Wednesday, December 31, 2008

First things first

"So, tell us about your research." Yeah, we all know that one. Think hard through your post-APA alcoholic haze and let us know if there were any questions that you were surprised by or should have been prepared for - in particular questions that we should add to the PS Tome of Philosophy Smoker Questions.

Sooner or later we'll have all the questions and all the answers so the interview will becomes even less informative. Yay!

-- Second Suitor

Monday, December 29, 2008

Rocking the active voice

Mr. Zero's back, and is amazed at the improvement in search committees' grammar over previous years. Enjoy! --STBJD

Is it just me, or are the PFOs way, way better this year? I've gotten tons of actually decently written, responsibility-accepting rejection letters this year. Here's an example, from Pittsburgh:
Dear [Mr. Zero],

I am sorry to inform you that the Junior Appointments Committee has decided not to pursue your candidacy further at this point. We received nearly two hundred responses to our advertisement, including a great many from highly talented and accomplished applicants. Obviously there are many different considerations on which our decisions are based, and I hope you will appreciate that I cannot go into specifics about individual cases. We will keep your dossier on file until next year, when we shall probably be advertising a junior position again.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider your credentials, and let me wish you the best of luck in your job search.

Sincerely yours,
John McDowell
(Not that I expected to be welcomed into the Cathedral of Learning, or anything.)

I've received a staggering number of PFOs like this. The Committee takes responsibility for making the decision, politely tells me to fuck off without being a prick about it, and wishes me luck. It's really, really weird--I got exactly one letter last year that approached this level of competence, and about 100 that varied between mild impoliteness and unspeakable rudeness. Could it possibly be that the burgeoning online philosophical community of which we have been a part of the past year or so is having an impact on the behavior of hiring committees? I know it seems crazy, but there it is, in black and white.

--Mr Zero

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sunday Comics

I hesitate to call today's comic Classic Philbot, in the same way that Schulz got to call his reruns Classic Peanuts, so I'll just call this vision of the Smoker, an oldie.

Good luck out there on the mean streets of Philadelphia; if you're looking for some R & R, be sure to avoid the movie theaters.

(Click the comic to make it grrrroooowww!)


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Public Service Announcement, pt. 2

From a fellow (or wannabe, as it were) and seemingly exasperated Smoker comes this question:
Where and when is the smoker? Do I just go in the hotel and say "Where is the smoker?" What time does it start? Jeez.
Seeing as how I was unsuccessful in obtaining any interviews, due entirely to lack of trying, i.e., not being on the market this year (a confluence of events), I decided not to spend/waste my winter vacation in sunny Philadelphia, but instead went home, tail between the legs, to convalesce, grade papers and write a chapter. So, not only did that dash my hopes of an APA live blog (next year!), I can't answer the question. Will someone help her out in the comments, please?

In the meantime, look for a return to excitement on these pages soon and know that my thoughts are with those interviewing.


Public Service Announcement

Looking for something to do in between interviews?  I mean besides the whole conference thing.  Google has the answer:

Some blog full of recession specials (forgets to mention free beer at the smoker).

A top 10 list of cheesesteak places.

Anyone know a good bar around the conference hotel?

-- Second Suitor

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Looking ahead

So I know there's another APA.. An allegedly more laid back APA..  and it's supposed to have a few job interviews going on.  Does anyone know when the list of jobs for round 2 comes out?  I take it there is another list we get to look at?  

Whatever I'm going to go get drunk and open some presents.

-- Second Suitor

Monday, December 22, 2008

Listen up!

Jender over at Feminist Philosophers has a post up offering some useful advice for search committees interviewing at the APA. It's all worth reading, but the best piece of advice is, I think, the first one:
Learn about and discuss research on biases and assumptions and consciously strive to minimize their influence on your evaluation. Experimental studies show that greater awareness of discrepancies between the ideals of impartiality and actual performance, together with strong internal motivations to respond without prejudice, effectively reduces prejudicial behavior.
Great advice! And advice that shouldn't only be heeded when considering women (and minority) candidates as Jender rightly emphasizes, but when considering all candidates. Search committees need to be cognizant of those biases that make the already noisy information they're getting about candidates at the APA less noisy and do something about it.

So, search committees, heed Jender's advice. Hell, I'll even make it easy on you. There's no need to do an extensive literature search, wikipedia is your best friend here. Or, if that's not your bag, just take a look at the collection of biases and interview effects helpfully collected here. Your interviewees will be much obliged.


