Friday, September 30, 2005

i have retrieved wads of lint from my belly button that weigh more than this

I'm leaving on a 6am flight from my annual trip to Iowa City to get together with friends from college and watch a football game. I decided that I didn't want to check any luggage, so the foam Hawkeye head is staying home. As are my giant foam talons. My brand new black iPod Nano*, on the other hand, is coming along.

* Yes, black. Yes, 4 GB. Yes, purchased just this evening. Yes, it's awesome. Yes, I recognize that this makes it even more difficult for you to slog ahead in your longrunning quixotic battle to sustain your belief that you are roughly as cool as I am. Consider me taking a picture of myself wearing the foam hawkhead to be a sort of reparation.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

check this out! (or, at least, eventually you will be able to, if you have a uw id or access to interlibrary loan)

(insert my name above)

I got this e-mail a couple days ago regarding a generous gesture being offered by Wisconsin as a reward for my getting promoted:
This email is a follow-up to the email letter you received in May apprising you of a new UW-Madison Library initiative called Honoring the Faculty. As part of Honoring the Faculty, the Library will be adding a book of your choice to one of the Library collections. The selection will be bookplated with your name, department, degree, and the year of your promotion. [...]

Your Book Selection: Please choose anything that is meaningful to you -- this can be something in your field, something you wrote or edited, a book you read growing up, poetry, a children's book, fiction or nonfiction. The key is that it means something to you and you want to share your selection with others.
I choose any book, and one copy of it with a nameplate dedicated to me will be on the shelves of the University of Wisconsin libraries for posterity. What should I pick? What would you pick?

Update, 1:15pm: In addition to the comments, a couple people have e-mailed ideas for books I could choose if I was feeling rue or malcontent toward UW-Madison. Which, just to be completely clear, I'm not--I've been treated so well by everyone there and have downright warm-n-gooey feelings about the place. But if I had been asked to choose a book on one of the darker days that all mercurial people have in even the best situations on the path to tenure, I think I would have selected either He's Just Not That Into You or So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

in fact, saying you are not a procrastinator is not enough, but you also must click your heels three times while you say it

Sunday night, when I was supposed to be working on my talk and the vaporpaper on which it is allegedly based, I found myself walking to the Harvard Coop* bookstore instead. While there, I spent some time reflect on the fact that I was walking around looking at books despite the fact that I knew that the books would still be here several days hence whereas the talk I was giving had to be done on Tuesday. Did this inspire me to leave the bookstore immediately to go work on it? No! It did inspire me, however, to buy a couple of books about procrastination.

I've now put a Post-It note on my monitor here in my apartment that says "YOU ARE NOT A PROCRASTINATOR." According to a tip in one of these books, if I just regularly pronounce this to myself, I will, in fact, stop procrastinating. Just like that! Proudly, I note that I have had the idea for this post ever since Sunday night but waited to write it until after my talk was over.**

Incidentally, in the Coop bookstore, the Self-Help section is right by the Engineering section. Which is as it should be in all bookstores, I think, since the former is a subset of the latter.

* Rhymes with "soup," btw.

** Proudly also, I have written this post sufficiently promptly after my talk that I am going to do that irritating thing where I post it in the evening but set the timestamp to 12:01am the next day.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

i don't have time for a proper post, so i thought i would just quick put up something that could change your life

I'm working on slides for a colloqium I'm doing for the sociology department here tomorrow. So, just: if you do a lot of work on your own machine, and you haven't installed Google Desktop 2 yet, do it now. Seriously, do it right now before you forget. You will thank me later, even more than you thanked me that time in the outback when I saved you from that pack of dingos. It's like Google, only it plumbs the bowels of your own computer instead of the drek of the 'Net. It finds stuff. Stuff you didn't entirely remember you had, and it does it fast. It also works way better than the original Google Desktop.

Monday, September 26, 2005

okay, either somebody 'borrowed' my copy of kavalier and clay and didn't return it, or the movers lost a box of my books

Either way, I'm annoyed. And I want justice, preferably of the medieval vigilante variety.

two twees in a pod

(they've been on my iPod for while, but now are also on my blogroll)

Q: Where are you when the derivative of girly goes from being positive to zero? A: Maximum Girly, that's where. Twee and Simpleton, those sassy sisters of sissy blogging, have finally gone public with their site. What's more, they've got fully flickrfied sidebars.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

a short sunday spouting about the study of so-called socialization in sociology

(I'm working today on a colloquium I'm giving here at Harvard on Tuesday. This post is inspired by that, but not anything I'll actually be saying during the talk.)

Have you ever been annoyed by political officials who talk about their committment to, say, education or the integrity of infrastructure but then, in their actual actions, show themselves to have very different priorities about the expenditure of resources? I mean, where you just sit and seethe and want to yell, "Don't pretend like education and infrastructure are important to you if you aren't willing to support ponying up the resources the actually improve these things!"

