Archive for February, 2009

Eeek! Sex in the university!

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

So, a funny thing happened the other day.  A representative from Georgia, Calvin Hill (R-Canton), got hold of the media guide from Georgia State University — you know, one of those lists of “who to call for a quote about X” things.  And on there, he found people with expertise in things like male prostitution and oral sex.  He thought he was looking at a course catalog, and immediately got all bent out of shape about people teaching our children courses in oral sex, because of course this is a waste of taxpayer dollars, as kids know more about it than we do.  Ha ha, just kidding, I mean because nobody should know anything about it ever.


So then his colleague Charlice Byrd (R-Woodstock) got up on the House floor during prime C-Span hours (i.e. everyone else was asleep) and called for a grass-roots campaign to kick out professors who teach stuff like that, and especially “queer theory.”

“This is not considered higher education,” she said. “If legislators are going to dole out the dollars, we should have a say-so in where they go.”

Byrd and her supporters, including state Rep. Calvin Hill, said they will team with the Christian Coalition and other religious groups to pressure fellow lawmakers and the Board of Regents to eliminate the jobs.

“Our job is to educate our people in sciences, business, math,” said Hill, a vice chairman of the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee. He said professors aren’t going to meet those needs “by teaching a class in queer theory.”
(Fort Mill Times)

The whole thing more or less blew over — turns out that Kirk Elifson does fairly important research on the spread of HIV by male prostitutes, and Mindy Stombler is a sociologist studying attitudes of teens about sexual practices, and somehow it doesn’t sound as bad when you use your brain for an instant or two. Hill tried to back-pedal:

Several members of the committee praised Elifson and Stombler for their work; Hill, too, spoke to the committee but given the chance, did not ask the GSU faculty any questions.

He defended his interest in the issue and said he never specifically accused GSU of anything. He also said the media had blown the subject out of proportion.

“It’s been taken sideways by people who like the titillating words,” he said.

He argued that in a time of budget cuts universities should not offer classes that do not help students get jobs.(Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Because all he really meant to say was that higher education should be transformed into vo-tech.  Still, not everybody is ready to give up on this.   Just today the conservative blog Human Events published a philippic on the topic, supporting Byrd’s original plan to expunge all this nasty stuff from tax-supported educational institutions.

This is a management issue. Over the last thirty years, even in the bastion of large public universities, the mantra has been “let’s shock the parents.” Maybe it hasn’t been official or stated but it’s been there. The Deans of the Schools and the management structure of the University must be able to not only balance the curriculum, but also manage it through hard times. Too many times these academics don’t know how to manage people because they are academics and not business people.

If this is happening in University System in Georgia, it’s happening in your state, too. Go online and look at the course offerings at your son or daughter’s university and you’ll find these fringes offered there, too. They are counting on parents to be too intimidated to get involved. Parents should take charge of their child’s education at every level.

And taxpayers should demand better administration of college funds. If we are graduating people who can’t do math, don’t know science and can’t write or speak English well, why in Heaven’s name are we spending money on anything but to improve those results?

There you go! Higher education should be confined to teaching math, science (not the nasty kind, I’m guessing) and English. Out with those other fripperies like the arts, so-called sciences like sociology, and, I guess, epidemiology.  I mean, just while the economy is bad.  Once things get rolling again, we can just rebuild all those departments that we abolished before, no problem.

A reading meme

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

Cabell posted this on Facebook and tagged me.   As is typical with book list memes like this, the list is pretty idiosyncratic, and even occasionally idiotic.  Whatevs.  I guess if I felt strongly enough about it I’d make my own list.

