Oatmeal Eaters

I always wondered who the strange people are who come to Panera and order oatmeal. And just sit there, eating their oatmeal. Don’t they have oatmeal at home? Can they possibly love oatmeal so much that they prefer it to all the wonderful things one can get at Panera? The egg souffles alone make this an attractive place to go. And the Mediterranean flatbreads! The cheese pastries! The fresh baguettes!

And now I know that these sad folks are gastrointestinal (or maybe heart) sufferers who want to feel like they still can go out and enjoy a cafe just like everybody else.

Klara was playing with her Play-Doh yesterday.

“You made a sausage!” I exclaimed. “This looks like a sausage!”

“I make a snake, mommy,” she explained. “This is a snake. Sssssssss!”

Too much oatmeal makes everything look like a sausage.


I believe that worries about “assessment” in higher ed are exaggerated. I teach precisely at the kind of an underfunded regional school that the linked author mentions, and assessment is not a problem I face. I mean, my students either speak Spanish or not, so it’s not that hard to assess. We don’t let anybody graduate without writing and presenting a research essay in Spanish, and you simply can’t do that if you don’t have the language skills. We work with each student individually and very intensely, so there’s no chance they don’t present their own work.

I don’t think that everything needs to be utilitarian. Knowledge for its own sake is a great thing. But, folks, you still need to teach something. There’s got to be some understanding of who the students are and what they need.

Last semester, I’d come to one of my classes to find the board covered in the most inane and meaningless claptrap left over from the previous lecture about “intersectionally feminist and inclusive brown bodies.” Fifteen weeks of this crap, folks. Our students are not nearly rich enough to care about this ridiculousness. They laughed aloud whenever they saw the slogans on the board. I felt vicariously embarrassed for my colleague and angry on behalf of my students who are getting into debt so that an East Coast airhead can recite the mantra she learned at her expensive all-female college at them.

Students don’t know that Cuba is an island because nobody even tried to tell them. Maybe we should do that and teach them the names of continents before beginning to recite the slogans.

If people truly want to turn a college classroom into a haven of pure knowledge, they should stop talking about today’s politics in courses other than the ones titled Contemporary US Politics. It’s ridiculous that we keep harping on the importance of knowing fact from opinion yet we keep offering students our opinions by the bucketful.

When students ask me anything remotely political, I always answer that I have no professional training in any area but Hispanic Studies, so I’m unqualified to speak. I wish more people did this and kept their politics out of the classroom. There is zero excuse for talking about US gun control debates in a Calc I or Early Medieval History course.

Dismantling Public Ed

This whole discussion about arming teachers is just a way to speed up the destruction of public secondary education. Many people who would never consider taking their kids out of the public ed system will change their minds the moment armed teachers become part of the equation.

I’m a great believer in public education. I’m in public education myself. I was never even remotely tempted to consider a private school for Klara. But now that I’m hearing all the debates about arming teachers, I started looking into small, private, religious schools in the area. There’s nothing that could have pushed me in that direction other than this ridiculous idea.

A Post-Ban Study

The first study of the effects of the burqa ban is out.

The results are, frankly, not shocking. Turns out that the neoliberal idea that everybody is a freely choosing consumer is not true. Human beings are more complex than a collection of buying choices (which is what the defenders of “but it’s their choice to wear burqas!” propose).

How very unexpected.


There is a class at Yale that is so popular they had to move it to a concert venue. The number of students in it is 1,200. Students have been begging for this class for years. And now they have it, they can’t get enough. One little problem is that the class is in a totally quack field. A field that is less credible than astrology or alchemy.

Yes, you guessed right. It’s a class on happiness informed by the “positive psychology” movement.

Wedding Etiquette

Folks, how normal is it to invite people to your wedding through Facebook invites? The wedding in question is overseas, and I don’t mean Canada. I mean the kind of overseas I’ve never been to. The wedding will be a big fancy affair in December. The bride and groom are not eloping kids but serious folks in their thirties. Am I being a stuffy old fusspot to feel that it’s bizarre to get invited through FB?

I was excited to go (I knew I’d be invited, I’m a relative). But I don’t feel like responding to FB invites. FB invites are for local bake sales and pottery classes.

Maybe they are still planning to send out real invitations. In the meantime, I’ll sit here with the FB invite sticking in my craw.

A Real Russian

There are no Russian-speakers in our small town but yesterday we came across a Russian woman who comes over from St Louis to help out at the accountant’s office during tax season.

“Oh, you are Russian!” she exclaimed. And proceeded to talk, in a very excited manner about medals and wins.

“And then did you see what happened yesterday?” she chattered. “I thought those guys would totally win but no, we still have a chance there.”

N and I stared in mute incomprehension.

Finally, I dredged something from the recesses of my memory.

“Oh, it’s the Olympics you are talking about!” I said.

“The what?” N asked.

The woman looked deeply wounded.

“Yes, the Olympics,” she said. “Don’t tell me you aren’t following it. What part of Russia are you, anyway?”

We hurried out of there before she it started to dawn on her that there is a big link between having no interest in the Olympics and a dislike of Putin.

Marginal Benefits

N lost 40 lbs. No deprivation, diet, or struggle. This is a side effect (which he didn’t even seek) of his analysis. A healthy mind demands a healthy body.

I never thought I’d see him not end the day with a pint of ice-cream. And hey, his dad died at 56 of gastrointestinal troubles. So I’m beyond happy about this development. He also gave up gaming completely, gave away his humidor, and enjoys going to the gym. Again, no effort at self-control and no struggle. It just happened.

Nothing works (not just for weight but for anything) until the mind gets healthy.