Anyway, I must admit that I feel a little similarly when sociologists talk as though we were experts in human development, like our discipline is doing all kinds of work at the forefront of understanding human development and the "social" influences on human development, when in fact it would seem like inspection of major journal articles, or section memberships, or national hiring patterns would suggest that the study of development, or even just that part that is the study of "socialization," is not exactly a thriving enterprise in sociology. Myself, it's less that I feel like sociology needs to invest more in studying developmental processes, necessarily, but that we're honest in recognizing that it's a relatively small and shrinking part of our business these days. And that we are not collectively experts on topics, even if we may have strong opinions.

If you are a sociologist, take a look sometime of the "socialization" chapter of sociology textbooks. They often throw culture into it because they have so little to say. Or they dwell on old and resoundingly incorrect theories that no one outside of, e.g., the dwindling cult of George Herbert Mead, pays any attention to anymore.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

(new and presumbly wildly infrequent recurring feature!) stars and stripes blogever

NevadaNew HampshireNew Jersey
New MexicoNew YorkNorth Carolina
North DakotaOhioOklahoma
OregonPennsylvaniaRhode Island
South CarolinaSouth DakotaTennessee
VirginiaWashingtonWashington, D.C.
West VirginiaWisconsinWyoming

Who knows if I'll even ever get to all 50 states in my lifetime? Who knows how much longer I'll even be doing this blog? No matter: last week's train-station cel-phone posts have inspired me to start keeping track of the states from which I've done blog posts. (I've decided the rule is that it counts so long as I write the post there, even if technical issues lead me to hit "publish" from elsewhere.) The links are to the first known post from each state.

Friday, September 23, 2005

why i will likely be giving thanks and feeling like i am about to die at the same time

In comments on a recent post, it was suggested to me that I should embark on writing a mystery novel and running a marathon. I countered that maybe I could write half a mystery novel and run half a marathon, especially if I could find someone else to write the other half of the novel and run the other half of the marathon. While no progress has been made on the Man Who Would Be Ellery Queen front, there just so happened to be a couple of people interested in doing a half marathon with me. Two people, two halves, one might think I could just get them to do it and stay home eating marzipan. Alas, instead, I went to sign up for an invigorating little jaunt in Atlanta on Thanksgiving day:

After a deep breath, I did indeed press "Continue", and entered all my information until:

Anyway, I'll admit to being very curious about how this is going to go. If you have a corpuscle of compassion, you should be rooting for me. I mean, a year ago at this time I had felt like I had become this incorrigibly supersized fleshtub of goo, more narwhal than man, this body that had turned itself into a superfund site and couldn't manage to make any progress toward cleaning itself up. Okay, so maybe my actual thoughts were neither quite so severe nor so melodramatic, but I certainly didn't have confidence I was going to be able to get to where I have. Doing a half marathon without embarrassing myself and/or losing control of any bodily functions en route would be, you know, a nice affirmation.

(Truth be told, a teensy part of me does wonder if I could do the whole marathon. I mean, I did run 10 miles Sunday night, and that was after having done all that walking around Manhattan. But no way I'm going to embark on that now. I'll be lucky if I don't injure myself getting ready for the half anyway. Or get hit by a car. Or get gunned down by someone that aesthetically offended by how dorky I look when I run.)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

the plural of anecdote may not be evidence, but it does make things more curious

My bozzom buddy Tom has written a couple posts lately about Seth Roberts (here and earlier here), who recently gained some plum NYT freakonomics attention for the various experiments he conducted on himself regarding his sleep, his mood, and his weight. But, as a strange coincidence, the original Roberts article in Chance was assigned as part of a causal inference course I'll be sitting in on for at least part of this semester. I began reading it with the thought that this was going to be a quirky-fun but mostly unconvincing article--for the economist, there is the saying that if you are so smart, why aren't you rich; I think the equivalent for the self-experimenter would be that if you are so right, why isn't there a funded clinical trial?

But much of the article, as it turns out, is about Roberts's efforts against his problem with early awakening--that subspecies of sleep disorder where a person wakes up earlier than they should and can't fall back asleep for at least an hour. As someone with a rather profound tendency toward early awakening himself, it's a matter that gains my attention and found the article fascinating (it also has the virtues of being short and charmingly written).

More importantly, one of Roberts discoveries jibes oddly with something that I have observed over the last four months: he found that he needed less sleep overall either if he lost weight or if he ate a diet high in water content (namely, high in fruit and salad). Me, I have lost a bunch of weight in the last four months and have vastly increased my fruit and salad consumption. Entirely independently, I've also observed (and I'm absolutely convinced of this) that I have needed less sleep. I can't assert that it is due either to the weight loss or the fruit-salad-ascendance or both. If I had the discipline and motivation to be a Serious Self-Experimenter, I would start keeping detailed sleep records and start cycling through gains and losses in weights and increases and decreases in my weight. I am not actually going to do this.

