Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dispatch from the APA

An anonymous Smoker writes with the following stories:

Here were my first two hours at the APA:

1) As I approach the registration desk, the first thing I see is a prominent philosopher whose book is the subject of an author meets critics session telling the person at the desk that the program has the title of her book wrong.  She tells the person at the desk that the mistake is "embarassing".

2) In front of me is a philosopher who pre-registered on November 11th.  His credit card was set to expire on 12/1.  The APA waited until December to run his credit card and thus was not able to proces his payment.  The woman at registration tells him "Just because you submitted your registration on November 11 does not mean that we ran your credit card on November 11."  Okay, fair enough, but it really took you (at least) three weeks?  What is more, this philosopher, realizing that there might be a problem actuallly e-mailed the APA to let them know that his credit card was set to expire in December.  Apparently, they sent him back an e-mail saying that everything was fine, even though it was not.

3) Having registered for the conference, I headed down to placement services to register there.  There were three men sitting in front of computers registering people.  Two of them were only serving candidates who had pre-registered and one was there for candidates who were registering on site.  Virtually no one in line had pre-registered.  Now I understand setting aside a couple computers for those who pre-registered but if there was no one there who had pre-registered, you would think they would help those of us who were registering on site until someone who pre-registered showed up.   But no.  These two men sat there engaging in idle chit chat while the line for on-site registration stretched around the corner.  Only one of three terminals was being used.  The visual was so comical that I thought about taking a picture and sending it to fail blog.

4) After I registered with placement services, I headed to a session, which was scheduled for 6:30.  Someone (presumably from the APA) put a sign on the door saying that the session would start at 7:15.  This resulted in one of the speakers showing up 45 minutes late.

By themselves, any one of these errors are the kinds of things you expect at any large event.  But how could I witness all of these things in my first two horus at the conference and not conclude that the APA is incompetent?


--Mr. Zero

Monday, December 26, 2011

Things to Do in the District

Tips for cool things to see, restaurants, places to avoid, etc? I've been to Washington before, but it was a long time ago and I didn't have much time to spend. My advice would not be useful to anyone who'd so much as looked at a map of the place. What should people do while they're there?

--Mr. Zero

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Hallelujah! Holy Shit! Where's the Tylenol?

Merry "an asshole in his bathrobe, emptying a chemical toilet into my sewer" Day from all of us at the Philosophy Smoker.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

If You Don't Have Interviews, Don't Go

I strongly agree with the advice of anon 9:19, here:

If you have no interviews and are on the market, I _highly_ advise you to avoid the Smoker and the APA. If you've already bought tickets, just let the money go. There is no pain like being interviewless at the APA (if you're on the market).

I may have written about this before, but I went to the E-APA with no interviews my first year out. It was aggressively terrible. I was surrounded by friends who had interviews, who were acutely and intensely stressed out about doing well in their interviews. I, on the other hand, was experiencing a much deeper, existential anxiety. I felt like a ghost. Everything was going on around me, but I couldn't touch it. My friends could at least go some distance toward managing their stress by preparing for their interviews; I had nothing.

Sometimes people say that you should go once just to get a taste of the meat-market atmosphere without the pressure of being involved. That's possible. But I don't think it's worth it, and if you're going to do it, you should do it before you're on the market at all. By the time you're on the market, it's definitely not worth it.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, December 19, 2011

I'm crying in my... beer?

Seems like it's time to wallow (oh, you have interviews? must be nice...). For anyone else in the same boat, here are the steps I recommend:

Step 1: Pick you poison.

Vodka? What, so you can drink like a freshman, vomit and piss on that car as you're stumbling back home?

Beer? Seems like a better choice - a good variety for any occasion.

Me Tonight: Whiskey. More specifically: Bourbon.

Step 2: Assess your mood.

Need your body to feel the pain emanating from your heart? Visit with your friend Evan Williams (or his slightly more alcoholic neighbor Ezra Brooks). After all, he helped get you through those years of hard work that are not paying off.

