Monday, May 29, 2006

(madison) my mad city pseudo-pretend-not-quite-half-marathon

So, the original reason for me being in Madison this weekend was the marathon I was supposed to be running in. I backed out, but Sal stayed in, so I was there at 7:30 at the starting line to see him off. Feel free to play Where's Saldo? with this photo from the start:

sal at the start
(Hint: He's the guy who is looking in the direction of the camera and waving.)

While I would have rather trained and prepared and then run, I was certainly glad that, since I hadn't adequately prepared, I wasn't running, because it was going to be WAY TOO HOT to be running a marathon (like 85+ degrees hot), and, even in better shape, I'm exactly the type who wilts in the heat.

Next time I saw Sal was about 12 miles into the marathon, when the route came by the lakeshore path down the hill from the Social Science Building:

sal on the lakeshore path

I was wearing my running shoes anyway, since by accident they were the only shoes I packed other than my dress shoes, and I ended up running alongside Sal for awhile in jeans. The guilt of talking to this guy who had 14 miles to go in 85+ degree weather due to something I told him we should do together and then flaked out on was e-freaking-normous. Anyway, through some complicated compatriotic reasoning, I decided that I would get some shorts on and run the rest of the way with Sal. Through some sprinting, quick dressing, and arguably illegal parking, I was back beside Sal before he reached Mile 15:

sal and jeremy on the lake wingra path

Among the things in my man purse was my ridiculously large cel phone because this was such an impromptu decision that I had to make a couple calls while running to re-coordinate or re-schedule things, including telling Dorotha et al. that I wouldn't be able to take them to watch the finish (the finish line being conveniently at the site also hosting The World's Largest Brat Fest this weekend). Dorotha still came, though, and even made signs that were intended to underscore the difference in deserved praise for Sal and I:

the signs for sal and jeremy

(You might note something blue on my sign. It's a sticker. Why did I warrant a sticker? The sticker is a blue star with one of the points torn off. Says Dorotha: "I've been wondering what I would ever do with this torn and ugly sticker, and then I got the chance to make a sign for you.")

Most of what I seemed to regard as "Sal support" as we ran seemed to comprise providing incessant commentary, taking water and stuff from volunteers just like a legitimate participant (thanks especially to the guy handing out Fla.Vor.Ice), and shouting to spectators to cheer for Sal, even if this meant sometimes claiming he had various ties to the TV show "American Idol." I was surprised at the number of people in the latter half of the race who had brought cowbells; every single one of these people had guy with a man purse yell at them, "More cowbell! More cowbell for Sal!"

If I had thought of myself as being able to do a half marathon, much less a half marathon carrying a man purse on an unseasonably warm day, I would have entered the half marathon. So, not surprisingly perhaps, the Jeremy tank ran empty about a half mile from the finish and I told Sal (and Julieta, who ran the last 2-3 miles with us in regular--stylish, even--clothes) to go ahead. I was, however, able to regroup. My original plan was to duck out right before the finish since I didn't deserve to finish (since I hadn't, you know, started). But by the point I actually reached it, I had swung around the rationalization that since the half-marathoners used the same finish line, I was willing to take the karma hit for crossing. As you can see, by the time I did finish, I certainly looked like I had been through something quite trying:

jeremy after pretend pseudo not quite half marathon
(I think all you need to know about how shockingly unphotogenic I am is that this is by no means then unflattering photo of me in existence.)

Of course, Sal and I got some photos together as well. If you want to know why I wasn't doing the whole marathon, you need look no further than the creeping-paunchiness evident here:

sal and jeremy afterwards

Sal now wants us to do the Chicago marathon in the Fall. The idea being I would actually run this one all the way from start to finish, so we could get a photo with both of us wearing medals.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

(madison) in which irritation turns into self-indulgent nostalgic reverie

Although still under the weather, I was having an absolutely wonderful day here in Madison. Then I return to the place where I'm staying and, rather than read either of the dissertations or either of the articles for review in my bag, I decided to tackle this strange problem with one of my Stata programs (-asprvalue-, for fans of discrete choice models with alternative-specific data). The problem took me over an hour to figure out, and it turned out to be the result of a brand-new bug introduced in some recent update of Stata, rather than anything wrong with my own program. If my irritation was converted into energy and emitted from your monitor right now, you and everything at least thirty feet behind you would be in flames. Nothing personal.

Maintaining these programs sometimes feels like it takes way too much time. I am not a programmer! (I do really enjoy programming, the creative parts of it and sometimes even the detective work of debugging, but figuring out that an error you presumed was your own was really Stata's is extremely frustrating.)

Sometimes people ask how I learned how to program Stata. The story: In fourth grade, I didn't have an Atari like the cool kids, and decided that what I really wanted was a Commodore VIC-20 anyway. My parents did not have much money, but father got caught up in this moment of grandeur when I entered the Frontier Days Spelling Bee in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and told me that if I won, he would buy me a VIC-20. Even in my deepest and most tortured moments of intellectual self-doubt, I know this: I can spell. So I won and got my VIC-20* from K-Mart and this led later to them getting me a used Commodore 64 and by the time I was in eighth grade I was really good for someone who was entirely self-taught from looking at code and articles in Commodore magazines. But then, around this time the Commodores went south and PCs because more expensive and I discovered girls or Vonnegut or something, I don't know, but the upshot is that I didn't really do much more programming until I decided a few years into graduate school that, despite various declarations to the contrary, I wanted to do quantitative social research after all.

At first I worked with SPSS, which I found bewildering because it seemed designed to encourage users to do things in cumbersome and self-defeating way. Then, one bright day, I discovered Stata 5, and after like a forty-some-hour manuals-and-keyboarding-binge, all was bliss.

* The Commodore VIC-20 had 3581 available bytes of memory. If I added another paragraph to this post, I'd be over the limit.

