Publish You’re Squarish

by Henry Farrell on September 26, 2007

Via “Dani Rodrik”:, this nifty piece of “free software”: for academics, which munges data from Google Scholar to figure out your citation counts, various indices of influence etc. Hours of fun for your inner Bourdieuvian.

Also of interest to sociologists of academia, this post by “Sean Carroll”: on how pathetic academics can be when they’re asked to disclose their ‘guilty pleasures.’

Here’s the thing: the Chronicle of Higher Education asked a handful of academics to divulge their guilty pleasures. … I was one of the people they asked, and I immediately felt bad that I couldn’t come up with a more salacious, or at least quirky and eccentric, guilty pleasure. I chose going to Vegas, a very unique and daring pastime that is shared by millions of people every week. I was sure that, once the roundup appeared in print, I would be shown up as the milquetoast I truly am, my pretensions to edgy hipness once again roundly flogged for the enjoyment of others. But no. As it turns out, compared to my colleagues I’m some sort of cross between Hunter S. Thompson and Caligula. Get a load of some of these guilty pleasures: Sudoku. Riding a bike. And then, without hint of sarcasm: Landscape restoration. Gee, I hope your Mom never finds out about that. But the award goes to Prof. McCloskey, who in a candid examination of the dark hedonistic corners of her soul, managed to include this sentence:

bq. Nothing pleases me more than opening a new textbook.

My interpretation is different than Sean’s – given Deirdre McCloskey’s well publicized gender change some years back, I suspect that her anodyne response is a calculated ‘screw you’ to prurient CHE readers hoping for something shocking or salacious. But Sean’s basic point still stands. I’m as bad as any of the respondents if not worse – my guilty pleasures are nothing more exciting than science fiction and fantasy novels with garish covers – but if anyone else has more interesting pleasures to confess in comments (nonymously or anonymously), go ahead.

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09.27.07 at 4:01 am



mathpants 09.26.07 at 3:51 pm

sometimes I go to McDonald’s and touch all the straws.


Eric Rauchway 09.26.07 at 3:54 pm

I read blogs.


thag 09.26.07 at 4:03 pm

nothing pleases me more than closing a new textbook.


arthur 09.26.07 at 4:04 pm

Here’s something older from the Guardian:,,2003615,00.html


Michael Bérubé 09.26.07 at 4:09 pm

You mean aside from sniffing glue and printing my own counterfeit $50 bills?


Cian 09.26.07 at 4:23 pm

Stooopid happy hardkore/euro-pop/Hi-NRG music. Other than that my tastes are largely that of a Wire reader. But something about the beats/frivolity gets me every time. I pretend that its ironic, but deep down I know…

Mind you, the best way to watch an action film is with the sound turned down, and the gayest house music you can find. You’ll never see Arnie the same way again.


Kieran Healy 09.26.07 at 4:30 pm

I hate that kind of thing because (again for Bourdieuian reasons) a certain sort of academic tends to give answers that boil down to the positional statement, “Even when I’m not working, I’m still working harder than you.”


mpowell 09.26.07 at 4:50 pm

I have guilty pleasures, but I won’t be confessing to them.


mtnmarty 09.26.07 at 4:57 pm

Choosing gilts over guilts?


Seth Finkelstein 09.26.07 at 5:11 pm

What Eric Rauchway / #2 said – “I read blogs”

I’ll go him one better (or worse) – I write comments on blogs.

Someone should also have responded “I like reading the Chronicle of Higher Education”.


Ted 09.26.07 at 5:12 pm

I collect baseball cards.


Rich Puchalsky 09.26.07 at 5:12 pm

Any guy who doesn’t say that his guilty pleasure is porn is either not being forthright, or is rather unusual.


lemuel pitkin 09.26.07 at 5:51 pm

Rich, that’s so not true. I mean, what about excessive drinking?


Timothy Burke 09.26.07 at 5:54 pm

I was foolish enough once to suggest to some historian colleagues at a professional meeting that we should hold a future meeting in Vegas. It was sort of like suggesting holding Easter Mass in front of Aleister Crowley’s grave, or hosting a major feminist conference in a bordello in Thailand.

