Saturday, April 30, 2005

why that jerk never answers your e-mails (it's not that he's just not that into you!)

Someone complained to me recently about how I never answered these e-mails that they had sent me. From this and subsequent testing, I have inferred that my sbcglobal account is not forwarding as it was supposed to, which I suppose makes sense given that sbcglobal owes me nothing after I shut off my internet connection at home. Anyway, if you want to send an e-mail to me and not to my Official Work Account, my gmail address is in the sidebar.

the missing link

I finally found the mini-USB cable that links my digital camera to a PC. It had somehow ended up in a dusty corner of the RV; the best working hypothesis is that it was carried there by the occasional bugs I see that everyone insists are Not-Cockroaches. Anyway, the missing cable has kept me from taking photos for something like a month. The last pictures are from a karaoke excursion long enough ago that the details are hazy, even with the mnemonic benefit of a blog-recap. I'm sure there would have been good stories to accompany each of these photos, for instance, but instead they are lost to karaoke-antiquity:

Friday, April 29, 2005

putting the lust back in cluster analysis

And I thought yesterday afternoon brought good tidings. Today: Stata 9 has arrived! Before I took off the shrink wrap, I put as many of the manuals as would fit on the scanner. As you can see, they've used a fetchingly Hawkeyesque yellow-and-black for the sides the manuals this time, all except for one. I'm surprised in their advertisements for the upgrade they didn't say "Stata 9 also includes Mata: a matrix programming language for the data dominatrix in you, so badass that it wouldn't have been right to dress it anything other than an all-black cover."

Truthfully, though, however sexy Mata might be, I'll probably spend the rest of the afternoon canoodling the multivariate statistics manual.

Update, 3:30pm: I just went down the hill for lunch. On my way down, I caught myself humming a tune that I realized was "Oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling Stata 9." I'll spare you the fruits of the subsequent effort to construct appropriate verses.

in case you were wondering whether sociologists are really as socially maladroit as people say

Jeremy Freese + [wonderful colleague who shall remain nameless] = Most Awkward Attempted Celebratory Hug Ever.

I am such an interpersonal freak, especially where personal space is involved. A butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil, and it knocks me out of my Comfort Zone. World: stay at least six inches from me at all times.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

stranger than fiction

Candidate F has been saying for quite some time that everything was going to be all right either way. For some time now, after all, he has been smitten with the idea of circumstance coming along and shaking up his life like it was a snow globe. Even so, Candidate F spent a good deal of time this afternoon staring at the phone and biting his nails all the way down past the knuckle. Really, he just wanted to know one way or the other.

The phone call came at 5:19 this afternoon. Affirmative, unanimously. Administrative hurdles remain and will until August, but we are now at the point where Unprecedentedly Unpleasant Things would have to happen. Candidate F is certainly pleased, although a full emotional spectrometry would reveal a complicated set of feelings. In any case, he appreciates all the kindness and support of others he has received.

(If you have no idea what this post is about, I apologize, but the matter is still beeswax not for explicit public consumption.)

still more evidence that guns don't kill people, children with guns kill people

"When Carolyn Moore answered the light knock on her front door Sunday night, she was greeted by a [10-year-old] boy wearing only burgundy underwear and holding a shotgun.

'There stood this poor, scared, half-naked little boy saying 'Help me, help me. Hide me. They're after me,'' Moore said. 'I could see the fear in his eye. He said, 'They're going to get me and spank me hard.'' [...]

'The child said, 'I done something really bad,'' Moore said, recalling their conversation. 'And I said, `What did you do?'

'He said, 'I shot my dad.''"

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

if you're clap and you know it, clap your hands

One of the undergrads who works across the hall e-mailed because he is all excited about being AIDS and wanted me to link to this "What STD are you?" quiz. Kids these days. I'm surprised nobody has ever sent me a "What Genocide are you?" quiz, because I'm sure I would be rolling on the floor laughing if I got to be, say, Armenia 1915. Anyway: Lo, I am herpes, hear me roar.

You are Herpes, sometimes you are mellow and other
times you blow up, but no matter what you are
in for the long haul... [blah blah hilarious herpes humor blah]

Here's the link to Which STD are You?, so you can STiDentify yourself. Incidentally, if you need some extra herpes hijinx to start your day, you can visit the Ron Mexico site, and you can see that somebody is offering $10,000 on e-bay for the domain name--and the current owner is holding out for more. That's how funny defrauding somebody into sharing your lifelong venereal burden is, at least if the defrauder is someone famous and uses a weird alias as part of their capers.

Corrie herself has been using Quizilla to try to figure out what kind of natural disaster she is, but I think I'm already enough of a natural disaster without needing to be told I'm a tornado or whatever.

never underestimate a freakonomist

Since it seemed like such an urban legend (and a particularly urban urban legend, to boot), I expected that when I e-mailed Doug McAdam to ask if he personally had met twins named OrangeJello and LemonJello (as asserted in Freakonomics, see post here), he was going to say that he hadn't actually met them personally, it had been a friend of his (or friend of friend of his) that had met them personally. But, no, I got a reply from McAdam back saying that he had indeed met a woman in what he guessed was the late 1980s who introduced her twin sons to him as OrangeJello and LemonJello. He notes that the woman could have been lying, of course, but that he didn't have any reason to think she was.

I was telling someone just now about my checking the OrangeJello and LemonJello story, and she said: "Dude, I remember being a teenager and having my uncle tell me about these black twins named OrangeJello and LemonJello and thinking 'Man, you are so freaking racist.'"

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

the secret of the perfect baseball player: invisibility!

From the NYT:
"'You can't be a perfect player,' [outfielder Ichiro] Suzuki said. 'I don't even think you can see a perfect player."

the smoldering machinations of brayden king

Brayden has a crush on Jenny Lewis, front woman for the band Rilo Kiley. Of course, being a devoted family man, he can't do much about it. He can't, for example, tell his soon-to-be employer that the deal is off because he's going to follow Rilo Kiley around for a few years. So, does this mean that he's destined to just listening to her music and maybe catching an RK show every decade or so when they pass through Provo?

No! Resourceful guy that he is, he starts to think about what his best chance is to get to see Jenny Lewis in person more often. He realizes that, rather than him dropping everything to follow Jenny Lewis, he needs to hatch a plan to get Jenny Lewis into his orbit. Eureka! You see where this is going! Brayden needs to figure out how to get Jenny Lewis to start making annual appearances at the American Sociological Association conference. But how could this possibly happen?

Taking a page out of the seedy guys on the corner who push free samples of heroin on fourth-graders, Brayden decides he needs to lure Jeremy into starting to listen to Jenny Lewis. Get Jeremy hooked, so the sinister reasoning goes, and then the unencumbered Jeremy will start following Rilo Kiley around until he has won Ms. Lewis's affections. Then, since Jenny Lewis will be unwilling to spend more than a few hours separated from Jeremy, Jeremy will be forced to drag her along to the ASA meetings, where she will sit starry-eyed in the front row of his presentations. Twisted, yes; diabolical, sure; but, you have to admit, clever! And, at least in terms of Phase One of the plan, effective: I played the Rilo Kiley CD something like six times yesterday while I was working. Unfortunately, however, I'm going to be in Europe when Rilo Kiley plays Eau Claire, which means that Phase Four of the plan will probably not be completed in time for a Jenny Lewis appearance at the ASA's in Philadelphia in August.

