Tuesday, 31 October 2006

Odds and ends

I’m still waiting for a review copy of Charles Stewart’s Analyzing Congress before deciding on my textbook requests for the Congress class I’m teaching in the spring—like most of my syllabi, this class has been historically heavy on CQ books (Congress and its Members, Congress Reconsidered, and Unorthodox Lawmaking), but teaching my American government class using Kernell and Jacobson’s Logic of American Politics has me in the mood to be a little more explicitly rat-choicey in the Congress class too. Last time I taught the class I also included Jacobson’s The Politics of Congressional Elections, but I’m getting a bit price-sensitive to the reading list so it may disappear. Or maybe I’m just bored with teaching elections stuff, since that’s what I’ve been doing this semester in my upper division seminar.

In other news, one of my loyal(?) readers has apparently taken to posting links to this blog on the various and sundry political science rumor mills out there. I suppose I ought to be flattered, but really the market isn’t about me: just ask any of the upwards of a dozen schools—some I would have given my left arm to teach at, some I would have been more ambivalent about—where I applied but (at least according to the rumor mills) shouldn’t expect to receive phone calls from. As for SLU… let’s just say I’m reasonably confident that the department is entertaining the possibility of hiring other candidates in preference to me, and on some level I’m fine with that; someone whose research and teaching interests didn’t overlap as much with Drs. Warren and/or Puro would probably be preferable to someone with more overlap (like me).

As for the market otherwise, this evening I did my first real cruise around the job listing sites in about a week and found the first genuinely exciting listing I’d seen in several weeks. We’ll see if my enthusiasm for the position translates into interest from the institution; somehow, judging from the past few months, I’m not overly optimistic. But, as they say in the lottery ads, you can’t win if you don’t play.

Monday, 30 October 2006

Leave it to the economists to design an efficient job market

If there is a recurring fall “theme” here at Signifying Nothing, it’s my belief that the political science job market is fundamentally broken; the only candidates who are well-served by the market appear to be the 3–4 “star” ABDs every year and established scholars (the latter of whom don’t actually participate in the same job market), and the only employers who are well-served are those who ultimately get their pick of the litter from those categories. For everyone else, there’s the obscenely stupid APSA meat market that (except for the earliest-deadline institutions) really doesn’t work except as an impetus for a run on the hotel bar by candidates and search committee members alike.

Unlike political scientists, the economists have actually thought about these problems, and continue to refine their processes. A case in point: Stephen Karlson reports on the new ‘signaling’ mechanism that allows candidates to credibly indicate up to two positions that they are particularly interested in, getting around the problems of both private (every application including the boilerplate “I really want to teach at [Institution mail-merge name here]”) and public signals (the candidate declaring on his/her website what job he/she really wants, which probably doesn’t help the candidate with other job applications)* in cover letters and recommendations. Greg Mankiw and the AEA website explain the details.

Obviously getting political scientists to adopt a similar process would be like herding cats—but there is a strong case to be made that the lower-tier R1s and other schools would be best served by banding together and either getting the APSA to sponsor an AEA-like hiring event, or organizing their own event, in the November-January time frame where more serious interviews could take place than at the APSA meat market and departments would have a clearer idea of their needs and realistic prospects for attracting the top candidates.

Even absent a hiring conference, though, APSA could provide a similar credible signaling system for candidates in eJobs—if it were so inclined. Doing so, while a baby step towards a more useful market, would probably at least help a few candidates get on the shortlists they want to be on as opposed to the ones that departments think the candidates want to be on.

* As for me, I’ve made no real secret of my preferences, but if an R1 wants to pay my salary for a few years on the tenure track while I try to find a good liberal arts college that will take me I’m certainly not going to complain.

Sunday, 29 October 2006

Auburn: Georgia and Alabama, yet again

The Auburn game pretty much felt like the games against Georgia and Alabama this year: a game the Rebels could have won—perhaps even should have won—but for a few mistakes on both sides of the ball that are the result of two major factors: playing true freshmen and playing Schaeffer, who is still learning the offense due to arriving on campus in mid-August.