Christmas Break

** Second Suitor is going to go build a nice little snowman... and then talk to it about research and teacing. **

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi State University

In lieu of Sunday Comics, absent due to my being stuck in airports for an ungodly amount of time (yay for free wireless! boo being away from a scanner!), Mr. Zero's back and clinging to his last hope. --STBJD

I'm sitting here trying to work on a paper about something I'm really interested in and have been trying to find time all summer and fall to really get into. But I'm also checking the wiki every hour or so, even though it scares the hell out of me every time. Every day or so another school I really, really want to work at goes up and my hopes are crushed. It's getting very, very late, but there's still one of my top choices that hasn't gone up yet. As of right now, it's my only hope.*

(I could be wrong about this--I haven't gone through and made any rigorous attempt to compare the wiki to my list of applications, though. I can't imagine anything more dreadful. Do people do this? Ugh. That said, I am probably not wrong.)

*I tried and failed to find a youtube clip of Luke playing the message from Princess Leia to link to. Did you know how much dirty Star Wars shit there is on the internet? A lot.

--Mr. Zero

Friday, December 19, 2008

Why I keep doing this to myself

You all may remember Mr. Zero from his time as one of the more prolific commenters at the old venture. He was a dynasty unto himself there, so Second Suitor and I decided to invite him on board here at the Smoker. Here he is with his optimistic first post: an attempt to remind us that, despite everything, we have a pretty nice job. --STBJD

It's my second time on the market and I'm not doing any better than last year. I'm grumpy, stressed out all the time, and I'm sleeping like complete shit. I check my phone for messages even though I haven't been away from it in hours. Every day feels at least a little like a swift kick in the nuts. It sucks--if you're reading this, I don't have to tell you how much it sucks. Why do I keep doing this to myself?

I keep doing this to myself because I love my job. Over the summer I snagged a VAP. It's a lot of teaching (only 2 preps, though!), a lot of students, not much money (twice what I made last year, though), and located in a part of the country I would not otherwise have opted for. Nevertheless, I get up in the morning and go to work and it doesn't feel like work. I like being in the classroom. I like introducing people to philosophy and teaching them how to do it. (I do not like grading their initial efforts.) I like thinking about philosophical problems, doing philosophical research, and writing philosophy papers.

So, one thing I've learned being in this job is that I really like this kind of job. I like being a professor, and I like it when I read a good paper from a student and I can think, I taught this person how to do this. I like the feeling I get when I clearly identify a philosophical problem, work my way through it, and develop a plausible solution.

All I want is to be able to keep doing this. And since this appears to be an especially bad year for all of us, I thought that maybe now would be a good time to accentuate the positive. So I'll throw it out to you: why are doing this to yourself? What makes you want to do this?

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I like you, but I'm not *in* like with you

Student papers have slowly been trickling into my inbox. Almost invariably the students mention that they hope I like their paper, as if my liking their paper is the only criterion I use for grading. If it were, I imagine it'd be much easier for me to grade: A's all around! Because if there's anything I like, out of all the awesome stuff I get to do as an instructor, it's reading 25 papers, more or less poorly written, on a topic I chose because I thought their mostly feeble minds wouldn't mess it up too badly.

Perhaps that's too harsh. My students are good people despite their being mostly freshman. Besides, maybe these students are on to something; I do hope I like their papers. That would, sure as shit, make my life for the next few days much more enjoyable.


I need a totally trojan plan right now

Remember when being a philosopher was but a twinkle in your ill-informed undergraduate eye? When I was applying to graduate school, most schools seemed to get around 150ish applictions and maybe 10ish would get accepted. These were fairly long odds and you knew going in that the odds on the market were worse. Somehow along the way I never realized how much worse. I sort of assumed it would be worse on the order of 1:150, only everyone in the running is a Dr.

Here are the numbers I've found:
Are those numbers high or abnormal? That is a shitty market..

-- Second Suitor

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Topsy-Turvy the motherfucker

The below problem has been solved. So, with that taken care of, I'm bumping up a more pressing topic courtesy of Ibid:
What strategies are you all using for phone interviews?[...]For example, do you write SC names out and arrange them around a table so that you can pretend like they're there and that you're talking to people and not to a phone? Has anyone tried this? (My hunch is that it might in fact be helpful.) Or any other strategies?
Again, let's start with my uninformed opinion. My (vacuous) hunch is that figuring out what you can do to make yourself feel comfortable during a phone interview (including putting name tags, cardboard cutouts of Star Wars characters, or your old Magic guarding Bird poster at a table) can only be helpful. Though perhaps you shouldn't spend too much time trying to figure out these sorts of comfortability issues peculiar to phone interviews. Your energy might be better spent on coming up with a pitch for your work in a way that's tailored to the search committee interviewing you, figuring out how to use interviewer's questions as hooks to talk about what you want to, etc. In other words, just on general interviewing strategies.

