Test post

This is a test post for FB.

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If you want to invite me for a guest lecture or talk

I’m thinking that someday, I would like to have an info packet like Richard Stallman. For instance, consider:

If you can find a host for me that has a friendly parrot, I will be very very glad. If you can find someone who has a friendly parrot I can visit with, that will be nice too.

or perhaps….

It is nice of you to want to be kind to me, but please don’t offer help all the time. In general I am used to managing life on my own; when I need help, I am not shy about asking. So there is no need to offer to help me. Moreover, being constantly offered help is actually quite distracting and tiresome.

So please, unless I am in grave immediate danger, please don’t offer help….

…One situation where I do not need help, let alone supervision, is in crossing streets. I grew up in the middle of the world’s biggest city, full of cars, and I have crossed streets without assistance even in the chaotic traffic of Bangalore and Delhi. Please just leave me alone when I cross streets.

In some places, my hosts act as if my every wish were their command. By catering to my every whim, in effect they make me a tyrant over them, which is not a role I like. I start to worry that I might subject them to great burdens without even realizing….

…and best of all…

Please don’t be surprised if I pull out my computer at dinner and begin handling some of my email. I have difficulty hearing when there is noise; at dinner, when people are speaking to each other, I usually cannot hear their words. Rather than feel bored, or impose on everyone by asking them to speak slowly at me, I do some work.

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Steve Jobs and iSchools

Nunberg offers a reflection on the “i” prefix, and even mentions the U of T iSchool toward the end of the essay. Now Brian can just point people to that essay when they ask what he’s doing in grad school. ūüėČ

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“UWO + McMaster research team produce new G&M report”

Or at least that’s what you might think if you read this Globe and Mail Canadian University Report. Not only is McMaster Canadian “Ivy League,” [which I suspect many in the social sciences would scoff at…. just go read PSJR sometime, or don’t…] but our undergrads give the University some of the highest ratings among the large universities. Who knew? I certainly didn’t. But, perhaps I should have, considering I was totally mobbed by high school students and parents for the 2+ hours I stood near the Social Sciences area of the Mac display at the Ontario University Fair a couple of weekends ago. I literally did not have more than 30 seconds without someone .right. .there. wanting information.

Updated to add: Interesting observation, “…if you just take Durkheim‚Äôs work, cross out the words ‚Äúcommit suicide‚ÄĚ and write in ‚Äúdrop out of university,‚ÄĚ you‚Äôre about 80% of the way to summarizing modern student retention literature…” from the folks who crunched the numbers for the G&M.

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Elite interviews

I am only semi-joking when I consider writing a journal article entitled, “Everything you need to learn about elite interviewing you can learn from Columbo.”

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Great NPR story for folks teaching EU politics

Read, or better yet, listen. Here’s the song lyrics and the full mp3.

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Why I bother to wear makeup (sometimes)

This New York Times article echos some of the findings on gender and teaching evaluations that I summarized here.


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Random thoughts on epistemology, ontology, and methodology

So, before I forget…. I wanted to commit to paper (eh, teh Internets) these random thoughts that I had before, during, and after research design class today…

  • Do most grad students start out as “problem driven” researchers? That is, don’t we mostly come to graduate studies due to interests in real substantive (as opposed, usually, to¬†analytic) problems that we want to better understand? Nearly every grad admission essay I’ve ever read is about¬†substantive¬†rather than analytical concerns. And, in part, the process of grad school is a bit of indoctrination training to adopt and use different analytic (theory and method) tools to answer substantive questions. Only then do we become methods-driven or theory-driven researchers.
  • Are some scholars cognitively or psychologically more adept at certain types of research methodologies or their capacity to be analytically eclectic? For instance, are hedgehogs better at certain types of work than foxes? Can this explain some of the quantitative or qualitative divide? Or the positivist/post-positivist divide? Or, if¬†interpretative¬†methods are based on empathy and the ability of researchers to both know or understand in the common sense way and know as a stranger or expert (9-13, 19), then might some researchers be better able (due to personality) to empathize with their research subjects better than others? I can think of some people who’s ability to empathize with colleagues (not at my institution) suggests that they would be hard pressed to empathize with research subjects sufficiently to achieve verstehen. Isn’t it better, then, that they aren’t doing interpretive work? Or, is the ability to do meaningful interpretive work (pun intended) dependent on personality? Could we derive a model to predict this? Give researchers a personality test that measures ability to empathize, and then correlate that with some 3rd party coding/measure of the quality of their understanding¬†as demonstrated by their research? Does this mean that Foucault was capable of incredible empathy? I wonder.
  • For class, we read pieces that claimed that quantifying things runs counter to the interpretive turn…. that numbers cannot capture the intersubjectivity of a text (broadly understood to include acts and artifacts as texts) and so have no place in interpretive work. Sure, I get that. But then what of the digital humanities movement, where folks are using textual analysis (counting of words) to describe and interpret and uncover patterns in texts? Admittedly, I don’t know enough about MLA -style interpretivism or the digital humanities, but the glimpses I’ve seen suggest that they don’t view counting words as antithetical to interpretation of texts. So, why can’t political scientists use textual analysis tools for interpretive analysis of texts? (And, in some ways, it seems to me, that many of the presentations I’ve seen of textual analyses are more descriptive than causal anyway….)
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Regional linguistic affectations, or amateur linguistic analysis

My brother-in-law, who recently relocated from Texas to Western NY for his Ph.D., sent me this rumination on the use of “Y’all”, which I promptly forwarded to my Chair and a staff member, both of whom have either chuckled or LOL’d when I’ve said “y’all.” In response, the staff member admitted that Canadian’s have their own affectation, “eh?”, which led to a brief discussion of the meanings and use of “eh.” Yes, there are some people (not plentiful in Toronto or Hamilton, thank goodness), who seem to sprinkle “eh” at the end of every statement. But more often, it seems, to Brian and me at least, that “eh” is used in a sarcastic way to really invert the meaning of the previous statement, as in “Have a good day, eh?”, which you’re likely to hear a snarky barista tell a picky customer as they hand off their half-caff, triple tall, light foam, extra sweet, mocha soy latte.

I’m curious about other uses of “eh.”


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What is the comparative advantage of political science in Canada?

Let me start by saying this is not a promise that I will be blogging again regularly. However, I’ve been thinking about this since last week’s graduate research design class, so I thought I’d go ahead and write these ideas down somewhere other than my Moleskine¬ô.

For the first week of class, we read a handful of histories of the political science profession, most of which focused on the development of American political science (much to at least one student’s dismay).

One of the articles suggested that the Canadian market is too small to be a leader in all fields of political science, and instead, if international recognition and contributions were valued, then Canadian political science would be well-served by specializing in the areas of the field in which it has a comparative advantage. This got me and (then because I made them) my students reflecting on what subfields or areas within political science might Canada be reasonably expected to have a comparative advantage. Having been trained and taught in the U.S. system before arriving here, I have some thoughts based on observations of the differences, not only of political science as its practiced in Canada, but also differences in undergraduate education and society in general. So here are a couple of examples.

Examples of fields or areas in which Canada conceivably has or could develop a comparative advantage:

  • study of immigration policy and multiculturalism: The politics of immigration and of multiculturalism have become increasingly important and more widely relevant among advanced industrialized democracies over the last decade or so. To the extent that this has been a preoccupation within Canada for longer, it seems like Canadian political scientists can get and have gotten ahead of the curve in this area.
  • critical theory: Funding for the social sciences in Canada is housed with the humanities at the SSHRC, rather than with the natural sciences and engineering as they are housed in the U.S. I believe this difference in the funding structure (combined with a general tendency toward inclusiveness and multiculturalism, even within the discipline of political science) has given political science in Canada the freedom to develop a more eclectic range of acceptable (by the discipline’s local customs/norms) approaches. In contrast, I suspect that political science in the U.S. (behavioralism revolution aside) has constantly felt the need to justify itself and its ‘scientific’ credentials within the NSF as it is compared (at least implicitly, if not always explicitly) to the natural sciences.
  • federalism (and by extension other forms of multilevel governance): Many students (and also their instructors or the popular media?) nearly fetishize federalism. At a minimum, there is a lot of time spent thinking about and emphasizing how certain things (elections, party systems, policy, etc.) are overwhelmingly influenced by federalism. Surely these insights could be useful for lots of different questions.

Example of fields in which Canada is likely to be at a comparative disadvantage

  • quantitative analysis: Most undergraduate degrees are based on a British model where students specialize from year one and do not get a broad liberal arts foundation. Undergraduate political science majors are usually not required to take any lab science nor to complete even college algebra, let alone calculus. This means that when students go to graduate school, they seldom have the foundation necessary to learn advanced quantitative methods.
  • comparative politics outside the Anglophone world: Again, few students are required to take any foreign language as undergraduates and those that do, often take French (which will help with only a handful of countries). In addition, few undergraduates seems to study abroad and in general, when universities talk about “internationalization,” they mean attracting foreign students, not sending Canadian students abroad. This means that while graduate students can do fieldwork in non-English speaking parts of the world, few of them will have the really solid language skills to do so effectively (unless, of course, they had these from living abroad or from their families prior to school). Updated to add: As case in point, see page 10 of this mission statement from Mac’s president.

I’m sure there are more points that could be added to either list, but these are the ones that immediately came to mind as I (re)read these histories of the discipline last week.

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