Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thursday morning things

* I have four hooves (they are done separately) and one leg for Big Macintosh. I started the second leg but didn't get all that far.

* Because I had scholarship applications to review. I read every single one, even the ones from folks with GPAs below what I would be comfortable giving the scholarship for. (I am the chair of the committee for this particular scholarship). I made up a matrix covering GPA, extracurriculars, perceived need, year they are in school (this is an ongoing scholarship, presuming GPA stays good, so that can be a consideration), and what the recommendation letters say.

One thing that made me a little sad - in one of the letters, one of the things a professor praised the student he was writing about for was that she "was always on time for class" (this was not damning with faint praise; there were other things he noted that I considered more outstanding).

So I wondered: have we really reached a point now where being on time for stuff is seen as sufficiently rare as to be commendable? That makes me sad. Because I feel like a dinosaur some days, because of the stuff my parents taught me that "you just DO" and I actually find out in the larger world, they sometimes are kind of rare:

1. Be on time for stuff, unless there is a real emergency. (I had a bunch of students late on Tuesday, but they were all people who cross the Roosevelt Bridge, which was closed for a time that morning because of an accident. That's a real unavoidable delay, so I easily forgive that. I don't so easily forgive, "I really wanted to see a couple of videos on MTV and wound up leaving the house 15 minutes late.")

2. Say "please," "thank you," and "excuse me." Yes, they're little things. But they make an enormous difference. I know I've complained about times when I did stuff over-and-above for people and they just acted like it was their due. I remember a book I read once about etiquette - in the larger context of treating people as you would want to treat them, but in the larger LARGER context of loving your neighbor - where the author noted that "please" and "thank you" put a checkrein on the "infant dictator" that we all have within us: saying "please" indicates that you recognize that the person is NOT your slave; what you are really asking is "If it pleases you to do this, would you...." I often use the opener, "I was wondering if...." which I think leaves a similar possibility for the person to say "No" and not to feel as if I believe they are obligated to do that thing. And "thank you" is stopping, taking a breath, and expressing gratitude for what just happened, recognizing that it did not HAVE to be that way. (Incidentally, if anyone's interested, the book is called Say Please, Say Thank You. . I recommend it because it's not really a book of "manners," as I said, it's more a book that makes you think about how you treat other people and the idea that using good manners is one way of loving your neighbor. (IIRC, the author is a Presbyterian minister).

3. Do what you say you're going to. I've already griped about my roof-broom in this issue. I was raised to expect when someone said, "Yeah, I'll help you with that" they will, or at the very least, call and explain why they can't.

* I will say the decline of civility that I seem to be seeing (Maybe it has always been so, and I just never noticed) is kind of distressing. The "please" and "thank you" is only part of it.

* I received a late paper late last night (via e-mail). I don't know what to do. Part of me wants to reject it and say "I said, in the syllabus, I don't accept late papers" but part of me just isn't up to dealing with the disappointment/anger/whatever.

I once had a student epically flounce out of class after I refused to accept a week-late paper. He was angry enough that for the rest of class I stood with my fingers hovering over the "magic keys" on our computer that are supposed to silently summon campus security. (Though in a real, serious, like weapons-involving situation, I'd be dead, that's how far we are from the campus police station). Nothing came of it of course and later on he came back all cowed and did his oral presentation to get at least a few points, but: I don't like that kind of thing happening. I don't like conflict, I don't like having students crying in my office.

But the excuse for why it was late was pretty thin, so I guess I better do like I did to the other student in the class with an earlier paper that was later.

* Receiving a late paper and having to deal with it is kind of like waking up and finding the neighbor's dog had a digestive emergency all over your front porch. You recognize that it's not entirely the dog's fault because he doesn't necessarily know any better (some high schools, any more, don't HAVE due dates for things), but you still have to clean it up at a time when you really don't feel like it.

* I overheard one of the more oddball and disconcerting student conversations yesterday. We were driving back from a field lab, and one of my students asked, "Dr. Fillyjonk, are you and Dr. Starswirl the only botanists on campus?" And I said yeah, that I guessed we were.

