There is, as far as I am concerned, no bigger racket than academic conferences. You have no choice but to attend them when you are just starting the profession, as a graduate student and as an assistant professor, when you really don’t have the money to travel. Most universities, controlled by state governments where Republicans have decided that state workers should be able to live on $0.18 a day when they are not being flogged in the stocks in the public square for being a taker, give very little travel money–usually about $1000 a year. Given that most conferences’ registration fees run between $400 and $1000, you wind up paying for travel to conferences out of your own pocket–a pocket that doesn’t have any money in it at that stage of your career.
So my student emailed me this morning to tell me his abstract has been assigned to a poster session for the upcoming AESOP/ACSP conference. I get why they went that route for some of their sessions. They get lots of abstracts, and if they turn people down, then that’s cash they don’t get. So they just accept a bunch of abstracts and fill rooms with a herds of people, take their money, but actually given them very little of the podium time/exposure that young academics pay to go to conferences for. (We tell ourselves it’s to improve our work. I can count on one hand in 10 years of conference-going how many times I’ve had anybody say anything that furthers the research. )
Mostly, though, the reason posters suck is that they add considerably to the cost of conference attendance, which, as I pointed out, you’re already mostly paying for yourself anyway. Full-size posters cost you at least $200 to print, they are hard to take on the plane, and then when you get home you have great useless poster you don’t really want to throw away (because it cost $200!) but it really has little use for anything else. It’s one thing if you are a consultant and go to conference after conference drumming up business. But academics aren’t like that, and while posters are standard in many science fields (where it is possible to use the poster for more than one conference), with ACSP, this just winds up adding to the cost of the conference onto attendees while collecting full registrations from them.
TRB a few years ago started with the poster stuff, and they rather prove out what happens when an organization becomes entirely undisciplined about it. They have poster session after poster session, scraping in registration fees–and the conference is far less useful to young academics than it was when I was starting out.
Organizations less willing to screw over participants would give them a choice up-front when you submit: a) I am or b) I am not willing to give a poster session, and then, if one is slotted into a poster session, you should get a break with a somewhat lower registration fee to deal with the extra costs. The former would save them dealing with withdrawals like me–if they tell me they are putting me in a poster session, I just don’t go, and it would useful for organizations to know that up front. I’d rather they just reject the abstract up front. (And before anybody screams at me, I can’t handle the social interaction of poster session due to anxiety related to my Asperger’s. I’ve trained myself to deal with presentations. I’ve never been able to manage the parties and/poster sessions.)
Well now I do have a conundrum. I’ve always been one of those people who are rather impatient with those who complain about how movies distort history/get the book wrong. Does it really matter if the elves were not at Helm’s Deep in Tolkien’s book, but Peter Jackson gave some of his hunky actors more screen time and, thus, put elves at Helm’s Deep?
I am pretty sure that Abraham Lincoln was not really a vampire hunter, and I sincerely hope there are no teenage vampires in Washington state.
I don’t think either Beatrix Potter or Jane Austen charged about solving mysteries in between writing novels and doing beautiful illustrations of small animals in frocks.
So up until about this morning, I’ve been in the “it’s a movie categorized as drama, fer Chrissakes, not a documentary” camp and thought little more about it.
But the controversies around Zero Dark Thirty strike me as rather important. It’s a drama–straight up. When you have “based on real events,” shouldn’t the viewer know full well that you are dealing with artistic license on the scale of “these people lived and did something roughly related to the topic herein presented” but treat the whole story as a matter of fiction until they have investigated the reality behind the story?
I’m betting Jesus does have relatives alive in the world. Whether DaVinci ever thought about them is another story.
So torture makes for good drama, as the Bond films have been making clear for roughly 40 years. But the problem is that there appears to be a strong consensus among interrogators that torture doesn’t work all that well. In fact, many have come forward and argued that the movie suggests that the CIA’s use of torture yielded crucial information to catching bin Laden, when that information was obtained using more humane–and far less cinematically titillating–methods. That gap between the state of the practice and what is shown on screen strikes me as rendering the movie rather into propaganda territory. It’s one thing to lay bare the reality of the CIA’s torture policy; it’s another to hint that it was effective when it wasn’t.
The major ethical arguments for torture are all consequentialist in nature. Take away the ends, and you have little left to stand on.
Either way, I’m now confused about my position. The movie fairly does not purport to be a documentary. But…
One of my students sent me this story from the LA TImes about UCI Professor Emeritus Richard McKenzie’s refusal to continue working on a MOOC. I think the reporter is unconsciously hilarious in making this a story about “uncertainties” when it seems pretty clearly to be a story about certainties. There is no uncertainty. Here’s what McKenszie expects:
In his statements posted to the class website over the weekend, McKenzie appeared to be frustrated over his attempts to get the students to obtain and read as much of the textbook as possible.
“I will not cave on my standards. If I did, any statement of accomplishment will not be worth the digits they are printed on,” he wrote.
READ THE BOOK? Have standards? That doesn’t sound like uncertainty to me. It sounds like a guy who isn’t comfortable just recording content and shoving it at people and then giving them a certificate.
The part I truly, truly love is this part:
Gary Matkin, UC Irvine’s dean of Continuing Education, Distance Learning and Summer Session, said in a statement that McKenzie is “not accustomed [as few are] in teaching university-level material to an open, large and quite diverse audience, including those who were not seriously committed to achieving the learning objectives of the course or who decided not to or could not gain access to supplemental learning materials.”
Yes, indeed. You can see why this guy is a dean: it’s the individual faculty member’s fault. Not my office for not helping him understand what he’s getting into, not the corporate entity you are writing checks to for your “completion certificate.” Nope. Just that guy who is “not accustomed” to students who “are not seriously committed to achieving the learning objectives.”
Proffies are so unreasonable.
Look people, if proffies wanted to record YouTube lectures to shove out there for people to listen to, they could do that without Coursera. Shouldn’t there be some commitment to engaging past just content delivery?
I was writing this morning (a textbook chapter, as a favor for a friend) about the difference between unlinked and linked passenger trip measures. This distinction is important: unlinked trips measure a trip as every time a person boards and alights a vehicle. Linked trips capture the entire journey as one trip, even if there is a transfer in the middle. For unlinked trips, a person making a single journey with a transfer in the middle counts as two unlinked trips.
You can see how much uncertainty unlinked trips add to measuring service use, particularly in large regions where transfers are frequent: counting one trip as two is a fairly big measurement error; if transfers are timed well, the problem can actually get worse as more patrons are likely to be more willing to undertake trips with multiple transfers. And, of course, because we live in a world where nothing is easy, it’s far easier for transit agencies to count unlinked trips than linked trips.
Imagine how difficult it is to do performance evaluation on service changes using unlinked trips. If you reconfigure routes, alter schedules, or open a new line, you are hard pressed to figure out how much increase in service use might be due to lower trip times (ie service improvement) and how much might be due to simply introducing transfers on the one hand, or increasing demand amongst journeys that require transfer on top of basic demand.
For some reason this morning I am typing “unliked” transit trips instead of “unlinked” trips. It’s feeling very Freudian.
Unless you have been in a media blackout, you’ve no doubt seen the adverts for Netflix-produced House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey. I’m holding off on seeing it until I’ve subjected Andy to watching all of the original BBC series from the early 1990s. I shall, of course, watch it as a junkie of politics and television, and in part because I have been in love with Kevin Spacey since Glengarry Glen Ross. I also have high hopes that the series might help people actually understand what a “whip” is and does. Do you understand how sad it makes me to hold out hope that Americans will learn about their government from a remake of an English series?
Anyway, it does promise to be good. The original, with the incomparable Ian Richardson, is really wonderful, as is the novel upon which the original is based. Has anybody dipped into the US version yet?
The tagline for the US series is “Bad, for a greater good.” Perhaps the US version attempts to make the main character somewhat more sympathetic.The reviews keep referring to Spacey’s Underwood (Urquhart in the Beeb’s original) as “Machiavellian”, which get us to the point of today’s ramblings about Machiavelli and his largely misunderstood attempts at political philosophy.
My favorite book on Machiavelli is from the late Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield, called Machiavelli’s Virtue. I say my “favorite” in that I still don’t understand large portions of Mansfield’s thought here, nor Machiavelli’s. Mansfield’s is not an easy book, but Machiavelli is not an easy subject–certainly not along the lines of what people get from their “intro to political science” courses. Machiavelli wrote a good deal more than the Prince. Jeremy Wadron’s excellent review of Mansfield’s book in the London Review of Books (unfortunate paywall) gives us a great deal of food for thought, in particular highlighting how Mansfield’s read of Machiavelli as a modern political liberal.
I am reading the most wonderful book: The Last Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making by David Esterly. It’s a marvelous memoir of many things: being inspired by the Grinling Gibbons’ beautiful woodcarvings to take up the tools of woodcarving, setting aside his academic career for a career in art, and, ultimately, becoming gradually more intimate with the work of the 17th century master carver as Esterly works to help restore the pieces damaged in a fire at Hampton Court Palace.
Here is the NPR story with Esterly in it.
Esterly also has a penchant for the English romantic poets, so that he is fully capable of blending those with his meditations on time and role of craft/art/making in one’s life in utterly sumptuous prose. Is it any wonder than my dreadfully late book chapter goes neglected while I spend my hours reading away?
