Sunday, 31 December 2006

Happy New Year

I wish my readers a happy and prosperous 2007.

Saddamed if you do

So, I made it safe and sound to dad’s place in Ocala… anything exciting happen while I was offline?

Thursday, 28 December 2006

More traveling

I made it safe and sound today to Marianna, Florida, the beyond-halfway point on the way to dad’s in Ocala, aka Stop Two on the grand holiday roadtrip. The drive from Memphis was about as boring and uneventful as always, save the semi-typical traffic backups south of Birmingham on I-65 and taking Alabama 271 from I-85 to US 231 instead of that slow-ass US 82/231 loop in Montgomery.

Tuesday, 26 December 2006

AP perpetuates Iraq-9/11 link myth

If, as my good friends on the left argue (quite plausibly, I might add), Iraq was not linked in any way to the 9/11 attacks, what are we to make of the AP consciously linking the conflict in Iraq to the 9/11 attacks in its latest ‘body count’ dispatches? Here are your choices:

  1. The AP has bought into the Bush administration’s false consciousness of a 9/11-Iraq link.
  2. The AP has a right-wing bias in its reporting.
  3. The AP had to “balance” reporting of the Saddam Hussein appellate decision in order to create the appearance of fairness.
  4. All of the above.

If you chose the last option, you too can write for

Mini-review: Inside the Machine

I recently finished reading my copy of Ars Technica editor Jon “Hannibal” Stokes’ new book on computer architecture, Inside the Machine; overall, I’d say it’s a pretty good semi-technical introduction to the field, but there are points at which Stokes seems to gloss over important details. Two examples: in one chapter he discusses “SPRs” without ever seeming to define the term, and there is no reference to the term in the index; he also seems to underplay the register-starved nature of the x86 ISA (which lagged behind its CISC contemporaries, the Motorola 680×0 series, much less the PowerPC RISC processors that competed with the Pentium and beyond) and the degree to which the Pentium and its successors had to work around that limitation. There are also the requisite number of typos and goofs for a first printing of a book. But overall, I enjoyed the book, which after all is aimed at the typical Ars Technica or AnandTech reader more than the budding computer engineering student.

Sunday, 24 December 2006

QB of the future, take 30 or so

Sunday’s Commercial Appeal has a lengthy article by Scott Cacciola profiling the latest iteration of the Great Cannon-Armed Hope to arrive in Oxford, ex-Texas QB Jevan Snead. Snead has at least one thing working in his favor: the cajones to mess with The Orgeron:

He felt comfortable enough with Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron and Werner to play a practical joke when he called them from Morris’ office to say he was committing.

“Thanks for the visit, you all were great, but I don’t think I got enough out of this weekend,” Snead recalled telling them before pausing—a big dramatic pause. “So I’m going to have to ask you to keep me around for four more years.”

Morris estimated that Orgeron and Werner whooped and hollered on the other end for close to 30 seconds. Yes, they were excited.

If nothing else, Snead’s recruitment probably puts the kibosh on the Cannon Smith era beginning anytime soon, if the latter’s felony drug arrest hadn’t already done so.

Friday, 22 December 2006

SPSA done

The SPSA paper is here for the morbidly or otherwise curious.

Thursday, 21 December 2006


After a last-minute grading emergency, I finally escaped St. Louis and got to Memphis, a.k.a. stop one on the grand road trip.

Now, hopefully stop three won’t sink into the Gulf of Mexico between now and SPSA… (þ: BigJim).

Wednesday, 20 December 2006

The perfect is the enemy of the good

I think it’s time for a new New Year’s Resolution. Instead of my annual resolution to lose weight—which feels like tilting at windmills these days—I hereby resolve to stop being as much of a perfectionist, particularly when it comes to my research. I will now make things good enough, send them out, and hope for the best, rather than trying to anticipate and address every last objection some anal reviewer might have to the piece.

The moral of this resolution, of course, is that I should have sent out the strategic voting paper months ago, rather than continuing to fiddle with every last detail. So I shall end my fiddling, stick the latest results in the current draft, and send the damn thing out before Christmas.

(This is easier said than done, I suspect, although I’m told committing to these things is an important step in ensuring they get done.)

Amazing disappearing comments

I upgraded my PostgreSQL installation yesterday, but my Mac seems to insist on launching the old version of PostgreSQL instead. I think I have it fixed... but we'll see soon.


