Day 29: Happy Fall

Dear Readers,

I write to you today, Friday November 28th 2014, with seasonal greetings, and a request. My department votes on my tenure case a week from today (the vote has now been pushed back twice: from November 7th to November 14th; and then from November 14th to December 5th). I hesitate to ask so directly for moral support, but (deep breath): I would be so gratified if you would send me some messages of good-will, any time between now and next Friday… preferably in a slow but steady trickle culminating in a cascade of happy thoughts between, ooh, 1pm and 3pm on December 5th.

Do I feel a bit sheepish asking you so boldly for encouragement? Why yes, I do: but, all of the lavishly compensated mental-health professionals in my life tell me gravely that one must ask one’s loved ones directly for what one needs, and so that is what I am doing: I’m just a duck-rabbit, standing in front of an exceptionally well-dressed, good-looking, intelligent, witty, and warm-hearted readership, asking it to send it good wishes. I have been shake, shake, shaking in my Fluevog boots, and hearing from you all would have a steadying effect.

When I was in Montreal, recently, I read the third installment of Bridget Jones’s Diary, which I enjoyed immensely. In tribute to Bridget, I will compose the remainder of this post in the form of a list. I think you’ll find that the raw data supplied in this list furnish you with a surprisingly rich sense of the texture of the duck-rabbit’s daily life over the past month.

November 2014: a Portrait in Numbers

  • Number of times I have listened to “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift while driving to work: 76.
  • Level of volume at which I generally listen to “Shake it Off” while driving to work: 11.
  • Number of students with whom I have conversed only minutes after sobbing pathetically alone in my office: 12.
  • Number of students who have commented upon my “tired” appearance during one of the afore-mentioned conversations: 1.
  • Number of times I have exercised in the last month: 1.
  • Number of students who been to office hours claiming to have “solved the problem of induction”: 1.
  • Number of students who have in fact “solved the problem of induction”: 0. [1]
  • Number of money-making schemes concocted in effort to persuade oneself that an unfavorable departmental vote would actually be a felix culpa: 3.
    • Plan A) On Track: Lose Weight While You Wait: A 7-year Weight-Loss Plan.
      • On Track unveils a completely new, user-tested weight-loss scheme. Far easier to implement than the ancient but useless advice to eat healthily and exercise regularly, On Track provides a simple step-by-step program for weight-loss success. Instead of tedious calorie-counting and trips to the gym, with the On Track system, you write an academic monograph. While there may be an initial period of weight gain during the writing process, the pounds eventually melt away as you shed water-weight from crying in your office plus extra pounds in muscle as you stop making time for exercise and find your limbs slowly atrophying. The combination of lost muscle and dehydration will have you squeezing back into your skinny jeans towards the end of year 7. [2]
    • Plan B) Now that He-Who-Must-Be-Preserved has gone back to work, the duck-rabbit has been responsible for dropping off the younger flopsy-duckit at preschool and has become better acquainted with the parents of the younger flopsy-duckit’s classmates. One of the parents, let’s call her Layla’s mom, is a creature of staggering beauty. This is not another case of the Sophisticate (surely you remember her? The Deneuvian belle of the elder-flopsy-duckit’s schoolyard?). No, this woman’s beauty has absolutely nothing to do with clothing or style. This woman simply looks like she was sculpted by Michelangelo (or else by one of L.A.’s most skilled plastic surgeons). She’s the Venus de Milo, Amal Alamudddin, Nefertiti, and Kim Kardashian all rolled into one. Anyway, the point is that the duck-rabbit’s Plan B is to become Layla’s mom’s agent and, somehow, in a manner yet to be determined, make millions from her exquisite bone structure.
    • Plan C) Monetize blog through subscription plan.
      • In a pricing scheme that promises to yield funds just barely sufficient to maintaining the duck-rabbit’s frugal Santa Monica lifestyle, all current subscribers will be charged a $3000 annual subscription rate.
      • Or why not choose the premium plan ($4000 per annum) and bask in the happy glow of knowing that the duck-rabbit will compose one post a year especially for you.
      • Or, if that’s not your bag, premium plus ($10000 per annum) comes with the guarantee never to mention you in the blog.
      • Still feeling anxious? Premium double-plus ($20000 per annum) is the plan for you, which comes with the promise that the duck-rabbit will never contact you again.

And, on that note, I will bid you good day and wish my American readers Godspeed and bonne chance as they shop shop shop off the Thanksgiving pounds; may we all fall happily into whatever duck-rabbit holes lie ahead of us.

Yours truly, as ever,



[1] I am sorely tempted to write a whole post about my conversation with this student. But would it be ethical? I’m still debating this. Without going into detail, I think I can divulge that one of the aspects of the claim to have “solved the problem of induction” that I find especially endearing is the fundamental misapprehension involved in this student’s belief that the “problem of induction” is a problem that requires solving. The idea of a solution to the problem of induction reminds me of the idea (one, funnily enough, that I have mentioned in the class in which this student is enrolled) in Hitchhiker’s that 42 is the answer to the question of life, the universe, and everything. The claim to have solved the problem of induction also clearly ranks as the Best Student Remark Ever, blowing out of the water the student who described John Milton’s Eve, in an astute application of the immortal words of Christopher Brian Bridges, Esquire, as “a Lady on the Street but a Freak in the Bed.”

[2] Note: the On Track system does not guarantee the publication of any monographs produced during the course of the program nor the successful outcome of any voting procedures associated with the promotion to Associate Professor.


3 thoughts on “Day 29: Happy Fall

  1. They came by voice, they came by text,
    Thank you, readers, I feel less vexed!
    Laura’s voicemail: warm and fuzzy;
    With sweet texts my phone did buzz me.
    And more, still: a witty missive
    Entreats hearts to be permissive.*
    With Tiggerish joy duck-rabbit bounced:
    Its tenure blues quite soundly trounced.

    *I copy said missive below with the author’s permission. Obviously, the name is redacted per the duck-rabbit’s institution’s policy regarding all external letters that are made available to the candidate under review.

    Dear Committee Members:

    I write to offer my Moral Support for _____ ______ who I have been told is a candidate for a tenured position in your department.

    While I can offer no opinion on her qualifications for promotion (she may be a half-wit for all I know) I can say without question that she is a Nice Person and even (in my expert and well-published opinion) a Lovely Person. Indeed I would rank her second only to Professor Lovely (recently tenured at Yale as you must be aware) in that category.

    While I am sure that your department must have had many Important Decisions to render in these last weeks that led to your postponement of Professor ______’s case, please allow me to express the view that it is Pretty Crappy to treat a potential lifetime colleague this way (even a halfwitted one).

    It is my humble hope that this Extremely Learned Opinion is of some meager use to you in your deliberations.

    With every good wish for the holiday season,

    Professor ______ ___ ________

  2. Jonathan Lamp says:

    I want to suggest that there is a kind of fixed tenure to which authors and intellectual property may jointly aspire. But the next few days: are we talking pure suspense or suspended judgment? Either way, happy thoughts.

  3. Is this a lampoon? Or, perhaps, a lamp-post? Hmmm [considering the comment carefully from every angle], I’d say that it’s definitely a lamp-post. And there it stands, just so, black against snowy white. But what does it mean? Is it a sign that I’ve stepped across into another, magical world? Or is it just the site of a pissing contest?

    THAT’s the question. The suspense is killing me.

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