Monthly Archives: August 2013

My Rider Should Be Here More.

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It is being a long time since I have been talking to you!  That is because nothing has been going on at the barn.  I am still having a yellow pony in my paddock.  He is nice.  He is not being a BFF like Shamrock or Tango were, but he is being a decent buddy.  That pony is following me everywhere.  Even when my rider comes to take me out, he is wanting to follow me there too!  My rider is having to always say Get back, Winnie!  Only Huey!  And yesterday she is having to smack him on the butt with the rope snake because is is not making room for me to walk out.

My rider has been being gone for long times lately.  That is good because it is meaning I do not have to behave myself!!  My rider is a mare.  She is all the time making me do thing I do not want to do, like backing up and going slow and standing still, and then she is not letting me do things I want to do, like stopping to eat grass and screaming at Clay when I go past his stall.  Some of the people who are at the barn make me behave but not as much as my rider does.  Some of them are letting me do anything at all that I want!!  And that is good, because I am one big horse and I can make a lot of space for myself!!

But then it is not good because no one else is taking me for grass and giving me carrots and stuff.  They are just giving me hay and grain and water and taking me to the paddock and the stall.  It is OK, but it is not as nice as grass.  Also, I am not going riding as much.  That is also OK because there is something that is not totally right.  My rider keeps asking me what is wrong, but I cannot tell her.  This is because I am not being sure.  I am just knowing something is not right.  My rider says we will figure it out together but in the meantime, I am going riding a little, just not a lot, and I am not getting to do any cantering.

Also, the bugs are being awful.  My rider soaks me with bug spray and that helps a lot.  But bugs still land on my lips and get in my nose, and I am not liking that!!!

My rider was being gone again but she came back a few days ago.  I was not being happy about being left alone with only the other horses and all the people who are working at the barn and maybe some little kids.  All of the other horses were being with their rider horses and going to shows horses but I was just being a standing around in the paddock eating hay with no rider horse.  So when she came back I was not wanting to talk to her.

She was saying Huey, Huey, and tickling my lips, which usually I like, but I was not liking it then.  That is because I was being a Mad Horse.  I am not drooping my lips and letting her put kisses on my muzzle and stretching out and stuff.  I am giving her a Stink Eye and I am making a frown.  That is with my lips being put together hard and squishing my nose shut.  I am doing that to let this rider know that I, Huey, am not happy.  I am also showing her that I am not having to behave myself either.  I am stopping to eat grass and then when she is wanting me to move around to see if my Something Not Right is being Not Right, I am not feeling like moving around.  That is not because of the Not Right thing, it is because I am showing her.  I know this because she made the rope snake bite my butt and that rope snake made me move around and everything was OK.  But I was still not happy.

Then yesterday we did not go riding, but I had to be a behaving horse.  I said I do not feel like behaving.  I feel like eating this grass because I have not been having grass, being an alone horse with no rider.  But she is saying NO.  Move on.  And I am not saying anything.  I am just watching her with my eye, and I am walking, but I am putting my head lower and lower and lower and lower and lower, and just when it is being low enough that I can stretch out my lips and grab some of this grass, she is saying NO! and then even though she is being all the way over there, that rope snake is somehow biting my butt again and I am picking up my head and running out.  Then I am thinking that she will not be doing that again, and besides, I am a mad horse, so I am sinking my head lower.

But then I notice that my rider is making a Stink Eye at me, and it is a big Stink Eye and that Stink Eye is so big it is making my head come right up and making me feet move out.

That is not fair.  I always have the best Stink Eye in the barn, anywhere I go.  Other horses are scared of my Stink Eye.  Most of my riders have been too.  But this rider has a better Stink Eye than I do!!! And she is not scared of my Stink Eye at all.  A lot of the time when I make it? She laughs.  It is being very humiliating to have someone laughing at my Stink Eye.

Today, my rider was in the clothes she only wears when we are going riding.  And she put me in the cross ties and started brushing me.  But then the other rider, the one who is better than my rider and who rides me sometimes, was there, and they started talking.  I knew they were talking about me, because they said Huey.  But still.  I made a frown.  My rider talked a lot longer and then said Huey, why are you making a frown?

And I am not saying anything at all.  I am just frowning more.

Then everyone is tickling my lips and saying Huey, Huey, but I am still not saying anything.  I am just making a bigger frown.

