Thursday, February 21, 2013

Verschiedene Themen ohne Kohärenz.

  • Have you ever tried plugging a deeply idiomatic expression into Google Translate, just to see if you could make it work in other languages?  It's a pleasing thought exercise in precise language, since the program seems totally ignorant of even mildly idiomatic phrase.  You have to keep refining the phrase as you think out the exact nuance in minimally referential Standard English.  "Random bullets of crap" takes some real effort.  And, since I can't actually read German, I can only wonder how close to the mark I got here.
  • Dude, the deadline for submitting abstracts to the Big Giant Pseudology Conference is mere weeks away now!  Where has my fool head been about this?  I need to get on the stick, and fast.  I had pretensions of organizing my own panel this year, but that collapsed pretty fast: I'm at a point in my writing and research in which there is no particularly salient concept around which to build a conference panel.  I'd better humble myself and just send in a regular abstract, and hope that it gets accepted.  I'll have to go one way or the other, if I get any nibbles in next year's job cycle, so it would be nice to add a line to the CV as I trudge back into battle.
  • I'm getting faster at grading essays, but it still makes my head hurt.  
  • It also makes my soul hurt to see smart kids with good ideas have to take a low grade because their writing is just that abysmal.  How the f is it possible for someone to be more than halfway through college at a pretty good school, and utterly incapable of putting together a coherent paragraph?  I really want to help them shape up in this regard, since I can already dimly glimpse the gemstones underneath all the dirt.
  • Although my soul is unaffected by this, I'm also annoyed to see vacuous, thoughtless students avoid answering straightforward questions by trying to drown me in verbose bullshit.  Kid, do not flatter yourself that you can bamboozle me.  I read motherfucking pseudology for breakfast, punk.  You'd do better to write an under-length paper acknowledging that you don't yet understand the material and you're just going to give it your best shot than to give me a full-length paper full of awkward sentence constructions and bloviation.  
  • It's also not encouraging to see that some of the worst offenders in this last regard are close to earning degrees in writing-oriented majors.  I'm trying to remember that we all have less-than-optimal students at times, lest I be tempted to march across campus to their advisors' offices and wave the incomprehensible writing in their faces.  Lord knows I wouldn't want to be held responsible for the mediocrity of some pseudology students, once I'd given my best efforts to teach them something.
  • The more I consult with friends about this, the more I am convinced that hard-anodized aluminum non-stick pans and I simply do not get along.  (Traditionally, I'm a stainless steel guy, except for a trusty old glass baking pan.)  A number of people have recommended that I learn to work with cast iron, saying it's not as finicky to maintain as I fear, and that it does a really good job cooking all sorts of dishes.  I've never used cast iron in my life, but the evidence suggests that I cannot get aluminum non-stick to work for me.  Any readers out there care to comment on the relative merits of cast iron, enameled or plain?


  1. I use a cast iron skillet for pretty much everything. You "season" it, but there's lots of explanations on the web, and it's really not that hard. I'm pretty lazy, but I find the upkeep pretty easy. I guess the big thing is not letting it stay wet for long, so either dry it, or put it back on a burner for a sec.

    My vague understanding is that a regular cast iron (rather than, say, an enameled) lets you do the seasoning thing to make it somewhat non-stick, and also provides dietary iron a bit.

  2. We use cast iron, enameled, and really nice stainless steel (caphelon). We use them for different things-- the enameled is for rice and for stew-like things. The cast iron we use for frying mostly. The stainless steel we use for almost everything. And it is relatively non-stick with the added bonus that you can scrub if it isn't. We got rid of our non-stick years ago, just not worth it.

    Re: cleaning a cast iron pan: Alton Brown has a great tutorial. Basically we use kosher salt and paper towels and dry rub it clean.

  3. I have a mess of Le Creuset pans that I absolutely love. They last forever, cook things evenly, and aren't as high-maintenance as cast-iron. They can be put in the dishwasher, even!

    Your students sound much like mine. Like you, I do not appreciate the "I'm just going to throw a bunch of smart-sounding words onto a page to obscure the fact that I don't know my ass from a hole in the ground" approach they take with alarming frequency. I've started just calling them out on their horseshit. They write a bunch of crap and then don't even bother to pretend to answer what they are being asked.

    Unlike you, I suppose, I don't give a shit any more. I'm leaving academia and this place in just a couple of months. If they're already mediocre, my efforts will do little to improve them. Someone else can deal with them.

  4. Enameled is nice for high-acid dishes, like tomato sauces. But for just about everything else, go the cast iron route! I did a few years ago (under TM's tutelage) and have never looked back.