Friday, May 26, 2006

(madison) the saying 'no news is good news' should not be taken as a universal truth

I arrived in Madison this evening. I know that there are blogs out there--blogs by respectable, upstanding people blogging under their real names--in which the authors have no qualms discussing their intestinal lives in great detail. This is not one of those blogs. So, anyway, nothing to report from my trip so far. I am looking forward to having a great visit here in Madison, assuming that WebMD is wrong and I do not actually have cholera.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Baby, if you've ever wondered
Wondered, whatever became of me
I'm sitting in an airport in Cincinnati
Cincinnati--er, um, actually Cleveland
Being a Midwesterner, I have no excuse for such confusion. Then again, it's not like being in a city's airport is really like being in a city, except that it counts for my tally of States From Which I've Blogged (22!). I've actually been through Ohio before--Cincinnati or Cleveland, I can't remember--and did not post from there, so this post is like casting a Buckeye monkeye off my back.

Regarding WKRP in Cincinnati, an interesting phenomenon that has occurred every single time I have been in a nostalgic conversation with other straight men involving WKRP, sooner or later someone will offer--as if they were about to voice a heterodox opinion--that they always found the woman who played Bailey Quarters more appealing than Loni Anderson, and no one will disagree. Seriously, every single time, as lawlike as the tendency of an apple going to down rather than up when you drop it. Now, an obvious first hypothesis for explaining this would be that I am continually the one who voices this opinion, but, in fact, I am confident I have never been the one to introduce this angle to the conversation. (Talking about one's comparative assessment of the sex appeal of different television characters is really not my thing, unless it's the perennial debate about Daphne vs. Thelma on Scooby Doo.) How you have someone on a television series defined as the "sex symbol" when really seemingly every man (except for, at least during that period, Burt Reynolds) prefers another woman in the show would seem an interesting sociological question, and so perhaps something I can ask Dr. Ruth if she takes questions from the floor during her upcoming appearance at the upcoming American Sociological Association meetings.

Update, after midnight: A commenter posted a link to a site celebrating Bailey Quarters, where a guy takes the idea of her being a heterodox preference and celebrates it to the point of being--and yes! I know I overuse the word--creeptastically creepy. The guy is just so earnest in his affection.

Meanwhile, the updated list of states:

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


From the American Sociological Association bulletin advertising highlights of the upcoming annual meetings in Montreal:
Thematic Sessions explore the meeting theme of transgressing boundaries in
numerous ways, and several sessions feature talks by distinguished scholars who have
played strategic roles themselves in challenging gatekeepers
. At a session on
Breaking Boundaries by Law, look for Jack Greenberg, who as Director of the NAACP
Legal Defense Fund worked to bring the case of Brown vs. Board of Education to the
Supreme Court. Dr. Ruth Westheimer, who moved the country to accept open discussion
about sexual behavior, will participate in a session on Sexual Boundaries.
Waldron, the world renowned political philosopher, will speak at a special thematic
session on Torture.
I mean, the jokes about this practically write themselves. Unfortunately, however, they do not actually write themselves, and seeing as I am rushing around for what by tentative plans will be over three weeks away from here, I do not have any time to devise them.

Bonus Dr. Ruth Wikipedia trivia: she was apparently trained as a sniper during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

proper adjectives

What to do with French social theorists? You want to be a good intellectual and drench your writings with them, but you don't want to undermine your highbrow-self-presentation by using the wrong adjective. For Michel Foucault, people resist Foucaultian, because it makes him sound like a sibling of Billy Ocean (of "Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Panopticon" fame). So most seem to prefer Foucauldian. My own preference is Foucaultzy, especially since a friend once knitted me a Foucaultzy that I use to keep my Foupot warm.

So, I got an e-mail yesterday regarding the proper adjective for Pierre Boudieu. Bourdieuian involves more consecutive vowels than many people can apparently stand (unless they happen to be queueing). Instead there seems much enthusiasm for Bourdieusian, which to me makes Bourdieu sound like the greatest Siamese twin act in the history of social thought (or maybe then it would be Bourdieuxian). My preference is for Bourdieulean, especially since I think it sounds healthy: Too much fat in your Bour Sausage? Try Bourdieulean!

For plain old American theorists, I have found that few things provoke defensive rage quite like suggesting that maybe one shouldn't drop the 's' off a surname that ends in one. Namely, I have suggested that the adjective form for Talcott Parsons should really be Parsonsian rather than Parsonian, and in fact Parsonian makes it sound more like one is citing the work of a folksy country minister. I said this once in a brownbag and a colleague immediately and loudly said "You're wrong" with an expression on his face that was less consistent with "Jeremy, I think that's incorrect" than with "Jeremy, if not for the presence of witnesses, I would strangle you and then slaughter all your blood relatives." Academics can be such a touchy lot, especially where their parts of speech are concerned.

For referrring to the thought of Jeremy Freese, btw, the proper adjective is neither Freeseian, Freesean, nor Freesian. It's Freestylin'.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

supply and demand

Boing Boing is showing a photo of the first working prototype of the $100 laptop that the One Laptop Per Child program is putting together, with the hope of distributing to the developing world. A question whose answer I'll be curious to see: If these do end up being widely distributed in some region, what will be the subsequent clearing price be on e-Bay for their re-sale to geek-chic-collectors in the US/Europe?

If one wants to be a rock star... is better off going into "rock," than, say, academia. All I'm saying.

Monday, May 22, 2006

urgently urgent!

I'm giving a presentation tomorrow for which I have a slide related to the statement that "Economics is about choices, all kinds of choices" and I want an image to go along with it. So, what would be a good image out there on the web that I could appropriate and use for "economics" or "economists"?

what the world needs now

According to a presentation by Jim Moody, the American Sociological Association has gone from having twenty-something sections (specialty areas) in the last 1980's to forty-something sections now, with more in the works. I want to start a new ASA section that would be devoted to mocking the proliferation of ASA sections. Following an earlier idea of Kim's, I'm thinking a good name would be the "Sociological Sociology" section. Whatever else might be involved, there would be an absolute committment to having beer and donuts at its session during the ASA meetings.*

* Ah, but what kind of beer, what kind of donuts? You can already see the seeds of division that would lead a splinter group to break off and form the "Sociologically Sociological Sociology" section, with different beer and different donuts and perhaps even healthy snacks.

postcard from the postpostgraduate life

(snips from conversation via GMail)
I just got home from a party. Do you remember [name] from [discipline] at IU? He teaches at [university] and lives in [city] this year. We had a loooong, drawn-out argument about relationships & gender. Sheesh.

