Monday, December 10, 2012

A holiday from the blog, too! See you in 2013

This post is quite probably the final one for 2012, though the new year is three weeks away.  It will be my longest break from blogging in a long while.  But, hey, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do :)

Anticipating the new year, here is a poem from my favorite source:
The Old Year  
by John Clare
The Old Year's gone away
     To nothingness and night:
We cannot find him all the day
     Nor hear him in the night:
He left no footstep, mark or place
     In either shade or sun:
The last year he'd a neighbour's face,
     In this he's known by none.

All nothing everywhere:
     Mists we on mornings see
Have more of substance when they're here
     And more of form than he.
He was a friend by every fire,
     In every cot and hall--
A guest to every heart's desire,
     And now he's nought at all.

Old papers thrown away,
     Old garments cast aside,
The talk of yesterday,
     Are things identified;
But time once torn away
     No voices can recall:
The eve of New Year's Day
     Left the Old Year lost to all.

Education does not equal pursuing the GPA

Grading is done, and I am all set to begin the process all over again in the new year.

When a new term begins, I know I will remind students in my classes, quite a few times, that education is not about the tests and the eventual letter grade. The goal is not to work towards a letter grade, but to gain an understanding of how to make order out of the chaos that the world is.  It is this understanding that then gets reflected in the assignments and tests, which then determine the letter grade and the GPA.

A goal of making sense of the chaotic world would require students to take courses in as many fields of inquiry as possible--from physics to literature to music.  And, geography, too.

But, that is not how education works.  For all I know, it has rarely worked that way in recent history.

The net result is my worry that we have stopped educating students; here is a related excerpt from a thoughtful essay by Ellen Rupel Shell, who is a professor at Boston U.:
A grade of B- or C in freshman chemistry seems to steer many students away from taking upper level science courses. A low grade in freshman English or anthropology discourages physics majors from taking other than the least demanding selections from the humanities and social sciences. In their understandable effort to maintain the highest possible GPA, undergraduates seem to cut themselves off from experimentation, challenge, and risk taking, the very things that a university education is meant to stimulate.
The pursuit of the perfect GPA is a distraction that leads too many students away from the challenges they should be facing in their undergraduate years. At a time when public understanding of science is critical, fewer and fewer non-majors are taking demanding science courses, due at least in part to their fear of getting penalized for their efforts with a less than stellar grade.
Fully aware of the "rational" decisions that students make, I shall continue to remind them that my courses are not about employment skills and that their focus should not be on "will this be on the test?"  I am equally aware that this will not be final post on this topic either.

But, there is always hope--no, I ain't referring to a student by that name in my class, but the hope that Pandora didn't mess around with :)  Here is a postscript a student had included with the final exam:
As a final note I would like to thank you Dr. K for teaching me more than I would have ever assumed on my own about the working of the world and the people that live in it.  It has opened my  eyes to look past the little bubble that I was in and view everything as a much larger picture now.  For the knowledge and experience I thank you and I also thank you for making the class interesting.  Here's to wishing you a happy holiday and may your months to come be always to your liking.
Score!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Poem of the day: The Unknown Citizen

The Unknown Citizen
By W. H. Auden


(To JS/07 M 378
This Marble Monument
Is Erected by the State)

 
He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a
   saint,
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content 
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace:  when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his
   generation.
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their
   education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

What She Said ... I was like give me a break



The poem, thanks to the Writers' Almanac:

What She Said

by Billy Collins
When he told me he expected me to pay for dinner,
I was like give me a break.

I was not the exact equivalent of give me a break.
I was just similar to give me a break.

As I said, I was like give me a break.

I would love to tell you
how I was able to resemble give me a break
without actually being identical to give me a break,

but all I can say is that I sensed
a similarity between me and give me a break.

And that was close enough
at that point in the evening

even if it meant I would fall short
of standing up from the table and screaming
give me a break,

for God's sake will you please give me a break?!

