Kindness Insults My Intelligence

Don't worry.  All those messages aren't you.  My mom called once last night.  (Photo credit: Dave Chamberlain)

Don’t worry. All those messages aren’t you. My mom called once last night. (Photo credit: Dave Chamberlain)

Thank you for your kind telephone call. Because the ringing started promptly at 6:30, I did not have to listen to my annoying family members during dinner.

Thank you for kindly not hanging up on our machine. We use it to weed out the undesirable callers but you demonstrated your friendliness by persisting.

Thank you for kindly leaving a message after the beep. We appreciate you taking the time from your busy schedule to inform us that we may qualify for lower interest rates on our credit cards.

Thank you for kindly repeating your message multiple times even though no one is on the line with you. It brings back the nostalgia of a scratched vinyl record. It also reminds me of political campaigns, Miley Cyrus, and Justin Bieber.

Thank you for kindly using an automated message instead of a live human. Listening to a machine is less painful than hearing a man writhe in agony as he desperately seeks a lifeline.

Thank you for kindly calling back fifteen minutes later to make sure we received the original message. We had forgotten to check and we plan to forget again.

Thank you for kindly calling a third time so that we could finish our dinner with the same melodic ringing we started with.  You obviously understood that we were forgetting the second message as well.

And last, but certainly not least…

Thank you for kindly not suing us for picking up the phone and asking your robocaller if she dreams of performing [grown-up activity] with R2D2 and C3PO. Harassment is a serious matter and I trust that you would never stand for the mistreatment of any living or robotic entity.

Trivial Pursuit Insults My Intelligence

I’d like to start by welcoming all the new followers who have joined me since I was Freshly Pressed on Friday.  The cat post was cute and fun and the WordPress editorial staff demonstrated excellent taste by selecting it.

Of course, I think most (if not all) of my posts would be good choices for Freshly Pressed.  I hope my new followers will soon grow to agree with me.

Nevertheless, I should extend one minor warning: this blog is not always cute.  One of my long-time followers recently marveled at how I can find a way to be offended at anything; I do my best to keep my fans happy.

That said, it’s time for me to go nerdy because I happen to be a nerd.  And being a nerd, I am often accosted by a game called Trivial Pursuit.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it’s a trivia game where players recall random and often insignificant facts in a race to demonstrate who’s more intelligent.

And whose brilliant idea was this?

Once upon a time, Ugg and Oog were sitting in their cave.  They had grown weary of explaining the philosophy behind the aesthetic dimensions of mammoth dung.

Aren't you glad I chose this suggestive picture instead of the photo of real elephant poop?  (Photo credit: Johnbod)

Yes, that’s supposed to be a mammoth.  Aren’t you glad I chose this suggestive picture instead of the photo of real elephant poop? (Photo credit: Johnbod)

But then, as now, someone had to be the leader.  Unfortunately, Ugg and Oog weren’t the type who liked hitting each other with blunt objects to prove their manhood… so the obvious solution was out.  And they couldn’t compete on the quality of dung explanations because there was no way to judge the comparative merits of their theories.

What are a couple of cavenerds to do?

Simple.  They decided to quiz each other on the specific contents of mammoth dung, focusing on what plant and animal remnants could be found during each month of the year.  Their answers could be objectively correct or incorrect and they could verify questionable responses by waiting for the appropriate month and finding a not-so-constipated mammoth.

Of course, this extended their playing time by several years. Since the winner could lay claim to being called the most intelligent, they considered the wait worthwhile.

And this tradition continues to this day.  Groups of people spend an eternity rummaging through a mammoth pile of dung just to prove to others how “smart” they are.  It’s such a trivial pursuit.

Blogger’s note: I do own a version of the game and I play it on rare occasion.   If I’m lucky, I get to play on a team with someone who knows about Justin Bieber and all that intelligent stuff.

 

Newfound Medications Insult My Intelligence

Once upon a time I was suffering from dry skin.