My former boss and NC gubernatorial candidate Mike Munger saves me the trouble of having to write a lengthy post summarizing my feelings about the Duke lacrosse debacle at this point.

To me, there are two different dimensions to the situation that Mike correctly points out. On the one hand, the known and proven conduct of the team at the party—putting aside the unproven allegations of sexual assault—represents a complete lapse in judgment by the players and their ostensible leaders (both among the students and the coaching staff). Those actions, along with the subsequent embarrassment of the university, could justifiably be punished by sanctions up to and including the disbanding of the Duke intercollegiate men’s lacrosse team.

On the other hand, the blatant race-baiting of district attorney Mike Nifong and his supporters, particularly in light of the absence of any credible evidence that a sexual assault took place (despite Nifong’s early assertions to the contrary), is also worthy of condemnation. His demonstrated, repeated inability to engage with the logical inconsistencies and facts surrounding the case make our current president look like a card-carrying member of the “reality-based community” by comparison. The man is a menace and a demagogue, not to mention an embarrassment to each and every citizen of Durham County, and my faith in democracy is shaken by the number of Durhamites of all races who keep voting for the idiot.

Tuesday, 19 December 2006


Except for a few stragglers, my grading is over for the semester. I didn’t have a lot of laughs, but the student who wrote that one of the issues supported by Joe Biden was the genocide in Darfur easily won the “bad sentence structure leads to exactly the wrong conclusions by the reader” award. (Other sources inform me that, in fact, Sen. Biden is opposed to the genocide in Darfur.)

Or, as Ryan put it once to Dwight on The Office, “I don’t think that means what you think it does.”

Monday, 18 December 2006

WebCT sucks

I find that it takes about 17 more steps to accomplish anything in WebCT than in Blackboard. Mind you, I’m still not entirely sold on either as a content management system, but at least Blackboard worked without requiring me to do stupid things like “Update student view” on a regular basis. Not to mention that its grading system worked about 70% right, as opposed to WebCT's which manages about 40% on my scale. (I still had to calculate final grades using a spreadsheet formula with Blackboard because of my bizarre insistence on weighing exam grades based on student performance, but at least it could do a quiz average trivially... instead of making me produce a formula for that too, which appears to be WebCT’s approach.)

If it weren’t for the hassle and the FERPA issues, I’d just run Moodle on my Mac mini and be done with it.


I now have a campus interview tentatively scheduled for mid-January at a southern liberal arts college. More please.

Sunday, 17 December 2006

Break from a break

I’m back in St. Louis for about four days before embarking on the 3rd Annual Underemployed Academic Grand Holiday Roadtrip featuring stops in Memphis, Ocala, and the site of SPSA (in 2005 and 2007, New Orleans; in 2006, Atlanta). The song, as they say, remains the same.

In the meantime, I have two phone interviews to take care of, along with about 100 items to grade (between tests, papers, and extra credit assignments), five job applications, and probably a couple items to get as part of my last-minute Christmas shopping. Oh, and laundry. There’s always laundry.

Saturday, 16 December 2006

The merits of the ten-percent solution

Today I consider the value of Texas’ “10-percent” admissions plan over at Outside the Beltway; read and comment over there.

As a reminder, all of my OTB posts can be found here.

Friday, 15 December 2006

Help the boss

Go vote for EconTalk, Econlib’s podcast, in the 2006 Weblog Awards. I’m told that it’s for a good cause: beating Slate.

Update: Alas, EconTalk came up short.

Brand Extension

Steven Taylor has launched three new, more narrowly-focused blogs focusing on sports, Columbian politics, and science fiction. So go forth and read them.

Public service announcement

I’m not sure where in my application materials someone at a teaching institution got the impression that I’d prefer a position in a research-oriented department (although I doubt it was in anything I wrote, nor in my letters of recommendation), but since potential employers are apparently hanging on every syllable that appears on the blog, let me reiterate a few points:

  1. Beggars can’t be choosers, particularly in March, when I accepted my non-tenure-track positions at Duke and SLU.
  2. I have never taught a graduate-level class, despite having opportunities to do so.
  3. In six semesters of full-time teaching, including spring 2007, I have carried a three-course teaching load in all but one: my first semester at Duke. At Millsaps, my effective teaching load was higher (an additional directed readings course each semester, along with supervising an honors thesis).
  4. If I didn’t want to teach, there are ample research opportunities in the private sector for someone with my skills and interests with far better job security and remuneration. And, by definition, I wouldn’t be applying for your job that requires a lot of teaching and advising.

