Tuesday, August 31, 2004

quick! fill out an absentee ballot before you become disenchanted by me again!

From the voicemail of friends in the electoral battlezone of Tashkent, OH:

this is an audio post - click to play

terrified by cheese and crackers

The department had its start-of-year-meet-the-new-students reception. I lasted 15 minutes, which is 5 minutes longer than my modal time. (No offense to anyone.) I don't like crowds of strangers, especially crowds where I am supposed to be talking to somebody, but often I seem to find crowds of acquaintances even harder to take if I don't settle into a regular conversation with someone right away. I think when most other people talk about being painfully shy, they mean the painful part only metaphorically.

As I type this, an e-mail comes in from someone else who was there: "Why did I go to that thing? Do I really want a free beer that bad?"

where's waldo?

I took the same 75-question political survey that Ann did. I ended up a good deal farther "left" than Ann and more "pragmatic" than her or any of the political figures for whom ratings are provided. I'm rated as the almost exact ideological opposite to Hitler, which I feel is a good way to start the day.

The survey itself has its amateurish moments; for example, "It is only acceptable to use proportionate force to defend your property from criminals." Does this mean: (a) that the only time it is legitimate to use proportionate force is to defend your property from criminals [the syntactically cleanest interpretation, but seemingly substantively unlikely]; (b) it is not acceptable to use anything more than proportionate force to defend your property from criminals; (c) it is justified (as when people say "it is only right to...") to use proportionate force to defend your property from criminals; or something else; or (d) something else. I couldn't figure it out, so I had to select "No opinion."

The survey also asks various questions in a genre of attitude item which annoy me, as I think they differentiate people on the dimension of how literally-yet-imaginatively* they choose to read survey items. Maybe the worst example of this on the survey was: "There is no such thing as an immoral sexual act between consenting adults." Obviously, most of the general population would disagree to this item right away. But, for those who would be inclined to agree when they contemplated the most obvious examples of acts-between-consenting-adults-that-others-might-regard-as-immoral, the question is asking whether you can think of any circumstance where you would make a negative moral judgement about a sexual coupling in which the two parties are consenting. Then it becomes like a parlor game in which you can imagine various scenarios--involving, e.g., all different kinds of betrayals and seeming exploitations-of-situations--where you can then ask, "Come on, what about this? Surely you think this is immoral?"

* Technical/academic aside: More specifically, I would call this differentiation in the extent to which respondents cognitively elaborate survey items.

Monday, August 30, 2004

i thought hope was on the way. when i opened my door, it turned out to be misanthrope instead.

In the last 7-8 days, the Tradesports market-estimated probability of Bush's re-election has gone from 52% to where it is now pushing 59%. Despair, a regular visitor to the RV, has now pretty much moved in, spending most of its days sitting on my couch in its boxers, eating whatever it wants out of my fridge, playing my Xbox, getting Cheetos crumbs everywhere, scratching itself in various unbecoming places, and relentlessly taunting me. While Tradesports has long been making money by matching up speculators on its PRESIDENT.GWBUSH.2004 futures contracts, no word on whether they will start allowing members to speculate on JEREMY.EXPATRIATION contracts as well. Also, perhaps they should start taking bets on JEREMY.ROAMSCOUNTRY.KUNGFU.

children of a lesser baldwin

From CNN.com::
"Actor Stephen Baldwin was among the guests at 'R: The Party.' Baldwin's actor brothers Alec and Billy are Democratic activists. Stephen Baldwin, a born-again Christian, declined to say that he was supporting President Bush. Instead, he said, 'I'm going to vote for the guy who will truly be led by God.' "

Sunday, August 29, 2004

news from the continuing struggle of jeremy vs. jeremy

Today, I went for a 70-minute bike ride. Later, I went to Whole Foods and bought all kinds of healthy things for me to eat. In between: Michael's Frozen Custard, chocolate-malt-with-extra-malt.

Friday, August 27, 2004

quiz answer: the notebook!

(see quiz here)

Dorotha was responsible for the important new addition to Wisconsin Sociology karaoke: fieldnotes! Which has allowed for the most detailed karaoke recap ever, over at carey-oke's blog (who wrote the recap on her birthday, no less).

Regarding #s 2 ("Sister Christian"): Carey is underselling the quality of her own performance here. "Sister Christian" was also an especially inspired choice--as it was a previously unrecognized great karaoke song--and it cleared up for me that the key phrase in the chorus is "Motorin'" and not "Motor Inn", as I've always wondered what the rest of the song had to do with a motel.

Regarding #4 ("Wild, Wild Life") on her list, here is the accompanying photograph:

Regarding #15 ("Goodbye Earl"): My attempts to get the crowd to chant "Die, Earl! Die!" were not successful.

Regarding #17 ("I've Been to Paradise"): The department has its Great Karaoke Generalists (e.g., of course, Carey-oke herself) and its Great Karaoke Specialists. This song one of the department's greatest Great Karaoke Specialist at work. The combination of performer + song + video never ceases to amaze me.

Regarding #29 ("Total Eclipse of the Heart"): Carey describes the psychological torment I was put through with this song. I should be fine with a year of therapy, however.

more sower

Apparently I have sown some confusion with my post about the Nebraska State Quarter Poll. A reader from Alliance, NE (home of Carhenge) states the problem: "jeremy, design number 9 is different from the picture you have posted on the blog. do you want votes for sower 1 or sower 9? i think 9 is definitely stranger and creepier than 1 so i will vote for that anyway. it looks like he has his [body part name deleted] in a knapsack and he's peeking at it..." Um, while I hadn't thought of that, I did think #9 was the more striking image, and it was an accident that I posted the picture for #1 instead. Design 9, decked out in Nebraska Cornhusker red, is above and is the designed officially endorsed by JFW.

Some readers have asked if they can get jobs working on the The Sower comic book. My associates say they are willing to accept auditions for the lettering job, but they specify that they want the lettering to be done in a hypermanly style, to go with the general Sower theme. As another example of this, for whatever reason, my associates think it would be cool if The Sower traveled to and fro his various adventures via the back of some giant magic flying creature, and so now the debate is which of the three finalists is the most manly: a giant flying manatee, a giant flying cricket with huge mandibles, or a giant flying elk with huge mantlers.

BTW, Ann links to my earlier post and brings Millet into the mix.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

other questions from karaoke night with answers unknown and/or unknowable

1. Why does the woman on the left have money stuck to her face?

2. Why does the woman on the right want to fight about it?

3. What's that pink thing on that one woman's wrist?

Oh, wait, other photographic evidence allows us to answer #3:


4. What exactly would Jerry and Nina do if they ever did get that hammer they keep singing about?

5. Has doing "The Robot" spread from people onstage to members of the audience?

6. More importantly, who invited Barbie?

7. And who talked her into doing "The Robot" too?

8. How does Jerry manage to be Ike and Tina at the same time?

public sociology quiz feature!: what item on this table may have forever changed the face of wisconsin sociology karaoke?

(I say "public sociology quiz" because presumably a broad training in sociology would provide one with an eye for picking out precisely what kinds of things-in-the-world are capable of yielding such vast discursive consequences.)

Answer in awhile.

behind the music: the kind of negotiations that can go into a single multiperson/multiplatinum karaoke performance

(eventual boy band leader/Justin-figure crooning his best for a mob of adoring fans)

"We're trying to put together a boy band. Do you want to join us?"
"What song?"
"'It's Gonna Be Me'"
"Never heard it. Never heard of it."
"It's by N'Sync"
"Can I be Lance?"
"I don't know any of them besides Justin."
"Lance is the weird-looking one who wanted to be shot into space by the Russians." (link)
"Okay, you're Lance."
"Will I be expected to gyrate?"
"Of course."
"No way. I'm too prim and untrim to gyrate."
"Fine, no gyrating. You can stand in back. But you still have to look hot."
"Sign me up."

Note: An e-mail received this morning from one attendee of last night's karaoke proclaimed that the ensuing performance was, in her opinion, the biggest highlight of the many-highlight-filled evening. Due, in no part, to Mr. Purpletext above.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

help me reap the benefits of democracy

As you surely know, the swiftest way to fame and oodles of cash these days is to come up with a winning comic book/graphic novel series. Unfortunately, among some artistically-inclined associates of mine, enthusiasm has wanted for my own idea, Invisible Untenured Detective, about an assistant professor at Harvard who solves mysteries, aided by the fact that he is considered so irrelevant and unworthy by senior colleagues and students as to be rendered, for many crime-fighting intents and purposes, invisible. Instead, they have been working on their own concept, The Sower, about an especially virile hero who is dispatched on various world-saving and woman-wooing adventures.

