Friday, May 31, 2013

SKOOL - Another parody

I saw the best minds of new generations destroyed by educrats, stressing, hysterical, testing

Who wandered the halls of academe in half-baked comprehension, looking for an easy A

Who drifted through dingy lecture halls, into seminar rooms with peeling paint, and sat on cracked fiberglass chairs to sleep with one eye open, flickering between the blackboard and a glowing screen

Who essayed nebulous analysis, amorphous, hazy, dim, scribbling through the ambiguous, shapeless, obscure channels of their reasoning, to
turn in vague, chaotic murk in five-paragraph form.

Who cried for practice questions, “give us practice questions!” and used the practice questions to learn to do the practice questions and no other

Who could not, would not, see a pattern, any pattern beyond the cookie cutter application of one technique to one situation.

Who understood only the test, the movement of black dots from bubble heads to bubble sheets, a great, wide, vast Skinnerian conditioning experiment, and learned which buttons to press to release the reward pellet, that small, dry kibble of grades accumulated for participation, for rough drafts, for worksheets, for giving the prof what he wants

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Anti-intellectualism: It's all in the family

Ah, summer! The season when I wave goodbye to students who think I am the embodiment of evil and say hello to visiting relatives who are certain I am the embodiment of evil.

Well, not me personally, but academics in general. Summer is the time when duty calls me to be nice to people just because they happen to share some DNA with me or my spouse, and inevitably the discussion will turn to What's Wrong with the World These Days (everything) and Who Is to Blame for our National Ills, and I'll bet you can identify the current scapegoat: godless liberal socialist college professors brainwashing students with their radical feminist pro-gay anti-gun anti-God multicultural agenda.

What do I say to these people? A little voice urges me to bite my tongue, respect my elders, don't rock the boat, keep the peace, don't teach an old dog new tricks, just smile and nod and talk about the weather. Cliches: the last refuge of the academic at the family reunion.

But I can only bite my tongue for so long, and bottling up all that anger may eventually make my head explode. I need a quip, something clever and concise enough to make anti-intellectualism uncomfortable without permanently alienating people I'm supposed to care about or causing anyone to suffer a fatal stroke or, even worse, draw a gun.

What would you say?  

What's With Toupee Tom?

I don't know, but I think the academic world breeds some very strange characters. Perhaps some of the world's strangest.  Meet some of the interesting folks with whom I work:

Toupee Tom:  When I started here, lo so many years ago, I thought I must be seeing things wrong.  Like....maybe there was a deformity on this man's scalp and I would be rude to look too closely.  Tom wears a rug that is at least 30 years old.  The part has begun to come apart.  The glue is old, yellowed, and showing.  The hair is a very different color from what is on the rest of his head (which is white).  Eventually, and it took a very long time, as Tom wears this....thing.... with a very straight face, and has a position of importance at the college, I mentioned it to someone from his department.  "What's with Toupee Tom?" I hesitantly queried.  "No one knows," was the reply.  The kicker is that everyone apparently follows up their initial query with the same question, and I did it too: "Doesn't the man have a wife at home?"  Why are the women always to blame for their husband's lack of style and taste?

Otherworldly Olga:  This gal is surely the real life inspiration for Professor Trelawny of Harry Potter fame.  Olga teaches a discipline which has her traveling throughout the jungles of South America and traversing through Asia.  No one knows where she gets the money, as she is an adjunct who is always angry about not making a living wage.  Olga is working on several books, and has had television specials in distant lands.  She married a spiritual advisor from India, but no one has ever seen him.  She did claim, at the last department get together, that her husband had appeared to one of her enemies at the college in his star form, and that the enemy was leaving her alone now.  So at least she's got that going for her, which is nice.

Days Gone By Daniel:  Daniel, you really should have retired 15 years ago.  I know, you have a doctorate, and this makes you special at a Community College (at least, it did 25 years ago).  But you don't seem to know anything that has happened in the world since 1980.  You want to develop a World Lit class, but began your pitch telling me that World Lit is actually just European Lit, since there is no scholarship on writings from....other places. You would listen to nothing on that subject, and would see nothing of what I wanted to show you online in a very quick search for the kinds of scholarship you claim does not exist.  Uh, yeah.  We'll put your World Lit idea on the agenda for the fall.

Drunk Diane:  Do any of you have a Drunk Diane?  How does she do it?  Keep her job, I mean.  She gets drunk every day at a city square blocks from the entrance to our college, then comes in to teach her classes.  She claims that if she ever slurs her words, it is because of the meds she is taking for her condition.  It is a condition that apparently sets fear into the hearts of the HR folks, because no one will say anything to her about her alcohol on the job habit.  The worst part is, she won't even share.

Grammar Matters: Man Threatens to Blow Up Government Building Sign Over Misspelled Word. Actually, Not to Be Picky, It Really Isn't a Misspelled Word so Much as It's the Wrong Word. Sure, It's Misspelled if It's Supposed to Be And, But An is Spelled Correctly. It's Wrong. Hell, It's Wrong as All Get Out. But It's Nothing To Get a Pressure Cooker Out About.

A man in Salem, Oregon took his obsession with correct spelling slightly too far on Wednesday morning when he threatened to blow up a government building's sign because a word was misspelled on it.

According to the Statesman Journal, Leonard Burdek, 50, allegedly walked into Salem's Teacher Standards and Practices Commission office on Wednesday carrying a pressure cooker. He informed employees there that he'd just tried to blow up their sign because the “d” was missing from the “and,” making the sign read: “Teacher Standards an Practices Commission.”

“He walked quite confidently into our office as though he had a mission, and I think that was what alarmed me right off the bat,” Executive Director Vickie Chamberlain said.

Burdek reportedly told the employees that his bomb didn't detonate, blaming the failure in part on the bomb's downloaded directions, which, according to Burdek, also contained misspellings.


- sent in by Hector

A Big Thirsty "Across the Seas" Edition About Perplexing "Professional Students."

Summer has almost come to Across the Seas U, and the change of season has pushed me to ponder a peculiar variety of snowflake: the "professional student."

Entering grad school, I always assumed this term was an epithet thrown around unfairly at those who, at 22 or 23, opted to eschew Cubicleville to spend their 20s pursuing something more akin to the life of the mind. Sure, I met a fellow Ph.D student who had been on campus for almost 10 years. He made time for every union meeting and many campus causes, but never mustered the same verve for his languishing thesis.

Years ago, I read about a guy at a branch campus of the University of Wisconsin who took 13 years to finally earn a bachelor's degree (my Googling turned up nothing, so I'm trusting my memory here).

The urge to put off the big finish, to delay the plunge into a life less familiar--I suspect we can all relate to this, even if we lament the failure of youth to Suck It Up And Finish. Yet there is another breed of professional student whose "professionalism" smacks not of procrastination, but addiction. 

