Friday, August 15, 2008

We did it!!!

Ladies and gentlemen, the doctor is in the house.... A couple of hours ago, I successfully filed my dissertation. We did it!!! 'Cause no WAY could I have gotten here without the support and encouragement of all the Villagers. There you all are on my dedication page: "To the Villagers, for keeping me honest." Give yourselves a round of applause - mission accomplished! Now the title should be, It Takes a Village to FINISH a Dissertation! Thank you all!

Saturday, July 26, 2008


page count = 284

It's in! At 6:45pm last night, I emailed my committee a full revised draft of my dissertation. I travel to Berkeley on August 11 for meetings and making final changes, and assuming all goes as planned, file by August 15. Twenty-six miles down, 385 yards to go....

The last four weeks have been incredibly intense; my new job (see the June 30 blog entry) is exciting but already has me very busy, and I've been writing at night and on the weekends. The last week in particular was non-stop. But I'm proud to say that I've finished, and I'm happy with what I've produced.

I still have to write the Abstract and Acknowledgments and clean up the Bibliography, and the Conclusion could be tighter, but I have a couple of weeks to take care of those.

The Acknowledgments will be fun to write, as I have so much to be grateful for. Thanks again to all of the Villagers who have helped me get this far, and I look forward to letting you know when I've filed and gotten the famous lollipop!

Thursday, July 24, 2008


page count = 280

Well, I finally wrestled the Antioquia case study chapter to the ground. In fact, it's now 3 chapters, because at more than 100 pages, it was just too unwieldy. This led to a renumbering of chapters.

Now I'm on to making final changes to the "in comparative perspective" chapter and the Conclusion. Almost there!

Monday, June 30, 2008

A new beginning...

Over the weekend: 3 hours writing, 4 hours processing data, page count = 261

Today: 2 hours processing data, page count = 261

Thanks to everyone who's followed this blog, whether from the beginning or in recent months. Your support has gotten me so far, and I couldn't have done it without you. As I've hinted in the last few days, I have exciting news on the career front: I started a new job today!

Effective June 30, my new title is Consultant, Philanthropy Practice at the TCC Group, a private consulting firm that provides evaluation, strategic planning, and program development to foundations, corporations, and nonprofits. My work will focus on foundations, and some of my first assignments include grantee coaching and convening, program management, and strategic planning. The people are great, the firm is growing, the work is engaging: I couldn't ask for anything more!

As I ramp up in the first six weeks on the job, I will wind down my dissertation. Over the weekend, I processed the biggest remaining chunk of data, considerably bolstering the crucial fifth of six Antioquia episodes in Chapter 4. Tonight I worked on the additional data for the sixth episode, and over the next couple of evenings, I'll finish up that episode, make a final polish of that chapter, and send it out for review. Then over the long weekend, I'll finish making changes to Chapter 5 and the conclusion and send that out for review as well. My goal is to get comments back and incorporate them by Sunday, July 20, when I'll send a full revised draft to my advisors. I then have until August 15 to discuss final changes, get signatures, and file. The timing actually works fine with my job, as it takes a little while to get written into new projects, and the summer is a bit slower in general. I'll work on the dissertation evenings and weekends to get this last push done.

I'll continue to update the blog as I make progress over the next six weeks, but consider this the last post from my thirteen months as a full-time dissertation writer. It's been fun and productive, and the end is very near. A big part of my success has been due to the comfortable and calm environment at my writing space in Tribeca, The Village Quill. Thanks Harry! See, it really has taken a village to write this dissertation....

Thanks again for your support!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Four out of six ain't bad

1.5 hours processing data, 3 hours writing, page count = 256

Took a couple of days off this week in anticipation of some exciting new developments next week. Got a chance to see the semifinals of the European soccer championships. My heart broke for the brave and valiant Turks. I had the good fortune to stumble across a restaurant full of Turkish fans for the dramatic final minutes of their semifinal, and I was impressed by their passion and sportsmanship. Hats off! Now, Spain, it's up to you to kick Germany's ass on Sunday.

Continued going through Chapter 4 today, tightening up and adding in some targeted new information. I'm feeling good about everything but the last two episodes out of the six, which need better presentation and a bit more data. Luckily, I have a lot on which to draw already gathered.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Out with the new, in with the old

4 hours writing, 1 hour researching, page count = 255

Made good progress today, addressing all of the new changes in the Preface, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and Chapter 4. I also followed up on a pending change in Chapter 4 that required a quick trip to the library for some specific additional data. I'm very close to having a revised draft of Chapter 4. Onward!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pass the ether

2.5 hours phone call, 2 hours writing, page count = 252

Had a great conversation with one of my advisors this afternoon. We walked through the logic of the entire dissertation via the table of contents, which has quite a lot of detail (it's a good page and a half), and I got great feedback about order of presentation and how to structure the argument most effectively. All the pieces seem to be in place, it's a question of honing the argument to its sharpest point and presenting it most effectively. I'm very encouraged. I gained more changes to make to my list, which had been growing quite short, but many of them are relatively precise, almost surgical, in nature. I began going through and making them after our call. Keep getting closer....

Friday, June 20, 2008

Jump around

5 hours writing, page count = 250

This includes time spent earlier in the week. Lots of stuff going on the past several days, more soon from the Department of Mysteries.

In the meantime, I'm going back through Chapter 4, having completed a second pass at all six episodes, editing, tightening, and making consistent. I also jumped forward to Chapter 5 and the Conclusion, adding in some materials, smoothing a few other things out. I maintain a file called "Cut from Dissertation Manuscript Worth Keeping." Intriguingly - or depressingly - it's 174 pages at this point. A couple of different times, I've strip-mined entire sections out of chapters to get at the veins of pure ore lying beneath them. Now that I've located those, I can go back to the strip-mined materials and use them to strengthen the mineshaft through which the pure ore flows. That said, a lot of the strip-mined materials is just useless rocks that don't fit together or don't grind down into fine enough powder to use as building materials. All part of the process.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Chapter 4

2 hours writing, 0.5 hours phone call, page count = 249

Made it through a first pass of the sixth of the six episodes in the Antioquia chapter. I have a good bit of fleshing out to do in that, and in the fifth episode, as well as a lot of overall tightening up, but that chapter is starting to come into much clearer focus. It'll sure feel good to have a revised draft of that done soon!

I spoke with a classmate who filed recently to get some advice on guiding the manuscript through the final stages of the approval process. It was a very helpful conversation.

Some interesting developments on the job front, I'll have more to say on that soon. I continue to be very active with my giving circle, which is a great learning experience. I'm lucky to be working with some very talented people on that, it's a real pleasure.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Barreling round the final turn

2.5 hours writing, 0.5 hours emailing, page count = 245

I finished with the fifth episode in the Antioquia chapter, and started in on the sixth and final one. It's slow going, but I'm making good progress.

I also have someone to read a couple of chapters prior to my advisors' return from vacation, so that'll help make the draft I present to them ultimately stronger.

Next week, I head into the homestretch. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What's good for the gander

3 hours writing, 0.5 hours emailing, page count = 240

Got most of the way through the fifth episode out of six in the Antioquia chapter, and made some changes to the Preface. On the fifth episode, it's been more structure work, as well as introducing additional analysis of data that I already had on hand. The goose is fattening up nicely.

I also have been corresponding with my advisors about the timing for getting them a revised full draft, and when they'll be able to review it given summer travel/vacation schedules. Currently, it looks like I'll have something ready to distribute by the end of next week, but it'll be a few weeks before I can get feedback from my advisors, given travel schedules. So I'm reaching out to a few other folks about potentially getting feedback from them in the meantime. Anyway, it's feeling good to be close to a revised full draft.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Doscientos (ahora si de verdad)

2 hours writing, 3 hours processing data, page count = 237

The big 2-0-0! Very exciting. This is my two-hundredth post on this blog. I'm glad to be nearing the end, but I have to say, the journey has been quite something.

Today I finished revising the fourth of six episodes on the Antioquia chapter. I also laid some good groundwork for the fifth episode, which I'll take up tomorrow. I talked yesterday about jumping around a lot and that being productive, but today I seemed to want to focus on just the one thing, and move that forward. Onward tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Doscientos (menos uno)

1.5 hours writing, 4.5 hours researching, page count = 235

[Edited 6/11: Whoops! I originally thought this was my two-hundredth post, but that was one off. Have to hold off that celebration for tomorrow!]

The past couple of days I've been focused on Chapter 5 and the Conclusion. A lot of that work has been about structure. William Goldman, the guy who wrote Butch Cassidy and Marathon Man, has a couple of books on screenwriting. In the second one, he talks about dialogue: it's practically the least important part of the screenwriter's job. The most important part is structure: what happens when and why. I feel like a screenwriter lately, taking a bunch of disparate set-pieces and finding a structure that works for them and tells a coherent story. Yesterday, I think I found one for the Conclusion, and today, I took a decent stab at finding one for Chapter 5. In both structures, there are pieces that need fleshing out, but I see the directions in which I need to go.

