me happy.
And seeing the church decorated today made me happy. And the bell-ringers at the grocery store. And even some of the dumb Christmas ads on television. All of it. It as if I can laugh at things again instead of being annoyed by them.
I spent too much of this fall being annoyed by stuff. I lost a lot of my natural tolerance for some reason. I don't know if it could have a physiological cause - allergies, maybe, or that I had a badly pulled muscle in my shoulder that just recently healed up, or even if, for some unexplained reason, I could have been a tad depressed this fall.
But I feel better now - more like myself. And I'm grateful. And I'm especially grateful that in about another week now, I will get to go see my family, and take a long holiday time off, and get to help my parents put up and decorate the tree, and do the fun silly holiday stuff we do - going out and driving around in the evening to try to pick out the best "Griswold house" Christmas light display, or watching certain movies that come on every year, or just sitting around the dinner table and telling funny stories and laughing.
I will have to work in the future not to lose who I am again. To remember that I'm a resilient and compassionate person whose major way of dealing with the stupidities that happen in life is to laugh at them and shrug and go, "life is funny" rather than, as I had been doing way too much this fall, taking it personally and being annoyed.
Thank God it's Christmas. Thank God it's Christmas.
Saturday, December 05, 2009
Driving out to the grocery store this morning, I see people have been putting up Christmas decorations. Including those lighted deer. You know what I mean? Wire frames in the shape of a deer (usually painted white) with small white bulbs on it? Very pretty, especially at night.
And local pranksters are at it again, I see: repositioning the deer so one is, ahem, "on top" of the other in a suggestive pose.
And I admit sometimes I'm way too much in touch with my inner 12-year-old; I always snicker a little when I see that. (As much as I hate the people who mess with Nativity scenes, I can't help but laugh at the deer repositioning)
(Last winter, someone did that in my parents' neighborhood. My mom and I had gone out early one morning to drop something off at a friends' house, and coming back, we saw the deer, and my mother was all, "Am I seeing that right? Have they been positioned to look like they're mating?" and all I could do was laugh).
Friday, December 04, 2009
I know a gripe a lot about students on here. I think it's the old "bad news gets noticed" thing - the students who do what they're supposed to don't really draw my attention most of the time.
But I do have to talk about one student today, because I'm so proud and happy for him. This is a guy I've had in all of my classes so far...he didn't do so hot in the first one, but I found out later on why: he was battling back from a drug addiction. And then, the next semester, he came and told me he had been diagnosed with OCD, they were trying to get his medications regulated, and he was having a hard time. I gave him some encouragement and allowed him an extension on a project because it seemed clear to me that (a) he wasn't playing me and (b) he would really be helped with it. (And he was).
Now, this semester he was in the most advanced of my classes. And I have to say, a lot of the other students are lucky I don't curve, because it would be this dude and another guy (who is super competitive) setting the curve, and then everyone else lagging back - the next highest grade after their two would be a very low B.
This student got back into the honors program on campus after having had his problems; as part of the requirements he has to do research papers in classes of certain faculty (I am one). He handed the paper in today.
It was freaking amazing. Really well done, he went to the best possible sources (rather than just the most easily-found sources), it's really well written. (And no, before you ask, I KNOW that he did all the work himself. He's that kind of a person.)
I was so happy reading it - I could tell he had enjoyed the project from reading it, and I enjoyed reading what he wrote up. And it made me all the happier to think that this was a guy who had been struggling to make it in school a couple years ago.
So, he's getting his A for the honors project. (His final project paper - the basic class requirement - was also by far the best of everyone's in the class. I can tell he really loves writing; I think if he comes looking for career advice I'm going to suggest "science writer" because I think he'd do well at it). I wrote on the paper that it was well written-and researched and an excellent paper (really, it's the best of these honors papers I've seen, I think). But I'm also going to tell him when I hand it back that he writes well - very clearly and in a way that is interesting to read. I think he probably already knows that - he won an on-campus essay contest earlier this fall - but I also think it's always good to let someone know when something they do is genuinely good, that kind of encouragement makes a big difference to some folks.
People like him are the reason I went into teaching, and the reason why I stay, despite all of the 'special snowflakes' I complain about.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Obama's speech tonight is pre-empting A Charlie Brown Christmas. (Has there been a president who's been on TV more?)
SRSLY, Mr. President? SRSLY? It makes me sad that we live in a world where war talk has to bump what I consider the most perfect Christmas special ever off the television.
I HOPE the special is on at another time. This is one thing I watch every year and I would be angry if the President (ANY president) bumped it off the air totally for a season.
I know it's available on dvd and all that but I'm kind of a Luddite in that I like to see specials BROADCAST and like to have the ritual of the annual viewing as a broadcast. (I grew up in the pre-vcr era).
Well, at least the best part is available on YouTube. This ALWAYS makes me tear up a little, no matter how old or how jaded I get:
"That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."
I don't know. I'm wondering if maybe being tougher than I was in the past is a good way to be. Two separate incidents:
Guy comes into my office. Guy is a decent student but is partying a wee bit hard this fall (I teach an early Friday class and many weeks he's come in looking really painfully hung over). Guy asks, "Are we doing anything in class tomorrow?" (I wish the students know how much the profs hate that question).
Because he is in what I have dubbed the "class full of whiners," where people have skipped on important days and then come back to complain at me because, apparently, I didn't cancel class simply because they were absent, something in me snapped a little bit.
"Yes, we are. I am covering something that is not really covered in the textbook that will be on the final exam. You will have a hard time with that section of the final if you skip."
(And I know for a fact that not enough people in that class take decent notes that he could even get notes off of someone).
And he was there. And apparently not hung over for once.
Then, another student came in: he had done poorly on a short paper assignment, mainly because he failed to follow the instructions that I had GIVEN THEM ON A HANDOUT **AND** POSTED ON THE COURSE WEBSITE.
He wanted to know if he could redo the paper for better credit.
As I was, at the moment, trying frantically to grade papers for yet another class, I looked at him and said, "No. You had the instructions. You have one more paper to do for the class; do this one following the instructions. I do not have time to do re-grades or extra credit work."
And amazingly, in both cases, the students accepted. They didn't fuss, they didn't try to argue me down (as some people have in the past). I have a friend who told me that one of the perks, she found, of getting into your 40s was "people start to actually take you seriously." So maybe that's happening.
But I do need to be tougher. Partly for my own sanity, but also partly because these "kids" need to learn to grow up a little - to take responsibility for the first time, to know that life isn't always going to hand you a mulligan when you don't do things right the first time.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Listening to Christmas music while grading, I realize that Carol of the Bells has pretty much been ruined for me.
Most recently, by Wal-mart, and their inane "flip the lights on the checkout stands" ad (Yeah, like the wal-mart near me EVER has enough checkers. Though I could see them playing with their lights rather than checking people out)
Then, previously (and still, I see they have a new semi-surreal ad) by Garmin, the GPS makers.
But, first off, it was ruined for me - at least, as any kind of semi-reverent observance - by "Ding, Fries are Done."
And I admit it. Ding, Fries are Done is one of those things that I laughed at, even if at the same time I said to myself, "I'm gonna have to answer to the Big Guy some day for finding this funny." (I don't think I'd quite be sent to Hell for laughing at it, but I can imagine God looking very sternly at me and shaking His head a little bit)
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
A moratorium on "I'm dieting and I LOST SO MUCH WEIGHT and I'm going to make my family eat raw vegetables and plain turkey breast for Thanksgiving because I don't want to sabotage my diet" stories. And "I find turkey boring, therefore I decree NO ONE IN AMERICA SHOULD FIX TURKEY THIS THANKSGIVING" stories. And "When did Thanksgiving become an excuse for gluttony" stories (Um, the original Thanksgiving? The colonists had been starving? So to have enough food for once was a joy?) And all the other freaking KILLJOY stories surrounding this, my favorite non-explicitly-Christian holiday.
