Wednesday, September 30, 2009

short but not sweet

I am so #$(*#, #$(*@$, #(@$*@#ing sick of people "phoning it in."


Argh. That is all.

I've figured it out.

A big part of my irritation with special snowflakery. Or maybe not the biggest part (the biggest part is still that I have to listen to the whiny entitlement), but still part.

And it's one of those "it's me, not them" things.

I don't have anyone around me right now making me feel "special." I look at the special snowflakes and think how nice it might be to be made to feel like you DESERVE all that just because of who you are.

I'm very good at putting my own wants (and sometimes even my needs) on the back burner in favor of doing what other people need (or, sometimes, want). I'm the person who makes it to every stinking AAUW meeting, even when I'm tired, even when I've had a really crappy day and will probably cry if someone looks at me cross-eyed.

Because I can't quite justify to myself, "You deserve to stay home this one time." No. Instead, I say to myself: "But you are the secretary. It is your responsibility to be there and take the minutes. It doesn't matter that you've been up since 4:30 and you have an 8 am class tomorrow. You need to be there and do the job you agreed to do." No matter that I don't get paid or even thanked very often.

Kate kind of touches on how I feel in her Nobodies and Somebodies post. I feel like that sometimes. Like everyone else is more special than I am, that they deserve good stuff because of who they are, and because I sometimes go days without anyone really even talking to me (other than to ask questions in class or a colleague asking me if I know how to fix the printer), that I'm kind of a nobody.

Like I'm surrounded by all these people who have convinced themselves they deserve, deserve, deserve and I look at myself and I go, "I don't." And I get to thinking that maybe I don't matter as much. That because I don't have people around me telling me how great I am, I'm not really that good at anything. That I'm not special, and that's why I wind up alone, and that's why I sometimes don't feel very good about what I'm doing, even as hard as I work.

(Mainly the feedback I get, when I do get it, is "you screwed up there" or "it's good, but I want you to now go back and change everything about it.")

I never quite learned the skill of saying "Damn, I'm good!" and believing it. I fear it's a little late to learn it now. At times I can say, "yay. I'm adequate" but it's rare that I ever am totally satisfied with something I've done, to the point where I'd give myself a gold star for it.

Because, see, I think about what I do. There are thousands of other people across the country who do what I do - teach college and do research. I would estimate that at least 80% of them are better at it than I am. Or at least they've convinced themselves that they are. And I get that old feeling of, "you're not that special."

Because, if I was, wouldn't I have applied to and got a job somewhere more prestigious? Wouldn't I have a lot more publications? Wouldn't I...maybe...wouldn't I "have someone"?

It's a hard thing. I know, like Kate said, it's kind of a slap in the face of God to feel un-special and not-all-that-great because after all, I'm supposed to be here for some purpose (though some days I have a hard time divining exactly what it is). But I do feel kind of un-special. Kind of invisible. (I remember as a kid reading a story about a girl who turned invisible. A kindly creature in the story surmised it was because no one paid attention to the girl, and she set out to make the girl turn visible by being nice to her. Well, the twist of the story was that the invisible girl was a real brat and everyone liked her better when she was invisible and silent, but still...I have days where I almost feel like I'm getting a bit wavery around the edges and transparent, where I wonder if anyone would notice if I had disappeared except for the fact that the stuff I'm 'supposed' to do didn't get done).

I don't know where I'm going with this, other than to observe that there are probably lots of other people out there like me - people who work in obscurity, who don't make waves, who do what they're supposed to. AND NO ONE FREAKING CARES. The people who get attention are the special snowflakes of the world.

And yeah, yeah, I know: I shouldn't get praise for doing what I'm supposed to. But once in a while, it would be nice to hear a "thanks" or a "way to go." I look at all the screwed-up celebrities who get adulation and think about all of the custodians and nurses and who-knows-who-else who show up every day and do their jobs and who live and die and get little attention or even, apparently, love for it. And let one drunk guy get up at the VMA and push his way in front of someone else, and he's got all kinds of attention. (Yeah, it's bad attention, but I swear some days any attention at all would feel like a nice change)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

get out the snow shovels...

....If I'm dealing with so many Special Snowflakes right now, why isn't it closer to Christmas?

Seriously. Now I'm not just a professor. I'm a Den Mother, a Tech Support person, a Mother Confessor, a cop, and a diagnostician. ("I am not a medical doctor. Please do not tell me your symptoms. We have free campus health services with a nurse and doctor who do know what they are talking about and who will not incur any risk of malpractice by helping you")

I had a homework due today. Seriously, what makes it so HARD? What makes people's printers break, make them forget things, make them have issues. It's like everyone has a collective brain shutdown when something's due. And it's somehow, vaguely, MY fault. I can see now why one of my colleagues stopped assigning papers altogether.

Monday, September 28, 2009

this makes it better

I maded you all (well, at least you-all who aren't Christ-haters) a LOL:

It scares me.

I admit it. There are some things in this world that scare me. I'm not talking about the momentary shake-up when someone runs a red light in front of me, or when I trip while running up the stairs in my classroom building.

I'm talking about real fear, as in, "I don't know how we're gonna get out of this safely" fear.

Achmedinejad scares me in that way. Him and the mullahs. I think the people of Iran are mostly good people, from what I've read they mostly want more freedom than what they've been given. But the leadership of Iran scares me. Just like Kim Jong-Il scares me (Even though he may be very sick and be replaced soon, still, I think there's no shortage of would-be tyrants in the NK Communist party).

Gaddafi scares me a little too, but more in the way that I'm scared and put off when I'm traveling somewhere in a city and an obviously crazy person accosts me on the street, yelling gibberish and waving their arms. Gaddafi is a bad dude, but I get the feeling his star's waning - that he's maybe on the way out in the next few years (and may a better man replace him).

But what's going on in Iran - it scares me in a way similar to how I felt shortly after September 11, an almost existential fear. It catches me at times, I find myself thinking, "Why am I bothering to teach my students how to do a t-test or about population dynamics? The world's going to end, like, next month, and it just doesn't matter."

But I don't know anything else to do, and I can't let the mask of sanity slip, so I keep on teaching, even though at times it feels like I'm doing so on the bridge of the Titanic, with the iceberg in sight.

I know, I know, as a Christian I should not be afraid, that ultimately everything is going to be all right - but that "ultimately" might mean "after I'm dead," and I'm scared of what might happen leading up to that.

In church yesterday we sang "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." (Interesting - the usual song-leader, who comes from a Baptist background, is out on medical leave and I think the person who is the song-leader right now is a former Lutheran. It would stand to reason*)

(*In my congregation we seem to have a lot of "former whatevers" and not as many born-into-it Disciples as most Disciples congregations)

And this verse struck me:

And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed
his truth to triumph through us.

The challenge as I see it is not to be "undone" - I don't mean undone in a moral sense, I interpreted it on that reading as "undone" as in a giving-up sense, as in a since of "I don't see how things are going to get any better." And I admit, these days, I come perilously close to being "undone" in that way. A lot of the hope I used to have for future improvement of the world is slowly draining away.

I don't want to go back to a Medieval concept though, where this life is something merely to be endured, and the only hope we have is in the next life. I don't like feeling like we can't DO anything while we're here, that it's just going to get worse.

I never agreed with the "Rapture" philosophy that some Christians follow - that the righteous will be taken up and "disappear" (years and years ago, when I briefly attended a Baptist church, I remember literature claiming it had already happened, because allegedly some people had gone missing) and then the world is going to be plunged into years of horribleness - for what purpose? I'm sure there's a good one but the God I believe in, I can't see Him doing that, even to unbelievers.

So I don't know. I hope the Iranian people rise up and overthrow Achmedinejad and the mullahs and establish some kind of more "friendly" government there. Or I hope that somehow the nuke program is shut down. Or something.

I'm a kid of the Cold War; my dad actually had a fallout shelter in our basement when I was growing up. (And I admit, at one point, when I was a teenager, I realized: if they drop the bomb, do I REALLY want to be one of the survivors? Wouldn't it be better to die quickly than to face a future of a lawless, no-civilization world, where if I DIDN'T die a slow horrible death of radiation-exposure-caused cancer, I'd be expected to pop out lots of children to repopulate?

I don't know. I realize it's excessively "soft" of me to say this but I am not sure I would want to live in a world where civilization had gone away, where food was what you could grow or catch or steal from your neighbor, where there was no comfort, no music, no relaxation. Where people like me - a single woman far from family - would be especially vulnerable and would have to trust and band with some other people just in order to stay alive.

And that's why what's going on in the world scares me, and does threaten to undo me a little...

Friday, September 25, 2009


I just had someone earn a 16% on an exam.

Totally phoned it in, that one did. This is a math-based class and I asked them to SHOW THEIR WORK so I could pick it apart and find the errors and maybe give them partial credit where deserved. This person just slapped a (wrong) answer on every question, almost no work shown, and what he had is so sloppy I can't read it.

I did put a big note on the top requesting he show his work next time and why. I know he won't be happy but criminy, that's arrogance - just putting down an answer and assuming it's right, and not showing your work.


Just received an e-mail wanting examples of how I discuss and incorporate "diversity" into my courses.

I am tempted to send a copy of the lab on "species diversity" that I do. Other than that, other than treating people of different ethnic groups/races/whatever equally and fairly, I do not even touch on the "diversity" they are discussing.

But something tells me I may be told to.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Let me count the ways...

...that this day has sucked. (sigh.)

I have had a borderline migraine for like two days. It always happens when we get big changes in the weather. Or maybe it's not a migraine, though it feels like it (except without the puking and the absolute nonfunctionality. But aspirin won't touch it, my allergy meds won't touch it, ibuprofen won't touch it.)

It's some better now, but it does come and go.

I was late to the lab I teach this afternoon. And my teaching assistant was "unavoidably delayed," but I didn't know that until I walked into lab. One of my students - someone with whom I have had issues in the past - snapped at me, "You're late!"

And then I committed what is known as a professional blunder. Instead of smiling ruefully and saying "You're right" or something equally neutral (well, I tried to ignore him the first time but then he repeated it, LOUDER), I said, "Yeah, and I have a migraine too, so my day IS NOT GOING WELL."

So I can kiss a decent evaluation from that guy goodbye. Such is the way of teaching. You have to put up with all manner of incivility from students, but if your mask of kindness and concern slips for a moment, suddenly OH NOES you are OGRE WOMAN WHO HATES EVERYONE AND HER JOB!!!11!!

But good grief - I was one and one-half minutes late, according to the clock in the room.

And it was a lab that involved bright lights. Not fun with a headache. And my group of "we're always WRONG!" students (they assume any time something doesn't work out perfectly, that they screwed up, they are wrong, they don't understand, they need someone to RESCUE them!) were in full bore needy mode today.

Then I finally got home.

You know, it is never a good thing to open up the local paper and see someone you went to church with being led away in handcuffs as the lead story. This was someone who had been accused of a crime of a "personal" nature (it's bad, but not as bad as some). I had been under the impression it was a he-said-she-said and he was going to fight it, but maybe the plea deal offered was too good. (Then again, he's going to be on a certain list for-freaking-ever, and I wonder how this is going to affect his ability to be IN the church in the future, considering that there are kids that go there. (before you ask, it was an ADULT woman. No kids involved in the issue. But people will still have problems with it, I suspect).)

I'm sad about that. Sad to think that he may have done what he was accused of, sad that he's having to go away. Sad that this is going to inflame MORE damnable rumors from the group that split away from us - what was it now, six years ago?

I'm glad I was a fairly new member when it happened, and that I was the "fly under the radar" type, so no one will be calling me and trying to pump me for gossip like they do to one of the women in my Sunday school class. (Though it would give me a great opportunity to pull out one of my favorite lines from The Wizard of Oz...the one that ends something like, "And now, well, being a Christian woman, I can't say it...")

And I'm also just going through one of those sad times. I saw a couple walking down the street today, hand in hand, and felt like I wanted to cry because I don't have that, and it seems like I will never have that. Oh, I know, there are worse things than being alone (being in a bad relationship, for one). But the intellectual and the emotional don't always mesh, and sometimes it would be REALLY NICE to have someone to come home to, someone who would listen - at least once in a while - when I was feeling low and sad and crappy and would tell me he was sorry, or suggest he'd go get a pizza for us to share for dinner, or something.

It's hard pulling the weight all by yourself. It's hard, sometimes, coming home to an empty house and having to figure out some way to cheer yourself up because there's no one else to.

And I'm SO FREAKING SICK of all the "new austerity" or "new asceticism" or "new frugality" or whatever the freaking HELL news stories. Yes, the economy sucks. I don't need to be told every day about foregoing luxuries for some undefinable reason about the economy being bad. I don't like hearing about how more glossy magazines - one of my few comforts these days, actually - may fold because of the recession. I don't like to think of what the Christmas season is going to be like. Are we going to be bombarded with guilt-making (for those of us who are doing OK and might actually BUY presents) stories about families that are gathering around the Christmas Stick by (involuntary) candlelight to sing songs and to share their "imagine" presents - because none can be bought?