I now return you to your regularly-scheduled programming.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

The way to a work study's heart is through free textbooks

Leopold Stotch explains how to buy student worker loyalty. I suppose that’s slightly more ethical than selling desk copies on Amazon or to the textbook buyers… and at least more altruistic.

Stranger Than Fiction

Mom and I went to see Stranger Than Fiction this afternoon after lunch at Huey’s; the movie was really great, and Will Farrell is actually quite talented in a relatively low-key role that finds him as the object of the humor rather than the cause of most of it (as was the case in Talladega Nights and most of his earlier work). Plus having what amounted to a private screening at the Malco Paradiso was quite nice.

Wednesday, 13 December 2006


My old boss has drawn some legendary opposition in the 2008 North Carolina gubernatorial contest. K. Grease may now be in a position to demand equal time on Raw… which might improve the program dramatically. Or, at the very least, raise the level of discourse.

Come fly away

After the misery of the last two weeks (to recap: four days without power and limbo-turned-rejection at the hands of my current colleagues) I am happy to be in the relatively temperate climes of Memphis for a few days courtesy of the good folks at Northwest Airlines, who didn’t manage to lose my bags this time, even if I remain somewhat worried that my car will be stripped to the bare frame and/or encased in a block of ice when I get back to St. Louis.

In other good news, I have another phone interview, a sit-down with a department at SPSA, and another chat with a department chair scheduled for the upcoming weeks, with hopefully more on the horizon. I guess I continue to live in interesting times.

Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Cutting through the BS of multilevel models

Jeff Gill looks at the plethora of terminology surrounding multilevel models:

There is a plethora of names for multilevel models. Sociologists seem to prefer “hierarchical,” many statisticians say “mixed effects,” and there is heterogeneity about usage in economics. It seems reasonable to standardize, but this is unlikely to happen. ...

Some prefer “random intercepts” for “fixed effects” and perhaps we can consider these all to be members of a larger family where indices are turned-on turned-off systematically. On the other hand maybe it’s just terminology and not worth worrying about too much. Thoughts?

Silly me thought the plethora of terminology was a deliberate obfuscation effort by methodologists to make them look like they know more stuff than they actually do. For example, smarty-pants methodologists could say in casual conversation, “I know hierarchical models and mixed effects!” And unless you knew that they were the same thing, the smarty-pants methodologist would look like s/he was two things smarter than the non-smarty-pants methodologist who didn’t know either.

I may try this myself in interviews… “I know logistic regression and logit!” “I know dummy variables and fixed effects!” I feel smarter already…


EDSBS links the bizarro-universe version of its site, Every Day Should Be Lemsday, written exclusively using Michael Lewis’ transcription technique for Orgeron-speak (a language related to, but not exactly, Louisiana Cajun). Never mind that “Lemsday” isn’t really a day of the week in Orgeron-speak—I believe it is a contraction of “let them stay.”


Have I mentioned lately how much I despise phone interviews?

Monday, 11 December 2006

Getting rid of the pesky Welcome screen

If you’re getting the Windows XP welcome screen on a system with just a single, password-less user, here’s the solution; apparently it is the result of something broken in .NET 1.1.

The Saints go trouncing in

Like BigJim, I’m stunned by the performance of the Saints on Sunday Night Football against the Cowboys—a team that looked like it was the best in the NFC coming into Sunday, but looked thoroughly lost tonight (along with the officiating crew). Frequent Commenter Alfie and his bride-to-be certainly picked a good game to go see in person.

Sunday, 10 December 2006

Another turn in the Auburn sham course scandal

Margaret Soltan shares some commentary on a report in Sunday’s New York Times on an investigation into grading irregularities involving Auburn scholarship athletes. Key paragraphs of the NYT report:

An internal audit at Auburn University found that a grade for a scholarship athlete was changed without the knowledge of the professor, raising the athlete’s average in the final semester just over the 2.0 minimum for graduation.

The grade, which was changed to an A from an incomplete, was one of four A’s the athlete received in the spring semester of 2003. None of the courses required classroom attendance. ...

The grade was changed without the consent of the instructor listed for the course, the sociology professor Paul Starr. He said he did not teach the course to the athlete that semester and did not recall ever meeting the athlete.

“It was a phantom student in a phantom class,” Starr said in an interview in his office this week. “The schedule was a very strange one. You don’t cook up a schedule like that yourself. There was obviously some kind of guidance and special allowances with someone who had that kind of schedule.”

