Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Pop Culture Rather than Copy Edit

So, there is this list of pop culture facts that I cannot ignore (because otherwise I would be copy-editing) from http://www.pajiba.com/seriously_random_lists/30-popculture-facts-that-no-one-denies.

My takes below (blue for positive/red for negative)

1. Wet Hot American Summer, Cabin Fever, and Emma Stone are all vastly overrated.
Maybe, possibly, no.
2. Rogue Nation is the best Mission Impossible movie.
Maybe.
3. The third Hunger Games book is the best and most realistic.
Yuck.  Third book was most depressing, confusing, least well-written.
4. Papa Johns is probably the best national pizza chain but you can’t eat it because the owner is a cockbucket.
Probably not and yes.
5. A hot dog is a sandwich
Meh
6. The Village is a borderline excellent movie that would garner unanimous praise if it was M Night Shyamalan’s first film.
No, hell, no.  The movie was just dumb and not that engaging.  Give me Unbreakable everyday and twice on Sunday.
7. George RR Martin will die before he finishes writing Game of Thrones.
Maybe.
8. The hero of It’s a Wonderful Life is Mary Bailey. This is not up for debate.
There is a hero in this movie.
9. Paul is the best Beatle.
Concur.  John Lennon might have been more insightful, but was also entirely too annoying.
10. HBO’s The Sopranos and Oz do not hold up very well.
Maybe and don't know.  Still haven't seen Oz.
11. Adnan did it.
Meh.
12. Hermione and Ron would have been divorced by the time their kids started Hogwarts.
People crap on this relationship all the time, and I disagree. The brain and the comedic relief seem like a good combo to me.
13. Fuck you hipsters, Return of the Jedi was better than Empire Strikes Back
As much as I like Return (more so than most folks), no.   See here for some explanation.
14. August should only have 30 days.
Now I know these list writers are high.  NO. See yesterday's post.
15. Ben Affleck has been the lead in as many or more good movies as Will Smith.
Probably.
16. Pumpkin spice flavoring is just cinnamon sugar for grownups.
Maybe.
17. CharDee MacDennis is a better made up game than True American. And Cones of Dunshire.
Wrong.
18. Friends is more rewatchable than Seinfeld.
Maybe.
19. Tom Cruise is the best action star working right now.
No.  He is good at action, but he does not make me care.  Chris Pratt has this crown until Oscar Isaac or John Boyega take it away this winter.
20. In Bruge was a better aughts film than Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Meh
21. Baby-eating Snowpiercer Chris Evans > all other Chris Evanseseses
Nope, Cap.
22. 2001: A Space Odyssey is fucking unwatchable.
Yes.
23. 90 percent of Dazed and Confused is terrible.
Nope.  Alright, alright, alright.
24. One of the very best Pajiba commenters is a Republican.
?
25. Those mobile hijacking ads are there to test readers’ loyalty.
Yes.
26. Serenity was a better movie than Firefly was a series.
Not sure.
27. Veronica and Logan should not have ended up together.
Not sure.
28. Buffy was the worst part of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
No.
29. Ren and Stimpy was the best 90’s kid show, except that it wasn’t a kid’s show, thereby making Clarissa Explains It All the best 90’s kid show.
Too old too judge.
30. Cadbury Creme Eggs are the best holiday-themed candy in existence.
No.

tl;dr: I fell for clickbait craptastic list because I didn't want to copy-edit my manuscript

Monday, August 31, 2015

Booze Freedom!

This Canadian election may produce some good policy after all.  How so, you ask?  Booze!

Canadian liquor laws are, um, lousy.  There are heaps of barriers to inter-provincial trade, so much so that a guy is fighting the good fight after getting caught buying cases of sweet Quebec beer and then taking them back to his home across provincial lines.  And now the Quebec commission recommends the end the liquor monopoly so that people can get their wine and liquor from someplace other than a provincial liquor story with high prices and lousy selection.

Stephen Harper was asked about these laws and called them "ridiculous."  So, at least one of the five daily questions produced something definitive.  So, I am now hoping that Trudeau and Mulcair try to outbid Harper on booze freedom--that Canadians should be able to buy beer without restriction as much of the best microbrew is in places like Quebec and British Columbia (although this weekend's craft beerfest in Ottawa was most promising).  That wine and liquor should be sold competitively rather than via state monopolies. 

