Thursday, March 31, 2005

take that, berkelosers!

The new US News & World Report rankings are out:

In a fit of truly irrational exuberance, I paid the $15 for the complete rankings. Wisconsin is ranked 1st in Sociology of Population and 1st in Social Stratification. We are also ranked 3rd (tied with Cornell) in Economic Sociology, 3rd in Sex and Gender, and 5th (tied with Arizona) in Social Psychology.

Presumably, in the days ahead, there will be much speculation among the sociological cognoscenti about how Madison managed, despite some serious faculty losses, to move from a tie with Berkeley in the previous rankings to now being top-ranked outright. Whatever else you want to say in comparing the two departments, Madison Sociology's massive blogging edge should not go unnoticed--the sconnies press ahead where other blogs have faltered. I'm sure that must be it.

the hilarity of academia, continued

"You know what they call the person who graduates at the bottom of their medical school class?"
"Ha. You know what they call the person who graduates at the bottom of a group of social science Ph.D.'s?"

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

while particular cases like this don't surprise me anymore, the sheer accumulating number of them, to the point of their seeming inevitability, does

(From the NYT)

do not be fooled! casuiistries is not a word!

It's casuistries. I spent some amount of time trying to figure out how to report an error to, but I gave up when the futility of the search finally wore down my lexico-civic-mindedness. But I wouldn't want any JFW readers to be led into error like this poor troubled soul.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

desperate people do desperate things

Thank you for your recent request.  Your order number C048126xxxx
for telephone number 608 233-xxxx was completed on 03/29/2005.
I am writing this from Borders (thanks, N.) I am at Borders because, as per the order fulfilled above, I no longer have Internet access at home. I no longer have Internet at home because I did one of those "Are You an Internet Addict?" quizzes and my score was sufficiently through the roof as to completely freak me out. I decided that I needed to introject more moderation into my relationship with the Internet, and, I'm not very good at achieving moderation except through drastic action. I recognize that coming up to Borders and using the Internet is not exactly consistent with my goal of drying out my cognitive dependence on the Internet, but, lo, it's only the first day.

Anyway, world, you should no longer expect me to have an e-mail response time that puts most 911 services to shame. Indeed, if it's after hours and you have my phone number, you might actually try calling me rather than e-mailing me. Otherwise, world, you will have to wait until I get to the office in the morning.

where would the world be without social science?

I just got the latest issue of Evolution & Human Behavior. The actual title of one of the articles: "Attractiveness and sexual behavior: Does attractiveness enhance mating success?"

(The study actually has some ambiguous findings, but only and exactly to the extent that counting sexual partners is a systematically suboptimal way of measuring mating 'success'. Otherwise, consider your long-time suspicion that attractiveness helps in mating markets to remain safe.)

Sunday, March 27, 2005

the power of the call of civic duty

"Mahoney said the fact that Schiavo has survived nearly 10 days since the removal of the tube that has supplied her with nutrition and water indicates that she wants to appear before the House Government Reform Committee."
BTW, I talked to my mother about the Schiavo case earlier. She had trouble keeping straight that it is called a "persistent vegetative state" and not a "persistent vegetarian state" (no, I'm not making this up). Given that my mother has been involved in the matter of making decisions about the continuation of life-support for a badly brain-damaged child, it's perhaps not surprising that all her sympathies are with the parents. Besides, like certain high-ranking members of Congress, she too believes she can detect higher-order cognitive functioning in Ms. Schiavo from watching the videotape.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

unfortunate ways of speaking metaphorically about a stressful job

From a story in the NYT on the hard time Army recruiters are having these days:
'We call this the pressure plate, like on a land mine,' he said, pointing to the recruiter patch on his uniform. 'If you push it too hard, we'll explode.'

His wife, like spouses in California and elsewhere, is furious at what she sees as the Army's lack of support.

'What we are doing is good; recruiting is good and important work,' she said. 'But the fact of the matter is that it's killing our soldiers.'
"Not literally," she did not add. "It's not literally killing the recruiters, it's just destroying their morale. The only people who literally get killed are the recruits. That and whoever the recruits kill, I guess."

