Card catalogs should still exist, damn you all, damn you all to hell

I fully recognize that computerized library browsing is a vast improvement over card catalog searches. I am old enough that I remember searching via the card catalog, and it was an unnecessarily time-consuming process, and you get many, many more literature hits with Google than you ever could any pre-computer searches. Life is better.


That said, card catalogs are good at storing cards, and for those of us who still write with 3 x 5 cards, I really would like to be able to just buy a wooden card catalog unit for less than a million dollars. Unfortunately, the only ones out there new are for cds. You can find older ones on Ebay, but one is not going to be shipping them. Looooooook at this beauty. Waaaaaaaaaants it, my precious.

As it is, what IS out there for us 3 x 5 card users are flimsy plastic carriers in the bag–eyuck, but what are you going to do?–and metal filing cabinet systems full of clanging metal hate.

BTW, I still haven’t procured another satisfactory pencil sharpener. No wonder my book went phuttttt. I’M WORKING AT A DISADVANTAGE HERE.


I’ve been reading When Nietzsche Slept by Irvin Yalom via a recommendation from one of my students. I encountered this sentence, and it made me drop the book:

“Despair is the price one pays for self awareness.”

Christ–life summarized in a sentence.

A short sentence, no less.

Then later in the book:

“How could he admit to having wagered his whole life only to find that the final prize was, after all, not to his liking? No, these things he must keep to himself. There are things you don’t tell the young ones.”

No, one doesn’t.

So Pitifully Afraid of the Light

Ibsen on Ghosts:

“I almost think we’re all of us Ghosts. … It’s not only what we have invited from our father and mother that walks in us. It’s all sorts of dead ideas, and lifeless old beliefs, and so forth. They have no vitality, but they cling to us all the same, and we can’t get rid of them. Whenever I take up a newspaper, I seem to see Ghosts gliding between the lines. There must be Ghosts all the country over, as thick as the sand of the sea. And then we are, one and all, so pitifully afraid of the light.”

I think Millennials are not entitled enough

It seems to be inevitable that every few weeks, I have to read some version of the following:

1. Some article that explains that Donald Trump is actually a sophisticated and wonderful candidate who is saving our democracy by exposing the hypocrisies of it, and if you don’t see that, you are some liberal elite instead of somebody who recognizes the pull of populist strongmen who appeal to xenophobic tropes;

2. Some article that writes about how the university is dying, and it’s all somebody’s fault, and while it is must be parents, tenure, donors, tenure, administrators, tenure, political correctness, tenure, the internet, or tenure, or students, or…well tenure, of course, because there is nothing in today’s society that can’t be fixed by filching more benefits away from workers, or

3. Some article about how Millennials are entitled, and that’s not good.

Today I am going to take up the third. I generally think the kids are all right, but of the various diagnoses of Millenials and their ills, I think the problem is that they are not entitled enough.

Wait for it, before you sputter.

I got reflecting on this one day in my transit class when I was expressing irritation about a very expensive textbook, in its third edition, that costs close to $200, that is riddled with math errors. My students kept looking at me in disbelief that I would be so irritated by such a thing, and then spent the rest of the hour pointing out my own math glitches, gleefully, as though I shouldn’t think myself above math errors. Frankly, I am just grateful that the price tag had stopped me from asking students to buy this damn textbook.

Whatever, students like to call out professors, and I don’t care, but I have been shocked by their attitude ever since: they don’t actually *expect* expensive textbooks to have been proofread. They don’t *expect* quality. Instead, they *expect* to pay a lot of money for a textbook because textbook publishers *can* charge a lot without putting much effort into a book in order to make the margin they need to publish the book, so they *do*, and it’s just something Millenials put up with.

Then it occurred to me: these students have lived entirely during globalization where they have always paid $50+ for shirts where the buttons came off after two washings. The “Made in the USA” label is an abstraction to them; for me, much older, it was a real time and real, living thing, where “made in the USA” represented both a) an unsuccessful attempt to resist footloose capital that would sell out American labor in a heartbeat, driving down wages and benefits and impoverishing my fellows; and b) *quality* manufacturing. Their parents probably did not belong to unions, nor are they likely to know anybody who belonged to a union or who, thus, talked seriously about the entitlements of making a living.

It makes me sad to think of it–that we have taught our kids to expect so little, and to think that quality work is something nobody has time for.

Random Bullets of Interesting Stuff I’ve Read Rather Than Doing Real Work

Shouldn’t college sports be more fun than this?

