Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I Got Holes in My Socks, I Can't Get No Sleep

Last night PJMB friend KHD was talking about shit about my socks just because they're full of holes. She suggested I put "holes in socks" on my CV under the heading "Quirks and Affectations." Although, I suppose the main thing would be my tendency to shout "Fuck!" (or "Fucker!", "Motherfucker!", etc.) loud enough to be heard through my closed office door whenever I fuck up something I'm working on. Maybe that's best kept off the CV.

Doesn't Take Much Time for Plans to Go Wrong

A howl of pain from the Chronicle forums:
I didn't get the job. I cried so much last night that my eyes are still swollen. I have no other prospects. I went to the state employment agency yesterday, and the guy there directed me to a couple of $8/hour jobs, including one I applied for a few weeks back and failed the strength test. . . .

I'm going to take a few days and just sleep, play banjo, and drink beer. Then, I think, I will try again, but I don't know. I'm very sad, and kinda wish I could simply disappear.
God damn.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Welcome to the New World Order

Call Tom Friedman! I came back from a relaxing weekend away from my e-mail to find my inbox full of honest-to-god globalization!

This paper I just had accepted a little while ago? I guess the journal's doing my page proofs, and they e-mailed to check up on a little detail. The e-mail came from some guy in Mylapore, India. The guy works for something called Scientific Publishing Services. So this journal's outsourcing their copyeditting to some Indian publishing company. Seriously. I had no idea this went on, but after a little looking around, it looks like it's SOP. Who knew? What a flat, flat world we live in, no? Very flat. No bumps at all.

This also helps explain why the journal in question seems to work at light speed, as opposed the worst offender of the other journals currently sitting on my papers. At this journal, someone's actually working. You know, as opposed to letting papers collect in some random e-mail inbox, unread for months and months and months. On a related semantic point, can you call it "outsourcing" if in your home country the work never actually gets done?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Let Me Drink When I'm Dry, A Dollar When I'm Hard Up, Religion When I Die

It’s late. When it's late it’s hard for me not to daydream about what I’m going to do with my money when I make more than 20k. Thinking about those nights last fall when I got home at midnight, after a day of working on my writing samples, teaching, and dealing with the Old World Septuagenarian and Evil Columbo—thinking about those nights, I really can’t wait for when I can afford Talisker and Woodford Reserve instead of Ballantine’s and Jim Beam.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Got Some Questions That I Got to Ask, and I Hope You Can Come Up With the Answers, Babe

From Eric Schwitzgebel, here's a good summation of the gender imbalance in philosophy:
At last weekend's [Society for Philosophy and Psychology], one woman told me she heard about a man there who was hoping "to get laid". She unthinkingly responded, "oh, I didn't know he was gay!"

Funny stuff. And it reminds me of story I've been meaning to tell. A friend of mine from my program had some good interviews at last year's APA. One of them got off to an awesome start with some sweet, old school-vintage sexism. My friend was let into the search committee's suite, got introduced to everybody and sat down. Usually, the first question in an interview for a research school has something to do with your dissertation or your research program or something like that. But one of the interviewers saw my friend's wedding ring and decided to go in a slightly different direction. The asshole came out the gate with, "So what would your husband think of you moving so far away for a job?"

That was the first question of the interview. The first fucking question.

Not for nothing, it's also against APA regs to ask that question. But what the fuck, right? Since the APA meets out its stern justice in the form of an asterisk beside the department's name in the JFP--the asterisk being the most terrible of all typographical marks--departments don't really have any incentive not to bust out any fucking question they want. "What reassurance can you give us that you're not going to spend all your time reading romance novels and watching "Martha Stewart Living"?" "How do you balance your work and the biological fact that you'll never be happy without babies?" "Are you going to be a total bitch when you're PMSing?" Take the asterisk like a man, and these questions are all good.

Monday, July 23, 2007

How'd You Get You So Much Money, Who You Trying to Impress?

A while back I mentioned how stupid I think fancy resume paper is. Who's dumb enough to get fooled by nice paper into thinking you're a good candidate? I mean, I sort of expect this sort of bullshit in the private sector. (Middle-managers are idiots after all.) But in academia? Who's going to look at the linen paper your CV's printed on say, "Damn, I bet this guy's an awesome epistemologist"? That would be idiotic, right?

Right. But of course, for some people idiocy's no reason to say no. Check out this guy's advice on how to put together an application package:
1. Make sure your name is on each page of anything you send. Easy enough to do with Word these days.