I just can't imagine having a long argument about relationships and gender anymore. I can't imagine it breaking any new ground that hadn't already been twice-tilled by the time we left IU.

I know! It was a weird argument that felt oddly and unpleasantly like grad school. I kept trying to change the subject.

Ugh, and isn't [name] even way older than us? He's in his mid-40s by now or something, right?

Yes, he's 40+. Whatever. The annoying thing, though, was that I could neither get him to "agree to disagree," nor, when I gave up on that, get him to let it go when I said, "Okay I agree with you. Now can we change the subject?"

Sunday, May 21, 2006

idol curiosity

Okay, so prompted by developments mentioned in the bottom of my last post, I devoted some more of my insomnia to American Idol research, despite having never watched the show. I was struck by this story:
Elliott Yamin, of Richmond, Va., received 33.06 percent of the vote. Hicks, of Hoover, Ala., and McPhee, of Los Angeles, got 33.26 percent and 33.68 percent of the votes, although it wasn't revealed which contestant had more.
Three candidates, and they all get vote totals within six tenths of a percentage of one another. Hmm. I mean, people's blogs made it sound like the judges and everyone else sensed that Yamin was going to finish third, but he loses only by 1 in 500 votes?

I looked up the final vote totals from the first four seasons of American Idol:
Clarkson def. Guarini 58-42
Studdard def. Aiken 50-50
Barrino def. DeGarmo 51-49
Underwood def. Bice 50-50
For democratic elections with two parties, there are rational choice explanations you can invoke for why elections should tend to be very close. (Basically, a party that is winning by too large of a margin should have pressure to become more ideologically extreme and thus make the next election closer.) I see no straightforward application of this logic to American Idol. So then: why are these elections repeatedly so exceptionally--or, to use a different word, unnaturally--close? What I am saying is that these numbers have been repeatedly so close as to demand some kind of explanation, and so what is it?

I'm serious here. I can think of various theories, but I'm interested if anyone else has ideas. For certain of my ideas, interesting additional evidence would be provided by the vote totals for Idol in other countries (it still runs in other countries, right?), and seeing if those also evince a tendency to be extremely close elections.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

why go to an institution of higher learning when you can go to an institution of hotter learning instead?

iu is red hot

I received this in the mail the other day from the university from which I have two degrees. They are apparently very excited that Newsweek called them "hot" and have decided to build an entire media campaign around it. So, yes, next time someone asks me where I got my Ph.D., I will oblige and say, "America's Hottest Big State School!"

Indiana is a fine graduate program for sociology, by the way. US News and World Report rankings of graduate programs ranks it 11th (and 2nd in what I list as my primary specialty, social psychology). If the graduate program rankings were based on the average correspondence between the futures that graduate students want and what they actually get, Indiana Sociology would undoubtedly rank higher than 11th. I suspect that if graduate programs also had rankings based on average student satisfaction, Indiana Sociology would also rank higher than 11th, although the general question of comparative graduate student happiness is a broader enigma I mean to blog about someday.

BTW, I've been in the throes of some raging insomnia the last few nights. Before embarking on this blog post, I found myself reading the Wikipedia entries of various American Idol notables, which is all the more pathetic given that, as I don't have TV, I haven't seen more than fifteen minutes of American Idol, and know it mainly by my bemused and somewhat obsessive following of updates on Angela's blog. (The American Idol Wikipedia binge has followed recent weird obsessive listening to Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone", for which a certain Ms. Careyoke is to blame.)


Say whatever else you want about Wisconsin, it has the best state motto in the entire U.S. of A.: Forward! It's so good that it's worth saying once more with boldface feeling: Forward!

I was having dinner with some fellow Midwesterners awhile back, and we talked about coming to Boston and suddenly seeing all these New Hampshire license plates with their "motto": Live Free or Die. Don't get me wrong--I'm very fond of living free myself. However, as part of my general opposition to capital punishment and committment to civil liberties, I believe that if a person does not wish to live free, the State should not step in and kill them, and I believe New Hampshire should not be using its license plates to threaten innocent motorists.

Friday, May 19, 2006

on message

media training manual
(page from the media training manual we were given)

Media training was fun and actually more instructive than I would have expected. I wish I'd had it when I wanted to write an op-ed about Medicare Part D this fall and didn't know what to do. Apparently, as part of this fellowship, we can consult with this media company anytime during it or two years hence. So now, I just need a Health Policy Message and fame awaits.

If you are not so lucky to be able to have professional media training, the chief point about being interviewed for radio or television could be stated thusly: The interviewer's job is to ask questions. Your job is not to answer those questions. Your job is to convey the message that is the reason you agreed to do the interview in the first place. I mean, the impression I was left with was that you should think of your message as being like a pointy stick, and your goal is to impale the interviewer with it. (While making eye contact and avoiding jargon, of course.)

A strange turn to the day was that one of the people started asking about blogs, and noted to the trainers that I have a blog. This led to various questions, including the two obvious ones for which I have yet to devise effective talking points: "What do you blog about?" and "Why?"

i'm sure i'll love your band just as soon as y'all sell out

My favorite Hüsker Dü* song is "Could You Be The One?" I had already formed this opinion did I learn they recorded this song after they sold out and sucked. It's the same for how I think the Replacements' Tim is their best album, but turns out this was actually their first album after selling out, and instead Let It Be is their best album and indeed one of the best albums of all time. Who knew? Apparently many people, all very hip, but not me with my little walkman and tapes back in the day.

