Monday, January 31, 2005

the sort of thing i think about as i drive to work on a monday

So, you are driving along and on the radio is Loverboy's "[Everybody's] Working for the Weekend." Then you see a car with one of those bumper stickers that says: "The Labor Movement: The Folks who Brought You the Weekend." Isn't the next question obvious: Why did anybody work before the labor movement? And isn't the question after that also obvious: Why hasn't Weird Al Yankovic done a pre-labor-movement parody of the Loverboy song titled, "[Everybody's] Working for Subsistence." The world of novelty music continues to not take advantage of ample opportunities to be both socially conscious and historically informative.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

what the myers-briggs doesn't say about me

Prompted by Katy's post, I just took some version of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator for perhaps the dozenth time in my life. I came out as an INTJ. This puts me in the same box as Katy and Oblivio, which does give one reason to be suspicious of Oblivio's mention of research that INTJ's are the rarest of the 16 personality types, representing "less than 1% of the population."

Or, perhaps, bloggers are vastly disproportionately likely to be INTJs. It would make sense that bloggers have more similar personalities to one another than to the population at large, and, it might even make sense that bloggers are most likely to have the personality type which, according to Oblivio, is most associated with being an "asshole." (Proof positive of the latter proposition, maybe, would be if we got Drek--a blogger who regularly expresses great pride in his asshole-hood--to take the test and see if he comes out as an INTJ.)

In any case, I don't really think that my Myers-Briggs type really provides a very good picture of me. Usually, when people say this, they mean that they don't buy the idea that you can say much about people's personality by arraying them on a very small number of personality dimensions. Not me, I think there's ample evidence that a whole lot of personality can be captured via a relatively small number of dimensions.

Nonetheless, there are two problems with the Myers-Briggs representation of me. First, saying that I'm an "INTJ" is misleading because, as it turns out, I'm really barely both a T (a Thinker vs. a Feeler) and a J (a Judger vs. a Perceiver). I come out almost smack in the middle on both these dimensions, and it's only by virtue of the equivalent of tie-breaker questions that I end up getting classified as a TJ. For that matter, I also do not come out as a particularly strong I (Introvert vs. Extravert)--I've come out an E other times when I've taken the MBTI--but I am plainly an N (a iNtuiter vs. a Senser).

Second, and this is more important, the Myers Briggs is one dimension short of being state-of-the-art for measuring personality. Much of serious personality psychology nowadays is quite enamored of the "Five-Factor Theory" of personality. Research has shown that the four Myers Briggs dimensions reasonably neatly onto four of the Big Five dimensions, as follows:
MBTI E/I --> Big Five Extraversion
MBTI N/S --> Big Five Openness
MBTI T/F --> Big Five Agreeableness
MBTI J/P --> Big Five Conscientiousness
So, what's the Big Five personality dimension not covered by the Myers-Briggs? Neuroticism. Knowing somebody's score on the other four dimensions basically provides no way of predicting whether they are going to score high or low on a Neuroticism scale. And I have a more extreme score--extremely high, as if you couldn't tell--on the Neuroticism scale than on any of the four other dimensions. And thus, somebody who thought they were scientifically compatible with me because I'm an INTJ would have no idea what a neurotic quagmire they were getting themselves into.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

an example of how some economists, at least when it comes to the postcolonial part of their talk titles, aren't so much about 'economy'

(from a poster for a talk yesterday that was sponsored by the Economics Department)

Granted, the same could be said of the titles that some bloggers choose for their posts.

Friday, January 28, 2005

the pedagogical misadventures of jeremy freese

Last semester, I had various struggles with my graduate methods course. One was a series of AV problems. (I use PowerPoint for all my lectures, including various fetching diagrams and such, so I'm utterly dependent on being able to get my PowerPoint up and running for me to do the class.) Part of the problem was with the room I was in having some quirky equipment that did not get along with my laptop. Another part was that I was teaching in another building, and so when anything would go wrong I didn't have anything immediately at hand to help me improvise to solve the problem.

These AV problems were frustrating not only because of the lost classroom time but because I can't help feeling like I am coming across like a disorganized and incompetent doofus in front of my class. I generally approach my graduate course with the idea that instructor-as-doofus is a strong candidate hypothesis in their minds that I need to refute, and so AV problems both me because they seem instead to be adding to the credibility of my proposed doofus-hood for each minute that an AV battle rages in front of the ever-scrutinous eyes of students.

So, after last semester, I resolved that I was not going to have this happen to me again. I made sure that my room this time was in Social Science. The Social Science rooms also have newer equipment that I've used many times and know work well with my laptop.

Even so, the crucial bottleneck in the process is that I write my lectures on my desktop machine, but I need to move those files on to my laptop to use them in lecture. My planned way to move my files from my desktop to my laptop is to use the keychain drive I have. I recognized that this might not work sometime, but I figured it wouldn't be any problem because, even though my laptop doesn't have any internal drives, there are still of course many other to get a file onto my laptop.

Anyway, yesterday, a half-hour before the start of the third meeting of my class, I started to move my lecture onto my laptop and discovered that, indeed, my keychain drive had decided to stage a wildcat strike and not work for me. I thought:

No problem! I'll use the portable USB drive that I use to move files back and forth from the office and home. Problem: Unlike my desktops, my laptop does not put enough power through the USB port (even when plugged in) in order to power my laptop, so you have to use this adapter that came with it in order to get AC power.

No problem! I'll just use the adapter. Problem: I think the adapter must be at home. At any rate, it's wasn't anywhere in my office that I could find.

