Tuesday, 31 January 2006

Catching up on January shows

My new shows for January (excluding My Name Is Earl) include two Ed alumni and a cute thirty-something who wears glasses:

  • Dabney Coleman and Hugh Bonneville thus far hold the only viewer interest in CBS‘s Courting Alex, which also features Ed’s Josh Randall as Jenna Elfman’s sorta-kinda-boyfriend. Meh.
  • Tim Cavanaugh (i.e. Ed his own self) headlines Love Monkey (also on CBS), which isn’t half-bad thus far. And it’s fun to see Judy “Spring Break!” Greer from AD in another show.
  • Finally, Lisa Loeb (one of my favorite glasses-wearing thirty-somethings) stars in the reality show #1 Single (on E!) as, er, herself looking for love in all the wrong places (i.e. not anywhere near Durham). I haven’t gotten to this one on the TiVo yet, but I am assured it is good.

All three shows, incidentally, are set in New York City. What are the odds?

Sex and the single girl

Serrabee comments on a list of “10 things every single girl must own.” I’m not sure anything on that list (at least, of the things that are supposed to appeal to guys) would really impress me, but then again I may not be typical of the single male population.

Planning on two fronts

Modern computer processors have this feature called “speculative execution,” in which they try to guess which code path is more likely to be executed, and actually go ahead and execute that code before seeing which path is taken. This is a perfectly sensible strategy; however, if the prediction is wrong, the computer has to “undo” all that work and take the other branch.

Today I engaged in a little speculative execution of my own by putting in the paperwork to teach my (hypothetical) research methods class in the fall in an Interactive Computer Classroom. It’s not a huge investment by any stretch of the imagination, but every little commitment edges me down the path of spending another year in Durham. And given the state of the job market these days (and perhaps my generally picky nature), the chance of a branch misprediction seems rather low at this point.


Econ prof James D. Miller think colleges need to “fight” RateMyProfessors.com. I don’t know if it needs fighting, per se, but I’d say it’s only marginally valuable. For example, here at Duke I’m allegedly easy but at Millsaps I was easier yet was considered tough (and had the grade distribution to prove it—my classes were consistently below the college’s mean GPA).

That said, I don’t mind student-centered evaluations and have even lauded one effort to compile such things here at Duke, where the “official” evals for last semester are apparently so shrouded in secrecy that I still haven’t seen them 6 weeks after turning in grades. And I don’t even mind student evals in general, although they almost certainly were a factor in my failing upward in the academic universe.

Though, as a political scientist looking for a job, the mentality noted by this commenter (allegedly a faculty member in my field) is somewhat disturbing:

I have been to two academic conferences within the year (academic year 2005–06) where colleagues were running tenure-track job searches (political science) and when I made recommendations regarding two individuals who I thought might be a good fit for both jobs, I received subsequent emails that,“after having checked RMP” (talk about unprofessional behavior!!!) there were “concerns” whether either of the recommended colleagues could teach in liberal arts enviornment. Clearly RMP is being looked at by folks on search committees. Don’t believe for a minute that after having looked at RMP folks are not influenced by what they read. And don’t believe that search committee members are not going directly to RMP to, as I was told, “a snapshot” of job candidates. AAUP and the national associations for the various disciplines ought to step in on this debate and come down clearly on RMP and its use in job searches etc.

Monday, 30 January 2006

R wastes my time

I have just wasted about two hours of my life trying to figure out how to make R draw a line graph (all I want to do is plot the conditional mean of a variable on the Y axis for certain categories of another variable) to stick in my undergraduate methods lecture for tomorrow—a graph I could have constructed trivially in Stata, Excel, or SPSS in about 15 seconds. This is patently ridiculous.

I am not an idiot; this should not be so hard to figure out. I like R, but it is actively user-hostile (even with Rcmdr and other packages loaded), and until it ceases to be such I will not foist it on my students.

Saturday, 28 January 2006

Ventilation shaft

The IR Rumor Mill site has an interesting discussion thread talking about the job market that seems to apply (and range) more broadly than IR.

Black Market (Galactica 214)

From the ashes of a Battlestar Galactica episode that even series creator Ron Moore was unimpressed with comes a discussion of the actual economics involved from Timothy Sandefur and Allen Thompson.

