Thursday, July 25, 2013


Why, for the love of all that's good, do students NOT show up to my office hours with questions or problems during the semester, but the MOMENT the final exam is turned in, they are e-mailing me either begging me for "extra credit" (Oh honey. Oh honey. Don't ask me to do something unethical. And yes, it is unethical to offer one student extra credit that the others don't have the opportunity to receive) or berating me for not teaching them something well enough (I am required by law my admins to hold ten hours of office hours a week. They are so you may meet with me about things you don't understand. Everyone else in the class got the topic; it is not my place to back the truck up to catch up one person who may simply not be paying attention).

I'm just TIRED. I almost snapped at a student during the review session the other day because she kept stopping me and asking me to repeat stuff I had covered five or more minutes previously. This is also someone who would sit in the back of the room - with spaces open on the two front rows - and then yell "I can't read what you are writing on the board!" at me, which would make me sigh, and increase the size of my handwriting.

I mean, it's good to be diligent about stuff, but it's another thing to constantly berate your prof.

(I have three e-mails - in a class of 15 - that are all about extra credit and were all mailed within three hours of the exam being finished. Dammit.)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Gets me right here....

Heard this on the radio this morning. I had to sit down on the foot of my bed and cry for a couple minutes:

Man undergoing chemo films his "father-daughter dance" in case he won't be around for her wedding.

My own father is healthy, but he's closing in on 80, and so every story like that gets to me a little, because like every adult kid that loves their parents, I know some day there will be that phone call that will change everything.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

"I could have been Trayvon Martin," you said.


Facepalming, forever,


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Arrrgh, it's 6 pm

First off:: Fair enough, Joel. I haven't seen the article (I don't care that much for Rolling Stone) but it seems often our culture has the habit of glorifying that which should not be, so it sounds like they did a better job than I might have hoped.

My last lab of the summer ended. It should have ended at 5:30 but I have two SLOWPOKES who just can't get done on time, and I can't justify turfing them because there's no class after mine in the room. (During the regular semester, they'd be so gone).

But today, they overstayed their welcome by a half hour. So gone are my plans of working out tonight (it was way too humid to this morning) or even mowing my lawn.

I can't really get too angry at them - it's not that they goof off, they're just methodical and SLOW.

But I've been on campus since 7 this morning and I'm tired. And I don't get a weekend this morning because it's prepwork for fall time. So blah. Anyone who believes college profs are lazy bums with too much free time on their hands are welcome to come do my gig for a week and see. I'm lucky if I get 45 minutes of an evening to do what I "want" to do. (Well, unless you count sleeping. If I could get by on five hours of sleep then I could have maybe 2 hours a night. But I can't, so I don't.)

The "Rolling Stone" cover

Some years back, I commented to a friend that pirates, which were once viewed as hateful, murderous scum (And rightly so: some of the accounts I've read of what they even did to one of their own, were he to desert or simply not live up to "the pirate code" are pretty horrific). But now, they've been rehabilitated: they're figures of fun, almost-heroes in movies, romantic. There is even a very small children's show featuring a pirate crew. (Granted, everything's been sanitized even more than what Disney did to Grimm's Fairy Tales - but still: pirates. Who were by definition thieves and killers).

And I remarked: I wonder if in a couple hundred years, what remains of our culture will treat the terrorists of today the same way? If they'll be seen as almost-heroes, as romantic figures, as people living "outside the box" (I think that's part of the attraction of pirates, for some: they don't have a 9 to 5 job, they don't follow the rules of polite society, and somehow that's cool).

Well, I didn't need to wait that long. One of the murderous thugs who tried to cause a mass killing (and succeeded in killing 3 and maiming far more) at the Boston Marathon has been given the Glamour Shots treatment by Rolling Stone.

Granted, Rolling Stone is known for wanting to be "transgressive," I suspect for them, "But it won't play in Peoria" is probably considered high praise. But really, I wonder how Bostonians feel - how people who know someone injured feel - to walk past a newsstand and see that. I admit I growl low in my throat, and I didn't even know anyone injured.

And supposedly the article addresses "How his family failed him"?  Um, how about how HE failed his adopted country - the one that granted his family asylum when they claimed mistreatment at the hands of non-Muslims in their own country?

