Tuesday, 28 February 2006


Is it just me, or does the combination of an hour-long research presentation and teaching a 75-minute undergraduate class seem like a bit much for a campus interview? I guess teaching other peoples’ classes is just karmic reward for cancelling my own classes while on these junkets interviews.

In other “interview follies” news, I’m currently playing email tag to arrange another phone interview for a one-year job in the Midwest. As it turns out, today is also a crunch day in the Spreadsheet of Death, with about a half-dozen application deadlines spread around the next week or so—my part in these applications is all done, but presumably this is the point where serious application triage begins at the recipients’ ends (and, from a self-interested perspective, where competing offers might be most useful).

Finally, my name showed up in an ad in the campus newspaper today; to my disappointment, I was not identified as a member of David Horowitz’s enemies list in the SAF’s full-page ad—instead I was merely being recognized as one of the honorees at this evening’s HOPE Banquet.

My tax refund, made manifest

Thanks to the IRS’s massive overwitholding, I’ll be helping stimulate the Chinese economy (and the share price of AAPL) with the purchase of one of these for the living room so I can finally get rid of the ancient Pentium III/450MHz in my study and put the blog on the right—i.e. wired to the cable company—end of the wireless bridge in my apartment.

Monday, 27 February 2006

Good job, eh

Congrats to Jacob T. Levy on his new position at McGill University in Montréal.

Living down to my reputation

My inner debate for the evening: spend another three or four hours grading midterms myself (I’m done with the Tuesday-Thursday section’s, but still need to do the Wednesday-Friday section’s), or live down to my newfound reputation as being “horrible at getting back assignments to students on time”?

Then again, once the methods kids see their midterm grades that reputation may be the least of my concerns…

Springtime for provosts and Carnegie

InsideHigherEd reports that the new basic Carnegie classifications are out today, which no doubt will increase the sales of Maalox on college campuses across the country; look up the new status of your favorite institutions here.

Friday, 24 February 2006

Senior seminar digression of the day

Only one of my students was apparently aware of Paul Simon’s song “You Can Call Me Al” from Graceland; it came up when we were trying to figure out what to call Al Gore’s dad. Some didn’t actually know who Paul Simon is—the ex-senator or the singer.

Of course, I couldn’t manage to pronounce the name of Al Senior’s fellow senator Estes Kefauver, so I guess we came out even on this score.

It must be tough to be Will Baude

Mr. Baude on the Federalist Society Symposium in New York:

Why do women keep dragging me towards the bar?

I’m sure they’re only interested in Will’s thoughts on sovereign immunity.

At conferences, usually it’s Dieter or Scott who ends up dragging me towards the bar (at ICPSR, it was more the lure of karaoke; I do an interesting interpretation of Foreigner’s Cold As Ice). The implications of that are rather disturbing.

Thursday, 23 February 2006

The moment you lose a job offer

There’s a point after every job interview (good or bad) when you realize that you’re probably not going to be offered the job, and you can go back and pinpoint that moment.

At Slippery Rock, I’m pretty sure it was around the 6th time that morning I’d heard a different person in the department discuss their fealty to the Unitarian Universalist Church. I’m pretty sure my body language gave my feelings about being indoctrinated into the local cult of personality away.

At Millsaps (where I did get the job, proving my spidey sense is fallible) it was during the campus tour when I made a joke (after having seen about 30 female undergrads and 2 males) inquiring whether or not the school was actually coeducational—I don’t think my guide realized I was joking and looked at me like I was an idiot.

At Lawrence, it was at dinner the second night at a Greek restaurant with the three members of the department who weren’t on leave. I am pretty sure my answer to a question about mentoring undergraduates who planned to go to graduate school went over like a lead balloon—I believe my exact thoughts were that it would be a complete waste of their time unless they went to a top-25 institution.

At the place I was ultimately offered the job last fall, I’m pretty sure it was in the car ride back to the airport when I rather stridently stated my opposition to their reopening their master’s program (dovetailing with the previous paragraph’s theme). Again, I got the offer, but I doubt this conversational gem helped.