Finally, they stopped talking and my rider said Huey, what is it.

So I said You were standing around talking to that other rider.

And she said So?  We were talking about you Huey.

And I said I do not care what you were talking about.

And she said Why? What is going on, Huey?

So I said You were being gone for a very long time and I was not having any rider here and I was being bored and I am not wanting to be Not Right, I am wanting to go cantering and to shows like all the other horses do, and you are finally being here but instead of standing there and brushing me and talking to me like you are supposed to do, you are standing around talking to someone else.

And then she said Huey, you are right.  This is our time.  You know I am all about you.  Always.  But I am getting help with your Not Right thing, and that means standing around with other people and looking at you carefully and talking about you.  But you are right, too, and I will stop standing around and talking, and just pay attention to you right now.

So I said That is good.

And then I got some grass, and a horse muffin, and some hay.  I hope my rider figures out what is Not Right soon, but at least, I am not being some horse without a rider any more.

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This is not my real Stink Eye. It is only my baby Stink Eye. But it is pretty good, you have to agree!

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Heck. It’s Almost September

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For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.  For students and teachers of every stripe, Late May is the Season of Rejoicing.  Or maybe June, if you live in an area with an extended school year.  For students and teachers of every stripe, Late August is the Season of Dismay.  There’s nothing an educator likes to see less in the daily paper than the big color flyers from Staples, Office Depot, and Target pumping the BACK TO SCHOOL SALES!!!  Take it from me:  every bit of dismay you felt upon seeing these as a child is fully echoed by those whose responsibility it is to educate.  Maybe even more so, because I distinctly recall holding a strong and persistent belief as a kid that somewhere in the Treasure Trove that was School Supplies IT could be found.  The pen that would not leave smears of ink down the outside edge of my left hand.  The spiral notebook that would organize all of my notes.  The highlighter that would find the most important parts of the handouts and notes and transfer them indelibly into my brain for later access on the exams.

Yes, like Dumbo, I was convinced that there was a magic feather of a school supply that would make the term interesting and easy.

As an educator, and as a Ph.D. with, let me count, 23 years of full-time studenthood under my belt, I now know better.  There is no app that will make my grading magically disappear without requiring hours and hours and hours of exhausting work.  There is no handout I can produce that will instantly and indelibly convey the knowledge to my students that this material is worth their interest, full attention, and dedication.  There is no planning calendar that will magically shrink the number of hours that have to be spent in meetings and dealing with administrative overhead.

Where the BACK TO SCHOOL SALES!!!! flyers formerly held the allure of unexplored potential, now they just mean one thing:  time to stop working at home in shorts and a t-shirt, and time to start hitting the road for a commute and putting on long pants with attention to which clothing items go with which others.

See, for college professors, “summer” doesn’t mean “stop working”.  It does mean “slow down working” which is awesome, because in the ordinary course of events when the term is on, we’re pulling 60 hour weeks on a very regular basis.  I remember, back in the Glory Days of my undergraduate career, thinking that “College Professor” had to be the best job ever, because you have, what, 3 classes per term, and they meet for 3 hours a week, and there’s another maybe 5 office hours, so that’s, what, 9 plus 5, a 14 hour workweek!!!! And winter break and summer  break off!!!  How much more awesome can you get?!?!?!

Well, I still think “College Professor” is the best job ever – right after “Independently Wealthy Philanthropist” – but it’s got nothing at all to do with short workweeks. Sometimes, honestly, I long for the days of being an underpaid receptionist, or dream of operating a forklift for a living, mainly because those jobs don’t follow you home.  “College Professor” – like “Small Business Owner” and “Entrepreneur” – is a 24/7 job that will basically expand to fill every minute you let it.  Having been an “Entrepreneur” as well, I’d say the main difference is that “College Professor” comes with a steady paycheck, and benefits like health insurance.  Otherwise, they’re pretty similar.  You’re largely self-directed…with the proviso that your self-direction had better align with some external party’s desire or you’re going to go out of business.  You manage your time for yourself…with the proviso that you frequently need to align with someone else’s schedule, be it a client, an employee, a class, or the faculty meeting.  You can do a lot of the work in your preferred clothes…but you occasionally have to put on the dress togs anyway.

And any time you take off, for yourself?  You will be paying for that later.

