Thursday, 28 September 2006

The O Song

EDSBS has dug up a song about Ed Orgeron. If only football coaches got entrance music like professional wrestlers do…

One fine day

It would figure that the one day that my monthly Metrolink pass wasn’t in my wallet (I’m 99.8% sure I left it in the pocket of the trousers I wore Tuesday, after I used it on the bus to save myself the uphill walk between the Grand station and Lindell) would be the day that I lucked into bumping into a fare inspector between CWE and Grand. I am now officially annoyed.

Now the only question is whether the time and hassle canceling class on my court date so I can go plead my case to a judge turns out to be worth avoiding the fine.

Tuesday, 26 September 2006

And the legend continues

EDSBS reports on the latest Orgeron rumor making the rounds. I’d normally believe the rumor was true, but the idea of Ole Miss chancellor Robert Khayat deigning to go down to the Oxford police station blows much of its credibility out of the water.

Monday, 25 September 2006

Life as a Method(olog)ist

Jeff Gill perceives some salutary changes in the labor market for political methodologists:

Last Fall I counted 51 faculty methods jobs posted in political science. I paid close attention because I was on a relevant search committee. This was particularly interesting because equilibrium in past years was about five or so. Right now there are 39 methods jobs posted (subtracting non-tenure/tenure track positions). Now some of these are listed as multiple fields, but one has to presume that listing the ad on the methods page is a signal.

Apparently we have US News and World Report to thank for fundamentally changing the labor market by making methodology the fifth “official” field of the discipline. A number of (non-methodologist) colleagues believed that I must be exaggerating since an order of magnitude difference seems ridiculous. Actually, it turns out that I was underestimating as Jan Box-Steffensmeier (president of the Society for Political Methodology and the APSA methods section) recently got a count of 61 from the APSA. I think their definition was a little broader than mine (perhaps including formal theory and research methods jobs at undergraduate-only institutions).

So an interesting question is how quickly does supply catch up to demand here? My theory is that it will occur rather slowly since the lead time for methods training seems to be longer than the lead time for other subfields. This is obviously good news for graduate students going on the market soon in this area. I’m curious about other opinions, but I think that this is a real change for the subfield.

I concur in part and dissent in part.

I am less convinced that we can attribute this change to US News (although I’m not one of those academic US News haters) than simply to the broader market: people with superior methods training are more likely to get jobs than those who don’t have it, which means that methods training is more important at the graduate level—and increasingly the undergraduate level too. The booming enrollments at the ICPSR Summer Program, including from top-ranked schools that traditionally considered their own methods training sufficient for graduate students, are indicative of this trend as well.

As far as the supply-demand equilibrium works, I think there is a perception out there (perhaps unfair) of the existence of a methods clique—one, that if it exists, I am decidedly not a part of. Thus far, in-clique supply seems to have been sufficient to satisfy demand; we—and perhaps during this hiring season I—shall see whether this continues to be the case. My perception is that high demand is somewhat illusory; several unfilled methods jobs in the past two years have not reappeared, suggesting that filling these jobs is less of a priority than one might think.

The broader issue is a question of definition: what is a “methodologist”? As someone who generally doesn’t live to maximize my own likelihood functions, I’d self-identify as an applied method0logist at best—and certainly don’t consider methodology my primary field of inquiry; tools are great, but I gravitate toward more substantive questions.

As for why Gill thinks “research methods jobs at undergraduate-only institutions” shouldn’t count, I really wouldn’t hazard a comment. But I do think that if he wants to increase the supply of methodologists, getting more undergraduates (particularly at BA-granting institutions like liberal arts colleges) in the pipeline early so they can do advanced work out of the gate at the graduate level would seem to be a key part of the strategy.

Sunday, 24 September 2006


We suck. Even worse, State eked out a win in OT against UAB.

I have a feeling that even Ron Franklin won’t be able to make next week’s Ole Miss–Georgia contest tolerable to a national viewing audience.

Tuesday, 19 September 2006

Boobgate becomes Whiteygate

Never before has a single photograph been the subject of such debate.

First, we have a debate over whether or not the woman standing in front of Bill Clinton is posing to accentuate her chest. Then we have a debate about why whitey seems to have invaded Harlem.

I really don’t care, I just find this all incredibly amusing. And, for that matter, stupid.

Consolidating democracy = not fun

There’s been a coup in Thailand; as someone who has a passing interest in democratic consolidation and Asian politics (whose sum knowledge of Thai politics is due to having a dad who served there during the 70s and a professor in grad school who decided to focus on southeast Asian politics after several decades studying American politics), I don’t have any particular insight to add here beyond “countries with legacies of authoritarian rule typically have difficulty adopting democratic norms”—particularly since my job title doesn’t have the phrase “comparative politics” in it.

