Tuesday, January 31, 2006

More Tristan & Isolde Pre-Review

I still haven't seen Tristan & Isolde, though it is still at the local theater, so if I can get my schedule worked out I'll probably try to see it this week. If not, I'll have to see it on DVD.

Cinerati offers a defense of the film. Although I disagree with some of what the reviewer says about critics who complain that it isn't Wagner's version (my own complaint wasn't that it wasn't Wagner's version; it was that I prefer the versions that have the magic potion), he does relieve some of my fears about the depiction of King Mark, whom I was afraid would be portrayed as an evil ogre.

Still, I don't go into the film with high hopes. One of my students who studied the Malory version with me said that she had to work very hard not to burst out laughing during the film because it was so funny -- funny in the way that dramatic romances strive not to be. At one point, she compared it to the "love" scenes in Attack of the Clones ... ouch!

So, if I make it to the film this week, I go with the foreboding sensation I felt before watching King Arthur, a film that very nearly sent me into therapy for its epic badness.

Obscure Word Origin

PG-13 rated stuff below.

A friend has been asking me for months if I could find out the origins of the word "dildo." I'm not sure why he wants to know, since the topic came up along with asking what "e.g." stood for (exempli gratia, in case you were wondering); perhaps he's been having an affair with a philologist. The OED lists the origin as "obscure," with the earliest example of the word being 1610, suggesting that the origins are in the Early Modern era.

Without getting too puerile, does anyone out there know more about the origins of this word?

Monday, January 30, 2006

New Medievalist Blog

JJ Cohen has a new blog called In the Middle for your medievalism pleasure.

h/t Ancrene Wiseass

Scientific Conceits and Aesthetics

Glen Gill over at Logoi Kai Erga has a interesting post on cross-cultural aesthetics that also has a note-worthy aside about use of scientific conceits in literature (a pet peeve I share).

Torie Hardee -- Not Evil

I finished my interview about blogging for University Public Relations with Torie Hardee a bit ago, and I asked if she minded if I mention her name here. She said she did not mind as long as I didn't say anything bad about her.

Therefore, let me state for the record that, to my knowledge, Torie Hardee is not evil.

Seriously, the interview was pleasant, and she seemed to have already spoken to Glen Gill and Steven Taylor about their blogs, so she was relatively well-informed.

I was surprised to learn about myself that I used the word "bloggy" to refer to something that had blog-like characteristics, and the word slid off my lips so easily that I didn't notice it until Torie Hardee (not evil) wrote it down. It's amazing how quickly this vocabulary has become part of my daily vernacular.

But, then again, what might I have said besides bloggy? Blogesque? Blogoric? Blogola?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

"Major Malfunction"

We've seen a lot of retrospectives this week about the space shuttle Challenger disaster 20 years ago. I have only two things to add:

On the day of the disaster, I happened to be sick, and was home from high school. My mother suddenly had to leave (I think one of my siblings had gotten in trouble at school, but I can't actually remember the reason why), so she asked me to babysit for my toddler sister, who was napping anyway.

I recall I was watching TV, and news anchor John Palmer suddenly broke in. He announced that there were reports of a "major malfunction" on the space shuttle Challenger, which he said he was told would be visible on the videotape. From his later reaction, it was clear that he hadn't yet seen the tape.

They ran the film, and given the description of the incident as a "major malfunction" and "visible" I expected something we could see, but not overly dramatic. I kept thinking we would see a trail of smoke coming from the hull of the Challenger. The dramatic explosion that took place made the understatement of "major malfunction" seem like a joke.

The camera cut back to Palmer. He was not looking directly at the camera ... he was instead staring at something (presumably a monitor) a little off to the side. His mouth was slightly open, and there was an awkward second of silence during which he clearly did not know what to say. All he had before him was a script with the phrases "major malfunction," "visible explosion," and "teacher in space," and a videotape that demonstrated the banality of his copy. He stammered for a moment, obviously shaken, and got his footing.

I know that for most people the phrase "major malfunction" recalls a line from Full Metal Jacket, but for me it has a sense that contains an element of ironic understatement.

Incidentally, my sister (not the one from the blog Safari So Goody -- a different one) had woken up by that point. We had conversation a few years back wherein she asked about a memory she had from her childhood where a "spaceship blew up" on the news. The Challenger disaster is apparently one of her earliest memories, though recollected through the filter of a toddler's perceptions.

Blogging has seeped into your subconscious when...