No, for that moment
with the rain streaking the restaurant windows
and the waiter approaching,

I felt the most I could be was like

to a certain degree

give me a break.
"What She Said" by Billy Collins, from Horoscopes for the Dead. © Random House, 2011.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Whiny Americans, and others too? Complaint is the poem for the day

First, a wonderful commentary from The Onion:


Incomprehensible Shouting Named Official U.S. Language

Now, here is a poem that is titled, and appropriately enough, "Complaint"
Complaint
by William Logan

The faucets squeeze 
out a dribble of rust.  
The stained slip-covers 

fray like seaweed. Scruffy, haggled
weeds confined to broken pots; 
shy, disfigured poppies; 

a barked rose succumbing
to white-frocked aphids—
the garden doesn't work. The heater

doesn't work. Nothing works.
Who lives in such a house?  
The pipes piss and moan,

as if forced to pay taxes.
If there are dream houses, 
are there undreamed houses

full of the things we desire,
or only those we deserve?
Perhaps they are the homes 

of strange gods with some
incomprehensible, whimsical 
way of looking at things.

You said we waded through the mysteries to get here.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Che Guevara, the secular jihadist!

As a kid growing up in a left-leaning India, I remember being fascinated with Fidel Castro, and the legends of Che. At a meeting of the Non-Aligned countries, Fidel Castro went on and on, and I am now amazed at how I sat through and watched most of that rant speech on TV!

Then I grew up.

I read about the Soviet Union that Solzhenistyn wrote about, and Orwell's Big Brother.  The older and wiser me couldn't understand the violence that the Stalinists and Maoists inflicted upon their own people, leave alone those on the outside.  The communist regimes were nothing but killers and anti-democratic rulers; Fidel and Che, it turned out, were no different from the violent and maniacal Stalin.
In the decades since 1917, communism has led to more slaughter and suffering than any other cause in human history. Communist regimes on four continents sent an estimated 100 million men, women, and children to their deaths — not out of misplaced zeal in pursuit of a fundamentally beautiful theory, but out of utopian fanaticism and an unquenchable lust for power.
Che's use of violence to achieve his version of utopia is no different from how Osama bin Laden didn't find anything wrong in killing civilians.  Yet, while no rational person would walk around wearing an Osama t-shirt, thousands all across the world, including here in the US, think it is cool to wear a Che t-shirt.  I suppose Osama, too, would have gladly worn a Che t-shirt if only he weren't an infidel!

When The Motorcycle Diaries came out and people we are all gushing about it, I intentionally skipped that movie. I stayed away from engaging in discussions--contrary to my penchant for discussions. I didn't want to come across as an annoying dissenter--because commie sympathizers at any level, as much as the commie leaders like Che, do not appreciate dissenting views.

I wish the world would stop applauding Che and making a saint out of this killer and, instead, remember him for what he was:
The cult of Ernesto Che Guevara is an episode in the moral callousness of our time. Che was a totalitarian. He achieved nothing but disaster.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Is India secular? Hint: No!

As long as I am outside India, I suppose I can dare to be critical, without worrying about the nationalist goondas coming after me?

In the civics portion of the curriculum, back when I was in grade IX or sometime then, the textbook presented a wonderful portrait of a secular India.  A secular public space despite all the gazillion religions and the tensions amongst them.  A convenient narrative that overlooked one thing: it was not the reality.

Over the years, I have only witnessed India's politics and society become increasingly colored by religion(s) and less and less secular:
the use of religion for political ends has substantially increased during the last few decades. Such a development has serious implications for a secular state and society. Retrieving the secular character of the public sphere is therefore imperative; otherwise its religious character is likely to impinge upon the functions of the state.
But, that was from a post back in 2009.  How are things now? 

