Monday, 14 May 2007


Except all the dress-up bits, which are fun anyway, and packing up all the books in my office so I can ship them all using the postal service’s library rate to Tulane.

Wednesday, 28 February 2007


I’m 99.8% sure I took off my watch in class today (probably my methods class) and left it in the classroom. Hopefully it will still be there when I get a chance to check tomorrow morning…

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

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…

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.

Sunday, 10 December 2006

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.

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.

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

Wednesday, 15 November 2006

Sales job

For the first time in my life, the spirit moved me to create flyers for the Congress class that I am teaching next semester. I’m not entirely comfortable with advertising “no prerequisites” as a selling point, but then again there are no prerequisites—indeed, I don’t think our intro to American politics class, despite its popularity with undergrads, is actually required for anything at all in our curriculum at present.

The next step is to finalize a syllabus; I have an outline that I think will work well, but I’d like to nail down the dates for each topic and the content of the assignments.

Incidentally, I haven’t taught a MWF class since my days as a graduate instructor—if even then—and next semester I’ve lucked into two of them (Congress and intro). I am not at all a fan of the 50-minute class, and it's going to play havoc with my in-class exams in intro, but I suppose I will adapt. At least methods is only scheduled MW…

Friday, 10 November 2006

Interview'd (Part II)

Today went better than Wednesday, largely because (a) it was shorter and (b) I didn’t spend 90% of it walking or standing. I feel reasonably good about how things went, all things considered—and certainly better than I did yesterday morning, when I was both tired and in one of those depressed moods.

I think the bar is now set pretty high, at least if the dimensions that appear to matter to this department and university are the ones on which this position will be filled. But we will see; it is early days yet.

Wednesday, 8 November 2006

Interview'd (Part I)

Day one of the interview is over, and I am basically brain-dead.

There is something immensely odd about interviewing for what is essentially one’s own job: the pronouns get muddled, as do the tenses, and (putting on the shoes of the interviewers) I’m not sure there’s much comparability between what an outsider might say and what I would.

Maybe it just doesn’t feel like an interview “should” because (a) I am basically comfortable with the people I am talking to and (b) I have resigned myself to knowing my fate is essentially out of my hands; I can fiddle at the margins, but essentially whether or not I get the job is largely determined by whether or not they find someone “better” than me who also accepts this offer, neither factor being under my control.

The analogy in my mind that keeps replaying itself is something that came up during one of my feeble attempts at a relationship with another political scientist† who explained to me that for all my swell features her existing boyfriend had “incumbency advantage.”*

Well, the one time previous to this when incumbency advantage should have accrued to me on the job market it did me very little good—partially my own fault in that case, since I was still in “meek new faculty member” mode—and I am no more optimistic now than I had right to be in the past.

Tuesday, 7 November 2006

I am a soft touch

My review copy of Stewart’s Analyzing Congress showed up today in the mail (I actually had it suggested to me by a professor at Lawrence during my interview there last year), and I liked it so much it went in my book order and on my Congress syllabus. Maybe I’m just overcompensating for having virtually no formal theory training in grad school.

Monday, 6 November 2006

Weird borrowings

Anyone who’s been to SLU knows that our illustrious president is obsessed with gateways and archways (along with statues)... our campus is littered with metal arches spanning pedestrian walkways, even whole streets (I think we have four spanning Grand Boulevard alone).

So it was pretty jarring to see a photo of two of our arches—the pair on either side of Grand at the crosswalk where Pine Blvd used to run back in the olden days, lightly Photoshopped to read “State University”—in the corner of last week’s episode (the one with Hugh Laurie and Borat) of Saturday Night Live during Weekend Update. Should’ve gotten a photo of it, alas.

Wednesday, 1 November 2006

Observation of the day

Advising students is really hard to do without a paper copy of the catalog in front of you.

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.

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

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.

Wednesday, 18 October 2006

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.

