Saturday, December 25, 2004

(guest posts from december reproduced below)

the clairvoyant powers of william safire

One of the news stories you always see at the end of the year is where somebody looks back at the predictions various tabloid psychics made and notes that, as ever, all of them are wrong.  When you read them--especially in light of what actually happened that year--you think: it's almost like the psychics aren't actually trying to be correct, but instead their just making predictions for their entertainment value. 

Meanwhile, a couple days ago in the NYT, William Safire presented his annual "Office Pool", where he makes predictions about the upcoming year.  I noticed how he didn't make any mention of his predictions last year.  It's irritating that newspapers revel in the erroneous predictions of psychics but nobody ever takes note of how well pundits do with their predictions.  I decided to pay the $3 to see what he did predict last year.  When I read them--especially in light of what actually happened this year--I thought: it's almost like he isn't trying to be correct, but instead he's just making predictions for their conservative flak value. 

Anyway, to get the most out of my $3, here they are.  He presents his predictions as a multiple choice quiz and then offers his prediction as an answer; I've reproduced his answer in brackets after the question.

1. Next tyranny to feel the force of U.S. liberation: (a) North Korea; (b) Iran; (c) Syria; (d) Venezuela.  [Safire's answer: (none) -- alas, his crystal ball gets cloudy from here on]

2. Iraq will (a) split up, like all Gaul, into three parts; (b) defeat the insurgents and emerge a rudimentary democracy; (c) succumb to a Sunni coup. [(b)]

3. First to fall from power will be (a) Little China's Chen Shui-bian, whose two-China campaign oratory on Taiwan is asking for trouble with Big China; (b) Pakistan's Musharraf, double-crossed by his Islamist military; (c) the U.S.'s Bush, after abandoning fiscal restraint; (d) Russia's Putin as his electorate miraculously awakens; (e) Cuba's Castro. [(e) (I've made this yearly prediction for three decades and now is not the time to stop)]

4. Long-overdue exoneration will come to embattled media megastar (a) Martha Stewart; (b) Michael Jackson; (c) Kenneth Lay; (d) Pete Rose. [(a)]

5. The economy will (a) see a booming 13,000 Dow and 3,000 Nasdaq; (b) grow more slowly as a weakening dollar drives up interest rates; (c) be rocked by the abuse of manipulative derivatives in hedge funds. [(all); note the Dow is at something like 10,800 now]

6. The fiction best seller will be (a) ''Retribution'' by Jilliane Hoffman; (b) ''Confessions of a Bigamist'' by Kate Lehrer; (c) ''Flying Crows'' by Jim Lehrer (presumably one of Kate's husbands). [(b)]

7. The nonfiction sleeper will be (a) ''Inside -- A Public and Private Life'' by Joseph Califano Jr.; (b) Carl Zimmer's brainy ''Soul Made Flesh''; (c) Michael Korda's biography of U. S. Grant; (d) Gertrude Himmelfarb's ''The Roads to Modernity.'' [(a)]

8. The scientific advance of the year will be (a) age retardation enhanced by memory protection; (b) a single pill combining erectile dysfunction treatment with a fast-acting aphrodisiac; (c) neuroscientists' creation of a unified field theory of the brain; (d) the awakening of geneticists to the liberating study of bioethics.  [(d) - weird set of choices, no?]

9. Best-Picture Oscar: (a) Anthony Minghella's ''Cold Mountain''; (b) Edward Zwick's ''The Last Samurai''; (c) Clint Eastwood's ''Mystic River''; (d) Sofia Coppola's ''Lost in Translation''; (e) Gary Ross's ''Seabiscuit.'' (This is the category I'm good at.)  [Yes, Safire really did add that last remark.  His answer: (c).  Actual winner: "Lord of the Rings", which he wasn't even prescient enough to see as an option.]

10. Bush's domestic initiative will be (a) Social Security personal accounts; (b) community college scholarships; (c) a moon colony; (d) snowmobile restrictions in Florida parks. [(b) -- not sure why "cutting Pell grants" was not on list]

11. The U.S. Supreme Court (a) will decide that the rights of alien detainees in Guantánamo have not been violated; (b) will deadlock, 4-4 (Scalia recused), in the Pledge of Allegiance case, thereby temporarily affirming the Ninth Circuit decision declaring ''under God'' in the pledge unconstitutional; (c) in Tennessee v. Lane will uphold a state's immunity to lawsuits, limiting federal power in the Americans with Disabilities Act. [(all) - so he's 0-for-3 on this one, but note the especially dramatic error of (b)]

12. Howard Dean will (a) sweep Iowa and New Hampshire and breeze to a boring nomination; (b) lose to Gephardt in Iowa and do worse than expected in N.H., leading to a long race; (c) transform himself into the centrist, affable ''new Dean''; (d) angrily bolt and form a third party if the nomination is denied him. [(b) -- I can't remember if Dean was third and Gephardt fourth in Iowa, or the other way around]

13. The ''October surprise'' affecting our election will be (a) the capture of bin Laden in Yemen; (b) the daring escape of Saddam; (c) a major terror attack in the U.S.; (d) finding a buried bag of anthrax in Tikrit. [(c)]

14. Debating Cheney on TV will be the Democratic running mate (a) Wes Clark; (b) Bob Graham; (c) Bill Richardson; (d) Dianne Feinstein; (e) John Edwards; (f) Carl Levin. [(b)]

15. The next secretary of state will be (a) Richard Holbrooke; (b) Paul Bremer; (c) Donald Rumsfeld; (d) John Kerry. [(b)]

16. Israel, staunchly supported during the U.S. election year, will (a) build its security barrier including the Ariel salient and the Jordan Valley; (b) undermine Arafat by negotiating territory with Syria after Assad quiets Hezbollah in occupied Lebanon; (c) close down illegal outposts before ''redeploying'' settlers out of Gaza. [(all)]

(originally posted to Pub Sociology)

the information age equivalent of coal in your stocking... to have Dad take your presents and sell them on e-Bay, like this father did. In his ad trying to sell three Nintendo DS systems at once, the father says:
Three undeserving boys have crossed the line. Tonight we sat down and showed them what they WILL NOT get for Christmas this year. I'll be taking down the tree tomorrow.
and at the end he includes a special little message for his kids:

Remember kids - Good things happen to good people. Bad things happen to bad people. This is a perfect example of what happens to bad kids.

(originally posted under a pseudonym to SconnieSoc)

my life in prose

A great thing about reading a lot of academic psychology is that you occasionally get to read sentences that provide a dyspiphanic insight into one's own past, present, and continuing-impending doom. To whit, from McCrae and Costa's Personality in Adulthood, 2nd edition:
"It is perhaps not surprising that individuals high in Neuroticism, whose authentic nature is to be miserable, keep trying new self-definitions, like an insomniac who cannot find a comfortable position in bed." (p. 229)
or, for that matter:
"Personal projects are also intriguing because the dimensions on which they are rated can be related to dimensions of personality. Little et al. (1992) reported that highly conscientious people feel their projects are progressing well, [people highly open to experience] believe their projects are particularly meaningful, and that those high in Neuroticism find their projects stressful." (p. 221)
(originally guest-posted to Pub Sociology)

money changes everything*

I spend way too much of my time doing peer reviews for someone who is untenured.  I am on the editorial board of ASR and a contributing editor for AJS**, responsibilities that I accepted in part because I thought that doing both would force me to decline doing any other reviews.  Here I am this evening, however, reviewing a grant proposal for one of the government agencies that funds social science research.

Before I began reviewing grants, an empirical regularity I had noticed with puzzlement was that reviewers on grants seem much more unfriendly--even the course of providing what are ultimately positive reviews--than reviewers on articles.  Now I totally understand it.  I mean, I suppose one can get all worked up when doing a review with the thought that, "This section is pretty sloppy for somebody who thinks this paper deserves 20 pages in A Leading Journal."  But it's way easier to feel terse-n-surly from the thought that "This section is pretty sloppy for somebody who thinks this proposal deserves a quarter of a million dollars."

* Also the title of what is, incidentally but inarguably, the best song in Cyndi Lauper's underappreciated oeuvre.

** Oops, I lapsed into Assumed Sociology Acronyms, and this is supposed to be public (pub-lish?) sociology here. ASR = American Sociological Review, AJS = American Journal of Sociology.

(originally guest-posted to Pub Sociology)

ho ho ho

Just in time for the holidays: It's a Wonderful Life, condensed to a thirty-second cartoon with bunnies playing all roles. (Via the blogging firm of Drek, Moredrek, and Slag).

(originally posted under a pseudonym to SconnieSoc)

crimes of fame mis-estimation, mafioso edition

"'Pete, they gotta hate me because I became a legend,' John Gotti said, noting that a newspaper columnist had said he could find 53 books in which Gotti had been mentioned. 'Fifty-three books. You can't find 53 Abraham Lincoln was mentioned in.'"
What is unclear is whether this indicates an underappreciation of Lincoln's legacy, an underestimation of the number of books that exist, or a possibly correct estimation of Pete's poor library skillz.