1) Look at the list and put an ‘X’ after those you have read.
2) Add a ‘+’ to the ones you LOVE.
3) Mark “@” those you plan on reading.
4) Tally your total at the bottom.
5) Add a – to ones you really didn’t like




1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen X
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien X+
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling X+
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee X+
6 The Bible X (some parts get a +, like much of Genesis and Exodus; Begats and all the rules in Leviticus are boring and Revelation is like hearing someone’s bad dream)
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell X
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman X
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott X
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy X
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller X+
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare @ (For crap’s sake.  I haven’t read Titus Andronicus, and no doubt others.  Nobody else on the list is “complete works of”.)
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien X+
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks X
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger X
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger X
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell X
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald X
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy X
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy X
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh X
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky X
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck X
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll X
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame X
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy X
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia X
34 Emma – Jane Austen X+
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen X
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis X
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres X
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden X
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne X++
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell X
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown X- – - – - (Worst-written book ever actually published, except for the Left Behind series)
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez X+
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving X+
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery X

47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy X
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood X
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding X
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan (I started this and couldn’t get through it)
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel X (Robin loved this; I thought it was boring)
52 Dune – Frank Herbert X
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons X
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens X
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley X
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon @
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez X
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck X
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov X
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt X+
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas X
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac X
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie X
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville X+
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens X
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker X
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett X+
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce (I’ve read the first page or two several times. Does that count?)
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath X
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt X+
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens X
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell X+
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker X
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White X
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Alborn
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle X+
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad X
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery X
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams X

95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole X
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas X
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare X (Why the hell is this on here after “Complete Works” was already?)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl X
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo X

Total: 69
Wish list: 2

Curious conjunction of circumstances

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

My phone rang this afternoon, and it was Cabell, on the way to teach human sexuality, asking me about a certain reputedly intersex actress.  We had a brief conversation about androgen insensitivity.  This is a condition in which an individual has a mutation in the gene that codes for the testosterone receptor protein.  The individual makes testosterone, but the cells don’t respond to it at all.  As a result, an XY individual with this mutation develops as a female in most obvious ways.  External genitalia appear female, and at puberty she develops breasts, etc.  Typically such individuals are tall, relatively broad-shouldered and narrow-hipped, and have larger than average breasts.  They are generally sterile, and the vagina may be shallow.

Famous pic of four XY siblings with androgen insensitivity (NSFW, unless your work relates to genetics or sex determination).

Of course, I’m talking about this in my office at the Center for Writing Excellence, which is basically a cubicle — everyone in the place can hear me talking about naughty bits, and I’m not safely in my biology environment.  Whatever; they’ve come to expect this sort of thing from me.

Okay, so then later in the day I’m looking at facebook, and a friend has posted a link to this site with pictures of redneck wedding cakes.  The first cake pictured:

Shows two deer on the top.  Several commenters pointed out that both have antlers, and wanted to know if these were San Francisco rednecks, etc.   Another commenter says that females can have antlers.  So I checked it out, and found this article about does with antlers, which are rare.  Why do they occur?  Oh, various reasons, such as intersex, …

Seems like today is intersex day for some reason.

My lousy senator fights spending for alternative transportation

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

I just got a little note from MoBikeFed, the state bike advocacy group, with some interesting information.

Kit Bond, paleocon, Missouri’s senior senator, is sponsoring amendments to the stimulus bill that would strip all transportation funding except the part that goes to highways.  Like this:

[Bond] plans to offer an amendment that would transfer $5.5 billion in the bill for surface transportation competitive grants to the highway and bridge formula. The grants are meant for larger projects of national or regional significance that can be started within three years. Bond said that is not stimulative.

This is because bigger and better highways promote more gas-powered transportation, and as we know, gasoline is

a) Free

b) Not produced by countries that hate us

c) Non-polluting and non-CO2 producing (Not that Kit worries about global warming)

d) The most healthful way to get around

And, as Bond says, it’s “not stimulative” to spend money on alternative transportation.

Way to go, Kit!  Don’t waste taxpayer money on modernizing our infrastructure with light rail, buses, electric cars, bicycle paths, and pedestrian walkways.  Let’s invest in what got us where we are now.  Forward into the past!

Oh, btw, you can send your senators a message on this issue right here, if you’re interested.