The good news for the Rebels is that they probably don’t have to worry about doing worse than last year’s three-win mark, with four wins highly likely and an outside shot at five wins if the Rebels can steal one in Red Stick against an LSU squad that’s not having its best year.

Thursday, 26 October 2006


I found out today I made the shortlist for at least one other job. More please.


After a brief respite at home, it’s back on the road again tomorrow; I’m going to Memphis for the weekend to watch Ole Miss get trounced by play Auburn down in Oxford with my mom and my step-dad.

But never fear, posting won’t be going away… for reasons that deeply annoy me (largely the intersection of Charter’s unreliable cable modem service and AT&T’s nonexistent DSL in my little corner of Clayton), my mother’s house actually has better high-speed Internet access than mine.

Wednesday, 25 October 2006

Life gets slightly more interesting

I’m 99.8% sure the department decided on an interview list for “my” job today. Of course if it’s like typical faculty meetings I may be jumping the gun slightly, since the meeting only began an hour and a half ago.

Tuesday, 24 October 2006

It's a dry heat

After fiddling with my thermostat this afternoon, including partially disassembling it and then putting it back together, I got the heat to work in my apartment. I have no clue what I did, but whatever I did to it seems to have worked.

Je ne suis pas

SLU’s computer system still refuses to believe I am teaching classes this semester, so I can’t enter midterm grades for them.

Mind you, I think assigning midterm grades is a waste of everyone’s time—and, from a faculty member’s perspective, counterproductive, as they are by definition imprecise and incomplete yet function as a ready source of student complaints—but I’d at least like the opportunity to abide by the rules and assign them nonetheless.

Monday, 23 October 2006

That's not my bag

I’m back safe and sound in St. Louis, but my suitcase will be spending the night at Memphis International Airport. Good thing there isn’t anything important in there like my electric shaver and toothbrush. Oh, wait… there is.


My visit to New Orleans culminated in more dining and dancing yesterday, along with some DVD viewing and dog-walking. Alas, today I have to go home, and all I have to look forward to is spending Tuesday grading papers and exams so I can submit midterm grades by the end of tomorrow afternoon. But the good news is that I’ll be back in the Crescent City in about ten weeks for SPSA, or possibly sooner if one or more of the local universities are seriously interested in my job applications.

Sunday, 22 October 2006

Dance, dance

Kelly and I went to a ballroom/salsa dance thing tonight with some of her friends after an excellent dinner at Juan’s Flying Burrito. I am immensely surprised to find that I don’t completely suck at at least the rudiments of ballroom-style dancing, but salsa was a bit more of a challenge.

Saturday, 21 October 2006

Football players are stupid

If it’s fourth down, and you’re on defense, and you are ten yards past the line of scrimmage, you should never under any circumstances intercept the ball… because, when you do, you just cost your team ten yards of field position.

The Big Not-So-Easy

I’m enjoying my visit to New Orleans thus far—except for a bit of rain this afternoon, the weather has been quite pleasant. I certainly got my exercise in today—I walked from my hotel two blocks south of Canal St to the Old Mint and back, at least 3 miles total—compensating somewhat for the beignets and hot chocolate Kelly and I had at Café du Monde last night, although I did have lunch at the Crescent City Brewhouse, probably making the effort less effective.

46 page views

Someone visited my blog today and looked at 46 different pages. I really didn’t think the blog was that interesting, to be honest.

Friday, 20 October 2006

The arrival

My vacation is now officially underway; here’s the view from my hotel room window:

View from my hotel room (Oct 2006)

As correctly guessed by Frequent Commenters Scott and Alfie, I am in New Orleans (although my flights are in and out of Baton Rouge). They share the rights to the official Signifying Nothing no-prize of the week, which is a free copy of the 2007 edition of the Spreadsheet of Death™ upon request.

