Tuesday, 30 May 2006


My former co-blogger Brock is having issues with the Commercial Appeal’s circulation department—this is the same division that managed to keep delivering the paper to my mother’s new house during her entire week-long honeymoon. If the circulation division is as slack-jawed as the motley collection of idiots/editors that have turned the paper into something I wouldn’t use as birdcage lining for fear of insulting the intelligence of parakeets, I don’t see Brock getting this mess straightened out any time soon.

Monday, 29 May 2006

Things I didn't blog about while on vacation

Since I suspect a slight plurality of my six regular readers have been hanging on my Profound Expert Judgment on all and sundry matters that transpired during my vacation/apartment search/housesitting trip, I will now indulge you with my thoughts on said matters:

  • The latest (alleged) NSA brou-ha-ha: same as the previous NSA brou-ha-ha. My copy of the Fourth Amendment apparently omits the clause where it says “when the president says we’re at war, this amendment shall be inoperative.”
  • The immigration reform stuff: for once the president gets it exactly right, and gets to play the role of a mid-1980s fictional centrist Latin American leader for his efforts.
  • Congressional corruption investigations: a missed opportunity for the Bush administration to do a good old-fashioned J. Edgar-style logroll: “you pass my immigration reform bill, and I tell the Feds to back off.”
  • Absent that… well, if you think William Jefferson’s the only corrupt congressman in D.C. (much less from his own state), I have some lovely swampland in Florida I’d be glad to sell you. Then again, I once argued with a straight face that outright vote-buying ought to be legal, so it’s not like I’m particularly worked up about this scandal.
  • Whining that Google celebrated Arthur Conan Doyle’s birthday but isn’t commemorating Memorial Day: getting worked up about corporate tokenism is silly. I place this on about the same level as all those non-Canadian companies that somehow shoehorn a maple leaf into the logos of their Canadian operations… symbolic nonsense that signifies nothing. (In fact, were I Canadian, I’d go out of my way to avoid spending money any place that slapped a maple leaf on its logo. But maybe I’m weird.)
  • The Rebel baseball team winning the SEC: well done. Now kick butt in the NCAA playoffs.
  • The Duke women’s lacrosse team: I can’t say they took the subtlest of approaches, and I won’t be caught dead wearing a “Free the Duke Three” t-shirt, but any faculty member who would ever discourage a student from standing up for her convictions (no matter the content) would be doing her a disservice.
  • Houston Baker: interesting that he took the big bucks from Vanderbilt instead of going to a school that manages to reek less of “white male privilege” than Duke—i.e. pretty much any place but Vandy.
  • Mike Nifong: still a putz.

What we have here is a failure to immigrate

In lieu of substantive content, I’ll just play Instapundit for this post:

Saturday, 27 May 2006

Durham isn't burning

I finally got back from the big road trip about 24 hours ago… except for a giant stack of mail that I’m still sorting through (and doubtless more at work), there’s no evidence that anything really happened while I was away. At least I get a little bit of a break until my next trip, although that’s just two weeks away…

Thursday, 25 May 2006

Why Gaeta is a Cylon

Duke alum Allison Clarke has seven good reasons why you should believe that Felix Gaeta is a Cylon. I’m still not entirely convinced that Ron Moore wants to go that way, but if he does the necessary clues have certainly accumulated over time.

Wednesday, 24 May 2006

Yet another travashamockery at ABC/ESPN

Will Collier is rightly perturbed at ESPN’s plans for college football telecasts this coming year, which USA Today’s Michael Heistand reports include the odious and senile Lou Holtz on color commentary for mid-week games, the useless Dan Fouts as a play-by-play man on ABC regional coverage, and—most tragically—the demotion of Ron Franklin (who Will refers to as “the best play-by-play man in the business today,” a sentiment I am in complete agreement with) to the primetime slot on the Deuce.

The apartment quest continues

Today’s apartment search went a little better than yesterday’s efforts; I looked around a few reasonably nice (and more realistically priced) apartments in the Soulard neighborhood near the Anheuser-Busch brewery south of downtown. I’ll probably look at a few other possibilities tomorrow in some other neighborhoods, which means I probably won’t actually escape town until Thursday morning.

Tuesday, 23 May 2006


For the most part, I’ve been finding the St. Louis area easy to get around and with a lot of nice neighborhoods—granted, those neighborhoods would be a teeny bit more affordable if I weren’t taking a $10k pay cut for this job, but no matter.

