Wednesday, August 31, 2005

and yet, for those unfamiliar with thai phonetics, there is something about the company's name that connotes a certain casualness about air safety

PARIS, France (AP) -- France and Belgium have issued blacklists of airlines prohibited from using their airports, in an attempt to allay public fears about flying after a recent series of deadly crashes.


Thailand's Phuket Airways, one of the airlines banned in France, demanded to know what criteria France used to judge it.

"I really don't understand what is the meaning of unsafe. Unsafe for what? Unsafe for operations or unsafe for what? Because we have never had a serious incident or accident, so I would like to ask back to the authorities what is the meaning of unsafe?" Captain Chawanit Chiamcharoenvut, executive vice president of Phuket Air, said at the company office in Bangkok.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

i've got this thing that looks like a white lego in my pocket, and it makes me stronger than anything you can imagine

(soaked through, spent, and slightly psychologically scrambled upon finishing my run this evening)

I watched scemes from Punch-Drunk Love earlier tonight. Near the end of the film, Adam Sandler has the line: "I have a love in my life, and it makes me stronger than anything you can imagine." If you listen to the commentary track, though, you learn that this wasn't the original line at all, but instead was changed later because focus groups thought the film needed to be more romantic. Instead of "I have a love in my life," Adam Sandler's character was really supposed to say: "I have tenure and an iPod shuffle."

Three weeks ago when I was jogging at night in Madison, I had to run around this construction being done on a sidewalk, and I stepped in this hole and fell. It hurt. I was had just started the second lap around the big loop I was doing, and so it would have been a much closer for me just to limp/trudge home than to try to continue running. However, Kirsty MacColl's "Terry" was playing on the iPod shuffle, with its strangely-genuinely-joggingly-inspiring story of a woman who had a loser boyfriend for years but now finally found a good guy who not only wants to date her but even wants a photograph of her to carry around with him.

I decided I would be jinxing Kirsty's new romance if I stopped and so I persevered jogging as my ankle worked through its minor issues. In addition to that inspiration, though, this was an event toward my odd theory that tenure has given me a much more unthwartable attitude, as I imagined an earlier me just kind of laying there on the sidewalk for awhile, drawing various connections between my having tripped and My More General Failings, and then shuffling home.

Tonight I went out running resolved to go for an hour. It was sprinkling when I began, but within fifteen minutes it was pouring. I was not going to stop, especially since I had songs like "You Get What You Give" (New Radicals) and "Good" (Pizzicato Five) propelling me along. About twenty minutes later, a song starts on my iPod shuffle that I didn't recognize at first. "Wait, isn't that... 'Chickenman' by the Indigo Girls? How the hell did that get on there?"

Then, a few seconds later, allofasudden I tripped on this uneven spot on the sidewalk and fell forward onto the sidewalk. I would imagine that to an onlooker I looked sort of like a baseball player sliding headfirst into home plate, especially if baseball a sport was played by dorky-looking guys on wet concrete. It stung, to be sure, and I scraped myself up a little. But I didn't even think about stopping; I got up immediately and was off again. Me, wimpy me. With "Chickenman" bleating through my headphones in a driving rain. I tell you, whatever it is: I've gotten tougher.

Monday, August 29, 2005

a couple of couples on my return to cambridge

The trip back was more like what I had been expecting with priceline than my first flight: a 6am departure, with a 3 hour layover in Chicago, and a middle seat in the last row of the plane from Chicago to Boston. On that flight, the guy sitting on my right looked like he was about fifteen but was decked out in an army dress uniform, complete with medals indicating his expertise in "Grenade" and "Rifle". Waiting for him down in baggage claim was this girl who also looked like a high-schooler and who started shouting "Look at you! Look at you!" from the moment we started down the escalator. She was wearing a T-Shirt that said "Frisky Female" and threw her arms around and kissed him the moment we reached the bottom.

