Wednesday, March 31, 2004

regarding another baby...

I got the license plates for the Corolla today!

Tuesday, March 30, 2004 flash......................

My niece has had a baby (a girl), making me a Great Uncle. I appear to be the last to know (I mean, besides you). My mother sent the following e-mail at 9:30pm Sunday, but, for unfathomable reasons, it didn't arrive in my inbox until 3:30 AM this morning (that is, 30 hours later).

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

From: Ruth Freese [mailto:[deleted]]
Sent: Sunday, March 28, 2004 9:31 PM
To: Jeremy Freese
NEWS FLASH...............[SISTER] CALLED AT 9:10, ............[NIECE]'S WATER 

.............................[SISTER] IS IN CEDAR FALLS , SAID SHE WOULD BE
Curses Hotmail! Perhaps my mother's insistence on using 12 or more periods for an elipsis set my spam filter askew.

Anyway, I just talked to my mother on the phone, and the baby has yet to be named. The leading contender pre-birth was Madeleine Elizabeth, which would violate my own aesthetic principle that first and middle names (if not family names) should have different numbers of syllables. My own preferred name, Marlisthesia, has apparently dropped out of contention.

Saturday, March 27, 2004


"Sounds like a job for Hammacher Schlemmer. Hope all is well!"
"That's all I get? Two sentences? This is what I don't get. How do you have these extensive email conversations with people and then never even ever answer all of my questions?"

Friday, March 26, 2004

tongue twister

In casual conversation today I tried to dismissively say "Dissertation, Schmissertation." It's harder than it looks. Try to say it dismissively three times fast.

in other weblogs

When I saw "Don't Want To Be Lonely Forever" as the name of one of the Most Recently Updated weblogs on blogspot, I thought, that might win the award for Most Morose Weblog Title. Then I clicked on it and discovered that it had only one post, which itself might win the award for Most Sadly Inauspicious and Likely Attemptedly Manipulative First Posts Ever.

the pet-child gap closes still further

According to my calculations, dogs and cats are projected surpass the civil rights accorded to children in the United States sometimes in 2013 (ferrets not projected to follow until 2032). Here's another story on the shrinking divide as to the small living things that society gives the highest priority to protecting.

Update, 10:30: For a couple years when I was in graduate school, I kept a tally of the number of messages sent out over the department's graduate student listserv where a student was announcing something on behalf of some cause regarding small animals versus announcements for some cause regarding children. The score ended up being something like Animals 13, Kids 4.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

me in a nutshell, continued

When I was in the Washington DC airport, I shopped for a novel that I planned to read when I went down to Bloomington for a few days over spring break. I was talking to a friend at the time, and the choice came down to One Hundred Years of Solitude (loudly announced as such from a sticker on the front) and something else. My friend recommended 100YoS, and I bought it. However, I didn't want to appear possibly as someone who may have bought the book because Oprah had recommended it*, so I removed the sticker from the front. Then, I didn't want to feel like the kind of person who was so intellectual-status-insecure that I would remove the sticker from the front of an Oprah book so it wouldn't look like my book choices were influenced by Oprah, so I put the sticker on the inside cover of the book so I could scan it and blog about it later (i.e., now), which allowed me to then reap the appearance benefits of reading the book sans sticker while avoiding the psychological costs of feeling like I was taking myself too seriously. And, then, when I went to Bloomington, I ended up reading maybe 80 pages of 100YoS and devoting the rest of my reading time to swallowing whole this science-fiction-political-satire-novel (The X President) that I bought on a whim at the Bloomington Borders.

* Of course, that Oprah had recommended it was the only reason it was an available option among the small selection of books in the kiosk-ish airport store where I bought it.

where there's smoke, there's Pop Secret!, act II

No, the smell of burnt microwave popcorn here in the RV has not yet abated. My new microwave will recover, although it's lost much of its new-ness.

The logic of causal inference is topic of considerable consideration in my graduate methods course. For whoever knows how long, I have always microwaved popcorn for precisely 210 seconds, with no problems. Last night, the bag bursts into flames and burns down to a cinder* in that same amount of time. What could explain the different outcome? I chalked it up to my using a different brand/kind of popcorn from before, while I regarded as an annoying act of God that this should happen right after I bought a new microwave. Today, glacially, the realization rolled across my brain that it was probably actually far more likely that the new microwave emits massively more microwave energy than my old one did.

* An exaggeration. Sue me.

meanwhile, rob revises his plan

Message from Rob to JFW yesterday (Wednesday) morning:
the 6:00am experiment is over. today i woke up at 7:00am. despite the
prime-ness of the number 7, we now think that 7:00am is the BEST time
possible for alarm-setting purposes. and were it not for the
overly-ambitious original 6:00am plan, this 7:00am plan would appear to be
quite the achievement for an aspiring rise-and-shiner. however, now it
just looks like i'm slacking, even though this new plan would still be a
wake-up time that gets me out of bed somewhere between 3-5 hours earlier
than what is normal for me.

nevertheless, today is DAY ONE of my new 7:00am plan. because this
requires an 11:00pm bedtime, i call it my 7/11 plan. forget about
previous announcements. this email represents the true ribbon-cutting of
my nocturnal transformation. it is my ceremonial key to the city of
slumber. and it is the champagne bottle that breaks against the side of
the ship whose maiden voyage i now embark...

in case you were wondering

I am going to be so glad when this semester is over.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

scaring up business

From an e-mail I just received from SBC, the company that provides my phone/DSL service:

Prepare for Disaster
Let the experts [link] at the American Red Cross help prepare you for everything from heat waves and floods to the looming threat of terrorism. Their sensible advice could protect you and your family when it matters most.


How Important is a Landline Phone?
If you're thinking about abandoning your landline phone in your home, think again. You could be saying goodbye to your only means of communication during an emergency [link].

where there's smoke, there's Pop Secret!

So, every morning here in the RV, I have to make sure that I close the door to the bathroom after I shower or else the steam sets off my smoke detector. This evening, on the other hand, I actually had real flames when I left a bag of microwave popcorn in the microwave too long (yes, Little-Miss-Can't-Be-Wrong in Baton Rouge, this is what I get for buying actual microwave popcorn instead of using my secret method to microwave actual popcorn). I'm vaguely worried about smoke damage to the new furnishings, et cetera. However, not one peep from the smoke alarm.

gratitude journal, #1

Thanks to a friend (you know who you are) for reminding me that certain people are worth at most five minutes of fretting, two hours of mocking conversation with friends, and maybe a few pages of notes for the planned novelization of all this.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

two more ways the weblog helps people

reader e-mail #1:
I was thinking about what you said concerning romantic movies with a male protagonist, and I think I finally figured out one big reason why I hate "Jerry Maguire" so much. I never could see why Renee Zellweger would just up and quit her job to follow and fall in love with Tom Cruise, who acts mainly like a moron/asshole throughout the movie. It's as if his Tom Cruiseness was supposed to be enough for us to get it.

