: High on the Hog Blog
Purveyor of Idle Observation

Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at

Michael Nye’s Fine Line, Photographing Mental Health, Mental Illness

Photographer Michael Nye’s latest project tackled a subject you might reasonably suppose to be impossible – addressing inner mental conflict and illness through photography. Nye spent four years photographing and recording stories for audio which accompanies the photos, delving into schizophrenia, depression, obsessive-compulsive, anxiety and bi-polar disorder.


Police Officer: It’s pretty bad when the police break into your house…
Woman: Well I want to thank you for alerting me about the fire… even though it wasn’t my house.

Linzie Hunter, Spam One Liners


London-based freelance illustrator Linzie Hunter had the brilliant idea to take the subject lines of the ubiquitous spam messages we all get and loathe and art-ify it. (via Laughing Squid) The most useful re-purposing of unsolicited email messages since Spam-ku!

New President and Chancellor of the University of Houston, an Opportunity for Reflection

Renu Khator, a Professor of Political Science specializing in environmental policy and lately the Provost of the University of South Florida, was named the President and Chancellor of the University of Houston System. For the faculty and staff at UH it’s a refreshing and somewhat surprising choice, indicating an acknowledgment of the University’s unique position and an indication of where we might be headed. At the very least, I like her motto, which seems a perfect fit for UH –

“When life gives you lemons and everyone else is busy making lemonade, think about making margaritas.”

Let’s start by stating the obvious, which is frustratingly not so obvious to many commentators – the University of Houston is not UT, it’s not A&M, it’s certainly not Rice. None of these three neighboring institutions with which it is too often compared is a model to which it should aspire. While each surely shares the common goal of delivering high quality education, a vast gulf lies between the means available, the fundamental character, and the community each institution serves.

Most conversations about the future of the University of Houston start with the quest for flagship status, public image and raising the stats of the average student to something that looks more like the three benchmarks. None of these are goals to be shirked, but they come at a cost that few are willing to recognize. Tuition and fees growing at 7-12 percent annually since a state imposed tuition cap was deregulated several years ago. For a public institution that serves dual, sometimes competing aims of offering both excellence and access, the fee hikes are robbing Peter to pay Paul, sacrificing access for a somewhat misbegotten notion of excellence.

The University of Houston already offers an excellent education with a staggering $3.1 billion in economic benefits estimated for the local economy. Like many University of Houston students I worked full-time throughout my undergrad and continue to do so in law school. Having started out at a more traditional, private east-coast liberal arts college, I understand first hand the differences in an institution that understands working students and one that doesn’t. The opportunity for career-oriented students seeking real-life professional experience is unparalleled. A low cost quality education built around a base students who have already started their careers before or during their education is an educational and economic powerhouse that should be recognized and utilized, not swept under the rug.

Khator’s experience at South Florida gives me hope for a President/Chancellor who understands the unique opportunities and character of the University of Houston and can craft a vision without being tied to an antiquated notion of what getting an education looks like in 2007.

Gladwell on FBI Profilers, new book on the workplace of the future

Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Blink and The Tipping Point takes on the subject of FBI profilers in typical fashion in Dangerous Minds: Criminal profiling made easy.. Noting the successes of well-known profilers throughout the FBI’s history – James Brussel, Howard Teten, John Douglas and Robert Ressler – Gladwell turns to recent empirical research to question whether there’s really any predictive power behind these profiles or whether their techniques are closer to the cold reading techniques of astrologers and psychics.

It should also be noted that Gladwell’s recent, notable absence from blogging and from the pages of the New Yorker was to spent holed up writing his third book, which Kottke reveals as “the future of the workplace with subtopics of education and genius.”

Oliver Sacks, Music and Amnesia

Oliver Sacks, the famous neurologist who authored Awakenings, about a group of patients he treated in the late 60′s, has continued to produce some of the most fascinating and intelligible books on the mysteries of the human mind. His most recent book is Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain.

Sacks previews his work in The New Yorker, The Abyss: Music and amnesia, chronicling the chilling tale of Clive Wearing, a prominent musician reduced by encephalitis to a terrifying state of amnesia that has robbed him even of short term memory.