Monday, June 30, 2008

Crime/Mystery Book Recommendations?

I love Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle. But I've read them. Well, I haven't read ACD for a while, and not all of it, so I could read more of that. But I'm looking for new blood.

Suggestions? TD let me borrow Henning Menkell, and I really hated Faceless Killers. I thanked him, congratulated him on his otherwise good taste and for otherwise being a wonderful person, and told him "this sucks." So I am looking for less of a criminal procedural, more of a real good ol' fashioned mystery. I like the Victorian ghost stories and mysteries for a reasons. Wilkie Collins was way colonial, but good. H. Rider Haggard the same, and that'd more of an adventure yarn than mystery, and I don't even normally like adventure yarns.

So, any suggestions for one who loves a good mystery full of (good) plot, intrigue, intricate stories and suspenseful writing?

Next post: your favorite '90s songs and albums, revisited. I am re-visiting my Lilith Fair days and remembering how much I love that Sarah McLachlan/Sheryl Crow/Tracy Chapman.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Music Video of the Day

Thanks, TC.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

My day was awesome. How was yours?

Gay pride festivals are awesome. Hooray, gays!


Friday, June 27, 2008

Calling All Org Theorists and Judicial Behavioralists

OrgTheory, meet Empirical Legal Studies. And hey there, Mike McBride. Also, hi judicial behavioralists everywhere. At some point, we meet at the same breakfast table.

Over at ELSBlog, Carolyn Shapiro reports:

One interesting presentation was a paper entitled Hustle and Flow: A Social Network Analysis of the American Federal Judiciary by Daniel M. Katz and Derek K. Stafford, both political science graduate students at the University of Michigan. Katz and Stafford are interested in the social structure of the judiciary and, more controversially, whether that structure has an effect on doctrine or case outcomes. Different from the prevailing models of judicial behavior (attituindalism, legalism, or the strategic model), their hypothesis is that judges -- at least sometimes -- are influenced by "peer effects," not just by their own political views or by legal sources. (Such social pressures could be a partial explanation for the panel and circuit effects documented on appellate courts. See, for example, Kastellec, Jonathan P., "Panel Composition and Voting on the U.S. Courts of Appeals Over Time" (May 14, 2008). Available at SSRN: and Kim, Pauline T., "Deliberation and Strategy on the United States Courts of Appeals: An Empirical Exploration of Panel Effects" (March 31, 2008). Available at SSRN: ).

In order to study these social or peer effects, they must find a way to describe the social networks of the judiciary. As an initial attempt to do so, Katz and Stafford employ new network analysis techniques to measure the paths that law clerks take between judges. In other words, they chart the likelihood that a law clerk for, say, Judge Kozinski, will later clerk for Justice Kennedy, or that a law clerk for a particular district court judge will go on to clerk for a particular appellate court judge. Their study "visualizes law clerk traffic" during the last Rehnquist natural court and produces some interesting representations of the relationships between judges. (They identified about 900 clerks who moved from one judge to another during this period.)

The graphic depiction of these law clerk moves is one of the more interesting aspects of the study. In one depiction, Supreme Court justices are, not surprisingly, clustered in the middle, but -- more surprisingly -- district court judges are "suffused throughout the network," not relegated to the periphery. This is one representation, Katz and Stafford suggest, of the fact that judges with equivalent institutional authority in fact have different levels of influence.

Sounds interesting. I actually don't usually care about tracking the movement of the elites (and indeed, the network of feeder clerks/judges must be depressingly insular), but the methodology will be worth noting. At least this is social science, whereas the spate of books about The Elect, The Chosen, blah blah, was merely fawning. Also, analyzing influence and power in organizations is much more interesting, and there's cognitive science/psychology studies (granted, using college students) that back up the idea of "panel effects." Anyway, the above cites are well worth reading.


Heller here, there, everywhere

Larry Solum has a nice roundup of links on the Heller decision.


I still can't swim.

Hey, Catherine A. also has trouble
. And she's in even better shape than I am. I also run, but shorter distances lately. Still, I don't think it's my lack of lung capacity either. I'm in pretty good shape, I think, and not too heavy. I can do a full body pushup, so there's some arm muscles. Running means leg muscles, and I cross train and do ab work every day. So, I have some muscles, lung capacity, cardio health, and overall, pretty good health.

So why can't I swim?!

I know part of it is due to phobia. I start hyperventilating as soon as I get in the water, and that doesn't help. It takes me 10 minutes to relax or so, and even then, my body is a rigid plank. I can do the freestyle, but that wears me out within a few laps, and knowing that I'm in water deeper than I am tall also makes me freak out and sink.

But my biggest problem is learning how to tread water. I can float on my back, and if I didn't get so damn tired, freestyle (never learned the breast stroke though). But I have no idea what I'm supposed to do with my arms and legs in treading water, and it feels so difficult. I feel exhausted after trying to do this for just five minutes. Again, it can't be due to my lack of fitness, whatever TD says, because less fit people can tread water, and I don't think I'm that bad if I can book it up trails with him.

So I've been watching YouTube videos for idiots/children, and still, not sinking in. Really, is this what I'm supposed to do with my arms and legs? Also, I can't figure out the egg beater kick, because I am one of those idiots who can pat their heads and rub their stomachs, but I can't kick in opposite directions. I also have no idea what she means by "sculling," since what TD describes and has me do is forcefully propel myself upwards to create downward thrust, and that's really tiring--not easy going like she's doing.

If you could describe in graphic, this is how you walk, by lifting up one leg and putting it in front of the other idiot terms, I'd really appreciate it.

Also, I may just have to take a swimming class. I have vowed to learn how to swim because 1) I can't just sit there and watch a kid die, should a kid fall in, and 2) I go sailing, and you know, occupational hazard.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Disciplinary Hierarchies, Intellectual Kung Fu

Here's Leiter's take
, but then again he betrays an obvious bias towards philosophy. (For the record, I did very well as an English lit/Poli Sci major.)

But over at OrgTheory, guestblogger Michael Sauder has a most awesome allegory for disciplinary hierarchies, insecurity complexes, and intellectual kung fu (go there to read the whole thing, plus comments):

There is a great, funny story in Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground that has been on my mind lately (bear with me—there is a point to this, although maybe not a good one). In the story, the narrator of the book—an unnamed, isolated, and self-loathing man—becomes enraged with a large military officer who, in a crowded bar, physically moves the narrator out of the way as he (the officer) negotiates the crowd, doing so without in any way acknowledging the narrator. The narrator, unable to work up the courage to confront the officer at the time, fixates on the officer: he watches for him around the city (“staring at him with hate and malice”), figures out his routines, and starts following him from a distance; he writes a satirical essay about him but doesn’t publish it; he contemplates challenging the officer to a duel—tellingly imagining how this might lead the two to become good friends in the end—but shrinks from doing so. This goes on for several years.

At last he decides upon the perfect solution. He has noticed that on his daily walks the officer never steps aside when those of lower social status meet him on the path—he just bulls ahead, pretending like they don’t exist, and they invariably move aside. The narrator’s plan is that he will walk towards the officer on the path and will hold his ground; the officer, then, will be forced to acknowledge him and recognize his worth. The narrator plans for a long time. He decides that he will have to be well dressed in case there is a scandal afterwards, so he gets an advance on his salary to buy a new hat and new gloves; resolving that this is not enough, he begrudgingly borrows a large sum of money—several months worth of salary—from a colleague he doesn’t like so to replace his beaver overcoat collar with one made of raccoon. (I can relate!)

Thus attired, he attempts to carry out his plan several times, but on each occasion moves out of the way at the last instant. Hating himself, he finally works up the nerve to hold his ground, and the two run into each other, shoulder against shoulder: “[The officer] did not even glance back and pretended he hadn’t noticed anything; but he was only pretending, I am convinced of that! I am convinced of it to this day. Naturally, I got the worst of the collision, for he was stronger, but that was not the point. The point was that I had achieved my goal, I had sustained my dignity, I had not yielded a step and had publicly set myself on equal footing with him. I came home fully avenged for everything. I was jubilant. I was ecstatic and sang Italian arias.”

The story has been on my mind because I realized a few months ago that I think of it often when people start discussing sociology’s relationship to economics. Admittedly, this may just be a quirk on my part and no one else may see it—and I should also say that I make the comparison in a self-deprecating spirit. Even so, the fact that it keeps coming to mind makes me think that, however unflattering, such a comparison (not being noticed by a high status counterpart, dwelling on what they think of us when we are far from their mind, putting on our best models in an attempt to be acknowledged, celebrating victories in battles that they didn’t even know took place) must have some truth to it. It must represent one real position, even if an extreme one, that sociology has taken toward economics.

