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Pretty Much What Most History Books Are Doing These Days

, , , , , | Right | January 14, 2022

I’m designing a photographic history exhibit for a prestigious university. The project requires a series of panels that each depict a different decade, from the 1930s to the present.

Client: “You know, this is all great, but it could use a little more diversity. Right now, there are a lot of photos of all white men, and we don’t want to send the wrong message.”

Me: “Okay, that’s a reasonable request. I could pull some photos of your black student organizations and women’s center and add those to the panels showing the school’s more recent history.”

Client: “Actually, we’d love more diversity in the early panels too.”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Client: “Like this panel depicting the university in the 30s. All the photos are of white men!”

The school did not admit black students until the 1970s.


, , , , | Working | January 13, 2022

During my last year of college, in the early oughts, I used to work in a campus computer lab as a tutor/technician. My job was to perform routine maintenance on the computers and help the students and teachers who needed assistance. It was pretty simple; people could book a time slot in advance, and then there were a few computers that could be used on a first-come-first-served basis for quick errands like checking email or making printouts. Since both the students and their teachers were notoriously bad at planning ahead and always expected this to be everybody else’s problem but their own, there was always a line to those computers.

One beautiful afternoon, I need to make a routine update on one of the “quick errand” computers. I know the program will take a while to run, so I write a large note which I tape up so it covers almost the entire screen with the message, “Update in progress. DO NOT TOUCH.” Then, I go about my usual tasks, helping people with whatever they need help with.

After a while, I notice a student sitting at the computer I’m doing maintenance on, so I walk up to them. They have removed my note, shut down my update, and are on the Internet.

Me: “Sorry, what are you doing?”

Student: “I just need to check my email. No one was sitting here so that means I get to use it, right?”

Me: “No, I was trying to update it. Now I have to start over from the beginning. Didn’t you see the note I put up?”

Student: “Oh, I was in a hurry. I didn’t think it was important.”

Me: “Well, it was. You’ll have to wait your turn on one of the other computers or book one in advance.”

I shoo them off, restart the update, put up a new sign, and go back to what I was doing. Five minutes pass, and when I look up from what I’m doing, I notice another person sitting at the computer I’m working on. This time, it’s a teacher.

Me: “Excuse me, you can’t use this computer right now. I’m doing maintenance on it. Didn’t you see the sign?”

Teacher: “Oh, it’s all right. I just need to make a few printouts; the printer in my office doesn’t work. I really need to get this done before my class starts. It won’t do any harm, right?”

Me: “Actually, I was running an update on it, and this is the second time I’m going to have to start over because people can’t leave it alone.”

Teacher: “Really, how bad could it be? I need to get this done for my students. It’s not the end of the world.”

I look at the teacher. I look at the flash drive they’ve got plugged in. Then, I look back at the teacher.

Me: “Do you know which program I am trying to update?”

Teacher: “No, what?”

Me: “The security software. It stopped working on this computer. I wouldn’t plug that drive in anywhere else if I were you.”

The teacher went pale, snatched the drive out, and fled.

To be honest, it probably wasn’t that bad. It really was a routine update, but I was fed up with people not being able to follow very simple written instructions.

In the end, I shut down the computer, removed the power cord so no one could try to restart it, and waited for my coworker to come in for their shift. I then stayed behind for half an hour so I could finish the update while guarding the computer like an extremely vicious computer watchdog.

It’s probably been about twenty years since, but I still marvel at the fact that so many people with an upper-level education seem to be completely unable to read a simple sign.

Any Guesses On What Those Evaluations Will Look Like?

, , , | Learning | January 7, 2022

My teacher, while we were reviewing a test in class:

Teacher: “Some of you are just guessing, but that’s okay. There are four options, so you have a 25% chance of getting it right. Next time I can do six options so you don’t know.”

Classmate: “We do a course evaluation at the end of this class, right?”

Group Projects By Any Other Name Would Still Be As Frustrating

, , , , , | Learning | January 5, 2022

I’m a university student, and I’m currently doing a group project with three others. [Groupmate] and I are looking over what the other two have submitted.

Groupmate: “Well, those two numbskulls really half-a**ed the work.” 

Me: *Irritably* “Tell me something I don’t already know.”

Groupmate: “My middle name is Prosperity.”

I blink.

Me: “Really?”

Groupmate: “Really.”

Me: “You’re not fooling around, right?”

Groupmate: “Nope. I’ve got two names: one in English, one in Chinese. My Chinese one is legally my middle name, and when translated, it means Ascend-To-Prosperity, so yes, Prosperity really is my middle name.”

Me: “Is this common?”

Groupmate: *Shrugs* “Back home in Singapore, yes. For example, my friend [English Name]’s full name is [English Name] [Surname] [Chinese Name]. Most of us follow that format, as well.”

Me: “And [Chinese Name] is her middle name?”

Groupmate: *Wriggles palm* “Legally speaking. Even though it’s behind her surname.”

Me: “That’s weird.”

Groupmate: *Shrugs* “That’s just what happens when you grow up in a place that speaks both English and Chinese.”

Me: “Fair enough, but let’s get back on topic.”

We got back to work, but I was a lot calmer and light-hearted now. 

This basically evolved into our usual working relationship. I’d get angry over something, [Groupmate] would distract me with some interesting trivia, we’d get sidetracked for a bit, and I’d forget my anger, and then, we’d get back to work with a clear head.

When The Internet Is Internot, Part 3

, , , , | Right | January 3, 2022

I work in the IT department of a college. While we’re only obligated to help employees and students, we’re usually nice enough to offer basic help to people coming in “off the street”. By basic, I mean “turn it off and on” and “here’s the address for the nearest repair shop”. Because of this, we get some crazy calls.

I answer a call with the standard greeting.

Me: “How can I help you?”

Caller: “Hi. My name is [Caller] and I live at [Address]. We’re neighbors. I don’t have Internet at my house and neither do the four people on my street. Who is your Internet provider?”

Me: “Um, I’m not sure because I don’t work with our vendors. Why do you ask?”

Caller: “Well, I want Internet and I was hoping you could persuade your provider to run broadband to our house. I already spoke to every Internet provider and even the governor and they suggested I talk to you. We’re neighbors, after all!”

I am confused, because the address she gave me is nowhere near the main campus. After some back and forth, I figure out she’s near one of our remote campuses. The address is in a rural part of the state with spotty Internet coverage. It’s unusual in this day and age but not unheard of.

Me: “I’m sorry, but I don’t think we can help you. We have Internet on our campus because we are a state agency. I suggest you talk to your local providers and see what they can do for you. If you have a cable provider, they usually provide Internet, too.”

Caller: “But I already talked to every provider in the area and they won’t run cable out to my house. Can’t you run cable to us? We’re neighbors!”

Me: “Unfortunately, since you’re not a student or an employee of the college, that’s the most I can do to help you.”

Caller: “Well, what if I become a part-time student? Can I get Internet then?”

Me: “That’s a question better answered by student services. Would you like me to transfer you?”

Caller: “But you should be able to give me Internet. We’re neighbors!” 

Me: “Ma’am. These are the solutions I have for you and I can’t help you further than that. I can either transfer you to student services or end this call.” 

She hung up. Sure, lady. I’ll be “neighborly” and personally run a fiber optic cable to your house. Just pay me a million to create the infrastructure and get all the permits.

When The Internet Is Internot, Part 2
When The Internet Is Internot