Thursday, May 28, 2009


I rarely read Nicholas Kristof columns, largely because I have a strict limit on the number of angry articles about Darfur I may read in a year (Just one. Thanks for reminding me of my impotence to cure man's inhumanity to man, Nick), but he has an interesting column today, which I read by accident at the gym:

Would You Slap Your Father? If So, You’re a Liberal

Seems that your relative tendency to be a conservative is correlated with how likely you are to find something disgusting. At least, that's what some researchers at the University of Virginia say. And if it's happening at UVA, then I am inclined to believe it.

But still, I decided to take the survey myself (actually, it's a bunch of related surveys, and it took some time to complete them, but it's not like I have any actual paying work today, so what the Hell).

Your Morals survey

And, of course, it isn't as simple as Kristof suggests, but the results are fairly interesting. Turns out I am very slightly more prone to be disgusted than the average of people who have taken the survey, but mostly related to actually contaminated stuff - spoiled meat, spoiled milk, that kind of thing. Stuff that might be called merely "icky", like touching a dead body or seeing rats, doesn't bother me much at all. But I knew that already. I wonder to what extent my experience as a cook skews my responses - I think I am particularly sensitive to food that is bad simply because I have been exposed to food so intimately all my life and it is so important for me to be aware of the quality and condition of ingredients.

I wonder if cooks are more conservative. Maybe that's another survey.

There are a couple of oddball problems with the survey. For example, the "sacredness" survey tries to gauge how likely to are to violate some core principle for money by asking you how much it would take to do certain things, such as shoot an endangered animal or curse your parents. They call it the "what would you do for a million dollars" survey. The problem at least for me is that I am not terribly motivated by money (or I wouldn't be a journalist, obviously), so I answered either I'd do it for free or I would never do it for any price to every question. I mean, if someone wanted to actually pay me to flip off my professor, I'd be glad to take their cash, but I might very well do it free anyway just to see what happens. But at the same time, even a million dollars wouldn't induce me to cut off contact with my family for a year.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The road not taken

Oh, how I wish I had been an ichthyologist. Not because I have any interest in fish - in fact, I usually find them disturbing and unpleasant, except when they are converted into Sushi or a well-timed Filet-o-Fish - but because it would be so cool to say "I am an ichthyologist."

Better yet, I want to be a "Freelance Ichthyologist."

That would make me happy.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tasting Beer in the Future

Believe it or not, I actually managed to use this phrase in perfectly normal conversation recently. And it suddenly occurred to me that "Tasting Beer in the Future" would be an outrageously good name for an album or a novel.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Pubic humiliation

My favorite newspaper correction website, Regret the Error, has a lovely little piece this week on a lengthy correction in the Irish Times, lamenting that the letter L, "that slenderest and most treacherous of letter types," has somehow slipped from a key phrase, making the author appear to say that something was a matter of "pubic faith."

"This is a risk that serious newspapers, in which the word “public” will always feature prominently, run every day," the Times writes. "It wouldn’t be as big a problem if, for example, it was the ‘b’ that kept dropping out. But then we or the spellchecker would notice that. Whereas the lower-case “l” has a Judas-like ability to slip away unnoticed, with embarrassing results."

This happened to me once, as I have probably typed here somewhere before, when I wrote about a "poorly attended public hearing" in Greene County, Virginia. At least that's what I MEANT to type, except for that damned L.

The error slipped passed me, my editor, my publisher, and several other people who read the page as I was laying it out. It was only revealed the next day, when a local attorney called my editor and noted that "Had I known it was going to be a pubic hearing, I might have attended."

That is only slightly more embarrassing than the ad we ran in the same paper a year earlier in the annual Christmas special edition which wished us all "Peach on Earth."