Sunday, December 28, 2008

Weather watching: ur doing it rong.

Me: "Look at that rain!"
Geekman: "Yes, I'm watching it on the rain radar."
Me: "I'm watching it OUT THE WINDOW."


Geekman: "Are you ready to go for that walk yet?"
Me: "It's still raining!"
Geekman: "Not really. The rain radar says it has basically stopped."
Me: "The window says otherwise, but if you think it's clearing, we could go in a few minutes."


We're outside. It's raining on our heads. That is to say, I have an umbrella and appropriate clothing. Geekman is wearing a t-shirt and shorts and getting soggy. He keeps pretending he wants to cuddle, but really he's trying to steal my umbrella.

Me: "The rain radar says you don't need an umbrella."
Geekman: "I don't. It's practically stopped."

The rain increases in intensity.

Me: "Let's just go back to the house."
Geekman: "Good plan. We could stop there briefly on the way to the rest of our walk."
Me: "See, you DO want to get an umbrella and a raincoat."
Geekman: "No, I just need to check to see whether the rain is clearing yet."
Me: "It's not!" (Drip, drip, splash.)
Geekman (sighs): "On the RADAR."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Fa la la la la, heh heh heh heh

We have a stranded American physicist coming over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. I'm thinking it's a great chance to do really weird things and convince him they are Australian Christmas traditions. (He is taking revenge in advance by promising to bring a pumpkin pie.)

So, what are some exciting new Australian Christmas traditions I haven't thought of yet?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I'm not sure if this is more "boy who cried wolf" or "lecturer (me) whose evilness comes back to haunt her"

I was just talking to a colleague and she mentioned a student essay that was just handed in. This might not sound so weird to those of a Northern Hemisphere persuasion, but down here semester finished in OCTOBER and now it's mid summer and Christmas and all.

My colleague mentioned the student's name—let's call him Stu—and I was all, "Oh god, that Stu. I had him last semester and I have never seen a bigger pile of lazy, excuse-manufacturing, plagiarising shit."

Colleague merely raises her eyebrows, so I take that as a cue to keep whining. "He didn't show up until three weeks into the course. Was late to every class. Didn't hand in half the assignments. What he did hand in was 100% off-topic or plagiarised or both. Had a medical certificate for everything: 'Stu cannot sit exams. It makes his eyes hurt. Please find alternative assessment.' 'Stu cannot wipe his ass as he has extremely short arms. Please make sure ass-wiping is not a necessary skill in this course.'"

"So anyway," I continue. "I hope he had a REALLY good excuse for handing in your essay two months after classes ended."

"Well..." begins Colleague, "He did spend the last few weeks of semester in hospital for open-heart surgery. And he has had a lot of complications during his recovery. He said his heart problem has been an issue all year and that he's missed a lot of class and work due to it. I thought it was only fair to make allowances."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Clearly we have different definitions of 'formality'

Geekman: I think my talk at [conference] went pretty well. But I'm worried that it was maybe too informal.

Me: Informal talks are great! I much prefer to listen to someone talking about their research like a real live person than someone standing stiffly behind a lectern and reading off a script.

Geekman: Maybe... but all the same, next time I think I might wear shoes.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

At least this way I can imagine it was a charity I actually support

Me: "I just talked to my mother. She said she didn't know what to get me for Christmas and kind of ran out of time, so she donated some money to a charity instead. But she's forgotten which one."

Geekman: "It's the thought that counts... The problem is, she doesn't think."

Saturday, December 13, 2008

We grovel abjectly and automatically

I just got the following email from my bank:

Dear customer,

On 24 November 2008, you were incorrectly charged an overdrawn fee on your account. Please be assured that this error was corrected within a 24 hour period and any associated fees have been reversed.

We sincerely regret this matter and unreservedly apologise for any inconvenience it may have caused you. We have taken all the steps necessary to return to the highest levels of reliability and service that you are used to from NetBank.

This is an automatically generated email advice.

Is it just me, or is the combination of "we sincerely regret this matter" and "this is an automatically generated email" a bit of an oxymoron?

Friday, December 12, 2008

In case you're really stuck for entertainment

I just imported a whole heap of stuff I wrote in 2007 into this blog. They were teaching-related posts I put on another, more anonymous blog at the time, and some of you probably read them over there.

If you didn't, and you're stuck for something to read, you'll find them now posted here under the label "teaching", and on dates ranging from July to November 2007.

The generosity of the first half of the second sentence in this email overwhelms me

In related news, we had the following email from our administrators recently:

Dear casual employees,

Due to our recent funding shortages, we are no longer able to pay overtime. You may continue to work after hours and on public holidays if necessary, but please fill in your time sheets as though you haven't.


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

For some mysterious reason, I am angry all the time lately

Actual conversation:

Person from the Research Office: "Hello, I'm calling about your application for a teaching innovation grant."

Me: "Hi. Yes, thanks, I received your letter saying I was unsuccessful."

PRO: "Well I wanted to follow up on this. Basically we thought your proposal was a great idea and really important. I think you should go ahead and do it anyway!"

Me: "Without funding?"

PRO: "That's right."

Me: "Well, you see, I'm not actually employed to teach the course in question. The grant application was a joint proposal between me and the guy who IS teaching it. He was willing to let me develop the materials I mentioned, paying me from the funds we applied for."

PRO: "But, you know, it's so important to have interactive online materials for modern courses. And it sounded like yours would have been very effective."

Me: "I agree. That's why we APPLIED FOR THE GRANT."

