2015 Year in Review
Dec 31st, 2015 by Dr Karma

As I’ve thought about my year, the theme is inescapable. It’s been a year of loss.

I lost the best relationship I’ve had in my life to date, leading me to the disastrous adventures I’ve chronicled here. (It should be noted, of course, that I’ve only written about guys who would never get either a first date or a second. I haven’t yet written about the seven guys who have managed to have two or more dates and the misery that accompanied some of them.) Suffice it to say that I miss being in a relationship, I miss intimacy, I miss being held. It just doesn’t seem right that only cats and toddlers touch me.

I lost my Jareth over the summer, and it still hurts. I find it surprisingly sad that I can just hang the toilet paper up on the roll and that it remains unmolested, that no one is picking out an ornament about four or five feet high on the tree and deciding to go at it with a good flying leap so that it might be destroyed, that no one enforces a ban on tacks being on the walls by prying them out with tiny teeth. I shouldn’t have to sleep not only without a man but also without my little girl, who would come make a nest out of my hair to curl up in while she nibbled my head or neck until she fell asleep. It’s all these months later, and when one of the other cats comes into my room in the middle of the night, my sleepy mind thinks it’s her, and then I have to remember that it isn’t. It happened this morning again.

Jareth snuggling with Alexander

Jareth snuggling with Alexander

I lost one of the closest relationships in my life. As many of you know, a year and a half ago, I took in my aunt when she became disabled and could not obtain care in the Obamacare-refusing South. We all expected it to be challenging, especially since I couldn’t afford to move us to a bigger place. What none of us expected was the emotional stress it caused–I was suddenly living with emotional circumstances too much like my dysfunctional childhood. I had flashbacks and nightly nightmares. My blood pressure shot up, and my own health got worse. I tried counseling, but it takes two, and one of us resisted. I got diagnosed with PTSD, and the situation became untenable. My aunt now lives with a roommate here in Davis and is holding a lot of anger and pain, for which I don’t blame her. But she denied it when I try to talk about it; the idea of counseling has been unilaterally banned. Now, she’s decided I’m “evil”–that I do things intentionally to hurt her. It’s a defense mechanism, I know. But I’m in great mourning. For 40 years, she was my second mother, my closest ally, my best friend. Naturally, this schism has rippled through the family, and my relationships with other family members are suffering. Neither my aunt nor I have ever meant to hurt each other, but we have done so, greatly. But at least she has access to healthcare now.

My grandfather is losing the ability to hold conversations, and so it’s difficult–practically and emotionally–to talk to him. He’s also getting ready to shuffle off his mortal coil. Earlier this year, he wrapped up our conversation by telling me he loved me just as I am. He’s always told me he loved me, but addendum was new. I am, and have been for decades now, a great disappointment, since I’m liberal and I live in California and I teach at a University, etc. Daddy’s a man of few words, and those few made me sob.

These are the things I dwell on when I can’t sleep, that wake me up at night, and that greet my consciousness in the mornings.

However, there have also been some wonderful things this year.

Anubis tried to die (a few times), and while my savings are completely depleted from keeping him from doing so, he is running around like a kitten again.

In some ways, I’ve gotten my son back. When my aunt was living here, I basically never saw him–he stayed in his room all the time. Now, he’s back in our living room/office again.

I only went to the ER once; I haven’t thrown up since July. My team is still working on all the problems–not making much headway at the moment, but I can do what I need to do on most days.

I got to meet my new niece, Lucy, to spend time with my nephew, Jack, and to watch nephew Liam and niece Artemis grow when they come over every week. Plus, all of these children got me great Christmas presents. 🙂

A free Southwest flight got me a visit with Tiffany, Denise, and Vanessa. My work trips took me to Portland, Vancouver, New Orleans, London, Oxford, Fort Wayne, and Iceland! Next year, I’ll be in San Diego, Seattle, and London–probably more places too.



(I still need to blog about Iceland.)

I got to go to the following shows: The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain; Sarah Vowell; Paula Poundstone; Julian Sands; Tim Meadows; Mnozil Brass; King Lear; A Doll’s House; Weird Al; Hamlet; Warp 11; Margaret Cho; Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play (by Anne Washburn); Ira Glass: Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host; Big Wow! ComicFest; Dan Savage; Sac Con (where I did a Simpsons Trivia Panel); Eddie Izzard; Sacramento French Film Festival; Man and Superman; Anna Devere Smith: Notes From the Field: Doing Time in Education; The Book of Mormon; Much Ado About Nothing; Kathleen Madigan; Coriolanous; Pink Martini; Vince Gilligan; The Reduced Shakespeare Christmas Pageant; Disgraced. I also got to spend some time with Temple Grandin.

