A brainless clerk sent out a letter to the university faculty members that starts with:


You are currently employed by X university. . .

Of course, nobody responded to the message because nobody identifies as “FILL IN.” Now the administrators are outraged that nobody took the actions enumerated in the letter. Especially since the letter was filled with the most egregious, condescending insults I have ever encountered inside a supposedly professional letter.

I wondered at first what possessed our normally professional and respectful support stuff to send out such an insulting letter. And then I scrolled to the end of the message and saw that it was signed by the HR department. Then I had no more questions.

Post-Birth Abortions

I’m sure you’ve all heard this ridiculous idea peddled by anti-choicers that the Progressives support “post-birth abortions”, right? All this wackadoo rhetoric about how “if you can kill it one minute before birth then it follows that you should be able to do so one minute after birth”, etc. crap?

Now it has become clear why woman-haters are so obsessed with this idiotic idea. Here is an explanation from an Arkansas Republican:

In his book “God’s Law: The Only Political Solution,” published in April, former Arkansas Department of Human Services attorney Charlie Fuqua explains that he supports killing wayward kids because that’s what a Bronze Age tribe did in his favorite religious text.

“The maintenance of civil order in society rests on the foundation of family discipline,” he wrote,according to an excerpt published by The Arkansas Times. “Therefore, a child who disrespects his parents must be permanently removed from society in a way that gives an example to all other children of the importance of respect for parents. The death penalty for rebellioius children is not something to be taken lightly. The guidelines for administering the death penalty to rebellious children are given in Deut 21:18-21.”

Got it? This guy fantasizes about killing children. He is honest and direct about his hatred of children but other members of his  clan are not. So they project their baby-killing fantasies onto Progressives.

P.S. Thank you NG and DB for giving me this link. It has explained a lot.

Why Do Russian-Speaking Immigrants Always Vote Republican?

The Russian-speaking immigrant community is obviously too small for it to be an important factor in any elections, but if you were ever curious who it voted for and why, I will provide an answer in this post.

The absolute majority of Russian-speaking immigrants is rabidly conservative. And when I say the “majority”, I mean everybody except me and N. This is probably the only immigrant group that fully and passionately identifies with the anti-immigrant stance of the US Republicans.

So why does the immigrant group that finds it harder than any other to adapt to the life in the US always vote for the party of people who dislike immigrants?

Here are some answers:

1. Racism. The Aryan Brotherhood would be shocked to hear the amount of racist garbage a quiet, nerdy Russian-speaking immigrant (from here on referred to as RSI) who is a college professor of chemistry or a nurse can unleash within the space of one minute. One of the reasons I avoid RSIs is that I can’t deal with the racist comments that come out of their mouths two minutes after we get introduced to each other.

2. RSIs come share a history that is so cruel and painful that the idea of social compassion is alien to them. It is useless to try to bring up the suffering of the poor, the unemployed, the disabled, the needy. The everybody-for-himself dog-eat-dog mentality is so deeply ingrained that the idea that somebody somewhere might get help is rejected out of hand.

3. The Cold War mentality and rhetoric are embraced passionately by the RSIs. The absolute majority of them are miserable as immigrants. They cannot, of course, accept that their decision to emigrate was a mistake, so they console themselves with the myth of American exceptionalism and support the US invasions of other countries.

4. The RSIs lead a very feminist existence yet compensate for that by promoting a passionately anti-feminist discourse.

5. If there is any sentiment that is more vicious than the RSI racism, it is its homophobia. As a result, the idea of gay rights is personally traumatizing to the US RSIs.

6. The concept of paying taxes is historically alien to an RSI. Paying taxes that would go into any form of a social safety net is even more alien.

7. On a more metaphysical level, the RSIs are bothered by the idea of change because, historically, they have experienced too much instability. The greatest personal transformation they have gone through (the emigration) turned out to be a mistake. This is why they cling to conservatism.

8. The words “socialism” and “communism” carry a very personal and painful set of connotations for an RSI for reasons that I hope I don’t have to explain.

9. An immigrant community that is as deeply alienated from its new country as the RSI community will always try to identify with the political movement that manages to sell itself as representing the most authentic local values and lifestyles. Voting Republican permits an RSI to feel like, for that single moment of casting a vote, s/he finally belongs.

10. RSIs very rarely speak English well. As a result, the only English-language TV and radio they can access linguistically is the least sophisticated one. And we can all guess which channels and stations are the simplest to understand on the level of language competency.

Brand Disloyalty

After a long and painful analysis of cell phones, I decided that I was ready to move away from BlackBerry.

