Friday, January 30, 2009

Your command is my command

In comments, Phallusophy raises the following question, and was seconded by several anons:
How many fewer people apply to jobs outside the US/Canada? Why do fewer people apply to these jobs? If that has something to do with expectations about being able to come back, what are those expectations? And, finally, are those expectations accurate—are people who teach overseas not usually able to come back?
For my own part, I apply selectively outside the US and Canada. There are a few places outside North America I can imagine I wouldn't mind living. However, I'm not at all sure I'd be happy living in Cairo or Dubai, even for a year. Not to mention what a pain in the ass it would be to move there and back.

Comments? Typographical corrections? Let 'er rip.

--Mr Zero

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sure beats the Dewey Decimal system

The Good Professor hips us to something that is going to make my recommitment to being all that I can philosophically be easier. That is, unless I find some paper in its collection of almost 200,000 (TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND) papers that has already stated my dissertation's main claim. Quite the possibility, but still, fucking uh-mazing.

You can find an explanation of the awesomeness (and my excitement) here.

So, take a look, waste a few hours, and mull over the hard problem of whether SuperNintendo Chalmers' greatest contribution to philosophy is this or philosophical zombies.

--STBJD

Friday, January 23, 2009

Factulty Faculty quality and job market success

There's a line in the PGR that caught my eye recently. It says that " Faculty quality and reputation correlates quite well with job placement..." ("What the rankings mean," sentence #2.) The thing is, I wonder how well the PGR rankings really correlates with job placement. This is unscientific, but I remember reading a while back about Michigan's placement record, and how something like a quarter of their graduates over a 10-year period hadn't managed to secure tenure track employment. My Ph.D.-granting institution is way down the rankings from Michigan, but back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that we have a better placement record, on a certain conception of "better." That is, although Michiganders get cushy jobs with low course loads at ranked departments at a higher rate than we do, our people seem to get jobs--any job at all--at a higher rate than they do. (Of course, we don't often get cushy research jobs, and we often spend a few years on the market, so it's not all golden.)

So I wonder if anyone has looked into this in any detail. If all you want is a job--any job--is it better to come from somewhere in the middle of the rankings?

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hot or Not

I like Texas A&M's plan to shell out boatloads of cash for good teaching evals.. mostly because my evals are usually pretty good.  I guess it also generally seems like a good way help bump up teaching from that time consuming thing we have to do to get paid but that no one seems to get credit for (I know, you've got a teaching award, I'm happy for you... that get you tenure?).  

I got to reading some non-philosophy (though Gladwell's Blink probably isn't quite the mindless drivel that I usually turn to for a break) and in the introduction I find out students who watch 2 seconds of my teaching with the sound turned off will give me the same evals as someone who's taken my course for a semester. 

Don't suppose  we could speed up the process and hand out $10,000 after the students think we look pretty for 2 seconds..

-- Second Suitor

ps I apprecaite STBJD's post.  I don't think I can get that self-reflective until my ears stop ringing from the job market's monster bitch-slap.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I haven't been gone very long, but it feels like a lifetime

For so long as I have been in graduate school, I’ve taken for granted that philosophy is always going to be there for me. No matter what work I put into it, two hours here, a day there, six hours elsewhere (or lack of work for that matter, a day off here, a month off there) it would always be there waiting for me.

And for the most part, it always was. I made it through my classes, sometimes writing research papers the night before, sometimes taking a few weeks, sometimes taking whole semesters. I even half-assed my way through my comprehensive exams because I knew that I could. I didn’t need to read everything my advisors assigned because they weren’t watching over me all that closely, and besides, I was pretty confident I knew my shit, at least enough to satisfy everyone.

I made it through the first year of writing my dissertation in much the same way. My dissertation was always going to be there for me, it wasn’t going anywhere. After all, I was the one writing it. I turned in chapters when I needed to and everyone was pretty happy with my progress. And I took that to be all the victory I needed. I was certainly pleased as punch with myself for doing what I was supposed to be doing. Shit, I was damn proud of myself for accomplishing the bare minimum.

I think anyone can drift through a year or two of their graduate career so long as they pick the right advisor, know how to make it seem like they’re working hard and making progress, sit in on a few classes, and hand things in every now and again. But, it takes a real master of bad faith to do that for almost five years and still be proud of oneself, to still think that everything is going to work out in the end, because, fuck it, philosophy isn’t going anywhere.