(And a part of me - the Tinfoil Hattie part - is wondering if the New Austerity is being pushed as a way of making the "traditional bourgeoisie" look as bad as possible, to try to guilt people into demanding redistribution of wealth or something)

And I'm still sick of the New Frugality stories - one came in my gas bill, of all places - suggesting people can save Oh So Much Money! by packing a lunch to work. Thanks, Mr. Captain Obvious Gas Bill. Next time, maybe you could save yourself a little money by not sticking spam inserts in your mailing?

And I'd really liked to have had something other than pasta or salad for dinner, but there's nothing else in the fridge and I lack the energy to go out and procure food. And I do not live somewhere with abundant delivery restaurants. If I wanted a Domino's pizza, I could have that, but I don't want a Domino's pizza.

What I'd really like? A nice steak dinner (one I didn't have to go out and buy the steak for, and cook myself, and clean up after myself) with someone interesting to talk to.

I'm not perfect. Thank God.

I put myself through a certain amount of agony in re: diet and exercise. Like many (most?) American women, I have been taught (in my case, by the media and peers) that being "bigger" than normal is unacceptable. It used to be framed (and in more regressive circles, still is) as an ugliness issue. It's since been reframed in arguably more progressive circles as a "health" issue (though if you read the comments on ANY New York Times health column dealing with weight or diet, there are at least a few comments implying that fat people should get off their cans and start exercising and sharply restricting caloric intake mainly so the "pretty" people don't have to look at their lardliness).

So I have my issues. And I realize they're my issues.

But I don't tell other people how they should live simply because of my issues.

However, I fear this is our future - we get people who either have paranoia about their body size, or who have control issues, and we all get put on diets "for our own good" or have food taxed because it's "bad" food. (One of the hallmarks of recovery from eating disorders, I understand, is helping the person to come to a realization that food does not carry moral weight. There are foods that may be more healthful, in the sense of having more vitamins or such, but chocolate cake is not "sinful.")

I don't know. This proposed soda tax - on the one hand, I say to myself, "well, you rarely drink soda, and so if it came down to this, or to a tax on excess weight, you should plump (heh) for the soda tax" (And yes - at one time it was apparently suggested, in WWII, that every "overweight" person be fined $20 for each pound, as a way of funding (IIRC) the lend-lease program. Or some similar craziness).

Of course, the problem is the slippery slope: Sugary soda is bad, tax it. But wait, some juice has as much sugar as soda. And chocolate milk has lots of sugar. And of course, sugar's not the only culprit: fat makes people fat. So let's tax meat. And cheese. And butter and bacon (if those aren't outright made illegal). And then some brilliant soul will observe that if a person ate enough butternut squash, they could probably get fat on it...and we will wind up with a VAT on ALL foods, ostensibly to "save us from ourselves." And the result will not help anything - poor folks will be hurt and will still wind up buying the cheapest food they can find (which is often the highly processed food that the foodies like to demonize)

Because folks who are scraping to get by aren't going to buy $20 organic arugula. Even if it's taxed less than the boxes of Kraft dinner.

Hell, I wouldn't buy $20 organic arugula, or $19 a pound bison steaks (well, maybe once or twice a year as a treat), or $29 a pound cheese. Because...though I make a good living and all, I can't see spending that kind of money on food. Yes, I buy the $4 bags of organic pre-cleaned spinach, because I'm more likely to make salad if I can just quickly rinse the spinach instead of having to remove sand and grit from it first. And I buy the pre-made orange juice instead of the cheaper frozen concentrate, because I always forgot to take that hard little core out of the freezer the night before.

But there's a point at which you just have to say, leave people the hell alone. Yes, there are some folks who can only afford Kraft dinner and such. Slapping an additional "salt tax" or "fat tax" on it is not going to make them go, "Wow, we should be eating salad instead" nor is it going to enable them to buy salad. (Unless this is actually some kind of bizarre wealth redistribution scheme, where po' folks will get "stimulus checks" that are only able to be spent on certain produce items).

But I'm even more irked when one of the people nannying at us to avoid certain foods eats them himself AND ALSO has body image issues even more screwed up than my own.

I'm not perfect. I try to eat healthful food most of the time. But you know? Once in a while, I like oreos. Or an orange drink from the drive-thru. Or those deep fried mozzarella sticks. And you know? I'm not going to claim any more I "never" eat that stuff (with the unspoken asterisk of "well, except VERY rarely"). Because yeah, I maybe eat an order of deep fried cheese once every six months or so. But saying I "never" eat it - well, that's claiming a perfection I don't possess, and now after reading about Bloomberg's issues, I don't want to possess. So yeah, I like spinach salad and I eat it a lot. But I also like deep fried cheese. And cookies. And waffle fries, once in a while. And there's nothing wrong with that. Because I keep it in a balance. I don't have to be perfect, thank God for that.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I know it's immature...

but every time this past day or so they've talked on the news about Gaddafi "pitching a tent" (or now, "Trying to pitch a tent") I start snickering like Beavis and Butthead.

actually, with the "trying to pitch a tent" one (in reality, he was apparently -rightly - turned away from a number of communities), I kept thinking, "I think they make medications to help with that now."

Yeah, yeah, I know. I'm 12.

(Also - did I hear rightly? He travels with a cadre of female bodyguards? That is one weird dude.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

NCIS fall premier...(spoiler)


Leroy Jethro Gibbs, you kick SO MUCH ASS!

(ahem. That is all. I really was not looking forward to a "let's break in a new agent" season.)

The only bad thing? I sense it's going to take me a while to calm down after that episode and be able to sleep. The threat of characters I like being killed followed by bad guys going "boom" tends to raise my heart rate too much.

Monday, September 21, 2009

the hermit temptation

I get like this periodically.

I look at what's going on in the world, what's going on in politics, what I perceive as a growing division and incivility of life* and I want to withdraw.

(*And yes, I realize that in politics at least, it's probably just my perception; it's probably no uglier than it ever was, it's just we hear it more now)

I think about all of the back-to-the-lander books I've read through the years, ranging from the (fanciful) "My Side of the Mountain" that I read multiple times as a kid (Seriously, I wanted to be Sam. Or at least be his girlfriend.). And all of the how-to books. Stuff like "We Took to the Woods."

And I admit, I think about it. I think about just withdrawing as much as possible from society - going off the grid, participating as little as possible in the consumer world, making myself as invisible as possible.