A few minutes later, I was standing next to this married couple at baggage claim, on the far side of the loop from where the luggage comes out. Along with all the relatively uniform gray and black suitcases rolling out onto the belt, there was this giant fluorescent chartreuse plastic one, unlike anything I have ever seen. The suitcase comes around, and the husband grabs it. Then he gives the top of the suitcase a brief look and lets go of it, the way people do when they check whether a piece of nondescript luggage is theirs and decide it isn't. He turns to his wife, who widens her eyes and raises her arms in that way that is the universal signal for "Were you this stupid when we got married and I just didn't realize it, or has somebody been spending years slipping lead paint chips into your coffee at the office?" The husband, suitably abashed, trotted around me and retrieved the suitcase, as his wife just shook her head.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

seven degrees of separation

There are two kinds of people in academia: those with finite Erdös numbers and those without. You have a finite Erdös number if (a) you are the mathematician Paul Erdös*, (b) you collaborated with Erdös, (c) or you collaborated with someone who collaborated with someone ... who collaborated with Erdös. I figured that I have co-authored with enough people that I had to have some route to Erdös, but I'd never taken the time to try to find one. But Eszter has an Erdös number of 3, and it's a lot less daunting to figure out the coauthor-cobblestone-hop to a fellow sociology Ph.D. than to figure out the path to a mathematician. So, turns out that my maximal Eszter number is 4, meaning that my maximal Erdös number is 7. Here's one route:

J Freese and B Powell. "Making Love out of Nothing at All?: Null Findings and the Trivers-Willard Hypothesis." 2001. American Journal of Sociology 106: 1776-1789.

MA Milkie, R W Simon and B Powell. 1997. "Through the Eyes of Children: Youths’ Perceptions and Evaluations of Maternal and Paternal Roles." Social Psychology Quarterly 60:218-37.

MA Milkie, M Mattingly, K Nomaguchi, S Bianchi, and J P Robinson 2004. "The Time Squeeze: Parental Statuses and Parents’ Feelings about Time with Children." Journal of Marriage and Family 66:739-61.

P DiMaggio, E Hargittai, JP Robinson, and WR Neuman. 2001. Social Implications of the Internet. Annual Review of Sociology. 27:307-336.

J Feigenbaum, E Hargittai, J O'Rourke. 1994. "Expanding the Pipeline, CRAW Database Aids Academic Recruiters" Computing Research News. September

P Agarwal, B Aronov, J O'Rourke, C Schevon, 1997 "Star unfolding of a polytope with applications," SIAM. J. on Computing, 26(6) 1689-1713.

B Aronov, P Erdös, W Goddard, DJ Kleitman, M Klugerman, J Pach, L J Schulman. 1994. "Crossing Families" Combinatorica, 14(2), 127-34.

* And you aren't, because he's dead and JFW is strictly forbidden in the afterlife because it would make people pine too much to be back among the bustle of the mortals.

Update, 4:30pm (Cambridge): Even though I really do know how Eszter spells her name--if for no other reason than the familiar rule "s before z, except after c"--I had misspelled it in this post. This has been fixed.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

choose your own counterfactual adventure

I was up at the office until 3:30, and now I can't sleep. Instead, with time travel and counterfactuals having been the topic of my latest posts, I'm re-mulling over a thought exercise I play from time to time.

The way it works: you are given the use of machine that is a combination time-travel-biographical-VCR and universe-splitter-and-splicer. The machine allows you to rewind your life to any point. Then, the world-splittler creates two parallel universes: in World One, your biographical tape plays itself out as originally recorded, in World Two, you are re-given control of your body at that point on the tape to do anything you want differently for one hour. Your self will not remember the reasons it did the things it did in that hour. World Two will then proceed to play itself forward to the present with everything happening as it would have had the actions you done in that hour been the actions you had done in the first place. In the present, you are allowed to splice your views of World One and World Two together and see the ways in which the two worlds are different.

The three variants of the game are: (1) you get to choose whether you want to experience the remainder of your life in World One or World Two; (2) you have to leave World One and resume yourself in World Two, regardless of how things have turned out for you there; and (3) you get to see what happened to you in World Two, but you don't have any choice of having that be your life (you have to stay in World One).

For each variant, the game of course is: where in your life do you rewind the tape to, and what is it that you do?

For Variant 2, I have an obvious answer. I should go back to some weeknight evening in July 1998 and spend the hour making telephone calls to both my sister and my mother convincing them that, despite whatever my sister is being told by her practitioners in the lame and borderline-sinister rural health care system back around the family farm, she must go and insist that they give her a CAT scan* because she is presenting what even an idiot whose only knowledge of medicine is from watching ER can tell are the classic early warning signs of a brain tumor. For if this is discovered in July instead of, say, September, the chances are extremely high that she gets to be one of those brave cancer survivors wearing around a yellow livestrong bracelet instead of being, say, dead.

