Thursday, February 19th 2009

You can’t make this stuff up
posted @ 2:20 pm in [ ]

Today, while on my way to lunch with a friend (to be followed by an afternoon of groovy research and then groovy teaching — you know it: living the dream!), I got in YET ANOTHER hit-and-run accident. Yup, that’s three in two days. But wait: there’s more! This one was on I-25. Now how much would you pay? (I’m asking because all these little bits of body work are going to add up at some point.)

A large white pickup truck cut me off from the right at highway speed, at about the same time the small blue hatchback to my left was edging into my lane (either taking the curve lazily or changing lanes without checking directly to the side, I’m not sure which). Small Blue smacked into the left side of my car, knocking off my side mirror, and split. I couldn’t get a license plate. While I can’t verify its affiliation with Office Depot, I can say it was that same royal blue as the uniform shirts of its minions. Draw your own conclusions.

I managed to get to the left shoulder without getting hit some more, thank [insert benign deity here]. For all the frustrated disappointment my fellow Colorado motorists sometimes offer me, they were really on the ball today. It could easily have become a 20-vehicle highway pileup. I called 911 while Small Blue made its getaway. I was sure that side of my car was destroyed. The police on their way, I got up the nerve to go have a look.

As it turned out, there were some light scratches on the side of my car — nothing I’d bother with, even if I did have collision — and barely noticeable. The mirror had been knocked off before and had been held on with glue and tasteful black gaffer’s tape. When I got home, I would stick it back on with fresh glue and fresh tape. That was it. I wasn’t hurt, the car wasn’t appreciably damaged, nobody else was hurt or damaged either. I suppose it’s possible Small Blue got worse than it gave, but perhaps its occupants were already on the lam and didn’t care for police involvement — or perhaps it was just the Will of Office Depot behind the wheel. It was just yet another hit-and-run.

When the nice policeman came, he asked me what I wanted to do (given that I didn’t consider the damage to my car particularly significant and I didn’t get Small Blue’s plate number). He would be happy to fill out an accident report, he said, no problem. What did I want to do? I wanted to get the hell off the highway. He helped me do that, running interference with the left lane while I got off the shoulder and toward an upcoming exit.

Needless to say, I canceled lunch with my friend and went straight home. I’m supposed to teach tonight, but I’m worried about my car getting hit by a satellite.

Wednesday, February 18th 2009

Office Depot’s patrons and employees loathe my car
posted @ 4:18 pm in [ ]

I came out of my local Office Depot today after purchasing some terribly important office supplies, only to discover that someone had hit my car. Not content merely to smack into it, they scraped along the right front fender, gouging the bumper, putting a frowny little mouth on my turn signal light, and removing perhaps enough paint to give a starlight mint a metallic graphite shine. Giving some fortunate peppermint a makeover may have been the motivation. We will likely never know.

So I filed a police report. Maybe one of the surveillance cameras pointed at unknown suspicious or imaginary parking lot objects caught something. The nice officer came out, took my statement, and filed my report. She was pleasant but realistic about the odds of catching anyone. Fair enough.

After that short delay, I had the apparent karmic audacity to attempt to leave the parking lot and go home. While stopped at a stop sign maybe a hundred yards from Office Depot, a huge maroon and chrome truck came whipping around the corner, seemingly slightly out of the driver’s control. I can only assume that the gravitational force caused by his speed had caused him to black out a little, like a rookie astronaut. I honked my horn, hoping to wake the driver in time for him to avoid hitting my car. How nearly my efforts were rewarded! I felt the left rear of my car move a little and heard his bumper against mine ever so softly. He took off. I pulled through the intersection and checked the left rear of my car. Sure enough, there was a contact mark there, and a teensy bit of chrome paint transfer.

Turning around and heading back into the parking lot of karmic punishment, I found the truck and blocked it into its parking space, utilizing its latest victim. In retrospect, offering this person a second opportunity to ram my car, and much more directly than before, was perhaps not the wisest plan. You know how I am about justice, though.

The driver was not pleased to be informed he had hit my car. Nor was he impressed by the admittedly very minimal damage. But given his truculence, hell if I was going to be a victim of two hit-and-run incidents in the space of about twenty minutes, so I called the police again. When our pilot (perhaps we should refer to him as Albert or Ham) jumped down out of his truck, he wore the unmistakable royal blue shirt and accessory human hangtag of, oh yes, an Office Depot employee. He proceeded to call over some of his colleagues to garner support for his claim that there wasn’t enough damage to call the police. He allowed them to leave when I pointed out that they were not, in fact, witnesses, because they had not seen the accident. Further, I didn’t care about the lack of serious damage to my car, I explained, I didn’t want his money; he was simply driving like a freak, and I, as a conscientious citizen who didn’t care much for having my car hastily pranged and left behind without so much as a how-do-you-do, was merely reporting it.