Starr said he found out about the grade change, which occurred May 12, 2003, only eight days ago, when he received an e-mail message as part of the internal audit. The information systems auditor who sent the message, Robert Gottesman, said the audit had nothing to do with the sociology department or the athletic department. It is not known whether the grade changes were widespread, but other sociology department professors received e-mail messages from the auditor this week.

The e-mail message Starr received Nov. 29 said, “As part of an ongoing audit, Auburn University Internal Audit is reviewing changes made to grades where the documentation was signed by someone other than the instructor of record.” ...

Starr said that he would like to find out who had authorized the grade change but that he had heard nothing since replying to Gottesman on Nov. 30.

“I want to know more about the circumstance,” Starr said. “If credit is assigned by my name, I should know the background to it, whether it was an error or an inappropriate act, because I’m the instructor of record.”

The same week Starr received the audit notice, other professors in his department, which includes sociology, anthropology, social work and criminology, received e-mail messages from an auditor.

This does not look good, to say the least. As Margaret puts it, in a nutshell: “Are we clear about what’s going on at Auburn? People affiliated with the sports program are getting in to the university computer, adding the names of players to professors’ class lists, and assigning them A’s from those professors.”

Stories of my dead-end academic career have been mildly exaggerated

As a few readers are already aware, I learned (under highly suboptimal circumstances) that SLU has offered the tenure-track equivalent to the position I currently occupy to someone else, although it is unclear at this point whether or not said someone else will be accepting said position; it is also unclear whether I might possibly receive an offer should this offer be turned down.

The good news? Three phone interviews next week, and one more I’m very confident of getting in the near future. Some of them even at places that I’d rather be than SLU… admittedly a list that has expanded somewhat since Friday.

Friday, 8 December 2006

Water, what is it good for?

A nice capper to a semi-miserable day: one of my upstairs neighbors informed me a couple of hours ago that we have no water in the building. At least the damn electricity is still on… for now, at least.

Sudden burst of popularity

After a three-month drought, I have now three phone interviews scheduled for two days next week. I have no clue what this means, but I guess it’s good.

Thursday, 7 December 2006

More on media bias (yawn)

Go see my thoughts on some new research on media bias at OTB, since I’m far too lazy to cut-and-paste them here.

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

Debate this

My student Jim Swift inadvertently demonstrates via anecdote why I tend to avoid current events and policy discussions like the plague in my classes.

Tufte lust

Like Megan, I like much of Ed Tufte’s work—heck, I own a reprint of Data Analysis for Politics and Policy, which nobody has read in 20 years, in addition to The Visual Display of Quantitative Information and its successors Envisioning Information and Visual Explanations. But I apparently don’t like him as much as she does.

Michael Lewis Part Deux

EDSBS posts the second part of their interview with Michael Lewis, author of The Blind Side and Moneyball, spouse of Tabitha Soren, and no relation to Kurt Loder.

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Death of a blogmeister

So does anyone want to take up the mantle of the table guy?

Update: He/she’s back.

Monday, 4 December 2006

Power outages are good for my productivity

The power outage at least had one silver lining for me: it forced me to spend some time in my office with minimal distractions, which allowed me to wrap up most of the textual revisions of the strategic voting paper.

I also am continuing to fiddle with the data analysis; I’m still not happy about the 2000 results, and I’m not sure there’s anything to be done about that (beyond getting a time machine, increasing the NES sample size, and figuring out some way to get more people to fess up to voting for Nader), but the 1996 results turn out to be stronger with the IRT measure of sophistication than they were with the interviewer evaluation. Plus I got the multiple imputation stuff to work.

So hopefully during the black hole between now and student paper grading time I can get this thing polished and ready for submission to a decent journal… and have time to spare to hack together about 8 bits of my dissertation and my job talk into a SPSA paper.

In other “I actually get work done, believe it or not” business in recent days, I took care of a paper review for a journal… I wish I could say it was punctual, but in fairness the first time they sent me the paper for review it got bounced from my SLU account because I was either over my mail quota or the mail system was mid-meltdown. I also wrote two recommendation letters.

Interview follies

Apparently I have power

It would seem that the power is finally back on in my apartment after nearly four days (either that or someone has stolen all of my computer gear and hooked it up at their house... I can't really tell from work). Now I get to look forward to going home and throwing away the contents of my refrigerator.

Elsewhere: Mike Munger took notice of my plight.