I am still learning. ~~ Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni

As a college proffie, I am whipsawed by the various frames of undergraduate students I am given. On the one hand, I have a fair amount of experience with helicopter parents trying to call me to advocate for their son or daughter in my class. Not everyday, but often enough; and the message is: “my son/daughter is a Very Special Muffin and a Tender Young Blossom.” The member-of-two-worlds things really gets weird here. On the one hand, 18 year-olds from my hometown are routinely expected to fight and die for American dominance, but the 18 year-olds in my classes? They’d die of low self-esteem, supposedly, if faced with a C.

Then, of course, there’s Bill O’Reilly and his framing of liberal college professors that try to indoctrinate students into liberalism. This paints undergraduates as impressionable young things, like little blank slates to write on, instead of what they are: young adults who have been raised in families and communities and who come to college with ideas of their own. They’re not deferential, and they don’t treat me like I am all-knowing, even if they are respectful of my ideas, which many of them are not even that.

Contrast this, then, with the expectations and discussion around Matt Barkley, USC’s overly debated freshman quarterback. This morning, inevitably, TJ Simers with the LA Times–somebody whose dedication to sucking the fun out of sports is nigh-on Puritanical in its zeal–of course started in with the “We Told You So’s” directed at Peter Carroll. Yes, there I said it: Simers treats college sports like a its religion, and its a religion with all the praise and fun chucked out. His columns always read like he’s some Calvinist elder rebuking sin.


As a college coach, you never have the same team year-to-year. With the pro’s treating college sports as their farm system, team turnover can happen even faster than the college cycle if you are running a successful program the way Carroll has. The NFL has the luxury of placing all the burden of recruiting on the college coaches and then cherrypicks the best. Coaches, like proffies, have a short window of time to try to teach you.

The end result here isn’t that USC had a “bad season”. It’s that Carroll put some of the young guys on the field and let them play. And, golly, they didn’t win all the time. It should be enough for the rest of us to watch them and appreciate them for what they are—learning, growing, becoming—because that is what we all are doing, all the time, if we have any sense of dedication to our craft, regardless of what that is. We learn not by playing it safe, but by putting our challenges past where we reach easily. Getting to a degree of mastery in anything is messy and full of disappointments.

We should note that none of my attitude comes about because I am not competitive. I am one of the most insanely competitive people I know. It’s that ground games take a long time to win, and there is more to any story than one game or one season.

Can we start a petition?

Can we start a petition to ban those #!@!#@ “He went to Jared!” commercials?

Also, an open note to American beer producers: I am a woman, and I watch sports on tv. I am one of those people who watch commercials. I’d be more likely to buy your crap beer if

a) it weren’t crap;
b) it weren’t in cans; and
c) every woman that appeared in your commercials weren’t a stupid/whiney/clingy moron with big apples. Can’t she be a smart and independent woman with big apples? Men will still watch your commercial, and I won’t go through life despising you and actively NOT buying your beer. Did you learn nothing from Loni Anderson’s Jennifer Marlowe in WKRP in Cincinnati?

Michelle O is a knock-out

Ok, folks, I got nothing intelligent to say about sustainable cities today and so I just want to go on record as saying that while I am actually not Barack Obama’s biggest fan, Michelle is honestly the most beautiful first lady we’ve had since Jacqueline Kennedy. Let’s hope Michelle has a happier life, which, if she keeps wearing things like this dress from Naeem Khan, is virtually inevitable. It’s hard to be this fabulous and unhappy at the same time.

Here’s to having a superfantastic, restorative, and restful holiday!

Top 10 Cities for Cellulite

MSN brings us the Top 10 US Cities for Cellulite.

Boogity Boogity. And here’s the surprise! One of the poorest cities in the country is Numero Uno–Birmingham, Alabama, a place where the expected life span of an African American man is nearly 10 years lower than those of a white woman–and yet the cellulite discussion is done, of course, in a way that drips with misogyny. Real health means nothing compared to how one of our pet sex objects might look in her bikini.

Oh, even more health boogity boogity. There is no cure for cellulite. I’d kind of like to fret more about a cure for Alzheimer’s, AIDS, cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease, arthritis, Parkinson’s and, oh, I dunno, A BUNCH OF REAL HEALTH CONCERNS.*

*Yes, I know obesity is a health concern, but there are a lot of really thin and healthy people running around the world with cellulite. I’m tired of the way in which something that is merely unsightly is conflated with real risks.