Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Your sci-fi geekery quotient for the week

A few sci-fi items worth a look:

  • Steven Taylor has links to video and stills comparing the “old” and “new” special effects in the newly remastered Star Trek episodes. I’ve gotten to see some of the new episodes in syndication and they look very good; it’s a shame we’re not getting them in true HD, at least in St. Louis, but I suppose that will follow in due time. (I hold out no hope at getting them unedited except on DVD.)
  • Ilya Somin further chronicles the massive plot holes in the six Star Wars films, while the Baseball Crank looks at the problems of the second trilogy (Episodes I-III) in greater detail.
  • The “original, unbelievably crappy trailer for Star Wars.” Certainly it sucks by today’s standards… then again, most 1970s trailers suck by today’s standards.

Think warm thoughts

All that’s keeping me going today is knowing it will be nearly 70 degrees on Friday, at least for me.

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Off day decision-making calculus

I need to complete the following tasks today (now that I’ve recovered from my early morning Monday):

  1. Apply for four new jobs that just appeared on various and sundry job sites.
  2. Prepare for my Congress class Wednesday morning. (I can prepare for intro before class in the morning and methods between classes, since those are classes I taught last semester and not a lot has changed in either, but I haven’t taught Congress since July 2005, when I was using different books, so it’s essentially a new prep.)
  3. Prepare for a teaching demonstration in a methods course Friday at a university in Texas. (I have something canned for this, so it won’t be too much additional work.)
  4. Finish revisions to the strategic voting paper so I can send it out.

Now, if you had to guess, which one of those do you think won’t get done today?

Monday, 29 January 2007

Celebrity name misappropriation

If you’re a celebrity (say, Paris Hilton) and want to use an alias, knock yourself out, but some victims of name misappropriation would rather you follow the example of Michael Vick and choose a name that few, if any, other people are likely to share.

Incidentally, the Ron Mexico name generator suggests “Sarah Venezuela” for Ms. Hilton’s future alias needs.

Saturday, 27 January 2007

How I spent my Saturday

How I spent my Saturday
One of these days, I'll learn not to buy furniture I have to assemble myself. But at least it looks nice enough, and the price was right, even though the box weighed a ton and I sort of had to drag it into the apartment.

Even with this new chest of drawers, I'm still not sure I have storage space for all of my clothes.

Friday, 26 January 2007

One collegiate blogger could win Big Money

Frequent Commenter Scott made me aware of this $2000 scholarship contest available to political bloggers of any stripe who are currently attending any postsecondary institution of higher learning. All you need is a political blog and the ability to write 300 words to have a shot.

Free data

Newmark’s Door links federal income tax liability data by county and congressional district. A map would be nice too… perhaps I can dig out the code I used for the census maps I made in R a few years back and use that.

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Ed Orgeron: Ridin' Dirrty

I am truly speechless.


Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Leading indicators?

Jacob Levy senses a disturbing trend in the job market force for political theorists, based on the APSA’s (in my opinion, decidedly rose-colored) statistics on political science hiring in recent years. I can’t say I’m very surprised by those findings. My sense from four years on the market is that new hiring, particularly outside the research universities, is trending in a very pragmatic direction, with more emphasis on applied and borderline vocational subfields such as policy and public administration (and, to a lesser extent, quantitative political analysis as applied to those fields) and rather less on the theoretical study of politics, normative or otherwise.

On the other hand, I’m not sure many R1s are planning to follow the lead(?) of my graduate alma mater and Florida State by completely eliminating the subfield… which means that the supply of theory PhDs will probably decline slower than collegiate demand for such jobs. Good news for penny-pinching chairs and deans, perhaps, but alas not-so-good news for good folks like Nick.

Update: Mr. Troester posts his thoughts on the matter.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Flying the coop

Another day, another two interviews scheduled, leading to a neat bracketing of the Super Bowl. The big downside is that the interviews mean five more classes down the drain. It’s not a huge problem yet, since my schedules generally plenty of slack time in them, but I’d better get a job soon or some students may start demanding tuition refunds—and, to be honest, I really wouldn’t blame them.