Today, I think it was during the teaching demonstration (which, in theory, was going to be a discussion of public opinion and why it matters in democracies) during which through absolutely no fault of my own the name Noam Chomsky came up. In retrospect, that may have been the time to flee the room, because the discussion was already headed downhill and I hadn’t quite realized it yet. Everyone was very nice, but that was just a teeny bit weird. The good news is that the flight back from [Redacted Rust-Belt City] was uneventful.

The moral of this story: don’t have opinions (and certainly don’t have unapproved opinions), and don’t have a personality, and you can get a job.

Wednesday, 22 February 2006

Beyond tenure?

The Dean Dad has stirred up some controversy at InsideHigherEd with an op-ed supporting getting rid of tenure.

I’m not entirely sold, but I do think that the institution of tenure (coupled with the norm of rarely firing professors before tenure review) does seem to encourage highly risk-adverse behavior by employers. It probably also depresses salaries substantially. On the other hand, there are serious academic freedom arguments—at least for people who have gotten tenure—that support the institution, so I am somewhat torn.

Agony Aunt

A commenter asks:

Care to share any sage advice on the dissertation process (how to get it done, considerations in selecting an outside committee member, etc)? Since you’ve already gotten the Ph.D. I thought maybe you’d have some good insights…

There have probably been dissertations written about writing dissertations; Getting What You Came For is a fairly standard reference, and one I recommend. That said, specific advice from my little corner of the universe follows:

  • Getting it done: there’s an adage that once you really start working on the dissertation, it will take six months to write. I wasted most of the latter half of 2001 (from my comprehensive exams in September/October) and early 2002 putting together what may be the worst dissertation prospectus known to man. I then fiddled about with a conference paper or two that would eventually comprise the substantive dissertation chapters for about a year. Finally, in May 2003 the catalyst arrived: I went to a family reunion and decided the collective prodding of the PhDs in the extended family was enough to make me write… and so it was; I defended the first week of December 2003, and my PhD was conferred on the 13th, the day before my birthday.
    On days I decided to write or do data analysis—and this happened in fits and starts—I would go and make myself work in the library to minimize distractions, even if I was only going to play with R or Stata. Most people recommend formally setting aside time to write, and it’s something I agree with—and wish I did more of now.
    I also think you need to be in the right psychological state to write. Even if you’re not prone to psychological disorders (and a friend of mine who’s a psychologist says that really smart people are particularly prone to these problems, for reasons not fully understood), a bit of therapy during the writing process—if only so you have someone neutral to complain about your advisor to—is a good thing.
  • Outside member: I lucked into a good choice by happenstance: my final semester taking classes, I had a multivariate stats class in the pharmacy administration department and met a prof over there with whom I established a good rapport. He turned out to have valuable comments on my work, even though it was pretty far afield from him substantively. Having an outside member who you can trust is a nice security blanket. Don’t do what Frequent Commenter Scott did and end up with some externally-imposed outside member who you have no prior relationship with. I don’t have any experience with having someone from the same field but a different institution on the committee (and I’ve never served on a committee in either capacity), so I can’t speak to that.

On the prospectus itself, I’d recommend having a clear idea of what you’re doing and why before writing it. In my case, I put together a half-assed cut-and-paste job from the lit reviews of some papers and it showed—the fact that nobody bothered to tell me what they wanted in the prospectus was no excuse for me not finding that out for myself. If I’d had a clearly thought-out prospectus, I’d probably have finished much earlier. Admittedly, in my case, I was still young when I got done, but it would have been nice to be younger. Oxford’s nice enough, but getting out of there a year earlier would have been helpful (for my wallet, if nothing else).