Another of Roberts's self-discoveries is that he lost a marked amount of weight by a diet that consisted of taking in a lot of his calories via drinking fructified water (you'll have to read the article for an explanation of his taste-and-set-point theory of why this works). I am tempted to re-enact The Great Weight Gain of 2003, just so I can see if I can lose weight through this tricky-body-overclocking method as opposed to the conventional way that I have. Again, though, I am not actually going to do this.

For that matter, given how slow I am to get going in the morning, I am also tempted to try Roberts method of waking up to talking-head television as a way of improving his morning energy and mood (he has an evolutionary theory to explain this, which is nonsensical on its surface but contains a less nonsensical element as well). Given how slow I am at getting going in the morning, I though that this is something that might actually be worth a try. Still, I presume I am not actually going to do this, although any self-experiments I conduct will be dutifully reported here on JFW.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

you know, back when i had that recurrent and never-actually-serious fantasy about taking a break from academia to go write a mystery novel... insane as that plan was, I realized today the idea for a mystery novel itself was pretty good. Apropos of nothing, I started looking over my outline for it today. Usually when I go back and look at old writing of any sort, I see only flaws and misguided intentions. Not to mention that, really, what the world of mystery novels needs most right now are more protagonists who are completely neurotic assistant professors at unnamed large midwestern universities. Then again, maybe having it set at an unnamed highly prestigious private university would be even better...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

(timesuck) gone are the days when security required only a blue blanket

("weblog" is rated as a Good password)

If you use gmail, you can go to the page on Google Accounts used to set your password, and it has this feature where it will rate the strength of your password as you enter it. Start experimenting with this and you will learn things like: "jeremy" is rated Fair, whereas "jeremyfreese" is rated Strong. "gmailpasswor" is rated Strong, but "gmailpassword" is Fair. "123456" is Weak, but "123456abc" is Good, and "123456abcdef" is Strong. Meanwhile, days go by.

On the general topic of security, I still don't realy get why somebody who steals my debit Mastercard can spend up to $3000 by forging my signature--which of course is right there on the back for them to see--but can only spend/withdraw $1000 if they know my 4-digit PIN. Beyond that, however, is my discovery that Harvard takes their voicemail sufficiently seriously that your PIN has to be at least 7 digits rather than just 4. (As for the Harvard computer system, none of the abovementioned Strong passwords are good enough for them, as I believe their passwords require you to use both letters and numbers AND uppercase and lowercase characters.)

Monday, September 19, 2005

apples are good when you are on a diet. the big apple is not.

(No, things this weekend did not go so out of control that I tried either to hijack this ice cream truck or to cram this candy store into my face.)

The trip to New York marked the most lax I have been about my diet since it began. Indeed, I had so strongly presumed that the result would be a weight gain for this week that I was all ready to write a post titled "Baby Got (set)Back" about how penitent I was for my weekend sins. Instead, though, my losing streak continues for the 17th consecutive week.

It is important to note that, as my digital scale measures in fifths of a pound, this is the smallest detectable weight loss. And even then, basically undeserved. I've not been tracking lately--instead, I've basically been paying Online Weight Watchers just to let me enter my weight into their system every week. I don't think not tracking has necessarily been a bad thing, especially since the linearity of the graph I posted a couple weeks ago frankly freaked me out. However, in the spirit of renewed committment, I have resolved that this week I will dutifully record everything I eat in the system, even if I'm not going to worry about points as closely as I used to.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

dispatch from providence train station

(Once again, this post is being written and sent from my phone, solely for the purpose of my being able to cross Rhode Island off my list of states from which I've done blog posts. Not that I don't think I'll be back to Rhode Island or Connecticut, mind you, but might as well get them crossed off sooner rather than later.)

dispatch from the bridgeport train station

(Wonderphone lets me access my e-mail account, and you can write posts to Blogger via e-mail. Put the two together, and I can post from the train station, which is what I'm doing now. But why post? To be entertaining? Because I've got something to say? No. I just want to cross Connecticut off the list of states from which I've done blog posts. There, done.)

perhaps the least defensible $21.32 i have ever spent in my life

(O, why is my normally impregnable will so easily breached by the lure of late-night room service? O, the remorse of pathological excess I felt as a crunched on my little Nocturnal Crackers Of Shame!)

jeremy, weren't you bowled over at how classy and cultured manhattan was compared to the midwestern cesspools where you've lived?