Wednesday, 18 October 2006

Vacation, gotta get away

I have decided to take a real vacation this weekend, courtesy of the good folks at Northwest Airlines, who graciously bumped me from a flight last Thanksgiving. I leave Friday morning and will be back Monday evening. My hotel will have free high-speed Internet access, so I’ll be able to blog from away from home. And, since I have a cell phone, I can basically keep where I’m going a secret from everybody (except the TSA) until I am there… so you can play “Where’s Chris Lawrence” in the comments. One rule: Alfie is not allowed to guess.

Your first free hint: I am going somewhere I can see the Ole Miss-Arkansas game on broadcast television. That isn’t why I picked the destination, but it is a bonus.

Your second free hint: it’s not Memphis, since I’m going there next weekend to see the Ole Miss-Auburn game with my mom and stepdad. But I will be connecting in Memphis (this is Northwest).

SLU email sucks

At the moment, the email system at SLU is pretty much choked, with no sign of a solution coming any time soon (and, no, ITS throwing more money at the problem is not a solution, it's a stopgap). I think it’s time for a replacement.

Tuesday, 17 October 2006

The twelve minute rule

After various and sundry experimentation, I have concluded that no matter what I do, it will take me about 12 minutes to get to my Metrolink train Tuesday and Thursday mornings when I have my classes:

  • I can walk to the Richmond Heights station. This takes 10–12 minutes, depending on the signal phases along Brentwood Blvd.
  • I can drive to the Brentwood station—this takes about 7 minutes, but it takes me 5 to get in the car, get out, and walk through the parking garage construction zone to the station.
  • I can ride a bus (WashU Gold #1) along Brentwood to the Richmond Heights station. This takes less time, but to ensure I make the bus I have to leave the apartment 10–12 minutes before it would get to the station. And the bus only runs every 30 minutes, so unless I time things well I’ll get to the station faster if I walk.

The ideal solution to this dilemma, of course, would be if Metro had put a park-and-ride lot at Richmond Heights right next to I-170. Or if they’d stuck a station at Brentwood (or Clayton Rd) and I-170 or in Clayton Corporate Park.

I have also figured out that I can drive to the Forest Park station… but that doesn’t get me to work any sooner than the other options, and there’s the non-negligible risk of not finding parking when I get there.

So, the commute choice is basically driven by my level of laziness, how nasty the weather is, and whether or not I plan on doing any grocery shopping at Sam’s or Dierberg’s after work; if I do, then taking the car to Brentwood makes sense. But this also exposes me to the temptation of having dinner “out,” which makes the not walking worse.

Party dynamics

Megan takes a break from sewer policy issues (no, I’m not joking) to consider the elements of a good party. While my parties have never been as disastrous as the archetypical Mary Richards event, nonetheless I can’t say I’ve quite mastered the party maestroing art. Better to go to someone else’s and be a wallflower, methinks, although if I ever get back into the party-throwing game I suppose Megan’s advice is a good place to start.

Lancing the Lancet

Like Dan Drezner, I’m a little late to the discussion of the latest study of postwar casualties in Iraq that was recently published in the British medical journal The Lancet, following up an earlier study published in October 2004.

Setting aside the “October surprise” approach that this journal appears to be taking to these studies, there seem to be some methodological questions about the authors’ approach that are being raised; see Andrew Gelman and David Kane, the latter of whom is skeptical of the reported nonresponse rates—which do seem abnormally high, although Iraqis may be much more interested in responding to surveys than the typical citizen in developed (or even developing) countries, perhaps due to novelty effects. As David Adesnik notes, the folks at Iraq Body Count (an anti-war outfit) believe the numbers are seriously inflated as well, although this could just be a turf war among researchers rather than a legitimate grievance.

I think from my perspective the thing that jumps to mind in this discussion is “garbage in, garbage out”—basically, your statistical inferences about a population are only as good as your ability to get a true random sample and minimize response bias; this is Stats 101. These issues are problematic in developed countries, much less in countries undergoing civil upheaval, and solving them is not easy (look at the work of Leslie Kish if you don’t believe me). Does that mean that the numbers are wrong?—no, not necessarily. But my spidey sense tingles nonetheless.

Monday, 16 October 2006


I am in the rather odd position of now having two declared gubernatorial candidates on my blogroll, which has to be some sort of record.