This isn't the only reason why I hate it. Still, thanks to your blog post, it's finally all come together for me. I feel so much better about hating this movie now. Thanks!
reader e-mail #2:
I love that a mere two hours after you denounce food forever you cave in and eat some fruit. I also love that you blog about it so that all blog readers know about your weak resolve. I love the blog. It's very useful.

more sunshine

There's a quote in Don Quixote, "I love you for your beauty; love me although I am ugly." One thing about Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind that's common to many movies about romantic relationships with a male protagonist: a much, much better job is done setting up why the male would be interested in the female than why the female would be interested in the male. Other than some people's belief that he bears an "eerie" resemblence to me in this film, the Jim Carrey character doesn't seem to have very much to offer to the Kate Winslet character. It's the classic boring/shy male fantasy: they meet when he retreats from a group and she goes off to start a conversation with him; later that day, she takes him along to do something adventurous (breaking into a beachhouse whose owners are out), he chickens out and retreats, and she ends up still going out with him anyway.

You would think that if they were going to steal aspects of my visage and manner, they could have written in some of my charm and bravura as well.

fast enough

Okay, enough of this fasting thing. I'm eating some real fruit.

Monday, March 22, 2004

me happy, when skies are grey

I saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind tonight. I don't think I look anything like Jim Carrey in that film. I did think that some of his mannerisms and ways of speaking sounded a little like me, although that's not really surprising since the story is based on something that actually did happen to me, albeit not with Kate Winslet.

It's an absolutely fantastic film. Really, truly, it goes into my personal hall of fame of special movie watching experiences. Several times in the past particular scenes in a film have caused me to get teary-eyed. This is the first time I remember ever that the general progression of the narrative made me get more or more teary, until near the end I had teardrops rolling down the side of my head like an 11-year-old-schoolgirl seeing Titanic for the first time. I doubt most viewers will find the film as moving and sad, but then again, they basically stole much of the plotline straight from Chapter 29 of my memoirs.*

Eek, going to that movie has put me way behind on my grading, which I must turn to next.

* Although not the scenes with the Frodo guy, Frodo is not in my memoirs.

fast times

Central observation from my juice fast: eating is way, way overrated. I have stuck with it, as something of a personal science experiment. No food in three days, and I can't say I feel any the worse for wear. I feel better than usual, probably. Like I never need to eat again. I think I was more consistently awake and alert all day than I usually am--can juice fasting do that? And I discovered that I could move small shiny objects using only the power of my mind. Again, should I chalk that up to the fast?

I did buy some protein powder to stir into my apple juice, if this is a fasting crime than please judge me guilty. Judge me a faux juice faster, I'm fine with that. But now that I'm getting protein, I figure I can do this forever if I wanted and as long as I stick with it I'll be basically immortal. Concerned readers, do not worry, I won't go overboard with this, but it has been an autophysiologically intriguing exercise.

the rob clark gets the worm watch: end

Yesterday I wrote about two ongoing streaks: Rob's idea to get up at 6AM every day for the rest of his life, and my own experiment with juice-fasting for a weekend. Rob e-mails this morning:
"my 6:00am streak has come to a crashing halt. i will attempt a new streak tomorrow..."
Meanwhile, I am drinking calcium-enriched orange juice* and have still not broken my fast.

* I don't really understand how something can label itself as 100% orange juice and as having Calcium and Vitamin D added. That is, once something else is added, isn't it something less than 100% orange juice. The ingredients list: "100% Pure Squeezed Pasteurized Orange Juice, FruitCal(R) (Calcium Hydroxide, Malic Acid, and Citric Acid) and Vitamin D3."


"I was talking to one of the guys at [place] and he said that once you turn 95 your cells don't age anymore and you basically just keep will just on living until something happens to you."*
"See, that's the amazing thing about you. You say these things in this way that gives zero indication as to whether this is something you are passing along because you think it is true, or whether you are passing it along because you think it is so amusingly off-base. It's like you could go either way, depending on what my reaction is."
"He said there was this guy at [place] who just died last year, and he was--"
"My God, you are doing it again, right now!"
"--a hundred and thirty four years old."
"Right there! That's exactly what you do. 'Does she really think there was really a guy who lived to 134 years old?** Or does she think it's funny that someone would try to tell her that they knew a guy who lived to be 134?' You can't tell."

* Keep in mind that of the few people who have reached 110 years old (mainly women), only 1 in 15 is alive to age 114, which would seem to suggest that their cells are indeed still aging, unless ages 110-114 are some pretty unlucky years.

** Yes, she said 134! This is almost 20 years older than the oldest living man recorded by Guinness, but then again Guinness has these oppressive requirements about "proof" before they will list someone as the oldest living person.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

separated at birth, #2

A friend from Waverly, IA, e-mails to jump on the bandwagon of the latest contender in the Jeremy Freese look-alike contest: "I decided Friday night, after viewing "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," that in the movie of my life, you would be played by Jim Carrey. Frankly, the similarities and likeness in this movie ("Eternal Sunshine…," not my movie; as far as I know, the movie of my life hasn't been released yet) was so eerie that at times I found it distracting."

This is the strongest statement ever recorded of someone saying that I looked like anyone famous. So now I have to see this movie. I got my friend's e-mail at 9:40, and I even looked to see if there was a 10pm showing of ESSM in Madison, but alas 9:45 was the latest.

On a different front: The weekend fast continues to go well as the evening comes to a close. No hunger. Some conversations this evening: (1) a friend who told me it wasn't really much of a fast if I was drinking juice; (2) a friend who told me drinking juice was like putting the worst poison in my body, although she then backed off when I posted doing a Diet Pepsi Twist fast instead; and (3) a friend who said that a fast was a "stupid" thing like the thing stars did to flush toxins out of their bodies--she knew it was either a colonoscopy, colostomy, or colonic, but couldn't remember which it was.

the rob clark gets the worm watch: day 5

Rob e-mails: "After a decade or so of waking up somewhere between 10:00am-Noon, i've gotten up at 6:00am for five consecutive days and i've loved it! i feel so invigorated! i feel alive! the first time was an accident when amy woke me up. and ever since then it's been a golden experience. i don't much care for the 10:00pm bed time, though. i usually eat dinner at that time. amy thinks all this is a fad. i'm inclined to believe her..."

I have told Rob that we will keep track of his early rising streak here on the weblog. Meanwhile, on other resolution fronts, it's almost 6:30 here, and while I've had a few annoyances today, I have not responded to any by breaking my weekend fast. I have finished the half-gallon of apple juice I bought yesterday, and will move next to sitting by my machine with some lemonade.

gandhi had it easy

On something that would be best described as a "lark," I have decided to fast this weekend. Really, truly. Nothing but fruit juice and water, although as much of either as I want. Fruit smoothies, also, allowed. As are vitamins and any other regularly-taken pills or medications.

A chocolate-malt-with-extra-malt from Michael's Frozen Custard, not allowed. Also: even if soda might be technically allowed under some fasting rules, I'm not having any soda.

No, this is not some dieting strategy, even though I am back at the weight I was when I declared myself to be on a diet a few months ago. I do need to get on that wagon, but this isn't part of that. Instead, I've heard various people talk about how people feel "healthier" and like they have gotten "toxins of modernity" out of their system, and I wanted to see for myself. That's me, always a scientist.

I don't think I've ever gone two days without eating anything before, not even back in the days of completely stupid and counterproductive dieting back in high school wrestling. So I was anticipating that this would be some difficult test of my ever-wimpy will.

But here it is, in the early afternoon of the second day, and I don't feel particularly hungry at all. I'm especially surprised that it has been so easy given that I am cooped up in the RV most of the weekend so it's not like I've been distracted by some large bustle of errands that would keep me from "remembering" that I haven't eaten. I'm confident I will indeed make it tomorrow morning without any problems. Of course, if I write a post tonight about how famished I am or how I just devoured a box of Ho-Hos, you'll know that I am now being naive.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

i see dead people

A reader from Kabatzinn, NJ notes that the statue of Linus Van Pelt below has a spectral skeleton looming around his left foot. I have no idea how it got there, other than to chalk it up to supernatural forces. Obviously, if he and I are soul mates, it can't be a very auspicious sign for me.

separated at birth

(Linus Van Pelt, in 3-D)

A reader e-mails:

has anyone ever told you you bear a slight resemblance to jim carrey?

every time i see a preview or ad for eternal sunshine of the spotless
mind, i do a double take.
No. That's a new one. The celebrities I have been told I look the most like over the years are Dan Ackroyd and Linus Van Pelt.

Update, 12:20: The Slate reviewer says Eternal Sunshine is the best movie he's seen in a decade.

dissertations, addendum

(Devah's NYT photo)

Meanwhile, a friend's dissertation is featured in today's New York Times. I wonder what her ProQuest royalty check is going to be next year.

Update, 1pm: My God, the article mentions karaoke: "The interest in released prisoners arose while she was studying for her doctorate in Madison, Wis. She organized a karaoke night for the sociology department ("I'm a diva," she wrote in an e-mail message, playing off the pronunciation of her given name. "I love to sing.")"

another year, another $12.49

(Tax form for my dissertation royalties. Astute, Jeremy-knowledgeable readers will note that I have whited my middle name out in this scan. Yes, I'm still contemplating legally changing my name to remove it.)

My dissertation has been on my webpage since my first semester here. Still, however, every year there are 4-8 suckers out there somewhere who decide that they need to buy my dissertation from the dissertation printing mill at the University of Michigan, and as a result each year I get this little royalty form that I'm supposed to include with my taxes.

Who are these people? Why do they buy it? What are they hoping for? What do they think of what they get? Do they think the terse acknowledgments section is okay, or that I come off as insufficiently grateful and should have been more effusive? Do they recognize the pluck it took to use a font other than Times New Roman or Courier New? Do they recognize that I could have written somewhat more clever and pretty prose if my dissertation committee* hadn't reined in my textual charms? Do they find the secret messages that are hidden as the last letters of successive sentences in various passages? Do they notice the paragraph that is actually a non-rhyming sonnet, perfect iambic pentameter and all that? Do they recognize the parts that I wrote directly at the keyboard, the parts that I wrote on legal pads, and the parts that I drafted completely in Crayola on drool-drenched paper while monotonically repeating "the best dissertation is a done dissertation, the best dissertation is a done dissertation" over and over again?

* Don't get me wrong: good folks, all.

Friday, March 19, 2004

crimes of spell check, #1

Onthe New York Times website, for crying out loud: "Tom Cockle, right, and his 12th-seeded Pacific Tigers muscled a first-round victory from Tuukka Kotti and the fifth-seeded Providence Fryers."

As if Providence College selected their nickname to honor a proud Rhode Island tradition of short order cooks. As their website proudly attests, "Providence is the only college or university in the nation operated by Dominican Friars," and, while you don't see other Catholic colleges naming their teams the Priests or the Monks or the Flying Nuns, Providence athletic teams are indeed nicknamed the Friars.

signs of the apocalypse, continued

From Question: Considering that they had all the motorists in missouri to choose from, did they purposely find a guy whose last name sounds moderately salacious in its own right?
"The abundance of outdoor sex advertisements has caught the attention of Missouri legislators, who are aggressively trying to cut down on the signs.

Separate bills approved by the state House and Senate would ban most highway billboards for businesses where workers appear nude or where more than 10 percent of the store space is used to display pornography." [...]

Motorists traveling Missouri highways had mixed reactions to the legislation.

Jeff Trampleasure of Wentzville said the billboards made him dread the day he'll have to explain the sexy pitches to his children.

"I think it's trash," Trampleasure, 27, said.

dazed and confused

I can't sleep. And I've been staring at this New Yorker cartoon until being forced to the conclusion that I don't get it. If you get the joke, can you explain it to me?

Update, 7PM: Okay, so the consensus is that the joke is that the guy who has the big bag of money should be content with his bag, but instead he is still trying to get even more money by asking the guy with the little bag where his money came from.

Most eloquently, a reader in Glim Cocoon, NY writes: "the joke is that the Bald White Guy with the huge bag of money wants to know where the BWG with the small bag of money found said small bag, presumably so that Big-Money BWG
can get some to add to his stack. At that point, the cartoon becomes a trenchant comment -- and an oh-so-hilarious one, too -- on greed in contemporary capitalist societies."

This did occur to me as possibly being the joke but it seemed, as it did to the above and other readers, really lame. Besides which, it also seemed like basically a general reflection of what people with giant bags of money do--still try to get more money.

The Glim Cocoon reader posited that the difficulty in figuring out the joke stemmed in part from the confusion as to whether the "get" or "that" in the caption should be read with emphasis. She gets a bonus prize for going on to include an example of the power of emphasis from the movie Passion Fish (which chronicles the violent final hours of a pescomessiah's life):
A young soap opera actress is practicing her line, "I didn't ask for the anal probe," and tries out various options:

I didn't ask for the anal probe.

I didn't ask for the anal probe.

I didn't ask for the anal probe.

I didn't ask for the anal probe.

I didn't ask for the anal probe.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

acquisitions update

My couch and armchair arrived about 7:30 this morning. At first I was worried that Paprika Twill was more orange-y than what it had appeared on the website, but I've since moved toward the working hypothesis that this is largely a result of the lighting.

Most items I have ever purchased over, say, $500 have been electronic or have required assembly of some sort. In other words, every reasonably large capital purchase I have made included a manual, even for things whose use is completely straightforward. Why did I receive no "Operating Your New Sofa" or "JZK-857 Armchair User's Guide." Specifically with regard to the latter, is the proper installation of slipcovers supposed to be obvious? I was able to get the chair slipcover on, but it looks sort of wrinkled and frumpy.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

slash and burn

1. I got a haircut today. Much shorter. I think one of the reasons I've taken to procrastinating on getting my hair cut in the last couple years is that the final spin around with the mirror, where I'm supposed to be checking out how the haircut looks in back, is the principal occasion on which I distressingly monitor the creep of my bald spot back there.

2. I started this morning with 157 messages in my inbox. This is even with reading and deleting some messages while I was travelling. I'm now down to 10, including handling the e-mails that I received today. Of course, accomplishing this has taken the lion's share of today. And even as I type this I've just heard the beep of another message arriving. I recently was part of an e-mail exchange where one person (a senior professor at another university) had the following in his signature file: "WARNING: Email remains an inefficient way to reach me. Delays of weeks or months in responding to messages are routine." It struck me that this would probably work better as a permanent vacation message than a signature file message, as people won't get it until the response comes weeks or months later, although maybe he does have it as an autoresponder as well.

newsish miscelleny

I've fallen behind in the simple updates-on-goings-on purpose of this weblog. So, forthwith, updates:

1. The new blue Corolla continues to please especially now that I have it's special matching sport shiftknob and its special sport pedals. It's generally a given that I will have chooser's remorse after any major decision, and yet here there is none at all.

1a. I was with Kathryn in Bloomington when the odometer rolled over to 1000 miles (it had 300 when I bought it). When I noticed it was at 999 miles, I pulled onto a sidestreet so I could maximize the extent to which I could look down while driving so I wouldn't be less likely to miss the moment of it turning to 1000 (the odometer is digital and doesn't have tenths). It seemed like I had to drove about sixty blocks on side streets before it finally turned, but I did . If a watched pot takes forever to boil, it's even more the case that a watched odometer takes forever to turn.

2. Before I left for Bloomington, I got an e-mail that the long-in-progress ethnographic paper that I co-wrote with Karen Lutfey has been conditionally accepted by AJS.* When I was in Bloomington, I had dinner with my former advisor and near the end of the meal I mentioned this to him. He reacted like I had been suffering from a deadly illness and had just told him that the disease had gone into a surprise spontaneous remission. Which, of course, thrust me into a cauldron of all sorts of insecurities; former advisors can do that.

3. The talk at the BLS** conference went quite well, I think. I think I have sort of figured out a schtick for any presentation of quantitative results running a half hour or less. The two key prongs of this schtick: (1) no more than a single handwritten page of notes and (2) graphs, graphs, graphs. Actually (2) itself has three prongs: (a) go for more simple graphs than fewer complex graphs; (b) even while going for simplicity, still try to innovate in their display to whatever extent possible; and (c) color, color, color, even though it makes life more difficult when moving back-and-forth from presentations to papers.

4. Giving the talk at BLS, reminded me how much I enjoy analyzing data and talking about data analyses. Especially compared to some parts and tasks of my job. It fed a fantasy where I would basically barricade myself in the RV and just analyze data and post the results to a rolling Results weblog. I wonder if I could get some funding agency to pay me to do that, perhaps by convincing them that it may be the future of secondary data analysis.

5. When I was in Bloomington, I had lunch with someone who related an anecdote where they had referred to someone else (whom I haven't met) as "Jeremy Freese weird." This marks one of my first known-to-me appearance as an adjective. It wasn't entirely clear to me what it meant to be "Jeremy Freese weird," except that it was not just synonymous with "very," but was instead a particular peculiarity style.

6. Readers ask, Why do I need a laser level? Proximate answer: It will help get me over the motivational hump needed to have me finally finish hanging all my pictures around the RV, as now I know I can have them be both straight and the same height on the wall. Ultimate answer: I don't. This is generally the case with gifts-to-myself, especially when operating under the constraint that there has to be something palindromic about them.

7. I have embarked successfully-so-far on a plan to reduce my soda consumption. As many of you know, my Diet Pepsi Twist addiction has been raging out of control for some time. At first, I had aspirations on eliminating soda from my diet entirely, but a couple of splitting morning headaches suggested a revision to a less ambitious stab at self-improvement. I am limiting myself to one Soda Ingestion Episode per day, whether that means having soda with lunch or a can of soda in the morning, etc. I am also not buying any 12-packs for the home or office. If I do continue to successfully pare back my consumption, it will mean I can cross off the number one item on my Vices of Commission List (as distinct from my Vices of Omission List, whose number one item is, alas, "Exercising"). I'm not sure what would be the new number 1 on the VoC list, perhaps my bad and odd penchant for eating toothpaste.

8. Readers are likely familiar with the Beecher quote "Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?" I have found the answer to this question, at least for me: The International Spy Museum Gift Shop in Washington, DC. After being in there thirty seconds I knew I was going to have to resolve to spend no more than $100 in there. And within five minutes of shopping I had was at that limit and two dollars over. The purchases: (1) a small globe that hangs suspended in the air betwixt two magnets; (2) magnetic finger puppets of "revolutionaries" (Che, Gandhi, Mandela, Trotsky); (3) a Rosetta Stone mousepad (in use right now); and (4) a gift for a friend who sometimes reads this weblog (no, not you).

I think I have other updates but am not remembering them at the moment, so I might update this updates post later.

* American Journal of Sociology

** Bureau of Labor Statistics

vindicated, once again

From a story on
For decades, the Chinese propagated the myth that their most famous creation was visible from space. Elementary-school textbooks in the world's most populous nation still proclaim that the structure can be seen by the naked eye of an orbiting cosmonaut.
Despite the suggestion of this article that this myth only exists in China and only because of its being nurtured by the Chinese, I was taught this in an American junior high school, and I have heard it repeated in homegrown sources a few zillion times since. I wondered aloud about it when I first heard it, and I've been perplexed about it ever since. I mean, why would something whose remarkable virtue was its length, as opposed to its height or localized bulk, be visible from outer space? I presumed that there was something I wasn't getting. Hmph.

The accumulated number of later-shown-to-be-wrong things I learned in the rural cesspool school I attended continues to astonish me and fuel suspicions that I would have been educationally (and, who knows, perhaps socially) better off had I just been shoved into a closet with a bunch of books and PBS at age five. Double, triple hmph.


"Is Marlie her real name, or is it short for something like Marlissa or Marllicent?"
"It's short for mar-LAYN-ee-uh."
"mar-LAYN-ee-uh. M-A-R-L-A-N-I-A."
"Dear God, that's a nominal atrocity."
"She knows. She hates it."
"She should. It's like her parents started out naming a daughter and ended up naming a country."

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

dispatch from madison

I have returned to Madison, to an inbox that is out of control. Also, I really need a haircut.

dispatch from bloomington, #2

I've awakened in the dead of night here and cannot get back to sleep. Sleep, always the bane of my existence, is generally even more unpredictable when I am traveling.

Yesterday, as many readers know, was my birthday--agewise, my Crucifixion birthday or Rolling Rock birthday, depending on one's preferred reference. I appreciate all the e-mailed greetings I received. I continued my tradition of buying a palindromic gift for myself: this time treating myself to a laser level.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

dispatch from bloomington, #1

My God, are there really no posts from me since Wednesday? I wrote a post Friday morning, before I left for Bloomington. What happened to it? I can't even remember right now entirely what it was about.

Anyway, I'm here in Bloomington, and within ten minutes of my arrival I had already decided that I needed to add a new rule to my life: It's acceptable if you want to begin a sentence with "Dr. Phil says...," but, if you want to finish that sentence, you have to pay me a quarter first. I will not listen to any "life lessons" from Dr. Phil--at least, as being explicitly attributed to said doctor--without being at least nominally compensated for it.

Update, 3/16: In response to a reader suggestion, I have amended the above rule to apply to any instance of "[honorific] + [first name only] says ..." So, "Dr. Laura says..." or "Judge Judy says..." also cost you a quarter. "Judge Wapner says..." or "Mr. Rogers says..." remain free, even if not particularly welcome.

Friday, March 12, 2004

dispatch from madison

I'm back from DC, but will be leaving soon for Bloomington for a few days. When I left there upon finishing graduate school, I vowed I would never return until the city had been crushed and salt plowed into the ground so that nothing would ever grow again.* But this will be my second trip back in the forty months or so since leaving. I've never been one for considerably longstanding resolve.

One observation from DC: I've long fancied the Henry Ward Beecher quote "Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?" I have now discovered the answer to that question: the gift store of The International Spy Museum. After being in there thirty seconds, I resolved that I had to set a $100 limit on myself. Within five minutes, I was already two dollars over the limit** because of Four Things I Had To Have: (1) this magnetic levitating globe; (2) these magnetic finger puppets of famous revolutionaries (Che Guevara, Gandhi, Mandela, and Trotsky); (3) a Rosetta Stone mousepad (already out of the plastic and on my desk here in the RV) and (4) a gift for a friend who sometimes reads the weblog (no, not you.)

On a different front today, word in my inbox is that Karen Lutfey and I just got our very-long-in-the-works ethnographic paper conditionally accepted by AJS. And just as we are starting to talk about inferences from ethnographic data in my graduate methods course.

My God, it is 5:30 AM.

* No offense, friends still in Bloomington, but you know that last stretch finishing the dissertation was kinda rough.

** I've never been good at short-term resolve.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

dispatch from dc, #2: spreading the love

Tonight, I had dinner with a friend of mine from graduate school. Good friend, good conversation and good restaurant, the last being a place where the servers also take turns being the singing entertainment.

My friend said near the end of our meal that, in protest of Kerry's non-supportive stance on same sex marriages, he was not going to vote for either Kerry or Bush.

"You're going to vote for Nader?"
"No, I'm going to vote for my father." This person's working-class father being a recent but enthusiastic champion of the right to same-sex marriage.

Obviously, when someone not of a storied political lineage decides that they are going to cast their vote for the father, you are not going to convince them otherwise in casual after-dinner conversation. It did show me, however, that I needed to extend my resolve to confront my Nader issues with love to also embrace people who still plan to vote but even see Nader as being too much of a sell-out-to-The-Man to be a true protest candidate.

It also helped me nail down my general principle on these things: I vote with the idea that, if people whose opinions are generally like mine also vote the way that I vote, we would be together contributing plausibly toward the actual production of a social outcome I would regard as favorable. This, to me, is exactly what "voting one's conscience" should be about.

"Hmm. I see your reasoning. I mean, imagine if we could get three or four or even five percent of the liberal electorate to cast write-in votes for their parents. That would be a start toward reversing some of the distressing policies we've seen over the last three years. Bush would see the votes for all those single-supporter write-in candidates and know that his next administration was going to have to make some big changes or maybe even more liberals would vote for their parents next time."

(Thought and said with love, of course. Especially since my friend seems to be doing well for himself on multiple fronts in DC.)

dispatch from embassy row hilton, washington, dc

I almost missed my flight this morning. As alluded to in my last post, I was up all night last night, in part because of massive computer problems and in part because of some massive annoyances going on with some aspects of my job (not to be further elaborated here). Anyway, I did get a little more than an hours sleep from about 8:30 to 9:45, with then seemingly about an hour and a half to get my stuff together and make the 25-minute drive to the airport in time for my noon flight.

Two major forces conspired against me being on time:

1. As it turned out, the computer problems that I was having that were part of the reason that I was up all night last night appear to be the result of a computer virus, still unresolved. As a result of this, I had trouble transporting files to my laptop or printing any of my directions, etc., vis-a-vis this conference. I ended up copying stuff down by hand and just throwing random electronic equipment into my bag, hoping that out of it I could reconstruct what I needed. So far as I can tell, I don't seem to have left behind anything essential.

2. Tuesday night, I had bought Official Pants of Resignation to wear to this workshop. Pants of Resignation being, of course, the pants you have procrastinated buying earlier because you do not want to seem resigned that a recent weight gain is anything more than ephemeral. Anyway, I go to pack the Pants of Resignation on Wednesday morning and discover that the person who rang them up for me forgot to remove the little exploding ink tag. After a couple of gingerly efforts to see if I could take the exploding tag off myself, I realized I was going to have to make a run for the mall (I do have other pants that fit, but they all were in one way or another not acceptable for a presentation to a Bureau of Labor Statistics Workshop). The mall being in exactly the opposite direction from the current location of the RV as the airport.

I made it in time because (1) my peppy new Corolla really does have some speed when one chooses to floor it and (2) I beat out this soccer mom in an SUV for a proximate parking spot at the airport. Well, that and the fact that my flight turned out to be a fifteen minutes delayed.

frequently asked questions about jeremy, continued

Q: It's 5am, and Jeremy has been up all night. He is leaving in 7 hours for Washington, DC, where he will be giving a presentation. It must be that he's been up all night working on his presentation, right?

A: Wrong. The last two hours and change he's spent dealing with an annoying configuration problem between his desktop and laptop machines whose solution required upgrading both to Windows XP (!). Earlier he was catching up on e-mail.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004


You know what I've always loved about you? You are like the sanest insane person in the entire world. You are so rational--I have to admit, the insanity thing, I could either take it or leave it--but you have the most rational head on your shoulder sometimes.

You're only saying that now because I'm agreeing with you.

