Monday, May 30, 2005

from detroit (airport): i may not have found a 'hood in boston, but i did finally sport a hood of a different sort

Back when I was finishing my Ph.D., my family wanted to come down from Bloomington for graduation. Given how much Freeses hate traveling outside of Iowa--the only time they had come to Bloomington was to help me move there--this was a big gesture. I nixed the idea, because I would have had to go through the ceremony before I was actually finished with my dissertation, and I was still certain that there was a nonzero probability that doom would befall me and drive me out without ever having finished my dissertation. Indeed, as it turned out, I wouldn't even let friends plan a party for my dissertation defense, as I was too worried about failing. I did get cards from my parents and siblings congratulating me on finishing my dissertation, and my brother even gave me a pen and pencil set with "Dr. Jeremy Freese" engraved on it.

My friend Kathryn is considerably more psychologically healthy than I am, and so she is free from irrational and neurotic qualms about early celebrations. And so, even though she is not defending her dissertation until late next month, she went through graduation earlier this month, and her family threw her a party this weekend in Boston. Especially in juxtaposition to my disastrous quest for fall housing, her party also was the most gratifying and successful part of the trip. Successful for her as well: I am not allowed to divulge the total haul in cash, gift cards, and merchandise from relatives, but suffice it to say that I'm hoping that I don't have to pay that much this fall in monthly rent, even if I do live in Cambridge proper. And that's not counting the trip to Paris from her parents.

Anyway, here is Kathryn in her gown, tam, and Indiana University hood:

As the only Ph.D. at the party, I insisted that I had to be the one to help her with her hood. Meanwhile, she had the idea of getting pictures of other family members and friends in her graduation get-up, but I nixed this plan. "You think when a priest gets frocked, he has everybody who shows up at his parts gets to wear around his collar?" However, later on, I did take advantage of the graduation photo-op that my mother never got:

of course, it would be more impressive if the slogan was 'give us the weak, we'll take off the weight'

But, still, I've got one week of Online Weight Watchers behind me, and it's been going well enough so far. To be sure, I've eaten not only way better than I usually do, but I've eaten more healthy food and less calories than I would had I just made some amorphous resolution to "diet". The points system, combined with the online method of tracking them, is a pretty effective means of making you conscious of everything you put in your mouth. I'm confident that I continue to do that kind of tracking, this dieting effort will be successful, and if I don't, it won't. In any case, I can certainly see how it is a system that could be very effective for other people, including people who struggle with other kinds of diets, so even if it ends up not working for me it's something I would recommend.

I'm supposed to do my weekly weigh-in today, but I'm untrusting of the consistency between the scale where I'm staying and my scale at home. I think I'm going to try to hold out and not weigh myself for another week. (So instead of "give us a week and we'll take off the weight", it's "give us a fortnight and we'll make you more light.") At which point, if I stay with the plan as successfully in the week ahead as I did this past week, I'm going to be seriously distraught if I haven't lost any weight, although hopefully not so distraught as to console myself with a few dozen eclairs.

from southborough, ma: my own memorial day

"Hi, Jeremy?"
"This is [unexpected person]"
"Oh, hi..."
"I'm just calling to check if you are alive."
"Well, uh, I am. Why would you think that I wasn't alive?"
"I had a dream that you died."
In which I had a massive heart attack, and she was assigned to write the obituary.
"Was it a nice obituary?"
"The dream didn't really go that far. But it was sad."
"If they run a photo with it, make sure it's a good one." (Like maybe this one from NinaNet, which a friend recently suggested I use if I started online dating.)
"Anyway, you're not dead."
"No, I'm as healthy as an obese horse."
"And, I'm not psychic, so everything's okay."
"Thanks for checking, though."
"Have a happy memorial day. Bye."

Three seconds later: But, wait, what does she mean, And I'm not psychic! I mean, I presume she means that she's not clairvoyant, since being able to sense when someone a thousand miles away had died would count at least in my own (deceased) mind as being "psychic". But, even then, presumably since she doesn't think of herself as someone who has the ability to see what is happening elsewhere simultaneously, she would also be unaware--until some stunning confirmatory example--of her ability to have visions of the future. So, now I am sitting here convincing myself that I am not, sometime later today, going to drop dead here at Borders. (BTW, if I do, somebody make sure Dorotha gives all the marble magnets of mine that she's "borrowed"/stolen back to my estate.)