We’re having a bit of a tussle in planning with our flagship journal. The current editor is my former advisor. I love the guy, and that’s all there is to it. He’s produced some very fine special issues of the journal, for all the criticism.
It comes up rather routinely in journals for all the durm and strang going on about JAPA at the moment; somebody who is a marvelous scholar in his or her own right takes over the editorship of a journal and winds up not necessarily suited to the role in various ways. That’s because editing isn’t a simple matter of being the best scholar in the room, or having good taste. It’s also a matter of organization and directness.
All that said, disorganized editors can hurt younger scholars. No, your promotion case shouldn’t come down to the one paper you are trying to place in one journal. But if that journal is important, there are consequences if the journal goes into disarray at the wrong time for you, as has happened for me here at JAPA. My senior colleagues with their close association with JAPA have convinced our Dean that JAPA is the premier journal in planning, at least for American scholars. It probably is. But now that USC is big into the prestige game, my promotion to full hinges on getting things into JAPA. Now, I haven’t even managed to get my stuff reviewed at JAPA after years waiting. I may have already damaged my chances at promotion by allowing my stuff to languish at JAPA. I know better than to do this, and yet I did it anyway simply because JAPA is so important to promotion here. And let’s face it: even when you are old and have been in the harness for awhile, you still hope your advisor approves of your work. At least I do. A weakness I should have outgrown, perhaps, but one of many I possess anyway.
I just finished Mr. Shawn’s New Yorker: The Invisible Art of the Edit by Ved Mehta, a memoir of Mehta’s time working as a staff writer under William Shawn. I suspect the book is most valued for the New Yorker gossip, but for me, the most interesting parts of the book came down just how extraordinary Mr. Shawn was as an editor: Uniquely supportive, attentive to detail, with a visionary eye for what types of long pieces would capture an audience and a republican interest in creating valuable content. He had a staff full of people to make it work; most scholarly editors do not.
In reading through the book, it occurred to me that JAPA’s previous editors, David Sawicki and Amy Helling from Georgia Tech, really were exemplary even if I could argue with David, in particular, about his attitudes towards certain types of qualitative work. I was a probationary faculty at the time, and David was infuriatingly direct, but quite nurturing in his own rough way. He said “This is not good, here’s why, send me something else” and “This doesn’t work for JAPA; it’s too technical/narrow/specialized for the audience” to me more times than I care to relive. Why? Well, because the material wasn’t good, and I was missing the audience, that’s why. Journals are where scholars keep learning after they finish their dissertation. Tom Daniels once referred to journals, rather dismissively, as “a training ground for junior faculty.” The phrase stuck with me at first because of the dismissiveness and now because of its insight. Journals are training grounds. David Sawicki, for all the “no” that I got from that guy, was teaching me how to write for the journal by showing me where I was missing in my attempts.
This nurturing represents an incredible generosity to the scholars that you edit.
Amy Helling, the managing editor, was even more wonderful. When I finally did get something past David and into the pipeline, Helling managed the process brilliantly, fact-checking and challenging points that didn’t make sense, catching typos and even–do you know how rare this is?–catching a typo in the regression tables. She kept things transparent and professional–a breath of fresh air in the academy where things are often neither.
I hope the kerfuffle around JAPA dies down soon and everybody gets their papers published somewhere.
As a person who is both a maker, taker, consumer, and investor, I am confused by the CEO as political celebrity. Me, I would like all the CEOs of companies that I invest in to, simply, stay quiet about their politics, unlike Wholefood CEO John Mackey. Do not give people a reason to boycott the products or services that my investments are producing, thank you very much. You want to run for office? Fine. You are entitled in this great nation of ours to hold public office.
Aristotle may have said that man is a political animal, and he’s right, and there are markets for political ideas, too, don’t get me wrong. But given a choice between simply buying a) whole-bean coffee versus b) buying whole bean coffee despite/because of the political stance of the company’s reps, I strongly suspect that a) appeals to the bigger consumer base of both conservatives and liberals. Using your company as platform from which to launch your political celebrity strikes me as bumping up against the borders of business ethics. While you are on salary from a company, aren’t you meant to put the company’s interests before your own desire to sell books?
There are some businesses for whom the nature of the product is wrapped up in symbolism–flags, peace t-shirts, etc. And some are difficult to boycott: JB Hunt had well-known political ideas, but it is hard to boycott logistics companies. But not coffee. Or loaves of bread. Or salmon filets. In those cases, errrbody’s money is green. And you can offend liberal or conservative buys with political celebrity. Right?
Is there anybody writing about this idea of celebrity CEO’s? I would like to know about it, if so.