Matthew Shugart does have the fancy title and some more meaningful comments, as do James Joyner and Dan Drezner.

Monday, 18 September 2006

Joe Lee Done

When your team has already lost to East Carolina and a team that just got its ass whipped by perennial SEC-cellar-dweller Kentucky, it’s probably time for a change; at least, that’s apparently Memphis coach Tommy West’s thinking as he cans well-travelled defensive guru Joe Lee Dunn.

Would that Coach O could fire his defensive coordinator… except, well, that’s Coach O. D’oh.

Sunday, 17 September 2006

Your academe roundup

I really didn’t want this blog to become a bastion of academic navel-gazing, but there’s good linkworthy stuff here and there—a few of these are a little old, since I’ve been lazy in clearing out my Google Reader feeds:

QotD, academe edition

From Stephen Karlson: “By definition faculty without tenure are on the job market all the time.”

Know your role

I have yet to master the art of being a “non-tenure-track but otherwise nominally co-equal” faculty member, an art being made more problematic by (a) being expected to attend departmental faculty meetings, at which grand and lofty visions are discussed and (b) participation in said vision being contingent on my continued employment, the odds of which are nominally in the 25–33% range, all job candidates being equal—which surely they are not. That’s better than the 0.5–2.5% range that probably exists normally in these searches, but it’s hardly the sort of odds I’d be betting on either.

It’s hard not to become invested in things in a situation like this one, although working on job applications is a relatively mind-numbing distraction from thinking too hard about these things.

Thursday, 14 September 2006


For the first time in my teaching career, I got suckered into teaching a class outside today. Of course, the fact the classroom smelled today like a high school gym’s locker room at the height of summer probably contributed to my decision as well.

Wednesday, 13 September 2006

101 and all that

Craig Newmark notes a Slate Explainer that tries to answer the question, “why are introductory college courses numbered ‘101’?”

Oddly enough, of all the institutions I’ve taught at, only Ole Miss numbered a political science course (in that case, Intro to American Government) as 101. At Millsaps, the same course was 1000; Duke was 91 (or 91D if taught with discussion sections); and here at SLU it’s 110 (we have a “100” but no “101”). Not only that, but all four institutions also use different abbreviations for political science—POL, PLSC, POLSCI (or unofficially PS), and POLS, respectively.

Gameday photos from Mizzou

Here are some photos from the game last weekend, for the curious or otherwise disturbed.

County government customer service

Last Thursday, I emailed the St. Louis County traffic division requesting a crosswalk signal be installed at a traffic light on Brentwood Blvd at the Galleria. Today, just six days later, it was installed and working, complete with buttons and everything. I have to say I’m most impressed.

Sunday, 10 September 2006

Football weekend

I have to say I had a pretty good time in Columbia this weekend, despite Ole Miss’ general ineptitude leading to a 34–7 drubbing at the hands of Mizzou. I also enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with one of my professors from grad school days, Marvin Overby, and getting together with Frequent Commenter Alfie and the gang for a Midwestern tailgate and pub crawl.

In other football-related observations:

  • Line of the weekend: Brad Nessler, Paul Maguire, and Bob Griese are calling a game on ESPN (Oklahoma–Washington, I think). Maguire sets up Nessler to plug his doing play-by-play on the late MNF double-header game, and this exchange follows:
    Maguire: What about me and Bob? We’re not doing anything Monday night.
    Nessler: You’re not doing anything now.
  • Incidentally, that game was worth watching for Bonnie Bernstein alone.
  • NBC should have left the “players introduce themselves” video packages with the rotting corpse of ABC Sports where they found them.
  • Fox’s NFL graphics package looks a hell of a lot more professional this year than in years past. CBS… not so much.
  • The solid ABC bug on ESPN on ABC needs to go away. Now. Before plasma TV owners start calling in death threats to affiliates.
  • ESPN needs to give up on trying to hype its “talent” to get people to watch its shows. Telling me that I can hear Colin Cowherd spew his ignorance on ESPNU while I get queasy from the SkyCam (and Cowherd), or trying to dupe me into watching the Sunday night SportsCenter with Stoo-yah Scott by promising more of Chris Berman’s stale act, is not effective promotion of the brand unless I accidentally find another Disney network to watch instead.
  • People sitting in a studio don’t need to be using hand-held microphones. Either body-mike them or use a frickin’ boom mike.

Finally, any sports bar that has blown $5k on a widescreen flatscreen television should not be showing a stretched standard-definition broadcast of anything, much less a football game available in high definition. At the very least, switch off the damn stretch mode—am I the only person alive who thinks that exaggerating people’s width by ⅓ is a bad idea?