Saturday, May 28, 2005

from southborough, ma: update

The search for an apartment here has been something between "unsuccessful" and "a disaster." Two major problems keeping popping up like stuffed rodents through whack-a-mole holes, with me lacking the mallet speed and wherewithal to effectively pound them down. This has caused an occasional, terrified sense of "Dear God, what have I gotten myself into" regarding this whole Harvard adventure, but these mortifying experiences have been just fleeting with my enthusiasm invariably returning.

The first is that, in contrast to earlier plans of moving in earlyish-July, recent developments have made me want an August 1 lease, and I appear to be a couple of weeks too early for the market for that. So there isn't a lot of stuff to look at, so far as I can tell.

The second is that I have a great deal of uncertainty about how much I want to be spending on a place next year. In truth, I actually know exactly what I want to spend: the minimum necessary to find a place in which I am not going to feel miserable or overly hassled in ways that lead me to not take good advantage of the change of scenery. However, it is unclear what exactly constitutes this kind of housing much less how much I am going to have to spend for that.

The problem yesterday was that I think I had let Tales Of The Boston Housing Market intimidate me into thinking I was going to have to spend more for less than the places that I was able to look at yesterday. So I looked at places that would be absolutely dandy places to live, but they were so dandy that I started to think about how much more I would like to hang onto the extra $200-$350 that I could be spending renting one of these places.

So, ugh, it looks like likely that I am going to end up having to fly out here again in a few weeks to find a place.

All the while, you might be thinking: Did he really have to go to Boston to figure these things out? Shouldn't he have spent much more quality time on craigslist or making possible use of possible contacts in the Boston/Cambridge area? You're right, you're right, you're right, you're right. If you want to say you told me so, feel free to use the comments field, e-mail, or just shout it at me upon my return.

On the bright side, it's Day Six of my diet and so far, so good.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


I have got so much to do before I leave Thursday to go apartment hunting in Boston. But, of course, I can't miss the last karaoke night with Ms. Careyoke herself in residence. Especially since it is also a Dorotha-birthday-and-various-other-departures blowout as well. Forgive me, social science, for all I am about to not get done.

Monday, May 23, 2005

something had to be done

Longtime JFW readers may remember that I went through a period of about 9 months in 2003 in which I gained weight at a rate equal to scotch-taping a Twix bar to my body every day, and that subsequent efforts to use the online forces of shame to slimnify myself were dismal failures, as have been less public (and, well, less committed) efforts. So, now, I have plunked down money for the virtual counsel of virtual professionals. Besides, much enthusiasm for WW was earlier expressed by JFW readers, so I'm putting my money where your mouth was.

Wish me luck (or, more pertinently, wish me willpower and perseverence). I'll keep you apprised of how this goes.

back in madison: is it a wildebeest? a giant sloth? turn left to find out!

On my way to work this morning:

Being ever Your Courageous Blogpal, I turned left, despite the chaos that would ensue if I was attacked and killed by some giant creature before I had the chance to turn in grades. As it happened, however, I didn't see anything lumbering or slumbering by the side of the road.

Update, 9AM: Dorotha thinks that instead of this being a sign warning me of a large animal to my left, I was supposed to read it as an instruction for myself as a large animal to turn left. Which I did!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

from state college: so what kind of weekend events does the conference center at penn state get?

The listing here by the entrance of the Penn Stater Conference Center has three events today:

1. Bald Eagle Area High School Prom

2. International Conference on the Future of Cognitive Aging Research

3. Penn State Football Managers Reunion

Too bad I will be busy tonight grading (still not done) and preparing my remarks for tomorrow (ditto), or else I would slip downstairs and take some surreptitious pictures for JFW of this year's Prom Fashions, at least insofar as Central Pennsylvania goes.

kruschchev said 'we will bury you'. of course, for postmodern captialism, it is not enough to simply bury your adversaries...

...but afterward, you have to also turn them into hipster kitsch! And so, Poland offered not only the opportunity to tour some of the impositions of the Soviet regime, but allowed one to do so in a way that turned Stalinist ambitions into a campy communist romp:

(Unfortunately, we didn't have a chance to take this tour. Surely, it would have been better than the one guided tour we did take, in which an unfortunate arrangement of exhibits and Marta-the-inept-tour-guide sucked all the interest and enthusiasm out of a tour of the Jagiellonian museum where Copernicus once studied.)