I am not sure what it says about me that I like indie bands, but especially what they do after they stop trying to be so indie or just plain stop being indie. I'm like one of those people who likes ethnic restaurants, so long as they aren't too authentically ethnic.

* I'm writing this while in the midst of way too much of a rush to worry about inserting the umlauts over the u's, and yet I do. I'm not a fan of the board game Hüsker Dü, although I like that it is Danish for "Do you Remember?", except that I had misremembered and thought it was Norwegian instead. So I guess I Hüsker Doont.

Update: Tom's favorite HüDü song is also "Could You Be the One?", although at least he's cool enough to have it on vinyl.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

dispatch from loserville

I am not doing the marathon next Saturday. I have also gained 12 pounds since November. I am not happy about either of these things, and for both I am fully to blame. I have allowed myself to be thrown from the horse, metaphorically speaking, and I have allowed myself to inadequately exercise and overadequately eat, literally speaking. I would ask you to toss me a life preserver, but I would probably just mistake it for a giant donut and start noshing away.

Ugh. Double ugh. Double ugh with cheese and a side of curly fries.

What's worse, I have an ungodly number of things to do before June 3rd and have to spend six hours tomorrow doing media training as part of my fellowship. This will apparently involve being videotaped doing a mock interview which will then be critiqued by public relations experts. I fully expect that for me the Elephant In The Room during their expert comments will be whether it is acceptable to suggest cosmetic surgery.

Enough wallowing. I am going out to run. Various Jeremy-doubters-and-detractors can bask in gleeful schadenfreese.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

too nice for these parts

The headline of one my city's newspapers today reads: "We're Not Rude Enough! City Only Ranks Fifth in Rude Drivers." The accompanying article does take some pride in Boston ranking number one in "honking" and "cursing people out," although for the latter it is apparently tied with Chicago.

Where I come from, people still regularly raise one finger--their index finger--from the steering wheel to wave at cars coming from the other direction. Total strangers, even.

I need to make decisions about what I am going to do with my car in the next week and a half. Right now it is sitting a friend's parking lot in Madison, not being driven but taking $500+ out of my bank account every month.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

i tried 'blogging'

I am unable to get my PIN from the Department of Education's student loan website because I cannot replicate the answer to the question "What is my favorite pastime?" I have no idea when I gave the DOE an answer to that question. For that matter, I have no idea why I would have selected this as my challenge question--I looked, and "what's your mother's maiden name" is available, but I went with "What is your favorite pastime?"--and I have no idea what I would have entered.

Any ideas? I'm stumped.

Plus, the word "pastime" always looks to me like it's misspelled somehow. Then again, so does "misspelled."

Monday, May 15, 2006

yet another google-based timesuck

Google Trends allows you to enter search terms and compare the frequency with which they have been entered into Google by the population over time. You can select an option to restrict the graphs to only searches within the United States. (The letters and flags in the graph refer to news stories based on the term in the sidebar that add little information and, annoyingly, cannot be turned off.)

In the US, searches including "football" exceed those including "porn" for most of the pro and college regular season, while those for "basketball" only exceed "porn" during March Madness, and those in "baseball" never exceed "porn."

I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out the timing of the annual spikes in searches for these terms. Note that the second annual peak for "flowers" is higher than the first.* Consider also what the difference in the duration of spikes suggests about the advance thought given to the different things.

* Comparison of searches for "flowers" and "lingerie" show a spike for "lingerie" that coincides with the first peak for "flowers" and not the second, which I think is probably a good thing for society.


Your day will come that you will be judged by God, and so will I. And I am ashamed, and shamed, and an embarrassment to my family, who are so precious and Godly people. What a terrible model of a Christian that I am. Thoughts of suicide are filling my mind, and I am full of rage at you despicable people. I hate living right now, and I want to die. My whole life is falling apart, my family, my ministry, my reputation and all that I have worked for all my life. Dear God, help me. I am so frightened.
So ends an e-mail from a minister to the Nigerians who have ensnared him in one of those spam e-mail swindles. It's from a riveting story of human fallibility in current issue of the New Yorker.

And, it made me nostalgic for my own exchange with someone presumably trying a similar scam in the very early days of this weblog (this post and forward).

Sunday, May 14, 2006

(en route) eastern seaboard booty call

(Written Saturday night; posted Sunday)

I am writing on the train from Philly to Boston. This is the last train of the night. We just left New Haven. Just as the train was about to leave the station, a twentiesish man rushed into my car, drenched with sweat and completely out of breath. He collapsed into the first seat by the door and sat there for maybe three full minutes just heaving in all the oxygen he could, like he had just finished running five miles at a full sprint. Then, he pulled out his cel phone. His side of the conversation:

"I'm on the train."
"Baby, you have no idea what I have just been through."
"I am on the train."
"Baby, I'm telling you, I am on the train."
"Well, if you don't believe me, you should still come down to the station at 10:30, because you'll see someone with a green jacket and big black bag."
"Yes, I'm really on the train."
"Okay, I'll see you at 10:30."

Saturday, May 13, 2006

(philadelphia) the great information superarchway

I am writing this from the $3/2 hour Internet connection sold through the McDonalds at the Philly train station. While of course free would be even better, kudos for anything that lets you connect over a stopover for something less than $7 or $10. So, finally, another good thing about McDonalds other than Shamrock Shakes.

(washington, dc) i know, i know.

I am the most frustrating person in the world to make or coordinate any kind of plans with. I mean this literally: the whole world, and quite possibly the history of the world (little is known about the frustratingness of individual members of preliterate societies, although many conjecture that the individual capacity for being frustrating increases as societies develop such innovations as clocks and calendars).

I appreciate the patience of any who has ever bothered to try to make plans with me to do something, and especially the patience of any one who has ever done this more than once.

Although, for this particular trip, the phone charger problem has made everything twice as frustrating as usual. I went into a Verizon store to try to get another one, but mine has to be special ordered since it's idiosyncratic for my model phone and that model has been discontinued. I did not want this phone in the first place. I only have it because someone spilled wine on my old phone, and this was the only 'comparable' model the cel-phone insurance company could ship immediately.