(originally posted under a pseudonym to SconnieSoc)

an example of a song lyric that disconcerts me each and every time i hear it

From Salt 'n Pepa's "Whatta Man":
My man gives me real lovin',
that's why I call him "Killer"
(originally posted under a pseudonym to SconnieSoc)

when i am an old man, i will play solitude on my computer. and you won't know where my office is.

Evaluations of a professor taken from (and reproduced on a fellow sociologist's blog here):
This guy has got to be like 400 years old or something. Ancient. He sometimes falls alseep during lectures and sometimes asks students to copy his notes on the board while he plays solitude on his computer. He tells everyone he just wants out of academia, to collect his check and go home. He won't tell us where his office is and seems really tired all the time.

This guy is super old and he just wants out and he'll tell you this. NO one in class knew where his office was and he told them it was no accident because he didn't want anyone bothering his afternoon naps. He said he was retiring in a year or so and didn't want to be bothered. [...] When people complained he suggested maybe they jump off a bridge but make sure not to mention his name in the note. He always said he didn't care, and we didn't understand how much he didn't care.
(originally posted under a pseudonym to SconnieSoc)


An advertisement for:
Advanced Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Workshop

Las Vegas, Nevada April 6-8, 2005 9am-5pm

This is an advanced class for those who have a good working knowledge of domestic violence principles...
Especially if they are going to have it in Las Vegas, I think that, for the sake of clarity, they should have the words "research" and/or "prevention" somewhere in the heading.

(originally posted under a pseudonym to SconnieSoc)

the chosen wun

The current description of this blog begins: "We aren't the department wunderkind." Autumn can correct me on this, but wunderkind is singular, with the plural being wunderkinder (and, the talented-and-gifted schools for the youngest of them being, of course, wunderkindergarten; the most sweet-tempered of them are sent to this country in the hopes of creating a wunderkindergentleramerica).

I don't know if readers would be more surprised to learn that Wisconsin Sociology only has one wunderkind, or that we have a wunderkind at all. In any case, do y'all know who the wunderkind is? Are they kept locked in the chair's office in a special plastic bag so that nothing will happen to them? Do they have to wear a scarlet W wherever they go, and, if so, is this a badge of honor or shame? Do you get to play ring-around-the-wunderkind at recess? Can we organize a rousing game of Pin The Tail on the Wunderkind for Visit Day?

(originally posted under a pseudonym to SconnieSoc)

she's so unusual

Letters of recommendation are, generally speaking, institutionalized acts of hyperbole that pose for reading committees the problem of trying to figure out what are the true sentiments lurking amidst all that lavish praise. Some places ask writers to fill out a form in addition to providing a letter, but the chronic problem with these forms is that writers just go through and fill in the best candidate for a student. In questionnaire research of any kind, when you have clumping on an extreme category, the usual solution is to add even more extreme categories, and this appears to be what Berkeley's graduate school is trying to do with its form. For "Please rate this applicant in terms of overall promise," you have 7 options:

1. Below average
2. Average
3. Somewhat above average
4. Good
5. Unusual
6. Outstanding
7. Truly exceptional

But, in addition to this, you can also check:

8. Best student this year
9. Best student in five years
10. Best student in ten years
11. Best student in _____ years

Missing, strangely, are "Best student there ever was" and "God."

(originally posted under a pseudonym to SconnieSoc)

spoiling the blogger broth

Team blogs, I think, have not been analyzed enough using the concepts and findings from the sociological literature that have been done of intentional communities (e.g., residential co-ops, communes, cultish-free-love-shacks of one form or another).  Since I have no great familiarity with this literature, don't expect such an analysis to come from me.  However, there is a great experiment happening right now here in Madison Sociology.  The graduate students have recently started a team blog with a lot of participants, and their only executive decision has been that all of them get full administrative privileges to the blog.  Already there seems to be a squabble where people have been changing the name of the blog back and forth from "at wisc dot edu" to "dot wisc dot edu" (neither of which is particularly compelling, but the latter being plainly superior in my view).  So one can sit and watch whether this devolves into chaos.  Or, alternatively, one can also see whether this devolves into boredom and a lack of posting inside of two weeks, which is of course the modal fate of team blogs regardless of how they allocate administrative privileges.

(originally guest-posted to Pub Sociology)

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

an open letter to my weblog

Dearest JFW:

I love you. I do. You have been an important part of my life these last sixteen months. I would not trade the memories of the time we have spent together for anything. You will always have a special place in my heart.

And, yet, I need a break from this relationship. Some Time Apart. It's about me, not about you. Well, not really: it is, in no small part, about you. You are pretty high maintenance, after all. You do demand a lot of attention. Or, at least, I start to feel guilty if I feel like I'm neglecting you.

Truth is, I just haven't been that into you lately. We always said we would break up if it ever started to feel like a chore. While I do enjoy so much of our time together, I would be lying if I didn't say that lately it has, indeed, started to feel a little like, well, a chore. You deserve better.

I know this must all be very hurtful for you to hear. Usually, in a letter like this, the writer can at least bear some illusion that the recipient will get over it with time and move on. I know that you, however, will not move on. You will just sit here and wait for me. Forever, if necessary, or at least until you are euthanized by whatever algorithms Blogger has for dealing with the abandoned. I feel guility about this, I do, but I have to take care of myself and my own needs right now.

So, a break. At least for December. Maybe forever. We'll see. I know I will miss you. Whatever happens, I will remember you fondly, always.


P.S. I really will be taking a break at least for the whole of December. I have A LOT going on right now, even by usual standards. Whether I will come back to blogging in the start of 2005 will depend on how things go. I do appreciate so much everybody who has checked out my blog and especially-especially-especially anyone who has taken the time to read it regularly.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

awesomely awesome!

While JFW has had guest posters in the past, I have never myself guest posted on anyone else's blog. This is still true. But I have signed on as an official guest-non-poster down at Silent Jay's House of Hush (a.k.a. Silent Jay's Magic Bungalow of Quiet), the postless blog that all the cool kids in Madison are talking (wordlessly) about.

I'm so excited, I can't wait to post nothing!

another casualty of impromptu science

"KENT, Washington (AP) -- A man who placed a lava lamp on a hot stovetop was killed when it exploded and sent a shard of glass into his heart, police said.

Philip Quinn, 24, was found dead in his trailer home Sunday night by his parents.

'Why on earth he was heating a lava lamp on the stove, we don't know,' Kent Police spokesman Paul Petersen said Monday."

Monday, November 29, 2004

you be the judge!

A reader comments:
I understand that a friend of his was the victim of a hit-and-run accident perpetrated by someone parked in a neighboring spot.
The story: My friends "Eric" and "Amanda" were visiting last weekend. The driveway where I park my car is basically divided into four slots, and they parked in my slot behind my car. When we came out Saturday morning, the passenger side of their red truck was seriously scratched, as though someone had scraped it while backing out. The obvious candidate, then, would seem to be my neighbor "Linda ", who parks in the adjacent slot on the side that was scratched. "Linda" and her car were gone when we got up, however, and later she seemed to not be answering her door even when it seemed like she was home.

Anyway, when I finally did get the chance to talk to her, she denied knowing anything about my friend's red truck getting hit. True, the back of the driver's side of her car does have a sizable dent, but it had a dent before from when she hit a parking garage. So who am I to accuse "Linda" of lying? The photo above, however, shows the scratches on the driver's side of her car. You can look at the photo and decide you think if the scratches suggest not only a collision with a parking garage but a second collision with something red.

if you want to have an especially bleak start to your morning...

...spend some time reading the blog of a sixteen-year old girl who has been accused of plotting the murder of her mother (story here). Scroll down, for instance, to the "Ode to Suicide." (Thanks to RWS for sending me the link and making an already morose bout of insomnia even more so.)

every little thing he buys is magic

At Target today I made one of those once-a-decade purchases: a padlock. I expected that the padlocks would all be the familiar silver-with-black-dials. I had forgotten that one of the signal features of our age is that every mundane thing you can buy now offers you the opportunity for self-expression and panache. I ended up buying the red padlock scanned for your perusal above; the runner up was regular silver but with a deep purple dial.

Friday, November 26, 2004

a driveway sniper! jeremy is not amused!

Monday night, a mostly depressing telephone conversation with a friend was enlivened by what sounded like three gunshots fired nearby in rapid succession. Growing up in rural Iowa, I was not exactly trained in the ways of urban warfare, but I do have a preternatural ability to panic. So my first reaction was to hit the floor and then crawl to the window facing the street to peek outside.

"You are such a drama queen. Are you seriously crawling around on the floor?"
"Yes! It sounded like gunshots! It sounded like it was right outside!"
"It was probably just some kid down the street with fireworks."
"Gunshots! Right outside!"
"Yeah, right. I bet someone was trying to get you with a drive-by, just like in 'Profz in the Hood'."