Monday, April 25, 2005

even if you don't take the boy out of the midwest, you can still take the midwestern out of the boy

(From "What kind of American English do you speak?" quiz available here)

Jeremy Freese, 1985

Your Linguistic Profile:

70% General American English

15% Upper Midwestern

10% Yankee

5% Midwestern

0% Dixie

Jeremy Freese, 2005

Your Linguistic Profile:

70% General American English

20% Yankee

10% Dixie

0% Midwestern

0% Upper Midwestern

Sunday, April 24, 2005

you weren't there to commit that homicide, george bailey, because you had never been born

[a third post on Freakonomics]

So, there is a chapter in Freakonomics on the line of research of Steve Levitt's that I was most familiar with already: the claim that an important cause of the large drop in crime in the 1990s was Roe vs. Wade and the births it prevented. To whatever extent I have heard this theory mentioned in sociological circles, which hasn't been often, it seems like the Good Liberal reaction is to think that it is absolutely ludicruous. To be honest, I'm not exactly sure why this is. Maybe there is the idea that In The Hands Of Conservatives, the argument could be used to support something heinous, like a forced sterilization program for mothers in unfortunate circumstances (which would, of course, be unequivocally wrong, but it would be wrong regardless of whether it would have any long-term consequences for crime rates).*

In any case, when I first read about the theory in a newspaper account shortly after the original research article was published, I mentally classified it as "intriguing but farfetched." It was intriguing to me since I am a fan of The Underappreciated Consequences of Demography as a causal trope. However, I'm generally skeptical of the trope of the Surprising Distal Cause for A Major Proximate Change. Besides, I'm generally a hard sell when it comes to any inferences about the causes of social change, and, just as I'm skeptical of bands that are too popular, I'm also skeptical of any theory that is catchy enough to garner prominent newspaper coverage.

Since the theory has nothing to do with any area of social research in which I'm personally engaged, I didn't give the theory much further consideration, but the "intrigued" part of my assessment did keep the theory in mind. Then, through a weird set of circumstances, last year I read an exchange on the theory that had appeared in the Journal of Human Resources (2004, issue 1). That exchange basically moved my assessment from "farfetched" to "plausible" to even acquiring something like a mental preponderance so long as one didn't push the theory too far (i.e., so long as one recognized other causes of the crime drop as well). It's not that I am ready to assert that the explanation is true, and I could certainly be convinced that it is false, but it would take something more than any evidence or counterarguments that I have seen so far.

Anyway, Freakonomics has a summary of the evidence for the causal inference that legalized abortion has resulted in a drop in crime rates. There are six main pieces of evidence mentioned. I'll list them along with my own rating on a scale of 0 -10 scale of how compelling I regard each to be (at least if true; in other words, if I learned that Levitt was overstating the evidence on a given point, my ultimate assessment would be revised downward accordingly). Here:
Exhibit A: "In the early 1990s, just as the first cohort of children born after Roe v. Wade was hitting its late teen years--the years during which young men enter their criminal prime--the rate of crime began to fall." [1]

Exhibit B: "In New York, California, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii, a woman had been able to obtain a legal abortion for at least two years before Roe v. Wade. An indeed, those early-legalizing states saw crime begin to fall earlier than the other forty-five states and the District of Columbia..." [4; would be more if it was a better mix of states]

Exhibit C: "...the states with the highest abortion rates in the 1970s experienced the greatest crime drops in the 1990s, while states with low abortion rates experienced smaller crime drops. (This correlation exists even when controlling for a variety of factors that influence crime: a state's level of incarceration, number of police, and its economic situation.)" [2]

Exhibit D: "Moreover, there was no link between a given state's abortion rate and its crime rate _before_ the late 1980's--when the first cohort affected by legalized abortion was reaching its criminal prime..." [when added to Exhibit C, the 2 that I gave that becomes a 6-7]

Exhibit E: "In states with high abortion rates, the entire decline in crime was among the post-Roe cohort as opposed to older criminals." [5]

Exhibit F: "[S]tudies of Australia and Canada have since established a similar link between legalized abortion and crime." [6, provided that there is variation in the years these countries legalized abortion]
(While this isn't discussed in Freakonomics, the JHR debate, incidentally, also includes evidence for the point that Roe-v-Wade did increase substantially increase the overall number of abortions, as opposed to just having legal abortions mostly replace illegal abortions, which is of course necessary for the Donahue/Levitt argument to go anywhere.)

Again, especially consider how far the area is from my own areas of expertise, I can be swayed that I have been overly credulous here (or that am not giving the theory enough credibility). If you know something I don't here, please let me know.

* It's one thing that, in so much of sociology, the general expectation is that assessments of empirical claims are to be based first on their consistency with the prevailing political currents of the discipline before turning to consideration of the quality of the evidence itself. More irritating, however, is the extent to which the consideration of empirical claims turns first on how the claim could be interpreted In The Hands Of Conservatives. I would be able to afford at least a couple months of luxury apartment life in Boston if only I had a dollar for every time I heard a sociologist offer a counterargument along the lines of "But, if that were true, couldn't somebody say [politically reactionary thing]?" with the seeming belief that such a counterpoint has roughly equal epistemological weight to, say, actual empirical evidence. As if the overriding consideration for what is accepted as disciplinary wisdom should be its relative imperviousness to any unsavory FOX-news-spin.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

back on the blogck

Showing that reverse migration from the "fallen travelers" to "fellow travelers" sections of my sidebar is possible, The Divine Tonya B is back among the living-breathing-blogging. This anecdote that she tells about the recent birthday dinner at Nina's is completely true:
Jeremy was too exhausted to stay for the entire party and announced that he'd leave early, but I wasn't prepared for the curious manner in which he would make his exit. One minute he was sitting almost right next to me and, a second later, Nina was whisking -- or perhaps shoving -- him out the door. It seemed that she suddenly decided that it was time for him to leave and out, out, out he went. It happened so quickly that the entire thing was a blur. Jeremy didn't even get a chance to say a proper goodbye to the rest of us. As Nina was slamming the door in his face, I think I heard him cry out a muffled farewell.
I'm not sure what it was about. At least I got to have my cup of borsch before I was whisked out the door. It was my first experience with borsch, and so now there's a puzzle to be resolved: do I love borsch, or just Nina's borsch? This being the common causal problem posed by trying new dishes made by someone who is an excellent cook.

patriarchy 1, hawkeyes 0

When my friend Jan, a fellow Iowa alum and avid Hawkeyes fan, married John, an avid Wolverines fan, it wasn't sure whether their incompatible Big 10 blood would even allow them to be able to successfully breed. But they did. Then, friends wondered less about how the couple would juggle the demands of career and childraising so much about how they would juggle raising a child to have sufficiently socialization to be able later to choose for himself how much Michigan vs. Iowa loyalty to have. You can see from the photo what the "resolution" has been. I have to admit, the hypnobear mobile is a method of indoctrination so clever I wish I had thought of it.

what color is your jellochute?

