Sunday, August 31, 2003

desperately seeking dahlia, part 2

(part 1 here, if you are new to JFW or need a refresher)

To: dahliahawkins67@[domain deleted]

From: "Michael Sullivan"
Subject: RE:Trial Period KTY!
Date: Fri, 29 Aug 2003 14:52:07 -0400
Our membership fee exists because it helps us advertise, research 

companies that do surveys and bring to you the best paying of them! We
update these companies every two months and maintain our website! The
membership fee also includes 24 hours excellent customer support from
specially trained consultants that will answer all your questions and help you
solve any problems that you encounter before, during, and after you
finish your surveys! You understand that all these services cost us a lot
of money and efforts!
Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to give you a trial period, 

because in order to explore our database, which contains valuable
information and use our services you have to pay in advance!
Best regards!!!
Mike Turner
I'm not sure why this guy's name has changed from "Mike Sullivan" in his first e-mail and in his address to "Mike Turner"; I'm presuming that he's in the middle of some kind of identity crisis. Or he could have married, I suppose. Anyway, here's Dahlia's response:
Date: Sun, 31 Aug 2003 17:21:32 -0700 (PDT) 

From: "Dahlia Hawkins"
Subject: RE:Trial Period KTY!
honey, you are playing hard-to-get with me, aren't you ;)  i'm NOT 

asking for a trial period. i understand why your membership fee exists.
if anything, with all the opportunities for MONEY you provide, i'm
surprised it's not higher!!! i'm just saying that back at the winkydog
restaurant we could use our first month's earnings to pay the start-up
expenses of a new job. i would be willing to pay you $40 instead of
$30 if you could take the money out of my first months earnings rather
than having to pay you before i start work. starting out here, money
is tight, which is the whole reason that i want to start making all kinds
of beautiful MONEY for and with you.
if that's not going to work, can i just give you my idiot half-brothers credit 

card information instead of mine. he owes me some money and doesn't
even look at his statements, so we could charge whatever we wanted to
it and get away with it.
smooch!  yours, dahlia
Stay tuned to see if we hear from him again.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

moving remarks

I got my comment card today for Two Men and a Truck, the company that helped me with my recent move. I chose them because I saw their truck moving someone else and liked the name. Dhani and Blaine, the two men who showed up with a giant truck, seemed confused about the plan to move things into their truck and from there into another motor vehicle (my RV), until I explained that the RV was currently sitting in a Long John Silver's lot with its engine blown. In the end, we had not just a good move but a hearty meal of Fish'n'More, and rousingly rang the Captain's Bell (their LJS's own version of a comment card: "if we did well, ring the bell") upon leaving.

I gave them top marks on the comment card. For "Would you refer Two Men and a Truck to others?" I filled in yes and added "on my weblog!" For how did you learn about us? I was pleased to see that they did indeed have a response category for Saw Trucks. But for "What is the primary reason you selected Two Men and a Truck?" they didn't have an appropriate box so I had to select "Other (specify)" and write in, "cute name! (albeit arguably sexist and suggestive of systematic and probably legally actionable gender discrimination)"

I bought a nice globe last night for the RV from the Rubin's scratch and dent store. I've been wanting a globe at least since Shelly B and I spent a whole meal at the Hubbard Avenue Diner playing with the globe they have there and especially after recently reading a biography of Mercator. The globe (a clearance model with no imperfections) was $120 and marked down to $90. I would have paid this price for it, but I was with a friend who also decided that she wanted a globe for her office and wondered if they would give us both the globes they had in stock for the price of 1. I never have the gumption to ask a store manager to cut a deal like that. She did, and he immediately went for it, revealing once again that I am someone destined to pay too much for everything except through the benign interventions of others.

Friday, August 29, 2003

another reason why i will never be governor of california

A graduate student and I are having a problem with flaky participation from a person that we need to press our project ahead (NO ONE affiliated with the UW sociology department). When the student sent me a message saying that this person had failed yet again to show up for something we had arranged, I confess that it was perhaps not the most professorial of me to reply "I think I now would like to kick [person's] ass." The reply from the student, however, provides a good indication of the aura of intimidation that I exude around here:
No offense, but I have a hard time picturing you kicking anyone's ass.
Although [person] wouldn't be much of a challenge, especially with his broken
leg. You probably could take him. I'm just having a hard time picturing
it. Although it would be amusing.

a new job for only $29.95

Message in my inbox last night:
Dear Student,
Are you interested in working part-time during the academic year? Would

you like to work during your free time? Would you like to get paid
between $5 and $100 for completing simple 10 to 25 minute surveys every
day? Would you like to earn between $50 and $200 for participating in 30
minutes to 2 hours on-line forum discussions?
If your answer to all these questions is YES, then I would be happy to

hear from you soon!
We offer you THE PERFECT JOB! Work from the comfort of your own

computer, determine your working time, express your opinion freely about
different kinds of products and services, and be paid well!
To start, you just need to have the willingness to share your honest

opinion, earn some additional cash, and have a computer with Internet
I am looking forward to hearing from you.
Michael Sullivan

Since I don't need this job (yet), I thought I would pass it along to Dahlia, who is always looking for cash. Sure enough:
michael -- ooh, this sounds exciting.  i'm definitely interested in doing 

surveys for money. i love surveys. and i love MONEY. let me
know what I need to do to start earning MONEY. dahlia.

Today in her inbox:
Thank you very much for your interest. 

Please go to our web page to get more info!
Looking forward to doing business with you!
Michael Sullivan

But, if you click on the website, you can see there is a catch to having all the cash start rolling in. Dahlia isn't about to pay up front, so she replies:
hi, michael.  the website says i need to pay you $30 before i 

can start making money doing surveys. when i worked at the
winkydog restaurant back in my hometown, i had to buy my own
uniform and winkydog hat, but it just came out of my pay rather
than me having to do it in advance. could we have the same kind
of arrangment with your company, where you'd just get the first $30
out of the surveys i do?
i really think i'd be a great survey-doer and sure could use the 

money. i appreciate your help.
love, dahlia

Dahlia says she'll let us all know if her new pal/prospective employer Michael responds.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

special creepy weblog contest #4

A reader from Creepytown, CT has returned from a trip home with a puzzle she wants me to pose to readers:
my sister delivered a baby to the morgue in the basement of the hospital
where she works. she and the nurse she was training were escorted by a
security guard. after they dropped off the baby, the guard told them that
they looked like it had been a rough day and that he could show them
something to cheer them up. deciding that there was safety in numbers,
they agreed to go with the guard. he led them to a door labeled "the rock
room." through the door was what appeared to be the air conditioning
room, but on the other wall was another door labeled the same as the
first, and it was through that second door that they went. inside the
room was a giant rock, clyindrical in shape, and as large as my
efficiency. the guard claimed that the hospital was built around the
rock becuase it could not be moved. this seemed suspicious to my
sister since it is possible to blast through mountains, etc.

my sister thinks that the rock is necessary for MRIs. perhaps they need
a giant rock for grounding or something to do with magnetism. i just
don't know. what do your readers think? does every hospital have a rock
Any ideas? E-mail me with your entries.

BTW: Speaking of rocks and my mother, there's this little detective game I play during my trips back home to the farm where I notice that something is out of place and must be where it is because it serves some new and ingenious problem-solving function, and then I have to set about figuring out what it is. For example, once when I came home there was this fist-sized rock sitting in the bathroom, on the edge of the bathtub. Since we wouldn't just have a rock in our bathroom for no reason, the game was on. The answer turned out to be that the bathtub drain had broken so that the little switch would cause the drain to pop up but not to go back down, and the rock was brought in so that you would put the rock on top of the drain when you were taking a bath (no showers on the farm) to keep the drain closed until you were done.

Update, 2:55: Another reader from here in Madison e-mails in:
speaking of connecticut, i just gave a girl a ride home from the post
office because she was struggling to bungee cord a giant box to the back
of her bike and was clearly going to be unsuccessful. we loaded her
bike and the box into my trunk and i drove her home. idle chit-chat
ensued and i asked where she was from (the box had stuff in it that
she had forgoten to mave back to madison). she said, "minnesota. you
are from connecticut." i was momentarily horrified that i had somehow
offered a ride to someone who was coincidentally also my stalker. then
i remembered i had old CT plates in my trunk.

i tell you what, you won't be laughing like a smart-aleck when you wake up sitting in a bathtub without a kidney to your name

(weblog author, right, with dear mother on recent trip)

I just got off the phone with my mother. I will be the first to admit, I should not have gleefully shouted "Ooh, watch out for those kidney thieves!" when she said she was going out grocery shopping. Anyway, after some discussion, we have agreed to disagree about whether the events described in the following message she had earlier forwarded to me actually happened (indeed, is happening right now in the United States) or are one of those so-called "urban "legends"".