Today, as I was leaving the RV, my neighbor came out and asked if I had heard three gunshots on Monday night. I said I had. He then walked the thirty feet with me to the driveway where we park our cars and pointed out how there were indeed three gun shells right there on the asphalt.

stat of the day

UW's finest, Tonya B. Show, recently posted some excerpts from a Psychology Today article that attempted to put a monetary value on various personal-life-states-of-affairs. For one thing, the article said that marriage brings an increase in psychological well-being that is the equivalent of the bump you would get from a six-figure increase in salary. For another, the article valued the psychological effect of having frequent sex as part of one's life at $55,000. Intrigued, I went and read this article while I was at Borders. As it turns out, the article does not just put the $55K pricetag on frequent sex, but also decomposes this $55K into different components. The largest share of the $55K benefit is from "touch," but it estimates the value of the "sweat" part of frequent sex at ~$15K and the "orgasm" part of frequent sex at ~$7K. In other words, Psychology Today reports that, when expressed in monetary terms, the psychological benefits of sweaty, orgasm-free sex are more than twice as large as those of sweatless, orgasmaplenty sex. No details on the precise formula used to compute this financial decomposition are provided, but it is Psychology Today, after all, so we can be confident that it is top-drawer science.

around the quasi-blogosphere

Henry has long emanated this blog-like substance that refuses to conform to the normal format (e.g., providing a date, title for entries, RSS feed) of a blog. Still, it's good stuff. Among other things, he's recently linked to this clever animation of a bunny doing a song that would seem to be a variant of that classic sociological article "Why Your Friends Have More Friends Than You Do."

Meanwhile, Silent Jay continues to dribble forth his own blog-like substance that conforms to the normal format of a blog, only without any posts. He's still locked in his blogging brinksperson battle with Berkeley's Public Sociology blog, to see who can go the longest with zero posts.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

trend-revelatory stat of the day

From story about the NFL:
"Two decades ago, William ["The Refrigerator"] Perry was one of just 5 players who were officially listed as weighing more than 300 pounds. There were less than 70 when we elected Bill Clinton and his pasty white thighs in 1992. But according to, there were 339 players this season on opening day rosters who weighed at least 300 pounds."

the thing about michael chabon, or at least the novels of his that i've read

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

guns don't kill people, people kill people. knives, by contrast, often don't kill people even when people want them to.

How many times, after a shooting spree, have you heard/read someone in the news saying how the spree speaks to the need for tighter gun control and then heard/read that followed by a counter-quote from someone along the lines of "If it hadn't been a gun, it just would have been something else. Like a knife." While Joe Highschooler can presumably do a lot of damage to one person with a knife--and O. J. Highschooler can presumably do a lot of damage to two--"slashing spree" has just never provoked within me the same chilling potential for deadly carnage as "shooting spree." Now, today, we have the headline on CNN that "Student Slashes 8 at Indiana School." A tragedy, to be sure, and the details as of this writing are still sketchy. However, three paragraphs in: "the injuries weren't life-threatening."

woo-oo! oo!

I just got an e-mail inviting me to a function for the Wisconsin University Union--it's "Union" in the worker-solidarity sense, not in the center-of-student-activities sense, which after introducing itself proceeded to refer to itself by the acronym WUU. I thought, that's a concatenation of letters you don't see as an acronym every day. I wonder if the people who are central to the WUU refer to it as the "WUU". For that matter, I wonder if the extra-hip people involved in it refer to it as the "w double u" for short.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

anyone can be a former (failed) stand-up comedian. it doesn't mean the person is necessarily funny.

when in rvme, do as the rvmans do

My friends "Eric" and "Amanda"* drove up from "Cedar Rapids" to visit me this weekend. Obviously, having a pair of friends stay over can make things a little cramped when one lives in an RV. Standard practice for guests is to give them the bed while I sleep on my futon.

I suppose there are probably different ideas about the norms of appropriate conduct to expect when you let other people sleep in your bed. I was a little surprised when, soon after I awoke in the morning, Eric comes out of my bedroom on the way to the bathroom wearing the top sheet from my bed** as a toga.

"You're awake."
"And you're wearing a toga."
"We didn't think you would be awake yet. We won't be up for awhile. We're, um, playing a game."
"Say cheese, sicko." [the digital camera, fortunately, was already at hand]
"Dude, this better not go on your blog."

Eric and Amanda did take my treadmill off my hands, so I will not have that taunting monolith of exercise defeat sitting in the corner of my dining room any longer.

* All pseudonyms, of course, as I'm nothing if not discreet.

** Fetching purple, no? Purple being, as loyal JFW readers know, my second favorite color.

a sociologist asks: how many people will ron artest kill this week?

So, are daily homicide statistics available online? There is this sociological finding, repeated in various intro to sociology textbooks, that homicides go up slightly in the week following a highly publicized boxing match. The idea being that high-profile violence gets the testosterone a -pumping and starts thoughts of homicide dancing like sugarplums in a man's head, making it more likely that a given trifling altercation will escalate to a feels-so-righteous-at-the-time murder (this being the scenario of a large percentage of homicides). Anyway, the study was done at a time when boxing was more popular than it is today. Friday night's NBA brawl (Artest et al. 2004) would seem a fabulous proxy for a front-page prizefight from days of yore. And so, if the general idea behind the boxing finding has any merit, I would think one would have to expect some excess homicides this week. (Of course, one intriguing thing about excess death statistics is that you can draw the conclusion that approximately, say, 12 people were murdered who would not have been murdered had Artest decided not to fight with several rows of fans in Detroit, but you cannot determine who those people are.)

i did write a post yesterday, but blogger ate it

Friday, November 19, 2004

few things raise self-doubt like realizing that someone very fond of you is, generally speaking, a poor and easily hoodwinked judge of character

i am so sick of reverse discrimination against qualified white figurines!

Squirreled away in the "Miscellaneous" part of the Playmobil website is their "Multicultural Figure Assortment." As you can see above, what does "multicultural" mean to Playmobil? All black people, except for one orange kid and a dog.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

what to do? sociology karaoke and a blogger dinner are both on for tonight!

Update, 6pm: Hell hath no fury like three lawyers scorned. One has already drafted an ad searching for my Blogger Dinner replacement.

Update, late: I did both, starting with the bloggers at Griglia Tuscany and ending up at the Karaoke Kid.

another moment in which jeremy feels completely alienated from his gender

"Underwood, an estimator for a San Antonio, Texas auto body shop, has invested $10,000 to build a platform for a rifle and camera that can be remotely aimed on his 330-acre (133-hectare) southwest Texas ranch by anyone on the Internet anywhere in the world.

The idea came last year while viewing another Web site on which cameras posted in the wild are used to snap photos of animals.

'We were looking at a beautiful white-tail buck and my friend said 'If you just had a gun for that.' A little light bulb went off in my head,' he said."
It's just something I've never understood. Literally, it's not that I regard it negatively so much as I regard it as alien to my own way of thinking about the world. That is, I feel like, at bottom, I am just incapable of empathizing with the internal narrative that is: "Wow, that deer is soooo gorgeous. I wish we could kill it." It's so completely and thoroughly foreign to the way in which my own mental government reacts to things.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

shards of causation

So, back in a special Halloween episode of the recurring JFW feature "Correlation or Causality?," I said that I had run over what seemed like several bottles of beer while out driving, and the next day the tire that ran over the bottles was flat. I got the tire fixed today. The tire repairman identified the problem as being not only that the tire had been punctured by glass but, using whatever forensic techniques at his disposal, he was able to deduce that it was beer bottle glass. At least by my own personal epistemology, this would seem strong evidence for the "causality" thesis.

Irresistible technical addendum: In some quarters of sociology and political science, there are debates about the inferences that can be drawn from small numbers of case studies. One position in this debate, assumed by some quantitative methodologists who have been poisoned by too much thinking exclusively in terms of variables, is logically surprisingly analogous to the idea of knowing that, in a specific case, glass was run over (the explanatory "variable") and that the tire was flat (the outcome), but not having any way of talking about how the discovery of a giant shard of glass sticking out of the tire might be brought to bear on the question of whether the explanatory variable is causally related to the occurrence of the outcome.


Madison and Berkeley's sociology departments are often considered rivals. Right now, the battle has apparently spilled over into the blogosphere. Wisconsin's own Jay Burlingham has gamely decided to take on Berkeley's newly-reconstituted Public Sociology blog in a struggle to see which blog can go longer without actually having any posts. Sure, all kinds of people might start blogs with a rousing first post and then never write another, but here, however, we have the far more austere spectacle of two blogs dueling to see how long each can go without Post #1. I've had both open on my computer for days and have been addictively alt-tabbing back and forth between each of them, waiting to see which one breaks down first and posts something.

Update, 5pm: A commenter asks if this competition is truly fair given the time difference between Madison and Berkeley. It's true that if Jay's will crumbles and he posts something at 7pm while someone at Berkeley does the same at 6pm their time, Jay will lose the staredown even though one could argue that he "won" it in some biographichronological sense. As it was already plucky of Jay to embark on this battle against the whole of the Berkeley graduate program, all the more so to do it with this added disadvantage! Fellow Wisconsin sociologists, we should organize a pep rally for him!

