Category Archives: silliness

The Dean and his Trophies.

This is a story that happened last spring, but since every morning I am gloriously reminded of it, I thought I might share it with you.

I have no real idea what our Dean does, except that occasionally he has to rubber-stamp decisions that have been made by our Chair.

This one time, he came to a meeting with the department during which he was very gung-ho about how we all had to hire students to do research projects for us. When asked where these students might work in our already rather cramped for space environment, he was momentarily stumped, but then suggested that perhaps they could be squeezed in to some of the cozy shared offices. You know, like during times when faculty were in class or whatever. One of my colleagues helpfully pointed out that maybe he could go fuck himself on that front. It might have been Prof Darwin, who, according to the previous Dean, has single-handedly turned our shared office into a fire hazard.

I whispered to my awesome chum that maybe since all the Dean did all day was go to meetings, he wasn’t using HIS office all that much, and so maybe these research students could use his office. Instead of, like, mine. Awesome chum immediately stuck up her hand and repeated my suggestion, attributing it to “anonymous sources”.

One other thing the Dean does is spend money. Last spring he spent an amount of money, large enough to be described as “inordinate” at a Faculty Council Meeting, on some trophies. And a case to put the trophies in. The trophies mostly involved expensive crystal, and the case a lot of glass, including glass fronts, and shelving. This is an important plot point. (FORESHADOWING.)

I don’t know about your campus, but on our campus, when you want to build something like a drop box for assignments, or a case for your inordinately expensive trophies, you have to go meet with a lot of people, including (I swear I am not making this up) the University Carpenter. Assignment drop boxes requested by regular faculty need to go to at least 3 committees, and the process takes enough time that “progress on the drop boxes” becomes a regular item on the Department Meeting Agenda. The Dean, having more time to go to meetings, manages to get through all the meeting hoops in less than an academic year, and in due course manages to get his trophy case carpented.

The case is strategically placed outside the Dean’s office, such that it displays the trophies in all their glory to anyone entering or exiting the elevator. You have to pass them if you take the stairs also, but elevator riders get the whole framing effect. Whooosh, the doors open, and voila, trophies. I have a gimpy knee, and the stairs have an annoying tendency to fling me down them, so I ride the elevator, and thus was witness to a good deal of the drama I am about to relate.

Over a period of some days in the spring, the trophy case was constructed. It did have a slightly fancy-ass trapezoidal shape, and hinges on the doors, as well as a lock (security, which was to prove ironic). The University Carpenting Team works at about the speed of me grading a bunch of essays, which is to say quite slowly with a lot of breaks for browsing reddit. During the time of the trophy case construction, they were also replacing the doors to one of the main buildings, a project they worked on for about an hour a day for 6 weeks. Thus there was plenty of time for the regular elevator-rider, going to work 4 days a week, to observe the progress of the trophy case.

Finally, there came a morning when it appeared complete, whereupon it sat empty for several days. Glue drying? Trophies getting a last minute polish? Who knows. (As it turns out, the pause may have been related to the guy who was meant to do the last couple of jobs going on vacay, or an extended lunch break. MORE FORESHADOWING.)

A few days later, then, I was enjoying a pre-class chat with my awesome chum, minding our own business, and heading leisurely in the direction of possibly getting around to going to class, when there arose an ALMIGHTY SMASHING NOISE. It was a noise like when you are in the bar and a barmaid drops a big tray of glasses, except it went on for approximately 3 times longer than that noise would go on. Like maybe there were 3 barmaids, and they each dropped a big tray of glasses one after the other, domino-style.

“Man, I am glad that is not my problem,” I said to my awesome chum, as I gathered up my books for class, and she concurred. We walked in the general direction of the elevator, in time to behold the Dean, standing amidst the ruin of the temple to his vanity; smashed glass all around him, and a sad, dented trophy plinth atop the pile, its crystal doohicky contributing to the general tower of destruction.

