21 August 2010

To PhD Or Not To PhD

I was minding my own business surfing through Roger Ebert's website, when I stumbled (do surfer's stumble?) across the following letter:

Q. I have watched and read your reviews for years with great honor.  I disagree so strongly with your review of "Eat Pray Love" that it makes me sick.  You just don't get it, and many others like you don't get it. You do not know at all what it is like being a woman in this day and age (or previously) who did not want to be defined by a man or married off to one. If you think Stephen in the movie was an OK husband, you are out to lunch.  He was horrible!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (except on paper to people who do not need emotional sustenance). David was the narcissist from hell that  many of us have fallen for… do you not get that??????????? Many of the males of the species are frankly overrated and the women's movement has proven this (or frankly not sufficiently). I hope your wife will bring you up to speed. (Jeanine Carlson, Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist)

Earning a PhD is quite an achievement; something of which to be proud.  Certainly, it is as much worthy of advertising as being an adult male (Mr.), adult female (Ms.), married female (Mrs.), physician (Dr.) or lawyer (Esq.), but for some reason people who attach PhD to their casual signatures seem to be mentally unbalanced at rates higher than that of the general population.  It's a useful signifier, but I'm not quite sure what it means.  As with much social science, causation is ambiguous and it might just be that psychologists are both nuts and very proud of their degrees.  Just in case, and assuming I do eventually earn my degree, I think I'll still sign my name without adding PhD, unless there's some good reason to do so.

12 August 2010

"A court-ordered publication ban on the proceedings prevents the media from reporting on what was said in court."

Here we have the number one difference between the US and Canada:  not only a prior restraint on the press, but a ban on publishing what as said (in public) in open court.  Short of preventing certain people from speaking out on an election, it is hard to imagine a more core violation of the First Amendment (if, of course, the First Amendment applied).  Had I known, I would have been sorely tempted to go to court and then report what I heard once I returned to the (aptly named, in this case) Home of the Free.  Not because what was said was interesting -- I'm sure that it's anodyne eye-wash to the effect that she loves her mother -- but because governments simply shouldn't be allowed to get away with this shit.

The case is, as it happens, interesting.  A 19-year old woman came home late and was stabbed by her mother.  People seem to assume that the reason was the dishonor reflected on the family by having a late daughter.  All we are told about the family is that their name is Ebrahimi and they speak Farsi at home.  It also seems likely that they have not absorbed the majority culture.

11 August 2010

Oh, Canada!

We tend to think of Americans and Canadians as a single people divided by Quebec, but after a week, more or less, in Montreal, I have to admit to some differences:

1.  They are serious about this French thing.  In fact, the more urgent the information on some sign, the less likely it is to have English on it.

2.  They really are nice, even the French speakers.  They are gracious enough to pretend to be fooled by my jaunty "Bonjour" and immediate douse me with a torrent of French.  I then say, "En Anglais, por favor," and off we go.

3.  They call their pastrami "smoked meat."  But it is just as delicious.

4.  In the stalls in public accommodations, the slide is on the door frame and the hasp is on the door.

5.  The McDonalds sell "double Big Macs," which are exactly what you think they are.

6.  More restaurants have full bars than you would find in the States.

7.  Waiters and Waitresses are both overly solicitous and subtly rude.

8.   Much more smoking.

9.  Even the casual food is better.  The croissants are much better.

10.  The portions are more reasonable (except at McDonalds).

All in all, Montreal would like to be the Paris of the New World, but succeeds in being the New York of Canada.

05 August 2010

No Presents For Peter

The Secret Blog is in Montreal, having been admitted to Canada despite the following conversation.

Canadian Border Guard:  Good Afternoon.
The Secret Blog:  Good Afternoon.  (Hands over passports.)
CBG:  Where are you going?
TSB:  Montreal.
CBG:  What's the purpose of your visit?
TSB:  Pleasure..
CBG:  (Skeptically)  Pleasure?
TSB:  A vacation.
CBG:  Do you have anything to leave in Canada?
CBG:  Do you have any alcohol or tobacco in the car?
TSB:  No.
CBG:  (Starting to wrap up) Do you know anyone in Canada?
TSB:  (Hit by a stray gust of honesty.)  Yes, Peter Burnet.
CBG:  (No longer wrapping up; suddenly paying attention.)  How do you know him?
TSB:  (Spell of honesty passes; I imagine myself trying to explain BrothersJudd or even just saying, "I met him on the Internet."  I need an honest, plain-vanilla answer)  I've known him for years.
CBG:  (Look saying, that's not what I asked.)
TSB:  He's a personal friend.
CBG:  (Pause)
CBG:  Are you bringing any presents into Canada?
TSB:  No.
CBG:  Welcome to Canada.

04 August 2010

Can Kagan Be Confirmed?

Despite public apathy towards her, Elena Kagan was sliding towards confirmation.  There was no big reason to oppose her and she was about as good a nominee as Republicans were likely to see from President Obama.

But now a federal judge in California has ruled that, as a matter of federal constitutional law, marriage cannot be restricted to one man and one woman.  That decision will likely end up in the Supreme Court.  To predict that this improves Republican prospects for the mid-terms is easy; gay marriage loses whenever people vote.  But I wonder if it also puts pressure on sitting Republican senators (and, for that matter, Democratic senators from strongly anti-gay marriage states who need to get reelected in November) to oppose Kagan.  The vote is scheduled for tomorrow, which means a lot would have to happen quickly.