The other side: addition

There’s a new book out called Tech Transfer, written by “Daniel S. Greenberg, … a leading science journalist with a deep knowledge of the academic world and science policy. He edited the news section of Science magazine for many years and then a newsletter, Science and Government Report.”  He regarded himself as reporting on a lot of waste and fraud.  O dear.

Well we don’t want to be tarred with that brush.  Further, there is no way I’m going to take on the topic of waste and fraud here today!  So I’m just going to give you some of the summary in the NY Times and then see if I can get the book on Kindle.

The best scene in this hilarious first novel is a meeting of the trustees of Kershaw University, an elite research university only 200 years younger than Harvard. The trustees have to select a new president. They listen with mounting dismay as the professional headhunter in charge of the search reads out the polished résumés of each candidate, but notes in each case the fatal flaws revealed by background checks, ranging from spousal abuse to bestiality and, even more fatal, plagiarism…..

As the trustees hasten to leave for the airport, they agree on a nonentity, Mark Winner, an economics professor with a thin résumé and a clean rap sheet.

… When Dr. Winner assumes the presidency of Kershaw University, he learns the folly of challenging the tenured faculty on any of their sacrosanct, non-negotiable issues:

“These included annual pay increases, lax to near-non-existent conflict-of-interest and conflict-of-commitment regulations, and ample pools of powerless grad students, postdocs and adjuncts to minimize professorial workloads. As a safety net, the faculty favored disciplinary procedures that virtually assured acquittal of members accused of abusing subordinates, seducing students, committing plagiarism, fabricating data, or violating the one-day-a-week limit on money-making outside dealings.”

Addition:  I strongly recommend against buying the kindle version, which I unfortunately now own.  The formatting is so poor and distracting that the book is close to unreadable.

The Stone, # 2

The first entry in the series of contemporary philosophers that the NY Times is running was Simon Critchley (discussed here and here).  The second is philosopher and art critic Arthur Danto, who provides reflections on a piece of performance art at MoMA.  The work is “The artist is present,” and it is created and  performed by Marina Abramović, with various members of  the audience also entering into the work.  Here’s a clip of what the work looked like at one stage.  Later the table was removed:

I was puzzle by Danto’s piece.  It was good to be reminded of some of the obvious features of performance art.  I think I had expected some more discussion of what one might bring as a philosopher to such a work.  Still, let us know what you think.

A fascinating set of pictures of those sitting with Marina is here.  There’s an interesting piece on the work at the New York Review of Books.  Here’s a brief profile from the New Yorker and its short commentary on the show.


“Punding” refers to repetitive,  purposeless, stereotypical  behavior typically induced by prolonged use of amphetamines or cocaine or by some drug therapies for, for example, Parkinson’s.  It seems to me to provide a good example of gendered behavior that can look purely biochemical but which also, the slightest reflection shows, has a large social component that can’t plausibly be thought to be innate.   Here’s a description from Molecular Psychiatry (2010) 15, 560–573; doi:10.1038/mp.2009.95:

Punding is a stereotyped behavior characterized by an intense fascination with a complex, excessive, nongoal oriented, repetitive activity. Men tend to repetitively tinker with technical equipment such as radio sets, clocks, watches and car engines, the parts of which may be analyzed, arranged, sorted and cataloged but rarely put back together. Women, in contrast, incessantly sort through their handbags, tidy continuously, brush their hair or polish their nails. Punders are normally aware of the inapposite and obtuse nature of the behavior; however, despite the consequent self-injury, they do not stop such behavior. The most common causes of punding are dopaminergic replacement therapy in patients affected by Parkinson’s disease (PD) and cocaine and amphetamine use in addicts.

Do note the use of “tend to.”  I haven’t read any descriptions of men polishing their nails or sorting through handbags, but sometimes women will get caught up in more masculine-stereotypical tasks.

I really don’t know how the stereotypical behavior ends up being differentiated by genders.  I’d guess the medication impacts some reward mechanisms, and I  wonder if  this indicates how deeply we are affected by participating in fairly trivial gendered behavior.   If you know more or can make more of it, please let us know!  As it is, I do just mean to present it as an example of  quite specific gendered behavior that isn’t plausibly regarded as innate but which can be  set  of by medication.