Teaching the Art of Email Writing

I hate babying my students or being preachy with them. I also don’t want to come off as condescending. However, I feel that there is an urgent need for me to teach the so-called computer generation how to write an email. I received about a dozen emails in the past three weeks that went as follows:

i need to meet when can i come by your office

And this was the extent of the email. No greeting, no signature. Except one student who signed the email with “XOXO.” Which was not extremely helpful in allowing me to deduce who was writing to me.  No punctuation either.

So this is what I’m planning to say:

Dear students! It is a good idea to begin an email with greeting a person you are writing to. “Hi” is better than no greeting at all. “Hi professor” is even better than that. And “Hi Professor Clarissa” is the best version of all because it demonstrates that you took the trouble of learning the name of the person you are addressing.

Then, it’s a good idea to explain who you are. Example, “I’m your student in the course ABC.” I usually get over a hundred work-related emails per day, and it’s hard for me to place a person immediately.

After that, you say what you need to say and then – and this is very important – sign the email. With your first and last name. 

I can’t even remember the last time I got this kind of an email from a student.

I feel like a nursery teacher right now.


Seventy-two people went to search this blog for the picture of the boxes in my office? In the 3 hours since the post mentioning them was published, that’s a lot. Wow. Some folks are curious.

Here it is, since everybody is so interested. It’s a boring picture, though, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Is this a hint that I should start adding more visual content to my blog?

The Hypocrisy of Domestic Violence

Here is an article on an instance of domestic violence:

Dawn Montesdeoca, 50, of  Chicago, used an usually sweet weapon when she assaulted her husband, Arturo Montesdeoca, 56, with cupcakes during an argument that got progressively sticky and ended with a charge of domestic battery.

The fight began as a verbal disagreement around 7:30 p.m. Saturday but soon escalated to a physical altercation. “The woman struck the husband about the head with her hands and then commenced to hit him with cupcakes,”  the Chicago Police Department said in a statement.

When police arrived, they found Arturo Monesdeoca with icing smeared on his head and clothes. Police arrested his wife for misdemeanor domestic battery. . . Arturo Montesdeoca reportedly told police that his wife had been verbally aggressive, and that he feared for his safety when he called police.

And here is a reaction to it:

This wife got in an argument with her husband. She began striking him, and then the argument deteriorated. She began pelting him with cupcakes! He called the cops on her. She has been released on $10,000 bond. Just how much damage can a battery of cupcakes do? I think she needs to be hospitalized and checked out for emotional illness, not arrested for assault. What a crazy article.

If you Google the story, you will find dozens of articles where the perpetrator is referred to as “cupcake-tossing wife.” Not “beating-a-person-on-the-head wife”, mind you. Not “verbally abusive wife.” Cupcake-tossing. Because that’s what makes the story interesting: cupcakes.  And arresting a person who beats a human being over the head? Oh, that’s just crazy.

I really don’t want this post to turn into “If the victim were a woman, the reaction would have been different.” No, it wouldn’t. No matter who the victim is, people who are battered at home are routinely dismissed. Domestic violence is an issue people love to dismiss. By ridiculing victims of domestic abuse we create an emotional distance from them. It is as if we said to ourselves, “This is not something that could happen to me. I’m nothing like these crazy, cupcake-hurling folks.”

While we are hiding from the horrible realities of domestic violence behind these inventive strategies, the true causes of it and the very real damage it creates remain unaddressed.

Is the World Conspiring to Annoy Me?

A student just regaled me with a statement that the US was “founded under Christian ideals.”

As much as I hate plagiarism, I’d just rather they plagiarized than offer something like this to me.

A colleague has nicknamed me “the eternal optimist.” Still, even an optimist like myself can’t help but feel that the planet is doomed when a college professor can’t avoid being exposed to this kind of statements as she sits quietly and inoffensively in her empty office.

I want my Ivory Tower!

Oh, Stuff, Where Art Thou?

So even though we have moved back into our offices a while ago, my stuff still hasn’t been returned to me. And now the movers are saying they did return it and if it isn’t there, they have no idea what happened to it.

The good news is that I had brought all of my tenure-related paperwork back home with me. The bad news is that the boxes that disappeared contained all of my textbooks, my teaching materials that I have developed in the course of the last 10 years (there are such cool board games that I created among those materials), my dictionaries, my DVD collection, my books. All of this was bought with my own money.

