Evaluate your teacher, please

Please complete the Instructor Evaluation

The Writing Arts Department very much appreciates receiving feedback from students about the quality of its instructors and strives for 100% participation.

Please do your part to assure that your schoolmates receive quality instruction by evaluating your professors, including me.

The Email Invitation.

At the end of November, you were sent (along with 1000 other emails) an email requesting that you Complete a Survey at Banner Self Service. Many of you told me at your Grade Conferences that you have already done so. Others don’t remember seeing the email.

If you can find it, around November 28-30, it should give you good instructions.

What to do without an Invitation.

Lacking a student account, I can’t verify the procedure, but I believe this will work:

  • Go to Banner Self Service
  • https://ssb.rowan.edu/
  • Open your Student Account
  • Look for “Take a Survey” or “Answer a Survey”
  • Jacob says “just search for Survey and it pops right up.”
  • Proceed to the Instructor Evaluation
  • Let me know in a Reply below that you’ve completed the survey.
  • Thank you very much.
  • Enjoy your holidays.
  • Don’t forget to reach out to your Professor-for-Life when you need help.


Professor Evaluations

It’s time for you to grade me.

Here are the instructions from the University:

Please inform your students that you have requested the evaluation for your class(es) and pass on to them the following instructions to access it:

1. Go to http://www.rowan.edu/selfservice
2. Click “Access Banner Services – Secure Area – login Required”
3. Enter User ID & PIN
4. Click “Personal Information”
5. Click “Answer a Survey”
6. Click on one of the student evaluations for your classes
7. Complete the student evaluation
8. Click “Survey Complete” to submit your completed student evaluation
9. Repeat for other classes


Rebuttal Workshop

Rebuttal Workshop

in Preparation for Rebuttal Essay Deadline

“Why Men Aren’t Funny”
by Lindy West, New York Times, WED NOV 15, 2017

“Louis C.K. Responds to Accusations: These Stories Are True”
New York Times, FRI NOV 10, 2017

First, some context. President Trump has been accused of rape more than once and settled out of court without ever apologizing to anyone. Harvey Weinstein has been accused of dozens of sexual molestations with women over whom he held at least ostensible power, almost all of them involving indecent exposure, inappropriate touch, or actual physical sex, has admitted nothing, apologized to no one, and spent a fortune discrediting his accusers. Bill Cosby has gone to trial for drugging and raping his dozen or so credible alleged victims, most of whom, like Weinstein’s victims, thought he could help them in “the business,” and has hidden behind the fairy tale that the women he abused were consensual sex partners once he provided them the drugs they needed to relax themselves. Not a single even half-hearted apology among them.

Louis C.K., on the contrary, said this in his written response to the allegations that he showed women his dick and sometimes masturbated in front of them:

These stories are true. . . . The power I had over these women . . . I wielded . . . irresponsibly. I took advantage of the fact that I was widely admired. There is nothing about this that I forgive myself for. And I can hardly wrap my head around the scope of hurt I brought on them.

However crafty Lindy West finds that apology to be, however carefully worded, in today’s world of “I regret the offense that others took to my actions,” and non-apologies like “The fact that others suffered weighs heavily on me,” C.K.’s apology comes close to a model of “grownup owning up.” Of course, the words do not undo the wrong. And no one would suggest that admitting to the truth of his repulsive behavior exonerates him or will ever satisfy his victims, or us, as sufficient redress. He’ll have to pay one way or another and make restitution for his personal actions, however his industry may have enabled him to exert his perceived power on vulnerable hopefuls.

But parsing the grammar of C.K.’s response, as West does, to assert that he gives his industry a moral hall pass is an unfair reading of the text. In the same response in which C.K. heaps recrimination on himself for his personal corruption, he additionally blames the Hollywood comedy machine that keeps women down and shuts them up when they complain about oppression and abuse:

When you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. I took advantage of the fact that I was widely admired in my and their community, which disabled them from sharing their story and brought hardship to them when they tried because people who look up to me didn’t want to hear it.

He put his puny manhood out there for them to see and dared them to say they’d seen it, secure in the knowledge that nobody would listen. Lindy West ignores that part of his response when she asserts in “Why Men Aren’t Funny” that she’s had enough of “solemn acknowledgments” from powerful male comedians. She read those words and heard this:

The careful message is “I, one man, made one mistake,” not “I, among many others, preyed upon vulnerable women in my industry, on purpose, because I am both a defender and a beneficiary of an entrenched system of oppression.”