2. On fabulous white linen resume paper, I print all primary documents and staple anything with 2+ pages.

3. Compilation of packet:

a. Right side: originals
b. Left side: copies of originals on plain paper, with a cover page on that side with the title "Materials for Committee Photocopying" (seriously)

Okay, point 1 is good sense. But then in point 2, we get the white linen resume paper. Not just any white linen resume paper, mind you, but fabulous white linen resume paper. This is the sort of stupid that makes you wonder how a person remembers to breath. Why, you ask? Because, as we find out in point 3, as fab. as the white linen resume paper might be, the search committee's never going to see it. The committee just looks at photocopies. So why the fuck are all those nice originals there in the first place? Because you're not already spending enough of postage?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

I Saw Men With Dreams Like the Ones I'd Had Beg Quarters Outside the 7-11

There are so many awful things about the eastern APA, I don't really know how to start talking about it all. PGOAT's the same. It's just such fucking nightmare.

Well, this Leiter post hints at one thing. It's a post about senior faculty moves and tenure track hires in 2006-2007, so run-of-the-mill professional gossip. But it's not about all senior moves and junior hires, just the "major" ones. What does "major" mean? For the US, it means moves and hires at the top 50 or so departments. What Leiter's post only hints at, the APA has to a sickening degree. Professional status, and everybody's consciousness of it, is one of the most basic facts of the conference.

There's two different axes of status. One's binary--do you have a job or not? The other's more of a spectrum. Are you from a top-10 department? Top-15? Top-20? Middle of the Leiter report? Bottom? Or are you from one of the 90 or so American departments that don't even get ranked? Top-10 makes you a Brahmin; not ranked makes you untouchable.

The axes combine to make different statuses. Obviously, having a job at a top-10 department makes you a fucking emperor. Being from a top-10 department and being on the market's not so bad, either. You're a princess. In fact, you're prettiest princess in the empire. Everyone wants a chance to talk to you.

But to be from a department that's not ranked and not have a job? I'm in a department in the middle of the Leiter report, and I felt it. You're invisible. Or if people actually seem to see you, it's not like they're looking at a person. They see you the way people living downtown see homeless people. You're just an unattractive part of the background.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

So Quit Wasting My Time

A fews days ago I mentioned I'd sent a revised draft of a paper off to the journal I want to publish it. Well, I heard back today from the journal's editor, and he's happy with the revisons. That's a relief.

The thing that caught me off guard was the editor's speed getting back to me. He took four days. Wow. For some perspective, I've been waiting for almost eight months to hear anything at all from another journal.

Is it a coincidence that the fast journal's not a philosophy journal and the glacial one is? I feel like the answer is likely no.

Take Off Your Pants and Jacket

So yesterday I was making fun of job market advice I thought was way too stupid to need mentioning. Well, I was wrong to do so, and I hereby acknowledge the error in my ways. Apparently, some people are so fucking stupid, there's just no way to overestimate the stupidity of the advice they need.

Check this out. It's a poli sci prof's list of really stupid things she's seen actual candidates do. Most of it's predictable dumb-assery, like lying on your CV and telling the department you're not really interested in them. But it gets worse. Look at number five on the list:
5. Wear sweatpants. Give your [job] talk while sitting on a table swinging your legs.

Holy fuck. To repeat: someone actually did this. Down thread, we discover the pants were navy and black.

I really hate sweat pants. I mean, I really hate them. I don't even own a pair, let alone ever wear them out of the house. They disgust me. So I'm not really sure I can fully wrap my head around the idea that some imbecile wore a pair of sweatpants for their job talk. I'd ask how a person that stupid could even dress themselves in the morning, but I guess the real point is, they can't.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Forever in Debt to Your Priceless Advice

Consider this one more low drum-beat from far off in the woods, portending the approach of something terrible: a Chroncle article telling me I should already be thinking about next year's job market. Actually, that's good advice for anyone who needs it. I don't, since I had a hard lesson last year about how early you should start this crap.

Less good advice is this:
Be sure to update your CV so that it includes all of your recent accomplishments including recently published papers, newly awarded grants, and anything else you may have achieved since you last updated it.

Yes. Do remember to update your CV. Also, remember not to send one of your crayon drawings of prancing ponies as your writing sample, and try not to drool too much on any one piece of your application package.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

It's Black Ink Back Gettin' Cake by the Layer

I spent a lot of yesterday finishing what I hope are going to be the last substantive revsions of a paper I've had in the pipeline for a while. So that's another paper I can call "forthcoming."

