Tuesday, 6 April 2010

QotD, taking-research-seriously edition

Dr. Crazy on research at regional state universities:

[T]he way in which that often plays out at my institution (and I suspect at many other institutions) is that research is this unspeakable thing which is nevertheless “required.” And since it is unspeakable – i.e., that professors even within the same department don’t really talk about it seriously with their colleagues, that we look at research as a thing we get done in spite of the “real” demands of our jobs – research becomes something that we think of as a distraction or as something that doesn’t demand a high level of achievement. Instead, we see the research “requirement” much in the way that students see “requirements” that aren’t meaningful – and we just do the bare minimum to pass. Further, we pass this way of thinking about research on to our students, who see a research paper as something to be “gotten through” as opposed to something that can be personally and intellectually rewarding. We perpetuate a culture of mediocrity.

Friday, 5 February 2010

QotD, there-are-five-lights edition

Why show trials always have ludicrous charges against the defendants in totalitarian states:

[F]orcing someone to admit to something he might have done does not send a strong signal of power. Forcing someone to confess to a crime that everyone knows he could not possibly have committed, on the other hand, is terrifying.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

QotD, deadweight loss of dead trees edition

John Sides on open access in political science:

Every political scientist should have a webpage where ungated copies of their papers and articles are available. Period.

(Alas, mine needs work in this regard, as most of my pubs aren't there in final form, but it will be better soon.)

Monday, 7 December 2009

QotD, media groupthink edition

Megan McArdle, on today’s outburst of mass media bloviation on climate change:

If fifty-four newspapers had wanted to make a serious statement about the environment that their readers were sure to pay attention to, they might have stopped printing and distributing their energy intensive product for a day.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

QotD, QotD edition

The Economist on the F-22 vote:

The secretary of defence did not want to add to the programme. Nor did the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Nor did the Air Force’s two senior leaders. Yet 40 senators still thought they knew better.

Now, I’m convinced that on the merits, the “anti-more-F-22s” side is easily on the right side of the debate, but nonetheless in a representative democracy it properly is the elected officials—including the 40 pro-F-22 senators, however misguided—who should be deciding whether to spend billions of taxpayers’ money on weapons systems, and not members of the armed forces or a political appointee who’s never been elected to or sought public office. Certainly I hope The Economist is not suggesting that senators and representatives should always defer to the preferences of the military and the executive branch, even when their views are held in unanimity.

As an aside, the F-22’s demise also will prove a useful lesson to Lockheed and other defense contractors in the future: next time, ensure the contract’s jobs are in as many states as possible.

Monday, 1 June 2009

QotD, Sony has man-boobs edition

ArsTechnica user “thenino85” on the web-browsing capabilities of the PlayStation 3 console:

Saying that the PS3 has a web browser is like saying that a man has breasts. Sure, it’s technically true. But no one really likes to play with it, and there are much better alternatives, so for all intents and purposes we can pretend it doesn’t exist.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

QotD, cougar-chasing-actors-are-lame edition

Radley Balko on Ashton Kutcher’s premonition that the founders of Twitter will be remembered with Edison and Marconi:

Twitter is fun. But it isn’t going to revolutionize the way we communicate any more than Ashton Kutcher has revolutionized the way we play practical jokes on one another.

In fairness, Kutcher did help us revolutionize the English language by replacing the letter ‘e’ with an apostrophe in certain, additional situations beyond adding local color to British regional accents. And by “revolutionize” I mean “made more incomprehensible and harder to type.” Call him the anti-Noah Webster.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

QotD, where are my flying cars? edition

Dean Dad gets to the essence of Mark Taylor’s ramblings about higher education, which seem to have captured the imagination of waaay too many people among the professoriate this week:

“Sorry, kid, we aren’t accepting new students this year. Try again next year, when the theme will be cyborgs and we’ll have all new faculty to teach it.”


[Taylor] moves quickly from ‘insightful’ to ‘crackpot’ and back again.

Honorable mention (put this one in the file of “things I should have said in Friday’s department meeting but didn’t”), courtesy of Brian Griffin:

I would explain, but you won’t care or listen, so there’s no point.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Footnote of the year

“I have witnessed members walk up to other members on the floor and simply start yelling at them for having cast a certain vote or committing some other perceived misstep.”—Rep. Daniel Lapinski, “Navigating Congressional Policy Processes.” In Lawrence Dodd and Bruce Oppenheimer, eds. Congress Reconsidered, 9th ed. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2009.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Newspeak, Yglesias style

I think this quote (regarding the California High-Speed Rail Initiative) is far more revealing than Matthew intends it to be:

[I]t seems to me that the sad reality of politics is that it would be irresponsible for advocates of any large-scale infrastructure project to do anything other than present unrealistically optimistic measures.