Friday, March 25, 2005

Thursday, March 24, 2005

i hate the way people make fun of the south. this isn't to say that there aren't some southerners who ask for it.

"Orioles pitcher Eric DuBose was charged with driving under the influence in Sarasota, Fla., on Monday morning, about 12 hours before he was scheduled to start a game at the team's minor league complex. According to the police report, a deputy saw DuBose's truck swerve across the yellow line three times. Upon pulling him over, the deputy noticed that DuBose's speech was slurred, he exhibited poor balance, had watery and blood-shot eyes and an 'odor of alcoholic beverage.' When instructed to recite the alphabet, DuBose allegedly said, 'I'm from Alabama, and they have a different alphabet.'"

the leisurely pace of the fortune magazine book club

From a recent article in Fortune magazine:
"You can't always have the perfect book at the ready. But you can have the perfect reading list on hand. Which is why FORTUNE called upon its staffers to select 75 books that will stir your brain--and maybe even stir you to action.


It would, of course, take about 75 years to read everything here. But here's our own piece of advice: Don't resist starting a book just because you don't have time to finish it. Open the cover. Read the intro. Skip to Chapter 9. Or simply save this list and put it in a drawer. Because there's gold in them thar books. And they're just waiting for you to mine it."

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

inC'est l'amour

Take somebody who's smart, professes generally Good Liberal values, believes themselves to be nontheistic (or at least wholly secular) in how they approach social issues, and wishes to be rational in their political beliefs. Tell them, genuinely, that you believe that, so long as they're consenting adults, blood relatives should be allowed to legally marry. Watch them freak out.

See people who otherwise profess a deep committment to reproductive freedom tell you that blood relatives shouldn't be allowed to marry because of the genetic consequences should they breed. See people who would otherwise oppose the idea that the purpose of marriage is procreation suddenly embrace the idea that procreative consequences should determine who has the right to marry. Do not expect them to be swayed when you point out that marriage is not a license to procreate and that unmarried people have babies all the time.

Let me be clear: there are, to be sure, all sorts people I know who are romantically involved who I would prefer not breed. In some of these cases, I could muster arguments for why their breeding would be, at least from a probabilistic standpoint, genetically undesirable, and these arguments would have a good deal more scientific validity than any abstract claim about what is genetically bad about procreation among blood relatives. And yet, crazy me, I think it would be wrong for me to have laws prohibiting other people who want to get married from doing so just because I don't want them to have children or because I think science says they shouldn't have children.

Check out Drek's post from yesterday about cousin marriage. He gets all the way to acknowledging that letting first cousins marry wouldn't be a gene pool disaster, but yet he's still against cousin marriage. Why? Because he can come up with some narrative about how, over some protracted period of time, allowing cousins to marry would cause the unraveling of Society.

One might note that cousins have long had the right to marry in all sorts of societies that are older than American society and not, as yet, unraveled. Or one could note the ample evidence that, generally speaking, people don't want to date/marry/have-babies-with their cousins, so it's not like it would result in some massive society-unraveling upturn in such marriages. But, more importantly: just because we can come up with some speculative narrative about how preventing two people from getting married might be in the very-long-term interests of society, are we justified in denying people the right to do so? I would have to be pretty confident in the validity of the narrative and the severity of the disaster before I would be comfortable with that.

A newer and deliciously twisted argument against believing that relatives should be allowed to marry is that, in debates about same-sex marriage, conservatives sometimes make the argument that if you give gays the right to marry, people are going to want to allow every conceivable configuration of people, including pairs of blood relatives, the right to marry. So if you say that relatives should be allowed to marry, you would be allowing conservatives to gain rhetorical points by saying "I told you so!", and thereby you would be contributing to the harming the cause of gay rights in America. Or something like that. As if the prevention of cousin marriage is a genuine part of the reason that anybody who opposes same-sex marriage does so. Anyway, don't get me wrong: I am completely fine with a change in laws that just allow same-sex marriage without extending marriage to any-pair-of-consenting-adults, but that doesn't mean that prohibiting people who happen to be genetically related from marrying isn't still ultimately wrong.