Friday, May 12, 2006

(washington, dc) pleasantries

You know how I sometimes use this blog to complain about sociology? Well, at this conference today, I saw multiple very good talks by recent-Ph.D. sociologists. The moral of the story being that just because some quarters of the discipline may sometimes drive me to despair, there is much going on to be enthusiastic about. (Meanwhile, if you are enthusiastic about the developments that drive me to despair, you have your own things to be enthusiastic about in sociology, so there, we're all winners.)

A conversation at dinner with the woman sitting next to me:
Her: "You know, your name seems really familiar."
"Well, um, do you use Stata?"
"Yes, yes! Thank you, by the way."
I mean, it's either that or this blog. Why else would a random social scientist know who I am?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

(washington, dc) seek-and-hide

I got off the train and the line at the taxi stand seemed like it was going to take a half hour, so I just asked somebody "Which way is the White House?" and started walking, because the conference is at a hotel right by it. The walk ended up being longer than expected, even after my accelerated pace to keep within casual eavesdropping distance of a woman on a cel phone who said as she was passing me, "Hey, I dated a guy and his father, so that's just as weird." (Turns out, the conversation had no other great utterances to report, and was mostly focused on the woman trying to convince her friend to leave her boyfriend And Leave Colorado Too, with an emphasis that made leaving the mountains sound at least as important as leaving the man.)

Anyway, I arrived here too late to pick up the badge the program says I need to go to conference events (I can pick it up tomorrow morning). Given that some people here do know me, I am confident that I would have been allowed into the opening dinner this evening, but I would have been late and who knows where I might have been seated and it could have been awkward and perhaps everyone at the conference would have stopped to gasp in horror at my tardiness and my unsightliness more generally, etc., etc., and so I ended up just spending the evening squirreled away in my room with room service. As has become commonplace for me at conferences, I amaze myself with just how pathologically shy I am. (All that said, I do love room service.)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

(baltimore) maryland, my maryland, a mighty post to thee!

I have nothing to say about Maryland, since I'm just in a train that's passing through. But, it raises my state count to #21.

(Incidentally, in this count, I count the fact that I have blogged from DC as having blogged from a state, which has raised protests because DC is not actually a state. This is true. However, that DC is not a state is, of course, a ridiculous, disgusting injustice to its citizens.* I believe that one way of creating grass-roots activism against this injustice is to talk about it the way one would talk about a state to the maximum extent possible, to increase its social-construction-as-a-state-ness, which presumably will in turn make the injustice of it actually not being a state even more plain.)

* Even, in my mind, more ridiculous and disgusting than the fact that the DC area to this day roots excitedly for a professional football team whose official nickname is "the Redskins", which is not at all to deny the r&d-ness of the latter.

(wilmington, de) crossing the delaware

I am on a train headed for Washington DC. My rule for States From Which I've Blogged is that it counts if I am physically in the state, even if that is just from a train station or airport. So this post is sufficient for me to cross Delaware off my list. I should note that it was relatively late that I figured out that the Boston-to-DC train goes through Delaware. I had, before this, succeeded in cajoling a friend of mine (Aileen!) to take a road trip from DC to Delaware to dispatch a post from a random coffeeshop somewhere.

I believe, incidentally, that Delaware features the hometowns of Madison-blogger-pals Ann, Tom, and Careyoke, although I will have to admit that only now that I am in Delaware do I truly believe that it exists. Prior to this, I was pretty sure it did, but part of me held out to the possibility that the state was a conspiracy devised by
credit card companies.

I realize that I have forgotten the little doohickey again required to make my cel phone charger work. This happened last time I was in Madison, and I had someone FedEx my backup charger from Cambridge to Madison. That charger, unfortunately, I left in a hotel room in Connecticut (I think), so I don't have a backup charger this time, and I doubt I'm going to be able to find a backup for my obscure phone easily in DC. Sometimes, I have tried to estimate the "Jeremy Freese tax", that is, the cost in terms of time and money imposed by the ways in which my life is made more complicated by my absent-mindedness.

double dip

BTW, if you haven't checked out Charles Franklin's running graphs of Bush's approval ratings, you should. The trend line at present eerily resembles a graph charting my dignity over the course of a night of karaoke.

(Franklin is a political science professor at Wisconsin, even if he refuses to blog in the Wisconsin School of Blogging style.)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Mathieu Deflem responded to my post about his arguments regarding the ASA elections. My presumption is that reasonable readers who are sufficiently inclined so as to read Deflem's posts, my post, and his comment on my post, will form a conclusion that would not be much enhanced by any strenuous rebuttal on my part, which is good because I am not interested in composing one. My official position being that if Deflem wants people to spend time engaging him in dialogue, he needs to work on making fewer transparently bad arguments.*

That said, Deflem did respond to one commenter to my post who apparently asserted that the reason for the sweep of female winners in last year's ASA elections was the result of the slate of candidates itself being overwhelmingly female. To my knowledge, he is absolutely correct on that point (see earlier post of mine and various comments thereafter).

Meanwhile, I discovered a public sociology site being hosted by my own University of Wisconsin-Madison. I don't want to get into the larger issue of my opinions about "public sociology." That said, do note that the Madison site has, as one of its two banner images for Public Sociology, somebody holding up a sign saying "No War For Oil." This being, ostensibly, the sociological-imagination-derived understanding of the causes of the (second) Iraq war that public sociology wishes to advertise/celebrate. Woo-hoo, where can I get me one of those simplistic-and-inaccurate-slogan signs to wave around?

* (Update) This sentence, I have decided, is nastier than I have any right to be. My mother would not be happy with me, and she would be correct.