The first law of Internet email

Any email message containing the phrase “this is not meant to be a flame” inevitably is a flame.

Thursday, 7 September 2006

Publish this

I just found out that the Damn Impeachment Paper™, born circa November 1998, has been accepted for publication in a reasonably prestigious peer-reviewed political science journal, pending some revisions for length. This makes me very happy, although thinking about all the extra work this creates for me is making me very sleepy.

Wednesday, 6 September 2006

Remember the name Dexter McCluster; Tommy West sure does

Probably the highlight of Sunday’s Ole Miss–Memphis matchup is this play from true freshman Dexter McCluster, who may be the first player in college football to get the Arena league “offensive specialist” label (since I can’t figure out if he’s a receiver or a back), only slightly marred by the commentary by ESPN weasel Stuart Scott:


Pass it forward

The first two legal forward passes in American football—probably the play that separates the North American version of the sport from the various forms of rugby football—were thrown by the SLU football team 100 years ago. Somewhat ironically, these days SLU is better known for its success in association football (soccer) and its long-running rugby club team than for college football, which was ended here in the middle of the last century during a period of budget cutbacks.

Non-monetary compensation

Both Glenn Reynolds and Laura McKenna take note of this op-ed by Tom Lutz that appeared in Monday’s New York Times on the academic lifestyle:

On paper, the academic life looks great. As many as 15 weeks off in the summer, four in the winter, one in the spring, and then, usually, only three days a week on campus the rest of the time. Anybody who tells you this wasn’t part of the lure of a job in higher education is lying. But one finds out right away in graduate school that in fact the typical professor logs an average of 60 hours a week, and the more successful professors work even more — including not just 14-hour days during the school year, but 10-hour days in the summer as well.

Why, then, does there continue to be a glut of fresh Ph.D.’s? It isn’t the pay scale, which, with a few lucky exceptions, offers the lowest years-of-education-to-income ratio possible. It isn’t really the work itself, either. Yes, teaching and research are rewarding, but we face as much drudgery as in any professional job. Once you’ve read 10,000 freshman essays, you’ve read them all.

But we academics do have something few others possess in this postindustrial world: control over our own time. All the surveys point to this as the most common factor in job satisfaction. The jobs in which decisions are made and the pace set by machines provide the least satisfaction, while those, like mine, that foster at least the illusion of control provide the most.

To be honest, if I could find a job that let me make my own hours I’d be sorely tempted to leave academia; I’ve seriously considered a few administrative jobs that would give me some teaching responsibilities (and I have one on my stack of “applications to be sent” at present), but, at a fundamental level, the flexibility to make my own schedule within reason probably is more important to me than the privilege of teaching bright young people.

That said, since said non-academic jobs appear to be largely nonexistent, I suspect I’ll be in the academy for quite a bit longer—so long as anyone will have me, of course.

More Death Cab

Joy notes that Death Cab is on tour again this fall, including a stop in St. Louis. Très cool.

Tuesday, 5 September 2006

Meandering toward fun

This afternoon I taught the most enjoyable Intro to American Government class I think I’ve ever had; I don’t know yet whether to attribute it to my new practice of giving quizzes on the readings before class on WebCT (thereby ensuring I have students who have read), having less than 20 students (thereby allowing me to stare down the incommunicado students easily), or letting the first 45 minutes or so be more driven by the class rather than my outline.

Not that the other two classes weren’t fun either—well, to the extent that you can lecture on measuring concepts and make that “fun”—but the intro class really stood out for me today.

In other news, I was challenged by an intermediary to come up for an explanation why I don’t have a tenure-track job yet that isn’t “Duke offered me an obscene amount of money to be a sabbatical replacement, so I turned down some tenure-track interviews,” “the department’s faculty apparently didn’t think I’d move permanently to Wisconsin, unlike the guy they hired who was from there,” or “I didn’t feel like spending the rest of my professional career just teaching intro to American politics and research methods every semester.” Now there’s a toughie…

Saturday, 2 September 2006

Ambushed by college football

The college football season has sort of snuck up on me this week, although I did get ESPNHD active in time to see South Carolina manhandle State on Thursday night. Today’s games have been moderately entertaining, including seeing overrated Cal get exposed by a newly-reinvigorated (although I’m not sure I’m willing to say “improved” before they face somebody decent in the SEC) Volunteer squad.

All this, of course, is an appetizer for Ole Miss-Memphis tomorrow afternoon; Frequent Commenter Alfie predicted (in a text message I got last Sunday) the Rebels will win 21–10, which seems plausible enough to me, so we’ll make that the official Signifying Nothing guesstimate of the week.