(My perambulations around Manhattan would suggest that this is apparently a strong contender for the #2 best selling T-shirt at tourist vendors around the city, right after I [heart] NY.)

some places you feel strange being an adult man unaccompanied by a daughter, especially a man so enthusiastic about wanting souvenir photos

I've done a good deal of sightseeing around Manhattan the last couple of days. However, even if Madison is now my once-and-(presumedly)-future home instead of my current one, I would not want Madisonians to think I would make a first trip to Manhattan and shirk the duty of checking in to see how our city's most famous girls were getting along:

The American Girl Place celebrates the American Girl dolls, and includes a cafe on the top floor where you can take your seven-year old girl for her first high-end meal, as kind of pre-finishing girl fieldtrip toward the twin merit badges of cultural refinement and conspicuous consumerism. I won't profess to know the American Girl world very well, but, as I understand it: there are these nine different dolls that are supposed to be real girls associated with different historical periods in American history, and then they have these period-appropriate and politically-neutral adventures, which show off that girls with confidence, optimism, perseverance, and other broadly accepted virtues will triumph over any adversity. The dolls originated in/near Madison (see here), and are associated with the family that donated over $200 million to build Madison's new culture center. (Me, if I had $200 million dollars for philanthropic giving, I personally wouldn't use it to find a cure for the poor acoustics of the evenings out of Madison's professorial and other middle and upper classes, but I recognize diversity of opinion on this issue.)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

but you seem so normal!

Or, so I was told by a fellow sociologist maybe three years ago, when I revealed to him that I had never been to New York City.* Now, at long last, I have made it here. And, since apparently if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, I presume now the gateway to the next-most-wanted sites on my list of places I've never been--Vancouver, Vienna, Istabul, the Antarctic, the Third Planet from Altair**--will be seen in short order. Anyway, I'm in the middle of sight-seeing, and so more about adventures here later.

* Yes, of course: my first reaction was "Wait, I seem normal?!" I mean, I regularly marvel at the spectacular fraud of self-presentation I have managed to perpetrate, but even then I've never imagined being able to hoodwink otherwise intelligent people so well as to come across as approximately normal.

** A quite remarkable 3PfA resource is available here.

Friday, September 16, 2005

i honestly don't know: which is worse, objectification or animalification?

"ROME (Reuters) - A loosening of government gaming rules means that Italians will be able to bet legally on the Miss Italy contest for the first time, upsetting contestants.

'We're people, not objects or, worse, animals,' complained Anna Prete, the 'Miss Calabria' from the southern region of the same name and one of the many finalists unhappy with the government-sponsored scheme."
I'd set up a blogpoll, but I'm rushing around getting ready for my weekend trip.

all this time, i hadn't realized we were supposed to wait for an invitation

(From the latest "Member News and Notes" e-mail sent by the American Sociological Association.)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

being in love story means never having to say you're sorry

Given recent posts and/or comments referencing Love Story and love in laundromats, I should mention that the place where I send out my shirts and pants* has this sign in its window.

The place is supposed to open at 8. I got there at 8:15 with a bag chock full of clothes, but no one was there. So then I stood there trying to figure out what to do--namely, do I lug my clothes back to my apartment--when I saw the sign and fiddled with my Panaceaphone to take a picture of it. Luckily my distractibility is such that after re-figuring out how to take photos with Panaceaphone, I started playing with its other features and, soon thereafter, the woman running the laundromat shows up on her bicycle and opens the place.

* No, I don't do these myself. I do launder all my own undergarments, socks, bedding, teddies, kilts, codpieces, turbans and drug money.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

talent show

(what has become my Standard Loop, with start/end indicated in purple)

There is student housing at MIT that must have an absolutely gorgeous view of the Charles River and of downtown Boston beyond. Tonight I was running on my Standard Loop by this housing when I heard this godawful live rock music. ("Rock" is not actually right: imagine rock as a man and metal as a woman, breeding the two of them, having metal drink several cases of beer for every day of her pregnancy, and then giving the child over to be raised by an Ozzy Ozbourne shaped wire monkey, and the resulting offspring is what was playing.) I look up, and in one of the windows is a dorm room that has a scruffy kid standing in his boxers a few feet away from the window wailing into this microphone. Behind him was what looked like a complete drum set and another shirtless kid beating away on the drums like they had just insulted his mother.* And, although I didn't see him, there must have been a kid playing guitar in the room as well, presumably he was rocking out sans shirt as well.

I must admit, as terrible as the music was, it was hard not to envy them and the way they were expending the chronological capital of privileged youth.

* BTW, Chris Uggen wrote an inspired post about drummer jokes awhile back.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

a marginal note on economics

So, my fellowship is intended to bring together people with backgrounds in economics, political science, and sociology to learn about and do some health policy research. This has led me to be lately reading more economics-as-written-by-economists-writing-mainly-for-economists that I have previously. I've done this with some eagerness because, frankly, along with psychology, I've long suspected that, had my chain of intellectual biographical experiences brought me into more or better contact with it earlier, I may well have gone into it instead of sociology.* Anyway, while I'm hoping that this program gives me a chance to further deepen my familiarity of economics, which presumably may change some of the ways I think about it, allow me to record here as an orienting fieldnote my four most overarching, para-intellectual impressions of economics right now:

1. The seduction of economics is in the way that it connects intellectual elegance to social power.**

2. The poignance of economics is in the trade-offs.***

3. The affirmation of economics is the way that it allows for a self-concept of adopting a stance toward some of the most emotionally and ideologically freighted issues of the world that is (or seems) thoroughly bleached of sentimentality.

4. The dangers of economics are in mistaking the inexorable logic of math for the oh-so-exorable logic of people and in letting concepts like efficiency substitute for a fully-developed ethics.

* Which is not to say that I regret how things have turned out, especially since I would imagine that it would be harder to organize karaoke among economists. [See recent photo from my Madison karaoke encore here.]

** Including instances in which economic theory sometimes has the power to remake institutional arrangements out-of-line with theory so that they are more in line with theory, which can then run the risk of being perceived as being affirmations of the descriptive power of the theory in the first place. [See, e.g. if imperfectly, Donald MacKenzie and Yuval Millo, "Constructing a Market, Performing Theory: The Historical Sociology of a Financial Derivatives Exchange," American Journal of Sociology 109 (2003): 107-145.]

*** Then again, at least to my impression, one could say that the whole of economics is about trade-offs and about how everything is a trade-off, but some of these trade-offs do manage to be really and almost excruciatingly poignant. If you don't believe me, start doing some reading on the economic trade-offs of different kinds of health-care provision arrangements.

Monday, September 12, 2005

who knew the wheel of fortune had a rinse cycle?

On my way to get a ride to a party for the people in my program this afternoon, I passed by a big sign for LUCKY LAUNDRY. For one thing, if there is an area of my life where I really don't want there to be a large "chance" component, even if in my favor, it's with my freaking laundry. For another, I had this fantasy about turning around and filling out an online application right then so I could open up a competing laundromat called UNLUCKY LAUNDRY across the street, complete with black cats and number thirteens and broken mirrors as decor, and maybe a ladder that you had to walk under to get the place. In addition to slaking my entrepeneurial thirst, I could compare profits with the place across the street and see what exactly is the ratio of drippy optimists to dark ironicists here around Harvard.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

they sucked every ounce of idealism from the marrow of my bones and all i got was this crummy t-shirt

Yesterday, on my way back to my apartment after buying some new running shoes, I passed by one of the more psychologically-ravaged-looking midtwentysomethings I've seen here in Cambridge. This bug-eyed, gaunt, desolate expression. Sort of what you would expect from someone who had just been let loose after spending the past week with his eyes duct-taped open being forced to watch nonstop film clips that spliced together all of the horrors of the world. Unrelatedly, perhaps, he was wearing a Teach For America T-shirt.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

(requiem) good blogs never die. they just get replaced by something weird posted by somebody else.

Martine (notice: no link) recently decided to quit blogging and take down her own blog, mostly so she would have more time to comment on my blog and to make mental health recommendations to Dorotha on hers. Not to mention training for her quixotic quest to make the United States KYSO team for the next Olympics. And, yet, the blogosphere does let everyone leave on their own terms, especally those who commandeer blog addresses like "" that are clearly going to be coveted by countless and creepy others. So Martine (notice: no link) was forced to send the following to all her known former readers today:
for those who read my blog, just wanted to let you know that my 
blog is no longer really my blog. i deleted my blog.
now you'll find a post from "bob" entitled "cute young teen girls".
just so you know, the "cute young teen girls" post is 
not a cry for help or one of those, "wow, i really thought i
knew martine and it turns out i was completely wrong" kind of
moments or a very vague way of discussing my real life (though
now i'm starting to see how it could masterfully be so and i'm
quite impressed with it all).
For the record, I'm sad Martine (notice: no link) has given up her blog. And, even though another blog has spouted in its place, you'll understand if I don't think it passes the magical Martine muster. So I will be moving her to the deceased blog section of my sidebar the next time I update it.

Friday, September 09, 2005

love means never having to say you're [mumble, mumble, mumble]

The last part of my run tonight took me up Quincy Street which has this stretch of gorgeous black iron gates, on the other side of which is Harvard Yard. A too-skinny-early-twentysomething woman emerged through one of the gates, and then this doleful-looking reedy guy stepped through the gate behind her, touched her arm, and she turned around and they fell into this hug that was both ridiculously sweet and inconsolably sad-about-something. It was one of those amazing spontaneous glimpses you get into a moment of high romance in the biographies of strangers, sort of like that one Doisneau photograph. Except, imagine taking that Doisneau photograph, and Photoshopping into it a dorky-looking guy whose doing this freaky weird quasi-gangsta-rapping motion thing with his arms as he's listening to his iPod shuffle and who, only due to good reflexes and deft footwork, manages not to plow into the young lovers' heartbreak hug.