Update: As if I'm not grumpy enough, someone was kind enough to point out to me the way that the Public Sociology site has the phrase "those who take sociology out of the classroom and laboratory to directly impact social change" in its first paragraph.

because you shouldn't have to scroll to read the first sentence of a post

Seriously, can someone who is HTML-saavy e-mail Tonya and offer to fix the six-inches-of-nothing-but-white-space problem on her blog. (Er, I guess you can't e-mail Tonya, because as part of the right-sidebar that is causing the problem in the first place, she's no longer listing an e-mail address.) I told her I could fix it, but I have only a very basic understanding of HTML myself. If you could fix it, you would bring bushels of joy to loyal TShow fans everywhere.

must love logit

Today I heard about a female biostatistician who went on a date with a man who advertised on craigslist that he was looking to go out with a woman who knew what logistic regression was.

As a public service to my nonquanticognoscenti female readers out there who wouldn't want to let a catch like this slip away, it's an analogue of linear regression for binary outcome variables; it can be derived by positing the outcome to be the binary manifestation of a latent continuous variable whose distribution conditional on the explanatory variables is logistic. If asked about it in a speed-dating context, you could probably just wink and say "linear in the logit, baby" and be fine, at least so long as you know that it's pronounced LOW-jit.

If you would like to be sassy, you can also retort that you won't go out with him until he proves he knows how to interpret an interaction effect from a logistic regression model, as all kinds of people mess that up, including hordes of smartypantsed economists and, well, me. If you show him interpretations and tests based on derivatives, he will almost certainly swoon; and if you combine these with a revealing graph of predicted probabilities, you may well stop his heart.

Monday, May 08, 2006

here comes the kallah

The wedding ceremony I attending yesterday combined Christian and Jewish traditions. This is maybe the third such ceremony I've attended. I don't know about others raised in the Christian tradition, but what this combination has basically come to mean to me is part-"default-ceremony" and part-way-cooler-and-more-interesting-rituals-than-what-you-get-in-the-"default-ceremony"-ceremony. For that matter, at the reception, I've found I much prefer watching the bride and groom hoisted around on chairs to watching progressively more guests get dragged into a dance where they are supposed to wag their arms like a chicken.

listen skinheads, you're going to hear about how much i loved my pinewood derby racer whether you like it or not!

Okay, so yesterday I mentioned the discussion of Beat Happening in Our Band Could Be Your Life. The thing about Beat Happening is not so much that they were really aggressively untalented (although they were), but that they were really aggressively untalented and insisted on confronting the angry punk-rock kids by singing songs about happy memories from childhood and other slumber-partyish sorts of things. The result:
The hostility that he created so simply, so easily, was just amazing," recalls Fugazi's Joe Lally. "You'd be in the crowd and people next to you would just be like, '[expletive deleted] this guy!' They'd be plotting how to kill him. How does he do it? He was getting them so angry--it was amazing to see. And the next thing you know, [expletive deleted] is flying at him." [...]

At a show in Reseda, a certain segment of the audience did not like Beat Happening at all. At first they just heckled the band, then they started throwing paper wads and paper cups and would up heaving the glass ashtrays that were placed on the tables. The band ignored all this and played on.

Then at one point [the guitarist] glanced over and saw [frontperson] Calvin Johnson had blood streaming down his face--he'd been struck on the nose by an ashtray. "He didn't stop the song at all. He didn't miss a lyric."

After the last song of their set, Johnson threw the mike down and walked off the edge of the stage, straight through an awed audience that parted like the Red Sea, and right out the front door.

"That was some courageous punk rock," says Fugazi's Guy Piccioto. "People think of them as being fey and poppy and all this stuff, but they were really delivering some hard science on those tours."
All this made me want to drop everything, work on inventing that time machine, set it back to 1990, and start a band of my own. We would play even worse. Be even more fearlessly gleeful. Get hit in the face with heavier things. It would be so gloriously-awesomely-awesome. O, why did I squander so much of my youth in libraries!

P.S. I have to confess, I'm lying here in bed in my apartment with three different social science books (one sociology, two economics) open, and what I'm actually reading is Our Band Could Be Your Life. It's episodic, so you can just flip around and read whatever, sort of like putting an iPod on shuffle.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

this blog could be your life

I've been reading Our Band Could Be Your Life, which is a history of indie punk-rockish music from basically Black Flag to the dawn of Nirvana. Much of the book is about bands dominated by young men in the throes of their own anger, like Black Flag, about which it is said:
This was a band whose stand presence one fanzine admiringly described as "comparable to an epileptic boy scout molesting a bag lady" and "possessing all the humor of a muscular dystrophy telethon."
Or, at least sounding angry even if they really weren't, like Husker Du (insert your own umlauts):
"People have misconstrued the pessimism and anger in our songs. We're really the opposite of all that; we're not callous, insensitive people. But we're frustrated by the fact that most people seem to end up that way--hopeless, defeated. We're afraid of ending up that way ourselves...
Against this backdrop comes a chapter on the far more happy-go-lucky Beat Happening:
They were resolutely unmacho and played melodic, downright quaint-sounding music. They could barely play or sing. Implicit in Beat Happening's music was a dare: If you saw them and said, "Even I could do better than that," then the burden was on you to prove it. If you did, you had yourself a band, and if you didn't, you had to shut up. Either way, Beat Happening had made their point.
(As for the title of this post, it occurred to me that many of those who occasion this blog might think of themselves as being too old to have a punk band be their life anymore, and yet they are still alive and not sure what to do with that fact. So, anyway, if nothing else, this blog could be your life. You could sleep over in the sidebar and store your belongings in my archives. Whatever. Just know that mi casa es su casa, mi blog es su vida.)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

remember the childhood game 'made you look?' it's been updated.

(conversation via chat)
"I used to always get the chicken when we went to Long John Silver's. I hate fish."
"Long John Silver's chicken is actually fish. This is well-known."
"No way!"
"See, e.g.,"
"This is not a real website."
"Made you click!"

Friday, May 05, 2006

just flip the switch and get it over with. now!

From a study reported on
Participants were told [when an electric shock] was coming, how strong it would be, and how long the wait for it would be, from 1 to 27 seconds.

