Day: August 19, 2015

Notes from the Road 7

** Oh, jet lag. You are such an a$$hole.

** Since I can’t sleep like a normal person, I have cleared my “to review” folder. I feel very virtuous. Accepted one paper after they had done an excellent job revising; recommended major revisions for the second paper in a first review; rejected the third, where I was referee No 4 brought in to see what’s what (the paper is steaming pile of crapola, and the first three referees said as much, I have no idea why it wasn’t rejected after that first round of review, as no one had a good thing to say about it; the authors went though the revision, which revealed some clearly nonsensical statements and possibly even made it worse).

** Why can’t we have awesome pastry in the US? Why?! The wonderful flaky-layer pastries that I am buying here at a local supermarket for pennies is better than I can get even at the fancy overpriced specialized bakeries in my neck of the woods.

Oh, pastry, how I love thee. How I miss thee. You might even be worthy of the horrible jet lag.

** Again, there is shit people work on here that they would never, ever be able to work on where I am. They would never get money for it. I feel a combination of self-righteousness, envy, and relief that at least somewhere someone gets to do the fun esoteric stuff that has been beaten out of me long ago by grant reviews.

** Sometimes (all the time) I think European colleagues think of me, and the few other Americans at this conference, as freakin’ baboons, prancing around, trying to animate the audience, having pretty figures and movies, trying to educate and entertain, not being serious scientists. Then you have a typical European presentation in my field, with slide after slide of a freakin’ derivation.

** In the interest of science, I have been (discreetly) oogling men in the streets and at the conference in order to answer the following two burning questions:

Burning Question 1:  What does it mean to be a casually well-dressed European man and why is it that a casually well-dressed European man sticks out in the US like a, well, not a sore thumb but more like a glorious shining beacon of style?

According to my observations, there are several elements to being a well-dressed European man.

a) First, physical fitness. It’s important, because some of what follows cannot be pulled off with a beer gut.

b) Good quality shoes and belt. Really, really nice shoes. Like these:

You know, shoes that are purchased for fun and whimsy and not just to be a workhorse. I rarely see American men wear anything other than black leather shoes even when they are dressed up. Why? Maybe because a pair of goddamned Guccis costs $950, that’s why.

c) Well-fitting pants. American men wear jeans or the “relaxed fit” slacks with a crease, that annoying staple of business attire. European men know to wear non-denim slim-fit pants, that look like the best of jeans, but are not jeans; rather, they are grey, or dark blue, or black, and in a soft fabric whose name I don’t know.

d) Button-down shirt, fitted and tucked in (that’s where the fitness comes into play), belt, and no tie.

The tucking-in seems to be a lost art in the US, unless one is going to the office or a wedding/funeral, and then the tucking in is applied to a button-down shirt and topped off with the inevitable tie. Apparently, no tie — no button down shirt or tucking anything into pants in the US. Which is a shame.

e) The really dressy dressers seem to be into having fancy watches (in case you miss he’s wearing the expensive Guccis, you can’t miss the 2-lb wrist watch that could pass for Thor’s hammer). I don’t care for the watches, but I understand it’s patriarchy-approved male jewelry that doubles as a status symbol.

Burning Question 2: Are US male geeks more or less or differently geeky than European geeks?

I would say European geeks are fitter on average, especially northern European and not-quite-middle-aged geeks. There are some very good looking colleagues aged 30-40 that I don’t think I have seen many counterparts of in the US; even those who are unmistakably geeky are still of normal weight. And everyone seems well rested, much better rested than the US counterparts. Maybe I am just catching everyone as they have returned from vacation; maybe they eat better; maybe they work less than US folks (perhaps, in part, because they have more administrative support).

Graduate students are on average also fitter, wear less facial hair, but for some reason more pony tails (!) than what I see in the US.

[I am really not a fashion snob (more like a fashion slob). I know Americans praise functionality and comfort over all else, and that’s a  thing I really like and embrace because I honestly hate shopping for clothes.]

**  Scalzi’s “The End of All Things” was enjoyable. For the fans of “The Old Man’s War” universe, it won’t disappoint. It features 4 novellas and unfolds via Scalzi’s recognizable push-plot-through-dialogue technique (I am sure there’s a name for said technique in literary theory, I just don’t know it). I loved all the political machinations.

I am currently reading “Robogenesis,” a sequel to the “Robopocalypse” that I quite liked. So far, I think “Robogenesis” will be even better, I am almost crapping myself with horror and anticipation.

Although it might just be all the pastry…