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Thing the First: All Politics is Local

The past six or eight weeks have been so hectic around here that even when I tried to recap them a little while ago, I completely forgot to mention three of the things I’ve been working on lately.  You know things are hectic when I can’t even do a little self-promotion properly!  How hectic were they?  Let me give you an example.  I was supposed to contribute something to a Chronicle of Higher Education forum on the “chilly climate” on campus, and I was supposed to do it by August 5.  August 5 came and went, and the Chronicle didn’t hear anything from me—partly because August 5 was the day of Jimmy Crofts’ funeral, and Janet and I had been stumbling around in a stupor for about a week beforehand, not thinking about much else.  So when, a few days later, the Chronicle sent me a gentle reminder (that may have included the words “we need this right now”), I thought, Oh. My. Goodness.  I didn’t have any time to write the thing before we packed up for vacation, so I asked my family if it would be all right with them if I wrote the thing in our hotel room as we drove down to the Outer Banks; in effect, I was asking Jamie, Janet, and Nick to let me sit in a corner and type for half an hour.

That was no problem, but our little motel in Williamsburg didn’t have any access to the Internets, so when we got to Virginia Beach I asked to stop at a Starbucks.  Such is the life of the itinerant writer, postmodern version.  Eight hundred years ago I would have been wandering around Western Europe from church to church, looking for literate men with some skill as scribes.  Now I’m looking for a wired coffee shop.  Anyway, the mini-essay appeared a few weeks ago; it’s mainly about Pennsylvania’s Horowitzian “liberal-bias-on-campus” bill, HR 177, and if you’re a Chronicle subscriber you can read it right here.  If you’re not a subscriber, I hope the Chronicle won’t mind my offering you the penultimate paragraph:

The truly curious thing about the bill is that it may not wind up pitting libertarian students and fans of the free-market economist Friedrich von Hayek against leftist professors who allegedly want the state to run our lives, and it may not target professors working on race, gender, or sexuality. Instead, according to reports I’ve seen, the constituency that seems most pleased by HR 177 is the local religious right, some of whom see it as their best chance to get intelligent design taught in biology classes. They draw strength from Horowitz-inspired initiatives like the one in Pennsylvania, just as they are inspired by President Bush’s recent endorsement of intelligent design, and they view it as a way to combat the Darwinist “bias” of the natural sciences.

Remember, all you Kansans out there, we in Pennsylvania are fighting you as hard as we can for the title of Most Medieval State (and I think we have more scribes than you do, too).  Our Dover Area School Board has been making national news for much of the past year, thanks to its wisdom in the ways of science: they’ve endorsed the teaching of Intelligent Design, and the case is now before a Harrisburg federal court.  Here’s the nut graf (in various senses of the term) of today’s story:

“Nearly 2,000 years ago someone died on a cross for us,” said board member William Buckingham, who urged his colleagues to include intelligent design in ninth-grade science classes. “Shouldn’t we have the courage to stand up for him?”

There.  Now who says ID is not a scientific theory? PZ, the ball is now in your court: refute that with all your microbes and your book-larnin’.  As George Bush might put it: as Christians stand up, scientists will stand down!

Thing the Second: Bloggity Blog Blog

I also dashed off a little thing for Academe, the journal of the American Association of University Professors, on the subject of academic blogging.  Thanks to the miracle of the Internets, which clearly could not have evolved without supernatural intervention, that article is available for free at this Internets location.  Which reminds me.  I’ve been meaning for some time to address Ivan Tribble’s pair of anti-blogging essays in the Chronicle; last week John Holbo asked me what I thought about all this, and he sent along the url to Rebecca Goetz’s recent post on the subject, which reads, in part,

I expected that Tribble’s poison would have little effect, but I was wrong. It is even worse: Tribble’s drivel has become even more twisted in the telling and is being peddled at job-hunting seminars. I was at a CV and cover letter writing workshop sponsored by Harvard’s OCS today, in which we were told that the Chronicle of Higher Education had reported that bloggers were not getting jobs because they wrote terrible things about their colleagues, and then job committees found out about this by checking the URLs bloggers had listed on their CVs. Actually none of Tribble’s victims had committed that particular blogging crime, but it seems that Tribble has trickled down in an especially anti-blog way that characterizes all blogs as career-destroying gossip sheets. In fact, it seems to be translating into an anti-web attitude completely: my cohort and I were further advised to google ourselves and attempt to get anything that looks less than appetizing “removed from the web.” (I’m not sure how one goes about doing that.)

I think I should save my full reply for a separate post in the future (particularly since this one is just a grab bag of personal/ professional updates), but here’s the short version: Ms. Goetz, it sounds like you’re dealing with some seriously medieval job placement advisors.  (NOTE TO MY READERS WHO ARE MEDIEVALISTS: you know perfectly well how much I love you all, and Gawain too.  Please don’t take it personally when I use the term adjectivally to suggest that certain professors and politicians are not quite up to speed on post-Darwinian science and post-Gutenbergian technology.) For instance, the notion that you can erase information from the web at will is clearly derived from the idea that the Internets consist of millions of swinking scribes who can be asked to scratch out or misplace pieces of web-parchment you don’t want people to see.  And what would I do about a blogging candidate if I were on a search committee this year?  That’s an interesting question, since I just so happen to be chairing a search committee this year.  My attitude is basically this: people who write smart stuff are good.

That’s about it.  You can write smart stuff in a refereed journal, and that’s good; you can write smart stuff in a newspaper, and that’s good; you can write smart stuff on a blog, and that’s good, too.  I mean, are you kidding me?  If I came across a job candidate with a blog like this, or this, or this, or this, or this, or this (just to take a half dozen at random), I’d be impressed, and if the rest of the candidate’s materials looked as good, I’d want to interview him or her.  That’s not because I’m especially partial to blogging—as I’ve said before, I delayed converting my own website into a blog for over a year because back in 2002, my initial impression of blogs was that half of them were written by Star Trek obsessives living in their parents’ basements.  It’s because I’m very, very partial to people who write smart stuff.

I think you can even write smart stuff under a pseudonym in the Chronicle of Higher Education, though this is largely speculative, since it so rarely happens.  Which brings me to:

Thing the Third: Professional Advice

I also forgot that I while I was forgetting about all these other things, I managed to write a brief preface to Robert McRuer’s forthcoming (2006) book, Crip Theory—which will be, when it appears, the most comprehensive queer theory/ disability studies book in the business.  And just as I finished that, I got an advance copy of this in the mail—another book for which I wrote a brief preface, late last year.  Its title is Graduate Study for the Twenty-First Century: How to Build an Academic Career in the Humanities; its author is Greg Colón Semenza, assistant professor of English at the University of Connecticut, and if you’re interested in graduate study in the twenty-first century, or curious about how to build an academic career in the humanities, I recommend it to you with much enthusiasm.

Thing the Last: The Return of Hockey Blogging!

Readers have been deluging me with one pieces of mail, asking whether I’m still playing hockey and why I look so much like Rod Gilbert these days.  The answer to the first question is yes.  My Nittany Hockey League season opened two weeks ago, but I was in New York that weekend and in northern California last weekend.  So this past Saturday was my official 2005-06 debut.

2004-05 was a good season, on balance.  I had played sporadically in the A league in 2003-04 after sustaining a severe groin injury (too much information?) in October 2003 and a mild shoulder injury the following February, and wound up with a paltry 8 goals in 23 games (out of a 40-game schedule).  So I thought of last year as a last-ditch “comeback” season, and set myself some personal benchmarks: a return to the 20-goal level in the A league (as in my first two seasons), and 40 in the B.  I didn’t pick up any injuries all year, but my academic schedule was intense, so I wound up playing only 22 games in A and 23 in B.  Nonetheless, I scored my 20 goals in the A league, and 42 in the B, so I cleared myself to keep playing for another season.  And then, of course, I had that surprise appendectomy in May.  Then the summer league was cancelled.  So when I took the ice this weekend, I did so after a five-month layoff, during two months of which I did no workouts at all.  I was honestly not sure I was going to be able to play at the A level.

Well, it wasn’t pretty, and I know I won’t be in decent game shape for another month, but I played acceptably well as my A team won 4-2 on Saturday and tied 1-1 last night despite outshooting our opponents by a ratio of roughly 5 to 1.  In last night’s game I actually could have opened the scoring within the first minute: I took an outlet pass off the boards while cruising through the neutral zone, looked up at the last defenseman back, said to myself, “I can beat this guy to his right,” beat the guy to his right, and came in alone with 40 feet to the net.  A mini-breakaway on my very first shift, in other words.  The goaltender happened to be the same guy we played on Saturday, because the league is suffering from a severe goalie shortage and this one guy is now the Universal Goaltending Donor, playing on three or four teams every weekend.  And on Saturday, I’d had two terrific scoring chances against him from 10 feet out, but fired one shot off his mask and the other high to the glove side; he got just enough of that one to keep it out of the net.  So what do I do with my mini-breakaway last night?  I shoot high glove side, that’s what.  And once again, he got just enough of that one to keep it out of the net—worse, he made a good save in the opening minute, which, as all of you forwards know, gives a goaltender all kinds of annoying confidence.  Arrrrggghh.

Next time, I’m going to shoot high glove side.  I figure he’ll never expect it.

The only catch this weekend was that right after Saturday morning’s A game, I had to play a B game.  I had intended to slip out of the rink unnoticed, but the B team captain spotted me and said, “thank goodness you’re here—we only have three players, and you make four.” We picked up two more guys and managed to put together a 4-1 win, but needless to say, I was not ready to play two games, let alone to spend five-sixths of the second one on the ice.  So what hurts?  Let’s see: my left hamstring.  My right elbow.  My pride.  Stats so far: one assist in A, one goal in B.

Thanks to all the reader who’ve asked for updates about this critical aspect of my blogging life.  I’ll be back later today with a very short post.

Posted by on 09/26 at 01:11 PM
  1. Michael,

    Wait, how did I miss the surprise appendectomy in May? (And incidentally, aren’t most appendectomies surprises?)

    I think it might be time for someone to do a “contra Tribble” piece, on the possible and (hopefully) real benefits of academic blogging as a mode of conducting semi-serious conversation in the humanities. I’m not sure what the ‘hook’ should be (maybe something will emerge from Rebecca Goetz’s study: something along the lines of “blogger goes on job market and sees benefits” would work).

    In early July, after the first Tribble piece, Matt Kirschenbaum had a post where he asked academics to enumerate concrete professional advantages that blogging had given them. The list of good stuff that came out of blogging by his readers was pretty long. That could also be a part of this discussion…

    Posted by Amardeep  on  09/26  at  04:26 PM
  2. It used to be that appendectomies were surprises, Amardeep, but all the Kool Kids schedule theirs now—they go in for these two-for-one tonsillectomy and appendectomy specials, you see.  Nobody gave me the heads-up.

    An organized distributed-intelligence response to Tribble sounds great.  We should pick a day—preferably a day that doesn’t coincide with “talk like a pirate day,” since that would probably send the wrong message. . . . 

    Posted by Michael  on  09/26  at  04:35 PM
  3. с днём рожденя, Michael (that means happy birthday if you don’t speak Russian.  Which you probably don’t).  Have an excellent day and say hi to Janet and Jamie for me.

    Posted by  on  09/26  at  04:45 PM
  4. As a hellbound vocal atheist and biologist, I don’t think I can reply to Buckingham’s strange request. I’m doubly-damned, don’t you know.

    We usually find some biologist who has Jesus in his heart to answer those things--it’s like meeting the lunacy halfway. Me, I just get to go hide in the woodpile.

    Posted by PZ Myers  on  09/26  at  05:17 PM
  5. as I’ve said before, I delayed converting my own website into a blog for over a year because back in 2002, my initial impression of blogs was that half of them were written by Star Trek obsessives living in their parents’ basements.

    Ahem. Yes, you said it before but what about this? <eyebrows raised>

    Name Server:NS2.GIPPY.NET NS1.GIPPY.NET
    ICANN Registrar:NETWORK SOLUTIONS, LLC.
    Created:05-jan-2004
    Expires:05-jan-2006
    Status:REGISTRAR-LOCK

    And if job searches were not so damn serious, what about someone in the blogosphere taking the advice of this article? You know, trying some “proactive blogging” ...

    http://chronicle.com/jobs/2005/09/2005091501c.htm

    Posted by ahem  on  09/26  at  05:21 PM
  6. Personally, I enjoyed the one appearance of golf blogging.  I would blog about golf, myself, but it would be too depressing.

    Posted by  on  09/26  at  06:07 PM
  7. Repeat to yourself—5 hole, 5 hole 5 hole, the legs are slower than the arm.

    Posted by  on  09/26  at  09:01 PM
  8. Speaking of building a career in the humanities, does anyone have any tips for surviving one’s first professorial year?  Speaking strictly hypothetically, of course.

    Posted by  on  09/27  at  01:09 AM
  9. Great (hypothetical) question, Betsy.  I usually tell people not to expect to do anything other than prepare classes and adjust to moving.  Maybe write a conference paper or two, send out a section of the diss as an article, depending on what field you’re in.  But I found the first year pretty overwhelming.  The good thing was that it made me give up smoking.

    Posted by Michael  on  09/27  at  11:56 AM
  10. Thanks for the blog props, Michael.  I’ve found Tribble’s anti-blogging stories mildly frustrating precisely because so many job placement committees give so much weight to that kind of (often bogus) anecdotal evidence.

    Posted by Chuck  on  09/27  at  12:11 PM
  11. NOTE TO MY READERS WHO ARE MEDIEVALISTS: you know perfectly well how much I love you all, and Gawain too.  Please don’t take it personally when I use the term adjectivally to suggest that certain professors and politicians are not quite up to speed on post-Darwinian science and post-Gutenbergian technology.

    LOL, Michael.  Actually, by your second negative use of the word medieval, I *was* feeling a little hurt and getting a little antsy.  I’ll forgive you—especially since I liked the running scribe joke—but maybe I should unleash Carl the Got Medieval guy on you to, um, get medieval on your ass. smile

    Posted by Tina  on  09/27  at  01:32 PM
  12. Well, Tina, I was worrying that you might feel a bit antsy.  And I worried even more that you might get out the blowtorch and pliers and get all medieval on my ass.  So the running scribe joke was for you and your colleagues, as was the word “swinking,” which is one of my very favorite words in the language.

    Chuck, you’re entirely right—and the next question is, why do job placement advisors put so much weight on any kind of anecdotal evidence?  Marx was wrong:  capitalism is not the most opaque of social forms.  The academic job market is.

    Posted by  on  09/27  at  01:56 PM
  13. Michael wrote:

    And once again, he got just enough of that one to keep it out of the net—worse, he made a good save in the opening minute, which, as all of you forwards know, gives a goaltender all kinds of annoying confidence.  Arrrrggghh.

    Dude (Sorry, Professor Dude), tell me about it.  On my first shift (which was right after your first shift), I had a perfect “one-timer” and he came across and got it with the blocker.  Any other surface and it goes in.  To quote Battista’s (Penn State’s hockey coach) First Law of Hockey:

    In hockey, the best team always wins, unless the goalie stands on his head.

    I’m not sure I can translate that to English…

    Posted by JimLeous  on  09/27  at  04:35 PM
  14. Jim—when you combine your miss and mine with Steve’s shot off the crossbar, Bump’s shot into a sprawling Fuge, and about a half-dozen other near misses Sunday night, I think there’s a compelling case to be made that we should print out brad’s comment above (# 7) and distribute it to the team.

    Posted by Michael  on  09/27  at  04:40 PM
  15. Michael, please keep us up-to-date on your stats over the season, say by putting them at the bottom of your posts.  That way we are aware of your performances and could use whatever residual psychic energies that may or may not exist to increase your vigor and vim. 

    Today, Wednesday, 9/28 Jonathan Rowe over at Positive Liberty,
    http://positiveliberty.com/2005/09/rights-and-modernity.html#more-782
    wrote what looks like an apologetic for Straussian interpretation.  It is filled with the sorts of vaguely alluded to constructs that i find most disheartening in libertarian advocates.  Maybe some of the commentors here who have either posted or been lurking can help me understand just what this paragraph might be trying to “prove?"(well it says what it intends based on some set of conditions that don’t seem to actually exist?) The passages that follow are not very informative (i.e.:For instance, the term “values” itself — a creation of German nihilists — implies the relativity of Truth. ) .

    “[Note: This is something I learned from Allan Bloom, and the other Straussians. Their interpretations of history and philosophy have been criticized from both the left and the right and they do endorse the controversial notion that philosophers wrote in code and could say one thing while meaning another. Therefore, when they make a claim, it’s best for the reader to go to the primary source, read it in its context and decide for him or herself whether the Straussians are right. And although I’m not an expert reader of manuscripts, nothing that I have uncovered has contradicted the following Straussian theory which I am about to explain].”

    Posted by  on  09/28  at  09:12 PM
  16. Michael--thanks for the link!  I have another OCS appointment tomorrow...we’ll see what transpires.

    Posted by Rebecca  on  09/28  at  09:33 PM
  17. michael, if you wish to be scoring like rod gilbert in the penn state league, i hope you have some semblance of the g-a-g line with jean ratelle and vic hadfield.  and take a page out of gilbert’s book and play through the pain--remember he had surgey for some broken vertebra in his back.  man, that guy was tough and good looking.....

    Posted by  on  09/29  at  01:22 PM
  18. Hi John—man, just give me Ratelle!  A center so suave he could make even a corner-digger like Hadfield score 50 goals in a season.  (I saw the final home game of the 1972-73 season, against Montreal, in which Vic started the night with 48 and Jean R. simply made sure he scored the two he needed.  It was a stunning display of crisp passing down low.) Of course, it would help if I had two guys on the point like you and Dennis. You could be Brad Park and Dale Rolfe. . . .

    And I believe that Rod underwent spinal fusion surgery.  Twice.  And Ratelle, once.  Talk about excruciating rehab!  Both of them were amazingly tough bastards.

    Posted by Michael  on  09/29  at  08:30 PM
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