Besides which, various arguments just seem like rationalizations for the real reason otherwise-good-liberals don't want to allow blood relatives to marry: they think it is gross. I understand it's gross. I feel I need to issue a disclaimer that I have never wanted to marry and/or procreate with any relatives of mine. Still, I just don't really think "Ew. Ick." is a valid argument for imposing restrictions on the rights other people have regarding the ways in which they can share their lives.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

strategies of appealing to public sympathy, #376: put a kid in front holding a deliberately horribly-done handmade sign

sociologican graffiti

In 7th floor men's bathroom here in Social Science, the following has been written on the wall of one of the stalls:
Of course, societies are usually set up so that the choice over war over peace is made by fathers, rather than sons (or mothers). Those fathers: foolish like a fox!

Meanwhile, in the 2nd floor men's bathroom, a graffito has appeared on the inside of the stall that has a large heart with EMILY LOVES LISA inscribed in black Sharpie. While I could easily be mistaken, the handwriting does look oddly like that of one of my (male) colleagues. Who knows what that is about.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

how to build an atom bozzomb

Remember the Paul Simon lyric "Every generation sends a hero up the pop chart"? In the blogging world, you do not need a generation, you just need Tom Bozzo.

So, Tom linked to my blog seven hundred times yesterday, propelling me into the Top 100 of the TTLB ecosystem. This led to a post by Ann, which roused the TTLB proprietor, which led to Tom and Oscar--but not yet, oddly, me--being banished from the TTLB ecosystem.

Turns out, the guy who runs a site dedicated to the metaphor of creatures trying to claw their way up the evolutionary ladder gets angry when folks try to figure out shortcuts to sapiens status. Go figure.

At the core of all this is an interesting issue of measurement. The mass-linking among the Madison Men's Blogging Circle's began, if memory serves, from interest in the question of whether the TTLB system provided a very good ranking of the influence of blogs, which prompted speculation into how it actually worked and whether the program contained any built-in precautions against somebody trying to game it. As far as I can tell, if you link to the same post in another blog 100 times, that only counts once, but if you link to 100 different posts, that does count as 100 separate links. This led Tom to wonder whether there was any ceiling to this, or if linking to 1000 different posts from the same blog would net the same result as if 1000 different blogs had linked to that blog. Being a properly Madison Man of Science, he tested the hypothesis, with an affirmative result.

In any event, would this provide a better ranking? In his comment to Tom's post, the proprietor of TTLB seems to argue that this would turn it into a measure of how many links to the blog-in-general rather than specific-posts the blog had, meaning that it would be basically just a measure of sidebar visibility. But, let's presume that it is possible to write a program that would only count specific posts in the first place. Would that be a better measure?

In the abstract, it would seem like a blog that has 3 links from 50 different blogs is more influential than one that has 25 links from 6 different blogs. Then again, at the extreme, presumably there are One Hit Wonder posts that have had a single post that has generated a lot of links, and it's less clear what the just position of such a blog would be--should a blog that 500 people linked to once be ranked above one that 350 people linked to 3 times? One could argue that the best scoring system would be one that only counted different posts by different people, except this would probably have the effect of completely collapsing the distinctions among all the lower rungs of the hierarchy, because, few bloggers have many other people linking to many posts.

In any case, keep in mind that I don't check my reverse links or have a sitemeter, so all this is academic to me, albeit interestingly academic. Not that I minded being a Massive Mammal for a day or whatever the TTLB categories are.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

smells like turin spirit

(Click here, especially if you are still looking for a belated birthday present for me.) Nothing makes a mellow mood like myrrh.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

whatever happens from here on, i've outlived jesus. and chris farley. and john belushi.

They died when they were thirty-three. As of today, I'm thirty-four.

Ugh. Thirty-four. Perhaps the time is ripe for a mid-life crisis.

