Friday, October 31, 2003

joys of rotations

I just finished spending an obnoxious amount of time making a set of slides illustrating the rotation of factors in factor analysis, for the graduate methods class I'll be teaching in the spring. I resolved that I would improve that part of the course, and I'm currently reading a book on intelligence testing which is a good occasion to ponder factor analysis. Anyway, it involved me making some PowerPoint graphs of a form I hadn't done before, as well as doing some trigonometry and holding a protractor up to my screen. In a burst of pride, I've uploaded the slides here. Granted, they don't make much sense without the accompanying handout, but they still look cool.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

week three weigh in (it's a butte!)

BTW, this morning was the end of the third week of my weigh-in, although my diet was somewhat (really! only somewhat, or at least not entirely) compromised during the trip to Taiwan. Anyway, if my starting weight was z, today's weight was z - 5.6 pounds. I've decided to set my goal weight at z-33 pounds, with the idea of having the 33 pounds gone perhaps by my 33rd birthday in March.

What does this mean in metaphorical terms? Let's fire up MapQuest. Calculations indicate that if my starting weight was Seattle and my goal weight was Key West, then my present weight would put me just past Butte, Montana on this journey.

a concerned-if-provincial reader asks, "jeremy, don't they eat babies over there in them foreign countries?"

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

incontrovertible evidence that i was actually in taiwan

(Soon to be followed by pictures providing incontrovertible evidence that I live in an RV, since for whatever reason that also seems to be a matter inspiring some skepticism.)

special taiwanese weblog contest!

Here is a sign from the elevator in the hotel where I stayed while I was in Taiwan. It's a warning about something you are not supposed to do (in? with regard to?) the elevator. I couldn't figure out what it was trying to tell me. More than this, I shared the elevator with a bilingual person and he also had no idea, although he did think that the picture represented the same woman at two different points in time rather than something involving two women. If you have any ideas, e-mail them to me.


I'm back in Madison. I read Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose yesterday on the plane. Good as far as self-styledly highbrow medieval mysteries go, and I was surprised at the end when the answer to the implied question of the title turned out to be "Bud."

Upon returning, I've been catching up on the sleep I did not get on the airplane and trying to tame my inbox. I'm down under 50 messages, but this has been done mostly by clearing out the ones that could be dispatched with easily.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

dispatch from taipei, 4

In the hotel room at about 8 in the morning on Sunday (I presume that Blogger is printing the time/date as they are in Madison when I send these posts). Yesterday we went to the National Palace Museum, which might be the most stunning museum I have ever been to. The Museum contains artifacts that were preserved in mainland China for thousands of years and were moved to Taiwan during the evacution in the late 1940s. Among the most famous of these artifacts is a jade cabbage, which we were not able to find while we were walking around (it was easy to get lost and/or disoriented in the museum, despite the fact that many of the signs were in English). We did see such marvels as a bowl made from the skull of a Tibetan lama, et cetera..

Later in the afternoon we went to the Jade Market, which is kind of like a massive flea market where, as the same suggests, much of what is being sold is made from varying qualities of jade. I nixed the idea of getting anything particularly expensive. I did have the triumph of successfully bargaining with one of the vendors however. For people who don't speak Chinese, when you point to an item and indicate that you want to know what it costs (me, I say, "How much?), they type the number into a calculator and show you. The vendor typed in 150 (about $4.25) and I reached over to the calculator and typed 100 instead, and she nodded. So a tiny whitish jade pig is now mine, likely to be given away at this present to some family member who does not read this weblog.

Friday, October 24, 2003

yes, this means that instead of thinking about my talk, I'm sitting at a computer in Taiwan pasting e-mails into my weblog

I've been figuring that I could blame my recent weight gain in part on my ecological context: according to a stat I read shortly before commencing with my job here, Wisconsin has the highest rates of obesity in the United States. However, a weblog reader who is a Wisconsin native and current resident of Brockport, NY sends the following:
I came across this article about Madison, WI as the healthiest place for men, to quote:

The Best: Madison, Wisconsin

You can go an entire day without seeing fat people in Madison. Walk from the University of Wisconsin campus to the capitol square, from Lake Mendota's eastern shore to Lake Monona's western shore, and you'll see what every healthy American man dreams of seeing: choices. Jogging or kayaking? Thai food or East African? A curvy blonde reading Nietzsche or a willowy brunette reading The Onion? We saw all of the above.

(link included here

I hope this provides you some inspiration for achieving your target x weight, knowing you are apparently surrounded by the best support environment for a healthy lifestyle anywhere in the country--obviously an island in the sea of obesity that is Wisconsin.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

dispatch from taipei, 4

I am sitting in an office getting this afternoon's talk ready. Yesterday's talk went well, or, at least, the audience was very polite. I think I did a good job of speaking at a reasonable pace for people for whom English is not their first language. The organizers of the conference have been extremely hospitable the entire time. They have been really wonderful. We went out last night to a Japanese restaurant and I showed myself that, despite my massive squeamishness, I can eat any number of different kinds of mysterious raw fish so long as I dunked it in soy sauce and wasabe long enough.

Side note: When the organizer first introduced himself to me, he noted that I did not look at all like my picture on my webpage, which makes me think that perhaps I should update it.

Side note, 2: While they do all sorts of food well here in Taipei, they do pastries extremely well. I have shown reasonable dietary restraint thus far, although the eclair for breakfast was plainly a lapse.

