• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.


Friday Fragments

Star Trek, job security, movies and a future author.

September 22, 2016

Star Trek’s 50th anniversary just passed. I’ve enjoyed introducing it to the rest of the family. The Girl really enjoys the Kirk/Spock version, as do I, and it’s fun to see which ones she responds to.  

Recently, for various unbloggable reasons, I’ve been thinking a lot about the episode with Kirk and the Gorn. An alien race kidnaps Kirk and a zipper-backed lizard man called the Gorn, and arranges for them to battle to the death for their own amusement. As styrofoam rocks fly and dramatic music swells, the two duke it out, trading temporary advantage.

The turning point comes when Kirk has the Gorn on its back, a wooden stake ready to sink into its chest. Just before the killing blow, Kirk stops, and tells the aliens that he refuses to kill for their amusement. Morality matters more.

The aliens decide that there’s hope for him yet, and let them both go.

The Girl and I were both struck by the courage to rise above adrenaline and vengeance. It has to be a conscious choice, but we can choose it.

There’s hope for us yet, and we don’t even need to throw styrofoam rocks to find it.


Apparently, a few major metros are considering rules to require low-wage service sector employers to provide work schedules at least two weeks in advance.

Yes, please.

I’ve had too many conversations with or about students whose work hours changed abruptly, and whose coursework was thrown into chaos.  

And I’ve read too many policy discussions that assume that you can multiply minimum wage by 30 or 40 and figure out someone’s income. That’s not how these jobs work.

In addition to being poorly paid, they’re erratic.  Some weeks are busy, and some weeks you’re lucky to get ten hours. The hours change, making stable class schedules -- let alone child care -- much harder to manage than they should be.  

Two weeks is far less than a semester, but it’s far more notice than many low-end workers get now. It at least offers a fighting chance. A student who approaches a professor with an anticipated crisis a week ahead of time is in much better shape than one who brings it up after the fact.  

It brings costs, as any new rule would, but the social good would be considerable. Yes, please.


Like any erstwhile political scientist, I’ve been following Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com this election season. It mostly focuses on the election, but occasionally it tries something else. I’m thinking maybe it should stick to elections.

It did a survey to determine the most “re-watchable” movies of all time. (Star Wars was the winner.) As one might expect, it’s terribly, terribly wrong.

Star Wars is fine, of course, and it’s hard to argue with The Godfather or The Princess Bride. But not a single Monty Python? Not even MP and the Holy Grail? Puh-leeze. It lists The Sound of Music, which I can’t endure even once, and leaves off Monty Python? Phooey.

Heathers, Office Space, Blazing Saddles -- not a single one.  But The Avengers makes the list?  Pshaw.  I’m almost as upset as Milton when he discovers his red stapler is missing.

Nate Silver is a good social scientist, but no.  


The Girl: “After I write my first book…”



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