I couldn't find a dry skin picture that wouldn't make you vomit.  Therefore, I chose this turkey with equally crispy skin.

I couldn’t find a dry skin picture that wouldn’t make you vomit. Therefore, I chose this turkey with equally crispy skin.  (Photo credit: Leslie Johnston)

So I went to the pharmacy and was greeted with this:

The pharmacy also provides easy access to nutritional essentials.

The pharmacy provides easy access to nutritional essentials.  (Photo credit: Susan)

Farther inside the pharmacy, I saw lots of nifty pills.

You could probably hide an Everlasting Gobstopper in there.

Who says bright colors are only for children?  (Photo credit: ParentingPatch)

And then I discovered what I had intended to find.

It was perfect.

When I left home, I couldn’t have imagined that I’d be so lucky.  Who would have guessed?

I found moisturizer in a container that had been newly redesigned:

It's takes an aesthetically superior bottle to tackle aesthetically inferior skin.

It takes an aesthetically superior bottle to tackle aesthetically inferior skin.

Absentee Fig Leaves Insult My Intelligence

Once upon a time, a young man named Adam shared a garden with his wife Eve and a devious little critter named Mister Happysnake.  The not-so-happy couple had, much to their regret, recently discovered an abiding love of apples and had subsequently found that some parts of their paradise were at risk of frostbite.  Mister Happysnake, in particular, was not amused.  The frigid winds caused him to shrivel up in fear until he no longer resembled that evil serpent who had visited such harm on him.

“Please protect me,” cried Mister Happysnake.  “It’s so cold I can’t even release my tears.”

Eve heard her friend’s cries and begged Adam to find some sort of solution growing from the ground.  Adam hesitated, remembering the last time he had listened to his wife when she was under the influence of lizards.  But he relented and soon discovered a most excellent fig leaf.

Appreciating nature is a lost art.  (Photo credit: London Permaculture)

Appreciating nature is a lost art. (Photo credit: London Permaculture)

Unlike the apple, the fig leaf was a gift sent from heaven.  It remained magically affixed to the much grateful Mister Happysnake and it formed an airtight shield.

But one day the serpent returned and told Eve, “Lady, you gotta try this new cotton plant.  Just pull it out of the ground, roll it up, weave it just like this, and you’ve got something that will make Mister Happysnake even warmer.”

Eve did as the serpent said, for the Big Man hadn’t prohibited the use of this plant.  Unfortunately, she lacked the artistic skill necessary to make a properly warm article of clothing.  It didn’t matter, though. Adam took pride in his wife’s handiwork and the couple started teaming up to create more and more holey items, for the Big Man had encouraged holeyness and they didn’t want to divert from his wishes again.

And soon their lives revolved around manufacturing these useless items and then convincing the nearby sheep and alpacas that a cotton sweater was exactly what they needed to make their lives complete.

God bless progress.

Brand Names Insult My Intelligence

I do not purchase clothing that prominently displays a brand name.  (On the other hand, I’d be tempted to wear an “I love Halliburton” t-shirt for the shock value.  But that’s another post…)  I am not a walking billboard and I am not stupid enough to pay for the privilege of becoming one.

Unfortunately, most people are not as wise as I am and I usually must remain silent about their mindless attire.

I’m not presumptuous enough to tell you that clothing should be art.  Since I’m less than wealthy, I see little point in plunking down over $100.00 for a designer shirt that will be shredded within a year or two.  (Those luxury goods aren’t always designed to last.  Rich people often care more about the latest fashions and they can afford to replace things more regularly.  In their minds, a shirt from 2012 has already gone out of style and belongs in the dumpster.)

Instead, I want my clothing to cover all of the necessary body parts and remain intact long enough to keep my bank account from crashing.   (Gender appropriateness is also important.)  Therefore: clearance racks!

And you thought this would be an advertisement for Wal-Mart…

This works for me because I’m a guy.  By contrast, women often like to accessorize with pretty things.  For example, a non-utilitarian purse.  They treat it like clothing and it has to match the outfit, so they often end up owning many purses.

I’ll leave the “battle of the sexes” content to the bloggers who do it better.  I’m more interested in the idiotic, and one particular design type stands out.  It’s the standard “look how special I am because I can afford an expensive brand” variety:

This demonstrates the owner's aesthetic excellence.  (Photo credit: )

This demonstrates the owner’s sense of aesthetic superiority. (Photo credit: prettycatty)

Let’s review.  You’re carrying around a container that holds cash, cards, and expensive electronics.  Why are you advertising to potential thieves that the contents might be especially valuable?  Of all the purses at the football game (note the obligatory transgression of gender stereotypes), yours now stands out as the most desirable to steal.  Brilliant!

Of course, your bag’s probably fake.  Just like you.

Funny how things work out…

Rice Insults My Intelligence

Would a rice by any other name smell as sweet?

riceAs my regular readers know, I like to shop at international grocery stores and the brand names are always a little confusing.  Instead of going with something obviously appetizing like Star-Kist that clearly describes the container’s contents, it seems that everything in the Asian food section is happy or joy or lucky or golden.

That’s right.  The packages are trying to tell us that the food will taste good.

It’s a foreign concept around here, literally.  People from those East Asian cultures make the mistake of assuming that their cultural preferences translate over to the American scene.  And they are mistaken.  They ought to do as every other great culture has done and pander to the lowest racist denominator.  We have:

Mahatma: based on an Indian name everyone recognizes

Uncle Ben’s: with the picture of a black guy on the box  (Is this for white people who remember that “Uncle” was a term that effectively denigrated slaves and their descendants or for black people who don’t remember the history?)

Rice-A-Roni: noticeably Italian brand with ethnically Italian-American founders who decided to corner the market on customers who think Italian food is too exotic.  That’s why they went the ultratraditionalist route and decided to highlight their San Francisco roots.  (This must be the only time since at least 1968 that invoking San Francisco would appeal to the most conservative crowd out there.)

And so I congratulate the folks at Golden Smell for not trying to focus their brand on an ethnic identity.  Unfortunately, the attempt didn’t succeed because the brand’s geographic origin is immediately recognizable.

And that’s kind of sad.  My pee has a golden smell.  That’s how the name translates in my world.

The University Industry Insults My Intelligence

I was lucky.  One year after I finished my undergraduate degree in Subject With Declining Enrollments, Professor X had his career chopped off.  He didn’t even make it to a tenure review hearing; several years separated his departure and what he hoped might have been.  When I visited campus shortly after his firing, Dr. Y recalled with horror that he hadn’t published a word during his several years at the university.

Fair enough.  If your contract requires you to publish, you need to publish or face the consequences.  Pesky little legal issue, I know…

She also told me that Professor X was “scaring away students.”  Being a naive early-20-something, I couldn’t comprehend what she meant.  Dr. X was the friendliest member of the department, a fact that even Dr. Y recognized.  On the other hand, lots of students considered Dr. Y to be profoundly disturbing to their psychological health.  (I liked Dr. Y, but my regular readers already know how weird I am.)  How was he scaring away students while she wasn’t?

I should note that Dr. X’s job description also contained one unusual detail.  He provided pedagogical training to the new graduate students who staffed the introductory and mid-level courses.  He mentored them, observed their teaching, and designed the curriculum.  The homework load didn’t block my social life while the textbook, though being of a halloweenish orange color, could hardly count as ferocious unless the teacher decided to throw a copy at your head.  Damn hardbacks.

So how could this friendly little fellow scare away students?

I eventually went to graduate school and had the pleasure of partaking in an initial teacher preparation seminar; in that course, I learned that Dr. X’s instructional methods had become outdated.  Big time.  That’s not to say I didn’t learn from them.  I consider myself fortunate to have gone through the undergraduate system while he was in charge, before the department was overhauled to teach Rocksforjocks instead.

