Re: Solved

1

I recently went to my gym and took the stairs to the sixth floor for my yoga class, and was a little amused when the woman taking attendance complimented me on taking the stairs.

I'm as lazy as they come, but taking the elevator at a gym makes me feel like a slug.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 4:48 PM
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Yeah, what she said!

If you've finished thinking about your problem and the elevator still isn't there, take the stairs.

Or, you could just take the goddamn stairs and think about your problem on the way! Exercise and think! TWO-fer! Plus! Saves [electrical = oil] energy!

max
['Too much game theory, not enough brainstorming.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 5:00 PM
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Cowen gives rationality a bad name.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 5:04 PM
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Sometimes I think of what it must be like to be a freakonomist. Constantly sitting through movies going "Is this the point at which the marginal utility of getting up and leaving outweighs the marginal utility of continuing to watch the movie? Are my gains here starting to diminish, or are the minutes I have invested in this beginning to become more than the sum of their parts? Will I be able to estimate this more accurately in the future, or should I use the information I have now?"


Posted by: Auto-banned | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 5:07 PM
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I thought it was funny.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 5:09 PM
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I'm as lazy as they come

No, because I would never take stairs six floors up if there were an elevator available.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 5:10 PM
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Cowen has undermined his own solution, though. Presumably the "interesting problem you face" is "should I take the elevator?". But now we all know the answer to that, so we need a different interesting problem.

How many interesting problems does he think we face?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 5:11 PM
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Consider this, as well:

We are sitting, for example, in the tasteless train station of some lonely minor railway. It is four hours until the next train arrives. The district is uninspiring. We do have a book in our rucksack, though---shall we read? No. Or think through a problem, some question? We are unable to. We read the timetables or study the table giving the various distances from this station to other places we are not otherwise acquainted with at all. We look at the clock---only a quarter of an hour has gone by. Then we go out onto the local road. We walk up and down, just to have something to do. But it is no use. Then we count the trees along the road, look at our watch again---exactly five minutes since we last looked at it. Fed up with walking back and forth, we sit down on a stone, draw all kinds of figures in the sand, and in so doing catch ourselves looking at our watch again---half an hour---and so on. (Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, p 93)

Now, the important part of that quotation is the part with the book, and thinking through some problem. The book is, let us suppose, interesting—surely we didn't pack it because we intend to neglect it the whole trip long. Similarly, it would be silly to propose thinking through some problem that doesn't interest one at all, as a means of relieving boredom. The problem can be put thus: in a boring world, nothing is interesting. In waiting for the elevator to come, the most any action can amount to is some sort of "passing of the time", not interesting in itself, but merely a tool to distract us from the meaninglessness of our surroundings as revealed to us by boredom.

It is certainly true that one could, pursuing some course of action or other, find oneself interested in it; however, noöne could know in advance that this course of action will be the captivating one. So no problem, if one is already bored in waiting for the elevator, is antecedently an "interesting" one.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 5:17 PM
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i usually read the messages board with the conference announcements while waiting
and sometimes if the elevator is too late or if there are too many people waiting i go to the other side and take the freights elevator which is never late
then have to ride with the mice in cages or garbage cans though
especially if you carry food from the canteen, i feel that, fastidious
taking the stairs to the 9th floor could substitute the daily exercise, should think about that


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 5:17 PM
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>I would never take stairs six floors up if there were an elevator available

Word. It's the 21st century, people.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 5:20 PM
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The problem can be put thus: in a boring world, nothing is interesting.

But, as we know, the worldness of the world depends on Dasein. One might say that the late elevator, like the broken hammer, opens the space in which interesting problems may show themselves.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 5:27 PM
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4: Cowen schedules four movies per evening and watches as much as he feels like. By seeing a third or so of four movies instead of all of one, your negotiable movie chat is multiplied enormously, since you'll have something to say about all of them.

This assumes that your time is precious but you have lots of money, and that you really don't like movies much but want to be thought of as someone who does.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 5:28 PM
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We are sitting, for example, in the tasteless train station of some lonely minor railway.

Billings, Montana, in my experience. YMMV.

Billings has a considerable multiracial gay community, BTW, with an ex-Jehovah-Witness flavor.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 5:29 PM
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i recalled the video i saw at the Apo's site where a guy got trapped in the elevator for 41 hrs
i remember thinking it's like an illustrated abstract tale of one's life


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 5:31 PM
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So John solved that problem in an interesting way at least once it seems.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 5:31 PM
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Hm. How long do (you) people wind up waiting for elevators? I think the longest I've ever had to wait is, oh, 5 minutes.

