Category Archives: that which doth irk

March 31, 2009, 4:16 pm

Also, it would make grades more… final, if profs were packin’.

Dear Texas Legislature,

I am given to understand that you are considering making it legal for students over the age of 21 to carry concealed weapons on campus.   The thought is that doing so would prevent mass murders like the one that happened at Virginia Tech.

It’s a pleasant daydream for these Walther Mittys.  One can imagine any number of ways, all out of bad action movies.  The tall young professor with the twinkling blue eyes, his class interrupted by a gunman, athletically rolls under the desk, brings up his weapon, and fires two shots into the torso of the assailant… the alternachick literature prof who had been a pacifist until she learned the error of her ways in Guatemala, pulls her weapon from her organic hemp rucksack, and wounds the gunman in the leg…. the elderly don with the tweed blazer and bowtie, calmly firing his antique revolver, ejaculating “You shall not …

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March 4, 2009, 5:12 am

Why, oh, why can’t we….shoot the press corps?

Pity the poor debt collector, who must needs collect on the debt of one who has departed this vale of tears with no estate to settle his earthly obligation.  Observe her stress, her yoga mat.   Ponder the careful control of her emotions and voice, the sympathy with which she calls the family of the deceased.  How hard she works to convince them that this is the final rose to lay upon the grave….

…. ignore the fact that one of the risks of being a credit card company is that your customers may die without the assets to repay you, and the business has insurance  to protect them against such eventualities.  Ignore the fact that paying the debt is not merely a nice gesture, but transfers responsibility for the debt to a family that may be struggling.  Ignore the fact that the collectors are not required to state that family of the deceased is under no obligation to pay debts….

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February 22, 2009, 1:05 pm

Maybe the inmates are in charge of the asylum.

This keeps getting better and better.

First, the American Philosophical Association moves its Central Division meeting from April to February.  The Central often serves as a location for interviews for visiting appointments for the following fall, which have usually been advertised in the February “Jobs for Philosophers”, an advertising service run (I use the term loosely) by the APA.

Dates of Central Division Meeting: Feb 18-21.

Dates of publication of the JFP:  Feb. 20.*


But everyone’s known about this for weeks!  What’s new from the recently published JFP?

This gem of an ad:

FLORIDA ATLANTIC UNIVERSITY – FAU, BOCA RATON, FL. ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, COUNSELING CENTER, Florida Atlantic University. The Assistant Director provides psychological services for Florida Atlantic University students and provides administrative and supervisory leadership of the Counseling Center and…

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February 16, 2009, 9:28 am

Fish Filet.

In the comments to this post on last week’s Fish column, Jesse asks:

I read Fish often, but only from an uninformed perspective. I’m not an academic, so reading his pieces (and moreso the comments they elicit) provides a rare point of access into discussions on topics that otherwise I don’t get to discuss, quite frankly. But the comments reflect a consensus of Fish-crit. Can anyone offer a few bullet point criticisms of Fish or his most recurrent views? Is it mostly his pathos, or his actual positions? I may be begging “how” to read Fish, but only in the sense of a “how” among other “how’s”. Thanks!

Happy to oblige.   And since Fish has yet another poorly-argued barrel of drivel up today, timely, too!

The shortest way to express my annoyance with Fish is to say simply that he doesn’t answer Jesse’s fundamental question: what’s the academy like?   He has a rare…

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February 8, 2009, 8:16 am


Having recently paid less attention to the situation in Afghanistan than to most other things, I didn’t realize that Karzai was no longer in our favor. (Sorry, “our”.) Also, I find the Times style of printing Vice President Biden’s FULL name irritating. Though I suppose I should count my blessings: at least they don’t spell out Robinette. And finally, the penultimate paragraph of this review reads:

The central plot mechanism of “Slumdog Millionaire”—Jamal (Dev Patel), a poor kid from Mumbai, overcomes his ragamuffin past and achieves fame, wealth, and selfhood by answering questions on a high-stakes game show—feels both cheesy and rigid. The movie is a Dickensian fable, but didn’t David Copperfield have to work his way up the ladder? As Jamal thinks over the questions put to him on the show, moments from his early life float through his mind, and some wrenching event…

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January 13, 2009, 2:10 pm

Testing to the teach?

Even granting for the sake of argument*, both of Klein’s premises, viz., that university professors do not care about teaching, and that universities are structured not to reward good teaching, this proposal strikes me as a bad idea.  It’s not that it’s unfair; it’s that student evaluations reflect not the quality of instruction, but factors such as easy grading, and whether the professor is attractive.

Providing a handsome reward for good student evaluations isn’t going to give professors an incentive to care about teaching; it’s going to give them an incentive to care about whether they get good student evaluations.   There is not necessarily a lot of overlap. See:  NCLB, call center metrics, etc.

*I’d agree with the second, but not the first.  Plenty of professors care about teaching and do a good job; it’s just that it won’t matter a hill of beans when it comes time for tenure …

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December 13, 2008, 9:11 am

When I am king, you will be first against the wall…

Via belle waring, yet another tale of foreclosure, this time on a home featured a while back on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.   

(From the Wall Street Journal, increasing evidence that the milk of human kindness is skim:


Rather than criticize this family, you should be thankful that you’re not in a situation like theirs.

Or rather, I am thankful GOD gave me the means and the ability to not be in a situation like theirs. ….

But I never planned to be poor. I always had it in my mind that I would take care of myself. Am I saying the poor planned to be that way? In some instances, they have. Alot of it is in their culture. It’s the only way they know to be. Of course I am speaking of society as a whole and not about this particular couple. Personally, I wouldnt have mortgaged the house, let the medical bills pile up, as far as I know, they cant take your house because of…

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November 17, 2008, 2:52 pm

In which, for no good reason I can think of, I nitpick about something rather unimportant.

A number of people are writing about the techno-utopia that awaits us all during the Obama years, now that the President-elect has begun posting weekly addresses to YouTube. These are, it seems, Fireside Chats for the digital age.

That said, the first installment of Obama’s video outreach is a pretty tepid affair. There are no babies farting, no cats sexually assaulting stuffed animals, no Muppets. And President-elect Obama looks rather drawn to me.

Still, I was struck by a stock phrase that appears around the 2:30 mark: “the tyranny of foreign oil.” Way back when, in a time before time, when Matthew Yglesias still blogged at The Atlantic, he congratulated candidate Obama for avoiding this phrase and using in its place, “the tyranny of oil,” which struck Yglesias as less “xenophobic” and more “economically and…

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October 30, 2008, 8:05 am

You poked the camel in the eye with that needle.

Man, and here I had thought at the time that the title of my earlier post was over the top, but apparently I was just a couple months early. I would advice these gentle folk that there is plenty in the Bible that they were not supposed to do, including:

  1. Slaughter all the first born.
  2. Harden thy heart against the widow and orphan.
  3. Commit adultery and covet thy neighbor’s ass.
  4. Slaughter thy brother and wander the land with a mark upon their forehead.
  5. Put thy God to the test by throwing thyself off the walls of the city.

Though the republic might thank them for the last.

via the godless apostropher.

October 28, 2008, 3:27 pm

Nutpicking, or pearls before swine?

Bear with me, I have a headache. So, as I understand it, Obama’s plan to tax the really wealthy consists largely (or entirely) of letting the Bush tax cuts expire instead of extending them. * This is derided as a socialism; but aside from the ridiculousness of the difference between Real American Taxes and Evil Islamic Arugula Socialism being 3% and roughly half a billion bucks…. does this mean we were already socialist during the Bush administration before the tax cuts and didn’t know it?

I thought the socialist barricades would come with a little flag to wave.

*This is the killing vs. letting die distinction, but for taxes!

October 20, 2008, 12:04 pm

To cure the plague on both your houses costs $500.

From the Boston Globe, a defense of McCain’s health care plan that reviews the history of employer-based medical coverage. I’ve already said what I think the problems with McCain’s plan are, viz., that the $5000 tax credit isn’t even close to the cost of health insurance, plus, without a guarantee of eligibility, lotsa 50-year-olds are going to find they’re not insurable.

That doesn’t mean I like bad arguments against McCain’s plan. And Ezra Klein makes a bad argument here. Americans who have good employer-based health insurance are generally insulated from the actual cost of both their insurance and their medical care. And it’s certainly true that some medical emergencies and diagnoses are not the sorts of things one is inclined to cut corners on.

But Ezra’s mistake is in concluding that price of services isn’t a factor at all, saying “people don’t think much about price,…

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October 19, 2008, 10:27 am

What’s the Spanish for “Tooly McTool”?

Noted without (explicit) comment:

Across from the School of Business stands a burrito cart which makes outstanding burritos. The affluent MBA-seekers often go there to get lunch, and many of them, to prove that they are down with the gente, will place their orders in halting Spanish to the young lady who runs the cart. Like ordering in French at a French restaurant, but real.

Recently, a friend decided to get a burrito and stood in line behind one of these hotshots, who fumbled the Spanish for one of the toppings and then asked the burrito lady what the correct word was.

“I don’t know,” she says in English, “I’m from Malaysia, and I’ve only learned Spanish because people keep coming up and assuming I’m Mexican.”

October 2, 2008, 12:22 pm

When am I not reading early modern poetry?

Am I the only one who thinks Glenn Reynolds only knew this quotation because it’s the name of a popular science fiction trilogy?  Because it certainly doesn’t mean what he thinks it means, as William Graham Sumner—one of the three people on whom the label “social Darwinist” can be pinned in good faith—noted in 1877:

Fluctuations in the measure of value are as inconvenient and fatal as fluctuations in the measure of length and bulk . . . . Business is turned into a guess, or a game of hazard, where the prevailing anarchy is overruled by accident:—

“Chaos umpire sits
And by decision more embroils the fray
By which he reigns; next him high arbiter
Chance governs all.”

In such a condition of things the gamblers have the advantage.  The stock exchange becomes little better than a faro bank . . . . The temptation of excessive gains leads from the beaten path of business.  Speculation …

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August 31, 2008, 1:15 pm

Some days I’m ashamed of the people who supposedly are my political allies.

Wait for the 1:20 mark. Then watch Michael Moore call Hurricane Gustav proof of god’s existence. He’s kidding, of course. And maybe I should have a better sense of humor about this kind of thing. But it’s hard for me to laugh when I consider that tens of thousands of people along the Gulf Coast are having their lives disrupted by another hurricane. That this horror is unfolding so close to the anniversary of Katrina heaps insult atop injury. So please, people on the political left, try to restrain your glee as Gustav screws up the Republican National Convention.

Even more disgusting? John McCain and Sarah Palin are headed to Mississippi, hoping to use Gustav as a photo-op. Thanks, Senator McCain, we already have an excellent photographic record of your response to major hurricanes. Really, how about if you just stay out…

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August 14, 2008, 12:50 pm

Prediction: we end up with better Latin American cuisine.

Everyone’s been all over the white-people-will-be-a-minority-with-no-stand-mixers-to-hug bedwetting story, but this is a really, really, really stupid thing to be panicking about:

The Census Bureau’s projections are likely to fuel debates over immigration policy, overpopulation and the changing electorate, and recall earlier eras when the Irish, the Italians and Eastern European Jews were not universally considered as whites. As recently as the 1960s, Hispanic people were not counted separately by the census and Asian Indians were classified as white.

So, let me get this straight: we redefine “white” to count only those of European, North African, and Middle Eastern ancestry, purposefully putting Hispanics into a new separate category, and then freak out that the numbers of white people are shrinking.

If we counted the way we did in 1960, America would be getting whiter, due to all…

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