Friday, May 20, 2005

some people see the glass as half empty, while others see it as a nice courtyard

Back when we were in Krakow, Nina and I were talking about how much we liked our hotel rooms.

Nina chirps: "And I also love looking out at the window. I have this view of a nice little courtyard."
Jeremy complains: "Really? My view is just a parking lot."

Then we realized that, given that Nina was staying in Room 211B and I was in Room 111B--meaning that my room was directly beneath hers--whatever it was we are looking out on was ultimately the same thing. Here it is:

I will leave it to the reader to judge which characterization of the area best applies.

from state college: drowsy and introverted in central pennsylvania

I'm here for the International Conference on the Future of Cognitive Aging Research. The conference program actually looks interesting, even though I have only an indirect connection to cognitive aging research. At the same time, the indirect connection means that I know virtually no one here. Which leads me to the suspect that this will be one of those conferences where I will spend the "break" and "social" times hiding from people and doing things like this blog post. Ugh, I am so freakishly shy; these things make me feel like I'm thirty-four going on gawky fourteen.

Even if you are somebody who is familiar with small college towns in the middle of nowhere, State College seems to me like it must be the most-small and most-middle-of-nowhere for housing a university of its size and consequence. I flew in on one of those planes in which I had seat 9A and this meant that I was in the next to last row in the only seat on my side of the aisle. Unlike practically all of the flying world, I actually prefer those kinds of planes, solely on the grounds that they carry fewer people and so don't evoke my socially pathological hyperskittishness the way larger planes and their accompanying crowds can.

Incidentally, once you've spent a week taking several trips on Air France, the Spinzels that Northwest hands out during its in-flight food distribution just don't really do it anymore.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

from madison: true story

Earlier today I was in the Paris airport wandering around during my four hour layover. A tall guy who looks maybe twenty years old comes up to me.

"Excuse me, but are you, um, Jeremy Freese."
"Yes" [said in that way where a person indicates they have no idea what's coming next]
"This is weird but, I saw you and... I read your blog."
"No way!"

Turns out his name was Isaac and he's a student at Swarthmore who is also from Madison. He was on his way to Dakar. I was sufficiently caught by surprise that I neglected to ask key questions like whether he really did recognize me just from the pictures of myself that have been posted on the blog (and, of course, the visage on the upper left of this page), or what about our shared Madison connection led him to my blog in the first place.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

from warsaw: because it is chopin, and because it is his heart

[post text mysteriously missing. this may end up being one of the tragic lost posts of Warsaw]

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

from krakow: oh my god! we got tattoos!

(Or, maybe we really thought about getting tattoos. Or, maybe some of us then really went ahead and got tattoos. Or, maybe it was just that some of us really thought about getting tattoos but then chickened out. Or, maybe some of us thought about getting tattoos and at least one of us went ahead and really truly did indeed get a tattoo. I've been instructed to be vague here on the blog. That by itself should say something, perhaps. Or perhaps not. Don't you just love when bloggers are precious and elliptical?)

In any case, I trace the whole thing back to Paris, where Madeline and Nina's enthusiasm for matching scarves seemed innocuous enough:

Plus, the scarves were such a good deal--at least compared to how expensive everything else seemed--that I bought a couple also as gifts for my sister.

But in Krakow, after we went on a trip looking for gifts at the medicinal tea store (prospective recipient, you know who you are), we noticed the tattoo parlor across the way. It turned out that the parlor was through a couple of heavy doors and up a flight of forboding stairs, but this was by itself enough to make us turn back:

Whatever happened from there, you would think that a tattoo parlor called "Lizard" in a foreign country where instructions provided to the tattooess would need to be provided through an intermediary might scare a person away. In any case, you can imagine that afterward at least one of us would need a nap, and all of us would need drinks.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

from paris: chronicling the more mellifluous part of this trip

Several posts about our trip are already up on NinaNet (starting here). If you've ever spent any time reading Nina's blog, you know that she really loves to post photos of food. As somebody with High Hydration Needs, I have always felt she was a little unfair about this, because she has never given drink anything like the kind of visual attention she lavishes on food. So, knowing that she was going to also be posting many photos of food from the restaurants we visited on this trip, I decided that I would make myself the official chronicler of the beverage encounters on this sojourn. Forthwith, my first dispatch:

1. Sure, Air France has free alcohol on international flights. But, if you have access to the business lounge, you don't have to wait until you actually get on the plane before you start drinking for free. Nina and I had a glass of champagne just before boarding:

2. Of course, we also took advantage of the drinks offered immediately after takeoff:

3. The second serving of wine came while Nina and I were playing chess*. Although she spent some time sentences to one of the Eastern European chess camps in a girl, Nina says she hadn't played chess in two decades; I hadn't played in something close to one. Anyway, she lasted 11 moves:

4. It's not like we were going to pass up wine with dinner. (If you've never flown Air France, by the way, be prepared for complete culture shock with the airplane food. I spontaneously shouted 'Viva La France' and started singing La Marseillaise while eating my pasta.

5. After spending something like three hours struggling with a series of delays in getting from the plane to our hotel--during which I was most certainly not singing La Marseillaise--Madeline**, Nina, and I had a carafe of white wine:

6. In a cafe in the late afternoon, I finally got a Coca-Cola. I'm not sure when the last time was that I went 24 consecutive hours with neither caffeine nor e-mail:

7. Nina selected the restaurant for dinner in part, she said, because of their attractive waiters. I didn't think they were anything to ecrire home about, but I'm not always good at judging the comeliness of members of my own set. In any case, the three of us had a bottle of burgundy:

*Also, according to Nina, the Camic family's favorite musical.

** I was the one who suggested this pseudonym, btw. Aren't I so the literary dickens?

from paris: how do you say 'lost in translation' in french?

The hotel where we are staying has Wi-Fi in the Lobby. Nina was down here blogging last night, but I was way too tired for any such iJinks and went to bed. Even so, and despite my own pleas to have tomorrow's start time be 8 instead of 7, I found myself wide awake at 4AM. I thought I might as well come down to the lobby to check e-mail and perhaps begin to catch up on my own blogging. In the corner of the lobby was Nina with her laptop, already back to composing e-mails and posts after three hours of sleep.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

from the plane: so, how did seattle go?

I had a fabulous time in Seattle! My talk didn't go particularly well, especially for the amount of time I spent preparing slides-for-the-talk-per-se as opposed to the paper on which the talk is supposed to be based. But, at least in my assessment, it didn't seem to be a disaster either, so I will chalk it up as being All Good (which is, so far as I can tell, a phrase used on the streets of Seattle more even than the Madison's Whole Foods store).

But I certainly enjoyed the time I got to spend there meeting with various faculty and graduate students. Washington is officially my new Sociology Department Crush (shh! don't tell!). Especially given that they have both (1) a Center for Statistics in the Social Sciences and (2) Perhaps The Most Beautiful Campus Ever.

A downside is that I had bought a new windbreakish jacket for my Seattle-to-Europe travels, and I appear to have left it there, quite possibly in Pepper Schwartz's office.

In addition to my time hanging around their department, I got to spend some nice time off campus with my friend e. When I've been to Seattle before, I've done the various touristy things: Space Needle, the Jimi Hendrix museum, Pike Street Market, the locks, etc.. This time, though, I saw the coolest thing in all my Seattle travels: the Seattle Public Library. If you are at all a bibliophile or publicspherephile, you have to check out (ha!) the library if you are ever in Seattle. (The link to the slideshow at the bottom of this page has some great photos of the library.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

from chicago: my lush layover

I am writing this post from a room in the Chicago Hilton, where I was willing to pay $135 so that I could have a place to sleep for eight hours, of which I actually only slept about two. This does seem a ridiculous bit of indulgence, especially considering that my sister who recently moved back to my small Iowa hometown is currently pay $125/month for her rent. But, when I first went to my room, there was unfortunately somebody else still in there, which eventually led me getting a room for seven hours at $99. Plus, my new room is on a premium floor, which means that my present digs will probably be the swankiest way I ever spend a layover.