And the student thought for a moment, and said, "You could take him."

And I was thinking, "What? Why would I want to take him anywhere?"

And then another student asked, "You mean, like in a fight?"

And that was what the student meant.

So I guess they've got some weird Batman-vs.-Superman meme going on for the faculty. Or some weird Pokemon thing going on.

I SAID "It alarms me what some of you come up with" but I admit in my mind I was thinking, "Well, we're about the same height, but I work out and Dr. Starswirl doesn't, and he's also 10 years older than I am....perhaps the student's assessment is correct." Not that I would ever want to fight my colleagues.

* And this frustrates me. It's a slightly older New York Times editorial

Pull quote:

"Doctors warn people with high blood pressure to go on a low-salt diet, but that’s virtually impossible in today’s world, because nearly 80 percent of the sodium that Americans eat comes in packaged and restaurant food (whether it’s a bagel, a sandwich or a steak dinner). You can’t take it out"

YES YOU CAN. It's called "almost never eating restaurant meals."

Which is what I do. Yes, I'd love it if some of the chain restaurants voluntarily cut back on salt in more of their foods. I love Panera Bread because many of their salads are low enough in sodium to be OK for me to eat.

(I'd also love to see reduced-sodium become a cause as large as gluten-free is a cause. Yes, there are still few restaurants that do gluten-free acceptably for most people who have to do it, but grocery stores really have increased the run of gluten-free items. Would it kill wal-mart to have a few more low-sodium varieties of canned vegetables? Would it be so hard for the barbecue sauce companies to make a reduced sodium sauce? It wouldn't have to be every sauce or every company, just a few.)

I don't like being painted as this "victim" of the insidious tendency of restaurants to oversalt stuff. If you take responsibility for it, you can do a low-sodium diet. I have done so for what, two years now? Yes it's a pain in the backside and a major drag and there are a lot of days I come home and look at what I have that I can eat and want to cry. But I do it. 

I'm also not sure I would like the idea of a government mandate for reduced sodium....because I could see more unintended consequences coming from that than from, say, Bush's Baked Beans going, "You know: there's a whole market of people who have to watch their sodium intake. Why don't we do a reduced-sodium baked bean? It might expand our market share."

I guess a lot of my frustration with this is that it seems to me, more and more, when something is hard, there are people going around acting like it's impossible. It's NOT impossible. It's just a challenge. Granted, it's probably less of a challenge for someone like me who knows how to cook and cares about things like reading labels (well, how much I cared about reading labels increased in a hurry after my dx).

This is probably directly related to my frustration when students talk about something being "impossible" when it's merely something time consuming or challenging.

Impossible is God creating a stone too large for Him to lift. (Chesterton, I think, had a whole essay on that. Or maybe it was Lewis). Cross-multiplying and dividing is a walk in the park once you know how. Likewise, finding food that you can eat that amounts to less than 1500 mg sodium a day is a challenge, but a doable one.


Charlotte said...

If you decide to accept the late paper, perhaps lowering the grade as a consequence of the lateness would get the message across that lateness isn't really acceptable.

On the low sodium issue, perhaps if you wrote to the various food companies suggesting they make a lower sodium item you'd like, it might bring about a change. Maybe they don't see the potential market. Or it's possible they do make the item but it's just not for sale in your area and they can tell you where you can get it.

purlewe said...

I wonder if... (here comes out my canning and preserving side of my brain) I wonder if high salt and high sugar items are in prepackaged foods b'c of shelf life/stability. I know that you need more salt and more sugar in canning and preserving foods for the home (not necessarily as much as pre-packaged stuff, but their stuff is supposed to be shelf stable even LONGER than home canned/preserved foods.) so perhaps we have moved towards a far point of high salt/ high sugar that keeps the food on the shelf longer and thereby causing all sorts of baloney health wise down the line.

and I agree with Charlotte. EMail the companies you would like to see low sodium items. I bet they would like that feedback. Also? email the ones that are low sodium you like and let them know to keep making them.