But, I may be off-base here, so I'll let others give more informed opinions in the comments. In the meantime, the best interview advice one can get starts here at 3:46.


I wish I had your problems

PapaM, who "recently...was lucky enough to get some interviews at the [APA]," yet "didn't register for the conference because [they] wouldn't have gone sans interview" (brining up an interesting question for a later post) asks:
Can I register for the conference on-site on the 27th? Will I still be able to interview?
Though probably more than a few of the interviewless Smokers out here are tempted to blow him off, let's fight these temptations. My uninformed thoughts on this matter are that, despite the seeming clusterfuck that the APA is (an unconsidered impression), it just doesn't make sense that one couldn't register on-site and still attend their gaggle of interviews.

But, that's just my uninformed opinion. Anyone with APA experience know if registering on-site is going to be a problem for those lucky bastards with interviews?


Late update: Problem solved in the comments: you can register on-site, you just have to be ready to stand in line.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

We have the technology!

Novel idea. A while ago I was thinking about the best way to do the 'teach something to students you don't know who don't want to say stupid things in front of their teachers' during an on-campus interview. (Getting ahead of myself? Sure... but it beats the shit out of watching my interviews melt away one by one on the wiki.) It occurred to me that we don't have to do it this way.

At my school, the library has audio visual equipment that I can check out... For free... If you want to know how I teach mid-semester, why can't I just send in a video or two of me teaching mid-semester. You get to see me teach. I get to 'audition' without all the artifice. Win/win?

--Second Suitor

Monday, December 15, 2008

Up until then I only knew it was a movement of the people

I recognize that it doesn't actually help, but I've slowly become a philosophy job wiki fiend. At least you hear something even if it's not clear whether the information actually means anything. If 5 people say they have interviews at a school and you haven't heard, you're obviously toast. But what exactly does it mean when one person says they have an interview? Am I still toast? Is it stupid to think there would be two rounds of calls (probably, but can't I still hold out hope?)

All I'm saying is it'd be nice to hear rejections (even better to hear about interviews) because the half knowledge that some other person got an interview isn't doing much good. (p.s. If you have a lot of interviews, you can go brag on this PJ discussion board thread.)

-- Second Suitor

Sounds like someone's got a case of the Mondays

Second Suitor already hinted at some of this earlier. But, if you needed some anecdotal corroboration of Second Suitor and fellow Smokers' misery, Missamerica points us this way:
With the Eastern APA just a couple of weeks away, I've been inundated with reports of DOOM from job-seekers and search committee members alike. Searches are being canceled without warning, the number of interview slots is being shrunk, people are having to suddenly rearrange their travel itinerary, and so on. A seemingly large number of new Ph.D.'s who managed to land 4 or more interviews last year (as ABD) have zero interviews this year. It's rough out there.
Hope this gets your Monday off to the right start! If not, look on the bright side of things. If you're one of the few lucky bastards to get an interview this week (anytime now), and buck this disheartening trend, you know that you probably earned it. Probably.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday Comics

It's been an eventful weekend here in terms of the amount of housecleaning posts and some of the more pertinent posts to this time of the year may have got lost in the shuffle. So, don't forget that Second Suitor helpfully posted the 23 interview questions that were compiled last year and that there's a discussion in this thread about changes people are seeing in interviewing practices from last year.

Have a wonderful and quiet Sunday. I hear, from those with past experience, that big things tend to start happening around this time.

(Click to make the comic grow!)


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Rehash: interview questions

It's probably worth taking the lovely holiday season to actually prepare for interviews and not just think about having them. Step 1: think about possible questions..

Last Year's list:
Course content
1. What kind of intro do you teach and why? As Anon. 1:58 puts it, "What do you cover in Intro and why? Do you give a historical or problems course? Do you emphasize methods or content? Primary sources or textbook?"

2. Inside the Philosophy Factory's got a broader take on the same idea. She asks, what's your "vision for 'normal' philosophy courses and your methods for teaching logic? Here you'll want to explain the kinds of exercises you'll do to keep students engaged. You'll also want to explain your assessment methods for those courses."

Interdisciplinary and cross-department teaching

3. What would you teach if you got to design your own course integrating material from other disciplines?

4. From Sisyphus, "How would you teach our cross-listed courses with gen ed./the Core Curriculum/some other department/the writing program?"

