Sunday, November 10, 2019

The maw of the semester

I got a letter at work earlier this semester addressed to me at Bryn Maw. I'm finding the word "maw" quite apt at the moment.

I feel as if the semester, or my email, or both are like huge mouths rising up from the deep ready to engulf me. I'm being swallowed whole, like that poor sea lion in Monterey Bay this summer that just happened to be underneath a lunging humpback. There's no animus involved, no hunger being sated. Like the sea lion, I'm just in the way of something with more momentum than I can stop.

But I guess that even if I did get sucked into the mouth of a whale, I'd get spit back out again like this diver.

Technically I couldn't actually end up in the maw of a humpback whale, as maw derives from the German for "stomach" rather than mouth, and I wouldn't fit down a humpback's esophagus. The sea lion apparently escaped, too.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Despicable me

I opened up my email this afternoon to see an email titled "Vaping and Vitamin E." The snippet read

Hi There,  I just read the article posted in regards...

I was quoted in September (and it turns out today, too) in a couple of articles in the Washington Post about the chemicals considered possible causes of lung damage from vaping. I've gotten occasional emails since, ranging from on-the-ball analytical chemistry sales staff hoping I'm in the market for some new instruments to predatory journals hoping I'll 'contribute' an article or join their editorial board. This, I guessed from the chipper start would be more of the same, my money was on analytical instruments (the predatory journal entreaties are more likely to start with "Dear esteemed professor...")

(Double-click) Oops, nope, it's a howler!
My entire reason for writing to you today is to tell you how incredibly irresponsible and cruel you are to suggest animal testing. SHAME ON YOU. Animal testing is horrific and there is no reason an innocent being should suffer for the stupidity of people. I hate that I have to walk to the same earth as people like you who can disregard other living beings for the sake of "science". Despicable. 
Please re-think your stance as it's so undeniably cruel and wrong. There is no justification no matter how you try to spin it. I don't know how you sleep at night.
Whoa. I can almost see the whole thing crumple up and turn to ash.

I'm very confused. I'd spoken about molecular structure and properties, not animal testing. I pull up the most recent article to find I'm quoted about molecular structure and properties, not animal testing. The comment about animal testing is further down and not attributed to me.

I toy with many answers to this email.
Snark. ("I sleep just fine, thank you.")
Demanding. ("I want an apology for this cruel and unwarranted attack.")
Shaming. ("How dare you send this to the wrong person? Can't you read?")
Demanding and shaming. ("I demand an apology for your carelessness!")
None. (Probably the best option).
Flat denial. (What I went with.)
I went with denial, in part because the writer was on social media and if I could keep this from becoming a social media thing, I wanted to. But it was inarguably a mistake, and if I had made it I would not want to get flames in response. So I simply said, "not me." And I did get an apology in return.

Bonus! I've never seen Despicable Me - so now it's cued up to watch while I grade tomorrow.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Reefing the sails of our oration

I've been to a lot of meetings in the last few weeks. A lot. In the last four days I've spent more than 8 hours in one meeting or another. A whole working day. This morning I was reading St. Methodius (the fourth century bishop, martyr and Church Father, not St. Cyril's brother). To signal that he is wrapping up an oration on Simeon and Anna, he declaims, "let us reef the sails of our oration." There were a few moments this week when I wished I had the nerve to make a similar suggestion to whoever was speaking.

I do note that when Methodius suggested reefing his sails, he wasn't ready to bring them down all together. That reflection still had almost 10 minutes to run, for a total of about an hour and a half.