Friday, May 18, 2012

Wombat of the Copier Sends Out Some Email!

Date: Thur, 17 May 2012 21:40:36 -0600

Dear Happy Napper

Do you see the words above, starting with "Dear"? That's called a "salutation" and using one makes you sound like less of a useless, entitled douchebag.

Do you see the words outside of the message box in the upper right and corner, starting with "sent"? That's called a time stamp and you can't forget that because the system puts it there for you. It let's me know that your e-mail regarding "difficulty" submitting your take home test was sent 39 hours after the test was due. So even if what followed had been otherwise valid, your problem arose after you already missed the deadline i.e. your excuse is irrelavent.

Now let's try a mental experiment. Close your eyes. Visualize the science building. Imagine you are walking down the one short corridor of chemistry offices. How many doors do you see? Is your mind's eye not up to this? I'll give you the answer: Five. There are five of us. Now, try one more visualization. Picture the doors. Picture them. Picture the two covered in pictures of African American children. I know you took Biology for Non Majors and got a B, I can see your transcript. Can those be my children? What about the Korean babies? Think they belong to me? There are only two doors left. See the little rectangular plaque that slides in and out of a plastic sheild? See the one that says Professor Notwombatofthecopier? See the one that says Wombatofthecopier-Visiting-Instructor? Can you guess which one is mine?

Now I need you to look for more words, they are below this message, below yours, even lower in the original e-mail I sent you in February, the one you dug up to "reply" to in order to contact me. See starting with "Room" ending in "1776"? That's my room number and I gave it to you in February when you used "I can't remember your office number" as your excuse for not turning in your lab report. It let's me know that your current claim of forgetting my room number is absolute bullshit.

But wait, there's more I want to share with you! You know what else is a clue that you know where my office is? When I went in on Tuesday to get all of the last minute crap people shoved under my door Monday night when it was all due, I found some of your shitty D+ quality work. If you knew where it was Monday afternoon and forgot already by Monday night, then hopefully you already forgot you sent me this asinine message.

Have a nice life, loser.


PS Fuck You


  1. Wombat, you always rock, but some of us do have children of different races than ourselves. Not that that excuses this loser.

    1. Yeah that was a crazy assumption, pretty much everything else disappeared after I read that. I can't even remember what I just read.

    2. I feel genuinely bad that I said something insensitive that offended you. I enjoy both of you so much, I hope you can forgive me.

    3. No biggie Wombat. We love you!

  2. I'm known as the professor who changed her pants when her water broke, then tried to finish the review session until the department chair put her on a cart and wheeled her to the loading dock where her husband picked her up.

    One of the black children is famous, but I can't say what for without outing myself, but everyone knows who her professor father is. The other black professor is pushing her kids on a sled in one of the pictures, and the Korean babies are in Korea being held by their Korean grand parents while the relieved to be no longer pregnant with twins Korean mother and Korean professor father smile behind them.

    But all of these points of defense on my part are moot - only a non-brick wall would notice these things and Happy Napper was a brick wall, so you're right.

  3. This. is. awesome. On so many levels.

    Rock on, Wombat. Rock on.

  4. I have some final-ish comments on my teaching career, but didn't want to derail anyone's topic, so I'll throw my tangent here (there are requests at the end). It’s long and rambling:

    First of all, I will no longer be professing [sic], but I intend to continue to trespass over here. I'm addicted to this blog.

    Secondly, part of my desperation to get out of the academy was because I am the ULTIMATE grad flake. I wrote 110 pages of my dissertation and stopped. I never graduated. I didn’t fail, or find it flawed. I just stopped. It was my deep dark secret. Until Ancillary Adjunct's post the other day, I assumed I was the only one who stopped with a master's degree. I stopped drinking in the middle of writing, and uncovered an intense social anxiety that prevented me from writing. It wasn't like I was afraid of the defense, per se; it was that I was afraid of what people would think of my work. Under pressure, I showed my advisor a single chapter of what I'd written and he merely corrected a few grammatical errors, and made a suggestion about a confusing figure. But I was still paralyzed by fear. By the time my head cleared up (Google PAWS), it was too late, I'd started working, I'd started a family, and it never got done. I hid it and fictionalized things in my posting to keep from outing myself, but AA’s topic was a relief. For reasons mentioned in the other discussion, I got desperate for security and went all out looking for non-academic jobs this year. Buoyed by encouragement from you guys, I finally made it. I'll be back with my first love, physics (my BA is in physics) working in a small industrial position that is close to my house. I'm sure I'll miss having Tuesdays and Fridays off, spontaneously picking my son up from school to feed ducks and crap like that. But the idea that I'll have nights and weekends free makes me so happy, it's crazy. Don't even get my started on grading...

    And lastly (here are the ‘requests’)… I’m adding a small workbench/lab space to my office. I can’t decide if I should put it IN my home office or in the utility room, but that doesn’t matter right now. I won’t be doing anything dangerous in there. But I want a space to demo stuff with my tutoring students, do projects with my kids, and play with science “toys” I’ve wanted for myself for a while (especially things for not-physic-and-chemistry). Does anyone have any suggestions or recommendations? I’m looking at used microscopes. I read a book from the public library and it suggested getting a used model that was the most basic version a company makes that is expandable, i.e. that you can add cameras to or change objectives or switch from disc to iris apertures etc. That way you don’t waste $$ on bells and whistles you don’t want, but don’t have to upgrade the whole microscope if you get a craving for something special when you get more into it. I’m open to suggestions for all kinds of toys – for biology – earth science – physics – chemistry… but the biologist would probably know the most things that I DON’T know, so your help would be especially appreciated.

