Meaningless Rankings

The Times Higher Education has published its highly subjective (50% “reputational”) rankings of the top 200 universities in the world — and although such ranking are quite unreliable, I was pleased to see that my Masters alma mater is third in the world, my doctoral alma mater was 14th in the world, and that although the University of Glasgow is in 78th place, it’s accompanied by Carolina. And of course, this survey was compiled before anyone knew I’d be teaching here. I leave it to you to assess whether that will boost or sink Glasgow’s ranking.

Poetry Day

It’s National Poetry Day i the UK, and the designated topic is “Heroes and Heroines” — so as a sign of solidarity with my new home, I’m submitting this (with a special nod to Phil Cubeta):

The Liberal Christ Gives a Press Conference
I would have walked on the water
But I wasn’t fully insured.
And the BMA sent a writ my way
With the very first leper I cured.
I would’ve preached a golden sermon
But I didn’t like the look of the mount.
And I would’ve fed fifty thousand
But the press wasn’t there to count.
And the businessmen in the temple
Had a team of coppers on the door.
And if I’d spent a year in the desert
I’d have lost my pension for sure.
I would’ve turned the water into wine
But they weren’t giving licenses.
And I would have died and been crucified
But like – you know how it is.
I’m going to shave off my beard
And cut my hair,
Buy myself some bulletproof
I’m the Liberal Christ
And I’ve got no blood to spare.
Adrian Mitchell



One problem with having one’s office on the third floor (US: fourth floor) of a multi-story walk-up building is that it provides a very powerful disincentive to do things that would require a round trip to the ground floor.

In The News

Thanks to Mark Goodacre, my response at the Duke “Archaeology, Politics, and the Media” Conference is now available (for free!) from iTunes University in the iTunes Store. If you want to listen, download Mark’s talk and listen to it first. And ignore all the stammering and “Uh”-ing from me; that’s why I’m expecting to give talks only from a prepared text hereafter.
And the Intro to Religious Studies textbook that includes my essay on technology and religion is now available from Anselm Academic. I haven’t read any of the other essays, but I like mine. If I’d seen the other essays first, I might have formatted mine differently, and maybe provided more additional readings, but I’m pleased with how it turned out.

Tabbed Stromateis

Really nothing that associates there with one another, but they’re in my tab bar, waiting for me to link to them.
The Boston Globe notes the illuminating studies of metaphorical usage that some of us have known about for more than twenty years (and that acute readers of Dinosaurs Comics read about back in March).
Elegant futurist flatware design, from 1957 (by way of 2001).
David talked about his use of Shannon’s signal/noise distinction at Ars Electronica last September. As I thought about it, I realized that there’s no intrinsic difference between signal and noise, that “noise” to a radio operator may be “signal” to someone who’s investigating sunspots.
Leafy greens, eggs, potatoes, cheese, sprouts, berries. Even ice cream sometimes. What’s the preventive value of being a vegetarian?
Now I’m going to download the new Mountain Goats album from eMusic. Excuse me.

Cultural Life In Bonny Scotland

Kevin Smith is making an appearance at the Royal Concert Hall. I’d roll down to catch his routine, but £35 (and any attendant hidden charges) strikes me a little much to watch even a cool filmmaker talk about himself. That’s even after he had the chutzpah to stand apart from the Hollywood apologists for child rape.
I really like some UK advertisements. The best, so far, is the ad for Haribo jelly candies.

“Look into my eyes.” She’s great.
Plus the ten- and fifteen-second spots for LG mobile phones.

Victory, Of Sorts

This afternoon I walked back from the office and stopped at my local bank office. I waited in line, and when I got to the window, they actually allowed me to deposit a check cheque. Of course, I won’t be allowed to withdraw any of it till it clears Thursday, but there is now a small some sum of money in the bank. Tomorrow, the University will try again to deposit my paycheck. And someday I’ll be able to take money out. Too much joy.

Good Day

I woke up early, headed into Byres Road for coffee and breakfast, read much of the book I’m reviewing (which is not bad), took the Cute Subway into the city centre to pick up some ink, came back to Byres Road, checked out the Comics and Toy Show at Hillhead Library, had some lunch, meandered home, read some more, napped a little, watched TV, cooked a very satisfying stir-fry, and now at settling in for the evening.

Glasgow Comics and Toy Show

If my graphic-novel-loving Pippa had been here (and I had an active bank account) we could have done some damage.

Why Not? Part 2

It might, after all, have been raining.
Actually, it was raining this morning: a light steady drizzle all the way to work. That wasn’t so bad, though, and it was warm enough that the rain didn’t chill me. I had a productive morning, prepping for my afternoon class and helping students. Early lunch on campus (thanks, Holly!) and bock to the office to prep some more.
The Matthew/James/Didache/Judaism class seems to be going well. A couple more students have added the class (and one has added the Historical Jesus). But before class, I gave the bank a call, to mention that I noticed that hadn’t heard anything from them yet. The bank call centre lady assured me that she hadn’t called because they hadn’t gotten a report back about what the problem was, and she’d call me as soon as she knew. I pointed out that I’d be in class from 2 to 4, so not to call during lecture time, but I’d very much like to hear from her after then. All the more so, because I’d heard that I should be expecting a small cheque midafternoon.
So I went off to lecture on the Didache, and we had a pretty good time. The Didache is a fascinating text, and there’s lots to talk about. Still, I let the class go a little early, so that I could be sure to get to the bank in time to cash the cheque (if not to withdraw money from a newly-deposited salary payment). The bank called as soon as I got back to my office, and they had the answer.
“Can you bring your passport and visa in? We need to see them before we can unblock your account.” But, I explained, I already had shown my passport and visa, when I first opened the account, and how could Scottish Gas withdraw money when there was nothing in the account, but my employer couldn’t deposit money into the account to prop up my finances and support the banking system? “Sorry sir, but we don’t have access to that photocopy of your passport and visa. Can you bring them in this afternoon?” Well, I can sprint home and dash back to the bank, I guess, sure. I picked up my tide-me-over cheque on my way out, and strode purposefully home. It was not raining, not even drizzling, although at the end of a Friday, immediately after class, I felt pretty worn out. Took off my tie, took off my tweed jacket, hurried back into town to my bank, and waited for the officer who was supposed to (re-)photocopy my passport and visa.
He ducked in and apologetically acknowledged that I must have been very discomfited by the banking problems. I handed over my passport, he made the necessary copies, and then noted that since it was so late on Friday, they wouldn’t be able to to clear my account till Monday morning. “OK,” I allowed, “but I have this cheque; I’d like to deposit some of it, and have some in cash for the weekend.” “Oh, sorry,” he said, “but we can’t handle that till your account is cleared.” No matter that he knew that my account would in fact be cleared Monday morning, no matter that he knew that it was their fault that I had been kept waiting so long, no matter that he knew the cheque was good and that my account would be filled as soon as they let the University put a deposit in. Nope, I mightn’t even have a few pounds for the weekend.
But — at least it wasn’t raining on my walk home, either.

Why Not?

We’ve gotten matters pretty well squared away here in Partickhill. Internet, check. Rhythm of grocery-shopping and dinner-making, check; laundry, check (that reminds me, I need more detergent); friendly, encouraging colleagues, check; comfortable churches, check. So life in Scotland’s most populous city, home of its top two football powers as well as the Partick Thistle (who play in Maryhill; what’s with that?), location of a distinguished ancient university, it’s settling into a groove. Glory, even my shipper has called to admit that the boxes landed two weeks ago, and clear customs several days after that, and that they’re turning them over to a trucker who will transport them to my office (there are many more books than any other item, so it’ll be easier to get clothes and furnishings to Partickhill than to get books from Partickhill to the University).
I was whistling across campus with a spring in my step, jauntily ascending the dozen or so flights of stairs to my top-floor office, and starting up my desktop computer when I saw a message so bizarre that it might have been written in Klingon: “Dear Dr. Adam, Please contact the Finance Office, as your bank refused to accept direct deposit of your pay; they indicated that there was no account corresponding to the numbers you gave us.” Stop and read that again: my bank refused to accept the deposit of my month’s pay. Someone put me in touch with 10 Downing Street and the White House; if this is how banks operate at this juncture, I may be able to clarify the roots of the financial crisis.
Curiouser and curiouser, because two days ago Scottish Gas had deducted my monthly payment from my account even though I told them not to, that I wouldn’t have any money in it till after payday; a kind bank officer had permitted me to cover the overdraft with an on-the-spot cash deposit. So we know that there is indeed an account such as I specified to the Finance Office, and that it’s possible for people to withdraw money from it, since Scottish Gas had already done so. My bank was letting people withdraw money that I don’t have, but were refusing to accept the deposit of money that I have in fact earned.
Phone calls back and forth ensued. The Finance Office verified that they had the correct numbers for my account. The bank said that they couldn’t comment on what might have gone wrong, since the transaction was handled at a processing center centre elsewhere. The Finance Office called the bank, but the bank wouldn’t tell them anything. The bank referred us to a call centre that, after looking into the situation and extracting from me all manner of personal data, decided that my local branch should really handle it, and left a message for them ‘with an Urgent flag’. (See? I’m even practising punctuating as a writer from Great Britain might do.) Wonder of wonders, the local branch declined to call me back this afternoon.
In all this, I have to give gold stars to the Finance Office who (a) did what they ordinarily would, that is, a simple straightforward transaction conducted correctly, and (b) went over and above that to try to remedy a screw-up that must have taken place on the bank’s side of the bullet-proof glass. They offered to prepare a cheque for me, to take to the office and deposit by hand, but they noted that it would take several days for the cheque to clear, by which time they just might — if the bank were willing — have been able to sneak my salary past the bank’s defenses and into my account. Plus, the same problem might obtain next month, so we might as well take care of it now. I have the feeling that they’d have passed a basket around the office to take up a collection for me.
And in fact, one of my colleagues had yesterday offered to loan me money to help me get by, at (she said mischievously, templing her fingers) a reasonable rate of interest. I pointed out that under the circumstances, I should borrow from one of our Islamists instead.
I’m not in want. Margaret is making enough money to support me; I take out pounds from the cashpoints in the neighborhood, and charge things on our US credit card. Still, it was a rough day when the prospect of local solvency was dangled in front of me, then snatched so cruelly away. So there’s at least one more hurdle for me to crash through before I’m thoroughly settled here.