Saturday, April 30, 2011


The big tornado that cut through the Deep South not only killed hundreds of people and did who knows how much damage to property, but effectively ended the school year early for the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa.  For some reason, it's the latter fact that shakes me a little more — maybe I'm getting a little jaded about tallying death and destruction, given some of my recent research here in Research City. 

Dear Old University is also a big state school whose campus is central to life in DOU-Town.  It's tough to imagine a disaster big enough to make DOU conclude that it couldn't complete the school year, and send home students while rescue workers tried to find out what on earth had happened to a whopping eighty employees that no one could locate since the disaster struck.  But UA is really going through that right now.  My heart goes out to them.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Guilty pleasures

Dr. Becca's recent post gave me the idea for a possibly-not-so-original blog meme.  Allow me to quote her:
At home and in my iPod, my music collection was eclectic but refined; but in my car, alone, I could revel in 80s nostalgia, in cheesy classic rock, and in current, inexplicably catchy bubblegum pop with no risk of incriminating evidence.
Tell us, O readers of this blog, upon your own blogs and in yonder comment section: what are your guilty pleasures in music?  What do you listen to only when you're alone and no one will hear what's on your stereo?  What do you keep in that playlist that never gets played when your friends are around to snoop in your iPod?  No cheating, now: don't give us Frank Zappa or Kate Bush and say, "Well, they've written better." 

My own guilty pleasures playlist is twenty-seven songs long, so I'll just admit to five of them for the sake of starting the ball rolling.  Oof, I burn with shame just trying to make myself link to the songs.
  1. "Tell Her This," Del Amitri.  I have no excuses for this one except I kind of like the singer's voice and I have a weird fascination with songs written from the perspective of an unsympathetic loser.
  2. "My Oh My," David Gray.  Again, I like the voice, and the gently rolling melody.  If I pay too much attention to the lyrics, though, I want to slap someone.  Preferably David Gray.  I do not know why I keep a song in my personal library that seems to calm me down, and yet angers me if I listen to it closely.
  3. "I Need Love," Luka Bloom.  I'm pretty sure that this entered my collection as an ironic joke that shed its irony little by little.  I still chuckle at the Irish vowels dropped into an LL Cool J ballad, but somehow the recording won me over, especially the arrangement on the album recording.  I fear to let others know I listen to it, though.
  4. "Blue," Eiffel 65.  I know, someday I'll be condemned to hell, where Theodor Adorno, on a daily basis, will force me to listen to this song on repeat until I crack a smile at it, at which point he will use a flamethrower to flay my skin as he lectures me in German about the fascism of standard time.
  5. "Buttons," the Pussycat Dolls.  I think I would sooner stand up in front of a large audience and tell them (untruthfully) that I used to be addicted to crack cocaine than tell them (truthfully) that I listen to this song when no one else is around. 
Aaaargh, aaaargh!  The self-loathing, it burns! 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Publication lite

A relatively new digital publication that focuses partly on issues of interest to pseudologists has decided to publish a piece I wrote for them.  The link is live now!  My short essay appears alongside a piece by a bigshot pseudologist; I'm a little humbled by the juxtaposition.  I'm proud to be there, even if the editors managed to insert a grammatical error not present in my original manuscript.  (I'm a really careful proofreader.)

So now, of course, I must update my CV.  What subheading should I put this under?  It's certainly not a peer-reviewed journal.  It's also not "popular press," as I understand the term: the readership is relatively small and limited, and a high percentage (a plurality, I think) of the published writers are professional academics.  It's not like I published a piece in Newsweek.  Is there a precise way to describe this kind of publication credit in a way that communicates both "I am smart and at least moderately respected by my peers!" and "Normal people (might) actually care about what I have to say!"?  I'm at a loss for the appropriate phrase, and with my job hunt slogging on without fruit this year so far, I'm kind of anxious to keep my CV as polished as possible.  Ideas?

Sunday, April 17, 2011


I sent off my 75th job application of this academic year's job cycle today.  (If you count the postdocs, anyway, which I do.)  I don't know if this is some sort of milestone, or just another meaningless statistic.  But for the heck of it, I'm noting it here.

Also, here is a picture from my little sojourn to Vacation City, taken from my hotel window.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

RBOC - Busman's holiday

  • I sincerely, deeply despise the website for the Worldwide Association of Registered Pseudologists (my primary professional organization).  It takes fifteen fucking minutes just to log in, because the website is that poorly designed.  For this I have to pay $150 dues each year?  I guess it's something to know that our annual fees support the very worst web programming money can buy.  
  • Also, making us register and pre-pay the registration fee for the annual conference just to submit an abstract?  Tacky, WARP.  You are fucking tacky pieces of crap.  I bet the officers on the executive board insist on cash bars at their house parties, too.  WTFever.
  • Part of my irritation with this stuff is that I had to hurry up and do it at the last minute take the opportunity to get it over with while I'm on vacation.  I decided to take a few days off to relax and enjoy myself in Vacation City, another locale in Research Country.  It's on the ocean, and there are tons of fresh seafood all around, and the weather is beautiful.  I find something tonic in being close to the sea.  It makes me happy just to walk down the street and see the blue-green expanse along one side.
  • Know what else makes me happy?  Seeing total jerks getting what they deserve.  The former authoritarian leader of RC, recently relieved of his position, has now been 'detained' for questioning.  It's not possible to use such delicate language for his sons, though: they've both been imprisoned during the corresponding investigation into their dirty business.  How about a round from the Singin' Brakeman for them poor fellas locked up in the hoosegow??

Sunday, April 10, 2011

'Cause I got a busted heart

I acknowledge – hell, I often remind myself – that my life is not nearly as bad as it could be, not only on an absolute scale but in comparison to how it has been.  I have a little more confidence in my own chances of survival now than I had just a year ago, and certainly more than two years ago.  Still, you can't help but take things hard now and then when you're on the academic job market.  I have precious little musical talent with which to express such feelings, but happily, there are skillful musicians who have such talent, and whose recordings are readily available if you know where to look.  This song, by Greg Brown, keeps creeping into my mind whenever I get that fanciful utopian urge to chuck everything and move to the middle of nowhere to live off the land.*  I don't think I'll be doing anything even analogous for a few years, but the image is already in place.

The Laughing River

I’m going away ‘cause I got a busted heart

I’m leaving today, if my Travelall will start

And I reckon where I’m headed, gonna need me different clothes

Way up in Michigan where the Laughing River flows

Twenty years in the minor leagues, ain’t no place I didn’t go

Well, I got me a few hits, but I never made the show

And I could hang on for a few years, doing what I've done before

I want to hear the Laughing River flowing right outside my door

And my cousin Ray says he’s got a job for me

Where the houses are still cheap and he knows this nice lady

He said she even saw me play once, said she smiled at my name

Way up on the Laughing River, it could be a whole new game

And it’s goodbye to the bus, and goodbye to paying dues

And it’s goodbye to the cheers, and goodbye to the boos

I’m trading in this old bat for a fishing pole

I’m gonna let the Laughing River flow right into my soul

*As if!  I get bored to tears in the suburbs, for heaven's sake!  I think I'd have a psychotic episode if I ever experienced the kind of pastoral rurality that Brown sings about.  But it's a damn fine song anyway.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A good day

Nothing big, really.  But after spending a few days feeling somewhat down on myself, it felt nice to wake up, write a page or so of the manuscript, paste a few pages from the diss into the same for further editing, and then zip across town for an unexpected and highly useful research interview.  I'd almost forgotten what it felt like to productive.  I like seeing the manuscript growing day by day, rather than week by week or month by month.  Gotta make this a habit.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Publication strategies

And now for a little inside baseball with my social science colleagues — sorry if this isn't of interest or use to my friends in humanities or natural sciences.  I was talking a few days ago with a senior pseudologist whom I respect as a good and well-published scholar.  Since I'm permanently in a state of mild anxiety about my professional development nowadays, I pressed hir about what I should be focusing on right now for publications: in specific, I was thinking of pursuing an article in an edited volume.  Although I didn't spell this out to my colleague, my thought was that it would be beneficial to have an article in a thematic collection, where my work might be more easily noticed by people seeking out such materials; plus, as I supposed, it would be useful to get my name into print alongside the names of other scholars engaged in similar work, who would then themselves also be exposed to my research. 

My colleague, though, blew this idea off, explaining that the best edited volumes tend to come out of conferences organized around a particular theme, because everyone is already in contact with each other.  If I'm not lucky enough to fall into such a conference, I need to organize one myself, and that is a humongous pain in the ass.  And then, once the conference yields interest from a publisher, the conference organizer tends to fall into the role of volume editor.  (Yes, even bigger pain in the ass!)  So, as zi continued, I shouldn't bother with edited volumes and all that comes with them until I already have a tenure-track job and can count on at least some institutional support for the drudgery associated with editing. 

Moreover, zi went on, in a larger sense, I shouldn't even think about edited volumes right now, because both edited book and article therein count for relatively little with tenure review committees in Pseudology.  Far more important, zi told me, to get my first book finished and accepted for publication.  Once that's a done deal, I should focus on pounding out some articles in reputable journals.  Only after I have done all of this, and landed myself a relatively secure job, should I turn my attention toward the project of creating an edited volume. 

I received this as sincere advice, because my colleague in fact didn't do this hirself: zi actually concentrated on edited volumes for some time early on, which, as I now gather, slowed down hir progress on hir first book.  As a result, zi went through some years on the job market without a t-t position, because zi had no book, no articles, and all of hir work on both book and various contributed chapters was tied up in editing processes that dragged on for ages.  Zi felt that zi had made a tactical error early in the game, and advised me not to do the same.

I wonder if others have heard similar or conflicting advice, within our broad category of social science.  (Obviously, this advice doesn't hold for, say, biomedical researchers, who need to bang out journal articles ASAP and have no structural reason to write a book at all.)  How does this compare with what you have heard?