I’ve also arrived at the conclusion that I’m not going to find an affordable apartment that will be available in mid-to-late July in the middle of May. I sense another road trip in my future…

Friday, 19 May 2006

Odds and ends

Primary thought of the day: I should take vacations more often. While I sorta-kinda housesit for my mom in two different locations, here are some miscellaneous odds and ends:

  • Trying to get a Compaq PC made in 1997 to do much of anything with the Internet is a royal pain in the ass. Much as I complain about Windows XP, it at least is more manageable than Windows 98.
  • Frequent commenter Alfie and I had dinner and beers on the patio at Huey’s Southwind last night, with a surprise guest appearance by Alfie’s fiancée Annie.
  • My grandparents took me out to Fazoli’s tonight, which was surprisingly good.
  • Lots of recent photos are here, including a large batch from the wedding and a photo of Kamilla and me from last week in Jackson.
  • I’ve been trying to catch up on my movie/TV watching while on vacation; I watched the first season of The Office (US version) on DVD, along with Jenna Fischer’s directorial debut in Lollilove, both of which were very funny.

Anyway, I’ll be spending another 36 hours or so in Memphis, and then I’ll be headed to St. Louis to look for an apartment. Toodles!

Tuesday, 16 May 2006

And then there were three

Mike Nifong dropped the Hammer of Righteous Townie Justice on former Duke lacrosse co-captain Dave Evans today, apparently based on finding Evans’ DNA in his own bathroom and an identification by the alleged victim that might have been a little bit more convincing to us non-DA types had Evans ever had a moustache in his life.

Meanwhile, if Nifong were a competitor in a poker tournament, people might be speculating about whether he was on tilt after his expletive-filled tirade against Evans’ attorney Joe Cheshire:

For more than six weeks, Cheshire and Nifong have criticized each other through newspapers and television cameras. They apparently have not spoken with each other about the case. On Monday, their acrimony seemed to have escalated into all-out war.

In a profanity-laced tirade Monday morning, Nifong told one of Evans’ attorneys that he was unhappy with the Friday news conference. In addition to discussing the test results, Cheshire accused someone in the District Attorney’s Office of leaking the test results to the media.

Nifong told lawyer Kerry Sutton that he would do no more favors for Cheshire. The comment and the swearing could be heard clearly across the sixth floor of the courthouse. A short time later, Cheshire tried to get a few minutes with Nifong but was told the prosecutor was not available.

Cheshire acknowledged the bitterness at the news conference.

“After Mr. Nifong made all his statements and we heard there were going to be indictments, we called over and tried to talk to him, and he refused to talk to us. He’s refused to look at the exculpatory evidence, and when there is someone who will simply not act professionally and discuss things with you in a professional way, how else do you do things?” Cheshire said.

“When you have someone’s life in your hands, anybody who would say it’s not war is not somebody I’d want representing me.”

There’s more commentary from KC Johnson and Jeralyn Merritt.

Saturday, 13 May 2006


As you may have gathered from the lack of posting, I am on vacation in Memphis with Internet access that could be best characterized as “spotty.”

Those of you that care about the lacrosse thing can read the latest here, as well as the news that Our Favorite Cabbie Moez Mostafa was arrested on an outstanding warrant in what may be the clumsiest effort at witness intimidation since, well, the last time Mike Nifong threatened someone involved with the case with something.

For those of you who don’t care about the lacrosse thing, I’m enjoying my semi-working vacation. More soon, maybe…

Tuesday, 9 May 2006

Mike Munger is my governor

The boss is running for governor of North Carolina in 2008.

Via Craig Newmark, who (like me) would “pay cash money to see him debate the Republican and Democrat candidates.”

Monday, 8 May 2006

All that jazz

These two posts from Dirk on a couple of recent jazz concerts reminded me that I never posted about seeing Milcho Leviev and the Pulsar Triyo at Duke last week in a performance sponsored by the Bulgarian student association; while the attendance was disappointing (owing in part to the weather), both performances were great.

Sunday, 7 May 2006

Less lacrosse, more fulfilling

I’ve been avoiding writing about the Duke lacrosse thing for a few days, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t link this post from KC Johnson commenting on Jason Whitlock’s latest Kansas City Star column on the situation.

Also, as the Bull City Booster pointed out in comments to an earlier post, today’s News & Observer Q section was all lacrosse, all the time—the section editor asked me to write something about the online coverage of the case for the section, but the deadline was right in the middle of finals week.

Killing off the cohort

I learned this evening that as of fall 2006, exactly none of the seven faculty members (including me) hired by Millsaps who started in fall 2004 will be still teaching at that institution. Now I don’t feel quite so special any more!