[Post #2 about Freakonomics]

If you are a social scientist in a discipline other than economics, probably the most annoying thing economists often do when writing for the popular masses is to presume that no idea really exists until it has been discovered and formulated by some economist. So, despite the many feet of literature that exists on race and "oppositional culture", et cetera, including literature cited in the Fryer article in question, Levitt writes:
In a paper called 'The Economics of 'Acting White'," the young black Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer Jr. argues that some black students "have tremendous disincentives to invest in particular behaviors (i.e., education, ballet, etc.) due to the fact that the may be deemed a person who is trying to act like a white person (a.k.a. 'selling-out') Such a label, in some neighborhoods, can carry penalties that range from being deemed a social outcast, to being beaten or killed.'"
As if Fryer discovered it. An interesting thing is that Fryer isn't even the first author on "The Economics of 'Acting White'" paper, but since he is the young-Black-Harvard author, and has collaborated with Levitt to boot, he gets the credit. Go figure.

Which is not to say that sociology isn't cited in Freakonomics. The book does have a whole chapter on first names, after all, and so if you look in the endnotes you will find a reference to Stanley Lieberson's book on first names, A Matter of Taste. In the endnotes to the names chapter, you will also see sociology used to back up the seemingly farfetched example of twin black boys named "OrangeJello and LemonJello, also whose parents further dignified their choice by instituting the pronunciations a-RON-zhello and le-MON-zhello". Don't believe it?Check the endnotes:
ORANGEJELLO AND LEMONJELLO: Although these names have the whiff of urban legend about them--they are, in fact, discussed on a variety of websites that dispel (or pass along) urban legends--the authors learned of the existence of OrangeJello and LemonJello from Doug McAdam, a sociologist at Stanford University, who swears he met the twin boys in a grocery store.
Google "OrangeJello LemonJello" and try to decide for yourself what you think of the names. I sent McAdam an e-mail just now asking for confirmation. Anyway, the names chapter also features what I think is the lone instance of a sociologist being important enough to be elevated into the main text of the book:
The clerks in New York City civil court recently reported that name changes are at an all-time high. Some of the changes are purely, if bizarrely, aesthetic. A young couple named Natalie Jeremijenko [you can imagine how I love that last name] and Dalton Conley [yes, the sociologist!] recently renamed their four-year old son Yo Xing Heyno Augustus Eisner Alexander Weiser Knuckles Jeremienko-Conley.
Never let it be said that serious economists do not take the offerings of sociologists seriously.


I've been on one of my reading binges lately. Last night I read Freakonomics, the new book by economist Steven Levitt and write-hand-man/journalist Stephen Dubner. I have enough to say about it for multiple posts.

The book is basically Levitt celebrating his own genuinely interesting research and the esprit d'economie behind it. As they write:
Economics is, at root, the study of incentives: how actions are associated with (perceived) costs and benefits, and when the costs and benefits change, so do people's actions.
Silly rabbit! I just made that sentence up. Freakonomics is one of those hastily thrown together science books. So the actual sentence from the book reads:
Economics is, at root, the study of incentives: how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing.
Which may be an accurate characterization of what economics is after, even while it would puzzle the bejeezus out of anyone who didn't already know what an incentive is.

The book also borrows other tricks out of the Malcolm Gladwell school of science writing, which is all the better since Gladwell is granted the honor of blurbing the book on both the front and back of the book jacket. Important rule: if a story is interesting, do not take it out just because it "doesn't work", just claim a connection exists and move on. So Chapter 2 opens with this 10-page yarn about the history of the Ku Klux Klan and how the Klan revival in postwar America was supposedly gravely damaged by an infiltrator who made various of its dopier rituals public--some precious history of American race relations, this--which is then wrapped up with the conclusion that
[The infiltrator] understood the raw power of information. The Ku Klux Klan was a group whose power--much like that of politicians or real estate agents or stockbrokers--was derived in large part from the fact that it hoarded information.
Which then segues into a discussion of the information advantages of real estate agents and how they exploit these advantages to convince you to sell your house for something less than the maximum that you could get for it. In any case, given that the "information" the inflitrator revealed about the Ku Klux Klan were things like their secret passwords and the weird names of the positions on their organizational chart ("Exalted Cyclops" and "Grand Dragon"), one can decide how much that information really was behind the power of the Klan or how similar it is to a real estate agent having more information about the real selling value of your house.

The book also contains some of the weird economic explanations that some economists use when they want to cast the world as more economically simple than it really is--you know, the kind that make you scratch your head and think, "Does he really believe this?" (In this respect, Freakonomics is nowhere near as bad as Steven Landsburg's The Armchair Economist, a book which becomes inadvertently hilarious as the author shows he will go to any lengths to deny that the reason stores price things at $19.99 rather than $20 is that the difference psychologically seems larger than one penny.) From Freakonomics:
The day that a car is driven off the lot is the worst day of its life, for it instantly loses as much as a quarter of its value. This might seem absurd, but we know it to be true... Why? Because the only person who might logically want to resell a brand-new car is someone who found the car to be a lemon. So even if the car isn't a lemon, a potential buyer assumes that it is. He assumes that the seller has some information about the car that he, the buyer, does not have--and the seller is punished for this assumed information.
There is a reason why economists are often confronted by skeptics saying, "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich from selling used cars?" The extension of the above reasoning would be that if you were able to prove (or, perhaps even, guarantee) that there was no reason to think that a one-day old used car wasn't a lemon, then you should be able to command an identical price for it as a new car. It will be left as an exercise as a reader for whether such proof really would eliminate the new car premium.

For all my carping, Freakonomics was interesting enough for me to read it all the way through in just a few hours, and, in general, sociology would certainly be better off if it had more people who had the empirical imagination that Levitt does. I'll post about the part of the book that I think is most provocatively interesting later if I get the chance, although before that I want to write a post about Levitt's chapter on first names.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

happy birthday nina!

I'm sitting here at Camic Central, where it is Nina's birthday. I'm looking at a bunch of wonderful food that Nina is preparing for a dinner party that I, uber-flake that I am, will probably be flaking out on. Nina is showing me a birthday e-mail that she received from one of her daughters today, which was surreptitiously sent during some class and included a photo she took with her cel phone during the class. Kids these days with their crazy technologies and new dances.

If there is any doubt that Nina is more deserving than anyone of being on the canonization fast-track, consider this: she just made me some eggs. Granted, she's saintly, but saintly with an edge to her: while I was eating the eggs, she insisted on waving this herring in my face and saying "Look, look at its beady little eyes! Look!" You try eating eggs while someone is squeezing a dead fish's belly to make its eyes bulge out at you.