-----Original Message-----

From: Ruth Freese
Sent: Thursday, August 28, 2003 10:49 AM
Subject: Fwd: Fw: Warning !!! Scary thing happening. Must read and pass it along
>This is a true story, it has been confirmed, the Medical Centre, in
>Sydney, phone number at the end of this story is real.
>This makes you never want to drink or pick up someone at a night out
>This guy went out on a Saturday night a few weeks ago to a party.
>He was having a good time and had a couple of beers and some
>girl seemed to like him & invited him to go to another party.
>He quickly agreed & decided to go along with her.
>She took him to a party in some apartment and they continued to
>drink,& even got involved with some drug (unknown).
>The next thing he knew, he woke up completely naked in a
>bathtub filled with ice. He was still feeling the effects of the drugs,
>but looked around to see he was alone. He looked down at his chest,
>which had "CALL 000 or YOU'LL DIE written on it with lipstick.
>He saw a phone was on a stand next to the bathtub so he picked
>it up & dialled. He explained to the EMS operator what the situation
>was & that he didn't know where he was, what he took, or why he
>was really calling.
>She advised him to get out of the tub. He did, and he appeared
>normal, so she told him to check his back. He did, he found two
>9 inch slits on his lower back. She told him to get back into the
>tub immediately, and they sent a rescue team over.
>Apparently, after being examined, he found out more of what had
>happened. His kidneys were stolen. They were worth $10,000 each
>on the black market.
>Several guesses are in order: The second party was a sham, the
>people involved had to be at least medical students & it was
>not just recreational drugs he was given.
>Regardless, he is currently in the hospital on a life support,
>awaiting a spare kidney. The university of Sydney in conjunction
>with the Royal Prince Alfred hospital is conducting tissue research
>to match the victim with a donor.
>I wish to warn you about a new crime ring that is targeting business
>travellers. This ring is well organized and well funded, has very skilled
>personnel & is currently operating in most major cities around the world
>and recently very active in Sydney.
>The crime begins when a business traveller goes to a lounge for
>a drink at the end of the work day. A person in the bar walks up as they
>sit alone and offers to buy them a drink. The last thing the traveller
>remembers until they wake up in a hotel room bathtub, their body
>submerged to their neck in ice, is sipping that drink. There is a note
>taped to the wall instructing them not to move and to call 000. A phone
>is on the small table next to the bathtub for them to call. The business
>traveller calls 000 who have been quite familiar with this crime.
>The business traveller is instructed by the 000 operator to very slowly
>and carefully reach behind them and feel there is a tube protruding
>from the back. The business traveller finds the tube and answers "YES".
>The 000 operator tells them to remain still, having already sent paramedics
> to help.
>The operator knows that both of the traveller's kidneys had been harvested.
>This is not a scam or out of science fiction novel. It is real. It is
>documented and confirmable. If you travel or someone close to you travels
>please be careful. Sadly, this is very true. My friend's husband is a Sydney
>EMT and they have received alerts regarding this crime ring. It is to be
>taken very seriously. The daughter of a friend of a fire-fighter had this happen
>to her. Skilled doctors are performing these crimes! which, by the way have
>been highly noted in the Brisbane area). Additionally, the military has received
>alerts regarding this.
>Michele Shafer
>DML/Lab Administration,
>Medical Manager Research & Development,
>99 Missenden RD,
>Sydney 2000
>Fax: (02) 94621505
>PLEASE forward this to everyone you know !

I would try calling the phone number listed, but I don't know how to make international calls on my office phone and am not sure how I could present it if the university-telephone-auditors come crashing through my door.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

reasons to despair about democracy, #469

MONTGOMERY, Alabama (CNN) -- Only one in five Americans approve of the federal court order under which workers removed the Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of Alabama's state judicial building Wednesday, according to a new poll.

as yet untitled

Ahoy! This is the first blog post written from my new abode. I am splicing a telephone connection into the RV from a house near the Long John Silver's south of town. Mmm mmm, can't get enough of that batter dipped fish.

Anyway, a regular reader from Kent, OH writes in to say: "one thing that i suspect goes under-noticed or under-appreciated are the titles that you come up with for your weblogs. how do you come up with the titles?..."

We appreciate the kind comment, but we here at JFW cannot take credit for our titles. Instead, they are generated automagically! All of the blog posts you read are first imported as ASCII data files into Stata 8.0, and then the add-on blogposttitle.ado command is run (with the "hip" and "pithy" options), which uses a complex gematriz-based algorithm and a library of thousands of candidate titles in order to figure out which one is just right given the text of the post and the hip demographic that is at the center of JFW's marketing strategy. Further details on the program can be found in the next issue of the Stata Journal.

outwardly mobile

I'm continuing moving today. As promised, I have thrown a lot away. Even so, I don't know how everything that remains is going to fit in the RV. I also don't know where I'm going to park the RV once I've worn out my welcome in the parking lot of the Long John Silver's south of Madison. Still, I feel like something of a rogue adventurer, akin to RV-driving surgeon Gonzo Gates (Gregory Harrison) on the old TV show Trapper John, MD.

penalty kick

I have been asked to post the following:
-----Original Message-----

From: Erin Maher
Sent: Tuesday, August 26, 2003 11:11 PM
To: Jeremy Freese
Subject: (no subject)
will you put out a notice on your blog to kick the ass of the woman on

my (yes, MY) soccer team that yelled at me and made me cry tonight.
thanks, mucho!
The staff at JFW would much appreciate if some reader in the Washington (state) area could take care of this for us.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

fast-food nation

A new reader from Ithaca, NY responded to my post about Hardee's by noting that her own favorite fast food restaurant, Taco Bell, "has been advertising the past year that it now uses fresh ingredients. Specifically, the chicken, beans and tortillas are supposedly fresh." So, you are left not only wondering what kind of rancidity you had been eating at Taco Bell prior to the past year, but also you have to wonder what you are getting when you opt for anything outside the chicken-bean-and-tortilla triangle.


I continue to be amazed at how quickly free books left in the hallway are snatched up here. Back when I had an office in the bowels of the building, where hardly anyone ever seemed to walk by, the books would still all disappear, eventually. I remember it took a teaching guide something like three weeks to go. Now that my office is located closer to the epicenter of sociological bustle, they all go and fast. Yesterday mid-morning I put out twelve books. By 4pm:

The remaining book was The Tangled Field, by Nathaniel Comfort, about the early geneticist Barbara McClintock. I wondered if that one would sit a bit out of people perhaps being less willing to take the last free book since they know it has been passed over by others. Nope, this morning when I got in it had also been taken.

Monday, August 25, 2003

no more cheap burgers

So on my still-not-blogged-about family trip this weekend, we ended up stopping at a gas station somewhere in northern Missouri and deciding to have lunch. My sister Peg wanted to go to Hardee's because apparently they have been running a marketing campaign advertising new thick Black Angus hamburgers (not watching TV shelters keeps me ignorant of such commercial blitzes). Anyway, given that I wasn't particularly hungry anyway and that the other option on this particular corner was McDonald's, I went along.

Hardee's appears to be trying some analogue of the a trick play a football team tries when they are down three touchdowns and can't otherwise move the football forward. Hardee's is betting everything on the Black Angus flea-flicker play. The placemat had this spiel about how instead of trying to offer many different things they have decided to focus on doing burgers well. So the only non BA "entree" on their menu is a chicken sandwich. No fish sandwich, no salads.* So, instead of diversification in terms of different kinds of food you can get, they have diversified in terms of the size and bun of the BA burger you can get: for sizes, 1/3 pound, 1/2 pound, and 2/3 pound.** That's right, without going to the kid's menu, the old large-sized hamburger--the quarter-pounder--is no longer large enough for the least ravenous Hardee's customer.

The most interesting part of all of this was that they had these big slogans on their placemat and on the windows basically apologizing for the Old Hardee's. One that I scribbled down was "THICKBURGERS. It's how the last place you'd ever go for a burger will become the first." Another window had "NO MORE CHEAP BURGERS" in large letters and explained that their burgers henceforth were necessarily more expensive since they were no longer using "lower quality meat."

One, this all conjured up an image of Hardee's executives getting the living bejeezus scared out of them by some marketing survey results that would lead to this kind of change. Two, I wonder how this campaign makes people who had been longtime regular customers of Hardee's feel. They are basically saying that the place that they had been regularly patronizing was actually the last place that any discerning person would have wanted to go for a burger, and that all the while they had been stuffing themselves with drastically suboptimal meat. Three, do ad campaigns along the lines of "We both know that we used to suck, but now we've changed!" really work? Even my own family, whose rush to Hardee's apparently places us at the forefront of fast-food forgiveness, concluded that they didn't really think there was much difference between the Hardee's Black Angus burger and other fast-food burgers except for the size of the patty (which didn't surprise me, given that it's not obvious to me how the color of a cow would affect the quality of its meat).

* Since I don't meat beyond seafood, the only thing on the menu for me was desserts, drinks, and fries. I dithered between a cinnamon roll and curly fries, made plain to my mom I was not going to ingest both as a meal, and then went with the fries.

** The soda sizes were also massive, with the small seeming to be about 20 ounces, the medium about 30 ounces, and the large was the size of a small pail. It would be an interesting epidemiological study to look at towns whose only fast-food restaurant was a Hardee's and see if there was an increase in teenage morbid obesity rates as a result of the new reforms of Hardee's.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

bill bryson, hometown fabulist

Although I'd like to be blogging about my super-secret trip this weekend, I'm too busy seething about Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. A friend recommended that I check the book out because it contains passages about my hometown, Manson, Iowa, which enters into his book because it is the site of the largest meteor impact in the United States.