Grr. I am SO EFFING SICK of the health nannies. Just let me enjoy my damn turkey and sweet potatoes and dressing AND PUMPKIN PIE. For ONE day. Just STHU.
...it kind of sneaked up on me again (But don't worry, I have plans. I did make plans. I won't be sitting at home alone crying in front of the Macy's parade because I waited too long to try to get tickets to travel).
I'm grateful for this break. I really, really need it.
And I'm grateful Congress is on break. For two reasons:
1. They can't do anything to us this week
2. Maybe they'll get an earful from their constituents (I hope) about the steaming pile that is "health" "care" "reform" (Each word deserves its own set of scare quotes, I think)
Monday, November 23, 2009
By this point in the semester, I can almost predict what grade someone will earn before I look at their paper.
Super-competitive tightly-wound guy will get 100% or damn close to it (and if he doesn't, he'll try arguing for points).
Speshul Snowflake woman will talk a big deal about how good her project is, but it'll be a half-assed B at best.
Compulsive Man will go way beyond what the assignment required and will earn a 100% (or even if he didn't dot every last i that I expected, he will earn it out of sheer overkill on other stuff)
Slacker Dude will earn a 60% - at best.
Never-there-Girl will pull maybe a 60, maybe a 70, depending on whether she read the assignment closely or not.
Quiet-but-takes-good-notes-person will score somewhere in the low 90s at least.
So far, of the papers I have, I've graded Quiet-but-takes-good-notes, Compulsive Man, and Super-Competitive Tightly-Wound guy. Par for the course. And I flipped to the next paper - Slacker Dude. He left out a major part of the assignment, I can tell even before I read it, because he has one size-16-font page with a bulleted list on it instead of a narrative, which is what I asked for.
Students claim sometimes that profs stereotype them and grade accordingly. Well, I'm not so much stereotyping (I still read all the stuff and hope against hope that one of the low achievers got their act together THIS time) as noting patterns that seem to recur.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
"Is 'Bridezillas' the stupidest thing ever to have been on television?"
Go. (In the comments).
(I saw part of an episode today. Couldn't look away for about 10 minutes. Wanted to smack every person involved. And then wanted to take them and drop them in a middle of a starving village in Africa or some-damn-where in the hopes they'd develop a wee bit of perspective.)
Thursday, November 19, 2009
I've occasionally watched episodes of "Community," a sitcom set at a community college.
I'm not sure how I feel about it - some of the humor borders on mean-spiritedness (like the other NBC comedies on Thursday night) and I'm not really one for that type of humor. But usually the episodes have at least one thing that makes me laugh out loud.
Tonight, it was this: Senor Chang, the dispirited Spanish teacher (yes, he is of Chinese heritage) has a student talk back to him in class. So he starts by assigning a one-page essay, en Espagnol, on a topic. And then someone asks a question. So he increases the length and makes the topic more complex and related to the person or what they just asked about. Finally, one of the students tries to placate him, in the hopes of making him stop being crazy.
And he looks at her, and says, "TWENTY PAGES! On ASS-KISSING!"
I've been there. Not done that, but certainly been there.
(He does wind up rescinding the essay, because the smarmy-guy lead character gets him back together with his wife. At a Greene Daye concert. (Yeah, they had the obligatory annoying "Green Week" environmental-theme tie-in. I almost didn't watch when I realized that).
Everything's hitting the fan right now. I have students in full-on freak-out mode because they just figured out that they won't pass. There's other stuff going on that I can't talk about here that isn't pleasant.
And I'm feeling my frequent sense of "no one cares, all I get is work heaped on my head, I do crap that's above and beyond what's expected and I never hear one word of thanks. Everyone takes me for granted."
And I don't know. Maybe just everything sucks right now. Maybe we're just going through some kind of times where everything is bad. But I just want to hear someone, once, say a gorram THANK YOU when I agree to accept their homework late. Or when I make an effort to get them a handout they missed. Or to fill out paperwork I really shouldn't have to fill out.
And because I'm a responsible person who actually gives a crap, whatever thankless task becomes my permanent job. And yet I don't hear thanks for it.
I was raised to thank people - to thank the waiter or waitress when he or she comes and refills your water glass. To thank the person at the drugstore for filling your prescription. Hearing the occasional "please" or "thank you" makes the day go so much easier, makes you feel that your work is actually valued and valuable.
I know, I know: we live in a post-civility society and I just need to suck it up and learn to live with only hearing feedback about how what I have done is inadequate.
But sometimes, doing stuff for people and having it totally taken for granted makes me want to cry. I feel like no one gives a flying flip, that if I were to die tomorrow the only way people would find out would be that the stuff they counted on me to get done wasn't getting done. "Hey, where's ricki? She OWES us stuff! Could she be slacking off?"
And then, I imagine they go to my house to demand why I'm not grinding away at my desk like always, and they find my rotting corpse. And then they ask, "OH no, who will we get to do the thankless tasks now."
And I realize that's unrealistic and very colored by my bad mood today, but seriously, that's sometimes how I feel. Like all I am is a cog in a machine to people. Like I don't matter as a person.
And I fantasize about other careers: maybe if I were an artist people would give a damn. Maybe I'd actually hear someone praise my work. Or maybe if I learned how to groom animals, and I took care of people's dogs and cats and horses for them, then I'd hear a "wow, you made her mane look so great! You got all the burrs out!" Or something.
But I realize realistically - there is probably no job on this Earth today where you hear thanks and appreciation. Everyone's a demanding special snowflake now who can only see what THEY want and what THEY think they deserve - other people are merely obstacles to them, or merely devices for providing them what they want.
I'm just P.O.d at the entire human race today.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
One of my colleagues is complaining about a new push here on campus, to get students involved in "mandatory volunteerism." About how apparently there is a new stealth program to eventually make "volunteer hours" a requirement for graduation.
And he talks about how it could take away from classroom instruction (I agree). And he talks about how it affects "academic freedom" (I agree). And he even said, "It's like they're trying to set up some crazy Maoist state thing in the university, where it's 'you WILL do this for us.'" (And I also agree).
The thing that's killing me - and I don't want to get into the whole issue because he's a friend, and I don't argue politics with friends - is he was a HUGE Obama supporter.
Um, this is just the tide of the future. Or Hope N Change. Or something. Your guy PROMISED something like this. And now you're upset?
The thing is, when I talk with this guy, a lot of the stuff he says - about personal freedom, about responsibility, about not relying on the government for stuff - that's like the opposite of how he votes. I've tried to make some gentle nudgey comments but he ignores them, and after a blow-up with another person I tend to eschew discussion of politics on campus - because there are a lot of really smart people who are really dumb about politics, it seems.
(All of that said? I really, really didn't like McCain and I don't like him any better now. Some party somewhere needs to get its ass in gear and pick a good person for 2012, that's all I'm sayin'.)
But I've seen this phenomenon a lot: academics who call themselves hard-core liberal types, but when you sit down and talk with them, a lot of stuff they advocate is the commonsensical sort of stuff that people who are more moderate-to-conservative support, but they would never in a million years vote for a conservative. Which puzzles me.
(I actually had one colleague once comment that "higher taxes on the rich don't affect me, because I'll never be rich." Um, by some people's definition you already are, buddy - if you're making more than $50K. And this is someone who has "outside plans" for a second career that could make him a lot of money. We'll see. And even then - even if I'll never be "rich" in the sense of making $100K a year, if the rich get taxed to death, it does affect the rest of us. Because there are fewer jobs. And there are fewer little luxuries for those of us who want little luxuries, because there's no one buying the big luxuries. And even beyond that, it seems unfair to me to penalize someone for working hard or innovating or taking risks - which is how most of the rich entrepeneurial types got rich.)
The thing is, a lot of the folks I know who support Obama or even Pelosi are themselves very careful and frugal with money, and seem to resent the sort of intrusion into our daily lives that the "enhanced government role" brings. But they STILL can't bring themselves to switch affiliations.
Friday, November 13, 2009
A long time ago, I posted a list of rules, including several for students.
I have a new one:
If you miss class on a day when I explain a BIG IMPORTANT TOPIC and work an example of it, you are not allowed to come bitching to me that you don't know it because you missed class. What's more, you're not allowed to expect me to re-teach an entire 50 minute class for you and you alone. You are not allowed to get mad because I say, "I know Cubert* in the front row takes good notes, see if he will give you a copy."
(*I have decided to anonymize names with the most ridiculous names I can come up with.)
My head may explode anyway even if I learn to tolerate childishness from 20 year olds (and nearly 50 year olds):
Pfizer, winner in the Kelo "eminent domain" case, pulls out, leaving empty fields.
Stupidest Supreme Court decision I can remember. Pfizer should be made to give all the people they eminent-domained back their lots, PLUS rebuild their houses as close to what they were (or better) if possible.
If that happened to me? I'd probably make a big sign saying, "[Company that got eminent domain] STOLE my property and the government helped them" and go and sit with it outside the place where my house used to stand for as much time every day as I possibly could. I think it's unconscionable how eminent domain has been allowed to expand.
This week, I have had two students - in two separate classes - come very near to throwing a tantrum.
One of these students, I happen to know, is older than I am. (She mentioned her age one day).
My goal in life now has changed to, "Make it to the end of the semester before my head explodes."
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I think I've figured out some of my distress with some of my students. It is that they get defeated very easily, like they've given up.
I hand back homeworks and instead of students paying attention to my discussion of what folks did wrong, they flip through their dayplanners or talk with their neighbors. And they toss the graded homework in the trash on their way out. And when I hand back the next one, on which they have made all the same mistakes, they say something like, "I just don't understand this" or "I just didn't work very hard on this" or something.
Dammit. Shouldn't your college education be worth more of a fight than that?
I remember when I was in college - in particular, chemistry - and I didn't understand something, I would find the TA or the prof on his office hours, and go in with a list, and say, "I don't understand thus-and-so as well as I'd like to. Could you explain it to me again?" And they would, and most of the time I'd understand it better. But my office hours, they are lonely. No one shows up to ask questions, even though I have people who get all bent out of shape over low grades or not understanding.
If you care about something, you have to fight for it. You have to be willing to put in a little effort. I get the feeling a lot of these folks either don't care, or have swallowed the victimology pill, where they believe if they don't get PRECISELY what they wanted without effort, it's because someone did them wrong along the way.
I have people who "play the victim" in my classes - they skip class, and then act all offended because, apparently, I did not show up on their doorstep to give them the announcements they missed. Or they do poorly and come at the end of the semester blaming me that they "didn't know" something, when they were absent on the day it was discussed.
And it makes me tired. I am just one person. I cannot do all the work for each of the 100+ of them. I cannot keep track of who was and was not paying attention at a given time. I am doing my best but they have to meet me at least halfway.
This is the millennial generation, folks. Ain't none of us Xers ever going to be able to retire, because there will be no one willing to take the reins from us. Or if there is, they will be calling us every 5 minutes to ask us "how do you turn the copier on again?"
I've said before I wasn't in favor of conscripted military or civil service, but I'm beginning to wonder - as 18 year olds continue to seem more helpless and "younger" with each semester, if there isn't going to come a point where we as a society have to do something to, figuratively speaking, force their testicles to descend before unleashing them on the world of the rest of the adults. Because as an adult older than these "kids," I am growing heartily tired of the whining, of the shutting-down, of the refusal to take responsibility for even rather small aspects of their education. As I said: I cannot do it all.
I have come within a hair's breadth of going all snarky and saying, "Oh, and do you want me to wipe your butt for you, too?" this semester. Twice, actually. That's not good.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
The feel-better package I ordered for myself? That I was wondering when it would come?
turns out I never actually completed the order. Sigh. Ricki FAIL. (I did now but no idea if any of the items are now out of stock). I guess I got distracted. I hate that.
And I need "feel better" stuff right now, the combination of semester-suckage, news-suckage, and being around snarly snappy people is really getting me down.
I can't watch the news, or listen to commentary. It makes me despair too much. We are a nation divided. Neither side listens to the other any more, neither side is willing to admit that the other might have useful ideas. And it seems sometimes the side in power is interested mainly in hanging on as tightly as possible to that power and getting even more. Things are changing, fast, and not in a good way. People who want to slow down change, who want to say, "Wait, we need to think this over first" are vilified.
And so, I kind of give up. I leave it to those with more stomach for this than I have. Who have more time. Who do not work in a workplace where admitting their true political leanings will get them shunned. I know it's weak and irresponsible, but I just can't.
And so I'm giving up watching the news. Instead, I will watch the NCIS re-runs that USA so helpfully runs during that time. And the SpongeBob re-runs that Nickelodeon has on offer in the morning. Oh, I'll keep reading the blogs and scanning headlines on-line but I am just done with televised and radio news; it makes me too sick of my fellow humans. Both the sort of random everyday joe who sees nothing wrong with setting dogs on fire, and people in Congress who see nothing wrong with sucking more money out of people's pockets while shaming them for earning that much money in the first place.
I need one of those clocks, like they used to have in the Cold War - the five minutes to midnight sort of thing - only mine would be the "minutes to midnight" where "midnight" is me running off to live in a cabin on 100 acres of woodland, all posted NO TRESPASSING TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT THIS MEANS YOU.
Sunday, November 08, 2009
About the Fort Hood killings.
I have known people who were (formerly) stationed there. I know how bases often become a pretty tight community for people who live there.
I think that's maybe the theme of the 20th-21st centuries: a group of people build a community that is working, that is doing good, and then someone comes in and tries to destroy it. (Actually, maybe this is the theme of civilized life; I seem to remember some instances, not quite the same, from the New Testament.)
I don't know why. If you pressed me, I'd kind of shrug and shake my head and go, "Evil?" Because I don't know. I'm the kind of person, who, if I get really angry with someone (and that is VERY rare, at that), my inclination is to go find that person, sit down with them, and try to explain why I am angry and see if I can fix things. Or, in the few instances where I felt my life was trashed and I had just failed at everything, my plans were to pick up, give away most of my stuff, buy a cheap car and drive as far as I could, find a new town, and get a job waiting tables or something for a while. Just disappear and try to make a new life. I never actually did it - on wiser reflection I figured out an alternate plan that didn't involve running away - but literally, that was my "nuclear option" - running off and resettling somewhere else and trying to make a new life.
I can't understand wanting to kill other people. But I suppose that's why 99.9% of us don't.
Look, I don't know why this happened, if there was something (other than simple evil) that made the guy do it. It's probably irresponsible to even speculate at this point.
My main inclination at this point is to say "there's evil in the world, and sometimes people get tempted to it." May we all be able to recognize evil when it comes to us, and resist its temptation.
My heart goes out to the families who lost loved ones. And to the injured. And to all the folks whose sense of community has been destroyed, whose trust has been shattered. I hope they can heal.
I wish we never had to hear these kinds of stories. It made me think of Virginia Tech all over again.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
I've noticed something recently. It's really come to a head this semester, when I have several students with chronically ill family members, or with major health issues being diagnosed, or with other problems. A lot of the stuff is stuff that I would have dropped out for a semester to attend to (a lot of the stuff, while "big," is "short-lived" - a parent having major abdominal surgery but who will be OK in 2 or 3 months, trying to help a sibling go through the bankruptcy process). But these students don't; they randomly disappear for weeks at a time to attend to what is going on in their lives, and then come back and (a) expect they should be able to catch up and (b) expect that I will be overjoyed to re-teach what they missed and also write make up exams and set up the labs they missed just for them to complete.
I wonder if this generation of college students has been told the bad old feminist idea about "having it all," and have swallowed it wholesale.
Look, I don't care what anyone says: you can't "have it all." If you try, one of three things will happen:
1. You will do EVERYTHING in a half-assed, badly-done sort of way. (One way I can tell I've taken too much on? When the quality of my work starts to suffer).
2. You will do well on one or two things, but seriously short other things. If that's your spouse or your kids, that's a MAJOR problem. If it's schoolwork when you're going to school, you may well wind up flunking out.
3. You will burn out and either get sick or become very angry and bitter and be unpleasant to be around.
I think some of my students have opted for option 2, with the idea that the prof can pick up the slack for them. And then that forces the prof into the unenviable position of doing what they are already handling, plus doing more that they really don't want to do. And which may be an extra-heavy burden on them: I cannot drop everything to write a make up test for someone who shows up wanting to take it NOW. I have told people: I need a minimum of three days' lead time, but no one ever pays attention to that. Either they tell me that they are coming in, I write the exam, and then they never show, or they don't tell me but show up and get all angry that I didn't sit down RIGHT AFTER CLASS when they said, "Oh, I might need to take a make up on that exam" and write one for them.
I've also had more people this semester who missed labs acting as if I should scurry back into the room and set up all the equipment and materials again so they can do the lab on their own schedules. No matter that some require several people working together to do, or have perishable material that I would have to go back out and buy (probably on my own dime) for them.
I suppose it is all part of the larger trend of the "Millennial" attitudes - a colleague and I are giving a paper on the challenges of the "new workplace" and the "new generation" for college teachers and a lot of the references we've looked at have noted the same problems we complain about with students: a sense that the universe revolves around them, the belief that their work is wonderful even when it's not, and an over-blown sense of what they can find as work and what they will do with their lives.
And I think there's also a strong thread of "I'm the only student in the room" - I have had to actually explain to some of my make-up test demanders that, "I am grading exams for one of my other classes right now. I like to hand exams back to students the next class period and this is the only time I have to get them done. I cannot stop and write a make-up exam for you now but I will have one for you in three days' time." Or they don't understand that I have to go some afternoons to do volunteer work I signed up to do, and I can't just shaft the coordinator at the food bank (or whatever) to stay and do their make-up exam for them.
It is as if some of them believe they should be my first priority, even when they are expecting something above and beyond normal class process, and, for that matter, above and beyond the "here is how we will deal with problems" protocol from the syllabus.
And while I know I am perfectly justified in my, "No, I cannot do the make up exam now" or "No, I do not do make up labs," it makes me very tired to have to say that (sometimes on a weekly basis) and then deal with the inevitable pleading, complaining, or "but can't you bend the rules just once, just for meeeeeee?"
And what got me thinking about this was this morning. I was getting dressed to come in, figured I better wear slacks because I can wear my trackshoes with them, rather than having to wear dress shoes that might hurt my feet in the approximately four miles I am going to walk and the approximately four hours I am going to be on my feet today. My church is serving lunch at the "ecumenical" Christian center on church (we have a Baptist center, a Church of Christ center, and an "ecumenical" center.) So after my class this morning I am going to walk over there (it's a little over a mile from where I sit now, but parking on campus is so horrific that I'm not even going to TRY) and serve food. I don't mind doing it, the students who come in are nice and are grateful for a free, home-cooked lunch - and most of them are regular attenders of the center's worship times - but it's just the time involved, especially now. Especially because I had someone go all sad-faced on me yesterday when I said I couldn't have them do a make up exam at that time, as I was going to be over helping serve lunch.
I said to myself this morning, "I will be very glad when I am done with doing stuff for other people for a while, and can attend to my own stuff." Not a very nice thought, perhaps, but in this past week, I've done lots of mop-up after student absences, and I served a stint at the local food bank handing out boxes of food, and I helped with some on-campus stuff, and today I am helping to serve lunch.
Oh, and yesterday afternoon, I arrived home to a message: since a member of my church's mother (who was affiliated with another church) passed away, they were taking food to the member and his family. Could I possibly pick up something and bring it? They were going to bring the food by around 5....
As the message was sent at 9:15 (when I was in my first class of the day) and I didn't get it until 4:30 when I finally arrived home, I called the person who sent it and told her that there was no way I'd have time to do it. She was understanding, but still: I really need to do a better job of educating people, I guess, that I can't generally do stuff with less than a 24 hour turnaround time.
So I just kind of get worn out. And it doesn't help when a lot of the students are overly optimistic about what they can get done, or how well they can cope with life issues. And I understand, in some cases it may be Financial Aid that's forcing them to do what they do - dropping out and restarting is a lot harder and you do run the risk of losing the aid, and sometimes it's actually "better" from a Financial Aid standpoint to take the F than it is to drop and go below "full time student" level. But that's not my fault. I didn't make the broken system. But it does frustrate me when students come to me expecting I can give them 10 hours of uninterrupted time, where they seem to forget that I have over 100 students in all my classes put together, and if they ALL demanded that much time...well, the universe would collapse upon itself.
I wish none of my students had to go through the crap they're going through. Partly out of simple humanitarian feelings - it must really suck to have to work to help your disabled adult kid get the assistance he needs to go through life - but also because it would free their minds up to concentrate on school. And I would have to hear far fewer sad stories of why I should bend the rules, "just this once, just for me."
Monday, November 02, 2009
Saturday, October 31, 2009
I had LOTS of trick or treaters this year. LOTS. More than previous years. I gave out almost all the candy I bought.
This makes me happy. I see trick or treating as one of the simple pleasures of childhood. (I realize some may disagree with me for religious reasons, and that's fine for you. I grew up in a fairly observant family and there never seemed to be "evil" or satanic overtones to Halloween to me - and of course the next day is All Saint's Day. We kind of saw it in two ways: first, as a fun day to go out and do what you don't normally do (go out at night, eat more candy than normally permitted) and second, as a day to laugh at what scares you).
I'm glad it's not been swept away completely by the increased "convenience" or imagined greater "safety" of taking the kids to the mall instead, or doing a parking lot "trunk or treat." Oh, maybe some of the kids I saw did that too, but they also got out to do the old-school way of trick or treating, like I did as a kid.
I always try to buy the "good" candy; on a tip from a parent I know, this year I went for Skittles and 3 Musketeers bars and little Twix bars, those all seemed to be big hits. Most of the kids thanked me and a few really got excited when they saw what they were getting.
I like seeing all the trick or treaters. The tiny little kids in their tiny little costumes (cutest one this year - a babe in arms dressed as a bumblebee), the slightly older kids trying to pick the coolest or goriest costume (there were quite a few grim reapers this year, and there was one kid dressed as a Zombie Michael Jackson. Maybe a bit inappropriate, I don't know, but it was a pretty good costume (it was homemade)).
It makes me happy that this tradition survives. I hope it continues to, despite all the "bad news" about sex offenders and danger lurking in the candy and the recession and all that other crap - when you're a kid, you don't remember what's going on in the news (I don't remember much of Carter other than that he had a big toothy grin and used to be a peanut farmer, and I don't really remember the Carter Recession or the oil crisis (other than waiting in long lines to buy gas with my dad and him cussing a bit about it) but you do remember stuff like trick or treating.
And I think parents do, too. I know I get a lot of pleasure, even as a non-parent, from handing out the candy - it must be a lot of fun to take your kid out and see them get excited and have them all dressed up.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Something came up that reminded me of my cousin who committed suicide. It's been five years now but it still hurts when I'm reminded of it.
I realize people in that frame of mind aren't really thinking, but really, it is the ultimate selfish act.
I'm just kind of melancholy right now. It's rained all week long, I'm trying to grade some absolutely terrible papers (I think I'm going to have to go back and re-teach stuff they should have already known) and all I have to look forward to tomorrow is coming in and doing the research work I didn't have time to do today.
I will admit to going over to "Superbuzzy" (a site that sells Japanese print fabric and cute little toys from a company called Re-Ment) and buying myself a couple of treats. (I got paid today. And, oh crap, that reminds me: don't go grocery shopping today. Or tomorrow, for that matter.)
Thursday, October 29, 2009
"Sweden focuses on cutting food emissions."
I guess I'm still kind of 12; my first thought was, "So, they're going to ban beans then?"
(Apparently it has to do with "greening farming." So it will soon come here and we will be nannied at for wanting to drink orange juice when we do not live in Florida or California, or for wanting chocolate, or coffee.)
I do agree with both HH and the Swillers. I think our future is a mix of 1984 (only Big Brother is also looking for wrong-eating and wrong-energy-use as well as wrong-thinking) and BNW, with some "Some pigs are more equal than others" thrown in for good measure.
(I have a strong suspicion that the "some pigs are more equal than others" concept is what keeps certain individuals in favor of communist/socialist ideas: because they believe they will not be the ones forced to stand in line for six hours to buy a loaf or bread, or they will not be the ones forced to live in a depressing, monolithic apartment block. And they don't seem to particularly care that a lot of people WOULD, if we became socialist and it turned into a late-Soviet style of socialism). And I think it's the same idea that blinds certain celebrities to the irony of them jetting all over the world while telling their fans that it is "correct" to dry clothes on a clothesline, and eat vegetarian, and turn the thermostat down in the winter.
And then there's "We" by Zamyatin. I read that one, too, all I remember of it was that sex was outlawed (you had to request, and fill out forms, for permission to have it) and everyone was watched through giant windows. And imagination was outlawed. (Interesting that the author of that novel was, IIRC, present at the 1917 Soviet revolution)
There is no shortage of dystopian views of our future. And all of the Utopian communities ever established wound up failing. So I admit a hearty suspicion of people who would make a Utopia on earth, either by government fiat (the most common form these days) or everyone subjecting themselves to some sort of allegedly-appointed-by-God leader (the Utopian communities of the 1800s.)
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
When I was a teenager, I read both "1984" and "Brave New World." My friends always thought "1984" was going to be the scenario that happened in the future. I thought it would be "Brave New World."
Sadly, I think I was right. And it seems to be coming more every day. How long before they put soma in the drinking water?
First off, Bings:
I think the student in question is either the Hairdresser of the Future or the Grocery Shelf Restocker of the future.
Remember, I don't exactly teach at Harvard, so don't fret too much over one person who seems to not have it all goin' on upstairs. (And in some cases, I think the lack-of-brains is really a lack-of-attention or lack-of-caring.)
Second, the news story that irritated me for the day:
They're saying now that prisoners will be eligible for the H1N1 shot before the "non high risk" population.
Now, intellectually, I understand this: first, prisons are crowded places where people can't get away from one another. And second, many prisoners are probably in poorer health (thanks to drug use and other forms of bodily abuse) than the average taxpayer.
but emotionally, it pisses me off. It feels like yet another instance of "People who followed the rules and did the responsible thing, get to the back of the line. We'll help you when we're done helping the "dee-dee-dee" Special Snowflakes of the world who can't be arsed to take care of themselves - that is, if we are still equipped to give any help."
I teach on a college campus. It's crowded. It has people who don't always take the best care of themselves (I am sure going out and drinking cheap beer several nights a week is not salutary for one's health). It has a mix of people, some with chronic illnesses. And yet, there is no plan to offer vaccines - because there is NOT ENOUGH vaccine.
(I heard this morning that a 40 year old woman in Texas died from H1N1. They're saying she had no underlying conditions. What is this about "only children are seriously affected" again?)
I don't know. I'm just so fed up with what seems to be a lot of contradictory information, a lot of screw-ups on the parts of TPTB, as concerns this. Now they're telling us, "Don't panic," while they continue to report the death toll (yes, this is NOT as bad as seasonal flu deaths. So, dear MSM, why are you acting like each death from this is a major tragedy, and you always ignore the seasonal flu.)
I just have a feeling that either this whole mess is a preview of what the "public option" ("Whoops, we didn't make enough necessary vaccine!") will be, or it will lead to some kind of blanket declarations that limit people's freedom. ("We're from the government, and we're closing down movie theaters, because it's For Your Own Good.")
They're vaccinating schoolkids here (there is an opt-out option, though from all I've read, this vaccine looks pretty safe). I hope soon those of us who are not regarded as "high risk" will get a chance. (I'm especially scared as I live alone - if I get sick I will have no one to take care of me, or to realize that I have a super high fever and need to go to the ER. I wonder if they even send out ambulances for someone who's so sick and weak from flu that they can't drive themselves to the hospital?)
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I just received this e-mail.
The subject line was "Hey."
Getting an e-mail from a student titled "Hey" is NEVER a good thing.
The e-mail itself reads (and this is VERBATIM, nothing cleaned up or changed):
"i just thought i would let u know that i do study for ur test. i just realy have hard time with test just dont want u to think im not trying in ur class i really am..."
I am debating whether beating my forehead to a bloody pulp on the edge of my desk would help or not. If I were a drinking woman....well, I'd be standing outside the lone town liquor store waiting for them to open up for the day.
I SHOULD send it back, with a comment that using text-speak on a professor who CLEARLY likes language and uses it well is an insult, and include the old saying about "'Hey' is for horses" but I don't think that would solve anything.
Seriously - WHY IN THE HELL would you send what any adult would regard as an illiterate e-mail claiming that you are actually studying and actually working but do not test well?
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
You might wish to take note of the fact that you scored a 44% on the first exam, and a 30% on the current exam. Neither of these scores, I am convinced, are my fault, considering that the class means have been around about 70% and I have several students scoring above 90%.
You might also wish to know that if you come into my office in the last week of class and want to know if there is anything you can "do" to salvage your grade, I will very likely tell you, "Build a time machine. Go back to the start of this semester. Come to class, do the work, and study for the exams."