I hope this picture of "Rocks for Jocks" won't offend the distinguished geologists among you.  (Photo credit: somewheregladlybeyond at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ecb/136287275/)

I hope this picture of “Rocks for Jocks” won’t offend the distinguished geologists among you. (Photo credit: somewheregladlybeyond at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ecb/136287275/)

Are the new methods worse?  Not necessarily.

However…

Let the words of Dr. Y echo through your head: “He was scaring away the students.”  The new methods entertain the students much more (which, in itself, is not a bad thing) and that encourages students to take more courses in the subject.  That also helps the professors keep their jobs.  Few methods exist for firing a tenured professor, but eliminating a department is one of them.  So of course it didn’t seem to matter so much to Dr. Y that Dr. X’s syllabi didn’t meet departmental or university expectations for maintaining up-to-date instructional practices.  Suffice it to say that his classes probably inspired much gratitude from local espresso merchants but it’s the academic merchants who are trying to sell their wares.

So, out with the old!

The new methods, despite some legitimate educational advantages and antidepressant side effects, have also helped permit the major to become significantly more fluffy.  People graduating with that major today do not possess sufficient skills to tell a prospective employer that they can be of use in the workforce.  However, an easy A will attract students to any course and that’s why families sacrifice so much to pay for college.  That, and beer pong.

And then you’ll discover a few nefarious aspects.  (Yeah… I started with the kid-friendly version.)  In a major publication of the American Association for Rocksforjocks Education, a prominent teaching specialist encouraged college Rocksforjocks faculty to make convenient use of placement exams.  “Convenient” means letting students skip over as many of the boring introductory courses as possible so that they can get to the interesting stuff, making them more likely to select Rocksforjocks as a major which in turn maintains desirable levels of Rocksforjocks funding as well as (once again) the faculty’s jobs.

And make no mistake about it: students don’t complain about this arrangement.  If you inflate their grades in the advanced courses, they’ll never know how unprepared they were.  At least while they’re still at the university plunking down all those tuition dollars…

Similarly, the faculty would judge teaching methods based on students’ enjoyment and appreciation of them, not on whether learning actually transpires.  Some of the new methods created astoundingly positive effects but they were chosen for the wrong reasons.

But let’s fast forward a little, shall we?

Now that I have finished my education and have been unemployed for a while, I can only growl at what education in my former field has become.  Although my skills are up to snuff, employers surely look at my resume and assume the opposite.  The new grads can’t cut it, so why would I be able to?

And then I apply for teaching jobs at the high school level.  I’m competent to teach more than that one subject but I’m constantly asked about the one I majored in.  Even if a school isn’t seeking a teacher for that subject.  Today, a job applicant is believed to only be capable of doing what he majored in… even if the resume indicates otherwise.  But in my old field, applicants are now assumed to be incapable of performing within the major, for obvious reasons.

Needless to say, I am never going back to teaching Rocksforjocks.  Some people get desperate when they’re unemployed and they take any available position.  I’m desperate to not inflict the same fate I’ve experienced on any future students.  A few would surely benefit from the legitimate information that Rocksforjocks provides but it’s not worth the collateral damage.

Let’s leave the jock’s rocks at the docks.  They’re a crock.

I also know from observation that Rocksforjocks teachers in high school and college spend considerable effort recruiting students into their courses.  To anyone preparing for college entrance, I’d suggest never enrolling in a course that the faculty is actively advertising.  Professors have their own agendas and the associated needs do not always coincide with what will benefit you most as a student.  You don’t get to see the behind-the-scenes pressures that school administrations place on your teachers.  You should not assume that they are your benevolent advisers, although you will find some who will behave honestly and honorably towards you.

Just like banks and credit card companies, colleges are businesses and you are their customer.  If they make you feel happy with their product, they have achieved their goal.  Just be sure to maintain that idiotic grin as you’re being ripped off.