How Many Missouri State University Workers Does It Take To Build a Set Of Stairs?

Apparently the answer is Ten.

MSU Workers

I was bemused, if a bit appalled, yesterday at how many of them were “working” on this project, but the older gentleman walking in front of me was affected even more. He stopped and stared, his face betraying his inability to decide whether he was aghast or angry, and I wondered who he was. A professor at the University, or was he perhaps a member of the Board of Governors?

At any rate, for an institution that is making drastic cuts to its budget in light of the current economic situation (our University President just presented at the Faculty Senate a plan to cut $5.5 million), it’s disturbing to see scenes like this. It put me in mind of the president’s comments at the recent State of the University address when he raised questions about committee sizes at the University, citing examples of ten and twenty member committees.

Perhaps the Stair Building Committee needs to be reevaluated. I just can’t imagine that its current structure is as efficient as it could be.

Update:: Got a text message from April a bit ago

Walked through the parking lot to use the new stairs but they aren’t finished yet. The ten men standing around look confused about this.

So ten people are now working on this for a second day. At this point we’ve spent, what, 30 man-hours worth of pay on building these stairs? Probably more.

Criticisms of Class

Our first essay in my religion class this semester is to write some sort of response to the reading so far. We’ve gone through almost 200 pages about theories of religion and our class format is for the teacher/presenter (students are actually teaching each class, one chapter a day from a different student each day) to walk through an outline of the chapter, summarizing its key points.

The paper, however, is not supposed to be a summary. Recognizing I’ve missed 2.5+ weeks of class, I asked somewhat timidly what the professor was looking for in this paper. It’s not supposed to be a summary, but summarize is all we seem to do.

The professor screwed up his face, seeming flabbergasted that I would ask such a question. As my peers responded in kind (looking as if I’d asked what only an ignoramus would), he asked in a somewhat condescending tone, “Didn’t I put the assignment on Blackboard? Isn’t it all out there already?”

I didn’t know it was, and apologized and said I’d take a look. Opening Blackboard, I went to the assignment and read it.

In this essay, discuss the 19th century theories of Müller, Tylor, Smith, Frazer and Marx. Begin by spending about three pages summarizing the theories of each thinker concerning religion. The challenge here is to identify the essential ideas and concepts of each theory and express them accurately and concisely. Conclude your essay with a critical analysis of each theory. What do you consider to be the major strengths and weaknesses of each? Be sure that you make clear why a strength is a strength and a weakness a weakness.

Be aware that each chapter concludes with an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of a theory.

So… how is this not summarizing?

I hate being made to feel stupid without valid justification.

This 500-level religion class, though infinitely better, is frustratingly similar to the 100-level history class I’m dealing with this semester. In that class, the Asian instructor essentially covers nothing but names and dates. These names are occasionally given the barest context, but that context is sadly lacking. The purpose of studying history, to me, is to analyze the events, the inspirations, the motives, the whys and the hows. We’re not even getting a good timeline because he jumps around the globe and back and forth across centuries so we can’t even do a comparative analysis.

I don’t know how many thousands of dollars I’ve given this university for what essentially amounts to book recommendations. If not for reading the books, I’d have gotten no real education at all.

Light post falls on Missouri State Campus

Shortly after noon yesterday, one of the light posts that overlook the Plaster Sports Complex simply keeled over. The wind and rain wasn’t particularly strong yesterday, so the cause is unclear, but a nearby area of campus has been roped off in case a second light post, presumably installed at the same time, suffers from similar defects.

I didn’t hear it fall but my student workers did, and I grabbed a picture with my iPhone as I walked by later in the afternoon. This post is partially to share the image and story and also to test the camera and WordPress application on the iPhone.

/obligatory-post-written-from-phone

Personal endnotes: there’s no way to set an excerpt or really anything else from this application… I can’t modify the picture much, or set any standard options… Given the phone’s performance on other sites, I’m guessing it would be far better to avoid the WordPress app entirely and just log into the web interface.

Moving to the Library

Am I busy? Yes. But it’s also wonderful.

If you follow my Twitter you’ve already got a good idea what the last few days have been like. We’ve been booked solid, working or running errands all day and entertaining every evening, so we haven’t had a lot of downtime, let alone writing time. In the last three days I’ve found an hour to learn Evernote and forty-five more minutes to transcribe notes into it and play with organization schemas. I’m also learning/trying Remember the Milk as a task list and I’m liking it quite a bit better than anything I have tried before.

The current flurry of activity has a few different catalysts. On the social side, we have become increasingly active at Vineyard, the church we have joined. There have been birthday parties, going away parties, dinner parties, luncheons, and a variety of other things going on, and we’re really liking all the people we have met so far. It’s been a good time, but it has also taken a lot of time. In addition, my old friend Cody is back in town for a week, so we had him and a few others over for dinner and a movie last night and we’re LANning on Thursday night. Busy busy.

