Friday, April 30, 2010

"this test was too hard"

My responses:

"Oh, WAH."

"Grow the heck up."

"I gave you a study guide that specifically told you to study topics that two of the essay questions were over, and you left them completely blank."

"You skip 1/3 of the classes. Of course the test was too hard; you never heard the material."

"Try studying next time."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Oh, this should be good.

I don't THINK this is parody, though it reads kind of like it:

A couple dudes on Twitter have called for a boycott of Arizona brand iced tea.

Because, you know, the immigration law.

Turns out, Arizona iced tea is made in New York.

(Cue the Pace Picante Sauce guys: "New York CITY?")

Personally, I think maybe Arizona should consider renting a few Megabuses, sticking the illegal immigrants on them, and sending them to San Francisco. Because apparently San Francisco has turned itself into a "sanctuary city."

Alternatively, Arizona could just choose to adopt the laws Mexico levies on immigrants - legal OR illegal. I think it's sad but hilarious that some of Mexico's leadership is claiming the new Arizona law is "fascist." Have they looked at their own laws? Or are they paid not to?

I dunno. I'm almost to the point of sitting back, popping up some popcorn, and just watching the dust get kicked up by all of this. (If nothing else, maybe this will distract Obama and company for a while from the idea of a VAT. Which I think would actually kill our economy.)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Is it almost over?

So far today I have had:

Student who "needed" to make up lab say he wanted to make up the one I specifically said he couldn't. Then he shows up making off like he's going to do the lab, but when I go back to check on him at a time when he COULD NOT POSSIBLY have been done already, he's gone and there's no evidence of the lab having been done.

Student come and have a weeping fit in my office because this other prof is SO mean and doesn't understand what she's trying to say in her research paper and she NEEDS my help to make him understand how her plan is wonderful and perfect and not to be criticized.

The administrator who was supposed to set up a summer special class for my graduate student forgot, so my graduate student cannot enroll. We're going to have to do it as an 'arranged' class which makes it more of a headache for her.

I leave campus briefly to get a bad rash (contact dermatitis) checked out and to be reassured that no, I do not need prednisone treatment to get rid of it, and what I'm already doing is the best thing, and come back to a rambling accusatory letter from a student who's missed class for three weeks and "I NEED TO MEET WITH YOU NOW AND YOU'RE NOT HERE AND YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE HERE YOU ALWAYS NEED TO BE HERE" never mind that this individual has made, and failed to show up for, three separate appointments with me.

Oh, and the rash: it's probably being made worse by stress. (I get eczema from stress sometimes). Lovely.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In answer to 'fly

It was a fair question.

I have deadlines all throughout the term. First deadline is a project proposal, where they outline what they are doing and how. This is due in the first three weeks of the class. I also tell students if they have ANY problems to come talk to me. I've had two come to me this semester and in both cases I suggested how they could either modify their project, or collect a different sort of data - and they came back to tell me, "It's working now."

I also require a midsemester progress report. It's not worth a whole lot - though it is worth as much as a lab - and I note that this year, several people (including the person referenced in the post) did not hand one in.

I tend to be of the "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't shove its head under the surface and scream, "DRINK, DAMN YOU!" I figure the progress reports are a "hey, you know, you should be getting somewhere on this by now.

I also handed out a list of what I expected in the final paper about a month ago, with the note of "I hope you're finishing up your projects now.

So no, I don't feel like I leave 'em hanging. They have a schedule. And I also tend to feel like by the time you're 20, you either have learned time management or you have not. I'm willing to work with someone who genuinely has an issue (I had a case one semester of a student who was going through a messy divorce and her soon to be ex sabotaged her project...and yes, she showed me a copy of the police report citing all the damage he had done, not just to her project). But when someone comes to me in the last week of classes, right before the thing is due, right when I am:

a. writing final exams
b. trying to get my independent-studies students wrapped up
c. trying to help my grad student get her summer research underway
d. trying to write an abstract for summer meetings myself
e. doing all the crap paper work (they are now making us document ALL of our "public service" - volunteer work - probably so some administrator can take credit for a "civic involvement initiative" and win an award)

they have to expect that I will be less than open to "OH HAI. My project failed. You help me fix it NAOW."

That said, I did give up part of my afternoon yesterday to help her recover and get some data. Did I hear a "thank you"?

Of course not.