My writing space was closed again today, so I went to the library and consulted Mexico sources for Chapter 5. It's such a rich comparison to Colombia given the similarly centrifugal political geography and Liberal-Conservative politics of the 19th century. My aim was to flesh out the vignette I already had in place, and I got some good material for that.

Tomorrow I'll work more on structure, more on Mexico, and go back to Chapter 4 and pick up on the fourth of six Antioquia episodes. I'm finding it productive to be working on several fronts at once. It feels like tying a pair of sneakers, where you have to pull on pairs of overlapping laces at different points along the instep to get the whole thing nice and tight.

Monday, June 9, 2008

End-to-end effort is rewarded

2.5 hours writing, 3.5 hours researching, page count = 233

I'm almost finished now with the U.S. comparison. I have the outline of the whole section, now I just need to go back in, tighten it up, and fill out some additional material. My writing space is closed again tomorrow, so I'll go to the library and check out some additional sources for the Mexico section in the comparative-perspective chapter.

Cathy's new job started off well. Her commute is a lot less, so we don't have to get up quite so early in the morning. That's clearly going to make a big difference in quality of life.

The Euro 2008 soccer championship started this past weekend, and although it's not as exciting as the World Cup or the South American championship, I'll still follow along. You won't see a cooler goal than this all year. The clip doesn't capture the whole play, which started when a Dutch defender saved the ball on his own goal line, ran two-thirds the length of the field flat-out, picked up a pass on the fast break, and lined up a perfect cross. The more I think about it, this may be one of my top-5 favorite goals of all time - definitely in the team-effort category. As one of the Dutch banners read, Hup Nederlands!

Friday, June 6, 2008

A whole new level of Zen

It's been a little more than a year since I started this blog. At the same time as I began posting, I started a daily ritual of spending 30 seconds at the end of each day standing at the landing in front of our building and looking out over the park and the river. Just emptying my mind of the day and appreciating the beautiful environment in which I live.

Over the weeks and months, I observed how the little patch of land directly before me would change incrementally with the seasons: foliage blooming, falling, laying dormant for months and then suddenly, rapidly reviving at the end of March; the migratory patterns
of geese and ducks who liked to congregate on the park lawn, even as it was covered over for the winter; the changing flows of foot, bicycle, and boat traffic; the many breeds of apartment dogs popular in our neighborhood.

It's been a wonderful experience, and I'm glad I did it, but lately, I've grown restless. Everything is in bloom, and the park is always full, but it all feels the same, or too much.

So the other day, I decided to ascend to a whole new level of Zen. I started going up to the roof deck for my nightly ritual. It's a 40-story building. I should have enough in my visual field to keep me occupied for quite some time! But I go up there knowing what I know about my one patch of land, right out the front door of our building.

Cathy and I are upstate for a couple of days before she starts her new job on Monday. The event for my giving circle on Wednesday went really well, thanks to a great team effort, and I had a good job interview earlier that same day. Next week holds many things, as I make a big final push on the diss, Cathy starts a new job, and I hear back about two job prospects.

See you next week!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


1.5 hours writing, 4 hours researching, page count = 230

Toggled today between reading secondary sources for the U.S. comparison in the conclusion, on which I made more writing progress, and fleshing out the third of six Antioquia episode in Chapter 4. I think I have a decent draft in place of that third episode, and can move on to the fourth one, even as I continue working on the U.S. comparison.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Mataron a Gaitan

1 hour writing, 4 hours processing data, page count = 227

Worked on the third of the six episodes in the Antioquia chapter today. This is the one about the aftermath of the April 9, 1948 assassination of populist Liberal leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan. Antioquia was generally pretty quiet compared to other states, so I've needed to bring in episodes from those to flesh out the Antioquia story, but there are actually a couple of interesting stories that go on in Antioquia itself. I find myself returning to the rich sources that I mined at the state archives in Medellin last fall. It seems so long ago now, but the detail I was able to gather is the gift that keeps on giving.

Tomorrow I'll finish up episode 3 and go back to the library to work on the U.S. and Mexico comparisons.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

America continued

1 hour writing, 6 hours researching, page count = 225

This is for Friday and Saturday together. I've been busy with last-minute preparations for the panel I'm organizing for my giving circle last week, and it seems to be on track. I've also been pulling together references for the interview I had on Wednesday, as they want to continue talking with me. Good news!

I did some work on the third of six episodes in Chapter 4. I need to dig up some more Antioquia-specific information in the data I've already gathered, as most of what I have written now has to do with relevant things that took place in other states.

I also spent some time in the library going through secondary sources about the U.S. comparison. The big difference between my case-study on Antioquia and the stuff on the "in comparative perspective" chapter is that for the latter, I rely on secondary sources, while for the former, I also do primary research. So for the U.S. comparison, I've been enjoying going through some of the best work on American political development, which is a really interesting field that looks at the impact of historical patterns of institutional formation on U.S. politics. Right up my alley.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

America, America

1 hour writing, 3 hours researching, page count = 225

Decided to switch things up, and instead of continuing with the remaining four episodes in Chapter 4, I skipped ahead to Chapter 5 and the Conclusion, and began gathering cites for the Mexico and U.S. comparative sections. I already have something written on Mexico, and am fleshing that section out. The U.S. piece I need to do from scratch, but I got some excellent advices and cites from two Berkeley professors who study American political development, so that was a head start.

The U.S. has some interesting similarities with Colombia in the 19th century, including a stable two-party system, a continually expanding frontier (in the U.S. out toward the Pacific, in Colombia in toward the Andean mountain ranges and valleys), and a significant episode of civil war in the early 1860s. It's been interesting reading in another literature entirely and thinking about how to make the connections.

Tomorrow, I'll get back to the Chapter 4 episodes.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


7 hours writing, page count = 222

And the hits just keep on coming. Having drafted a new section on Antioquia for the La Violencia chapter yesterday, I focused today on tightening up the sections focusing on empirical analysis of Antioquia. This involves tightening up what's already there, adding some summarizing language that guides the reader through why I choose the details that I choose to highlight, and going back through the data I gathered last October to cull a few more gems of detail to put in there. Today I got through two of the six episodes I study in the chapter, and will start in on the other four tomorrow.

My job interview this morning went well, they say they're early in the process, so we'll see how it goes. I should hear in a week or two. I feel like I did a good job answering the questions and explaining how I'd be a fit for the organizational culture and the position. All you can do, really.

The blistering writing pace continues. Onward tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


page count = 219

Now that's more like it! It's been a very busy 10 days since I last posted. We had a great trip to the Bay Area for my commencement ceremony. Here's a pic with my very silly Harry Potter-style regalia. I was really grateful to have my family and friends with me on the day. Thanks guys!It was a lot of fun.

And it lit a fire under me to finish this thing! I'm going to file in the summer session, which formally started today, but ever since commencement, I've been writing like a man possessed. I wrote last week while still in Berkeley, I wrote on the plane, I wrote for 10 hours yesterday (Memorial Day!), I wrote for another 5 hours today - and it's generating a lot of great results. I have revised versions of Chapters 2 and 3, and I'm now working on Chapter 4, the Antioquia case study. It's the biggest one of all, and I have a fair number of things to add based on data I've already gathered, but I got a good start today by pulling together an intro section on Antioquia that justifies the choice of that particular state for my case study and introduces relevant context for the empirical work that follows.

As if that weren't enough, things are going well - and busily - on the job and volunteer fronts. I have a probably final interview for one job on Friday, and a second interview for another tomorrow. It's looking fairly promising, let's see how I feel tomorrow. On the volunteer front, I've been putting together a speaker event for my giving circle, which is next Wednesday, June 4. I'm really excited about the program, and we have a conference call with the speakers tomorrow morning, after my interview. More details to follow.

This past weekend, we went to a cool flea market in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, near where my sister used to live, because some of the vendors from the Red Hook Ball Fields were there. I had a carne asada huarache, which was basically well-made, but needed like a salsa or something. The flea market itself was super-cute, and I picked up a couple pair of vintage cufflinks on the cheap.

After seeing the new Indiana Jones, I went back and watched the first three to see how the new one fit into the overall series. Pretty well, I have to say. The first hour-fifteen are great, and then it all falls apart in the last 45 minutes. I was surprised to find myself liking the second one in the series, which most people hate, and which I don't think I'd seen it since it came out. The whole thing got me to thinking how lucky I was to be born a boy in 1973. These are the movies that came out between when I was 5 and 9 years old: Star Wars, Superman, The Empire Strikes Back, Superman II, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. They really don't make 'em like they used to. Although Iron Man got kind of close.

Anyway! I seem to have a lot to say; hmmm, maybe I should actually try posting on a daily basis - what a novel idea....

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Greetings from the Bay Area

page count = 195

I've been writing in bits and pieces over the past few days as a number of different things happen. Cathy and I flew out to the Bay Area yesterday. My phone interview on Wednesday went well, and I had an in-person follow-up (in San Francisco, even though the job will be in New York) yesterday that also feels like it went well. We'll see how that all goes.

