The U.S. Constitution, a Page One Rewrite, Article I.

We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

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Living Shades of Gray

The title of this post is wrong. I once described getting older as living through parts you’d once thought were obvious, but now find thorny and difficult.

This post isn’t about that. It’s about how I’m now a tenure-track assistant professor at a flagship state university in the Southwest. I started this blog in 2004, when I was 19 and a student in a flagship state university in the Southwest. I remember thinking of my professors as adults, grown ups who were settled in their lives. I remember thinking they were cool, but old.

Now I am old.

I don’t think I ever imagined that they were working as hard as I was. I thought of teaching as some form of rote memorization. Once you know the subject (which I thought all professors did), it’s easy to get in front of 20-100 students and talk about it. I don’t think I ever thought about where powerpoints came from until I had a class from a professor who used another professor’s slides after that professor had passed away.

I didn’t (really) know what tenure was, or that I had teachers who did not have it, had foregone it, or were stressing about it.

Now I give lectures to my students and they say, “this is my favorite class,” they show up to office hours en masse and don’t leave for three hours, and they describe me as “obviously know what you’re talking about.” But the funny part is… I don’t. I feel like I’m a huge liar. I am literally on wikipedia the night before every lecture (sometimes into 3 or 4 in the morning), stealing images to use in powerpoints.

((I never thought about using powerpoints, because my favorite classes were all discussion based, but I had one student complain and now that’s all I can think about.))

This is my first semester as a tenure-track faculty. It is hard. I feel compelled to put on a good face, because I know the people I interact with (a) don’t understand, (b) will be deciding my future and need to believe I am competent, or (c) are my students and need to believe I’m competent to give me good evaluations. I sleep three or four hours most nights, oversleep when I don’t have classes. I am behind on every writing assignment, every email, every bit of grading, and every phone call you can imagine. I know it will get easier soon, but……. it’s hard now.

I think about the number of college professors I had who made $20,000 a year (as public knowledge) and I feel so very bad for them. It makes me sad that my students don’t feel bad for me. They think I’m an expert, not an impostor. They don’t realize the only expertise I have is being an impostor.

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Quantitative and Qualitative Experiential Knowledge

Here are two statements:

“I know what self-identified Latinos say they think about a potential Trump presidency”


“I know how it feels to be a Latino thinking about a potential Trump presidency.”

They are very different statements: one is a knowledge claim about an entire group’s self-reporting, the other is a subjective/qualitative claim about belonging to a group. We can think of the first statement as an example of quantitative experiential knowledge and the second statement an example of qualitative experiential knowledge. There’s also the God’s eye view that accurately reflects what Latinos really think, but that’s probably a separate thing.

I was thinking about this yesterday, as a friend was describing why she wanted to have black female speakers in an event she was organizing. She wanted to ‘represent their perspective.’ I mulled that thought over in my head a bit, because I have occasionally been asked things like,

“what do Latinos think about a potential Trump presidency?”

That question is certainly racial. Latinos are not a unified political group. Duh. We come from many distinct areas, have very distinct experiences, and are even racially quite diverse. I pass for white most times. It may be ethnically insensitive or merely curious about experiences outside their own understanding. In the past, whenever I’ve been asked that question, I’ve responded,

“I have no clue, ask a pollster.”

But upon reflection1, I think one or both of us is conflating2 qualitative and quantitative experiential knowledge. There exists quantitative experiential understanding, which could merely be a summary of how various people respond when asked their opinions. There’s also qualitative experiential understanding, which typically requires lived experience.

So my friend inviting a black female speaker to an event may add qualitative experiential knowledge, but she may accidentally invite someone who has marginal3 views, giving poor quantitative experiential knowledge. If she was interested in the latter (she probably isn’t), she should just invite a pollster, sociologist, or historian.

So one of the reasons questions about the Latino experience seem so odd to me is that I know the experience is fairly diverse and I have a poor understanding of many of the quantitative aspects. The other reason is that I pass for white, so I also have a poor understanding of the qualitative aspects.

So…. damn.

  1. fancy way of saying ‘thinking’[]
  2. fancy jargon for confusing[]
  3. philosopher for crazy[]
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I’m 31! This is 11,111 in binary. Omg, I’m sooooooo old. When I started this blog, I was… um… like, totally, 19 years old and stuff. Wowza. How things havea changed!

My first birthday on this blog was my 20th. I quote it in full here:

I bought my own birthday cake, I watched a 1960s movie with my mom, and I broke into my friend’s house to use his X-Box and play Halo 2… Alone.

Materialistically, I also got a lot of good stuff (notably a shirt, two pairs of pants, swimming trunks, two birthday cards, an e-card, and a flash animation).

So, um, yeah, it was good.

… It doesn’t sound very good. That is sad. I wonder what movie it is we saw. Hm. We haven’t seen many movies together, much less 1960s movies, so I might still be able to remember.

This year, for my birthday, I was in Calgary, giving an academic talk. It went very well. My mom and dad called, a bunch of people texted. Some of the people at the conference came up and said happy birthday. Then I went out for dinner with some philosophers, a biologist (my boss, Ford Doolittle), and a theologian.

It… also wasn’t the best, but it was totally a grown up birthday. It is the first birthday in which I have done work since I was in high school. Sad.

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Election Dose

I saw John Oliver’s takedown of Donald Trump a few months ago. I thought, “heh, I once designed a game that had a Trump card. I should change it to a ‘Drumpf’ card as an election-year joke.”

Then, a few weeks later, Drumpf accused Hillary Clinton of playing the “Woman Card.” I thought, “heh, my game also had a Woman card. I should modify it as an election-year joke.”

Then I remembered the original reason for my devising a “Race” card. It, too, was an election-year joke.

So then I (with the help of the wonderful Tina Togs) designed an election-year update of our groundbreaking card game, Dose.

Check it out here. The printable version is available for free. We are literally making $0.12 off each of the hard copies of the game, which are available here.


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