So, I think I've provided them with enough opportunities to know "Hey, I need to be working on this." But I'm really getting sick of people asking me to hold their hands. Just this morning, I had someone in one of my classes who essentially missed EVERY lab, wanted to make them up. In a weak moment, I told him he could make up two or three - but I needed to know which ones he chose.

He e-mailed me this morning asking me what labs he should choose to make up.

I told him he had to decide. I'm sorry, but I'm getting really cranky about this. I have to take care of myself - I am not married, I do not have a housemate, so I have to feed myself and do the marketing and do the laundry and pay my bills and clean my house and mow my lawn and go to work and do all the stuff expected of me at work and then some. And I have my "civic involvement" work. And then I get people expecting me to even THINK for them. DAMMIT, NO. I'm tired. I'm really really really really really tired. I have had zero time to myself for several weeks thanks to all the crap I have to do. I do not need other people's crap to do as well.

Monday, April 26, 2010

You know

you've been staring at a computer screen too long when you take a break to read a message board, and someone posts the phrase OMB* DRAMA! and you read it as OBAMA DRAMA and wonder what's happening now.

(*On that board, they use OMB (B for Bob) as a less-offensive version of OMG. I kind of like that.)

Not sure it's the best way

I'm with the "Swillers" on this: about the new Arizona immigration legislation.

Look, I hate the idea of people coming here illegally. I hate the fact that a lot of the crimes committed in my town right now seem to be linked to people who are here that aren't here legally. I fear the whole Mexican drug-gang activity that has essentially destroyed Nuevo Laredo and some of the other border towns.

But I'm not sure that this new legislation is going to work to stop it.

I'm thinking, you get a few activist judges, who go, "OK? You wanna ask for proof of citizenship? Well, you're NOT allowed to profile. You have to ask everyone you stop."

And so then, anyone going to Arizona would be well-advised to carry a copy of their birth certificate. If they're a native-born citizen, that is.

Also, I suspect the forgers will just get better, and will charge higher prices, for forged documents.

The big problem is that the Feds aren't doing squat. They didn't do much during the Bush years, either: it was like it was an out-of-sight, out-of-mind problem to them. The Texas border is too far from DC, I guess, to register.

I personally think the best solution is some combination of far stricter border security and really steep penalties for businesses that employ people here illegally - and extremely steep penalties for people caught in identity theft who are here illegally (stolen Social Security numbers are a common reason why businesses claim, "I didn't know this guy was illegal).

I don't know. I don't think the Arizona system will solve much other than maybe sending a message and getting people upset. But I do agree something needs to be done - if we don't want to see the violence and the drug gangs slowly infiltrate US cities. But I think stopping the problem is complicated by the fact of the sheer level of corruption in the Mexican government and other forces.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

open letter - edited

I need to be nicer about this.

I know it sucks to be new. And especially if you're in a position, as I guess my new-ish colleague is, where you don't have a lot of "more mature" family to listen and give advice. But I will say that it frustrated me to hear the loud complaining in a rather plangent voice about how the students don't "like" or "respect" you

I have all kinds of insecurities about the students not "liking" me or not "respecting" me. I admit to many times quietly closing my office door, putting my head down on my desk, and shedding a few tears of frustration. Or going home and frantically cleaning house because I'm angry. I guess I learned somewhere, earlier, that it's better to suck that kind of thing up in a professional situation, and not drag a more-senior colleague in to your office and complain at them. Perhaps it was different because I was tenure-track and you are "instructor" (and therefore, not tenure track) and I felt like I had to give an appearance of strength and unflappability.

And I admit, probably a certain part of my distress is that I am not used to people who are older than I am seeming to "break down" under stress I'm able to cope with.

Yeah, it did give me a headache. And yeah, I did go home earlier than I might have because I got tired of being an unwilling party to your freakout.

But, I guess in a way, I have to say I'm kind of relieved. Kind of relieved to learn I'm not the only one who feels like they don't have it all together. Maybe I even look, on the surface, like I have it together - like you did to me.

You're a hard person to get to know. I know we talked about superficial stuff, funny student stories, my research (and I know you said, as a 100%-teaching-appointment person, that you envied me that I had an opportunity to do research).

And yeah, I know the old Plato saying : be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. I kind of forgot it this afternoon when I got annoyed at you. I'm glad now I didn't say anything, or walk over to your office and glare at you for the noise.