[giggles] True. But I have thought it at other times too.

Monday, March 08, 2004

a new septuagenarian speaks!

I just called my father for his 70th birthday. My father used to not be able to talk on the telephone at all, but now can intermittently and partially do so because of his cochlear implants. You still have to talk at roughly three times your normal phone-voice volume.

I talked to him about what he was doing for his birthday (not much), whether there were going to be any lambs born on his birthday (maybe, but probably not), how the lambing season more generally was going (discouraging; he's lost more than usual), his plan now to get out of sheep again as a result of the bad lambing season (I'll believe it when I see it), what he's doing around the house (working on the inside trim on the windows, playing Spider solitare), how driving the school bus has been going (well), how the cochlear implants have been doing (well; he reports that can now hear himself sing for the first time in years, which frankly explains a few painful Sundays standing next to him in the waning days of my church attendance)

And then my father chuckles and says: "You know, I don't really know who I'm talking to."
"Somebody who knows it's my birthday."

So then I tried to get him to guess, but he had trouble hearing what I was asking. At one point, he thought something I said was "Roger," and so then he was off trying to figure out who he knew named "Roger" that might be calling him on his birthday. That was clearly a conversational wrong turn, and it took some doing to get us back on the thoroughfare of intersubjectivity once again.

"One of my sons." (pause) (pause!) "This ain't Jeremy, is it?"
"You sure don't sound like you."

* Update, next morning: One reader e-mails: "When you say "DING! DING! DING! YOU GOT IT!" you sound like an ass."

death clock user's manual

Several people have already e-mailed me today with their Death Clock projected date of death. Note that the "mode" feature is not, as far as I can tell, whether you are "optimistic" or "pessimistic" in life, but whether you want an optimistic or pessimistic (or, "sadistic") prediction. While it is assuredly true that optimists may have health advantages over pessimists*, the difference isn't this large.

To give you an idea of the differences, here are my own projections keeping all information the same:

"Normal": Christmas Day, 2043 (age 72)
"Pessimistic": November 2, 2026 (age 55)
"Optimistic": January 14, 2063 (age 91)
"Sadistic": Christmas Day, 2007 (age 36--great! just in time for tenure!)

* An academic BTW: I heard a talk last year where a personality psychologist claimed that pre-test measures of personality and optimism explained 30-50% of the variation in pre-test-to-post-test change in self-reported health for a sample of patients. The implication was not that most of this difference was due to actually-better-health, but rather it was due to reportedly-better-health--that is, pessimists, being pessimists, are more likely to the glass as half-sick while optimists see it as half-well.

jeepers reapers

Today is my father's 70th birthday.

My own next birthday is a week away; this year I will be the same age as Jesus was when he went through his half-day ordeal chronicled by Mel Gibson.

I just looked at the Death Clock, and it says that the best guess as to when I am going to die is Christmas Day, 2043. All these different ways my life and that of Christ seem to be converging lately; maybe that explains the stigmata I woke up with this morning.

Now I've played around with the Death Clock settings and I've learned only get an extra year if I ever get back on the Diet Train and ride it to its moderation-destination.

Meanwhile, I gain seven years and four-and-a-half months of life by being a non-smoker. Interestingly, this is exactly the same amount of life that I lost getting my Ph.D..

another bell/whistle for the blog

New! The editors of JFW have recently been playing with using an RSS aggregator for an optimally efficient in their news- and blog-reading experience. Accordingly, JFW has added an RSS feed. If you are not using an aggregator, you can still click on the link and have the anticlimactic experience of seeing what this weblog looks like in RSS-feed-format.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

weblogs JFW cannot compete with #3

Checking in once again at the weblog/conceptual-art-experiment of "Hot Abercrombie Chick!" (which I still suspect is the pseudonym for three guys who share a dorm room). "She" has posted the following e-mail "she" received:

This is a picture of me and my current girlfriend, but I'd be willing to substitute you for her. --Marc
But Marc is just one of the many contenders trying to electronically woo Hot Abercrombie Chick! While his is one approach to the HAC heart, a quick perusal of the Comments and Guestbook parts of her blog reveal several other tactics, almost all of which involve variations on the frequently-tried-and-sometimes-effective strategy of trying to win affection by providing an overwhelming onslaught of shock-and-awe-sucking-up:

Scotty: HAC is WAY too good to be true! That is the highest compliment a mere mortal such as myself can pay to an angel he doesn't even have the right to dream of.

Bengual: i would trade my soul for your love... amanda...i was listening to john mayer-your body is a wonderland and i remembered would be really nice if you post new pictures of you...i set your picture as desktop background which has made my life much more is like looking paradise from above...

Leon: hey baby, i gots some philosophy for ya: you put the karl in my marx. now lets get together and make sweet communist music.

Mark: Wow, beautiful intelligent females exist? I've been looking all my life just for someone remotely attractive and intelligent, who would of thought. Good luck on finding an equivilent [oof!: tip to mark: if you are going to try the beautiful-and-intelligent pitch, be sure you've got everything spelled right] guy. Im just glad because now...THERE IS HOPE, and they do exist!

Sean: Amanda... You're perfect looking. Love the way you dress, and I really like your smile. You may officially be the sexiest girl on the planet!

Jeremy (NO! Not me! This Jeremy lists his e-mail address as: Amanda, Wow, your site it fun to visit! Thanks for taking the time to keep it up. God Bless, Jeremy.

Bristow: Nice site, great topics and all of it from a very attractive person. Keep it up! You're a great role model!

my life in a nutshell, #73 (or, dial m for machine wash warm)

On the list for today was washing my bedding. I gathered up everything and put it in the washer. Later, after moving the bedding from the washer to the dryer and pressing START, the dryer started making this banging noise like it had a rock spinning around in it. This is when I discovered that I had washed my cordless phone.

me: a 400 square foot rv and a peppy new corolla

From today's NYT:
Mr. Drake [owner of a Hummer dealership] said he was approached by a well-known actress, whose name he declined to share.

'She told me she wanted to buy a hybrid, and she was concerned about the Hummer and its effect on the environment,' Mr. Drake recalled. 'I asked where she lived. She said Beverly Hills. I said, `Out of curiosity: How big is your house?'

'She said: `What does that matter? It's 20,000 square feet.' '
He said he replied: 'I don't know what's less correct. Having three people live in a 20,000-square-foot house, with a pool and heaters and air-conditioners. Or me driving my Hummer 500 miles a month.'

Mr. Drake's house, he said, is 3,000 square feet.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

one reader, three e-mails, three minutes

when did alan thicke die?

never mind.  i had been far far behind in my blog reading.

i used to have a crush on him.  i was haunted by chronic 

alan thicke cravings for most of the eighties. he was hot.
and canadian. the only celebrity i can think of who is
hotter and more canadian is eugene levy. maybe also
alex trebek.