I had breakfast in the Hilton, where they sat me next to a seemingly-mostly-crazy older man, who, of course, insisted on trying to have a conversation with me even though I tried to provide every indication of interest in doing my grading. At one point, he said: "I come here a lot at night. To the bar. I meet a lot of women here. Classy women. Stewardesses. Flight attendants, I guess you are supposed to call them now. My son is a flight attendant. He's a gay. Or at least, he says he's a gay, I don't really think he is." He also insisted on trying to speak Spanish to our waiter, asking him if he had a pair of "scissero" for him to cut the tags off something and then asking him where the "banyo" was. According to his nametag, our waiter's name was "Ali," and he had no idea what this guy was trying to say to him, except for those moments when the guy lapsed into plain English.

from seattle: how certain entrepeneurial schemes are compromised when the owner switches to decaf

I wish I had taken my camera around Seattle to take photographs of some of the signs, a la one of Ann's regular photomotifs. My favorite was a sign for a shop called Insomniax Coffee, whose sign indicated that it closed at 8PM on weeknights and 3PM on weekends. Moreover, the sign also said it opened at 6:30AM, but I walked by there at 7 and it was still closed, presumably because the proprietor had overslept.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

from seattle: it shouldn't be possible to spell alcohol without little e

I'm here in Seattle to give a talk in the sociology department. They offered to put me up in a hotel, but I opted to stay instead on an air mattress on the floor of my pal e's apartment.

In any event, it was wonderful staying with e. I was happy from the moment I walked in her front door and discovered that the very first thing one sees upon entering her place are the rows and rows of bottles on her liquor cabinet. It can be so comforting to get these little reminders that even though all of us old friends are aging and changing, some things ever remain the same:

Monday, May 09, 2005

seattle: what can you do with a sociology major?

From the NYT (via a colleague):
"The most important Sunni cabinet post [in Iraq], minister of defense, went to a onetime officer in Mr. Hussein's feared General Security Directorate who fled Iraq under the threat of a death sentence. The man, Sadoon al-Dulaimi, left Iraq in the 1980's, became a sociologist in Britain and came back after Mr. Hussein was ousted two years ago."
If only he had taken my methods course, and perhaps participating in the Concentration in Analysis and Research undergrad program at Wisconsin, he would be running the country right now. And you can bet that there would be some fine social survey data coming out of Iraq as well.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

each had always wanted to open a restaurant and after they married a year ago they decided to go for virtually certain bankruptcy

I had breakfast this morning at Larry B's, a relatively new restaurant on State Street. It was my first time there. Here's its backstory (from the Cap Times):
"Brenda and Tim Kasmar-Ehlers are setting out to bring what they term 'small town Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, to State Street.'

The couple is doing this with the debut of their restaurant, Larry B's, 617 State St., which opened Tuesday.

They recently sold their six-bedroom Fort Atkinson home, their sports car and other possessions and moved in above the restaurant.

'It's kind of like a midlife crisis gone bad,' said Brenda, 45, who has run a family day care business for more than half her life. Tim's background is working for the Target Corporation but he also has five years of restaurant experience.

Each had always wanted to open a restaurant and after they married a year ago they decided to go for it."

"We decided to let this thing fly. Our children think we are crazy," Brenda said, adding that between them, they have five grown kids and a couple of grandchildren.
The reality: I take no joy in saying this, but Larry B's has got to be the most doomed restaurant I have ever been to in my life. If you were going to write a musical, How To Fail In Business While Really Trying, an ideal setting would be Larry B's. The most fatal thing: they have these weird plastic seats that are sort of interesting to look at but are wildly uncomfortable and, if you are the sort of person who has a little too much junk in the trunk (if you know what I mean), you spend the entire meal sliding forward out of them. The chairs are also high enough up that you can't anchor yourself on the ground, so, if you are sliding forward out of them, you have to anchor your feet on one of the other stools, as well as perch your paunch onto the table, just to eat in equilibrium. There is no way you can have a successful diner-style restaurant in Wisconsin, even in the student-dominated sections of Madison, if your restaurant is ergonomically designed to discomfit/torture customers who are at all overweight. Perhaps they could make up for this if they had great food. However: they don't have great food. Indeed, their breakfast burritos showed no more than a middling grasp of how one goes about making a tortilla, and this was supposed to be their breakfast special.

the itinerary

May 9, 8:10am: Depart Madison (United 5552)
May 9, 12:14pm: Arrive Seattle (United 331)

May 11, 11:15pm: Depart Seattle (United 380)
May 12, 4:57am: Arrive Chicago (United 5557)

May 12, 5:40pm: Depart Chicago (AF 0051)
May 13, 8:50am: Arrive Paris

May 15, 12:35pm: Depart Paris (AF 2346)
May 15, 2:50pm: Arrive Warsaw

May 19, 7:05am: Depart Warsaw (AF 1247)
May 19, 3:25pm: Arrive Chicago (AF 0050)