Look, if you want advice at some point, if you want to talk to someone, I'm here. I know I'm kind of stressed out now and a little short of time, but we all are. But if you're really freaking out, I can make time, if I seem like the kind of person who can give advice or guidance or something.

It's just, I'm so used to sucking up the stuff that bugs me - or so used to writing it out instead of talking about it - that maybe I look a little, I don't know, impenetrable to you.

But anyway. Students suck sometimes. It's just the way it is. It's easy to get frustrated with them and think they hate you. I've had classes I thought "hated" me until I read my evaluations or until a couple of the students came back the next semester to thank me. You just need to stay strong and realize that when they resent you for making them work hard, that's a temporary condition; they'll thank you when they get to med school or grad school or out on the job and realize that they can remember the stuff you made them learn.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Procrastination FAIL.

I do these independent research projects with my students. The deal is, they plan and conduct an experiment - one more detailed and complex than what we do in class - and write it up.

The papers are due a week from this coming Monday.

Student comes in to my office hours: "Um, I can't find any background information on my topic. I looked at all the things you suggested."

Me: "Well, can you find some general background information on the taxonomic group, rather than the individual species?"

Student: "I couldn't find anything. I don't have anything."

Me, trying a different tack: "Did you get results from your experiment? Do you have any data?"

Student hems and haws and I get the distinct impression that BECAUSE she didn't find background information she DIDN'T BOTHER to do the experiment.

Student: "I need to start something new. If I got a bunch of [samples] could I bring them in and [do big complex analysis that someone in authority will have to be present for] next week?"

Me, feeling my stomach starting to drop, knowing the "someone in authority" will be me: "Uhhhh...when did you plan on doing this?"

Student: "Thursday or Friday of next week." (NB: the paper is due the Monday after that Friday)

Me: "That's an awfully short turnaround time." (meaning both: I really don't want to have to deal with your failure to plan, and I don't want to read a hastily thrown together paper)

Student: "Well, I might be able to do it earlier in the week."

Me: "Okay, okay. I will probably just have to point out where the stuff you will need is in the lab and check up periodically as you work. I don't have time to be right there in the lab supervising."

But dear God, I hope this is the only person with this problem. If I have five people needing to do last minute experiments at the last minute - well, I'm going to be increasingly uncivil about it.

What I should have said, but didn't, is "Don't ever come to me asking for a recommendation letter now, because I see how you are at planning ahead."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


One of my friends - she's maybe 20 years older than I am - is going through a sad time.

Her parents are both very old. Her dad is failing physically: he has some kind of chronic lymphoma that he's taking chemo for, but he's on the point of asking them to discontinue it. He's a very intelligent and learned man, his mind is still strong, but his body is wearing out. (He's in his early 90s). Her mother is doing OK physically, but her mind is gone: she's had a couple strokes and has advanced Alzheimer's (luckily, she never got aggressive or "wandery" with it). The couple lives in a local assisted-living facility (one of the better ones; luckily, he was intelligent with his investments earlier in life and they can afford it).

The thing is - my friend told me on Sunday - is he's "ready to go" (and as much as she'd miss him, I think she's prepared for that). But, he's terribly worried about what will become of his wife. He knows their daughter will continue to care for her as much as she can, but my friend has grandkids she's helping raise, she has a job herself, she and her husband have cattle to look after. She can't be there with her mother 24 hours a day. She does go over there two or three times a day to help feed her mother; apparently her mother will eat more willingly if my friend is there to help.

My friend said she thought her father was willing himself to hang on for her mother's sake. And that's sad. He's tired, he's fed up with doing the chemo, he's ready to "go home" (he's a man of deep faith and I really don't think death frightens him at all). But he feels like he can't.

The sad thing is, I don't know what to pray for in this situation. It feels very wrong to pray that my friend's mother's life comes to a quick end, so her dad can be released from his worry...but it doesn't look like either of them will see an improvement, either. I don't know. I guess in this situation, if you're a praying person, you just go, "God, You know what's best" and ask for comfort for the family.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

all I have to say about golf...

I was looking for the political cartoon that ran in my local paper online, but I can't find it.

This one is somewhat similar. (The one in my local paper showed a crowd of people standing around Michelson, who was hugging his wife after winning, and two men at the back of the crowd were talking. One said, "It takes determination, hard work, and a lot of caring." The other one said something like, "Winning the Master's is tough." And the first one says, "Forget golf. I was talking about marriage."