Incidentally, Karlson’s rhetorical question—can’t they both lose?—has been plaguing my thoughts about the Missouri U.S. senatorial race too, wherein we have a choice between an anti-cloning clone of John Ashcroft and someone who was clearly out of her depth as state auditor, much less as a national legislator. At this point, I’m trying to decide between exercising my nonseparable preferences and voting in favor of divided government, even though I’d rather be represented by a broken vacuum cleaner than Claire McCaskill, or voting for Frank Gilmour, the Libertarian candidate, for purely symbolic reasons, even though I think his position on Iraq is dopey and his moustache is creepy-looking.

At least there will be some ballot propositions to make my election day amusing.

Time to shut down The U

This weekend’s disgusting display of thuggish behavior by the Miami and Florida International football teams is a black eye on college football—and one that Miami president Donna Shalala is not treating very seriously to say the least.

Given the Miami program’s long and storied history as a rogue organization under a series of coaches, the NCAA would be more than justified in imposing the death penalty at this point—and if Shalala had any guts, she’d impose it herself, along with demoting Miami out of Division I-A and banning the program’s alumni (I advisedly hesitate to use the word “graduates”)—including former Miami receiver Lamar Thomas, who functioned as a de facto cheerleader for the brawl from the television broadcast booth—from having anything to do with Miami football in the future.

Update: Prof. Karlson proves prescient; I too wondered what exact qualifications Shalala had for running a major research university, and never really thought being known in recent years solely for being a FOB, despite her previous appointment at Wisconsin, was either a necessary or sufficient condition.

Sunday, 15 October 2006

More Moneyball academia

Ilya Somin has a reaction to the discussion of Moneyball hiring in academe sparked by his recent post.

That's what he said

Prof. Karlson posts an initial reaction to the contributions of Eugene Hicock to the debate over the future of higher education in the United States:

Answer me this: why isn’t there a reality show titled Who Wants to Marry a Ph.D? You’d think that casting would be able to identify gold-diggers willing to feign an interest in Proust or obscure varietals to land someone as overpaid and underworked as columns like Mr Hickok’s suggest populate the ranks of the professoriate.

I am not totally unsympathetic with Hicock’s broader interest in assessing the quality of higher education, at least to the extent that taxpayers ought to be entitled to some measurement of the effectiveness of the educations they are subsidizing and the efficiency of use to which those funds are put, but his rhetoric—and factual errors—are hardly recruiting allies in the professoriate.

Saturday, 14 October 2006


Great, another game the Rebels could have won if they’d just played a little better down the stretch. This trend is starting to get annoying—and I’m probably more annoyed at the outcome of this game because it wasn’t a blowout like I expected it to be.

Friday, 13 October 2006

Woot this

If I’m not careful, I may get addicted to Woot!; I’ve already gotten a rather nice set of Bluetooth headphones to use with my laptop and a better set of computer speakers, both at bargain-basement prices.

Wednesday, 11 October 2006

Eugene Hicock: seriously out of touch with real academia

Your exercise for the day: fisk this piece mercilessly. Here are two whoppers in the space of one paragraph to get you started:

Faculty members decide what they want to teach and when they want to teach, if, indeed, they teach at all. This is particularly true regarding undergraduate instruction, which is something of an afterthought on many campuses. Faculty members typically spend fewer than 200 hours a year in the classroom. That amounts to just five 40-hour weeks.

Let’s see… in my current job, I get to decide exactly a third of what I teach (in previous jobs, it was even less, and I’ve been offered jobs where I would have had no choice whatsoever); nobody asked me when I wanted to teach; and nobody gave me the option of not teaching. I spend well over 200 hours a year in the classroom, time that doesn’t count office hours, responding to student phone calls and emails, class preparation time, research obligations, department meetings, service obligations, and attending co-curricular and extra-curricular student events. I don’t actually get paid for one quarter of the year, during which I am essentially unemployed but am expected to work on research anyway. A whole month’s salary went out the window to pay for my move to Missouri. My future employability is largely determined by whether or not three other individuals’ letters of recommendation say better things about me than other peoples’ letters. It’s really cushy.