I'm in town to walk in my department's commencement ceremony on Monday. My outfit is deeply, deeply silly, very Harry Potter-ish. I half expect them to put the Sorting Hat on my head during the ceremony. But my family's in town, and some friends will be joining us for the reception, so it should be a good time. Then I'll be here through the end of next week meeting with my advisors and continuing to advance.

I'm about halfway through revising Chapter 2, and it's going well. That one was always fairly solid; it just needs some re-organizing. Onward!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sweet freedom

5 hours writing, page count = 191

Well, a lot of good things happened today. I got a phone pre-screen for the job app I applied for on Friday, my sports doctor told me I only have to go to physical therapy one more time and then I'm done, and I sent what feel like penultimate drafts of Chapter 1 and the Preface to my advisors. Woo-hoo!

I also got a nice shout-out from New Voices in Philanthropy for my Council on Foundations conference coverage. And plans continue apace for the June 4th VPF event, which you can see more about here. This week is kicking ass so far!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Out, damned germ!

page count = 189

I've been fighting off a cold ever since I got soaked on the first Saturday of Jazz Fest a couple of weeks ago, and this week the bill really came due. I managed to do a little writing in the past couple of days, but not very much. Cathy has an event tomorrow, so I'll come back in and give it another shot.

On the job front, I submitted another job application today, and found another position for which I'm interested in applying that could be a good fit. I've been doing a lot of philanthropy-related blogging this week (I actually had someone say to me last night, "are you the one who was blogging from the Council on Foundations conference for Tactical Philanthropy?"), and today I posted some final reflections on the CoF conference on VPF's own blog, Doing Giving Differently. I also followed up on a thread on foundation transparency at Tactical Philanthropy with a comment of which I'm quite proud. And finally, I confirmed a date and venue for the next VPF event, which will be June 4 at the Foundation Center. Whew! Looking forward to the weekend. Have a good one!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Sentences of awesomeness

4 hours writing, page count = 187

One of my favorite blogs, Marginal Revolution, has a running feature, "Sentences of X," that highlights noteworthy points in articles or papers (as opposed to highlighting the whole article or paper). The X can be interest, wisdom, provocation, sadness, etc. Well, today I've been writing sentences of awesomeness as I wrestle the latest draft of the intro to Chapter 1 to the ground. The hardest thing is to begin, and I'm struggling mightily to create the right point of entry into my argument. I'm feeling really good about where I've gotten today.

But the question is, where have I gotten to over the past week? The last month I've been posting sporadically because I've been home only sporadically. On Sunday and Monday I was in the Washington DC area at the Council on Foundations philanthropy mega-conference, representing my giving circle, networking busily, and doing some guest blogging at While fighting off a cold, which I'm still doing.

On the job front, I didn't get the job I interviewed for a couple of weeks ago, but I'm talking with them about maybe doing some consulting over the summer. Had a phone pre-screen for another job today that I thought went well, and am going to submit at least one more application this week, as well as speak with another potential consulting client.

Onward toward graduation!

Thursday, May 1, 2008


4 hours writing, page count = 190-something

Whoops, tomorrow turned into the next day. Today, I focused on teasing out the mechanisms that I had made largely implicit in Chapter 1 regarding the relationships of control within a security-force configuration, working on a sharper articulation of what's distinctive about the Colombian party system, and specifying the impact of police vs. army professionalization. Tomorrow I'll put those new pieces in play and continue reordering Chapter 1.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Well, it's been a very interesting three weeks. I spent a very stimulating few days in Minnesota at a foundation strategic planning meeting, then traveled the next week to Berkeley, where I got great feedback at the department seminar, which I've been incorporating that. I'm continuing to actively pursue job opportunities. My giving circle chose the environment as its issue topic this year, and I'm putting together a speaker event next month to discuss it. Cathy and I spent a great few days' vacation in New Orleans for Jazz Fest this past weekend. Lots going on! I'll post more tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


3 hours writing, page count = 203

All right! I finished a set of revisions to Chapter 1 and sent it off to a colleague for comments. By next Monday, I'll circulate a polished version to my colleagues for seminar at Berkeley next week. I'm looking forward to feedback!

Thanks to this "week's" monitor, Geordan Drummond, in Philadelphia. I'll post again next week from Berkeley.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Moving around

4 hours writing, page count = 204

This includes time on Friday and today.

Incorporating the new data has required moving some other stuff around in Chapter 1, but it's been useful. After playing out how the measures of security-force configuration worked including population data, I'm satisfied that my comparative framework I'm going to send the chapter out for feedback tomorrow in advance of next week's seminar.

In other news, I ran last week for the first time in five months. All those weeks of physical therapy on my heel and shins (three hours a day including travel time, twice per week) have paid off. It felt great to run again. I'm starting off easy for the first few weeks, on doctor's orders, and am still going to PT in case anything flares up. First three times, nothing so far....

The next three weeks are going to be interesting. This week, I'll be in Minnesota Tuesday through Friday morning; a foundation out there invited me to participate in a strategic planning "design lab." Then on Friday, I meet with the interim executive director at the job for which I'm applying for the permanent ED position. Then, the actual interview takes place next Monday. The next day, Tuesday the 15th, I travel to Berkeley. I get back home Saturday the 19th. The following Wednesday the 23rd, we go to New Orleans for Jazz Fest, returning Monday the 28th. All that to say, my posting will be sporadic this month, and I'll be playing it by ear as far as monitoring. I'll post again tomorrow, and then again on the 16th after my seminar presentation.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Back on the horse

1 hour writing, 3 hours analyzing data, page count = 204

Well, I've started updating the revised Chapter 1 with the analysis from all the budget data I've gathered over the past month. There's a lot to be said - and quite a bit to be taken out, so I'll be at this for a couple of days. But it's good to be back writing again after so long in data-collection and analysis mode. Although what I'm writing will be so much richer because of this additional data....

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Investment vs. participation

1 hour planning travel, 3 hours analyzing data, page count = 203

So my two trips to Berkeley are set. I'll be there April 15-19 to present the revised Chapter 1 and meet with my advisers, and May 16-23 to graduate, get my dissertation signed, and file (in that order). It's exciting to have an endpoint defined. Here's to a productive six weeks!

The MPR and PPR data has been very helpful in rethinking the mechanisms. Countries are aligning much more like I expected them to when those two figures are taken into account, but I'm still figuring out what the mechanisms there are. There are two measures: budget share is about state investment, and MPR/PPR are about societal participation. Tomorrow I need to think (and write!) about those two phenomena and how they interact to produce the outcomes that interest me.

I also spent a couple of hours job-hunting; there are quite a few interesting-looking positions out there, and I plan to submit a few applications on Friday.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


2 hours compiling data, 1 hour emailing and planning travel, 2 hours analyzing data, page count = 203

Finished compiling force data for Peru and Bolivia. I'm now only missing Brazil army and police and Ecuador police for the endpoint of state formation. But for now, that's enough to work with.

As I suspected, adding in population size does make a difference. The military and police participation ratios (proportion of male population in the army and police, respectively) appear to have a relationship with regime outcomes, and in the direction I'd anticipated. But I need to take apart my measure of regime outcomes and make sure that's capturing what I want it to as well. An encouraging sign, anyway.

Still trying to figure out the right length for my May trip to Berkeley for graduation and filing. I may be able to cut a few days off the back end and be home for Memorial Day weekend, but I don't know for sure yet. TBD, hopefully in the next day or two.

Monday, March 31, 2008

An even more laden cart

1.5 hours compiling data, 3 hours analyzing data, 0.5 hours emailing and planning travel, page count = 203

Welcome to this week's monitor, Geordan Drummond, in Philadelphia!

The count includes some time on Saturday. I had requested some Uruguayan ministerial reports from the main branch of the library a few weeks ago, and they arrived - all 69 volumes! It wasn't clear from the catalog which years they had, so the very helpful librarian sent over everything in the date range that interested me from off-site storage. As it turns out, only 24 of them are relevant or potentially relevant for me, which is still a considerable amount. Unfortunately, I left my laptop adapter at the library that afternoon, and didn't realize until this morning. Fortunately, they still had it at the reference desk, although it was impossible to determine that before by phone. At least the trip wasn't wasted.

So I've started analyzing all the data I've compiled over the last several weeks, and some interesting things are emerging. The relationships are not what I expected them to be, which generates a lot of questions: Are what I've compiled the right measures? Did I take the right endpoint for the state formation process? What are the mechanisms that connect security-force configurations and regime outcomes? I have to rethink a lot of things; what's interesting is that there does appear to be a relationship cross-nationally, but not in the direction I anticipated. Intriguing. And Colombia looks militarized by this particular measure, which leads me to believe there's something I'm missing. There are two directions I'll pursue: one is identifying if I have the right end-date for state formation. For some countries, I feel good about the 1910-14 range. For others, it may have happened later. The other is to incorporate population size, so I can get a sense of militarization per capita and not just in absolute terms. Since the countries in question have a wide variation in terms of population, that may be distorting this particular measure.

