Would you like fries with that?

Posted by on 04 Nov 2004 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Yesterday was a really shitty day.  Bush won (more about this later) and I was personally attacked for everything I had ever done wrong in the class I TA, 1020.

In this three page memo, I was told that I was shirking my TA duties, not showing up for the meetings and not proctoring enough of the said exams.  The students have four exams.  There are three sections of the exam.  During two of these times I teach 1020 lab.  Am I supposed to teach lab or proctor an exam?  Proctor I guess, since that is what is more important here.  This memo went on to blame me again, for things that I thought were already discussed, I was already disciplined for, and I thought were put to rest.  Well that’s what I get for assuming, it makes an ass out of you and me.  Mostly me at this point.  

Issue One:  Meetings – As for the meetings, see my blog post “It’s always been this way…“ about that.  These meetings are at noon on Mondays.  I have class in Lincoln until 10:50 am on Monday.  It takes about an hour to drive back to Omaha.  This means that if class gets let out late, or the construction is especially hideous I am late for the meeting.  They supposedly knew this at the begining of the semester, but it is now the end of the world because I missed last Monday’s meeting. 

Issue Two: Blatant disregaurd for my duties – I missed lab on Saturday, it was as my husband put it, an honest mistake.  I set the alarm for nine, well class starts at nine.  Now I am being irresponsible.  I thought that things were already cleared up about this, I got yelled at on Tuesday about this when I got yelled at for missing the meeting.  Assuming, again. 

Issue three: Student endangerment – My first semester teaching, I had a fist fight in my class room.  Unit nine is the evolution unit.  A very Bible oriented individual and a very atheistic individual got into a fight.  They obviously did not see eye to eye over this evolution unit.  This was four semesters ago.  At the beginning of the evolution unit I show a film called crerationism vs. evolution.  This film interviews a scientist that does not believe in evolution.  He is in the camp that thinks the Grand Canyon was formed in a matter of weeks.  The film goes on to show the museum in San Diego, the Scientific Creationist Museum, that displays the theory of everything being created in seven days.  BTW the exhibit for the seventh day is a park bench – the day of rest.  Then the film interviews Steven Gould who is very, very pro evolution to the exclusion of all things spiritual.  If you don’t know who Dr. Gould is, he wrote several books, his last one is called the Panda’s Thumb, in which he describes the evolution of the panda’s thumb from a wrist bone.  He says, “…if God had made the Panda from scratch, He wouldn’t have done such a crummy job…”

This has been a very effective way for me to introduce this unit.  I know it’s effective because my teacher evaluations, even from the first semester, list that film as something the students remember most about that class.  Well four semesters later, this three page memo said I had endangered the lives of my students and disrupted the learning process by showing an unapproved film.  When I went to get the film approved, the coordinator did not want to see it, she told me she trusted my judgment about its appropriateness.  Well now it’s unapproved.

Issue four: Not following curriculum – see my blog post “It’s always been this way…“ about this.

Issue five: Missing seminar – Seminar is this hour every Wednesday at noon in which the grad school community gets together and listens to someone give an hour presentation about his/her research.  Before grad students are given their degree they have to give one of these seminars.  Well last semester I was scheduled to teach 1020 lab from 11am to 2pm on Wed.  Does anyone see a problem with this picture?  I am now in trouble for missing a semester of said seminar.

Issue five: Insubordination – Two semesters ago, there was a fire in my classroom.  The hot plates we were using had to date back to the 1800s.  I was doing a demonstration in which I had to heat beakers of oil and water in order to show how the cell membrane worked.  The hot plate under the oil caught on fire.  The coordinator in her infinate wisdom, locked the fire extinguisher in her office, because “it looked too ugly hanging on the wall.”  When the fire started she came out of her office and proceeded to help by jumping up and down and yelling fire.  Oh that is real helpful!  Then she proceeded to try and throw water on the fire.  Water on an oil fire, oh there’s a great idea.  So I told her not to.  Had to block her from getting to the water faucet.  I put the fire out with the fire blanket that’s in the hallway.  And so now I’m in trouble for insubordination.

Issue six: Not following procedure – This semester I had a student who tried to eat some agar cubes.  They are bright pink and look like jello.  They get soaked in HCl to make the color go away.  This little exercise is supposed to teach the kids about diffusion and surface area.  Well this student ate an agar cube that had been in the HCl.  I called poison control.  I did not follow procedure by a) not informing my students of the hazards of eatting and drinking anything in the lab and b) not finding a professor or “grown-up” in charge before I called poison control.  Now that is a swell idea – spend ten minutes running around the building trying to find someone in charge to ask for permission to call the poison control center.  Sure not following procedure, sure whatever you say “grown-ups”…

The memo goes on.  I was just shocked.  I have a meeting today with all the higher ups about these issues.  I am so going to win that fight let me tell you.  When working as a manager at McDonald’s sounds a lot more appealing than being a TA something is WRONG!  Here’s to higher education and tying to make a difference – would you like fries with that?