I could easily double my salary in private industry, with the sole disadvantage of being stuck behind a desk for an arbitrary number of hours per week. Instead, for some reason I cannot fathom, I have spent the last three years competing with other people who—to a person—have a more prestigious doctorate than I do to find a job that is exactly like the one described in the previous paragraph but has slightly more job security—although not near as much as the typical corporate white collar position, at least for anyone who is at least mildly productive.

The really insane part is that I wouldn’t trade what I do now for the world.

þ: Margaret Soltan.

The Talent-McCaskill debate

Before watching Talent-McCaskill on TiVo-delay, I need to make two very important points:

  • Claire McCaskill doesn’t look anything like her picture.
  • I am too sober to watch this crap, even though I was cruel and sadistic enough to make my American politics students watch it and write an essay for extra credit.

More thoughts when some braincells are numbed enough to listen to these twerps.

Le Retour

The Kitchen Cabinet is back up and running after a lengthy haïtus (albeit one punctuated by occasional movie reviews).

Mizzou presentation

My presentation on measuring political sophistication with item-response theory models is here; it’s something of a work in progress, as I haven’t put together the pretty graphs for the American NES data yet.

Speaking of voter fraud

Everyone’s favorite “do as we say, not as we do” left-wing advocacy group, ACORN, which is usually in the news for its shabby treatment of its own employees while advocating higher labor standards for everyone else, is in trouble here in St. Louis after around 1500 potentially fraudulent voter registration cards were discovered in recent weeks, many of which have been traced back to canvassers hired by the group.

The one cool thing I learned this afternoon

KWord imports PDF files. I wish I’d learned that before I shelled out $50 at Office Depot for a Windows program that did the same thing.

Strawman of the week award

E. Frank Stephenson on evidence that various New York politicians sought to promote their candidacies through the publication of private college guidebooks with their pictures on the cover:

One more data point for the public choice view of politicians over fantasy that pols are selfless public servants.

I didn’t realize that public choice had some sort of a monopoly on considering politicians as having baser motives than serving the public good.

The Black Primary

The New York Times reports on the bizarre case of Democratic party operative Ike Brown of Noxubee County, Mississippi, who faces a federal lawsuit under the Voting Rights Act for suppressing the voting rights of whites. Probably the most fascinating passages in the article, which read like something out of a 1960s era lawsuit with the races reversed:

Mr. Brown is accused in the lawsuit and in supporting documents of paying and organizing notaries, some of whom illegally marked absentee ballots or influenced how the ballots were voted; of publishing a list of voters, all white, accompanied by a warning that they would be challenged at the polls; of importing black voters into the county; and of altering racial percentages in districts by manipulating the registration rolls. ...

The Justice Department’s voting rights expert is less reserved [than local white residents]. “Virtually every election provides a multitude of examples of these illegal activities organized by Ike Brown and other defendants, and those who act in concert with them,” the expert, Theodore S. Arrington, chairman of the political science department at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, wrote in a report filed with the court. ...

There are so few whites in the county, Mr. Brown suggests, that the tactics he is accused of are unnecessary to keep blacks in office.

“They can’t win anyway unless we choose to vote for them,” he said with a smile. “If I was doing something wrong — that’s like closing the barn door when the horse is already gone.”

Of course, the key point of practices like the white primary in most of the South wasn’t to prevent blacks from outvoting whites per se—even in the early 20th century before extensive outmigration of African-Americans, whites typically outnumbered blacks in most counties outside the “black belt” plantation counties—but instead to ensure that blacks and lower-to-middle class whites would not form cross-racial voting coalitions in support of white or black candidates that would displace the local elites from office.

Assuming white block voting for white candidates, even in a county that’s 75% black like Noxubee white candidates could win elections with 30–40% black support depending on the turnout ratio… so, if techniques like pressuring blacks through appeals to racial solidarity to also block vote against white candidates breaks down, the illegal tactics Brown is accused of orchestrating would be very helpful in maintaining and/or expanding control of elected offices.