Not better by any means, opines this op-ed writer in the NY Times, in the context of the twentieth anniversary of a shameful display of anything but secularism when a mob of Hindu fanatics demolished a mosque:
The movement eventually hoisted the Bharatiya Janata Party as a major national party, which led India through two short spells, then for a full five-year term, starting in 1999. It was a period of economic growth, and the confident party went back to the polls in 2004 with the joyous slogan “India Shining.” But it was defeated because there were apparently still too many poor people in the country who did not see the shine.
Now the party hopes it will triumph in the 2014 general elections, chiefly riding on the back of a man linked to the 2002 riots in Gujarat, which claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims. Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat and now a possible prime ministerial candidate, was accused of discouraging the police from protecting Muslims, accusations he has denied. But he understood very early in his political career that any nation that has to declare that it is “secular” probably is not. 
Narendra Modi, who has never tried to hide his ambitions to become India's prime minister, is resorting to that old election strategy all over again: targeting Muslims:
At one public meeting after another, as the campaign hots up, Mr. Modi says the Congress has a secret plan to pitchfork Ahmed Patel, political secretary of party chief Sonia Gandhi, into the job of Chief Minister. To ensure that the message reaches home, Mr. Modi now refers to Mr. Patel as “Ahmed-miyan,” a suffix he used in the run-up to the 2002 poll campaign to call the former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf Miyan-Musharraf, to refer to the larger Muslim population in Gujarat — something that worked well in the State. This was in reference to the attack on the Sabarmati Express train in Godhra in 2002 that left 58 people dead
It is such a tragic irony that this maniacal nationalist comes from the same part of India that produced that ultimate champion of tolerance and coexistence: Gandhi.

The Namesake and Hindi film music

Was listening to a Susheela Raman CD--yes, I listen to CDs, not the iCraps (ha ha.) Anyway, this CD is from a long time ago (2001) and her voice reminded me of her rendition of a classic Hindi film song that was used in The Namesake.

It was from a review of her CD in 2001 that I came to know about Raman's music.  The name itself made me wonder if she was from the same part of India as I am and, indeed, that was the case.  Well, her parents are from Tamil Nadu, as I am.  Like Jhumpa Lahiri, who wrote The Namesake, Raman too is the child of immigrants--in the UK and Australia.

It is neat, therefore, that Mira Nair used Raman's music in the movie based on Lahiri's novel.

Hmmm .... as I think more about all these, I am reminded of a fellow-student from my graduate school days, Sushma Raman.  I wonder if the two Ramans are related ....

Thanks to YouTube, here is Susheela Raman interpreting that awesome Hindi film song:



And that original Hindi film song? Again, thanks to YouTube:



PS: A google search of Sushma pulls up this one :)

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Climate change, and the hypocritical and impotent US

After a long time, I swung by to have coffee with a retired colleague.  "Oh, lemme get a coat" she said as I started walking towards the car.

"It is rather pleasant outside, and you might not need one" I replied.  It was about 55 degrees outside. And dry.

So, no coat.  As we started driving to the coffee shop, I asked her if the temperature was ok.

"No, it is not.  This time of the year, it typically is much cooler than this.  The climate change is messing up our weather patterns" the scientist in her replied.

For all we know, this unusually warmer temperature has got nothing to do with climate change. Just as Hurricane Sandy had nothing to do with climate change. Just as the drought had nothing to do with ...

Even if all these weather issues are not related to climate change, there is that pesky issue.  Global warming and climate change and the role of carbon.