May 20, 7:20am: Depart Madison (NW 1136)
May 20, 11:42am: Arrive State College, PA (NW 3208)

May 22, 4:08pm: Depart State College, PA (NW 3001)
May 22, 7:34pm: Arrive Madison (NW 1687)

May 26, 11:55am: Depart Madison (Con 3231)
May 26, 5:00pm: Arrive Boston (Con 1030)

May 30, 5:45pm: Depart Boston (Con 1431)
May 30, 9:14pm: Arrive Madison (Con 2382)

Jun 1, 6:20am: Depart Madison (United 5837)
Jun 1, 9:47am: Arrive Aspen (United 7053)

Jun 4, 4:40pm: Depart Aspen (United 7071)
Jun 4, 11:01pm: Arrive Madison (United 5572)

Saturday, May 07, 2005

commencement puzzle

My friend Kathryn is walking through her university's Ph.D. graduation ceremony this weekend. Friday night, her parents asked her whether she wanted her graduate present then or after the ceremony. Her parents have apparently been making little allusions for weeks about how they had bought just the right gift for the occasion, and Kathryn suggested that it might be a piece of jewelry. Canny woman of the new millenium that she is, Kathryn replied that she'd rather wait, unless the gift would be something that would "enhance her outfit" for the ceremony.

"No," her mother said immediately, in a way that made Kathryn think the gift must not be anything wearable at all. Then she added: "Or, at least, it'd be pretty tacky."

At which point Kathryn's dad chimed in: "But you'd never have to worry about losing your keys again!"

Which resulted in both Kathryn's parents laughing uncontrollably for some protracted period of time. Whatever this exchange meant, to them it was hilarious.

So now Kathryn has no idea what her parents might have gotten her. Any ideas?

the secret of why the alamo was able to hold out for so long: skippy and smuckers

Dorotha is one of our department's many proud Texans. Her contribution to Friday's party for the Social Psychology and Microsociology area: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches shaped like the state of Texas! (Actually, before she explained what they were, I thought they were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches shaped like the birthmark of this woman I knew in college, which was really bizarre.)

Speaking of Texas, on Thursday I was driving in the Willy Street neighborhood (the most Madisonly neighborhood in all of Madison) when I saw this great example of bumper sticker comedy devolution. I was following a car that had the anti-Bush bumper sticker, "Somewhere in Texas there is a village missing its idiot," which, whatever you think of such humor, is a coherent joke, but then just a few minutes later I passed a car that had a bumper sticker that said, "Somewhere in Texas there is a ranch missing its ass," which, whatever you think of such humor, is not a very coherent joke. I wondered whether if I just kept driving a little farther on Willy Street I would see a bumper sticker that abandoned all pretense and just said "Somewhere in Texas is a befuddled cowboy missing his rectum," but, alas, this was not to be.

my career as a senator

[Note: The meeting discussed in this post was on Monday; I wrote this post earlier this week but am just now posting it.]

In addition to whatever other hats I wear around the University--such as being my department's chief Fashion Don't--I am also a member of the Faculty Senate. My department has a tradition of electing recent arrivals as its senators: the stated principle being that it's a "good way for new people to learn how the university works", which I've suspected is mathematically equivalent to "the rest of us are not doing it again."

I'm enthusiastic enough about University Service, but my experience in faculty senate meetings has varied from finding them mostly boring to regarding them as the single most systematic waste of time inflicted on me during my time at Madison. Yesterday was the last meeting of the year, and I was looking forward to skipping it, but then it turned out that I needed to read a memorial resolution for a deceased emeritus sociologist and so not only did I have to attend, but I had to sit in the front row through the whole thing.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison prides itself on its "shared governance." In faculty senate meetings, you will hear the principle of "shared governance" extolled every ten minutes or so; it would be one of the squares you'd be sure to get out of the way early if it was on your Faculty Senate Bingo board. We are also regularly reminded about how, as faculty senators, we are the crucial cogs in the shared governance machine.

In terms of how things actually work, a big part of what shared governance means is that almost all of the real work gets done in small committees who interact with the faculty senate through reports. This indeed does seem an effective way of accomplishing things, and I can imagine where serving on these committees could be interesting and rewarding. Sitting in an auditorium hearing reports from those committees is many times informative but doesn't exactly make oneself feel a part of "governance," if you know what I mean.