þ Rick Hasen.

The new gay scare

Nice to see NBC getting in on the act of insinuating gay men are all pedophiles:

Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) took two male pages with him on a three-day camping trip in 1996, former congressional pages and National Park Service officials tell NBC News. The pages, who were 17 at the time, went rafting and camping with Kolbe in the Grand Canyon over the July 4th holiday that year.

A spokeswoman for Rep. Kolbe confirms the overnight trip but says that the pages did not travel alone with Kolbe. The congressman’s sister was on the trip, along with office staffers and several Park Service employees, says Kolbe spokeswoman Korenna Cline. Gary Cummins, the deputy superintendent of Grand Canyon in 1996, tells NBC News that he also was on the trip with Congressman Kolbe. He confirms that two young men were on the trip with Kolbe, as part of a larger group. ...

Congressman Kolbe is the only openly gay Republican congressman. He has been active with the congressional page program for years, and was himself a page in 1958 for Sen. Barry Goldwater.

I didn’t realize the congressional page program was designated as the feeder program for the DC chapter of NAMBLA. Thanks for the memo, NBC.

I look forward to similar NBC exposés about every other instance in which a gay person went camping with a large group including at least one person under the age of 18.

Tuesday, 10 October 2006

Moneyball political science

Inspired by the discussion of ‘Moneyball’ hiring in economics at George Mason, we have discussion of whether this is a good way to build a department from Dan Drezner at Open University and one entry in the burgeoning network of political science rumor blogs. I’ll own up to my contribution to the debate:

The commenter on Dan Drezner’s article makes a good point, in that we’re not really talking about “Moneyball” here [in the blog]—Moneyball is taking people that are undervalued by the market at large (like non-top-X PhDs who may have other indicators of strong potential, or top-X PhDs who look weak due to being in a large cohort) and making the most of them while you can until they find greener pastures (in baseball, free agency; in academe, accumulating the publication record to offset their previous undervaluing and get a higher-positioned job), which fits [Southern Illinois University-Carbondale’s political science department] to a tee. Moneyball isn’t bringing people in for lifetime tenure, which is what most people think a “top-X” department should look like.

It’s not entirely a dead-end strategy… if you get enough ex-faculty out there, your department may look comparatively stronger by word of mouth than one that largely retains its initial hires. Certainly SIU gets better WoM than a lot of other non-top-X departments for that very reason, and over the long term that may build SIU vis a vis other low-to-middling tier PhD departments.

As the commenters at Open University note there are some other key differences between baseball and academe (notably the absence of locked-in long-term contracts, which allows for more “free agent” poaching in political science), but I’m not sure they matter much except for the most “movable” prospects—once on the tenure track, the modal number of job changes is either 0 or 1 in political science. That does suggest, however that departments trying to play Moneyball may need to consider intangibles that might reduce candidate mobility, so they can keep people longer than the market would normally allow.

Obligatory disclaimer: I have applied for positions at SIUC in the past, and have zero offers to show for it (else I wouldn’t be sitting here); whether this indicates some lack of Moneyballing skill on their part, or just good taste, is left as an open question.

Monday, 9 October 2006

The good news and the bad news

Ole Miss–Alabama will be on national TV this Saturday on CBS (presumably in glorious 1080i HD). My inner cheapskate is happy, but the part of my brain that is aware of the Rebels’ abysmal record in Tuscaloosa isn’t—even though Alabama’s record this season isn’t that great in league play either.

Friday, 6 October 2006

Your obligatory Mark Foley post

Mike Munger contributes a top ten list that pretty much covers everything.

Thursday, 5 October 2006

Mizzou bound

I’m off tomorrow for a day trip over to Columbia to give a talk on measuring political sophistication… so don’t expect a lot of posting from me while I browbeat R and LaTeX into producing my slides this evening.

And, no, before anyone asks: this isn’t a job talk—just a practice run.

