April 2006 Archives

The Height Requirement


It may not be fair, and has certainly been the subject of much ridicule, but the fact of the matter remains: I have a height requirement. The average American Caucasian 27-year-old male stands 5’10”. However, the average American woman’s height requirement, according to services such as Match.com is 5’11”. Now, it seems unfair to me that American women, with an average height of 5’3.7” can insist on a man being two inches taller than the American average of 5’9.1” and seven inches taller than themselves. Nonetheless, I consider myself an exception.

I stand a solid 5’7”, somewhere between the 80th and 85th percentiles for American Caucasian 27-year-old women. This is to say, I am tall. I am also in the 26th percentile for weight of Caucasian women my height and age, which is to say, I am thin. A Caucasian American 27-year-old man in the 80th percentile for height would stand 6’0.5”. Therefore, a height requirement of 5’11” for me seems quite generous. It is, after all, an entire inch and a half shorter than the man who is as proportionally tall as I am. The original height requirement of 6’3”, ridiculous though it may sound, was only one inch more demanding than the average American woman’s HR, relatively speaking, though admittedly it had the unfortunate drawback of eliminating all but one percent of the population. An HR of 5’11” on the other hand includes at least 35 times as many men. And I have said nothing about their physical well-being having to match my 26th percentile for weight. Therefore, 5’11” is a totally reasonable expectation for me to have.

Were I to be meeting people on Match.com, where inflation of one’s statistics runs rampant, I would have to stipulate a height requirement of at least 6’1” to find someone who is actually 5’11”. In order not to embarrass this person for having lied about his height, I would be expected to describe myself as “athletic” and “toned.” However, Match.com doesn’t have anyone listing themselves as 6’1” and a speaker of Attic Greek, so it would be silly of me to go looking there, and even sillier to try giving the poor guys who list their height as 5’9” a shot, since invariably, they will show up and be vertically comparable to my students.

Here is the first paragraph of an email that I just received from the Association of Educational Therapists, a group of people who work with kids with learning disabilities outside of schools:

AB 2514, which has been introduced by Ms. Daucher, is the result of heavy lobbying by school districts to prohibit parents from getting attorneys fees in special education matters unless and until they proceed through a hearing -- and what will happen is the Districts will offer all of the substantive things the family wants and there won't be any basis for a hearing -- so the attorney fees will be the responsibility of the family, and a family has to be quite wealthy to be able to pay for the time now involved in handling these cases. We need to stop AB 2514 as soon as possible. Please, do everything you can and make sure that organizations of parents of children with disabilities with whom you might be associated makes it clear that they oppose this bill.

As you no doubt noticed, this was extremely poorly written for professional communication. I may make my share of errors, but not so many as this.

  1. First of all, the clause “which has been introduced by Ms. Daucher” is a) unnecessary (who is she anyway?) b) in the passive voice and c) is in the past perfect tense when the simple past would do, creating wordiness.
  2. The first portion of the first sentence is also in passive voice.
  3. “Getting” should be “being awarded.”
  4. “Attorneys” should have an apostrophe at the end, since the fees belong to the attorneys.
  5. There is no need for “unless and until” since the word “through” implies finishing.
  6. The entire phrase contained between the emdashes should be a separate sentence, as should the following two clauses beginning with ‘so’ and ‘and.’ That is to say that the first sentence is a run-on composed of four separate sentences connected by unnecessary punctuation and three coordinating conjunctions.
  7. The word choice in that phrase begins with the colloquial “what will happen is” and ends with the informal “won’t.”
  8. The word “Districts” should not be capitalized.
  9. The word “things” should be avoided in formal communication.
  10. The final sentence again uses ‘and,’ this time when it should use ‘to’ (Please do everything you can to make sure…).
  11. There is an unnecessary qualifier in the last line, “might,” since one is either associated with an organization or not.
  12. The repetitive use of 'of' is awkward (organizations of parents of children...)
  13. “Whom” should be “which” since the organization, while containing people, is not itself a person. And lastly…
  14. The subject of the last dependent clause beginning with “that” is “organizations” and therefore, it should take the verb form “make.”

Rewritten professionally, the paragraph should read:

School districts have recently been lobbying for AB 2514, a bill that would prohibit judges? arbitrators? lawyers? districts? from awarding parents attorneys’ fees in special education disputes except as the result of a hearing. If AB 2514 is passed, schools are likely to settle cases by meeting parents’ demands when they realize there is a chance they will lose the hearing. Since most disputes are quite protracted and only rarely proceed to a hearing, parents will be forced to shoulder the financial burden of pursuing a case—a cost most can hardly afford. Please insure that any parent organizations you know vocally oppose AB 2514.

Usually this sort of thing doesn’t bother me. I certainly don’t go around correcting dangling prepositions in my friends’ emails, but this is communication from someone qualified to teach grammar and usage. What’s more, as professional communication, it should be representative of the best that teachers have to offer. This makes us sound like ranting imbeciles. I’m ashamed, and whoever wrote it should be too.

Katabasis Day at Zembla!

See my most recent post here. It makes more sense if you have read Pale Fire, the source of the title "Zembla," and picked up on Charles Kinbote's love for/stalking of poet John Shade. But if not, whatever.

Katabasis' Index


Most recent Miss America Pageant winners picked by the killer app: 2, winner and second runner up
Number of dollars it cost to get the crunching-turning noise fixed on the car: 563
Number of dollars I paid to get it fixed: 0
Number of rides taken with the Car Guy: 1
Number of drinks required to achieve maximum drunkenness, as measured Fourth of July, 1997: 4 in 3 hours.
Number of drinks required to achieve maximum drunkenness, as estimated last night: 4 in 5 hours (or more precisely: 1)
Difference between actual weight in 1997 and current weight: 0 pounds
Difference in “lightweightedness”: +66%
Return on investment garnered by Prometheus, the Killer Stock App in the last two weeks of January: 52%
Percent increase in the NYSE during the last two weeks of January: 1.4%
Return on investment garnered by Prometheus, the Killer Stock App in the first two weeks of February: 0%
Percent increase in the S&P 500 during the first two weeks of February: -1.2%
Number of board games won: unknown, but I’m a contendah
Number of movies in the Greatest Movies Ever Made list featuring the quote “I coulda’ been a contendah”: 1
Friends sent to the war in Iraq: 1
Friends to return from Iraq unmarred: 1
Languages spoken: 4
Men dated in the last four years who can read ancient Greek: 0
Emails saved from last foray into internet dating: 16
Number posted: 0
Number of one-dollar bills successfully laundered since receiving chain letter: 0
Number of identical chain letters received since: 1
Years since No Child Left Behind with “Reading First” was signed into law: 4
Average gain in reading scores for fourth graders since 2002: 0
Average gain in reading scores for eighth graders since 2002: -2
Leonard Peltier’s sentence for the murder of two FBI agents: 2 consecutive life sentences
Number of years Peltier has served: 29
Peltier’s current appeal: the rejection of his 2005 Motion to Correct an Illegal Sentence
Number of books in various states of being read that surround the bed: 12
Approximate cost of custom bookshelves installed in new house: $1800
Number by which books in the house exceed the number of available slots on the shelves: 46
Months to completion of the Three Gorges Dam: 1
Months lived with The Sean Keane: 6
Increase in amount of time spent watching sporting events on television: 600%
Guest blogs to write: 1

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