Eau de Pomo

In a ‘thesdan doctors’ office this afternoon for a routine visit, UD experienced, from within her bubble, postmodernity.

First came the affluence part. Affluence and ease.

The office was gorgeous, with stylishly stenciled huge glass doors to the waiting room. A bevy of friendly greeters greeted UD; they were pleased that she had already filled out the paperwork they mailed her a few days ago.

UD scanned the magazines available (Opera News, Washingtonian), grabbed one, and took a comfy seat. Flat screens here and there featured a soundless film about Antarctican bird life. Everyone in the waiting room gazed at its endless bright blue skies.


Then came the technology part. Their computers, they announced, were working very slowly. Maybe they were even down. They were certainly down intermittently. “The doctors are running a little late. We apologize.”

So more bird gazing and opera updates… But after forty-five minutes had passed, UD told one of the greeters that she would have to leave.

“Oh, don’t do that. Let me check… You’re next. The nurse will be right here.”

Out she came and ushered UD into the doctor’s examining room, where the deal clearly was that UD was supposed to continue the same wait there.

So after fifteen minutes UD got up and started to leave the doctors’ office.

“I’ll knock on the doctor’s door. Don’t leave,” said the nurse. “He’ll be right there.”

UD went back to the examining room but this time she didn’t sit down. She was willing to mill around the small space for another five minutes but that was it.

In came the very apologetic doctor. “Our computers are down! I’ve been in my office trying to connect!”

‘In total, these three countries are home to 36 million Muslims. Yet there was scarcely any public opposition to the ban.’

As Europe struggles over banning the burqa, several African countries quietly, and with virtually no opposition, ban it. Others officially support a ban; yet others are actively considering one.

And what a shocker that women are expressing no opposition to surrendering this beloved garment.

‘The NCAA can take away scholarships, wins and championships. On a completely different level, North Carolina is looking at having its soul ripped out.’

Oh yeah? This commentary in the aftermath of UNC’s two-decade-long massive academic fraud ups the the rhetoric-ante and informs us that universities have souls, UNC has a soul, and it’s looking at its soul being ripped out.

Most immediately, the soul-threat the writer has in mind is trouble with a couple of accrediting bodies; but you and I know that beyond a brief probation, UNC will be fine. The NCAA has let it off lightly and so will the accreditors. All will be well. Indeed, UD has no doubt that in a few years things will have so supremely settled down that UNC will be inaugurating an improved academic fraud game plan for its athletes and other interested students.

But this matter of a university’s soul… UD has done some scooting about online, and people do make a habit of assigning souls to universities. The soul seems to be a central meaningful place or group: the library, the faculty. It may be a common faith (Notre Dame’s Catholicism.) Or it may be non-profitness rather than commercialization.

Here’s the Soul Man himself, Cardinal Newman:

[The university] is almost prophetic from its knowledge of history; it is almost heart-searching from its knowledge of human nature; it has almost supernatural charity from its freedom from littleness and prejudice; it has almost the repose of faith, because nothing can startle it; it has almost the beauty and harmony of heavenly contemplation.

Or in UNC’s terms:

It is almost unbeatable in its knowledge of free throws; it is almost its own search-firm in its knowledge of football recruits; it has an almost supernatural advantage in its freedom from standards and integrity; it has almost the repose of sleep, because nothing can enlighten it; it has the beauty and harmony of hunky competitors.

By which UD means that while most writers, after Newman, consider a university’s soul some central meaningful spiritual/intellectual aspect of the place, after UNC, writers will need to take on board the fact that the only soulfully alive place on some campuses seems to be the athletic department. Surely the soul of Penn State, Auburn, Baylor, Alabama, the University of Oregon, and UNC lies somewhere in the vicinity of the locker room. And that is a soul that no accrediting body can rip out. Only a bad coach can do that.

“I think that a university with a Division I sports program cannot, by definition, be considered ‘great.’ In such a place too much time, energy, attention and resources are given to big-time entertainment that is essentially meaningless.”

A writer for the Auburn Citizen wrote this last year, and ever since then UD‘s been chewing on it. In particular, when UD reads about big-time football schools like the University of Hawaii, Western Michigan U., and Eastern Michigan U. — all of them perennially in the news for bankrupting their students and keeping their schools down in order to subsidize shitty coaches and put on games no one attends — UD ponders that “meaningless” thing.