Laying on the counter are some lecture notes from one of Nina's classes. They look immaculately prepared, to be sure, but I keep focusing on the first line, which is: "Let me tell you about Poland." I've been long surprised that Nina hasn't used these six words as her a signature file.

Last night I was talking to Nina on the phone and, now that I don't have Internet access at home, she started reading comments from yesterday's "Comment" post to me. I must say: Nina does a pretty awesome 80-year-old Jewish man accent. Thing is, when she got to the punch line:
"Oh, it's some kind of religious reference."
"What does it say?"
"B-4, I-19, N-38..."
"Nina, that's not religious, that's Bingo!"
"Oh, they don't have bingo in Poland."

Nina just pulled out the chocolate cake that she's made for this evening. It is one of the most scrumptuous looking desserts I have ever seen in my life. Since the meal this evening apparently has some kind of Polish theme, I'm trying to convince her that she can tell her guests that there is a Polish custom that you always take a piece out of the cake before serving it. "Tell them it's supposed to appease the Spirts of Death and keep everyone healthy. Or something. They'll believe whatever as long as you say it with an authentic Old World air."

standing outside, waiting for the big yellow sin wagon to come take me to middle school

On my way into campus this morning, I was driving behind a car with a bumper sticker that said "Cherokee Middle School: We're PROUD!" Being of a religious turn of mind lately, I wondered which other of the seven deadly sins one might imagine middle school parents bragging about on a bumper sticker: "Cherokee Middle School: We're GLUTTONS!" or "Cherokee Middle School: We're LUSTY!" Additionally, it turns out, the Cherokee Middle School sports teams are nicknamed the Greedy Sloths.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

a comment from today

The following is a comment someone just made in response to my post yesterday about the Papal Election. I am rushing around today and, with karaoke tonight, am not sure when I will be able to respond to it. If you have a chance, however, I'd be interested in knowing what thoughts you have about it:
Do you think a sociology professor mocking a religion or their procedures, or belittling it with the gambling and alcohol comments, takes anything away from your performance in the classroom? That is, if Catholic or conservative students read your blog, and are offended, do you take responsibility for any of the backlash they dish out to other students because they believe their views are not being respected? Would you or could you tone down the silliness, even though it is your first amendment right, to preserve dignity and respect of other views in the classroom? I have often wondered if the left-wing professors know what they are doing overall to serious discussion. Signed, a liberal.

implicit training in blogging

In the Social Psychology and Microsociology brownbag this week, we will be discussing an essay that appeared in the American Sociological Association newsletter about "Implicit Versus Explicit Professional Training in Sociology". The essay includes a Blog Promise:
We have developed a weblog (at that addresses professional socialization in sociology and that features resources, links, and message boards.
Which brings us to one implicit lesson about how to have a successful blog: You have to post a second time.


I received an e-mail message yesterday to which my mental reaction was a surly "Ugh," and then a few minutes later I received the same message again, with "[RESENT]" appended to the subject line. To which I thought: how nice for this e-mail to include an apropros instruction for how I should feel about receiving it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

pope my ride!

Yes, cardinal clairvoyant that I am, I won money wagering on the Papal Election. Although, by the time the white smoke came a-pluming today, I had actually already settled my bets, as the steep decline in the market-based probability of an Italian Restoration was such that I was able to take away a sure-thing profit without having to wait and see if the conclave had my back.

My total profits: $3.75. Woo-hoo! My first drink at karaoke tomorrow night will be a Ratzinger Zinger in honor of the new kid on the basilica, Benedict XVI.

As I was telling Pontiff-Market investment guru Tom over e-mail, I really think I missed my calling. I think I would have enough money to buy the Vatican right now if I had gone into being a futures trader instead of being a sociology. In any event, as becomes more obvious every single day this job wears on, I have certainly missed some kind of calling.

totter this way

From the NYT:
"Buick's sales were down 22 percent in the first three months of the year, leaving it with sales of about 60,000 cars and trucks, only a tenth of G.M.'s Chevrolet brand. Worse, despite using Tiger Woods as a pitchman and Aerosmith's 'Dream On' in commercials for the new Buick LaCrosse sedan, the brand cannot shake its granddad demographics."
Jesus Christ: Aerosmith is a granddad demographic! As far as I can tell, few things in American culture are more tenacious than this continued belief that Aerosmith is the cool rock glue that binds all generations together. Because middle-aged men remember that Aerosmith managed to ride Alicia Silverstone's nymphette-next-door looks to a modest sell-out-pop-rock comeback 11-12 years ago (yes, it was that long!), they've got the idea that there are still people under 30 out there with whom they can bond about how awesome Steven Tyler and the boys are. Remember when they did that duet with Run DMC? Totally rad!

A couple years ago, I was asked to review an nth edition of a sociology textbook that had long used "Genesis's music is really great!" as one of various examples of an attitude. I suggested that they change the reference to something other more timely or more timeless. The next edition comes out, and the change was "Aerosmith's music is really great!" Aerosmith was formed only three years after Genesis was formed, and was formed one year before I was born. Aerosmith's "Dream On", the song Buick is using to try to appeal to hip young car buyers, was recorded when I was five.

In terms of timeless artistic merit: Genesis(Peter Gabriel in front) >> Aerosmith(Early) > Aerosmith(Middle) > Genesis(Phil Collins in front) > Jeremy(doing "Janey's Got A Gun" at karaoke) > Aerosmith(Now) > Phil Collins(in Buster).

Monday, April 18, 2005


Just as the other sconnies slouch and shuffle their way off the blogging train, whining and spitting on the conductor as they pass, Martine has hopped onboard by starting a blog of her own. One recent post talks about the game "Knock Your Socks Off." She makes it sound like a fun friendly party game, like a more rowdy variant of Twister. As a two-time NCAA KYSO champion at the University of Iowa, I can assure you that it is anything but. KYSO may be "the sport of the future", as it is often called, or "the kickboxing of the new millenium", but it is not for the fainthearted or weakankled. Not only do nice people finish last at KYSO, but they don't even get their socks back. Ever. You can't pussyfoot around if you want to keep your socks on and your toes intact. Instead, to win, you have to first break your opponent psychologically, and then podiafabrically.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

ring in the nonproductivity!

The Social Sciences building here in Madison has a lovely carillon tower right outside. The University regularly has carillon concerts starting Sundays at 3pm. I have seen as many as four people gather across the street on a sunny Sunday to listen to a concert (actually, at least some of those people may have been waiting for a ride to pick them up or something).

My office is on the belltower side. I have been in this office for something like three years. I have never once remembered, coming into my office on a Sunday, that the bells are going to start up at 3 until the moment they actually do, completely destroying my ability to concentrate on any kind of work. It's like I never learn. You would think that by now there would be some strange antipavlovian force that would cause me to start salivating at 2:55 or something.

if you are the sort who is shocked anew each morning that the sun rises in the east... may also be surprised to learn that David Duchovny has written and directed a new coming-of-age movie--one in which he also stars and which also features Robin Williams playing a retarded janitor--and, according to reviews, it sucks. In related news, your creepy aunt finally scraped together the money to self-publish that collection of poems about her cats, and reviewers have been similarly unkind.

Friday, April 15, 2005

come on, feel the noise. or, at least, come on watch jeremy make a fool out of himself and creep people out.

Bloggger dinner at Tom's last night (photos, including two of the remarkably photopathogenic yours truly, here). Tom cooked a fabulous-fabulous meal, so good that it had me licking the plate like some kind of feral cat when I was done. Among the evening's conversational highlights were Nina regaling us all with songs from the musical Chess and stories about how her daughters used to play "Cold War Conflict" with the special "Behind the Iron Curtain" Playmobil set she bought them one Xmas.

Meanwhile, I kept trying to convince attendees to join the sociologists at karaoke night next Wednesday, especially Tonya, who has an impressive home karaoke setup of her own (scroll to photo at bottom of link). I told them that The Divine Ms. Carey-oke herself is leaving Madison even sooner than I am, and so who knows what the future of Madison Sociology karaoke is.

This got me thinking of the karaoke legacy I will be leaving behind when I follow the crimson brick road to Harvard later this summer. Judging by the karaoke recaps, Madison will apparently be a much less disturbing place without me. Here are excerpts from Careyoke's Official Recaps from the last two sociology karaoke excursions I intended:

(1) Then the Growly Twins, Dorotha and Jeremy, with “Take me to the river.”
- Someone wrote something suggestive…
- I wrote something far less suggestive, sort of: “Growling is their fave.” Jeremy basically gave up on any semblance of singing and growled the whole thing. “Competitive growling.”
- “Most disturbing performance EVER.”
(2) Then I heard some careyoke reminiscing…
- Lisa: “Remember when Jeremy was Earl?” So what does she do? She sings “Goodbye, Earl” of course! And Jeremy plays Earl again. Hilarity ensues…
- Earl explains to us what the FFA is and argues Earl’s innocence. Then he “dies.” Though he does and then is resurrected (Happy Easter!) so that for every new chorus he can die again. Seriously. You need to see this. It is crazy. I’ll try to describe…During one death sequence, he knocks over the stool on the stage, drops the microphone, and flails around so much that Lisa has to get off the stage.
- Ang adds: “Awesome convulsions!”
- Lisa then puts her foot on his stomach, indicating how she has conquered Earl. Well done!
(3) Jeremy’s shirt says ‘Bacon is a vegetable’ and a guy [Justin] has Jeremy’s initials shaved in his head for which Jeremy paid him $90. [Apparently, Dorotha brokered the deal and took at 10% cut of the profits.]
(4) “Jeremy & Carey[oke] – Mama Said Knock You Out – Jude says this is the whitest performance he’s ever seen. [Inconceivable!] It’s not clear what Jeremy’s job is except to say “out!” and “justice” ... Jeremy gets a high five from old guys [in the audience].” I think this starts their constant post-performance high-fiving for the evening. Why I didn’t get high-fived and Jeremy did makes no sense to me. Maybe it was congratulating him on taking credit for a performance he added to little to. Or maybe it was just because he got to be on stage with me.
(5) “Jeremy attempts [and succeeds!] to bribe the Karaoke Kid workers [with $10] to play ‘Stacy’s Mom.’” [...] This sets new records on the creep-o-meter.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

blogs may not have been enough for howard dean, but they are for shelly bright

Thanks all who followed my pleas to vote for Michelle for Storm Chaser. She won by 193 votes, which is presumably far less than the number of votes brought to her campaign by the JFW/NinaNet "Perfect Storm" Get Out The Vote campaign. In addition to getting to chase storms with the news crew, another part of her prize is that the station has set her up with her own blog. Apparently she also gets an all-expense paid trip to Lincoln, Nebraska as well, which has the world headquarters for Storm Chaser training. If she doesn't either link to my blog or bring me back something from Lincoln, I'm going to feel used (scroll to bottom of link).

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

god, do i hate spss. seriously, with a hatred i would normally reserve for, say, war criminals.

mild, oblique rant

I hate when, in a meeting of colleagues, somebody concludes, "So, we should write X a letter saying..." when they clearly mean, "So, somebody other than me should write X a letter saying...."


So, the big issue here in Madison these days is the proposal to legalize the shooting of feral cats (CNN story here; activist site with fetching logo here). In related news, reports are that the TAA yesterday passed a resolution urging the university to allow cat-loving-vigilantes to shoot any supporters of the feral cat proposal who are found roaming around on campus. As you might imagine, the issue has brought out all sorts of Madisonians unable to comprehend what barbarous instinct the rural unwashed of Wisconsin must have to want to have the legal right to shoot feral cats.

An earlier version of the CNN story had a woman holding a sign that read "Too Cute to Kill." Which really says it all about at least one certain direction of animal rights discussion: instead of weighing the rights of different animals--after all, each feral cat does kill 20-50 songbirds, or whatever--on some calculus that considers the animals on their own terms, we should judge the issue in terms of the animals' capacity to provoke tender-hearted feelings in humans. Because, of course, the moral issues here are really ultimately all about us and what makes us feel good.

I grew up on a farm in Iowa. We had sheep. We had feral cats. If the feces from cats gets into hay, it can cause a pregnant ewe to abort. I do understand that baby lambs, however cute they may be, are not as cute as little-pretty-wittle-kitty. Even so, my dad shoots feral cats. His son takes no joy in this practice, but feels no remorse for it either. If I was persuaded that there was a reasonable alternative, I might feel differently.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

am i the only one who isn't following the michael jackson trial closely enough to speculate about his guilt or innocence...

...but who is following it just enough to feel hypervalidated in all previous impressions that he has become really, super creepy?

q: is there some particularly more dangerous and virulent form of gingivitis than what I am aware of?

An actual e-mail sent to a professor-friend in A Different Field and at A Different University:
Prof. [name deleted]:
I have not been going to work and I been leaving classes early. I have
gingivitis and the doctor told me is contagious,,however I cannot afford
to miss school or work. I cannot talk that much or be in contact with
other people for two weeks. I will go to class tomorrow but I wont be able to
make my presentation. I do not want to miss another class because I am
concerned about my grade.

Monday, April 11, 2005

it's like this: read this post. click on the link. vote for "michelle." please.

I try to post something every day. Sometimes twice a day. Even on weekends. I don't ask for much in return. Other than your attention, which I seem to need in a profoundly-pathologically-needy way, but otherwise, not much. I don't ask for donations (not that there's anything wrong with that). I don't make you view ads (not that there's anything wrong with that). I don't make you view that little Blogger bar on the top of 95+% of the other blogspot blogs. I don't even have a sitemeter that keeps track of your IP number. That's how unconditionally I love you (yes, love! yes, you!). I just give and give and give.

Until now. My friend Shelly B has spent years dreaming of getting to be a stormchaser. She can recite virtually the entire screenplay of "Twister". She knows her nimbus. She can smell when it is going to hail. When a local television station announced that they would select a lucky viewer to join their stormchasing team this year, she spent weeks carefully crafting and market-testing her entry. All her efforts have led her to be one of three selected finalists. Now, it's up to the public to vote. This is her dream, and you can help it come true.

Seriously, I'm asking you for a favor here. Don't be rude and blow me off. All you have to do is take your mouse, CLICK HERE, and then click the top button on the right to vote for "Michelle".* Three seconds, max. This sentence may have taken you that long to read, at least once I tag this extra part onto it. Do it, do it. Pretty please. Pretty please with sugar, honey, spinkles, and croutons on top. Thanks.

* Polling ends 4/14. You are not allowed to vote more than once. The WeatherBug website dips your IP address in purple ink to prevent multiple voting. Of course, if you had a way of changing the IP number on your machine, like say logging in and out of WinCenter if you were a Madison Sociology user, you could vote more than once. I will leave such matters to your own moral-karmic compass, the lengths to which it is appropriate to help a deserving person realize her lifelong dream.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

fools rush in where bozzo fears to tread

Well, "fears" might be too strong a word, but Tom does seem hesitant in his analysis that the Tradesports Papal Succession Market is overpricing the probability of the next Pope being Italian and underpricing the probability of the next Pope being a surprise candidate (not among the 17 that Tradesports offers official contracts for). Not me. In the battle between The Wisdom of Crowds and The Wisdom of Bozzo, I'm going with Bozzo. I made wagers/investments in both shorting the PAPACY.ITALY contract and buying the PAPACY.FIELD contract. My position is such that I come out ahead under the scenarios of an obscure Italian selection or a non-obscure non-Italian selection.

Conclave, don't fail me now!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

a portrait of the artist as a hopelessly immature man

"Your blog is a bunch of crap."
"Why now?"
"That thing about Natalie MacMaster. You keep falling for some female musician and saying that you are going to quit your job and follow her around, and you never do."
"Fine, you caught me. I'm not going to quit my job and follow around Natalie MacMaster."
"Remmeber that woman who was the sister of The Weeds?"
"You said you were going to marry her."
"Turns out that you can't marry somebody unilaterally. They have to agree."
"Who knew?"
"For that matter, it also turns out that it's hard to get somebody to agree to marry you if you don't ask them, introduce yourself to them, or do anything to inform them that you exist."
"And before was the whole thing with Kirsty MacColl."
"Hey, don't go there. 'They Don't Know' is the single most underappreciated Simple Pop Song of the last half century."
"She wrote it about me. No lie."
"You're insane. Remember when you wrote that post claiming that 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' was written about you."
"I'm not insane. I'm inspiring."
"So why aren't you with Kirsty MacColl now?"
"Because she is dead. I'm still not over it."
"Oh yeah, I forgot. But before that was that woman from Sixpence None the Richer."
"I can't believe you would even bring that up. That was like a one day infatuation, at most. It was before I realized they are mostly contemporary Christian music. Then I knew it was never going to work out."

where's bozzo when you need him?

In reading all these various obituarial assessments of the contributions of the Pope, I have been waiting for somebody with an economic turn of mind to step forward and say that what we really need to be doing is evaluating the Pope's legacy by reference to whomever out there would be the second-best candidate that the selecting conclave could have hired to be pope way back when. (For terminological convenience, we might have referred to the counterfactual pope as JPII-prime to distinguish him from the actual JPII.) I'm surprised Bozzo hasn't raised the issue given that he's advocated this kind of analysis before in a seemingly highly similar context*, not to mention his being Italian.

For fans of markets, Tradesports has indeed a futures market for wagering on the next Pope. You can bet both on particular candidates (current favorite: Tettamanzi at 22.5) and country (current favorite: Italy at 43.7), which if there was more volume would probably open up weird arbitrage opportunities given the number of countries with only one possible pope. Given the online lists of the composition of the conclave, I'm still bullish in my hopes for a pope from somewhere in the developing world (Arinze [Nigeria] is trading at 15, Maradiaga [Honduras] at 11.5, and Hummes [Brazil] at 11). I thought about betting against an Italian successor given that it seems overpriced to me, but I can't figure out if the majority of people who would be betting in a Papal Futures Market are (1) people who are hardcore Vatican watchers, in which case I don't want to presume the info necessary to bet against them, or (2) the sort of people who will bet on anything, in which case why not.

* I will leave it to readers to judge which person has had more worldwide influence and worshipful reverence over the past two decades, Alan Greenspan or Pope John Paul II.

Friday, April 08, 2005

a madison moment

All I'm saying: it's 5pm on a Friday afternoon, and the area between the TA office and the restrooms here at 8th Floor Social Science reeks of something that smells--and, granted, my nose hardly is a beveragespectrometer--a whole lot like beer. Reeks, I tell you. Why this might be, I cannot even speculate.

Meanwhile, I continue to toil in my office, and will remain here for several hours.

take your anguish to work day

Presumably, you've been dying to know why it is that when you estimate a maximum-likelihood model without any weights or clustering in Stata, the likelihood that is maximized is called a "pseudolikelihood" if the variance-covariance matrix of the estimates are based on the formula for so-called "robust" standard errors, but is called a "likelihood" if the variance-covariance matrix of estimates is computed by the bootstrap method.

Yeah, me neither. Moreover, I resent the two hours of my life* this has taken up today. Especially since (a) it is so nice outside, (b) the answer isn't particularly important for my purposes anyway--it's just the inexplicable inconsistency that I can't deal with--and (c) I still don't know the answer.

* Proclamation: I recently decided that I would forever cease calling things as being a "waste of two hours of my time" and instead refer to them as a "waste of two hours of my life", since the latter seems more accurate. Time just happens to be what my life is made out of.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

yo, is this for real?

Check out this music video (requires QuickTime, as well as a receptable safe for you to vomit in). It's via Drek and Brayden. Is this serious? Regardless, I think it is such a complete and perfect triumph of ickyschmaltz as to close out the entire nascent and unsavory genre of post 9/11 patriotic kitsch.

Update: Seriously, this video is something special, even if you are never one to click on video links in blogs. On the one hand, the video has too high of production costs to actually be a joke, especially since it would be such a sick joke; on the other hand, it's just too catastrophically over the top for it to have actually been intended seriously. I've watched the video three times now, and it is like staring at a Necker Cube.

jfw award, most dramatic overestimate of the potential power of legislation

"WASHINGTON (AP) -- If Congress passes an energy bill, Americans may see more daylight-saving time.

Lawmakers crafting energy legislation approved an amendment Wednesday to extend daylight-saving time by two months, having it start on the first Sunday in March and end on the last Sunday in November. [...]

'The more daylight we have, the less electricity we use,' said [Rep. Ed] Markey, who cited Transportation Department estimates that showed the two-month extension would save the equivalent of 10,000 barrels of oil a day.
Note to Congressman Markey: while you can shift around the extent to which daylight corresponds with institutionalized waking hours, you cannot change the total number of hours of daylight, except perhaps by some massive mandatory seasonal migration busing program.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

ldm revealed!

So, lo, if you read the comments to my last post, you see a sort of valedictory confessional from Lonely Donut Man (aka a larger number of other names used for writing some of the stranger comments on this blog, as well as "Goesh", who has posted on sociology blogs far and wide). Anyway, as he promised, he did send me an e-mail:
Sent: Wednesday, April 06, 2005 12:27 PM
Subject: its me, LDM
I guess there has been some speculation on your part that I was a UW
student. You were on-target when you noted the time discrepancy in posts. I
shall remain a reader of your Blog, which by the way , is top-notch and one
of the better ones going. Congrats again on your upcoming sojourn to
Harvard ! Best Regards, [name]
And thus, it turns out that LDM is not anybody I know personally. Barring some truly spectacular mindgame, he really is, as he says, somebody who just stumbled across my blog last October or so and has been commenting ever since.

I'm not going to reveal his name, out of a strangely awed respect for somebody keeping up such an elaborate practical joke for such a long period of time. Besides, of course, what would it mean to tell you somebody's name when it is not somebody you would know? So you could Google him too, and find out that he went to high school here? Or that he works in one of these offices?

Blogs are a funny thing, you know. So is Google, for that matter.

Incidentally, I've said a couple times that I had a prime suspect for who LDM was. I never actually believed LDM was somebody in Wisconsin Sociology. What I thought was that it was this other person who used to read my blog and e-mail me very regularly who then mysteriously disappeared into the e-ther, not that long before LDM arrived on the scene. Now that I know that LDM isn't her, I wonder what did ever happen to her. I suppose she just got bored. Or maybe she dropped dead one day at her keyboard. I'd really have no way of knowing.

among the ground rules for dealing with me

Okay, so: If you try to proselytize me into your recent enchantment with "internal family systems theory," in which our psychology is supposed to be comprised of a set of complicated familial-like relationships among different aspects of the self--that is, our inner lives as massive-messy-family-reunion, only without any potato salad and taking place entirely in our heads--then you forfeit the right to be surprised if, for a period of at least six months and perhaps as long as a decade, our conversations are punctuated by my asking, apropos of nothing, "Who's your internal daddy?" or by my saying, "Wow, sounds like your internal crazy aunt in the basement is at it again." I'm sorry: it's like I've got this smartmouthed surly adolescent slouched on the sofa behind my cerebellum, and he just won't behave.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

the future mister macmaster

I went to the Natalie MacMaster concert last night at the Overture Center. Where has she been my whole life? I'm surprised I'm up here in the office today, instead of following her tour bus to wherever they're playing next.

Monday, April 04, 2005

i swoon

The release of Stata 9 has been announced.

Update: Granted, that it's $549 with the complete documentation set (and, I must have the complete documentation set) does take a little of the wobble out of my knees.

Update, 1:30pm: I just got the following message from Stata. My good Stata citizenship is going to be rewarded. As Careyoke and Dorotha would say, Awesomely awesome!
-----Original Message-----
From: [address]
Sent: Monday, April 04, 2005 12:48 PM
To: Jeremy Freese
Subject: Stata 9
We will be sending you a complimentary copy of Stata 9.
I was going to have a sales person prepare a "ship form" (instructions to
shipping as to what and where to ship your package), but I wanted to
confirm the address with you first.

still another post about the sociology rankings

Word is that a few graduate students here are upset about the US News ranking Wisconsin Sociology #1. Or, at least, they are bothered by the upbeat comments that our chair made in response to a local media query about the rankings. Apparently, she was supposed to talk about how some of our recent faculty losses make the ranking undeserved and, moreover, what we actually practice here is a systematic reign of cruelty over our students. Or something like that. Maybe The Truly Discontented around here will get together and write a letter to US News about the horrors of the department at the top of their sociology list. That would make for some good academic theater for the months before I'm headed off to my exile to Harvard.

Truthfully, at least a couple of my colleagues have expressed surprise that Wisconsin has remained #1 despite some of the losses we've had. News of losses, of course, spreads slowly and incompletely, and, besides, at least one apparent departure happened after the survey was in. That said, at least from my recollection of scores in the last rankings, the change from the previous Wisconsin-Berkeley tie to the present Wisconsin #1 outright is not a matter of Wisconsin's score going up, but Berkeley's score going down. For which, a plausible suspect can be named in three words: Public Sociology backlash. As I discussed in my last post, the top of the rankings are determined more by avoiding dis-adoration than by culling especial reverence, and, whatever you think of the public sociology omelet, it wasn't made without breaking some eggs.

In any case, at least if you look at the Berkeley website, being the premier home of "public sociology" seems to be taking over the vision of that department, or at least its graduate program. Which is all well and good until you remember that Burawoy's formulation of "public" sociology sets it apart from "policy" and "professional" sociology (not to say that Berkeley doesn't offer opportunities for "policy" or "professional" sociology, of course; but, in my opinion, their website makes them look narrower than they are). I was talking to somebody recently who visited Berkeley's Visit Day this spring as a prospective student. I asked him if they did a lot of talking about "public sociology", and he said they did, but then he mentioned that it would have been more helpful if someone had explained what "public sociology" was. Wow: leave it to sociology to turn even its banner phrase for engaging the public sphere into a matter of insular jargon.

In any case, one of the things about this place that drives me to despair is when students complain about this department being "narrow." Not having more faculty members doing what you specifically would like does not make a department "narrow." Whatever you want to say about other vectors of "quality" of a graduate program, Wisconsin has been, over the last five years, the most intellectually diverse of the top departments. Don't believe me? Here's a test: go to Dissertation Abstracts and get the titles of the last 25 Ph.D.'s defended at each of the top departments. Make a list of titles for each department that removes their names ("Department A", "Department B"). Show them to a few people who are not sociologists and ask them to rank the lists in terms of which seems the most diverse. My guess: Wisconsin wins hands down.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

what does it mean to be the top ranked sociology department, anyway?

Or, at least, how is it that the US News & World Report generates the ranking that has Wisconsin #1 and Berkeley #2?

As enthusiastic as I am to see Wisconsin at the top of the rankings, I would be lying if I said I thought that the US News methodology of rankings was particularly sound. It's plainly inferior, for example, to the methods that are used by news services to rank college sports teams.

Here's how it works: the chairs and directors of graduate studies of active Ph.D. granting programs (averaging at least one Ph.D. a year over the past five years) are given a survey. The ultimate response rates for the survey are low--about 50% of the sociology surveys were returned, which was actually the highest rate among all the Social Sciences & Humanities (less than a quarter of the psychology surveys were returned). I don't regard the low response rates as a problem, as my guess would be that there is a substantial correlation between not sending back the survey and being relatively uninformed about other departments and graduate programs. (That said, it seems very much an open question about whether anybody is really in a great position to know that much about very many other graduate programs, and so whether 'expert polling' can ultimately produce rankings with that much validity.)