The other part of what shared governance means is the discussion and debate portions of the faculty senate meetings, which is mostly comprised of the same four or five old guys talking to one another. Seriously, there are something like 150 senators, and, over the course of this year, I would estimate that at least 75% of the discussion and questions from the floor have been by five guys (yes, all guys: by my count, women have stepped to the microphones for discussion three times total in the eight meetings this year--generally speaking, faculty senate meetings are the most massive manversation I have ever witnessed).

Yesterday, one of the frequent contributors sat in the seat nearest one of the microphones and literally raised his hand to offer an observation for each and every new point of business that was raised. Personally, I just can't ever imagine having the sense of self-importance required to monopolize a forum like that.

(This particular senator, it should be said, generally does have opinions I agree with. In contrast, there are a couple others who, when they speak, I cannot believe the pampered sense of elitest entitlement that comes out of their mouths. I mean, we can complain about the unfriendly Board of Regents and state legislature, but sometimes I can't help but feel if the citizenry of Wisconsin got to hear what some faculty members feel faculty "rights" are and what is owed to us, they would be even more supportive of giving us a hostile budgetary comeuppance. Perhaps the part of being a professor that I like least is that part where you are expected to presume yourself to be more worthwhile than other people in lesser jobs. That, and the part where are you are supposed to think you are more worthwhile than other people while simultaneously lamenting why the rest of the world can't be As Good A Liberal as you are.)

In any case, the strongest preoccupation of the Faculty Senate has been how to protest the way the Board of Regents handled the dismissal of a tenured faculty member (named Marder) at UW-Superior. The dismissal happened in 2001, and this dispute has been going on ever since. It is said to mark the beginning of a slippery slope that will eventually compromise tenure and academic freedom for the entire UW system, although, as far as slippery slopes go, if you go five years without any further episodes of slippage, it doesn't seem to this bumpkin like the ground you are standing on could be all that slick.

In any case, so far as I can tell, the Board of Regents did handle the case badly, although part of what has the faculty senate up in arms is that the state is supposed to recognize the special right to extrasecure tenure that faculty have over other kinds of state employees whose positions also involve "tenure." A reference to how tenure for us is not the same as the kind of tenure that state government offers to "custodial staff" was made in one discussion. Sure, I am onboard with this argument when it pertains to actual academic freedom, but--sacrilegious as this might sound--when the idea seems also to be that faculty are also supposed to have special rights with regard to, say, a series of charges of gross (in various senses) sexual misconduct, etc., etc., I get less enthusiastic about the idea of rallying around professorial privilege.

Yesterday's meeting featured two separate motions about the Marder case. One was a straightforward and seemingly reasonable motion that passed unanimously after brief discussion. The other was this proposal by this elderly professor in the math department who wanted to faculty senate to make some kind of wideranging condemnation of the Board of Regents and the last two Wisconsin state attorneys general. His motion was last on the agenda, and by the time we got to it, it was already a few minutes after 5 (the meeting is supposed/hoped to be over by 5). Rather than just quickly get his motion open for discussion, he insisted on giving a long, rambling speech on behalf of his motion, which was following by him providing a long, rambling response to a question from one of the other four guys who speak. So that by the time there was any possibility of real discussion from the floor, it was already 5:30 and all kinds of people had left. Which meant that then, of course, somebody raised the question of whether we still had a quorum, and they counted and we were way short. The meeting was thus immediately adjourned, and the math guy will have to introduce his motion next year, which I am sure he will.

But, alas, I'll be in Cambridge. The department has already figured out which assistant professor will fill out my term. My response to him when he accepted the job was: sucker.

Friday, May 06, 2005

me, i have no problems with the alone part; it's the still part i can never seem to manage

From the book Ghosting by Jennie Erdal, a memoir of a woman who spent twenty years as a ghostwriter for a man who was part of London's publishing elite:
“You need to be alone and still, in order to write. And he was never, ever still and scarcely ever alone.”
Especially because even when I'm physically still, I'm never very cognitively still. And even when I'm cognitively still, it's hard for me to stay cognitively still on the same thing for multiple days in a row.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

my god, i can't believe how it works every time!

1. Let hair grow until it seems ridiculously slovenly and unkempt.

2. Get haircut.

3. Then:
"Did you get a haircut?"
(amiable but slightly puzzled look) "No, why?"

4. If necessary:
"Yes, you did!"
(confused but well-meaning look) "No. I mean, maybe three weeks ago..."

5. Revel in the cognitive disarray.

the end of the semester is here...