Sunday, 17 September 2006

Know your role

I have yet to master the art of being a “non-tenure-track but otherwise nominally co-equal” faculty member, an art being made more problematic by (a) being expected to attend departmental faculty meetings, at which grand and lofty visions are discussed and (b) participation in said vision being contingent on my continued employment, the odds of which are nominally in the 25–33% range, all job candidates being equal—which surely they are not. That’s better than the 0.5–2.5% range that probably exists normally in these searches, but it’s hardly the sort of odds I’d be betting on either.

It’s hard not to become invested in things in a situation like this one, although working on job applications is a relatively mind-numbing distraction from thinking too hard about these things.

Thursday, 14 September 2006


For the first time in my teaching career, I got suckered into teaching a class outside today. Of course, the fact the classroom smelled today like a high school gym’s locker room at the height of summer probably contributed to my decision as well.

Wednesday, 6 September 2006

Pass it forward

The first two legal forward passes in American football—probably the play that separates the North American version of the sport from the various forms of rugby football—were thrown by the SLU football team 100 years ago. Somewhat ironically, these days SLU is better known for its success in association football (soccer) and its long-running rugby club team than for college football, which was ended here in the middle of the last century during a period of budget cutbacks.

Tuesday, 5 September 2006

Meandering toward fun

This afternoon I taught the most enjoyable Intro to American Government class I think I’ve ever had; I don’t know yet whether to attribute it to my new practice of giving quizzes on the readings before class on WebCT (thereby ensuring I have students who have read), having less than 20 students (thereby allowing me to stare down the incommunicado students easily), or letting the first 45 minutes or so be more driven by the class rather than my outline.

Not that the other two classes weren’t fun either—well, to the extent that you can lecture on measuring concepts and make that “fun”—but the intro class really stood out for me today.

In other news, I was challenged by an intermediary to come up for an explanation why I don’t have a tenure-track job yet that isn’t “Duke offered me an obscene amount of money to be a sabbatical replacement, so I turned down some tenure-track interviews,” “the department’s faculty apparently didn’t think I’d move permanently to Wisconsin, unlike the guy they hired who was from there,” or “I didn’t feel like spending the rest of my professional career just teaching intro to American politics and research methods every semester.” Now there’s a toughie…

Tuesday, 29 August 2006

First day

I’m now 2/3 of the way throgh my first day of classes; I have my American politics class in about 40 minutes. Except for overpaying for lunch, missing my Metrolink train by two minutes (which wouldn’t really be much of a problem, except for trying to catch SLU‘s infrequent twice-hourly shuttle along Grand), and ending up with a Cherry Coke at a vending machine, it’s been a pretty good day thus far.

Plus I get a real paycheck tomorrow for the first time in three months, which is a nice bonus.

For the morbidly curious, here’s my pathetic collection of Metrolink photos thus far. No jumpers, tunnel collapses, or broken train windows yet.

Tuesday, 18 July 2006

More on the Auburn sham course scandal

One more before I head to naptime: Steven Taylor links a post from his Troy colleague Scott Nokes on the Auburn athletics sham course scandal. I found this passage amusing:

The reason the practical limit (on the number of directed readings) is low is that professors generally do not like doing directed readings, since it requires a high commitment of time for no extra pay, and for a single student. It also can mess up a department’s curriculum, but how that works is a little complex, and unimportant for understanding this story. The main point here is that most professors will avoid doing any directed reading if they can.

Spoken like a man who’s never taught in at a college where such extra work was a completely unadvertised expectation of the position. Every semester.

Mind you, I didn’t mind teaching directed readings courses, but I certainly would have preferred doing so under at least the pretense that it was voluntary on my part. To paraphrase a famous phrase, “being an internal candidate means never having to say ‘no’.”

In completely unrelated news, I have received two emails in the last 24 hours containing the phrase “I received an email saying that you are now my advisor.” It would have been nice to get an email saying that I had advisees. It would have been even nicer for my paycheck to start before I started having to do work for my new job.