My problem would be that my ordinary, completely non-guilty, pleasures (heck, my research interests) would be at the outer limit of freakishness on the list Sean points to. “Let’s see, um, World of Warcraft, Rainbow Six, Halo 3 this week, also I caught a new Pokemon on my DS. Watched some cartoons. Picked up this week’s pull list at the comic book shop.” etc.


SamChevre 09.26.07 at 6:07 pm

Re-reading “The Journal Entries of Kennet Shardik”.

(Yes, I’ve read all of them–I think.)


Rich Puchalsky 09.26.07 at 6:20 pm

It could be excessive drinking plus porn, Lemuel. But really, excessive binge drinking is still rather romanticized in a youthful-Spring-Break way, and therefore respectable, in comparison, isn’t it? And not nearly as common for middle-aged academics, I’d guess. And if someone admits to having a drinking problem, they get pity, while admitting to liking porn… well.

Of course, if anyone ever gets on my case for writing this, I’d have to reply that I’m a rather unusual guy. Not like you pervs.


Walt 09.26.07 at 7:20 pm

Oh, Rich, no one feels guilty about porn anymore.


Rich Puchalsky 09.26.07 at 7:50 pm

Walt, I doubt that the reason that all these academics aren’t mentioning it is because they’re thinking, “Oh, I could just say porn, but no one feels guilty about that anymore — I’ll tell them about going to Vegas, sudoku, or riding a bike.” I’d guess that most academics are feminists (for good reason, of course; everyone should be a feminist) and while it’s permissable for a certain kind of feminist woman to like it, or a certain kind of gay guy, for most people in this bracket I’d say that specifically feminist guilt would be enough so that they wouldn’t admit it. And the rare ones who are conservative anti-feminists will of course think it’s a sin or something, even as I suspect that their usage rate of it approaches 100%.


robertdfeinman 09.26.07 at 8:00 pm

The tables are turning. Two new TV series that started this week have nerds as the heroes.

Wait until the ESPN group has to start to admit that watching football is a “guilty pleasure”…

As far as I can remember there has only been one sitcom where the hero was an intellectual that wasn’t treated as an egghead. That was “The Halls of Ivy” with Ronald Colman. It started on radio and moved to TV in the 1950’s. All the radio episodes are now online, if anyone is curious to hear how the subject was treated at the time. His character was the president of a liberal arts college.


anmk 09.26.07 at 8:36 pm

Many years ago (ten?), the American Society for Environmental History had its annual meeting in a small convention-only (read: no on-site gambling) hotel in Las Vegas. As you can imagine, hilarity ensued. Not only did people open new textbooks, they also went for walks in the desert, bemoaned the lack of used bookstores, and visited the Hoover Dam to discuss its environmental impacts. The real highlight, though, came when I happened upon Don Worster — noted Marxist, Great Plains enthusiast, and shepherd — wandering through The Tropicana. Imagine a very dour and rather tiny druid surrounded by bling. I think that memory is my guilty pleasure.


anmk 09.26.07 at 8:41 pm

And its, the memory of Worster that is, own kind of fetish porn.


joel turnipseed 09.26.07 at 8:46 pm

Hmmm… you’d think more would take this as an opportunity for gamesmanship: “When I’m not writing about the discourses of power/knowledge in late Sumerian practices of warehouse management and accounting, I like to read papers on the application of non-recursive B-tree searches in writing computer Go programs.”


Walt 09.26.07 at 9:01 pm

I think they are, Joel. They’re just not very good at it.


CJColucci 09.26.07 at 9:02 pm

Really, really bad movies. Joe Bob Briggs-type stuff.


Floyd 09.26.07 at 9:02 pm

I think the worst answer to this question award goes to Dawkins, who said computer programming:,,2003615,00.html

And there was a great disturbance in the force, as if millions of smug atheist fan boys/it professionals cried out, and were silenced.


harry b 09.26.07 at 9:07 pm

Hammer? But really, if you disclose it, it isn’t really that guilty a pleasure, right? (as mpowell implies).


joel turnipseed 09.26.07 at 9:22 pm

Well, one tried it–Deirdre McCloskey. Of course, if she really wanted to startle Italians, she should have quoted Dante: “Per l’argine sinistro volta dienno;/ma prima avea ciascun la lingua stretta/coi denti, verso lor duca per cenno,/Ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta.”


joel turnipseed 09.26.07 at 9:23 pm

… also: still laughing at floyd @24.