I got to be on NPR and on The Huffington Post. I gave a sermon on The Simpsons at the UU Church, and I was part of two talks at CapStage. I gave quite a few special talks at UCD and did stand-up comedy with my students.

My classes (all sixteen of them) went well, and I got a few people into med school, law school, etc. Two of my students got into Prized Writing. The Upper Division Comp Exam has started running smoother, now that I know what I’m doing and now that I’ve revised the rubric for clarity.

I won the AF Excellence in Teaching Award and a Professional Development Grant (didn’t get my raise, but that’s under appeal). My collection on Atwood came out. My article on Sherlock came out. An autobiographical piece will be published soon, and I’ve just had a scholarly article accepted for the premiere issue of a Sci-Fi journal. I got an edition of the Atwood journal out and launched the online platform for it. Melissa Bender and I will submit our book collection to McFarland in a month, and I’ll turn in my essay on The X Files in two weeks. Denise and I are moving forward on a new Simpsons collection.

And then there are my friends. My house is full a couple of times a week. There have been good meals, good tv, good wine, good cocktails, good happy hours, good trips.

My friends, I am so thankful for you, and I look forward to our next year together.


The Continuing Adventures of Karma’s OnLine Dating (Episode 18): What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate
Dec 28th, 2015 by Dr Karma

Yesterday, I was messaged by a man in the Bay Area. I was surprised by the message, since OKC said we had a 30% enemies factor (OKC calculates things based not only on my answers, but on the answers I say are acceptable for a partner, and on the importance I give such answers). He and I are “enemies” for a variety of reasons–he had several answers that indicated he’s the jealous type (like answering “yes” to “is jealousy healthy in a relationship?”); he said he’s looking for someone to have children with, that “marriage is a necessity when a couple loves each other,” that creation theory should be taught alongside evolution in science classes, etc.

I explained that we weren’t suited for each other. He tried to say that he didn’t actually believe any of those things I had objections to (he wasn’t the only guy with that defense yesterday–one guy said, “oh, the questions aren’t important”). He kept asking for my number, but I think we all know how I feel about offering up my number to some stranger.

I then explained that he is also too far away (he was offering to meet halfway–in Fairfield). (Yesterday was long distance day. This guy, a guy in Pittsburg, CA, a guy in Reno, NV, and a guy in Clearlake, CA all tried to convince me that distance is not a factor [when I get to decide what factors are in my own damn dating life!].)

We’ll pick up the conversation there:

Me: I admire your persistence, but I’m not interested in dating you. I don’t want a long distance boyfriend. I hope you find what you’re looking for!

Him: Good morning Is not long distance relationships You are the first real woman in here I really like that [sic]

Me: My profile is very clear about what I consider long distance–if I’m not willing to do the drive, then I’m not going to date you. . . . I answered your first message because I’m polite, and I answer everyone who leaves an actual message. In that first message, I indicated that I’m not interested in dating you. You’re making me regret my politeness; please take my no for an answer.

Him: Im open to talk about Politeness I have not negative think Ok let’s met in your town this week ? What day is with for you ? ​[sic]

Me: I have told you in every single message that I’m not interested in dating you. I’ve asked you very politely to take my no. I will not be answering any more messages from you.


  • 😢



Update: 12 days later, he wrote me again: “Good morning beautiful woman How are you today?”

Not sure if he’s hoping I’ve changed my mind or if he doesn’t remember that’s he’s tried and failed with me already.

The Continuing Adventures of Karma’s OnLine Dating (Entry 17): Umm . . . no
Dec 22nd, 2015 by Dr Karma

A message I got from a complete stranger this morning (his profile consists of 2 pictures, but no descriptions of himself, what he’s looking for, etc):

“Good morning sweetheart iam sam iam Australian indian man from auzziezz land liveing in elk grove iam a pilot for Hawaiian airlines do you care too chat on the phone what’s is your number cell phone number hun here’s my number [XXXXXXX]”

Me: “Hi. I don’t give strangers my phone number. In fact, OKCupid warns people not to, since it’s unsafe to do so right away.”

Sam iam: “Well I will be honest iam a indian Australian man iam a pilot for Hawaiian airlines 549 people trust me so here my [XXX XXXX XXX]

Me: “I’ve been on this site for 10 minutes this morning. Three new people have messaged me so far. They would all like my number. Should I give it to every guy who messages me today?

Sam iam: “Haaaa

“I have gave u my number it’s up too u have nice day”

Me: “I’m just asking you to have some empathy about what it might be like to be a woman on a dating site. Put yourself in my position–you have two pics up–the rest of your profile is basically blank. You tell me your job and ask for my number. If you walked up to me in a bar and only said, ‘hi, I’m a pilot. Give me your number,’ I wouldn’t. So why should I do it here?”


