Category Archives: rants

a little empty space

This is written for the Tuesday dVerse prompt “women are people: invoking Amrita Pritam“. Thanks for a great prompt Punam, and especially for introducing me to Amrita Pritam’s work. 

I chose as my jumping off point her line from empty space:Look further on ahead, there between truth and falsehood, a little empty space.” 

What if I wrapped up my truth
in academic verbosity,
called it auto-ethnography,
and submitted it for your review?
Would it still get a rejection
on the grounds of misperceptions?
What if I edited it carefully,
removed the tell-tale markers
like all those excess hedges
and threw in more self-mentions?
Would it still require your corrections?

I never knew there was a line,
between your truth and mine,
until you showed it to me.
But I still don’t see why one side has to be
true and the other false.
Can’t we just blur out the line,
and allow a space between to meet
where no one has to be at fault?

 

I’ve had rants before about being a woman in physics/engineering, and how patronising colleagues can be – how they are (at best) oblivious to, or (worse) blatantly denying of the lived experiences of those who are not (middle-aged+ white) males.  So I won’t start another one of those.
But here is an interesting bit of research from one of my PhD students: there are quantifiable differences in the way (senior) men and women write in science, despite the
very strong genre conventions.  For example, women use more hedges (an explicitly taught genre norm) and more engagement markers, men use more boosters and self-mentions (despite these being officially frowned on in science). The differences are largest in physics… surprise, surprise.   

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scheduling cats

I was sitting in my room when one of my sons walked past the door and asked if I was writing a poem. I said “no”. He said “write one about your day, they’re usually funny”. Well, I spent my day chasing late timetabling forms (almost half of them) and querying ones that didn’t make sense (about a third). So not a good basis for a poem. But, here it is anyway.   

 

Herding cats
is not my calling,
but it seems again that
it is to me that job is falling!
Am I really asking for that much?
I just want clarity on what you need
for your lectures, tutes and labs and such,
and so it pains me when on your form I read,
that you want lab weekly for zero times two hours,
well, I’m handy at arithmetic, and so, numerically, I assume
that you want nothing – a welcome change, and within my powers,
until I read further and discover that you’ve requested a specific room…
I cannot help but think there must be some mistake here,
Perhaps this is a typo, you hit zero instead of one?
Although on the keyboard they are hardly near
pondering the keyboard, a conclusion comes
you must mean nine times two hours lab,
well, I can schedule that in for you,
oh, your timetable will be fab!
Now, tutes – twenty-two?

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no, we won’t “see what happens”

Another day,
another dollar,
another week,
the kids are taller,
another month,
my figure’s fuller,
another year,
my mind is duller.

And so they flow,
future to past,
this present instant
cannot last.

All these years,
my face can’t hide,
all these months,
can’t be defied
all these weeks,
soon put aside,
as all these days,
wash away with the tide.

But I’ll face each one
head high with pride,
and I’ll choose the path
down which I stride.

 

I’ve been thinking about aging a lot lately, because I’m spending a lot of time trying to sort things out for my parents who never did any planning beyond “we’ll see what happens”, which is my mother’s catch phrase.  That phrase has become such a trigger for me – I just want to slap anyone who says it now, and yell “no! take some responsibility for your life!”.  My parents have always been irresponsible. They’re truly dreadful role models. But brilliant cautionary examples.  Anyway, trying to sort things out for them now, from interstate, in a pandemic, is a nightmare. Not that it would be much easier if I was there – they simply have no records, no paperwork, no plans, no ideas…  And it’s made me think about where I want to be after I retire, and what happens when I can’t manage on my own anymore, advanced care directives, administrators and executors. It’s a bit depressing. But at least if my kids do want to slap me in 30 years, it won’t be because I’m just waiting to see what happens, but because of what I’ve chosen to do. I hope they want to slap me for blowing their inheritance on a sports car and a toy-boy and really expensive champagne.     

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what I wanted to say…

…in my Friday and weekend emails and “chats” to the 10% of my colleagues who cause 90% of the problems because they either ignore the grade submission deadline, discover they don’t know how to use the system until after the deadline and expect help on the weekend, or are just too bloody ODD to do anything properly and on time without having to be asked five times and then argue about it:  

 

I’m the parent that’s less fun

(the one that makes you brush your teeth)

I’m the teacher that’s more mean

(the one that won’t let you in the lab barefoot)

I’m the director that sends the angry emails

(the one that makes sure marks come in)

 

Or here’s another way of looking at it,

I’m the one that:

keeps the kids healthy,

the students safe,

and makes sure the system works.

 

Did you ever think that maybe I get tired of

     being the grown up?

     being the responsible one?

     being the bad guy?

and would like to not give a shit about

dental costs,

legal liability and

graduations,

either?

 

Did you ever stop to think that if you

JUST

DO

YOUR

FUCKING

JOB

then I won’t have to be the bad guy?

 

Let’s do the experiment and see what happens.

 

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TO/FROM?

For the dVerse Monday quadrille prompt “heart”:

 

At the heart of the matter is “Freedom”
But there is a choice of prepositions:
TO
{speak freely; bear arms; move freely and assemble together}
FROM
{racial vilification; being caught in the crossfire; the spread of disease}
How many hearts has freedom TO broken?

 

I’m taking my teenagers and myself for our second covid test tomorrow, because they’re close contacts in a growing cluster. In the meantime people are dying and there are protests going on in Sydney and Melbourne, with people holding placards reading “freedom”. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between freedom and selfishness.  

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c’est la fucking vie

Yesterday morning, in the middle of a two hour face-to-face tutorial, my students told me Canberra was going into lockdown at 1700.  So, after tute, I checked in with my team, reset a bunch of stuff on my course site to 2020 version, emailed all my students, then looked around my office to decide what to take home… instant curries from the filing cabinet, a couple of textbooks, the fruit sitting on my desk… and, oh yes, my “little box of fucks” (for when you have none left to give – thank you B_ for that thoughtful gift)…  Grabbed my stuff, collected kids from school, and got home just in time to run my 1600 to 1800 tute online.  (sigh). 

Hence this, in mirrored refrain form for the Thursday dVerse prompt

C’est la fucking vie,
Here we go again…
and we retreat into our homes,
as another lockdown descends.

We bunker down inside, while
outside the virus roams,
as another lockdown descends
and we retreat into our homes. Continue reading

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Three layers, seven colours

A while I ago I posted a rant about rainbows. It was triggered by a comment that science ruins rainbows by taking away the magic. My argument in that post was that science adds to their beauty and magic because it allows you to “see” so much more in them.
A couple of days ago I was walking across a carpark and it had just started raining. And there was a stunning rainbow on the ground:

Continue reading

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in the company of women

We slip from the buildings in ones and twos,
heels clicking across the carpark,
or stepping more quietly in flats.
Slipping away – not quite clandestinely,
but nonetheless with a sense of escape. Continue reading

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integrity (extended version)

This is an extended version of Integrity, based even more closely on Macavity (Eliot, 1939).  

Integrity’s the missing value: I’m told it is assumed
that it’s a value we all share, or so it is presumed.
So it’s a bafflement when Turnitin raises flags in red,
and when we check for plagiarism – Integrity is dead! Continue reading

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some thoughts on the utility of bunyips

I was reading Worms’s post about belief, “The answer is a question”. And I started writing a really long comment, and then thought it was a bit rude to take up so much space on her blog for my own musings. So I’m putting them here. Continue reading

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