Finally my semester starts for real

Tomorrow will be my first full day of the semester after having to miss two days (including the first two days of my Monday-Wednesday methods class). For reasons I don’t quite understand, even though my teaching schedule has a lot more cancelled days on it this semester than last (due not just to the interviews I knew about when I was making the syllabus, but also to Midwest and APSA T&LC), I don’t actually seem to be losing any class days in methods compared to last semester. I suppose those rumors about spring terms being longer than fall ones are actually true…

Friday, 19 January 2007

No good deed goes unpunished

I illustrate the aphorism thusly: at the drive-thru this afternoon at Burger King, I was given too much change ($7.00 – $6.12 ≠ $0.93, even in my world of half-learned arithmetic), so I gave the extra nickel back to the cashier; when I get home, I find out that I ended up with a Whopper, complete with green crap that might have been lettuce in a former life, instead of a BK Double Stacker, which doesn’t come with that crap on it, and has tasty bacon to boot.

Now, given the whole Schrödinger’s cat business, if I’d not have given the change back would I have ended up with the meal I was supposed to get? Probably not, since the receipt also listed the Whopper instead of the BK Double Stacker… but we’ll never know, especially since I didn’t look at the receipt until after I returned the nickel.

Words to live by

Jacob T. Levy advises academic job applicants thusly:

Under no circumstances is “Microsoft Word” a skill worth listing on your C.V. Neither is Power Point or Excel.

Unless you’re a certified sys admin, under no circumstances is any version of Windows or a Mac operating system a skill worth listing on your C.V.; it means “I know how to turn my computer on.”

And—really, truly—under no circumstances is your ability to e-mail or to operate a web browser a skill worth listing on your C.V.

These things aren’t just weighted at zero. They make you look ridiculous.

IRBite Me

Tyler Cowen links a blog whose mission I can wholeheartedly support… and not just because my experience with the Duke IRB made me decide to kill off the experiential learning part of my methods course.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007


I have slept for all of four hours in the last two or three days. That was far more fun to do when I was an undergrad, let me tell you.

The interview at [location redacted] by and large went well, but I think I need to go back to doing my old job talk. I think even the “big picture” version of the sophistication measurement talk is just too abstract for most audiences; it’d work at an PhD-granting department, but since I’m not interviewing at those sorts of places, and not all that terribly interested in making my career at an R1, it just doesn’t work as well.

So mostly sleep and class prep tomorrow, then teach Friday, then get ready for another interview Sunday and Monday at [location also redacted] which isn’t that far away from [location redacted]. I’m also trying to figure out scheduling for an interview at [yet another location] that doesn’t necessitate me returning from T&LC in Charlotte and hopping immediately on a plane to [airport near yet another location]. Life could be worse—I guess I could not have these sorts of problems in my life.

Monday, 15 January 2007


After being about the only American today to successfully reach his destination on time by commercial aircraft, I am now in [location redacted] for a job interview. Since they didn’t put me up in a barely-renovated former hospital, they’ve already won some mild positive cred from me.

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Colts-Pats, yet again

In the grand scheme of things, I think today’s AFC divisional game came out best for the Colts—Indy, particularly this season, fundamentally matches up better against the pass-happy Patriots than the running game of the Chargers. And, this year the Colts have two advantages: Adam Vinatieri, a definite upgrade over Mike “Liquored Up” Vanderjagt, and home field in the Hoosier RCA Dome. So, I’m picking the Colts to make their first Super Bowl under Peyton Manning… and unless the Patriots play much better than they did today, I expect it won’t even be close.

On the NFC side, I have to say I’ve become a convert to the Saints bandwagon, and they definitely have a good shot at beating the Bears in Chicago: Drew Brees is a much more consistent passer than Rex Grossman (or Brian Griese), and the Deuce/Reggie combo should be able to pound out a lot of yardage if the weather isn’t conducive to passing. The Bears should be favored mostly due to home-field advantage, but I don’t think that will be too much of a factor in the game because of the way the Saints’ strengths line up. So I pick the Saints in a mild upset.