Last, but not least, expect things to change throughout the dissertation process. Originally I thought I was going to do an experiment in one chapter and focus more on heuristics throughout the dissertation; in the end, it ended up being more about information processing and cognitive sophistication and their roles in attitude formation, opinion articulation, and behavior, which turned out to be a far more interesting topic and one that seems relatively underexplored in the literature, although a lot of really smart people seem to be getting at the edges of these questions—I like a lot of Alvarez and Brehm’s work, as well as Jon Krosnick’s. (But I digress in a very political-sciencey direction.)

Monday, 20 February 2006

Plane reading

On the plane trip back from Washington to Durham today, I started reading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point (in my haste to pack for the trip, I forgot to bring any reading material for the return trip, so I had to make an excursion to Barnes and Noble in Washington to pick up something to read yesterday afternoon), and about 20 pages in felt tempted to exclaim out loud that this sounded a lot like Mark Granovetter’s American Journal of Sociology article on the strength of weak ties—a theory that is surprisingly underdiscussed in the public opinion literature, at least by political scientists. I only came across it in my graduate “classic texts in American politics” seminar taught by Bob Albritton, which I affectionately refer to as the Magical Mystery Tour.

Incidentally, Friday afternoon in my southern politics seminar I brought up another Gladwell theme by talking briefly about Tom Schelling’s work on how patterns of segregation spontaneously emerge from individual actions that aren’t strongly discriminatory on their face.

Saturday, 18 February 2006

Satisficing is the watchword

Spending today listening to presentations at the Teaching and Learning Conference has reinforced my prior belief that I would be happiest teaching at a private liberal arts college—I was intrigued by the interesting (dare I say cool) things being done by professors of research methods at Birmingham-Southern and Richmond. It could just be coincidence; I don’t know. But in the absence of definite competing opportunities, I’d probably accept an offer from a different sort of institution, particularly one offering a modicum of job security.

As far as the competing offers question goes (a situation I have yet to be in), I still haven’t worked out for myself the transitive ordering between “one-year job at a liberal arts college, narrowly-defined*” and “tenure-track job somewhere else”; it’s something I’ve pondered before and not really gotten any good advice on.

At my first ever campus interview, the chair of a ninth-tier combined department once tried to sell me on the idea that any tenure-track job (versus a one-year gig) was a signal of status to other potential employers—I don’t think he was reading my mind (in which admittedly I was simultaneously plotting the quickest exit possible from the godforsaken place, trying to forestall a panic attack); he just was probably used to giving the speech—but somehow I doubt that’s really the case except when comparing among fairly similar institutions.

Ed Orgeron: Megarecruiter

More fodder for the “Ed Orgeron could sell snow to eskimos” file: the scoop on how Coach O got blue-chip QB Brent Schaeffer to come to Oxford, passing up more prominent programs like Wisconsin and NC State.

This sort of recruiting prowess puts the Ed Orgeron hummer ad in a whole new light… maybe it sells more H3s than I’d have thought it would.


Friday, 17 February 2006

Innumeracy in action

I know I’ve complained about this before, but it bears reiterating: it’d be nice if someone at ESPN would figure out that a trifecta requires three different things to actually be a trifecta. 40 minutes of Baseball Tonight and 20 minutes of Jeremy Schapp whining is not three separate programs.

My other ESPN observation of the day: is it just me, or is NASCAR getting a lot more respect on the Worldwide Leader this year than last? Mind you, I’d never dream to suggest some newfound financial interest on Disney’s part in hyping NASCAR.

DCA Delayed

After an interminable delay in RDU, I finally made it to Washington safe and sound. I would write more, but typing on a cell phone keypad is painful!

Wednesday, 15 February 2006

Quiz meme of the day

Via Steven Taylor and others:

You scored as SG-1 (Stargate). You are versatile and diverse in your thinking. You have an open mind to that which seems highly unlikely and accept it with a bit of humor. Now if only aliens would stop trying to take over your body.

SG-1 (Stargate)


Serenity (Firefly)


Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)


Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)


Moya (Farscape)


Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)


Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)


Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)


Enterprise D (Star Trek)


Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)


FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)


Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)


Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? (pics)
created with QuizFarm.com

And, an apropos NewsRadio quote of the day (vaguely related to memes):

Lisa: If everyone thought you should jump off a bridge, would you?
Dave: If everyone around here thought I should jump off a bridge, they’d probably just get together and push me.

Irony, thy name is the Chronicle

I have to say my favorite part of waking up every day is the opportunity to read headlines like “As schools court professors, Duke strives to retain them” in the Duke Chronicle.

On the bright side, at least I have on-campus job interviews… which is more than I could have said this time last year.

Tuesday, 14 February 2006

Update your blogrolls

Former Signifying Nothing co-blogger Brock Sides has moved on to Battlepanda in the wake of the end of Dark Bilious Vapors, thus continuing his streak of moving to blogs with ever-cooler names.

My bloody valentine

The key advantages to not having a girlfriend at Valentine’s Day: it’s quite a bit cheaper, and nobody can complain that you’re spending the evening working on job applications and finishing the Veronica Mars Season 1 DVD set.

The key disadvantage: you can’t email any female colleagues (particularly ones from the vaguely-recalled distant past) to ask for favors relating to said job applications because they might think you might be hitting on them on Valentine’s Day.

Monday, 13 February 2006

Observation of the day

Teaching four days a week this semester makes it a real pain to schedule on-campus job interviews without stomping all over my classes…

Sunday, 12 February 2006

The era of big government is here to stay

Stephen Bainbridge inadvertently explains why we’re stuck with two parties of big government (although he doesn’t realize why):

The United States simply doesn’t need two parties of big government. It needs a party that stands for limited government, personal freedom in both the social and economic spheres, rule by elected officials rather than judges, the right to life, and a foreign policy premised on a hawkish realism rather than Wilsonian idealism.

Now, if that’s a platform that would attract more than 20% of the electorate, I’d be stunned. Not to mention that at least two pairs of Bainbridge’s planks are contradictory—one is just a tad more obvious than the other, mind you: the contradiction between “personal freedom in… the social… sphere” and “the right to life.”

Personally, though, I’m more entertained by the prospect of politicians who are willing to limit their own power, especially ones who know that they are more likely to be reelected if they compromise their own principles and indulge the rent-seekers in the electorate. There are maybe a half-dozen Republicans in Washington who believe in truly limited government on a good day, and they’re almost all (with the exception of Ron Paul, who has his own pathologies) on the Supreme Court.

Saturday, 11 February 2006

Muy muy no es olympioso

I’m afraid I don’t have the Olympic Fever, which is just as well as I much enjoyed the wrap-up of Arrested Development on Fox Friday night (in glorious HD), including Gary Cole’s uncredited cameo as the taxi driver in Iraq, along with everything coming full-circle, the in-jokes, Justine Bateman, Pete Rose, and the shocking revelations.

The good news for those of you who are fans of Michael Cera (George Michael) and Alia Shawkat (Maeby): they show up on Veronica Mars next month for an episode.

Friday, 10 February 2006

ESPN's problem with overly-embedded reporters

Every day, I fast forward through the first 10–15 minutes of SportsCenter to finish PTI (suck on it, Dan Patrick!). The last two days, I’ve seen Pedro Gomez’s visage in the middle of the NHL betting ring story segment and both days I started to wonder what Barry Bonds’ involvement in the whole affair was. It was like seeing Shelley Smith reporting on something other than Shaq or Jim Gray reporting from somewhere other than Kobe Bryant’s ass or Pete Rose’s garbage cans.

By the way, if I just randomly came up with a fake Hispanic name, I think it would be “Pedro Gomez,” which I’m pretty sure is the equivalent to “John Smith” when you want to check into a hotel under a pseudonym in Mexico. (Not to be confused with Michigan State football coach “John L. Smith,” whose first name I believed was actually something like “Johnnel” for about two years.)

Good thing I'm not tenure-track, or I'd be in trouble

My email today included something that seems dangerously close to a teaching award:

Recently you should have received an invitation to the first HOPE Banquet sponsored by Residence Life and Housing Services. The celebration will be held on [redacted].