Especially since I'm not all that close to my siblings, one thing about this choice is it actually has very little implications for my own day-to-day life: the best guess for where I would be right now in World Two is right here on my laptop, typing a different answer to conclude this post. So in my most ridiculously self-absorbed moments, I imagine doing something different with Variant 2 than using it to save my sister's life. And then, of course, I immediately feel profoundly guilty, like some kind of counterfactual cretin. I think this is really the signal feature of what little mental games make the cut of being those I choose to play regularly: not only must they offer the possibility for all kinds and angles of speculation, but they seemingly must also allow the opportunity for me to go down cognitive avenues that then make me feel guilty or wallowy.

* Instead of their recommending that she go see, say, a freaking chiropractor, which is what happened in World One.

Friday, August 26, 2005

the revolution will not be televised. it might, however, be blogged. if so, be sure to look for my picture.

Remember the video for that Blind Melon song ("No Rain") where the little girl walked around dancing in a bee costume for various unappreciative audience until she finally found her way to a field where everyone was dancing around in bee costumes? I feel this way when I read certain literatures about causal inference. Awhile back, I was actually listening to "No Rain" on a quasi-loop right now while looking through articles on problems in causal inference via instrumental variables. (No, I’m not kidding.)

Truth be told, I have long held these grand ambitions about being a leading figure in what I have come to refer to as the Postcounterfactualist School of Causal Reasoning in the social sciences. The only problem is, at least in sociology, the Counterfactualist School still hasn't managed to secure even that much of a foothold, much less the hegemonic-oppressive-strangulation-grip on the discipline it needs to have before the radically clever precepts of Postcounterfactualism will make sense to the masses. If you spend any time following the intellectual history of social thought, you soon conclude that one can only truly make a mark by being exactly one step ahead of things; if you are more than that, the most you can hope for is to be "rediscovered" later by the folks who really mattered, who will perhaps profess their lament for how you were "underappreciated."

So, instead of setting myself up for that sorry fate, I'm biding my time.

Well, biding my time and primping, because the Postcounterfactualists will be fighting such an uphill battle that we will not be able to succeed on the basis of our winning ideas and shining rhetoric alone, but we will have to look appealing as well. Indeed, I have already started saving for the botox, hair plugs, and extensive cosmetic dentistry that will be needed to even start to convince others of the wisdom of the postcounterfactualist heterodoxy. And yet, I am completely convinced that, if only we can muster enough early followers and skin-care products, a victory march through the grove of academe will eventually be ours.

My only worry is that as we Postcounterfactualists finally reach our triumph after decades of struggle, it will turn out to be at the very moment that the alien overlords watching over academia determine that astrosociology is getting too close to discovering The Truth and that the Earth needs to be destroyed.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

time and again

I was up here until after 2am last night, and then couldn't sleep when I got back to the place where I'm staying. So then I got caught in a total random timesuck reading Wikipedia entries about paradoxes of time travel (e.g., here and links therein). As if you can find anything like that in the Encyclopedia Britannica. Say whatever you will about Wikipedia--namely, that can be really weird and wildly oversamples those nonrandom things that happen to obsess select nonrandom populations of folks with lot of time on their hands--but any honest criticisms of it have to first acknowledge that it is truly a miraculous and wondrous product of collective activity.

Anyway, on the topic of paradoxes of time, I had dinner a few weeks ago with a friend from graduate school who I hadn't seen or talked to since then. Like most people, I think, I have this week-by-week sensation of time going by really fast: I can't believe it's Wednesday already! I can't believe it's already the end of summer!

Yet, much of my reminiscing with this friend focused on people and events from a period that was chronologically six or seven years ago. And, honestly: it feels more like ten. Or somewhere between ten and forever. Certainly, way longer ago than just being a bit farther back than my first semester in Madison.

Seriously: how is it that each week feels like it goes by really fast, but yet you put enough of those weeks together and then it feels like more weeks have passed than actually have?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

more losing

Diet update: through 13 weeks, I'm down 37 pounds. I got another stern message from Weight Watchers telling me that I was losing weight too fast, but the same message also told me that, now that I am below 175 pounds, I need to cut another 100 calories a day out of my diet in order to keep up with their plan.

