Wednesday, 30 November 2005

Go to grad school!?!

Brian Weatherson has some advice that is contrary to the conventional wisdom for his readers. Color me deeply skeptical.

þ: James Joyner, who aptly summarizes Weatherson’s argument thusly:

Go to grad school if you can get a free ride to a top ten institution or if you don’t mind being relegated to the backwaters of academia teaching dull students or don’t mind losing ten years of earning potential before going into another line of work.

Since none of those three really apply to me (except possibly #3), I think we can safely say I am an idiot. Frankly, if I weren’t really good* at teaching a class (research methods) that most political scientists hate to teach with an unrivalled passion†, I’d have no career.

* By “really good,” I mean “not as horribly as 99% of other professors.” I freely admit that I could be better.
† The reasons are two-fold: people who teach methods typically get terrible student evaluations, particularly at schools where methods is a requirement for the major, and teaching methods is typically harder work than sitting around talking about one’s own “substantive” research interests or spewing out the intro outline for the 17th time.

College basketball thought of the day

I can’t even pretend to care about the ACC-Big Ten challenge (much less college basketball in general), and I was falling asleep on my sofa a few hours ago while watching good TV, yet for some silly reason I’m wide awake and watching Duke–Indiana on TiVo delay with Dickie V anyway.

They must put drugs in the water supply here; that’s the only explanation.

More ESPN hatin’

Brian from MGoBlog and Mark Hasty add to the list of reasons to dislike ESPN, pushing it well over 100 entries.

þ: EDSBS, of course.

Wireless blogging

I'm posting this from Opera Mini on my cell phone, which is cool, but would be easier if I were better at T9.

Tuesday, 29 November 2005

No longer offer'd

For those unable to read between the lines of my recent posts or comments, I’ve declined the offer. I won’t be publicly identifying the university in question, but let me say that I was treated well by them and my decision is in no way a reflection on the fine folks there—rather, in the end it boiled down to a question of whether or not it would be fair (to either party) for me to take a tenure-track position knowing in my heart-of-hearts that I wasn’t planning to stay.

I believe I’m still in a good position to secure a tenure-track job that is more compatible with my interests as a teacher and a scholar, and I have been assured I have a fall-back position here at Duke for the next academic year, should it become necessary. So… back to the salt mines (or at least Emacs).

Phone sux redux

I never thought I’d be asked a question about Iraq in a phone interview. Go figure.

And the fun never ends… Thursday, I get to have a phone interview with a place that will hire non-Christians, but they won’t tenure them. I get the odd feeling that after I ask the college’s position on hiring Christians who don’t buy into scriptural inerrancy or young-Earth creationism, this one’s going to be over pretty quick.

Why ESPN sucks

The EDSBS crew compiles a list of 52 reasons that ESPN sucks, and somehow manages to leave out the Sunday Night Football crew and Jeremy “I’m not Dick, but I am one” Schapp.

A little less limbo

It feels good to be able to throw away all the ads for one-year visiting positions lying around the computer.

Monday, 28 November 2005

McCain as Teddy Roosevelt

Stephen Moore adds more fuel to Stephen Bainbridge’s discomfiture with John McCain. I’m not exactly a huge McCain fan either, but given the likely contenders on both sides of the aisle I’m hard-pressed to pick a better nominee—or, for that matter, a better president.

Sunday, 27 November 2005

More fuel for the Coach O funeral pyre (if necessary)

You know, if I were an Ole Miss chancellor looking for a pretext to can Coach O, the evidence of his apparent attempt to poach players from Tulane’s football team might be a good place to start. The allegations at this point seem to contain a lot more smoke than fire—there’s no evidence, for example, that Orgeron or his subordinates actually contacted any Green Wave players—but nonetheless the whole episode appears rather unseemly.

Saturday, 26 November 2005


Well, that sucked.

Update: More thoughts from BigJim. Is it a “gots-to-go situation” for Coach O? Probably not immediately, but with disgruntled players continuing to bolt and ineptitude that goes well beyond the parts of the game under the control of the allegedly-already-fired OC Noel Mazzone, the Orgeron honeymoon is going to be shortlived. That may be bad for Orgeron’s career prospects in Oxford, since it’s likely his legendary recruiting prowess won’t even yield substantial dividends on the field until the 2007 season due to redshirting.