So, where stands the US on the global attempts to bring carbon dioxide levels down?
The supposed goal of the climate negotiations is to keep the globe's average temperature from rising by more than 2 degrees celsius over the pre-industrial average by capping the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at 450 parts per million (ppm). Pre-industrial levels of carbon dioxide were at 280 ppm; it is now at 391 ppm. The poor countries are arguing that "climate justice" means that the 170 ppm (the difference between 280 and 450 ppm) must be divvied up based on population. As they see it, the rich countries have more or less already used up 110 ppm, meaning that the remaining 60 ppm should be allocated to the poor countries. This climate justice formula actually implies that rich countries would have to emit "negative" amounts of greenhouse gases.
However, in a supposedly off-the-record meeting U.S. chief climate negotiator Jonathan Pershing pushed back against these demands. The Times of India reported:
Pershing said, "It's a vision you can say that the atmosphere can take an X quantity of coal emissions and therefore what you do is you divide that number into percentages. The obligation it states is that you (the US) would have to reduce its emissions down to negative 37% (below 1990 levels). And the obligation of China will be a tiny bit, but India can still grow quite a lot. The politics of that quite frankly really don't work. I can't really sell that to the US Congress."
Suggesting that the US preferred to take the domestic constituency into confidence while making the commitment and not go by scientific requirements, he reasoned, "One way to think about it is what you could deliver. You say what you are going to do and you will be held to that. So how do you marry the reality of what you are doing with the reality of what is needed. To me, it's going to be a hybrid. It's going to be something between those two."
Unlike the Kyoto Protocol approach where the UN convention first decides how much reduction is required and then apportions the burden, Pershing suggested in what's dubbed not a new US position "that each country decides independently what it wants to do and put it on the global table."
Reiterating that US domestic political compulsions were paramount, he added, "Because if we can't take it home and sell it at home, in whatever political economy we are living in, we won't do it."
Way back in 1997, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution 95 to 0 that rejected the Kyoto Protocol which would have limited U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to 7 percent below their 1990 levels. The resolution declared the sense of the Senate to be that the U.S. should not consider any climate change treaty that did not include limits on developing country emissions and that would "result in serious harm to the economy of the United States."
The Obama administration evidently recognizes that such a treaty would is still not saleable to Congress and the American public.
Yep, it was ok for us to burn carbon and get materially rich.  But, to heck with those poorer countries and their peoples!

Now, one could argue that this maybe it is because the US politicians of all stripes don't care much for government intervention, and that they would favor using market mechanisms.  So, perhaps a carbon tax then?
Perhaps because a carbon tax makes so much sense—researchers at M.I.T. recently described it as a possible “win-win-win” response to several of the country’s most pressing problems—economists on both ends of the political spectrum have championed it. Liberals like Robert Frank, of Cornell, and Paul Krugman, of Princeton, support the idea, as do conservatives like Gary Becker, at the University of Chicago, and Greg Mankiw, of Harvard. (Mankiw, who served as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush and as an adviser to Mitt Romney, is the founding member of what he calls the Pigou Club.) A few weeks ago, more than a hundred major corporations, including Royal Dutch Shell and Unilever, issued a joint statement calling on lawmakers around the globe to impose a “clear, transparent and unambiguous price on carbon emissions,” which, while not an explicit endorsement of a carbon tax, certainly comes close. Even ExxonMobil, once a leading sponsor of climate-change denial, has expressed support for a carbon tax. “A well-designed carbon tax could play a significant role in addressing the challenge of rising emissions,” a spokeswoman for the company said recently in an e-mail to Bloomberg News.
See, a wonderful level of agreement.  Yay!  So, time to start discussing the carbon tax with voters and implement it?  Right?

Wrong!

Because:
One key player who has not embraced the idea is Barack Obama. The White House spokesman, Jay Carney, was asked about the tax last month, en route, as it happens, to visit storm-ravaged areas of New York with the President. “We would never propose a carbon tax, and have no intention of proposing one,” Carney told reporters.
WTF!

The New Yorker piece concludes thus:
In either case, the White House is making a big mistake. Pigovian taxes are rarely politically popular—something they have in common with virtually all taxes. But, as Obama embarks on his second term, it’s time for him to take some risks. Several countries, including Australia and Sweden, already have a carbon tax. Were the United States to impose one, it would have global significance. It would show that Americans are ready to acknowledge, finally, that we are part of the problem. There is a price to be paid for living as we do, and everyone is going to get stuck with the bill.
It appears that the US President and politicians are happy to stick the bill on the poorer countries!

Monday, December 03, 2012

My salary finally is up to what I earned twelve years ago!