In any event, I ought to have enough to process this information and write it up this week so I can send along the revised Chapter 1 for comments in anticipation of participating in the department seminar at Berkeley on April 16th. As you'll see from the updated header, I'm now projecting to finish and file in May. Graduation is May 19th, although technically I will file in the summer semester (when it's much cheaper), which starts on May 28th. The end is in sight!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Just call me Cap'n

6 hours compiling data, 1 hour researching, emailing and planning travel, page count = 203

This is between yesterday and today.

On the career front, it's now down to three people they're considering for the job I've been interviewing for, and my next interview is on April 14th. Fingers crossed! Had a good conversation yesterday with a colleague who works at a philanthropic-advisory group. Also spoke today with another colleague who saw of my writing on other (philanthropy) blogs on diversity in philanthropy and wanted to follow up for a project she's working on. I guess I'll be commenting on that publication when it's published online.

I've set my next trip to the Bay Area for April 15-19, and have reached out to a number of friends from the foundation and nonprofit world there with whom I'd like to get together.

On the data front, I've now completed Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela. I'm a stone's throw away from completing Bolivia. That leaves Peru, for which I've requested the missing data for Monday, and Ecuador and Brazil, the latter of which are vexing me in terms of finding hard numbers on troop size. However, once I finish Bolivia and fill in Peru, I'm going to say "good enough" as far as the draft that I can share in advance of my trip. That means next week I will analyze all this data, make appropriate changes and updates to the revised Chapter 1, and FINALLY have that bad boy done and out for comments. Whew! Fleshing out the comparative framework has turned out to be quite the undertaking, but I've learned a ton and will have a lot to discuss both in Chapter 1 and in the "in comparative perspective" chapter. The remaining changes are going to be relatively easy after this.

Thanks to this week's monitor, Cathy Sumner. That brings to a close "Family Month" on It Takes a Village. Thanks to Cathy, my sister Allison, my mom Gloria, and my dad Hugo for seeing me through this data-crunching phase! Up next is Geordan Drummond, in Philadelphia. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Crunch crunch

4 hours compiling data, page count = 203

Got a bunch of new sources on my now absurdly over-burdened cart on the library. The end is in sight: I got through Ecuador and Mexico, and have Peru and part of Colombia left tomorrow. After that, I'm going to call it "good enough for a draft" and incorporate the new data into the revised Chapter 1.

I'm also planning my next trip to Berkeley for the week of April 14th. Exciting!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Field trip

1 hour meeting, 4 hours researching, 2 hours compiling data, page count = 203

Despite the many sources on my cart at the NYPL - and a bunch more that arrived today - there are still some texts that simply aren't available there. Thanks to the beauty of WorldCat, to which the NYPL helpfully provides a link from its research catalog, I was able to track down the 1909-10 budget for Mexico. This is an important document for me, as it's on the eve of the revolution, so I'm very interested to compare the relative budget and troop strength of the army and police. The catch: it's only held locally at the Princeton library. Luckily, a week's guest pass for a grad student from another institution is very reasonably priced, so it was time for another field trip.

As it happened, the Latin American Studies center at Princeton was having a mid-day seminar on Colombia, specifically the situation of demobilized guerrillas and paramilitaries. And I was able to have lunch with Villager Val Wang. The day was all lined up, but as usual, life interferes. After I hustled to make an earlier train from New York, the "dinky" shuttle from Princeton Junction to Princeton left me and a couple of other people on the platform, high and dry. That was really the only blip, though. The next dinky got me to campus just in time for a very very interesting seminar on Colombia's demobilized combatants. The speaker, an anthropologist, argued that we need to understand demobilization not from the national level where peace settlements, but from the local level, where the demobilized have to live alongside the victims of their crimes. Her work was to understand the motivations and prospects of the demobilized, and her argument was that we need to take into account the twin cultures of masculinity and revenge within which these (mostly) men operated, both as combatants and afterward. After all, economic incentives are never going to be enough to get people to stay demobilized; they can make much more money in the drug trade. So the incentives will have to be non-monetary, and for that, we have to understand what motivates these men, and based on this researcher's work, being seen as a desirable man is a big part of that. In a context of war, that means owning a gun and helping to maintain order in a culture of impunity (the vast majority of crimes in Colombia go completely unpunished). Fascinating stuff.

After a great lunch with Val, I hit the library, which is charmingly old-school (there are coathooks, akin to the ones in old-timey pubs, on the outside of the study carrels). The 1909-10 Mexico budget was there, but in an unexpected surprise, so was the 1879-80 one; the closest I had found to my target "before" date of 1880 at the NYPL was 1894-95. That's the beauty of being able to wander open shelves: the serendipitous find. I never would have thought to search for "history of public finances in Venezuela" in an online catalog, but lo and behold, there was a forty-volume set on the Princeton shelves right near a Colombia source. As it turns out, the NYPL has it too, but it would have taken forever to have found it, if at all, when one's only access to the shelves is through the catalog.

After a productive day, I just made the dinky, and connected to my train home with no problems.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Serenity now

2 hours researching, 4 hours compiling data, page count = 203

This week's monitor is my lovely wife, Catherine Sumner. Welcome!

Oh my Lord, research can be frustrating sometimes. I'm grateful that the NYPL has lots of historical Latin American sources, but sometimes getting access to those can be mighty difficult. After very efficiently identifying a number of useful offsite sources that will complete the 19th-century budget picture and requesting them this morning, I spent basically the whole afternoon getting two sources. The problem was they were on microfilm, in two different locations, and hopelessly mislabeled in the catalog. In fact, I never really found the first one, which was supposed to be an 1876/77 budget for Venezuela. Instead I found the defense budget for that same period. Fine, that'll do, but I still need to track down the police and overall budget. Anyway, I didn't have anything on Venezuela before, so this is progress. I also gathered information on Peru, though I still need to process it. Happily, the sources I requested this morning will be available tomorrow, so that's exciting.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Three-day workend

8 hours compiling data, 2 hours emailing and planning travel, page count = 203

This was cumulative time worked on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Had an interesting, long conversation on Friday with a financial planner I met at an event a few weeks ago about his work, future plans, and whether we might be able to work together. Intriguing.

The next six to eight weeks are going to be extremely busy and full of travel, and I tried to sort some of that out on Friday, to only partial avail. Lots of variables: I need to go to Berkeley; a second interview for the job I discussed on Wednesday would take place in mid-April; I've been invited by a foundation in Minnesota to take part in a strategic planning "design lab" the second week of April; we're going to Jazzfest in New Orleans the last week of April; we're going to Philadelphia the first weekend in April. Oof! It'll all work out in the finish, I'm sure, but this is about to get very interesting!

I got in touch with my two main advisers and tentatively set a presentation at the Latin America research seminar and a couple of meetings for April 1-3; that may need to move back, but for now, I'm aiming to have as much done as I can for that timeframe.

To that end, I'm nearing completion on the 19th-century force data, completing Uruguay and Paraguay in the past few days. I have Peru, half of Mexico, and Venezuela to go.

Thanks to this past week's monitor, Gloria Cardona! This week's monitor (starting Monday) will be my darling wife, Catherine Sumner. Hope you had a good weekend!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mental health day

Well, I was just exhausted after Wednesday's excitement and all the commotion leading up to it. I took today to recuperate, and will be ready to go tomorrow morning. I did reach out to two of my advisors about setting up my next trip to Berkeley in April.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Three for three

2 hours compiling data, 1 hour planning, page count = 203

Whew! What a day. My interview went well this morning, I feel like I prepared well and answered the questions completely and with some style. Then I worked with a colleague to submit a panel proposal for the 2009 Latin American Studies Association conference. (They make you submit these things so early....) It's a great-looking panel about army, police, and security reforms in Latin America. We have a mix of established scholars and grad students covering a wide range of topics. It came together very well in a short amount of time, my colleague and I were pleasantly surprised at how smoothly it went. This will be a good way to continue scholarly engagement with my topic after I'm done with the dissertation.

I worked on compiling the force data to complement the budget data, and get a more nuanced sense of how different countries balanced their police and armed forces. I had a bit of a hiccup while working on Paraguay: the police levels for 1915 looked way too low, representing a huge drop from my other datapoint, 1907. It didn't make sense, so I went through temporally nearby records for 1911, 1913, and 1919 before realizing: D'oh! I had just missed a section in the 1915 documents. Once I included that, it all made sense again. Whew! It really does feel like detective work sometimes, you need to look at the figures with an investigative eye, ask if everything makes sense in a common-sense way. Anyway, that took longer than it needed to, but I'll continue tomorrow.

The VPF spring kickoff event was a big success. We had a great turnout on a rainy night, lots of new people came, we kept our remarks short and sweet, there was a good energy in the room. I hope we'll see a number of new people joining soon; the follow-up strategy will be very important.

All in all, a fun, successful, and exhausting day!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

For God's sake, subtotal!

4 hours compiling data, page count = 203

What an amazing speech Obama gave today. I'm so impressed with the way he took the discourse to another level.