The survey basically lists all the departments with Ph.D. programs in alphabetical order and asks respondents to rate each program on a scale of 1-5 (5=outstanding, 4=strong, 3=good, 2=adequate, or 1=marginal). To reduce the capacity of a single rogue voter to game the rankings, US News throws out the two highest and two lowest scores for each school, and then takes the average. The rankings are just the ordering of these average scores, with the additional weird twist that US News will regard two schools as tied if their averages are equal when rounded to the tenths digit. (In other words, while two schools with averages 4.86 and 4.84 are not considered tied, two schools with averages 4.84 and 4.76 are considered tied).

The problem with using this scheme to make distinctions among top-ranked departments is that only a minority of respondents end up casting the votes that make the ultimate difference in which department is top-ranked. Wisconsin is reported as having a 4.9 average, while Berkeley's average is 4.8. If we presume that no more than two people would be so ridiculous as to give either department a 3, what this implies is that somewhere between 5-15% of people gave Wisconsin a 4, while somewhere between 15-25% of people gave Berkeley a 4. The majority of respondents (somewhere between 60-90%) gave Wisconsin and Berkeley the same rating.

It could be, then, that if you had people specifically rank the top departments, a majority of respondents would have put Berkeley ahead of Madison. Indeed, if you had respondents rank departments and then determined The Number One Department using a system like the Instant Run-Off Voting System advocated by the Greens, it's mathematically possible that any of the departments with ratings of 4.3 of above (Wisconsin, Berkeley, Michigan, Chicago, North Carolina, Princeton, Stanford, Harvard, UCLA) could be the winner, although scenarios become increasingly implausible as you move down the list. The larger point, though, is that the relative difference between Wisconsin and Berkeley in the rankings is generated by the 10-40% who regard the difference between the two departments as enough to give one a 5 and the other a 4, and not at all by the 60-90% who thought the departments deserved the same rating on a 1-5 scale but who could still have definite opinions on which program is better.

This isn't to say Wisconsin wouldn't be #1 under an alternative and better set of rankings--I have no way of knowing--it's just to say that Wisconsin's ranking shouldn't be interpreted as meaning something more or different than it does.

Incidentally, the US News specialty rankings are done entirely differently. Respondents are asked merely to list (but not rank) up to ten departments that they regard as distinguished in that speciality. US News counts up how many respondents list each school and these counts provide the basis for the ranking. I think US News must do it this way because they recognize the limited knowledge chairs and DGSes must have of specialities outside their own. Anyway, this means that the specialty rankings are essentially a sort of like a gauge of the overall name recognition that a school has for a particular area. Presumably, in terms of what departments are ranked first vs. second in a specialty, the rankings are entirely a measure of the % of respondents who didn't think to include a school on their list, and doesn't at all reflect whatever relative opinions about the two programs are held by the vast majority of respondents who included both on their lists. (Also, my understanding is that there is no equivalent of throwing out the two lowest scores for the specialty rankings, so they are more vulnerable to being gamed by respondents leaving peer departments in a specialty off their lists.)

Saturday, April 02, 2005

more on the sociology rankings

From the US News & World Report rankings of graduate schools, here are the rankings of departments for the subspecialty "Sex & Gender" in sociology:
1. University of California–Berkeley
2. University of California–Santa Barbara
3. University of Wisconsin–Madison
4. University of Washington
5. University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
6. Stanford University (CA)
University of Southern California
8. University of Maryland–College Park
9. Indiana University–Bloomington
10. Florida State University
New York University
University of California–Los Angeles
13. Northwestern University (IL)
University of Massachusetts–Amherst
16. CUNY Graduate School and University Center
University of Texas–Austin
18. North Carolina State University
Rutgers State University–New Brunswick (NJ)
University of Minnesota–Twin Cities
As my colleague Myra Ferree pointed out to me this morning, it is especially interesting to note in light of the whole l'affaire L'Summers that there isn't a single Ivy League school in the rankings. I wonder if there how many other subspecialties there are in any discipline where you can have rankings that list *20* departments and still not include any Ivies. If my laptop battery wasn't so low here at Borders, I would research this further.

Update, noon: On campus, I decided to feed my internet addiction by checking the above proposition. In all of the Social Sciences rankings (49 different rankings in History, Political Science, English, Psychology, Criminology, Sociology, and Economics), the only set of rankings besides Sex & Gender not to include a single Ivy league school was "Industrial and Organizational Psychology", and there only 10 schools were ranked instead of 20.

Friday, April 01, 2005

wow, they don't call it the BADger herald for nothing

While many large municipalities can support only one daily newspapers, The University of Wisconsin-Madison itself supports two different student dailies, the Daily Cardinal and the Badger Herald. One of the papers started in protest of the other's not being radical enough in its coverage of the Vietnam War, or something like that. Anyway, I've hardly ever looked at either of them because, well, I never found it particularly interesting to read student newspapers when I was a student, so why would I start now?

However, a visitor left one of the papers in my office today, while the other was on the floor in the hallway outside my office. Seems that both papers did April Fools' pages today, and so I thought I would check out what they came up with. You would think, given that they have to play the role of serious journalists the rest of year, they would revel and triumph in the opportunity to cut loose.

The Daily Cardinal was, in fact, funny. "Drunken Spanish presentation leaves class horrified, impressed" with a photo of a slovenly looking undergrad pointing at a whiteboard with a giant scrawled ¡Hola! That's funny. "Confused student group forgets the point of protest" with a photo of people holding up signs that say "Kerry 4 Prez", "Don't Taze Pigs" and "Poop". Reasonably funny. A front story about the mayor offering to hold one of Madison's rowdier block parties at his home. Funny enough. "Spot on the Rug Just Keeps Getting Bigger." A little too self-consciously Onionish, but not bad.

But, dear God, is the Badger Herald's April Fools effort lame. Presumably, if I read the actual Badger Herald, if I would find it more unintentionally amusing than the extent to which this issue amuses. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, the Badger Herald doesn't have any online link to any of the April Fools content, so I can't give you a portal so you can witnessing all its failed-funniness for yourself.

About a third of the first page is given to this inexplicable cartoon of two looks-like-chicken birds dressed in pimp and prostitute attire with the caption "Big pimping". Yeah, side-splitting, I know. In line with standard mock-newspaper fare, they offer a set of joke horoscopes, which may be lazy humor would at least seem reasonably hard to mess up. However, look:

In other parts, I'm not sure if the people writing this just thought, "You know, all we have to do is vomit up some stuff that's politically incorrect, and everybody'll think we're hilarious!" You'd think, for example, that being less than one year removed from a TA strike, something funny could be wrought from the longstanding battle between the TA union and the University. Instead, this is the best they can do: