Sunday, December 27, 2009

APA Eastern Division: Day 1

Typical. I was just about to tweet from the APA Eastern today, only to have my phone's battery run out. So, here's today's events, from my fortunately inimitable perspective.

Took the train in from Queens to Times Square at about 4:30 or so. Times Square was a zoo. You could barely move for people. I don't know if that's usual or not, not being a New Yorker, but imagine the busiest day you've ever seen in Toronto or Vancouver -- so, probably New Year's Eve. It was like that, and it was just regular traffic. Insane.

Got through that and wound up at the hotel, the Marriott Marquis on Broadway. Nice hotel. Big, well-appointed. Way out of my price range, hence why I'm coming in from Queens. Up to the fifth floor for registration, which was, frankly, out of control. Two windows and two lines, one for pre-registered people to pick up their materials -- conference badge plus program -- and one for people registering at the convention (like me!). There had to be a hundred people in the registration line. The wait was about 45 minutes.

There were a couple of tables set up with various bits of literature -- calls for papers, announcements of other upcoming meetings, etc. Nothing even remotely interesting; it struck me that the tables were there for the no-hopers and cranks. The Ayn Rand Society, for example, and something about the philosophical significance of the Batman mythos. The one useful thing was an announcement of something I already knew, that Lorraine Code was receiving an award for, I think (I may get this name wrong), Woman Philosopher of the Year.

I also got talked to by some guy from, if I recall correctly, Edwin Merrell Press. He claimed to be the editor of the press, and he was handing out pamphlets -- which, if it were twenty years ago, I would refer to as "mimeographed" -- of their alleged publications. He started soliciting some girl in front of me, who was from U Notre Dame, trying to get her contact info and convince her to publish her dissertation with them. He offered me the pamphlet, too, but I think he got the "fuck off" vibe pretty clearly and didn't try too hard to sell it.

Interestingly, he also didn't try to sell it to anyone else in line. I guess we both gave off a "grad student" aura, and she looked more vulnerable, hence he homed in on her. She was actually trembling slightly, I thought. I won't give out her name, but I've checked her academic webpage, and I think she's on the job market this year, too. Enlightened despair is an acquired attitude, and fear/panic much more natural.

Back to the story. Basically, the guy was a scammer. If you've never heard of a press, it's academically useless. The only reason to go with it is if you want to sell lots of books -- academic presses aren't always good at getting books sold, and some commercial publishers are not well-known, but are nonetheless capable of shifting significant amounts of books. But that kind of publisher would lead with sales information, not with "hey, we publish dissertations!" Publishing dissertations is bullshit vanity publishing that does jack for your academic reputation, and less for your impact on the wider world. You may as well self-publish it -- at least then you'd retain the copyright. So, yeah. Not impressive that he was there -- and, indeed, not impressive that he had an official-looking badge. (But, given he was just wandering around the registration lines, it's possible he made that himself.)

[Okay, just looked it up. It's not a scam, as far as I can tell, so that's not a fair way to characterize the guy. He could also be easily taken as a hustler, trying too hard to sell too little. Here's the Wikipedia page: it's Edwin Mellen Press. And down at the bottom of this page, we find something relatively salacious, which seems to confirm my dubious impression:
Warren St. John deems Edwin Mellen Press a vanity publisher capitalizing on the desperation of credential-hungry academics. St. John also finds that the Press's offshore adjunct, Mellen University, is little more than a diploma mill. After the exposé, Mellen chief Herbert Richardson, a former University of Toronto religion professor, accuses LF of libel and sues for $15 million. He loses. In September 1994, St. Michael's College, where Richardson holds tenure, dismisses him for "gross misconduct."
]

Anyway. Got that out of my system. Felt bad for the girl, but she needs to learn -- and, besides, she's at U Notre Dame, they'll take good care of her. (Unlike other universities I could name, *coff*splutter*York*hack*wheeze*. Seriously, why do I have to do everything myself and on my own?)

After I got registered, which was thankfully easy -- I had worried they didn't get my membership renewal, as I hadn't gotten any sort of confirmation -- and looked around for something to do. And... there wasn't anything. There was only one set of sessions tonight, and nothing in them that looked particularly interesting. One might have been okay, but it also might have gone into neuroscience/cognitive science hell. (Not that I object to those areas, but they're a hell of a lot easier to deal with when written, so you can review them repeatedly, rather than when spoken.) I suppose I could have registered with the job placement service, but I figure I can do that tomorrow morning, as well as go and take a look around the real book publishers, who are supposed to be set up tomorrow.

So, I came back, around 7:45. Had Mickey Dees. Kinda diggin' Queens, incidentally; reminds me of East Van, where I used to live. And also liked, except for the hookers on the corners. Not that they were bad people or anything, but they didn't attract a good crowd. No obvious hookers around here -- note I did say "obvious". Oh, and, the fact that the building I lived in was a firetrap. Seriously: a fuse blew once, and we took the panel off 'cause we thought we saw smoke, and the whole thing behind was fused. I'll tell y'all sometime about the time we had a flood, too. This hotel is pretty decent -- two-star, so safe, warm, decent bed, city accessible by transit.

Plan for tomorrow: go out early, register for placement, see what's going on with the Society for Empirical Ethics, look at books. I'd never heard of the society before, incidentally, but they look like they do things I'd be really into, and they have two sessions tomorrow. So, could be good. Or, could be one of those things where you feel like a third wheel 'cause everyone knows everyone else. Whatever. I can always come back here and write. Haven't yet decided if I'm going to the infamous smoker or not. It seems to be only useful if you're going to meet people, or if you've been interviewed and want to be available to your interviewers. Neither applies to me.

Famous people seen (not met or spoken to, of course) today:

Trying to work out how I could post things to twitpic for tomorrow....