Neurotypicals Are Different

My aunt Natasha traveled from Ukraine to Montreal over the weekend. It was her first time ever on an airplane, and the trip is long and exhausting. We were all worried about how she would deal with it both physically and emotionally. She has arrived already and she’s perfectly fine, but we were worried in the process.

“So imagine what happened to Aunt Natasha at the international airport in Kiev,” my sister told me. “She was sitting there, waiting for the flight, and then she met a woman who was also travelling from Kiev to Montreal on the same flights! So they traveled together.”

When I heard the story, my first impulse was to feel deep compassion for poor Aunt Natasha. Imagine the stress of traveling to Frankfurt, waiting there for several hours, and then taking another airplane to Canada! And as if that weren’t enough, now the unfortunate woman had to be sociable with a person she didn’t even know, spend time and pay attention to her, find things to talk about – how horrible! Gosh, I’d rather not travel at all rather than be forced to spend so much time with a chattering stranger. I mean, you’d probably have to remember that person’s name and listen to their stories and observations. Brrrrr.

And then I realized the story was being told to me as something positive. To a neurotypical eye, Aunt Natasha was lucky. Having a  stranger to travel with was a good thing.

Neurotypicals are strange, people. I wonder, is anybody looking for a cure?

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Clarissa and Allan Lichtman Predict That Obama Will Win in 2012

Allan Lichtman, the scholar who correctly predicted the results of the last 7 presidential elections, believes that Obama will win in 2012 no matter who the Republican nominee is:

“Even if I am being conservative, I don’t see how Obama can lose,” says Lichtman, the brains behind The Keys to the White House. […] Lichtman developed his 13 Keys in 1981. They test the performance of the party that holds the presidency. If six or more of the 13 keys go against the party in power, then the opposing party wins.“The keys have figured into popular politics a bit,” Lichtman says. “They’ve never missed. They’ve been right seven elections in a row. A number that goes way beyond statistical significance in a record no other system even comes close to.”

Let’s see if Lichtman and I have it right. I’ve been saying that Obama will win for quite a while now.

What Course Should I Teach? Please Give Suggestions

According to the arrangement at my department, each of us gets to teach a graduate course every two years. Last time, I taught a course on Golden Age Spanish literature. So now I have to decide what I will teach the next time around.

Here are the possibilities:

1. Contemporary Female Novel in Spain.

2. Spanish Short Story.

3. XIXth century Spanish Literature.

If you could take one of these courses, which one would you prefer? For now, number three is the weakest possibility because I taught this course before and I want more variety on my CV.

Your opinions will be welcome!

The Most Populated Country in the World: A Weird Teaching Story

This could have been a funny teaching story except for the fact I have no idea how to interpret it.

In class we started talking about the most widely spoken languages in the world.

“So which country has the largest population?” I asked as a way of getting students to name the language of that country.

“France!” many of them responded.

Does anybody have an explanation of why, of all possible places, they mentioned France? Is there some reason people would associate France and not, say, Germany or Italy (let alone China) with having such a huge population?

The Evaluations Debacle

I’m beyond annoyed, people. Here I was, posting cute pictures of food and enjoying my first free day this semester. And then I received a colleague’s email about a new round of problems with our student evaluations.

Initially, we had the kind of evaluations where students were asked questions and expected to provide actual responses. In their own sentences or even paragraphs. Imagine that, students writing paragraphs after taking courses in the Humanities. We’d ask them what they liked about a course, what they didn’t like, what they thought could be done to improve it, etc. The responses were fun to read, and I even posted excerpts from them here on the blog. Every batch of evaluations allowed me to hear my students’ voices, see what they had to say about my teaching, get feedback. This was both useful and inspiring.

Then, some. . . person in the . . . administration (dots stand for a string of expletives in a variety of languages) decided that the evaluations have to be quantifiable because, otherwise, you have no idea how to interpret them during tenure review. I have no idea what’s so hard about interpreting “Prof. Clarissa is the best teacher ever. I adore her and will recommend her fantastic course to everybody!!!”, but we all know that the administrators are not particularly smart. So maybe reading this kind of responses is, indeed, too intellectually challenging for them.

So now, instead of actual statements from my students, I get a bunch of Scantron sheets. I don’t even look at them because the kind of feedback that tells me I got 4.86 out of 5 is useless to me. Besides, the system takes into account students who weren’t in class as if they were there and gave you zeros for everything. So if there is even one student who was absent on the evaluation day, your ranking drops.

But this isn’t all. Apparently, there has been a problem with the Scantron sheets. Or the person interpreting the sheets got confused. Or the students got confused. Or the makers of the questionnaire did. I don’t know and I don’t care. All I know is that in several sections of the Scantron sheet 1 stands for excellent and 5 for poor, while in other sections it’s the opposite. So now we are all ranked really low because the system processed our high rankings as abysmally low. And we will now have to offer long and convoluted explanations to the Personnel committee during our tenure reviews for why our teaching sucked so much in the past year.

What the flying fuck, people? Until when will we keep allowing these brainless fucks of administrators to get between us and our students because these extremely highly paid jerks are too stupid to read a few sentences?

In case nobody has noticed, I’m very angry right now.

Shodan Restaurant in Montreal: A Review

Since I’m posting pictures of food today, I wanted to share these photos of the best sushi restaurant I have ever visited. I’m a passionate sushi lover (for the dirty-minded among us: in the gastronomic sense), so I’ve been to many Japanese restaurants in my life. Here in Edwardsville we have two fairly good ones. But Montreal’s Shodan on Metcalfe Street is on an entirely different level.

Their sushi look like little works of art and taste heavenly. They are also very light because the heavy globs of rice aren’t used like they are in many Japanese restaurants on this continent.

Here is an appetizer called pizza-sushi:

It looks beautiful but, to be honest, there are places in Montreal that serve a much better version of pizza sushi. For some reason, Japanese restaurants in the US seem to have no idea what a pizza sushi even is. Whenever I ask, people look at me with pity and say, “This isn’t a pizza place. Pizza is Italian. We don’t cook Italian here.” It isn’t a real pizza of course. It’s made entirely out of seafood, covered with fish roe and has spicy mayonnaise added. Yum! Shodan’s version was stingy on the spicy mayonnaise, so the appetizer tasted bland.

Of course, as you must have guessed, the restaurant is very expensive. I’m a simple American professor, so I couldn’t really afford it on my own. This is why my sister, a Canadian businesswoman, had to invite me. 🙂

As you can see, we ordered enough food for a platoon of hungry soldiers. Whenever my sister and I start ordering food at a Japanese restaurant, the waiters always ask how many more people will be joining us.

“Oh, this is just for us,” we say. “And please don’t take away the menu. We are just getting started here.”