Monday, March 14, 2005

while you complain about how sociology can't make a difference, others complain about how sociology can kill

From someone I know who is in a faculty position at an out-of-the-way school somewhere in Red State America:
A professor in the DISCIPLINE department here at COLLEGE has sent a letter to the chair of our department, the dean of the college, the university president, and the university legal counsel expressing his concern with the content of sociology courses taught at this university, specifically TOPIC but other classes as well. COLLEAGUE, who teaches TOPIC, does a lecture on SUBJECT THAT WOULD MAKE THIS RELEVANT--you know, like how words like "bitch" in some contexts can be powerful and in others nearly meaningless, or how groups may try to make them positive and empowering. One of his students was very offended and went to this DISCIPLINE prof and complained. The DISCIPLINE prof is now accusing us of using "emotionally traumatizing" teaching methods that are "outside the norm" of academia. He claims that the content of our courses, as well as specific teaching methods, could cause students to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, could lead to long-term damage to those with mood disorders and could (and I quote), "be the final impetus for students with suicidal tendencies." Because we deal with such "explosive" material, he is proposing that our classes no longer be open enrollment. Instead, he says all students wishing to enroll in certain sociology courses (not yet determined) would have to be psychologically evaluated to be sure they were emotionally stable enough to withstand our classes, and only then could they enroll. In addition, they would need to sign a written consent form stating that they are aware of the nature of the course and that the material could be emotionally damaging. As an added precaution, the consent form should be redistributed before potentially upsetting lectures, explain the day's topic, and ask them to sign again. And finally, we should institute some policy to monitor our students during the semester to catch any emotional or psychological trauma that might occur and to get them the appropriate help.
(email reproduced here, under the cone of anonymity, with permission)

Saturday, March 12, 2005

(from chicago)

"Have you ever thought you might have Assburro's syndrome?"
"Is that where other people are constantly trying to get you to carry things on your back?"
"No, you know what I mean. What's it called?"
"Why would you think I have Aspberger's syndrome?"
"You don't really hug people. You just do it very quickly, like you want to get it over with."
"Dear God. So I'm not so touchy-feely. That's my rural Midwestern roots. Why is it so in vogue to take every person with a couple awkward quirks and speculate that they might have some kind of high-functioning autism?"
"Don't flatter yourself. I've never thought of you as being high functioning."

Friday, March 11, 2005

it's Visit Day!

We are now at that point in the annual academic cycle when applicants to graduate programs have been admitted, and these prospective students are now deciding where they want to go. The department where I got my Ph.D. (Indiana) has a very different system of admissions decisions and funding than Wisconsin does--a matter about which I have many opinions and can go on for hours about. Anyway, one consequence of the difference is that Wisconsin accepts many more applicants for admission than Indiana does (Wisconsin also, as far as I can tell, receives many more applications).

The number of accepted applicants at Indiana was sufficiently modest that the students who wished to visit were told to schedule their trip whenever was convenient, and, when they did visit, appointments with faculty were set up for them. At Wisconsin, the number of accepted applicants is so large as to make this impossible. Instead, Wisconsin, like a number of other programs, offers a "Visit Day" and prospective applicants, if they are going to visit, are encouraged to visit on this one day.

Now, while proportions may vary from place to place, any graduate program of decent size is going to have some people who are at least moderately booster-ish about the program and some people who are malcontents. But, when a department's prospective students visit only one at a time, one might say there is a greater possibility for selectivity in what graduate students a prospective student meets. Back when I was at Indiana, booster-ish students volunteered to help with recruiting, and a relatively small number of students ended up doing a lot of the interacting with a large percentage of admittees.

Some people at Indiana really got into being boosters. One year, a student who was put in the role of chief recruiting liaison even sent out, on her own initiative, this FAQ-like-message to all the graduate students providing what she regarded as the appropriate answers to certain questions prospective students might ask about the program--including a couple answers that painted a plainly misleading picture of the department (e.g., I remember it said the usual time from BA to Ph.D. was 5-7 years, even though, when I was there, the count of occasional persons who finished in 5 years was dwarfed by the number who finished in 8.)

By contrast, here at Wisconsin, all graduate students are invited to Visit Day festivities. Malcontents who, at Indiana, would not have been allowed within a hundred yards of a prospective student are, here, encouraged to come to the reception and chat up prospectives to their heart's content. We might even ask if a prospective student can crash at their apartment that weekend.