Saturday, 6 May 2006


Well, I made it safe and sound to Jackson with no real hiccups. The only real problems I had were a real downpour between Meridian and Jackson and the aftermath of a nasty-looking wreck just east of Birmingham on I-20; traffic was shut down westbound for a helicopter airlift from the scene.

I guess I’ll go out and find something to eat; one nice thing about visiting somewhere you’ve lived before is that there isn’t a lot of scouting work needed to find food!


I wrapped up my semester this afternoon with a marathon grading session of methods finals—most turned out to be quite good, although quite a few students got tripped up by the last question on the exam, which called on them to fix a hypothetical (and horrifically bad) regression model of the sort typically generated by a naïve student who just decides to randomly pick variables out of the raw 2000 NES data set and dump them into a linear regression model.

Thursday, 4 May 2006

Logrolling and editorial boards

This afternoon, a student who I suggested should submit her paper to the Duke Journal of Politics informed me that she was ineligible to do so as a member of the editorial board. (A real shame, too, since it was a darn good paper, particularly for a first-year undergraduate.)

It was always my impression that the entire point of getting on the editorial board of a journal was to grease the skids for your own work to appear in print. Perhaps the logrolling potential is lacking in the case of this particular journal—it probably is more effective in the grown-up academic realm, where “put my stuff in The Journal of Spurious Correlations and I’ll put yours in Perspectives on Optional Statistical Controls” may be more rampant. Then again, most editorial board members in the “real journals” seem to be beyond the need for pubs at all, except as a tool for placing grad students through co-authorship.

Grading quotes

Continuing the theme: one of my future colleagues at SLU had a postcard that said “Grading is Violence” up in her office, which gave me a bit of a chuckle.

And, since it’s been a while, here’s a NewsRadio quote from the first season episode “Big Day,” where Jimmy is awarding the annual bonuses to the staff:

Dave: So, big day, huh?
Jimmy: Exactly. Big day. You stoked?
Dave: Uh, yeah, yeah, I suppose so, sir. And you?
Jimmy: Me, I’m miserable, Dave. Yeah, figuring out the annual bonuses is pure hell.
Dave: Oh, why?
Jimmy: Well, you got to take a living, breathing human being and put a dollar value on its head. It’s, uh, the devil’s work, Dave. It’s bad hoodoo.
Dave: Yeah, it sounds like it.
Jimmy: Yeah, it used to be the hardest part of my job.
Dave: Oh, what changed it?
Jimmy: I made it the hardest part of your job.
Dave: When did that happen?
Jimmy: Just now.
Dave: Well, thank you sir.

I think grading is the hardest part of my job—and grading essays is the worst. The only things I have discovered thus far that work well are (a) making the scores out of as few points as possible (I’ve started using 15 as a baseline) and (b) coming up with an objective grading rubric with a few basic point values (i.e. 10, 12, 13, 15) described and standardized adjustments for things like grammar. I don’t think it works perfectly but it’s better than the random walk that my grades seemed to be based on before.

Grade this

Steven Taylor makes a point about grading that I should nail to my office door, or at least my Blackboard announcements page. It simply amazes me how much grade-grubbing I get, and my ex-students will generally attest that I am not a tough grader to begin with, at least on above-average work—I’m still not quite sure how I landed in the toughest 40% of graders at Millsaps, but I doubt it was through any conscious effort on my part.

To give an example: my methods class essentially got 20% of their final grade gratis and the average final paper grade (worth 30%) was around an 87; even with a somewhat tougher set of midterm grades, the class average going into the final is just over 90%. Granted, I don’t expect the average to stay above 90 after the final, but nobody who did the work and made an honest effort is going to get out of the class with less than a B-.

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.

Tuesday, 2 May 2006

Four more years of pain

UD passes on news that makes me glad I am getting the f*ck out of Dodge… er, Durham.

In a completely unrelated development, expect this blog to get a lot more hostile toward Townies in the near future.

Monday, 1 May 2006

The great non-escape

I think I’ve spent more time discussing the Duke lacrosse scandal in St. Louis today than I had all of last week.

A couple of noteworthy links from the wrong time zone:

  • There’s commentary from KC Johnson on the DA’s race and a filing by Reade Seligmann’s attorney; Johnson also has a column up at InsideHigherEd that’s worth a read.
  • Allison Clarke notes the release of the lacrosse committee report. Personally, I’m rather surprised that they recommended returning the team to the field, although that call is (obviously) up to the athletics department and Dick Brodhead. My general view on the concerns about the alcohol policy is “meh”; conflating the problems of underage and excessive drinking is rather silly in my mind, but then again I think (with the immigration protests today) conflation has become something of a theme for May 1.