(The invisibility is the biggest draw. I don't like the thought that some people think of me, apparently, as a racist because I disagree on principle with some of the things Obama want. I don't like the thought that I'm being seen by some as potentially "dangerous" because I'm not willing to roll over and let Congress do what it wants. It's the old, "I'm gonna take my marbles and go home, then" feeling).

What I fantasize about - and I realize this is in no way realistic, for many reasons - is buying a very large plot of land outside of town. Choosing one still in "semi natural" state, with trees and grassland and maybe a stream running through it. (But NOT on a flood plain, that's for sure). And then choosing a good spot and building a small house on it. And working it so I can have a well and a septic system - so I don't have to be tied in to city water or sewer. And getting solar panels and maybe a small wind turbine so I wouldn't need to buy electricity. And, if it works the way I think it does, having geothermal installed to heat and cool the place. (because where I live, cooling would be a necessity).

I'd still want, I think, Internet access. I could probably do without television if I had to. I'd miss it for a while, I'm sure, but I'd adapt. But I don't think I could do without the Internet - if, for nothing else, for weather forecasts.

And I'd probably need to have at least a cell phone - maybe I could have that and only turn it on certain hours, and my family and friends be the only ones who know the schedule on which I turn on my phone.

(Years and years ago, I wrote a story about a schoolteacher who got entirely fed up with the stupid bureaucracy at his school, and the petty politicking, and who ran away to an old hunting cabin his dad used to own - and how he spent a summer winterizing it, chopping wood, etc. One of the features was that he had a phone - he had taken up writing as a way to earn his living - but he only turned the phone on for two hours a day and his agent and a few relatives knew about that, the rest of the time the phone was off. So that's where that idea came from)

So I'd probably have to pay somewhere on the order of $100 a month for that, but those would be the only "on grid" things I'd have.

As for food - well, in my fantasy, I'd grow a lot of it - some of that "grassland" on my property, I'd plow under (yeah, I guess I'd need either a rototiller or a mule and a moldboard) and plant beans and squash and other things that kept well.

And I'd buy dry beans and flour and cornmeal and stuff like that. Live a bit like the Ingalls family, I guess. It would get monotonous, the diet, but then again, monotony is the feature of most "successful" diet plans that women in "society" hew to. So maybe I'd also lose weight out of sheer boredom. (Well, hell, I probably would anyway with all the physical work).

I'd keep all my books, of course - they now would be my nearly-sole source of entertainment. And I guess I'd keep a radio, though most of the stations around here suck eggs. And my CD player - I own a LOT of CDs, a truck load, and I don't listen to them as often as I should. (But I fantasize in my cabin that I would).

I can imagine the, sitting, by a small lamp (maybe with an LED bulb; they cost a mint but draw very little power - important if you're on solar - and last a long time), next to a little wood stove (if it's winter) reading a book and listening to a CD and feeling quiet and content. And not knowing what's going on politically. And not caring.

In the extreme case, I could imagine buying a safe, taking my money out of the banks (well, I'd have to keep a small account open so I could cash my paychecks), keeping it there, getting some in the form of gold, you know, just in case. Getting a rifle and learning how to shoot it - with the stated reason that I might want to go deer hunting some day, but the real reason that there might be varmints of another kind I would have to scare off if things got really bad.

Yeah, I know. Dangerous fantasies and there are probably some in Congress who would argue I should be locked up for thinking like that.

But there are times that I think things are gonna get really bad, really fast, and the best way to survive is to, well, know how to survive - know how to grow your own food, or, failing that, subsist on food you can store for long periods of time. Knowing basic first aid. Being able to make do with less. Being able to mend stuff - in my fantasy I'd have far fewer clothes than I do (because my work would be different; I wouldn't have to dress up to teach). Having some cash ready to hand, you know, just in case.

I'd also work differently. I've done some "free lancing" of a sort lately - mainly proof-reading/fact-checking textbooks for companies. It's very sporadic work; I guess several of the "big" texts are preparing new editions because I've had a bunch of requests to do this in the past few months. (It pays anywhere from $75 to $200 a pop, depending on how high-level the material is, and how detailed the information they want). But if I could parlay that into semi-full-time - or so I think with my fantasy brain - if I could get one or two of those a week - well, I could make enough to serve my fairly meager needs (the Internet connection would be all the more a necessity then). Or I could maybe write some articles as a freelancer. But most of my days would be spent tending my garden. Or chopping wood. Or planting trees. Or doing something to maintain/enhance my property and my home.

Of course, there are a lot of reasons I couldn't do this in real life. The biggest one is that I do need to be around people. I get weird and obsessive when I am by myself too much, even I recognize that. And I suspect that the cost of building a house, drilling a well, putting in geothermal, buying solar panels, and all that would cost a lot more than what I have, even if I sold the house I own now and lots of the stuff in it. And it's probably not really a good thing for me to "hide my light under a bushel" - I am a decent if not great teacher, I do a lot of other stuff, and it does seem petty to pull out from all of those responsibilities because I am fed up with the talking heads on television.

But I admit, it's a nice fantasy - sort of a pressure valve when I start to get down because one of my colleagues is loudly spouting ill-formed political views, or when people in one of my women's groups start sniping at one another...the thought of just running away, of putting up lots of "NO TRESPASSING THIS MEANS YOU" signs on land I owned, of locking and bolting the door on the outside world, and only letting the thoughts and concepts in that I want to let in, is appealing.

It also doesn't help that I keep getting catalogs from back-to-the-land-y places (not sure how I got on their mailing list, but whatever) that advertise things like solar panels and composting toilets (though I wouldn't quite go there, I think) and hand-crank operated radios and such.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Happy Constitution Day

Here is an online version

I still like the Winston Churchill comment about democracy being the worst form of government, except for all the others.

The Constitution is a great document. It works well. I think it probably behooves every American to (at the very least) know the Bill of Rights.


Bingley made a comment about his wife having to grade in green and purple ink.

Where I come from, green and purple together (at least, wearing them) signified something. (No, not bad choices of colors). It meant the same thing as wearing green on a Thursday, or what green M and Ms supposedly cause.

I really hope that either Bingley's wife's students are too young to be aware of that (but sadly, there almost ISN'T a "too young" these days), or the "green + purple = horny was a very local idea only found where I grew up.

It's funny how I've changed my mind on this issue, from starting out using "friendly" green to now thinking, "They can have my red pen when they pry it from my cold, dead hands."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hah. Justified.

After someone griped at me and took me to task for "hazing" the students and making them cry with my Evil Red Pen of Doom, a more seasoned member of the board stepped in and remarked, "if you put the shoe on the other foot, and had candidates for tenure asking to be let out of doing research, or teaching intro-level classes, on the grounds that it hurts their feelings, they'd be laughed out of the room."