That's the Wisconsin Way. I like it. I may have other complaints about the "Visit Day" system and about the system that makes a massive "Visit Day" necessary, but I don't have complaints about that. The decision about where to go to graduate school is so massively important for students, they might as well get the broadest array of perspectivse on the matter.

On Visit Day, I've several times been approached by people who have been admitted to both Wisconsin and Indiana. My standard line is that I can't say anything bad about Indiana's department as a place to study sociology. That is absolutely honest: Indiana was not just very good to me personally, but I think it's a well and smartly run place with a lot of great people. At the same time, I do point out that Madison is a much more entertaining and progressive place to live than Bloomington, which is completely true, and I also mention that, if they pay a visit to Indiana and are struck by how happy are all the graduate students they meet, they should consider the possibility that they might be being exposed to somewhat selective sampling.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

tales of academia: mad-lib peer review

Speaking of old jokes, remember the one where two women are leaving a restaurant and one complains, "The food was awful!" "I know," says the other, "and such small portions too." In the unfunny academic version of this joke, two collaborators are talking about peer review. "It's bad enough that the journal rejected our paper," says one, "but I can't believe how unhelpful the reviews were." "I know," says the other, "and the journal took so long to get back to us, too." Ha.

The joke has an even less hilarious rendition where the collaborators are promising graduate students whose career prospects are compromised when a journal takes a year to reject their paper with a series of utterly unhelpful, unengaged reviews. Double ha.

It's common to blame journal editors for the long turn-around time of submitted articles. While editors surely account for some of the variance, editors are ultimately beholden to the people they ask to review articles. Editors can pester reviewers, but pestering can only go so far.

"Your review is months overdue. You need to do it NOW!"
"Sorry, too busy. Maybe I'll be able to get to it in a couple weeks."
"No maybes! If you can't do it now, we'll send it to somebody else."
"Um, okay. Send it to someone else, I guess."
"I'm not kidding! Not only will I send it someone else, but I won't send you any other articles to review. Ever!"
"Um, okay."

The stereotyped academic complaint about the content of peer reviews is that the reviewers misread or misunderstand an authors' work. Obviously, this happens, although it's often a complaint that I have only a limited sympathy for. The author of a paper should assume that a conscientious reader is still not going to give a paper the same kind of attention that they gave while writing it, and so authors have an obligation to endeavor mightily to make sure they are not misunderstood.

The more frustrating thing, in my opinion, is the extent to which many refuse fail to really evince any kind of reading of the paper at all. I'm not claiming that the reviewer didn't read the paper, necessarily, only that the review is sufficiently vague that it doesn't demonstrate that they did.

The apotheosis of the vague review is perhaps what one might call The Mad-Lib Review. A Mad-Lib Review is a review that seems like you could just take out a few key words and phrases and use it again for another paper.

A prime example of a Mad-Lib Review came into my possession recently. At the top, the review had the title of the manuscript, only it was entirely the wrong title, suggesting that perhaps at least the basic template for the review had been used before. Anyway, it would normally be bad form to quote from somebody else's review. However, in this case, it is sufficiently easy to remove all intellectual and possible idenitfying content of the review that I think it can be presented in its Mad-Lib form without breaching anything. Here, in its entirety:

This paper seeks to unpack the nature of TOPIC in DOMAIN. The issue is of interest to SUBFIELD #1 and SUBFIELD #2. Much as I found the research question to be both topical and important, I had concerns about your motivation, theory, and evidence and outline them below in the hope that they help you to develop a more compelling contribution.

Motivation: It would have helped me if you explicitly developed a motivation for your study. What are the theoretical and empirical gaps in the literature? How does your research design propose to address these gaps.

Theory: Your paper seems to provide an illustration of TOPIC without developing a theory of TOPIC. How does HUGE-VAGUE-THING influence the form, intensity, and manifestation of TOPIC. Absent a theory or developed framework, it was difficult for me to discern your contribution.