Though TD doesn't know it, he is a Wittgensteinian who thinks that most of philosophy is useless. I do too. But I gotta say, between my long lost love for jurisprudence and my other long lost love for critical theory/philosophy of language, I have to admit that I will always be intellectually body checked by philosophy. Sure, I suck at math, belying my Asianness. But I am occasionally capable at theory, and yet I can struggle mightily to understand the basic stuff. It is one of those areas where there's potential, and yet such difficulty that I want to give up reading something that is just not that enjoyable, and that I am so clearly not naturally talented at. I envy those who can make/deconstruct brilliant arguments.

But economics? Nah. Though in theory I should, as a former political scientist, and as a current sociology of law person, feel methodologically inferior to economics--no really, I don't. I think we're talking about the same things, and at the same level of meso theory, and really, none of the social sciences will every give a persuasive meta theory for ___ phenomenon. Philosophy is your best bet, but then again it doesn't have any evidence, and it's even less grounded in real world experience. Vicious circle. This is why disciplinary hierarchies are dumb. Again, intellectual kung fu.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

That was hilarious! When I was 14!

Whatever happened to Mike Myers? Look at this damning review of "The Love Guru." And this one. I just can't bear it.

I loved Mike Myers' movies in the '90s. I figured the Shrek movies (not my thing, but YMMV) were his attempt to expand to the family movie demographic, which is lame but lucrative (and I have seen every f'ing cartoon and family movie ever made due to my nine nephews and nieces). But how far have the mighty fallen from Wayne's World (I, II), So I Married an Axe Murderer, some of the most awesome skits from SNL, the first Austin Powers...

Sigh. What happened to you, comedy hero of my childhood? (although he is going to be in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty? Hmm....)

Then again, I haven't seen those movies since they came out. Maybe they are not as funny as I thought. I have to watch them again. Sometimes I will insist that TD watch my "favorite movie ever," only to find that it was really funny when I was 14, but admittedly, not so much now that i am 27. Although it's not like my sense of humor has become that much more refined or less juvenile. What is it about the movies of our youth that we thought were hi-larious, only to find ourselves chuckling rather ruefully at the incontrovertible evidence of the passage of time, the changing of tastes, the inexorable decay of our senses of humor?

All to ask: what movies did you think were funny as a kid/teenager, only to realize "OMG that sux" now?

I nominate, for myself: Mrs. Doubtfire.


hair of the dog

I used to read all manner of lame ass magazines--women's fashion magazines, errant GQ's and Esquires that my brothers had lying around. I remember reading in one that a woman who orders a glass of white wine at a bar is a woman looking for intrigue, but not trouble. She's on the lookout, the make, whatever it's called, but not going to be all that fun or whatever, and not intending to over-indulge or really lose herself. She wants to relax her inhibitions a little, but still be a lady. Yeah, it was a crappy article (I think it was "what your drink says about you"), and full of gender stereotypes. Lame.

Anyway, I am probably one of those women, but I don't care how that makes me look. Actually, I hardly drink anyway, which is probably even less of a look, and it's not like TD cares whether or not I drink (or cares to drink much himself). Last night, at the nice restaurant where we had tasty food and split two bottles of nice whatever among six people, I had two (maybe 2.5) glasses of red wine and was spirited and gay. Charming, even. I woke up this morning, however, with a bad headache and lingering body aches, not unlike what happens when I eat shellfish. Ow. They're just now clearing up. I vow never to drink again.

Solutions other than to just stop drinking red wine altogether? Seems like that's the only option. Today, lots of water, and greasy food.


Random Ten

1. Keith Olbermann is an asshole. And misogynist, at that. So is Jack Shafer, by the way.

2. Are you a certified asshole? Take Prof. Sutton's test and find out.

3. Talking about the assholes of the blogging academy last week (no links), I was not persuaded by my (delightful) company's assertion that "he's a prick, but he's a prick for our side, and so we can at least agree with him." Not so. An asshole is an asshole is an asshole.

4. Coldplay on Coldplay: "I don’t listen to our records because it makes me break out in tears and sweat,” and “We have a rule that only the four of us can ever be onstage because we don’t want to be upstaged by someone more attractive.”

5. David Guterson is one of the least original writers out there, except for those n+1 prats.

6. Mary Pickford was awesome. Less so, the Taft-Hartley Act.

7. I agree with Chris Uggen: I do not want to gird my loins with my school's name and/or mascot. Goodness, can you imagine UCI Anteater underoos? Finally, I hope to avoid the awkwardness of "Hey Prof. ____!" at the lingerie shop at the mall by buying everything online. Awk-ward.

8. When I write carefully (not always the case with blogging), I do have near-perfect spelling and grammar. I am occasionally congratulated on how well I speak and write. Whether this is a left-handed compliment to my generation or my race, I do not know. But in any case, learning English formally as a second language isn't such a bad thing. That, and learning how to be an editor first and a writer second. This is how one learns how to write well, with greater economy and precision (notwithstanding my general verbosity). However, odes to semicolons (and the subjunctive) are just plain toolish. Americans should not be as obsessed with the precise enunciation of vowels as the English (oh noes! the Queen is slipping in her diction!) or as xenophobic about the permeable barriers of language and culture (and thus the production of knowledge) as the French. One of the great things about the English language is its adaptability and evolution through time, absorbing other languages and happily embracing neologisms. And yes, it's a beautiful language, full of music and cadence. Keep blathering on, you "but it is not a Romance language" Euro-obsessed freaks. Not that Latinate languages aren't beautiful (and as a former student of Latin, I do love such languages), but believing that only old world languages (which do lend themselves well to old-school rhyme schemes) are beautiful is not unlike the pedestrian view that only rhyming poems are beautiful. Grow up, and get with the times.

9. Speaking of declining standards, peer review, at least at university presses, is not all it's cracked up to be. And yet, still better than student-edited law journals...

10. Some people have a sense of "due North." I do not. On the other hand, I am glad that the caption to this article is no longer "Real Men Don't Use GPS." Grunt! Belch! In other news, the NYT's Fashion and Style section finds out that gender is a social construct with roots in biological realities.


Posted mainly because I'm pleased to have discovered this before Amber.

New Scientist: "Bad guys really do get the most girls."

The traits are the self-obsession of narcissism; the impulsive, thrill-seeking and callous behaviour of psychopaths; and the deceitful and exploitative nature of Machiavellianism. At their extreme, these traits would be highly detrimental for life in traditional human societies.
* * *
Jonason and his colleagues subjected 200 college students to personality tests designed to rank them for each of the dark triad traits. They also asked about their attitudes to sexual relationships and about their sex lives, including how many partners they'd had and whether they were seeking brief affairs.

The study found that those who scored higher on the dark triad personality traits tended to have more partners and more desire for short-term relationships, Jonason reported at the Human Behavior and Evolution Society meeting in Kyoto, Japan, earlier this month. But the correlation only held in males.

James Bond epitomises this set of traits, Jonason says. "He's clearly disagreeable, very extroverted and likes trying new things - killing people, new women." Just as Bond seduces woman after woman, people with dark triad traits may be more successful with a quantity-style or shotgun approach to reproduction, even if they don't stick around for parenting. "The strategy seems to have worked. We still have these traits," Jonason says.
* * *
"They still have to explain why it hasn't spread to everyone," says Matthew Keller of the University of Colorado in Boulder. "There must be some cost of the traits." One possibility, both Keller and Jonason suggest, is that the strategy is most successful when dark triad personalities are rare. Otherwise, others would become more wary and guarded.

Huh. I confess, I don't think this has anything to do with dating as such. Assuming these results hold under replication, I'd think it would be because those traits are successful when rare generally, rather than because of some kind of mythical "women like bad boys" factor that the pathological nice-guy types whine about. I mean, look at the "dark triad" qualities.

1. self-obsession
2. lack of regard for others
3. plotting

Those seem like qualities that, in sufficient rarity, are good at getting people what they want in all aspects of life -- business, politics, etc., as well as interpersonal relationships. It just so happens that the mating part of it is the bit that is most immediately (although not solely, not even in the least) evolutionarily relevant.

Recommended reading: Bryan Skyrms, The Evolution of the Social Contract -- discusses the conditions under which cooperative strategies can become dominant in evolutionary game theory models. Hmm... I wonder... for a world of mostly decent blokes and a smattering of assholes, ought we to be looking for some model that yields a lyapunov stable equilibrium of cooperators?

Addendum: also, I haven't read the study, but I'd be concerned about how careful they were about the direction of causation. It might be that males who are more sexually successful for other reasons (having hot bods, having money, whatever) display these traits because they suffer fewer social (sexual) sanctions for doing so.


Monday, June 23, 2008


One of my favorite ways to procrastinate is to read through the archives of Amber's blog. It is full of humor, wisdom, and smart, sassy style. It is also full of bon mots, anecdotes, and tips that I like to mine to make a point in a discussion with TD, say about traveling together or why women wear makeup (I give up on ever wearing perfume again, and now the smell makes me sick, too).