Phil Mickelson: takes time off from golf to be with his wife and mother, who are undergoing cancer treatment.
Tiger Woods: takes time off from golf to undergo treatment for sex addiction that came to light when his wife blew up at him over his cheating.

I know who I think is the bigger man here. Congrats, Mr. Mickelson. I bet it's especially sweet having your wife there to celebrate your victory with you.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

More on "extra credit"

I don't oppose the kind of "extra credit" Dave talked about: I've done that myself, both as a student and as a prof, where you offer the people willing to go a bit over and above, to work harder, the chance to earn back points they lost.

What bugs me is how some folks (coughcolleagueofminecough) hand it out like it's candy.

Because, see, giving people stuff for what they're SUPPOSED to be doing, doesn't seem to work:

Bribery Strikes Out, at Joanne Jacobs'.

The best quotation in the whole thing: "But it’s hard to get self-discipline by paying people to do what they should be doing anyhow."

THAT. And the other problem is, I think you erode motivation by offering goodies for people doing stuff they should be doing anyhow. How many times I've heard, as a prof, in an 8 am Friday class that's sparsely populated, "Do we get extra credit because we showed up?"

While I've never QUITE got to the point of the Wicked Witch of the West voice coming out and snarling "NO, because you are SUPPOSED to be here," I've come close.

I don't have any opposition to giving people a hand up - or to trying to make it easier somehow (like, I don't know - making it easier for parents to find decent child care so they can work?) But I do have a problem with paying kids to go to school. Or paying for grades. Or paying people (over and above the free care they get through Medicare) just for taking their kids to the doctor.

It's great to encourage initiative. But there comes a point where the "encouragement" becomes a payoff for doing things that responsible people would do anyway, and that seems excessive.

I'm not advocating we let people starve in the streets or anything (not that that's exactly happening in this country). I'm not saying people who genuinely - because of some deficiency - cannot take care of themselves should be thrust out into the world to fend for themselves. But when college students start applying for food stamps so they can eat a higher-quality of food, and they see no shame in it or nothing wrong with it, when students begin expecting some kind of "payout" in tangible form (cash, points, goodies) for everything they do, we have a problem.

I suspect that one of the things that will cause "responsible" people to sit down and say "That's it, I'm not doing any more" is going to be that it reaches a point where we feel like chumps: like we're working long hours and doing what we're "supposed" to do, and the people who don't do those things get a pat on the head and a lollipop, and we get the government rooting around in our pockets for spare change.

(Incidentally, this is also why I support programs through places like the Salvation Army; they seem geared to helping people who need short-term help but who want to get on their own feet. I'm glad to help someone in a rough patch who wants to be self-sufficient eventually. Not so much someone who doesn't want to work and thinks I should support them. Happy Tax Day...)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Extra Credit

I don't like the concept of extra credit. Or at least, I don't like what it's become.

Extra credit was rare when I was in school. If it was offered, it was some kind of harder, over-and-above-what's-required part of the assignment: something that the kids with a real talent for the subject, or a real drive to learn more, would get. And that seems fine to me.

What I don't like is the "new" Extra Credit. The "here do something sort of small-scale and busyworkish to salvage your poor grade." Or the idea that extra credit should make up for not having done the "required" work.

(I will admit to once in a while doing "extra credit" - really, "point reclamation credit" - in one of my classes when students bomb a particular exam: one of the classes I teach has a subject matter section that's quite difficult, and people don't often "get" it the first time around. But I tell myself that's different; I try to set the assignment up so the students are "teaching" themselves or looking at the material differently and maybe they will get it then).

But one thing that really bugs me is how some people EXPECT extra credit. I suppose it's a societal thing; people have come to expect quid pro quo. They want handouts. They don't want to do something and be told, "The benefit you get is intangible" or "This will help you down the line but you're not getting anything for it now."

The other thing with "expecting" extra credit, is when it's offered and people can't do it for some reason, they get OFFENDED. Or at least some people do.

Here's an example, and what got me thinking about this: Every spring, there is an event here in town. It's a good thing for our majors to go and participate in, it helps out the community and sometimes they learn something. I announced it this year and immediately the question came: "Are we going to get extra credit for going to this?"

I told them I'd think about it.

The problem is, if I don't, there'll be almost no attendance from our students. And the organizers will look all sad at me, and say, "Why didn't more students come?" And the administration will look all sad at me and say, "Why aren't your students more Engaged In The Community?" (This is their big push for "make the faculty work for us even on their free time" "make the university civicly active"

The thing is, I did offer this for extra credit in previous years. Several years almost no one showed up and I got the sad faces anyway. But then one year, I had a student pull me aside in the hall:

"You should know, I'm a Seventh-Day Adventist."

I looked at him, kind of puzzled: thanks for sharing, but why?

"Saturday is my Sabbath. This extra credit event is on Saturday. I can't go do stuff like that on my Sabbath. You're closing me out of extra credit!"

He as much as implied that I was discriminating against him because of his religion. The upshot? He felt he should have been permitted to be offered an "alternate" extra credit, "Like, you could have me write something," for the points.

I told him no. I told him he was already earning an A or very close to it (true) and that he wouldn't need extra credit - and that if I offered an "alternate" assignment for him, to be fair, I'd have to offer it to others.

Fortunately, he didn't take things any further. I suspect if he had gone to the dean and been butthurt enough about it, I would have been raked over the coals and then told to give him the damn alternative assignment.

I also, every semester, get people going, "ooooh, but I WORK on Saturdays!" Yeah? Well? Sorry. That's how life goes sometimes. Don't count on extra credit to save your grade!

So that's what stays my hand when people go, "Oh, can we get extra credit if we go?" Because then there will be a few VERY UNHAPPY people who act as if that five points (out of 700 total for the class) are the thing the desire the most in the world, and yet, circumstances are preventing them from getting those precious five points.

(I don't know. Maybe extra credit points seem sparklier or something than the typical points students earn by, I don't know, HANDING IN COMPLETED LAB ASSIGNMENTS or STUDYING HARD AND DOING WELL ON EXAMS)

And that I'm an ogre for even OFFERING these points, which, you see, they cannot have, because, poor them, they work. Or they worship that day. Or they have to go see Sally Tomato in Sing Sing that day. Or goodness knows what else.

And then, after I get put through all the agony of having to hear how a couple vocal people are very, very upset that I would choose to offer an extra credit opportunity at a time where their life interferes with them doing it, I will have two people show up for the thing. Probably the two people who would show up even if it weren't extra credit.

So that's why I hate extra credit, and tend to think it's a stupid idea. (The problem is, I have a colleague who hands extra credit out like candy on Halloween. So some of the students come to expect it, and almost are trained not to do anything unless you dangle it in front of their noses.

I suppose it's true that in any given generation, any given group, there really would only have been the equivalent of those two people who show up "unrewarded." But at least in prior years, I bet people just didn't show up without first complaining about how they weren't going to get extra credit for it.

Thursday, April 08, 2010


I first saw the story I'm going to link here over at the Anchoress' place, but maybe some of you don't read her blog regularly:

"We thought we were the richest family in church"

Okay, maybe this is more of a parable than an it-literally-happened-just-this-way story, but like all parables, it teaches an important lesson.

It's funny - I can kind of relate to the story. My dad was a college prof and low-level administrator when I was growing up, and I thought we were rich. We always had plenty of food on the table, we took fun vacations to National Parks, there were always gifts at Christmas and on our birthdays. (And we got to go out to eat - a rare treat in those days - at a restaurant of our choosing on our birthdays). We went to the movies when there was one we all wanted to see (We all saw the original "Star Wars" together as a family). My mom used to speak wonderingly of how many toys my brother and I had compared to what she had growing up.

One year, the church we belonged to did the "$100 Christmas" - where, the idea was, you spent far less on fancy things like expensive gifts and new clothes, and took the money you saved that you would have spent on the family, and donated it. It was a challenge that year - but in my family we're all pretty talented, and we made a lot of the gifts we gave each other. And the money we donated, if I remember correctly, went to a Salvation Army program that helped people pay for the necessities like food and heat.

But then, later on - in junior high school and later - I began to wonder about things. A lot of the kids had designer jeans (this was when the Jordache label was first really, really popular) and I wore Lees or some store brand. And I didn't have any Izod shirts (those polo shirts, with the little alligator: some kids had a different color for each day of the week. Each day of every 2 weeks, even). And in high school, once, when a friend of mine (who was, at least in the monetary sense, from a wealthier family than mine: her family owned a rather large and profitable business) was having an argument with me, she threw up her hands and said, "Poor people! You can't make them understand."

So I was kind of shocked by that - after all, we weren't POOR, my family had enough - but I began to wonder.