Busy getting ready for tomorrow's two big events, my job interview in the morning and the VPF event in the evening. Both had some last-minute preparations to take care of, but I feel good about both.

Finished compiling the data on relative funding of army and police. It certainly wasn't what I expected, so the plot has thickened interestingly. I think the troop levels will tell me a lot more, but that requires more slogging through the budget documents. Today was slow going, as Uruguay and Peru didn't subtotal in the police section, requiring line-by-line calculations from 30-page sections. Not fun, but useful.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Busy week

3.5 hours compiling data, page count = 203

This week's monitor is my dear mother, Gloria Cardona, in Milwaukee. Welcome, Mom!

Good start to a very busy week. I have a second job interview on Wednesday morning, and an event for the NYC Venture Philanthropy Fund, the giving circle in which I'm involved, that night. I've been doing a lot of background research for my interview, including putting together my references and learning more about the field of youth organizing. It's been an interesting process, no matter the ultimate outcome.

Continued compiling the 19th-century budget data. I got through Mexico and Paraguay, and now have Uruguay and Venezuela to go. Some interesting and unexpected things are coming up, and it'll be fun to piece it all together and see the general trends.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Saturday afternoon

3 hours compiling data, page count = 203

Ended up going to the library today and continuing with the 19th-century budget documents. I went through Chile and Ecuador. I resolved to capture the troop info to process later, and to focus on getting the more readily accessible budget data together first, so I can get an initial sense of how the countries compare to each other in terms of army-police balance.

Thanks to this week's monitor, Hugo Cardona. Next up is my mom, Gloria Cardona, in Milwaukee. Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Keep digging

2 hours researching, 2 hours processing data, page count = 203

I find myself spending as much time working on career stuff as on the dissertation today. Had a great lunch with a colleague who's a corporate grantmaker, and who had really good advice about choosing my next gig and planning for the future. Later, I had a good call with another colleague who's been both a community organizer and a funder, and she was really helpful too. I feel like I'm doing all I can to make this interview next week successful, and no matter what happens, the process is valuable and worth it in and of itself.

One of the many great things about the New York Public Library is that in addition to their vast collection - I visited my cart full of 19th-century Latin American budget documents again, finishing Bolivia, Brazil, and starting on Chile - they'll get you into local university libraries if they have a volume the NYPL doesn't. So this morning I went to the NYU library and consulted an extremely helpful sources on the history of Latin American party systems. I feel like that part of Chapter 1 is going to be rounded out pretty nicely, all things considered.

This evening I finally saw There Will Be Blood, the runner-up in this year's Oscar race. It's about an oilman in early 2oth-century California, and what he has to do to succeed. I dunno, I might have liked it better than No Country for Old Men. It had more of an ending, even if an odd one. Even being two and a half hours long, it didn't really drag. The music was very Kubrick-ian, including a jaunty classical piece over the closing credits just after something horrible and inexplicable has happened.

Since most of the movie is set during one of the periods I study in my dissertation, I found it interesting on that level. The sheer will that it takes to generate economic development when there's nothing to build on is always sobering. I guess that's one of the themes of my dissertation, the costs of order: there's never an easy choice, you can have internal peace with a strong army and militarized police, but be worried about a coup, or you can avoid coups with a weak army and politicized police, but be worried about insurrection. The characters in this movie made awful, impossible choices, but did plenty to get themselves into those messes in the first place. There's a metaphor in there somewhere, but it's beyond me to capture it right now....

I think I might go back to the library tomorrow and keep working on the budget data, so I won't sign off for the week just yet. Hasta pronto!

Thursday, March 13, 2008


4 hours processing data, page count = 203

You know you're a problem patron at the library when they have to label a cart with your name. My stacks of historical budget documents arrived at the library from offsite today, and I got through Argentina and 2/3s of Bolivia. It's definitely slow going. The budget numbers themselves are quick to get; but I'm also taking the time to get counts of the relative troop/agent levels for the army and police. It'll take a while, but it'll make a much stronger measure of the army/police relationship at the beginning and end of the state formation period. This is the one real hurdle I have left in terms of analysis, and tomorrow I'll keep leaping over it.

I also spent quite a bit of time today reaching out to contacts in my network regarding my interview next week, gathering background information. As my dad said in his comment, it's exciting to have these two aspects of my life moving along well. Add in a fun visit from Matt and Laura, who left this morning, and an event for VPF next Wednesday, and there's a lot going on! Spring is around the corner, with the promise of renewal....

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


1.5 hours writing, 0.5 hours researching, page count = 203

Busy day on the job front. I heard back from both of the interviews I did in the past few weeks. The first one was a no; that's fine, I had been concerned that it might not be a fit. The second was a yes to another interview. I'm one of six semifinalists, and my in-person interview with the selection committee is next Wednesday. I've been doing background research, and took two of those phone calls today, as well as setting up another one for Friday.

On the dissertation front, I spoke with the library and confirmed that my budget sources will be there tomorrow. So I'll be able to get into those then, and they'll hopefully be the last piece in the puzzle that allows me to send off the revised Chapter 1 to my main adviser. In terms of writing, while waiting for the new data, I polished some of the more newly-written sections, particularly the one on party systems.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Ensure peace, buy a donkey

0.5 hours writing, 3.5 hours researching, page count = 202

Identified, tracked down, and requested a whole bunch of historical budget documents for my comparative country cases at the library. The New York Public Library has an amazing collection, but many of the historical foreign sources are stored offsite, so those take a couple of days to arrive. In the meantime, I'm going through and making the final polish on the revised Chapter 1.

Read an interesting article on Uruguayan civil wars of the 19th century that points out something very relevant to yesterday's issue of army vs. police firepower. No one had much firepower in the 19th century, and in some respects, the point of civil war was not military victory, but to force the other guy to make a pact and concede you some political power. In Uruguay, this meant mobility, and mobility meant horses. Which side had the best horses generally won, and the fastest way to cripple your opponent was to attack his horse stable. For this reason, a newspaper advertisement in 1903 said, “To save the nation and obtain a splendid and positive profit, buy a magnificent purebred donkey." Peace through donkeys. If only it were so simple....

Monday, March 10, 2008

Lining 'em up

2.5 hours researching, 2.5 hours writing, page count = 202

Welcome to this week's monitor, my dear old dad Hugo Cardona, in Milwaukee!

Each day lately I move a little bit closer to a very concrete goal: completing a draft of the revised Chapter 1 so I can send it to my main advisor. It's now 50 pages, most of which are new, all of which have been revised several times since January. Today I filled in the smaller gaps, relating to some pending cites on Colombia, Mexico, and Paraguay. Now I'm really focused on some pending information on Uruguay, and some broader comparative data on the balance between the army and police in other countries besides Colombia. This is a new piece that one of my advisors encouraged me to focus on in December, so I'm gathering that information.

It's interesting, Uruguay turns out to be less straightforward than I had anticipated, but that may end up strengthening my argument rather than weakening it. The key moment was when I lined up prevalence of coups and prevalence of insurrections after the end of the state formation period (1910), developed a measure for each, and then compared them. The rank order looks a lot like what I would expect it to be given my hypothesis of the importance of security-force configurations. So it'll be interesting to see what happens as I get more information on the army-police resource differential.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Knife fight!

3 hours writing, 3 hours researching, page count = 202

I split up my time between Friday and Saturday. In terms of research, I went through a number of articles about crime and policing in Argentina and Uruguay, which are two of my key comparison cases. The Uruguay essay was a fascinating look at the masculine culture of duels in the Uruguay-Brazil border region. Key concept: the culture of masculine honor, enforced through duels, is in direct opposition to the state's effort to monopolize legitimate violence, expressed through the security forces. Important to keep in mind, as it's very reminiscent of what went on in isolated rural parts of Colombia during La Violencia.

In terms of writing, I’m very close now to a complete draft of the revised Chapter 1, which is the bulk of the changes I need to make. I need to gather a couple of additional cites on Mexico, Paraguay, and Uruguay, and confirm some information about comparative-case security forces, and I’ll be ready for a final polish and to send it off to my main advisor. Exciting!

I've been following up on my job interview from earlier this week, getting in touch with funders in my network to get their advice and insight. I had a particularly helpful conversation on Friday that really laid out the opportunities and challenges inherent in this position, if I move any further in the process. Fingers crossed.

Thanks to this week’s monitor, Allison Cardona! Next up is my father, Hugo Cardona, in Milwaukee. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Why you shouldn't let your animals loose on the street in 1890s Uruguay

2 hours researching, 2 hours writing, page count = 201

Continued with the background reading on party systems, incorporating some new data into that section, which includes a cross-regional comparison of electoral volatility, or the opposite of party-system stability. Colombia, as expected, is on the stable of the spectrum, and even more stable than some of the Southern European countries. But comparing two sets of data, it appears that the immediate trend, not just in Colombia, but in Latin America generally, is toward more volatility. I still don't understand how the Colombian party system fell apart so spectacularly 10 years ago, but perhaps the more relevant question is how it held together so long in the first place.

