22 January 2021

Classes taught by the dead and copyright

I feel like this should be a bigger story.

HI EXCUSE ME, I just found out the the prof for this online course I’m taking died in 2019 and he’s technically still giving classes since he’s literally my prof for this course and I’m learning from lectures recorded before his passing

..........it’s a great class but WHAT

IDK SOMETHING ABOUT IT IS WEIRD

I mean, I guess I technically read texts written by people who’ve passed all the time, but it’s the fact that I looked up his email to send him a question and PULLED UP HIS MEMORIAM INSTEAD that just THREW ME OFF A LITTLE

...that feeling when a tenured professor is still giving classes from beyond the grave

There’s job security, then there’s this lmfao.

Also like, all dystopian “you can retire when you’re dead” jabs @ the institution aside—this is actually really sad and somebody should have realized that.

This prof is this sweet old French guy who’s just absolutely thrilled to talk paintings of snow and horses, and somehow he always manages to make it interesting, making you care about something you truly thought could not possibly be that interesting.

It’s fucking sad man wtf

Why would you not tell someone that? Do you think students just don’t give a shit about the people they spend months learning from?


And like, it’s shitty that won’t get to thank him for making all of this information so engaging and accessible

I tend to you know...actually talk to my teachers a lot?

Idk man it’s just a weird thing to find out when you’re looking for an email address.

I’m getting a little tired of people comparing teachers to reusable objects so I’m going to go ahead and mute this lmao.

It’s weird to romanticize labor the way some of you do, and it’s weird to act like it’s normal to just not tell students that their teachers dead, goodnight!

Emphasis added.

The last time I was in the faculty senate at UTRGV, a recurring argument was about who owned courses that were created for online teaching. At the time, I thought there was far too much time spent discussing the matter.

But this example shows exactly why that question of who controls course materials matters. It is a sharp and sad reminder that as far as many institutions are concerned, teaching does not require personal interaction if pure Skinner boxing will do. Professors do not even rise to the level of interchangeable cogs. Professors are a mere convenience once they have created content.

External links

Dead man teaching (Added 26 January 2021; The Chronicle of Higher Education caught up)



02 January 2021

I’m in Abominable Science! (No, not like that)

Abominable Science book cover

A friend of mine sent me a screenshot of a page from Abominable Science: Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids by Daniel Loxton and Donald Prothero.

It reads:

Invertebrate neuroethologist Zen Faulkes noted further that DeNovo lists no editor, no editorial board, no physical address—not even a telephone number: “The whole thing looks completely dodgy, with the lack of any identifiable names being the one screaming warning to stay away from this journal. Far, far away.”

The excerpt is from this blog post about the claim of sasquatch DNA being sequenced back in 2013. (Most scientists were deeply unconvinced by this.)

I’ve published enough stuff that getting cited is usually not worth a blog post. But having blog posts cited in real physical books still tickles me and is something a little unusual and wonderful.

And I think it speaks to something that makes the rounds now and then: the role of blogging in the 2020s. People occasionally pronounce blogs “dead.” While blogging isn’t a “scene” like it was in the late 2000s, a blog has a lifespan that social media just does not. Being cited in this book is one tiny little piece of evidence of that.

Related posts

Sasquatch DNA: new journal or vanity press?

External links

Abominable Science

10 December 2020

Imagine a word ruled by scientists? No thanks

There’s a graphic on Instagram from August that started making the rounds on Twitter. It says, “imagine a world run by scientists instead of politicians.”

I do not like it.

I’m not showing the picture because I don’t think it deserves more eyeballs, but for the record, the people shown are: Lawrence Krauss, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Sam Harris, Michiu Kaku, Richard Dawkins, and Leonard Susskind.

First, the image shows only men. That alone marks it as completely tone deaf.

Second, several of the people shown have amply demonstrated that they do not have leadership ability. Two were investigated for sexual misconduct. One was found guilty of sexual misconduct and took money from Jeffrey Epstein. Others are combative or flaky.

Third, the men (because yeah) chosen are mostly science communicators more than scientists. Sam Harris is a pop science author, not a active scientist. He’s done very little original science, ever. The others have stronger academic bona fides, but most are better known for being on television than publishing original research.

It’s so bad, I wonder if this image is supposed to be an ironic warning of the perils of science politicians. “Meet the new old men, same as the old old men, but with less experience.”

09 December 2020

Pick where you publish wisely

Saw a complaint about how PLOS had created predatory journals and made publication inaccessible through its article processing charge (APC) business model.

When PLOS ONE started, there was no guarantee the APC  model would work. It works because scientists choose to publish there, fully well aware of the costs.

It’s not a journal’s fault that scientists use them. Scientists have options. If you don't like a business model, don’t submit there. Then, convince colleagues.

08 December 2020

My resolve not to shoot the hostage is tested

I’ve written before about how refusing to review a paper because you don’t like a journal hurts authors more than editors or publishers. I called refusing to review “shooting the hostage.”

I am being sorely tested in my resolve not to shoot the hostage.

MDPI is a publisher already short of good will for their amateurish practices. Their president last week seems intend in burning any remaining good will by spouting pretty fascist-sounding rhetoric.

When I got an invitation to review yesterday, I legitimately couldn’t do it because I’m moving. But it was a lot easier to say “No” than it would have been otherwise.

07 December 2020

Lessons from bad movie makers

Still from P;an 9 from Outer Space

Ed Wood, Jr. is frequently described as “incompetent.”

He made films that are usually regarded as some of the worst ever made, like Glen or Glenda, Bride of the Monster, and Plan 9 from Outer Space.

But he shipped.

He finished movies. He got them out so that people could see them.

In doing so, he accomplished more than people who say, “Maybe one day...”

16 November 2020

People will still die rather than change their minds

Six months ago, I wrote about how American patients dying of COVID-19 would fight with physicians who were trying to save them because they didn’t believe the virus was real.

Six months and 154,293 deaths later, and people... People. Still. Don’t. Think. This. Is. Real.

 New Day reports:

A South Dakota ER nurse @JodiDoering says her Covid-19 patients often “don’t want to believe that Covid is real.”

“Their last dying words are, ‘This can’t be happening. It’s not real.’ And when they should be... Facetiming their families, they’re filled with anger and hatred.”

It’s sad and depressing. Particularly when we have promising news that COVID-19 vaccines look like they will work.

Update, 17 November 2020: I’m heartened to hear of at least one person who changed his mind.

He mentions hating “fake news”. He says, “I don’t think covids is really more than a flu.“ I clarified, “Now you think differently though?”

He replies, “No the same. I should just take vitamins for my immune system. They (news) are making it a big deal.”

I’m shocked.

I’m at a loss for words. Here I am basically wrapped in tarp, here he is in a Covid ICU. How can you deny the validity of covid? How is this possible? Misinformation is literally killing people in mass, I think to myself.

Typically as a nurse we usually put on a face. We don’t tell our patients another patient just died. We don’t tell them what we just saw. We walk in to care for that patient as they are. We give them our full unbiased care.

I make a choice. Something I’ve never done. I say, “To be honest this is my last shift. You’re the only patient of 25 that has been able to speak to me today or is even aware I’m here.”

He’s surprised but doubtful and asks if other people are doing as well as him. I tell him I’ve never seen so many people SO very sick.

“Really?” He asks if a lot of people have died.

I’m brutally honest. I tell him in 10 years of being a nurse I’ve done more CPR and seen more people die in the last 2 weeks than I have in my entire career combined.

His tone changes, he seems to have understood the gravity of what I’m saying. He apologizes.

Thank you, Ashley.

Related posts

Some people will literally die rather than change their minds