La Profesora Abstraída

Weblog of Michelle Dion, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, at McMaster University. My blog has moved to Visit my other website.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Gigante Silva

Brian and I like to go to lucha libre matches while we're in Mexico, and we went to our first match in 1998. Since then, we've been to about 6-10 nights of lucha at either Arena Mexico or Coliseo in Mexico City. When our friends visit us in Mexico, we usually take them to the luchas, and usually it is the highlight of their trip. Unfortunately, going to the luchas has become hip among the fresa crowd, and the last time we went to the fights in May 2005, there were lots of fresa-types.

Anyway, last night at dinner, I told the students about getting my picture taken with a famous Brazilian who wrestled in Mexico for a while before graduating to the big league in the U.S. Apparently, he is now doing some other ultimate fighting championship thing.

So, below is a picture of me with Gigante Silva. The photo was taken by my mother over Thanksgiving weekend 2001. Brian and I took her and my aunt to the artisan market in Mexico City. The market happens to be blocks from Arena Mexico, and we spotted Silva sitting down to lunch in the market restaurant.

I bothered him for an autograph and a picture, which I've put below. In the picture, I am standing on a dining room chair; I am 5'1".

posted by Michelle @ 10:40 AM, 0 comments

Sunday, October 30, 2005

My favorite new Atlanta area Mexican restaurant

Tonight I enjoyed dinner with a handful of Georgia Tech students and one of my favorite colleagues and his family. He is the faculty advisor for International House (which I cannot find a link for on the GATech Housing page).

Since I was asked to bring a Latin American sweet for dessert, I opted for Abuelita hot chocolate and some conchas. Conchas are not my favorite Mexican pastry, but they are certainly traditional.


Since I wanted authentic pastries, I asked the staff at the local burrito joint where to find a Mexican bakery. Since I live in-town, I don't get out to the areas where most of the immigrants live. They gave the the name of a major intersection, and Brian and I took a field trip in search of conchas and a good lunch on Saturday.

We found the conchas at a Mexican supermarket, and they turned out to be some of the better ones I've had, even compared to those I've had in Mexico.

Then, we stopped at my new favorite Atlanta-area Mexican restaurant, pictured below.

It's near the intersection of Windy Hill Road and Atlanta Road in Smyrna, GA. The chicken was excellent, and they had a live duo (acordian and guitar) singing for a little girl's birthday party. After we ate, the waitress admitted that she hadn't wanted to wait on us because she didn't think we spoke Spanish. And before we finished eating, another gringo couple stopped by our table to ask what we were having and then quickly told their waitress they wanted what we had (by pointing at our table). Anyway, the food was great.

posted by Michelle @ 9:53 PM, 2 comments

Border Film Project

The Border Film Project has distributed hundreds of disposable camaras to migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and to Minutemen at outposts along the border. Once the camaras are returned in SASEs, they are developed and eventually should be turned into a gallery exhibit. So far, only a handful of photos are available online, but already it seems as though the project will produce some interesting documentary footage.

posted by Michelle @ 9:29 PM, 0 comments

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Portal for information about Mexico

I received an email message regarding a new portal for news and analysis about Mexico. The focus is aparently on regional/sub-national news. The site is available in Spanish and Engligh and has all the worst of most Mexican websites (i.e., lots of flash, bad design, and funky layout). Hopefully, the content is worth wading through the presentation. I leave that for you to decide.

I've got to get back to grading papers.

posted by Michelle @ 3:47 PM, 0 comments

Monday, October 24, 2005


A lot has happened in Mexican politics since my last post, and I have been buried under a pile of student papers and revise and resubmits for journals.

When I catch a minute, I will post some. In the meantime, global voices does a good job of collecting blogposts on Mexico or other countries.

posted by Michelle @ 8:01 PM, 1 comments

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Hear, hear

Go, Chris.

posted by Michelle @ 10:11 PM, 0 comments

Strike deadline looms

The SNTSS (Social Security Workers' Union) strike deadline is Sunday at 00:01. If workers of the social security union go on strike, this will effectively shut down the hospital and clinic system that over 40% of Mexicans rely upon for their medical care. In small towns, the IMSS clinic is usually the only clinic available. The union has said that they will continue to treat patients currently in the hospital and emergency cases, but all regular appointments and non-emergency treatment will have to be handled by other public institutions (i.e., the ISSSTE or the SSA). Frankly, the other public health care facilities are underfunded and have poor infrastructure. Government officials claim they have a "plan B" in the event of a strike.

Though last week it seemed like there was progress in the negotiations, things seem to have deteriorated this week. Tuesday and today, union members blocked three lanes of one of the major N-S avenues/highways on the eastern side of the city. Members of the union are still negotiating with IMSS representatives (later today), but one of the union reps has announced that a strike is likely. On the other hand, the government claims that a strike is not likely.

As in October 2003, the rank-and-file has rejected the contract reform proposal and has criticized the union leadership.

The SNTSS and PRD's attempt to pass a counter-reform measure in Congress to rescind the August 2004 reform was unsuccessful; the PRI and PAN blocked the reform in committee.

Other member unions of the UNT, including UNAM and Telmex workers (and some smaller unions), and the SME (electrical workers' union) have declared that they will also strike in support of the SNTSS if a contract agreement is not reached. (The SNTSS was one of the founding members of the UNT.) Essentially, many of these unions are in non-tradable industries or the service sector, and so a strike that includes all of these unions could have a significant impact on daily functioning of services and utilities.

Not surprisingly, the official labor sector (CT) is urging the SNTSS to avoid a strike. Member unions of the CT hold seats on the IMSS advisory board, and so technically, they are part of the 'administration' negotiating the contract with the SNTSS union.

In the midst of the conflict, today I have found out that a short article discussing the politics of social security reform over the last 15 years in Mexico has been accepted for publication (pending very minor revisions) in Foro Internacional, a widely-read Mexican journal. Unfortunately, they want the revisions by the end of the month so that it appears in the next issue, and I doubt there will be a tidy resolution to the conflict before then. (They may be on strike, or the union may ask for a delay, as it did in 2003. I really can't guess what might happen this time.)

posted by Michelle @ 9:15 PM, 0 comments

As if the emails weren't enough....

The Midwest Political Science Association is now sending faxes to remind me that the proposal deadline for the 2006 conference has been extended to October 17. Add this to the dozen or so emails.

posted by Michelle @ 2:03 PM, 0 comments

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Blogging and tenure

Of course, the recent department level decision to not recommend Dan Drezner for tenure at U of Chicago has created quite a stir in the bloggosphere. As usual, we can rely on Chris to provide a useful round-up, including a link to Mungowitz's comments on Poliblog.

As a junior faculty member, I have thought a lot about whether to blog and what to blog about. For me, I thought blogging would be a useful tool for me to write informally about research ideas and that it would create an incentive for me to keep up on what's happening in my areas of research.

As an added bonus, I feel like my academic community has expanded beyond Georgia Tech. For instance, I have become re-acquainted with Paul and his research. I also feel like I know Chris and will be meeting him when he comes to Atlanta in January. I had an informative (and sobering) exchange with Munger, who I hadn't talked to since my class at Duke years ago, about tenure expectations and job placement. I've received advice about the best way to handle statistical notation in my class presentations from several folks, including Steven Taylor and an anonymous friend from grad school. And, I've had a substantive discussion with Matthew Shugart about one of my research interests. [I should add that without the blog, Matthew, who is a leading scholar in my sub-discipline, might not have ever had a reason to visit my professional website except that he wondered, "Who is this Profesora Abstraida???"]

I think that, in my case, it is all about balance. I blog when I have time, and let it slip when I don't. I know that blogging will not get me tenure or professional advancement--only my research will, and I distribute my blog efforts accordingly.

At the same time, Ann Althouse has a good point:
Time spent on a blog is visible in a way that time spent watching movies or talking with friends or reading mystery novels or engaging in physical exercise or playing with your kids or daydreaming is not. Those who worry about blogging or feel jealous of bloggers have that blog always there, so visible, planting tiny negative impulses in their heads day by day. Then some day, when they must make a decision about you, who knows what role the blog played?
How would my colleagues know that blogging has replaced cable TV ? Or that I now read fewer mystery novels? That blogging has actually increased the amount of time that I spend thinking about my professional life? I think having a (non-anonymous, public affairs-type) blog actually reflects a high level of engagement and professional seriousness. Lazy or uncreative people do not blog; they eat Cheetos and watch daytime TV. (I'm not calling all non-bloggers lazy; I'm just saying that blogging is probably one sign of high commitment.) If only more of our colleagues in political science would recognize that blogs can be a virtual academic conference, we might have a more lively discipline.

