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Here’s what I presented on Friday in Cambridge:


And here’s what I presented on Saturday in Chicago:

This is a personal note for a friend.  Read it when you get turned down for tenure.

I was an Assistant Professor at Northwestern, came up for tenure according to schedule and was denied.  Fired.  Canned.  Sent packing.  It sucked.

But actually it wasn’t so bad.  First of all even if you never get tenure anywhere you have like the greatest job ever.  I live in a neighborhood full of people who earn 10 times what I do and they are all 10 times less happy than me.  I once asked an investment banker whose daughter is in my daughter’s class how much of his salary he would sacrifice for the non-pecuniary benefits of an academic (doing whatever interests you, freedom to set your own schedule, university culture) and the best estimate we could come up with is that being an investment banker sucks big time.

But you will get tenure somewhere.  Some places will want to put you on a fresh, probably shortened clock, you could go for that.  But the other option is to ride out your lame-duck year.  Universities are civilized enough to give you over one year notice before you are out on your ass.  All the papers that have been in journal review purgatory will finally get published in that year and in the next year you will probably have a tenured offer.

It does kinda suck though to be dead man walking for a whole year surrounded by your executioners.

But the joke is going to be on them once you get tenured because here’s a little secret that only you, I, and our chairmen know:  when you are finally tenured you will be making more money than most of them.  Here’s a simple model.  Professor A is employed by Department B and Departments C and D are considering making A an offer.  Whatever they offer, Department B is going to match it, and you with your lexicographic preference of money first, avoid-the-hassle-of-moving second, will stay at department B.  Since it’s costly to recruit you and make you an offer and that won’t be accepted in equilibrium anyway, Departments C and D don’t bother, B has no offer to match, and A, despite his new higher rank continues to live in Assistant Professor poverty.  On the other hand when A is exogenously separated from B, he has a credible commitment to take the highest offer from C or D.

Failure rules.

(I must caution you however.  As with any rejection, at first you will not be able to shake the hope that your current department will eventually see the error of its ways and hire you back after one year with tenure, Full Professor even.  Don’t get your hopes up.  That never happens.)

Drawing:  Part of Your World from


I am driving to Chicago from Boston with two kids in the back of my car.  Random observations:

1. Julia Child’s My Life in France audiobook is family-friendly.  It sent the five year old to sleep and the nine year enjoyed it quietly, as did I.  Julia got a couple of rejections before getting her magnum opus accepted by Knopf.

2. Ithaca, Rome, Troy, Seneca Falls, Utica, Syracuse…..Why do so many towns have ancient, classical names?

3. We are staying in Geneva, faux-Switzerland, not Greece or Italy.  I recommend the Ramada Inn, right on the lake.

A hot day in Boston.  What could be better than a trip to the leafy sculpture garden at the DeCordova Museum?   Try to help the red man climb out of the Earth.  Build dams in the stream in the Rain Gates.  Tap on the Two Black Hearts to see if they hollow.  Try to take out the stovetop espresso maker embedded in one of the hearts.There is a lot more to see and do in the garden.  The Museum itself is in a lovely building. You can see the faux château roofs as you walk around the garden.  It has interesting exhibits and a little café that serves pre-made sandwiches and salads.  But the Museum is not the reason to go to the DeCordova.  It is the sculpture garden that makes it worth the trip.

Just as I get ready to head back to Evanston, I find a great coffee shop for work near MIT!

I like Crema Coffee in Harvard Square for its coffee and even its food.  Unfortunately, it’s too crowded and noisy for work.  1369 Coffee House is a little better for work but the products are worse.  And both branches, Central and Inman Square, are a bit cramped.  But a few blocks south of Central Square I found Andala Coffee House.  There’s table service, so the prices are a bit higher than you might expect.  The mint tea and hummus were well worth the extra few bucks.  There’s an outside patio, a porch that sticks out over the street and, as you come in, a large room with lots of windows.  It was a little chilly to sit outside and the porch was full so I had to settle for the large room.  It was fine.  The music is mellow and there is some quiet, pleasant chatter in the background.  I worked for two hours at high concentration and left regretting I had not found Andala earlier.  I’ll be back often over the next couple of weeks.

On the way from Brookline to Central Square in Cambridge to go to Toscanini’s, we turned on Hampton St to avoid roadwork and found the Myerson Tooth Corporation:

Next door is the Good News Garage owned by Click and Clack of NPR fame.

The second-closest gas station to our current apartment was place of employment for one of the men arrested by the F.B.I. last week.

Ten Tables JP may be my number one restaurant choice for Boston.  I love Sportello and Oleana.  The food is equally good at all three places.  But the ambience at Ten Tables is the best.  It actually only has ten tables so you have to book well ahead.  (They cheat a bit by having a bar but it looks a lot less cosy than the restaurant.)  There’s an open kitchen so you can see the chefs at work.

My wife’s garlic soup was spectacular.   My citrus panna cotta was too heavy and creamy but the radicchio salad that came with it was lovely.  My ricotta pasta with maitake mushrooms was delicious and my two companions really enjoyed their chicken and steak dishes.   We split a chocolate mousse and pistachio semifreddo for dessert.  The wines are decently priced and I had a great barbera in my Italian wine flight.

Looking forward to going back.  By the way, there is a second Ten Tables in Cambridge.  The food is equally good but the service is rude and the dinner crowd is less cool.  Make sure you go to the right branch.

Joshua Gans on the grade school ritual (a very entertaining read as usual):

This Friday (12th February) is Valentine’s Day. Now before you say, “oh no it isn’t!” I have to beg to differ. That is the day our two youngest children are, near as I can tell, compelled to bring a Valentine’s card to every other person in the class. The school sent home a convenient list of the some 45 names in total that require cards and the instruction that they be prepared for Friday. And by prepared, you can’t just go to the store, buy a pack and put names on it. Nor can you, as I had wanted to do, draw a card on the computer and hit print (quantity = 45). Each requires individual attention. Suffice it to say, this is an exercise requiring many hours and, frankly, if we didn’t have a snow day today (that is, a day whereupon fear of snow = no school for you), it is unclear whether the household could produce the required amount of love.

And of course the parents wind up doing most of the work.  I would suggest however that schools will push parents to their limits in terms of busy work whether or not that includes making Valentines.  That is,  if the Valentine exchange were banned it would only be replaced by some other after-school craft or chore.

What’s surprising is that Valentines has survived this long in US schools.  It’s too focal and so too easy for parents to coordinate their outrage against.  Whereas yet another assignment to look up native american tribes on the internet just blends in with all the rest.

sandeepShort weekend trips from Evanston lead to the Chicago Botanic Garden.  It can be quite beautiful despite the drone of cars from the freeway running next to the garden.  There are houses and malls all around and it is hard to escape the feeling that the garden is an artificial green oasis plonked into suburbia.

Just some the reasons why Drumlin Farm, just forty minutes away from our present abode in Boston, was such a big hit.  The garden aspect we enjoy in Chicago is replaced by a spectacular working farm.  There are many short trails and vegetables and eggs for sale, not just for display.  Plus sledding in the winter.  We joined the Audubon society as we expect many visits during the year.

I don’t know if my pizza standards have gone up or this place has gotten worse but I was unimpressed.  The crust was too crisp and hard.  The toppings were too rich so the flavours were muddy.  I actually prefer the Upper Crust in Brookline even though it’s chaotic and loud.

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