Anyway, I must return to preparing today's talk.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

dispatch from taipei, 3

Went out walking around. Successfully obtained some Chinese currency. Appears that there is no Diet Pepsi Twist anywhere, or even Diet Pepsi. There is, however, Pepsi Twist, but that would be inconsistent with my diet.

I am very nervous for this talk. I have NO IDEA how it will go.

dispatch from taipei, 2

All kinds of people, doing Tai Chi (insert apostrophe where appropriate, I forget) outside my window. How cool is that!

dispatch from taipei

Just got in. As it turns out, there is a high-speed connection in the room. I'm not sure how the outlets work here and if I'm at risk of melting my laptop by plugging it into the wall. So far, so good.

The conference booklet has all the papers I suggested collected in this handsome bound volume. I'm starting to get extremely nervous about the talk tomorrow. And, I still will need to find a printer or totally wing it. Luckily, the other speaker (Guang Guo, University of North Carolina) is in the morning, so I will get a chance to scout things out before going up there myself.

Yikes! I hope this ends up being okay. I have resolved to have run, regardless.

update on dahlia

for those of you who have been wondering how dahlia "snuffleupagus" hawkins has been doing in my (football) pool, she has positioned herself to be within striking distance of our fearless leader, ashley finley. here are the latest cumulative rankings:

Cumulative Rankings
(1) Ashley Finley-72
(2) Anne Berry-71
T(3) Rob Clark-68
T(3) Rita Noonan-68
T(3) Jeff Tonole-68
(6) Dahlia Hawkins-67
T(7) Joe Berry-66
T(7) Shelley Correll-66
(9) Nick Kroska-64
T(10) Jean Winsterman-60
T(10) Steve Hitlin-60
(12) Paul Noonan-59
(13) Lauren Winsterman-57
(14) Ellie Buckley-56

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Now Available For a Limited Time Only: Jeremy's Automatic Reply.

So as not to shirk my interim blog duties, I will try to revive Jeremy's web log every now and then over the next week or so with various posts that relate to all-things Jeremy. For starters, I've posted below Jeremy's automatic reply that (as he mentions in his last blog) he has activated for his email account. Really! Truly! If you email him right now, you'll get the following response:

Automatic reply: Jeremy Freese is now in Taiwan. He is resolved to have a good time and not be anxious about how he's not checking his e-mail, although these things can be a struggle for him. The moment your e-mail arrived in his inbox, he had this brief sense that someone was trying to tell him something, but then he put it out of his mind and went back to having a good time. He figures that you will understand. He will be back with souvenirs and renewed enthusiasm on Wednesday, October 30th.

Get your very own Automatic Reply from Jeremy today!

my ride to the airport is in half an hour

Okay, now, I'm really leaving for Taiwan. I've activated my e-mail Vacation Message, and now I'm just copying the important files to my laptop. I still have much work to do on my talks, which also means that I am going to have to find a printer somewhere. For me, at least, the amount of anxiety surrounding a talk is generally proportional to the lack of information about my audience, and I really don't know what this workshop is going to be like. Anyway, I need to compartmentalize the talk part of things and keep focused on having fun with the rest of my trip.

I still have some packing to do, and, unlike my talk, that cannot wait until I am on the plane!

Monday, October 20, 2003

nope, never

Consider the survey question: "Have you ever had a time in life lasting two weeks or more when nearly every day you felt sad, blue, depressed, or when you lost interest in most things like work, hobbies, or things you usually liked to do for fun?"

So far, with the incoming data from the WLS, most people who said "yes" to this question in 1992 said "no" when they were asked the same question in 2003. In other words, most of the people who reported that they had sometime had a multiweek funk in 1993 denied that they had ever had this experience 11 years later.
           |       everdep03

everdep92 | no yes | Total
no | 351 64 | 415
yes | 75 66 | 141
Total | 426 130 | 556

in it for the hamiltons

Nielsen called me yesterday and said that they would pay me $10 if I did this survey about my web usage. As I said in my preceding post, I'm going out of town tomorrow. Can someone take care of this for me either today or while I am gone? E-mail me if you do. I know this should give me bad survey karma especially since there is a survey in which I'm heavily invested in the field right now, but the karma-accountants draw a distinction between academic and for-profit survey research.
Web Address:

Your PIN: MATT0873

Dear Jeremy Freese,

We are very pleased that you have agreed to participate
in the Nielsen//NetRatings online user survey. This survey
is designed to measure which sites people like you visit online.
The information we collect from this survey will help us
understand online usage patterns and the lifestyles and
behaviors of users online.

To begin the survey, click on or
enter the address in your browser's address bar. When you
reach the site, you will be asked to enter your PIN MATT0873.

The questionnaire is easy to fill out -- simply "point and click"
your responses. Please note that your data will be reported
only in aggregate with users similar to you. We will never report
your data separately or disclose any personally identifiable
information to any third party. Nielsen//NetRatings' privacy
protection practices are second to none in the research

Shortly you will receive a letter containing a token of our
appreciation for agreeing to participate in our survey, along
with a copy of our frequently asked questions and privacy
policy. If you would like to view our frequently asked
questions and privacy policy now, click on or enter the address in
your browser's address bar.

If you have any questions, email us at
Lastly, if you'd like to verify who we are, feel free to call us at
1-800-454-2395. A Nielsen Media Research representative will
be glad to speak with you.

Thank you for your contribution to this valuable and important
research project.


William Pulver
President and CEO

taifour, taithree, taitwo...

The Countdown to My Trip to Taiwan is almost done. We leave tomorrow morning and will be gone until next Tuesday. Unless we have more Special Guest Posts from Rob Clark, you should probably not expect any new posts for a week.

dispatch from my dreamworld

Last night, I had my first dream that included the weblog. I dreamt I was in Seattle with my parents looking at apartments. We went to one apartment building that looked great and got the application from the manager and on it was a question that asked you to list all the medications you might be taking. My mom said they want to know this in case there were any medical emergencies. No, some shadowy figure hanging around the apartment building surreptitiously told me, they wanted to know this because they wanted to know if people had any medical conditions that might reduce their likelihood of being able to consistently pay rent so they could reject those applications. That has to be illegal, I thought to myself, I need to expose these people to the world. I'll write about them on my weblog.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

damn yankees

One of the many, many reasons why it is so easy to become obsessed with Jeremy’s web log are the fascinating research questions that he prompts people to take up (see my “ayayay! of the tiger…” guest blog on Friday, September 12, 2003). This time, I pursue Jeremy’s recent blog regarding the “fair-weatheredness” of New York Yankees fans. Click on the following link to see how I empirically investigate the relationship between Yankee fan attendance and Yankee on-field success.

damn yankees.doc

Saturday, October 18, 2003

reason to hate the yankees, #4692163

From today's NYT: "As the Florida Marlins surged in the playoffs, fair-weather fans began snapping up tickets and basking in the sunny promise of a World Series championship." The article also includes a graph showing how attendance at Marlins games was abysmal for most of the season until it became plain that they were in contention for the playoffs.

The problem with seeing all this in the New York Times is that endlessly-self-congratulatory Yankees fans can imagine that they are not fair-weather fans because, gosh, they've been following the Yankees since they were kids. But, guess what, the Yankees have had at least intermittently fair-weather since their parents were kids? The last time the Yankees had a season as bad as Florida's 1998 season was 1908. We can only imagine what kind of loyalty Yankees fans would show if George Steinbrenner had some kind of strange ascetic conversion and sold off all the teams good players and replaced them with overmatched rookies from the team's minor league system, which is what happened to the Marlins in 1998 and which vitiated the burgeoning loyalty of its fan base.

I just looked it up, and the Yankees attendance fell off by a third when they went from 85-76 in 1988 to 76-86 in 1992 (2.6 million vs. 1.7 million).

gregg, some advice: count to ten before hitting 'send'

Gregg Easterbrook, the weekly NFL columnist whose columns have become so long as to become creepy (the topic of one of my previous posts) , has gotten in trouble and apologized for one of his own weblog rantings (the original post is here). What does he blame? That he writes too fast! (Well, and that in the world of the weblog he can put stuff out there to read before he has more of a chance to reflect on it. But, given how much he puts out, it's not apparent to me that he has much of a chance to reflect on any of it anyway.)

BTW, in addition to writing about football and politics, Easterbrook has a whole series of columns about religion available here. No word on how many new columns on other topics Easterbrook may have written since I started this post seven minutes ago.

Friday, October 17, 2003

reassuring? creepy? and what's with the coke thing, anyway?

While it's true anyway that you never know who will show up in your inbox, stumbling across your weblog is another way that someone might be reminded of your existence and be prompted to write. I'm amazed that people still talk about the advent of the Internet and the widespread diffusion of e-mail as being isolating things that shrink people's social networks. E-mail creates a layer of communication by which you sometimes hear from people that ten years ago you maybe only would have interacted with ever again had you bumped into them in an airport somewhere.

Exhibit A: Received yesterday, from someone I went to graduate school with and hadn't heard from in several years, now in San Francisco, CA:
i told erin maher a while ago that i  wanted to write you an email 

telling you how i stumbled on your 'blog through completely inexplicable
means and have been really, sincerely enjoying it. every time i'm
reading it, i keep thinking to myself "any day now i will write jeremy
an email" and "i wonder if there's anything else besides a wicked sense
of humor that is driving the chinese to pee in coke?" it would seem that
i have finally had a minute to focus on the former. so. that said, i
think your weblog is hilarious, and perhaps it will be reassuring and
just a little creepy for you to know that even the most tangential
people in your life are aware of you...

down with the hanging tags of death

This year the parking people at UW have moved from a system of using stickers to identify lot permits to using these large hanging tags that you are supposed to hang from your rearview mirror. You are supposed to only have the tag hanging while you are parked, but of course it's easier just to leave it there. Some people hear have been complaining about them as being a safety hazard, and I have been dismissing these people as worry-worts who are impeding the way of parking progress.

However, I am announcing to the weblog world that I WAS WRONG. I have officially become a sudden convert to the cause of agitating against this change, when yesterday I came within centimeters of plowing some guy over with my car because (as far as I can figure) my view of him had been blocked by the hanging tag. I had no idea what a giant blind spot it creates. I would have an unflattering photo of me on the front page of the student paper wearing an orange jumpsuit if not for sheer luck.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

she said, incredulously

I had lunch at Panera bread, on my way back after running some errands. As the woman behind the register stood poised to ring up my order, she gave me this look of incredulity, repeated my order, and then asked a question I didn't hear.

"What?" I said. I was trying to think of what it was that could be spurring this reaction from her.

"Anything else?" she repeated, with another look of incredulity.

"No," I said. I don't know if I was audibly defensive, but I certainly felt that way. What had I done to incur this woman's incredulity? I was just trying to have some normal, diet-consistent lunch. I started to think that it was maybe that I was having lunch by myself or wondering if there was something desperately amiss with my appearance or if I had inadvertently broken some social norm again, etc.

