Category Archives: updates

On not being that cool prof

So some stupid things have happened amid some wonderful day–day things. The wonderful: DW is pretty cool. 7 is the best. No, seriously: she’s pretty much the prototype of an awesome 7-year-old. But this is going to be a whine about bad things, so on with them.

Maybe in a nutshell: This is why you don’t try to be that cool professor. I have tried, not just because I wanted to be cool or liked, but because I wanted a subset of students to have an experience where they did real research with real consequences and were treated more like colleagues than underlings. Well. My fault for trying, right?

Continue reading

That’s me in the corner

I really do feel that I’ve lost my religion–lost my faith. It was precious to me, and now it’s essentially gone. I don’t feel I made any evil choices that led to this situation, or at least none that I could have done differently and still been me. In that way, I suppose it feels kind of inevitable, but I hate those implications. Continue reading

J Max Wilson, calm down and go study research methods

In a recent post on what is apparently a faith-based blog, someone named J Max Wilson purports to tell Mormons “what [they] should know” about “that Mormon gender issues survey.” This survey. The blog post has many of the hallmarks of a wagon-circling, lines-in-the-sand, us-vs-them call to arms (or at least to fear):

  • A title that hints at dark secrets not apparent to the naked eye
  • Allegations of guilt by association: the parent group of the surveyors includes a scary guy, and in case you don’t know why he’s scary, J Max Wilson will tell you: because he’s a “well-known LDS dissenter and agitator.”
  • Dog-whistle terms (for conservative Latter-day Saints) are thrown around with abandon: progressiveactivistsagitation, liberaltypical agenda, academic, propaganda.

Continue reading

Land of the Touchy

So. I’ve given up my beloved job in the very far southness of this land and taken one in its northeastness. Most things about this new job are just fine/great. However, I think there’s a larger proportion of really irritable, sensitive people in the administration and service sectors of this school. Actually, I don’t know if that’s true, but that’s what it feels like.

Here are the ways I have apparently annoyed/angered/hurt individuals so far:

  • Asking if there were any unused surplus computers available for my research.
  • Telling students to come see me personally for advice about whether X class is ‘the best choice right now.’
  • Asking whether I could hold my statistics course in a computer lab.
  • Requesting administrator rights on my office computer so I can install programs and, um, remove icons from the desktop.
  • Most recently: submitting a request to the IT department to get a VGA cable for the room I teach in, so I can connect my laptop to the projection system.

To be a bit more fair, I don’t know whether the admin rights request annoyed anyone, but I was warned away from asking by several people, and since I made the request (no answer, yet) I’ve heard from various third parties about it, as if the request were some monumental thing–it’s not, because I know others have requested the same thing… and the IT guy with the VGA cable: I have heard that he’s just irritable in general.

Still, I heave a huge sigh. I feel like any request I make, or even tentative question I ask, has about an 80% chance of being met with concerned, worried, or openly annoyed faces and phrases like, “I don’t know… we’ve never done it like that before,” or “there’s no rule against it, but I wouldn’t if I were you.”

Sigh. The adjustment continues. Luckily, my faculty colleagues seem to be pretty high-quality people, though admittedly they include a good dose of the expected diversity of faculty quirks. which mostly makes them more awesome, as a group.

Professors: Advisers to the royalty

In Olden Times, kings and queens and emperor types had advisers. Well, maybe; I don’t know–I’m not a historian. But what matters for this particular piece is that we have stories about them having advisers. We apparently like to believe they did. We have stories about kings and queens listening to their wise advisers, being used by malicious advisers, being made foolish by foolish advisers, and so on. I’ve been interested, since I was a kid, in the stories of royalty trying to use their power and authority to guarantee a certain kind of advice. They fired (or beheaded) advisers who didn’t tell them things they wanted to hear, or only selected advisers who were lickspittles in the first place, or used threats and bribes to try to ensure royalty-favorable answers to all questions. We understand that these kings and queens were letting their short-term, selfish desires override more important long-term concerns. We can watch, in the stories, as the kings and queens shoot themselves (and, of course, their subjects) in the foot when they refuse to make a place in their court for the advisers with the unpleasant messages. We want to scream at them that they need to hear–and even bankroll–the kind of thinking that makes them feel uncomfortable or guilty or confused. But they don’t listen to the audience. They fire the advisers, they burn them, they throw them in prisons, they threaten their families. Continue reading

GIFS of first sexual experiences

I’m laughing at this Reddit thread, but the comments are often so crude that I don’t want to read them. So I’m just going to link a bunch of the GIFs.

“I was a natural”


“My name is Alex.”

“It was less than spectacular.”

(not title)

“Well, it was good for me.”

(no title):



I’m not sure how it felt, but this was me the next morning:

(no title)

(no title)

(no title)


(no title)


“alcohol is not always your friend”:

“[alcohol] does a good job of getting you there, but then betrays you.”

(no title)

“I had no idea what I was doing”:

(no title):



“This has never happened before.”


(no title)

(no title)

“Who, me?”

(no title)

“Gonna have to go with this”

“Most likely this”

(no title)

“This sums it up well.”

“Trust me, I tried.”

(no title)


(no title)

“This pretty much sums up how I felt the minute afterwards.”

“I was a little nervous”


(no title)

“Doesn’t matter had sex”

OK, I must stop. Time for life.

Robert Crais: Ritual and Myth, not Literature

I sometimes “read” audiobooks that look interesting at my local library. I take a chance since they’re free. Well, I read Robert Crais‘s 2010 novel The First Rule. It’s “A Joe Pike novel.” Within a few minutes I had figured out that it was what I might call “tough guy lit.” It’s about a tough guy who is tougher than all the other guys and then the story’s over. As literature it was approximately as interesting to me as my dryer’s stock of old lint, but I listened (almost) all the way through because I became increasingly fascinated with this as a different kind of document, from a culture I’m not part of. Not quite ethnography, because there’s little chance this is a realistic depiction of much of anything. More like myth, or legend–something designed to communicate and reinforce shared values? Or something?

Anyway, a little about the book: Joe Pike is an ex-mercenary who is now a pawn shop owner. He’s tough. He spends his free time exercising and staying tough. He knows all about guns and how to use them, fighting and how to win. He talks very infrequently (this is pretty important) and is capable of being completely still for hours or days at a time without any indication of boredom or distress (also important). He’s intelligent, but you don’t see him using his considerable brains for eggheaded pursuits; only for winning fights. There is very little interesting about him, because he’s a one-dimensional caricature of a certain type of extreme idealized gender role. A dull character, through and through. Even the hint of a “bad” past is kind of ridiculous because his past is also perfectly aligned with an extreme idealization of aggressive maleness. Continue reading

Somebody was really mad at me for at least a year

Somebody–almost certainly an ex-girlfriend–was really, really mad at me at least from 2005 through 2006, and as new details come to light I find myself thinking of this a lot.

  • Right before my wife and I got married, someone sent a letter to her–it got delayed so she got it just after our honeymoon–alleging, in some detail, that I was a horrible person of various kinds. The letter was signed by a person claiming to be my cousin, and was postmarked from Atlanta. No return address, of course. It shook both my wife and me up. She talked to my sister and verified that I had no cousin by that name, and no relatives of any kind in Georgia. And no, she had never heard of the horrible allegations and didn’t believe them.
  • Around this time (I can’t actually remember whether it was before or after the letter) I received a couple of emails from young men–one European and one American, IIRC–threatening to come to where I lived and cause me extreme bodily harm for the horrible things I had allegedly done to their good friend, my ex-girlfriend.
  • While I was on internship in Indiana, I heard from a couple of people back in Ohio, where I had gone to grad school, that there were rumors circulating about me that I won’t even write here, on this theoretically-public blog. Vague rumors, but the source was certain they were circulating.
  • In the spring of 2005, I have just learned, some of my future colleagues at the university to which I was applying for a job received one or more anonymous emails alleging bad things about my character (I’m not sure what things) and saying that I had been trash-talking the university and department I was applying to, and possibly the people I had met during the interview. Continue reading

Dockers Ad: My Parody of a Parody

It’s been a while since the ridiculous Dockers “wear the pants” ad went live, but since I live under a rock I just saw it a few days ago. Posted on my FB feed by a niece. A female. She loved it, and she (and I’ve come to realize others) apparently took it at face value. It’s obviously a parody of right-wing gender-role attitudes, but I guess it’s too subtle. So anyway, I made another parody, and perhaps this one drives the “it’s a horrible, painful joke” point home (click for a slightly more readable image).


Breast Cancer: no redemption, no comeuppance

It’s a very unpleasant thing to realize that you are a villain in someone’s story. I find it even more unpleasant to know that former friends, as well as people I’ve never met, may hear this story about me, with no other perspective. Several years ago, I dated someone. It was, in my memory, at least, a good relationship. I loved this girl, even though she was too young for me to date (not legally; just, kind of, socially). It’s tempting to minimize my feelings so I don’t seem like the pathetic old guy wrapped around the young woman’s finger, but that’s probably who I was. Many people disliked the fact that we were dating. Her sister, for instance, though I never heard it from her own mouth. Her sister’s husband, with whom I had previously been friends, became cold and unfriendly, and told me more than once that he considered my pursuit of the relationship to be tantamount to a sin, or an overt act of aggression. Her parents–well. They were, perhaps, the theoretical maximum on the disapproval scale.

Despite my digressions to the contrary, this is about her sister. I liked her. I knew her sister first, actually. She was a very entertaining woman, and, well, I just thought she was fun, when she wasn’t on the opposite side of the relationship divide. She had her flaws, which were shown off in various ways in the brief time I knew her, but who doesn’t? Somewhere in the family, I came to believe (much later, after an initially amiable end to the relationship turned ugly), there was something really weird happening with information: I started to wonder, from subsequent events, whether my ex-girlfriend’s family (including her sister) had ever heard the story of our relationship as I knew it, as she and I seemed to live it, and as she narrated it to me. I started to doubt what seemed unarguable for a year: that the two of us were mutually concerned with each other’s welfare despite being beset by some well-meaning but ultimately irrational family members. Every part of that scenario seemed to come into question, after a while. I came to doubt, after a few nasty events, whether even the most fundamental things she had told me about her family’s words and actions were true at all, or whether she had represented our relationship to them in the way she told me she had. But that’s a cauterized, left-in-the-past mess, as much as such things ever are.

Back to her sister. Well. She died. I found out so recently that the time is best counted in hours, not days. She died of breast cancer and is survived by the husband mentioned above and at least two children. It seems inconceivable that I could have not known this was happening. Shoot, I still don’t even know how many children they had. Continue reading

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is imminence.

Dear conservatives with conspiracy theories about Obama’s birthplace, FEMA concentration camps, the Affordable Care Act, and gun control:

This is the real conspiracy, you idiots.

The rest is just political theater, and your political leaders are partnering up with Democrat leaders and the media to keep your focus on anything–anything–else. Democrat politicians won’t talk about this because it might weaken their hold on the White House. Conservative politicians won’t talk about it because our current president has found a way to get golden eggs from the Republican goose, and those Republicans really, really, really don’t want to kill that goose. I’m sure they have highly specific plans for it once the Oval Office turns a bit redder.

(Okay, I’m sort of sorry for calling some people idiots, but seriously… it really seems to me that anyone who claims to care about threats to the constitution but is not bothered by this stuff is either mind-bogglingly hypocritical, borderline delusional, or just seriously, seriously ignorant of the existence and reality of these issues.)


The military is always right about terrorism?

Sigh and sigh again. I’m an idiot, and I can’t keep my mouth shut. I have a friend in the Air Force who recently made a post (on 9/11, notably) from Afghanistan:

Just spent a few hours in Afghanistan today. We couldn’t land for a while because the airport was under attack. When we did land we were told that 4 people were lost in the attack. While we were getting refueled we came under attack again.

It appears the bad guys remember 9/11 as much, if not more, than we Americans do…

Something for those with short attention spans to think about: The bad guys are still out there – and they are STILL attacking us. Just be grateful that our soldiers, sailors, and airmen are overseas…otherwise those attacks would be on our home soil!! Continue reading

Why Mormons Should Think Twice Before Identifying Themselves As Republicans (1)

Mormons are Republicans. OK, not everyone, but a lot of them. Especially the ones in the US West. This bothers me, not on the face of it, but because I’ve seen and heard so much from some of these members that suggests they have not fully considered the many relationships between this (or any) political ideology and the doctrine of the LDS church. I’m going to rant for a moment about one of these relationships.

Much has been made by liberals of the Right’s (and Americans’) apparently endless tolerance for violence in media juxtaposed with their moral indignation at representations of (certain kinds of) sex. For me, this was brought poignantly home when Mel Gibson’s “The Patriot” was the subject of questionably valid rumors that this or that general authority recommended members selectively lifting their “R-rated movie bans” to see it, because it was so patriotic–despite the horrific and occasionally senseless violence it portrayed. Continue reading

Day 25

Part of me is relieved, as only a doting father can be. Another part, however, feels a growing concern. It’s not her behavior–my darling daughter is a bubbly, adorable infant as she should be–it’s the behavior of–well, things, around her. I still feel a dread at sharing any of this with her mother, who cannot be grieved with vague, probably unfounded worries; but I wish to write my observations, if for no other reason than to discount them with the lifetime of normalcy surely to come.

Two events stand out in my mind: a mere five or ten minutes out of the last week. How important can such a small span of time be? Continue reading

Day 20

I write this with a growing mix of love and dread, mixed perhaps with some fear or fear-like emotion–possibly just extreme nervousness and a bit of flatulence, which–let me tell you–can sometimes turn perfectly ordinary mild fear into full-blown terror. Please let it be the gas. Just the gas. I write so that those who read these words might begin to understand, or at least approximate an understanding, of the heavy @#$% that is going down in the lives of two very normal parents. Okay, mostly normal. Also, what is normal, anyway.

My wife’s pregnancy was uneventful enough, so it seemed: there was some nausea, some glowing, some elation, some very uncomfortable sleeping, some dizziness, some delusions regarding fictitious characters from 1950s sitcoms. All to be expected. Delivery was normal. Everything was normal–delighfully, gorgeously normal–or so I thought at first, and why shouldn’t I? Who expects anything to go wrong, especially something completely foreign not only to his own experience but even to his imagining? Looking back, of course, I can see irregularities. Do they mean anything, or are they merely the hiccups of a genetic heritage that ate too much bratwurst yesterday? Are they omens or the effects of a sleep-deprived new father’s distorted memory? Continue reading

Conference Spring 2011

I’ma blog a bit about conference. Just random thoughts, and I make no guarantee that I’ll get everything (or even listen to all the talks). Note: I missed yesterday (Saturday) because of childbirth education classes and then trying to catch up on the work I missed while in said classes. So I’m starting with…

Sunday Morning Session

Elder Uchtdorf

  • The story about the young girl dying of cancer, requesting a visit from the President, made me wonder if being a General Authority means, in effect, being faced with others’ death and suffering on a much more regular basis than most of us Middle-Class Americans are. Maybe lots of people at death’s door call a prophet. If this is the case, then this might serve as a lovely self-regulating principle throughout church leadership. Maybe our leaders, by virtue of being leaders, are given an increased dose of the existential suffering of others that led Siddhartha to question his luxurious existence — the suffering that Jesus’ ministry largely targeted. I like to think that there are processes like this: the Lord qualifying whom He calls.

H. David Burton

  • I unashamedly promote (though do not always exemplify… oops) awareness of the Church’s responsibility to improve the physical fortunes of the poor, not only defined absolutely (those who can’t buy food) but relatively (those whose neighbors all have nice cars and they don’t). I think the existence of such inequities reflects very badly both on our Christianity and our humanity. So this talk was gratifying to hear, preached to a membership that (in my experience) has sometimes seemed willing to promote the principles of the Law of the Harvest over those of mercy and Christlike love.
  • “Helping people versus helping people to help themselves.” Absolutely. Sustainable charity. This includes things like preparation, thrift, and all the other things said in this talk. What has often bothered me is the tendency of some members to use phrases like this as a smokescreen for vindictiveness, selfishiness, or petty class warfare. Sometimes it’s impossible to tell whether people preaching “tough love”-type charity really mean this, or are motivated by one of the less-laudable possibilities I mentioned above. One touchstone, I suggest, might be such individuals’ messages regarding education. Those who insist that education should be withheld from those who have reduced opportunity to pay for it are, I believe, probably not motivated by actual caring for the less fortunate. Education is preparation; it provides the skills for self-reliance. Withholding it reeks of the “haves” holding onto their loot for fear that the “have-nots” might get some of it.

Silvia H. Allred

  • This talk was nice, but I was busy teasing Alex about falling asleep.

David A. Bednar

  • I’m always interested in GA how-to’s about revelation, because — barring angels literally appearing — it’s a pretty ill-defined phenomenon in some of its more particular details. Perhaps that’s part of the point.
  • I like this talk for various reasons, but one is the universalization of our experiences. I believe it is excellent to let the members know that they are not alone in the doubts, fears, and imperfections inside us.

Thomas S. Monson

  • I have no specific comments, but this was still a lovely talk.


Sunday Afternoon Session

Okay, I fell asleep. I admit it. Don’t judge me too harshly. I missed the first talk entirely.

D. Todd Christofferson

  • The Currant Bush Allegory was a bit odd… because of the Currant Bush talking back. But it was a nice illustration.
  • After the account of how Richard G. Scott’s wife advised him to look people in the eye, my wife exclaimed, “So it’s his fault!” Then everyone in the Conference Center laughed, so I guess they heard her.

Carl B.Pratt

  • Colonia Juárez! I had compas from there (and near there) en La Misión, back in the day.
  • The stories about financial rewards for paying tithing always fall a little oddly on my brain. I don’t think the leaders intend for us to believe that tithing is a financial advancement strategy, but we sure do repeat such stories a lot. I note that, in this talk, we get the counter-information: the Lord does not specifically promise us wealth in return for tithing. I like the concrete explanation: the Lord blesses us with wisdom so we can live better on 90% of our income. Gotta love a good, definable, concrete explanation :)

Lynn G. Robbins

  • Paraphrasing Shakespeare: classic opening. But I don’t think Hamlet meant what is implied in the intro to this talk. Hamlet was (I think?) trying to decide whether or not to kill himself. But the message presented in the talk still appears excellent.
  • This “be” versus “do” thing is pretty deep and philosophical. I fully agree with the message (be>do), but wow is this ever a more complex issue than could really be addressed in a 20-minute talk.

Benjamín De Hoyos

  • I really wish I had turned the session on in time to hear who these speakers are. This one is giving a nice talk.

C. Scott Grow (who has probably never been teased about his name)

  • Jimmy Stewart voice!
  • Your basic Prodigal Son story? I kinda like these.

Jeffrey R. Holland

  • I have a soft spot for Elder Holland. Cool.
  • I love the fact that he fearlessly drops apparent scriptural contradictions next to each other. I think this is where some of the most meaningful insights come from.
  • “…comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”  Heck, yes. However, most of us listening to this in English fall into the latter category, not the former–at least economically and freedom-from-daily-terror -wise.
  • Hm. Reference to (as DW says they are called) “Cafeteria Mormons.” Of course, I think we’re all in that category, but perhaps the implied categorization is still useful.
  • Nice talk. He has always had an ability to synthesize a good “take a step back” view that makes sense.

President Monson

  • Brief, to the point, and powerful. Nice.


All in all, another nice conference session. I don’t know that I caught wind of any strong changes in the Church’s direction, but I’m traditionally clueless about such things. That is all.

Most Americans oppose making tax cuts for wealthy permanent

I know one poll doesn’t answer all questions, but the recent CBS poll is the only one I’ve seen on this issue, and since it’s not done by a clearly biased organization like the Cato Institute, Fox News, or MoveOn, I’d rather trust it for now. Here are some results (done by me painstakingly learning the somewhat arcane world of R graphics! Hooray!):

[flickr width=500]5232082190[/flickr]

Know what the coolest thing about this is (besides, perhaps, the fact that the majority of Americans want these tax cuts to remain only for clearly middle-class folks)? Lookit the green in “Don’t Know.” It’s the biggest chunk there. I like the fact that the independents aren’t as likely to be sure of themselves as the big party-affiliated folks are.