I've never read any of Bryson's travel books. I suspect that they are probably quite entertaining, since he apparently does not have much concern for actually getting the matters of fact that he reports in his books correct. Or at least when it comes to my hometown. But whenever someone is ridiculously sloppy with the part of their work that you happen to know something about, it's hard not to be skeptical that you've discovered something about their modus operandi that probably applies equally well to all the other parts where you don't have firsthand knowledge. Here is a short span of text from his brief discussion of Manson, with annotations below:
"At the library in Manson they are delighted to show you a collection of newspaper articles and a box of core samples from a 1991-92 drilling program--indeed, they positively bustle to produce them--but you have to ask to see them. Nothing permanent is on display, and nowhere in the town is there any historical marker.[1]

"To most people in Manson the biggest thing ever to happen was a tornado that rolled up Main Street in 1979, tearing apart the business district. One of the advantages of all that surrounding flatness is that you can see the danger from a long way off. Virtually the whole town turned out at one end of Main Street and watched for half an hour as the tornado came toward them, hoping it would veer off, then prudently scampered when it did not.[2] Four of them, alas, didn't move quite fast enough and were killed.[3] Every June now Manson has a weeklong event[4] called Crater Days, which was dreamed up as a way of helping people forget that unhappy anniversary.[5] It doesn't really have anything to do with the crater....

"Very occasionally we get people coming in and asking where they should go to see the crater and we have to tell them that thtere is nothing to see," says Anna Schlapkohl, the town's friendly librarian.[6]

[1] - NOT TRUE, there has been a marker in Manson regarding the crater for several years, and since before Bryson did this book. I have a digital photo of the marker somewhere--it's right by the replica crater for which I have a photo on my webpage.

[2] - NOT TRUE. Maybe there were some people who gathered at the end of main street, but it was certainly not anything like most (much less "virtually all") of the town by any account of the tornado I have ever heard. The end of Main Street in Manson is actually more than a half mile south of the business district, however, so no one who had been standing there to watch the tornado would have had to scamper out of the way. Say that instead the end of Main Street was defined as where on Main Street the business district ended. Still, the tornado actually came across Main Street at such an angle that the businesses at the end of Main Street were not destroyed. You could have stood at the end and watched the tornado and--as long as you dodged the debris--would have been safe.

[3] - NOT TRUE. First, the tornado killed three people. I just verified my own memory here with a quick check of the web. Second, the passage makes it sound like they were all killed as they attempted to flee to safety--my recollection (I could be wrong about this) is that they all died in their homes. I certainly don't remember any account of them being swooped up as they tried to flee from watching the storm at the end of main street.

[4] - NOT TRUE. The event has never been "weeklong." It's been four days, but is usually three or even two.

[5] - NOT TRUE. The event was not dreamed up to "forget that unhappy anniversary" The event is held on the last weekend in June, at the anniversary of the tornado. However, it was first called Appreciation Days in celebration of those who helped get the town back on its feet (to the extent that it did) after the tornado struck. But you can't do that forever. So then it started to be called things like "Town and Country Days", etc.. "Greater Crater Days" has been its name for the last few years, as far as I can tell mostly from its standing as Manson's claim to fame.

[6] - True, perhaps--certainly our town librarian is friendly--but her name is Ann, not Anna.

Friday, August 22, 2003

upcoming blogout!

I won't be writing any weblog entries tomorrow, as I'm going on a super-secret mission. I can't say where I'm going. I can say that it's some place that my parents have been. Not only that, but my mom claims that once when my parents were driving there, they got lost and my father refused to stop for directions and made comments instead to the effect that he was hoping God would put them back on the right path on their journey. More later.

regarding rob (4): easy as...

(rob, middle, in Atlanta with his life partner puppy sprinkles and an anonymous member of rob's legion of devoted fans)

...i just checked a little hypothesis I had using the gematriz.ado program that I once wrote for Stata. A gematriz transformation is commonly used by professional numerologists, and involves taking a string of letters and transforming them such that A=1, B=2, C=3, and so on, and then summing up the results. Generally, profound insights into human beings and the fates of whole can be found using this method, hence its common application in sociology. Today the computer revealed to me that:

robert clark = 123


wolverine = 123

the tangled vines of family

(Regarding the last post, I've learned by this time just to let Dahlia do her little rants and not respond.)

But speaking of family, one of the highlights of my trip to Atlanta was seeing my much older sister Faye while I was in Atlanta:

On the trip, I got my first real taste of authentic Southern horticulture. The kudzu has gotten a little out of control in my sister's backyard, yielding this photo of me standing in the middle of it:

Thursday, August 21, 2003

ignore everything else and read this

my stupid half-brother said that i could write posts to his weblog as long as i didn't say anything that would embarrass him. don't expect to hear from me much, though. unlike him, i have better things to do with my time. i'm certainly not going to be standing around hospitals writing down their fire safety instructions or looking up websites to see if people in wisconsin don't give the name madison enough to their children.

he thinks he's being funny, i suppose. he does that. he's like the little kid who sticks straws in his nose and starts honking and shouting "i'm a walrus! i'm a walrus!" in fact he still does that at christmas sometimes even though none of us have laughed at it, ever. not even constance. he also usually spills food down his stupid button-down shirts at christmas and always ends up giving us cheapass gifts that he buys at mall kiosks and wraps in a way that would make you think a one-armed four-year-old did it. i bet he doesn't write about that in his precious weblog.

the whole weblog thing has gone to his head, if you ask me. i bet part of the reason he's doing is that it helps him compensate for all the jealousy he's always felt toward me. he may be the one with a phd, but whenever we get together it's clear who is the intellectual astronaut and who is the person who mixes the tang.

anyway, the reason i'm writing in at all is to write in to ask what's the deal with rob and the "half-basque, half-wolverine" thing. i assume that is another stupid thing that jeremy is making up. he likes to make up words like "basque" and pretend that they are real. one thing i do know, is that my brother is right about rob being C-U-T-E. so-called puppy sprinkles better watch out or maybe dahlia will be making a little secret trip to kent, ohio, if you know what i mean ;) ;) ;) ;)

rob, you know where to get in touch with me if the wolverine spirit so moves you. until later. *hugs*

death race 2003

Today I was over at the Veterans' Hospital in Madison for a meeting, and I saw this fire safety sign that made me wish I had a photo of it (I know, I should be carrying my camera all times for just such bloggable opportunities). I ended up having to wait for my meeting, however, so I scrawled down what it said:

In case of fire, RACE:
1. RESCUE those in danger
2. Pull ALARM box
3. Dial 911 to notify operator of fire and location
4. CLOSE all doors on fire floor
5. EXTINGUISH small fires using extinguisher
6. EVACUATE to smoke-free floor

I'm a big fan of mnemonics, but "RACE" may be the most ineffective safety mnemonic that I have ever seen. Imagine if there was a fire and all you could remember was RACE and what those particular things stood for. You would only do #s 1, 2, 4, and 5. You wouldn't call 911, and you wouldn't yourself actually evacuate to safety. You would stand firm with your extinguisher, and, if the alarm box didn't work, potentially no authorities would be notified except perhaps by those who heard your screams as you were being burned alive.

regarding rob... (3)

-----Original Message-----

From: Robert Clark
Sent: Wednesday, August 20, 2003 8:07 PM
To: Jeremy Freese
you may want to note this: within the world of college athletics, i root

most strongly for the michigan WOLVERINES. i did not go to michigan, i
have never lived in michigan, nor am i aware of any meaningful affiliation
that i have with michigan. i'm not even that big a fan of the movie "red
dawn." bizarre, no?
actually, i know perfectly well why i root for michigan.  in the 5th 

grade, my P.E. teacher started a march madness pool of sorts, where we all
randomly selected one of the 64 teams out of a hat before the tournament
started. the student who picked the tourney champ got a coupon for a free
ice cream cone. i picked michigan. if my memory serves me correctly,
they beat navy (with david robinson) in an 8/9 game and then lost to north
carolina in the 2nd round. i was crushed, but my allegiance had become
firmly cemented. to this day, i make sure that all glory (and agony)
reflecting off of michigan shines fully on me. in fact, dark blue and
gold/yellow quickly became my favorite colors and i sometimes root for
other sports teams if their colors even remotely resemble michigan's.
Also: Rob has sent out the e-nnouncement for his 2003 NFL pool, in which the winner will not only be awarded with 60% of the pot but also with a haiku written by me. As per this past weekend in Atlanta:
"Would you write a haiku for me?"
"A haiku for you? You want me to write a haiku. One about Rob Clark?"
"Well, no. Would you write a haiku about somebody else if I asked you to?"
"Sure, I could do that. Writing haikus are easy. I speak in haiku."
"And would you post it to your weblog?"
"If that's what you want. Or I could do a limerick. Maybe a sonnet."
"Maybe, but those would have to be in addition to the haiku."

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

now in the stata bookstore

On a separate matter, a friend and regular weblog reader from Bloomington, IN e-mails to say: "Regression Models for Categorical Dependent Variables Using Stata has become my bible!" I wish she had sent this quote in time to be a blurb, as the revised edition of the Long and Freese RMCDVUS has just been released, my five complimentary copies were waiting for me when I got back from ASA. The book is updated for Stata 8, meaning among other things that all the graphs were redrawn. Nothing really new in terms of substance has been added, which is why it isn't called "second edition".

