Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Plane Landing at Sint Maarten

When transoceanic flights land at Sint Maarten's Princess Juliana International Airport, they fly low over the beach.  It's part of the attraction there.  I'm sure some bathers even moon the plane as it goes by:

Air France landing.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Heron By the Water

A heron on the Tennessee River, at repose.  Yesterday 2:30 PM EST.

A guy wearing a Harley-Davidson t-shirt came to the point to practice his bagpipe.  "Amazing Grace" and "Scotland the Brave."

The heron didn't mind.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Professor Shoots Self in Foot

We were treated this week to a too often common happening: some professor shooting off his mouth.  Professor Jonathan Gruber of MIT, claim your prize.  

It's not that often that professors literally shoot themselves in the foot.  

The Idaho state legislature recently passed a law allowing professors to carry guns on campus.  This was going to happen sooner or later.

The Idaho State Journal that  reported that a professor while teaching a chemistry class, when he got shot in the foot.

Pocatello Police Lieutenant Paul Manning said that the instructor was carrying a pistol in his pocket that went off unexpectedly. The injured man was taken to Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello.

ISU president Arthur Vailas called the accident "unfortunate."

"I'm sure the incident was scary and embarrassing," he told the  State Journal.

Perhaps the professor needs to take a firearms safety course.  Or keep his in the closet.  However, errant feet are now placed on notice in Pocatello.  Will some misguided souls bring guns to screenings of Happy Feet?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Another Piece of My Heart, Baby

The United States Postal Service came up with a winner recently with a Janis Joplin forever stamp available in panes of 16.  It's done with 1960's psychedelic-style ornate letter like might have appeared on a poster.  At last, there's a positive recognition of the counterculture of the 1960's.  Get a few panes and use them for personal mail.

Here's Janis Joplin (1943-1970) performing "Piece of My Heart":

Friday, October 24, 2014

Knaves, Fools, Douchebags, and Dingbats

Well, it's close to another election again; and I have the same sterile choices that the two major parties offer.  It's a dismal choice between the Democrat knaves, fools, and douchebags and the Republican knaves, fools, and douchebags.  I'd rather vote for my dog. 

Bad words.

That's why I'm voting for third party candidates, if any are there.  And I know, dammit, that they're not likely to win.  But don't give me that bull hockey about throwing my vote away.  I'm voting third party because it's the only way I have of flipping both the Republicans and Democrats the bird!  They both can perform coprophagic behavior, for all I care!

I'm afraid that part of our national problem is our being wedded to a two party system.  While there's a dime's worth of difference between the two, unlike the late, unlamented George Wallace claimed, neither alternative is attractive.

AS a matter of fact, I'd rather vote for a loony than a Democrat or a Republican.  Honest craziness does have its appeal.

And I'm voting against all of those damned amendments!  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Relaxed Pink

There's a recent article in Slate regarding the University of Iowa's visiting team dressing room being colored pink.  Apparently a law professor there  related it to sex discrimination and a put-down of visiting teams.

If the latter was intended, it would seem to be counterproductive.  After all, it's not good gamesmanship to rile your opponent before the game!

The rationale for this color scheme was that pink would have a calming, relaxing effect on the opposition, apparently.  Apparently, rooms that were painted a mixture of a gallon of white  interior paint and a pint of semi-gloss red yielded a particular shade of pink that Alexander Schauss proposed to try, and a pair of naval officers who directed the Navel Corrections Institute in Seattle subsequently found, to have a calming effect on inmates.

It is known generally as Baker-Miller pink; or informally, drunk tank pink.

Whether rooms colored with this shade of pink do have a calming effect on those within is certainly something that deserves empirical research.

Baker-Miller pink

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Creeping Encroachment of Schools' Authority

In my opinion, the recent story of the Muscle Shoals High School student who had "disruptive" red hair being sent home and told to dial it down a bit is part of what seems to be an increased sense of self-importance and control that schools are assuming over the students' and teachers' lives.  I am so sympathetic with the unfortunate, put-upon girl.

In recent years, some public schools are even going in for school uniforms.  Now I had to wear one while going to a Catholic school; and it sucked.   So did having to polish the brass buckle of the khaki web belt.  I prefer jeans; as a matter of fact, I wish I could have worn them while teaching on the university level!

The local Florence, Alabama schools had a dress code which included a prohibition on shirts with legible writing involving off-color or beer ads and hoodies, even though the message was nonthreatening and inoffensive.  As a matter of fact, some students were sent home for wearing t-shirts praising the head of the school board!  Geesh!  Humor-challenged administrators!

Another example comes from Alaska in the Frederick v. Morse case.  Some high school students held up a sign at an off-campus event involving the passing of  the Olympic torch bearing the message "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" and their school disciplined them by suspending them for ten days!  The school did so despite the fact that the parade in question was an ordinary public event and not one sponsored by the school.  Unlike an earlier student rights case, the Tinker v. Des Moines case, the Supremes backtracked on student rights.  Apparently, there was a built-in judgment that quality of the content makes a difference.  Okay, protesting a war is serious stuff, unlike a satirical or humorous message that seems silly.  But isn't that beside the point?