Update, 2am: As another commenter notes, Jay has changed his blog now to include a subtitle and a link to JFW. But, still, no post. I think this is just his way of toying with the folks at Public Sociology, making them think they will soon be victorious in this battle of silent restraint. Hang in there, Jay! You've got them on the ropes! They won't be able to hold out too much longer!

Monday, November 15, 2004

opportunity knocks!

A few months ago, I responded to an ad promising me all kinds of success in the lottery if I would participate in a national parapsychology study. The result of this inquiry was not millions of dollars, alas, but instead into a series of personalized solicitations from a psychic named Maria Duval. Apparently, Maria has given up on me, because she has apparently now sold my name to others who are trying to sell me their own services. Most of these solicitations, as you might expect, are obvious frauds. However, I did get an advertisement offering to let me in on "Novus Tek" (nee "Neocheating"), a set of secrets of interpersonal mental manipulation discovered first 2300 years ago and then refined by three DuPont scientists working in their spare time. I was skeptical of this at first, but then the materials explained how it was all based on science and, more important, how my purchase was totally guaranteed:

All this for only $135. I would pay that much just for Guarantee #5. I'm a little unclear about Guarantee #8, though: If beautiful/powerful people actually do beg to be my friend, rather than just almost beg to do so, does that violate the guarantee?

Update: STOP E-MAILING ME. I'm not going to share the address for Novus Tek with you. Mine, all mine.

for every 16.9 ounce bottle of coke you buy to slurp while shopping at best buy, you get a 18.3 inch receipt ABSOLUTELY FREE!

Yes, I measured.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

confession: okay, so maybe mr. purpletext never really believed that 'hope is on the way'

[Internet gambling does, of course, stray into a legal gray area, so the identity of Mr. Purpletext, below, will be left as an exercise for the reader. Also, the following is an amalgam of a couple different conversations.]

"Hey, you were following the betting sites on the election really closely, right?"
"Yes, although I prefer the term 'prediction markets' for them."
"Whatever. Did you end up betting on the election yourself?"
"Of course."
"Oh dear. Did you lose a lot of money?"
"No, I won close to $200."
"How did you win money if Kerry lost?"
"Because I bet on Bush."*
"How could you have bet on Bush?"
"Because I thought he was going to win."
"Jerkwad. How could you have thought he was going to win?"
"For many of the same reasons as those being cited now for why he did, in fact, win."
"That doesn't make you any less of a jerkwad. Were you sitting there on election night hoping that Bush would win?"
"Of course not. I was inconsolable on election night. I would have been more than happy to lose the money."
"If you were so 'inconsolable,' are you going to give the money you won to the Democrats?"
"I don't feel any moral compunction to do so, if that's what you mean. I think if you are going to participate in these markets, you have to make a very clear separation in your mind between what you want to happen and what you think realistically is most likely to happen."
"Or else what?"
"Or else--Or else, you are doing it wrong. It wouldn't make any sense. It would be like participating in the stock market and only being willing to buy Coldstone Creamery stock, never sell it, because you love Coldstone Cremery."
"Whatever. You could have just not bet if you thought Bush was going to win. You're not just a jerkwad, you're like some kind of war profiteer."

Mr. Purpletext does recognize that there can be a difference of opinion on the propriety of wagering on outcomes that one would prefer not happen. Fellow Kerry supporters are free to shun and hate him if they feel it appropriate.

Incidentally, today Mr. P. did take the money that he won from betting on Bush and let it ride by betting it all against Passion of the Christ winning the Oscar for Best Picture. Seriously: Tradesports bettors were valuing it today as having a 20% of winning the Oscar, which he thought was too high and so he basically bet the $200 and will win $50 if PotC loses like he expects it will.

* Mr. Purpletext did win a small amount betting on Kerry to win Wisconsin, but the vast majority of his winnings were from betting on Bush to win the electoral college vote.

i hate nonuniform spellings, so:

(If you don't normally read my comments, you might not know about the mysterious LDM. Among his recent exploits are a sugary-steamy poem for Nina in honor of her recent guest posting stint.)

Saturday, November 13, 2004

john: it's good to know it's been hard for you, too, but couldn't you have found some way to spend the money for this letter in ohio?

Also, I have to admit that I wish the Democrats would put up a candidate for President who could write more than two-sentence paragraphs.

vocal capital, 2

Yesterday, I wondered what it would whether and how my academic presence would be different if I had a delectable British accent rather the grating overnasalized voice that God and a rural Iowa upbringing gave me. The proffered hypothesis is that I would have way more academojo if I had the British accent. A couple people pointed out afterward that it is hard to take seriously the counterfactual of everything about me being the "same" except for my voice. Especially, since, I can do a fair British accent now, but, if I started using it as my default voice now, it would really come across the same as if I was perceived as coming by it legitimately, which, for the purposes of the exercise, was really what I was speculating about.

A more plausible scenario, perhaps, would be to imagine an academic with a British accent coming to the United States, and either maintaining their British accent or ending up sounding like an American. I've known people who have come to America after spending their linguistically formative years in Britain and still ended up sounding American after enough years. For that matter, for people who come from parts of the world for which the accent is not advantageous, there are not uncommonly efforts to suppress the accent, which I would think would be easier for someone from Britain than, say, the Far East.

So, the experimental design: We get an audio sample of someone giving an intellectual talk with a (genuine) British accent. Then, we have yours truly record the same talk in my own accent, mimicking the intonation and rhetorical flourishes as closely as possible otherwise (and I'm a good mimic, so long as no singing is involved). We get a pool of American-academia-inclined subjects and randomly assign them to listen to one or the other recording, and have them rate things like the apparent intelligence of the speaker and the merits of what they are saying. Presto, we can estimate the causal effect, should one exist, of having a British versus Freesish accent.

BTW, as an entirely unrelated matter to this post: does anyone happen to have a recording of the most recent ASA presidential address?

Zigzagging birds and final words

Dispatch from Nina:

Sometimes it appears that JFW brings together the sick, the lonely and the dispirited, with an occasional happy soul thrown in (you know who you are!) just for balance.

“Oh no, not me” you say. “I live an ordinary life. I just especially care about the fate of …feral children... Or, slightly lesser on the scale of injustices -- dating for doughnuts... Or the worth of sausages.” Oh my, hand me just a short day in a repressed society again!

I do not want to appear dismissive here. Every hapless soul has a place on this planet. But have we lost our sense of perspective sometimes, to say nothing of our reserves of positive energy? When I go back to Poland each year, people there always marvel at how “exotic” Americans’ personal problems are. You need only ride the taxi from the airport to downtown Warsaw before you begin to understand what I mean by that.

JFW trackers, you don’t understand how good life is to you!

As I wind up this short period of guest blogging here (to be replaced by the Lonely Doughnut Man? Oh dear.), I have to say it’s been… educational. Okay, fun as well. I’ll end with a Polish Proverb – and this one various people out there have heard me tell:

Once there was a flock of cold birds, shivering and shaking as the winter fast approached (these are Polish birds, but you can pretend they’re from the Dells). They sensed it was time to head south. They dusted off their traveling feathers, got into their formation, cranked up their flying motors and headed (toward Italy? Florida? Choose your side of the ocean) in a beautiful V that spread across the pale winter sky and made the people below look up and stare with wonder. But at the end of one line, a small bird could not get it right. She zigzagged this way and that and found it impossible to maintain that perfect symmetry. Finally she said “forget it, I’m going to wait out the winter here.” She fluttered down and found a barn that provided shelter for the cold season (in Poland I might add that she drank plenty of vodka and sang beautiful ballads with fellow barn-inhabitants all winter long). In spring, she looked up and saw her fine feathered friends pass overhead. Are you leaving? Asked the barn inhabitants. No, I am happy here, she answered as she soared up to sing a reprise of “Fly Me to the Moon” (elsewhere I’d say ‘Lato, Pachnace Mieta’), with an attempt at harmony with a slightly off-key swallow.

Is there a punch line? A bit of wisdom lodged there somewhere? A moral to be learned perhaps? I used to provide one when I told the story – typically as a toast on some special occasion. But JFW readers are an imaginative bunch. Make one up for yourselves!

Thanks, JFW editorial board for the honor of allowing me to post on this extraordinary, punchy, antic and ridiculously witty blog. I’ll return with a postscript from Poland next month.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Kalahari Comments: open spaces, casual places

Dispatch from Nina:

It is my tremendous good fortune [sic] to be writing this from the Kalahari Resort at the Wisconsin Dells. [I am attending a State Bar Board of Directors meeting here.] I find it an educational moment in my continued learning about the American Way. I can’t quite disclose the nature of our executive discussions (what, you think I’m blogging while the meeting is in progress? How crass!) but I can reflect on several things that seem JFW-appropriate.

First a question: why is everything so vast in this country? You could house a four-generation Polish family in the hall I had to traverse to get from the front door to the conference room. And the entrance itself: wow! Is this the gateway to the Great Pyramids or is it the driveway to a little bitty water park resort?