Now, by miraculous happenstance, the State of Nebraska has opened an advisory poll for what should be put on the back of their state quarter, and one of the images that of a mysterious state icon coincidentally known as "The Sower." Can you imagine the free advertising of having tens of millions of Americans carrying around pictures of your comic-book-character in their back pockets? My associates are already working feverishly on changing the proto-drawings of their hero to look more like a hypertestosteronized version of the guy on the coin and on changing the backstory to have the hero hail from somewhere in Nebraska (Bellevue? Kearney? Wahoo?). Anyway, especially considering that some of their billions in profits could somehow trickle down to me: please go immediately to the Nebraska state quarter polling website, ignore the stuff about being a Nebraska resident, resist the temptation to vote for the truly wacky and disturbed Design #11, resist also the temptation to vote for the various drawings centered on their State Capitol (hmm, I wonder how many states have one of those), and cast your vote for Design #9.

superficial aside

Fellow blogger, I've dined with Ann Althouse. I know Ann Althouse. Ann Althouse is a friend of mine. Fellow blogger, Ann Althouse does not look anything like Amber Frey. Or like John Kennedy. Or Ann Coulter. For that matter, Amber Frey and Ann Coulter do not look anything alike. And none of them look anything like Laurie Dhue. Unless you really do hold to some Interchangeability of All Persons With Blond Hair theory. In logical notation:

AA ~= AF ~= AC ~= JFK(1) ~= LD unless all(B) = all(B)

And did you deliberately choose the worst picture of Amber Frey available anywhere on the Internet?

$NT --> $US

I have all this Taiwanese money still laying around from my trip there last October. Can I just cash this in at a bank? Will any bank exchange money from anywhere? Like can I walk in an presume they will do it, so I can act all assured and say "I have some Taiwanese dollars I need to exchange," or do I need to tentatively ask "Do you exchange Taiwanese dollars?" I'm desperately underfamiliar with all matters of money and traveling and its aftermath. More cosmopolitan readers, help!

BTW, to give you an idea of how much $NT I have laying around the RV, in case you want to break in and take it off my hands, $NT100 = $US3.

in case there remained any doubts...

...about whether Wisconsin Sociology takes seriously its position as the #1 karaoke department in the country, consider the set of announcements for tonight's last-karaoke-of-the-summer excursion provided here--to our knowledge, the only sociologist-weblog that is all karaoke, all the time.

I have had inquiries to whether "The Robot," "The Breadmaker," "The Gecko," and "The Manversation" are all really audience-requested and performer-performed dances at the Karaoke Kid. They are.* If you have QuickTime, you can see one of the countless versions of "The Robot" being performed by an unnamed sociology graduate student at the end of this dark, grainy, and jumpy clip. This clip, incidentally, is presently the only known motion-picture footage of Wisconsin Sociology karaoke, which does not provide a particularly flattering portrait of our collective endeavor since whoever the guy is doing most of the "singing"--was he even with our group? did he just wander up there on stage and we were too polite to stop him?--seems not just to have enthusiasm running well beyond his musical talents but looks also like he may well be quite seriously unhinged.

* Rumors that they are also the titles of forthcoming John Grisham novels are, to the best of my knowledge, unfounded.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

where are they now?, funny former emissary of satan edition

Back in high school, before my general estrangement from all things spiritual, I was president of my hometown church's Luther League, the youth organization for Lutheran kids. I don't remember anything I did as president--perhaps a roller-skating party!--although at least my term wasn't sullied by some kind of Luther-Lewinsky scandal. Anyway, late 80's youth Christianity was all about Satan and his many ways of ensnaring the unwary. There were of course the subliminal Satanic seductions provided on various heavy metal and dance-music albums. Then, there was the fear of actually being abducted by Satanists and used either as part of some ritual sacrifice or sold into demonic-profiteering-sex-slavery into some occultish opium den somewhere in--where else?--Southern California.

All this came back to mind this evening as I was reading this story in the New Yorker about a rising Christian comedian. The story is a great read in its own right, but it got me wondering about Mike Warnke, a Christian comedian whose album(s) were loved by a couple my more devout Luther Leaguer friends. His schtick was that of the ex-hippie-who-had-converted-to-Christ-but-kept-the-long-hair, except he took this even further by being not just an ex-hippie but an ex-hippie-and-Satanic-cult-high-priest. I don't know if I have given the guy another thought since high school, but the article had me wondering: Whatever happened to that guy? Is he still out there performing?

Turns out that a Christian magazine ran an long expose back in 1992 that revealed much of his story to be, like that of every single other person who has ever claimed to have been a high priest in a Satanic cult with fifteen hundred followers, lies. It's one of those This Guy Is A Complete Fraud exposes where the scope and audacity of all the lies, when years of falsehoods are put on page after page of a magazine article, makes a surprisingly compelling read. Especially when accompanied by discussion of freewheeling debauchery on the Christian comedy circuit.

Forgiveness being what it is, however, especially when someone is good for a laugh, he is still out there performing, with a website*, and from his itinerary looks quite busy. (His website does have a long discussion of the review of a Tribunal of Church Elders about the accusations in the article, which, at least in my eyes, didn't go very far in cutting through the thick film of sleazegrime covering this guy's biographical-morality-kitchen-counter.)

* Note the animated flag-eagle-cross combo on the website.

if you look closely at a daisy, you will notice that its petals spiral downward

Pluck 1: She loves you.

Pluck 2: She loves you not.

Pluck 3: She loved you.

Pluck 4: She loved you not, obviously. But, in your defense, you were never under any illusions about that.

Pluck 5: She at least liked you.

Pluck 6: Actually, it seems rather plausible that she liked you not.

Pluck 7: Not only did she not really like you, but the whole thing was that you were, as she put it, "safe" because she knew she wasn't at risk of ever feeling that much into you. In other words, you were making a fool out of yourself the entire time! Yes, you are that much of an idiot! And a loser! A loser cookie with a creamy idiot filling! A scoop of idiot sorbet with little loser sprinkles on top! A soggy loser-butter and idiot-jelly sandwich that sits uneaten in some girl's lunchbox because she decided she would rather just go hungry instead!

Pluck 8: Stop! This kind of ruminating never gets you anywhere!

Pluck 9: Especially since--who knows what she was thinking? Plus, what does it matter? Why would you feel the need to pick out one thing that she said and elaborate it into some unified field theory of self-denigration?

Pluck 10: But even worse, why do feel like you need to project your own theories onto a freaking daisy on your blog, of all things? What earthly purpose could that possibly serve?

Pluck 11: Seriously, do you really think that you can pretend that you aren't engaging in some kind of weird and creepy public soul-letting by phrasing everything in an oddly removed tone and then drawing on as lame a conceit as plucking petals off a daisy?

Pluck 12: Come on, your blog is available for reading by anyone, anywhere. Stop thinking that you can make oblique references in not-as-clever-as-you-think packaging and delude yourself into the idea that you are doing something more dignified than some fourteen-year-old kid pouring desperate paragraphs of mostly plagiarized emotion onto their dismally-formatted little Xanga blog. And don't even think for a moment that it makes it okay if you are at least all self-awarely-self-referential about it.

Pluck 13: You are better than this. You have all kinds of things in your life right now that are, from top to bottom, fabulous. And, face it, you really aren't even especially sad about what happened, you just love anything that offers up a stage for your Inner Drama Queen. And you know better than to be using your blog for this. What you need to do is take some virtual salt and plow it into the soil of your blog template so that ill-advised-little-daisy-post ideas like this one do not grow again. Go back to your blogging strengths: bacon photos and conversations about raw butter.

There, all done. I'm glad that's over with. This JFW aberration will not be repeated.

another money-making opportunity brought to you by jfw

Confession: For a couple months now, I have contracted the services of a personal chef.

How it works: On Mondays, she comes over to the RV and cooks me four different entrees, in portions large enough that they eat make more than one meal unless I eat pathologically. The reason: I don't really cook, and I wanted to have some combination of food that was simultaneously convenient, healthy, and delicious enough to avert me from some of the less healthy culinary abysms I can readily fall into. The cost: about $100 each week I do it (this is labor + food; the latter is less expensive than it might otherwise be because everything she makes for me is vegetarian). Note: This is the kind of indulgence one can do when one has a professional job, only one mouth to feed and not an otherwise particularly costly or interesting life.

The results: scrumptious, so far. Sometimes a dish doesn't really work for me, but then I tell her and it's off the list of possible repeats. The woman does wonders with tofu, and makes some mean veggie quesadillas and sweet potato ravioli, among other things.

I have talked about this with a couple of single female friends who have said that they have a different problem, which is that they very much love to cook, but hate to cook for only one person and so do not do it nearly as much as they would like. Thus, an unmet market need for: the personal eater. One would contract to go around and eat at the abodes of various professionals-with-mad-kitchen-skillz who love to cook but have trouble securing an audience for it. I'd go into this line of work myself, except I'm too finicky an eater and way too shy/awkward/boring to provide adequate dinner conversation with strangers. But if you are a charming omnivore, this could be your calling.

