Friday, October 31, 2008

Working and playing

I have a fair amount to do over the weekend, partially because ASHE is next weekend, so there's a PowerPoint to make, dry cleaning to get done, etc. But I also have to prep for my dissertation group, write a report for a grant I'm on, and burrow into Stata for a paper we are revising. (Anyone know how to compare regression models using AIC in Stata?)

But I'm also going hiking both days this weekend - one is a pretty short trip - so I have to be efficient!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

High school music

This mix brings back memories of high school - the good and the bad, but most of all the painfully earnest conviction that what you wear and listen to really, truly says something about the kind of person you are.

Wild Wild West - Escape Club
Think - Information Society
Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana
Losing My Religion - R.E.M.
Unbelievable - EMF
Right Here, Right Now - Jesus Jones
This is Ponderous - 2nu
The Only Time - Nine Inch Nails
Girlfriend - Matthew Sweet
Dis-Moi, Dis-Moi - Mitsou
Get Ready for This - 2 Unlimited
Friday I'm in Love - The Cure
James Brown is Dead - L.A. Style
Teenage Freakshow - Screeching Weasel
Come Out and Play - Offspring
Moving Like Water - Sky Cries Mary
Ordinary World - Duran Duran

There was other music I listened to a lot in high school, but when I hear it, I don't get transported back (ie, U2). Other songs, some of the really popular ones, certainly act as a time machine ("O.P.P.," anyone?) but they were never music I identified with.

So YOU - yes, you, reading this - tag, you're it. Transport us back to your high school experience.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sewanee Perimeter hike

Memorial Cross
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
Yesterday I combined two of my favorite things: higher education and hiking. With a few friends, I hiked the Perimeter Trail around the University of the South. It's a 20-mile hike, and we reached it via a .3-mile access trail.

This was the longest hike any of us had done to date. One reason we were all willing was that the campus has lots of fire roads and other trails, allowing us to cut it short if we were pooped. Supposedly it was reasonably flat, although according to my altimeter, we gained about 200 feet per mile.

The hike was full of variety, much more interesting than the 18-mile hike from a few weeks ago. The scenery kept our attention (especially when we walked past Crust Pizza!). The distance took its toll, though. I was dying before we were halfway done. But by the end I actually felt better.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Day three


Don't worry, I'm not going to keep posting this forever. Three days is a good start, I figure, enough to be the start of a habit.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


University of Southern Mississippi: Assistant/Associate Professor in Higher Education Administration

Michigan State University: Open-rank tenure-stream position specializing in "teaching and learning, outcomes assessment in postsecondary education, international and comparative higher education, student affairs administration, and technology as it relates to teaching and learning in postsecondary education."

Two days down

Hooray for productivity.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Day One, Year One

Yesterday I attended a dissertation writing workshop run by Robert Lucas. The focus of the workshop was on getting writing done, not the format it should be in or what a dissertation is. His biggest recommendation was one that, if you've read any advice on the topic at all, you've heard before - write every day. (You can write six days a week, he said, for at least half an hour a day.) I guess I was finally ready to hear it because this morning I got up, went straight to my computer, set my iPhone for a half-hour timer, and went to work. This was incorporating another of his suggestions - set aside a specific area to do dissertation work. I've been sitting in my living room a lot, so my desk has now been reclaimed as dissertation space.

The dilemma I will face in a day or two is that at this point I'm not ready to write the dissertation every day. There is too much in the way of data collection, etc. between now and then. I could use the time for other dissertation tasks, such as taking notes, but his system is really one for becoming a productive academic writer overall, not just writing the dissertation. (Writing can include revising, brainstorming, drawing diagrams, what have you, but it's about output, not input.) Besides, writing is something I can do well first thing in the morning - surprisingly, given that I am not a morning person. So my plan is to move on to work on one of the articles that's "in progress" on my CV after this chunk is done.

One day hardly constitutes a victory over sloth, but I'm pretty sure that if I hadn't started today, the chance of there being a day two would be exponentially lower.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


University of Louisville: Open-rank position in higher education.


I read Neal Stephenson's new book, Anathem, this weekend. I used to be a really big fan, although his trilogy bored me senseless. (Even being the completeness freak that I am, I haven't yet managed to muster up any enthusiasm for starting the third installment.) Over his career his books have become increasingly didactic: at times, reading him is like reading Ayn Rand or Upton Sinclair. Of course, instead of being clobbered over the head about social systems, the reader is clobbered over the head with the intersection of philosophy and science. This tendency was evident as far back as Snow Crash, but it has grown. Most of the difference in weight between Zodiac and Anathem is in pages of technical explanations, not rising and falling action. I chose Zodiac deliberately, because both books feature a first-person narrator; other books are long in part due to following around a phalanx of characters.