Welcome to Nebraska… Here’s Your Sign…..

Posted by on 27 Oct 2004 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

One of my students called me today from jail to say that she could not be in class because well, she was in jail.  Being the scientist that I am, I asked what for.  She told me that she owed the government $66.50.  You heard it here first folks, $66.50!


When she moved here from Florida she got pulled over for not having proper tags and registration.  She had the reciept from purchasing the tags and registration, but the actual tags and registration were coming by mail to her house.  A ticket was issued anyway.

One month later….

The other night she got pulled over for making an illegal U-turn on Dodge (you can’t make U-turns on Dodge between 10pm and 6am).  Another ticket was issued.

She went to court today to take care of these and was arrested because she had a warrant out for her arrest over the tags and registration!  (I guess that is a felony….yeah that makes sense to me)

She had a warrant out on her for a month and the government did not bother to tell her!  They knew where she lived obviously because they were sending the tags and registration to her house.  When she got pulled over for the U-turn incident no mention was made of the warrant.  They arrested her and threw her in jail when she appeared in court.  Well, needless to say she was um… how do you say beyond livid?  The judge (after accusing her of lying about not knowing about the warrant) finally told her that she could a) spend three days in jail or b) spend one day in jail and pay the $66.50 that she owed.  She chose option b of course.  It probably cost at least twice that in court costs and processing fees for her arrest.  There is a serial rapist still on the loose in Omaha and they arrest her over $66.50.  Our tax dollars at work.

Welcome to Nebraska….Here’s Your Sign….

“It’s always been this way…”

Posted by on 19 Oct 2004 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

I have been teaching the same class for four semesters now.  The curriculum never changes because “that’s the way it has always been.”  Some of the lab materials are actually dated 1975 and refer to audio cassette tapes!  (Roll eyes here)  So, I really think by now I know what I’m doing.  Every semester we have a weekly meeting about the next unit in this class.  It accomplishes nothing and last semester I was the only one (out of eight ) who showed up for this meeting most of the time so…   O.K. fast forward to this semester.  At the beginning of the semester I gave the coordinator a list of two dates in which I would miss the meetings because I had a lab field trip.  These absences were approved by her.  Last week I get a seven paragraph letter about missing these meetings, not talking with the instructor, not fulfilling my TA responsibilities, being unprepared to teach the sections in question, about the expectations of TAing this class, letting the students down because I was not prepared, and a paragraph about how all of this was unacceptable behavior from a veteran TA.  Sigh.  I miss two meetings WITH permission I might add, and suddenly the world is coming to an end. 

O.K.  more on the being prepared part. 

The schedule of this class is FUBARed.  Some units are split up into two weeks.  Part one, one week and part two, one week.  Well, I teach lab on Wed afternoons and Sat mornings.  Part two of this lovely set-up always (for four semesters now) always falls after the lecture exam for that unit.  When they get to the lab during week one, part one, there is this huge sign telling them that they have to have part two done before they take their lecture exam for that unit.  Their lecture exams are on Tues or Wed mornings.  Does anyone else see the problem here?  Part two, week two is scheduled after their lecture exams!!

O.K.  So  I do both parts of the unit before their lecture exam because if I was in their shoes I would be ticked off at this schedule.  I am the kind of teacher that tries not to do to my students what ticks me off when my teachers do it to me.  I have gotten in BIG trouble for doing this because I am not following curriculum.  Oh HELLO!  Did you not read your own signs?  The students appreciate my foresight.  The bueracracy doesn’t.  “It’s always been this way, we can’t change it now.”  (Definitely roll eyes here)  The other TAs do not do both weeks before the exam.  I know because trust me, I hear about it.  Is following the schedule being prepared?  Is following the schedule not letting your students down?  Is following the schedule following curriculum?   Well if following the schedule is all of those things, I think I will continue to be unprepared, let my students down and not follow curriculum.  The students at least appreciate it.

Here’s your sign….

Posted by on 06 Oct 2004 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

The title of this blog comes courtesy of the comedian Bill Engval.  His routine or gimmick is to hand a sign to every person that asks a stupid question.  For example, my favorite one is:

A guy was in the mall parking lot with a coat hanger in the window of his car.

  Stupid question = “Did you lock your keys in the car?” 

”Nope, just washed it and I’m hangin’ it out to dry.”