He also spoke out against "enhancing speshul snowflakeness" by bowing to demands that we coddle student sensibilities by not marking in red pen, or by not making so many comments on the papers. (which he was asked to do on his campus. Srsly. Let's just let them persist in their mediocre little boxes, while thinking they're doing great work).

So I feel somewhat justified. Not that I needed it; considering my experience is that the serious students read the red-ink comments and go, "OK. I see what I need to do to improve" and try harder the next time, and the speshul snowflakes persist in feeling bad and feeling like the professor dissed them.

I'm coming to believe that a big hallmark of maturity these days is knowing when something is YOUR fault and YOUR doing and being able to own up to it, rather than blaming everyone else. (That's something I learned at an early age, myself, but then I had uncommonly un-snowflakeish parents)


I have no idea if this is a for-real thing, or if it's just over-reaction by the "other side," but I've heard it said that there are people out there - some currently in high placed positions - who believe that capitalism is evil and should be taken down.

The main response I have to that is that I'm STILL haunted by the television images from the late 70s of Soviet housewives standing in line for six hours to buy a loaf of bread - and when they get to the head of the line, their choice is "buy this single kind, or go without."

I realize that there are some 'losers' in a capitalist system (though perhaps some, because of mismanagement or corruption, deserve to lose). But it seems to me that a communistic system seems to mean more people lose.

I couldn't live in a system where I had to wait hours and hours to buy food. I would literally starve, seeing as I work 10, 12, 14 hour days sometimes.

I also think of Churchill's (I think it was?) comment that "Democracy is the worst system of government, except for all the others."

I think some of the people who complain how "bad" it is here, haven't really seen "bad."

Red ink, not the kind you're thinking of.

One of the mantras of an online group I frequent is "don't poke the crazy." (In other words: don't say things likely to get highly opinionated and prone-to-frothing people on their high horse).

It is a good mantra. It is something I try to live by.

The problem is, you don't always know what's going to poke the crazy.

Who knew that using red ink to grade college students' papers was such a controversial topic? Apparently in some circles, red ink is bad because red causes an emotional reaction, raised blood pressure, tears, etc., etc.

(A confession: I had heard of this before. In fact, for the first few years of my teaching career, I used green pens. Until the main Purveyor Of Stuff in my town stopped carrying green ballpoints and I decided I was NOT mail-ordering pens just to protect a few fragile egos, and went back to red. I noticed no change in my evaluations, how students responded to me, etc. So I decided that a lot of that touchy-feely-teachy stuff was probably bunk.)

But now some people are telling me I am a Bad Person who is damaging the psyches of my students. Um, these are 20 year olds, many of them? A few are even older than me? If red ink is going to mess them up, they've lived far too sheltered a life, I've concluded. And what about the workforce? Trust me, their bosses-to-be are not going to coddle them - not in this economy.

Anyone who gets their panties in a wad over red ink being used to grade needs to change brands of panties.

But still, crikey. This is one of those examples of people insisting that the personal is ALWAYS political, and it bugs me. I don't use red ink because I'm an evil harridan. I use it because it shows up well on word-processed papers, because the pens are readily available (my department supplies them - I don't have to pay for them as I did for the green pens), and because it's traditional.

And I don't write mean stuff on their papers. Most commonly, I'll write "good" next to a well-done part. Or I'll write AWK next to awkward wording, or VA if the verb is out of agreement with the noun, or SP. if something is spelled wrong (and I tell them what those terms mean). Or I'll put suggestions that are, I think, fairly neutral (Like: "You might want to consider displaying the data in your final report in bar-graph form"). I'm not going all Severus Snape on their backsides. But apparently red has become associated with failure, and we must protect people from that.

Gah. I will observe that being "protected" from some failures in my earlier years was probably a contributing factor to the perfectionism and avoidance-of-certain-things (I have a couple manuscripts I COULD submit, but I drag my feet: fear of rejection).

I think rather than being protected from failure, it might be salutary to teach schoolkids that failing to do something perfectly, either because of lack of practice, or lack of experience, or because there's something that needs to be remedied in the basic knowledge set, is not such a bad thing.

It's kind of like pain, in a way: pain is unpleasant. Pain is bad. But - people who can't feel pain (there is a very small subset of the population that can't) is in far worse straits than the rest of us, because they can't always tell when they're injured, and it makes diagnosing problems a whole lot tougher.

But no, it's better to let old wounds fester than to allow for the brief but intense healing pain of debridement. Because we don't want to look MEAN.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Imagined conversation

*knock knock knock*


"Good afternoon, ma'am. My name is Joe Wilson. Did you happen to see President Obama's Health-care speech last Wednesday evening?"

"Um, no...I was at a meeting at church. I'm sorry."

"No, that's okay. One less person Congress is making me apologize to. Oh, would you mind initialing this form to indicate I spoke with you?"

"Yeah, sure....guess you have kind of hot work this afternoon. Want a bottle of water?"

"Yeah, thanks."

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The comfort of reading

It's been a rough couple of weeks. It seems like every year, there is more work to be done (or perhaps, I put more on myself that I need to do; I'm constantly updating the teaching, I strive to grade more closely and precisely, do more research, keep up with reading in my field...)

I get tired a lot.

And I get distressed a lot. One of my colleagues was bloviating politically yesterday. (Yesterday! September 11!) It was the kind of stuff that I tend to regard as both stupid and wrongheaded, the kind of "we need to regulate the American public for their own good...but of course people like me who Know Better can be exempt. Because we Know Better."

And you know, I come home just tired. Tired, and worn down, and kind of sick of people. I hear stuff on the news and it makes me kind of sick of people.

(I swear, some nights, the only human being I can tolerate on the teevee is Mike Rowe. Because he seems not to be an idiot. Oh, and Leroy Jethro Gibbs, except, of course, he's not real).

But anyway. I've been reading a lot. And more than that, craving reading.

I crave reading, periodically. Where the one thing I can think of that I want to do is to just get into bed, open up whatever book I have going on, and read.

I can feel myself, as I read, slipping between the lines of words. Disappearing from the here and now. Moving into a world that is quieter and, in many cases, calmer. Getting away from the loud people or the rude people or the people who always think they're right. It soothes me to read.

