Lucky Students

My students are very lucky. They just wrote their first mini-quiz of the semester. And if there ever was a good day to have your first assignment of the year graded, that day is today. We got our pay raises and we got them retroactively, starting from a year ago.

So, understandably, all professors are in a great mood. 🙂


In class, we discussed what Castille is at length. Looked at pictures, analyzed the history, and then went over the entire thing.

Last night, in anticipation of today’s mini-quiz, a student wrote me an email asking, “I’m sorry, what’s Castille again?”

And here I thought this was the Google generation.

Seriously, doesn’t it take less time just to Google the word than write an email and sit there waiting for a response?

I might be a bad teacher, but I didn’t write back.

Neurotypicals Are Different

My aunt Natasha traveled from Ukraine to Montreal over the weekend. It was her first time ever on an airplane, and the trip is long and exhausting. We were all worried about how she would deal with it both physically and emotionally. She has arrived already and she’s perfectly fine, but we were worried in the process.

“So imagine what happened to Aunt Natasha at the international airport in Kiev,” my sister told me. “She was sitting there, waiting for the flight, and then she met a woman who was also travelling from Kiev to Montreal on the same flights! So they traveled together.”

When I heard the story, my first impulse was to feel deep compassion for poor Aunt Natasha. Imagine the stress of traveling to Frankfurt, waiting there for several hours, and then taking another airplane to Canada! And as if that weren’t enough, now the unfortunate woman had to be sociable with a person she didn’t even know, spend time and pay attention to her, find things to talk about – how horrible! Gosh, I’d rather not travel at all rather than be forced to spend so much time with a chattering stranger. I mean, you’d probably have to remember that person’s name and listen to their stories and observations. Brrrrr.

And then I realized the story was being told to me as something positive. To a neurotypical eye, Aunt Natasha was lucky. Having a  stranger to travel with was a good thing.

Neurotypicals are strange, people. I wonder, is anybody looking for a cure?

Clarissa and Allan Lichtman Predict That Obama Will Win in 2012

Allan Lichtman, the scholar who correctly predicted the results of the last 7 presidential elections, believes that Obama will win in 2012 no matter who the Republican nominee is:

“Even if I am being conservative, I don’t see how Obama can lose,” says Lichtman, the brains behind The Keys to the White House. […] Lichtman developed his 13 Keys in 1981. They test the performance of the party that holds the presidency. If six or more of the 13 keys go against the party in power, then the opposing party wins.“The keys have figured into popular politics a bit,” Lichtman says. “They’ve never missed. They’ve been right seven elections in a row. A number that goes way beyond statistical significance in a record no other system even comes close to.”

Let’s see if Lichtman and I have it right. I’ve been saying that Obama will win for quite a while now.

What Course Should I Teach? Please Give Suggestions

According to the arrangement at my department, each of us gets to teach a graduate course every two years. Last time, I taught a course on Golden Age Spanish literature. So now I have to decide what I will teach the next time around.

Here are the possibilities:

1. Contemporary Female Novel in Spain.

2. Spanish Short Story.

3. XIXth century Spanish Literature.

If you could take one of these courses, which one would you prefer? For now, number three is the weakest possibility because I taught this course before and I want more variety on my CV.

Your opinions will be welcome!

The Most Populated Country in the World: A Weird Teaching Story

This could have been a funny teaching story except for the fact I have no idea how to interpret it.

In class we started talking about the most widely spoken languages in the world.

“So which country has the largest population?” I asked as a way of getting students to name the language of that country.

“France!” many of them responded.

Does anybody have an explanation of why, of all possible places, they mentioned France? Is there some reason people would associate France and not, say, Germany or Italy (let alone China) with having such a huge population?