I don't know. I still feel angry over every stupid teenybopper (or superannuated teenybopper - there are women out of teenybopper age who said this) who claimed he was too "pretty" to be evil. NO. Often evil hides behind a mask of attractiveness, that's how it sucks you in. Stop being stupid.

What do I hope happens to this guy? I hope he is quietly tried, quietly found guilty, and either quietly executed or spends the rest of his live in isolation bored in prison somewhere. That he DOESN'T become any kind of a romantic figure. There's NOTHING romantic about wanting to kill innocent people.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Here's an idea...

They upfront note it's a "gamble," but I think this is an interesting concept:

Oregon to let college-bound choose: pay up-front, or pay over the course of your career. Either students can pay the roughly $25K per year upfront, or they can "mortgage" the first 24 years of their career at 3% of their earnings per year.

It's an interesting concept, though now that I read it, there are some problems:

1. Apparently the IRS would have to administer it. I don't want the IRS involved in more things; I want them involved in fewer things.

2. The higher-earning-potential students will opt to pay up front, so the university system won't "win" off of them - if you're going to be an engineer or architect or lawyer potentially making six figures a year, you're not going to opt for 3% of that to go for half or more of your career. Lower-earning-potential students will opt in, and some will "win" whereas others - say, someone who goes into writing and strikes it big with a couple novels that get optioned by Hollywood - will "lose" and the university system will "win." But I suspect most in the humanities, and many in the so-called "helping professions" (outside of, maybe, nursing) would be money ahead to take the 3% deal.

3. It will probably come back to bite state taxpayers somehow, or else the school will find itself needing to cut corners when it has unexpected shortfalls.

On the other hand, I like the idea of a tuition plan where no student can come back and sue the school because they "aren't making enough money." (There have been a few cases of graduates trying to sue their alma maters, either because said graduates believed they were "guaranteed" a job upon graduation, or that they weren't makign the big bucks the brochures implied they would).

Would it be a reasonable deal for someone like me? As an out-of-state student at a Public Ivy back some 20 years ago, I was probably paying close to $20K a year (Well, *I* wasn't, per se....I was one of those evil trust-fund kids - when my grandparents' estate was sold, the money went into an eduction trust for my brother and me, and we wrote our tuition checks out of that. But $20K seems reasonable including room, cheap board (I ate a lot of beans and rice) and textbooks).

So. I'm making roughly $65K a year (let's not count capital gains on investments, though I'm sure Oregon would like to do that). Three percent of $65K is $1950. So, presuming my entire undergrad costs were on the order of $60K (I graduated in 3 years: APs and taking summer classes at a local commuter community college helped), and assuming my earnings remained would take 30.7 years to pay off my cost of education at my current income. (Of course, with experience, ones income goes up, and in some years at least, we've gotten inflation-indexed pay raises).

Of course, if they included everything the IRS likes to look at - capital gains (yes, I do have some investments), interest, dividends, income from stuff like textbook reviewing (it's small, but it's something).....they'd probably get at least their money back out of me, likely more. Of course, at today's prices for Oregon, it would be a little longer for the payoff, but still. (I don't even want to know what a four-year degree at my alma mater would cost these days. If I were doing it again I'd go to a smaller school, possibly a private one, maybe even a church-affiliated one. The culture at my alma mater did not always agree with me.)

I don't think it would work in practice but it's an interesting idea in theory. I also wonder if a university's various committees would be so eager to approve new majors in less-marketable fields (e.g., Peace Studies) if they thought a large number of those majors would opt for the "3% of my income for the next 24 years" option.

Monday, July 15, 2013

My main thought:

Added, later on: To all the people (ESPECIALLY white hipsters) putting on hoodies and declaring "I am Trayvon Martin," stop it. You can sympathize with him and his family. But you - especially if you are from a more-privileged background - are NOT him. This is annoying me.This is not the same thing as walking a mile in someone's shoes; this is co-opting someone else for your own purposes.

Okay, disclaimer: I watched as little of the Zimmerman trial as possible. (Trying to find "other" news of the world in the middle of a "trial of the century number 5" means you wind up seeing some of that trial). So I don't know all the facts. Hell, I suspect that no one, outside of God, really knows all the facts.

But a phrase keeps going through my head: an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

I'm willing to accept that Zimmerman acted in self-defense; that seems to be what the jury found. But now, the folks calling for his head, what does that solve? It doesn't make Martin any less dead. It doesn't make two families' lives any less awful now.

And I fail to see what the non-peaceful, property-damaging protests solve - why is burning stuff or breaking the windows of someone who probably never did anything to you an answer? I'm wondering if some of the people are acting that way because they feel like they have been told to act a certain way, or that it's the only way they will see "justice" - to make some other person, someone probably totally uninvolved, to make their life worse. (My minimum goal in life is to not make the lives worse of innocent people around me. It's a pretty small goal.)

Or is it just easier to be angry about this? I don't know. I've been avoiding social media since Saturday night because the frothing on the part of some just gets to me.

For that matter, if we want to be angry about unnecessary deaths, what about all the kids who are dying in Chicago due, mostly, to gang violence? What about the report (I have not been able to substantiate it from what I consider a reliable source, so it may not be true) that a 17 year old kid in Chicago was killed by gang members because he refused to join a gang?

Our society is broken in a lot of ways but it seems that the media wants to focus on only certain ways.Yes, it's awful that Trayvon Martin died. Yes, there were probably things he could have done differently, things Zimmerman could have done differently, maybe even things the local police could have done differently that would have led to a different ending - but that didn't happen. It's sad and unfortunate but I don't think it's the huge indictment of "A Racist America" that some people are playing it up to be. (There is no solid evidence that Zimmerman used a racial slur, for example - if he had been witnessed chasing Martin down the street screaming epithets at him, then I'd say it was definitely a crime in which race played a part. But from what I've seen of the case, that does not seem to be the situation.)

I don't know. This just makes me feel more and more like we're living in a fractured country, where people are being taught to distrust even their neighbors - and while there are genuinely people out there you cannot trust, distrusting and being suspicious of everyone is a bad way to have to live.

I find myself watching less and less news, because I feel like I'm being told what to think, what to feel, what someone else thinks is important - rather than what might actually be important.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Something funny

Escape-artist babies. I know this is all over the web but it made me laugh.

I particularly like the one towards the end of the toddler who gets out of her crib, goes over to her sister's crib, lowers the side so her sister can get out and then *puts the side back up to avoid detection*

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

"Trial of the century"

(I've been really busy with summer classes. Trying to teach AND do research is craziness)

Anyway. The other night, when Morsi fell in Egypt, I wanted to see what was going on without firing up my archaic home computer. So I flipped on the tv.

Every news station (And I MEAN every - I even checked MSNBC) was showing highlights of the Zimmerman trial. (CNN apparently even has theme music for it)

This frustrates me on a couple of levels - first of all, what's going on in Egypt now is likely going to have a greater effect on our lives in the long run than some trial of a guy who killed a kid who may or may not have been attacking him. What happened in Florida was unfortunate and ugly and regardless of whether Martin was a "bad kid" or whether he attacked Zimmerman, he's still dead and his family is still mourning him. And Zimmerman's life has been disrupted; he's been painted as a vigilante and worse in the media.

The other thing that I really dislike is the thought that this is the new reality, that every big spectacular trial gets its own tv show. Surely this kind of thing is going to interfere with how justice is done? All we as citizens really need to know is (a) the case is going to trial and (b) the verdict (and sentence, if there is one) after the trial is over.

I don't know if it's that there are sufficiently large numbers of people lacking drama in their lives, that they feel they need the real-life soap opera of following a trial as it happens (I know people who watched almost every minute of the Casey Anthony trial). Or if people have somehow become convinced that watching a trial is doing some kind of civic duty akin to actually serving on a jury.

I don't know. But I worry about the ability for justice to be served in really high-profile trials, where there has been so much media speculation before the fact, and then the whole thing is on tv - so on some level, the attorneys and the court officers and the witnesses and perhaps even the jury know that millions of people are watching them - in some, that may raise an impulse to grandstand, a sense that "this is my ticket to fame (or at least to become a 'consultant' for Fox News)"

I tend to think putting a camera in front of most people changes their behavior, and not necessarily in a good way.