What had transpired, as I am sure you have gathered, astute reader, is that the glass shelves had been insufficiently secured to the sides of the trophy case. When the Dean, in his pride, had come out to place the biggest and most crystalline trophy on the highest shelf, the edifice had given way, and each subsequent glass shelf had increased the momentum of the avalanche of glass as they fell through one another and finally on to floor, which, in the event, was rather unfortunately hard stone tile.

To give you an idea of the magnitude of the smashing noise, when I got downstairs (3 flights down) to my classroom, the students in the room asked “Do you know what that giant crash was?” To which I answered in the affirmative. I also gave my permission for them to go and gawk at it, which a handful proceeded to do. “JFC” was the general consensus. Also snorts of derisive laughter.

Two hours later, when class ended, I went back upstairs, whereupon the elevator opened, rather like the curtain in a theatre, on a scene of the Dean berating an assortment of subordinates. The words “paid a lot of money for this to be built” were issuing from his mouth, along with a bunch of indignant sputtering. I loitered shamelessly to enjoy the show. When he got to the point of saying “AND I COULD HAVE BEEN SERIOUSLY INJURED” I could not resist a quiet “Dude” expressing chagrin at his hyperbole.

The broken glass was eventually cleared away, and the trophy case stood empty both of shelves and trophies for the rest of the semester.

On the second day of Fall semester, I was witness to the final act of the drama of The Dean’s Trophies, when the elevator opened on the scene of the Dean placing the replacement trophies on the renewed shelves. I lingered to watch him place the largest one on the top shelf, holding his breath, but sadly there was no repeat catastrophe.

The question on all of your enquiring minds, is, of course, “What does the Dean have trophies FOR?” If you are envisioning a mug with “Best Dean Ever” on it, I shall chide you for lack of grandiosity in your imagination. They are all chunks of glass (possibly crystal), or silver cups (safer, although possibly dinged up in the Grand Smash), set upon black plinths. The trophies bear titles, such as “Comprehensive Colleague,” “Outstanding Attempt at TeamWork,” “Most Improved Teaching” and “Best Attempt at a Beard”. The plinths all sport an array of shield-shaped silver plaques upon which can be engraved the names of the awardees. None of the shields is, however, inscribed with the name of any awardee, a fact which I find perversely satisfying. Kafka would get it.

A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, there was a fresh-faced, enthusiastic professor who spent a lot of time and effort developing a new course. This course was designed to teach her students about one of her passions – the internets – and how to read and write effectively in this exciting new medium. The professor was excited to teach the new course, and looked forward to sharing her knowledge with her students.

Because she was keen, and fresh-faced, the professor thought in great detail about her assignments, and, thinking about what she would most like to explore, if she were a student in her own class (oh brave new world, that has such self-reflexive ideas in it!), she designed a term project. For this project, students would participate in an online community of their choosing. They could pick a new community to join, or write about a community in which they had existing membership. The professor thought about the handful of online communities of which she was a member and how fascinating it might be to consider them, meta-style, with a particular focus on analyzing how people communicated in these online enclaves. She hoped her students would enjoy this, too.

Well, the semester started and a lot of them whined about “not being able to find a community”. On the internet? Were they joking? The professor employed her google-fu to help those poor lost babes, and after a couple of weeks, she stopped hearing complaints, and so she naively assumed, in her fresh-faced way, that things were going well.

Months passed, and as the end of semester neared, the professor began to look forward to her students’ reports of their adventures in cyberspace. Many of the reports were a little dull, which disappointment the professor bore with a brave smile on her fresh face, and she was rewarded by a small but significant number of gems in the pile of dross. There was the thrilling tale of the girl who had dared the wrath of the terrifying moderators of Neopets, the chilling tale of the young man who had banded together with a group of right-wingers to support a particular conservative pundit, and the hilarious story of the guy who had faced the wrath of an army of Starcraft players when he challenged their assumptions about strategy.