...and with it, comes little time for blogging. I wrote a longish post about my life on the Faculty Senate, which might be going up sometime. Otherwise, I'll probably only be blogging if a moment of an e-resistible urge strikes.

Meanwhile, read Martine's blog. It's good, or, at least, once your scroll down past her recent quiz addiction. She's been reading If The Buddha Blogged, a book which has also served as some inspiration for me, and it has helped her post with compassion and equanimity. Plus, she's made this rousing promise for some exciting topics of upcoming posts. Take it away, Martine!

Additionally, you can read about Brayden's efforts to steal away my forthcoming-fiancee-elect.

In any case, in two hours I will be standing in front of a class for the last time for at least 27 months. So now I have to continue getting ready for that...

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

come mr. tally mon, tally me banannuals

There are supposedly cultures where the numbering system consists entirely of words for "one", "two", and "lots". Because, really, once you get past two, what value is there for keeping track? Sociology can be a lot like that. Me, however, one of my secret superhero identities is that of The Enumerator. Oh, yeah, baby: if something can be counted, I'll count. Even so, I dithered for several minutes about whether I'd be a jerk to tell the organizers of the graduation reception that, although I didn't want to sound nitpicky, it is actually the fourth annual graduation reception, unless we skipped a year. For the skeptical, I was able to demonstrate this using a method called Proof by Devah: Devah being at the first ceremony, then spending a year in France, then spending a year at Northwestern, and then spending a year at Princeton. Ergo: fourth annual.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

really, all i would do is watch the part in the opening credits where she throws her hat in the air. again and again. and have some more macaroons.

So, seems like everybody in SconnieSpace has been taking the What is Your Seduction Style? quiz that is making the rounds online (see, inter alia, here and here and here and here)? Despite expressions of skepticism about such quizzes by myself and (more amusingly) others, I thought: why not? Why shouldn't I use the powers to quizilla to find out whether I am a "dandy" or a "coquette", especially since it has never occurred to me to apply either of these terms (much less other alternatives, like "siren" or "rake") to myself at any point in my life. In any event, the quizilla tarot cards did not turn up kindly anyway. I'm not sure which of my answers tipped the quiz off to my true nature:

Your Seduction Style: The Repellent

Face it: you don't really have a "style", much less one
that could be effectively deployed toward any sort of
goal of "seduction." Indeed, you are so awkward that
often when people meet you they think there is
something wrong with you. What you have imagined to
be your "quirky charm" has instead been all along just
weird and unsettling. You are doomed to be alone,
excepting whatever plants or pets you may possess.
Build a fort out of couch cushions in your living
room and hide; to keep you company, we recommend
macaroons and Season Four of the Mary Tyler

Sunday, May 01, 2005

i shot the sherpa

Conversation this evening at Dotty's: What are the 10 jobs for which you would be the most ill-suited? The final lists:

Emily's #9 was borne of her conviction that she would be especially poorly-suited for any job that required a lot of grip strength. Note that she selected this over such seeming winning suggestions as "Cruise Director" and "Debutante Party Planner."


I'm sitting here doing some grading at Borders. While I recognize my liberal credentials would be bolstered if I expressed affection for some independent bookstore and independent/fair-trade coffeehouse, I love Borders. Indeed, I love Borders so much that I feel sorry sometimes for those doctors without them.

Not to be an e-avesdropper, but there was a hyperearnest-looking guy sitting next to me who was putting together a PowerPoint presentation that had something to do with getting people equipped for some outdoorsy exercise thing. His opening slide said, in big letters, GET FIT(ED). I imagined him standing in front of people with this presentation and people snickering at how he didn't know that fitted was spelled with two t's. I imagined his credibility being ruined and him being tainted meat in the snobby circle of educated-outdoorspeople for years to come. Crunchy folks with college degrees never forgive.

So, given that he seemed to be dangling over a chasm of reputational ruin, I spent some time internally debating whether there was any way I could casually note the misspelling to him without seeming like I was violating all kinds of norms of laptop privacy. Then, remarkably, he suddenly scrolled up and corrected the error himself. Can lexical duress, in the right circumstances, lead to telepathy? I report, you decide. (I feel compelled to add that the correction happened at seemingly exactly the same moment as this freaky first-of-May snow began to fall outside.)