And the $64,000 “what-if” questions surrounding the firing of ex-coach David Cutcliffe probably aren’t going away either. Would QB “guru” Cut have gotten more out of Spurlock, Flatt, and Lane? I don’t know, but if things turn around in Knoxville next year (and, realistically, they probably will; a team with UT’s talent almost never goes under .500 in college, no matter how poorly they are coached) a lot of the credit will go to Cutcliffe.

One final thought: a lot of the Rebel’s woes can be traced to two positions on the field: place kicker and punter. Thirty-yard punts and regularly missed field goals don’t add up to scoring or good field position. Kicking may be the Rebels’ most glaring deficiency, even if it seems to be lost in the discussions over the revolving door at QB.

Friday, 25 November 2005

Back in Durham

After taking a free roundtrip ticket to wait five hours for a later flight, I’m back safe and sound in Durham; I think the only thing I missed was the Duke–Memphis championship game in what still ought to be called the Preseason NIT.

Oh, and Arkansas choked against LSU—there’s simply no other way to describe that performance.

My big debate for tomorrow: use my women’s basketball season tickets to see Duke dismantle Arkansas State or listen to the Egg Bowl over the Internet. Maybe one of these decades I’ll have a fancy phone that will let me do both at once.

Come fly without me

Figuring out how I’m going to get to all the places I need to get over the Christmas holidays is becoming a bit of a headache; it’d be a little easier if SPSA weren’t the first weekend after New Year’s. With gas prices coming down I may end up taking a very long road trip around the southeast.

Thursday, 24 November 2005

No more Noel

The Noel Mazzone era at Ole Miss is apparently over, although no official announcement has appeared as of yet. Mazzone, who previously served as offensive coordinator on Tommy Tuberville’s staff before the latter’s departure for Auburn, apparently never was a good fit with Ed Orgeron’s plans to implement a USC-style offense in Oxford.

Happy Thanksgiving

Best wishes to all of Signifying Nothing’s readers for a happy Thanksgiving day.

Wednesday, 23 November 2005

All over but the shouting

As I alluded to in the comments of the previous post, the offer I was hoping would materialize in Frozen Tundra country seems unlikely to do so. Them’s the breaks; I guess that gives me an extra incentive to sell myself well on the phone interview with a relatively small private university on the west coast I have scheduled for Tuesday at noon. And it gives me the opportunity to do the complete revamp of my application materials—most notably, my thoroughly unsatisfactory statement of teaching philosophy—I’ve been thinking about for the last two weeks.

Tuesday, 22 November 2005


As of this morning, I have an offer for a tenure-track position (the one in Rams land, for those keeping score at home).

Monday, 21 November 2005

Memory lane

You can go home again; it just won’t feel much like home.

On the other hand, it was nice seeing a lot of folks again, and you can’t ask for better dinner companions than Kamilla and Andy (Sunday) and Kelly (Monday).


Part of the difficulty of being in job limbo: am I supposed to be rooting for the Rams or the Packers? Given the teams’ records, I’d rather not have to root for either.

The economics of hiring economists

Stephen Karlson has some thoughts that apply well beyond the economics faculty, even if the supply-demand equation in Econ World is a bit less off-kilter than in other disciplines.

Friday, 18 November 2005

Bad strategery

While we can’t explore the counterfactual universe, I suspect ABC News wouldn’t have bothered with this story on CIA interrogation techniques if the White House weren’t stonewalling the McCain anti-torture amendment—putting aside whatever merits or demerits the McCain amendment may have. (þ:Orin Kerr)

Thursday, 17 November 2005

The world revolves around money and stats

Apropos my newfound popularity, I just volunteered to take on a second section of Quantitative Political Analysis in the spring in exchange for a modest pay bump and a TA to handle the grading for the two methods sections. The only real downside is that it looks like I’ll no longer have Tuesdays off.

Evaluation vacuum

As someone broadly sympathetic to the idea that students should have full disclosure about the courses they take, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out this effort at student-run evaluations launched by Duke sophomore Elliott Wolf. He further articulates his motivations in this op-ed in today’s Duke Chronicle.

And, in the interests of full disclosure, he’s my one lonely rating thus far.

Fearing the blogger

Steven Taylor and Dan Drezner link this Chronicle piece by Harvard history grad student Rebecca Goetz that sticks up for academic blogging, adding to the anecdotal evidence that blogging isn’t the career poison it might often be perceived as.