All-in-all, the professor was happy with her experiment in assignment-setting, although she had copious notes about how to improve the instructions for the assignments in the following semester.

However, there was one student who caused the professor a great deal of consternation.

When she had first imagined her assignment, the professor had shared the idea of it with some of her online friends. One of them, a wise old man with a long beard, had asked “what happens if one of your students wants to join THIS community and report on it?” The professor had professed that she thought the odds on such a thing were long, and that she would cross that bridge when she came to it. “It’s a big internet.”

None of the students who had told the professor about their adventures on the internet had mentioned any of the communities of which she was a member, so it came as rather a surprise at the end of the semester when a report from a student came in, and lo, it was on this very same community of which she was a member; the community run by the wise old man with the long beard. “How odd that the student did not mention it. Or me,” she thought to herself. For, in a not immodest way, the professor was a prominent member of that community.

As she read the student’s report, the professor found herself more and more confused. The report spoke of the community having rules the professor was not aware of, and conversely made no mention of major discussion areas and topics familiar to all members. The professor could not fathom what was going on. Was the student very unobservant and a poor reader? Had he really overlooked the areas of the community with the most conversation and activity?

She took her question to the wise old man with the long beard, and some of the other community members, including a curious weasel. They pondered for a few moments, and then the weasel piped up “You cannot see the busiest discussion areas if you are not a member of the community.” Could this be? Could the student really have PRETENDED to join and participate in a community? Was his report a fake?

The professor gave the student the benefit of the doubt, and emailed him, suggesting that he needed to add some more detail to his report; there was still time, as he had submitted before the deadline. The student responded that he didn’t understand this advice, and declined to act on it.

The professor then marked the report, commenting with a heavy heart, that since the student had manifestly not completed the quest to participate in an online community, she could not in good faith give him a passing grade.

The student responded rapidly to the professor. Not to prove her wrong, but to explain that he had been FORCED to cheat on the assignment by the community’s unreasonably high membership requirements. You see, in his wisdom, the wise old man with the beard required adventurers who wished to join his community to answer a number of questions, varying in wording, but all essentially asking the question, “Are you a moron?”

The student had proved himself unable to answer the question in the negative; first by failing the test, second by not choosing an alternative community on the internet with lower membership standards so that he could have completed the assignment honestly, and thirdly by attempting to deceive his professor with a manifestly falsified report.

Was he unlucky to happen on one of the handful of communities on the internet of which she was a member? Possibly, but his own stupidity was his ultimate undoing.

Jerks, a treatise in 2 parts.

As a feminist, I am constantly aware that the epithet “man-hater” is out there, ready to be flung, and for the most part, I agree that trashing men, guys or boys is not a productive act.


There are times when men act like sexist assholes, and then, you know, sometimes you have to call a spade a spade, or your head asplode. I therefore regale you with the following two tales.

1.  16th Century Anti-Feminism had a Point.

This one might need some context for you non-literary scholars, so bear with me. In the 16th Century, there was a lot of anxiety about the position of women in society, which often expressed itself in men ranting about women, as in the case of the always-charming John Knox and his First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. Also, and likewise, various other chaps took it upon themselves to write treatises to women about their various faults. John Donne, for instance, was particularly niggled about the inconstancy of women, which he apparently knew a lot about because he was sleeping with so many of them, according to his poetry.

So. In my literature survey class (which is pretty much a Dead White Guy class, by its very nature), we read a bunch of this stuff, and then, in an attempt to have a bit of balance because it does get a bit tiresome for we womenfolk to inhabit this historical pre-feminist space, we read Aemilia Lanyer’s poem, which has the inflamatory title “Eve’s Apology in Defense of Women”.

Well. Apparently, according to one male student, this poem should not have been written. Lanyer should shut the hell up, because HOW DARE SHE criticize men. Men who have done nothing to warrant such criticism, especially not make sure women have no right to vote or own property, and who have only written HUNDREDS of anti-feminist works criticizing women both individually and as an entire sex.