Of course, not too long after that, I went off to college, where one of my best friends was someone on scholarship. And one of our nemeses in the dormitory was a vapid "rich" girl from Colorado, who did things like throw away her last season's clothes because she didn't feel like packing them back home with her. (We staged a guerrilla raid on the trash can and donated what we could salvage to a local thrift shop). I would never have been able to have afforded to pay for a whole new set of clothes each season.

But the thing is, looking back on it, I realize now that my family WAS rich. For one thing, we had enough: there was enough food. We had enough clothing. The lights stayed on, the heat stayed on. We could afford gifts at holidays - maybe not lavish gifts, but nice ones all the same - and vacations once or sometimes twice a year (maybe not to the Bahamas, like some of my friends in school, and maybe we stayed in Holiday Inns, but we did take vacations). But more importantly, my parents knew - and taught my brother and me - what was really important in life. And like the girl in that story, who realized that since her family was able to give $87 ($70 of it being money they had actually raised, or saved by careful budgeting, themselves) that they were rich after all.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

"Would you give McGee my hug today? He really needs one."

HA hahahaha. I love Abby (on NCIS).

If I were putting together a dinner party of television characters, she'd be on the list.

Who else? Hm. If we're talking characters, and the actor in question being living or not not being an issue, I'd also have Lenny from Law and Order. And he's not really a "character" per se, but Mike Rowe. And Paula Deen - she's bat-guano crazy, but I love watching her. And Dr. Dorian from Scrubs...or maybe Turk and Carla. And going way back, Mr. Kotter (when I was a high school kid, I watched the re-runs almost every day).

I don't know who else. My memories of television are not that a kid, I usually half-watched while building with Lego or reading a book, and even as an adult, I mostly half-watch while doing something else.


Modeled on the idea of "immorality" and "amorality." Where "irresponsibility" is someone who is doing something they should not (e.g., skipping class) or not doing something they should (e.g., claiming they will help out at a volunteer workday and then never showing, and not having any good excuse).

Aresponsibility seems to be something newer - or at least, I'm seeing it or recognizing it now. This is people being irresponsible but not realizing that they are doing so. Whether it's that they've never HAD to be responsible, never been taught, or whether they have such an enormous sense of entitlement, I can't tell.

Here's something that happened the other day: one of my students has missed something like half the labs. And he failed to hand in a paper in the class. So he e-mailed me: hey, when can I make up the labs?

Um, never? That's why I say in the syllabus, no make up labs?

And then he asked about handing the paper in - hey, his computer broke down and he just not got it fixed. (The paper was due 2 weeks ago, I had never heard anything from him until just this moment). I told him - grudgingly - I would accept the paper, but he would lose points because it was late.

"OH, so that's how it has to be!" he e-mailed back. Wait a minute - are you giving me 'tude for my telling you that a paper I DO NOT HAVE TO ACCEPT will be accepted BUT with losing some points? I don't even have to grade the freaking thing. I would be completely within my rights to refuse it.

I don't know. I think I'm going to have a talk with this guy's advisor. I know the advisor and if he knows how badly this guy is slacking, he will have a come-to-Jesus meeting with him, and hopefully put him on the path to being straightened out.

But I keep seeing this these past couple semesters - people missing monumental amounts of work, showing up a couple weeks later, and completely expecting that they will be not only forgiven, but will be allowed a complete mulligan on what they missed. And the level of presumption of that makes my head spin.

The students know - or at least, the ones who attend labs know - that some of the labs take me AN HOUR to set up. And I don't have a teaching assistant this semester. So it's all on me. For a student to come to me and tell me that I need to set a lab back up, just for him, because he couldn't be arsed to be there on lab day (and no, he didn't miss lab because he was sick or at work or testifying in court or any of the 10,000 TMI reasons why students justifiably miss class) - well, that basically says to me "You are my servant. My whims are more important than your own life - they are more important than the other work you are doing." I have a total of some 100 students. If every single one of them imposed upon my time in that way, I would be on campus 24/7 catering to their "needs."

I do not see why the special snowflakes of the world fail to see that I can't just cater to their whims. "It's just for meeeeee" they say. "I won't tell anyone you bent the rules."

That's. Not. The. Point.

I also had a student - who really should have known better - walk into my lab and hit me up during lab yesterday - needing a letter of recommendation for grad school. And, ohai, he needs it tomorrow (meaning, now, today).