I expect some pandering to go on, as most Canadians are not fans of the status quo.  Ok, this may be wishful thinking, but I cannot help but think that we will see some outbidding on the issue of booze freedom! 
If modernization means freedom, then woot!




End of Summer of 2015.

Today marks the end of my summer.  I am lucky enough that my summer started way back in late April when I turned in my grades for last winter's classes (in Canada, we have fall and winter terms because ... there is no spring?).  But tomorrow the fall begins as NPSIA has its orientation and then classes start on Wednesday.

How did summer of 2015 go?  Professionally, quite well.  I spent April and May presenting and then doing research in Brussels and the Netherlands respectively.  I spent the first part of June CPSA-ing it up since it was in Ottawa.  Good to see various friends in the Canadian IR business, and got an inside peak at a government effort that I cannot discuss.  Had a quick trip to DC right after that for a Bridging the Gap conference, which was so much fun that I wish I was an attendee rather than a speaker.  I spent June and July getting a piece published at International Journal on the state of Canadian IR, revising a piece on the state of Grand Theory in IR, and revising the first article from the Steve/Dave/Phil project on legislatures and militaries that we presented in Amsterdam.  I spent August applying for fellowships to supplement my sabbatical in 2016-17.  I am about halfway through that, and it was fun to start making connections with folks in Japan (I am likely to spend sometime in Japan for the project, but how much time depends on the fellowship I get or don't get).   I also worked on our APSA paper on Emergent Diasporas.  And, suitably last, I worked on the last stages of three books--entitling and then proofing Adapting in the Dust, proofing the revised version of For Kin or Country, and planning the book launch of the Canada Among Nations volume. 

Not too shabby.  Of course, much of the heavy lifting for some of this stuff was carried by co-authors (thanks Phil, Dave, Erin, and Kathleen) and research assistant (thanks Uri). 

We academic mourn the end of summer not because we hate teaching: most of us don't hate teaching and actually much teaching happens in the summer.  We just call it advising.  No, it is the loss of control over our time.  Meetings and classes do make it harder for us to juggle the various projects.  I have a couple of fellowship applications to finish, a major grant to work on, and more research projects to finish off, but that will be a bit more stressful.

Ah, and there will be less of that other summer stuff as well.  We greatly enjoyed US winning the Women's World Cup after watching a game in Ottawa.  We had a great trip to Cape Cod.  I had a heap of ultimate (twice a week),
discovered new bike paths near me (I stop biking when it gets cold, so I have about six more weeks), and long evenings to hang out with the neighbors.  As the days get shorter and colder, all of that starts to end.  I only got a couple of weeks with my daughter this summer since she interned in Toronto, which meant more packing and more driving (ug), but those weeks were the best of the summer.  And she is gone until November.  Alas.

Anyhow, I had a great and sometimes beardless summer.  Time to forward to the new classes chock full of interesting students.  As always, this song is the soundtrack to nostalgic reflections about the summer gone by.


Deficit of Thinking

The Canadian election might seem to be turning on the question of deficits.  Stephen Harper has done a nice job both of changing the discourse (maybe, I was not paying attention before I moved here) and of setting a trap for the competing parties.

There is nothing wrong with running a deficit.

Really.  Advanced democracies do it all the time, and I still think Keynes was right that trying to eliminate deficits during/near a recession is a dumb thing to do.  Canada is facing a recession so cutting government spending is probably a dumb thing to do.  But Harper has been committed to balancing the budget and finally go there, sort of, this year.

Woot?  Well, it depends on what one thinks about the tax rates here and where the money is spent.  But advanced democracies can run modest deficits (Canada is not Greece, far from it) and not have big problems.  I whine about the taxes I pay in Canada, but the taxes are not as high as in Europe and people seemed to be fine when the GST (sales tax) was a bit higher.  Harper cut taxes because he believes in tax cuts and because it allows him to justify cutting the government.  This has been bad for my business because my school produces qualified folks to work in government agencies.  Many of those agencies have been frozen for quite some time, and that means our government agencies are doing less stuff well (see the various stories about the treatment of Veterans, a real weakness for the Conservatives this time around).  Anyhow, the series of tax cuts and such has created a trap for the opposition since any new programs should mean new tax increases, and Harper has done a nice job of redefining the discourse to make tax increases anathema (Reagan-esque).


