the glamorous life

I am working on a revise-and-resubmit for a comment on a paper published in a prominent journal. Believe me, I am by this point so over being surprised by incompetent work appearing in prestigious places, and yet this paper was beyond the beyonds. The paper has three sections that claim to offer separate scientific contributions. Regarding one of them, here is a sentence I just drafted:

In sum, [author]’s analysis of [thing] treats arbitrary survey categories as natural distinctions, presents overall results that are logically necessary as though they were empirical findings, and characterizes specific results in ways that contradict simple cross-tabulation of the pertinent variables.

The kicker? Continue reading “the glamorous life”

a freakonomic riddle

Fabio recently linked to an argument by the economist historian Deirdre McCloskey against using outside letters for tenure decisions.  The argument is mostly economic: because there are no incentives for outside professors to be exacting or to say anything negative, the letters convey virtually no information because either the outside person is going to be positive or they will turn down the request.  Plus, the most reliable strategy for trying to read through the hagiography in letters of recommendation within a discipline—compare degrees of positiveness in multiple letters written by the same person—is not really available, especially when the tenure case is at the ad hoc level (the level after the person has received a positive vote from their department, where the case is reviewed by a committee of scholars from other departments).

So I was talking to a senior economist recently about the ad hoc process and asked him if his experience was that outside letters were not informative.  He said: Continue reading “a freakonomic riddle”

interview clothes

Pardon my making an executive decision here, but it seems that the “what to wear to an interview” thread that got started in the comments on a prior post should get its own line. Here is the original question: One grad student told me that her adviser said not to wear black at a jobtalk, Continue reading “interview clothes”

another shopping question

This one is less cool than an iphone but maybe you folks can help. I want to get a new small 12″ notebook computer. It is mostly for PowerPoint so I don’t need a lot of horsepower. (My main computers are my desktops.) Portability and long battery life are my main criteria. I use Windows. I’d decided to get a DellD430 which meets my specs. However, user reviews say it runs very hot. Very very hot. As I know how hot a Dell laptop can run, having long owned one that burns my legs, and being related to another that burns itself up periodically, this is leading me to rethink. Would I be happier with a thinkpad? Any advice? (PS, my old Dell held up great for a long time, despite burning my legs)

online course materials

Related to a past post in which I mentioned Erik Wright’s podcasts of his lectures is this story in which an MIT physics professor, Walter Lewin, has become an online star because of his lectures. I found myself watching them and loving them. I also discovered that MIT puts a lot of course materials online. This, I think, is a wonderful idea. A way to make education more widely available. But I was sad to see that there was no sociology! We need to get with the times.

starting off

I’ve been preoccupied with work and haven’t had a blogging groove this week, but The Colonel’s last post about students giving gifts has led to a thread about students bringing smorgasbordly food-spreads to their thesis and dissertation defenses. If Scatterplot contributes to reducing this practice, I would feel like this blog had made a worthy contribution to academickind. (Bringing cookies is fine but not obliged; donuts instead of cookies, even better.)

But: regarding thesis or dissertation defenses, what about the practice Continue reading “starting off”

’tis the season

You don’t have to be an economic sociologist to understand that as a professor, it is not straight forward to get gifts from students. It’s that time of the year (or maybe one of those times in addition to the end of the academic year) when gifts might appear. What to do? I haven’t developed a formal policy about this, but maybe I should.

My preference is for students not to give me gifts. And if it were to come up, I would say no ahead of time. But it doesn’t usually come up (people don’t usually say: “I’ll be stopping by to give you a gift.”) and it’s awkward and rude to reject something when someone’s already giving it to you. So what to do? Continue reading “’tis the season”

without reservation

How to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds is something about which I think (and worry and strategize) a great deal.  I’m happy that this has emerged as a topic on this site and look forward to learning from your experiences and suggestions.

In the meanwhile, here’s something incredibly easy that we can all do:

Continue reading “without reservation”


I’ve been working with an undergraduate, a senior.  She is African American, from a poor family.  None of her elders went to college, although a few cousins are doing it.  She graduated at the top of her class in an inner-city high school, where she says she never had to do any work to make As.  Her writing is markedly deficient compared to the predominantly-affluent predominantly-privileged students here, and she struggles academically.  Continue reading “disadvantage”

sociology in the news!

There is an interesting article in the NYTimes on sociologists using facebook for data. None other than one of the nominees for “best of 2007” Nicholas Christakis.

A few things strike me as interesting. First, they’re using Simmel, “triadic closure” thesis – whether your friends are also friends. Go Simmel! He’s been primed for a comeback for years now. Soon, lots of papers on sociability. Later, sociologists challenge economics with The Philosophy of Money (and fail). But back to traidic closure…

Continue reading “sociology in the news!”

digging out

Like many, we were hit with a lot of fluffy, soft snow yesterday. Although it was the idyllic childhood scene, it took all day to convince Kid that going outside would be fun. Once he got out there, he complained about being cold and refused to get out of his toboggan. Husband and I each took a turn pulling him around the block like we were sled dogs while the other shoveled. Then, we went inside for hot chocolate (“soy milk and no marshmallows, mom!”).

We’re almost dug out now, with one car out and one still buried. It’s snowing again, so it seems a bit futile, but the only choice is to shovel, shovel, shovel.