Wednesday, 3 May 2006

Odds and ends

My brief return to Durham to administer some finals and pack for my big trip has been a tad hectic—I’m currently in the calm between finishing up the grading for my southern politics class (who produced almost uniformly excellent final examinations) and having to assess 60 methods exams that I will administer tomorrow and Friday.

I mostly enjoyed my visit to Saint Louis University—the travel was about as painless as air travel can be, and my soon-to-be-colleagues were uniformly pleasant and supportive. I remain somewhat unentralled with the prospect of spending a year under the microscope as an internal candidate for a potential tenure-track position, although perhaps at least I am two years wiser than my previous time doing that and also have quite a bit less invested in the idea of staying, at least at present. Nonetheless I bought some SLU swag: a hat (black), a refrigerator magnet, a window decal, and a lapel pin, as well as suitable gifts for the parental units.

Perhaps slightly more importantly, now I have feedback from two audiences on the strategic voting paper I’ll have the opportunity to work on some revisions before sending it out again. Alas, I’ve gotten no real advice on a venue—it’s already been rejected at APR, and I think even with some revisions (primarily in terms of the battleground/non-battleground dichotomy and possibly the sophistication measure) it isn’t a Top 3 piece, which probably leaves the options looking like Electoral Studies, Political Behaviour, PRQ (although I already have a manuscript there), or maybe QJPS. I hate worrying about these things.

Life otherwise goes on. I got CC’d on a report on the Next Big Thing for the Duke undergraduate political science program—it still seems awfully unstructured to me, but then again, who cares what I think? They are going to require a stats class of students, but it will be a general ed stats class so I’m not at all convinced it will be particularly worthwhile unless followed up or accompanied by a scope-and-methods class in the discipline proper. Really getting how to use stats to analyze substantive questions in politics is a hard thing, and I don’t think stats classes aimed toward a broad range of majors really accomplish much beyond annoying students with what will seem to them like a “useless” math requirement.

Outside the academic realm, I watched Shopgirl after getting back Tuesday and quite enjoyed it. I do agree with critics who say that a different actor from Steve Martin should have done the narration, but it was only a minor issue. Jason Schwartzmann definitely made the Jeremy character work; I think the early encounters between Mirabelle and Jeremy are even more satisfyingly (and hilariously) disastrous on film than they were in book form. Dropping the Vietnam subplot was fine, as was ditching the shift in venue from LA to San Francisco late in the book; neither did that much for the original narrative.