At the French restaurant where we were celebrating our anniversary, I ordered mashed potatoes.

“There doesn’t seem to be any potato in this butter,” N commented when the mashed potatoes appeared on our table.

The French surely love their butter. And I really love mashed potatoes.

Art Appreciation

When I ask students to analyze artwork, I always discover how amazingly different their responses are. For instance, the woman in this portrait is either “astonishingly beautiful” or “impossibly ugly,” depending on an individual viewer:



Female students tend to like her looks more often than male students, for some reason. It is also curious that students very rarely see her as powerful. More often than not, they believe she is a victim of oppressive societal forces that persecute her in a variety of tragic ways. Many say she is pointing at the little dog to signal that both she and the dog are objects that are used and discarded at will.

The following piece is always interpreted in a variety of unexpected manners:



Today, however, one student came up with a reading that stunned even me, a jaded old prof. This student believes that the woman is a housewife whom the man is forced to provide for. The owl is the spirit of anti-feminism that does not allow this unhealthy relationship to be dissolved.

This is a writing exercise, so I only grade the quality of the writing, not the readings of the pieces. What is curious is that almost everybody’s writing in this assignment is better than in any other assignments. It seems like engaging with a piece of art creatively helps students shed this stilted, wordy, bombastic way of expressing themselves that they believe to represent a good writing style.


For a huge number of people, telecommuting is a phenomenal idea. I’m 3 times as productive in summer when I teach from home than at any other time. (I actually calculated this with a timer, so there is no poetic exaggeration here.)

And people who can’t accept that telecommuting is the future for many of us are simply too stuck in the past to understand that time does not stand still. Companies that hope to remain competitive will need to start abandoning the ridiculous “9-5 in the cubicle” model. With the technology currently available, the need to see people physically present in that cubicle is not grounded in any practical considerations. Productivity gets sacrificed to flatter the employer’s feeling that s/he understands the changing reality of the world. And this is simply bad business.