HOPE stands for Honoring Our Professors’ Excellence, which is the entire purpose of the evening. Each of our Resident Assistant and Graduate Assistant student staff members were offered the opportunity to nominate one Duke faculty member to be invited to this event. The students were asked to select a faculty member who has made a tremendous impact upon them, either inside or outside of the classroom. You were nominated as one of those faculty.

Between this and going to the Teaching and Learning Conference, I may be drummed out of political science (or at least the methods section) in short order…

Thursday, 9 February 2006

Quotes of the Day, dismissive, condescending snark edition

From Dale Franks, at the end of a lengthy post concurring-in-part and dissenting-in-part with a post by Jon Henke:

[O]ur choice is between Republicans who are willing to easily betray our principles in order to fight the Global War on Terror, and Democrats who are unwilling to fight a Global War on Terror at all.

And, the counterpoint from Jon Henke:

Remember: the people who told us that the detainees at Guantanamo Bay were all Taliban, captured on the battlefield or otherwise terrorists are the same people who swear, really, that the domestic surveillance program is “solely for intercepting communications of suspected al Qaeda members or related terrorist groups.”

We can trust them, because they would never mislead us.

But, hey, we get to keep our tax cuts!

He will not be loved

Love Monkey has apparently been canned after three episodes. It’s a shame, since I thought Tuesday’s episode was the best so far—and, like I said before, it was nice seeing Tom Cavanaugh and Judy Greer again.

Sometimes I'm embarrassed to have people on my blogroll

Shorter Tom Smith: I don’t know whether or not the president’s domestic spying program is actually, you know, legal or constitutional, but since members of Congress sometimes put electoral considerations ahead of the law, the concerns of the elected representatives of the people of the United States are to be completely dismissed, because a few executive branch political appointees (and I) think that the program initiated by their boss is somehow consistent with the Constitution under some sort of complete hand-waving, “anything goes” Article II doctrine that makes the court’s interpretation of the Commerce Clause in Wickard v. Filburn seem like a restraint on congressional authority.

Shorter Jeff Goldstein and Wall Street Journal editorial board: Separation of powers is for idiots.

One more thing: the first person to reply with “the Constitution is not a suicide pact” needs to come up with an argument, not a slogan.

Update: A perhaps-related post from Venkat at Begging to Differ.

Come Back to Texas

A former student at Millsaps asked me to help her out with avoiding retaking basic stats in her master’s program today, so I had to go hunting for all the information, including the catalog description. Weirdly enough, not only is my course website still lurking around at Millsaps, but I am still listed in the 2005–06 catalog as a professor in the department (see page 25 of the PDF). If Google (which is probably sentient at this point) thinks I still work there, does that mean I actually do and just don’t know it?

In other academic news, I just landed an interview at a liberal arts college in the Midwest for a one-year position in American politics and political behavior. Jobs, as they say, are good, and jobs higher up in the USN&WR rankings from Millsaps are priceless—even if there should be giant confidence error bounds on the rankings.

Wednesday, 8 February 2006

Death Cab'd

I am now the proud owner of two tickets to see Death Cab For Cutie (with Franz Ferdinand) on April 7th at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Would that finding a date for the second ticket was so easy as getting the ticket in the first place…

An honor just to be nominated

Some folks are making a big deal about U.N. ambassador John Bolton’s nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize, for no good reason. As Eugene Volokh pointed out when Stanley “Tookie” Williams’ Nobel nomination was being ballyhooed, the pool of people who can nominate Nobel Peace Prize candidates is rather broad, and includes all professors of the social sciences: I, for example, could nominate Friday for a Nobel if the spirit moved me to do so.

Some wags might argue that a dog would be more deserving than many past recipients of the prize, much less random nominees.

I am officially a geek

While doing some work on a small project for the Director of Undergraduate Studies of our department, I stumbled across this course in the undergraduate bulletin and my first thought was “this would be a really cool class to teach.”

