That Scary, Scary Place

A conversation at the departmental meeting.

Chair: Our graduate instructor, a nice, quiet, religious fellow, was placed to live at this horrible place we all know. It’s a place where people drink, smoke, take drugs, organize rowdy beer-guzzling parties, and engage in really perverted sex. And they do it all the time!

Clarissa: I’m so sorry to interrupt but can anybody tell me where that place is located? I’ve been searching for it and have almost given up.

The place turned out to be the area of the student dorms.

The moral of the story: one’s person hell is another person’s paradise.

P.S. Before you get indignant, please look at the tag.


And That’s How Some Professors Write

“Students noted that those native speakers that were assigned were of variable quality and a degree of assigned-expectation was greatly needed.”

“Students expressed that professors’ individualized instruction when needed.”

And these are not random gaffes, either. I have in my hands a six-page document that is written in its entirety in this kind of language. And then I complain that students can’t write worth a shit. Well, what can I expect when tenured faculty members produce and disseminate this kind of writing?

I can’t tell you how often I receive professional communications that regale me with statements like “The student’s are expected to be effected by this changes.”

Work on your writing skills, people. Especially if you are in academia. Or if you really can’t improve, then at least delegate writing to those who are capable of creating a semi-literate phrase.

I’m not even an English-speaker and it hurts me to see the language mangled in this way by people for whom English is the only language they speak.

Can Anybody Explain to Me. . .

. . . why this short and fairly old post has been so popular in the past two weeks? There was a lot of melodrama when it was first published but after that there was a protracted lull in its popularity.

Now, however, it gets hundreds of hits every day and is among the most popular posts every single day. So who’s reading it so much and why? I don’t see any trackbacks to it, which makes this a complete mystery.

Moral Support

Jennifer Frances Armstrong writes:

If I try to think back to my own situation of needing others’ help, which was a very long time ago, the one element I was always craving — but never actually got — was simple moral support. The one form of academic training that just about undid me in terms of effectively combating any form of abuse was philosophical idealism, which was taught very strongly as a form of moral solipsism that we were all obliged to embrace in order to be properly intellectually trained and psychologically well-adjusted.

I think the issue of moral support is very interesting, so I wanted to discuss it here. I’m very fortunate in having a person who will always provide unwavering support and understanding for me in any situation. That person is my sister. I know that no matter what situation I find myself in, I can share it with her and she will say, “I love you and I’m always 100% on your side, and nothing will change that. You know this, right?” And after that she will offer a very direct and honest opinion about the situation, without mincing words and trying to dance around the issue. If she thinks I’m being a blathering fool, she will inform me about that in great detail and provide many thought-out arguments in support of that opinion. Then, we will talk about the situation for as long as I need and as many times as I need until I find a solution.

It is really great to have somebody who will always tell you their honest opinion and will discuss anything that bothers you at great length.

Many people, however, have a completely misguided understanding of moral support. They think it consists of pandering to your self-esteem with facile asseverations as to how you are right about everything and things will be great with no effort on your part.

Recently, for example, I shared with somebody that I thought I was messing things up in a certain important area of my life. “I think I’m making XYZ mistakes,” I said, “and that always comes back to harm me.”

“Oh no,” the well-wishing moral supporter objected. “You do everything perfectly well. There is absolutely no problem you have here. You are wonderful and everything you do is right.”

I found this to be the opposite of helpful. I felt like my serious concerns were dismissed and I was being shut up.

It seems like people are so terrified of hurting anybody’s feelings that they often resign themselves to completely shallow, superficial relationships. In any profound, honest relationship, there is bound to be rawness of sentiment and even pain. Don’t we rob ourselves of genuine human contact when we see moral support as nothing but a string of platitudes aimed at distancing ourselves from a person who is facing problems?

It is very easy to respond with, “Oh, you are so great and everything is fantastic” whenever a person tries to share what bothers them. But doing that destroys the possibility of a worthwhile relationship, leaving instead a faked connection that has no depth to it.

“You matter enough to me that I am willing to risk angering and antagonizing you with my honesty,” a friend once said. And that’s how I knew he was a real friend to me, not just somebody who wanted to ingratiate himself with me by faking complete acceptance where, in truth, there was nothing but indifference.

My Mother’s Window and a Riddle

And since I started posting pictures anyway, here is the window in my parents’ living-room. As you can see, my mother doesn’t have the same problems with decorating as I do:

And here is a riddle from my mother that I didn’t manage to solve. She is a math teacher but she didn’t manage to pass her mathematical capacities to me.

The riddle: There is a 12-story building. Two people live on the first floor, and then each floor has twice as many residents as the preceding floor. Which button gets pressed most often in the building’s elevator?