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!