Wednesday, 16 November 2005

Reading, a novel concept

The only place I ever seem to get any reading done (beyond that essential for my scholarship and teaching) is on airplanes, so I finally read Franklin Foer’s How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization on my last interview junket—actually, I had it read by the time I got to the Frozen Tundra; I had to settle for finishing my Economist backlog on the way back.

It’s an enjoyable enough read, and Foer has a good, clear narrative style. My major quibble: I’m not sure soccer “explains” much of anything in the book; at best, it’s an indicator or reflection of the phenomena that Foer discusses.

Renew this

We may not get a full third season of Arrested Development, but I’ll take a third season of Battlestar Galactica as a nice consolation prize.

Deliberately enshrining principal-agent problems

If you think the executive has a hard time controlling the bureaucracy it nominally heads, or that the Supreme Court has difficulty keeping the 9th Circuit reined in, just remember: these principal-agent problems could be worse. In the case of the Debian project’s constitution, much worse.


I just realized I have worn a suit all three weekdays thus far this week. Maybe I’m closer to going corporate than I thought; I may have to dress down for office hours Thursday to compensate.

Plus, the woman who works at the Sanford Deli cash register complimented me today on the coordination between my second-newest tie and my new Oxford blue Stafford dress shirt, so apparently I’m quite the fashion plate these days.

Back again

I just got back a couple of hours ago from Frozen Tundra country, where the weather gods almost managed to produce some real frozen tundra for my enjoyment. Instead, I just got bitterly cold winds and rain; I’d have preferred snow, to be honest. The interview process went about as well as can be expected, and of the Realistic Prospects™ I think it’s the place I’d enjoy working the most, but given the crapshoot nature of these things and the fact I believe I may have to give someone else (and maybe even two someone elses) an answer before these folks are in a position to make up their minds I’m not going to be getting my hopes up.

Even better, tomorrow afternoon I get to explore my fallback option at a nearby public institution: a demotion in academic rank and salary coupled with a doubling of workload, but a year-to-year renewable contract. Job security, it’s a good thing.

Sunday, 13 November 2005

Not the analogy I'd have chosen

Michael Blowhard compares the experience of using his iPod Shuffle with taking Viagra. I guess you need the proper frame of reference to figure that one out…

þ: Amber Taylor.

Saturday, 12 November 2005

Marion Barry talks sewage

One of my students in my American government class dug up this odd article from the Washington Post about a machine that allegedly turns sewage and garbage into clean water and electricity that was on display in Washington this week; the more interesting part may be the sideshow involving ex-mayor and current city councilman Marion Barry and a local pastor:

On Wednesday, the church’s pastor, [Rev. Willie F.] Wilson, confronted Barry about placing the machine in a parking lot used by the church.

The confrontation between Barry and Wilson devolved into a yelling match so heated that police intervened.

Wilson called Barry a liar and told him to watch his mouth, according to footage of the fracas captured by WRC-TV (Channel 4). In return, Barry called Wilson “power hungry” and threatened to have the church’s nonprofit status “investigated.”

If the inventors have some spare time, I’d think a similar device that ran on Barry’s hot air might be very promising.

Friday, 11 November 2005

Can't get Arrested

Arrested Development is apparently history, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Jeff Harrell thinks the show was on a bit of a creative downturn; since I haven’t seen a single episode of this season (thanks, in large part, to the power outage I had earlier this week) I can’t really judge for myself.

Now, if Fox cancels House I’ll be really annoyed.

Winning the popularity contest

I currently have 11 students on the waiting list to enroll in my methods class in the spring semester (in addition to the 30 already in the class). Apparently my rep for evilness hasn’t propagated very widely around campus yet…

Thursday, 10 November 2005

Political science blog census

Steven Taylor is attempting to assemble a list of blogging political scientists; drop in and add your knowledge to the list.

Wednesday, 9 November 2005

Travel advice

If you spend a lot of time on planes, do yourself a favor and invest in a set of Koss Spark Plug earphones for your portable music player iPod nano; they work a heck of a lot better than any of the active noise-cancelling headphones I’ve seen and won’t set you back anywhere near as much as the upmarket Shure and Etymotic brands, the marginal benefits of which will be drowned out by the jet engine roaring a few dozen feet from your head anyway.

I just wish I hadn’t paid $19 at Best Buy on Sunday for my pair.