Monday, August 23, 2004

baby you're much too fast / need to find a love that's gonna last

Angela has opened the polls for at least one of her selections for singing at karaoke Wednesday. Among the options are "Little Red Corvette." Unfortunately, the Karaoke Kid does not have the Prince song that I think would make the best karaoke song: "I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man." Not only would it be a sure-karaoke-winner, but I think it's also the sweetest song that Prince ever composed. The song is about a conversation that Prince has with a woman in a bar that begins something like:

"Hi! My name is Prince. Do you want to dance?"
"All I want is a good man. Do you think you are qualified?"

One need not be a committmentphobe to see this statement as ranking somewhere down near "Will we get married afterwards?" as an inappropriately premature response to a friendly dance request from a stranger. However, rather than doing what 90% of men would do in this situation, i.e., RUN, Prince instead provides a detailed explanation for how she seems to have been too psychologically damaged by her previous relationship to be, now or ever, in the emotional position to provide Prince with the intense hypermonogamous relationship he so ardently wants. He stands there kindly and listens while she cries and tells her entire story, including the whole part about being left with one baby and another one on the way. He even takes the time to gently explain why it would not work for them to just be friends. What a guy! Who says you can't be a Rock Star and a Sensitive Man at the same time?

remains to do

One of the many things that I learned a few years ago when my sister died was that you really should let it be known to others what you would like to be done should the unfortunate happen to you. Even if you are the sort of person who doesn't care that much what happens, you should do it for your family's sake. Because: if you don't, then your family members can end up spending all kinds of time trying desperately to remember anything you ever may have said, however obliquely, regarding death, and they can also get into disputes about what you would have wanted--disagreements made more likely not just because different family members may know radically different renditions of you, but also because in thinking about what another person would have wanted, it's very hard to avoid projecting what oneself would want.

I was talking to someone last night about the process of tombstone shopping with my family. A problem we had is that, although my sister was 31 when she died, she had not married and was still spending a lot of nights staying over at my parents house, and so she hadn't necessarily made the transition to adulthood in my family's mind. As a result, it took considerable ever-so-delicate rhetorical exertion on my part to steer my family away from the seventeen-year-old-girl-dies-in-a-car-crash tombstones and toward the adult-woman-killed-in-prime-of-life-by-a-brain-tumor tombstones. (I could say that I'm sure that this is what she would have wanted, and I do genuinely think this is so, but, that said, it is certainly what I wanted for her.)

Anyway, in the course of this conversation, I realized I may need to update my postmortem wish. What I have made clear to my family is that, unless someone has an inspired idea for how my corpse could be used for a really hilarious practical joke, I want to be cremated.* But what to do with my ashes? My previous line has been that I want my ashes to be surreptitiously scattered into the ventilation system of a large university library, where they could circulate among and settle on the books for decades following my demise. However, even though I love books as much as ever,** I'm not sure I'm really justified in having this wish for my remains anymore, as all the various online services--either having documents available online or able to be ordered online for delivery--mean that I hardly ever set foot in the library here anymore. It would be great if I could somehow have my ashes scattered over the Internet, but barring some ability to make a matter -> energy conversion, I can't imagine how that would be done. Any ideas?

* After donating whatever organs can be donated, of course.

** Indeed, if my recent pathological reading benders are any indication, perhaps more than ever.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

in which the author does his little song and dance, only without the latter

There are plans to get in one more karaoke event before the end of summer, as well as perhaps a later, special despair-e-oke event where we do nothing but sing sad songs and lament Jerry's return to New York and other karaoke departures.

The latest call to karaoke arms has included a call for accompanying dancers. While my normal karaoke is that of enthusiastic audience participant, I have sometimes appeared onstage to "sing," or whatever it is one would call that thing I do with my voice. I do not, however, dance. I do not do "The Robot." I do not do "The Breadmaker." I do not do "The Gecko." I do not do the latest dance craze that has swept through sociology-karaoke circles, "The Manversation."*

I could cite faculty dignity by way of explanation here, or my narwhalish figure, or my complete lack of coordination. But today I was reading Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans, a collection of "humor" from McSweeney's, and I see that a certain friend of mine--you know who you are--has sold them the transcripts from a particularly ill-fated attempt to provide me with dance instruction. This gives you a sense of the psychological trauma that dance dredges up for me.

Thanks, pal, I hope you got thirty pieces of silver for selling that interaction to McSweeney's as "fiction." No, what I'm doing now is not some new creative dance move of mine, but rather struggling to pull the stilletto out of my spine.

* How it's done: clench your fists, hold them up in right angles to your body, raise your shoulders slightly, furrow your brow, and then move your fists in a horizontal-figure-8 motion and cock your head from side to side while you sing in a faux deep voice. Even better if you are holding a glass of scotch while you perform.

crimes of obviousness, mystery fiction edition

With all these other things to do this weekend, what better use of my time than to read yet another murder mystery that takes place in academia? This one, The Edith Wharton Murders, takes place at an Edith Wharton conference at "State University of Michigan". Here's are a few paragraphs that seem an odd digression from the narrative flow of the book:

Most of the remodeling and repairs at the Campus Center were done except for one wing near our meeting rooms... The lower half of the walls were almost all redone with gorgeous polished granite tiles that were midnight blue, heavily flecked with orange. This was the kind of granite you see decorating the exterioors of office buildings, or used for floors, and these tiles were twelve by twelve inches and half an inch thick. I know because they were stacked in some unfinished hallways and I picked up one to take a better look. It was surprisingly light.

A Campus Center workman, youngish, with a goatee, came up right next to
me. "Nice stuff," he said. "Solid granite. Indestructible. Expensive."

Hmm, I wonder what the murder weapon is going to be.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

in which the month when everything began to go wrong is revealed, and the opportunity to fix it all is provided

From the latest letter I have received from my psychic benefactor, Maria Duval:

Further proof of Ms. Duval's psychic influence is that, when I opened this letter, what was playing on iTunes here in the RV was U2's "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of" (really! I'm not making this up!). Anyway, while one might ask what you have done for me lately, what kind of risks was Ms. Duval taking on my behalf:

Which would have been just what I needed, to have some crazy psychic trapped somewhere deep in my past life, mucking things up as she uses the various vast mindforces at her disposal to try to free herself. Anyway, slogging through the last few centuries of my lives appears to have paid off, as Ms. Duval discovered something vital during her journey through my psychic past:

But, then, she gets more precise than this, revealing that the key plot twist took place only twelve years previously:

What happened in November 1992 that could have had such a dramatic and negative effect on my life? The two main things I remember from November 1992 are that: (1) I started applying to graduate programs in sociology and (2) Bill Clinton, the hottie-from-Hope-himself was elected president. Which of these things are responsible for my lost and tormented state? For thirty dollars, not only can I find out, but I can also have her perform a PEP&MA, which from my understanding is kind of like a karmic enema. And I get a special pouch. And it's guaranteed:

And, somehow, in the process, I also get to become wealthy enough to solve all my problems. I know people always say money can't buy happiness, but I would certainly welcome the oppotunity to try. I-Ching? Ca-ching! What's more, not only will Maria make me rich, she's even powerful and generous enough to allow me to specify how it is I would like to become rich:

regarding public sociology

The biggest surprise for me at ASA was how many acquaintances of mine knew about this blog and had even looked at it at one time or another. One such person had read my remarks on public sociology and had interpreted them as indicating that I was somehow in the process of partnering with Mathieu Deflem as part of some "anti-public-sociology" faction. Deflem, for those who do not know, has started a Save Sociology website which, for a time, featured printable posters calling for the impeachment of ASA-president-and-public-sociology-patriarch Michael Burawoy (see posts on Deflem by others here and here and [earlier] here). While my own contrarian impulses dispose me to react respectfully to anyone who has enough intellectual passion and chutzpah to risk a ride on the express train to disciplinary pariah status, I do not want to be associated with the views of Deflem, for the simple reason that I do not share them.

Since a clarification is apparently in order, let me be clear: I am not anti-public-sociology.

If you look back at my post on the topic, my opposition was to a particular statement, in Footnotes, that presented public sociology as having been invented "to criticize and counter the mounting professionalization" of sociology. Among other things, I objected to this empirically, making what I think is the hard-to-deny point that whatever the "professionalization" of sociology might mean, it is assuredly not at present "mounting." I also objected to the idea that "professional" sociology was something that our discipline should be using our main meeting to "criticize and counter," in large part because I think "professional" sociology is already weak and widely disrespected enough.