The Continuing Adventures of Karma’s OnLine Dating (Entry 16): Working for Free
Dec 18th, 2015 by Dr Karma

“Can I just send my students to you?”

I don’t know anyone in my profession who hasn’t heard a question like that.

I was surprised to hear it from another teacher, however.

I was trying to make nice with colleagues from across the campus at the request of my friend Ken, who’d organized a meet up in an attempt to get us to know and love each other (Ken talked about “networking,” but that word makes my ass twitch, so I had to pretend that’s not what I was doing).

A man from our nursing school in Sac asked me what I do. Well, among other things, I teach Writing in Health Science.

My colleague thought that was great, and said his nursing students definitely needed instruction like that. I talked about our workshops and our classes. He said his students didn’t have time for those.

“Can I just send my students to you?”

As soon as I made it clear that I wouldn’t be taking on free individualized writing instruction for all of his students, in the same way that he was unlikely to take on free individualized healthcare for all of my students, he wandered off to network with someone else, and my ass was left twitching in irritation.

This kind of thing happens all the time. Students and former students often want my editorial skills–so do some of my writer friends (cause writer friends always help other writer friends)–but at least they have a right to ask. And they know how to ask (usually) because they understand the value of what they’re asking for.

The students I teach, the people I mentor, and the people I love can and do ask. They also understand that sometimes I can’t help them for some reason or another.

Unpaid labor, though, is much on my mind these days, due to some disagreements about pay that the university and I (& my class of department faculty) are having.

It’s also on my mind as a writer. I wish my friend Chris and I had been in better contact a few years ago, when I was doing a movie blog for someone else–when he came to campus recently for an author talk, he was clear that none of us should ever write “for exposure” (thought we’d need to redo academia and its weird expectations). (The Oatmeal wrote a great short comic about “exposure“–see below.)

And now, the expectation of free labor (you like writing! so you must want to make my shitty writing awesome instead of working on your own awesomeness) has entered my dating life.

A couple of months ago, I got bombarded by messages from a young man while I was in Oxford. He’s in his late twenties, and I don’t think we have anything in common. He wasn’t able to convince me that we did–every message was just a different way of saying he really liked me and that he wanted to be my lover.

I declined to give him my phone number, despite his repeated attempts.

He disappeared for a couple of months, but then reappeared, with the same bland, general declarations of devotion, not bothered in the least by the fact that we’d never talked about anything other than the fact that I wasn’t interested and that he was.

“I don’t want to date you.”

“Ok. Can I call u?”


Several weeks later, which happened to be today, I got this message:

“hi how are you? I need help proofreading my thesis paper. Thank you hun :)”


In his defense, he apologized when I explained the various ways in which that message was inappropriate and rude.

So I guess a free writing lesson happened after all.



by The Oatmeal

by The Oatmeal

The Continuing Adventures of Karma’s OnLine Dating (Entry 15): Dear _Fill in the Blank_
Dec 16th, 2015 by Dr Karma

Dear ___,

Thanks so much for your message! However, (circle all that apply) I don’t want a long distance relationship / I don’t date smokers / I don’t think we’d be a good fit since you want a “god fearing woman,” and I’m an atheist / you’re looking for someone to have children with / I don’t date married men / you indicated in your questions that you would have problems with me being friends with my exes / your profile says you’re looking for casual sex, but I’m looking for a relationship / you seem to be much more conservative than I am. I hope you find what you’re looking for!



Dear ___,

As I said in the previous email, I don’t want a long distance relationship. It’s really flattering that you’re willing to drive a couple of hours to have a date with me, but I don’t want to just see someone on the weekends, and I’m not going to drive a couple of hours for a date. I need a partner who’s closer.


Dear ___,

You live in (some far away country). While I agree that it’s possible to care about people from a long way away, I do not want a long distance relationship, as I said in the last email. And no, I don’t think I’m the perfect woman for you. You’ve only read my profile and a polite message telling you that I’m not interested–you don’t know me. Neither do the other guys who’ve told me that love can’t be conquered by distance this week.


Dear ___,

I’m not against dating a smoker because it’s a vice of some kind. And yes, I drink. However, drinking doesn’t give me asthma attacks. I think I’m within my rights to turn down a date with someone whose activities would hurt my lungs.


Dear ___,

It’s interesting that you say god is the most important thing in your life, but when I say I’m not interested in a date, you offer to be friends with benefits. I am looking for a relationship; it’s probably what Jesus would want me to do.


Dear ___,

Where did I get the idea that you wanted to have children? You said it on your profile. You also answered the question “Are you looking for someone to have children with?” with a “yes.” I tend to believe what people say in their answers, since they took the time to answer the question.


