Sunday, March 31, 2013

Academic tantrums

Yesterday I got an email from someone who was rejected from a conservation conference that I'm hleping to organise for a wildlife conservation society. They had a tantrum - lots of exclamation marks and capital letters saying that it was unfair they were rejected and they will never ever go to any meetings by the society and will resign their membership.

I was asked by someone outside the conservation field whether it was usual that we get such childish and temperamental responses to rejections. Sadly we often do - whether it be journal rejections, job rejections or conference rejections.

However I also told that person that anyone who’s been in the academic business for anytime though gets used to being rejected by journals/journals and takes it in their stride. And anyone who is in conservation really cannot be a good conservation biologist if they go berserk at the slightest slight or hard knock, and have such a fragile ego. Conservation is often about conflict, and trying to resolve this conflict through reasoned argument and diplomacy. You often get knocked down, but to quote Chumbawumba, you just have to "get up again".

I’m really of the opinion that someone who is really childish, temperamental, rude etc , will not last long in real-world conservation (sadly they may last longer in academia, but that's another story).

But that person will be a pain in the butt in the field, and so their resigning or refusing to go to your conservation meetings is like natural selection, weeding the weak and unfit from the gene pool. If they are going to ditch the meetings of the Number 1 society for conservation academics over something like this, then it’s their loss not ours …

So if you get rejected for a journal, meeting "suck it up buttercup!" and to quote Wil Wheaton "don't be a dick".

Easter musing

I was just wondering how Fox News and other right wing pundits would treat a high profile person who: disliked the bad behavior of banks and money lenders; said you should pay your taxes; supported a women's right to do what she wanted; was anti-violence; advocated giving benefits to the poor and universal healthcare; who in fact offered health care for free ! Oh and was Jewish and a foreigner to boot.... Happy Easter !

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The dark side of St Paddy's day

I like an excuse to go out drinking as much as the next man, especially if the next man is a raging alcoholic, and the St Patrick's day celebrations in the US are a great excuse to go out, be merry, and listen to "diddly-diddly" music. As someone who has a lot of immediate family in Northern Ireland (my sister's side of the family and assorted nephews, neices and cousins) and who has spent quite a bit of time there, I laugh off many of America's strange perceptions of how the Irish celebrate St Patrick's day - leprachauns, green-dyed budweiser etc.

What I can't laugh off is those that joke about "Irish car bombs". The cocktail is about as Irish as Antonio Banderas - it was invented in Conneticut in the 1970s. As I witnessed over the weekend, many "Irish" American's think the name is hi-lar-ious. However, as many Americian tourists have found out, ordering one in a pub in Ireland itself, whether North or South, will simply earn you a steely stare, or possibly a slapping. The Irish don't think car bombs are the least bit funny!

During "the troubles" 3,526 people were killed, of whom 1855 were civilians. An additional 107,000 people were injured, crippled or maimed for life. This may not seem a huge number, but compare it to 341 US and UK deaths in the first Gulf war, or 3,517 US combat casulaties in the Iraq War.

Moreover, Ireland has a very small population and few families were uneffected by the troubles. To put it into context, one person in 50 of the Northern Irish population was killed or injured during the troubles and as a result hardly any families were uneffected. I personally remember having bomb squads and police visiting and evacuating my elementary school in England because of bomb threats, and classmates at school crying because their father (in the army) had been killed in Ireland.

So to the "real" Irish, an "Irish car bomb" is about as an amusing name for a cocktail as one called "the twin towers plane crash" or "the Sandy Hook massacre"... just sayin'...