I suppose that Stephenson has two hopes for readers (assuming I have a theory of mind for the author that is remotely accurate) - that after finishing his book they have a) enjoyed it and b) continue to ponder the arguments about space, time, math, etc. he uses. Being the perverse sort of reader that I am, I don't have much interest in (b). I am much more interested in the monastic communities that are central to the book, and in particular, in their long existence.

I do mean long - several thousand years. Over the time, they have changed significantly without losing their central purpose: the preservation and creation of knowledge. Civilizations have risen and fallen; population centers have moved with climate change.

Compare that with what we have in our presumably non-fictional world. Universities are some of the oldest institutions extant today; Bologna is coming up on its first millennium. A few madrasahs are older than that. The Catholic Church is even older at nearly two millennia. The Catholic Church is an interesting case. It wasn't founded with the explicit mandate to last 2000 years but simply survived. Contrast this with the government's attempt to keep radioactive waste buried for at least 10,000 years at at Yucca Mountain. Stephenson touches on the issue of storing radioactive material in Anathem, by the way, and I can't help but think that his solution - which involves people actually having the care of it - is a better on than burying it really deep, slapping some "stay away" signs on the site, and hoping geology and climate change don't destabilize it.

But how would you go about deliberately building an institution that could last for perpetuity - let's say as long as the planet lasts, or for as long as humanity lives on it? In modern America the first instinct would be no doubt to start amassing an endowment. But no monetary investment is going to be stable over these time periods. Precious metals and that sort of thing might be safer. Those are prone to pillaging, however. Another alternative would be to run as self-sufficiently as possible so as not to depend on any one economy.

One would want multiple sites, not only in case the local community brings out the pitchforks, but because of climate change, plate tectonics, what have you. Presumably individual branches would perish but the larger enterprise would roll on. That, however, brings up the difficulty of keeping sites in some sort of contact. It would naturally grow sporadic in dangerous or primitive times.

The institution would need to be able to cope with times of high and low technology. It might need to be irreligious to avoid holy wars, not to mention the waning of any particular faith. It would need to survive periodic co-option by governments. It would need to survive scenarios that the wildest sci-fi writers can dream up - massive overpopulation, near extinction, the singularity, nuclear war, alien invasion, etc. They need to survive the extinction of the culture they were founded in.

This last point strikes me as the most difficult. Most organizations on our planet haven't lasted because they were built to serve a particular civilization. That is true of today's organizations as well (the Catholic Church doesn't make much sense without Christianity), but globalization has meant that civilizations can expand their influence. Local crisis can't wipe out the Church the way it can Oxford.

The organization would necessarily change with the times - from magesterial to congregational authority, from wealth to austerity, from openness to insularity. Continuity would have to come from its purpose, and very few purposes can remain relevant over millennia. Even religious, alas, may not. Preservation of knowledge (Stephenson's rationale) may be subject to periods of primitivism.

This is all entirely speculative, naturally. Maybe the Catholic Church will survive until the earth is consumed by the sun. As the longest-lived organization, it's the likeliest candidate we have, and I realize its authority has remained centralized, it has never been insular, and it has always combined wealth and austerity. This is one of those untestable social science hypotheses - we can't know what form works best until we have millennia more data, and even then we can't know that some counterfactual would have worked better. That's one reason people write science fiction.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Benedictine College: Faculty, EdD Program in Higher Education and Organizational Change.

CSU Fresno: Assistant/Associate Professor, Post-Secondary and Community College Education.

Morehead State: Assistant/Associate Professor of Adult and Higher Education,

Stanford University: Open-rank, tenure-track position. "The Stanford University School of Education (SUSE) and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) seek nominations and applications for a joint appointment in the broad area of international post-secondary education."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Weekend update

Even though I stayed home this weekend, I didn't chain myself down to my desk. Friday night I taught. I'd had to thoroughly revamp my lecture, in part because the instructor had changed the syllabus, and in part because an exercise I'd used in the past was too time-consuming to keep. Saturday night I went out for a peep's birthday. We went to PM, where apparently we go for the burgers in spite of it being pan-Asian cuisine. (And after trying the pad thai, which was so flavorless, I have to say - get the burger.) Sunday I went on a hike to Beaman Park. For some reason there were clouds of gnats everywhere. They buzzed in your ears, and I kept my sunglasses on just to keep them out of my eyes. While they don't bite, they were certainly unpleasant.