On the work side, I’m moving over to the Missouri State Library. Tomorrow. I’m not changing jobs or anything–my title is still Centralized User Support Specialist for Computer Services–but I will be in the computer lab on the second floor of the library. Previously this lab was run by ETC (Educational Technology Center), but talks have been going back and forth for years now for Computer Services to take over operations there. Now we have, and I’m moving over there to oversee everything. It’s going to be a lot of new challenges, but I’m extremely excited for the possibilities there. We’re going to do a lot of new things and I’m anxious to experiment.

Suffice it to say that I’ve been exhausted most evenings, yet still busy. We were running all last weekend, and though it was all fun and enjoyable stuff, it also didn’t allow much time for writing or reflection. I’ve stalled on the book I’m reading as well, because even that time has been lost.

There’s nothing going on tonight, though I may go to the pub after work, so I would ostensibly like to get some writing done… but I’m also very, very tired. I may end up crashed out on the Sumosac to read and go to bed around eight.

I have to be at work at seven in the morning tomorrow, for the library opens earlier than anywhere else on campus (except for our Cheek Hall Open-Access Computer Lab, which is open 24 hours a day most of the week). The new schedule will take some getting used to, just like everything else, but I’m up to it. I can’t wait to start over there and begin getting things sorted.

Oh, and on the collarbone front, it’s still broken, but it is better. I stopped wearing the sling on Saturday and, though it has been somewhat painful/uncomfortable, it is going OK. I have my follow-up X-Rays tomorrow morning to make sure it’s healing well, and if it is then that means no surgery. If it’s not… well, they’ll have to rebreak it and schedule surgery for me. Praying for the former, and I’m fairly confident that it’ll all be fine.

I’m being taken out to lunch today since it’s my last day in the Help Desk (I’m switching from the faculty/staff side to the student side of the house), but I wanted to at least jot something here quickly to let people know why I’ve been incommunicado. I’ve got one or two dozen things in Evernote I’d like to write, I just need to find the time to do it.

Until then.

A Constant Disappointment

I had a decently large workload, a rushing deadline, and no coffee in my system, so it’s not surprising that I was pretty frustrated at having to sit through my third meeting of the day. I listened blandly to the banter about a storm five years ago, and then to the discussion of our budgetary status. When the topic of a newsletter recently completed by Training & Documentation came up, however, I took a bit more interest. I had designed the first edition ever of this newsletter two years ago, but had barely seen the second edition because my schedule kept me busy with other projects.

The comment was made that this latest newsletter was our most beautiful and wonderful one ever, and I quipped, “You mean out of two?” I hadn’t really thought about the statement, but reacted as if I had just been slapped.

“Well, yes,” my boss replied. “And in comparison with all the older ones, too.”

I had poured weeks into that first newsletter, long hours, intense effort, wrangled and wrote and argued, and felt extremely proud of the result. And it had received commensurate praise at the time, with everyone observing its beauty and the helpful information it supplied. With those words, however, I felt like it had been dumped in the trash.

I have been told on occasion that I have rather high standards–the word impossible might have been mentioned in some instances–and I recognize that I do demand a fairly high quality of work from both myself and others. That being said, I always praise others duly and try my best to highlight the positive. I may generally be unsatisfied with the state of things, but I recognize that everything is a process that is incomplete. I don’t expect perfection and I don’t treat others poorly for not having met it.

Just the same, I try to not treat myself poorly even though I recognize my work isn’t great. My writing isn’t anywhere near where I’d like it to be, and it would be easy to fall into the trap of perfectionism and toss everything I have done to this point. Close the laptop, let the keyboard rest, and go to bed. I could just live a normal life of going to work, watching TV, and eating. But I have stories to tell, and ideas I want to share, so I will do the best I can. Yes, my words will be better in ten years, but at that time I will simply do the best I can with what I have. Ten years later, I hope to improve further.

What I’m saying is, I’m not a complete perfectionist. I work hard, but I’m not unrealistic. Nevertheless, because I work so hard and take at least some pride in what I produce, I tend to assume that the product of my labours is at least OK. Yet it seems that every time I have shown something to anyone over the last few months the response has been,

“Ehh….”

And then the problems come out, accompanied by the observations of what’s wrong and the long list of everything that needs changed. I feel like I haven’t done anything right in months and like all of my work is worthless.

Despite that, in my personal life I feel productive and victorious because I have been managing. I have been working full time and meeting my deadlines there, and I feel like my work has been good. I have been going to class two nights a week, still working towards my degree, and I’m getting good grades. I have continued to be involved with my college ministry as much as I can, and I have kept up with Sunday morning church. I have maintained my writing schedule of publishing three times a week plus additional writing in the background (fiction, theology, technical manuals, etc.). I feel successful, but the responses I have gotten from everyone have been lackluster at best. Today’s meeting was just another punch in the gut.

It would be easy to shut down at this point, but as I walked to our car, I recalled an exchange between Master Long and Wu-Fei Chang in Gundam Wing. They were discussing how the colonies had turned against the Gundams, isolating those who had been fighting to keep the colonies free, and that the war had become confusing and even more evil than before. As Wu-Fei questioned who his enemies really were, Master Long shared:

“You must remain true to your own sense of Integrity.”

“Integrity?” Wu-fei asked.

“Yes, Integrity. Never lie to yourself, never betray yourself, and always be true to your self.”