As I was waiting for my order, I surreptitiously studied the woman longer. I even did this for awhile as I was eating the meal. The look of incredulity remained, which led me to conclude that it must not have been me. I thought something must have gone wrong at work, and she was responding to it with this fixed look like she was saying "Whatever" over and over in her had.

But, after awhile, I got it: this was the way her face was all the time. The default state of her face looked like it was actually a series of meaningful movements away from a default state, which together combined to the same set of features that an ordinary person who knows the word incredulity would think, why is she looking at me with such incredulity. Day after day, this woman ("Penelope" her name tag said) has strangers interacting with her and walking away wondering what she is all incredulous about. I wonder if people whose faces suggest some emotion that they aren't actually feeling have any kind of advocacy group helping others to understand their plight.

week one weigh-in

I started my diet a week ago. Before that, I had spent 2003 gaining weight at roughly a rate equivalent to taping a Kit-Kat bar to my body every day of the year. I just stepped on the scale for the first Thursday Weigh-In. If last Thursday's weight was z, today's weight was z-3.8 pounds. So, progress.

a reader complains

-----Original Message-----
From: Erin J. Maher [mailto:address deleted]
Sent: Thursday, October 16, 2003 7:28 AM
To: [other recipients deleted]; Jeremy Freese
Subject: (no subject)

do you ever notice how things that you send jeremy or suggest for the
weblog end up on the weblog? whereas nothing i ever do or say or
suggest does.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

angels in the outfield

I'm following the Cubs-Marlins game on the web. If you didn't see last night's game, the Cubs lost then perhaps as a result of interference on a Cubs fan with catching a foul ball. This makes me kinda root for the Marlins in this game, so that for the next few decades I will get to hear occasional stories about how this fan's life continues to be ruined as a consequence of his deed.

Anyway, the weird thing that inspired a weblog post is that I was following the game using ESPN GameCast, which provides these detailed moment-by-moment updates. However, these moment-by-moment updates are running maybe 10 minutes behind the less-detailed regular update on So I knew the Cubs were going to score 3 runs in the bottom of the second to tie the game just as the first hitter was coming to the plate according to GameCast. It's a strangely quasi-clairvoyant feeling to know that three runs are going to score and then see slowly how it is that the big inning actually does score.

Actually, GameCast is still in the second inning, but I can see already that the Cubs are going to score at least two more in the third.

hey teacher, part 3

Same course and friend as in the earlier "hey teacher" posts, but a different student:
>i have been working on my research proposal and have found quite a bit

>of information on my topic. my only problem is i am not positive i am
>exactly on the right track. my hypotheses include that ones knowledge
>of drug abuse effects their likelyhood to use drugs and the other one
>is that ones popularity and academic performance effect drug abuse. do
>i need to correlate this into one or leave them separate. this part is
>confusing me a little bit.

reason to hate the world, #4692163

A Chicago Tribune columnist received the following e-mail when he wrote a column last week critical of Rush Limbaugh:
"You and your defense of liberals, liberal ideology, and the liberal way of life deserves to get your mother and sister raped by a three time loser who was out on a 'technicality,' an AIDS infested needle in your arm, and your dog--if a dog would ever lower itself to be seen in your company--run over thrice by a repeat drunk driver who society didn't castrate, strangle, and cook in the gas chamber when it had the chance because some liberal do-gooders got him off. This pathetic society and all its ills are the creation of YOU and YOUR inferior kind. Go to hell. "

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

CAUTION: hanging up may be hazardous to your health (or, the unlucky thirteen)

If you can't read Stata output, the output below is lost on you, but here's the gist. In 1975, people in their mid-thirties were asked to participate in the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study telephone survey. Most people said yes, but some refused. Between 1975 and 2000, (age mid-thirties to sixty) some people died. We know they died because either we learned they were dead when we tried to get them to participate in the 1992 round of the WLS, or we found out they were dead through an eagle-eyed search of the Social Security Death Index. Anyway, what the output below shows is that people who refused to participate in the survey are more likely to be dead than people who agreed to participate. Maybe I will use this in my methods class when we talk about causality.
Logit estimates                                   Number of obs   =       9525

dead | Coef. Std. Err. z P>|z| [95% Conf. Interval]
resp75 | -.4144247 .1744284 -2.38 0.018 -.756298 -.0725514
female | -.3612206 .0822002 -4.39 0.000 -.52233 -.2001111
_cons | -2.050844 .1714861 -11.96 0.000 -2.386951 -1.714737

Hmm, I wonder if the people who said no to the WLS phone interview in 1992 are more likely to be dead by 2000 than people who said yes. I just ran the numbers, and yep:
Logit estimates                                   Number of obs   =       9076

dead | Coef. Std. Err. z P>|z| [95% Conf. Interval]
resp92p | -.4442695 .211308 -2.10 0.036 -.8584255 -.0301135
female | -.3740024 .125414 -2.98 0.003 -.6198093 -.1281955
_cons | -2.906913 .206363 -14.09 0.000 -3.311377 -2.502449

Update, 9:15PM: An obvious possibility is that people who are knock-knock-knocking on heaven's door at the time of the interview are more likely to be refusals. So I looked at whether someone refused to participate in 1975 and threw out everybody who died prior to 1985, meaning that if this is the result of a few people being on their last legs those legs had to last a decade. Interestingly, this hardly affects the magnitude of the RESP75 coefficient at all (below).
Logit estimates                                   Number of obs   =       9385

dead | Coef. Std. Err. z P>|z| [95% Conf. Interval]
resp75 | -.391977 .1964725 -2.00 0.046 -.7770561 -.0068979
female | -.4020621 .0924075 -4.35 0.000 -.5831774 -.2209468
_cons | -2.29816 .1931167 -11.90 0.000 -2.676662 -1.919658

Update, Wednesday morning: An e-mail that I just sent elaborating on this association--
> 18 people who were coded as refusals for the 1992 phone interview have

> since died. If they had died at the same rate as the respondents, only
> 5 would be dead. So it must be that there are 13 people out there who
> would be alive today if only they had agreed to be interviewed. I would
> put a little smiley face after that last sentence if I was the sort to
> use smiley faces.
> --Jeremy


Madison, WI, October 11 -- The challenge has been met, the battle fought, and the sun has set...on a 0 - 0 draw with Statistics! The Sociology vs. Statistics soccer match was played with vigor and energy. A lively chatter could be heard in many languages, both on the field and in the enthusiastic group of fans who ringed the game. The principal excitement in the first half was a shot off the crossbar by Giovanni Zanalda, and a diving save -- yes, I mean a diving save -- by Sociology's goalie, Bert Adams. The second half was also hotly contested but neither side came as close to scoring. The contestants were left with a but one thought: wait 'til next year!
A 0-0 tie.. sounds like we all better stick to statistics.

If only the rest of sociology's interactions with statistics were so well-defended.

Monday, October 13, 2003

have expertise, will trade for gossip

This week I'm back to reading some evolutionary psychology. I'm reading The Essential Difference: The Truth about the Male and Female Brain by the British psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen. The title is a little misleading, because the book is really about two differences, although part of the argument is also that they tend to be inversely correlated with one another, leading to the common Men Are Better At X, Women are Better at Y. In this case, X is "systemizing" and Y is "empathizing." The most intriguing part of the argument is the idea that autism might be an instance of what he calls the "extreme male brain," or a brain that is very poor at empathizing relative to systemizing.

Anyway, the book gets a weblog post because it falls into the same logic as many popular (and, for that matter, academic) evolutionary psychological discussions of sex differences. Sensitive to the political hostility that claims of innate sex differences draw, the book starts out with a series of lengthy, presumably sincere, disclaimers about how the last aspiration of the book is to serve as a justification for gender inequality, etc.. And also the substantive claim, which not just serves political purposes but also the more fundamental statistical issue of what one can infer from a mean difference, that a between-sex difference does not imply considerable overlap in the distributions of men and women for either "systemizing" or "empathizing."

But, then, except when it explicitly repeats this disclaimer later, the book proceeds to talk about the subject as if men are basically one way and women are basically another way. So the second chapter of the book is a presentation of an extended example of a Boy and Girl (siblings, no less) who are basically like Mars and Venus. This leads into chapters called "The Female Brain as Empathizer" and "The Male Brain as Systemizer." It amazes me that psychologists who do work on sex differences can think that you can refer to The Male Brain and The Female Brain without losing the nuance you get from saying that all you basically have is a difference in the average between men and women for two psychological traits.

Beyond this, why might the book annoy women? It has the increasingly-obligatory-in-pop-science-books evolution chapter where the author gauges in freewheeling and largely science-free attempts to explain why the particular psychological phenomenon discussed in the book could have arisen as the result of natural selection. Why might an increased capacity for "systemizing" be good for men? The first six section headings for the potential advantages are "Using and Making Tools," "Hunting and Tracking," "Trading," "Power," "Social Dominance," and "Expertise." Meanwhile, why might an increased capacity for "empathizing" be good for women? Here, we have headings for "Making Friends," "Mothering," "Gossip," "Social Mobility," and "Reading Your Partner." I was confused by "Social Mobility" here, until I read the section and it turns out what he is talking about is not social mobility as social scientists use the term, but basically the idea that greater empathizing may make it easier to get along with new groups of people (like when women would go and join their mate's group back in the Pleistocene).

Friday, October 10, 2003

take two, they're small

I just got a spam message announcing cheap painkillers
Subject: Rx: VICODIN is Here - Just Pennies per Tablet

Rx Outlet
Vicodin on sale for a limited time.
Free shipping on a 3 month supply (90-count).
Hurry while this offer lasts.
I wonder if any of these companies have tried to line up Rush Limbaugh as a spokesperson now that his predilection for these little pills is widely known.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

news from maine

Andrea, a CIA covert operative working out of Lewiston, ME, e-mails me that a friend of hers has opened a museum celebrating umbrella covers. I have to confess that I've never actually understood the point of an umbrella cover.

dubya dubya

The first diet-supportive message in response to my weblog announcement has come in, from Julie in Chicago, IL, who passed along this site of Weight Watchers recipe cards from an earlier era. Now all I need is a copy of Richard Simmons's "Sweatin' to the Oldies" videos and I'm on my way.



Effective yesterday, when I stepped on my scale. Over the last nine months, I have turned into a bloated blue whale of a man, as a result of nothing more complicated extremely poor eating habits and sloth. No slow metabolism, etc., for me, just high caloric intake and a relatively sedentary life style.

This is not an aesthetic issue; this is a health and self-esteem issue. I am only one year younger than Jesus and Chris Farley were when they died, and one of those deaths was definitely heft-related.

I am presently x+31 pounds, where x is not exactly any of your business but is generally a weight I would set as the upper bound of my ideal range. At the start of 2003, I was x-10 pounds.

Yes, that means that I have gained 41 pounds in 9 months, or a little more than a pound a week. (Or, alternatively, an upward climb of about two-and-a-third ounces every single day of 2003!) By point of reference, when I got the job at Wisconsin and realized I was moving to the state with the highest obesity rates in America, I said if I ever got up to x+45 pounds I would quit my job immediately and flee the state.

I am announcing this to my weblog as a way of making public my committment and increasing the stakes if I should fail. Readers should feel free to call me out if they see me scarfing down on something that is obviously inconsistent with my stated goal. "Hey, Jeremy, are you down to x yet? No? Then WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING WITH THAT DONUT!!!" is perfectly permissible.

No more ice cream. No more non-diet soda. My official goal weight is x. I will persevere. Root for me. Updates to follow.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

wuthering lights

I'm in my office today, and I am still having the flickering light problem. There is something wrong with the switch that causes four out of the six flourescent light bulbs to flicker intermittently in this way that makes it seem like someone may being electrocuted down the hall. I just checked my e-mail and I first e-mailed about this on July 24th, and still no one has shown up to fix it. I am going to e-mail again.

We have these green tags that say Check Lights that you are supposed to put on your door if you are having a problem with your lights. When my office was on the second floor, one of my lights burned out and I dutifully put out the Check Lights tag. The next day, the tag was put back on my side of the door, and there was a strip of yellow-police-line-like tape stuck up on the ceiling by the fluorescent light that was out. This was in the middle of winter, and still nothing had been done when I moved out of my office in July.

and i would have thought he was going to say: kevin nealon (or maybe: kiki dee)

Salon's gossip column has a quote from Elton John at a charity function:"I love America, but if you want to know why the world hates America, I can give you two words: Dennis Miller"

Sunday, October 05, 2003

lick the tins? lick the tins?

Lately I've taken to having my RealJukebox program set to shuffle, meaning that plays some MP3 from my hard drive at random. It just now started playing this Irish-sounding cover of "Can't Help Falling in Love" that is listed on the file as being from a band called Lick The Tins. I have no idea how this file got onto my hard drive, especially since I am not one of these promiscuous illegal music-downloader types, but instead am extremely scrupulous in all matters of copyright. I wonder if there is some kind of win_lickthetins.exe worm that has made its way onto my machine.

Anyway, I just googled "lick tins help falling love" and hit I'm Feeling Lucky, which retrieved the following:
"In 1986, a quartet from London scored their one and only hit with a clever cover version of a song associated with Elvis Presley, Can't Help Falling in Love. Presley's version sold a million and was a US top 3 hit in January 1962 and reached Number One in the UK. 24 years later, the exceptional cover version by Lick the Tins didn't do quite as well as that, although it spent two months in the UK singles chart, but then Lick the Tins were almost unknown before the single was released, and returned to anonymity not long afterwards. This is their story, and this album features (almost) their entire output... [more]"
Interesting, to be sure, but it doesn't really do anything toward solving the mystery of how this file ended up on my computer. I have zero recollection of ever hearing this song before in my life, or of Lick The Tins.

As an incidental matter, I don't know this about Madison, but basically you can't swing a cat within the city limits without hitting some guy who is in a Pogues or other Irish/Celtic cover band.

identity struggles, continued

Exchange with a reader from Lower Sandusky, OH:

i am a huge john cusack fan and it is my goal in life to see every one of his movies (as well as see all of jack black's movies--AND to some day see his band, tenacious D, play live). problem is, one of john cusack's movies is identity, the movie that you did not exactly recommend to your faithful blog readers on saturday, september 13th (see blog title: mistaken identity). it doesn't bother me that i know the ending so much as that you've instructed me not to see it because it's so bad. now that the movie has shown up at blockbuster, i walk up to it, stretch my hand out, then pull it back. but i remain standing in front of the shelf, gazing amorously at what could be, not unlike a recovering alcoholic standing in front of the liquor shelf. can you help???...

Yes, the solution is that you need to relinquish the goal of seeing all of John Cusack's movies. Perhaps you could change it to a goal of trying to memorize all the dialogue from High Fidelity (only because it has Jack Black in it as well, otherwise I would recommend memorizing Say Anything).

okay. i did love the movie high fidelity. and i rented say anything yesterday, so i have that right now. all i need is [a professional interaction analyst] to come on over and transcribe the movie for me...

is there any chance that john cusack wasn't in identity? maybe it was joan cusack impersonating him? also, couldn't my goal be to see all john cusack movies except for identity? or, could i say that i've already seen it, given that i've seen trailers/sceens and i know the basic story and ending?...

hail to the hawkeyes

My beloved Hawkeyes (yes, they play mainly for me) defeated the Michigan Wolverines yesterday, 30-27. The Hawkeyes were mostly outplayed and may have won as the result of a bad call by the officials, but all that is set aside when one's team wins. Basically, since we already beat Iowa State earlier this season, the Michigan win means that Iowa can lose the rest of their games this year and I would probably still regard it as a "good" season. From here on, everything is (vegetarian) gravy.

Friday, October 03, 2003

go, ham fighters, go!

