Friday, January 22, 2010

Tales of discovery

I just found out that Agnes, the gray cat that lives behind our apartment, is Tito and Agnes is a boy. So, is Tito. My students can rest easy knowing that there will be no further mention of Bruce Wayne, Archie Leach, or Hesperus this semester.

I've also discovered the writing of George Saunders. Unsuccessfully, I've tried locating a collection of short stories because I wanted to read "Adams", but I have purchased his first collection of shorts and a collection of essays that is laugh out loud hilarious. I knew that I'd be sleeping in Josh Ferris' bed in December, so I thought I'd try to learn a little something about him first. (That was totally unnecessary, he was out of town for the duration of my stay. I know these posts can be tedious.) Couldn't find his novel in Iceland, but I did stumble across a New Yorker podcast where he read Saunders' short. You can listen here, if you're interested.

Finally, I discovered this in my inbox:
Dear Mr Littlejohn,

My name is Connie Hibbard and I work at the Westin St. Francis hotel in San Francisco, CA. I have been a server at the hotel for 27 years and I’m a proud member of Unite Here Local 2.

I’m writing because the Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association is considering holding its annual meeting at the St. Francis from March 31st to April 4th, 2010. My co-workers and I are currently in the midst of a dispute with Starwood Hotels, the company that manages the Westin St. Francis. The company is insisting on proposals that would make health benefits unaffordable for myself and my family, cut workers’ retirement benefits, and increase workloads.

This is despite the fact Starwood made $180 million in profits during just nine months last year, and the Westin St. Francis hotel itself generated over $11 million in earnings. My co-workers and I went on a 3-day strike in November to show that we will not let Starwood, whose CEO made $4.8 million in 2008, use the economy as an excuse to squeeze as even harder. We are calling on all Westin St. Francis customers to BOYCOTT the hotel until it agrees to a fair contract.

I understand the APA is taking input on whether or not to hold its conference at this hotel. Unfortunately, the information the APA sent its members was false and misleading on several counts. For example, the APA said that “there is no dispute over salaries or working conditions” and that “the parties do not appear to be far apart.” This simply isn’t true. The issues at stake in negotiations include wages, working conditions, workers’ right to join unions, and affordable healthcare.

Moreover, the APA said, “There are no pickets, though union staff may distribute leaflets at the hotel doors”. Local 2 members have held multiple picket lines outside the St. Francis. I myself participated in a lively picket line just a few days ago, along with 150 coworkers, in front of the hotel. Starwood is trying to spread the idea that it’s just a few “union staff” at our actions – but APA members shouldn’t buy into this line. You can get a glimpse into our struggle through a video that’s posted on our union’s website,

We are asking you not to eat, sleep, meet, or speak at the Westin St. Francis. I would also like to ask you to contact the APA to let them know that you will not violate this boycott. Please contact the Pacific Division’s Secretary-Treasurer, Dominic McIver Lopes, at 604-822-6703 or

We’re counting on your support. Thanks for taking the time to stand up for working people in San Francisco.


Connie Hibbard

I'd prefer it if people called me 'Clayton', but if you don't call me 'Clayton', you should call me 'Dr. Littlejohn'. That's a segue. We say things like 'You should call me 'Clayton', but since you won't do that, you should call me 'Dr. Littlejohn''. We don't want to say that the 'should' is ambiguous, but there's something like ambiguity going on here because we don't say that this statement is false. We can say that the second 'should' picks out a subsidiary obligation, but I'm interested in the linguistic terminology to use to describe this.

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