Perhaps that hard work should pay off and what you need is consolation. A Woodford Reserve or Knob Creek -- apparently any bourbon with a bottle shaped like an oversized flask. The pain here comes in your wallet, but hey, you don't need to pay for that hotel room at the APA.

Tonight: I don't need pity and I don't need pain. Just a solid, stalwart drink to get proper perspective. Perhaps a Wild Turkey Rye. Or maybe I'll skip the rye and go with the wheated oak-heavy W.L. Weller. Ultimately, I'm actually doing well. It's mainly this whole 'job security' thing that rears it's ugly head every year.. just in time for Christmas!

Step 3: Take you medicine.

Comments on appropriate job market drinks or drinking away your problems are welcome.

-- Second Suitor

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A bunch of questions for y'all that I should have posted a long time ago but didn't because I'm not as good at blogging as I used to be

From Prof. Lurker, about advisors and the APA:
Is it perceived as either (a) a moral norm or (b) an important convention that the supervisors of job seekers be there at the Eastern APA for moral support, networking help etc.? I've done so in the past, but felt completely useless -- so far, no one has ever needed my advice or a shoulder to cry on at that stage, and I'm not very good at the networking-with-strangers stuff. (People I actually know at the hiring schools I will email well before then.) So, what are your experiences and perceptions? As a job seeker, have you found it helpful or reassuring to have your advisor there? Is there a perception that a student whose advisor isn't there is being less enthusiastically supported? On the simplifying assumption that it's otherwise a pointless inconvenience and waste of money, am I still obliged to go?
FemFilosofer on women's interview attire:
I 've always been amused by the conversations on the blog about interview attire, especially those about women's interview attire. What I've learned from these conversations is that 1) I should wear a suit, 2) I should not wear a suit; a) I should wear heels, b) I should not wear heels; *) I should wear makeup, **) I should not wear makeup. In addition, riding in elevators with interviewees (lucky bastards) at the APA while they discuss the merits of the red tie with the sailboats versus the blue tie with the fleur de lis has become somewhat of a spectator sport for me. I'm probably going to turn all of these things into an article someday. But for now, here's a link to a fun article on Jezebel about the Duke Women Law Student Association. It might be heartening to know that even though the Smoker conversations test my mind's ability to handle contradictions, no one has ever (to my knowledge) informed the philosophy dudettes to get proper bra fittings before the APA. Be heartened, philosophers. We're not the craziest of the crazies.

And, for full disclosure, my preferred interview attire is a skirt and a cardigan. But you won't find me in an elevator at the APA squirming about my decision to wear grey tights instead of black ones.
Perhaps too late, but BR asks and my answer is that you should e-mail the department):
Say that in between the time when an application is due (e.g. Nov. 4, Nov. 15, or Dec. 1 etc.) and the time when the committee makes a decision about APA interviews (December?) one gets a paper accepted for publication (or some other significant thing happens). What should one do? Should one email the department and ask to have their dossier updated?
Okay. I'll try to be better. See y'all at the APA.


Friday, December 16, 2011

pdf annotator/organizer

Amidst being stressed or depressed, have any thoughts on the best way to organize your pdfs and take notes? Have a good system?

I'm playing with Mendeley and ReadCube. I like how both let me collect, search, highlight & take notes (I tend to like the note taking on ReadCube better - I don't like the yellow quote bubble that you have to click on to read the notes). Both seem to have some issues as reference managers, though Mendeley seems to win here.

Any decided preferences? Other program suggestions?