Attending the American Sociological Association meetings was bad for my diet in that it exposed one of the larger cracks in my dietary resolve: room service. I don't know exactly what it is about me and room service, but I presume it is some kind of siren call to the lazy and decadent corners of my self. Even so, the general bustle of conference and moving activity and maintaining pious portion control has so far been adequate to keep the weight loss going.

And, of course, my recent adoration of jogging has also helped: in an especially catharsis-seeking mood, I went out 8-9 miles last night. A dramatic change: my eagerness to go out jogging from before, when after the first 20 minutes I felt like I was going to die, to now, when after 20 minutes I feel immortal.

i don't care if monday's blue / tuesday's grey and wednesday too / thursday i don't care about you / besides i don't live in madison anymore anyway

"How are you doing?"
"Fine. Better than fine, actually. Resplendent."
"Well, that's good to hear."
"I still might write a quasi-cryptic self-loathing blog post about it, though."
"Didn't you already do that yesterday?"
"Remarkably, I may still have enough self-loathing inside me for another."
"And blogging helps?"
"Yeah, for some reason, it manages to suck some poison out of the wound that ordinary talking can't reach."
"Blogging is weird."
"It's like how there is something about public self-flagellation that no amount of private self-flagellation can substitute for."
"I guess maybe it's not so much that blogging is weird as that you are weird."

Monday, August 22, 2005

keel over

Turns out that one of my Three Priorities for this return trip to Madison was of the sort that could be taken care of via a relatively straightforward phone call, and indeed it was this afternoon. Hopefully my efforts toward the other two Priorities will do more to vindicate my decision to make this trip. (Yes, I know how much everyone just loves when I'm all cryptic here on my blog.)

Meanwhile, I spent way too much the latter half of this afternoon mentally replaying this single moment in a football game I once saw where a pass was thrown over the middle of the field to a wide receiver. The pass was thrown too far in front, and the receiver dived forward and stretched himself out completely toward the ball. He did this despite two things: (1) as I am sure he could well see, it was unlikely that even with this effort he was going to be able to do more than get his fingertips on the ball and (2) as he could definitely see, there was a defensive back coming at him at full speed. I mean, he knew he had a very low probability of catching the pass and a very high probability of getting hit extremely hard, and yet, still, he puts himself in about the most physiologically vulnerable position possible in order at least to try to catch the ball. I am one of those people who varies considerably in the extent to which he allows his rational or romantic sides to dominate his cognition, but I must confess that I am a complete sucker for the idea that there are situations in which a person could play it safe but instead goes ahead and tries despite being confronted low odds of success and high costs to failure. And so, I remember sitting there in this stadium full of people and thinking that I had just witnessed this remarkably admirable act--one unappreciated by everyone else there, since all they saw was that it was an incomplete pass--and that it was sad that such a demonstration of character was wasted on, you know, just a stupid football game.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

(madison) yes, madison

Around 11:30pm I arrived at an undisclosed location in Madison where I will be spending the week. The location is undisclosed to keep the paparazzi, etc., from distracting me from the Three Priorities that prompted my relatively recent decision that I needed to spend a few more days here. The Three Priorities are also classified information, although I have arranged with my biographers for them to be placed in the archives of Harvard's new Jeremy Studies department and unsealed fifty years after my death.

While I knew before I left Madison that I was going to be coming back here, complications with figuring out when the movers were going to arrive meant that I did not make the plane arrangements until a few days ago. To try to save money, I used for the first time. The result being that I did indeed save money, although I got the worst possible flight times on my arrival and departure dates, as in arriving after 11pm on a Saturday night.

The weird thing, though, is that I was given a first class seat from Boston to Chicago--the first time I have ever flown first class in my life. Of all the people with economy seats on the flight, they decide to upgrade the person who bought their tickets through priceline. Airline pricing and seating arrangements are a complete mystery to me, but I assume that they have teams of economists who optimize everything and who figured out that somehow the maximizing move for United Airlines was to give that first class seat to me.

The downside of flying first class was that I felt compelled to eat the meal they served even though I wasn't particularly hungry, and to swill a few glasses of free chardonnay even though it felt suspiciously like drinking alone.

Friday, August 19, 2005

(cambridge) the sofa saga: climax, denouement, and credits

The sofa is now in my apartment. Once the legs were off, it went up the front stairs easily, or at least easily by basement-to-second-floor-sofa-moving-standards. Thanks to Matt for helping me move the sofa; Karen for providing objectivity, encouragement, and mad screwdriving skillz; Madame Bequerel for telling me to quit screwing around and use a drill; and Paulette for rightly reiterating to me that if you are going to start disassembling something don't be halfway about it.

Now, I need to go about reattaching the legs, which will require a trip to a hardware store for which there are also various other items on my list. Before I go, however, let me reaffirm that I am not a person to be trifled with, at least not by any members of the Pottery Barn Grenwich line. You may win some opening battles, but, so long as I have good friends, power tools, and my newly indomitable 'tude, you will lose the war.

(cambridge) man vs. sofa: the eternal struggle continues

On the advice of a commenter to my last post, I called Melo and Sons Upholstery, who were reputed to be able to disassemble my couch outside-apartment and reassemble inside-apartment in 45 minutes or less. Instead, they are booked through September, although they did offer to take it into storage for me while they worked on it.

However, on the advice of a certain Madame Becquerel, I have succeeded in removing the legs off my sofa and now have these inside my apartment. If you recall, last night I had 7 of the 10 screws undone using a screwdriver. On her advice and encouragement, I hooked up the power drill despite having only minimal drill experience and no real recollection of how I even came to own a drill in the first place, and was able to get 2 more. I completely stripped the last screw trying the same method. But, let's just say I was able to get that one off as well, and without any cosmetic damage to the sofa either.

A friend is coming over in a little while, and we are going to try to move the sofa sans legs in using the more promising route that the movers took yesterday. If that doesn't work, I'm not sure what the next plan will be.

You know, this is going to sound completely weird, but I think that ever since I got tenure I have copped this new and will-not-be-so-easily-denied attitude toward things I would have been more likely to allow to thwart me before. I know it has to sound bizarre--and, frankly, not speak so well about me psychologically--for me to suggest that tenure has made that much of a difference, but inferences from different domains of my life, sofa moving included, would suggest that maybe it has.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

from cambridge: sofa sofar

So, I called a couple of the people I know here in Boston, and my friend Karen came over to help me contemplate the sofa situation. "If nothing else," I told her, "bring some objectivity, because I think I've lost all sense of that with this situation." She arrived just as I was contemplating whether I would be able to get it successfully reupholstered if I just sawed it into thirds and moved it up that way.

Turns out, it looks like you should be able to detach the sofa legs (although, it is not certain that removing said legs will solve the problem). The sofa legs are held on by 10 really long screws. Karen and I were able to get 5 of them out, and then decided we needed to go to a hardware store and get some WD40. This helped us get 2 more. So 3 screws left, which we can't get to turn and fear that we are on/past the verge of totally stripping the screws. So, what now? Seriously, I'm calling on the blogosphere for help: if anybody who is handy with these sorts of things has any ideas about how I should proceed, let me know! I don't want to sound desperate here, but I am, in fact, desperate here.

from cambridge: on being psychologically destroyed by a sofa

The movers just left. My nifty Pottery Barn sofa wouldn't fit up the stairs. (Of course, the dowdy chair that I don't like but own because it matches the sofa fit just fine.) It's sitting downstairs in this hallway; they weren't even able to move it to get it into storage.

At the moment, I feel less like an worthwhile new member of the Harvard Community and more like a broken kite that has been left out in the rain for several days.

I think maybe the movers were wrong about the legs not coming off. It might go up the front stairs with the legs off. As if I know how to take the legs off a sofa, but then again desperate people can sometimes manage a dramatic increase in aptitude. Otherwise, um, anybody know anybody in Cambridge who needs a sofa? Or, alternatively, anybody got a crane?

from cambridge: my first night as city-dweller

At the time, the amount of money I was given for moving expenses to Cambridge seemed very generous. Instead, there is good reason to think that it is already all gone between the movers and other expenses already incurred. In an effort to save money, then, I decided that rather than spent $110 for a hotel tonight, I would sleep on the hardwood floors here in my new apartment. My mattress is two fleece throws that I bought at a CVS Pharmacy for $12, and my pillow is a 4-pak of toilet paper bought from the same store. Given what a finicky sleeper I am anyway, I have to admit to not being very optimistic as to how this will work. At least it will probably be good for getting caught up on e-mail and work, I guess.