No problem! I'll just e-mail the presentation to myself, and then plug my laptop into the network and retrieve the e-mail. Problem: When I plug my laptop into the network, it says I have to register my laptop because of changes that they have made to the security system since the last time I plugged my laptop into the network.

No problem! I'll just register my laptop (and wait while the laptop reboots), but then I should be good to go! Problem: For reasons I suspect are associated with ripping the network cable out of the back of my desktop and plugging it into my laptop, Windows says I have a "Conflicting IP address" error and won't let me onto the Internet.

No problem! I'll just go down to my fancy AV classroom and connect to the network from the hookup there! Problem: The cable connection doesn't seem to work.

No problem! We have wireless here in Social Science! I'll just connect using my wireless card and get my e-mail that way! Problem: You have to log on some special way through the UW computer system to use the wireless connection.

No problem! Someone in my class will know how to do it! Indeed, they do. So, then, the wireless connection seems to work, except it won't actually open up anything in my browser.

No problem! There is a phone number on the lectern to call for AV emergencies. So I'll call the classroom AV support person, who will know just what to do! Problem: The AV person is on vacation this week. (The second week of classes?) No indication on the voicemail for an alternate emergency number to call.

No problem! I'll run down and get the help of one of the computer consultants on the fourth floor. They'll know just what to do! Problem: The computer person first just confirms the problems I had already figured out. She does note that maybe she could fix things if only we had a key to the AV cabinet.

No problem! I do have a key to the AV cabinet! Problem: This actually turns out to help with nothing. The computer person notes that the problem would be solved if only there was one of the new orange network jacks somewhere in the room.

No problem! There is an orange network jack in the room. Problem: We have no cable for plugging my laptop into this jack.

The computer person goes to get a cable. She mentions that the problem with the wireless connection might just be that I'm too far from the hot-spot-epicenter. Sure enough, when I go down the hallway and set my laptop on top of the FedEx box, I'm able to connect to my e-mail and download my lecture. My class begins 20 minutes late, or almost a full hour after a began the process of trying to move my lecture from my desktop to my laptop. I do the entire lecture feeling like the Mark Of Doofus is indelibly neon-inked on my forehead.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

livin' la vida karaoka

How tired was I last night? So much so, that I decided that, despite feeling wheelbarrows full of enthusiasm, I just had to get some sleep rather than go to the sociology department's karaoke night. How badly does karaoke need me? So much so, that when the Karaoke Kid heard I wasn't coming, they decided not to open last night, leaving scores of eager sociologists dismal in the snow. Sorry, all. I didn't realize I was so crucial for everyone's good time.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

(betrayals) wondering what's happened to lonely donut man?

Apparently, he's moved on to commenting on other blogs. I'm not sure what I did to drive him away. You would have thought that any problems we had could have been resolved, you know, through couples-counseling or through role-playing-with-puppets, but instead, I just come home one day to discover he's moved out of my blog and into someone else's.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

(simulblogging) dinner@nina's

7:00 pm: Okay, the blogger dinner is underway. In attendance: Tom, Tonya, Ann, Nina, and me. We've started the evening drinking champagne, in a curious celebration of a turn of events in one of our lives that has not actually, as yet, happened.

7:05 pm: Cameras are out. I'm sitting on one of these new stools that Nina has bought, that may be among the most awesome pieces of furniture I've ever seen. I might steal mine. When she reveals they only cost $99, I am tempted to order a dozen.

7:14 pm: Already there has been a discussion about whether truth-in-blogging requires one to write posts about gastrointestinal issues. Now, we've moved onto blogging about the strange drooling and spitting behaviors of others.

7:18 pm: Tonya comes over and reads what I'm blogging over my shoulder. She's quickly bored and moves on.

7:24 pm: First Google game of the evening: Will searching [ "Central Park" "rough sex" murder ] be enough to bring up the Preppy Murder case as the first entry? (Tonya's idea, btw.) Answer: Yes!

7:30 pm: Nina is engaged in retaliatory temperature control. Last time we all ate over here, we had to complain and stage a coup'd'temp because it was like 90 degrees here. So now, she's opened up a window and has the winter wind swooshing through here. I feel a need to keep typing so as not to lose any fingers to frostbite.

7:44 pm: Dinner. Suspension of simulblogging.

8:45 pm: Dinner over. Apples and Polish cheese on the table. Meanwhile, electronic photos of children are circulating. Not to be outdone, Nina is pulling out several thick albums of photos. Oh look, her daughters in little sailor suits--how adorable! Now her daughters dressed like the characters in the Wizard of Oz. Now they're holding up something that looks like a giant trout. What fun!

8:55 pm: Nina broke a glass while I was in the bathroom. Meanwhile, there's like a Rashomon-like reconstruction of what were the events that led up to the shattering.

9:02pm: Nina is now trying to pour cognac down our throats. I haven't had this much peer pressure regarding alcohol since high school out in rural Iowa. I stand firm with white wine.

9:03pm: Tonya nudges me and shows me the thumbnails of her Dave Matthews photo folder. She has something on the order of a thousand photos of him. She starts visibly salivating as she scrolls through them. You'd think Nina served up another course of tenderloin.

9:05pm: More photos going around. Why is everyone on the planet more photogenic than me? (A: Because everyone on the planet is actually better-looking than me.)

9:19pm: Tonya denies that she was salivating over the Dave Matthews photos. She's lying!

9:30pm: Nina and Ann are re-living some dispute they had 20 years ago about the starting time of their respective classes. Further evidence of the old rule that if you didn't resolve a dispute a couple decades ago when it was going on, you aren't going to resolve it now.