Rumor has it that my department will soon be graced with a doozy of an applicant for the M.A. program. Zhe is approaching early middle age in a higher ed culture where non-trads are vanishingly rare. Zhe has a singular sartorial style (suffice it to say that zhe dresses far better than I do), and zhe appears to be something of an institution unto hirself. For years, I have seen hir around campus and assumed zhe was a fellow lecturer until, very recently, someone explained hir deal to me. Zhe will earn her B.A. this year from a related program at AtSU -- it is not at all unusual to have our own alumni applying for graduate study -- but the real kicker is that zhe already holds a doctorate in a completely unrelated field.

Zhe's too young to have accumulated much work experience between these degrees, so this isn't exactly a change-of-career narrative. Just a cycle of getting one degree done, then on to the next one. And the next, and the next. To borrow Hiram's phrase, I am baffled, yet also strangely fascinated. And so I put to you this Thirsty:

Q: Have you encountered anyone you could call a "professional student"? What was their story? What do you see as your role in their endless educational saga?

If It's Thursday, I Must Be Tingling...

My dish is out.

I had hockey and baseball on.

Blindly, with my head spinning,
I thought I might just watch the news
while I waited for the sports to come back...

But of course, it's ALL off.

No TV.

My God it's quiet.

I feel a sort of tingle from it.

It's summer. The books, you know,
the books of my life,
are at the office.

At home I keep a book and paper free environment.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I Don't Care How Many People Dislike This, But I Cannot Stand When the Blog Has No New Material. If This Irks Anyone, Just Blame Me, Don't Blame Les. Six Years Ago Today. An RYS Flashback.


May 29, 2007

Dear student that I have only seen once in two semesters,

You have no idea. No clue whatsoever. You have no clue about this subject I've been teaching (programming), you have no clue about how you should go about learning to program, and you have no clue about how much I know about what you've been up to. I'm not stupid.

I know what you did for that assignment. I hauled you in along with your "friend" for an investigation into possible plagiarism, and I'm not sure whether you were nervous beforehand or not, but you must have been relieved when all we could get evidence for was your "friend" stealing a copy of your assignment off your computer. But I know you didn't write that program code. You got someone else to write it for you. Oh, you wrote the explanation bit all right, it was just the program code that you hired someone else to do. You haven't the faintest idea that it is glaringly obvious when competent program code accompanied by some meaningless drivel doesn't add up. You just think I'm stupid enough to believe that that's your own work. No, I just didn't have the evidence. BIG difference. I know you hired someone. So you pay all this for tuition, and then pay even more to hire someone to do your work for you? Isn't kinda cheaper to do your own work? Why would you pay all this money and not attend?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Some Thoughts While Watching the Graduates March Across the Stage in Front of Me.

I didn’t know they made heels that high! If she slips her ankle will snap like a dry tree branch.

That student doesn’t have many people here cheering her, I’d better clap a bit louder so it’s not too quiet when she crosses the stage.

Does the announcer practice pronouncing those names? Oh wait, That’s how you pronounce it? Crap, I said it wrong every time I took attendance!

I am going to miss this student. They were a real joy to have in class.

Hoo-boy, I am so not going to miss this next student. You’re some future boss’s nightmare.

I’m glad I sprung for a tam. I never could keep that damn mortarboard on.

Hiring: An awful early thirsty

OK, never mind that many of us are "whores, alcoholics and learning disabled"--and certainly many of our students are, as well.  I'm at least one of the three (or perhaps all of the one, if the Oxford comma was intentionally omitted).  This is America, the land of forgiveness, forgetfulness, opportunity, and bullshit.

Anyway, those Rutgers people apparently did a thorough background check on the person they hired, and yet they still got screwed.  Even if the person they hired is actually wonderful (which could be true), that search committee is nevertheless in quite a pickle.  A very awkward pickle.

Finally, here's the thirsty-ish part:  I was a member of a search committee last semester.  We all agreed before interviews that we loved one of the applicants the best.  It was not merely that there was a consensus about which candidate was least awful.  Rather, we found ourselves in a strange kind of Utopia where even the completely asexual committee members had boners for this one candidate.  There were issues with all the other candidates except this one.

And do you know what?  All the other candidates' interviews went well, but Miss Wonderful-On-Paper-And-Plastic-And-Electrons completely flubbed.

Let's be clear.  She didn't show up drunk.  She didn't insult any of the committee members.  She didn't use the n-word.  She didn't smell like turnips.  She didn't say this was her back-up school in case the other guys didn't hire her.  She didn't lie, exaggerate, yawn, or roll her eyes.  She didn't do anything wrong.

But she didn't do anything impressive at all.  It was like Lisa Leslie was at the free-throw line, and the ball didn't hit the rim or the backboard.  Complete airball.

There's been a strange kind of silence among the committee members since then.  We're all still big Lisa Leslie fans.  Just puzzled and deflated.

Q. Have you ever called your Lisa Leslie back and said, "Let's talk. What happened?  Were you awake all night with your colicky baby before the interview?  Can you help us understand what happened?  Are you really all-hat and no-cattle?"  What did you learn?

A. __________________________
                    Be honest, dammit.

If It's Tuesday, I Must Be Baffled By Something.

But what?

School's out. I'm not teaching this summer.

Wife seems to like me this week. Kid is okay. Animals okay.

But I must be baffled. It's my schtick, after all.

I guess, how did I end up a college proffie? There are so many other things to be, and I certainly did a wide variety of jobs as a young man. I was good at a lot of things.

I remember being great at selling telephone book space, you know, yellow pages, back when people still used them. I had a laminated card of prices. I knocked on business doors. People seemed to like me. They often wrote me checks write there. I'd fill out the details of the ad. Put the check in my briefcase, go to the next shop.

One time a nice guy at a deli bought some space and gave me a free lunch. What?

Of course other times I got shooed away at the door, like I had a vacuum cleaner trailing behind me. I never begrudged them.

What would I have become if I kept doing that? How different would my daily concerns be? Would I have different friends? Of course. I'd keep different hours. I'd be tired in different ways.

I can't even imagine it.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Beaker Ben parlays a friend's Facebook recommendation into a CM post

You may have seen a link to the Mental Floss list of foreign words that should be adopted into English.

For some of these words, I get it but for others, I'm left wondering why we need a five syllable word to describe an idea that takes three syllables to explain.  Heck, maybe there's a word for what I just wrote.  Editor:  Do you mean "bullshit"?  Hardy har har.  Shut up.

Anyway, may we all enjoy hygge this summer with many moments of cafune, proceeded by as much bilita mpash as your body can handle.  May you have occasional opportunities for boketto.  For beware: students with backpfeifengesicht bring litost for us all.

At the very least, try not to put on too much of the grief bacon.

Weber State student research shows Earth from the edge of space.

RYS Flashback: Seven Years Ago Today! "Summer Advice."