Engaging students

5. How would you engage students that are required to take philosophy courses but who otherwise would not have?

6. Here's a variation from Anon. 1:58: "How would you get students at our school interested in your class X? Why would our students want to take it?"

7. John Turri's talking engagement too, but he's going a different direction: "What techniques would you use to engage students, in the same class, of very different levels of ability and interest?"


8. Back to Sisyphus: "How would you work with our students as opposed to the ones at your current institution" (i.e., differences in diversity, age, college prep, money, types of feeder schools, a religious mission, they are all huge b-ball fans, etc.)"

9. Here's Inside the Philosophy Factory: What are "your methods for adjusting to different preparation levels in the classroom? Here is where you'll have to explain how you'll deal with the kid who can't read and the kid who had to come home from Princeton sitting next to one another in your freshman Ethics course."

Teaching practices

10. How does your research inform your teaching?

11. From Anon. 1:58: "What is your strength/weakness as a teacher? What is special about your classes? What do you feel you need to work on?"

12. John T again: "What incentives do you build into the course to encourage your students to actually do the reading?"

13. What technology do you use in teaching? Besides chalk, I guess.

14. From Inside the Philosophy Factory: How would you "deal with a few students who are doing badly in the class -- and how you would deal with a significant portion of the class that is doing badly? She recommends, "The key with the student is to offer more help and to understand what resources are available to help students who need more assistance. With the class who is doing badly, discuss how you'd do some review to reinforce some important concepts AND to do classroom assessment techniques like asking about the 'muddiest point' etc."


15. From Sisyphus, "what sorts of limitations do you see yourself working around in your research here (i.e., how will you deal with our heavy teaching load and research requirements at the same time?)?"

16. And Michael Cholbi underlines the point: "Be ready to talk about how you'd teach large courses (50+) on your own."

Michael C. also recommends having a handful of memorable points to make about your teaching. Now, nothing makes a talking point go down smooth like a charming little anecdote. . . .


17. From Anon. 1:58: "What was your worst/best moment as a philosophy teacher and why? How did you react/respond?"

18. Sisyphus again: "Describe a time you had to deal with a problem student."

19. And back to Inside the Philosophy Factory: Describe "your most challenging teaching situation and your most rewarding experience. Here is where you tell the story about little Jimmy who was sure he couldn't do logic -- who had talked himself out of being able to pass the class and who finally ended up passing the class"

20. Anon. 1:58: "From a religious school: How would you get along with our students?"

21. Inside the Philosophy Factory Again: Talk about "your professional development. Here is where you'll want to talk about the teaching seminars you're attending via your grad university, how you are a member of APT etc... This is not where you give details about conference papers, publications etc -- unless there is a research element to your position. Then you make it about 50/50."

22. "Suppose someone (perhaps a community member, and not necessarily a student) came to you and asked how to resolve moral problem X. What would you tell them to do?"

23. Finally, "Which do you see as you primary focus--teaching or research?"
Anything to add to the list?

-- Second Suitor

Update:  Oh yea, and - 'Tell me about your research'

Friday, December 12, 2008

Why not smile?

I spent the past few weeks willing the schools I've applied to not to contact me. Everytime I heard from one it turned out the economy sucked ... and the search was canceled. Some of them were only suspended and they (very politely) told us that the search may be reopened if money suddenly became available. **Fingers crossed for a bailout of the academic industry.**

While I'm currently sitting around willing the schools I've applied to to contact me, I saw something yesterday that seemed like the worst of all possible worlds. On the wiki someone posted:
"Email received that search (and interview) have indeed been cancelled" (emphasis added).
I thought having searches canceled was bad. THAT sucks.

--Second Suitor

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Last Ombudsing Clarifications

Very late update: Bumped down so the more important stuff can float to the top.

Alright, we're nearing the end of the first weekend here and I've posted entirely too much about commenting. The posts were long(winded) and engendered some confusion/outrage elsewhere.

Here's the point about comments (being concise usually takes me three tries):

The usernames are so that we have people posting under consistent pseudonyms. This makes discussion better, easier, and more interactive. The asshole criterion was a misnomer. It's really a coward criterion. Don't exhibit cowardice in your comments and most comments will be approved. In the case some of yours aren't, you probably already have an idea of the reason for rejection. So, we aren't trying to stifle the asshole that resides inside all of us, be an asshole all you want in the comments, just do it with an OpenID.

