Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Feral Administrator Program

The campus of Enema U is under assault--we are in danger of being drowned by a tidal wave of administrators.  While they were never rare on campus, it was possible for a few weeks to pass without sighting an administrator on campus.  Occasionally, a vice-president could be spotted gently grazing in a coffee shop, or standing in the shade outside the Alumni Office.  While it was never easy to accurately determine the size of the herd, estimates of the population size were never higher than a few dozen breeding pairs.  

Sadly, those days of benign neglect are over.  Several factors led to the sudden over population. First, and perhaps the worst mistake, was when the university introduced a new major--a Bachelor’s Degree in University Administration.  After the success of the Golf Course Management program, perhaps this was an innocent mistake.  Unfortunately, this new program was not established under the School of Agriculture, where such ideas as selective breeding and culling the herd are widely understood and practiced; the new major was mistakenly also given to the Athletic Program.   
The new program began well, but soon (possibly due to low entrance requirements) there were simply too many majors.  In an attempt to reduce the size of the program (and in keeping with the best hiring practices of Administrators at Enema U) only students from other universities were allowed to apply to the program. 

Sadly, the administration population grew exponentially.  While no one knows exactly what the gestation period is for bureaucrats, according to one professor of Biology, it is entirely possible that administrators are born pregnant.

Today, it is practically impossible to cross the campus without sighting small herds of Executive Vice-Presidents or Assistant Associate Provosts.  At events such as convocations, the lowing of these administrators is deafening.  Worse, the campus is littered with their spoor--memos and reports can be seen everywhere, as ubiquitous as tumbleweeds in the breeze.

As an example of the problem, can you determine which of the following is not a real job title at Enema U?

a.  Senior Vice President of Research Integrity

b.  Dean of Student Articulation

c.  Dean of Student Success

d.  Vice President of Student Affairs

e.  Graduate School Mascot Handler

f.   Senior Vice President of Redundancy

g.  Executive Vice President of Redundancy

h.  None of the above

i.   Before e except after c.  Weird!

Sadly, the answer is h.  The problem is so severe, that it has been turned over to a new Vice President of Special Problems.  An investigation is under way at all levels and a report should reach us shortly.
In the mean time, I have a suggestion.  The university has for years operated a successful program to handle a similar problem: the Feral Cat Program.  Periodically, cats on campus are humanely trapped and taken to veterinarians, who vaccinate and neuter the animals.  Then, so the cats in the program can be recognized, the top of one ear is clipped.  Afterwards, the cat is released back on the campus.

Surely, this program would work equally well with our feral administrators.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Let’s Encourage the Others

Suddenly, with the foundering of the Costa Concordia off the Italian coast, people all over the world are thinking about a similar event 100 years ago this April.  For days, the news agencies interviewed survivors who consistently said, “Did you see the movie Titanic?”

Ignoring the strange fact that people tend to categorize real world events through the distorted prism of Hollywood, it is rather heartening to see so many people striving to find a historical reference to help explain the seemingly impossible loss of an “unsinkable” ship.  While I have no intention of repeating an endless stream of Titanic references—ending with the inevitable reminder that the Italian ship foundered on Friday the thirteenth—I do want to point out a few less obvious historical references.

As I write this, it is exactly one year after the US Airlines 1549 flight that ended with Captain “Sully” Sullenberger successfully landing his Airbus in the Hudson River.  After a miraculous landing, Sully walked up and down the aisle of his aircraft, even as it slowly sank, making absolutely sure that every passenger and crew member had safely evacuated the plane.  There were no casualties.

Almost forgotten today is Pan Am Flight 6.  On October 16, 1956, the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser was attempting to fly from Hawaii to San Francisco when it lost two of its four engines.  Captain Ogg managed to fly the crippled aircraft, and its 24 passengers and 7 crew members, to the Coast Guard Cutter Pontchartrain, and circle the ship until daylight. The ditching was successful, and Captain Ogg was the last man off his doomed plane.  There were no casualties, excepting the 40 crates of parakeets in the luggage compartment.

When the SS Andrea Doria collided with the MS Stockholm in July 1956, the captain knew immediately that the ship would sink.  Despite the fact that the ship immediately listed so badly that half of the life boats could not be used, the efficiency of the crew, led by Captain Calamai, ensured that the only casualties were a result of the collision, not from the evacuation.  Only after every passenger and crew member was off the ship did Captain Calamai leave his ship.

While the exact cause of the Costa Concordia accident is not (at this time) known, it appears that Captain Schettino deliberately steered his vessel too close to the shore in order to provide his passengers a better view of the coast.   When the ship hit the rocky reef, opening an enormous hole in the ship’s hull, the captain tried to ground his ship on the nearby shore.  Obviously, by this point, the captain fully knew his ship was doomed.

No warning was given to the passengers for an hour, even as the ship began to list.  No orders were given by the Captain to lower the lifeboats.  The passengers, most of whom had not yet been drilled in safety precautions, were left to fend for themselves.  While it is not yet known exactly when the Captain abandoned his passengers, his crew, his ship, and his responsibility, it is an undeniable fact that he was arrested on shore long before the ship was completely evacuated.  Captain Schettino was on shore long before his purser (who broke a leg when the ship rolled onto its side) was rescued by helicopter.

There is one more historical event to consider.  In March 1757, Admiral Sir John Byng was executed for his failure to aggressively engage the French at the Battle of Minorca.  He was court-martialed, found guilty of “failing to do his utmost”, and executed by firing squad on the quarterdeck of the HMS Monarch in the full view of the assembled fleet. 

Byng's failure is referred to in Voltaire’s novel Candide with the line Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres – "In this country, it is wise to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others.”

Saturday, January 14, 2012

If Nominated, I Will Not Run

I am very sorry to announce that I am not running for president.  While I have no doubt that most of you will be severely disappointed at this news, I have no choice.  It is my wife’s fault.

Evidently, I will never be able to run for political office.  No matter how much I might want to,  it appears that I do not have the right kind of wife to be a politician.

Herman Cain is just the latest in a very long line of politicians who have cheated on their wives (with partners ranging from chubby file clerks to farm animals) yet they still somehow want the voters to trust them enough to give them the most important job in America.  During the Clinton impeachment fiasco, my eldest son once asked me, “If his wife can’t trust him, why should we?”

Actually, I’m not all that surprised.  I have always taken it for granted that the most powerful man in the world could probably get laid.  All things considered, this is probably a good thing.  I think we can all agree that we don’t want the most powerful man in the world (the man whose finger hovers over the nuclear button) to get… anxious.

I understand the powerful men believing they can ignore social conventions.  I can even understand these men believing that somehow their peccadillos won’t be discovered even as they undergo a very public anal exam by the press.  But where in the world do these politicians   find wives who will allow them to do such nonsense and then still stand by them on a podium, hand in hand, and pretend to smile lovingly at their scumbag husbands.

Herman Cain, after his ten year affair was exposed, somehow stood in public--with his wife--and made a public apology that miraculously managed to make it sound as if it was the press that was at fault.  What was it that Cain said?  "I am at peace with my wife."

Christ on a Popsicle stick!  If my mistress of ten years came forward and outed me in the national press, I would be in pieces with my wife.  The last words I would hear from my wife, as she stood over my bleeding body, would be:  "How do you reload this son of a bitch?"

Even with the use of strong drugs, if my wife stood behind me during such a press conference, it would be so she could keep carving my spinal column into spaghetti-o's with a dull spoon.  I simply do not believe my wife would allow herself to be humiliated that way.

More importantly, why would any man want to subject his wife to such public ridicule?

Perhaps more importantly, why are we far more interested in how a politician treats his mistress than how he treats his wife?

Evidently, to be a good politician, you have to be a lying cheating scumbag.  My wife, the Doc, reminds me frequently that she knows “where the hurty parts are.”  I think I’ll pass.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Profound Discussions

Several years ago, while a student, I had the habit of getting an early cup of coffee before classes started.  As I sat in the cafeteria at Enema U, I would invariably see a trio of my favorite history profs sitting together and having coffee.  I used to wonder what they were talking about.  Some abstract historical point?  A discussion of the latest pedagogical approach?

Move forward a few decades.  I now have coffee with two of the three above professors (the third having retired).  And if you are a student observing us, wondering about our deep thoughts…  We talk about the news, the weather, and our children.  And women.  Our conversations are about as deep as a parking lot puddle after a summer fog.