The NDP, which perceives that it is weak on this issue, has promised to balance the budget immediately, more or less, despite having a program chock full of spending promises.  How can they accomplish this without raising taxes?  My guess: cutting the military budget despite their promises not to do so.  They surely would kill the F-35, extending the endless procurement process with a new competition leading to ... maybe the Super-Hornet.  Which would not save that much money ultimately.  Surely, the National Shipbuilding program, as messed up as it is, will go on since votes in Halifax and Vancouver depend on it (another Harper trap, which trapped himself).

The Liberals?  After bashing Harper for deficits, the party is now embracing its destiny by promising deficits via more infrastructure spending.  Woot!  No, really, woot!  Why?  Because I still believe in Keynes.  And Canada could use some serious infrastructure improvement--the railroads are only not a mess if you use the US as a basis of comparison, the bridges (and not just in Montreal) need a heap of work and so on. Of course, the infrastructure spending is more of an excuse to spend money at this point than targeting specific projects.  And that is ok.  I found the previous Liberal discussion of deficits to be annoying, so I have to salute them when they choose to acknowledge the obvious.

Again, I am not a political economist or a budget expert.  All I do know is that foolish devotion to hitting a balanced budget is just that... foolish.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Scott Walker Disqualifies Himself

Scott Walker fell into a trap, being asked about his take on the border with Mexico in the competitive xenophobic outbidding that is the GOP campaign right now, was pushed to consider a parallel program up north--a wall between Canada and the US.  He said it should be considered.

Um, only as a dumb question, maybe.  Canada is not the only one who benefits from the biggest bilateral trade relationship, for one thing.  The second is: damn, it is mighty long border, especially if you include the lines between Alaska and the Yukon Territory.  Would Walker propose a Trump-like "hey, the Canadians could pay for it?" kind of idea.  The answer would be f no, eh!

No terrorists have successfully launched attacks on the US after coming through Canada.  One guy got caught at the border.  And, no the 9/11 folks did not come through Canada.  So, if that fear is driving any of this, then that is more stupidity/ignorance.

The bright side:
Lots of Game of Thrones references.  Good times.  Oh, and Walker has shown that he is dim.  He would not be the first dim president, but the last dim one did enough damage to teach us all a lesson, right?

The Canadians must feel ambivalent about this: oh, crap, a wall?  That would mess up our economy.  Oh, but at least the American politicians and media thought to mention us.  As I always tell folks here, better to be omitted from the State of the Union and other speeches than to be included in the list of problems for the US. 

In sum, FFS, can the GOP produce a decent candidate?

End of Season: Definitively Middling

Not a score, I think, as the defender seems to be in the way
Today was the end of the season playoffs, and we were consistently inconsistent.  Our first game was much like many of our losses and ties--lots of carelessness with the disk, few cuts to get open, much frustration.  Our second game was much like most of our wins--we played smart, moved the disk backwards and sideways to get off of the sideline and re-set the stall count.  So, we finished in the middle of our division, and our division is in the middle of our league. 

Twas a very fun season.  I missed a bunch of games due to travel and injury (my hammie is fine!).  My teams could have played better, but we could have played worse.  Both teams (Mondays and Wednesday) had the right spirit, and led to much beer. 

Swinging the disk sideways is almost always the right choice.

I was glad to end it on a good game for the team and myself: I had more layouts in this one game that in any game this season, I outskied another guy (I had four or five inches on him), and my throws were mostly on.  And best of all, one of my layouts was on defense, always delightful.  And, no, I didn't then immediately throw it away, so I was able to avoid the perils of the Conservation of Greatness (a very good play is usually followed by a bad play due to adrenalin, etc).

I have no pictures of me and my diving, as my videographer is getting schooled and playing ultimate.

I have signed up for fall ultimate so I will be sticking with it for a while longer.  Indeed, I am already looking forward to next summer's ultimate with this team and my other one.  No, I didn't think I would still be playing at this age, but as long as I can get open and as long as I can huck it, I will keep playing.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Whine Du Jour

I am not a fan of people who need to talk to me to sell me stuff.  Send me a letter and I will consider it. 

My union (I am still new to the whole union thing as my previous academic outposts were not unionized) apparently has a deal with an insurance company that gives me a modest bit of benefits.  Well, if I sign up for them.  And there is the hitch: the insurance company needs to send someone to my house to sign me up for these benefits. 

What are these benefits? A very modest accidental death/disability insurance and discount on glasses.  It was the latter that interested me as I have AD/D via my employer (perhaps due to the hard bargaining of my union ... or not as I had such stuff in other places). 

So, I stupidly agreed to meet with the salesperson to sign up, knowing that there would be some sort of pitch for additional benefits that I would have to pay for.  And that is what we got.  I wanted to cut to the chase to find out what these "permanent" "benefits" would be, but that would require more dancing through the script than I wanted to hear.  The price turned out to be 5% of my yearly income for benefits that we never quite got to. 

Oh, and those benefits that I was supposed to get? Well, the glasses coupon is only good for 2015, and I would have to go through this needs analysis/salespitch every year to keep getting that benefit.  Turns out my time is sufficiently valuable and that I am sufficiently impatient that I am willing to forgo the savings on my glasses so that I do not have to hear this pitch.

Sorry, salesperson, but since I was coerced into hearing what you had to say (to get benefits, need to meet with person in person), I was cranky to begin with and the script you had must made me crankier.

Oh, and union, crappy deal.  Thanks.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

An Awakening?

I was tempted to write about the Liberals' embracing of deficits but this is far more fun:


A video posted by Star Wars (@starwars) on

Scholars Supporting Iran Deal

Politico has the public letter signed by a bunch of Middle East and IR scholars.  My first reaction is that I agree with Chomsky and Mearsheimer?  Yuck.  Then I see that I agree with Chenoweth and Jervis!  Woot!

Howeverr, I don't really agree with the entirety of the letter, as I am not sure this agreement will stabilize the Mideast much (where is Marc Lynch's signature? Nope).  But the deal itself is a good one--arms control to limit proliferation is good, and that US opposing a multilateral deal is bad.

I definitely believe that diplomacy and not more force is required here.  Our military options suck and have lots of nasty 2nd/3rd order effects ... not to mention that the past 15 years in the Mideast should have taught us something about the limits of the use of force.

I am not sure talking with Iran will tame it, but rejecting this agreement will certainly not contain it.

What does surprise me about this letter is that it could have gotten far more signatures had it been circulated wider.  Ah, but academic networks are funky things.

The really big question is: if the agreement goes through, will Mearsheimer finally feel like folks are listening to him, that he really matters, and that he can feel better about his role in the world?  Or will he still think the Israeli lobby is behind everything and that politicians lie and all that?  Ironically, this suggests that we may see a key hypothesis to be tested!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Challenge of University Governance

I am in the midst of a twitter argument with a Canadian expert on universities.  He started his series of tweets thusly:

And I jumped in quickly mispeled anticipation:
 Anyway, I teach via analogy all the time, so I cannot complain when folks use analogies, but it made me realize a problem folks have when they seek to run universities: that faculty are not ordinary employees.

How so?  It is not that employees elsewhere are not smart or highly educated.  No, it is that university professors are hired to be curious and critical.  These two attributes are baked into the job description.  Sure, there are issues of faculty governance as well, that make analogies with corporations or non-profits problematic, but it all starts, alas, with the reality that the agents in this principal-agent relationship are fundamentally different creatures. 

This requires the principals (the president, the board, whoever) to be aware of this difference.  Also, the principals need to be aware that universities often have "employees"with expertise in an inconvenient area (such as the one in this question).  Which combined with that built-in curiosity and critical outlook means that they will get burned if they ignore/deny/squelch such folks.  After all, one of the iron laws of academic life is that if you tell a professor to shut up, they will just get louder.

So, if you run a university, you may think it is like a corporation or a non-profit, and there might be much insight to be gained from thinking that way.  But then you might forget that the folks you are running are not the same--that the faculty are inherently pesky creatures. 


Monday, August 24, 2015

Dropping Off the Kid and Watching Others Drop

Was offline for most of the day driving to my daughter's college to drop her off.  We got lucky in that it only rained for part of the drive and it was not too hot.  Plus she is no longer on the third floor.

After meeting her friends, we took her to a gorge, as the town is famous for them. 




Just a beautiful hike with some mildly illegal activity: