Thursday, December 31, 2015

Twitter Year in Review

Twitter analytics goes back as far as three months, so instead of a year in review, here is a quick statistical summary of each quarter.
My post election tweet was the most visible/engaged, whatever that means.  My second was commenting on Victor Assal's tweet that polls show that most in eight Muslim majority countries blame repressive, corrupt governments for rise of ISIS.  NATO point had to be repeated this year--nothing automatic about Article V even after Paris ttacks.  Promoting a media hit came in fourth, and criticizing quick criticism of Trudeau government's plan to bring in refugees..  Perhaps a typical quarter?  Let's check the rest of the year out.

Peak TV: Boon and Bane

There is so much good tv now that network executives and TV critics are complaining. The former because it is harder for the good but not great shows to stand out and also because it is harder to get talent (writers/actors) since they can be paid the same by Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, etc.  The latter?  Because they have to watch yet more stuff.

For me, peak TV is boon and bane.  As a TV addict, it is great since there is so much good stuff on to enjoy.  For instance, iZombie is simply delightful--fun, fun TV with some heart.  Jessica Jones and Daredevil show that a comic book tv series is pretty superior to comic book movies because one can really get a character arc.

But, of course, the problem is that I cannot watch everything.  I have noticed that I am becoming more accepting of that fundamental Steve problem: being left out.  I always hated feeling like I was missing out on stuff--as the youngest child, for instance.  Damn near pathological, as I used to go through my twitter feed from when I was sleeping to make sure I didn't miss anything.  Anyhow, I am working on it.  Declining to watch all of the great TV programs is part of this acceptance.

So, what do I choose?  Aside from the limits imposed by FX not being on my satellite system, I tend to choose not to watch that which is really dark or really slow.  With peak TV, I can choose great fun stuff and leave the morose to others.  So, yes, I have not watched the Leftovers.  I stopped watching the Knick.  Oh, and I am too cheap to pay for Amazon Prime.

What does this mean?  It means I am way behind on catching up on The Shield--still in season 5.  I am behind on a bunch of Netflix, but did enjoy the third episode of Master of None.  It means that I will not start digging into Fargo, Season 1, until my daughter has time to share it with me.  Oh, and our Wire project (her a newbie, me for the second time) is still stuck in season 2.

Anyhow, too much TV is a good problem.  Hopefully, it will continue when my daughter looks for jobs in the content creation business (tv or movies). 

Cheating Bots and Profane Reactions

I was kind of soliciting opportunities to be a discussant rather than write a paper for the next APSA, which led to a bot tweeting me this:
I responded thusly
I think I might be ending my twitter year with the most liked tweet with the fewest retweets.  That is, my academic friends are in agreement but perhaps don't like to retweet that which has profanity.

Anyhow, I have received questions from folks:
  • is this legal?  I have no idea.
  • Can students be punished for using such services?  Hells yes.  The question is of detection. If professors write the assignments well, then the "tutors"/cheating-facilitators will likely write papers that don't pass the sniff test.  The reward for being caught?  Often an F, sometimes expulsion, definitely the burning of bridges and academic cred.  I did have a student in an honors class seek to get a better grade to keep his/her status, but his/her cheating was detected and punished with an F.  So much for letters of recommendation from me....
  • Why do students do this?  Because a few are lazy, fearful, late, or desperate or all of the above.
  • Is it always bad? Um, I discovered only last week or two, that my work was being cited in a paper assignment (the prof's statement of what he/she wanted in the paper) that had been deposited at the website of one of these paper mills. So, all citations are good ones, right?  No.  Not when used to provide instructions to the paper mill.
Anyhow, some profanity today because I happen to be passionate about such stuff. 

Networks of Kindness?

An interesting conversation started appeared on twitter this morning regarding Canadian poli sci scholarship.
As someone who steps on toes whether I intend to or not, I was kind of surprised by this comment.  I am really not that well informed about Canadian political science since I have only accidentally ended up writing a book on Canada (book tour coming to a town near you!).  Indeed, the book was delayed for more than six months because it ran into a reviewer that was upset that it, aimed at the Canadian public, was not sufficiently engaged in the Canadian Foreign Policy literature.