Teachers' rights as citizens have been also abridged by their employees (the schools).  For example, a teacher was summarily fired because she posed for an "Eye Candy" modeling magazine [as it styled itself]; and another for serving as a bikini crew member on a charter vessel during weekends.  Would some rigid principal also fire one for discovering her arete in a roller derby or as a stand-up comedian?

These sorts of thing can stack up in the long run.  Singly, they might seem small-scale; but together they can result in an augmentation of school system authority at the expense of students and teachers.  Do we really want school boards or principals to have such dictatorial authority?  I've never seen academic administrators who could manage as philosopher-kings. 

There's another aspect.  As a former low-level college administrator (an academic department chair), I have learned that one should avoid looking dumb, petty, or silly.  Sometimes you're called on to act that way by your bosses; but then it just sucks all over.  Still, turning a blind eye and being an absent-minded professor can be an adaptive strategy.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Up to My Wazoo in Spam!

Political spam chafes my butt.

Pardon my bluntness, but I feel this needs to be said.

Spam (not the Hormel type) has been around since almost the advent of the internet, and I remember having to filter through penis enlargement ads, messages from distressed Nigerian princes in need of a short-term money support, practically daily missives from companies I've done business with in the past, and so forth.

As a matter of fact, I get more spam than readable content.  As most of us do.

Several e-mail providers, like Google and Hotmail, offer spam filters; but there is one form of spam that manages to get under the wire.

It's spam generated by friends and family.

For example, one of my sisters-in-law has a proclivity to send right-wing spam to all on her list, regardless of their possible orientation or interest.  What's worse: in doing so she makes my e-mail address available to others, who might send me more stuff.  Or ask for money.  (No, I don't want to be asked to help fund a nephew's mission to convert the heathen Alaskans.)

I have a left-wing cousin who makes a similar general mailing.  It's like there is a left-wing versus right-wing spam arms race going on.

But there's no one thinking that perhaps I would simply like to be left alone.

Or that the e-mail address they send it to is for professional purposes only.

We need some generally accepted form of spam etiquette.  Or at least a means of opting out of spam and other general mailings.

I hate to be be rude about it, so I fall on the next best approach. 

I block mail from the sender of political spam.   And I'm an equal opportunity spam blocker.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Some Lewis Grizzard Quotes

Some of the better zingers from that great Southern humorist, Lewis Grizzard (1946-1994)

"The only good thing that ever came out of Chicago was I-65 South.”

“The world around me is a tuxedo, and I'm a pair of brown shoes.”

"Don't let your mouth write a check your ass can't cash."

"There are only three ways to sleep on a train: be dead tired, dead drunk, or just plain dead.”

"I grew up in a very large family in a very small house. I never slept alone until after I was married."

"The public, more often than not, will forgive mistakes, but it will not forgive trying to wriggle and weasel out of one."

“Why is it necessary to stand in line to deal with any branch of the government?”

"Bad luck is meeting your date's father and realizing he's the pharmacist you bought condoms from that afternoon."

"Baptists never make love standing up. They're afraid someone might see them and think they're dancing."

“Pornography does, in fact, have an effect on men. I grew up thinking that all women had a staple in their navel."

"Money doesn't grow on trees, and if it did, someone else would own the orchard."

"The greatest form of birth control known to man is a Bronx accent."

"First, we really don’t care how you did it in Chicago. Second, if you miss it so much, Delta is ready when you are."

"How can I trust a bank to keep my money safe when it has dozens of pens stolen every day?"

“There's nothing inherently dirty about sex, but if you try real hard and use your imagination you can overcome that.”  

"I have three ex-wives. I can't remember any of their names, so I just call 'em Plaintiff."

"I know lots of people who are educated far beyond their intelligence."

"My ex-wives had one thing in common. When they left, they all backed up a truck."

"There's a big difference between the words, ‘naked’ and ‘nekkid.’ ‘Naked’ means you don't have any clothes on. ‘Nekkid’ means you don't have any clothes on - and you're up to something."

“Kinky sex involves the use of duck feathers. Perverted sex involves the whole duck.”  

“The only way that I could figure they could improve upon Coca-Cola, one of life's most delightful elixirs, which studies prove will heal the sick and occasionally raise the dead, is to put bourbon in it.”

"Life is like a dogsled race. If you ain't the lead dog, the scenery never changes.”

"The game of life is a lot like football.  You have to tackle your problems, block your fears, and score your points when you get the opportunity."

The game of life is a lot like football. You have to tackle your problems, block your fears, and score your points when you get the opportunity.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Quotes About Alcohol

There's nought, no doubt, so much the spirit calms as rum and true religion. - Lord Byron, Don Juan, Second Canto

What's drinking? A mere pause from thinking! - Lord Byron, The Deformed Transformed

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy  - Benjamin Franklin

 Oh brother, be a brother, fill this tiny cup of mine. And please, sir, make it whiskey: I have no head for wine! - Nick Cave, lyric, "Brother My Cup is Empty"

 I drink when I have occasion, and sometimes when I have no occasion. - Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quiote

A man who doesn't drink is not, in my opinion, fully a man. - Anton Chekhov (1860-1904)

  It is most absurdly said, in popular language, of any man, that he is disguised in liquor; for, on the contrary, most men are disguised by sobriety. - Thomas de Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1856).

