Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Yesterday our cat Shorty had to be euthanized.  He had too many problems and was in acute pain.  It hurt like hell to see him go.

We got him about 11 years ago; our daughter brought him home from Tuscaloosa, where he was born in an attic to a stray cat.  He was a very timid kitty, and spent the first two weeks with us under a bed.

We lived in Florence, where we had a tall privacy fence.  Shorty was amazingly athletic: he could go over an 8-foot tall fence.  Mostly, he would hang around in the front yard, and protect us from the encroachments of other cats.  But he was definitely The Cat Who Walked By Himself.  He was always fond of our daughter, though.

He seemed at first to be a very unpromising, distant cat; but he grew into the family and fit in with us, and with Fred (dog) and Peaches (the older cat).  Each morning, when he came in, he rubbed against the dog and stretched out on the carpet.  He came to trust us with time, and we grew fond of him.  He managed to find a preferred place on top of our sofa.

He liked going on the porch.  All he had to do was scratch on the door, and one of us would let him out.

Lately, when this old fart would take an afternoon nap, he would join me for a nap also.  And at night he would join my wife and I and watch Burn Notice or Justified or whatever comedy movie we happened to watch.

Rest easy, Shorty.  You were a cat in a million!  Roll Tide, little buddy!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A State Map That Raises Many Questions

First, the map:

What is going on here?

I've recently become aware that there are University of Alabama garden gnomes with the goofy A monogram on their hats (Google THAT, unbelieving infidel!), but why is this lapse in taste so widespread?  At least we should be fortunate that it hasn't crept into Lauderdale or Colbert Counties.

And what is in the water in Shelby County?

But who knows?  What may be going on in the wilds by Waterloo or south of Cherokee?

I hope this intrigues you as much as it did me.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Safe and Not-So-Safe Places to Visit

According to the Canadian government, here is a map roughly depicting the countries that are safe with ordinary precautions, the ones where extra precautions are needed, and the ones to be avoided.  In general, Europe is pretty safe (I'd skip going around St. Denis in Paris, some parts of London, the Red Light District of Amsterdam, and Travestre in Rome.)  And so is Australia and New Zealand.

If it's green: no worries.
If it's red, you're an idiot for going.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Random Observations on Academia

Now that I'm safely retired, and no longer subject to the social and fiscal pressures of academic life, I'd like to weigh in with a few observations.  If you're going to fell a chinaball tree, let the chips fall where they may.

When I first started teaching at an institution in another state, I had to sign a loyalty oath.  As if I even thought of overthrowing the United States or the State of Louisiana!  Naive and unpolitical as I was, I signed this as well as a bunch of other things.

My hair was a bit long from grad school days, and I was told to get a haircut.  I did.

Colleges and universities back then operated under the in loco parentis, with various rules, some quite arbitrary.  For some reason, the Dean of Women would smash Hurricane glasses in girls' dorm rooms. 

Curiously, some faculty members who were higher-ranked officers in the military used their military titles instead of plain old 'Mister.'  It was 'Colonel This' or 'Captain That.'  No one went by 'Sergeant Whomever' or 'Lieutenant Diddle.'

I got another job, this one in northern Alabama.  The previous president required all of his faculty to be members of the A.E.A.  Yeah!  The new President ended that.  We don't need no stinkin' union membership!

A former President jumped out of a cake.  He was wearing shorts.

When I was about 12 or so, I was amazed to find myself thinking for myself.  By the time I was an Associate Professor, I had learned to keep a lot of it private.  That is a useful skill for college faculty members.

I've repeatedly encountered seagull administration in a number of settings.  Basically put, this is the management strategy where the person flies in, shits, and squawks.

There is also the management by slogan strategy.  It's like they channeled Chairman Mao Zedong and parody some of his quotes.

College teaching requires a sense of humor.  Actually, college students are wonderful to teach, even the freshmen!  I remember an old prof from grad school who pitched a fit because he had to teach a large freshman class.  I thought at the time that I hoped that attitude is not too prevalent.

Sadly, it is.  One strength of UNA is that real professors taught classes, not overworked and underpaid graduate students.