This is what we used to wear
at the RYS summer hiatus "party."
Call me Professor Patrice from Pennsylvania, though 2 parts of that are phony! Allow me to offer some advice for professors over the summer:

  1. Don't read your email. In fact, compose a little vacation reply so that you'll be spared the endless questions about grades. There's no sense in you worrying over it. I know you did a good job with grades, and letting the students stew over their Cs and Ds for the summer will do them some good. Most of them will have forgotten your injustices to them by September, so why get involved in it now.
  2. Resist the administration's pleas for summer "help" in registration, advising, and the rest. I know this is a delicate thing. But once you become a 'go-to girl' for problems in June and July, you will be hounded forever for 'extra' duty. Disappear from campus - and from town if possible.
  3. Prepare a LITTLE bit for next Fall. This is probably not your FIRST summer break as an academic, so don't spend a great deal of time worrying about Fall 2006. It'll come. You'll be fine that first day. You know what to do in a class. If you have a brand new offering, then by all means do some reading for it. But a sure recipe for burnout is to worry away summer while thinking about Fall.
  4. Keep in contact with a few grad school friends, especially the ones who have good jobs at good schools. It's always good to see how the 'other half' lives, and it's even better to stay connected to a little network of other profs who can be useful to you for future job searches, setting up of seminars, etc.
  5. Do something mindless. Do a lot of things mindless, in fact. You've chosen a career of the mind for some nutty reason, but the job has a built-in 'recuperation' period. This is it, baby. Go bowling. Put on a floppy hat and go get some margaritas. Drive to the ocean and put your toes in the sand. Let your brain have a break.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

In which Thinking Proves Exhausting

Sunday comic!

The first panel is a TRUE THING I heard a man say COMPLETELY UNIRONICALLY today.

What words do your students not fully understand the meanings of?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

"Big egos don't produce success." A Linked Article from Vog3lfr3i.

People who believe that they don’t need to work for good grades – that they are just entitled to them by right – are annoying, but there wasn’t any evidence before now that it’s actually a self-destructive strategy

Yes, I AM
ready to succeed.
PEOPLE WHO FEEL THEY deserve success are among those most likely to fail when challenges arise, research from New Zealand has revealed.
The study focused on university students and found that those who felt entitled to good grades were more likely to bomb out on a tough exam.
"People who believe that they don’t need to work for good grades – that they are just entitled to them by right – are annoying, but there wasn’t any evidence before now that it’s actually a self-destructive strategy," says study co-author Professor Jamin Halberstadt, at the University of Ontago in New Zealand.

It's strange how what all of us know often doesn't get studied because it's so obvious. It's also strange that knowing this doesn't help in any way. "Stop feeling entitled, it will lower your grades" won't work. I already point them to a study that shows that cheating on assignments throughout the semester lowers grades. We give them all sorts of other helpful advice that they ignore.

So I guess this study really just makes me more miserable.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Negro = Black... Fired Spanish Teacher Accused of Racial Slur

So this story is about a Spanish teacher who was fired for using the word "negro" in class to teach the Spanish word for "black," only to have a student claim a racist slur had been used. The teacher was fired, and a lawsuit has been filed (although I'm unclear on who filed the lawsuit against whom and whether this was just an excuse to fire the teacher because of past complaints). This reminds me of the girl who took out of context the professor who was lecturing about the Holocaust last year. 

I teach courses in Linguistics and an occasional language course from time to time (the language course is not part of my normal teaching load, so happens once every few years). And in that context, when we do the units on "swearing" and "offensive language," I always give my chair and the dean a heads up about what we're covering and in what ways we are going to be discussing terms. Rather than using the words themselves, I ask students to use numbers to refer to derogatory terms as we discuss them, so no one can claim that I forced them to use words they were uncomfortable using. In addition, I always let students know ahead of time that these terms are being discussed within a specific context to understand how language can be used as a form of power and to reinforce sexist, racist, and classist, etc. ideology. Most students roll with it. 

Note to Self and Others - Avoid Good Deeds Such As This One.

 Impossibly Illiterate Iris sent an e-mail to the Dean this morning.  Apparently, her prof had not given her enough time to hand in her last three assignments, and so Iris should be allowed to hand them all in now, a week after grades were due.

Except, she had been given PLENTY of time to hand in those assignments!!!  They were due up to a month ago, and Illiterate Iris just handed in a blank document each time.  Each time, she claimed in seemingly tearful, impossibility illiterate e-mails that she had no idea how this could have happened, and could the prof try another computer or something?  Because II Iris could read the documents on HER computer.

The professor on the case, kindly Professor Kate, decided to give this doofus one last chance the night before grades were due, and sent Iris an e-mail saying no, she had tried on every possible computer and even on her Ipod, and taken the documents to the lab and had the "experts" there try to open them as well, and they could all see nothing there but a blank document.  But if Iris would send her the assignments before 10am the next day (grades were due that day at noon), she would be so Kindly as to grade and accept them.  Auuugh.  Why did she do that?  Because our incredibly stooopid Academic Dean now seems to see it as if Kindly Professor Kate gave Iris ONE day to do all three assignments.  Which is what Iris is now claiming, and producing the e-mails to "prove" it.

So now I am going to try to put together ALL the e-mails, the ones which include those which prove Iris is a lying idiot, in a way that is clear enough and easy enough to understand even for an Academic Dean.  Kindly Professor Kate forwarded the e-mail chain to both me and the Dean, but the Dean needs me to make the whole situation more clear, as it seems to him that the student needs another chance.   In the meantime, Kindly Professor Kate has, finally, received the documents, each one impossibly illiterate.  But she does not want to grade them now.  And who could blame her?

I am in for hours of work if I want to make this right.  Augh!!!!

"High school teachers and college professors differ on college preparedness of freshmen." A Linked Article With a TINY Bit of Commentary. What Else Do I Have to Do Today?

Do any of us really know what our high schools are doing? I swear that if I could talk to high school seniors a bit before they came to college, that I could at least prepare them a bit for the kind of stuff "we" do.

I know high school teachers have their hands full; I wouldn't do that job if you put a gun to my head.

But at the same time, college-prep high schools should be doing things that actually prepare students for college.

I find so much of my freshman class is spent breaking bad habits and undoing insane "rules" that have been taught in high school. "Mrs. Grundy said I couldn't use the word 'think.'" "Mr. Baxter told me that I was supposed to use footnotes."

An article from the Long Beach (CA) Press-Telegram caught my eye this morning:


Yes, they're ready. No, they're not. A new survey shows a wide gap between high school teachers and college professors when it comes to the question of whether incoming freshmen are prepared for higher learning.

Just 26 percent of college instructors believe students are well-prepared for first-year courses, compared to 89 percent of high school teachers, according to the ACT National Curriculum Survey.

"We've seen for a number of years that there have been gaps between what skills colleges say are most important for students to learn and what high school teachers and school districts are teaching," said Ed Colby, spokesman for ACT. "There doesn't seem to be enough collaboration between local schools and colleges."

