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Notes from a decongestant daze - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Notes from a decongestant daze
Decongestants are the worst daze. Not only am I sleepy and fuzzy-headed, I'm also apparently on a hair-trigger temper. Luckily, I'm too logy to do much about it, except kvetch about heavy partisanism in one place (drives me crazy) and the sexual revolution in another (sick of it, sick of hearing about it, sick of being a result of it, wish it would go away and leave me alone). The daze prevents me from putting a fist through a malfunctioning computer, though I imagine I'd be in a better mood for dealing with it if I were well.

I got the ear ache Tuesday afternoon. My ears are a predicting factor with a high degree of accuracy. Sure enough, the cold started to settle in yesterday. But we're badly understaffed and I couldn't stay home guilt-free, so now I'm here and surfing on the edge of a 12-hour Drixoral. My ears still hurt. I'm glad my foot's better; the idea of trying to manage with the crutches when my head's like this retroactively terrifies me.

I'm a geek. I like lightbulb jokes. I especially like them when they apply to groups I'm part of. This Republican one was on deleterius earlier:
How many members of the Bush administration does it take to change a lightbulb?
None. There’s nothing wrong with that light bulb. There is no need to change anything. We made the right decision and nothing has happened to change our minds. People who criticize this light bulb now, just because it doesn’t work anymore, supported us when we first screwed it in, and when these flip-floppers insist on saying that it is burned out, they are merely giving aid and encouragement to the Forces of Darkness.

I sent it to a Democrat friend as a peace offering, before picking the fight about the sexual revolution again. He responded in kind with:

And how many Democrats?
Well, first we need to empanel a blue-ribbon Lighting Commission to look
into why the light bulb failed in the first place. Then we can work on
legislation aimed at reforming the wiring from top to bottom so light bulbs
never blow out again.

My favorite lightbulb jokes are the College Lightbulb Jokes. Mine's pretty accurate:

How many Tufts students does it take to change a lightbulb?
Two, One to change the bulb and the other to say loudly how he did it as well as an Ivy League student.

G-d love the Jumbos, but we really do tend to do that. I often expand it to, "Yes, and unlike our neighbors up the street in Cambridge, our world class faculty is actually involved in teaching undergraduates." Which is true, but I guess it makes me a pretty stereotypical Jumbo, political affiliations aside. The truth is, I worked at Harvard for a year and a half during library school and--P.T. Barnum's ghost will come after me for this--really, really enjoyed the place. Tufts is an old school by American standards (founded in the 1850s); Harvard is deliciously older. I really must go to England and visit Oxford and Cambridge. It seems that the older a school is, the groovier a vibe there is in the campus. I think that's really why they inspire such loyalty. It's something totally intangible and immeasurable.

Of course, enjoying Harvard does not make me any less of a Tufts girl. Really, it doesn't. It's not like I took classes at Harvard, after all. And their library roof doesn't command nearly as good a view. And there aren't enough elephants on campus.

A friend still works at Harvard, and she says that they're talking about restructuring the way Harvard finances its departments, which has traditionally been a "To each his own" approach. Now they want to do it top down. This not only annoyed my friend; it appeared to actively offend her. This strikes me as a bad idea, partly because it's inherently a bad idea, mostly because it's a case of total outsiders coming in and informing one of the oldest institutions in America about how it should operate itself. Sorry, but no.

Institutions are living things. They aren't computers to be re-programmed because you feel like it. They aren't even the sum of the people who are in them at any given time. They are that, but they are also the sum of all the people who have been in them before, all the history that's happened in them, and all the quirks and habits they've developed. They can and do change, but it can't be on a dime, and it can't be at the whim of an outsider who just comes in thinking that he's going to do it. Changes have to be organic. The people who become part of a genuine institution are, more often than not, devoted to it. They become part of it, and it becomes part of them. You can't just declare that x or y is going to be changed from what it's always been without severely freaking people out and making them feel that something is being taken away from them... or, more accurately, that something of them is being taken away.

To take a less obscure example than Harvard's quirky accounting practices, let's look at Professor Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. One of the first things that happens when she arrives (as I was reminded in mctabby's "canon smirking" post) is that the students smirk at her when she interrupts Dumbledore and think that she obviously doesn't now "how things are done" at Hogwarts. Now, this is a rallying cry for so many people--"We've got to change the way things are done!"--that of course people on the outside didn't immediately look at it and think, "Oh, my goodness! There's a crisis!" Why? Because, while they all may have attended Hogwarts, it's not something that lives as part of them.

Meanwhile, book readers, along with the staff and students, are watching with horror and, yes, offense, as Umbridge tramples not only on the DADA curriculum (which, honestly, has changed every year, and there's nothing inherently wrong with learning theory), but on The Way Things Are Done. She interferes in Quidditch. She usurps McGonagall's authority, for heaven's sake. And she interrupts Dumbledore. That's aside from all the flatly nasty things she does, but all of those things ring extremely wrong notes. Hogwarts is 1000-year old institution. It has a life. It has a personality. It can change, but it's not going to do so just because Dolores Umbridge says so. And of course, this frustrates her and she ends up tightening her grip more, which makes it even worse.