Even history. I realize that history in the happening is a big horrifying mess - I think about what I was thinking yesterday eight years ago and I wonder at how freaked out I got, how irrational some of the things I did were. But that's how it is - just as Britons writing in 1940 and 41 by and large believed that the Third Reich was going to invade them, and a lot of ordinary Britons (this Mass-Observation book I have) were deeply fearful and some even already were mourning the "British way of life" and speculating whether they'd be killed.) But when you read history, by and large, it's been ironed out. Things are explained. Patterns are visible. And I find that oddly comforting.

I like being able to see patterns. I think that's also why I like "stories" (narratives); I like to feel like this life is comprehensible and there is some underlying order to it after all.

I do not like chaos. I know I've talked about Madeline L'Engle's words on chaos and "cosmos" here before - in her worldview, great art looked into chaos and pulled out cosmos, it showed how there are patterns and (in her worldview and mine) we are connected to the Divine. But she also noted a distressing trend; that some people were trying to promote the chaos, that they were trying to drive wedges where bridges should be built, to deny that there is an order and a rightness and that doing the loving thing is preferable to doing the hateful thing...

So I like narratives. And I like good books of history. Because a well-written history is a narrative. (And I know: you can go all deconstructionist on me and claim that finding a pattern is bootless; that history really is a big mess, it's written by the winners or the White Men or the rich folk or whatever. And maybe that's true. But I don't necessarily read it for received truth; I read it because it makes me feel like the world is less chaotic).

I particularly love ancient history; the idea that there was a world here long before us, that there were people who lived so differently from how we do. I am curious about ancient Greece and Rome, in particular, and love to read about them.

Another genre I deeply, deeply love is mystery novels. In particular the Golden Age mysteries of the 30s and 40s. One thing these have in common (or at least most of the ones I've read) is that the person who did the wrong is ultimately figured out by the intelligence and persistence (and sometimes luck) of the detective, they are caught, they are brought to justice, and the world rights itself on its axis. That, while the murder committed cannot be undone, at least there is some sense that the person who did it won't be doing any more of them. And also, in most of the novels, the murder is explained - there is a reason why, it is not some random act, it is not some person with a knife or a gun or poison or a bomb who just is taking another human out for the sheer sake of killing; it is someone who has a terrible grudge, or who has been blackmailed, something, and while it's clear that what they did is VERY wrong, it is not random.

It's not chaos.

And I also like classic novels. The big, thick, multi-character things, with lots of subplots and digressions. Stuff like Dickens wrote, like Trollope wrote. Part of it is the promise that by and large, injustices are righted, "good" people get some kind of a reward, and people who do wrong face consequences.

I want to believe in a just world. Even if the one we live in is not very just sometimes. I want that reassurance that a just world carries with it.

And frankly, sometimes - especially in the earlier Trollope novels - there is really nothing all that BAD that happens. The biggest worry is that the female lead will make a good marriage match, or that the main male character will be able to keep his inheritance even though a blackguard cousin has shown up claiming HE is the one who deserves it.

And I enjoy entering the lives of the characters. I tend to read slowly - because most nights I'm tired when I finally get down to reading, and I may not read too many pages before I have to put the book aside and sleep. I never was a particularly fast reader.

(It feels almost shameful to admit that. Like my academic cred is lacking in that area. Like I'm not as smart as I claim to be. But it's true: I read pretty slowly. I can skim when I need to, but I don't like speed-reading books.)

It can take me six months - sometimes more - to complete one of the long Victorian novels. But I have to admit, I like that: I like the idea of carrying the characters around in my head for that long, thinking about them at odd moments, having quotations from them pop up in my brain. It makes me happy. It makes me feel less lonely. It makes me feel connected to things, somehow.

I find I have more intense "relationships" with the book characters I read about than with people on teevee. Even though I love Mike Rowe. And L.J. Gibbs and his colleagues. They still do not seem as real to me as Gervase Fen (my new mystery-novel interest) or to Pickwick and his fellows.

When I find an author I enjoy, I set out to read everything I can find that he or she wrote. (And I admit, I have been at times disappointed - some people do not cross genres well, or else they have one or two enjoyable books in them and the rest are not so good).

I live in a house that is slowly having the walls lined by stacked bookshelves. I acquire books more rapidly than I read them. I am quite sure I now own more books than I will read in what remains of my life (even if what I worry is a coming civil war occurs and I have to hole myself up in my house).

But I keep buying them. Books make me happy. All the possibility there! Almost any topic I could want to read on, is somewhere on a shelf. It's like my own personal messy incarnate Internet. An Internet made of papers and pasteboard and glossy covers.

Reading right now is one of my greatest comforts.

It has long been thus. I remember shortly after September 11, 2001 - I was still living in the horrible sad apartment I had here, the one where they wanted me to rent a storage unit because I had "too many books" (they were all on shelves, so I am still puzzled by that complaint). I had recently bought a set of the Borrowers books, in hardback, from a bookclub I used to belong to (I think it was called Bookspan? It was one of those that was an opt-in club rather than opt-out; you only had to buy a book every six months or so to stay a member).

I had loved The Borrowers as a child, and decided I wanted my own set of the books.

And I found that they were the only thing I could read right then. Everything else distressed me. Detective novels had people dying. History books featured wars and bad leaders and people doing evil things to each other. Novels, even my beloved Trollope, were too complex - too many people, too many plots for my brain to take in.

But the Borrowers - that worked. I could even forget what was going on in the outside world when I was immersed in the adventures of Pod, Homily, and Arietty. Even the "scary" adventures were okay - you knew they would ultimately survive and be all right, even if it meant they were living in a discarded shoe in the middle of a field somewhere.

(I suppose I should note, in case there is anyone who does not know them, The Borrowers were tiny people - a couple inches tall - who lived in people's houses and made their household items from lost/discarded/"borrowed" things - like hairpins and spools. I loved the whole idea of these tiny lives going on alongside the big grown-up lives, I loved the idea of them "borrowing" things to use in their houses - and how the grown-up people explained it as stuff getting "lost")

Of course, eventually things calmed down and I shifted back to other books. But I do hang on to a lot of children's books - some, like my Narnia set, that I've had since childhood; others, like the Borrowers and the 101 Dalmatians that I had originally borrowed from the library as a kid, but now have bought my own copies of.

And so I come home at night, to my books. To the books (multiple) that I am reading right now (I always have more than one book in progress at a time; usually a mystery, a history, and a novel). To the books that sit on the shelves, patiently waiting for me to choose them someday.

Books are my pets.

Friday, September 11, 2009

THAT day

I woke up this morning, and immediately I thought, "Oh. It's THAT day."

September 11.

The day I doubt any of us will ever think of as just another day. Nor should we. May we never.