David Dowell, vice provost for academic affairs at Cal State Long Beach, said that was certainly true in the past.

"One of the findings from the California work was that high school English teachers focused on expressive writing in reaction to literature," Dowell said. "Colleges

expected fact-based expository writing. (Students) were doing well in their writing, but it was a different kind of writing. "ACT produces the report every three to five years. The survey looks at what is taught in schools and what is expected for student success at the college level when it comes to math, science, reading, writing and English.


More Students Deserve to Graduate? Who Says? A Rant from Magnus.

I saw the title of this column in USA Today, read the article, and had to put in my two cents.

First, the title: More Students Deserve to Graduate

Say what?  I never knew I deserved a degree ... I thought I earned one!  This sends a very wrong message to youth and their parents. Here is my own philosophy on the whole education-diploma concept:

Knowledge is attained through hard work, and an education is an opportunity to pursue knowledge with assistance. When someone pays for an education, they are purchasing access to people with specialized knowledge who in return provide information(e.g., lectures, course notes), guidance (e.g., instructions, grading, advising). What any student does with this access is up to them. Paying tuition gives them opportunities to better themselves, but does not guarantee the successful transfer of knowledge.

By enrolling in a institution of higher education, a person agrees to subject their level of understanding to the judgment of those with specialized knowledge in particular areas.  A diploma indicates that a person has demonstrated a certain level of knowledge in a certain field, again as  judged by specialists in that field. 

You may be able to buy education, but you can never buy knowledge - it is earned.  Here is a
better title: More Students Deserve Access to Education.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

An Open Letter to Sad Sally and Her Ilk

To Sad Sally,

Despite what urban legends claim, I am not out to ruin your life and pulverize your dreams under my weather-beaten loafers. I had a myriad reasons to choose the career I did, some of which have crumbled to dust right before my eyes, but believe me when I say that victimizing "impressionable young minds" [but you claim you were hoping I'd treat you "like the adult" you were. Which is it?] was not one of them.

Look, crap happens. I get that. Your close relative died and you had to go to hir funeral; that wasn't a crime. I was morally and legally obliged to give you time to make up your work, to take the situation into consideration when I sat down to determine your final grade. You were passing this course before the aforementioned crap happened and the abrupt descent of your performance could not have been fibbed. I believe you, Sad Sally, I really do.

The Big Thirsty on Summer Locales: Where?

Q: Where Will You Be This Summer?

(shortest answers get
karma points...)

If It's Thursday, I Must Be Tingling...

All this talk of music,
bands, CDs,
albums, still for me,

reminds me of undergrad days,
Boston and Aerosmith
on 8-tracks still.

Open dorm windows,
wafting of smoke
and crashing or chiming guitars.

I was pretty then,
truly a miracle
of hair and bell bottoms.

What fun, what tingles of memory
come to me now,
and the deliciousness of youth.

Why then do my college students
seem so dull,
so blank.

I was no great scholar, but
there was some spark in me,
I think. Maybe it's too long ago

for me to know for sure,
to remember how I really was,
oh those days ago.

Maybe my old proffies
feared and hated me.
Stranger things are missing from my mind.

But, music,
lovely sounds,
bracing rhythms.

When students love music, I feel
a kinship with them.
I trust them more.

I understand that.

I bemoaned one day
that nobody props huge speakers
in open dorm windows now,

just ear buds in everyone's holes,
their owners sullenly stomping around campus,
looking down at phones.

"Couldn't you," I said,
at least split a bud with a friend, [see what I did there...]
one ear each,

'More than a Feeling' glittering
between you?"
You'd have thought I had 2 heads.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I Believe I Have Now Seen It All. From Amelia in Abilene.

Context: I ran a research paper competition for our basketweaving academic/professional association annual meeting. We have a gradflake paper competition and a proffie competition. I get this in my e-mail from a gradflake.
Dear Dr. Amelia,
I have been looking at the reviews on my paper "Things I Don't Really Understand about Baskets." I disagree with the reviewers. I also think there should be more, and more detailed written feedback. How can I get a re-grade?
Sally Snow
Would anyone like to help me answer this one?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Compound Cal is Shameless.

Hello, Compound Cal here, the official consigliere for CM, and the last damn moderator of RYS.

As you likely know, I'm a musician who occasionally forces my songs on the CM public. Nobody stops me. How could they?

My longtime Texas band quit playing live in the late 90s, but over the past few years we've gathered in Nashville and Dallas to do some recordings. And we occasionally release a mediocre collection of songs.

We're doing this in 2013 as well, with a collection of new recordings we've worked on over the past 18 months.

We're trying to cover a tiny amount of production costs through the crowd-sourcing fund raising site Kickstarter.

We only have a couple of hundred bucks to go, and there are rewards for $20 and $50 pledges. If we fund the project, your credit card is charged and you get your CD and/or t-shirt in the mail in August. If the project misses its funding mark your card is not charged at all.

The link for more info is right here. (There's even a funny video.)

And to whet your appetite, here are a couple of mediocre, cobbled-together videos that simply provide some eye candy for the music. Both of these songs will be on the new, as yet untitled, disc.

Thanks to Les, a STRONG supporter of my band (thanks for the $50 pledge, you sweet thang), for letting me hawk the notion here so widely.

Play it Cool
The Take
Girl Who Disappeared

PS: And before anyone asks, no, we don't know Kate Bosworth.

Surly and the Patriarchy

I just had the worst day of my entire working life, and that includes the day the tech guy erased my entire hard drive without telling me, and then said to me with a straight face: "well, at least the sound works now."

I was summoned to a meeting that went as follows:

Male Division Head (DH): This individual stack of 3 by 5 index cards forms a perfect circle.

Surly: No, that's actually a rectangle.

DH: Whoa, calm down! There’s no reason to fly off the handle! Why are you being so difficult? You really have an attitude problem.

Male Administrator #2 (Not even trying to conceal his smirk): Yeah Surly, you really didn’t handle that shape-based conversation well.

Repeat this sort of exchange for about thirty minutes. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, scene.

If It's Tuesday I Must Be Pissed Off At Our Textbook Committee.

Jesus Lord in a Mustang, the nutcases who were too slow-witted to avoid getting roped into the textbook committee have finally finished their recommendations for our multi-section freshman sequence of classes.

They've replaced a 2011 edition of one book with a 2010 edition of a different book. It means we have to supplement this book with a 2013 edition of another book to make up for outdated material in this "new" book. Twice the number of books. Almost twice the price. Why?

Because there are TWO essays in the 2010 edition that two committee members can not live without. I found out what they were and found them both free online. It took me, gulp, 15 seconds to copy and paste them both into an email and send it to the committee.

Oh Dear, It's an Early AND Undergrad Thirsty. I've Bent the Rules of Thirstydom so Much This Past Year That If It Weren't Already Bulging With Enemies and Former Colleagues, I, Too, Would Be on Cal's Shit List. Anyway, Here's Atrus.

