Category Archives: Social Commentary

Going Post-Doctoral

One line stuck out to me in this piece about Professor Amy Bishop:

“You have to talk about Amy Bishop’s mental health in this situation as one of the variables, but being denied tenure when you’re in your mid-40s at an out-of-the-way obscure rural campus in the deep South is a catastrophic loss, and people don’t understand that,” says Jack Levin, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Boston.

This looks like northeastern Ivy bigotry to me, and it seems to be driven by ignorance. I think that most people at UAH would be surprised to learn that their university is “out-of-the-way,” “obscure,” or “rural.” Huntsville is a non-trivial city (it has a major NASA center, and Army R&D facility, and a vast aerospace contractor industrial base), and UAH has an excellent engineering school, particularly for aerospace (despite their having picked up Mike Griffin as a professor, though it’s probably a job to which he’s much better suited than running NASA). I suspect that, to Mr. Levin, its real crime is being in the “deep” south (just below the Tennessee border). And he probably thinks that for someone with a post-graduate degree from Harvard, her willingness to subject herself to such a benighted place is just one more sign of a mental disorder.

Meeting The Unmet Need

An atheist adoption service for pets abandoned by their raptured owners:

Whatever motivates Centre, he has tapped into a source of genuine unease. Todd Strandberg, who founded a biblical prophecy Web site called that draws 250,000 unique visitors a month, agrees that Fido and Mittens are doomed. “Pets don’t have souls, so they’ll remain on Earth. I don’t see how they can be taken with you,” he says. “A lot of persons are concerned about their pets, but I don’t know if they should necessarily trust atheists to take care of them.”

This paradox poses a challenge for Centre. He must reassure the Rapture crowd that his pet rescuers are wicked enough to be left behind but good enough to take proper care of the abandoned pets. Rescuers must sign an affidavit to affirm their disbelief in God—and they must also clear a criminal background check. “We want people who have pets and are animal lovers,” Centre says. They also must have the means to rescue and transport the animals in their charge. His network consists of 26 rescuers covering 22 states. “They take this very seriously,” Centre says.

It’s a serious issue, previously unaddressed. Isn’t America great? I should sign up as a rescuer.

Why Go Out To Eat?

Some thoughts.

Looking back, I used to go out primarily for entertainment value. I enjoyed being in a fancy space, developing a rapport with the wait staff, people watching, and dressing up for the occasion.


I hate that. It has a very low entertainment/annoyance ratio to me (I hate getting dressed up, for one thing).

I don’t go out to eat, generally, unless there is some compelling reason, because I don’t intrinsically enjoy it. I think that restaurants are intrinsically overpriced (not relative to their costs of doing business, but relative to their value to me compared to cooking at home), I don’t know for sure what’s in the food, and can’t get it exactly the way I like it, the portions are too large, particularly on the carbs (again, for economic reasons), and I really don’t enjoy other people serving or waiting on me, particularly when a tip is expected. I really prefer to do it myself (I have the same annoyance with luggage in hotels).

To me the only reasons to go out to eat are a) to eat something that I couldn’t make myself due to lack of time or ingredients (which is why I almost never go to a steak house), b) as a social occasion with others or c) I’m travelling away from home and have no other choice. But it’s not something about which I ever think, “Boy, I’d sure like to go out to eat in some fancy restaurant.”

[Update a few minutes later]

The very first commenter over at Al Dente has another big reason I don’t like going out:

Too many restaurant owners think that noise = fun, and they actively try to keep the noise level over 90 db. I hate big chain restaurants with concrete walls and floors that have conversations bouncing and echoing off them until they turn into a cacophonous din. I have gotten up with my wife and left restaurants before ordering because the noise was too oppressive. And just for the record, some music enhances the meal (Frank & Dino at an Italian place, etc.), and some music ruins it (I don’t want to have to shout to my dining companions to be heard over the latest blaring hip hop hit). The nadir had to be when I took my wife to a little bar/restaurant in Dallas for an after theater drink, and we were seated beneath a speaker that was blaring some rap song that sounded like a Tourette’s patient giving X-rated how-to instructions to an apprentice rapist.

Particularly when I’m out with friends, trying to have a conversation, I like to be able to hear them and talk to them without shouting. Planet Hollywood? Please. There is absolutely nothing about a place like that to appeal to me, and if I’m with other people who want to go, I do my best to dissuade.

I guess this gets into a broader issue. I am not a “party” person. Which is not to say that I’m not social, or that I don’t enjoy the company of others. I enjoy nothing better than getting together with a bunch of interesting people, but the point of getting together is to discuss interesting things, not to be pummelled with mindless noise shoulder-to-shoulder with a throng. This was true for me even in college. I’ve always hated that. But I have enough problems with going out to eat without having to be assaulted with noise. I don’t understand the attitude that “more volume” equals “more fun.” But apparently for many people, it is, or the places wouldn’t inflict on them what is to me a punishment.

What Movie?

…makes you laugh the hardest?

I don’t know how to answer that question, because I think it’s a time-dependent variable. I know what movies made me laugh hard in the past, though I couldn’t quantify it, but I’m not sure I’d find them as funny today, either because they would have lost something in rewatching, or because I’ve grown, or at least changed, over time, and have a different sense of humor. Obviously, something you might have found hilarious as a child might leave you cold today. On the other hand, you might have seen something as a child that your parents laughed at uproariously, but that you didn’t get. I think that a lot of young people miss a lot of humor in The Simpsons because they aren’t familiar with the cultural referents.

But just off the top of my head, I recall Blazing Saddles, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Dr. Strangelove, The Wrong Box and other Peter Sellers movies as side splitters at the time. Also Woody Allen and Steve Martin.