I don't think I can become bored in that time; and I am (alas) very easily bored. A bane. But surely there are any number of things one naturally thinks about while waiting, such that one doesn't find oneself in the position of having to find something to think about. For 5 minutes.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 5:31 PM
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the opening of the door was like a huge relief for me, the watcher


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 5:32 PM
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So no problem, if one is already bored in waiting for the elevator, is antecedently an "interesting" one.

This is blatantly false. The human mind has a context-switching cost; it takes a certain amount of thought on a problem before it becomes interesting. If you assume that the period in which you try to start thinking about something is moderately unpleasant (moreso than being bored) and the act of having your train of thought interrupted is negative, it's easy to see that one could be bored despite having known interesting things to think about.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 5:38 PM
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5 minutes is an insanely long time to wait for an elevator. I could fashion a rope out of bedsheets and rapel down in less time. I don't bore easily, but boredom isn't the problem here, it's that it's Just Not Right for the elevator to So Long.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 5:39 PM
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On one of my jobs I was happy to wait for elevators. Excuse for not working.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 5:52 PM
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It is certainly true that one could, pursuing some course of action or other, find oneself interested in it

Masturbating. Sure, routine enough at home, but how often do you do it in public? Novelty is interesting.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 5:56 PM
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On one of my jobs (bike messenger), I was happy to piss off suits by running to closing elevator doors and inserting my hand just in time to get them open, then getting my sweaty self inside. Excuse for passive-aggressive class warfare.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 5:57 PM
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I don't mind waiting for elevators much. I mind:

1) Waiting for the people in front of me to get on the one-floor elevator and clear out of the one-flight stairs that lead up to the lobby. (Every morning! They can't all have bad knees, surely?)

2) Taking the elevator down to a mid-level floor in the building, walking around to the next bank, and waiting for the second elevator to get to the other mid-level floor I need to go to.

3) Building with lonely, unsafe stairwells. I used to always climb to the 8th floor at my old office. I wouldn't do it here; the stairwells are abandoned, shut off from everything, and kind of creepy.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 5:58 PM
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I'm not convinced that 18 is a refutation, but I'm also not wedded to anything in 8.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 6:00 PM
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the reason i don't use the stairs
it's too like feels abandoned and i suspect they direct the air-conditioned air to the stairs, coz there is always some smell, as if the air is that, second-hand


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 6:02 PM
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(And also, aren't most of us thinking about things already anyway? It's not like you have to tell your brain to think about something interesting because you happen to have this pocket of extra time. It's already doing that. Right?)

I have to remind myself not to think when I'm waiting for the subway sometimes. Much too dangerous.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 6:02 PM
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21: I can see that Cynicism will be relevant to every thread today.

To paraphrase my mother: only boring Dasein gets bored.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 6:03 PM
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26: Exactly.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 6:04 PM
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I don't have elevators to take, except at school where we are forced to take the elevator after passing through security. And then I wait a very short time, as there are six elevators and nine floors. Now, what to do on the subway---that's a problem, but a less choice-based one and therefore less obnoxious.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 6:08 PM
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Our building has three floors. I think it is shameful to take the elevator to the second floor unless you have a physical issue.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 6:08 PM
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I think it is shameful to take the elevator to the second floor unless you have a physical issue.

Right on. For people going from the first floor to the basement, I often say, brightly, "Oh! There's actually stairs right around the corner there!"


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 6:10 PM
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I usually take the stairs to the third floor, except when it is freaking 100 degrees outside.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 6:15 PM
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I know. It's 8:10 p.m. and 93 degrees. Sheesh.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 6:22 PM
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I don't even own an elevator.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 6:23 PM
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Here in sunny California it's under 70 at 5:24 p.m.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 6:28 PM
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Oh dear, we've deteriorated into weather reports. My fault! New topic. I know, let's talk about open carry.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 6:30 PM
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Kind of makes you miss D/n Be/te, doesn't it?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 6:30 PM
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60 and about to rain here, you bastards. I hope you're happy.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 6:31 PM
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36: Great picture with that article. Much eye-rolling.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 6:33 PM
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38: Summer in the Northwest: if it falls on a Saturday, you can have a picnic!


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 6:43 PM
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No, because I would never take stairs six floors up if there were an elevator available.

But at the gym! Where I might be going to get exercise!

Open carry doesn't scare me, but it did induce a little bout of eye-rolling, because they seem to be acting alternately like kids with a blankie (I know I don't need it, but I want it) or wannabe Rambo Mittys (maybe the cop will stop me and violate my rights! or maybe there will be a school or mall shooting and I can rise up and take out the fiend.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 6:44 PM
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I avoid elevators. Fear of heights. Really. In the center of a large building 5 floors up, I am still aware of being 50 feet up surrounded by empty space and a little nervous. I won't approach a window.

Don't even talk about skyscrapers or flying.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 6:46 PM
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I have a fear of down escalators, especially if I'm wearing heels and can't touch both handrails at once. Like, I stand there counting the beats with a head-nod as each step passes, to get the rhythm. This is very annoying when it's crowded and the escalator moves particularly quickly. The MLAs in Philadelphia, where the Convention Center has a very high, fast, steep escalator, were enough that the second time they hosted there, I was trembling with anxiety the whole train ride there.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 6:49 PM
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41.2 gets it exactly right. They're just being silly. Humor them and most will get bored with it.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 6:49 PM
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wannabe Rambo Mittys s/b "Walther Mittys"


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 7:01 PM
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45 is clever, but I'm not sure if most readers will get it.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 7:04 PM
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45: with tiny PPKs.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 7:05 PM
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I have a distinct childhood memory of passing a Black Panther-looking guy with a ginormous rifle over his shoulder on San Pablo Avenue, and my mother's saying, it's legal, honey, as long as it's right out there in the open. However, according to a timeline someone once showed me, it is unlikely that this memory is accurate.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 7:07 PM
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"La vie secrete de Rimbaud Mittie"


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 7:10 PM
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48: Hit four!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 7:11 PM
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45 is great. I totally should have made that joke. Grr!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 7:11 PM
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Thurber's Mitty has always been a comic figure—the way the daydreams always use the same plot and effects, pocketa-pocketa and the MacIver-like solution of all technical problems by shoving in a fountain pen—but is he contemptible? He always kept it pretty well buttoned-up, it was after all a secret life.

These guys are doing something else entirely, trying to make a statement, for one thing.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 7:16 PM
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||

This is totally freaky.

|>


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 7:38 PM
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Little anxiety there, champ?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 7:41 PM
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but is he contemptible?

I think not! Endearing, rather.

Our car is named Walter Mitty.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 7:45 PM
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I wouldn't do it here; the stairwells are abandoned, shut off from everything, and kind of creepy.

I seem to remember reading about an infamous housing project where the elevators did not stop on each floor (I think it was every other floor). The idea was to force create a sense of community among building residents who would have to see each other in the halls more often. The result was high crime on the stairways and the elevators (which people would stop between floors).

I hope this project didn't exist and I'm imagining having read about it.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 7:59 PM
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That's unreadable. A second try:

I seem to remember reading about an infamous housing project where the elevators did not stop on each floor (I think it was every other floor). The idea was to force create a sense of community among building residents who would have to see each other in the halls more often. The result was high crime on the stairways and the elevators (which people would stop between floors).

I hope this project didn't exist and I'm imagining having read about it.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 7:59 PM
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Thurber's Mitty shouldn't be taken in isolation. Thurber's War Between Men and Women is great, so is Middle-Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 8:00 PM
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Tyler Cowen so, so obviously doesn't own an iPhone.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 8:03 PM
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57: Are you thinking of Pruitt-Igoe? It did exist, for a while, anyway.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 8:05 PM
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53: aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh.

42: what about flying skyscrapers?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 8:06 PM
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60: That looks like it.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 8:35 PM
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The Towers at the University of Pittsburgh also only stop at every third floor. The level of crime there was arguably less, but it's unclear by how much. Why bother with the Towers when you could have a shootout at the O?


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 8:42 PM
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63: oh did they implode those? I know somebody who imploded some towers in Pennsylvania, but I forget which they were. Hope VI has it's problems, but anything that leads to DYNAMITE IMPLOSION is okay by me.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 8:46 PM
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I am annoyed that the stairs in my office building don't open on the first floor. I take them down from my fifth-floor office all the time, but you can't go up from the first floor.

57: One of the wackier apartment buildings near MIT only has hallways on every third floor. The doors to apartments are in sets of three: one goes to a interior one-story stairwell down to the unit, one goes up a story to the unit, and one goes straight in. I suppose there are stairs, but I don't think it would make sense for them to open onto the non-hallway floors, either.
There's also a dorm with an arrangement that the elevator only stops on every third floor and there are large ramps from the adjacent levels.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 8:47 PM
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I don't think they've been imploded, much to the chagrin of Penn State fans everywhere.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 8:48 PM
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65: yes; my office building as well has the stairs locked. They also don't recycle. What century is it, building manager guys? They don't know.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 8:49 PM
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Yeah, I guess elevators are deprecated, but farting on the stairs isn't nearly as satisfying.


Posted by: Mo MacArbie | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 9:24 PM
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You know what makes for a cool implosion? The cooling tower of a nuclear plant, that's what.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 06- 9-08 9:31 PM
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I recently went to my gym and took the stairs to the sixth floor for my yoga class, and was a little amused when the woman taking attendance complimented me on taking the stairs.

Which reminds me.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 06-10-08 12:19 AM
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farting on the stairs isn't nearly as satisfying.

Is that what the mean by l'espirit de l'escalier?


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 06-10-08 12:21 AM
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Open carry doesn't scare me, but it did induce a little bout of eye-rolling, because they seem to be acting alternately like kids with a blankie (I know I don't need it, but I want it) or wannabe Rambo Mittys (maybe the cop will stop me and violate my rights!

I think I'm a lot more relaxed about Americans playing with guns than most Europeans, but the bit in that article where a guy walks into a bank carrying a visible firearm and doesn't get tased before he gets through the door is just weird.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 06-10-08 2:33 AM
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72: I'm not sure about the concealed carry laws here, but the bank, the medical clinic, and (I think) the church my family goes to and the local school are all posted "No guns allowed on premises".

Anyone who carries a concealed weapon around here for personal protection (if they're not a criminal, a policeman, or involved in a personal dispute with someone known to be violent) has mental health problems. As far as hunting guns goes, no one around here ever thinks twice about them, though people almost never walk around town carrying one.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-10-08 5:09 AM
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The second greatest advantage of the Blackberry is automatically having something productive (or at least semiproductive, or enjoyable-if-nonproductive, in the case of reading unfogged) to do while waiting for the elevator.

The greatest advantage, of course, is having something to look at *in* the elevator to avoid the awkward trying not to have eye contact situation.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-10-08 6:03 AM
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74 -- What, they don't have Captivate in your building yet?


Posted by: NĂ¡pi | Link to this comment | 06-10-08 6:23 AM
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36: Making light has an amusing post about the Mall Ninja which seems to bear on this subject.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 06-10-08 8:36 AM
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People who talk about "interesting problems" are arrogant and condescending. If something is really a problem, it's scary and frustrating and anxiety-provoking, if it's just interesting it's not really a problem.

Yes, this goes for your precious intellectual problems too. What you're saying when you refer to "an interesting problem" is that you have tenure or are sure you'll get it.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-10-08 8:54 AM
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It's an interesting problem. Either the use of 'problem' to mean 'necessarily scary, frustrating, and anxiety-provoking' is idiosyncratic, or PGD has been beating the summer heat by beginning drinking unusually early.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-10-08 8:59 AM
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Oh come on PGD. You're just pissed because you heard your doctors chatting excitedly about your interesting cancer.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-10-08 9:05 AM
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"Hey, guys, look at this! Woooeeee! Is that a cancer or what?"


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-10-08 9:06 AM
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PGD's doctors.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 06-10-08 9:20 AM
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I'm just giving you all insight as to why I left academia.

Soon enough you'll be bitter and scarred just like me, Cala.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-10-08 9:24 AM
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That is entirely likely. But the scars will make me look fierce.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-10-08 9:27 AM
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83:

And, as they say, guys dig scars.


Posted by: Tripp the Crazed! | Link to this comment | 06-10-08 9:28 AM
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a href="http://www.amonline.net.au/bodyart/scarring/papua.htm"> you can look too fierce. Don't problematize waiting for the elevator, stairs are free exercise that turn you into an active agent instead of passive cargo. That's why the man always locks the first-floor doors.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 06-10-08 10:02 AM
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whoops, scars here


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06-10-08 10:03 AM
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81: PGD's doctor.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-10-08 2:31 PM
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