Kornheiser on MNF

The new Monday Night Football booth is Mike Tirico, Tony Kornheiser, and Joe Theismann, along with two sideline reporters (Michele Tafoya and Suzy Kolber); this apparently clears the way for Al Michaels to stay with John Madden as the latter moves to NBC‘s Sunday night broadcast. Say what you will about Tirico’s alleged personal sleaziness, but he’s a good play-by-play guy, and the idea of Mr. Tony on an open mike for three hours a week is entertaining in and of itself (even though this may require TK to start watching some sports again).

Speaking of Mr. Tony, one wonders if a rapprochment with ESPN Radio might be in the offing; either way, canning Eric Kusileus or Colin Cowherd (or preferably both) needs to be on the agenda.

þ: Balloon Juice and others.

Tuesday, 7 February 2006

Good news, everyone

It looks like I soon will be able to move to South Dakota and become an affirmative action hire. I can hardly wait…

þ: InstaPundit, who doesn’t even find this heh-worthy.

Easier decisions

The news that the Duke-UNC game is available in high-definition on ESPNHD, but will be blacked out in Durham in favor of Jefferson Pilot’s craptacular standard definition broadcast (which, no doubt, will be poorly upconverted to HD on our CBS affiliate), has tipped the balance in favor of me watching House on Fox (in HD) at 9 rather than via TiVo delay.

This is one of those days I wish I were a Nielsen family.

Hiring in the academy

Leopold Stotch has some thoughts on meritocracy in academe. At my end of the food chain, my perception is that I’ve more often lost out on positions because search committees (or deans), for whatever reason, want people from “name schools.” The only time I’ve heard gender or race discussed on the job trail is in reference to other positions that I didn’t apply for. However, I have had my graduate program insulted to my face through backhanded compliments of my other achievements in interviews (“well, normally, we wouldn’t hire someone from Mississippi, but since you have that ICPSR thing…”).

Monday, 6 February 2006

Chris predicts the future, yet again

Me, just over nine months ago:

It wouldn’t be particularly surprising to see [Mike] DuBose move up to head coach [at Millsaps] sooner rather than later, as rumors of current head coach David Saunders moving on to a I-A assistant coaching job have been circling for a while—recently, he was rumored to be on the shortlist for Ed Orgeron’s staff at Ole Miss.

The Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger, yesterday:

Former Alabama coach Mike DuBose is running his own football program in the NCAA again.

DuBose was promoted Friday at Jackson’s Millsaps College, a Division III school, to replace David Saunders. DuBose was Millsaps’ defensive coordinator last season.

Saunders left Millsaps after three seasons to take over as linebackers coach at Ole Miss [working for Ed Orgeron - ed]. The departure created the opening for DuBose to move into his first college head coaching position since 2000, when he was forced out after four tumultuous seasons in Tuscaloosa.

It’s almost a shame I couldn’t predict my own career prospects at Millsaps so easily…

Sunday, 5 February 2006

Bowled over

After a sucktacular first half, the second half of Super Bowl XL managed to restore my faith in the game. And, while the turnout at the party was minimal (consisting solely of Nick and myself), I think it was fun nonetheless—mercilessly mocking Al Michaels and John Madden is best done with an audience, methinks.

I wish I could say the same about ABC‘s presentation. Thank God that Chris Berman and Stuart Scott won’t be within 100 miles of this game for the forseeable future.

In any event, congratulations to the Pittsburgh Steelers on the occasion of their well-deserved win, and to Jerome Bettis for capping off his career with a Super Bowl victory.

Hugo Chávez: Kos poster

Mind you, I’m not just using that title because the Venezuelan dictator-wannabe says President Bush is worse than Adolf Hitler. Nope, it’s because of his economic ignorance:

Chavez, a retired army paratrooper who often accuses Washington of trying to overthrow him, warned he could shut Venezuelan oil refineries in the United States and sell oil for the U.S. market elsewhere if Washington cuts off ties.

