In defense of the Liberal Arts..











Liberal Arts Majors aren’t all wishy washy…

The fact of the matter is that college should be an opportunity for students to learn to think — really think.

Most employers want employees with good critical thinking skills and good oral and written communication skills.  These are the sorts of employees they can train to do other stuff, because they can learn, think and adapt to new situations.  In technology-based jobs, the tech students learn in school is outdated by the time they get a job.  In “business” schools, modes of business and the economy will change by the time they get out of school.  The real hope for our future seems to be encouraging students to acquire the skills they need to be flexible in their employment — i.e. liberal arts majors.

A recent study I’m too lazy to link to (hey, this is a blog, not an academic paper — lay off, or go find it yourself) that certain liberal arts majors are better at developing the skills employers say they want — among the more successful majors are philosophy, political science and history.  The reason for this is that those majors require a lot of writing AND critical thinking.  In essence, employers want employees to be able to make arguments and assess situations — and those disciplines require that.

So — while China may be cutting majors that “don’t pay”, it’s to their long-term determent, because those non-paying majors are the source of creativity and innovation.




If a tacky store, cheap merchandise and desperately unhappy employees are not enough to keep you away from Mills Fleet Farm this holiday season, consider this. Mills has banned the bell ringers for the Salvation Army from their retail locations. The reason: It “may” encourage other organizations from asking to use Mills locations.

A bit about Mills. These are family members who cant even stand themselves. In Minnesota we call them Fleet Farm….in Wisconsin, Farm and Fleet each decorated in the same blaze orange and almost exactly the same, but operated by two asshole brothers that couldn’t stand each others company.

Do we all remember the attacks on 9/11/2001? Mills gas stations were the first (and only) retail chain to offer gas at well over $10.00 a gallon………until they were accused on television of price gouging.

I had the misfortune of having a stolen identity in the early 90’s……one of the places checks were written was Mills in Brooklyn Park. The manager called me and physically threatened me on several occasions. I had already sent him an official affidavit explaining I was not the culprit. I finally had to have a sit down meeting with the city prosecutor to get Mills to stop.

Would Jesus, Buddha, Mohamed or Santa Claus think that this is the time of year to stop helping the most vulnerable people in our society?

Last year, my 8 year old son pulled his last two bucks out of his pocket and put it in the red can. I didn’t ask him to or tell him to. It was just simply clear to him that he is more fortunate and he should help.

Something that escaped the mighty corporate Grinch.

Professor’s Serenity Prayer







…. left to go in the semester, then the bliss of finals week. Until then —

The Professor’s serenity prayer:

God, please grant me the patience to teach the ones that want to learn,

the courage to write off the ones who don’t give a shit,

and the wisdom to know the difference.

ps… if you could send the grading fairy around, I’d be most thankful.

Trouble saving tips for faculty…

… ’tis the time of the year for stress in the halls of academia…

We have too much to do and not nearly enough time to do it in… For us, Finals start in 2 weeks.. eeek!

Here are a few tips I’ve learned in 8 years of full-time (5/5) teaching:

  • Use whatever electronic calendar your college uses — mine is Outlook.  Put all of your classes, office hours and grading or research time into it — then you can tell staff folks who want meetings with you to look at your calendar and make an appointment.  It saves endless e-mails back and forth.
  • Use the course management software grade book.  It keeps you from having to answer “what’s my grade” questions… which are a complete time suck.
  • Find someplace else to do your most intense work… your office is NOT that place.  Folks will stop by, the phone will ring etc.  I dress a lot like a student and hide out on campus well away from my office — I call it my “study hall” and it works.
  • Final papers don’t need extensive comments.  They never come to pick them up, don’t waste your time.
  • Alternate activities.  Today I’m working on new online courses AND grading for the current hybrid course.  Flipping back and forth helps keep you fresh.
  • Have something to do that’s different for your off time.  I’m reading a trashy book about a girl who is paying her way thru Columbia as a model — and watching Friday Night Lights on Netflix with Andy.  Escape is your friend.
  • Remember that grades will be due soon and you’ll make the deadline — then it will be over — I promise.


Why I trust Andy…









This says it all — or, enough for public consumption :).


This year, like many years, I have a lot to be thankful for..

A happy healthy family — both the Ross clan and the Smith/Tran clan are happy and healthy.

My own health is good — clean PET scan and all.

My friendship with Andy keeps growing, we never run out of things to talk about or places to explore.

My divorce from the ex is civil and we remain on speaking terms.

Just today, my sweet cousin Oliver turned 30 — and we went to his surprise party… so fun!

I’ve had some spectacular trips in the past year — and enjoyed every one.

My students, on the whole, are kind, considerate and work hard.

My colleagues, on the whole are smart, kind and caring.

My administration, on the whole, has their hears and heads pointed in the right direction.

I have a job I love and things I love to do when I’m not working.

Things could only get better if I came home to find George Cluny desperately in love with me or a few million dollars on my coffee table..

Since those things aren’t going to happen, I think I’ll keep on living the life I have.

Black Friday

If I hear one more mention of Black Friday, I’m going to puke and crap myself in one convulsive sick-spolsion.

Black is not a holiday color. Black is the color of the hearts of the Wall St. bankers who are counting on you to be out there financing your 2012 away while sipping a $9.00 latte.

If you are really that desperate to get out there and work some of the Thanksgiving “Super Committee” off you ass, then go find someone who needs your help.

Shame on all of us!!!!!!