Secondly: what is the Wisconsin dress code anyway? I am confused. True, lawyers tend to dress up. Men law profs wear ties, soc profs, I am guessing, tend to dispense with neckwear (yes, I know, I need look no further than my own back yard to run into an exception to this). But for meetings of this type, at a Water Park Resort, was I wrong to take it a step down? I am in casual slacks (okay, call them what they are – corduroy pants, though with the nicest cut!) with my best black sweater and très French scarf. I left my swim suit at home, water park notwithstanding. Judging by the attire around me, I think I made the right decision.

But help me here: where are we at with clothes these days? In Poland, there is little diversity: city people dress in city ways and country people try to dress in city ways. Here, I’m stumped. I was told recently that you can tell someone is from Wisconsin if they are wearing cut offs and a parka. Surely that’s not the expectation though, is it?

vocal capital

Yesterday, I was sitting in on a seminar and I found myself wondering: How would my academic presence/gravitas/career be different if everything about me was the same, except I spoke with a British accent? I think most of my prattlings would be regarded as far more intellectually sparkling if I was able to deliver them with a voice that sounded like it came off the BBC, rather than the voice of Yahoo The Mumbling Adenoidal Farmboy.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

My Word!

Dispatch from Nina:

Lesson from the trenches: one has to be supremely cautious when guest blogging, especially when a comments function remains alive. It’s no job for a person whose first language is not English (me!). Eek!

Though, my lack of sensitivity toward shades of meaning thus far demonstrated on this blog is nothing compared with my struggle to keep up with euphemisms, or, more accurately, what Pinker refers to as the “euphemism treadmill” (when a word originally adopted as a euphemism picks up all the negative meaning of the original and I don’t even notice).

Common treadmill examples: “toilet room", itself a euphemism, was replaced with "bathroom" and "water closet", which were then replaced with "rest room." I’m sure I’ll still be asking for the rest room while the rest of the country has now moved on to “powder room,” though in all honesty I find it hard to imagine men (Jeremy?) asking to use the “powder room.” It’s been suggested that “women’s room” replace “ladies’ room” but it doesn’t feel at all right to me. But then, neither does the “john” or the “little girls’room.”

Or, here’s a classic one: crippled → handicapped → disabled → differently-abled. And where are we now? Who knows!

Sometimes I think I am on safer ground if I stick with foreign euphemisms: derriere, for example, seems fairly safe for another decade or so. Though, did I miss the moment when it officially turned into the gluteus maximus? Sounds a bit supersized to me.

Incidentally, Polish vocabulary doesn not rely on double meaning as much as Englsih vocabulary does. The language is richer in that it simply has a greater number of words in common usage.

what am i going to get jeremy for xmas? he's so hard to shop for!

Prospective present-givers, look no further than here!

Guest blogging privileges soon to be revoked?

Dispatch from Nina:

The air waves between JFW and Ocean (my blog) have been thick and steamy lately and so I missed the signal indicating that a guest blogger typically blogs about their own take on things rather than commenting on the author of the host blog (and his eating habits, for example). Doing my research (after the fact, but so what), I now find that most guest bloggers add balance to the hosting blog.

I get it now. I am to be the not funny element on JFW (this will be a cinch!). Guest bloggers are in place so that the audience craves the return of the original blogger (who is typically having a grand time watching the guest do exotic and ridiculous things that make the host look finer by the minute). No wonder I was asked to take part.

wurse comes to wurst

Note: This was the post I wrote about my recent break from pescatarianism, which I did not get the chance to post before Nina scooped me with her guest post.

Confession: for over two months now, I have been living a lie. I continue to tell people that I am a devout pescatarian, that is, an otherwise-vegetarian who eats meat from the sea. In point of fact, I have had meat-from-the-lands twice in the past two months. What meat might you think would break my pescatarian will, which had gone unbreached since sometime in the latter part of the Clinton administration? Guess.

Go on, guess, I'll wait.

Steak? Pork chops? Chicken tenders? Giant shank of lamb? Veal? Duck? Venison? Fellow plane crash survivor? No, these are all temptations I have been able to successfully resist. Instead, my gastronomical Achilles heel turns out to be bratwurst.

Bratwurst. How sick is that?

What's more sick is how it happened. On Labor Day weekend, as I was driving home from Borders, something carnevil possessed me as I passed by the World's Largest Brat Fest being hosted in the Hilldale Mall Parking Lot. I bought two, slathered them in mustard, and ate them. All by myself. I think when most people who are vegetarian/pescatarian break down and eat something that was formerly a dietary restriction, they probably cave in when they are in a group of people, perhaps even as a result of the pressure or encouragement of those with them. Or maybe they cave because they are drunk and the bar they are in is giving out free bacon. What they don't do is cave right in the middle of the day and for bratwurst. Just to prove that my little tete-a-tete with bratwurst was not a one-time fling--it didn't mean anything, honest!--I got bratwurst again when I went with friends to see the Hawkeyes last month. I would even say that I was looking forward to it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

hi, my name is dorotha scheisskopf, and i'll be your ta this semester

Today, passing by one of the TA offices, I was called in to offer my professional opinion about this cartoon that was featured in one of the student newspapers. Specifically, I was asked what that was supposed to be on the TA's head, especially given that there were flies buzzing around it. Then, when I revealed myself to be as perplexed as everyone else, I was beseeched, in my role as Nominal Authority Figure, to e-mail an inquiry into the matter. To whit:
I am having trouble figuring out your cartoon today.  First, 

is that supposed to be a pile of feces on the TAs head, or
something else? Second, if it is supposed to be a pile of feces,
is it a pile of feces because this is supposed to represent the
content of the TAs head, or is it supposed to represent how the
regents have treated the TAs in the past?
The cartoonist responds:
It's not a pile of feces, it's just a hat (with flies 

buzzing around it). However, I suppose it does look that way. But
feces or no feces, I am stating a point that the regents are arguing
the pay increases because it will make the UW more competitive. [...]
The image was supposed to be a king and a peasant, and if it is feces
it would only represent the content of the outside of the TA's head
because they don't have enough money for shampoo, and of course not
the inside. TA's deserve the same respect other faculty and staff
receive because it is from them that I have derived much knowledge,
many friendships, and of course the motivation behind this cartoon.

Guest blogger chimes in: on Polish kings and truth in advertising

Dispatch from Nina:

Some may regard it as an honor to be guest blogging on JFW. I can’t say that the invitation to post here was especially charitable. It was presented in the following way: JF: “I am desperate to move beyond some of these [especially lurid and vile?] posts and I haven’t the time. Post something for me!” So I agreed, myself wanting not to wake up anymore to the blistering remarks about the worth of Polish sausages, all just a mere half-dozen posts preceding this day (see comments to “as above so below").

But what really pushed me into this was the next part of the conversation. JF: “Why are you so worked up about the comments on JFW about Polish sausages? You know it’s the truth: brats are better than Polish sausage.” My reply: “How can you say that? You are a vegetarian-piscatorian [is that even a word?]. You don’t know tofu about brats.” JF: “Actually I had a brat during Labor Day week-end. And then another after that. And then another. Delicious.”

And so I feel compelled to say something for the sake of the blog banner of honesty: Jeremy eats brats. And, Jeremy drives a car to work each day (remember that post about biking? Uh-uh). Mr. blogger extraordinaire also thinks his posts can generate comments, more so than anybody’s on this or the other side of the ocean. And I have to agree. In the same way that GWB can capture the southern States even if he does nothing more than perch himself on a fence and shoot spitballs at various passersby, so too it appears that Jeremy can post anything at all, even one flippant little comment about a bumper sticker, and 20 people will trip over themselves in a rush to chime in (you would be correct to point out that I am deserving of a free drink as well, having punched in full a card of “ten comments and the next one’s on us”).

But I do want to say one thing. Don’t bask too long and hard, Mr. JF. There is an old Polish proverb that says “he [yes, the Polish language is gratuitously generous toward the male-kind] who favors brats over kielbasa shows himself to be a mere caricature of a person; but he who exalts the sausage of Polish kings, deserves the crown of a glorious future and the good fortunes that befit a nobleman.” I feel for you, Jeremy. But there’s still time. I’ll send the kielbasa truck to your RV when next I see it. What’s your address again? I don’t seem to recall any RV lots within biking distance of Sociology…

fifty ways to leave your low self-esteem lover

When I read He's Just Not That Into You recently, I was surprised that there wasn't a chapter titled "He's Just Not That Into You If He Completely Hates Himself." I suppose he could, in fact, actually be into you if he completely hates himself, but it would seem to make things sufficiently difficult that you might expect a guy writing a book of advice-for-lovelorn-women to weigh in on it. Case in point: A couple I know are currently/cyclically in this spat because he keeps going on about how he is so worthless that she must only be going out with him because she has no other options. She gets upset and tells him that she feels insulted by his saying that nobody else wants her. Which only ends up annoying him, because he thinks she should understand that his self-loathing is About Him rather than making everything About Her all the time.

"Why can't I just be dating an egomaniac jerk like all the other girls?" she asks.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

not to say there's a lot of homophobia in red state america, but they can't even deal with gay money

From interview with former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett:
"'When you'd leave, [the booster] sets you straight,' Clarett told The Magazine. 'They say, 'You got any money in your pocket?' They make sure your money's straight.'"