But the discussion on twitter suggested that this politeness or kindness is a thing--that scholars of Canadian politics step lightly.  Why?  My guess was simply one of size: that everyone knows who everyone is and everyone in this community is likely to be a reviewer.  So, payback can be a bitch, as they say, so avoid it, one will?  The communities are even smaller when we take into account specialties: Canadian electoral behavior, constitutional stuff, Canadian Foreign Policy, Critical Security Studies, etc.  So, one might argue that it is communal norms (Canadians are polite or whatever), it could be about intra-network affinity, or it could be self-interest.

And, yes, I was able to identify reviewer number two, who was more concerned about my citing his work than taking the project seriously for what it was trying to be.  I would not have minded a fair review that delayed me, but one focused on maxing citations of the reviewer?  Not so much.  To be clear, no, I will not punish him or retaliate in any way.  On the other hand, I am not going to go out of my way to do him any favors. 

Regarding my personal bigger picture, my tendency to follow my curiosity has produced an inadvertent strategy of changing areas of focus, methodology, cases and the rest.  This has meant that I have never been in one of these networks of kindness (which has led to repeated references to Rudolph and reindeer games).  I started out in the International Relations of Ethnic Conflict with cases in Africa and Yugoslavia, dabbled in the debates about the causes of ethnic conflict and the effects of institutions, working on irredentism in Eastern Europe, and then shifted to alliance politics and comparative civil-military relations in North America, Europe and down under, with a quick dance into Canadian defence stuff.  So, I don't think I benefit by being an insider anywhere.  On the other hand, I am not restrained in my criticism of stuff because of affinity to a circle of folks.

The discussion today focused on the downside of these networks of kindness--that academic debates need people willing to elbow each other some.  This is very different from the usual complaint from the US--that the academic enterprise is too bruising, that competition breeds fraud (Michael Lacour and all that).  The answer, of course, is someplace in between--serious vetting and criticism but also serious support and treating people with respect.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Year's Resolutions 2016

An annual Spew tradition is to make pie crust promises for the year ahead: resolving to do stuff that I may or may not do.

Last year's resolutions starts with a lie--that I don't make resolutions.  Blogging has encouraged this behavior as it means an easy post to write while ramping up for a new semester.
  • I vowed to self-promote less, mostly as I didn't have a new book coming out.  I did promote the edited volume and the revised edition of For Kin or Country but not with the same gusto as the NATO book.
  • I said I would write less, and this mostly happened as I am no longer as incentivized to write for, and I didn't get inspired to write as much for my other outlets.  I also Spewed at a slightly lower rate in 2015 and no where near the early glory days  of 2010. 
  • I vowed to read more.  Failed miserably unless one includes manuscripts reviewed for journals.
 This year's resolutions:
  • To self-promote more as Adapting in the Dust comes out in January and I have a bunch of talks lined up this winter.  
  • To read more.  Maybe with all the flying and perhaps with reviewing a bit less?
  • To disrupt disrupting.  I hate the use of the word disrupt to discuss any new tech/idea/movement that aims to change stuff.  My first talk of the year will be at a Queens event "Re-thinking Pedagogy in International Relations in an Era of Globalization and Disruption", and my role is to be the scold.  This jargon from the tech world tends to overplay the impact of whatever is doing the disrupting and have been used so much as to become meaningless. 
  • To return to the big network grant project. It has been on the back burner as I have sought money for my work and then for my sabbatical.  This summer, I turn back to the greater good.
  • Keep on blogging.  
  • Be a better co-author for some of my co-authors.  On one key project, I have been the obstacle to getting stuff done.  Indeed, I need to return to that project this afternoon rather than blog about my year....
  • On the other hand, I resolve to keep on blogging and tweeting as it is going to be an interesting year with the book tour, with research trips to Brazil, Japan and maybe South Korea.
  • I resolve to enjoy the hell out of my sabbatical that starts in July.  
I hope you and yours have a great 2016.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Academic Publishing Rule of Three

While it is hard to do and particularly hard to do while starting out, the general conventional wisdom (and wise it is) is that one should try to have three pieces under review at most/all times.  Why? Because academic review is a capricious enterprise that often takes much time. 

Journals have gotten much better about shortening review times, with many journals averaging something like 40-60 days... which is actually more like two to three months (do weekends count?).  But that is an eternity for junior faculty, and the reality is that rejection means that one goes through this spin cycle more than once to get most articles published.  I enumerated the many rejections my published work had received before getting published (my work got better via the reviewers' recommendations and/or I found journals with more sympathetic* reviewers).
*  Sympathetic might mean those with lower standards or with fairer expectations or less picky due to reviewing for less highly ranked journals....
 So, to mitigate the risks entailed with the odysseys that most articles go on, it makes sense to have a bunch of stuff out there in process while working on the latest pieces.  Indeed, of the three pieces I currently have out under review, two are contributions to special issue submissions which move, like any edited volume project, as fast as the slowest contributor (just like naval convoys in WWI/WWII moved as fast as the slowest ship).

Tis a good thing I have flipped another project (very long in gestation) over to a co-author for final revisions before it goes out.  Next, I turn to yet another piece that has multiple co-authors and has taken much time to get to a submittable stage.  This time, I am the obstacle, making this project slower than it could have been.  I am sure one of my co-authors will be reading this and think: he should be revising our piece. And the answer is: yes, I am.

Anyhow, with low acceptance rates, sometimes long review processes and often fickle reviewers, it makes sense to place as many bets as one can. Three at a time is not a bad target, but, of course, requires much time, work and creativity.  I used to wonder if I could have a second or third research idea.  As careers progress, having enough ideas is not the problem but having enough time and resources to do the work is. 

Sometimes heaps of work on one project means falling far short of the three under review goal.  It is just a goal and not a requirement.  But it is not a bad habit to try to get into.

The Beard Brotherhood

It looks like they are finally on to us--the beard wearing folk.  Yep, we all have connections to radical Islamist movements.  Tis true.  Me, Paul Ryan, Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln, Grizzly Adams, James Harden, Karl Marx and Charles Darwin are/were all secret Muslims.

Just goes to show how incredibly ... dumb these folks are.  Of course, this accusation that Paul Ryan is now somehow not conservative but perhaps a fellow traveler just shows have far much of the GOP has slid off of the left-right spectrum and into crazy town that is where the far left and far left both reside.

I wonder if conceptual stretching has a partner in crime--conceptual narrowing.  Concepts become useless if they become so broad as to include everything: Canada as a great power diminishes what it means to be a great power (boy, was that fun to use in Intro to IR at McGill).  Well, concepts also become useless if they are so narrow that they only apply to the purest of the pure (usually the one who is doing the defining).  If Paul Ryan is not a legit Conservative Republican, then perhaps no such thing exists now?

Monday, December 28, 2015

Spew Stats, 2015

I just posted my annual review of the blog, where I discuss the major posts and events of 2015.  Here, I engage my narcissism by navel gazing at the stats. 

The posts that got the most hits this year were: 

  1. Thinking/Talking about Social Media and Research: This mostly presented the views of a couple of participants at a Carleton seminar (faculty to faculty) on how/why to use social media as part of research.
  2. Sexism in Political Science: Fact or Fact?  I got annoyed by more mything about sexism in Political Science.  This post got far more comments and play here and at the Duck of Minerva than any other post than anything else I wrote in 2015.
  3. NATO 101 Again In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, people said a lot of stuff about NATO that indicated that they didn't know NATO.  So, I presented this explainer.
  4. Co-authoring and Mentoring: Trust or What?  The biggest story for Political Science and for data science of the year was the fraud committed by Michael Lacour.  I wrote a key question that arose--what responsibility do mentors and co-authors have in vetting the data/research of their co-authors and advisees?
  5. When Realism is Unrealistic I was annoyed that John Mearsheimer was saying, dare I say it, idealistic stuff about how to manage the Ukraine problem by .... selling out Ukraine?
  6. How to Win a Propaganda War  I was super proud that Trudeau did something that was both right and good--not just accepting refugees but welcoming them in the best piece of anti ISIS propaganda that the West has probably put out.
  7. Speed versus Armor, Academic Style   Super annoyed that Texas would let students come to class armed, I did my best "Modest Proposal" to ponder how best to defend against armed students.  The real answer, of course, is to shoot first, like Han.
  8. Rejection is the Name of the Game  Self-flagellation is popular.  I listed damn near all of the times I was rejected by journals, presses, potential employers, etc., to demonstrate that even successful academics have to deal with much rejection throughout one's career.
  9. Trump the Traitor  If Trudeau is one of the best allies the fight against ISIS has with the embracing of refugees, well, Trump is probably the Benedict Arnold of this fight, arming ISIS with visuals and audio that may make Muslims around the world have more fear about the US.
  10. Mach and Cheese: When Media Outlets Become Spokespeople for Lobbies I was mighty miffed when one of the press outlets in Canada basically acted as a cheerleader for the dairy cartel.
Some old posts got a heap of hits this year
  1. For your Situational Awareness got the most mistaken hits.  Otherwise, speaking Pentagonese is popular?
  2. Mama, Don't Let Your Kids Become Political Scientists probably got the most number of depressed hits--the job market ain't great.
  3. Ye old post about bags of milk vs plastic containers still gets much love.
  4. Comparative xenophobia.  See Wash Post below.
  5. The Broken Academic Job Market where I argue that no one should try to pay for academic mentoring.