Now, lest you think that this student was just some kind of sexist jerk, let me assure you that he appended to his excoriation of Lanyer the comment: “N.B. Because of political concerns, let me assure you that I am not sexist”. What a relief. See, the problem with Lanyer was the finger-pointing. Criticizing men is not the way to achieve equality, ladies.

I responded to the student saying that while I appreciated his concern not to appear sexist, that if I judged him on his written opinion, rather than his assurances, that there really was no other conclusion I could come to. (In other words, “yeah, you are”.) Well, he conceded, the problem was, reading Lanyer in the context of the 20th century, in which (and this will be news to you, I am sure) there is no gender inequality, her criticisms of men have no value. Lanyer, he said, offended him, “because of all the reverse sexisms men have to endure these days”.

So that’s me told. Including female authors in proportions of roughly 1:4 in a survey course is a “reverse sexism”.

2. Disrespect as a way of controlling uppity females.

So, in my online course, there’s this student who is kind of a jerk. Unlike 90% of the students, he posts responses on the discussion forums that are shallow and thoughtless, and generally written in a kind of malformed text speak. He generally gets no marks for these, although I am not sure he is aware of that.

When he submits electronic assignments, he uses the “Comment” field on the submissions form to write such erudite comments as “asffrgarewyqss” and “this is stupid” and “ha ha the prof in this course is so lame”. After the second one, I wrote back “I CAN SEE THIS”, but apparently he never looks at his returned work.

I am not sure he has ever been to the in class portion of the class. Maybe once? Anyway, he turned up last class with a friend who I didn’t recognize either, and proceeded to talk through the start of the first student’s presentation. Now, talking over presentations is something I have no tolerance for, because I know those poor dumbasses are shaking with nerves as it is, and while I am inured to rudeness, it can make some presenters really fall apart.

So I got up (they were at the back of the room and I still heard them, which gives you an idea of the volume of the talking), and went and told them to get the fuck out.

They did not leave until I had asked 3 more times, stopping the presenter while they left the room. After they were out the door, another student asked “Are they even in this class?” so I think general opinion was on the side of the booting.

So it turns out that the kind of rude guy was one of these two students (which one, I have no idea, and the other one is silent, so maybe he ISN’T even in my class) emailed me to complain about how my kicking him out made him “loose” participation marks, “even tho I did’nt do anything wrong”. Note the lack of apology.

I replied pointing out what I thought he had done wrong, and also pointing out that he had the opportunity to participate in the online portion of the activity.

His response was a lengthy explanation that included the points, “that chick hadn’t even started her presentation and she was talking about Harry Potter, which is stupid,” the inappropriate comment was meant for jokes, because he was not aware I could see them, and he was planning to drop the class, and that I have an grudge against him now.

It was a virtuoso piece of rudeness, containing as it did, disrespect for me, the class, my lack of humour, my perceived pettiness, and the stupidity of all my endeavours. Of course the thing that stung the most was that he was PLANNING to drop the class, but DIDN’T.

Now, if you are a chap reading this, you may say, well, okay, granted this student is disrespectful, but his disrespect isn’t obviously about gender. While this may be true, on the surface, it is also the case that this is a male student making his contempt amply clear, and that female profs, if you ask them, experience this kind of contempt with a lot more frequency than male profs.

Sunday afternoon trolling Omegle.

For those of you who don’t know it, Omegle is this chat site where you can go to talk to a random stranger. The idea is that you just chat anonymously, and I think it started out as kind of a social experiment. Of course, in practice, the majority of chatters are horny young men hoping to find a girl with a webcam who will then go on MSN. Whether there are any such girls is unknown, but the HYM appear to live in hope.

If you enjoy making fun of strangers, or just being silly, you can troll it fairly amusingly by asking people their IQ, responding only with the titles of Beatles songs or book titles, telling teenagers to watch out for pedobear, or saying you are male and watching how quickly people hang up.

