I've awakened this morning in Newport RI at the stately Hotel Viking, my HQ for the next two days as I consort with "China Hands" at the "China Maritime Studies Institute" of the Naval War College. Newport isn't quite up to Maryland par when it comes to having implemented the "Spring" memo, but it is trying to make up for lost time. I like Newport almost to a fault, having spent portions of every season here--though the two winters here were notably brutal. Christmas time is wonderful, the Summer is insane, Fall brings all the charms of New England--but May--the latter part of Spring--may be best of all. You get the benefits of an increasingly warming temperature married to the absence of tourists. I ambled down from my hotel to the main drag for dinner last night and then walked along the waterfront for a bit after dinner. It was eerily quiet--the sounds of some manner of sport occasionally peeping from a watering hole.
Sometime later today, I will serve as a "discussant" on a panel looking at Chinese Shipyard Infrastructure. Four academic papers will be presented by their authors, and then I will get to opine about what I found notable in their work. Many of the people I consort with regularly in DC are here, along with the War College crowd who I have come to know over the years. I am quite sure there are lesser places to live an academic's life.
Can we talk about a pet peeve of mine for a second? I call it the "gratuitous fiance reference". Now, I have some sympathy for the heavy burden carried by attractive young women, what with having to fight off the lecherous advances of oldsters like me on a routine basis. But sometimes, a comment is not a come-on. So I was tucked against the window of the Southwest flight yesterday, when a large man sat down on the aisle seat. As the plane grew more crowded, an attractive young woman pointed at the seat between us and asked it it were empty. She had in her hands an oddly rectangular red box, which kind of looked like a pizza warmer to me (albeit a pizza in a rectangular vice square box). As she attempted to seat herself and maneuvered the box under the seat in front of her, I casually stated that "I sure hope that's not a pizza". It was not a come-on. I was not looking to close the deal. I have a busy schedule ahead of me for the next few days. I'm quasi-married. But in an instant came back a small laugh and a "oh no, it's some of my fiance's artwork". Now, I may be overly sensitive, but my spidey senses tell me that the immediate raising of her status as a woman claimed by another was NOT just casual information. It was a well-practiced gambit to drive off the lecherous old dude. I smiled in a friendly way and returned to my work. She easily could have said, "no, it isn't pizza unfortunately, it is some artwork", at which point I would have returned to my work and she could have returned to whatever it was she was going to do to pass the flight. It seems to me that she felt it necessary to get the "fiance" out there within the first five seconds of conversation in order to blunt whatever nefarious offensive was represented by my obvious come-hither line. These are the burdens of being young and beautiful, I suppose.
A little politics? Don't mind if I do. It seems that Hillary's "ignore the Press" campaign is beginning to rile up those who are ignored, except that there doesn't seem to be any real evidence that she will pay a price with the American people for it. It is a gamble, but one that may very well pay off for her, both from the perspective of the indifference of the electorate and the great likelihood that the Press won't get TOO far out of line, for fear of contributing to the Republican cause.
Ah, Republicans. I am weary of JV mistakes from men who have had so long to prepare for the process of running for office. Some of this comes from a lack of preparedness for the obvious, gotchya questions, and some of it comes from a desire not to go back at reporters in an aggressive way so as not to appear aggressive. Whatever it is, it hasn't been a particularly good week for our growing field, a field whose growth is not improved by numbers, only diluted. I cannot get over the fact that I think Mitt Romney made a HUGE mistake when he decided not to run. The circus that is the Republican field needs a ringleader.