PRO: "So, you should contact one of our Educational Designers. They might be able to give you the technological assistance you require to develop those materials."

Me: "I don't require technological assistance. I require to be paid some money. So that I can afford my rent. And not have to spend all day diagramming sentences for Microsoft.* [Okay, those last two sentences might have just happened in my head. Not in the actual conversation.]"

PRO: "Your plan was to develop, um, a class blog, right? And wiki?"

Me: "No. Not a blog. The main materials would have been interactive online environments where the students could play around with some real language data, which we were going to digitise from simplified versions of people's fieldwork. There would be built in hints and guidance for exploring it, and relating it to the readings and lectures. [Thinking: if you had actually READ my grant proposal, you would have known this.] We were going to set up a wiki alongside this, so that the students could collaborate on their analyses."

PRO: "Right. A wiki! Yes, wikis are great! So, how about you contact the educational designer I mentioned? She'll show you how to set up a class wiki. It's very easy to do, so you probably didn't need all that funding you applied for anyway."

Me: "I'm hanging up now. Goodbye." [Okay, that last line was just in my head too. Instead I politely re-explained why I wouldn't be pursuing this project (BECAUSE I DO NOT HAVE A JOB HERE. IT IS NOT MY COURSE) and eventually he went away.]


* Looks like this might actually be my new money earner. Big. woo. hoo.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Geekman the Romantic

"I missed you while I was at my conference."

"I'm surprised you had time to miss me."


"Well, you were so busy, and all your friends were there."

"But you're a different class of friend."

"I'm classy."

"You're the thief class."


"You steal bits of me... Like my heart."

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Compare and contrast

Geekman has just been away at his centre's big annual conference. Let's compare these conferences with OUR big annual conference, mkay? (For the sake of fairness, I'll compare the situation for full time ongoing faculty in our department with the same in his.)

Locations of our big conference the last three years:
2008: Sydney (inner city)
2007: Adelaide (inner city)
2006: Melbourne (inner city)

Locations of his big conference the last three years (actual town names left off, in case of identifiability):
2008: Luxury Australian beach town; famous Australian wine region
2007: Famous New Zealand adventure/skiing resort; famous NZ tourist centre
2006: Famous Australian beach resort region.

Yes, his conferences tend to be multi-location. I.e. it's the same people and topics, they just move location halfway through in order to get to spend time in more exciting places.

Amount of funding/expenses covered

Our department: each faculty member is generously given $200 per year to spend on a conference of their choice! (It might just about cover a registration fee.) Accommodation, transport, meals, other expenses are all covered out of one's own pocket.

Geekman's centre: everything is fully covered. Accommodation, transport, some food, registration, is all paid by the centre. Even for grad students. (As a comparison, one of the grad students in our department was recently INVITED to give a talk at a prestigious conference in the USA, but the dept still won't give her any money towards her expenses.)

Conference amenities

Our conferences:
  • Discounted internet access (e.g. only $20 a week instead of by the hour).
  • Some free canapes and wine at book launches, of which there is usually one or two per conference.
  • If you are young enough, you can probably buy coffee and food on campus at the discounted student price, if they forget to check ID.
  • Sometimes there's an official conference welcome session with a little food, but it's always run out before I fight my way to the front of the queue.
  • Our conference dinners usually cost $40-$60 a head, excluding drinks.

Geekman's conferences:
  • Free coffee and wireless internet from an espresso bar during the day.
  • Free canapes and wine every evening at poster sessions.
  • The conference dinner is paid for by the centre.
  • Sometimes free lunch is included.

And of course the thing that rankles most:

The conference bags

Here's what they gave out at Geekman's conference this year:

Admire, if the photo doesn't obscure it too much, the heavy canvas, the strong zips, the stylish design.

And here's mine:

Yes, it does indeed resemble one of those $1 canvas shopping bags. But it's not quite. No, this is MORE FLIMSY than the shopping bags I use. If you hold it up to the light, it's actually see-through. However, mine contained a PEN. I don't think the physicists got pens. DID YOU, physicists? No. Hah.

Awesome. N'est-ce pas?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

I won something on the internet!

I won I won I won I won I won I won!

Blogging is SO not an unproductive waste of time. It can win you nerdy baby items*. And fame. And stuff. (Okay, so maybe not so much with the fame. But I bet there are now at least three extra people in the world who know my... pseudonym.)

Go me!


* Which I'm going to interpret as a sign** that things will work out for Claudia and Rob. Otherwise I wouldn't have anyone to give these to and would have to keep them all for me to stroke and gloat over. (Which, actually, wouldn't be so bad either...)

** Even though I don't believe in signs.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

How not to respond to emails: crazy person edition

Dear colleagues,

I am compiling the centre's newsletter, and would like to invite you to email me details of any recent news or publications to include. It would be greatly appreciated if you would format your publication details using an author-date bibliographic system, so that I can just copy and paste them into the newsletter.

Colleague X

Colleague X then forwarded me people's responses to this email, as in reality I am compiling the newsletter, not her.

These are actual COMPLETE responses:

1. "Can you put in the details of my tone thingy from last year?"

2. "Wasn't there a student who finished in April? You should include his dissertation."

3. "My paper with [Colleague Y] will probably be published soon."

4. "You could write something about my grant."

5. "Don't forget my conference paper from [Big Conference earlier this year]."

Monday, December 01, 2008

Note to self:

Dear Self,

Even if you are nervous about the contents of an email, reading it with one eye closed and the other only half open is not actually going to make it less frightening. That only works for horror movies.

For email, it just makes things blurry.