How did my readers find one of my posts?
  1. Twitter by almost 50% more than 
  2. Google
  3. Directly--people seeking out the spew.
  4. Facebook
  5. Political Science Rumors--sometimes I put a link there when I wanted to weigh in on an issue in the profession.
  6. Duck of Minerva.  Probably due to the links I put in my posts over there.
  7. Lawyergunsmoney.  That blog has quite a following, so one link to my armor vs speed post (see above) got a heap of hits.  
  8. The Washington Post. Mostly due to the old posts about xenophobia, I think.  
  9. Outside the Beltway.  A blog that includes posts by a twitter friend/twitterfightclub adversary: James Joyner.
  10. Vox, as they cited my explanation of ethnic outbidding and xenophobia in the GOP primary campaign.
 Where do my readers live?
  1. United States
  2. Canada
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Germany
  5. Australia
  6. France
  7. New Zealand
  8. Brazil
  9. India
  10. Netherlands

The Year in Spew, 2015

Taking a look back at the past year has been a tradition here at the Semi-Spew as narcissism is in its/my DNA.  One of the benefits of blogging a pretty daily basis is that it serves as a decent record of my year and also somewhat the year in International Relations.  Anyhow, I hope you had a great year, and I hope your 2016 is even better.


A key theme of the month was basic misperceptions in how large various ethnic groups are in one's society.  This came up again in late 2015 as Americans, like the Europeans, dramatically overestimate how many Muslims there are in their societies, which then can help breed Islamophobia.  If there are so very few, we got less to fear, right?

I spent much time here and in the less social media talking about Canada's mission in Iraq as news came out that the Special Operations Forces were doing more than what had been advertised.  My basic assertion was that the government had tried to fudge what combat is and is not, and this created a credibility gap.  It could have also been a trap for the Liberals, given their incoherent stance on combat and ISIS.  As it turned out, not much of an issue in the campaign, but became a central focus point once Trudeau and the Liberals were elected.


There is sexism in Security Studies?  I am shocked!  Not. Sexism turned out to be a running theme I discussed over the year.  Yes, as Justin Trudeau said, "It is 2015," but as College Spew would insist, not enough, not fast enough.

ISA was in New Orleans this year, again overlapping with Mardi Gras.  It went well, including victories for the Online Media Caucus.

I had a quick trip to Berlin for a conference on NATO.  I talked much and learned a lot and did some more tourism.


I have to own up to bad predictions.  When the Chief of Defence Staff announced his forthcoming retirement, I predicted that the Navy would get the spot and that General Jon Vance would not.  Oops.

On the anniversary of Russia's aggression against Ukraine, I  argued that, um, not all IR scholars are apologists for Putin, just some of the louder ones.

I marked thirty years of ultimate!

I had the chance to participate in a workshop on social media at Carleton, so, of course, I storified it.

We went to our first professional hockey game--it only took us about 13 years in Canada.  All part of becoming Canadian in 2015.

Lots of discussion about Syria and Canada's extension of the mission to conduct air strikes there as well as Iraq.  As it turned out, not that many strikes in 2015, and the year ended with other western countries joining the US in this.  But at the time, Canada was one of the very few.


Twas not an April Fool's joke: we got the grant that will fund the big comparative project seeking to understand the role of legislatures in the civil-military relations of many of the world's democracies!

I found the vaunted Backfill snowflake that Rummy sent down to the Joint Staff way back when.

I got to go to Brussels for a Canada-Germany conference.  It was held next to the European Union buildings, which was new to me since I am a confirmed EU common defence policy skeptic.  The conference was very interesting, and I got to enjoy more of Brussels than my previous visits which kept me mostly on the outskirts where NATO hq is. And, yes, the beer was good.  I kept making a stink during the conference that NATO needs to do more to make a credible commitment to the Baltics.  I did squeeze in a visit to chat with some sharp, friendly folks at NATO.


The big story of the month was that a political science graduate student committed fraud in the biggest way imaginable.  I wrote several times about various dimensions, including the need to engage in oversight while co-authoring and advising, whistleblowing and Political Science Rumors, my experience with pathological liars

May was the end of my spring European tour--this time it was Amsterdam and the Hague. Much, much, much tourism along with interesting discussions about legislatures and foreign affairs/defense issues.


I got invited to talk about social media to the Bridging the Gap seminar in DC.  I stayed for some of the other sessions.  A terrific initiative and great networking for those who participate.

Mrs. Spew and I got to do some American history tourism after a relative occasion in New Jersey--we went to Ellis Island and Liberty Island

One of the big highlights of the year was going to the Women's World Cup game in Ottawa between China and USA USA USA!!!  My niece was able to come up for the event since my daughter was too busy interning to use her ticket.


I wrote a post on sexism in political science that become the post of the year in terms of hits, and it forced me to think a bit about what we can do to improve stuff, more than just recognize the reality of its existence.

The big IR news of the month was the Iran deal so I wrote about it a few times.

Spent much of the month cramming for and then taking the Canadian citizenship test.  Many fun realizations along the way, but my cockiness about hockey nearly cost me a perfect score.  I guess we timed our first real downtown Ottawa Canada Day celebration well.

Freaked people out by shaving my beard off.  Didn't last long but I looked younger for this birthday than most of the past 20 or so.


We had a great vacation on the CapePlentiful whales were watched.

I never thought I would be making a name for myself as an advocate for online media academic freedom, but it keeps coming up.

I figured out the Iron Laws of University life.

The Canadian election campaign began in earnest, and I ended up getting far more engaged than in any previous election.  I wrote about deficit spending and dumb politics around it, the need for the public servants to dive, dip, duck, dodge and dive,

I also started writing more about the US election, especially the GOP shitshow: " would not bet against him sticking around for a while longer--we love a good train wreck and we love a good circus.  Right now, we are getting both."


Islamophobia has become a theme of the Spew this fall.  The focus was first on the Canadian election but then the American one, or vice versa.

The Canadian election continued to get my attention, especially the foreign policy debate. I ended up writing defence platforms for each party since they were slow to provide their own (if any).


I was pretty thrilled to win an award for mentoring other faculty at Carleton.  I don't think I do that much more than others, but I will take the research cash and the credit while I can.  It did prompt me to think about all those who mentored/advised me along the way, and it is a long list.

The Liberals won!  After a long (for Canada) and brutal (hey, let's scapegoat the Muslims) campaign, we got a pretty good outcome.

Mrs. Spew and I made it official--we are Canadians! I counted it down with an excess of posts.

We launched the latest Canada Among Nations volume, one that I co-edited.


I stopped by the 9/11 memorial on the way back from the Canada/NATO exercises in Portugal, and was most moved by the experience.

The NATO book keeps being useful as many folks were asking questions about NATO and Article V in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.  I explained here why NATO was not going to be so central, as there is no automaticity to ArtV.  

One of the most popular posts of the year was about how much rejection is inherent in the academic enterprise--I enumerated most (but perhaps not all) of the times I was rejected by journals/presses/funders/employers.

The rising Islamophobia in the US combined with the outbidding among the GOP candidates to be the most hateful/fearful caused me to post many times out of tremendous frustration.

People started asking me what the new Trudeau government is going to be doing, so I posted my best (yet ill informed) guesses.  Perhaps part of the reason people asked me is that they could no longer ask my friend, Roland Paris, as he is now the Senior International Adviser to Trudeau!  I genuinely believe that this represents excellent judgment by Trudeau as he will be relying on an international relations expert who has excellent judgment.  Probably means less of Roland at my poker games, but I am willing to take that hit for Team Canada.


Stephanie Carvin, a colleague at NPSIA, and I had a fun debate on a CBC radio program about the teaching of IR via the use of pop culture.  You can guess who was the pro side.

One of the highlights of the year was the new Canadian government pushing back against Islamophobia by visibly welcoming refugees.  It was both good policy and good politics.

Like most years, I ended it in the Washington, DC area as this is where my in-laws reside.  Another interesting, moving day walking in the heart of the capital with my daughter, this time focusing on the memorials of Jefferson, FDR, and MLK.

Overall, it has been a great year, with 2016 likely to be even more fun with lots of sabbatical/research travel to places I have never been before: Brazil, Japan, South Korea, etc.