I notice, however, they also changed the font on the cover and the cover art. If you squint you can see the difference between the two below:

(Original edition of RMDCVUS, top, and revised edition. Note: actual dimensions of the book are the same. If the book on the bottom appears larger, it is an optical illusion caused by the different art on the cover.)

I liked the old cover better, to be honest. The book is still $52, which is pricey, but printing books with a lot of math and graphs is pricey. If you put together all of the money that I have made on royalties for the book and divide by the number of hours I spent working on it, it still doesn't add up to the current federal minimum wage for me.

BTW, on the side of the book, the Stata Press logo is now in white instead of black. The Stata Press logo is a stylized picture of a soldier getting kicked in the head with a horse.

This is a cute little reference to the early work on the Poisson distribution which involved a study of casualties from Prussian soldiers dying from headwounds caused by horses. If memory serves, the conclusion of the study was that helmets did indeed appear to help.

Ugh, I'm tired and will be going home soon. I feel a little bit like I've been kicked in the head by a Prussian horse myself.

regarding rob... (2)

More about my recent post regarding Rob. Mandy Noodleman, a regular reader from Blinderman, IL, e-mailed me this morning: I swear. I saw someone who looked like Rob jogging this morning. He had the same eyes and eyebrows, also that super otherworldly skin. I wanted to say something to him in Basque. Or Wolverine.

Basque, as you may know, is one of the world's most unique languages, unrelated to any other except for a vague affinity to Klingon. "Wolverine," however, is not a language, but rather as X-Men viewers know, wolverines speak a fairly standard version of American English, only with a more earnest look and dramatic pauses. Rob usually accompanies his wolverine with these knowing phrases which he says while violently moving his eyebrows up and down.

Speaking of which, Rob told me at ASA that he was disappointed that I didn't post my answers to the Special Guest Quiz that he posted to this weblog awhile back. I didn't realize that I was supposed to answer it. Re-reading it, this is fairly obviously addressed to me rather than to other readers of JFW about me. Then again, apparently several readers had the same interpretation as me, since they sent me their own answers and scores.

In any case, as for my own answer, I am fairly confident that I would answer (a) to all questions. Definitely for the one that would involve jumping into the air and clicking my heels, as I do that so regularly around here that it's apparently become part of the stock graduate-student-imitation-of-me.

on slim shady's quantitative self-assessment

Eminem (I know, I know) came up on the RealJukebox playlist at home: "The Real Slim Shady," from his second album. I spent the walk to campus mulling over the following lines:
I just get up on the mike and spit it
and whether you'd like to admit it
I just [excretory metaphor for the production of rap music]
better than 90 percent of you rappers out there
and then wonder why these kids eat up these albums
like Valium

The strange thing about the fourth line is how modest Eminem is (or his Slim Shady persona, I'll admit I don't really understand how that little narrative device works). I mean, here he is, even at the time the biggest selling artist in rap music, and when asked to account for his success, only places himself in the 90th percentile of all those out there doing that style of music. Imagine Tiger Woods denouncing his detractors by saying just that "whether you like to admit it, I'm better than 90 percent of you golfers out there." Granted, as an explanation for how you get to be the top figure at your craft, it seems a little wanting to say that you are better than all but 10% of the many people out there who do it. I wonder what he thinks is the rest of the explanation of his success--what propels him past those 10% of rappers who are by his own implication better than he is. In the same song, he goes on about how he has the [masculine anatomical metaphor for courage] to rap about things that other people "joke about with their friends" but are too afraid to say in public, so maybe that's it. Or perhaps he believes that it's simply a matter of luck, and the only reason this explanation didn't make it into the song is that "stochastic processes" doesn't make an easy rhyme.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

mystery movie

I'm sitting in my apartment ready to watch this DVD that was given to me by a then-stranger at ASA. The story: I was standing in one of the hotel bars around closing time, pontificating to a couple of friends about how perverse I think it is that the American Sociological Association always has its meetings in hotels that are ridiculously opulent and regularly out of the price range of non-parentally-subsidized graduate students (indeed, there are some I know who believe that ASAs should just go back and forth in alternating years between some plush hotel in Manhattan and an equally plush hotel in San Francisco). I was recreating these images of someone pacing around their hotel room, practicing this passionate talk about the plight of the working man while directing the housekeeping staff about proper turndown service and calling up the concierge to complain when the high-speed Internet didn't work. As a rhetorical flourish, I pointed to the 47-story atrium of the Marriott, which I said looked like a monument to the spinal cords of the backs of exploited poor on whom the hotel was built and whom we, as complicit conventioneers, were stomping on right now. At the close of this speech, a man I had never met before came up and said that he heard what I was saying and that he had thought something similar at the ASA meetings in Chicago last year and had made a short video montage based on it. This was what is supposed to be on the DVD that he happened to have on him and which he handed to me, along with his e-mail address. I will confess that at the time I worried that this DVD was going to turn out to be a video of some kind of scandalous material from the Netherlands and my hotel room was going to be raided and I was going to have to try to say to some skeptical Interpol agent that I didn't know what was on it and had been given it by a stranger in a hotel.

Ut oh, the DVD doesn't seem to want to play on my DVD player. It's a Mac DVD-ROM; I wonder if it needs to be played on a Mac. I wonder if it I can get Doug or Joan to let me watch it in their office.

try to understand, he's a magic man

An article in NYT discusses David Blaine's latest planned stunt--to live for 44 days suspended in a plexiglas container over the Thames River in London, surviving only on water. I first learned about David Blaine one year when I was back on the farm for Christmas, and he had just run the first of his TV specials in which a cameraman would follow him around while he did street magic tricks for surprised bystanders. This Freese Family discussion was notable because I was cast as being smug and close-minded for my refusal to entertain the possibility that Blaine might be really magic instead of just being a magician. Indeed, I can still call up the memory of my dear mother saying, "I thought maybe he was an angel."

regarding rob...

(Uniquely handsome Rob "Babycakes" Clark, left, and your weblog author)

Okay, another quick post before I go home. One of the more exciting intellectual moments at ASA was the revelation of the answer to a question that has puzzled me for some time. The good looks of my good friend and sometimes guest blogger Rob "Babycakes" Clark are widely recognized and beyond debate, but much less understood is why it is that Rob doesn't really look like other people. That is, with even a modicum of visual imagination, after awhile pretty much everybody you meet at least vaguely reminds you of someone else that you already know. But not Rob, he's always had this je ne sais quoi that has kept him from provoking any resemblence to anyone else. Well je ne sais quoi no more, as it turns out that Rob has a unique anecstral background: half-Basque, half-wolverine:

(Rob "Babycakes" Clark, right, with his life-partner Amy "Puppy Sprinkles" Kroska)

Update, 9:30AM: Already e-mail has come in from a loyal reader in Mundelein, IL, who writes: I have to say, this whole Rob is so cute thing, you're right! I think I want to breed with a wolverine now just to see what happens.

planes, trains, and Joan Fujimura

Just got back from ASA in the last hour. I'm in the office, retrieving my PC, which the computing staff has ride of the blaster worm. Will have more to blog about various things from the ASA meetings later, to be sure. One thing I can say now, however, is that if your flight is delayed so that you can't make your connection and your airline switches you to another airline and then the flight on the second airline also ends up coming in late, the best possible scenario for turning-that-lemon-into-lemonade is to have the consequence be that you get to spend the whole trip traveling with my office-next-door-neighbor, Joan Fujimura:

The only icky-speck-in-the-lemonade is that somewhere on the trip, Joan lost the swanky Armani jacket she was wearing. We think it was at the airport Chili's in Atlanta.

Also: An e-mail in my inbox from Shelley B notes that Kieran Healy was also blogging from ASA--and about Wisconsin, to boot. From his weblog:
The American Sociological Association’s annual meeting got off to a decent start last night, with a performance in the main ballroom by a band called Thin Vita [sic: they spell it Vitae, I think]. It’s made up of, amongst others, John Sutton (guitar/vocals) and current ASA President Bill Bielby (bass). So I think Bill is pretty well top of the list of Heads of Social Science Associations That You’d Want To Have A Beer With. Towards the end of the night, my Ph.D adviser Paul DiMaggio appeared onstage as guest vocalist. Bielby and Sutton are at UCSB, which is a pretty relaxed place, and I’ve seen Paul perform before. But I have to say I got a fresh perspective on the Midwestern tradition of occupational mobility and stratification studies by watching Bob Hauser and other Wisconsinites tear up the dance floor.

Also Also: A quick peek at the TradeSports website reveals that Arnold Schwarzenegger's bid for California governor is now back to trading at 50, down from 65.5 right before I left for ASA. In other words, if you would only have listened to me, you could have made 15% just in the time that I was gone!

Sunday, August 17, 2003

dispatch from the atlanta hilton, 3

I'm going to a session in 20 minutes so this has to be brief. I'm blogging here from the hotel room doing about the best (still pathetic) rendition of the splits that I can presently muster. I have each foot on one end of the "Sociology at Wisconsin" banner that was entrusted to me at the reception tonight and that is all crinkly from having been rolled up in my bag until I thought just now to take it out.

I've been having a great time. Powell's brother's restaurant, Agnes & Muriel's is great southern food, and the font of the best peach sangria I have ever had in my life (indeed, that alone afforded an entirely new appreciation of Georgia, kind of like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in a glass).