And - of course - I worked on this dissertation outline.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

And the fashion spreads were lame, too

The latest issue of Vogue has a couple of letters to the editor complaining because a special issue on "diversity" could only find three African American models to profile. This issue itself, apparently not being devoted to diversity, is lily-white. (The non-white women profiled are not in the fashion biz; they are pianists or campaign managers or Michelle Obama.) I think Vogue must be the last place in America an actress of central European origins could be described as "exotic."

But high fashion isn't keeping up with the masses. I noticed the ads in the magazine were more diverse, particularly the more low-brow they were. There were no ads in this particular issue for Benetton or other companies that deliberately market diversity*, but advertisements for department stores and other more affordable shops featured more African-American women than the rest of the issue combined. Ignoring for the moment that, as one letter writer mentioned, diversity is more than just black/white, there are African-American women in ads for The Gap, YSL, Dillard's, Movado, DSW, Lord & Taylor, Vogue TV, Revlon, Jennifer Hudson's new album, and House of Design. With a few exceptions, these are stores that translate fashion for the masses, not high fashion itself. On the other hand, the only model in a fashion spread who could be described as black is a seamstress in a crowd of a dozen other seamstresses. (Not African-American - it's a French shoot.)

I'll leave conclusion-drawing as an exercise for the reader, except for one point: Vogue itself can hardly claim it's at the mercy of the supply of models. If Anna Wintour insisted on more ethnically diverse supermodels, the talent scouts would find them. The magazine has too much leverage in the industry to simply wring its hands with any credibility.

* Possible exception - The Gap.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Area Woman's Weekend Ruined By Dissertation

I've had a little hitch in my dissertation progress, particularly frustrating because resolution of it was beyond my control. My chair was finally available to talk about it today, so I jumped at the chance. (Doing so actually meant missing a doctor's appointment - but it was a minor check-up on my ankle, not cardiac surgery.) Even luckier, my adviser wandered in halfway through. The upshot of the meeting was that I need to write up a particular document by early next week.

"What are you doing this weekend?" my chair asked asked.

"Well, I was going to go out of town."

My adviser piped up: "Stay here and get this done."

"I can - although my friend might be disappointed," I said.

"Is she in graduate school?"


"Then never mind her."

It was a joke - at least the part about my friends. Not the part about staying home this weekend.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Rutgers: Tenure-track assistant professor "to lead the development of a new master’s degree program in College Student Affairs for fall 2009, and to contribute more generally to teaching and curricular development in higher education."

Georgia Southern: Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership. Note: Requires "at least two years of administrative experience in education."

Motivation deficit

My motivation (and hence my productivity) has been wavering lately; I'll get one good productive day in, only to slack off the next. So I'm really trying to get back in the saddle again. I wanted yesterday to be productive, although I knew that my three scheduled meetings would get in the way of it. What I hadn't predicted was the downpour that soaked me from head to toe. Guess one should always check the forecast, but it was sunny when I left the house. I ended up having to change and deal with the blisters that were forming from wearing wet socks. (I already had a few from hiking this weekend; now my feet are a FEMA-level disaster.) Luckily my yoga clothes were with me; of course, I looked as if I was going to pop into downward facing dog at any moment.

However, I managed to get a reasonable amount done. The trick is to keep this up for multiple days in a row.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Taming the Savage Gulf

Enjoying the view
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
It was all my idea, so the praise (or more likely blame) falls to me: I thought hiking 18 miles would be a great idea.

Well, we survived it. I have a few blisters and a bee sting to show for it, plus some pretty pictures of overlooks. The highlight of the trip was the Great Bee Hunt.

When we were stopped for lunch, two men came through and chatted. Reportedly, there were yellowjacket nests on the trail the way we were going. They hadn't gone that way themselves, though. As the admitted bee weenie, I would have turned around, but my co-leader held firm. We had barely gotten started when we ran into a small group who had encountered the little buggers and had stings to show for it. Tension was running high among my fellow weenies, when one of the hikers pulled out his handy woodcraft. If we walked slowly and gently, he said, with some space between us, we shouldn't stir them up.

So after a few of us covered every inch of skin we could, we crawled forward. It was a funny sight; we looked like refugee mimes hunting wabbits. Remarkably, only our hardy woodcrafter got stung, and the yellowjackets did not chase us.

My sting? It occurred earlier in the hike, when without warning I felt a sharp pain in my butt. Rather unfair, you know, for it not to give me a chance to panic.

More photos at Darrell's page.