Just in time for my visit

Obviously, the unseasonably warm weather couldn’t last until I actually get back to Jackson later this month. Grr.

Of course, it’s the same everywhere; it was in the 80s in the part of flyover country where I was yesterday (and here too), and the floor will drop out here sometime tonight.

Google Local for Mobile

Google’s latest service, which puts Google Maps on your cellular phone, seems like a winner; I tested it out a little on my trip after reading about it in Monday’s USA Today. I did have to lie to the WAP website and claim that my steam-driven Sprint Samsung A620 was really a Samsung A680, but it seems to be working fine. The only thing missing from the big brother service is the “Hybrid” view with streets overlaid over the satellite images. Now, if only it worked with the GPS capability that the phone allegedly has…


Well, I’m now in the interlude between my two interviews—not much of an interlude, considering I have classes to teach, assignments to grade, and clothes to get washed, but an interlude nonetheless.

In the meantime, my only real thought of the day: who exactly told Terrell Owens that it would be a good idea for him to get a heel manager?

Friday, 4 November 2005

More meat

Off to the interview (hopefully the first of many) in 48 hours or so. Sometime in there I need to grade the exams I gave my intro class today and prep for my job talk and teaching presentation, in addition to the typical travel nonsense (packing, figuring out which bags to take, getting rid of anything that might look like a knife to an undertrained x-ray jockey, etc.).

Update: And, I just found out I have to do this all again up in Frozen Tundra country in another week.

Thursday, 3 November 2005

Drezner 1, Wolfe 0

Lest I be seen as an outlier, Daniel Drezner is similarly unimpressed with the recycled Chronicle of Higher Ed article by Alan Wolfe I was forwarded by a departmental colleague and complained about yesterday.

Wednesday, 2 November 2005


First off… a semi-apology to those of you who are getting bored with the “inside baseball” academe stuff.

On to the point of this post. Assume for the sake of argument that my “dream job” is to teach at a liberal arts college (which may or may not appear on the Wikipedia list), and also assume that by the time I have to decide on a job offer, I won’t have any offers from liberal arts colleges.

Question 1: Would accepting a tenure-track offer at a different sort of college or university improve or diminish the chances of landing a tenure-track job at a liberal arts college in the future?

Question 2: Would another year here at Duke (which is by no means guaranteed as of yet), teaching more-or-less what I am teaching now (two sections of undergraduate methods a year and two other courses), getting a bit more research done, and potentially getting a publication or two, improve or diminish the chances of landing a job at a tenure-track liberal arts college in the future?

Question 3: Would a second non-tenure-track job at a liberal arts college improve or diminish the chances of landing a tenure-track job at a liberal arts college in the future?

Question 4: Assuming I don’t get a job at a liberal arts college this year, is there anything in particular that is under my control that would improve my prospects of getting a job at a liberal arts college? Things that are under my control: research, teaching evaluations, future course selection, attending the APSA Teaching & Learning Conference, etc.; things not/no longer under my control: whatever my letters say about me, where I went to school (i.e. not at a liberal arts college), my past experience, etc.

Anyway, I know at least some of my readers are at liberal arts colleges, so I’d appreciate their feedback in particular—informed speculation from folks at other types of institutions may also be helpful, though.

Last but not least: if you are on a hiring committee at a liberal arts college that happens to have my file, you should also be aware that a tenure-track offer at a liberal arts college would “win” any competition with another offer, ceteris peribus.

Those who can't publish in the top journals are condemned to insult them

As a counterpoint to my previous post, note this article in the other, less-relevant Chronicle to which I preemptively responded 15 months ago.

I love the smell of an insult in the morning

Note to self: grow a thick skin:

“The visiting professors are not up to the quality that the Duke professors are,” said senior Kate Abramson, a political science minor and public policy studies major. She added that she was deterred from majoring in political science partly because of the lack of professors.

After all, we all know that having 17 APSRs on your vita makes you a better teacher.

Tuesday, 1 November 2005

You need him in this bar

Something to bring a tear to any Ole Miss fan’s eye: Orson Swindle says Coach O would be the #1 college football coach to go drinking with. I can’t disagree, even if the man does frighten me.

Don’t believe Coach O is a scary man? Watch the Ole Miss coach’s show—“Voice of the Rebels” David Kellum looks scared to death all the time, and this is with Coach O sitting there saying nice (albeit pithy) things despite having every reason to go on a Hulk rage.