9:40pm: After vetoing the post-ability roughly two hundred different photos of her, Tonya is now complaining that Ann doesn't have any photos of her on her blog. "It's like you've erased me or something. It's like I'm not even here."

9:50pm: Nina breaks out the game. Hoopla. I've never played it. Ann seems skeptical. I'm hoping if it is lame Ann will take over the cranky work of vetoing it.

post 9:50pm: Hoopla festivities discussed in the comments below.

besides which, even if no one else is brave enough to say it...

...the ASA centennial logo is just plain ugly. I don't know what committee was responsible for choosing it, but the combination of uncompelling colors and quadrille paper gets a big JFW thumbs down.

There, I'm so glad I finally got that off my chest. Of course, I'm expecting the ASA Secret Police to come bursting through the door any second now to take me away. As tolerant as sociologists may be in other ways, the Association has no compunction about killing dissidents when it comes to their logos.

jeepers, creeper

For only $10, you can buy an infant creeper with the American Sociological Association's special 100th Anniversary logo on it. The word 'creeper' for this seems, to me, the most exactly right thing I've seen today.

The ASA store also sells t-shirts with the logo. Interestingly, while you can buy ASA T-shirts in a standard women's cut if you scroll down far enough through their menu of options, what they choose to showcase with a photo on their website is the "Junior Baby Doll" cut for the sociologically-inclined nymphette.

When I first was looking through the store of ASA products, I felt guilty for how ridiculous I thought the various offerings were, because, after all, why shouldn't sociologists be so excited about what they do as to want to buy 100 buttons to celebrate the centenary of their professional association? Then again, even if I was more enthusiastic about sociology-in-general, I still can't imagine it translating into such enthusiasm for the ASA as to want to dress my dog up in my love. But in any event, my guilt was assuaged when I discovered that at the same time as the ASA is selling T-shirts with its logo, it is also selling coffee mugs and mousepads with a cartoon that revels in our discipline's general irrelevence:

Friday, January 21, 2005


I got an e-mail from an organization today asking me to sign an NDA (nondisclosure agreement) so they could consult with me about something. My very first NDA! I can't stop talking about it!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

from detroit: there but for the grace of corrie

My friend Corrie and I couldn't coordinate our schedules to have any kind of proper get-together while I was in Berkeley. However, she offered to drive all the way from her abode near Stanford to Berkeley just to give me a ride to the (San Francisco) airport so that we would have a chance to talk on the drive. As a result of this plan, I arrived at the airport 3 1/2 hours ahead of the scheduled departure time of my flight; otherwise, of course, I would have hung out in Berkeley and gone to the airport later. However, when I got to the airport, I discovered that the flight to Minneapolis was already so delayed that I was going to miss my connection, and Northwest had already booked me on the first flight out tomorrow. This would have meant I would have missed a second day of class and who knows what else. Becuase I was so early, however, I was able to just make a flight to Detroit--literally, and I will be back in Madison tonight and in the classroom tomorrow. So, Corrie, I don't know if you are still reading my blog, but you rock.

Of course, having to run to catch the Detroit flight meant that the 3 1/2 hours I was planning to spend working on the syllabus has been greatly reduced. Worse, I had planned on using an outlet at the San Francisco airport to fully charge my laptop, but since I didn't get a chance I wasn't able to work on my computer more than a half-hour on the flight. So, a late night tonight.

Dear Readers: Sorry that my posts have been more updately and less amusing than usual. It's hard to be funny outside of Madison, where whimsy floats in the air like a wacky winter pollen.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

from berkeley: things that go post in the night

I just got to my hotel. It's like 1am Pacific Time. The guy from Air-Transit Shuttle took me by Fat Slice on my way here, which is good, because there's no hope of room service at this place. Indeed, there's not even Internet in the rooms; I'm down in the lobby writing this post. Still, Berkeley being Berkeley, I'm expecting to much enjoy walking around tomorrow.

The current plan is that I am going to be here tomorrow through Wednesday afternoon, and the my flight gets back in Madison at like 11pm. Then I will be going up to my office, where I will spend perhaps the whole of the night finishing getting my methods course ready for its rousing start at 9:30 Thursday. This being penance for not getting everything done before I left.

Monday, January 17, 2005


Malcolm Gladwell's new book, Blink, is about the two-second intuitive judgments that people make and how there is often a considerable amount of wisdom in such judgments. My own sequel, Wince, will be about the two-second intuitive judgments that I make when I'm reading where I think, "Now we've passed from nonfiction into obvious (if entertaining) apocrapha or even into just outright fiction." An example from Blink that caused me to wince:
[Psychologist Silvan Tomkins] was a legendary talker. At the end of a cocktail party, a crowd of people would sit rapt at Tomkins's feet. Someone would say "One more question!" and everyone would stay for another hour and a half as Tomkins held forth on, say, comic books, a television sitcom, the biology of emotion, his problem with Kant, and his enthusiasm for the latest fad diets -- all enfolded into one extended riff. (p. 198)

word to the skinny

When you are having lunch with a friend who is self-conscious about his weight, and he orders something off the menu, it is generally not nice to say "Don't you think you should order something from the 'Sensible Fare' section of the menu instead?" Did someone really say this to me today? Yes. Really? Yes. Were they joking when they said it? Rephrase that. Were they "joking" when they said it? Yes, "joking," ha, ha.

Same person, btw, had their own theory for why I might get asked for directions more often in my currently expanded morphological state than in my more trim renditions (see recent post), or at least why it might happen more often in places like Madison and Ann Arbor. As we were having lunch at Macaroni Grill, I was able to crayola up a diagram of this theory right there on the table, which I then tore off so I could present to y'all:

Sunday, January 16, 2005

john jacob jeremyheimer freese, his name is my name too

(Jeremy Freese?)

Perhaps when I am an old man, I will launch a painstaking Internet inquiry into my genealogy. Until then, I'm content just with the matter of using the Internet to Googlestalk other Jeremy Freeses. I've just sent an e-mail regarding a possible recent sighting of a new quarry:
From: Jeremy Freese [mailto: address deleted ] 

Sent: Saturday, January 15, 2005 11:26 PM
To: ''
Subject: freese or frese
My name is Jeremy Freese.  Like many Americans armed with Google, I keep 

casual track of other people who have the same name as mine. A friend
sent me the URL to your site. Your front page lists "Jeremy 'Jesus'
Freese" as a band member, while another page lists "Jeremy John Frese".
Which is it?
Either way, I wish your band wild success and continued abstinence.  

Except, I suppose, if your name really is "Jeremy Freese" and your band does
become wildly successful, various "Jeremy Freese" fan sites dedicated to you
will spring up and knock down the placement of my own pages for people who try
to Google me. So, in truth, if your name really is "Jeremy Freese", my
wish is actually that either your band fails completely, or that it kicks you
out on its way to success, or that do you go through with the idea of changing
your name to "Jesus." But you shouldn't take this personally.
Postscript: The message came bouncing back, which I suppose one would expect from a band site without anything updated for the past two years. So, anyway, my Google supremacy among the various Jeremy Freeses of the world, real and misspelled, seems safe for now.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

(back in madison) instead of taking care of business, blogging overtime

One of the NFL playoff games today was tied at the end of the fourth quarter and so went into overtime. While I suspect there are not many sports fans among JFW readers, I must once against register my objections to the NFL's overtime system and trumpet my own idea for an alternative. (Non-football-fans can use the opportunity of this uninteresting post to go check out something better on the Internet; given the "dude, whatever" attitude probably aswirl in your head at the moment, might I suggest this music video? At a minute-and-a-half, it's timed to be roughly equivalent to how long it would take the average reader to reach the end of this post.)

The way the NFL currently resolves ties is that they start an overtime period just like it was the start of the first quarter, and the first team to score any points wins. As you might suspect, this system gives a massive advantage to whatever team gets the ball first in overtime, and, indeed, teams that win the coin toss and so get the ball first win something like 60-70% of NFL overtime games. Generally speaking, if your method of breaking ties is associated with the outcome of a coin toss, it's not optimally meritocratic. NFL overtimes also have this unfortunate feature where one could conceivably get locked into a situation in which neither team is able to score and the overtime goes on interminably. Indeed, during the regular season the NFL actually declares any overtime not resolved after any extra quarter of play to be tied, meaning that the NFL's method of breaking ties does not necessarily break the tie.

Fans of college football know that college football has a different and better method of breaking ties that are based on giving each team a possession starting on the opposition's 25-yard line. If the first team scores a field goal on its possession, then the second team loses if it scores nothing, wins if it scores a touchdown, and the teams go to another overtime round if the second team scores a field goal. This system reduces but maintains the disadvantages of the NFL system. There is an advantage in this system to going second, so the winner of the coin toss still has an edge. Plus, again, since an overtime doesn't necessarily resolve the tie, the game can once again stretch on for some unspecified period of time.

In my system, there would still be a coin toss. However, what would happen is that the loser of the coin toss would have to specify a number of yards, for example, "12 yards." The winner of the toss would then have to decide whether they wanted offense or defense. The team on offense would get the ball on the opposition's 12-yard line. They would get the standard four downs with which to score a touchdown from that distance. If they score a touchdown, they win; if they fail to score a touchdown, the team of defense wins. In either case, the game is decided by the offenses, defenses, and coaches (not, alternatively, by a kicker, who is already too influential in the NFL); it is decided in four plays; and it is decided in a way that confers very little advantage* to the team that wins the coin toss.

* Indeed, other than whatever psychological advantage winning a coin toss might confer, I believe the only reason the coin toss would confer any advantage at all would be that presumably, for simplicity's sake, the team that lost the coin toss would be required to choose an integer (i.e., 12) rather than continuous (i.e., 12.6734) number of yards.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

from ann arbor: which weigh?

Here's something: twice during my short time here in Ann Arbor people have asked me for directions. When I was in my mid-twenties or so, I became convinced that strangers asked me for directions way more often than other people. The first line of evidence was just that I seemed to get asked for directions a lot; way more than, say, I myself asked for directions (and I'm not at all one of those guys who's adverse to asking for directions). However, it would also be the case I would see strangers pass by other people in order to approach me for directions. Indeed, when I was walking with other people, it seemed like strangers would still fix upon me as the main person of my group they were asking.

I was never sure how to explain this. A charitable theory would be that something about me made me appear both (a) like I know where things are and (b) non-threatening. I thought that, sexism of the world being what it is, my being male might have had something to do with part (a) of the equation, but I didn't know what to think vis-a-vis part (b). In any case, later in my twenties and into my early thirties I felt like the phenomenon had basically stopped and that I was no longer being asked-for-directions any more than is normal. However, lately I've wondered if I've gone back to being disproportionately approached. If so, the main way that I'm similar to the Jeremy of 8-9 years ago and dissimilar to the Jeremy of 3-5 years ago is that, ever since the Astonishing Weight Gain of 2003, I'm back to being overweight. Accordingly, my current theory is that being portly makes a person seem less threatening and so seem more congenial to be asked directions. Presumably somebody in experimental social psychology will eventually hit upon this idea as well and they will do an experiment showing my hypothesis to be, as ever, correct.

