Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holiday Wishes, Denied and Delayed

I cannot say how incredibly touched I am, after reading one of McGill's student newspapers--the McGill Tribune:
Check out second from the bottom on the left side.  The first part is a very sweet wish, but one that I cannot grant.  I am already quite committed to moving on to my next position, but appreciate the sentiment.  In making the decision to move on, the most significant force pushing in the direction of staying here was my admiration for the students here.  Alas, the new opportunity presented so many reasons pushing in the opposite direction.

Regarding the second one, well, my first thought is: I wouldn't want to do a book version of my blog as that would mean word limits, editing and other inconveniences.  Plus then it would not be free--someone who have to pay for it.  But then I realized that the interest in a book might be referring to something I have been thinking about for quite some time: A Yankee on Ice: An American's Observations of Canada and all that is Canadian.  I have been thinking about writing a non-academic book about all the things I have learned during my time in Canada and in Quebec.  Some of these have appeared from time to time in my blog, so I may actually satisfy this holiday wish but not during this holiday season.  That would be the book after the book (what does the war in Afghanistan tell us about Canada) after the current book (NATO and Afghanistan).

Anyhow, the McGill Tribune gave me an early holiday present, and I am most grateful.

Aqua Ultimate

I have seen frisbee polo, which is ultimate played by folks on bikes, but never have I seen anything like this:

Imagine a few boats, a few bridges, and voila: ultimate water polo....

Whine Du Jour

Lots of profs are whining on facebook, twitter, blogs and elsewhere about writing letters of recommendation for undergrads seeking to go to law school, grad school, or whatever.  The process has mostly been computerized, so that one gets an invite via email to go to a website, fill out a form and upload a letter.  So much better than the old system of having print out heaps of letters, stuff envelopes (if the students provided them) and perhaps filling out by hand each form for each letter.

But the systems still have bugs--there is no one common web-based form/site, so each one asks somewhat different questions, they usually require inputting information about myself that they don't need (like street address, phone number, etc. when all contact can be and usually is by email if at all). 

I think profs get into this business expecting to do little paper/grunt work.  This expectation then leads to disappointment, especially when the number of students applying to grad school seems to explode (well, no jobs, so why not?) and the number of places to which they apply increases.  Moreover, this current generation of profs is increasingly skeptical about the wisdom of sending heaps of students off to law school or grad school, given the respective job markets.  So, we whine.

Still, it is better than it used to be--I hated all of the paperwork that was actually paper.  Keeping forms and envelopes straight, filling by hand (or stapling business cards--I never did get a stamp) my address info that they didn't need.  We need to remind ourselves that despite the proliferation of aspirants, our side of the process is easier than it used to be.  Sure, it can get more efficient, but we do have it better now than it was five or ten years ago.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Schadenfreude Returns

A running theme of the Spew has been pleasure at the suffering of others.  Hey, I am honest about it.
Well, how about this:

H/T to KS for his facebook posting plus the observations he attached (what a mess, Santorum is brown, what a mess).  

I have enjoyed the train wreck that is the Republican primary process.  If there was ever a party that deserved such awful candidates, well, it is the one that prefers the US to lose than to have Obama have any successes.  So, I am most delighted.  Of course, just because each of these guys and gal are tainted by all of their collective stupidity and pandering does not mean Obama is assured of a victory.  Hardly, given the economy and the likely Euro-induced tailspin, but this table reminds me of a salient fact that I had to shout at my family during the Thanksgiving weekend (as much as I hate talking US politics with my family):*

There has not been a single vote cast or delegate decided yet.  All
the surveys are, well, if we quote George RR Martin, "wind."  Nothing has really happened except for a few candidates imploding (Herman Cain's unintentional comedy parade may be ending this week).  So, we have a horse race that has essentially past the first pole but not much beyond that.  Each primary/caucus will cause the media to spin in a different direction, and those things actually distribute something (delegates, I think, in addition to unkeepable promises, pain and suffering).  So, I would like to ask the American media to chill the tabernacle out.

*  I hate talking US politics with my family not because they are right-wing but because they are all on the same part of the political spectrum (left or center-left) and proceed to have loud, repeated discussions about stuff where they all agree.  One of the gifts of the election of Obama was that it stopped the talk about the 2000 election.  I tended up teaching a bunch of my very young nieces poker about seven years ago as I was watching the World Series of Poker to avoid the annual gnashing about the election Bush stole.

Anyway, let's enjoy the schadenfreude song as the GOP candidates burn.