I'm Atrus, an undergrad at a New England SLAC (double-majoring in Hamster Lit and Frog Lit/Language), as well as a regular reader of College Misery. I'm planning to get my MLS and become a librarian after graduating, so I've been doing everything I can to work towards that dream (taking whatever relevant courses I can, volunteering/interning at libraries, going to library conferences, befriending librarians, everything short of taking up residence in the SLAC's stacks). I provide occasional research guidance to classmates who request it. And yes, I point them towards both printed and online resources.

And yet I worry. The library job/internship market is a jungle right now - I've only recently found a paying summer job in a library. Some people that I've talked to have scoffed and said that libraries are becoming obsolete. A poster here once said that "If [a student] starts talking about going for a Master of Library Science degree, discourage her!".

I can deal with the increasing emphasis on technology (I'm a geek, I can adapt to changing technology); the salary much lower than what businesses are promising to my science-majoring classmates; even the near-certainty of having to take whatever I can get with regards to positions.

Do I have a chance in hell, or should I just change intended career paths now while I'm still young, relatively sane, and debt-free?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Grade Grubbers Galore

I teach Intro to Hamsterology to one large section of 400+ students. Thus crowd control is crucial, particularly with respect to grade grubbing.

After mid-semester tests which are graded by my PhD student assistants under my close supervision, I give students the opportunity to request a "review of their mark" (by me, personally) within a specified time period via an elaborate written procedure. I allow no personal discussion before, during or after this process. The time period starts a week after the test is returned (to give them time to cool off) and ends a week later (to avoid the end of semester grade grubbing frenzy). Anyone wanting to meet with me to get "more advice and not to ask for more marks" (yeah right, they're just lazy and trying to circumvent the procedure) can do so, but only the day AFTER the specified grade review request period ends. End of semester grade grubbers (and the Deans they complain to) are told "but you had the opportunity to get your grade reviewed by me and you didn't take it."

Normally only a handful bother to follow the process, but this semester, I had 2 dozen requests, and their reasons for requesting a grade review reached new depths of grubbiness. Here's a sample:

Dreamer Delia: My dream was to get 25/25 in the multiple choice section and I only got this one question wrong so I think you should give me the mark so I can achieve my dream.

Dream-Killer (rolling on the floor laughing): Just call me Dream-Killer!

On drama queens (and kings)

Years ago (what am I saying? Decades ago) when I was in college, one of my classmates became the center of a whirlwind of media attention after a mysterious stranger entered her house and raped her. She basked in the drama for more than a year, seeking to become a sort of media spokesperson for victims of sexual violence, until her story was exposed as a lie. She had invented the mysterious stranger and the rape as a ploy to seek attention, and the details of the supposed rape were borrowed from the plot of a popular soap opera at the time. A sad and tawdry incident. She finished her degree eventually, but she had a hard time holding her head up on campus after her fiction was exposed.

We've all had drama queens in class, students who create elaborate scenarios either to seek sympathy or to avoid work, but few of them go quite this far. Here's another from today's news:

Johns Creek man charged with faking his kidnapping

A Georgia Gwinnett College student couldn’t bear to tell his parents he was flunking English class — for the second time — so he faked his own kidnapping, according to Johns Creek police.

Now Aftab Aslam, 19, has more to worry about than an ‘F’ in English class.

On Thursday, Aslam turned himself in to police who charged him with a misdemeanor count of false report of a crime, three felony counts of false statements, three felony counts of tampering with evidence and three felony counts of terroristic threats.

(Click here to read the rest.)

Is there a male form for "Drama Queen" and if so, what is it?


First Monday after spring semester ends Thirsty! (Hint: The answer is "no")

Dr. Jekyll:  Is there any day so wonderful as the first Monday after spring semester has finished?

Prof. Hyde:  Given the usual difficultly of your rhetorical questions, the answer is clearly "no".

Dr. Jekyll:  What a joy it is to walk past fraternity row.  The only sound is that of the cleaning vans running the steam machines.

Prof. Hyde:  I'll miss the frats' debauchery and sense of entitlement.

Dr. Jekyll:  The road construction crews started early this morning, but most in our town celebrate their appearance as it coincides with the disappearance from front lawns of beer bottles and public urination.

Prof. Hyde:  Hey, when a man has to go, he has to go.

Dr. Jekyll:  The smell of the cleaning chemicals the maintenance staff uses to give our building its annual sprucing make me light-headed at the thought of no more students for three months.

Prof. Hyde:  I find the chemicals useful in other ways.

Dr. Jekyll:  And my office!  Oh, my office!  It is so quiet in my building I can hear deanlets thinking three floors away!

Prof. Hyde:  You wouldn't be as happy if you knew what they were thinking about.

Dr. Jekyll:  It's the most wonderful time of the year!!  Happy Summer everyone!!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Iskander Cannot Launch. A Weekend Thirsty.

To keep things reasonably vague and anonymous, I am an advanced graduate student at a decent-but-not-great Rodentology program. However, I cannot seem to escape. My dissertation advisor and committee appear to operate with a not-so-benign form of neglect, and as a result the completion of my degree has been delayed for at least a year, to provide a conservative estimate.

No level of cajoling or begging seems adequate to get feedback or progress towards the end of this hellish process, despite assurances that my research is fine and poses no problem to a successful defense. It has definitely had an economic effect on myself and my family, and probably contributed to a less-than-satisfactory result from my first year on the job market. It has also increased the appeal of bourbon (though what doesn't, these days?)

I should note that I am not a troubled student barely scraping through nor a needy student desiring to be led by hand through graduate school. I am not the brightest star in the academic firmament, but I am fairly competent at both teaching and getting research done.

The question I have for the CM community is this:

Q: Am I well and truly screwed? Am I completely dependent on my committee eventually getting around to doing their thing? Or are there other options that I may not have explored or thought of?

In which You Can Be Anything

 Sunday comic!

'Come along, Chadwick,' said Father, pulling the boy roughly by the hand. 'But Papa!' came the plaintive wail--'the cows, the cows, the cows, the cows!'

"... as far as I am concerned, there isn't money enough in the universe to hire me to swing a pickaxe thirty days, but I will do the hardest kind of intellectual work for just as near nothing as you can cipher it down--and I will be satisfied, too.... The law of work does seem utterly unfair--but there it is, and nothing can change it: the higher the pay in enjoyment the worker gets out of it, the higher shall be his pay in cash, also."
Mark Twain,  A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court 

What would you not do for any amount of money?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

This goes beyond helicopter parenting...

So I grew up with family friends who were kind of like cousins.  We are now sort of distant.  Well, not in any way estranged....just not in touch.  It's been 20 years since our families have had those barbecues.

Recently, one of them sent a video of her young lotus blossom, who is apparently quite a burgeoning genius, to 1,000 or so of her closest friends.

It is a three minute short of her young daughter straining over her little potty. 

THREE MINUTES of a small child straining.....and then finally getting that poop out.  Entitled "Patty's First Poop in the Potty," it ends with a close up of the poop, with the sounds of her parents cheering in the background.

Heaven help us all. 

NYU Professor Busted for Allegedly Spying on Undressing Women.

College faculties are made up of all kinds of people, of course. Just another subculture in our big, messy world. I don't know why it always seems worse to me when a proffie gets caught doing something gross like this dude. Does it reflect on me? On us?

My best friend / neighbor is a roofer. When a roofer in another city gets picked up for molesting goats or alpaci, I don't think any less of my neighbor.

Should I? No, that's stupid. But, correct me if I'm wrong, this is context for the below linked article, right? I mean, I won't lose that good parking space here on the Weber State campus, will I? I'll still get to share a cubby with Leslie K? I did it right, didn't I?


Wouldn't YOU
be sweating?
An accomplished NYU art-history professor — who has lectured at the Met and Sotheby’s — is a Peeping Tom who uses his iPhone to spy on young women in West Village boutique changing rooms, cops said.

Ross Finocchio, 34, video-recorded women trying on vintage clothes at Beacon’s Closet by entering a changing area, setting up his phone in a shoe, and sliding it under the partition into the next room, cops said.

The medieval-art expert pulled the move on two women — ages 26 and 28 — in two incidents, cops said.

The 26-year-old saw the shoe slide into her room as she was getting undressed at 4:30 pm.

“I told the store manager that I saw him put something under the door but I didn’t see what it was,” the alleged victim told The Post.

She and the manager then watched Finocchio pull the same stunt on a 28-year old, cops said.

“I knocked on [his dressing-room door] and said, ‘You have to come out right now,’” said manager Stephanie Williams.

She said when he finally came out, “he was sweating profusely.”


Friday, May 17, 2013

Final Grading Breakdown

Time spent actually grading student work (no comments): 30%
Time spent trying to get the LMS gradebook to do things it doesn't want to do (and teaching/re-teaching myself Excel when that fails):30%
Time spent tracking down work submitted in a nonstandard way; emailing students about missing, "empty" or "corrupted" files; answering emails asking why a student earned only 2 out of 3 points sometime back in week 9 (etc., etc., etc.):  30%
Time spent weeping, gnashing teeth, and occasionally nodding off and/or staring into space out of sheer exhaustion:10%

This about says it all...

The Rare Undergraduate Thirsty (Cal Will Lose His Mind): "How Can I Save My Adjunct?"

Although I am but an undergrad, I have been one for so long (seven years now) that I read this blog back when it was RYS. I can't remember how I first heard of it - it might have been through the Chronicle of Higher Ed, which I used to browse through after one of my parents, an academic, had finished with it. I began my college education in Lotus Land, aka a SLAC so obscure you've probably never heard of it, the kind of place where there are no multiple choice tests or course evaluations. After a tumultuous adolescence I'm finishing up my degree at a respectable but thoroughly mediocre state school.

I have a conundrum. I have course evals to fill out as a student, and I absolutely love one of my professors. She's a gifted instructor. She's generous with her time. She lectures for an hour and a half twice a week without notes, writing and explaining equations from memory in a manner so charismatic she makes it look easy. When I talk about this class with the "good" students in the major who have taken it previously, they speak of her in uniformly flattering terms. People love this instructor, even the students who struggle. She's fair, tough, has a scary reputation in the lower division classes.

What's the difficulty, then? She's an adjunct, and because of statewide budget cuts, her job may be next on the chopping block. I am trying to figure out something I could say in a course eval that would send a message to the right folks that this instructor is so wonderful she deserves a promotion, not a pink slip. Is there special administrator code that would get this message across? Would a letter campaign work? I can think of at least fifteen people who'd sign off the top of my head...

This is so frustrating to me in part because I took another class outside my major this semester, supposedly an upper division course, taught by a tenured professor, where the entirety of the course grade is based upon multiple choice questions ripped directly from the text, and where a substantial (> 10%) number of classes were spent watching videos. This professor has job security, while the wonderful fabulous adjunct doesn't? How is this just?

Q: If I'm the "consumer," the "customer," how do I tell the admins how I'd like them to spend my money?!

- Alexandra from Asilomar

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Computing improper integrals, are we?
Why yes, in my free time today!
Just add a dash of Residue Theory,
Be sure to find all the singularities,
Don't let them run away!

Form a semi-circle surrounding those points
That live above the x-axis
Then let the radius go to infinity
Show that the integral of the top half goes to zero, what a trip!
Complex Analysis is so nice to me!

The remaining value is the answer, you know
As I'm working it for students to see
But, the book says the answer is pi/6
And I keep getting pi/3!  *cries*

A Proffie's Garden of Worsts

Worst grasp of adult social norms: Picked his nose in class--daily--with the sort of dedication and concentration that would have been impressive if he'd devoted it to, say, doing his classwork.

Worst understanding of personal abilities: "Sure, I can make up eight weeks' work in two days! No problem!"

Worst awareness of the need to maintain a low center of gravity: Wore stilt-like shoes so tall and tippy that she couldn't walk down a busy staircase without stopping on each step, grasping the railing, and tentatively reaching her foot down over the abyss as if it were the Grand Canyon, resulting in near-gridlock all up and down the steps.

Worst blame-throwing: Complained to the provost that his experience in my class LAST semester traumatized him so much that it's my fault he flunked all his classes THIS semester.

Worst comprehension of why I'm here: Begged me to go over a paper with her because the Writing Center was closed, even though (1) she was not my student; (2) the paper was for a class outside my discipline; and (3) the Writing Center was closed because it was SPRING BREAK.

Worst student-generated metaphor: The pleasant aroma "spiraled like a staircase up her nose."

There must be more, yes?

This Week's Big Thirsty: If It Feels Like a Rerun, It's Because It's a Question Always Worth Asking.

Q: What did you fuck up this past semester? How are you going to fix it in the future? Do we have to come and spank you for it?

If It's Thursday, I Must Be Tingling...

All this student eval talk
has made me tingle.

Oh, I read them,
then I file them.

They have taught me the following:

I'm too hard.
I don't "like" them.
I go on and on.
I keep them too long.

It's not illuminating.
It's not even bothersome,

But as a young man,
I took them to heart.

I was easier.
I "acted" like I liked them.
I involved students more in discussion -
which they always rejected.
I let them out early.

It was miraculous,
the change.

Instead of 4.3s,
I got 4.4s.

I'm convinced I got tenure that way.

Now, of course, I've reverted.

It's 4.3s all the way,
and damn the snow-pedos.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Who's With Me If I'm Getting Together a Bunch of Crazzy Fuckers to Ride Around the Country Blowing up Every Fucking Frat in the Country.

I may just be a character on this little TV show of yours, but I'm a human being down deep - down REALLY deep, the wife would say.

I teach at the greatest university in the country of Texas, and one of the greatest in the entire Americas. You can look it up. I've gone on about it a lot here and at the other site.

And at this great university we are RUN OVER with frat cretins like the fucking animals in the story below. So many of them make me so fucking sick. I don't see many undergrads in my classes, but I see them twerking about on the quad and out front of their smelly houses here on campus.

I read this story today and my only response was a blind fucking rage. If there was any justice in the world - and who the fuck am I kidding - these pathetic Sigma Alpha Epsilon fucks over in Tempe would be locked away for life for what they've done.


We have new information about the grave situation an ASU student was in after drinking too much at a party. The student, who was left at an emergency room by friends, has been identified as 20-year-old Aidan Mohr. He's not of legal age to drink.

According to police, Mohr's blood alcohol level was five times the legal limit. He drank somewhere around 30 ounces of tequila in a few hours' time. "He began to vomit, he was beginning to have difficulty breathing, his eyes rolled in the back of his head," says Tempe Police Sgt. Mike Pooley.

Sgt. Mike Pooley says the 20-year-old did 20 shots of tequila during a drinking contest and was eventually dropped off by his frat brothers at the ER at Tempe Saint Luke's Hospital. His name was written on a Post-It. His blood alcohol concentration was .471%.

"In severe cases when the blood alcohol level gets too extreme they can go into coma," says ER nurse Janet Backers, director of the ER.

It was last December that police believe ASU student Jack Culolias drowned in Tempe Town Lake after a night of heavy drinking with fraternity brothers -- the same frat police say Mohr belongs to.

Tempe Police are not filing any charges at this point.

Aidan was still in the hospital as of Sunday. Even though he was in extremely critical condition, police tell us he is expected to make a full recovery.

More of this.

Just Saying

Dear student: when you're looking for sources, Holocaust denial and white supremacist websites are probably not the best places to go for information about Jewish immigration. Just sayin'.

another goddamned bad haiku ... for the end of another goddamned bad semester

the whiskey on my
breath should make my mood less dim;
this grading was not

easy.  grade grubbing
began immediately.
so did the drinking.

i didn't always
need to drown the chorus.  used
to be that the spring

peepers were the lone
voices signaling the end 
of winter's long term.

now, coming to terms,
with may's new gifts: dealing with
endless whining, threats,

bluffs, tears, deans.  it ends ...
but it lingers like the stink
of a bloated corpse.

ergo, whiskey.  ah.  a
week off before it begins
anew, a fresh batch

of tadpoles new to
this peculiar pond, some time--
perhaps--to detox

from too little sleep,
too much whiskey, too many
choristers, too few

incentives to live--
too much cynicism?--and
knowing full well that

next week, two full, big
rosters of swarming tadpoles
begin the cycle

again. the whirlwind
waltz of a short term may bring
a few surprises,

a princeling writer,
a queen of content, evolved
from mere peeper to

poet in eight short
weeks. it's this potential that
hooks me every time:

this time, it will be
different, princes from frogs ... but
i will not kiss them.

On the Transformation of Shit into Diamonds.

Once upon a time a certain horrible, mean professor walked into a shared laboratory at Mega State U to find a grad student drinking a soda. This is, of course, a serious no-no in a lab, even IF no-one in the lab is currently stirring boiling pots of poison. The HMP strongly chided the student, insisting that the soda leave the lab, never to return. The student snarked back at the HMP, who gave that student a loud-ish verbal reaming, not knowing that hidden away in various corners were other timid student-souls; i.e., the HMP had humiliated the student in front of peers (something the HMP normally avoids).

The student spent his remaining time at Mega State U being more horrible than the HMP, behaving just on the edge of disruptive in classes, writing scathingly dishonest evals, bad-mouthing the HMP whenever possible. The HMP sure was glad to see this student graduate and get the hell out of town.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

If It's Tuesday, Hiram Must Be Baffled About His Student Evaluations.

I try to have fun here. I try to treat the whole shebang of teaching pretty lightly. I bitch and moan and feel better instantly. I try not to get to caught up in the philosophical angst that can sometimes ruin the job.

But today. Oh, Lord, today. I pick up my student evals in a big white envelope from our assistant and I open them in my car before heading home. The numbers are good, the comments are strong.

But 2 different people in 2 different sections wrote these comments:

"Dr. Hiram is a terrible teacher. He doesn't care at all if we pass or fail. He doesn't care about his job or being a good teacher. He really doesn't care about students at all."

"I don't know why he teaches if he hates students so much. He doesn't care if I pass or fail. He seems to hate students, telling us all these rules and never teaching anything. He should do something he cares about instead of teaching."

I know. They're students. They don't know anything, really. They certainly don't know what I'm doing. They only can respond to what they "understand."

But it kills me that anyone, even some Cincinnati suburban frosh, can think I don't care about what I'm doing, my students, or my job. I may be partly to blame. I do tell them that their grades are up to them, that nobody is going to "care" as much about their writing than they are. I may even play the cavalier proffie at times.

But it never occurs to me that anyone who spends 16 weeks with me would ever think I didn't care about the job or them. I think about the extra lengths I sometimes go to to make sure they have a chance to succeed, and I just feel so fucking defeated.

In Which Persecuted Pete Presents his Portfolio

I have been placed into the role of Acting Chair for my Department, which makes me the go-to gal for student complaints.  Pete, you came to see me in quite a dither. You had been treated unfairly.  You got a C- on your portfolio, and thus in the class.  That won't transfer.    Your professor had not marked all the errors on your drafts, so you could not correct them.  You only corrected the 40,000 errors he did mark.  How were you supposed to know that those other errors were even there?  It was not fair.

I was going to go into a little dissertation on editing, on marking patterns of errors, on student responsibility to re-edit, perhaps even with a tutor, when something about that first essay on the pile caught my eye.

It was on Guy de Maupassant's "The Jewelry" .....wait....what?

Guy de Maupassant wrote an often anthologized story called "The Necklace."

"What's that....what's that title?  That's not the story's title.  That story is called 'The Necklace.'" I was seriously confused for a minute.  Pete, you went into another outraged dither.  How could you learn, when your professor gave you stories with the wrong title?  That's the title he used when he lectured on it!  You remembered it perfectly! This was an outrage.  How could we employ professors of such low quality!  You were going to complain to the Dean!   I pointed out that he did circle the title with an accompanying question mark.

"Where did you get the idea that was the title?" I asked.  Your textbook, you replied, the subpar one your professor used for the class.    "Hmmmmm. That's very interesting.  Let me see it," I said.  Oh, you never actually bought the textbook.  "How did you do the reading then?" I asked.  Pete, you looked downright martyred when you told me you had to do all your reading at the library, as you had run out of financial aid.  "So....a book at the library had a story in it called "The Jewelry" by Guy de.....wait, let me just google it, and see what comes up," I said.