So, again: I am not anti-public-sociology. I am, certainly and adamantly, anti-anti-professional-sociology. If one insists (a) on making a binary distinction between the professional and public, and then (b) on seeing that binary locked in a zero-sum competition, then you could insist that being anti-anti-professional-sociology makes one anti-public-sociology. You're-either-with-us-or-against-us logic has enjoyed a recent renascence, after all. However, unlike apparently whoever wrote the "mounting" sentence I reacted to, I reject both (a) and (b).

I do disagree with various particulars, large and small, of the content and form Burawoy's statements about public sociology, so I do not want to be read as being On, or even Near, That Bandwagon. (Part of what I resist, incidentally, is even that has turned into A Bandwagon.) The largest points of disagreement would be along that predictable dimension of the relationship between politics and sociological research. There is a huge expanse of middle ground between Deflemville and Burawoyburgh here. This could be a short-monograph-length post in its own right, and I'm not going to get into it now.

Or, well, to get into it a little bit: I would personally be less leery of those who wax enthusiastic about a intensely-intimate-intertwining of social research and political praxis if the position was more often expressed in a way so that one could have political views outside a highly circumscribed ideological sandbox and still be welcome to play in our discipline. It bothers me that 90% of sociologists hold political beliefs representative of 10% or less of the available political spectrum.* I do not see what it gains us professionally or publicly--even if it does personally provide for an steady-surfeit of sanctimonious-self-satisfaction and also saves us from the inconvenience of dissensus--and I can think upwards of a dozen reasons why massive ideological homogeneity is bad for an academic discipline.**

But, anyway, whatever else might be said, "Public Sociologies" was a truly excellent and inspired conference theme.*** It got people thinking, talking, debating, disagreeing. Keep in mind, two years ago the ASA theme was "Allocation Processes and Ascription," which, no offense to anyone, is not exactly a sexy-pooch of a theme for generating excitement among the sociologist-masses. I also greatly appreciated the seriousness and enthusiasm that Burawoy brought to being given the mantle of serving as ASA president. This extended to his address. If I had to choose between an ASA president using the forum of their address for delivering a vision-for-the-discipline versus delivering a cute-summary-of-a-current-research-project (not to name any recent-past-president names), I would choose the former every time, even if I dramatically disagreed with the vision.

* Granted, I'm not willing to take some rightward dive myself for the sake of promoting ideological heterogeneity in sociology.

** Non-academics often have this impression that academics spend all their time engaging in friendly disagreements with one another. At least in sociology, sorting into like-minded groups is sufficiently strong that we typically spend most of our time sitting around agreeing with one another and disagreeing with other people who are not actually included in our discussions and so not able to provide counterarguments (economists! evolutionary psychologists!). And then people wonder why sociologists often do not perform all that well when they do participate in public debates.

*** BTW, if future meetings are also going to continue the innovation of us being given fetching souvenir bags to hold our programs and such, do you think someone could suggest that maybe we look into getting union-made bags instead of bags made under who-knows-what labor conditions in China? (Props to whoever it was at the blogger-get-together who looked at the tag to investigate the provenance of the public sociology bags).

Friday, August 20, 2004

toward a unified theory of ann althouse

While I was off in San Francisco, another blogger was examining Ann's voting record and announcing that, despite her professed undecidedness, she was likely to be voting for Kerry. This person is wrong; their error is paying too much attention to the party of the candidate Ann supports. If you look at Ann's electoral-biography, it would seem more reasonable to predict that--and quite apart from whatever eventual rationale she might provide for doing so--she's likely to vote for Bush. Consider her lifetime history of support in incumbent elections:

Supports incumbent: Ford, Carter, Clinton
Against incumbent: Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Bush I

Plain as day: Ann is more likely to support an incumbent the more unpopular the incumbent has been upon the time of their re-election campaign. She's a contrarian independent. The only instance that doesn't really fit the pattern well is her vote for Clinton over Bush in 1992. One explanation for this would be, if one looks back to Ann's various posts about Clinton, it's clear she thinks he's a hottie. Apart from the "hottie" theory, however, one might suggest that Ann is more likely to support an incumbent the more she feels like the political discourse is unfairly maligning the incumbent (a discourse-contrarian independent, then). I don't think it's that hard to make the case that, even though Bush lost his incumbent race and Clinton won his, Clinton was the more unfairly maligned incumbent during this first term (Clinton being the one, for example, accused of having an aide murdered and of secretly being a puppet of his wife).

Thursday, August 19, 2004

karaoke research note

The Freese-Harried general theory of karaoke audience participation was recently subjected to a wholly independent test and reportedly its major predictions were once again confirmed. Ah, science!

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

the continued oratorical misadventures of jeremy freese (dispatch from san francisco, four)

(See a previous installment in this series here.)

Monday, I wrote a post saying that I had just started putting together my talk for the next morning, and that I was going to spend an hour doing so before I left to join the group going to see the San Francisco Giants play. This turned out to be untrue, as I actually spent only a half-hour on the talk, and spent the other half reading a mystery novel.* I didn't get back from the baseball game until after 11AM, and so I spent a little while more than night working on my talk and then set a wake-up call for 5:30 AM to finish my PowerPoint slides then.

A much-repeated wisdom about public presentations is that you should be Be Prepared for failures of AV technology. You are, for example, frequently told that you should make transparencies of your PowerPoint slides so that you can use the transparencies should there be a problem with the projector. The conscientious graduate student scheduled to also speak in my session had done precisely this. Myself, on the other hand, had only finished the slides themselves a half-hour before the session, and so I certainly didn't have the time to go to the Business Center and figure out how to get the slides from my computer to their computer so transparencies could be made. Consequently, it is perhaps not surprising that the graduate student was less panicky than I was when it turned out that there was no AV projector in our room.

So, fifteen minutes before our session was to begin, the graduate student and I went off in search for a projector. It took us close to ten minutes to find the office that ASA had set up to coordinate equipment. They asserted that neither of us requested a projector. I can imagine myself forgetting--although it's a little hard to believe, given that I always use PowerPoint these days--but two of us forgetting seems highly unlikely. In any case, they didn't have any spare projectors available for us to commandeer.

The graduate student said, "It's too bad [advisor's name] was leaving this morning because I know had brought his own projector."

Which inspired my own Plan B, as I remembered that Bob and Tess Hauser had also brought a projector for an exhibit promoting the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study. This would not, it should be noted, be the first time the Hausers had bailed me out by lending me something at the last minute.** I told the graduate student to go back to our room and explain why I would be late, and then I called the Hausers' room. Tess was there, and said I could borrow it.

"I was going to take a bath. Are you going to be coming to get it soon?"
"My sesssion starts in two minutes, so I'll be there in 90 seconds. What room?"
"Tower 1, room 3217"

Moving remarkably swiftly for a professionally attired person of my weight, I did make it to the 32nd floor of the hotel in 90 seconds, but was thrown off when I discovered that there was no room 3217 in Tower 1. A maid was in the hall, and I asked her where room 3217 was, and she gave me this baffled look and affirmed that there was no room 3217.

Just then a door down the hall opened, and Tess stuck her head out, saying she heard my voice. Room 3271. I'm sure that's what she said, and I just mixed up the digits in my general addledness.

So I get their projector and rush back down to the room where my session was supposed to be taking place. They were waiting for me in order to begin. I hadn't really held anything up; one of the speakers had cancelled, and so our session had plenty of time. Besides that, other than the speakers and their co-authors, only three people were in attendance: a guy who made several astute comments at the end, a friend who had come to hear me present, and a seemingly insane person (it's comforting to have another verification of the rule that there's at least one at every session, no matter how small one's session is).

Still, I hurriedly set up the projector and then took my seat, as I was scheduled to be the last speaker. The graduate student had opted not to use the projector, instead going with his backup transparencies. The other speaker just passed out a handout, noting that he had learned never to rely on other people for AV equipment.***

When it was my turn to talk, I hit the combination of keys that would launch the PowerPoint presentation and send the output from the screen to the projector. The title slide did come up, but everything on the screen was backwards--exactly as if you were looking at the slide in a mirror. There was a impressed murmur from the audience at this, as some of those who were aware of the perils of computerized visual aids had still not realized that the AV Gods could screw a person over this badly. "How is that even possible?" one person asked.

The WLS, I remembered, had set up its booth so that it was rear-projecting its slide presentation; that is, the projector set up behind a translucent screen rather than in front of a white one. The projector must be set to some menu option for rear-projection. I tried to figure out how to change it back, but it's actually hard to navigate on-screen menus when the different options are printed backwards and when pressing right on the selection pad causes the cursor to go left. To my credit, I realized the futility quickly and so only spent a few seconds fiddling with this.

And so, then, I just started my talk. As far as I could tell, it actually went over nicely. I held my laptop flat in front of me like a book, looking down and flipping the slides ahead to remind me of what I had wanted to say. When it came time to show a graph, I turned the laptop around and held it out to the audience, pointing to what the different colored bars on the graph meant. Given that there were only nine people there, this seemed reasonably effective, perhaps reminiscent of those flip charts that Ross Perot used to use.