But I won't tell you that, because the irony would be lost on you; you would simply think I'm another mean professor making impossible demands of the students.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
When a prof repeats something THREE TIMES to a class, has it on an overhead slide, and says THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT YOU WILL NEED TO KNOW THIS, **AND** has written on the exam review sheet KNOW THIS TOPIC, you would think a student would study and learn that specific topic for an exam, no?
With this class I'm grading for right now, not so much.
I'm not so sure, personally, I'd be in favor of a "ban" on reality shows.
Because the problem with bans is, once you've banned the stuff you don't like, someone else demands the option to ban stuff they don't like. (And I can see our administration banning a particular network, were they given the chance).
I'd rather see the American public, as a mass, decide, "You know, it's really a waste of our time to watch melodramatic family melt-downs and people who are the modern equivalent of circus freaks" and turn off the shows en masse.
(Of course, I know, the old line from Mencken or Perelman or whomever: No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public).
There are a couple shows that are arguably "reality" that I actually watch: Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs.
The difference is, they have people (hosts) who know something that I feel is worth my knowing, and I especially like Mike Rowe's attitude: "I'm going to showcase these people who normally do the behind-the-scenes, thankless jobs, because they're really important to keeping our society running."
I also occasionally watch some of the "medical emergency" type shows, but even those sometimes border a bit too much on melodrama for me.
What I don't care for - and don't particularly "get" - are the 'famous for being famous' shows. The Kardashians? Who are they, why do they have a show? The Hulk Hogan and his family one? I tried watching a few minutes of the Kardashians but found that it bored me.
(OK, I admit it: I used to watch the Ozzy Osbourne one, or at least half-watch it while doing other things. Because it amazed me that someone could have done as much drugs as he's rumored to have done, and still be vertical and this side of the turf.)
And, while I don't watch them, I do think that shows like "American Idol" and "Dancing with the Stars" are fun, and possibly give people the sense that "if I work at my interest, maybe I can get good enough at it to actually perform" or whatever.
But I grow tired of the people - and there seem to be a lot of them in this world - who think they deserve a show on television. That they are special and interesting and DIFFERENT from thousands of other people.
Look, if they tried to make a reality show about my life, I realize it would be monumentally boring to everyone except maybe the five or six people who extra-specially love me. But that's the way the vast majority of people's lives are!
What also gets me is the whole manufactured-drama thing. Most people's lives are just not that full of crises. (Or at least mine is not). Most people (I hope) don't go through the day screaming and cussing at the other people around them.
Actually, that's one of my concerns about some of these "reality" shows - people will see them and either assume "that's how people normally live" or decide that "the people on tv act that way, so it's fine for me to stop exercising control over how I act and how I treat people." And we see a further coarsening of culture, more and more parents cussing their kids out in the wal-mart, more and more couples having screaming fits in the airport or somewhere else they have an unwilling audience.
And maybe everyone becomes a little narcissist; everyone begins to assume they are "on," are playing to an audience at all times, that they want people to look at them. And people become, by stages, more and more of Speshul Snowflakes because they have been taught to believe that they "deserve" attention and an audience.
I think this is the "new lottery" - people used to believe that if they won the lottery, their lives would be AWESOME! I think now some people are thinking, "If I had a tv show, my life would be AWESOME!" and people are willing to do criminally stupid things to try to get it.
I hope we, as a culture, have more sense and more backbone than that, that there will come a point where we will say, "You know, this is really stupid" and stop granting the attention whores their fifteen minutes of fame.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
So my newest colleague comes in with a question.
"What do I do about this" - a student of hers handed back in his (all multiple choice) exam for re-grading, claiming she had mis-graded it.
He had taken the exam in pencil. Interestingly enough, all of the "mis-graded" questions had one answer (the wrong one) erased, and the "right" one written in darker pencil. (And "apparently" all of the questions he got wrong had been misgraded and were really right, and none of the others...)
(An aside: this is why, on multi-choice questions, I ALWAYS circle the right answer if they get the answer wrong.)
Apparently the guy was trying to cheat her, and figured because she was new and was trying to be a "friend" to the students, she'd fall for it. She was pretty disgusted. I told her to tell him she couldn't do a regrade because it was in pencil...and if necessary, to remark casually that it is "possible" that answers could be changed on an exam written in pencil - not to accuse him of it, but to hint that she's on to him.
(I probably should have told her to also notify the chair for back-up in case the guy tries to go over her head...our chair is very good at backing us up on cases like this but I think it helps for her to know).
But, crikey. That takes a pair right there, to change ALL the wrong answers on your test to the right ones and then claim the prof misgraded your test.
I just checked the rosters. Two of my ZOMG I NEED A MAKE UP TEST FOR THAT TEST I MISSED people have dropped.
Nice of them to tell me.
I realize that it's probably the furthest thing from their minds - to notify the prof they DEMANDED to write a make up test for them - but I still feel kind of taken advantage of.
But that's the theme of my life these days. It's Take Advantage of Ricki Month, apparently, and not Take Advantage in any way that might be remotely fun for me. Grr.
I think they probably need to shut down campus. I have SO many students out sick. I got "official" word this morning that one of them has H1N1.
The biggest issue is that this throws a giant wrench into exam-giving. I will have to write make-up tests for everyone who's out sick.
(And I still HAVE a couple people who begged, pleaded, brought doctor's/lawyer's notes so they could make up exam 2 who still have not. I get REALLY annoyed when I go to the trouble to write a make-up exam and people can't be arsed to take it).
The thing that gets me, is I don't know for sure who's for real and who's shamming (well, unless they bring notes...and we've been told some doctors are not giving notes because of the "paperwork overload").
This is an effing nightmare. As is the distribution of the vaccine. I've been as much as told I won't be able to have it, seeing as I'm not in any of the
valuable highly susceptible populations. Even though I have asthma and am around breeding grounds of virus and bacteria (aka students) daily.
So if I get sick, I get sick, and I have to try to take care of myself, because I live alone and I can't think of anyone I'd be willing to put at the risk of catching the flu from me to ask to come and take care of me. (I could DIE. I could DIE ALONE IN MY HOUSE and no one would know until I started stinking. That scares me.)
(And I hate to say it, but: expect more of the same if we happen to wind up with single-payer, government-run health care some day. More delays. More cock-ups. More people being deemed not-sufficiently-significant-to-be-treated.)
Some days I'm teaching to classes that are half full. Now, in some cases - like on Fridays - I suspect the "half full" is 'cos some of the guys are out in the deer woods. But other days...well, either lots of people are taking advantage of sleeping in, or I have lots of people out sick. This is going to be a lost semester for a lot of folks, whether they have gotten sick or whether they are taking advantage of the newly liberalized attendance policies.
I expect to have a lot of people crying poor in my office the last week of classes, because they did not realize that skipping class could lead to failing. And I will have ZERO sympathy. All of my sympathy is being used up on the genuinely sick people, and it's being burned up by the people who WERE sick but who are now not lifting a finger to try to get caught up.
Monday, October 19, 2009
It was all a damnable, attention-whoring, let's-get-us-a-reality-show hoax.