This time, it took four phone calls and about forty minutes to get a police officer there. I imagine my calls kept getting canceled because dispatch had already sent someone for the previous hit-and-run, not realizing that, just because the odds against it were astronomical, it was still possible for one’s entirely static vehicle to be hit twice in the same parking lot in the same half-hour. The same nice officer eventually returned to assess the situation. Fortunately, she already had my information, and that really sped up the whole rest of the procedure. After assessing both our accounts, and giving the driver of the aptly-named Dodge Ram (both for the ramming and the dodging) some sort of formal admonishment, she gave me her business card and cheerfully admitted she hoped not to see me again.

I pray that the items purchased at Office Depot today are in no way defective or substandard, because clearly, I can never go back there. Even if I were to wait a few weeks or months, so as to let the terrible dance of retail turnover eradicate from that business all those might vaguely recognize me, I don’t dare subject my pathologically reliable, fuel-efficient, cute, and otherwise superfine little car to further indignities in the malevolent parking lot. From now on, I plan to frequent Office Max, Staples, Walmart, Target, Amazon,, Barnes and Noble, a visually-impaired streetcorner doomsayer with a pencil cup, or various independently-owned stationery supply stores for my office supply needs.

Tuesday, February 17th 2009

Spohn 2009a, 2009b, and 2009c
posted @ 2:55 pm in [ ]

I’ve recently changed my career strategy. Previously, I was applying for any position I thought I could live with and that I could make a case for being qualified to do. I have not been having much luck with that. Plus, it’s depressing, draining, and time-consuming, so the heck with it.

I think most of the issue is the economy. The applicant pool is huge, and while I’m a good wild card, there are currently a lot of perfect fits out there to choose from. Academia doesn’t seem to be in as much trouble as many sectors, though, and online education is doing pretty well.

For writing classes, I like to be able to see folks. You can tell if someone is struggling. For other kinds of classes, though, teaching online has its charms. Perhaps the most entertaining part is that I get so much respect when the students can’t see me. I mean, I get my fair share in the classroom, but I think online students are picturing a matronly professor type with the kind of glasses Raymond Chandler called “cheaters,” and not someone who has a modeling contract on the side and a tattoo of a Roessler Attractor. That’s always entertaining.

Anyway, the new strategy is this. I decided to help myself to an academic career, whether or not anyone cared to offer me a tenure-track gig: take as much adjunct work as I need to to pay the bills and stay university-affiliated; publish, publish, publish; go to lots of conferences; apply for research grants; and only apply for academic fantastic fits and dream jobs.

In my quest to become the Stephen King of IR theory/NDS articles, I have a few (completely) different papers in the works for this year. The first is for The Integral Review, about misperceptions about globalization, culture, and cultural saturation points. The latter part will contain some chaos theory and NDS analysis.

The second is for a May conference. I’ll be presenting a paper, and then sitting on a panel discussing my violentization theory work. The paper is about dominance engagements in the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, strategy vs. tactics with an eye toward improving 21st-century security theory, and what I call “The Tom and Jerry Factor.”

The third is for the annual chaos conference, from which I have been away for far too long. I’ve mentioned my previous project about World War I alliance building based on planetary accretion theory, but I think I’m going to make some changes to that. I think maybe photons glom in a more similar, increasing-returns kind of way than planets did, and I think that kind of model will have more universal application (so to speak). I’m mulling that over, because it’s later on in the summer.

I have another idea in the works, perhaps more of an essay or a guest lecture, for which I haven’t found a place yet (or really looked — I think those three are going to keep me out of trouble for the next few months):

Weak quantitative methods in the social sciences go back at least as far as Socrates. The tortured geometric logic he uses in Plato’s Republic to describe the degrees of separation between the life of the tyrant and the life of the good man wouldn’t make much progress over the next few thousand years. In the twentieth century, linear statistics ruled the world, which enjoyed a fifty-plus-year historical fluke of two-poled alliances and two-player game theory. Now, in the twenty-first century, new international relations scholars are separated from those who remembered the natural state of the messy, multipolar international system by a few generations whose theory and methods focused largely on dyads. Cold War methods no longer have much application, linear statistics can’t accurately describe a complex, multipolar system, but we still crave the answers only quantitative analysis can give us. These factors suggest why it is taking so long to develop robust new grand theory and methods in international relations. One response is to use different quantitative methods–ones that can handle the true messy reality of the international system. This study considers a few such methods and their applications, with an eye toward their implications for large-scale theory construction.

So those are the things I’m working on this year. I think it’s a pretty good distribution. I’m also thinking more about IPE (International Political Economy) topics these days. I feel like I have too many ideas to wait around — I want to get down to business now, and let my dream job come to me on its own time.