* An Instance of the Fingerpost, by Iain Pears. It takes place in 17th century England. It's an excellent and engrossing book in the same vein as (but, so far at least, better than) Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. I basically spent last night reading it and catching up on my sleep rather than going out to enjoy San Francisco, which can be interpreted as saying something certainly flattering about the book and less flattering about myself.

** The most generous of which, perhaps, happened when the clutch went out on my car about twenty miles outside of Madison as I was driving home for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. The Hausers not only came and picked me up, but they loaned me their car for the weekend, which was certainly the first appearance of any kind of Volvo on the Freese Family Farm.

*** The problem with this being, unfortunately, that handouts are not, excepting certain instances, anywhere near as effective as overheads or PowerPoint, if for no other reason than overheads and PowerPoint encourage the audience to keep look in the general direction of the speaker instead of down at their laps.

dispatch from san francisco, three

I'm packing up my stuff for the return home from San Francisco. No one, and I mean no one, lays more waste to a hotel room for a more boring end than I do. You would think, perhaps, that The Who had stayed here or something. Instead, just me, hanging out between my ever-dutiful attendance* at various sessions of my discipline's professional meetings. Perhaps at some point I will learn that the best organization of one's belongings over a multi-day hotel room is not simply to throw each item to some new, as-yet-uncovered-by-something-else location.

Currently, I am trying to find the piece of paper that has time of my return flight. This seems important.

* If not obvious: a joke. I don't attend many sessions that I'm not directly involved in.

Monday, August 16, 2004

dispatch from san francisco, two

I'm having fun. So much so that, as you can tell, I'm not blogging. Actually, right now, I've just commenced working on the talk that I will be giving at 8AM tomorrow. (I've learned from past conference experience that spending too much time on a 15-20 minute quantitative-research-conference-presentation is not just a waste of time, but actually leads one to give a worse talk--from the standpoint of both speaker or audience--than one would otherwise.) I'm leaving for a baseball game with friends in an hour, and then presumably late tonight I'll have to finish up getting my PowerPoint slides ready.

Friday, August 13, 2004

dispatch from san francisco

Regarding my weblog, there were three things that I wondered if they would happen to me sometime during the five-and-a-half days that I am in San Francisco for the American Sociological Association meetings. As it turned out, all three happened within my first four hours of being here.

1. A mutual friend introducing a stranger to me and the stranger saying "Yes, I know you, I've looked at your weblog." Literally, this was the first person I was introduced to here at this year's ASA.

2. During a professionalish conversation with a peer in the discipline, someone else joining the conversation and then saying, "Hey, have you seen this guy's weblog?"

3. Someone coming up to me, without my wearing my nametag, and asking me if I was Jeremy Freese, and saying that they recognize me because of the drawing of me on my weblog.

BTW, on the list of eleven plausible-forgettables in the last post, I forgot the add a twelfth--my digital camera--which means, of course, that I've forgotten my digital camera.

the eleven worst things I could plausibly forget to take with me to asa

(Given that I won't forget my wallet, and only so much bad can happen to you nowadays as long as you have your credit card and driver's license) Presented in order of the disaster it would be to forget them:

1. This award plaque that I promised I would take on behalf of one of my senior colleagues and deliver to the head of one of the ASA sections so she can bestow it an an award ceremony. [update: packed!]
2. Ticket to baseball game [update: packed!]
3. The Medications [update: packed!]
4. Power cord for laptop [update: packed!]
[update: packed!]
5. Cel phone [update: packed!]
5 1/2. Cel phone charger (almost forgot to put on list because I almost forgot it) [update: packed!]
6. Micro-screen razor [update: packed!]
7. Portable hard drive [update: packed!]
8. Materials actually needed for presentation [update: packed!]
9. Lucky marmot socks [update: where the @%#* are my lucky marmot socks? how am I supposed to give a presentation without them? you can't just find socks with marmots on them anywhere, and, anyway, they might not have the lucky marmot mojo!]
10. Adequate reading material if, as is almost always the case, I cannot sleep on the plane ride there/back, despite how tired I am [update: packed!]
11. Wireless card (only #11 because presumably it wouldn't be that tough to just buy another, especially since that's what I did when I forgot my card on my recent trip to Santa Monica) [update: packed!]

My flight is at 6:15 AM. I connect through Memphis, which is not the most obvious intermediate location between Madison and San Francisco.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

official JFW karaoke recap!

(two of sociology's karaoke stars doing Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer." I am the person to the right, conveniently cropped out of view)

A key strategy of Wisconsin Sociology Karaoke is to Get There Early--as in, right when it opens--so we can establish ourselves as the evenings alpha patrons before the place is beseiged by undergraduates and unsavory types. The Karaoke Kid, despite its posted opening sign of 8pm, does not feel obliged to open its doors promptly. Accordingly, we adjusted our planned meeting time to 8:15. However, last Monday, the Kid did not open until 8:30, by which time a rowdy crowd of sociologists had gathered outside and were, as the Dixie Chicks might sing, "ready-ready-ready, ready-to-riot."

And so, sociology stormed the karaoke barracades, putting so many songs into the queue right away as to shatter the all-time Karaoke Kid record for the quickest the guy has ever had to come around and take the books away, meaning that there were already well over hour's worth of songs in the queue. A consequence of this is that there were very few non-sociology-patrons who took a part on stage in the early part of the evening. The first such performer was this sixty-something gentleman who had signed up to do Cyndi Lauper's "She Bop." I took the opportunity to go to the bar to get something to drink, and, as I stood up there, a couple of sociologists began to chastise me shouting "Rule Two! Rule Two!" This was a reference to the second imperative of Freese-Harried general theory of karaoke audience participation, which is that you need to cheer more loudly for the people you don't know than the people you don't know.

"I read your blog sometimes," confessed one of the chastisers as I sat down, whom I wasn't actually aware knew about my weblog. "Well, pretty much just the karaoke posts. Sometimes I think you are talking about me." [She's right!]

Having the queue fill so quickly does make things more karaoke-kutthroat and so more daunting for the newbie-with-aspirations-to-sing. The general self-presentation strategy of this type of newbie--which I've witnessed upwards of a zillion times by now--is to first appear shy and unsure of whether they want to go onstage, and then later, after several rounds of cajoling from others, finally sigh and, as a magnanimous demonstration of their affability, pronounce that they might at long last allow themselves to be put in for a teensy little song. Monday night, one much-anticipated-newcomer came in late and sat at my table and began to do exactly this. I think the person was surprised by my drill-sargeant-like response: "No! You cannot play that game! You cannot act like you don't want to sing! You cannot pretend to be shy! When the books come back out, you have to put something in right away or else you're not going to get to sing at all!" My approach did work--what would have been a hour's worth of hemming-and-hawing was abridged to ninety seconds--and the person got their rightful chance to shine on stage.

There are other ways of dealing with the karaoke queue than rushing your slip of paper up to the bar. Even though none of us are willing to organize rallies to secure a significant hourly wage for The Karaoke DJs, some do feel it is wrong that the DJs generally respond to the implicit-bribery-via-the-tip-jar by putting one's song somewhere other than at the very end of the queue. As the Monday night extravaganza went on, suddenly the pressing need for a more explicit bribe arose, as it was realized that no sociologist had yet put in to do the best karaoke song ever--"Total Eclipse of the Heart"--and the queue was so full that the books had been taken away a second time and the DJ was adamantly accepting no new songs. A particularly concerned benefactor pulled out $5 (the price of a song is normally $1) and dispatched someone to the bar with instructions to get the DJ to put us in for TEotH. The DJ flatly refused. So, we added another $5 and asked a different person if she would go plead our case to the DJ for us.

Whatever the content of that interaction, all I know is we went from being nowhere in a two-hour queue to being the third in line. In karaoke math: money + marketing = the microphone. The uninitiated might, I suppose, balk at paying 10 times the going rate for "Total Eclipse of the Heart." Considering that it never-ever fails to provide a priceless karaoke moment, mathematically-hip JFW readers will note that this is still asymptotically close to being an infinitely good bargain.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

take your weblog to work week

I have had a bustling day of work so far today, and now I need to hunker down here in the RV and send out some e-mails. I'm not going to get through all of them today, or perhaps even today/tomorrow, esp. since many of them require me to do other work in order to be able to respond (which is why some of them have been sources of procrastination). And there's still the karaoke recap to do. I must get through them all (and then some) by the time I leave for ASA on Friday.

