Monday, May 28th 2007

Role model, or object lesson?
posted @ 8:16 pm in [ ]

I got a nice email from a random undergraduate student today, as I do from time to time. She’s very bright and articulate, doesn’t feel like her current program is a good fit, and is contemplating going elsewhere. She’s right: the right program is incredibly important. I found that out the hard way. I had some mighty dark days in D.C. in The Wrong Program, and it took me a while to recover from the experience. It reminded me of the font of useful advice I have for just about anybody, based on the millions of horrible lifemistakes I have made.

The basic difference between a role model and an object lesson is this:

A role model is supposed to be a good example of how, when you are good, good things happen to you, and this behavior should therefore be emulated. An object lesson is an example of how, when you are bad or stupid, bad and stupid things happen to you and that behavior should therefore be avoided.

The more specific differences are these:

A role model gets into the program of her choice the first time, keeps a 4.0 average, blows through the program in record time, and generally thrives in a well-rounded way. An object lesson marries for love, takes 15 years to get through three different graduate programs, each of which is disastrous in its own way, accumulates educational debt that is roughly equivalent to her mortgage, and becomes bitter husk of her former self.

A role model has a perfect career path, gets every raise and bonus, and gets stellar performance reviews. An object lesson sometimes works four different jobs to make ends meet, doesn’t get a career until well into adulthood, makes it all up as she goes along, and sometimes gets fired and becomes notorious on the Internet.

A role model has a white picket fence, 2.3 kids who play soccer, and a dog that smells like Obsession for Men. An object lesson hasn’t worked out the kid-having thing yet, even though she barely has enough eggs left to create 2.3 kids, hates soccer (except when they yell, “Goooooooooooooooooooal!”), and has at least three cats, which is an excellent start on the 87 cats she may later have if she’s not careful.

A role model retires and joins the Junior League. An object lesson never reitres or joins jack, because she can’t afford it, but tries to stay fit so she may continue to have the option of being a pole dancer well into her fifties.

A role model never leaves the house without looking her best. An object lesson shoots for being clothed and sanitary, and claims to be a “natural beauty,” as if having forgotten to put on makeup or matching shoes was a conscious fashion choice.

A role model does a great deal of volunteer work and routinely gets awards and the grateful recognition of polite society for doing it. An object lesson only does thankless work for which she is not being paid.

A role model, if she partakes, steps outside to tastefully smoke a light Virgina Slim. An object lesson lights her smoke using a match she strikes on your zipper. She considers this a vast improvement over her grandmother, who uses your shoes as a spitoon when she dips.

A role model meets nice new friends in church. An object lesson makes new friends in bars, prison, and OTB.

A role model is someone you bring home to meet your mother. An object lesson is someone who motivates your mother call an exorcist for both you and her home the minute she arrives.

A role model gets nice compliments from nice people. An object lesson is aware of her nice rack because she has been alerted to it by barflies.

A role model has a very well-kept home and regular tea parties. An object lesson has dust bunnies that, legally speaking, may no longer be evicted without due process. She trains them to get her beer, because court sucks.

Friday, May 25th 2007

Words of wisdom from my mom about the creative process
posted @ 8:48 am in [ ]

My mom sent me this delightful verse. Sound advice!

Ars Poetica by X.J. Kennedy (from Peeping Tom’s Cabin: Comic Verse 1928-2008) The goose that laid the golden egg Died looking up its crotch To find out how its sphincter worked. Would you lay well? Don’t watch.

Thursday, May 24th 2007

Positions still open in the Evil Lair
posted @ 2:50 am in [ ]

For those of you looking for an evil opportunity, a few are still available:

Evil Real Estate and Development
Are there volcanoes available for development, or will we have to build our own? How many antennae can we put up? What are the neighbors like? These are all things we need to know, and the right candidate will be able to tell us, as well as supervising larger (possibly underwater) projects.

Evil Personal Valet
Do I have an evil pen on me that’s the kind I like? Is the evil purple vampire cape I’d like to wear tomorrow cleaned and pressed? What pathetic dogooder are we feeding to Sharkey Sharkmeister, Mister Grumpy Gills and Huck Fin later? I can’t be bothered to keep track of all these things. I’ll need an evil bodyman.

Evil Housekeeping
…and you shouldn’t be too squeamish. You never know who or what is going to have to be scraped off the walls and ceilings of an evil lair.

Sunday, May 20th 2007

Really, really, really finished
posted @ 7:56 pm in [ ]

I finished the revisions to the dissertation beastie. I think I have to try to get it published, because in writing it, the problems with my field stopped being funny to me and started getting a lot scarier. I think any new idea ought to be considered, and if I have one, I have a duty to put it out there for consideration. It can only help. For this permutation, though, here are the final stats (including footnotes):

Title: Violent Societies: Theory and Methods for Tracing the Patterns of the Lost Violent Monoply Pages: 689 Words: 220, 152 Characters (including spaces): 1,372,904 Paragraphs: 5,271 Lines: 22,746

You know what I’ve been asked a lot, and I still have no idea how to answer? “How long did it take to write it?”. Technically, one enters the dissertation phase after comps, which I passed about six years ago. I didn’t really launch right into the process, though, and it took me a few years, while working full time and getting a committee on board, to get my prospectus (research proposal) together and approved. Once my prospectus was officially approved, it was a little less than two years before I defended my dissertation. I would say that I did the bulk of the writing in less than a year, though. It was a slow start, probably taking me about 6 - 8 months between setting up the document by slugging in my prospectus and really getting rolling, then the rest of the project wrapped up a lot more quickly. Basically, the first couple of hundred pages took as long to write as the last five hundred, so I guess technically, the latter part was almost twice as fast. So yeah, not linear. None of those answers seems satisfying to the askers, either. Maybe I’ll figure out a better answer at some point.

It feels weird to be finished.

Friday, May 11th 2007

What do to with a busted-ass TV?
posted @ 11:38 pm in [ - ]

It’s like this: My old TV bit the dust a while back. While it has been replaced, it has also been sitting around in the carport, as if we are shirtless, shoeless, toothless, birth-control shirking hillbillies like the neighbors, and It Must GO. Here’s the problem, though: I can’t throw it out without forking over a bunch of cash to the Trash Pirates, because it’s too big to fit in the rolley trash bin.

But you know me. I’m a frickin’ optimist, and I like to see problems as opportunities. Here are the top five opportunities I’ve come up with thus far:

  1. Drop it off a building and put the now-smaller found pieces in the rolley trash bin
  2. Skil Saw (TM) performance art
  3. Trebuchet missile
  4. Roast it, either by bonfire, or ideally, local crematorium
  5. Go at it with a 20-pound sledge while shouting profanities about The Man

But those are just preliminary thoughts. A busted TV that’s too big to go in the rolley trash bin doesn’t come along every day, though, and I want to do something really fun with it. Thoughts?

Friday, May 11th 2007

My goofy topologist joke
posted @ 9:09 pm in [ ]

I dig topology. Basically, it’s just the stretching and squishing of shapes. The idea is that, since a shape can be stretched or squashed into any other shape, the only thing that really matters is that how many holes it has. A donut and a coffee mug are essentially the same from a topological standpoint, because they each have only one hole. Now, I told you that, so I could tell you this:

Q: What’s the definition of a topologist? A: Someone who can’t tell his ass from a hole in the ground, but who can tell his ass from two holes in the ground.


Monday, May 7th 2007

Hot Nerds Society
posted @ 10:10 am in [ - ]

In light of the responses to some recent postings, I feel compelled to tell you that I’ve been considering starting a sort of club. Many years ago, it occurred to me that I actually knew a bunch of nerdy hotties, and that they all felt kinda socially misunderstood in a lot of the same ways.

Cash Tower, for example, was conceived by a screamin’-hot astronomer/physicist of Norwegian extraction whose loves included sharp parody, vegetarianism, live jazz, social justice, and good beer, and who rode his bike everywhere he went. So: hot, funny, successful, smart, interesting, possessed of an impressive bike butt, among other fine qualities. I knew several women who were suitably impressed, but none of them asked him out. Why the hell not?! I could get them to confess they wanted to wear his ass as a hat, but they claimed to be too intimidated to try. “He’s a guy,” I would urge, “What is he going to do, say no?” My friend Tim was a computer nerd trapped in the body of a porn star who didn’t know how to date anyone he actually found interesting. I had other friends who were always settling, whether by downplaying their attractiveness so they would be taken seriously intellectually; or dating people they weren’t really compatible with; or just feeling sort of different.

I think there should be a place where hot nerds can go to hatch entertaining plots, have good conversations that don’t make the other person look like he just ate a bug, plan and take field trips, get and offer understanding personal and project-oriented advice and support, and just generally be unapologetically saucy and clever. Want to talk about how the M.I.T. Museum makes you all tingly? Here’s a sympathetic audience! Want to go to a dance club for an anthropological experiement in whether you can get any and need a wingman research assistant? You bet! Want to plan the hack to end all hacks, but can’t quite puzzle out how to get the goat to drive the police cruiser? Somebody here can probably give you a hand with that. It also gives us all the opportunity to crush those limiting stereotypes. We could raise money with a calendar containing hot pictures as well as pithy quotes and jokes supplied by members.