Monday, November 08, 2004

red states vs. blue states: where did wisconsin sociology faculty get their ph.d.'s?

Bunker, Camic, Dechter, DeLamater, Elder, Eliasoph, Emirbayer, Ermakoff, Ferree, Freese, Fujimura, Gamoran, Gerber, Goldberg, Gorski, Guillot, Halaby, Handel, Hauser, Lichterman, Logan, Lopez Turley, Loveman, MacDonald, Martin, Maynard, Merli, Montgomery, Oliver, Palloni, Piliavin, Quillian, Raymo, Rogers, Sandefur, Schaeffer, Seidman, Suchman, Swallen, Thomson, Wilson, Wright, Zeitlin, Zeng (41 against 3; had Edwards been able to deliver North Carolina for the Democrats, it would have been 43 against Freese)

another example of how i end up feeling like a sucker

One generally does not get any credit/reward for peer reviewing in academia, but it is instead a service we are all called to perform for the greater good of our discipline. When you peer review an article for a journal, you will subsequently be sent the other reviews along with the editor's ultimate decision about the manuscript. Major journals, at least in sociology, solicit three sets of comments from reviewers. Today, I received back the other reviews for something that I reviewed for a major sociology journal. The length of the three reviews:

Reviewer A [me]: 86 lines
Reviewer B: 14 lines (in which the review did not actually address anything specific about the manuscript other than its "tone")
Reviewer C: 0 lines (despite repeated exhortations, the editor regretfully notes, no third review could be obtained)

as above so below

I was behind a car yesterday that had several lefty and/or crunchy bumper stickers on the back, and then also had one that was otherwise unadorned except to say "as above so below." Anybody know what this is supposed to mean? I was able to spin out a half dozen possible interpretations, albeit increasingly far-fetched. If you know what it means, tell me.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

wag the blog

Okay, this weblog has been taking up way too much of my cognitive space lately. It is, after all, supposed to be just a hobby and not something I take too seriously. So, I'm taking control of things, rather than letting my blog control me. Among other things, I'm going to try to blog less about politics, not because I don't think about politics a lot, but because blogging about politics in current circumstances is just going to keep getting me more riled up than I ought to be. I'm also going to show no mercy about deleting posts and comments to posts if they end up getting me dragged into some long weird-or-unpleasant discussion that isn't at all enjoyable and makes this all feel like a chore. If this doesn't jibe with your sense of What Blogging Should Be, there are tens of thousands of others out there for you to read, so shoo.

Update, 12:20 pm: Ann disses me. She refers to this post as "Jeremyesque fussing", which is a strange phrasing giving the fussing in question is not fussing-in-the-style-of-Jeremy but fussing-actually-done-by-Jeremy, which would seem to make the phrase "Freesian fussing" more appropriate.

origins of a controversial post

Some people are annoyed with me for a post from yesterday. They take the post as me personally devising and endorsing the theory that Bush voters are dumber than Kerry voters. In some cases, this is despite their saying to me earlier in the week "How could people be so dumb?" in response to Bush's victory, and myself disagreeing that electoral dumb-ness really played that large of a role in the electoral outcome.

Anyway, with a day's distance, I can see where the post can be pretty justifiably read in a way that makes me look like a jerk.* I am sitting here now with the desire to provide some explanation of why I posted yesterday's numbers, but I have to admit I don't really know what I was thinking. You could call my doing so dumb in its own right, and I wouldn't argue. I mean, I would not, myself, try to seriously defend the position that Bush voters are dumber on average than Kerry voters. That whole idea would seem ridiculously elitist, and I do believe that Elitism is Bad. Indeed, in contrast to some people who are annoyed with me about the post, I even think Elitism is Bad as a general moral principle, as opposed to just thinking Elitism is Bad because the non-elites resent it and so it costs Democrats votes.

Although, at the same time, I would be being dishonest if I didn't say that I felt like the Bush campaign appealed to more base parts of the human intellect and spirit than did the Kerry campaign. I mean, ads with wolves, for crying out loud. The Bush campaign also appealed more explicitly to anti-thinkingism, although at least it wasn't like 2000 where they had supporters do the completely-beyond-freaky "No Fuzzy Math! No Fuzzy Math!" chant in response to any obvious reckoning that Bush's fiscal proposals were not going to add up (which, as history then showed, they didn't). The "No Fuzzy Math!" chant marked a moment of individual dispiritedness with electoral politics that might not have been matched by anything in this election.

Anyway, here is the explanation for the post that feels most honest: One thing about having a blog is that sometimes when you have procrastinated-from-work by looking up / figuring out something that you shouldn't have bothered to take the time to look up, you feel somewhat--even if illusorily--vindicated if at least you post the results of the inquiry to your weblog. The reason I looked up these numbers is that I had twice been sent snarky e-mails from others with the wrong set of test-score-by-state numbers that I mentioned in my earlier post. Those numbers seemed so obviously wrong and biased that it annoyed me, and set me off on an online quest to find a source that would seem like it had more defensible numbers. I found the numbers, and then, having nothing else to do with them, thought I would at least post them to my blog. But, then, I didn't want to write some long disquisition about them, since I had already wasted enough time, and plus I was conflicted about them myself. So I thought I would just put them up there without comment. But, in retrospect, I should have at least dashed off a few sentences about elitism, about my conflicted character in posting them, about my varying opinions about test scores anyway, about my anger at the anti-thinkingism of the Bush campaign, etc..

The first e-mail I received with the seemingly-obviously-incorrect-test-score-by-state numbers, incidentally, had the subject line "Fun!" and said "[prominent academic] forwarded this to me. Check it out. Don't forward to any Republicans." The link itself was contained in an e-mail from [prominent academic], who wrote "Check this out -- terribly elitist but rings true to me..."

Anyway, I could write several screensful about elitism and liberalism here. I might do so later, but right now I cannot let this Saturday get away from me.

* Or, alternatively, to beat the less charitable to the less charitable punch, one could change "makes me look like a jerk" to "reveals that I am a jerk." I report, you decide.

Friday, November 05, 2004

another post-election insinuative correlation circulating on the internet

[this post has been deleted]

I can deal with comments that call me an idiot, et cetera. However, developments in the comments section to this post seemed to take an ugly turn toward unsavory allusions about certain American subpopulations. I don't want any part of that, and so I'm removing the comments and the post itself. I recognize that there are those out there who might regard the deletion of a post as a major blogging sin, but, well, too bad.

likely winner, 2004 jfw award for biggest headline understatement

From See headline #4.

Incidentally, I have been surprised at the extent to which I have been able to keep food down since Tuesday, and I also think it was wise of me to temporarily suspend my usual rule against drinking alone.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

why is everybody so psyched about canada? doesn't anyone want to move to europe? what's wrong with, say, poland?

a heaping helping of hegemonic masculity for ya! (or, once more jeremy feels alienated from his gender) is running this charming story with NFL players talking about the joy they feel on those occasions when they get to hit one of their colleagues* REALLY hard. Selected excerpts:

Michael Strahan (6'5", 275 pounds):
"On the best hits you've built up speed, the person doesn't see you and you're coming at an angle where you know from five feet out that you're going to have a good shot. You can size 'em up. The best target is a quarterback who's stationary and has his back turned. I don't want him to see my eyes. I want to run through him as if I'm trying to hit somebody 10 feet past him. You're going through him. On the hit you wrap your arms and lift. You get him off the ground, and you make sure to put all your weight on him when he lands."
Mike Singletary (6'0", 230 pounds):
"…[T]hen it happens. All of a sudden Bam! And it's just like you imagined -- and it gives you goose bumps. It's inexplicable what it feels like in your soul. It comes all the way from your toes to the top of your head.... You just know, Maaaaan! That was it! And it's such a great feeling. Your reality matches your fantasy. In life that doesn't happen often. For me anytime I got a big hit, I'd scream. If the guy is lying there and he can't get up, I start screaming because I know I brought it and I know he felt it…."
Chris Hope (5'11", 206 pounds):
"How close I get to the guy before he realizes I'm there determines how hard the hit will be. If I can catch him off guard, I can really deliver a big hit…. I want to get lower than him and hit him right up under his chin, in his face mask, or I put my helmet directly in the middle of his chest. It's a great feeling when I hit him. It's kind of like a car wreck."
My own affection for football is not without guilt. Indeed, one reason that I have never gotten into the NFL the way I have college football is that those guys are so big and so fast that it really does become too much carnage for my taste. That said, I would be lying if I said I had never before experienced vaguely primal moments of glee in watching a football game and seeing somebody in uniform for My Team collide viciously into somebody in uniform for the Other Team, especially if said vicious collision caused the opponent to drop the ball or to be seemingly disincentivized from future intrepid conduct on the football field. I am not proud of this.

Also: contrary to rumors, I am not part of the Faculty Fight Club that meets in various parking garages around Madison.

* I am presuming that "colleague" is the correct word, since they are all professionals and members of the same organization (the NFL).

we can't blame knader. however, we can blame...

Knitters! Knitters Against Bush, despite heavy yarn subsidization by George Soros and the DNC, did not come through. They were supposed to knit 200,000 pairs of "Warm Hands For A Fresh Start" mittens for the politically-uncommitted citizens of Ohio, but they didn't come through. They were too busy, they said, working on the "Knit Me Baby One More Time" video from the next Weird Al Yankovic parody album. There has never been a recorded instance of a noncommitted voter failing to be swayed to show up at the polls for a candidate if they've been given handmade mittens.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

regarding the wonderfully supportive environment we have here in the social science building

I just walked by one of the TA offices, and the graduate students inside announced that they were talking about me and how I said that the election results make me want to die. Specifically, the graduate students were brainstorming about what would be the best way for me to kill myself over the outcome, both from my own standpoint (presuming I want something quick and painless) and from theirs (presuming they want something spectacular). One student even offered to lend me some computer cable that he thought would be particularly effective for hanging oneself. Thanks, kids! But alas, however, like Gloria Gaynor before me, I will survive, or at least will until my head ex/implodes (see previous post).

the pundits are divided

hey, ann, one more thing...

...Nina and I were at the same pro-Kerry party last night. As the mood of the party started on its sullen slide, someone there asked whether anyone in attendance knew anyone who voted for Gore last time who was voting for Bush this time, and most people in the room shook their heads.* Nina and I, however, both immediately piped up and said, "I know someone in the law school."

* I've been asked this parlor-trick-question before, as a way of suggesting that Kerry was going to win. Even before the disconfirming evidence of, you know, the actual results, I never thought it meant much of anything, as it would seem to say far more about the social circles of those being asked than about the electorate per se.

suddenly, i get a dozen comments (of varying classiness) from pro-bush readers in 10 minutes. i think: ann must have linked to me from instapundit.

And I'm right! You rock, Ann.

I appreciate the gracious comments that have been left. As for some of the less-than-gracious comments, well, you might want to read Ann's post that links to me again.

my heart: somewhere between "broken" and "pulverized" (or, perhaps, "liquefied")

is the gravity of the situation really well-served by a graphic that makes the two candidates look like they are shooting eye beams at each other?

(The current headline graphic on

okay, so i don't actually want to die, but i am about to vomit. and leave the country.

don't be alarmed, but: i want to die.


It's over. I just went county by county through the Ohio returns and did the math. I'm at a party of people who know it's looking bleak, but they don't know it's over. I want to crawl on to the floor and cry. Double ugh.

Update, 15 minutes later: It's even more over now.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


The GWBUSH stock on the TradeSports site is falling sharply. It is down around .28--meaning an estimate that Bush has a 28% chance of winning--from 57% earlier in the day. I can't decide if the magnitude of this decline represents a real shift in probability, or a much smaller shift in probability combined with speculative-of-a-panic selling that is driving the probability down farther than it should--in other words, people basing their decision less on an actual assessment of the (declining) underlying probability of a Bush victory and more on the direction that they think the TradeSports stock itself is moving. In any case, of course, all this means that early indications look favorable for Kerry, but how favorable is harder to discern. I certainly think, at 5:07pm, that Bush's chances of winning are more than 28% (but now less than 50%).

an open apology to nina

In a comment to my last post, Nina asked:
I want you to quash a third reason offered [for voting for Nader]: they often say American politics are all about voting your conscience, that this is what democracy is all about, not this succumbing to political manipulations. [C]oming from Poland, I am more familiar with succumbing to political manipulations than democratic ideals, so please knock the s*** out of this argument too. Thanks.
Sorry, Nina, I can't. I can't type a post arguing against the vote-your-conscience argument for voting for Nader. I can't not because it is a good argument, but because, of all the various arguments out there for voting for Nader, it is the one I hate so passionately as it completely robs me of my capacity to respond reasonably to it. Seriously and literally, it enrages me. Not because of its irrationality, which is plenty and relatively easily demonstrated, but because the argument is so unbelievably freaking selfish. Yes, I want to shout, democracy really is all about giving you a smug pious self-satisfied warm glow when you leave the voting booth.

I mean, if you believe that there really is no difference between Kerry and Bush, despite the various incisive arguments that can be made to the contrary, then, fine, vote for Nader. If you believe that the next four years wouldn't be different/better under Kerry than under Bush, then, fine, vote for Nader. If you believe your vote doesn't actually matter, then, fine, vote for Nader (or, more rationally perhaps, stay home). But don't freaking tell me that you recognize that Kerry would make a better President than Bush, but that Your Precious Conscience won't let you vote for Kerry and so you voted for Nader. Don't try to enlist me in your stupid little Delusion of Nobility. I mean, really, who the hell do you think you are? Who do you think you are, that the ephemeral ease of Your Precious Conscience is more important than the fates of those people who you believe would be directly affected by the different policies of the potential Kerry vs. Bush administrations?

Here at JFW, we are not fans of selfishness generally, but the most infuriating selfishness is the kind that tries to pass itself off as being The Honorable Thing For Those Who Care About Others. I'm sorry that you gotten yourself in the psychological bind where you will feel a little bit worse if you vote for Kerry than you would if you voted for Nader. Three words: Suck It Up.

Ugh. Now I'm stomping around the RV all agitated. Thanks a lot, Nina.

hey jeremy, where do you draw the line?

Graduate students, aren't they the dickens? Sources say that they are still debating Kerry vs. Nader here on their listserv. One of the Nader Forever contingent has reportedly posted a familiar argument, which could be paraphrased as thus:
Voting for Kerry will do the same thing settling for the 'lesser-evil' always does...allow politics to slide further rightward as the Dems take the left completely for granted. Next election we'll have Jeb vs. Lieberman. And in 20 years, at the rate things are going, we'll get to pick between Satan and Beezlebub. (ABBers - Anybody But Beezlebub - will point out that Satan is less likely to appoint conservatives to the Supreme Court...) Where do y'all draw the line?
Now, some might go the route of arguing that if Satan would protect women's reproductive rights, while Beezlebub will make arcane references to Dred Scott to show his committment to reversing those rights, then the difference between Satan and Beezlebub is not for nothing. However, I just want to focus on the issue of where someone on the left should draw the line. Imagining that everybody can be put a single left-right political dimension is a dramatic oversimplification, but it is embraced by the argument above and so I figure it's good enough for my response to it. So, here, the electoral field on which the line is to be drawn.

While Nader supporters typically have various ideas for reforming our electoral system, they generally still support the basic idea of democracy as well as the basic idea of their being a President. Under such premises, I have a very clear idea of where I draw the line:

This results in a candidate that runs a good deal to the right of my own personal politics. However, I recognize that the President is going to be the person who amasses the most votes, and my druthers would be to have that person assemble the coalition of the 50.1% of people whose beliefs are Most Like Mine rather than the 50.1% of people whose beliefs are Least Like Mine.

Now, if 5% of the left decides they won't be "taken for granted" and so opt out of voting for either major party candidate (either to vote for a third party candidate or to stay home and eat Cheetos, it doesn't matter which), then here is where I draw the line:

I like this person even less, but, subtracting those 5%, I'd rather have the President win by assembling a coalition of the 48.6% whose beliefs are Most Like Mine than the 48.6% whose are Least Like Mine.

Say enough people on the left get angry that 20% of them opt out of the two-party system. Then here is where I draw the line:

I like this person even less, but, subtracting those 20%, I'd still rather have the President win by assembling a coalition of the 40.1% whose beliefs are Most Like Mine than the 40.1% whose are Least Like Mine.

Upshot: Thanks, guys, you are really helping! (I say "guys" because it seems like the to-the-end-Naderites are overwhelmingly male, presumably because women on the left are more likely to see the issue of Supreme Court appointments as being more than just a superficial matter.)

Secondary upshot: It is common for people on the left to bemoan the particulars of the electoral system for why there is not a viable left third party in the United States. The bigger problem: unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans don't agree with us! And don't start blabbering about nonvoters, because the vast majority of them don't agree with us either. This all sucks, but an inconvenient thing about the truth is that sometimes it does, indeed, suck. Under whatever system of governance you like, the progress of progressives in America is going to be stunted as long as efforts to gain support for progressive positions continues to go so badly.

Incidentally, I do support instant runoff voting, which would give me the chance to vote for a way-left candidate first and then the electable-Democrat candidate second. I support this not because I think it would make any ultimate difference in who gets elected to national office, but because of the comfort it would apparently provide to others on the left.

crimes of election-eve polling

About 6:30 last night I got a call from a pollster. First question:

"Who do you think is going to win the election, John Kerry or George W. Bush?"
"I don't know. It seems about as close as you can get."

And then she says "Okay" and then says the disclaimer stuff that you say at the end of a poll, which included identifying herself as conducting the poll for the Democrat National Committee. "That's it?" I exclaimed, "You don't even want to know who I'm voting for?" The implied answer being, of course, no. I very annoyed by the thought that the DNC money that I donated might have gone for this poll.

i woke up this morning feeling...

...optimistic! Which always means the same thing: doom awaits. Alas.