We're shortly to have dinner with a couple, one half of whom is in town doing depositions while her other half is tagging along for the joyride of being in an awesome part of the country. At least it is here, and not in some blah part of the country where you don't know anyone. I wanted to look up the name of that food thing Amber described in one of her ventures out to the boondocks of Virginia when she was on deposition duty (note to self: "Awesome Blossom" is another chain's name) when one of the rubes recommended some chain restaurant. Before you haterz descend, I grew up eating in chain restaurants and still do eat at them whenever I'm hanging out with the family. I could have emailed her, but why pester a person with a "real job" when you can just do a site-specific search on their publicly available blog? Truly, we are children of the internets.

She has been blogging for four years. I have been blogging for two. At some point, especially given my verbosity, that means thousands and thousands of words. No ink has been spilled on my behalf, but I did get carpal tunnel for a while. But it's finally happened. Upon reading the comments to this post, I came across one that sounded familiar. The next thought would have been "that's like something I would write," until I scrolled down far enough to see that I had written it. I didn't even recognize my own words or content, and nothing about it seemed familiar, except that the style was somewhat plausible. Either I am going senile, or I have really written so many things that I am beginning to forget what I write. In any case, I totally creeped myself out. It is not unlike chancing upon your teenage diary, not recognizing it, laughing derisively, and then recoiling in horror upon the anagnorisis of self-recognition. Not that this comment was super bad, but it is a little hoity-toity, and I am super creeped out by the fact that I could not recognize my own writing. It's like not recognizing your own reflection. (shudder)

Occasionally, my memory is good enough to be able to do a site-specific search for something so that I can link to an old post on the same topic (my blog template is pre-Google/Blogger, so no tags). But now--really, did I write this? Did I write on this? What did I say? Holy moly I am so full of myself--this is more common. I hear about loyal fans and readers who say they have read every single post I have ever written. To you, I say thank you, and to you, I apologize for the extreme verbosity (and occasional snark) you have lived through, because I can't even imagine reading every single thing I've written, and most of these posts are hella long. Also, "dude."


Why I don't do legal philosophy anymore

I don't know why. I liked it a lot. I just kind of got side-tracked into what I consider to be currently "more interesting to me" areas of social science. I really do love organizational theory. And it is an "old boy's club" that's hard to crack, hard to do well (unless you want to just make unsupported arguments, which no one ever does...), and hard to do without rehashing, unoriginally, what has been said before and better by so many others. But I'm reading over other people's work to give them comments, and it's like an old boyfriend coming back to town. "Oh, hello, Jurisprudence. And how are you today? I've missed you, too." I am also finding it difficult to give useful comments since I'm growing ever rustier about originalist theories of this and legal realist theories of that. And philosophy of language? Hmm, let me reach back into the recesses of my contracting memory...

I had dinner with a philosopher-in-political scientist's-robes on Friday, and we were talking about Raz v. Rawls v. Dworkin v. Hart.. Fun. But then we both remembered "damn, we should really re-read The Concept of Law. Even my "boss," The Policy Prof, studied under Waldron and Dworkin and will rehash "I used to read this stuff" glory days with me instead of discussing, I dunno, judicial behavioralism. Hell, the IT guy who helped set me up in The Policy Prof's office has a master's in legal theory from UCL, and we talked about it for an hour.

For certain types of legal/political science academics, legal theory will always be that thing on the backburner that you figured you'd always "read in your spare time" or "get back to one day," even if legal philosophy is a poor philosopher's substitute for the real thing. But it's interesting to me how many people claim to be interested in jurisprudence, and occasionally regard it wistfully, even as it is hardly taught (or taught well) in most law schools nowadays, since it's "not on the bar."


Boat People

Yesterday's sailing was extremely choppy and full of misadventure. None of us died, but a visiting friend whom I persuaded that "sailing is fun! I'll bring cookies!" got sick. There was something wrong with the sails, and we had to sail perpendicular to the waves, which gave us that delightful mal de mer motion. I do not get seasick, but it was enough to almost make me want to toss my cookies. We all did get soaked though, so much were the cresting waves combined with a heeling boat.

Still, this is highly recommended recreation, although next time hopefully the sails will be better organized, the wind won't be so extreme, and I will not freak out when I have to climb up on the stern to pull in the jib sheet.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

What is "Bigotry?"

Todd Zywicki cites a study suggesting that "53% of professors have an unfavorable view of Evangelical Christians," and describes this as evidence (standing all on its own) of "bigotry."

In defending his use of that term, he says the following:

Some readers have taken issue with my use of the term "bigotry." I used that term to try to capture the flavor of the response that Rick Hills heard in his friend's remark--"the academic’s irrational fear of, or intense discomfort around, theist and, in particular, Christian, beliefs." The flavor of the remark is that the friend had a negative prejudice against Christians such that he or she was surprised to learn that the person in question was a Christian. This is functionally no different from meeting someone who is inconsistent with one's negative stereotypical prejudices of a racial or ethnic group. I think the correct word to apply to that prejudice is "bigotry," but if there is a different word, then please suggest the correct word. I think that the term must be freighted with greater normative implications than I intended, as I intended it to be used descriptively, not normatively.

A question for readers: what is bigotry?

I tend to think that for a negative opinion of a group to be appropriately described as "bigotry" or "prejudice," (either of which ought to be understood as an attitude roughly equivalent to racism, but without the race) it must be based on false beliefs about that group -- either a false belief about various facts associated with the group (what Kwame Anthony Appiah called, in the race context, "extrinsic racism,") or about some inherent moral qualities of the group (e.g. "gays are just evil," what Appiah called "intrinsic racism"). Or, I suppose, it could be based on no facts at all, just a sort of random disliking.

If that's so, then Zywicki's use of the term "bigotry" seems totally unwarranted. For there are many perfectly true reasons to legitimately have a negative opinion of evangelical Christians -- like the prevalence of theologically-sanctioned sexism, the attempts to get creationism taught in schools, the anti-abortion campaigning, and in general the right-wing political influence. And surely there's nothing "bigoted" about having a negative opinion of your political opponents because they're your political opponents. (I happen to have a negative opinion of Republicans. That doesn't make me a bigot.)

Because "bigotry" is a serious charge, the burden of proof ought to be on the accuser. Some kinds of belief, of course, themselves constitute prima facie evidence of bigotry. Those who hold a negative attitude toward, e.g., blacks, women, and Jews, for example, are highly likely to be bigots, because there are no known true reasons to hold a negative opinion of those groups, and many known false reasons that infect our culture. But for groups that aren't the victims of a legacy of historical discrimination, and for which there are plenty of reasons for warranted dislike, it requires more than just statistical evidence that people dislike the group to show that there's "bigotry" at work.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Suicide Cities 2008

How Data Can Steer You Badly Wrong Dpt.

Kiplinger's, which is apparently some kind of personal finance thing, offers the following list of the ten "best cities to live, work, and play" in the U.S. They claim that "numbers" were involved in some vague fashion.

No. 1: Houston,Texas
No. 2: Raleigh, N.C.
No. 3: Omaha, Neb.
No. 4: Boise, Idaho
No. 5: Colorado Springs, Colo.
No. 6: Austin, Texas
No. 7: Fayetteville, Ark.
No. 8: Sacramento, Calif.
No. 9: Des Moines, Iowa
No. 10: Provo, Utah

Um. Are you fucking kidding me?

Houston? Houston is the worst place in the world, a sprawling, ugly, traffic-laden, polluted, Republican hellmouth.

Omaha? Have these people never been to Nebraska?

Boise? I spent a couple years working in eastern Oregon, where Boise was the "big town where everyone went to have fun." That town is a pit-monument to the failure of human potential. I remember sitting in the audience for an awards ceremony given by some liberal organization or another in Boise. They gave out an award to a woman who finally got the state to provide kindergarten in all the schools. In 2002. Nobody other than me and the ACLU guy found this at all shocking or amusing.

Most of the others are just as bad. I mean, my god. Anyone who follows the advice from these people is doomed to a life of darkness, misery, tears, pain, and sorrow. The morons must have made their list without sending a single person to visit any of these cities.

And what about the genuinely nice cities? Boston? Portland? Were they excluded because the literacy rates are too high?


Saturday Poetry: We're Having a Heat Wave

It is so hot that I actually might go into the city and hang out at the mall because there's air conditioning there, unlike most of Liberal College City. I feel like one of those teenage squatters.

Martha and the Vandellas:

But onto poetry:


by John Clare

Come we to the summer, to the summer we will come,
For the woods are full of bluebells and the hedges full of bloom,
And the crow is on the oak a-building of her nest,
And love is burning diamonds in my true lover's breast;
She sits beneath the whitethorn a-plaiting of her hair,
And I will to my true lover with a fond request repair;
I will look upon her face, I will in her beauty rest,
And lay my aching weariness upon her lovely breast.

