Saturday, January 31, 2009
What are you writing? It would be fascinating to see the notes of students in my classes. I mean, sometimes I’m just talking, trying to explain something, cracking a joke, clearly venturing into highly tangential territory… but students just keep on writing. I understand their frantic scribbling when I put up a slide with definitions, dates, names, etc…but sometimes it’s just a picture— it represents a thought, accompanied by some blathering from me. I can’t possibly imagine how these moments would be translated into class notes. I considered the possibility that it’s just doodling. But you know, anyone with a few classes under their belt can spot a doodler from a mile away. The distinctive wrist movements of drawing as opposed to writing are pretty clear (for any students reading this, FYI: your professors can also detect the ipod cord “hiding” under your hoodie). It really looks like you are writing something down. But what? What did I just say that you could possibly write down? I’m not even sure what I just said. Shit. I would really like to know. Can I borrow your notes?
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Are you suffering from lecture fatigue? Instructia is a once daily tablet that alleviates the common symptoms of professorial malaise*. Lecture fatigue strikes 1 in 3 college educators. Recently detected strains of Lecturis extremis are shown to be both hypervirulant and resistant to common treatments. Binge drinking, all night bong-pulling, voodoo rituals, and extremely harsh grading criteria no longer provide effective treatment. Infected individuals are prone to the following: spontaneous paralysis preventing movement from one’s office to one’s classroom (full movement is usually regained after 50 minutes on MWF and 75 minutes on T/R; in rare instances continuous paralysis of 3 hours or more can occur when graduate seminars are involved); paranoid emailing tendencies (the “email terrors” generally emerge 24 hours prior to exams delivered in large introductory classes); a breakdown of logical text/image pairings in Powerpoint presentations (this symptom varies by individual, but a typical example would include pairing a bulleted and temporally arranged list of important discoveries with a photo of your favorite band simply because your immune system will not allow you to spend the additional 20 minutes needed to track down that woodcut of Sir Whats His Face in his medieval “lab”). Over 90% of patients taking Instructia report significant improvement after two doses, with the majority of sufferers making a full recovery by Spring Break. Ask your doctor (or, just ask yourself) if Instructia is right for you.
* Note: Side effects of Instructia include dry mouth, trouble swallowing, violent “caged animal” like reactions to faculty meetings, and blurry vision. In rare cases, Instructia may cause incontinence, spontaneous volunteering to serve on university-wide committees, and heart disease. Instructia is not appropriate for those who are preggers, nursing, or overzealous faculty members in the College of Education.
Monday, January 26, 2009
I just finished reading your paper for class. I detected something was a little off since page one. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Your writing is alright, some problems, but nothing too serious. Your ideas and citations, hmm…they have me baffled. Where did you find this whack shit? I was confused; I certainly did not teach you this. I decided to investigate. I took the most obvious word I could think of regarding your topic. You clearly know what that word is (at least we are in agreement on that). I typed it into the most obvious database available through our library (oh, we agree on what that is too). The references that appear on page one are identical to your bibliography. Which is kind of funny really. There is some whack shit out there! It contains what are likely the exact references that some student in a completely different department writing a completely different paper has been looking for. Think about that keyword…it could mean other things couldn’t it? Relate to issues far outside of your paper- yes? This is not good. No wonder you paper is so strange. It is based on 15 abstracts, many of which have no relevance to your topic. Your professors spend a lot of time on these journal databases too (we are searching for ourselves under various keywords and reading the latest issue of Plow Science). Refrain from doing this again.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Oh, it’s you. I’ve been wondering who you were. I have been curious about your identity for a few weeks now. Prior to this, I had constructed your image based on the clues you have been leaving me. The most obvious indication of your personality is your chronic inability to manage your time. You force me to think about this quirk of yours three times a week. I got this clue. As I stand here in the hallway waiting for your class to clear out, so my class can come in, I am left to ponder this issue. It is good that I can stand here immersed in my thoughts of you, because otherwise I am trapped chit-chatting with my students as we wait. It is an awkward social position for all of us. There are additional clues. You REALLY like scribbling on the whiteboard, and you really don’t like erasing the whiteboard or putting the caps back on the dry erase markers. Your class seems interesting, you leave copies of your assignments and handouts all over the dais. They are very mysterious to me, I cannot quite pinpoint what class this is. I could look it up, but that would ruin the mystery. Every day there is a different combination of lights and various technologies turned on and off. You must really like to mix