Thing of it was, he was saying something to her as this was happening. And seriously, at the perihelion of my successful pirouette around them, my ear couldn't have been that much further from his mouth than hers was. And, you know what: I think he was saying something unintelligible. I don't mean that he was saying something and I couldn't understand what it was. I think he was really just mumbling something that seemed like words but weren't actually words. Yes! Honestly! I think he was trying to be all end-scene-of-Lost in Translation in what was plainly this hugely emotional moment for both of them.*

Even right outside the gates of Harvard, authentic romantic expression is relegated to the junior varsity when people get a chance to have what we have exalted to being the absolute most romantic thing: a scene from one's life that is just like a scene from a movie.

Or maybe I was just being surly because they knocked me out of my running groove. Who knows?

But as long as I'm being surly, you know what? That Doisneau photograph? If you don't know: It's fake. Those people are models. Doisneau staged it. Magical things like that do happen, every day, just not when there also magically happens to be a famous photographer there to capture the moment. Far more likely for there to be some jogging schlemiel who goes home and writes about it on his blog when he can't sleep.

* Not that this was the most romantic scene in that movie by any means. The most romantic scene in Lost in Translation is when they are lying on the bed and he touches her foot.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

i know this much is truman

Yesterday, some commenters who live in these parts were suggesting places for me to run in Boston (not Cambridge or Somerville).* Yeah, right. I don't want to carry a map when I run, but instead I looked over a map shortly after I got here and formulated my Truman Show Rule of running. Remember how, in The Truman Show, the way they kept him from leaving his island town was to make him deathly afraid of water? My rule: so long as I don't cross water--or, less Trumanly, an Interstate highway--I can't get too lost.

But, of course, I still can get turned around, which is what happened last night. I started out planning on only about 40 minutes, because the previous night I pushed myself speed-wise a little bit too hard when running for an hour and so my legs already felt sore when I started out**. But I screwed up my sense of direction somehow while running through what I think was Harvard's married graduate student housing, and then compounded the error by making absolutely the wrong turn somewhere near Central Square. It's this sinking sense of directional dread when you feel like you are going the right way but also know that you should be going toward things you recognize but instead things are getting less and less familiar. Eventually I had to ask this (presumably, from where it turned out I was, from MIT) fraternity kid which way Harvard Square was and, of course, he pointed exactly back the way I had been running for nearly a mile.

By the time I got home, my planned 40 minute run was almost 90 minutes, and I had the strong sense of having Overdone It and that my legs were not going to forgive me in the morning. They haven't. Incidentally, the last song playing on my iPod shuffle when I reached the front door last night: "My Own Worst Enemy".

* Regarding the thing I was saying yesterday about squares every 10-12 blocks: I don't know what I was thinking. In parts of Cambridge, literally consecutive intersections (nothing unusual about them, just intersections) have signs designating them as squares. There is an three-way intersection near Central Square announcing a square with one name on one side of the intersection and another name on the other.

** (Yes, I stretch, especially when my legs definitely feel like they would be less cranky if I did.)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

one thing about cambridge that will take some getting used to

Back in that provincial closeminded backwater known as the Middle West, where I have lived my previous thirty-four years, the word "square" was reserved for shapes that have four sides of equal length and connect at four right angles. The beloved Midwestern burgh where I am a professor (Madison, WI) and the hearty Midwestern hamlet where I went to graduate school (Bloomington, IN) both had a single place referred to as The Square, which consisted of four segments of street of basically equal length and that intersected at right angles.

Meanwhile, if you go jogging in the Cambridge/Somerville/East Cambridge areas, every 10-12 blocks you will pass a sign designating yourself as in or near a Square (I'm not just talking about the major ones--Harvard, Porter, Davis, Inman, Central, Kendall--but all kinds of ones with names of men who sound like either hearty old city officials or celebrated local quarterbacks, including nicknames like "Ram" and "Gus" being part of the square's official name.)*) I've spent time craning my neck about at each of these squares, and every time, not to get all Gertrude Steinish on y'all, there is no square there. At times, what gets called a "square" here out east is just something we would call a "funny intersection" back in Middle America.

* I think it was Gus. There's definitely a R_(firstname)_ "Ram" R_(lastname)_ Square somewhere along one of the routes I've run.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

toto, i don't think we're in madison anymore

So, one thing that seemed like it was going to be an obvious (but tolerable) "downside" to this fellowship was that I was going to have to share an office. The person I'm going to be sharing an office with is both very likable and very smart, so my worry is more that I'll end up being a completely annoying officemate (especially giving how peripatetic I can be when working) than that I'm going to dislike sharing space with him. Still, you know, the idea that having your own office is better than sharing one is instilled pretty deeply in academia and elsewhere. But, as it turns out: my office turns out to be so completely splendid that thus far it feels like a step up from my Madison office regardless of my not having it to myself. I mean, look at these pictures from when I was moving in:

One of the other fellows noticed that I was working with my shades closed today and asked if my midwestern background made me averse to natural light in the office. Instead, it's that I'd been used to having an office window that looked out through this black grate* and didn't get much natural light, so it's not something I'm used to thinking about. I had the shades open the rest of the day.