Update, 6:30am: Not bad, really. Or at least not bad from my perspective: the toilet paper rolls are now squished almost entirely flat, so their opinion might differ.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

from cambridge: inside looking out

I am writing this from the floor of my new Cambridge apartment, mooching the unsecured wireless connection from some neighbor. I do not seem to have the little cable that attaches my camera to the computer. Which is especially bad because, looking around, I realize I don't actually have any idea how my stuff is going to fit in here. A smarter and/or more prepared person would have brought measurements of all key pieces of furniture and a tape measure along to be able to do crucial pre-move planning. For that matter, I'm also very worried that my sofa and part of my desk are not going to fit through the strange three-doorway-doorway that I have. Eek.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

from philly: a good time, even if a little soggy

So, the big recreational finale for ASA was a group outing to a Phillies game. Unfortunately, there was a light rain falling pretty much all day here in Philly, and it had not stopped by game time. Some of us bought old-school baby-blue Phillies caps at the stadium to keep our heads dry.* We ended up spending three hours mostly standing near the concessions stands and getting to see a grand total of four outs of baseball before the second rain delay resulted in the game eventually being cancelled. Hanging out with good people and drinking good beer during a rain delay is actually a pretty fun time, although three hours of waiting for something to begin does start to get long, especially if you spend enough time investigating the rain first-hand as to be soaked through by the time you decide to give up and leave.

I am back at the hotel and really tired. I've had a great time at the conference--socially, I mean, although even somewhat intellectually--but the last two weeks have completely worn me out. Tomorrow, it's a flight to Boston to get the keys to my apartment. I got a message from the movers today assuring me that all my stuff was safely on its way across the country and would arrive Thursday afternoon. I want to believe, I do, I do.

* To us, however, the "P" on the caps does not stand for Phillies, but rather for Public Sociology 4Ever.

Monday, August 15, 2005

from philly: breach

What was I thinking??? A few days ago, I posted an e-mail I had received. I reposted it without the "jeremyfreese@[domain deleted]" that you see now, but instead with "". And, so, yesterday saw the arrival of the first spam message in my previously pristine gmail inbox, followed by another one today. By the end of the month, I'm sure, I will be offered no end of opportunities to rescue the finances of various African ex-dignitaries and to enlarge/reduce/reshape/cyborgize various parts of my body.

from philly: is there any deeper significance to the first letter of a city's name?

This is my first trip to Philadelphia. I am sure it is a wonderful city, etc., etc.. However, every time I step outside the hotel where the conference is being held, I notice two things about the air: (1) it feels ungodly humid and (2) it smells faintly but undeniably of urine.

Friday, August 12, 2005

dispatch from philadelphia

I have finally made it to my hotel in Philly. I have gotten something like 7 hours of sleep in the last 72 hours, and I am desperately underprepared for the presentation I am giving tomorrow. However, the grant proposal I've been collaborating on was successfully completed and movers did show up today to start hauling my stuff to Cambridge. Granted, they did show up 2 hours late, worked at such a imperceptible pace that it seemed whenever you were looking at them that they weren't actually working at all, and weren't done by the time I had to go to the airport. Never in my life have I had so little confidence in people I was entrusting with so much. My furniture is probably ablaze in a ditch somewhere in northern Indiana as I type this.

Incidentally, Nina and Dorotha were both a huge help with the move today and deserve dozens of newly minted karma points, making it all the more a pity that karma doesn't actually exist. Meanwhile, the non-existence of karma continues to work out pretty well for me, as it enables me to have all these friends who are far better than what I deserve.

Update: Okay, okay. "Incidentally" was not the right word. When I'm sleep-deprived, the first thing that goes is my diction.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

apparently, this 'new fan' missed all the posts about my moving away from madison

Received yesterday:
From: Claire [deleted] 
To: jeremyfreese@[domain deleted]
Date: Aug 10, 2005 4:29 PM
Subject: Interested in writing a blog on
I'm a new fan of your blog. Would you be interested in writing a blog on
The content is entirely up to you. My only requirement would
be that you try to write at least once or twice a week and that the content is
original (i.e that you don't also post it on blogspot).
What's in it for you?
We select a blog for publication in print each week and pay that writer $50. I
know it's not a lot of cash, but it's a little extra spending money. I can offer
you more visibility. is the area's number one local website and we
receive more than 7 million page views a month.
What do you think?
Of course, even if I was not moving away from Madison because it would violate one of The Ten Sacred Rules of JFW: "The proprietor of JFW will never attempt to make money from this blog." This rule is right between "JFW will never have a sitemeter" and "The proprietor of JFW will never use his blog as an outlet for disquisitions about his bodily functions." Or maybe it's between: "The proprietor of JFW will never refer to those people who are kind enough to check out his blog from time to time as being a 'readership'." and "JFW is an irregular blog with no sense of compunction to post everyday." (Note: other bloggers feel differently about their blogs, and that's not just okay but a good thing--the online sandbox is infinite, and so we all have room enough to play in our own way.)