Later, participants were given choices: Would they prefer a medium jolt in 5 seconds or 27 seconds? What about a mild jolt in 20 seconds vs. a sharp one in 3 seconds?

When the voltage was identical, the volunteers almost always chose the shortest wait. But those Berns dubbed "extreme dreaders" picked the worst shock if it meant not having to wait as long.
The study shows that dread itself is painful, so much so that about a third of people (the "extreme dreaders") will trade actual physical pain for less dread-based psychological pain. There's no way I'd participate in an electric shock study, as just sitting there getting hooked up to the machine would drive me crazy, but I know I would be an extreme-extreme-dreader.

Speaking of electric shock, I had an idea for a short short fiction story the other day, but the backstory required some kind of quirky way for a character to get electrocuted in front of his true love. I couldn't think of anything charming enough and so am stuck. Let me know if you have any ideas.

do not sit idle while others promulgate untruths

A favorite quote of mine is from Noam Chomsky, "The responsibility of the intellectual is to tell the truth and expose lies." Because only choosy mothers choose JFW, my presumption is that if you are reading this, you are some sort of intellectual. So, here: I have now been told by two different people that they have heard it said about me, "Jeremy would never leave the Midwest." One might think this proposition would be sufficiently contradicted by my not living in the Midwest now, but apparently two years is not enough to contradict "never" in some minds. Anyway, not that I have any reason to expect this will happen to you, but should you happen to be in a conversation in which someone says "Jeremy would never leave the Midwest," I would appreciate it if you could fulfill your responsibility as an intellectual by speaking truth to falsity and saying, "Yes, Jeremy would." Do not add "Especially if you double dare him," because I am impervious to double-dare manipulation techniques and thus you would be lying yourself.

(Not that I'm looking to leave the Midwest, mind you--especially since I am not, you know, actually in the Midwest--but I do not like the fact that I adore the Midwest being mistaken for the idea that I'm shackled to cornstalks forever.)

being jeremy freese

The other day I discovered that my kitchen sink was clogged. "Clogged" might be not quite right, as absolutely no liquid would go down at all. It was like pouring water into a bucket. I poked a fork down in there and it seemed like it was hitting metal or something. The garbage disposal would turn on, but it didn't clear the problem. I called my landlord, and they said to hit the reset button on the garbage disposal, but I couldn't find any such button. I also Googled "clog garbage disposal" and tried to follow those instructions, which involved reaching into the drain and turning the blades with an Allen wrench, but it was like I just hit this solid thing that wouldn't turn. So my landlord said they would send some plumber over.

I was gone when they here. I am glad, as it turns out that the "clog" was just the rubber stopper of my drain, upside down (so it looked sort of like a drain hole). I suspect I might be getting a call from my landlord asserting that I should be responsible for the cost of the plumber. If so, I'm not going to argue.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

technical update

A couple days ago, a collaborator asked if I wanted to confer on an Urgent Social Science issue using Skype. To which I could only shake my virtual head in despair and say, "Skype is so April 2006. Download Festoon and integrate it into your Google Talk and then we can confer."

My goal has been to assemble the components of a Comprehensive Remote Collaboration Solution. Basically, I want to be able to simultaneously talk, type, see and be seen, share my screen, share folders, and be able to write on my shared screen with my TabletPC pen. And, lo, I think I'm there.

Another great thing about the Tablet is that you be taking notes on it and ever so stealthily be monitoring your e-mail (or, even, Bloglines). It's different from people who sit there with their laptops open typing notes, where everyone assumes there's a reasonable chance they're just doing something on the Internet. You can be diligently writing notes and then, tap, you're in GMail or whatever, and tap, you're back to your notepad. It's no more rude than, say, sneaking a peek at your wristwatch.

The major downside of the Tablet is that it's slow. The other downside is that it isn't fully reliable. Tonight, inexplicably, it crashed in such a way that without warning the screen was entirely this uniform shade of teal that I'm not sure I've ever seen in Windows before.

On an entirely different tech front, I showed a friend of mine how she could easily realize her vision of creating Stata-HP, a version of Stata where various commands would be renamed to correspond to spells from Harry Potter. The "quietly" command, for instance, would be reimplemented as "silencio." She had embarked on assembling a list of commands and their spellname equivalents, but I haven't heard back from her since. Maybe its release can be timed to coincide with the final book in the series, perhaps with a set of Quidditch statistics to demonstrate it on.

Update: Of course, all this, and my DSL connection is out. At least my Tablet wireless still works, but that's thanks to the beneficience of an unsecured neighbor.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

scylla and charybdiss

Believe me, I have no intention on regularly polluting my cognitive space by developing counterarguments to the flailing assertions of fellow sociologist Mathieu Deflem. While I support his right to dissent, I want to state openly my belief that the net effect of Deflem's agitations is just additional discouragement for those who would wish to voice rational, coherent complaints about the overpoliticization/ideological-homogenization of sociology. In any case, he's written two posts on his blog complaining about a short survey that the Sociologists For Women in Society (SWS) conducts of candidates in the American Sociological Association elections (here and here). These posts irritate me enough that I feel compelled to respond with the following observations:
1. In general, the idea behind democracies is not that candidates get to determine what voters are allowed to care about in casting their ballots. It is beyond ridiculous for someone to announce their candidacy for a position in a professional organization and then say, "Respect for other people's opinions, in my mind, also includes not inquiring into these opinions and allowing such information to be volunteered (or not)."

2. If other constituencies within ASA wanted to mobilize and poll ASA candidates about issues of central concern to them, there is nothing stopping them from doing so. It's not SWS's fault that others lack their initiative.

3. It's weird to express dismay that SWS would send out a survey that focuses on the issues central to the mission of SWS.

4. Gender scholars are not some loony gang of gynoconformists. Each member of SWS has, in fact, her/his own mind. I would only have a problem with SWS providing information to members about candidates if that information was willfully misleading somehow. The SWS practice--presenting verbatim the responses provided by the candidates themselves--seems about as close to non-misleading-by-definition as one can get. If individual SWS members want to be single-issue "gender" voters--whatever exactly that might mean--this is their prerogative.

