Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Academia Nuts

The motto goes, "If you see something, say something," and that's good, as long as the person seeing something knows what in the world they think they see.

Otherwise, things get all screwed up in a big hurry, like this:

Last week, a man  - 40 years of age, medium dark complexion, curly dark hair and a foreign accent - was trying to fly from Philadelphia to Syracuse.  

He got on a plane - American Airlines flight 3950 - in Philly and made no commotion, didn't run and up and down the aisle demanding more booze or threatening to behead anyone.  He took out a pad and began working on some calculations which he planned to complete during the 41-minute flight.

But the airplane did not take off, because some busybody plopped her asterisk right next to the man in question, whose name is Guido Menzio, and who is the winner of the Carlo Alberto medal, which is given to the best Italian economist under 40.

He's a bit of a genius, you see, and well-known in academic circles. The figures he was noodling over on his pad were part of a differential equation on pricesetting that he was working on to be presented at a conference where he was a leading panelist.

But Mary Buttinsworth, in the next seat, must watch too much of that crazy "news" network where all day long they sit and speak of unspeakable terror that awaits us all at the hands of the curly-haired, or those who are a little more intelligent than Mildred Meddlebury.

Which would not take much.

But, having seen enough CSI: Des Moines episodes to know how to interrogate a suspected terrorist while munching on macadamia nuts, Susie Suspectsalot grilled Menzio, asking if Syracuse was his home, before he decided that he had other, better things to do than to compose a thumbnail autobiography for her.

She faked like she was reading her book - I'm guessing Danielle Steel - and then wrote a note and handed it to the flight attendant passing out more nuts.  The note said she was sick and needed to get off the flight.

But that was but a clever ruse to be able to get away from the madman sitting next to her, working out a calculus equation that, if left unchecked, would have allowed him to do unthinkable damage to the piece of paper he was scribbling on.  After all, Menzio is just the sort of person we all need to fret about on airplanes, given his association with noted terrorist groups like his tenured
associate professorship at the University of Pennsylvania and his work at Princeton and Stanford.

He's an economist, and he was working out a formula for menu costs and price dispersion, whatever that is. 

Sally Spyhunter wailed to the flight staff, and that led to Professor Menzio being taken off the plane and subjected to interrogation from people who have to act on the addlepated accusations of people such as she.  All the passengers had to wait for two hours while he patiently explained the x's and y's and wherefores.

Contacted later by a reporter, Menzio said he was “treated respectfully throughout,” though he remains baffled and frustrated by a “broken system that does not collect information efficiently.” He remains perplexed that the woman sitting next to him is so stupid as to confuse math with terrorism, and is wary of “a security protocol that is too rigid–in the sense that once the whistle is blown everything stops without checks–and relies on the input of people who may be completely clueless. ”

And remember...her vote counts just as much as yours, and mine, and his.

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