Monday, May 6, 2013

Conference Presentations and Why I Now Hate Megabus

The past two weeks have been very exciting for me. I flew out to Grand Rapids, MI for a symposium on religion and politics at Calvin College. I spoke at this symposium two years ago on the topic of apocalypticism in Joachim of Fiore and Isaac Abarbanel. Back when I was more productive on this blog and less so on my actual dissertation, this was going to be a chapter for the dissertation. Since my dissertation writing has become more productive, it has changed its emphasis and so Fiore and Abarbanel will need to wait for a future book. This time I spoke about Max Weber and his influence on my understanding of religion. As a Jew and as a medieval historian I was certainly the odd man out at the symposium. I must say that the people there were once again very kind to me and did there best to try to make me feel right at home.

After the symposium, I took a Megabus to Pittsburgh (which unfortunately went through that den of iniquity known as Ann Arbor) to visit my Nadoff relatives. From Pittsburgh, I took another Megabus to Washington D.C. I got to spend several days with my parents, siblings and my very cute new nephew Boaz. (He was very sneaky managing to get himself born hours after my wife and I needed to fly back to Los Angeles this past January.) This past Thursday, I was supposed to take a Megabus from D.C. to Pittsburgh before transferring to Greyhound for the last leg of my trip to Columbus, OH. After having purchased my ticket weeks in advance, I showed up at the stop only to be informed that the bus had been canceled. I had to quickly run over to Greyhound and buy a ticket to keep all of my plans in line. Now the nerve of Megabus. It is one thing for there to be delays. It is something completely different to point blank decide not to run a scheduled bus line, not tell paying costumers and leave them stranded. Megabus refunded the $1.50 I paid for the fare. This is beside the point and an insult. The $1 fares are door busters meant to serve as a means of advertising and are covered by the majority of times one ends up paying a higher fare. I won a raffle for agreeing to trust Megabus enough to set my plans around them weeks in advance. They violated that trust and broke their contract. At the very least they should cover the $50 for the Greyhound ticket and maybe even throw in some vouchers for future tickets.  

When all is said and done, I got into Columbus on Friday morning. I spoke to the middle school and high school at the Haugland Learning Center, a school for children on the autism spectrum, about college and dating. In terms of college, I emphasized the great reward in store in being able to focus on a particular interest, but that this reward must be earned through the personal discipline of being responsible for one's own work and, by extension, one's own life. In terms of dating, I used a little Nassim Nicholas Taleb to argue that dating is a form of high-risk investment in which most attempts fail. This means that, on the one hand, they should expect most relationships to fail and recognize that there is nothing they can do about it. The positive side of this is the knowledge that failure in these circumstances is not really failure, because they are not the cause of their failure. At the end of the day, a long string of failures with one success at the end means that the entire endeavor, including the failures, was a success.

The Sabbath was spent walking many miles and socializing with old friends (both of which are marks of my wife's corrupting influence on me). Sunday was The Ohio State Graduation and President Obama spoke. While the president encouraged young impressionable college students to forsake the peaceful social cooperation of working in the private sector to join him in a life of crime in government, I was a few blocks away at Hillel speaking about Maimonides for a graduate Jewish Studies colloquium. Even while he attempted to sneak in philosophical ideas, I like to think that Maimonides' attitude toward community was more honest than Obama's. As with Abarbanel, the Maimonides material is also not going into my dissertation, but will hopefully make its way into a future book.

I am flying back to California today. I miss the weather, my kitty and my wife.          

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