Always be drunk.That's it!The great imperative!In order not to feelTime's horrid fardelbruise your shoulders,grinding you into the earth,Get drunk and stay that way.
                 - Charles Baudelaire, 1821-1867

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Getting Away with Something . . . .

That old saying that 'there is no free lunch' is pretty much true nowadays.  I remember the university providing free Domino's pizzas for registration workers; but the hours were long and the complaints were many. 

At one time someone with an internet connection could read major newspapers' web sites gratis; now many of them either require you to subscribe or give you a restricted number of free views.  The local paper, the Press-Sentinel, gives no free peeks; but the Times-Daily grants ten per month.  Naturally, the major newspapers like the New York Times or the Washington Post limit the number of free views.

But what if you pursue a link to a newspaper not normally read by you?   Then, it's a free ride!  It's not like you're going to visit the Des Moines Register or the Boston Globe more than once or twice a month.

Yahoo!  It's like getting away with something. Maybe there's still the unbridled teen left in me.  I hope so.  I'm an outlaw at heart; and at my age reading articles free from papers that would like to charge will do it.

Another little story:  The Times-Daily (referred too as the Tee Dee by students) would leave piles of free papers on the university campus in order to inflate circulation numbers.  These papers served admirably as packing materials.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Yes to Allowing University Athletes to Form Unions!

A recent development is that the National Labor Relations Board has reacted positively to the notion that the athletes of Northwestern University can unionize, and negotiate with the university as to how they might be treated.  They opened the door for the College Athletes Players Association to be voted on by secret ballot as a collective bargaining agent.

In fact, the NLRB has asserted that they are employees of the university!

This can potentially be a game-changer in big time athletics!   Right now, the Division I universities are making out like bandits when it comes to the revenues from some of their sports programs.  Maybe the time for athletes' rights has come; they work (my choice of words is deliberate) anywhere from 30 to 50 hours per week while the season is in force,   Also, there is the rather lame concept that the NCAA has fostered regarding the student-athlete that seems to play into an excuse to subject these young people to such abuses.

There is a kind of institutional peonage that big-time college athletics has become.

Of course, Northwestern University has served notice that it plans to appeal; and the NCAA has issued a statement deploring the NLRB ruling.  No surprise here.

In my opinion, university athletes should be treated as salaried employees.   They should be provided fringe benefits, including health insurance, unemployment insurance, and other expectations that go with the modern workplace environment.

In short, the athletic scholarship is not enough.   It's time for a square deal.

Yes, Southeastern Conference; this should mean you too!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Why the Oxford Comma Is Important

When listing a series of words in a sentence, separate each noun by commas.

As this illustration indicates failure to do so changes the meaning:

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Problems of Universities

Well, I've been retired from professing for over three years now; and I pretty kept my peace about the general state of university life.  Admittedly, my perspective is limited; I was employed full-time at only two state universities.  One for 38 years.

There are a lot of things that are being done well; some not so much.

The biggest problem that immediately confronts potential students is the cost.  Costs of tuition and other expenses have greatly outstripped what might be expected due to general inflation.  And, let's face it: some university towns tend to milk students for what they're worth on rent, food, and other amenities.   Therefore, they come out of universities with massive debts: possibly as much as $100,000 dollars!  How about being saddled with that at such a young age?

But universities don't keep costs down, either.  Some of that is self-defense due to decreasing levels of state assistance per annum.  After all, the money must come from somewhere.  But there's also a lot of baggage.

One of the things I've noticed is the general proliferation of administrative-level personnel (oops, human resources!).  There's a lot of these persons that are involved in decision-making and they have dramatically increased the overhead of many universities.  And the salaries!  While it's reasonable to expect that a dean or a vice-president should be paid more than a professor, some of them draw fantastic salaries.  Not to mention the presidents or chancellors!  The former President of Ohio State drew $1.9 million a year!

But when it comes to actual instruction, more and more class sections are taught by adjunct (part-time) instructors.  These are paid very poorly by comparison.  As a matter of fact, full-time tenure-track faculty positions are declining as these carry more of a load.  And, what makes it worse, they are given no health insurance or retirement benefits.  Universities should be ashamed of this, if they were capable of shame.

Not to mention how teaching assistants are trained!

Athletics, of course, is overemphasized.  But it was also the case 40 years ago too.

And there are fraternities, some of which are known for their boorish behavior.  When will these relics of the past go away?

Another problem is legislative interference.  State legislatures are the source of funding, and they sometimes tack on their own agendas.  For example, at one institutions I had been employed many years ago, all students were required to take a course, Americanism Versus Communism.  (Guess what side they were supposed to take.)

The American university system is perhaps the glory of our education system,  especially on the graduate level.  But these aspects are real problems.