Her reading of the industry dynamic might be altogether true, but her reading of C.K.’s response is disingenuous. She says C.K. wants it both ways: to appear apologetic, but at the same time leave a door open for his eventual return to big-ticket comedy by taking all the blame for himself. Says West:

It’s easier to get your old job back if the power structure that gave it to you in the first place stays intact.

We’ll find out together if C.K. ever works again, and we’ll all applaud if the entertainment industry gets the shakeup it needs to open its doors wider to performer diversity of all kinds. But for now, let’s at least acknowledge that the man did not deny (which would have been common), did not disparage or impugn his accusers (the Trump-Weinstein approach), did not insist the acts were consensual as Cosby has (once C.K. abandoned the flimsy “I always asked first” defense).

He hasn’t exonerated Hollywood. He didn’t shirk his own blame. The only participants he gave a pass to are the women he abused.

A Counterintuitive Example

Why Challenger Exploded

In January, 1986, the solid booster rockets that were to launch NASA’s space shuttle Challenger into orbit suffered a catastrophic failure 73 seconds into the launch. All seven crew were killed in the disaster, most likely from the impact of their cabin striking the ocean below. The weather in Florida was very cold; ice had formed on the launch pad overnight, but the launch proceeded despite the known risk of low ambient temperatures, partly because of public interest in this particular launch. For the first time, a non-astronaut—”ordinary citizen” Christa McAuliffe—was a member of a shuttle crew. The nation was riveted.

The launch, most uncommonly, was broadcast live on TV. Millions of schoolkids watched as the events unfolded, including McAuliffe’s students, gathered in their classroom to celebrate their teacher’s accomplishment. For 72 seconds, they were jubilant, but then an explosion separated the boosters from the shuttle and the launch catastrophically failed.

The Common Explanation

The immediate cause of the explosion was the failure of O-Rings to contain the immense pressure of combustion within the rocket.


The complicated issue of causation

The answer to the question “Why did the Challenger Fail?” or its corollary question, “Why did Christa McAuliffe die?” is complicated, since no single cause can be isolated.

Several causes can be named, some distant, some immediate, some precipitating.
Among them:

  • The O-rings failed
  • The design required a warm ambient temperature at launch
  • NASA ignored warnings that the weather was too cold
  • The decision to send a civilian to space created pressure to launch
  • NASA was emboldened by the program’s success to take an unprecedented risk

A most unlikely explanation

One explanation very rarely heard is that the Challenger failed because of the way Romans decided to build their horse-drawn carts when Rome ruled most of the known world and could establish a global standard.


Roman war chariots were built with wheels spaced 4 feet, 8-1/2 inches apart. The apparently arbitrary width was determined to be the width of two war horses’ rear ends yoked side by side to the chariot. The standard assured that horses would not pull a too-wide wagon through any opening wide enough only for them.

Before long, the much traveled and justly famous Roman roads developed deep grooves at the established separation, discouraging any other wheel spacings.

As England was part of the Roman Empire, English carts came to adopt the Roman standard to take advantage of the path of least resistance established by the ruts carved by Roman chariots.

Golden Chariot

When railroads first began to replace horse-drawn carts as the preferred mode of transportation for long journeys, the same cartwrights using the same patterns and tools as they used for carts, passed on the standard wheel spacing with which they were already familiar. By 1850, the 4 feet, 8-1/2 inch spacing had become known as the “standard guage” for railroad cars throughout the British Empire, including India, where the connection between Chariots and Railroads is obvious in the photo above.

Early railroads in America naturally adopted the odd but increasingly accepted English “standard gauge” as well. As more track was laid in England and America, deviation from the standard was a costly and foolish error for any investor in a new train line.

Train Tunnel

Tunnels were carved through mountains no wider than necessary to accommodate two trains passing one another, which limited not only the width but also the height of the cars or their cargo. The width of two Roman warhorse rear ends had come to dominate the widths of roads, then rails, then railcars, then tunnels, then what could be hauled in one piece by train through the mountains.

Solid Boosters

The solid rocket boosters that propelled many successful shuttle launches into space are enormous structures, as you can see by comparing them to the trucks following the shuttle conveyor to the launch pad.

When NASA awarded the contract for the design and construction of those boosters to the Morton-Thiokol Corporation of Utah, the die was cast for catastrophe. The boosters could have been built as a solid single piece, but those segments would never have made it through the tunnels they would have to have traversed through the Rocky Mountains on their way to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

So, they were built in sections, shipped in pieces, assembled in Florida, and wrapped by the now-infamous rubber O-Rings that failed so catastrophically on the day of the Challenger disaster.