Anyway: I might not be able to parlay my affable corpulence into a multizillion dollar empire like certain daytime talkshow hosts I could name, but at least I get to help the world get where it's going.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

from boston: there goes my life savings

Yikes. In a moment of raspy weakness, I opened up the minibar and started drinking a bottle of Evian. Now I'll never be able to afford a condo. Oh well, might as well have some of these M&Ms, too.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

from boston: sign o' the times

The hotel where I'm staying is nice enough to put the New York Times in front of my door in the morning. What I do is I pick it up, set it on my bed, and then go read the New York Times online.

BTW, people often say that one of the advantages of reading the print versions of papers is that your eyes fall onto interesting stories that they otherwise would not. I've wondered about a variant of this with regard to the online availability of journal articles. Nowadays, because so much content is available online and I can obtain the rest as pdfs through one or another document delivery service, I never have occasion to track down the print version of an article. As much time as this saves me, I remember how enjoyable and edifying it would be to run across interesting articles in the course of looking through bound volumes for an article. I would lose whole weekend afternoons this way in graduate school. Of course, it's easy enough to blow a weekend afternoon online, but it's not quite the same, if you know what I mean.

from boston: the emerging helix of elliot gould

I just now woke up from a dream in which a junior colleague* confided to me** that a senior colleague*** had told her that a department-wide colloquium I had done**** was so disasterous that now the general tide of faculty opinion had turned against me and my tenure prospects were now clearly dubious.*****. Anyway, this then led to speedy, confusing set of events in which I was not only no longer in my faculty position but also unable to secure any other kind of employment, and I was reduced by my destitution to a state of shambling mental illness, surviving only through the pity-driven charity of a few colleagues while the remainder openly fretted that psycho me was going to start stalking/terrorizing them one by one. Eventually, I came to be psychologically, if not economically, redeemed, by playing this game that resembled two-on-two floor hockey. Two of the other players were other sociology folks at Madison, while the third, for whatever reason, was Elliot Gould.

One of the most truly twisted things about academia, of course, is that it selects in people who are already tend toward the neurotic and then puts them in protracted situations--i.e., graduate-school and assistant-professorhood--that would provoke heightened neurosis in anyone. Still, this is the first dream I can ever recall having about tenure, or at least about tenure and Elliot Gould.

* a person who, in fact, I hardly ever talk to
** in a Brooklyn accent that she does not, in fact, have
*** a person who, in fact, is not even on the faculty at Madison anymore
**** a talk which I've not, in fact, presented at Madison, although there were dream-recollections of an actual talk I have given, but which, in fact, was attended by hardly any of my colleagues
***** incidentally, she told me this news using a strange locution that I can't imagine her or anyone else ever, in fact, actually using, namely that "the emerging helix of opinion is that your talk sucked."

Monday, January 10, 2005

dispatch from boston

My flight was five hours delayed, and, by the time I got to my room, I could not hit the "In-Room Dining" button on the phone fast enough. Where else does one get the opportunity to spend $25 on a late-night snack?

Which, incidentally, isn't even the most egregious waste of money on food I have made this week. Earlier this week I ate at the Madison restaurant Firefly, where I got a lo mein dish that tasted exactly like one of the offerings in the Ethnic Gourmet line of microwaveable meals (and, believe me, I know my microwaveables). This after a crab rangoon appetizer that was unambiguously inferior to the crab rangoon you would get off any rearguard Chinese buffet. The Firefly meal was probably about $25 for me, as well, and it left me feeling vaguely poisoned afterward.

Anyway, I'm all set up here in my hotel room in Cambridge. I'm here until Wednesday, when I fly to Ann Arbor for a couple of days. Then it's back to Madison for the weekend, and then three days in Berkeley. Yes, this would be a lot of traveling, especially for someone who really doesn't like to travel. And somewhere in here I also have to get my graduate methods course (upgrade to version 4.0) ready for the upcoming semester.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

the baby has landed

Turns out that I was correct in my hypothesis that my friend Jan could not persist in her pregnancy indefinitely. Instead, yesterday, a baby boy burst suddenly from her stomach while she was standing in the checkout line at Hobby Lobby, with shards of umbilical shrapnel wounding several nearby shoppers.

There is still some uncertainty about what the child will be named. The issue apparently goes all the way back to 1989, when the Michigan Wolverines needed two free throws in the last seconds in order to seal their first ever national championship in basketball. Jan's husband John, an avid Michigan fan, made a solemn vow that if Wolverine player made the free throws, then he would name his firstborn child after the player. Rumeal Robinson did indeed step to the line and sink both shots, but, now that the namesake debt has come due, word is that Jan was only willing to go along with the Rumeal pact if they had a daughter, and here they are with a son.

In any case, congratulations Jan and John!

Friday, January 07, 2005


Last year, I agreed to augment the prize pool of Rob Clark's Famous NFL Pool by writing haiku for the winner. The haiku ultimately provided for the winner (who, that year, happened to be Rob) were unquestionably on the lame side, so I figured that would get me off the hook for providing future poetics prizes. Which it did, in a way, but only because Rob came up with an even grander idea this time around. He's just sent out the announcement of this year's winner:
I'm pleased to announce that the winner of the 2004 NFL Pool is the legendary Number Six, Ashley Finley! Week in and week out, her steady play leaves the rest of us in awe. She has endured curse upon hex, and has been able to maintain her all-pro caliber performance while wearing a bulls-eye for the last two months. This is poise in the pocket. This is stepping into the throw with a 320-pound defensive end crashing towards you. And no one steps into the throw like this first-ballot Hall of Famer. Congratulations, Ashley! An honor richly deserved!

