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Friday, October 11, 2013

Seven Quick Takes Friday (vol. 5): Passing Thoughts

Update: Before you read the rest of these, I'm noticing that there are a lot more people reading this post than normal, more even than normal for a 7 Quick Takes Friday post (I usually get a bump for those because an external link exists on Mrs. Fulwiler's site). Out of curiosity, what is drawing so many readers to this post in particular? Football, Star Wars, the political jokes, the complaint about academia, or random chance? Comments are open.

I worked 75 hours last week for this?
On academia: If I am good enough to work in academia, then I don't think they deserve me. This is especially true concerning the big research institutions, which largely treat the students like dirt, and in particular like the dirt which needs to be shoveled aside to reach buried treasure. The expectation, these days, seems to be that one should first get a Ph.D. and then do some postdocs, before finally fighting and clawing one's way up the academic ladder to tenure. Once upon a time, this might have made some sense, back when a Ph.D. was a 4-5 year thing and when the typical would-be professor underwent 1 2-year postdoc. Now the Ph.D.'s are (in my field) 7-8 (and even 9) years, with 2-3 postdoc lasting 2-3 years each (and in different location). It's therefore entirely possible that a person may be 40 years old before finally starting his career as a professor, after the sacrifice of very low pay and very long hours.

I typically work 14-18 hour days during my beam time, and ~10-11 hour days during "off" weeks. This supposedly continues with a postdoc, with the difference being that one's salary is now $40k/year rather than $20k/year. The alternate route is the adjunct professorship, which is every bit as bad on the salary (I don't know as much about the hours involved). It's one thing to be in a state of part-time employment, so that one can at least enjoy the extra time off (though I doubt there are many part-time workers who wouldn't rather be full-time); it's another thing entirely to be paid as if part-time, and then worked as if overtime.

My wife has started calling the worse of the two parties "Damn-ocrats," a fitting name for their party of Obama and Pelosi and Reid (or, more locally, of Wendy Davis). Thus, we seem to have a choice each year between two parties: Damnocrats and Republican'ts.

Arguably the most entertaining (if sophomoric) #shutdown theater show I've seen yet is the site urging you to drunk-dial Congress.

Art Briles (Baylor) seems to be a name I keep hearing for the next UT coach, with David Shaw (Stanford) a close second. Of course, many fans seem to think that Nick Saban would be the best choice. Well, yes, he would, but what reason does Nick Saban possibly have to come here? Some people have suggested he might do it just to prove that he can win bin at another school. I wonder if these people are forgetting that he has already proved this: he coached LSU to a national championship (albeit shared split with USC, the AP's champion) before leaving for the NFL, having mixed success there, and then going to Alabama (3 of the last 4 championships). So I'm not seeing what Saban gains from going to Texas. If anything, he might try the NFL again, but I doubt even that.

FWIW, I think that Shaw would be the best of reasonably likely choices, but that he's not likely going to leave Stanford (it is his alma mater). After that, the next best might actually be to stick it out for another season with Mack Brown in the hopes that Chip Kelly returns to coaching college football. Art Briles has done reasonably well at Baylor, and would not be a bad option (plus, would likely remove Baylor as a rival), but really wouldn't be my top choice. He's been reasonably successful, but not phenomenally so. Charlie Strong would also be an interesting choice (though I dislike his complaining about racism as a factor for his not becoming Florida's head coach--Urban Meyer wasn't exactly a failure now, was he?). And though Louisville hasn't faced an especially tough slate aside from their dismantling of Florida in the Sugar Bowl, they have been a reasonably solid team last year and continue to do well this year.

