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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Archive for the day “May 19, 2011”

Chair

Part of the reason why I’ve been so hugely happy at my university is that I’ve had a really amazing departmental Chair. Her term runs out this summer, so I can finally say everything I want about her complete awesomeness without feeling like a brown-noser.

Aside from being the best Chair I have ever met or imagined, she has this really great personality that always helps to make people feel good in the midst of any turmoil. Today, when I came into my office and discovered a cadaver of a bird on the floor, I immediately ran to my Chair so that she could take care of the problem.

“It could be worse,” she said philosophically after observing the dead bird on my office floor. “Last night I came home and discovered a body of a man all covered in blood in the middle of my driveway.”

Then she got people to come and take away the cadaver and then she got other people to wash the floor in the office.

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The Myth of Insensitive Men

One of the gender myths that have always annoyed me the most is the myth about how men are all so insensitive and emotionally immature compared to women. As a scholar of literature, I’m surrounded by male colleagues who are sensitive, emotional, and highly articulate about their emotional experiences. Sensitivity, however, is not limited to literary critics. Take my husband, for example. I mean, don’t take him, he is mine, but just consider him as an example. Every time I blog about Dr. Calvo’s suicide, he gets so depressed and traumatized that it’s sad to look at him. I’m very upset about the injustice that has been done to Dr. Calvo, but not nearly to that extent.

The myth about male insensitivity and emotional underdevelopment is part of the patriarchal push to present men as immature in certain areas of life. Its goal is  to compensate women for fewer opportunities in public life by fostering in them a sense of superiority in the realm of feelings and emotions.

Blog’s Appearance

What’s weird is that my blog looks a lot better on my work computer than on my home computer. When I look at it at home, the template is not aesthetically pleasing to me. When I looked at it at work today, it was much better. Of course, I can’t spend any time in the office right now because it still stinks of dead bird. And there is a huge gaping hole in the ceiling right above my computer chair. Who knows what’s going to fall out of it next time? People said that deer can come out at you unexpectedly in this area. I wouldn’t want a deer falling on my head while I write. You’ll say that’s unlikely, but then I also thought it wasn’t likely that a bird would get into a windowless office that is located on the second floor of a three-story building.

Is It Unhealthy?

Is it at all unhealthy that when I see a dead bird lying on the floor of my office, the first thing I think is “This is so horrible” but the second thing I think is “I need to take a picture of this for my blog”?

Student Evaluations for Spring 2011

So I just read my student evaluations from last semester. Remember that language course where I struggled all semester long to make students speak Spanish in class only to fail miserably? In the evaluations, every single student in that course – every single one! – wrote how much they appreciated that I promoted oral expression and Spanish and how great it was to have a teacher who was trying to get them to talk in the target language.

Given that even during the final exam they still tried to ask questions in English, it seems like students appreciate the idea of Spanish in the classroom as something that should exist but not something they want to participate in.

The only semi-negative evaluation in the two sections of my literature course consisted of a complaint that I didn’t do any grammar exercises in the classroom and didn’t explain any grammar. Because, you know, it was a literature course. But, still, some grammar would be nice. Well, as we say in Spanish, the student should sit down while s/he waits for me to teach grammar in a literature course. Because s/he will have to wait for a really long time.

Office Horrors

I’ve just had the fright of my life, people. I’ve been away from my office for over a week. So today I come in and discover a dead bird lying on the floor. The chair is covered in bird poop and there are papers scattered on the floor. You can see these horrors in the photos. I didn’t go far enough into the office to see if the computer remained unscathed.

The repairs that are being done to our building must have damaged the roof in some way, so the bird fell in and couldn’t get out. I now feel horribly guilty that I didn’t visit the office sooner to rescue the bird. The poor creature must have been stuck there, hungry and thirsty, for days.

I’m very shaken up, people. I now have to attend a seminar on the use of Wimba but I’m completely distracted and stressed out. And the dead bird is still lying on the floor because I couldn’t force myself to touch it.

