Commutation of sentence

There I was, heaving a bow saw against the shrubbery, sweat running into my eyes, red-faced, and maybe looking a little over-stressed, and my wife gives me one of her looks and tells me that maybe I ought to call it a day, she was about to drive off to the dump with a load of brush and was a little bit afraid that she’d find me slumped into an unconscious heap when she got back.

Now you know, this is an affront to my manhood. I quickly marshaled many fierce replies, but I was slowed in delivering them because I was panting so hard. Otherwise, I was ready to tell her…

“At least I will have died like a man, with my tool in my hand!”

Or maybe the classic,

“We all gotta go some time.”

But then it sunk in that if I said anything like that, I would sound like Gary Johnson.

My gob, what an idiot. Aren’t you New Mexicans a little embarrassed about having elected this guy?

So I surrendered meekly and have gone into the house. I guess being sensible and cautious is one way to avoid surrendering to our fate.

Oh! And as I walked into the house, I got handed some bulky certified mail. Richard Carrier is suing 7 entities, and I’m two of them. He’s demanding $1,050,000 in compensation and another $1,050,000 in punitive damages. So there’s another fate I won’t be surrendering to.

Winter is coming

And that means that Mary and I are spending our morning doing yard work, hard physical labor. I’ve already killed one tree and dismembered it, and next I’m going to murder a lot of shrubbery.

They’ll get their revenge tonight when I’m lying prostrate and moaning about my sore muscles and aching back, though.

Allow me to complain some more about SETs

You might also like reading about the reification of student evaluations. I’ve witnessed this so many times — another thing I detest is the sacred mean, which must climb ever higher, or you’re a bad teacher. It doesn’t seem to matter that students are diverse and there cannot be a single professors who personifies the ideal for every single person. One of the terrible things about is that it assumes our student bodies have the consistency of mashed potatoes, and we just have to find the strategy to teach the mass. How can you even contemplate reducing a complex task like teaching to a single representative number?

Student Evaluations of Teaching don’t

I love student evaluations. I hate student evaluations.

Every semester, at the end, I’m required to go through this rigamarole where we give students an opportunity to evaluate our teaching, by handing out a standardized form with a Likert scale for telling us how wonderful or awful we are. It’s useless. They get to color in little dots that put us on a scale of quality, and most students don’t seem to enjoy it, and I’ve also noticed that the way they score the teacher is more reflective of how well they’re doing in the class than how well they were taught. I could easily boost my score by giving out more A grades.

And, unfortunately, they’re taken way too seriously by our review committees. I’ve seen committees split hairs over a hundredth of a point, or compare faculty on the basis of sample sizes of less than 10 students. Worst of all, I’ve been in meetings where faculty seriously insist that every instructor ought to be getting above average scores on student evaluations. And you can’t speak out against them, because then they’ll get revenge by carefully scrutinizing your scores.

In their defense, though, people have argued for years that student evaluation scores are positively correlated with academic effectiveness. Only that turns out to be not necessarily true.

A new study suggests that past analyses linking student achievement to high student teaching evaluation ratings are flawed, a mere “artifact of small sample sized studies and publication bias.”

“Whereas the small sample sized studies showed large and moderate correlation, the large sample sized studies showed no or only minimal correlation between [student evaluations of teaching, or SET] ratings and learning,” reads the study, in press with Studies in Educational Evaluation. “Our up-to-date meta-analysis of all multisection studies revealed no significant correlations between [evaluation] ratings and learning.”

These findings “suggest that institutions focused on student learning and career success may want to abandon SET ratings as a measure of faculty’s teaching effectiveness,” the study says.

Oh, please, yes, make it so. Kill these things. Not only would it stop wasting our time, but it would end pointlessly innumerate conversations in faculty meetings.

But wait, I also said I love student evaluations. I do! But not the numbers. Our forms also have an open space for free-form student comments, and those are often very useful. They’re also abused (one year a group of students colluded to write the same thing on every form: “This class taught me to love Jesus even more”, because of my reputation as an atheist. I hadn’t mentioned anything, pro or con, about Christianity in the course — it was a cell biology class, but I had brought up evolution quite a bit), but they also tell me what students found memorable or problematic. That’s good to know, and I try to reduce the problems and use the memorable strategies more in subsequent classes.

Also, believe it or not, grades aren’t just a way of punishing and rewarding students. I have goals for my courses, and they also tell me if I’m getting essential concepts across. So, for instance, the first exam in my cell bio course this term was intended to evaluate whether students had a good grasp of basic general chemistry; if they didn’t, I would have to go over redox reactions yet again before I plunged into oxidative phosphorylation. There’s no point in pushing on into more complex topics if they don’t have a good grip on the basics. (I’m relieved to say they did surprisingly well on the first exam, so our general chemistry course has clearly prepared them well.)

There are better ways of assessing whether a course is accomplishing its goals than handing students who don’t see the big picture a Likert scale and asking them to state whether the course and teacher are good or not. And do I need to even go into the superficial biases that color SETs? It matters whether you are good-looking or not, and students are nests of gender biases. I know that a benefit from being male — I’m not judged on appearance as much — but suffer a bit from being older and less attractive. But those are things that shouldn’t matter at all in judging teaching effectiveness.

48°52.6’S 123°23.6’W

If ever I mysteriously disappear, here’s where to find me. If I ever retire (which seems unlikely), I have a destination. Point Nemo.


It’s the point on Earth farthest from any land mass. It sounds delightful.

Also, if ever sunken R’lyeh rises sometime after my vanishing, I’ll be the skeleton found on the slimy rocks of the beach, hagfish writhing in my ribcage and and crabs peeking out through my eyesockets. Just so you know.

Shouldn’t a creative genre naturally gravitate towards greater diversity?

I like this essay about science fiction’s woman problem — it really hammers home the distorted demographics of the SF community, and on the surface, it seems very odd. This is a genre of literature that emphasizes strange, new, weird perspectives, and we’re supposed to be fans of mind-bending cosmic novelty that the Mundanes and Muggles just don’t get; we tell ourselves that the whole point is to turn the lens of “what if…?” back upon ourselves, and see how people and cultures would change if one little thing were different, if the future were a tiny bit different from the present. And what do we get? Lots of repetition of White Imperialist Men in Space. That’s fine, I enjoy a good heroic space opera myself, but can we also leaven it all with some variety?

I’ve been consciously selecting my light reading lately to avoid the familiar white authors — again, nothing wrong with them — and what started out as something requiring intentional effort quickly turned into a genuinely fun and stimulating pastime. There’s a place for comfort food, but once you’ve been on a diet of mac-and-cheese for a long time, and you start trying new stuff, pretty soon you’re unsatisfied if you aren’t getting sushi or bibimbap or falafel for dinner, and they stop being “exotic” foods and become that really tasty goodness that you crave all the time.

So the latest two books I read: Everfair by Nisi Shawl and Engraved on the Eye by Saladin Ahmed. Fabulous! You like steampunk, Victorian fantasy and SF? Everfair has all that, but in addition, it’s set in the Congo of King Leopold II of Belgium (he’s the villain, obviously, but actually, the whole dang colonial system is the bad guy). Just moving the story out of the usual London setting is great, but having a nightmarishly wicked villain who was actually real, and even worse than the novel portrays him, makes the story seem just a bit more fierce. You like sword and sorcery? Who needs burly grunting Aryan barbarians when you can have aging, overweight Doctor Adoulla Makhslood to admire. I found it gratifying to finally have a hero I can actually physically identify with.

But here’s the deal: if you’re really into imaginative SF, shouldn’t you be avidly seeking out different authors and different ideas all the time? You don’t have to like it all, but jeez, shouldn’t it be a natural phenomenon that all SF readers would be exploring strange new worlds on their bookshelves?

Went home for dinner. Caught a groundhog.

Those two sentences are not at all connected, but I was famished, and this beast looked so plump and succulent, I contemplated having a tasty haunch of Marmota monax. Fricasseed whistlepig. Charbroiled chuckling.


But then it made all kinds of clicky-chitterings at me, and called me “deplorable”, so we just relocated it to a pleasant spot down by the river, instead.


Then we went out for Chinese.

Just call me Chad

I have never been so flattered in my life. Usually the angry MGTOWs and MRAs just call me a beta cuck, but I’ve now discovered what they really, secretly think of me. Dave Futrelle reports on what MGTOWs say about women: they don’t like sex at all, they don’t want it, they don’t get even a little tingle out of it, with one exception. That is, if their partner is a top 5% male like Chad Thundercock.

Women are always saying they love sex but in my experience they are completely f**king frigid and really low sex drive unless you are already having sex with them. They never, ever really ACTIVELY pursue or initiate sex with a stranger because they really just don’t care about it, unless its to get something out of a man, like love, affection, dinners, cards, romance.

They are so completely disinterested in sex and stuck up about it , it makes me f**king sick. This is why they can charge such a heavy price for it, because they really don’t want it and really don’t need it.

A top 5% male like Chad Thundercock may have pussy literally thrown at him though. I am not him, so I wouldn’t know.

Since I happen to intimately know a woman with a perfectly normal, healthy sex drive, I have to assume I must be one of those rare studly types who elicits that kind of response. The alternative is that all those pontificators have either never actually interacted with a woman, or perhaps are so repulsive that women’s libidos wilt away in their presence…but that can’t possibly be true. They’re bold, independent, strong men, right?

Of course, it’s also possible that she’s been putting on an act to get glamorous gifts from me. It is her birthday today, you know, so maybe it’s because she knows she’s getting a spectacular present. I’m getting her a dehumidifier for the basement. It’s a very Chad Thundercock sort of gift.

I’ll tell you another secret that we Chads all know, though. She’s not quite 60 years old today. If I had a time machine and could go back to talk to myself when I was 18, when I was dating Mary when she was a young nubile hottie, and my wrinkly grey-bearded self were to tell me that I was going to grow old with her, and that I’d still be with her when she was over 60, my young self would have felt such awesome joy — the same joy I feel now, that we’d be together even in our old age.

Of course, then old me would bring out my phone — that would be dazzling right there — and show young me a photo that would reveal she’s just going to get better and become a mature nubile hottie, and even my shallower impulses would be gratified.

But then, we fortunate Chads are always getting lucky.