Wednesday, 4 October 2006

Back to Mars

Will Baude, Hei Lun Chan, and Amber Taylor (in comments) react to the Veronica Mars season 3 premiere. Like Amber, the things that annoyed me the most about the episode were the incongruities of Hearst College: it’s allegedly a selective liberal arts school, but it seems to be crawling with enough students to be a UC campus and (more incongrously) it has TAs. I can buy a liberal arts college having a criminology professor, though, although the natural homes for such profs like sociology and political science would probably turn up their noses at hiring someone to teach such a shockingly applied topic. But the rest of the episode was engaging enough, in glorious 1080i high definition no less.

As for the rest of my TV watching the past couple of days, I also enjoyed the premiere of Friday Night Lights on NBC; anyone with a brain could see that the starting QB was going to be sidelined, but that’s OK: drama pretty much requires a series to have some adversity, rather than following the template of “best team in Texas goes out and kicks butt, just like everyone expected.” The accents and such didn’t bother me as much as it did Steven Taylor, perhaps in part because I’ve never spent much time in the area and in part because it’s not obvious that the TV show (unlike the book and the movie) is actually set in West Texas—if the town (presumably “Dillon”) were somewhere in the northeastern corner of the state, people would have a pretty thick Deep South accent. Virginia Heffernan even gives it a rave review for the blue-staters who read the NYT, so it can’t be that bad…

IU study: Daily Show as substantive as network news

Ars Technica looks at a recent study conducted at Indiana that concludes that the Daily Show has just as much substantive content as network news programming—although that may simply be damning with faint praise.

That probably explains why these days I mostly surf Google News and watch very little of either Stewart or Couric.

Things I'm avoiding doing

Here is a list of everything I’m trying my hardest not to work on today:

  • Grading methods homework and labs. (did that, alas)
  • Grading American politics exams.
  • My presentation on measuring political sophistication that I have to give on Friday afternoon at Mizzou.
  • Converting the LaTeX version of the Damn Impeachment Article™ into Word format to make the editors of PRQ happy.
  • Job applications.

A singularly unproductive afternoon, if I do say so myself.

Adverse selection and Best Buy warranties

Tyler Cowen is the latest to observe that extended warranties are a profit center for electronics retailers. The only products I buy extended warranties on these days are laptop computers—I can fix a desktop fairly readily (and usually quite cheaply, thanks to Newegg), but if anything other than a hard drive or memory bites the dust on a laptop you’re basically screwed.

Laptops tend toward the unreliable side; with heavy use and normal levels of abuse, I’m lucky to get through 12 months without some sort of failure. I’m also a complete klutz… I’ve fried two laptops with liquids over the past four years, making an accidental repair plan pretty much a necessity.

The extended warranty isn’t a complete panacea; I’ve had repaired laptops come back with the wrong power connector and the wrong motherboard (I recently sent off my Compaq V4000T for repair with an ATI Radeon X700 graphics chip, and it came back with an Intel i915GM, a decidedly inferior part). But it beats shelling out $1000+ every 18 months.

Monday, 2 October 2006

Moral victories

Saturday night’s Ole Miss–Georgia game reminded me somewhat of the 2003 contest between the Rebels and LSU, which also saw the Rebels’ QB falter in a late comeback effort after a close-run contest. Certainly the atmosphere at Vaught-Hemingway was comparable.

That said, not even Brent Schaeffer’s biggest boosters would say he’s the next coming of Eli Manning, and the 2003 LSU contest had much more on the line: a berth in the SEC title game and LSU’s national championship prospects and unbeaten record. Instead, this contest saw our prospects at bowl eligibility slipping further away, with the Rebels needing to win 5 of 7 just to have a shot at going to a bowl for the first time since the 2003 Cotton Bowl contest.

Realistically, I don’t see the Rebels making a bowl, despite the marked improvement in play on both sides of the ball since the Missouri contest—and had the Rebels played as well in the previous three contests as they did last night, we would be looking at a rather dangerous 3–2 or 4–1 squad with the whole division ahead rather than a team that will be lucky if it bests last season’s three win mark.

Update: Clarion-Ledger Ole Miss beat writer Robbie Neiswanger has more on this theme at his blog.