Also did some research on the police in Uruguay, which is turning out to be a pivotal comparison case. One of the sources was a police manual from the late 1800s. Normally, these are very dry compendia of regulations, but this one had an alphabetical list of things that were prohibited, by subject: "Animals--to let them run loose on the street. Games of chance--to play them." Presumably these were so officers would know what behaviors they had to punish. I'll have to go back and copy some of them down, they were great. "Blog entries--not to go on too long." Si señor!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Party systems

2 hours reading, 2 hours writing, page count = 200

I've been reading up on party systems to flesh out the theoretical part of Chapter 1. While parties are an integral part of the story, including them explicitly in the theoretical framework is a new development from my last visit to Berkeley, so I have some catching up to do. Luckily, there's a lot written on this topic, including a very interesting journal that's had good, cutting-edge articles in the past year that have been very helpful.

Colombia really does stand out among Western democracies in terms of its long-lasting, stable two-party system. The U.S., Uruguay, Costa Rica, Paraguay: these are some of the only other places that have had basically the same two parties for so long. It's a key part of why Colombia ends up on its own path in the 20th century in my framework, so I'm glad to flesh out this piece, which will make my work interesting to a broader audience of scholars who study party systems. In this, I'm very lucky that one of my committee members is a party-system scholar himself. So it works out well.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

All thumbs

1 hour reading, 2 hours writing, page count = 199

Made good progress in filling in the gaps in the comparative framework of Chapter 1 in two areas, 19th-century armies and party systems.

My job interview this morning went well; I hear at the end of next week whether there'll be a second one. As Villager Tanja would say, thumbs pressed! (Apparently, that's the German version of "fingers crossed.")

Monday, March 3, 2008

It's a family affaaaa-aaaair

1.5 hours reading, 0.5 hours writing, page count = 199

It's "family month" on It Takes a Village; the monitors for this month will be by sister Allison, my father Hugo, my mother Gloria, and my wife Cathy. Up this week is Allison Cardona, in New York City. She works for the ASPCA as their Director of Disaster Response, for which she was interviewed last week by the Today Show! Welcome Allison!

Continued working today on the comparative framework of Chapter 1, doing some background reading on Latin American armies during the 19th century to round out what I've written so far. I'm glad to see that a number of the points I've been developing are echoed in what I'm reading - which means I'm not crazy! :) The impact of international war on army development in the 19th century may be more complicated than I had thought, but I'm also questioning the assertions in one of the sources I'm reading, so it's been a productive process.

I had a doctor's appointment, which took up much of the afternoon. And I have a phone interview for a job tomorrow morning. Wish me luck!

Friday, February 29, 2008


2 hours researching, 1 hour writing, page count = 199

I worked on the comparative framework section of Chapter 1, focusing on background info on the 19th-century armies of the Southern Cone countries. Paraguay and Uruguay really do stand out as distinct. Paraguay's strongly militarized security forces have always been on the far end of the spectrum from Colombia's politicized security forces, but one analyst I was re-reading made a connection between Paraguay and Nicaragua as far as the personalism of their military regimes during the 20th century, how deinstitutionalized they were. Given that I have both countries in my "Colombia in comparative perspective" chapter, this gives me food for thought. But first, time to finish Chapter 1.

I also submitted a job application today, we'll see how that goes.

I'll have a new set of monitors next week. In the meantime, have a good weekend!

Thursday, February 28, 2008


3 hours writing, page count = 199

Made good progress today, finishing up revisions to the section on earlier interpretations of La Violencia. It's been interesting going back and taking a look at how different scholars summarize and analyze the same basic literature. I feel pretty good about my take on it, and can see clearly how I contribute and push things forward.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Clogged up

3 hours writing, page count = 199

It's been a slow week. I've been having a hard time writing; for some reason, this last push to finish the revised Chapter 1 has been difficult to get started. I've gone through and identified all the areas that I need to modify, thought about the sources that will help me do that, and begun a final polish. But it's not coming easily. I also had a really bad sinus headache this afternoon that took me out of commission. In the evening, I made some decent progress revising the section on party systems. Hopefully tomorrow will be more productive.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Otherwise engaged

I had a job interview this afternoon, so I focused today on preparing for that. It went pretty well, but it may not be a fit. I got some good ideas for preparing for the next one that comes up.

Then I had a couple of things I had promised to take care of for some colleagues in Colombia by today (commenting on a dissertation chapter and writing a reference letter), so I did those the rest of the afternoon.

I'll pick up again on the dissertation on Monday, monitor TBD. Thanks to this week's monitor, my lovely wife Cathy Sumner!

Thursday, February 21, 2008


3 hours writing, 0.5 hours planning travel, page count = 196

Well, I finished a complete pass through Chapter 1, which now has a logical flow from beginning to end. Originally 30 pages, it's now 44, with most of that being new content. Feels good. Now I need to go back and fill in the gaps and missing cites, give it one more clean-up, and I should be ready to send it to my advisors, probably early next week. Hooray!

In that spirit, I started planning for my two trips to Berkeley this spring: the first next month to get signatures, and the second in May for graduation and formal filing.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


4 hours writing, page count = 194

I continue to work my way through the last section of chapter 1, on the comparative framework. My main task today was to update a table on security-force configurations and regime outcomes with historical data. This means going back to work I did last summer and figuring out a way to communicate it succinctly. Also, I needed to think out very clearly how I measured the concepts and that the data was coded consistently. I'm nearing the end of that, and should be able to complete it tomorrow.

On another note, this is the single most interesting and useful article I've read so far this year. Completely resonates for me. Focusing on effort, not ability, is the key to success. Simple, but I can't hear it enough. Onward!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Beginning to end

3 hours writing, page count = 193

This week's monitor is my lovely wife Cathy Sumner. Welcome!

I finally finished connecting all the new material in Chapter 1. It now flows logically from beginning to end, 40 pages - of which at least 35 are new material since the New Year. Now I need to go through the last section, iron out the kinks, and then go back and fill in gaps in references or data. I'm debating whether to send a revised draft of the whole manuscript to all my advisors, or to send a revised Chapter 1 to my principal advisor first. I'm thinking I'll likely do the latter.

I submitted another job application last Friday, and I have a phone interview this Friday for another application, which I'm excited about. Wish me luck!

Friday, February 8, 2008


3 hours writing, 2 hours researching, page count = 191

Well, it's been a crazy week. Last night, we had a great "soft launch" for the New York City Venture Philanthropy Fund, a volunteer project I've been involved with for the past several months. Thanks to those of you who have contributed so far! We had a great turnout, and are planning three more events in the spring.

P.S. on yesterday's post. I can't believe I forgot to mention one of the most interesting parts of the march, at least as I experienced it: the absence of speeches. Put another way, its acephalic nature. People gathered at 127th St. and 15th Ave., and walked up 127th to where it T's at 7th Ave. Then they took either went north or south on 7th, and went home. There were no platform, mikes, megaphones, bandstands, speeches, politicians: none of it. Amazing.

That afternoon, I nipped down to the center and picked up a piece of data I hadn't been able to find here: town-level electoral data for the 1947 legislative election. These are key for my argument about the politicized allocation of security forces within Antioquia state, so I was glad to get those, and to begin processing them.

In terms of writing, I continued with Chapter 1, going through and tightening as needed. Coming back to it after a week away, I'm quite pleased with the first few sections, I think they're tight and flow logically. Visible progress is gratifying.

My job search continues, and I'll be submitting three more applications in the next couple of weeks. I have a phone interview coming up for an application I submitted a couple of weeks ago, which I'm looking forward to.

Next week, Cathy and I are meeting her parents in Vegas, and we get back late on Thursday. I may or may not post next Friday, but I'll be back the following week.

Thanks to this week's monitor, Josh Miles in New York. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A sea of white

I got back from Bogotá last night. Amidst our sadness, our family celebrated the long and full life of my grandmother Helena, whom we will all sorely miss.

She would have been proud this past Monday, when sandwiched between the Super Bowl and Super Tuesday, something truly remarkable happened. In the space of a month, a group of young Colombians convened, via Facebook, a February 4th march against the FARC, the primary guerrilla group involved in Colombia's 50-year civil war, that convened hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.

The FARC once had a genuine political project - their emergence at the tail end of La Violencia is about where my dissertation leaves off - but now they're a drug-running mafia that uses kidnapping and extortion to fund their activities and undermine the government by sowing terror in the population. They're not the only group using terror tactics in Colombia - the ELN guerrillas, paramilitaries, and just plain drug traffickers are part of the conflict as well. But the FARC are the largest and most visible.

They currently have 3,200 hostages, of whom 40-45 are high-profile "exchangeables," including 3 Americans and a former presidential candidate. Last fall, the FARC began discussing a "humanitarian agreement" to release some of the exchangeables (canjeables). President Uribe brought in his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez, a patron of Fidel Castro who's presumably closest to the FARC's end of the ideological spectrum (their ideology is entirely cynical at this point, but they publicly continue to avow far-left/Communist dogma), as a mediator.