Anyway, perhaps more about the Department Alumni Night and other excursions later. Great "Author Meets Critics" session this morning about Eric Klinenberg's Heat Wave.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

dispatch from the atlanta hilton, 2

Last year, I spent a full day holed up in my hotel room putting text together for an ASA talk where I ended up having too much material and reading/talking too fast and feel like I had wasted a bunch of time (especially since the paper from the talk went nowhere, although that's a story for another day). Never again, I resolved, and especially not just for a regular ASA session. This time, I went in there with the two transparencies and a 3/4 page of handwritten notes that I wrote that morning, and then I just got up there and talked. Much better!

I ran into Julie downstairs before coming up here and she said that she had checked my blog before leaving and knew from it that some of the Indiana contingent was not going to make it to Atlanta, but she didn't know whom. This is the first instance of someone reporting to me actually using my weblog as a news resource, and, alas, it wasn't specific enough. We will work hard at JFW to improve our coverage so that loyal readers will have the information they need, when they need it.

Tonight: The reception for the Sociology of Mental Health section (so apropos); Dinner with Powell and other's at his brother's restaurant (which, through a complicated story, was named the #1 lesbian restaurant in the United States by a magazine a few years ago); then the Department Alumni Night, for which Indiana University always takes much pride in its large turnout of alums, faculty, and current students (and helps ensure that the pattern continues by handing out drink tickets left and right.)

dispatch from the atlanta hilton, 1

My friends Rita and Keri, who work at the CDC in Atlanta, hosted a get-together for some Indiana University alums. The evening was planned as a "poker night" reminiscent of the times when we would play poker as graduate students, although--not unexpectedly--the evening was more about chatting than playing cards (especially, when, at the end, we didn't end up cashing in our chips anyway). The night was great, Keri makes a mean sangria and Rita has a gorgeous abode. Sadly, however, I do not have the young-puppy energy of my friends and so started to wilt early (around 12:30-1AM). But, as is not uncommon for me, I ended up being cajoled into stay around more than an hour longer than I should have, especially since I hadn't done much of anything as a start toward the talk that I am giving this afternoon. After spending $40 on a cab to get back to the hotel, I ended up not getting to sleep until 3:30am.

Phil Gorski came knocking on my door at 7:45 to pick up the plaques I had hauled down here to give him for the political sociology awards event. It was a good immediate jolt to start the day. I tried to look like I had just been awakened when I answered the door, but I suspect the tousled hair and mumbling, confused demeanor tipped Phil off.

Anyway, my mysterious half-sister Dahlia may have just saved the day. I realized that I didn't bring any of the various drives for my laptop with me, so I didn't have any easy way to get the overheads I just made for my talk off my computer. I thought then about e-mailing the presentation to the Kinko's downstairs, and got their e-mail address, but then the ever-frustrating SSCC webmail interface didn't work. But then I realized I could just have Dahlia send the attachments for me, and, after some whining about my general disorganization and incompetence, she obliged.

Friday, August 15, 2003

hopelessly devoted to you

It may only be $15/day for the connection and the Ethernet cable, but I am online here in Atlanta at the meetings of the American Sociological Association meetings. Already my roommate has informed me that she won't be coming because of back problems, and several members of the group I was supposed to be joining tonight for drinks and poker will either not be coming or be coming late because of the blackout. I'm not sure how much the course of the meetings is going to be affected by the blackout. A colleague of mine who was on the plane with me said that he had been secretly hoping the blackout would reach Chicago so our connecting flight would be canceled and he'd have an unassailable excuse for bailing out on coming here.

For those would be surprised that I have Internet access and haven't e-mailed them: I'm having trouble getting the SSCC webmail interface to let me send mail, although I can read it. However, I'm just here for a moment and then I'm going back down to register and chat with people. Now that I'm here, I'm feeling a little exhiliarated, even. So I don't know how much JFW readers will get by way of blog entries.

going to atlanta

I am going to the meetings of the American Sociological Association tomorrow. In my early years of graduate school, I never really got why people bothered to go to the meetings. Certainly, while some presentations are great, the intellectual content as a whole didn't seem enough of a draw. Later, when friends of mine got their Ph.D. and scattered across the country, it made sense to have this annual reunion. And, of course, you start to develop relationships through correspondence or otherwise with other people in the discipline. So I'm looking forward now to seeing a bunch of people that I haven't seen in a year, and maybe I'll get in some sociological-sight-seeing to boot. Plus, I'm making a trip on Monday to see my sister Faye and niece Jamie in Norcross.

Perhaps I will get and take the chance to send a blog update while I'm down there, but loyal readers should not count on it. Then again, some of my readers will be down there with me, I suppose.

BTW, I confirmed tonight that I have the dreaded Blaster Worm on my home computer, and I'm hoping that the computer staff will purge this for me while I'm gone. I was talking to my mom earlier and I mentioned that I had the virus [sic] that was in the news on my computer. "It's not a virus," she said, "they're saying it's an infection."

"I thought it was a worm," I replied, despite having absolutely no reason to think that my mom would know the virus/worm distinction.

"No, they're saying it's like an infection, like it's already inside your computer and that it's an infection." I wasn't really able to make out who "they" were, except that they were on the TV (where else?), and I wasn't able to make out what "they" meant by infection.

Special weblog contest #3: Explain to me what my mother was talking about; she seemed quite sure of herself.

crimes of quantification (part 1?)

[Note: This actually turned into a mostly serious rumination/lamentation about quantitative sociology that I needed to get out of my system, and I'm posting here even though there isn't any reason for you to read it. Part of it may end up working its way into a methods lecture or something else sometime. Really, skip it and move to the next post.]

Shelly B was indulgent of me the other day when I launched into this disquisition about how I became much better at being able to figure out magic tricks. The epiphany I had sometime in my teens was that magic tricks evince a certain kind of optimality. Everything supporting the desired illusion that the magician can let you see, you see. The corollary is that whatever you didn't see that would have supported the illusion, had you been shown it, must be something the magician couldn't let you see. In other words, you should first think about what would have made the trick even better, and then you should think about why it was that the magician didn't do the trick that way.

Anyway, since I don't regularly attend magic shows and since televised magic has devolved into all kinds of video fakery (expect a rant on here about David Blaine sometime, by the way), one would think that this little insight I had into solving magic tricks would not be all that handy to my life now. Instead, you would be surprised at how much analogous logic makes its way into the times when my work involves reading published quantitative research by others. For example, awhile back a colleague came by to bring me a copy of a paper we had discussed. Since it was one of those papers whose storyline you can follow from the tables, he flips to the first table of regression results.

I saw that first table And I Knew. "Wait, why would they do the table like that? The point of their theory would be to first present the results from a reduced model, and then run the model whose results they show, so that you can see how the coefficients change from the first model to the second." [okay, what I actually said was much simpler, but I'm scumbling some details to conceal the identities of the particular paper I'm talking about.]

My colleague replied that while that would have provided the most straightforward test of their theory, the paper was instead presented as an elaboration of the theory. So that the analysis that I'm talking about wasn't really the focus of the paper. For the focus of the paper as it was presented, only the results from the full model were relevant.

The problem with this explanation is that it presumes, optimistically, that the analyses began with the same focus in mind that is the focus presented in the eventual published paper. I am increasingly of the opinion that one should instead presume, until convinced otherwise, that papers take on the particular focus that they do because of the way that a set of statistical analyses conducted with who-knows-what initial focus happened to turn out. Now, if this were just saying that it is a trope in sociology (and likely elsewhere) to present results that were inductively generated as if they had been deductively generated in the effort to pit competing hypotheses fairly against one another, this would be lamentable enough. The thing is, however, that the analyses are also presented in a way which hides evidence that would call the conclusion of the paper into question.

This comes up when you read a paper and can think of simple things omitted from the analyses that would have strengthened the author's arguments had they been presented. In this case, a comparison of coefficients from the reduced and full models [that is, seeing how coefficients change when other regressors are added]. The author's presentation would have been much more compelling had the two models been shown and the reader seen that the key coefficients changed substantially. So what I suddenly knew looking at the first table in this paper is that in fact the coefficients probably didn't change much at all, because if they had they would have been there. It so happened that I had the dataset used in the paper at hand, and I was quickly able to do the analyses that were omitted from the paper. Sure enough, the coefficients are either practically the same across the reduced and full models, and in a few cases the direction of the small change is actually the opposite of what the larger theory being advocated by the author would predict. So results are presented as supporting a small implication of a theory that actually, if presented completely, would have undermined a much larger implication of the same theory.

Another example of this was a paper that I was once given to review where the author developed hypotheses that were tested using specific survey items as dependent variables. Supporting results were reported for the various tests, in tables with little stars-of-statistical-significance in all the right places. The thing was, I was familiar with the particular survey the author used, and I knew they asked a much broader array of items than what were included in the tests [again, I'm being purposefully vague]. Indeed, I knew that for some of the items the author used, an alternative version of the item that was intended to tap precisely the same concept was also included (and were on the same page of the codebook!), but no mention of tests using this alternative item were made anywhere in the paper. Since the paper's illusion would have been stronger if all the items had been used, I surmised that the missing items couldn't be shown because otherwise they would have undermined it. Again, I had the data at hand, and, lo, analyses of the excluded variables provided absolutely no evidence for any of the authors' hypotheses.