The movers are suggesting that it’s all my fault because I supposedly didn’t put my name and office number on the boxes. What they don’t yet know (but will find out the moment I get to work) is that I took a picture of the boxes for my blog and it shows very clearly that the boxes did have all the necessary information written on them in huge bright letters.

This is annoying, people.

Zizek and the Occupy Movement, Part I

I’m incredibly busy this week (more on that later) but people keep clamoring for a post on Slavoj Zizek and his attitude towards the #Occupy movement. I can never deny anything to my readers, so I decided to read and analyze Zizek’s most recent article in the Guardian titled “Occupy First. Demands Come Later.

Zizek’s article is, in my opinion, very symbolic of the entirety of his work. He offers a sentence or a paragraph that starts well but then fizzles out on a tremendous platitude. The article in the Guardian is full of  this kind of sentences. Here are a few examples:

So the first lesson to be taken is: do not blame people and their attitudes. The problem is not corruption or greed

I was very glad to see this statement. Every time, I see protesters hold placards denouncing greed I feel vicarious shame for people who don’t manage to realize that protesting a character flaw is not a legitimate political act. Then, however, Zizek continues this sentence:

the problem is the system that pushes you to be corrupt.

Even though the philosopher begins the article by being somewhat critical of the hippyish tint of the protests, he slips into the fully 60ies rhetoric of the bad system that causes all ills. The statement that “the” system pushed people into corruption is probably the most inane thing I have read for a while. Is anybody aware of any system that existed at any point in the history of humanity where corruption did not exist? Isn’t that proof that people don’t need to be pushed into being corrupt by systems?

A little later in the article, Zizek says the following:

 The solution is not “Main Street, not Wall Street”, but to change the system where Main Street cannot function without Wall Street.

I agree wholeheartedly that the Main St. vs Wall Street binary is simplistic and useless. However, the problem is not that Main Street cannot function without Wall Street. The real issue is that the White House cannot. In their zeal to blame the greedy banksters, protesters are forgetting to mention the real culprit: the politicians who have sold us all down the river. This is where real corruption is located. This is the true problem that needs to be addressed.

Zizek slips into sheer ridiculousness when he attempts to mimic the Christian rhetoric in order to make the #Occupy cause more attractive to the conservatives:

When conservative fundamentalists claim that America is a Christian nation, one should remember what Christianity is: the Holy Spirit, the free egalitarian community of believers united by love. It is the protesters who are the Holy Spirit, while on Wall Street pagans worship false idols.

Zizek is forgetting that it is always a mistake to adopt a language of which you only have a smattering and hope to be convincing to the native speakers. A Christian can only feel compassion towards the ultra-rich who have even less chance of getting into heaven than. . .  well, I’m sure that even Zizek has to be aware of this. In his attempt to employ Christian terminology, Zizek sounds as silly as a Christian would who’d try to tell a Marxist that the fair distribution of the means of production awaits us all in the Kingdom of God.

(To be continued. . .)

A Short Illustrated History of Clarissa’s Blog, Part III

Beware of the disillusioned colleague, a type of colleague who can become a scourge for a young professional.

This is a post where I expressed my profound disappointment with the political convictions of my students.

I feel really annoyed by a random person who recently wrote that I can’t possibly have anything of value to say about autism because I enjoy Ayn Rand’s novels. So here you go, random person, my post about Ayn Rand.

And this is a very touching (to me) post because I wrote it on the day I got married. This a a post I published two minutes before getting married. Yes, I am a very dedicated blogger.

Preparing to get married involves all kinds of humiliations for a woman. Here and here are two examples.

Right after I published this post, I got an email from Google AdSense informing them that their advertisers found my content to be offensive and they were closing down my account. (And keeping the $132 I had earned with them.) I wonder who the client that complained about me might be. Hmmm. . . Actually, I got several visits from that company to my blog.

I described the culture shock I experienced when perusing our local newspaper. I make really funny jokes when I get angry, so I highly recommend this post. My computer also had a funny Estonian accent at that time, and I decided not to correct it because it’s a nice memory.

This is why Wall Street banksters should be pitied rather than begged for compassion.

Why we need to believe that men are inept. It’s a great post and I’m very proud of it but it didn’t get a single comment when it was published. Maybe somebody would like to rescue it from commentless loneliness today?

I made a fool out of myself in front of a student. I’m still kind of embarrassed about that.

A response to a comment from A Real American Woman. Oh, this was fun.

My students try to figure out what machismo is.

(To be continued. . .)