Evidence: You need to outline better what your data collection strategy was, who your informants were, and to provide a "thick description" of TOPIC. Without such a thick description, your paper reads more like an illustration of what we already know.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

do i look like the king of pain? well, then, how do you explain this crown?

You know the old joke, "I just flew in from Cleveland and, boy, are my arms tired!" Well, I just got home from the dentist and, boy, does my mouth freaking hurt. Not quite so funny, is it?

The dental clinic I go to, incidentally, seems like it must have some Logan's Run-type policy for its hygenists, as none of them seem like they could be more than maybe 35. Possibly, they are driven from my job by having to listen to all the creepy dentist banter. I mean, when I was finding the dentist repetitive just over the course of my appointment, I can only imagine how the hygenists must suffer.

Update, 7:30pm: It is commonly claimed that dentistry has greatly advanced in terms of the reduction of pain in the course of routine procedures. Lies, all lies! My mouth really hurts. Getting fitted for a crown is not supposed to make your mouth hurt like this.

a clarification regarding my postmortal wishes

When I die, I want to be cremated and have my ashes circulated through the blogosphere. If I were the sort who wanted the regular burial and headstone, however, I would want it to be relatively simple: name, years of birth and death, maybe a clever epitaph. What I wouldn't want, regardless of how I died, would be something that would suggest the following passage to somebody writing 666 years after my death. It's from The Great Mortality, a new book about the Black Death by John Kelly:
[T]he inscription on a third Nestorian headstone, that of a husband and wife, Kutluk and Magnu-Kelka, has an almost ominous starkness. No accomplishments are mentioned, no holiness praised. The headstone tells us only enough to suggest the following scenario: one morning in 1339, perhaps a fragrant early-summer morning, when the air temperature almost matched the water temperature on the lake, Kutluk awoke with the early symptoms of the plague. On that first day he felt lighthearted and nauseous, symptoms so unobtrusive that Magnu-Kelka did not even realize her husband was ill until dinner, when Kutluk suddenly vomited into his meal. On the second day of the illness, Kutluk awoke with a terrible pain in his groin; overnight, a hard, apple-sized lump had formed between his navel and his penis. That afternoon, when Magnu-Kelka probed the tumor with a finger, the pain was so terrible, Kutluk rolled over on his side and vomited again.

Toward evening, Kutluk developed a new symptom; he began to cough up thick knots of bloody mucus. The coughing continued for several hours. As night gathered around the lake, a sweaty, feverish Kutluk fell into a delirium; he imagined he saw people hanging by their tongues from trees of fire, burning in furnaces, smothering in foul-smelling smoke, being swallowed by monstrous fish, gnawed by demons, and bitten by serpents. The next morning, while Kutluk was reliving the terrible dream, the cough returned--this time even more fiercely. By early afternoon, Kutluk's lips and chin had become caked with blood, and the inside of his chest felt as if it had been seared by a hot iron. That night, while Magnu-Kelka was sponging Kutluk, the tumor on his groin gurgled. For a moment Magnu-Kelka wondered if the swelling were alive; quickly, she made the sign of the cross. On the fourth day, Kutluk stained his straw bed with a bloody anal leakage, but Magnu-Kelka failed to notice. After vomiting twice in the morning, she slept until dark... On the fifth day of his illness, Kutluk was near death. All day Magnu-Kelka lay on a straw mat on the other side of the cottage, listening to her husband's hacking cough and breathing in fetid air. Toward evening Kutluk made a strange rattling sound in his throat and the cottage fell silent. As Magnu-Kelka gazed at her husband's still body, she felt an odd sensation, like the fluttering of butterfly wings against the inside of her chest. A moment later, she began to cough...

Monday, March 07, 2005

tales of academia, discussion guide edition

At a meeting last week, I sat next to a graduate student who is teaching a course on issues of race and ethnicity in the United States.

"Hey, how's your class going?"
"Fine. I'm showing a video."
"Always a good strategy."
"Yeah, we're going to have discussion afterward. I'm still trying to come up with interesting and specific things to discuss." [holds up an instructor guide that was available along with the film]
"Oh, I would think this would have all kinds of great ideas."
"They have a whole page of ideas. Check it out. It may be the least helpful page I have ever read."
[looks at page]
"Dear God! You're right. You have to let me borrow this and scan it for my blog."

