tenure letters

It’s that time of year. People are considering job changes and everyone who moves from one tenured job to another needs external letters. In this game, the request for letters comes only after the department has made a hiring decision: the letters are for the an extra-departmental review at the college level. I am being asked for letters on a few weeks notice, just as I had to ask other people for them when I did my bit as chair. I am looking at several requests as I write this. Some of these are from obscure branch campuses I’ve never heard of that are asking for detailed analytic evaluations of the contributions and national influence of the candidates, for God’s sake.  Others are for extremely senior people who hardly need me to buttress their claim to fame. I have three choices: spend significant time working up a good detailed letter being sure to explain why everybody is a star, write a superficial positive letter that is at risk of being coded as reserved (i.e. negative), especially for the non-stars, or decline to write and definitely be coded as negative, again, especially for the non-stars. This is idiocy. It is bad enough that we have to do this for promotion to tenure, but does anybody believe that the external letters provide one iota of information that could not be obtained from reading the cv and the person’s publications? The department wants to know whether the person is a lunatic, but that they find out from gossip or phone calls. I don’t mind altruism and doing things for the collective good and the welfare of other scholars, but I do resent wasting my time for the benefit of bureaucratic nonsense. Not only are they asking me to read their watch for them, they are asking me to write several pages of well-crafted prose about what it says and do it for free.

obama reality check

There’s a lot of excitement in the air about Obama’s win in the Iowa Caucuses. When the fever pitch comes, so does hyperbole. One thing I’ve been hearing a lot is something to the effect that “the results show that a state that is 94% white can vote for Obama.” I beg to differ.

Let’s begin by recalling that the “state” of Iowa does not vote in these primaries. Continue reading “obama reality check”

in this case, the pride comes after the fall

(prediction market probabilities of Clinton being the Democratic nominee for the past year)

Busybusybusybusybusy getting my classes ready. And yet I keep checking the prediction markets to see how the market-based probability estimates for who is going to win the Democratic nomination have changed. I think, “Really, how much can the chance of somebody being the Democratic nominee change over a twelve-hour period that doesn’t specifically overlap a caucus or primary?” And yet, Clinton keeps falling. My earlier post on prediction markets was only 38 hours ago. Then, I found it noteworthy just that Obama had pulled even with Clinton. Now he’s up by 24 percentage points (62-38).

Said Frank Rich this morning in the NYT: Continue reading “in this case, the pride comes after the fall”

it’s 12 o’clock, do you know where your TAs are?

The first meeting of my undergrad class is in 57 hours.  Not that I’m counting.  I have sixty students registered, and the students have signed up for discussion sections along with the lecture.  I do not, at present, know whether I have one or two TAs.

Am I weird to think that at this point I should know whether I have one or two TAs? Continue reading “it’s 12 o’clock, do you know where your TAs are?”

iowa transforms the inevitable into a coin flip

(prediction markets, right now)

The other big winner in Iowa on Thursday was prediction markets, as they had swung sharply for Obama and Huckabee shortly after the caucuses began and well before CNN was presenting the races as anything other than up in the air. I have drunk the Kool-Aid on them so much that Continue reading “iowa transforms the inevitable into a coin flip”

i’m confused

I just read David Brooks’ editorial about the outcome in Iowa. First, I’m worried that he praises Obama. Why would he do this? I suspect something sinister, like he hopes to deflate his candidacy. But that’s paranoia. I’m more confused by his statement, outlining what Huckabee knows that all others in the field don’t: “A person’s lifetime prospects will be threatened more by single parenting than by outsourcing.” Really? What does this mean? I’m curious where he gets this from. I’ve emailed him for the data he’s used to make the claim. I don’t expect a response. Continue reading “i’m confused”