If Chávez really wants to cut off his regime’s flow of refinery profits (via Citgo) from the U.S., I suspect the administration would be more than happy to oblige him. Moreover, since any such effort on his part would surely be countered by the administration seizing Venezuela’s U.S. assets, including Citgo, I think it’s a rather empty threat from Caracas.

Saturday, 4 February 2006

The passing of Johnny Vaught

EDSBS links to the news that legendary Ole Miss coach Johnny Vaught has passed at the age of 96. His 190–61-12 record (.757 winning percentage) over 25 years will almost certainly never be bested by a Rebel coach.

Today's most insulting ad in eJobs

Leopold Stotch duplicates it for the masses who aren’t APSA members.

Friday, 3 February 2006

For your amusement

It’s Serenity, but with Muppets.

My name in PDF (if not in print)

The piece that Dirk and I wrote for The Political Methodologist on Quantian is now out in the Fall 2005 issue, along with a mostly-glowing review of Stata 9 by Neal Beck that no doubt will annoy the R purists, as he suggests he will be ditching R in favor of Stata in his graduate methods courses; a review of a new book on event-history analysis by Kwang Teo, whose apartment floor I once slept on in Nashville; and an interesting piece on doing 3-D graphics in R.

In other methods news, I had the privilege (along with a packed house) of hearing Andrew Gelman of Columbia speak this afternoon on his joint research on the relationship between vote choice and income in the states, which uses some fancy multi-level modeling stuff that I have yet to play much with.

Incidentally, it was fun to see someone else who uses latex-beamer for their presentations; I could tell the typeface was the standard TeX sf (sans-serif) face, but I wasn’t sure which beamer theme Andrew was using off-hand.

Thursday, 2 February 2006

Idle inquiry of the day

What possible value could a search committee for a non-tenure-track teaching position find in a sample of my research? I’ll concede that recommendations are valuable (if something of a chore to orchestrate), but I simply fail to see how a writing sample could be of any use whatsoever.

The Swedes are coming

Today’s Duke Chronicle reports on the results of Ted Roof’s latest efforts to dupe impressionable 18-year-olds into coming to Durham to play a sport other than basketball rebuild Duke’s football program on the recruiting trail, said efforts yielding (of all things) a pair of Swedes. As in kids from Sweden. I shit you not. I didn’t realize Malmö was such a hotbed of gridiron talent…

Meanwhile the best football player on campus is still pursuing the revenue sport Duke doesn’t suck at. Go figure.

Wednesday, 1 February 2006

Missing the obvious

Will Baude asks why President Bush asked for Congress to pass the line-item veto in last night State of the Union address. He advances six semi-plausible explanations for why Bush would have done so.

Let me propose a seventh (and far simpler) explanation: Bush wants Congress to pass a constitutional amendment that provides for the line-item veto. Yes, it is relatively unlikely to happen, but then again I don’t see the Supreme Court flip-flopping on Clinton v. New York (or letting Congress get away with weaseling around it) as any more likely.

Branch misprediction

It seems I spoke too soon; the financial powers that be apparently are unconvinced that keeping around a visitor to do something (teach sections of undergraduate methods) that perhaps a dozen or more of the department’s tenured or tenure-track faculty members are nominally qualified to do needs a bit more justification, particularly in the midst of a “budget crunch,” at least by “university that has more money than the Queen of England” standards. Nothing definite, but playing the odds in the presence of asymmetrical payoffs for misprediction seems like a bad idea at this point—potentially wasting hours of my life on applications beats potentially having to beg for a job at Best Buy or Red Hat, any day.

On the upside, a whole new vista of postdocs and one-years have been opened to me. Happy happy, joy joy.

Incidentally, I’m reminded of one of my favorite NewsRadio quotes: “You can’t take something off the Internet. It’s like taking pee out of a swimming pool.”

Learning to love Piss Christ, Islamic edition

Pieter Dorsman reasons by analogy between Andres Serrano’s infamous “Piss Christ” and the recent controversy over the caricatures of Muhammad that appeared in a Danish newspaper and are now spreading across Europe’s media outlets.