Here’s your sign…


Now all of us are guilty of this from time to time.  However, some people take it to extremes.  The people watching Mt. St. Helens erupt don’t just need signs, they need billboards.  People how dumb can you be?  This is a volcano that was said to be dormant.  Dormant, meaning no activity.  In 1980, it blew 3/4 of its top off, killed 57 people, spewed ash that was detected as far away as China, and devastated the ecosystem.  An ecosystem that is just now beginning to recover. 

My husband said the scientists say that this eruption will be far less extreme.  Meaning what?  It will only blow half its top off?  Only kill 47 people? What do they mean by less extreme?  These scientists have admitted that they do not know where the magma is inside the volcano.  They have admitted that they do not know when the eruption will occur or what type of eruption it will be.  They even have said that mother nature can be unpredictable.  I would not be anywhere near that volcano right now.  The lookout point is reporting record tourist numbers.  People are driving hundreds of miles to see this volcano.  What are they thinking?   When the gas that is coming out of the volcano is hot enough to melt steel, count me out.  I will stay in Nebraska thank you very much.  Here’s your sign…

Grammar wars…

Posted by on 23 Sep 2004 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Today in my class “The Professional Biologist”, we were discussing grammar and its use or lack thereof.  It is no big secret that I do not have good grammar but I don’t think I ever got into a thirty minute debate over it. 

The class started out with the following joke:

A panda walks into a bar.  He sits down, orders food, then eats it.  After he is finished, he stands up, pulls an UZI from his pocket and shoots bullets into every wall.  Then the panda leaves.  The bartender, who is noticeably upset, runs outside after the panda.  The bartender asks the panda what the hell that was all about.  The panda tells the bar tender that he looked up panda in the dictionary that day.  The dictionary definition says: panda – a bearlike animal that eats, shoots and leaves. 

We all had a big laugh.  The point was the use of a comma in that sentence makes a big difference in its meaning.  So…

As biologists, we have to write many sentences using amounts.  Fifty grams was measured and tested for…  When writing about an amount of something, the amount is always considered singular, even if it is fifty grams.  Fifty grams were measured and tested, is grammatically incorrect. This sparked a rather lively debate.  Nicollette was confused and wanted clarification.  Doug said, “You don’t say I have fifty pounds of chickens in my freezer.  You say I have fifty pounds of chicken in my freezer.”

Nicollette shot back, “Well if I have live chickens in my yard and their total weight is fifty pounds, then I would say I have fifty pounds of chickens, not just fifty pounds of chicken.”

We went through hogs, dogs, kittens, gorillas, atoms – you name it.  I don’t know who won.  I suspect they are still fighting about it. 

We had another debate about word pairs.  Word pairs like effect and affect, which and that, mitosis and cellular division, etc…  They were really getting angry about this.  Taylor said that most of us only have a seventh grade level of grammar and how exactly are we supposed to improve on it when no one agrees as to what the rules are?  That did it.  We talked about being educated, joining the elite, paying attention to what we say, reading books about grammar.  It was basically a Taylor bashing session.

All I know is that I am supposed to go around saying These data are and Fifty pounds was to keep my usage correct.

The conspiracy of hoops….

Posted by on 20 Sep 2004 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

I have said it more than once, Grad school is a hideous experience.  You  have this rather long series of hoops to jump through and sometimes you have to build your own equipment just to reach them from scratch.  My current hoop is at the top of Mt. Everest soaked in gasoline and set on fire.  My husband pointed out to me that there is less oxygen at the top of Mt. Everest so that at least there was less fire.  Well maybe that is the whole point!!!  A grad student will not think of this very essential detail  beause he is so busy building the ladder up to the hoop.  When they finally get to the hoop it would be frozen solid and they would be stuck up there with no flame thrower.  So they climb back down the ladder get the flame thrower, climb back (probably having to repair a few thousand rungs on the way) and find that the flame thrower does not work,  Why?  Well because a very essential element of the fire triangle is missing!!!  So then they have to climb back down the ladder.  At the bottom they will proceed to run around everywhere asking other gradute students how they got through this hoop (OH! So Sorry that’s classified, if we tell you our next hoop will be twice as hard as it is now).  Ok.  So as it is with every hoop you go begging your major professor for guidance.  You have this hour long conversation in which NOTHING is accomplished, and finally you are pulling your hair out wanting to wring his neck and go, “You’re my advisor so advise me!!”  After ten such conversations over the period of months, you either a)give up and try to get by on your own OR b)have ten more conversations….

Now because I came down my ladder before actually reaching the hoop the first time (because you see my loving husband advised me about the hazards of this hoop) they decided in their infinite wisdom that I was not going to get off so easily.  When I got to the bottom all the pick axes in town had been replaced with the following: Jennie we have scheduled a meeting for today at Noon in the conference room.  Be there.