Sometimes my sense of integrity is all that keeps me going, and it is that integrity that I wield to fight perfectionism. I will not betray myself and give up on my passion and ideals. I will not lie to myself and believe I am fantastic, but likewise I will not accept that my work is unsalvagable. I will be true to my ideals and goals and continue to pursue them.

Hopefully things will turn around soon and what I produce at work will be met with some measure of praise again, but I can’t let that dictate my diligence. We have to continue soliciting criticism if we are ever going to improve, and we have to listen to and take that criticism into account, but we mustn’t lie to ourselves either. I worked hard, I did well, and I’ll feel good about that even if no one else does, or tells me that they do.

Maybe I’m just another cog, but I’ll be the best damned cog I can be, and I’ll shine.

“You have no idea how high I can fly.”

When Sparta Attacks Greece

The latest topic of school gossip circles at Missouri State University is the closing of the Beta Beta chapter of Sigma Sigma Sigma, a prominent sorority on campus that has been here since 1945. An article published in the Missouri State Standard (remarking on the national headquarters of Tri-Sigma closing the chapter) has drawn more discussion than these articles normally do (all of 16 comments now), and it’s pretty appalling.

In general, I agree that the chapter was at fault and probably deserved to be shut down at this point. They had broken the law repeatedly (the police had been called to the Tri-Sigma house 7 times, 3 for underage drinking and serving liquor without a liquor license… keeping in mind that the members of Tri-Sigma sign an agreement specifically to do no such thing), and the national headquarters indicated that they had been working with the MSU chapter to help improve their conduct and behaviour for quite some time prior to revoking their charter.

That being said, it seems that the majority of non-Greek students are being complete dicks about it. They find it amusing and subsequently mock the sorority members. They* write in with harsh (if perhaps accurate) comments about Greek life and the members of Tri-Sigma (though they also make libelous and likely incorrect assumptions about the girls). They are mean to girls who are upset, most of whom are confused because they had nothing to do with the issues leading to the closing of the chapter (particularly the freshmen), and 50+ of whom have now had to find a new place to live.

The title for this entry came to mind as a good parallel for our campus, and perhaps our society. When the movie 300 came out, we glorified it, and quotes from the movie became instant memes. I was cool with it at the time, because it looked like an awesome movie. I never got around to going and seeing it, but I could see why people would enjoy it, and I have enjoyed the various parodies I’ve seen on the net. Still, as people across campus break into laughter and begin attacking the Greeks**, I ask myself… why?

Perhaps I’m digging too much, finding something where truly there is nothing, but the hatred and detestation certain individuals seem to hold for the Greek community at our campus is startling. I simply do not understand how those who uphold gay rights, the right to choose, and liberty in all its ways, can then look at a group of people and say, “You’re wrong and what you do is stupid, and so are you!” simply because they’re part of a social organization. Maybe you don’t agree with it. Fine. I don’t agree with homosexuality as a lifestyle or having an abortion (unless certain circumstances apply). I’m not Muslim either, but I don’t attack them for their beliefs.

It ties into a bigger issue of religion (and why certain individuals feel the need to attack others about their beliefs), which I won’t go into now, but it all boils down to this comment from one of the members of Sigma Sigma Sigma:

I’m not entirely sure what the Greek system did to you, but I find it funny that you repeatedly talked about how “no one cares” about us and that “everyone else just thinks it’s funny” that our charter got suspended. Why did you take the time out of your busy, important day to tell us how much you “don’t care”?

There are a multitude of reasons why people join a Greek community–just like there are many reasons people choose not to join. And sorry, it really has nothing to do with popularity and feeling important. In a campus as large as Mo. State, a fraternity or sorority helps give you a place where you belong.

We really don’t care why you chose not to go Greek, why do you care so much about why we did make that decision?

A mistake was made, and the girls probably feel pretty bad in general. Why can’t you* either 1) Do what you can to help them recover and move on, or 2) Shut up and leave them alone? They already feel bad, so why make them feel worse? What does it gain you?

Besides a sense of superiority. Maybe a feeling of vindication for having not joined (or not been accepted into?) a fraternity or sorority. A chance to use your flame-fu to kick some easy targets when they’re already down on the ground.

If you can’t say anything nice, shut your damned mouth.

*The second person pronouns used in this piece are directed at no individual. I feel it bears writing that they are not directed solely at those who have written in to the Standard either, for I have heard similar comments in person (often by people I do not know, just random students on campus).

**To be fair, people loved the movie because it was good. It was a great action flick with a good love story (from what I’ve been told), so it appealed to a wide audience. The special effects were good. Presumably the acting was up to snuff. But in a philosophical, deeper sense, perhaps we resonate (or want to?) with the Spartans on a societal level. We want to be the warriors, the “good guys,” and the total- bad-ass-who-kills-everything.

In reality, the Spartans were no more “good guys” than the Persians were. And in the end, it was the Greeks who survived. As the saying goes, “Rome conquered the Greek empire and its civilization, but Greek culture conquered Rome.” The Grecian culture influenced everything because the Greeks were thinkers and doers, innovaters and inventors, rather than fighters.