Sunday, 25 April 2004

Suit yourself

Amanda Butler, Will Baude, and Waddling Thunder ponder the role of the suit in modern society.

A sociologist friend of mine was quite surprised to witness the spectacle of political scientists parading around the Palmer House Hilton in suits—apparently, sociologists don’t dress up for conferences, but political scientists (for whatever reason) do. I tend to think the suit is best reserved for special occasions; I wouldn’t dream of teaching in a suit on a regular basis (and, in fact, have only done it once—when I had a job interview immediately after class—although I’ll be teaching in a suit tomorrow as well), and if I were the churchgoing sort, I probably wouldn’t wear a suit to church either. On the other hand, I like my suit, and I don’t even mind wearing a shirt and tie on a semi-regular basis (and I have been known to wear a shirt and tie when teaching). Plus my suit actually manages to make me look halfway respectable, which is no minor feat.

As for Ms. Butler’s complaints about footwear, I can empathize—finding comfortable dress shoes is something of a challenge for me, given my rather wide feet, although my recent pair of SAS leather shoes are remarkably comfortable (my mother swears by SAS). I honestly don’t pay much attention to the footwear that female political scientists wear at conferences, though they do tend to dress more casually than the men, so I suspect many eschew heels in favor of more comfortable footwear, a decision I wholeheartedly support.

I am also rather convinced that the only people, aside from those with various fetishes, who care what shoes women wear are other women. Not being a sociologist, though, I can’t explain why this would be the case or how this might affect one’s strategies in making more comfortable footwear acceptable for women’s business attire.

Cypress Split

At the airport in Dallas† today, I broke down and bought a week-old Economist,* and in it I read about the then-current status of the Cyprus deal—the European Union made an ill-advised deal with the Greek Cypriots that basically let them in the EU regardless of whether or not they held up their end of the bargain to reunite the island, on the not entirely unreasonable but nonetheless incorrect assumption that the Turks would be the more recalcitrant party. Now the other shoe has dropped, with the Greek Cypriots rejecting the deal, and everyone is sort of standing around holding their proverbial Johnsons in response.

The moral of this story is Game Theory 101: don’t reward someone for their anticipated good behavior in advance, because otherwise they’ll see no reason to uphold their end of the bargain.

Thinking out loud

One of the nice things about having a blog is that you can think out loud. The drawback is pretty much anyone can stumble by and read your thoughts, and given my current situation on the job market, it is in my best interest for everyone to think I’ll leap at the chance to take their job offer (which, given that I have fairly transitive preferences, is emphatically not the case).

Nevertheless, I feel the need to ponder aloud. One of the faculty members I was out to dinner with tonight (at a pretty good Chinese restaurant—I guess I should have picked something else for dinner last night, since this was my second dinner of fried wontons and beef fried rice in two days) mentioned that his son is studying for the computerized GRE. The GRE actually has an interesting structure; in the olden days, you answered a block of N questions per section, and everyone answered the same N questions. Now, you answer M questions, and the test is adaptive—if you get questions right, it gives you harder ones, and if you get them wrong, you get easier ones. Thus, it is important to do well early—if you blow the first few questions, there’s almost no way to score in the 700s, because you’ll never get back to the hard questions that allow you to get such a high score. In other words, there is path dependency in the GRE: past actions dictate the range of choices you have available.

One suspects the job market is the same way. Aside from Overby’s career-improvement maxim—generally quoted as “any job is better than no job” (and, its corrollary, “never have an unpublishable thought”)—some jobs are better than others. Course load, service requirements, pay, appointment length (tenure-track versus non-tenure-track), location, and prestige all have effects.

Funnily enough, I think I’ve made my decision, more or less; there are basically two jobs I’d say yes to (one of which I’m pretty sure I’m not in the running for), two I’d have to seriously think about, and one I’d reject outright (there’s also a possibility in reserve which I’m not counting yet). Now I just need to find out what my options are, and react accordingly.

(I promise I’ll stop being so cryptic once I have signed a contract for the fall.)

Morons on parade

This may be a good nominee for this year’s Darwin Awards: Diver in contest feared drowned. And this wasn’t any diving contest—it was a belly-flopping contest, at Diamond Jim’s bar in Beloit, Wisconsin.

The loss to society is immense, for not only did the unidentified 52-year-old man have “a heart of gold, a caring nature and a pleasant outlook on life,” he was also one of the few residents of Rock County who is certified to roast pigs. (Silly me didn’t realize pig-roasting required certification.) But I think the key to the story lies at the end:

His friend [the man who is presumed drowned] was planning on driving up to Reedsburg next weekend to roast a pig for a wedding reception and had asked Quaerna for directions.

“He’s originally from Mississippi. I don’t believe he had been that far north before,” Quaerna said.

What Quaerna doesn’t understand, is why his friend jumped from the bridge.

“He doesn’t know how to swim,” Quaerna said.

This story reminds me of nothing so much as the final track from Lewis Black’s first comedy album, The White Album (which also involved rednecks doing incredibly stupid things, only those rednecks were in Arkansas and ammunition was involved). Fun and amusement for the whole family!

Thanks to Scott for the link.


I’ve been tied up preparing for this job interview the last couple of days, so I haven’t gotten around to posting about the Iraq situation. Thankfully, Steven Taylor read my mind in his critique of the decision to hand over power on June 30th without figuring out who would be getting the power first (though the silver lining in this process is the belated jettisoning of Ahmed Chalabi, Iraq’s Charles de Gaulle wannabe), as well as his consideration of how the UN’s involvement in the handover is undercutting John Kerry’s position on Iraq.