I do not know if money can or can't buy one love, but I do know that I never have cared to test out that proposition because I have not been drawn to earning a lot in the first place.

My daughter has joked many times, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, that she has rarely met anybody like me who has systematically changed careers in order to earn lower earnings. 

The engineering undergraduate track would have, in the normal process, led someone like me to a management degree or the IT revolution, or both, in India or the US, and in either scenario I would be immensely richer than where I am now.

After that first transition away from engineering, I worked as a transportation planner.  Continuing in that profession would have translated to quite a few more tens of thousands of dollars over the years.

The move after that was to the academic world, where it was clear at the interview with the Dean and in the employment contract that I received later that my earnings would drop by twenty-five percent.

As if all these were not enough, I moved from California to Oregon, and the contract, at the university where I teach even after ten years, brought my salary down a further fifth from the academic salary at California.

I noticed that finally, my contracted salary for this academic year has risen to the dollar amount that I earned in my final year as a transportation planner.

Of course, all these are nominal numbers, without adjusting for inflation over the twelve years.

Yet, I am fairly confident that I am where I can truly be myself.  I am doing what I really, really like doing. 

In the language of economics, it is all about tradeoff.  Matt Yglesias briefly notes about how such tradeoffs affect the conventional approaches to calculations of national incomes and productivity.  He writes:
Another thing people can do is deliberately earn lower wages in order to obtain better job amenities. I was reading the other day about Pecan Lodge in Dallas: Newcomer of the Year at the 2012 Texas Monthly BBQ Festival. Its founders used to be consultants with Accenture, but they decided they'd rather quit and smoke meat.
That's really the same kind of leisure/income tradeoff as you see if workers cut back their hours, but it'll show up differently in national statistics. Instead of wages and productivity rising while income stays flat and hours fall, you'll see hours stay flat while wages and productivity fall. Phlogiston economics will say that Pecan Lodge is an example of technological innovation slowing down since it reduces total factor productivity, when it's really just an example of people taking advantage of the fact that America is a wealthy society to try to improve their unpriced job amenities.
The important point to note is the one that Yglesias also raises: this is possible only because I live in a phenomenally wealthy society where I have the luxury of engaging in such tradeoffs that do not push me into a daily battle for mere survival.

To a large extent, such a leisure/income tradeoff is what one would expect as individuals and societies get wealthier.  But, ironically, it is turning out that the rich and the super-rich estimate leisure in terms of earnings foregone and, perhaps not irrationally, decide against giving up those dollars, as Steven Landsburg noted a few years ago.

The tradeoff works for me. For the most part.

Did the budget "affect" or "effect" you? Should you care?

Forget the fiscal cliff.  We need to worry about the grammar gorge!

Yesterday, as is a part of my typical routine, I scanned the Statesman Journal when I came across the headline that caught my attention only because of the grammar issue, and I grabbed a screen shot:
Curiosity being my middle name, I wondered whether the editors might have realized that they, too, had "affect" and "effect" messed up.  Surprise, surprise, ... a corrected headline in place!
For some reason, the screen shot this time is warped; bad grammar = good shot?

Of course, I, too, am no good with the grammar.  But, hey, that doesn't stop me from pointing fingers :)

Sunday, December 02, 2012

As I get older, ... what was I saying?

A few years ago, as the family dog, Congo, was struggling through his enlarged heart and it was increasingly clear that sooner or later the decision had to made to put him down, the vet said something that made a whole lot of sense then, and all the more with every passing day: "getting old is not for sissies" ...

I have always worried about losing my memory.  Way back, when my clock had flipped over from a "2" to a "3" in the leading digit of the double-digit age, I expressed to a friend my worries about Alzheimer's.  He said I had nothing to worry about that one.  "The beauty of that disease is that you will be somebody else's problem" was his humorous way to help me think about it.

