Friday, February 03, 2006

The unhelpfulest helper of all

The HOD gate-crashed my meeting today. Friday afternoons is his time for prowling the corridors, coffee cup in hand, looking for someone to chat to. I guess he didn't find anyone today, because he continued into the tea-room, took a look at the other academic and me poring over papers and files and made himself comfortable in the chair beside us. "So you're having a planning meeting for [conference workshop we are organising], are you? Splendid! How's it all going?"

HOD's input might actually have been welcome, given his phenomenal memory for people he has met and their research projects, and also his much greater experience with running these sorts of things. Unfortunately he is the last person you want to have at any meeting with time constraints (ie. any meeting). He loses the thread, gets sidetracked onto "more interesting" topics, and is oblivious to subtle hints that people are trying to wind things up.

So we were trying to come up with a list of names of people who we will send individual invites to, i.e. well known people who are likely to be in Australia in July, and whose main research interests are in the field of syntactic change, which is the workshop's theme. HOD was extremely... prolific in his suggestions. Unfortunately almost all of them were completely impractical.

"Now you should really invite [names famous researcher]. He'll be around in July, and he's done some excellent work lately. Yes. His email address is [gives address]. Tell him I said hi."
Waits while I write all this down.
"Oh, now I come to think about it, he's never done any work on syntactic change."

"But someone who does a lot of very sound syntactic stuff is [names second famous researcher]. He's an excellent presenter too. Just the sort of person you want to have. Of course, he will be on field work in Greenland this July, though."

Finally HOD really out-did himself:

"Oh, oh, and have you thought of [third famous researcher]? His work on syntactic change is among the best in Australia. Yes, fantastic work... And he'd love a conference like this..."
Pauses while I add the name to my list.
"It's a shame he's dead, really."


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1 Comment:

Clair said...

It wouldn't be a proper educational institution if you didn't have at least one person like that!