Where is my office? Well, I'm a sociology Ph.D. doing a policy fellowship connected to public health and is funded by a foundation whose mandate keeps it relatively focused on the United States. So, of course: my office is in the Center for Government and International Studies. It's a brand new building, so new that there is still construction going on and far from everyone has moved in. (Indeed, so new I can't find a page for it to link to on the web.)

* Granted, I chose the grate view, to be closer to certain other things in the labyrinthine social science building in Madison. And, ultimately, I like my office there well enough, so I don't want to come across as unhappy at all about it.

Monday, September 05, 2005

the sisterhood of the too-big-for-me-now traveling pants

Another Monday weigh-in:

So, over the past 15 weeks:

One of the things I did this weekend was try on every single pair of pants, jeans, and dress shorts that I brought with me from Madison to Cambridge. Turns out there were 46 pairs.

You may recall that, awhile back, I asked people if I should just toss the clothes that were too big for me now that I've lost back almost all of The Great Weight Gain of 2003. The consensus answer was that I should throw these clothes out (or give them away) as a show of optimism and faith, especially since, should I become an obesity recidivism statistic and gain all this weight back, I could always just go out and buy new clothes. Instead, I decided to figure out what of the 46 pairs fit and what didn't, and put what didn't plausibly fit anymore in a single box on a shelf in one of my closets that is high enough that I won't generally notice it.

(Incidentally, as you might imagine this was a much happier task than whenever it was after the Great Weight Gain of 2003 that I figured out all the clothes I had become too fat for and put those in a similar box far out of view.)

But, anyway, why did I save these clothes? Sometime soon, y'all may be subjected to a post pouring out of me about the answer to the increasingly-oft-asked question "So, Jeremy are you just going to gain all this weight back?" The short answer is that: yes, I do have optimism and faith in myself. But what I've lost here is just some weight, not my sense of objectivity. I know a weight-gaining beast lurks inside of me, and what will happen if it comes unchained. And, while it is true that I could just go out and buy all new clothes, it's pretty depressing to go out and buy new clothes because you've gotten too fat for the ones you have.

In the week before I left Madison, I ran into a second- or third-year graduate student in the hallway I hadn't seen for awhile. "Jeremy, you're wearing shorts?" "What do you mean, I wear shorts to the office regularly when it is summer."* "I've never seen you in shorts before." And she was right, because I haven't worn any shorts to campus the past two summers, because I didn't have any "dress" shorts that fit and I didn't want to subject myself to a Clothes Shopping Trip of Humiliation just to buy some stupid shorts large enough to fit around my suddently jabbathehuttish posterior.

* Other departments/universities may frown on this, for all I know. Madison, to it's credit, doesn't.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

conjectures and refutations

From some novel I've read, I remember there being a character whose father had been a Russian seaman aboard a ship in the Baltic sea when the Russo-Japanese war broke out. The ship sailed around Scandanavia, around France and Spain, down the coast of Africa, around the horn, up the other coast of Africa, around Arabia, around India, around Siam and the rest of Southeast Asia, up the Chinese coast, to some point between Japan and Russia, by which point the sailors had been thinking about battle for months, were all pumped up and ready to kick some serious maritime ass. Instead, the ship was sunk in something like its first fifteen minutes of actual engagement with a Japanese vessel, and all hands but the father were lost.

This came to mind today in response to a story I had read about Boise State, which has only even been playing top-divison college football for 10 years but has had surprising recent (if modest) success, and their forthcoming game at the University of Georgia, one of college football's most prominent programs. (Don't worry, this post is not actually about college football.)
[Boise State coach] Hawkins believes. He believes Boise State ... is ready to advance its journey out of the gridiron backwater by beating the blue-blood Bulldogs in front of the largest crowd the Broncos have ever seen.
Indeed, he believes so much he has been preparing for this game since the end of last season, eight months ago. He had a training video made for his players that interspersed positive highlights of Boise State games with clips of Yoda, to ultimately emphasize the bit of dialogue after Yoda levitates a ship:
Luke says incredulously, "I don't believe it."
Yoda's matter-of-fact response: "That is why you fail."
And so, Coach Hawkins has been preparing his team. Examples:
Every day when the players take the field for practice, Ray [Charles's "Georgia"] welcomes them [over the loudspeakers]. As the game has gotten closer, the sound of his voice has produced excited yips and howls. And after being serenaded by Charles, the players are treated to an endless, ear-splitting barrage of Georgia crowd noise... This has been the riotous backdrop for every snap taken by the Boise offense, in an effort to acclimate it to the sonic bombardment from 90,000 fans.

In anticipation of Deep South humidity unlike anything Idaho can deliver, he's kept practices on the sunlight-sucking turf -- even as air temperatures neared 100 degrees and the on-field heat reached 120.

