Thursday, 16 September 2010
An Englishman, a Belgian, a German… walk into a bar
We are now into the third week of term and the pacing of events has started to go beyond hectic. We've already had our first conference and first talk. But that isn't what has taken our time. There is a strong sense of community here in Pittsburgh. Our first few weeks of the year are filled with events through which we reconnect with old friends and welcome new ones.
The Department of HPS held its beginning of year party in Sandy Mitchell's backyard. It was, without challenge, the social event of the year. That is, it was without challenge until Bob Batterman hosted the Philosophy Department party in his backyard.
We also hold a reception whose sole purpose is to introduce our new Center visitors to the local faculty. It was held on the roof deck of the University Club.
There are many visitors to introduce this year. Indeed there are more than I can recall ever before. Including Visiting Fellows, Postdocs and Visiting Scholars, we have eleven in all. Here are nine of them posing after our first reading group meeting last week:
The group has grown so much that I needed to put my camera far away on its little tripod to be able to fit everyone in. (For those who keep score, we had been eating a Hungarian nut roll and a flourless chocolate cake.)
We then followed a tradition and ended up sitting outside at the Doublewide Grill on the Southside as the sun set.
We held our second reading group meeting last night. This time we took a shorter trip to Fuel and Fuddle in Oakland.
There were ten of us in the group, so they could not seat us immediately. While we waited, we took over the bar almost entirely and broke up into little groups, entertaining ourselves as only philosophers can. My conversation with P.D. and Kareem was devoted to cooking up bizarre but effective paper titles. I'm eager to use Groucho Marx's "Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?"
After a few minutes the barman glided towards us, making definite eye contact. This was evidently not an attempt to sell us another round. Then he blurted it out, "So, where are you all from?" Looking down the bar, I realized that we are a quite eclectic bunch. I start nodding at the heads huddled in conversation. "He's from England; then that one is from Belgian; then there's a German, a Cypriot, …"
The Center has now moved into a steady rhythm. I am already getting to know just which Fellows like an early start and which tend to work late, so that "good morning" usually means I'm starting to think about lunch.
There is still one more community event. Each two weeks, roughly, we host HPS faculty and graduate students in our lounge for a lunch, run by the HPS graduate students. The room is really too small for the event, but that really is the point. You cannot help meeting people if your elbow is hovering that close to their lunch.
This week it will be pizza from Pizza Perfecta.
John D. Norton