Translation into English: it would be irresponsible for advocates of at least some policies Matthew Yglesias prefers to tell the truth. Oxford’s New American Dictionary defines “responsibility to” as “a moral obligation to behave correctly toward or in respect of.” So Yglesias believes it would be immoral for advocates of some of Yglesias’ preferred policies to be honest. I’m glad we have that cleared up.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

QotD, five miles uphill each way to school edition

Jacob T. Levy on his introduction of photos at his eponymous blog:

I hear that the interwebs are now capable of handling things that aren’t even text. (In my day, we browsed the interwebs on lynx in UNIX and read e-mail on Pine and we liked it!)

Heh; while my first exposure to true Internet access (in the summer of 1992, before the invention of the img tag and widespread use of the web) was rather more slick due to the wonders of NeXTSTEP, the ancient ancestor of Mac OS X, even that was an incredibly texty experience by today’s standards. Over the intervening years, I’ve certainly spent my fair share of time with lynx and Pine and their more modern siblings (elinks and mutt).

Monday, 29 September 2008

QotD, democracy sucks edition

Daniel Drezner on the indeterminate future universe problem in politics:

[N]o one gets credit for stopping a meltdown if it doesn’t happen… [I]t was only after 9/11 that the American public was ready to take the actions that would have prevented 9/11.

Saturday, 27 September 2008


A commenter at InsideHigherEd suggests a new system for ranking colleges:

One index of quality might be a compilation where college professors send their own children to college. These parents know what goes on inside a campus that affects students.

College instructors are the last people who would rely on U.S. News for information in where to send their own children. The high prestige universities are great places to get a graduate degree, but professors often see that the best undergraduate education lies elsewhere.

Of course, professors also know that at least in academic hiring (probably to a greater extent than most areas, except medicine and law), institutional prestige is a major factor in the decisionmaking process, so they may emphasize prestige more than is warranted. But the general principle is sound: be wary of an institution that a professor wouldn’t send their own kids to.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

QotD, Skip Bayless and Woody Paige suck edition

Alan Sepinwall on Pardon the Interruption:

It is the first, best, and really only tolerable one of ESPN‘s “Angry Middle-Aged Newspapermen Yell At Each Other for 30 Minutes” shows.

I only have one suggested improvement: replace “Newspapermen” with “Media Whores” and you also exclude the odious Jim Rome, the negative-talent younger sports talk radio clone of Jim Gray. For reasons I can’t fathom, Rome has somehow parlayed a combination of obsequiousness and being shoved by a mediocre quarterback into a two-decade media career.

Monday, 4 August 2008

QotD, 2008 from the apathetic libertarian perspective edition

Steven Taylor on GOP efforts to get “spoiler” Libertarian candidates to withdraw from fall election contests:

[I]f the Texas GOP is truly that concerned about losing votes to the Libertarian Party, then perhaps they ought to try harder to please libertarian-minded voters who might be persuaded to vote Republican if the party was made more palatable to them.

Although, I have to add a caveat: that ain’t going to work unless the GOP can come up with someone less batshit than Rоn Pаul. But nobody ever said building a big tent was easy.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

QotD, whisky-and-car-keys-and-teenage-boys edition

Megan McArdle on the profound ignorance of 100 University of Chicago faculty members:

I haven’t heard such transparently wishful claptrap since my fifteen-year-old boyfriend tried to convince me that sex provided unparalleled aerobic exercise.

Then again, profound ignorance is hardly a new problem for the institution.

Friday, 23 May 2008

QotD, how to bamboozle the public the right way edition

Hei Lun Chan, in response to American Airlines’ decision to charge $15 per checked bag starting June 15:

They should have just raised prices by $15 then announce a ”$15 off if you don’t check any bags!!!” special.

The ultimate irony is that if they’d just raised each-way fares by $15, it would simply be another “the sky is falling because airfares are finally catching up to inflation for the first time since deregulation” story, but now American is cast in the role of being this side of the pond’s version of notorious buried-fee carrier Ryanair, which apparently combines Southwest’s low-cost business model with the customer service standards of your local DMV branch, at least until another of American’s dwindling band of competitors comes up with an even more boneheaded PR move like adding a cash-only “boarding fee” for use of the jetway to access the aircraft.