I have put on hold, however, my idea for a group comparative/IR blog because of promotion and tenure concerns. Last year, I had talked to several colleagues at other institutions that currently do not blog about creating a group blog that would focus on providing a political science perspective on international news (much like Matthew's blog). Though I found a handful of junior faculty who were willing to participate as long as the group was large enough to allow flexibility (i.e., they would only have to post 1-2 times a week to keep it going), the Drezner decision has led me to reconsider. Some of the people who were interested are at top institutions who may not have blogging senior colleagues, and as long as those that will decide whether they get promoted or tenure do not blog, it's not safe to assume that they will "get it."

posted by Michelle @ 12:07 PM, 5 comments

Not who I'd have picked

The next Bond has been announced (via). Most of us probably didn't see this coming.

posted by Michelle @ 11:25 AM, 3 comments

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Mexican Congress

It's bad form to start a conversation and then leave mid-way through, but I had unexpected pressing demands on my time. And, I do have a tenure clock to worry about. Please accept my apologies.

Luckily, Matthew Shugart's conclusion to our exchange about legislative independence and competence in Mexico provided a nice summary. As he points out:
I don’t think Michelle and I actually disagree about much substantively....

....Basically, I am pleading for a research strategy that takes seriously the question of how congress, the parties, and individual members cope with the greater technical capacity currently held by executive ministries, rather than one that assumes Congress lacks independence because the ministries have more technical data than Congress as an institution has....

...I thank Michelle for raising this question. Research into policy-making that takes seriously the variance across policy areas and information flows, as well as the institutional incentives for parties, legislators, and legislatures to insert themselves into the process, is very much the cutting edge of the analysis of policy-making. And not only in Mexico.
I agree that more research should be done in this area, though Matthew and I may still differ on some of the finer methodological points. I only fear that by the time I finish my current projects and get back around to this issue, it probably won't be cutting edge any more.

On the other hand, this is a prime example of how blogging can push academics into new research areas. One of my random observations ["Geez, how can the opposition parties in Congress really hope to formulate an alternative pension reform proposal with only one actuary on staff? Not to mention that the secretaries in the main Committee office keep the TV blaring Mexican classic movies all day...."] combined with reading and blogging about a news story about energy reform may yet lead to more a new research area.

[I, unfortunately, have the problem of too many potential research ideas and not enough time or resources to pursue them all. Some of my ideas may well not be worth pursuing, too. But, who are these academics that run out of ideas??? I've heard they exist, but I can't say that I understand.]

posted by Michelle @ 7:33 PM, 2 comments

IMSS standoff may be postponed

A week ago, Fox removed Santiago Levy from the head of IMSS, citing the stalemate with the IMSS union over contract negotiations.

That day, anti-Semitic vandalism targeted at Levy appeared on the side of the IMSS administration building on the main thoroughfare through downtown. The union claimed it had nothing to do with the vandalism, and I'd tend to believe that the union leadership had nothing to do with the attacks. First, by forcing his resignation, the union had already 'won' the battle. There would be no need to deface the IMSS building. Second, for all their differences, I often had union leaders tell me in private interviews how much respect they had for Levy as a person. They regarded him as a highly competent professional compared to many previous IMSS directors. That doesn't mean that members of the rank-and-file weren't responsible. Racism of many forms run rampant throughout Mexico. (And, don't try to tell me it's just classism, and I'm being too "American" when I call it racism....I've lived in Mexico long enough to know racism when I see it.)

Anyway, the negotiations with the new Director General of IMSS appear to be moving along, and the union is considering postponing its October 15 strike deadline.

posted by Michelle @ 7:17 PM, 0 comments

Back to blogging

I'm back to the blog, though with some reservations, given Dan Dresner's recent tenure decision. (Chris has a good round-up of the reactions.)

I've kept busy the last week by finishing that book review essay (five books) and completing revisions to a journal submission. I've also spent several hours meeting with graduate students, grading papers, and prepping for class.

posted by Michelle @ 7:05 PM, 1 comments

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Just when I thought things were slowing down

That sounds like a beginning to a post about the Social Security conflict in Mexico, but it's not.

Instead, I finished the one R&R on Monday, but now the Editor is asking that I add a statistical appendix with other results. And he needs them by tomorrow. Luckily, I think it's do-able, but that means I won't get to those student papers this afternoon.

And no blogging. I'll be lucky if I get to watch Joey.

The good news is that my article will appear in the next issue if I get this done.

posted by Michelle @ 1:19 PM, 0 comments

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A promise is a promise

I said no more substantive posts until I finish that essay, and then look what happens: Fox removes the head of the Social Security Institute and all hell threatens to break loose. See links below. More comments later.