Dear ___,

I’m looking for a relationship–a real one. If we were friends, you would tell me not to settle for less than I want, less than I deserve. I’m no one’s second fiddle–I’m a stradivarius. Since you don’t know me, I’ll just give myself that advice and wish you a good day.


Dear ___,

What leads me to think that you would have a problem with me being friends with my exes are your answers to questions about letting your partner have dinner alone with an ex, letting your partner keep pictures of exes, letting your partner spend time with an ex, etc. You also said you think jealousy is “healthy” in a relationship.


Dear ____,

No, I’m not interested in being in a friends with benefits relationship with you. As I noted previously, I’m looking for a relationship, not casual sex (for which I wouldn’t need to resort to the internet). Also, we’re not friends. You’re a stranger, and I don’t want to have sex with a stranger.


Dear ___,

When I say you seem to be more conservative than I am, I’m referencing your answers to the questions in which you said (circle all that apply) that you don’t believe in dinosaurs / that you listen to conservative talk radio / that you think men should be the head of their households / that you don’t think evolution should be taught in science class / that you think homosexuality is a sin). Those are dealbreakers for me.


I already know what the Bible says about (circle all that apply) the creation story / women being subservient / gay people. I don’t need to date a conservative to better “understand” that point of view. I was raised in the South. I get it. However, I don’t respect it, and I don’t let people touch my pussy if I don’t respect them.

South Park’s Awesome 19th Season
Dec 10th, 2015 by Dr Karma

As an expert on The Simpsons, I’m always asked about other cartoons for adults. For a long time, I watched them all. Several years ago, though, the boy asked why we were watching American Dad when it was so sexist.

“Because I feel like I have to–people always ask me about this stuff.”

And then I turned it off. American Dad and Family Guy both had their moments. As a member of their creators’ generation, I sometimes wonder why my students like the stuff, considering how you really had to grow up in the 80s to get many of the references. However, I don’t like either show enough to watch it. Specifically, I hate Peter Griffin with a passion. A passion. And I find the way he treats his daughter beyond repulsive.

I love Robot Chicken, however (except for Bitch Puddin), and Archer.

And I still watch South Park.

I remember the first few episodes, viewed with friends in college. In fact, “Cartman Gets an Anal Probe” is still one of my favorites. And I highly recommend “Eat, Pray, Queef,” about the double standards in the way we treat women’s bodies and women in comedy.

Not all South Park episodes are great (it’s impossible to be on for almost 20 years and hit one out of the park each time). One of their great strengths is often one of their weaknesses, in fact. They can put together an episode in a week, which means they can be topical, but that very topicality can also date the episodes fairly quickly.

The show has also fallen victim to its own success in the same way The Simpsons has. Both shows were groundbreaking; both shows were criticized heavily for being the downfall of modern civilization. And then both shows became relatively quaint compared to their successors. This is simply the way of things. The shows are different than they were at the beginning, of course, but they transformed audiences’ expectations and paved the way for new shows to signal the end of time–leading some to dissmiss them because they are still themselves instead of Archer.

That said, this season of South Park has been amazing. For the first time, the show has done a solid season arc (it’s still tied in some topical references).


The arc is not a simple one, but explores several themes: gentrification, advertising/corporate power, and being politically correct. As we have a full season to play, the issues get to be more complex than usual. In earlier episodes, for example, being PC was simply made fun of; here, you can see that some characters need to be more sensitive to differences, but that there is a way to go too far.

The show’s treatment of Caitlyn Jenner has gotten a lot of attention. Bringing her in, of course, was a catalyst to start talking about being PC. In the first episode, Kyle is given detention for saying she isn’t a hero. I sympathized.

My students kept wanting to talk bout Caitlyn, and I didn’t. I am in full support of trans rights, and I know some trans individuals. This was all true before Caitlyn. For most of my students, though, Caitlyn was their introduction to these issues, but I didn’t want to talk about her. Why? Because I’ve never watched the Kardashians (though I’ve watched The Soup talk about them). In fact, when I first heard the name of their show, I hoped there was a tongue in cheek Star Trek spin off, since Kardashian sounds like a race you’d find there. When I found out why the family was on tv–because Kim had sex and people got to see it–I was definitely turned off. I don’t watch reality tv. And I’ve been irritated for years about having to know what some vapid people do because they’re famous for being famous now.

So I didn’t want to talk about Caitlyn because I didn’t want to talk about Bruce.

However, I did want to write about how awesome South Park has been this season. I was going to do so a few days ago, but grading and some medical procedures got in the way. In the meantime, Sonia Saraiya wrote a great piece about it.


Other recommendations from the past few months: The Grinder, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The Simpsons, Jessica Jones, Fresh Off the Boat, Master of None, The Good Wife . . .

»  Substance:WordPress   »  Style:Ahren Ahimsa