The clock-a-clay is creeping on the open bloom of May,
The merry bee is trampling the pinky threads all day,
And the chaffinch it is brooding on its grey mossy nest
In the whitethorn bush where I will lean upon my lover's breast;
I'll lean upon her breast and I'll whisper in her ear
That I cannot get a wink o'sleep for thinking of my dear;
I hunger at my meat and I daily fade away
Like the hedge rose that is broken in the heat of the day.

Heat Wave

by Samuel Menashe

Sheets entangle him
Naked on his bed
Like a toppled mast
Slack sails bedeck
At sea, no ballast
For that even keel
He cannot keep—
No steering wheel
As he falls asleep

Warm Summer Sun

by Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

Warm summer sun,
Shine kindly here,
Warm southern wind,
Blow softly here.
Green sod above,
Lie light, lie light.
Good night, dear heart,
Good night, good night.


Friday, June 20, 2008

hot time (for harassment), summer in the city

Over at Amber's blog, in response to my statement:

I'm as sensitive to patriarchy as Amber, but I do not deny that I have (legitimate) safety concerns owing to my own diminutive size and relative lack of strength. While I would exercise as much care as possible and learn as many self-defense techniques as I can, it'd be a joke to presume that would be enough in a situation involving a much stronger aggressor, much less if that aggressor had a weapon.

Hei Lun Chan asks

This is a serious question, for you and other women in these comments: how often do you find yourself in a situation where you can potentially encounter a male aggressor? Are you talking about being in a bar and having men who won't take no for an answer? Meeting a mugger when walking down the street at night? Traveling in a foreign country? I'm genuinely curious.

To which Amber replied:

It is not that you encounter male aggressors regularly--more a general, constant sense of awareness. Is that homeless guy going to grab my arm as I walk by? If he did, could I pull away from him? (Probably not.) Will that group of teenage boys let me pass by on the sidewalk? Could I push past them if they didn't? (Again, no.)

I used to have to walk around late at night, alone, in an area where people got mugged fairly regularly. I didn't find that unduly alarming, but I did feel more safe taking that path with my 6'3" housemate than I did with someone smaller.

In foreign countries, having any male companion (slender or burly) will cut way down on the unwanted advances and comments, but I really only had problems with those in Egypt and Turkey. Traveling is also a bit more uncomfortable due to variations in norms for personal space. I find street hawkers leaning within 6-10 inches of me alarming, since a stranger getting that close, uninvited, in America would potentially be a threat. They tended to keep further back from coupled women, I noticed.

And I replied there as well, but I will continue the discussion here:

It is hot, and I am wearing summer dresses these days, and not an immodest dress. Of course, it doesn't matter what I wear, because I can wear a coat buttoned up to my neck and down to my knees and I still get harassed in creepily persistent ways that make me hope that the light changes or that suddenly a group of people will come out of some restaurant and surround me in a pack. But the onset of hot weather means that my bare arms and legs are getting me even more attention--and it's not my fault! Do I resign myself to wearing burqas? If it doesn't matter what I wear, except to increase the incidence of harassment when I wear clothes that bare any part of my anatomy, am I just asking for it?

I got harassed at least 4 times today, with some guys leaning in very close, and some guys traveling in a pack and harassing en masse. I was hoping that no one would follow me. Yes, through a slightly sketchy part of the city. It's unnerving. Most of these comments are of the relatively pedestrian, non-threatening come-on sort, and I haven't been subjected to the pervy guy in the subway rubbing up against me or exposing himself. But all the same, when it's some guy leaning into my personal space such that I can smell the alcohol on his breath, or four guys coming at me in the opposite direction, it's truly unnerving. I am starting to not want to hang out in the cool and lively, but slightly sketchier parts of the city, at least without an escort from the train station to the bar or restaurant. If this consigns me to hanging out in the 'burbs (where I live, it's not so bad when it's a college city) or the non-hip, teeming with tourists parts of the city, well sigh, I might have to give up on my favorite bakery in the city and the cool concerts with bands whose names befuddle me.

I've started taking cabs from the train station the one mile home at night, even though I live a decent neighborhood. I have to walk by at least 3 bars on the way home, and more than once a drunken guy has pestered me, leaning in close, not taking no for an answer. Nothing's happened yet (brisk walker; bars are not too far from restaurants where I can duck in), but it's unnerving. My usual defense is to blast music in my ears so that I don't hear anything and wear sunglasses so that they can't look me in the eye, but it's hard to not perceive the leer, especially when the guy leans right in front of my face to say something. And I hate thinking like I have to walk with an escort everywhere. Didn't my family flee an oppressive regime? But what else is there to do? Laura Beth Nielsen's book, License to Harass, the most common response by harassed women is to ignore the harassment--this is probably the safest bet, even though it sucks to just swallow the affront to dignity.

Nielsen's book wasn't just about individual responses to street harassment, but the legal consciousness about such harassment--what might the law do to address this? For example, how might the law address aggressive pan handling vs. sexual harassment? How do lay people balance such harassment against competing First Amendment norms?Nielsen posits that a socio-legal perspective is the only appropriate way to fully consider how racial, gender, and class hierarchies interact with and/or inform the “legal consciousness” (how people think about the law) and treatment of offensive public speech (OPS).

To do so, she spent over 120 hours observing interactions in public settings and conducted in-depth interviews with 100 respondents from San Francisco, Berkeley/Oakland, and Orinda to ensure greater representativeness with respect to race, class, and gender. Legal research was also conducted to compare “official” understandings of OPS with those presented by her interview subjects.

Nielsen states that “in protecting offensive public speech, the law protects a social practice that reinforces and actualizes hierarchies of race and gender.” (12) While she finds that a consensus believes that sexist or racist public comments are serious social problems and that OPS is offensive or morally wrong, simultaneously that most believe the law should not limit forms of speech. Reasons provided for why the law should not be used varied by race and gender. The First Amendment “freedom of speech” argument was generally associated with white males (112); women were more likely than others to say that “autonomy” – the ability to control being made the target, that OPS is a “personal battle” - was reason enough to prevent interference by the law (113), and blacks cited distrust of authority and the likelihood of having the law work against them (124-125). The impracticality of having the law prevent OPS was cited by both men and women of all races. Ironically, while most report that panhandling/begging is pervasive, nearly benign, and non-threatening (43), it is this form of OPS that results in the most formal methods of resistance (161-164).

Nielsen notes that “being in public” varies based on what group identity (gender, race) one is associated with. Women are most often the target of and/or have encountered sexist speech. (43) Consequently, they are more likely to internalize blame for the sexist speech and create a “detailed calculus” to avoid OPS, including becoming more attentive to body language, altering physical appearance or travel route, and assessing interactions and the associated perpetrators. (58) No blacks reported not having heard racial remarks at one point or another. (Table 3.4) They are less likely than women to change their behaviors to avoid racist OPS, and instead simply have to avoid making a situation worse. (65) Unlike women targeted based on gender, persons of color targeted for their race are likely to blame the instigator’s ignorance for the OPS. (74)

I am trying to resist Nielsen's findings, but without much success. Just because I wear a sleeveless dress doesn't mean that I blame myself for inviting harassment. Occasionally though, I'll think "it's the skirt." Then I remember the times when I was in a long puffy jacket, and I still got harassed. I try to walk only during busy times in the daylight, but that doesn't change the amount of harassment either. Yet the truth of the matter is that "taking back the night" doesn't mean walking alone at night, as if "fuck fear" is enough of a badass sentiment to make you safe from harassment or crime. And I'm not one of those foolish people that think that by being less safe, I'm preventing the other side (who?! the creeps) from "winning" by controlling my fear. Sometimes fear is legitimate, and it is not cowardly to have fear. It's cowardly to let it rule your life, but merely being sensitive to legitimate fears about which routes and times to travel does not equal agoraphobia. So yes, I do alter my routes and the times at which I do things, I only feel like a total loser on those occasions in which I don't even want to leave my house, if leaving in a pair of shorts or skirt is going to mean a bunch of guys leering at me. Fuck that shit. I'm leaving the house, but I'm going to be safe about it, and I'm going to put on a pair of sunglasses and my Ipod. Not that it's a coat of armor though. It helps a little though, to cope with the brave act of walking the mile to the train station. Sigh. This is America.

Sigh. You can have legal consciousness, feminist beliefs, and an alert awareness about your surroundings and safety, and still, no win situation. Some days, it's unbearably hot, and you second guess that summer dress or decide to stay indoors. No one wins, not that there's any prize.


Friday Music: John Cougar Mellencamp

I LOVE this song. In fact, I often punch the air and say "Jack and Diane!"

Judge me, haterz. "Life goes on, long after the thrill of livin' is gone." Okay, so that's not Dylan, Waits, or even Springsteen. But whatev. Also, Indiana has been hating on John Cougar for his strident liberal politics, and so he deserves blog love.

I also like this song, but the juxtaposition of awesome '60s girl pop synchronized dancing, happy lyrics about finding "the one," and Civil Rights Era protest imagery confuses me deeply:


Thursday, June 19, 2008

where in the world is paul gowder?

Over at Prawfsblawg, debating theophobia with Rick Hills, Matt Lister, and Jeff Lipshaw, and being awesome. Very interesting. Oh, and they talk about Kant.

I told Paul to bring the discussion over here, but now reading that 31 comment thread---ehhh, that's enough. Paul says it all.


loyal and clean

Speaking of mandatory state-employee loyalty oaths, which are more common than you may think (even for lowly research assistants to professors! we are all public employees!), I had to sign one the other day. I am actually cool with it, because I would defend the constitution of this state and this country against all enemies, and I am not a pacifist. I am one of those people who refuses to say "under God" during the Pledge of Allegiance, and refuses to sing "God Bless America" (no, I will never run for President, as I have also been known to bowl a 27 and call people "bitter"), but I don't mind swearing an oath to my state and country. Patriotism isn't bad. Jingoism yes, and uncritical nationalism--but patriotism is a part of good citizenship, and my parents didn't flee Communist Vietnam for me to take this country's freedoms for granted. I was born here, and I'm proud of that, and very grateful. This young person celebrates the laudatory trait of patriotism, defying generational expectations.

I also signed away my rights to any patents (sucks, but well, I'm not a scientist, so it doesn't matter to me, and yet I am bothered by this for many property/labor law reasons), and agreed not to abuse drugs. On the job, off the job, etc. etc.

The only substances I am mildly addicted to are caffeine and sugar, and then only in the form of black tea with milk and sugar and a tray of homemade cookies, eating one, and sending the rest off to work with TD (where he has become more popular), so again, no skin off of my back to acknowledge that I have read the policy and will adhere to it.

But dude, check this policy out:

The University ecognizes dependency on alcohol and other drugs as a treatable condition and offers programs and services for University employees and students with substance dependency problems. Employees (including student employees) and students are encouraged to seek assistance, as appropriate, from Employee Support Programs, health centers, and counseling or psychological services available at University locations or through referral. Information obtained regarding an employee or student during participation in such programs or services will be treated as confidential, in accordance with Federal and State laws.

The University strives to maintain campus communities and worksites free from the illegal use, possession, or distribution of alcohol or of controlled substances, as defined in schedules I through V of the Controlled Substances Act, 21 United States Code §812, and by regulation at 21 Code of Federal Regulations §1308. Unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensing, possession, use, or sale of alcohol or of controlled substances by University employees and students in the workplace, on University premises, at official University functions, or on University business is prohibited. In addition, employees and students shall not use illegal substances or abuse legal substances in a manner that impairs work performance, scholarly activities, or student life.

Employees found to be in violation of this Policy, including student employees if the circumstances warrant, may be subject to corrective action, up to and including dismissal, under applicable University policies and labor contracts, or may be required, at the discretion of the University, to participate satisfactorily in an Employee Support Program.

Students found to be in violation of this Policy may be subject to corrective action, up to and including dismissal, as set forth in the University Policies Applying to Campus Activities, Organizations, and Students (Part A) and in campus regulations, or may be required, at the discretion of the University, to participate satisfactorily in a treatment program.

Special requirements for employees engaged on Federal or State contracts and grants

The Federal Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 (Public Law 100-690, Title V, Subtitle D) and the State Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1990 require that University employees directly engaged in the performance of work on a Federal or State contract or grant shall abide by this Policy as a condition of employment.

Employees working on Federal contracts and grants shall notify the University within five calendar days if they are convicted of any criminal drug statute violation occurring in the workplace or while on University business. This requirement also applies to all indirect charge employees who perform support or overhead functions related to the Federal contract or grant and for-which the Federal government pays its share of expenses, unless the employee's impact or involvement is insignificant to the performance of the contract or grant. The University is required to notify the Federal contracting or granting agency within ten calendar days of receiving notice of such conviction and to take appropriate corrective action or to require the employee to participate satisfactorily in available counseling, treatment, and approved substance-abuse assistance or rehabilitation programs within thirty calendar days of having received notice of such conviction.

Good thing I kicked that crack habit, and shut down the meth lab.


college music

When I was visiting my parents, I was tempted to blog a list of my music collection (my CDs are still in my closet at the house, along with my high school and college papers, my one prom picture from that time I went stag because I was on the prom committee...), but visiting home is already fraught with so much tension, that I could not bear to invite your further disdain by admitting that I luuurrrved such crappy bands as Dave Matthews Band, Coldplay, Counting Crows, Better Than Ezra, Live, Goo Goo Dolls, and holy mackerel, Dexter Freebish. It was like I was a walking advertisement for Ultimate White People Bands of the '90s! And then there was my trip hop/downtempo phase, and WTF, is that the Sneakerpimps I see? Although that was kind of a make out song, as was Moby's "Porcelain" and that one Morcheeba and that other Massive Attack album. Too bad College Boyfriend Dude was into the god awful Matchbox 20 (which I got over in high school) and kept inflicting horn rock onto mine ears. Like, that's one step down from Chicago, yo. Although, look, there's Sarah MacLachlan, and I still love "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy." Why can't there be a Lilith Fair reunion tour? And look also, Indigo Girls, that one Shawn Colvin album, Tracy Chapman, and pre-Glen Ballard Shelby Lynne, and Aimee Mann. Fuck yeah, grrrls rock!

This Slate review of the latest Coldplay almost redeems me (or the band, whatever), but not really. Greil Marcus once said that U2's (which Coldplay is trying to best) TV corollary is "M*A*S*H, because both got a little preachy in the end. So what is Coldplay? A less successful, less culturally significant M*A*S*H? You know, like Heroes or something? Still, idealistic times call for idealistic music, although it's just way too emo for me nowadays. It's like listening to Bright Eyes. You have to ask yourself, what in the world is wrong with you?

Anyway, 'fess up, people. Admit to your playing list from college. This will ease you into the inevitable embarrassment when I ask you about your favorite high school bands. And that will be the post in which I admit to bobbing my head to "Motown Philly."


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How to Have a Personal Life in Grad School

I am going to stay short on personal details here. But, sure, this might be helpful to some of you.

In truth, I am not so great at this. In some ways, breaking up with my long-term, long-distance college boyfriend in the middle of my junior year of college was helpful, because then I focused on feminist activism, getting all of my credits out of the way (I had surplus by the end and was able to take philosophy classes "for fun"), and my two senior theses and honors programs. In law school, I hardly dated at all, and again, focused on school. I called it a "man moratorium."

That was rather productive, but also kind of sad and lonely at times. It is far, far better to be alone, self-sufficient, productive, and enjoying your own company (no one to argue with) and those of your friends (lower maintenance than a significant other) than to be in a bad relationship. But being in a good relationship has many benefits too. If you eventually want marriage and children, well, that doesn't miraculously happen when you finally graduate and have "free time." And you don't really have free time, because you'll be working. Meeting people at school is hard enough for most misanthropic social misfits (who make up the great percentage of grad students), try dating in the liberal arts college town/"flyover" state in which you start your first tenure-track job while teaching a 2-2 load and writing your tenure piece and serving on multiple committees.

So, unfortunately, this all takes work and time, and dating is no different. It is highly inefficient to me to date so many people in order to find a compatible partner, and yet, it seems, that is the only way. HLP told me that the economically rational approach is to date widely until you're 23, and then marry the first person who comes along who's better than all the rest. This time consuming process is still the most efficient and rational, and so he is right as usual.

Thus, no time like the present, even if you think law school/grad school sucks up all of your time. It doesn't really, not if you don't let it. Of course, I am way behind in my own research, and have several informal reviews of other people's work due, and actual coding work for which I am paid. But really, it's possible to go out on dates and have dinner with someone else, if you actually work when you're supposed to. Which is a lot to ask for, I know.

Anyway, some tips:

  • Don't date within your cohort/mod/section. Try to date outside of your department, if possible. Unless the person is really worth it, the gossip won't be, and breakups will be fraught with drama and awkwardness, especially if you keep the same social circle. Which I discourage.
  • How to meet these outsiders? Take classes in other departments. Attend public lectures in other departments. Volunteer for some kind of organization. Join an organization. Join online dating sites, which have lost their stigma, at least in the urbane big cities/college cities. Go to big parties where friends of friends of friends will come. You can try hanging out at cafes or bookstores, but if you are like me, you will exude some sort of cynical misanthropy that will repel all people and no one will come by to ask what you are reading or offer to buy you a cup of coffee. Truly, that is inefficient.
  • Make sure you get your work done. I am a super flexible partner who thinks that it's perfectly reasonable to only see each other after the day's work is done. Thus, sometimes we bypass dinner together and meet up late at night for a bit of conversation before we both pass out, and we wake up at 6 am and start all over again. Making "seeing each other" a priority means being flexible about what "seeing each other" and "quality time" means. I also push back dinner till 9:30 or 10 pm if he wants to go to the gym after work, which means I get to go for a run before making dinner as well. You're not the only priority for each other, but you're an important one. So making time for each other means being flexible about work, health and other social commitments. But if you live apart, you should agree with each other about how much is too much, and how little is too little in order to balance all of your other commitments. It'll only increase once you decide to cohabitate/get married, so find someone you want to see regularly and yet understands that seeing each other can mean working in the same room together or being unconscious.
  • Double duty: it's easier to do all of this if you can include each other in social engagements with other friends, so that you can kill two birds with one stone. Thus, it is helpful to have a partner that not everyone hates, or a complete social misfit even by grad school standards.
  • Scheduling: while I would love a fixed, formal schedule, I have found that I must be flexible--sometimes, his Blackberry demands work turned back by 11 pm or 7 am, and I must be open to this. My deadlines are more clear or more flexible, but occasionally I'll get a meeting that suddenly pops up that I have to prep for too. Be flexible. You can always do work on the evenings/weekends that your partner suddenly bails on you, or try to see other friends and gasp, have an independent social life that you had pre-partner. That said, it is funny how professionals assume that graduate students don't really operate on a schedule.
  • Be honest, flexible, and communicative about your budget. Dating can be expensive, even in our feminist/post feminist/I have no idea where we are times for either gender. If both are grad students, both will understand budgetary constraints and living on loans/fellowships. Cheap dates abound, and if you are the nerdy type who likes to hang out for hours in bookstores without buying anything, then don't date a diva type (dude/ette) who thinks clothes shopping is a fun date (no matter how hot s/he is, not worth it) and always orders expensive drinks. There are different ways to conceptualize "contribution," and making dinner (together, if possible) is cheaper and more fun than going out. TD has a "real" job, but our best dates are hiking for free and wandering around flea markets near the industrial part of Gritty City and people watching and eating food off of carts. This is good advice throughout life though. He understands my budgetary constraints, neither he nor I are insistent on absolute equal contribution (again, elastic definition of "contribution," and we are both generous in the ways we can be. But it's not like he or I are diva-esque high rollers, and there's a lot of variety in our activities, and the activity itself is never the focus, so much as the time spent together. Being compatible in your shared activities and financial outlook means more than liking the same book.
  • While we're at it, no you don't have to like all the same books, movies, music. Get over it. Life is not a Gen X'er movie. You just have to hate the same things, although I have yet to find a man who does not hate country music or Boyz II Men. But a shared hatred of Enya and cutesy decorations will get you far in a relationship.
  • I got nothin' else, other than "don't date jerks who demand too much of your time, money and energy whom all of your friends hate."


Zittrain on the Internet as Mosh Pit

The real JZ (the cyberlaw scholar, not the rapper), of whom I'm quite fond (I was a student in what I think was his second-ever cyberlaw class back in his first HLS trip), has made an appearance on Colbert. It's really good.

I demand that "the internet is a series of tubes" immediately fall out of fashion, in favor of "the internet is a giant mosh pit." NOW. NOW.

(My own commentary on returning to grad school to come.)


How to Go Back To Grad School

See, I didn't forget to post on this.

First, I would suggest that anyone contemplating graduate school read OrgTheory's Grad Skool Rulz, no matter which program. And while you're at it, read Tim Burke's Should You Go to Grad School? (my comments here)

Second, I would suggest reading some grad student blogs, because reading about us freaking out over problem sets, data gathering, writing papers, teaching, grading, research assisting, scrabbling for funding--well, that'll be good for you. If you are comfortably ensconced in some nice, well-paying job (even if it is not as "intellectually stimulating")---well, you will really miss that salary, the ability to go out to dinner and not worry about whether it cuts into that month's rent.

Anyway, onto some considerations for those returning to graduate school after a gap spent working, Peace Corps-ing, or "finding yourself":


You will be older than the other students, some of whom may only be 21 or 22, if they indeed graduated from college that May/June and enrolled in grad school/law school that August/September. There will be a generation gap, despite your delusional belief that you are just as cool and relevant. Act your age, not theirs.

Not that 25-35 year olds are eons more mature than 21 year olds, but by now you have been drinking legally for several years, have had to to go to to work mildly/mightily hungover, have other friends/coworkers who of the dinner party/kid play date variety, might have a long-term partner or kid yourself, and perhaps have gotten to the point where you don't need to drink/party all the time, and have settled into some happy Buffy/The Wire habit.

This is not to say that you must act septuagenarian, but if you find yourself having to adjust with difficulty to the partying pace of your cohort/mod/section mates, then resist it. You've proven your commitment to fighting for the rights of all Americans to par-tay, no need to sell the farm. True, getting thrown back into a pool of attractive, young, energetic Millenials will be disconcerting, and it will be tempting to get back into the swing of things--especially if you spent your post college years in some sort of conservative workplace. Whatev. Do you really want to go back to the years of hooking up and friends with benefits? It sounds tempting, but by now you know that reputational effects are long, even if memories are short lived--they are short only on memorizing theory, not retaining gossip.

Also, you know better than to post drunk ass/skanky pictures of yourself on social networking sites, whereas your new Millenial friends have a more elastic conception of privacy, a cavalier attitude towards Googability, and a complete lack of discretion. Be careful, now. They are your friends, but you are not them, and the minute there is some drama (and there will inevitably be some), you will realize with a shock how much difference a few years' in age, experience, and maturity will make. Law school/Grad school is not unlike junior high school (not even high school) in its cliqueishness and gossippy fish bowlishness. You thought office politics was bad? There, at least, norms of collegiality and pecuniary/legal sanctions keep most of the in-fighting down.

They are your future colleagues, and yes, the future leaders of our country--just as you are. But that's like eons away, and for now you're a decade closer to being "grown up" than they are. So keep things cordial and friendly for now, have fun (but don't compromise your grades, work habits, and personality for it), and have a mix of ages in friends. Find some your age, who will not respond with "already?!" when you talk about your desire to have a family or the housing bubble, and find some who are older who can give you advice on managing work/life, and find some who are younger who are super fun to hang out with, mostly drama free, and who know where the best places to eat and drink are.


Yes, school is work. It never stops. You have classes, teaching commitments, research to do for a professor, research to do for yourself, and your nights and weekends are never truly free. If you treat it like a 9-6 job, you can, for the most part, have some evenings free, and most of the weekend too. It's like not mindlessly surfing at work. You couldn't because your cubemates operated as a sort of external mirror conscience. You won't have that in grad school (not even at the library, where everyone surfs, chats, sleeps), so you have to keep up your discipline.

Also, not all of the work is interesting. You may have left the working world to go back to pursue a dream, your intellectual passion, etc. Well, eventually you will get there. But for now you have to do problem sets, language classes, and required foundational courses that can be super boring. It's like your first two years of college again. Like, say if you hated Chaucer but your introductory English lit major courses required you to read all of Chaucer. Welcome to foundations of ____ theory, or intro to statistical methods, or any number of courses that seem designed to crush your will and stamp out your interest in a subject. But they're a part of the process, the professionalization. Not all of your work will interest you. Your time away from school perhaps made you think that this was the case only if you were a hired gun, and that if you actually chose your own work, you'd be interested in it. Not so, as expertise in X demands familiarity and training in Y, and you might hate Y.

Finally, it is amazing how much work is unrewarded in the academy. A lot of this stuff is just to fund other work, or doing work for other people, or doing work for a class that is required but in no way advances your own dissertation or career goals. It sucks. It is not unlike the thankless clerical tasks in the real world. You just have to realize that academia is like any other job. It mostly sucks. But it can have great rewards, because at the end of the day you are working at something in which you have true interest, and maybe one day you'll get a job that pays you to do it. That's a little pessimistic, but you chose to go back to grad school (and so did I).

Work/Life Balance

Academia is one of the more flexible professions, and yet it doesn't seem to be. If you have a partner or family, this will suck for them if you don't treat grad school like a job, so that you have the dinner time free and at least some of the weekend. On evenings that we spend together, I try to wrap up work by 7 pm, make a quick dinner, and actually try to relax and be social with TD. I try to turn off the computer so that I don't mindlessly surf, although I think that can be a romantic date (and he agrees, but we shouldn't get stuck in that). But this is not always feasible every night of the week, and some times, a date is having dinner, and each of us going back to work. Sometimes, we both have to work some part of the weekend. The key to work/life balance is not trying to get everything done by 7 pm every night, but talking to your partner, negotiating with them about the household/family responsibilities, and being open and compromising. If you have a kid, that's going to be harder to ignore than a self-sufficient adult (although neglecting either is a bad idea). Use whatever institutional resources you can to make it easier on you and your family, and make sure your partner knows that you have a job and that you need just as much support. In general though, waking up early (and going to bed at a semi-reasonable hour) will go a long way in improving your productivity during the working hours, as will creating some sort of set schedule for yourself. If you take time out in the afternoon for a Rec class, you'll have to make up for it somewhere--but take that Rec class! Paying attention to the needs of your body with healthy food, exercise, fun time--that all goes a long way in making you feel balanced in work and life, and better able to manage the two.

I have the least to say about this one, because I suck the most at work/life balance, even though that's my area of research. But for now, hope this helps. Go read OrgTheory and Tim Burke for more!


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Quiet Desperation of Academic Women

That's the title to this article in Inside Higher Ed, on a new study by Kristen Monroe (who happens to be a former professor of mine when I was a political science major at UCI). Here's the abstract of the paper (full article available with academic subscription).

From the article (I am probably excerpting too generously, but it's a 20 page article):

Employment patterns in the academy reflect the pattern in the larger professional world; positions with higher status, power, and remuneration are generally dominated by males. While graduate enrollment in degree-granting institutions (figure 1) has been over 50 percent female for more than a decade (moving from 56 percent in 1996 to 58 percent in 2001), women accounted for only 44–45 percent of the recent Ph.D.s awarded, only 38 percent of the fulltime faculty in all institutions of higher education, and slightly more than 15 percent of the tenured and tenure-track faculty in “top” departments.7 In general, tenured professors are four times more likely to be male (80 percent of tenured faculty in 2001 were male), while tenure-track (65 percent male) and nontenure- track (61 percent) employment move somewhat closer to the average.

The aggregate statistical data thus suggest academia as a whole fares no better than the general workforce at large in terms of gender equity. Women are still underrepresented in almost all disciplines, and men are more likely than women to hold tenure track positions, be promoted to tenure, achieve full professorships, and be paid more than women of equal rank.

Statistics provide one view of the situation for women; anecdotal data and biographies offer further insight.The more detailed qualitative work on women in academia suggests a dismal picture: a rigid system of rewards that makes scant allowance for deviation from the traditional male model, high levels of isolation, stress and fatigue among female faculty, continuing unconscious and deepseated discrimination and stereotyping by male colleagues, and a remarkably unbreakable glass ceiling.

One common solution to discrimination is to increase the number of power holders who are members of the discriminated group. Our interviews suggest a more complex relationship of women to power, status, and office holding. Just holding office is not always enough to ensure change.

Women were delighted about the increase in female chairs, deans, or central administrators; some considered that these increases signaled genuine improvement. Too often, however, a woman’s holding of this position would devalue or minimize it somewhat, casting it into the service mode, not the power mode. We heard this comment so frequently across all disciplines that we finally named it gender devaluation. Gender devaluation refers to the subtle process by which administrative positions lose their aura of status, power, and authority when held by women. These positions often become treated as service or support roles until they are reoccupied by men. So, for example, being a department chair could be viewed as a position of power or one of service. When a man is department chair, the position confers status, respect, and power. When a woman becomes department chair, the power and status seem diminished, and the service dimension becomes stressed.

Other women told how their accomplishments—being elected to a scholarly academy, an office in the professional association or international society, even receiving outside job offers—were routinely written off by their male colleagues as simply reflections of affirmative action, not the woman’s own accomplishments.

Service differentials often resulted from subtle forms of discrimination. Some instances centered on different expectations of men and women and differences in the way the same behavior was evaluated, depending on the gender of the person performing the act. Women take on these service tasks, despite knowing the disadvantages of spending their time on duties for which they will not be rewarded, because they also recognize that such positions enabled them to open things up for other women.

How effective are existing legal mechanisms in protecting women? If women use these mechanisms, are they stigmatized for doing so? Our speakers suggest that the benefit of legal mechanisms is unclear but the costs associated with pursuing legal remedies are real and high.

Our speakers were extremely adept at detecting the Academy’s cultural cues. Most feared backlash and retribution if they agitated openly for change, so they rejected overt collective activism in favor of more subtle, nonthreatening collective actions. Whereas overt activism tries to directly change power and institutional structures, collective action—as we conceptualize it—refers to organized efforts to improve women’s conditions in the university through more proactive interpersonal processes. The most uniform and enthusiastic recommendation of this type was to expand and reconceptualize mentoring programs. Women especially valued mentoring from women, which provide both role modeling and concrete illustrations of alternative life choices to the traditional male model.

Finding that women reject legal and administrative mechanisms in favor of the subtler collective action proposals noted here reflects other findings in the literature. A more surprising result is the extent to which UCI faculty women fell back on a model of individual responsibility for their situation. Ironically, if not surprisingly, several of our women noted one important and insidious aspect of discrimination; they felt they had to do more to succeed than their male counterparts. While many lamented this, few seemed angered. This was closely related to the fact that these women demonstrated acute understanding of the authority of the university in considerations of family obligation and therefore adapted their experience of inequality to an individual model of responsibility. In this way, most did not relate their own experience with discrimination in broader political terms so much as they deemed it an individual problem they had to address on their own. They held themselves to high standards and interpreted their failures less to gender discrimination and more to their own shortcomings.

Two points are striking, as we listen to the sense of quiet desperation in the choices faced by these women. First, uniformly the UCI women believed the tension between career and family/children is a fact of life for all professional women. It is not unique to UCI, or to academia. Second, we heard a surprising lack of anger. Few women asked for institutional intervention toward a more just reconciliation between the commitment to family and the commitment to career. From the standpoint of institutional reform, then, these are not efficacious voices. These are voices of struggle, denial, and helplessness, ultimately lacking the empowering strategies to handle or change their seemingly intractable circumstances. They are not voices that see the personal as political. This process of internalizing responsibility also occurred in descriptions of both the subtle forms of discrimination and descriptions of overt ones. Stories of both types of discrimination, however, were closely linked to an institutional climate more concerned with bureaucracy and what several speakers called “window dressing” than with ethics. This linkage suggested the lack of political demands may represent a shrewd and knowing calculus on the part of policy savvy women who realize such politicization is doomed to fail in eliciting a positive institutional response.

Here, our interviews suggested specific findings relevant for reform and pointed to several strategies useful in dealing with gender inequity in society at large, not just academia. First, having more women and minorities in positions of power helps sometimes but is not enough. As a general reform, the concept of professional success needs to be redefined so it allows for alternative models, not simply the traditional, linear male model in which the professional is full time and focused on a career, with few family duties. An important aspect of this issue concerns the extent to which the male model also traps men into stereotypes, making it difficult for individual men to break out of traditional roles, if they so desire.We find the human dimension of this issue largely ignored in the feminist literature and believe a new model, which displaces both the traditional male model and the exploited female model, would be greatly welcomed.

Second, as part of this general reform, specific policies can help. Institute longer tracks to tenure and allow for maternity and family leave time. Ensure that legal mechanisms are in place and that they actually work since our interviews suggested such policies that do exist are in place but unobserved in reality. Third, as part of this general re-shifting in the professional model, recognize that women who are professional frequently have husbands who also are professionals, and institute career partner-hiring policies. Finally, institute a comprehensive andreconceptualized mentoring program, so that all faculty—not just women—are automatically entered into it. This will help remove the stigma of participating in formal mentoring. Mentoring also should be extended beyond tenure. Doing so would recognize that the requirements for professional growth are on-going and existing career models make it difficult to conceptualize one’s way out of situations often held irreconcilable, such as the tension between children and career. Such reforms recognize the difficulties of progressing up the academic ladder and respond to the need for continuing institutional efforts to help crack what remains a glass ceiling for women in academia.

And from IHE:

Asked for a reaction to the study, Irvine released a statement criticizing it. “Professor Monroe’s article draws attention to the persistence and toll of sex discrimination on women faculty. Unfortunately, the article cannot to be said to offer original insight into the promise and challenge of gender equity in higher education. The formulation of the problem overlooks research in a host of related issues, such as gender schemas, work-life balance, and leadership development among others,” the statement said.

The Irvine statement went on to cite progress for women on a number of fronts, noting that women on the campus hold such positions as vice chancellor of research and deans of the graduate division and of undergraduate education. Women account for 43 percent of assistant professors, 37 percent of associate professors, and 22 percent of full professors. Those figures are going up in science and technology fields too, Irvine noted, and women now are 37 percent of assistant professors, 31 percent of associate professors and 18 percent of full professors in those disciplines.

The statement added that “Professor Monroe does not appear to be informed about campus and university engagement with gender equity or for that matter family-friendly accommodation policies and procedures.”

In an interview (prior to when Irvine released its statement), Monroe said that she would be interested to see how the university responded and that she hoped it would be positive. She noted — as the reported noted — that many of the concerns expressed in the study didn’t have to do with official policies or programs, but with more subtle questions.