In academia, there are strong norms against suggesting that someone has been dishonest. And, of course, you can't prove that they have been dishonest; maybe they are merely incompetent or sloppy or working-too-quickly and did not realize that they should have conducted these additional analysis. However, sometimes it does seem like truly bountiful providence must have led the author to make a combination of arbitrary analytic decisions that, upon further inspection, also happen to be the circumstances under which the produced results happened to be the strongest in their favored position. I suppose that, when one is in the thrall of a particular theory, and especially one that is their own and helping them toward disciplinary fame, it becomes very easy to convince oneself that all of these arbitrary decisions that nudge the results in the right direction are actually substantively well-justified.

Anyway, I have not been in the academic game that terribly long, especially on the quantitative side of things, and I feel like I have already seen way too much of this. If I were being completely honest, I would admit that I've also felt the lure of it myself and have had to mentally militate against it. Sociology does itself no favors as a discipline by producing research that, when given a careful and informed reading, gives the impression of thumbs laid heavily on the holy scales of multiple regression. Maybe the situation would be improved if critical replication was a more valued enterprise in our discipline, so that people had more reason to worry about being called out for analyses that were not more reflective and open about their shortcomings. Relatedly, another big contributor to the problem may be that sociology is spread so thinly across areas that, especially when findings are relatively bland but consistent with the general party line, there is not much worry to think that anyone will do anything but just parrot the reported upshot of your results.

Quantitative sociologists complain regularly that their research is not taken seriously enough in the formation of public policy. The sneaking feeling that I voice only in the nether paragraphs of protracted weblog entries is that the common inattention to sociological studies might just be well-justified. Don't get me wrong--there is responsible, careful, thorough, competent, and honest quantitative research conducted in sociology. However, I am not necessarily convinced that sociologists provide any good means for people involved in the determination of policy to be able to find that research amidst the rest.

[Here, I become increasingly drowsy and cognizant of all that I need to do yet tonight, and stop abruptly even though much more could be said.]

Thursday, August 14, 2003

live!: teddy stops by

We are here in 8105 Social Science live with Teddy, who has just been asked the question of what part of JFW she likes best. She votes for the Mr. Mongosutu thing, followed by various dispatches about Puppy Sprinkles. She seems a little nervous about the whole idea of having her responses entered in REAL TIME onto the world wide web. Except, she protests, that this isn't really REAL TIME, since I do have to hit the little "Post & Publish" button before any of this goes on line. "Exactly!" she shrieks. Then she starts talking about how scared she is of Emily. "No!" she cries, "Don't put that in there! Don't put how I'm afraid of Emily! What will she say when she logs on and reads this? Stop typing! Now! Seriously, stop typing!"
"You've ruined my life!"
she screams, "Besides, now you're just making stuff up! Before you were quoting me faithfully and accurately, and you've retreated into this complete fabulation."
"Teddy, do you want all your dialogue to be in a special color?"
"Oh, yeah! Heck, yeah! That would great! How about amethyst."
"I'm not sure that's a web color, Teddy."
"Well, make it one! I'm sick of your excuses!"
"But I've taken to using purple for my own speech. I don't think people would easily be able to tell your speech and mine apart"
"Teal is really nice, I love teal. I don't want any excuses about teal! So type that, and then type something about how I leapt up and ran from the room."
Teddy then leapt up and ran from the room.

this time, insert some "total recall" or "planet hollywood" pun

Arnold Schwarzenegger is now trading for 62-64 on the TradeSports website. Just a couple days ago, I posted that people were overvaluing the likelihood of his being elected when he was trading for 50-55. By way of comparison, 62-64 is only 2-3 points less than what Bush 2004 is trading for right now on the same site, meaning that people are saying that AS has about the same probability of winning the recall than GWB has of winning the Presidential election. This is insane! (Again, he may well win, but that's a different matter from saying that right now he has a 62-64% chance of winning.) Please, given that I have made a rule that I will not involve myself in high-stakes prediction-market speculation, some weblog reader PLEASE step in and take advantage of this rank irrationality in the market!

Update, 10pm: Schwarzenegger for Governor last traded at 65.5, George W. Bush for President 2004 last traded at 65. The prevailing prices on the market are now giving AS a slightly better shot at winning his election than does GWB. Seriously, I have never been so sorely tempted to enter the world of gambling in my life. Still, I will hold off, but BEG one of my many moneyed readers to take my advice and bet everything they own here. Of course, you may then lose everything, but you have fabulous odds for almost tripling your money in less than two months!

scrabble update: same old, same old

Scrabble club last night, first time in a month. For people who have not followed my earlier Scrabble weblog entries, I play in the B division at the Madison Scrabble Club (or, as its technically known to the National Scrabble Association, Scrabble Club #247), and I have long had but never achieved this goal of just once going undefeated, winning all four of my games. The last few times at club, I have won my first three games only to lose the last one. This week, despite the rustiness of not having played, it happened again.

My first three games, I rolled to big wins, making the bingoes VERBIAGE, TREASON, DENIALS, and CLOISTER. In the first game, I won despite allowing my opponent to play *OPENESS despite being pretty sure it wasn't good without the second N. In the third game, I also had SATINE+O on my rack (more about the legendary SATINE+ bingo stem another day, perhaps) with an open lane to play a bingo across a triple word score. Even though I saw that it made ATONIES, I convinced myself that this wasn't actually a word but that *ISOTANE was. ISOTANE is not a word (ISOTONE is) and my play was challenged off, but I still marched to victory.

After winning the first three games--especially since I hadn't wanted to be out late necessarily anyway--I thought about bolting, but I decided that this would forever sully my goal of having an undefeated night if I had one only because I dodged playing a fourth game. So, in my last game, I played this guy Ray who someone said writes crossword puzzles. This showed when he made the bingo PASTIES by hooking the first S onto MEW to make SMEW, which apparently is some kind of duck. From there, or more precisely from his bingo GUNNIES three turns later, the rout was on, and I was lucky only to lose by 102 points.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

heart of darkness, coda 2

Off to Scrabble club, for the first time in a month. Before I leave, however, I thought I would share some of the reader e-mail I have received regarding the recent termination of the "Heart of Darkness" e-mail exchanges with Mr. Mongosutu.

A reader (and death-metal band member) from Denton, TX writes:
you are a [expletive deleted] chicken.  

i am surprised that you caved in to your friends.
guess who is no longer my hero.

Alternatively, a more optimistic reader from Kent, OH hopes the story will continue:
so what would happen if dahlia actually went ahead and contacted joe shmoe 

and said, "hi, my name is dahlia, my address is 326 pippy longstocking
drive, grand rapids, michigan. now show me the money." and why does dahlia
have to go to spain in order to do this? would the price of the
international call not be worth all the weblog fun? if you want to use a
real address, you could even get your very own post office box (i think
they are like a buck every six months or something) in some nearby city
(like milwaukee). it's that kind of attention to detail and committment
to excellence that would really impress your weblog audience...
your next move could also be for dahlia to suggest to mongocakes that they

together start a money scam: wouldn't it be fun, mr.mongocakes, if we
actually pretended that we were in this dire situation? and we could
actually scam people out of their money!...
finally, you could make up subsequent mongocakes correspondence (if you're

not doing this already) and orchestrate an ongoing soap opera between you,
mongocakes, dahlia, and the goody constance for your weblog audience. you
could rotate characters in and out of the story every few months. i would
be in favor of introducing pepe, the spanish orphan, who has a mysterious
past (e.g., it is ultimately revealed that you are his father), as he
searches for the truth about himself and about mongocakes...

While I appreciate the suggestions herein, I note that I would never make up correspondence for Mr. Mongosutu, as fabrication of any kind would compromise the integrity of this weblog, and also I have no control over what Dahlia does.

congratulations, devah!

Here, sharing the karaoke stage to sing the Grease standard "Summer Nights", are the 2001 and (just announced) 2003 American Sociological Association Dissertation Award winners:

Ah, and so of course I use the opportunity of someone else's success not only to bask in their glory but to insinuate in some basking in my ever-more-distant-and-seemingly-anomalous-past-success AT THE SAME TIME. That's me, to a T.

For readers of this weblog who do not know her, Devah is brilliant and perhaps the most unstoppable person I have ever known. My suspicion is that she will not only be President of the ASA within the next twenty years, but President of the USA as well.

Incidentally, the person who one the Dissertation Award in the intervening year between Devah and me, Kieran Healy, has his own weblog, which is much more long-standing and elaborately-designed than my own.

heart of darkness, coda 1

No messages from Mr. Mongosutu. Constance, however, has sent her responses to the end of our collaborative venture. To me, she writes:

I can't say how disappointed I am that you have chosen not to trust Mr. Mongosutu. I felt that you had truly built a solid friendship with this man by email, and I can't help but think how hurt he is that you have decided to sever ties with him. Additionally, I am sad to say that now the children will not be able to have their toothbrushes - let alone the Crest Whitestrips I was going to get them for Christmas - and I don't know how I will tell them.

I know you have always been competitive with Dahlia, but I don't see why you had to ruin this for everyone.