Given the ongoing fee-fest at the airlines, somehow trying to keep my elite status on Northwest for 2009 doesn’t seem quite so useless—although given that the only scheduled carriers that can take me anywhere other than Las Vegas from Laredo are American and Continental and driving to San Antonio to save time by avoiding a connection only works for places you can fly non-stop from San Antonio, much of that value is predicated on Continental continuing to honor Northwest status in 2009, which given the potential Northwest-Delta merger seems decidedly uncertain at present.

Friday, 25 April 2008

QotD, not-so-super-delegates edition

Marc Ambinder on the uncommitted Democratic superdelegates:

So if Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), who comes close to calling former President Clinton a racist, who believes that African Americans think that the Clintons “are committed to doing everything they possibly can to damage Obama to a point that he could never win,” who says these things in multiple venues (Reuters, the New York Times).... still won’t endorse and still won’t call for Clinton to drop out, should it surprise us that other superdelegates are even more shy?

Personally my suspicion is that a large part of the non-commitment by the superdelegates is that it goes against the way politicians deal with the tough issues—in large packs like roll-call votes where they can be at least somewhat anonymous. There is no “safe vote” now—or at least there’s nothing that is obviously the safe vote—so why commit now when in a few weeks you might have the political cover to commit after the heat is over?

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

QotD, Bill Clinton has jumped the shark edition

Taylor Owen of OxBlog, on an unfortunate recent reading choice:

I just finished listening to an abridged version of Clinton’s autobiography (I just couldn’t commit to the full thing). There are two things that are glaringly clear. First, it’s all the evil “far right’s” fault. Everything. It is never Clinton’s fault. Second, and more relevant here, is that in 1992, Clinton was running a VERY similar campaign to Obama. Had Hillary been in the race, there is no doubt that he would be have mocked her as the establishment candidate. He would have been right, and he would have won. He would have done so using words, which he was at one point pretty good at. And he would have argued that a new generation was ready to have a turn in Washington. Sound familiar?

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

QotD, primary elections edition

Steven Taylor on the primary process:

Of course, it would be nice if we could trash this byzantine process and construct a better one, but then again, a magic pony would be nice, too.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

QotD, McCain Derangement Syndrome Edition

My blog-colleague James Joyner on the results of the Florida primary:

Conservatives ranging from Michelle Malkin to Robert Stacy McCain can’t believe [John McCain] beat Romney. Republican primary voters, apparently, figure an 82% conservative who sometimes takes positions seemingly designed to anger the base is preferable to a guy who was a Massachusetts liberal a few months ago but now says exactly what conservatives want to hear. Go figure.


Friday, 11 May 2007

QotD, ex-bosses edition

“What most professors want is for students to validate their pathetic life experience.” — Michael C. Munger, as quoted in the film Indoctrinate U., via Margaret Soltan’s University Diaries (who is less than enthused by the film overall).

As a contingent faculty member, all I can say is that quotes featured in QotD do not necessarily represent the views of Signifying Nothing, its owners, advertisers, or the potential tenure-track faculty-member who generates all of the content. But it’s still funny…

Friday, 16 March 2007

QotD, The Office edition

Dwight Schrute, attempting to mingle with another guest at the CFO’s party:

Dwight: You ever watch Battlestar Galactica?
Party guest: No.
Dwight: No? Then you’re an idiot.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Your deep thought of the day

“I would not join any club that would have someone like me for a member.” – Groucho Marx.

In unrelated news, I’m going to EITM at WashU in June.

Saturday, 25 November 2006

QoTD, Egg Bowl edition

From Michael Lewis’ The Blind Side, explaining the passions surrounding the Egg Bowl to outsiders:

The game served as a proxy for the hoary Mississippi class struggle, between the white folks who wore shirts with collars on them and the white folks who did not. Mississippi State was a land grant college, originally called Mississippi A&M. The desperate contempt Ole Miss football fans felt for Mississippi State was echoed in the feelings of fans of the University of Texas for Texas A&M and fans of the University of Oklahoma for Oklahoma State—formerly known as Oklahoma A&M. These schools were not rivals; they were subordinates. Theirs was not a football team to be beaten but an insurrection to be put down. This notion was most vivid in the Ole Miss imagination: that the state of Mississippi, with the sole exception of the town of Oxford, was once a Great Lake of Rednecks. In recent decades the earth had warmed, and the shores of Great Lake Redneck had receded, so that, strictly speaking, perhaps it should not be described as a lake. But still, the residue was a very large puddle. And the one place in the puddle deep enough to ruin a shiny new pair of tassel loafers was Starkville, Mississippi.