In December, Chavez suffered a key domestic setback, as his effort to reform the constitution via referendum to permit him unlimited re-election was narrowly defeated. At around the same time, Uribe de-authorized him as a mediator with the FARC, because he phoned a Colombian general directly, a serious breach of diplomatic protocol. This was Chavez's opportunity to distract attention from his failure in the referendum. (When you're having trouble at home, create a ruckus abroad that everyone can get behind.) Chavez seized the opportunity, weighing in against Uribe and continuing to insist on a role in the release of three hostages, announced by the FARC for late December.

The three included a mother and her son, 3-year-old "Emmanuel," who had been born during his mother's 6-year captivity (you do the math). In late December, the FARC announced a postponement of the release, and Uribe responded by accusing them of not even having Emmanuel anymore. Which turned out to be true! They had essentially subcontracted the task of holding the child, and the "subcontractor" had taken him to a hospital for medical attention, where a state social-services worker took Emmanuel into custody based on concerns of neglect - but not realizing that the child was a hostage.

Ultimately, Emmanuel's mother and another hostage were released at year's end in the jungle to an international delegation, and flown directly to Caracas, where Chavez got what he wanted, a photo op holding Emmanuel in his arms, flanked by the other two released hostages. This fan and patron of Fidel had finally found his Elian Gonzalez.

A few days later, the favor was returned: Chavez argued that the FARC should be taken off the US and EU lists of terrorist organizations, and be given the status of "belligerent groups," which connotes that they're a legitimate party in a civil war with political aims. Which is just not true anymore.

It was in response to Chavez's assertions that a young Colombian created a Facebook group, "A Million Voices Against the FARC," on January 4, to show the public that the FARC did not have a legitimate social base, and were in fact repudiated by Colombians, undermining their claim to be a "belligerent group" and not a terrorist organization. Tens of thousands of people (including me) joined the Facebook group, and the organizers planned a march against the FARC for February 4. As it became clear that the march was going to be a big success, controversy over its framing erupted on the left, which opposes Uribe's authoritarian tactics. (Amid ongoing charges of human rights abuses, Uribe succeeded in getting the constitution reformed to allow for his immediate re-election, a profoundly undemocratic move carried out through democratic means.) It is indeed odd that the march should focus only on the FARC, and not address the ELN, or most importantly, the paramilitaries, the latter of which have been responsible for just as much if not more atrocities over the past two decades. For this reason, some on the left opposed the march. Others in the opposition saw the march, while having a worthy goal, as an implicit endorsement of the Uribe government and its policies. (Sound familiar, Democrats?) Families of the hostages distanced themselves from the march, fearing reprisals against their loved ones.

Despite these concerns, the turnout on Monday was massive. Hundreds of thousands of people turned up across Colombia, and in more than 100 cities around the world, to protest the FARC's terror tactics and to call for the release of the hostages and an end to kidnapping. My family and I participated in one of the five marches that took place in Bogotá, and pictures and video are below.

It was amazing to see so many people out, wearing white T-shirts that said "Colombia soy yo" (I am Colombia) on the front, and a series of slogans on the back superimposed on the colors of the Colombian flag. Interestingly, the messages on the back were not identical across the shirts. Mine says, "No more kidnapping, no more murders, no more lies, no more FARC." I actually prefer the version my sister has, which substitutes "No more terrorism" for "no more FARC." But I still wanted to participate in the march because even though other terror groups were not explicitly included, it remains true, as one of the chants on Monday went, that "Colombia without guerrilla would be a marvelous place" (Colombia sin guerrilla sería una maravilla). Such a beautiful country with such promise. Here's to a future with no more FARC, no more ELN, no more paramilitaries, and no more kidnapping.

Thursday, January 31, 2008


My grandmother Helena passed away today. I'm flying down to Bogotá tomorrow for the funeral, and will be back next week. Thanks to this week's monitor, Nicole Peterson, in Seattle.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Keep on keepin' on

2 hours writing, page count = 190

Not much to report today, continued working on Chapter 1. Sometimes when I'm getting nowhere at the computer, I take a break and write out the particular question I'm stuck on longhand. That was helpful today in figuring out what exactly about La Violencia I'm saying security-force configurations can explain: intensity, duration, scope? Definitely the last two, maybe the first. But the exercise of writing on a piece of paper helps, the arranging of the words not in lines like on a computer, but all over the page as needed, is helpful. I read an interesting article recently about embodied cognition, the notion that instead of treating the brain like a computer floating in a vacuum, we should think of it as an organic thing embedded in a larger organic system, the body. So maybe movements of the body are connected to "movements" in your brain - like gesturing when you're trying to work out a problem. Anyway, occasionally writing longhand is helpful in that way for me, especially with issues that involve a lot of variables and relationships.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Of handles and baskets

4 hours writing, 0.5 hours reading, page count = 189

The heat is rising near the forge in this glass-blower's studio, but the vase is starting to take shape. One of the handles is in place, and I'm getting ready to shape the other one.

In terms of reading, I continued with the Southern Cone explanation, focusing on Argentina. There's a fair bit of disagreement about when state formation actually took place there, whether earlier or later in the 19th century. I tend to think it's later, because the centralization process really is complicated and difficult, especially for cash-strapped countries. I'm still not sure I understand exactly why Argentina went from being one of the richest countries in the world a century ago - on a part with Australia and Canada - to an economic basket case by mid-century. Politics and recurrent military coups are part of it, but there's more going on.

Monday, January 28, 2008


4.5 hours writing, page count = 186

Welcome to this week's monitor, Nicole Peterson, in Seattle! Actually, Nicole lives on an island near Seattle that I think may be Bainbridge Island, but in actuality, I also picture as the scary island from The Ring.

I saw a documentary about the glass artist Dale Chihuly once, and as he - or his assistant, actually - was making a sculpture, he would create a central shape from molten glass, and as it began to cool, take a piece of molten glass debris, perhaps from a failed earlier attempt, and use it to create other parts of the sculpture, like a handle or a detail. That's what I was doing today: melting down debris from last week's blowtorching of Chapter 1 and reintegrating it in a new and prettier way. The throughline from the very first section is flowing pretty well, and I've nearly finished the connection to the comparative framework piece. Onward!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Party like it's 1899

3 hours writing, 1 hour researching, page count = 179

Continued with the reconstruction of Chapter 1. It went well today; I got through a section on explanations of La Violencia, and another on the definition of security forces. The use of literature definitely feels more organic. I'm starting to see more clearly the path from here to there, from disparate elements to a coherent whole.

In terms of research, I did a sidebar looking at party volatility in the 19th century, namely, the level of consistency in vote share for parties across elections. I'm not sure what to make of it, but there appears to be less evidence of two-party competition as far as presidential elections in the 19th century than I had expected. Nonetheless, the two historical parties, Liberals and Conservatives had relatively organized groups of partisans at a relatively early date. Worth pondering further.

Thanks to this week's monitor Diana Kapiszewski. Up next is Nicole Peterson, in Seattle. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Getcha hot links here

1 hour writing, 3 hours researching, page count = 174

A number of the historical sources on the Southern Cone countries that I'm consulting at the library I've had to request offsite, and a number of them came in, so I went to check those out. It had been a while since I'd worked with hundred-year-old ministerial reports, and they seem to have that musty smell and gothic cover font in Uruguay as well in Colombia. I found a state police chief report for a state in Uruguay, which was interesting in terms of the multiple sources he used to ask for more money. There's a clear link to the Ministry of Government, so it'll be interesting to see more about the relationship with the army. Uruguay continues to be exceptional. I also finished the chapter in Lopez-Alves about Uruguay; I'm not sure I necessarily agree with his take on the role of the army vis-a-vis the parties, but I need to read more about the army to know for sure. Luckily, one of the offsite sources was army ministry reports from the 1890s and 1920s, so that'll give me plenty to work with.

In terms of writing, I added on the first link in the chain connecting the very first section of Chapter 1 with the comparative framework, and it seemed to work well. Tomorrow I'll add another. Onward!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

[phooooo] [phooooo]

3 hours writing, page count = 173

The subject line is meant to be the sound of blowing glass. Today I continued working on Chapter 1. I've struggled with how to incorporate lit-review material. Not finding a fit, I took a step back and outlined what I wanted to get across in the chapter step-by-step. After a lot of back-and-forth, I think I found a decent way of making the lit-review material flow naturally into the discussion of the comparative framework. The trick then was how to make that combined piece flow logically out of the very first section. I had some luck with a different approach inspired by a fortuitous find.

