09 October 2007

travel/bluegrass/autumn...philosophy of science?

some of you may be wondering, "where has amelia been? and why doesn't she ever think about politics any more?" (seriously, you have to check that link out.)

the answer is that i've been in the office, and then in new haven, and then listening to a boatload of bluegrass, and then in the office some more. lots of office! lots of bayesian model averaging! lots of clustering algorithms!

also at the office: we're theorizing my job, which is fun and scary. why, after all, should the human rights community invest in academics whose institutional incentives are (at the moment) all wrong for continuing their advocacy work alongside their (putatively academic) careers? there are no teaching hospitals in social science, that is, no place where basic science and clinical practice work together in a way that's good for both.

for example: at hrdag i've spent a good chunk of time lately thinking about how to make inferences on command responsibility from data on mass behavior -- but at best, academic political science seems only mildly concerned with differences between ordered behavior, behavior that occurs because of a lack of orders, and behavior that occurs despite orders. (at worst, political science is actively hostile to the idea of decision-making and responsibility in individual cases, in the sense that the discipline prefers theories in which violence happens in a structural or deterministic way.)

anyway. it's been intriguing to think about the institutions that could be built to encourage rigor in the human rights community and groundedness in the academy. for the record: i think my current job is the right start.

and new haven: new haven was stressful. it was great to see everybody, but i was a big weepy flake the whole time, due to some combination of lack of sleep, general intellectual overload, and the weather, which was disgusting. on the other hand, The Have presented a great opportunity to re-engage the great SUV vandalism debate. a new point: even if you target rich neighborhoods, everybody' premiums go up. doesn't that amount to regressive taxation?

i experienced my usual irrational joy on landing at SFO and, after an hrdag team meeting, took off to various fun artsy events for the weekend. chief among them: hardly strictly bluegrass, which entailed travel nightmares for everyone but resulted in two solid days of sunshine and lounging and excellent music and even excellent-er people.

and now it's fall?! the bay area's not renowned for its seasonality, but the combination of chilly nights and falling leaves is enough for me.