If there is one rule that has borne itself out without variance in my life: When something seems like it can just as likely go either way, and one way is a Good Way and the other is a Bad Way, the only times when it ever goes the Good Way are when I am convinced that it won't. Ergo: Kerry is doomed. At least he made a good fight of it.

I am going to a couple of election parties tonight. I was invited to several more. I've been living in this town almost four years, and while no one in Madison has yet to think of including me in anything on Halloween or New Years' Eve (unless you count bring-a-date invitations where I am the date), I am apparently much more cognitively prominent on election night.

Anyway, I'm going to these parties, but I might have to make a run for the door if the early indications are unfavorable. In that case, I'm thinking I might spend tonight making little greeting cards that I will later send to certain pro-choice Bush-supporters whenever Roe v. Wade gets sufficiently overturned that the Reddest Red States can outlaw abortion.

Monday, November 01, 2004

as if my trip to indiana last week hadn't made me nostalgic enough for my graduate school days...

Here at Wisconsin, the sociology graduate students have a listserv (socgradchat) where they get to talk amongst themselves and use all their special-sociology-skills to debate the issues of the day. Being faculty, I am of course not first-hand-privy to the discussions held on this listserv, but sometimes reports of discussions do waft their way up to my office. Today, apparently, the graduate students are vigorously debating tomorrow's election and the relative merits of the two candidates. Being sociology, however, the two candidates are not Kerry and Bush, but instead, you guessed it: Kerry vs. Nader. Seriously: Kerry vs. Nader. You thought that perhaps the whole of America was over that debate, but, in sociology we do what we can to produce discourse that blunts the cutting edge and dawdles well back behind the curve.

Word is, if you only watch this video of Nader debating a Kerry doll, you will realize how Nader is the only candidate for those not interested in selling-out all of their left values.

Sources also tell me that, as part of this debate, somebody called Nader a "jackass" and this generated several screensful of angry response about the irrationally harsh political rhetoric of These Troubled Times. Meanwhile, another graduate student later referred to Bush as a "homicidal idiot," but presumably this will pass without comment.

(For the record, the official JFW position on the aforementioned ad hominems: While we generally tut-tut name-calling, Nader has done enough legacy-erasing in the past five years that the "jackass" shoe does indeed fit over his cloven hoof. Bush, on the other hand, is neither "homicidal" nor even an "idiot," at least in any reasonable clinical reckoning of these terms, even if he is someone I desperately want to Just Stop Being My President. Ooh, I'm becoming such a moderate as I get older.)

a quick disquisition on the polls-exclude-cell-phone-users-thing

Salon, whose electoral commentary tends to be so optimistically skewed that my rationalistic-cerebral-hygiene-practices usually dictates me to avoid it, is running some numbers on the omission of cel phones from political polls. Namely:
Will the cell phone voting bloc wind up becoming the November surprise? Zogby has just released a path-breaking presidential poll conducted exclusively on mobile phones. And the winner is John Kerry by a landslide margin of 55 to 40 percent... If the Zogby poll, which was conducted in partnership with Rock the Vote, is a reliable indicator, Tuesday night might not be such a drawn-out, nail-biter after all."
What annoys me about this discussion is that it is conducted with such little respect for the math involved, which is all the more annoying because it is very simple math. Three numbers are required:

a. The estimated % of persons-who-will-show-up-to-vote who use only cel phones and so cannot be reached by pollsters.
b. The estimated gap between Kerry and Bush among those who-will-show-up-to-vote and use only cel phones.
c. The estimates gap between Kerry and Bush among those who-will-show-up-to-vote and are not exclusive cel phone users.

The adjusted Kerry-Bush gap is just: (1-a)c+ab

The larger a and (b-c) are, the more of a difference cel phones will make, but the difference is determined by the product of the two and products of proportions get small quickly. I personally can't see the cel phone bias in polls giving Kerry even anything like a full percentage point in the polls. To which one can say, of course, that one percentage point is a big deal in an election this close. To which one can reply, of course, that the cel phone problem--in terms of the potential size of the bias--is almost certainly smaller than the general bias from refusals/other-nonresponders in telephone surveys; the only issue is that it is not so clear which direction that bias is. Bottom line is that it wouldn't surprise me at all if the final result is 2-3 percentage points (or--who knows?--maybe more) different from what the consensus-of-polls predicts on the day of election; the only problem is that it's anybody's guess what direction that discrepancy will be.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

workbook: coincidence, or causality?

1. For the last 17 Presidential elections, when the Washington Redskins have won their final home game prior to an election, the incumbent has won. When they have lost, the incumbent has lost. Coincidence, or causality? Explain.

2. Last night I was driving near the State Street Halloween storm, and I accidentally ran over what looked like the better part of a six-pack of beer bottles. When I went out to use my car today, the tire that had run over the bottles was flat. Coincidence, or causality? Explain.

3. As I was changing my tire, I had only the dimmest idea of what I was doing, but I was not going to be troubled by reading the manual or anything like that. As I was trying to get the spare onto the wheel, the car slipped off its jack, with the underside of my car bouncing unpleasantly and then coming to rest on the asphalt. Coincidence, or causality? Explain.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Thursday, October 28, 2004

what we're reading here in indiana

I'm staying with my friend Kathryn while I am here in Bloomington. I brought her a present: that book He's Just Not That Into You that everybody is talking and blogging about. Kathryn and I are both reading it.* The male co-author, Greg Behrendt, speaks partly with a voice of authority because he was one of those guys who went around not being into women for years but then found a woman that he was into and has been married for a couple of years. Kathryn refused to take me up on my offer to bet $100 that Behrendt will be divorced from this woman and with someone else within a decade. I say, if somebody writes a whole book whose repeated message is that if a guy's really into you, he won't let Absolutely-Anything-In-The-World-Even-Momentarily get in his way, his wife can't really expect him to let marriage-vows-and-children get in his way when he starts to feel into a secretary or publicist or groupie 5-7-10 years down the road. You can take it to the bank that it will happen. You can stick a slow-roasting fork in that marriage, because eventually it's going to be done.

Twenty pages into HJNTIY, I have one observation for any social science faculty or graduate students who are enthusiasts of this book: unless you're the type of revels in hypocrisy, you better not be one of those kneejerk knaysayers of evolutionary psychology. There are some people around here who look askance at my moderate stance on evolutionary psychology, but Behrendt is working with premises way-WAY more into evolutionary psychology that I've ever been. I mean, already he's gone on about:
Guys don't mind messing up a friendship when it comes to sex... I hate to tell you, but that whole 'I don't want to ruin the friendship' excuse is a racket. It works so well because it seems to wise. Sex could mess up a friendship. Unfortunately, in the entire history of mankind, that excuse has never ever been used by [a man] who actually means it. (p. 11)
We know there was a sexual revolution... We know women are capable of running governments, heading multinational corporations, and raising loving children... That, however, doesn't make men different... If you can trust one thing that I say in this book, let it be this: When it comes to men, deal with us as we are, not how you'd like us to be. I know it's an infuriating concept--that men like to chase and you have to let us chase you... It's unfortunately the truth. (p. 17)
* Kathryn insists that if I write a post about HJNTIY, I note that (a) she didn't ask me to buy it for her and (b) at least from what she's read so far, she thinks it is a mostly stupid book written around a kernel of truth.

jeremy, how did your talk go?

Awful. A disaster. It's unclear whether I would have made a more favorable intellectual impression (a) giving the talk I gave or (b) had I just stood up there, wet myself, and stared vacantly at the audience until someone came up and helped me out of the room.

And, yet, still not as bad as the presentation I gave at the CDHA* brownbag a few weeks ago. There, my presentation has been officially classified by some agency in The Hague as a crime against humanity, and I have been instructed to assemble a list of attendees so that I can send them all reparations.

* [C]enter for the [D]emography of [H]ealth and [A]ging, at the University of Wisconsin.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

nelson mandela? colin powell? jon stewart? OR... should we go all-out and try to get john elway???

A friend of mine at Stanford sent me the following list of their student body's eleven finalists for who to recommend as commencement speaker:
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Larry Paige/Sergey Brin (Google)
John Elway
Colin Powell
Conan O'Brien
Sally Ride
Jon Stewart
Ted Koppel
Nelson Mandela

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

what's got jeremy so neurotic today?

The neurosis that this talk has induced is hard to describe. Suffice it to say that going back to one's Ph.D. institution to speak is intimidating--or at least is wildly so for me. I'll be glad when it's over, especially since it ends the gauntlet of presentations I scheduled for myself to kick off this fall semester.
Date: Mon, 25 Oct 2004 08:42:49 -0500

From: "Platter, Susan J"

Jeremy Freese from the Department of Sociology, Univeristy of Wisconsin

will be presenting at this week's Social Psychology, Health and Life
Course Seminar.
The title of this presentation is:

"Studying Social Psychology and the Life Course Using New Data from the
Wisconsin Longitudinal Study: Overview and Three Swift Illustrations."
The seminar meets in Room 100 of the Schuessler Institute of Social

Research Wednesday, October 27, 3:45-5:30. Hope to see you there.