I'm pretty furious. I hope that:
a. The parents are made to pay EVERY PENNY (and then some) of what the "rescue" operation cost.
b. No one in that town suffered a REAL emergency during the time of the fake emergency. If someone died or was disabled as a result, I think they have ever right to sue the crazy-balloon-family into the Stone Age.
c. That this signals the beginning of the end of the attention-whoring, "I'm famous for being famous," "Trouble is a form of attention!" mindset that waaaaaay too many of us have. I want people to become well-known because they did something that BENEFITED society. Like the guy who invented polio vaccine. Or someone who developed an afterschool program that kept kids out of trouble. Or someone who saved a bunch of his unit from an attack in Iraq. Or someone who took a risk with their life savings and created good jobs for people. NOT SOME EFFING LUNATICS WITH A MYLAR JIFFY-POP WEATHER BALLOON WHO HAVE TO BE ON THE EFFING TV!
And yeah, yeah, I'm giving the idiots attention by pointing to them as an example of people who should NEVER GET ATTENTION EVER AGAIN! But I'm done now.
Seriously, there are thousands of people out there who work their butts off and never see any benefits and sometimes rarely even a "thanks" for it. They're the ones who deserve attention - the folks in the military. The doctors who work long hours to help people. The caretakers at nursing homes. People who do hard and often dirty jobs because they are jobs that have to be done. And so few people give a crap about it, preferring to think about the doings of some celebutante or some loser who thinks their life was made to go on reality tv.
(Actually, maybe that's the secret: the people who are doing the tough, dangerous, and dirty jobs KNOW they're not losers, so they don't feel the need for attention. They know - I hope they know - that what they're doing is incredibly valuable - and they don't feel the need to seek out recognition because of that, and it's the people who have really never done anything helpful who turn into attention whores. I don't know).
Sunday, October 18, 2009
This may embarrass the guys. Be forewarned.
I think I may be starting to go through "the change." I get really pukey the week before my period (I don't actually throw up but walk around with an upset stomach, like I have a low grade viral thing). And I get cold. And I feel a lot crappier, physically, than I ever remember feeling before. (Luckily, with me, PMS is almost entirely physiological - I don't get the upset/cranky/easily brought to tears set up that some women get). I just kind of hurt, get muscle aches and things. And I'm tired, which really sucks. I get into bed to read and manage maybe fifteen minutes before I'm starting to fall asleep and drop the book and stuff.
I remember when my mom was starting - I didn't even realize what it was, I was kind of young - she was throwing up all the time. (She spent most of the family trip to Disney World looking for restrooms and staying off of the roller coasters).
Or maybe it's what they call perimenopause. I don't know. Whatever it is, it kind of sucks.
(I asked my gyn at the last appointment, her response was, "This is unfortunately how it sometimes goes for people; I can't find anything wrong with you that would suggest that it's anything BUT what you think it is").
She also thinks that for me - given family history and such - I could be dealing with this for as long as ten years. Oh joy.
Thank goodness for those buckwheat things you can heat up in the microwave and put on the ouchie parts, and for candied ginger (it keeps me from being TOO pukey without having to resort to something that might have side effects).
I've never complained about being female - I never felt discriminated against because of my gender and such - and I never had problems before. But I'm kind of not looking forward to dealing with this every month for the next 120 months, if my gyn is right. I don't know if soy would help; I tend not to eat much soy because my mom's actually allergic to it and I've heard that it may not be a great idea to eat TOO much; if you develop a cancer that feeds on estrogen it can make it worse. And I'm kind of unwilling to go the herbal route and take black cohosh and such; I have such weird reactions to some medications that have been rigorously tested that I sort of fear the herbals and what they might do to me.
The upset stomach and not-being-able-to-eat-normally is the worst part; I rely on dry cereal a lot for my meals because it's one thing I can trust not to make me feel worse. The people who make Cheerios probably never thought of that as a marketing strategy...
Saturday, October 17, 2009
In a comment on the previous post, Ken was talking about (I think) Pioneer House or Frontier House or one of those.
There was a series of [Something] House programs that ran from time to time on PBS. I liked them, even if I didn't like the inevitable sniping and the "video confessionals" (usually featuring tearful teenagers who DIDN'T KNOW THIS WAS GOING TO BE SO HARD!!!)
But his comment about "not enough wood. You died." sounds almost like a real-life version of Oregon Trail, the old computer game.
(And heh. Why don't they do a reality show of that? If for no other reason than it would make thousands of Gen-Xers cackle with recognition when the smarmy host (there has to be a smarmy host) hands a card to one team of players telling them that they have died of dysentery.)
I will say I enjoyed 1940s House, which was set in wartime Britain, because I've always been interested in the whole stiff-upper-lip response of Britons to the various fears and deprivations of that time. Even reading some first-person accounts written during that time, people seemed remarkably stoic - almost heroic by today's standards - in response to what was going on.
Also on 'craftivism' - some of you know that I knit and make quilts. I do it because I find it therapeutic and because I like the finished products I can make. It's not cheaper to knit a sweater than it is to buy one (though maybe, level of quality for level of quality, the price would be comparable). And I realize it's perhaps slightly absurd in our modern times to spend a couple months working on something I could buy. But as I said, I enjoy it and take a certain pride in the finished product. And I think being able to make something - whether it's baking your own bread, playing music, doing woodwork, writing stories, making soap, doing embroidery, whatever - is good for many people's souls. (Especially those of us who work in careers where the "finished product" is so intangible). But feeling oneself "better" somehow because you can make stuff....that's just kind of irritating.
(Unless you're doing it in a silly, "here's how I could survive the Zombie Apocalypse" way. And yeah, I've done that...pointed out to people that not only can I make bread, but I can make YEAST (well, given the right conditions, some boiled potato, and willing microbes in the air). But that's just being silly and funny.)
I don't know what it is about some people that drives them to need to point out how they are superior. Some kind of a sense of inferiority, I suppose.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Or, "I'm SO much better than YOU because I make and drink my own almond milk": here.
I mean, yeah, fine. If you drink soy or almond or rice milk instead of the stuff that comes from cows, God bless you. I know people who can't drink cow's milk and the other kinds are a blessing. And good for you if you've figured out how to make it yourself.
but for the love of all that's good, don't paint the rest of us as plasticizer-swilling, landfill-filling, animal-abusing Neandertals because you can.
Thanks so much.
Okay, apparently the Jiffy Pop Flying Saucer Baby story was designed to draw attention to the family. (Because they're attention whores, it seems: they were on a reality show a couple times, and apparently the kids seem coaxed in their interviews (I did not watch them).
You know, this is why I think people need to learn the old, old fables and stories as children. (A while back I remarked on my surprise that none of my Youth Group kids knew, or at least admitted to knowing, the Little Red Hen story).
We need to remind people of the Boy Who Cried Wolf story. You have too many of these fake crap "news" stories where someone's ginned something up to draw attention to themselves (wonder if the family's got a book deal yet?), and eventually a REAL tragedy will happen and no one will give a crap.
The only sad thing is that the attention-whores will never be the one in the real serious dire straits; it will be some innocent person who genuinely needs help but no one wants to believe them.
(And apparently the kid hurled on-camera when being interviewed? Twice? I knew someone once who could apparently barf at will, I'm just sayin'...)
I don't know. On the one hand, I like that there is 24 hour news on now; it seems a lot of the more cockroachy things that go on politically get a bright light shined on them. But on the other hand, it seems that stories that lack even the weakest leg to stand on get played up, spun up, into a huge froth, with no critical thinking.
Okay, I admit it: I was out driving yesterday. I heard the news report on the radio. And I said a prayer that the kid was OK. And I said to myself, "oh, this is not going to end well" when they opened up the thing and there was no kid in it, and they said there was a claim that someone saw something like a gondola falling off the thing. So I feel kind of used when apparently the kid, thinking a "show" was being put on, hid in the attic the whole time and didn't come out.