... you are unable to distinguish dreaming about a blog post from actually posting one. My posts have been sparse of late because I've been busy writing some other projects on short deadlines, but when I got up this morning I discovered several posts were missing:
  • My long-promised post about relativism and authorial intention
  • My post about the Challenger disaster
  • Most post about the Academia & WalMart article
  • My post about the recent clunker Battlestar Galactica episode
  • and finally, my post about the batch of Beowulf movies coming up
After puzzling over how all these posts could have disappeared, I suddenly realized that I had not really written them; I dreamed about writing them last night.

So, will I eventually post them? Gee, now I dunno ... it feels like I've already written them, and it's a chore to re-write something from scratch that you've already "written."

Friday, January 27, 2006

You ain't no Tolkien fan...

I've commented before about how dangerous it is in the blog-o-sphere to say anything about Tolkien that suggests he was a mere mortal. Whenever I say something that could be interpreted as lacking appropriate zeal, I get hatemail from all over.

OK, punks ... you think you're Tolkien fans? You ain't no Tolkien fan.

THIS is a Tolkien fan.

h/t La Professora Abstraida

Second Graders and Equus

The truth is, I don't like Equus (it's way too over-the-top for me -- I like a little subtlety), but this had me laughing.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Blogging at Troy University

As regular readers know, I have a general policy against blogging about Troy University -- even positive things, since I don't want people to take my silence when there is a dearth of news as some sort of condemnation. I have occasionally violated my own policy, such as when I directed local readers to Hurricane Katrina relief service opportunities, and when I discussed the death of one of our students, but for the most part I am pretty good about the policy. Occasionally I'll write "I had a student once who..." or "I had a colleague once who..." but I try not to identify if said student or colleague was here at Troy or at one of my previous schools.

The way I figure it, as long as Troy is signing my paychecks, I ought not be using my blog to trash the school ... nor, frankly, would I be trashing it if I ever left. Neither will I use my blog as a running infomercial about the school. I figure if people think my blog is relatively smart and interesting, they'll assume that Troy is a place of relatively smart and interesting people. If, on the other hand, they think my blog is the crayon-scrawled natterings of a madman ... well, you get the drift.

BUT I recently received the following e-mail (partially censored to protect the innocent), and I thought it might be OK to share it with you all:

Dr. Nokes,
Hello! My name is [So-and-So], and I am a student worker for University
Relations. Currently, I am writing a story for TROY Today on the topic of
blogging. I spoke with Dr. Steven Taylor earlier this week, and he said
that you blog, as well. If possible, I would like to set up a time to
speak with you either in person or by telephone to better understand your
thoughts about blogging. I hope to hear from you soon!

TROY Today isn't the student newspaper; it is the public relations organ of the University. So, if I'm reading the subtext here correctly, far from trying to distance itself from its blogs, the University is trying to promote the blogging of its professors. Given all the anxiety around the academic blog-o-sphere about potential Ivan Tribble attitudes toward blogging, I thought it might be a relief to hear about this e-mail.

Depending on what she asks about, I'll probably pontificate with my usual shtick about how all professors need to strive to be public intellectuals, about how the blog is another outlet for that responsibility, etc. They usually post an electronic version of the TROY Today on the university website, so I'll probably include a link here when it comes out.

That's "Dr." Cuz

What do we call our professors? At the time I was there, my undergraduate school had a policy against hiring anyone without a Ph.D., so all of my professors were "Dr. So-and-So." The culture of the school made this address normative, so once when I accidentally slipped and addressed Dr. Mason as "Doc Mason" to his face, my friends nearly had strokes on the spot (Dr. Mason didn't seem to notice or care).

In graduate school, though, everything got fuzzier. Some professors liked to be called by their first names, some by their titles. Some were very aggressive about one form of address or another.

The subject has come up again recently in the Chronicle, both in an article by the pseudonymous Thomas H. Benton (subscription link, I think) and the notorious Ms. Mentor who notes that junior faculty should refer to senior faculty by their first names "even if they're old enough to be your grandparents. If they are, they don't want to be reminded." And, naturally, the subject came up in class.

In the first week of class, a student addressed me as "Cuz." Now, this form of address is disrespectful, but I ignored it, until he repeated it several more times, at which time I said, "That's Dr. Cuz or Prof. Cuz to you." He got the hint (sort-of), and began referring to me simply as "Doc."

I hate when students refer to me by first name, particularly because I refer to them (in the freshman and sophomore classes) by title and last name; my general education classes aren't populated by Treys and Courtneys, they are populated by Mr. Smiths and Miss. Joneses. Regardless of how I refer to them, however, it seems to me that students who insist on calling professors by their first names (or "cuz" or "dude") rarely do so innocently -- rather, it strikes me as a form of aggressive disrespect, the subtext of which is "you can force me to be here and do your stupid assignments, but you can't force me to learn anything or respect you." On top of that, given that I offer the students the courtesy of title, the refusal to return the favor feels like an attempt to establish power over the professor. Silly rabbit.

I started addressing students by title and last name at Wayne, as a way to cut back on disruptive behavior. It worked very well. Freshmen who were just in high school three months earlier often have trouble understanding that the stakes are higher, but when they enter into a space where they are "Mr." or "Miss" controlled by someone who is "Dr." or "Prof.", they tend to get the idea quicker. People in the upper division classes, though, I tend to refer to by first name. By the time they are juniors, they tend not to need such little tricks to keep their behavior at an adult standard, and besides, I like it as a term of endearment. The students seem to get that element too -- I've noticed that my English majors often beam the first time they get a first name address from me ... and they should, because it really does mean they are maturing as scholars.

What about that awkward moment after graduation? The truth is, at that point I don't care anymore, though I rather like the courtesy when they ask "What should I call you now?" I usually reply, "Whatever you're comfortable with," which seems to work well. Some students like the affirmation of being able to call me "Scott" at that point, and a few awkwardly call me "Scott" before returning to "Dr. Nokes." Interestingly, I've noticed that the students I was closest to tend to call me "Dr. Nokes" after graduation, while others slip more easily into "Scott." In the few times I have met my undergraduate professors in the years since, I have called them "Dr. So-and-So," even though I'm certain they would not have been offended had I called them by first name; I simply want to show them the respect I hold for them still.

But isn't all this just a pompous windbag grasping tightly to the small benefits his office offers? I don't think so, because I was the same way in graduate school. I referred to all of my professors by title and hated it when they insisted I call them by first name. It seems to me that the insistence on the first-name basis obscures the power dynamic that defines our relationship. OK, so I can call you "John" -- does that mean you won't be giving me a grade at the end of the semester? It's a faux egalitarianism. I would rather call you "Dr. Jones" rather than pretend we are buddies hanging out for three hours a week.

Of course, all of these principles are affected by personality and relationship. I have one senior former colleague whom I still refer to as "Dr. Lee" because I sense that offering him that respect feels more like affection than distance to him. I now refer to my dissertation advisor as "Lissy" in address, but still refer to her as "Dr. Sklar" in the third person, which I suppose is my way of saying "I am fond of you, but others shouldn't assume that familiarity has bred disrespect." In the same way, I call my colleagues by first name, but always by title when talking about them to students. Even then, I avoid the titles "Mr." and "Mrs." about faculty, and refer to the non-Ph.D.'s as "Prof. So-and-So" to remind the students that I expect my colleagues to receive a degree of respect. Even then, though, there is an exception to this rule when we have married couples with the same last name and it becomes confusing.

Yet, somehow, I've never referred to any of them as "Cuz."

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Other Super Substances

In the previous post, I commented on my father's belief that Gorilla Glue will fix anything. A friend told me two days ago about how his mother used vapor rub for every kind of illness and injury as her only medicine. In the past, I've heard others talk about irrational beliefs in the power of WD40, Windex, duct tape, or Nyquil as cure-alls or fix-alls.

What other substances have you encountered that people believe are the solution to everything?

Dad and Gorilla Glue

In her blog, Safari So Goody (with the groaner slogan "Kenya dig it?"), my sister tells the story of my father and Gorilla Glue.

Her telling of Dad's current obsession with Gorilla Glue is accurate. Even worse, about half the time, he is right about how the Gorilla Glue works. The chair example she gives, for instance, is an actual event regarding a chair that I had been trying to repair for years. Every time I thought I had the chair repaired, within a week it would break again. Eventually, the wood at the point of the break had been glued/drilled/nailed so many times, it was more like sponge. The chair would not take another repair, so we called it "Daddy's chair," because I was the only one allowed to sit in it for fear that one of the children would be hurt when it eventually crumbled.

Then my father came for Thanksgiving and saw the chair. "Oh, you can fix that right up. All you need is a little Gorilla Glue." From the tone of voice he used, I realized that Gorilla Glue was his current obsession, so even though I figured it was a waste of time, I agreed to try to fix it with him. Besides, it was a father/son project just big enough that we could easily do it during his holiday visit.

I've got to admit, it worked. Now, most of the other things he recommended Gorilla Glue for either didn't work, or worked only as well as Super Glue would have -- but this worked really well. That chair was more solid than it had been when we first bought it.

Can these little obsessions be annoying? Well, sure. But when I think back to the various ones he's had through the years -- duct tape, raised bed gardening, a particular type of roto-tiller, his pick-up truck, getting a boat (I'm his only child old enough to remember that one), etc -- I realize that they were all basically harmless. I can't remember any of these actually being damaging (except to the pocketbook, perhaps) in the way that other obsessions might be. No drinking problems, no fixations on radical religious or political beliefs, none of that.

So, while we might sometimes inwardly roll our eyes when Gorilla Glue comes out, I suspect that years from now, when he is gone and we are old, his children will remember fondly these harmless obsessions. We'll be at a family gathering, something will be broken, and one of the siblings will say, ironically, "A little Gorilla Glue will fix that;" the rest of us will smile fondly and remember him ... and that chair will still be in one piece.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Tough times

As some of you know, I'm the faculty advisor for ISCO, the International Student Cultural Organization, which is essentially the club where international students and American students get together. It's a huge job -- I talked to a Troy staff member who was in ISCO some years ago, when there were only 46 international students on campus. Nowadays, if we hold an event and only 46 show up, we think it's probably a failure, since we've got hundreds of int'l students nowadays, and are pushing a thousand.

In violation of my own ban on Troy University related blogging, I thought I'd mention the losses we've experienced. In the last month, we've lost two international student who were active in ISCO -- one from Nepal in an auto accident, and one from Kenya to a health problem. Last night we held the memorial ceremony for our Kenyan student, and I could see that the double-whammy has taken a toll on our ISCO members.

It's hard, I think, for young people. They think they are immortal, and assume their friends are as well.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Welcome, Sister!

I see from Inside Higher Ed that we have a new medievalist blogger ... less than a month, and only six entries ... at Regaining My Faculties. Wes thu hal!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Paraguay es en Sudamerica

One serious drawback to being a textual scholar is that I find it hard to see text anywhere without some part of my mind analyzing it. Yes, unfortunately this includes restroom graffiti.

On a wall in my building, some scribe decided to immortalize the sentence "Paraguay es en Sudamerica" (accent inexplicably on the first "a" in "Sudamerica") for the viewing pleasure of our local defecators.

So, the question is ... why? The urge to use writing implements in the stall aside, why this sentence? Given the mis-placed accent mark, the person is unlikely to be actually from Paraguay, so nationalistic pride is an unlikely motivator. Was someone sitting there thinking, You know, I'd wish I were giving a geography lecture right now. I understand the "For a good time call" style of graffiti, but this is an enigma.

But the saga continues. Someone else read this and changed it to "Paraguay is in Sudamerica." Again, I find this change a mystery. Perhaps this is someone with an irrational hatred of Spanish ... why then not also change "Sudamerica?" Maybe they hate words that begin with the letter "E?"

The next change that followed was someone scribbling the words "is gay" over the latter half of the sentence, making "Paraguay is gay." Uh, what exactly does this mean? The previous manifestations of graffiti were odd and seemed to be without logical motive, but this sentence seems completely nonesensical. Does this mean that every person is the country is gay? Or perhaps males of the national bird of Paraguay, the bare-throated bellbird, feel attracted to other male birds? Or perhaps this meaning of the word "gay" simply means something bad, or undesirable ... why would someone in Troy, Alabama have a deep and abiding hatred of Paraguay?

This is followed by something scratched into the wall -- apparently, one of our interlocuters had no pen. The next phrase, with an arrow pointing to the "Paraguay is gay" reads, "You wish fag." So, apparently, the scratcher read the above and assumed it meant something about homosexuality (rather than general undesirability) ... and they imagined that some gay man previously sat in the stall wishing that the entire country of Paraguay were gay. I find it trouble to follow the imagination of this person: Well, look at that. Some fag was sitting here trying to think of what entire countries he wishes were gay, and he chose Paraguay. Well, I'm not gonna take that! I'm gonna strike a blow in defense of Paraguay's honor! Lemme just scratch, "You wish fag" here ... that'll show him!

Apparently, the most recent person to combine scatology and geography didn't care for that description of Paraguay as gay, because they squeezed in the letter "r" so that the sentence now reads, "Paraguay is gray," suggesting, I suppose, that many people in Paraguay are eligible for Social Security.

So, what has textual scholarship taught me? It has taught me that Paraguay is a country of geriatric homosexuals in Sudamerica. Perhaps that should be their new tourism slogan: Come to Paraguay, land of gray gays en Sudamerica!

And this is why it is sometimes a very bad thing to be a textual scholar.

Still just philograms

I'm finally back from Korea, and though my joints still haven't recovered from the 15 hours of immobilization on a flight, I got my first good night's sleep last night ... so I'm back to blogging. I tried to blog from Korea, but Blogger wouldn't let me.

The big disappointment for me is that I was unable to work in a visit to the Gypsy Scholar. I couldn't get my flights worked out to allow a visit to Seoul. I did manage to talk to him on the telephone, though, and can report to the blogosphere that he has a very pleasant, mellow voice. He was so easy to talk to that I ran up more than $15 on the rental phone minutes in one conversation.

It strikes me that I've never met any bloggers whom I hadn't previously met, with the exception of Sheri, but since she's here at Troy, I'm not sure she counts. Perhaps I should make more of an effort.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Living in the Material World

Joe Carter's recent post about "neism" (his coinage, I think), reminded me about a subject that puzzled my mind for some years ago. It has to do with paradigms and the material world.

For the sake of argument, let's begin with a given: All that exists is the material world. All material things have material causes, and nothing immaterial exists. There is no supernatural; everything is matter and energy (and no cheating by talking about "spiritual energy." We mean natural energy here).

Now, place humans into this material world. Human societies, without exception, have some belief in experience beyond the material. These may be shamanistic beliefs, or polytheistic beliefs, or monotheistic beliefs, or even atheist non-material believes, but all believe that the immaterial exists. Though a few individuals deny the existence of anything beyond the material, by and large these people are oddities.

OK, so here is the question: In this material world, how can people imagine the non-material? If all is material, then the immaterial is completely beyond the paradigm of humans (and other denizens of the natural world). For someone to imagine the immaterial when neither they nor anyone else has ever experienced the immaterial is rather like trying to imagine a fifth dimension -- it is something so far out of our perception that conceiving of it seems nearly impossible.

Some would answer this question, I suppose, by arguing that the belief in the immaterial offers some sort of material benefit -- i.e., somehow religion helps mankind in the evolutionary contest. By necessity this argument pre-supposes a natural cause for such beliefs, and their ubiquituous nature suggests evolutionary advantage. But just how the material can mandate a fantasy about an immaterial world is always left unexplained; how could primitive mankind (and near-humans such as neanderthals) contextualize such ideas? And, assuming they did, how could such ideas -- at odds with reality -- offer any kind of evolutionary advantage to the species? Wouldn't humans be better served by beliefs in material causes, even if those beliefs are wrong?

To put the question another way, let's use Plato's allegory of the cave. In the allegory of the cave, men sit in a cave and watch the shadows pass on the walls. From these shadows, they try to determine what the outside world is like. The philosopher leaves the cave, goes into the sunlit world. Plato's allegory of the cave is the father is Thomas Kuhn's paradigms. The solely material world paradigm, then, is rather like the allegory of the cave in which nothing exists outside of the cave, and no puppeteers cast shadows on the wall. Yet, for some reason, all of the prisoners in the cave falsely believe that they see shadows cast on the wall and postulate that this means something exists outside the cave. Or, to put it in a more Kuhnian form, people have formed beliefs completely outside of their paradigms (since an entirely material cosmos would not allow immaterial anomolies to fuel a paradigm shift).

What was the point of this exercise? Simply to point out that perception of an immaterial world is a common human experience -- indeed, possibly the common human experience. To argue about the state of the immaterial or supernatural is one thing, but to argue that only the material exists runs counter to human experience. How can denying that which all mankind perceives be considered wisdom?

All sorts of sites link to the Wordhoard: evangelical, Catholic, Jewish, various New Age, and all sorts of others. They disagree on what the shadows on the wall of the cave mean, but all can see the shadows. Let's not indulge the fantasies of the myopic few.

A Strange Sort of Pride

I'm feeling a strange sort of pride today. I noticed that someone had come to my site by googling the phrase "Why we need art." I clicked the link, and found that my post entitled "Why We Need Art" comes up as the fifth hit on Google.

Having a lot of traffic or a high ranking has never been very important to me ... but having the Wordhoard associated with the defense of art gives me an embarrassing amount of satisfaction.

Saturday, January 07, 2006


Last night, I opened my refrigerator to see that my iced tea jar was nearly empty, with only a tiny bit at the bottom. I looked up, opened my arms to the heavens, and shouted, "Nooooooooo!"

A Korean friend was in the room and started laughing, so I then shouted "Aniiiiiiiiiiiiii!", which I assumed was the Korean version of the same event. He laughed again and said, "no, we don't say it like that." When I asked how he said it, he thought for a moment and replied, "we usually say 'Oh nooooooooooooo!'"

I think he's right, because I can't recall ever hearing a Korean shout "Aniiiiiiii" or even "Aniyooooooo," but I can recall hearing shouts of "Oh nooooooooooo!"

There's something visceral about elongating that vowel in "no" that transcends English. Perhaps it is connected with how deep in your chest you produce it, or how much it sounds like a plaintive wolf howl. Does anyone know of other cultures where they prefer to shout the cry in English rather than their native tongue?

Friday, January 06, 2006


Having barely survived the first day of the semester, I'm still recovering. I've had lots to blog on, but not much time to blog it out, so today I'll throw out a bunch of random one-liners that I've been wanting to write on:

  • Civ 4 is terribly unstable (even with the latest patch), and terribly addictive. A friend called me the other day and began the conversation with "What time did you get to bed?" It was 3AM for me, 4AM for him.
  • In reluctant defense of Pat Robertson, in all the quotes (both audio and text) of what he said, I can't make out that there is any truth to the story that he called Sharon's stroke punishment for giving away the settlements. It seems to me that media folks are being unsurprisingly uncharitable in their interpretation of his remarks. Now, mind you, it sounds like the kind of thing he would say, but that doesn't excuse inventing an unfair meme.
  • Asking me after the first day of class, "Do you know where I can find an abridged version of The Odyssey? My friend read it, and said it was kinda a drag" is not the way to impress your professor.
  • Cutting class the first day is not a way to impress me either, especially if I already know you, and know full-well that you can easily find the classroom.
  • By the way, on the science front, I recommend revoking the PhD's of any holder of a doctorate who utters with contempt, "That's not science; it's philosophy." Er, what did you think the "Ph" part of your degree stood for ... how acidic you are? Perhaps you thought it was "pHD"? If you work in the field of science but denigrate philosophy, you aren't a real scientist at all ... you are a glorified lab tech.
  • The studio was right -- King Kong was about 15 minutes too long. Some of those characters should have been conflated. Otherwise, it solidifies Peter Jackson as the great filmmaker of his generation.
  • What's the proper balance between popular and specialized scholarly work? I'm still trying to work that out for myself.
  • The new Battlestar Galactica episodes come out soon. Good ... I need my James Edward Olmos fix.
  • I've never liked the medieval morality plays, but I was re-reading Mankind yesterday and was totally charmed by it. It is interesting how age can change your tastes.

[Edited for content at the request of a colleague (Jan 6, 3:15PM)]

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Semesterly Nightmare

"Why, oh why, haven't you been diligently blogging of late?" comes the cry of my regular blog readers. Well, OK, no one has really asked, but my traffic is down by about 2/3 over the last couple of weeks, nearly perfectly coinciding with the sudden dearth of posts.

I'll tell you why.

Many (Most? All?) professors have the same nightmare at the beginning of each semester: We go into the classroom on the first day and are completely unprepared. We are in the wrong room, are teaching the wrong course, have no syllabus, have the wrong books, etc. We struggle to muddle through, but the class just gets worse and worse.

This semester, the nightmare is real. I'm going to meet my class tomorrow, only to tell them that the University is sending me to Korea for the next week (which is followed by MLK Jr. Day), so class is cancelled for the first week-and-a-half. As of this posting, my Blackboard shells still have not been created, so they may not be able to download the syllabus. Turnitin will be down for maintenance tomorrow. A printing error in the paper version of the class schedule means that ALL students who use that as a reference (rather than the electronic version) will be in the wrong classes. To top it all off, we just found out that a computer error prevented most textbook orders from going through, with the books being ordered for only about four of the seventy-or-so general studies English classes.

Tomorrow I'll go into classroom knowing that the students are in the wrong class, have no syllabus, have no books, and will not meet with me again until after the last day to drop. So, posting has been light as I've been working to mitigate the damage as much as possible.

I would say "pray for me," but most of these problems affect the whole department, so instead I ask you to pray for the entire English Department that we don't commit a ritual mass suicide, impaling ourselves on poison pens.