In addition to taking home some sweet loot, Number Six also gets an original
cooking recipe named after her by "The Amazing" Jeremy Freese!
We will all be waiting anxiously for this treat, as Jeremy will post the recipe on his blog ( during Halftime of this year's Super Bowl (Sunday, February 6th).
So now I have a month to compose a recipe appropriate for an NFL pool winner. Any ideas?

Thursday, January 06, 2005

ye olde blogging shoppe

One of the great gifts I received this Christmas season was some candy from a business apparently being run by some patrilineal relatives of mine. I guess I'm pleased to know that when Freeses get into the finicky craft of nut-roasting, the results are heavenly rather than hellish. That said, I hope the owners are not that closely related to me, as I would like to think that my own proximate gene pool contains protective alleles that would prevent a phenotype-that-goes-into-proprietorship from using the "shoppe" spelling in their business name instead of just "shop".

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

why rushmore when you can be rushless?

[Note: For whatever reason, I'm looking through the Blogger-saved "drafts" of blog posts from the old days of JFW. I apparently wrote this on 9/1/04, but never actually posted it. I'm not exactly sure why not. Oh well: rather than delete it, and especially given complaints that my last post was too much of a downer, I'll post it now...]

Sources in Nebraska have sent word that The Sower designs are not faring well in the state quarter poll (see past posts here and here). Of the four leading designs, two focus on the fact that many people have passed through Nebraska on their way to other places (perhaps the state should also consider adopting the slogan: "Nebraska: Never anyone's intentional destination") and another persists in celebrating their state capitol (again, seriously, I think several other states also have capitol buildings).

This led me to investigate what other Midwestern states were doing. There was an Onion sidebar headline--which I can't link to because it's in their Premium Archives--that read "South Dakota Considering Maybe Putting Mount Rushmore On State Quarter." The joke being, of course, that what else would South Dakota put on its state quarter. While states like Nebraska struggle to figure out what they think makes them special to the rest of the country, South Dakota would seem to have its quarter set. However, this has apparently proved to easy for the citizens of what is officially nicknamed "The Mount Rushmore State." Instead, they will be having a state quarter poll of their own, with designs based on five different proposals, all of which call for wheat in the design but two of which do not include Mount Rushmore. (I reprint this from their website because its set up with a design that makes it hard to link to individual pages):
The first proposed South Dakota quarter features Mount Rushmore National Memorial with two single heads of wheat framing the famous faces and mountain that South Dakota is most well-known.

The second narrative proposes a coin featuring the American Bison with two single heads of wheat framing the magnificent creature. The quarter would depict the proud spirit of the monarch of the plains.

The third proposal for South Dakota’s quarter prominently features the state bird (The Chinese ring-necked pheasant) with two single heads of wheat framing the bird in-flight.

The fourth proposal for South Dakota’s quarter would combine elements of the first three. Once again using two single heads of wheat for framing purposes, an American Bison would be featured in the foreground and Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the background.

The fifth proposal for South Dakota’s quarter would combine elements of the first three. Once again, using two single heads of wheat for framing purposes, a Chinese ring-necked pheasant would be featured in the foreground and Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the background.
I'm not sure what's going on. I don't if there was some contingency in South Dakota that is having a conversation along the lines of:

"We should show the country there's more to us than just Mount Rushmore!"
"Great idea! Like we also have, um..."
"Sturgis!" (link)
"We can't put bikers on our state quarter."
"But what's more American than Harley-Davidson?"
"Nope. No way."
"Well then, what about, um..."

tournament of evils: nicotine dependence versus the noonday demon

A friend of mine, who has had problems in the past with major depression, is now trying to quit smoking. She sends me this update from the front lines:
108.5 hours without a cigarette. I'm not sure I'm going to make it through tomorrow without breaking down and buying a pack. I went to my office for awhile tonight, and then to the bookstore and library, and every time I leave my car or a building I automatically reach for my purse to pull out a smoke, and then I remember that I'm now a non-smoker, and have to talk myself out of going and buying a pack. Every [expletive deleted] time.

But as much of a pain-in-the-ass trying to quit smoking is, it's nothing - NOTHING - compared to the mental battles I had with myself when I was really depressed. Like trying to talk myself into getting out of bed, or making a phone call. Cycling through self-recrimination, shame, and despair, and still trying to function like a normal human being. It makes me sad that everyone I've told about quitting smoking is all "wow, that's really tough, you're doing great just to make it 3 days" or whatever. But when you're depressed, no one is all "great job for not killing yourself for 3 whole days!" or "wow, that's really tough, doing a load of laundry is really hard". It's just like people's perceptions of how difficult it is to quit smoking vs. how difficult it is to be depressed are way out of whack.

quiz feature!

I'm currently working on a paper that has me looking at research on Internet adoption among older adults. As you can imagine, people over 65 are a good deal less likely to be Internet users than people under 65. Moreover, even among those who are Internet users, people over 65 have use the Internet in more limited ways than people under 65. So if you ask Internet users if they have used the Internet to do X, users under 65 are generally more likely to say "yes" than are users over 65.