The pathetic state of EMU in particular has attracted the attention of the national media. Singling out that school, an HBO show called The Arms Race featured the following facts:

At Eastern Michigan, the sports program lost $52 million over the past two years according to Howard Bunsis, an accounting professor at that school. Plus the school football team has not a winning season in nearly a couple of decades and regularly posts the smallest attendance figures in all college football.

(That amount by the way is nothing next to national joke Rutgers, where “in the last 12 years, the school’s athletics department has lost $312 million.”)

The leadership of all of these universities — president, trustees — goes ape-shit whenever anyone suggests that the all-consuming activity that has basically killed their school is meaningless. (Faculty and students, two groups immiserated by athletics, feel differently, but who listens to them?) The ferocity of their unanimous response to suggestions that they lead their university in a more meaningful as well as fiscally responsible direction tells you that for these people taking down a university through the removal of all revenues via football is obviously patently totally on the face of it worth it.

So what is the transcendent meaning they attach to what looks to the rest of us like suicide via sports?

UD thinks a hint can be found here:

It is as though they see a successful sports program as a winning multi-million dollar lottery ticket. Never mind that millions of lottery ticket holders lose.

UD thinks a more vivid and valuable analogy would be to the cargo cult phenomenon. Long ago in our ancestral past, godlike men appeared and won games and there was jubilation among the people. Then the big men went away.

Ever since, we have built gleaming stadiums and training facilities to induce them to reappear.

They will reappear.

We will never give up.

This is the meaning of our life.

“Now who’s responsible ah say who’s responsible for this unwarranted attack on my person?”

I mean sure! Sure!

Ole Miss is sure gonna look into this shocking attack on our honor!


The 2014 faculty recipient of the Chatfield College prize that goes to the instructor who most “exemplifies the academic spirit and values” of the college not only looks like this (which is fine; remember the Prof or Hobo? quiz), but just got arrested with molto drugs and guns.


No. Not awkward. Maybe it’s just marijuana for individual use.

But he does seem to be selling large quantities of it…

Are the guns awkward?

No. Not awkward. He’s in a dicey line of work and needs protection and they’re probably all legal. This is America.

Banned in Boston

A Tufts University professor says no.

After having a laissez-faire policy on laptops in my classrooms for my first decade of teaching, I have pretty much banned them. I knew that taking notes by hand is much, much better for learning than taking notes on a computer (the latter allows the student to transcribe without thinking; the former forces the student to cognitively process what is worthy of note-taking and what is not), but I figured that was the student’s choice. The tipping point for me was research showing that open screens in a classroom distract students close to the screen. So I went all paternalistic and decided to eliminate them from my classroom. The effect was immediate — my students were more engaged with the material.

Same for PowerPoints and Lecture-By-Skype and so on and so on.

MOOCs (as UD has discovered) can be great as non-credit-bearing world-outreach sorts of things, but they can be just as cheesy as many online and PowerPoint-heavy and Go-Ahead-And-Use-Your-Laptops courses when you try to pretend they’re equivalent – in intrinsic value, and in credit-worthiness – to non-laptopped, in-class courses.

‘Roberts said he disagrees. “I didn’t know there were academic norms at all,” he said.’

Next stop: Visiting professorship, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

Pyrrhic Policy

[Biden] cited a line from “Ulysses” by James Joyce. Biden says the history of the Mideast region is a nightmare from which everyone is trying to awake.

That Ole Devil Called Ted

[Former Republican House Speaker John Boehner] told an audience at Stanford University Wednesday that [Ted Cruz] is “Lucifer in the flesh.”


More Ted commentary, in Rolling Stone:

Ted Cruz comes from the Ivy League and once clerked for William Rehnquist and cynically portrays himself as a down-home duck-huntin’ yahoo who doesn’t know that Jemmy Madison would kick his ass up and down Independence Hall for treating the First Amendment as a blueprint for a Christian theocracy.


An Exorcist Told us How to Rid Ted Cruz of Lucifer, Just in Case John Boehner is Right

‘Cusumano knows that some are accusing him of turning a blind eye just to win basketball games.’