Then, to Dahlia:


I must say that your behavior during the past few days has been worrisome. It frightens me when you engage in self-destructive behavior, but at this point there isn't much I can do about it. I have to say that I am more than a little upset that your involvement in the Mongosutu affair has lead to the dissolution of our plans. The orphanage really needs the money, but I should have faith that God will pull us through somehow. It is just that the state of the children's dental health is so bad that sometimes I don't know what I can do.

I forgive you, as you know I always do. I will be praying for you and Jeremy. Please keep the children and I in your thoughts.

Your sister,


Tuesday, August 12, 2003

heart of darkness, part 20

Okay, due to popular demand (e.g., "my god. we are all going to die."), I have decided to move toward pulling the plug on this. I think we at JFW are being cowardly and may have missed out on an opportunity for considerable riches. Oh, well, win some, lose some.

From Jeremy:
"Mr. Mongosutu":
I have just received a gloating e-mail from Dahlia indicating that 

you have decided to enlist her services for the purposes of your
transaction rather than Constance's and mine. I have no idea
how you got her e-mail, but I deeply resent the intrusion and
the breach of trust. Do you know that Dahlia is only 17 years
old? Do you have any idea the kinds of troubles that we have
had with her already?
Furthermore, I have made some inquiries the last couple of days

and discovered that e-mails like the kind you originally sent me
are much more widespread than I had ever imagined. I realize
now that I have been naive. Please do not contact me or any
members of my family again, or I shall be forced to alert the
appropriate authorities.
Constance:  I apologize for getting you involved in this.  

I will talk to you more about this later. Have nothing more to
do with this man.

From Dahlia:
From: "Dahlia Hawkins"

To: "richard mongosutu"
my brother has FREAKED OUT.  he just e-mailed and told me 

he was going to have mom cancel my credit card if I e-mail you
anymore. i still think that they were trying to take advantage of
you. my family is scum. i hope you are able to get your money fine.
hugs and prayers, dahlia.

heart of darkness, part 19

Now, we are getting somewhere. Of course, that "where" might not be a particularly desirable place.
From: "richard mongosutu"  

To: dahliahawkins
Subject: I have listened to you.
Date: Tue, 12 Aug 2003 21:39:42 +0200
I hope you really got what i have been saying. but i believe i can give 

you a chance. I was supposed to send this contact information to your
brother. Immediately you contact them in Spain tell them you are the Beneficiary
of the Consignment lodged by Mr. Richard Mongosutu from Zimbabwe and that
you intend comming to clear the consignment immediately.
Then once you do this they will contact to knbow from me if i am 

aware.immdiately i hear from them i will issue the Power of attorney
which i was supposed to issue jeremy to you. then you immediately becomes the
I am doing this because i know you look faster but on my mind i am 

doing jeremy what we did not plan but let's go ahead.. but i feel like
letting your Brother know this. tomorrow i am decided that.
The percentage remains the same with you. no minus.
So send me your contact informationso that i can use it to procure the 

Power of attorney. this will include your Phone no. fax no. if any. full name
and full contact address.
Please find the security  company contact.

PHONE NUMBER [deleted] FAX [deleted]

I await all what i inquired from you or plz to indicate vyour seriousness in 

this, so that i can call it off once with your Brother. I believe my
desperation to leave here is causing all these.

I await your reply.

Your friend,

superfluous citation(s) of the day

"After all, since by definition religious claims concerning an afterlife are not open to empirical verification (Stark and Bainbridge 1985, 1987), it is impossible for anyone to know with absolute certainty that the claims being advanced by the religion are wrong."

insert yet another terminator pun here

Arnold Schwarzenegger is currently trading for 50-55 on the TradeSports market for the California gubernatorial race. While he may well win, this is too high a price (equivalent to saying he has a 50%-55% chance of winning). Once again, I must restrain myself from entering into the realm of high-stakes prediction-market wagering in order to exploit these kinds of irrationalities of the market. However, you should feel free to take my advice and make bushels of money.

BTW, my mother a couple of nights ago on the phone said that "Now, did you see that Schwarzenegger is running for governor?" and I had to be sure to explain to her that if he won, he would only be governor of California, not Iowa, too.

BTW2, Yesterday, I sold ssome of the shares that I had bought in Lieberman at 7 on the low-stakes Iowa Electronics Market. In an earlier post that I won't bother linking to, I said that 7 was too low even though he's very likely not going to win, and as a result I made something like 45 cents (!) off the deal.

BTW3, there is not yet a market for will-Jeremy-be-slain-by-international-swindlers, although if there were I think some readers of this weblog would be itching to buy into it.

heart of darkness, part 18

From: Dahlia Hawkins 

Sent: Tuesday, August 12, 2003 8:29 AM
To: richard mongosutu
Subject: listen to me!!!
sir, i'm not sure you understand me.  i don't want to 

be a consolation prize that you go to if things don't work
out with connie. little miss hotshot connie is going to do
everything she can to have things work out so that she
and jeremy get to split three million dollars of YOUR
MONEY. i can't believe that they are demanding that
much when you are asking them to do so little. i don't
understand why it doesn't make you furious the way it
does me. maybe it is because you don't know them
like i do, i don't know. they're suckers with no head for
money. all jeremy is good at is scrabble and salsa
dancing and i don't think either is going to help with
the so-called 'joint venture' he's apparently trying to
finagle you into. DON'T BELIEVE THEM!!! they'll probably
end up trying to ask you for a bigger share than the
three million. all i want is just one million, maybe even
less, because i'll also get pleasure from wiping the smug
little greedy smiles off their faces. i'm in the united
states but have a passport and, unlike jeremy and
constance, i saved all my money from the inheritance so
i wouldn't have any problem flying anywhere on short
notice. you seem really sweet and nice and i think they
are treating you really unfairly. hugs, dahlia.

heart of darkness, part 17

Mr. Mongosutu responds to Dahlia:
From: "richard mongosutu" 

Subject: Re: you have to listen to me
Date: Tue, 12 Aug 2003 10:11:36 +0200
Dear Dahlia,
i really appreciate your gesture in this regard. but i am afraid to 

persopnally betray the trust i have built on Mr. Freese within this
short time.
to be Frank this deal is yet to be concluded in anyway i will give the 

Chance to be in Spain on my behalf if Mr. Freese cannot make it with
Ms. Constance. Because as of now i am still expecting the application form
i am supposed to complete which will facilitate the clearance of this
Now, Constance was supposed to clear this consignment during her stay 

in Madrid this week and if the whole continues to be like this,this week
that means it will not be possible that Constance will do it again unless
she has to stay extra days. But if it dose't work out i will suggest mr.
freese giving you a chance without mentioning our earlier contact because i
don't betray those who wants to assist me in anyway. so please i want you to
bear with me till the end of this week so that we can see how things can
work out.
By, the way where are you. and what do you do. we can discuss more on 

phone if you can give me your number plz.
thaks once again.


Monday, August 11, 2003

heart of darkness, part 16

(Um, I had no idea when this started there would be a "Part 16.")

-----Original Message-----

From: Dahlia Hawkins [mailto:(deleted)]
Sent: Monday, August 11, 2003 8:30 PM
To: richard mongosutu
Subject: you have to listen to me

sir, please, i am trying to help you here.  i can help you get your 

money out for two million dollars less than what they want to charge
you. TWO MILLION DOLLARS. that's a lot of money anywhere. i am not
sure what jeremy has told you to get you excited about being in some
'joint venture' with him, but let's get some facts straight. first, he has
no business sense, he's a sucker, the only reason he has money is
because of the inheritance, and, even with you trying to hand him
millions, i'm sure he'll find a way to go through that. your 'joint venture'
will probably be opening up long john silver's restaurant somewhere in
wisconsin. second, i think he is trying TO RIP YOU OFF. i mean, three
million dollars to fill out some paperwork. i don't know how he negotiated
that, but that's cruel to be taking advantage of you and your family in that
way. he thinks just because you are in a bad spot he and princess connie
should try to make as much money as they can. it makes me sick, what
they are doing. i can do whatever they are going to do for you, and
besides i'm not just prettier than them, but smarter too ;) just tell them
the deal's off and then let me know what i should to do make
arrangements to go to madrid. will i see you there? DO NOT TELL THEM
I HAVE CONTACTED YOU. they will tell mom and then all hell will break
loose and besides i am just trying to help you out and make a little money
for myself, instead of bilking you for some big extravagant fortune.

promise? in writing? on your weblog?

Emily has implored me to make the following vow in writing and post it to my website:

(Note: I would make a similar promise to any of the three other students I know who are taking the social psychology prelim tomorrow, all of whom I hold in high regard.)

poison postcard

As if I don't have enough to be neurotic about, my friends Jan and John sent me the following postcard from their recent trip to California:

I suppose I should be thankful that I'm too busy consuming Kraft Easy Mac and the pesto dish offered by the nearby Noodles restaurant to eat actual fruits or vegetables, or I would be a walking vial of poison!

heart of darkness, part 15

Reply from Mr. Mongosutu: to Constance and I:

Mr. Freese,
I have sent a fax message to Spain and i am yet to get a reply . It is about 

9.00pm here now and i dont think i can write you a mail today again. But my
prayer is that everything should go on as planned to finish this week.
So i will reach you tomorrow to finalise about the arrangements once i hear 

from them.