You: Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret.
Stranger: What are you wearing Margaret?

I played around for a while asking people to tell me something they never told anyone else.

Stranger: hi
You: Tell me something you never told anyone else.
Stranger: i had sex with a dog
Stranger: we did it doggy style
You: On the internet, no one knows you are a dog.
Your conversational partner has disconnected.

Basically the fun that is to be had is fairly limited unless you like messing with people (which I do), but occasionally you get a gem.

Stranger: I’M OUTTA MANA
You: Are you in the right place?
Stranger: WHAT?!
Stranger: OF COURSE I AM!
You: You know, are you standing on a mana source?
Stranger: I AM!?
You: Dude, it is so the Den of Sorceresses.
Stranger: *looks down*
Stranger: I’m not a dude 😡
You: Oh, well, then welcome.
You: I was worried I was going to have to demand an offering of blood.
Stranger: Well, actually
Stranger: That’s why I’m here.
Stranger: 😐
You: For blood?
Stranger: Yes.
You: Okay, Unicorn, Troll, or Human?
Stranger: What are you?
You: I am the one who has a supply of blood to sell you.
Stranger: I want yours.
You: Mine?
Stranger: Yes.
Stranger: Please? *gives puppy dog eyes*
You: I offer you unicorn blood, and you want mine?
Stranger: Yes.
Stranger: Yours is the one we need!
You: You need a snake-human hybrid?
Stranger: YES.
You: What’s in it for me? And don’t be all “riches beyond your wildest dreams”.
Stranger: Riches beyond your wil–
Stranger: Oh.
Stranger: Uhm…
Stranger: Well, you will give life to the ultimate being
You: I am tapping my foot, I mean, tail, here.
Stranger: and he will grant you whatever you want.
You: No, no, YOU have to give me something.
Stranger: Well, what can I POSSIBLY give you?
Stranger: Good sir.
You: SIR?
You: WHAT?
You: Now I am utterly offended.
Stranger: Madam?
Stranger: It’s hard to tell with your snake head…:|
You: It’s not my head that is the snake half.
You: Haven’t you ever seen a mermaid?
Stranger: Oh my!
Stranger: I have not, good serpent.
You: Well, you have the whole half and half thing a bit upside down.
You: So, back to what you are going to give me for a vial of my blood.
Stranger: A vial?!
Stranger: PAH!
Stranger: I need more than that.
You: Unlikely. One drop is enough for the most powerful of purposes.
Stranger: I don’t believe you.
Stranger: This is not information I was told
Stranger: I was told to take 2 pints.
You: Yes, but you are clearly ignorant, with your whole “I have never seen a mermaid” confession.
You: I bet this is your first heroic quest.
Stranger: IT IS NOT
Stranger: I AM LEVEL 80
Stranger: SPECIES: ELF
You: You probably still have a wooden sword and a green hood.
Stranger: Excuse me?
Stranger: I sword?
Stranger: A*
Stranger: A SWORD?!
You: You’re right. It is more like a dagger.
You: Or a kitchen knife.
Stranger: I don’t USE a melee weapon!
Stranger: I have a bow.
Stranger: DUH.
You: How do you propose to get these 2 pints of blood out of me, then?
Stranger: Kill you.
Stranger: Plain and simple.
You: What, by hitting me over the head with an arrow?
You: Okay, so you turn around and walk 20 paces away from me.
You: With your back turned.
You: Are you going to survive to turn around and shoot?
Stranger: I’m not stupid D:
Stranger: I’M ON TO YOU
Stranger: *eyes you*
You: You know, while we have been chatting, I have been entwining my serpentine tail around you.
You: Are you finding it a little hard to breathe?
Stranger: WHAT?!
You: I can just flick the tip of my tail, and now there is a leetle bit of poison in your blood.
You: Feeling sleepy?
Stranger: Wha…..-_-
You: I might just grab your heavy purse with my spare hand.
You: Thank you for your custom.