Going to Madrid. . .

Guess who is going to Madrid tomorrow. Yes, that would be me!

My sister and I will have a smashing good time in Madrid because we love spending time together and we are both Spanish-speakers. We have agreed that on this trip she will be responsible for the gastronomic part of the voyage and I will take charge of the cultural program.

I’m very glad my sister has taken it upon herself to figure out the food because I never managed to have a good meal in Madrid. I mean, not a single time. Actually, in all of Spain, I remember once having a really sensational bowl of fish soup in Valladolid and then also having a fairly good meal in Cordoba. Other than that, I’d always come back half-starved from my trips to Spain. I still remember this particularly vicious salad that I was served once in Toledo. The wilted leaves of some lettucy product were glistening with huge chunks of salt. Tiny pieces of cucumbers were practically encrusted in salt, too. Brrr. . .  But I trust my sister to feed me well because she knows better than anyone that if I don’t get fed on time, I become very cranky.

I love Spain. This will be amazing. Stay tuned for photos and updates.

Surrogacy

There are passionate discussions raging about Perez Hilton’s baby who was born as a result of a surrogate pregnancy, it seems.

For me, the only point worth discussing here is whether the child will be in regular contact with his birth mother. When surrogacy is conducted in a manner that protects the child’s contact with its biological parents (and all of their relatives), it is a beautiful thing. However, when rich people buy cutesy human toys for themselves with no regard for how absolutely crucial it is for a child to know his or her biological relatives, the whole process is completely disgusting.

If anybody wants to object that we don’t know whether the surrogate mother was interested in maintaining contact with this baby, I have to tell you that anybody who chooses such a vicious freak to be their baby’s parent has no regard for the child and only wants to buy a cutesy human toy. I mean, would you want to mix your genetic material with somebody who is willing to sell their own child for money?

Ruth Rendell’s Decline

This blogger agrees with me that Ruth Rendell’s most recent novel, published under the name Barbara Vine and titled The Child’s Child was a disappointment. Her penultimate book The St. Zita Society was even worse.

I think the problem might be that at the age of 83 Rendell insists on writing about young people whom she simply doesn’t understand and whose lifestyles are alien to her. There is no doubt in my mind that this writer could create a beautiful novel about people of her own age. Such novels would have a big audience. Why she persists in her obsession with characters in their twenties is a mystery to me.

The Low Intellect of Some Economists

And this is the intellectual caliber of people who teach economics in leading US universities:

First, we need to contest the meaning of dependence. In particular, why is selling one’s ability to work for a wage or salary any less a form of dependence than receiving some form of government assistance? It certainly is a different kind of dependence—on employers rather than on one’s fellow citizens—and probably a form of dependence that is more arbitrary and capricious—since employers have the freedom to hire people when and where they want, while government assistance is governed by clear rules.

This is very sad, folks. In the times of a great economic crisis, people who are supposed to have insights into the workings of the economy engage in these idiotic word games.

Buddy, leave contesting the meanings of words to linguists. Go do something that you were actually trained to do instead.

Anonymous Evaluations

I’m very annoyed, people. We are supposed to fill out a review on the performance of our Dean and express our opinions on whether we want his contract to be extended for the next four years. The evaluation is supposed to be anonymous for obvious reasons.

We all get evaluated anonymously. Students write anonymous evaluations of my work every semester. We write anonymous evaluations of our Chair and submit them online. Every Associate Dean gets evaluated through an online polling system that preserves everybody’s anonymity.

In the case of the Dean’s evaluation, however, the process can hardly be seen as truly anonymous.

We are supposed to fill out the evaluation forms by hand, put them in an envelope, place that envelope inside another envelope, and write our names on it. This is supposedly done to ensure that one person doesn’t make 70 photocopies of the survey questionnaire and fill them all in to rig the process. We are promised that the outer envelopes will be discarded and nobody will know our names.