--Second Suitor

ps Grahl pdf annotator served me well letting me write on the pdf if you have a tablet pc (but it's not free).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Interview Successes

Although I would hate to derail the amusing and enlightening discussion of fucked-up interview experiences that is now ongoing, I do want to start a parallel discussion of interviews that did not go poorly. In this thread, we tell stories about interviews we nailed.*

Unfortunately, I don't have any (true) story about the time I hit it out of the park, but I have had a couple of interviews that went well enough that I didn't think it was crazy to imagine that I'd get the flyout or the offer. One interview with a Ph.D.-granting department focused on my research (of course). They said they wanted to talk about my writing sample, but what they really wanted to talk about were all the deeper issues that didn't specifically come up in my writing sample but which were hiding slightly under the surface. All the assumptions you have to make in order to get to the point where my question comes up. So, if my writing sample was a defense of utilitarianism from the Organ Harvest objection (it wasn't), they wanted to talk about whether there was any such thing as moral permissibility, in the first place, at all. The nice thing about it is that I was familiar with these deeper issues, thought they were really interesting, had thought about them a lot, and had a near-final draft of a paper in which I respond to exactly the arguments they were pushing. And so I was able to present what I considered to be cogent, well-thought-out responses to their questions. (The paper has since come out in a pretty good journal.) I thought the discussion went really well, and I was really bummed when I didn't get the on-campus. I'm still not sure what, if anything, I did wrong there. In all honesty, I'm not sure I have it in me to give a better interview than that.

--Mr. Zero

*I was trying to think of what the opposite of a "fuck-up" is, and it seemed that it would have to be `fuck-down.' But I didn't think that a post called "Interview Fuck-Downs" would attract the kind of attention I was looking for. So I went with the more pedestrian 'successes' as a clearer alternative.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Interview Fuckups

I thought it might be good to have a thread on the theme of "what not to do in your interviews," where we could share our "here's how I committed a life-altering fuck-up in a job interview" stories.

Here's one of mine: I was once asked a question about what challenges I have faced in my teaching and how I have met those challenges. The answer I was going for had to do with how some of my students are, sadly, not prepared for college-level work, and I have had to develop strategies for getting these people up to speed in a way that will also be valuable to those students who are better prepared. But the answer I gave implied that the main challenge I face is that my students are total dumbasses who suck, and I have dealt with this challenge by treating them as condescendingly as possible. (This is somewhat of an exaggeration. But not that much.) As I was answering this question, I was aware that I was in the process of blowing the interview. I literally had the thought, "because of this answer I am now giving--because of the sentence I am now uttering--I will not get this job." But it was too late; I was already giving the answer. To give a better answer, it seemed to me, I would have had to stop in the middle of what I was saying--in the middle of the then-current sentence--and start over. I considered doing it, but didn't think I could pull it off.

How to avoid this kind of stuff? I don't know, exactly. One thing is to try to anticipate what questions you'll get, and prepare answers to them in advance, and try to get ones that don't make you seem like a racist asshole. Our annual "interview Rehash" has been very helpful to me over the years in this regard. But, for me, anyway, there is no substitute for experience. My interviewing has gotten progressively better over time, as I've gotten more interviews under my belt.

Does anybody have any fuckup stories they wouldn't mind sharing? Does anybody know a better way to get good?

--Mr. Zero

Friday, December 9, 2011

Award for Best Ad of the Year

...goes to #120 in JFP #192W, which reads as follows:

120. CONTRACT FACULTY POSITION/PHILOSOPHY. DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES. The Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies invites applications for a one-year, non-renewable contract faculty position available August 17, 2012. 4-4 teaching load, usually two preparations per semester. AOS or AOC: Ethics. Responsibilities: teaching Ethics and possibly Introduction to Philosophy and additional upper level courses; providing service to the department as needed. Minimum qualifications: ABD in Philosophy; ability to teach well Introduction to Ethics. Preferred qualifications: earned doctorate in Philosophy prior to start date; competency in one or more of the following: aesthetics, American philosophy, African American philosophy, critical race theory, queer theory, indigenous philosophy, women and gender studies, animal ethics, or other area of study concerning underrepresented populations; experience in mentoring non-majority students, inclusive pedagogy, and diversity policy issues. The department highly values scholarly teachers, so candidates should be prepared to demonstrate a passion for, and innovation in, the classroom. Send curriculum vitae, graduate school transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a writing sample, a brief statement of teaching philosophy, and a brief statement of research interests to: AnnMarie Adams, Dept. Administrator, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Ball State University, Muncie, IN 47306, or via email to: Electronic submission is strongly preferred. Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled. ( The department of Philosophy and Religious Studies seeks to attract an active, culturally and academically diverse faculty of the highest caliber. Ball State University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer and is strongly and actively committed to diversity within its community. Therefore, we especially encourage applications from candidates that would contribute to this commitment. (192W); posted: 12/9/2011