BlackBerry is my favorite brand that has allowed me to be a prolific blogger. BlackBerry devices have actual physical keyboards and that’s what makes them so special to me. I would have to stop blogging altogether if there were no more physical keyboard phones on the market and everybody switched to virtual keyboards. I very rarely blog at a stationary computer because I never have the time. About 90% of all posts and comments are written on my BlackBerry while I’m between classes, meetings, and errands. Right now, for instance, I’m blogging from a bus that is taking me to my Grad School committee meeting. After that, I will blog some more while I walk from the meeting to my office. I can’t produce this amount of text – or anything larger than 2 wobbly sentences – on a virtual keyboard.

Different models of my favorite BlackBerry have been with me for as long as I have been a blogger. But then something happened to the company. BlackBerrys stopped being sturdy and reliable and became flimsy and annoying.

The BlackBerry Torch (that I have in my hands right now) has finally made me decide that I have to get over my brand loyalty and look for something else.

I got my Torch for free and my heart goes out to folks who actually paid money for the device. I’ve been using it for 2 years and the phone is already practically falling apart. A tab that is supposed to hold the most important front buttons together fell off a long time ago and I’ve had to reattach it with tape. This looks really great on a $600 phone. The battery needs to be charged at least 3 times a day for you to get any good use out of it. A one and a half hour phone conversation depletes the battery from a full charge to dead.

The Torch had a tendency to freeze up for absolutely no reason from Day 1. And the apps would cause more aggravation than help.

So I went ahead and ordered a Samsung Galaxy. I wish my brand disloyalty pays off.

The Sister Steps In

I was struggling with the driving rules and then The Sister stepped in and explained them to me in a way that I needed them explained. Because she knows exactly how my brain works.

Yes, it definitely makes sense to bring up kids.

It also makes sense to blog, and I thank everybody who has been helping me feel better about driving. I promise to whine a lot on this subject in the future.

Academic Advice: How to Say “No”

Blogger Fie is right, the tenure-line academics need to learn to say “no.” It’s hard to refuse service, teaching and sociability obligations when you are afraid to make a bad impression that will negatively impact your tenure application process. However, if you give into the temptation to say “yes” to every task that is thrown your way, you will drive yourself into exhaustion, never do any research, and fail to get tenure in the end.

The best and the most honest thing to do, I believe, is to calculate one’s energy realistically and make sure that one doesn’t promise more than one can actually carry out.

This is what I do to limit the number of obligations that I undertake:

1. Make myself hard to reach. This is the golden rule for all victims of blackmail. If the blackmailer cannot reach you to make the demands, you will not have to take any action and will win time to consider your next move carefully. This is why the only way anybody can reach me is by email. I do not have voice mail and I never answer the phone unless I’m sure that I have a need to talk to the person who is calling me. I never ever ever pick up the phone when I don’t recognize the number. This is a great strategy because when people make demands on my time through email, I can ponder my response at leisure. The pressure of a personal request is not there.

2. Limit the time I spend on campus. It is very easy to get sucked into practically living on campus. In my 1st year on the tenure-track, I would be in my office 6 days a week. Now I realize that it was a huge mistake. These days, I inform students that they can reach me during my office hours and refuse to schlep all the way over to campus to wait for irresponsible students who, more often than not, forget to come by. As a result, I’m on campus 3 days a week in the Fall and 2 days a week in the Spring, and nothing can convince me to change this habit. Of course, this makes it harder for people to catch me and press me into service obligations I don’t need.

3. Don’t stroll. Run. Strolling through campus looking all leisurely makes you look like a tasty bait for people who want you to sacrifice your time to solve their problems. Whenever you leave your office to go to the bathroom, the library, the restaurant, the bookstore, the Dean’s office, envision your final destination and move there as fast as you can without getting distracted. Say, “Sorry, running late!” if people are trying to stop you.

4. Take time to respond. When there are chain emails sent out asking people to volunteer for committees and service obligations, don’t respond immediately. Take out your dossier, grab the operational papers, and try to figure out if you, I repeat, YOU, not somebody else, needs this committee or obligation to enhance your dossier (or to have fun, of course.) Remember that being on several similar college-level committees does nothing to enhance your dossier. Do you know what the tenure committee will say when it sees those 11 similar committees you’ve been on in the past 3 years? “She must be doing all this committee work because she is weak on research.” I heard this with my own ears.


5. If people try to guilt-trip you, guilt-trip them right back. Say things like, “Oh my God, I’m so busy, I’m completely overwhelmed.” Start every conversation with a litany of everything you have to do and end with, “I believe my health has started failing me.”

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Don’t buy a momentary alleviation from a meaningless sense of guilt at a price of your sanity, your research agenda, and your leisure. Just say, “no.”