Thursday, 26 July 2007

Downtime forthcoming

Due to the annual ritual of Chris moving to another city, and Chris being too lazy to make alternative hosting arrangements during the move, Signifying Nothing will be down for a few days starting sometime Friday. See you on the flip side!

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Last man standing

Apparently Discovery Channel’s strategy in the 2007 Tour de France is paying off; instead of winning stages, they’re just waiting for everyone ahead of them on the tour to get kicked out of the race. The latest doping casualty: none other than the maillot jaune himself, Michael Rasmussen.

þ: Nick, who classifies the news as “huge.”

Tea leaves

Odd that Google has switched from showing John McCain ads to now showing Barack Obama ads, while continuing to intersperse ads for Newt Gingrich’s weekly email or whatever. Perhaps the core demographic of my blog is “fans of members of Congress who will never be president.”

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

PolMeth Postmortem

Michelle Dion has posted her thoughts on the recently-concluded political methodology conference at Penn State. I’ll echo her kudos to the organizers among the Penn State faculty and grad students, most notably Burt Monroe (who took time out to check in with the participants over the course of the meeting) and Suzie DeBoef. I also got some useful feedback and interest regarding the poster, which will be strong motivation to finish up the paper and get it out to the Working Papers archive and off to Political Analysis.

Like Michelle, I do wonder sometimes about the ability of the “core group” to reach out to the practitioners who don’t attend PolMeth and whose dues support the viability of the section and its journal. Notably, there has been some discussion of the section getting more actively involved in the Teaching Research Methods track at the APSA Teaching and Learning Conference, although I wonder if there is an awareness of what that track has done in the past on the part of the appointed committee (I’m pretty sure none of its members have been within 100 miles of a past TLC, and only one represents a non-research-oriented department), which may make for some interesting toe-trampling over the next few months.

My departure from State College was rather more eventful than one might have hoped; Northwest cancelled my 6:00 a.m. flight to Detroit and rebooked me on Delta via Atlanta, an airport which I’m pretty sure is foreseen somewhere in Dante’s works. As a special bonus I also got to enjoy the thrill and excitement of being SSSS'd by TSA. The good news is that at least I made it back in one piece.

Anyway, back to packing; Dad arrives tomorrow and I’d like it to look like I’ve made at least a modicum of progress here.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Poster presented, time to pack

The poster presentation today went moderately well, all things considered, and a few people indicated interest in seeing the completed paper in the near future. Compared to the other projects on my plate, that may be comparatively easy to do.

The only real extension I want to do for now is to tweak the R simex package to allow the error variances for covariates to be different between observations; I also think I can cleanup the call syntax a bit to make it a bit more “R-like,” but that has less to do with the paper proper—except cleaning up the call syntax will make it easier to implement my tweak.

Since I have a lovely 6 am flight tomorrow, I’ve spent much of the afternoon packing and getting ready for the trip back to St. Louis; I’ll probably wander towards the closing reception in a little while, once everything’s close to organized for the morning.

Worthy announcements lost in feed space

For the R fans in the audience: Dirk Eddelbuettel announces CRANberries, a blog that automatically tracks new and updated packages/bundles in CRAN (the Comprehensive R Archive Network); CRANberries is also carried by the Planet R aggregator.

I also learned that you can combine your favorite RSS and Atom feeds with pictures of cats, although just why you'd want to do this is beyond my comprehension.

Credit and coauthorship

Via Jacob T. Levy, an article at Inside Higher Ed about a report by an APSA panel on coauthorship norms in political science (the original report is here). For those calculating their own Nolan scores at home, I’ve heard vague rumblings that a co-authored piece typically “counts” as 0.75 single-authored pieces.

Thursday, 19 July 2007


An item potentially of interest to SN readers: I blogged earlier today about the recent federal court ruling ordering Mississippi to limit its primaries to registered party identifiers at OTB.

An implicit fairness doctrine for academia

This post by Richard Vedder about Elon University’s choice to assign the book version of the movie version of Al Gore’s PowerPoint presentation An Inconvenient Truth makes what at first blush might be an eminently sensible point:

Universities who want to promote truth should select middle-of-the-road objective accounts (Steve names one or two). Or, if the goal is to invite debate on the issues, why not assign both Gore’s book and Chris Horner’s? Or some of Steve’s own work on the issue?

I think the answer here is twofold: first, Gore’s book (or at least the movie) is in the news, which creates an incentive to read it that would not exist for “middle-of-the-road objective accounts” even on the same topic—the dirty little secret of “summer reading assignments” is that I doubt 10% of students actually complete them outside the most elite institutions. And second, part of being a good student is developing critical thinking skills; the purpose of asking students to read the book is not to impose politically correct thinking on them, nor is it to have students uncritically accept the entire work. If Gore’s book is “weak on fact and objectivity,” surely college students can be expected to find those weaknesses and judge for themselves whether or not those faults undermine Gore’s argument. That is the core of what a liberal arts education is all about.

The standard “I have applied for jobs at Elon and might do so in the future” disclaimer applies.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Office empty

Instead of sleeping I emptied the office, mailed all the books I’m taking (I left a few desk copies, primarily intro and con law books, and some old college textbooks), and brought the rest of the junk home. Hopefully SLU doesn’t come after me for the monitor that I bought and paid for years ago (when 19” LCD monitors weren’t exactly cheap) but they stuck an inventory sticker on anyway.

Next project: start packing books, CDs, and DVDs around the apartment. Not sure how much I’ll get done before I leave for State College on Wednesday morning, but I figure I ought to at least give it a try. I also have to make time for some NCAA Football 08 on Tuesday after I go and pick it up (All Pro Football 2K8 also looks tempting, but that will probably have to wait until after the move).