Reply from Mr. Mongosutu to Dahlia:

Dear Dahlia,
Thanks a lot for your email. and concern. but concerning this i am already 

discussing it with Mr. freese before he copted Constance into it. so i
believe that if you are the one chanced to be there it has to be
through Mr. Freese who is in charge. The assistance i need does not only need to be
securing the money but as soon as i come down to whereever we have
agreed to meet i will like to settle there and at the same time get a business to
invest in. that has been always my plan. so get intouch with Mr. Freese
and whatever he advises i will work on.
you can give me your telephone no. where i can call you if you and mr. 

Freese agrees on this. Once again i am working on his advise.
thank you.

heart of darkness, part 14

Mr. Mongosutu responds:
From: richard mongosutu

Sent: Monday, August 11, 2003 3:06 AM
To: jfreese
Cc: constance_hawkins
Subject: RE: It is okay but..........
Dear jeremy,
I have not discussed much with the Security company on this. All we have 

said on this claim of consignment is that i want it cleared. So today i will
send the fax immediately to give me all other details involving it's
clearance this i will let you know immediately i get a feedback from them.
I am issueing a power of attorney on Constance name today. I have already 

discussed this with a Lawyer and i will see him for that today.
So i will brief you on all these later today.

However, before Jeremy or Constance responds to this message, Mr. Mongosutu is sent a message by a new correspondent:
From: Dahlia Hawkins 

Sent: Monday, August 11, 2003 8:37 AM
To: richygosutu@(deleted)
i am connie hawkins's sister.  she has told me that she 

and my stupid half-brother jeremy are making arrangements with
you that will help you and your family get millions of dollars that are
rightfully yours but that have been tied up in spain because of all
the problems in africa. connie says that you are going to give she
and jeremy $3 million just for going to madrid and filling out some
paperwork. i think they are treating you horribly, taking advantage
of someone in a desperate situation. this is just like them. plus,
connie told me that she would give me a car once all this was over,
like i'm supposed to be falling over thanking her for her generosity
about a car while she and jeremy split three million dollars. no, sir,
she is a greedy leech who is always taking me for dumb, and i'm sick
of it.
i can go to madrid anytime.  i can do sign forms or do whatever 

my sister was going to do, and you don't have to give me 3 million
dollars. I'll do it for one million dollars ($US), that's two million more
for you and your family. you just tell me where i need to be and when,
and tell them that you've found another partner
i don't think connie told anyone else about your 

arrangement. she thinks she can trust me because we're sisters.
dahlia hawkins

Unaware of Dahlia's intrusion into the deal, Jeremy responds to Mr. Mongosutu a while later:
From: Jeremy Freese 

Sent: Monday, August 11, 2003 11:20 AM
To: 'richard mongosutu'
Cc: 'constance_hawkins'
Subject: RE: It is okay but..........

We look forward to hearing from you.  Constance tells me she 

is going to be quite busy for the next couple of days so I don't
know if she will have the opportunity to e-mail you directly. I
have arranged to send her some money to cover her expenses
if she needs to stay in Madrid for more than the time she had
originally planned on being there. Again, I am assuming that I
will be reimbursed for this later. Please let us know as soon as
possible when final arrangements have been made, and let us
know where Constance needs to go in Madrid. We are excited
that it looks like we will be able to wrap up everything in a few
days, and we are thankful that you have given us this opportunity
to assist you.


Sunday, August 10, 2003

heart of darkness, part 13 1/2

Constance has sent me the directions to getting to Madrid from the orphanage in El Cubo de don Sancho:
From: El Cubo De Don Sancho ES
To: Madrid, Madrid ES

Driving Directions
* There are 0.20 km between your starting location and the beginning of your driving directions. Use maps to get from your starting location to the beginning of your route.

1. Start out going West toward C-525. (0.35 km)
2. Turn LEFT onto C-525. (12.48 km)
3. Turn SLIGHT RIGHT. (0.02 km)
4. Turn LEFT onto N-620/E-80. (48.92 km)
5. Merge onto N-630 toward SALAMANCA SUR/N-501/ÁVILA/E-803/CACERES. (1.80 km)
6. N-630 becomes AVENIDA DE LASALLE. (1.28 km)
9. Turn SLIGHT RIGHT onto N-630/PASEO DEL PROGRESO. (0.24 km)
10. Enter next roundabout and take 2nd exit onto CARRETERA DE MADRID/N-501. (0.22 km)
11. Stay straight to go onto CARRETERA DE MADRID. (0.57 km)
12. Enter next roundabout and take 2nd exit onto CARRETERA DE MADRID/N-501. (0.83 km)
13. Enter next roundabout and take 1st exit onto C-510/AVENIDA ALBA DE TORMES. (1.12 km)
14. Turn SLIGHT LEFT. (4.19 km)
15. unnamed road becomes N-501. (66.33 km)
16. Turn LEFT onto CL-803. (27.20 km)
17. Merge onto A-6 toward VILLACASTIN/MADRID (Portions toll). (96.82 km)
18. A-6 becomes AVENIDA DE PUERTA DE HIERRO. (1.62 km)
21. CALLE DE LA PRINCESA becomes CALLE GRAN VÍA. (0.69 km)

Total Estimated Time: 4 hours, 12 minutes
Total Distance: 267.20 km

wls update

The latest mouse-clicking-candy for me is this web URL by which I can see how many completes we have for the WLS, vs. the number of refusals, cases still in tracing (meaning we are trying to find them), and active cases (in the current pool that we are trying to call). I can hit reload and watch the numbers go up. I would include the URL so that you can see for yourself but some hands on the Good Ship WLS might think we should not broadcast this information to the entire world (and the entire world, increasingly, is becoming coterminous with the readership of this weblog). We currently have 140 completes vs. 15 refusals (a 90% response-vs.-refusal rate), and that's without any special efforts to convert refusals. So far getting people to do the survey is going really well, which speaks to the shining character of people from the Badger state. From looking at the other numbers, however, I suspect that whether our response rate ends up being "outstanding," "great," or merely "really good" is going to depend on how well we do at getting people who are not easy to reach on their phones in the first place, and so who haven't ended up being either completes or refusals yet.

heart of darkness, part 13

First, my reply to Mr. Mongosutu:
-----Original Message-----

From: Jeremy Freese
Sent: Sunday, August 10, 2003 9:11 AM
To: 'richard mongosutu'
Cc: 'constance_hawkins'
Subject: RE: It is okay but..........
So, from what you said in your earlier e-mails, I'm presuming 

that you will be able to change the name of your beneficiary and
issue a power of attorney by simple fax. If you are able to do this
on Monday, I would imagine that we could have everything in the
works by when Constance arrives in Madrid at the end of the week.
Constance also, of course, needs the address of the place she is
going in Madrid. I am trusting you that there is no danger to her in
going to this place. Let us know if there might be some advantage
to her bringing along a couple of her more muscular friends from her
Since Constance is the one in Spain, not me, the documents should 

be in her name. Earlier, you had suggested monetary conditions
involving the transfer of funds; however, I am presuming I was wrong
in believing that these would involve some kind of fee. Do not issue
any documents in Constance's name if there is any possibility of any
monetary conditions involving the payment of fees that we have not
yet discussed. As I have said, we would understand if some fee
needed to be paid in order to release the money; however, I cannot
have my sister's name placed on any documents if we do not have
the details of this up front. Being obviously well-versed in the ways
of business yourself, I am sure you understand.
I presume that Constance does not have a cel phone (you haven't 

obtained one recently, have you, C.?), and so if there is any part of the
transaction that you need to conduct over the telephone please use
the telephone number that I included in an earlier message, and I will
pass this information along to Constance.

Then, Constance chimes in shortly thereafter:
Dear Mr. Mongosutu,
My brother is correct that I do not have a cell phone.

In the interest of time, it may be necessary to
contact him by phone. Please do not hesitate to do
this. He will know how to contact me, but I am
afraid, for the safety of the children, that we do not
give out the phone number for the orphanage. In this
day and time, one never can keep children safe enough
from nefarious forces.
Please email or call my brother as soon as possible

with more details. I can still adjust my schedule at
this time. I may be able to stay in Madrid longer
than I thought. If there are any hold ups with the
paperwork, I may be able to stay in Madrid until the
problems are resolved.

Saturday, August 09, 2003

puppy sprinkles' moment of fame

A new reader from Macon, Georgia has e-mailed asking for more details about the two-part Blossom episode that included an appearance of a good friend of mine in the role of "Puppy Sprinkles".

Plot summary (at least as best as I can recall): Joey Russo, fed up with the continual berating and costume changes of his sister Blossom, as well having to fend off the desperate unrequited love of her best friend Six, stows away in the back of a tractor trailer hauling contraband Cheddarwurst(tm) to Las Vegas, where he meets up with a troubled runaway named Puppy Sprinkles [my friend Amy] who is trying to make a living as a croupier. Joey falls in love with Puppy, who encourages his passion only because she has accidentally come to believe that Joey is really a millionaire cheese-filled-meat-product entrepeneur. Joey and Puppy's whirlwind romance leads them to decide that they are going to get married at Charo's 24 hour Chapel of Love just off The Strip [special guest appearance by Charo], and the regular cast makes a madcap trip out to Vegas and manages to stop the wedding just in time, with Blossom appearing in disguise as a drunken justice of the peace.