I see no reason to believe those promises. If the administration suspects me of being a liar who is capable of rigging the process, then why am I supposed to grant them the benefit if the doubt? We all know what makes some people suspect everybody of dishonesty.

I also wonder what makes it so impossible to evaluate the Dean in the same way we evaluate everybody else, namely, through online polling that doesn’t require one to provide one’s name in any context.

The worst thing about this is that I have no possibility to voice these concerns. If I were to ask a question about it at the Open Forum that is coming up or send a message to the faculty members, this would be an immediate sign that I wasn’t going to write a glowing review of the Dean’s work.

I wouldn’t be so worried about this if I didn’t have a very strong reason to suspect that the Dean is aware of what I wrote in my last “anonymous” review of his work. I really dislike the “just wait until I get tenure” mentality but this is the only time when I actually thought that after I get tenure I will be able to address this instance of unfairness.

Kind Husband

The only student who thinks there is something wrong with the actions of a husband who, in a fit of rage, tears an ear-ring out of his wife’s ear with such force that he rips her ear-lobe apart is a male student from France. Everybody else believes this character is a loving, kind husband.

More on the War of Narratives

One huge recent success of the Democrats in the arena of creating coherent narratives was the centrality of the concept of the War on Women for the most recent presidential election. Whoever came up with this idea practically handed the victory over to Obama.

The War of Narratives

Ezra Klein writes:

As I understand it, the GOP has five basic goals in the budget talks:

1) Cut the deficit.

2) Cut entitlement spending.

3) Protect defense spending, and possibly even increase it.

4) Simplify the tax code by cleaning out deductions and loopholes.

5) Lower tax rates.

The White House is willing to cut a deal with Republicans that will accomplish 1, 2, 3 and 4. But Republicans don’t want that deal. They’d prefer the sequester to that deal. That means they will get less on 1, basically nothing 2, 4, and 5, and they will actively hurt themselves on 3. So, rather than accomplishing four of their five goals, they’re accomplishing part of one. Some trade.

I have an explanation for this phenomenon. The main goal of the Republicans right now is to sabotage everything they can in hopes of creating a narrative of constant disasters happening during this presidency. They know that the next presidential election will be their very last chance to save their party in its current format, so they have started working on their campaign already. A budget is small potatoes compared to that huge goal. So the things Klein enumerates can easily be sacrificed to keep the scary concept of a sequester in play.

This is a war of narratives, and we need to remember that the Democrats consistently fail to present a coherent narrative of anything. This has historically been a problem of all progressive movements that I’m aware of.

Thank you, Rob F., for the link.

Oh, I’ve Missed Her!

Sarah Palin says America will eventually default on its debt and claims that the federal government is “stockpiling bullets in case of civil unrest” to prepare.

“If we are going to wet our proverbial pants over 0.3% in annual spending cuts when we’re running up trillion dollar annual deficits, then we’re done. Put a fork in us. We’re finished. We’re going to default eventually and that’s why the feds are stockpiling bullets in case of civil unrest,” Palin wrote in a Facebook message Tuesday.

Jokes aside, do you, dear readers, think the sequester will happen? How bad will that be for all of us? I’m scrambling to grade the essays while preparing for my trip to Spain, so I have zero time to follow the news.

I can’t believe that the expression “budget sequester” follows me from one continent to another. I grew up hearing hushed whispers about it and now I’m hearing about it all over again.

An Academic Essay as an Excuse to Generalize

A student regaled me with the following pearls of wisdom in the very first essay I have read:

– Women want men to give them extravagant gifts because the cost of a gift is proof of love from women’s point of view.

– Women are more likely to choose men who give them expensive gifts over men who don’t because men who don’t give expensive gifts have no way of showing their love.

– Women whose husbands work a lot are likely to cheat on them because they get bored.

– Women need more attention, gifts and compliments than men.

– Women don’t like men who can’t help them to improve their economic standing.

If I manage to teach students that academic essays are not a good place to went their medieval prejudices, I will be a happy person.

P.S. This was a female student.