(overheard) talk about the passion, #4

So much grading!!! Does it ever end?
Yes, when you die. There is no grading in hell.
I'm going to hell? Now i am kind of sad. But is there really no grading? Cuz that might be worth it. Do you know what circle i am going to?
My guess is that you will be in Circle Five, which is the circle of the angry.
I don't get nearly as angry as i used to. When was the last time i cornered and attacked you?
Have you repented about your past anger? That's the important thing.
I guess i haven't repented. How does one do that? Do i need to accept [deity name deleted] in the throne of my heart, whatever that means?
Throne of your heart? Did you just make that up?
Maybe it is something that crazy souther baptists say. i probably have had more run-ins with them than you have.
Probably, given that you grew up souther than where I grew up.
I hate emoticons, but :P
Which do you hate more, emoticons made from ASCII characters or those little-yellow-prefabricated-face-emoticons?
Prefabricated faces. I feel them to be an insult to my very being.
Exactly! That's exactly right!
This conversation doesn't seem as funny now that you've blogged it.
I know, dialogue is always hit or miss. You'd be surprised, though, sometimes things that I think are kinda-funny-but-not-really other people find hilarious. Especially my French readers.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

crimes of collegiate pedagogy, continued

From Here are some of the actual questions that fired Georgia assistant basketball coach gave as the final exam to students in his Principles and Strategies of Coaching Basketball course.
1. How many goals are on a basketball court?
a. 1
b. 2
c. 3
d. 4

2. How many players are allowed to play at one time on any one team in a regulation game?
a. 2
b. 3
c. 4
d. 5

5. How many halves are in a college basketball game?
a. 1
b. 2
c. 3
d. 4

6. How many quarters are in a high school basketball game?
a. 1
b. 2
c. 3
d. 4

8. How many points does a 3-point field goal account [sic] for in a Basketball Game?
a. 1
b. 2
c. 3
d. 4

11. What is the name of the exam which all high school seniors in the State of Georgia must pass?
a. Eye Exam
b. How Do The Grits Taste Exam
c. Bug Control Exam
d. Georgia Exit Exam
A weird thing about this is that, at least in the earlier stories of his dismissal, Harrick, Jr. was accused of giving preferential treatment to three basketball players by not requiring them to attend classes or take the exams to get an A in the course. As it turns out, Harrick, Jr. didn't require anyone to take the final, didn't attend many of the classes himself, and gave every student in the class A's. Harrick, Jr. can't really be accused of offering preferential treatment to athletes when held everyone to the same non-standards. So does all this make Harrick, Jr. look better or worse than if he given A's to the three players in his class without requiring anything but had actually put together and taught a real course with challenging tests for the rest of the students?

Wednesday, March 03, 2004


"I had a terrible dream about you last night. In the future, please don't drink so much that I think you are going to die and then have to pump your stomach for ten minutes until finally you turn into that woman who is in Pretty Woman."
"What? And which woman: the-protagonist-prostitute-with-a-heart-of-gold played by Julia Roberts or the street-smart-friend-prostitute-with-a-heart-of-gold played by Laura San Giacomo?"
"I was in a maze palace and I was with a bunch of people, including Rainbow. Actually I think that it was an enormous dollhouse. And she and I had to go and find you, but it was difficult because you were a fast moving, quickly dying, drunk. And once we found you, you were almost dead, not breathing etc. And we set up this elaborate system for pumping your stomach. And then there was this tremendous sense of relief when you actually started breathing again. That's when you turned into Julia Roberts and started dancing around and kissing everyone."

biggest public health news of the day

CHICAGO (AP) -- Hold the fries -- at least the super-sized version. In a sign of the times, McDonald's is getting rid of the extra-large portions that had become one of its signatures. The burger giant said it has begun phasing out Supersize fries and drinks in its more than 13,000 U.S. restaurants and will stop selling them altogether by year's end, except in promotions. "

according to einstein, time is like a river. a river that my sister apparently dammed for a couple of years.

My brother and oldest sister were born 361 days apart. Last August, I went to St. Louis for my brother's 50th birthday party.* Today, I googled my sister because she was in a recent news story about some shady practices engaged in by her mortgage company.** The story came lists her as being 47 years old. I wish I understood Einstein's work on relativity better, as I wonder how my brother has aged faster than my sister. My dim recollection from pop science books that I've read is that my sister has to have spent a few years out in space moving at a speed closer to the speed of light than my however fast my brother was moving. If you know my sister, this is not particularly implausible.

* Yes, my brother is more than 17 years older than I am.

** It's an unfortunate story, so I'll refrain from linking to it out of a sense of familial discretion.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

bad teaching day. ugh.

Bad teaching day. Ugh.

Update, 6:15: A dear friend just called to check on me after reading this post, to make sure that I wasn't so distraught as to be crouched in a ball in my office wishing that the world would end. I appreciate the concern, but it's just a bad teaching day. That alone doesn't even make it a bad day, much less a really bad day. Keep in mind that I have a melodramatic streak.

Update, 7:30: Again, I'm making PowerPoint slides as penance for not explaining something as well as I could today. Here are new slides for the thing I got tangled up trying to explain -- the little-used but logically-revelatory regression discontinuity design.

Update, 7:45: All that said, my day does become somewhat worse with the news that Little Edwards will be dropping out. I knew it was going to happen, but still, as long as it wasn't over-over there was still rays of hope. Perhaps Kerry will show me to be wrong in all my various doubts about how well he will wear on the American public over the course of an 8 month general election campaign.

(poetry) my gun is blue (or, you can have my rhymes when you pry these stanzas from my cold, dead fingers)

A friend and Alan Thicke mourner made a drive this weekend from Illinois and Indiana and back, and on the highway there were apparently several sets of four signs that together provided Burma-Shave-style ads touting the virtues of guns, guns, guns. She wrote down three examples for me:
sign #1: terrorists
sign #2: love gun control
sign #3: disarmed victims
sign #4: are their goal

sign #1: roses are red
sign #2: my gun is blue
sign #3: i am safe
sign #4: how about you?

sign #1: shooting sports
sign #2: are safe and fun
sign #3: there's no need
sign #4: to fear a gun

some local color, from texas

Part of an e-mail I received this morning from a reader in Denton, TX:
i had a friend named rainbow when i was growing up. at times she was my best friend and at times we hated each other. i'm pretty sure that she is institutionalized or dead now, but in any case i lost touch with her a long time ago. i'm pretty sure she had schizophrenia. anyway, her grandmother did. rainbow was so embarassed of her grandmother that she would never let anyone come over. well, she also wouldn't let people come to her house because her dad was a seriously [expletive] up vietnam vet. his job in the war was to take personal effects off of the bodies to send home to families. christ, that is creepy. rainbow's mom was pretty crazy, too, but in a more functioning way. but, rainbow's grandmother had been give electroshock therapy at some point. i guess she was less schizophrenic, but she was way, way nonsensical. every day when rainbow came home from school, her grandmother would say, "how was school today?" and rainbow would say, "fine, gramma" and dart off to her room. rainbow's gramma would call down the hall, "Champs! Champs!" while shaking her fists in the air. if one called to talk to rainbow and her grandmother happened to reach the phone first, she would always say that rainbow was picking up her mother at the airport. rainbow's grandmother seemed pretty happy.

rainbow, on the other hand, was not happy at all.