Kevin Sumlin would be interesting, but I doubt that he'll leave A&M for their rival (former rival?) and think he'll more likely get an offer from USC if Orgeron doesn't pan out (for the same reason, I actually don't think Briles is overly likely--though others disagree). Pat Fitgerald (of Northwestern) would be a decent dark horse choice (his resume is roughly comparable to Art Briles'), as would Chris Peterson (if they can convince him to leave Boise State). Mark Helfrich would be intriguing, but I suspect that he's staying with Oregon. And I can't thik of any other college head coaches that are reasonably likely to leave (e.g. the coaches at Ohio State or LSU or Michigan or Florida State, etc are probably not going to leave one "big name"/"big brand" school for another), and I am not as much up to par on the assistants. All of this assumes, of course, that Mack Brown is done for*. Perhaps DeLoss Dodd's retirement is so that Mack Brown can take over as AD, thus clearing the way for a new football coach at UT.

But will Brown be good at hiring new coaches? Perhaps, as some of his coaching picks have been good. On the other hand, I question why Dodds and Brown didn't pursue bringing back Gene Chizik as defensive coordinator.

*This is very likely even if he doesn't get blown off the field tomorrow. I think he only keeps the job at 10-3 with a close loss tomorrow or 9-4 with a win tomorrow and no more blowout losses. Since he alread has 2 losses, this means that if he loses tomorrow in close fashion, he cannot lose again (including bowl game) for the remainder of the season. On the other hand, if he wins tomorrow, he can lose two more games at some point (Baylor, Tech, upset, or bowl).

If you have not watched Star Wars, you should skip the remaining takes. There are spoilers. Neither of my assistants this semester has seen any actual Star Wars movies. The younger one said that she saw The Phantom Menace as a small child and enjoyed it, but that's as close as either have come to watching any of the actual Star Wars movies. Therefore, I have been presented with an opportunity to test out one suggested viewing order (which I'm told is called the "machete" order: spoilers alert if you haven't seen them yet), and was first suggested to me by one of my classmates at my high school reunion. The idea behind the machete order is that the story is about Luke Skwalker; George Lucas has stated that the actual story is about Anakin Skywalker, and Episodes 1-3 kind of reflect this.

The real main character in the Star Wars saga.
Briefly, the machete order chops out Episode 1 entirely (it's pretty useless, since all the characters it introduces are killed in that movie or insignificant later). Thus, the viewing order is IV (A New Hope), V (Empire Strikes Back), II (Attack of the Clones), III (Revenge of the Sith), VI (Return of the Jedi). Episodes II and III are watched as a sort of flashback/bridge between V and VI, and by watching in this order none of the surprises are given away. I don't just mean the "big" surprises and revelations about Luke Skywalker's parentage, but even the little surprises (like the identity of Yoda in episode V) are ruined by watching Episodes I-III before Episodes IV and V. On the other hand, watching episode VI last ends on a relatively high note (other than those @$$*# ewoks) and gives closure to the series. Apparently, the Machete Order works really well, strengthens Episode VI (and to a lesser extent Episode V) and even helps redeem episodes II and III.

Which brings me to dilemma number 2: when is a good time to show these movies to my kid(s)*? I would be tempted to wait until late elementary or possibly middle school age, possibly even high-school (oldest in high school, youngest in late elementary school?), which seems to be about the right age for them to really enjoy it as something other than a nice shoot-em-up adventure (in which case, no point in picking the ordering or even really skipping episode 1). On the other hand, the longer they wait, the greater the risk of it's being spoiled--either by watching one or another at a friend's house, or by catching one of a million or so pop-culture references to it (e.g. Space Balls, Tommy Boy, Robot Chicken/Family Guy spoofs, or for that matter Weird Al's "The Saga Begins"). The fact that Disney's new series (VII, VIII, and IX--couldn't they have tried for Joss Whedon or Peter Jackson or even Christopher Nolan?) will be coming out around then probably doesn't help things

*A pretty young age works out well, but knowing how kids will blab to each other when seeing a movie that some have already seen, it would be best if (and assuming that I ultimately have multiple children) the younger ones don't have it spoiled for them by the older ones. The reaction of the kids in the linked video should be everyone's reaction when tehy first see these movies.

Seven Quick Takes Friday is hosted by Mrs Jennifer Fulwiler at her Conversion Diary blog.

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