Wednesday, December 27, 2006


There's another TV ad that is getting on my nerves (yes, I hear you saying "just turn off the television, JMG"). This one is for a particular weight loss program in which you buy special food. In one of the company's ads, a woman says that as a result of this program she "got her life back," and then she says that her husband says, "I got my wife back."

If I were that woman and my husband said that to me, I'd be insulted. Did he not consider her his wife while she was fat? Was he ashamed of her? Just who was that fat woman that he was sleeping with all that time?

Surely that was just scripted for the commercial.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

New Blogger Switch & Other Stuff

I got my blog switched over to the new Blogger yesterday, but before I could use the new tools, I had to update my template, which caused me to lose my header image and my favicon. I managed to get my image back on there, but I haven't figured out the favicon yet (the favicon is the little spider I had next to the url in the address bar--if you use Internet Explorer, you probably never saw it).

I also switched Musings From the Chariot, but it's under a new account with a different username. So, if you see comments in your blog by someone named "professor j," it's me.

Readership is way down this week. I guess everybody is getting ready for Christmas rather than blogging. I'll probably blog a little less in the next couple of weeks since Husband will be home from work. We need to finish the upstairs bathroom project that we began a couple of months ago, and he has a new project that will likely require my expert help. He's taking the automatic transmission out of his Trans Am and switching it out for a six speed manual transmission. Apparently, this is supposed to make driving more fun, but I think it's just a ploy to keep me from driving it, since I can't drive a stick shift.

If I don't hear from any of you before then, have a good and safe Christmas!

Monday, December 18, 2006

I'm Not Buying It

Sears is running a TV commercial right now for their diamond jewelry. The jist of the ad is that even though the two of you decided not to exchange gifts this year, you know that means that you'll be getting each other something anyway to surprise each other with. This bothers me. As suggestible as Americans are, you know that someone who has made an agreement with his or her significant other not to buy presents this year will see that commercial and think "I'd better get him/her something anyway just in case he/she surprises me, and then I'd look stupid if I didn't have something for him/her." It's a ploy by the retailers to sell more, and it will work.

Another ad that's getting on my nerves is one for Directv high definition programming. Jessica Simpson is in her Daisy Duke role (her Southern accent absolutely sucks, by the way) telling some technical information about the resolution of the programming, and she says, "I totally don't know what that is, but I want it." This is about the stupidest thing that I've ever heard, but Americans will buy into this as well. If it sounds like the latest and best, we'll go out and buy it even if we don't know what it is or what we'll do with it.

We've been conditioned to respond to these ads, and it's obvious that they work because we're lined up at the stores to buy whatever we see. We see an ad and suddenly the stuff we have is no longer good enough, even though we liked that stuff yesterday. We need to get smart and stop being manipulated into parting with our hard-earned money every time we see something new.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Private Eyes are Watching You--And Ears are Listening

The government has a whole new way of bugging your conversations, and they don’t have to get into your house or office to do it. If you have a cell phone, it’s possible for someone to listen in on your conversations—not just your phone conversations. The microphone on your cell phone can be used as a bug to pick up any sounds in the near vicinity, even if your phone is turned off.

Apparently, if an agency decides to investigate you, they can have your cellular provider download some software to your phone, making the microphone active at all times. According to an article at CNET, “The U.S. Commerce Department's security office warns that ‘a cellular telephone can be turned into a microphone and transmitter for the purpose of listening to conversations in the vicinity of the phone.’ An article in the Financial Times last year said mobile providers can ‘remotely install a piece of software on to any handset, without the owner's knowledge, which will activate the microphone even when its owner is not making a call.’” The only way to deactivate the bug is to take the battery out of the phone and leave it out. Law enforcement agencies need a court order to be able to conduct such surveillance, but this past summer, we learned just how broad is the government's scope in collecting information.

When I read Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, I thought it was really farfetched that the TV could keep track of what people were doing inside their homes, but it’s totally within the realm of possibility. The next thing you know, we’ll hear that government agencies have been working with satellite and cable TV providers to download software into our cable and satellite receiver boxes in order to listen in on our conversations.

Scary stuff.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Midnight Call

Let me tell you what happened to me last week. First, some background info.

I allow my students to turn in essays through email, and I give them a deadline of 11:55 p.m. This deadline gives them a grace period of a few hours because they all know that I'm not going to check email in the middle of the night--it's usually late the next morning or early afternoon before I get around to getting their emails. When I do check email and find their essay, I send them a reply that I received it.

I have a class in the afternoons that I swear they all must have ADHD. They drive me nuts because of all their energy. I constantly have to tell them to shut up. Everyone in the class is very good natured; they don't cut up out of malice; rather, their chatter is usually related to the topic of discussion (of course, if left to their own devices, their conversation will soon go off on a tangent.) I like these students, but they drain me of my energy. There's one guy in the class that's sort of the main instigator. Everyone likes him, and he gets his energy from that. He's quite intelligent and he writes pretty good essays. However, for as good natured as he is, he also tends to think that everything he does and says is quite cute. You know the type--fraternity guy, party animal.

I give my students access to my cell phone number because it is much easier for me to have to deal with only the one number and one voicemail. So far no one has abused the privilege--until last week. On Wednesday night--actually it was early on Thursday morning (the morning before my surgery), 1:00 a.m. to be exact--my cell phone rang. I usually turn it off or put it on silent at night so that in case I get a wrong number call, it won't bother me, but this time I had forgotten. I didn't bother to get up and answer it, but then it rang again, so I thought it would be a good idea to answer. By the time I got to my phone it had quit ringing, so I checked the missed calls log and dialed the last number, which I did not recognize. As I was leaving a message my call waiting went off, so I switched over, and it was the above-mentioned student calling, so he says, to ask if I had gotten his essay (which was due two hours prior to his phone call) because he had not yet received a reply. When I heard that, coupled with all the background noise, I knew he was calling me drunk from a fraternity party. And I was pissed! I mean thoroughly pissed! I didn't say anything to him that I shouldn't have said--not that he would have remembered it the next day anyway--and I knew that there is no reasoning with a drunk person. I decided to tell him that he needs to remember who keeps the gradebook in this class, but about that time my cell signal died. I went back to bed, but it took Husband and me a couple of hours to get back to sleep.

Our next class period is on Thursday, but it is optional; they can come to figure their final grade if they wish, so I don't know whether he'll show up. I have plenty to say to him if he does. He is signed up to take the next course in the sequence--my class of course. I'm going to advise him that he needs to take someone else because I don't know how objective I'll be able to be with his grades after this incident.

Can you believe the audacity?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Take That, Bellsouth!

As of today, Bellsouth no longer provides me with DSL service. A couple of technicians did whatever it is that technicians do and determined that the homes on my street are no longer eligible for DSL service. As it was explained to me, "When the power company came in and redid their lines, something happened to our lines that caused problems with the DSL." It is obvious to me that Bellsouth has determined that to fix our problem will cost more that we are worth as customers. I won't tell you what all I said to the customer service representative--it wasn't pretty.

However, Bellsouth has lost me as a customer altogether. I just finished speaking with a representative from another phone company that will now be providing my home telephone services--at a substantially lower cost that what I have been paying. I will also be switching to a local dial-up provider, a small company in Murfreesboro that has been around for a long time. This means that my email address will change, so some of you will need to update your address books. I'll send that info as soon as I make the changes.

Now that I have finally made the move to completely break ties with Bellsouth (well, I'll still love my brother even though he works for that outfit), I feel much better.

Monday, December 04, 2006

What's the Point?

This is from an article in my campus newspaper today. I'm sure that my students will be rushing out to buy it as soon as it's available. I cannot, however, figure out why this combination.

Vicious Vodka, a new caffeine-infused vodka, is being marketed to the Nashville area by MTSU student Tim Grace, a senior public relations major and Tennessee distribution manager of the California-based company Vicious Ventures.


The company is targeting Nashville's young, single, contemporary crowd from ages 21 to 35, Grace said. First it will be marketed in the Nashville area, then eventually to the rest of Tennessee.

Vicious Vodka is also being marketed to the extreme sports crowd such as snowboarders, wake boarders and skate boarders.

Grace said he hopes to have Vicious Vodka on the shelves in Tennessee around January. The company is currently marketing the vodka in New York and Hawaii with promotions and special events.

Rendes has not disclosed how much caffeine is in the vodka, Grace said. However, per volume it is the same as coffee.

"The biggest concern I have is mixing a stimulant, the caffeine, with the sedative of the alcohol," said Pat Spangler, medical director of Student Health Services. "You're trying to offset the side effects of one product with the other."

Spangler said the caffeine could possibly cover the signs of being intoxicated.

Somehow, I don't think the caffeine is going to counteract the alcohol. The rest of the article is here.

The End Is Near!

Classes end this week, and a much needed vacation begins after I finish my grading. By the last day of classes on Wednesday, I'll have taken up essays from all of my remaining students. I haven't counted, but I think I have around 85 students still hanging in there. What's wierd is that one student who was doing really well and would probably have earned an A suddenly stopped attending. She had only a couple of weeks left and only one essay left to write. However, it was a well known fact that she did not want to be in school and was there only to appease her mother. Too bad that the entire semester ended up being wasted because she couldn't hang in there a couple more weeks.

For all of my complaining, I realize that I have a great job. I work for fourteen weeks (well, around 15-16 if I count the time from the end of classes until the end of final exams) and then get a month-long break, and then I work for another fourteen weeks , and then I get nearly four months off from work. Those two sets of fourteen weeks are killer, but the long breaks make it worth it.

On Thursday of this week, after I finish classes, I will have a little surgical procedure on my throat. I won't bore you with the nasty details, but suffice it to say that I'm having some excess tissue cauterized. I have been promised a sore throat for a few days and the possibility of some bleeding. All this right at the time that I have to begin a marathon grading session, so y'all pray that I recover quickly and that the soreness is kept to a minimum. The good news is that I'll have an excuse to eat lots of chocolate pudding!

If I find some good quoteable quotes, I'll share them with you. My last set of essays did not have any good ones, but I did read a teriffic essay on how to end a bad date early and ensure that you never get asked out by that guy again. (Some tips, ladies: order the most expensive item for both yourself and your date, lament the bareness of your ring finger, and complain about the amount of tip he leaves--whether it's too much or too little, or even if it's just the right amount!)

Y'all have a nice day!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Mean Old Professor G.

My students have known since the 6th of November what the assignment is for their final research paper. We have used class time to discuss possible topics, and I accompanied my students to the library one day to help them with research. I even gave them two days off from class to persue their research. They have a draft due for workshop on Monday, and their final draft is due on Wednesday.

Today I received this email from a student:
I'm really having a problem finding information on my topic.
I can't find what I'm looking for. I'm writing on
What does this student expect from me at this point? Perhaps this will sound uncaring, but I replied that I cannot do her research for her and that she should visit the library and speak to the librarian at the research desk for help.

I really hate it when students wait until the last minute to do a task and then try to make their emergency into my emergency.