Below are two examples from it. Keep in mind that this is a video about race relations in smaller communities, and the idea of a discussion guide is to have interesting ideas for discussion that might not spring immediately to the instructor's mind:

Sunday, March 06, 2005

salute your local short guy

Spinning on the iStereo here in the RV is "Pablo Picasso" by Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers. Its most memorable lyric: "Well he was only 5'3" / But girls could not resist his stare." In response to which, I suspect, few men harbor the illusion that there was really anything All That Special about his stare. The thing was that it was the stare of Pablo Picasso, and that becoming someone of Pablo Picasso's stature is basically your main hope if you are only 5'3" and aspire to heterosexual romanticosexual irresistibility.

When I was in the throes of my pubertal growth spurt, I remember that each new inch would come as a source of great relief. "There," I would think when I reached 5'4", "at least I don't have to worry about being 5'3" my whole life."

Sources tell me that eHarmony, the online soulmate finding service, allows much flexibility to its matching parameters. By default, it will only search for your soulmate within a given age range, but you can opt to expand the permissible range all the way out to statutory and gerontological limits, if you want. eHarmony, however, has one rule of matching that you cannot, by any means, modify: the service will not match a man with a woman who is even one inch taller than he is.

As things turned out, I happen to be about exactly the average height for an white American male (I'm between 5'9" and 5'10'"). This makes me basically a spectator to the major dramas of height and its consequentiality for men's lives. Even from the bleachers, though, its importance is hard to miss. Being short, I've thought, has to mess with a man's head. Meanwhile, being tall, I've always envisioned, must be like being born with a silver yardstick in your mouth.

Sometimes people say that being short for men is like being fat for women, but, obviously, any analogy HEIGHT:MEN::WEIGHT:WOMEN only goes so far. One difference, of course, is that being overweight is something that is culturally defined as both (1) your fault and (2) something you can change, whereas if you are short past your teens, you are burdened with neither blame nor hope. Another difference, at least in Heterosexual World, is that boys and girls are handed different roadmaps marking out the alternative routes to romantic success. Roughly, at least, the prevailing picture still seems to be that, if you are a woman, you can either (1) Be Attractive or (2) Be Amenable, where (2) can take on a variety of different meanings depending on the socio-cultural-lifecoursical situation. Meanwhile, for men, you can either (1) Be Attractive or (2) Be Accomplished. Moreover, women's (2) is defined clearly as a cultural-consolation-prize to (1), while, for men, (2) can put one on roughly equal footing with (1).

In any case, whatever the specific role of affection-aspiration in why, maleness is so completely bound up with the imperative that being a person of worth means being somebody. My thinking has been that, all else being equal, the shorter a man is, the more urgently the flashing Must Be Somebody sign must blink in his brain. Perhaps I am wrong.

It is interesting that, although I'm roughly in the 50th percentile for height among white American males, it feels like I'm in about the 70th percentile for height among white American male academics at research universities. As I've moved up in the world, from high school to college to graduate school to faculty-hood, I've gotten relatively taller compared to my male peers. I've sometimes wondered whether, if I was six inches shorter, I would be the hardest working man in sociology. And whether, if I was six inches taller, I would work at all.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

my subconscious needs to %&#@* grow up

Growing up near a small town meant that at least half the people I graduated from high school with were also people that I went to kindergarten with. Escaping said small town has meant that I have had little contact with any of these people since. I did finally make an appearance at a class reunion last summer, but otherwise I probably average somewhere around two contacts a year through any medium with any member of my graduating class. And, it's not like I'm one of these people who is continually reliving stories from my younger years, either. I won't be one of those guys in his forties who sits up in his underwear late at night, flipping through pages from his high school yearbook while he eats soggy Cheerios and cries. The folks I grew up with, by and large, just don't cross my mind anymore.

So why do they keep showing up in my dreams?