In her career she was helped by good advice she received early on from mentors. She was urged to agree to serve on one universitywide committee and one departmental committee and never more. She was also urged to work from home in the mornings, so she couldn’t be drafted into other meetings, and would always have focused time for research. Monroe said that as a political scientist, she had that option in a way that a lab scientist would not. While Monroe said she was able to have a family while succeeding in academe (in part because of choices her husband made), she said that talking to women about their choices was in many cases “heartbreaking.”

I am lucky enough to have an advisor (who of course also does work/family law) who gives me the same advice: be savvy about negotiating at which Step I begin my position, consider the faculty development budget I'm allowed, try to limit participation in service committees, negotiate my initial teaching load, and pay this forward by giving similar candid mentoring advice to my students. And I too, may be able to have a baby pre-tenure. This is wonderfully candid, savvy advice, and much less depressing than hearing "just don't have a baby, ever" or "it's impossible to advance far in the legal academy if you want work/life balance." I am not suggesting I want to be pampered with a 1-1 teaching load, no service/committee requirements, or plan to have a baby as soon as I'm hired. But I am suggesting that we, as an academy, have to recognize the increasing diversity of the academic ranks--our student bodies have almost equal numbers of women and men--should not our faculty ranks also reflect this? We, as an academy, might decry the "mommy track" of law firms, as some of our best and brightest students are pushed to the sidelines as their work is valued less than their male colleagues. We should also decry the deleterious gender disparity that our own system often engages in: sidelining women faculty into lower status, non-tenure track positions, unrewarded service commitments, and failing to provide institutional resources for those faculty (male or female) who must balance work and family demands.

The defensiveness of UCI's response highlights the institutional recalcitrance to both legal and non-legal reforms. It is one thing to change policies. It is quite another to change culture, and insitutions are reluctant to admit that their professional culture and structure produce an environment that is contradictory to their egalitarian ethos and cultural values. Academia shuttles back and forth between its elitist nature and its egalitarian (Dewey-esque Democracy as Education) project: I am not saying that we must lower standards in the academy for tenure, service, and teaching. I am saying that we, as an academy, must reevaluate our supposed "meritocracy" to ensure that good scholarship is rewarded, and not merely good institutional citizenship. Silence and complacence should not be rewarded, as if those suffering from overt and subtle discrimination must just accept their position in the white-male dominated legal academy. Rather, the academy itself must feel responsibility to change its structure and culture to accommodate the changing face of the academy--a changing face it says it wants, but for the lack of qualified, meritorious candidates. Make the conditions ripe for merit, and it will show itself.

Hat Tip: Feminist Law Profs.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Screw Monty Python: here are some better British Comedies

It's kind of shameful how many people never get beyond Monty Python, or maybe Monty Python + Mr. Bean and Fawlty Towers, in their BBC comedy education.

It has, however, recently come to my attention that by far the best BBC comedy ever produced has finally showed up on DVD in the U.S. (The first two seasons are out, the third comes soon apparently.) What mysterious show is this?

Waiting for God.

From the Wikipedia page (which I refuse to link, because it contains multiple serious plot spoilers, which I've invisibly deleted from this summary and might delete from the wikipedia page too):

Set at Bayview Retirement Village near Bournemouth, the show is based around Diana Trent and her relationship with Tom Ballard, a former accountant who has been exiled there for the convenience of his family.

Diana is a cynical, retired photojournalist who has found herself consigned to the retirement home after a career documenting some of the 20th century's most dangerous places has left her single and with no one in her life outside of her niece, and later, her great-niece. Her frustration at the prospect of years of being alternately patronised and ignored at Bayview is soon channelled into attempts to subvert the régime of the retirement home and taunting the staff regarding their flaws and corrupt nature. Though retired, Diana remains connected with several powerful journalists, which she uses to blackmail the board of directors at Bayview (and Bayview manager Harvey Baines) to stay in Bayview despite her anti-social behaviour. Her only known living relative is her niece Sarah and later, Sarah's daughter Diana. Diana is emotionally distant from her niece, going so far as to telling people that her niece runs a prostitution ring and constantly attempts to kill her with poison.

Ballard is a kindly but deluded old duffer who frequently lives in a fantasy world following his retirement as an accountant. A widower for at least a decade, his increasingly eccentric behaviour leads his alcoholic daughter-in-law Marion and henpecked son Geoffrey to move him into Bayview where he finds himself living next door to Diana. The two form an unlikely partnership and discover that they are able to wreak havoc amongst the younger staff and management in the home in order to create a more tolerable living environment for themselves and their fellow residents. Tom's optimistic, cheery demeanour and unencumbered Anglican Christianity contrast Diana's dark cynicism and avowed atheism, as both attempt to influence the other's world view.

The manager of Bayview is Harvey Baines, who runs the establishment with his assistant, the homely, spinsterish and pious Jane Edwards. Baines is a narcissistic right wing weasel whose management style involves trying to run the retirement home profitably while keeping the residents (whom he variously dubs "oldies" or "units") passive in order to make himself look good before the eyes of the board of directors.

Jane, Harvey's put-upon assistant, is a naïve and religious woman who is madly in love with Harvey, in spite of Harvey's utter disdain for her. Jane serves as a foil for Diana; though Diana loathes Jane's religious piety and optimistic outlook on life. Diana and Tom often help Jane when it comes to the matter of dealing with Harvey's manipulation of Jane's love for him.

Doesn't it sound great? But it's even better than the description. Just watch it. Seriously. I can't even begin to express how wonderful this show is. I don't watch TV, but my (British) mother and I used to drag one out back when this was regularly showing on PBS, just to watch this one show. I really think it's the most brilliant show ever produced for television.

Then you can watch Blackadder and Yes Minister.


good times

Santa Barbara was a blast! Beautiful surroundings, sunny and warm (in the afternoon, after the marine layer burned off), and very fun. It's a great weekend getaway, and I loved seeing JRO and BDB.

We stayed here, which was nice and only two blocks from the beach. But we misanthropically always managed to miss the morning breakfast. I'm not really a B&B type of girl. We arrived early enough to walk around the pier and have dinner with JRO and BDB, and we liked the margaritas and bourgie cantina vibe of Carlitos. Santa Barbara was out in full force celebrating graduation weekend, so we went bar hopping, starting at Dargan's. TD and I bet each other a nickel what would come up next on the jukebox, and I won by the skin of my teeth (The Rolling Stones, although it is generally a good assumption that U2 will be the next band at an Irish pub). There was a cute cover band who dressed like some cross between The Hives and Flight of the Conchords, complete with a trumpet-playing-keyboardist. Their covers were along the lines of Cake, and so it was a bit of work guessing that these dudes really were singing "Time After Time" and "Dancing Queen." I strongly suspect that they won themselves some undergrad girl groupies that night.

The next day, at the recommendation of my readers we had fish/bivalve products at Brophy Bros., which was quite tasty. We tried to hike to the Gaviota Hot Spring (we usually do longer hikes, but that day we were on schedule), but couldn't find it some how, so we just ended up climbing through the brush up to the top of a shorter peak. Hot and a little itchy, but very pretty. We saw snake holes, but no snakes, although there are ticks. Then we drove up to Santa Ynez Valley, where there exists a faux Danish town full of knick knacks and pastries. We kind of skipped over that.

Instead, we went for a glider ride. That was very, very cool. When he said that he had booked us glider rides, I thought he meant hangglider rides, and I started freaking out, and mentally prepping my leap off the edge of a cliff. A few hours later, I learned that we would be in a small engineless plane, albeit 3,200 ft in the air. I relaxed. I am less of a wuss than you/I think, but still something of a wuss, although now I know that I would seriously contemplate jumping off a cliff with a parachute. Riding in a glider is a cake walk by comparison; there's a friendly trained pilot who can take care of everything, and he even lets you fly the glider. Flying the glider is no different than steering a boat, although it's more sensitive, and you don't want to pull back on the throttle/tiller, unless you want to nosedive into the earth. Recommended for a peaceful, lovely way to see the vistas from above without being in a noisy helicopter or hiking 7 miles to some peak.

After the glider rides, we bummed around our hotel room and watched Indiana Jones movies and drank champagne until we had to go to dinner. It is key, when traveling with another, that you both have the same attitudes about touring--it is perfectly reasonable to not want to see everything (all beach towns pretty much look the same, anyway, at least in the touristy areas) and just relax after a long day. It was a parade of tastiness at the very lovely Stonehouse restaurant, and quite the romantic dinner.

On our last day, we walked around Downtown Santa Barbara and saw the Courthouse, before making our way over to JRO's graduation festivities, where we hung out with the family. That was maybe the best part of the weekend. All in all, a great time, and highly recommended (over Los Angeles, where I lived for a few years and yet never really successfully toured) as a weekend getaway.