For whatever reason, my mind just now drifted to the minor epiphany I had a few years ago when I realized that the Nippon Ham Fighters, a Japanese baseball team, did not have the inexplicable "Ham Fighters" as their nickname, but instead were the "Fighters" and were sponsored by the company "Nippon Ham." And, so, in that moment, an alien culture became a little bit less strange.

al and tipper must really have been in love

An article in Slate reports on the finding that parents are more likely to divorce if they have a girl than if they have a boy. The author credits this basic insight to a recent study by economists although a sociological study reported that more than 10 years ago. In any case, the new findings appear to expand the finding to more cultures. Also, I had not been aware that the findings had been extended to show that remarriage probabilities are higher for women with boys than they are for women with girls, and that they had been extended to stepchildren from a second marriage, with divorce in the second marriage again being more likely if the family has sons than daughters.

1. The introduction of this article--"If you want to stay married, three of the most ominous words you'll ever hear are "It's a girl.""--is ridiculously overblown given that the finding is a 5% difference in the probability of divorce (from what I can tell, that's five percent, not five percentage points, so the equivalent of a difference between 20% and 21%).

2. The general interpretation of the finding is annoying because it presumes that parents have a preference for sons. Instead, all that is necessary for this kind of finding is that fathers have a preference for being in a familial relationship with sons, or even just that they feel more comfortable entering or staying in a father-hood relationship if the child is a son than a daughter.

3. I'm not sure if some people are going to try to put an evolutionary spin on this by providing some interpretation of why Darwinian theory would predict a preference for sons. This would possibly involve the Trivers-Willard hypothesis, which I've already written two articles criticizing (its application to contemporary societies). If so, the application would be wildly misguided given the findings about remarriages, where parents are showing the same preference for children who are not their own that they show for children who are their own.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

death follow-up

The following is an excerpt from an e-mail I received from Jamie P, a reader from South Bend, IN, in response to my post about advances in social psychology and advance directives. It's from something she originally submitted to the editorial page of a newspaper.
Frankly, we do not know what it is really like to be at the brink of death (unless we have been there). I do not know what it is like to face the immediate prospect of death after sixty or more years of living. I do know what it is like to lead a day-to-day life with severe pain and no guarantee the pain will end. I know what it is like to wake-up after a surgery with a breathing tube still in my throat and to have that tube removed, followed by a few moments of horror while my body chooses to ignore my brain's will to live--and during that time to be fully aware of the blank stares of the nurses surrounding me, yet unable to express myself. I also know what it is like to face death at the age of twenty, as the result of a blood infection acquired following another surgery, and to then spend three months in the hospital relearning basic skills such as sitting in a chair and walking. I know what it is like to be so weak as to need assistance turning over in a hospital bed--again, with no guarantee that things would improve rather than get worse.

As I experienced more and more extreme states of dependency--the ones that I had been socialized to view as pitiable, I was fortunately surrounded by the love that allowed me to discard the notion that I was a bother to take care of or that I had (as a consequence of my relatively limited physical condition) ceased to possess anything of value to society. Instead of falling prey to popular misconceptions of disability and illness, I found myself just experiencing life. I discovered new ways to see myself and my relationship to others. My time of apparent dependency was a time for learning. All it took was the actual experience to shift my thinking. I take that back. A crucial factor transforming my experience into a positive, rather than negative, one was that I had not been socialized to believe that when people have lived to be twenty that they have probably experienced enough, so it would be noble to "die with dignity" and clear the way for younger folks. I experienced extreme physical dependency and it fostered compassion in the people around me and myself. I have absolutely no shame about that—at least not anymore. When we focus exclusively on what we lose as we journey along our paths, we fail to see what we have gained.

It is just as plausible that individuals approaching death encounter valuable insights into humanity as it is that they still think like healthy people who only construe the experience as horrible, with great suffering and pain. When we actually find ourselves experiencing alternative physical states of being, we are faced with the opportunity to discover for ourselves new meanings and to share them with our loved ones and society. That is, unless the environment is too inhospitable and *guilt* is so entrenched in our psyche as the appropriate response because the social meaning is that we are inhibiting the lives of others. I implore everyone, rather than feeling sorry for loved ones for the pain and suffering they must be experiencing as death approaches, to surround them with compassion, love, and acceptance. It is then that we may truly step outside ourselves and appreciate the wonder of the human condition. Before we talk about dying with dignity, let us first clarify what it means to live with dignity.

finally, a fantastic triumph for johnny g

While the most of the baseball world's attention is focused on the ongoing playoffs, the governor of Michigan has declared today "John Gnida day" in celebration of my friend John's victory in his roto-baseball league. (An increasing number of people like to call rotisserie baseball "Fantasy baseball", this use of "Fantasy" annoys me to no end because if it were really a fantasy, only low-aspiring or self-loathing players would ever finish anything other than first at it. John has played roto-ball for the better part of the past two decades, and finally he has a team that finishes first. Whether his story augurs well for long-suffering fans of the Cubs and/or Red Sox, time will only tell.

Being a Michigan native, he christened his team the "Detroit Revolution" and its winning performance is shown in the standings below:

I should note that one of John's past second-place finishes was in the Indiana Sociology Department's League, when his "G-Men" finished the season a half-point behind my team, "The Snowplow" (a pun based partly on the 'freeze' pronunciation of my last name and partly as a homage to fallen Hawkeye Chris Street). That outcome is shrouded in controversy among roto-historians to this day, as any rational application would suggest that the reason John lost was due to some dramatically miscalculated statistics by another player in the league. John graciously did not insist on a recount. This was all in the days when roto-ball was a matter of entering statistics into a spreadsheet by hand, not the fancy "Internet" technology used today.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

someday you won't have sociology to kick around anymore

A few weeks ago, signs went up declaring that there would be a soccer match pitting Economics vs. Sociology. The signs had the slogan "This time, it's NOT metaphorical," which made me hope dearly that the sign had been made by math-whiz philistine in economics, since I don't know what they thought was "metaphorical" about the normal intellectual/academic use of the idea of economics-versus-sociology.

Now, today, an e-mail went out announcing that sociology has been challenged to a game with people from the statistics department. This message may have come too late, because as far as I can tell, sociology is already quite statistically challenged as it is.

contest #4 update

While most of my Special Weblog Contests have had numerous entrants competing for glorious prizes,Special Creepy Weblog Contest #4 did not go over as well with readers. I did get an entry today, however, on the eve of the anniversary of Rock Hudson's death, to boot. From a reader from Somewhere On The Eighth Floor, Madison, WI:
I suspect it is a cousin to the "mound" that is outside the North Entrance
of the UW Hospital. Several years ago some sort of super-duper
radiotherapy device was brought in for the Cancer Center. They had to dig
a big hole to plop it in next to the building, then constructed a mound
over it, using whatever they needed to use to provide radiological
protection. Then, in an effort to cover up the top of the mound an artist
created a sculpture that marginally looks like a sundial...or a really bad
job of brick laying...depending on your artistic inclination and whether
the Wisconsin freeze/thaw has made the bricks shift.

an idea of the pressure that i am under

I go away for a few days without Internet access, and this is the sort of thing waiting for me upon my return. From a cherished reader from Dubuque, IA:
if jeremy doesn't post something onto his weblog every five minutes, [spouse?]
and i consider him to be delinquent in his responsibilities. never has
the refresh button been used so much in the [surname] household...

dahlia is angry and accusatory, part 6.02 x 10^23

Dahlia's in a snit because she had a bad week in her NFL pool and has now slipped back to being the median. Dahlia hates to be the median at anything, ever since I tricked her into being it for a rousing game of Pin The Tail On The Median at a birthday party back when we were kids.

Cumulative Rankings  Points   

(1) Ashley Finley 44
T(2) Rob Clark 42
(2) Rita Noonan 42
(4) Shelley Correll 42
(5) Anne Berry 41
(6) Jeff Tonole 40
(7) Dahlia Hawkins 39
(8) Nick Kroska 38
(9) Steve Hitlin 37
T(10) Joe Berry 36
(10) Paul Noonan 36
(12) Ellie Buckley 34
T(13) Jean Winsterman 32
(13) Lauren Winsterman 32
The leader of the pool, "Ashley Finley", is causing something of a controversy because she is also entered in the pool that I'm participating in--Rita Noonan's Survivor-themed pool--and she has made identical picks to me for each of the first four weeks of the semester. Uncanny, to be sure. But now Dahlia is accusing me of some vast conspiracy scheme where "Ashley Finley" is not a real person but rather someone that I have made up in order to conceal multiple entries to that pool. Not true!

less than zero

So over the weekend I read Janet Evanovich's Four to Score, the fourth book in the best-selling Stephanie Plum series. Each of the titles have been a little more lame than the one before it, so it's not a priority of mine to continue with reading the other five books that have been published. Among other things, this one involved the lame gimmick of a culprit-figure leaving a series of clues that Stephanie Plum needs to solve. The clues thing has been way-way-overdone, but the weird thing about this book is that it doesn't even give you what the clues are, it just mentioned that there is a clue written down and that it is in code so the Stephanie can't read it. Instead, the clues are a device to get this 6'4" transvestite in on the plot, as he is good at codes and so is able to break them for her.

If you are not familiar with the series, the first title is One for the Money. As far as I can tell, the money for mystery novels is in series, and presumably authors start all kinds of prospective series, only some of which really end up seeming promising enough to extend to multiple novels. If you are going to have a series, you apparently have to have a common theme to the titles. It's fun to walk through the paperback mystery/thriller section in a bookstore sometime and see all of the different motifs that have been used for titles.

So Evanovich writes a book called One for the Money, and it goes over well enough that she writes a second book in the series. What should the title of it be? She calls it Two for the Dough. The title is great for tying the first two books together. As this point, she has three possible title motifs running at once--in terms of specificity, the blue-suede-shoes-lyrics, the numbers-and-the-pursuit-of-money, and just the numbers.

Then comes the third book. She calls it Three to Get Deadly. Nice pun to continue the blue-suede-shoes-lyric, although now she's apparently given up the idea of having all of the titles be also tied to the fact that her heroine is only got into the bounty-hunter business because she lost her job and needs money.

By now, the series is rolling along nicely and Evanovich writes a fourth book. What to do? Now Evanovich can't keep with the numbers and the BSS lyrics, because the next BSS lyric is "Now go, cat, go." Obviously, numbers have a longer potential than a titling motif than song lyrics anyway (or at least if the song is anything other than "American Pie"). The book is titled Four to Score, which completely abandons the blue-suede-shoes lyric but does go back to the for-the-money theme.

The thing that's funny about this title is that it seems like the kind of simple little title that one could come up with on about ten minutes reflection, perhaps while flossing. Not so! Instead, the dedication page of Evanovich's book thanks someone else for figuring the way out of her titling jam: "Thanks to Shannon Hendrix for suggesting the title for this book."

In the subsequent books, Evanovich apparently hasn't had Shannon Hendrix's help, because she has abandoned the four-the-money theme entirely and is going strictly with puns based on the numbers: High Five, Hot Six, and Seven Up. I haven't looked at any of these and so I don't know if they feature any dedications to others for helping come up with the title.