A Clarification for Rep. Todd Akin

Rep. Todd Akin, I just have a small clarification to make: people who can’t get pregnant from being raped are called men. Of course, distinguishing between a “legitimate” and an “illegitimate” rape of any human being makes you a jerk no matter what.

Jeez, people, I cannot believe we are hearing such things not from somebody who is getting intensive treatment for mental disease but from somebody who runs for political office. I keep reading in my blogroll that this particular bit of outrage is not an isolated concoction of a very unhealthy brain but that there is actually an entire movement of people who believe that women can’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape.”

Even just quoting this makes me feel like I’ve been rolling in horse manure. I’m shaking in rage right now which makes me incapable of writing anything of value on the subject but here is a powerful article from somebody who found the strength to address these vile comments.

My Colleague Jay-Queen

A student says: “Last year, I tried taking this course with your colleague Jay-Queen, the one with the weird accent, but he said I was too far behind for some reason and I had to drop out.”

Given that the student tried taking an advanced Spanish culture course without even knowing how to pronounce the name ‘Joaquin’, I think I know what that “some reason” was. My colleague is from Spain, too, so his weird accent is from that weird country of Spain we are discussing in the course.

Dinosaurs and iPads

On the subject of the preceding post, my mother shared the following joke:

– Mommy, did you have in iPad when you were a kid?

– No, they hadn’t been invented yet.

– Did you have an iPhone when you were a kid?

– No, they hadn’t been invented yet.

– Did you have Internet when you were a kid?

– No, it hadn’t been invented yet.

– Mommy, did you go out to play with dinosaurs when you were a kid?

On a positive note, a student laughed at me today when I asked him if his browser accepted cookies. So in some things, I’m still more advanced than the students.


This is the first year when I’m exactly twice as old as my Freshman students. Being in academia helps one connect with young people and remain younger for longer. Still, I’m afraid that a moment will come when I will lose touch and become irrelevant to my students.

I’ve been reading this recent mystery novel by my favorite Ruth Rendell. The writer is 82 years old and she still publishes 2 books a year, which is beyond admirable.

However, in her new novel The St. Zita Society, it has become obvious for the very first time that the writer has fallen behind the times. There is a scene in the novel where her 20 and 30-year-old characters all go out to get their favorite newspapers. As we all know, this makes no sense because people of these age groups do not read news on paper. If for whatever reason they do experience a need to keep themselves informed, they will read a paper on their Kindle and iPad, find an online version, or turn on the TV (even though this is the practice that is also dying out among the younger folks.)

The 24-year-old protagonist who is anxious to find if something that bothers her has been mentioned on the news never Googles the information. She waits for a newspaper to come out.

Whenever characters need a carpenter or a plumber, they look for a phone book.

Nobody does an online search or updates their Facebook status. Nobody reads or writes a blog. Nobody has a tablet of any sort. We are talking about characters who are, for the most part, quite young. Yet they don’t do the things that define the life of young people today.

I know I still have 46 years to go before I reach Rendell’s age, but I’m still kind of worried.

P.S. If you are Ruth Rendell’s  fan, I do not recommend this novel. It’s one of the most indifferent and boring pieces of writing this author has ever produced. And there is no mystery whatsoever, either.

The First Day of Class. . .

. . . and I’m terrified. No matter how long one has been teaching, the first day of class is always scary as hell. Bathrooms are full of pasty-faced terror-stricken faculty members because stomachs freak out when faced with the pressure of the first day of classes.

Every time before entering the classroom on the first day, I fear that I will stand in front of the students, open my mouth, and the teaching mode will not switch on. The teaching mode is a very curious state of being. It’s similar to being somewhat drunk because you experience this floating sense of ease that is unlike anything else. It always switches on for me whenever I see students but I’m also always terrified that today will be the day when it doesn’t come.

To calm myself down, I’m making a list of everything to look forward to this semester:

  1. My new course on Spanish culture that I designed and that I believe will be enormous fun.
  2. Supervising independent research for the very first time ever. I have 9 students who will be writing their research essays with me. This will involve a crazy amount of work but it will be fun.
  3. I’m going to a conference in November that I really look forward to.
  4. I will finish my manuscript and be done with the topic of Bildungsroman for good. Overall, I have very intense research activities planned for this academic year, which makes me joyful.
  5. My completely new research project will take off this semester, and I’m psyched about that.
  6. I will continue developing my second career as a translator.
  7. This will be my fourth year on the tenure track. This is a crucial year and also one of the most wonderful years in the life of any academic (more on that later.)

And now let the semester begin!

I wish my fellow academics and students a wonderful academic year.

Housework Division Quiz

I just found this interesting questionnaire that attempts to explain why many women end up with men who refuse to do their share of housework:

1. Before pairing up with your current ‘spouse,’ how did you attempt to filter your dates to eliminate ‘domestic non-helpers’ and attract men who were more domestically inclined?

2. Who was considered more socially dominant and/or higher on the social hierarchy when you first started going out? You, or him?

3. Who explicitly asked who out first? You, or him?

4. Who was making more money when you first started going out? You, or him?

5. Who explicitly initiated sex first? You, or him?

The OP’s author makes an interesting point:

Now, if your answers are “not really anything,” “him,” “him,” “him,” and “him,” and then I trust you can see the problem. But there are those who will read this that might be a little slower than you, so I’m going to spell it out. What you’re asking for is for your post-courtship relationship to be even-steven, even though before and during courtship you were perfectly happy to enjoy the benefits of a wildly imbalanced relationship where the man took on all the risks of overt rejection, and where your standards had nothing to do with finding a man with egalitarian values. Instead you chose one who embodied the dominant, high-on-the-social-hierarchy, patriarchal values that you now chafe against.

I think this makes a lot of sense.

My answers to the quiz are:

1. Only considered dating men who had been living alone for at least several years and gave them many opportunities to show off their domestic skills to me. In all of my long dating life and two marriages, I have not encountered a single man who’d expect me to be his servant and do more than half of housework. But, of course, I also always had and always will have separate budgets.

2. We were both grad students starting our 5th year at very good schools.

3. He did.

4. Again, grad students, same year, same kind of schools, the same $21K per year. 🙂

5. I did.

This looks like a relationship of complete equality, which makes it unsurprising that we now have an equal division of household chores. So the quiz works in my case. I now wonder whether this is a coincidence or whether there is something to it.