With one exception! The list of activities below was given in a poll to Internet users. For one, a significantly higher percentage users over 65 said they had used the Internet for this purpose than users under 65. What is it? Winner gets one of the ever-coveted Official JFW Virtual Kewpie Dolls.
Bank online
Buy a product
Buy or make a reservation for travel
Check sports scores or sports information
Check the weather
Get financial information
Get news
Look for information from a government website
Look for medical or health information
Look for political news or information
Look for religious or spiritual information
Participate in an online auction
Research your family's history or geneology

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

meaningful "works"

"A review of 10 of the nation's most popular weight-loss programs found that except for Weight Watchers, none of them offer proof that they actually work at helping people shed pounds and keep them off.

Only Weight Watchers had strong documentation that it worked -- with one study showing that participants lost around 5 percent (about 10 pounds) of their initial weight in six months and kept off about half of it two years later."
I can imagine something like "Scientists confirm that Weight Watchers really works!" making it into Weight Watchers advertising. What I can't imagine is it being more accurate and saying: "Scientists confirm that Weight Watchers really works! The average 200 pound person who partcipates in Weight Watchers weighs 195 pounds two years later!"

pushin' to the oldies

Every day in every way, my friend Jan has just kept on getting more and more pregnant. However, as the adage goes: that which cannot go on forever, won't. And so, this week, she will be making the transition from incubatrix to mother. Her husband, John, who successfully wooed her in the first place via a series of smartly-assembled mix CDs, has put together a couple of CDs to assist in the process. Their covers:

Monday, January 03, 2005

the irregular history of it&society

Normally, journals publish a set number of issues in a year, and the issues in a given calendar or academic year are considered a "volume" of that journal. Once you get into the world of online journals, however, you enter the Wild West of academic publishing cycles. Consider, for instance, the volume and dating practices of IT&Society, an online social science journal for research on technology and society. At this writing, it has published seven issues, numbered and dated as follows:
Volume 1, Issue 1, dated Summer 2002
Volume 1, Issue 2, dated Fall 2002
Volume 1, Issue 3, dated Winter 2003
Volume 1, Issue 4, dated Spring 2003
Volume 1, Issue 5, dated Summer 2003
Volume 1, Issue 6, dated Winter/Spring 2004
Volume 1, Issue 7, dated Spring/Summer 2004
Questions: Will there be further issues of IT&Society? How many more issues before they begin Volume 2? What happened to Fall 2003? What happened in Spring 2004 that made it seem worth being half the date of two separate issues?

To me, the scariest thing about online journals is their single-sitedness. All kinds of conventional (paper) journals start and run a few issues and end, but by the time they're gone the existing issues have wormed themselves into the archiving systems of multiple libraries. With online journals, curation promises exist, but they do not have this same kind of strength-in-numbers (and, I suppose, strength-in-decentralization).

ocean's twelve (months)

Yesterday, Nina celebrated her first anniversary of her blog with a rousing brunch that included her husband,* her two relentlessly smart daughters, Ann, and myself. When you are invited to eat over the Camics, you can count on three things: (1) great food, (2) great conversation, and (3) prior to either of these, something getting torched in the kitchen. This time, the bacon Nina had put in the oven started burning just as Nina began talking smack about something in my blog, providing further evidence that God Loves JFW.

Blogging was indeed the most prominent topic of conversation, and the fuzzy world of blogger ethics were recurrently addressed. I was judged a web-weasel for sometimes changing the times of posts, but, despite the reproach, I will persist in the practice as I see fit. I was surprised later, however, when Ann, Nina, and All The Other Camics readily agreed that if you send an e-mail to a blogger, that e-mail is fair game to be posted to the blog without further consent. In a spirit of nostalgia, then, I thought that--even though I haven't explicitly gotten Nina's okay to do this--I would go back and look up the very first e-mail that ever I received from Nina. Sent 1/14/04, here it is:
Ever since my daughters have pointed me to your blog, I've been periodically amused by it. I keep a blog, but mine really is quite primitive -- intended for friends rather than for the general public**.... I steered a colleague of mine at the law school to your blog just today because she was interested in starting one, and I thought yours was a better illustration of a really nice style than mine was. She was equally impressed and launched one just today.*** So, you've been an inspiration !!

[a couple general questions about blogs]

Just to buy answers to my questions, I'll include a REALLY DUMB JOKE that I learnt back in the 60s when I was in school:

So on a chilly December day, in the city of Leningrad (we are in the 1960s), a rich American couple is touring the city in a limo, chauferred by one of those dour looking Soviet drivers by the name of Rudolf. The husband looks out the window of the limo and says in delight "look, dear, it is snowing in Leningrad!" The wife, feeling at odds with her husband, looks out and sees only the wet drops hitting the windshield. The husband is adamant: "It's snowing!" He exclaims. "Raining!" She counters. "Snowing!" He insists. She turns to the driver for verification-- "Is it raining or snowing?" she asks coyly. "Da, raining" he answers gruffly. She turns to her husband with a smug smile: "Aha! You see! Rudolf the Red knows rain, dear."
Anyway, it's late and I'm tired, so I don't have the energy to type something appropriately gushy and mushy about Nina's blog, even though gushiness and mushiness are deeply deserved. Although, let me tell you, if you only know Nina through her blog, you are really missing out.

In addition to being arguably the single most irrepressible spirit to walk the earth, Nina is also one of the most generous people I know. As a small example, she goes all the way to Poland and New York City, and she took the time out to get me some magnets. Including three in her campaign to get me back to blogging:

You're the best, Nina! Happy anniversary! I raise a steaming mug of vegetable broth to my screen in your honor!

* Who, incidentally, said he would rather be forced to spend a year blogging--even blogging exclusively about either (a) obituaries that he read in the newspaper that morning or (b) irregularities in the UW library fine system--than to spend a moment inside a karaoke bar.

