Category Archives: Miscellaneous

To Err is Humorous (2017 Edition)

It’s that most wonderful time of the year: grading season. As I’ve noted before, there’s an occasional silver lining to this otherwise purgatorial duty, namely, occasionally encountering an amusing typo or other lapsus calami. Five years ago I posted a collection of these gaffes, and as an act of solidarity with my fellow professors, I now post a second batch. (All are genuine.)

First, however, let me repeat some important words of qualification from my earlier post:

I should emphasize that most of these are innocent mistakes and no reflection on the abilities of the students who wrote them. Some of them appeared in otherwise excellent papers. They’re the sort of errors any of us could make, and many of us have made, especially when under the pressure of a deadline or ambushed by the AutoCorrect feature of our word processors. So enjoy them, but don’t forget that these are human errors — and we’re all human.

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To Err is Humorous (Sometimes)

I love my job. But one part of it I could happily forgo: grading papers. I know I’m far from alone. (One of my colleagues quips, “I teach for free, but they have to pay me to grade papers.”) I estimate that I’m looking down the barrel at nearly 40 hours of grading for this semester’s classes.

However, this oppressive cloud does have a (thin) silver lining: the opportunity to encounter some amusing typos or bloopers. I’ve collected a number of these gems since I started teaching, and this would certainly be a fitting time of year to share them. But before I do, I should emphasize that most of these are innocent mistakes and no reflection on the abilities of the students who wrote them. Some of them appeared in otherwise excellent papers. They’re the sort of errors any of us could make, and many of us have made, especially when under the pressure of a deadline or ambushed by the AutoCorrect feature of our word processors. So enjoy them, but don’t forget that these are human errors — and we’re all human.

With that caveat in place, I dedicate the following to all of my fallow grazers.

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The Unsuccessful Self-Treatment of a Case of “Blogger’s Block”
























References

  1. Upper, D. (1974) The unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of “writer’s block.” Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 7, 479.
  2. Molloy, G.N. (1983) The unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of “writer’s block”: a replication. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 57, 566.
  3. Hermann, B.P. (1984) The unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of “writer’s block”: a partial failure to replicate. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 58, 350.
  4. Olson, K.R. (1984) Unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of “writer’s block”: a review of the literature. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 59, 158.
  5. Skinner, N.F., Perlini, A.H., Fric, L., Werstine, E.P., and Calla, J. (1985) The unsuccessful group-treatment of “writer’s block.” Perceptual and Motor Skills, 61, 298.
  6. Skinner, N.F., and Perlini, A.H. (1996) The unsuccessful group-treatment of “writer’s block”: a ten-year follow-up. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 82, 138.

Three Fundamental Laws of the Internet

Three fundamental laws of the Internet:

  1. Data Persists.
  2. Emails Escape.
  3. Passwords Break.

From which three injunctions follow:

  1. Don’t post or publish anything to the Internet that 5, 10, or 20 years from now you might not want people to see.
  2. Don’t write anything in a private email that you couldn’t bear to become public.
  3. Don’t be the weakest link in the chain: choose strong passwords, keep them secure, and change them regularly.

Epictetus on Scholarly Braggadocio

I came across the following gem in the Enchiridion of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus:

If someone brags because he understands the books of Chrysippus and can explain them, say to yourself: “If Chrysippus had not written unclearly, this fellow would have nothing to brag about.” (49)

For further comic effect, try replacing ‘Chrysippus’ with the name of almost any celebrated modern theologian.

Run by Baptists?

Presbyterian Rehabilitation Center

I pass this van on the way to church every Sunday morning and it never fails to give me a chuckle. Silly, I know.

Pride and Prejudice

There’s no doubt that the election of a biracial man to the US presidency is a historic event. Insofar as it symbolises the success of the civil rights movement against racial injustice, it should be celebrated (and I join with my American friends on that count).

Still, I have to confess that I’m left somewhat confused by the countless expressions of pride I’ve witnessed over the last two days. “Today, I’m proud of America!” “Americans can take pride in this historic election result!” And so on.

But what exactly is there to be proud about, I ask?

Should Americans be proud that a biracial man has been elected US president? Surely that’s no reason to be proud. A man’s ethnicity or skin colour ought to be strictly irrelevant to whether he’s the right man to serve as president. Wasn’t that the point all along? So to take pride in his election on that basis is just another form of racism.

Should Americans be proud that a biracial man could be elected US president? Well, we all knew that months ago. How did the events of Tuesday add anything to that?

In any case, how would that give grounds for pride? Race should never have been an issue in the first place — not now, not in the 60s, not at any time. At best, the election result illustrates that a past injustice is no longer present. Suggesting that the election (or electability) of a non-white president is praiseworthy or prideworthy is to confuse the obligatory with the supererogatory. There should never have been any barrier in the first place. There’s no basis for pride in finally doing (or allowing) one what always ought to have done (or allowed).

Imagine if for 40 years my church had forced women to sit on the floor during its worship services. Should I feel pride on the day that the first woman is allowed to sit in a pew? Gladness, yes. Relief, yes. But pride?

America is a truly great country and Americans have much to feel justly proud about. Yet in all honesty, I fail to see that the election of a biracial president should be one of them. Gladness, yes. Relief, yes. But pride?

Perhaps I’m still bitter about the historic event of July 4th, 1776. :)