    1. Don't have any suggestions, but do want to say CONGRATULATIONS!

    2. Have you ever heard of American Science and Surplus? They might have cool stuff you could use:

    3. Also, CONGRATS!! i, too, am looking for work outside academe. We'll see how it goes.

    4. For used microscopes, check local medical schools. When the upgrade to newer equipment, used microscopes can sometimes be had cheap.

    5. I recently bought a Barska Digital Microscope for my nephew. I think his overprotective, helicopter parents took it away before it got to him, though, since I provided an assortment of glass slides with it. Still, it was only about $200, and it has a 3.5-inch color screen, so your students won't have to peer through an eyepiece: you can show the same thing at the same time to more than one person.

      Also, about ten years ago I persuaded by physics department to buy a dozen Brock Magicscope microscopes, "the world's finest children's microscope." They were only about $100 apiece and still serve us very well in the lab in which we collect micrometeorites. (Run a magnet in the dust from under a drain pipe, smear it on a Post-It Note, and look at this under a microscope: anything spherical should be a micrometeorite. They're most numerous after a rain shower.) Here's their website:

      Meteorites are great. Just think, your students can hold in their hands genuine rocks from Outer Space! My favorite, reasonable source is the Meteorite Market, here:

      As you can see, although little ones go for as little as $1.50, you can get a good, fist-sized nickel-iron, such as a Sikhote-Alin, for less than $100.

      Primordial meteorites, essentially a piece of condensed stardust such as an Allende, are more expensive, at about $25 per gram. Cometary ones such as a Murchison, asteroidal ones such as a Millbillillie, and lunar and Martian meteorites go for over $100/gram, but I think mine are worth it.

      Of course, I put these into the hands of only my best students. The meteorites I hand around in a large lecture class are the cheapest kind, meteorite oxide, which are rusty ones at which collectors turn up their noses. Never hand around in a class anything that costs more than $10!

      Another good source for meteorites is Labenne Meteorites:

      A relatively low-cost source for rocks of all kinds, fossils, and replicas (where I got the copy of the Berlin specimen of an Archaeopteryx in my office) is Great South Gems and Minerals, here:

      If anyone objects to displaying replicas, remember that just about everything you see on display in a natural history museum is a cast. The original fossils are in the backrooms, available for careful study. This brings up a philosophical issue: since a fossil is a cast in the first place, in what way is a fossil "real," in which the replica is "not real"? Both would hurt if I threw them at you.

      Another of my favorites is Two Guys Fossils:

      Their sister site is Bay State Replicas:

      Another good one is Extinctions:

      Edmund Scientific (, ThinkGeek (, and Ward's Natural Science ( also have all kinds of fascinating junk. I promise that none of the sources I've cited are paying me to endorse them. Hmm, perhaps they should.

      Best of luck, Wombat! As Peter Feibelman, another fine scientist who went on to a fine career outside of academia noted in his book, "A Ph.D. is Not Enough," "I harbor a secret hope: If enough of you start to act rationally, the system may eventually become rationalized."

    6. Frod, this is so awesome. I appreciate the resources; have wanted to get my kid some sciencey things but didn't know where to go.

    7. The magiscope is the microscope I was trying to describe below. Really, really, cool, and survives a certain amount of carrying around outdoors (in a protective case) as well as use by kids. The person I know who owns one bought it during retirement, because he wanted to play with it himself. Can you tell I wouldn't mind owning one myself? Especially now that, after Frod's description, I want to go look for micrometeorites.

      Doing the actual stream monitoring (see below) takes a bit of patience, so it's better for late elementary school on up (I had a kindergartner help once, but he was an unusually focused kindergartner). But one can always look at the critters without counting them.

  5. The microscope is a great idea and incredibly versatile.

    For another idea, how about some rock and mineral sets? I'm also a chemist, but I loved my college intro geology course, and collecting remains a hobby to this day. And in my experience, kids love rocks and fossils.

  6. I love me some Wombat smackdown!

  7. Yay, Wombat!!! First of all, there's no failure in not finishing a journey that is taking you somewhere you don't want to go. That anxiety thing was a huge message from your innermost self. You sound so happy, and I'm glad for you.

    And I'm happy you'll still hang out here. I'm always glad to see your posts.

    I second the vote for rocks and fossils! What a blast.

  8. Congrats indeed, Wombat!!! And "amen" to what Annie said. I sometimes wonder if I was crazy to go ahead and finish (and am even crazier to keep researching and writing, except that I enjoy it). Please *do* keep us posted; tales of escape from academe, and/or doing cool academic-type stuff in more pleasant settings, certainly come under the broad heading of what belongs on CM.

    I'm not a scientist, and it's not an indoor activity, but I have very much enjoyed stream monitoring using the Izaak Walton League's method, which involves catching bugs and worms and such in a net, sorting them, and figuring out the proportions of more- and less-pollution-tolerant species (which serves as a measure of the water quality over the last few months or years -- more effective, given the movement in streams, than a spot check). In even a semi-healthy stream, there are all kinds of cool critters to look at, under a good pocket lens, or, even better, a field microscope (there are neat but expensive ones that use short fiber optic sticks as light sources -- no batteries or bulbs necessary). There's info at ; a lot of local governments use this method as part of citizen water quality monitoring initiatives, and have the equipment (though you can put together a basic kit yourself).

  9. Thanks everyone. I have insomnia. I usually watch Forensic Files or It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia when this happens - but now I'm going through all these websites - cool stuff :)

  10. Belated congratulations! Sometimes I think I should join you, but I'm already overqualified.


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