Another reason to get NFL Network

Maybe the news that NFL Network will show eight regular-season games in the upcoming season will finally get Time-Warner here in Durham off their collective asses. High-def would be nice, but even the standard-definition channel would make me happy (or happier, at any rate).

Friday, 27 January 2006

The pickup lines write themselves

Sexual intercourse is alleged to improve public speaking. Factoids like this one (until now, a null set) make me wonder how much better a lecturer I’d be if I had a girlfriend.

þ: PtN.

Thursday, 26 January 2006

More complete information

Apropos the previous post, I give you the American and Comparative Jobs rumor mill (courtesy of first-time commenter Wesley). It’s not quite as organized as the IR version, but it will do in a pinch.

Wednesday, 25 January 2006

Reducing the problem of incomplete information in IR

I just found the IR Rumor Mill on Nick’s blogroll. Would that we Americanists had the same thing; at the very least, it would help me figure out whether or not one of the ads that came out today was a new listing or just a readvertisement of a job that first came out in August.

An academic rumor mill, incidentally, is probably one of the few applications of anonymous blogging that I could see myself being involved in. (The idea of anonymity to hide my political views, or lack thereof, from search committees or students or Horowitz’s nitwits seems rather unworthwhile; my Internet paper trail is over a decade old, even without the blog.) Although, since I’ve now mentioned that I might be willing to do such a thing, I’m pretty much precluded from doing so. The net result: less work for me—since, without announcing this prediliction, I’d feel some sort of obligation start one myself. I suppose that should make me happy.

Incidentally, on the (more) complete information front, I got a call today that I’m among the top 5 candidates for a position in the great state of Texas, as well as a solicitation from an ex-colleague to apply for a soon-to-be-advertised position at a Research One, er, Doctoral/Research-Extensive in the Midwest. The latter is not exactly where I thought I wanted to take my career, mind you, but maybe a couple of years on a tenure-track line and a few pubs at such a place—or at least a couple of years of the effects of the natural aging process on my appearance—would make folks on this list take me a little more seriously.

FISA and Congress

Thomas Smith inquires:

Why would FISA provide for warrantless surveillance during wartime for 15 days only after a declaration of war? This is a very strange provision, if you think about it. There is no reason to expect that the first 15 days of a war would be when warrantless surveillance would be most useful. Or is the idea that in the event of a sneak attack, you might need to begin eavesdropping immediately, but 15 days would give you long enough to line up your applications to the FISA court? If so, that is certainly an outstanding example of Congressional stupidity. It almost seems that the 15 day provision is there to show that the President’s Article II power to surveil during wartime has not been entirely eliminated; that is, the 15 day provision has a kind of place holder feeling to it, more certainly than making any kind of practical sense.

It seems to me that the obvious explanation for the 15-day rule is the same as the explanation for the time-limit in the War Powers Act: it gives Congress enough time to decide whether or not to extend the authority beyond the statutory minimum (just as the WPA gives Congress the time to decide whether or not to continue to delegate its power to conduct military operations to the president). Since Congress apparently did not decide to suspend the FISA warrant requirement beyond the 15-day limit (i.e. on or before September 26, 2001), it is reasonable to conclude that Congress wanted the FISA warrant requirements to be followed beyond that date.

As an aside, I’m amused by conservatives running around treating Article II’s penumbras and emanations like a giant Neccessary and Proper Clause. In re Neagle ain’t exactly a presidential blank check, unlike McCulloch, for good reason. By all means, we should have a debate over presidential surveillance powers, but Smith et al. seem to be suggesting the blank check approach—what my fellow political scientist Steven Taylor, no liberal, has been hammering on for weeks as being completely unacceptable and incompatible with our system of checks and balances. If Democrats have been guilty of simplistic arguments—and they have—so too have defenders of the administration’s approach like Smith, whose basic argument boils down to either “trust us” or vague handwaving in the direction of broad discretionary executive powers that are thoroughly inconsistent with judicial conservatives’ approaches to other parts of the constitution.

Update: There’s more FISA stuff from Orin Kerr.

Aggregation bias for fun and profit

Looks like Mo Fiorinia may need to write a Canadian version of Culture War? as a companion piece to the American second edition of the same…


So long as they keep Veronica Mars on the air, I’m fine with the proposed merger of UPN and the WB into the oddly-named CW Network. I’d be happier, though, if it showed up in high definition.

Speaking of high def, Universal HD is just a week away from arriving on cable in Durham, which means Battlestar Galactica in all its high definition 1080i glory. Wee hee!


I ran into Nick and one of my devoted band of lurkers yesterday and was reminded that I have been insufficiently social this, er, year or so. So, in order to rectify that, I’m proposing the first annual “Hang Out With Chris and Watch the Super Bowl on his Spankin’ New HDTV Party.” It probably needs a more catchy title, but I’m working with nothing here.

If nothing else, at least it will serve as an excuse to clean up my living room.

Quote of the Day, NCAA hoops edition

Duke’s J.J. Reddick, quoted on himself and his friend, Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison, the leading contenders for the National Player of the Year award:

[W]e’re both competitors and we’re both really, really white.

You don’t say…

Kill Recommendations

The anonymous community college dean proposes no longer requesting recommendation letters in job searches.

All of his points in opposition to letters strike me as valid, but nonetheless I remain unconvinced. Information, no matter the quality, seems mighty scarce in the academic employment process, and at the very least the identities of the letter writers in question might say something about the candidate, even if the letters themselves are rather content-free; even the diligence (or lack thereof) of recommenders in providing letters might be a signal to search committees.

Tuesday, 24 January 2006


My daily dose of humor was supplied by the original headline for this article, which was “Report cites evidence that US ‘outsources’ torture.” I had brief visions of lines of ex-CIA types outside unemployment offices.

In all seriousness, though, I wonder how much real indignation there is about such things. All societies—including our oh-so-enlightened European allies—have practiced torture (or Gitmo-style “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Torture”) since time immemorial, and while its use has generally been restricted to suspected scumbags in recent history, it still happens, wink-wink nudge-nudge denials, treaties, commitments, ad nauseum notwithstanding.

And, ironically, the incentives for torture may be higher in a democracy than a non-democracy. If the Spanish Popular Party government had waterboarded a few folks to gain enough intelligence to stop the Madrid train bombings (or at least to avoid erroneously attributing the attacks to the Basque separatists), they’d still be running the show. No dictatorship has ever been turned out of office because they couldn’t stop terrorist attacks.

In democracies, when it comes to questions of “us or them,” the constituency for “them” is George Galloway, Michael Moore, Robert Fisk, and a few other demented fools; not the makings of a broad coalition of voters, particularly when you have smoldering ruins as the backdrop of your campaign. Any rational government, left, center, or right, is going err on the side of “us.” And thus, sadly, those of us utopians who’d rather not see torture are probably going to be stuck with it.

A night inside Cameron

One of these decades, I’ll master the black art of taking photos with my camera phone. Until then, here’s the fruits of my labor—a scoreboard shot from the women’s basketball game after the Blue Devils denied Pat Summit her 901st win as a head coach on Monday night:

Final score in Duke-Tennessee game

Monday, 23 January 2006

My vague effort to care about the academic bias debate

I’m not going to waste a lot of space talking about the academic bias debate, but I did want to point vaguely in the direction of this post in which Quaker at Crescat Sententia discusses Steven Bainbridge’s post on disparate impact analysis as applied to ideology, and this one here (via Matthew Shugart), although I might be tempted to mock the latter (which, of course, is a parody) by analogy to the protestations of many an employer hauled into court for racial or gender discrimination on the basis of mere statistics, rather than any demonstration of the employer’s involvement in the causal process that led to the hiring differential.

Saturday, 21 January 2006

Recruit this

The Rebels picked up commitments from former UT quarterback Brent Schaeffer and Meridian High running back Cordera Eason on Friday, putting an exclamation point on what already was a top-15 recruiting class for Ed “You Need A Hummer” Orgeron. Say what you will about the guy on the sidelines or the practice field, but he at least seems like he can recruit players…

Friday, 20 January 2006

Confounding factors

I’d be curious what rival explanations my methods classes might come up with for this graph beyond “the obvious.” At least one structural feature of Congress leaps out at me as a possible explanation… can anyone identify it?

