Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lunch With Science Guy, Pizza From Hell And Unrelated Things I Don't Know Enough About.

Yesterday certainly turned into an interesting day. For me, at least. As you all know, John The Scientist and I had lunch. We met at Dong Hai Restaurant on West 39th Street. The picture above is one that I took after lunch, aiming the camera at us and shooting blindly. I think it came out pretty good. John looks especially suave, don't you think. (John didn't ask me to conceal his identity, but if he wants his pictures out on the web, he'll have to post them first, himself.) (Also, if you can't see shit in the picture, the fault is all mine. Jeff and Michelle were both absolute heroes trying to teach me how to Photoshop.)

I promised to blog about how honest John has been with all of us. Answer?: Not so much. First of all, he gets no Redneck Cred in my book. No hint of an accent. No cute regional colloquialisms. Hell, he didn't even ask if there was squirrel on the menu. Also, I wouldn't go so far as to say that John's ever played dumb online, but I'm pretty sure he's a lot smarter than he's let on. Scary smart. We spent an hour together and I'm still not sure exactly what it is he does for a living. He's in charge of a bunch of people at a Major pharmaceutical company, and he gets to talk to the CEO about some new drug they've been working on for about 11 years. After listening to him tell me about testing procedures, let me just say I'm glad I'm not taking anything stronger than Tylenol at the moment. (Hey, John, you never told me which analgesic I can take if I feel the need to wash it down with liquor.)

John's past is every bit as interesting as he's hinted at and he promises to post some real stories of the KGB some time in the future. (I want the link to your other missing blog in my comment thread, BTW.) It sounds like he's got a terrific family and a terrific job, and he is, indeed a most interesting guy. I tried to goad him on politics, but unfortunately, he agreed with me on the one topic I floated. Next time I'll ply him with beer and see if I can't provoke an argument. Its almost certain I won't have the ammunition for such an argument, but it'll be fun anyway. He comes into Manhattan pretty regularly, so I'll get my chance.

What else happened yesterday? Oh, the Dominos-Pizza-may-be-the-AntiChrist Pizza Debacle. If you only saw the beginning, go back and read the updates I posted as the evening went on.

The absolute best part of the Pizza Debacle was when Shawn Powers, posing as Dominos Pizza Guy called and asked when I was coming to get my pizza. After I exploded all over the place, I could hear him wondering if the call had been such a great idea after all. (It was!)

Lastly, my lunch with John, (have I mentioned he knows stuff?), got me thinking of my education, such as it is. I graduated from a 4-year college. Got a degree. I've mentioned before that I basically scammed credits for working at an actual job and paid as little attention to the curriculum as I could get away with. I can't say I exactly regret that. If I'd paid attention, I'd have gotten a dubious education preparing me to be a film director. Since I never wanted to direct, I'm certain that would have been useless. Even if I'd wanted to be a director, I think that education would have been, at the very best, pretty narrow. So, now, I work on movies and learn about new subjects all of the time.

Work on Paradise for a few months? I'm now an expert on the shrimping industry. Work on State of Grace? I'm your man for history of the Westies. Work on Iron Will? I can tell you all about turn of the century railroading, dogsleds and working in extreme cold. The point is that I immerse myself in a subject for a relatively short period of time and learn just enough to be dangerous.

I'm pretty sure Amtrak needs me.


Anne C. said...

That's a great way to prep for being a writer too, Nathan!

Great picture by the way. John looks like a pretty cheerful guy. ;)

John the Scientist said...

Thanks, for the compliments Nathan, but I need to clear a few things up.

First, Nathan is as funny and nice as he comes across on the blog. And that other picture must have been at an odd angle, because it doesn't do him much justice. It did look like him enough for me to pick him out on the streets of NYC, but he only sorta looks like Gene Shalit in person. In fact, he looks an awful lot like a chemist I work with, which is odd.

As to the accent, I went to college in Indiana and then spent 20% of my adult life overseas, so I've deliberately flattened it out over the years. Get a few Pabst Blue Ribbons in me and you'll suddenly find that I've discovered the "r" in the word "Washington". (There is one, right Anne?).

I'm actually not in charge of anyone, I'm in one of those difficult jobs whose description includes the words "influencing without authority".

Seriously, though I'm not all that smart. I know people who are smart, and I'm not them. But to your point about education, I've done stuff. When I talk about socialism, it's because I worked on a Studencheski Stroitel'ny Otriad as a construction worker in the USSR. When I talk about Japan, it's because I lived there for 2 years. When I talk about China it's because I've been there (both Chinas), and my wife and I speak Mandarin to my kids at home. When I talk about science funding, it's because I was a research scientist for years, and I work on the business end of research, now.

Like you - and I mean exactly like you - I have a working, highly functional bullshit filter because I've been places and done things. THAT is what an educated human being should cultivate, and it can not be cultivated in a University environment. That is the crux of my post about my disdain for people who have spent their whole life and education either in books or in their own heads. They might have a bullshit detector, but it hasn't been calibrated by real world experiences. That's why I like the UCF, it's full of people who have been places and done things, and have something intelligent to say because of that.

Here are my posts on the CB, BTW. I go by John Jay over there, who ties for my favorite Founding Father with Hamilton.

Jim Wright said...

Hrmmph. No white lab coat, I knew it.

John the Scientist said...

Dude, wearing a white lab coat in NYC is like wearing a giant "MUG ME" sign on your back, even in the post-Giuliani world.

That, or someone assumes you're from the CDC and gets a panicked herd running down 42nd street because they asssume you're investigating an NBC attack.

Shawn Powers said...

That's why you splash a bit of fake blood on the lab coat.

And walk with a limp.

With both legs.

And sniff things. Randomly.

(And all doubt as to whether Shawn's ever been to NY is gone...)

Anne C. said...

Heh. That's the city right below "Balmer," right?

When I have more time, I really want to get caught up on the smart/educated/privileged discussion and chime in. I've read Eric's but need to read yours. I think an ability to do well in an academic setting and being able to problem solve effectively (what the UCF have in common, I believe) are both "intelligence."
OK, must stop now and get some problem solving of my own done, but I promise I'll talk about it soon!

Jeff Hentosz said...

Shawn! Was that you who darted out at me near Bryant Park in '99?

Jim Wright said...

...and gets a panicked herd running down 42nd street because they assume you're investigating an NBC attack

See? Now that would be worth doing.

John the Scientist said...

Jim - as Nathan mentioned I have had up close and personal interactions with the Komitiet Gosudarstvennoi Besopasnosti.

I do not wish to have up close and personal encounters with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, because in this day and age of Homemade Security, I'm pretty sure the interactions would be indistinguishable. ;-)

Jim Wright said...

John, just tell them that you were personal friends with the KGB, you'll be fine.

Janiece said...

Yeah, Jim. That'll work.

John, you know the rest of the UCF would come and rescue you at Gitmo...really.

Right, guys?

kimby said...

You bet we would.
I'm not called The Warden for nothing! (although my FAC has expired, so someone else will have to supply the hardware)

We'd have you outta there in a jiffy!

Mishka..don't forget the Vodka.

Nathan said...


If its ok, I'll just point you out from a distance and run away while my fellow heroic UCF'ers do the heavy lifting. Hey, I know my strengths.

Random Michelle K said...

Vodka! Yes!

Nathan, you are required to come. Didn't you read the fine print when you signed up?

vince said...

John, I will be der wid da boys. Oh, and gurls. Youse is not gonna have no trouble with da Feds. Wese got people in high places. Da fix is in.

Vinny, Guido and da boys

Anonymous said...

*cigar smoke puffs out of the dark shadowy corner*