I promise, that's it for ombudsing for a long, long while. The fun, hinted at here and here, starts anew tomorrow.


Ombudsing Clarifications

Very late update: Bumped down and edited; see this post for the final word.

The following concern/complaint has been expressed about the commenting system we're trying to get going round these parts:
I don't like a) have to have a new account to leave comments and b) holding my fucking tongue on the internet. Graduate students in philosophy are a profane, petty bunch, and it has been nice to have a place to exhibit this without having to have some silly account to do so.
Rest assured that we want discussion, rants, and engagement in the comments, whether civil or profane, gracious or petty. Four points.

First, the point of usernames isn't to have anyone hold their tongue about anything, nor is it to stop profanity (I fucking love being profane; fucking love it) or discourage the petty from being petty. Say what you will in the comments, we just ask you to attach an online identity to it. You don't have to hold your tongue, but like most things in the profession of philosophy, nothing is guaranteed until you get tenure. And getting tenure here involves getting yourself a username and a small (tiny, minuscule) amount of civility of which I think we are all capable.

Second, the "silly account" seems pretty inoffensive to me. It requires nothing other than coming up with a username and a password (no e-mail address, or identifying information required). Besides, you can choose a username that's named after your character in World of Warcraft, references one of your favorite TV shows, or both (e.g., Carlos the Dwarf).

Third, having people assume usernames allows for a community to develop in the threads. In this community: comments and commenters can easily be referenced and responded to, commenters (most likely the prolific and good) will generate their own personalities, followers, and (fake internet) relationships with one another, and trolling will be kept to a minimum (through moderation and extreme ostracizing by the community).

Fourth, to be honest, you'll have to be a huge asshole to not get your comment approved. So, get your goddamn account and stop bitching.


Adventures in Ombudsing

Very late update: Bumped down and edited; see this post for the final word.

I hinted at the ways in which we'll be going about commenting here at the Smoker in the comments to this post. I'll reiterate two things you should know from the get-go:
  • Second Suitor and I will be moderating comments. We'll try to approve/reject them as often as our schedules (remember: similar to yours!) allow so that we can get some actual, lively discussion going.
  • In service of this goal, we're also asking anyone who wants to comment to register an username through OpenID and to post comments under that name. You can do so here (and you can find info on this process here). Despite such registration, picking an username to protect your precious anonymity, if you feel such a need, should be easy.
As one-half of the moderating team here, I'll tell you that the quickest way to get your comment killed is to be an asshole. Assholes come in many different varieties, but generally you're an asshole if you:
  • Use your anonymous perch to slander others under their real live names (unless, they are asking for it; asking for it doesn't include getting the interview you wanted, the fly-out you wanted, the job you wanted, et cetera).
  • Are a troll.
Your quickest way to comment approval is to not be an asshole, to say constructive things related to the post (more or less; threadjacking, though frowned upon when there's a discussion already going, will be allowed within reason), and to make me laugh.

And with such a warm welcome out of the way, let the commenting begin!


Late Update: In the sidebar, you'll find a place to email Second Suitor and I to get in touch with any concerns or questions you may have about the commenting system. You can also use (and I recommend you do) the email to send us any story tips or suggestions.

Heeeeeerrrrreee's Johnny!

Two or three days after Christmas, like clockwork, philosophers converge upon a hotel in a major city for the Eastern Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association, or, as it is colloquially called in philosophical circles, the APA. It's kind of a big deal. It's especially a big deal for those of us junior philosophers, ABD graduate students and recent Ph.D's, who are in the hunt for a job. Just in time for this momentous occasion, your friends, Soon-to-be-Jaded Dissertator and Second Suitor, are spreading their wings and collectively flying solo as the duo behind this here venture, The Philosophy Smoker.

For those not in the know (probably very few of you; hello old True Believers and new fellow Smokers!) we're named after everyone's favorite APA event. It's during this event that job applicants, those very few lucky enough to have secured interviews at the APA, and other intrepid souls have the distinct pleasure of being able to chat up the strangers who are deciding their futures. It's awkward, it's shitty, it's like you're thirteen all over again and trying to peel yourself off the wall to talk to that hot girl/boy at your middle school's Winter dance.

But you do it, because not only does your love of philosophy make you do things you don't want to do, but so does the profession. Sometimes those things are fucked up, sometimes they're awesome, and sometimes you don't know what to think about them. But, almost assuredly, issues related to the profession of philosophy are always fun to talk/bitch about.

In that spirit, The Philosophy Smoker is going to be a place for doing just that. Welcome.