Wednesday, May 11, 2011

on sudden devaluations of personal stock values

Occasionally, people will do things that just cause me to lose a lot of respect for them, and once this respect is lost, it's hard for it to be regained. Fortunately, this doesn't happen all that often, but yesterday it happened three times.

There is a student who is a regular participant at office hours. She didn't strike me as being particularly sharp, but she at least asked questions. However, her questions were getting more and more basic as the quarter progressed. At the last office hours, she asked a really fundamental question, so I asked her whether she had done the basic-review-of-facts worksheet that I gave out a week earlier. No, she answered without shyness, displaying a pristine worksheet and a cheery smile.

It's not good form to blow up at your students, so I didn't, though inside I blew a fuse. The subsequent lecture was about regulating gene expression. For a cell, having a gene and not expressing it is much the same as not having a gene. I pointed out that you remain equally ignorant by not having a review sheet, and by having a review sheet and not doing it. I doubt I will have as much patience for this student in future office hours.

Another student--also a frequent attendant at office hours, and a pretty smart one at that--experienced a sudden stock devaluation later that day. I gave the class a quiz, and she was seated near three other students who were also her sorority sisters. According to the TAs, the four of them were signalling like third base coaches at a baseball game--scratch the left ear, scratch the right ear, scratch the left elbow, scratch the right elbow, and when consensus had been reached, a sharp nod. The first student was merely being lazy; being a cheater places you many rungs lower on the ladder.

Tired from a busy day of office hours, lecture, meeting with TAs (and all the sturm and drang of moving), I headed home, but stopped in the loo on my way out of the office. There I met the third losing stock--a person who also teaches microbiology, and who should know better. He used the loo, and "washed" his hands afterwards by basically turning on the water for one second, no soap. Ignorant students might have an excuse for this, but not someone in his position. I'll be washing my hands after I shake hands with him.

Today should be better. I'm not going to be meeting anybody.


  1. At the (Univ of) Georgia - Georgia Tech football game, two men in the bathroom. One pees in the urinal and then starts to leave, but the other says to him, "You know, at Georgia Tech, they teach us to wash our hands when we've used the bathroom." The other replies, "Well, son, at Georgia, they teach us not to piss all over our hands."

  2. Yup...and then you take a microbiology course--they teach you that urine's pretty darn sterile, but your skin in that region... wellletsnotgothere.

    By the way, that first annoying person has actually gone a fair ways towards redeeming herself. I thought it unlikely, but she's doing the right thing now.