Sunday, September 26, 2010


We just caught a student who had posted flyers around the department(!) asking to buy an essay for one of her classes.

Problem is, she hadn't had any takers yet, so hasn't actually committed the crime. Can we "prosecute" her (i.e. kick her out) for planning to cheat? Time will tell.

I think an elaborate sting operation would have been more fun, myself.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tragic, but necessary.

Yes, I did just add a new category to my blog, and went through back-labeling posts. It's called "what the fuck is wrong with hairdressers?"

This is why I only go to the hairdresser once a year

Hairdresser: "After this cut, I'm off for the day. I'm going to go to the supermarket and buy a family-sized block of chocolate and eat it all by myself."
Me: "I'm impressed! I think I'd feel awful if I ate that much chocolate at once!"
Hairdresser: "You mean you'd feel guilty? Because of cheating on your diet?"
Me: "Oh, no, I just mean I'd feel sick. I'm not on a diet."

She steps back and looks me up and down. "Really? Huh."

Then, five minutes later:

Hairdresser: "So, I'm moving house right now, and it's so stressful."
Me: "I know what you mean. Do you live on your own, or share?"
Hairdresser: "On my own."
Me: "Well, then at least moving doesn't mean worrying about whether your new housemates will be crazy people, huh?"
Hairdresser: "Crazy people? Oh, like Chinese or something?"
Me *blink blink*: "No, I mean CRAZY* people."
Hairdresser: "Oh, like gays."
Me: "What??? No! Like people who steal your underpants or label the toilet paper or insist that you vacuum the cat or something."
Hairdresser: "People like that are probably druggies. You have to watch out for druggies."
Me, carefully: "Uh huh?"
Hairdresser: "Yeah, my mum's a druggie."
Me: "Oh, really? I'm sorry. That must be hard."
Hairdresser: "Yeah, like she's on these anti-depressants and vitamins and stuff. The doctor prescribes them, but it's just as bad as pot or meth, you know?"

File under "not going there again". Which is sad, because she did a cute cut:


* Like hairdressers, for instance.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Father knows best

This is old news, but it never fails to completely amaze me, when I stop to consider it, what the grant-awarding body who funded our current project considered "necessary" and "unnecessary".

Our project, anonymized slightly for Google avoidance, is basically the following:

1. Create innovative database that no one else has tried to build before, with exciting mapping interfaces and automatic language reconstruction tools.
2. Find all historical and current data ever on [huge topic] for any of 1000 languages and enter them into this database (a.k.a crucial but mind-numbing research assistant drudge-work).
3. ...
4. PROFIT!!!

(Okay, you can forget about #3 and #4. I couldn't help myself.)

Anyway, guess what the grant organisation decided to cut from our budget? (Because, given the nature of the project as described in 1 and 2, there's clearly no need for these items at all.)



1. Our entire programming budget.
2. Research assistants.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

The elves and the shoemaker: academic version

I'm currently collaborating with someone on a joint grant application. She has an amazing amount of energy and enthusiasm, so that ideas and drafts(!) just seem to keep bubbling out of her at a rate I can't keep up with.

It's a little awkward, in that I have between half an hour to an hour per day that I can afford to devote to this project, and it takes about that long each day to catch up with reading the stuff she sent me since the last time.

The wonderful thing, though, is that there's a time difference of 8 hours between us. (She is based in Germany.) That means I go to bed each night, and when I get up in the morning, sitting in my email inbox are 10-20 pages of writing that magically happened while I was asleep.

I have to find a way to make this happen with all my projects.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Scheduling committee meetings... by committee

This post at Bardiac's reminded me of a committee meeting yesterday.

We were just winding up and the usual question, "When shall we three we eight meet again?" was asked.

"I'm away for a couple of weeks in October," said one person.
"Which weeks?"
"All of them. And November."

"I'm away from next week until October," said someone else.

"What about our [slightly overlapping but not really the same committee] meeting on Monday?"

"Oh, no, I'll be around for that. So I guess we could talk some more about the issues we didn't get to today on Monday."

"Will everyone be at Monday's meeting?" someone asked.

General agreement.

"Well then, that seems like a good solution."

Just as we finish clearing off the table, some bastard helpful soul pipes up, "So we're meeting before Monday's meeting, then?"

And yes, it was generally agreed to have a pre-meeting meeting on Monday.


Saturday, September 04, 2010

Thirteen - uh four - ways of looking at an earthquake

Conflicting reports about the Christchurch earthquake:

"Strong quake ay bro?"
"Yis bro, pretty strong."
"How strong would you say bro?"
"Strong as bro. Strong as."

My father (via email):
"You will hear that we've had a rather large earthquake in Christchurch (7.4). Just to let you know I’m okay. Couple of book cases fell over and china cabinet – so had to clean up broken crockery and now need to restore order to my library. I see on Facebook that most of my friends are bemoaning disorder to their book shelves. Better get back to work and clean up things – keep finding things that have fallen over. Hope you are well."

A sensible friend (via email):
"The only damage in our family was a broken mirror. Don’t trust what you see on TV – it’s mostly brick buildings in the inner city (which has been sealed off) that have been badly harmed, and even there it’s mostly the same buildings shot from different angles. Outside the inner city, it’s just chimneys and windows. And burglar alarms rending the night."

My mother (via phone, crying):
"It's so scary! And I couldn't sleep all night because I sat at the top of the stairs waiting for aftershocks! Because my roof might have fallen in! And I won't sleep tonight, because I don't think I should go upstairs until it's all over! And I'm so frightened! And I can't leave town because another earthquake might happen when I'm in my car and a bridge might collapse! And I'm too scared to leave the house! But I'm scared my house will fall down! And I need to go to church but I'm too scared to go into the city! The buildings might fall on my car! Or I might get shot by looters! And the radio says not to flush the toilet, but I was so scared that I really needed to take a shit, so I got a black plastic rubbish bag and put it into a bucket and—"

"You know what, Mum? I don't think I need to hear this."

"But you do! You NEED. TO. KNOW.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

A quickie

Please don't hold your conference two days before Christmas.

That is all.

No, wait, actually, that isn't all. While we are at it, here's a longer wish list:

  • Please don't send me an email, then call me up to tell me what your email says, then drop by my office to tell me the same thing again. Some of us have work to do.
  • If you are "collaborating" with me, please don't hassle me for months about the importance of getting an application written long before a deadline, then refuse to look at draft of said application until a few days before said deadline.
  • Especially if you then want (me) to totally rewrite the whole thing from scratch.
  • Please don't ask me to guest teach your class, then micro-manage every aspect of my lesson plan so that you might as well just have written the damn thing yourself and asked me to deliver it word for word.
  • If you are going to micro-manage my lesson plan, please make time to read it through well in advance, so that you don't ask me to redesign it from scratch an hour before class begins.
  • Please give me a large piece of chocolate cake and several glasses bottles of red wine.
What's on your academic wish list today?