Six is bad

When six key staffers resign from your campaign in one day, you might be in trouble.

Poster done; time for sleep

Well, except for the “printing the poster” part, but I have a hookup for that.

It’s a little light on the pretty graphs and way too heavy on text, but I don’t think I had much to graph that would be worthwhile. And the text is important; or, at least, I think so, since I wrote it. And it’s probably halfway to being a paper, particularly once you put back in the stuff I commented out to get it to fit on a (really really big) page.

For my readers who won’t be in State College—or, for those who will and don’t feel like dropping by the faculty poster session—you can check it out here. It came out surprisingly well, considering that as of 48 hours ago I had approximately nothing after thinking I’d hit a brick wall.

The real geeks will be interested to know that this is the first time I used XeLaTeX, the fontspec package, and the sciposter documentclass. The body text is set in DejaVu Sans Condensed and fixed-pitch text is in Inconsolata, which are two of my favorite typefaces (and beat the hell out of the defaults, which were Helvetica and Courier).

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Fake this

I have determined that I am not very good at algorithmically generating fake roll call data. It may be time (tomorrow) for Plan B on the methods meeting poster, which will probably involve not doing anything with fake data but instead doing stuff with ideal point estimates with higher estimated error variance than ones derived from congressional roll calls.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Why anonymity?

Jason Kuznicki ponders why historians, and by extension other academics, blog anonymously or pseudonymously:

I am driven to wonder, though, about why anonymity would be needed in the first place. The short, ugly answer is that the history profession can often afford to be a fairly exclusive clique, and any deviation from orthodoxy, whether in ideology or in one’s extracurriculars, can be grounds for exclusion. Yes, there are exceptions. The rule, though, is that if as a graduate student you stick out in any way, you aren’t likely to find a job. The massive oversupply of grad students — driven by the academy’s desire to cut costs by using cheap grad student labor — is a breeding ground for a discreet, clubby form of discrimination.

In my little corner of academe, the costs of sticking out aren’t quite so bad, in part because of supply issues (the oversupply of quantitatively-oriented Americanist political scientists is much smaller than the oversupply of historians of any stripe), and in part because there is a tad more intellectual diversity among political scientists—that said, one would sooner admit membership in the Libertarian Party than the Republican Party in most circles.

Of course, an oft-posited theory for my lack of progress in finding a tenure-track job is this blog. That theory discounts my relatively short publication record, the relative lack of placements from my program, and the choice I’ve made to focus on finding positions at schools (primarily liberal arts colleges) that are least likely to hire someone who lacks a “name” undergraduate or graduate degree to put in their catalog. It also discounts the fact that much of my social network of fellow political scientists stems from blogging for the past 4 ½ years, and that there’s no way in hell that I’d have gotten my second job without the blog (and the second had a good deal to do with me getting my third and probably my fourth too).

Friday, 13 July 2007

Slow packing

Packing the office is going slower than I’d have expected—almost all of the books are now packed, but I ran out of tape before sealing up all the boxes. So it’ll be Monday at least before that project is done.

The good(?) news is that gives me the weekend to focus on the methods meeting paper, which has also lagged behind a bit this week.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Lead me not into temptation

From an email from the methods meeting cohost to poster presenters:

Please post your paper, if there is one, to the Society’s Working Paper Archive.

Must… resist… urge… to… only… analyze… data.

Singlehandedly keeping the postal service in business

I just spent $87 dollars shipping about half of the books and journals in my office to Tulane; at least using Media Mail saved me a bunch of money. Tomorrow I get to go back and finish the job, once I get some more of the useful-sized boxes from Office* (12×12×6 ones seem to work best for office books).

Friday, 6 July 2007

Apartment adventures

I’m pretty sure I have an apartment leased for next year in the lovely 14th Ward of New Orleans after putting down an application fee and deposit, although I’m still waiting on the lease to sign.

Now I need to get back to that methods meeting paper…

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Apartmented out

I am exhausted from looking at and thinking about apartments all day. I think I have it narrowed down to two possibilities, but there’s one more that I’ll be looking at (hopefully) in the morning that may be closer to ideal. Both of the ones I’m considering have tradeoffs, and while it’s not like I’d be likely to live there forever—given my track record in academe, one year seems likely unless I land a tenure-track job in New Orleans at UNO or Loyola—it’s still a bit of a compromise to spend a year without a dishwasher or some other amenity I’ve gotten used to having.

Hopefully tomorrow will bring clarity one way or another.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Hampton Inn ice buckets suck

The ice in my ice bucket this evening lasted less than five hours, and that was with me dumping out the accumulated water twice. This would be slightly less annoying if I didn’t have to traipse upstairs every time I wanted to get more ice because the ice machine on this floor is broken.

Maybe their ice buckets work in North Dakota, but they don’t cut it in New Orleans.

Partisanship and the DH rule

For my political scientist reader who thinks the DH rule is an abomination: Chris Zorn and Jeff Gill on partsianship and support for the designated hitter rule in baseball. Mind you, I can’t tell if their extended literature review is intended to be taken seriously or is a parody; the following sentence suggests the latter:

By allowing pitchers to avoid hitting, and some batters to avoid fielding, the DH rule is suggestive of a larger-scale decline in the culture of personal responsibility in America over the past several decades.

I look forward to similar contributions on Americans’ attitudes towards soccer and the relationship between individuals’ attitudes toward foreign aid and interest in hockey.

þ: Dan Drezner and Henry Farrell.