Anyway, as a motivational experiment, I've decided to allow the blogreading public to follow along with my progress as I work through this to-do list. I have no illusions about any one else being actually interested in my work progress, but I'm interested in whether making a blogpost project out of it will actually-and-counterintuitively make me more efficient at getting through the list. The list is below, organized alphabetically by mnemonic (I won't bore/interest you with any details). Check back to see how I'm doing.

ASR meeting
Claim Your Space
North by Northwest
Peg camera
RRR proofs
TESS/Devah questions
WLS spouses: why?
WLS: AA supplement
WLS: alcohol trajectories
WLS: alcohol help
WLS: day-of-week effects?

Monday, August 09, 2004

in other weblogs

If you haven't seen it, Tina down at Kickass Sociology is organizing a get-together for bloggerly types at the American Sociological Association meetings this Saturday. Union Square Sports Bar, 5pm. I haven't looked at my ASA schedule yet but, barring something unmissable, I'll be there. At least one of the Madison Pseudonymous Sociology Bloggers has expressed regret at not being able to attend, but has given me permission to cajole someone into pretending to be her.

A complete aside: Kickass Sociology, like all those blogs based on Movable Type/TypePad, allows you to specify categories for your posts. I want categories. I've thought about trying to move and export my blog just so I can have categories. I don't know how massive of an undertaking this would be.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

mostly regarding quasi-

Ann earlier posted a great dialogue between Paul Krugman and Bill O'Reilly on the strategic deployment of the prefix "quasi-". She also notes my own reiteration that I said "quasi-snobbery", instead of "snobbery", and meant precisely that, in our recent debate about the implications of John Kerry's Boston College law degree. I was going to now write a post where I pointed out that Ann had actually used the phrase "quasi-snobbish" or something very close to it first, and I had merely lifted the phrasing from her. I was going to title this post something like "quasi-glass, quasi-houses, quasi-stones, quasi-thrown" and note that Ann was therefore in a unique autoexegesical position to comment on what one means by putting quasi- in front of something.

As it happens, looking back shows that Ann just used "sounds snobby", where "sounds", when compared to "is snobby", could be perhaps called a quasi-"quasi-"like rhetorical device. But even then she was paraphrasing someone else's e-mail. So I should have hit "Cancel" and moved on with my life right there. However, while there are all kinds of people in Blogworld who engage in debates and won't admit when they are demonstrably factually wrong in something they post, I have developed this burdensome hyperhonesty kick lately that causes me to acknowledge even factual errors in things I contemplate posting.

Besides, I've also recently become increasingly concerned about how my memory isn't what it used to be--especially in terms of a seeming rise in the frequency with which I remember things that weren't actually said or didn't actually happen--and nothing propels one of my posts along quite like angst of any variety. A wise elderly friend told me recently that one never worries about aging nearly so much as when one is in one's early thirties. I hope to God this is true.

But, even while I am in the early throes of cognitive decline, do let me express the official JFW position on "quasi-", as I use it a lot. When I say X is quasi-Y, I am making two assertions-of-opinion: (a) that X is sort-of-like Y, but (b) that X is not-really-over-whatever-line-would-make-it-actually Y. So, I wouldn't say that I mean to give it "plausible deniability" of having claimed X is Y, as Ann's theory of quasi- goes, but actual, genuine deniability of having claimed X is Y.*

In any case, where I am really quasi-snobbish in my fealty to precise use of Latinate-prefixes-and-qualifiers is in the distinction between "quasi-" and "pseudo-". I say that X is pseudo-Y when (a) X may give the appearance of being Y but (b) X is actually not Y at all. I was going to write a post on this, once, in the context of Democrats complaining about Bush's "stop loss" policies in Iraq as being a "pseudodraft", when it would have been better to say "quasi-draft," or, even better, "de facto draft."

At that time, however, my heart was still not really in this distinction so much as using it as a pretext to wonder aloud why Kerry kept insisting on calling it a "backdoor draft". I mean, given that gay male staffers are supposedly over-represented among even Republicans in Congress, much less Democrats: Wasn't there someone available to tell Kerry that repeatedly using "backdoor draft" to refer to it was likely to interject a Beavisish levity that would undermine the effectiveness of the larger argument among those persons who find themselves still snickering at "Parking in Rear" signs well into middle-age--persons whom, incidentally, I suspect may be over-represented among this election's swing voters? Are our elected officials and those around them really that out of touch with contemporary slang?

*That said, and as the O'Reilly-Krugman dialogue shows, I certainly wouldn't deny that quasi- is sometimes used to score the rhetorical points of insinuating something without taking the responsibility of actually asserting them. The staff of JFW have all signed pledges forbidding the use of such tactics anywhere on this site. Note that Krugman's calling O'Reilly a "quasi-murderer", unless he knows something I don't, violates my assertion-(a)-criterion for the proper use of quasi-, while, had he said that O'Reilly was a "quasi-liar" or "quasi-bully," would have violated my assertion-(b)-criterion.

shouldn't jeremy be asleep?, episode #7,057

Had an independent panel of nocturnal time-management experts been consulted, I suspect they would have ruled the best use of my time between 2AM and 4AM this Sunday morning would have been sleeping. All that work to do, after all. Most likely, they would not have looked favorably about my instead spending the time scarfing down The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in a single sitting. And yet, it was a very good novel, worthy of the coveted JFW gold-star recommendation. And yet and yet, I am going to be very tired tomorrow.

jfw: now, by popular demand, and at least for a limited time, with comments enabled

So, um, leave one, or else I'll feel lame. Remember, I'm needy.

kerry victory scenarios

I know people think that my life is all Stata, marmots, and Michael's Frozen Custard, but in addition to this, I am also currently following American electoral politics obsessively. This includes several attempts to figure out and specify, to my personal-politico-epistemological satisfaction, Kerry Victory Scenarios.

I recognize that this post is me doing public political science, for which I am unlicensed, rather than public sociology. The advantage of my analysis, as opposed to more expert opinions you may read, is that it is done with JFW's promise of being conducted without spin or romance, and purged of illusions as far as I am able. And it's not like I'm entirely inexpert on matters of numbers and surveys and social trends.

In the official JFW reckoning, the Kerry Victory Scenarios boil down to the question of how Kerry can get 38 electoral votes from the following six states: Florida (27 EV), Pennsylvania (21), Ohio (20), Missouri (11), Iowa (7), and New Hampshire (4). Really, I think, despite various depictions of the "battleground states" as numbering into the teens, those really stretch into the periphery of the battle. Meaning, for example, that I don't count Wisconsin as a core battleground state, not because Kerry can't lose Wisconsin, but, if he loses Wisconsin, I don't see him winning 48 (38+WI's 10) EV from the six states above either.* Likewise, Bush could lose Virginia, conceivably, but he's not going to lose Virginia and not lose 25 (38-VAs 13) EV from the six states above.

Anyway, as I see it, there are basically seven Kerry Victory Scenarios, in order of my estimate of their plausibility. Italics indicate the state(s) that answer the key question to the formulation of any Kerry Victory Scenario, which is what state Kerry is going to win that Bush won (or, as some might say in one notable case, "won") last time.

Highly plausible:
1. Florida + Pennsylvania (48)
2. Florida + Iowa + New Hampshire (38)
3. Pennsylvania + Ohio (41)

4. Pennsylvania + Missouri + Iowa (39)
5. Florida + Ohio (47)

Borderline implausible:
6. Florida + Missouri (38)

Even more borderline implausible:
7. Ohio + Missouri + Iowa (38)

So this is it. If I am correct: Kerry does not have to win Florida. He does not have to win Pennsylvania. He does have to win one or the other. He does not have to win, as some are saying, two-out-of-three of Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. If he does win two of these three, he does win.

Tune back on November 3 to see if I know what I am talking about. My prediction being that, if Kerry wins, one of the these scenarios happened, and, if he doesn't, none of them did.

* Update, ten minutes later: Okay, okay, I guess I could also see Florida + Pennsylvania - Wisconsin or Pennsylvania + Ohio + Iowa - Wisconsin, so that makes Wisconsin a semi-core battleground state and increases the list of scenarios to nine. If you wanted an even ten, I think the most plausible scenario I've ruled as implausible is: Florida + Iowa + West Virginia (39; which is not to say that Kerry winning WV is implausible, but winning WV while losing PA [covered under scenario #1] and NH [#2]?)

Saturday, August 07, 2004


Please! Write back just a little something funny? Teensy?

Marmot. Isn't marmot the most hilarious word?

You are right, it is pretty [expletive deleted] funny! How does marmot compare to marmoset?

What's funny about marmoset? Say each one three times out loud and tell me there's not a big difference.

Yes, there is a big difference. Marmoset sounds way more like an Egyptian god.

I think marmoset sounds more like a blood pressure medication.

Take these gods for examples: Bastet, Sekhmet, Tefmut, and Ma'at.

Has your role-playing-game group embarked on an Egyptian adventure? Are you still playing an alien-fighting anthropologist?

