9 January 2014

Tales from university

There are professors out there who do an excellent impersonation of Satan.  There is, for instance, this one professor who publishes his own course books.  Not unusual in and of itself: many professors do the same, some through major publishing houses, some through vanity presses, and some through self-publishing.  This one self publishes both a fat text book and two fat solutions manuals for his university math course.  All the money goes directly into his pocket, and he is raking it in.  The real robbery is in the two solutions manuals.  Most solutions manuals coming from reputable publishing houses run in the forty or fifty dollar range, with some more expensive ones topping out at about seventy.  His go for over a hundred bucks each.  Because, as is well known, students have oodles of cash and are perfectly happy to shell out hundreds and hundreds of dollars on books they will only use once.  Oh, and the professor makes sure they cannot sell the used books, as he creates a new edition every year (which is no different from any previous edition, ever)  for the sole purpose of preventing any used books from coming round into his class.

But wait, there's more!

Shockingly, this guy is a rotten professor and students frequently drop out of his course after the first term, which used to mean they never got around to buying his second solutions manual.  I assume he lay awake at night weeping inconsolably into his pillow over the thought of all his lost revenue.  After all, how is a university professor to get by if he is not allowed to supplement his $100k+ salary with money fleeced from his students?  But then, he had an idea.  An awful idea.  The prof had a wonderful awful idea.  He would restructure the two solutions manual.  Volume one would now contain only the odd numbered pages, and volume two would only contain the even numbered ones.  That way, students would have to buy both books from the very beginning, no matter how much time they wasted in his stupid class before they dropped it.  That way, he could sleep peacefully without ever having to worry about losing all that lovely money again.

In all honesty, I would not be surprised if a student or group of students were to grab this pustule, drag him out to a field somewhere, force him to dig his own grave, and then shoot him in the back of the head.  If they were put on trial for doing so, they need merely put twelve students on the jury, and the jury would rule the guy had it coming, or, as they say in Texas: he needed killin'.  The accused would walk away free, with gratitude.


I saw today on the Google doodle that today is the birthday of Simone de Beauvoir.  In one of my lower points of academia I was stuck reading her 'seminal' work "The Second Sex."  It was a typically French academic work, long on claims, short on back up.  Many of the women in the class who read the book just took it as gospel,  and quoted it as such.  Simone said it was so, therefore it was so.  QED.

My favourite memory of the book occurred when I was reading the wretched tome coming home from school one night and ran into a girl I knew from high school on the train.  The girl was, to speak in similes, as beautiful like the dawn, built like a brick s-house*, and dumb as a post.  I am being cruel: perhaps dumb is not the word for it.  She had, let us say, an impenetrable naivete, the kind that only really sheltered born agains ever have.  At any rate, we exchanged pleasantries, and then she pointed at my book.  "That's not about something gross, is it?" she asked.  "I mean, 'The Second Sex'...?"

*Does anybody out there know what the phrase ""Built like a brick s-house" means, or more accurately, why it means what it appears to mean?  Most s-houses are built out of something light, so they may be moved when the hole below becomes to full or the smell gets too bad.  A brick s-house would be immovable, and therefore just smell really, really bad.

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