(more evidence of imminent doom) i believe the children are the future. which is why i am so bleak about the future.

A poll released earlier this year by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 21 percent of people aged 18 to 29 cited 'The Daily Show' and 'Saturday Night Live' as a place where they regularly learned presidential campaign news.

By contrast, 23 percent of the young people mentioned ABC, CBS or NBC's nightly news broadcasts as a source.

Even more startling is the change from just four years ago. When the same question was asked in 2000, Pew found only 9 percent of young people pointing to the comedy shows and 39 percent to the network news shows.

Monday, March 01, 2004

while u wait

My methods students have until midnight to e-mail me their weekly reaction papers. I'm expecting at least 25 papers--and probably closer to 30--this week, and yet, an hour and a half before the deadline, I only have 14. I bet I will get five in the ten minute period leading up to midnight--we'll see.

Anyway, in my massively multitasking way, I end up grading some of them immediately upon their arrival. I got one from a student just now at 10:13pm, and I realized as I was sending out my comments on it that it was only 10:18pm. What other faculty member out there is returning assignments to students with grades and comments in five minutes?

Update, 11:40pm: Twenty minutes to go and I still only have 17 papers. Are so many of them really going to cut it this close? Or are more going to opt out this week than I anticipated?

Update, 1:30am: Indeed, ten more papers came careening into my inbox.

Update, 2am: Done grading the reaction papers! If only the same could be said about tomorrow's lecture.

excuses, recluses

As I was just noting in an e-mail to a fellow blogger, today is one of those infrequent-but-not-exactly-rare days where I have been here in the RV all day, with the vast majority of the time spent here in front of my PC. I had a three-minute telephone conversation earlier, which have been the only words that I have said out loud today, I think. It's strange how one* can go an entire day with no face-to-face social interaction. Even stranger is how, with current communications technologies, one can go the whole day with no face-to-face social interaction and not feel like one has been deprived of socialty, as I have been e-mailing with people all day. That said, I'll probably talk on the phone to at least one friend later, and, I might go to the grocery store, which will result in me seeing other real-live-flesh-and-blood human beings. There is a reason they call communication online "virtual" interaction, after all.

* I'm not sure why I'm saying "one" when I basically mean "I," viz.: It's strange how I can go an entire day with no face-to-face interaction and not feel especially deprived. If you would have told me such a thing lay as an infrequent-but-not-exactly-rare-thing in my future 10 years ago, before it was apparent how big the Internet was going to be, I would have thought either that you were lying or that my life had taken some desperately unfortunate turn. When I first arrived in Madison it was the middle of winter (I started here January 2001). That first semester, working down in the bowels of the second floor and knowing hardly a soul in Madison, I had a couple of streches where I went 3-4 days where the only words I said face-to-face to anyone were "Hi" to people I passed in the hallway and my order to servers in restaurants. That, even for someone who enjoys a wide berth of solitude, was awfully lonesome.

Update, 8:45pm: Whoops, I just realized Whole Foods closes at 9, not 10. So much for seeing other human beings, then, I suppose. Tomorrow, I teach, so I'll get humanity by the bushel then if not before.

talk about the passion, #3 ('til death do us part, and then we get on elevators going different directions)

All kinds of evangelical Christians are getting riled up by Mel Gibson's passion, like the Pentecostals in Denver who put up the sign reading "Jews Killed the Lord Jesus." These Protestants probably think that Jesus died for their salvation as well as Mel Gibson's, and they will all eventually be strolling arm-in-arm together down the golden midway of heaven someday. However, does Mel Gibson believe this? No! His belief is that his Protestant defenders will all be joining his wife and the rest of us unredeemed in hell. Quotes from one interview:
"There is no salvation for those outside the (Catholic) church," Gibson replied. "I believe it."

He elaborated: "Put it this way. My wife is a saint. She's a much better person than I am. Honestly. She's, like, Episcopalian, Church of England. She prays, she believes in God, she knows Jesus, she believes in that stuff. And it's just not fair if she doesn't make it; she's better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair. I go with it."

(politics) a loving chuckle toward what would have formerly made me ralph

Old Me would find much righteous agitation in this haymaker article on Nader in the otherwise-alas-too-often-sucky New Republic Online. Its two theses: (1) that Nader's behavior the past two elections are less of an aberration and more of an extension of the traits and behaviors shown throughout his career and (2) that Nader's behavior in the final days of the last election is less consistent with the idea of a third-party candidate being indifferent to the outcome of the election and more consistent with an actual goal of being spoiler. The Old Me would have angrily underscored the point that Nader (a) knows very well that he tipped the last election to Bush, (b) is not unpleased with that fact, (c) would do it again if he could, and (d) is being disingenuous whenever he makes arguments to the contrary. The Old Me would have double underscored the implication that more pure-of-heart vote-your-conscience Nader supporters this time around are being played for fools. Then the Old Me would be so agitated from all this underscoring that he would have googled up a picture of Nader just so he could spit on his monitor.

New Me, as readers know, has vowed instead to fight his negative feelings toward Nader with unconditional love. The New Me does not dispute any of the points in the article. However, whereas the Old Me would read the article through the hateful lens of someone who thinks Nader irresponsibly and knowingly misled others to participate in a course of action that deeply undermined causes that they supposedly believed in, the New Me reads it through the loveful lens of someone who thinks Nader irresponsibly and knowingly misled others to participate in a course of action that deeply undermined causes that they supposedly believed in. New Me's reaction to the article: "That Ralph! What a little devil! Isn't he the dickens? Cute-a-rrific!"

I feel great! Hooray, New Me!

(timesuck) like diagnosing fish in a barrel

Click here for a link to a nicely organized hypertext version of the DSM-IV TR. Especially captivating to flip through the various diagnoses and to try to envision someone you know that seems to fit enough of the criteria to qualify for a particular diagnostic label. Especially gratifying to match diagnostic categories to people who, to the best of your knowledge, have no (or, at least in your own reckoning, seemingly not enough) actual contact with mental health service providers. Especially easy to play this game if you have gotten your Ph.D. and then became a faculty member in a place with a graduate program, as not only is academia a luminous beacon for the moths of psychpeculiarity, but also you have a large corpus of professors and graduate students from two different places with whom to find matches to maladies.