I'm going to avoid the news a lot today - I don't think watching the old video of the towers falling again is going to help me. (It probably is important they show it, especially for people who were a lot younger then - like some of my students - who might not remember it, who might get swayed by some of the "truther" ideas)

I have to say I was relatively unaffected. I did not see (in person) the event happen, I only sort-of-knew one person who died.

But I do think it was a wake up call to the nation. The idea that there are people out there who hate you because of what you stand for, and that some of them have no compunction about seeing you dead (and about killing themselves to make you dead) is not an idea that it is easy for Westerners to accept, I think.

I know it's one I don't want to accept. But based on what I've seen and read, I have to accept that it exists.

What I know I don't want to see is that different parties use this day for twisted political ends. Oh, I know it's going to happen - it's already happened, there is one allegedly-conservation-related group WITH WHOM I AM VERY ANGRY RIGHT NOW who used it in that way.

And I don't want to see the day become trivialized or oversentimentalized. I don't want to contemplate the thought that in 50 years, "Patriot Day" (which is what some people want to call this day*) will be a day of sales (And I admit some annoyance that "Presidents' Day" has become that). I know, we haven't done that with Pearl Harbor Day. (But how many people of my generation and younger know Pearl Harbor Day?)

*(Patriot Day is probably better than other options. And I suppose in the future we will need to "name" it so that newer generations know it's a different day. I will always think of it as "September 11" and that is all the reminder I need)

Two things stand out in my mind:

first, one of my students, not too long after September 11, when they had the final death toll published, remarked in horror and amazement: "That's more people than live in the town I came from. That's like if everyone in my home town was wiped out and then some."

second, the people on the plane that went down in Pennsylvania. What kind of courage and willingness to sacrifice yourself that would take. To know you are going to die, but to proceed anyway, because you hope you can save more people. I hate to say it but I think I would be so paralyzed by horror in that situation that I might not be able to act. It's one of those things that makes me feel strange in the pit of my stomach to contemplate - having to decide to do things that you know will hasten the end of your life because you HAVE to. Because it is probably the only way to protect other people.

I do think we need to be reminded that the "squishiness" we have in our society - where we are willing to tolerate so much that we even tolerate some things that should perhaps be intolerable - doesn't exist everywhere, and that you can't just shrug at everything and go, "It's their culture, dude." There are some things we need to say "no" to, or else we risk endangering ourselves. Or we risk allowing influences in our culture that are not compatible with what we believe as a nation.

(I have a friend who is British. She says sadly that "going home" is too painful for her any more; the place where she grew up has changed too much. And I think also of the British colonel in India, who, upon hearing that an upperclass Indian man had died, and the man's family was going to commit suttee, the traditional practice of throwing the (living) widow on the man's pyre to be burned with his body, said, "You may have that custom. Well, we have another custom. When a man kills a woman, we build a gallows and hang him." There are some things, I think, that are intolerable and we should not tolerate. The trick, of course, lies in deciding what is intolerable. But I would suggest "honor killings" as a start...)

I know other people, who have more experience with the events of the day, who are more politically astute than I am, will say better and more intelligent things, but I think we need to take note of the day. And we need to work against any "truther" influence, we need to keep reporting the real truth - that Islamic terrorists hijacked planes, flew them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, destroyed one set of buildings and damaged another, and killed thousands of people. And that another plane, bound for another target, was taken down in Pennsylvania by the self-sacrificing actions of the people on board.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

something kind of funny

I noticed this is the second time in my ecology class that I have someone with the last name "Lewis" and someone else with the last name "Martin."

(They were different Martins and Lewises each time; it is not people having to repeat the class).

So far, I've never had a Hope or a Crosby. Or two Smotherses.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Don't text and walk, people!

I do a biogeography simulation lab with my ecology class. Most of them enjoy it: it's a pretty fun lab, and for a fairly simple simulation, it works well and shows the principles I want to show. (I didn't make it up; I got it from a person at another university who writes labs "to share and adapt.")

Anyway, my class was in the middle of the lab - it's an exercise that takes a lot of space, so I have them work out in the hallway. My colleagues don't complain, in fact, the ones who happen to walk by often stop to kibitz with the students as they work.

(And an aside: I think - with the exception of the Guy Who Can't Be Arsed To Come To Class - this is a really good group. They are independent workers, they don't come running to me every three minutes asking something they could figure out on their own, they're NICE to each other (that's important) and they seem to enjoy lab).

So anyway, they were working - a couple groups had finished and left, but several groups were still working. The general bio (non-majors, mostly freshmen) lab down the hall lets out. About 10 of the people leaving that lab IMMEDIATELY pull out their phone/pda/Blackberry and start texting - NOT LOOKING WHERE THEY ARE GOING.

One kid nearly collided with one of my students. Another several wound up walking through the experiment (luckily they did not ruin anything). One guy from my class grabbed another kid by the arm to keep him from tripping over the lab stuff.

I mean, seriously. I will say I once had to break really fast and really hard driving through an apartment complex near campus because a resident walked right out into the street, texting, didn't even look to see if cars were coming.

A lot of states have laws that ban texting while driving. While I hate the proliferation of laws like that, if someone is seriously stupid enough not to realize that they are a threat on the road, I don't want them taking out someone I love - or maybe me - in a car wreck.

So, are we going to have to have laws to ban WALKING while texting? (Or will they just ban people from driving in residential/school neighborhoods to "do it for the children" (or in this case, overgrown teenagers) who are not bright enough to either turn off the device or look up once in a while?)

Saturday, September 05, 2009

a thoughtful link

I know some of you read the Anchoress' blog (recently moved to First Things). She often links to longer, thoughtful pieces.

I particularly liked this recent one: The Importance of Gratitude.

(As you might guess, coming from The Anchoress, it works from a religious perspective - but I think there is also some stuff there the non-religious will appreciate. And I do agree with the concerns about what is happening to gratitude in our society).

An interesting observation the writer (who is British) makes, about the custom of "buying rounds" - at the end of the night, each bar patron probably has only laid out as much money as he would have had he been drinking "alone" (buying only his own drinks). And yet, the attitude, the sense of camaraderie, is totally different when he buys rounds for all his friends and they reciprocate - no one is really the poorer for the activity, monetarily, and they are greatly enriched by once again strengthening the bonds of friendship.

The writer also notes with dismay the rise of ingratitude and its linked envy-of-what-others-have. And I admit I do see some of that - even among the Youth Group kids. And in my college students. And in some of the other "grown ups" around me.