With Georgia on their minds, the Broncos pushed themselves relentlessly in summer workouts. Last year, the players ran the upper deck stadium steps every Tuesday, gradually increasing until they topped out at 16 ascents at the end. This year, the skill-position players topped out at 20 trips up the steps, and the linemen did 18.
The story was quite bullish on Boise State's prospects of defeating Georgia. After all, it sure sounded like the players really believed, just like Yoda. My own sinking suspicions piqued my interest enough that I've been monitoring the game on the web while doing stuff around my apartment. Georgia stormed out to a 38-0 lead and eventually won 48-13. Boise State committed six turnovers, the key measure of a team's defeating itself in addition to being defeated.

Moral: not only that beliefs only go so far, especially in endeavors that are tests of things much more objective than one's can-do spirit, but also that few things evaporate more quickly than the beliefs of young men that have had to spend a long time anticipating and fantasizing about their big chance to prove themselves but are then immediately confronted with contrary evidence about their prospects when that chance finally comes.

Update, next day: A recap of the game includes this detail about the psychological self-destruction of Boise State's star quarterback:
Boise State's Jared Zabransky had, and there's really no way around this, a brutal first half. The Broncos standout junior started out miserably, firing [an interception] on his first play, and things only got worse from there. He was intercepted four times and the Bulldogs dropped two other easy interceptions. Zabransky also fumbled twice before coach Dan Hawkins yanked him just before the end of the first half. [...]

Watching the game unfold, you had to feel for Zabransky. He is a playmaker and competitor, but the more he pressed, the worse things got. Hawkins conceded his star's struggles might have been due in part to the "anxiety curve." Then Hawkins shook his head and softly said, "a lot of pressure."
Yeah, the kind of pressure that maybe happens when you build something up for eight months that is essentially all heaved onto a 21-year-old kid's shoulders.

Saturday, September 03, 2005


A great thing about Tom Bozzo is that when he's not telling it like it is, he's assembling statements from others that tell it like it is. Namely: this. That, my friends, is how it is, at least in the world according to Jeremy (and better put than anything that the prose according to Jeremy could manage). And that, my friends, is why Snoop Dogg, back when they toured together, would refer to MC Tom B as "the Bozznit." So, word, indeed. (Tom: Thanks!)

so, all you current/former cantabrigians who apparently check my blog now and again

Any recommendations as to a bar in the Harvard area where I can hang out for awhile on Saturday afternoons and watch some college football (especially my beloved Hawkeyes, the best-coached and most-overachieving team in the country over the past three years)?

Friday, September 02, 2005


1. Eszter is guest blogging this week on Lifehacker. Here I thought hacking into my life, in the sense of an unauthorized expropriation of my time by others, was a chronic but undesired phenomenon, but it turns out instead that Lifehacks are a good thing meant to save time rather than suck it away.

2. Oscar has unearthed yearbook photos of me and my betrothed. Doesn't she look precious? You can see why hers is my Blog Of The Week every week. And don't I have a debonair mien about me, especially with all that well-groomed hair?

3. Ang has now enabled comments on her blog, which she's using to advertise the inaugural post-Jeremy karaoke event for Madison Sociology. After Katy's departure, she's also added a new co-conspirator named "kef"; no word on whether "kef" is connected to the mysterious "kep" who was a guest blogger for a week on NinaNet.

4. Cabell, elite mix CD artist and fellow member of a different sort of Ten Percent Society, sets up a JFW Live Journal feed.

5. Gwen tells the "Be Careful What You Wish For" story. Interestingly, I had heard this story perhaps as many as ten times before, and even re-told it at least twice myself, but this is the first time I've heard it [sic] from Gwen herself. (Gwen also provides some interesting reports of how the men of southern Utah relate to women here and here.)

(Blogs, while regular companions of mine, have been an especial refuge from obsessive following of the news from New Orleans. I also spent some time tonight re-reading Confederacy of Dunces, which is one of my favorite novels and takes place in New Orleans, but that ended up being more depressing as I imagined how helpless its protagonist would be right now. Ugh.)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

jfw contest!: grammarians, diagram this sentence!

Win one of the coveted JFW virtual kewpie dolls! A friend who is a faculty member in the Department of Unnamedology at Unnamed University received the following e-mail from a student regarding their first assignment (which was to be e-mailed to the professor):
im a student in your monday 3:20-4:10 class it took a little long to 
send you the email because ive been working from 4:00pm-1:00am back home
by [City],[State] so i leave around 2:oopm and dont get back until around
3:30am sorry but that day i had to leave right after since class ended at
4:oo i tried to send the email quickly bfore i left but for some reason i
could not get in i called the information desk and explained the problem
i was having they told me it was that since everybody new is coming in
then that vwould slow up the internet for like a week since they are
probally trying to get the schedules so i called the student teachers
number and left a message explaining the same thing like that you didnt
think i donyt care about my grades so again im sorry and thanks.
(Entranced entrants: see standard sentence diagramming conventions here.)