APSA wastes my time, again

It’d be nice if the trained primates who manage the APSA eJobs service were actually mentally capable of distinguishing between visiting and tenure-track positions when they classify them in the listings.

(For those with eJobs access, I specifically refer to posting 9773, a position at a leading liberal arts college, which quite clearly states it is a “one-year replacement position” yet is classified by these dopes as “Assistant Professor” rather than “Visiting Professor.”)

Arrested to Showtime?

Negotiations are apparently underway to move Arrested Development to Showtime. I can’t say there’s much else on Showtime I’d pay to watch, but I’d probably spring for it for AD.

þ: The Dead Parrot Society.

Thursday, 19 January 2006

Thought of the day

Why is it every time there’s a new Osama tape I think of Hari Seldon? Well, except for the “accurate predictions about the future” bit…

More Ford Theater

At some level, it’s a shame that I don’t have more stuff on Southern machine politics in my southern politics seminar. Memphis’ latter-day Crumps, the Fords, remain masters of the art form, which is well-typified in the current dispute over Ophelia Ford’s apparently fraudulent election to replace brother John (whose own shenanigans were a Signifying Nothing staple from back when Signifying Nothing was a pathetic little website called MemphisWatch nearly a decade ago).

Anyway, a Ford chum sitting on the U.S. district court has now decided to grant (Ophelia) Ford’s request for a restraining order stopping the state legislature from refusing to seat her, pending a hearing next week, thereby vitiating the hopes of anyone wanting this mess resolved any time soon.

See Bob Krumm, Mike Hollihan, and Adam Groves for all the commentary and details you can shake a stick at. (þ: Instapundit)

Weird phraseology of the day

From an email I received today in response to an application:

Thank you for your letter indicating your interest in the political science position at [Redacted Institution]. The search committee appreciates your willingness to be considered as a candidate and, as our work proceeds, we will keep you informed about the status of the search. [emphasis added]

I didn’t realize I was doing them some sort of favor by applying.

Incidentally, the effect was somewhat spoiled by two identical versions of the form letter being pasted into the email, but what can you do? It could be worse: a couple of weeks ago, I got a rejection letter with someone else’s name on it…

Wednesday, 18 January 2006

Other bloggers returning from haitus

Fresh on the heels of the Mungowitz comes the return of Battlestar Galactica head honco Ron Moore to blogging. As they say, Woot!

Know your ideological leanings

The Mungowitz provides a potentially reliable and valid one-question quiz that classifies professors on the basis of ideology.

Bring on your huddled, McCarthyite masses

I actively encourage a Duke clone of these dweebs to waste a hundred bucks getting evidence of my (alleged) promulgation of radical left-wing views in class. Frankly, I’m sure some of my students would be happy to have the beer/pr0n money.

þ: Michelle Dion.

What I learned today

This may become an ongoing series…

  • Doing the same lecture two days in a row is a bit (ok, highly) disconcerting the first time you’ve ever done it.
  • Seminars are much less painful when you don’t do all of the talking.
  • It will be hard for Duke University Transit to find a blue canvas bag you think you left on one of their busses when it has been sitting in your living room the whole day.

Tuesday, 17 January 2006

Things I learned today

At the ripe old age of 30, I’m still learning new things; to wit:

  • My car will not start if I don’t have the transmission in park.
  • It is embarrassing when the AAA guy makes this discovery after you’ve been sitting in a parking lot for 45 minutes.
  • Parking in the Campus Drive lot is impossible at 11 a.m.
  • Trying to wet erase a purple marker from a whiteboard is not a good idea if you want your hand to stay flesh-colored.

Sunday, 15 January 2006

Ding dong, the Pats are dead

Yes, I will celebrate, even if the Pats did get jobbed.

Friday, 13 January 2006

Yours is not to reason why

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why I agreed to do a phone interview for a job (that, to be perfectly honest, isn't exactly at the top of my rank-ordering of preferences based on admittedly incomplete information) late on a Friday afternoon after two classes.

Of course, the idea sounded like a better idea at the time I booked the interview slot (which I think was sometime in early December), when I didn’t think I needed to spend the afternoon tracking down a half-dozen books for my Southern politics seminar.

The amazing disappearing readings packet

It stands to reason that the day I decide to go looking for all of my Southern politics book chapters and articles is the day I can’t find them anywhere—my office, my apartment, my car, nowhere.

This is, in one word, annoying.

Update: It turns out they were in my apartment, completely differently organized from how I remembered them being—I'd forgotten I'd separated them out by topic into separate manila folders last Spring.

Thursday, 12 January 2006

My methods classroom doubles as a sauna

It may just be the unseasonably warm weather, but the classroom I taught in today was somehow heated to around 80 degrees. That was a rather unpleasant experience, one I hope will not be repeated tomorrow.

On the other hand, there may be an upside to the heatwave.

Wednesday, 11 January 2006

Quote of the Day, Reggie Bush edition

Daniel in comments at EDSBS:

Bush’s announcement tomorrow is a lose-lose proposition for USC. If Bush declares for the draft, they lose Bush, of course. Should he announce he is staying, it would demonstrate that someone could spend three years in school at USC and still be the dumbest guy in the country.

Of course, with LenDale White’s draft declaration today, if Bush stayed he would at least have a chance to move up to be indisputably his team’s best rusher…

The joys of not going to Cameron

Seeing your students covered in blue paint: meh.
Teaching late enough in the day that I don’t have to worry about students skipping: ok.
Getting a break from student emails: nice.
Dick Vitale’s microphone not working for the first few minutes: priceless.

Tuesday, 10 January 2006

Orgeron loads up with Ex-U staff

Former Miami offensive coordinator Dan Werner is now OC for the Ole Miss Rebels, with fellow ex-Miamian Art Kehoe likely to follow as the new offensive line coach in Oxford. The Rebels will also have Robert Lane back in the backfield, likely back at quarterback (even though Lane’s performance at fullback was one of the few bright spots on offense in the latter half of the season).

þ: Fanblogs and EDSBS.

Monday, 9 January 2006

Marcus Oh-Brainless

Just when you thought Marcus Vick couldn’t sink to any further lows, he manages to plumb new depths of idiocy by allegedly pulling a piece during an argument with some high school kids in Virginia. Between Virginia Tech and Miami (aka “The U,” whose football lineups are often confused with the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List), one wonders if the schools’ administrations thought “ACC” stood for “All-Criminals Conference” when they ditched the Big Least.

I now have an R and R

And in a semi-major journal, no less… now I have do the actual revision and resubmission, alas.

Murphy’s Law dictates, of course, that this notice would come the day I’ve sent out four more applications with “under review at (journal X)” next to the paper on my vita.

Trapper on BSG

Trapper of the Unofficial Battlestar Galactica Blog shares his thoughts about the new BSG episode that aired Friday night (while I was, alas, stuck watching college basketball in my hotel room after stuffing myself beyond all reason at Maggiano’s in Buckhead for want of the Sci-Fi Channel). Last night, after having seen it on TiVo delay myself, I was struck by how much more compelling it was than its Sci-Fi Friday companions. And I was also cursing Ron Moore for making me wait until this Friday to see it all resolved!

Sunday, 8 January 2006

The most annoying camera cliche in TV broadcasting

ABC/ESPN’s use of the Skycam to show the quarterback walking to the sideline after calling a timeout. At least Fox and CBS seem not to be doing it today.

Another day, another blogger

Before my panel Saturday, I had a nice breakfast (at IHOP, no less) with personable fellow political scientist/blogger Michelle Dion, who receives only minor demerits for being a Tar Heel.

Le Retour

I’m safely back in Durham after a rather dull and uneventful drive yesterday afternoon/evening. Now I’m watching the Giants suck horribly on Fox.

Friday, 6 January 2006

Little Ricky Mexico canned

Marcus Vick, younger brother of Atlanta Falcons QB Michael “Ron Mexico” Vick, has been kicked off the Virginia Tech football team after his latest transgressions: an unprovoked on-field spiking of Louisville defensive end Elvis Dumervil in the Gator Bowl, and being ticketed for speeding and driving on a revoked license in Virginia. ESPN.com columnist Ivan Maisel has more.


