Thursday, January 10, 2008

Completely Random Thoughts

It has been a while since La Professora has visited the Land-o-Randomness, and, in that time, she has seen and heard quite a bit. So much so that those bits have crowded out the usual higher thoughts. In the interest of clearing the head so that the coming semester could be started with a fresh perspective, here is a random selection of oddities.

1: "Organic Salt"
There are days that I truly do wonder about the American educational system. Usually it's because I'm reading some rather atrociously written student essay, but this time around it is what someone said that has me, and a couple of other folk, alternatively giggling and agast.

For the winter holiday in which gifts are exchanged, I had recommended to the sibling of my romantic partner that she purchase gourmet salt as a gift for said romantic partner. So, off she went to the local gourmet food shop with her mother in tow.

At this point, I should mention that her mother used to be a professor of Chemistry and a former dean of sciences at Ohio State University -- not a dumb woman, that one, and she certainly didn't raise any idiots either.

The selection being made, they placed on the check-out counter a canister of Himalayan Pink Salt. I've seen the salt; it is indeed pink -- the chemistry geeks in the house tell me that has something to do with ferrous oxides, or some such; what do I know, I research military politics.

The sales clerk begins to gush, telling our heroines that she just loves the Himalayan Pink Salt because it is -- and they assure me that she actually said this -- "totally organic".

If you don't understand why the former professor of Chemistry had to bite her tongue to keep from correcting the sales girl, you need to go back to your science instructor and demand either a refund or a refresher course.

Oh, and the way, according to the sales girl, you can tell that it's "totally organic" is that it's pink -- unlike regular table salt, which has been bleached!

One hopes that someday she'll figure out why two women were horrified at her statement, and it's not because she revealed the "secret" that table salt is bleached.

2. "Traveling Sucks"
Well, that one is fairly self-evident.

We were 36 hours late arriving at our holiday destination this year because the first flight of our trip was canceled and the soonest they could get both of us on the same flight was two days later.

While I used the time at home productively -- I graded; the fewer termpapers I had to take with me, the lighter my bags -- the above mentioned romantic partner spent the time on the Internet reading horror stories about the airline that had canceled our flight. Trust me when I say do not try this at home.

The trip back was uneventful -- for everyone else. For me, not so much. Let's just say that a G.I. bug and air travel do not make for a good combination.

3. Unpaid Wiretaps.
While the Bush administration is trying to get amnesty for telecommunications companies for allowing Homeland Security to tap their customers' lines, it seems that those same companies would really like to get paid. Turns out that the FBI is in arrears with its wiretapping bill, and so the companies have been cutting access until the government pays up -- even for the legally obtained taps. Man, I could write gobs on this, but the punchline is so evident, that I couldn't begin to do it justice.

4. Election season.
Seems like the campaigning will never end.

For the first day of the Winter Session course on American Politics, as it was the day before the Iowa caucus, I had the students do a simulated caucus to vote on the best food for studying -- I'm weird, but I'm not crazy enough to actually have the students vote on real political candidates. Today, we covered how the Democratic Party allocates its convention delegates to the states. Then we went on to the far less complicated discussion of special interest groups.

(If you're interested in testing your AmGov knowledge, every day until the 18th, I'll be posting on my "other" blog the daily quizzes)

In the interest to helping out those not in the political know, here are some websites that you may want to visit in order to become a more informed citizen:

CNN has a pretty (and I mean that in both sense of the word) good site for understanding what is going on with the primaries and the caucuses: Who's up, who's down, who's out.

Smart Voter, a site produced by the non-partisan League of Women Voters, gives all sorts of useful information, most important of which is where to vote and what is on the ballot for individual citizens.

Once you know where to vote, you may want to know for whom to vote. Two different sites have popped up to help folks pick the best candidate for themselves. I'm not sure how helpful they really are, as I got two different "matches" from them; so take the suggestions with a large grain of salt, pink or otherwise.

The first is produced by USA Today. This one is interesting because it not only asks questions with slightly more exhaustive answer sets -- sorry, the methodologist in me can't help grooving on that -- it also allows the respondent to "slide" the importance of the answer groups. As an added benefit, you can compare you responses with the "average" American's opinions. Needless to say, I'm nowhere near being "average".

The second is a website created by some group called Never heard of it before, but the candidate match quiz seems decent enough. Given more time, I might go explore a little more the site.

There were more sites that offered to match me to my dream candidate, but first they wanted to get all sorts of personal information about me, such as where I lived and what I would like to buy online. Message to get stuffed.

And that's the current batch of ideas on which I would have written more, had I really wanted to do so.

Tell you what, if you're in need of more time killers, here is a short list of cartoons I like and thus read often enough:
The dark comic on the life a boy and his squid: Lio.
The twisted comic on the life of a succubus and a fairy: Pibgorn.

Still need something to do rather than what you're supposed to be doing? Suck it up! 'Cause I gotta write tomorrow's quiz.