Working in Summer

So I decided to heed the good advice people have given me and start coming to the office to do research. But, of course, the entire building is under construction. Getting in and out of the building is problematic. The noise and the stench are overpowering.

So working here is out of the question.

Moving from Blogger to WordPress: Pros and Cons

Pros:

– WordPress is faster and has fewer glitches, especially now that Blogger’s programmers have tried to overhaul the entire system and failed miserably.

– WordPress remembers trusted commenters and doesn’t make you approve their comments every single time they post. This eliminates unnecessary delays in commenting which become especially annoying when a lively discussion is taking place and the blog owner can’t moderate because she is at work, asleep, eating, etc. The blog author is still in control and can easily unapprove comments but, in general, her work is cut in half.

– In WordPress you can answer specific comments in a way that makes it clear whom you are responding to. You can also quote other people’s comments without having to copy-paste them. In Blogger, all comments are placed underneath the last one, which makes it very hard to keep track of who said what to whom in long discussions. (Try participating in a discussion that had between 200 and 350 comments, like I had to several times on Blogger and you’ll see what I mean).

– Inserting quotes is a lot more difficult in Blogger. I quote a lot, so it matters to me that it is easier in WordPress to insert quotes and they don’t mess up the post aesthetically.

-WordPress doesn’t insert huge unnecessary spaces between paragraphs that in Blogger you have to remove manually by editing the HTML code.

– WordPress has an app for BlackBerry.

– The “Most Recent Posts” widget on Word Press does, indeed, show the most recent comments. On Blogger it took up to several hours for the widget to update.

Cons:

– It’s easier to moderate comments by email in Blogger. In WordPress it takes an extra step.

– Widgets are more numerous and more fun in Blogger (when you manage to get them to work). Some templates in WordPress offer better widgets than the one I chose but those templates had many characteristics that made them unsuitable for the purposes of my blog.

– Moving a blog to another url makes you lose visitors. Many regular readers will be understandably annoyed with the change. All of the backlinks that you have accumulated in the years of blogging will be lost.

– There is no way to make Blogger redirect individual posts to the same posts you have imported into WordPress. I scoured the Internet for a working code that would be able to do that. I tried many different bits of code. None of them work.

I’m sure I will have more observations as the time progresses, so keep checking in.

Inappropriate Comments in Academia: More on Dr. Calvo

I was once taking a summer course in grad school. During the summer months, our university offered a summer camp where children from low-income families could take classes with university professors and participate in a variety of activities. Most of the kids from low-income families who took part in the program were black. Once, during a lecture, we heard a group of these kids go into a classroom next door.

“Well, I guess now that they have to take classes at our university they must really miss slavery,” our instructor said.

To say we were appalled was to say nothing. We were shocked and hurt by this statement. In case you are wondering what happened to this instructor (mind you, not a tenured professor or even a tenure-track person), the answer is nothing. Nobody took any notice of all our complaints on this matter.

This is just one example (and I could give many, many more) of how people in academia (just like everywhere else) make grossly offensive statements and do extremely offensive things and suffer no consequences as a result. For this reason, I believe that it makes absolutely no sense to engage in protracted discussions about whether Dr. Calvo might have made an inappropriate comment, used a Spanish idiom, raised his voice to anybody, etc. These things happen every day in academia (and, once again, everywhere else), and nobody gets escorted from their office, fired, or even reprimanded.

I have a very strong suspicion that in order to understand what happened to Dr. Calvo we need to look at the person who will be given his job. Or, rather, who this person is married or related to. In my experience, nepotism causes the most egregious abuses in academia, especially at Ivy League schools. I truly wish to be proven wrong on this point but while Princeton conceals the facts from the public, I will have to believe what my experience suggests to me.

That Was Fast!

Based on my previous experience, I was sure that it would take a while for Google to start indexing this new version of the blog. I was wrong, though. New posts get indexed in Google already and the rankings are not low either.

I guess I really shouldn’t have worried about moving the blog here.

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