too busy to blog. sorry. not that sorry. and not that busy, either, judging at least from how i went ahead and blogged anyway.

Too bad, too, because there are various interesting things going on, some of which would even be bloggable. Something I learned today: if your cel phone dies after somebody spills homeade Concord Grape red wine all over it, and you take it in to the repair guys, don't bother trying to look like you don't know why it stopped working--you fool no one.

The movers are coming to pack my stuff at 8:30 tomorrow. I'm hoping to actually have most of my stuff packed before they arrive. Due to other, rather maddening circumstances, there has come an extra imperative to economize more in this move, and the professionals charge by the carton.

BTW, I did finally figure out what I'm doing with my car. I'm going to be leasing it to a friend. There are obvious problems that can arise when friends make deals like this. It helps when you have a friend who has no problem talking frankly through all the details of what exigencies could arise and who would be responsible for them. It also helps when, alongside any of that, you also have an economist friend who is not only willing to share with you the proper formula is for figuring out the fair lease price of a car but also who even looks up and plugs in the proper numbers. Thanks to both.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

jeremy, is life better once you get tenure?

As a matter of fact, it is. I wasn't really thinking that it would make that much of a difference. Turns out, it does.

Monday, August 08, 2005


Eleven weeks into this diet, and I'm over the thirty pound mark. This past week I think I benefitted from a dietary secret weapon: the stress of a zillion things going on. Actually, I had a lot of stress during the Great Weight Gain of 2003, but at that time my slogan was: "When the going gets tough, Jeremy gets donuts." But when you decide to eschew caloric consumption as a coping mechanism, it's like you get this metabolic increase that you don't overwhelm with increased intake. Or something like that. Metabolism is kind of like electricity for me, where I sort of understand it, and can talk about its various properties in various ways, but, I feel like at the most basic, authentic level, I honestly don't even remotely fathom how it works.

I went to a dinner party last night that had some fabulous food toward which I did not exhibit great restraint. Nowadays, all kinds of men take pride in being able to cook well. It's a rare man, though, who can cook up a good meal and also bake an absolutely scrumptious pie for dessert. One of these is Tom Bozzo.

Sunday, August 07, 2005


World: Don't even think you are going to get much posting from me in the next two weeks. I'm exhausted and have a zillion things to do this week before I leave. But, look, someone sent me this in case I ever get homesick for Bucky Badger, the beady-eyed rodent mascot of my university that all of the children of Wisconsin adore.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

patent pending

"So are you up for doing something again this year?"
"Do you want to know what it is?"
"No, I'll wait for the e-mail and learn at the same time as everyone else."

Two years ago, I ended up trying to compose haiku while rushing off to a New Years' Party. Last year, I was given the task of inventing a recipe despite not being able even to follow a recipe composed by somebody else. This year: I'm supposed to invent something. This is the unusual role I have take on in providing the least-prized part of the winner's prize package in my friend Rob Clark's Famous NFL Football Pool.

This year's pool is the most elaborate ever, and will be updated for the world via the new RCFNFLFP weblog. Note that the invitation is for the more the merrier, so if you follow the NFL and are not unseemly, consider it. (I personally hardly follow the NFL at all, but did stage an astonishing late-season comeback when I switched to my "Which team has the more feisty-looking logo?" algorithm and come within a game of winning two years ago.)

Nostalgic public sociology moment: My side career of creating things from Rob Clark began with his wedding, where I was asked to deliver a homily appropriate for a secular ceremony for two sociologists.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

medicine show

Are you one of those people who snoops around the medicine cabinet when you use the bathroom at somebody else's place? I'm not. It's only been in the last few years that, via an accumulation of anecdotes, I've come to appreciate how common it is. Last night I had about twenty-five people over to the RV, as part of the gauntlet of going-away activities currently underway. Before people arrived, I put the following note on the middle shelf inside my medicine cabinet:

This morning, I opened my medicine cabinet and saw someone had turned it around and written:

(Note to Jeremy Freese Healthwatchers: I do not actually have any kind of "fungal infection", whatever exactly that is, or medicines suggestive thereof.)