I just looked at him. "You do know I have a meeting at four, after this lab lets out" I said, irritably. "You do know that it takes me a while to write these things: I have to look up your past class performance in my records, and it takes time to compose a letter." (I didn't say that I felt like crap right at that moment - it was about 80 degrees and 80% humidity in the classroom - and I really just wanted to go home).

He left, dejected. But golly, asking a prof to write a letter with less than 24 hours turnaround?

He did come back later and say that they would take the letter next week if I could do it. I didn't WANT to but I grudgingly agreed.

I think people really truly have a blind spot about those things: they think because they can do things at the last minute, everyone can. I have a busy life. I have meetings a lot of evenings during the week. I have exams I have to get written. I have research I'm working on. I have a grad student. I can't just reshuffle my schedule and add in last-minute requests easily.

And even on top of that: I go to work around 7 am. I should be able to get home by 5 pm, and AT MOST take some grading or prep-work home with me. I get to have a few minutes of what's called "a life" and I try to do that by working responsibly during the day. I don't like being blindsided by late papers and last-minute requests because that means I put my relaxation time on hold because someone else couldn't plan.

And I begin to wonder: is the seemingly-increasing levels of people not being responsible, and then expecting everyone else to mop up for them, a cause or an effect of what many of us see as increasing governmental (and other) paternalism: where some entity somewhere says, "You can't handle making your own choices; I'm going to make them for you." I wonder if people are abdicating taking responsibility because they are slowly becoming used to decisions being made for them. Or, is the government (and university adminstrations, and some manufacturers) trying to make it so we have fewer and fewer choices we have to make - or at least, fewer choices for which we will bear responsibility if we choose unwisely or selfishly? I think of some of the bail-outs and how angry it made people like me - people who tried to do everything the "right" way, when others around us behaved irresponsibly (by doing things like taking lavish vacations they really could not afford) and then, the responsible folks were told, "ohai, some of your tax dollars are going to go to help these people."

(Dont' get me wrong: I have nothing against a hand up - helping someone who lost their job keep their home, for example. But what gripes me is someone who is spending in a way that they should know is unsustainable, and then them coming to someone like me, who scrimped and saved, and saying that they "deserve" a part of my savings).

I don't know. It makes me beat my head against a wall a lot - it's to the point in my volunteer-life that I don't even ASK for help any more, because I've been burned so many times by people who act all eager to help, and never show, and then give me some excuse like "There was a good game on tv." People tell me I'm too g.d. independent, but I feel like I am with good reason. I'd rather try to go it alone - and have to work harder - than trust someone to help and wind up going it alone ANYWAY when they find something they'd rather do.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Sadly, I can almost see a company deciding something like this is a good idea

(Onion News Network. Talking about how Stouffer's is going to encourage people to "be healthy" by putting tips on suicide-prevention on their dinners-for-one....the corporate assumption being, supposedly, that people eating alone are THAT CLOSE to killing themselves. Heh. This is actually pretty good, considering all the idiotic "enjoy this snack RESPONSIBLY" messages I've seen on things like bags of chocolate squares. Because THAT corporate assumption is that everyone who eats chocolate is an unhealthy pig who can't stop themselves from downing the whole bag.)

Oh, and watch through to the end to see what Kashi company is planning to do. Heh.

Seeing that - it is The Onion, after all - and laughing about it made my head way less spinny than it was after I heard on the news about how the White House Easter Egg Hunt this year is "all about nannying at kids and parents  health" and how they have "sports stations" and crap set up.

My main response: Can we not have ONE THING, ONE DAMN THING that is purely aimed at being enjoyable without having to have some kind of annoying "message"?  Sometimes an Easter egg hunt should just be an Easter egg hunt.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Is this an April Fool's joke?

A representative from Georgia, at hearings about increasing military presence on Guam, said that "My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize,"

Okay. He later claimed he was using a "metaphor," but from the audio I heard, it didn't sound very metaphorical to me.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry over this. This guy is making more money, more bennies, than probably the most of us do. And he doesn't understand the basics of how an island works.  They're not like riverboats. They're not like those floating platforms you put out in your lake to sunbathe on or jump off of.

They're attached.

I think I've mentioned on here before that for much of his career, my dad was a geology prof. He taught a lot of intro courses, where he discussed stuff like this. I know exactly what his reaction will be upon hearing about Rep. Johnson's statement: