Category Archives: anonymity

A Grabbag from my Email Inbox.

So, semester started, which means I already have a series of hilarious emails from assorted snowflakes, which I am of course willing to share, for the lulz.

First, we have the common or garden “I am going to miss the first 3 classes because I will be still on vacay in Mexico with my parents” email. This one never ceases to appall me, even though I get at least one a semester. There are a couple of things that make this kind of email elicit a WTF response. One, of course, is that the dates of the start of semester are not secret, and so what kind of parents are these, who jeopardise their child’s academic success for the transient enjoyment of some kind of hedonistic beach vacation, during which, odds are, family members bicker constantly, possibly even about Junior’s grades last semester? Two is, why do these morons think telling me they are lying on the beach is somehow something I want to know? I am slaving away getting up before the crack of dawn in order to hand out course outlines to slack-jawed yokels who will lose them by next week. Don’t you think I want to be lying on a beach somewhere drinking margaritas?

The next email, or “eamil” comes from a dude who is clearly in the right place in English for the Backward, but needs all the class time he can get, couch or no couch. I quote, for your delectation.

Hi my name is Flakky Snowflak. I’m in your class on mondays and wensdays.
I will be in class this monday but im going to  miss tomrrow becuase
i’m sick and I can’t stop couching. Please eamil me the course outline
and any homework you assin tomrrow.
my eamil is

He’s polite, I will give him that; most of them don’t say “please”.

Finally we have the email from the student who thinks I am incompetent. Already! Some background: there’s this software, possibly designed by a committee of Hell’s least competent demons, called “Blackboard”. It is “Courseware,” whatever the hell that means, and its supposed use is that it has a series of functions to support academics who are teaching at post secondary level. The word “supposed” here is key.

An example of Blackboard’s functionality I experienced just this week, when I contacted the teaching support goon at our institution:

Me: So, hey, I had this hip and groovy idea to do a short weekly podcast for my students, you know, announcements, things they missed, stuff like that.
Goon: That sounds very technology-forward of you.
Me: So can I do that in Blackboard at all?
Goon: Theoretically, you should be able to, but we are finding that the RSS feature doesn’t actually work very well.
Me: What does that mean, exactly? As in, with regard to implementing my idea?
Goon: Well, you can upload the mp3s to Blackboard, and then you can email your students and tell them to download the mp3 and figure out how to play it.
Me: [stabbing self in back of hand with plastic fork I am using to eat my lunch] Kthxbai.

It is experiences like this, along with the fact that the parts of it that do work annoy the hell out of me (like the gradebook. Do I want my grade-grubbing students to be able to see their marks to 2 decimal places at any hour of the day or night so they can come bug me about them? I do not) that have caused me to abandon the use of Blackboard, in favour of a nice simple blog where I post helpful information and links. No, not this blog, gentle readers; I laugh heartily at your pleasantry.

I explain this whole blog business to my students at great length, putting the blog address on their course outline, showing it to them in the first class, and linking to it from their college computer account thingummies. I say, “I do not like Blackboard; I will not use it, Sam I am,” incorporating jokes, dance moves and music to reinforce the message. Despite this, I get emails like the following, and no doubt will continue to get them throughout the semester.

I was looking on blackboard and it doesn’t list english 18th literature
as one of my classes on the right side. Should I contact someone to fix it?

The thing I really like about this is the snotty undertone, with its suggestion that somehow the student has more authority to get my course sorted out than I do. I offer you here my fantasy response, since in real life, I can’t put in the swears.

Dear Snotty McSnotterson,
Did you come to the first class before you decided to micromanage me? Your question indicates either that you are too stupid to understand plain English, even when a statement is repeated 3 times, twice orally and once in writing, or you an arrogant bitch who is emailing me with complaints about the way I decide to run my course without even bothering to attend a class. Either way, fuck right off.

Man, that felt good.

Back to responding to the emails about whether I will be attending “Meet a Prof” night at the pub – god, no; whether I prefer a 10am or an 8am meeting – duh; and whether I can manage without my textbooks for a couple of days because they are lost in the mail, or fell off the truck or something – experience having been a harsh mistress in this department, the answer is, yes, because I now routinely assume my students won’t have texts until week 3 of semester.

What I did in Reading Week

SJ has been nagging me about blogging more (which I totally mean to do, and then she writes brilliant posts like this, so I read them and then hang out online and hope she will notice me), and there was a post about “Hai guys, what r u doin’ fer Spring Brake” on RYS, and the two collided in my mind. So here is my list of what I did on Spring Break, aka Reading Week, since it is waaaay to early for actual spring, here.

So my break started with DeKalb, which made me outraged, and sad, and I thought about writing something about it, but I think I said everything I have to say about it once before, unless I want to write a rant about gun control, which currently the spirit does not move me to do.

StepLadder is preparing for her RADA exam in a few weeks, so this week has involved taking her to ballet about a bijillion times, which normally means I get to sit in the lobby and knit, or gossip, or both, but this week we also had viewing week, which means I got to watch the ballet teacher, Miss Lilly, work her magic. This woman is a brilliant teacher. She is terribly strict, and she works the children hard (in the class which was late on a school afternoon, a couple of the girls wanted to sit while they watched one another’s groups because their legs were tired, and Miss Lilly said, “suck it up; you are a tough dancer”), but she does it with grace and humour, and the right amount of praise. Most of the girls (there is one boy, but come on) adore her. The best testament to her genius is that even surly teenagers who were taught by her still clearly respect and admire her. StepLadder listens in her class and visibly tries to do what Miss Lilly wants every second she is in that room. As we were walking out, she was still practicing her skip, and asking me if her toe was in the right place. It’s a great inspiration to see someone who can get that level of effort out of her students.

I read and prepared for my classes next week, in a leisurely way, and marked midterms. These offered a very clear divide between those who had done the reading and had something sensible to say, and those who had not, and did not. Marking provided very little hilarity or entertainment, although there was the gem from the chap who maintained that The Tempest could not be read as a text about colonisation because Caliban married Miranda.

I spent some time catching up on and following this business about Anonymous and the Co$, which I find fascinating, and may well write something more informed about at some point. For those of you who are all, “Wait, whut?” SJ has a summary on Blogher. For those of you who, like me, are more in it for the lulz (as Anonymous say they are, which would totally make me side with them, if I did not already), you can get all you need to know from this video.

Other things: I made a learned to use the video editing software on the mac, a bit, and made some videos of StepLadder disappearing, to amuse her; I edited a very silly video for a friend and bullied Feckless into doing the soundtrack; I wrote a silly story for another online community I am involved in (and NO, I am not linking you); I got caught up on my sleep; I watched a bunch of Muppets episodes because I got Season 1 of The Muppet Show on DVD for V-Day; I knitted quite a bit of a lace shawl; I played some games; I caught up with some friends and family, and I wrote this post. Things I did not do: get my hair or nails done, or any significant housework. All in all, an awesome week. I feel refreshed for the battle ahead.

On spiritual kindred, or kindred spirits.

I’ve been having a tough time emotionally lately, and for various reasons I haven’t really wanted to talk about it much to my Real Life colleagues and family members. In the spirit of not using my blog just to whine about Feckless and his Mongolian Floozy, I am not going to talk about it here, either. What I really wanted to write about was about the nature of online friendships, and how interestingly intimacy and anonymity interact.

I’ve developed some really interesting online frienships with people I know from a particular forum; I liked what they had to say, and maybe we also hung out in chat together, or exchanged messages or emails. These friendships are based originally on a meeting of the minds; they are with people who are so separated from me in age, or geography (or both) that there is no way we would have met, let alone become friends in a real life situation, but that impossibility is part of what makes me treasure these intimacies. I pick these people to be friends with because we share some essential similarities – they make me laugh; they make me think about stuff; we don’t need a history together, all we need are common interests and philosophies.

In real life, we meet people, and we share experiences, and we have some stuff in common, but often, I find, with real life friends, you make allowances for opinions and personality traits that piss you off. My best friend at university was a vet student who was great fun, but gradually became less and less of a kindred spirit as time passed and the things I dismissed as her annoying quirks became more and more central to her personality. Sometimes we hang on to these kinds of friends – I only really dropped the Vet because I moved to a different country. If we still lived in the same city, we would probably still hang out occasionally.

Work friends you like because of proximity, and for me, because I like to exchange ideas at work, and I spend part of my day hanging out. Apparently, this makes me “a good colleague,” according to my Chair. I like the a lot of my colleagues, but I also know that if I quit my job tomorrow, I would never bother to talk to the majority of them again, and I wouldn’t feel that as a huge loss.

Online friends for me are a matter of pure choice. There’s no social obligation attached, really, and people come and go much more freely than they do in real life (big showy exits are more frequent in online communities, but so are quiet, creeping returns). Silence is much more common, and sometimes its hard to know how to interpret it – if your real life friends hang up or stop calling, it is a big deal, but online friends might just have had computer trouble or borken internets.

People who don’t have an online social life say stuff like “but how do you know if what they tell you about themselves is true?” which is a fair point in evaluating friendships according to real life criteria. However, I’m quite happy to have a friendship with an online persona, and not trouble myself too much about how true it is to the “real” person. If your persona is much more fun and interesting and intelligent than your real self, I think maybe that says something about the quality of “real” life, rather than something about honesty.

We all create online selves; we reveal what we want to reveal, but if what you show me of yourself is something I like, why should I be too worried about whether you are a married mother of 4 who claims to be a younger woman or a single 30-something who pretends to be an old guy?

Likewise, maybe the quality of the support network offered by online friendships is not the same as “real” friends who bring you icecream or help you move house, or babysit your spawn when you are desperate, but on the other hand, I have felt hesitant about talking to my “real” friends who have known me forever, and always seen me as part of a “perfect” couple about Feckless’ shenanigans. Online friends, with that relative degree of anonymity, can be excellent listeners.

I never really believed in that old saw about how it is much easier to talk to strangers than to people you know, but I think it is easier to talk to people who don’t have to know all the extraneous details of my life, who don’t know Feckless, and who can perhaps also bring a degree of objectivity (or a degree of “rah, rah!” if that is what is needed) to the situation.

Which is all a roundabout way of saying – e-pals, I really appreciate your support. SJ, Surely, Lorelei, witch, reggiko, Annan, and yes, even Pescado: I appreciate your friendship. Readers, I appreciate your potential friendship; feel free to say hi.