Sounds about right

The Economist notes speculation that the Bush administration is inching towards a whole-hearted embrace of Kyotoism, and makes a keen observation via à vis motives:

[T]he White House was running out of options for making government even bigger.

Well, there’s still Hillarycare Part Deux, but I’d imagine that’s around the corner too.

Saturday, 13 January 2007

The Sabato Effect

James Joyner posts on the ubiquity of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato in the mass media. Like Joyner, I think part of the explanation is media laziness (and part of it is Sabato’s self-promotion), and I expect research on media expert use in various subdomains would find similar patterns in other areas of media coverage.

That said, I think citations to experts within each subdomain are distributed according to a long tail function, suggesting that while Sabato seems dominant because of his frequent citation by media outlets (and our human cognitive bias that makes events that occur 1/4 to 1/20th of the time seem more frequent than they actually are), the “field” actually predominates over him.

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Back in the STL

The roadtrip is over. I wish I could now go to sleep for about two days, but I’m afraid I have a few things to take care of (laundry, syllabi, lecture notes) instead.

Tuesday, 9 January 2007

If you build it, people still won't come

Today’s USA Today reports on metropolitan St. Louis’ two biggest white elephants: Runway 11 at Lambert and the whole of MidAmerica. I’d find them more tolerable if the excess capacity translated into low airfares, but the discounters in St. Louis either have limited (Southwest, Midwest) or virtually nonexistent (Allegiant) networks—so unless the destination is Vegas or Orlando, most travelers would be better off at a real hub like Detroit or Memphis, instead of paying hub prices while living at the wrong end of a spoke.

Don't tell Delli Carpini and Keeter

Reputation shemputation

Jacob Levy takes note of some new rankings of PhD-granting departments in political science published in The Chronicle of Higher Ed, using a methodology that does not incorporate institutional reputation. I’m not going to say that they’re implausible, but the fact that there’s one UC school ranked in the top ten and it’s not located in Berkeley or San Diego makes me a mite skeptical.

Update: Jacob has updated his post with some details about the methodology behind the rankings; as he notes, it probably gives too much credit to books for article-driven subfields like American and methods, and to a lesser extent IR.

I’d also comment that reputation, which most political science ranking systems to date have been largely based on, is by and large a lagging indicator; perhaps these rankings represent a useful leading indicator, particularly in book-driven fields like theory, but I wouldn’t find them of much use on their own.

Monday, 8 January 2007

The home stretch

I am finally on the return leg of the grand roadtrip—I have one more day in Memphis before I finally get back home to butt-numbingly cold St. Louis. I enjoyed my visit to New Orleans. Both of my SPSA panels went well, although they were, alas, lightly attended; I am certainly more confident about the publication prospects for the paper, although now it needs a blog nickname—perhaps “the damn measurement paper” will suffice.

I also enjoyed catching up with Steven, Dieter (the rock upon whom ICPSR is built), Andrew (all too briefly), and Kelly.

Gator bait

Congratulations to the Florida Gators on their resounding defeat of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the national title game this evening. Now the eight-month drought begins.

Saturday, 6 January 2007

For those who live under a rock

The NFL playoffs begin Saturday. Those of you who haven’t decided who to root for this weekend can use this handy-dandy tool from the NFL to help you decide.

Friday, 5 January 2007

Completely GMailed

Over the holidays I finally got sick of dealing with SLU’s email quotas and am now forwarding all of my work email to my GMail account with “slu” labels attached. It seems to be working well so far; the only thing I miss is being able to use a different work signature at the end of my messages automatically. Nonetheless, I think I need to do more to get my email intake under control, as it’s a real productivity killer.

For your consideration

A short parody starring Michael Cera, TV’s George Michael Bluth: “Impossible is the Opposite of Possible.”

You may need the context. Or maybe not.

My Lunch with Steven

Steven Taylor and I had lunch today at Mother’s Restaurant, self-declared home of the “world’s best baked ham.” I have to say that the ham and cheese po-boy was excellent, if on the pricey side ($9!).