I guess that's enough rambling for now.

I Am A: Neutral Good Elf Ranger Mage

Neutral Good characters believe in the power of good above all else. They will work to make the world a better place, and will do whatever is necessary to bring that about, whether it goes for or against whatever is considered 'normal'.

Elves are the eldest of all races, although they are generally a bit smaller than humans. They are generally well-cultured, artistic, easy-going, and because of their long lives, unconcerned with day-to-day activities that other races frequently concern themselves with. Elves are, effectively, immortal, although they can be killed. After a thousand years or so, they simply pass on to the next plane of existance.

Primary Class:
Rangers are the defenders of nature and the elements. They are in tune with the Earth, and work to keep it safe and healthy.

Secondary Class:
Mages harness the magical energies for their own use. Spells, spell books, and long hours in the library are their loves. While often not physically strong, their mental talents can make up for this.

Mielikki is the Neutral Good goddess of the forest and autumn. She is also known as the Lady of the Forest, and is the Patron of Rangers. Her followers are devoted to nature, and believe in the positive and outreaching elements of it. They use light armor, and a variety of weapons suitable for hunting, which they are quite skilled at. Mielikki's symbol is a unicorn head.

Find out What D&D Character Are You?, courtesy ofNeppyMan (e-mail)

8 comments or Leave a comment
From: fireflash_yalie Date: December 9th, 2004 03:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I go to Yale, so of course there is deep hatred here for Harvard, but I personally find nothing wrong with it. It is a beautiful and very good school, and so is Yale. And so is Tufts, too. I wish people would forget about the fact that "Oh, well, it's an Ivy League, so it's better" and focus more on what they are doing to get the best out of their education. A person at a state school can do just as well as one at Yale (you wouldn't believe how much work people DON'T do here!); it all depends on the effort you put into it. That's my spiel.

Oh, and you should definitely visit Oxford; you would love it!!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 9th, 2004 03:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I spent a weekend up at Yale. Very different feel from Harvard, but also quite neat.

You can actually self-educate perfectly decently without involving a university at all. What makes the good schools different (not so much from one another as from less good schools) is the intangible feel of the campus, the sense that the place itself has a personality which becomes part of you.
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: December 9th, 2004 04:05 pm (UTC) (Link)

When I was looking at universities for undergrad, one of the recruiting brochure/whatever packets I got included a letter inviting me to "Become one with the essence of Duke."

Frankly, I was kind of creeped out. :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 9th, 2004 04:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
I get the sentiment, but that is a creepy wording of it. And besides, they shouldn't have to advertise it. It should simply be. You know it when you get there. I first visited Tufts on a rainy November Sunday, after Thanksgiving, when no one was there, and I felt it. It was just that empathic sense of connection, Ah, yes, here I am. But I wouldn't suggest that they mention it in a brochure!
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: December 9th, 2004 04:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Your description is the first time I've really felt I had a clue what they wanted to get at!

I'm not sure I've actually felt that way about anywhere, but perhaps either I'm not sensitive to such things or they slide in too deep for me to pick up on. Or I just haven't been to the right places. *g* I was always rather attached to the state university I did end up attending, and it definitely has a personality that's distinct from that of the neighboring big schools, but I always figured the attachment was partly family tradition.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 9th, 2004 04:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I always figured the attachment was partly family tradition.

Which is the reason schools are keen on legacy admissions--family tradition can be a really, really powerful factor.
rabidfangurl From: rabidfangurl Date: December 9th, 2004 07:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
The best part of the whole lightbulb joke page was the lack of a Bryn Mawr lightbulb joke. No wait, that was second best. The best part was the Swat joke.

Q. How many Mawrtyrs does it take to change a lightbulb?

A. None, we just light our lanterns.
gryffin23 From: gryffin23 Date: December 10th, 2004 04:56 am (UTC) (Link)
I find those lightbulb jokes to be disturbingly accurate as well. I went to Columbia and it's true. 1 to change the lightbulb, 50 to protest the rights of the lightbulb not to change and 25 to organize a counterprotest. They forgot to add the constant editorials which really are more like flame wars calling each side evil incarnate but they got the gist

I know what you mean about the essence. I remember walking in through the gates and just feeling as though I were home. That this institution was where I belonged. Heck, it was right. Technically, I'm from D.C. but emotionally, I am a New Yorker through and through.

And I will add my Oxford recommendation as well. It's absolutely beautiful. I always feel as though I've got a Time Turner when I'm there.

Oh and I hope your cold gets better. It seems to be that season.
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