But, then something comes along to shock you out of the complacency you’re so damn proud of: You don’t get into that conference you wanted to, or your dog dies, or your advisor rips apart your latest chapter, or you get a rejection letter from a journal, or your partner leaves you, or your very smart friends don’t get any APA interviews. It’s when this happens that this grand monument of accomplishment you’ve built for yourself out of faint praise, good enough’s, and the bare minimum begins to show cracks.

This is a crucial moment.

You can seal the cracks here with five pages, there with 4 hours of reading, and throw another chapter at those cracks threatening to ruin the foundation. But, if you do that, you’re probably taking from that same reeking pile of mediocre manure that's been sitting next to you for the past five years and that you can’t smell anymore because it’s been there for so long. Fuck, you’re probably so delusional you even love the smell of that shit! In fact, you’re proud of that big ol’ shitpile! So, why not just throw more at those cracks, then take a step back, survey your work, and nod approvingly at your small victory. Or...

Or? Or what?

Or, you realize that philosophy isn’t always going to be there for you. You remove the rose-colored glasses, look in the mirror, and discover that pinkish aura of invincibility you thought you had is just a cloud of bad faith that floats over your head like some sort of anti-halo. You start paying attention to the fact that philosophy has left behind many students much more talented than you, much more motivated than you, and to put it simply, much more deserving than you.

And then it hits you. Philosophy is on the verge of doing the same thing to you, if not now, then in the next few years. So, what do you do?

Panic is the first response. And that’s fine. Then you need to stiff-arm that feeling like you’re the Heisman-fucking-Trophy, and begin doing philosophy like you’re never going to get another chance, because, to be honest, you probably won’t.

But, that shouldn’t stop you from finally getting up off your ass and at least trying.

--STBJD

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

14% of people know that you can come up with statistics to prove anything

A few days late, and maybe a few dollars short, but you guys have been having so much fun discussing pedigree that I didn't want to ruin it. But, the time has come to move on. So, let's discuss the new PGR results that the Good Professor is slowly leaking out and that has us all on the edge of our philosophical armchairs (except for y'all experimental philosophers, who are at the edge of your surveys).

What's that you say? This doesn't really get us away from all the talk about pedigree, why it matters, and what these results and the survey itself has to bear on such a discussion? Fuck it. Let's tackle some of these questions:
Any surprises? Anyone sitting prettier now that these new results are out? Anybody worse off? Does my asking these questions drastically overestimate the impact of these results on graduate students? Is the Smoker simply buying into the PGR hegemony so many of you see out there (I'm staying out of that one) by linking to these results?
--STBJD

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Technology

This is one of those "I'm an old man" type deals. I often have students who bring laptops to class to take notes or look at facebook with. It's caused me to reflect on how much things have changed since I was in college. Although most everybody had computers back then, nobody brought them to class. I had one friend who wrote his master's thesis on an old Mac Classic that for some reason couldn't save a word document unless it was less than 11 pages. So he had to stitch eight or nine ten-page documents together to make the entire thesis, and if he made changes to the first one, he had to go through and repaginate the rest of them manually. And I had another friend, in the dorms, who had one of these things--a Brother word processor. It had a 2-inch-tall green CRT screen, would allow you to save your document in an electronic file, and then literally type it out for you. It was really, really loud.

Things are a lot better now.

--Mr. Zero

Saturday, January 10, 2009

What does the APA do?

There's been quite a bit of discussion on the blogs lately about how the APA could make things better for professional philosophers: Standardize job ads; create a searchable database for job ads; move the Eastern division meeting to a suitable location; return the central meeting to a suitable time; implement genuine online registration; run a genuinely helpful and effective placement service; stop charging students to attend the meetings; print session locations on the meeting schedule; liason with reporters so we don't get killed in the press; etc.

This all got me thinking: What does the APA do, anyway? Why do we keep paying our dues? Their consumer satisfaction rate seems to be astonishingly low.

(Also, seriously, why is there no searchable database of job ads? Come on. It would be so easy and so much better. I bet a couple of seniors in the UDel computer science department could set it up in 20 minutes.)

--Mr. Zero

Friday, January 9, 2009

Top breeders recommend it

Douglas Portmore, over at PEA Soup has a post up trying to understand "how pedigree might affect hiring decisions". If, indeed, pedigree unfairly affects hiring (it more than likely does affect it, unfairly, is another debatable matter), Prof. Portmore suggests a procedure to counteract it:
Insist that candidates submit dossiers that contains blinded copies of everything, such that the files that are prepared by the staff and then passed on to the hiring committee members are assigned only a number, containing no information as to the candidate’s name, gender, or associated institutions.
Of course, as many are pointing out in the comments over yonder, there are practical issues with having blind dossiers, but there's also those arguing against blind letters more theoretically.

