Sunday, August 31, 2003

Those Wacky Professors

On Friday morning, I arrived at Penn Station to get the train to Philie for the Political Science Conference. As I looked up at the big board announcing the platform numbers, I suddenly realized that I was traveling without children. Wahoo. Thelma and Louise heading out on the dusty highway! No one to stop me. No responsibilities. No sippy cups to hold on to. It was worth going to the conference just for that brief moment of total freedom.

I've gotten a thicker skin about this conference over the years. The huddling hordes of guys in their rolled up oxford shirts no longer freak me out. I've learned that the best defense is a good offense -- red hair, a skirt, and two inch heels. Work it, baby! These guys stride around from room to room with their dog eared program dropping names and statistical models. I used to be very intimidated by their jargon and their closed ranks. Not so much anymore. Older and wiser.

It helps to have the "family," my oddball friends from graduate school who have stuck it out. Many are still slogging away at the degree. Other friends graduated and have become itinerate scholars, working different gigs around the country for a couple years at a time. A lucky few have tenure track jobs. It is always good to hook up with "the family" after a particularly bad panel, roll our eyes, and grab a drink. I also had my real family there, who lent me a bed and bought me an omelette (thanks, guys).

I went to several panels. Some related to my work, some featured a buddy, some were random. Very few got me all hot and bothered. Some especially boring panels made me consider self-mutilation.

One panel entitled "Activism On and Off Line," discussed hackers, but no talk about bloggers and their impact on politics. I had my hand raised to bring up the important role that bloggers play in monitoring the media, organizing rallies, bypassing organized interest groups, etc..., but my friend Toni made me shut up. She wants to write an article about this, and didn't want to share ideas.

One truly amazing aspect of the political science conference is the lack of interest in real politics. You would expect political scientists would live and breathe current events. They should sit around arguing whether or not it's time to get out of Iraq, the merits of the Dean campaign, and the state of the deficit, but no, they don't. For academics, politics has to be discussed years after the events and with clinical coldness. They only touch politics with sterile rubber gloves.

I'm glad I went. The Thelma and Louise moment was great. I caught up with old friends. And it also reminded others that I am still out there. Although I'm taking off time to mind the kiddies, I'm still smart and active, and I'll be looking for a full time job soon. I might spend most of my time at the playground, but that doesn't mean I'm dead.

UPDATE: Others on the conference: Drezner and Chris Lawrence

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