I finally decided to look through last semester's student evaluations, and here's what I found.
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Monday, June 17, 2013
I've written before about how college is a taco party (but I'm not sure how to find it and link to it when I'm blogging on my phone). My latest example is an Earth Week ad at my school.
Four women are sitting around, discussing how to gin up support for Earth Week. They decide to get the mascot involved. With the mascot, they recruit two more women, then two more.
In the final scene, the whole lot files quickly past the camera with others in tow. It is possible that some of the new followers are male, but I can't tell.
Aside from sex, the actresses are a model of inclusion. Skinny ones and heavy ones, black ones and white ones and Hispanic ones, ugly ones and uglier ones. I think one of the actresses with a speaking part has a speech impediment. But no one thought that maybe a dude would be in order.
Unless they're counting the mascot, which is a male character (but possibly played by a woman).
Higher education has become a luxury good that parents provide to their daughters. Victor Davis Hanson writes in "Mexifornia" about immigrant girls becoming bilingual sooner because they go to school while their counterparts go to work. This is what's happening to America as a whole.
So because of their failure to communicate internally, I got rejected by a job on Saturday and again today. In today's rejection, they mentioned that because they weren't hiring me, I'd be free to finish my degree, which is what my family needs.
Funny, I thought what my family needs is food. Which is easier to come by with a job.
I hope they're not expecting a thank-you card.
That's what she said.
I didn't blog for a while because we were waiting to hear about an opportunity. Now we've heard: I've been rejected.
I'm so angry and frustrated. And I don't want to talk about it. So we'll see if I have anything to blog about for a bit now.
Thursday, June 06, 2013
I don't even remember how I ended up on Wikipedia's page for ventriloquism, but I do remember my disbelief when I read, "Originally, ventriloquism was a religious practice." What? How did these old-timey acolytes not look at them and think, "I can see his lips moving"? I mean, unless they had Señor Wences doing it.
But every other ventriloquist is crap. I have a hard time believing that mumbling your way through words containing the letter B is the path to religious conversion.
As with so many other things that aren't that important, in the Middle Ages they found a way to kill people over ventriloquism. They thought it was a sign of witchcraft. Now we're enlightened enough to know it's nothing more than the sign of a not-so-hot birthday party. All the bounce houses were booked, so Weekend Dad got you a ventriloquist, Billy. Try to live this down at school next week, I dare ya.
Wednesday, June 05, 2013
A few months ago, Mental Floss magazine had an article about a bristlecone pine tree in California dubbed Methuselah. The article notes that the exact location of the tree is secret, to protect the tree from vandals.
What kind of people would do such a terrible thing? Well, for starters, Forest Service employees.
I don't know how I feel about this. I dislike the idea of the government keeping knowledge from the citizens because they think "you can't handle the truth!" But on the other hand, there are people who try to kill old trees for some reason. Sometimes because the rules of college football require it, but other times just because people are dicks.
It would be nice if a government of the people didn't think itself elitist. And it would be nice if people didn't try to kill trees for the lulz.
Tuesday, June 04, 2013
When colonists first started arriving in the United States, all of New England was cultivated. Then Americans learned something: New England sucks (for farming, at least). The farmers moved west, and much of New England reverted to forest land. This is why you find farmyard stone walls in the middle of Vermont forests.
What if Europeans had told the Americans, "You can't just plow up all that grassland; that's an entire ecosystem you're planning to destroy!"? Americans would have been forced to keep farming the poor New England soil, getting less output from their labor, meaning they would be poorer than they otherwise would have been.
African farmers try to coax crops out of the Sahel while some of the richest soil on Earth sits under the Congo rain forest. Why does all the blame for African poverty get laid at the feet of Western governments and businesses, and none of it ends up attached to Western conservationists? We have this notion of Africa as a place "where nothing ever grows," but to the extent that is true it's true because the Africans face Western disapproval if they use their most-productive soil for crop production.
Monday, June 03, 2013
Saturday night our family played some video games together for a little bit. Then on Sunday I had to listen to people in Gospel Doctrine talk about how Christ's atonement gets you past your sins.
It doesn't get you past your sins. It is like a video game where the character falls off a cliff. He comes back, right on the original side of the cliff. Try again. And try as many times as you need. But you don't get your new character on the OTHER side of the jump. You're going to have to make the jump.
Sunday, June 02, 2013
I'm just lying abed, thinking of all the different ways in which I'm a failure (they're myriad), and I realized I should probably update you on this. My student who missed the final and then failed the replacement and then complained when I generously gave him a passing grade has been to see the supervisor of the lecturing graduate students and plans to file a grade appeal. Because this is all somehow my fault.
Friday, May 31, 2013
Sometimes societies respond to difficulties by returning to God. And other times they curse God and want to die.
In light of the recent economic downturn (which isn't over and hasn't even been halfway undone yet), upper-class Manhattanites are hiring disabled tour guides to allow them to bypass lines at Disney World.
Because nothing is more terrible than being somebody's equal, right?
Both articles came to my attention through Marginal Revolution. I'd give the MR bloggers a "hat tip" here, but I hate the term "hat tip."
What is the point of fashion? When I get dressed, I'm not really picking clothes I want to see, because for the most part, I won't be seeing them. I'm also not picking clothes I think you want to see, because I don't care enough about your happiness to dress in accordance with your tastes. Instead, I'm picking clothes that will make you think things about me that I want you to think. We pick our clothes to signal our taste, our earning potential, our sense of aesthetics, our alignment with (or against) the prevailing culture, our personality.
What happens when the message I think the clothes are sending to you is not the message you're receiving? I pick a shirt that I think will make you think that I'm serious and conscientious, but what it really makes you think is "that guy's a hobo." I will keep wearing this shirt trying to send a signal it doesn't actually send until I become aware of the true signal it is sending.
This is why we should make fun of people who are dressed horribly.
I walked past this woman on my way to class. She was wearing one of those tube-top-slash-short-shorts onesie things that are so terribly ugly. She wanted me to see her clothes and think she was attractive, that she was sensitive to the latest trends, that she had disposable income. Instead I saw her clothes and thought she was an idiot.
I thought, "I should make fun of her so she knows that her clothes aren't communicating what she thinks they are." But I didn't know her and I'm not 12, so I didn't. Instead, I resolved to make fun of her to my students when I got to class, so she could be a sort of cautionary tale for them.
Except when I got to class, one of my students was wearing one of those things, too. And since it's still early days for this term, I didn't feel like I could mock her clothes. But someone should. Because she is not getting the signal out of her clothes that she thinks she is getting.
Title quote from Miss Hoover, 2nd grade teacher at Springfield Elementary.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
Some economic students at Washington State analyzed tweets regarding sporting events. The Daily Mail has summarized their findings as "being loud is the best way to win an argument."
But there's still hope for public discourse*. What The Daily Mail calls "winning" is what the researchers call "gaining Twitter followers." I think there are more reasons to follow someone on Twitter than because they have convinced you of the validity of his argument. Someone who makes humorously-brash predictions would be worth following for entertainment's sake. In the words of Chazz Michael Michaels, "No one knows what it means but it's provocative! It gets the people going!"
* = Just kidding, there's no hope for public discourse. But this research finding doesn't warrant more pessimism.
Last weekend we went to Pennsylvania. My wife enjoyed spending some time in Amish country, as she's always been fascinated by the Amish. As we were driving along, we had this conversation.
MY WIFE: What's the difference between the Amish and Mennonites? Are Mennonites a break-off of the Amish?
A RANDOM STRANGER: I believe it's the other way around. The Amish are Mennonites who thought the regular Mennonites weren't being serious enough. Like how Puritans were Anglicans who wanted to be less tolerant.
MW: Like how there are Muslims and there are Muslim extremists?
ARS: Yeah. In fact, I think that's a great name for the Amish. From now on I'm going to call them Mennonite Extremists.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Have you ever had the occasion to talk to a Mormon from a congregation you used to live in? Or perhaps you've been the one who still lived there and you talk to an old ward member who had moved. Typically the one who moved will ask the one who stayed behind about changes in ward membership and leadership. "Who's the bishop now?" he'll ask. And I've found that, more frequently than you would think it should, the answer is, "Oh, it's someone who moved in after you left."
Maybe I'm wrong. I'm not keeping stats or anything. It just seems to me that bishops tend to be newer ward members a lot. Why is that?
I have two possible explanations. Maybe they're both accurate, or maybe neither is.
One: many are called but few are chosen. The process of becoming chosen involves being proved to see if you will do all things whatsoever the Lord God commands you. I think it is likely that, prior to a leadership calling coming, a trial comes first. And in the modern world, there's no more-common trial than unemployment and relocation. The soon-to-be bishop spends a period of time being humbled and relying on God, and responds to directions with a "thy will not mine" attitude, which results in him moving somewhere he wouldn't have chosen on his own. Once he's demonstrated this, the Lord uses him in a leadership position. Thus the moving into the ward was part of the trial that prepared him to serve as the ward's bishop.
Two: man looketh on outward appearances. Someone who has been a long-time ward member might think he has the ward "figured out." He knows who is leadership material and who isn't. But the Lord looketh on the heart, and the most-effective way of getting a bishop to take the Lord's direction is to use a guy who doesn't have any preconceived notions. If I had to pick a Relief Society president for my ward, I'd have a mental list of possible candidates. But if I had to pick one for your ward, I'd have to rely on direction from God, like I'm supposed to.
Anyway, the next time you ask about your old ward and find out that the entire bishopric is strangers, perhaps one of these two reasons is behind it.
In the civil rights struggles of 50 years ago, sport was tremendously instrumental in weakening and removing cultural and social barriers. There are those who want sport to play that role again, but without understanding why sport was in the unique position it was back then.
Baseball executives had a "gentleman's agreement" (recognizing the loose use of the term "gentleman" here) to not use black players. The executives' prime motivation, however, was winning. Eventually Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers hired Jackie Robinson, because Robinson was such a talented player that the added chance of winning was worth the potential displeasure of Rickey's peers. Within months, Bill Veeck of Cleveland had hired Larry Doby. The teams that resisted integration, such as the Philadelphia Phillies, suffered on the field (as the Boston Celtics did in basketball for the same reason).
There are those who argue that normalization of homosexuality is a continuation of the civil rights struggles of the past. And these voices are eager for sport to lead the way it did in the past. But what is missing is the furthering of sports franchises' prime motivation: winning. Rickey didn't hire Robinson because Rickey wanted to do something great for America. I don't even know what his personal views of racial equality were. The point was, his personal views on winning were stronger. This is how business can undermine injustice, as well. When the profit motive is stronger than the desire to discriminate, discrimination ends.
Several months ago, American soccer player Robbie Rogers announced his homosexuality and retired at the same time. Rogers had been playing professionally in England, where--it is agreed by most commentators--the social climate is much less receptive to a homosexual athlete. At the time, some suggested Rogers needn't retire so much as just return to America, where MLS has made strides to be the most inclusive sports league in the country.
In light of Jason Collins's announcement of his homosexuality and the largely-positive response he's received, Rogers did un-retire. His domestic rights were owned by the Chicago franchise, so Los Angeles traded Mike Magee for Rogers. Rogers played on Monday, the first openly gay male athlete to compete in an American professional sports league.
I've seen a lot of commentary of how great it is that Rogers is doing this, and about how great it is of LA Galaxy to do this. But I've not yet seen any serious analysis of what the trade of Magee for Rogers does to Los Angeles competitively.
The LA Galaxy exist to win, not to be an engine for social change. Now, I'm not saying Magee is a far better player; I don't know who's better. Rogers has played in Europe and with the national team, while Magee has never done those things. However, Magee had a series of injuries that set him back a few years, and he was instrumental in LA's title last season as well as its strong start this season during Landon Donovan's sabbatical. My point is that there's room for debate here, analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of Rogers's and Magee's respective games. But I haven't seen any of that. All I've seen is "hooray for inclusion!".
A very small group of commentators has questioned the Jason Collins announcement as a marketing ploy: he's a free agent towards the end of his career, who could possibly be looking for sympathy, for a team looking to score public relations points, or for an excuse if he doesn't get any offers. I'm not saying that any of these are motivations behind Collins's announcement--I tend to believe a guy who says he just wants to be honest about who he is. But it says a lot about the current use of sport as social laboratory that these arguments are plausible. A player could receive more-favorable treatment in the free agent market because of his homosexuality, meaning the team could be taking a step backwards competitively.
This isn't the way sport is supposed to fight inequality. Players should be evaluated on their ability to play, and gay players will break barriers when their skills are sufficient that a team is possibly leaving a championship on the table by not signing them. But when we respond to gay players' announcements by discussing their courage instead of discussing their statistics, we polarize sport instead of allowing it to overcome society's polarization.