Seriously, I'm not somebody who spends a lot of time mulling over his dream life, and the only reason that I've ever thought it might be interesting to keep a dream journal was precisely so I could make a plot showing exactly how freakishly-disproportionately-often classmates showed up in my dreams relative to how often I crossed paths with any of them anymore. Last night, I dreamed this this guy I went to high school with--who is now the financial manager for an optometry clinic somewhere in Nebraska--was a collegue of mine in Wisconsin Sociology who was just awarded tenure by the department. I was puzzled by the promotion, as I tried to think of any articles I could remember the guy publishing, and, correctly, I couldn't. So, anyway, even if my classmates are not actually candidates for tenure in academia, they do seem to have achieved permanent positions in my dreamworld. I hope they don't mind working nights.

Friday, March 04, 2005

and yet, despite all this, i still do not believe that lee harvey oswald acted alone

It's Wacky Friday here at JFW. I've got opinions so heterodox as to certify me clinically insane! I'm worried that maybe some of the sconnie-soc-scalawags have been slipping psychodelics into my Diet Pepsi Twist again. Anyway, do you want to know what kinds of wacky things I'm thinking about current affairs? Here are just three examples--warning, they're wacky:

1. I do not believe that the Republicans In Charge are attempting to make a fundamental change to the Social Security system in order to divert attention from "what's really going on", i.e., Iraq or any other foreign policy matter. Instead, I believe that they are trying to make a fundamental change to the Social Security system because... they really want to make a fundamental change to Social Security (and are, after decades of complaint, in a political position where they believe they may be able to pull it off).*

2. I do not believe that various Democrats are opposing making this fundamental change to Social Security in order to divert attention from "what's really going on," i.e., Iraq or any other foreign policy matter. Instead, I believe that they are trying to prevent any fundamental change to the Social Security system because... they really want to prevent a fundamental change to Social Security.**

3. I do not believe that the reason we invaded Iraq in the first place was to divert attention from "what's really going on", i.e., "oil," "Halliburton," or any set of domestic problems or issues. I believe that the main reason the current administration was so excited to invade Iraq was that... they believed it was in the best interests of what they consider to be America's Interests.***

Wacky, I know. I don't know what's next: maybe I'll start saying that sometimes a cigar is really just a cigar, or at least is just a cigar so long as it's not laced with whatever wacky stuff has gotten into my system.

* Of course, I do not believe that the reasons they are giving the public for why Social Security should be changed are the reasons they want to make the changes they most want to make.

** Plus, it's the opportunity to score some big-time low-hanging domestic-political fruit, the likes of which have not been so readily plentiful to the opposition party since Bill Clinton attempted health-care reform.

*** Of course, I do not believe that the main reason they gave the public for invading Iraq (especially but not limited to, WMD) was the reason they believed it would be in America's interest to do so.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

cow to army to girlfriend to wife to girlfriend to strip club to cow: one man's journey

From AP (via Angela Boring):
"Neillsville, WI (AP): A 63-year-old man is charged with sexual gratification with an animal for allegedly having sex with calves.

Harold G. Hart, of Neillsville, allegedly told police that he routinely stopped at a Greenwood farm, usually after bar closing or on trips to [note: presumably, they mean 'home from' instead of 'to'] strip clubs near Marshfield or Neillsville.

Hart told police he had sex with heifers before he went into the service in 1963 and resumed about a year ago at the farm. He admitted to using a rope to tie calves around the neck and estimated he had been to the farm 'at least 50 times,' according to the complaint.

He told police he never had sex with animals while maintaining a relationship with a girlfriend or his wife, the complaint said."

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

one hundred links of bozzitude

Assuredly, a frivolous use of time. But, it was fun looking at the Early Bozzo archives. Now, alas, it's back to drudgery. Specifically, the joys of the rank-ordered logistic regression model await, to be followed by some early morning lecture preparation.

Whilst I used my secret saltation powers to spring up in the sidebar ecosystem, Tom and Oscar have been trying to move each other up the TTLB ecosystem by linking with each other. I tried to help by adding a link to both of them in my footer, meaning they would get a link every time I post, but TTLB is too smart for that. Fortunately, I am too tenacious to be so easily thwarted.