I think the family should have to reimburse all the "rescuers." And I hope to God there was no one in actual danger at that time who got pushed aside because of this.
For once I'd like to see someone getting recognition for actually doing something GOOD and WORTHWHILE. But any more, it seems that a talent for self-promotion is what wins accolades and attention.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I know it's wrong to wish death on someone, even someone you regard as a threat and an enemy. But, they were talking on the radio news this morning about a rumor that the Ayatollah Khameni had died.
I am inclined to doubt its veracity - wouldn't there be mourning going on in Iran, and not business-as-usual? But, apparently, if this Ayatollah were gone, Achmedinejad might be on his way out (or so the analyst that they talked to on the news said).
Again: ohpleaseohpleaseohplease. (And yes, I know: they might wind up with someone even crazier than Achmedinejad. Though maybe only EQUALLY crazy; I'm not sure it's possible to be crazier than him and still function). But then again, as I've said before: from everything I've read, the Iranian people are by and large decent people who do not seem to support the Achmedinejad regime. And I can hope that a weakening in leadership could lead to BETTER leadership. (Even leadership that doesn't want to wipe Israel off the map would be an improvement).
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Health Care Overhaul Plan May Die
I have to admit, this is the number 1 thing scaring me right now. Because I think there's a reasonable chance (though apparently less than there was yesterday) of some putrid combination of Baucus' plan and Reid and Pelosi's "ideas" being shoved down our collective throats (or other bits; I suppose you could call it the Congressional Pap Smear of 2009 if you wanted to be gross).
There's so much that could potentially go wrong: taxing people's insurance (Um, mine is a benefit. I don't pay anything for it actually, so would I have to pay taxes on that $500 or so a month worth of benefits?). Criminalizing people choosing not to buy insurance (I'm sorry, but WTF? If I didn't get insurance through work, I'd certainly buy some form of it privately, but I think people should be allowed to CHOOSE). Not to mention what I fear will be more things like the balls-up we're having around here about BOTH H1N1 and regular flu vaccine: we've been told "unless you are a small child, a health care worker, or a pregnant woman, expect NOT to be able to get the H1N1 vaccine" And even then, those high-risk groups won't see it until November, likely, at this point.
And not to mention idiocies like taxing soda pop, or making fatties like me step on a scale and assessing our taxes based on our weight. (Seriously: if they WANT me to develop an eating disorder that they will have to pay to treat?)
Don't get me wrong: I am completely in favor of having SOMETHING in place to help people who don't get insurance through work and can't afford it. But why screw up things for the 85% or so of us who are happy with the status quo? (And for gosh sakes: do not hoover more money out of my paycheck to cover people who are here illegally.)
So I hope this writer over at Cato is correct. And then maybe cap-and-trade could fall apart next, while we're asking?
Nutella is a hazelnut/chocolate spread. I think it originated in Italy. It is delicious, so of course, that means it's evil and fattening and will probably eventually be banned. (Perhaps Nutella bootlegging should be the future career I could look into). It's kind of like peanut butter infused with chocolate. (Incidentally, it has no trans fats - just the good old-fashioned kind of fat).
"Cankles," which is one of my most-hated words, is a contraction (I think) of "calf-ankle" - meaning women who have heavy ankles, like their calves extend down farther than they normally would. It's just another way that women are judged and found to have value/not have value based on their appearance. And "cankles" (like "cheerleader legs," another apparently undesirable trait) are not something we exactly have control over - if you have them, you could diet, and you still might not lose them. (I think there's now a surgery. So they've pathologized yet another thing.)
Another ridiculous story: apparently Ralph Lauren fired a model for being "too fat." She was 5' 9" and weighed 120 pounds.
I am just making this observation in part to remind myself not to buy anything produced by Ralph Lauren Industries. Because obviously -as someone shorter than 5'9" and considerably more than 120 pounds - they don't want my business.
I'm going shopping this weekend. A guy on Glenn Beck told me to.
(Yeah, I half-watch Glenn Beck. I don't believe all of what he says - if he did, I'd already be in that Unabomber-without-bombs cabin in the woods. But he's an entertaining madman and I do think some of his points make sense, particularly about people stepping up and taking responsibility)
Well, anyway, this dude was talking about the shrinking dollar and how he feared a coming currency crisis - and Beck said to him, "So, do you think it would be a good idea to go out and stock up on non-perishables now, so you have them when the SHTF?" (paraphrasing). And the guy said yeah.
And okay, he was referring to food - but I have LOTS of canned food on hand, and even some dried camping food. (In fact, I need to start using stuff up). But if the dollar tanks, and the little luxuries of life become unobtainable...well, that allows me to justify going out and stocking up on books and nice soap and good tea and that sort of thing.
(This is "found money" in a sense - money I earned over and above my basic salary by doing some "over and above" work. So it's not like I'm emptying out my "emergency fund" or draining my 457b to do it.)
I've decided this fall that life is somewhat uncertain, and that being as much of a cheapskate as I used to be - for example, keeping the thermostat set low (borderline uncomfortable) to save money on my heating bills - just doesn't make that much sense any more. If I can afford it, if it doesn't majorly compromise my future (I put away some $700 of my paycheck each month for retirement, on top of what the government's syphoning off for the supposed Social Security lockbox and on top of my state "teacher's pension plan" - neither of those plans I anticipate to still be in operation by the time I hit retirement)
But you know? We might all be blown to Kingdom Come by then, if Iran gets the nuke. Or we might all become slaves of some other nation. Or we might all be dead of the swine flu - or whatever the next big pandemic is. Or we might get government-run, single-payer health-care, and so, people like me (no kids, over 40) be deemed "expendable" and allowed to die whenever we develop cancer or heart disease.
Or, more likely, there may be a VAT coming, or some kind of tax-on-savings or God knows what to fund all the crap Congress wants to do.
So what's the point of scrimping and saving too much, if all those scrimpings are either taken away from me, or if I am not around to use them?
So anyway. I have a bit of time off this weekend (it's mid-semester), so I'm going to go and take a day and go to not-the-usual-Boutiqueville-I-go-to-but-another-one and take a day to enjoy the fact that I have money to spend.
And I realize that this flies in the face of all the "New Frugality" crap, and the "save save save your money" dicta, but you know? I've also come to the conclusion that a lot of the advice that comes over the teevee doesn't apply to me. Because I'm already doing the stuff they are telling people to do. And just because some people are idiots and buy a house that costs eight times their annual salary or something, and so now they're saying on the television "Don't go out to eat! Get all your books from the library instead of buying books! Cancel your cable...whoops, no, don't do that 'cos you couldn't watch us!" they don't mean me.
Just like they probably don't mean me when they snark about how Americans don't exercise. Or about how all our diets are so crappy (Shepherd Smith going ape over the fact that a Krispy Kreme cheeseburger exists - I wouldn't eat one myself, but I don't think they should be BANNED or anything like that).
I just need to learn that. That I'm not as stupid and lazy as the news media apparently thinks I am, and the crap they're spewing doesn't apply to me.
And that includes the money thing. I'm very frugal in a lot of ways, but as I said, I do like a nice lunch out now and then (And I'm careful about what I eat, but I like a nice piece of cake now and then, if the place I'm eating has a decent baker). And I like being able to go out and buy stuff without worrying about "how will I pay for this" (I get the money in cash, and spend cash).
So yeah. I'm gonna stock up. Just not on what exactly the "OMG DOLLAR IS FAILING" guy said.