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If You’re A Woman, You’re Already Doing It Wrong, Apparently

, , , , , , , , | Healthy | March 4, 2023

My mother told me that her mother believed that women’s abdominal muscles were not strong enough to support their organs, and foundation garments were a necessity. This was a self-fulfilling prophecy; she had eight children and always wore a girdle, so her core muscles would have atrophied, “proving” her belief was true. I imagine her back would ache just standing for a few minutes without foundations.

Forty years later, I am sitting with some friends at university. Several of my friends are doing post-graduate studies. One in particular is a qualified, working pharmacist, so she’s a woman of the world who has studied human anatomy.

Another friend arrives, so I make my excuses to the group, saying we are going to an exercise class together.

The pharmacist looks at me very seriously and gives me a stern warning.

Pharmacist: “Be careful doing core work. If your abs get too strong, they can crush your internal organs!”

It struck me at first as two vastly different beliefs, but later, I saw that they were two sides of the same coin; women’s bodies are unreliable and dangerous, and women’s instincts can’t be trusted but must rely on (male) science to be well.

Time For The Cheaters To Tap Out

, , , , , , , , , | Learning | March 2, 2023

Many years ago, my grandfather taught carpentry at a tech college, and part of his job involved proctoring written exams.

During one of these exams, a couple of students were tapping their pens. On the face of it, this wasn’t so unusual; plenty of people in exams tap pens, drum fingers, etc., as an aid to memory — or at least, they certainly did when I took my exams. These taps, however, seemed rather more… rhythmic.

A few taps later, Grandfather — who was in the naval cadets as a boy — realized that these two students were using their pens to tap out the answers to various questions in Morse code. 

Without saying a word, Grandfather picked up a pen of his own, glaring pointedly at the guilty students, and tapped out the phrase, “I K-N-O-W M-O-R-S-E C-O-D-E T-O-O.”

Funnily enough, the tapping stopped immediately after that!

If It Seems Too Easy, It Probably Isn’t

, , , , , , , , | Learning | February 27, 2023

The most memorable class I took during my university degree was one I took in my first semester. It was held in the largest lecture hall and packed to overflowing because it was a required class for an awful lot of degrees. Unlike most entry-level classes, it had no attendance or participation requirements, the topic was pretty easy, and you didn’t even really need to buy the textbook because there were lots of copies in the library available for a long-term loan, plus the lecturer provided photocopies and slides of the relevant sections. The lectures were recorded and available at the library along with copies of all the slides the lecturer had used. The final exam was open-book, and the tutors provided several years’ worth of past exams to use as study materials.

The class was a TRAP.

If you didn’t go, nobody cared — or even really noticed. If you didn’t hand in assignments, nobody chased them up. There were plenty of ways to catch up on content if you missed lectures, but nobody checked to see if you were using them. After the first few weeks of the semester, the lecture hall no longer had people sitting on the stairs because there weren’t enough seats. By the mid-semester break, it was mostly empty, and there was a Dungeons & Dragons group sitting in the back rows, complete with character sheets, rolling dice, and “I fire a magic missile at the darkness!”-level roleplaying. The left middle section was the territory of a social club that arrived, drank coffee, gossiped, and left without ever taking their notebooks out of their bags.

I missed a lot of lectures because I hated getting up early enough to go to them, but I went to the library at a more convenient time and listened to the recordings. When I came up with a question that hadn’t been answered in the text, I dragged myself to the next lecture and asked it or went to the lecturer’s office hours. He was always fun to talk to and had lots of great stories, so it wasn’t exactly a hardship.

Then, the end of the semester hit. Some students I hadn’t seen in lectures since the very beginning showed up at the library and seemed to be trying to go through all the recordings in the last week or so before exams started, but I think most of the missing were relying on the exam being open-book to get them through.

Well, the final exam was easy, but it was long, and it quickly became apparent that the students who were looking everything up in their textbooks just didn’t have time to finish. 

The final results came out, and the bell curve you expect to see in grades was pushed hard to the left side of the graph, with a spike at the far right. Anyone who’d realised it was time to take responsibility for their own learning and study without being pushed and prompted did well. Everyone who had taken the lack of direction as an excuse to skive off all semester — three-quarters of the class — failed. And because it was a prerequisite class, they had to take it again and pass before they could move on to second-year classes… the ones that, like this class and unlike all the other first-year classes, mostly lacked the tracking and reminders and attendance requirements the students were used to having to keep them on track.

It was a sneaky and effective way to teach people how to direct their own studies and filter out the ones who didn’t get the hint.

That Galahad Is One Fine Lad

, , , , | Right | CREDIT: Waifer2016 | February 21, 2023

This took place the summer after an accident. I was still stuck in my wheelchair and had been invited to attend a graduation ceremony for a family member’s college grad.

The college was about ninety minutes from us, so our family loaded my chair and me and some pain meds into the van, and we all set off for our adventure. The relative graduating was excited that I was coming and met with the managers of the venue to arrange for me to go through the back door — no stairs. They even moved aside some chairs to make room for my wheels. It was great! We made sure to get there early to make sure we didn’t bother busy staff, so we had prime seats to watch the auditorium fill up, and then fill more, until it was standing room only. I was glad I came with my own seat!

Well, I was… until I had to pee! I managed to wait until after the processional, but by then, I was fair to bursting! I told my family I’d be right back, insisted they stay to watch, and started off to find the loo.

I was able to get almost to the doors but then found myself surrounded by a wall of humanity so engrossed in the ceremonies that they didn’t hear the chick in the chair saying, “Excuse me,” over and over, except for one man: my knight in blue flannel! It was clear he was there to see someone graduate, but he stepped forward and offered his help.

Me: *Turning red* “I’m trying to get to the loo.”

Sir Galahad: “No problem!”

He got me through the crowd and into the hall to the loo where we were confronted by a crazy doorway with a zigzag hallway —  very much not chair-friendly.

Sir Galahad: “No worries!”

He leaned through the door and hollered:


I was cracking up laughing as he pushed me past the crazy entry and stopped with a flourish and a bow.

Sir Galahad: “Now, you do your thing, yell out when you are ready, and I’ll come get you.”

He waited in the hall, took me back through the crowd to my spot, and bowed with another smile, waving off my profuse thanks.

He didn’t work for the venue or the college, but he was so kind and so helpful and saved me some major embarrassment!

So, Sir Galahad, if you read this, thank you again!

Sometimes Your Priorities Can Get A Bit Scrambled

, , , , , | Friendly | February 18, 2023

My friend and roommate had some serious and unexpected medical issues this particular semester. She ended up missing about a month’s worth of classes and assignments, which is very much NOT an easy thing to make up at the college level, so she’s currently bouncing between talking to the school, her professors, and her parents to figure out what she’s going to do.

I walk into her room to show her something, and she’s crying while on speakerphone with her mother. Before I can say anything, she chokes out, “Can you give me a moment?” so I leave her be.

I eventually head out to the main area of our apartment and see that she has relocated to our couch.

Me: “Are you okay?”

Friend: *Still clearly choked up* “Yeah, my mom and I are just discussing school options.”

I just nod and leave her be since she’s still on the phone, assuming she’s just over-stressed from everything going on. Half an hour later, she barges into my room half-hysterical and half-bawling.

Friend: “Good news! My dog isn’t being put down!”

Me: What?!

Friend: “So, my mom told me [Dog] has been having pain at night and then immediately followed it with, ‘Can you please come home soon?’ All in a very sad tone. I thought she was implying she was going to be put down.” 

At this point, I’m just dumbstruck and staring at her.

Friend: “She thought I was crying over everything going on with school until I yelled, ‘CAN WE PLEASE NOT TALK ABOUT SCHOOL S*** WHEN YOU JUST TOLD ME MY DOG IS GOING TO DIE?'”

Me: “Let me get this straight. You thought your mother was having your dog put down and you didn’t ask for any sort of clarification?”

Friend: “I thought it was implied!”

Me: “And you just accepted that without getting any answers about the situation?!”

Friend: *Pauses* “Yes.”

I love my friend dearly, but she makes me want to put my head through a wall. [Dog] is fine and was prescribed some doggy pain meds.