** Of course, she did not stay huddled beneath this cloak of secrecy for very long.

*** Yes, she was talking about Ann's blog.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

2004 JFW award, most inscrutable song that iTunes says I listened to more than 100 times this year

This took some deliberation, as I was surprised at the number of songs I've listened to more than 100 times. The winner, however, is "Maps" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I apparently listened to this song 113 times in 2004, and yet, still, I have no freaking clue what it is supposed to be about. Here are the lyrics to the chorus:
They don't love you like I love you
They don't love you like I love you
They don't love you like I love you
Of course, I know full well that the verses usually are what carry the narrative weight of a song. Toward the goal of illuminating matters, then, here are the two verses of "Maps":
Pack up
I'm strange enough
Oh say say say you'll
Say say say you'll
Say say say you'll
Say say say you'll
Say say say


Made off
Don't stray
My kinds, your kind
I'll stay the same
Pack up
But don't stray
Oh say say say
I'll say say say


Saturday, January 01, 2005

the intermittent masculinity of jeremy freese

Today I'm hanging out in the abode of a colleague who is out of the country and left me with custody of her digital cable. When I was mentioning how New Year's Day is my favorite holiday, I forgot the college football part. Earlier, I watched beloved Hawkeyes upset the favored Louisiana State Tigers in the Capital One Bowl. Then, I began watching Texas and Michigan play in the Rose Bowl. I missed most of the middle of that game, however, as some channel surfing during a commercial break resulted in my being sucked into a TBS showing of You've Got Mail.

so, i'm back

Turns out, I really missed blogging. More than I expected I would. Granted, this might be because I never gave myself the chance for the cognitive reorganization required for me to stop regularly thinking about new things I encounter in terms of whether and how a good post could be made from them. I did not give myself this chance, as some of you noticed, because I have been guest-blogging over the last month at a couple of different locations. I've decided to cross-post those posts here, so that when I am an old man who has nothing better to do than review trival things I wrote in my thirties, they will all be in my archives. Rather than reproduce them all to their actual days, I've just posted them all as Xmas morning stocking stuffers. Scroll down if you care.

I do like the idea of resuming posting on New Years' Day. Confession: it's my favorite holiday. I have personally not been much for New Years' resolutions--much less for actually keeping whatever resolutions I do make--but still I love that the calendar provides this day that serves as a point of external annual encouragement to reflect on one's life and to attempt to embark on adjustments. Biographical equilbria are often so strong that anything that offers the possibility of shaking things up, especially in a positive direction, is to be celebrated. Besides, as corny as it might sound, I am ultimately a huge fan of hope, and New Years' Day is all about hope.

What is my hope here? When I went on hiatus, I said blogging had become a bit more of a chore than what I wanted. So my hope, pressing ahead with JFW, is basically to increase the ratio of experiencing "things I like about blogging" to "things I don't like."

What is it that I like about blogging? I like having the outlet. I like being able to have some random thought and being able to put it on display for the world-in-principle-and-a-few-people-in-practice. I think it provides an opportunity to inject a sort of creativity into my day that I was otherwise missing. It's not that being a professor doesn't offer its own (ample) opportunities for creativity, but I'm either a glutton for creativity or there is a mismatch between the creativity I get to exercise in that capacity and whatever it is that I'm doing here. If I had some hobby that was actually art--piano! pottery! painting!--perhaps my blogging impulse would be less.

"Opportunity for creativity" isn't the whole story, though, or else I would just be able to jot down my musings in a notebook and be happy with that. I've wondered a lot about why a notebook seemingly isn't enough for me, especially since I could obviously write with far more candor in a notebook. I do, it seems, like writing for an audience. Apparently, I apparently have a discursive exhibitionist streak. Who would have guessed? I need the idea of readers, at least, while I could probably go quite awhile on delusion alone, known actual readers do, indeed, help propel me along. So there: you are doing me a favor by reading this, as if you did not already realize that.

What don't I like about blogging? If you enjoy blogging, it's easy for it to overstep its boundaries. While other people see their blogs as a much more integral part of Who They Are, personally and professionally, this isn't anything I take that seriously. Really. And that's the way I want it. I do not want this blog to be more than a quite modest part of what I am doing with my life.

I mean this both in terms of the time I spend on this blog and its content. Regarding time, I once had someone opine that in order to have a "successful" blog one must either post multiple times a day (preferably at different times) or must be part of a team blog where this is the cumulative product. Ugh! I don't want any part of that! JFW has no aspirations to be "successful" on those terms. My druthers is to think about success in terms of whether this is something I enjoy doing; as bonus, I'll consider JFW wildly successful if there are two or three people out there who enjoy reading it.

Regarding the content, I keep finding myself fretting that I should really be using my blog to be more of a Public Sociologist, or if not that, at least to be Some Kind of Punditful. When my bloggerly impulses do run in that direction, fine, but I didn't really start into blogging with the image of myself as an emissary bringing sociology to the masses, or as a quasi-op-ed columnist. The better analogy would be that blogging for me is like a cartoon I doodle in my spare time. I have neither the eye nor the fine motor skills to actually be able to draw, but I can type, and so I do this instead. It's a hobby, my own little set of model trains, and one whose content is not usually intended to be any kind of extension of Professional Me.

BTW, I'm going to try to stick to something like a one-or-two-post-per-day model, using the "Save Draft" feature in blogging to help keep content more evenly spread at this pace. And, this post excepted, I am going to keep things short.

BTW-BTW, just because this blog has been on hiatus doesn't mean that it can't win year-end accolades. Take that, Dooce!