It doesn't identify the school except in passing when it gives the mailing address. They literally forgot to say what school it is--it's only by accident that it includes the information at all.

--Mr Zero

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Gentlemen and women, start your engines

I hope that many of you are getting good news about interviews in the coming days. And those of you who haven't done the interview thing before (and perhaps those of you who have) may have some questions about what to expect, how to prepare, how not to ruin ChristmaHannuKwanzaa for your families, etc.

This is advice from an historian, but it's quite useful and applicable to APA:

This from last year's week of dread Smoker:

Mary Sies' extremely useful article at IHE:

And this thread from LR:

What worked for me: create a master list of questions, and write a response. For me, knowing the answer makes it far easier to extemporise on the spot. (I do the same thing prepping for class. I write extensive notes, but only glance at them for prompts.) You can't take your notes with you to an in-person interview (one of the fringes of a phone interview is that you can have all your notes and papers in front of you), so you have to know what you're going to say.

Mundane advice: When you get the call (or email), you will likely be asked to choose among several interview times. It's easier to handle this question by email, but if by phone, you'll need to have your calendar handy to write down the appointment (and to make sure you don't have any scheduling conflicts). This seems obvious, but the first time I got "the call," I had already concluded that I was not getting any interviews, and was completely unprepared and had to run around my house trying to get it together. This is much harder to do when your head is buzzing loudly from that massive adrenaline rush you just experienced. You may be asked if you have any questions. One question you should ask is "Who will I be meeting with?" Get their names. (Later, look them up. Read something they've written that's of interest to you. You'll have time on the plane ride to DC). Ask who you can contact on the SC if you have any questions prior to the interview. Get contact information in case something happens that prevents you from getting to the show on time.

APA is a mob scene. It's stressful. The wi-fi can be really sucky, so don't count on it working. Take snacks (the food is expensive in the hotels). Try to have fun. Silently judge the other philosophers based on irrelevant factors like hair and shoes. Don't get drunk. Few people are as charming as they think they are when drunk.

Take your intervew clothes in your carry-on bag.

Pray to Khione for good weather (the APA can't handle predictable winter storms).

I'll open this up to the floor for questions. And answers, from thems what gots 'em.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Zachary Ernst's Accusation of Sexism

As you may have heard, there has been some discussion of a piece written Zachary Ernst of Missouri, in which he vocalizes his frustration with the fact that his wife has been subject to an unfavorable tenure vote by his department, and in which he suggests that sexism was a major contributing factor in this vote, and which you can find here.

I spent some time poking around the Mizzou philosophy department webpage the other day, and I think 3 things are clear: 1. Prof. Ernst is understandably very frustrated and upset; 2. This is not at all a case in which a denial of tenure was warranted on the basis of insufficient research--her record would have gotten her tenure where I now teach and at every place I've interviewed where they told me what I'd need to do to get tenure; 3. There are a bunch of facts we don't have, such as: the tenure procedures and criteria employed at Mizzou; how tough it is generally to get tenure there; the content of her reference letters; details about teaching; etc. So although the charge of sexism does not seem implausible, neither is it obviously true in light of what we don't know.

This is a sensitive issue, obviously, so let's try harder than usual to stay cool. I'm going to exercise more discretion than usual in comment-moderation in this one.

--Mr. Zero