No, we are not in Egypt. I'm sharing a character with a guy named nate. I think we are a cleric.

You think you are a cleric? But could it turn out to be that you are actually an anthropologist disguised as a cleric? Or, better yet, a marmot disguised as a cleric?


I want to become involved in a role-playing game where I get to be superhero called The Marmot. Is there a bulletin board or something where I can try to find a game that would accommodate my needs?

I'm sure there is. Or you could just find a GM [game master] who might find a GURP [General Universal Role Playing system] to accomodate you.

How much would I have to pay to have a game centered around me as the Marmot, where everyone else is either a sidekick or archenemy or archenemy sidekick? Could I find an archenemy to split the costs?

I think a friend of mine played a lemur in Steve Jackson's Illuminati game. I think you could play a game like this for free, with the right game master to accomodate you.

Actually, I would underwrite the whole thing if all the characters were based on words on my wordlist and I could report the goings-on on my weblog. Nothing would thrill readers like finding out I rolled a 4. I can't decide what would make the best archenemy, perhaps Squishy. How should I advertise for this?

I can ask around. [name], the friend of mine who's just the cutest little kitten of a man, runs a good campaign...

Great! Start working on it. I'm going out now. Keep me posted.

You could post something at [link] or go to any gaming store.

I thought you just said were going to ask around for me. All your kitten-men-RPG-playing-friends. Who will run it? Who will be The Femur? How much will it cost me?

I can't ask anyone right this second. I'll ask on Tuesday when i go to role playing again.

bombardierin' safari

I'm currently reading The Status Syndrome by the British epidemiologist Sir Michael Marmot.* It's an interesting and well-written book, revealing both the strengths and (to some extent, unintentionally) weaknesses on current social research on health disparities. But, in the pages I'm reading now, Marmot is making a foray into evolutionary psychology, and it continues to amaze me--evolutionary psychology was the subject of my dissertation, mind you--how authors can make all kind of peculiar rhetorical footfaults once put upon the task of trying to convey the pressures of the Pleistocene for popular-science readers. A relatively harmless but still what-was-he-thinking example from Marmot's book, as he tries to draw lessons from the comparisons of the hunter-gatherer lifestyles of the !Kung San and Shoshone:
One big difference is the existence of giraffes. The Shoshone may have gathered a great deal and hunted the occasional rabbit, but the !Kung hunted giraffes. Without B-52 bombers or high-powered rifles, how do you hunt a giraffe? Cooperation with other hunters might be a good start...
Yes, I recognize that males are biologically driven to go out and hunt giraffes. But, even so, if I was assigned the task of solo-hunting a giraffe, I can imagine many modern contrivances that I could see as helping me out, and, yet, a B-52 bomber would not be one of them. Even if I knew how to fly. Can you even operate a B-52 bomber (that is, fly and bomb), without cooperating with someone else? And, even so, can you really bag a giraffe with one?

* Aside: As some readers know, I'm especially fond of the word "marmot", and for some time it's been one of the most-favorite favorites on my enunciation candy sidebar list.

in other weblogs

Belated supportive shout-out from JFW to proc freak, who is scrambling toward the finish of her dissertation. One of the comments to her anguished post, from an anonymous party (you? who knows?), was a paraphrase of the old saw that "The best dissertation is a done dissertation." I'm sure, of course, the anonymous commenter had only the best intentions.

But, still: back when I was struggling to complete my own dissertation--and, oy, did I struggle--there was this affable-avuncular guy who was frequent witness my tortured progress and would say, inevitably, with the kind of perfectly predictable timing that would have made him famous if he were a geyser, "The best dissertation is a done dissertation." Readers who know me know that I am about as non-violent as men get outside various Amish-ish or lama-like spiritual persuasions. And yet, it became such that, each time this guy would say it, I wanted to rip his [expletive deleted] head off. Like to where I would contemplate if it could be more easily/painfully accomplished by grabbing his head with my right hand and his body with my left, or vice versa. This guy has no idea how close to death he came.

I think the phrase probably was helpful the first time I heard it, whenever that was. I mean, it's good to be told that you can't let perfectionism get in the way of completion. However, as I was closing in, no one was more eager to see the thing done than I was, and perfectionism had long since yielded to goodism, then to adequatism, and then to atleastnotrepugnantism. By this point, I could not have been more thoroughly aware that the best dissertation was a done dissertation, just like I was thoroughly aware that my dissertation was not yet done. Instead, the only way it was going to get done was not by telling myself that the-best-D-is-a-done-D, but rather the only way (honest) dissertations ever get done: butt in chair, hands on keyboard, words on paper, one hour after another, one day and then the next.

At the time, I vowed that I would never, ever tell someone working on their dissertation that "the best dissertation was a done dissertation," unless I had taken stock of the situation and thought there was actually reason to believe it possible that they have never heard this before and could benefit from it. And, yes, I have so far stuck to this vow, and without invoking the weaselly and presumably-actually-unnecessary "unless" clause.

Anyway, proc-freak-ph.d.-elect, whoever you are, you have the official JFW best wishes for a speedy and sanity-preserving sprint to the finish line.

BTW: proc freak has also weighed in on the raging debate regarding what going to Boston College Law School says about one's general cognitive capacities, offering the perspective of a proud BC alum.

Friday, August 06, 2004

more brains

The debate about John Kerry's brain continues! Ann characterizes and responds to the main point of my previous post:

Jeremy also considers it snobbish to use someone's academic record as a basis for judging them when they have a work history that can provide an alternate basis for judgment. I disagree. First, if I were hiring a lawyer in a law firm or appointing a new lawprof, I would expect the résumé to include academic credentials, even if they had had some other jobs. Why should voters expect less? Second, I have questions about Kerry's work history... [post continues]
First, I said quasi-snobbish; I don't deploy Latinate prefixes idly. Second, I didn't object to "a basis." What I objected to was it being (seemingly?) the basis. Anyway, I don't think Ann draws the right analogy anyway. Nobody is saying that somebody shouldn't be listing where they went to school on their résumé. At least in the sociology neck of the woods, however, it would be considered odd if someone were being considered for a professorial position some thirty years after receiving their Ph.D., had a judgable record over the years, had given various colloquia and talks, and yet somebody on the hiring committee wanted to telescope judgment of the person's capabilities primarily on their having received their Ph.D. from Boston College instead of from Harvard.*

The part of Ann's post from "questions about Kerry's work history" on is, in my opinion, a much better argument for why one might wonder about whether Kerry's intellectual verve is as strong as some think. I would rather have that be the main argument and the Boston-College-diploma-suspicions be a subsidiary point, rather than the other way around.

BTW, and not to accuse Ann of having a tendency to see the Bush bottle as more than half full, but Bush did not have superior test scores than Gore, as her post suggests. Their grades were apparently roughly the same, with Gore's worst semester being worse than Bush's worst semester, or so says an AP story:
Citing academic records of both men, the Post said Gore entered Harvard with an 1355 SAT score while Bush arrived at Yale for undergraduate work with a 1206 SAT total.

Once in college, both men posted similarly mixed academic records, the Post said, pointing out that in his sophomore year at Harvard, ``Gore's grades were lower than any semester recorded on Bush's transcript from Yale.''
If SAT metrics back then were like today's, Bush's SAT score would put him in the 79th percentile (second brightest crayola in a standard box of 8), while Gore's would put him in the 95th (brightest crayola in even the expanded box of 16). Put another way, there are four times more people out there who can brag about doing better on the SAT than the Leader Of The Free World than who could have had the 2000 election gone the other way.

* Besides which, Ann says nothing about whether law schools and law firms, when hiring, would expect candidates to be listing their LSAT scores and the schools they were rejected from on their résumé; specualation about these seems to be more of what the argument about the smartness-significance of the Brahmin-at-Boston-College is based on.

(follow-up to last post)

If only the Sloganator were still around, I could make my own official poster:

john kerry's brain

Over at Althouse, there is a discussion of whether John Kerry is smart (here and here). The key piece of evidence against Kerry is that he went to law school at--gasp!--Boston College, instead of somewhere more prestigious. One part of the argument is that Kerry must have wanted to go somewhere better, given speculation about his personality, and so the reason he didn't is that he was rejected from more prestigious places. The other part is that given Kerry's prestigious background, etc., the winds of prestigious-law-school-admission must have been working in his favor. Put the two together, and you have the conclusion that the law school admissions committee must have seen something they didn't like about Kerry's academic record, namely, that he's not very bright.

Wow. Let me say it again. Wow. In the discussion, there seems to be a recognition in the quasi-snobbery of putting so much stock in law school rankings. To me, that actually dodges the more pertinent issue, which is the quasi-snobbery in judging with someone with an extensive biographical record on the basis of where they went to school (or, for that matter, on their test scores). John Kerry has led an entire life in public view, and, yet, when trying to measure up his intellect, we should base it on whatever law school admissions committees might have thought of him three decades earlier?