In other SPSA conference news, my morning panel at the Hotel Intercontinental was relegated to a tiny conference room with a hand-printed sign adjacent to a service elevator. You’d think the public opinion section would get more respect from the conference powers that be…

Thursday, 4 January 2007

A tale of two Katrina-ravaged cities

Since I only had a two-hour drive today from Mobile to New Orleans, I decided to take a detour via what used to be known as the scenic route along the coast. Not that today was likely to be good for sightseeing in any event—it was foggy all day.

Driving along US 90 from Gulfport to Pass Christian was probably the most surreal experience of my life, an experience heightened by the fog on all sides that kept the merely damaged buildings out of sight. Every half-mile or so you could see some effort at rebuilding along the highway, with living quarters usually (but not always) elevated above ground-level garages, but the gaps in between were completely desolate save for “for sale” signs, as if the Hand of God came down and just scooped everything within sight off the planet, leaving a few scrawny trees and eerily empty streets behind. Here are the two photos I took, which if anything understate the devastation.

Driving through eastern New Orleans on I-10 was an altogether different experience, like what one imagines Beirut or Mogadishu would currently look like if either city had previously been American suburbia. On my previous visit, I’d left and arrived via the closer-to-normal western suburbs; the contrast is quite stark.

To the left, to the left

I’m now about to embark on the home stretch of the grand holiday road trip, which should be a leisurely drive from Mobile to New Orleans. I’m not exactly looking forward to arriving this afternoon in a city full of hung-over fans of the Bayou Bengals and Fighting Irish, although maybe if I hide in my hotel room they’ll all lose interest and leave town.

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

Random leftover college football thought

Some free advice—if you plan on asking someone to marry you, don’t tell Chris Myers unless you want him to inadvertently propose to your girlfriend on national TV on your behalf.

Sugar Bowl in LoDef

Mobile’s Fox affiliate needs to boost its digital signal—it’s the only channel I can’t get indoors at the hotel. And, of course, it’s also the only one I want to watch tonight…

Saban 'Baman

My quick assessment of the winners and losers from Nick Saban's acceptance of the Alabama head coaching job:
Winner: Nick Saban. $32 million over eight years, guaranteed, is hardly chump change. Particularly in Tuscaloosa.
Loser: families of Alabama recruits. $32 million over eight years, guaranteed, is hardly chump change. Look for a downgrade from Cadillac Escalades to Honda Pilots for recruits.
Winner: The SEC West. Saban brings a high profile to a division currently only notable for the novelty of its coaches (Croom, Orgeron) or the novelty of their leadership structure (Arkansas, seemingly now run by the Springdale High School PTA instead of Houston Nutt).
Loser: LSU and Les Miles. Way to get upstaged the day of your last conceivable BCS bowl under Les Miles.
Winner: Alabama high school football players. Your options are now significantly upgraded over Tommy Tuberville and Sly Croom and UAB's coach of the week.
Loser: Sly Croom. Increased probability of playing on Sundays in 3-5 years or playing for a black coach. You do the math. Plus Saban has his dream job for the rest of Croom's likely career.
Winner: Ed Orgeron. Doesn't compete with Alabama for many recruits, and now has a new chip to play with Louisiana kids: the Les Miles death watch.

Monday, 1 January 2007

Conference season begins soon

The panel I am allegedly the discussant on is exactly four days away, and I have received all of one paper thus far. I suppose that makes the job a tad easier than usual…

In other news, I booked my flight for the APSA Teaching and Learning Conference and my shared hotel room for Midwest at the Palmer House, so I guess I’m going to have a busy spring between three conferences and the two branches of the job hunt—both academic and non-academic.

Relatedly, my public new years’ resolutions:

  1. Lose weight (ok, this is a perpetual and perpetually-broken one).
  2. Get two more articles accepted by September, even if they end up in the crappiest peer-reviewed journals on the planet.
  3. Get a tenure-track job, a job guaranteeing at least two years, or (failing those) find something better to do with my life.