Patrick 09.26.07 at 9:36 pm

I wasn’t going to post on this, but then the Paterno professor weighed in, and I was reminded how much I enjoy watching Michigan beat Penn State in football.

That and snorting meth off the flesh of naked people using a rolled up Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Michael Bérubé 09.26.07 at 9:55 pm

All right, Patrick, that’s really uncalled for. At least this time around Michigan beat us without any help from the officials: this year we decided simply to cough up the ball — at both 10-yard lines, just to be fair and balanced about it.


eb 09.26.07 at 11:08 pm

I’m fairly certain that the Western Historical Association has met in Vegas.


vivian 09.27.07 at 12:47 am

Well, sarcasm is clearly not a guilty pleasure for any of us. And, re: comment 10, if anyone really read (let alone enjoyed) the Chronicle of Higher Ed then Scott would never need to blog again.
Henry got it right in composing this post – what folks really love and hate to admit is just how much they (we? naah, they!) get off on googling their influence/ checking amazon rankings / Web of science citation hits.


joel turnipseed 09.27.07 at 12:58 am

I don’t know Vivian: I think I, for one, would much rather post sarcastic comments on CT than check my Amazon ranking (but do wish I’d taken a screenshot when I was in the top 10…another lifetime ago: but maybe next book?).

Now, must go finish snorting Smedley Butler’s ashes from a copy of the U.S. Constitution, with a rolled up copy of my DD214.


magistra 09.27.07 at 5:52 am

One of the more printable of my guilty pleasures is an obvious one: playing Civilisation and telling myself that I’m really learning something useful about the dynamics of historical development.


Sister Josephine Reilly 09.27.07 at 5:57 am

Anal sex.


joel turnipseed 09.27.07 at 6:25 am

uh, magistra: if we required all civil servants to pass a Monarch level victory test at Civilization before they took office, we would–the world wide–have much, much better governments.


SG 09.27.07 at 6:48 am

developing my own role-playing system (which, of course, didn’t really work) and then subjecting other actual living beings to it.

I did this once for two years running.

Do I beat Dawkins?


steve 09.27.07 at 6:50 am

my guilty pleasure involves something in a size .357 and weighs in at about 158 grains.


Dan Drezner 09.27.07 at 12:03 pm

@29… that’s amazing, Patrick, it’s my guilty pleasure as well, except I use the IMF’s Articles of Agreement.

Printed on higher quality paper.


Jacob T. Levy 09.27.07 at 1:15 pm

Isn’t it odd that there were no really geeky or genre pleasures? Is that generational? I would think that if I sampled a dozen academics, at least one would say *something* about Civ/ comic books/ WoW/ D&D/ SCA/ SF novels/ SF movies/ shlock horror movies. Those are hardly the equivalent of ‘porn’ or ‘snorting meth’– they’re pretty safe for an academic to admit without losing positional points (admittedly also without gaining the positional points Kieran rightly mentions).


Tom Hurka 09.27.07 at 1:57 pm

Wouldn’t the real guilty pleasure be googling *other people’s* influence, checking *their* Amazon rankings, and calculating *their* h- and g-indexes? It would be the Web of Science equivalent of Facebook stalking.


mathpants 09.27.07 at 2:47 pm

a million points should be awarded to anyone who answers that their guilty pleasure is plagiarism.

Seriously, I hate questions that are meant to elicit a response that shows you’re an acceptable level of naughty.

When confronted with the “what’s your biggest weakenss” question at a job interview, one should always answer “stealing from my employers.”


Michael Mouse 09.28.07 at 3:02 pm

Eric Rauchway at #3 reads blogs; Seth Finkelstein at #10 writes comments on blogs.

My guilty pleasure is even worse: I write comments on blogs under an obvious and silly pseudonym, and the comments are usually feeble jokes that undermine any constructive academic purpose served by the blog post.


tzs 09.28.07 at 4:55 pm

Guilty pleasures: reading legal history and Roman law texts in Latin.

Oh, and candied apricots dipped in dark chocolate. And Stilton with a good glass of Laphroig.

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