There’s a reason that Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs have a reputation for being driven.  They may not have started out that way (although lots of them have), but pretty soon you develop an incisive sense of the Opportunity Cost.  That’s an economic concept that refers to the cost of the foregone opportunities when you make a decision.  The Opportunity Cost of ordering the hamburger for lunch is that you forego the opportunity of ordering the cobb salad, the steak-and-eggs, the veggie burger, or the greek salad.  The Opportunity Cost of going to school is the wages you would be making if you stayed out of school and just worked, or the fun you would have if you just backpacked and panhandled your way across the country.  The Opportunity Cost of going to a baseball game is the picnic or the nap you won’t take in that time.

The Opportunity Cost of taking some time totally away from work is coming back and finding all that work you didn’t do piled up in front of you, and the money you didn’t make because you were out partying instead of bringing in new clients, providing services, or selling product.  Even if you have plenty of cash, that mountain of work acts as a powerful deterrent to taking large blocks of time off.

It’s the same for us College Professors.  Most of the work we do is never ever seen by the students.  In addition to the 14 hours or so of the obvious stuff that even I could figure out as a kid, there is a virtually endless series of meetings, advising, supervising internships, filling out paperwork, commuting, and more meetings.  That’s just the administrative overhead.  Beyond that, for every hour I teach in the classroom, there are about four hours of preparation, planning, retrenching, additional on-the-fly course development, and grading.  Not to mention that in these days of asynchronous and distributed work environments, I provide technical support to my students between 8am and 9pm, on a fairly continuous basis.  So that’s a pretty stiff workweek.

But wait, there’s more.  Research is the do-or-die for most academics.  It’s why we get Ph.D.s instead of satisfying ourselves with non-terminal degrees.  So, sliced up and wedged in every available time slot left over after the above list of tasks, is research activities.  Reading scholarly articles, coming up with ideas, collecting data, analyzing it, writing it, and then just when you think you’re done, beginning the long slog of the publications process, which involves sending articles out to journals to get reviewed by your peers, all of whom will have something critical to say about your paper that needs to be fixed before they’ll consider letting it get published.  This is actually pretty important if you want your academic field to have a body of reliable research, unlike, for example, 90% of what you see posted and reposted on Facebook or featured in the comments stream for any Yahoo! or New York Times article.  But wait, there’s even more:  the people reviewing your paper are peers…which means…other College Professors.  So, in addition to all this stuff previously enumerated, you are expected to critically read and review other people’s research on top of all the administrivia, teaching, and doing your own research.  And if you’re really good that that you might wind up working for a journal and managing that whole publication process.  You don’t get paid extra for any of this stuff, mind.  It’s volunteer.

That’s always the fun bit to explain to people, say, like my mother.  All that extra work, for no extra pay.  Why do it?  I’ve crafted many answers to this question over the years, but they always seem to devolve to “it’s important…but it’s hard to explain”.

So what about the big job perk of summers-off?  The only stuff here that is actually tied to the academic year is 1) spending 9 hours or so in the classroom, 2) answering student questions from 8am to 9pm, 3) the commute, and 4) the meetings (mostly).  Summer is for research and related activities, and for making new courses or fixing up your old ones.  And it can all be done in shorts and a t-shirt, at home.

So the end of summer break doesn’t mean a whole lot more work it just means some more work in less comfortable clothes.  With a commute thrown in.  And some really weird hours, if you’re like me, and wind up teaching at night.  It’s strange how much difference these little things make, though.  

I got whammied this year, too, because just as soon as we came back from the Annual Meeting (see last post) my computer died.  Or, rather, it’s still dying.  Something happened to it that makes it very unpredictable.  It could be awake and working for 45 minutes before it crashes…or 45 seconds.  No way to tell in advance.  This is not conducive to committing precious intellectual capital into that rickety structure, and since 100% of my work output is precious intellectual capital, it meant I couldn’t work.  Not for two weeks, until my new (reliable) computer arrived.

Yeah, I remember the good ol’ days when someone might say to me “Guess what! The system is shot and you can’t work for two weeks!  And you’ll still get paid!” and it would be cause for a major party.

But now?  Thanks to the Miracle of Opportunity Costs, I hear that same thing and I think “Dammit. No work for two weeks? At this time of the year?  Dammit.”

Now the new system is here, I’ve finally finished configuring it, transferring files, getting my appointment book and tasklist back, and most of the software I need is installed, and finally I can start addressing that whacking huge backlog of work that built up over my two-week enforced break.

Days like this, I hate being a grownup.

Armstrong Redwoods

This is my Happy Place today. It’s really the redwood forest outside of Guerneville, CA, but in my head, it’s a path leading to a place that has no computers, traffic, or long pants.

In This Corner, Weighing In At Three Thousand Accounting Professors…

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The American Accounting Association, aka “Triple A” is the professional organization for Accounting professors in the US and has a huge participating membership for Accounting professors abroad as well.  Every year the Triple A hosts a mighty conference – usually with over 3,000 people attending, plus spouses, significant others, kids, and random family members – in the first week of August.  This means that in the first week of August, somewhere in the US, an hotel is filling up to the eaves with Accounting professors.  In many cases, this means exactly what people assume it means.  Lots and lots of people in golf shirts, khaki slacks, or suits, all coming together to talk about…Accounting.  (I hear this word in the Reverential Tones used by Sam the American Eagle muppet when he speaks of Business).

Accounting practice, Accounting research, Accounting education.   It’s three or four days of intensive Accounting Chatter.  At the hotel coffee shop, at the hotel bar, in the hotel lobby, in the hotel elevators, and at the hotel pool.  And, of course, there are skillions of academic sessions where people are not just chatting about Accounting, they are presenting it.  Panels, guests speakers, active researchers sharing their work through presentations and poster sessions.

If you ever feel that you life lacks a certain…Accounting Angle…you know where to go to repair that now.  The Triple A conference is the Place To Be.

Usually, as I mentioned, this means we have a rather large hotel that is bursting at the seams with Accounting professors, actual Accountants, and their friends and relations.

This time, we’re meeting in Anaheim, a stone’s throw from the Hallowed House of the Mouse: Disneyland.  This proximity is a major reason for the choice of venue.  There has to be something for everyone else to do while the professors are off talking about Accounting.  So in addition to the juggernaut of Accounting, there are hordes of vacationing families.  This, too, is not atypical, because the conference location has been strategically identified.

This hotel, this time, however, the scene at the hotel is nothing short of surreal. To the typical convention melange of tourists and the Followers of Accounting is added a very tsunami of Youth.  This hotel is also hosting VidCon, a Con (they aren’t sure if it’s a CONference or a CONvention, according to their site), and a a massive 10,000-plus-person celebration of Internet Video Auteurs and YouTube Groupies.

I will be honest.

I had no idea such a thing existed.

And yet, here we are, with swarms of overheated youth wearing gigantic Con badges with handwritten lists of their favorite YouTube channels on, to broadcast their Cyber Affiliations.

If only we were in Japan, I would be certain that my plane had taken a sideslip through the Twilight Zone and landed me smack in the middle of a William Gibson novel.  It’s much less edgy than Gibson’s cyberpunk dystopia.  It’s more like…Disney’s version of Gibson’s  cyberpunk dystopia.  Complete with a massive ultra-techy live music stage out in the courtyard.

I suspect that this hotel may be exceeding its fire load. The elevators have been impossible, between the throngs of Youth who look and smell as though they’d been camping and who are racing up and down to catch various Scenes. Anyone who’s been to a major Con knows about this – for the rest of you, much of the “great” stuff that happens that people talk about for years after actually happen in overcrowded hotel rooms. That would have to be CONvention, not CONference, because most of what seems to happen in hotel rooms at a CONference – other than the usual activities associated with hotel rooms – is Small Business Meetings.

At CONventions, what happens is choice authors holding court, or new filk songs being drafted, or – in this case – vast numbers of brand-new YouTube videos premiering.  All of them in dozens of hotel rooms packed to the gills with teenagers all jockeying for a look at someone’s laptop screen.

Beyond this, there are of course those who are using the Physical Plant to manufacture new YouTube video. The escalators are a peculiar fashion parade of groups shooting footage, some escalators hosting more than one group shooting different footage at a time – with predictably amusing results.  The elevators have been hosting this action too. There was a pair of chicks wearing masks representing, I think, some politician, and joyriding the elevators in a Penetrating Stern and Judgmental Silence. I couldn’t see who was filming them because we were packed in that car like sardines.

I have been party to some Strange Scenes, but the Accounting Professors Meet YouTube Fen has got to be one of the strangest so far.  Sadly, I am informed, the YouTube Fen will be vacating the premises today.  One wonders what next marvel will present itself.