I suppose one counterargument would be that the world has judged George W. Bush on the basis of his test scores, so why isn't fair to judge John Kerry on the basis of speculation about his test scores? The problem with this counterargument is that the opinion about the middling character of George W. Bush's intellect--whatever my fellow liberals might claim, he's not dumb--is not based on his test scores. There is a pretty extensive record, spanning long stretches of this man's life, involving many things he has said and done, that may be used to draw the conclusion that he is not the brightest crayola in a standard box of 8, much less a jumbo box of 64.

The view of this public sociologist is that credentials are a measure. In conditions of impoverished information, they may even be the most informative measure we have for certain traits, intellect being one. The more information you have about a person, the less relative weight a credential should receive. We have a lot of extracredential information about both John Kerry and George W. Bush.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

signs of the impending end of summer, #1

Rob has sent out the announcement for this year's edition of his famous NFL pool. Last year, I was commissioned to write a haiku for a winner; as if that was not an unfamiliar enough creative form for me, this year I have been assigned to devise a recipe as part of the prize for the champion. In accordance with the time-honored more=merrier maxim, football-following JFW readers are invited to participate; participation not only entitles you to being part of the contest but also to receiving Rob's renowned recaps of week-to-week pool action. Details below.
Welcome to the 2004 NFL Pool!  The way it works is simple.  During each

week of the NFL regular season, contestants will select winners for every
NFL game played. Contestants will receive one point for every correct
winner they pick. After the final week of the regular season (there are
17 weeks in the NFL's regular season), the contestant with the most
accumulated points is the 2004 NFL Pool Champion. The one-time entry fee
for this year's pool is $20. This year's 1st place prize is 50% of the
total pot, plus an "Original Cooking Recipe" named after the Champion by
"The Amazing (Chef)" Dr. Jeremy Freese. 2nd place receives 20% of the
total pot. 3rd place receives 10%. In addition, this year's pool will
award Weekly Champions with cash prizes! Every week, the Weekly Champion
receives 1% of the pot. Finally, the remaining 3% of the pot goes to one
lucky Weekly Champion to be determined at the end of the regular season
(see below under "The 3% Bonus" for details). All prizes will be mailed
out to winners on March 1st, 2005. During the season, the entry fees will
be accumulating interest in a 6-month Certificate of Deposit at our trusty
bank here in Kent, Ohio. The accumulated interest will be added to the
1st place prize. Note: At the conclusion of the season, all contestants
will be able to view Jeremy's "Original Cooking Recipe" named after the
2004 NFL Pool Champion at Jeremy's Blog
Table 1. Distribution of the Pool Money

1st Place 50% (Plus Recipe and Interest on 6-month CD)
2nd Place 20%
3rd Place 10%
Weekly Champions 17% (1% each week)
3% Bonus 3%
Total 100%
If you are interested in participating in this year's pool, keep reading.

And if you know of anyone else interested in playing, please feel free to
forward this invite!
A. Deadlines

In order to be eligible to participate, I must receive (1) an email from
you confirming your interest in playing NO LATER THAN SUNDAY, AUGUST 15th,
and (2) your $20 entry fee NO LATER THAN TUESDAY, AUGUST 31ST. Please
send your email to robclark(at)indiana(dot)edu, and send your entry fee to the
following address:
[contact Rob via e-mail for address]
Weekly entries are ALWAYS due at 12:00PM NOON ET on the day of the first

game played that week. Usually, the first game of the week falls on a
Sunday. However, there are FOUR weeks in which the first game of the week
falls on an earlier day. These four weeks and their corresponding
deadlines are:
WEEK #1: Thursday, Sept.9th @ 12:00PM NOON ET

WEEK #12: Thursday, Nov.25th @ 12:00PM NOON ET
WEEK #15: Saturday, Dec.18th @ 12:00PM NOON ET
WEEK #16: Friday, Dec.24th @ 12:00PM NOON ET
Once you have emailed me your selections, you CANNOT change your

selections for that week. Contestants who submit entries that are
incomplete or unintelligible will receive zero points for those games in
which no (intelligible) selection was made. Contestants who do not send
me their selections, or send me their selections after the weekly
deadline, will automatically receive zero points for that week. Note: As
you may have noticed, the weekly deadlines this year have been moved
forward much closer to the start of the first games played that week.
However, given delays in email deliveries, it is recommended that you
submit your entries well before the deadline. Feel free to ask me to send
you a quick reply to your entry emails letting you know that I've received
your picks, and please feel free to remind me if you see that I've
forgotten to do this.

This year, weekly entries will be sent to me via email
(robclark@indiana.edu) through a new entry format. On Wednesday,
September 1st, I will email all contestants (a) their unique two-digit ID
number, along with (b) the entire season's schedule, organized by week.
For each week, the games are numbered from 1-16 (or 1-14 during bye
weeks). These numbers are important because they will serve as the order
in which your selections are organized. For each game, simply type a "0"
(for the road team) or a "1" (for the home team). You will also predict
the margin of victory for the last numbered game each week. For weeks
#1-16, the last numbered game is the Monday night game. For week #17,
this is the Sunday night game, as there is no Monday night game that week.
The predicted margin of victory is important for tiebreaking purposes (see
below under "Tiebreakers" for details). Each prediction in your email
will be separated by a comma. Thus, weekly entries will look something
like this:
where (a) the first number represents the contestant's unique two-digit ID

number, (b) the following 16 numbers represent the contestant's selections
for each game that week (0=road team, 1=home team), and (c) the final
number represents the contestant's predicted margin of victory for the
PICKS, THEN THEY WILL NOT COUNT. Also, do not send entries as an
I will attempt as best I can to email all contestants everyone's weekly

entries some point after the weekly deadline. However, I cannot promise
this service on a regular basis. After each week's games, I will email
the weekly and cumulative results to all contestants as soon as possible.
Note: Tie games will result in zero points accumulated for all contestants
who did not predict a tie for those games. Contestants may predict a tie
by entering a "2" for a given matchup, but the contestant will accumulate
zero points for that game if that particular game does not end in a tie.
C. The 3% Bonus

At the end of the regular season, 3% of the pot goes to one lucky Weekly
Champion. This will be determined by the margin of victory of the final
game of the NFL's regular season (Week #17: Sunday night, January 2nd,
2005, @ 8:30PM (ET), Dallas @ N.Y. Giants). The margin of victory will
determine which Weekly Champion gets the 3% bonus by indicating which week
of the season gets picked as the "3% bonus week." For example, if the
margin of victory is 10 points, the Weekly Champion on Week #10 wins the
3% bonus. Obviously, some weeks are more likely to be picked than others.
Also, the more times a contestant wins the Weekly Championship, the
greater the odds of winning the 3% bonus. Note: The Weekly Champion of
Week #17 wins the 3% bonus for any margin of victory 17 points or greater,
while the Weekly Champion of Week #1 wins the 3% bonus if the margin of
victory is 1 point or if the game ends in a tie.
D. Tiebreakers

At the end of the week, if there is a tie for the Weekly Championship,
then the following tiebreakers will be followed:
(1) The contestant who picked the Monday night game correctly wins the
(2) The contestant whose predicted margin of victory for the Monday night
game is closest in absolute value to the actual margin of victory wins the
(3) The contestant who sent me their entry the earliest that week wins the
tiebreaker (I will automatically lose this tiebreaker to anyone else).
Note: There is no Monday night game on Week #17. Therefore, the Sunday
night game will serve as the 1st and 2nd tiebreaker for that week.
At the end of the regular season, if there is a tie for the 1st, 2nd, or

3rd place prizes, then the tie will be broken between the tied contestants
in "overtime" during the NFL Playoffs. Tied contestants will select
winners to all 11 playoff games, as well as the margin of victory of the
Super Bowl. Here are the tiebreakers:
(1) The contestant with the most playoff games picked correctly wins the
(2) The contestant who picked the Super Bowl correctly wins the
(3) The contestant whose predicted margin of victory for the Super Bowl is
closest in absolute value to the actual margin of victory wins the
(4) If contestants remain tied, then the applicable prize money is equally
split among the tied contestants. The portion of the total pot that is
equally split among the tied contestants depends on what place the tie
occurs in and how many contestants are involved in the tie (e.g., a
two-way tie for 1st place splits 70% of the pot (plus interest), while a
three-way or more tie for 1st place splits 80% the pot (plus interest),
and a two-way or more tie for 2nd place splits 30% of the pot). Note: if
the above tiebreakers do not break a 1st place tie, all contestants tied
for 1st place will have a unique "Original Cooking Recipe" named after
them from Jeremy.