Denuncia el SNTSS ahorro del IMSS en plazas vacantes
Miente el IMSS; ningún avance en las negociaciones: sindicato
Cerca, la huelga en el IMSS: Vega Galina
Conflicto anunciado en el IMSS
Fox: pese a zonceras de chismosos, el ISSSTE jamás será privatizado
Mi salida no atrasará la revisión del CCT: Levy
Se agotó un modelo de negociación sobre pensiones: Carlos Abascal
Ofrece el nuevo director del IMSS abrir espacios de diálogo con el sindicato
La renuncia de Levy genera desconcierto en el Congreso
Reanudar pláticas con el SNTSS, pide Fox a Flores
Vega Galina se dice listo para reanudar pláticas
Diputados solicitarán a la ASF investigue la gestión de Levy
El Universal Online - México.El Universal Online - México.El Universal Online - México.
El Universal Online - México.

posted by Michelle @ 10:21 AM, 0 comments

Monday, October 03, 2005

Ok. I couldn't resist.

Calderon is one step closer to clinching the PAN nomination. Vote results. And related news articles.

posted by Michelle @ 1:59 PM, 0 comments

One down, two to go

Just sent off one set of revisions for a journal article. That leaves just one more revise and resubmit to finish (this week?).

Then there are the pesky two concluding paragraphs that I need to write for that book review essay. Then, I swear, no more book reviews for me. (I've done one for each of the top journals in my field...that's pleeenty.)

No substantive posting until I finish that essay.

posted by Michelle @ 1:51 PM, 4 comments

Exporting cronyism to the U.S.

Mary Elena has not been 'selected' to represent Mexicans in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky by the SRE board. Though I don't know the "other guy," Mary Elena's blog reflects her concern for Mexicans living in the U.S. and social justice.

Now that the selection process is over, I hope she brings back her old blog template.

posted by Michelle @ 12:11 PM, 1 comments

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Andale, pues

Tonight, the NFL is having its first ever NFL game in Mexico. The NFL appears to be trying to expand its market down South.

Outside the Stadium. Usually these [bootleg] souvenirs are for Mexican futbol teams, like Cruz Azul.

I could say more, but I have too much work to do.

posted by Michelle @ 8:30 PM, 0 comments

Closer yet...

jackknife, cl(country) noi: regress y x1 x2 x3, robust

Now, I need to figure out how to save each result so that I can calculated predicted values. I think it's the save option. Whoopee!

[Update: jackknife _b _se, saving (testresults, replace) cl(cntyid) noi: regress y x1 x2 x3, robust]

[I'm a big time dork.]

posted by Michelle @ 11:10 AM, 0 comments


Funny how the brain works. My first thought upon waking this morning:

"keep if e(sample)"

Second thought: "Duh, that is so obvious."

These thoughts were after waking from a dream in which my department was having a new position search, and I was applying for the position (??). Part of the dream was a conversation with one of my current colleagues asking him whether I should present some research on Mexico or something cross-national and quantitative. The good news was that I was on the short list for this position, and I think I applied for it because it paid more than my current position. The dream wasn't really a nervous or stressful dream. Could this be related to my third year review? Probably. (Except the raise part....unfortunately.)

Back to work.

posted by Michelle @ 10:42 AM, 0 comments

Saturday, October 01, 2005


I hate Stata. More precisely, I hate Stata help files. [In the voice of Friends' Chandler: Could they make help files less helpful?]

I have unbalanced panels of time series, cross section data. I have three different dependent variables, and two models (full and restricted) for each. I want to test for unit outliers. The recommended approach is leaving out a (country) unit, estimating the model, then using the model to predict the values for the omitted unit. I have to do this for all 39 (countries) units in my sample. Then, I can determine which countries are likely to be outliers. [And regular outlier commands don't work because I have country-years and use robust estimation.]

There is probably some simple code to have it run the regressions and do the predictions by unit without generating 200 pages of output, but I can't seem to figure out how. I can only figure out how to do each country separately which will take FOREVER. [I can't even figure out how to get Stata to save my e(sample) from each regression. The dataset has 1200 observations total, but due to missing data, each regression uses about 450 observations.]

Despite the fact that I just took a lunch break with Brian to have a burrito, I am in no better mood now. Grrrr.

[Update: Getting warmer, I think...]

[Update: Close, but no cigar....]

posted by Michelle @ 2:45 PM, 2 comments

Mexico City slideshow

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