Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I was at a smallish meeting about a budget type issue. One of the people at the meeting suggested that a course s/he doesn't teach should have higher enrollment to solve the budget problem. Really, s/he said, it's not a problem to add more people to those classes.

Yeah, right. Does s/he think that the people who teach those already FULL classes will eagerly take on more students to solve someone else's budget overrun? Really?

Sometimes I'm frustrated by administrators. But in this one case, I have to say that I have a little taste of how frustrating my faculty colleagues can be, too.


One of my students insisted that an essay we read in class made X stupid argument. I asked the student to show me where the essay made that argument, and she couldn't. But she still put the assertion in her essay (of course without a page reference) by setting it up as a straw man in her thesis and arguing against it. And she's shocked that the essay didn't get a great grade. ARGH! We have an appointment to talk about it; I asked her to reread the essay so she could show me where the essay makes X argument. (Hey, I could be wrong, even after reading the essay 12 times! If I am, I'll admit it when she shows me. I've been wrong before!)


In class the other day, we were discussing the papers they'd written for an assignment. One of the students noted that he hadn't actually read the assignment before writing his short essay. He said this with a sort of pride.


I hate when I feel that reading and commenting on an essay has taken me longer than writing the essay actually took the student. Usually it's not a sign of a great essay, but somehow I'm supposed to find something supportive to say. It's difficult.


We have a mandate in the state that says that any returning veteran doesn't have to pay tuition to go to a state school. The law doesn't say that the state will provide money for that student, however. So, if we get, say, 50 veterans, that's a fair bit of tuition we're out. Now, I'll admit that I'm not going to take a pay cut willingly so that someone can get a free education. Where's the money going to come from? The law doesn't say. (The money will probably come out of tuition raises, that is, from other students.)


We have to change our computer passwords every several months. There are a few rules: minimum number of characters, minimum number of types of characters (upper case, lower case, wingdings, numbers). Oh, and they can't be regular dictionary words.

I hate hate hate trying to think of passwords. And then trying to remember them. Usually, I come up with some fake Latin sounding word: $hak3sprioRum or something. Blah, I hate changing.

I had to change today, and now I can't remember what I made up. I hope I remember tomorrow. At least I don't put a sticky paper on my monitor with the password, as one of my colleagues does.


Every few years, there are big fires in the Malibu area, and every time, firefighters risk their lives to try to save homes, very expensive homes. The canyons, from what I've read, make for very dangerous firefighting conditions because they've got steep wall and (in the usual conditions) lots of dry stuff to burn.

After Katrina, there was a lot of talk about making some of the lowest, least protected areas of New Orleans off-limits to housing because of the flood risk. The idea is that there's a high risk of recurrent problems, and those problems will endanger rescuers and cost lots of money. It just so happens that those areas were also some of the poorer areas of the city.

So how come no one is talking about making parts of the Malibu area where they have those recurrent fires off-limits to housing? How about at least they don't allow houses to be rebuilt?

Recurrent natural disaster danger
High cost to deal with the danger to rescuers and local governments

Rich residents vs not rich residents?


  1. On the Malibu fires..

    Every year or so, whenever California catches fire, I just say "they should just move" -- which is a direct quote from someone in CA whose neighborhood was threatened. He was talking about the people impacted by the 100-year floods in Iowa 10-15 years ago... His complaint was about how much money was spent to help the people in Iowa, and thus how much wasn't available to help him...

    I do think it might be only fair to have the same basic solution in New Orleans as was imposed on Fargo, ND. Many people got moved out of flood plains around the Red River after the floods about 10 years ago... They were white, suburban people and it was a fair solution, as their living in the flood plain was a bad idea from the start -- thus, it seems to be a fair solution for the black urban populaiton of New Orleans... no?

  2. "In class the other day, we were discussing the papers they'd written for an assignment. One of the students noted that he hadn't actually read the assignment before writing his short essay. He said this with a sort of pride."

    That would have cracked up the hell up.

  3. About oblivious colleague: you must have had to bite your tongue so as not to say "Glad to hear you like overloads! We'll put them in [class she teaches]."

  4. About the wildfires: we (by this I mean sane people in CA) keep suggesting this but SoCal especially is very suburban house proud and has been the center of the whole "your house is a money maker, like your stock portfolio" foolishness, and of course preventing building, or telling the truth about fire risks, both keep people from their god-given right to double the value of their house every few years. Gah!

  5. I must chime in on the fire thing: This morning on the radio they were talking to some guy who was battling the fire as it came toward his own house. And he talked about his family had lost their last house 3 years ago! Are people insane??? Why, why, why rebuild in the same area? (Though Sisyphus of course points to some of the reasons...)

  6. I got around the password thing on my computer two ways: one, installing linux as dual boot. Suddenly, I'M the administrator, and I decide how often passwords are changed.

    And secondly, under Windows, our computers require us to change our passwords every couple of months, and we can't use one of the last three we used, but we CAN change them as frequently as we like. So every two months, I reset the password four times in a row: the fourth time back to the one I started with.

  7. Anonymous9:41 AM

    Re: Styleygeek

    If your admins have set the number of password repeats at a number high enough to make cycling back to your original password too tedious, you can make your new password identical to your old one -- but with a single digit added on at the end. This digit can increment with each required password change: 4umb!3d0re0, 4umb!3d0re1, 4umb!3d0re2, ....

  8. I've used a variation on anonymous's suggestion (I can't remember the numbers at the end) - I change various letters to numbers, but keeping the same word. For example, you might try b4rdiac for one round, followed by bard1ac, and tnen bardi4c, then b4rd14c, etc. I use the "sticky" note, too, but with an underline for letters, and only the numbers written (using the above examples: _4_____, ____1__, etc.).

    Back to the fires: On the news this am, a reporter was discussing the "orderly" behavior of the persons who had been evacuated to the big arena there, as well as the surplus of donations - ranging from books (so people could read and not be bored) to free WiFi and massages (to alleviate the stress of being displaced). Was this because of the economic disparity between the two regions? Your guess is as good as mine, but I know where my bet is placed...


  9. ItPF, I think there are some high fire risk areas where they shouldn't rebuild; and I think reducing building in high risk areas of all sorts makes sense where we can. But Malibu folks have a lot of money, and money buys politicians...

    Anastasia, It would have, but his paper had been really frustrating to read :(

    Undine, I did bite my tongue. Fortunately, another colleague said what I'd have wanted to say were I truly brilliant. :)

    Sisyphus, How can they afford to insure those houses when there are huge wildfires every few years? Do they at least have fire resistance stuff in the building codes the way they have earthquake resistant requirements in CA?

    Hilaire, I know, it seems insane to keep rebuilding, but I understand people's attachments to their sense of home.

    StyleyGeek, You're obviously way smarter about computer passwords than I am! I just made up a new fake Latin word and tried to remember it.

    Anonymous, I think ours requires that a significant number of elements change or something. You guys are way more creative in your solution to this than I am!

    Artemis, I also heard that evacuees were choosing to stay in hotels. I think the economic disparity is part of it. But a big part is also that the wildfire isn't nearly as widespread as the Katrina flooding was. There are lots of people within a few miles who are in no fire danger (though air quality probably isn't good), and hotels are open and serving.