tipping point

I was in San Francisco this weekend for a conference. First night I went with some people for dinner at a great restaurant and the bill worked out to $50/person plus tip. Second night I went with many of the same people to this hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant that had been recommended. The food was probably 80% as good and we had at least 90% as much fun, but the bill was only $11/person plus tip. We all marveled at what a great deal this was, and surely we would have been content to pay $20/person or more. As it was, I put in $15, as did others. But then the issue arose of starting to give people back money, because, after all, it works out to more than a 30% tip.

I can see the reasoning of taking money back, but I didn’t take any myself. It felt too much like, “Wow! Isn’t it wonderful this place gives you so much food for so cheap? So, now let me punish the server because he works for a restaurant that is such a great bargain!” Even if we would have given the guy a $4/person tip, it would have been less than half the tip we gave the night before. Continue reading “tipping point”

our gnotobios, our selves

The term “gnotobiotic” stems from the Greek words “gnosis” (“known”) and “bios” (“life”).   Somewhat paradoxically, a gnotobiotic animal is, at least originally, one with no known life.  That is, a gnotobiotic animal is born and reared in a sterile environment, so that it is germ free (or GF, in the parlance of the articles I’ve been reading of late).   Gnotobiotic animals can be colonized, then, with defined microbiota and used in research that examines the role of specific microbes (e.g., by comparing physiologic processes in gnotobiotic and colonized animals).

Why is this interesting to a sociologist (beyond the opportunity for wordplay with the Rumsfeldian title of the previous post?).  Well, it’s interesting to this sociologist because research using gnotobiotic animals is part of recent scientific endeavors, like the Human Microbiome Project (HMP), which focus on the relationship between humans and our microbiota, the microorganisms that live on and in human beings.  While many aspects of the HMP are fascinating, I am most riveted by the proposition that it will support an understanding of the human as a “superorganism”: Continue reading “our gnotobios, our selves”

our known unknowns

This is a WordPress.com blog, which is not as flexible as if it were a WordPress blog we were serving ourselves. For example, I would love to have a custom favicon instead of the WordPress logo next to the URL up in your address bar, but WordPress.com does not allow this. Even though one can still do a lot of twiddling with the template, the twiddling is actually editing CSS that runs on top of other CSS that runs on top of the actual HTML template. The result is super-kludgy and not wholly satisfying, although if you look at the template we used as our starting point, you can see that much customization has been done.

Still: Continue reading “our known unknowns”

it’s 9:15pm, and…

I’m about to go to bed. I moved to NYC thinking it would change my life. That things would be exciting. That I would finally get away from Madison, where the few things I did were eat out and go to movies.

Now I live in NY. And I eat out. Movies are no longer a part of my life. So I guess it’s been a net loss! Funny how I fooled myself.

Oh, and no one told me life as an assistant prof would be so much harder than life as a grad student. I’m not complaining. Life so far is actually better. But it’s more work. I wish I’d known.

coming down with a case of the jeremy

Traveling this weekend, and I’m having a lovely time.* However, my travels have been a bit more, um, exciting than usual. For example, for the first time in my life I was paged in the airport. A bit freaked out at hearing my (mispronounced) name over the speakers, I rushed back to the gate I had just left to find that I had left my wallet, with all my ID, money, keys, etc. on the plane I had just gotten off. Just walked away and didn’t even think about it.

Now, as I plan for my return, I realize that I have arranged to return my rental car to the wrong airport. Making arrangements to change the drop-off mid-rental is just the occasion for the rental car company to charge me an extra $100. This seems a small price to pay to avoid trying to get from one airport to another by 5am tomorrow.

*I am mystified that my friend and host not only has no wifi in her home; she does not even own a computer. Thus, she doesn’t have any reason to know which coffee shops have wifi. Although I am only a few dozen miles from silicon valley, and in the middle of a small city, I have hiked deep into the technological woods.

the believing trick

From Jon Elster, Ulysses Unbound, p. 72:

It is a conceptual truth that one cannot consciously decide to adopt a belief simply on the grounds that having it would be useful.

Not to get all personal here on sociology’s brand-new team blog, but can I just say: clearly Jon Elster has not dated some of the people I have dated. ‘Cause then he would have had conversations suggesting some deep empirical limitations to his conceptual truth. ‘Cause then he’d have ascertained that while, say, a person did not really, really believe in astrology, that, for immediate practical purposes they indeed did/would give all indications of believing in astrology, including reading charts and drawing conclusions about others on the basis thereof. (Various other things could be substituted for astrology here, depending on what conversation and with whom.) I guess “useful” in the quote isn’t really it so much as “adopting a belief on the grounds that having it would make life more interesting, meaningful or fun.” Continue reading “the believing trick”

little hiss can’t be wrong

A friend who works in the private sector somewhere on the Great Plains sent me a story from a national business newsletter in which someone at her company was interviewed. She asked me to identify which of several quotes from this co-worker bothered other people at the company. I presumed this challenge would be easy enough but looked the article over several times and didn’t see what she was talking about. So I asked and the answer was this part where her co-worker was quoted using the phrase “throw a hissy fit.” This was bothersome because people felt it gave them impression of their corporation as a backwoods rube-run enterprise. It didn’t even faze me. I’m trying to figure out if “hissy fit” is an uninterrogated part of my rural habitus. I mean, of course I recognize it as a colloquialism, but is it really a rural colloquism? Is that I would now say “throw a snit” instead of “throw a hissy fit” an unconscious version of when I started saying “soda” instead of “pop”?

BTW, non-sequitur personal Thanksgiving update: Continue reading “little hiss can’t be wrong”