And I admit, I'm guilty of ingratitude myself - or at least, of not actively stopping on a regular basis and marveling at how blessed I really am: I have work, good work, interesting work, that pays me well enough that I can support myself. I have food on my table, food I did not have to grow or subdue or butcher myself. I have abundant food - in fact, such abundance of food that I often bemoan that I am not slimmer than I am. I have good health, which is something no money can buy. I have people around me who love me and who would step in to help me if I needed help: the people I go to church with, my colleagues. (And yes, I think my colleagues would step in and help if I needed it; I have seen them do the same (and done the same myself) for others). I have sufficient interest and joy in life to find things to do that I am not bored, in fact, quite the reverse: I never have enough time to do all the things that interest me. I have a house. I have freedoms. I do not live in a country where my father or brother would have to accompany me whenever I went somewhere, and where I would be seen as a fallen woman or a pitiable figure because I have not married. I have, largely by God's grace (I think) managed to avoid some of the worse forms of trouble a person in our society can have.

And yet, so often, I take all of that for granted.

But yes, I do have a lot. Far more than I deserve. And it is good to be reminded of the incredible luck, or blessings, or grace that has given it to me.

Friday, September 04, 2009

On the other hand...

I did fieldwork with a student this afternoon. And am reminded that I am not teaching for the CryBaby WhinyPants of the world, but for students who give a damn, like the student I worked with today does.

She is a "non traditional" student; we get a lot of them. They tend to either be people who are former military, people who have been out in the workforce and want a change, women whose kids are grown and want to complete the degree they didn't complete before (or who want a whole different career). In other words, people who have experience in life, who have maturity, and who know why they're in college.

The woman I worked with today is fairly typical. She's a couple years older than I am (she mentioned one day that she was 43). She's divorced, her kids are grown and out of the house, and she decided that she was sick of working as an ambulance driver/EMT so she wanted to go into conservation - particularly, the plant sciences end of things.

She expresses considerable frustration to me with "these conservation boys" - the guys I was talking about yesterday, who are all about phoning it in and who seem to think the perfect job will magically appear for them when they graduate.

She actually believes my advice to "do as many different things as you can; learn as much different stuff as you can, because you never know when particular knowledge or a particular skill will come in handy."

She also really loves what she is doing. And that makes things a lot different.

She's a very talkative person, and I admit (I hope this doesn't sound too churlish) I could do without some of the constant chatter in the field. But I'm willing to overlook that because she cares.

She was out doing field research with me this afternoon - for no pay, for no extra credit, simply because she wanted to learn the plants common around here and knew that would be a good way to do it.

(She may well mind up being a "second Dan" - Dan was a student we had a few years back, who went on to good success in grad school, in part because he was the sort of person who joined on as a "field hand" on about any research that was made available to him. And he also worked really hard in his classes. (He was former military)).

So I'm happy to work with her. She was already knowing most of the familiar species by this afternoon, including some of the grasses (grasses can be tricky).

I know some people promote an idea that 18 year olds should either be required to do mandatory military service (as in Israel) or do some kind of mandatory service for two years, the idea being in part to mature them up for college. I admit I tend not to like that idea; the idea of anything that is a "one size fits all" solution means there are some people who will be ill-served. (For example: I was ready for college when I began. And I would have been irked to have to spend two years sitting behind a desk processing papers (which is what I might have wound up doing in the military; I suspect some of the medical stuff I had going on at that time would have kept me from the more active forms of service) or washing bedpans in a hospital. (Now, maybe in a more cosmic sense, it would have been "good" for me, but still, it would have irked me). But I see so many of the "non traditional" students who come in excited and ready to learn and who go the extra mile, and so many of the 18 year olds who come in ill-prepared and with bad attitudes...and well, I just wonder. I wonder some times if some of the immaturity that I rail against could be burned off a little by a couple years military or civic service...

But anyway, it made for a good afternoon. She thanked me when we were done working - I really should have been the one thanking her because having her along made the sampling go much faster and made me get done earlier.

But it is nice to have your expertise appreciated once in a while.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Student frustration

So, I realized one of my students has not attended EITHER lab meeting, nor has he been in lecture like, at all, since the first day.

(A note has been despatched to the Registrar. They like to know these things because occasionally people scam financial aid - take the check and disappear. And of course, that's scamming us, the taxpayer).

Anyway, this is a person with whom I have a bit of a history. He took this class last year, decided he was "too smart" and "already knew too much" and stopped coming.

And then came crying to me in early November because he was earning an F and really really needed to drop. And being in a weak mood, I signed the form, rather than making him take the "WF" he really deserved. (Heh. Put a T in the middle of that and it'd be even more appropriate).

The thing is, we get students like this once in a while. The "D is for Diploma!" crowd. They bug me. They bug the more serious students.

But they especially bug me. I've said before how I object to people "phoning it in" on what is essentially going to be their career: if you hate biology or conservation sufficiently much that you want to skip all your classes, might it not be a good idea to major in something else? If you have so little enthusiasm for the discipline that you cannot complete a single project for a class in it, shouldn't you consider another field?

The other thing that gets me is that I know this person is a whiner. He will perhaps finally squeak through with a diploma, but will not be employable in his (rather competitive) field because of a high number of Ds and also because he never did any internships or research or really, seemed to give a crap at all. (And yes, employers look at that). But the thing is: when he doesnt' get a job, it won't be because of that.

It will be because our department sucks, because we don't care about the students, and because we didn't teach him jack.

And what irritates me is that there will be a few people out there foolish enough to believe the guy - because they have no experience with the good students we have, the ones who come back from graduate work at one of the major state universities and tell me, "Wow, my first-term graduate stats class was a cakewalk because of what you taught us in Biostats!" or "I was the only person in my grad-level community ecology class who had even HEARD of that theory you talked about in basic Ecology."

I know. Like the donkey in the old story I should just "shake 'em off and step up," but people like CryBaby WhinyPants bug me. Because here I am, doing my level best to teach, and they don't want to be receptive to ANY of it. They don't think it's important, or they think because they hunt and fish they already know all the ecology they need to know. Stuff like that.

The other thing is, a lot of these "D is for Diploma" guys have the assumption they are going to get jobs with the state Fish and Wildlife Commission. These jobs are EXTREMELY competitive - they go to the folks with good GPAs and who took advantage of extra learning opportunities like internships. And yet, no matter how much we preach that, people don't believe us. And then, when they wind up as the night manager at a 7-11, because they don't know their biology stuff, they blame us.

Agrh. So I'm just going to let CryBaby WhinyPants continue down his path. I've alerted the registrar; that's all I can do. When he gets his big fat F this semester, he can cry and whine all he wants. Because if you can't be arsed to even come to lab, you don't deserve to pass.