One of my favorite blogs is Marginal Revolution, by the libertarian economist Tyler Cowen from George Mason University. Part of the post-Freakonomics wave of popularizing economists, he's written Discover Your Inner Economist (which I haven't read), and his trademark is being a cultural omnivore (his take on Cloverfield is spot-on). His blog, while it applies the principles of economics to everything under the sun (there's a running feature called "Markets in Everything"), almost never uses technical jargon beyond what you might read in the Wall Street Journal. As a result, it's consistently interesting. Earlier this week he linked to the interesting-sounding blog of Chris Plattman, a Yale polisci professor, who linked to a 10-point checklist for getting your academic manuscript ready to submit. Hmmm, timely! One of the suggestions was to go through and read aloud just your first sentences, which should on their own flow logically and tell your basic story. I took that advice one further and started mapping out my Chapter 1 topic sentences from the beginning. As a result, I improved the very first section, and think I've found a way to incorporate the lit-review/framework piece. I've begun doing that, and will continue in that vein tomorrow. Onward!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Forge heated up

2 hours writing, 1 hour reading, page count = 173

To continue with the fire-based imagery from the last post, I'm making like a glass-blower: when a piece doesn't work, you cut it off, melt it back down to malleable form, and start again. I took a step back and outlined Chapter 1 how it should flow, incorporating the lit review pieces organically, and making it about my argument rather than a bunch of sources. Feels good. Now to start implementing it.

In terms of reading, I focused on Uruguay, which is an interesting and ambiguous case within my comparative framework. It has a strong two-party system like Colombia, but is also more prone to coups. I need to learn more about the history of its army and police, especially in comparison to Argentina's and Chile's. It's an interesting country, basically created as a buffer zone between Argentina and Brazil after independence. So the role of international conflict obviously plays a much larger role in the 19th century than in Colombia, which after the separation of Ecuador and Venezuela in 1830, was pretty much left alone in terms of international conflict until 1903.

We visited our friends Geordan and Pattie in Philadelphia over the weekend. They've just moved to a new house, which is beautiful; we ate really well (the White Dog Cafe on the Penn campus is terrific, very locavore-y); and generally had a fun time. On the way down, however, I left my laptop adapter on the train. Grrr! The replacement should arrive tomorrow, but it was a chore trying to track a reasonable one down.

On the plus side, I had a good meeting with a colleague from my volunteer project, the NYC Venture Philanthropy Fund, and a productive PT session.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Blowtorch on

4 hours writing, page count = 173

Well, that was satisfying. I took a blowtorch to Chapter 1 and removed parts that just weren't working in their current form, principally the lit review sections. I need to go through those section and rewrite them in terms of debates that are going on in the field, rather than going through a laundry list of relevant concepts from which I pick and choose. It's slow going, but I continue to improve this pivotal chapter.

Thanks to this week's monitor, Marco Mojica! Next up after the long weekend is Diana Kapiszewski in Oakland (and soon Irvine!).

Thursday, January 17, 2008

6 vs. 2

1 hour writing, 3 hours researching, page count = 194

Continued researching Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, focusing in particular on Chile today. I have a few Chilean history texts from when I was originally going to have it be a full-fledged case for my dissertation, so I used those to cross-reference my reading at the library. What's striking about the Chilean 19th century is how early constitutional order was established, how orderly electoral succession was, and yet how much ferment there was within the party system: by the turn of the 20th century, there were six reasonably well-established parties competing for power, several of which had been in place for decades. I'm not yet sure what to make of the contrast between the stability-in-multiplicity of Chile and the structured two-party systems of Colombia and Uruguay at this time. Whatever the case, those all qualify as relatively strong party systems when compared to the disorder going on in Argentina at the time.

In terms of writing, I continue revising the comparative framework, and I have the feeling that tomorrow I'm going to make some significant changes: I see a very different way to organize Chapter 1 that will mean moving a lot of stuff around. We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The kid is back (again)

0.5 hours writing, 4 hours researching, page count = 196

Spent a productive afternoon at the library working on the Southern Cone comparison cases. The year 1890 is emerging as pivotal for the development of party systems in both Argentina and Chile; it's 1886 for Colombia, and around 1880 for Mexico. This supports my choice of 1880 to 1910 as the time period for looking at state formation and institutional design of security forces. One of the sources I consulted today included geography as one of the reasons for the differences between Argentina's and Chile's party system - I think what I add to that type of argument is a focus on political geography, on the spatial distribution of political actors. While Argentina is multipolar like Colombia (multiple population centers), there's a clear orientation toward Buenos Aires, which concentrates a huge share of the population, vs. several other provinces. The struggle is not as capital-centric in Colombia. It's interesting that Buenos Aires is the port; the analog for Colombia would have been to have had Cartagena or Barranquilla be the capital and concentrate power because of its connection to trade. I'm not entirely sure why this didn't happen, but I'd guess that it has to do with colonial settlement patterns, and the need to have a colonial capital that connects more easily to other Andean capitals like Lima. Anyway, the contrast is an instructive one.

I'm enjoying this comparative work, and will continue to pursue it tomorrow, as well as try to incorporate it directly into Chapter 1 in terms of writing.

P.S. Whoops! The initial version of this post had the page count as 146 instead of 196. Zoinks!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Southern Cone

1 hour writing, 4 hours researching, page count = 196

Didn't get a lot done these first two days, so I'm consolidating them into one entry. I continued revising the comparative framework section of Chapter 1, identified Uruguay as a case that needs special attention because it has both a strong party system and a history of coups rather than insurrection, identified sources, and began consulting them at the library. I also started incorporating a few sentences here and there that reflect what I've found in the library research on Argentina and Uruguay. It's becoming increasingly clear that the Southern Cone is where I need to do a lot of empirical exploration with regard to the comparative framework: in their own ways, Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay each speak to and challenge elements of my framework. So I'll continue along that path this week, rather than trying to hit all 10 countries at once.

P.S. Speaking of southern cones, there's a really good Argentine ice cream shop on Bleecker called Cones, it's BA-style gelato, which is extra-creamy. One of the many ways in which the Italian immigrant heritage has positively influenced Argentine culinary habits. Worth a stop.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The other '60s

1.5 hours writing, 2.5 hours researching, page count = 196

Tracked down a number of decent Argentina sources at the public library. The 1860s period was clearly key on a number of levels in terms of centralization efforts and the development of the military. Political parties just did not develop at a significant pace during this time, however. The contrast with Colombia is notable.

I'll continue with country-level research next week, but will set aside some time to continue revising Chapter 1 with the updated 3-step comparative framework I laid out earlier this week.

Thanks to this week's monitor Steve Boland! Next up is Marco Mojica, in Santa Cruz.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Don't cry for me

3 hours researching, page count = 195

Went to the New York Public Library to look up sources on Argentina. I was interested to learn that while the army was centralized in the 19th century, as I had expected, it wasn't until the 1860s, and it was through a very explicit series of reforms that brought together a couple of competing provincial armies. A very different experience from Colombia, which had one standing army but many private armies during the same period. I guess I would call Argentina's experience more of a centralizing one.

My trip to the library was interrupted by a physical therapy appointment: I have plantar fasciitis and shin splints from bad running technique, and PT actually ends up being quite time-consuming: two hours today. But I'm set for tomorrow with another set of sources to consult at the library.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


0.5 hours writing, 3 hours research, page count = 196

Well, I didn't get to the library today, but I did put together a table of the data I need to gather and identify sources at the NYPL for Argentina. Tomorrow I'll go to the library and begin consulting those and filling out the table, so I can gauge how well it's working before moving on to the other countries.

In terms of writing, I put yesterday's three steps into a chart and incorporated those into the manuscript. I've updated the preface to reflect the latest version, and now need to adjust Chapter 1 accordingly.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Step by step

1 hour writing, 0.5 hours administrivia, page count = 195

Little better today. I made some good progress on the comparative framework: I now have the three steps by which I get from 19th-century antecedents to 20th-century conflict more or less clearly laid out.

Step 1: 19th-century outcomes of international war (success or not) + political geography (centripetal or centrifugal) --> level of army centralization (high or low) going into state formation period (starts 1880)

Step 2: Level of army centralization + level of police centralization chosen (high or low) --> security-force configuration during 1880-1910 state formation (militarized or politicized)

Step 3: Security-force configuration + strength of party system during state formation (high or low) --> type of armed threat to which regime is characteristically susceptible in early to mid-20th century (rare coup, coup cycles, revolution, insurrection cycles)

The police centralization piece in Step 2 I'm still a little hazy on - I don't have much to say right now about what causes it, but it's a better concept than what I had before, which was, is a national/federal police created or not. Now I need to collate the empirical data to evaluate this for the non-Colombia countries. Some of it I have, some I need to gather.

I also tried to figure out the best timeframe for my trip to Berkeley next month: it looks like leaving NYC on President's Day (the 18th) and returning that Friday or Saturday may work best.

Tomorrow I'll make a table of the comparative data I need to collate/gather, and visit the library to begin gathering it.

Monday, January 7, 2008

False start

0.5 hours writing, 0.5 hours reading, page count = 186 plus 9-page preface = 195

Writer's block. Feh. Spent most of the day procrastinating. Started to work some on how to measure party-system strength during the state-formation period, I'll try to continue with that tomorrow and hopefully get some writing done. Tomorrow is another day!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Happy New Year!

After some needed R&R, I'm ready to get cracking again this coming Monday. Next week's monitor will be Steve Boland, in San Francisco.

Have a great weekend!