Our emails are not much different, either.  Professor Grumbles, the German professor, and I have had an ongoing discussion about movies for years.  Here is a recent email exchange:

From: Professor Grumbles
Sent: Friday, December 02, 2011 11:01 AM
To: Mark Milliorn
Subject: movie proportions

I think we need a new system of rating movies.
Grumble’s Movie Proportions

01%   truly memorable, may withstand test of time = A

05%   thought-provoking, worth seeing = A-

05%   well-made, artistically rewarding = B

20%   entertaining distraction or popcorn thriller = B-

20%   pleasant, easily forgotten  = C

49%   not worth the ticket price = D/F

I probably should include examples.

Note total lack of correlation with Academy Awards or Golden Globes.

From: Mark Milliorn
Sent: Friday, December 02, 2011 11:21 AM
To: Professor Grumbles
Subject: RE: movie proportions

 I think we need a grading rubric.
The Milliorn System

·         Entertaining and memorable movie with a unique plot.  Possible 1-60 points.

·         Nudity with an attractive female actress.  Possible 1-20 points.

·         Nudity with a male actor.  Negative 10 points.

·         Gratuitous Violence.  Possible 1-15 points.

·         Car Chase.  Possible 1-10 points.

·         Cool airplane.  Possible 1-10 points.

·         Crashing cool airplane.  Negative 50 points.

·         Unique and horribly cruel violence.  Possible 1-5 points.

·         Unique and horribly cruel violence inflicted on anyone named Sheen.  Possible 10-50 points.

·       Horribly idiotic firearms mistake.  Negative 25 points.

·       Presence of Kung Fu or any other Asian martial arts without Jackie Chan.  Negative 25 points.

·       Plot consisting of 2 men discussing their lives and dysfunctional families.  Negative 100 points.

·       Plot consisting of several couples trying to relive college moments.  Negative 100 points.

·       Coming of Age plot with adorable child actors related to some famous star.  Negative 1000 points.

·       Sequels or remakes.  Negative 10 points for each previous occurrence.   At this point, any movie with Rocky in the title can achieve, at the unlikely best, 40 points.

From: Professor Grumbles
Sent: Friday, December 02, 2011 11:27 AM
To: Mark Milliorn
Subject: RE: movie proportions

A bit more subjectively flexible (what elements of a car chase give it more points?) than I would prefer.  But thorough!  I would also have to add: 

·         Clumsy misuse of a foreign language.  Negative 20 points.

From: Mark Milliorn
Sent: Friday, December 02, 2011 11:28 AM
To: Professor Grumbles
Subject: RE: movie proportions

Well, a tank chase, with nude women driving them, would receive MUCH more in points than say… the car chase in Thelma and Louise.   Let me amplify this…  Which would you rather watch?

A.      Thelma and Louise are chased off a cliff.
B.      Angelina Jolie, nude, drives a Sherman Tank after a school bus, full of screaming, naked cheer leaders, that eventually finds safety at a lesbian nudist colony.

From: Professor Grumbles
Sent: Friday, December 02, 2011 12:11 PM
To: Mark Milliorn
Subject: RE: movie proportions

Only if B takes place in a warm spring drizzle.  Of vegetable oil.   And Angie should be in an open Jeep.  The screaming doesn’t matter.  I won’t get around to turning on the sound.

So this is some kind of fashion statement?

From: Mark Milliorn
Sent: Friday, December 02, 2011 12:12 PM
To: Professor Grumbles
Subject: RE: movie proportions

Screaming cheerleaders jump up and down.

From: Professor Grumbles
Sent: Friday, December 02, 2011 12:15 PM
To: Mark Milliorn
Subject: RE: movie proportions

Again – the screaming is irrelevant.  Jumping, though: excellent.  And slo-mo, please.

From: Mark Milliorn
To: Professor Grumbles
Date Sent: 12/2/2011 12:20:54 PM
Subject: RE: movie proportions

And Sherman tanks are driven by tugging and pulling on long levers.  Obviously, we would not want to deny the director the artistic use of such an obvious phallic symbol.  You’ll just have to settle for interior shots of Angie, sweating profusely, straining as she manhandles (or womanhandles) the steering.

And so it went.  I have consulted with my colleague, and Professor Grumbles and I are willing to discuss a possible movie treatment, but we insist on final say for both script and costumes (or lack thereof).