It's really quite stunning, the months and months of work, and the months and months of waiting, that all goes into putting a single line on the CV.

Anyway, it's a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Gonna Make You Sweat

The world seems dead set against me getting much work done today. My laptop power supply exploded in flash of blue flame a couple of days ago, so no laptop for me. Nor can I use the computers at school for much. See, the AC in my department is busted, and the effort it takes to type is making me sweat so much I'm losing fluids faster than I can replace them.

Since blogging is more physical activity than I can handle in this heat, I'll just continue my little tour of the job market in the rest of the academy. Here's d of the awesome LGM talking about the job market in history:
The job market for historians is a humiliating, soul-spindling meat grinder, a fact to which I would happily attest more specifically off the record and over multiple strong drinks with anyone who feels like looking at the clock every five minutes and wondering when this guy is going to shut the fuck up.

A humiliating, soul-spindling meat grinder? That sounds awfully familiar. Oh, and you can rest easy it'll be a while before I STFU.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

I Can't Read Shit Anymore

Well, it looks like my superior powers of interpretation have lead me astray. It's not the first time, and I don't suppose it'll be the last. Remember that grad student in theoretical physics whose comments I was chewing on yesterday? Turns out she's not a grad student. Or in theoretical physics exactly. Now you know how my junior high quiz bowl teammates felt.

Anyway, Ponder Stibbons of The Truth Makes Me Fret was kind enough to set me straight about who she really is, an undergrad in physics and philosophy. Cool.

She also had some interesting things to add to my griping.
[U]ndergrads at my university had it drummed into their heads by grad school talks given by faculty that only about 10% of philosophy grad students end up as faculty in research universities. So my impression was that people were pretty aware.

Wow. Man, does that not track with my experience, but good for those profs. My sense is, there aren't enough of them.

And for today's hilarity, check out this advice about the theoretical physics job market: "there is no job market." God damn.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

I Was Just Guessing at Numbers and Figures, Pulling the Puzzles Apart

Here's a take on the job market from someone across the quad. In a post called "It's Worse Than You Think," a grad student on theoretical physics writes:
By all accounts, theoretical physics is the one field of science where the academic job market is worse than that in the humanities.

Hm. Let's pause here to reflect on the fact that the humanities serve as a benchmark of sorts for scientists talking about shitty job markets. It's nice to get a little recognition from our colleagues across the quad, isn't it?

Pressing on, our theoretical physicist goes on to talk about one of my hobby-horses: junior grad students' stupendously bad assessment of job market realities:

It is absurd that 75% of entering [physics] grad students want to be theorists. It’s as though 75% of entering philosophy grad students expected to land an academic position at a research university. That does not happen because philosophy grad students are a lot more aware of the state of the philosophy job market.

Well, the first point to make is, yes, it is absurd that 75% of entering grad students in physics want to be theorists if those jobs are so hard to come by.

Of course, the second point is, if you were going to pull a number out of your ass for the percentage of philosophy grad students who think they're destined for research universities, 75% might be a little low. Add in the people thinking about top-tier liberal arts colleges, and you've pretty much got everyone in their first and second years of grad school. Sure, there are exceptions. But not a lot of people make the decision to spend their 20s in poverty, because their big dream in life is to teach at the Lower Donkey's Crotch branch campus of Eastern Arkansas State.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Now Let Your Mind Do the Walking

Via Edmundson, here's a really great piece by William Deresiewicz, a Yale literature prof, about how our culture doesn't have an easy way to understand the intellectual stimulation at the heart of a good student-teacher relationship. So erotic stimulation becomes the proxy, and humanities profs get depicted in movies as horny, middle-aged creeps.

And speaking of student-teacher relationships, I just got the comments from my spring course evaluations. There were two. One said, "[PGS] is pretty pimp for a philosopher," and the other said, "[PGS] = The Shit." Obviously, I’m mentioning this to brag, since I'm an inexperienced and insecure teacher, and I’m desperate to advertise the fact that I’m not a total asshat in the classroom.

But thinking about the job market, these comments suck ass. I really need some positive student comments to put in my teaching portfolio. Like, I really need them. I don't have any. But these comments are no more usuable that ones saying I routinely show up to class with no pants on, and I offer students sips out of a bottle of Jamieson’s I keep in my office.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Boy, You Confuse Me

Scouting around and listening to people, I'm starting to see a trope about the job market that's really pretty misleading. It starts by remembering how jaw-droppingly bad the job market was in the '90s. From there, there's a couple of options. One way to go is to say, now the job-market's awesome! And if not now, then soon! On the weekend, I flagged a department website that basically goes this route.

There other option doesn't involve the same bald dishonesty. It's possible to say entirely true things about the job market in the last 15 years and still give a totally misleading impression. Take a look at this, from Michael LaBossiere. He starts the trope's first step:
When I was looking for a job in 1993 the market was horrible. The standard job listing in philosophy is published by the American Philosophical Association and is called Jobs for Philosophers. When I was looking, my classmates and I called it the Job for Philosophers because it was so thin due to the small number of jobs available

"Job for Philosophers." That's good stuff. Definitely our kind of humor. But then we get:

Now that many of the old white guys are retiring or dying and the economy is generally good, there are many more openings. So, the JFP is has been fairly fat in the past few years.

What to say about this? It's basically true--there I are many more jobs, compared to the '90s. But we're still talking about a market where many, many people never find jobs. LaBossiere's trying to shoot as straight as he can here--he says the market is "variable"--but how weird is it to describe the JFP as "fat"?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Rover, Wanderer, Nomad, Vagabond, Call Me What You Will

Well, yesterday sucked. Since the future Dr. Mrs. Dr. PGS is going to be moving out here in the fall to teach, I've been tasked with finding us a bigger place to live. I'd applied for a place we both really wanted, and yesterday I found out our application was rejected. Like I need to be dealing with any more fucking rejection this year.

I can't tell you how much I hate moving. Finding a place sucks and takes time. Packing sucks and takes time. Finding boxes and renting a van don't suck, but they do take time. Moving day doesn't take a lot of time, but it does suck. And everything costs money. For a grad student or an adjunct, it costs a lot of money.

But a lot of non-tenured people move every year, bouncing from one-year to one-year. God damn, I don't want that to be me. I really don't.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

And the Very First Song That the Radio Sang Was, "I Won't Be Home No More"

Via Edmundson, here's a story about some philosophy grad students in China trying to get people not to celebrate Christmas so much, since they've got worries about Western cultural imperialism. They've got a petition and everything.

This is sort of funny, because here in the US the APA forces grad students on the market not to celebrate Christmas so much. The APA puts the big job market conference right in between Christmas and New Year's, to make sure you don't get carried away and spend too much time enjoying the company of friends and loved ones.

Maybe those Chinese grad students should just come here?

In the Dealership, Trying to Get a Test Drive

I took a couple of shots at the Simon Fraser philosophy department yesterday for the grossly misleading tone they use talking about the job market. So in the interest of fairness, I also want to draw your attention to something they’re doing very right.

You can see from their page for prospective grad students that they’ve got a terminal MA program, and they’re pitching it hard. That’s exactly what most philosophy departments way down off the bottom of the rankings should be doing. Terminal MAs give students a taste of grad school in philosophy, but without any pretense that as of yet it’s professional training.

My understanding of this isn't really based on anything, but I have this idea that terminal MA programs are a lot more common in the UK and Canada. (Hm. Maybe it’s a Commonwealth thing. Does the Queen like MA programs or something? Anyone know about terminal MA programs in Australia and New Zealand?) Anyway, MA programs are good things. Much better than here in the US, where a lot of departments like to pretend they’re giving “professional training” to a bunch of people who won't ever, you know, actually work in the profession.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

I Love You Tomorrow, You're Always a Day Away

A little looking around Simon Fraser's website seems not to turn up their placement stats. Surely an unintended oversight, given how optimistic we should all be about the market. I guess they'll get around to putting those stats up "in a few years," when there's "a shortage of candidates," and all their grads get snapped up before they finish their dissertations.

I Might Have Fallen For That When I Was 14, And a Little More Green

I've talked about people's expectations about the job market when they start grad school, and how out of touch they can be. There are a lot reasons for that, but profs and philosophy departments really ought to help people see things more clearly, not less.

Well take a look at this.
The Philosophy job market is just now beginning to change from conditions of severe shortage of jobs to ones where, in a few years, there will likely be a shortage of candidates. Thus, from a career point of view, this may be the best time to enroll in a PhD program in about 30 years.

So says the Simon Fraser philosophy department, up in the untamed forests of British Columbia. One thing's true here, the job market is better than it was in the 90s. But where the fuck does anyone get the idea there's ever going to be a shortage of candidates? What could make someone believe that?

Besides the jaw-dropping dishonesty, the thing to see here is the tone. It's exactly the vague, fact-free optimism grad students seem to have about the market when they start their programs. They get it from bullshit like this--bullshit I pulled from a page pitching Simon Fraser's PhD program to prospective students.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Key Will Open Doors

I can't let this publication question drop just yet. The question is, what makes some profs think publishing isn't really important for grad students going on the market?

Let me go back to James Pryor's comments for a second. He says he never pushes his grad students to publish, and presumably, they do just fine on the market or he'd change up that advice. Now, what could explain the fact that when Pryor's students go on the market with no publications, their applications get more than 90 seconds of attention? Does raw potential pulsate through the paper their CVs are printed on, distracting search committees from the big nothing under the "publications" heading? My guess is no. My guess is, search committees see names like "Princeton," "NYU," and "James Pryor," and get as giddy as a bunch of 12 year old girls at an Aaron Carter show. Remember, there's people out there who think your department's rank and your advisor's fame are the most important qualifications you can have.

That's fine. That's the way of the world. But just like yesterday my question is, what the fuck made my profs think they could give me the same advice Pryor gives his students?

When you put the question that way, it almost answers itself, doesn't it? Our senior profs want to think our department's in the same league as Princeton and NYU. They want to think their names ring out. And so until the a little over a year ago, we got told we didn't need to publish.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

What Makes You Think You're So Great, When it Comes to Deciding Peoples Fate?

Last week, I talked a bit about the reasons some profs have for advising us grad students not to bother trying to publish anything before we go on the market. For now, grant me that this is catastrophically bad advice for anyone not coming from one of the top-three departments James Pryor's taught in. What I want to know is, why did my profs give me this advice for years? We're way down in the middle of the rankings, so what gives?

By way of a partial answer, let me tell you a little more about Evil Columbo, who, you'll remember, is one of the senior-senior profs in my department. When our department's been looking to make a junior hire, Evil Columbo insists on not paying attention to which candidates have published anything. He's proud of not paying attention to people's publications. Why the pride? Well, he has a lot of smug pride about everything he does, including covering the floor around him with food whenever he eats. But in this case, he's proud of the fact he's not substituting the philosophical judgment of some journal referee for his own. He has this idiotic idea that he can just see philosophical talent glinting from underneath the surface of an unpolished paper. So he's not going to take advice from some referee. What the fuck do they know anyway? All they have is "expertise" in a "sub-discipline." They've got nothing on him, because he can magically see talent.

Now, look. Obviously, a publication is just one line on a CV, and so it's just one data point for a search committee to take into account. They're going to have their own ideas too, and that's fine.

But Evil Columbo tells grad students that only the worst, most podunk departments are going to care about publications at all. Because, he says with sickening glee, if they were real philosophers, philosophers who understood what talent is, they wouldn't give a fuck about a referee's opinion any more than he does. If a department's going to pay attention to a candidate's publications, they might as well admit they can't do philosophy without someone to hold their hand.

What Evil Columbo means by all this is, the overwhelming majority of philosophers in America are shit compared to his historic-scale genius. In other words, this bullshit is just more of his stomach-churning arroagance. But what a lot of otherwise smart grad students hear is, the majority of philosophers in America don't care about candidates' publications. And that's just false.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Rocking the Passive Voice XIV

I haven't really been looking all that closely at the envelopes my PFOs come in. Maybe I should though, since it turns out the address labels can contain interesting details.

Like, for example, I received a PFO addressed to someone with my last name, but with the first name Karen. I'm not a Karen, mainly because I'm a guy.

I wonder if that's the sort of care and attentiveness these letters are talking about they go on and on about how seriously my application was considered before it got dumped in the garbage on top of a pile of old coffee grinds?

Sunday, July 1, 2007

There's Nothing Innocent About a Newborn Babe That a Few Years Here Can't Cure

That's the rating of this blog, according to Mingle2's blog rating thingy. Heh.

I think it's a fair assessment of the job market.

Rocking the Passive Voice XIII

Alright, here's another PFO:
Our Hiring Committee determined that some other candidates made a better fit with the current needs of the department.

There's no passivity there at all. Sure, there's some weird and unnecessary capitilization, but there's no passivity. I mean, this PFO is remarkably forthright about taking responsibility for rejecting me.

So why am I telling you about it? Because it's from the one school that both me and the future Dr. Mrs. Dr. PGS applied to. That was our one chance last year of ending up in the same city for the long term. So this one hurts a lot more than most.