Once you start paying attention to what schools – high schools and universities – will do to win basketball and football games, you’re in for a treat. School officials will do anything, it turns out, to attract and retain tacklers and dribblers.

There’s the almost thirty year old recently arrived Sudanese gentleman who has been winning games like crazy for Catholic Central High School in Ontario. Everyone – the coach, the recruiters – is shocked right down to the ground that a 6’10” adult male isn’t fifteen, but twice that.

“At 6’10 he was pretty dominant, he was dunking on everybody, it was pretty hard,” said Fazar Yousif, 15, who attends Kennedy Collegiate high school.

Now, for us, for the States, he decided to tell the truth:

When he entered [Canada] his passport and visa application listed his birth date as November 1998. But when he applied for a U.S visitor visa in April, his fingerprints matched an individual who’d already applied for a [US] visa with a birth date in November 1986…

Closer to home, there’s Bellevue High School in Washington, where they just go ahead and break every goddamn rule in the book, baby!

The report focused on excessive payments to coaches from the Wolverines booster club that were never approved by the school board. Investigators say tax records show during a 10-year period, the club paid coaches more than $500,000, with the majority of that money going to the head coach.

Investigators also found players used false addresses, the district and coaches failed to monitor player addresses, and that the head coach directed and encouraged players to attend The Academic Institute — a small private for-profit school in Bellevue.

The report says coaches coordinated tuition payments for some athletes paid by the booster club or its members so they could attend the private school, where investigators claim some players were able to pass classes they failed in public schools.

I think it’s safe to say that for these lads the transition to university football will be a smooth – even unnoticeable – one. Steady as she goes!

Cruz Aborts His Campaign…

… by choosing a fanatic as his running mate.

“[T]he first mistake made by [the University of Louisville] was in limiting attendance at [the] Minardi Hall sex parties to basketball players and recruits rather than opening the orgies to all students.”

If they had, the NCAA would look the other way – as they seem to have done with the University of North Carolina – because the offense would have been university-wide. If it’s not restricted to athletes – if it’s official campus-wide crapulousness – then the NCAA says fine, fine. Some schools don’t hire pimps to set up whorehouses in their dormitories, and some do. Some schools don’t steal their students’ education, and some do. It’s all part of the rich texture which makes up the tapestry of American university education.

(Haredi or halfback, you can now go to court and sue a school, a state, or the NCAA for having been deprived of an education.)

“At the end of the day, I feel like the professors I’ve enjoyed the most and have been the most interesting to me have been the ones that can make a class interesting without a laptop, that make you want to participate in dialogue,” said [an] environmental studies major. “And the fact that they don’t let you have a computer doesn’t really matter at that point, because I’m interested in [class].”

It begins to dawn on yet another university that laptops in classrooms are lunacy. In a nicely titled article (Bodies Present, Brains Unaccounted For) students at Loyola University Chicago feature the unsurprising results of polls and interviews that underscore the brain-removal service that is the personal computer in the classroom.

As always with such pieces, the journalists find a couple of give-a-shit finance professors who say it ain’t my job to create classroom conditions in which students pay attention…

A few weeks after Brandon Bourbon’s suicide, a reflective little essay about his very short life…


A career on the brink of success as the starter for a big name coach in a power five conference had derailed, and he had finished his college career playing his last game at Yager Stadium in Topeka, Kansas. In front of an announced attendance of 5,403 he had rushed for 17 yards on 13 carries and caught three passes for forty yards. And that was it…

[One day Brandon Bourbon] retweeted a link to an article from Scientific American that just a single concussion has the ability to triple the long-term risk of suicide. Bourbon suffered at least one concussion during his time at the University of Kansas, missing time in 2011 as a result of that injury. It is not hard to imagine that he suffered others during his playing days as well.

This single tweet, mixed in amongst Bourbon’s other Tweets, may have been a stab in the dark at an individual trying to understand and comprehend the lasting effects of head trauma…

… It is unclear what led Bourbon to take his own life. Did his 2011 concussion play a role? Was it years of subconcussive trauma to the head? Were there outside factors of which no one is aware? Was it the rapid descent from starter for a team in a power five conference to unable to continue his career at that level because of injury and NCAA rules? Was it the fact that he had lived and breathed football for decades, and with the end of his college career, the driving factor for the majority of his life had been removed?

Background here.

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