5. As a different example of single-issue voting, I want to announce that I will never myself vote for a candidate for ASA office who regards analogies to Nazi Germany as appropriate descriptions for ASA procedures or elections.
Sometimes I feel like the academic life is about dancing on a rug that has maybe ten square inches of carpet surrounded by yards of lunatic fringe.

Update, next day: Drek offers his own take on the posts in question, which he follows by offering the opportunity for rebuttal. I will have to admit to uncertainty about how exactly one would go about rebutting a drinking game.

Update to update: According to my Bloglines feed, Deflem has updated his post a couple times after I wrote this, so it might be better/differently articulated than before.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

is it just me, or is this not the most compelling evidence of plagiarism?

From the NYT. The Times is alleging that the Harvard sophomore whose lame novel was lifted from shelves for plagiarizing lame passages from another lame novel is guilty of plagiarizing from someone else's lame novel as well. The strangely unsmoking guns they provide:
In one scene in Ms. Kinsella's book, which was published by Dial Press, the main character, Emma, comes upon two of her friends "in a full-scale argument about animal rights," and one says, "The mink like being made into coats."

In Ms. Viswanathan's book, Opal, the heroine, encounters two girls having "a full-fledged debate over animal rights."

"The foxes want to be made into scarves," one of them says.

There are echoes in another scene in which one of Ms. Kinsella's characters threatens another, "And we'll tell everyone you got your Donna Karan coat from a discount warehouse shop."

In Ms. Viswanathan's version, Opal threatens another girl, Priscilla, saying, "I'll tell everyone that in eighth grade you used to wear a 'My Little Pony' sweatshirt to school every day."
Update, minutes afterward: Oops. The NYT has a longer set of excerpts in a side graphic that is more convincing. If I were the kind of person who could stand to say "my bad" as opposed to "oops" or "hey, wait, I made a mistake", I would say my bad. Or really, the NYT writer's bad, and, before that, Ms. Viswanathan's bad.

BTW, I cannot be the only professor who has followed this story, remembered plagiarizing students from the past, and thought "if only they changed the text this much from the material they lifted!"

brightest bulb

Someone complained to me that various entrants to the "How many sociologists does it take to change a light bulb?" contest were "insulting" to sociology. I sort of thought this was the point of lightbulb jokes, but that, in the same way economics has somehow managed to survive endless repetitions of that "assume a can opener" joke,* sociology could weather the lightbulb query. That said, I don't want to come across as being too much of a disciplinary downer, especially since, in substantive terms, I've actually been more enthusiastic about sociology lately than what my posts might suggest (really!).

In that spirit, I ran the idea of a Celebrate Sociology! lightbulb joke contest by my friend Kestrel, but she was pretty tapped for ideas:
Q: How many sociologists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One. Moreover, it will be a better bulb than the one before!
and also
Q: How many sociologists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: All of us share responsibility for that light bulb. But, working together, in communities, we will not just change the bulb, but create the base of understanding on which we can build a better, fairer world!
Nonetheless, to be sensitive to any sociologists out there who may have been insulted by the lightbulb contest, I have decided to award the winner to:
Q: How many sociologists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: One.
As no one actually had the foresight to enter this, despite it being the factually correct answer (at least, in modal terms), no prize will be awarded. However, a different and non-sociology-centered contest of considerably more consequence might be announced here soon, so keep your monitors tuned to JFW.

* How many economists does it take to change a light bulb? An economist presumably would point out that the more rational thing would be for the economist to spend that time doing more economics, and then to use part of the extra earnings to pay an unskilled worker the minimum wage s/he'd accept to change the lightbulb instead, thus achieving a changed bulb and additional income. But then the economist would guffaw and say that, of course, this is just a joke, and the transaction costs of finding that unskilled worker would be too high, not to mention the whole agency problem of having to monitor the unskilled worker or else s/he'd probably just steal the light bulb and maybe some cutlery as well, so really the answer is that it would make the most sense for the economist to just do it.

Monday, May 01, 2006


For the first known academic citation to JFW, see footnote 10 on page 10 of this paper. The citation credits me for having a pioneering role in the Wisconsin School of Blogging, whose credo, to actually articulate it out loud, might be: Just give your blog a generic name and then post whatever you feel like posting, as opposed to thinking that your blog and all its posts should be about something, esp. something related to whatever you are supposedly an expert on. Or, more briefly: Mix things up.

Incidentally, my role in the Wisconsin School of Blogging* has also led to my being identified as "the best sociologist in the world" by the author of the aforementioned paper.** If one is having a completely unproductive and aimless day at your job, and more general career-directiony-angst, it's an intriguing pick-me-up to see oneself identified as the best person in the world at your job, especially if in a venue that has a few thousand people who read it daily.

* Even though he is not an academic, no future historians who wish to write the definitive work on the Wisconsin School of Blogging will be able to exclude Tom Bozzo.

** In case there is any confusion: I'm not actually the best sociologist in the world.

weddings i have known

The weekend I will be attending this weekend may be my first where "black tie optional" was explicitly stated on the invitation. As I was just telling my friend, if one were to do a tally and figure the median wedding I've attended, I think it would still reflect my rural Iowa roots than my subsequent travels through different ways of being associated with universities (this, in turn, being the result of the general tendency for graduate students in sociology the past two decades either to be married when they come to graduate school or, as far as I can tell, to never marry).

At one of the more memorable weddings from my youth, the bride shouted "Ya-hoo!" as they reached the back of the church during the recessional. The reception itself was held on her parents' farm about eight miles out of town. Her brother tacked signs to telephone poles pointing to the reception that said just "FREZ -->" because he didn't know how to spell "Freese" (much less, presumably, "Reception"). There was a fight at the reception that involved a distant female relative of mine digging her fingernails into some man's face. The marriage itself ended a few years later when the groom came home one day and the bride, daughter, and all furniture of any consequence was gone.