What came up, Pete, was a smattering of cheat essays by very stupid students, writing about a non existent story called "The Jewelry."  Google itself was confused, and also gave me student cheat essays about that other pesky story, the real one, called "The Necklace."  The Wikipedia article that also came up was only on "The Necklace."  Wikipedia had nothing on "The Jewelry" on account of the fact that's the wrong title, dumbass.  In this case, Pete, Wikipedia would have served you well.

"Pete, it looks like you were influenced by these student cheat essays," I said, looking you in the eye.  "That's never a good idea, to get your ideas from student cheat essays.   Often, they contain wrong information.  You need to rely on your textbook, your notes, any of the materials found in the library in support of students reading these types of stories, or educational sites sponsored by colleges and universities."  Pete, you never missed a beat, complaining that your professor was so unclear, who could blame you for looking for more information about the stories online.  And how were you, a poor student without the training to know better, supposed to tell a student cheat website from a legitimate website? 

I was suddenly very done with you.  "Well, If you want to challenge your grade, you need to leave this portfolio here, so I can look through it carefully.  I'll want to make sure, of course, that you were not too heavily influenced by the cheat essays.  If I find that you have plagiarized, I'll have to change your grade to an F and make a permanent notation on your transcript."  I was bluffing about the permanent notation.  It's in the student handbook, but the admins would never let me actually do it.

None of this, Pete, was even worth your time.  Forget it, you said, gathering your papers and leaving in a huff.

I made a mental note to have a talk with that prof to encourage him to grade a little tougher.

Monday, May 13, 2013

When the Miserians Cause the Misery... (Subtitled: We Know We're Not Fucking Perfect)

Some people who stumble onto this blog seem to think we are a bunch of mean, petty, self-righteous disillusioned liars. While I don't deny that this may be true, I also contend that we're just more human than others. More humane? Possibly not, but definitely more human. We are the ones honest enough and brave enough to notice and call out the nakedness we see, and the ones who are able to express the foibles that annoy, anger, and sometimes frighten us. Does this make us perfect? Far from it, but we've at least found a way to try to cope with the nakedness around us.

In celebration of being human, I present my moments of flakery from this year in the hopes that reminding myself of these moments will stop any more from occurring this month (we're on the quarter system, so there's still plenty of time for more).

The Contemplative Cynic's Moments of Flakery in 2013 (in no particular order):

1. Standing in front of my office door for a full 30 seconds while trying to unlock my office door by repeatedly pushing the "unlock" key on my car's remote while cursing its ineffectiveness. Aloud. And in front of students waiting to conference with me. The great thing about this was that when I went home later that day, my car was unlocked and ready for me. This is not the first time this has occurred.

2. Talking to Slacker Steve about his grade and how I was worried that he hadn't done very well on his midterm exam. Slacker Steve listened politely for two whole minutes while I gave suggestions on how he might raise his grade before saying, "Um, Professor Cynic, I'm not Slacker Steve; I got 96% on the midterm."

An Early Thirsty on "Batty" Evaluations.

Is there a Monday Thirsty? How about an Afternoon Gulp?

Ah, student evaluations. They are enclosed in a manila envelope,
small enough to fit in my briefcase and lighter than BallisticOther's shrimpy kitten, yet they perch on the edge of my desk and fester and gradually morph into the mammoth in the room. I both dread and anticipate them with not a little curiosity, because the originality and spunk with which they accuse me of any and all psychological crimes against nature are the two qualities missing from their papers all semester long.

I ask you, is there such a thing as selective application of critical thinking? Or have I succeeded in my endeavours at long last and the only outlet for the students' newfound skills is the evaluation? Perhaps I should hand out MadLibs first, but that would only result in claims that the Professor bibbles cucumbers. Try explaining that to the department chair.

Today, armed with hot chocolate and a gardenia flower BallisticOther insisted on sticking in my fedora (I am imitating Indiana Jones, if he was a teaching assistant professor, balding, and was pleasantly plump instead of abs-tastic and dashing), I finally reached over and opened that envelope. And, among other, less fun scribblings, here is what I found:

Who looks like a pineapple and makes me go to sleep?
BallisticNoter, PhD!
Boring and Weird and Dauntless is he [I don't think s/he quite got what 'dauntless' means in Lochinvar]
BallisticNoter, PhD!

I'll take it as a compliment; look, they notice my doctorate! And I'm dauntless! No, seriously, what am I supposed to do with this? So, here's the thirsty:

Q: What is the weirdest, craziest, 
downright batty evaluation you ever got?

If You Are Not a Correspondent, But Have Some Misery to Share...

Lament's Terms

At this point in the academic year, I am usually physically and emotionally exhausted. This is also the point in the year at which the most outlandish attacks on my sanity and patience seem vested upon me.

Young, fresh-faced colleagues (YFFCs) propel themselves into my office, bearing stories from “the front”—that is, an arduous series of committee meetings initiated by the administration created in order to find logical solutions to university problems. These YFFCs are too naive to have yet realized that their endless research and efforts will be for naught, because 99% of committees created by administrators to solve university problems are only initiated so that the administration can appear to be “proactive”.

When the initial solution, which costs money, is rejected, the administration will ask those same YFFCs to “reconfigure another solution” over the summer, off contract. The administration will want the solution to cost nothing, yet solve everything. And the YFFCs will be shocked, shocked, at this turn of events. Just shocked. But they will learn. They will learn.

Congratulations, YFFC. You are now a line on an administrator’s cv, having served on the Committee to Effect Changes that the Vice President Thinks are Vitally Important but Will Eventually Refuse to Fund.

plural, just in case
Worse than the YFFCs are the students. The students that want to pass my classes, but don’t want to work. Or want me to pass them despite the fact that they haven’t worked. They want to know what is going to be on the final. They want to know why they received zeroes on their rough drafts. They want to know this despite the approximately 1,754 announcements and missives I have sent them clearly explaining the answers to such questions (if you don’t turn in your rough draft on time, you get a zero. And I’m not telling you what’s on the final.) They want to know what their course average is when there are four grades, all worth 25% of their final grade.

One student stands sullenly in my office, trying to defend his thesis statement that we ought to be able to euthanize people if they don’t seem to be enjoying their lives. I try to explain delicately that if this were the case I ought to be able to euthanize him, but he still doesn’t get it. He might if I actually attempted to euthanize him, but then I ask myself "What would Jesus do?" And I decide that Jesus would take a Xanax, and I do that instead.

Another student turns in a paper using a PowerPoint presentation created by seventh-graders as a scholarly source. She also refuses to use quotation marks to indicate direct quotes, and consistently repeats “in lament’s terms” instead of “layman’s terms,” which I find so appropriate that I the mistake stand.

In the worst case of all, a student does a happy dance of sheer joy at finding out she earned a perfect score on her final, after which she does a crying shamble of abject sorrow at finding out that she’s getting an F in the course for plagiarizing her final paper.

Lament’s terms, indeed.