Here is to hoping that I have some ways to go before I start forgetting, and ...
Forgetfulness
Billy Collins
The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,
as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.
Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,
something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.
Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.
It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.
No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Term ends. No poems. But, prose will work, too

Students tell me that I require a lot more writing in my classes compared to the average faculty.  And, even worse, that I actually read them all too, which apparently impresses them.  (Such student feedback doesn't then speak highly of my profession, does it!)

It is true; I read them all.  Especially when there are poems buried within them--a rare event, of course.  Often, students write in ways that tell me how much the readings and concepts made them reflect on their own lives and how they begin to see the world in new ways. 

Thanks to such close readings, and reading between the lines also, I think I am able to connect with students that much more. 

With one student, for instance, I asked her about her experience in Spain, because there was a passing reference to that in one essay.  Another student had written about how the readings made her think more about the future as a mother that she was.  A few days ago, I asked about her child's age.  She sported a smilingly quizzical expression on her face and asked "which one?" 

Now, I was the one with the raised eyebrows.

"They are four, six, and two" she added with a grin.

"Three children? Wow!"  She didn't even look like a mother of one, and she had three kids!

She smiled.  Two other female students sitting close by also chuckled.

Every student in my classes is a real person, with their own lives.  And to be able to treat them as real people and interact with them and do my part to make their lives a tad better is a privilege.  The human that I am, well, I fall short sometimes.  Education is not merely about the professor yakking a few things in the classroom, and students passing or failing the tests.  But then, these are old and traditional ideas for which fewer and fewer people--even faculty colleagues, let alone students--have any patience anymore. 

Anyway, there I was reading the last of the assignments from students.  No poems anywhere.  But, the concluding lines of one assignment, from a "non-traditional" student, is no dull prose:
What a real shame it is, as a born and bred American citizen I had to have my eyes opened by a person who was not born in the United States, who immigrated to my country and chose to become a citizen and cared to learn more about his adopted country than I did about my birth country.
Thus ends another term with at least a few students, like this one, convinced that it was all worth it.  If a few students are convinced, then I am more than ready to call it a grand success and will gladly continue to tilt at windmills :)

Walking by the Willamette

Blue sky
with white and grey clouds.

And Sun.

Cool and crisp
are the air and the river

There is more.
A bald eagle
atop a fir tree.

Not Milton's paradise to lose.
This is heaven on earth.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Now, my turn to get emotional over what a student said ...

Yesterday, I got an email from a student, requesting that I serve as a reference.  In that email, she wrote:
You were my professor years ago, back in 2006. I asked you to help me with a independent credit through writing a paper. Maybe the topic might ring a bell. The paper explained why students from Hawaii chose to go to a college like WOU, a far location all the way in Oregon.
As if I could have ever forgotten this student.  Because, and as I wrote back to her:
Many times I have used you and your work as an example of how students can feel that they did something substantive as opposed to merely going through the motions of the class requirements.  I also remember that my comment made you emotional--when I said you can show that report to your mother and tell her, "look ma, I did this" .... I felt so terrible when you told me, after composing yourself, that your mother had passed away only a few months prior ....
It is such a typical line used so often in America: "look ma, .."  I felt so terrible when that phrase made this young woman cry. 

After I emailed her, I regretted even reminding her about my faux pas.  I worried that I might have made her cry all over again.

Turns out that it only prompted her to recall the rest of the story, which I had forgotten.  She--now a mother of two kids--writes:
You know the best thing that happened out of that emotional encounter was .... chocolate! You were so nice, and tried to console me with a bar of chocolate. And it absolutely worked. Until this day, when I visit the mainland and go to a Trader Joes, there is no way I'm leaving the store without that Belgium chocolate bar. So that incident was a true gem, and stuck with me all these years. Chocolate can fix any problem!
I suppose I felt so awful about having triggered an emotional response in her that I had forgotten what happened after that.

I am not surprised, however, that I offered her chocolate.  I do that even now.  Even when students do not cry in my office.

I have no idea about the lyrics in this old favorite of mine that I have embedded here ... the melody feels just appropriate for the moment ...

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