Why did Christa McAuliffe die? Because of the width of a horse’s ass.


Open Strong Exercise

Essay in need of a Strong Opening

Anne Frank, the Jewish girl whose diary and death in a Nazi concentration camp made her a symbol of the Holocaust, was allegedly baptized posthumously Saturday by a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to whistleblower Helen Radkey, a former member of the church. The ritual was conducted in a Mormon temple in the Dominican Republic, according to Radkey, a Salt Lake City researcher who investigates such incidents, which violate a 2010 pact between the Mormon Church and Jewish leaders.

Radkey discovered that Annelies Marie “Anne” Frank, who died at Bergen Belsen death camp in 1945 at age 15, was baptized by proxy on Saturday. Mormons have submitted versions of her name at least a dozen times for proxy rites and carried out the ritual at least nine times from 1989 to 1999. This time, Frank’s name was discovered in a database that can be used for proxy baptism — a separate process, according to a spokesman for the church. The database is open only to Mormons.

A screen shot of the database shows a page for Frank stating “completed” next to categories labeled “Baptism” and “Confirmation,” with the date Feb. 18, 2012, and the name of the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple.

Mormon posthumous proxy baptisms for Holocaust victims or Jews who are not direct descendants of Mormons has continued, despite church vows to stop such practices. Negotiations between Mormon and Jewish leaders led to a 1995 agreement for the church to stop the posthumous baptism of all Jews, except in the case of direct ancestors of Mormons, but some Mormons have failed to adhere to the agreement.

The name of Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel was recently submitted to the restricted genealogy website as “ready” for posthumous proxy baptism, though the church says the rite is reserved for the deceased, and Wiesel is alive. Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, was among a group of Jewish leaders who campaigned against the practice and prompted the 2010 pact by which the Mormon Church promises to at least prevent proxy baptism requests for Holocaust victims.

Wiesel last week called on Republican presidential candidate and Mormon Mitt Romney, a former Mormon bishop who has donated millions to the church, to speak out about the practice. The Romney campaign did not immediately reply.  The Frank case follows closely on an apology from the Mormon Church last week for recent posthumous baptisms of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal’s parents.

The latest baptism of Frank by proxy is especially egregious because she was an unmarried teenager who left no descendants. Mormon officials have stressed that in accordance with the agreements, church members are supposed to submit only the names of their own ancestors.

“The security of the names submissions process for posthumous rites must be questioned, in view of the rash of prominent Jewish Holocaust names that have recently appeared on Mormon temple rolls,” Radkey said about her latest find. “This one sailed straight through, with Anne’s correct name in their ‘secure’ database.”

Radkey said she expects, once word gets out, that church officials will scrub the records as they did with Wiesel and Weisenthal’s parents. The Mormon Church responded later Tuesday in a statement: “The Church keeps its word and is absolutely firm in its commitment to not accept the names of Holocaust victims for proxy baptism. While no system is foolproof in preventing the handful of individuals who are determined to falsify submissions we are committed to taking action against individual abusers who willfully violate the Church’s policy. Ritual baptism should be understood to be an offering based on love and respect; we regret when it becomes a source of contention.”

Exercise Specifics

In the Reply field below this post, write your strongest Opening Paragraph.

Your paragraph must contain a thesis sentence that clearly and boldly proclaims the claim you promise readers you will prove.

In addition, your Opening Paragraph will:

  1. Will make strong, perhaps paradoxical claims.
  2. Will sum up a very strong argument your essay will make.
  3. Will NOT LOSE the argument.
  4. Will itself be an arugment.
  5. Will be memorable.
  6. Will be debatable, demonstatable, illustratable.
  7. Will be a good example of itself.

Well, maybe it won’t accomplish all 7 goals, but the more the better!

You have until the end of the day to write your best first draft.

A Counterintuitive Tease


Spoiler Alert: those “impossible” stairways M.C. Escher drew in the 1950s still can’t be replicated in 3 physical dimensions, but this video makes a good job of teasing the proposition that they can be.

And this entry from the Snopes facebook page explains the background.


Escher Stuff

The wikipedia page for MC Escher includes a terrific list of sources and a very convenient set of links to Selected Works.

Escher on Instagram

Finally, if you like this sort of thing and don’t already know him, be sure to follow modern-day M.C. Escher Kevin Parry on instagram. @kevinbparry