These arguments emphasize that blinding cutting out valuable information or makes it difficult to "calibrate the praise" in letters. But, on what scale are we doing the calibration and what valuable information is being left off? Uncharitably, the answer is obvious: the scale and information being left off is pedigree and ranking. I'd be more willing to be less uncharitable if there was any indication that something besides this information would be missing in blind dossiers.

But, in the end, maybe the arguments are good. Isn't it just obvious that the best student in 20 years at Pittsburgh is better than the best student in 20 years at Washington University? I mean, come on!

--STBJD

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Fuck OpenID

I've been getting complaints in my inbox about OpenID lately and they've spread to the comments. So, I gave it a whirl the other day, tried to register, comment, and found out that the system is indeed flawed. The failed OpenID experiment is over; and, boy, what a failure I'm now beginning to realize it was.

So, what is going to happen now is the following (italicized and blockquoted for emphasis):
Comments will still be moderated, as they were on the previous venture, but you no longer need an OpenID to comment. Comments are now open to anyone. We do, however, still strongly encourage you to comment under an anonymous username you use consistently (like our fellow Smoker author Mr Zero used to do). This requires no registration, just typing in a moniker when you decide to comment. We had to pick names, now you can too!
Have at it!

--STBJD

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Working habits

Mr Zero's back with some thoughts on work habits, echoing, if memory serves, some of Second Suitor's thoughts at the previous venture (too lazy to look). --STBJD

So, there's been a bunch of discussion (here and here) about the work habits of philosophers. This discussion is of particular interest to senior grad students, who are balancing teaching duties with dissertating, and VAPs and junior TT people, who are balancing teaching way more than they did in grad school with writing quality articles for publication so they can stop getting their asses handed to them on the job market or get tenure or something. It's serious business.

I am notorious for my time-management problems, but I seem to have constructed a way of striking the balance that works well for me. For starters, I get my teaching out of the way early. I find that it's bad to try to write before I teach for two reasons. One, I find it hard to concentrate when the specter of public speaking looms in the immediate future. Two, I might nevertheless manage to get into the zone, space out, and work straight through class.

Once I'm done teaching, I need some wind-down time, so I eat lunch, read the blogs, and fart around. This takes about an hour. Then I write until dinner time. Somewhere (I forget where; might have been PEA soup or something) I read about a couple of motivational strategies that have been helpful. The first comes from Jerry Seinfeld, who recommends getting a big calendar that has a full year on one page. You write a red 'X' over a day in which you write. Pretty soon, you get a chain of 'X's going. Your job is, don't break the chain. Write at least a little every day, and your project will get done.

The second comes from Isaac Asimov, I think. It's called the Martini Method: If you write a thousand words, you get to have a martini. If not, not. For some reason, and I hesitate to speculate about why, this seems to work really well for me. I don't think the "thousand words" thing to be immutable or anything--it's especially poor for representing work done during the editing and revising process, and I sometimes find I've worked all day on formulating some argument or principle in just the right way, so it does exactly what it's supposed to, but maybe having less than100 words to show for it. I do enough work to feel as though I've accomplished something, and then at around dinner time I knock off and have a martini. A martini seems special, somehow.

I almost never do any work in the evenings. After dinner I try to relax, decompress, and get ready for tomorrow. Sometimes I've got something I have to do, but I try to treat it in a 9-to-5 kind of way. One of the perks of this job, of course, is that it's not a 9-to-5 gig, but if I don't treat it like one, I never get anything done.

What do you do? Any tips, strategies, etc?

--Mr Zero

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

On a scale of 1 to 200

Ever wonder if it's all worth it? The sweat... The tears... The howling into the void of the job market that spits back a mountain of rejection... Well, according to the wall street journal (and a survey by careercast.com) becoming a Philosopher is the 12th best job out there. 12th best! We don't have to worry about getting our fingers chopped off (sorry Butchers)... or clean up hospital 'accidents' (sorry licensed practical nurses).

Though, I'm not entirely sure how comforting it is when Parole Officer comes in at 14, but 12/200 isn't bad.

-- Second Suitor

Update from STBJD: I'm glad that Roustabout job didn't come through this winter. I had always romanticized temporary, unskilled labor, but not anymore; turns out being a philosopher is the bee's knees. Just like I've been telling skeptical undergraduates all along!