Great.  Just great!  Of course I get this message at 11:30am on the same day, so whatever I had planned is irrelevant.  I show up at the meeting and they tell me that my major professor can no longer be my major professor.  WHAT?!?  He is dean of graduate studies they tell me, and it’s a conflict of interest.  I tell them that I was grandfathered in before he became said dean and…

You can just imagine how the rest of the meeting went.  But wait, there’s more!!!

Not only did I lose my major professor, but another member of my committee moved to another school.  So I have NO comittee, NO major professor, do not pass GO, do not collect two hundred dollars… 

Back at hoop one.  But at least I got my pick axe.

Plants do not have math

Posted by on 12 Sep 2004 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

I do not post as often as my husband Joe does.  I really don’t have time and well it doesn’t appeal to me as much.  However sitting here doing Physics for the 12th straight hour today has got me a little loopy.  (I was a little loopy to begin with but that is neither here nor there)  Physics is math – plain and simple – no ifs, ands or buts.  I do not do math.  Plants do not have math.  (They actually do when you are talking about tugor pressure, but no one cares about that except physiologists)  I am an ecologist.  The plants I work with do not have math.  They certainly do not have any motion in any direction and they are vectorless.  I really do not care that velocity and speed are different.  For me they continue to be the same thing, how fast one is going.  This whole bs about direction is absurd.  You can’t be going 35m/h without going in some direction.  However scientists being what they are, which is off their gourds, love to put things in little bitty categories.  I admit that ecologists have their categories, but at least those categories make some semblance of sense.  Forest vs. Prairie vs. Wetland.  Simple.  No direction what so ever.  Latitude and longitude maybe but no direction that goes into the board or out of the board (that z direction thing).  Then there is the whole order of magnitude problems.  Ok. Look people when my husband thinks that a problem is bull shit I am in serious trouble.  He understands vectors.  He is in California right now with his fellow geeks doing geeky things I do not even pretend to understand.  His brother called today and asked to talk to him.  I told Jon that Joe was off in San Jose being a geek.  Jon didn’t ask for clarification he knew what I was talking about.  Jon also understands vectors.  I asked him about these order of magnitude problems and Jon said that they were difficult.  Difficult?  Oh yeah, difficult.  Thanks Jon, like I didn’t know that already.  Sigh.  Now that I have vented I better get back to motion in any direction.  Sigh…

What part of YOU ARE A COMPLETE MORON do you not understand?

Posted by on 19 Jul 2004 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

I hate working with stupid people.  My boss is a complete moron.  Today a customer complained that there were loogies on the floor of the steam room.  My boss looked straight at her and said, “What are loogies and what are they doing in the steam room?”  I had to bite my tounge until it bled to keep from laughing my head off.  I was waiting for her to ask me me if the loogies had shown a picture ID to get into the club (more on this later).  The customer needless to say, was awestruck.  She asked my boss if she was serious.  My boss proceded to brush her off and be rude to the next forty people who came in.  Now since I know what loogies are AND that the customers supply my paycheck I decided NOT to brush this woman off.  I proceeded to tell her that I would have the matter fixed immediately.  I picked up the phone and dialed my boss’s boss.  I let the customer talk to him.  Big Boss was not happy.  He shows up and made my boss clean and disenfect the steam room.  The funny part was when my boss actually tried to tell him that she really had no clue what a loogie was and that the customer in question was upset about the ID policy.  I had to leave the building.  I could not help myself.  I laughed until I cried.  The ID policy is that before you can enter the gym you have to show a valid picture ID.  I have to ask people I know and have known for years for their picture ID.  Not only is this absurd, but it is bad customer service.  My boss has a 16 year old son, she asked HIM, her own son,  for his ID yesterday and I about fell over.  This woman needs some serious help, maybe I’ll suggest the loogies in the steam room….

The effects of dust on exercise…

Posted by on 30 Jun 2004 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

I work in a gym at the front desk.  You know answering phones and making sure people don’t steal the treadmills.  Lately I have added a new hat to my resume, dust seargent.  I am literally supposed to go around and look for any signs of dust.  I am 5’9” and if I stretch my arm out to it’s full length and stand on my tip toes I can reach the windowsills where the evil dust doth layeth.  I had to give a full written report about the dusty situation to my boss.  No one is ever going to see this dust, but the inspectors from coporate marked  us down for our gym being, and I quote, “filthy; establishing a healthy exercise environment should be your number one priority.”  Forgive me but I did not know that the dust on the windowsill was the cause of my not recieving the full healthy gym experience.  I was chalking that up to dying every time I got on the stair master.  Pretty soon I am going to have stand in the entryway with a garden hose and a bull horn - excuse me but you have excceded the daily dust allowance of this gym be prepared to be hosed down.

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