things up. Until now, that’s all I knew about you. After a week, I finally realized that you must exit, your usual 5-8 minutes late, through that funky little door at the back of the room. I enter through the main door, hence the mystery of your identity. But I saw you today, indeed making your escape through that weird door. Doesn’t that open into that strange inter-building alley space? One of those odd campus spaces created through very poor construction planning? What are you doing back there? Where could you possibly be going that you would want to start your journey there? Anyway, I caught a glimpse of you. Now I know that you are tall, skinny, and wear a hat. Many mysteries still remain however. We have all semester, so no rush. You leave your clues and I will collect them. Just know, I got the you cannot end class on time clue— no need to keep sending me that message.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Look, I am sure you have received a plethora of angry letters from your clients lately, but I am not writing to complain about all the money you’ve lost for me (larger economic issues are at play, I can see that). I am writing to complain about your advertising. Your commercials make me feel awful. STOP with the guilt trips. DAMN. How many vibrant, well-dressed, well-coifed, highly-educated, reasonably attractive people can you cram into a 30 second spot? Did Plato dream up these professors? They look so accomplished, so thrilled to be sharing knowledge, so creative, so perfectly pleased with themselves to be engaging in research. Who are these people? Why are you tormenting me with them? And the music…don’t get me started. I see these uber-people and their big fat TIAA-CREF accounts, their happy fucking colleagues, their attentive students and I do not feel good about my retirement. I feel guilty, a little jealous of your fictive academic world, and pissed that you have so inaccurately misjudged the concerns of your current and future clients. You see, my hair needs to be cut and looks like crap. My colleagues generally dress in a mixed style of ill-fitting, washed a thousand times, Land’s End type wear with a dose of exotic flourishes acquired from faraway locations. They are generally not attractive. None of us ever look that happy. It’s not that we aren’t ever happy, we just don’t usually smile that much and look that pleased with ourselves— particularly while lecturing or performing surgery. I would love to live in your farce of an academic world. Those folks appear to be making some cash (can you guarantee their retirement will be equally pleasant?), they are having a profound impact on their students, and have the most spacious offices I have ever seen. These images do not inspire faith in your company. Look, stop assaulting me with this bullshit. Take my money and just hold onto it for me. Give me an ad showing me my future and how pleased I will be to have a stash of money. Show me an old graying professor out of touch with recent developments in their field, looking wearily upon their students, and fed up with their colleagues. Show me that professor gleefully entering their final final grades and heading to the airport for a tropical vacation with their TIAA-CREF money. That is what I want to see. Cue low-key inspiring music.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Tenure… My life has been punctuated with a series of academic milestones. College, graduate school, more graduate school, tenure-track job. All occurred in rapid sequence. No time off, no breaks, no extra year here or there. I knew all of this would happen, because I decided that all of this would happen long ago when I took “Introduction to My Field” as a stoned undergraduate. The decision was not based on arrogance, simply the realization that I could excel in this field if I really wanted to. So, I did. My young stoned-self foresaw a clear life trajectory. As I approach tenure, which I will receive in a few months (that is not arrogance either, my record is more than sufficient), I should be happy. I am not. I have seen colleagues with egregious publication records, truly pathetic teaching skills, and the kind of collegiality that forces one to start a blog such as this one sail through the tenure process. I am realistic. I can admit that I am not a superstar of my field. But, if all of us in my field could be projected into a blank night sky, you could see my star without a telescope. It may not be the brightest, but it could be identified. I think that is all tenure takes really, a presence among a constellation of others that doesn’t require too much squinting and effort to see. But when I receive tenure you are placing me in a class of stars that I cannot be grateful to join— most are the types of stars that you can have named for a loved one for a small fee, a blurry little image capturable only by the most sophisticated of telescopes or your average computer user with access to Photoshop. I know, that sounds really lousy of me. But I’ve been working very hard, and I was hoping for a greater sense of accomplishment as I meet this milestone. It just seems like a starrified pile of bullshit, I say what you want me to, you vote how the Dean and the Tenure Committee wants you to, they vote how the BOT wants them to…and all of you want this to be a nice smooth sail. No lawsuits, no pissed off university factions, no future job search. But in following this course you are doing me no favor. With your past tenure decisions you are implying that my tenure is derived from your goodwill. This is not necessary. I actually published meaningful things, put effort into my classes, and consistently got my work done (on time I might add). Now here I am and none of this seems to matter.
It’s the equivalent of grade inflation, a topic we are all more than willing to discuss. Tenure inflation however, appears to be our most taboo subject. I am feeling twinges of guilt as I type. All academic milestones are letdowns, no degree earned or grant funded provides nearly the emotional high one hopes for. But these accomplishments do come with piece of mind, the comfort of knowing one’s efforts were recognized. But even this has been taken away through tenure. It simply doesn’t matter. Had I written half as much, blown my grant money on candy, and canceled all of my classes you would simply “explain” away my behavior at each successive review phase. My young self did not know this.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Excuse me, can I please say something? It will just take a minute. Thank you. We have been in this meeting for 1 hour and 20 minutes now. I have reached my limit. If this goes on much longer I will have no choice but to pry open one of these windows and escape. Person across the table: you can come with me, I see the pain in your eyes. Look, we have not addressed a single item on the agenda. NOT ONE. That is because we clearly have the wrong agenda. For the last hour, and now 25 minutes, we have had one single unwritten and unspoken agenda item. Our task? To openly declare that Dr. From Another Department is the most intelligent, creative, and well-spoken person to have ever graced our conference room. He’s been yammering for what is now going on one and a half hours… are his words not music to our ears? Can we not agree that our entire perspective on the universe is fundamentally changed by his various ramblings? What the hell dude? How long can you talk? We invited you because this is a multidisciplinary issue, we expected you to sit and be bored like the rest of us and chime in when needed. However, you have dominated the conversation. Well, it’s not even a conversation, more of a soliloquy on your part. Can we just have a quick vote and get this over with? All in favor of declaring Dr. From Another Department our new department head, personal mentor, and father of our children, vote, “AYE!” now, and we can get the hell out of here. Those not in favor, join me in prying open this window.
Friday, January 9, 2009
I know, why not! It is a perfectly logical conclusion to reach, snow is cold, the copy machine should really have fabulous new functions. Yet these two facts just don’t add up the way they should. Everyone in this building is frantically syllabiing (snow can cause the creation of new verbs). We all have mucho photocopying to do, and while it may seem logical that the snow has somehow enabled our machine to now work at lightning speed, take on numerous simultaneous print jobs, and most magically- create syllabi, it has not. Whatever snow ritual needed to happen, did not. What that means for us, despite causing serious metaphysical doubts in the minds of you snow worshippers, is that now is not the time for extraneous photocopying. I can’t imagine why you feel the need to make your TA photocopy old dissertations. Why today is the day I keep finding flawed copies of travel receipts, manuscripts, and very odd tables of data littered around the machine. Save these tasks for later. You can fail to collate those papers, cut off the amounts on your receipts, and set the contrast too high next week. For now, let’s just get back to syllabing.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Granted, there is snow on the ground. The lines delineating each parking space are obscured. But, if you are parking in this University Lot, then you have a permit. As such, you should be intimately familiar with the general layout and size of parking spaces here. Has there ever been parking directly adjacent to the front door of this building? I enter through that door every damn day. You’d think I would remember having to squeeze myself, my laptop, and my coffee past your bumpers every damn day…I’m pretty sure, make that certain, that there are no legal parking spaces here. Did Transportation come and add some new spots? If so, how did they manage to paint the lines without moving the snow? It looks like they must have altered the old spots too. It appears they have expanded the slot sizes, since every vehicle now seems to have 5 feet of space between it and adjacent vehicles. Since this lot can accommodate only half of its previous vehicle capacity, I guess they had to add those front door spots. But I wonder why they removed all the handicapped parking, and added that spot in front of a hydrant— seems odd. I should have driven to work today. I think I see a prime spot in the alleyway, it used to be a loading zone, but I swear, I now see some parking spot lines under the snow. Yep, can’t you see them? They’re white.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
It says over there on the right why I started this blog. Take a minute, check it out. It is true. I don’t want to be grumpy at work and I am far too young to morph into a bitter and angry professor. So, I took my first step into the blogosphere. That was 20 days ago. A creeping desire then entered my brain, the same insidious need I felt after submitting my first manuscript. Would the editors and reviewers like it? Would I be published? Cited? My little slice of brilliance recognized? With regards to blogging, it started innocently enough. I put on one of those little blog counter thingys (you can see it down there on the right). It seemed like a good idea. Satisfy my own curiosity, a little peak into the blog readership world. I checked it, and holy shit. I don’t know who you are (which is good because I would like to stay anonymous too) but there you are. Not a lot of you, but at least a few folks appear to be reading this. Then the academic need for perfection kicked in, the need to excel. I will assume you, mysterious readers, have the same tendencies. I doubt this blog would seem remotely interesting to you if you weren’t overachieving sorts in academia. We have this in common I think. But who knows really, you could be in any profession for all I know (sorry plow scientists). Anyway, I started checking that little counter thing and got a little obsessed. Is anyone reading? Can they relate? Think its funny? I cracked myself up writing the messy office post, anyone else? Ugh, the curse of an overachiever. It is not normal, not healthy. I will keep posting because I thoroughly enjoy a) ranting, and b) the opportunity to write in a non-technical “sciency” way— something I rarely get to do. So dear readers, thank you for clicking on me. I will continue to assault you with my posts, but I have decided not to click on that counter thing for awhile. I’ll go back to obsessively checking my email just in case I have been notified by the MacArthur Foundation that my Genius Grant is ready.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Let’s review a few things. Your presence has been requested at a meeting. This request has been sent via email from our department head, who in an effort to appear accommodating, has suggested two possible meeting times. You are being asked to decide which meeting time you can attend. You are being asked this question by the meeting organizer. Nowhere in this email are you asked to expound upon your daily activities, nor are you asked to share this information with all of your colleagues. It all boils down to one answer sent to one person. Yet many of you have failed to respond appropriately. I know you have failed because I got that email; I too am invited to this meeting, lucky me. But instead of receiving one email about it I now have 16 emails clogging up my inbox about it. Why? Could it be that this meeting is really exciting and we are all chitter-chatting about the amazing meeting coming up? The one where monkeys are purported to perform a dance routine and we will all get giant raises? No, that meeting is scheduled in January 2046. I have so many fucking emails about it because many of you have decided to “reply all” with your typo-ridden babblings about the relative merits of each meeting time based on your personal schedules. Please stop.
For you, person upstairs from me, thanks for the detailed description of your oh so important previously scheduled meeting with that oh so important person. I am sorry that your meeting, which you have told us all about a thousand times, has not received what you deem an appropriate degree of praise. By sending that “reply all” we will all immediately “reply all” with sufficient admiration of your ability to sit in the presence of greatness during a time we could be sitting with your greatness. Damn. And you, strange temporary person, thanks for the “reply all” with 28 questions regarding the meeting agenda. Look, we get it. You are trying to look engaged, like you are infinitely fascinated with the workings of our department, an invaluable member of our team. Whatever, your “reply all” will not make your job permanent. Sorry.
For all of you perpetual ass-kissers: Yes, the meeting is about those issues you discussed privately with the Department Head over martinis. And yes Parent, we all understand that you need to pick up Junior at his clarinet lessons. But thanks for the detailed account of his musical genius. I am truly thrilled he has improved (I have been concerned that his clarinet skills have not been honed to their full potential ever since he assaulted all of us with that hideous, utterly craptacular, “performance” you forced upon us at your dinner party last year). People who just selected a day—congratulations, you got things half right! But why did you send this email to everyone? Not necessary, please re-read the first paragraph of this post. For all of you silent responders: Thank you. We will prevail (I happen to know that we are the only ones invited to the exciting meeting with the monkeys).
Friday, January 2, 2009
You know, I was all prepared to angrily rant at you mysterious Board of Trustees. Something along the lines of “who are you people and why the hell are you deciding my tenure fate?”…but then I looked you up on the university webpage. Wow. Can I have your job? It sounds fascinating. I am not kidding. There you all were, short bios, a headshot, a schedule of meetings and agendas (with follow-up reports and minutes), and well, I am impressed. It looks like YOU are the people who make ALL of the interesting decisions around here. I guess I sort of knew that, but I never really delved into the details of what you do and don’t do, who you are, and the extent of your decisions. I am now completely envious of your awesome powers. I bet your meetings are actually interesting, which for me means discussing topics with real implications amongst people with thoughtful opinions, hopefully with a light lunch. I myself have spent very little time in such meetings, but it sounds like ALL of your meetings are this way. You look like an interesting bunch, doctors, lawyers, business people, assorted professionals, and you are surprisingly diverse. Can I have your job? Instead of just granting me tenure can I join your group? You probably think that I am being sarcastic, or that this is some weak attempt to curry your favor. But I am not. I am simply envious of your job.