Monday, January 5, 2009

No rest for the weary

No interviews?  Interviews didn't go so well?  Time to focus.   The best way to make next year go better (besides praying to the economy gods) is to snag a publication or two.   To get something in-press in time we need to submit something in the next twoish months.  

By far the most helpful advice I've come across is Thom Brook's piece on publishing.  It's well worth the download.  Need to figure out where to publish? He also comments on one list of journal rankings (In the year of the gourmet don't we have to get a little excited  about rankings?). If you're not over philosophy wikis after the past few weeks there's always the philosophy journal wiki.  

-- Second Suitor

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Week in Review

In lieu of Sunday Comics, and for the week of 12/29/08 - 1/04/09:

Mr Zero commended the new found decency of search committees.

Second Suitor asks for questions you were asked during interviews. So far, the response has been non-existent. Let's change that, so we can all lock this shit up for next year.

The Eastern APA gets some press. Outrage from yours truly, here. More serious outrage, and debate about if such outrage is a bit too dramatic, here.

Mr Zero, and our fellow Smokers, have some helpful suggestions to improve upon the APA. Now if they'll only start to listen...

Happy New Year to all!

--STBJD

Friday, January 2, 2009

Seven suggestions for future APA meetings

Mr. Zero's back with some handy suggestions for improving the Eastern APA. For more thoughts and comments on how to improve the APA as an organization in general, check out this from David Velleman over at the good professor's blog and in the comments there.--STBJD

With the Eastern Division APA Meeting for the 08-09 academic year behind us, I already find myself thinking ahead to next year, since this year was a total wash. Here are some ideas to help make future APAs better, since this one was an unmitigated disaster.

1. Let's try to have an economy. By August, if at all possible. Really, ASAP.

2. I see why the job-fair conference is between Christmas and New Year's, and I see why it's on the east coast. But it really doesn't have to ever be in New York, and if it's going to be in NYC, it doesn't have to be in Times Square, and if it's going to be in Times Square, it doesn't have to be at the Hilton. We're philosophers, not investors or Ponzi-scheme masterminds. Please don't put us in the most expensive hotel on the most expensive block of the most expensive city in the nation. Jeez.

3. It shouldn't be in Boston, either.

4. I thought Baltimore wasn't bad.

5. How about Providence? Wouldn't Providence probably be okay? Maybe Hartford? Or someplace like Richmond, Va? It seems to me that we're looking for a city big enough to have its own airport, and to have a hotel big enough to have the necessary conference facilities, but that normal people can afford to visit. Times Square isn't it.

6. And if you're going to hold it at a big, expensive hotel, could you throw us a fricking bone and reserve a block of rooms at the nearest TravelLodge or EconoLodge? This Hilton/Marriott shit is killing me.

7. In fact, there's really no reason to put it in a big hotel. Why not put it on a college campus? Campuses have plenty of rooms for presentations; bigger rooms for the big interview clusterfuck; space for a big reception; plenty of (less expensive) hotel rooms nearby; a lot of them are near major airports or are within driving distance of major cities. Why aren't we doing this?

What am I missing? Discuss.

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, January 1, 2009

They're stereotypes cause they're true

NT, a fellow smoker directs our attention to this amusing little write-up in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the APA. I'd probably be more excited about us philosophers getting some positive press if the writer hadn't been lazy with his stereotypes:
[T]he long beards reminiscent of 19th-century lithographs, the scraggly-haired women with wire-rim glasses, the elbow-patched 1950s sports jackets - [were a sign] that days before the Mummers, another colorful species had hit town.
Ha, ha, ha! We can't dress and we have long beards (for the record, beards are awesome) and don't even get me started on those women philosophers, I mean, buy a comb already! Zing!

Perhaps I'm duly unkind, when you get past the stereotypes (arguers! bad dressers!), the writer seems pretty sympathetic to the philosophic plight. He does mention the "scuttlebutt among APA's roughly 550 job-seekers...that more than 10 percent of 300-plus advertised positions may have been canceled." But, then he proceeds to quote the happiest job-seeking philosopher ever (Dr. Morris, sometimes I wish I had your passion and positive outlook; be angry!) and also feels the need to mention he has a ponytail. I want more on how hard it is out there for a philosopher, less comments on hairstyles. How else will the general public know how much to pity us? Sympathy isn't enough. We want pity, not sympathy...

You know, I never thought I'd see another dereliction of journalistic duty on par with the run-up to the Iraq War. I was wrong. Where's the call for an academic bailout to ease our pain? Where are our government subsidies for clothes? And, what the fuck is a scuttlebutt?

--STBJD