Packing in early

I’ve decided to head home Saturday afternoon once my panel wraps up at 12:45; after spending three weeks on the road, I’m ready to get back to Durham and a TiVo full of shows to catch up on while I finish up preparations for the semester—editing syllabi, futzing around in Blackboard, and putting together slides for 138 while I can still find my notes from last semester. And meandering back to Rock Bottom Brewery tomorrow night in the cold isn’t worth blowing $200 on the room, even if the waitstaff is cute.

Where I was last night

Let me echo Bryan’s appreciation for the invite to a small get-together at the Rock Botton Brewery in Buckhead with some Atlanta-area bloggers last night. In addition to Bryan, I met the “masked bandito” Rusty Shackleford, Zonker, the Grouchy Old Cripple, and Key Monroe. Double thanks to Zonker for the ride back to the Intercontinental.

TiVo Series 3 (HD) announced at CES

PVRblog and MegaZone have the scoop on the upcoming HDTV-capable TiVo, which will include over-the-air and cable HDTV tuners. Although no retail price has been announced, I probably should start saving my pennies now.

Wednesday, 4 January 2006

More lies the mainstream media told me

So, when do I get my apology from ESPN for their declarations over the past month that this year’s University of Southern California team is the greatest in the history of college football?

Oh, and huzzah and kudos to the Texas Longhorns on the occasion of their victory.

Hotlanta (literally)

I’m safe and sound in the Hotel Intercontinental Buckhead, which may be the first conference hotel I’ve ever been at that’s actually worth what I’m paying for the room (you’re paying for the lobby at the Palmer House in Chicago; the rooms aren’t anything special).

As is the nature of the small universe that political scientists inhabit, the first person I saw in the lobby, other than the receptionist, was Bill Jacoby.

Now I’ll be incommunicado while watching the Rose Bowl. If it’s anything like the other BCS games have been, this will be a real barnburner.

Sunday, 1 January 2006

Things that are lost on me, volume 32

Prompted in part by this BBC story on Winston Churchill’s position on whether or not Gandhi should have been allowed to starve if he went on hunger strike, and the Gitmo hunger strikes, I am forced to ask about the strategic considerations behind going on a hunger strike. If a prisoner voluntarily refuses to be fed for some basis other than the food itself (i.e. I could see why a Muslim might refuse to eat pork or non-halal beef), why does their captor have an obligation to feed them? More importantly, why does anyone care?

NFL musical chairs

As the 2005 NFL season draws to a close, so too do the existing television contracts. John Cole tries to sort out the details as they relate to the ESPN/ABC family of networks, which also include the end of NFL SuckTime PrimeTime and its presumed migration to the Monday NFL Countdown slot on Mondays.

I wonder if the idea of combining Chris Berman and Stuart Scott’s powers of suck on the new Monday NFL PrimeTime will cross the minds of the ESPN powers that be. If so, we may observe some sort of implosion of the universe, as Berman’s lame nicknames (and combover) and Scott’s bogus street talk (and Urkel glasses) converge to form an intellectual black hole in Bristol on a weekly basis.

The fall of the house of Clarett

Maurice Clarett, the hero of the 2002 Ohio State national championship team, is wanted by police for allegedly robbing two people at gunpoint in Columbus early New Year’s morning, according to ESPN.com. At the time, Clarett was apparently on the cusp of signing a deal to play in NFL Europe in the hopes of returning to the NFL proper; one suspects that opportunity has now evaporated completely.

Ghosts of faculty meetings past

Sunday’s New York Times carries this article about “merit aid” at liberal arts colleges that pretty much reflects a year’s worth of faculty meetings at Millsaps, the centerpiece of which was often discussion by the dean of problems with our 40-odd percent “discount rate,” which largely reflected our inability to squeeze all of retail out of parents who could afford Millsaps’ relatively light (by liberal arts college standards, at least) sticker price.

þ: Amber Taylor, who is miffed at the Times for its strategy in selecting which colleges to discuss.

Update: Lurker and forthcoming co-author Dirk points out this Daniel Gross post that takes note of a rather serious incongruity between the headline and the article in question.