Update: Nina has written a post about the party, complete with a couple not exactly flattering photographs of this blogger.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

christmas in august

Remember that song "Do they know it's Christmas?" that was recorded by a bunch of British artists to benefit the starving of Africa? While the motivation was admirable, I always thought it was a little bit of a strange song, given that there are a such a large number of non-Christians in Africa that they answer for many would be "no" to the question even in a situation of plenty. Then I learned that if you take the part of the song that goes "FEED THE WOR-R-RLD... let them know it's Christmas time" and run it through one of those hypersubsonic disaggregators, it turns out somebody subliminally inserted "[and convert them to Christianity, if necessary]" in the middle. Once again, JFW: your best source for fake-o music trivia.

Anyway, I digress. I was thinking of that song this morning because of the lyric:
the Christmas bells that ring there
are the clanging chimes of doom
Well tonight thank God it's them
instead of you
Substitute "exam" for "Christmas" and "today" for "tonight", and you get my feeling the last couple days as various graduate students here have been chained to computers doing their Ph.D. qualifying exams. There are few things in this world I'm more pleased to have far receded in my biographical rear view mirror.

(Of course, I hope everything is going well for everyone who is taking them, and that the end result will be success!)

Monday, August 01, 2005

out of mouth, out of mind

Monday is my weekly weigh-in day, and I'm sure all of you have spent most of the day hitting "Refresh" again and again as you wait for the update. To end the suspense: the losing streak continues. Through 10 weeks, I'm down 27 pounds. Rarely in my life does something go better than expected, especially something so contingent on my own actions.

Sometime during the Great Weight Gain of 2003, I became sufficiently corpulent that I had grown beyond the most generous hole on the belt I wear most days. So I bought a new one. Now, I'm off the smallest hole of that belt. I looked around for my old belt in vain. And then I realized it was in the Box Of Resignation in which I had packed a bunch of clothes that no longer fit. And, lo, they fit now, so it's like a world of new-but-familiar wardrobe choices awaits. So, now: do I box up the larger clothes that I've shrunk out of, or do I show some confidence and get rid of them?

Anyway, following a theme from comments on yesterday's post, I wouldn't claim to have learned much about the craft of weight loss from the experience of this downward journey. However, there is one not-necessarily-obvious thing about this diet that I do think I have done right. And that is: I've tried to be militant about avoiding having "just a taste" or "low-calorie" versions of the foods that I know are the most problematic for me. Namely, before all this started, I would have enormous cravings for (milk) chocolate. I don't know if I felt like I had to have something chocolate every day, like some friends I could mention, but chocolate certainly found its way into my gullet with high regularity. Back when this diet started and I was full of abstemious resolve, I kept myself away from chocolate. And, now, when my resolve is not nearly as strong as it was, I don't actually miss it. Meanwhile, if I had been messing around with those fat-free chocolate snacks, I suspect it quite likely I would have graduated up to full-blown-full-fat chocolate consumption by now. I've never believed the saying that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I'm even more sure it doesn't apply to the stomach. Absence makes you forget.

Quick postscript on chocolate and fatness: It wasn't until graduate school that I learned there were all these dog owners out there who believed adamantly that you shouldn't give chocolate to a dog. I mean, I have friends who react as strongly when they see their dog about to snag a morsel of chocolate as you might expect a new parent to react if they saw their toddler about to snag a morsel of rat poison. I don't know the evidence from veternary science, so I'm not saying these friends are wrong in being so mightily concerned. But: back on the farm we had a dachschund that was the victim of my mother's pathological need to feed. From whenever it was, early on, that my mother figured out that it liked chocolate, that dachschund had chocolate every day of its life. "And she loved it!" my mother would chime in here. It was, by a ways actually, the fattest dachschund I have ever seen. The weight problem caused some serious issues for its doggie quality of life when it got old. If the chocolate ever caused any problems for that dog beyond helping it toward being so fat, I never saw it. 'Cause it did get old, dying at an age certainly in line with the average for its breed.